Lewis Hamilton’s bid to regain his Formula One Championship has been hit with an early setback due to the re-emergence of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari.
The 32-year-old was narrowly beaten out by Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg last term, losing out in the race for the Drivers’ Championship by five points. Hamilton did win the final four races of the last campaign, but it was not enough to reel in the German’s lead, allowing Rosberg to triumph for the first time in his career. The 30-year-old opted to retire following his success to spend time with his family, opening a path for the Brit to reclaim his title his term – due to the relative inexperience of new team-mate Valtteri Bottas. However, Vettel and Ferrari have come out of the shadows to challenge Hamilton and Mercedes for their dominance at the top of the sport.
The German enjoyed a stranglehold of Formula One with Red Bull Racing between 2010 and 2013 as he won the title four years on the bounce as the Brit struggled to compete with his McLaren. Hamilton’s move to Mercedes swung the balance of power in his direction with back-to-back triumphs, while Vettel floundered with Red Bull before switching to Ferrari – where his first two years were equally as unsuccessful as he failed to match the pace of the Brit and Rosberg. The off-season prompted changes at the Italian team – with a new car provided to the 29-year-old and his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen with the pace to challenge Mercedes at the top. The Ferrari SF70H has lived up to the billing thus far, with Vettel snatching victory away from Hamilton at the Australian Grand Prix before the German produced another stellar performance to capitalise on an error from the Brit to claim the win in Bahrain.
Coping with the Challenge
Hamilton faced similar pressure from Rosberg last term, but showed the spirit of a champion to battle back against the German to ensure that he had to remain flawless down the stretch to clinch the crown. The 32-year-old could face a similar situation this term. Unlike last season, Hamilton did not have to wait long for his first victory, securing his opening win in China with a fine drive. In 2016, he was forced to wait until Monaco – six races into the campaign – to register his first win. A similar success this time around will just be what the Brit needs to turn the race for the Drivers’ Championship back in his favour, with bookmakers backing the Brit at odds of 11/8, as of May 12th, 2017, to regain his position at the summit of the sport. Hamilton’s 2016 triumph kickstarted his charge to rival Rosberg at the top and he will be looking for similar inspiration this time around. Last year, Hamilton produced a fine drive to secure his second victory at the famous track, which is notorious for its tight corners.
The Rigours of Monaco
The circuit of Monaco is unique given that drivers are forced to weave their way through the city itself. It poses severe challenges to even the best, with skill and patience needs to negotiate the tight corners and inevitable pile-ups around certain parts of the track. Former greats of the sport have dominated the top spot at the podium, with the late Ayrton Senna still holding the most wins at the famous circuit with six triumphs. Michael Schumacher and Alain Prost also enjoyed great success in Monaco, although it has not been a happy hunting ground for prospective champions of late.
The last man to win the Monaco Grand Prix and win the Drivers’ Championship was Vettel in 2011. Since then Mark Webber, Rosberg and Hamilton have claimed victory, with the German winning three times on the bounce between 2013 and 2015, but never managing to use the race as a platform to greater success. Hamilton discovered firsthand about the perceived misfortune following his victory, although it did kickstart his attempt to close ground on Rosberg. The 32-year-old will be hopeful that this is the year that breaks the cycle as he looks to find the form that delivered him back-to-back crowns. The Brit has not been at his best thus far but remains on the trail of Vettel at the top. However, his progress at Monaco could well dictate how he fares in the Drivers’ Championship this term.