Sergio Perez took yet another street circuit win at Jeddah on Sunday night as Redbull reigned supreme yet again, much like their first outing in Bahrain earlier this season. The Mexican driver faltered at the start and lost the lead to Alonso by turn 1, but the unmatchable pace of the Redbull meant that there was no one stopping him from taking the win tonight, not even his teammate.
It was an eventful beginning to the race as Alonso in the Aston Martin got the better of Perez at turn 1 while there was a lot of action between the Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari cars behind. The joy was short lived for Alonso after Perez passed him again, which was then followed by a 5-second time penalty as the Spaniard was out of position at the start. Things got worse for Alonso after the national anthems of Mexico and Austria on the podium as he was hit with a further 10-second time penalty for serving his 5-second time penalty incorrectly. The post-race penalty for Alonso meant that Geroge Russell and Mercedes had their first podium of the season, which looked like a far off possibility based on the mood around the Mercedes paddock.
Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari had a great start as he was able to gain three places in no time after starting from P12 thanks to a penalty pertaining to the control electronics while Verstappen further behind from P15 had a steady opening to his race. A dummy call from the Ferrari pit-wall meant that Stroll of Aston Martin was the first of the front runners to come in to the pits for a change of tyres and it proved costly for him. Both Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc overcut the Canadian and were well ahead of him after the first round of stops and things got even worse for him as a mechanical issue forced him to retire which brought the safety car out.
It looked like there was no need for a safety car as Stroll seemed to park well of the track but an incorrect GPS indication from Stroll’s car meant that the inevitable has happened. Mercedes and Verstappen were one of the few to take advantage of the safety car and Ferrari were the ones to come out of it with a lot of bad luck. The race was pretty much decided at this point as Max’s pace proved to be too fast for anyone else on the track apart from his teammate, who ultimately won the grandprix.
It was a good result for Alpine as both Ocon and Gasly finished in the points scoring positions at P8 and P9 respectively, with Kevin Magnussen in the Haas scoring the last available point after a feisty battle with Tsunoda towards the end of the race. His teammate Hulkenberg in the other Haas only managed a P12 just outside the points. Alfa Romeo have had a mixed race with Zhou Guanyu finishing in P13 while his teammate Bottas finished P18 and last of the running cars in the race.
McLaren might have thought that their fortunes have changed a little with Piastri starting P8 in the race but an tussle in the opening lap meant that the rookie driver needed a front wing change. It got worse for them when Norris came in the next lap as well with the same issue. This meant that the pair were running at the back of the grid for the large parts of the race and McLaren were forced to issue team orders when Piastri was faster than Norris. He then made it count by making a pass on fellow rookie driver Logan Sargeant in the Williams for P15, while Norris finished P17. Alex Albon in the other Williams had to retire with a break issue, making him the second driver to not be classified in the race. It was a decent outing for Alpha Tauri albeit it was without points as Tsunoda was P11 at the end and his teammate De Vries finished the race at P14.
With yet another Redbull 1-2 unfolding at Jeddah, it is going to take a mighty effort from the remaining frontrunners in Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari to cause any damage to the bulls. It is still early in the season to think that Redbull could end up winning both the championships but the tone that has been set by them in the first two races certainly fits the thinking. The Australian Grandprix arrives in about two weeks time before F1 goes for almost a month’s break in April.
Perez took pole while his teammate suffered a driveshaft issue in Q2 meaning he will start P15. Alonso was unable to capitalise on his speed in practice, managing P3 with Leclerc getting P2 before his penalty is applied. This is how it happened during Qualifying.
Q1 began like normal, with the faster teams choosing to stay back while everyone else took to the track. It wasn’t long before the incidents started to bring out the yellow flags.
De Vries nearly caused the first red flag of Qualifying by locking up and spinning into turn 1. However, he was able to use the run-off and get his car going again.
With 10 minutes to go, Norris made contact with the wall on the way into turn 27. The team worked hard to get his car back out, hoping for a red flag but unfortunately, they couldn’t make it work. Norris will start in P19 and was forced to watch as his teammate went front strength to strength.
Alonso went for a quick spin on his first fast-lap run. He managed to keep the car out of the wall by completing a full 360. He appeared to get on the power early out of turn 10, he overwhelmed the rears and went around.
There were plenty more mistakes in Q1 than in any of the practice sessions. The drivers were complaining about the track, saying it was not where they wanted it but had to stick to the strategy. The grip just wasn’t with them in the session after the Formula 2 race.
After having a lap time deleted for track limits at turn 27, Sargent spun, bringing out only a yellow flag as he got going again. He lit up the rears heading through turns 22 and 23 which he had been having problems with all weekend.
Alpha Tauri tried to recover from De Vries’ incident but they seemed to be having poor luck in Jeddah. Both drivers were out in Q1 with Tsunoda in P16 and De Vries in P18.
Williams joined them with Albon couldn’t make it out of Q1 but qualified P17 while Sargent still had issues getting a lap together and damaged the car on his final run meaning he goes away in P20.
Q2 has most people out on soft tyres, apart from RedBull, who at this point could potentially come out on the wet tyres and still go fastest.
9 minutes left and Verstappen came over the radio with what he thought was an engine issue. He managed to limp home for the team to have a look at the car and potentially solve the problem. However, within seconds of being back in the garage, the double-world champion was out of the car and out of qualifying. RedBull have since reported it as a driveshaft issue. Cue an angry Verstappen making his way through the pack on Sunday.
Meanwhile, his teammate set a lap time good enough for P2, just behind Alonso. Behind them, Sainz had a big moment narrowly missing the wall and being able to carry on. In P11 with only 2 minutes to go, it was very important for the Spaniard to put in a good lap.
Alfa Romeo and Haas went about qualifying very quietly but had strong sessions each. They made up the remainder of the eliminated cars from Q2, joining Verstappen.
Out in Q2, Hulkenburg, Zhou, Magnussen, Bottas, and Verstappen.
Q3 seemed to be wide open now that Verstappen was out. However, we were looking at a potential pole for Alonso for the first time since 2012. Perez was out to stop that and pick up the pieces of his teammate’s problems.
The First runs were done, and Perez was half a second in front of Leclerc in P2 with Russell in P3. Alonso wasn’t far behind but it appeared there was more pace to come out from the only RedBull in the session.
Both Alpines made it into the top 10 for a strong qualifying for both drivers after a not-so-great weekend in Bahrain. Ocon starts in P6 while Gasly starts in P9. Piastri joined them for his first Q3 session and made a good effort against his more experienced rivals, but starts P8 with Leclerc’s penalty.
Hamilton will not be pleased with starting P7. Still unable to adapt to the car properly while Russell starts in P3 after Leclerc’s penalty is applied. This was the story for the Silver Arrows during qualifying who had a generally mixed session. However, in a race that has a 100% chance of a safety car, they will be looking to use their reliability to gain points tomorrow.
Ferrari had a decent qualifying for them, but none of that matters with Leclerc’s penalty. He will start P11 while Sainz will start P4, alongside Russell. If they want to mount a challenge on Verstappen and RedBull this season they will need to take advantage of having the reigning world champion behind them suffering from reliability issues.
Tomorrow will be an extremely interesting race to watch with Verstappen and Leclerc starting out of position and Alonso hunting down the remaining RedBull at the front of the pack. Can Russell take advantage of his good starting position or will Sainz get ahead? Will there be a safety car or red flag which changes the race, probably, but it’s worth watching to find out.
2023 has officially begun with RedBull dominance in the desert. We move to the updated streets of Jeddah for race two. Most F1 fans will be hoping that this isn’t a continuing trend throughout the season, especially Ferrari and McLaren fans. However, Leclerc already has reason to potentially write off 2023 as a championship year. Aston Martin could be the surprise challenger for the season.
Ferrari are on the back foot… already.
If you haven’t heard by now, Charles Leclerc heads into the weekend with a 10-place grid penalty for taking a third Control Electronics power unit, taking him over the allocation for the season. The collective pain of the long-suffering Ferrari fans could be heard across the globe as the penalty was announced.
This comes after he was running in P3 before retiring at the side of the track in Bahrain having replaced his Energy Store and Control Electronics on his engine before the race began.
While we will be hoping that Ferrari’s can sort out their reliability issues quickly this season, fans can take some solace from the curse of the first race winner. Since 2017, the driver who won the opening round has not gone on to win the championship, and last season Verstappen retired from the race before becoming a double world champion. So maybe Ferrari’s fortune will change?
Can Aston Martin be the 2023 underdogs?
In a surprise to everyone who watched last season, Aston Martin have stepped up their game and look like real challengers for the 2022 top three. Alonso finished on the podium and pulled off some great moves, while a recovering Stroll managed to get P6, just behind Lewis Hamilton.
Mercedes had originally thought they would be fighting for wins or at least challenging for more podiums against Ferrari and RedBull, but now they are looking at a battle for third in the constructor’s championship with Aston Martin.
As we visit different circuits throughout the year this will show off the different strengths of the teams so it will be interesting to see how the Mercedes factory team measures up to a Mercedes engine customer team during the season.
Saudi Arabia has provided us with an extremely fast circuit since 2021 and that is not about to change. They have, however, taken on some feedback from the drivers and adapted some of the corners to help with the visibility of the racing line.
They have moved the walls at turns 8, 10, 14 and 20, with rumble strips added to the latter two to help the drivers know when they are outside track limits.
They have also tweaked a few of the kerbs to deal with the newer cars while the chicane at turns 22 and 23 has been tightened to reduce speeds.
Qualifying on Saturday starts at 5pm GMT and the Race is at 5pm GMT on Sunday.
The opening race of the 2023 F1 season was dominated by the RedBull team and the defending world champion Max Verstappen. His teammate Sergio Perez and the resurgent Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin followed him home.
From the start Verstappen led away Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari, into turn 4 the Aston Martins came together but avoided damage after Stroll out-braked himself and clipped Alonso. This incident let the Mercedes drivers through to settle into P5 and 6.
Once the field had settled down Alonso started to close on Russell in the Mercedes, by lap 13 he had closed it completely and had a great battle with the British driver and eventually came out on top.
Further behind the McLarens weren’t having the greatest start to the season, Piastri retiring on lap 15 and Norris having issues meaning he had to pit numerous times and leaving him at the back of the field.
By lap 20 the first stops were completed and the field settled down. During the stops Ocon served a time penalty for a start-line procedure breach, unfortunately, he then gained another penalty for not serving the penalty correctly.
Verstappen was now leading by over 10 seconds but carrying on with soft tyres whereas every other team had moved to the hard compound.
Perez was now catching Leclerc and by lap 26 he was ahead of the Ferrari and moving to P2. Sainz in the second Ferrari was 4th but had fallen further behind and didn’t seem in the fight all weekend.
Mercedes tried to pit early to try and keep Alonso at bay but once the stops were over Alonso quickly caught Hamilton and after a great 2-lap battle the Spaniard pulled ahead and started to pull away in search of Sainz in the Ferrari.
Ferraris reliability issues then struck again with Leclerc stopping on track causing a brief VSC.
Once that was cleared Alonso set after Sainz and overtook him shortly after to move up to P3 and into the podium positions.
After 57 laps Max Verstappen crossed the line to take win 36 of his career, Perez second ahead of Alonso completing the podium. Behind them came Sainz, Hamilton, an impressive Stroll racing with two fractured wrists and a broken toe finished sixth.
Seventh was Russell in the second Mercedes, then Bottas, Gasly and Albon an impressive tenth in the Williams.
Eleventh was Tsunoda ahead of Sergeant, Magnussen, De Vries and Hulkenberg. The last two finishers were Zhou and Norris.
The only retirees were Ocon, Leclerc and Piastri.
After such a dominant performance RedBull will be confident they can once again dominate the season but with Aston Martin making big gains and Mercedes planning a big upgrade already, we will have to wait and see how the season progresses.
Round 2 is in Saudi Arabia in 2 weeks, Can they start to catch up already, we will have the answers in 14 days’ time.
With the pit stops done, the field had only lost two of its BMWs, the Sapra & Bransom car, and Klaas Kooiker had pulled off early in the race with more smoke than was healthily emanating from the car. After 10 laps, Tommy Grouts E36 had decided that enough was enough, having run as high as third at one point, adding the third BMW to the list of retirees. Despite this, there was still plenty of action to be enjoyed out on track, Dave Harvey’s incredible progress was incredible, Dominic Malone was back into 2nd place, now being kept honest by relative newcomer Chris Murphy in his M3 E46, over a minute behind the leader.
Other battles through the field included the thunder from down under Dave Griffin in his E90 trying to get past the pink accented E36 Evo of Mark Smith, with another pair of Amspeed prepared cars behind them of Ashley Muldoon and Alex Heynes, and the Petch family Ginetta arguing with the Interceptor racing E92 of Mark Wyatt & Russell Humphrey. Joining the Heynes & Muldoon dance was racing veteran Nigel Greensall, having taken over the E46 from racing debutant James Collins by lap 12. A lap later, another addition to the now Greensall-led parade was one of several CSCC new entrants, that of Mark Lee in his Ginetta G55.
As the closing stages of the race began, almost all the aforementioned battles were still raging on. Greensall had (some would say inevitably) broken away from his pursuers, and trouble was to befall the Tom Gannon-built “Gannon Cannon” Honda Civic of Manoj Patel. He won the Tin Tops race on the previous visit to the Silverstone GP circuit in 2021, but alas the car was to experience trouble and retired from the race. He didn’t have long to fix the issue, as the Honda was due out in the very next race.
The next victim was the green Petch family Ginetta. Petch senior Chris has been with the CSCC since 2005 in a Triumph TR5, and his boys Harry & Max often share the big G50, but this time the car simply lost drive. Chris was able to limp the car back to the garage for the team to work on before the final race of the day, in which the Ginetta was due to reappear.
Motorsport, at all levels, can provide many memorable moments, both of joy and despair, and the final non-finisher of the race was about to remind the spectators of exactly this, as on the final lap, the pole sitter Malone was found stationary at the side of the track. From pole and fastest lap, looking set to secure second place, but sadly the renowned German engineering of the BMW failed him this time. Like the Petch crew, Malone had time before the car was on parade again to get the E90 back on song.
David Harvey and his lunar Lotus 340R would not be denied the top honours of the day, winning by over 30 seconds, even with a post-race 20-second penalty applied for the Code 60 infringement. Chris Murphy secured second, with Dylan Popovic bringing his snarling Ginetta home in third, all three of the podium sitters from the Open Series category. As for New Millennium, the winner of that category was Mark Smith, very narrowly from Dave Griffin, and the Collins & Greensall shared car in third.
The second race of the day was the WOSP New Millennium and Verum Builders Open series. CSCC welcomes Luke Wos’ performance tuning business, which has taken the title sponsorship role for the New Millennium category, catering for post-2000 production cars and their racing variants, as well as Rob Hardys Wiltshire-based Verum Builders company continued support of the Open series, which provides a home for all production saloon, hatchback, sports & GT cars of any age, as well as some kit cars.
In contrast to race 1 which focused on the Lotus 7-inspired design, this combination attracted 33 entrants to take to qualifying, of which 30 made it to the grid. No less than 10 marques were represented through the field, with neither the New Millennium nor Open series holding dominion over the other, as the first three rows had one representative of each category.
A familiar face secured pole position, that of bath-based dentist Dominic Malone in his BMW M3 E90, previously raced by Sir Andy Priaulx MBE. Right next to him was the lead Open Series car of Dave Harvey in his moon buggy-esque Lotus 340R, reportedly the only one racing in the UK. Throughout the grid were some amazing driving talent, along with debutants, such as James Collins who was taking part in his first-ever race, partnered up with racing veteran Nigel Greensall in a BMW M3 E46.
With Malone & Harvey leading to the field to the green light for the first 40-minute race of the year, the various roars and screams of the hugely varied engine notes kicked in and the race began. As the lights went out, so did Malone’s momentum as Harvey stole the lead through Copse. Behind them was a superb start from Bosnian-born Dylan Popovic in his Chevrolet-powered Ginetta G50, demoting Malone to 3rd. It wasn’t long though before the race was neutralised, this time by a code 60, caused by Warren Tattersall who had buried his Seat Leon TCR into the gravel trap at Copse. He was recovered by the ever-hardworking marshalls and was allowed to continue, but a lap down from the rest of the field.
As the code 60 concluded, curiously Harvey was nearly a minute ahead of Popovic, who in turn was about 12 seconds ahead of Malone, after which point there was a flood of competitors, a 5-way BMW battle going on for 4th, a 3-way fight for 9th that was led by the first non-BMW outside of the podium contenders, and various clusters of cars all arguing for their own segment of Northampton real estate.
The first pit stop of the year belonged to the BMW owned by the class champion in the Kumho BMW championship Jasver Sapra, whom this time was sharing the car with usual playmate Bryan Bransom. It was Bransom who brought the car in, and there they remained for what felt like an eternity for them as the new paddle shift system was being checked over, this being the first race the car has had with this system in place, however a lap later, Sapra brought the car back in and into retirement. The pitlane was a hive of activity as the next few laps progressed. Mark Smith, whose son runs the Amspeed outfit that looks after a number of the BMWs seen on the CSCC grid, stalled trying to get going from his stop, requiring a push start to get himself going again.
Just a few months after the 2022 season finished with a victory for Max Verstappen and his RedBull team in both championships in what was their most dominant season ever, the F1 family arrived in Bahrain ready for just 3 days of testing before the new season would begin at the same circuit.
It was a very busy 3 days with the teams trying to get a grip on their new cars and hoping to see improvements from last year.
Testing times are always difficult to read with differing fuel loads, not knowing which engine modes are being used and teams even hiding their hands to not give too much away. However, you can always tell which teams are happy with their winter’s work and which ones are confused and wondering where they have gone wrong.
With no big rule changes this year, most cars would just be an evolution of last year’s car. The main rule change was the floor being lifted by 15mm, this would mean a loss of downforce but most teams would have recovered this already by the time the test ended. In fact, during the first morning of testing the cars were already beating last year’s times.
The quickest times from each day were ;
Day 1 – Max Verstappen – 1.32.837
Day 2 – Zhou Guanyu – 1.31.610
Day 3 – Sergio Perez – 1.30.305
Obviously, this time next week, times will be critical but as this is testing they are not the most important thing to look for. How many laps the teams do, reliability issues, how easily they switch each compound of tyre on, and how easily the balance can be changed are among the things teams will be looking at. With that in mind a summary of each team shows the following.
The World Champions may not have completed the most laps but they had seemingly no problems during the three days, in fact, the biggest drama seemed to be when the car fell off the jack in the pitlane during one of the sessions. For the rest of the field, it looks ominous as they ran through 3 days of programmes without any issues and were quick on each compound of the tyre. It was very reminiscent of the early Hybrid era days when Mercedes used to pound round tracks for fun and be fastest even without trying for performance. In fact, Verstappen only used the C3 tyre for the whole test not feeling the need to use any of the softer compounds, yet looking quick at all times and having what looked the easiest car to control. 2023 could be yet another year of domination for the reigning champions.
Ferrari – 416 laps (Leclerc – 1.31.024 – Sainz – 1.31.036)
Last year’s runners-up started testing with the hope that stopping the development of last year’s car early to concentrate on this year would bring big rewards. To be fair Ferrari are one of the hardest teams to judge following testing. It seemed as if they didn’t go for performance runs at all but it also looked as if they took a few wrong directions with different setups during their race runs. There are no real reliability issues over the three days and no stand-out moments during the runs. The car looks fast but have they done enough to catch RedBull up or are they even further away at the start of the new season?
Both drivers seemed happy after the test so only time will tell.
Mercedes – 398 laps (Hamilton – 1.30.664 – Russell – 1.31.442)
The 8 times World Champions had by their standards a shocking season in 2022 with their striking zero sidepod cars failing to live up to expectations. Going into this test the team have stuck with this concept hoping they have all the data to make the concept work. although the team did set some very competitive times the car looked very much on the edge and it seemed they were pushing harder than any other of the top teams. The test was by no means a disaster for them and they are definitely looking better than at this time last year but from this test, it looks as though they are further behind than at the end of last season when they looked to have clawed a lot of the deficit to RedBull and Ferrari back. If they are not in the top three next week they will be pinning all their hopes on a big upgrade already which is not how they would have wanted to start this season.
The French Alpine team came to the test boasting of an improved engine and a much-improved car. Although the car looked the most twitchy of all on track and seemed to still be suffering from the dreaded porpoising the team sounded confident and most observers seemed impressed with them and the fact they didn’t seem to show their hand too much. This season could see them jump free from the midfield and with two very hungry drivers could be a surprise package this year.
McLaren had another poor test which seems to be the norm for the once-great team. With Piastri joining Norris this season the team had hoped they could move forward after a slightly disappointing 2022. Things didn’t start well when the front wheel winglets came loose and the team had to strengthen them before any more running could be done. The team confirmed they hadn’t hit their targets in the test and look to be starting the season on the backfoot already. Could they already be hoping a big upgrade coming early in the season would save their blushes?
This time last year Alfa Romeo was suffering from reliability issues and was not looking good. Fast forward a year and although they had one major issue causing Bottas to stop on track and cause a red flag they look to be in good shape. Consistent running on all three days and even setting the fastest time on day 2 means the team could be looking at a very impressive start to the season with points a definite possibility at the early races.
Aston Martin – 387 laps (Alonso – 1.31.450 – Drugovich – 1.32.075)
Possibly the biggest talking point of the test was Aston Martin, Just before the test it was announced Lance Stroll would not be taking part thanks to an injury caused by a cycling accident whilst training. The team haven’t announced his injuries, but he could miss not only the first race but also a few after that. This would leave the majority of testing to new driver Fernando Alonso with reserve driver Felipe Drugovich also taking part. The missing Stroll didn’t seem to stop the team as they look to have made a massive step forward with a revolutionary new car. Not only could they set quick one-off lap times but in fact on Alonso’s race run on the final day not only did he have little tyre degradation but his times made him the third-quickest driver over a race distance. The team look to be in a very good place and even with the doubts over Stroll, they must be looking forward to a very competitive start to the season.
In 2022 Haas made a very competitive start to the season and although they slipped back down the order through the season they moved away from the back end of the field that they had made their own in previous seasons. During this test, the team looked to have maintained their speed with a car performing well with Magnussen and the returning Nico Hulkenberg at the wheel. They will be hoping they can score some early points before teams on the back foot bring upgrades and NPC doubt overhaul them.
Alpha Tauri – 456 laps (De Vries – 1.32.222 – Tsunoda – 1.31.261)
The team that completed the most laps of the three days. Setting some decent times, they clearly used their 2 drivers to test different setups each day which was showed by the difference in their times each day. Obviously, they have a reliable car which was proven by the number of laps they completed. Another team with a new pairing this season but the fact they have 2 drivers who need to outshine each other to move their careers forwards should help the team have some very competitive outings this season. With rumours in the paddock that the team might be sold this season they will be looking to put on an impressive start to the season.
Williams – 439 laps (Albon – 1.32.793 – Sargeant – 1.32.549)
The last few years for Williams have seen them become the team at the back more often than not. This season could see them move forward, Probably not into the midfield but at the very least clinging to their coat tales. They ran reliably over the 3 days which is always a good starting point and Alex Albon has a proven quick driver who is more than capable of solid results. They will need Logan Sergeant to be up to speed immediately if they are to move forward. All in all, it looks like Williams could finally be moving away from the back of the grid this season.
With the first race of the season being held at the same track in a week’s time the paddock didn’t have the usual rush to pack everything away so will no doubt spend the next week going over all the data and looking where they can find more speed for next weekend and also where to start looking for development.
The longest season ever is ahead of them, so the teams will know they have time to work through developments and make sure they go in the right direction for the season.
With RedBull looking not only quick but reliable, they will be the happiest of all the teams. Ferrari will be hoping to keep them honest and Mercedes could still be in the hunt from the first race. 2023 promises more surprises and entertainment and in just a week’s time, we will know who has got it right and who needs to go back to the drawing board.
Verstappen takes a dominant win in the final race of the season while his teammate misses out on vice champion by just three points to Leclerc after a split in strategies for the Red Bulls. Sebastian Vettel got driver of the day as he closed out his F1 career by finishing in the points.
They lined up on the grid with last-day-of-term feelings echoing throughout the fandom. At lights out Perez got away well going side by side with his teammate into turn one but backing out before turn two. Behind them, Sainz had gotten a poor start allowing Hamilton past while Russell had let Norris through into turn one.
Hamilton did set his sights on the other Ferrari but was caught by Sainz towards the chicane at turn six. Sainz dived down the inside, and Hamilton went wide, bouncing over the sausage curb before getting ahead of Sainz again. The stewards noted the incident and after what sounded like some bargaining, eventually Hamilton had to give the place back.
This wasn’t too last long as just one lap later Hamilton was all over the back of Sainz. Making a move around turn nine Hamilton made the move stick. He was expected to pull away, but it appeared that the lap one incident may have damaged the Mercedes as he began to lose a bit of power. By lap nine he had been overtaken by Sainz and his teammate.
On lap 12 Vettel found himself in an Alpine sandwich, fighting hard with Ocon in front but not quite able to make a move stick. This allowed Norris to focus on his driving and strategy to stay in the fight for P4 in the constructor’s championship.
This led to an epic three-lap-long battle between the drivers before Ocon went in for his first stop. This allowed Vettel to open up a gap to Alonso and was, at one point, in P4 on the track after others around him stopped for the first time during the race.
While these stops were happening, Russell came in but had a slow stop with an issue on the rear right. He eventually was released into the path of Norris which was immediately investigated. Russell ended up with a five-second time penalty which he had to take at his next stop.
Lap 28 is where it all unravelled for Alonso. He had pitted for a new set of hard tyres but sadly he wouldn’t make it as he retired from the race with a suspected water leak. This would mark the end of his third stint at the Enstone-based team before moving to Aston Martin for 2023.
At the front, there was lots of discussion about strategy, with the teams opting to split between cars. By lap 34, when Perez pitted for the second time. Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton, the top three, were on one-stop while their teammates were being kept on two-stop strategies.
So on lap 38, Leclerc in P2 was a confirmed one-stopper, and Perez was now in P6 with a 15-second gap to his rival and 20 laps to go. However, he was catching the Ferrari at a pace of about six-tenths per lap, and with four cars between them, it looked like it would be impossible.
Just as we were about to settle in to watch Perez catch Leclerc, a yellow flag was waved in sector two for Schumacher and Latifi who had both gone for a spin. Schumacher tapped the back of Latifi who appeared to be braking early into the corner. Both cars got back underway so there was no safety car needed. Schumacher got a five-second time penalty and Latifi eventually retired from the race.
Towards the closing stages of the race, Perez had made his way back up to P4 with only Hamilton between him and Leclerc. Perez, with more speed, made a good move down the inside of the Mercedes into turn six, but Hamilton had DRS going down the next straight and took the place back. It wasn’t too last long for the brit though as Perez made the move stick around turn nine. The Red Bull now had Leclerc in his sights with 10 laps to go.
In the final few laps, Perez was only three seconds behind Leclerc and it was going to be very tight. But at the same time, Hamilton’s gearbox let go and he was forced to retire on lap 56 of 58. This was Mercedes’s first and only mechanical retirement of 2022.
On the final lap, as Verstappen rounded the corner to take his 15th win of the year, Perez was not quite close enough to Leclerc meaning he had to settle for P3 while the Ferrari man celebrated taking vice champion status. This also meant that Ferrari kept their P2 place in the constructors.
In the battle for P4 between McLaren and Alpine, despite a car retiring, the French team kept ahead by 14 points. Norris did get an extra fastest lap point but sadly for them, Ocon finished P7 which was enough for Alpine.
There were the now obligatory doughnuts at the end from Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez. Ricciardo did them at turn none and Vettel came down to the main straight after everyone else had finished completing their set. There was not a dry eye in the house after his interview with Jenson Button knowing that he has now completed his F1 career… although many drivers believe he will be back.
The 2022 season is over, 22 races officially complete… Only 105 days until Bahrain.
The final race of the 2022 season took place in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit, the most expensive F1 facility in the world.
With four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel taking part in his final GP, can he make it Q3 for the final time in his illustrious career? It was also the final qualifying session for now for Mick Schumacher and Daniel Ricciardo, who has a three place grid penalty for his incident in the race last weekend. Surely they will want to make a good impression for their chances of making a comeback in 2024.
Q1 began with half the field immediately coming onto track. The first driver to set a time was Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri with a 1.26.135, followed by Mick Schumacher just 0.130 behind him.
The first of the front runners to start a flying lap was Leclerc in the Ferrari, immediately setting purple sectors. He set a 1.25.211 to go quickest but was very close to exceeding track limits at the final corner. He was then beaten by Perez in the Red Bull by almost four tenths.
Lando Norris put his McLaren in P4 with his team mate Ricciardo directly behind him. The Mercedes finished their laps last and ended 4th and 6th, quite a way off the pace, surprising after their showings so far this weekend. At the top Max Verstappen was 0.066 ahead of his team-mate, who is hoping to secure second in the championship this weekend.
With just under four minutes left in the session the final runs began. Vettel first to cross the line put his Aston Martin in fifth. As they all cross the line, the five drivers eliminated are Magnussen, Gasly, Bottas, Albon and Latifi.
At the start of Q2 Mercedes decided to do their first runs on used soft tyres, clearly wanting to keep fresh sets for Q3 and tomorrow’s race. Lewis Hamilton crossed the line first with a 1.25.772, but was then beaten by his team mate George Russell with a time of 1.25.363.
The rest of the field were now on their first runs. Both Ferraris and Norris in the McLaren were setting quicker sectors than the Mercedes pair. All three of them went quicker to take the top three positions on the timing screens. Then came the Red Bulls, for once led by Perez who was some four tenths quicker than his team mate.
The Mercedes put fresh softs on and Hamilton moved his car up to P2 just three tenths behind Perez. Russell crossed the line with a time of 1.24.940 and into P4. The Mercedes were out of sync with everyone else.
Leclerc in his Ferrari managed to find some pace to end Q2 just 0.098 away from the leading Red Bull. Sainz was P3 and Verstappen P4. Out of qualifying at the end of Q2 were Alonso, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Stroll and Zhou. Vettel did indeed get through to Q3 for his final weekend in F1 after a great lap in the Aston Martin.
Q3 was contested by both Red Bulls, both Mercedes, both Ferraris, both McLarens, and Vettel and Ocon. Once again the Mercedes cars were first onto the track. Hamilton completed his lap with a 1.24.678, with Russell next just 0.016 behind.
Both were then beaten by Leclerc and Sainz, the Ferrari drivers some four tenths quicker than the Mercedes. Then came the Red Bulls, Perez making a mistake at the final corner losing time and only making P2. Verstappen came next with a time of 1.23.988 to take provisional pole position.
Vettel decided to do his lap with no cars on the track. He made it to P7 some 0.973 away from the leading Red Bull. With 2 minutes to go the final runs of the season began.
Leclerc improved to P2, and Verstappen improved again to 1.23.824, followed by his team mate Perez. The second row was an all Ferrari affair with Leclerc ahead of Sainz, then the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell. 7th was Norris in the McLaren, then Ocon in the Alpine. The final two places in the top 10 were taken by Ricciardo and Vettel.
The race is all set up tomorrow to decide who will take second place in the World Championship. Who will come out on top, between Perez in the Red Bull and Leclerc in the Ferrari?
It’s the final race of the season and it brings around mixed emotions for many F1 fans. Abu Dhabi is not known for exciting races but last year there was plenty of drama. This year is likely to bring a different kind of drama with a battle between teammates slipping over from last week’s Brazilian GP. We also see the end to the great career of Sebastian Vettel along with losing Latifi, Ricciardo and Schumacher who haven’t confirmed their plans for 2023.
The Four-Time World Champion Bows Out
Just before the Hungarian GP this year Vettel announced his retirement from Formula 1 at the end of the season. Whilst many F1 fans will be in denial, the beloved driver will take to the track in his Aston Martin for one last time on Sunday.
Having arrived in the sport in 2007 during the USA GP racing for BMW Sauber as a replacement for Kubica, he has gone on to be one of the best drivers in the sport winning his four world championships with RedBull in the process.
While in RedBull he did split opinion like many drivers at the top but is now much more than that. He will not only be known for his driving ability but has made strides in campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights, saving the bees and standing alongside Hamilton during the black lives matter movement.
He is now considered one of the most adored drivers on the grid and will be missed by many fans old and new.
Is This the Final Race for Others?
While Vettel announced his own retirement there are other drivers who haven’t confirmed their plans for next season. Williams announced earlier on in the season that Latifi will no longer be with the team with Logan Sargent joining Williams on the condition he gets enough super license points.
Haas already has Magnussen signed on a multi-year deal, but the other seat is yet to be confirmed. Schumacher has cost the team huge amounts with driver error incidents, and with his contract with Ferrari ending this year, it is looking more likely that he will not be on the grid for 2023. That doesn’t mean he won’t be back. Haas may keep him, but Hulkenberg is becoming the favourite for the second seat in the Banbury-based team.
Another driver who won’t be in a full-time seat next year is Ricciardo. He is being replaced at McLaren by fellow Australian and former Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri. Ricciardo has hinted at a reserve drive and the rumours suggest either Mercedes or Red Bull but he has said he will be around the paddock for 2023, which will please a lot of fans.
Red Bull Team Controversy… Again
The Milton Keynes team are no strangers to inter-team battles, but this one has sort of come out of the blue with Verstappen refusing to let Perez back past after they had swapped at the end of the Brazilian GP. This has not done any favours for the reigning world champion’s popularity.
Verstappen came over the radio to say he “had his reasons”, with many theorising it had something to do with Perez crashing out during Q3 in Monaco, stopping Verstappen from getting pole. However, Checo is very much loved among fans and has done plenty to help Verstappen to win both world championships, especially in Abu Dhabi last year where he slowed Hamilton in an epic three-lap battle.
This fight is likely to dominate conversations in the media when talking to RedBull to really get to the bottom of what possible reason Verstappen would have to stop his teammate from securing P2 in the drivers’ championship even though he has already wrapped up P1 therefore it would have no effect on his position or 2022 campaign.