A lot can change in a month of racing. Mercedes’ domination of the Australian Grand Prix set an ominous tone for the rest of the 2015 Formula 1 season, only for Ferrari to come roaring back in Malaysia and steal a surprise victory courtesy of Sebastian Vettel. The Italian marque may have fallen short in China and Bahrain, but the scales have been re-aligned heading into the rest of the season.
Lewis Hamilton remains the man to beat. If his win in Australia wasn’t convincing enough, then his domination of the races in China and Bahrain surely was. Remarkably, the Briton has dropped just 14 points from the last available 300. He looks happy both on and off track, and has mentally outfoxed teammate Nico Rosberg once again, who accused Hamilton of harming the team in China by driving deliberately slowly at the front of the field. Few had sympathy for the German, who appeared already resigned to defeat in this year’s championship.
However, Bahrain marked something of a comeback for Rosberg. He may have only finished the race in third place behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, but he proved throughout the day that he has some fight left in him. After dropping to fourth place behind the two Ferrari drivers at the start, Rosberg fought his way back past with some excellent overtaking moves. He didn’t back down.
It was an important statement from the German driver. Hamilton may be on another planet to the rest of the field at the moment, but Rosberg proved that he will be there to pick up the pieces should his teammate make an error or fall foul of a technical problem.
Ferrari’s resurgence is more intriguing. The team has established itself as being second fastest in 2015, and there is now a genuine chance of it catching Mercedes. Engine upgrades are on the way in the next three races, and given that the Ferrari SF15-T is far kinder on its tyres, it does have an edge in some areas over the Mercedes W06 Hybrid. It is unlikely to be enough to catch Hamilton at the front, but the pre-season target of two race wins set by team principal Maurizio Arrivabene now seems rather too modest.
Kimi Raikkonen also appears to have shaken off his winter rust. His drive to second place in Bahrain proved that he still has what it takes to cut it at the top in F1, and marked his first podium finish since the 2013 Korean Grand Prix. However, he will have to keep this up to earn a contract extension from Ferrari, the carrot being dangled to stop the Finn from losing focus.
Spring is a time for renewal and revitilisation, and that is exactly what we are seeing in F1 at the moment. Mercedes may still be the team to beat, but with Ferrari on the warpath, Vettel at his best and Raikkonen back in business, the championship is shaping up nicely as we prepare to kick off the European season in Spain on May 10th.
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