F1 2018 Driver Battles: Mercedes back to their best
Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are arguably the best driver duo on the F1 grid, and after a sluggish start to the season, they’re ready to put Mercedes back on top.
(Image: REUTERS/Albert Gea)
This week, we are looking at how the individual drivers in each team are performing. Next up, it’s Mercedes who have overcome a slow start to the season to be frontrunners in the constructor’s championship.
Mercedes have turned their season around over the last couple of races, their poor start to the season erased by Lewis Hamilton’s back-to-back wins. The team has two of the most exciting drivers on the F1 roster in their lineup, and despite some downbeat moments, they look on course to dominate this campaign.
Having won the past four constructor’s championships, Mercedes were expected to continue their reign at the top of the sport. But in the early stages of this season, it didn’t look like things would turn out that way.
The Silver Arrows were soundly beaten by Ferrari at both the Australian and Bahrain Grand Prix, but have since bounced back to become the most consistent team on the grid. They have reaped the rewards by winning the last two races, including their first one-two finish of the season in Spain last weekend. They have also proven that even when they have not had the quickest car; they have still had the tactical edge over arch rivals Ferrari.
Qualifying head to head
Hamilton 3 – 2 Bottas
Hamilton 95 – 58 Bottas
By his own usual standards, Lewis Hamilton did not have the best start to the 2018 campaign. Yet, he still recorded a second, third and fourth place finish, proving that even in a slump, he can still put his car in a strong position.
Despite his slow start, people often forget that Hamilton was robbed of a race win in Australia, after dominating the weekend from start to finish. Only an ill-timed safety car incident, which allowed rival Sebastian Vettel to gain a position on him, denied the Brit victory.
Hamilton was gift-wrapped the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and then led from start to finish in Spain to get his and Mercedes’ seasons firmly back on track. Any fears he would not being hungry enough for this year’s championship have been diminished, and with a 17-point advantage in the driver’s standings, things are looking positive for Hamilton as he seeks his fourth world championship in five years.
Bottas has been arguably the unluckiest driver so far this season and remains without a win. He was quicker than Sebastian Vettel in the closing stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix, but opted not to try an overtaking manoeuvre on the Ferrari driver whose tyres were degrading rapidly.
In China, the Finn drove the perfect race to lead with just over ten laps remaining, yet a safety car enabled Daniel Ricciardo to steamroll his way through the pack to take yet another potential win away from Bottas.
Then there was Azerbaijan. Bottas was in first place with just three laps remaining when his right-rear tyre blew to deny him the win in the most frustrating fashion.
This makes it hard to assess his season, but when these circumstances are taken into consideration, the conclusion is positive. Bottas is consistently in the running for race wins and can only be a matter of time before we’ll see him stand atop the podium.
Prediction for 2018
Although the Mercedes car might not be the quickest on the grid, they sure are the most consistent, which is why they’re in a prime position to retain the constructor’s championship for a fifth successive season.
Both Hamilton and Bottas are in contention for the driver’s championship, and it is likely to remain that way for the rest of the season. However, Hamilton still has the edge over his teammate, and his performances over the last two races have put him back in the frame for a fifth successive driver’s championship.
How do you rate Mercedes’ performance this year? Are they back to their best after the last two races? Let us know in the comments below.