So Lewis Hamilton romped to a easy victory in France, vive le France… Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari had a race to forget [again] and the Red Bulls were in the mix there-a-bouts. Sound familiar? Seems that was the script we were all reading from in the second half of last season right?
Even McLaren are having the same sort of season as last year (tragically) despite their new and presumably more advanced partner in this engine formula, Renault. At least there are not completely asinine twenty and thirty grid place penalties that were commonplace last season for Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne, but the new MCL whatever the number is, is just not fast, period, and suffers from a forced PU and chassis integration that was late to begin with and has yet to iron out all the kinks – such is life at the speed of F1…
There have been some pleasant surprises beyond the top three and woeful McLaren. Haas has been up at the more desirable part of the grid and so has Renault. In fact Renault is officially the best of the rest in fourth position due to solid drives from both Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz. Haas are locked in battle with Force India and while I would never have guessed it Sauber has most definitely had its moments with Charles LeClerc. Even the Honda Toro Rosso is outperforming what I thought it capable of in their first year together – I stand corrected.
But back to the point. Did Vettel and Ferrari not read my beginning of the season post? Did they not take heed of my warning that they need to be perfect, extra perfect and by that I mean extra, extra perfect this season to surmount the task of displacing the silver arrows and Hammer Time ???
So far the Reds have had a brilliantly fast car in all conditions, have been more or less perfect on race strategy, [they have been caught out a few times with a safety car virtual or otherwise, but so has Mercedes], and there are no crazy headlines from that business guy that is always in a dark sweater and glasses telling us just how far his red cars will be in the lead, et el. – mission accomplished on all those fronts [so far].
So what gives Seb? Why aren’t you bringing it? Lost your focus?? Pressure too much??? Where are these F2 errors coming from? We are not even at the end of the season where your pursuit of that 5th title is on the line and every little thing you do or don’t do will have comprehensive effects on each race and outcome.
It’s not that Mercedes have been perfect, they gave away a win in Canada due to the delayed engine upgrade. But where they have been blindingly consistent is in their drivers.
Valtteri Bottas, while unlucky in Baku and surely should have had that win, has not set the season on fire but has also not make any glaring driving errors except one early in the season on Saturday. This aside however, he has been very consistent. His de-facto number one teammate Lewis Hamilton has had a slow start to the season peppered with a moment or two of his championship driving self but more importantly has also not made any errors that cost him valuable points. I guess one could point out the coming together with Max in Bahrain and maybe Ham should have left a bit more room, but that is it. So that’s two solid and consistent drivers for Mercedes that have made the difference.
Then at Ferrari you have Seb and … Kimi. Raikkonen’s driving this year is, well, honestly I don’t even know where to begin but to say just not up to snuff. While Vettel can and just might win the championship on his own – it will be just that, on his own due to the fact that his wingman has not been able to truly provide the support to help Vettel’s campaign. I said this before and I will say it again, I like Kimi, we all like Kimi, we love Kimi but he makes too many mistakes in a sport where you just can’t make any.
And speaking of drivers, over at Red Bull the inter-team battle between Max and Daniel is turning out to quite a spectator sport with the highlight so far coming in Baku for which we were privy to real wheel-to-wheel racing until these two just took things a bit too far. I am really hoping this continues because regretfully it is the only real racing we get to watch so far this season since the racing between Ferrari and Mercedes has just not materialized in the way I had predicted or hoped for.
But we can hope … the season is almost to the halfway mark, maybe now that Seb has had his few mulligans, Mercedes and Ham are running at warp speed again and Max has settled down, we can get back to the order of the day and I don’t mean the positions come the end of Sunday because that has been a tad bit boring for the last few years. I am referring to the racing, the real, on the edge of your seat, having to stand up racing that I know is there amongst the top three teams.
Maybe we can still have the season I was hoping for, well, half of one anyway. Ham and the W09 on song, Vettel and the SF71H on song, Danny and Maxie and the RB14 on song, everyone on song come race day producing the kind of drives that bring the smiles to even the most curmudgeonly of F1 fans.