Motorsport

Blundell on F1: Mercedes desperate for a win

12th April 2018

The momentum is behind Vettel and Ferrari but do Lewis and Mercedes have an answer to Ferrari’s early dominance of the 2018 season?

After Mercedes let a near-guaranteed victory slip in Melbourne, it was Ferrari who stole the show last weekend as they were the team to beat throughout the Bahrain GP. Vettel did a fantastic job to lead a Ferrari 1-2 in qualifying and controlled the race from the outset to finish on the top step of the podium - with a 1-2 finish slipping away after a botched pit stop for Raikkonen.

I think the entire Formula One fanbase can agree with me, a rare occurrence, that it’s brilliant to see Ferrari being the team to beat in Formula One. The years of Mercedes dominance look to be over and Ferrari’s hard work over the last two years is coming to the forefront of the sport. With Ferrari now the team to beat, it will be very interesting to see Mercedes’ reaction and whether Ferrari can keep the wind in their sails as we head to China.

I said in my column last week that Valtteri Bottas was in desperate need of a win and, with Hamilton starting behind him, this was one of his best opportunities to do so. I came under fire last night on the Sky F1 Report when I stated that Bottas had ‘bottled it’ in Bahrain but can anyone truly disagree? We saw Max Verstappen go wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton in the early stages of the race and this sort of killer instinct is the only thing stopping the talented Bottas from winning races and being discussed as a genuine title challenger.

Moving onto Red Bull, it was a bitterly disappointing weekend in Bahrain for the entire team. Mechanical issues seem to follow Red Bull everywhere they go at the minute and if this isn’t addressed soon then they could slip away from Mercedes and Ferrari and fall into the ultra-competitive mid-pack battle. Max and Daniel are two of the most talented drivers on the grid and we want to see both of them fighting for race wins.

Max has come under fire for his move on Lewis last weekend that resulted in the young Dutchman picking up a puncture. Lewis sparked the debate when he, fresh out of the car, had a few choice words for Max and his attempted move. Personally, I love to see drivers putting everything on the line to try to win races and I hope if Max was put in a similar situation again he’d do exactly the same.

Two drivers who made unlikely appearances in the top-ten in Bahrain were Gasly and Ericsson, finishing 4th and 9th respectively. I must take my hat off to Pierre after a brilliant, mature drive to Honda’s best finish since 2008, eclipsing anything McLaren have done in the past three seasons. After a stellar junior career, Pierre has now proven he can cut it in the big time and I don’t think it will be too long until we see him knocking on the door of the senior Red Bull team.

As for Ericsson, his is an interesting case. It’s nothing personal against him but when we talk of Formula One we are talking of the pinnacle of motorsport. Since entering the sport in 2014, Ericsson has been outperformed by every teammate he has had and in those four years, we’ve seen highly talented drivers like Pascal Wehrlein miss out on seats. I know there’s always politics and budgets to think about, but most fans want the best drivers in the world in the best cars in the world, and, so far, Ericsson hasn’t justified his place in the sport. That said, if he can deliver more performances like the one in Bahrain, that will go a long to way in doing so.

Looking ahead to China this weekend, Mercedes have taken victory the past four years but last year saw a close battle between Hamilton and Vettel all weekend long. Calling this one is difficult but with Vettel’s 17 point lead in the championship, I believe Seb won’t be too desperate to end Mercedes hot streak in China but if he has the pace to lead from the start then there’s no risk involved. Lewis will be giving 110% all weekend long and has the most victories at the track in F1’s history - I’m backing him to make it six victories in Shanghai!