Sebastian Vettel sensationally claimed his first victory for his new team Ferrari in just his second Grand Prix for the Scuderia after his off-season move from Red Bull.
It was the German’s first win since 2013 and 40th of his career, which now leaves him just one behind Brazilian legend Ayrton Senna.
The win sent shockwaves throughout F1 and announced Ferrari as serious contenders for Mercedes, who were expected to be once again be miles ahead of the competition this year.
The loss marked the German manufacturer’s first defeat since last August and the most startling thing about it was that they were beaten comprehensively by pure performance. It was an enthralling Grand Prix to watch, simply because it wasn’t a Mercedes car leading the pack and Ferrari’s win comes at a time when F1 had been seriously lacking competition.
“We beat them fair and square today” exclaimed an emotional Vettel from the winner’s podium.
Even Mercedes World Champion and favourite for this year’s drivers’ title Lewis Hamilton admitted,
‘they were too fast for us today’.”
The British driver was 8.5 seconds off the pace on a frustrating day that was riddled with failed strategy and tension between the drivers and engineers.
In sweltering conditions Vettel held off Mercedes’s other driver Nico Rosberg well to stay in second place in the early stages. The German grabbed the lead when Mercedes decided to bring both cars into the pit under an early safety car. From there it was Ferrari who dominated, taking control of the race and keeping the reigning world champions at bay.
Ferrari were running remarkably well on medium tyres (which are more fragile) during the first two stints, whereas Mercedes’s attempts to run longer on hard tyres seemed to be backfiring as the race slipped away and when Vettel overtook Hamilton and Rosberg following his second (and final pitstop) one felt this was to be Ferrari’s day.
Mercedes even tried to spilt their tyre strategies from the third stint onwards in attempt to combat Ferrari’s domination, which lead to complaints from Hamilton over the radio.
‘This is the wrong tyre, man” groaned the two-time world champion as he continued to lose ground.
As temperatures soared to almost 60 degrees on the track and the Mercedes W06 engine showed it can be vulnerable in the right conditions, as it needed one more pitstop than the Ferrari’s impressive SF15-T. Ferrari’s excellent day and re-emergence as title contenders was underlined by Vettel’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who finished 4th after an average qualifying.
Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa both came in at 5th and 6th respectively for Williams but after finishing 70 seconds behind the winner they must truly fear they have been leapfrogged by Ferrari for Mercedes’s nearest challenger.
Max Verstappen made some history when the Dutch rookie came in 7th, which meant he took the honour of being the sport’s youngest-ever points scorer at just 17.
Red Bull and McLaren were the biggest losers of the GP with Red Bull struggling with brake wear and tear, while both Jensen Button and Fernando Alonso failed to finish for McLaren.
The Grand Prix however, belonged to Vettel in a weekend that saw the championship spark back into life.
Ciaran Darcy, Pundit Arena
Featured image By Alberto-g-rovi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons