The Melbourne Grand Prix on Sunday wasn’t just the first Formula One race of the new season. It was also the beginning of a new era for the motorsport, one without Bernie Ecclestone, the eccentric British billionaire who made race car driving into what it is today. It is also the era of European domination under the American leadership of mass media company Liberty Media. But most importantly, it is the era of bigger, faster, and even more dangerous cars.
Amidst these changes, the Mercedes Formula One racing team is hoping to continue one of the sport’s most impressive series of victories. The German team won the last three world championships before the change in ownership, which also came with new rules for cars and drivers.
“We had three extraordinary years. That was completely atypical for Formula One,” Toto Wolff, executive director of the Mercedes racing team, told Handelsblatt.
“Mercedes won 51 races that mean nothing for 2017,” Mr. Wolff said of his team’s winning streak. The manager, who also owns a 30-percent stake in the Mercedes team, said he has banned the previous years’ trophies from his office.
Under Liberty Media’s new rules, tires, chassis, and rear and front wings are wider, making the cars even faster. And that has changed the dynamic between the teams – particularly between rivals Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Both in the test runs and this year’s first Grand Prix, Ferrari has come in first.
But Mr. Wolff said he and the Mercedes team welcome the changes. “To an extent, even we wanted to start over. After three years, your learning curve flattens,” he said.