2018 Season Review – Part One – Ferrari strong out the box as the tight battle begins

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Australia

Lewis Hamilton started his title defence in a dominant style by taking pole by seven-tenths of a second over both Ferrari’s. The Mercedes certainly had the pace in the session, going a second faster than he managed in 2017. Meanwhile, teammate Valtteri Bottas crashed out after running wide into Turn Two, meaning he was unable to improve in the opening moments of Q3.

Hamilton led most of the race early on, he was in control and had a comfortable lead over Sebastian Vettel. That was until Haas’s Romain Grosjean stopped out on track and brought out the virtual safety car. That proved pivotal, Mercedes brought Hamilton in for his second stop, but was it the right call?

When Hamilton came in and re-joined he was behind Vettel, the timing of the VSC allowed the German to stay out longer and build a six-second lead over the Englishman. Vettel then went on to seal the first win of the season, leaving Mercedes with unanswered questions.

It was shaping up to be a good race for Haas, but both Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were running fourth and fifth as they made their stops.

owever, the American team did not secure the tyres properly forcing them both to stop on track and bring out the VSC, losing the team’s best result in their history and costing Mercedes the win.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Vettel 25, 2) Hamilton 18, 3) Raikkonen 15;
Constructors – 1) Ferrari 40, 2) Mercedes 25, 3) Red Bull 20

Bahrain

Vettel narrowly out-qualified teammate Kimi Raikkonen in Bahrain. The Finn appeared to have the slight edge over the German before Vettel pulled out a lap on the supersoft tyres going a tenth faster. Meanwhile, Hamilton would start ninth after a gearbox change.

Vettel would face a strong challenge from Bottas throughout the race, but the four-time champion remained ahead. Vettel made an early stop switching to soft tyres, but while the Finn was on fresher tyres he was unable to pass.

It appeared as if Ferrari’s strategy allowed Vettel to hang on, but the first sign of what would decide the outcome of the season appeared. Raikkonen was forced to retire after the team struggled to attach the rear tyre on his second stop.

He collided and hit a mechanic and was forced to retire. It’s understood that the mechanic was taken to the medical centre with a broken leg. But the story of Bahrain was Pierre Gasly, the Toro Rosso driver finishing fourth showing that Honda had made a step forward on both performance and reliability.

Senior team Red Bull had a nightmare suffering there first double retirement since Korea in 2010.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Vettel 50, 2) Hamilton 33, 3) Bottas 22;
Constructors – 1) Ferrari 65, 2) Mercedes 55, 3) McLaren 22

China

In qualifying in Shanghai it was becoming clear that Ferrari certainly had a very strong package, Vettel and Raikkonen locked out the front row. This added to the doubts that many were beginning to have about the pace of Mercedes. Though it wasn’t a perfect session for Hamilton, who made a mistake out of the final corner, losing time and leaving him over half a second of Vettel and fourth behind his teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Bottas got ahead of both Ferrari’s at the first round of pit stops where he remained until the race was turned on its head by the Toro Rosso’s. Bottas re-joined in the lead when Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley crashed into each other bringing out the safety car, triggering a round of pit stops.

Ricciardo became a threat to Bottas, the Red Bull driver forced the Mercedes into locking up allowing his teammate Max Verstappen into the lead on the restart. However, With twelve laps to go, Ricciardo was up against the back of the Mercedes, when Red Bull made the decisive move, at turn four.

The Red Bull took the lead going down the inside of Bottas, before opening up nearly a nine-second lead and take the first win of the year. The Australian win made it five years since Mercedes hadn’t won a race in the first three rounds.

Were the wheels beginning to fall off the Silver Arrows waggon? But was it constancy which would win them the championship? With three double points finishes, they moved a point ahead of Ferrari in the constructors.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Vettel 54, 2) Hamilton 45, 3) Bottas 40;
Constructors – 1) Mercedes 85, 2) Ferrari 84, 3) Red Bull 85

Azerbaijan

Ferrari looked as strong as ever in Baku as Vettel took pole after edging out Raikkonen on his first run in Q3. Vettel had been behind Hamilton after the first runs in the final part off the session being three tenths off. Hamilton the narrowed it to a tenth, while Raikkonen looked stronger a middle sector he made a mistake at turn fifteenth dropping him to sixth behind both Mercedes and Ferrari.

Vettel had lead much of the race until lap thirty when he pitted giving Bottas the lead of the race. The timing of that stop was OK, but then the drama started following the pit stops for both Red Bulls five laps later. As they resumed the battle at the front they began fighting for the lead.

Verstappen had gained the over cut on Ricciardo when they double-stopped on lap forty. Resuming the battle for the lead of the race Ricciardo went for the attack into the first corner when Verstappen tried to fend off his teammate but ran into the back of him. Both Red Bull’s retired with Vettel back in lead.

When the race resumed following the safety car, Vettel ran wide, the first off many mistakes that would cost him the title, giving Bottas a bigger lead and dropped him back to fourth. Bottas looked very much in control with three laps to go he had a second plus lead over Hamilton, while Vettel had just been past by Sergio Perez.

“BANG!” a puncher lead to Bottas retiring from the lead and giving Hamilton the lead. Hamilton went on to take his first win of the season, but the story of the race while everyone watched the battle at the front was Charles Leclerc.

The Monacan scored the first points of his Formula One career, in a stunning drive from thirteenth to sixth, making him the first Monacan to score a point in F1. Sauber who also scored the team’s first points of the season with the best result the team since 2009.

Hamilton’s consistency and victory in Baku saw him take a ten point lead going into the European season.

Championship Standings

Drivers – 1) Hamilton 77, 2) Vettel 66, 3) Raikkonen 48;
Constructors – 1) Ferrari 114, 2) Mercedes 110, 3) Red Bull 55

With Ferrari winning two out of four races, Red Bull and Mercedes the other two it was becoming clear F1 2018 would be a long war as no team was having a clear lead. But it was certain Ferrari had a strong car and where the team to beat

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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