The latest chapter in a summer of remarkable driver market bombshells has confirmed that Charles Leclerc will join Ferrari after only one season in Formula 1, swapping seats with Kimi Raikkonen for 2019.
The news has generally been met with excitement – Leclerc will be the second youngest Ferrari driver in F1 history when he rolls off the grid as a 21-year-old in Melbourne next season and as one of the most promising talents of his generation, it’s a golden opportunity that has been merited.
But it’s not just Leclerc who emerges from the news as a winner – in fact, nearly every party involved in this particular story can look upon the news positively.
“I need more power” – quite an admission from a driver who has been at the wheel of Formula 1’s most complete package for the entirety of this era.
Since the dawn of the V6 hybrids in 2014, Mercedes has blown away the opposition and claimed four consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championships. Last season, Ferrari mounted the biggest challenge to the Silver Arrows’ supremacy, only to run out of steam at the end of the season.
However, this year looks set to be different and after the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Mercedes has found itself in rather uncharted territory.
Scorching temperatures were matched by red-hot track action at Silverstone, as the 2018 British Grand Prix delivered the race in which the 2018 title fight was truly ignited.
Sure, this was round 10 of the season and chief title protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel had already exchanged top spot in the drivers’ championship on three occasions in 2018.
However, the billed ‘Fight for Five’ – in which four-time champions Vettel and Hamilton would fight each other in a duel to secure a fifth crown – had somewhat been lost in other storylines. Valtteri Bottas has starred, only to be hampered by misfortune. Red Bull has won three races with it’s strongest package since 2013.
These distractions dissolved at Silverstone, replaced by what felt like the first gloves off duel between Vettel and Hamilton. It highlighted and potentially foreshadowed some of the themes that will define the outcome of the championship.
“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.
Following their domination of the 2014 campaign, Mercedes picked up in 2015 from where they left off. Once again, the Brackley based squad were the class of the field, from the moment the W06 rolled out and completed an astonishing 157 laps on the opening day of testing, to the season finale and the team’s 17th win of the year. It was a campaign where their victory t-shirts were never far away, but also where the men and women in red came back to the forefront, with Ferrari surprising the competition to emerge as Mercedes’ closest challengers.
A year where the sport’s power players took center stage and where Brand Hamilton stole the show.
Following a sublime sixth pole position in succession for Nico Rosberg, the championship runner-up carried his rich vein of form into the race, as he once again left Lewis Hamilton trailing home in second.
A position that the three time world champion has become all too familiar with since the crowning-glory of Austin and while his primary objective for the year may have been long secured, Rosberg has provided himself with the perfect launch-pad into the winter and the 2016 campaign beyond.