OVER AT FERRARI...
All these drivers are fighting over the scraps left after Ferrari opted to stick with Kimi Räikkönen for another year, announcing his new contract before Spa, and just days before Seb Vettel signed a new three-year deal to stay at Maranello until the end of 2020.
Ferrari must therefore now be considered less likely to be interested in either of the Red Bull drivers once Räikkönen’s contract runs out at the end of 2018, since Vettel would countenance neither. Daniel Riccardo, who beat Vettel when they were team-mates at Red Bull in 2014, has already said he would not join Ferrari to be a “bridesmaid”. Verstappen also has no interest in playing second fiddle to Vettel, the role Räikkönen has this year.
Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc is expected to be placed at Sauber with a view to moving him to the top team in 2019. In the meantime, Räikkönen’s willingness to accept a number-two driver role helps to maintain Ferrari’s focus on Vettel’s bid to become the first Ferrari world champion since 2007, a campaign that may have reached a pivotal point at the team’s home race in Monza.
“RÄIKKÖNEN’S WILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT A NUMBER-TWO DRIVER ROLE HELPS TO MAINTAIN FERRARI’S FOCUS ON VETTEL’S BID TO BECOME THE FIRST FERRARI WORLD CHAMPION SINCE 2007
There, Hamilton’s dominant drive from pole to win made him the most successful qualifier in F1 history, breaking Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 poles, and moving him into the lead of the championship for the first time in 2017.
Monza was a sobering weekend for Ferrari. In Spa, the week before, they had been surprisingly competitive on a track expected to favour Mercedes. Vettel pushed Hamilton all the way, provoking Lewis to pronounce that the Ferrari had been the faster car. At Monza, though, Ferrari were never in the game – slow in the wet in qualifying and an average of nearly 0.7s per lap off the pace in a race that Vettel ended more than half a minute behind his rival.
In Spa, Hamilton had said he was re-energised after the summer break. “I am here for blood, here to win and here to stay,” he said. In Monza he spoke of the “empowering” feeling of taking the championship lead. “Earlier in the year [Vettel’s lead] was 20 points or something like that so I am going to see if he can have that feeling for a while,” he said.
Neither he nor Mercedes were making assumptions. Singapore casts a shadow over Mercedes, partly due to their weak performances there and partly because the Ferrari has excelled all year on low-grip, slow tracks. Hamilton said he felt the lessons of Spa and Monza “should collectively put us in a better position for Singapore”, then quickly added: “But I still think Ferrari are going to be quick there.”
For some weeks, Mercedes have been talking about a Ferrari win at Marina Bay being inevitable. If that happens, Vettel will be back in the lead again. For the rest of the year, though, the advantage is likely to swing back and forth, with races decided by fine margins. Before Hamilton’s victory at Monza, Wolff repeated his view that the fight would go down to the wire. At the moment, its hard to see how it could do anything else.
“FOR SOME WEEKS, MERCEDES HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT A FERRARI WIN AT MARINA BAY BEING INEVITABLE. IF THAT HAPPENS, VETTEL WILL BE BACK IN THE LEAD AGAIN
Vettel is signed up with Ferrari to the end of 2020, while Räikkönen’s contract has been extended by another year
Lewis took the title lead from Seb for the first time this season in Monza, but the advantage looks set to swing back and forth