The Roar
The Roar

Bayden Westerweller

Roar Guru

Joined May 2011

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Journalist. Formula One fanatic since 1998. I also enjoy running - eighteen marathons and a 2h 34m PB at last count, always looking to the next one! Twitter @BaydenJW

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Cheers Dexter.
We’ll settle for two Mercs and a Red Bull if the races are as compelling as Bahrain, much as variety is desirable.
2017 and 2018 had the makings of classics until the wheels fell off for Ferrari – and Vettel, unable to withstand Mercedes’ relentless pressure.
If Red Bull can hold Mercedes accountable every quali and race, it’ll stick more often than not.
It’s hard to gauge the midfield pecking order to date, though McLaren looks to be closely edging a much improved Ferrari at the front of that queue.
Ricciardo would have been more competitive without the floor damage from contact with Gasly as it emerged, whilst Norris’ drive went quite unnoticed, so the signs are encouraging for further progress at the former.
It was great to see Ferrari in the mix even if they’re still not where they belong.
Gasly could have figured prominently without his collision and Tsunoda already looks like he belongs, so AT will be on their heels.
Vettel had a forgettable weekend which clouds judgement on AM. Stroll managed to jag a point but they’ve undeniably lost a step on last season.
Even if he retired, it was something to see Alonso on the screen again and getting the most out of his car.
It’s difficult to fathom that Verstappen is almost a veteran at 23 let alone Hamilton!

No Bull at Bahrain, but they're Red hot

As long as they’re consistent from the outset of the each race weekend moving forward and don’t intervene in a title fight which F1 sorely requires, there’ll be nothing to debate.
If that means permitting a questionable advantage for one driver when the other has previously enjoyed it – short of overtaking off the circuit, so be it.

No Bull at Bahrain, but they're Red hot

They were certainly not explicit enough in administering, nor nimble enough in reconsidering the policy for track limits at the offending turn, until Hamilton had repeatedly exploited this.
What Verstappen did is black and white, though the question remains how much of an advantage Hamilton derived from straight lining at the turn prior to being called out.
We’ll never know how much this affected the outcome.

No Bull at Bahrain, but they're Red hot

Not contentious in an objective context Micko, though following Hamilton’s earlier antics at the same turn it was quite an irony.

No Bull at Bahrain, but they're Red hot

AUTHOR’S NOTE:
Correction to sixth paragraph – this writer erroneously referred to Racing Point by their old moniker of Force India, shaking off the rust early…
There’ll be no mistaking Aston Martin for Racing Point moving forward!

Back to Bahrain as F1 roars back to life

Glad you got a rise out of that one!
There’s still hope that it won’t be the case though nothing is certain.

Sainz, Ricciardo kick off the F1 silly season

You can’t blame producers for going with juicy half truths, though it will always bemuse the die hard fans when we see manufactured stories that were never considered during the season.

The inner sanctum access in itself is priceless, so the liberties taken can be overlooked if you simply want to be immersed in the atmosphere.

Hopefully the series is eventually released on Blu-ray.

Sophomore Drive to Survive instalment distorts reality despite spectacle

No doubt Red Bull has boasted a great chassis for some time along with a generational talent, though from a pure look at running reliably – which wasn’t the case last year with Renault, it’s a very encouraging start that Honda hasn’t compromised its competitiveness in lieu of reliability.

Honda's belated breakthrough

That was an April Fools piece if I remember correctly????!

And it’s come to light since then that McLaren’s internal shortcomings had more to do with the disappointments of that partnership than Honda.

Honda would have been rapt to end the partnership considering what it paid McLaren and the reputational damage incurred. Even if its PU wasn’t up to scratch then, it seems that the latter should have been more patient waiting another year.

Hindsight is a wonderful virtue!

Honda's belated breakthrough

Each driver’s record in comparison to those from a different era will always be subjective due to circumstances. I’m no Hamilton fan, and was a huge Schumacher fan, but if he eclipses the German’s feats, he will have to be respected regardless of how many variables – races per season, opposition of the day etc, are encompassed.

Hamilton now within reach of Schumacher

Indeed, it’d be a shame if Hamilton’s increasingly certain title is remembered more as the one that got away from Ferrari and Vettel, when the Briton is driving as well as ever. The thing about his momentum is that whilst he might not always have it, when he does, he’s unstoppable and Ferrari/Vettel seem too far gone at this point to reverse the post-Germany damage.

It's Lewis Hamilton's title to lose after Singapore masterclass

As I’ve also surmised, Leclerc’s promotion has less to do with Raikkonen than holding Vettel accountable, when a few months ago it was entirely related to the Finn’s performances.

Even with Raikkonen driving as well as he has since rejoining Ferrari, Vettel remains comfortable, so Leclerc in representing a very long term future means the German has the next two seasons at most to deliver, otherwise Ferrari will have no issues casting him aside once his contract expires.

Ferrari ditched Schumacher after he claimed five titles, so there’d be no qualms about moving Vettel along if he hasn’t won any, and if Leclerc is immediately on his level next season, it’ll be fascinating to see if the German’s relationship with the team deteriorates.

Why Leclerc's Ferrari promotion should have Vettel worried

Vettel’s campaign actually bares a strong resemblance to 2010, when he continually tripped over himself, yet having multiple title rivals meant that he never had to move mountains to remain in contention.

This time though, he has one rival who has been nearly flawless, and even when Hamilton is having an off weekend, he still does enough to maintain the pressure. Vettel seems to be unable to settle for a lost immediate battle in the context of the war and more often than not, and his refusal to retreat and minimise his losses whilst Hamilton claims maximum points means his task in on the verge of becoming insurmountable even if the Briton isn’t winning every race.

Is this the sound of Vettel cracking?

It rarely comes to pass, instances like Schumacher and Alonso at Ferrari coming within a hares breath when they had no right to do so are as close as anybody has been with inferior machinery in recent memory.

Vettel is doing everything he can not to win whilst Hamilton is always there to pick up the pieces, and Mercedes at a level some way off the heights of 2014-2016 still seems to be imposing enough to cause Ferrari to implode.

Why Vettel won't win this year's title

They’ve both already justified their berths on the grid, though each would be served well not to be thrust into the big time too soon. Leclerc shouldn’t arrive at Ferrari any earlier than 2021 following two seasons at Haas – he’ll still be just 23, whilst Gasly should be cautious of the Kvyat experience so at least another season at Toro Rosso is logical.

Charles Leclerc, come on down

As long as Grosjean continues to make a meal of each weekend, a Leclerc promotion appears certain.

Charles Leclerc, come on down

On his current form certainly not, though Renault would consider his nationalistic appeal if he gets his act together and Sainz is forcibly taken off its hands. I’d again say that some of Grosjean’s best drives came in 2015 and he was for the most part solid in ’16, though highlights have been few and far between since.

Grosjean's Haas, F1 future at a crossroads

I wouldn’t say he’s at the point of no return, though the rest of the season is pretty crucial to his future. From the hype he had when he joined Haas, his value has slid drastically following 2016.

Regarding Alonso, everybody loves the theatre of his ‘plight’, so it’s only natural that he receives the greatest airtime. The key is to find the sources which report on the real news rather than rehashing a theme which hasn’t changed nor looks like changing anytime soon!

Grosjean's Haas, F1 future at a crossroads

The pity is that his raw speed is quite pronounced, though he’s very rarely unlocked it in recent seasons. Coupled with his usual whinging, he isn’t an attractive proposition on the market.

Gasly will be first in the line if he repeats Bahrain performances, though I suspect Red Bull will see what happened with Kvyat being elevated too quickly, and now to a lesser extent Verstappen, and hopefully learn its lesson. Then again, maybe it hasn’t… That said, Sainz hasn’t set the world on fire at Renault, he was fortunate to bag a large haul of points in the attrition at Azerbaijan.

Grosjean's Haas, F1 future at a crossroads

He’s proven what he’s capable of – some great drives during his final season in a poor Lotus and first at Haas. Though his performances have never been sustained and far too frequently he gets carried away with moaning about brakes, traffic or some political statement rather than focusing on the job ahead.

Grosjean's Haas, F1 future at a crossroads

The ball is essentially in Red Bull’s court if it is that desperate to retain Ricciardo, and the first step surely related to engine supply. Once this is known, a decision can’t be far away for Ricciardo, though he shouldn’t feel as though he owes Red Bull anything, he’s been patient for many years, and he needs to take a leap of faith if in doubt.

He has the fortitude to enter the lions’ den at Ferrari despite the ‘number two’ convention and make the operation his own, That said, he’d fit in perfectly at Mercedes, where’d he’d equally enjoy Hamilton’s respect as much as Vettel would from 2014.

Assessing Daniel Ricciardo's 2019 options

All Mercedes has to do for now is remain in touch, it’ll be most telling in the back half of the season if Ferrari again implodes. If its current results can be described as a slump, they’re not doing too poorly, so once Hamilton is back on his game, and with some more luck for both drivers, regular victories can’t be far away.

Mercedes on the back foot - just don't call it a crisis

I think you’re right when you say it’s more down to Hamilton since Australia particularly, and Bottas at Bahrain, than Mercedes itself, that it has failed to register a victory. If Hamilton rediscovers the zone, he’ll be close to unstoppable once more, though for now, Bottas appears more comfortable with some of the W09’s sensitivities which are more pronounced than its predecessor.

Mercedes on the back foot - just don't call it a crisis

He seems to serve one purpose, and regardless of how competitive he is, there doesn’t appear to be any appetite to give him a legitimate run at victories. It’s nothing new from Ferrari and really does make it difficult to support much of the time, though any breakthrough where the Finn circumvents pit wall and other sorcery will be very sweet.

Intervention spares Ferrari's blushes at Shanghai

Bottas appeared extremely comfortable at Abu Dhabi, though he will need to bring this standard to all events in 2018 if he’s to be any patch on Hamilton. Hopefully he’s learned from his team-mate through the season and with time to catch his breath, knows the benchmark moving forward.

I’d give Ferrari a chance to demonstrate whether it has paid attention to its deficiencies and don’t choke in the spotlight in the early races. If they’ve addressed this, there’s a small chance yet that it won’t be all silver for the balance of the decade, though Mercedes is that clinical that any slip ups will again be punished immediately.

Bottas sends timely reminder as curtain falls on 2017