Scuderia Ferrari has lost the points lead in the 2018 Formula One World Championship battle for the manufacturers’ title after a disappointing showing at the Spanish Grand Prix, which saw one-time World Champion Kimi Räikkönen retire due to engine issues about halfway through the race. His teammate, Sebastian Vettel, fared much better, ultimately missing out on the podium by a single position after a questionable tire change under a Virtual Safety Car.
Mercedes-AMG drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas started from first and second, ahead of the Ferraris on the grid, but Vettel quickly got ahead of Bottas heading into the first corner. The order at the front of the pack remained Hamilton-Vettel-Bottas-Räikkönen for numerous laps, before Sebastian Vettel became the first of the frontrunners to pit, on Lap 18. He came back out on track in seventh, with fresh Pirelli Medium tires on his car, and Bottas pitted on the next lap. Vettel just managed to squeeze out ahead of Bottas as the Mercedes driver reemerged from the pits.
But then, Räikkönen, who had inherited second place, experienced difficulties with his engine. Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo overtook him with ease before he pulled off and was wheeled into the garage. He was forced to accept a DNF for the race.
By Lap 35, Hamilton was back in first after a tire change, with Vettel ten seconds behind, and Bottas in third. Shortly after came the event that would change Ferrari’s fortune for the worse: Force India’s Esteban Ocon came to a stop at Turn 4, conjuring another Virtual Safety Car, and Ferrari decided to bring Vettel in for a second tire change. He was sent back out in fourth, wearing new Medium tires that weren’t capable of providing the grip he needed to catch Red Bull’s Verstappen, let alone Mercedes’ Bottas or Hamilton. Thus, there was nothing for it but to maintain fourth place until the end of the race.
After the Spanish Grand Prix, Ferrari has dropped back to second place in the constructors standings – still comfortably ahead of Red Bull Racing, but a full 27 points behind Mercedes. Sebastian Vettel, previously within spitting distance of Lewis Hamilton in the driver standings, now trails the Brit by 17 points. With two DNFs to his name, Räikkönen is in fourth, just one point ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
The action continues May 27th with the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix.