Formula 1: Will the reign of Mercedes finally end in 2019?

The only other time in the history of Formula 1 during which a team won at least five consecutive constructor championships was when Ferrari won six consecutive constructor championships from the 1999 season through the 2004 season.

As a result, a sixth consecutive constructor championship for the Silver Arrows in the 2019 season would tie the all-time record for consecutive constructor championships won. But could 2019 be the year during which Mercedes’ reign atop Formula 1 comes to an end?

It is no secret that the Brackley-based team have been nothing short of dominant since the start of the V6 turbo hybrid era. Of the 100 races that have been contested since the start of the 2014 season, the team’s drivers have combined to win 74.

However, 51 of these 74 victories took place from the 2014 season through the 2016 season, a three-year span during which 59 races were held. In the 41 races that have taken place since the start of the 2017 season, Mercedes’ drivers have earned only 23 victories.

In other words, in the last two seasons, the team have failed to win more than twice as many races as they failed to win in the previous three seasons, meaning that their reign as the sport’s top team is not nearly as strong as it once was.

In the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons, the team’s two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, never finished outside of the top two in the driver standings. Hamilton won the championships in the 2014 and 2015 seasons while Rosberg won the championship in the 2016 season.

But in the 2017 season, Valtteri Bottas replaced Rosberg. With his three victories that season, he became the first Mercedes driver to fail to win at least five races in a single season during the V6 turbo hybrid era. He also became the first Mercedes driver to fail to finish in the top two in the driver standings during this era.

Hamilton won the championship in the 2017 season, but his season win total of nine was the lowest it had been since the start of V6 turbo hybrid era. Mercedes finished the 20-race season with 12 victories, a win total that replaced their win total of 16 in the 2014 and 2015 seasons as their lowest win total in a single season of this era.

In the 2018 season, Bottas failed to win a single race and finished in fifth place in the driver standings. Hamilton’s 11 victories were the team’s only 11 victories of the season, making 11 victories the team’s new lowest win total in a single season during the V6 turbo hybrid era.

There is no doubt that Mercedes are still the top team in Formula 1, and there is no doubt that it will take a lot to prove otherwise. That said, it is no secret that other teams, namely Ferrari and Red Bull Racing are catching up and trying to reclaim what they have held before: the title as the sport’s top team.

Could the 2019 season be the season during which Mercedes finally fall?

Common sense says no, and common sense may win out, as it many times does. However, there are several reasons to believe that the answer might actually be yes.

First have all, Ferrari have moved on from Kimi Raikkonen, who earned just one victory in his second stint driving for the team from the 2014 season through the 2018 season, and replaced him with Charles Leclerc, whose 2018 season driving for Sauber made him nothing short of a rookie sensation.

Ferrari were fine with Raikkonen playing a support role to Vettel, so the fact that they were willing to move on from him to sign Leclerc shows that they will likely be willing to let Leclerc fight with his teammate. It proves that the team are in win-now mode.

Secondly, Red Bull Racing have ended their relationship with Renault and are instead set to use Honda engines for the first time in the 2019 season. This is a move that has caused a huge difference of opinion among fans given Honda’s recent struggles in Formula 1, but it is a move that could end up playing huge dividends for the team that entered the V6 turbo hybrid era as four-time reigning constructor championships.

After a season that was littered with reliability issues for the Milton Keynes-based team, they are expected to get a boost of reliability from their new Honda engines.

However, perhaps more importantly, these Honda engines are expected to be more powerful than the Renault engines than Red Bull Racing had been using. Considering the fact that power was the one area in which they consistently lacked when compared to Mercedes and Ferrari over the past few seasons, this switch could be a real game changer.

The fact that Toro Rosso, the Red Bull Racing junior team, switched from Renault engines to Honda engines ahead of the 2018 season should play to Red Bull Racing’s advantage as well, as they will have more data to analyze even before the 2019 season begins.

Of course, there is always an outside chance that another team will put together a surprising  Cinderella-like season like the one Brawn put together to win the 2009 constructor championship, but the odds of this are small.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing have combined to win each of the last 118 races going all the way back to the start of the 2013 season, so one of them will likely end up on top of the constructor standings by the time the 2019 season reaches its conclusion next December. The question is whether or not Ferrari or Red Bull Racing will end Mercedes’ reign, and if so, which one will be the one to do so.

Source: Fansided