Verstappen wins in Dominant Style as we Round Out 2022

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.

Perez got away well at the race start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

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.

Vettel locked in a battle with the Alpines. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

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.

Vettel didn’t disappoint. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

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.

2022 Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying

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.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202211181492 // Usage for editorial use only //

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.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202211181486 // Usage for editorial use only //

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.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202211181449 // Usage for editorial use only //

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?

 

Russell Wins Saturday Sprint in Sao Paulo

George Russell has claimed his maiden F1 race win in Sao Paulo, winning the sprint race ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton. This means Russell will start tomorrow’s race from pole position.

George Russell fought hard to claim his maiden victory and win the sprint race in Brazil. It took three attempts but, on lap 15, he finally bested this year’s champion, Max Verstappen, to take the lead. Russell quickly pulled out a comfortable lead and left the pack to scrap for the remaining podium places.

Carlos Sainz, who started in 5th, ended the day with a 2nd place medal around his neck. Lewis Hamilton, having recently been granted honourary Brazilian citizenship, delighted fans as he claimed the final podium position.

Verstappen found himself in the lead on lap 3 when he passed pole-sitter, Kevin Magnussen, on the start-finish straight. However, as he tried to continue his clean sweep of sprint race wins this season, Verstappen struggled and eventually ended the race in 4th. Magnussen was eventually shuffled down to 8th to take the final championship point – a result he was still thrilled with.

It was a very frustrating day for Charles Leclerc, much like Friday’s qualifying. After a mistake by the team left him unable to qualify above 10th, he failed to make waves in the sprint race and eventually made it up to 6th. Just ahead of him, in 5th, was his nearest championship rival, Sergio Perez.

For tomorrow’s race, thanks to a grid penalty for Sainz, we will have a front-row lockout for Mercedes – their first in 2022. Verstappen and Perez will line up just behind them to start in 3rd and 4th respectively. Both Ferarri drivers will have a difficult day ahead, as Leclerc lines up in 5th with Sainz in 7th, after his penalty for an engine change. Having qualified in 11th, Alex Albon will have to start tomorrow’s race in last place after spinning out of the race on lap 13.

However, there could still be movement amongst the grid as we have a number of drivers under investigation. Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Zhou Guanyu, who finished in 3rd, 11th and 13th respectively, are being investigated for a start procedure infringement. This is suspected to be an issue with their position within their grid boxes. Pierre Gasly, who finished in 10th, is under investigation for driving too slowly on his way to the grid. Both Alpine drivers are also under investigation for a mid-race clash, adding further woes to their dramatic day.

The 24-lap race was packed with action from start to finish, providing a much-needed boost to the debated sprint race format. In 2023, we will have 6 sprint races with the format still yet to be decided. It is clear that today’s showing will have helped its cause.

 

AS IT HAPPENED

As he made his way around the track for the formation lap, pole-sitter Magnussen was told by his team to “have fun”, and that’s certainly what he did. The Haas driver enjoyed a brilliant start and quickly pulled a nice lead ahead of the rest of the grid, who quickly started to battle hard. Verstappen, starting in 2nd, seemed to get swallowed by those around him but eventually came out on top to retain 2nd place.

One of the toughest battles on the opening lap was between Alpine teammates, Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. As Alonso attempted a move for 6th place, he was pushed wide and onto the kerb. As he tried to maintain control of the car, he twitched and made contact with the side of Ocon’s car. Alonso emerged unscathed whilst Ocon was left with a hole in his sidepod. The following lap saw Alonso again try a move for 6th. This time, Ocon made a very late defensive move and Alonso clipped his rear tire and broke his front wing.

Image Credit: Formula 1

Forced to pit for a new front wing, Alonso dropped to the back of the grid and his race was effectively over. As Alpine continue its fierce championship battle with McLaren, this lack of points will be a blow for the French team.

As the pack settled into their rhythm, it was Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher who enjoyed the best starts – Stroll gaining 3 places and moving up to 12th, with Schumacher gaining 4 places and moving up to 16th.

It seemed overtakes were happening up and down the grid, with Hamilton taking 5th from Lando Norris and Magnussen quickly dropping from 1st to 4th – he was first passed by Verstappen, then Russell and Sainz who sat in the top three, in that order, for the early stages of the race.

By lap 7, it felt like things were settling down a little, but Russell was still within DRS range of Verstappen and looking hungry for the win.

On lap 9, it was the turn of the Aston Martin teammates to start their battle as they fought for 11th. At the pitlane exit, Lance Stroll pushed Sebastian Vettel off the track and onto the grass, with an excessively aggressive move. Taking to the radio, Vettel’s response was a simple “OK”, but this move was quickly noted by the stewards and Stroll was awarded a 10-second penalty for a “dangerous manoeuvre”.

As the pair started the next lap, lap 10 of 24, Vettel finally made his way past his teammate on the start-finish straight, to claim 11th place.

It was at the halfway point of the race that Russell started to make himself known to Verstappen. He first attempted a move around the outside of turn 1 but struggled to get ahead. The same move on lap 13 also failed to give him the lead but he continued to battle for the rest of the lap.

At this point, Verstappen took to the radio to tell his team that he has hit some debris – this is likely to have come from Alonso’s broken front wing and could have caused damage to the champion’s car. Shortly after this message, on lap 15, he lost the lead to Russell who quickly pulled a gap of 2 seconds.

The previous time penalty didn’t seem to deter Stroll and he was soon back in action, this time with Haas driver Schumacher as the pair fought for 12th. An incredibly late and defensive move from Stroll, which almost caused Schumacher to drive into the back of him, was also noted by the stewards. At the time when the race ended, no decision had yet come from race direction on this incident.

In the dying laps of the race, with Russell now 2 seconds clear of the pack, a huge scrap started between Verstappen, Sainz and Hamilton. It became clear that Verstappen was either struggling on the medium tires or had been significantly affected by the previous debris that he hit – he was visibly struggling to keep control of the Red Bull, which was twitching as he tried to defend 2nd place.

As Sainz made his move and overtook Verstappen for 2nd, there was contact between the pair. Adding to the Dutchman’s woes, his front wing end plate flew off as a result of the contact. It was then just a matter of corners until he lost 3rd to Hamilton.

On lap 21, with just 3 laps remaining, Sainz jumped on the radio to inform his team that he was “running out of tires”. This prompted Mercedes to encourage Hamilton to “keep the pressure on” as he kept Sainz in view. Despite keeping with DRS range, Hamilton simply couldn’t get close enough to make a move for 2nd.

Meanwhile, further down the grid, Norris took 7th place from pole-sitter Magnussen, who was now in the final points position in 8th.

With 2 laps remaining, Perez was quickly catching his teammate in 4th and he asked his engineers if he would be given the position – a fair question as his battle with Charles Leclerc for 2nd in the championship heats up. However, the chequered flag came too soon for the Mexican and he was forced to settle for 5th.

As the chequered flag fell, it was Russell who crossed the line in a comfortable 1st place, nearly 4 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.

The action wasn’t just reserved for on the track, though, as Esteban Ocon’s Alpine caught fire in parc ferme. This was the result of contact with his teammate in the race and resulted in the post-race interviews quickly moving to the grid, rather than the pitlane.

Feature Image Credit: Formula 1

F1 Weekend Preview: Brazil Brings the Final 2022 Sprint

The penultimate round of the season takes us to São Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix where we see the final sprint race of 2022. For Verstappen this year there is no threat as both championships are sealed, but further down the grid, everything is to play for.

The Best of the Rest is Up for Grabs

Ricciardo putting in a good performance in Mexico. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Alpine and McLaren have been locked in a battle all season for P4 in the constructor’s championship but in the last few races, with an improvement in Ricciardo’s performances and Alpine’s reliability problems, the gap has closed to just seven points.

McLaren will be doing everything in their power to get ahead of the French time in the last doubleheader and a sprint race may be what they need to gain extra points.

Behind them, Aston Martin sits just four points back from Alfa Romeo in P6 while Haas is clinging on to P8 by just one point from AlphaTauri. As we get into the last two rounds of the season every point for these teams will be crucial and reliability issues or driver errors could make the difference in the vital prize money awarded to each team.

Cautious Gasly

Another factor playing on the minds at AlphaTauri for the last two rounds will be the number of penalty points Gasly has gained. He now has 10 points, five of which were given in the last three rounds.

Gasly in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

In Japan he was penalised for speeding under red flag conditions, he was more than 10 car lengths behind the car in front of him during the safety car period in Austin and in Mexico, he was given another point for leaving the track and gaining and advantage in a battle with Lance Stroll.

The French driver is now only two points away from an automatic race ban so he will need to be weary in Brazil so he can compete in the last race at Abu Dhabi. Additionally, these points take a full year to be erased from his license, which means a potential race ban will hang over him until May 2023 at his new team, Alpine. Not an ideal start to a new season with a new team.

The 2023 Driver Line-up is Not Complete

The majority of the grid for next season has been decided, however, the future still seems uncertain for Hass and Riccardo as we are yet to have any official announcements for their plans next year.

Haas have not confirmed the driver taking the seat alongside Magnussen however the options look pretty clear. It appears a straight choice between Mick Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg who both appear to be at a loose end for next season.

Schumacher’s Ferrari contract will run out at the end of the 2022 season and has not been renewed. Further to this, he has made a few driver errors over the last few years and Gunther Stainer has been candid and said that they cost the small team huge amounts of money in spare parts.

Is Hulkenberg a possibility for 2023? Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Hulkenberg looks to be untied from the Aston Martin outfit as he was not mentioned in the Vandoorne announcement a few weeks ago. With experience, this could be a good fit for the Banbury-based team, but he hasn’t had a full-time drive since 2019 and could be expensive in terms of salary for Haas.

We are expecting confirmations before the end of the season so it is worth keeping an eye out for those.

Verstappen seals championship amid confusion after Japanese GP win

Max Verstappen cruised to victory at Suzuka to take his twelfth victory of the season and his second world championship, in bizarre circumstances after a late-race penalty for Charles Leclerc.

A mistake from Leclerc at the final chicane led to a five-second penalty for the Ferrari driver, dropping him behind Sergio Perez, which when combined with a confusing quirk in the regulations, secured Verstappen his second successive title. For the second week in a row, the race was time-limited, finishing after 28 of the scheduled 53 laps due to an extended red flag period early on due to torrential rain. The way the championship was decided, plus other incidents throughout the race will once again raise questions about the FIA’s running of the championship.

SUZUKA, JAPAN – OCTOBER 09: Race winner and 2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210090387 // Usage for editorial use only //

All the drivers started on intermediate tyres, in conditions which were arguably more suited to the full wet tyres. Leclerc was initially able to challenge Verstappen into turn one, but the Red Bull swept around the outside to retain the lead. Further back, Sebastian Vettel collided with Fernando Alonso, sending the Aston Martin driver plummeting down the field.

Conditions were extremely treacherous at this point, and Carlos Sainz was caught out in dramatic fashion, crashing heavily at the entry to turn twelve. He was lucky not to be collected by the field, with Lewis Hamilton coming inches away from striking the stricken Ferrari. Further back, Zhou Guanyu had a spin and was able to continue, with Alex Albon retiring with a power unit problem.

The Safety Car was deployed, and unsurprisingly the race was red flagged on lap two as conditions worsened. Pierre Gasly had to make a pitstop after collecting an advertising hoarding on his car, and was catching the pack when he came frighteningly close to hitting a tractor, which had been released onto the circuit to collect Sainz’s car. Questions will surely be asked about how this was allowed to happen, with Gasly still travelling around at speed to catch the end of the train.

This led to a two-hour stoppage with the race resuming at 16:15 local time, although the FIA originally planned to restart at 14:50 local time, before calling this off less than 2 minutes before the cars were meant to head out on circuit. Once they did finally resume, it was clear that the full wet tyres wouldn’t be needed for much longer, and as the safety car came in after three laps, Vettel and Nicholas Latifi followed it down the pitlane to change to intermediate tyres, and were instantly the fastest cars in the field, with 40 minutes of racing action left.

All the field eventually changed to the intermediate tyres, with Mick Schumacher being the last to change, as his Haas team gambled on a safety car or on the rain returning – a move which could have potentially put them on the podium if successful – but led to the young German cast adrift of the field in last place. Verstappen and Leclerc were comfortably ahead of the field at this point, and initially continued to pull away.

In the difficult conditions, overtaking opportunities were always going to be hard to come by. Lewis Hamilton spent the entire race stuck behind Esteban Ocon, with his Mercedes not having enough straight-line speed to be able to comfortably make the move. His teammate was finding things easier however, pulling off some sublime moves around the outside at the Esses to work his way up to eighth place, after dropping places in the pit stop period.

At the front, Verstappen was pulling away from Leclerc at a rate of one second per lap, with the Ferrari struggling badly for understeer as the intermediates wore out, which allowed Perez to close onto the rear of Leclerc. This was a problem for many across the field, and became acutely clear when Zhou pitted for fresh tyres and immediately set the fastest lap. Others reacted to this and came in for fresh tyres, most notably Fernando Alonso, who dropped from seventh to tenth with eight minutes remaining.

Alonso was soon ahead of Lando Norris and Latifi, and dispatched Russell with one lap to go. Soon he was on the back of Vettel, with the two drag racing across the line as Vettel came out on top by 0.011s.

Out in front, Verstappen cruised across the line, over 25 seconds clear of the pack after 28 laps. It looked as though Leclerc had held on for second, before a costly mistake at the final chicane forced him to cut the corner, as he barely held on across the line from Perez. However, he was adjudged to have gained an advantage from this, dropping him behind Perez and into third, and giving Red Bull their fifth 1-2 of the season. The rest of the points finishers were Ocon, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Russell, Latifi and Norris.

This is where the confusion began. After the Spa debacle of 2021, the rules regarding points in suspended races were changed. Under the previous rules, any race where between 2 laps and 75% of laps are completed, half points would be awarded. Many people interpreted the new rules as giving Verstappen 19 points for the win (having completed between 50-75% of the full race distance), with Perez getting 14 and Leclerc getting 12. However, these rules now only apply to races which are suspended and not resumed, meaning full points were awarded at Suzuka, putting Verstappen 113 points clear with 112 remaining, and securing the championship for the Dutchman. Given that this rule therefore means it is possible to have a three-lap race and give full points, it would only be sensible for this to be looked at.

SUZUKA, JAPAN – OCTOBER 09: Race winner and 2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates with his team after the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images ) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210090615 // Usage for editorial use only //

It had looked for a while as though it was always going to be when Max secured the title, not if, given his dominance of the season so far. With four races to go, he is just one behind Vettel and Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in a season, with the RB18’s fourteenth win making it Adrian Newey’s most successful car yet. Once again though, it is under controversial circumstances for Max, given the points confusion and the looming cost-cap report. With regulations remaining largely stable however until 2026, there is a huge possibility that Verstappen will claim a straightforward championship sooner rather than later.

Russell takes first F1 pole position ahead of Hungarian Grand Prix

George Russell has taken the first pole position of his Formula 1 career ahead of tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix, while championship leader Verstappen could only muster tenth owing to power issues.

Russell flew somewhat under the radar in Q3, setting no purple sectors but instead improving on his own personal best in each to take a surprise pole.  It follows what Russell himself referred to in the post-session interview as the ‘worst Friday of the season’ for his Mercedes team.  Indeed, after the rain in FP3 on Saturday morning there were some concerns that he and team-mate Hamilton were in danger of not even making it out of Q1.

Lining up behind Russell on the grid will be Sainz and Leclerc, the former having looked to be the favoured driver to take pole until the final moments of the session.

2022 Hungary Grand Prix – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Further down the order, Hamilton could only manage P7 owing to a DRS issue that forced him to abandon his final run in Q3.

It was not a good day for championship leaders Red Bull. Verstappen had looked competitive, but as he left the garage for his final run and started his out lap he warned his engineer over the radio that he had ‘no power’. He was given a couple of potential solutions but it was to no avail. The Dutchman starts tomorrow’s race in P10.

Things weren’t much better for his team-mate, Sergio Perez. Perez had had a lap deleted in Q2 due to an alleged track limits breach at Turn 5, only for replays to show he hadn’t actually crossed the white line at all. His time was reinstated and he looked to be safe. However, in the closing moments of the session he was pushed into the drop zone. In a case of bad timing from Red Bull, rather than being out on track and able to respond, Perez was instead being wheeled back into the garage. He starts P11.

With a few drivers relatively out of position compared to a ‘normal’ qualifying session, tomorrow’s race promises to be a very intriguing one.

Mercedes AMGF1 – Decision Time

5 races into the 2022 F1 World Championship and the defending Constructors Champions are without a pole position or a win, In fact they have just 2 podiums to their name and Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are 6th and 4th in the drivers standings with the team 3rd a staggering 62 points behind Ferrari.

Clearly the dominant force of the hybrid era haven’t forgotten how to design and build a racing car but after practically giving up on developing their 2021 car to concentrate on this season they will be massively disappointed in what has happened so far this season.

No sidepod Merc on day 3 of the Bahrain testing. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

When they rolled out their revolutionary zero sidepod car at the second test in Bahrain the F1 world were already saying if it dominated and the rival teams wanted to protest it, then the rule makers could decide that the car wasn’t in line with the spirit of the new regulations and would make the team change the car. Even though the car set disappointing lap times most experts thought the team were sandbagging and come the first race would dominate as usual.

The first race in Bahrain confirmed that not only were they not sandbagging but that they were almost a second a lap slower in the race. The major cause of the gap seemed to be the porpoising that the car suffered, although most teams this season are suffering from this it seems Mercedes suffer from it the worst no matter how they try to solve it.  How could they have got it so wrong ?

This performance deficit has continued throughout the first few races but at the fifth race in Miami the team brought the first big upgrades of the season. A new front wing, rear wing and beam wing were fitted to the car in the hope it would not only cure the issues the car had, but also reduce drag allowing the car to be quicker on the long straights of the Miami circuit.

Lewis Hamilton enjoying the faster car on Friday in Miami. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

During the first practice sessions on Friday it seemed that the upgrades not only worked but returned the team to the front of the field with Russell going quickest in FP2. The porpoising had also gone but watching every other car they had also cured the issue. Or was it just a characteristic of the circuit and the need for a low downforce setup.

On Saturday the porpoising had returned maybe because the team had been in search of a few more tenths thinking they were in the hunt for pole position. Qualifying was disappointing by the teams high standards and they ended up 6th and 12th. The closest Lewis Hamilton could get the fastest time was again almost a second down.

Once again it wasn’t a good race for the team, even with the upgrades they were just under a second a lap slower than the top 2 teams. After the race team principle Toto Wolff seemed bemused and confused. Although he was pleased that they had been quickest on Friday, Toto couldn’t explain why the car had been so good or why it had suddenly become so bad again for the rest of the weekend.

After another disappointing weekend what will the team do now? Obviously they will bring a big upgrade to Spain as most teams will. Even if they bring an upgrade that cures the problems and makes the car significantly quicker, it would be a surprise if both Ferrari and RedBull don’t do the same so they will have an even bigger gap to close than the one they have had all season long.

Fighting to get higher up the grid. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Its clear that the car can be quick but does it have such a small window in which it needs to be set up that it will be almost impossible to mount a challenge for wins, let alone a title shot if it stays so temperamental. The Spanish race will probably decide what the team does for the rest of the season, continue development of the current car or write off 2022 and start concentrating on next year already and use the rest of the season as an extended test session.

If they do manage to bring an upgrade package that puts them back in the hunt we could be about to see one of the greatest F1 seasons ever, so soon after the great (albeit tarnished 2021 season) 3 teams fighting at the front for the first time in years would be great.

By the end of the race in Spain we should know how the rest of the season will pan out in terms of who will be in the fight for the title. Perhaps more importantly we will know what decision Mercedes have made in their fight to tame the Silver space Hopper.

Dominant Verstappen beats Leclerc to Miami GP victory

Max Verstappen took victory with a commanding performance at the Miami Grand Prix after passing polesitter Charles Leclerc early on.

A crash and a hydraulic issue had limited Verstappen’s running in practice before he qualified third behind Ferrari, who qualified first and second for the first time since the Japanese Grand Prix of 2019, 48 races prior after they both capitalised on a mistake by the reigning champion in qualifying.

Due to an issue heating the fuel up, Aston Martin’s promising looking qualifying was undone as both Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll were forced to start from the pit lane.

Verstappen with a great start. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Off the start, Leclerc kept the lead through the first corner as Max Verstappen got round Carlos Sainz at Turn Two, splitting the Ferraris and giving Red Bull a near perfect start.

The Monegasque opened out a second advantage to the reigning champion after the first two tours of the circuit, setting the fastest lap as both of the leaders began to drop Sainz.

Having made a poor start from sixth, Sir Lewis Hamilton was passed by both Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso, with the Briton claiming that Alonso had hit him, but he streamed back ahead of the double world champion shortly after.

The seven-time champion then got back ahead of Gasly, regaining sixth and putting him just over two seconds behind former Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda then engaged in an entertaining battle for 11th as the German got past, while Verstappen was beginning to close on Leclerc as Zhou Guanyu brought his Alfa Romeo back into the garage to retire.

Yuki Tsunoda fighting Mick Schumacher. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

He was told of significant graining on the Ferrari driver’s front left tyre, and he duly took full advantage by getting to within a second and passing his fellow 24-year-old into Turn One, and Leclerc then began to fall away while Sainz began to fall into the clutches of Sergio Perez.

The first stops of the race arrived on lap 13 as Tsunoda and then Kevin Magnussen came in for Hard tyres, followed by Schumacher, with the lack of longevity of the Pirelli rubber this weekend being confirmed.

Alonso’s stop was intended to gain the undercut on Gasly, but an issue on the front right delayed his getaway, and cost him time to the Frenchman.

Vettel would then engage in an entertaining battle with Williams’ Nicholas Latifi after Stroll had cleared the Canadian, with the German and then Magnussen making their way past, as Gasly’s came back out of the pits comfortably clear of Alonso as Alpine’s misfortune this season continued.

Vettel then narrowly cleared Norris as the Briton exited the pits, before Magnussen followed him through past the McLaren after a slow stop, and Perez began to lose power in his Red Bull, causing him to fall back towards Bottas, but his lap times began to improve as he returned to the pace.

Magnussen had a go at clearing Vettel at Turn 11, but he ran out of table on the outside as the 34-year-old defended well.

A great stop for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Hamilton came in on Lap 23 and was given a splendid stop by the Mercedes crew, and he re-joined behind George Russell after the 24-year-old’s P12 in qualifying left him out of position.

Leclerc then began using the rest of his residual grip on the Mediums as he set the fastest lap, indicative of an imminent stop, but the gap to Verstappen had risen to 4.5 seconds.

Despite his pace, he told his team that the car was “so difficult to drive,” and he was shortly thereafter brought into the pits for a set of Mediums.

Red Bull waited a couple of laps to bring Verstappen in as he got a super stop from his mechanics, and came back out ahead of Perez, who had yet to make a stop, with Sainz in the lead for the same reason.

Sainz pitted on lap 27, but had a slow stop as the crew struggled with the front left, but owing to Perez’s earlier issues, was able to re-join in front of the Mexican, before Hamilton reported to his team that he was beginning to suffer from overheating tyres.

Lance Stroll battles Magnussen. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

Magnussen, having finally cleared Vettel, now had a face full of Stroll’s Aston Martin, and Norris was behind the train involving Schumacher as his slow stop continued to cost him time.

As Vettel’s attempt to get back past Magnussen failed, Schumacher gladly took the opportunity to get ahead of the Aston Martin.

That left the Banbury-made cars to battle between themselves as the 29-year-old endeavoured to defend from his younger team-mate.

Schumacher was eventually allowed to get past the Dane, before a Vettel mistake at Turn Seven opened the door for Norris to gain the position.

Russell, meanwhile, had been completing a remarkably good stint, and he told his team he was more than happy to stay out in anticipation of a Safety Car or some rain as Christian Horner began to look nervously at the sky.

Gasly and Alonso made contacted as they continued their squabble as the Spaniard went for an ambitious move down the inside, and the subsequent time loss cost the 25-year-old a place to Stroll, who had yet to pit in another miserable day for Aston Martin.

Contact then ensued between Norris and Gasly, causing a puncture and a spin out of the race for the McLaren and extracting the Virtual Safety Car – an ideal opportunity for Russell to make his stop.

Gasly had been slowing after going off at Turn Eight and, as he re-joined, he turned into the back of the Briton, and the departure of his tyre followed by his stricken car lying out on track brought eventually brought out a full Safety Car.

The subsequent stops put Russell into seventh, while Aston Martin were brought back into the picture, and Esteban Ocon, having started last after being unable to contest qualifying due to an FP3 crash, was placed onto Softs.

Alonso was also given a five-second penalty for the collision with Gasly, who then came in for Softs of his own.

Most importantly though, Perez had put on fresh Mediums, leaving the Ferraris vulnerable to him for when the race restarted, and a neglect on Hamilton’s side of the garage to pit him also looked set to leave him at the mercy of Russell.

Sergio Perez in for his vital stop. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Sainz was immediately forced to fend off Perez on the restart, but Verstappen negotiated it perfectly, remaining ahead of Leclerc as everyone kept it clean on lap 47.

Schumacher managed to clear Ocon for ninth place as he chased his first points finish, and Perez continued to attack the second Ferrari.

Russell tried to make a move stick on Hamilton, but the 37-year-old defended well before a mistake from Bottas allowed both of them to clear the Alfa Romeo, which had made contact with the barrier.

Russell did then manage to clear his Mercedes team-mate after a boisterous battle of the Britons, and Leclerc was sticking within a second of Verstappen as he chased the win.

A highly audacious attempt from Perez into Turn One, and the subsequent lock-up allowed Sainz to get back in front.

Schumacher would then dive down the inside of his friend and mentor Vettel, hitting hi and spinning him at Turn One, allowing Ocon to climb into the points, as well as Alex Albon.

Verstappen opened out the gap to a comfortable margin, and as he crossed the line on the final lap, claimed the 23rd win of his career.

It leaves him 19 points behind Leclerc in the Drivers’ Championship, while Ferrari’s lead over Red Bull has been cut to six points.

Verstappen victorious in Imola sprint race

Max Verstappen recovered from a poor start to take victory in Saturday’s sprint race at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, overtaking Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the penultimate lap.

The reigning world champion was able to manage his tyres last better than Leclerc, closing back within DRS range in the final five laps. The Dutchman was able to get close enough to go around the outside into Tamburello on lap 20 to secure the eight points.

It was a poor getaway from Verstappen, who struggled with wheel spin and gear sync issues off the line, allowing the Monegasque driver to take the lead. Fernando Alonso also had a difficult start, dropping behind Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo on lap one.

At least Verstappen and Alonso had a chance to recover from their poor start however. Zhou Guanyu dropped behind Pierre Gasly in the first few corners, and collided with the Alpha Tauri trying to regain the position into Piratella. This sent the Chinese driver careering into the barriers, ending his race and bringing out the Safety Car.

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo (Germain Hazard, Royal Spark / Alfa Romeo Media)

After the Safety Car, Leclerc was able to extend his lead, stretching out to over two seconds ahead of Verstappen before the Red Bull was able to reel him in. The ‘number two’ cars of Carlos Sainz and Perez both had difficult qualifying sessions, and the sprint race provided a great opportunity to work their way back up the field. Perez set the fastest lap on his way up into third place, with Sainz snatching fourth from McLaren’s Lando Norris in the final few laps. Norris came home fifth, with a sixth place for Daniel Ricciardo continuing the good form seen by the Woking-based team in Melbourne.

The majority of the field chose to compete on the soft tyres, with a few drivers choosing the mediums. One of these was Kevin Magnussen, who had secured Haas’ best ever qualifying on Friday with fourth position. The Dane was unable to keep with the pace of those on the softs throughout the sprint however, securing one point for eighth place having been overtaken by Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in the final stages of the race.

Alonso just missed out on points behind the Haas, with Mick Schumacher’s tenth place meaning the German will start higher than he ever has done before in a Formula One race on Sunday. After showing promise in FP2 earlier in the day, both Mercedes spent their day stuck in a DRS train, as George Russell came home in eleventh with Lewis Hamilton down in fourteenth place, meaning that there will be no Mercedes in the top 10 of the grid for a Grand Prix for the first time since the Suzuka in 2012.

Despite losing out to Verstappen at the end, Leclerc extends his lead in the championship to 40 points, with Carlos Sainz now in second. Red Bull also moved up to second in the championship, and find themselves 57 points behind Ferrari heading into Sunday’s race.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

F1 Race Preview: The fast streets of Jeddah

Round 2 at Jeddah this weekend and after the reliability issues last time out all eyes are on Red Bull to come back stronger.

Red Bull Reliability

If you haven’t seen the drama of the double Red Bull retirement, Red Bull have said initial investigations seem to suggest a fuel pump/system issue which means that the final few litres of fuel for the end of the race didn’t make it into the engine despite having enough fuel in the tank.

Interestingly this year the fuel systems are comprised of parts made by the teams, the power unit manufacturer and a third party who won FIA tenders to supply standard parts. However, it is not known which part was at fault and therefore who supplied it.

In any case Red Bull get a chance to redeem themselves this weekend at the very high speed circuit in Saudi Arabia.

Last time in Jeddah

When we last raced here the championship was really hotting up and the rivalry between the leaders was getting ugly. The on track battle was epic and summed up the season long battle between Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen.

However, this wasn’t the only talking point from that race. This is where the steward’s room and race director came under scrutiny as they were becoming more dominant in each race. They had begun to tell the narrative here at the newest and fastest street track.

Qualifying was thrilling but the race was incident back and the longevity of the circuit came under fire. Changes would need to be made to make this a viable race in the future.

Chaos in the background as Verstappen leads the race. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Both in 2021 and 2022 the human rights conversation surrounding this race is important and getting louder. It is important to keep talking about it especially now with current events in the area. Formula 1 say they are monitoring the situation, but this will continue to be a big part of the race weekend.

The Fast Ferrari’s

In Bahrain Ferrari delivered on the pre-season rumours being the fastest on race day. All Ferrari engine powered cars had great performances with only Mick Schumacher finishing outside the points in P11.

This could mean Ferrari have the advantage at the high speed track in Jeddah. However, as seen last weekend, consistency is very important and Charles Leclerc dos not have the best relationship with street circuits.

In Monaco last year he pulled out a great lap to take pole in the first runs of Q3 but crashed on the final runs meaning he couldn’t start the race with gear box issues. In Baku 2019 he crashed heavily and producing the now infamous line “I am Stupid”.

Despite this, last year he finished P6, ahead of Sainz so will be looking to capitalise on his momentum from last weekend and improve on this result.

Ferrari’s 1-2 last time out in Bahrain. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Qualifying is 5pm GMT and the race starts at 6pm GMT.

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