One of the challenges Mercedes AMG Petronas may face in 2016 is how much their drivers can race each other this year, if the Mercedes W07 is as unassailable in races as it was in testing.
It’s a point NBCSN Formula 1 analyst Steve Matchett addressed Tuesday night during a taping of “Trackside” on 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis, with NBCSN IndyCar pit reporter Kevin Lee and the Indianapolis Star‘s Curt Cavin.
“Mercedes has been very proactive in trying to help the sport because they are aware if they, Mercedes is constantly winning, people start to complain that they are constantly winning,” Matchett said Tuesday during the show.
“In a way they are caught between a rock and hard place when the team is designed for the fundamental purpose of finishing one-two in every Grand Prix and when they do, people still don’t like it.”
Given the choice in different tires – Mercedes are among three teams that see their drivers split their tire choices heading into the weekend – this could be an area where Mercedes opens up the option to race harder.
“So Mercedes have acted and said to their drivers that within reason you guys are going to be allowed to race and also within reason the drivers are going to have much freer reign over their choice of tire.
“By that I don’t just mean the somewhat convoluted tire regulation itself, which will give them a greater choice of tires, but merely that the drivers themselves will have a greater input over that of the strategists so I’m led to believe.”
Matchett also thinks Ferrari could pose a bigger threat this year, to continue to build and grow on what they did last year.
“That will change in a heartbeat should the guys from Maranello with the 2016 Ferrari chassis get close to Mercedes’ outright pace.
“And we still aren’t really sure prior to qualifying, which is really going to be the litmus test of course, how fast that Ferrari is. I suspect it’s going to be much better than the old car. The question then is how much faster the Mercedes is than last year’s car.”
You can listen to the full show, here. Matchett’s portion starts at roughly the 53:00 mark.
Fascinating stuff, then, heading into this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. You can see TV times for all sessions, here and the Australian Grand Prix edition of the NBC Sports original digital series, “Paddock Pass,” here.