Vying with Vettel igniting Hamilton's passion more than Rosberg rivalry

Apr 17, 2017, 04:44
Vying with Vettel igniting Hamilton's passion more than Rosberg rivalry

That seems to be the verdict after Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix on the sport's new era two races in.

German driver Pascal Wehrlein, who missed the first two races with a back injury, returned with Sauber and completed 23 laps in 18th place and only marginally slower than Swedish team mate Marcus Ericsson. He is now fifth in the standings, placing in the top 5 in the first two races.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton was fifth. But, while the battle between the former childhood friends went down to the wire twice in the last three years, it lacked the drama a Vettel vs Hamilton battle promises.

Like fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, Bottas has been out-qualified and out-raced by his teammate on both occasions this season but, despite sitting 20 points behind, is sure he can be a feature in the 2017 title fight. They have been the best drivers of this decade but have never had a head-to-head battle for the title before. What's more, it was in the hotter conditions of race day in Australia when Mercedes got a little lost with tyre management and Ferrari and Vettel excelled. "He drove actually the kind of level of downforce that we have today and, going through the differences of the technicalities to drive this year, we agreed the track layout here, or even running practice one in Barcelona, would not be very useful".

Who will win the F1 title? Hamilton won the pole, but after Rosberg managed to jump him on the way into turn 1, things went from bad to worse for Hamilton as his future teammate, Valtteri Bottas, speared into the side of him, dropping him well down the order.

It was more than two seconds adrift of the record set by seven-time champion Michael Schumacher for Ferrari in 2004 when he lapped in 1:30.252. The triple champion's fastest lap in the race, too, was a remarkable four-and-a-half seconds quicker than Nico Hulkenberg's 2016 benchmark.

In an interview after the race, Vettel said, "I kept pushing because you never know, maybe Lewis is doing a mistake or has an issue with the vehicle so I wanted to keep the pressure on". But at this stage it's all still speculation ahead of Saturday's qualifying session, and that's what makes the championship so exciting this year.

"We are", Hamilton replied.

"I am expecting a very tough weekend in Bahrain where they are likely to be even stronger than in China because their auto works, in general, better in hot conditions than cold". Did this "no-team order" strategy blunder cost Ferrari more than their tyre strategy for Vettel? As a result, they are throwing up a larger wake of turbulent air behind them, making overtaking harder.

"We've come to a cooler track, we've taken the knowledge that we've had from the last race and applied it to this weekend".

Max Verstappen, who charged through the field to third after having started 16th, passed nine cars on the opening lap alone.

Fellow-Finn Kimi Raikkonen in the second Ferrari suffered a blazing engine failure midway through the 90-minutes action and had to park his auto off-track before walking back towards the pits.

"I'm fighting against a four-time world champion".