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.

Australian GP Qualifying Report

For round 3 of the 2022 F1 World Championship the F1 circus rolls into Australia for the first time since the beginning of 2020 when the pandemic struck. After 2 great opening races and the 3 practice sessions of the weekend it looked as though it was going to be another battle between RedBull and Ferrari with maybe a McLaren and an Alpine thrown into the mix.

Charles Leclerc at Albert Park, image courtesy Pirelli media

Q1 began with doubts over whether the Aston Martins would be involved after their crashes in FP3. The first drama of the session was brought to us by Nicholas Latifi who went for his now customary spin (who needs Mazepin), he recovered and continued on his way. With just over 10 minutes into the session and with everyone apart from the Astons having set a time Stroll exited the pitlane after some excellent work from his mechanics. Unfortunately he decided to drive into Latifi before he could set a time wiping both out of the session. This caused a red flag which ironically helped out his team mate who’s car was now repaired.  There was now a crazy race to get to the front of the queue for a one lap qualifying dash. The track seemed to have got a little slower after the red flag as no real improvements were made.

The session ended with Verstappen fastest with a 1.18.580, just 0.254 ahead of his team mate Perez. Out in Q1 were Albon in the Williams, Magnussen in his Haas, Vettel after getting just one lap in the whole session in his repaired Aston Martin, Latifi and Stroll.

Q2 was delayed further by another Williams of Alex Albon stopping on the track at the end of Q1. Once the session got up and running it was Verstappen who led the cars out. He immediately went quickest again from his team mate Perez. A few minutes into the session and Fernando Alonso joined the party pipping the second RedBull. Perez however had stayed out and went quickest just a few minutes later. The Mercedes cars were still having issues and were at least three quarters of a second off of the quickest time, however Lewis Hamilton seemed to find some time to set the quickest first sector of the session so far, unfortunately for him the rest of the lap wasn’t so good. With 5 minutes remaining the Ferraris bolted on some fresh soft tyres, it seemed that even the Ferraris were suffering from porpoising this weekend and it looked to be slowing them down a little, Sainz went P3 on his first lap on fresh rubber, He was immediately  beaten by his team mate Leclerc who moved up to P2. The session came to a close with Perez fastest with a time of 1.18.340, just 0.129s ahead of Carlos Sainz in second.

Out in Q2 were Mick Schumacher who impressively outqualified his more experienced team mate, Zhou in the Alfa Romeo, Tsunoda, Valteri Bottas in the Alfa who failed to reach Q3 for the first time since he left Williams and Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri.

And so we moved to the Q3 shoot out for pole position. The sun was setting and was causing most of the drivers issues with both Leclerc and Hamilton asking for new helmets with darker visors for the session. Once again the World Champion was first on track.

He set a blistering pace with a 1.18.3 however had a lock up on the very final corner, giving him quite a bit of time to be found in the second run, again Perez then went quicker as he looked to have had the upper hand this weekend just like in Saudi a few weekends ago. Leclerc then took the top spot just as Fernando Alonso looked to be on a scintillating lap before he ended up in the wall with a suspected hydraulic issue preventing him from downshifting. The session was red flagged to have Alonso’s stricken Alpine removed from the gravel trap. Unfortunately for Sainz this meant his time wouldn’t count as the red flag appeared just as he was about to cross the line.

The session restarted with 7 minutes remaining on the clock. The two Mercedes were first out, as they seemed to need to do 2 warm up laps to get any performance from the soft tyres. Hamilton moved up to P5 and was then beaten by Russell who moved to P4. Verstappen then improved to go P1 but was then beaten by Leclerc with a sublime lap in the Ferrari, once again the Monagasque had secured pole position with a time of 1.17.868 just 0.286s ahead of the Dutchman..The top 3 was rounded out by Perez in the second RedBull who will be joined by Lando Norris on the second row.

Next up were the 2 Mercedes locking out row 3 with Lewis Hamilton in front of George Russell, then came Ricciardo in the second McLaren alongside Ocon in the Alpine, ninth and tenth were the 2 Spaniards, Carlos Sainz who’s best time was lost due to the red flag and then Fernando Alonso in tenth.

Tomorrows race should be another tactical bout between RedBull and Ferrari but with the changes made to the circuit this year hopefully the battle will be on the track, something which hasn’t happened in the recent years at Albert Park. Round 3 looks like it could live up to the hype of the first 2 rounds of the season.

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