When the 2019 Formula 1 season began, nobody could have predicted the outcome of the first five races. Five consecutive 1-2 finishes have put the Mercedes team in a commanding position. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have literally stepped on the gas. The Ferrari team is perplexed by the events of the first few races, but all is not lost — yet.
The pre-season buzz was heavily loaded in Ferrari’s favour. Their new SF90 car had caught all the right attention in F1’s pre-season testing in Barcelona. But the veteran Sebastian Vettel and the young Charles Leclerc have not yet been able to hit top gear.
Leclerc, the godson of late F1 driver, Jules Bianchi, was drafted by Ferrari in place of Kimi Räikkönen. Replacing a veteran with a newcomer has never proven to be the right decision for Ferrari. While Leclerc has shown a few sparks of brilliance, lady luck seems to be deserting him at crucial junctures. One such instance was the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. An engine failure at the fag end of the race robbed the young Monacan of his first pole position. He had to settle for a distant third.
Vettel, meanwhile, has struggled to find his feet. The second position in the Monaco Grand Prix is the best that the German has managed this year. Is the burden of playing ‘big brother’ to Leclerc taking a toll on him?
Mercedes seems to have begun the 2019 season precisely at the point where they left it in 2018. It appears that they never lifted their foot off the pedal. Brilliant camaraderie between the Mercedes drivers – Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, is the primary reason for their fantastic performance.
The Mercedes camp is just the opposite of the Ferrari one right now. They will continue to get stronger and will not risk losing the ground they have gained in the first six races. The demise of Niki Lauda, non-executive chairman, Mercedes, has unified the team. The team would be more determined to honour the great driver with the Championship win.
It seems that by the end of the season, the battle for the championship may come down to the two Mercedes drivers.