Mercedes banish thoughts of winning every race
BARCELONA (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso reckons Mercedes could win every Formula One grand prix this season and the idea did not appear laughable after Lewis Hamilton took his fourth victory in a row in Spain on Sunday.
In Stuttgart, and at the team factory in Brackley and engine plant in Brixworth, such thinking is still considered crazy however - even if the possibility is lurking deep in the recesses of more than a few minds.
"Yes, we will do that and then we will retire," smiled Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff when the thought was put to him after another dominant afternoon at the Circuit de Catalunya.
"It’s just the fifth race," he added. "If you look at the performance now, that (idea) comes up to your mind and you say 'Well, that never happened and could it happen?'. But then we know racing."
Mercedes have won five out of five and started all on pole position. The last four races have finished one-two, with Hamilton leading Germany's Nico Rosberg, and the margin of superiority over the rest is immense.
All but four rival cars were lapped by Hamilton on Sunday - with the Briton revelling in exactly the success he was promised in 2012 when Mercedes lured him from McLaren. Red Bull's third placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo was some 49 seconds behind.
"It’s 14 races to go, we haven’t had really difficult conditions in the race itself. We haven’t had safety car periods at the wrong moment, we haven’t had thunderstorms at the wrong time," said Wolff.
"They didn’t touch (collide) yet, which is eventually going to happen – or not, hopefully," he smiled. "So it’s much too early (to consider the idea of winning everything). That would be really like losing the plot, thinking about that."
McLaren are the only team to have come close to such domination, when the late Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost battled for the title in 1988 and won all but one of the 16 races.
Ferrari also won 15 (of 17) races in 2002 and 2004.
No driver has ever won four races in a row in a single season and failed to take the title that year but Rosberg - winner in Australia - is still only three points behind Hamilton due to his consistent scoring.
There are more rounds (19) in a season now and Red Bull's performance on Sunday - with quadruple world champion Sebastian Vettel in fourth place after starting 15th - indicated that engine partner Renault are getting their act together.
The next race, in Monaco, could suit Red Bull's car also with outright engine power - where Mercedes have such an advantage - less of a factor.
Red Bull are certainly not about to capitulate, even if the constructors' championship looks a foregone conclusion already - something Ferrari's Alonso recognised after Mercedes qualified one-two on Saturday.
"They should be in a position to win all the races probably, so it is going to be tight between them," the Spaniard had told the BBC.
Red Bull principal Christian Horner, whose team have won the last four constructors' and drivers' championships with Vettel, acknowledged Mercedes were currently out on their own.
"We have a choice: We either pack up and go home or we fight and try to close the gap," he told reporters. "We have made small inroads this weekend and we are determined to keep pushing, keep trying to close that gap down.
"We are going to push like hell all the way through the year to the last race in Abu Dhabi."
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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