Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel are in party mode, after an unexpected victory in the first race of the 2018 season in Melbourne.
The German driver, qualified third, behind his team-mate and the 2017 world champion, Lewis Hamilton. The Italians took a risk and split the strategy between the drivers, Kimi Raikkonen pitted on lap 21, switched from ultrasofts to softs, Mercedes called Lewis Hamilton into the pits right after Kimi’s stop. Sebastian Vettel, remained on track for some extra laps, on the 25th lap Kevin Magnussen pitted from the fourth position, a few meters after Kevin re-joined the track, forced to step aside and park his car due to an error during the pit-stop.
A couple of laps later, Romain Grosjean pitted for a fresh set of supersofts tyres, but he copied his team-mate exact footsteps, Romain parked his car and retired from the race, for the same reason as Kevin Magnussen, loose wheels, after the pit-stop. The wheels on both cars were not being placed correctly before the nuts were tightened.
The only difference between Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, retirement, was the Grosjean’s car could not be easily recovered, hence the VSC deployed followed by a safety car.
During the VSC period, Sebastian Vettel pitted, that gave him a 10 second advantage over Lewis Hamilton. The German, re-join ahead of the Mercedes and he was leading the race. Hamilton pushed hard, after the SC, to catch and pass Vettel, the British champion was very close to Vettel’s Ferrari, but a small driving error cost him time and he also lost pace in the final laps of the race.
Sebastian Vettel celebrated a second consecutive victory in Australia and started the 2018 year with the same way he did in 2017.
A poor strategy, cost the chance to Red Bull to be competitive and score a podium in Australia. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen started the race on supersofts, Verstappen and Ricciardo qualified fourth and eighth respectively. A three place grid penalty was given to Daniel Ricciardo for failing to slow down for a red flag, during free practice.
The Dutch, was not quick enough to challenge the two Ferraris in the opening lap, at turn one on the tenth lap, Max spun his Red Bull and lost places. He was unable to recover, as he was also facing unbalance issues caused by the damaged floor on his car.
Daniel Ricciardo wanted to finish on the podium in his home race, after the retirement of the two Haas, the Australian was fourth behind Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn, had to defend his position as Daniel was on his tail for most of the time in the final laps of the Grand Prix.
At the end, Ricciardo finished fourth and Max Verstappen sixth, behind Fernando Alonso.
Double point finish for McLaren
For the first time since 2014, McLaren scored points in Melbourne. The fifth place that Alonso took matched his best ever result in three years with Honda power. McLaren, couldn’t imagine a better start, Alonso and Vandoorne scored 12 points combined in the opening race of the 2018 season.
Furthermore, Fernando Alonso had the pace to hold back a Red Bull and he finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes.
The outcome of the race affected by the VSC and Haas retirements, personally I was impressed with the pace the American team showed in the first laps of the Grand Prix and I would like to see them racing until the chequered flag.
It is still too early to judge, but I will take the risk to say that Asia will play a key role in the championship. If Ferrari has learnt from their mistakes, this year will be very interesting till the final chequered flag.
Season finale once again, the 2017 Formula One season, belongs to the past, it’s hard to describe my feelings for this season. There are two emotional packages, the first one is before the summer break and the other one is after the break, mixed emotions but at the end, despite the results, despite the winner, there is no way to relieve the pain that appears when the F1 season ends. Now we have to wait until the first pre-season tests to hear the noise of the engines, but before that there will be massive debates about the Halo. Personally, I don’t like it, but the drivers’ safety is always the most important factor, end of discussion!
A traditional review would break the season into two parts and remind you round by round, or race by race, if you prefer, what happened the past months. Let’s try a different approach, a shorter season review, which will try to put you in a flashback mode, and pass all the 2017 season in front of your eyes in 1 minute (okay maybe a bit more!)
8 months ago…
Season premiere, tonnes of coffee for us who are living in the European time zone, agony as well, like the first day in school after the summer break! Sebastian Vettel, started from the second place, had better set up and a faster car than his title rival, Lewis Hamilton, and won for the first time since the Singapore Grand Prix in September 2015. Mercedes asked from Hamilton to go faster, but the Brit had issues with his tyres and was unable to catch Vettel’s speed.
Not a race to remember for Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian’s Red Bull, stopped on the way to the grid, his mechanics sent him back to the race, and on the second lap he had another issue, returned to the track, to enjoy his home race, but retired before the 30th lap.
Lewis Hamilton took his revenge, the Briton won his first victory in 2017. On Saturday he secured the pole, and had an advantage the following day, Vettel was close but never too close and at the end Hamilton took the chequered flag. The drivers started the race on wets, Max Verstappen had an impressive race, moved from the 16th to the third. Antonio Giovinazzi crashed his Sauber on the third lap of the race and retired, a good result for Carlos Sainz who finished seventh and scored six points for Toro Rosso.
Pole position for Valtteri Bottas, the first in his career, the Finn set the fastest lap on Saturday, followed by his team-mate and Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari, had the pace to challenge Mercedes, and win their second victory of the season. At that moment, it was clear that the 2017 title would be decided between Hamilton and Vettel. Lewis Hamilton received a five second time penalty, for driving slowly on the pit entry to hold up Daniel Ricciardo. Lewis, served his penalty during the second and final pit-stop, when he re-joined the track he was behind Vettel and Bottas. The Finn stepped aside, allowed to Hamilton to pass him and chase Vettel, but Hamilton was not able to cover the 12 second gap in nine laps.
Max Verstappen crashed on the eleventh lap of the race, due to brake problems and retired.
Russia was the next stop for the Formula 1 crew, after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel was prepared to celebrate another victory in 2017, as he claimed the pole position in Bahrain, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn had other plans. The Silver Finn, jumped the two Ferraris in front of him and took the lead on the opening lap. Bottas, despite the pressure from Vettel during the final laps, managed to remain first until the chequered flag and scored his first victory in Formula 1.
Hola amigos, said Hamilton to Sebastian Vettel. After an amazing start, Vettel passed Hamilton on the first lap, but Mercedes had an ace under its sleeve. The Silver Arrows, decided not to follow Ferraris strategy and go for a quick stop, but to leave Hamilton on the track for a longer medium stint and gain an advantage on a later stage of the race. Valtteri Bottas, delayed Vettel, as the German couldn’t pass the Finn, Mercedes pitted Hamilton, after the end of VSC, and with 30 laps to go. The British champion, re-joined on softs, Vettel pitted a lap later and after a wheel to wheel battle with Hamilton managed to remain first. On lap 44, Lewis was on Sebastian’s tail, took advantage of the DRS and overtook the race. Since that moment Lewis has tried to increase the gap between him and Vettel and at the end, he took his second chequered flag of the season.
Hamilton vs Vettel = 2-2
Kimi Raikkonen started from the pole position, after nine years, Kimi took advantage of Vettel’s mistakes on his flying lap, and took the pole on Saturday’s session. A race to forget for Hamilton, Lewis qualified 13th and finished seventh. Jenson Button, replaced Fernando Alonso, in Monaco, but collided with Pascal Wehrlein on lap 60 and retired the race.
Ferrari decided to pit Kimi on lap 34, Sebastian Vettel found the opportunity and set some flying laps, pitted after five laps, and re-joined ahead of his team-mate.
Daniel Ricciardo was the third person on the podium, it was Red Bull’s third podium of the season, and the second consecutive for Ricciardo.
Easy weekend for Lewis Hamilton, the Briton started and finished the race from the same position, the first. Vettel, qualified second on Saturday, couldn’t follow the pace of the two Mercedes’ and Ricciardo’s, he finished only fourth. Sergio Perez, refused to follow Force India’s orders, to allow Ocon to pass, while he was fourth behind Ricciardo. At the end, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished fifth and sixth respectively.
Three safety cars, and several crashed were not enough to stop Daniel Ricciardo to win his first victory in 2017. Sebastian Vettel collided with Lewis Hamilton, he got a 10 second stop and go time for swearing in Hamilton’s car.
Daniel Ricciardo totally deserved the victory in the Baku Grand Prix, the Australian dropped down to 17th place, but moved up to the tenth position just before the first safety car. The two following, safety cars, and the troubles between the leading drivers, gave the advantage to Ricciardo to move all the way up in the first place.
A race that Stroll will never forget, the Canadian young driver finished on the podium for the first time in his career.
Valtteri Bottas dominated in Austria, took his second victory in 2017. A five-place grid penalty dropped Hamilton to eighth position, the following day, Lewis finished fourth behind Daniel Ricciardo whilst Sebastian Vettel finished second. During the final laps of the race, Vettel was closing to Bottas and Hamilton to Ricciardo, for the third place, but both drivers didn’t improve their position.
After the Austrian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel was leading in the championship standings by 20 points.
Home race for Lewis Hamilton and he couldn’t imagine a better way to thank his fans who appeared in Silverstone, than to win the British Grand Prix. With that victory, Lewis Hamilton tied the all-time record of five career wins in the British GP.
“The support has been incredible this weekend, I am so proud I could do this for you all. Now the plan is to win the championship.” Lewis Hamilton said after his victory in Silverstone.
An issue on Vettel’s front tyre, dropped him to seventh place behind Hulkenberg. Kimi Raikkonen, suffered the same problem a couple laps earlier, which cost him the second position, dropped him to the third place, whilst Bottas moved up to the second position.
The last race before the summer break, Ferrari dominated in Hungary, and responded to Mercedes 1-2 in Silverstone. Sebastian Vettel, despite the problems that his Ferrari suffered, he won in Hungary, followed by his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who was complaining about Vettel’s speed.
Lewis Hamilton, was not able to catch the two Ferraris in front of him and allowed Bottas to pass him and finish third. The Briton, kept the promise which made to Valtteri earlier in the race, when Bottas allowed Lewis to pass, as he was moving faster at that point of the race.
A great race for Fernando Alonso, who finished sixth and scored crucial points for McLaren, a positive result for Carlos Sainz Jnr too, the Spaniard finished seventh behind Alonso.
It certainly will be one for him to celebrate, as on his 30th anniversary he avoided being hit with more sporting penalties following his rash clash with title rival Lewis Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Vettel was angered by what he saw to be a brake-test on lap 19 at the end of a Safety Car period, and ploughed into Hamilton.
While gesticulating wildly, he then ploughed into the side of his rival and sparked a mass debate over whether he is in fact mad, bad and dangerous to know.
For this, he received a 10-second stop/go penalty, costing him 30 seconds and almost certainly the race victory.
The FIA has noted Vettel’s sincerest apologies and his commitment to devoting time to educational courses over the next 12 months.
They have also warned that a repeat of this behaviour would immediately herald another tribunal, and most likely worse consequences.
In not punishing Vettel any further they have avoided turning themselves into a laughing stock across the wider motorsport world.
It would have sent a bad message out to the stewards to overrule them on something not as cut and dried as many would have you believe.
The debate about whether they awarded the right penalty will no doubt rage on through to this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
No doubt partisans on both sides will claim it either to be the biggest injustice of human kind or that in fact it is a victory for the golden old days where “men were men”.
The issue of whether the stewards got the decision right or wrong is not easy to resolve.
The incident does set a bad example to younger drivers, but the fallout following the handbags should act as enough of a pointer to show that a driver must always stay in control.
While mindless and daft, it is difficult to believe Vettel would deliberately risk damaging his car and putting himself out of the race, even at 30mph. This was pointed out by of all people Mercedes chief Toto Wolff.
Hamilton was right to be aggrieved, angry and upset at the outcome of the race and Vettel’s impromptu dodgems ride.
However, much of that stemmed mostly from his own dramas and had he not had to make an unscheduled pit-stop to replace a broken headrest, he’d have walked home.
It would have been wrong to punish Vettel based on others’, including Hamilton’s, misfortune.
Far more dangerous and indeed pivotal acts have been committed in the heat of F1 battle.
Michael Schumacher in 1994 cutting across Damon Hill’s Williams to after earlier contact with the wall at the title-deciding Australian Grand Prix to ensure that if he couldn’t finish, neither would Hill.
And then we have the infamous first corner of the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, where Ayrton Senna made sure that Alain Prost didn’t the corner ahead of his McLaren – whatever the cost.
Yes, Vettel’s silliness was under controlled conditions but that just adds to the stupidity of the incident, not the danger.
The FIA have rightly avoided changing the result of the football match because the referee awarded a free-kick instead of a penalty.
With the fall-out from this decision, the Austrian Grand Prix now has more needle than it already had.
Now, let’s get on with racing and watch this intriguing, absorbing title fight play out over the next twenty weeks.
Maybe we’ll all then have our (birthday) cake and eat it.