Hockenheim (Germany): Sebastian Vettel needs to keep the pressure firmly on Lewis Hamilton at this weekend’s German Grand Prix if he wants to take away the drivers’ championship from the Briton.
At the midway point of the Formula One (F1) season – the 11th race out of 21 – Vettel holds only an eight-point lead over rival Hamilton in an intriguing title contest.
Vettel started strongly, then Hamilton took over, and now Vettel appears to be in the ascendancy again. While he leads Hamilton only 4-3 in wins this season, Vettel’s most recent victory was particularly poignant seeing it was at Hamilton’s home track at Silverstone – where Hamilton has enjoyed huge success.
In previous years, Ferrari were the team experiencing technical problems and frustrating inconsistency. Now the roles appear reversed, and Mercedes are the team under pressure. Having won the last four drivers’ and constructors’ championships, often by huge margins, Mercedes now lag 20 points behind Ferrari.
There have been communication errors and strategy mistakes within Mercedes. For Hamilton, who along with Vettel is vying for a coveted fifth F1 crown, these problems are hard to accept. Last year, the pressure seemed to affect Vettel more, but this time Hamilton is the one showing signs of strain.
While Vettel has upped his level from 2017, Hamilton has still shown his trademark speed and consistency, aside from a poor start at Silverstone. Mercedes have often taken the blame for Hamilton’s setbacks, right up to the top.
“We’ve left points on the table and had to do damage limitation more often than we would have wanted,” said Toto Wolff, the head of Mercedes motorsport here, Thursday. “A lot of that was down to our own mistakes.”
The German race is returning here after being dropped last year for financial reasons. Home fans will be in the unusual position of cheering a German driver (Vettel) in an Italian car, competing against a British driver (Hamilton) and his Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas in German cars. If any one of the three wins, it will feel like a victory for Germany.
- In the ongoing season, Vettel has won four races to Hamilton’s three
- Mercedes are now 20 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’ championships