If the Azerbaijan GP win was undeserved after a below-par performance in a race which he won as a result of his teammate’s bad luck, then Lewis Hamilton’s Spanish GP win was well deserved, after a very dominant Mercedes 1-2 finish on Sunday, capping off a very fantastic weekend for team Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport in the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Hamilton, it seems, has gotten his confidence back, after underperforming in Bahrain, Shanghai and Baku. But while one team seems to have gotten their game back, another team seems to be losing theirs.
Scuderia Ferrari had a weekend to forget. They started the weekend by courting controversy over their halo-mounted mirrors, with a winglet above each mirror housing. While Ferrari claims the winglet is for rigidity of the mirror housing, some teams thought otherwise with the FIA banning it as they believe the winglets were mounted for aero gains, but allowing them for the weekend only. After replacing Kimi Raikkonen’s internal combustion engine, turbocharger and MGU-H due to a problem in Friday practice, they were soundly beaten in Q3 on Saturday, after leading Mercedes in Q1 and Q2. Ferrari wasn’t sandbagging. They were in trouble. And it came to a head on Sunday with Kimi retiring after lap 26 of 66 after suffering power loss. As for Vettel, it was his consecutive 4th place finish after a second pitstop during a VSC period on lap 41 pushed him from 2nd behind Hamilton to 4th behind Max Verstappen of Red Bull, trailing the Dutchman (with a damaged front wing) till the end.
Ferrari’s SF71H had difficulty managing the modified tyres for the Spanish GP. The agreement to reduce the depth of the tyre thread due to wear observed during pre-season testing in Barcelona was made last month, with the consent of the teams. The modified tyres would also be used in the British and French GPs. Talk of a conspiracy by Pirelli to help Mercedes was in the air at a point after the race. The Silver Arrows have had tyre issues in previous races, but it seemed the modified tyres suited them more than the Prancing Horse. How ridiculous! The insinuation was finally buried when Vettel admitted on Tuesday, after post-race testing, that Ferrari would have fared worse without the tyre alterations. What a relief for Pirelli.
Ferrari is now behind Mercedes in the Constructors Standings with 126 points as against Mercedes’ 153 points. Vettel, once leading the Drivers Standings, now trails Hamilton, 17 points behind the Briton’s 95 points. After winning the first two races, the German has not finished on the podium in the last three races, finishing 8th in Shanghai and 4th in Baku. His compatriot Kimi hasn’t fared any better, with two DNFs after Round 5 of the season and 4th on the Drivers Standings with 48 points. Is Team Ferrari faltering after a brilliant start to the season? Are we going to witness a repeat of last season’s collapse coming early?
There seems to be no cause for alarm….yet. Ferrari attributed Kimi Raikkonen’s DNF to be as a result of a wiring problem that cut off power to the engine. Kimi has been on the podium every time he’s finished a race this season. He obviously has been very efficient this season, despite having being used sometimes by Ferrari to slow down other drivers for Vettel and jeopardizing his race. Everyone hopes Kimi’s engine issues would not be the start of reliability issues for the SF71H after its predecessor (SF70H) literally fell apart midway into last season. ‘Gina’ infamously retired after 4 laps in Japan due to a faulty spark plug! Ferrari has not been strong in the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in recent years anyway, as it last won on this track in 2013, achieved by Fernando Alonso. It is hoped that Maurizio Arrivabene and his staff would sort out the tyre wear issues so that we don’t have a replay of last weekend in Paul Ricard and Silverstone, where Mercedes have bossed the last 5 races held there.
The prestigious Circuit du Monte Carlo is up next for the Monaco GP. We all hope to see Ferrari bounce back from its latest setback and give us the season fans crave for.
By Ekwonye Osy Ernesto