Is Liam Lawson the next Denny Hulme?

Liam Lawson, the New Zealander from Hastings – no the 1066 location – this year has been racing on two fronts. He has been racing in the F2 Championship this year which has been split with huge gaps throughout the year to accomodate a new style and the DTM Championship driving a Red Bull sponsored AF Corse Ferrari in between these gaps. In 2019, he became part of their Red Bull junior programme which has allowed him to do this.

Denny Hulme on the other hand was the F1 World Champion in 1967 – often forgotten when you see the name 71 Champions, but he himself beat many Champions in that Season from Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Graham Hill to Jackie Stewart prior to his Championship wins. He competed until the 1974 season and remains the only New Zealander in the history of the sport to win the F1 World Championship amongst the nine that have competed from the Country, with Bruce McLaren and himself coming third in the years following closest to match it.

Lawson began like most karting before working up the lower formulas; he took the Championship over fellow countryman Marcus Armstrong who is a Ferrari Junior in the Toyota Racing Series and who sits second in the current F2 season. He moved directly through each series until F3, of which spending two seasons in 2019 and 2020 before moving to F2 this year. He currently drives for the Hitech team as he did in the second year of his F3 career with fellow Red Bull junior Juri Vips winning the Season opener in Bahrain sitting eighth in the Standings, whilst in DTM he once again won the Season opener and with a double victory at Red Bull Ring. He looks to be possibly on to winning that Series at his first attempt.

Lawson has impressed in his opening DTM season – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

In terms of machinery needed to win as well as the skill required he has Red Bull junior sponsorship, so could get a seat at one of the most powerful seats in modern F1, but of course there is competition for it. Looking ahead a few seasons you have current Alpha Tauri driver Yuki Tsunoda, and Lawson’s current team-mate Yuri Vips. Tsunoda hasn’t set F1 alight yet; Pierre Gasly has outqualified him at every event this year, and the Japanese has scored little compared to his team-mate. With patience not one of Helmut Marko’s strong skills, if it doesn’t improve Lawson’s gap to F1 could open sooner rather than later in that aspect. Yuri Vips is currently 6th compared to Lawson’s 8th in F2, and he was the test driver last year for Red Bull. He has had half a season more due to his age of 21 to Lawson’s 19 in that Formula. In respect to Sergio Perez, at 31 on a rolling one year contract presently at the senior team, could Lawson be the one to take the helm of the second seat and control it on a consistent level? Red Bull haven’t had a 1-2 on the podium since Malaysia in 2016 and Helmut’s desire for domination is insatiable. 

In my eyes it is possible Liam Lawson could indeed be the Denny Hulme of the current era beating some Champions to the title, with the right machinery. The difference in circumstance in 1967 was that there were so few races. It maybe the case we will have 23/24 races when Lawson gets the chance; he has the skill and indeed the machinery available. It looks as though with Liam he has a plan to fall back on – his first Season in the German Touring Car Masters (DTM), he is currently 18 points clear of Kelvin van der Linde going into the final round at the Norisring, so if open wheeled Formula doesn’t work in the short term, he could return to DTM. He has got the control of these V8 monsters, and if even fancies a return to home, there are the V8 Supercars back in Australasia. He may even try Le Mans like Denny Hulme.

Qatar completes 2021 F1 calendar

The F1 paddock this season have been known for keeping the worst secrets, like George Russell’s move to Mercedes that took a while to be confirmed. It’s been touted for a while now that the Losail International Circuit in Qatar will host an event this year, as F1 has been reviewing options to replace the Australian Grand Prix since mid-August.

The FIA has officially confirmed the 20th round of the 2021 season will be held at this track on the weekend of 19-21 November, a part of the Middle East finale as F1 then travels to the new Jeddah street track in Saudi Arabia, before concluding at the updated Yas Marina track in Abu Dhabi. The other interesting news is that Qatar will join the F1 calendar for 10 years from 2023 onwards as it has the FIFA World Cup to focus on in 2022, which suggests either F1 will either lose a race or is aiming for a 24-race calendar.

The Losail Circuit is 22 miles north of Doha, the capital of Qatar, and has a single stand of around 8,000 capacity, which they could expand for the F1 event. It holds an FIA grade 1 license and is 5.38km in length with a 1.06km start/finish straight which would be perfect for a DRS zone very similar to Bahrain. Since 2008 it has been known for night racing. The fastest time set at Losail by any motorsport is 1:35:741 set by Nico Hulkenburg in GP2 Asia qualifying in 2009.

Francesco Bagnaia at Qatar 2021 MotoGP. Image Courtesy of Ducati

Losail has been on the MotoGP calendar since 2004 and has been its season opener since 2007. World Superbikes have also raced throughout the years as the track favours two wheels compared to four, especially if you look at the twisty nature of sector two. The last four wheel action on the track was the World Touring Car Championship action in 2017.

The closest Losail has come to Formula 1 was the GP2 Asia series in the 2008-09 calendar, when it was a part of the six track championship. A worthy note is that Sergio Perez competed in that season of racing, finishing second in race one and winning race two, thus being the only driver on the current F1 grid to ever to compete there.

Will Lewis Hamilton make this his 30th different track to win on? Hamilton has done well at first time attempts in 2020 as he won at Mugello, Portimao and Imola, but 2021 is very much a different season for him and Mercedes.

The 2021 calendar is now complete, still with a record-breaking 22 events if not the 23 they wished. But sure that number will more than likely come next year with the Miami International Autodrome in May.

2021 Season Conclusion

10 Oct – Turkey (Istanbul Park) 🇹🇷

24 Oct – USA (COTA) 🇺🇸

7 Nov – Mexico (Mexico City) 🇲🇽

14 Nov – Brazil (Interlagos) 🇧🇷

21 Nov – Qatar (Losail) 🇶🇦

5 Dec – Saudi Arabia (Jeddah) 🇸🇦

12 Dec – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) 🇦🇪

F1 2020: End of Season Awards

The 2020 season has come to a close – at 161 days, it was the shortest since 1966, condensing 17 races into that window which has in previous seasons taken nearer 300. The final race took place on the 13th December. The time has now come to reflect on some of the extraordinary achievements that were made and exceeded in times that happen in every hundred years. Most of these decisions were made by the public using @PitCrewOnline and Twitter Poll. 

We start with our first award, Qualifying Lap of Year, where you get to see the cars at the fastest! Our four options, place they qualified and resulting race are:

Hulkenberg P3 – 70th GP

Gasly P4 – Emilia Romagna GP

Stroll P1 – Turkish GP

Leclerc P4 – Sakhir GP

Winner: Hulkenberg – 62% of Public vote

This was his second consecutive race filling in for Sergio Perez after he tested positive for covid-19, although he couldn’t start the British Grand Prix due to a last minute problem with the car. Unlike the latter Bahrain rounds where the track changed to shortened Sakhir track, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone had no changes from the British event. He qualified a fantastic P3, going faster than Verstappen; he was only beaten by the fastest car ahead of him in Mercedes. He ended Sunday in P7 so managed to score points, but the podium continues to elude him.

Nico Hulkenberg brilliantly deputised for Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll at various points of the season – Courtesy of Racing Point Media

The next award is: Best Start of the Year. the nominees are:

Max Verstappen – P7 to P3 – Hungarian GP

Kimi Raikonnen – P16 to P7 – Portuguese GP

Carlos Sainz – P7 to P2 – Portuguese GP

Sebastian Vettel  – P11 to P3 – Turkish GP

Winner: Kimi Raikkonen – 44% of Public vote

Kimi had a great start at Portimao, gaining 9 places on the opening lap; he even continued to rise to sixth place in the race for a further few laps before others tyres began to get temperature on the unique surface the track had. It narrowly beat Vettel’s start which received 33% of the vote at Turkey. 

2020 was Kimi Raikkonen’s second year with Alfa Romeo – Courtesy of Alfa Romeo Media

The Third award is: Overtake of the Year. We love wheel to wheel action – even better when DRS isn’t involved! Our options are:

Charles Leclerc on Lando Norris – outside of turn 4 – Austrian GP

Alex Albon on Lance Stroll – Outside of Copse – 70th Anniversary GP

Sergio Perez on Charles Leclerc – lap long battle – Eifel GP

George Russell on Valtteri Bottas – Sakhir GP

Winner: George Russell – 77% of Public vote

George Russell took his chance at the Sakhir Grand Prix with both hands but things out of his control prevented a maiden victory. He showed his skills and the pass on his team mate at the beginning of the final stint of the race after a calamitous safety car period for the team was one of these.

George Russell’s excellent performance at the Sakhir Grand Prix was undone by Mercedes’ blunders – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Next is an award for Pit Crew of the Year, which didn’t need a poll; a much more statistical thought!

Red Bull

9 times this year they have broken the 2 second barrier, with their fastest time being 1.86 on two occasions – close to the world record 1.82 time. Another remarkable feat was replacing Verstappen’s front left suspension in record time after his error en route to the grid at Budapest which led to his fantastic start. They won the DHL Fastest pit stops with 555 points with Williams next to 264. They only failed to achieve the fastest pit stop at Spa and Monza. 

Red Bull’s remarkable work on the grid helped Max Verstappen onto the podium after his crash before the race – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

A bit of a hysterical award next! The Dyson Hoover Award

(Other hoover brands are available)

Valterri Bottas – For picking up bargeboards, and getting them stuck in his airflow which ruined his car’s downforce. He has also a habit of getting punctures of running over debris – Baku 2018 springs to mind.

Rookie of the Year!

Nicholas Lati… There was only one full time rookie this year? Nicholas Latifi! Solid job on his debut year. He nearly scored points in the inferior Williams at Imola where the unfortunate Russell made his one of his very few mistakes of the season in P11. Next season will be about cutting that deficit at the tracks we visited this year and spending time on the simulator; points in 2021 will be the target! Especially with Montreal looking likely to be one of our venues, Latifi will want better understanding and a better car for that event!

Nicholas Latifi’s first season was solid, but he will be hoping for a slightly stronger performance next year – Courtesy of Williams Media

Race of the Year!

Max Verstappen’s win – 70th Anniversary GP

Lewis Hamilton’s 92nd win – Portuguese GP

Lewis Hamilton secures 7th Title – Turkish GP

Sergio Perez wins after Mercedes fail – Sakhir GP

Winner: Sakhir GP – 38%

The Sakhir GP took it by just 3% over the title securing Turkish event. Sakhir had the action! The lap one drama took out the touted Verstappen and putting the unlikely victor Perez last! Mercedes were the creators of their own downfall, and what if Jack Aitken, technically driving Russell’s car, didn’t put it in the wall? People questioned the shortened Sakhir layout, but it was great. if anything, another DRS zone before the final corner would have been great.

A crazy Sakhir race saw Esteban Ocon earn his first ever podium – Courtesy of Renault Media

Driver of the Year!

The drivers to the left of the quarter final option were seeded in Championship order and then drawn at random against the other four randomly who had fantastic seasons in other cars. These were the agreed top 8 by Pit Crew census then each went to a 3 hour poll except for the final. That went for a 24 hour poll during Abu Dhabi weekend.

Quarter Finals

Sergio Perez (67%) – Pierre Gasly (33%)

Max Verstappen (52%) – Carlos Sainz (48%)

Lewis Hamilton (57%) – Charles Leclerc (43%)

Daniel Ricciardo (44%) – George Russell (56%)

Semi Finals

Sergio Perez (59%) – Max Verstappen (41%)

Lewis Hamilton (59%) – George Russell (41%)

Final

Sergio Perez (56%) – Lewis Hamilton (44%)

The public decided that Sergio Perez is the 2020 driver of the season! Congratulations to Checo! The season has come to a close, and some drivers are yet to be confirmed. Will our driver of the year get a call from the Red Bull hierarchy placing Albon on the sidelines for 2021? 

Sergio Perez has inexplicably been left without a seat for next year… so far – Courtesy of Racing Point Media

That is the Awards for 2020, with the calendar being arranged on short notice and bubbles being kept to with only a few positive cases it looks like F1 can call 2020 a success. Old friends of Imola and Turkey came to assist whilst Portugal and Mugello came to show what they could do. Vaccines look to be starting to be distributed to assist with the pandemic, so fingers crossed some normality resumes to the world of Motorsport and beyond.

Interlagos – Could it be the End?

Image courtesy of Haas F1 Team

To the heartbreak of most it is looking like that the track Autódromo José Carlos Pace or Sao Paulo/Interlagos may have seen its last Formula 1 race. Chase Carey in one of his final moves as Chief Executive of the sport before stepping aside for Stefano Domenicali looks like to have penned a deal with Rio Motorsports LLC at a new location completely from the historic circuit having held races since 1972. Brazilian President Bolsonaro has supported the switch saying that Interlagos is no longer financially viable but the location of choice is causing uproar as it is Rio’s last forested area, and environmentalists are against it, but if it gets approval by the State Environmental Control Commission Interlagos could be off the calendar and Rio will be on the provisional 2021 schedule . Hamilton has also spoken about his disinterest in the venue not only because he likes Interlagos but of the effect of the forest. Chase Carey’s final move as CEO could see one of the locations I personally look forward to each year being taken off the calendar.

Here’s a few races in my lifetime, three of the best?

Senna, The dream happens – 1991

Ayrton Senna is renowned as one of the best in the Sports history, and did so much for his country and from his debut career in 1984 Brazil was always a bogey track, 6 years and 4 retirements, with a best place of second in 1990. 1991 was the year for him albeit it didn’t come easy, lights to flag victory for the great. He was clear within the early laps but Mansell begun to close before pitstop trouble for Brit managed to give Ayrton breathing space. There were more battles with Mansell and Patrese later on though as the gearbox gremlins began for them all it was survival, Senna was hit with it first losing fourth gear. Mansell fell first though on lap 61 spinning and unable to get going again, whilst Senna battled on losing further gears. Patrese closed further only 2.9 behind from nearly half a minute, Senna stayed in sixth losing time but he held on. When the Brazilian saw the chequered flag at the 71st lap he couldn’t stop screaming, much louder than a Frenchman in 2019 out dragging Lewis Hamilton! He finally managed to win his home event, superstition? 7th time lucky? The struggle of him doing so caused him to slow and get into the medical car to drive him to the podium where he struggled to lift the trophy, he put 110% into that display that day.

Raikkonen Wins, or does he?! – 2003

The 2003 Grand Prix was held in horrid conditions, and began behind the safety car. There were several laps behind it before the track went green and fan favourite Barrichello lost the lead instantly to the disgust of home fans to Coulthard. The track began to dry except for turn 3, which had a water stream across it, which over the period of the race became a car park as 6 cars aqua planed, including Michael Schumacher! It was his first time he failed to finish since his home GP in 2001. Jenson Button in the BAR was the heaviest collision out of the six but all unharmed. Coulthard lead on worn tyres and home favourite Barrichello took the lead to the crowd’s joy on lap 45, but Rubens was to retire, a ninth time in a row! He ran out of fuel and DC retook the lead two laps later. Raikkonen and Fisichella were battling behind him as he pit on lap 52. Kimi then in his younger years with tyre wear and pressure caused by Fisichella made a mistake lost the lead on lap 54 letting the Jordan by. Webber lost control of his car behind them and hit the wall across climb of the hill on front straight, tyres strewn across the track. The safety car was deployed but the communication didn’t get across to Alonso in the Renault who hit a tyre at 170mph, and wall now known to reach 35G. With the damage to track and over 75% completion done the race was ended early. Fisichella was lucky his car was on fire but timekeepers deemed Raikkonen as the winner on countback! Albeit this was reviwed ahead of San Marino and the final result was handed to the Jordan driver of Fisichella.

2008 – Is that Glock?

Hamilton had memories of 2007 of which trouble in the race stopped him becoming a rookie champion, and 2008 was between himself and another Brazilian Felipe Massa, that country has some great talents throughout the years. Weather once more played its part this year! Massa got off well, but all Hamilton needed to do was finish P5 or higher and sat P4 from the start. In Coulthard’s final race of his career it ended at turn 2 due to collision, he was given permission to have Red Bull’s Wings for Life Charity across his car, this brought the safety car out and the track begun to dry under this, in which Fisichella pit early for tyres. This was a smart play which got him up the order which briefly put Massa in title winning position before Hamilton first pit stops happened. Massa was truly engaged he was setting fastest lap after fastest lap as the track dried further but clouds in the distance didn’t look promising. A noteable pit stop happened half distance, lap 36 by Toyota as Glock pitted for fuel and tyres until the end, and two laps later Massa pitted the first of the Championship runners albeit he was to pit again. Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen pit a further 2 laps later on laps 40-42. Hamilton was comfortably in position to win the Championship being in the top three with Massa in the lead. Vettel having an impressive second half of the season since his first win at Monza pitting on lap 51 was closing in Hamilton on fresher rubber but can afford to give him the position. Rain begun to fall 12 laps later with Vettel still over the Mclaren’s rear wing, he just can’t get by. Everyone followed Heidfield’s lead bar Glock as he stayed out as he had the fuel from previous stop to which dropped Hamilton to fifth, now in danger with Vettel on his rear wing. The Brit made an error and Vettel got by, so he now was sixth! Massa on lap 69 was in Championship winning position, but the rain begun to fall heavier. Massa took the victory and the crowd and the Ferrari crew go wild but then cameras pan to Hamilton as we see Glock go slowly due to car cannot cope as Hamilton going down the inside Juncao and the famous Brundle words ‘IS THAT GLOCK?!’ Hamilton then crosses the line in P5 and Mclaren then go crazy with Ferrari stunned, Massa was Champion for around 20 seconds.

What is your favourite Brazilian Grand Prix? Other noteable mentions for 2012 and 2019.

The first for when Vettel recovers from spin on lap 1 to win his third Championship, and it looked like Schumacher let him by handing over the baton to the new generation of drivers. Button took his final victory of the sport, but the main memory is Alonso’s face post race, a meme created to this day.

The second for which could be the final ever at the track where Verstappen takes victory and Gasly second, the first 1+2 for Honda powered cars since Adelaide 1991. No rain but three teams battled for victory in the hybrid era, Sainz took his first podium of his career.

The 2020 calendar saw a possible new track with Vietnam, so this could be the 2021 new track along with the introduction of Vietnam and return of Zandvoort, other series are beginning to reveal their plans for next year so this could be the beginning.

 

2021 – Return of the 4 Red Bulls?

One of the main talking points of the current 2020 season is Racing Point – nicknamed the Pink Mercedes. Subsequently, Renault have raised concerns about the legality of their car to the stewards. We are awaiting a decision upon the review of the brake ducts as Racing Point have handed over their current car’s ducts and Mercedes are due to sample a pair from the 2019 car – the Mercedes W10. The stewards are investigating all of this, but unfortunately there is no timescale presently so every race Renault can continue to protest a result or any team if they are unhappy with the result. It is much easier to copy external aerodynamics from images and videos such as wings and floor designs but internal details are much harder which is why brake ducts were the focal point. If their brake ducts are passed clear and are very similar, what stops Red Bull giving their junior team Alpha Tauri their old designs to base next year’s car, similar to what they did prior to 2010? Will 2021 be the return of four Red Bulls to the grid?

Sergio Perez, Racing Point RP20

Scuderia Toro Rosso, now Alpa Tauri, entered the Formula One grid when Red Bull bought the beloved backmarkers Minardi. Their first car, the STR1, was near enough a carbon copy of the 2005 RB1 whilst Red Bull moved onto the RB2. This preceded the arrival of one of the greatest designers in the history of the sport – Adrian Newey. He moved over from McLaren for 2007 to embark on a new challenge. Controversy ensued that season when the RB3 and STR2 were both designed on the same chassis by Newey. Williams and Spyker felt this was against the concorde agreement, very much on the terms to what Renault are going to the stewards for this season. The FIA classed this is as legal for a customer chassis but the Toro Rosso team then managed the car throughout the season.

GEPA pictures/Red Bull Content Pool // 1329476893572-1682678767 // Usage for editorial use only //

The cars remained identical until 2009. Ironically Toro Rosso was the first Red Bull branded car to win an F1 race in Monza in 2008. Sebastian Vettel, as a result, earned a drive for the Red Bull team alongside Mark Webber. In 2010 Toro Rosso built its first car, the STR5, from scratch as duel-designs had been banned. Adrian Newey and Red Bull Technology had no say on this car due to differing engine suppliers. Since transmission assistance and suspension assistance were introduced in 2013 and 2018 respectively, Red Bull have once again been able to aid their second team. This arrangement is very similar to Haas’ relationship with Ferrari.

GEPA pictures/Red Bull Content Pool // 1329477258696-281002003 // Usage for editorial use only //

An interesting scenario now arises if Racing Point have managed to near enough copy the Mercedes car from last year. Can Alpha Tauri, within regulation, just get the base designs to build their AT02 car on their own chassis? They would not need to take hundreds of photos; owner Helmut Marko probably would get the prints to a certain extent within the rulings. The Red Bull for many seasons has been dubbed the best car on the grid aerodynamically and has cut the deficit to Mercedes around the less power sensitive tracks on the calendar such as Monaco and Hungary. Such circuits have more sectors with low to medium speed flowing corners. Red Bull took a gamble with Honda power and the Japanese manufacturer is beginning to find its footing in the hybrid era. Hopefully now at power tracks like Monza, we will start to see Red Bull competing once again.

Upon all of this would we see the return of four Red Bulls like the mid to late noughties when Toro Rosso entered the grid? A cost-cap has also been agreed for the future so this would assist both teams greatly. Red Bull could make a return in possibly passing on old designs if permitted and as a result Alpha Tauri would spend less on research and design. 

Feature Image Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

F1’s Shocking Home Records

Following the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc has now competed in four races across two open wheeled series at his home track. His record in Monaco, however, is something that no one wants. He has yet to see the chequered flag at any of his four starts despite having some very good equipment at his disposal, albeit being classified twice due to completing 90% of the race.

We will focus on F1 after his two no scores in his F2 season winning campaign. In his rookie season last year he was close to scoring points, but complained of grip and brake problems throughout the race. Eventually, a brake failure resulted in him plowing into the back of Hartley’s Toro Rosso at the chicane coming out of the tunnel. He would still be classified, though, as 90% of the race had been completed.

We know, too, about the recent mess Ferrari got Leclerc and themselves in after taking a risk and avoiding completing a second run in Q1, resulting in Leclerc being knocked out in the first stage of qualifying. He was the entertainment early on in the race, though, with some ballsy moves, but a collision resulting in a puncture ended his day early causing too much damage to the floor.

He isn’t the only one to have a pretty poor showing at his home track – some F1 legends also never did well.

Jacques Villenueve

Jacques Villenueve started off well at Montreal. He tried to emulate his father by winning at his home rack and finished P2 in 1996 behind team-mate Damon Hill, but after that he never saw the podium, and helped to create the Wall of Champions. He crashed into the wall in 1997 and also in that famous race in 1999 along with Hill and Schumacher. He actually only ever finished the race twice more in nine attempts, both outside the points, a spell of five consecutive retirements between the year 2000 and 2004.

Wikimedia Commons

Rubens Barrichello

Rubens Barrichello currently holds the record for most ever starts in F1, having competed between 1993 and 2011 using an array of machinery including the Ferrari in the early 2000s. Despite this, he was only ever on the rostrum in Brazil once, in 2004. From 1995 to 2003 he retired from every single Brazillian GP.

In 2001 he could only manage sixth on the grid, and problems prior to the race meant he had to switch to the spare car. It was over before it began really – Hakkinen stalled on the grid, bringing out the safety car, and at the restart Barrichello went straight into the back of Ralf Schumacher at turn four, ending both of their races early.

2003 looked like it could have been his year – by lap 46 of 71 he was in the lead, but his car crawled to a halt due to a fuel pressure problem.

Leandro Neumann Ciuffo – Wikimedia Commons

Jenson Button

Jenson raced at Silverstone for 17 consecutive seasons. In that time he had some great machinery, but he never managed to stand on the podium in any of those years.

The 2006 and 2011 races demonstrated his poor showings. In 2006, whilst competing for BAR, he was knocked out in Q1 behind both Midland cars. He may have started off well in the race with some great overtakes, but it was all over by lap nine as an oil leak resulted in his Honda engine failing.

2011 was no better. Mixed conditions forced Button to pit thirteen laps from the end – the front right wheel, however, wasn’t attached properly, and he was forced to retire at the pit exit.

Wikimedia Commons

As you can see Leclerc has only raced in two home races but is well on his way to being in this category. It took team-mate Sebastian Vettel until 2013 to win the German Grand Prix despite having the dominant car three seasons prior to this, so things can only get better for Leclerc.

 

[Featured image – Ferrari Media]

2019 Australian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The first round of the 2019 Formula 1 season is complete – here we look at Australian GP driver ratings:

Valtteri Bottas – 9

Sunday was near perfect, with a lightning start allowing him to jump his team mate and from then he just went off into the distance, getting an extra point for fastest lap as well. He wasn’t necessarily the winner we expected from pre-season testing but he was without a doubt the driver of the day.

2019 Australian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Lewis Hamilton – 7

Hamilton is well known for having the Saturday pace which generally puts him in good stead for Sunday, but he was beaten fair and square during the race. Still, he’ll take the podium along with the equal record for the most poles at one circuit.

Max Verstappen – 8

Verstappen put in the best performance for Honda in the whole of the hybrid era with his podium finish. He managed his tyres well and made an easy move on Vettel. A mistake at turn one hindered a late attack on Hamilton, but he will leave Melbourne with a smile on his face.

Sebastian Vettel – 7

Vettel had a solid start and was quick in the first stint, attempting to attack with an undercut which ultimately didn’t work. You can guarantee an investigation will be underway at Ferrari to figure out how they ended up 57 seconds behind the winner.

Charles Leclerc – 6

A great start by Leclerc but he was rather ambitious to attempt a move on his team-mate which could have ended in tears. Unlike his team-mate, he was slow in the first half of the race but fast in the second, and caught up to Vettel before being told to hold position. He showed he had speed in Q2 but the Ferrari doesn’t seem to be the package everyone thought.

Ferrari Media

Kevin Magnussen – 8

Magnussen was best of the rest in Australia, with solid pace and what seems to be the fourth quickest car. It was a better result than last year with no faulty pitstops, even if he was outqualified by his team-mate.

Nico Hulkenburg – 7

It was another result in a familiar place for the German. He started 11th so had free choice of tyres, which benefitted him in the race as he got the move on a few other drivers.

Kimi Raikkonen – 8

Raikkonen did exceptionally well considering where the team was last year, with a very aggressive package seeming to suit him well. He got the car into Q3 and kept that momentum going into Sunday.

Lance Stroll – 7

Stroll always raises eyebrows due to how he got into the sport, but in the race he showed he was fully deserving of the seat at Racing Point as he was in the thick of it all weekend. He scored the team’s only point, having some great battles whilst keeping the car clean.

Danil Kvyat – 6

A good return to the sport, ignoring a mistake at turn three. He was ambitious to run the hard tyre and defended well from faster cars behind, taking his car deeper into the race and allowing him to overcut the majority of them for the last point.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Pierre Gasly – 4

Australia will be a race to forget for Gasly. A mistake on Saturday by the team cost him dearly and he spent most of the race staring at Kvyat’s rear wing, unable to get past even on the softest tyre.

Lando Norris – 7

It was a great Saturday from Norris, but an early stop in the race in reaction to others put him in traffic. He was unable to pass Giovinazzi for several laps and just missed out on the points. Expect big things from Norris this season.

Sergio Perez – 5

It was an off-day for the Mexican on Sunday as he was classified down in 13th. He got caught up in the midfield battle which let others overcut him. The car looks great though, so there will be plenty more opportunities for him.

Alex Albon – 6

Despite being the first to spin this season in similar circumstances to his incident in testing, Albon did a good job. He matched Kvyat for outright pace on Saturday but was just caught up in the ever-so-tight midfield squabble. A good Sunday debut.

Antonio Giovinazzi – 5

The returning Italian was a pain for most at Melbourne, stuck on a confusing strategy with his tyres were ruined, and becoming a replacement for the infamous ‘Trulli train’. He showed true grit in terms of defence but not a lot of outright speed, though this is only his third ever race in F1.

George Russell – 6

Russell blitzed his much more experienced team-mate, but that’s not saying much considering Kubica is really the only competition he has due to Williams being so far behind the others. He finished his debut race and hopefully get in the mix, sooner rather than later.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing FW42.
Australian Grand Prix, Sunday 17th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

Robert Kubica – 3

A race to forget and move on from for Kubica. He hit the wall twice on Saturday and then hit Gasly at turn one on the first lap of the race. Williams will have collected some data though, and Kubica will get quicker and quicker throughout the season.

Romain Grosjean – 7

Another pit stop failure resulted in early retirement for the Frenchman, after being on course for a good points haul. A long delay in the pits pushed him down the order, and he then had to stop the car on track due to a ill-fitted left-front tyre.

Daniel Ricciardo – 5

For the first time in Melbourne in the turbo era, Ricciardo failed to get through to Q3 on Saturday, and his race – his first for Renault – was pretty much over in a few seconds when he pushed wide onto the grass and broke his front wing. He decided to retire the car.

Carlos Sainz – 4

Sainz was beaten by his rookie team mate on Saturday comprehensively, and was the first to retire on Sunday. Because of the nature of the track he had been unable to make up much ground prior to the retirement. He is a fighter though, and will be back for Bahrain.

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Chris’ thoughts ahead of F1 2019

Following on from my colleague Dimitris’ thoughts last week, I thought would share my own.

 

Pierre Gasly will win a race this season

I feel that the Frenchman will take his first victory this season – he is an under-rated driver, and he had some outstanding performances last year, especially in Bahrain. Winning isn’t something that is new to him, as he won the final GP2 championship before it became F2. In 2019, Pierre will have the machinery to win like he did then.

 

Williams will be much closer to the midfield

Williams have been in F1 since 1977, and suffered one of their worst showings last year considering they scored the least points out of the ten teams in the sport. I have a feeling that with the lovely return story of Robert Kubica, and with George Russell being dubbed the next big British thing in F1, they will be in the mix a lot more. The cars are heading to a more simpler format which will also help designers at the squad in Oxfordshire. 

Glenn Dunbar/Williams F1
ref: Digital Image _31I9371

 

Bottas will finish sixth in the championship

Valtteri Bottas has been taking up a spot of rallying in the off-season, trying his hand at a new driving challenge. The Finn will once more be second best not only at the Silver Arrows squad in Brackley but across the top three teams. This could be his last season not only in the team but in the sport, especially with Russell and Ocon both around. That would lead to the question that would be on everyone’s lips in the off-season – who will Mercedes replace Bottas with?

 

Leclerc will be on the podium in Monaco 

The Monegasque driver has a woeful record in his home country, the principality of Monaco. In the three races across F2 and F1 he hasn’t seen the chequered flag, being involved in incidents both his and not his fault. It will change for Charles this year. Not only he will finish the race, but we will see him on the rostrum. On the back of this this we will see him find an extra few tenths in future races. Will he be a champion in the sport one day?

Ferrari Media

 

Ferrari will win Constructors Championship

I am unsure at this stage who will win the drivers’ championship of 2019 but feel Ferrari will be top of the pile when it comes to the constructors’. Mercedes are saying that they are building a whole new engine from scratch, and they might feel some teething problems. Their reliability in the hybrid era has been brilliant but things do change. Mercedes are very much behind Hamilton but Ferrari now have Vettel and Leclerc on board. I just think their partnership is stronger.

 

There are my thoughts on the 2019 season – only time will tell if I’m correct. 

 

[Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]

Don’t Overlook Pierre Gasly in 2019

People are hyping Charles Leclerc saying that he will be right in the mix next year with him moving to Ferrari. But, most are forgetting Frenchman Pierre Gasly, who is joining Red Bull for 2019. Both Gasly and Leclerc got their first action in their new teams at the end of season test. 

Pierre made his entry into the Red Bull programme in 2014 when he joined Formula Renault 3.5 alongside Carlos Sainz, and in his debut season he finished runner up taking eight podiums, after which he moved up to GP2.

The Frenchman then had a solid 2015 season taking three podiums and four poles, showing the outright speed needed to carve a successful career in the higher echelons of motorsport. He just needed to show stability across the whole season, which he showed in 2016. He moved to the PREMA team where he partned Ferrari-backed Antonio Giovinazzi. This season Gasly was impeccable and won the championship, proving himself to be a feature race specialist with four victories. 

Gasly’s debut at Toro Rosso in Malaysia in 2017 was brilliant. He showed his speed with limited access to the car. He was only one tenth slower than Carlos Sainz in qualifying, incredible seeing as he had never raced in junior categories at Malaysia. He didn’t score any points but Toro Rosso were struggling for performance and reliability much more than this current season.

In 2018 Toro Rosso had a much better package, especially with them being the only team running the Honda power unit. He had some outstanding performances across 2018, with the main one that comes to mind being at the second round in Bahrain. He finished fourth, claiming the best result of a Honda-powered car since their re-entry into the sport, and also the best finish for Toro Rosso since Sebastian Vettel’s victory in 2008.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Still struggling with power early in the season at the less dependent tracks of Monaco and Hungary, Pierre nonetheless finished high in the field with solid points crucial to the team. Honda brought a big upgrade after the summer break, which showed when Gasly finished ninth in Belgium. One of his more overlooked drives happened at Mexico where he started last but finished ninth, overshadowed due to Verstappen winning and Hamilton taking his fifth world title. Across the season this showed the speed and passing characteristics required to battle at the front. 

Red Bull may have Verstappen who has shown his speed on multiple occasions at the front, but don’t rule out Gasly. He has multiple titles to his name and has shown speed in the midfield. If the Honda power unit shows improvement and Red Bull chassis continues to be one of, if not maybe the best, then Gasly could be very much so battling for victories. 

 

Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Five Things We Take Away From The Mexico Grand Prix

 

Max Verstappen the winner of the 2018 Mexico Grandprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

1 – Max sticks to his word

All season it has been said that Red Bull realistically have talked up winning at Monaco, Hungary and Singapore. But if you were to ask that question to Max Verstappen, he would say ‘and Mexico too.’ He wasn’t a happy man on Saturday though as another chance at pole position went begging. On Sunday it took great guts to be the latest braker into turn 1 and his kindness to his tyres took him to victory, like he has been saying all season. He had two sets of new red supersoft tyres compared to the rest of the field, who only had one, and he won by a clear 15 seconds – his fifth victory in F1, and second of the 2018 season.

 

Photo Credit: Suceria Ferrari

2 – Vettel is gracious in defeat

When David Coulthard was doing the pre-podium interviews it was great to see Sebastian Vettel go to Lewis Hamilton and congratulate him. The German knew where it all fell apart this season and didn’t want to discuss it at the time. A true sportsman as he probably wasn’t in high spirits and he wasn’t standing on the first position on the podium. After this he entered the Mercedes pit section and congratulated the team too. The German will look to build on this season and look  ahead to the challenges that 2019 hold. 

 

Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas

3 – Mercedes tyre wear haunts them

The tyres that the Silver Arrows cars used just fell apart, which resulted in Hamilton finishing a distant P4 and Bottas pitting 3 times before finishing a distant P5. They had great starts but it was easy for others to overtake them, and poor mistakes from both Hamilton and Bottas put them back to P4 and P5. An investigation will surely be had after the celebration of Hamilton’s 5th title, as they were the team that struggled the most with tyres and they are close to wrapping up another Constructor’s title.

 

 

4 – Superb Sauber

Sauber had to start on the ‘chewing gum’ tyres, the pink wall hypersofts, and still managed P7 and P9. They both made a ‘one stop’ strategy work, taking us back to the days of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez doing it so well in the Sauber colours. They jumped Toro Rosso in the standings for P8, as Pierre Gasly had a solid Sunday, but more grid penalties only helped Sauber further. It was a great haul of points by the team considering they started on the hypersoft tyres. 

 

Daniel Ricciardo in Aston Martin RedBull Racing garage at the 2018 Mexico Granprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

5 – Ricciardo can’t wait for his new challenge to begin with Renault

“Just let Gasly drive it” was the quote from the Honey Badger in the media pen after his eighth retirement of the season and his second mechanical failure in a row. He probably feels that his 2018 car is cursed and hasn’t taste champagne since his victory in Monaco. His new chapter edges closer and most are unsure how close he will be to the podium in the future, considering that Nico Hulkenburg, as of yet, still hasn’t been there.