This weekend the Mercedes family are mourning the loss of one of their own. Jurgen Hubbert, universally known as ‘Mr Mercedes’, was the architect of the Group’s foray into motorsport and one of the guiding forces in their entry into the high octane world of Formula 1.
What Hubbert recognised in the late 1980’s was that Mercedes had concentrated so much on being an ‘Integrated Technology Group’ that it had lost sight of the brand and its car sales were suffering as a consequence. The pivot into F1 through a partnership with Mclaren in 1995 took time to evolve but by 1997 they had secured their first win with British driver David Coulthard and the pathway was set for Mercedes to utterly dominate the sport, as it does today.
If Hubbert were looking down on the America’s Cup, no doubt a wry, knowing smile would be etched on his face as the Mercedes-backed Ineos continued its trumping of the Challenger fleet. Hubbert would be eyeing the progress made to date but demanding more. Mercedes do not stand still in motorsport and it’s highly unlikely that they will be standing still in this America’s Cup. The Kings of Aero will be looking at everything now. Whilst we can see that the foil issue has been so clinically resolved, where else has the Mercedes influence been felt and where will they go next?
An aero-technician’s eye would no doubt be drawn to the crew. Compared with Prada and Magic, Ineos looks to have a significant runway here for improvement. I opined in an earlier post that the aero bump ahead of the forward grinder looked like it had been beefed up. Immediately I was chastised but I still maintain that something has been done here. It looks higher and maybe some further surgery will be considered to lower the grinders in the hull and tuck their frames away? Or perhaps something even more radical?
The boom too looks like it has been developed away from the kinky camber inducer in December to a straighter, more powerful number. But what are Prada playing at here? Their deck connection looks super slick with the blade of the sail beautifully sweeping the deck and the neatest clew box of all. Surely one for the Mercedes designers and sailmakers to look at together?
And then there’s the hull itself. Will Mercedes be running advanced diagnostics on that full-length skeg arrangement and could we see further modifications here – especially if Ineos progress straight through to the final (there I said it) and they have the luxury of time to get in the shed and bring out all the tricks. I can imagine that there’s a red-hot hotline right now between the Ineos design team and the Merc engineers in Brackley and you can almost hear the computers whirring. It will be fascinating to see where the final iterations of these boats are in March.
And if, and it’s a big ‘if’…if Ineos is in the Match with Team New Zealand, do the Kiwis have the sheer firepower to compete with the unbelievable resources and technology of Mercedes? It’s the question that will start being asked, the deeper Ineos goes.
So what of the other two? Well, Terry Hutchinson put a very professional spin on it. They just have to believe in the programme. Judging these boats in the lottery conditions of yesterday is a bit harsh. We will get a much better read tonight in better breeze and Terry will just be reminding the team that whatever happens, they are guaranteed a semi-final race off so there’s a very long way to go. The Magic team are too good to write off.
Terry needs to get his arm around Dean Barker and give him a confidence booster. A win would do even better and they’ve got to be looking at this race against Prada as a critical point of their campaign. It’s not do or die but from a confidence standpoint, it’s meaningful and that’s an understatement.
Prada meanwhile is notable for the speed in which the campaign has reverted to type. After an opening expression of desire from Team Principal Patrizio Bertelli for the Prada Cup to be conducted on the water as a sporting contest, you almost couldn’t make it up when Prada were the first to lodge a protest against Ineos for a pretty petty outhaul infringement. You can see full details of the protest here.
The Italians make no secret of how hard they are going to fight in this Cup and Jimmy Spithill is straight-up competitive full of pro-sport lines direct from the playbook. I actually find him quite annoying but he’s entertaining to watch and good for the Cup. Needles everywhere. Checco actually did a great job on the podium but even he couldn’t bring it fully around and the Italians have gone from the romantic Latin darlings to whining rottweilers and doubled-down in this Round Robin series. I genuinely find them the least likeable team of all.
But one final comment if I may. Just how good was Team Ineos’s media profile yesterday? Giles Scott was off-the-scale outstanding both in the pre-race interviews (where Shirley addressed him as “Ben” – easy mistake to make) and after in the Press Conference. He was cool, calm, composed, bang on message and his delivery was spot on. He’s a media star and I’m delighted to see him taking the podium and the heat off Ben.
Equally though, Freddie Carr was excellent in the pre-race build up interviews. He gives it straight. Owns the issues. And there’s a real sense of determination. These two are key to promoting the ‘team’ ethos and with their performances both off and on the water, their stock is rising. Please use them more. Superstars.
It’s all eyes on tonight. This is the most engrossing Challenger Series of our lifetimes. Enjoy.
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