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Mercedes

The Mercedes pattern of responding to an unusually poor race each season

The 2021 Monaco Grand Prix was one to forget for Mercedes. But with the team's history of bouncing back following a particularly poor race each season, Lewis Hamilton and the Silver Arrows should definitely not be counted out yet.

Hamilton Monaco
Analysis
To news overview © Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes came into the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix weekend on a high, having won three out of the four opening races of the season. With a 14-point lead over title rival Max Verstappen in the World Championship standings, Hamilton looked stronger than ever and seemed confident enough to make remarks about Verstappen possibly feeling he had a "lot to prove" in the fight.

Unfortunately for the Silver Arrows, the fifth race weekend of the season saw them unravel. Neither Hamilton nor Valtteri Bottas set the pace in the practice sessions, and the pair qualified in seventh and third respectively for the race. Whilst these would not be disappointing results for many, it is unusual to see Hamilton that far away from the front.

The Grand Prix itself did not get any better - in fact, things got worse. Bottas was forced to retire on lap 29 when one of the wheels became stuck on his car at his pit stop. The team later had to work on removing the tyre back at the factory.

Meanwhile Hamilton had a difficult day and voiced his frustrations over team radio after feeling that the strategy call left him unable to move up from seventh place. The end result meant that Verstappen - who won the race - took the lead in the Drivers' Standings, whilst Red Bull toppled Mercedes at the top of the Constructors' Championship.

			© Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool
	© Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

This might not have been the ideal weekend for Mercedes, but one thing they can take comfort from is the fact that the team seem to have a pattern of bouncing back from one particularly poor race each season.

Even Chief Strategist James Vowles admitted this in the team's race debrief video. In response to a fan's comment that the team experiences "at least one disastrous race per season" but that they "always manage to come back stronger", Vowles explained: "I think it's a fair observation that one race a season ends up being very poor.

"I think for me that's just an indication that we're a World Championship-fighting team, we're on the limit of pushing every boundary.

"When you're there, you will make mistakes. What's important isn't the mistakes you make, it's the corrective action that happens afterwards and it's how the team bonds following that."

Vowles says that the team take the approach of breaking down everything that happened to understand what could have been done better.

This certainly seems to have worked for them in the past. Looking at the past few seasons, the pattern emerges of that one below-par performance - and usually it is followed by a very strong weekend.

			© RacingNews365
	© RacingNews365

At the 2019 German Grand Prix, Mercedes famously ran a special livery to celebrate their 125th year in motorsport. But the celebrations did not extend to the race, which proved to be one to forget for the team. In fact, team principal Toto Wolff said the event "could not have gone much worse".

Hamilton suffered several misdemeanors, from breaking his front wing to picking up a time penalty for entering the pits beyond the legal entry point. The Briton eventually finished down in 11th, but was promoted to ninth when Alfa Romeo were penalised after the race.

Meanwhile Bottas suffered a heavy crash and did not finish the Grand Prix. To make matters worse, the team were being filmed that weekend by Netflix for their Drive To Survive series.

The following race in Hungary was a far cry from the team's fortunes in Germany. Hamilton pulled off an impressive victory by hunting down Verstappen, similar to his recent performance in the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix. Whilst Bottas finished down in eighth after qualifying second, the Silver Arrows had done enough to show that their slip-ups at the previous race were most definitely behind them.

			© Mercedes
	© Mercedes

Skip to the 2020 Russian Grand Prix. Mercedes had shown their dominance throughout the season, having won all but two races. There may have been some fears over the Netflix curse coming into the Russian event, with the team yet again being followed by cameras throughout the weekend.

Whilst it did not become quite as disastrous as the 2019 trip to Germany, there were some unusual errors from Mercedes at the Sochi Autodrom. Most noticeably, Hamilton made two practice starts on his way to the grid that were deemed to be in breach of the race director's instructions. Despite Mercedes fighting their case by suggesting the rules were ambigious, Hamilton was handed two five-second penalties.

Somehow, Hamilton was still able to finish the race in third, with Bottas winning. But this error cost the World Champion the opportunity to build his lead and also surpass Michael Schumacher's record number of wins (which he achieved at a later race).

As ever, Mercedes seemed to learn from their errors. At the next race - the Eifel Grand Prix, held at the Nurburgring - Hamilton put in a typically strong performance to claim victory. Whilst Bottas was forced to retire due to a mechanical issue, the Silver Arrows had not fallen victim to human errors this time and yet again showed their ability to bounce back from their mistakes.

With the 2021 season heading into the next race at Azerbaijan, Verstappen and Red Bull lead the way and will perhaps be the favourites. But if recent history has taught us anything, it is to never rule out Mercedes following a bad race.

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