2018 Season Review – Part Five – Hamilton chases in to the title as Raikkonen wins

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Japan

Hamilton was on it again in qualifying at Suzuka the Englishman topped all three sessions, conditions were ones which suited the Mercedes driver as the rain moved in. Hamilton took pole from Bottas as Ferrari made another error, leaving Vettel only ninth.

Vettel went straight out in Q3 on the intermediates, while Mercedes went for supersofts. That decision proved key, as conditions soon deteriorated as the Ferraris switched to supersofts. On his supersoft run, Vettel ran wide followed by Raikkonen Mercedes went quickest. The timing was key, Mercedes took advantage of the dry condition early on, to lock out the front row.

Hamilton went onto another dominant victory after Ferrari’s miserable Saturday saw the team implode. Vettel attempted a move on Verstappen, aggressively attacking the Dutchman on the opening lap. The German then went into a spin.

Hamilton sailed off into the distance, while behind it was another clash of the Finn’s. Bottas was awarded a five-second penalty for a first lap tangle with Kimi Raikkonen. Verstappen was putting pressure on Bottas to the very end after serving a penalty, which was awarded after he re-joined the track dangerously following the first corner incident.

While the drama unfolded, Ricciardo had brought him self in to fourth following a long stint, he had started fifteenth but was the last to stop re-joining and holding the position to finish fourth.

The drama between Verstappen and Vettel wasn’t the only drama, as Kevin Magnussen and Charles Leclerc collided. The Sauber ran into the back of the Haas, it appears as is be made a double move. But both looked to escape undamaged.

Vettel’s disastrous weekend and Hamilton’s dominance meant that the Englishman only needed a win with Vettel third in the next four races to seal his fifth world title.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 331, 2) Vettel 264, 3) Bottas 207;
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 538, 2) Ferrari 460, 3) Red Bull 319

United States

Hamilton took pole by six-hundredths of a second over Vettel, however, Vettel would start sixth following a red flag infringement in practice. Vettel’s penalty further dented his hopes of keeping his title hopes alive, but the German knows that he needs to be second if Hamilton win. Vettel’s penalty meant that Bottas would join his teammate on the front row.

Austin provided one of the tensest races of the season, there were six cars all fighting for the win. Vettel’s drama-filled second half of the season continued, the German spun on the opening lap and dropped to the back. Meanwhile, Hamilton jumped past Raikkonen fending off the Ferrari.

Hamilton got ahead of Raikkonen during the first round of stops, however, lost out when the Finn came in from second. But then Hamilton was unable to rejoin in third and was released by his teammate Bottas to try and catch Verstappen.

It was another error from Vettel, arguably it was a must win race for the German, as he knew if Hamilton won he would need second, with various other results would also see the Englishman seal a fifth world title. But Vettel recovered through the field to fourth, that was enough to keep a very narrow chance of him sealing the title alive for now.

Magnussen was disqualified from the race, as his Haas car was found have  exceeded the allowed fuel limit for the race, breaching Article 30.5 of the sporting regulations. The Dane’s exclusion from the final result means that Hartley gains his first points of the season, as well as Ericsson.

Austin I reflect on as the race where the championship was decided, it was highly unlikely that Vettel could seal his fifth title. Hamilton only needed a minimum of a fifth place in one of the three remaining races to be crowned champion.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 346, 2) Vettel 276, 3) Raikkonen 221;
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 563, 2) Ferrari 497, 3) Red Bull 563

Mexico

Red Bull were strong in qualifying in Mexico City, with Ricciardo denying Verstappen the chance to be the youngest pole sitter in the sports history by two-hundredths of a second. The team went into the weekend expecting a strong performance, which delivered the team their first front row lock out since 2013.

The race proved once again to be a three team fight, Verstappen made the better start getting passed Riccardo followed by Hamilton. Where it remained until the midpoint of the race, Hamilton was under pressure from Vettel, but he knew that the best thing to do was to allow him to pass.

All Hamilton needed was Vettel to finish second and him finish fifth to seal a fifth world title. Vettel’s hopes were dying by the sector as the Ferrari was struggling to keep pace with the Red Bull. Hamilton was driving calmly in fourth and with Vettel stuck behind Verstappen it would see him become champion.

It was another example of how Hamilton had performed in 2018, just delivering what was requied and getting the most out of the car. Ricciardo’s luck in 2018 wasn’t about to change, he stopped on track as smoke pouring from his Red Bull, following another engine failure giving him his eighth retirement of the season.

Verstappen had no concerns, he went onto victory holding off Vettel and that was enough to see the title decided with Hamilton fifth he was the 2018 Formula One World Champion and Vettel’s second place saw him seal the runner up spot.

Mexico had summed up the season, Hamilton maximising the results on weekends where Mercedes weren’t as strong as Ferrari, while Vettel had failed and made mistakes making him unable to capitalise on Mercedes weak weekends.

But, Mercedes were able to get the most of the car when it hadn’t been performing to the best of its abilities and coupled with Hamilton they once again proved unstoppable.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 358, 2) Vettel 294, 3) Raikkonen 236;
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 585, 2) Ferrari 530, 3) Red Bull 362

Jack

Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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