By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Fourteen rounds done, seven to go, and since my first installment, there’s been so many changes across all 10 Formula 1 constructors and its 20 drivers. A few would-be contenders have gone by the wayside like Fernando Alonso and Red Bull, and others have flourished after a quiet or abysmal opening leg such as Kimi Raikkonen and Haas F1. We even saw a hot mess behind closed doors, resulting a new constructor and have so far been tremendous.
In my latest installment of “Heptagon Viewpoints,” I look back at seven more takeaways that’s happened from the French to Italian Grand Prix.
It’s Not Hamilton, It’s Raikkonen That’s Stands Out
The championship battle may have become a possible runaway for Lewis Hamilton, but the driver that’s stood out the most at a positive light was the “Iceman.”
When you look at his results, he has an average finish in that span is 2.6, matching his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, but out of the six races he’s finished, Raikkonen has scored podiums. Vettel has two finishes outside the podium.
This proves the 2007 World Champion has still got what it takes to be a contender and is poised for his best season since 2012 at Lotus, when he finished third, the spot he currently sits.
I’ve felt that Monza should’ve been the day, like come on. He had it in the bag, but Mercedes’ schemes by having fellow Finnish Valtteri Bottas play defense to prevent Raikkonen from scoring his first win since Melbourne 2013, and with him wearing out his Pirellis, Hamilton snatched the win with a late-race pass and extended his World Championship lead.
While Raikkonen will return to his first team at Sauber for two seasons, beginning next year, I’d keep an eye on him possibly sealing the deal soon. We want at least one more classic victory interview, because it’s destined to be great.
The Rotten Luck of Alonso and Leclerc
2019 is all set for both drivers. Alonso will call it a day after this season, exploring different ventures to satisfy his racing needs, and Charles Leclerc will represent the “Prancing Horse,” giving him the ultimate task of becoming the next superstar.
However, in this span, both has had frustrating outcomes after a promising first-third of the F1 campaign. Car and performance troubles left and right, neither driver would like to remember those bleak runs.
Alonso has only finished no higher than eighth three times, keeping his consistency of points finishes when all goes right. Otherwise, retirements that includes two 16th place results, that he didn’t finished, but due to the 90% rule, he’s not credited as “retired.”
Leclerc on the other hand, he’s retired three times and finished outside the points twice since Austria, which marked his third straight points finish at the time. Again, the Sauber has exceeded expectations, even Marcus Ericsson has scored points finishes, but it could’ve been better without the retirements.
It all came to a crashing halt at Spa-Francorchamps, when both were involved in a heavy shunt at the start after Nico Hulkenberg collided with Alonso, lifting his car and notably collected Leclerc. The accident was frustrating to watch because it defined their rotten lucks, especially the young Monaguese, which leads to my next takeaway.
The Halo: Ugly, but Shown Its Purpose
Camera views, aesthetics, and its structure may have had its negatives, but the accident at Spa where Alonso’s car scrapped Leclerc’s Halo sparked a whole new opinion on its purpose.
Bear in mind, Leclerc’s closest friend, Jules Bianchi, lost his life from the crash at Suzuka, resulted to the concept of the Halo. Spectacular crash, but it could’ve reared its ugly head for many people if the worse were to have occurred.
While I don’t like the look because there’s other ways of protecting its drivers, it did its job and Leclerc’s Halo showcased its viewers and critics that their safety measures are right up there as one of the best. Unless you’re Felipe Massa, it’s number-one and INDYCAR isn’t diddly squat in that category. Give me a break.
Hockenheim Was the Turning Point
Last year’s Singapore Grand Prix saw the beginning of the end for Ferrari’s championship aspirations after both of its drivers crashed in Turn 1.
This year’s turning point? Look no further than F1’s return at Hockenheim, and it again involves Ferrari. Only this time, it’s Vettel.
There’s no question that Vettel going off into the barriers on the 51st lap, while leading no less, had me thinking, ‘it’s over.’
Those were my initial words because I had that feeling there’s no looking back, and once again, it’s Hamilton ruling the sport. Adding insult to injury was his fourth-place finish at Monza, which Hamilton won his third grand prix out of the last four rounds.
After saying Vettel is the guy to beat in my last installment, it’s now Hamilton, who has a 30-point lead over his championship rival. Doesn’t do Vettel any wonders in the final third of the season because 30 points is doable, but a hard task to erase.
Singapore is next, and if Vettel wants to reclaim his throne, he must outperform and outthink Hamilton going forward because all roads say it’s unlikely.
Sirotkin Finally Got a Point, Thanks to Renault’s Snitching
After fourteen horrible rounds, Sergey Sirotkin finally scored an F1 point. All 20 drivers have scored a point, but the truth of a matter is, the other 19 had points nine rounds in (17 after four), and you can thank Renault snitching that got the Russian a point.
Haas F1 Team driver Romain Grosjean, who finally broke through at Austria with a fourth-place performance, finished sixth at Monza, which was his fifth points finish out of the last six rounds. However, Renault noticed his car floor was violating a technical rule.
Result? Grosjean was disqualified, and it bumped Sirotkin from 11th to 10th in the final order. Haas are appealing the decision, and if they win, that celebration will end and that elusive point soldiers onto Singapore.
Either way, fans have rejected Sirotkin being a proven F1 driver, and still want test driver Robert Kubica to replace him, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. It’s no secret that Williams have taken the sole spot as the bottom of the barrel in the sport, which is unfortunate because there’s not much they can do without its paid drivers. Cold hard reality that’s keeping a legendary team afloat.
Talent Doesn’t Mean Anything If You Don’t Have Financial Backing
Out of all drivers that’s showcased talent and have yet to catch a true break in the “Big Three” (Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull) rides, he’s the one. I’m talking about drivers who are competing for points race in and race out, riding for the second-tier squads which he’s in at Racing Point Force India.
Unfortunately, it won’t be the case any longer because after qualifying third at Spa, a simple conversation with Vettel caused an uproar among the F1 community. The moral story of their chat was Ocon told Vettel that he won’t be welcomed back because of the new owner, who happens to have a son racing for Williams.
Yes, Lawrence Stroll running the team has a writing on the wall. Lance Stroll is destined to run for that team, making it obvious that Ocon is getting the undeserving boot, and facing a similar fate Pascal Wehrlein went in the offseason.
Is there blame that Mercedes’ development system isn’t stellar in terms of helping them find competent rides? Who knows, but after the announcement that Leclerc will replace Raikkonen at Ferrari, you be the judge.
Ocon has shown flashes of brilliance, even outperforming the aggressive Sergio Perez on a consistent basis. Like Raikkonen at Monza, I did feel that a podium at Spa would’ve done him wonders but wound up a disappointing sixth. Not bad for Racing Point, but for his future in F1 that he so desires, it’s doing him no favor.
Lance is unproven and has done nothing in this sport other than subpar performances. He has the backings, but he has made Philippe Alliot and Andrea De Cesaris bearable. Monza is his track, but anywhere else? Luck on his side to get him points.
Force India’s Vile, Ugly Ending and Stroll’s Resurrection
Out of all the news shattering stories over the past seven rounds, no question that Force India’s battle for survival takes the cake. You may say that without Sergio Perez standing up for the team’s future, we would see 18 cars instead of the traditional 20.
Not only Perez’s actions led to the Administration, Lawrence was able to keep the team alive and the former Sahara Force India squad remains, but it’s now known as Racing Point Force India. It was an ugly, but necessary change and something I’ll look back as a key point of the season that doesn’t involve the “Big Three” (Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull).
There were some consequences from this saga. Everything from Melbourne 2008-Hungary 2018 is its own identity, anything going forward is under the Racing Point banner.
Not only that, since the old Force India couldn’t compete the entire season, all 59 points they’ve had has been stripped, becoming the first team to be excluded from the Constructors’ Championship since the McLaren in 2007.
Therefore, they’re viewed new team at Spa, starting at zero. Two races in, the Force India of old has made a resurgence, finishing no worse than seventh and have already racked up 32 points. If you add the 59 points, they would be in fourth with 91 points, five markers ahead of Renault, who’s been the class of the field in terms of the second-tier teams. If they keep it up, they may reclaim their throne as “Best of the Rest” before season’s end.
Perhaps the greatest news is the over 400 employees that’ll continue working in the cut throat sport known as Formula 1. Sure, Perez’s influence of preventing bankruptcy saved his career, and Lance will regress the squad in 2019, at least we can still say Force India is still racing. Their motivation has kicked into high gear, something they didn’t have in the opening seven rounds.
The Formula 1 saga has reached its final leg, beginning at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore, for the running of the 11th Singapore Grand Prix September 16, a cornerstone on the calendar.
Although I don’t see the championship battle being close, there’s no denying that this season has been unpredictable, where some are beginning to flourish or fall apart. One thing is certain, there’s going to be many takeaways, it’s going to be hard coming up with seven when the final checkered flag falls at Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi November 25.