2019 Austrian Grand Prix Review: The Future of F1

Formula 1 returned to the Austrian hills of Spielberg for round nine of the season, the Austrian Grand Prix. Definitely the best race of the season so far, the Austrian GP delivered what fans desperately needed after the French GP.

Qualifying saw Charles Leclerc taking pole for the second time this season, although he won’t have fond memories of the first time he got pole position. In Bahrain with just ten laps to go his engine went wrong, but he still managed to take third place. Lewis Hamilton took second place, although a three place grid penalty for impeding Kimi Räikkönen during qualifying saw him start from fourth. This was due to another penalty, for Kevin Magnussen who qualified P5 but he had a five place grid penalty, thus starting from tenth. ‘Local boy’ Max Verstappen, thanks to the packed orange grandstands, starts from second place with Valtteri Bottas behind. Norris in fifth showed the progression McLaren has made this season. Drama for Vettel meant he starts the race from ninth, after not being able to set a time in Q3 due to problems with the floor.

Max Verstappen had a horrible start, not being able to come off the line at all, dropping him back to seventh place. Norris had an impressive start and took third place exiting turn one, but Hamilton charged back and even Räikkönen got past him for fourth. Vettel had to make up some positions which he did, overtaking the McLaren of Norris for fifth place. The Brit now had to defend from the poorly started Dutchman.

That same Verstappen went on to P5 overtaking Räikkönen in the Alfa Romeo in lap nine, with a gap of four seconds to Vettel in front of him.

Magnussen was under investigation for being out of position on the grid. The stewards awarded him a drive-through penalty. A great result in qualifying, a drama in the race for the Danish Haas driver.

A nice surprise to see was George Russell in the Williams battling with Kvyat and Grosjean for seventeenth place. Kubica however was still struggling in last place.

A fight for seventh between Räikkönen and Gasly was the most entertaining one. Pierre struggled to get past the Finn, but every time he tried Räikkönen showed he’s still capable of racing and defending perfectly. Finally, after around twenty laps of battling the Frenchman got past. Throughout the field the gaps were extending fast, very few battles took place. It was all about strategy now.

On lap twenty-two Bottas came into the pits for his first stop, changing from the mediums to the hard tyres. A pretty big gamble, as Leclerc on the softs was still pulling away up front. Vettel immediately came in as well for the same change of tyres, but the stop took longer than expected, leading to frustration at the team. One lap later it was the race leader coming in for his pit stop, also opting for the hard tyres.

These changes meant that Hamilton was now leading the race, in front of Verstappen. Both still had to make their pit stop.

In lap thirty-one Hamilton came in for his stop. However, it was not only tyres they were changing. A few laps earlier he reported a ‘loss of downforce’ to the team. They didn’t want to take any risks and changed the front wing as well. Verstappen reacted to that by immediately coming in as well, re-joining in front of Hamilton in fourth place.

For third place the heat was on between Vettel and Verstappen, the latter one on much newer tyres.

With fifteen laps to go Verstappen overtook Bottas for second place, leading to a massive standing ovation from the orange crowds. He was putting up insanely fast lap times on the board, and with ten laps to go the gap to Leclerc shrunk to four seconds. A nail-biting end of a better race than the previous ones, although still lacking more battles.

Just five laps to go, the gap shrunk to a very tight one second. Reports over the radio that he had a loss of power disappeared when he showed the pace.

The battle of the season was fought out between the future of F1, Leclerc and Verstappen. A hard-fought battle into the third corner, even a bit of contact and the Monegasque got pushed wide in an aggressive, but fair battle. Verstappen took the lead, but it was unsure for how long as the incident got under investigation by the stewards. Some controversial moments happened this year with stewards after the race, but Austria wouldn’t be interfered with. Max Verstappen took another win at Austria, just like 2018 in a dramatic manner.

Charles Leclerc ended up in second, a great result for the Ferrari youngster, who definitely hoped for more and for 90% of the race, it looked like that was possible. Bottas would join them on the podium, although it was very close in the end with Vettel.

Possibly the most exciting race of the season so far, F1 leaves Austria to head to a circuit where the crowds won’t be orange. They will be full of British flags for the British GP at Silverstone in two weeks time.

2019 French Grand Prix Review: They Did Their Best

French motorsport fans had already enjoyed the 24 Hours of Le Mans last week, and now their attention turned to the Formula 1 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard. The 5.8km blue and red maze of a circuit is known for its Mistral Straight, named after the famous winds which caused some trouble over the weekend.

Conditions in qualifying proved to be tough, but Mercedes prevailed and locked out the front row of the grid again, with Lewis Hamilton on pole and Valtteri Bottas behind him. Charles Leclerc was the fastest of the Ferrari drivers in P3, as Sebastian Vettel had a horrible Q3 that saw him qualify only seventh. Verstappen started from fourth place and Gasly from ninth. Who split them then? Well, in a big surprise it was both McLaren drivers of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr., who claimed fifth and sixth place on the grid.

The start of the race saw Hamilton immediately create a gap to his teammate and Leclerc behind. Lando Norris lost fifth place to Sainz, who set about putting pressure on Verstappen. The Dutchman easily recovered though, pulled away from Sainz even as he complained about a ‘lag’ in power on the exit of some corners.

Thanks to the 2019 aerodynamic regulations, most drivers had trouble following the car in front of them, leading to big gaps being created. A few DRS overtakes took place going into the Mistral chicane, but no more than that.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The biggest battles of the race took place in the midfield, where Haas was really struggling and got overtaken by both Toro Rossos.

Verstappen pitted from fourth on lap twenty-one and emerged in fifth place behind Vettel. Leclerc went into the pits on the next lap for the hard tyres as well, coming back out in fourth place. Bottas switched to the hard tyres onlap twenty-four. and re-joined in third behind Vettel, who was yet to stop, and in front of Leclerc.

Race leader Hamilton responded by pitting the next lap, re-joining safe and sound in first place. Vettel was behind him, locked up and told his team he needed to box, which he duly did. Like those around him, he opted for the hard tyres in an attempt to make it to the end of the race. After all pit stops, the situation in the top five was unchanged.

Meanwhile Hamilton took the time to try out the ‘Time Trial’ mode of the new F1 2019 game, putting up fastest lap times on the board lap after lap. and extending his lead to twelve seconds.

LAT Images

With less than half of the race to go, trouble struck Norris and Grosjean. Norris was told by the McLaren team to not use DRS and that his car would soon become unstable, whilst Grosjean, in his home race, had to retire the car with just six laps to go.

A very short Virtual Safety Car was brought out near the end of the race, after Alex Albon hit a bollard that was then left stranded in the middle of the track.

With just two laps to go, Vettel came in for another pit stop to go for the extra point for the fastest lap, whilst his Leclerc chased Bottas for second place. Was this what Ferrari meant by Plan F?

On the last lap he got in DRS range of the Mercedes, but it didn’t matter. The top three in qualifying ended up as the race result. Vettel’s bid for the extra point paid off as he pipped Hamilton’s time by 0.02 seconds.

The Driver of the Day award went to no other than Lando Norris, who carried on racing with hydraulic problems to end up in tenth place.

F1 returns to Austria next weekend in the first double-header of the season. Last year saw Max Verstappen take the biggest trophy, whilst drama for Mercedes showed us that their engines are not invincible. Will this year’s race see the same drama, or are Mercedes really unbeatable now?

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Remembering Niki Lauda

Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes AMG

Three-time World Champion Niki Lauda sadly passed away aged 70 on Monday. Since last year the Austrian has been fighting health issues. In August the biggest battle came, when he had a lung transplant. Begin this year he was hospitalised again after getting flu. Sadly, his fight now has come to an end.

“With deep sadness, we announce that our beloved Niki has peacefully passed away with his family on Monday,” the family told in a statement. “His unique achievements as an athlete and entrepreneur are and will remain unforgettable, his tireless zest for action, his straightforwardness and his courage remain.

Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes AMG

“A role model and a benchmark for all of us, he was a loving and caring husband, father and grandfather away from the public, and he will be missed.”

Lauda won the F1 World Championship in 1975, 1977 and a few years later in 1984. He started out in 1971 with March team, something he would regret very soon. The results were not great, and he immediately looked for new opportunities.

That opportunity came when he bought himself a contract at the BRM team in 1973, after lending more money. This wouldn’t bring him the big success he was after. However, at the Monaco GP that year he had shown what he was capable of and got noticed by no other than Enzo Ferrari, the man behind Ferrari .

His career could finally take off. He got a contract at the Scuderia Ferrari. With the money from the Ferrari contract, he could pay back his loans. In 1975 he won the F1 World Championship for the first time. In 1976 it looked like he would repeat that, until his crash at the old Nürburgring, the Nordschleife. Something broke off from his car, leading him into an uncontrolled spin and ending up crashing into the barriers. A sea of flames would surround him, and a number of drivers stopped on track at own risk, to try and get him out of the car.

Helped by his colleagues Arturo Merzario, Harald Ertl, Brett Lunger and Guy Edwards, he immediately was hospitalised. His injuries were life-threatening. That’s why everyone was amazed and shocked to see him back in a car, that same year, six weeks later, at the Italian Grand Prix.

In this legendary race he managed to finish in fourth, his head all covered up in bandages. His hopes of winning the championship again were still alive. The last race of the season, the Japanese Grand Prix, would decide if he or his rival James Hunt would win the 1976 World Championship.

During the race, the rain would not abait, with some parts wet other parts dry, Niki Lauda came into the pits and refused to drive any further in the race . James Hunt become the 1976 F1 World Champion, with a difference of just one point.

In 1977 the Austrian was crowned F1 champion again. He then quit Ferrari to join Brabham. Practicing for the Canadian Grand Prix in 1979, he decided to retire from F1 to start his own airline: Lauda Air.

He returned to F1 in 1982 at McLaren, but it would take a few years for him to become F1 World Champion for the third time in 1984.

His last ever F1 race would take place at Zandvoort, the Netherlands. In 1985, he won this race ahead of other F1 legends Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. What a way to get your last win.

Steve Etherington / Mercedes AMG

Lauda would still dedicate his life to F1. He became consulting manager at Ferrari in the 1990s. in 2001 he had a short stint as Team Principle at Jaguar F1, only to be made redundant in 2002. Later he joined RTL Deutschland as co-commentator. In September 2012 he joined Mercedes as non-executive chairman. There he was part of the great successes since 2014, dominating the second half of this decade.

In his career he participated in 177 races and got 54 podiums, of which 25 ended up in race wins. He started races from pole position 24 times.

His perseverance, determination, courage and passion will never be forgotten. A true legend.

Indy 500 Drama: Alonso Fails To Qualify

In pursuit of the Triple Crown (Monaco GP, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500) Fernando Alonso and McLaren returned to American soil for the Indianapolis 500.

Saturday was the day where the top 30 qualifying took place, with the fast nine to qualify again on Sunday for pole position and the six drivers out of the top 30 would also qualify again on Sunday, but with a higher stake.

After the two-time F1 World Champion did not make the top 30 (he ended up in 31st) it was time for ‘Bump Day’, where the last six drivers fight for the last three positions on the starting grid. The three slowest would pack up and go home. James Hinchcliffe, Sage Karam, Fernando Alonso, Max Chilton, Patricio O’Ward and Kyle Kaiser were all in the danger zone.

First to put a time on the table was James Hinchcliffe. With an average of 227.543 MPH, he was almost guaranteed of a spot on the grid for next week’s race, having missed out on the race last year. Next in line was Max Chilton, and just like Alonso, with a Carlin car. His pace was way off, with a mere 226.192 MPH meaning his chances would be very slim to qualify.

The third driver to make his run was Alonso. His first lap looked promising for a good result, and he ended up with an average of 227.353 MPH, putting him in (at that moment) second place.

Zak Brown and Fernando Alonso watch and wait after their qualifying attempt. Credit: Joe Skibinski/IndyCar

With three drivers to go, it would take just two of them to be faster than Alonso for the Spaniard not to qualify for the legendary race. The fact that Fernando was signing some autographs rather than watching the timings showed everything about his nerves. He just didn’t want to look, knowing full well that it would be very close.

Sage Karam surprised with a pretty quick average of 227.740 MPH, putting him on the top of the table. He pushed Alonso back to third place, just enough to qualify. But with two drivers left, tensions were rising.

Patricio O’Ward, the new Red Bull F1 junior, also drove with a Carlin built car, which showed; an average of 227.092 MPH put him in fourth, meaning he was done for this year. The last one who could attempt to qualify was Kaiser.

His first lap was the same as Alonso, but his second and third lap were slightly quicker than the Spaniard’s. With only one lap to go, Alonso once again went to sign some items of fans, too afraid of looking at the timings.

In a very dramatic manner, Kaiser – with his very small Juncos Racing team – beat the great (but new) McLaren Indy team to the last spot on the grid: 227.372 MPH. Just 0.019MPH quicker than Fernando.

Juncos Racing celebrate qualifying for the Indy 500, despite numerous setbacks. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

In a reaction on social media, Alonso said: “A difficult week, no doubts. We tried our best, even today with a completely different set-up and approach, 4 laps flat on the throttle but we were not fast enough. It’s never easy to drive around here at 227mph+, and want more speed… We tried our best and we’ve been brave at times, but there were people doing a better job than us. Success or disappointments only come if you accept big challenges. We accepted.”

Gil de Ferran, McLaren sporting director, apologized to Alonso, the team and fans. “This has been a very emotional and difficult experience, I think, not only for me but for the whole team”, he said. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize and thank the fans, not only here in the U.S. but globally, who have been following our progress.  So you know, this is in my 35 years of racing – actually a few more – the most painful experience I’ve ever had.”

Even though Alonso will not be there, the show still goes on. The only Carlin car to qualify for the Indy 500 was Charlie Kimball in 20th. Meanwhile, Simon Pagenaud took pole and got a cheque of $100,000, with Ed Carpenter and Spencer Pigot lining up next to him. There will still be a fantastic race and all fans of motorsport should definitely watch it.

Simon Pagenaud accepts his pole award for his first ever Indy 500 pole. Credit: Chris Jones/IndyCar

(Featured Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher/IndyCar)

F1 returns to Zandvoort for the 2020 Dutch Grand Prix

After weeks, months, and even years of speculation, today it was finally announced that Formula One will make its return to the Netherlands, with the Dutch Grand Prix due to be held at Zandvoort from 2020 onwards.

The Heineken Dutch Grand Prix, as it will be named, will be the first Grand Prix held in the Netherlands for 35 years. The last was held in 1985, when three legendary F1 drivers stood on the podium:  Lauda, Prost and Senna.

For the special occasion, F1 chairman Chase Carey came to Zandvoort to finally make an end to all the speculation.

“We are particularly pleased to announce that Formula 1 is returning to race in the Netherlands, at the Zandvoort track,” he said. “From the beginning of our tenure in Formula 1, we said we wanted to race in new venues, while also respecting the sport’s historic roots in Europe.

“Next season therefore, we will have a brand new street race that will be held in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi, as well the return to Zandvoort, after an absence of 35 years; a track that has contributed to the popularity of the sport all over the world.

Marcel van Hoorn / Red Bull Content Pool

“In recent years, we’ve seen a resurgence of interest in Formula 1 in Holland, mainly due to the enthusiastic support for the talented Max Verstappen, as seen from the sea of orange at so many races.

“No doubt this will be the dominant colour in the Zandvoort grandstands next year.”

He mentioned there is no official date for the Grand Prix for now, as the calendar has yet to be confirmed.

This announcement didn’t come as a big shock to fans, but it still has some major consequences. For instance, the Spanish Grand Prix will most likely have to be dropped from the calendar to make room. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has no contract for next year and this deal certainly spells trouble for them. The Dutch Grand Prix will probably be held in May, when F1 normally heads to Spain.

The track itself also needs improvements, especially in terms of infrastructure. The government didn’t want to spend any money, going against the wishes of track owner Prins Bernhard van Oranje. The local council of Zandvoort, however, agreed to contribute €4m for the construction of a new road to the circuit and organisation of other events outside the track during the Grand Prix weekend, so investors can profit from the race as well.

All problems aside, the Orange Army has gotten what it wanted so desperately, all caused by one F1 driver making millions of Dutchmen excited about the sport. The announcement comes in the same week that Max Verstappen is set to give a demo with his Red Bull around the circuit during the Jumbo Racing days. Coincidence?

[Featured image: Marcel van Hoorn / Red Bull Content Pool]

2019 Azerbaijan GP Review: The Beard Strikes Again

The 1001st GP of Formula One takes place at Azerbaijan, on the very narrow streets between some old and classic buildings with the modern city centre in the background. Baku has become the scene of two classic Formula One races, in 2017 and 2018. Whereas the inaugural race in 2016 was deemed very dull. Would the 2019 race become one of the classic ones, or will it be a sarcastic ‘Well Done Baku’ again?

Even before the start of the race drama took place. FP1 got suspended after 15 minutes due to a loose drain cover which caused major damage to George Russell’s car (and to add to that the tow truck crashed into a bridge), and qualifying almost took two hours (instead of one) thanks to two red flags caused by Robert Kubica and Charles Leclerc.

Three drivers had to start from the pit lane for different reasons. Pierre Gasly has to start from the pits because he missed the weighbridge check at the end of FP2.
Robert Kubica starts from the pits due to his crash in qualifying. The damage, caused when he hit the barriers at turn 8, was big and Williams decided to change the whole set-up of the car at the cost of a pit lane start.
Third driver to start from the pit lane is Kimi Räikkönen. He got disqualified from the qualifying results after the FIA noticed that the front wing was too flexible, which is against the rules.

With all of that cleared up, it’s time for the five red lights to come on, and off again. Hamilton gets off the line quicker than his teammate on pole, but the Finn defended his position and then drove away. Perez jumped Verstappen on the start and takes third place.

It got worse for the Dutchman when Norris almost overtook him on the main straight after just one lap, but after a few laps he got back into the rhythm and closed the gap to Perez. Eventually after a few circuits behind the Mexican, Max uses DRS to overtake the Racing Point car for P4.

Meanwhile Charles Leclerc charges his way through the field and gets fourth place in lap nine, starting from P8. Someone else charging though the field is Gasly – starting from pit lane he gets into P8 after ten laps.

Lap twelve and Vettel goes into the pits from third place for his pitstop to the medium tyre. He gets back on track in P5. His teammate was going much faster on the mediums, almost 2 seconds faster than both Mercedes’ and soon Mercedes followed with a pitstop for Bottas.

One lap later Hamilton comes into the pits for the same strategy: opting the medium tyres. This gave Leclerc the lead. Verstappen goes to the pits in lap fifteen, putting him behind Gasly (who still had to make his pit stop).

The chaos never struck Baku in the first half of the race, and it seemed like strategy would make the difference today. Mercedes versus Ferrari was on again, with Mercedes looking better for the win. Leclerc in the lead on his old medium tyres was losing time to Bottas on his much newer set of mediums.

The first bit of chaos happened when Grosjean missed his braking point and had to take the exit road. He lost three places thanks to that mistake.

In lap thirty-two the second bit of chaos happens. Ricciardo overshoots turn three and Kvyat on his outside can’t turn in. They didn’t hit each other in that incident, but they did when Ricciardo tried to back off onto the track and then struck Kvyat who was just standing there.

Leclerc finally comes into the pits with sixteen laps to go. He goes for the soft tyres and now has to charge through again, as he dropped back behind Gasly in P6. Two laps on his new tyres and he overtakes the Frenchman for fifth place, giving room to close the gap to Verstappen.

Gasly drives an amazing race, his best for Red Bull yet, until in lap 39 his engine stopped. The first Safety Car is a fact, although it is the Virtual SC. Just eleven laps to go and Bottas was leading, ahead of Hamilton and Vettel. In fourth Verstappen was chasing down the German.

For the first time this season Ferrari try to get the fastest lap. Leclerc, on P5, has a gap of 29s to Perez behind and makes a pit stop to push for four laps and get that extra point. The soft tyre didn’t seem to be the best tyre of the day, but thanks to a slipstream by Hulkenberg he managed to clinge the fastest lap and set a new lap record.

Five laps to go and Hamilton gets closer tobhis teammate up front, trying to get DRS to pass his Finnish teammate. Hamilton pushed a Hammer time lap out for the extra point, but more importantly

he now was within DRS range with two laps to go. In the end Bottas won the 2019 Azerbaijan GP ahead of Hamilton. Vettel would join them on the podium, with Verstappen and Leclerc completing the top 5.

After two very iconic races in 2017 and 2018, all drama was happening on the Friday and Saturday at the 2019 edition of this race. So, well done Baku.

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari
 Baku, 27 April 2019 – The Scuderia Ferrari Mission Winnow SF90s will start the Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the second and fifth rows of the grid, when the race starts

Well Done Baku? FP1 Drama for Williams

The Azerbaijan GP is famous for its pretty spectacular races (except for the inaugural race of 2016), but this time the drama already started after a few minutes into Free Practice 1.

Charles Leclerc exited turn 2 and came up on the straight, driving partly over a drain cover. This caused the cover to come loose and a little  later it was George Russell who drove over it with his Williams. He parked his car just after turn 3 and looked to the floor of the car, which was damaged quite heavily.

Immediately the red flag was dropped and the tow truck came to pick up the Williams. Track inspections under the lead of Michael Masi (which would normally be the job of the late Charlie Whiting) and it took just a few seconds before they decided to suspend the whole session. A very dramatic decision as there was more than an hour left in the session, meaning teams would lose important track time.

The drama didn’t stop there, however. The tow truck was on its way to the pits to bring back the number 63 Williams car to the Williams box, when it hit a bridge. The tow was too high for the bridge, which caused hydraulic damage to the tow truck. The hydraulic fluid was spreading over the Williams car, whilst the team was waiting for another recovery car to take over the task of the failed tow truck.

The damage caused by the drain cover was so heavy that the whole chassis had to be changed. Russell won’t be able to run until FP3. Sadly, another day for (one side of the garage of) Williams gone.

2019 Bahrain GP Review: Drama in the Dust

The second race of the 2019 season took place under the bright lights of the Bahrain International circuit. Charles Leclerc started from pole position, making him the 99th driver to take pole in the 999th F1 Grand Prix, with Vettel, Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen started behind him.

The lights went out and both Vettel and Bottas got better starts than Leclerc, demoting the Monagasque to third with Hamilton in fourth after the first lap.

Chaos broke out behind the leaders, with sparks flying around the cars of Stroll and Grosjean. The Frenchman would eventually retire from the race. At the back the Williams drivers had a heated fight, which was more for their honor than the points.

Leclerc managed to pick up the speed after his horrible start and regained second place from Bottas. This overtake cost the Finn momentum, meaning that his teammate Hamilton could overtake him as well.

Verstappen in P5 came under pressure from Sainz in the McLaren, a potential haul of points McLaren could definitely use. What they couldn’t use, however, was a touch with Verstappen which meant Sainz received major damage on his front right tyre. The incident was investigated by the stewards, but no action was taken.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Up front, Ferrari told that both drivers were free to fight, and they took advantage of it. Leclerc closed the gap to Vettel quite easily, telling his team “I’m quicker guys!” On lap six he managed to overtake the German using DRS, retaking the lead.

Gasly had to regain his respect after a disappointing qualifying, but struggled in a huge midfield fight with Norris, Magnussen, Albon and Kvyat. To make matters worse, his pit stop went horribly and cost him further precious seconds.

On lap thirteen Kvyat spun due to a slight touch with Giovinazzi at turn eleven, losing places as a result. To add insult to injury, the Russian Toro Rosso driver later got a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane. That same lap, Bottas and Hulkenberg came into the pits.

Race leader Leclerc made his pitstop on lap fourteen, opting for the mediums whilst Hamilton went for the soft tyres.

Vettel lost his second place to Hamilton on fresher tyres, but the Brit’s strategy would mean he needed to make another pitstop to fulfill the rules of using two different compounds during a race.

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Some small mistakes from Hamilton meant that Vettel closed the gap, even though the German was on the harder tyre. Hamilton complained about oversteer and had to make another stop. On lap 23 Vettel overtook him, leading to some stressful board-radios from Hamilton.

In the midfield a fun fight between Norris and Räikkönen for P7 took place, keeping each other under pressure.

On lap 33, car number 33 came in for his second pitstop. Verstappen couldn’t be happy as his pitstop went awful, not the first pitstop that’d gone wrong at Red Bull today. Hamilton made his second pitstop two laps later, going for the mediums. He came back on track in front of Verstappen.

Vettel then tried to cover the Mercedes, making his second pitstop, going to the mediums for a second time. He came back just in front of his rival. Immediately after that Leclerc made his second pitstop, and emerged with his lead intact.

Last year’s championship rivals came very close to crashing, with Vettel edging Hamilton out by only a small margin. The German smelled blood and overtook Bottas, who then came into the pits with only a small margin to Verstappen.

Ferrari Media

Up front, a fight for second place between Hamilton and Vettel spelled drama: Hamilton overtook Vettel and the German spun round on his own, costing him a lot of time. He then lost his front wing, as the car was shaking a lot on the straight after turn ten. He had to make another pitstop, dropping down to ninth.

On lap forty-six Leclerc caused a scare when he reported to his team that something was wrong with the engine. His pace dropped away very quickly, with Hamilton closing the gap from nine seconds to just five in three laps. With ten laps to go the Ferrari was really struggling, just managing to put 1:40s on the board compared to the 1:36s of Hamilton.

Hamilton therefore easily managed to overtake him. Leclerc turned his attention to managing the gap to Bottas in P3. He still held the fastest lap, earning him an extra point, but that couldn’t make it up for the disappointment of losing out on his first win due to an engine problem. He was losing around 40 kph on the straights. Bottas closed the gap to him by five seconds a lap and later overtook him for P2.

Further drama sparked with just three laps to go, as both the Renault cars cut out in the first sector. This brought out the safety car, saving Leclerc from losing third place to Verstappen. When it rains it pours: Sainz also retired from the race with just three laps to go.

The race ended behind the safety car, meaning Hamilton won the race ahead of Bottas and a very disappointed Leclerc, who still took the extra point for fastest lap.

Ferrari Media

Some great sportsmanship was shown by Hamilton, sounding sorry for Leclerc and also trying to cheer him up after the race. Verstappen, Vettel, Norris, Räikkönen, Gasly, Albon and Perez completed the top ten.

It was certainly a very dramatic race, and the season is just two races old. Next up is China – will Leclerc get his revenge there or will Mercedes take another win?

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Bahrain Qualifying: Leclerc sparks to pole

 

image courtesy of Ferrari F1 Team

Qualifying in Bahrain supposedly would be more representative of where teams are standing. It definitely made for an exciting fight for that desired pole position.

In a very hectic Q1, some of the drivers you’d expect around the top ten were in danger of getting knocked out immediately. Nico Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly really struggled and were in the ‘at risk’ zone near the end of the session. Hulkenberg didn’t make it through Q2 with a disappointing P17, whilst his Australian teammate Ricciardo did. Giovinazzi, Stroll and both Williams drivers wouldn’t make it to Q2 either.

Gasly only just managed to get to Q2, but that joy wouldn’t last long. He will start the race from a very disappointing P13, complaining about the car’s balance. Ricciardo got himself a P11, but he will start from P10 after Grosjean got a grid penalty for impeding Norris on a flying lap. Albon, Gasly, Perez and Kvyat came close to Q3, but not close enough.

Q3 would finally make clear whether Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull were ahead of the rest. Already impressing the whole weekend it was Charles Leclerc who managed to get his first ever Formula One pole position, making him the second youngest driver to get pole. Vettel completed the front row, with Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen close behind. McLaren seems to have improved massively resulting in both drivers getting through to Q3. Sainz will be starting from P7 and Norris from P10.

2019 Australian GP Review: A Great Start

After a long winter break, Formula One finally returned to Down Under for the Australian GP.

Qualifying made clear that the testing results from Barcelona weren’t very representative. Gasly didn’t make it through to Q2, as Red Bull thought his first run was good enough. A big surprise for McLaren was the eighth place for rookie Lando Norris, showing that McLaren are ready for points again.

In front it was the big question if Ferrari and Red Bull indeed closened the gap to Mercedes. After three Free Practice sessions it still wasn’t clear, but the third qualifying session did clear things up. Mercedes are still the ones to beat, Ferrari are behind them and Red Bull are still third, although Max Verstappen (P4) qualified in front of new Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc (P5). Lewis Hamilton took pole by a sensational 0.7s to rival Vettel (P3), with Bottas close behind him.

A dramatic start for the local hero Daniel Ricciardo, who lost his front wing after a good start trying to overtake but had to go onto the grass were there was a small bump.

In front it was Bottas who took the lead from Hamilton and immediately created a gap. Charles Leclerc tried to overtake on the outside through turn 1, but had to be cautious with his teammate in front.

Pierre Gasly tried to make his way through the field, which wasn’t an easy task at this circuit as he struggled to get past the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.

In lap nine Leclerc made a small mistake into turn 1, going through the gravel and losing three seconds to Verstappen ahead. One lap later one of the Renault engines failed, causing the McLaren of Carlos Sainz to catch fire.

The first regular pit stop of the race was for Kimi Räikkönen in lap thirteen, opting for the mediums. Next lap Nico Hülkenberg pitted for the hard tyre, so already there were different strategies.

Vettel went to the mediums as well in lap fifteen. Meanwhile Netflix documentary F1: Drive to Survive rivals Magnussen and Hülkenberg were battling each other heavily on track out of the pits.

Another pit stop drama for Haas as the front left tyre of Grosjean didn’t go on quickly, costing him a few seconds.

In the midfield Norris tried to get past Alfa Romeo rookie Antonio Giovinazzi, showing that the new aero regulations made for closer racing. The Giovinazzi train grew bigger with Grosjean, Albon and Perez joining the battle. In lap twenty-six Norris finally passed the Italian, who was defending his place like his life depended on it.

Twenty-nine laps in and Leclerc finally made his first pit stop, going for the hard tyre which seemed like a strange decision.

Local hero Ricciardo had to retire the car in lap 31. At the same moment it was Grosjean parked his car behind the barriers, the bad pit stop seemingly the cause of the retirement.

An overtake attempt by Kvyat on Perez ended up in the gravel trap, but he could go on. Gasly immediatly pitted, but couldn’t get past the Russian.

With fifteen laps to go Vettel was really struggling for pace in P4, asking his team: “Why are we so slow?”

After fifty-eight laps it was Valtteri Bottas who took the first win of 2019 (and his first since Abu Dhabi 2017), outclassing his teammate Hamilton. Verstappen should be happy about his third place, and Hamilton should be worried about second due to the twenty-two second gap to his teammate.

The biggest worries, however, should be at Ferrari. No real impressive race pace and Leclerc almost out finished

his teammate albeit a gap of over ten seconds before the pit stops.

The first winner of the extra point for fastest lap was Valtteri Bottas, leaving Australia with the full twenty-six points. Next race is Bahrain, will we see a revival of Ferrari or are Red Bull ahead of the reds? We’ll see in two weeks time.

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports