Although the season is not yet over it has become increasingly clear that Sebastian Vettel will not win his 5th world title this year… again, so what has gone wrong for the German and the prancing horse.
Vettel came out of 2013 having just won 4 titles on the trot with Red Bull, who themselves have struggled to cope with the hybrid F1 ear, and after a bad season with the team in 2014 where he was outshone by new boy Ricciardo, he jumped ship to Ferrari in hope of rediscovering championship glory.
Ferrari, on the other hand, wasn’t doing too well either with Alonso deciding he’d had enough at the end of 2014 and moving back to Mclaren (we all know how that turned out) but did look to be on the up in 2015.
All the while Mercedes had prepared for this change better than anyone else and was reaping the rewards with both Hamilton and Rosberg being dominant in almost every race and Mercedes have now won all 8 available world titles since 2014.
The only ones to have come close to beating Mercedes in terms of pure pace is Ferrari and yet nothing. While campaigns in 2015 and 17 showed promise (and their 2014/16 attempts were basically none existent) 2018 has been their best shot yet. They came into the season with what was thought to be the best car and now Hamilton could take the title in the next race with races to spare… again.
So how has this come to be from the strongest of beginnings to a tremendous fall from grace.
It all started so well for Vettel winning the opening race in Australia after taking advantage of the VSC and a lock-up from Hamilton that cost him the race.
It was another win in Bahrain after starting from pole while Hamilton was sat in 9th. This was a particularly good one as he had to nurse a set of tyres that were completely dead due a mechanic being injured when Raikkonen pitted.
China was the first time things didn’t go Vettel’s way, after again starting from pole he was undercut by Bottas and then slammed into by Verstappen at the hairpin sending both into a spin. This caused some damage to the Ferrari car and Vettel quickly feel through the field to end up 8th, while an overtaking masterclass from Ricciardo saw him take the win.
Azerbaijan was Vettel’s race to lose, he started from pole and lead into turn one as well as the first safety car restart. However Bottas was able to get past by pitting under the second safety car, Vettel tried to go down his inside on the restart but locked up and ran wide sending him down to 4th while Hamilton picked up the pieces to win.
Spain was another win for Hamilton and a fairly easy one for the Brit which saw Vettel come in 4th again losing yet more ground to the now championship leader.
In Monaco Vettel’s only real rival was Daniel Ricciardo, who was looking for, and got, redemption for the 2016 race he lost to a pitstop blunder, with Hamilton nowhere to be seen.
Things seemed to be back on track in Canada as Vettel won from pole again. Hamilton was made to pit early due to a PU issue which meant he came out behind the two Red Bulls in 6th and Ricciardo was able to maintain the position when he pitted putting Hamilton at a disadvantage.
So onto France and boy did things turn around. Vettel started 3rd behind both Mercedes and in a moment of desperation tried to go down the inside of Bottas at turn one locking up and colliding with the Finn dooming both their races and picking up a 5-second penalty. And while it was a good come back drive he only managed 5th having had to concede to his teammate.
In Austria, the swing went right back in Vettel’s favour, despite only finishing 3rd it was Mercedes that imploded. First Bottas retired with a gearbox issue then Mercedes decided not to pit Hamilton under the VSC which put him at a disadvantage. After Vettel stormed past at turn 3 the no.44 car came to a halt producing a rare double DNF for the silver arrows.
Next was the British Grand Prix (the first race I’ve gone to) the one Hamilton desperately wanted to win with the home crowd watching. And I can tell you they were certainly pleased when took pole. The race, however, was a different story, a tap from Raikkonen sent Hamilton to the back of the pack and forced him into a recovery drive. A diving move on Bottas at turn 6 gave Vettel the lead where he remained.
In the next race in Germany Vettel now had the home advantage but like with Hamilton, it didn’t work out for him. He started from pole with Hamilton all the way down in 14th, but then the weather decided to play its cards. With rain dampening some parts of the track most stayed out on slick tyres. But these conditions lead to Vettel making a tiny mistake that sent him straight into the wall allowing Hamilton to take the win.
Qualifying in Hungary caused havoc with the track being caught in the middle of two thunderstorms the track became a river in minutes. This allowed Hamilton to take pole with Vettel in 4th. It was then an easy victory for Hamilton with Vettel 17 seconds behind.
Come the summer break and Vettel was 24 points behind Hamilton and needed to come back strong in the second half.
And that he did with a win in Belgium, he made an impressive move onto the Kemmel straight to take the lead on lap 1 and after getting out ahead on the pitstops he took it to the end.
But it all came crashing back down in Italy after a front row lockout for the Scuderia was Vettel’s race to lose… and he did that in turn 4. As Hamiton went for a move around the outside, they got a bit too close and Vettel came off worse being sent into a spin and to the back. The recovery drive could only get him 4th while Hamilton fought with and unusual punchy Raikkonen to win.
Singapore had never been a Mercedes track every year something has gone wrong for them but it was also here last year when Vettel lost the championship. However this year it was Mercedes’ race as the only challenger to Hamilton was Verstappen while Vettel was nowhere to be seen, the Brit took yet another victory away, now 40 points clear.
Onto Russia where controversy was the order of the day. Bottas from pole was set to take his first win of the season. But a pitstop blunder for Hamiton meant he came out behind Vettel and had to overtake him on track, in doing so he caused blistering on his tyres which was enough for Mercedes to order Bottas to swap to ensure a 1-2. While Vettel completed the podium.
A mistake for Vettel in qualifying in Japan meant he started 8th while Hamilton was on pole. Having managed to get up to 4th Vettel’s desperation showed as he dived down the inside of Verstappen at spoon, clipped his side and was yet again sent spinning to the back of the pack. So as Hamilton won Vettel could only crawl back up to 6th.
Now heading to the USA Hamilton has a 67 point lead, should Vettel finish 3rd or lower and Hamilton takes a more than likely win he will become a 5-time world champion.
So what do you think of yet another failed attempt by Ferrari and Vettel?
Where do you think it was lost?
Let me know and please share.