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Top 5 controversies of the 2018 F1 season

Kimi vs Lewis at Silverstone!
Kimi vs Lewis at Silverstone!
Dev Tyagi

In a season that was expected to have been a thrilling showdown between Ferrari and Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton outshone Sebastian Vettel once again by becoming the world champion.

In winning his fifth driver's title, Lewis' dominance ensured that Mercedes took the Constructors' crown for the fifth year in a row.

In so doing, Ferrari were once again left straddling with the possibility of entertaining the notion about 'what might' have happened had they tried to approach the season, and therefore, their efforts, differently.

So utterly dominant was Lewis, especially in the second half of the season, continuing with a dominant win at the Hungaroring that it didn't really seem to bother his confidence when Vettel literally scorched to a sensational win at the Belgian Grand Prix.

But even then, as Formula 1 was pumped by the Hamilton vs Sebastian saga, there were other rather interesting moments that defined a year that was every bit entertaining as it was exhilarating.

Having said that, what were some controversial moments that made more headlines that one might have imagined, thus fueling the imagination of both fans and their drivers involved in a Grand Prix, at the end?

Daniel DNF Ricciardo

Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix
Azerbaijan F1 Grand Prix

If there was a driver who seemed to have tasted both- the ecstasy of winning two Grands Prix as well as the agony- of having missed out on many competitive finishes, then it was Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, who is now Renault-bound.

In 2018, Ricciardo registered two epic wins, that showcased his tough fight and mettle with the Chinese Grand Prix at Shanghai offering some mouth-watering overtaking, particularly toward the end of the contest.

Yet, even as Ricciardo, who went from strength to strength, gathering a famous Monaco win and thus ending his struggle at a track where he previously seemed certain of a win, his troubles were amplified by a car that suddenly became utterly unreliable.

What didn't please the driver one bit or his fans was the fact that the ever-smiling Aussie went on to register 8 DNFs.

This, in the end, took the sheen off his season, a year where the facet of seeing the familiar smile was wiped out by the ill-fortune of his Red Bull. Surely, as Ricciardo didn't leave a happy man from Red Bull, his season appeared polarised in the end.

The 'Wingman'

Bottas had an ordinary run in 2018
Bottas had an ordinary run in 2018

One of the biggest surprises of the 2018 season was the form of Valtteri Bottas, the Mercedes driver clearly enduring what eventually became a forgettable season.

At one point in time, it did appear- from a fan perspective- that the Finn was perhaps in the contest to merely help Hamilton win.

For starters, Bottas contested a torrid season. Nothing can ever explain this more profoundly than the fact that he endured a winless run.

In 2018, there were more opportunities where he threw away the chance of securing a win than seen ever before.

As the Azerbaijan Grand Prix resumed racing, with the cars picking up pace having scaled down the speed owing to a stint with the safety car, Valtteri who was leading the Grand Prix ran over debris and suffered a tyre puncture. Tough luck. Wasn't it?

Another spoiled moment came at the US Grand Prix, where Bottas, who had already cracked under pressure to Vettel's commanding fight at Silverstone, would run wide at a corner on the late stages of the race, thus allowing the German to leapfrog ahead and take fourth place in the GP.

Under pressure at various intervals during the season, Bottas' role quickly receded from having been a competitive force at the start of the season into being 'second fiddle' to Hamilton.

For his inabilities to convert strong starts and promising qualifyings into race wins, the Finn became a subject of polarising social media debates and trolls.

The 'wingman' claim, made by F1 fans as seen on social media eventually came to haunt the driver's season.

Having said that, it is worth mentioning that not everything about Bottas or his efforts was completely in shambles. After all, the Mercedes driver set the record for securing the highest number of fastest laps in 2018, at seven.

'Interesting tactics' at Silverstone

F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Lewis wasn't a happy man at Silverstone
F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain - Lewis wasn't a happy man at Silverstone

Hamilton extends a lot of respect for Kimi Raikkonen. The duo has really produced some amazing contest having been driving at the top echelons of Formula 1 for a while now.

In fact, on many an occasion has Hamilton openly lavished praise on Raikkonen's experience and ability to compete consistently despite the Finn being the oldest man on the grid.

Having said that, the camaraderie between Hamilton and Raikkonen, with Kimi offering no more than a smile or a near indication to one whenever the duo has been at a press conference or other media interactions together got tested- and perhaps to the limit- at the 2018 British Grand Prix.

At the start of the race at Silverstone, Hamilton, the pole-sitter, found to his utter dismay the commanding Ferrari of Vettel and his Mercedes' teammate Bottas going past his Mercedes within seconds at the start.

Surely, on the race day, it wasn't hard to note which was the faster car among Ferrari and Mercedes.

But then, in the struggle for track position, which quickly became a three-way fight inside the opening lap itself saw Hamilton, then on third, coming under the attack from the fourth-placed Raikkonen as Vettel began chipping away.

In the run down to Village, on Lap 1, Raikkonen, trying his best to pass Hamilton would make contact with the Mercedes, a move that spun Hamilton around the track and eventually saw the Briton dropping down to the back of the grid despite driving at his home track.

Later, Hamilton scripted a fabulous recovery and managed a second-place position in the end, ahead of Raikkonen but by then, Kimi and Ferrari had earned the wrath of a grieving Lewis who labelled the opening lap incident as being some kind of a 'tactic' deployed by Ferrari.

Insinuated by the incident- and to be fair to Lewis, who wasn't at fault for the accident- Hamilton's 'interesting tactics' comment would polarise the British GP and its reception in the end.

Kimi's ouster from Ferrari

F1 Grand Prix of Italy, Bwoah!
F1 Grand Prix of Italy, Bwoah!

Truth be told, the 2018 F1 season was clearly the best of Raikkonen's career from the perspective of his second-wind at Ferrari.

It was to be a year where the laconic Finn would prove his detractors wrong by managing to put his car right on top at the US GP, thus ending the draught where race wins were concerned.

In winning the US GP, it could be said, Raikkonen served a fiery blow to his critics who'd confined themselves to a culture of Kimi-bashing, a trend for which, it could be said, Raikkonen's absence on the top of the podium could be held mightily responsible.

Also, 2018 would see the 'Iceman' deliver Formula 1's fastest-ever lap, an effort that was observed with incredible reception at Monza as the Ferrari driver blazed a trail with gusto and daring, driving at 1:19:119 in the battle for qualifying to set the record for the fastest lap.

Yet, all of these brave feats would come to be challenged by the news of Raikkonen's ouster from Ferrari.

This was confirmed at Monza, the home of the Italian Grand Prix, which was another interesting contest for Kimi, who, despite losing out to Hamilton, clearly the better driver in the race, notched up his 100th podium, albeit facing the inner strife of having been told to make way for Charles Leclerc for 2019.

But then again, could there have been a better way to prove Ferrari his worth, other than finishing on the podium, at a track where the Tifosi came in great numbers to rave for the Scuderia?

Raikkonen, before being told to leave, inspired what might be remembered in future too, as a famous effort initiated by his loyal fans who started a petition to urge Ferrari to keep the Iceman in the team. How many drivers can manage that popularity despite being at the fag end of their careers?

Max vs Ocon at Brazil

F1 Grand Prix of Brazil
F1 Grand Prix of Brazil

F1 drivers are admired for their speed and all that incredible talent. But from the point of view of their teams, they are also advised to keep cool and use their energies better in a manner that helps them shape their race efforts better.

But one's not sure if that applied typically to Max Verstappen at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix.

To this day, it may not be entirely fair or accurate to suggest as to who exactly was at fault at Interlagos where one saw the Racing Point Force India of Esteban Ocon and Red Bull of Verstappen collide.

But what one does know, is that the collision that occurred between Ocon, then a backmarker and Verstappen, the race-leader, effectively ended Max' chances of securing what would've been an incredible win. And having said that, it also doesn't hold a great picture to reflect on what was clearly, 2018's most heated moment: the aftermath of the young drivers coming together on the track.

Max, clearly upset at having missed out on a win, wasn't going to cool down at the conclusion of the race. He'd be seen making his way to meet Ocon, who'd finished well outside the points and had already served a penalty for faulty driving. But it was the spectacle of the heated argument at the conclusion of the race and the fact that Max was seen pushing Ocon around that would lace the incident with controversy.

Edited by Victor R. Lopez M.

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