If Mercedes manages to win the world championship in 2018, it will be its hardest-fought title yet. Not since prior to the hybrid era has Mercedes’ challengers been so close, with Ferrari and Red Bull combining to win more grands prix than the German squad by the halfway point of the season for the first time.
Yet it is Hamilton who is the clear leader in the drivers’ championship at the summer break, with more wins than any other driver on the grid.
The start of the season showed both sides of the coin … Hamilton blitzing the Ferraris by seven tenths of a second to qualify on pole in Australia - with the Mercedes’ engine’s qualifying mode receiving some of the credit.
SOUNDBITE: (English) LEWIS HAMILTON
4-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION
"Our qualifying mode is the most fun mode. It should be the party mode, or whatever you want to call it because it's got the most power, the most juice and it's when we hit the highest speeds.”
But raceday would go the Scuderia’s way … a strategy misstep allowing Sebastian Vettel to get ahead of Hamilton under a Virtual Safety Car - one of a couple of occasions this year that the pit wall has cost them a better result.
While the 2018 Mercedes is proving less of a diva than in years past, there have still been weekends where the car has struggled, but it has at least matched or been quicker than the Ferrari from the French Grand Prix onwards.
The low point of the year was its double-retirement at the Austrian Grand Prix … but balanced by its upset 1-2 finish on home soil at the German Grand Prix.
Although Hamilton rides into the break in top form, Valtteri Bottas is yet to secure a win in 2018, however bad luck has largely prevented the Finn from doing so.
It looks like Hamilton is their sole real contender for the drivers’ title, Bottas breaking through is crucial to the team’s constructors’ championship battle … just 10 points ahead of Ferrari with nine races to go.