Dutch GP 2022 Qualifying

Round 15 of the 2022 F1 World Championship sees the F1 circus return to Zandvoort for the Dutch GP, the home of World Champion and the Orange Army. After the summer break F1 returned to Spa in Belgium and the weekend was dominated by RedBull and Max Verstappen. This weekend is a completely different circuit and the field seems to be a lot closer after practice. Qualifying will be very important this weekend as overtaking is very difficult around the tight, twisty Zandvoort track.

As usual the 2 Haas cars enter the track first, all other teams seem happy to wait a little while before beginning their first runs. Magnussen was the quicker of the 2 Haas cars and they were followed by the 2 Williams of Albon and Latifi.

Russell making the most of the new found pace. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

With 5 minutes of the session gone Max Verstappen left his garage to huge cheers from the Orange Army. If the crowd inspire him the way the British crowd used to inspire Nigel Mansell he could have pole by about 5 seconds today. His first timed lap is a 1.11.317, a second clear of his team mate in second. The two Ferraris then cross the line with Sainz in P2 nearly half a second behind and then Leclerc third over 0.8 seconds behind the Flying Dutchman. George Russell then puts his Mercedes into P2 with Lewis Hamilton right behind him in P3. The Mercedes seems to like the nature of the Dutch track with both drivers within a quarter of a second of the leading RedBull.

With 5 minutes remaining Leclerc puts the Ferrari into P2 just 0.126 from the fastest time so far. Only 3 cars are left on track as everyone pits for new fresh tyres and waits before they go out for their final run. Everyone crossing the line is improving with Tsunoda moving up to second in the Alpha Tauri just 0.110 behind Verstappen, he is then topped by Lewis Hamilton who is just 0.014 behind the RedBull. Out of Q1 are Bottas, Magnussen, Ricciardo, Vettel who went through the gravel on his quick lap and Latifi in the Williams.

As soon as Q2 begins the session is red flagged as a flare had been thrown onto the track. The race organisers had asked fans not to bring them into the circuit this weekend but obviously the free flowing Heinekken has got the better of one of the Orange Army.

Albon setting quick times again. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

As soon as the session resumes both RedBulls go out on track to get an early banker lap in. Verstappen does a 1.10.927, that’s 0.387 quicker than Perez in the sister RedBull. Lewis Hamilton then goes P2 with a time just 0.148 behind Verstappen. Russell is also in the top 4 with a time 3 tenths slower than his teammate. Alex Albon decides to start his final run earlier than everyone else and make use of a free track, he sets a time good enough for P10 currently.

With 2 and half minutes left everyone else decides now is the time to go out. 13 cars on track with just Albon and Verstappen staying in their garages. Charles Leclerc gets into the one-minute tens and moves to P2, once again most people are improving. Sainz moves to the top of the field with a 1.10.814 ahead of Russell by 0.010, they are followed by Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton, Norris, Perez, Stroll, Schumacher, and Tsunoda rounding out the top ten. Out after Q2 are Gasly, Ocon, Alonso who was complaining about traffic on his quick lap, Zhou and Albon.

And so to the shoot-out that is Q3, could we see a new pole sitter for this season, or does Max Verstappen have enough in hand to delight the home crowd? Verstappen is first out onto the circuit no doubt going for an early banker lap in case the session is interrupted by any incidents.

Norris going quickly. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Verstappen sets a time of 1.10.515, Perez is half a second down on his teammate again but goes to P2. Norris in the McLaren goes P3 1.6 seconds behind the leading RedBull. Hamilton’s first timed lap is good enough for P2, just behind Verstappen, Leclerc then beats this in the Ferrari, 0.059 ahead of the RedBull. The top 10 after the first runs is Leclerc, Verstappen, Hamilton, Sainz, Perez, Russell, Norris, Tsunoda, Schumacher, and Stroll who is yet to set a time. The Canadian seems to have a technical issue with his Aston Martin and won’t be taking part in the rest of the session.

With exactly 3 minutes left the last runs are set to begin, Leclerc in his Ferrari first to the track. Another flare has been thrown onto the track but thankfully ran off the track so no delay to proceedings. As the drivers finish their laps, Verstappen moves to the top of the timings, Hamilton is on a quick lap but Perez has spun at the last corner but one and causes yellow flags meaning anyone behind on track won’t be able to improve. An anti-climax to the session end. The top ten was Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz, Hamilton, Perez, Russell, Norris, Scumacher, Tsunoda and Stroll.

The top 6 are a lot closer than last week so we could be in for a very close race tomorrow. The home crowed will be leaving the circuit tonight very happy and expecting a win from their hero tomorrow.

 

2022 Belgium GP

The summer break is over and F1 returns and where better to start the second half of the season than Spa Francorchamps, possibly the greatest track in the world.

The new technical directive regarding Flexi floors seems to have affected the RedBulls the least and sees them with the biggest advantage anyone has had all season. However, with a host of penalties throughout the field the grid is mixed up and should give us a great race, could we see Max Verstappen use that huge advantage and make his way through the field from 14th, or could we see a new winner this season with both Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton on the second row today. The weather looks good, almost the complete opposite from last year’s farcical “race” where not a single racing lap took place.

Hamilton fly’s after contact with Alonso. Image courtesy of Mercedes media

Lights out and Perez makes a poor start, Hamilton makes a move on Alonso into Les Combes and they touch sending the Mercedes into the air, he makes it through another couple of corners before coming to a halt with damage to the car. Into lap 2 and Latifi spins causing Bottas to spin in avoidance bringing out the safety car. Verstappen has already made it up to P8 with Leclerc right behind him. Sainz leads from Perez, Russell, and Alonso.

Leclerc pits under the safety car and puts on fresh mediums but drops to P17. Pit radio confirms a tear-off was stuck in his brake ducts but was removed at the stop. The safety car pulls in and we begin lap 5, Sainz leads the field away.

Alonso tries to overtake Russell but the Mercedes driver breaks later and keeps P3. Verstappen moves to P7 and has his sights on Ricciardo in the McLaren. At the chicane Verstappen makes it passed and is into P6 already. Albon also makes it passed the McLaren and gets his Williams into P7. Verstappen is flying on his soft tyres and is already up to the gearbox of Vettels Aston Martin. Once again into the chicane, he makes it up to P5, next up is Alonso in the Alpine.

Verstappen making it past the Alpine. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The World Champion simply drives passed the Alpine as if it was in reverse. Now up to fourth and only 5.5 seconds behind Sainz in the Ferrari in first position. One lap later he overtakes Russell, the straight-line speed of the RedBull is unstoppable. Meanwhile, Leclerc has made his way up to 14th but is 15 seconds behind Verstappen already. On lap 9 Lando Norris makes his way up to P11 overtaking Magnussen into Les Combes.

Up at the front and Sainz leads Perez by 1.3 seconds who is 0.6 ahead of his teammate. Sainz pits at the end of lap 11, as he pits Verstappen overtakes Perez and takes the lead. Sainz returns to the track in P6 behind the McLaren of Ricciardo, have Ferrari made another strategic error?

At the end of the next lap, Ricciardo and Ocon also pit. The RedBull’s are staying out pulling clear of the field. Russell pits from P3 and returns to the track in P7, he was matching the times of Perez in front of him. Verstappen has now pulled a gap of 3.7 seconds, Perez in second pits at the end of lap 14, he comes out ahead of Leclerc. Perez moves to defend into Les Combes and keeps the position.

Verstappen pits. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The leader pits at the end of lap 15, as he comes out Perez is behind him followed by Leclerc and Russel. Sainz now leads by 4.8 seconds. Russell moves ahead of Leclerc and into P4, Leclerc down to P5 ahead of Alonso, Tsunoda, Albon, Vettel, Ocon, Ricciardo, Gasly, Norris, Stroll, Zhou, Magnussen, Schumacher, and Latifi.

Verstappen closes the gap to less than a second at the start of lap 18. He retakes the lead with another move at Les Combes. It looks like he will just check out now as he is putting laps in that are over 2 seconds quicker than the Ferrari can manage.

At half distance Verstappen lead from Perez as the Mexican overtakes Sainz, The lead is 6.5 seconds, Sainz is already 1.5 behind Perez, Russell is a further 7.5 seconds behind the Ferrari and he is 9 seconds ahead of Leclerc who appears to be on the usual Ferrari Plan Z strategy. The field seems to have settled before the inevitable second round of pitstops.

The second round of stops begins with Sainz on lap 26, he is followed by his teammate Leclerc. Sainz on the hards and Leclerc on the mediums, surely Leclerc is going to run out of tyres before the end of the race. Albon and Stroll pit on lap 27, They are now at the back of the field along with Latifi.

Perez stops a lap later and returns still in front of the Ferrari of Sainz. His teammate has made it back up to P6 with a move on Ocon in the Alpine. Next up for Leclerc is Vettel who is 3 seconds up the road.

Russell pits in the Mercedes as we start lap 30. He is still in a comfortable P4 in yet another impressive display from the young British driver. Verstappen ends lap 30 by pitting, a fresh set of mediums fitted and he leads his teammate by 8 seconds. The dominance of the Redbulls this weekend has been scary, They have 13 laps now to cruise to an easy 1-2.

RedBull is clearly in a league of their own. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

As we begin the last 10 laps Russell is catching the Ferrari of Sainz and the gap is down to 4.2 seconds. Could he keep up the run of Mercedes podiums? Ocon moves up to P7 with a great move on both Vettel and Gasly, using the double slipstream to great effect and then outbraking the Alpha Tauri driver.

The gap between 10th and 15th is now just 4 seconds, the leader of the DRS train is Albon, followed by Stroll, Norris, Zhou, Tsunoda, and Ricciardo.

With just 5 laps to go, back at the front, Verstappen leads by 16.7 seconds ahead of Perez who is a further 9.7 seconds ahead of Sainz who is being followed by Russell a further 2.3 seconds behind.

Leclerc pits on lap 43 to go for the fastest lap point but Alonso makes it passed the Ferrari dropping him down to 6th. If he doesn’t get back past the Alpine, Ferrari has just thrown more points away. The Ferrari driver uses DRS to make it passed the Alpine but will he be able to get the fastest lap? He does a 1.49.984 which is over half a second slower than Max Verstappen’s quickest.

Verstappen wins. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

Verstappen wins by a huge 17.8 seconds ahead of his teammate who started from the front row, a dominant performance over the driver who is now his closest challenger almost 100 points behind him. Third is Sainz ahead of Russell, Leclerc, Alonso, Ocon, Vettel, Gasly, and Albon collecting the final point of the weekend. Next up was Stroll, Norris, Tsunoda, Zhou, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Schumacher, and Latifi, The only two retirees were Bottas and Hamilton.

As the podium interviews began it was announced that Leclerc had been given a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane for the pitstop that wasn’t needed which dropped him behind Alonso and down to P6.

It’s now just a matter of time before Verstappen wraps up the title for this season, after a display like this weekend it wouldn’t be surprising to see RedBull repeat 2013 where they dominated the season after the summer break.

In just 5 days’ time, the F1 circus will return to Holland for the Dutch GP, Verstappen’s home race, who would bet against him once again dominating?

 

2022 Belgium GP Qualifying

The summer break is over, F1 is back and it returns with one of the greatest circuits in the world, Spa Francorchamps, and the Belgium GP.

This will be the first weekend that the car has to comply with the new technical directive regarding Flexi floors, could this shake up the pecking order? Practice results would suggest not and it even looked as though RedBull had gained quite a big advantage over the rest of the field. Qualifying would be the true test and provide us with a view of how the changes have made difference If any.

Mick Schumacher, is one of many to take grid penalties. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

As usual in the Hybrid era, teams have decided to take engine penalties to introduce new parts into the seasons pool so they have more choice later in the season. This would mean that after today’s qualifying session, at least Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris, Ocon, Schumacher, Zhou, and Bottas would all receive grid penalties.

With ten minutes to go until the start of the session, the temperature had dropped to just 16 degrees, something that would mean Mercedes might struggle with their season-long battle to try and get temperature into their tyres. The start of qualifying would be delayed due to repairs being needed to some of the armco barriers after a crash in the Porsche Supercup support race.

25 minutes after it was originally scheduled to start, qualifying finally got underway. First out on track was Latifi in the Williams who went straight back into the pits at the end of his first lap. The first driver to set a time was Mick Schumacher. The two Mercedes jumped ahead of the Haas but were immediately beaten by Perez in the RedBull, by almost a second.

After the first runs, the top four were the usual suspects of both RedBull and Ferraris, led by Verstappen and Sainz, they were followed by the two Alpines. The two Mercedes went for a second lap on the softs but still could only make it to 10th and 11th with Russell ahead of Hamilton. Everyone went for another run on fresh tyres apart from the top four. The Mercedes drivers improved to 5th and 7th.

At the other end of the field and out of qualifying were Vettel, Latifi, Magnussen, Tsunoda, and Bottas. At the top of the field was Max Verstappen with a time of 1.44.581.

Vettel out in Q1 again. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Q2 began, and the first driver to set a time was Lewis Hamilton. He was beaten by his teammate George Russell by 3 tenths of a second. Then came Max Verstappen beating the two Mercedes by a massive 1.5 seconds. The two Redbulls led the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz by almost three-quarters of a second. The Redbulls seemed to be in a league of their own this weekend. They were followed by Ocon, Norris, and Leclerc who had a scruffy lap and was complaining of handling issues. Then came Alonso, Russell, Gasly, and Hamilton rounding out the top ten. The final runs began with the two Alpines at the front of the queue.

Neither RedBull needed to go out again such was their dominance.  Leclerc had a better run and topped the times with a 1.44.551 ahead of the two Redbulls, behind them was Sainz, Hamilton, Russell, Ocon, Alonso, Norris, and Albon. The outward-bound McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo was the first to be illuminated in 11th along with Gasly, Zhou, Stroll, and Schumacher.

Albon joined the top teams in Q3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

A strange start to Q3 knowing 3 of the drivers taking part would have grid penalties applied at the end of the session. Halfway around Leclerc’s first lap he realised he had the wrong tyres on the car, yet another Ferrari error. The team ended up telling him to do the lap anyway. At the end of the first runs Verstappen was again top of the times ahead of Sainz in the Ferrari, next came Perez, Leclerc, Ocon, Norris, Russell, Albon, Hamilton, and Alonso who chose to abort his lap.

Verstappen with his grid penalty decided not to do a final run, the same went for Norris, and Leclerc, however, he reappeared on track and gave his team mate a tow down the long straight. It didn’t really seem to help as the Spaniard had a scruffy lap, however thanks to Verstappen’s penalty, he would still be on pole for the race tomorrow. Third was Perez, with Leclerc next up, then came Ocon and Alonso. Next up was Hamilton and Russell ahead of Albon and Norris.

Once all the penalties have been given out the grid will look very different at the start of tomorrow’s race.

Will the weather gods play games like last year or could we get a dry race with a very mixed-up grid providing us with a great race at a great race track?

Whatever happens, the Belgium GP should be a classic.

 

2022 Austrian GP Sprint Race

Round 11 of the 2022 F1 World Championship sees the return to Austria and the Red Bull Ring circuit, it’s also the 2nd Sprint Race weekend of the season. Less than a week since the British GP and one of the best F1 races in years the short Red Bull Ring has a lot to live up to.

After practice and Qualifying the local Orange Army were happy cheering on their beloved World Champion Max Verstappen, who put his RedBull onto pole position for today’s sprint race which would decide the grid for the all-important GP on Sunday. This season the top eight finishers in the sprint race receive points so the sprint race itself has become even more critical in terms of the championship fight.

Alongside Verstappen on the front row is Charles Leclerc in his Ferrari, after a disappointing string of results he could get his championship challenge back on track in front of the excited Orange Army. The Mercedes again looked to have returned to competitiveness but both drivers had offs in qualifying so would be starting 4th and 9th. With the short nature of the track the sprint race should be a close battle through the field.

Before lights out Alonso’s car still has the tyre warming blankets on as the rest of the field drive away, The Spaniard will now have to start from the pitlane. At the end of the formation lap Zhou in the Alfa Romeo stopped before the grid, the cars were sent on another formation lap and Zhou would also be made to start from the pitlane once he got the car started again.

The Sprint start. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Lights out and Verstappen leads the two Ferraris away, Sainz and Leclerc battling away for most of the first lap after the Spaniard led his teammate into turn two. Gasly went out at turn one after contact with Hamilton after trying to squeeze the Mercedes driver into the first corner.

After 3 laps Verstappen already had a 2 second lead over Leclerc, who led his teammate by half a second, they were followed by Russell, Ocon, Magnussen, Schumacher, Perez, Bottas, and Hamilton rounding out the top ten.

Leclerc set the fastest lap at the end of lap 4 trying to get within DRS of the leading RedBull. The two Ferraris were running so close together that they were letting the leading RedBull getaway. A great battle between them lap after lap but they had now fallen 3 seconds behind Verstappen, once again Ferrari seemed to be handing a win to the RedBull driver.

As lap 8 began Hamilton moved ahead of Bottas into P9, can the 7-time World Champion make up more places to get a better grid slot for tomorrow’s race?

Perez in the second RedBull was now making a move up the field, easily taking P7 from Schumacher as the young German concentrated on trying to overtake his teammate. On the following lap, he makes it passed Magnussen and up to P6.

Lap 11 and Vettel in the Aston Martin was sent into the gravel by Alex Albon in the Williams, the German manages to escape the gravel trap and return to the race.

At half distance Verstappen leads by 3 seconds from Leclerc, his RedBull teammate makes another paced and is up to P5 after taking Ocon Alpine. Hamilton has now made it onto the back of the two Haas cars, unfortunately for him, Schumacher had DRS so he couldn’t catch him enough on the straights.

As ever with a sprint race the field settles and laps pass with nothing much happening, if they are to keep this format they have to change something as it just doesn’t seem to work.

Hamilton was finally free of the Haas. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

With 5 laps to go Hamilton is still stuck behind the Haas of Schumacher, back up front Verstappen leads by just over two and half seconds cruising to an easy win. The Ferraris have settled a few seconds apart with seemingly no pace to make any impression on the leader.

Lap 21 and finally Hamilton makes it passed the German, can he catch the next Haas in the remaining 2 laps.

At the chequered flag Verstappen wins again from Leclerc and Sainz, they are followed by Russell, Perez, Ocon, Magnussen, Hamilton, Schumacher, and Bottas.

Following them is Norris and Ricciardo in the disappointing Mclarens, Stroll, Zhou, Gasly, Albon, Tsunoda, and Latifi. Vettel and Alonso, who never made the start of the race.

Will Ferrari regret letting their drivers battle so much and let the RedBull driver getaway, once he had the lead he never looked troubled?

Tomorrow’s race should be a bit more exciting as strategy comes into play.

2022 Azerbaijan GP Qualifying

Its already round 8 of the 2022 F1 World championship and this weekend brings the Azerbaijan GP, a crazy high speed street circuit that always delivers drama. Already this season its clear that the title battle is going to be between RedBull and Ferrari, the result in Monaco also brought Sergio Perez into contention giving us a three way battle. Even though Carlos Sainz has had a poor season by his usual high standards a change in form could also bring him right into the mix.

After the three practice sessions the top four were again close and looking at long run pace were evenly matched. The chasing pack are further behind this weekend but with the usual mix of crashes and safety cars this weekends race could be won by anyone. Qualifying isn’t as important at this track as at most but nonetheless an intense battle loomed.

The start of the session was delayed by 15 minutes due to a shunt in the F2 race which delayed the start of FP3 and the regulations state that there must be a 2 hour gap between the end of practice and the start of qualifying.

With a minute to go before the green light the pitlane resembled the worlds most expensive car park. They were led out by Lando Norris in his McLaren. Everyone would be looking for a slipstream down the very long main straight. Ferrari decided to stay in the garage to avoid all the jostling for a clean bit of track.

Lando Norris around the streets of Baku. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Norris went quickest with a 1.45.0 but that would quickly be beaten by Alonso immediately behind him. With the first runs completed the two RedBulls were top ahead of the two Ferraris. Russells lap was hindered by Verstappen so he aborted and went again, putting his Mercedes into P4 on his quick lap.

The Ferrari’s went for a second lap on the soft tyres and replaced the RedBulls at the top of the timesheets. Leclerc again ahead of his team mate Sainz. Next up for a second run were the Redbulls, Perez went quickest but was then beaten by just 0.011 by his World Champion team mate. With the top four seemingly locked in the rest of the field would have to battle to not be in the bottom 5 and avoid being eliminated from qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton was first to set a time and put his Mercedes in P8, 1.2 seconds behind the Redbulls. With just 4 minutes left Lance Stroll decided it was about time he redesigned the front wing of his Aston Martin going straight on into one of the tech pro barriers. An incident almost as common during a GP weekend as the chequered flag being waved. Whilst returning to the pits to get a new wing he somehow managed to hit the wall again. Replays show he actually carried on without returning to the pits and at turn 2 carried far too much speed and wiped out the front right corner of his car. At this rate he will need his own cost cap budget to make it to the end of the season. This brought out the red flag, Two and half minutes remained and again the pitlane was full of cars waiting to get back out for a shoot out.

First out was Hamilton desperate not to go out in Q1, He stayed in 9th, not improving his time, he fell to 11th with other cars coming across the line, not many improved due to the fact they were all fighting for clean bit of track and getting in each others way. Out in Q1 were Magnussen, Albon, Latifi, Stroll and Schumacher. At the top was Max Verstappen ahead of Perez, Leclerc and Sainz.

The Redbulls got Q2 underway, with Perez leading out Verstappen. Perez crossed the line with a 1.42.258, his team mate then crossing the line 0.031 quicker. Gasly then went 3rd quickest with a great lap in his Alpha Tauri. Russell in his Mercedes went 4th quickest before the two Ferraris took over at the top, for once Sainz ahead of Leclerc by just 0.094. Replays then showed Leclerc went a little wide into the corner before the long straight, amazingly keeping his foot flat to the floor whilst the car was going sideways.

Gasly putting in a solid perfomrance. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The top four were separated by just 0.170, Gasly in 4th was a second further back but the next 10 cars were covered by just over half a second. With 7 minutes left Sebastien Vettel gently went into the barrier at turn 14, unlike his team mate he didn’t seem to have damaged the car so would be able to go again after checking the car in the pits. The Redbulls were still out on track and Perez returned to the top of the times by over a tenth. The bottom five in Q2 were Norris, Ricciardo, Ocon, Zhou and Bottas.

And so to Q3, the battle to win pole position. Who of the top 4 will get their lap inch perfect and land at the top of the times.

The wily two time world champion Fernando Alonso was first onto the track. everyone bar the two top teams were using used soft tyres for their first runs. Sainz went quickest after the first runs with a time of 1.41.814, just 0.047 ahead of his team mate Leclerc, then came Perez 0.126 behind the leading Ferrari with Verstappen 0.175 behind Sainz. Behind them came Gasly, Russell, Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso and Tsunoda.

During the couple of minutes break in action between runs, replays showed the RedBulls and Ferraris all coming close the walls at different parts of the circuit clearly fully on it.

Out came the cars for the dramatic final runs. Perez had a small issue in the garage and was later to come back out on track.

Carlos Sainz just missing out on a front row start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Sainz was the first of the top 4 to set a lap, touching the wall gently at the exit of turn 2, At the first split he was already half a second down. His team mate Leclerc was improving on his lap, he crossed the line with an amazing time of 1.41.359 a massive half a second ahead of his team mate. Verstappen put his RedBull in 2nd 0.347 behind but was beaten again by his team mate Perez who got within 0.282 of the leading Ferrari. 4th was Sainz, then came Russell in the Mercedes, Gasly, Hamilton who was being investigated for driving slowly in Q2 then Tsunoda, Vettel and Alonso.

With the top four so closely matched tomorrows race should be another battle of strategy and getting the decisions right when the inevitable chaos ensues.

 

2022 Spanish GP

The Spanish Grand Prix brings us round 6 of this years World Championship. The season so far has been a story of Ferrari versus RedBull, with this race being the race where the first major upgrades are brought to the cars would we see a change in the pecking order, would Mercedes be back in the hunt for wins? A scorching day in Barcelona would bring us all the answers we have been waiting for.

The front row had Leclerc and Verstappen again and could deliver us a titanic battle into turn one. Strategy would be key in the hot weather and whoever looks after their tyres the best would surely go on to win the race.

Home favourite Fernando Alonso took an engine penalty and would start from last, the 2 time world champion promising to give it everything and put on a show for his adoring fans. Could his popular compatriot Carlos Sainz improve his form after an indifferent start to his season, a win not impossible for the Spaniard. Everyone will start on the soft tyre apart from Lewis Hamilton who chose to start on the mediums.

The front 2 clearly ahead of the rest on the start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Lights out and the battle to the first corner was between the front two, they came through the first turns in the same order that they started.  Russell up to third. Hamilton then had a collision with Magnussen who tried to go around him on the outside of turn 4 causing a puncture with Magnussen into the gravel. Both drivers pitting at the end of the first lap.

At the start of Lap 5 Bottas went around the outside to Mick Schumacher into turn one. Alonso in the Alpine already up to P14, plenty of overtaking moves so far including a great pass from Alonso again on Sebastian Vettel. Sainz then makes a big mistake and spins into the gravel at turn 4 putting him down in 11th.

At the start of lap 9 Max Verstappen also lost it at turn 4 and went into the gravel, returning to the track in 4th. The RedBull team telling him it was a gust of wind. Russell now ahead of both RedBulls and clearly holding them up, RedBull clearly order Perez to let Verstappen through to see if he can make any ground on the Mercedes.

Ricciardo overtaken by hos teammate early on. Image courtesy pf Pirelli F1 Press Room

The McLaren of Ricciardo is falling down the order with the Aussie now down on 15th after pitting for fresh soft tyres. Lap 13 and Norris pits in his McLaren returning to the track in 9th place ahead of Sainz in the Ferrari. Both Russell and Verstappen pitted together, the world champion would need to get passed quickly to try and salvage his race. The RedBull struggling with an intermittent DRS fault meaning Verstappen couldn’t  get to close to the Mercedes on the main straight. The world champion looking very ragged in the RedBull complaining on the radio that they should be able to get the DRS working.

Leclerc up front still hadn’t pitted at the start of lap 20 and led by 30 seconds from Russell and Verstappen. The top 10 completed by Perez, Bottas, Ocon, Sainz, Vettel, Norris and Tsunoda. Alonso now up to 11th after starting last in his Alpine. Hamilton in the Mercedes seemingly with damage as he has only moved back to 16th.

Lap 22 and Leclerc finally pits, a great stop by the Ferrari team at 2.2 seconds, he returns to the track with 4.6 second lead but he now has tyres 8 laps fresher than the cars behind him.

At the start of lap 24 Hamilton pits for new medium tyres but falls down to 19th. Verstappen makes a move into turn one but Russell hangs him out to dry and makes him go the long way around and he can’t quite do it. Great defending by George Russell. Anyone who thought this race would be boring was very wrong. Perez now behind Verstappen asking the team to get him out of the way.

Suddenly Leclerc has trouble and the Ferrari is limping back to the pits, The first DNF of the season for the championship leader. Russell now leads in the Mercedes, Verstappen still struggling to find a way by the slower Mercedes.

Back down the field Lance Stroll again runs out of talent and spins after contact with the Alpha Tauri into turn one. RedBull decide to pit Verstappen dropping him to 4th but in clean air. Surely a 3 stop is now on the cards. Russell now out front ahead of Perez but the Mexican goes straight passed at the first attempt. His team mate now back up to 3rd, just 13 seconds behind.

At half distance this race is between the two RedBulls but seeing as team orders were clearly used earlier surely it is Verstappens race to lose now. As he closes on Russell the Brit pits in his Mercedes. The two RedBulls now leading the pack just 6 seconds apart. Perez pits the very next lap for mediums, returning to the track clear of Russell in the Mercedes. Further down the field Lando Norris is now up to 8th position despite feeling unwell this weekend.

Perez making a move on Russell. Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool

Hamilton in the Mercedes is currently the quickest car bar the RedBulls and showing that the Mercedes does in fact have quite a lot of pace which shows well for the rest of the season, the 7 time world champion now up to 6th.

Lap 45 and Verstappen pits for what surely is the last time. He comes back out ahead of Russell, just 5 seconds behind his team mate. Sainz in the sole remaining Ferrari also pits for the 3rd time. He is now 7th, another disappointing show from the Ferrari driver.

Lap 49 and RedBull tell Perez to let Verstappen passed for the lead, The Mexican agreeing but not very happy with the order.

Mercedes pit Russell again for fresh soft tyres, he remains in 3rd and on for a podium, RedBull bring Perez back in also to protect his 2nd position.

The rest of the field seems to have settled with a few battles developing for the back end of the top ten before the end of the race.

With 10 laps to go Verstappen leads from Perez, Russell, Bottas, Sainz, Hamilton, Ocon, Norris, Alonso, Schumacher, Tsunoda, Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Stroll, Magnussen, Latifi and Albon with the only 2 retirements being Leclerc and Zhou.

Hamilton making moves. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton were running within a second of each other at the start of lap 58. Sainz is straight passed down the main straight, Hamilton then drives around the outside of turn three to overtake his former team mate. The Brit in his Mercedes clearly on a mission after the disappointment of lap one. His sights now clearly on the Ferrari ahead. He swoops around the outside of the Ferrari into turn one, a great drive today from Hamilton that might stop all the Netflix fans saying he’s finished.

After 66 laps Verstappen crossed the line as the race winner and also takes the lead of the world championship, he is followed over the line by Perez and the Mercedes of George Russell, Sainz is fourth after taking Hamilton one lap from the end due the Mercedes having to lift and coast for the last few laps, Hamilton finishes fifth ahead of Bottas, Ocon, Norris, Alonso and Tsunoda rounding out the top ten.

The rest of the classified finishers were Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Schumacher, Stroll, Latifi, Magnussen and Albon.

Probably the best Spanish Grand Prix since 1991, plenty of overtaking and battles throughout the field all race long. The next stop on the F1 circus is Monaco, obviously we wont have the amount of overtaking that we did here but every lap has jeopardy and so anything can happen.

 

2022 Spanish GP Qualifying

Round 6 of the 2022 F1 World Championship brings us to the traditional start of the European season at Barcelona for the Spanish GP. Every team apart from Haas has brought big upgrades to their cars, the biggest seems to be with Constructors champions Mercedes who look too have cured most of the porpoising issues they have suffered from all season long. The most surprising upgrade is that of the Aston Martins who appear to have blatantly copied the RedBull design, whether they have done this legally or not will no doubt be something that rumbles on all season long.

After the three practice sessions the top 6 drivers were all from the top 3 teams, it could be the closest battle for pole so far this season. Going into qualifying Ferrari looked to be favourite for the front row closely followed by RedBull and Mercedes.

Gasly setting pace in Q1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Q1 began in scorching temperatures. First out on to the track was the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu, he was followed out onto the track by the Alpha Tauri’s of Gasly and Tsunoda. After the first runs the top six were the two Ferrari’s, Verstappen, the two Mercedes and then Valterri Bottas in the Alfa.

Out of qualifying at the end of the session were Vettel, Alonso, Stroll, Albon and Latifi. At the front it was Leclerc on a 1.19.861 ahead of Sainz, Verstappen , Russell, Magnussen and Hamilton in 6th.

It seems the green RedBull is not as quick as a blue one. A big shock that both of the Aston’s were out in Q1 along with home favourite Alonso who had been looking quick so far this weekend.

Lance Stroll couldn’t get better than P17. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

The two Mercedes started the action in Q2, Russell going fastest with a 1.19.470, three tenths ahead of his team mate. At the end of the first runs the Mercedes were first and second, however they used new tyres whereas the RedBull and Ferrari used a scrubbed set of tyres. Perez was third ahead of Leclerc, Bottas and Verstappen.

For the final runs both Mercedes stayed in their garage feeling safe at the top of the standings, so did Leclerc in the Ferrari. Sainz needed to go back out as his first run was only good enough seventh. He crossed the line and moved to first giving the home support something to cheer about.

As the session ended Max Verstappen went quickest on a 1.19.219 ahead of Sainz, Russell and Hamilton. Out of qualifying were Lando Norris who had his fastest time deleted because of track limits, Ocon in the Alpine, Tsunoda, Gasly and Zhou.

Lewis Hamilton driving the improved Mercedes in Q2. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

And so to Q3, would we get the top 6 fighting it out for pole as it has seemed we would get throughout the weekend so far.

Lewis Hamilton was first over the line and so went fastest. He was quickly bettered by Verstappen, Sainz, Perez and team mate Russell. Leclerc spun on his quick lap at the final chicane and immediately returned to the pits. Everyone else then returned to the pits to prepare for their final runs. The top 5 were covered by half a second but 3 tenths of that was between first and second.

Leclerc completing his stunning pole lap. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Charles Leclerc came out earlier than everyone else obviously trying to make up for the mistake on his first run. He set a blistering time of 1.18.750, an amazing lap under such pressure. Verstappen aborted his lap after complaining of no power but remained second. Third was Sainz who was joined on the second row by George Russell. Then came Perez, Hamilton, Bottas, Magnussen, Ricciardo and rounding out the top ten was Mick Schumacher.

Not quite as close as everyone had hoped but the top six is definitely closing up. Tomorrow will be a shoot out down to turn one. The RedBull race pace on Friday looked pretty ominous so could come down to a race of strategy and tyre management.

Mercedes AMGF1 – Decision Time

5 races into the 2022 F1 World Championship and the defending Constructors Champions are without a pole position or a win, In fact they have just 2 podiums to their name and Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are 6th and 4th in the drivers standings with the team 3rd a staggering 62 points behind Ferrari.

Clearly the dominant force of the hybrid era haven’t forgotten how to design and build a racing car but after practically giving up on developing their 2021 car to concentrate on this season they will be massively disappointed in what has happened so far this season.

No sidepod Merc on day 3 of the Bahrain testing. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

When they rolled out their revolutionary zero sidepod car at the second test in Bahrain the F1 world were already saying if it dominated and the rival teams wanted to protest it, then the rule makers could decide that the car wasn’t in line with the spirit of the new regulations and would make the team change the car. Even though the car set disappointing lap times most experts thought the team were sandbagging and come the first race would dominate as usual.

The first race in Bahrain confirmed that not only were they not sandbagging but that they were almost a second a lap slower in the race. The major cause of the gap seemed to be the porpoising that the car suffered, although most teams this season are suffering from this it seems Mercedes suffer from it the worst no matter how they try to solve it.  How could they have got it so wrong ?

This performance deficit has continued throughout the first few races but at the fifth race in Miami the team brought the first big upgrades of the season. A new front wing, rear wing and beam wing were fitted to the car in the hope it would not only cure the issues the car had, but also reduce drag allowing the car to be quicker on the long straights of the Miami circuit.

Lewis Hamilton enjoying the faster car on Friday in Miami. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

During the first practice sessions on Friday it seemed that the upgrades not only worked but returned the team to the front of the field with Russell going quickest in FP2. The porpoising had also gone but watching every other car they had also cured the issue. Or was it just a characteristic of the circuit and the need for a low downforce setup.

On Saturday the porpoising had returned maybe because the team had been in search of a few more tenths thinking they were in the hunt for pole position. Qualifying was disappointing by the teams high standards and they ended up 6th and 12th. The closest Lewis Hamilton could get the fastest time was again almost a second down.

Once again it wasn’t a good race for the team, even with the upgrades they were just under a second a lap slower than the top 2 teams. After the race team principle Toto Wolff seemed bemused and confused. Although he was pleased that they had been quickest on Friday, Toto couldn’t explain why the car had been so good or why it had suddenly become so bad again for the rest of the weekend.

After another disappointing weekend what will the team do now? Obviously they will bring a big upgrade to Spain as most teams will. Even if they bring an upgrade that cures the problems and makes the car significantly quicker, it would be a surprise if both Ferrari and RedBull don’t do the same so they will have an even bigger gap to close than the one they have had all season long.

Fighting to get higher up the grid. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Its clear that the car can be quick but does it have such a small window in which it needs to be set up that it will be almost impossible to mount a challenge for wins, let alone a title shot if it stays so temperamental. The Spanish race will probably decide what the team does for the rest of the season, continue development of the current car or write off 2022 and start concentrating on next year already and use the rest of the season as an extended test session.

If they do manage to bring an upgrade package that puts them back in the hunt we could be about to see one of the greatest F1 seasons ever, so soon after the great (albeit tarnished 2021 season) 3 teams fighting at the front for the first time in years would be great.

By the end of the race in Spain we should know how the rest of the season will pan out in terms of who will be in the fight for the title. Perhaps more importantly we will know what decision Mercedes have made in their fight to tame the Silver space Hopper.

Emilia Romagna GP Race Report

Round 4 of this years World Championship is taking place at Imola. One of the most historic tracks but one which will forever be associated with the dreadful weekend in 1994 where Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives.

So far this weekend every session for both F1 and the support races has been interrupted by either safety cars or red flags. Early scenes from the track this morning showed the rain had returned so this looked to be a factor for today’s race.

World Champion Max Verstappen would start from 1st alongside his 2022 nemesis Charles Leclerc. Then came Perez, a resurgent Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari. Lando Norris was next up alongside team mate Daniel Ricciardo. The top 10 was rounded out by Bottas, Magnussen, Alonso and Mick Schumacher.

With 5 minutes to go before lights out the track was still damp so the intermediates looked to be the tyres best to start on. Could we see a mad flurry of pitstops early on or would a safety car be more likely to play a part in today’s strategies?

Lights out and Leclerc got a bad start. Sainz and Ricciardo collided with Sainz out at turn one, his dreadful last run of races continuing. Russell in the Mercedes made a storming start and was up to 6th. The safety car was deployed without a single lap being completed. The two Redbulls led the way with Norris third and Leclerc 4th. Replays showed Sainz was the innocent victim after Ricciardo slid a little wide into the Ferrari. It looked like a racing incident. Ricciardo pitted under the safety for a fresh set of inters. Charles Leclerc was already on the radio saying the track was drying quickly.

The race would restart on lap 5 as the safety car pulled into the pitlane. The restart was a little calmer than the original start, the only mover being Vettel on Alonso. Verstappen was already pulling clear of his team mate, Leclerc was stalking Norris in 3rd. Alonso continued to fall down the order and was now down to 12th. The replay of Hamilton overtaking the Spaniard show part of his engine cover flying off the car, He pitted on lap 7 and retired the car.

Alonso losing bodywork as the bouncy Mercedes drives past. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Just 2 laps after the restart Verstappen had pulled 3 seconds on his team mate, Leclerc was still stuck behind Norris in the McLaren. Leclerc made his move on the start of lap 8, overtaking Norris with some late braking into Tamburello. He was already 6 seconds behind his title rival though with Perez in between them. Already some drivers were complaining about the inters going off, the track however wasn’t dry enough for slicks yet. Who would be the first to make the change?

Russell was now harrying Magnussen in the Haas fighting for 5th place. Without DRS he couldn’t quite get past the Haas before the end of the pit straight. The next lap round he made it passed but couldn’t stop the car in time for turn one and went wide. The Haas slipped back passed at the next turn. Later on in the lap the Mercedes made it passed and made it stick.

Magnussen then came under pressure from Bottas. The Alfa man made it passed before the end of the lap. Back upfront Verstappen continued to pull away from Perez who was being caught by Charles Leclerc.

Daniel Ricciardo the trend setter. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

At the start of lap 17 Daniel Ricciardo decided it was time for slicks, now everyone would be looking at the timesheets to see if it was the right choice or not. Lewis Hamilton over the radio said it was too early still. Others disagreed as Vettel, Gasly and Albon all pitted. Ricciardo was setting his quickest sector times but still not purple sectors, RedBull sacrificed Perez and put him on the medium tyres at the start of lap 19. Mercedes also pitted Russell on the same lap, he was followed in by Hamilton. Ocon was released in front of the Mercedes in what seemed a possible unsafe release. Ocon was later given a 5 second time penalty for the unsafe release.

The leaders then also pitted with the whole field now on slicks. The Ferrari of Leclerc made it out ahead of Perez but thanks to the already warm slick on the RedBull Perez made it back passed him almost immediately.

With the field settling down Verstappen led by 7 seconds from Perez, and Leclerc was a further 1.7 seconds down. The fastest laps were now tumbling and at the start of lap 22 Leclerc was right behind Perez. For some reason race control still hadn’t allowed the use of DRS, a strange decision seeing as everyone was now on slicks. This was costing Leclerc massively as he couldn’t get close enough to overtake the RedBull.

Perez keeping Leclerc at bay. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Further back Mick Schumacher went straight on at the chicane and then spun when rejoining the track. Everyone on the track was having problems overtaking as offline the track was still very damp and still DRS hadn’t been allowed to be activated.

As we got to half race distance Lewis Hamilton was struggling in his Silver Space Hopper down in 14th place, with the team learning nothing new about the car surely they would pit him to let him run in free air and use the rest of the race as a test session. This was not the case.

On lap 33 race control decided DRS would now be available, unfortunately for Leclerc he had now fallen to 2 seconds behind Perez so this wouldn’t benefit him until he closed to within a second of the RedBull. Nobody wanted to risk going to far onto the damp parts of the track so still no movements were really being made through the field.

As Verstappen started lap 41 he lapped Lewis Hamilton, possibly the most dramatic thing to happen in the race at this point. The Mercedes team knew they had work to do but to be lapped with still over 20 laps remaining must surely make the World Champion Constructors wonder whether their no sidepod car was indeed the wrong way to go. Hamilton had been caught behind Gasly since the pit stops and even with DRS didn’t look like he was going to be able to overtake him anytime soon.

Gasly keeping the 7 time world champion behind him. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 48 suddenly brought us some much needed action with a great move Tsunoda on Magnussen 8th position. If only DRS was allowed earlier in the race.

As lap 50 begun Ferrari decided to roll the dice and fit the soft tyre to Leclerc, he lost position to Norris but would be back in front of him once the tyres were warmed up. The very next lap RedBull did the same with Perez, a battle was now on for fastest lap and that extra bonus point. Verstappen unsurprisingly with the lead he pitted a lap later so the top three remained the same.

With just 11 laps left Verstappen led by 13.8 seconds from Perez but Leclerc seemed to be enjoying the new tyre more and had closed to within a second of the second RedBull. Unfortunately for the Monagasque he spun at the chicane and damaged his front wing. He pitted on lap 54 for a new wing but was now down in 9th position, an error like that could prove very costly later in the season. He would now need a big charge to try to save decent points this afternoon.

With just 6 laps left the main fight was between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas. These 2 have history on this track as just last season they came together here causing a race stopping crash. As they battled away, behind them Leclerc had made it up to P7. With 2 laps remaining Leclerc took P6 from Tsunoda, would he now go for fastest lap as well?

After 63 laps Max Verstappen crossed the line for what must be his easiest win yet, he was followed 16.5 seconds later by his team mate. They would be joined on the podium by Lando Norris after yet another fine display by the Brit in his McLaren.

The Podium. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Next up was George Russell in the Mercedes after a great performance with Bottas right behind him at the chequered flag. Then came Leclerc who must surely be feeling he had thrown away big points today. Tsunoda was next up followed by Vettel, Magnussen and Stroll finishing up the top 10.

11th was Albon in the Williams, 12th Gasly just ahead of Lewis Hamilton, then came Ocon in the Alpine and Zhou in the second Alpha Romeo. Latifi, Schumacher and Ricciardo were the last classified finishers.

A race that promised a lot didn’t really deliver especially considering the weather. Questions need to be asked about the delay in allowing DRS to be used, another very questionable decision by race control.

The title race closes after this weekend, Leclerc’s huge points lead cut to 27 points, just over one race victory, Verstappen moves up to P2 in the standings despite two DNFs already. Perez is now third on 54 points (5 behind his team mate) and Russell somehow 4th in the Mercedes on 49 points.

The next race is in 2 weeks when F1 visits Miami for the first time, Will Mercedes bring upgrades? Which car out of the top 2 will suit the track better? In just under two weeks time we will find out.

Emilia Romagna Qualifying Report

Round 4 of the 2022 F1 World Championship takes us to a wet and soggy Imola, after the one practice session that the drivers get before the Qualifying session on a Sprint Race weekend it looked like  Ferrari were once again going to be the team to beat with Charles Leclerc 1.4 seconds ahead of third placed Max Verstappen but with the field so far apart with the track drying it would be all to play for in the qualifying session.

Qualifying began in the best conditions seen all day but the track was still damp in places meaning the session would be very interesting. The first runners entered the track on a mix of slicks and intermediate tyres. The first driver to set a time was Lewis Hamilton in the very bouncy Mercedes, it would seem they still have massive issues with porpoising. His time was quickly beaten by both Aston Martins and by some margin. Both Mercedes immediately pitted for new slick tyres. The session was then red flagged thanks to Alex Albons Williams having a fire at the right rear end of the car causing a small explosion which then deposited debris onto the track.

The session restarted with 12 minutes remaining. The times began to tumble as soon as the first laps were completed. The Ferrari’s once again went to the top of the timesheets. Verstappen split them on his second timed run. With the track drying with every lap being driven the times were changing as each driver crossed the line. Then came the now customary Latifi spin, for once he avoided the barriers. As the session came to a close the Ferrari of Leclerc was fastest with 1.18.796 half a second clear of Verstappen. Out in Q1 were Albon, Ocon, Latifi, Gasly and Tsunoda. The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton just making it into Q2 with a late lap but the World Champion Constructors are clearly really struggling again.

A Friday to forget for the Alpha Tauri Drivers. Image Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Q2 began with the threat of rain again, everyone rushed to get on track to try and set a time before the expected downpour. Sainz was first to set a time but was beaten by Verstappen, on his next flying lap Sainz ended up in the tyre wall at Revazza causing the second red flag of the qualifying session, replays showed Sainz lost the rear of his Ferrari going in to the second part of the corner. The rain began coming down again before the session restarted, this meant the 2 Mercedes were in very real danger of both being out in Q2, the worst result for the German manufacturer in some 10 years.

The session restarted but nobody returned to the track as it was clear nobody was going to be able to improve their times. With 2 minutes left Vettel returned to the track to get his eye in for Q3. A few more drivers followed clearly all wanting to get some experience of the wet track before Q3 began. Out of Q2 were Stroll, Zhou, Hamilton, Schumacher and Russell. The fastest time was set by Verstappen with 1.18.793

Stroll qualifying P11 ahead of the Mercedes. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Only 9 cars would begin Q3 with the Ferrari of Sainz out of the session. The track was quite wet in some places but in others was already visibly drying. However almost straight away the Haas of Magnussen was into the tyre barriers and the session was red flagged, Magnussen managed to get his car out of the barriers and the gravel and returned to the pits seemingly unscathed.

A nine minute shoot out would begin when the green light at the end of the pitlane lit up. First man to set a time was Magnussen, he was beaten by Lando Norris who was then topped by his team mate Ricciardo. They were both then beaten by Leclerc and Verstappen. Verstappen then went even faster despite having to lift off for a yellow flag caused by Bottas in the Alfa Romeo. This then turned into another red flag.

The final 3 minutes would again be a shoot out for pole position, those at the front would get two flying laps, those further behind would get one shot. During the delay it began to rain again meaning the session was theoretically over. All the drivers returned to the track but the track looked a lot wetter than at the start of Q3. Lando Norris then lost it at Aqua Minerale and was stuck in the gravel, this brought out the final red flag of the session as only 38 seconds remained.

Pole position for Saturdays sprint race would go to Max Verstappen with a lap time of 1.27.999,  alongside him was Leclerc, on the second row would be Lando Norris and Kevin Magnussen, they were followed by Alonso, Ricciardo, Perez, Bottas, Vettel and Sainz.

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