2018 team and drivers review: Ferrari
A look back at how the Ferrari drivers and team fared in the 2018 season. For the second straight season, Sebastian Vettel and the Italian giants came close to toppling Hamilton and Mercedes but fell short following a number of key blunders from both sides. Kimi Raikkonen had a much stronger year compared to 2017, however.
Constructors’ championship | 571 (2nd)
Ferrari didn’t come out of the traps on top of the pile and were unable to match Hamilton and Mercedes in Melbourne. Yet, thanks to a wonderfully timed VSC for them, Sebastian Vettel jumped Lewis Hamilton after pitting during that period and resisted fierce pressure to win.
For the majority of the season, it was nip and tuck between them and Mercedes as to who had the fastest car until Monza.
Unfortunately for them and their fans, things started to go downhill late in the season as upgrades on the car post-Monza failed to work and they slipped out of contention in both championships.
Once again, the strategy team made a number of errors too. Races in China, Hungary, Singapore saw them cost Vettel valuable points and a terrible blunder to put both cars on inters at the start of Q3 in Japan topped it off.
The strategists need to do a far better job next year because they've harmed a number of Vettel's races and have been below par for a number of seasons now. Against the might of Mercedes and Red Bull, they can’t afford for this to continue.
Of course, it wasn’t all on them as their lead driver made mistakes which we’ll talk about below.
Ferrari can be happy about having delivered a really strong car for most of the season, but they’ll regret how they threw big points away while having the better (but not dominant) car.
It was another missed opportunity. The pressure will be even greater in 2019 to win a title. They’ve now gone 10 years without winning one.
Sebastian Vettel | 320 points (2nd)
2018 turned into a familiar story for Sebastian Vettel – and it played out like the one in 2017 did.
Just like last year, he came storming out of the blocks and in the opening part of the season, Vettel looked like the man to beat as he was driving at a very high level.
4 poles and wins from the first 10 races of the season saw him lead the championship following the British Grand Prix. His only real big error in the first half of the season occurred at the French GP when he hit Valtteri Bottas on lap 1. Apart from that blip, he showed more consistent speed than his rivals and had no real off weekends.
Then, his season went downhill in spectacular fashion.
After taking pole for his home race in Germany and leading most of it, Vettel crashed out of the lead on lap 52 in tricky conditions. It was a small mistake with massive consequences in the title fight.
A podium finish in Hungary and taking a comfortable win at Spa was the only respite from what followed next.
Monza provided the German with another hammer blow as a first lap spin after making contact with Hamilton saw him drop to the back of the field. Vettel recovered superbly to 4th, but Hamilton won the race and extended the gap by 13 points in the standings.
The mistakes kept on coming in the latter part of 2018: A desperate lunge on Verstappen at Suzuka which sent him spinning, earning himself a 3-place grid penalty by speeding under red flags during practice at COTA and then spinning again following wheel-to-wheel contact with Ricciardo on the opening lap.
Vettel's strong drives in Mexico and Abu Dhabi showed his class - but it was too little too late.
The German threw away over 50 points through his own errors and that's something he needs to cut out next year. For the second straight campaign, Vettel was outclassed by arch-rival Hamilton when it mattered most. The question is: Would Hamilton or Alonso have won the Drivers’ championship with the SF71H? Quite likely.
He may have outqualified stablemate Raikkonen comfortably in 2018 and scored more points and wins, but he made a lot more mistakes in races.
2019 will be a huge year for the German. Vettel is going to have a rapid young team-mate joining him at Ferrari as he still looks for his maiden title with the team.
Kimi Raikkonen | 251 points (3rd)
2018 saw Kimi Raikkonen return to fantastic form after a very difficult campaign in 2017. Raikkonen may not quite have the incredible raw pace he once had, but the Finn showed stunning consistency throughout the season.
Qualifying was a very strong point in the early stages of the season, claiming P2 at the first three events of the year. A mistake in Q3 at Baku cost him a certain pole position.
He also collected three podiums from the first four races as he stayed out of trouble as well as showing very good pace, particularly in Australia. Kimi was very much sacrificed in China to block Bottas and to try help Vettel regain the lead, but things turned around for him following the contact between Verstappen and Vettel.
The Finn’s qualifying form fell away somewhat from Spain onwards – but five successive podiums around the middle part of the year (France – Hungary) kept the Finn 3rd in the championship.
Raikkonen’s only glaring error on a Sunday came at Silverstone when he made contact and spun Lewis Hamilton on the opening lap of the race.
An amazing pole lap at Monza put him in a great position to take his first win since Australia 2013 – and it looked even better when Vettel spun on lap one following the contact with Hamilton. However, blistering on his soft tyres allowed the Brit to pass him for the lead in the closing stages of the race.
Nonetheless, the win drought for the Flying Finn ‘’finally’’ came to an end at the United States Grand Prix as he took a superb and very popular victory at COTA.
Raikkonen got a super start to take the lead into T1, defended brilliantly and held off Hamilton who was on much fresher rubber for three laps before his only stop and resisted the late pressure of Verstappen and Hamilton to claim a wonderful win. In all the key moments, the Finn excelled.
12 podiums in 2018 was the same total as his team-mate – and only Lewis Hamilton had more.
He may have finished 69 points adrift of Vettel, but 4 DNF’s out of his control lost him a lot of points. The Finn made far fewer mistakes in races, too.
It was probably the Finn’s strongest year since he returned to the sport in 2012 and proved his class once again.
With Raikkonen off to Sauber next year, it will be interesting to see how he does now he’s freed of the politics at Ferrari.
Vettel vs Raikkonen
Qualifying head-to-head: 17-4