Austrian GP driver ratings

In Formula 1 anything can happen, and it usually does! That was what Murray Walker always said, and it did indeed happen at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. A very hot Sunday played havoc with the field, though some acclimatised better than others.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen: 9.5

This was a great weekend for Verstappen, as he continued his podium form and this time to the top step. Fortune favoured the brave on the first lap with a great move on Raikkonen. One of the first to pit under the Virtual Safety Car, Verstappen made his tyres last in the heat while others struggled with blistering. He is a driver known for his speed, but this weekend Verstappen proved he can drive calmly.

Kimi Raikkonen: 8

Austria was one of Raikkonen’s better races of the year. After a great start (marred slightly by running wide on the first lap) Raikkonen put in a tyre management drive reminiscent of his Lotus days to take a superb second place. With reports saying Leclerc is all set to join Ferrari next year, could this be the beginning of Raikkonen’s swan song?

Sebastian Vettel: 7

After this weekend sees Vettel leave Austria as the Championship leader, he won’t mind too much about the grid penalty he was given for impeding Carlos Sainz in qualifying. Vettel’s race started poorly on Sunday as he fell to 8th, but a good recovery drive put him on the podium. 

Haas F1 Media

Romain Grosjean: 8

The Frenchman finally sees the flag in the top ten! Grosjean was very impressive on Saturday when he outqualified a Red Bull, and was one of the better drivers on Sunday at keeping the tyres in good condition. A great result for him and especially Haas, as teammate Magnussen finished behind him in P5.

Kevin Magnussen: 8

Magnussen continued his impressive 2018 in Austria with a great haul of points in P5. Together with Grosjean, Magnussen’s points this weekend helped Haas back up their statement about being the fourth-best team. A great drive from Magnussen all weekend, evening if Grosjean had shaded him on race day. 

Esteban Ocon: 8

Ocon is a name being frequently mentioned in the drivers’ market as a hot talent, and he proved why in Austria. Starting in P11 he had the free choice of tyres, and used that well to finish P6. He had a fresher set of tyres later on than most which helped him too.

Sergio Perez: 7

After dropping out of qualifying in Q1 it looked like Perez would struggle. But with grid penalties ahead of him, Perez started P15 and made up the most places of who took the grid to finish P7—his first points finish since Spain.

Steven Tee/McLaren

Fernando Alonso: 8

Alonso started from the pitlane on Sunday because his car was taken out of parc fermé for a change of front wing and MGU-K. He was on the radio early on calling for a new strategy to get out from behind Hartley’s Toro Rosso, and and an early pit stop allowed Alonso to come back through the field as he kept his tyres from blistering. A much better race for the 2018 Le Mans winner.

Charles Leclerc: 8

Through to Q2 again for the sixth weekend in a row, Leclerc’s Sauber showed great pace on Saturday. A gearbox penalty meant he dropped back to P17 on the grid, but a strong recovery brought him up into the points—and all on the weekend that his move to Ferrari for next year has reportedly been decided.

Marcus Ericsson: 7

Ericsson had a pretty poor Saturday as he said couldn’t find a gap on track in qualifying, but put that behind him to help Sauber to its first double points finish since China 2015. To sweeten the deal, Ericsson only had to wait seven races between his last points finish and this, as opposed to the two whole seasons before. The Sauber is being developed well.

Pierre Gasly: 7

Gasly’s tyres just gave up on him at the end of the race as he suffered from the blistering that affected most of the field. He was running a strong P8 with a few laps remaining but his tyres were past it. For a very power hungry track, Gasly qualified a fine P12 with the Honda power unit. His raw pace is noticeable. 

Renault Sport F1 Team

Carlos Sainz: 6

Sainz was only one of two drivers to finish further back from his grid place in Austria. He started P9 and actually got by Vettel for half a lap, but his two-stop strategy didn’t pan out and he dropped to P12 by the end of the race.

Sergey Sirotkin: 6

Out in Q1, Sirotkin struggled to get to grips with his car in the early part of the weekend. However it was a better Sunday from the Russian, as he finished P13 and ahead of his teammate.

Lance Stroll: 6

A great Saturday performance saw Stroll get into Q2 for the first time since Azerbaijan. On the first lap he was running as high as P12 and points were possible, but a ten-second penalty for ignoring blue flags resulted in him finishing P14. 

Stoffel Vandoorne: 4

Austria was another poor weekend by Vandoorne, with a Q1 exit on Saturday and a collision with Gasly on the first lap on Sunday. After pitting for a new front wing the Belgian was way down the order and off the pace. He retired lap 66 due to damage, and the pressure to defend his seat for next year is building.

Steve Etherington / Mercedes AMG F1

Lewis Hamilton: 7.5

With upgrades on his car Hamilton was the one to beat in the early part of the race. But when the VSC came out on lap 14 he didn’t pit like everyone else, and as a result lost the race lead. Hamilton then retired on lap 64 with a loss of fuel pressure—his first retirement since Malaysia 2016—and lost the lead of the championship to Vettel.

Brendon Hartley: 5

Hartley’s Sunday began with a 35-place grid penalty for changing his power unit, and ended when his gearbox failed on lap 57 and put him into retirement.

Daniel Ricciardo: 6

The Austrian Grand Prix may have been on Ricciardo’s 29th birthday, but sadly it ended in retirement. It was a sour start to the weekend with him being outqualified by Grosjean and an argument with his teammate over slipstreaming tactics. Ricciardo put a trademark late-braking move on Raikkonen early in the race but struggled with tyre blisters later, then retired due to a broken exhaust. He’ll be hoping for a stronger weekend in Silverstone.

Valtteri Bottas: 9

Bottas seems to love the Red Bull Ring, and pole and the win last year gave him huge confidence into this year’s event. He managed to get pole again this year but didn’t get as good a start as he got in 2017 and lost the lead to Hamilton in Turn 1. A great double overtake on the first lap saw Bottas recover to P2, although luck wasn’t on his side as the seemingly ever-reliable Mercedes broke again with a hydraulics failure. Two mechanical DNF’s for the Silver Arrows.

Nico Hulkenburg: 6

The first failure of the race came to Hulkenberg, a massive engine failure with smoke and lots of fire. Hulkenberg was in place for reasonable points but lost power on the straight. He had great pace in qualifying and got through to Q3 but reliability caught him this weekend.

TrackGuide: Paul Ricard Circuit

Location: Le Castellet, Marseille

Built: 1969

Track length: 3.63 miles

Last F1 race: 1990

Most Successful Driver: Alain Prost (4 x Wins – 1983, 1988, 1989, 1990)

Paul Ricard was a famous pastis, and often saw sport as an effective tool in marketing. He was the first commercial sponsor of the Tour de France. He decided to invest into a track and saw it as a huge gap in the market. This track was built in 1969 and first used in 1970. Formula 1 had a contract from 1971, it was used on and off until 1990 generally sharing with Dijon.

Paul Ricard sadly passed away in 1997 and some of his assets were sold on. In 1999 Excelis, owned by former chief executive of Formula 1 Bernie Ecclestone brought the track.

The track had serious investment placed into it, as it hadn’t been used frequently. It was developed into one of the most advanced test tracks in the world. It was recently used for Formula 2 and their pre-season testing programme. The most recent use for Formula 1 though was for wet tyre testing in May. Pirelli manually drenched the track to get knowledge on a new wet tyre they were researching.

France Gp tyre and circuit layout courtesy of Pirelli

The majority of track when first opened was the Mistral Straight, it was 1.1miles long. Elio de Angelis in 1986 testing had a horrific crash which resulted sadly in his death. The track was not at fault, it was a failure on the car, but the straight was shortened to make it safer to prevent such high speeds. They ran on a shorter track for the Grand Prix for the remaining 5 years, 1986 to 1990.

The track has been modified further for 2018, Mistral Straight’s length is what it was prior to de Angelis’ death but they have placed a chicane in the middle of it. This is to keep it safe with speeds down as well as with slipstreaming and DRS to create a further overtaking opportunity.

The track is great for the F1 fans due to the high speeds and its flowing nature. Great for the paddock too as there are three French drivers on the grid, Gasly, Grosjean and Ocon.

Looking at the circuit it should suit Mercedes better especially if the new engine is ready. With having a slight advantage on the straights expect to see Force India and Williams closer in the midfield battle.

Toyota can’t fail this year

Le Mans 24 – Iconic. Photo credit Toyota Gazoo Racing WEC

Toyota have never won the 24 hours of Le Mans which is one of the world’s most demanding races. They are massive favourites this year and they have got the best chance through various reasons! 

Toyota are the only team in the leading LMP1 Hybrid class, as Porsche withdrew from the series last year. They have no realistic competition and you could say the LMP1 rule book gives them an advantage that places Toyota in firm control.

The number seven car will be piloted by Mike Conway, Kamui Kobayashi and José María López. Photo credit, Toyota WEC

The handicaps that the privateer LMP1 teams are as follows. They are not allowed to lap faster than the hybrid class, and if the privateers do, they will get a drive through penalty. The others involves the pit stops, in that a hybrid car can go a lap longer of 11 laps on fuel, whilst the privateer cars can only go 10 laps. Finally the hybrids also have a minimum pit stop time of 5 seconds which shorter than the other class. Toyota therefore will spend much less time in the pits than any other team. So realistically reliability is the only thing that would prevent them. 

Toyota have come so close in recent years and it was reliability that stopped them. The team came closest in 2016, it was leading for 23hrs 55mins until a failure happened on the penultimate lap. Porsche overtook them for victory, it was heartbreaking for the Japanese team. To add insult to injury the car took them over 11 minutes to finish the last lap which meant they were not even classified. In the race you have to complete the last lap in under 6 minutes by regulation 10.5 to be classed.

Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Le Mans rookie Fernando Alonso pilot the number eight car. Photo credit, Toyota WEC

In their #8 challenger, they have Sébastien Buemi, Kazuki Nakajima and Fernando Alonso, who is driving for them as well McLaren in Formula 1. Alonso has taken to endurance racing like a duck to water as it was his car that took victory in the first round of the World Endurance Series in Spa, Belgium. It was his first win since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix in F1. 

To have without a doubt the fastest car on the grid, rules restricting the limited opposition they have and an increased calibre of drivers is it just a matter of the #7 or #8 taking victory?

It would be embarrassing for the manufacturer to lose this year, they would become a laughing stock. If they fail to win I also see the end of the LMP1 Hybrid category. To have one team in that field is also just ridiculous. 

We’ll find out! Follow @PitCrew_Online as we’ll have commentary throughout,  and get the kettle on for the early hours. 

Canadian GP Driver Ratings

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is one of the greats on the calendar. The last time Ferrari won in Canada was in 2004. Ferrari’s last pole in was 2001, but Vettel changed that.

Sebastian Vettel – 9.5

Faultless, the German had it covered all weekend. Pole position on Saturday and lights to flag victory on Sunday. Ferrari sand bagged like they do on Friday and just gathered information on the lower power settings. Vettel is a driver that likes his figures and stats, maybe a little annoyed he didn’t get the hat-trick of pole, win and the fastest lap though. Ricciardo set that on his final tour. He retakes the lead as we head back into Europe. 50 wins and counting.

Valtteri Bottas – 8

Not many would have expected for Bottas to come away with the bigger points haul for the Silver Arrows, let alone out qualify his team mate. A strong weekend for Bottas and retakes third in the driver’s championship. He showed a bit more resilience at the start keeping Verstappen behind something in previous races he lacked. Drove a great race, pretty boring for him though as wasn’t challenged throughout.

Max Verstappen. Image Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen – 8

Proved some doubters wrong this weekend, so hopefully no headbutting happens. Under fire for a string of mistakes the Dutchman had something to prove, which he did. He put that anger into the wheel of his Red Bull with a superb third in qualifying and race. Got close at the start but no collision with anyone. Held the pressure in the early stages and placed it late on. Very much a confidence booster for himself, Red Bull and indeed his fans.

Daniel Ricciardo – 7

Was a tenth or so behind his team mate all weekend. He missed out on quite a bit of action on Friday with an engine problem not related to his failure in Monaco. He tends to not run well around Canada on Saturday and was out qualified again by his team mate. A better Sunday as he finished two places higher than he started thanks to some great tyre management. Still a great win in Monaco but must look forward now as we re-enter Europe. 

Lewis Hamilton – 6

For a track where Hamilton took his maiden win in 2007, and has 6 wins at he was very off colour. Could only manage P4 on Saturday and with problems in the race resulted him finishing P5. A poor race from a man who has such high standards of himself. Has the excuse of a 6 race old engine whilst others had upgrades but Bottas was in the same situation.

Kimi Raikkonen – 6

Another weekend where in qualifying he blew it, when he ran wide at turn 2, flashback to Baku earlier in the season. The car had the pace to win as it did in Vettels hands. The Finn with fresher tyres after making the stop later than the others around him looked strong for a podium, but he never challenged. He faded to finish a lonely P6. 

Nico Hulkenburg – 8

144 races and counting for Nico and his quest for a podium. They should maybe create a space for the best of the rest after Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull as more often than not this has been the German. Qualified in P7 and finished P7. Not much else he can do really as his car restricts him to move higher up the field.

Carlos Sainz – 7

A solid haul of points for Carlos as Renault strengthen their claim as the best of the rest. Besides the collision at the restart with Perez he had a fairly quiet race. Did well to overcut Ocon at the pit stops.

Esteban Ocon – 7

Ocon had a great weekend considering his team made a mistake in the pits on raceday. The Frenchman battled back but it seems like most suffered from following a car.

Charles Leclerc – 9

This kid has talent, true talent. Charles bounced back from another disapointing home race where his brakes failed to score more points for Sauber. Had a great battle with Alonso and for a while kept him at bay. We are seeing a future Ferrari driver in him, it is only when now they decide, could it be next race, or 2019? 

Pierre Gasly – 8

A good recovery drive from Pierre as Honda’s power looks strong albeit still a little bit worrying with reliability. The Frenchman has used the most components out of the entire field. Was hampered in qualifying with the old engine at a power based track. Due to penalties he started on the back row of the grid. Avoided first lap and restart collisions to finish P11. 

Romain Grosjean – 8

The Groundhog’s revenge, Romain qualifying lasted seconds as his engine let go after exiting his pitbox. A poor groundhog was collected by the Frenchman on Friday. Romain started last but with a great stint on the ultrasoft tyre put him back amongst it all and finished ahead of his team mate. No points but did so well considering, good Sunday, needs a good weekend though, home Grand Prix up next.

Sergio Perez – 6

A great effort from Sergio to make Q3 on a track that suits the Force India better than Monaco. Overall though was off the pace on his team mate by 0.6 in the final session. An erratic restart caused him to collide with a Renault. Damage was never made clear but never recovered from it.

Kevin Magnussen – 6

Started in one of the best places on the grid P11, one up on his team mate due to his troubles but Sunday was a shocker. He was never at it, and finished a woeful P14.

Marcus Ericcson – 5

Leclerc is making Ericsson look a little bit silly now. Ericsson scored points in Bahrain but hasn’t seen any yet. He exited FP3 early after a collision with the wall, and never recovered from that.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 4

Wheres Stoffel? A quiet weekend once more for the Belgian. He was out qualified by his team mate and was nowhere on Sunday. The pressure continues to rise. I feel his future is dependant on Alonso’s decision.

Sergey Sirotkin – 5

Another lacklustre display as he finishes last of the cars to take the flag. A mistake in practice, he never got to grips with a track he’d never raced at. Kubica continues to look on in the background.

Fernando Alonso – 7

His 300th Grand Prix weekend and one in his collection to forget. A man who is in a fork on the in his career. He out qualified his team mate and was running well in the race to be best of the rest before the exhaust failure mid-race. Le Mans is next on the agenda which he hopes to win for the second stage of ‘The Triple Crown.’ Think the result there will give us a bigger idea of where the F1 great will be next year.

Lance Stroll – 5

The Canadian had a weekend in his home country to forget. The Williams is a bit of a dog this year. He hit the wall in practice and then exited again in Q1. Sunday didn’t last long after losing the rear and hitting Hartley. Claire Williams pinned the sole blame on Hartley. Looking at various camera angles and public opinion the blame swings back to Stroll. 91% of people blamed Stroll on our twitter poll. (@PitCrew_Online)

Brendan Hartley – 6

One of his best Saturday’s in the car, the Kiwi qualified ahead of both Mclaren drivers and wasn’t far away from the Q3. It was a shame that Sunday ended so early, going into the end of sector 1 he was outwide on the marbles alongside Stroll. He collected the Williams and lost control of his car. Poor placement you could say from Hartley, but unlucky at the same time.

Final Thoughts

Mercedes have an excuse with their engine not being ready but certainly did not expect Hamilton to finish as low as fifth at one of his favourite tracks and lose the lead. Vettel takes the smallest of leads to the next race.

F1 returns to Europe next time as we have a triple header! We return to France for the first time since 2008 at a track that hasn’t seen competitive action since 1990. The Paul Ricard circuit is a favourite for some to test at. It followed by Austria and then Britain the following week.

Will Mercedes have their engine ready for France? Do Ferrari have the better car again with their new bargeboard improvement?

Featured image courtesy of Ferrari.

Monaco 2018 Driver Ratings

The principality of Monaco is the jewel in the crown of the Formula 1 season. It’s one of the triple crown of motorsport, the others being the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours. The tight and twisty track leaves little room for error, giving a full punishment for hitting the wall, as some experienced this weekend, one in paticular. There was without a doubt a driver of the weekend no one can argue with that.

Ricciardo – 10

? courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Super from the Honeybadger, his best win without a doubt, the first time he has won a Grand Prix starting within the first two rows. He was fastest in all practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday. On Sunday he once again in a different league, he got off the line well, and pulled away from the field. The problems came with his engine many thought the curse had struck again but with a car much less power he kept his cool to win! Redemption from 2016, a great drive, his best win out of the seven wins. He led every lap of the race and without a doubt driver of the day!

Vettel – 8

A solid drive and took points off Hamilton. His start was great but Ricciardo just closed the gap so was unable to overtake. Kept Ricciardo within distance but does seem Ferrari are harder on their tyres. Coasted to second late on as he struggled to get back up to pace.

Hamilton – 7

An uneventful weekend for the Championship leader three points lost a damage limitation race leaving a 14 points gap between him and Vettel. Mercedes knew that this wasn’t a good track for them and felt they had the third fastest car. Hamilton nearly caught Vettel midway through the race but fell away late on. Good haul of points.

Raikkonen – 7

In the battle of the number two drivers Kimi won this time. He was close to getting ahead of Hamilton and Vettel in qualifying. At a stage all three were 0.005 apart, but others improved whilst he didn’t. The cool Finn kept it out the walls and helped Ferrari outscore Mercedes.

Bottas – 6

He was off pace all weekend and at one stage it was touch and go in Q2 whether he would get through as Mercedes tried a different strategy. He left it really late to get in to the shootout. Due to his choice of tyres he had better grip which allowed him to close the gap, he didn’t have a lunge to even test Raikkonen with his better traction. 

Ocon – 9

Best of the rest from the Frenchman, only 5 seconds behind Bottas. Force India tend to not be known for their downforce and more their top speed hence previous results at Baku. Great qualifying and racecraft, a seasoned veteran now.

Gasly – 8

Pierre continues to impress, technically still a rookie season as he only drove for a few races last year from Round 15 onwards. The Honda engines not as bad in previous years, especially Monaco hiding the disadvantage. He battled with Alonso and Hulkenburg whilst keeping it clean. A long stint on the hypersoft gave him this chance, an opportunistic driver.

Hulkenberg – 7

A points finish after his two DNF’s in Baku and Barcelona. Just what he needed, he may of been out qualified on Saturday but a strong drive on Sunday gave him what he more often than not achieves for his team, points!

Verstappen – 6

The Dutchman needs to learn that sometimes you don’t need to go 100%. This was costly for him over the weekend when clearly Red Bull had the fastest car. A crash in FP3 in the swimming pool section, identical to a crash in 2016 cost him action in qualifying. The car was not rebuilt in time after a deeper look and had to start last. Max was more like himself on Sunday from great overtakes to score points but feel he was thinking about race win prior to third practice. Disapointing once again, involved in a collision somehow in the last six Grand Prix weekends.

Sainz – 6

The Spaniard had an unimpressive Sunday and left the principality with only one point after qualifying so well. He did a great job to defend his position from Ericcson at the end. 

Ericcson – 7

A good race in the streets of Monaco for the Swede. Finished in a solid P11, and was right up Sainz’s gearbox for the final stages. Seems a Sunday driver more than a Saturday, made the most positions up besides Verstappen.

Perez – 5

Finished 47 seconds behind his team mate which would of dented his confidence within himself. He had great pace as got through to Q3 but only went backwards on Sunday. Great potential, left with nothing.

Magnussen – 5

Out performed his team mate in a poor weekend for the Haas team. Hopefully just a blip for the Dane, has raced well at upcoming tracks but no joy in Monaco. Rather little happened to comment.

Vandoorne – 5

Another performance where very little was seen of him. Finished the race behind his starting grid position. He did have the pace it seemed in practice but it fell away on Sunday.

Grosjean – 4

Romain was already in hot water as he carried a three place grid penalty over from Barcelona. Haas where of form and couldn’t get their car in the sweet spot, so much so they ran 19th and 20th for the early laps. Grosjean seems to be in a rut and this race did him no favours.

Sirotkin – 6

The result hides what a great early weekend he had. He blitzed his team mate and made Q2. He suffered from two punctures but seems to be finally getting to grips with the Williams.

Stroll – 5

Sirotkin made Stroll look silly as a whole this weekend. The Canadian qualified P18 and was nowhere to anyone in the race. Finished last of who took the chequered flag. Williams as a whole hope Canada, a more power influenced track will push them up the grid.

Leclerc – 7

His record at Monaco isn’t that hot, and it continues. He failed to finish in both Formula 2 races last year. A brake failure ended his day early as he collided with Hartley. He couldn’t avoid the incident so unlike Verstappen his rating wasn’t hindered by it. Once more made it into Q2 and qualified strongly.

Hartley – 6

A waste of such a good weekend for Toro Rosso and on this side of the garage. Seventh fastest in practice as he failed to get out of Q3. He collided on the first lap damaging his car. Taken out by Leclerc but the pressure continues to mount.

Alonso – 6

I wonder if Fernando would of liked to be in America once again rather than Monaco. A gearbox failure on the front straight whilst battling with Gasly late on ended his race. He was deep into the points and raced well. Not a fan of Monaco this year and had a few choice words to say to the media.

We go from the heavily downforce influenced track of Monaco to the more power influenced track of Montreal in Canada in 2 weeks time. Renault and Honda are bringing substantial upgrades to their engines which should help the teams that use them. 

The main questions are if this would help Red Bull still keep the top step of the podium or will Mercedes bounce back to the top? 

Indy 500 Qualifying

The week of practice and qualifying is over. We had some surprising results across the weekend of qualifying at the Brickyard.

Ed Carpenter stole the headlines though with a 230mph+ starting lap and broke up the Penske party. The oval specialist got his third pole, and his fourth front row start in six years, he’s yet to convert any to tasting that iconic milk and taking the flag.

Sebastien Bourdais may of had the fastest car last year and had that horrific crash but didn’t let it faze him as he qualified fifth.

Danica Patrick in her last racing outing starts seventh. She got through to the fast nine and as others had difficulty she succeeded. Castroneves who ran last felt loose throughout his run much like Dixon who complete the third row with her.

The shock of Saturday was that James Hinchcliffe who will not be on the grid due not being in the fastest 33. Alexander Rossi who won the race on his debut in 2016 is starting 32nd. He had terrible vibrations which restricted his speed.

Ed Carpenter. Image courtesy of http://media.gm.com

The Indy 500 Qualifying Grid

1. Ed Carpenter, 229.618
2. Simon Pagenaud, 228.761
3. Will Power, 228.607

4. Josef Newgarden, 228.405
5. Sebastien Bourdais, 228.142
6. Spencer Pigot, 228.107

7. Danica Patrick, 228.090
8. Helio Castroneves, 227.859
9. Scott Dixon, 227.262

10. Tony Kanaan, 227.664
11. Matheus Leist, 227.571
12. Marco Andretti, 227.288

13. Z. Claman De Melo, 226.999
14. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 226.788
15. Charlie Kimball, 226.657

16. Takuma Sato, 226.557
17. Kyle Kaiser, 226.398
18. Robert Wickens, 226.296

19. James Davison, 226.225
20. Max Chilton, 226.212
21. Carlos Munoz, 226.042

22. Gabby Chaves, 226.007
23. Stefan Wilson, 225.863
24. Sage Karam, 225.823

25. Zach Veach, 225.748
26. Oriol Servia, 225.699
27. JR Hildebrand, 225.418

28. Jay Howard, 225.388
29. Ed Jones, 225.362
30. Graham Rahal, 225.327

31. Jack Harvey, 225.254
32. Alexander Rossi, 224.935
33. Conor Daly, 224.429

Our Indycar expert will give you a preview before the iconic race gets under away this Sunday!

Featured image courtesy of http://media.gm.com

Red Bull in talks with Honda

Red Bull to Honda, a gamble worth taking?

Formal talks between Red Bull and Honda started earlier this week for the possibility of the Japanese giants to supply the team for the 2019 season onwards. Informal talks where held prior to the hectic Azerbaijan Grand Prix between Red Bull’s Helmut Marko and Honda’s Masahi Yamamoto.

With Red Bull currently using Renault, and their junior team Toro Rosso using Honda they have the unique capability to review both power units. Red Bull have partnered Renault since the 2007 season. Success peaked with the Red Bull team winning four Driver and Constructors Championships in a row.  Since the 2014 season though when the complicated hybrids were introduced, the relationship has become very fractious publicly and it makes those years seem much longer ago than they were. Renault have had enough and multiple sources late last year said that they want to stop supplying the team.

Cyril Abiteboul from Renault Sport have made it clear to Red Bull they need to know the situation prior to the 15th May. This is the date when they have to provide information to the FIA for next season in regards to which teams they will supply engines too. They need to start organising the amount of parts they need, so Red Bull – Honda will have to conclude discussions pretty quickly. If nothing is completed by that set date Renault are forced to continue to supply Red Bull.

Fernando Alonso with the 2017 Mclaren Honda. Image courtesy of Mclaren

Red Bull’s interest has grown due to Honda coming on leaps and bounds since last season. Throughout pre-season testing they performed with far greater reliability and speed than previous seasons.. It seems from the performance of Toro Rosso thus far, McLaren may have made another mistake to add to their collection in recent years. All the power units are getting closer, its just that Mercedes have that so called party mode to exploit in qualifying. The unreliability of the Honda engine the in the McLaren of previous years wasn’t solely down to Honda, which McLaren, have confirmed since.

So far in 2018 season it seemed all the reliability Honda had in pre-season was lost when Gasly had to retire his car due to a MGU-H problem at the Australian GP. They have had no major problems noted since then. 

Renault are not without their own faults this season. Two most major ones happened at Bahrain. Verstappen suffered from an unexpected power surge causing him to lose the rear end of the car. This made him a passenger as his car collided into the wall ending his qualifying. On the Sunday an energy store problem halted Ricciardo’s drive from a strong position. This ironically gave Gasly a boost up the order, to which he finished an outstanding 4th, after an amazing qualifying on Saturday. This was the best ever result for Honda powered car since their return to the sport.

The talks are ongoing. F1 has recently announced new aero rules have been  for 2019, so albeit 4 races into the season, preparations for the next season will start earlier than usual. The Spanish Grand Prix is when major upgrades are shown and we start to see what the 2018 prototype cars are really capable of. With the forthcoming 15th of May engine deadline falling a few days after the Spanish GP, we are likely to see announcement very soon, if not before the GP.

If Red Bull as expected do move to Honda power, only time will tell if this was the right choice. But do they have any other choice as they have burnt many bridges already in F1?

Featured image courtesy of Redbull content pool

Driver Ratings: Baku Does it Again!

Azerbaijan never ceases to amaze, I am unsure whether this beats 2017’s race which was amazing to watch. Lady luck was on a few driver’s side today, we’ll look in deeper detail at who had it in the rating review. As per always the rating will be done in results order.

Lewis Hamilton – 7

Lady luck was most definitely on his side today, he took longer to turn the tyres on unlike Vettel who led early on. He made some uncharacteristic mistakes especially at the first corner flat spotting both tyres he told pit wall the tyres were finished so had no choice but to change strategy and pit. The pace on the fresher yellow softs was slow but then the safety car came into play. He was gifted the win with misfortune of others.

Kimi Raikkonen – 7

Kimi being Kimi, you wouldn’t really remember he is a World Champion from 2007. He’s being used to a certain extent as a clear number two driver to Vettel. It all went wrong on Saturday with Ferrari only bringing one set of super softs he had to make one lap count, he didn’t do so. This forced him onto another strategy for Sunday. A silly collision on the first lap when he could of let off the throttle easily damaged his car, no penalty surprisingly, as others fell by the way side he took an unexpected second.

Sergio Perez – 9

Ever the opportunist, now the most successful Mexican driver in Formula 1 history and most successful at Baku in terms of podium finishes. Force India looked strong all weekend with their Mercedes grunt. Great pass on wounded Vettel along the straight. The catalyst the fourth placed team from 2017 need to push on this year?

Sebastian Vettel – 8

Go big or go home from the German, he took advantage of the safety car in Australia but this race it hindered him as we look at in a moment. A great flying lap for pole and early race from the quadruple champion. He pulled a clear lead out after the first safety car. He got a lacklustre restart from the second safety car and went for it on the brakes but with such a long straight they went cold, locked up and ran wide. He lost places rather than gaining, and dropped to P4, with then Perez getting him in the later laps due to his massive flat spot. The Ferrari was strongest all weekend, did he really have to go for it at the first attempt he had?

Carlos Sainz – 8

Flying the flag for Renault today for the first half of the race had they had the third best package. He got by the Red Bulls well and then pulled clear. When they got up to speed he kept up with them. He pitted early as started on the ultra softs and continued well to finish solidly in the points. Pretty much the reason why Renault ‘loaned’ the Spaniard from Red Bull this season.

Charles Leclerc – 9

The reason why Ferrari rate this driver highly was shown today as he scores his first World Championship points in P6. He did better than most turning on the super softs and had great pace from his impressive qualifying managing to keep Raikkonen at bay after the first restart. He would of still scored points even if others finished, he just got a few more as result. Great for the Sauber team to have points but more importantly a talent like Leclerc behind the wheel of one of their cars.

Fernando Alonso – 8

The character and grit that Alonso showed today was the reason why everyone rates him so highly. To begin with he got the McLaren round a near 2 minute lap with 2 wheels shod car into the pits with minimal damage. There was some to the floor of the car as a result but still managed to score decent points for the team. Good battle with fellow countryman Sainz today. Worth every penny to Mclaren once again.

Lance Stroll – 8

A happy hunting ground for the Canadian, after taking advantage of the 2017 race and scoring an unlikely podium, he scored his and the team’s first points this season. Great confidence booster for him and the team. He had the pace with the Mercedes power and good racecraft to finish in the points.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 6

Stoffel was off colour this weekend, but took advantage of others to finish in the low end of the points but also once again Alonso was on average a few tenths quicker than him all weekend. He continues to pile pressure on himself regardless of a points finish today, Lando Norris is looking pretty nifty in Formula 2.

Brendan Hartley – 6

The Kiwi has scored his first point in Formula 1. He had a very unorthodox way of entering the sport last year and has taken him a while to adjust, some say he still is and was the fortunate today. Bad driving on Saturday as he didn’t set a lap and his team mate nearly went flying over the top of him. He drove better on Sunday.

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Marcus was in the shadow of his team mate today, a collision on the first lap turn 2 restricted his performance. He received a penalty for the collision and was clearly at fault, no excuses. He flat spotted tyres which also ruined the strategy he was on halfway through the race. The car was good over the weekend which should give him confidence Bahrain can happen again.

Pierre Gasly – 7

He showed great racecraft on Sunday, and reactions on Saturday. He thought that he was going into the wall after coming across his team mate but managed to keep it away with lightning reactions. With yellows like his team mate he didn’t set a representitve lap time. The race was different all be it he has nothing to show from it, he managed to get up as high as P7 in the race after carving through the field’s destruction on lap 1. An out and out racer, battled with former rival Leclerc which was good to see. He was involved in a collision with Magnussen which prevented the attack for points as he had the pace.

Kevin Magnussen – 6

K-Mag was in the wars on Sunday after a tough qualifying. A short run to the 90 degree corners and being in the middle of the pack increases chances of collisions. He collided with Ericcson at turn 2 which ended his chance of a good finish at that stage. A further collision with Gasly after the second restart then ended his chance of points. Later reprimanded with 2 penalty points, 12 is the amount before a ban, at this current time he is on 8 in the 12 month period. Most dangerous driver Gasly has ever raced according to the Frenchman. An off colour performance to such a great start to the season.

Valterri Bottas – 8

He was on for a win with Mercedes but you could say poor marshalling and debris still scattered over the track resulted in his dramatic retirement. It was through no fault of his own. He managed the gap all race and was consistent, and midway was fastest driver. He made no mistakes throughout. Due to staying out longest he used the safety car to continue to lead. He then restarted well and pulled away but ran over debris which caused a dramatic puncture at around 180mph, forcing him to retire with only a handful of laps remaining. Great weekend but nothing to show for it, joy for one of the Silver Arrows but despair for the other.

Romain Grosjean – 5

Grosjean seemed to be in 2017 mood, very emotional and spins aplenty with one really silly. He was hindered by a gearbox problem in qualifying which resulted him starting last. He kept his nose clean driving through the mess and was on for good points. Every driver was struggling for tyre temperature. He tried to warm the tyres up behind the second safety car by weaving and too much the Frenchman hit the wall at slow speed, throwing away first points of the season ironically at the time putting Magnussen into the points. Bad day at the office.

Max Verstappen – 5

His fault or not but Max has now collided with other drivers 3 times in 4 races, beginning to remind me of the great Pastor Maldonado. He was playing with fire all race long with his team mate, great spacial awareness but sometimes a bit too aggressive with squeezes and double direction changes defending. He couldn’t get the red walled super soft tyre switched on early in the race resulting in both Renault passing him. Battery issues may of slowed his pace but the issue between team mates was brewing all race long. Once more a retirement and hefty bill for Red Bull to pay.

Daniel Ricciardo – 5

The high of Shanghai two weeks ago to the despair of Baku. He struggled to get by his team mate as the over powered DRS with gusty winds helped him dramatically. Various occasions the driver supposedly best on the brakes had his car side by side with his team mate but only pulled it off a few laps prior to the pit stop. He had better pace than Max at a track he did great on last year. Multiple times he was on the outside centimetres from the wall and multiple lock ups. He lost out to the overcut but with the warmer rubber from far back he tried to get by but went straight into the back of his team mate. The worst thing you can do in motorsport! Red Bull blame both drivers which you can understand, but much like Vettel did he have to go for it? Plenty of laps were remaining. There is talk of Ricciardo going to Ferrari with contracts ending for various drivers, not the first time he colliding with his team mate maybe sway his mind to leave the Austrian outfit?

Nico Hulkenburg – 5

With how the race played out, Nico could of finally got on the podium! He still waits to taste the champagne after being close on multiple occasions. He lost the car on his own accord after getting by the poor paced Red Bulls. Renault looked like the fourth best car. He needs to keep concentration as with more mental races and no mistakes from the German, he could be that podium soon.

Esteban Ocon – 7

A passenger in his crash with Raikkonen, surprised that the Ferrari driver didn’t receive a penalty. Strong qualifying and pace but nothing he could do on his short Sunday afternoon.

Sergey Sirotkin – 7

Best weekend for the Russian rookie, albeit the mistake into the wall in third practice. Qualified strongly and was unfortunate to be in the sandwich between drivers on the first lap which ended his race early. Extremely harsh that he has received a 3 place grid penalty for the next race in Spain.

Summary

So Hamilton got his win in Baku through some strong luck, whilst Vettel through his decision to go big at the restart lost points. Hamilton now leads the Championship for the first time this year. 

My driver of the day is a very tough decision, my toughest yet this year, and it’ll go to Sergio Perez for his podium finish. It just shades Charles Leclerc’s impressive points finish. Red Bull really need to look at the current situation, once more through collisions they have cars not finishing. 

Cars tend to change quite dramatically at Barcelona and that is where the Formula 1 circus is next at. Will Red Bull kiss and make up or will the fire get bigger? Mclaren say big upgrade for Spain, will it work and push them forward? What upgrades will Mercedes have in store to catch up to Ferrari? We have to wait 2 weeks to find out.

?image courtesy of Sahara Force India. Fetured image courtesy of RedBull Content pool

2018 Chinese GP Driver Ratings

2018 is turning out to be the an exciting season. For the first time in the hybrid era it has been three races since the Silver Arrows last jumped on the topstep. China tends to be a race with very few retirements but safety cars aplenty and it was a factor today. 

Daniel Ricciardo – 10

He never wins a boring race, a stat that shows this is that he has never won a race from starting in the top three. ‘Sometimes you’ve got to lick the stamp and send it.’ That is what he said on the podium after his moves, especially on the divebomb from far back on Hamilton at turn 14. He was sixth at the restart, and through some great moves he finished first. Once he got through the field he pulled a gap and was never seen again. It is the first shooey of the season, some more to follow?

Valterri Bottas – 8

Flying the flag for Mercedes in the race, the Finn got a great start managing to jump one of the Ferrari’s. He kept it behind him and didn’t let the other get away. This allowed him to a great outlap to undercut the Ferrari to get the lead and control the race. His tyres lost him the lead but kept the other Finn behind him for a great second place considering had the second best car.

Kimi Raikkonen – 8

He got screwed by his team, Ferrari seem to be putting all their eggs in one basket with Vettel. It isn’t always going to work if they do. Kimi was a bit fortunate with the timing of the safety car after losing around 15 seconds to Hamilton after being left out there by the team. Had tyre age on his side to allow him to pull some passes off and finish on the podium. Spoilt today with a a few words on the podium too! 

Lewis Hamilton – 7

It was a grumpy Lewis Hamilton day much like Bahrain, he was never happy. ‘Is it me or there a lot of cars with fresh tyres behind me’ was a quote in the race. This was a clear shot at the team as was left in no mans land. He was just behind the others all weekend, with everything happening around him he closes the gap on his championship rival. Two races though not on the podium for the Brit.

Max Verstappen – 6

Patience, that is what the Dutchman needs more of, we all know he has the speed. Twice in one race he made mistakes on overtaking. First, on the outside of Hamilton where he could of waited for the DRS rather than losing places to Ricciardo. The second being the half gap on the inside of Vettel for the following lap as time was on his side. He would of probably won the race if he kept it clean but instead fifth due to a penalty. Unlike Bahrain he admitted it was his fault, think a talk with himself tonight needs to be done.

Nico Hulkenburg – 9

Once more this German is so under rated, with contracts up in air at the end of this season surely teams have to take a note. He has never been on the podium but consistently in the points and keeps it clean unlike others. Another strong day for him that puts him firmly as the number one driver at Renault.

Fernando Alonso – 8

Ringing the neck out of his car, finding the pace which his team mate cannot. His racecraft that he has only helps him further from starting so far back in the field. Kept tyres in good condition and his nose clean to push on. Nice move on Vettel late on to get even more points, due to a higher result is sixth in the standings.

Sebastian Vettel – 8

Through no fault of his own the championship leader finished down in eigth. He started the race well and did his token fast first lap to break the DRS on second place. He managed the gap well to keep the field behind him which was brilliant. The team kept him out too long which as a result allowed Bottas to jump him, and then running wide at the hairpin gave the aggresive Verstappen a gap that he would attempt a pass causing a spin. He lit the rears up when trying to get back pointing in the right direction which hindered him for the remaining laps. Had the pace but others hurt him. 

Carlos Sainz – 7

Very much in the shadows of his team mate currently, he needs a big display. Nearly got the stricken Ferrari at the end of the race but more points for him, albeit another finish far behind his team mate.

Kevin Magnussen – 7

Said he was lucky to just miss out on Q3. He qualified eleventh allowing him to have first choice of tyre. He went with the soft and slowly picked off the positions, undercuts pushed him back to further down the field though, more points for the American team.

Esteban Ocon – 6

An okay race for Ocon, he finished higher than he started which is something good to take for him. Hope for the team at Baku when they were strong last year but keep it clean! 

Sergio Perez – 6

The Mexican well renowned for his skill to keep life in his tyres you’d have thought would thrive in these conditions. A result from probably being one of the ten to go through into Q3 he was not helped by starting on the ultra soft tyres. The damage was done as went long on second stint and had no pace throughout.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 6

The Belgian is in the same boat as Carlos Sainz, playing second fiddle to his team mate. Mclaren seem to be talking a lot of gas and air when it comes to the performance of their car, but Vandoorne isn’t getting what his team mate can out of it. This time drivers’ didn’t retire so finished out of the points.

Lance Stroll – 7

A great start for Stroll today, quite a few positions picked off at the 270 degree turn one. Williams had a bit more pace this weekend albeit being slower than last year in qualifying. Solid midfield finish, confidence can be built as we head into the European season.

Sergey Sirotkin – 6

Is growing into the seat but questions continue to be asked if signing him was the correct decision. Is learning the car well, and gaining confidence. Not much was said about him throughout the race. 

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Good finish for Marcus, showing his rookie team mate that there is more potential in the Sauber Alfa Romeo. Peope saw him as a pay driver as they dropped the impressive Wehrlein over him but mixing it in the midfield and not always coming out second best.

Romain Grosjean – 5

Besides the few explicit words on the radio early on in the race when it seems the team said to let his team mate through Romain had a very quiet race. Getting into qualifying three seemed to hinder him. Forget and move on, but take confidence pace in the car is there.

Pierre Gasly – 5

It was the Frenchman’s eigth start and that showed, a bit of a yo-yo season thus far. Toro Rosso struggled with China very power concentrated track. He took out his team mate causing the safety car and ruined both races for the team. Gone back to Australia, want to keep the Bahrain-esque form up. Very silly, but he’ll learn from that.

Charles Leclerc – 6

For a driver that had never been to China he wasn’t adrift of the field, of course there are simulators that can be used but great display. The European season is when Leclerc will come to a next level.

Brendon Hartley – 5

The car wasn’t at the races today and was pretty much held back. The Kiwi was doing his own thing before being a passenger to a collision with his team mate. Had to retire late on due to damage.

Two things to conclude really, Verstappen, we rave how exciting he is to watch but he needs to learn. One of the late great Ayrton Senna’s quotes ‘If you no longer go for the gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver’ can be used to defend him. I don’t even think that he would of attempted that optimistic move.

Gave Ricciardo the driver of the day, but a big shout out to the Red Bull team for the whole of the weekend. A record breaking engine change in this era yesterday, and the two double stack pit stops really shows drive in the team to do the best they can at the track. Off track great tactics was decided in a few seconds when the safety car was called too. In a fortnight the Formula 1 circus is off to Baku, much earlier this year.

 

Images Courtesy of Redbull content pool

Bahrain GP 2018 Driver Ratings

A fantastic Bahrain Grand Prix, one of the best in the modern era as you just couldn’t take your eyes off it!

Driver Ratings for the Grand Prix, in finishing order.

Sebastian Vettel – 10

Exceptional from the four time champion, looking a bit behind in free practice to one to his team mate. This was one of his best wins, not only as a Ferrari driver but probably in his career. Storming pole lap and driving on ice skates for the majority of the Grand Prix. He managed to keep Bottas behind him and win, just! ‘Mamma Mia’

Valterri Bottas – 8

Bottas had a very good weekend, a few more laps and we would have heard the Finnish anthem you would expect. Steady pace by him and managed to out qualify his team mate Hamilton. Sadly, you would have expected Hamilton to have passed Vettel. He could of lined up a move to turn 3 with a better chance. Great performance but lacks a killers instinct.

Lewis Hamilton – 8

A recovery drive that most expected by the reigning World Champion, most highlighted for that stunning treble overtake into Turn 1 with sparks flying in the midnight sky. Kept his nose clean at the start as others collided at the start. Through retirements of others at the front he got on the podium. He could of made Sunday easier but had a very poor Saturday finishing Q3 in 4th. With Ferrari showing great pace all weekend nearly best he could of done.

Pierre Gasly – 10
**DRIVER OF THE DAY**

From a man who qualified last at Australia and an early retirement, a weekend he would want to forget to one he will never forget. Took advantage of retirements to finish so high up, but still best of the rest. His flying lap in qualifying was near perfect. He started on clean side of the grid, passed Ricciardo into Turn 1 and kept the rest at bay. Brilliant. He finished 10 seconds clear of Hulkenberg, Magnussen and Alonso, unexpected pace by Toro Rosso, with a HONDA engine. With Red Bull contracts up in air at the end of the season, Hello Helmut?

Kevin Magnussen – 8

Haas got their tyres on cars with solid times in the pits, a change from a fortnight ago. K-Mag gave the team the reward for their success. Good weekend for him, out qualified team mate Grosjean and on a different strategy to most, got a points finish.

Nico Hulkenburg – 8

Hulkenburg doing a Hulkenburg, a quiet a weekend but nothing out of the ordinary by the German. A points finish which give Renault something to build on after a solid weekend in Melbourne.

Fernando Alonso – 9

The despair of Saturday to the delight of Sunday, the Mclaren team was left red faced in being out qualified by Toro Rosso Honda. Alonso being the racer he is stormed through the field, finishing 7th from an original starting place of 13th. Once more is the car holding him back?

Stoffel Vandoorne – 7

The Belgian scores again, but once more in the shadow of his team mate. Scored in both rounds but only a matter of time before critics come out more about if he is the right man in the seat.

Marcus Ericcson – 9

Points?! The Swede scores points 50 Grand Prix after his last haul in 2015, at the Italian Grand Prix. He tried something different, a one stop, whilst others squabbled holding each other up he kept just chipping away. Pace was horrible due to tyres well past their best at the end but much like Vettel kept it together as a true racer can. Showed his rookie team mate the much improved potential of the Sauber Team with Alfa Romeo backing.

Estaban Ocon – 7

Battling with others throughout the entire race gave the Frenchman the final points of the Bahrain Grand Prix. He got the best of some talented drivers but didn’t manage to assert himself by pulling away.

Carlos Sainz – 6

Carlos was stuck between the majority of the battle for the small points of the race. Force India managed to just managed to get the Spaniard for the last points.

Charles Leclerc – 7

More mileage in the car for Leclerc, and a track that he knows compared to Melbourne. He did in Formula 2 one of the most amazing returns to win last year, and kept on the speed transferring it onto the F1 grid.

Romain Grosjean – 6

A race which will be forgotten for the Frenchman, the highlight of the race was his stupidity at holding his team mate up and nearly causing a collision at turn 2. Restricted pace due to sidepod damage early in the race. Not his day.

Lance Stroll – 6

The Williams driver was nowhere in qualifying, he started 20th, but managed to finish above others. Lance kept his nose clean early on and got the advantage through collisions.

Sergey Sirotkin – 6

The Russian had a quiet race, finished the grand prix. More mileage for the rookie to hopefully build experience for tracks he has been too before later in the season.

Sergio Perez – 6

Being hit from behind at turn 3 on the opening lap ruined any chance of a decent finish for the Mexican. He kept the car going if anyone faltered but after early retirements no one else retired.

Brendon Hartley – 6

The Kiwi is still getting to grips with open wheel racing after racing so long in Endurance racing. A silly error on the opening lap resulted in a penalty which put him on the back foot for the race.

Kimi Raikkonen – 7

The Ferrari driver did well in practice being quicker than his team mate. When it came to qualifying when it mattered he was caught out to P2. Bottas jumped him at the start and never got close to him again, the pit stop error caused a retirement. Best Wishes and speedy recovery for mechanic, Kimi did nothing wrong.

Max Verstappen – 5

Erratic from the Dutchman all weekend, struggled to keep his car on track regardless of the sudden power increase in qualifying resulting in the crash. He was the one most ran wide in practice trying to find the limits. He got past Hamilton well, but there was no need to open up the steering, which resulted in the contact causing a puncture and differential damage. Bad day at the office, I wouldn’t go as far as what Hamilton called him.

Daniel Ricciardo – 8

He looked up for it all weekend but the car when it mattered let him down. Was very close up to the front in qualifying which Red Bull since the beginning of the hybrid era have struggled the most. He managed to retake Gasly after a poor start but an electrical failure ended his day early in a few horrible minutes of the Austrian team.

With the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend ahead questions are beginning to be discussed, more coming to light than others, I’d say the major one is Honda, have Mclaren made another mistake? Heavily power focused in sector 3 at China, we’ll see.