2019 Bahrain GP Review: Drama in the Dust

The second race of the 2019 season took place under the bright lights of the Bahrain International circuit. Charles Leclerc started from pole position, making him the 99th driver to take pole in the 999th F1 Grand Prix, with Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen started behind him.

The lights went out and both Vettel and Bottas got better starts than Leclerc, demoting the Monagasque to third with Hamilton in fourth after the first lap.

Chaos broke out behind the leaders, with sparks flying around the cars of Stroll and Grosjean. The Frenchman would eventually retire from the race. At the back the Williams drivers had a heated fight, which was more for their honor than the points.

Leclerc managed to pick up the speed after his horrible start and regained second place from Bottas. This overtake cost the Finn momentum, meaning that his teammate Hamilton could overtake him as well.

Verstappen in P5 came under pressure from Sainz in the McLaren, a potential haul of points McLaren could definitely use. What they couldn’t use, however, was a touch with Verstappen which meant Sainz received major damage on his front right tyre. The incident was investigated by the stewards, but no action was taken.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Up front, Ferrari told that both drivers were free to fight, and they took advantage of it. Leclerc closed the gap to Vettel quite easily, telling his team “I’m quicker guys!” On lap six he managed to overtake the German using DRS, retaking the lead.

Gasly had to regain his respect after a disappointing qualifying, but struggled in a huge midfield fight with Norris, Magnussen, Albon and Kvyat. To make matters worse, his pit stop went horribly and cost him further precious seconds.

On lap thirteen Kvyat spun due to a slight touch with Giovinazzi at turn eleven, losing places as a result. To add insult to injury, the Russian Toro Rosso driver later got a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane. That same lap, Bottas and Hulkenberg came into the pits.

Race leader Leclerc made his pitstop on lap fourteen, opting for the mediums whilst Hamilton went for the soft tyres.

Vettel lost his second place to Hamilton on fresher tyres, but the Brit’s strategy would mean he needed to make another pitstop to fulfill the rules of using two different compounds during a race.

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Some small mistakes from Hamilton meant that Vettel closed the gap, even though the German was on the harder tyre. Hamilton complained about oversteer and had to make another stop. On lap 23 Vettel overtook him, leading to some stressful board-radios from Hamilton.

In the midfield a fun fight between Norris and Räikkönen for P7 took place, keeping each other under pressure.

On lap 33, car number 33 came in for his second pitstop. Verstappen couldn’t be happy as his pitstop went awful, not the first pitstop that’d gone wrong at Red Bull today. Hamilton made his second pitstop two laps later, going for the mediums. He came back on track in front of Verstappen.

Vettel then tried to cover the Mercedes, making his second pitstop, going to the mediums for a second time. He came back just in front of his rival. Immediately after that Leclerc made his second pitstop, and emerged with his lead intact.

Last year’s championship rivals came very close to crashing, with Vettel edging Hamilton out by only a small margin. The German smelled blood and overtook Bottas, who then came into the pits with only a small margin to Verstappen.

Ferrari Media

Up front, a fight for second place between Hamilton and Vettel spelled drama: Hamilton overtook Vettel and the German spun round on his own, costing him a lot of time. He then lost his front wing, as the car was shaking a lot on the straight after turn ten. He had to make another pitstop, dropping down to ninth.

On lap forty-six Leclerc caused a scare when he reported to his team that something was wrong with the engine. His pace dropped away very quickly, with Hamilton closing the gap from nine seconds to just five in three laps. With ten laps to go the Ferrari was really struggling, just managing to put 1:40s on the board compared to the 1:36s of Hamilton.

Hamilton therefore easily managed to overtake him. Leclerc turned his attention to managing the gap to Bottas in P3. He still held the fastest lap, earning him an extra point, but that couldn’t make it up for the disappointment of losing out on his first win due to an engine problem. He was losing around 40 kph on the straights. Bottas closed the gap to him by five seconds a lap and later overtook him for P2.

Further drama sparked with just three laps to go, as both the Renault cars cut out in the first sector. This brought out the safety car, saving Leclerc from losing third place to Verstappen. When it rains it pours: Sainz also retired from the race with just three laps to go.

The race ended behind the safety car, meaning Hamilton won the race ahead of Bottas and a very disappointed Leclerc, who still took the extra point for fastest lap.

Ferrari Media

Some great sportsmanship was shown by Hamilton, sounding sorry for Leclerc and also trying to cheer him up after the race. Verstappen, Vettel, Norris, Räikkönen, Gasly, Albon and Perez completed the top ten.

It was certainly a very dramatic race, and the season is just two races old. Next up is China – will Leclerc get his revenge there or will Mercedes take another win?

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Lewis Hamilton: Qualifying “first time we’ve unleashed full potential of the car”

Reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton believes that qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix was the first occasion that Mercedes were able to ‘unleash the full potential’ of the W10.

Hamilton led a Mercedes 1-2 in qualifying around the streets of Albert Park, almost a tenth of a second ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and seven tenths ahead of third-placed Sebastian Vettel.

It was the Brit’s eighth pole position in Australia, equaling Michael Schumacher’s record of the most poles claimed at one circuit.

“I feel so fortunate to be in the position I’m in today,” Hamilton said. “We had no idea that we’d have this gap to the others – we thought we were behind, we thought it was going to be a push, so we gave it absolutely everything and more to arrive here with the best possible package and delivery.”

Mercedes came into the first race of the year with many saying that Ferrari held the advantage over the Silver Arrows based on their form in pre-season testing; Hamilton thus expressed his surprise at the performance of his car in qualifying.

“We haven’t massively changed the car; it’s almost the same set-up we had in Barcelona, so this gap was really surprising to see,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve unleashed the full potential of the car and I’m so happy to have a car that I can fight with. This is a really great start to the new season and it puts us in a good position for the fight tomorrow.”

 

[Featured image – Steve Etherington]

Mercedes reveal W10 ahead of Silverstone shakedown

Reigning world champions Mercedes have released images of their 2019 title contender online, ahead of a shakedown test at Silverstone later today.

The W10  largely sticks with Mercedes’ signature silver, black and turquoise colour scheme but has added a mesh-like gradient pattern of three-pointed stars to the engine cover, and a silver halo as opposed to last year’s black.

F1 W10 EQ Power+ Shakedown, Silverstone

Like the designs of its rivals, it features a simpler front wing design as mandated by the 2019 regulations, along with a larger rear wing and mirrors positioned further out on the bodywork to compensate for any reduced visibility. Mercedes Technical Director James Allison has also spoken of emphasis being placed on the suspension system and on the aerodynamics, in an attempt to make the W10 kind on its tyres.

Mercedes have utterly dominated the hybrid era in F1, taking a clean sweep of drivers’ and constructors’ championships every year since 2014. The last couple of seasons, however, have seen Ferrari begin to challenge the Silver Arrows on track, even if internal struggles and various mistakes have meant that they have fallen short of that challenge being sustained across an entire year.

Mercedes’ line-up remains unchanged from last year. Lewis Hamilton will be aiming to become just the second-ever driver to claim six world championships, while Valtteri Bottas enters his third season with the team and will be hoping for a more consistent performance than the one he gave in 2018.

F1 W10 EQ Power+ Shakedown, Silverstone

Speaking of the upcoming 2019 season, team principal Toto Wolff said, “The 2019 season will be a new challenge for all of us. The regulations have changed quite substantially. We have to start from scratch, we need to prove ourselves again – against our own expectations and against our competitors.

“We start the season with zero points, so we’re taking nothing for granted and there’s absolutely no feeling of entitlement
to be at the front. In fact, with the regulation change for the new season, every team can have a shot at the title and we’re seeing all of them as a potential threat.”

The W10 will be seen for the first time on track at Silverstone as part of a shakedown test, driven by Bottas in the morning and then Hamilton in the afternoon.

 

[Featured image: F1 W10 EQ Power+ Shakedown, Silverstone]

F1 2019: Finally the year of Prancing Horse?

Ordinarily, we go into F1 seasons asking the cliché question of whether Lewis Hamilton achieve greatness this year. The truth is that this question has been rendered absolutely redundant – he has already well and truly done that. The question as we go into a new season in Formula One is: will Hamilton retain the championship crown this year and further cement an already-undeniably brilliant legacy, or will 2019 finally be the year of the Prancing Horse?

Certainly, Ferrari’s progress has been very telling. In 2015 Mercedes, on average, out-qualified Ferrari by 0.7 seconds – a mammoth margin – but Ferrari were right on par with their German counterparts in 2018, often beating them to top spot.

The same could be said about 2017 too, and there were many occasions – particularly in the early going of the season – when we thought that it might just be the year of Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel, only for Hamilton and Mercedes’ prowess and excellence under pressure to shine through and steal the show, leaving the Italian giants empty-handed.

Ferrari Media

What has generally gone wrong for Ferrari is a combination of cruel luck, self-inflicted damage, and moments of utter stupidity and notable madness. In races such as Singapore 2017 and Germany 2018, Vettel has completely lost his cool and cracked under pressure – something not to be expected of a man who so impressively took four titles under the immense pressure of a field adorned at one stage by five other world champions.

Vettel’s errors in races like Italy, Japan, USA, France and the aforementioned Germany had a quite frankly shocking impact on the complexity of what turned out to be a remarkably one-sided championship battle last year. After the Japanese Grand Prix, it was calculated that Vettel would have been 13 points ahead of Hamilton in the lead of the title race at that stage had everything gone to plan. Instead, he was instead 67 behind. Of course then, we could bring up Hamilton’s DNF in Austria, or the untimely Virtual Safety Car (VSC) in Australia, which saw Vettel snatch the lead away from Hamilton that day. It makes for painful reading for Vettel.

Yet, while toiling in the misery of once again losing out to Hamilton in the championship battle, Vettel will have to take heart from the fact that, aside from the mistakes, the Ferrari might just be fundamentally better than the Mercedes, and provided Ferrari can maintain their rousing progress with the car. 2019 may just be Ferrari’s best chance yet of winning their first silverware since way back in 2008 when they won the Constructor’ title.

While all the talk is about Vettel and Hamilton, though, let’s not forget the dark horses (or dark arrow in the instance of one of them) of Valtteri Bottas and Charles Leclerc.

Ferrari Media

Bottas is on a quest to find some much-needed form if he wants to be able to compete for the World Championship this year and step out of the imposing shadow of team- mate Lewis Hamilton. The Finn, who has looked somewhat innocuous in the title race for the past couple of seasons, knows that this is last chance saloon if he is to seal a drive with the champions for 2020.

And not many drivers can say that just their 22nd race in their F1 career was in Ferrari colours, but this is a stat that Charles Leclerc will be able to proudly exult. The Monegasque enjoyed a remarkable first season with Sauber last year, earning him a spot with the Maranello team and swapping places with Kimi Raikkonen. He is largely tipped for greatness in the sport, and the godson of Jules Bianchi would like nothing more than to prove to Ferrari that he will not bow down as Vettel’s sidekick, and that he himself can be the brave gladiator who finally topples Hamilton and Mercedes.

With that being said, let’s bring a Bull into the Colosseum, shall we? The Austrian beast with Japanese racing history racing through its veins certainly cannot be counted out, as Red Bull seek to finally mount a serious title challenge with Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly, putting an end to the mere satisfaction of a couple of race wins.

This could be one of the most exciting seasons we’ve ever seen in Formula One. It’s certainly bubbled up nicely, but will there be an explosion of life into the championship battle when the lights go out in Australia?

 

[Featured image credit – Ferrari Media]

BrazilianGP Review: Robbery in Brazil for Verstappen

The title has been decided, but that doesn’t mean the season is over just yet. The 20th round of 2018 was ready to bring some spectacle, with the Brazilian Grand Prix at the Autódromo José Carlos Pace.

Once again qualifying took place under difficult circumstances. Interlagos is (in)famous for its unpredictable weather conditions, and this year was no exception. This resulted in Lewis Hamilton taking Mercedes’ 100th pole position and his luck didn’t stop there. Sebastian Vettel secured second place, although both drivers were at risk of losing their positions. Hamilton seemed like he wasn’t awake at times as he blocked Sergey Sirotkin during his outlap and hindered Kimi Räikkönen on his flying lap, but it didn’t end up in a penalty, a strange decision by the FIA.

Lewis Hamilton. Photo curtesy of Pirelli

 

Vettel’s incident was even stranger. Vettel was called in for inspection and had to go onto the weigh bridge. In his haste, he drove onto the weigh bridge itself, and drove off it with his engine turned on, therefore destroying the weigh bridge. This resulted in a reprimand and a $25,000 fine.

Honourable mention goes to Charles Leclerc. During Q2 he was out of the top 10. Reporting to his team that it was raining too heavily, he put in a superb lap which saw him continue to Q3. There Sauber surprisingly locked the fourth row, but Daniel Ricciardo would drop five places due to a grid penalty.

On race day it seemed like it would stay dry but there was still  a threat of a potential thunderstorm. Vettel locked his brakes into turn one, giving Valtteri Bottas second place immediately. Meanwhile, both Renault drivers were battling each other, they even had a slight touch but survived.

In lap four it was a very bold move from Max Verstappen who dive-bombed Vettel, giving him third place. However, the Ferrari’s were on the soft tyres while the other two top teams were on the supersofts. Ricciardo quickly found his way back to the top six and was now charging the slower Ferrari’s ahead. His teammate took second place though, overtaking Bottas into the first corner. The Finn was really struggling, with Räikkönen, Vettel and Ricciardo knocking on his door.

Lap 16 saw the first pit stop, Fernando Alonso came in but his rear right tyre wasn’t fitted correctly. Quick reactions by the Spaniard meant that pit crew could still fix it. Bottas came in for his pit stop in lap nineteen, meaning that the Ferrari’s now had free air to continue on their softs. One lap later Hamilton came in, also opting for the medium tyres.

Marcus Ericsson, who had a great starting position, spun at high speed and returned to the pits. Not for a regular pit stop, but a retirement – the first of the race. A few laps later though Vettel overtook his teammate for sixth, but it didn’t last long as they were surprisingly told to switch places.

Photo curtesy of Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool.

 

Disaster struck for Verstappen as Esteban Ocon tried to overtake the Red Bull, but took the inside and touched Verstappen. He spun, but could continue the race (after he showed the Frenchman the middle finger of course). Eventually the stewards decided that Ocon caused the collision, handing him a stop/go penalty for crashing into the race leader.

Ricciardo and Vettel had locked horns but the Australian wouldn’t give up that easily and kept his fifth place. A few laps later Ricciardo passed Bottas for fourth place. With 17 laps to go, Vettel took his second pit stop and opted for the supersofts. This dropped him back to seventh place behind his future teammate Leclerc.

However, it would be the victory for the 2018 World Champion. Mercedes, after winning the Drivers’ Championship with Hamilton, now also have the 2018 Constructors Championship. Verstappen took second place (arguably he should have placed higher) and Räikkönen completed the podium, keeping Ricciardo at bay.

Verstappen, responding to Horner’s disbelieve: “Yeah I know what to say, I really hope I won’t see him in the pits…” with a lot of censoring needed. And as it would have it, the two did meet with Verstappen pushing Ocon three times in a widely broadcast standoff.

After some drama, it is time to look towards the last race of the season. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could result in some drivers taking big risks for the win. It will be Alonso’s final race in F1; he’ll be hoping to step away from F1 with a good result. In short, it should be a good one.

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 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.

Mercedes Team orders: All About The Racing?

(?image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports)

Today, September 30, marks a sad day for some Formula 1 fans. Hamilton took another victory, but for him to achieve win it was ‘necessary’ to sacrifice Bottas.

Nearing the halfway mark of the 2018 Russian GP Valtteri, painfully obviously, let Lewis past through after being asked to do so by the team. This led to a lot of controversy, with even some Hamilton fans dismayed.

In no way is this disrespecting Lewis, let’s make that clear. He drove sublime all weekend and throughout the race he showed that he was very fast. Bottas, however, took pole position after a mistake from the Brit in his final qualifying lap. This gave the Finn his best opportunity of the year so far to fight for the win, one he really needed and definitely deserved.

What made this team order so frustrating for many was the fact that Lewis didn’t necessarily need to win. Vettel was behind him, the only thing Lewis needs to become a five-time world champion. Instead, Mercedes decided that Lewis needed that extra position due to a blister on his rear-right tyre, with Bottas then having to defend from Vettel behind them.

Another reason was the fact that Bottas is really quick around this track. He won his first race here in 2017 and he always just seems to dominate here, hence a lot of fans rooting for the Finn. To see him lose the chance for his first victory this year because of team orders made it even more painful.

On the other hand, for the drivers’ championship it can be seen as being the right choice. Mercedes and especially Hamilton really need the points to stay ahead of Vettel in the championship. However, this reason still doesn’t make this decision the right for me.

Bottas asked over the radio if they were going to end the race in these positions. “Affirm,” he was told. It sounded like he was expecting or at least hoping they would switch those places back as Vettel was nowhere near them anymore.

Toto Wolff decided to speak over the public team radio after the race: “Valtteri, this is Toto, difficult day for you and a difficult day for us,” he said. “Let’s discuss it afterwards.”

On Twitter the team reacted to some of the angry comments. “We don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. We stand up to our decisions and are accountable for them. We made the call for Lewis’ drivers championship, to maximise our advantage.”

Bottas definitely looked very gutted after the race. Hamilton knew that as he at the same time seemed to feel sorry for his teammate. Who wouldn’t?

The question now is: should team orders be banned? For the sake of the sport, it would be better. Let the drivers do their thing and if they decide for themselves they want to help their teammate, that’s fine. If he doesn’t, you’ll get an amazing battle.

For the teams however, it stays necessary. Not only because they can keep the drivers from crashing into each other, but also because they always keep the teams’ interest in mind.

Another PR disaster for Mercedes then, not because of an incident, not because of something the drivers said. All because of an unnecessary sacrifice.

What are your thoughts?

F1’s title permutations – is it over for Vettel?

The Singapore Grand Prix was seen to be one of the most important races of the 2018 season so far. With seven races to go, including Marina Bay, a win for Hamilton would put him at least 37 points clear of Sebastian Vettel. A win for Vettel, on the other hand, would bring the gap down to 23 points.

Excitement flowed up and down the paddock as everyone anticipated a crucial and exciting Singapore Grand Prix which, in the past, has been a massive race in terms of the championship outcome, not least last year when Vettel crashed out on the first lap and left Lewis Hamilton to claim a brilliant victory.

This year’s race, however, was exactly as Hamilton would have wanted it to be – uneventful. He won from pole, and Vettel could only manage a third place finish, leaving the German’s title challenge seemingly in tatters.

Is there a way back for the Ferrari man?

2018 Singapore Grand Prix – Sebastian Vettel

Mathematically, of course, yes. There are still 150 points up for grabs this season, so a 40-point gap means the title race is still open. However, with 25 points given for a race win, Vettel is running out of both time and numbers.

Should Vettel win the next six races with Hamilton finishing second, the German would win the championship by two points. If Hamilton wins another race, Vettel will essentially need to win the other five, hoping for a fourth place finish for Hamilton somewhere in there. Two wins for Hamilton in these last six, and Vettel can forget about the championship.

Realistically, it is very difficult to see any of this happening. We are going to six tracks which will not all suit Ferrari and, given that Hamilton has been strong at almost every circuit so far this season, it is turning into Mount Everest with an extra 100 feet for Sebastian Vettel to climb.

What Vettel can hope for is, of course, some help from his team mate Kimi Raikkonen in the fight against the two Mercedes. The more cynical in the Formula One world might suggest we will see some Ayrton Senna-esque tactics from the Finn, but that is not how we want to see this championship decided.

2018 Singapore Grand Prix – Sebastian Vettel

How has Vettel ended up in this situation? The simple fact is that he has made too many mistakes this season. The most notable ones are his spin in Italy when he needlessly hit Hamilton on the first lap, and his crashing out of his home Grand Prix at Hockenheim from the lead of the race.

Red Bull have also taken away two possible wins from Ferrari this season – Ricciardo won in China after Max Verstappen took out Vettel, and Verstappen then won in Spielberg at his team’s home circuit. These two races were massive points lost for Ferrari, and the Scuderia could be left to rue them at the end of the year.

Ferrari made an error of their own in Singapore. They brought Vettel into the pits to change him onto the ultrasoft tyre with three-quarters of the race still to go. Hamilton and Verstappen both changed onto the soft tyre which could not only make it to the end of the race, but also run at a consistent pace. This is something Vettel could not do, condemning him to a frustrating and costly P3.

It summed up what has been talked about a lot over the last two seasons – Ferrari have simply been too error-prone, and this has most likely left Hamilton with the championship in the bag.

But, as Hamilton himself will no doubt know from 2007, it’s never over until it’s over and, as Murray Walker once famously said, anything can happen in Formula One and it usually does.

Singapore Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton “mindful not to take any risks”

Going into the weekend, many thought that the Singapore Grand Prix would be prime Ferrari territory with its high temperatures and tight, twisting layout. However, as the season so far has proven, many expectations can and probably should be thrown out the window, with Lewis Hamilton claiming victory for Mercedes around the streets of Marina Bay.

The most damage was arguably dealt to Ferrari in qualifying, with Hamilton setting an extremely impressive lap, probably one of the best of his career, to take pole position by three tenths ahead of Max Verstappen. Title rival Sebastian Vettel was six tenths back in third.

“I came here knowing that Singapore is a hard one for us,” said Hamilton. “But I’m always optimistic, thinking that if we’re really diligent and do our work, we can create some chances. Then Friday was already a good day for us. Saturday didn’t start off well, but then all of [a] sudden that special lap came in. Knowing that we would start on pole, I knew that it was a great opportunity for us to capitalise on.”

2018 Großer Preis von Singapur, Samstag – Steve Etherington

Hamilton made a good getaway at the start and maintained a healthy gap to the cars behind for much of the race. The only real hiccup came at just over half distance when he tried to lap the squabbling duo of Sergey Sirotkin and Romain Grosjean, who failed to see Hamilton and allowed Max Verstappen to close to within a second of the Mercedes.

“When I hit traffic, I was just mindful not to take any risks,” said Hamilton. “When you start to get closer to another car, you start losing grip and start sliding around more, so there’s a higher chance of mistakes. If you’re lucky you catch the cars at the right point and they let you by so you don’t lose any time, but today I always caught them at an unfortunate point. So when Max was right behind, I had to go on the defensive, and I thought to myself, ‘Bro, you’re not getting by – not today!'”

Both he and Verstappen eventually cleared Sirotkin and Grosjean – with the Haas being given a penalty for ignoring blue flags – and Hamilton immediately opened up the gap again to just over three seconds.

2018 Singapore Grand Prix, Sunday- Wolfgang Wilhelm

He went on to claim victory – his 69th in F1 – by almost nine seconds, bringing to a close one of the most challenging races of the year.

“It was physically such a demanding race,” Hamilton added, “so I’m relieved that it’s over now – it felt like such a long night, but I’m super grateful for the result.”

As a result, Hamilton now leads Sebastian Vettel – who finished third after a strategic blunder from Ferrari lost the German a potential second-place finish – by 40 points in the championship.

Yes, the next Grand Prix – at the Sochi Autodrom in Russia – has always been a happy hunting ground for Mercedes, but if Singapore and the rest of this year have shown us anything, it’s that you really can’t rely on past showings to predict how things will unfold in the remainder of 2018.

2018 Großer Preis von Singapur, Samstag – Paul Ripke
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