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Could a crucial 'mistake' lead to regret for Hamilton and Mercedes?

Mercedes proved that it was one of the most reliable teams on the grid again in 2022, but has that strategy cost them performance against rivals?

It was one of the toughest campaigns for Mercedes as they grappled with numerous issues with the W13, however when it came to Power Unit reliability the team was one of the best of the field. Out of the 22 races in the season both George Russell and Lewis Hamilton only failed to finish one race apiece: Hamilton in Abu Dhabi with a hydraulic issue, and Russell in Silverstone for abandoning his car after the big first lap crash with Zhou Guanyu. It's through years of refinement since the start of the hybrid era that Mercedes have been able to keep on top of reliability, but has this strategy come at the cost of performance to rivals? An engine freeze has been in place since the start of 2022 to cut costs, with very little components that can be changed until 2026. Only changes to improve reliability can be made to F1 Power Units during this period. Alpine has suffered from poor reliability throughout the hybrid era, with Fernando Alonso getting his fair share this year in what he believes cost him 60 points over the course of the season . The team has admitted that it sacrificed reliability over performance , something that Executive Director Bruno Famin recently explained was the plan at Renault/Alpine to ensure they were competitive. "We made changes to the engine very shortly before the new season. We took risks, but the strategy was clear: we had to get back into contention with the engine," he said. "With the engine freeze, our strategy was to do something with our performance. We still have the possibility to solve reliability issues and that strategy was good even though we had some problems. But the engine itself had no major issues."

P4 in Constructors' shows performance beats reliability

While the strategy at Alpine endured a lot of headaches throughout the season with retirements, they still managed to beat McLaren as the 'best of the rest' team to P4 in the Constructors' Championship. Ferrari has taken a significant step in engine performance since their midfield disappointment in 2020, while Honda has firmly departed from its early days with McLaren by delivering two World Championships with Red Bull. Mercedes has been consistently at the front and the benchmark for reliability, however they were limited in 2022 with the W13's aerodynamic drag and porpoising in the high speed corners. The power unit still proved to be among the fastest, as evidenced by Williams when Alex Albon finished 10th at the Belgium Grand Prix. The speed traps at Raidillon showed his car reaching 314.4kph.

Scope for Alpine and Ferrari to improve?

While there is debate about how the regulation tweak to ride heights might impact them , Mercedes still has the upper hand when it comes to remaining in the top three after their resurgence towards the end of 2022. Ferrari has built a good enough package to consistently finish ahead of them at most tracks, and it is only going to get better as they introduce a new engine that will give them an extra 30bhp . Could Mercedes find extra performance at Brixworth? Hamilton and Russell will hope they find something before 2026.

RESULTS 2024 F1 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix - Qualifying