Cape Town - A homeground contest may help, but Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is hungry for a win.
Who’s the best? That is the question on Formula 1 fans’ lips as the championship heads to Monza in Italy after last Sunday’s Grand Prix win in Belgium by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, cutting the latter’s lead by half.
The debate is on over whether Mercedes still has the best car on the grid, or whether Ferrari is now ahead.
It was evident at the start of the season that Ferrari had made inroads into Mercedes’ advantage – in engine power and in terms of its overall package.
However, when it came to Belgium and Italy, where racing occurred on fast-flowing, high-speed circuits, the Mercedes W08 was expected to blitz the Ferrari SF70H.
It did not – at least, not at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit.
While Hamilton claimed pole position and the race victory, Vettel pushed his title rival all the way to the chequered flag – which he was unable to do two months ago at the British Grand Prix.
But whether Ferrari can take another step forward at its homeground Grand Prix – given that Monza takes place back-to-back with Spa – is doubtful. But it will not stop trying.
Ferrari has not won at home since 2010, when Fernando Alonso brought the Scuderia’s tally up to 19 home wins, making this the most successful team at the Italian Grand Prix.
In recent seasons, though, it has been all Mercedes, which arrives on the grid seeking a fourth successive win. And while Ferrari did join the Brackley squad on the podium in the past two editions, both saw Vettel finish more than 20 seconds down on the race winner.
The German joins Hamilton on three Italian Grand Prix wins apiece. With his first victory in 2008, during his Toro Rosso season, Vettel proved that anything can happen, even when the odds are stacked against you.
One team hoping for such a situation is Red Bull Racing. Although Daniel Ricciardo joined Hamilton and Vettel on the Belgian podium, it had more to do with a late safety car, tyre choice and a penalty for Kimi Räikkönen, than the pace of the RB13 and its Renault engine.
And with Ricciardo’s team-mate Max Verstappen facing grid penalties at Monza after his engine failed last Sunday, the odds of a win – or even a podium finish – are against Red Bull.
The last time the Bulls came in the top three in Monza was during Vettel’s 2013 win. Even Williams clinched a win more recently with Felipe Massa in third place two years ago. But with the Brazilian fearing that Williams is declining, it is more likely that Force India – if its drivers can stay away from each other – or even Renault will slide into the “best of the rest” slot today.
At the back of the pack – or the midfield, if McLaren is having a good weekend – is Alonso, who has implied that after Belgium, he will be open to staying with McLaren if it rids itself of Honda. Amid such uncertainty, heading to another high-speed circuit is not what the team or its engine supplier need right now. – TEAMtalk Media