Going into Barcelona this weekend, Lewis Hamilton has completed 169 laps during the current Formula One (F1) season. While the Mercedes driver was forced to retire early from the Australian Grad Prix, when on the track his car has been in the lead 97% of the time. This has made the Briton a targeted driver, even by his own teammate Nico Rosberg.
After a cylinder failing to fire forced the 2008 world champion out of the first race of the season, his teammate took the top spot on the podium. Since then, Rosberg has played second fiddle to Hamilton in each race. While Mercedes drivers winning each race is great for the team, Rosberg is the team’s number one driver and the German wants to win. Rosberg thinks he has the best chance in the field to take the win from Hamilton in each race.
The battle between Rosberg and Hamilton in each race is exciting for fans of Mercedes. However there are a number of other teams and drivers that are looking to not only topple Hamilton, but also take out Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel of the Red Bull F1 team is one of those drivers. However, the defending drivers champion has been struggling this season and going into the practice sessions for the Spanish Grand Prix, the four-time world champion’s problems continued.
As the race season was about to start, Vettel was the one targeted by all the drivers in F1. However, after poor performances in three of the first four races the Red Bull driver has only managed to finish in the top three once. In a psychological move to try to pull Vettel back into championship form, Red Bull swapped out the car’s chassis for a set up used during pre-season training. It was hoped that essentially resetting the car would be enough to bring Vettel back into to the thick of the competition and knock off the surging Lewis Hamilton. However, during the first practice, Vettel’s car quit. The struggling driver was forced to help push his car off the track and then hitched a ride back to the paddock on the back of a motor-scooter. As Red Bull tries to figure out what happened, that left Vettel only one more practice session on Saturday to qualify for the Barcelona Race.
Thankfully for Red Bull, Vettel’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo has not experienced the same issues that have been plaguing the defending champion and has managed to keep the team in second place behind Mercedes. However, with Mercedes taking first in every race and second in three of the four starts, the team is holding a lead of almost 100 points. Red Bull needs to see a vast improvement from Vettel for the team to return to the glory of last season.
As drivers attempt to find a way to beat Lewis Hamilton, there are two other teams sitting right behind Red Bull. Going into Barcelona, Force India and Ferrari are trailing Red Bull by three and five points respectively. While Vettel and Ricciardo may be fighting to move past Mercedes, the other teams are taking note of the possibility of moving past the defending World Constructors’ Champions. And with Hamilton targeted by every driver, including teammate Rosberg, the Mother’s Day race in Spain appears to have the makings for a great battle.
Commentary by Carl Auer