F1 – Where do Alpine go next after boardroom chaos?

“I always say, you can’t get nine women pregnant and hope you have a baby in a month.”

That was the bizarre quote from the now former Alpine Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer, with the American removed from the team following a bruising 12-month period.

He leaves alongside stalwart Alan Permane, with Sporting Director also out after 34 years and numerous roles with the team.

Alpine’s new motorsport director, Bruno Famin, will be acting team principal during this period, and is assessing the team’s F1 operations.

Famin said at the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday that the moves had been made with “the aim of reaching faster the level of performance we are waiting for” with Szafnauer and Permane being “not on the same line on the timeline” and that “we have a different view of the way of doing it”.

The duo’s departure was hastily announced on the Saturday of the Belgian Grand Prix, and all seems rather sudden in keeping with an often messy period for Alpine and Renault’s most recent F1 project

Chief Technical Officer Pat Fry also departs, to take a similar with Williams from November, although this is unrelated to the departures of Permane and Szafnauer.

All of this comes two weeks after the Team’s CEO Laurent Rossi, a divisive and fiery character, was moved on to work on other “special projects” with Alpine and parent company Renault.

That leaves the team needing to fill its four most senior positions at the same time.

Why did Alpine hire Szafnauer?

Szafnauer was poached from Racing Point for the 2021 season following the sacking of Cyril Abiteboul, with the passionate Frenchman ditched after heading the Renault factory programme following their return as a team in 2016.

Abiteboul had overseen genuine progress from an awful 2016 after the French marque had re-bought the ailing Lotus team after selling up in 2010, with the team on the podium twice in 2020.

He had a habit of getting into public spats, most notably with the equally spiky Christian Horner at Red Bull following Renault’s still unsolved engine woes and the signing of Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull for 2019. That Ricciardo saw fit to ditch the Renault project after one year signalled the beginning of the end and a search for a new Team Principal.

Having worked with BAR and later the Honda F1 team for ten years from 1998 before a 12-year stint at Racing Point in its various guises from 2009, Szafnauer was seen as an experienced and shrewd operator.

He oversaw the rise of the Silverstone team from perennial back markers through to solid midfield runners and occasional podium finishers, culminating in Sergio Perez’s Sakhir GP win, garnering great respect as the team consistently punched above its weight.

He was ultimately tasked at Renault with implementing their “100 race plan” to get back to the front, a plan which save for Esteban Ocon’s shock – and fortuitous – win in Hungary that year – looks as far away as ever as the Enstone outfit languish in sixth, over 100 points behind a stated aim of fourth.

A chastening 12 months

Cracks in Alpine’s leadership can be traced back to the Hungarian Grand Prix last year.

Alpine were playing hardball with Fernando Alonso when negotiating a new contract beyond 2021, the team mistakenly believed that the Spaniard, who won two World Drivers’ Championships with the team in their mid-noughties heyday between 2005-06, had no other options.

Alonso’s move to Aston Martin announced the Monday after a race that saw him clash with Ocon came as a surprise right up to raceday in Budapest, and to rub salt into the wound has worked out for him.

He was for the first third of the season the only driver to even resemble a challenge to Red Bull and still lies third in the standings despite Aston Martin’s recent lull, the team having made great progress since a dreadful start to 2022.

Alpine then rushed to announce then junior driver Oscar Piastri as his replacement with a press release issued that day, curiously with no quotes from their supposed new driver.

Piastri would then issue a humiliating rebuke later that evening as he was in talks with McLaren, and the FIA’s Contract Recognition Board found against Alpine – criticising the team in the process.

Alpine went on to sign Pierre Gasly, who has done well for a team not operating at the level in previous years, but the damage to Alpine’s reputation, and particularly those of Rossi and Szafnauer, following the saga was significant.

Pierre Gasly’s third place in the Belgian Sprint race was a rare high in 2023 – Image: Pirelli F1

A poor start of 2022 was brought to a head by Rossi’s scathing criticism of the team’s performance, accusing it of “a performance deficit and an execution deficit” before stating, that it was “not worthy of of our resources” and going to accuse the team of “dilettantism (amatuerishness)” after a poor Bahrain Grand Prix where Ocon served three penalties, one for not serving an initial penalty correctly.



The one high point prior to Spa was an excellent podium for Ocon in Monaco and an excellent showing overall, and Gasly’s podium in the Belgian sprint ensured a positive weekend for the team.

They are currently sixth in the Constructors’ Championship on 57 points, as close to a rejuvenated McLaren in fifth as they are Williams in seventh.

What next?

The question of what next is impossible to answer with any certainty.

To fill one role at short notice is difficult but Alpine at least have the summer break to begin the process of filling those four roles, with the next race not until the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort at the end of August.

Famin is for now the interim team principal while Julian Rouse, head of the team’s young driver academy, temporarily fills the void left by Permane as interim sporting director.

Famin’s time will likely be taken up with  conducting an audit of the team’s Formula 1 operations but he cannot afford to dither.

At present the team are rudderless and with a lack of immediate options, may have to promote from within.

The team have faced accusations from former Renault driver and senior advisor Alain Prost, of a variety of faults ranging from corporate interference, a lack of structure and in the case of Rossi arrogance.

The four-time World Champion drew comparisons with Jean Todt, Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda with Lewis Hamilton,  and Christian Horner, Adrian Newey with Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen at Red Bull.

Prost, who left the team in 2021, then highlighted that the team’s only successful period this century was with Flavio Briatore and Fernando Alonso as a partnership with the point being that works teams perform better if the team is separate from the company.

The team have a lot of issues to fix from arguably their lowest ebb since that 2016 nadir. They have shown in the past that they can turn things around but the job, and pressure, is bigger now.

Whether Alpine take Prost’s advice remains to be seen, at the most critical point in the team’s journey since a return to factory status.


Images courtesy of Pirelli F1

Hungarian Grand Prix – Daniel Ricciardo’s return analysed

Daniel Ricciardo returned to the Formula One grid after a half year hiatus at this weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

The 34-year-old Australian replaced the sacked Nyck De Vries, himself dropped as suddenly as he was signed following a stellar 9th place at last year’s Italian Grand Prix.

It is a move Red Bull are almost infamous for, having swapped Brendon Hartley for Pierre Gasly at Toro Rosso in 2018, Gasly out for Alex Albon in 2020 and Daniil Kvyat out for Max Verstappen back in 2016. How did that last one go?

Ricciardo has resurfaced at Alpha Tauri following a disastrous spell at McLaren during which he never matched Lando Norris. That saw the Woking team pay the eight time winner to terminate his contract a year early to make way for compatriot Oscar Piastri.

This was after initially stating that he did not want come back to Formula One in back of the grid machinery, despite the team with whom Ricciardo started out with in 2012 – save for a half season cameo at HRT the year before – currently bottom of the Constructors’ Championship.

So why has he come back, how did he end up off the grid, what could he achieve and have we learnt anything from his first outing at the Hungaroring?

How did we get here?

Ricciardo left Red Bull with his stock among the highest on the Formula One grid at the end of 2018.

Ricciardo had a successful first spell with Red Bull before leaving at the end of 2018. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool


He had a successful five years with the team, winning three times in his first season in 2014 which ultimately saw 4-time World Champion and team leader Sebastian Vettel seek refuge at Ferrari.

He would go on to win seven times for Red Bull including a memorable success at the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, where he held off challenges from Vettel and Lewis Hamilton despite a total ERS failure leaving him over 100 bhp down on power.

A couple of high profile incidents with Verstappen, at Budapest in 2017 and more famously in Baku the following year saw things begin to sour and Ricciardo joined Renault for 2019.

A sluggish 2019 for the Enstone team made way for a better 2020, but by the start of that season he’d already decided to abandon the Renault project before the first race of the Covid-delayed season to sign for McLaren.

He was expected to lead the Woking outfit, paired with Lando Norris but despite victory at Monza during his debut season, it did not work out that way.

Ricciardo struggled badly at McLaren, but did win their first race since 2012 with victory at 2021 Italian Grand Prix (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202109120251 // Usage for editorial use only //

Ricciardo struggled with McLaren’s inconsistencies on corner entry during both years there, and scored roughly a third of the points scored by Norris during that period and left the team a shadow of the driver that deposed a reigning four-time champion from Red Bull eight years prior.

Why move to Alpha Tauri, and what might he gain? 

He took refuge as Red Bull’s third driver to work on the simulator and assess options for the upcoming seasons, where even they noticed “bad habits” had crept in as Ricciardo’s driving had become so compromised by his attempts to change his driving style to try to suit McLaren.

Ricciardo says that he’s realised he needs to   drive naturally to get the best out of himself and the car, rather than change his style.

He was expected to appear on certain race weekends in an ambassadorial role for Red Bull and work on their simulator at the factory.

That was until Nyck De Vries’ performances began to fade badly in the face of a solid if low key season from Yuki Tsunoda at Red Bull’s junior team.

De Vries’ struggles for consistency coupled with a tendency to collide with other drivers such as Kevin Magnussen in Canada or the wall such as twice in Baku had led to questions over whether the Dutchman would see out 2023.

At the same time, Red Bull’s other driver Sergio Perez was experiencing struggles of his own, failing to get into the final part of qualifying for five straight races in comfortably the best car on the grid, and only breaking that duck this weekend with ninth place.

Sergio Perez (right) has struggled for form and consistency in a troubled 2023 (Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images)

Ricciardo has not taken the seat because his ultimate goal is to drive for Alpha Tauri – his mind has not changed from his comments at the end of last season.

The return to Alpha Tauri is to effectively put himself in the shop window, whether that is to replace Perez at Red Bull for this or next year. Perez has a contract for 2024.

If Ricciardo shows well and ultimately beats Tsunoda, Red Bull will know that they have a competitive replacement should Perez, 110 points (over four race victories) behind Verstappen, continue to falter and crucially an experienced driver who has raced at the front of the grid before. Being a known quantity may go in his favour.

Can we learn anything from his return this weekend?

As we’ve seen already with Red Bull it would be foolish to judge a driver’s potential from one race, as with De Vries.

The signs are good – Ricciardo’s pace in a recent tyre test at Silverstone in the RB19 was competitive, and out of the car he appears a completely different man to the one unceremoniously dumped by McLaren.

His results on the track were never going to be earth-shattering this weekend – two tenth places are the team’s best result courtesy of Tsuonda and they are on average the ninth slowest car on the grid.

Ricciardo made a solid return to the grid at the Hungaroring, taking 13th place (Red Bull Content Pool / Getty)

After outqualifying Tsunoda to line up 13th, the first time in five races Alpha Tauri have gotten out of Q1, Ricciardo’s cause wasn’t helped when Zhou Guanyu used his Alpha Tauri as a battering ram against the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly.

That saw him drop to 18th but the pace was there and he brought himself back up to 13th with a mixture of decent pace relative to machinery and a Ricciardo-inspired strategy call to ditch hard tyres after 11 laps on lap 29, and take fresh mediums to the end.

He and Alpha Tauri Team Principal Franz Tost believe it could be four races before the Australian is properly up to speed, but should the team – and Red Bull – see the old Ricciardo as opposed to the McLaren-spec one then it is possible that he may take the second Red Bull seat.

Perez, for his part, says that it is in his (Perez’s) hands and the Mexican is right. If he stops making basic errors such as dropping a wheel onto the grass on his first lap of the weekend, or crashing into the wall in Q1 in Monaco, then Red Bull will see no reason to replace him.

If he doesn’t, the door is very much ajar.

Images courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool / Getty Images / Pirelli F1 Media

Hungarian Grand Prix – Verstappen takes a crushing win as Red Bull break win record

Max Verstappen  won at a canter to take a seventh win in a row and ninth of the 2023 season.

His win means that Red Bull break McLaren’s record of 11 straight victories in 1988, with the Milton Keynes outfit now on their 12 straight triumph.

The result means Verstappen has a championship advantage of 110 points, more than four race victories without reply, over teammate Sergio Perez.

His 44th career win came ahead of Lando Norris, who took consecutive podiums for the first time in his career after second in Silverstone last time out, and a resurgent Perez in third.

Polesitter Lewis Hamilton was down in fourth after a tough first corner saw him lose places to Verstappen, eventual fifth place finisher Oscar Piastri and Norris at Turn 2.

Piastri lost pace after his first stop, but these previous two weekends have shown a real coming of age having not raced in 2022 and starting life in Formula One with an undercooked McLaren.

George Russell rose well from 18th on the grid to finish sixth after Charles Leclerc’s penalty dropped the Monegasque to seventh ahead of Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz.

Fernando Alonso on the 20th anniversary since his first Grand Prix win was ninth as Aston Martin completed a Noah’s Ark top 10 with Lance Stroll in tenth.

A good initial launch at the start from Hamilton was wasted in the second phase and Verstappen got alongside, and crucially for Turn One, the inside to block pass his rival and stop his run on the exit.

That allowed Piastri to take the inside and move to second, with Hamilton boxed in to allow Norris a run on the outside of the second corner.

Behind them an awful start from fifth for Zhou Guanyu in the Alfa Romeo left him out of sync on the run to the first corner and he outbraked himself to hit the back of the returning Daniel Ricciardo’s Alpha Tauri.

That sent the Australian into the Alpine of Esteban Ocon, who launched over his teammate Pierre Gasly to break not only car but his seat, and resulted in another double retirement for the Enstone team.

Behind Verstappen the story was how quickly Perez could make his way through the field from ninth on the grid.

The Mexican was quickly into his stride dispatching the Alfa Romeos of Zhou and Valtteri Bottas, who started seventh, before taking Alonso’s seventh early on.

From there he settled behind the Ferrari duo, before Sainz stopped on lap 16 to release Perez – Leclerc would follow suit shortly after.

After that he stalked Hamilton’s Mercedes through the second stint, the both catching Piastri who had lost out to Norris in the first round of pit stops.

Both Perez and Piastri pitted on lap 44 to leave Hamilton stranded on old hards for a further six laps, and Perez passed Piastri three laps after their stops.

Norris proved to be a bridge too far in second and he couldn’t make it a 1-2 on a day of history for Red Bull.

The race marked a solid return to F1 for Daniel Ricciardo, who’s 13th for Alpha Tauri capped off a weekend that saw him outqualify and outrace teammate Yuki Tsunoda.

Red Bull in a class of their own

Verstappen and Red Bull were once again in a class of their own. (Getty/Red Bull Content Pool)

Verstappen made a mockery of Hamilton’s pole position and talk of a Mercedes victory within the first ten seconds of the race.

From there, his afternoon followed a familiar pattern in that he controlled the race, stretched out a comfortable lead and completed a trouble free run to the flag.

Red Bull’s 12th win broke a 35-year-old record set by McLaren for wins in a row and, as with 1988, it’s only the prospect of a double DNF that looks set to stop them from winning every race this season.

McLaren won 15 of 16 races that year, and a 100% record season is surely a target now for the current World Champions.

McLaren prove themselves

McLaren had not been expected to match the heights of the British Grand Prix, with their car suited to high speed corners at Silverstone and the team struggling on lower speed corners that characterise the Hungaroring circuit.

So it was a surprise to see Norris and Piastri qualify in third and fourth on Saturday, and aside from Perez recovering from another out of position start to finish roughly where his Red Bull should have been, they stayed there.

Piastri faded somewhat after his second stop eventually finish fifth but the rookie can be pleased with his efforts nonetheless on a circuit he hasn’t raced on since 2020.

Lando Norris
Lando Norris took his second straight podium, for the first ever time (Pirelli F1 Media)

Norris meanwhile underlined his credentials as a future world champion by backing up second place last time out with another runners-up finish in Budapest as McLaren look like they are here to stay.

Ferrari and Aston Martin falter

Put kindly, Ferrari had another race to forget.

After Carlos Sainz qualified 11th and Leclerc sixth, their pace was badly shown up by McLaren’s improvement and George Russell coming through from 18th on the grid to beat the pair of them in sixth.

Leclerc was heard less than impressed on the radio with their strategy, and lost time in the pit stops with a slow rear left tyre change.

For Aston Martin, their pace since the Austrian Grand Prix has slowly slipped away culminating in a finish this weekend at the very rear of the points in ninth and tenth for Alonso and Stroll.

The Silverstone team has never counted the Hungaroring among its favourite tracks, but there’s a lot of work to be done if they are once more emerge as one of Red Bull’s primary challengers.

Mercedes’ contrasting day.

When Lewis Hamilton woke this morning fresh from a shock 104th pole position yesterday, he cannot have expected fourth to be the best that his Mercedes could achieve today.

Mercedes struggled badly in the middle of the race as hard tyres and heavy fuel took a heavy toll in the second stint and ultimately extinguished any chance of a podium – a late salvo not enough for Hamilton to overhaul Perez.

Similarly, when Russell was tucking into his morning Weetabix, he cannot have expected sixth place from 18th on a track where overtaking is difficult.

He was helped slightly by Zhou’s skittling of the Alpines at Turn One, but his pace was solid late on and struggles for pace on the hard tyre masked by being in a train of slower cars earlier in the race, and his charge against a spent Ferrari team ensured that he salvaged a good result from an awful Saturday.

Images courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool / Getty mages, and Pirelli F1

Hungarian Grand Prix – Red Bull favourites as Ricciardo returns

Red Bull will once again pitch up to the Hungaroring as favourites to emerge victorious and continue a perfect start to 2023.

The Milton Keynes team will be bringing a raft of upgrades including changes to the cooling slot and reprofiled sidepods (Watch out copycats) but arguably its biggest story this week is with its junior team.

Max Verstappen has long since vanquished any hope of a championship fight and now holds a near 100 point lead in the standings over teammate Sergio Perez.

Verstappen has only failed to win twice this season and has eight victories.

The Hungarian Grand Prix traditionally marks the halfway point of the Formula One season, and as Round 11 this season is no different.

At Alpha Tauri, Nyck De Vries will not see even half the season out as the 2021 Formula E champion was unceremoniously dumped out of Red Bull’s B Team in favour of a return of a familiar face.

Daniel Ricciardo returns to the place where it all began, save for a half season in 2011 at HRT, by rejoining the team first knwon as Toro Rosso.

Ricciardo, 34, had previously said that he would not return unless  it was in a competitive seat.

Alpha Tauri are on average ninth quickest in 2023 and are bottom of the Constructors’ this season with two points courtesy of Yuki Tsunoda.

Clearly that is not what the affable Australian meant, but he has identified it as a chance to shown Red Bull that the Honey Badger is still in there – Ricciardo did win eight Grands Prix with Red Bull and McLaren and was renowned for his wheel to wheel racing with Red Bull.

With Perez faltering at Red Bull – he’s failed to get into the final part of qualifying since Miami in May, there is talk that should Ricciardo impress again that he could make a sensational return to the team he quit in 2018.

How realistic that is remains to be seen.

Away from Red Bull’s latest driver swap, the battle for best of the rest looks set to once more see-saw between Aston Martin, McLaren, Mercedes and Ferrari.

Ferrari’s race management was dismal at Silverstone last time out and the Scuderia could only manage ninth and tenth with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz after a poor tyre choice and strategy saw them slip backwards after a late Safety Car.

Mercedes managed to return to the podium with Lewis Hamilton, who benefitted at the expense of McLaren driver Oscar Piastri to move up to third during that safety car period, but were surprised by McLaren’s sudden gain in pace.

Lando Norris was second for the Papaya outfit, and left Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff to suggest that their rivals’ progress is a positive, and that McLaren’s jump shows that huge progress is possible.

McLaren for their part do not expect to hit the heights of second and fourth this weekend, with the twisty Budapest track exposing their slow corner weakness much more than Silverstone, but the base package is still expected to score points this weekend.

That leaves Aston Martin as Mercedes’ likely best of the rest challengers.

The Silverstone team have been low key of late, failing to reach the podium at either Austria or the British Grand Prix, two layouts which favour high speed performance and low drag.

They’ve shown a preference for slower speed tracks and were arguably the closest team to toppling Red Bull this season, when a strategic error arguably cost them the win at a wet Monaco Grand Prix.

This weekend marks the 20th anniversary of Fernando Alonso’s first win, then for Renault, at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Red Bull are expected to make further history this weekend, where victory would be their 12th in a row and see them out on their own after previously tying with McLaren’s 11 in the late 1980s.

British Grand Prix Preview – Can Anyone Stop the Verstappen Juggernaut?

This weekends marks one of those rare occasions in British sport.

It is Round 10 of the 2023 Formula One World Championship as the British Grand Prix rolls into Silverstone. The Wimbledon Tennis Tournament is in full swing and the third Test Ashes Test between England and Australia will be on Day Four at Headingley.

The last time those three sports collided on the same day in Great Britain was 2019, where Lewis Hamilton won the Grand Prix in another all conquering, England won the Cricket World Cup “by the barest of margins” and Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer in a thriller in SW19.

Verstappen juggernaut rolls on.

12 months ago it looked as if Verstappen would take a comfortable victory after passing Charles Leclerc for the lead during the race.

That was until he ran over a piece of debris caused by Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly, before Ferrari left Charles Leclerc to fend for himself after a Safety Car allowing Carlos Sainz to win his first career Grand Prix.

As with 2019, 2023 has a dominant team and one dominant driver, as Hamilton was cruising to the sixth of his seven World Drivers’ Championships, while this season Max Verstappen can pick and choose the races he attends and he will still be the Drivers’ Champion for a third time.

It is a question of when, not if he wins the World Championship and inevitably Verstappen is the hot favourite to win his eighth race of the season, and keep Red Bull’s 100% record in 2023 going.

The Dutchman has won the last five Grands Prix and lies 81 points – over three race victories – clear of Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez.

The fight behind Red Bull.

The real fight is behind them, with three teams vying to be the best of the rest.

Mercedes currently have that honour with Lewis Hamilton and George Russell consistently banking points.

The Silver Arrows are three points clear of Aston Martin – largely as a result of Lance Stroll’s struggles to match teammate Fernando Alonso for the Silverstone team.

The Spaniard is himself just 18 points behind Perez in third but, as with the cricket, it is very difficult to see the home side managing an unlikely series victory this weekend.

The third team fighting for the best of the rest is Ferrari, who have had something of a renaissance themselves over the last two races with a well managed fourth and fifth in Canada, before Charles Leclerc took an excellent second place in Austria last week.

McLaren, sporting a throwback Chrome livery in a nod to their history this weekend, will be looking to build on a strong weekend for Lando Norris who took fourth in Austria, as their season of catch up continues.

Track Limits?!

As yes, track limits.

Last weekend saw a farcical 1,200 instances of drivers losing lap times for exceeding track limits, largely at the final corner around the 2.7 mile Red Bull Ring.

Track limits will be monitored at Copse Corner, or Turn 9 depending on who you are, but we can expect minimal impact as the layout at Silverstone’s former first corner is different, and crucially a lot less awkward, than the final corner in Spielberg.

Don’t expect to see eight drivers affected by track limit penalties, five hours after the race this weekend.

What else should I look out for?

Well…. the battle at the bottom.

With McLaren and Alpine in fifth and sixth in the Constructors cut well adrift from the top four, four teams at the bottom are separated by nine points.

Haas and in particular Nico Hulkenberg benefitted from a wet-dry sprint qualifying, and race, to nick sixth place and three points as more established teams fell over themselves on Saturday to lift themselves up to seventh in standings with 11 points.

They’re two points clear of Alfa Romeo on nine, with the team run by Sauber having failed to push on from a strong 2022 to sit just two points clear of a resurgent Williams team.

Their team principal James Vowles has warned that progress will be slow, but despite this the team, courtesy of Alex Albon, have been genuine points contenders ever since a raft of upgrades were introduced at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Rookie Logan Sargent will finally be able to access those this week, as the team look to celebrate 800 races in style.

At the bottom of the pile, Alpha Tauri’s miserable season continues with Nyck de Vries seemingly unable to get close to scoring points, while Yuki Tsunoda has two points.

Dr Vries has been the subject of speculation over his future in his debut season in the sport, with Red Bull driver supremo recently suggesting that Red Bull team principal Christian Horner “maybe was right” in his opposition to signing the Dutchman.

Canadian Grand Prix: Verstappen Dominates in Montreal

Max Verstappen took a lights-to-flag victory in Montreal to complete another dominant weekend for Red Bull Racing.

The win is Red Bull’s 100th in Formula One since the energy drinks company bought Ford out in 2005, and also puts Max Verstappen level on wins with Ayrton Senna at 41.

Triumph at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve sees the Dutchman extend his championship lead over teammate Sergio Perez to 69 points, as Red Bull now head Mercedes in the Conctructors’ Championship by a whopping 154 points.

Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin held on for second ahead of a charging Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes, while the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz recovered to fourth and fifth respectively.

Perez ended a disappointing sixth from 12th on the grid, a point for fastest lap scant consolation for the Mexican who suffered a third disappointing weekend in a row.

As has been the norm in 2023, Verstappen led away from the start and controlled the race from the outset, briefly interrupted by a Safety Car brought out after 12 laps following George Russell’s collision with the barriers.

From there, the two-time World Champion controlled the race, with Verstappen even able to laugh at nearly crashing at Turn Nine in the same way Russell did, such was his comfort five laps from the end.

The big fight was for second, as Hamilton passed Alonso off at the start and held station until shortly after the Safety Car returned to the pits, when Alonso outbraked his old nemesis into the final chicane and gently broke away.

In truth from there on, the Spaniard’s main annoyance after surviving an early race brush with the Turn 4 barrier was having to lift and coast despite that Safety Car, owing to a brake wear problem.

Those two were closely followed by Russell until lap 12, the Norfolk driver clouting the wall after taking too much kerb at Turn 9.

He was able to carry on until 20 laps from the end, when a brake issue that was a legacy of that crash damage sustained from that early race shunt, having fought up to 8th from there.

Driver of the Day Alexander Albon was an excellent seventh in his much upgraded Williams, six points lifting the Grove team off the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship.

That came courtesy of Williams’ straight line speed, with Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Valtteri Bottas, Oscar Piastri and Pierre Gasly all within five seconds of the Thai driver at race end. A penalty dropped Norris to 13th at race end.

Aston Martin and Mercedes begin to close the gap?

In Alonso and Hamilton, Aston Martin and Mercedes have two world class drivers reinvigorated of late.

Alonso has been the closest thing to a challenge Red Bull has had all season, while Hamilton was in the fight for second all the way until the end, a huge upgrade package from Mercedes a introduced a month ago paying dividends.

This weekend it was Aston Martin’s turn to bring upgrades, and in finishing eight seconds behind Verstappen the Silverstone squad will feel those improvements have worked, irrespective of whether Red Bull weren’t exactly going flat out.

Further back, Stroll fought his way up to ninth after a poor qualifying session, a penalty and a compromised race strategy as Mercedes’ George Russell was running well before his incident on lap 12.

More punishment for Perez

For Sergio Perez it was another lacklustre weekend as for a third straight race, the man second in the standings was punished for a poor qualifying performance.

It was another disappointing weekend for Sergio Perez

Starting 12th, he failed to make much of an impact on those ahead barring a first lap scrap with Sainz until the Safety Car saw him jump to sixth on the alternative strategy.

He failed to use the advantage of softer medium tyres against the Ferraris ahead later in the race having originally started on hard tyres, and was dropped by the Scuderia pair to a point where Red Bull elected to pit him for a go at the fastest lap, an extra point that will provide scant consolation.

The gap between he and teammate Verstappen is almost three full races, and it is now a question of when the two-time World Champion wins the 2023 Drivers’ crown.

Any notion of a title challenge has long since disappeared.

Improvements from Ferrari.

Ferrari have been much maligned for their race management and strategy over the last two seasons, but they deserve credit for turning a poor Saturday into a good Sunday.

It looked as if old problems would rear their head again when Leclerc went out of qualifying early, and a penalty for Sainz drop the Spaniard to 11th on the grid.

The call to stay out on medium tyres looked bold when the Safety Car came out on lap 12, but both Sainz and Leclerc managed used mediums well until laps 39 and 40 before fitting fresh hards.

Sainz may have been a driver behind that decision after appearing to resist a call to pit on lap 32, but operationally this was much better for the Prancing Horse.

Awesome Albon 

The final word must be saved for Williams and Alex Albon.

It was a shock to see the Thai driver top Q2 on Saturday and he was expected to fall back from 10th on the grid.

It didn’t play out that way and good strategy, good straight line speed coupled with a litany of upgrades on Albon’s car this weekend saw him lead home a train two-stoppers for seventh place, which marks the best result for Williams since Spa’s 2021 “race” when George Russell stood on the podium.

That lifts Williams off the bottom of the Constructors’ Standings.


Images courtesy of Pirelli Sport

British Speedway Premiership Roundup: Aces on top, Wolves make a statement, highs and lows for the Witches and the Stars off the mark

The Belle Vue Aces moved to the top of the Speedway Premiership, following an excellent 45-45 draw at Ipswich up with a bank holiday double header that saw them draw at home to and win away the Peterborough Panthers.

Dan Bewley scored 29 from 30 available points last bank holiday Monday as a rescued 45-45 at the National Speedway Stadium was bettered by a 50-40 win at the East of England Arena.

That performance came after a solid 11 point haul away at Ipswich, with Foxhall a track that Bewley traditionally does not ride well at, leading his side to two away points.

Belle Vue host Ipswich tonight with the Suffolk side depleted with injuries as Jason Crump broke eight ribs in a crash at Wolverhampton, with Jordan Stewart injuring his collarbone, shoulder and ribs while doubling up with Redcar in the Championship.

The Witches’ injury list lengthened when Cameron Heeps suffered a shoulder separation during the home defeat to King’s Lynn, with Ipswich calling upon the ousted King’s Lynn Number One Craig Cook to guest in place of Crump while Berwick rider Aaron Stewart deputises for Heeps.

A narrow 44-46 reverse at home to the Stars compounded a poor week for Ipswich, who were smashed 62-28 at Monmore Green after having previously soundly beaten the Sheffield Tigers 51-39 the previous week.

Sheffield marked their long awaited returned to Owlerton with a 49-41 success over Wolves – particularly impressive considering the visitors’ aforementioned score over Ipswich coming just three days after they annihilated King’s Lynn 32-58 in Norfolk.

The Stars responded to that by releasing Craig Cook after just two meetings, and signing up Richard Lawson in his place, and have since replaced Ryan Kinsley and Lewis Bridger with Connor Mountain and Ricky Wells.

That proved to be the difference when they went to Foxhall looking to avenge opening day defeat by Ipswich, with Lawson top scoring with 13 points including a final heat 5-1 to swing the match in favour of King’s Lynn, who go to Peterborough on Monday in more derby action.

The Panthers will be looking to make up for lost time after having their opening match at Sheffield postponed because of the weather, and have ridden only twice against Belle Vue so far this season.

An excellent 45-45 draw at Belle Vue was followed by home defeat, and Peterborough will be desperate to land their first victory of the season at home to their local rivals, before another derby day at Ipswich on Thursday.

Position Team PL Points
1 Belle Vue Aces 4 10
2 Wolverhampton Wolves 3 7
3 Ipswich Witches 5 7
4 Sheffield Tigers 3 4
5 King’s Lynn Stars 3 3
6 Peterborough Panthers 2 2

British GT – Igoe and Keen steal a march in GT3, while Century Motorsport have a day to remember in GT4

Michael Igoe and Phil Keen started their season with the victory as fans were welcomed back to the British GT Championship for the first time in over a year.

The series returned with another revised calendar following the impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic, with the traditional Easter opener at Oulton Park not scheduled until the penultimate weekend of the season.

The WPI Lamborghini duo of Igoe and Keen dominated at Brands Hatch to take the lead of the GT3 and overall lead of the series at this early stage.

Beachdean Aston Martin duo Andrew Howard and Jonny Adam were second having started on pole ahead of Barwell’s Lamborghini driven by Leo Machitski and Dennis Lind, who kept Adam more than honest for large parts of the race.

Defending champions Pro-Am Yelmer Buurman and Iain Loggie were fourth in RAM Racing’s Mercedes ahead of Richard and Sam Neary, who topped the Bronze-Am class.

Gus Burton and Will Burns picked up the GT4 spoils after Charlie Robertson hit strife late on to give perennial challengers Century Motorsport victory in the BMW M4, Century helping themselves to a 1-2 finish courtesy of Pro-Am class winners Chris Salked and Andrew Gordon-Colebrooke.

Burton and Burns had led the first stint, but being a Silver Crew instead of a Pro-Am pairing they had an extra 20s added to their pit stop time, which ended any chance of them leading after the stops when the second safety car period bunched the field up.

Burton picked his way through the field in the competitive BMW and was given a huge slice of luck when the leading Ginetta had to pit.

James Kell and Jordan Collard took third behind Ginetta ranks graduate Salkeld and Gordon Colebrooke, in Team Rocket RJN’s McLaren.

Salkeld was himself involved in one of the early Safety Car incidents, contact with a Toyota terminally ending Scott McKenna’s and John Ferguson’s race.

The result means that Century take an already significant lead in the GT4 teams championship, 42 points clear of any other team after the opening weekend of 2021.

Next up, the championship heads to Silverstone in 5 weeks time to take on the crown jewel of the British GT season, the 3-hour Silverstone 500 race.

*Image courtesy of Dan Buckel, via the British GT Gallery

British Speedway – Crump marks comeback with Ipswich Witches victory, while Belle Vue edge out Sheffield

Three-time World Champion Jason Crump marked his returned to speedway with a win  as the Ipswich Witches took bragging rights in the East Anglian derby with a 47-43 away win over the King’s Lynn Stars.

Crump, riding after an absence of nearly a decade, returned to competitive action with two falls and seven points on eventful evening for the 45-year-old Australian.

Track conditions were difficult at the start of the meeting after a heavy shower at the Adrian Flux Arena forced a delay of nearly an hour, and the Suffolk side adapted to the conditions better than their Norfolk hosts.

Man-of-the-match Anders Rowe scored 12 points paid 14 for the visitors, backed up nicely by captain Daniel King on 12 and Crump.

King’s Lynn consoled themselves with stopping Ipswich leaving with all four away points, with three 5-1 heat advantages cutting the gap from 16 to four points at the end of the meeting.

Craig Cook top scored for the hosts with 11 points, and three successive victories after a nervy start by his own admission.

Meanwhile in the other match on Monday night, Sheffield Tigers star Jack Holder dropped just two points from seven rides on Monday night as the Premiership newcomers took a consolation point from defeat at Belle Vue on Monday night.

The Owlerton outfit went down 47-43, with an away defeat by less than six points earning teams in the Premiership a losing bonus point.

25-year-old Holder, also riding in Poland for Torun, scored 19 points in the absence of Adam Ellis, who was missing after Covid regulations in Poland barred him from flying back this week.

Two early 5-1 heat advantages for the visitors saw them lead 29-25 at Heat Nine before they were pegged back by Richie Worrall and Brady Kurtz, with home reserve Jye Etheridge also a constant threat.

Belle Vue began to kick on and but for an unlikely 5-1 in Heat 14 from Holder and Justin Sedgmen, it looked like the Tigers may fail to build on that early start.

But Kurtz and Dan Bewley got Belle Vue over the line on a 4-2 in the final heat to seal the victory in the end for the Aces.

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