Friday,16 November, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1390, (19 - 25 April 2018)
Friday,16 November, 2018
Issue 1390, (19 - 25 April 2018)

Ahram Weekly

They didn’t see him coming

Daniel Ricciardo flies past hopeless Mercedes and Ferrari while Verstappen still can’t bully the drivers enough, Mohamed Abdel-Razek reports

Daniel Ricciardo

In the most entertaining Grand Prix till now this season, not many might have predicted what China was holding. All eyes were on Ferrari and Mercedes from qualifying. The big question was whether Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari could keep on pushing for a consecutive third win after Vettel’s wins in Australia and Bahrain early this season. This was the main talking point, with anticipation of a screaming reaction from Mercedes and the defending world champion Lewis Hamilton.

In qualifying, the Ferraris were on fire with their cars tuned just perfect, while their rivals Mercedes were struggling to find the right pace, especially with their first driver Hamilton. Daniel Ricciardo was man of the show with a blown engine. The talented Australian had doubts that he would make it to Q1, but he did, thanks to the Red Bull mechanic heroes who changed the engine in record time, enough to get Ricciardo in the car for a one shot lap to make it to Q2. Ricciardo returned the favour for his team and mechanics and made it to Q2 and later to Q3, settling for sixth position on the grid. If we go back to the events after Ricciardo’s win in China, you would sense that something special was building up, some sort of a boost for Ricciardo that would encourage him to give the finest of himself on race day.


They didn’t see him coming

Once the lights went off it was flashy seeing Vettel closing the window to block his teammate Kimi Raikkonen. The German interrupted Raikkonen’s launch, allowing Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes to overtake him and go for second place and after him Max Verstappen of Red Bull, to keep the Finnish in fourth place. Raikkonen had Hamilton hunting behind, but it was enough positions lost for the Finnish, who kept on closing all the windows in front of Hamilton.

The fight for first place was quite entertaining in this part of the race. Raikkonen kept pushing and with Vettel pitting, Raikkonen was leading with Bottas breathing down his neck. Raikkonen’s worn tyres made his lap times slower every lap allowing Bottas to pass him and Vettel but at some moment the Torroroso cars accidentally collided and the safety car had to enter the track, saving some teams who had to change their tyres, especially Raikkonen and the two Red Bulls.

Once the safety car was out and the green flag was shown, it was show time for Ricciardo. The Australian had fresh tyres, a car that is good going in and out of corners, and his talent. Ricciardo overtook Raikkonen and Bottas, while his mate Verstappen was behind, busy bullying Hamilton and later destroying Vettel’s race when he hit him spinning his car to lose several positions, while Verstappen ended up with a 10-second penalty.

The race was a pack of joy for many who watched it but certainly a nightmare for Hamilton and Mercedes. Mercedes team manager Toto Wolff called his team to start getting their act together, while Hamilton described his performance as a disaster. The British driver had already started putting pressure on his team since the start of the season, saying on different occasions that Ferrari was much faster and readier than the Silver Arrow which, he added, needed to get better. Last season Mercedes were in a league of their own with all the teams including Ferrari struggling to compete. In the offseason most teams worked on rebuilding their cars from the ground up to try and close the gap with the Silver Arrows. Mercedes on the other side believed their car was already good and miles ahead of any competition, so with some fine tuning it will be just fine. In addition to the new rules that came up this season with only three engines to be swapped for each car, it seems Mercedes was getting their planning wrong.


Hamilton

Hamilton looks like he is struggling to put his hands on the right formula. The British ace needs a car that is far ahead in power and innovation in order to lift pressure off his back; at least that was the deal in past years. On the other side, it looks like this is probably the perfect situation for Bottas to perform in. The second Mercedes driver experienced pressure last season doubting that he was the right replacement for Nico Rosberg, and once again this season he got the same shouts in the first race of the season in Australia. But he proved how good he is in Bahrain and China where he finished second ahead of Raikkonen.

After this race it is obvious that this Formula1 season might be the best in a long time. Yes, Vettel is still on the top in the driver’s championship, but with Mercedes still struggling to find their running boots, Red Bull knowing they have a chance, and other teams having the power to bother, probably more than two teams will be fighting for the world championship until the last couple of races. See you in Azerbaijan on 29 April.

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