Words: Morné Esben
A little while ago, I spoke about how Lewis Hamilton was a man under pressure and how, while the championship was still in its infancy, he needed to break his winless streak sooner rather than later.
And wow – what a difference a month makes in Formula One!
All of a sudden, Hamilton finds himself 17 points clear of fierce rival Sebastian Vettel in the scarlet Ferrari as the European leg of the season takes over. Now, many people on various forums have bashed this past weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix as a snorefest, and yes while it lacked the excitement of Baku, I found the race quite fascinating in a number of ways.
The start of the European leg always provides great insight into where the teams are in terms of the development race. Some teams bring minor updates that are only visible to the trained eye, whereas others in the particular case of McLaren, bring almost a B-Spec car. Also, the Circuit de Catalunya provides the ideal litmus test for the teams as to where the shortcomings of the car may be. As the saying goes “if it’s fast around this circuit, it should be fast around the remaining circuits on the calendar as well…”
I still believe Ferrari is the team to beat because they’ve got an efficiently fast car in most conditions and in Vettel, has a driver with the talent, grit and determination to not only challenge Hamilton but to beat him as well. Baku and Spain would’ve hurt Vettel and he’s already had some words to his team, urging them to find more speed.
Although Hamilton couldn't hide his sheer glee at winning back-to-back Grand Prix, he was diplomatic when asked about his team’s chances through the streets of Monaco, saying it’s very much all to play for between the top 3 teams.
Has Mercedes all of a sudden found their mojo and returned to the world beaters of the past few seasons? I’m not entirely convinced. Spain was a weekend where the stars aligned for them. Everything from the cooler weather to the modified tyres brought by Pirelli to a defending world champion in his happy place… it all played in Merc’s favour. And this is why I’m excited about what lies ahead for the season.
I foresee many ebbs and flows and the odd surprise here in there to make the 2018 season a memorable one. You’re a brave pundit to put your money on a world champion at this stage of the season!