F1 2018: The season so far
After three action-packed races in the 2018 Formula One calendar, we take a look at what has eventuated so far.
(Photo credit: Takayuki Suzuki)
Australian Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton had the race in the bag. He put in a blistering qualifying performance where he finished almost one second clear of his nearest rival, but it wasn’t to be.
On race day, a safety car caused by two Haas retirements allowed Sebastian Vettel to pit and remain ahead of Hamilton whom had pitted earlier, ultimately, seeing Ferrari’s number one driver win the first race of the season.
Kimi Raikkonen finished in third place, whilst Daniel Ricciardo put his Red Bull in fourth place after nearly reeling in the Finn in the dying stages of the race.
Fernando Alonso put in a brilliant drive, holding off a rampaging Max Verstappen to finish fifth in the McLaren, while Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Stoffel Vandoorne and Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded out the top ten.
Ferrari proved in this race they have the race pace to match the all-conquering Mercedes team, and despite needing luck to win the race, Vettel still showed composure to hold off a determined Lewis Hamilton fightback.
Red Bull were underwhelming in their first outing of the season, and had it not been for the two Haas retirements, they would have remained stuck behind them for a majority of the race.
Speaking of the Haas team, they had a promising weekend, had it not been for two botched pit stops. Their drivers were in fourth and fifth place at the time of their first pit stops, and after a strong showing in qualifying the day before, they were looking to out-muscle the two Red Bulls. However, it wasn’t to be. But their race pace and qualifying form sure sent a message to the rest of the paddock about their off-season improvement.
McLaren were also strong as both drivers finished in the points. They still lacked the qualifying pace of their nearest rivals, but their race pace was superb, as shown by Alonso who held off Verstappen at the end of the race.
Renault also had two drivers in the points, with both Hulkenberg and Sainz putting in reasonable performances, proving the Renault team will be amongst the leaders of the midfield race.
Williams and Force India were the most disappointing, with both teams failing to land a point.
Bahrain Grand Prix
Ferrari carried their momentum from Melbourne to lock out the front row in Bahrain, a shock to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton, who could only salvage fourth place on the grid.
On race day, Vettel led from start to finish, taking the chequered flag to lead the championship with two race wins. However, it didn’t come without a fight as Valtteri Bottas, on fresher tyres, nearly reeled in the German to claim what would have been an incredible win.
Hamilton finished in third in what was an underwhelming performance, but the big story was Pierre Gasly who got his Toro Rosso to finish in fourth place. It was an incredible performance for Gasly, as he drove his Honda-powered Toro Rosso to the team’s second-highest finish ever.
Kevin Magnussen proved that Haas’ pace in Australia wasn’t just a one-off, as he drove his car home to fifth position ahead of Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault.
The two McLaren drivers finished in seventh and eight respectively, whilst Sauber registered their first points of the season through Marcus Ericsson in ninth place, holding off Force India’s Esteban Ocon.
Ferrari again proved that they can take the fight to Mercedes and arguably overtook them as the No. 1-ranked team, after qualifying in particular. Although Raikkonen wasn’t able to finish the race, the fact Vettel could hold off Bottas on degrading tyres elevated Ferrari to red-hot (pardon the pun) favourites for this season.
Toro Rosso and Sauber surprised many as they put their hands up to compete with the other midfield teams, both registering a driver in the points.
Renault and McLaren proved that it will mostly be between these two teams for the midfield race. However, Haas’ Magnussen proved that their pace from Australia is still there, and that they will be right in amongst it.
Force India got lucky with Ocun’s points finish, but again they were underwhelming, along with Williams who were still pointless.
For Red Bull, it was a disappointing day, as both drivers could not complete over five laps of the race. Ricciardo retired with an electrical failure, whilst Verstappen succumbed to previous damage he had encountered with a collision with Hamilton.
Chinese Grand Prix
What. A. Race.
This race just had about everything, overtaking, safety cars, strategic battles, you name it; it happened in this race.
The winner, Daniel Ricciardo, benefitted from a safety car deployment following a collision between the two Toro Rossos. As a result, both Red Bulls could pit and keep their position. As the only two frontrunners on new tyres, they set about moving through the pack.
Ultimately, it was Ricciardo’s composure and excellence which saw him win the race, while Verstappen’s immaturity cost him any chance of taking home the win.
Valtteri Bottas drove an almost perfect race to finish in second place and was very unlucky with the timing of the safety car.
Kimi Raikkonen came home in third, but was very lucky the safety car came out when it did or he would’ve finished much lower, having been sacrificed by his team to benefit Vettel earlier in the race.
Lewis Hamilton came home in fourth place, whilst Max Verstappen copped a 10-second penalty for his horrible collision with Sebastian Vettel to finish behind the Mercedes driver in fifth place.
Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso both benefitted from an under-strength Vettel as they finished in sixth and seventh respectively, ahead of the Ferrari driver who was feeling the full-effect of his untimely collision with Verstappen. He did extremely well to hold off a fast finishing Carlos Sainz Jr. who came in under half a second behind the Ferrari driver. Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top ten as he made it back-to-back points finishes.
Ferrari made it known to the rest of the garage who their number one driver was as they left Raikkonen out far too long to block Bottas and give his teammate an overtaking opportunity.
Daniel Ricciardo proved that given the chance for a win, he will take it, registering his sixth career win and his first in China. But it’s still uncertain he’ll remain with Red Bull at the end of the season, as he craves a car capable of producing such performances consistently.
Mercedes are still up there, but it seems like they’re falling away every so slightly from the Ferrari’s. They had a better strategy than them and ultimately finished ahead of them, but their pace was lacking at the start of the race which was a worrying sign.
Renault and McLaren put themselves clear of the midfield group, with Williams and Force India yet again out of the points, continuing their underwhelming start to the season.
It has been scintillating start to the new season and if the first three races are an indicator, there are plenty of twists and turns to come. Have you changed your mind about who will win this year’s championship? Let us know in the comments.