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.
The first win is almost invariably the hardest to achieve. Many drivers hit a glass ceiling in Formula 1, where points and even podiums are regularly scooped up, while the race win remains elusive.
After 11 podiums from 81 races, Valtteri Bottas finally broke through that barrier on Sunday to clinch his first career victory in fine style. His fourth race for Mercedes and one which could prove to be a turning point in the unfolding 2017 narrative.
Bottas may be about to give Mercedes’ management a headache.
Next weekend, the talking will stop and the racing will start. Waking up on the first Grand Prix Sunday of a new season is like Christmas morning for motorsport fans.
Aside from the new look cars, harder tyres and perhaps heightened competition for top honours, this season’s curtain-raiser will be the first since 1994 that doesn’t feature the reigning world champion.
I’m not sure what works harder? Mercedes’ engineers, or air going over the W08.
As I mentioned in Wednesday’s article, this launch season has been absolutely fascinating. So many different concepts have already been showcased, with the likes of Force India unveiling machinery which is visibly more complex than that of their rivals.
Mercedes, however, have significantly raised the bar. The W08 was launched on Thursday and is by far the most complicated design unveiled so far.
It looks like a winner, but then, we really shouldn’t be surprised.
It’s taken some time, but Thursday brought the confirmation of a story that has been brewing for several weeks. James Allison, former Lotus and Ferrari Technical Director, is to fill the void left at Mercedes by the departing Paddy Lowe.
On the face of it, Allison’s signing seems to be a like-for-like substitution. In reality, it has several significant plot points.
Unless you have been stationed under a rock for the past month, you’ll be well aware that Lewis Hamilton has a new teammate in the form of Valtteri Bottas for 2017. Their new partnership at Mercedes has – and will continue to induce – plenty of pre-season chatter, as armchair pundits consider whether Bottas has what it takes to go toe-to-toe with Hamilton.
Anthony Hamilton has now muscled his way into the conversation, as Sky Sports have reported an interview in which Hamilton Snr highlights that his son’s speed has the potential to “end careers.”
Nine podiums, 411 points and a fastest lap so far, but Valtteri Bottas’ stats could be about to head stratospheric, as the Finn joins the team has provided the benchmark to their competition over the past three seasons.
Bottas has big shoes to fill, entering the team as Nico Rosberg’s replacement and taking the hotseat alongside Lewis Hamilton. Arguably, the hardest driver to partner on the grid, given his relentless speed and seismic personality.
2017 will be a season that either makes or breaks Valtteri Bottas’ F1 career.