- The Inside Line
The best laid schemesKate Walker February 19, 2015
Any management book worth its salt will go on (and on, and on) about the importance of planning and preparation in the pursuit of success. Without proper planning and preparation, after all, the implementation phase becomes rather more challenging.
But as Robert Burns once wrote to a mouse, "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley". It is as true now as it was in 1785.
In the run-up to the first round of testing in Barcelona, the received wisdom was that Mercedes would have another cake-walk of a week, logging lap after lap with metronomic precision. Mercedes expected it, the media expected it, the fans expected it.
And then real life got in the way, as it is often wont to do.
Despite feeling unwell, Lewis Hamilton took to the track on Thursday morning at the Circuit de Catalunya, keen to get more time behind the wheel of the W06. After less than two hours' running, however, the combination of a high fever and the physical requirements of driving an F1 car - even in testing conditions - made continuing an impossibility.
Ordinarily, Nico Rosberg would have been called in from his nearby hotel and asked to step in for his ailing colleague, but the German driver is suffering from a trapped nerve in his neck and the team are unsure whether he will be fit to drive on Friday, as scheduled.
As a result, Mercedes reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein is in line for one of the busiest weeks of his professional career, having kicked off the Barcelona test with a morning spent driving the Force India before being recalled to take over the helm at his own team. Whether Hamilton or Rosberg will be fit to drive over the next few days is still up for debate, and the defending champions may find themselves entirely reliant on their highly-rated reserve for his feedback in the absence of the men for whom the car was designed.
In terms of testing setbacks, it is not a major one. Mercedes arrived in winter testing as the team to beat, and nothing we have seen over the course of the past five days suggests otherwise. Wehrlein has only been with the F1 team since last September, but he has been racing for the Silver Arrows in DTM since 2013. He is a known quantity at the team, and has logged numerous hours on the simulator. Wehrlein's hands are both capable and respected.
But it is random elements like these - bits of luck either good or bad - that can change the course of a day, a race weekend, and a season. As the proverb goes: "For want of a nail the shoe was lost. For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail."
Hamilton's flu and Rosberg's nerve are unlikely to be the nails and shoes that cost Mercedes their chances of the 2015 championships. But it goes to show that however well-laid your plans, however healthy your budget, nothing can insulate you from good old fashioned random bad luck.