Toto Wolff has said that Mercedes is on the brink of a “very special” weekend in Malaysia, as it stands ready to take a third consecutive World Constructors’ Championship in front of a home crowd for partner Petronas.
Mercedes currently stands 222 points clear of Red Bull with 258 remaining on the table, and can wrap up the title in Sepang with just a win and any other points finish. While it is still mathematically possible for Red Bull to push back Mercedes’ celebrations to the next round at Suzuka – a 1-2 or a win and third for the Austrian team would do it – their chances of delaying the inevitable hang on Mercedes either missing out on the win or not bringing both cars home in the points – something that has not happened since May’s Spanish Grand Prix.
But despite the odds being stacked vastly in its favour, Mercedes is still erring on the side of caution ahead of what is traditionally one of the most demanding and unpredictable races of the season.
“It’s a very challenging weekend,” said Paddy Lowe. “The heat and humidity make life tough for the drivers, team and cars alike, while the track action can often be affected by rain.”
Lowe also noted Mercedes’ “hugely disappointing” 2015 visit to Sepang – in which Sebastian Vettel beat both Silver Arrows to the win – as something that will likely be on Mercedes’ mind this weekend, with Toto Wolff adding that the team “will need to push hard” to avoid another such defeat.
However, the biggest threat to a third Mercedes crown this weekend could in fact come from the team itself, as the pitching title battle between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton enters its final, gruelling phase.
After Rosberg’s three wins on the go in Belgium, Italy and Singapore, many have begun to tip the German as the new championship favourite, and even Hamilton himself has admitted he has “no idea” if he’ll be able to reclaim the title momentum if Rosberg maintains his current run of form.
But with only eight points separating him from his teammate, the prospect of Hamilton conceding the championship with six rounds still to go is unthinkable. Neither he nor Rosberg will be prepared to yield so much as a single point at this late stage – all Mercedes asks is that the pair keep their battle clean until the Constructors’ Championship is safe.