Is there a silver bullet for the Silver Arrows
Facing the press on the Sunday night after the Spanish GP, Lewis Hamilton looked weary. Not downcast, not dejected, very far from broken, but fed up and in need of some positive news to explain why the car he'd put on P2 was two seconds per lap off the race pace and good only for 12th position.
Toto Wolff, his boss, didn't have the answers and pleasingly resisted both gloss and platitude when quizzed as to how his team might unravel the mysteries of a W04 quick enough to lock out the front row, yet able to deliver only sixth and 12th on race day.
While honesty and a lack of spin will buy time from media pressure, they won't deliver the big-bang results this big-buck race team needs. So much is right about Mercedes, from their driver selection, to their technical strength, to their unflashy paddock presence, it seems almost unfair that a technical conundrum should be undermining their title ambitions so publicly. That, however, is the game Mercedes have chosen to play, and no one ever said building a modern F1 operation truly worthy of the Silver Arrows legend would be easy.
One man who knows how tough F1 can be is Merc team principal Ross Brawn, who we interview alongside CEO Wolff in this issue (p42). A co-architect of Ferrari's domination in the early noughties, and godfather of the Brawn GP 2009 fairy tale, he laments the fact that the technical challenge of F1 is now so great that a team cannot suffer from a superabundance of engineering nous. Rather, he says, it's impossible to have enough. That technical line-up has produced a car likely to be on pole at the next race in Monaco. But a race winner...?
Mention of Monaco turns us happily to the prospect of the Cote d'Azur in summer and the anachronistic blast around the streets that remains a thrilling showcase for F1. We've unashamedly gloried in the race's history in this issue, with a vivid recollection by Maurice Hamilton of the 40-plus Monaco Grands Prix he's attended. And if you've ever wondered how Monaco feels, Peter Windsor's sublime evocation of Monte Carlo time and place on page 32 will take you right there.
It's a circuit with acute memories also for Martin Brundle. He's been 'the voice of Sunday afternoon' for many of us, for many a year now, but long before the microphone he was a fine racer, and has accumulated more than a few racing anecdotes from a long and rich track career (one that he isn't quite finished with yet, incidentally...). Turn to p104 to learn more.
So much for the past. What of the future? Well join us, if you will, on a journey to F1's next new venue - Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea. Yep, at long last it seems F1 will be getting a Russian GP as construction is on schedule for a race date of 2014. We were the only magazine to make the trip east, joining Seb Vettel on a flying visit right after the Bahrain GP. What did he - and we - make of it? Turn to page 68 to find out.