Hungary for more heavyweight battles: Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

It had to happen eventually. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton have been battling hammer and tong all season long so far and, while we are all enjoying the psychological and physical challenges that come with a great title fight, we all feared that it might come to blows at some point.

The British Grand Prix at Silverstone proved to be a resplendent one for action and drama over the course of two races that weekend, and it also saw the moment that our two front-runners for the world championship become intense adversaries.

Hamilton’s win following the lap one collision now places him eight points behind the Dutchman coming into Budapest, where all eyes will be on who can take the incentive going into the summer break.

The 4.3 kilometre Hungaroring has held 35 races in the Formula One Championship in its tenure thus far, and the 36th is as highly anticipated as ever, with two drivers not displaced to give an inch going head-to-head in the 11th round of the championship.

If 2019 is anything to go by, they may well end up being pitted directly against one another again, after the seven-time-champion caught the Red Bull driver following an extra pit stop, passing him to win a thrilling Grand Prix.

We may well see more side-by-side action between Hamilton and Verstappen this weekend – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

This was a time, however, when Red Bull were not in a position to contend for the title, and at a circuit in which Red Bull should thrive, Verstappen will be seeking instant redemption for Silverstone.

The 23-year-old comfortably took victory in Monaco earlier in the campaign, making him the favourite on a similar racetrack. But who else might it favour?

McLaren are bringing updates to the upcoming weekend, as they try to solidify their place in third in the Constructors’ standings. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz affirms that the McLaren is already the most difficult car to overtake. With Lando Norris’ three podiums and Daniel Ricciardo seemingly improving his pace, it is going to take a lot of work from the likes of Ferrari and Alpine to leapfrog McLaren. Charles Leclerc’s impressive performance over all three days at Silverstone, however, puts Ferrari in a positive position this weekend.

Charles Leclerc’s impressive performance at Silverstone saw him gain his first podium of the season – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Silverstone has made Budapest a spicy encounter before it has even begun, and we cannot wait. Be sure to follow our live coverage on Twitter and our website as F1 heads into its last race before the summer break.

F1 is coming home: British Grand Prix Preview

Football may not have come to England on Sunday, but as a new race week begins, Silverstone prepares to welcome Formula One for the 56th championship Grand Prix at the 5.8 kilometre track.

And this is a weekend of new beginnings, fresh ideas and uniqueness. The British Grand Prix will play host to the first of three sprint qualifying races in 2021, and though it may have divided opinion, there is a general anticipation of what the event will now look like.

The weekend will begin with a 60-minute practice session on Friday, before the usual qualifying format is contested for the shortened race on the Saturday.

The usual qualifying day will see a further practice session followed by a 100 kilometre race, where the top three drivers will receive points. This race sets the grid for the Grand Prix itself. Sunday will be a return to normality, as the 52-lap Grand Prix is tackled by the drivers.

Whether this is a genius initiative or just an ostentatious gimmick is up for debate – and it certainly has been debated – but there is no doubting that this is a ground-breaking moment for Formula One.

And it is certain that none of it will cast a shadow over the undeniable magic of a Grand Prix at Silverstone. For the first time since 2019, the Buckinghamshire racetrack will welcome a capacity crowd throughout the weekend in the midst of a heatwave, which will add to what is always a remarkable atmosphere at the former airbase.

The fans have encapsulated what the British Grand Prix is all about over the years – Image Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

And we hope to be in for a cracking weekend. 2020 saw two consecutive race weekends at this track, which saw Lewis Hamilton defy a last-lap puncture to win, before Max Verstappen took his first win of the season the following week.

It also proves a special one for the majority of the teams too. Seven of our 10 teams have bases in the United Kingdom, and many find themselves building some of the finest machines on earth just a small drive away from the circuit.

The Aston Martin team are based in Silverstone – Courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Team

But for whom will the weekend prove most rewarding? This has been a prominent question throughout the nine races of 2021 thus far, with an ambiguous distinction between Mercedes and Red Bull so far leading us to simply have to wait and see who will be faster.

Adding to this equation will be Mercedes’ much-anticipated update package, and there will be fascination over the effectiveness off it compared to Red Bull.

Incremental attention, meanwhile, is still being given to Valtteri Bottas’ future, as George Russell continues to be linked to the Brackley-based team for the 2022 season. The Brit has reaffirmed that there will be no update on these rumours this weekend.

Russell and Bottas were team mates last year the Sakhir Grand Prix following Hamilton’s positive COVID-19 test – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

It is a big weekend for many of the teams, as McLaren and Ferrari continue to battle it out for the third-best team after the enticing battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. There are 29 points up for grabs this weekend, and we cannot wait to get started!

Istanbul returns to Formula One calendar

In the latest Formula One 2021 calendar news, the Turkish Grand Prix has been confirmed as the 16th round of the season.

It will replace the Singapore Grand Prix, which was cancelled earlier on this year.

The 5.3 kilometre Istanbul Park held the 14th race of 2020, in a race which saw Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton pick up his record-equaling seventh world championship.

Lewis Hamilton won his seventh championship in Istanbul last year – Courtesy of Wolfgang Wilhelm

Originally drafted in to replace the Canadian Grand Prix, Turkey was shortly-thereafter removed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It was replaced by a double-header in Austria, the first of which is being completed this weekend.

It is yet to be confirmed whether spectators will be permitted to attend the race.

Eight Formula One Grands Prix have been contested at Istanbul in F1, with the first seven held between 2005 and 2011. Following Sebastian Vettel’s win in the early part of the last decade, Istanbul was dropped from the Formula One calendar. Felipe Massa remains the most successful driver in Turkey, winning three in a row between 2006 and 2008.

Felipe Massa’s three wins make him the most successful driver in the history of the Turkish Grand Prix – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

The race will be held at the start of October, as part of a triple-header sandwiched between the Russian and the Japanese Grands Prix.

Charging Bulls Return Home: Austrian Grand Prix Preview

This is a familiar sight. Formula One embarks on a double-header in Austria starting this weekend, as Red Bull return to their home Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen’s victory in France last time out gives him a 12-point advantage as we approach the 4.3 kilometre circuit that also happens to provide some happy memories for F1 as a whole. Spielberg ended the drought of races during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, allowing fans around the world to enjoy cars going quickly in circles again. It hosted the first two races of 2020, and now returns to host the eighth and ninth races of a thus far remarkable 2021 season.

Red Bull have now won three consecutive races for the first time since 2013, and expectations that Mercedes were about to return to form in France were bulldozed by the Austrian team’s victory and double-podium.

Max Verstappen’s victory in France gives him a 12-point lead coming into Austria – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

For what is really the first time since the arrival of the hybrid era, Mercedes find themselves in desperate need of a result. Red Bull are pushing them perhaps harder than anyone has been able to since 2014, and a short, technical track with little margin for error will likely suit Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, meaning that we are set for a stunning couple of races.

And the Red Bull Ring is not devoid of overtaking spots, so the battle behind the front two teams should be an intense one. There remains ambiguity over Ferrari’s sheer lack of pace in the French Grand Prix, with the Hard tyres refusing to switch on for either Carlos Sainz or Charles Leclerc, so keeping the rubber in check may just be another head-scratcher for the likes of McLaren, Alpine, Aston Martin and anyone else who plans to obtain third in the Constructors’ standings come the end of the year.

A terrible Sunday for Ferrari in France yielded no points – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press

But that may not even have to be a factor. Thunderstorms, along with an orange weather warning, are anticipated this weekend in the Styrian mountains, so expect there to be some strategic and handling difficulty for the teams and drivers.

Mercedes need another bounce back, but they are going to have to achieve it in Red Bull’s back yard. The next two weeks will be massive in the context of this year’s world championship.

Splendid Verstappen takes French Grand Prix pole

A sterling performance from Max Verstappen saw him dominantly beat the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas as he took his fifth career pole for this weekend’s French Grand prix.

We did not need to wait long for the third disrupted qualifying session in as many Grand Prix weekends, as Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda found the barriers after spinning on the exit of turn one. Mercedes looked as though they were returning to their irresistible form as Hamilton and Bottas briefly topped the timesheets, before the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez pegged them back again. The end of the session saw an immensely frustrating moment for Lance Stroll and Kimi Raikkonen, as Mick Schumacher wrecked his Haas on the exit of Turn 13. He ironically secured his passage to Q2 as a result, costing the aforementioned duo their final Q1 laps. The Haas driver would however take no further part in qualifying; this was Schumacher’s second qualifying crash in the last three races.

An otherwise impressive qualifying ended with Mick Schumacher in the wall for Haas – Courtesy of Haas Media

A calmer second qualifying session saw Charles Leclerc narrowly scrape into the top ten, as Esteban Ocon, fresh off a new Alpine contract, was knocked out on the medium tyres. Fernando Alonso, who has not enjoyed the perfect return to the sport, will be glad of out-qualifying his home hero team mate this weekend. George Russell, who did ever so well to once again reach Q2, ended up fourteenth for Williams.

Fernando Alonso out-qualified Esteban Ocon at his team mate’s home race – Courtesy of Renault Sport Media

Max Verstappen’s first run in the final session was an immense four tenths quicker than second best Lewis Hamilton, as Mercedes contrived to return to the front, but not to the top of the timesheets. Verstappen’s final run was an improvement of another four tenths, as Sergio Perez’s front row seat was short-lived, as Bottas and Hamilton displaced the Mexican, but still failed to get anywhere near the flying Dutchman, who looked simply unstoppable.

Verstappen’s pole position never looked in doubt in an exceptional performance – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

10 of the 16 races at the Circuit Paul Ricard have been won from pole, but the threat of rain tomorrow gives us a chance of a wide-open race, as Max Verstappen seeks to further press home his championship advantage.

F1 returns to racing’s birthplace – French Grand Prix Preview

The circuit Paul Ricard was originally designed as a test circuit, and has thus far proven to be a test of patience for Formula One fans sine its reintroduction to the calendar in 2018, but will it give us some joy as it makes its return to the calendar in 2021?

Well, to put in bluntly, at least the weather tends to be nice in le Castellet. Although, having said that, we did see a couple of excellent battles during the 2019 race, particularly through the chicane into Turn Seven. And what’s more, we might not expect to see Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton utterly dominate this one.

The silver Arrows looked decidedly average two weeks ago in Baku, which is extremely concerning given the powerful nature of a track where we typically expect the champions to thrive – they are perhaps being given their greatest challenge since the beginning of the hybrid era.

Mercedes failed to score any points for the first time since 2018 in Azerbaijan – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

And that challenge is coming from Red Bull who, crucially this time around, have both dogs (or bulls) firmly in the fight. Max Verstappen’s previous team mates, Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly, were simply left unable to compete with the other frontrunning cars during their unsuccessful tenures with the team, but we have seen a momentum shift with Azerbaijan winner Sergio Perez. The Mexican took the gauntlet to win following Verstappen’s cruel tyre blowout. Part of the reason for the swing of the ultra-fast pendulum has been the form and misfortune of Finn Valtteri Bottas.

It was his turn to give a tow in Baku in qualifying last time, leaving him down in tenth, and he only fell backwards in an immensely disheartening race – he did however finish ahead of Hamilton after the world champion’s massive error on the safety car restart.

So all in all, this is a big race for Mercedes; they need a strong response to what has been a baffling and exasperating last couple of Grands Prix. The lead in the championship remains the same between Verstappen and Hamilton Hamilton coming into this weekend, so it actually may just be an enthralling few days of action with a lot to play for.

Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon enter their home race this weekend, both coming off the back of impressive performances at Baku, with Ocon’s efforts not yielding the results they deserved as he failed to finish after a mechanical failure. Gasly, meanwhile, picked up his third career podium.

Home hero this weekend Pierre Gasly (right) joined Sergio Perez (centre) and Sebastian Vettel on the podium in Baku – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

In fact, we have seen improvements from a lot of drivers in the midfield – even from Mick Schumacher’s Haas team mate, as drivers begin to settle into new teams.

Daniel Ricciardo, though is another that finds himself in need of a response to team mate Lando Norris’ supreme form. Should he find it this weekend, McLaren will find themselves with a wonderful opportunity to try and put the sword to Ferrari for third in the Constructors’ standings.

This circuit does not always give us the best racing, but with a lot to play for up and down the field, we may witness another cracker for round seven, as F1 returns to where motor racing all began.

Mercedes seek re-ignition in the land of fire

It was a tough outing in Monaco for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton qualified and finished seventh in an enormously frustrating weekend for the champion, while a stripped wheel nut cost Valtteri Bottas any chance of a podium.

The 14-hour pit stop will undoubtedly have given the Brackley-based outfit some time to think about what went wrong in the Principality, but they will probably just put it down to one of those weekends. They are not very used to those.

But we are getting accustomed to Red Bull pushing them all the way, and they lead the Constructors’ championship following Max Verstappen’s victory two weeks ago. The table-topping flying Dutchman is towering over the almost infallible champions.

Max Verstappen leads the championship after his dominant win in Monaco – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

However, looming over the Austrian bulls is the potential protest this weekend from Mercedes regarding their “bendy wings”, as the entertaining psychological battle continues between Christian Horner and Toto Wolff. The real entertainment though, we hope, will be on track.

Toto Wolff is set to launch a protest this weekend over Red Bull’s “bendy wings” – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The six kilometre Baku street circuit provides another close encounter with the barriers, but the long straights and 90-degree turns, coupled with a flowing, tight middle sector, make for a different challenge for the drivers and cars to overcome.

The powerful nature of the circuit favours Mercedes, and they have won three of the four races contested here since its introduction as the European Grand Prix in 2016. Valtteri Bottas is the last winner, all the way back in a time before COVID in 2019.

It also saw Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crash in qualifying, just as he did last time out in Monaco; Ferrari will be aware that pole will be much less easily attained in Baku, but they should expect to continue their improved form in 2021. Carlos Sainz excellently spared the Prancing Horses’ blushes with a podium finish two weeks ago.

Carlos Sainz claimed his first Ferrari podium in Monaco – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari press Office

As should Sebastian Vettel, having finally collected his first points of the season after a beautiful Monaco drive, while there needs to be an urgent bounce back for Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso, who flattered to deceive in Monaco in weekends that just did not go their way.

Daniel Ricciardo finished 12th in Monaco, while he had to watch his team mate Lando Norris claim a podium – Courtesy of Mclaren Media

This title race, already littered with feistiness and polemic wings, looks set to further heat up in the land of fire. Formula One is back in Azerbaijan.

Williams’ magnificent milestone and a return to Monaco

749 races, nine Constructors’ titles, and seven world champions after Williams F1 team entered Formula One in 1975, the British team arrive in Monaco for their 750th World Championship Grand Prix this weekend.

It is a milestone that gloriously coincides with a return to Monaco, following a two-year absence that has felt like an eternity. F1 returning to one of its spiritual homes feels like the beginning of a return to normality, and a glimpse at the vivid light at the end of the tunnel during this Coronavirus pandemic.

Within that, we had to watch as the Williams family said a teary goodbye to their creation, but Williams and racing fans around the globe enter this weekend knowing that, spiritually at least, this is Claire and Frank’s team reaching a tremendous milestone.

Claire Williams departed the team last year, but along with her father Frank, remains synonymous with the team – Courtesy of Williams Media

McLaren are also feeling the occasion, bringing the iconic Gulf livery to the first race in the Principality since 2019, but what we really care about is how the spectacle will look.

McLaren have gone with a retro Gulf look for this weekend – Courtesy of McLaren Racing

Well it is worth mentioning that just two seconds covered first and twentieth in the opening qualifying session in Spain two weeks ago, and we arrive at a much more condensed 3.3 kilometre circuit this weekend. This makes the need for a good qualifying all the more important, but also making the gaps in the midfield ever more enticing. Williams in particular will therefore be relishing the prospect of closing the gap to some of the teams in front, as they seek points or the first time this campaign.

And as Monaco tends to be rain’s twin as a great equaliser in this weird and wonderful sport, it will provide the opportunity for Aston Martin, Alpha Tauri and, to an extent, Alpine, to recover from a tough start to 2021.

Fernando Alonso finished 17th in his home race in Spain in what has been a difficult start at Alpine – Courtesy of Renault Sport Media

At the front, there have been some developments since Spain. A prohibition on Red Bull’s “bendy wing” opens an intriguing debate as to whether the alteration to the rear wing will adversely affect the Milton Keynes-based outfit, but previous form makes them the favourite in a season that has seen them push Mercedes to the limit thus far.

But Lewis Hamilton’s three wins in Monaco since his arrival into F1 14 years ago make the seven-time champion a stallion that cannot for a second be ruled out of this race, as he goes hunting for his third victory on the bounce in 2021.

Lewis Hamilton narrowly beat Max Verstappen to victory in Monaco two years ago – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

McLaren look snazzy, Williams are making history, and the wings this weekend will not be bendy. It is great to see Formula One back in Monaco.

Spanish Grand Prix Preview

With championship protagonists trying to stamp down their authority and new faces struggling to make an impression, Formula One looks very interesting indeed right now as we head to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix.

It has been an immense back-and-forth battle so far between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen over the course of the first three races, with Hamilton ensuring robustly last race that Verstappen knows he will need a magnificent season to beat the seven-time champion.

The battle between Hamilton and Verstappen has been incredibly gripping so far – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Hamilton strongly overtook Verstappen in Portugal on his way to reversing the qualifying deficit to his team mate Valtteri Bottas and claiming Grand Prix victory in the Algarve.

Just to make things a little more exciting, the 4.6 kilometre Spanish track has undergone a change, with turn 10 going deeper and widening the exit. It means that qualifying will become much more significant, with the opportunity for overtaking becoming even more oppressed than before.

It also means that, with a two-stop strategy anticipated, the boffins on the Mercedes and Red Bull pit walls are going to find themselves under enormous pressure. Add in Sergio Perez’s impressive performances to this point for Red Bull, and we are about to find ourselves in an immensely gripping game of chess between two teams that know exactly what it takes to find success in Formula One.

Spain will see Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Alpine’s Fernando Alonso strap in for their home race, and they need all the momentum they can get. Sainz fell back out of the points following an impressive qualifying in Portugal, while Alonso needed a resurgence after an incredibly difficult qualifying to finish eighth.

Sainz has shown some early positive signs of promise so far for Ferrari – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

Daniel Ricciardo is still finding his feet at McLaren, and his recovery to the points last weekend scarcely papered over a stuttering start for the Honey Badger at the Woking-based outfit. Given the necessity of strong one-lap pace in Spain, getting knocked out in Q1 cannot be an option for the Australian this weekend; his team mate Lando Norris, by contrast, has made an immaculate start to the campaign, contriving to finish on the podium finish in Imola.

After three races, Spain is the checkpoint e have been looking to as a reference for the title and who will be best of the rest and, if the first three races have been anything to go by, it will still be impossible to call after the chequered flag falls in Barcelona.

FIA sign off on sprint events

The FIA has today signed off on plans to hold three sprint qualifying events at two European events and one non-European event in this year’s Formula One championship.

The change is part of plans to make Formula One more entertaining and increase the racing spectacle this year. The format will see the top three drivers score points in Saturdays sprint race. The winner will score three point, second place will score two points, and the third-placed finisher will walk away from the race with a single point.

The FIA are hoping the new sprint format will improve the show – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Qualifying for Saturday’s sprint race will occur after a single Free Practice session, in which the teams will have at their disposal two sets of tyres. Qualifying will see each team given five sets of soft tyres only. The race will operate as normal.

If the event is wet, the usual standard of three sets of wets and four sets of Intermediates will be provided.

It is yet to be officially announced which venues will host these sprint events, as we also await the fate of this year’s Canadian Grand Prix.