2018 Mexican GP Review: F1esta Mode for Mercedes

We’re in the final stages of the 2018 season, and as F1 entered round 19 of the calendar for the Mexican Grand Prix, another chance emerged for Lewis Hamilton to become a five-time world champion, with his rival Sebastian Vettel 70 points behind and just three races to go.

Qualifying was once again very close, with Daniel Ricciardo stealing pole from team-mate Max Verstappen by just 0.026 seconds. Behind them, it was close as well, with Hamilton, Vettel, Bottas and Raikkonen making up a very interesting grid.

On Sunday, Hamilton got an amazing start and got past pole-sitter Ricciardo, but didn’t quite manage to get past Verstappen. Ricciardo dropped to third, with Vettel and Bottas still in fourth and fifth.

It took only five laps before the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was brought out, after Fernando Alonso pulled over having had his car damaged by some flying debris from Esteban Ocon at the start.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Hamilton started losing time to Verstappen once the green flag was shown, allowing Ricciardo to close to within DRS range by lap eleven, although he wasn’t quite close enough to attempt an overtake.

On lap twelve, Hamilton came in for his first pit stop along with Bottas just seconds after, and Ricciardo and Verstappen pitting on successive laps, all opting for the supersofts. On lap fifteen, Verstappen used his DRS to overtake Raikkonen, the winner of last week’s United States Grand Prix

With Raikkonen’s tyres fading, he dropped into the clutches of Hamilton and Ricciardo, with the former pulling off an overtake in turns two and three.

On lap eighteen both Vettel and Raikkonen finally made their pit stops, switching onto the supersofts and making Verstappen race leader once again, this time by a margin of eight seconds.

A second Virtual Safety Car was brought out on lap 32, with Carlos Sainz having parked his Renault at the side of the track.  When the green flag was shown once more Vettel saw a chance to get past Ricciardo and, on lap 34, he  finally overtook the Australian and set about closing the gap to Hamilton. By lap 38 he was within a second, and the following lap he overtook his rival on the main straight.

He now had a thirteen second gap to Verstappen he needed to close down, but more interesting was the fact that Hamilton was losing almost a second per lap to Ricciardo. The Brit would still become World Champion even if he got overtaken, but that wouldn’t be in style as he was now at risk of losing a podium place.

2018 Mexican Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

In an attempt to overtake Hamilton, Ricciardo tried the move on the main straight but Hamilton braked way too late and overshot the first corner, going across the grass. Unsurprisingly, he pitted at the end of the lap for a set of used ultrasofts.

With 22 laps to go, both Vettel and Verstappen pitted. Vettel went to the ultrasofts, whilst Verstappen opted for a new set of supersofts. This promoted Ricciardo into second place but, with him being on older tyres, Vettel soon closed the gap again.

On lap 62 Vettel’s job was made a lot easier when Ricciardo once again retired due to an engine problem. The Virtual Safety Car was called out for the third time, and Bottas took the opportunity to pit.

After 71 laps it was an outstanding drive from Max Verstappen, who took the chequered flag and claimed his fifth win in F1. Following him home were the two Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen’s victory, however, was somewhat overshadowed by the fact that Lewis Hamilton finished in fourth place, which was enough for him to be crowned the 2018 Formula One World Champion. He gave the crowd a bit of a show by doing some doughnuts in the stadium section of the track. Even Will Smith left a radio message for him, and Vettel showed his sportsmanship by congratulating his rival.

There are still two races left of the season to go. Sure, the tension of the championship is now over, but that doesn’t mean the upcoming races will be any less interesting. The Brazilian Grand Prix is up next, which always makes for a great race, especially as the weather gods always play their part there. But, for now, the party mode can be turned on at Mercedes.

 

 

Featured image: 2018 Mexican Grand Prix, Sunday – Steve Etherington

2018 United States GP Review: The Iceman Returns

The United States Grand Prix had the potential to see the crowning of a five-time world champion. Taking place at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, F1 entered the eighteenth round of the 2018 season with a 67-point difference between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

With only three races left after this one, it would need a miracle for Vettel to overturn that gap and take his fifth world championship. A win for Hamilton in the US Grand Prix meant that Vettel couldn’t afford to finish third or below, as this would extend the gap to over 75 points and hand the championship to Hamilton. Did the (American) dream end here for Vettel?

In qualifying it was a heated battle up front. Lewis Hamiltom claimed pole, with only seven hundredths of a second covering the top three. Behind him were Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas, with Vettel being demoted to fifth because of a penalty he was given after free practice for failing to slow down sufficiently under a red flag.

One notable name missing from that top ten was Max Verstappen. He set a fast lap in Q1 and advanced to Q2, but broke the rear suspension of the car after he hit a sausage kerb. Red Bull didn’t have enough time to fix the car, and he didn’t set a time. To add insult to injury, Red Bull had to change his gearbox, leaving him with a grid penalty and an eighteenth place starting slot.

Once the lights went out, Räikkönen made a great start and overtook Hamilton on the inside going into turn one, with mayhem breaking out behind them. Vettel tried to overtake Ricciardo, but crashed into the Australian and spun. He rejoined in fourteenth place, behind Vandoorne. He made up some places very quickly, but he still was twenty-two seconds behind his teammate, who was leading the race.

Verstappen was already in seventh place after five laps and was closing on his team-mate, when Ricciardo once again suffered an engine issue and had to come to a stop at the side of the track.

The parked Red Bull brought out the Virtual Safety Car, with Mercedes calling Hamilton in to change from the supersofts onto the softs. He re-emerged in third place, eight seconds behind Raikkonen.

Valtteri Bottas was asked on lap fourteen to let Hamilton through, and Hamilton set about closing the gap to the race leader, who was on the ultrasofts, and eventually catching up on lap nineteen. The Mercedes made it to within DRS range, but couldn’t get past. After defending all the way through sector three, Raikkonen came into the pits and changed onto the softs.

A strange call from the Ferrari team came on lap twenty-five, when Vettel was asked to let his teammate go by. He was then overtaken by Verstappen before he had the chance to go into the pits, and dropped out of the podium positions. By the halfway mark of the race he was 43 seconds behind race-leader Hamilton and in fifth place.

Hamilton started to struggle due to blisters on the rear tyres, allowing Vettel to close the gap back to less than thirty seconds. On lap 37 it became clear Hamilton wouldn’t be able to make it to the end, and he came in for another pit stop. He re-emerged in fourth place, ahead of Vettel and with Raikkonen still leading.

For the second time in the race, Bottas was asked to let Hamilton by, with his team-mate on the fresher tyres and charging his way back up. By lap 45 the top three were very close, with two seconds separating Raikkonen and Vertappen, and another three second gap to Hamilton in third.

By lap fifty Vettel was within DRS range of Bottas in fourth, with the top three now separated by just two and a half seconds. With Vettel where he was, Hamilton needed to finish in second, and that meant getting past Verstappen.

On lap 53, Verstappen made a slight error and gave Hamilton the opportunity to overtake. Verstappen defended and didn’t give the Brit any space, with Hamilton running wide and losing time.

Two laps later, Vettel overtook Bottas for fourth place, meaning that the chance for Hamilton to win the championship this race was gone

After 113 races, Räikkönen finally got another victory. It may certainly be his last for Ferrari, but it was probably one of his best. Verstappen finished in second having started from 18th, a performance which resulted in him deservedly winning Driver of the Day. Behind them, Hamilton finished in third and Vettel in fourth, with Bottas, Hulkenberg, Sainz, Ocon, Magnussen and Perez completing the top ten.

With three races to go, the gap between Hamilton and Vettel is now 70 points. Vettel needs a miracle to happen if he wants to become five-time world champion, whilst Hamilton just needs to defend his major points advantage.

Up next is the Mexican Grand Prix – will Hamilton be crowned five-time world champion there?

2018 Japanese GP Review: Risking It All

Early in the morning for most Europeans, Formula One returned to the legendary Suzuka circuit for round seventeen of the 2018 season.

Lewis Hamilton started on pole once again, the 80th time he has done so in his career. Title rival Sebastian Vettel started from a lowly ninth place after a gamble on the intermediate tyres at the start of Q3 meant they lost precious time on track when it was dry. When the rain then started to fall near the end of Q3, Vettel couldn’t improve and made several mistakes in the slippery conditions. Bottas started behind Hamilton in P2, with a very surprised but happy Verstappen in third. On the other side of the Red Bull garage there was drama as Ricciardo once again had issues with the engine, keeping the car inside the garage in Q2 and resigning him to a 15th place start.

The race started under clear blue skies, and immediately Vettel began to make up for his poor qualifying by charging to sixth place after just two turns, and fifth place by the end of the first lap. Verstappen had a good start, but at the end of the first lap he locked up his brakes entering the final chicane, pushing the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen off the track as he rejoined. The incident was investigated, and Verstappen was given a five-second penalty for “leaving the track and returning unsafely”.

2018 Japanese Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

After a brief Virtual Safety Car, deployed because of debris on the track after a collision between Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc, Vettel moved up to fourth place and turned his attention to getting past Verstappen for third. He made an overtaking attempt going into Spoon Corner but, in trying to go through on the inside of Verstappen, the two made contact, with Vettel spinning and dropping down to 19th.

Verstappen survived relatively unscathed, and came into the pits on lap twenty-two to serve his five-second penalty and change onto the soft tyres. Valtteri Bottas made his pit stop the lap afterwards, and switched onto the medium tyres.

By lap 34, Vettel had fought his way back into the top ten, and overtook Grosjean going into Spoon – this time cleanly – to take seventh place.

After another Virtual Safety Car, this time for the stranded car of Charles Leclerc, Verstappen made an effort to get past Valtteri Bottas for P2. Despite Bottas making an error going into the last chicane and struggling with a blister on his rear tyres, he managed to hold on.

After fifty-three laps it was a dominant victory for Lewis Hamilton, once again extending his championship lead as Vettel disappointed with an eventual sixth place. Bottas and Verstappen completed the podium, with Ricciardo, Räikkönen, Vettel, Perez, Grosjean, Ocon and Sainz rounding out the top ten. Driver of the Day could only go to Daniel Ricciardo, who finished in fourth after starting from fifteenth.

2018 Japanese Grand Prix, Sunday – Paul Ripke

In the drivers’ championship, Hamilton now leads Vettel by 67 points with only four races to go. Next up is the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in two weeks time. If Hamilton outscores Vettel by eight points or more in that race, Hamilton will win the championship.

2018 Singapore GP Review: Has the championship been decided?

After the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago, which signaled the end of the European races for this season, Formula One headed to Asia for round fifteen of 2018, the Singapore Grand Prix. One of the most demanding tracks of the calendar for both drivers and cars due to high humidity, the Marina Bay Street Circuit covers 5.067 kilometres, with twenty-three turns and a race distance of sixty-one laps.

Going into qualifying it had looked as if things would be close at the front, but an outstanding lap from Lewis Hamilton saw him grab pole position by three tenths of a second from Max Verstappen. Vettel ended up third on the grid, six tenths behind his championship rival. Behind him, Bottas, Raikkonen, Ricciardo, Perez, Grosjean, Ocon, and Hulkenberg completed the top ten.

The five red lights counted down to the start, and what a start it was for Hamilton. In typical Singapore style the safety car was brought out, this year after just seven corners due to Ocon and Perez colliding with each other, putting the Frenchman in the wall.

2018 Singapore Grand Prix, Sunday- Wolfgang Wilhelm

 

Vettel attempted an overtake on Verstappen for second place, which succeeded just before the safety car was called out. It seemed like Vettel had learned from his crash with Hamilton in Monza as he didn’t go for the overtake straight away at turn one, despite having had a much better start than Verstappen.

The restart on lap five saw Hamilton driving away from Vettel whilst Bottas closed in on Verstappen, however a lock up meant the Finn then lost the same amount of time he had gained.

Reports of some wear on the hypersoft tyres started coming in from lap twelve onwards. Ferrari reported this to Vettel as well, who was now losing some time to Hamilton. The German made his first pit stop on lap fourteen, changing to the ultrasoft tyre. Getting stuck behind traffic, this early stop cost him some major time. Mercedes responded to this pit stop by bringing in Hamilton, who opted for the soft tyres.

The end of lap sixteen saw Verstappen leading the race ahead of Bottas, who made his pit stop on lap seventeen. Vettel, meanwhile, overtook Perez and set about closing the gap to Hamilton. Verstappen then made his pit stop and went to the softs. It was very close at the pit exit with Vettel, but Verstappen came out ahead to claim a net second place.

Vettel reported to his team that he wouldn’t make it to the end of the race on the ultrasoft tyres, a real blow for Ferrari who really had to win this race to keep their hopes for the championship alive.

2018 Singapore Grand Prix – Sebastian Vettel

Race leader Räikkönen went into the pits on lap twenty-three,  dropping back to fifth place. It seemed Ferrari had taken note of Vettel’s worries, as they put Raikkonen on fresh soft tyres.

After a staggering twenty-seven laps on the hypersoft tyres Ricciardo finally made his pit stop, opting for the ultrasofts and dropping back behind Raikkonen. With the better tyre and more than half distance still to go, he still had enough time to close the gap.

Sergio Perez had dropped down the order, getting stuck behind Sergey Sirotkin and becoming increasingly frustrated, even complaining that Charlie Whiting had to do something. The Mexican’s patience ran out on lap thirty-four when he tried overtaking Sirotkin but ended up crashing into him, looking and steering to the left and raising questions about whether it had been done deliberately. Perez as a result had to gp back into the pits for repair. The stewards looked into the incident and decided that he had caused a collision, handing him a drive-through.

2018 Singapore Grand Prix, Sunday- Steve Etherington

Up front, Hamilton was still leading from Verstappen who was carving his way through all the traffic. In front of them was a trio of backmarkers – Grosjean, Gasly, and Sirotkin – fighting for P14. Hamilton was held up as a result, allowing Verstappen to close to within a second. Both drivers expressed their frustration over the radio, describing the backmarkers as “crazy”. Once they cleared them, though, Hamilton opened the gap back up to three seconds, and Grosjean was handed a five-second penalty for ignoring blue flags.

A big surprise came on lap forty-six when Alonso put up the fastest lap time of the race and broke the lap record. That surprise was then doubled when Kevin Magnussen in eighteenth place then broke that record as well.

After sixty-one long laps it was Lewis Hamilton who claimed victory, winning his forty-fourth race from pole position and extending his championship lead. Verstappen took an impressive second place, deservedly resulting in him being voted driver of the day. Vettel was disappointed as once more he lost points to Hamilton in the championship, taking third place. Completing the top ten were Bottas, Räikkönen, Ricciardo, Alonso, Sainz, Leclerc and Hulkenberg.

2018 Singapore Grand Prix, Sunday- Steve Etherington

It was not the most spectacular Singapore Grand Prix we have ever seen, but it  still had some interesting moments. For the teams, focus now turns to the Russian Grand Prix at the Sochi Autodrom, with Hamilton leading the championship by forty points.

There are still six races to go though, and lots can happen. As always in F1, nothing is certain.

Where will F1’s juniors be in 2019?

The 2018 driver market has been both kind and cruel to F1’s young drivers. On the one hand, Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Lando Norris have all secured dream promotions to Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren respectively.

But on the other hand, Esteban Ocon and Stoffel Vandoorne have both found their F1 careers on the rocks thanks to silly season developments, while rising stars like George Russell struggle to find any space on the grid.

As the final 2019 deals begin to fall into place, we look at which young drivers might yet find seats for Melbourne next year.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Ferrari Media

Despite becoming Italy’s first F1 driver in six years when he deputised for Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber last year, Antonio Giovinazzi has been unable to add to his two starts since being leapfrogged in Ferrari’s junior scheme by Charles Leclerc.

But with Leclerc moving from Sauber to Ferrari, Giovinazzi might finally get his shot at a full-time race seat. If Ferrari’s right to nominate one of Sauber’s drivers is to be believed, then Giovinazzi could be just an executive decision at Maranello away from joining the Swiss team’s lineup for next year.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Glenn Dunbar / McLaren Media

If Ferrari does insist on Sauber taking Giovinazzi, that will put pay to one of Stoffel Vandoorne’s best post-McLaren options.

Should Sauber be off the table, Vandoorne’s only real hope for 2019 is Toro Rosso. Honda is reportedly keen to bring Vandoorne into Toro Rosso having valued his feedback during their partnership with McLaren.

But even with Honda behind him, Vandoorne will have his work cut out convincing Helmut Marko that he has more potential than was shown in his two years with McLaren.

Pascal Wehrlein

Sauber F1 Team

Another potential obstacle in Vandoorne’s route to Toro Rosso is Pascal Wehrlein. The former Manor and Sauber driver is leaving the Mercedes family at the end of the year in a bid to open up more opportunities on the F1 grid, and is said to have a big fan in Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost.

It’s not the first time Wehrlein has been linked with Toro Rosso—he was touted as a potential mid-season replacement for Brendon Hartley earlier in the year. Those rumours may have come to nothing, but Wehrlein’s sudden appearance as a free agent in the driver market will surely give Red Bull and Toro Rosso something to consider.

Esteban Ocon

Racing Point Force India F1 Team

The details of Esteban Ocon’s plight to remain in F1 next year hardly need repeating by now. Currently his best chance of a 2019 race seat involves either Mercedes pressing customer team Williams to pick him over a more well-funded alternative, or breaking free from the Mercedes camp as Wehrlein has done and hoping that leads to a shot with Haas or Toro Rosso.

If neither avenue comes to fruition, then we’ll likely see Ocon take up a third driver role with the works Mercedes team—possibly dovetailing that with outings for the marque’s HWA-run Formula E team—before aiming to replace Valtteri Bottas in 2020.

Outside F1

Renault Sport F1 Team

If current drivers like Ocon and Vandoorne are struggling to stay in F1 next year, it’s doubtful anyone from the junior formulae will find space on the 2019 grid.

As the Formula 2 championship leader, Mercedes junior George Russell should be the best placed young driver to make the step up to F1. However, his position behind Ocon in the Mercedes hierarchy means that it’s unlikely he’ll be allowed to overtake the Frenchman and take an F1 drive at his expense.

On the other hand, F2 stalwart Artem Markelov may yet get his F1 break after five years in the feeder series. His Russian Time backing has seen him linked to Williams in recent weeks, and an FP1 run with Renault in Sochi will be the perfect chance to make his case when it counts.

Formula 3 title leader Dan Ticktum was being queued up to join Toro Rosso for next year, until the FIA pointed out that he was ineligible for a Super License. Ticktum will likely move to F2 for next year to complete his Super License, before stepping up to Toro Rosso in 2020.

David Pastanella / Red Bull Content Pool

2018 Italian GP Review: Raging Tifosi

 

Round fourteen of the 2018 Formula One season saw teams arrive at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. Deemed the Temple of Speed for a reason, it would be a two-way fight for the victory between Ferrari and the Mercedes. Ferrari hoped to please the Tifosi at their home GP whilst Mercedes wanted to steal the show and dominate proceedings, over their Italian rivals.

In a dry qualifying it was Ferrari that took a front row lockdown, but not in the usual order. It was Kimi Räikkönen who profited from the slipstream he got from his teammate Sebastian Vettel, giving him the fastest ever F1 lap with an average speed of 263kmh. Vettel wasn’t happy with his P2, as he told his team they’d “talk about it” afterwards. He was most likely disappointed that the Finn got the slipstream instead of him as he’s a Drivers’ Championship contender. The second row belonged to Mercedes.

The Tifosi were in for a party as the front row coloured red, just as all the grandstands were. Räikkönen had a great start as he led into turns three and four. It was at that same corner that Lewis Hamilton went round the outside of Vettel which then led to contact. The Ferrari driver spun and headed to the pits to repair his front wing. The stewards would look into the incident between the two championship contesters. Before the drivers had cleared the first corner, the Safety Car (SC) was brought out for an incident involving  Brendon Hartley, after he got sandwiched on the straight between a McLaren and a Sauber. This meant his suspension broke and he had to pull the car onto the grass.

At the restart in lap four it was Hamilton who got past Räikkönen into turn one without DRS. However, a better exit gave Räikkönen the opportunity to get first place back, leading to big cheers from the Italian crowds. Vettel opted during his pit stop for the soft tyres, probably trying to avoid another pit stop.

At the back there was slight contact between Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen at the first Lesmo corner. Some debris flew onto the track and onto Magnussen’s car, but not enough to bring out another SC. Meanwhile the stewards decided to take no further action in the incident between Hamilton and Vettel.

During lap eight it was chaos in the fight for the last available point. Charles Leclerc got P12 from Pierre Gasly, and Daniel Ricciardo tried to profit from his poor exit but that almost cost him his front wing into turn four. One lap later Vettel overtook Leclerc for P13, who had already lost his P12 to Gasly. Drama for Fernando Alonso and McLaren again, as he had to retire the car only ten laps into the race due to an engine problem.  His “what a shame” comment sounded a bit sarcastic over the radio.

A huge fight between Ricciardo and the new 2019 Red Bull driver Gasly took place. It was the Australian who braked too deep into the corner, hitting the Toro Rosso on the side but without major damage.

Then Esteban Ocon taking sixth place from Carlos Sainz using DRS on the main straight. At front it was still Räikkönen leading Hamilton by 1.4 seconds. Meanwhile Vettel reported to his team that he still had some damage affecting the balance of the car. Max Verstappen, who was in third, was under increasing pressure from Valtteri Bottas, closing in on the Red Bull driver to try and get within DRS reach. Vettel was in ninth place by lap 16 and closing in on the Force India of Perez. Trying to overtake him the German braked too late, missed the apex and Perez got his eighth place back. Finally in lap 18, Vettel got past the Mexican for eight place, now heading towards the Renault of Sainz.

The battle between Verstappen and Bottas continued to heat up, causing both to lock up their tyres into turn one. Verstappen seemed to think Bottas was close enough to overtake him, but his team reported to him that “he was nowhere near.” Vettel meanwhile passed Sainz for seventh place, still around thirty seconds behind his teammate and race leader, Räikkönen. The Finnish Ferrari driver came into the pits during lap 21 whilst the Mercedes crew were ‘faking’ a pit stop. But only one lap later they were saying the famous words, “It’s hammer time!” He then didn’t come to the pits again, after his team ordered him to stay out as he still had the pace but his teammate Bottas was still struggling to get past Verstappen.

On lap 24 some drivers reported that it was raining at the back of the circuit around turns three and four, but one person who wasn’t worried about the rain was Vettel. He was still surging ahead and got into P5 after overtaking Ocon.  Then there was a big smoke plume behind Ricciardo – his new C spec Renault engine died, meaning he had to retire from the race. For the fourth time in six races the Australian didn’t make it to the end. His teammate Verstappen then asked his team if everything was alright with his engine, the team assured him that there was no problem. The Dutchman would soon come into the pits, opting for the soft tyres, but he dropped back to sixth place behind Vettel.

Bottas was told by his team to keep Räikkönen behind him to help Hamilton make a safe pit stop. He would opt for the soft tyres, but he couldn’t even get close to Räikkönen coming out of the pits. During lap 30, Vettel made his second pit stop of the race, now opting for the supersofts. Falling back to tenth place for doing so, he once again had to fight his way back to the front. Bottas was in “holding mode” – keeping Räikkönen behind him so that Hamilton could close the gap between himself and the Finn. Mercedes reported to Bottas that Räikkönen had blistered his left rear tyre.

AUTODROMO NAZIONALE MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 02: Back right tyre of Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF71H in parc ferme during the Italian GP at Autodromo Nazionale Monza on September 02, 2018 in Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy. (Photo by Manuel Goria / Sutton Images)

Hamilton was within a second of Räikkönen by lap thirty-five, splitting the top three by just less than two seconds. Finally, Bottas came into the pits from the leading position, going from the supersofts to the softs, but he would fall back behind Verstappen by three seconds. This pit stop gave Räikkönen the chance to create a gap between himself and Hamilton, but at this stage he was really struggling with his blistered tyre. Hamilton’s tyres were eight laps newer with fifteen laps left.

Vettel meanwhile overtook Perez for sixth place with only a small gap to catch Ocon, who headed to the pits, so Vettel surged to fifth. Whilst Räikkönen was struggling with blisters on the rear left, it was Hamilton who was struggling with blisters on the front left. The battle behind them was between Verstappen and Bottas who got very close to the Red Bull and tried to get past him in lap 42, but Verstappen defended well. One lap later he tried again but this time it cost him way more as he completely missed turn one after he and Verstappen made contact when the Dutchman went to the left where Bottas was trying to overtake him. Once again the stewards had a tough job to decide what to do. Bottas lost four seconds because of the incident. The stewards handed Verstappen a five-second time penalty for causing a collision. He didn’t sound too happy on the radio: “For what? I gave him space. They are doing a great job of killing racing, honestly.”

Then Monza had a new race leader as Hamilton finally got past Räikkönen using DRS into turn one, despite Räikkönen’s defense attempts. Seven laps to go and Räikkönen began losing time to Hamilton. Verstappen had a gap of just over one second on Bottas and with the time penalty he had it would mean he’d be in fourth place. The Dutchman also lost time to Vettel because he was fighting Bottas, but told his team, “I don’t care about it.”

Meanwhile it was worryingly to see that Sergey Sirotkin had unlapped himself by passing Räikkönen, when Ferrari had told the Finn that his tyre situation was critical.

After 53 laps, taking around 77 minutes, it was Hamilton who took his 86th career victory at Ferrari’s home GP. This made it extra painful for the Tifosi who really made this clear by booing the race winner and his ‘wingman’. Mercedes then angered the Tifosi even more as Bottas was told over the radio to stay next to Hamilton in “formation all the way out, just to show our Italian colleagues.” Hamilton even thanked his teammate for helping him out. One positive for the Tifosi was that Driver of the Day Räikkönen brought home his Ferrari in second place and Vettel fought back to finish in fifth position. Bottas completed the podium as Verstappen got demoted to fifth. Romain Grosjean, Ocon, Perez, Sainz and Lance Stroll completed the top ten.

Hamilton entered the weekend as Championship leader and left Monza still as the leader in the title fight, but now with an even bigger margin. He now has 256 points over Vettel’s 226 points, as the German threw away some very important points at his team’s home GP. Räikkönen extended the gap between himself and Bottas  to five points, and Verstappen once again shortened the gap to his teammate due to another retirement. While Mercedes are leading the Constructors’ Championship with 415 points with Ferrari trailing behind with 390 points.

F1 will return in two weeks for round 15 in Singapore. Vettel really has to get some points to keep Hamilton from running away with the Championship, and Singapore seems to be one of his biggest opportunities to do that. Will Vettel be able to bounce back, or will Hamilton take another big step towards his fifth World Championship?

2018 Belgian GP Review: Chaos at Spa

Finally the summer break is over as Formula 1 returned to the Ardennes forests for the 13th round on the calendar, the Belgian Grand Prix.

Lots of things happened during the summer break; the shocking news of Daniel Ricciardo moving to Renault next year, Carlos Sainz moving to McLaren and the retirement of Fernando Alonso. Most important though was the news that (formerly) Sahara Force India was saved from bankruptcy by an investor group led by Lance Stroll’s father, Lawrence Stroll. It took until one day before the Grand Prix to really save the team because problems with previous investors meant that the team wasn’t officially allowed to start. FIA gave clearance as the team changed their name to Racing Point Force India. This came with its consequences though, as they lost all their Constructors’ Championship points from the previous 12 races.

Daniel Ricciardo due to leave Aston Martin Redbull Racing for Renault f1 for the 2019 season. Image courtesy Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The Saturday of the GP started bizarrely as Valtteri Bottas didn’t see Stoffel Vandoorne coming up Kemmel straight just after Raidillon in FP3 which resulted in the Belgian evading the Finn by running onto the wet grass. Vandoorne lost control of his McLaren and just missed the barriers. The incident was noted by the stewards, who only reprimanded the Mercedes driver. It was already a tough weekend for Bottas who started the race from the back of the grid due to his team fitting new parts to his car, which resulted in a grid penalty.

Then the qualifying started. Out of Q1 were Vandoorne, Stroll, Sergey Sirotkin, Alonso and Sainz. During Q2 the clouds came out, but there was still no sign of rain. The five drivers not making it into Q3 were Nico Hülkenberg (who didn’t even get to drive in Q2 due to a grid penalty), Marcus Ericsson, Charles Leclerc, Brendan Hartley and Pierre Gasly. When the lights went green in Q3 all drivers went out on slicks because of potential rainfall.  It was at Blanchimont that Bottas showed it was raining hard; spinning out of nowhere at high speeds. Only the Force Indias tried to set a lap on the slicks, which saw a spectacular save by Sergio Perez at Eau Rouge and Raidillon just keeping him from the tyre barriers. Then everyone went out on the intermediates, some fast times were put on the leader boards, but the rain was decreasing near the end of the session. Force India profited from this situation as they spectacularly took P3 and P4, with Romain Grosjean also surprisingly taking P5 and Lewis Hamilton took pole in front of rival Sebastian Vettel.

With a very mixed up grid the race on Sunday was looking to be crazy, which was definitely the case although not as you would expect. The Verstappen grandstand coloured Spa bright orange on race day, just like Max Verstappen’s special helmet for the weekend.

Lights Out at the Belgian GP 2018. Image courtesy of Ferrari Media

After the five red lights went out it took only a few hundred metres before total chaos ensued. Hülkenberg  completely missed his brake zone on the left, causing him to fully lock all of his tyres. He couldn’t do anything to avoid a collision with Alonso in front of him, who got catapulted into the air just over the car of Leclerc. Damage on Leclerc’s Halo showed that Alonso was dangerously close to hitting him. In all this chaos, Alonso hit the rear of Ricciardo’s car who lost a big part of his rear wing. The team could repair the car, but would eventually retired it near the end of the race to safe parts. In a chain reaction it was then Ricciardo who hit the back of Kimi Räikkönen’s car, causing a puncture. After some pit stops the race was over for the Finn as well. On the right side it was Bottas who braked too late as well, but only causing light damage to his front wing.

With all chaos behind them it was Vettel who took the lead from Hamilton after a better exit through Eau Rouge saw him overtaking the Brit on Kemmel straight. Just after his overtake the Safety Car (SC) was brought out to clean up the mess at La Source.

In lap 4 the SC came back into the pits. Hamilton tried to overtake Vettel into the final chicane, which allowed Vettel to pull away because he locked up. This was strange as they weren’t past the SC line yet. Three laps later it was Verstappen who overtook Esteban Ocon for P4, as the Dutchman clearly wanted to impress all the Dutch fans around the track. Meanwhile Bottas was storming through the grid, with a spectacular move at Eau Rouge on Hartley, giving him P13. Just later he also got into P12 when overtaking Sainz. In front it was Hamilton that was initially losing time to Vettel, but as the laps went by he gained more and more, and closed the gap between himself and the German. In lap 9 the other Ferrari driver Räikkönen came into the pits to retire from the race as the damage the car sustained after the manic start was too severe. Verstappen then overtook Perez for P3, leading to big cheers from the crowds who hoped he could finally get a podium at his home Grand Prix.

It was lap 22 when Hamilton went into the pits to fit soft tyres. Vettel responded to his decision by coming into the pits one lap later, also opting for the soft tyre. Vettel came back on track still leading the race with a gap of around two seconds between himself and Hamilton, who overtook Verstappen using DRS on the long straight. Verstappen hadn’t made a pit stop yet so he didn’t defend as aggressively as he usually does.

An interesting fight took place for the last points around lap 27/28 between Ericsson and Hartley. The Toro Rosso driver overtook Ericsson on the Kemmel straight, but the Swedish Sauber driver fought back by going down the inside of Hartley regaining his tenth place. On lap 28 it was Hartley who got his P10 back again by using DRS on the straight but only one lap later it was Ericsson who overtook the Kiwi that very same way again. In lap 31 Ricciardo had to come into the pits to retire his car. There was too much damage to continue and by retiring the car they can fit a new gearbox without any penalties as a result. Bottas, starting in 17th place, got P4 in lap 40 when overtaking Perez.

The race could have been more interesting without the chaos at the start, which meant that five cars retired from the race. There were a few interesting battles from time to time, but overall the gaps between the cars were big.

In the end it was Vettel who took the win, with a struggling Hamilton taking second place. Third place went to Verstappen, who finally got a podium at his ‘home’ Grand Prix. In fourth it was Bottas who really fought his way back into the top but just couldn’t get close to a podium. Force India should be happy with a fifth and sixth place meaning they now have 18 points, moving them into ninth in the Constructors’ Championship. Completing the top ten was Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Gasly and Ericsson.

Sebastian Vettel wins the 2018 Belgium GP. Image courtesy of Pirelli media

 

The win for Vettel meant that he gained seven points in the Drivers’ Championship, bringing the gap between himself and Hamilton down to 17 points. Bottas is closing in on Räikkönen, who was unlucky in the race, as he now has 144 points to Kimi’s 146 points. Verstappen has finally passed his teammate in the Championship. The Dutchman has 120 points and Ricciardo has 118 points as his retiring from the race meant he left with zero points.

It’s already race week again with the Italian Grand Prix taking place this weekend. Will Vettel please the Italian Tifosi at Ferrari’s home Grand Prix, or will Hamilton try to extend his lead in the championship?

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Jean-Eric Vergne approached over 2019 F1 drive

2017–18 Formula E champion Jean-Éric Vergne has said that he has been approached by an F1 team over a 2019 race drive.

LAT Images / Formula E Media

The former Toro Rosso F1 driver revealed the contact in an interview with crash.net when asked about his chances of returning to Grand Prix racing:

“It’s a possibility. It’s funny how the world of motorsport changes. Three years ago, I don’t think anybody would have called me from F1 and said: ‘Hey, do you have a contract for next season?’.

“When you change your state of mind, when you change a little bit how you work, you see the results straight away. You see it in the results, and you see it in how people look at you and how they speak to you. When you start representing a brand [like Formula E], it changes a lot of things.”

LAT Images / Formula E Media

Vergne’s comments have come amid a breakout year for the Frenchman, in which he took four Formula E victories en route to the season four title with Techeetah, as well as an LMP2 class win at Le Mans with G-Drive (although this was later taken away for a team technical infringement).

They also follow a series of surprise announcements in the F1 driver market over the summer, which will see Daniel Ricciardo move from Red Bull to Renault and Fernando Alonso step away from the series in 2019.

Vergne’s previous F1 tenure spanned three years at Toro Rosso between 2012–2014, in which he partnered future Red Bull graduates Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat. He was dropped from the Red Bull programme for 2015 in favour of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz, and spent two full seasons as a simulator driver at Ferrari before leaving the F1 paddock completely in early 2017.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Who might Vergne’s F1 suitor be?

Although Vergne confirmed he had been approached by an F1 team for next year, he gave no clues as to which team was interested in his services.

The most obvious possibility is his former employer, Toro Rosso. The Red Bull junior team is in need of at least one new driver for next year—with Pierre Gasly set to replace Ricciardo—and proved last year with Brendon Hartley that calling back ex-academy drivers is an option when an F1-ready protege isn’t available.

The chances of Vergne wanting to return to the Red Bull fold after the manner of his 2014 exit are slim—although Vergne hasn’t necessarily said he’s entertaining the offer he’s received, for that matter.

Haas were said to have had an interest in Vergne ahead of their maiden campaign in 2016, and may do so again as they weigh up alternatives to Romain Grosjean. Williams may also have been the ones to offer Vergne a 2019 drive, as Lance Stroll’s expected move to Force India will leave a race seat open at the Grove team.

2018 Mid-Season Review: Formula Won Again?

The Hungarian Grand Prix was the twelfth round of the 2018 Formula One season, meaning we are now over halfway through the year. All the teams will enjoy a well-deserved break for four weeks, which gives them the time to relax and maybe come up with some new ideas to improve the car and gives us the time to look back at this season before looking ahead to the Belgian Grand Prix.

After the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton leads the drivers’ championship with 213 points, in front of rival Sebastian Vettel who has 189 points. Behind him are Räikkönen (146 points), Bottas (132 points), Ricciardo (118 points), and Verstappen (105 points), with Hülkenberg (52 points), Magnussen (45 points), Alonso (44 points) and Perez (30 points) closing the top ten in the drivers’ championship.

However, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. How did it come to these standings? How did each team perform this year so far? How did the drivers perform? Let’s take a look at that, team by team.

 

Mercedes

Currently leading both the drivers’ championship with Lewis Hamilton and the constructors’ championship, it would seem that Mercedes are on another dominant run. However, that is far from the truth. Mercedes are having a very tough season currently. Their season started mediocre in Australia as Hamilton ended in a solid second place (the VSC cost him a shot at victory), but Bottas only ended up in eight place after an awful qualifying.

In Bahrain things got a little better for the Brackley-based team, with Hamilton bringing home eighteen points with his P2 finish, whilst Bottas brought home fifteen points with his third place finish. The following races they scored some good points too, although a late drama in Azerbaijan cost Bottas a victory as he ran over debris and incurred a puncture.

Mercedes have so far achieved two 1-2 finishes, one at the Spanish Grand Prix and one at the German Grand Prix, with the latter meaning a lot more to the German team, especially because Hamilton started from fourteenth place and came through to win the rain-affected race.

A definite all time low this season for Mercedes came at the Austrian Grand Prix, where both cars failed to cross the finish line due to mechanical problems (just after they got an upgraded engine).

The team can go into the summer break buoyed by a victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix, courtesy of Lewis Hamilton. Bottas had a disappointing race in Hungary, though, as he made contact with Vettel and Ricciardo in the last ten laps of the race, costing him his front wing and resulting in a ten-second time penalty after the race.

Mercedes are still the team to beat, and it is most likely that if they continue like this Lewis Hamilton will become a five-time World Champion. Bottas looks out of the running for the championship battle, because of his bad luck early on this season.

2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

 

Ferrari

Someone else who is hoping to become a five-time world champion is Sebastian Vettel. In the first couple of races of the year it was the German who got away with a full complement of points. A very chaotic Chinese Grand Prix, however, ruined his winning-streak as he got hit by Verstappen. Vettel was spun and picked up some damage so he could only finish in eighth.

His teammate Kimi Räikkönen scored some solid points too with a third position in Australia and China, although he retired from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Räikkönen will probably have to help his teammate in this fight – he got ordered at Hockenheim to let Vettel past. It was at that race where the biggest disaster this year so far took place for Ferrari, as Vettel crashed out of the lead of his home race in the rain. This very rare mistake from Vettel kept him from taking his first every victory at Hockenheim and, with the track’s uncertain future you wonder if it will even be possible for him to make up for it in the future. This meant he lost some important points, and with his rival Hamilton taking victory it meant Vettel lost the championship lead.

In the Hungarian GP Vettel crossed the line in second place, losing another seven points to his rival Hamilton, who took victory.

With the passing of Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne at the age of 66 just before the Hungarian Grand Prix the Italian team might lose some stability. Marchionne led Ferrari to become the team it is now and they are the closest they’ve ever been to a constructors championship since 2007. Let’s hope Ferrari can continue to fight Mercedes for the constructors championship and bring it home for Marchionne.

 

Red Bull

The Austrian team were the third-best team last year, and this year it is no different. They are not fast enough to regularly beat the Mercedes or Ferrari, but are much faster than Renault, Haas and McLaren in the mid-field.

Where Mercedes and Ferrari have a pretty stable point scoring record so far, Red Bull have had more problems. They have walked away from a race weekend with no points on two occasions this year. At the Bahrain Grand Prix mechanical issues ended the race of both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ended up as a major disaster for the team as their drivers crashed into each other, costing the team valuable points.

However, there were still some very good moments for the Austrian team this season. In China Ricciardo took victory because of a brilliant strategy in what was a chaotic race, whilst Verstappen took victory at the team’s home Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, although they were helped by the DNFs of both Mercedes drivers. Ricciardo also dominated at the Monaco Grand Prix, even though he suffered some problems with the car during the race.

The team announced earlier this season that they will switch to Honda engines for 2019, and they hope this will make it possible for them to not just fight for the third position in the teams standings, but also for the first place.

For now though, they still have ten races to go with Renault engines. With circuits coming up like Mexico and Singapore there should be enough possibilities for them to get at least another victory.

 

Renault

Best of the rest at the moment are Renault. The French team are currently embroiled in a tight battle for the fourth position in the constructors championship, with Force India, Haas and McLaren.

There has only been one race so far where they haven’t scored any points, which is a very impressive result for the French team.

Two fifth places are the highlights of the year so far, by Hulkenberg at his home Grand Prix at Hockenheim, and by Sainz at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The difference between the two teammates in the drivers’ championship, however, is big, with Hulkenberg on almost twice as many points as Sainz.

The fight for the constructors championship is still very much on, and Renault have to find improvements from Spa-Francorchamps onwards as their rivals are still on their tail.

Renault Sport F1 Team

 

Force India

After a terrible qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix the gap to their main rivals at Renault only increased for Force India. The team really struggle to even get in the top ten regularly, and there have been three races so far where Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez have not scored any points between them.

Their biggest points haul came from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where the team scored fifteen points in total, thanks to a spectacular third place for Perez.

Placed into administration over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, the team’s future is uncertain. Sergio Perez, his manager, BWT, and Mercedes want the money back Force India owes them, with Perez saying he brought action against his team to “save [them] and protect the 400 people who work there”. Now it is even a question whether they’ll start the Belgian Grand Prix or not. Let’s hope they can get out of trouble,as it would be a huge shame to lose such an amazing team.

 

Haas

Haas began the Hungarian Grand Prix equal on points with Force India. The so-called “second Ferrari” team started the season very promising at the Australian Grand Prix after an impressive qualifying. The race, however, ended in a horrible nightmare as two identical mistakes at the pit-stops of both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen meant they had to retire.

At the Austrian Grand Prix they once again put in an impressive qualifying and followed that up with an even more impressive race in which they scored twenty-two points thanks to a fourth place for Grosjean and fifth place for Magnussen.

After a pretty good Hungarian Grand Prix the team jumped to fifth in the constructors championship, leaving Force India behind.

The team seem to have found pace this year. Of course not all races ended well, but for a relatively new team they are surely proving what they are capable of. Can they keep up their good performances for the upcoming nine races?

 

McLaren

After years of disappointment due to problems with the Honda engine, this year could finally have meant the Woking team could fight for the podiums.

Now driving with a Renault engine, they were immediately aiming to fight the Red Bulls. At the Australian this looked very much possible, with Alonso finishing in P5 and saying “now we can fight!’”. Vandoorne ended that race in ninth, a nice result for McLaren then, scoring almost more points in one race than in the whole of last year. The dreams of fighting the Red Bulls continued when they finished the Bahrain Grand Prix in seventh and eighth.

Unfortunately, these dreams were shattered from Monaco onwards, where the pace had seemingly vanished and the points almost became out of reach. At the Monaco, Canadian and French Grand Prix the team scored no points, mostly because of retirements (Alonso had DNFs in all these races).

The highest position they achieved after these problems was P8 in Austria, Great Britain and Hungary, all thanks to Alonso. Team-mate Vandoorne was lacking pace, even losing almost a full second to Alonso at the qualifying for the British Grand Prix, and he had to retire from the Hungarian Grand Prix from what would have been a ninth-place finish.

The Renault engines have not brought the real change the team were hoping for. It even looks like the team are struggling more than ever, as qualifying pace is way off and results in the races are disappointing for such a great team. Maybe the summer break will bring the change they desperately need.

Steven Tee/McLaren

 

Toro Rosso

Currently standing eighth in the constructors standings with just twenty-eight points, the team will not be happy.

Brendon Hartley in particular has just had no luck. This became especially clear when he crashed heavily during free practice at the British Grand Prix due to a suspension failure. Two days later, he had to retire from the race after just one lap as the team found a problem with the car.

Seven races out of the twelve so far have yielded no points. When they have gotten into points though, the results have been very impressive. Gasly got P4 at the Bahrain Grand Prix and P6 at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Hartley has just two points to his name, whilst Gasly brought home twenty-six points. The Kiwi’s future is uncertain because of his disappointing results, but a lot has been due to problems out of his control.

 

Alfa Romeo Sauber

One driver showing his potential this season is Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari Driver Academy driver from Monaco just keeps on impressing everyone. With a car that shouldn’t regularly finish in the points, he got himself two consecutive points finishes in Baku and Spain. His sixth place in Baku definitely was a highlight for the team, bringing home eight very important points for the team. He even held up Alonso in Spain in a tense battle in a race where he finished in tenth place.

His teammate Ericsson has improved himself. Seemingly motivated by the speeds Charles has shown, he now too scores points from time to time. With five points for the Swedish and thirteen points for Leclerc, the team are now ninth in the constructors championship.

The last few races Sauber were able to out-qualify McLaren, and even in the races they have showed they have the pace to fight for position. Hopefully they are able to continue this fantastic performance.

 

Williams

It has been an absolute nightmare for Williams so far. Eleven of the twelve races resulted in zero points for the team, leaving them last in the championship. The only points they have managed so far were the four points Lance Stroll achieved because of his eighth position at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Even Robert Kubica, test driver for the team, said it is “embarrassing” to drive the car. Newcomer Sergey Sirotkin, while showing a few flashes of pace, doesn’t seem to be able to build up any momentum.

Williams has lots of work to do if it wants to score some points after the summer break. If they don’t, they will be hoping for another chaotic race like Azerbaijan, otherwise the points will be scarce.

 

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Ferrari.

2018 Hungarian Grand Prix Review: Silver versus Red

The last race before the teams could enjoy the summer break took place at the Hungaroring, on the outskirts of Budapest. The twelfth round of the season started very interesting with a spectacular wet qualifying. The starting grid was thus very shaken up, with Toro Rosso in P6 and P8. Carlos Sainz started from fifth, while Red Bull were disappointed with P7 and P12. Force India were disappointed as well, with neither driver making it to Q2. Lewis Hamilton took pole in front of his teammate, with Kimi Räikkönen following in third ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

A wet qualifying meant that all teams were free to choose on what dry tyre to start the race on. Both Mercedes drivers started on the ultrasofts, while Vettel chose the softs and Raikkonen chose the ultrasofts.

The start went well for Lewis Hamilton and he maintained the lead, while Bottas kept second. It was behind them where a change took place as Vettel overtook his teammate Räikkönen into turn two. By the end of the first lap there was already one retirement. Charles Leclerc was forced to bring his car to a halt after flying debris from contact between Ricciardo and Ericsson ahead of him damaged his radiator.

On lap six, Max Verstappen pulled over to the side of the circuit, telling his engineer over the radio that he had no power. He sounded very angry and disappointed, with the spotlight once again on Renault after yet another forced retirement. His expletive-filled message made sure that FOM had a busy time censoring it. It was reported that the problem lied within the MGU-K, meaning he might have to take a grid penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix.

On lap fifteen Kimi Raïkkönen was the first to make a pit stop. He went from the ultrasofts to the softs, which meant he was probably going for a two-stop strategy rather than a one-stop. The stop took a bit longer than normal, because there was some rubber stuck in the brakes that the mechanics had to remove. He emerged in sixth, in front of Sainz and Ricciardo.

2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Valtteri Bottas responded to Raikkonen’s stop by going to the soft tyre a lap after his fellow Finn. That same lap, Ricciardo finally got past Sainz, and he set about chasing down Raikkonen and claiming the fastest lap as he did so. Vettel  was losing time to Hamilton, and by lap nineteen the gap had opened up to almost nine seconds.

On lap twenty-two Ferrari told Vettel over the radio that they had switched to ‘plan C’. He began to close the gap, but a mistake on lap twenty-three meant he lost all the time he had gained.

McLaren were struggling for pace, with Alonso and Vandoorne fighting for eleventh place. Hamilton stopped for new tyres on lap twenty-six, changing from the ultrasofts to the softs. Could he make it to the end on these tyres?

Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile was fighting against Gasly. The Honda-powered Toro Rosso looked strong, but the Australian lunged down the inside at turn one and taking fifth place, although he had yet to make his pit stop.

Mercedes told Bottas that Vettel was probably going for another fifteen to twenty laps on his softs, and that the German was being held up by traffic.

After thirty-five of the seventy laps, Vettel was leading with a 12.5 second gap to Hamilton, who had a gap of twelve seconds to his teammate behind. Räikkönen was fourth, followed by Ricciardo, Gasly, Alonso, Vandoorne, Magnussen and Ocon completing the top ten.

On lap thirty-nine Ferrari mechanics brought Raikkonen in for a second pit stop, opting for another set of softs. A lap later Vettel pitted for his first stop of the race, choosing the ultrasoft tyres so he could try and attack the Mercedes duo. The pit stop was a bit slow, and he re-joined one second behind Bottas.

Daniel Ricciardo went to a set of ultrasoft tyres with twenty-five laps to go. He was sitting comfortably in fifth place, with a gap of fourteen seconds to Kimi ahead and twenty-two seconds to Gasly behind.

On lap fifty-one a yellow flag was brought out for Vandoorne, who had to retire the car because the gearbox was gone. This yellow flag resulted in a Virtual Safety Car, but Hulkenberg was the only one who used it to make another pit stop.

With fifteen laps to go the battle between Vettel and Bottas was heating up, as Vettel got into DRS range. Ferrari reported to Vettel that Bottas was struggling with his tyres, and to continue to put pressure on him.

2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

In the closing laps it became a three-way fight for P2, with Raikkonen having joined the fray, although it was clear that Räikkönen was not allowed to make it difficult for his German teammate. Over the radio Vettel was asked by his engineer how fast he could go. In response, he said he could go half a second faster but it was impossible as he was still stuck behind Bottas.

On lap sixty-five Vettel tried the overtake on Bottas, going around the outside of the Finn at turn one to get a better exit. He was in front of Bottas going into turn two and closed the door. Contact between the two, as Bottas clipped the back of Vettel, damaged the front wing of the Mercedes. Replays suggested Bottas braked too late, and that it was no more than a racing incident.

Bottas dropped back as a result, and found himself fighting with Ricciardo for fourth. By lap sixty-eight Ricciardo was in DRS range and tried to overtake Bottas around the outside of turn one, but it once again ended in disaster as Bottas ran a bit wide, making contact with Ricciardo’s sidepod and pushing the Australian wide.

Mercedes advised Bottas to let Ricciardo pass in the hope to avoid a penalty afterwards. He did get a ten-second penalty after the race, but he kept his fifth place because the gap to Gasly was big enough. He also received two penalty points.

Up front, Hamilton took victory, with Vettel and Räikkönen completing the podium. Bottas finished in fifth place after letting Ricciardo pass. Behind him, Gasly, Magnussen, Alonso, Sainz and Grosjean completed the top ten.

Hamilton now leads the championship with 213 points, and Vettel follows with 189 points. Meanwhile a Finnish battle for third place is on, with Räikkönen on 146 points and Bottas on 132 points.

Now the summer break finally has arrived. In four weeks time Formula One will return to the Ardennes forests for the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a fan-favourite track and loved by the drivers. Let the fight for the championship go on.

 

 

Featured image – 2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Steve Etherington