Formula One champions Mercedes were facing the prospect of a third defeat in four races after Ferrari ended two of the team’s longest sequences of success at the Russian Grand Prix on Saturday.
For the first time in 31 races, since Singapore in September 2015, grand prix fans will see a starting grid without a Mercedes on the front row.
Germany’s four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, on pole, and Finnish team mate Kimi Raikkonen gave Ferrari their first front-row lockout since 2008 and ended Mercedes’s run of 18 successive pole positions.
On Sunday, the Mercedes boast that they have led every lap of every race in Sochi since the first in 2014 also looks destined to disappear.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, whose team have won both championships for the past three years, said it had been bound to happen eventually.
“We had so many pole positions, so many front-row lockouts, 52 race victories (in 62 grands prix) in three years and we knew at a certain stage it’s going to change,” the Austrian told reporters.
“Now this is exactly the challenge that we embrace. Every series ends. You cannot win forever, as much as we would love that.”
Mercedes face a big battle as domination disappears