Mercedes and Hamilton left to rue missed opportunities in triple-header

Formula One's first triple-header is over, with Sebastian Vettel emerging from the back-to-back-to-back races eight points clear of Lewis Hamilton in the drivers' standings.

Ferrari and Vettel have obvious reason to be pleased, having added seven points to the slender advantage they held prior to the grands prix in France, Austria and Great Britain.

Yet there is likely to be much consternation in the Mercedes ranks, particularly as Vettel encountered issues of varying seriousness in all three races.

We take a look at how Vettel arguably over-achieved at the Paul Ricard Circuit, Red Bull Ring and Silverstone to stay ahead of Hamilton in the title battle.

 

FRENCH GRAND PRIX

Vettel's troubles in France were very much of his own making. The four-time world champion was deemed to be at fault for a first-lap collision with Hamilton's team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, and earned a five-second penalty as a result.

The shunt also resulted in Vettel damaging his front wing and he was forced to fight his way back through the field as Hamilton controlled proceedings at the front.

However, a fifth-place finish represented a decent recovery for Ferrari's main man and left Hamilton bemoaning the leniency of the penalty handed to Vettel by the race stewards.

 

AUSTRIAN GRAND PRIX

Having given up 15 points to Hamilton in France, Vettel immediately cancelled out that loss at the Austrian GP, thanks largely to Hamilton retiring with eight laps remaining.

Mercedes had seemed well-placed to record a 1-2 after locking out the front row of the grid, but pole-sitter Bottas suffered an early loss of hydraulic pressure and a strategical blunder then badly hampered Hamilton, who ultimately retired anyway as he lost fuel pressure late on.

All this meant Vettel was able to reclaim the championship lead despite starting the race in sixth after picking up a three-place grid penalty for impeding Carlos Sainz during qualifying.

The retirements of the two Mercedes helped Vettel to a third-place finish, enabling him to sneak back over Hamilton in the drivers' standings.

 

BRITISH GRAND PRIX

Mercedes must surely have expected to come away from Silverstone with Hamilton back in front, the Briton having qualified on pole as he sought a record fifth win in succession on home soil.

In addition, Vettel was struggling with a neck injury heading into Sunday's race.

However, on a dramatic first lap that provided an echo of events in France a fortnight earlier, Mercedes saw one of their drivers forced off by a Ferrari early on. This time, it was Raikkonen who made contact with Hamilton on turn three, leaving the latter way down the field as the Finn incurred a 10-second penalty.

Aided by two safety car periods and Mercedes' gamble in keeping both of their drivers out on medium tyres, Hamilton was able to rescue second position.

Yet he still lost more ground in the championship as Vettel claimed his fourth win of the campaign.

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