E this could have been a season for the ages . Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel fought a duel before the summer break that had not been seen in Formula 1 for a long time. The two four-time world champions took turns at the top of the drivers' standings a total of five times. The fans really couldn't complain about the lack of tension.
The German challenger got off to a better start. Although Mercedes made the much stronger impression in the winter tests in Barcelona, Vettel was able to secure victory at the start in Australia - also thanks to the kind help of a virtual safety car phase. In the second race in Bahrain, the Heppenheimer was right at the top of the podium again.
First Hamilton victory in Baku
Hamilton didn't seem to be on the right track. The defending champion also looked old for a long time at the fourth Grand Prix in Azerbaijan. Vettel and Valtteri Bottas fought for victory in the final laps. But a brake first threw the Ferrari back, then a puncture at Bottas ensured that Hamilton could dust off and claim his first win of the season. Hamilton's lead got better momentum. Mercedes celebrated a superior one-two victory in Barcelona. In Monaco, both title rivals Daniel Ricciardo had to give way. Only then did the Grand Prix of Canada cause movement in the world championship fight. A postponed oneThe engine update at Mercedes made Ferrari cheer. Vettel regained the lead in the standings.
This was followed by three races in three weeks that went back and forth. In France, Hamilton got the upper hand again with his victory, while Vettel left valuable points after a collision with Bottas. In Austria, Mercedes experienced the worst-case scenario with a double failure. It was surprisingly won by Max Verstappen. Vettel was unable to benefit from his competitor's technical bad luck as intended, but at least he took over the World Championship lead again.
World Cup turning point in Hockenheim
In Siverstone the Heppenheimer experienced his greatest moment. In the lion's den he defeated Hamilton and increased his lead to 8 points. The Ferrari was clearly the most powerful car. Vettel was suddenly considered the clear favorite for the world title. But then came Hockenheim and probably the greatest defeat for the German. To the horror of the fans, the local hero sank his Ferrari on a damp track in the Sachs corner.
Hamilton celebrated an unexpected victory in the Motodrom after a technical defect in qualifying. What nobody knew back then: It was to be the turning point in the World Cup fight. Vettel never recovered from this defeat. In Hungary, Ferrari had the fastest car on the dry track, but qualifying in the rain gave Hamilton the best starting position - and ultimately victory. During the summer break, the gap at the top was suddenly 24 points.
The Vettel victory in Belgium gave the Tifosi hope again. But in Monza, Ferrari experienced the second major bankruptcy after Hockenheim. Vettel turned in the first lap. And Hamilton also made short work of Räikkönen. The Brit received the trophy under whistles from the Italian fans. It was a punch in the stomach for Ferrari.
Hamilton winning streak makes for a decision
The engineers in Maranello got off track in the final sprint of the World Cup when developing the car. And Vettel just made too many mistakes. The result were further Hamilton victories in Singapore, Russia (thanks to the stable management) and Japan, which made the world championship fight a one-sided affair. The air was suddenly out.
In Austin, Ferrari was just able to prevent the premature title party at Mercedes. Kimi Raikkonen celebrated his first win in five years. But nothing could go wrong for Hamilton in the third last race in Mexico. As in the previous year, the Briton let the big World Cup party rise in the land of the Aztecs. It didn't matter that there was only 4th place in the race in the end.
In the gallery, we take you on a journey through the 2018 season, which for a long time was like a rollercoaster ride.