The second Grand Prix of the season was more dramatic than the season premiere in Australia. Mercedes had to respond to Ferrari’s pace and show that they are still in the game.
Hamilton started and finished the race in the same position and claimed his first victory of the season.
The weather played its role, and it was obvious that the key to the victory was the strategy. Almost all the drivers started the race on the intermediates, only Sainz decided to risk it and start on supersofts.
A clean start allowed to Hamilton and Vettel to remain first and second, respectively, while Ricciardo passed Raikkonen and moved up to fourth.
Ferrari took a risk with Vettel’s car, on the second lap, Stroll ran onto the gravel after he punted off by Perez. The Virtual Safety Car deployed and almost everyone pitted and switched to slicks. Ferrari called in Vettel and switched to soft compounds.
At that point, the German had an advantage compared to the other drivers who were in front of him, as he re-joined sixth, all the others were on intermediates, but Giovinazzi wanted to repeat the move which allowed him to move up to Q2. Antonio lost the control of his Sauber on the final corner and crashed into the barriers, the Italian walked out of his car and the safety car was deployed.
The front drivers took advantage of the incident and pitted for a fresher set of tyres. Hamilton switched to softs, whilst the two Red Bulls switched to supersofts. Vettel had to pass his team-mate and the two Red Bulls in order to be placed behind Hamilton. The Brit, had the lead of the race and he managed to remain in control of the race until the end.
Max Verstappen started from the 16h place, and moved up to nine in the first lap, he continued to impress all of us with his skills, when the safety car returned into the pits, Max was fourth behind his team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, and he was looking for a space to pass him. On the eleventh lap, he passed the Australian, with another excellent move, and was chasing Hamilton for the first position.
Kimi Raikkonen was struggling to pass Daniel Ricciardo and it was then when Vettel decided to take his fate in his own hands. After almost 10 laps behind Raikkonen and Ricciardo, Vettel passed his team-mate in turn 5 and he was after Ricciardo. Two laps later, the German completed on of the most impressing overtakes of the race, he took the outside on turn five, had a wheel to wheel battle with Daniel, they touched a bit and the four time champion managed to remain in front and passed the Australian.
Max Verstappen’s mistake on the 14th turn allowed to Vettel to complete an easy pass and move up to second place on lap 28 and that was his final position.
Valtteri Bottas didn’t have a good race as a spin behind the safety car dropped him to 12th place, which he managed to recover to sixth and finish behind Kimi Raikkonen.
Another disappointing weekend for McLaren, Vandoorne retired due to fuel issues, while Fernando Alonso was seventh for a big part of the race, but he retired as he faced some technical problems.
Very impressive performance by Carlos Sainz, he finished seventh with his Toro Rosso and scored some points for his team. Both Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished in the points, ninth and tenth respectively. Kevin Magnussen, with his Haas completed the top 10 as he finished eighth.
Moment of the Race
Clearly, it was Vettel’s move on Ricciardo. A great fight between the two drivers, both respected each other and Sebastian Vettel understood that DRS was not enough and took the risk to pass the Australian, from the outside of Turn 5.
The next race will take place in seven days in Bahrain, different circuit different set-up for the cars, temperature will also play its role. It will be interesting to see if the battle between the two top drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel can last until the end of the season.
Victor Arhcakis – @FP_Passion
(Image Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)