In a thrilling and dramatic race Mercedes took their 5th consecutive constructors title and Lewis Hamilton took his 50th win of the turbo-hybrid era but it wasn’t easy for the 2018 world champions.
Giovinazzi, Norris and Latifi once again took part in FP1 for their respective teams with the 2 former drivers gearing up for their debuts next season. Norris had a few excursions off track showing the lack of grip the McLaren had which once again looked uncompetitive, McLaren only have 2 races remaining before they can put a torrid 2018 behind them. Verstappen showed early pace by finishing at the top of the time sheets in the first practice sessions but it looked close amongst the top 3 teams and that followed through into the second practice session.
The threat of rain loomed over the track on Saturday, at the beginning of Q1 we saw a lot of cars queue ready to go as soon as the session started in case the track conditions would get worse. The usual suspects were knocked out of Q1 but a quick lap by Sergey Sirotkin meant that he would progress into Q2 and Carlos Sainz would be knocked out in the first round.
In Q2 rain looked ever more likely, all the cars were out on track but a late call by Ferrari to pit and put on the harder compound tyre to give them an advantage in the race led to controversy. With the rain immanent it was important that drivers set times soon but Sebastian Vettel was summoned to the weigh bridge for a random check, this was far from ideal, frustrated Vettel asked the FIA to hurry and was eventually signalled to go but in an act of frustration Vettel spun his tyres leaving the scales breaking them in the process. There was even more controversy when Lewis Hamilton had a near miss with Sergey Siroktin, both drivers were on out laps but Sirotkin favoured a faster out lap, he went to overtake Hamilton but at that point Hamilton decided to move across the track causing Sirotkin to take evasive action. Both cars remained undamaged, neither incident would incur a grid drop but Vettel would receive a reprimand and a fine.
Charles Leclerc was struggling and was in the relegation zone, he had a moment on one of his laps into turn 2 ruining his lap but when the team told him to box he refused electing to have another go. This would prove to be an inspired move, the track was drying up after a brief spell of rain and managed to put a lap in quick enough to reach Q3. When it came to Q3 Lewis Hamilton managed to take Mercedes’ 100th pole position and would be joined on the front row by Sebastian Vettel who would be starting on a different tyre.
Marcus Ericsson put in his best qualifying performance of his career when he qualified P7 but on his way to the grid on Sunday he damaged part of his diffuser which couldn’t be fully fixed which would ultimately see him retire. At the start of the race Hamilton would retain his lead into turn 1 but Bottas would overtake Vettel for P2, Ricciardo made up places from 11th after he had a grid drop for a turbo change. The Mercedes weren’t able to pull away however, they were struggling with their tyres more than the others meanwhile Verstappen made his way past the Ferrari’s for 3rd.
Mercedes would opt to pit their cars first onto the Medium compound but the Red Bulls and Ferrari’s elected to go longer on their first stint. Eventually Verstappen and the Ferrari’s would pit and come out behind the Mercedes. Verstappen who was already ahead of Bottas before the stops came out only a couple of seconds behind Hamilton and would eventually close and overtake Hamilton for the effective race lead. Vettel was struggling for pace and was eventually ordered to let teammate Raikkonen past, Bottas did not have the same pace as his teammate and was holding the Ferrari pair up. Ricciardo made his stop and came out back in sixth place but on much fresher tyres, he eventually passed an off the pace Vettel and started to make an impression on the Bottas/Raikkonen fight.
The moment that changed the race.
Max Verstappen was beginning to build a comfortable lead over Hamilton, Esteban Ocon who was a lap down was just behind Verstappen on fresher tyres, he wanted to Dunlap himself as Verstappen was holding him up but made an aggressive move on the race leader into turn 2 resulting in the two making contact and allowing Hamilton to retake the lead.
Daniel Griffiths’ View: “A car is more than entitled to unlap itself especially if the car ahead is slower. Both drivers took unnecessary risks, Ocon should have waited for the following straight before making the move after all he does have a significant power advantage but Verstappen should have just let Ocon through as he has nothing to gain from fighting a back marker. Ocon received a 10 second stop-go penalty which was more than fair and both drivers have something to learn from this incident.”
With damage to his floor Verstappen struggled to regain the time lost to Hamilton, Raikkonen also made it past Bottas for the final podium position. It was then the turn of Ricciardo to pass the Mercedes, with the power deficit he had it was much harder for the Aussie but he eventually made it through and then began his challenge on Raikkonen.
Verstappen did manage to bring the gap down to just over a second but Lewis Hamilton claimed his 51st win for Mercedes and to their 5th consecutive constructors title with Raikkonen fending off Ricciardo for the final podium position. Here is how the top ten finished:
- Lewis Hamilton 1:27:09.066
- Max Verstappen +1.469s
- Kimi Raikkonen +4.764s
- Daniel Ricciardo +5.193s
- Valtteri Bottas +22.943s
- Sebastian Vettel +26.997s
- Charles Leclerc +44.199s
- Romain Grosjean +51.230s
- Kevin Magnussen +52.857s
- Sergio Perez +1 Lap
Verstappen see’s red:
Verstappen made his frustration clear over team radio over the incident with Esteban Ocon and warned what would happen if he saw the Frenchman after the race. In Parc Fermé Verstappen confronted Ocon which resulted in the Dutchman pushing Ocon and later labelling him as a P***y. Both drivers would eventually be summoned up to the stewards to discuss the incident, the two would later shake hands.
Is Bottas quick enough for the front?
Valtteri Bottas finished in an unconvincing 5th after a massive slump in performance, for the second year in a row Bottas has had a torrid second half of the season. He is also the only driver in the top six without a race win and with only 1 race remaining it looks unlikely that he will. If Bottas has any hope of retaining his seat at Mercedes in favour of Ocon in 2020 he will need to step up his performance and challenge for the title next season.
Leclerc impresses again:
Once again Charles Leclerc impressed with another top ten finish, he was best of the rest and adrift from the Haas cars behind him. He is starting to show a high level of consistency that you see from the top guys in the sport. I for one cannot wait to see Leclerc in red and fighting for the title in 2019.
Your 2018 Constructors Champions:
Mercedes have claimed their 5th constructors title in a row, something only Ferrari has managed to do until now. The team has been winning all throughout it’s history as Tyrrell, Brawn and now Mercedes, next year will be their biggest challenge yet with Red Bull and Ferrari right on their heels.
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