2023 Italian GP Qualifying

Carlos Sainz has made the Tifosi’s dreams come true and secured pole position for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Celebrating on the track in front of the Ferrari fans the Spaniard who has been very quick all weekend put in one of the laps of his life to beat Max Verstappen by the smallest of margins.

Q1 began with everyone on the Hard Pirelli compound as this qualifying session was being used for the new mandatory tyre allocation strategy trial of hards being used for Q1, mediums for Q2  the softs for Q3.

Max Verstappen’s first lap of qualifying was deleted for exceeding track limits, He immediately pitted, came back out and went quickest by 0.338 from team mate Sergio Perez. They were followed by Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin and then the Williams of Alex Albon.

The track was getting quicker as the session went on meaning the final runs would be crucial.

Ocon out after damage in Q1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

As the final runs ended Albon moved up to P2 with Leclerc also up to P3. At the other end Zhou, Gasly, Ocon, Magnussen, and Stroll were all out of qualifying.

Q2 started with both Ferrari drivers under investigation for not being under the new maximum time to get round for a lap to prevent everyone going slowly on their outlaws, This would be investigated after the session so the result of qualifying might be decided in the stewards room.

Once again Verstappen was first on track and immediately went to the top of the time sheets, Shortly after that Sainz in the Ferrari sent the Tifosi wild and went quickest by 0.044, Behind them was Leclerc and Albon in the flying Williams.

Surprisingly the Mercedes pair went out to the track later than everyone else, Even with the clear track they could only manage 6th and 12th.

All 15 cars left the garages at the same time leaving the pitlane looking like the worlds most expensive car park.

When the last runs finally began the Williams of Sargeant was at the front of the pack, he didn’t improve though and stayed 14th. Joining him in not making it trough were Tsunoda, Lawson, Hulkenberg and Bottas.

Hamilton making his way into Q3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

The top of the timesheet had a familiar look about it with Verstappen fastest with a 1.20.937 ahead of Leclerc, Sainz and Perez. Albon was next up continuing to impress in the Williams, Hamilton improved to 6th ahead of his team mate Russell. Completing the top 10 and making it to Q3 were Piastri, Alonso and Norris.

Q3 brought the inevitable excitement with Verstappen dipping a wheel into the gravel on his first lap but still managing to make the top 3, At the front it was Sainz from Leclerc, then Verstappen and Russell, Behind them were Albon, Perez, Norris , Piastri Hamilton and then Alonso.

The final runs of the session would be the ones to determine the grid for Sundays race.

Charles Leclerc went first and moved to provisional pole, then came Verstappen who beat him but he was then beaten by Sainz in the Ferrari with a scintillating lap time of 1.20.294, the top three separated by just 0.067

4th was George Russell, then came Perez, Albon, Piastri, Hamilton and Norris and Alonso closing out the top 10.

Sainz gets a pole at the home of Ferrari. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Almost immediately after the session was completed it was confirmed no further action was necessary for the Ferrari’s earlier transgression meaning Sainz had pole in a Ferrari at Monza.

Can the Tifosi get their dream result tomorrow or will Max Verstappen continue his run and win a 10th successive race.

Verstappen takes Monaco pole as Perez crashes

Max Verstappen has taken pole position for the first time in Monaco after one of the most thrilling qualifying sessions in years. The world champion ended up just 0.084 ahead of Fernando Alonso, while the top 10 were covered by less than a second.

The most important qualifying session of the season started under bright blue skies, almost everyone going straight out onto the circuit knowing getting a lap in early could be crucial.

The early pace setter as expected was Verstappen, who went quickest with his first flying lap backed up by his team-mate Sergio Perez in second place. Both Aston Martins were also within tenth of the leading Red Bull. With just 11 minutes left of the session the red flag came out after Perez hit the wall at St Devot. The RedBull driver would not take any further part in qualifying.

The session resumed for a frantic shoot out to get through to Q2; Verstappen ended the session quickest with a time of 1.12.386 just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri with Williams’ Alex Albon third. Both Carlos Sainz and Sir Lewis Hamilton had to leave it late after scrappy first runs but they both got through in the end. Out of Q1 were Perez, Guanyu Zhou, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant in the Williams.

After a frantic Q1 the second session began in calmer fashion, Verstappen once again quickest straight from the off, closely followed by Alonso. The first runs were all completed without any dramas. Norris had a scrape with the wall at Tabac after damaging his left front suspension when exiting the chicane, ending the McLaren driver’s session. Hamilton again left it late but managed to get within 2 tenths of the quickest time set by Verstappen with a time of 1.11.908

Out at the end of Q2 were Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll, Albon, Nyck De Vries and Oscar Piastri.

Q3 began with Verstappen straight out on track to get his lap in early to avoid any red flags ruining his session as they had in recent years. The world champion set an early 1.12 but was beaten almost immediately by Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. All three of them managed to get into the 1:11s.

With six minutes left Lando Norris left the pitman after McLaren had worked some magic to get his car back on track.

Verstappen managed to get a good lap in halfway through the session and went to the top of the timesheets but amazingly was beaten by Ocon in the Alpine.

The last runs began with just 2 minutes left in the session. The driver at the top of the timesheets kept changing but ended once again with Verstappen at the top on a 1.11.365 just 0.084 ahead of Alonso. On the second row are Leclerc and Esteban Ocon, they will be followed by Sainz, Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, George Russell, Yuki Tsunoda and Norris.

The stewards are currently investigating Stroll for missing the weigh bridge in Q2, while Leclerc may yet be in trouble for holding up Norris in the final session by moving slowly in the tunnel.

The race will be long on Sunday and the threat of rain could mix it up; Verstappen and Alonso into turn one could get tasty.

Featured image curtesy of by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

2023 Azerbaijan Sprint Race

Sergio Perez is posing for a picture in Milton Keynes on February 24th, 2021 // Markus Berger / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202110180128 // Usage for editorial use only //

Sergio Perez has won the first sprint race of the season, winning by almost four and a half seconds from Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen completed the podium in the second RedBull. It was a dominant performance from the Mexican who overtook pole sitter Leclerc as soon as the DRS was activated and never looked back from then on.

The action started straight from lights out with Max Verstappen and George Russell battering for the first four corners with the young Brit coming out on top.

At the front it was Leclerc leading from Perez, At the end of lap one Tsunoda lost his right rear tyre after a brush with the wall causing a Virtual Safety Car. The Alpha Tauri driver seemed to just understeer straight into the wall. After 2 laps of VSC a full safety car was needed to clear the debris. Strangely the team sent Tsunoda back out with the right rear suspension broken and left him to crab round for a whole lap before retiring the car.

At the restart both Mercedes drivers lost positions falling to 4th and 7th.  Verstappen getting back ahead of Russell and Alonso moving un front of Lewis Hamilton.

Leclerc again lead away from Perez and Verstappen.

At the start of lap 8 Perez used the DRS to cruise past Leclerc and take the lead. Behind them Verstappen was stalking the pair with Russell, Sainz and Hamilton all falling back from the leaders.

Further back in the field Oscar Piastri overtook his team mate Lando Norris to move up to P10. McLaren had fitted Norris with soft tyres, a gamble that didn’t seem to work with Norris struggling at just over half distance and having to pit, In a sprint race that’s a disaster.

With 5 laps left Charles Leclerc was wringing the neck of his Ferrari and making a fight of the sprint race, getting back within DRS range of the lead RedBull. As soon as he did this Perez suddenly upped his pace and increased his lead to 2 seconds with just 3 laps remaining.

The rest of the field looked fairly settled as usually happens in the sprint races.

In fact the last 3 laps went by with very little action. Perez took the chequered flag after 17 laps of the Sprint Race. Leclerc was second with Max Verstappen third. Behind them was Russell who after his first lap battle had a quiet race, then came Sainz, Alonso, Hamilton, Stroll, Albon and Piastri finishing off the top ten.

The Grand Prix takes place tomorrow and hopefully will bring the usual Baku style craziness.

 

2023 Australian GP Qualifying.

Max Verstappen will once again start from pole position in tomorrow’s Grand Prix but, for the first time in his career, he was the fastest in qualifying in Australia. He will be joined on the front row by Mercedes’ George Russell with World Champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso on the second row. Once again, the reigning World Champion came out on top after an exciting session. Thanks to cooler temps and weather, every driver stayed out for the full session setting times throughout the session to maintain tyre temperatures.

Q1 began with rain in the air so most drivers opted to go out onto the track straight away. Alex Albon briefly led the time charts but, when on an even quicker lap he put a wheel onto the grass at the second to last corner and lost the red end of his Williams, he managed to recover to the pitlane.

Just after that Sergio Perez locked up and beached his Red Bull in the gravel and mud turn 4. The Mexican was the first driver out of qualifying. The session restarted with 12 minutes remaining.

The session ended with Max Verstappen once again quickest, The five drivers who didn’t make it through to Q2 were Perez in his stranded RedBull, Bottas in the Alfa Romeo, Sergeant in the Williams, the second Alfa of Zhou and then home favourite Oscar Piastri in the McLaren.

Piastri was not able to push his car out of Q1 at home. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Q2 again started with the whole field trying to get some laps in, the tyres were taking longer to warm up here so each driver was choosing to do longer runs and get some temp into the tyres.

Lando Norris took a quick trip through the gravel trap that Perez succumbed to, but the Brit managed to drive through the gravel and back to the pits for some new rubber.

It was another session where everyone seemed to fuel up for the whole session and keep doing laps to keep the tyre temps up and get some consistently quick lap times in. Once again Verstappen led the field by just 0.227 from Alonso in the Aston Martin. Out of Q2 were De Vries, Magnussen, Norris, Tsunoda and Ocon.

De Vries is down in P15 for tomorrow’s GP. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

The threat of rain was still in the air so everyone came out early for Q3. Verstappen was first across the line setting a time of 1.17.578 but was unusually scruffy from the 2-time World Champion. He was beaten by Hamilton, Alonso, Russell, Sainz and Leclerc but went on a second run and moved ahead of the field again. He then went quicker again on his final run with a time 0.236 quicker than second-placed George Russell.

Third was Lewis Hamilton, alongside him was Alonso in the Aston Martin, then Sainz, Stroll, Leclerc, and Albon with Gasly and Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten.

A grid is set up nicely for the race on Sunday, with the same conditions forecast the first few laps will be very interesting as people struggle to generate heat on the tyres and get a grip. Will Verstappen again pull away in the Red Bull or can Mercedes fight against them with Fernando Alonso in the mix as well?

Hamilton is happy with qualifying. Image courtesy of Pirelli Press Area

 

2023 Bahrain GP

The opening race of the 2023 F1 season was dominated by the RedBull team and the defending world champion Max Verstappen. His teammate Sergio Perez and the resurgent Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin followed him home.

The race start. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

From the start Verstappen led away Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari, into turn 4 the Aston Martins came together but avoided damage after Stroll out-braked himself and clipped Alonso. This incident let the Mercedes drivers through to settle into P5 and 6.

Once the field had settled down Alonso started to close on Russell in the Mercedes, by lap 13 he had closed it completely and had a great battle with the British driver and eventually came out on top.

Further behind the McLarens weren’t having the greatest start to the season, Piastri retiring on lap 15 and Norris having issues meaning he had to pit numerous times and leaving him at the back of the field.

By lap 20 the first stops were completed and the field settled down. During the stops Ocon served a time penalty for a start-line procedure breach, unfortunately, he then gained another penalty for not serving the penalty correctly.

Verstappen was now leading by over 10 seconds but carrying on with soft tyres whereas every other team had moved to the hard compound.

Perez was now catching Leclerc and by lap 26 he was ahead of the Ferrari and moving to P2. Sainz in the second Ferrari was 4th but had fallen further behind and didn’t seem in the fight all weekend.

Mercedes tried to pit early to try and keep Alonso at bay but once the stops were over Alonso quickly caught Hamilton and after a great 2-lap battle the Spaniard pulled ahead and started to pull away in search of Sainz in the Ferrari.

Ferraris reliability issues then struck again with Leclerc stopping on track causing a brief VSC.

Once that was cleared Alonso set after Sainz and overtook him shortly after to move up to P3 and into the podium positions.

After 57 laps Max Verstappen crossed the line to take win 36 of his career, Perez second ahead of Alonso completing the podium. Behind them came Sainz, Hamilton, an impressive Stroll racing with two fractured wrists and a broken toe finished sixth.

Seventh was Russell in the second Mercedes, then Bottas, Gasly and Albon an impressive tenth in the Williams.

Eleventh was Tsunoda ahead of Sergeant, Magnussen, De Vries and Hulkenberg. The last two finishers were Zhou and Norris.

The only retirees were Ocon, Leclerc and Piastri.

After such a dominant performance RedBull will be confident they can once again dominate the season but with Aston Martin making big gains and Mercedes planning a big upgrade already, we will have to wait and see how the season progresses.

Round 2 is in Saudi Arabia in 2 weeks, Can they start to catch up already, we will have the answers in 14 days’ time.

2023 F1 Testing Report/2023 Season Preview

Just a few months after the 2022 season finished with a victory for Max Verstappen and his RedBull team in both championships in what was their most dominant season ever, the F1 family arrived in Bahrain ready for just 3 days of testing before the new season would begin at the same circuit.

It was a very busy 3 days with the teams trying to get a grip on their new cars and hoping to see improvements from last year.

Testing times are always difficult to read with differing fuel loads, not knowing which engine modes are being used and teams even hiding their hands to not give too much away. However, you can always tell which teams are happy with their winter’s work and which ones are confused and wondering where they have gone wrong.

With no big rule changes this year, most cars would just be an evolution of last year’s car. The main rule change was the floor being lifted by 15mm, this would mean a loss of downforce but most teams would have recovered this already by the time the test ended. In fact, during the first morning of testing the cars were already beating last year’s times.

The quickest times from each day were ;

Day 1 – Max Verstappen – 1.32.837

Day 2 – Zhou Guanyu – 1.31.610

Day 3 – Sergio Perez – 1.30.305

Obviously, this time next week, times will be critical but as this is testing they are not the most important thing to look for. How many laps the teams do, reliability issues, how easily they switch each compound of tyre on, and how easily the balance can be changed are among the things teams will be looking at. With that in mind a summary of each team shows the following.

RedBull – 413 laps (Verstappen – 1.31.650  – Perez – 1.30.305)

Max Verstappen testing the RB19 on day one. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

The World Champions may not have completed the most laps but they had seemingly no problems during the three days, in fact, the biggest drama seemed to be when the car fell off the jack in the pitlane during one of the sessions. For the rest of the field, it looks ominous as they ran through 3 days of programmes without any issues and were quick on each compound of the tyre. It was very reminiscent of the early Hybrid era days when Mercedes used to pound round tracks for fun and be fastest even without trying for performance. In fact, Verstappen only used the C3 tyre for the whole test not feeling the need to use any of the softer compounds, yet looking quick at all times and having what looked the easiest car to control. 2023 could be yet another year of domination for the reigning champions.

Ferrari – 416 laps (Leclerc – 1.31.024 – Sainz – 1.31.036)

Last year’s runners-up started testing with the hope that stopping the development of last year’s car early to concentrate on this year would bring big rewards. To be fair Ferrari are one of the hardest teams to judge following testing. It seemed as if they didn’t go for performance runs at all but it also looked as if they took a few wrong directions with different setups during their race runs. There are no real reliability issues over the three days and no stand-out moments during the runs. The car looks fast but have they done enough to catch RedBull up or are they even further away at the start of the new season?

Both drivers seemed happy after the test so only time will tell.

Mercedes – 398 laps (Hamilton – 1.30.664 – Russell – 1.31.442)

Russell taking the W14 for a spin. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The 8 times World Champions had by their standards a shocking season in 2022 with their striking zero sidepod cars failing to live up to expectations. Going into this test the team have stuck with this concept hoping they have all the data to make the concept work. although the team did set some very competitive times the car looked very much on the edge and it seemed they were pushing harder than any other of the top teams. The test was by no means a disaster for them and they are definitely looking better than at this time last year but from this test, it looks as though they are further behind than at the end of last season when they looked to have clawed a lot of the deficit to RedBull and Ferrari back. If they are not in the top three next week they will be pinning all their hopes on a big upgrade already which is not how they would have wanted to start this season.

Alpine – 353 laps (Gasly – 1.32.762 – Ocon – 1.33.257)

The French Alpine team came to the test boasting of an improved engine and a much-improved car. Although the car looked the most twitchy of all on track and seemed to still be suffering from the dreaded porpoising the team sounded confident and most observers seemed impressed with them and the fact they didn’t seem to show their hand too much. This season could see them jump free from the midfield and with two very hungry drivers could be a surprise package this year.

Mclaren – 311 laps (Norris – 1.32.160 – Piastri – 1.33.175)

Piastri trying to get to grips with the car. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

McLaren had another poor test which seems to be the norm for the once-great team. With Piastri joining Norris this season the team had hoped they could move forward after a slightly disappointing 2022. Things didn’t start well when the front wheel winglets came loose and the team had to strengthen them before any more running could be done. The team confirmed they hadn’t hit their targets in the test and look to be starting the season on the backfoot already. Could they already be hoping a big upgrade coming early in the season would save their blushes?

Alfa Romeo – 401 laps (Bottas – 1.30.827 – Zhou – 1.31.610)

This time last year Alfa Romeo was suffering from reliability issues and was not looking good. Fast forward a year and although they had one major issue causing Bottas to stop on track and cause a red flag they look to be in good shape. Consistent running on all three days and even setting the fastest time on day 2 means the team could be looking at a very impressive start to the season with points a definite possibility at the early races.

Aston Martin – 387 laps (Alonso – 1.31.450 – Drugovich – 1.32.075)

The new and improved Aston Martin at the hands of Alonso. Image courtesy of AMF1 Media

Possibly the biggest talking point of the test was Aston Martin, Just before the test it was announced Lance Stroll would not be taking part thanks to an injury caused by a cycling accident whilst training. The team haven’t announced his injuries, but he could miss not only the first race but also a few after that. This would leave the majority of testing to new driver Fernando Alonso with reserve driver Felipe Drugovich also taking part. The missing Stroll didn’t seem to stop the team as they look to have made a massive step forward with a revolutionary new car. Not only could they set quick one-off lap times but in fact on Alonso’s race run on the final day not only did he have little tyre degradation but his times made him the third-quickest driver over a race distance. The team look to be in a very good place and even with the doubts over Stroll, they must be looking forward to a very competitive start to the season.

Haas – 414 laps (Magnussen – 1.31.381 – Hulkenberg – 1.32.466)

In 2022 Haas made a very competitive start to the season and although they slipped back down the order through the season they moved away from the back end of the field that they had made their own in previous seasons. During this test, the team looked to have maintained their speed with a car performing well with Magnussen and the returning Nico Hulkenberg at the wheel. They will be hoping they can score some early points before teams on the back foot bring upgrades and NPC doubt overhaul them.

Alpha Tauri – 456 laps (De Vries – 1.32.222 – Tsunoda – 1.31.261)

The team that completed the most laps of the three days. Setting some decent times, they clearly used their 2 drivers to test different setups each day which was showed by the difference in their times each day. Obviously, they have a reliable car which was proven by the number of laps they completed. Another team with a new pairing this season but the fact they have 2 drivers who need to outshine each other to move their careers forwards should help the team have some very competitive outings this season. With rumours in the paddock that the team might be sold this season they will be looking to put on an impressive start to the season.

Williams – 439 laps (Albon – 1.32.793 – Sargeant – 1.32.549)

The last few years for Williams have seen them become the team at the back more often than not. This season could see them move forward, Probably not into the midfield but at the very least clinging to their coat tales. They ran reliably over the 3 days which is always a good starting point and Alex Albon has a proven quick driver who is more than capable of solid results. They will need Logan Sergeant to be up to speed immediately if they are to move forward. All in all, it looks like Williams could finally be moving away from the back of the grid this season.

Williams appeared to make the most gains from last season’s testing. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

With the first race of the season being held at the same track in a week’s time the paddock didn’t have the usual rush to pack everything away so will no doubt spend the next week going over all the data and looking where they can find more speed for next weekend and also where to start looking for development.

The longest season ever is ahead of them, so the teams will know they have time to work through developments and make sure they go in the right direction for the season.

With RedBull looking not only quick but reliable, they will be the happiest of all the teams. Ferrari will be hoping to keep them honest and Mercedes could still be in the hunt from the first race. 2023 promises more surprises and entertainment and in just a week’s time, we will know who has got it right and who needs to go back to the drawing board.

F1 IS BACK.

 

 

 

2022 Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying

The final race of the 2022 season took place in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit, the most expensive F1 facility in the world.

With four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel taking part in his final GP, can he make it Q3 for the final time in his illustrious career? It was also the final qualifying session for now for Mick Schumacher and Daniel Ricciardo, who has a three place grid penalty for his incident in the race last weekend. Surely they will want to make a good impression for their chances of making a comeback in 2024.

Q1 began with half the field immediately coming onto track. The first driver to set a time was Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri with a 1.26.135, followed by Mick Schumacher just 0.130 behind him.

The first of the front runners to start a flying lap was Leclerc in the Ferrari, immediately setting purple sectors. He set a 1.25.211 to go quickest but was very close to exceeding track limits at the final corner. He was then beaten by Perez in the Red Bull by almost four tenths.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202211181492 // Usage for editorial use only //

Lando Norris put his McLaren in P4 with his team mate Ricciardo directly behind him. The Mercedes finished their laps last and ended 4th and 6th, quite a way off the pace, surprising after their showings so far this weekend. At the top Max Verstappen was 0.066 ahead of his team-mate, who is hoping to secure second in the championship this weekend.

With just under four minutes left in the session the final runs began. Vettel first to cross the line put his Aston Martin in fifth. As they all cross the line, the five drivers eliminated are Magnussen, Gasly, Bottas, Albon and Latifi.

At the start of Q2 Mercedes decided to do their first runs on used soft tyres, clearly wanting to keep fresh sets for Q3 and tomorrow’s race. Lewis Hamilton crossed the line first with a 1.25.772, but was then beaten by his team mate George Russell with a time of 1.25.363.

The rest of the field were now on their first runs. Both Ferraris and Norris in the McLaren were setting quicker sectors than the Mercedes pair. All three of them went quicker to take the top three positions on the timing screens. Then came the Red Bulls, for once led by Perez who was some four tenths quicker than his team mate.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202211181486 // Usage for editorial use only //

The Mercedes put fresh softs on and Hamilton moved his car up to P2 just three tenths behind Perez. Russell crossed the line with a time of 1.24.940 and into P4. The Mercedes were out of sync with everyone else.

Leclerc in his Ferrari managed to find some pace to end Q2 just 0.098 away from the leading Red Bull. Sainz was P3 and Verstappen P4. Out of qualifying at the end of Q2 were Alonso, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Stroll and Zhou. Vettel did indeed get through to Q3 for his final weekend in F1 after a great lap in the Aston Martin.

Q3 was contested by both Red Bulls, both Mercedes, both Ferraris, both McLarens, and Vettel and Ocon. Once again the Mercedes cars were first onto the track. Hamilton completed his lap with a 1.24.678, with Russell next just 0.016 behind.

Both were then beaten by Leclerc and Sainz, the Ferrari drivers some four tenths quicker than the Mercedes. Then came the Red Bulls, Perez making a mistake at the final corner losing time and only making P2. Verstappen came next with a time of 1.23.988 to take provisional pole position.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202211181449 // Usage for editorial use only //

Vettel decided to do his lap with no cars on the track. He made it to P7 some 0.973 away from the leading Red Bull. With 2 minutes to go the final runs of the season began.

Leclerc improved to P2, and Verstappen improved again to 1.23.824, followed by his team mate Perez. The second row was an all Ferrari affair with Leclerc ahead of Sainz, then the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell. 7th was Norris in the McLaren, then Ocon in the Alpine. The final two places in the top 10 were taken by Ricciardo and Vettel.

The race is all set up tomorrow to decide who will take second place in the World Championship. Who will come out on top, between Perez in the Red Bull and Leclerc in the Ferrari?

 

2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

The penultimate round of the 2022 F1 World Championship will take place in Brazil in front of a carnival-like atmosphere. After a very entertaining sprint race, the front of the grid is locked out by Mercedes for the first time this season. Can they finally win a Grand Prix this season after a year of developing their troublesome car? Or will RedBull use the extra set of soft tyres they have to their advantage?

Both Mercedes and Redbulls led away line astern, Norris in front of the Ferraris as the field all made it through the first 4 corners cleanly. Ricciardo and Magnussen came together later in the lap causing an instant safety car with the cars damaged and stranded on the track. Replays showed Ricciardo just missed his breaking point and tapped the Haas driver into a spin, the Haas then backed into the McLaren as it was coming to a stop.

Hamilton and Verstappen coming together at the safety car restart. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The race restarted on lap 7, and once again Hamilton and Verstappen come together as they always seem to do when in combat. Norris and Leclerc also made contact during the first restarted lap. Leclerc managed to get back onto the track and continue. Verstappen needed to pit for a new front wing. Hamilton fell back to 8th but continued.

By lap 11 Russell was leading Perez in the RedBull by 1.5 seconds. Hamilton moved ahead of Vettel and into P5 at the end of lap 13.

As that happened it was confirmed Verstappen and Norris had received 5 second time penalties for their parts in the earlier collisions. The world champion was not happy over the pit radio.

Lap 18 saw Sainz in the lead Ferrari pit for softs, he rejoined P12 behind the Williams of Albon. He quickly dispatched the Williams. The Ferrari driver was making the most of the new soft tyres by passing Stroll just two laps later.

A good stop by Mercedes for Russell. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The sister Ferrari pitted on lap 22, returning to the track down in 17th. The chances of Leclerc getting P2 in the title hunt looked to be disappearing. His rival for that position, Perez, pitted on lap 24 and was back out in 6th but in traffic. Mercedes reacted straight away and pitted leader George Russell. He came back out in second but was still 4 seconds ahead of Perez.

At the start of lap 25, Hamilton led, Verstappen pitted and took his five second penalty but seemed to have a slow stop as well. The retiring ex-world champion Vettel pitted on lap 27, showing well in the Aston Martin in P9.

There was some good racing in the midfield today between Bottas, Gasly and Vettel. Bottas was in great form, making it past Vettel and Gasly using DRS to his full advantage before Vettel followed passed the Alpha Tauri.

Sainz pitted for the second time on lap 37, a new set of mediums fitted to the Ferrari. Would he be able to make it to the end of them?

Somehow despite collisions and penalties Norris and Leclerc had found themselves on the same piece of the track again. On lap 43 the Ferrari made it passed the McLaren. A lap later Hamilton took second place from Perez, The Mercedes looking the best they have all year.

With all the excitement going on Verstappen had quietly made his way up to P9, stalking Norris in the McLaren. The McLaren pitted on lap 46 moving Verstappen up to 6th as two others pitted on the same lap.

Perez had his second stop on lap 48, returning to the track in 4th almost 12 seconds behind Sainz in 3rd.  Hamilton was next in for soft tyres, followed by leader Russell a lap later. With 21 laps left it was Rusell leading Sainz by 1.5 seconds, Hamilton a further 6 seconds back with Perez 4.5 behind the Mercedes.

Norris in the McLaren stopped on lap 53 with an electrical issue, his car was in a dangerous place, bringing the VSC into play. Sainz pitted losing positions to Hamilton and Perez. With Marshalls struggling to move the stricken McLaren the Safety car made its way onto the track.

A 12-lap shoot-out began as the Safety car pulled in. Leclerc had managed to get up to P5 and could somehow get a podium. Sainz and Perez battled through the first three turns with neither making ground on the other,

Sainz made it up to P3 with a great move on Perez on lap 63. A lap later and Leclerc also passes the RedBull. Alonso is next up behind the RedBull and was looking fired up. The Spaniard made his move on lap 65, another great drive from the veteran.

Redbull told Verstappen to go for it and take much-needed points off Leclerc and Alonso to help Perez out. Leclerc, thinking the same also radios Ferrari to ask Sainz to move aside. Ferrari ignored his requests.

Team orders gone wrong at RedBull. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

RedBull’s switch came with a promise to Perez that they would switch back if Verstappen couldn’t pass Leclerc. However, on the final lap, the team asked, and Verstappen did not comply. This led to what can only be described as ‘spicy’ radio messages at the end of the race.

Back at the front Russell went across the line to win his first-ever GP, a great performance with zero mistakes all day long. Following him over the line was Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Alonso, Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Bottas and Stroll rounding out the top ten.

Well, that was some race, Brazil always seems to provide a great race whether it’s wet or dry. The first Mercedes 1-2 of the year. It bodes well for next season.

One more race left this season and they return to Abu Dhabi next weekend.

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?

 

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