“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.
In a race which depicted Lewis Hamilton’s career of high’s and low’s, the Briton sealed a historic third world championship title in fine style, with a victory against the odds at COTA. Capitalizing on an unforced error by race leader Nico Rosberg, Hamilton led home a Mercedes one-two, while Sebastian Vettel recovered well from his midfield start to finish a close third. The latter looked to be in a prime position to snatch an unlikely victory at one point, as Safety Car’s prompted a race defined by strategic ebb and flow, with numerous momentum swings and lead changes.
A COTA classic – a spectacle worthy of being 2015’s match point in the battle to be champion of the world.
Heading into Ferrari’s 900th Grand Prix, it seemed fitting to consider their lead driver’s hopes of a remarkable title turn-around in the second half of the campaign. The German started the day just 42 points adrift of Lewis Hamilton in the standings and on a high following a determined drive to victory in Hungary. However, the ambition of those who predicted a title charge was matched in a high risk strategy from Ferrari today which ultimately saw Vettel limp home in a dismal P12. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton made the perfect start and proceeded to enjoy what was an untroubled cruise to victory on a circuit which has been unkind to the Briton in the past.
Another Mercedes 1-2 on Sunday to couple their Saturday afternoon exploits, but the spice of unpredictability was a feature of the intense scrap behind, which culminated in a surprise podium appearance for Lotus’ Romain Grosjean.
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.