I’m getting a little tired in emphasizing the Mercedes-versus-Ferrari duel that has defined the season so far because after Round 5, where teams brought upgrades to their machinery, the two leading teams have enforced their dominance even more. Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel had their own private race-long battle, leaving behind the rest of the field so much in the dust that third-place finisher, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, took the checkered flag over 70 seconds behind second place. Fourth placer, Force India’s Sergio Perez, even finished a lap down.
Hamilton and Vettel locked out the front row at the start but the Ferrari quickly took the lead on the run down to the first corner. Behind them, Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen, and Max Verstappen tangled, resulting in the retirement of the latter two, while Bottas was able to continue with no damage. Later on though, Bottas would run the majority of the race at third until an engine failure would force him to retire on Lap 39. So the casualties included a Mercedes, a Ferrari, and a Red Bull each.
As for the duel between the heavyweights up front, Mercedes played the strategy game against Ferrari. Both running a two-stopper, Hamilton was put on an alternate tire strategy to that of Vettel’s, which saw Hamilton on the Soft compound and Vettel on the Medium compound in their respective final stints. Vettel emerged ahead of his rival upon their final pit stops but his lead was only momentary as Hamilton clearly had faster pace. The Ferrari seemed rather defenseless when the Mercedes eventually powered past on the front straight. Theoretically, Vettel had the advantage of tire durability and could have attacked later on but Hamilton was simply able to make the faster Soft tires last all the way to the end of the race.
Hamilton’s win helped him trim the gap to Vettel in the championship standings. After five races, Vettel and Hamilton now have two wins each, while the latter continues to lead the championship by a small margin. Frankly, I don’t think there will be any more challengers to these two, except for maybe a few wins from Bottas and maybe one from Kimi or either Red Bull drivers—whatever, we’ll see.
So Vettel and Hamilton are practically lapping the field and while we the fans aren’t complaining, the ones who are most disappointed by this would be Red Bull. Many expected them to at least close the gap towards the front-runners with their new upgrades but they’ve instead let Mercedes and Ferrari get away.
The next round will be in Monaco, F1’s ‘Blue Riband’ event. Qualifying will be key as track position is always at a premium in the narrow, twisty streets of Monte Carlo. Mercedes has been the superior team in terms of Qualifying pace but Ferrari will continue to be a threat to the defending triple Constructors’ Champions. Elsewhere, Jenson Button will make a one-off appearance in relief of Fernando Alonso at McLaren, as the latter has committed to running the Indy 500 race on the same day.