Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images

Sebastian Vettel expected to be Lewis Hamilton’s main 2019 foe

1 Comment

When asked who would likely be his primary challenger in 2019, Lewis Hamilton told Formula1.com “I would imagine it’s going to be Sebastian (Vettel). And Valtteri (Bottas) alongside me.

There is a good reason for that assessment. Hamilton and Vettel spent the entire season either first or second in the standings. Vettel held the top spot six of the first 10 weeks; Hamilton led the series the other four weeks and the average difference between first and second was 9.2 points.

Then came Germany.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Vettel crashed on Lap 51 while leading – handing the top spot over to Bottas for one lap before Hamilton took command for the final 15 circuits. The 25 points lost dropped Vettel from top rung of the championship by eight points to the second rung by 17. He would never recover and after the Italian Grand Prix, race 14 of 21, Vettel continuously slipped further behind Hamilton.

The only race after Italy in which Vettell finished ahead of Hamilton was in Mexico and by then, the championship was decided. Vettel finished second in the Mexican GP; Hamilton was only six points back in fourth.

If not Vettel, Hamilton is keeping his eye on Max Verstappen.

“They’ve got a great car,” Hamilton said. “They’ve been very strong at the end of the year, they’ve got a new engine next year. Will it be able to compete with ours? I hope so, because that would be epic if Red Bull could really start to mingle with us a bit more, weekend in, weekend out.

“They’ve got to obviously improve on their reliability, which has been a big downfall for them this year. So there’s lots of areas [to work on], but I really wish them all the best – and we are down for the competition that’s for sure.”

As Vettel was slipping behind, Verstappen was catching up. He outscored the Ferrari driver in the second half of the season and came within one point of securing third in the driver’s championship behind Kimi Raikkonen.

Of course, overtaking Mercedes is going to be a challenge for everyone. They have won the last five championships – four for Hamilton and one for Nico Rosberg. Before that, Red Bull Racing and Renault were on a four-year winning streak with Vettel behind the wheel.

Points Standings by the Week

Week Grand Prix Leader Second Third
1 Australian Vettel Hamilton (-7) Raikkonen (-10)
2 Bahrain Vettel Hamilton (-17) Bottas (-28)
3 Chinese Vettel Hamilton (-9) Bottas (-14)
4 Azerbaijan Hamilton Vettel (-4) Raikkonen (-22)
5 Spanish Hamilton Vettel (-17) Bottas (-37)
6 Monaco Hamilton Vettel (-14) Ricciardo (-38)
7 Canadian Vettel Hamilton (-1) Bottas (-35)
8 French Hamilton Vettel (-14) Ricciardo (-49)
9 Austrian Vettel Hamilton (-1) Raikkonen (-45)
10 British Vettel Hamilton (-8) Raikkonen (-55)
11 German Hamilton Vettel (-17) Raikkonen (-57)
12 Hungarian Hamilton Vettel (-24) Raikkonen (-57)
13 Belgian Hamilton Vettel (-17) Raikkonen (-85)
14 Italian Hamilton Vettel (-30) Raikkonen (-92)
15 Singapore Hamilton Vettel (-40) Raikkonen (-107)
16 Russian Hamilton Vettel (-50) Bottas (-117)
17 Japanese Hamilton Vettel (-67) Bottas (-124)
18 United States Hamilton Vettel (-70) Raikkonen (-125)
19 Mexican Hamilton Vettel (-64) Raikkonen (-122)
20 Brazilian Hamilton Vettel (-81) Raikkonen (-132)
21 Abu Dhabi Hamilton Vettel (-88) Raikkonen (-157)

WATCH: Red Bull F1 team completes pit stop in zero gravity

1 Comment

The Red Bull Racing pit crew may have already made headlines last weekend when it completed the fastest pit stop in Formula One history, changing Max Verstappen’s tires in 1.82 seconds, but the team’s most recent stunt took their skills to new heights – quite literally.

With the help of the Russian Space agency Roscomos, a group of the team’s mechanics completed the world’s first zero-gravity pit stop, on-board a IIyushin II-76K cosmonaut training plane.

Using a 2005 BR1, the team filmed the viral video over the course of a week, enduring seven flights and about 80 parabolas – periods in which the plane climbs 45 degrees before falling again at a ballistic arch of 45 degrees, creating a period of weightlessness for approximately 22 seconds.

With such a short time frame between weightlessness periods, the car and equipment had to be both quickly and safely secured before gravity once again took effect. Each filming lasted roughly 15 seconds, and the stunt was the most physically and technically demanding activity the live demo team had ever undertaken.

“It pushed us harder than I thought it would,” said Red Bull Support Team Mechanic Joe Robinson. “You realize how much you rely on gravity when you don’t have any!

“It challenges you to think and operate in a different way – and that was brilliant. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and honestly, I could have stayed and done it all month. It was amazing. I think it’s the coolest, most fun thing the Live Demo team has ever done with a show car.”

Though Red Bull was the first team to perform a pit stop in zero gravity, surprisingly Red Bull was not the first team to put a car through zero gravity. In 1999, McLaren driver David Coulthard and his car experienced zero gravity as part of a promotion for then-sponsor West Cigarettes.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter