2018 Season Review – Part Four – Mercedes bounce back to dominance as Ferrari get flustered

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Belgium

Like in Budapest, conditions at Spa where changeable and the fight for pole between Vettel and Hamilton was close until the closing moments. Hamilton and Vettel started Q3 on dry tyres, but were forced to abort on there out laps and switch to inters.

Again like in Budapest, the Englishman proved his skills in the wet and took pole by seven tenths. Mercedes reacted perfectly allowing Hamilton to pull out one of his fanatic laps going fastest.

The ‘new’ Force India made a brilliant start locking out the second-row with Esteban Ocon third and Sergio Perez fourth. Romain Grosjean was another benefactor from the changing conditions, like the top teams Haas fuelled the cars for two times runs allowing Grosjean to take fifth.

Vettel got the jump on Hamilton on the opening lap over taking the Mercedes into La Source before getting a gap in the first sector. Meanwhile behind drama unfolded, as Hulkenberg ran into the back of Alonso. The chain reaction saw the German fly over Leclerc mirroring the 2012 start. All three retired.

There were others too, Ricciardo was tagged in the incident breaking the rear wing, Kimi Raikkonen also suffered a puncher from the incident, leading to their retirements.

When the race resumed, Vettel pulled away from Hamilton with the gap at a second and a half. While Hamilton tried to close the gap, Vettel pulled away from the safety car meaning fuel saving was no longer an issue. By the end of the race, Vettel had a five-second lead, Hamilton a thirty second lead over Verstappen.

It was a lonely afternoon for the Belgian-Dutchman, the Red Bull was as expected unable to fight at the front, he finished third with him being over a mile behind. Verstappen made a perfect start to his home race, getting the jump on both of the Force India’s before passing Esteban Ocon at Les Combes.

The Force India managed to finish in fifth and sixth with Sergio Perez ahead of Ocon. But one thing was clear, the four-week break hadn’t changed the championship fight, for now anyway the championship was alive and kicking.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 231, 2) Vettel 214 3) Raikkonen 146;
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 375, 2) Ferrari 360, 3) Red Bull 238

Italy

Ferrari’s hopes of boosting Vettel’s title bid at Monza proved to be wrong, the team were looking to use his teammate Raikkonen to tow him to pole. But the Finn inadvertently was towed by the German, early on making him fastest. Mercedes weren’t far off either, Hamilton was under a tenth behind.

Hamilton got past both Raikkonen and Vettel on the opening lap, following another mistake by the German. Hamilton and Vettel both fought hard turning into the Ascari Chicane at the same time, the German slid into the Mercedes damaging his front wing and dropping to the back.

Hamilton also dropped back but made better progress through the field working his way to second. Mercedes then tricked Ferrari into an early stop, with Hamilton leading ahead of Raikkonen. But after his stop, Hamilton remained in control, with Raikkonen switching to a two stop.

Vettel meanwhile, had made his way through the field before passing Max Verstappen for fourth, while he got the move done he was unable to open a five-second gap to retain the position. That moved Bottas into third and Vettel into fourth.

Grosjean drove a brilliant race to take sixth for Haas but was later disqualified from the race for a technical infringement. Lance Stroll scored Williams’s first points since Baku in April with tenth place, behind the Renault of Carlos  Sainz. While Haas’s disqualification moves Sergey Sirotkin into the points, the first of his F1 career.

Vettel’s mistake cost Ferrari arguably there first home win since 2010 in a race they could have easily won, if he hadn’t made that mistake. Again signs of Ferrari’s mistakes and errors which cost them the championship and momentum.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 256, 2) Vettel 226, 3) Raikkonen 164;
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 415, 2) Ferrari 390, 3) Red Bull 248

Singapore

Hamilton was on it again in qualifying in Singapore, despite making a mistake on his final run in Q3 he was the clear leader going three tenths faster than Verstappen.

The Dutchman believed that it had his best qualifying of the year, and could have been faster if he wasn’t affected by drivability problems with his engine. But he doubted he could challenge Hamilton for pole. Yet again errors affected Vettel, struggling with setup and being caught in traffic meant he would start third.

Hamilton drove a very similar race to the one at Monza, the Mercedes driver once again had total control of the race. Verstappen got in between the two four times world champions, but Ferrari’s attempt to retake control was another strategic blunder.

Vettel stopped early on going to the faster but less durable tyre, Hamilton meanwhile switched to the soft tyre. The Germans race was further hindered when he was stuck in traffic behind Perez, while Hamilton controlled his gap to Verstappen.

Perez had dropped down the order and brought the safety car out after colliding with teammate Ocon. Later in the race, the Mexican had contact with Sirotkin. They were fighting around the midway point after Perez got stuck behind the slow-moving Russian when they made contact as Perez tried to pass him.

Singapore was then maybe the race where Ferrari realised that their mistakes were costing the team points and that they were losing this championship. Mercedes had again I think proved they may have been weak early on at street circuits and in hot conditions, but they had got on top of it now.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 281, 2)  Vettel 241, 3) Raikkonen 174;
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 452, 2) Ferrari 415, 3) Red Bull 274

Russia

Bottas maintained his 100% record of out-qualifying his teammate in Sochi, he beat Hamilton to pole after he locked up and went wide on his last run in Q3. Mercedes clearly had the pace to beat Ferrari again, as Vettel was over half a second off the outright pace. Both Red Bull’s and Renault’s opted not to take part in Q2, knowing that they were starting from the back.

Bottas took the lead early on from pole position maintaining it until the mid-way point, but Mercedes again faced a difficult decision. Hamilton was under pressure from Vettel and that lead to Bottas being asked to hand the position once again to Hamilton.

Bottas grudgingly followed the order. Verstappen, meanwhile, led the race while that decision was being made giving the lead of the race. Hamilton was now second behind Verstappen, with a late pit stop giving Raikkonen the lead.

Raikkonen then couldn’t hold off the Dutchman as he tried to pass, as his tyre life edged away the position went to Verstappen. Hamilton, however, took the lead again when Verstappen stopped with nine laps remaining. The Mercedes lead from the Dutchman’s stop, he re-joined third ahead of Raikkonen.

While Hamilton took the win and extending his championship lead, it was Verstappen who drove the better race along with teammate Ricciardo. Leclerc finished seventh, having ran as high as fifth early on while the Red Bulls were making their way through the field.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 306, 2) Vettel 256, 3) Bottas 189;
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 495, 2) Ferrari 442, 3) Red Bull 292

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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