Can Vettel make it a Three-way Battle?
While we wait for the F1 season to resume in Belgium next weekend, let’s take a look back at the season so far.
The first half of the season has been full of controversy, some vital mistakes being made and the emerging threat of Ferrari to challenge the dominant Mercedes. Going into the Belgian Grand Prix, defending champion Lewis Hamilton has a 21 point lead over team-mate Nico Rosberg and the German is 21 points ahead of Sebastian Vettel in third. In the constructors’ championship, Mercedes are 145 points clear of Ferrari so that’s one title that already looks to be in the bag.
Hamilton must feel that he should be a lot further clear in the drivers’ championship than 21 points. He won three of the first four races with two Mercedes 1-2’s in those races. Mercedes dominance wasn’t quite as clear as last season with Ferrari delighting their fans with a win for Vettel in Malaysia. Mercedes may well have been dominating in practice and qualifying but the Ferrari was showing signs that when it came to race-day they could challenge Hamilton and Rosberg.
Hamilton had extended his lead to 24 points after his win in Bahrain and his team-mate had yet to win a race this season. With the championship moving to Europe for races in Spain and Monaco it was really becoming vital for the German to start closing the gap between him and Hamilton and that’s just what he did with two straight wins.
It was the Monaco Grand Prix that must still be haunting Hamilton. He was looking for the perfect weekend and everything had gone right for him until the Mercedes team made a strategic error that cost him the race. So angry was Hamilton at finishing third, he told his bosses not to talk to him anymore as he fumed away in his Mercedes. He stopped his car at the Portier corner staring out to the Mediterranean Sea and probably had a few people he wanted to chuck in there.
Rosberg had closed the gap to just ten points but deep down Hamilton knew the lead should have been at least 27 points. He had to come back strong in the next race and that’s just what he did winning in Austria with Rosberg in second. The German reversed places in Austria but Hamilton was in dominant form on home territory as he won the British Grand Prix. Again his team-mate was in second and that made it six Mercedes 1-2s for the season.
It was all starting to feel a bit predictable again and critics were bemoaning the superiority that Mercedes had over their rivals. Then came the Hungarian Grand Prix and amazingly neither Hamilton nor Rosberg finished in the top three. Hamilton made a series of errors (not as bad as his choice of clothing at Wimbledon) and could only finish sixth. He did have one slice of luck though as Rosberg’s Mercedes suffered a late puncture causing him to finish in a lowly eighth place. That race was won by Vettel with the two Red Bulls finishing in second and third. It was certainly a welcome relief to see a race with some different manufacturers fighting out a finish.
It’s the Belgian Grand Prix next week and another Mercedes mishap would really liven up the season if Vettel were again to take advantage. It looks like a two-horse race but the re-emergence of Ferrari could yet make this a three-way battle for the drivers’ title.