2018: Round 17/21, JAPANESE GP, Suzuka


Ferrari tyres blunder triggers crushing sequence of events

1st    LEWIS HAMILTON         Mercedes

2nd   VALTTERI BOTTAS        Mercedes

3rd    MAX VERSTAPPEN       Red Bull

While Hamilton won comfortably from pole, the real story was how Vettel and Ferrari messed up, not once but three times. 1) At the start of Q3, with the track dry but rain forecast, Ferrari fitted ‘inters’ while everyone else chose slicks. 2) Forced to make an immediate tyre change, and now under time pressure from the threatening rain, Seb went wide at Spoon on his only dry Q3 lap to end up P8 on the grid. 3) After driving a brilliant opening lap to reach P4, Vettel attempted a rash lunging pass for P3 on Verstappen at Spoon, the resultant clash spinning the Ferrari to dead last. By lap 34 Seb had fought back to P6 but that’s where he finished, 70 seconds and 17 points behind the imperious winner. Despite blistered tyres over the closing 15 laps, Bottas made it another Mercedes 1-2 after seeing off a spirited late attack from Verstappen. For Max it was an eventful race, making contact with both Ferraris. The first incident on lap 1 cost him a 5s penalty after he missed the chicane, then barged the closely following Räikkönen aside as he regained the track. Relegated to start P15 due to Q2 engine woes, Ricciardo drove a strong race to P4 having got the better of the car-damaged Kimi who trailed in 30s later. Perhaps fearful that Kimi might ignore it, Ferrari did not order their drivers to swop places to add two points to Vettel’s waning title fortunes. Perez finished best of the rest after getting past Grosjean at the chicane on lap 41.
The wretched sequence of events that left Vettel’s title challenge in utter disarray was triggered by the bizarre Q3 tyre choice. Vettel’s two subsequent errors were undoubtedly down to him, but most likely, with the extra dry track time lost in Q3, Vettel would have out-qualified Verstappen. With a fourth straight win, all of a sudden Hamilton could clinch the title at the next round by scoring just eight more points then his rival in Texas.

The Championship Chase
Hamilton 331, Vettel 264, Bottas 207, Räikkönen 196, Verstappen 173

Mercedes 538, Ferrari 460, Red Bull 319, Renault 92, Haas 84

Formula 1 All the Races