After Vettel’s victory: Is Ferrari now even ready for the title?
Munich – Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari victory in Melbourne is a surprise. Just by chance or is Mercedes really beatable? The SPORT1 title check.
Sebastian Vettel enters the second race as World Championship leader after his surprising victory in Melbourne. However, this victory was due to special circumstances.
So the question arises: Is Ferrari finally ready for the title again this year or is there no way around Mercedes? Or can even Red Bull become the laughing third in the fight for the World Cup crown? SPORT1 does the title check.
Despite the victory, Vettel did not want to spread a party mood. Instead, he honestly admitted that Vettel’s Loria was not the fastest car in Melbourne and the victory was due to a great deal of luck (SERVICE: The Drivers’ Championship).
“Lewis was faster in the first part of the race and faster in the second. We’ve got work to do. We have to improve in qualifying and in the race,” said Vettel.
A small gap to the silver arrows in qualifying had been expected by Ferrari, but seven tenths on a lap are far too much for the Italians – Mercedes party mode or not.
Of course, this could still be corrected in the race. But after the Melbourne experiences, Vettel assumed that here too one is about three tenths slower than Mercedes. The only consolation: On the straights the Ferrari looked equal.
The reinvigorated Kimi Raikkonen could become a trump card in the title fight. The Australian GP showed the advantage that two strong riders can bring to the top field. So Mercedes was forced into the pits by Raikkonen’s early stop, which ultimately led to Vettel’s victory.
Despite the missed victory at the start, everyone agrees: Mercedes has the fastest car again in 2018 and Lewis Hamilton is also highly motivated to take the fifth World Championship title this year, and the tough battle with Vettel seems to inspire the British (SERVICE: Der Rennkalender).
In the qualifyings, the Mercedes plus Hamilton package should therefore only rarely be beaten. Even if Hamilton denied it, team boss Toto Wolff admitted that the engine would be turned on in Q3.
Another good news for Mercedes: In contrast to the Silver Arrow from 2017, which was difficult to tune and was even called a “diva” by Wolff, the new car is much easier to maintain.
According to Valtteri Bottas, however, Mercedes’ engine advantage over Ferrari and Renault is said to have diminished significantly, and both Bottas and Hamilton were struggling with the fact that the engine overheats very quickly if you drive behind a competitor.
It remains to be seen how Bottas has put his qualifying crash and his moderate opening race behind him. Wolff was worried that the violent impact would have a negative impact on the psyche of the Finn – and Melbourne showed just how much Mercedes needs a strong bottle.
Only fourth and sixth in the race, after having already had to line up behind Ferrari in qualifying: At first glance, the opening weekend was anything but perfect for Red Bull (SERVICE: The team ranking).
Supertalent Max Verstappen didn’t have a good day and spun off the track with a lot of motivation after he had dropped back at the start. The Dutchman also struggled with a car that was difficult to drive after a small driving mistake at the beginning damaged the diffuser.
The Austrians were also unlucky when it came to the strategy to start with the harder tyres, but Renault made a leap when it came to the engine – but Red Bull is still lagging behind among the three top teams.
However, there are also some things that encourage Red Bull. In Melbourne Daniel Ricciardo banged the fastest lap by far – half a second faster than Hamilton.
Many experts also agree that the Red Bull is the best aerodynamic car. Especially the Ferrari is clearly superior in corners: “As soon as we had a free ride, it was okay. The pace was good. We have nothing to worry about,” Verstappen also said.
Mercedes are the clear title favourites with Hamilton despite the slip-up in Melbourne. Ferrari and Red Bull seem to be close enough to punish every small mistake of the Silver Arrows and make up for this shortfall within the season.
It is still questionable whether the Red Bull can keep up on engine tracks such as Montreal, Hockenheim or Monza. Either way, however, the team can become the balance if it steals valuable points from the aerodynamically weaker Ferrari on some tracks.