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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Vettel stuns Mercedes as Ferrari turn up the heat // Speed and tyre conservation key to decisive victory

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It took twenty one races for Mercedes air of invincibility to be evaporated. For the first time, Mercedes were beaten in a straight fight on pace, with strategy a factor but by no means the sole reason they were beaten. Take nothing away from Daniel Ricciardo but his three wins in 2014 did owe a lot to Mercedes unreliability and unrest as well as weather. This wasn't lucky, this was the perfect blend of skill and hard work from Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel.

Four time champion shocks world with race winning pace

Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari: Started 2nd, Finished 1st

Momentum grew after promising long runs on both compounds in Friday practice
Momentum grew after promising long runs on both compounds in Friday practiceCredit: Ferrari Media

There had been murmurs in the build-up to the weekend that Ferrari had made steps forward and could potentially challenge Mercedes but few truly believed it after Mercedes dominance reached new levels in Melbourne. Momentum grew after promising long runs on both compounds in Friday practice which would prove the foundation to Ferrari's success.

Vettel was the star of qualifying, handling tricky conditions well as everyone had a single lap to make it into the top 10 shootout. Vettel didn't let the pressure get to him and set the necessary time while Kimi Räikkönen got it wrong, getting stuck in traffic, leaving him languishing in 11th. But the best was yet to come; on a track that was improving rapidly, the German put together a fantastic lap that was too strong for Rosberg and less than a tenth slower than Hamilton, the Brit unable to improve his time on the drying track.

Despite a poor start on Sunday, Sebastian Vettel managed to hold off Nico Rosberg through turn one, stopping Mercedes from playing the team game to hold off the Ferrari. On lap three came the turning point. Marcus Ericsson braked way too late going into turn one and spun, beaching himself on the very edge of the gravel. With a tractor needed to shift the stricken Sauber, the safety car was sent out as the FIA’s cautiousness in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s crash in Suzuka was plain for all to see.

Conflicting strategies left Vettel leading with Hamilton back in sixth

Worried about tyre wear the Mercedes dived into the pits to discard their medium tyres, hopeful that it would give them enough leeway on strategy. Unfortunately for them, Ferrari stuck to their guns and were confident enough to remain on their set strategy and stay out. The conflicting strategies left Vettel leading with Hamilton back in sixth and Rosberg in ninth having had to queue behind Hamilton.

This would prove Mercedes' downfall. Desperate to only stop once more, they had to conserve their tyres whilst chasing through the pack and closing the gap to Vettel, who was able to open up a ten second gap to Hamilton and 17 second gap to Rosberg before the Mercedes duo had cleared the traffic. From there, the Mercs were always chasing Ferrari in a desperate bid to regain the upper hand.

Give it a few more races before we deem them genuine championship challengers
Give it a few more races before we deem them genuine championship challengersCredit: Ferrari Media

But after Vettel made his first stop on lap 14, he was massively faster than the Mercedes and cruised up to the back of both Rosberg and Hamilton, cueing the German squad to change strategy and move to a three stop that was far from optimised given the early safety car and reaction to a genuine threat for victory. It was clear Ferrari had Mercedes on the ropes as Hamilton chose to pit and change strategy whilst Vettel breezed past.

The change in strategy left Ferrari with a full pitstop in their pocket and it was an advantage they never looked like surrendering, as Vettel easily managed the gap to Hamilton through the final stint. They had done the impossible and knocked Mercedes off their game and then beat them on both speed and tyre conservation. Having said that, let’s give it a few more races before we deem them genuine championship challengers to Mercedes.

Bad luck leaves Grosjean just short

Romain Grosjean, Lotus F1 Team: Started 10th, Finished 11th

Lotus have been desperately unlucky so far this season, with a second pointless race. After a dreadful 2014, the Enstone squad was optimistic of a recovery in 2015, moving to Mercedes power and completely changing their aerodynamic philosophy. The result was a car that looked strong in testing and gave them a platform to compete for fifth in the championship. Their pace was confirmed in Melbourne with a solid performance in qualifying before both cars failed to complete the first lap through contact (Maldonado) and unreliability (Grosjean).

The poor luck continued in Malaysia as Maldonado was hit in turn two once again, puncturing his tyre with a full lap to do to get it replaced before he eventually retired with less than 10 laps to go with a brake problem.

Romain got the best he could despite poor strategy and a spin
Romain got the best he could despite poor strategy and a spinCredit: XPB Images

Romain Grosjean was having a little more luck, as he got into the top ten shootout, qualifying eighth before a penalty for queue-jumping. He had made up his two place penalty by the time the safety car came out and the Frenchman elected not to pit, stopping instead on lap 15. His slower pace after the safety car behind Nico Hülkenberg had left him in 17th.

Despite this Grosjean got to work on his fresher tyres, making his way through the field until lap 29 when he was punted off into a dramatic spin by Sergio Pérez at turn 12, severely hampering his race and damaging his tyres.

It left Grosjean doing a three stop strategy and out of position and meant that the best the Frenchman could do was 11th place. The Lotus wasn’t as quick as in Australia but Romain got the best he could despite poor strategy and a spin. Points will surely soon follow for Lotus.

Teenage dreamland for Verstappen

Max Verstappen, Scuderia Toro Rosso: Started 6th, Finished 7th

I continue to be massively impressed by the Toro Rosso duo. Before the season I was apprehensive without an experienced driver in their ranks to help with setup. But in the first two races, both have exceeded expectations, showing fantastic pace, brilliant racecraft and maturity beyond their years. This time it was Max Verstappen's turn to star having been outperformed by Sainz in Australia.

Verstappen will have impressed Red Bull bosses no end
Verstappen will have impressed Red Bull bosses no endCredit: Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

It was Verstappen who put together the better lap in Q2 when everyone had one chance at progressing, allowing him to show his prowess in the wet with sixth place on the grid as Sainz struggled to 15th. Verstappen struggled in the first few laps, dropping to tenth and followed Mercedes in under the safety car to ditch the option tyres. But while the Mercs struggled for pace on the hard tyres, Verstappen aced them, running in the middle of the points throughout the race and will have impressed the Red Bull bosses no end with a fantastic overtake on ‘Steely’ Daniel Ricciardo through turns one and two on lap 17.

In the end he finished seventh for his first points to become F1’s youngest ever scorer, a record he will almost certainly hold for eternity. More notably, he finished first of the Renault-powered Red Bull stable, leading home his teammate by 10 seconds.

There simply is no fazing this pair and if these two aren’t at all flustered behind the wheel, Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat will need to start producing.