Racing is back!!!!
Never a dull start, either. Hamilton saying the grip is poor on the starting line, an aborted start, and questions about passing because the cars are so much wider than last year’s. It was tough not seeing Ricciardo on the start, but it was great to see his car leave the garage on lap 3. Aussies had to love seeing him not quit.
Lucky for me, Hamilton got a good start but Vettel started chasing him down fast. Ferrari did a MUCH better job this offseason of developing their car and letting the lap times do the talking instead of empty talk. Vettel backed that up early on by cranking out the fastest laps, while Hamilton had the advantage with clean air and the ability to set the pace. Hamilton responded quickly to Vettel and got him out of DRS range, as well as setting his own fastest lap. Cat and mouse at it’s finest.
Once again, it’s incredibly disappointing to see McLaren not have their shit together. Vandorne having to stop because his dash wasn’t working. Alonso saying first goal is just to finish the race, not even worrying about getting points. And he didn’t even get to do that. This is now a decade of mediocrity from this team and I have a feeling if Bruce had anything to say about it, he’d be pissed.
Then the newcomer Haas had Grojean have to jump out of a car that was on fire in the pit only on lap 15. They can’t seem to catch a break, either. Grojean looked absolutely gutted when they showed him in the pits. But even Red Bull took a few years to gain their dominance… and they had Adrian Newey designing their cars.
Tension built for me when Hamilton came in to pit on lap 17 and Vettel kept staying out. Hamilton was setting fast sectors on the soft tires, but Vettel wasn’t losing ground on his old ultra softs. Added stress came because Hamilton got stuck behind Verstappen, who’s just fantastic at not letting cars by. It paid off in spades for Vettel because when he finally did pit, he managed to get out in front of both Hamilton and Verstappen. Brilliant call by Ferrari, even though I hate them a little for it. Toto Wolff got mad, but his strategy was just wrong this time. After the race Toto claimed it wasn’t strategy–that Hamilton had to push so hard he wore out the tires early to try to stay in front of Vettel. But I still wonder if they’d gotten him out in front of Verstappen, would the fight have been different.
Poor Ricciardo’s day get any better either. Lap 29 took him out for good. Really sad to see for such a nice guy at his home grand prix.
Further pressure for Hamilton came in with Bottas cutting the gap on his teammate. In just a few laps, it went from over 4 seconds down to about 2.5. Bottas seems to be playing a good teammate and company man by asking for direction from the team about taking the fight to Hamilton before doing so. But Mercedes’ past call was to let them fight it out. Curious to see if they’ve moved to a 1-2 driver strategy or not.
Maranello finally had a reason to celebrate and rightly so–they finally have a car that can fight with Mercedes. This should be a much more exciting season. Everyone’s been waiting for a real Hamilton/Vettel fight and I think we have it.
Vettel took home his first win in 2 seasons, Hamilton took second, and Bottas made a solid showing bringing home 3rd.