Tales from the paddock: Twin mission for the Mercedes F1 and Formula E teams in Barcelona and Monaco

From Portimão to Barcelona: This week, F1 travels some 1,000 kilometres as the crow flies from one side of the Iberian Peninsula to the other. The Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team came away from last weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix with three more trophies in its luggage, thanks to race winner Lewis Hamilton and third-placed Valtteri Bottas. It was Grand Prix victory number 97 for Lewis and the 500th start for Mercedes-Benz-powered cars in the premier class of motorsport. And at the end of the third race weekend of the season, Lewis tops the drivers’ standings for the 122nd time in his F1 career, breaking a record he previously shared with Michael Schumacher. Next weekend, the 2021 Formula One World Championship continues with the Spanish Grand Prix. For the first time in a long while, the teams will be turning up at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya without having had the benefit of pre-season winter testing there. In the past four years, the circuit has been a happy hunting ground for Mercedes: Lewis has won four times in succession, and pole position in qualifying has gone to a Silver Arrows driver eight times in a row since 2013. With a tally of five Grand Prix wins in Barcelona, Lewis is just one victory behind Michael Schumacher who still holds the record for the most wins in Spain. Ferrari are the most successful constructor in the Spanish GP with twelve wins, ahead of McLaren (8) and Williams (7). Mercedes (6) are in joint fourth place with Lotus.

Monaco, here we come: As F1 prepares for a second race on the Iberian Peninsula in the space of a week, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is gearing up for its fourth weekend of the season at a venue that is all too familiar to fans of Formula One – the iconic streets of Monaco. After a one-year hiatus, during which Formula E was unable to race in the Principality due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the fourth Monaco E-Prix will be staged next Saturday. It will be the first time that the all-electric racing series has been contested on the Monaco Grand Prix Circuit, which is also due to host the Monaco Grand Prix two weeks later. Monaco is uncharted territory for the Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team, yet for drivers Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries it amounts to a home race, as both live in Monte Carlo. In the three previous fixtures, there were two different winners, namely Sébastien Buemi (2) and Jean-Eric Vergne (1). However, the races were held on a shorter track layout. The Mercedes-EQ Formula E Team goes into the Monaco E-Prix – the seventh of 15 races in the 2020/21 season – occupying the top spot in both the drivers’ and team standings. The teams have the additional challenge of Monaco being the only one-day event on this year’s racing calendar.

Mercedes-AMG GT3 #16, Mercedes-AMG Team HRT #16 Mercedes-AMG GT3, Mercedes-AMG Team HRT

Class wins in tough NLS race: The third round of the Nürburgring Endurance Series delivered two more class wins for the Customer Racing teams ahead of the standout fixture of every season, the ADAC Total 24h Race. In the 62nd EIBACH ADAC ACAS Cup, Moritz Kranz (GER) and Janine Shoffner (GBR) driving the number 9 Mercedes-AMG GT3 fielded by GetSpeed Performance once again saw off the opposition in the SP9 Am class. As in the previous NLS round, BLACK FALCON Team TEXTAR chalked up another one-two in the combined SP4T+SP8T class. Mustafa Mehmet Kaya (TUR), Gabriele Piana (ITA) and Mike Stursberg (GER) celebrated a comfortable victory in the Mercedes-AMG GT4 #140 ahead of the number 141 sister car driven by Marco Müller (GER), Stephan Rösler (GER) and Ersin Yücesan (TUR). After a chaotic quali, interrupted several times for on-track repairs, the SP9 teams were unable to get in among the front-runners in the overall classification, but three Top 15 finishes were booked at the end of the four-hour race. The number 16 Mercedes-AMG Team HRT took tenth place, with the #2 and #8 high-performance cars of Mercedes-AMG Team GetSpeed finishing twelfth and 14th respectively. Next weekend, the teams will have another opportunity to optimise the setup of the Mercedes-AMG GT3s on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife. The six-hour qualifying race at the Nürburgring starts next Sunday at 12:00 CEST – a full dress rehearsal for the big event in the ‘Green Hell’.     

Podium successes at the Circuit of The Americas: Three class wins, four podiums and valuable points towards the GT World Challenge global manufacturers’ championship: the Customer Racing teams put in a strong performance in the GT World Challenge America event and its support series at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. 

Philip Ellis (SUI) and Russell Ward (USA) in the number 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of WINWARD Racing were in the frame for victory in the GT World Challenge America for a long time on both days. The duo finished second in the first race, which was shortened due to heavy rain. After starting the second race from pole position, they eventually had to settle for third. They were followed across the line by the #04 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of DXDT Racing, a result that was enough for Colin Braun and George Kurtz (both USA) to take the class win in the Pro-Am class.

In the GT America races held at the same venue, Ross Chouest (USA) of RENNtech Motorsports celebrated another class win as the fastest GT4 driver in the first race. Class win number three of the weekend this time in the Pirelli GT4 America – was contributed by Murillo Racing. Kenny Murillo and Christian Szymczak (both USA) in the number 72 Mercedes-AMG GT4 won the Silver Cup class in the second race as overall runners-up. Ross Chouest and Aaron Povoledo (CAN) in the number 89 Mercedes-AMG GT4 of RENNtech Motorsports joined them on the overall podium in third place.  

More race and class wins: Antonelli MotorSport got their Italian GT Championship campaign off to a successful start with a race win. In the first of the two sprint races at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Bar Baruch (ISR) and Luca Segù (ITA) in the #90 Mercedes-AMG GT3 suffered the misfortune of a premature retirement after colliding with an opponent. But a commanding lights-to-flag victory in the second race more than compensated for the shaky start to the opening weekend of the series.   

Nova Race posted further podium results at Monza with their Mercedes-AMG GT4s. Fulvio Ferri and Andrea Gagliardini (both ITA) in the number 228 car took third place in the GT4 PRO-AM class in both races, while Diego Di Fabio and Luca Magnoni (both ITA) finished second in the GT4 AM class in the #207 sister car.

Like Antonelli MotorSport, Team ABBA Racing also managed a strong recovery after an early setback in the British GT Cup Championship. A premature pit stop deprived Richard and Sam Neary (both GBR) of a top position in the first of the two 50-minute sprint races at Brands Hatch. In the second race, however, the father-son duo in the number 88 Mercedes-AMG GT3 comfortably wrapped up a fourth victory of the season.

The Mercedes-AMG GT3 made a strong showing in the Endurance Brasil season opener at Goiâina, with no fewer than five cars finishing in the Top Seven of the GT3 class. Ricardo Baptista and Cacá Bueno (both BRA) of Team RC took second place on the podium. Atila Abreu and Leo Sanchez (both BRA) of AMG CAC Competições rounded off a successful day for the Customer Racing teams with a win in the GT4 class

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