The Roar
The Roar

Bayden Westerweller

Roar Guru

Joined May 2011

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Journalist. Formula One fanatic since 1998. Half of 'Hit the Apex' podcast - formerly known as 'J&B Talk F1', in association with Roar colleague, Jawad Yaqub. You can find us on Twitter @HitTheApexMedia and yours truly @BaydenJW. I also enjoy running - thirteen marathons and a 2h 44m PB at last count, always looking ahead to the next one!

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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

There have been recent reports that Ricciardo is set to ramp up negotiations with Red Bull in coming weeks, who knows whether there’ll be a swift extension or that his employer for 2019 won’t be known for some time. Mercedes looms as the strongest alternative with Ferrari content with its current lot and an eye on Leclerc sooner than later.

It’s what Bottas makes of his victory that is more crucial than Hamilton, who won’t be deterred in the slightest. If the Finn can harness his strong finish and apply himself to that level across an entire season, he can change the perception that he’s merely a steady set of hands.

Bottas sends timely reminder as curtain falls on 2017

Not to be pedantic though Palmer did indeed contribute points at Singapore – though very few will remember this in years to come!

The acrimony between Toro Rosso and Renault makes the scrap for P6 even more intriguing. To that end, it’d be amusing if Haas usurps both – a la Vettel on Alonso and Webber in 2010, if they continue to engage in politicking. It’s difficult to see the former adding further points to its haul this weekend following the nightmares of recent events, coupled with concerns over the Renault components even lasting through Sunday.

Abu Dhabi's $12 million question

Most of the sceptics equate the sport’s relevance with the costs and automatically decree any reduction as representing a failure, when the purpose is to be the most efficient and indeed relevant at the lowest cost. Formula One’s extravagant bottomless pit of funds is something from the past, and there’s no reason why more economical regulations can’t work.

Ferrari should be grateful to have received free publicity from its presence in the sport if nothing else. Ultimately it exists to sell cars rather than promoting any correlation to everyday vehicles, and that it continues to do in abundance, though it doesn’t entitle them to a direct passage to victory.

Mercedes stands to lose the most through a switch in regulations which can level the field again, as this season’s shakeup has done little to quell its’ dominance, which makes rivals’ reluctance to embrace change even more confusing.

Why Formula One must keep evolving

That Red Bull didn’t have a viable alternative within its ranks is the first misstep, though the notion that they’ve turned to an ex-alum suggests they blundered when they initially cut Hartley loose. He deserves the drive as it is and it’s a win win for both parties if they enjoy a successful collaboration.

Hartley nod provides hope to other F1 discards

There’s an obvious expectation to deliver, and most teams are sceptical that an ex-F1 driver may still not cut it if they were given a second chance, though many are unprepared for its rigours when they receive their initial opportunity, so it’s rough when a 22-year old is exiled from any future.

By extension, if as is certain and Kubica returns, he will need to perform at some point through the season to justify his retention, once the novelty wears off he is the same as any competitor, yet on pure talent there’s no doubting he deserves to show everybody what he has, and what we’ve missed out on the past seven years.

Hartley nod provides hope to other F1 discards

A lot of the outcries seem to be dictated by those who are simply comfortable with the familiarity of the present and scared of an unknown future.

Instead of pandering to a particular portion of the sport’s stakeholders, its participants should relish pioneering a new formula, so to speak, and whichever benefits that translate to the public will follow.

The World Championship is rising seven decades whilst undergoing countless revolutions, there’s no reason why whatever the next direction the sport settles on should be treated any differently, and those who don’t like it can leave, whilst others will enter as in the past.

What is Formula One — and what should it be?

A lot depends on which terms Alonso negotiated based on his fortunes over the past few seasons. Perhaps he has the flexibility to compete where he sees fit within reason, though you’d hope that McLaren’s switch to Renault proves successful enough that the Spaniard prioritises F1. As I suggest, a hitout at the 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps ahead of Le Mans might be enough to sate his appetite.

Could Alonso dovetail WEC with F1?

Dovi can solidify his ascension to the top tier by sustaining this form in 2018, and it’ll be fascinating to see whether Lorenzo can lift his game having acclimatised. If he can’t, this only increases the former’s reputation as one of few capable of taming the Ducati, and if that entails a title, he’s in rare company.

Andrea Dovizioso is MotoGP's spiritual champion

So many drivers experience those ‘what if’ moments, and Massa is no exception. Had he claimed the 2008 title, it’s difficult to fathom how the rest of his career would have transpired. He is one of the household characters foremost who will be missed from the paddock.

This time Massa retires 'for sure'

He certainly departs with a richer reputation following his Williams stint than had he retired at the conclusion of 2013. His seventh at Brazil was a fitting fashion to say thanks to his fans.

This time Massa retires 'for sure'