Mid-Season Review: Ferrari Returns to the Front

At the start of the season, Ferrari looked to have toppled Mercedes from the top spot after a convincing opening four races that saw Sebastian Vettel win in Australia and Bahrain. The German would finish the opening six races in the top two, highlighting Ferrari’s progress over the winter, but have the team started to slip behind Mercedes in the development race?

Considering the team have won races on merit this season, it is enough to convince us that Ferrari are showing more mettle than they have for years. Vettel leads in the standings and Raikkonen would be slightly further up the order if he wasn’t played as such an obvious second driver to the team.

The most important victories for the team so far have been the 1-2 in Monaco, a feat Ferrari haven’t managed for sixteen years, and Vettel’s triumph at the Hungarian Grand Prix. The latter is a significant result, as the Constructors and Driver Championship was starting to slip away given that fierce rivals Mercedes had improved the W08 in recent Grand Prix’ and looked to have the edge.

BEST RACE SO FAR:

Monaco: Vettel 1st – Raikkonen 2nd

The principality remains a special event on the F1 calendar, and the weekend was completely red as the Ferrari team nailed the Grand Prix and put down a clear benchmark that started with a Kimi Raikkonen pole on Saturday. The race evolved to show that Ferrari were seriously back at the forefront, after so many years in the shadows of Mercedes and Red Bull. They collected maximum points as Mercedes faltered, with Bottas 4th and Hamilton 7th.

WORST RACES SO FAR:

Baku: Vettel 4th – Raikkonen 14th

This was a controversial weekend for Ferrari and a huge opportunity missed. The worst thing about it was that it wasn’t down to mechanical attrition or a pit-wall blunder, but the red mist from Sebastian Vettel. Had he not deliberately collided with Hamilton at the restart, he would have probably secured the win given that the Brit’s loose head rest took him out of contention later on. The weekend was also terrible for Kimi, who had to stop on lap 46 with an oil leak having survived a lap one collision with Bottas.

Silverstone: Raikkonen 3rd – Vettel 7th

Nobody was catching Lewis Hamilton at the British Grand Prix, but Kimi Raikkonen was on for a strong 2nd place finish until his tyre blew out with two laps to go. Thankfully, he only had to limp through a few corners before getting to the pits and only lost one place to the charging Valtteri Bottas. It was worse luck for Vettel, who suffered the same fate but had to complete most of the lap on three tyres before pitting for fresh rubber. It cost the German 3rd place, and he had to settle for 7th.

Rating the first half: 9/10

The development race will be the hot topic when Formula One returns later this month for the Belgian Grand Prix. Many believe that Mercedes will eke out an advantage on this front, but Ferrari, and particularly Sebastian Vettel, will want to see silverware at the end of the year after this redefining season they are having. Vettel and Hamilton are matched on race victories so far and if this trend continues for the rest of the season, Ferrari may lose the Constructors given the pace Bottas currently has over Raikkonen, but they will at least have one horse in the race for the Driver title.