In the most amazing race of the season so far and possibly in the history of the sport, Seb Vettel took a fourth place which sees him extend his Drivers’ Championship lead to 14 points over his nearest rival. Unfortunately Kimi had to retire because of damage following a collision shortly after the start.
Fighting from the first lap
Just two corners in and already it was all kicking off, with Kimi pushed into the right hand side wall, when he had already got ahead of Bottas round the outside, with the Mercedes suffering a broken front wing. Seb found himself second behind Hamilton, with the other Ferrari still running in fifth. On lap 9, Seb set a fastest lap and he was less than 4 seconds off the leader. Kimi’s SF70H was no longer in good shape, but the duel between Perez and Verstappen ahead of him meant he was able to stay in touch. The Red Bull then had engine problems and the Iceman moved up one place.
Lap 12 and Kvyat parked at the side of the track, which brought out the safety car and Seb dashed into the pits to fit the Softs, with Kimi immediately doing the same. The neutral period changed everyone’s strategy, with fuel consumption now less of a concern, but keeping tyres up to temperature was more worrying.
One problem at a time
The race resumed on lap 17 and Seb was doing a sterling job of fending off Perez, although Kimi couldn’t do the same and thus lost two places. But then the safety car had to come out again immediately because of debris on track, with a barge board on Kimi’s car shattering. The drivers had to drive through pit lane while the track was cleaned, then Hamilton slowed too much, with Seb almost running in to him which angered the Ferrari man. Then at the restart, Kimi got a right rear puncture from the debris of Perez’s Force India. The race was neutralised yet again and Raikkonen headed for the pits. But his tyre disintegrated, causing more damage and he had to retire.
Shortly after that, the red flag was shown and the long break gave our mechanics time to perform another miracle on Kimi’s car to get him back out on track for the restart. But the work carried out in the “fast lane” to remove a broken component, led to an investigation. The race restarted at 18.18, with 27 laps remaining and this time Seb made a forceful attack, while simultaneously fending off Ricciardo. With everyone running Supersofts to the finish, the pace hotted up again.
That wasn’t the end of it. Hamilton had to stop to fix his loose head rest and at the same time, Seb was informed he had a 10 second stop-go penalty for “dangerous driving.” He came down pit lane and came out…in front of the Mercedes! And then it was Kimi’s turn to take a drive-through for the pit lane repairs.
On lap 36, the order was Ricciardo-Stroll-Magnussen-Ocon-Bottas, followed by Seb and Hamilton duelling it out. Vettel dispensed with Magnussen to go fifth. Then he overtook Ocon under braking for Turn 1 and for one lap the Force India was a buffer between him and his pursuers. Then it was a case of smashing the sector times and Seb set the quickest lap on lap 45. Three laps later, Kimi pitted for a final time, congratulating his mechanics, “Great work all the same.”
The final lap seemed to last forever and by the skin of his teeth, Sebastian held on to a fourth place which almost felt like a win.
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