The 2018 F1 season culminated with Lewis Hamilton winning his 5th world championship. Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel was forced to settle for 2nd in the championship. After starting the season strongly, Vettel and Ferrari eventually faded away due to silly mistakes.
As with any F1 season, or any sport, controversy is never too far behind. Some of the controversies this season will actually make you question everything about this season. So, here are the 5 most prominent controversies of the 2018 F1 season.
Daniel Ricciardo’s Fragile Red Bull
The 2018 season started off well for Daniel Ricciardo with 2 wins under his belt. But then, the gods seemingly turned their backs on the Aussie driver. Ricciardo suffered from eight retirements, seven of which were mechanical. It was actually the most mechanical retirements suffered by a single driver in one season.
From Germany onwards, Ricciardo qualified lower that 10th at least five times. Now, with a switch to Renault in 2019, he is hoping for a change in fortune. Speaking of Renault, the reliability issues became more frequent ever since he announced that he was signing for the French team.
You Can Be My Wingman Anytime
Poor Valtteri Bottas, that’s all that can be said about the Finnish driver. Though he was a last minute draft when Nico Rosberg suddenly announced his retirement, he held his own from time to time in 2017. However, a year later, it was a different story and a seemingly different and more docile Bottas.
From 3 wins in his debut year with Mercedes, he slumped to not reaching the top step at all. But, he wasn’t always this bad on the track during the entirety of the year. He put in several decent performances to keep Hamilton on his toes. However, Baku 2018 had changed everything dramatically for the worse.
The Red Bulls had taken each other out and Bottas found himself in the lead and on course for a first win. However, a stray piece of debris put paid to that and his confidence took a major hit. Since then, he has had to play second fiddle to teammate Hamilton in the latter’s title bid.
Kimi and Ferrari Part Ways
Kimi Raikkonen was always on his way out from Ferrari, if not sooner, then later. He had amassed numerous critics who all said that he was not as fast as teammate Sebastian Vettel.
During his second Ferrari stint, he was fairly lacklustre and was always behind Vettel. But the 2018 Italian Grand Prix changed everything. The ever-popular Finn somehow stuck the car on pole position, to the delight of the Tifosi. Though he was eventually passed by Hamilton, it proved that there was still some fight in the old dog.
Then came the 2018 US GP, Lewis Hamilton was on pole with Vettel 2nd and Raikkonen 3rd. Conventional wisdom would say that Lewis Hamilton had it in the bag, but Raikkonen had other ideas. He went on to take a popular victory, while fending off Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, delaying the latter’s title celebrations. However, in the end, he was still dropped in favour of Sauber sensation, Charles LeClerc.
Pink Corner: Esteban Ocon, Blue Corner: Max Verstappen
It was by far one of the ugliest scenes in modern Formula One. Max Verstappen was set to win the Brazilian GP when a wild backmarker appeared. Naturally, Verstappen put the backmarker (Ocon) a lap down. Then, for some inexplicable reason, Esteban Ocon tried to unlap himself.
According to the rules, he had every right to do so, provided he is faster. In fact, in 2008, a lapped Robert Kubica did the same thing to title contender Hamilton, and the then Toro Rosso driver, Sebastian Vettel overtook the Briton for position.
Since it was within the rules of unlap one’s self, Ocon did just that, startling Verstappen. However, things went wrong and the two collided, sending them spinning off. In the background, with a metaphorical tub of popcorn in hand, 2nd placed Lewis Hamilton needed no second invitation and swooped into the lead.
After the race, Verstappen was on the warpath and stormed up to Ocon to confront him. The ‘discussion’ rapidly evolved into a shoving match and the FIA had to intervene.
Haas vs Force India
All through the 2018 season, Haas and Force India were constructors rivals. When Force India was disbanded and renamed to Racing Point, that was when the trouble began. The crux of the issue was, was Racing Point entitled to prize money from the get-go or, as a brand new team, not be entitled to prize money for the first two seasons.
Haas firmly believed that the outfit was not entitled to any prize money. In November, they questioned whether Racing Point qualifies as a constructor as defined by the FIA rules. As a new constructor, Haas was back then not eligible for a ‘column one’ payment potentially worth up to $60 million (£50 million) across their two seasons. However Racing Point Force India has received a column one payment since returning to F1, despite it being regarded as a new constructor.