Sayonara and Game Over for Ferrari

Suzuka Circuit, Japan.
Sunday 08 October 2017.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _X4I8963

Lewis Hamilton won the Japanese Grand Prix, and extended his championship lead to 59 points from Sebastian Vettel. The British Samurai, led the race from the pole till the end, without any problem and no pressure. Red Bull was the only team which tried to put some pressure on Hamilton, especially after the second Virtual Safety Car, but still the champion remained first and took the chequered flag at the Japanese Grand Prix.

An engine problem cost the race to Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari’s engineers were working on Vettel’s car just a few minutes before the formation lap, the team thought that they solved the issue but there prays didn’t work out and Vettel retired on the fourth lap. After lights out, the German lost the second position from Max Verstappen and soon dropped down to sixth, the safety car, which deployed due to Sainz’s retirement, allowed him to remain on track for a couple of laps, but at the re-start Ferrari informed Vettel to return to the pits and retire his car.

Suzuka Circuit, Japan.
Sunday 08 October 2017.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W08 EQ Power+, leads at the start of the race.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONY8649

Vettel said on Sky  “It’s normal you’re critical, especially if things go wrong, so it’s part of our job. I think I need to protect them. We’ve done an incredible job so far. Bitter the past two races with the reliability issues – but you know, it’s like that sometimes. Of course it hurts and we’re all disappointed, but now we need to get back, get some rest and then go flat out for the last four races and see what happens.”

Daniel Ricciardo scored another podium this season and set a new personal-best with nine podiums in one season. The Australian had a quiet evening behind his team-mate compering to Max Verstappen who started fourth but moved up to second place and was trying to stay close to Hamilton during the Japanese Grand Prix. The Dutch, knew that Lewis will not defend his position in case of a battle between them, but Max didn’t have the pace to match and challenge Hamilton.

Suzuka Circuit, Japan.
Sunday 08 October 2017.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _X4I8155

An interesting battle for the tenth position took place during the final laps of the race, Felipe Massa was the leader of this battle from the 10th position, challenged by Magnussen and Grosjean. The Brazilian was struggling and didn’t had the pace to stay ahead of the two drivers, both passed him and moved up to the eighth and ninth place respectively. Massa defended his position from Fernando Alonso, who started the race from the back of the gird. The VSC which deployed due to Stroll’s retirement, helped him to keep a distance from the Spaniard and score one point for Williams in Suzuka.

Jolyon Palmer raced for the last time for the Renault and finished 12th, whilst his team-mate, Nico Hulkenberg was unlucky as he forced to retire due to an issue with the DRS.

Next stop is at the Circuit of the Americas, a circuit which suits better to Mercedes and they are expected to be more competitive. Sebastian Vettel was leading by seven points after the Belgian Grand Prix and he was only three points behind Hamilton in Italy, but the next three races were a disaster for him and Ferrari. A start-line crash in Singapore, followed by engine problems in Malaysia and Japan dropped him 59 points behind Lewis. The Brit three-time champion, is on his way for his fourth title which he can celebrate it in COTA.

Mercedes 2017 Season So Far: Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas closer than anyone predicted

For Mercedes, the hybrid era beginning in 2014 had meant unbridled success and Formula One domination which for three years had seen just eight non-Mercedes victories to the end of 2016.

For 2017, the aerodynamic regulations changed plenty about F1. The cars were lower, faster, wider. And Mercedes were no longer having it all their own way.

They’ve more than played their part in a season-long two-team battle with Ferrari that arguably rivals the McLaren-Ferrari duels of 1998-2000 and 2007-08.

Großer Preis von Australien 2017, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm – Mercedes AMG F1
Mercedes were given a warning by Ferrari in Australia

They were served notice at the Australian Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton was edged out by Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari despite the Silver Arrows claiming a familiar pole position. New recruit Valtteri Bottas was a close third.

Hamilton’s victory in China confirmed what the watching motorsport world hoped they knew: That 2017 was going to be a grand battle between two of Formula One’s living greats. Vettel was second while Bottas managed sixth after a chaotic race.

It was a second 2-3 in three races as Hamilton headed Bottas in Bahrain, while in Sochi Bottas took his first Grand Prix win as Hamilton toiled with handling issues all weekend.

Hamilton restored order at Mercedes to win well in Spain ahead of Vettel after earlier falling behind the German as Bottas first collided with Raikkonen and Verstappen before retiring with an engine failure.

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Sunday 14 May 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONZ6499
Vettel got his elbows out in Spain but Hamilton eventually took an important victory for Mercedes

Vettel’s consistency was a thorn in the Mercedes side, and at the Monaco Grand Prix he stretched his lead over Hamilton to 25 points. Bad luck in qualifying left Hamilton starting 13th and he did well to recover to seventh, while Bottas could manage only fourth behind the Ferraris and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

The Canadian Grand Prix was a throwback to the good old days of 2014-16. Lewis Hamilton swept all before him to handsomely head teammate Valtteri Bottas, who in turn was well clear of Ricciardo’s Red Bull.

Bottas drover arguably his greatest race at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but his drive to second having been a lap down was overshadowed by a controversial incident involving Hamilton and Vettel. Infuriated at what he perceived to be brake-testing, Vettel rammed Hamilton under the Safety Car.

Vettel would finish fourth after a stop-go penalty, which would have seemed severe had Hamilton not had to pit to replace a loose headrest. He would finish fifth.

Bottas took his second career win at the Austrian Grand Prix, holding off Vettel by the slimmest of margins in an impressive rearguard action while Hamilton recovered from eighth on the grid following a gearbox penalty to finish fourth.

Mercedes AMG F1 – Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes-Benz F1 W08 Hybrid celebrates at Formula One World Championship, Rd10, British Grand Prix, Qualifying, Silverstone, England, Saturday 15 July 2017.

At the British Grand Prix, everything went right for Hamilton as it so often does. He took his fourth straight win at Silverstone to head the charging Bottas, who went from ninth to second. HE was helped by both Ferraris suffering tyre failures, with Raikkonen third and Vettel only seventh.

Ferrari were back on song at the Hungarian Grand Prix just before the summer break and secured a 1-2 finish, while Bottas and Hamilton were third and fourth. Bottas had allowed Hamilton through to attack the Ferraris on the condition that should he not pass them, the Finn regained third. Hamilton honoured this agreement at the very end.

Three-time World Champion Hamilton has not bowled the calm Bottas as many had predicted at the start of the season. Bottas has outraced Hamilton five times from eleven starts and sits just 19 points behind the Brit and 33 behind Championship leader Vettel.

Unlike Ferrari, Mercedes have both drivers in title contention at the halfway stage of the season. They might have a difficult decision in the coming weeks.

Sebastian Vettel Verdict – FIA Right Not to Undermine Their Stewards

Happy Birthday, Sebastian Vettel.


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.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline