Formula 1
Formula 1
28 Mar
FP1 in
27 days
R
Emilia Romagna GP
18 Apr
Race in
50 days
09 May
Next event in
67 days
23 May
Race in
85 days
R
Azerbaijan GP
06 Jun
Race in
99 days
13 Jun
Race in
106 days
27 Jun
Race in
120 days
04 Jul
Next event in
123 days
18 Jul
Race in
141 days
R
Hungarian GP
01 Aug
Race in
155 days
29 Aug
Race in
183 days
05 Sep
Race in
190 days
12 Sep
Race in
197 days
26 Sep
Race in
211 days
R
Singapore GP
03 Oct
Next event in
214 days
10 Oct
Race in
225 days
R
United States GP
24 Oct
Race in
239 days
31 Oct
Race in
246 days
R
Australian GP
21 Nov
Race in
267 days
R
Saudi Arabia GP
05 Dec
Race in
281 days
R
Abu Dhabi GP
12 Dec
Race in
288 days
Top 20 Stories of 2018
Topic

Top 20 Stories of 2018

Top Stories of 2018, #4: Vettel and Ferrari blow it again

Next in our countdown of the top motorsport stories of 2018, we look at how Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari failed to capitalise on championship favourite status and instead lost to Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton again.

shares
comments
Top Stories of 2018, #4: Vettel and Ferrari blow it again

This looked set to be THE year. At least for the first 10 races of the season. Then it all started to go horribly wrong for Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel, who went from favourites for the title to being left wondering what had hit them in the space of weeks.

It all had started perfectly: a strong pre-season, during which Ferrari looked to have finally caught up with Mercedes in terms of engine power, was followed by Vettel victories in Australia and Bahrain, as he beat Lewis Hamilton thanks to a smart strategy in Melbourne and resisted a late charge from Valtteri Bottas to win at Sakhir.

Daniel Ricciardo then won in China, as Vettel - who had started from pole for the second race in a row - was hit by the Australian's teammate Max Verstappen and had to settle for a distant eighth.

The Azerbaijan GP saw the first of Vettel's notable errors during 2018, the German dropping from second to fourth as he attempted to pass Bottas for a lead that had been Vettel's before a safety car period that aided the Finn's cause. A lucky Hamilton seized the chance to win the race and take the championship lead in the process, but even then it looked as if it was Ferrari which had the pace advantage.

It all changed in the next round in Spain, where Mercedes appeared to be the dominant force while Ferrari found itself struggling to match its rival's speed. Hamilton went on to take another win as tyre woes resigned Vettel to a distant fourth.

After another surprise victory for Ricciardo in Monaco, Vettel got things back under control and took a commanding win in Canada - usually Hamilton's territory - to regain the championship lead while his rival had to settle for fifth on a circuit where he had won for three years in a row.

Then came Vettel's second notorious mistake of the year in France, where the Ferrari driver hit Bottas at the start, damaging his car and finishing down in fifth as Hamilton went on to win again to make the lead at the head of the standings change again. It was not to last long, though, as Hamilton retired with problems in Austria in what would be his only DNF of the 2018 season.

Vettel was unable to maximise the opportunity, however. A foolish grid penalty for impeding put him out of contention before the start of the race, which was won by Verstappen while Vettel wound up third behind teammate Kimi Raikkonen. The result was enough to put him back in command in the championship ahead of the 10th round of the season.

The British Grand Prix was not the party Hamilton would have wanted after beating Vettel to pole: he was spun by Raikkonen at the start and had to fight his way back through the field. Vettel did seize the opportunity this time with a superb drive to win from Bottas as Hamilton recovered to second place to limit the damage in the standings as the championship crossed the halfway point.

With an eight-point lead and his home race up next, it was all looking good for Vettel. And everything looked even better when he secured pole position at Hockenheim while Hamilton hit trouble and could not make it out of Q1, starting the race from 14th place.

With everything in his favour, Vettel lead for the majority of the race and looked set for victory when the rain hit the circuit. Then, with 15 laps to go, the four-time champion threw the win away by crashing out of the race in what turned out to be a pivotal moment in the championship's timeline. To add insult to injury, Hamilton fought his way back to victory from the seventh row of the grid to retake a lead that he would never relinquish.

Hamilton won again in Hungary and settled for second behind Vettel in Belgium to head to the Italian Grand Prix with a 17-point lead over his rival. With a very quick car, and in front of the tifosi, the Monza race presented itself as a great opportunity for Vettel to reduce the gap to Hamilton.

Come Saturday, however, it was Raikkonen on pole ahead of Vettel, with Hamilton down in third. The start of the race and the incident that followed is seen by many as the metaphorical nail in the coffin on Vettel's championship challenge: as they battled for second place, Hamilton pulled a bold move at the second chicane and Vettel ended up spinning. Against the odds, the Briton went on to win, kicking off a four-race victorious streak. It was game over.

Ferrari and Vettel had no response in the following races, Hamilton winning in Singapore, Russia and Japan, where the Scuderia messed up its qualifying strategy and saw Vettel finish sixth having first crashed with Verstappen once more.

With a 67-point lead and four races to go, Vettel's chances were close to zero, with Hamilton needing just two more grands prix before clinching his fifth title in Mexico.

Although Ferrari would win again with Raikkonen in USA, Vettel would finish the year having last stepped on top of the podium in August.

Click here to view the Top 20 Stories countdown so far.

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari

Photo by: Jerry Andre / Sutton Images

Matching Ferrari title record "humbling" - Wolff

Previous article

Matching Ferrari title record "humbling" - Wolff

Next article

F1 offers hints at grid penalty alternatives

F1 offers hints at grid penalty alternatives
Load comments

About this article

Series Formula 1
Drivers Sebastian Vettel
Teams Ferrari
Author Pablo Elizalde
Why Verstappen isn't interested in the hype game Prime

Why Verstappen isn't interested in the hype game

In a pre-season where Red Bull has been unusually quiet, Max Verstappen has also been guarded about the team's fortunes in 2021. Even after trying the RB16B for the first time at Silverstone, the Dutchman was careful to manage expectations

The pros and cons of F1's 2021 rule changes Prime

The pros and cons of F1's 2021 rule changes

In the strategy for grand prix racing's future, 2021 represents a significant step towards the goal of closer racing and a more level playing field. That's the theory behind the latest raft of changes, but will they have the desired effect?

Formula 1
Feb 24, 2021
What Red Bull is trying to hide with its RB16B launch Prime

What Red Bull is trying to hide with its RB16B launch

Red Bull made no secret of the fact its 2021 F1 car is an evolution of its predecessor, but in keeping the same foundations while hiding some tightly-guarded updates with its RB16B, the team aims to avoid suffering the same pitfalls of previous years

Formula 1
Feb 23, 2021
How Albon plans to fight his way out of Red Bull limbo Prime

How Albon plans to fight his way out of Red Bull limbo

Alex Albon has faced the media for the first time since he lost his Red Bull drive at the end of 2020 and dropped out of a Formula 1 race seat altogether. He has a history of bouncing back from setbacks, so here's what he must do to rise again

Formula 1
Feb 23, 2021
Ranked! Carlin's greatest F1 graduates Prime

Ranked! Carlin's greatest F1 graduates

Carlin has helped guide enough drivers to Formula 1 to fill out an entire grid, plus a handful of reserves, to create a remarkable alumni list. With Yuki Tsunoda set to join that group, Motorsport.com has ranked its graduates to grace the grand prix scene...

Formula 1
Feb 22, 2021
Why Alfa's 2021 launch says more about its 2022 plans Prime

Why Alfa's 2021 launch says more about its 2022 plans

Alfa Romeo launched its C41 with a revised front nose, but there's little to suggest it will surge up the leaderboard in 2021. As the team frankly admits, it's putting its eggs in the basket labelled 2022 and hoping to hold the eighth place it earned last year

Formula 1
Feb 22, 2021
Why Gasly’s AlphaTauri haven is a blessing and a curse Prime

Why Gasly’s AlphaTauri haven is a blessing and a curse

Red Bull opted not to re-sign Pierre Gasly even before it decided to drop Alex Albon and so the Frenchman's Formula 1 journey will continue at AlphaTauri. This has positive and negative connotations for one of last season's star performers.

Formula 1
Feb 20, 2021
Eight things Red Bull must do to beat Mercedes in 2021 Prime

Eight things Red Bull must do to beat Mercedes in 2021

After seven years of defeat at the hands of Mercedes, Red Bull is as hungry as ever to secure a fifth world championship. But there are key challenges it must overcome in 2021 to switch from challenger to conqueror

Formula 1
Feb 19, 2021