We have waited a long time for this; two of the greatest drivers in F1 history going head to head for the World Championship. The Rosberg vs Hamilton battle was fierce, but was an intra-team battle fuelled by a deteriorating friendship built on years of racing across different formula, a completely different dynamic per se.
We have never really been close to a direct battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel; the only year I recall where Hamilton could’ve even got remotely close was 2012, when the Mclaren MP4-27 was arguably the fastest car on the grid, only to be blighted by numerous reliability issues (sound familiar?); Lewis got fed up of this, jumped ship to Mercedes and has never looked back since.
5 years on, with Sebastian in the Ferrari and Lewis still in the Silver Arrow, there is hardly anything to separate between the two; The Mercedes having the outright pace in qualifying, but has to have optimal conditions for the performance to translate onto race day. You could argue that Mercedes are on top of this, having the edge in Canada and Azerbaijan until Hamilton had his bizarre incident with the headrest, coming home in fifth place.
Up until this race, the dynamic was one of mutual respect between the two Championship protagonist, continuously relishing the battle ahead of them and appreciating one anothers’ achievements in the sport. Then, that incident happened around the streets of Baku. I am very much a Hamilton fan, but did think on first viewing that Lewis had brake checked the German. Of course, afterwards the data released by race control revealed that he didn’t slam the brakes on, driving almost identical to the previous safety car period. The incident caused Vettel of Mexico 2016 to be re-incarnated, cursing over the radio, before swerving into the side of Hamilton.
I’ve seen a lot of information/debate/discussion online since the race regarding the incident. People think that Sebastian didn’t intentionally turn into the Mercedes car, that Sebastian was gesticulating to Lewis and unfortunately lost control of the car. People have a right to their opinion, and I do think that it was a fully intentional move. We have seen a more level headed 4 time world champion throughout 2017, but what Sebastian thought was a brake check ended up being the catalyst to the driver becoming consumed in rage that we have seen previously, resulting in him turning into the side of Lewis Hamilton and increasing the risk of both drivers picking up terminal damage.
What I really wanted to discuss is whether or not the penalty that Vettel received as substantial enough. A 10 second stop/go penalty is the harshest penalty a driver can receive before being shown the black flag. This is what the German received, as well as 3 penalty points on his super license, meaning he is know walking a disciplinary tightrope for the Austrian Grand Prix.
At the time I did think that because of the supposed brake- check, both Hamilton and Vettel would both receive some form of penalty. Of course, this never came to fruition. As for the punishment for Vettel, I do feel there is an argument that the penalty wasn’t strong enough. It was an intentional collision which didn’t hinder the Germans position in the grand scheme of things; he still finished in front of Lewis and increased his gap at the top of the Drivers Standing, albeit by a mere 2 points. Of course, the FIA were completely unaware that Lewis would have his own problems in the race, so maybe it would be a good idea to leave the investigation until the end of the race and determine the penalty in correspondence with the state of the Championship?
We also found out the Jean Todt wanted to look into the investigation further, determining whether any further action could be taken. It was good of Vettel to admit he was in the wrong, committing to a range of activities across the different Formula categories in terms of safety, whilst seeking to contact Lewis directly to apologise also. Fans who wanted Sebastian to gain another penalty were ultimately clutching at straws; a penalty had already been issued, meaning another one in my opinion would’ve been very harsh on the German. He just needs to make sure he stays out of trouble in Austria!
Stop arguing amongst yourselves!
There is a lot going on at the moment in F1, some good, some bad. There’s lots of noise about new revolutionary regulations for 2021, while engine suppliers and the big teams in the paddock tooing and froing over engine costs. Anyone who is getting wound up about the Vettel and Hamilton battle; you are truly missing the point! A 1 v 1 for the World Championship with two of the greatest being involved is something we haven’t had in a long time! It’s the same story in football with Messi and Ronaldo, or in tennis where we have been blessed with Nadal, Federer, Djokovic and Murray in recent times. Stop bickering about who was in the wrong, or why you don’t like Hamilton’s eccentric dress sense or Sebastian’s moany personality and just enjoy the show! They are both no longer in their 20’s, meaning we don’t know how long we have got left with both in the sport before we have to support someone else. It’s about embracing what the two are doing for the sport and why this could be one of the most fascinating Championships in recent years!
Battle resumes at Austria…