While F1 grapples with the issue of on-track action, the fight for the championship continues to see-saw among the top contenders.
While Formula 1 teams may express reservations about changes to the aerodynamic regulations next year, ahead of the big overhaul in 2021, it is clear to F1 fans and media alike that the situation of a leading car not being able to pass a car in front – unless it is two seconds a lap faster – at most circuits is not one that can be tolerated. And maybe one shouldn’t have to wait three whole seasons before something is done to rectify the situation.
But there is one very good consolation prize despite the Monaco and Canadian Grands Prix being low in on-track action. The battle for the world championship is super tight and engrossing, and the drivers have been racing out of their skin. Red Bull Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo’s win in Monaco was nothing less than astounding, as he drove with 25 percent less power than normal for 50 of the 78 laps to hold off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Besides, we’ve already had some pretty tense and downright exciting races already this year.
A failure of the Red Bull power unit’s Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) left the Monaco GP pole sitter unable to storm off into the distance, as he surely would’ve done otherwise. Max Verstappen’s recovery drive through the field, including overtaking moves that are a rarity at Monaco, to finish ninth showed the pace that a fully functional Red Bull-Renault possessed. Of course, Verstappen put himself at a disadvantage by crashing out heavily in third free practice and damaging his car for qualifying.
There was a much cleaner drive in Montreal, however, as Verstappen was third in the race, beating Ricciardo both in qualifying and the race. But at the front of the field and once again showing everyone the dreaded finger, while also adding the chant of ‘Grazie Ragazzi’, was Vettel who took his first win since the second round of the season in Bahrain. With just seven rounds done at the time of printing and another 14 to go, Vettel knows that the one-point lead he has over Mercedes AMG F1’s Lewis Hamilton means little at this point. But it is still nice to be ahead than behind, as he was after a tough stretch of three races where he finished eighth, fourth and fourth, while Hamilton took fourth place and two wins.
Of course, the truly unfortunate driver this year is Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who has been outqualifying and outracing Hamilton of late and would be in the lead of the championship if not for an unfortunate tyre puncture in the crazy Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
The news with the other ‘Flying Finn’ is less rosy, however. After three podiums in the first four races, Raikkonen seems to have gone off the boil, and it’s costing Ferrari in the battle for the constructors’ championship.
While Hamilton and Bottas have combined to give Mercedes the lead with 206 points, Raikkonen has just 68 points to his name. This places Ferrari in second place with 189 points. Which is still 55 points ahead of Red Bull-Renault, but that lead will only last as long as Verstappen runs into trouble on track. And the regularity of that has gone down enough for ‘Mad Max’ to have finally leapfrogged McLaren-Renault’s Fernando Alonso in the point standings to sixth. This somewhat restores ‘order’ in the F1 pecking order, as the six drivers from the top three teams are in the top six of the drivers’ championship.
The consistency improvement of Renault F1 has seen them move up to fourth place, ahead of both McLaren and Force India-Mercedes. Only Sergio Perez’s lucky podium in Baku has been a highlight for the team that is rumored to be on the verge of being sold off by the trouble-ridden Vijay Mallya, who is evading the long arm of the law. A lot more is yet to come in F1 2018.