Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2018

Analysis: Did Hamilton beat Vettel to the title with a slower car?

2018 F1 season

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Sebastian Vettel put Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes on red alert when he won the opening two races of 2018. This looked like the most serious threat to the Silver Arrows’ dominance of Formula 1 since the V6 hybrid turbo era began.

Granted, luck had been on Vettel’s side in the season-opener where it took a well-timed Virtual Safety Car period to put him in the lead. But over the opening rounds Ferrari were consistently strong, even compared to their much-improved 2017 showing.

Seven races in, Ferrari had four pole positions to Mercedes’ two. Well past the halfway point in the championship, Ferrari had turned up with a quicker car than Mercedes more often than not.

So how did Vettel end up losing the championship with three rounds to spare? Did he squander a clear shot at a fifth title in a superior car?

Ferrari were much closer to Mercedes over the first half of the championship than they had been the year before. The season-opener at Melbourne proved something of an outlier, as is often the case. But over the three rounds that followed it, Ferrari set the pace.

At mid-season Ferrari remained the team to beat on raw pace, But at tracks like the Hockenheimring and Hungaroring they failed to convert it into wins.

Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, Monza, 2018
Ferrari were quicker for the ninth time in 14 races at Monza
In Belgium they gave Mercedes a pasting. Not only was the SF71H quick enough in a straight line for Vettel to blow past Hamilton as if the W09 was towing a caravan, but the Mercedes chewed its rear tyres in the slower corners.

Mercedes learned from that tough encounter and came back far stronger at Singapore, a circuit where it has historically struggled. This coincided with Ferrari going down a blind alley with its development.

“Along the way something went wrong and we need to make sure that we learn from it,” said Vettel in Brazil. “Something went wrong and then we didn’t go and develop in the right direction.”

Ferrari didn’t emerge from their slump until the championship arrived in Austin. By then, however, the title was already within Hamilton’s grasp.

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Ferrari’s pace compared to Mercedes: 2017 and 2018

Ferrari’s one-lap pace compared to Mercedes in 2017 and 2018. Negative values show where Ferrari was faster than Mercedes.

When Hamilton won the championship at the 19th round of the season in Mexico, Mercedes led Ferrari 10-9 in terms of who had been quickest each weekend. Although this was only a narrow margin, when Mercedes had a performance advantage it tended to be more comfortable than Ferrari’s.

Hamilton and Vettel’s four worst finishes

Lewis HamiltonSebastian Vettel
DNFAustriaPower unit failureDNFGermanyCrashed
5thCanada8thChinaCollided with Verstappen
4thChina6thJapanCollided with Verstappen
4thMexico5thFranceCollided with Bottas

At the point the championship was decided

On average, Mercedes were 0.13% off the ultimate pace over the 19 races Hamilton took to win the title, compared to 0.23% for Ferrari. But this too needs to be qualified, because many of Mercedes’ strongest races occurred after Hamilton had built himself a solid championship lead.

Indeed by the Italian Grand Prix, where Hamilton pulled out a 30-point lead over Vettel, Ferrari had been quicker than Mercedes nine times out of 14.

So did Vettel lose the championship despite having a faster car? Not quite. But he certainly had a car he could have won the championship with, and could have been closer to Hamilton. (Of course the same therefore applies to both drivers’ team mates.)

Ferrari’s slump in performance from Singapore to Japan was the final nail in the coffin for Vettel’s title hopes. But if had he made better use of the competitive machine he had earlier in the season it’s not hard to imagine the title fight could have gone down to the last race.

“Clearly we missed something,” Vettel reflected. “Not on purpose and not because something by default is set wrong. So it’s up to us to find a fix for it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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130 comments on “Analysis: Did Hamilton beat Vettel to the title with a slower car?”

  1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
    15th November 2018, 12:29

    Yes he did.

    1. Agreed. Vettel had the marginally better car. Perhaps equal on pace with W09, but Vettel had far superior mechanical reliability. A big issue was made out of Ferrari’s mechanical problems when comparing the SF70 & W08 in 2017. Yet it seems to get ignored when the shoe is on the other foot in 2018.

      1. “Ferrari were quicker for the ninth time in 14 races at Monza” says keith,

        So that means, after Monza, it was 9-5 to Ferrari.
        After Monza was Singapore , Russia & Japan (Merc quickest in all 3)

        That would bring it up to 9-8 to Ferrari.

        Yet Keith also goes onto to say this:

        “When Hamilton won the championship at the 19th round of the season in Mexico, Mercedes led Ferrari 10-9 ”

        So, is Keith stating that Merc was faster than Ferrari in both USA & Mexico? Surely not. Merc was awful in Mexico. Can Keith clarify?? In Mexico quali, Merc & Ferrari were split by less than a 10th, that could have been down to the driver. And come on Keith, no way on this planet was the Merc car, that got lapped, better than the Ferrari in Mexico race trim. Can Keith please clarify how he has come to this conclusion?

        1. @buffy, I suspect that part of the confusion comes from the way in which Keith has compared the times, as in some instances (e.g. the Belgian GP) he has chosen to compare times from the dry qualifying sessions (say, from Q2 in Belgium), without clearly identifying what lap times he was comparing.

          The comparison is based on qualifying pace, but the issue there is that the attributes that might make a car competitive over a single lap might hurt the performance of that car over a race stint.

          In Monza, for example, we saw how Ferrari had an advantage over a single lap, but it seems that was in part because of the way that they heated their rear tyres – it gave an advantage over a single lap, since it helped them get their tyres into the right operating range, but over a longer stint they had problems with the tyres overheating and blistering as a result, resulting in Mercedes having a faster average stint time.

          We have also seen the reverse situation happen too with Mercedes, such as in Austria – the relatively cool track temperatures in qualifying (peaking at 32ºC) gave them an advantage over a single lap, but during the race the significantly higher track temperatures (peaking at 48ºC) then turned that advantage into a disadvantage as they began overheating their tyres.

          Comparing single lap pace in qualifying is, I guess, one way, but the problem is that other factors – weather effects, driver error and so on – start to cloud the picture a little.

          1. Thanks for the clarification. I do wish Keith would make it clearer that this is based on 1 lap quali pace only and what session times he has used.

            But i think usuing just 1 lap quali pace can be a bit misleading. What happens when there is a whisker to separate the cars in Quali? How does Keith know if that was due to the car or driver? I notice he has given GB quali to Merc, but i think it was universally agreed that pole position was pure Hamilton. Then in Ameria, seperated by 7 hundreds in quali? How does Keith know if that was down to the car or driver? Especially when you take into account that Hamilton is naturally very strong in USA? And Mexico. Ferrari & Merc separated by less than a 10th in quali. Car or driver? And then quali pace & race pace differ. Often, a car being fastest over 1 lap, doesn’t mean they are also quickest in the race. Mexico, Merc went backwards in the race despite being equal to Ferrari in quali. Merc clearly 3rd best car in Mexico, That’s not even up for debate. Merc was a mess with the tyres in the race. The worse out of all the top 3 teams. Yet Keith has given Mexico to Merc over Ferrari?? Not a chance. And where does Mercs reliability woes fit in to all of this?

            Too may holes/questions/gray areas just using 1 lap quali pace.

            AMuS take all factors into account and is a more comprehensive rating.

  2. I’m not sure Ferrari have the capability of fighting for a world title over a full year – they seem to find inventive ways of shooting themselves in the foot. The car was clearly good at the beginning of the year, a decent match for the Mercedes but they lost ground due to their own errors and driver error. If its true that they took off 4 months of development to make the car quicker is true, you could argue they were outdeveloped by both Mercedes & Red Bull, let alone beaten on strategy more often than not. Operationally, the team is weaker at strategy and in season development than both Mercedes and Red Bull and that’s what’s cost them more than any mistake Vettel made. To be honest if Honda and Red Bull come together Ferrari will probably wait a lot more years for their next title.

  3. Vettel was actually driving better at times than people give him credit for. That move at Spa when Mercedes were the faster car in the speed traps.
    Lewis was driving for a vastly superior team this season as per last season. Ferrari are specialists in dropping the ball and Seb’s mistakes reflect how frustrating (as per Alonso) that must be.
    Compare the two team mates where Bottas has looked dominant against Ferarri at times or when Kimi’s Ferarri shredded its tires and robbed him of a win.
    This is mostly about Mercedes not getting optimum tires at times just like all the other teams, then gaining a boost with their clever cooling.

    1. Kimi vs Bottas and neither have looked dominant, Bottas started better but Kimi has finished better. As for the 2 Cars, Ferrari have easily matched Merc over the season, Seb just screwed up. The Belgian GP pass was all down to the car, The extra ‘Power’ they had at the time from their Batteries. The Ferrari was way faster on acceleration than the Merc and Seb breezed by.

    2. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
      15th November 2018, 13:36

      That move at Spa when Mercedes were the faster car in the speed traps.

      What on earth are you chatting about. The Ferrari was faster in the speed traps at Spa.


      Try again.

      1. Why have you linked to your local file? has these top speeds:

        Hamilton 322.3
        Bottas 320.2

        Vettel 313.1
        Raikonnen 304.4

        1. Fudge Kobayashi (@)
          15th November 2018, 14:38

          Ill trust the FIA over

          1. @fruth that’s 2017

          2. This is awkward

        2. BIg Joe, whilst those speed trap figures were recorded during the race, it should be borne in mind that the figures for Hamilton and Bottas were assisted by the effects of DRS and slipstreaming and therefore give the incorrect impression that they were faster on the straights.

          The fact that Ricciardo and Sainz Jr. managed to record higher speed trap figures than Vettel or Kimi emphasises that point – unless you wish to claim that Red Bull and Renault have a car that is faster in a straight line than Ferrari, it strongly hints that those figures were assisted by slipstreams and DRS.

          The picture was rather different during the qualifying session, where Ferrari lead Mercedes in three of the four speed traps – this is the relative position and recorded speed of those drivers in the qualifying session:

          Speed Trap
          1st: Vettel – 315.6kph
          7th: Kimi – 312.4kph
          8th: Hamilton – 311.8kph
          12th: Bottas – 309.6kph

          Finish Line
          1st: Kimi – 240.5kph
          2nd: Vettel – 239.4kph
          5th: Hamilton – 235.9kph
          15th: Bottas – 233.3kph

          Intermediate 1
          2nd: Vettel – 335.6kph
          3rd: Hamilton – 334.6kph
          5th: Kimi – 332.8kph
          10th: Bottas – 329.5kph

          Intermediate 2
          1st: Hamilton – 220.0kph
          2nd: Bottas – 218.7kph
          3rd: Kimi – 217.2kph
          9th: Vettel – 213.3kph

          In the majority of the speed traps where DRS was not active, Ferrari, and especially Vettel, were consistently faster on the straights. The only place where Mercedes were faster was in the middle sector, where the second intermediate split is on the exit of Stavelot corner, which is consistent with the indication that Mercedes were using a higher downforce set up to protect their tyres at the cost of straight line speed.

          1. That doesn’t make Vettel’s move on Hamilton one bit less impressive. Hamilton’s car was admired by Brundle the way it cornered, he carries that onto the straight yet Vettel matched, slipstreamed and overtook him.

          2. The question I have “Is top speed all that is cracked up to be?”
            This was probably answered at the last race in Brazil, where Verstappen should have won, easily, in a car that qualified 5th about 0.5 sec down.

          3. @w-k those figures are relative figures for performance, but endurance comes from track specific set up and temperatures! They cant always go full speed, so where things most hurt is corners, and temperatures play a big role how much a car can lean on tyres… be it into during and out of corners! So if the temps are really hot, merc drops first then ferrari and then last red bull, not because they are so good with tyres, they are not as fast normally, so they rely on aero a lot more than both merc/ferrari! so they have the upper hand at hot weather conditions… when conditions are cool, they are not as competitive… also time to time teams compromise/mis judge set ups… that gives the upper hand to under dog…

            if merc were to keep their tyre cooling solution, it ll be harder for red bull esp with honda not improving as much as rb would like… hot conditions will not really save them!

    3. Vettel was actually driving better at times than people give him credit for. That move at Spa when Mercedes were the faster car in the speed traps.

      Disagree completely. Ferrari was quicker on race pace and in qualifying at Belgium. It was getting it’s tyres in to an operating window with much more ease, and it was mighty in a straight line. Heck, all the Ferrari customers were mighty in a straight line that weekend. Vettel should have taken pole there, but he just couldn’t manage it in mixed conditions.

      Lewis was driving for a vastly superior team this season as per last season. Ferrari are specialists in dropping the ball and Seb’s mistakes reflect how frustrating (as per Alonso) that must be.

      Were Ferrari really that bad??? What did Ferrari do that hampered Vettel’s title chances that badly? Other than losing some pace between Singapore to Japan, they were actually as good if not better than Mercedes.

      People easily forget how Mercedes miscalculated Lewis’ pit window in Australia and threw away a win. How they could have won the race in Bahrain if they pitted Bottas a few laps earlier. How they had a botched strategy and a double DNF in Austria. How their reliability hampered Lewis’ qualifying in Germany.

      Ferrari really didn’t drop the ball this season, at least nowhere close to how they dropped the ball during the Alonso era. The difference between winning and losing the championship this year was the performance difference between Lewis and Sebastian. I don’t see how anyone can bend facts to say otherwise.

      Compare the two team mates where Bottas has looked dominant against Ferarri at times or when Kimi’s Ferarri shredded its tires and robbed him of a win.

      Kimi is ahead of Bottas on points…. and he hasn’t been driving any better than Bottas this year.

      There’s no way you can really blame Ferrari for much this year. Sure Mercedes worked better as a team on occasion, but Ferrari was right about there.

      1. Were Ferrari really that bad??? What did Ferrari do that hampered Vettel’s title chances that badly?

        I think Ferrari being afraid to outright make Kimi a number 2 cost Vettel two races in my opinion. In Germany, Vettel was stuck behind Kimi for 10 laps while Ferrari tried be diplomatic with Kimi instead of just getting him out of the way. Ultimately Vettel made the mistake which lost him the race but Hamilton closing up to a gap which should’ve been much larger no doubt meant Vettel was under more pressure than he really should’ve been. Same from Monza where Kimi was given a nice tow which gave him pole. While I don’t think it was deliberate, given the circumstances, maybe Vettel should’ve been second on track to give him the opportunity for a tow. Again, Vettel made his own mistake in the race but it’s one I doubt he would’ve made had he ended up on pole.

        1. But then there were races where Kimi was blatently used as a number 2 – China & Mexico for instance. And yes, team oders in Germany too

        2. @davef1

          Well.. if you’re going to blame Ferrari in Germany for Vettel putting it in a wall… then you’re really scraping the bottom of the barrel for excuses. In Monza as well, Vettel was getting a tow from Hamilton, the same way Kimi was getting one from Vettel. Did it really make that much of a difference? Or is it just another excuse for when Vettel failed to deliver.

          Heck, even if we say Vettel was let down on those two occasions by Ferrari. It still doesn’t explain the additional 50 point difference he would still have to Lewis.

          I’m surprised people are even discussing this. I’ve never seen a more obvious case of a driver throwing away a championship in the 22 years I’ve watched the sport.

    4. Vettel was actually driving better at times than people give him credit for. That move at Spa when Mercedes were the faster car in the speed traps.
      Lewis was driving for a vastly superior team this season as per last season.

      I disagree. Vettel lost the championship by 56 points last year. This year with a much much improved package that gap has grown to 81 points with a race still to go.

      1. “Lewis was driving for a vastly superior team this season as per last season.”
        Vettel was driving for a vastly more superior team this season than last season. His overall package including the obvious thing that was moving between his legs! Before/During German GP, i didnt expect/think that Hamilton can close the gap close enough if at all!

        Vettel has mostly himself to blame for the downfall… He has been aggressive when he had to be cool and patient… He took too much risks where playing safe would have helped him keep substantial points… There were a few strategic calls from the team, but not as bad as him throwing a tonne of points dawn the drain!

        Like Verstappen, he is short sighted, and always goes for the corner rather than the chequered flag down the road…

  4. To summerize, try telling the Mercedes engineers and team personal that they didn’t do as good job as the Ferarri engineers. Tell them they gave Lewis the slower car. See what happens.

    1. Lol as they move aside to ensure full view of their WCC trophy.

      1. @robbie
        at least mercedes aims for the moon and if they miss, they would end up in the stars… which they did :)
        vettel was aiming for black holes, which he achieved, and lost in time and words… :)

    2. I don’t get it, what’s supposed to happen if you tell them that?

      1. You’ll see stars.
        And you’ll be ridiculed for ages.

  5. It’s not all about car speed either, even though the car speed was relatively even as the article shows over the course of the year, Mercedes as a team functions much better than Ferrari do. Also, it helps having a less error-prone driver. I think that over the course of the season Mercedes have edged it in terms of car performance, especially after Monza. Before then, Ferrari were ahead, but not by as much as a lot of people seemed to think.

    1. So did Vettel lose the championship despite having a faster car? Not quite. But he certainly had a car he could have won the championship with

      This is pretty much it.

      1. And add the table with the reasons for the 4 worst finishes and you’ve got the whole story.

      2. @hugh11

        Vettel has only ever won the championship in a dominant team, not sure what gives anyone the idea that Ferrari were dominant, but it obviosuly wasn’t the car for Vettel to win the championship nor was Ferrari’s team effort (just as Alonso found out)

    2. Might be Lewis knows he can be patient and races at 99%, while Vettel, with the insecurities and pressure at Ferrari is racing at 101% Take Germany, for instance: Lewis was on newer, softer tyres, and closing on Vettel. If your team just won 4 WCC’s and 4WDC’s in a row, the pressure to perform is a lot less. So Lewis didn’t race to win, but raced to finish a close second. Seb was racing for a win, when he should have done the same as Lewis and finished second
      I think Mercedes actualy could’ve performed better in the first half of the year, but they might be sandbagging / playing it defensive a bit, because the value of another easily won championship is dropping.
      Vettel did stupid things, sure, but that is to be expected if you’re always on the offense.
      Hamilton played his cards perfectly this year: Win where he could, be patient where he could not win, and he had lots of help from lady fortuna.

  6. Ferrari fans need to realise the problem this year was between the steering wheel and the seat of the car. Cars were equal, both teams made strategy mistakes and reliability was worse for Mercedes. As a Mercedes fan, I wish Ferrari kept the VET-RAI duo, because they were clearly never going to win a World Title unless they had a dominant car.
    I’m afraid Leclerc could be a threat to Hamilton next year if Mercedes continues to decline, they’ve been losing ground to both Ferrari and RB since 2016 but strangely some people want to believe they are still the best team in F1… I think Ferrari and RB (not helped by the engine) have been doing a better job for a while now.

  7. I’m not necessarily sure this is the case, to be honest. Besides Australia and Spain, Hamilton was seriously underperforming in the first third of the season, while Vettel was driving some of his best races in years. This, I believe, made the Ferrari look better than it actually was. Given that Bottas challenged Vettel in Bahrain, China, and Azerbaijan, you would believe that the Mercedes was actually probably the quicker car of the two, and a fully-firing Hamilton (which we didn’t have in those races) would have won those ones. And then you look at a race like Germany, where due to Hamilton’s issue in qualifying, we didn’t quite get to see an out-and-out battle between Ferrari and Mercedes. Overall, I do believe that the Mercedes was actually the quicker car. The only races in which Ferrari had a clear advantage was Belgium and Mexico. Mercedes had a clear advantage in Australia, Spain, France, Austria, Russia, and Japan. I think Hamilton’s underperformance in the first part of the season, and Bottas’ subsequent loss of form made it appear as if Ferrari had a quicker car, which I don’t believe to necessarily be the case. Either way, we’re talking about really small margins here.

    1. Lol, not quite @mashiat.
      Vettel on older tyres overtook Hamilton on track in Austria.

      Ferrari had the advantage over Mercedes in China, Bahrain, Azerbaijan, Canada, Monaco, Britain, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, Italy, USA, Mexico.

      That’s 13/20 races they had an advantage.

      It was 50-50 in Singapore and Brazil. Mercedes just managed to maximise their opportunities better than Ferrari who kept shooting themselves in the foot.

      Mercedes should never have won in Azerbaijan, Germany, Hungary, Italy and Brazil that’s for sure. But they have their ace in Hamilton.

      1. Looks like you forgot how Mercedes was dominating the race in Austria, controlling the race at their will, an easy 1-2 for Hamilton and Bottas.

        They only suffered after the VSC mistake, they were no longer racing with clean air and suddenly they started to overheat and blister the tyres.

        1. I haven’t forgot nothing. In Austria Vettel suffered a grid drop after yet another mistake when he impeded another driver. If he had started in a more normal position then he would have easily won the race such was his pace advantage. In the early stages Hamilton only seemed to be controlling the race only because Vettel was out of position.

      2. @blackmamba Hamilton overdrove out of frustration after coming out of the pits, so his tyres got blistered. Before that, Mercedes were comfortably going to get a 1-2. They were over 3 tenths clear in qualifying. Like I said in my original comment, did Ferrari really hold an advantage in Bahrain, China or Azerbaijan? Bottas should have won in all three of them, and we all know how much slower he is than an in-form Hamilton. Canada was one in which it was once again slightly debatable. Hamilton was horrendous that weekend as well, leaving an uninspiring driver to lead Mercedes’ charge. Hamilton got pole in Britain, and Bottas was able to keep within 3 seconds of Vettel in the race, while Hamilton’s pace whilst coming back was extremely quick. Germany, like I said, was hard to judge as Hamilton couldn’t get out of Q2. In Italy, Hamilton was slower than the Ferraris in qualifying, but quicker in the race. He was easily able to hold onto Raikkonen, and comfortably managed to follow the Ferrari. So that’s already eight of those thirteen that can be considered debatable, and not clearly quicker for Ferrari. People seem to forget Hamilton’s underperformance in the first 7 races of the season, simply because he’s been excellent ever since.

        1. +1

          Vettel has already said it was a myth he had the best car. Not something you just come out with at Ferrari. Seems people would rather believe Toto Wolff’s mind games designed to protect Lewis, when as you rightly point out he was ‘sub-par’ earlier in the season.

          1. Would that be the very same Vettel who said that he did nothing wrong when he deliberately drove into Hamilton?

          2. It’s like 2014 all over again the way people are coming up with lame excuses for Vettel. He had the tools and he failed to deliver. Simple! Alonso or Max would have done a much better job.

        2. Stop trying to be the smart guy. Vettel was going for an easy Win at baku when the safety car caused by the red bull duo put bottas ahead.

          Yet youre here saying he was going to win cuz he was faster.

          The same applies for China, when Ferrari took 2 laps to react to Mercedes pitstop and lost the lead because of It. Yet was glued to his gearbox when the safety car came in and changed the race.

          In Bahrein what put vettel under pressure was the accident on kimis pitstop which forced him to an alternate strategy.

          So your 3 examples are incorrect.
          Because you probably think you are the only one with a TV set lol

          1. Bottas was on a better strategy. Vettel’s win wasn’t guaranteed at all before the SC. Bottas was 13s ahead of Vettel before the SC at a track where the pit stop costs around 23-24 seconds. At the point the SC came out, Bottas was actually matching or even beating both Vettel and Hamilton on worn tyres. Bottas was going to put on softer tyres which were around 1.5s per lap faster (at least when new), with around 10 laps left.

            Matter of fact, Vettel didn’t have the race under control before the SC, and we lost a nail-biting finish.

        3. @mashiat The only races Hamilton could be considered to have underperformed were China and Canada that’s it.

          In China Ferrari locked out the front row and Vettel was leading the race comfortably until Ferrari for some inexplicable reason failed to respond to an undercut from Bottas. Then the safety car and an errant Verstappen ended any hope left.

          In Canada Hamilton hit a bird which caused overheating so he was driving an ailing car.

          Most observers have concluded that Ferrari indeed had a fast car but somehow Vettel apologists are coming up with strange excuses which lack any objectivity. Your analysis of the difference in performances are just way out of line with the general consensus.

          Here is one such analysis from the most reputable F1 source which is closely aligned to my own analysis

          1. Canada, Hamilton had technical problem with the car (chassis cooling issue). So the reality is China was his only off-pace race in the first half. Vettel was off-pace in Australia but got lucky with the vSC

          2. @blackmamba I am not even close to being a Vettel fan. I’ve never supported him, and I never will. And while we’re at it, why don’t we talk about your Hamilton biases? That would clearly cloud your judgement would it not? But anyways, I’m not trying to take away from Hamilton’s triumph. I think he’s driven magnificently well. But in my opinion, he’s done it with a faster car than people give him credit for. I’m not talking 0.5s faster. Just a smidge faster.

        4. So what was the reason why Ricciardo’s tyres suffered the same blistering?

  8. “Did Hamilton beat Vettel to the title with a slower car?”

    at less than half of the tracks on the calender, so yes. I agree Vettel made some tremendously shameful mistakes this season. However, the Ferrari were nowhere as compared to the Mercedes at most races after the summer break, and it might be due to the weird development path they chose, or it could be traditional, as Ferrari have generally lost pace after the summer break (Please correct me if I’m wrong, which I mostly am apparently). 2012, 2013, 2016 and 2017 come to mind as the most evident cases.

    1. @major-dev you are exaggerating a bit when you say Ferrari were NOWHERE after the summer break.

      They won easily in Belgium and it should have been an easy victory as well in Italy but Vettel once again mucked it up.

      They also dropped the ball in Singapore where Mercedes got a surprise pole and Ferrari were even out qualified by Red bull. The only races Mercedes were quite ahead after the summer break were in Russia and Japan.

      After that Mercedes have been extremely lucky to win even 1 out of the last 3 race. Ferrari have just collectively dropped the ball in 2018 otherwise they should have won.

      1. @blackmamba

        They should have won if:

        They had a driver known for winning championships in non dominant cars.
        They had different engineers to get their tires working better
        They had better strategists
        They had Brawn and Todt running things

        No, they are the Ferrari we’ve always known and loved outside of the Brawn/Todt era.
        Fernando Alonso’s biggest career mistake was thinking those guy’s legacy would last.

        1. Two out of four of Vettel’s titles were in non-dominant cars. The reasons for non-dominance may be different in 2010 and 2012, but yeah, the Red Bull was not dominant.

    2. @major-dev

      Well.. they should have capitalised when they did have a stronger car up until Singapore. They should have been leading the championship, but instead were trailing Lewis going in to the summer break. It’s more a failure to capitalise when things were going good for them, as compared to a failure to develop the car in the second half of the season.

      Maybe they need to sit down and watch the first half of the 2012 season, and observe how Alonso and Ferrari maximised the opportunities at that time. They should send the notes to Vettel and give it a shot again next year.

  9. After reading this, I’ve come to the conclusion that colliding several times can really affect the outcome of your championship. A lesson that Lewis learned the hard way in 2011 – you can pay very dearly for other drivers’ mistakes. Unfortunately for Vettel and Ferrari, that’s a lesson that Vettel is still learning – and one he may never learn – and one that Verstappen had a crash course in over the weekend and the start of the season – again, there’s no guarantee that he will learn the lesson.

    2 drivers stand head and shoulders above the current generation of drivers in terms of their ability to race wheel to wheel. You know who they are. They are in a category of their own – it’s like watching Messi and Ronaldo, the rest are good but they really belong in different categories.

    1. Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso? Daniel Ricciardo? Lewis? Not just 2

    2. @freelittlebirds – “Verstappen had a crash course…” made me chuckle. As for drivers who can race “wheel to wheel”, that’s got to be Perez & Grosjean. Both have a very entertaining approach to close-quarters combat.

  10. With regards to the question as to whether it was the Driver or the Car, answer this. Would Hamilton of won the WDC if he was driving the Ferrari. In my opinion, Yes he would of. Therefore it was the better driver that won it.

  11. I think Seb pretty much beat himself this year.
    The cars were (are) so close performance wise that the driver really is a deciding factor and Seb lost the plot too many times.
    Give Lewis an inch and he will take a win. He knows how to win.

  12. If the drivers swapped teams, and ran the whole season again, Would Seb have had the title wrapped up in Mexico ?

    Not a chance in hell. Lewis doesn’t make the mistakes Seb does. Paul Ricard, Hockenheim, Monza & Suzuka.

    1. You forgot to add Baku and the USA to that list Nathan.

      I think that’s the key here. The cars were closely matched this year and there were many races I genuinely didn’t know which car was the fastest. People will say Hamilton either did or didn’t have the best car depending on who they support or dislike but any genuine fan can take a step back and see just how close it was between Ferrari and Mercedes this season.

      Just counting those mistakes that’s 6 times Vettel cost himself big points this year. 6 times out of 20 races! So in over a quarter of the races he made big mistakes, that’s simply not good enough.

    2. I agree, but who knows? Maybe Vettel would thrive more in the Mercedes environment, leading to fewer mistakes.

      1. +1

        People are assuming he was happy with the car, yet these drivers have been pressured into not criticising Ferarri. The best we got from Vettel was that Ferarri didn’t have the faster car as per Toto Wolff’s determined and regular statements whenecer Lewis looked off form.
        Question is would Lewis have not made mistakes in a team who’s frustratingly dropped the ball two seasons in a row and was slow in qualifying?

        1. I think people are right to assume he was happy with the car when he was putting it on pole, taking race victories and praising his machinery. If Vettel isn’t happy with a championship winning car, then maybe he doesn’t belong in a front running team.

          I’m surprised that people are even debating this or finding new excuses for why Vettel didn’t win the championship. The data shows that there was little or nothing to choose between Ferrari and Mercedes this season. Even if Mercedes was slightly stronger that could explain a 20 odd point difference between the two drivers. Vettel’s gotten crushed by nearly a 100 points by Hamilton, how on earth can anyone blame anything other than the driver on this occasion?


          1. + 100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

            The excuses being by the Vettel apologists are boardering on the ridiculous

          2. Jesus! Vettel apologists would win all the Gold medals if olympics with mental gymnastics were a thing. :-)

          3. @buffy

            Who inherited the most wins?

            I’m not a Vettel appologist by the way. Elsewhere I’ve described him as a ‘dominant car, champion’ as did Alonso when he claimed his dominant Red Bull days will come back and bite him and the haters got upset.
            If Ferrari had the best car he would have beaten Lewis like he did 4 times in the past.

      2. That’s a fair point.
        Who is to say that if Lewis was at Ferrari then perhaps the often (so we are told) fractured and arrogant leadership may well have destroyed his spirit and led to him under-performing.

  13. Yes he did.

  14. Lewi5 would probably have won in the Ferrari if they swapped cars. The two areas which scuppered Vettel this year were wet weather driving and wheel to wheel racing, skills Hamilton possess in abundance.

  15. The Mercedes is still a bit of a diva in traffic but luckily for them they have the greatest 1 lap merchant there has ever been. Bottas’ performances have actually been pretty good considering he’s more often than Lewis, been in the pack. Mercedes won this championship because they’d won the previous 4, they knew what it took and how to get it over the line. Like Man utds last couple of league titles, experience told, rather than outright ability. Next year, oh boy.

  16. i love these articles! there’s all data and charts and we still have users who say vettel lost in the quicker car. come on guys, you’re better than this, stop the hate! this is ridiculous

    1. The charts you’re so fond of only show the recorded lap time. Yes the car is the biggest factor in positioning in F1 but drivers can easily make the difference of 2/3 tenths at times so they aren’t reliable indicators of the fastest car as driver ability affects the charts.

    2. The problem is David the data doesn’t tell the whole story.

      If you’re looking at fastest lap time ( single lap) that would be taken from qualifying. The data doesn’t show when outside elements impacted the overall lap times of the car. Things like weather, driver mistakes, yellow flags, crashes, car issues etc etc all play a part. Take Hungry for example, the Ferrari were dominant in practice and dry weather running but the data would show them .5 slower than Mercedes.

      It’s the same issue for fastest lap during a race. Pit strategy, fuel saving, race position etc all play a part in this too. A driver could dominate and win by 20 seconds but the data might show someone else with the fastest lap and therefore the better car on paper.

      you can’t say for sure who’s quicker and there will always be data which can be twisted to suit both sides of the argument. I honestly believe if everyone took a step back and rewatched the sessions it would be clear to see how even the cars were this year.

    3. There is way more factors than charts mate. I wouldn’t base it just off that

  17. It often seems to me that Ferrari go through a sort of blood-letting after a Championship defeat and fire one or two people (and possibly encourage the others). And so I wonder if anyone is going to get binned this year; Arrivabene? Binotto? Or did that practice cease when Montezemolo got binned?

    1. @nickwyatt To have the best chance, they needed to improve their drivers. Which they now have done. So now they effectively get two bites at the cherry with Vettel and Leclerc, instead of pinning all their hopes on one driver, which can be risky as evidenced by 2018. I don’t get why they would want to replace Binotto, given how good their car has been. Arrivabene maybe, but I think the changes operationally need to be made lower down.

      1. Actually having two better drivers is worse for Ferrari. They are more likely to have political issues leading to fragmentation within the team and withholding information from the other driver. They are also more likely to take points off each other and will be harder to enforce a no1 driver to get behind.

        1. I agree, I think there will be races when Vettel is faster and others where Charles is faster (I honestly don’t see one dominating the other). The team would try impose their team orders and it’ll be like Multi21 or Rosberg & Hamilton again which will end up in either disaster or one taking away points from the other. The only solution is to “engineer” the other car to be slower as McLaren did with Vandoorne.

  18. Sorry Keith, but i ain’t buying what you’re selling. With the exception of Spain, France, Singapore, Sochi and Japan, the Ferrari was the better overall package. It had more power, better straight-line speed and good on tyres.

    Sole reason why they lost the championship comes down to the organic material behind the wheel.

  19. “In Belgium they gave Mercedes a pasting. *** Not only was the SF71H quick enough in a straight line for Vettel to blow past Hamilton as if the W09 was towing a caravan ***”

    Hamilton forgot to shift into eight gear, small mistake:

  20. You are sure ??? Mercedes has slower car than Ferrari ???
    Did you see Ferrari’s pole position in the rain ? When it was ???

    Mercedes had always had a party mode when it’s needed. Some odd races – yes, Ferrari was faster but they shoot themself in the foot that races.

  21. Wait a minute… Lewis supposedly beat Vettel in a slower car but couldn’t beat Verstappen. If he’s as good as people are making out then he shoud beat them all in his slower car.
    Something is not right here and I think some fans are in for a bit of a shock when Mercedes lose those key areas they have a blatant advantage.
    With those super engine modes Mercedes have used both in qually and the race, then turning engines down in races as precuations and controlling races more than others. I can’t accept Mercedes engineers produced a slower car than Ferrari.

    1. I can’t accept Mercedes engineers produced a slower car than Ferrari.

      Maybe you can’t get to terms with the fact that Vettel isn’t all that good to begin with. That seems a whole lot more plausible than denying facts.

    2. “I can’t accept Mercedes engineers produced a slower car than Ferrari.”

      Oh Big Joe

      1. if you’re going to quote my tweet

        Oh dear. A Twitter user throwing his weight around on a website’s comments section. How about we take this ‘problem with the organic material behind the wheel nonsense’ back to Twitter, where it belongs?

        1. And if we did, you’d look just as silly.

    3. He couldn’t beat verstappen because we have been racing at two high altitude high downforce tracks. They reduce the difference in power and red bull have by far the best chassis. Also Mercedes have been struggling with tyres as they designed their car around the spacers which they have now removed and need to either re fit after rule clarification or design another alternative cooling method.

      1. Yes James, but the reverse never, ever, applies to Lewis does it?
        Now think about what you’ve just described, then tell us why Verstappen couldn’t outperform Lewis in more than 3 races? Nothing to do with the Renault not having the superior power of Lewis’ car of course.

        1. Well didn’t you just answer your own statement…? You said “if he’s as good as people say then he should beat everyone in a slower car” I told you why he didn’t beat the red bull. An yes of course the red bulls don’t have the power to compete on many other tracks which is why they don’t win often… I don’t get your point? But what we can say however is Lewis clearly out performed vettel this year in a arguably slower car or not it was obvious to those who watched. I look forward to seeing him against max in more equal machinery. Although if red bull match Mercedes in power then Mercedes and Ferrari wouldn’t stand a chance because of the red bull chassis. So I think to answer what you were getting at… yes the car is the predominant factor of order but drivers can make the difference over a season when closely matched.

        2. Dude.. your argument is so nonsensical.. that I don’t know where to start to break down the flaws in your logic.

          So I just won’t.

    4. No-one was beating those Red Bulls in Brazil, until Ocon stuffed it

  22. the Ferrari was the better overall package. It had more power, better straight-line speed and good on tyres.
    Sole reason why they lost the championship comes down to the organic material behind the wheel. better straight-line speed and good on tyres.

    Tell that to Kimi after Monza where the Ferrari shredded its tires and in the post race interview he’s shrugging his shoulders and actually pointing at his rear tire.

    Errm Top speeds from Monza:

    Hamilton 357.9

    Raikonnen 349.5

    1. Hamilton got the tow from Kimi.
      Kimi never got the tow from Hamilton.

      Mistery solved.

      1. Hamilton was kind enough to give Kimi some tow

    2. Hey Joe, if you’re going to quote my tweet, at least tag me.

      So you’re picking one race out of 20 so far?…. Nice compelling argument there

      1. tag you? You’re not even signed in

  23. No he didnt but even with a slower car he probably would have won with Ferrari imploding.

  24. Probably… flip them round, with Vettel in the Mercedes and Hamilton in the Ferrari, and I believe we’d have the same champion.

    1. dunno about that.

    2. Agree. Lewis was on another level this year

  25. Ferrari had the overall best car till Italian GP (except a few weekends in between like Australian and Spanish GP). After Italian GP Mercedes led Ferrari for 3 weekends (Singapore, Russia, Japan) but Ferrari fought back in US GP, Mexico GP they were clearly quicker than Mercedes.
    So it was a very very close contest between Mercedes and Ferrari this season but a big difference between their star drivers Hamilton and Vettel.

  26. Overall (when the championship was still on), I think they were equally matched to be honest.

    Man I would really love to see the same driver try both cars out though. Why can’t they do that with older cars I wonder? I would love to see the 2008 Ferrari benchmarked against the 2008 McLaren for example.

    1. @john-h

      would love to see the 2008 Ferrari benchmarked against the 2008 McLaren for example.

      The late Nigel Stepney was sentenced to 20 months in prison for helping to design the 2008 McLaren.
      One car was Red the other was Silver and Red. There’s my benchmark.

  27. Mercedes compared better to Ferrari in 2018 than Red Bull compared do McLaren in 2012.

    All in all, Mercedes were slightly better as a car, but Vettel could have won it, because the distance was small. But to say Hamilton won with the second best car would be a clear overstatement and also a little unfair to Seb.

    In 2012, Lewis did have the slightly better car, but Seb won the title. That’s the way it goes, sometimes.

    1. RB had the best car on the grid in 2012.

      1. @buffy not according to the numbers…

    2. how can mercedes be better as a car if it was slower as the stats say, and had worse reliability?

      these guys can really go circles around the obvious to protect their precious one.

      1. thats not what the stats say… they point to a slight Mercedes advantage.

  28. My nokia 3310 theory was so perfect, and they ruined it!

  29. Any news on Mercedes hiring Ferarri engineers yet? to ensure they can build the best car next year like Ferrari did this year? Obviously Ferrari will be trying to hang on to the current supreme team.
    There’s a good interview with Nico Rosberg talking with glee how Mercedes can do or have anything they want, in a budget context. In contrast with interviews with Christian Horner who has to decide which requests to approve or turn down with development paths and Claire Williams who normally has to turn most of them down.

    1. Ferrari could be quite vunerable to losing their designers of the faster car this season, to Mercedes.
      When Resta left for Sauber Ferrari divided the responsibilities between a pool of engineers. Mercedes wont mess about in making sure the best are working for them. They’ve even out-corrupted the Italians in the wider motor industry.
      Also remember how furious Mercedes’bosses were (as Toto hinted earlier this year) with Alonso, for stemming the illegal flow of data between Stepney and Coughlin in 2007.

  30. We already know some of the strengths (and weaknesses) of the main players. It will be interesting to see next season who will win out in the “battle of the wingmen”.

  31. For those of you who have seen Crocodile Dundee II, 1988:
    Denning: “You shoulda brought a gun instead of a beer, mate.”
    Nugget: “Nah. I don’t need one. I got a Donk.”

    Mercedes has a Hamilton.

  32. Being first means you won by virtue of having the highest average speed. Good strategy and a fast car means getting to be the car in front of everyone else. Your car doesn’t need to be the absolute fastest car, it just needs to be fast enough that no one can overtake you.
    Winning the WDC means taking wins when you can and minimising the net loss to your rivals when you don’t win, and that is what Hamilton did. Hamilton didn’t stand on the podium at 4 races this season, Vettel didn’t stand on the podium at 9 races.

  33. Little to choose from between the cars… and between the drivers

  34. Yea that’s pretty obvious

  35. Vettel did have the better car for the majority of this season. He Didn’t capitalise on it. Although Lewis was astounding and on another level this year once he got going.

  36. Two problems I saw this season and last season.

    Driver: Vettel needs to forget about trying to match Schumacher, it won’t happen. The sooner he does this, the better, and his mistakes will go away. The guy is either VERY good or VERY bad, there’s no “in-between” for him.

    Team: Ferrari needs to be more structured and systematic and drop their traditional ways when doing things, it’s not easy beating a team that has mostly been dominant.

  37. The reality that at some tracks the Merc was faster and at others the Ferrari was.

    Sometimes that was because of car characteristic suiting particular tracks and sometimes inherently faster cars or often both. And a key input was driver skill on any weekend.

    Trying to determine which car was faster over the season is almost impossible when the margins are so small but the result can be so enormously different: champion or runner up.

  38. The reality that at some tracks the Merc was faster and at others the Ferrari was.

    Sometimes that was because of car characteristic suiting particular tracks and sometimes inherently faster cars or often both. And a key input was driver skill on any weekend.

    Trying to determine which car was faster over the season is almost impossible when the margins are so small but the result can be so enormously different: champion or runner

  39. Hamilton was better than Vettel this year but rarely impressive IMO (Vettel was not impressive at all).In the first half Bottas was better in quite a few races.In US, ME and BR again nothing impressive .I liked how he drove in Monza though.
    Vettel could have won yes but it looked to me like (and this is what Vettel said at the beginning of the season in Australia )the front end doesn’t turn into the corner .Seeing how many times he understeered at the entry into a corner i would agree.
    The F1 side by side lap comparison graphics show that while the ferrari was faster in straight line it handled poor on the twisty part of tracks.The graphic comparison proved to me why the ferrari would possibly handle poor in the rain.
    That doesn’t mean Vettel is not responsible for all those spins its just that he’s not 100% responsible.
    Overall while Hamilton was rarely impressive Vettel wasn’t very impressive at all to me this year.

    Also the million time Hamilton fans said the phrase “Vettel cracked under pressure” .Where were you when Hamilton cracked under pressure in 2016 because that was way more mistakes under pressure than Vettel ever did .Even Lauda said Rosberg was stronger mentally that year than Hamilton.

  40. “So did Vettel lose the championship despite having a faster car? ”


    Btw Kimi is currently 3rd in championship in front of Bottas.

    1. Exactly, this says a lot, when both raikkonen and bottas have been very unlucky on top of being number 2s.

  41. Simply put no no no no no and did I say no!!

    Analysis is deeply flawed as only based on data from one car rather than cumulative for both which will give a much better snapshot of car performance.

    Mercedes have 6 front row lockouts to Ferrari 3 and average qualifying position is 2.4 to Ferrari’s 3.0. Given this includes data taken from both drivers it is far more representative of how the car performed against each other.

    It should also be noted that Vettels delta against kimi is significant better than Hamilton’s v bottas in qualifying which suggests he flatters the Ferrari’s pace in qualifying.

    Infact in every measurable yardstick of what is the better/faster car Mercedes trump Ferrari be it wins, poles, points, fastest laps, 1-2’s, frontrows, podiums, double podiums, laps led, practise sessions led, average Quali position etc.

    Granted it wasn’t by much but overall the Mercedes was a better car than the Ferrari over the season.

    Put it this way if you asked every driver on the grid they could rerun the 2018 season in any car of there choosing I’d bet that 75% plus would choose the merc

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