The 2018 Formula One season pushed Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport to new limits, with tough competition from Ferrari and Red Bull as well as an intense 21-race calendar and the series' first ever "triple-header". But, we managed to emerge from it all at the top of the Drivers' and Constructors' standings.
Qualifying in Australia is always an interesting session to watch - after all, it's the first session of the season where teams really show how strong their cars are. In 2018, this session was particularly good for Lewis Hamilton, who took pole position in Melbourne by a gap of almost seven tenths of a second. The race, however, did not play out in our favour. The deployment of the Virtual Safety Car period cost Lewis time and Sebastian Vettel was able to jump ahead and claim the win.
Round two saw a second victory for Vettel, although Valtteri Bottas pushed him hard right to the very end in Bahrain, with Lewis charging back to third after a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change.
While Vettel's winning streak was broken in China, we weren't able to secure our first victory of the season. It was Daniel Ricciardo who proved triumphant after pitting for fresh tyres under the Safety Car. Valtteri came close to victory and looked likely to finish on top before the Safety Car, but it wasn't meant to be.'
Two weeks later, the Finn almost got another shot at victory in Azerbaijan. In fact, after earlier drama between the Red Bulls, he was leading with three laps to go ahead of Lewis. But, a painful puncture forced him to retire. However, the race did see the first win of the season for our team, with Lewis taking over the lead and securing victory.
The first European race of the season was also the first 1-2 for the team, as Lewis and Valtteri put in a commanding performance at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain. Lewis left the track with a 17-point lead in the standings, but a third-place finish in Monaco - a tough weekend for the silver cars - with Ricciardo and Vettel first and second cut his advantage.
Victory for Vettel in Canada meant he snatched the Championship lead away from Lewis, who claimed fifth, while Valtteri was second for the fourth time in 2018. Lewis didn't have to wait long to return to the top of the standings though, after a controlled and commanding win at the returning French GP, while Valtteri finished seventh after a collision on the opening lap meant that he had to fight his way through the field.
France started off a relentless run of three consecutive races, the first triple-header in F1. From the race at Paul Ricard, the team travelled to Austria, where we experienced one of our worst weekends in recent years as a double-DNF ended a record-breaking 33-race streak of consecutive points finishes for Lewis. Valtteri took a beautiful pole position and was in contention for the win before retiring on lap 11, while Lewis dropped out of the running on lap 62.
Onwards to the British Grand Prix, a home race for Lewis and for the team - with Silverstone just down the road from our Brackley factory and a mere half hour drive from Brixworth. Lewis took pole position but dropped to P18 after a collision on lap one. A remarkable recovery returned him to the mix with Vettel and Valtteri in the final laps, but it was the Ferrari who took victory, ahead of Lewis, while Valtteri slipped to fourth after running out of tyres.
Germany was next up, and it was time for redemption on Mercedes' home turf. The weekend didn't get off to the best start though as Lewis experienced technical difficulties on Saturday and qualified P14. On Sunday, however, he charged up the field and claimed victory. Valtteri put in a strong drive to finish P2, making it a 1-2 finish for the team at their second home race.
A week later, we travelled to the Hungaroring, a circuit that historically didn't suit our car as well as other tracks on the calendar. But, both Lewis and Valtteri pulled out commanding laps in the wet Q3 conditions, locking out the front row. Lewis started from pole and controlled the race from there, scoring his fifth win of the season, while Valtteri finished fifth after struggling with worn tyres in the closing laps. After the Hungarian GP, the team was finally off for the annual summer break...
Returning to the paddock fresh from summer holidays, it was back to work at Spa-Francorchamps. Lewis started on pole but lost the lead to Vettel on lap one and claimed P2, while Valtteri lined up at the back owing to a grid penalty but stormed through the field to finish fourth.
A week later, the team travelled to Italy for the last race of the European season. It proved to be a good hunting ground for our boys. Lewis started from P3, but overtook both Ferraris for victory at Monza, while Valtteri finished P3 to make it two Mercedes drivers on the podium.
Under the lights of Singapore on Saturday, Lewis completed quite possibly one of the greatest Qualifying laps in F1 history to take pole. He translated that into victory on Sunday, with Valtteri fourth.
Valtteri was right on the pace in Sochi and took P1 on the grid, but during the race, Lewis started to blister his tyres and the call was made to swap our drivers' positions in order to protect Lewis from the lurking Ferrari of Vettel behind - with Lewis our sole driver in contention for the Drivers' crown at that point in the season. It was a tough decision to make, but the drivers executed it faultlessly and professionally and secured a 1-2 finish and maximum points for the team in Russia.
Lewis made it four wins in a row with a spectacular drive at Suzuka. Valtteri finished second for another 1-2, claiming his first podium at the Japanese GP. After three races travelling eastwards, it was time for three races in the Americas.
Third for Lewis in Austin meant the fight for the Championship trophies went onwards to Mexico, where Lewis was able to secure his fifth World Championship, equalling the historic record of another famous Mercedes driver - Juan Manuel Fangio. He's now one of only three drivers to have won five Drivers' titles or more - alongside Fangio and behind Michael Schumacher.
The team left Mexico with mixed feelings - happy about the Drivers' crown for Lewis but realising that the job was only half done. The Constructors' title was still up for grabs and we knew that Ferrari would fight hard to keep their title chances alive. Two weeks later in Brazil, however, we could finally celebrate: Lewis won the race and Valtteri finished fifth, claiming enough points to secure the team the Constructors' title for the fifth year in a row.
We rounded out the year in Abu Dhabi with Lewis finishing on the top step of the podium and Valtteri in fifth place.