The Iceman’s F1 History

Kimi Raikkonen will contest his 349th and final race in this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and we take a look through a sparkling career for the Iceman.

Raikkonen began his career in 2001 with Sauber; he was identified by the team as he dominated through the Formula Renault UK as rookie winning seven out 10 races in 2000.

He had the experienced Nick Heidfeld alongside him who took a fantastic podium in Brazil, whilst Kimi took 6th on his debut then retired consecutively following on from that result. At Austria and Canada in the mid-Season he finished 4th – the highlight of the 2001 Sauber career. Others then began to take notice; another Finn Mika Hakkinen having a torrid having won two championships on the bounce. Mclaren talks were ongoing and it was agreed Hakkinen was walking away, and Raikkonen would replace him at the then-known Silver Arrows Mclaren Mercedes for 2002. Hakkinen, after this announcement in September, did manage to win once more with the pressure off.

The 2002 Season started off well for Kimi, earning his first ever podium with third at the opener Melbourne with the fastest lap. However, the car did have reliability issues which held up, the BMW-Williams also a strong contender for this Season. Mclaren finished third that year due to the reliability issues of the  MP4-17, and Kimi retired from 10 out of 17 races. The highlight of the Season for Kimi was P2 at Magny-Cours – his highest finish to date and double podium. Himself and David Coulthard finished P5 & P6 respectively in the Championship.

2003 was the year Kimi came into his own at Mclaren; Coulthard took his final win of his career at Melbourne but the ever-present Ferrari of Schumacher wasn’t on the rostrom for the first-time since 2001. Mclaren then took victory again at Kuala Lumpur and Raikkonen finally took the first victory of his career, 39.286 clear of Rubens Barrichello in a dominant display. It took Ferrari until the fourth round before they won but Kimi was on the podium in second. He didn’t win again in the year but was on the podium six times, unfortunately missing out on the title by 2 points to Schumacher, scoring 91 points.

In 2004, Mclaren unfortunately went back to MP4-17 levels of reliability. It was so poor that in the Summer we saw the reveal of the MP4-19B. Raikkonen’s best finish was fifth in Canada, and upon returning to Europe Kimi got back on the podium at Silverstone with second. The highlight of 2004 came when he won the Belgian GP at Spa, and a strong end to the Season with a podium with F1’s first venture to Shanghai and at Brazil.

In 2005, Kimi was the bridesmaid once again, but this much different in terms of how it came to fruition. Kimi had his most successful year with seven wins,  winning at Monaco and once again at Belgium. His most fought out win also came in this Season – a fantastic P17 to P1 – overtaking Giancarlo Fisichella on the outside of turn one on the final lap. Alonso won the title, but with new points system he ended up 21 points ahead of the Iceman.

In 2006, as per the previous Championship campaigns, development was slow, but better than 2004. He managed to score podiums in the first two races, and a further three in the first half of the season. Paddock rumours began to float round he was looking elsewhere to find that elusive Championship after those results. Those rumours came true; he was heading to Ferrari to replace Michael Schumacher at Ferrari, and it was announced at the Italian Grand Prix of all places. Kimi got his best result of P2 of the year matching Melbourne – a sign of things to come?

In 2007, Kimi headed into the scarlet red Ferrari, and it couldn’t have gotten off to a more emphatic start, winning the Season opener in Australia. Two more podiums  followed at the so-called flyaways that start the traditional Season. After three rounds we had Kimi, and both Mclaren drivers of Alonso and upcoming rookie Lewis Hamilton all on 22 points. The Season headed to Europe and went to the Americas before heading to France and Britain where Kimi’s challenge began; he was behind but won both races at Magny-Cours and Silverstone. Hungary onwards Kimi was not off the podium; he won again in Belgium, which has become a true favourite of the iceman as it was his third victory at the circuit. He was 17 points behind title leader Hamilton with two races remaining; he surely couldn’t be the bridesmaid or lower again as Alonso was only 12 points behind. He won the final two races of the calendar whilst others faltered. Hamilton had his moment entering the pits at Shanghai, resulting in a no-score and a puncture at Brazil which allowed the 17-point swing, giving Kimi his first World title.

In 2008 the defence began woth a collision, with Kimi fortunate to score due to a race of attrition with P8 and Barrichello later disqualified. However, a spell on the podium thereafter included two wins in the flyaway run, before F1 headed back to Europe. The 2008 Season had its moment in the Canadian pit lane when Hamilton wasn’t looking under safety car conditions, hitting Raikonnen which resulted in Kubica winning, leapfrogging both in the Standings. 

Kimi Raikkonen was less than impressed after being wiped out by Lewis Hamilton at the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press

In France and Hungary Kimi took a further podium but a poor string of results at the normally favoured track Belgium and the new Singapore circuit mathematically ended the iceman’s chance of retaining the title. His team-mate Felipe Massa and Hamilton fought that out, with Hamilton claiming his first championship. A further three podiums saw him finish third in the standings in 2008.

The 2009 Season brought in new regulations, and Ferrari seemed to be in the midpack and not at their traditional standards of the noughties era. Kimi scored four points in the first four flyaways before Europe began; the car development was rife this Season and we saw it with this car specifically. Prior to the Summer break at Hungary he took a fantastic P2, starting a podium streak and on returning to his trusted Belgium he took Ferrari’s sole win of his season. However, he was still 5th in Standings, with half the points of Jenson Button, and rumours were appearing that Kimi was looking away from Ferrari. He took another podium in front of the Tifosi at Monza and a further two points scores, before it was then revealed the team he was speaking to was to actually Mclaren, but the talks broke down so nothing came to fruition. Ferrari then agreed deals with Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa for 2010.

Kimi took  a two-year sabbatical and ended up agreeing to compete in WRC with Citroen with P5 Rally of Turkey 2010 best result. Agreements were made for Kimi to join Lotus F1, the former Renault program for 2012.

On his return to the Series with Lotus in 2012, Kimi finished a distant third behind the title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso but on review had a successful campaign with seven podium finishes across the year, only failing to finish in the points in China. He claimed the team’s first victory since Ayrton Senna in Detroit in 1987.

Kimi and Lotus looked like they built upon this as they won the Season opening race in 2013, and then took a further three second places, being ever consistent as he was in the black and gold machinery and was second in the standings after Spain. Upgrades begun to occur and Lotus weren’t as quick to match, and a further four races passed until Kimi was back on the podium; he still scored points but not to the high level needed. Germany and Hungary saw him take two second places, and Ferrari once again came looking for a driver as rumours were floating that Massa was looking at alternate drives. The Italian GP was on the 8 September and on the 11 September it was confirmed that Raikkonen, ahead of the new era of F1, would again race for the Scuderia. He took a further two podiums at Singapore and Korea but his Season ended early as he required some surgery on his back, still finishing fifth in the standings.

Kimi spent two years at Lotus before re-joining Ferrari – Courtesy of Pirelli Media

At the start of the hybrid era in 2014, Ferrari’s machinery wasn’t at the races, capped to a best of P7 in the early rounds of the year, getting lapped at Barcelona. While not being in the twilight years of his career just yet, albeit his 12th Season, Ferrari needed to improve. Results begun to pick up but no podium was yielded, with his best result coming at Belgium with a fourth-placed finish, scoring at 13 out of 19 races, ending just towards the bottom of the top 10.

in 2015 the Ferrari power unit was reviewed and had much more power but was still not on par with Mercedes. He had to retire from opener but matched his best result in the second race and saw the rostrum in the fourth round at Bahrain, generally being best of the rest in this Season as the two Mercedes battled it out. Second at Bahrain was the highlight of the Season but two further podiums at the night races of Singapore and Abu Dhabi also came, and he would finish fourth in the Standings – near enough trebling the points from the year before.

Further podiums for Kimi in 2016 saw the win get closer, finishing second twice in the year, behind Verstappen in that record breaking win at Barcelona. He had four podiums in the Season all very early on, with Austria being the latest.

2017 nearly matched Kimi’s points record of 207 points as he was on the podium seven times this . A nice spell of three consecutive podiums in the Americas late in the Season gave him the push to finish 4th. Hungary and Monaco were the highlight of the Season with second place finishes.

In 2018 Kimi took his final victory, setting a new record of 113 races between his previous win, as he made a one stop strategy work in Texas, COTA. The win was his first since Lotus in 2013 but also his first for Ferrari since 2009. He also took 12 podiums in his final Season for the team as it was agreed he would move back to his routes and Alfa Romeo which were born from Sauber where it all began from him in 2001. He finished third with 251 points, best ever points haul.

Sebastian Vettel & Kimi Raikkonen at Abu Dhabi 2018. Image courtesy of Ferrari Media

The twilight years started for Kimi and Alfa’s car was well prepared, a midfield contender, finishing in the points nine times in the Season of 2019, beginning with four consecutive finishes. In Brazil towards the latter end he managed to get a P4 with team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi P5, taking advantage of penalties and incidents to reel in the team’s biggest points haul to date since their return.

Kimi has spent the last three seasons with Alfa Romeo – Image courtesy of Sauber F1

Developments for cars came in 2020 at a different pace and levels. Alfa Romeo dropped to a certain extent, and while Raikkonen might not have been able to be a consistent scorer he was enjoying himself. In the shortened Season he scored two points finishes through the year at Mugello and Imola.

The swansong Season which we didn’t know until halfway through the Season began and was very much the nearly man in this Season until Baku, finishing P11-P13. He finished P10 at that race, along with Hungary. Kimi unfortunately did miss two races mid-Season due to COVID-19 and returned with an instant best result of P8 in Russia with the same result in Mexico. Points finishes might look likely in Abu Dhabi which would be a good way to end his career.

Kimi throughout his career in F1 had 19 Seasons, claimed 21 wins and 103 podiums with 18 pole positions. He has been involved in 349 Grands Prix which is the official record. The man of few words will be remembered for his wit, his nonchalant communication but, most of all, as a Formula One World Champion. 

US GP: Verstappen takes pole in a front row lockout with Hamilton

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Red Bull and Verstappen reigned supreme at the circuit of the Americas on Saturday as the Dutch driver beat Hamilton to pole by two tenths of a second, setting up a front row lock out with his championship rival. Verstappen’s teammate Perez will start the race at P3 after a strong qualifying, which could come in handy for Verstappen in his fight for the title.

Mercedes struggled to match the Redbulls for pace in qualifying until Hamilton pulled out a decent lap in the last run of Q3. Unfortunately it was only emough to get the better of one Redbull and it was not his rival Verstappen. The Englishman has it all to do in the race on Sunday to try and beat Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes will be starting P9 on the grid after yet another engine change which means a grid penalty. This could be a blow for Mercedes in a scenario where they would require Bottas to play the team game in order to try and push for the driver’s title.

Ferrari looked fast over the course of the weekend in free practice sessions but even with that, their pace was no match to that of Redbull and Mercedes. They will be starting P4 and P5 on the grid with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz respectively and crucially ahead of both the McLarens who are their closest rival in the constructors championship.

A nice battle is now shaping up for third place in the constructors championship between McLaren and Ferrari with only 7.5 points between them and both the McLaren drivers will be starting at P6 with Daniel Ricciardo and Norris at P7 respectively. With both the Ferraris ahead of them, they will have their work cut out from lights out if they want to maintain 3rd in the constructors championship.

Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauris completed the last remaining spots in the top 10 after qualifying P9 and P10 respectively. The 5th row on the grid will however change tomorrow as Bottas’ penalty relegates him to P9 while Gasly moves a place ahead to P8. Both the drivers for the Italian team managed to put in clean laps which was not the case for many other drivers on Saturday.

Esteban Ocon in the Alpine qualified at P11 after a little help from his teammate Fernando Alonso . The Spaniard who has taken a new engine this weekend will be starting from the back of the grid but showed that he was a true team player by providing Ocon a tow on the back straight in Q2. It was however not good enough for the Frenchman to make it all the way to Q3.

Sebastian Vettel and George Russell will be joining Alonso at the back of the grid after taking new engine components and incurring grid penalties. This however did not stop them from making it to Q2 and setting times. With Vettel’s time being faster than Alonso’s and Russell’s he will be starting P18, while Alonso will be starting P19 followed by Russell at P20.

Giovinazzi made it to yet another Q2 continuing his decent qualifying form and will be starting the race from P12 which gives him a good chance to grab some world championship points. Unfortunately for his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, it was an unstable Q1 after having lap times deleted and the Finnish driver will be starting from P15 on the grid.

Russell’s teammate Latifi in the Williams will be starting from P14 on the grid after qualifying P17 and both the Haas cars will be starting at P16 and P17 respectively, a bit higher than the usual. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin will be starting P13 despite getting knocked out in Q1, where he looked quite off the pace compared to his teammate.

The battle for the driver’s championship is waiting for yet another chapter to be written in its tale as Verstappen and Hamilton go into the race with a front row start. With the way that the battle has shaped up so far this season, it is set to be yet another exhilarating start to the United States Grandprix, which will makes its return after two years and is on the verge of delivering a classic race.

Turkish Grand Prix: Hamilton fastest in qualifying as 10 place grid penalty awaits

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton breezed past competition in Istanbul Park on Saturday afternoon to set the fastest lap in qualifying. Unfortunately he will be starting P11 thanks to an ICE change on his Mercedes, which resulted in a 10-place grid penalty.

Hamilton’s teammate Bottas is set to start from pole position after he finished P2 in qualifying and crucially for Mercedes, he will be starting ahead of Max Verstappen in the Redbull, who is set to start P2 on the grid after his P3 finish in qualifying. This could be an interesting line up in the grand scheme of things leading up to the WDC title fight between Verstappen and Hamilton. While Bottas is up there with Max Verstappen on the front row, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez in the other Redbull will only be starting P6 tomorrow for the race.

The Ferrari of Charles Leclerc will line up at P3 on the grid tomorrow after the Italian team showed signs of pace in the free practice sessions on Friday. Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz is set to start from the back of the grid thanks to a complete power unit change. The 2nd row will see a back in form Pierre Gasly line up at P3 after the French driver looked really fast throughout the weekend .Gasly’s teammate Tsunoda managed to make it to Q3 but could not make any major inroads and he will be starting P9 for the race tomorrow.

McLaren will have their work cut out for the race come Sunday, as Lando Norris could only manage a lap fast enough for P8 in qualifying, which means P7 for the race. The English driver would be looking forward to quickly put the disappointment in Sochi behind him by delivering a strong finish for McLaren tomorrow. Daniel Ricciardo had a qualifying session to forget, especially after coming to Turkey with very strong results in the last two races, a P4 in Sochi and a race win in Monza. The Australian driver will start P15 on the grid, thanks to grid penalties for Carlos Sainz.

Fernando Alonso has proven yet again this season that class is permanent, after he finished P6 in qualifying and making it look easy while other drivers were struggling for tyre temperatures and grip on a relatively damp track. The Spaniard will start P5 on the grid for the race tomorrow and his teammate Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine will only be starting P12 alongisde Lewis Hamilton at P11.

It was a relatively good day at the office for Aston Martin on Saturday, as Lance Stroll finished P9 in qualifying, which means a P8 start on the grid for the race tomorrow. The Canadian driver has had his moments in Q2 where he ran wide and was at the mercy of other drivers’ lap times. Fortunately he lived to fight another day and will be looking for some good points in the race tomorrow. His teammate Sebastian Vettel missed out on Q3 but will start P10, which is not all bad for the German driver as he will have free tyre choice for the race on Sunday, despite starting in P10.

George Russell in the Williams was so close to making it to yet another Q3 in the season but the English driver ran wide in the very last corner in the final run of Q2, undoing all the good work he has put in during the lap. which will serve as a A gentle reminder of how cruel F1 can be as a sport. He is set to start the race from P13 on the grid while his teammate Latifi will start from P16.

Haas finally had a moment that they could savour this season as Mick Schumacher made it to Q2 for the second time this season but unlike the previous time, participated in it and put in a lap that was good enough for P14. His teammate Mazepin had yet another qualifying session to forget where he would be just happy to have kept the car in one piece, after spinning multiple times during the course of Q1 and he is set to start P19 on the grid. Both the Alfa Romeo cars failed to get out of Q1 in changing track conditions and they are set to start with Giovinazzi in P18 and Raikkonen in P19.

Valtteri Bottas might not yet be done playing his part in the title race but unfortunately for the Finn, it will not be for his own sake. With his teammate Hamilton starting from P11, it is his job to battle Verstappen and prevent the Dutchman from taking a win, which would minimize the damage for Lewis Hamilton. It is set to be an exciting 9th world championship Turkish Grandprix as the championship fight for both constructors and drivers enters the final phase with 7 races remaining on the calendar.

 

Kimi Raikkonen: A World Championship and 19 years later, its time to hang up the gloves

Kimi Raikkonen announced this week that he will be leaving Formula 1 at the end of the season. Whilst this has maybe been expected for the last few years, and with the rumour mill in full swing, this could be the first piece of the puzzle for the 2022 driver line up. However, no matter when you first knew of his driving style, attitude, or outlook on F1, he has been a popular driver throughout his career.

The Early Speed

First coming to the grid as a young 21-year-old, he debuted for Sauber in 2001 at the Australian Grand Prix and immediately put in a strong performance, scoring a point and a P6 finish. He proved many critics wrong after driving in Formula Renault the year before – three racing levels below Formula 1 at the time.

Having impressed early on he was very quickly signed to McLaren for 2002, replacing the retiring 2-time world champion, Mika Hakkinen. This was a successful partnership, competing head on with Michael Schumacher and coming close to titles in both 2003 and 2005. He gained a reputation for being one of the fastest drivers on the grid and to this day is still applauded for his race craft and speed.

One of his greatest wins came in 2005 at Suzuka where, having started down in 17th, he had to fight his way from the back of the grid to win the race, having to get past an extremely quick Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher. Putting in fastest lap after fastest lap, he took the lead from Giancarlo Fisichella with an absolutely fantastic move on the outside of turn 1 with just 1 lap to go. This cemented his place as one of the best drivers on the grid.

The Iceman’s Championship

For the second time in his career, at the end of 2006 he was set to replace a world retiring world champion. Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher decided it was time for him to exit the sport seemingly for good at the time. Kimi Raikkonen had already attracted the attention of Ferrari, having been one of their main rivals for the last 5 years. This opening meant Ferrari signed him for their 2007 season, little did they know this would be a successful title battle.

With tensions boiling over at McLaren with teammates Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, Raikkonen was able to make up a huge points deficit which ended in a title fight between the Iceman, the Champion, and the Rookie at the final round in Brazil. It was a thrilling end to the season which meant that Raikkonen came out on top by just one point. A surprise champion but definitely deserved after his first few years in F1.

Raikkonen beat Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to the championship by just one point in 2007 – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

The Comeback Kid

Raikkonen did have a contract with Ferrari until the end of 2010, however with Alonso becoming a free agent at the end of 2009, the Italian team paid him off in order to get Alonso in the car. Having been evenly matched to Felipe Massa for most of his time at Ferrari, putting Alonso in the car began to make some question Kimi’s performances because Alonso was comfortably outperforming Massa. As a result, Kimi spent 2 years out of Formula 1 and focused on Rallying and Nascar.

In 2012 however, Lotus were looking to get Raikkonen back on the grid and so he returned much to everyone’s delight. It was a great couple of seasons for the team and driver, with Kimi having the edge over teammate Romain Grosjean due to his experience. He took two wins with the team – first at Abu Dhabi then at Melbourne – and the car seemed to be working well for the Finn.

With confidence dwindling for Alonso at Ferrari, Raikkonen made his way back to the Red team in 2014 to partner the Spaniard in his final season there. He would eventually become teammates with Sebastian Vettel in 2015 after Alonso finally decided to leave for McLaren. He became the apparent number two driver as Vettel consistently outperformed the Finn until, at the end of 2018, Ferrari decided to swap their 2007 champion with their rising star Charles Leclerc.

Having come full circle, Raikkonen has spent the last few years with the team he made his debut with, now Alfa Romeo. He has had some great drives for the team and clearly enjoyed still being in Formula 1 despite not being at the sharp end of the grid. He famously made a cameo in the second season of Drive to Survive saying: “its more like a hobby for me”.

Raikkonen has been with Alfa Romeo since 2019 – Courtesy of Sauber Group Media

With 341 Grand Prix starts, he is the most experienced driver of all time. He has 21 race wins, 103 podiums, 48 fastest laps, a world title and 19 years at the pinnacle of Motorsport; he will definitely be missed among fans and the F1 paddock. He has provided many memories over the years and it will be exciting to see what he does next if he decides to race in other series. For now, we look forward to seeing a relaxed Kimi race the rest of the season before he gives up his hobby to focus on other things.

Austrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Norris splits the Red Bulls

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max Verstappen took his 3rd consecutive pole position of the 2021 season as Redbull continued their dominance in Austria. The Dutch driver continued his excellent form and the pole position never looked in doubt due to the sheer pace of the Redbull.

For once, the other English driver on the front in Austria tomorrow will not be Lewis Hamilton as Lando Norris managed to put together a brilliant lap which was good enough to beat both the Mercedes and Sergio Perez in the other Redbull onto the front row. He was closely following Verstappen in the second run of Q3 which meant that he got a great tow and  agonizingly fell short by only four hundredths of a second to the pole position. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the other McLaren could not find the similar pace and will only be starting P13.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes could only manage P4 and P5 after they failed to make any improvements in their second run in Q3 and will be quickly searching for answers and hoping that their upgrades scheduled for Silverstone will bring about the pace that they have been lacking compared to Redbull.

Another headline worthy story from today’s qualifying is yet another one about the Saturdays of George Russell, where this time the English driver managed to put his car into not just Q2 but Q3 and a grid position of P9 on raw pace alone. The Williams team would be overjoyed with the result and Russell himself might be putting pressure on the Mercedes team to give him a shot with a display like today’s.

Aston Martin managed to get both their cars into Q3 with Sebastian Vettel set to start at P8 and Lance Stroll set to start at P10. The former however is under the scrutiny after he impeded Fernando Alonso’s flying lap at turn 10 causing the Spaniard to lose all the momentum and manage only a P14 starting place for the grid. It is yet to be seen what kind of a punishment would be handed to the German driver.

Alpha Tauri put up a very strong display on a hot track today as Pierre Gasly will be starting P6 and his teammate Yuki Tsunoda will be starting P7 as they will be fancying themselves for a double points finish tomorrow.

It was a day of questionable decisions at Ferrari as Carlos Sainz and Leclerc will be starting P11 and P12 respectively. A second run on medium tyres in Q2 meant that both the Ferrari drivers could not improve their times and could have done so if they went out on the softs. This decision was probably taken based on the race pace data from the last weekend where Ferrari looked fast on the medium and hard compound tyres and the Italian team will now be hoping for a repeat of the same.

Alpine had a qualifying to forget after both the cars could not make it into Q3 with Alonso being unlucky and Ocon not finding any pace in the car in the very first qualifying session itself. A visibly distraught Alonso and Alpine will be hoping for the race to turn around their way tomorrow if they are to score any points from the weekend.

Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi and Raikkonen will be starting the race from P15 and P16 respectively after only one of them managed to get out of Q3. Nicholas Latifi in the Williams will be starting P18 after he could not get anywhere close to his teammate and both the Haas cars will be starting with Schumacher at P19 and Nikita Mazepin at P20 respectively, which makes up the grid.

An 18 point gap is set to become wider between championship leaders Verstappen and Hamilton unless the Mercedes make a strong comeback in terms of race pace and strategy on Sunday. Sergio Perez starting at P3 means that we have a race on our hands with the battle for the constructors championship heating up as well, which sets up beautifully for a brilliant race in the Styrian mountains.

Styrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Hamilton gets to the front row

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max Verstappen reigned supreme in the first Austrian race this year as the Dutchman calmly put his Redbull on pole in the mountains of Spielberg. The qualifying went as expected for the home team as it seemed that Verstappen did not need to break a sweat to achieve pole position.

He was two tenths quicker than his nearest competitor in Valtteri Bottas who finished 2nd but will be relegated to 5th because of the penalty that the Finnish driver picked up in free practice 2 as he spun in the pitlane. This means that the stage is set for round 8 of thr Verstappen-Hamilton title fight as the championship leaders lock out the front row with only 12 points separating the two.

Verstappen’s teammate Perez in the other Redbull will be starting at P4 and crucially ahead of Bottas which will help Redbull in their bid to challenge for the constructors championship. Lando Norris delivered yet another stellar performance continuing his amazing season as the English driver will be starting from P3 alongisde Perez. His teammate Riccirado in the other McLaren will be starting from as low as P13 after what seemed like a good weekend based on practice pace sort of fell apart for the Aussie driver.

Honda powered cars of the Alpha Tauri were enjoying the Redbull ring as it was evident from both Gasly and Tsunoda’s pace after both the cars were comfortably in Q3 and they are set to start at P6 and P8 respectively. Tsunoda’s position is however not quite confirmed yet after the Japanese rookie driver failed to move out of the way of Valtteri Bottas who was on a flying lap and could well be handed a grid drop after a trip to the stewards.

Fernando Alonso on the radio was chirpy as the Spanish driver expressed his happiness with his Q2 lap which put him well into Q3. He will be starting P9 as it stands while his teammate Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine could only manage a P17 concluding a mixed Saturday for the French team. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin makes up the top 10 on the grid after the Canadian’s efforts in Q2 saw him get into Q3 by very fine margins while his teammate Vettel could only manage P14 after his time in Q2 was deleted as the German exceeded track limits at turn 10.

George Russell in the Williams continued to live up to his Mr.Saturday tag as the English driver was so close to making it to Q3 as he lost out by a few hundredths of a second but will be starting P11 which could still be a very good place to start in, considering the free tyre choice that will be available to him. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams will be starting P16 in what looks to be a season of a slow but continuous improvement for the Williams team.

Ferrari’s resurgence after having taken back to back poles in Monaco and Azerbaijan seems to be coming to a screeching halt after the problems continued in Austria as well. Both the drivers could not find any pace in comparison to the drivers at the front of the grid after Charles Leclerc only managed P7 and Carlos Sainz a P12 after his lap time was deleted in Q2. The Italian team will be hoping for a quick turnaround of fortunes with some rain possibly in the air tomorrow.

Alfa Romeo managed to put one car in Q2 which happened to be Antonio Giovinazzi who will be starting P15 while Kimi Raikkonen could only manage a P18 after his excursions into the gravel near turn 4 meant he could not improve his lap times. Haas only managed P19 and P20 for Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin respectively which a visibly Gunther Steiner described as a learning experience for the team from his pit wall to the commentators. A tough season is set be endured by them after the team’s focus is set on developing the car for the next year’s regulations.

With an 80% chance of rain for the race tomorrow, the battle for the championship is heating up. Redbull have a clear advantage over Mercedes in terms of one lap pace but it has looked pretty even so far when it comes to race day. Verstappen will be looking to increase his lead over Hamilton in the championship but Mercedes will definitely go after the Red Bulls in what promises to be a thrilling first race in Austria this season.

Dual in the desert Bahrain

What a race…

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

After what seemed like an unusually long winter Formula 1 is back with a bang in the desert.

After winter testing, three practice sessions and qualifying all that we knew for sure was the grid had indeed tightened up, especially for the top two teams in Mercedes and Red Bull.

Max Verstappen had taken pole position from Lewis Hamilton by just under four tenths of a second with the sister Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in third and Charles Leclerc in fourth.

Even sitting thousands of miles away the anticipation at the start was palpable.

The instillation lap did nothing to calm the nerves as Checo Perez loses power initialising a second instal lap.

He did manage to power up the ailing Red Bull but had to start from the pit lane.

Five red lights go out and we’re away for the Bahrain Grand Prix and indeed the start of the 2021 season. Unsurprisingly to many fans the number two Haas crashes out at turn one and his race ends before it can even start, leaving Mick Schumacher the sole Haas driver as the safety car is deployed.

Leclerc had managed to snatch third from Bottas before the safety car was deployed! Sainz lost out at the start and is down in P10, with Alonso and Stroll both gaining a position from him.

Verstappen leads the pack away from Hamilton who is left to defend from Leclerc into turn one.

Bottas takes third place back as we settle into a familiar pattern.

Verstappen pulls out a small lead of just under two seconds.

Further down the pack Sergio Perez starts to haul the Red bull through the field.

Mercedes are first to blink and try the undercut, putting the hard tyres on and it looks like a great decision as Red bull stays out as Lewis starts pumping in purple sectors and is the fastest man on track.

Verstappen’s in at last! And goes from mediums to mediums, he will have to stop again. He exits the pits nearly seven seconds behind Hamilton!

The top three are Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas. Further down the field Vettel and Alonso are fighting it out for P8!

Max is putting in the strong laps now on tyres ten laps newer than Hamilton’s. He closes to within two seconds or so, as Mercedes once again throws the dice and pull Lewis in for a new set of hard boots.

He exits the pits in third behinds Bottas in second and Max in first.

Bottas stops but there’s a problem with the front left! It’s a 10.9s stop and he comes out behind Leclerc in P5

Verstappen pits for hards and is stationary for an incredible 1.9 seconds and leaves himself 8.7s to make up to Hamilton in the final 17 laps.

Hamilton’s trying to keep his tyres going until the end, andy it’s falling back into Verstappen’s hands as he starts to take chunks off Lewis.

Verstappen is eating into Hamilton’s lead like its an open buffet. Half a second out in the middle sector alone, and he can see the Mercedes on the straights now.

Hamilton brakes another record this time for the most laps led in F1 with 5,112!

Vettel and Ocon have come together. Both have got going again, but Vettel has some damage to his front wing. Looks like Sebs fault but that’s one for the stewards to decide.

Max is like a lion hunting down his prey with only the odd back marker to hold him back, Lewis locks up and goes wide at Turn ten! He keeps the lead but Verstappen is just a second behind now and within DRS range.

Lap 52 and Hamilton only has half a second over Verstappen as he tries around the outside of Turn one but Hamilton holds him off!

Down to Turn four and Verstappen goes around the outside again, and this time he takes the lead!

Max Is immediately told by his team to give the place back as he’s left the circuit whilst taking the position, if he doesn’t do it a penalty could be costly.

Verstappen’s loses grip in Hamilton’s wake but he’s now out of DRS range on the start finish straight.

Bottas stops for a new set of tyres as he attempts to grab the extra point for fastest lap.

Hamilton starts the final lap and Verstappen is back within DRS range, no matter how well Max has driven this weekend he just can’t get passed the exuberant Hamilton who takes the win from Verstappen and Bottas.

Norris, Perez, Ricardo and Yuki Tsunoda all make impressive debuts, Alonso and Seb looked good and should improve as we get further into the season.

Mick Schumacher had a quiet race finishing last but that’s all that can be expected in the under developed Haas.

HAM

VER

BOT

NOR

PER

LEC

RIC

SAI

TSU

STR

RAI

GIO

OCO

RUS

VET

MSC

DNF: GAS, LAT, ALO, MAZ

Bahrain Test Part Two

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 12: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during Day One of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on March 12, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)

Here we go, four more hours but I can’t see much changing except for the odd driver and the weather.

Daniel Ricciardo still on top of the timing sheets as we start with Gasly and Verstappen close behind in the standings

This session can be described in one word, dusty! They can’t push the cars and are having to short shift and are actually off the throttle at some points on the track.

Coming up to the three hour remaining mark and very little has changed, we’re waiting on the first appearance of the seven time World Drivers Champion Lewis Hamilton

Will they refer to him as Sir Lewis?

First sight of Carlos Sainz in his new Ferrari, it’s a big year for the young Spaniard.

Three hours and two minutes and the World Champion joins the track for the first time and looks straight on it power sliding his way around the track. Times are still down on Ricardos best set earlier today in the morning session, laps are around four to five seconds slower.

Verstappen goes fastest on a 1:31.4O on the hard tyre After completing 80 laps.

Drivers seem to be finding some grip now as Max remains out gaining valuable data for the team.

Tsunoda has impressed on his first outing in the AlphaTauri it’s a little odd seeing the number 22 and not having Jenson Button driving behind the wheel.

With 1 hour 37 minutes left on the clock Lewis and the Mercedes seem to be getting into their stride with a lap still a full 1.5 seconds behind the pace set by Verstappen.

With 90 minutes remaining

1 VER 1:31.412

2 NOR +0.397
3 GIO +0.533
4 OCO +0.716
5 RIC +0.791

The number 9 Haas has completed 48 uneventful laps.

55 minutes to go and Verstappen puts in a flier 1:30.6 and has completed 113 laps just as Carlos Sainz spins his Ferrari.

Hamilton getting the laps in, still off the pace but getting valuable data and obviously we don’t know his fuel levels.

Lando Norris is comfortably third on the timing sheets behind Ocon and Verstappen. The McLaren looks very happy with its new Mercedes engine.

24 minutes to go and Lando posts a faster lap taking him into second place overall. McLaren have had a solid first day of testing.

Lance stroll posts an impressive 1:31.7 and moves up to fourth in the over all rankings.

Hamilton is out lapping in his Mercedes, but he is seriously lacking in traction, spectacular to watch but he’s not improving his times.

Under five minutes to go and the virtual safety card has been deployed, and that brings the session to an end.

1 VER 1:30.674 139

2 NOR +0.215 46

3 OCO +0.472 129

4 STR +1.108 46

5 SAI +1.245 57

6 GIO +1.271 68

7 RIC +1.529 45

8 GAS +1.557 74

9 TSU +2.053 37
10 HAM +2.238 42

Bahrain Testing Day One, Part one

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

The first day of testing is always an exciting event for Formula 1 fans but this year with Covid still affecting global sports we kick of in Bahrain instead of what has become the usual annual pilgrimage to Barcelona.

What’s different? Well the big difference other than location is this year we have just three days of testing instead of the usual six.

It’s an early 7am start for us in Europe, first things first as Haas officially launch their 2020 challenger.

Mick Schumacher, Haas F1 Team, F1

Flo fizz and aero rakes at the ready and off we go, for the first four hour session.

First shock of the day, Mercedes has a gearbox issues and Valtteri Bottas has missed over 100km plus of valuable testing time. With sands storms threatening every valuable minute needs to be taken advantage of.

The first couple of hours, how we’ve missed the sounds of Formula 1.

Early form Daniel Ricciardo is setting the pace in his McLaren Mercedes with Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda just behind and Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri with the third fastest time.

The Ferrari in the hands of Charles Leclerc in fourth seems to have made up some of the lost time from last years challenger.

Into the second half of the morning stint and Gasly is now on top of the timing sheets with a 1:32.5

Ricardo straight back out onto track and posts an even faster lap taking three tenths of Gaslys time. Still no sign of Bottas in his Mercedes.

It’s fantastic to see that Micks Schumacher’s three letter code is MSC and not SCH A nice nod to his dad who of course was MSC as he raced alongside his brother Ralf Schumacher.

With just 90 minutes remaining there’s still no sign of the Mercedes and Bottas

On the plus side the new liveries look resplendent in the sunshine. Personal opinion but the Alpine, Aston Martin and dare I say Haas are my favourites.

Roy Nissany driving the Williams has a green light on the back of his car indicating that he’s not got his super license points, I had to fact check this with my colleagues at Crow Towers. James Matthews pointed out that L plates wouldn’t stay attached to a F1 car at speed! He’s here all week.

Bottas is finally out in his Mercedes and is running almost five seconds off the pace with a large Aero rack on the back of the car.

The top three with under 30 minutes to go are Daniel Ricardo Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen.

Ten minutes to go and Charles Leclerc has stopped at turn four with what sounds like an engine miss fire, bringing out the red flag. After initially impressing the Ferrari isn’t looking on top of things, early days though.

That’s the first four hour session done.

  • 1 RIC1:32.203 45 M
  • 2 GAS+0.028 74 M
  • 3 VER+0.042 60 H
  • 4 OCO+0.756 55 M
  • 5 LEC+1.039 59 M
  • 6 RAI+1.117 63 H
  • 7 VET+1.539 51 T
  • 8 NIS+2.586 39 M
  • 9 MSC+3.924 15 H
  • 10 BOT+4.647 6 H

Turkish GP: Lance Stroll takes surprise pole in a rain hit qualifying

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lance Stroll came out on top on Saturday afternoon at Istanbul Park where order was totally disrupted in one of the most chaotic qualifying sessions of the season. He became the first driver who isn’t from the traditional top 3 teams to be on pole since Felipe Massa at Williams, a feat achieved all the way back in the first year of the turbo hybrid era in 2014.

Racing Point pulled off an unlikely masterstroke by sending out both of their cars on intermediates as opposed to the rest of the field who were on wets,  setting them up for a brilliant race tomorrow. Both Perez and Stroll duly delivered lap after lap and it all paid off in the end with Stroll taking pole position and image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Sergio Perez taking P3 on the grid.

In a qualifying session where it looked like Max Verstappen was certain of pole, Redbull’s decision to mirror Racing Point and sticking intermediates on the Dutchman’s car did not quite work out for them. To make matters worse, Verstappen was on his way to a provisional pole lap while the call was made, causing the driver to abandon his lap. In the end, the Redbull driver had to make do with P2, but will be more than fancying his chances for a victory tomorrow. His teammate Albon also had a really good qualifying session putting him at P4.

The track was heavily criticized as the practice sessions unfolded, especially by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who was quite unhappy with the things out there. Taking 17 out of 17 poles so far this season, it comes as a very big surprise that the German team could only manage P6 and P9 for Hamilton and Bottas respectively. Both their cars struggled to find grip throughout the weekend and a wet track only made matters worse. The championship equation for Hamilton becomes much simpler for Hamilton tomorrow, as he can be crowned champion if it stands this way.

Q1 started off as scheduled but had to be red flagged with 7 minutes to go thanks to heavy rain and it was a good 45 minute delay until the pitlane opened again. Lap times kept improving once the session restarted but the session had to be red flagged once again as Romain Grosjean in the Haas beached his car in the gravel and could not get it running again.

A little bit of controversy unfurled towards the end of Q1 when Nicolas Latifi also beached his car in the gravel and there were doubled waved yellows in the middle part of the track. Kevin Magnussen was seen complaining on the radio, alleging that a lot of drivers who made it past Q1 had not lifted their foot of the throttle as required in those conditions. The incident is set to be investigated and could change the line-up on the grid. This resulted in both Haas drivers Magnussen and Grosjean, Williams drivers George Russell and Latifi, Kvyat in the Alfa Tauri all getting knocked out in Q1.

Q2 was fairly straightforward on an otherwise chaotic session which saw both the Ferraris of Vettel and Leclerc get knocked out after yet another sub-par display, which continued their woes for the season. Both the McLarens were also out of Q2 which is a bit of a blow for the English team considering their competitors Renault and Racing Point had very good qualifying sessions. The team will line up with Land Norris at P11 and Carlos Sainz at P13 and will be playing catch up right from the start.

Pierre Gasly was another surprise name to not make it to Q3 considering his form throughout the season but the biggest result of Q2 ultimately belongs to Alfa Romeo, which saw both Kimi Raikkonen and Antionio Giovinazzi make it to Q3 while also beating both the works Ferraris in the process. The team will have a very good chance at grabbing some precious points towards the end of the season with Raikkonen starting P8 and Giovinazzi starting P10.

Renault produced an excellent qualifying result with Ricciardo at P5 and Ocon at P7, giving them a platform to get some crucial points in their bid to take the 3rd place in the constructors championship. Track limits were once again the topic of the session as several drivers kept having their times deleted throughout the session but ultimately, it did not prove costly for anyone which might not be the case for tomorrow.

A promising race seems to be on the cards with the track offering very less grip to the drivers and to make matters complicated, the weather might also have a say tomorrow. The magic number for Lewis Hamilton’s 7th world championship is set to be ‘8’ as he has to make sure that his teammate and only remaining championship rival Bottas does not outscore him by more than 8 points. If that does happen, the title would be decided in Bahrain, in a couple of weeks time.