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Formula 1 2017 team preview: Mercedes

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MotorSportsTalk’s preview of the new Formula 1 season begins with the first of our team-by-team snapshots – and where else could we start than with defending champions Mercedes?

Mercedes has dominated proceedings in F1 over the past three years, taking 51 race wins in that period and clinching six world titles (three drivers’, three constructors’) in the process. It has been a period of dominance rarely seen in F1.

But will that continue into 2017 with the new technical regulations?

DRIVERS

44. Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain)
77. Valtteri Bottas (Finland)

CAR

Mercedes W08 EQ Power+

ENGINE

Mercedes M08 EQ Power+

TEAM CHIEFS

Toto Wolff (executive director)
Niki Lauda (non-executive director)
James Allison (technical director)

MONTMELO, SPAIN – MARCH 10: Valtteri Bottas driving the (77) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO8 on track during the final day of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on March 10, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

What went right in 2016: Basically everything. The tense rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg was handled pretty well by the team, even with the title on the line in Abu Dhabi. Had it not been for their first-lap crash in Spain and Hamilton’s cruel engine failure in Malaysia, Mercedes would most probably have swept the board for wins. Still, 19 out of 21 ain’t bad.

What went wrong in 2016: Hamilton was particularly unlucky when it came to power unit reliability, undoubtedly costing him a fair shot at the title. The engine team at Brixworth will have focused on this over the winter. The clash between Rosberg and Hamilton in Austria was also unfortunate. Otherwise, Mercedes was spick and span last year.

What’s changed for 2017: The biggest change is the arrival of Valtteri Bottas in place of Nico Rosberg, who sensationally retired from racing just five days after winning the world title in Abu Dhabi. Bottas joins from Williams after four seasons in F1. The other big change is the exit of previous technical boss Paddy Lowe, who has joined Williams, and the arrival of ex-Ferrari technical chief James Allison. Oh, and the car is significantly different in design, but that’s the same for all teams in 2017.

What they’ll look to accomplish in 2017: Anything but another double title success would surely go down as a failure for Mercedes. Its form over the past three years has been such that we’d be foolish to expect otherwise. But considering Ferrari’s pre-season pace and the expected revival of Red Bull, the pressure may be ramped up this year. At this rate, the question may no longer ‘how much by’ regarding Mercedes’ title win, but ‘if’ once again…

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 23: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP shares a joke with Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Mercedes GP during the launch of the Mercedes formula one team’s 2017 car, the W08, at Silverstone Circuit on February 23, 2017 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

MST PREDICTIONS

Luke Smith: Mercedes is something of an enigma heading into 2017 after a so-so off-season – but I will still back the Silver Arrows to take another title double, albeit not with the ease the previous three have arrived. Lewis Hamilton will take his fourth world title this year, with Valtteri Bottas becoming a grand prix winner at last. I’ll say for them to take say 14 of the 20 races this year, 9-5 in Hamilton’s favor.

Tony DiZinno: They’ve lost only eight races in the last three years and even with the changes to the regulations this season, it’s hard to see them losing too many more again. Lewis Hamilton should be primed to take the title in a cakewalk because I don’t see Valtteri Bottas being consistently fast enough to contend after taking over from Nico Rosberg, and I do see the Red Bull pair taking points off each other in their own intra-team rivalry.

Kyle Lavigne: Of the eight days of Formula 1 pre-season testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, the Mercedes AMG Petronas cars led three of them. That’s less than Scuderia Ferrari, who led four, but still an indication that the Silver Arrows are just as strong as ever. What’s more, they began their race simulations on Day 2, a clear sign that they are very happy with the pace and reliability of the W08.

Valtteri Bottas should contend for race wins, and could easily win multiple races in 2017. However, it will be difficult for him to regularly challenge Lewis Hamilton for the drivers’ championship. Bottas will undoubtedly be a quick shoe, but Hamilton is still very much for the championship favorite.

 

See Will Power ‘in the flesh’ as he’ll appear on Indy 500-winning Borg-Warner Trophy

Matthew Thacker
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Will Power has had thousands of photos taken of him during his racing career by media, fans, family and friends.

But Power has never undergone the type of photos – and the sitting/modeling he took part in, posing for the image of him that will adorn the Borg-Warner Trophy, symbolic of Power’s win in this year’s Indianapolis 500.

Power on Thursday was at the Tryon, North Carolina studio of noted artist and sculptor William Behrends to complete the finishing touches on the clay model of his face and head.

From there, Behrends will create a miniature version of Power’s likeness to be placed on the Borg-Warner Trophy, which is set to be unveiled December 5 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

“It’s actually really cool to come in the first time and see your face there,” Power told MotorSportsTalk. “All the experiences that goes with the Indy 500 are just all great, and it’s amazing I’m sitting there getting my face sculpted to go on the Borg Warner.”

Power discussed the procedure Behrends went through with him.

“He took photos the day after the race, multiple ones, all the way around my face, the whole periphery of it,” he said. “And then he started sculpting the clay face we see right now, my head.

“And then he had me sit there to get it closer. It’s pretty good as it is, but yeah, he sits there and works on it until he thinks it’s right-on. That’s why he had me there in-person.”

Does it look like you, Will?

“Yes, yes. It was funny, because you’re always looking in the mirror and it’s a reverse of your face,” he said. “No one’s face is completely symmetrical.

“It is funny seeing yourself for the first time like you can almost say in the flesh, an actual model of your face and it looks different from what you expect.”

Power was a perfect subject, Behrends said.

“Oh, he’s a wonderful subject, just a very affable, easy-going guy,” Behrends said. “He was very good company during the sittings.

“These sittings I think, are rather difficult for the subject just because he’s just sitting there. I’m working, but the subject has to sit there for long periods of time.

Will Power watches as sculptor William Behrends puts the finishing touches on the clay molding of Power’s face and head. Photo: Matthew Thacker.

“But Will’s very, very cooperative and very easy-going and we had some very nice conversations.”

Power will be the 29th image that Behrends has created for the Borg-Warner Trophy, dating back to his first effort in 1990 with Arie Luyendyk.

“It doesn’t seem like it, but it’s that many years,” Behrends said. “This is the only thing I do that I’ve done more than once. All of my pieces are one-of-a-kind. But it becomes a regular thing on my calendar of the Fall.”

Behrends explained how the process has worked for nearly the last three decades. It starts with taking photos the day after the Indy 500 to rough drafting and sculpting the model, to having the winning driver come to his studio to do some final touches (as Power did Thursday), and then taking the completed clay model and replicating it to be placed on the trophy.

“There’s really three different parts of the process for my work. I’ll spend 3-4 days here, and then two weeks later, I’ll spend a couple more days, so it’s broken up. I guess if I stacked it all together, it’d be about 2-3 (full-time) weeks’ work of different types.”

After Thursday, seeing the finished product that will eventually be placed on the trophy, Power now has yet another bit of inspiration and motivation to win the Indy 500 again.

“You understand everything that goes into winning that race,” Power said. “(To be on the trophy) will be a lot of great satisfaction and gives you a lot of motivation because you want to go through this process again because it’s such a cool process.”

Here are some more tweets from Thursday’s session at Behrends’ studio for Power:

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