Australia - The team looked competitive from the get go as they broke inotthe top 10 grid with MS in 4th place and Nico in 7th. Both drivers got off to good starts at the beginning of the race as MS passed Grojean for third and Rosberg climbed to 4th place. But the joy was short lived. 12 laps in, Schumacher would retire with a gearbox failure. Rosberg would fall back to 12th with tire degradation problems and a puncture on the last lap.
Malaysia – The team shrugged off their disappointment from Australia and scored big with Schumacher out qualifying his teammate again for 3rd, while Rosberg grabbed 8th. Rain was an issue for the race start as Schumacher was spun out by Grosjean on the first corner, he rejoined back in 12th. As the track dried up and the temperatures began to rise tire problems came to haunt the team as they began to lose pace to the front runners. The best MS could do was finish 10th scoring the team’s only point as Rosberg finished the race three places down in 13th.
China – The Mercedes Team arrived in China hoping to have resolved their tire problems. The team dominated the entire qualifying session with Rosberg taking his first pole position and Schumacher inheriting second place from a penalty stricken Hamilton. The Merc drivers continued their dominance at the start of the race and maintained their lead from the others. MS luck would run out after his pitcrew failed to replace his right front tire correctly and would have to retire. Rosberg would go on to win the race 26 seconds ahead of his competition. This would be his first F1 win and Merc’s first since 1955.
After the race weekend Michael Schumacher attacked Pirelli and criticized the high level of degradation they were suffering. Pirelli though were asked specifically when they became the sole tire supplier to create a tire that degraded more quickly to improve the spectacle of the sport.
Spain – The team insured they made it into Q3, but after that they decided to save a set of tires. MS choose not to set a time and would start 8th, Nico set an average time to claim 6th place. At the start of the race, Rosberg would jump up to 4th place and MS to 6th. Rosberg would finish in 7th. Schumacher race ended early as he ran into the back of Senna who was nursing his car because of tire wear. After the race, he would be hit with a 5 place grid penalty carried to the next race.
Germany – Rain struck F1 for the second time in a row and mixed up the field in qualifying. Schumacher set the forth best time, but was bumped up because of Webber’s 5-spot penalty for a gear box. The same penalty affected Rosberg and would start the race in 22nd. Pace again was an issue for the team with them suffering the most from tire degradation. Schumacher would drop to 7th place. Rosberg would fight back from the back of the field to claim 10th place.
Hungary – This was a weekend to forget for Mercedes. The team struggled throughout the whole weekend that saw Schumacher retire with technical issues and Rosberg finishing 10th.
Schumi contract – Schumacher is currently in his last contract year. Both the team and driver have been mum on the issue. Schumacher has made it clear that he wants to continue on with the team and Ross Brawn has shown the team is still interested in keeping him. Mercedes at the moment don't have many options from the field. All the top drivers are locked up in contracts and the young driver still haven't fully proven themselves yet. One of the positives in keeping Schumacher is the sponsorship money and he knows how to communicate with the engineers in developing a car, something most of the available young drivers are not able to do just yet.
Car updates/struggles – Mercedes looked very competitive at the beginning of the season but since Monaco, they have fallen behind and hit their low point in Hungary. So far all the top teams have mostly ironed out their cars issues and have began rolling in performance updates now. Mercedes on the other hand are still stuck trying to sort out their tire/rear end issues and now have fallen behind Team Lotus. I could be wrong, but I believe trying to update the car is much more difficult than the others because of how the double DRS system works. Since the car is built around that system, any aerodynamic update that changes the airflow along the car’s body has to be done with the DRS system taken into account. The system works great during qualifying since they can use it throughout the track, but come race day they are limited to the DRS zone and it's impact will be minimal. (Here is a great article on how the Mercedes DRS system works and why they need to do away with it from BBC F1 Link)
With the team going into their mandated “summer break”, they stand in 5th place in the constructor championship with 106 points, Rosberg has 77 points and is 6th in the Driver’s standing, Schumacher has 29 points sitting in 12th place. Looking at the numbers, it seems Rosberg has completely outdone Schumacher, but they are much closer in performance this year than the past two. Schumacher has had to retire 6 times so far, five of them for car failures, four of them with a chance to score big points. Both drivers have shown that with a competitive car they can bring in huge results.
Luckily there are 9 races to go with a max of 225 championship points up for grabs. This gives the team plenty of time to deliver a car capable of winning again. The team has huge potential with great drivers, they just need to eliminate the dodgy pit-stop strategies, unreliability, and tire/balance issues. The car has proven to be fast in a single lap, but in race trim the car suffers with tire wear. They will be quick in the first few laps, but soon enough their pace drops and become prey for the mid-field teams. If they can get rid of the issues, I believe that we’ll be seeing the Silver Arrows on top and fighting for race wins.
The next time we will see F1 again will be the Belgium Grand Prix at the historic Spa-Francorchamps track on 2 Sept 12. It’s a favorite for the Silver Arrow’s drivers and both will be motivated to win, Rosberg to get back into the Championship picture and Schumacher would be ecstatic to win on his 21st anniversary at the circuit.
Team Standings as of 8/19/12: