August 23, 2019, 0:15


Lewis Hamilton v Sebastian Vettel: The story of the F1 title race so far

Lewis Hamilton v Sebastian Vettel: The story of the F1 title race so far

March 25: Australian GP
Mercedes came into the season opener as heavy favourites despite giving little away at pre-season testing, and backed that tag up in Melbourne qualifying as Lewis Hamilton blew the competition away, taking pole by 0.6s. A confident Hamilton even told last year’s title rival Sebastian Vettel, who qualified third behind team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, that he hoped to “wipe the smile off your face” with his lap.

But it was Ferrari and Vettel who had the last laugh come race day.

It was all going so well for Hamilton, who had built up a three-second advantage over Raikkonen and Vettel at the time of his Lap 19 pit-stop, before a Virtual Safety Car was deployed thanks to Romain Grosjean’s stranded Haas.

A glitch in Mercedes’ computer software meant Hamilton wasn’t warned that he was vulnerable and, as he had to abide to a set time under the VSC, Vettel came in for what was in effect a free stop, saving him over 10 seconds of lap time and enabling him to re-emerge just ahead of a bewildered world champion.

Vettel then held the Mercedes at bay, admitting he “got a bit lucky” in a Ferrari car he was struggling to control. Red Bull, meanwhile, finished fourth and sixth but showed glimpses of their race-winning potential, with Daniel Ricciardo the fastest man on track.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 25
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 18
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 15
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 12
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 8
8 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 4

April 8: Bahrain GP
There was nothing fortunate about this one. Not since 2004 had Ferrari started a Formula 1 season with successive victories, but Vettel was helping the Scuderia lay down an impressive early marker.

Vettel was superb in qualifying in leading a Ferrari one-two, boosted by the fact Hamilton would start eight places back thanks to a fourth-quickest time and a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. A day later Vettel held off Valtteri Bottas, in the sister Mercedes, on ailing tyres, defending superbly in the closing laps.

It was a damage limitation act for Hamilton and a good one at that as he finished third, recovering from an early collision with Max Verstappen, who retired from the race along with Red Bull team-mate Ricciardo. Raikkonen also would not finish after dramatically colliding with a Ferrari mechanic in the pit-lane.

Two races in, and Vettel already held a 17-point advantage in the standings.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 50
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 33
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 22
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 15
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 12
10 Max Verstappen Red Bull 8

1:36

A quick look at the race highlights from the Chinese GP

April 15: Chinese GP
Collisions, changes of the lead and incredible overtakes; the Chinese GP had it all.

There were big questions about Mercedes’ pace, or lack of, after Ferrari secured another front-row lockout, but Bottas had managed to get ahead of pole-sitter Vettel after the first round of pit-stops. Neither of the leading drivers, however, were able to pit for new tyres upon the deployment of the Safety Car – giving their rivals behind them, apart from Hamilton who was left out by Mercedes, a significant advantage on fresh rubber.

But while Verstappen seemed best placed to attack at the restart, the Dutchman went off track while trying to pass Hamilton before shunting into Vettel, who span and dropped back, and it was Ricciardo who made the most of Red Bull’s pace as he sensationally surged from sixth to first in the space of 10 laps.

Hamilton finished fourth and Vettel eighth, but F1 2018 appeared to have two new title contenders in Ricciardo and Bottas.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 54
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 45
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 40
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 37
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 30
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull 18

April 29: Azerbaijan GP
A year on from their Baku antics of 2017, Vettel safely led Hamilton off the line but after both pitted early on for soft tyres, Bottas extended his first stint and was set to take full advantage after a Ricciardo-Verstappen collision triggered a Safety Car and what was essentially a free stop for the race leader.

Upon the restart, a determined Vettel lunged into Turn One in an attempt to retake control, but locked up and lost three places in the process as Hamilton made it a Mercedes one-two behind Bottas. There was more drama to come, however, as with just four laps remaining Bottas ran over debris on the start-finish straight and suffered a race-ending puncture.

Not at his best and not happy with his car, but Hamilton had inherited a win and was in the lead of the championship for the first time this season.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 70
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 66
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 48
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 40
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 37
8 Max Verstappen Red Bull 18

May 13: Spanish GP
Hamilton led from the front and won, while Ferrari suffered. It was the perfect afternoon as far as four-time double world champions Mercedes were concerned.

Vettel jumped Bottas off the line and though he was never truly close to the pole-sitting Hamilton, he was running second as late as lap 41 of 66. But the German dropped to fourth when a second stop for fresh tyres behind a Virtual Safety Car backfired, with Bottas and Verstappen in the Red Bull finishing ahead of him.

Raikkonen retired in the other Ferrari to make it their worst day of an encouraging 2018 season so far, while it was Hamilton who now held a 17-point title advantage.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 95
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 78
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 58
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 48
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 47
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 33

May 27: Monaco GP
The jewel in F1’s crown was always going to suit Red Bull with its narrow streets and lack of long straights, but the way in which Ricciardo first stormed to pole, and then hung on for victory in a wounded RB14 was still sensational.

After building an early advantage over Vettel, Ricciardo suffered an MGU-K issue and had to nurse his power-shy car for an incredible 60 laps, defending superbly from the Ferrari as he ensured the season’s first six wins were split between three drivers.

Hamilton was happy with third and a steady title lead over Vettel in the end, though Verstappen will have been disappointed not to have made the most of Red Bull’s package after crashing out in Practice Three and not taking part in qualifying.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 110
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 96
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 72
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 68
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 60
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 35

June 10: Canadian GP
Following a three-race win drought that seemed to point at flaws in their 2018 car, Ferrari were back in business in Montreal.

Vettel edged out Bottas for pole with Hamilton only fourth, and was comfortable but commanding in taking a lights-to-flag victory, even keeping his composure when the chequered flag was waved a lap too early. Hamilton unusually struggled for pace at his much-loved track and suffered an engine scare as he could only manage fifth, losing his championship lead in the process.

“It looks incredibly close,” said Sky F1’s Martin Brundle of the ever-changing title pecking order.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 121
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 120
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 86
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 84
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 68
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 50

1:48

Watch replays of how Sebastian Vettel damaged the front wing of his Ferrari after colliding with Valtteri Bottas on lap 1 of the French GP

June 24: French GP
Armed with a new engine upgrade, this time it was Mercedes who bounced back – though the returning Paul Ricard race was the first leg of a dramatic triple header for the world champions.

Hamilton led a Merc one-two in qualifying and was three tenths ahead of Vettel, who enjoyed a storming getaway in the race from third. But Vettel crashed into Bottas as he attempted a move up the inside, with both drivers quickly falling to the back of the field. However, though the Mercedes came off worse, Vettel was only handed a five-second penalty and was able to recover to fifth, two places ahead of Bottas, as Hamilton cruised to victory.

Hamilton opened up another healthy lead over his title rival but still wasn’t completely content, believing Vettel deserved a harsher penalty for the first-lap collision.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 145
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 131
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 96
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 92
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 83
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 68

July 1: Austrian GP
It looked like it was going to be another Mercedes procession in Spielberg with Bottas and Hamilton on the front row, and Vettel demoted to sixth after blocking Carlos Sainz in qualifying. Instead, it was the team’s worst day in F1 in half a century.

It was looking good, especially for Hamilton, early on as he got ahead of Bottas – but his team-mate’s retirement brought out a Virtual Safety Car and Mercedes stuttered, failing to bring in their race leader while both Ferraris and Red Bulls behind him came in for fresh tyres. Hamilton was suddenly vulnerable and dropped to fourth when he pitted himself, with Vettel then executing a fine overtake on the Englishman.

To complete a nightmare day for Mercedes and Hamilton, he was then forced into a DNF with a fuel issue, and finished the day behind Vettel, who finished third, in the standings again. The race victory, meanwhile, was taken by an in-form Verstappen.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 146
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 145
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 101
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 96
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 93
6 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 92

2:10

Watch the first lap action of the 2018 British GP where Lewis Hamilton was hit by Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen

July 8: British GP
The Silverstone race was another cracker, and featured another dramatic start as the pole-sitting Hamilton was first passed by Vettel, and then hit by his Ferrari team-mate Raikkonen as he span and dropped to the back of the field.

Hamilton impressively recovered to the top five and though Vettel led for much of the race, a Safety Car meant he slipped into second and a Mercedes sandwich as they opted against bringing Bottas and Hamilton into the pits. What followed was a thrilling finale, with two teams and four drivers – Raikkonen was fourth – in contention.

Vettel, on fresh tyres, attacked Bottas lap after lap and the struggling Finn eventually buckled, giving the Ferrari the lead and a chance to build up a healthy title lead. But a dogged home-favourite Hamilton was also soon ahead of his team-mate, making up 19 places in the race and limiting the damage in the championship battle.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 171
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 163
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 116
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 106
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 104
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 93

1:11

Sebastian Vettel goes into the barriers, crashing out of the German GP while leading

July 22: German GP
Vettel had the title momentum coming into a home race of his own and was in perfect position on race day after qualifying on pole – with Hamilton down in 14th after a Mercedes qualifying failure.

Even as Hamilton charged through to fourth as the rain started to fall, Vettel was in control. A lock-up at Turn 12, however, was catastrophic for him as he stumbled into the gravel; his race over within a matter of seconds.

Bottas and Raikkonen pitted after the Safety Car to give Hamilton the lead and an unlikely victory. “That was the drive of my life,” hailed the new championship leader, who had never won from lower than sixth on the grid before.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 188
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 171
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 131
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 122
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 106
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 105

July 29: Hungarian GP
Ferrari were the clear favourites for the tight and twisty Hungaroring track, where Mercedes had struggled in the past. But the heavens opened in qualifying and Hamilton locked out the front row with Bottas, with Vettel only fourth.

Vettel remained many pundits’ pick for victory when race day dawned dry and sunny, but Hamilton enjoyed a storming getaway and controlled the race. Vettel did recover for second, surviving a crash with Bottas.

But it was Hamilton who held a healthy lead heading into the summer break.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 213
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 189
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 146
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 132
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 118
6 Max Verstappen Red Bull 105

August 26: Belgian GP
Both Ferrari and Mercedes brought their spec three engines to Spa and on first viewing in practice it appeared it was the team and red who had the pace advantage. But another Saturday shower allowed Hamilton to dazzle in the wet, and he qualified on pole ahead of Vettel.

Vettel, however, bounced back this time. He overtook his championship rival on the very first lap and surged to take the chequered flag by 11 seconds.

Back in the hunt?

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 231
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 214
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 146
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 144
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 120
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 118

1:47

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton collide in Monza

September 2: Italian GP
It was supposed to be Ferrari’s dream homecoming at Monza, and their straight-line speed made them heavy favourites to seal a first win in front of the Tifosi in a decade. But there was already tension rising at the Scuderia after Raikkonen secured pole ahead of Vettel – who believes he should have been granted with a beneficial tow.

And then Vettel’s race quickly turned into a nightmare.

Hamilton, starting third, saw an opportunity into Turn Three and went around the outside of Vettel – the two rivals then making contact and it was the Ferrari that went spinning back down the field. Hamilton went on to sensationally overtake Raikkonen for a surprise victory, while Vettel recovered for fourth.

But that wouldn’t have been any solace. This was a massive opportunity missed.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 256
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 226
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 164
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 159
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 130
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 118

September 16: Singapore GP
Marina Bay was another track which was expected to suit Ferrari, but once again Hamilton was just too strong. The Englishman’s pole lap was described as one of the best he’d seen by team boss Toto Wolff, one that saw him outpace Vettel, who could only manage third on the grid behind Verstappen, by more than half a second.

Hamilton followed up that qualifying masterclass with a dominant race, while Vettel once again didn’t see eye to eye with Ferrari over their strategy calls – he overtook Verstappen on Lap One only to lose the position through pit-stops.

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 281
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 241
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 174
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 171
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 148
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 126

1:18

Valtteri Bottas lets Lewis Hamilton through after receiving team orders during the Russian GP.

September 30: Russian GP
Mercedes were the dominant force in Sochi as they appeared to take a step ahead of Ferrari in the development race – but drew criticism after implementing team orders in the race for the first time in F1 2018 in the race. Hamilton trailed his team-mate in qualifying and the race but, with the championship leader under pressure from Vettel after a fine overtake of his own, Mercedes instructed a far-from-happy Bottas to give the position up to Hamilton.

It was controversial, but surely the right call as Hamilton had a 50-point lead going into the final five races rather than 43.

But Hamilton admitted: “It doesn’t feel great. I don’t think I’ve ever finished first and feel the way I do right now.”

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 306
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 256
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 189
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 186
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 158
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 134

1:39

Watch the video as Sebastian Vettel collides with Max Verstappen's Red Bull and spins off after trying a move into Spoon.

October 7: Japanese GP
Much like in 2017, Ferrari’s already slim championship hopes imploded in Suzuka. Their weekend went from bad to worse – first Ferrari chose the wrong tyres in the wet-dry Q3 conditions before Vettel made a mistake on his sole dry lap, to qualify ninth – and then the German erratically crashed into Verstappen after making a fine start to the race.

It was impulsive, but irresponsible from a four-time world champion.

Vettel recovered to finish sixth, but has lost 50 points to Hamilton in four races and now trails his rival by 67 points in the championship. Lewis, winner of the last six grands prix, can win the title in America

Drivers’ Championship standings

Position Driver Team Points
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 331
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 264
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 207
4 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 196
5 Max Verstappen Red Bull 173
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 146

Sky Sports F1 is the only place to watch every Formula 1 Grand Prix, qualifying and practice session live in 2018. Get Sky Sports F1.

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