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Motorsport | General

Lewis Hamilton © Gallo Images

Season Review: The fight for five in 2018



The essence of the 2018 motorsport season can basically be summed up by the fact that both flagship formats, MotoGP and Formula One, crowned five-time world champions.

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel entered the F1 season as four-time world champions and with Ferrari emerging as a proper threat to Mercedes' dominance, the race to only the third driver in history to win five titles was on between the two men.

Vettel was quickest out of the blocks, claiming victories in the opening two races of the season and opened a 17-point gap over Hamilton (who finished second and third in Australia and Bahrain).

Max Verstappen made his first real impact on the season in China, however, the impact was of a physical nature rather than philosophical. Fighting Vettel for the final podium place, the young Dutchman shunted the German, sending both spinning off the track.

Max went on to finish fifth while Vettel limped home in eighth, suffering from a damaged floorboard. Having struggled the entire weekend, finishing ahead of his title rival was an unexpected gift for Hamilton (fourth) while Daniel Ricciardo claimed victory with a great strategy call behind a safety car allowing him to surge through the field to claim his first maximum-point-haul of the season on fresh tyres.

With the gap reduced to nine points it was the defending champ's turn to claim back-to-back victories while consecutive fourth places for the Ferrari man saw the lead in the drivers’ standings swing the way of the Brit.

Leading by 17 points, the action headed to Monaco where second and third-place finishes by Seb and Lewis respectively were eclipsed by a second victory of the season for Ricciardo (who limped home in a wounded Red Bull that suffered a MGU-K failure leaving the Aussie with 25% less power and only six of his eight gears).

Victory in Canada for Vettel and fifth for Hamilton saw the German reclaim the championship lead, but the exact reverse result in France shot the Brit back to the top of the standing.

Disaster struck for Hamilton in Austria with Hamilton retiring from a race for the first time since the 2016 Malaysian Grand Prix and the pain was further compounded as Vettel’s third-place finish saw him regain control of the title race, albeit by just a point.

The British Grand Prix rolled around and Hamilton was looking to claim his fifth consecutive victory on home soil, but the Ferrari pair had other ideas. Lewis was sent spinning and to the back of the field by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, but with the aid of a few safety cars managed to recover and finish second behind Vettel, who now had an eight-point lead atop the standings.

That was as good as things got for the German as his season unravelled at an alarming rate.

It was Vettel’s turn to disappoint the home fans as he crashed out, from the lead of the German Grand Prix, allowing Hamilton to claim an unlikely victory after he qualified in 14th for the race.

Hamilton extended his lead with victory over Vettel in Austria and the result was again an exact swap in Belgium, and with just 17 points separating them in the standings, Vettel’s chance of claiming title No 5 were very much still alive.

But disaster struck as Hamilton went on a four-race winning streak and coupled with farcical strategy calls, reliability and decision making from the team, the car and the driver respectively, Ferrari and Vettel’s hopes all but disappeared.

Trailing by 67 points heading into the ‘Americas’ leg of the championship Vettel still had a mathematical chance of surpassing Hamilton but it would have required a monumental meltdown.

Kimi Raikkonen stole the headlines in Texas. Winning his first race since 2013 at the Grand Prix of the Americas and fourth for Vettel behind Hamilton in third brought the Brit even closer to the title with just three races to go.

When the show moved to Mexico it was almost a certainty that Hamilton would join Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher as a five-time world champion, leading by 70 points.

Max Verstappen claimed his fifth career race victory ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen but that accomplishment was dwarfed by Lewis Hamilton claiming his fifth Formula One Driver’s Championship, despite finishing off the podium in fourth.

Hamilton put further gloss on what was his toughest and most competitive championship triumph with pole-flag victories in the final two races of the season, further cementing his status as one of the greatest drivers the sport has ever seen.

No argument can be made for Lewis not deserving his championship win, though some might say we were robbed of a proper fight to the death by some shoddy work by both Ferrari and Vettel, but none can say that the 2018 season did not enthral in a way that has been missing throughout Mercedes’ recent domination.

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MAGNIFICENT MARQUEZ

The world is quickly running out of superlatives to describe Marc Marquez, who became the third most successful rider in MotoGP history after claiming his fifth title, in just his sixth season in the sport.

Much like last year, Andrea Dovizioso was the Spaniards only real title rival and the Italian got off to the best possible start, holding off a challenge from Marquez to win the season opener in Qatar.

Marquez had a nightmare in Argentina, picking up three penalties which saw him demoted from fifth to 18th while Dovizioso had an ordinary weekend finishing in sixth place.

Marquez then went three-for-three at the Circuit of the Americas, Jerez and Le Mans to open up a commanding championship lead after Dovi retired from two of the three races. By the end of that spell the championship fight was pretty much over.

Marquez failed to score points for the second time in the season but it sparked a run of results that saw him finish on the podium in all but two of the remaining 12 races of 2018, which included six race victories.

Dovi managed to secure three more wins in the season and only three more riders in Maverick Vinales, Cal Crutchlow and Jorge Lorenzo managed to get on the top step of the podium.

One of the major shocks of the season came when Honda announced the Jorge Lorenzo would be joining Marquez on their roster for 2019 while Dani Perdrosa announced he is leaving the sport after losing his seat to his compatriot.

With two world champions in the Honda garage and Dovi hungry to go one better than the last two seasons, 2019 is shaping up to be one to look forward to.

RELENTLESS REA

Jonathan Rea enjoyed a record-breaking season, becoming the first rider to win four consecutive world titles.

His season started slowly by his standards, failing to win at the season opener in Australia, but normal service was soon resumed.

He went on to win a record-equalling 17 races and was denied the opportunity to claim the record outright when the season-ending race in Qatar was abandoned due to rain. That cancellation also saw him miss out on the opportunity of breaking his own record of the most points in a season, falling 22 points short.

SIX ON THE TROT FOR SEB

Sebastian Ogier secured his sixth consecutive WRC title but it was a long hard slog that was only secured at the final race of the year.

Heading to Australia for the final leg of the championship, Sébastien Ogier, who was the defending world champion, Thierry Neuville, who led the championship for most of the year, and Ott Tänak, who got the most stage victories of the season, were in contention of the drivers' title.

However, disaster struck for the pretenders to Ogier’s crown, with Neuville retiring after clipping a tree and Tanak stopping due to a damaged transmission which allowed the Frenchman close the gap to Sebastien Loeb (9) atop the all-time champions list.

EXPERIENCE REIGNS IN DAKAR

The 56-year-old Carlos Sainz used up all his years of experience to pip Nasser Al-Attiya to the 2018 Dakar Rally title.

It was Sainz’s second triumph at the brutal endurance event, his first coming in 2010, while it was a third runner-up finish for Al-Attiya.

South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers finished on the podium for the eighth time and secured one stage victory in his Toyota Hilux en route to his third place finish.

**Motorsport takes pole position on SuperSport Showcase channel SS1 from 4.30pm today until 4.30am tomorrow with fascinating interviews with the likes of Juan Manuel Fangio, Damond Hill, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Loeb, Valentino Rossi, Marc Marquez and many more.

Watch Live on DSTV NOW.



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