Can Mercedes be caught? McLaren’s Boullier thinks so

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The factory Mercedes squad has left rivals in their dust in terms of outright pace, and, save for Lewis Hamilton early in the Australian Grand Prix, early season reliability thus far.

Thus far though drivers with a Mercedes power unit have achieved eight of the nine possible podium finishes, and it’s that stat among other areas that gives McLaren racing director Eric Boullier hope that the factory squad can be caught.

The time gap, he said during a conference call this week, is something that can be clawed back easier this year compared to last.

“To be honest, I think it is,” Boullier said, via the official Formula One website. “It’s true that the gap is huge now, but a one-second gap is catchable. I know a lot of areas we can work on and improve, so I think they can definitely be caught.”

McLaren ended 2-3 in the Australian Grand Prix following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification for exceeding the fuel flow rate.

Thus far McLaren, as well as fellow Mercedes-powered teams of Force India and Williams, emerged as strongest in the pecking order in a dry weekend following the Bahrain Grand Prix.

F1 2017 driver review: Kimi Raikkonen

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Kimi Raikkonen

Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car No.: 7
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 7
Best Finish: P2 (Monaco, Hungary)
Pole Positions: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
Points: 205
Laps Led: 40
Championship Position: 4th

While this may have statistically been Kimi Raikkonen’s best campaign since his first year back in F1 in 2012, there is a good case for it being one of his most disappointing to date.

Raikkonen’s continued role at Ferrari has been questioned on a number of occasions, but the Finn looked capable of answering his critics heading into 2017 after impressing through pre-season testing as he appeared to get to grips well with the new-style cars.

But we soon grew accustomed to the same old story: flashes of potential, but otherwise an underwhelming, unsatisfactory campaign that saw Raikkonen be dwarfed by his teammate, Sebastian Vettel.

Raikkonen’s charge to his first pole position for over eight years in Monaco gave hope of a popular win, only for Ferrari to play its strategy in favor of title contender Vettel – why wouldn’t the team do so? – to leave him a disgruntled second.

While Vettel was able to impress at the majority of circuits, Raikkonen only looked strong at tracks that were unquestionably ‘Ferrari’ tracks, such as Hungary and Brazil. Like Vettel, Raikkonen should have racked up a good haul of points in Singapore, only for the start-line crash to sideline both Ferraris before they even reached Turn 1.

Again there is the question of ‘what could have been?’ in Malaysia had it not been for the spark plug issue on the grid, yet in Japan, Raikkonen was nowhere, finishing behind the Mercedes and Red Bulls.

Finishing just five points clear of Daniel Ricciardo despite having a much faster car for the best part of the season and the Red Bull driver’s own reliability issues sums up the disappointment of Raikkonen’s campaign.

He should have been an ally for Vettel in the title race by nicking points of Lewis Hamilton, much as Valtteri Bottas was doing for his Mercedes teammate. Instead, Raikkonen seemed to be tagging along for the best part of this season.

Season High: Pole in Monaco, his first since the 2008 French Grand Prix.

Season Low: Finishing a distant P4 at Spa – a circuit he made his own in the 2000s.