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Behind The Headlines – Spain

Formula One returned to Europe for the last race which is always a key race for all the teams as they bring the first major upgrades of the season and where Ferrari was expected to kick start their season. However, the race was another Mercedes one-two the fifth of the season.

As the weekend unfolded it became clear that Ferrari’s performance in pre-season testing wasn’t to be repeated, Mercedes came out the box stronger and topped all three practices and Valtteri Bottas was looking like the stronger of the drivers.

However, Lewis Hamilton won the race after stealing the lead into the first corner and then made himself a commanding lead over Bottas. All this proves that Mercedes still have the speed and the car to beat Ferrari, you need to ask serious questions of the team.

Again, Ferrari are facing the question Charles Leclerc or Sebastian Vettel? Leclerc is proving himself to be the faster of the two drivers. This is proving a difficult season when writing the post-Barcelona Test behind the headlines we expected Mercedes to be the challengers to Ferrari.

Over the weekend, there were hints that if Ferrari begins to believe that Leclerc gives them a better chance of winning races and the title, they may consider giving team orders in his favour, which we saw in Barcelona. But, could that have a wider impact on Vettel in the long term? His four titles between 2010-13, seems like that he peaked too early in his career.

Leclerc is in his second season, he seems more mature and to be getting the most from this Ferrari while Vettel struggles. It is too early to say if he has a talent of dragging a car beyond its performance on the track. Leclerc, however, managed to do that at Sauber (Alfa Romeo) last season.

Mercedes were expected to go into the weekend Ferrari, coupled with updates and pre-season testing to come back stronger. However, it soon became clear on Friday that Ferrari’s upgrades didn’t come as the breakthrough this season.

Ferrari v Mercedes testing v qualifying

Team

Driver Best time from testing Qualifying

Difference

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton 01:16.224 01:16.040 -0.184
Valtteri Bottas 01:16.561 01:15.406

-1.155

Ferrari

Charles Leclerc 01:16.231 01:16.588 +0.327
Sebastian Vettel 01:16.221 01:16.272

+0.051

Also, the headache Leclerc wanted to be to Ferrari this season he is proving to be. We have seen him out race Vettel and secure the teams only pole of the year in Bahrain, while the more experienced Vettel has been making the mistakes costing them points.

Monaco, however, presents a very different challenge; can Ferrari deliver results at a circuit where outright speed isn’t important? In the final sector of the lap, Vettel was only fourth fastest and Leclerc was sixth. The nature of the sector is an indicator for Monte Carlo, based on this Mercedes should be in a strong position.

Final sector times

Driver S3 best times

Gap

Hamilton

26.873 +0.000

Bottas

27.066

+0.193

Verstappen

27.210

+0.240

Vettel

27.440 +0.230
Gasly 27.460

+0.020

Leclerc

27.731 +0.271
Hamilton v Leclerc -0.858

+0.858

While looking at the sector times its important to note that Bottas was constantly second in every sector with the combined lap of 18.737. His time was the best sectors overall were the first and final sector.

S1 S2 S3 Combined time
Bottas best sectors 22.368 29.303 27.066

01:18.737

That has left Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to pick up where Ferrari has faltered, the Dutchman has been ahead of at least one of the Ferrari’s in all five races. We know that Verstappen has the ability to fight but has Ferrari’s woes brought Verstappen into the title mix.

We know that the biggest surprise of this season has been Red Bull, if they continue with delivering these results and Ferrari continue to underperform and when Mercedes slip up the team could pick up major points. But we also need to see Pierre Gasly begin to step up and challenge his teammate.

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Jack Fielding
Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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