(Image source: Patrick)
Sebastian Vettel controlled the race from start to finish to jump back to the top of the Drivers Championship as Lewis Hamilton struggled all day to finish in fifth. Having taken poll from Valtteri Bottas yesterday, the 4 time champion showed his credentials to make sure he was never challenged on a day where overtakes were a rarity on what is normally a competitive track.
Hartley driven up the wall
The leaders got away cleanly around the notoriously tricky first turn, with Vettel keeping a good distance over the battle between Bottas and Verstappen battling for second place. The Finn held his place out of turn two, however his countryman Kimi Raikkonen continued his run of unimpressive starts as he lost out to Daniel Ricciardo around the same stretch of track.
However, the hopes of a clean start disappeared on the exit of Turn Five as local hero Lance Stroll, who had started well to get ahead of the McLarens, seemed to lose traction, forcing him wide into the car of Brendon Hartley who was creeping up on the outside. The result was a Toro Rosso at right angles to the track, skidding along the Armco as both drivers' weekends ended far too quick.
Once again Vettel controlled the restart as the leaders all got away cleanly, however Sainz and Perez clipped each other into Turn One, leaving the Mexican spinning across the grass and gingerly creeping back on to Turn Two right down the field.
Over-cuts pay off
With the tyres not lasting as long as expected, several teams pitted early. A mistake from the Force India mechanics meant that Ocon lost two places to the Renault drivers. Ricciardo made his hyper-soft tyres work to his advantage, managing an extra lap on Hamilton's ultrasoft set, putting in a blistering in lap to make the over-cut stick with relative ease. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso worked it the other way, using an undercut to get past the ever-impressive Charles Leclerc in the battle for the final points place.
Still there was no movement at the top, with Vettel keeping the gap to Bottas comfortable. Raikkonen, running alone in third after others stopped early, wasn’t able to build up enough gap to stay ahead of Hamilton after his stop on lap 35. The leaders followed soon after, but despite a strong out lap from Bottas, a six second gap to Vettel would never be challenged.
300 and out for Alonso
A familiar sight for F1 fans over the last couple of years has been a rapidly slowing McLaren with Alonso sat despondent in the cockpit. Alas, on his 300th Grand Prix weekend, the Gods would not treat him to a finish, as exhaust issues on lap 40 brought his weekend to a premature close.
The biggest challenge Vettel faced was Bottas closing the gap around lap 55, getting to within three seconds. However, a mistake into turn one whilst lapping Carlos Sainz undid all the hard work he’d put in. Meanwhile, Hamilton came back at Ricciardo, although a line of back markers and the Renaults (in seventh and eighth!) held up his move.
The power dynamic was reversed ahead as Verstappen fancied a look at Bottas for second place. However, neither of the challengers could manage an overtake, with Hamilton possibly affected by the bizarre circumstance of the chequered flag being waved a lap early (by his guest for the weekend, Winnie Harlow) whilst in DRS range. Although the final lap was run, Hamilton was three seconds back and his chance at keeping his Championship lead was gone.
Can Vettel stay ahead in the Championship race? Or will Hamilton fight his way back to the top? Let us know in the comments below?