2018 Formula 1: The fight for five

Deepti Narwani Deepti Narwani

Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, Deepti Narwani takes a look at the long-running rivalry between championship race leaders Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

Senna vs Prost, Lauda vs Hunt, Mansell vs Piquet and now Hamilton vs Vettel.

The Australian Grand Prix saw last season’s title rivals go at it once again. Despite a dominant performance from Lewis Hamilton all weekend, a technical glitch in the Mercedes system handed the race victory to Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel.

With both Mercedes and Ferrari tipped to have the best cars on the grid this year, it is extremely probable that Australia was just a preview of the battle that we are set to see unfold this season.

Hamilton and Vettel have proven themselves as two of Formula One’s best drivers. In the 11 seasons that they competed together, Vettel and Hamilton have taken 8 of the titles.

But how exactly did they get to this point?

The Road To Formula 1

Coming up the ranks, Hamilton and Vettel were respectively pegged as Britain and Germany’s bright stars of the future. Hamilton got signed with McLaren and Vettel with Red Bull.

With the Briton being 2 years older, the pair only crossed paths later on in their junior racing careers – when they raced in the 2005 Formula 3 series.

With a superior car, Hamilton dominated the season but not without a thrilling wheel to wheel battle with Vettel on the EuroSpeedway Lausitz . Hamilton came out on top but Vettel showed off excellent race craft with the lines he took to defend against a clearly faster car.

It was already clear back then that these two had something special in them.

The Early Years In Formula 1

The McLaren and Red Bull prodigies next met in the big league – Formula One. Even though the duo never went head to head for a championship in their early years they still would occasionally meet on the race track.

2008 Brazilian Grand Prix

During the 2008 title decider between Hamilton and Felipe Massa, Vettel unexpectedly became a thorn in Hamilton’s side.

With just two laps to go, Robert Kubica who was unlapping himself passed Hamilton and Vettel but in doing so he forced the Briton wide and Vettel overtook Hamilton for 5th place.

Hamilton who needed 5th to win the title was demoted to sixth and struggling to pass Vettel’s Toro Rosso .

Timo Glock proved to be Hamilton’s saving grace. Glock who was in 4th was struggling on dry tyres in wet conditions. With no grip left, both Vettel and Hamilton passed Glock. Vettel came home 4th and Hamilton took 5th and the 2008 world championship.

2012 USA Grand Prix

Roles were slightly reversed in 2012. Vettel was leading the world championship and was hoping to extend his narrow lead over title rival Fernando Alonso at the penultimate race of the season.

The German qualified on pole and took an initial lead but was unable to hold off a charging Lewis Hamilton on fresher tyres. Vettel had to settle for 2nd place and just a small points gain in his championship battle.

2017 – Silver vs Red

Fast forward to the 2017 season where for the first time in their Formula One careers, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both possessed equal machinery to battle for the championship.

The duo remained cordial, always talking about “how much they respected each other”.

But things took a turn at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix when Vettel lost his cool behind the safety car and drove into Hamilton. That incident proved to be one of the most defining moments of the season as it proved Hamilton was leading the psychological battle.

During the Belgian Grand Prix, Vettel once again played right into Hamilton’s hands. The Briton strategically slowed down just the right amount to allow Vettel to be alongside him on the right kink onto the straight which then forced Vettel out of the slip steam.

Even though Vettel had some great drives such as the likes of Bahrain and Hungary, Hamilton’s maturity and skilful on-track judgment enabled him to clinch the 2017 title.

The Battle Continues

Both drivers are now level on 4 world championships and are fighting to be the first one to claim a fifth. Both have the talent but there can only be one winner.

So we now turn our attention to the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend where we will hopefully see the title rivals battling it out yet again.