Tom’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Race Notes

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Well, who saw that coming?.. The 70th Anniversary Grand Prix had a lot of work to do if it was to live up to last week’s final few laps of chaos that the British Grand Prix gave us. Did it? Well… Sort of, yeah.

Super Max

What can I say, as a Red Bull fan, I honestly do not know what to say but as the neutral as I am when it comes to the race notes, all I can say is… Formula One needed this!

Super Max Verstappen and even more to the point, super Red Bull! Starting on the hard tyre and going 29 laps on the hard tyre as well as an excellent start from Max, overtaking Nico Hulkenberg and his Racing Point to instantly move into P3, saw the Red Bull team FINALLY put pressure on Mercedes on a race day and it pays off!

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max showed us that tyre management is his thing and while his rivals were struggling to contain tyre wear, he knew what he had to do and he very well did it. At one point, Max was informed by his race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase to push less and hold back because his tyres couldn’t possibly sustain the pressure the Dutch man was putting on them. However, Max disagreed and continued his pursuit of the Mercedes which now looks to have been a masterstroke as he claimed Red Bull’s first win at Silverstone in 8, yes, 8 years!!

Obviously, I couldn’t mention Red Bull without mentioning Alex Albon, the young driver qualified in P9 and ended up finishing in P5. That doesn’t match what his teammate achieved but Albon was first to pit and at one point found himself near dead last again. Having received a lot of criticism in the last weeks, Alex once again showed he shouldn’t be slept on. Oh, and he also held the fastest lap for a while too. Report on that one, you know who!

Mercedes tyre issues?

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Once again, tyres have proved to be an issue for Mercedes. Both cars started on the medium compound tyre and as we all know, is the equivalent of last weekend’s soft tyre and we all know what happened at the end of last week’s British Grand Prix.

Anyway, this week saw both Mercedes cars reporting issues after just lap 5. Whether it’s the heat or whether it’s an actual issue with the car, is something we are bound to find out about in the coming days but just for now and the purpose of the race notes, it certainly seems that after so long, we have possibly identified an issue with what looks like a flawless W11.

Pole sitter Valtteri Bottas didn’t look comfortable from the start and never really showed us that he was going to get one over on his Mercedes teammate, while Lewis Hamilton didn’t look himself today despite fighting all the odds to stop claim a record podium.

Today wasn’t Mercedes’ day and having to pit early due to degradation, manage a tyre that didn’t look comfortable at all on the car, as well as having a last couple of laps of ‘free to race’ action because Lewis had the fresher tyres than Valtteri isn’t what they were hoping for whatsoever.

Hats off to you Charles Leclerc

Yes, its that stage of the race notes where I award my driver of the day and this week it goes to no other than Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

For the majority of the season (ok, up until this point) when we talk Ferrari, there really hasn’t been anything positive to touch on. Nonetheless, today the Italian team and a certain driver put all that behind them and gave The Prancing Horse fans something to finally be very cheerful about!

Ferrari and Charles Leclerc, in particular, were one of only three teams to risk the one stop strategy today (other two cars/teams being, Renault (Ocon) and Alpha Romeo (Räikkönen)) and boy didn’t it pay off. Starting in P8, Leclerc managed to get himself all the way up to P4 and show that the old horse still has some power behind it and had at last, a very nice looking race pace!

Unfortunately, unlike teammate Leclerc, Sebastian Vettel’s season doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Vettel took a big spin on lap one and very nearly saw his race over had he not somehow avoid contact with Carlos Sainz’s McLaren. Vettel fought hard all the way back up to P12 but once again, its another race where Sebby’s final chapter of his Ferrari journey looks like it just isn’t going to end well.

Final Thoughts

Ok, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix didn’t give us the madness that the final laps of last weeks British Grand Prix did BUT it did give us a lot to think over ahead of next week’s Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. It was written in the stars that Mercedes were once again going to dominate but boy didn’t this historic track have other things in mind!

Max Verstappen managed his car to perfection and Red Bull showed why they hardly ever miss when it comes to strategy as they win at Silverstone for the first time on 8 years but more importantly, they end the run of Mercedes’ wins to possibly, possibly give us a real championship battle.

Here’s to the next one, see you in a week’s time in Barcelona! I can not wait!

Tom’s British Grand Prix Race Notes

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Well, well, well, I have to say that at one point, I was massively struggling to find a way to make this interesting for you. However, queue the final couple of laps of the Grand Prix and the race really came alive! So, where to start? Here are my British Grand Prix Race Notes…

Lewis Hamilton 

I mean what can you say? Lewis led from start to finish, cruising home to claim a 7th British Grand Prix win, moving 30 point clear in the Driver’s Championship. Ok, I say cruised, he did for 50 laps at least before the real fun started and it almost got away from him. (more on this shortly).

Hamilton now moves to within four wins of Michael Schumacher’s all-time GP wins record. Back against him? You really shouldn’t. It’s inevitable and given the car that is under him, there’s no way he’s not going to claim the crown sooner rather than later.

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

I said at the start, what can you say? Well, not much more really. It was a relaxed drive for Lewis and once again, Mercedes show why they are miles ahead of the grid, even when they only have three fully functioning tires on the car!

Final Laps of Pure Carnage:

As mentioned, the Grand Prix looked all but done right from the start and the Race Note’s almost ceased to exist however, this historic Silverstone track had other ideas and gave us two laps of pure carnage and entertainment!

It all started with Valteri Bottas and after sitting in second place for 50 laps, Bottas reported on the team radio that he was suffering from a lot of vibration. At the time it was apparent that his tires we’re starting to struggle but what we didn’t know was just how bad they really were.

Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before we found out and as the Finn headed into the first corner to start his 51st lap, Bottas lost his front left tyre completely as it’s pressure dropped ultimately leading to his front wing punctured it. Bottas came into the pits at the end of the lap and he found himself going from second to finish the Grand Prix in 11th place. Which may sound bad but it could have been worse as at one point, you were left wondering if he was even going to make it to the pits at all!

Bottas wasn’t the only man suffering from tyre degradation either as Lewis Hamilton also quickly found out.

After leading the race completely unchallenged, it looked as if Lewis could sit back, relax and enjoy his final lap with his now 32 plus second lead over Max Verstappen, but what he didn’t know was that his tyre, just like his teammates tyre, was about to go bang!

Lewis heard about Bottas’ puncture and admitted that his looked fine but as he turned into Luffield, his very own left front tyre punctured and left him hoping that he would beat Verstappen to the checkered flag. As we know, he did but that 32 plus second lead quickly vanished into a 5.8-second win. Close call? Absolutely and in the words of Lewis himself, ”It was definitely a heart-in-the-mouth kind of feeling” for the Brit.

Danny Ric

To wrap up this week’s race notes, it’s the man himself, the man who never stops smiling and most probably has the best sense of humor the grid has ever seen.

Daniel Ricciardo, a man on a mission of late, who has those boots that are made for overtaking and overtaking he did. Danny Ric started 8th on the grid and battled all afternoon against both McLaren’s of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris, which in truth up until puncture gate, was the only entertainment of the day. (Apart from K-Mag and Dani Kvyat’s crashes maybe).

Anyway, Danny Ric was one of nine drivers to benefit from Bottas’ second to last lap puncture and thanks to a solid drive from the Australian, he ended up coming him to finish in P4 which matches his best ever finish for Renualt. Had Hamilton’s tyre issue been a lot worse than it was then we could have been talking about a podium finish for Danny Ric but Hamilton somehow got his Silver Arrow home and he had to settle for fourth which isn’t anything to turn your nose up at. (No pun intended, Danny). Great drive!

Other mentions:

Image courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari

Ferrari had a tale of two weekends and depending on who you ask, the response to how they faired this weekend will be very different. Charles Leclerc had a very impressive weekend which was topped off by a podium finish in P3, which Sebastian Vettel had a nightmare weekend as he ended up in P10. Vettel struggled to stay on the track for most of the weekend and the race pace just wasn’t there for him again. That said, it was a much more improved Ferrari overall.

McLaren will be hugely happy with their showing as Lando Norris brought his MCL35 home to finish in P5, which is great news in terms of the constructor’s standings as Lance Stroll could only manage a ninth-place finish as Racing Point had a race to forget given Nico Hulkenburg’s car didn’t even make the grid due to a power unit failure.

Alpha Tauri will also be happy as Pierre Gasly had an excellent race to finish in seventh after team mate Dani Kvyat crashed out after a clash with Red Bull’s Alexander Albon.

Final Thoughts:

It was a race that looked as if it was over before it even started but thanks to a final few laps of pure carnage, it really did not disappoint in the end. Hamilton may have won his 7th British Grand Prix but it wasn’t as easy as it potentially could have been in the end.

Shall we do it again? Ok then, see you next week for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix!

 

Hulk is back – The German driver impresses on his F1 return with Racing Point

With news that Sergio Perez had tested positive for COVID-19 breaking on Thursday evening, Racing Point had a decision to make as to who would come in and effectively replace him for at least this weekend’s British Grand Prix and even possibly for the 70th anniversary race weekend the next week. Well, it was all to perfect for a certain German driver who’s last race came some 243 days ago.

After losing his seat at Renault at the end of last season, Nico Hulkenberg was most likely wondering how he could get himself back in a seat. However, what he probably wasn’t expecting was how it would come about and how much earlier an opportunity for him to return to the grid would arise. With that said, news broke hours before the start of Free Practice 1 that Racing Point had opted to replace Checo with Nico, who had already spent three-quarters of an hour of Friday morning in the Racing Point simulator ahead of his scheduled return.

With 177 Grand Prix’s to his name, it absolutely makes sense for both Nico and the Pink Panthers for him to take the drive, replacing his former Force India teammate and he did not disappoint!

Glen Dunbarr / Racing Point F1 Team

Free Practice 1:

Nico’s initial lap of the historic Silverstone track was slightly delayed due to the fact we were still awaiting the result of his own COVID test, however, it wasn’t too long of a wait and before you knew it, Nico was taking to the track in the RP20 and was actually the first out.

After a couple of bedding in laps and a could of stops into the pits, Nico went on to complete an impressive 24 laps and subsequently posted a best lap time of 1:28.592 which was good enough to see him end FP1 in 9th just +1.170 behind the fastest man of the session – Max Verstappen (1:27.422).

What was more impressive was the fact that while he was just over one second off Verstappen, Nico was only +0.591 off his teammate Lance Stroll, who ended up finishing the first session third fastest posting a 1:28.004 (+0.582 behind Verstappen).

Post FP1 thoughts had you thinking that given Nico hasn’t taken to the track whatsoever this season let alone jumping into a car which has a serious chance of challenging this weekend, he could only get fast. Excitement building for FP2? Absolutely.

Final Session Times:

Free Practice 2:

FP2 got underway and Nico took his time in the garage before heading out to put an initial lap time of 1:29.906 for 13th with almost 20 minutes of the session gone. The following lap, Nico got himself into the top 10 with a much more improved 1:29.041 (9th), pace was starting to gather for the 32-year-old German.

With just under an hour of practice left, Nico saw teammate Stroll set a session fastest 1:27.274 during a qualifying simulation run. Nico’s answer? Well, it was 1:27.910 to go 5th fastest and move to within +0.636 of Stroll.

With just three quarters of an hour left in the session though, Red Bull’s Alex Albon went off the track at Stow in a big way after losing the rear end and spinning in barriers. The session was red flagged and all car’s returned to the pits for around 15 minutes.

With restart of the session and around 30 minutes to go, Nico went on to complete a further 25 laps and ultimately ended up in P7 at the checkered flag. As for his teammate Stroll, well.. he ended up being the fastest man of the session with his before mentioned lap of 1:27.274 which was +0.090 fastest than second quickest Alex Albon, who after his crash at Stow, didn’t return for the rest of the session.

Final Session Times:

 

What Nico Had To Say:

“The 24 hours has been a bit special. Crazy and wild. 16:30pm yesterday afternoon I got the call took a plane here and then seat fitted until 2am last night. Then into the simulator at 8am for an hour with a bit of prep work. It was a short night, but all worthwhile.”

Mark Sutton / Racing Point F1 Team

Overall Assessment:

Nico’s return to the track after 243 days was a very impressive one giving the circumstances. With as much notice as he had, I don’t think you could have asked much more from him. Yes, we all know that the car he was in control of could and should have been up with Stroll’s timing but let’s be honest, 24 hours on from being told he was coming in, Nico did an excellent job in staying within six hundred tenths of his teammate.

The rest of the weekend will now be an opportunity for Nico to repay Racing Point’s trust in giving him to replace Checo. You can well imagine that with the data collected from his laps today and the debriefing to follow, Nico’s confidence will have grown massively and could show not only in tomorrow’s FP3 but also in what is expected to be a much cooler Qualifying.

It’s fair to say that despite the circumstances that surround his return, it’s great to see the man that they call Hulk back in a Formula One car. Welcome back, Nico!

Tom’s Hungarian Grand Prix Race Notes

After an excellent and action packed two-race weekend in Austria to open the 2020 Formula One season, our attention was turned to Hungary for race three. Known as Monaco without the close barriers (and minus a luxury yacht or ten) the Hungaroring had the potential to deliver even more thrills and spills and didn’t it just. Without further ado, let’s take a look at some Hungarian Grand Prix weekend highlights and yet even more talking points.

Lewis Hamilton 

Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s anywhere else you could possibly start, is there? Fresh off the back of a masterclass in Styrian, Hamilton arrived at the Hungaroring needing just one win to equal the Michael Schumacher’s record of eight wins in Hungary. Boy, didn’t he deliver!

Hamilton’s mind-blowing qualifying meant he started on pole, leaving the field needing something to happen at turn’s one and two or it was game over. Sure enough, Hamilton had it all his own way as he cruised through the opening corners and never looked back. In fact, the Brit opened up a staggering eight-second lead by lap three. Oh, and he had a free stop at the end of the race to claim the fastest lap crown and that all-important extra point.

Put simply, Hamilton and his unstoppable Mercedes were once again class apart and he thoroughly deserved his 86th career win.

Oh, Red Bull!

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Being a Red Bull fan wasn’t easy this weekend. Both drivers reported issues all weekend, Albon’s qualifying was one to forget and race day was looking like it was headed for disaster. Did it end up being a disaster? Absolutely not! However, did it very nearly not happen at all? Absolutely!

My memory doesn’t always serve me correct but that said, I can not for the life of me remember the last time there was pandemonium on the grid prior to lights out as there was on Sunday. Just 12 corners into the pre-formation lap, Red Bull’s race looked as if it run before it had even began. Locking up into Turn 12, Verstappen collided with the barriers, leaving him needing a miracle to make lights out.

Thankfully, the Red Bull mechanics were not about to let the story end there. Not only did they get the job done but they got the job done spectacular fashion. Usually, the job that they were facing to repair his damaged RB16 would take around an hour and a half to put right however, somehow they pulled it out the bag in just 20 minutes!

Verstappen, in return, managed to take himself from 7th to 2nd, dedicated his podium to his mechanics and telling them on the team radio, “This podium is definitely dedicated to my mechanics”.

As for Albon, he managed to get over his Saturday session and pull himself from 13th to 5th. Albon has developed a reputation for getting it done when he’s up against it on a Sunday and once again, he didn’t disappoint. Although, he very nearly didn’t have a finish at all (more on this shortly).

Racing Point

I had a decision on who to mention first between Haas and Racing Point (or Mercedes depending on how you feel about the ongoing battle with Renault – sorry, Lawrence). I decided on Racing Point because yet again I am left wondering what else had this car got in it?

Racing Point locked out the second row of the grid. However, despite Stroll dropping a place to finish fourth and Perez dropping three places to end up in P7, that’s still very impressive. Here’s why.

Both Stroll and Perez were constantly giving their rivals something to think with their pace. It looked as  if Stroll was going to start on the front row for only the second time in his career – only to be denied of course, by Mercedes.

This was another great showing from a team, who firmly believe we haven’t seen the best of yet. With a week off between now and the British and 70th anniversary Grand Prix’s at Silverstone, how much more can they improve ahead of next year’s rebranding? Personally, I’m not sure but I know one thing – I can’t wait! Well done, Racing Point. A point is certainly starting to be made. Loud and clear too!

Haas Haas Haas

No, that’s not a misprint, that’s actually Kevin Magnussen and Haas laughing all the way to Silverstone with a 9th place finish and two championship points in the bag! Oh, wait… Checks notes… Maybe not, because after what looked like a masterstroke from Haas was actually a breach of rules and ultimately cost the team a place after both Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were each handed  a 10-second time penalty.

With the formation lap coming to an end, Haas decided that the track conditions were improving and that running on intermediate tyres was old news. Both drivers were told to pit for soft tyres which, as I mentioned, was a masterstroke. They eventually found themselves running in 3rd and 4th respectively. This was great to see but it was the long game they were using this strategy to benefit from.

To me at the time I thought it was a brilliant strategic work however, after the race the FIA thought otherwise and decided they had actually breached the regulations. Great thinking Haas but there’s undercutting and then there’s breaking the rules. It’s a far cry from what Guenther Steiner once described them as looking like though and credit where it’s due, it was still a very good showing.

George Russell and Williams

Now, I know that both Russell and teammate Nicholas Latifi both had a nightmare of a race, as Williams remain the only team yet to score a point this season. However, both drivers did amazingly well in qualifying, marking the first time two Williams drivers made it through to Q2 since 2018. Doesn’t seem that long? Well, think back to last season’s horror show at Williams and it does.

Russell was outstanding in qualifying and actually gets my highlight of the weekend with his ‘That’s the lap, That’s the lap’ reaction on the team radio after he put in a worldy of a lap to go 5th at the end of Q1. I’m not going to be the one and I don’t really need to say it BUT Russell right now is surely putting in a great audition for a certain seat in the coming year or so.

Another busy day for the stewards, and another Renault protest

Sergio Perez, Racing Point RP20

Oh boy, where to start! In fact, there’s only one place and that’s with Renault vs Racing Point – part four!

As we all know by know, Renault are serious not letting go of break-duct gate and after the race, issued the following statement:

‘We confirm that Renault DP World F1 Team has submitted a request to the Stewards of the Event for clarification on the legality of the Racing Point RP20. We have no further comment on this matter until the Stewards have arrived at a decision.’

Rewind a week to the day and it’s the same statement regarding the same battle – the legality of the Racing Point. Renault is adamant that Racing Point has broken the rules when designing their car, while Racing Point are categorically denying any wrongdoing. Who is right and who is wrong? Well, you can make your own mind up but for me, I really don’t see how we are this far along and this is still a conversation. Renault though are not letting go and have said that they will contest every race weekend until the FIA give them full closure. The FIA have already told Racing Point that their car is legal but Renault are still having none of it!

Renault versus Racing Point wasn’t the only thing that the stewards were looking at after this weekend’s race. There was also Albon’s dry start, Valtteri Bottas’ jump start, as well as the aforementioned Haas double-time penalty.

For Albon, the stewards came to the decision that Red Bull did not use their dryers to dry his grid spot and no further action was deemed necessary.

As for Bottas, that is very much self-explanatory. Yes, he jumped the start by the finest of margins but ultimately he didn’t benefit from it as he dropped a place from P2 to P3. Had he benefited from the error or even overtaken Verstappen to claim second place then maybe there could/would have been something done about it, but as it is, Bottas is the only one who has suffered as he surrendered his championship lead to teammate its Hamilton.

Final thoughts

So, as the F1 takes its first break since returning, you have to admit that while it wasn’t as action-packed as rain-struck Austria,  the conflicting opinions on the teams radios as to whether it was going to rain or not, and indeed when, was brilliant to listen to. Hungary wasn’t the best race given Hamilton’s and Mercedes’ pure dominance once again but overall, it was a great way to prepare us for a huge doubleheader at Silverstone.

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]