The occasional Formula 1 race can, I freely admit, turn into something of a tedious procession.

Just occasionally of course.

Like watching a re-run of Star Trek with all the episodes, from whatever year the SciFi show was made, having the same basic beginning, middle and end, week on week, year on year.

Or reading a book that, after the first two chapters, you realise you have read before but still persevere with it in the hope and expectation that you may have missed something and, surprise, you find that something.


It rarely happens of course but the expectation of a surprise is always there.

So it is with Formula 1.

This 2018 season had the look, after the testing sessions at the beginning of the year, that it may follow a similar path to the reasonably well scripted previous four or five.
Mercedes with Hamilton was very fast, the Ferraris were getting better, the Red Bull team was quite despondent about winning anything and the rest were, well, still the rest.

At the Australian Grand Prix, the Albert Park circuit threw up it's usual fare of unpredictability with (shock horror in Stuttgart) a win for Sebastian Vettel and the Mercedes team looking a bit off their normal pace.

As the weekend progressed through qualifying Lewis Hamilton reigned supreme, confirming the pre season suspicions of "just another year" and in the race he was looking assured of the win.

Lo and behold there did come a safety car period (caused by the Haas team who just happen to be a Ferrari 'B' team) and fortunes changed to favour Sebastian Vettel who went on to win after a Mercedes strategy error, compounded by an apparent software glitch.

Come Bahrain and surely the anomaly of Australia would be ironed out and Mercedes would once again be back at the top of the pile. Normal service would surely be resumed with Mercedes having grabbed pole position in five of the last six years at that track.
Ferrari certainly had something to say about that fact with Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen locking out the front row and Mercedes left scratching their heads in wonder and now looking to be very much on the back foot. The race was taken by Vettel from Valtteri Bottas and a pretty dispirited Hamilton so were the cracks in the mighty Mercedes team beginning to show?

The third race of the season, the Chinese Grand Prix, proved to be one of the most exciting races of the last couple of seasons with five possible winners as the race progressed and once again the race revolved around a 'B' team causing a safety car that ultimately benefitted the senior team.

In this case the cars of Toro Rosso clashing and Red Bull profiting from that.

With perfect timing almost belying a sixth sense, the Red Bull cars dashed into the pits, in formation for the second time in the race, to receive masterful service from the crew. Daniel Ricciardo then went on to perform a master class of driving and overtaking and become, yet again, one of the most popular winners on the circuit. He had the advantage of newly fitted tyres of course, as did nineteen other cars on the track have that same opportunity. Both Ferrari and Mercedes were wrong footed and did not, or could not, seize the opportunity that the Red Bull team pounced on.

Some say that Red Bull/Ricciardo was 'lucky' to win. For the millionth time of saying, it is a team sport and the huge, total team effort to change his car's power unit enabled Ricciardo to firstly take part in qualifying and secondly, by dint of perfect strategy calls and even more perfect pit work by the mechanics, to be competitive, and to give the team the luxury of a changing strategy to fit the conditions.

You make your own tactics that sometimes work as they did for Ferrari in Melbourne and sometimes do not. Some may call it 'luck' others look on situations like this as grabbing the opportunities presented.

The choice of tyres for the race was open to all and the timing of the safety car always results in good for some and not so good for others. It was Mercedes who chose not to react, unlike Red Bull, in that split second of opportunity, and with Hamilton behind Verstappen and in front of Ricciardo they could easily have done so, likely gaining the same advantage as the Red Bull drivers.

Is the tide of dominance ebbing from the Silver Arrows team or is this just a prolonged blip on the radar? Has their strategic 'nous' deserted them? Mercedes with no wins after three races, Ferrari with two and Red Bull with one. What odds would have been offered for that scenario just six weeks ago?

Valtteri Bottas in a Mercedes that is less than perfect is outperforming Lewis Hamilton who seems unable to adapt his style to that same car when he gets frustrated with it. Now we hear that the worried drums are beating in the Stuttgart head office of Mercedes apparently concerned that the team are underperforming. Just what do these bean counters want?

What we have now is exactly what draws the fans and viewers to the sport, a real competition, and those concerned, desk bound warriors in the board room really should give thanks to the likes of Daniel Ricciardo for making Formula 1 Grands Prix headline news around the world.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes winning their umpteenth race in a row really does not cut it.

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix at Baku is next weekend where in 2017 Hamilton got pole position, Vettel got the fastest lap and that boy Daniel Ricciardo got the win.

My optimism is still on a high.