“We were a little bit lucky today,” said Sebastian Vettel after having grabbed victory in the opening round of the 2018 Formula 1 season. Buying a lottery ticket on the way home might not be the best option for him – lightning doesn’t strike twice.
When Romain Grosjean’s Haas crawled to a stop on the exit of Turn 2, Vettel suddenly stole a race defining advantage. As the only front-runner yet to make his pitstop, Vettel dived into the pitlane under the subsequent virtual safety car conditions.
Long-time race-leader Hamilton, who had stopped during the green flag running, could do nothing at that moment to stop Vettel emerging from the pits ahead and in the lead of the race. With Albert Park being the second hardest track on the F1 calendar at which to overtake, it was game, set and match to Ferrari in that race-defining moment.
Had it not been for the deployment of the VSC, Vettel would have finished second at best. Luck played a key role but was not the only factor propelling Vettel to victory.
Evolution over revolution has been the theme emanating from F1’s factories this winter and with the technical regulations remaining static, this has hardly been surprising. However, as they look to overthrow the sport’s current front-runners Mercedes, Ferrari have unveiled a 2016 challenger which looks decidedly different to it’s predecessor from both a technical and aesthetic standpoint.
F1’s headlines have been dominated by weeks of speculation regarding what the sport’s notoriously fickle driver market could look like in the event that Ferrari called time on their relationship with the 2007 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen. Today, the debate surrounding who will partner Sebastian Vettel at the Scuderia in 2016 has been drawn to a rather abrupt close, as the team have announced the retention of the Iceman for another season. The status quo at Maranello could cause a shockwave of continuity effecting their competitors.
As far as disappointing weekend’s go, Kimi Raikkonen’s trip to Spielberg was an excellent definition. On a short circuit, where Mercedes had demonstrated potential vulnerability last season, Ferrari targeted a strong result with both cars at the Red Bull Ring. Sebastian Vettel may have secured 12 points for the Scuderia, but Kimi Raikkonen left pointless, following a nasty accident with Fernando Alonso on the opening lap. Albeit unfortunate circumstances, but the Iceman’s weekend unraveled on a Saturday once again, and had it not been for a confusing qualifying session which saw him ejected from contention at the Q1 stage, it all could have been very different come Sunday evening.
After finishing at the bottom of the pile in FP3, Lewis Hamilton reversed his fortunes in fine style this afternoon, claiming his 44th career pole and his 4th in Montreal. The Briton took the spoils by a substantial margin of three tenths over teammate Nico Rosberg, who, despite looking strong throughout the day, grappled with a lack of rear grip in the final segment and was unable to challenge his teammate’s supremacy. Some of the leading stories of the day, however, played out in the opening eighteen minutes of qualifying, as power problems for Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel saw them both fall at the Q1 stage.
Lewis Hamilton is in a class of one at the moment, as the Brit followed up his fourth pole position of the season with his third race victory in 2015. Ultimately, Ferrari’s potential was perhaps a tad overstated, as neither Sebastian Vettel nor Kimi Raikkonen threatened on raw pace alone during the race. However, Kimi Raikkonen’s drive to second place was a sublime mix of an excellent strategy coupled with consistently good lap times from the Iceman, who did give Mercedes a scare in the closing stages. The Finn managed to pick off one ailing Mercedes, but the second was just out of reach.
As track temperatures lingered around 30 degrees, most people expected to see Mercedes reassert their dominance over their rivals this weekend and FP1 had the hallmarks of an impending whitewash. However, Ferrari seem unaffected by the low surface temperatures, as the SF15-T has once again caused the Brackley squad concerns heading into the rest of the weekend. In terms of short run performance, Mercedes seem comfortable, but both Raikkonen and Vettel have stated their claim to a tilt for victory on Sunday.