2018 team and drivers review: Mercedes
A look back at how the Mercedes drivers and team fared in the 2018 season. Lewis Hamilton sealed a fifth drivers’ title and played a big part in his squad winning a fifth straight teams’ championship. It was very much a season to forget for Valtteri Bottas.
Constructors’ Championship | 655 points (1st)
The season just gone by was by far the hardest of the V6 era for the Mercedes team. They were pushed extremely hard by Scuderia Ferrari for the vast majority of the year and Red Bull towards the end of it.
Errors and some unreliability hampered their season at times, even though they won the championships in the end.
An error calculating the gap to Vettel before a VSC deployment lost them victory at Albert Park, not pitting under VSC in Austria would have cost Hamilton a win had he finished, and boxing under VSC at the US GP proved to be a mistake as well. A double DNF in Austria because of reliability problems shows they were far from perfect in 2018.
Crucially, a new wheel hub rim design introduced for Singapore changed the ball game and put them in position to run away with the championship at the business point of the year. It brought them three straight wins from Singapore to Russia, including two 1-2 finishes. When the pressure was at its highest, they stood tall and delivered.
While there were mistakes which they’ll seek to cut out next year, Mercedes managed to grab both championships for a fifth straight year. It has been a consistent level of excellence from the team and their drivers for the most part since 2014 – and they’re only one behind Ferrari when it comes to the record of consecutive constructors’ championships.
Lewis Hamilton | 408 points (1st)
Ultimately, 2018 turned out to be another glorious year for Lewis Hamilton. The British driver was simply sensational in the second half of the season. Quite simply, he blew away Vettel and Bottas in particular. It wasn’t plain sailing, however.
He found himself 17 points in arrears of the German with only two rounds gone after losing a certain victory in Australia to his main rival thanks to a badly timed VSC deployment, as well as only finishing 3rd in Bahrain.
3 wins in the next 6 races left him on top of the standings by 14 points following the French Grand Prix – but some patchy performances in China and Canada when he was clearly outpaced by Bottas showed he was struggling to find top form still.
Hamilton took a series of blows mid-season with a DNF in Austria, getting hit by Raikkonen at Silverstone (although he drove a sensational race to recover and finish P2) and stopping on track during Q1 at Hockenheim.
Yet, everything changed on race day in Germany. From P14 on the grid, he magnificently won the Grand Prix as title rival Sebastian Vettel crashed out of the lead. It also became clear during the race that Hamilton was getting full support from the team for the title as Bottas got told to hold position.
The other big moment in the title race came at Monza. At Spa, Vettel dominated and comfortably beat the Brit to the victory – and then the Ferraris locked out the front row at their home venue. It all seemed set for a huge title battle.
Again, it all turned around on a Sunday. Hamilton made a superb move on the opening lap to pass Vettel – and the German spun in the process. The British star then overhauled Raikkonen in the closing stages to take a massive win on Ferrari turf and put a dagger into the heart of the Tifosi.
He won 8 of the final 12 races as he delivered some phenomenal drives following his retirement at the Austrian GP – and unlike previous seasons, he won both races after wrapping up the title in Mexico.
During the most critical part of the year, he delivered some astonishing drives. At the same time, Vettel made a number of errors.
Lewis cemented his place among the all-time greats by coming out on top in a year where Mercedes didn’t have a massive pace advantage and found themselves in a massive scrap.
Valtteri Bottas | 247 points (5th)
Unfortunately for Valtteri Bottas, 2018 turned out to be even more difficult than 2017, although the pattern of his campaign was very much the same. The Finn said ‘’this has been my worst season [in F1], so far.’’
It all seemed so different in the first part of the year. A crash in Q3 in Australia was quickly put behind him as he outqualified and outpaced his stablemate in Bahrain, China and Canada.
A terrific undercut on Vettel in Shanghai looked set to give him the win – but a safety car deployment at a terrible time cost him. Ricciardo came through the field on fresher soft tyres and passed him for the win.
The biggest heartbreak of his year came at the next event, though. He showed superb race pace at Azerbaijan and following a collision between the Red Bulls which caused an SC, he took the lead after doing a long first stint. Cruelly, the Finn hit debris with three laps to go and picked up a puncture and lost a definite win. Hamilton got gifted the victory. It was a big turning point.
Bottas displayed good pace on a Saturday afternoon in the first nine round and only trailed Hamilton 4-5 after taking pole at the Austrian Grand Prix. He also finished 2nd on four occasions up to that point, which included his terrific weekend in Montreal.
Sadly, for the man from Nastola and his fans, the second part of the year saw a big dip in form.
In the final 10 races, he only appeared on the podium three times compared to Hamilton’s nine – and the one race where Bottas looked set to win, he was told to move out of the way in Russia to help his team-mate's title bid.
A bad feature of 2017 returned again in 2018. As the year went on, he really tended to fade terribly on a Sunday. A lack of pace was the main reason, but making an extra stop compared to his competitors also became common as he really struggled with tyre degradation.
He was very passive in a lot of battles, too. A perfect example was Bahrain when he should have had a go at Sebastian Vettel into T1 on the final lap for the lead and win.
It has been another bad hammering for Bottas vs his team-mate this year. If he struggles to find a high level over a full season again next year, 2019 will surely be his last for the team. He needs to come charging out of the blocks like he did during this campaign and sustain that form all the way through.
Finishing this season 5th in the standings, winless and over 150 points behind Hamilton is simply not good enough, even though his stablemate is one of the greatest.
Hamilton vs Bottas
Qualifying head-to-head: 15-6