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Will this be Mercedes' most dominant season yet?

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Hero mechanics fix Verstappen's car in 20 minutes (1:10)

Laurence Edmondson is impressed at the speed Red Bull fixed Max Verstappen's Red Bull, a 90-minute fix in 20 minutes. (1:10)

Three races, three victories. For anyone who's watched Formula One in recent years, Mercedes' 2020 win record so far will not come as a surprise. But for those hoping for a competitive Formula One championship this year, it still makes for difficult reading.

Dig deeper and you start to uncover the extent of Mercedes' dominance at the opening three rounds of the season. All three could have, and perhaps should have, been one-two victories. Only driver errors (Lewis Hamilton's at the Austrian Grand Prix and Valtteri Bottas' at the Hungarian Grand Prix) have prevented a perfect start to the season.

It's tempting to look at the competitive picture and say Hamilton and Mercedes have it easy, but that would be hugely disrespectful to the hard work going on behind the scenes. Mercedes has earned its position at the top of the sport and it's the rest of the teams that are falling short.

"We're working our arse off, and we're going to continue to do that," Hamilton said after Sunday's race. "Look, I mean, I don't know what's going to happen over these next races. Would I like more battle from other teams? Absolutely.

"I did expect this weekend the Red Bulls to be very, very strong, so I'm not quite sure what happened through qualifying, what it might be, but again, in the race, they definitely were stronger. But I think it was a pretty flawless effort from the team this weekend. In all areas, really delivered.

"So I think it was a little bit difficult for sure to compete when you are bringing that 100 percent. But I'm hopeful we will still find some challenges up ahead. We shall see."

What happened to Red Bull?

The Hungaroring was supposed to be a circuit that suited Red Bull. The combination of low- and medium-speed corners with just one straight have played to the strengths of Red Bull in recent years, rewarding a high-downforce aero package while covering up any deficiencies in engine performance. Based on what we saw at the first two races in Austria, those factors should have played to the strengths of this year's Red Bull RB16, but in qualifying the gap was even bigger.

There was a lot of hype around Racing Point on Saturday evening at the Hungaroring, but its ability to secure third and fourth on the grid wasn't really an anomaly. At the first race in Austria, Sergio Perez was 0.9s off Valtteri Bottas' pole position time and the deficit to the front was the same between Lance Stroll in third and Lewis Hamilton on pole in Hungary. The big surprise from Saturday's qualifying was that there were no Red Bulls filling that gap. Instead, Max Verstappen qualified 1.4s off the pace.

How Verstappen went from zero to hero in Budapest

It should be said from the start that Red Bull did not have a good weekend. An imbalance in the car's handling dogged both drivers through practice and qualifying, leaving Verstappen seventh and Alex Albon 13th.

The team was switching between car specifications and setups during practice and appeared to lose its way, with rain in the second session not helping matters. Of course, the weather was the same for Mercedes, but Red Bull is so eager to catch up that it was throwing everything at the car to try to close the gap only to uncover some nasty handling traits.

"I think we have got something misbehaving aerodynamically and it is a matter of understanding that and addressing that," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Sunday evening.

"In certain conditions, the car is behaving as expected and we actually have some very good data from this weekend, so the team will work hard to try and understand it and resolve it as quickly as we can."

In the race it was clear that the problems were less pronounced. Yet over the course of a 30-lap stint on the same tyre compound, Verstappen was still losing as much as 13 seconds to Hamilton in a straight fight. What's more, the Mercedes driver was seemingly able to extend that gap at will to suit his strategy while Verstappen pushed hard to keep the second Mercedes of Bottas at bay. Verstappen did well to hold on to second place, but had Bottas not made such a bad start dropping from second to sixth, or Verstappen not made such a remarkable start from seventh to third, it would have been another Mercedes one-two.

"We know we've got to tidy the car up and make life hopefully easier for the drivers and move us closer to Mercedes," Horner added. "They have a phenomenal car at the moment and it's down to us to close that gap and try and close it.

"It's a significant gap but it depends on how much performance we can unlock on RB16. We know we've got the fundamental basics of a decent car here, it's just not behaving as our simulation tools predicted it will and we need to understand that and make sure it's achieving what it should be doing, which hasn't been the case.

"I think there's a lot of good data from this weekend, and the team's working very hard to understand it and get on top of it."

Why is the Mercedes so quick?

If there was one simple reason why Mercedes was faster than the rest of the grid the other teams would copy it. It's easy to point to a system like Mercedes' innovative Dual Axis Steering (DAS) as a silver bullet, but in reality it is just one very visible example of the many innovations on the car that offer marginal gains.

Mercedes' DAS system - What is it? And is it a 2020 gamechanger?

The truth is that Mercedes has ploughed its own furlough in terms of car and engine development since the start of the current regulation cycles, and it has continued to make gains with both. The all-conquering W11 we see on track this year is the result of multiple years of learnings and engineering excellence, making it even more difficult for its rivals to catch up.

"Ultimately, it is an evolution of last year's car, so without doubt it is a better can than last year," Hamilton said after qualifying on pole on Saturday. "We go through a whole season and during the season Valtteri and I work closely together to point out the issues and the limitations with these cars, and we work closely with our engineers to advance it, and with the designers, we have quite a lot of meetings back at the factory together to make sure we leave no stone unturned.

"There's no bigheadedness or arrogance between any of the engineers and between us. There's just a real transparent discussion and no idea is too big or bold. We just continuously push at that."

The DNA of the W11 can be traced directly to Mercedes' 2017 car, which was famously labelled a "diva" by team boss Toto Wolff due to its undesirable handling characteristics. Technical director James Allison said the team has spent four years refining the concept to be able to dominate in the fashion it did in Hungary.

"We do the same things that every team in the pit lane does, so we go looking for downforce and horsepower and an ability to look after the tyres nicely," he said. "But we have been on a... I hate this word, but we have been on a bit of a journey for three or four seasons now from a quick but very edgy in 2017, understanding why that car was edgy, why it had highs and low and then gradually chipping away.

"Having, we think, understood that, chipping away at what is it that made that car edgy and turning the subsequent cars in '18, '19 and now in 20, turning them into weapons that are able to deliver their performance in a much broader set of circumstances."

The story on the engine side is slightly different. For the past two years, Mercedes has not had the most powerful engine in F1 as Ferrari forged ahead with a series of increasingly potent power units that stretched the boundaries of what its rivals thought was possible.

So much so, that Mercedes harboured doubts over the legality of the Ferrari engine and, along with Red Bull, questioned elements of the performance and how it could be possible within the regulations. Ferrari has since admitted that a series of clarifications in the regulations led to changes that have cost performance this year, while Mercedes set about matching Ferrari's 2019 benchmark.

Once it was clear both teams were working within the same set of regulatory boundaries, Ferrari made a significant step back this year -- to the tune of 0.7s per lap -- and Mercedes made a measurable step forward, albeit by pushing its reliability right to the edge.

"There was a clear regulation on power units that was clarified in Austin last year on what we are allowed to do and not, which was important," Wolff said. "But it was nothing that was in any way surprising, because if you comply to the regulations then that was clear anyway.

"I think the irony of the story is that we were pushed by some of our competitors to absolutely new levels. It brought us to almost burnout last year to develop and innovate in a way to be competitive on track and here we go, we have made a substantial jump in performance from 2019 to 2020 because we needed to last year.

"And that is a little bit ironic for me."

Will this be Mercedes' most dominant season yet?

Despite Mercedes' success in recent years, McLaren still holds the record for the most dominant season on record in Formula One. In 1988 the Honda-powered MP4-4 won all but one of the 16 races that year, with Ayrton Senna beating teammate Alain Prost to the title. The closest Mercedes came to that record was 19 wins from 21 races -- arguably a more impressive feat, but one that falls short in terms of the percentage of races won in a season.

This year, Mercedes has all the ingredients in place to go one better and win 100 percent of the races. The car holds an advantage of at least 0.5s over the rest of the field, looks just as quick in races as it is in qualifying and has two drivers who are unlikely to take each other out of the race in the same way that Nico Rosberg and Hamilton did in Spain 2016. That, combined with the season being shortened due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, makes a 100 percent win record not beyond the realms of possibility.

The biggest threat is Red Bull finding a significant step in performance by getting on top of the RB16's handling issues. Fundamentally the car looks quick and also has some novel engineering solutions on it, but even when it's performing at its best it still falls short of Mercedes.

What's more, Mercedes is not in the business of standing still. Work on the 2022 regulation change is not allowed until the start of next year, putting even more focus on developing this year's car. That development will also pay dividends in 2021 as this year's chassis must be used next season too.

Put simply, there is no reason why Mercedes might become complacent.

"If we would take the 2020 season for granted as a walk in the park and it is now basically just about picking up the trophy in Paris in December, we wouldn't have won these past championships," Wolff said. "There is not one fibre in us that thinks this championship is done, because it is something that can catch us out.

"On the other hand, dominance from one team, whether it is us, Red Bull in the 2010s or Ferrari in the early 2000s, is something that is always a bit odd for the championship. But it is not up to the team that has made these steps to be seen responsible for the predictability of the championship.

"I think we are very keen in racing against our fantastic competitors, we like to be out there fighting against Ferrari and Red Bull, and we like the challenger brands, like Racing Point, to be part of the game, and on the other side, McLaren and Renault need to find their way back to the front.

"I wouldn't wish for anything more than a strong competition and an unknown outcome every Friday when we start first practice, but it is really difficult for us to change the pecking order. We have one key objective and that is to finish every weekend to the best of our abilities, score every point on offer and challenge for a championship. There is nothing else we can do."

That's an ominous message for the team's rivals.