They might have won the last five world titles and carry the flag of their country proudly, but Sunday’s German GP made it clear the love doesn’t go both ways for Mercedes.
I certainly didn’t think this way when I was boiling in the heat of Thursday and Friday, but there’s something to be said for “slumming it” by catching the train to the track, unlike most journalists. Taking your own car, you’re never going to get the same feeling as being amongst the rest of the F1 fans, and that proved a particularly illuminating experience at Hockenheim.
Being in the crowds, if only for a little while, it became very apparent very quickly that Mercedes were not viewed as the home heroes they’d like to be. Whether it was Seb Vettel/Ferrari fans, Dutch/Red Bull fans, Finns, and even a fair few Renault supporters, you would hardly know it was the German Grand Prix, save for the fact everyone was speaking, you know… German.
Now maybe it would be too much of a stretch to expect a similar level of patriotism to what Ferrari get in Italy, but I still expected some sort of passionate, pro-Mercedes presence. Instead, you had things like a red “Forza Seb” banner draped over Mercedes’ own grandstand – well, at least until it was taken down.
Apparently five-straight F1 world championships don’t count for much ’round these parts, nor does the fact that Mercedes was the only reason the race happened at all.
Of course, people have reasons other than nationality to give their allegiance, and that is fair enough, I just think that’s something Mercedes have tried very hard to cultivate – the notion that as much as the team is based in Brackley, and its lead driver is very much British, it is nevertheless a German outfit at heart. Unfortunately for them it hasn’t taken, and that goes doubly so with the way the crowds cheered when Lewis went off on Sunday.
Under no circumstances would you get a similar response should that happen to a Ferrari driver at Monza – indeed you’d be lucky to get anything more than stunned silence from the tifosi – but the Hockenheim faithful were nothing short of elated, revelling both in Lewis’ rare moment of weakness, and the opportunity it provided for other drivers.
For Lewis, Toto Wolff, Daimler Chairman Ola Källenius and everyone else at the Silver Arrows, that can’t have felt good.
Evidently, the German fans are as fed-up with their half-decade of dominance as everyone else, and seeing Lewis slide off at turn 16 was a welcome antidote. With that in mind, perhaps it’s a good thing the race won’t be returning in 2020 – if home is where the heart is, it’s definitely not in Hockenheim.
Big Question: Why don’t Mercedes get the love they wish for?