Mercedes-Benz is just about the biggest name in world motoring. Owned by Daimler, the Mercedes-Benz brand has long been associated with excellence in every aspect of motoring, from road cars to racing cars. So it comes as something of a surprise that the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team has scored only one victory in almost three years as a works team.
2012 has been a particularly disappointing year for the Silver Arrows. The cars showed promise early in the season, with Schumacher in particular producing consistently good qualifying performances. Nico Rosberg was never too far behind, and in China claimed the team’s first pole position since returning to Formula One in 2010. Rosberg converted his qualifying performance into a victory the following day. After two years of struggle, it looked like the Brackley-based team was finally coming right.
It was, unfortunately, not so. The team has gone backwards since China, with only two podium finishes – for Rosberg at Monaco and Schumacher in Valencia – and no further victories or pole positions, although Schumacher qualified on pole for Monaco but started sixth due to a grid penalty. The team’s decline reached a peak in Japan last weekend, where both drivers were eliminated in Q2 of qualifying, with Schumacher and Rosberg managing only the 13th and 15th quickest times respectively. In the race, while Schumacher displayed reasonable pace on the option tyres, he was unable to pass Daniel Ricciardo in the closing stages of the race, despite having fresher tyres than those on the Toro Rosso.
To be quite blunt, a Mercedes and a Toro Rosso should not be battling over the same piece of race track. Toro Rosso is the Red Bull junior team and exists primarily to develop drivers. With only one victory in its history – Sebastian Vettel won at Monza in 2007 before joining Red Bull the following season – Toro Rosso is not expected to be a front-running team. In the 2012 Constructors’ Championship, Toro Rosso currently lies ninth, 121 points behind Mercedes. Schumacher should have fairly breezed past Ricciardo in Japan, but he was unable to do so due to a lack of performance from his car.
When Mercedes bought the Brawn team at the end of 2009, victories and World Championships were expected to follow. Instead, Mercedes has become, as of now, a mid-field team that poses no threat whatsoever to the established giants – Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull. If Michael Schumacher – arguably the greatest driver in the history of the sport – cannot pass a Toro Rosso for tenth place because his car is too slow, then the Mercedes team has simply not done a good enough job. It is therefore entirely unsurprising that Schumacher was unwilling to re-sign with Mercedes for 2013 and beyond.