Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel Have Had Their Fair Share of Bad Luck, it’s Game On Now

The Hungarian Grand Prix  this weekend sees three men in with a chance to lead the World Drivers’ Championship after the race.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are virtually neck and neck at the summit, but Valtteri Bottas has certainly put himself in the hunt.

Suddenly there is a lot more riding on this weekend.

The British Grand Prix set the cat amongst the pigeons in the Formula One World Championship fight.

Where before, Vettel had a lead of 20 points and was steadily extending his lead in the Championship on diet of consistency served with a side of controversy, that gap is no more.

Hamilton’s dominant display at Silverstone coupled with Vettel’s afternoon from hell meant that the Brit’s deficit was cut to just one point.

We’re now exactly halfway through the season, and while Vettel and Hamilton have been the two central figures, Bottas in the second Mercedes cannot be ruled out of the running either.

The Finn has quietly and calmly closed the gap since retirement in Spain from third place – had he finished that race, he’d be only eight points behind Vettel.

Hamilton’s headrest strife in Azerbaijan following that series of crazy events in Baku undoubtedly cost him 15 points, while he was off colour all weekend in Sochi.

Vettel was on for third in Silverstone before his tyre blowout and also should have been higher in Canada after contact with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull caused extensive damage to his front wing and floor, costing the German a podium.

Bottas has confounded experts who said that he was a stop gap until Fernando Alonso could break free from his McLaren contract at the end of 2017.

Victories in Russia and Austria have put him within a race win of the decorated Hamilton.

And that could cause Mercedes a headache. While Ferrari can, and have, lined up behind Vettel from early on this season, Mercedes cannot.

Budapest suits Lewis Hamilton. After all, he has won there five times already – although never in a season in which he has won a world title.

Tighter circuits similar to the Hungaroring layout have tended to suit the Ferrari car, and with the weather often hot in Hungary the Prancing Horse will also be bullish about their chances.

Vettel also has a victory here, taken at the chaotic 2015 staging of the event.

The last time the winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix went on to win the World Championship in the same season was 2004 during the Schumacher/Ferrari juggernaut.

One of the three title contenders will have something to say about that this weekend.


IMAGE CREDIT: Mercedes AMG F1 Photography Pool – Wolfgang Wilhelm, Australian Grand Prix 2017

Will Haas’ power play force Ferrari’s hand?

With Formula 1’s annual silly season looming just on the horizon, Gene Haas of the eponymous team has fired the first shot, announcing that his team will be retaining their current line-up of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for the 2018 season. While this in itself is not shocking or game changing news, the implications of it could force some teams into making some tough decisions, and in particular, Ferrari.

Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images

As engine supplier to the American team, Ferrari has some bargaining power when it comes to pushing drivers linked to them into the seats at Haas. Most notably this was in the case of Esteban Gutiérrez, the former Ferrari test and reserve driver, who drove for Haas in 2016. There has even been some suggestion that the Italian team want to use Haas as a kind of ‘junior team’, where they can place young drivers to help develop them, similar to the relationship between Red Bull and Toro Rosso. But Haas’ announcement, a move nothing short of power play, has proved Ferrari don’t have as much sway as they would like.

Previously, the rumour mill was working over time with all the speculations that Ferrari junior driver, and current Formula 2 championship leader, Charles Leclerc would take one of the seats at Haas for 2018. But such speculation has been firmly put to bed. Leaving Ferrari with a dilemma on their hands.

Charles Leclerc’s performance thus far in Formula 2 has been nothing short of dominant, claiming five victories, every pole position, and building himself a healthy sixty-seven-point lead after just six rounds. Many are calling for him to graduate to Formula 1 as soon as next year, and Haas seemed like a good fit. A midfield team where he could develop before a space opens up for him at Ferrari, which is his ultimate destination, as per the goals of the Ferrari Driver Academy. But that door has been locked tight, and for a young driver linked to the Italian team, there are few options elsewhere in Formula 1.

Credit: Zak Mauger/FIA Formula 2

There is still the question of whether Ferrari will retain Kimi Raikkonen for 2018. Questions have lingered over the Finn’s place at the team for some time, especially considering his underperforming compared to his teammate. At thirty-seven years old, some are suggesting that it is past time for him to call it quits. Of course, an empty Ferrari seat would trigger a whole host of driver vying for the coveted seat. But if it was the only free seat on the Formula 1 grid in 2018, would it be time for Ferrari to break tradition and place a rookie there?

An incredibly talented and quick driver, invested in by Ferrari, young enough to allow Sebastian Vettel to retain number one driver status, besides the factor of experience, it seems hard to argue that Leclerc doesn’t deserve a seat at Ferrari. However, it would be a distinctly un-Ferrari move to take a chance on a rookie, even one from their own junior programme. But Haas’ announcement have limited Ferrari’s options, and they risk leaving Leclerc with nowhere to go for 2018.

Few would disagree that Charles Leclerc is a talent Ferrari cannot afford to let go. Have Haas pushed them towards abandoning their tradition of only hiring known quantities? Haas’ announcement could be the trigger that sets of a chain reaction of other teams scrambling to secure their 2018 driver pairings. Meaning Ferrari will probably have to make a decision about what they choose to do with Leclerc, and quickly.

Italian Shades in Monaco

Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Sunday 28 May 2017.
World Copyright: Sam Bloxham/LAT Images (Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media)
ref: Digital Image _W6I4711

Monaco Grand Prix, a race which most of us want to forget and delete it from our hard disk, a race which only one team and one driver wants to remember it. The team, as you can guess, is Ferrari and the driver is the four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.

Ferrari celebrated their first victory in Monaco since 2001, Sebastian Vettel overtook Kimi Raikkonen took the lead of the race after his first pit-stop and secured an easy victory and Ferrari’s first 1-2 in 2017.

A bad weekend for Mercedes, they lost the lead in the constructors’ championship, they didn’t finish on the podium, but at least both drivers finished in the points.

By now I guess most of you, you will know what happened in Monaco, the winners and the losers of the previous weekend, but there are several trends in social media, about “team orders”, the unfair way that Ferrari gave the lead and the victory to Vettel and that Kimi had to win.

The facts indicate that when Kimi pitted, Vettel made some flying laps, remained on track, pitted a couple of laps later and passed Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn, couldn’t follow Vettel’s pace, and I assume that he preferred to protect his engine than to push in a difficult and risky track for overtakes, which would be very difficult for him to pass Vettel.

Who can blame Ferrari for choosing different strategies for Raikkonen and Vettel? Who can say that Ferrari is not fair with the way that they are treating their drivers?

Even if I accept that Ferrari decided to help Vettel to win, I don’t think that it was a bad move. First of all Vettel is leading into the drivers’ championship, he is more competitive than his team-mate, he has a bigger contract and finally he is a four-time world champion.

Another difference is that Kimi Raikkonen will, probably, retire after the end of this or the next season, he is 37 years old, compared to Vettel, who is 29 and if he wins the title this year he will remain at Ferrari and will his chances to win more trophies will be increased.

And don’t forget that Vettel is from Germany, he was born in the same country with Michael Schumacher, Ferrari’s legend and Vettel’s hero. For me that plays the biggest role in team’s decisions.

Ferrari wants to return to the top and win the championship after almost 10 years, and they are not willing to risk it for any reason. I am sure that if they secure the title before the final race they will let Raikkonen to win a race. It won’t be the same, but remember that the team is above the drivers.

At least we have to recognise that Ferrari have improved their “team orders” skills, no team radio this time and no “Kimi, Vettel is faster than you!”

Victor Archakis F1 Editor – @FP_Passion



A Dreaming Start for Scuderia Ferrari

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.
Sunday 16 April 2017.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _31I3281

Two wins in the first three races have moved the Ferrari in the first place on the championship board, not far from Mercedes which is just three points behind.

Sebastian Vettel has found his lost personality and leads the Scuderia to one of the most thrilling seasons. Two chequered flags, a second position in China and 68 points for the four-time world champion so far in this season. Whilst his main title contender, Lewis Hamilton, won one race and finished two times in the second place.

It’s still too early to judge, but I strongly believe that it will be a very close battle between two of the best drivers on the grid. Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have the ability to get the 100% of their car and fight wheel to wheel for the title. Lewis Hamilton looks satisfied because finally Ferrari is competitive and Sebastian Vettel is a respected opponent in his eyes. From the other side, Vettel wants to return to the top and win his fifth title in his Formula One career and fulfill one of his childhood dreams.

In China the safety car gave an advantage on Lewis to lead the race, as Ferrari called Vettel into the pits earlier, when the virtual safety car was deployed, but in Bahrain the safety car was in Ferrari’s favour, and a five seconds time penalty which Hamilton received might cost him the race or at least a battle between him and Vettel for the chequered flag.

The only ‘disappointing’ so far is that Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen are not as fast as their team-mates. The Finns, are struggling to follow Hamilton’s and Vettel’s pace, Valtteri showed some of his skills by taking the pole position in Bahrain, but that was not enough to secure him a good race on the following day. But it is not fair to judge Bottas, as he moved from Williams to Mercedes only a few months ago and he is still trying to find an ideal set-up for him.

From the other hand, Kimi Raikkonen is far away from his good side, the Finn is looking lost and unable to help Ferrari at that moment. Kimi finished fourth in Australia and Bahrain, and fifth in China, so far he has scored 34 points in the championship, half the points which Vettel have scored.

Raikkonen had a good season last year, hence everyone was expecting something good from him this year, but he failed to satisfy his fans. He is a very experienced driver, and I hope that he will improve his performance and will manage to fight for a place on the podium and for a victory in the following races.

The new regulations have improved the quality of the sport. Faster cars, wheel to wheel battles and very impressive overtakes make the 2017 season the best season of the last years.

It was obvious from last year that Ferrari wanted to take advantage of these changes and make a reliable and fast car, the risk paid off for the reds until now and Tifosi are dreaming a tittle after almost nine years.

I cannot predict the winner of the 2017 season, but I certainly can say that this year will make us to hold our breath until the final chequered flag in Abu Dhabi.

Victor Archakis – F1 Editor – @FP_Passion

Scuderia Ferrari – Season Preview

Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Wednesday 08 March 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _L0U5019

Ferrari can consider themselves to be one of the teams that had a successful winter’s work in Barcelona during testing.

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel set the two quickest times around the Circuit De Catalunya, and they’ve done enough to have the Mercedes camp worried.

It’s not just on outright pace, where Ferrari were clearly holding back, that the Prancing Horse were competitive.

The Scuderia completed almost 1,000 laps and along with Mercedes were the only team to complete Grand Prix distance runs on multiple occasions.

It is important not to take testing as gospel, despite Lewis Hamilton’s best attempts to make Ferrari favourites after an intriguing pre-season.

After a solid 2015, Ferrari were predicted to take 2016 by storm but as the season wore on it became clear that they were flattering to deceive, with strategic errors in Australia and Canada and failure to develop the car as the season wore on.

After himself having a tumultuous season last year, Vettel wasn’t quick to point out that the Barcelona form guide is only a vague one.

“It’s impossible to predict anything,” he told Sports Bild. “Even the tests in Barcelona only give a basic idea where you stand.

“It is only in the first race that you will know how well you and the others have worked over the winter. We’ll only get real clarity after three or four races.”

Despite his caution, Vettel still that a title at Ferrari is still in the question, after his predecessor Fernando Alonso left after he lost confidence in the Maranello squad.

Circuit de Barcelona Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Tuesday 07 March 2017.
World Copyright: Sam Bloxham/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _SLB3905

“If not, I wouldn’t go to the start grid.

“All I can say is that the spirit in the team is good, everyone is working for everyone else’s benefit.”

Raikkonen, who won the 2007 World Championship with Ferrari, believes that the team have made a step forward compared to last year.

“There are a few small issues but if we look a year ago, we are in a much stronger position. The car is reliable and we have to be positive with how we have gone forward as a team.”

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

Scuderia Ferrari, Japanese Grand Prix

GP MALESIA F1/2016 – KUALA LUMPUR 02/10/2016

Ferrari had what can best be described as a mixed Malaysian Grand Prix as Kimi Raikkonen took a solid fourth place while Sebastian Vettel failed to make it to turn four of the opening lap.

Vettel made an optimistic turn one move that saw the four-time World Champion clatter into the side of Nico Rosberg, who ultimately finished third after a bold move on Raikkonen late in the race.

The German retired with a broken front left suspension as a result of that contact, and thought it was a “racing incident”, although the stewards found otherwise and handed him a three-place grid penalty for the Japanese Grand Prix. The one upside for Ferrari is that at least it wasn’t their error once again, with missed opportunities the story of their season so far.

Rosberg was handed a ten-second penalty for his move on Raikkonen, but even then it wasn’t enough for the ailing Ferrari to get back on the podium and so Ferrari failed to pull off anything like the victory of 2015 at Sepang.

Raikkonen climbs to fourth in the standings following Vettel’s DNF, but Red Bull struck a near fatal blow to the Prancing Horse’s hopes of retaining second in the Constructors Championship with a 1-2 led by Daniel Ricciardo.

This weekend, Formula One moves onto the Japanese Grand Prix, with the two weekends sandwiching the anniversary of the tragic accident of Jules Bianchi, who Ricciardo dedicated his win to after the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Suzuka isn’t a track that has won recent favour with Ferrari despite the clinching of the 2000 and 2003 World Drivers’ Championships for the great Michael Schumacher. Ferrari haven’t won anywhere in Japan since 2004.

Despite Raikkonen’s memorable win there for McLaren in 2005, where he started 17th and sealed victory with a last pass around the outside of the 150mph turn one, and Vettel’s four victories from 2009-13 (Punctuated only by Jenson Button in 2011) it doesn’t look like changing in 2016 as the fast flowing corners suit the Red Bull and Mercedes far better.

Mixed conditions are once again forecast for this weekend, and that is perhaps the only chance Ferrari have of winning a Grand Prix this season and keeping the fight alive for second in the Constructors’ Championship.

Jack Prentice

Seb Thrills Tifosi With Podium Finish

For Ferrari, the Italian Grand Prix was one of the few races this season in which they have maximised their potential.

Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finished in third and fourth in Monza, although an excellent start had seen them running second and third as polesitter Lewis Hamilton reversed down the field in the opening metres.

Ferrari once again took a different strategy to the Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, who are separated by two points at the top of the standings, as the Prancing Horse opted for a two-stop strategy while the Silver Arrows opted for a one-stopper.

In truth, Ferrari would have been powerless to stop Hamilton’s damage limitation mission whatever strategy they were on, such was the dominance of Mercedes all weekend.

Ferrari’s big boss Sergio Marchionne has labelled an error-strewn season as a failure, with Maranello squad unable to build on a strong 2015 showing that saw Vettel chalk up three wins and in parts look like challenging Mercedes.

He won’t have used that adjective based on races such as these, where an unspectacular performance belied what was a solid result given the drop in relative pace and off track turbulence.

Marchionne will have been referencing the race race-costing calamities in Australia and Canada and failure to deal with the rise of Red Bull.

Red Bull still have an upper hand in the Constructors’ Championship despite Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen only finishing sixth and seventh on a track they expected to struggle at.

They believe they’ll be stronger at the next round in Singapore, where Vettel dominated last year to take one of those three victories as Mercedes toiled.

How Ferrari could do with a repeat of their 2015 Singapore success this time around.

Image courtesy of Scuderia Performante

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

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