It’s been a surprising start to the 2019 Formula One season.
We’re already four races in, and whilst everyone was expecting a much closer battle between the Ferrari and Mercedes cars, it’s not turned out to be.
Pre-season testing from Barcelona showed that Ferrari were the ones to beat, but when everyone turned up in Melbourne, that’s not the way things panned out.
Valtteri Bottas stormed to victory, with Hamilton coming in second. The Ferraris couldn’t even get on the podium – Max Verstappen wasn’t even sure how he managed to get so much out of his Red Bull to finish third.
When the F1 circus next arrived in Bahrain, Ferrari dominated the practice sessions and headed into the race with a front-row lockout and expected to ease the race win. However, technical failures and driver mistakes meant that they had to settle for 3rd and 5th.
Similar logic applied in China, with the Scuderia just not being able to keep up with the Mercs out front.
And then in Baku, after another domination during practice and the early part of qualifying, Charles Leclerc crashed during Q2 and Ferrari’s best hope for the race win went down the drain. Mercedes finished with another one-two, becoming the first team in history to finish one-two in the first four races.
But do you know what all four races had in common? Ferrari threw them all away.
If they’d allowed Leclerc past Sebastian Vettel in Australia, he could well have got decent points. If it wasn’t for engine troubles, Leclerc would have dominated Bahrain. If it wasn’t for Vettel spinning under pressure from Hamilton, he would could well have won it following the Monegasque’s issues. In China, had they not kept Leclerc behind Vettel, they would have challenged the Mercedes duo. And in Baku, Vettel missed out on a tow down the back straight in Qualifying which cost him pole position and couldn’t get close enough to Bottas or Hamilton in the race.
Mercedes, whilst they appear to have a slower car in a straight line but a better car in the corners, could well be winless this season if Ferrari had capitalised on their potential. But the same old mistakes, that arguably cost them the title last year, have come back to haunt them.
Even at tracks like Baku, which are clearly favourable to the Ferrari, have been dominated by Mercedes and their superior race strategy.
As we head into Europe and Barcelona, most, if not all, teams will be bringing big upgrades. It’ll be interesting to see what happens from here.
Whether Ferrari, and more importantly Vettel, accept that Leclerc should be on a level playing field with the German; whether their car is as ‘upgrade-able’ as the Merc; whether they stop throwing away races in silly fashion.
Then, and only then, can we actually see whether Ferrari will be title challengers this year.
Current F1 Drivers’ Championship:
- Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 87 points
- Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 86 points
- Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) – 52 points
- Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 51 points
- Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) – 47 points
- Sergio Perez (Racing Point) – 13 points
- Pierre Gasly (Red Bull) – 13 points
- Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) – 13 points
- Lando Norris (McLaren) – 12 points
- Kevin Magnussen (Haas) – 8 points
Current F1 Constructors’ Championship:
- Mercedes – 173 points
- Ferrari – 99 points
- Red Bull – 64 points
- McLaren – 18 points
- Racing Point – 17 points
- Alfa Romeo – 13 points
- Renault – 12 points
- Haas – 8 points
- Toro Rosso – 4 points
- Williams – 0 points