Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Albert Park, 2017

Hamilton and Vettel: A title fight ten years in the making

2017 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

It’s easy to forget that Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made their Formula One debuts within six races of each other.

Hamilton burst onto the scene with McLaren at the beginning of 2007. He was already a race-winner by the time Vettel made his first start, substituting for Robert Kubica at BMW in that year’s United States Grand Prix. There Hamilton won again, while Vettel would have to wait over a year for his first victory.

2017 Australian Grand Prix in pictures
By the time Vettel had a potentially championship-winning car underneath him Hamilton had already won one title and come close to another. Yet while they have amassed 96 victories between them over the past decade, they’ve seldom gone up against each other on-track nor fought each other for a championship.

The closest they came was in 2010. That year Hamilton finished second to Vettel in the season finale and ended the year 16 points behind his title-winning rival. But two other drivers separated them in the final standings at the end of that remarkable championship.

Through 2011 they crossed swords occasionally, notably in Spain where Hamilton chased Vettel to the flag. But Hamilton’s McLaren was too rarely a match for Vettel’s Red Bull.

McLaren produced a much quicker car the following year but it kept breaking down, thwarting Hamilton’s hopes of joining Vettel’s title scrap with Fernando Alonso. He was leading in Singapore when the MP4-27 died, Vettel collected the win, and Hamilton decided to accept Ross Brawn’s offer to join Mercedes.

While Vettel took a fourth consecutive championship with Red Bull in 2013 Mercedes were patiently laying the ground work which would see them dominate the next three seasons. During that time Hamilton would only have to worry about competition from his team mate. He duly delivered two more titles and missed out on a clean sweep last year by just five points.

These two greats of the current Formula One generation have never locked horns over a full season. But the first race of 2017 suggests that may be about to change.

Vettel might have felt understandably alarmed by Ferrari’s lack of progress last year. This was his second win-less season in three years, and at times he must have wondered whether the driver he replaced at Ferrari had made a better career decision. There’s no room for doubt on that front any more.

As for Hamilton, during the peak of Mercedes’ dominated he yearned for more competition from their rivals. “If the cars are close you can have real races where you’re overtaking and battling and that’s what I love doing,” he said in early 2015.

That sentiment doesn’t appear to have changed in spite of his opening-round defeat. In many ways Hamilton seemed to genuinely relish the prospect of having someone outside his team to race against for the first time in years.

“I know it’s been a long time coming for [Ferrari] to get a result like this,” he said. “It shows we are going to have a race on our hands, which we are very happy to have, which is great for the fans.”

“Unfortunately it’s harder than ever to get close to cars, which is a shame. We can’t even have a close battle but who knows, maybe in the future we will.”

There’s no doubt the Australian Grand Prix was short on explosive action. Perhaps on bigger circuits with longer straights we might see some more lively racing.

Even so, the season-opener had one thing which most races over the past three years have been sorely lacking: Genuine competition for victory between two different cars.

There’s also the possibility of Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas getting into the mix in future races. Plus a potential challenge from Red Bull, whose RB13 surely has to come good eventually.

But even if none of that happens the prospect of Vettel and Hamilton going to-to-toe for the title gives plenty of cause to feel optimistic about the rest of 2017.

Especially if we get a race that’s even half as good as their celebrated 2005 Lausitzring Formula Three battle:

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141 comments on “Hamilton and Vettel: A title fight ten years in the making”

  1. This was his second win-less season in two years

    @keithcollantine it’s in 3 years iirc

    1. Typo, fixed :-)

      1. Hamilton and Vettel: A title fight ten years in the making

        Give me a break! Give Ricciardo a competitive car and he’ll wallop the pair of them!

  2. Bring it on!!

  3. I love the way suddenly Vettel is a ‘Great’ again among the pundits and journalists. We heard nothing about him for a couple of years.

    For those who measure drivers buy their stats, he’s the best driver this decade.

    Anyway I do like Vettel. I don’t like all this egotistical hype in F1 though when the drivers are so reliant on having a dominant car. The title fight eveyone wanted was Verstappen v Hamilton. alas.

    1. He’s not as loud, nor are his fans. Alonso keeps making claims that he’s doing the best driving of his life, so people believe he’s still world class. Vettel was honest enough to admit 2014 and 2016 weren’t his best seasons, so people start doubting his ability. Vettel is one of the all time greats, he won a race with a Toro Rosso ffs.

      1. Vettel is a great driver. But mind you, that Toro Rosso he drove in 2008 was no slouch (in fact it was better than the Red Bull, thanks mainly to its Ferrari motor being more powerful than the Renault). Regardless, I’m pretty sure Sebastian’s quality as a driver contributed greatly to the upturn in performance from the Faenza based squad that year.

        Also, I can understand how Alonso’s constant statements of “best drive/season of my life” gets pretty dragging. But again, I doubt he’s wrong in his assessment; his drive in Melbourne (and in 2016) was pretty amazing.

        If this season does turn out to be Vettel vs Hamilton, then this would likely be F1’s equivalent of “John Cena vs Randy Orton”: 2 WWE superstars who were billed as “the future” when they started out (roughly the same period); but due to (life) troubles encountered by one or the other, the storyline of their planned rivalry took some years to materialize (and probably almost never even made it).

        1. “Vettel is a great driver. But mind you, that Toro Rosso he drove in 2008 was no slouch (in fact it was better than the Red Bull, thanks mainly to its Ferrari motor being more powerful than the Renault). Regardless, I’m pretty sure Sebastian’s quality as a driver contributed greatly to the upturn in performance from the Faenza based squad that year.”

          Considering he went to Redbull in ’09 and brought them their first pole and win, suffice to say had he been in the Redbull in ’08 there is the possibility he would have won there as well!

        2. The fact that the Red Bull in ’08 was terrible doesn’t mean the Toro Rosso was race winning material. His feat that day, and to win so comfortably, is one of the greatest drives of all time.

          1. @hugh11 The Toro Rosso car was the second fastest on that day.

          2. Mark Zastrow
            30th March 2017, 8:37

            I rate Vettel highly, but Sebastian Bourdais qualified fourth at Monza in ’08 and could have been on for a podium had he not stalled on the grid. Bourdais may be no slouch, but he’s also no Vettel, so the fact that he was also in the mix gives an indication of how well-suited the Toro Rosso was to those conditions.

        3. What are you saying? In 2009 people were getting super tired of seeing John Cena vs. Randy Orton. Thank god they ended it in time to still make it one of the great rivalries in WWE history, perhaps they would square off again in the last runs of their careers.

          I hope we get to the point where we can be “tired” of Hamilton vs. Vettel though, for the time being, any competition is welcomed!

      2. Spot on bro

    2. Lets just hope Renault(engine) and Redbull do some magic and make it a 3 way battle.

      Oh we can dream haha (drools)

    3. Carl Benjamin
      30th March 2017, 12:52

      Egotistical hype? I’m sorry, but you must not be listening to the British media…

    4. Vettel was voted Driver of the Year by most outlets in 2015, wasn’t he?

    5. Vettel will win the drivers battle of 2017 IF both cars are equally reliable. Could not care less about Verstappen albeit he will be great in a few years.. Verstappen is too impatient and that will be his undoing for a while. Thanks, Racer Norriski

  4. Let’s see, it’s still early to tell if Ferrari are genuinely that quick. I’d definately like that, but i remember that last year, if they had a better strategy plus a bit of luck they could have also won in Melbourne, so it’s clearly a track that the Ferrari is always good at. After that race, the tracks sort of started to not suit them as well as Albert Park.

    1. @gechichan spot on. Way too early to tell. As you say, just imagine if Vettel had won at Melbourne last year! we’d have seen the exact same amount of hype over this battle, specially after Ferrari themselves talked up their chances so much during winter testing.

      I’ll wait until Spain, I still believe Mercedes has a cmofortable gap between them and Fezza.

      1. if Mercedes had a comfortable gap to Mercedes, Hamilton would have built up a lead in the first 20 laps in Melbourne, didn’t you watch the race? 300kms of proof for you!! why are people discounting the result, it was a profound result in some ways, the Ferrari faster all race – at the start Vettel couldn’t get past Hamilton because of this years cars huge aero… but once past sped off into the distance and then managed the gap…. Mercedes will rely on qualifying pace. Hamilton was quicker in sector 1 in qualifying – that gave him pole – and that is the power sector… in the other sectors with more turns, the Ferrari was faster, which tells me Ferrari has a better car. In Spain Ferrari might be .5 seconds faster than Mercedes like in testing. we can only go by recent results, and currently Ferrari is fastest by results, so I don’t get why people are saying they still believe Mercedes is in front, given what transpired in the Melbourne race.

        1. It’s not just people who are saying they believe Mercedes are still in front, Seb’s also saying it.

          Let’s not kid ourselves, circumstances played into Seb’s hands on Sunday. Lewis was well with Seb’s pit window before he encountered Max and would’ve comfortably regained the lead. Even Brundle in commentary mentioned that it looked like Ferrari missed a trick by not boxing when Lewis on his first full flying lap, did a 1.27:5. And even though Lewis was stuck behind Max who was doing 1.30s laps, Seb emerged only 0.6s ahead of them both.

          As for qualifying, in S2 Seb was 0.04 & S3 0.05 quicker.

          1. Ferrari and Seb played it beautifully, putting pressure on Hamilton at the beginning and doing the opposite of Mercedes strategy, they MADE the circumstances favour them, its very different.

            To suggest it was down to Hamilton encountering Max on track is nonsense.

            Mercedes most likely are in front still, but in race pace in Australia they simply weren’t

          2. “To suggest it was down to Hamilton encountering Max on track is nonsense.”

            Seb came out the pits 0.6 ahead of Max and Lewis (even though Lewis spent nearly 7 laps behind Max), which clearly showed that had he not been stuck behind him for that long, Seb would’ve Fed back out behind him.

            If you think I’m lying, all you have to do is check the lap time data or better yet, the words of Seb & Jock Clear.

          3. Ahah, its you opinion doesn’t mean you are lying. The situation was created by Ferrari, by behaving as I said in my previous comment.

          4. Nigel was saying in 92 Imola that he’s car doesn’t have that much performance and he’s car was a beast.
            So i think it’s too early to tell.Mercedes look to be favourite so far.

        2. @kpcart I’ll assume it’s because Merc has been so strong for so long, that many expect they will improve this season and continue to be formidable. And it may depend on the track.

          I find what is most telling is that it was LH that had the clean air, yet his tires lasted the least number of laps vs. SV in dirty air, and VB hanging back. I’m sure that will be one of the main things they’ll be looking at right now.

          I think people just need to see Ferrari confirm their Australia result at a few more races, and at the same time Merc to confirm their lagging behind a little at a few more races, before they will get too excited about a two-team rivalry vs a one-team domination.

      2. I suspect you are right, that Mercedes are still the team to beat. The fact Vettel won doesn’t change that belief. From the comments of the drivers during the race it is apparent a chasing car, even with a superior power unit, can be dominated by the car in front.

      3. Tend to agree, but there’s one thing – quite important – different to last year: the 1st Ferrari qualified 0.26sec behind the 1st Mercedes, which is more than 0.7sec better than last year! Things look significantly more “real” this year, but I agree we should wait another 2-3 races to see if there’s a title fight or Mercedes will walk away with them again.

        1. 0.6sec, actually!

    2. From how I see it, Mercedes are faster, but Ferrari are at least equal over a race distance. Probably because Mercedes can turn their engine up more in qualifying, but can’t last a race distance with it at the same setting.

      1. As you say though, it’s 1 race, still too early to tell for sure.

      2. Actually they can. At the launch of the W08, Andy Cowell mentioned that one of the improvements made to the PU allowed them to run it for longer in higher modes. The issue on Sunday wasn’t to do with power, but purely tires and the narrow operating window. Ferrari were able to get it right, Mercedes has already identified where they went wrong and will look to put that right in China.

        1. I feel that I’m just picking on your comments, but hey here it goes again

          The PU can be longer in higher modes, doesn’t mean it can be a full race, and actually they had to make that improvement, as some turns are no longer turns, as they are made flat out.

          Mercedes underestimated the tyre performance, they said so themselves at the end, that was their problem, they didn’t read the circumstances has they should especially with tyre wear. Don’t really understand what you are trying to say with narrow operating window, wear wasn’t a concern, and the new tyres don’t have the temperature problem.

          1. “Don’t really understand what you are trying to say with narrow operating window, wear wasn’t a concern, and the new tyres don’t have the temperature problem.”

            Then I guess you weren’t listening when both Lewis & Toto mentioned it or read the articles in AMuS & ESPNF1, When Lewis stopped, he had 30% useable thread on his tires, Seb when he did, had nothing left.

            But hey, feel free to continue to ‘pick’ on my comments, I’ll gladly offer a rebuttal.

          2. but that just proves my point, they misread the info, is that it? Just asked because I though you meant something more with the “narrow operating window”, that’s all

          3. but that just proves my point, they misread the info, is that it? Just asked because I though you meant something more with the “narrow operating window”, that’s all

          4. Here’s Bottas telling the reporter that the ultra softs were overheating & how they were wearing out.

            http://f1.channel4.com/video/you-can-win-them-all-hamilton/

    3. Agreed, let’s see if Ferrari can actually mount a real challenge. I get that people want to buy into the hype – and that websites are happy to provide a place to enjoy the prospect of a title battle – but one race is just one race. Mercedes hasn’t won all races in the last three seasons, yet each of those years the outcome was never in doubt.

    4. Indeed, I said elsewhere that I thought Ferrari would win at Albert Park as Mercedes – by their own admission – have struggled there in comparison to most of the rest of the calendar and Ferrari appear to be as close as they’ve ever been.

      Whether they’ll stay close throughout the rest of the year is way too early to tell, but if the silver arrows [Hamilton] continue to have issues with tyre life then you’d imagine Ferrari will always be there or thereabouts to pick up the pieces.

      1. @sparkyamg Have struggled relative to the competition? Only in 2016.

    5. Last year Ferrari would have lucked into a win, this year the Ferrari had obvious race pace, which considering the Mercedes had no problem getting off the line meant he was kept honest throughout.

      It is very different to last year, although it doesn’t mean Ferrari is ahead but it’s not same as last year.

    6. Keep in mind how far they were behind in quali last year here, though. It’s clear they are a lot closer.

    7. Its also to early to say if Merc are as quick as they looked in Australia. It may go against some peoples expectations and on normal tracks Ferrari could be a second a lap clear. Very early to say this is Vettel v Hamilton. If it is it might be whoever has the most points by the summer and after the summer RB dominate.

  5. 10 years later and we are back to red vs silver at the front.

    I really hope Ferrari can keep form during the season though, the race may not have been spectacular in terms of on track action, but the story it told and the potential of a great championship fight is exhilarating.

  6. Not to be party pooper here, but fear and honestly think this is will prove to be a one-off, with Mercedes and Hamilton winning most of the races this year. Melbourne is an odd-ball, and Hamilton had his odd blip during races.

    I would love to be proved wrong here. We’ve never really had a Hamilton and Vettel rivalry, the prospect is mouth watering. We just need another couple of races before we know if we’re in a for a true title battle.

    1. This is exactly my fear, those who think that suddenly Ferrari have matched or surpassed Mercedes might be in for a disappointment. Hamilton won’t struggle with his tyres for the rest of the season.

      1. he will just struggle with a faster car then his, a Ferrari.

          1. Yes like 2008 when a blown engine and botched pitstop for his rival meant he won. Without those 2 incidents his rival would ofcwon the title with a racecto spare in the faster Ferrari. The 2008 McLaren was a silver Ferrari.

          2. No, like 2007 and 2012. Oh wait, he said a faster Ferrari. Nevermind. :)

          3. Markp

            Err – Spa? Where said rival was gifted a race while bumbling around by the worst race fix ever recorded….

    2. I think so too. I think Australia 2017 was like Malaysia 2015: Vettel won due to Hamilton’s strategy getting him stuck in traffic. That said, at least in Australia Vettel was able to keep the pace with Hamilton, and won without a safety car.

      1. @electrolite I see you weren’t logged it. I think Mercedes will have the edge this year mostly because they will be better in qualifying

        1. You would be correct! Bit embarrassing…

      2. I actually think Ferrari might be the real deal this year. Sort of a repeat of 1994, Benetton x Williams, also after a big shakeup in the regs.

    3. Australia is normally Mercs best race in out and out performance v rivals. Australia 2017 might be as good as it gets for Merc.

    4. @electrolite

      Last year Vettel wasn’t as close to the Mercs in qualifying as he was this year. Also, last year, Mercedes had better race pace compared to Ferrari which made it impossible for Vettel to pull away enough on the faster tyres after the red flag. This year Vettel pulled away from the Mercs and controlled the pace on the same compound tyres. Yes, Hamilton had stopped earlier and probably used a fair bit of rubber trying to follow Verstappen but even in the first stint Hamilton could not get away from Vettel. Something he would undoubtedly have had no problem with last year if Vettel and Raikkonen hadn’t jumped him at the start.

      It’s not conclusive but it all looks a lot more competitive at the front than last year.

  7. Not to be party pooper here, but I fear this is will prove to be a one-off, with Mercedes and Hamilton winning most of the races this year. Melbourne is an odd-ball, and Hamilton had his odd blip during races.

    I would love to be proved wrong here. We’ve never really had a Hamilton and Vettel rivalry, the prospect is mouth watering. We need another couple of races before we truly know if we’re in a for a title battle.

    1. I tend to think the same, the track favours Ferrari and Mercedes can kick in the boosters (more development tricks up their sleeve) when need be. Mercedes need competition to be close for Formula 1’s sake (and to prevent calls for more drastic technical changes to cut back on their lead). So I kind of presume they don’t tend to max out their car until they’ve seen where the other teams are relative to them. However Ferrari may just have designed an amazing car, finally, with a lot of potential still. In which case they may be able to keep up with Mercedes and win at a lot of tracks. Disappointed with Red Bull, though. I’d like to see Ricciardo and Verstappen fighting for the championship too.

      1. why do you think Mercedes have more development tricks up their sleeve? what evidence is there? at the moment it looks like Mercedes is running at the end of a development cycle with aero ideas from the past years, while Ferrari has new ideas, like the high sidepods that will be too hard to copy by Mercedes this year. Red Bull have a great base, their chassis is totally new, and they will add aero components to it as the year goes on, Mercedes is running at the end of an evolution in chassis/aero development it looks like, all bolted on for testing and the first race, but have less room to improve than Ferrari and especially Red Bull this year. Red Bull seem to be running the newest type of chassis, the shape looks so different from infont, and when they start adding all the flaps the Mercedes already have, they might end up the benchmark. Mercedes wont have the massive power advantage this year it looks like, except still partially in qualifying, going by Hamiltons first sector times in Melbourne), so it is game on!

        1. “why do you think Mercedes have more development tricks up their sleeve? what evidence is there?”

          Because the car Mercedes used in the first test, wasn’t the same one used in the second, whilst Ferrari ran basically the same car over both test.

          “at the moment it looks like Mercedes is running at the end of a development cycle with aero ideas from the past years”

          Really? End of a development cycle for new set of regulations that’s significantly different to last years car? Let’s not get carried away.

  8. So, the take-away from the video is that Guido Van de Garde is better than both Vettel and Hamilton?

    1. No, just Vettel, Hamilton beat him :-)

      1. The takeaway from that video would be this but considering Hamilton was in the best car in the series and Vettel the rookie, it was more about Vettel announcing himself on the scene.

        1. Yeah I was joking.

        2. ahah, as soon as I read it I though, who is going to be the first one to bite? Cheeky Keith, dropping bait in the middle of the comments

        3. Best car?

          In a spec series?

          Hmmm

          1. Well maybe you need to follow the series and find out why most of the winners drive that particular constructors car.

      2. Sorry, I only made it through the first couple of laps where VDG was pulling away from VET and HAM. I couldn’t wait to post the comment

      3. Fantastic video, watching that wheel to wheel racing was highly enjoyable, as is seeing in retrospect those familiar characters of today as fledgling duellists.
        Also strangely prescient is the colour of Hamiliton’s car – I kept seeing the Merc colours and having to double-take.

  9. Both their careers are impressive. While Vettel has 1 more title, Hamilton has 10 more wins & way more poles. This season will go a long way in shaping one of their legacy.

    1. If Vettel had the level of dominant car Hamilton had in the last three years when at Redbull, their stats wont be in the same ball park.

      Both quite impressive though!

      1. 2010, 2011, 2013?

        1. 2010 was nothing like 2011 or 2013.

          1. A quicker car is a quicker car, it doesn’t matter if its by 3 tenths or 2 seconds when it comes to pole and win statistics.

          2. It does matter when it comes to being considered dominant. If you have a 2s advantage and a reliable car, you don’t get a close championship. With a 3 tenth advantage, and/or unreliability coming into play, you may well end up with a close title race.

          3. There is only 1 pole position, it doesn’t matter what the gap is back to the next row on the grid, and when your teammate is quick and in the same equipment as you, you’ve only got to beat the person/car thats capable of taking that pole off you.

            Often the gaps between Hamilton and Rosberg was smaller than Vettel and Webber, so who really had the harder job?

          4. A smaller gap between cars means you indeed have a harder time beating those cars than if you had a bigger gap between the cars. Even more so if unreliability comes into play, which it did in 2010. So Vettel in 2010 did have it harder than he did in either 2011/2013, or Hamilton for the last 3 years.

        2. “2010 2011 2013” Redbull won 34 of 57 races.

          “2014 2015 2016” Mercedes won 51 of 59 races.

          1. The original comment stated Vettel had one more title than Hamilton but Hamilton had way more poles. Your post was implying that the stats are skewed in Hamiltons favour because he had a more dominant car (that he has more poles) I’m not sure why you’re mentioning wins per season

      2. Rockie, if Lewis had a clear #2 teammate like Seb did then his stats would be untouchable as well.

        1. No one has a number 2 teammate people make their teammate that, before Vettel Webber was known as a qualifying specialist.

      3. Rockie…

        If Hamilton had the level of dominant cars in 10/11/12 & 13 like Seb had when he was at McLaren, their stats won’t be in the same ball park. If anything, Lewis probably would be level with Schumacher’s 7 WDC. 😉

        1. Hamilton had the fastest car in 2012 but reliability was an issue

        2. Hamilton had more domination in 2016. We all know he still choked.

          Vettel never lost to his teammate and Vettel had WORSE reliability than Webber did. Even F1F has proven statistically Webber had better luck.

          1. Yea, choking caused his engine to blow up and him being the first Mercedes powered car to use more than the allowed PU components & starting at the back of the grid.

            “Vettel never lost to his teammate”….. really?

            Whilst teamed with Webber, 2009 & 10 was Seb’s most unreliable years.

            09
            Seb 5 no score
            Web 7 no score

            2010

            Seb 4 no score
            Web 2 no score

            Over their times as teammates, Webber had more DNF/none scoring races than Seb.

            Okkk David

          2. Never lost to a team mate?

            Ricci would disagree.

            And to suggest Webber was even close (or allowed to be) to Rosbergs performance as a team mate is ridiculous.

            Yet he still had his backside handed to him…

        3. Well he had it in 2014,2015 and 2016 and came up short.

          The difference with Vettel is obvious on sunday, when Vettel assumes the lead of a race it’s a foregone conclusion.

          1. Came up short in 2016?

            That’s intellectual dishonesty.

            He walked away from that season with more poles and more wins than Rosberg, and that was despite terrible reliability.

            You, I, we all know why Hamilton didn’t claim that title. Let’s not fool ourselves.

          2. N – Intellectual dishonesty? Try Intellectual Facts.
            385 > 380. The measure of the Driver’s Championship is based on points. Rosberg finished with 385 and won the Championship. Intellectual fact.

    2. That makes Vettel even more impressive.

    3. If Vettel had the Merc v Rosberg he likely would have won 3 more titles. Vettel beat Webber 5-0 in seasons together but Webber beat Rosberg when they were teammates. Not conclusive but a yard stick non the less. Hamilton lost to Rosberg last year, yes he had 1 mechanical failure in 21 races but Vettel had worse reliability in 2010 and 2012.

      1. It is not a yard stick. He was a Rookie and Webber at the top of his game.

        You don’t like Hamilton – we get it but you are making yourself look stupid with such comments.

        They are both good drivers but in wheel to wheel racing and a close fight I know which one I would watch.

        Strategy and winning from the front (94% of Sebs wins are just that – much more than LH along with very few wet races) not so much

  10. Mark in Florida
    29th March 2017, 15:21

    I’m hoping for an epic battle between Ferrari and Mercedes. As we saw in the race Ferrari was better than Mercedes on its tire use. Hamilton still had 30% of his tires left at the first stop while Vettle had completely used his up without too much drop off. Mercedes has struggled with tire use before I can’t remember the exact year but it took awhile to correct. So if it takes them awhile to figure it out Ferrari can score a lot of points as long as they can keep making good pit calls. I think that strategy is going to play a huge role this year on tire choice and efficiency of tire use. We may even see races where fuel saving comes into play. I feel that Ferrari is genuinely fast this year and gentler on the tires than the Mercedes. Will Mercedes be able to get their car adjusted to use the tires properly, we will see. This will be a interesting year some cars will do better at some tracks than others. It’s shaping up to be a possible epic battle. Clash of the Titans….let’s all hope so.

    1. Mark in Florida:
      A good scrap is welcome indeed after years of processions, but it’s still a shame overtaking, at least for now, seems more aero-limited than prior to regulation change. As for the race, Merc should not focus on the fact that Ferrari seemed faster than them in spots. Rather, they should reflect and learn from the fact that they seemed to tweak setup away from the FP2 sweet spot. While Ferrari largely replicated their FP2 performance, Merc were nowhere near theirs. Merc also need to accede less to HAM’s strategy-impacting complaints. In the first stint, laptimes showed HAM’s tyres were far healthier than his panic suggested and the team should thus have used telemetry to calmly overrule him. Merc lost a winnable race largely through conceding track position via a premature pitstop.

      1. Mark in Florida
        30th March 2017, 2:12

        AndrewW the only way I feel that they could do that is to use ground effect cars and almost do away with the front and rear wings. Then people would complain that the cars didn’t look iconic anymore without the big wings. It’s hard to please everyone but as long as the racing is competitive in whatever format that Ross Braun and company can come up with,that’s what’s needed. Competition among several teams is the main thing.

        1. Please research why ground effects is not being persued in F1. In some conditions it can be lost and result in high speed accidents.

  11. Hamilton has won 3 championships out of a possible 7 that he had a realistic chance of winning (07,08,10,12, 14,15,16). Vettel has a better strike rate 4 championships out of 5 possible (09,10,11,12,13). There might be an epic battle between Vettel and Hamilton, but if Hamilton doesn’t watch his back Bottas will beat him like Rosberg did. Vettel is unlikely to have that worry from Raikonnen as he dominates team mates (except Ricciardo, who I think is better than Hamilton and Vettel anyway).
    Anyway, I notice the media is hyping up the Hamilton-Vettel battle, and fair play, they have 7 championships and about 100 wins between them.

    1. How long did it took Rosberg to beat him?

      1. SO long that’s its almost embarrassing that it even happened.

        Yet it did.

    2. I would consider Hamilton’s strike rate as 3 out of 5. I think 2012 was beyond him, he had all the bad luck in the world. For 2010, you could argue that had he not crashed in Monza and Singapore, he could have won. But 2010 was a strange season where everyone made mistakes (bar Kubica). So, let’s not count 2010.

      Only 2007 and 2016 were genuine misses from Hamilton’s side.

      1. I wouldn’t count 2007 either because of the gearbox problem he had in the last race

          1. No, I’m not blaming it on HAM

    3. @kpcart Just for the sake of friendly banter, if you are telling people that they have enough evidence already to see that Ferrari is indeed better than Merc right now, what is your evidence that DR is better than LH and SV? I don’t see it. I think LH and SV have proved they can fight for and win a WDC. How do we know how DR will be mentally if he gets into a season long battle for wins and the WDC? He has really so far only inherited a few wins from the attrition or mistakes of others, no? Imho that season he ‘beat’ SV was not a fair season to go by. SV had come from a car that for him fit like a fine glove and gleaned him great success, to an underperforming car he hated in a new format of racing he hated, while DR came into RBR into the best car he had had up to that point, even if SV thought it was a dog. DR was in a no pressure situation…do less than SV and it’s no surprise…do more and it’s gravy. I think DR has much to prove yet before he can be called anywhere near similar to LH and SV, let alone better as you suggest.

      1. I find myself agreeing with you. It absolutely bemuses me when I hear people saying the likes of Ric and Max are better than or on the same level as Seb & Lewis.

        1. @robbie and @kgn11 agreeing? The world might end tonight ;P

        2. Arghhh – I agree with Robbie too…

      2. @robbie people like to pick specific things that play into their arguments and mate them with their likes/dislikes and there you have it.

        I would concede however, that if Vettel wins the championship I won’t give him much credit if I’m honest. Only him and Kimi have the nokia 3310 thing playing into their hands.

        (I know the joke is wearing out, but I might put money on this just for the sake of it)

    4. kpcart:
      Always subjective when you compare drivers that have not raced similar machinery as team mates. Hard to take such comparisons seriously, beyond the notion that they reflect personal preferences. You are also conveniently glossing over pertinent details in the intra-team dynamic when you imply VET dominated WEB.

      1. The thing is, despite what people think happened at Red Bull that made Webber the 2nd driver, Webber has already come out and said Vettel was simply too fast for him. Multiple times.

        1. On Pirelli tyres…

          1. And on Bridgestone tyres as well.

  12. Dont jinx it!!!

  13. There was also a memorable battle between Vettel and Alonso in 2012 Austin – one of the best dry non-safety car races of recent times especially at the front of the field.

    1. That was Lewis & Seb, not Alonso.

    2. You mean Vettel and Hamilton?

      1. @mbr-9
        No he meant HAM and VET.

  14. Alonso will rejoin a resurgent Renault in 2018.

    1. ^ I’m putting that there just in case

      1. In place of Palmer, obvioulsy.

    2. @sravan-pe would love to see that!

      1. At least he’ll be able to fight for consistent points hopefully

    3. and will be destroyed by Hulk

      I want in on this ahah

    4. @sravan-pe RACE FIXING IN CIRCUIT OWNED BY FORMER F1 BOSS.

      You heard it here first!

  15. If Liberty wanna try their hand at a non-championship points race, perhaps they could stage an equalised (read lo-performance) oval race at the Lausitzring.

    The goal being eventually racing at an oval in America, now that would bring in the dollars.

  16. I think the talk of title fight is premature at this point. Australia might have just a bleep because Mercedes didn’t find a right set up or couldn’t manage tyre well.

    I am not pessimistic, but I just think that we can judge as a title fight if after 5-6 races they are still within striking distance of each other and pace wise cars are close

  17. Great headline and premise and I hope it pans out.

    My takeaway from Melbourne is that HAM didn’t seem as focused and appeared to be preoccupied with VET to the exclusion of the attention he needs to be turning towards improvements within his own team. Merc let slip a sizeable advantage from FP2. Inexplicable on the basis of higher track temperatures alone. This feels amateurish from a setup standpoint and was duly followed up by a panicky premature pitstop for HAM in which the team acceded to a whining driver’s request and conceded track position instead of pointing out that laptimes were healthy. Merc appeared particularly poor in pursuit and their issues in “dirty” air remain unresolved. HAM seemed to struggle to even get close to a VER struggling for grip while he himself was flying on fresh rubber. Since performance loss in dirty air is proportional to initial downforce, the consolation is that they likely have the highest downforce on the grid. The only thing Merc can be pleased about where proceedings in Melbourne are concerned is their starts.

    Overall, I am very impressed by the manner in which BOT has gone about his business thus far. He is also one who tends to enjoy the simulator work and engineering detail HAM has often termed “boring” and stands to gain from that. I expected BOT’s greatest deficit to HAM to be in quali, but he qualified closer to HAM than ROS ever managed at a circuit he doesn’t particularly like. Given what I assess a particularly sloppy first race and general attitude by HAM’s standards, I would not be at all surprised were BOT to bring home Merc’s first race win of 2017.

    1. Wow, only one race in and already we’ve got that fable tail, “Hamilton wasn’t focused”…

      So I gather by your comment, that we should expect to hear how cerebral, intelligent and hard working Bottas is compared to his more naturally gifted teammate?

    2. What an incredible comment AndrewW!

      I won’t bother even rebutting your obvious and poisonous personal commentary but suggest you read the race report in another site run by a magazine printed in green where you will find the strategy for the lead driver was as usual, to build a gap in the later laps of the first part of the race while judging the tyres as they had no info on wear rates. HAM was being ASKED as part of that strategy for tyre info by the engineer, he duly reported regularly as asked, something you and others have decided is ‘whining’ Merc made a strategic error using said info, did not tell HAM the times were OK and he would end up in traffic, chose the worst of two difficult decisions and once again lost track position and a race for HAM, something that occurs far too often for it to be all because of ‘whining or moaning’
      They panicked because they could not get a gap. Simple.

      Seb used all his tread, did not get faster once he was the lead car and just pipped it when he was bought in – only and only because of VER – Merc left 30% on the table because they panicked about not having a gap, worried about an over cut possibility (which was ridiculous) and stuck him out behind a train. Why? Because the strategist always makes these kind of errors. Why? because the team has had it easy and never really battled other cars all the while focus sing on the team rather than the driver. The fact BOT was absolutely left for dead in the first stint suggests HAM was getting a lot more out of the car and they may well have to relearn ‘strategy’ or they may well lose more races.

      But hey, let’s not let facts get in the way of your rather obvious dislike….

  18. This is all quite the assumption based on a single, generally unrepresentative race.

  19. It should be a very interesting challenge since Verstappen loves to block both Vettel and Hamilton! :-) Let’s hope we can see a competition between drivers from two different teams. However, it looks like Valterri will have something to say about this.

  20. That F3 race in mixed conditions was great. All of the cars seemed to have no trouble following, obviously F1 is on another level with aero etc. but it would be amazing to see that kind of close racing at the grand prixs

    1. @sevenways That race is why I think Hamilton will win this championship if the Ferrari and Mercedes are evenly matched. The other thing that has to happen is Mercedes has to focus on Hamilton the way Ferrari is focused on Vettel. If they try the equal treatment thing again, which was already evidenced in RD1 with poor strategy, Ferrari will continue to steal the wins right under their noses- and perhaps the championship too. I think Lewis is much better at digging deep and when the chips are down or delivering when the team calls for “Hammertime.” Vettel is a great racer, but Hamilton has racecraft and creativity.

      I think creativity is the difference between Hamilton and Vettel. They are both equally strong drivers but when you watch them drive qualifying laps or have to overtake a car that is equally on pace, you begin to see the differences. Watching Vettels drive is a basically textbook driving…connect the dots. Hit the apex. Take line X. Brake here. Accelerate there. But with Hamilton on a fast lap, you wonder why is taking that line? Why did he seem to miss that apex. And why is he locking up into that corner…surely he is going to lose time. Then he finishes the lap and he’s on pole and you’re wondering how he did that? Hows that possible?

      Vettel will deliver provided the car is setup to his liking and is not forced to adjust from his desired line, braking points or throttle application points. It reminds me of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo can take off in the lead of a GP and run lap after lap with only 2-3 tenths variation during that whole stint. But when he has to do wheel to wheel racing or the track is wet, his lack of race craft is revealed and his performance drops.

      1. Your Moto GP reference is spot on – and funnily enough very apt. I know Keith has no interest in such but it would be good if others on here watched it.

        There might be fewer ridiculously personal commentary about hairstyles, lifestyles and tattoos!

        1. It’s not that I have “no interest”, it’s that I usually have no time. I did actually see some of the Qatar race, as I often seem to, but usually miss most of the rest of the championship…

  21. would it be fair to say that Merc should at least give the shark fin a try?? (psssst – it would look better that the T bar wing thats there at the moment.)

    1. They are running a shark fin.

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