Typically, the conclusion of the Hungarian Grand Prix signals the end of the first half of the Formula 1 season leading the sport to its compulsory four week break. The month of July is officially the busiest month in the Formula 1 calendar. In 2018, we had four Grands Prix conducted over a span of five weekends - only a precision-obsessed sport like Formula 1 can pull off such a mammoth task.
The month started with the Austrian Grand Prix (1st July) followed by the British Grand Prix (8th July) followed by the German Grand Prix (22nd July) and finally concluding affairs at the Hungarian Grand Prix (29th July). Formula 1 teams transport their equipment by road for the European races and Google Maps indicates that to be roughly 3,500kms covered just for the month of July!
The championship battle
The logistical challenge aside, the month of July has seen fortunes swing at every Grand Prix weekend with Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes walking away in to the summer break with a comfortable lead of 24 points over Sebastian Vettel in the Drivers’ Championship. However, Mercedes are only 10 points ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship. For Formula 1’s sake, let’s hope that at least one, if not both championships, are closely contested.
But it would be too early to write off either of the championship battles. From the four races contested in July, Hamilton won twice with Verstappen and Vettel winning one race each. However, for the first time in the hybrid-turbo era (post-2014) of the sport, Ferrari seem to have the fastest package on-track. But team and driver errors have cost the team two potential victories this month - in Germany, where Vettel crashed out in tricky conditions while leading the race and in Hungary, where Ferrari’s delayed pit-stop for Vettel cost him a shot at battling Hamilton for victory. For some strange reason, Mercedes-Hamilton’s grip on the Drivers’ Championship seems tighter than Ferrari-Vettel’s, this is despite not having the best car on the grid.
The Finnish wingmen
Both the leading teams - Ferrari and Mercedes, are focussed on the title battle between Vettel and Hamilton and have not hesitated from using their Finnish drivers (Bottas for Mercedes and Raikkonen for Ferrari) are able wingmen to support their lead driver’s title bid. In Hungary, Bottas was labelled as a ‘sensational wingman’ while in Germany too, Bottas was asked to ‘hold station’ allowing Hamilton to drive to a win. But team orders aren’t new to Formula 1; they are legal and the teams are well within their rights to use them. However, team orders to interfere with ‘fairness’ in the sport.
Red Bull Racing's situation
Red Bull Racing are largely competing with themselves as they lie 3rd in the Constructors’ Championship. Verstappen and Ricciardo have won races this season, but aren’t real title contenders this season. All hopes lie on the Red Bull-Honda partnership that comes into effect in 2019. Renault is 4th in the Constructors’ Championship - almost 140 points down on Red Bull Racing and more than a few podiums and wins away. But that’s also the two-tier that we are subjected to in Formula 1.
Best of the Rest
Further down the order are Haas - who seem to finally scoring points that their car deserves. The American-owned team is battling with the in-trouble Force India team for 5th followed by Mclaren, Toro Rosso, Sauber and Williams. The first half of the 2018 Formula 1 Season has been about Vettel vs. Hamilton and a tight mid-field battle. It is almost certain that these battles and rivalries will continue once the sport resumes action on 24th August at the Spa Francorchamps in Belgium.
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Pic credits: SkySportsF1