Source: Scuderia F1 Podcast via Twitter
Prior to the current campaign, Sebastian Vettel endured three seasons of struggle, as he watched his great rival Lewis Hamilton claim back-to-back Formula One crowns along with his compatriot Nico Rosberg’s triumph in the 2016 campaign.
The German was once the dominant force in the sport when he clinched the Drivers’ Championship for four terms on the bounce with Red Bull Racing, but Mercedes' emergence in 2014 culminated in a downward spiral for his tenure at the team – with his lowest finish since his days with Toro Rosso.
Vettel made the switch to Ferrari for the 2015 season, and although he picked up three victories, he was unable to match the pace of Hamilton, who secured the crown with ease.
His 2016 campaign was even less fruitful as the German failed to secure a victory in the 21-race term, finishing fourth in the standings on 212 points. However, the 29-year-old has returned to the form that saw him dominate between 2010 and 2013 at the start of the current season.
The new car provided by Ferrari has been able to match the speed produced by Mercedes, and as a result, Vettel has responded with two victories in the opening four races of the term.
He has laid down the challenge to Hamilton, holding a 13-point lead over the Brit at the early stage of the campaign.
Due to the 29-year-old’s strong start, he is backed in the latest F1 betting odds at 5/6 to win the championship for the fifth time in his career, although he should expect a stern challenge from his rival along with his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Source: Nida via Twitter
After two underwhelming seasons with a lacklustre vehicle in comparison to his rivals, Ferrari finally delivered speed to the German during the off-season. Their new car, the Ferrari SF70H, tested extremely well for the team, providing a huge upgrade in pace on the track with their new engine the 062.
Vettel made a statement at the Australian Grand Prix in the opening race of the 2017 season by defeating Hamilton from behind the Brit on the grid to claim his first victory since Singapore in September 2015.
However, his fortune was to change in the Chinese Grand Prix as conditions forced the German to switch his tyres from intermediate to slick, which allowed Hamilton to capitalise and secure his fifth win on the circuit.
Bottas announced his arrival on the scene by claiming pole position in Bahrain, but both Mercedes were undone by the speed of Vettel’s Ferrari as the 29-year-old clinched his second win of the campaign, capitalising on an error from the Brit.
Vettel highlighted his quality and consistency with his new vehicle by claiming pole for the Russian Grand Prix, but he and Hamilton were to be stunned by an aggressive move from Bottas in the early stages of the race that allowed the Finn to notch his first career victory.
The Mercedes driver has put himself into contention along with the German and Hamilton for the crown, but the two old rivals should be in constant contact in their pursuit of adding a further title to their collection.
Hamilton has yet to peak this season and as proven in the past, he is more than capable of upping the ante to get back on track.
Vettel is in unfamiliar territory as he bids to regain his former glory. In his previous campaigns, he was far and away the superior driver at the top of the sport, but now he is chasing to end Hamilton and Mercedes’ recent dominance.
The 29-year-old will need to harness patience and remain clinical to ensure that he can keep pace with the Brit over the course of the term. Should he maintain his level of excellence throughout then he will be able to lift the Drivers’ Championship for the fifth time in his career.