Looking back at the last two races, the Belgian Grand Prix and the Italian Grand Prix, Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel finished second and third on two tracks where he could have reasonably expected to finish third twice. If we strip away the emotion of the Italian Grand Prix’s proceedings, it is easy to argue that Sebastian Vettel left Monza with his mission accomplished. A third place finish yields 15 points whether a driver is one second off the lead or 60, and ahead of its home race, the Maranello team was very well aware of the fact that it was going to be Mercedes’ one-two victory to lose.
Ever since the early design principles of this year’s Formula One car were sketched out in early 2016, the Mercedes was always set to have an innate advantage at tracks like Monza, just as Scuderia Ferrari has been the team to beat on high-downforce, slow-speed circuits, like Monaco and the Hungaroring track.
What’s more, Sebastian finished ahead of the Red Bulls, which are becoming increasingly competitive and would have likely beaten the four-time Formula One world champion had the grid not been rearranged due to several engine penalties on Saturday night. With those 33 points secure on Mercedes’ strongest tracks, the tables are set to turn in Singapore when Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are more likely to feel the pressure from the ever-improving Red Bull.
“At the moment you can say that Mercedes has an edge.” – Sebastian Vettel said after the Italian Grand Prix – “Saturdays they are very strong which obviously has its contribution to Sundays, but it’s not a big secret. I think we are strong, we don’t need to hide and there’s plenty of positives. Things are coming, I’m sure they are developing their car but we are developing ours so I’m not so fussed about what they doing. I’m more focused on what’s going on inside us, inside Ferrari and it makes me quite positive, what’s coming. We just need to see and then there’s always the extra element of racing that you can’t predict, that you can’t put down on paper and that’s usually the most exciting bit so I’m very much a fan of that and a fan of the moment and see what we can do.” – the German driver explained.
As painful as the 36-second gap at Monza was, Scuderia Ferrari knows it was not a true reading of the balance of performance between its car and Mercedes’. Lewis Hamilton has made the most of his team’s strongest tracks at the start of the second half of the season, but now it is Sebastian Vettel’s turn to do the same at Ferrari’s. Bring on Singapore!