Mercedes flies into São Paulo in Brazil - as Formula 1’s most successful constructor of all-time. Its golden run of six-straight world championship doubles setting it apart…
…one more than Ferrari’s dream team managed from 2000. Two more than Red Bull and McLaren, both behemoths of their eras.
But the Silver Arrows’ era rolls on, with 2020’s regulations stable - and its star driver, six-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton nowhere near done, his eyes on Michael Schumacher’s records.
“I like the idea that I’m trying to create a masterpiece and it’s still not finished quite yet,” he said.
Of course, all of that success has been a factor of the team’s attention to detail and depth of its winning culture - one Hamilton, as a natural leader, has worked hard to inspire.
As he did at the end of 2018 - once all championships had been decided.
SOUNDBITE (English) LEWIS HAMILTON, 6-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION: “Please try and think of how you can better yourselves, be better individually and together with the guys that you’re working next to, ‘cos that’s what I’m trying to think of, how I can deliver more for you next year. When they bring more power, when they bring more energy, we bring even more. So let’s make sure we do that.”
It’s a high watermark for its rivals, with the Silver Arrows able to win even when it doesn’t have the fastest car: which it does by squeezing the most from its package, thinking on its feet, and capitalising on circumstances and its rivals’ mistakes.
The squad also garnering huge respect - especially from those in the F1 paddock - in its strategy to employ the best drivers and then just let them race for the betterment of the sport.
SOUNDBITE (English) MARIO ANDRETTI, 1978 F1 WORLD CHAMPION: “I think Mercedes has done really, really well as a team, mainly because they can afford to do so. When you have both drivers that either one, no matter which one gets the nod on that particular race, is not threatened by another, by a number three, for instance. Then you're in the perfect position to just let them race.”
With both drivers - Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas - locked in for 2020 - Mercedes also has the stability to shine on - which is quite often overlooked or undervalued.
SOUNDBITE: (English) MARK PRESTON, F1 TECHNICAL DIRECTOR, 2006-2008: “I think stability, even though maybe it sounds boring, but stability, specialization, all those things that are, the top teams have, is why they’re strong.”
All of which points to a final season of Mercedes success - before 2021’s wide-ranging changes take effect and likely shuffle the grid.
There’s no doubt its rivals Ferrari and Red Bull Racing are growing strong, with the Prancing Horse’s 2019 car, the SF90, F1’s fastest for most of the second half of the season.
Six pole positions and three victories - in Belgium, at home in Italy and in Singapore - proving its power and mechanical grip.
And that’s the challenge Mercedes has for the final two races of the 2019 season, to come home strong and contain its rivals confidence.
… because in the aftermath of both titles decided, all of the top teams are now well and truly on the road to 2020.