Russian GP: Bottas reigns supreme in Sochi

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

In a race that was decided pretty much by the events happening before the lights going out, Valtteri Bottas took his 2nd victory of the year, long after the win in the first race of the season. His teammate Lewis Hamilton was awarded two different 5-second penalties for two practice start violations that he committed prior to the race start, in the locations where he was not supposed to.

This made the race very difficult for the record chasing English driver as he dropped well down the order after he had to serve the penalty in a pitstop. He recovered well to be able to finish on a podium but will be gutted to miss out on a win. Bottas on the other hand would welcome this victory at a track where he is supposedly at his strongest.

It was a lonely Sunday afternoon drive for Max Verstappen, which pretty much sums up his season so far barring the last couple of races. The Dutchman dropped to as low as 4th on the race start but recovered immediately to 3rd place and Lewis’ penalty meant that he would comfortably finish 2nd. It was a similar race for Sergio Perez in the racing Point at 4th place after he too recovered from a poor start.

It was a chaotic start to the grandprix after many incidents unfolded one after the other. McLaren lost the most out of all the teams at the start after Carlos Sainz crashed into the wall in an attempt to try and go around the bollards and his teammate Norris ran over the debris left by Sainz and only managed to finish 15th at the end of the race after a forced pitstop. Racing Point also lost one car on the opening lap after Lance Stroll got tagged on the right rear tyre by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc which sent the former spinning into the barriers. The effect of the new upgrades was not to be seen today and will have to wait until the Nurburgring at the earliest.

A couple of mini battles unfolded in the midfield between Ferrari and Renault followed by another between the Alpha Tauris and Albon’s redbull. Renault’s bid to swap their cars and catch Perez ended in a way they would not have wanted after Ricciardo was handed a 5-second time penalty for not following race director guidelines. It did not quite help Ocon’s case after the Frenchman was stuck behind the Ferrari of Vettel and could not catch Leclerc towards the end of the race. Ricciardo’s penalty did not hurt him much after he managed to pull ahead of Leclerc and finish 5th. For Ferrari, it was a mixed result as Leclerc managed to finish 6th and Vettel paid the price for staying out long and could only manage P13 on his 250th GP start.

Both the Alpha Tauris managed a double points finish with home driver Kvyat at 8th and Gasly at 9th following their battle with Albon in the other RedBull. Kvyat could have finished ahead of Ocon at 7th after the Russian battled the Renault driver almost towards the end of the race but it just wouldn’t happen for him thanks to the superior straight line speed of the Renault.

Kimi Raikkonen could only manage 14th in his record equaling 322nd race start but his teammate Giovinazzi in the other Alfa Romeo would be very happy with his race result at P11, just missing out on the points. Haas also registered one decent result with Magnussen at P12, ahead of a works Ferrari but they would quickly want to forget the P17 salvaged by Romain Grosjean. Both the Williams finished with Latifi at P16 and Russell at P18, with what was an unusual 3-stop race for the English driver, with the last stop seemingly an ambitious attempt for a fastest lap. It was however not there for the taking as Bottas eventually ended up with the point on offer.

In what was expected to be the 91st win for Lewis Hamilton, the race win went out of the window thanks to the pre-race events. His teammate jumped in at the chance to take maximum advantage to cut the gap in the championship standings to 44 points with a handful of races to go. Hamilton will now have to be careful for the next 4 races as he has picked up 2 penalty points today and two more would mean that a race ban would be handed to him, which could seriously dent his championship hopes.

 Pirelli Motorsports info-graphics

 

Russian GP: Hamilton takes pole in an intense qualifying

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took his 5th straight pole of the season at Sochi on saturday afternoon to put himself in an excellent position in his bid to equal Schumacher’s record tomorrow (91 wins). The pole position looked set to evade him today after the fiasco in Q2 almost saw him miss out on Q3.

Hamilton failed to register a time in Q2 as he crossed track limits during the first run of Q2 and this meant that the 6 time world champion had only one run under his belt to put a time on the charts. However, a Sebastian Vettel crash during the second run of Q2 brought out a red flag with exactly 2 minutes and 15 seconds to go and Hamilton barely made it to the finish line before the flag fell, setting a lap time good enough to go into Q3.

It is not Valtteri Bottas, but Max Verstappen on the front row this time as the Dutchman put in an amazing lap in the second run of Q3 to go 2nd. Bottas who started the weekend well could not make it onto the front row after hitting the sausage kerb in turn 2 and losing momentum going into the rest of the lap.

Sergio Perez put in a great effort despite not having upgrades on his Racing Point and qualified on the second row alongside Bottas while his teammate Stroll could not make it out of Q2 after getting his lap time deleted in the first run and suffering a temperature issue towards the end of Q2.

Ricciardo’s fine form during the weekend continued after his efforts in qualifying will see him start at 5th on the 3rd row next to Carlos Sainz in the McLaren. The 4th row will be a repeat of the colours in the 3rd row but with Ocon in Renault at 7th and Norris in the McLaren at 8th.  Gasly in the Alpha Tauri is set to line up at 9th next to Albon in the RedVull who will be hoping for a much better race than the qualifying today.

Both the Ferraris crashed out of Q2, one literally of Sebastian Vettel at turn 4 after hitting the kerb and one of Charles Leclerc narrowly missing out and all set to start at P11 as the advantage from the minor upgrades they have got this weekend also seems to be minor. Danil Kvyat is set to line up next to Leclerc at 12th and will look to score some good points in his home race, especially after his car seems to be showing a decent race pace.

George Russell in the Williams made it into Q2 for the sixth time this season  and will line up at 14th after yet another good effort in Q3 but his teammate Latifi will have to be content with 19th. It is going to be a Ferrari powered bottom 6 except Latifi after both the Haas cars and the Alfa Romeos are all in the bottom 5.

Kimi Raikkonen went spinning in the second run of Q1 which will mean that he is set to start 20th on the grid and his teammate Giovinazzi will start 17th. Grosjean and Magnussen in their respective Haas cars are set to start 16th and 18th with Grosjean surprisingly offering some positive feedback at the end of Q1.

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

With Hamilton set to start on the soft tyres thanks to the Q2 drama and with Max Verstappen just next to him, it might not be a straightforward drive to win number 91 for the English driver. It is also worth remembering that Bottas’ last victory at Sochi came from 3rd on the grid, which is where he will line up tomorrow, with a tyre advantage. It is all set to play for, in the Russian Grand Prix.

Why Domenicali is the right man for F1’s future

Former Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is set to take over from Chase Carey as Formula One’s new CEO later this year, according to reports published on Tuesday night.

Inevitably the reports have drawn no small amount of criticism for the fact that between Domenicali, F1’s managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn and FIA president Jean Todt, F1 would effectively be in the control of three former Ferrari heavyweights.

But despite spending more than 20 years at Maranello, Domenicali is more than just a Ferrari man. Indeed, his history with the Scuderia didn’t stop Domenicali resigning as team principal in 2014, in protest to then-Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo’s calls for scapegoats to be fired for the team’s poor hybrid engine performance.

That’s not the action of someone so beholden to the Prancing Horse that it would taint his ability to lead F1, nor of someone who would yield to any Ferrari bias from above (if that even existed).

(Foto Studio Colombo / Scuderia Ferrari Media)

In many ways, Domenicali is an excellent choice for F1’s top position. For starters, he’s an intelligent and capable businessman with the CV to prove it.

After leaving Ferrari he joined Audi as vice-president of new business initiatives before moving across the VW Group to become Lamborghini’s CEO in 2016. In his time heading the brand Domenicali oversaw Lamborghini beat its own global sales records year on year, with the company’s 2019 sales figures more than double what they were when Domenicali joined.

It’s also worth pointing out that Ferrari’s last drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 2007 and 2008 respectively came under Domenicali’s leadership.

But perhaps more importantly, Domenicali is able to combine that business acumen with his racing pedigree. It’s become an F1 cliché to justify someone’s role in running the sport by describing them as a “real racer at heart”, but for Domenicali that saying is actually true.

He joined Ferrari straight out of university in 1991 and stayed at the top of F1 right up until 2014. Even after leaving Ferrari, Domenicali remained a prominent motorsport leader as the president of the FIA’s single-seater commission, and was responsible for the revival of Formula 2 and the creation of the more streamlined FIA Formula 3 Championship.

(Foto Studio Colombo / Scuderia Ferrari Media)

Domenicali’s entire career has been in motorsport, and that’s something current F1 CEO Chase Carey just doesn’t have. When Liberty Media bought F1 in 2016, Carey’s commercial and media expertise was necessary for the sport to move on from the Bernie Ecclestone era. We have that to thank for Drive to Survive, F1’s long-overdue embracing of social media and the additions of Zandvoort and Hanoi to the calendar, all of which have helped to reinvigorate the sport’s global profile.

But with those foundations in place, F1 now needs a leader who has an inside understanding of how to run the sport itself as well as the show. Someone who knows how to make the right changes to improve the racing and competition, and who has the principle to oppose kneejerk responses that just up the spectacle instead.

And if that’s not Stefano Domenicali, F1 would be hard-pressed to find someone better.

PREVIEW: 2020 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix – Sochi Autodrom

On the back end of yet another exhilarating Formula One Grand Prix in Italy, we head to Sochi and round 10 of the 2020 F1 season in Russia. Mugello provided the fans with a gripping watch which saw Red Flags up to the third in the space of two races. Alex Albon achieved his first podium for the Red Bull Racing team and Racing Point left wondering if they will be able to get the upgrades on the car in time for Sochi after Lance Strolls off at Arrabiata corner, leaving the car with heavy terminal damage.

Being announced alongside Mugello on the 10th of July for this unprecedented season, Sochi will allow the teams to have a more familiar approach to the race with the knowledge that is shared from the past 6 races here. Mercedes’ dominance has earned them a win in every one of them and the team certainly look set to do the same this year. Valtteri Bottas also took his first win at the Autodrom in 2017 for the Silver Arrows and will want to turn the tides on his championship fight and take it to Lewis Hamilton in the hopes of reducing the gap of 55 points.

Bottas took his first win for Mercedes in Russia three years ago – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Knowing how the season has panned out so far, it is safe to say that we could be in for another treat of a Grand Prix. The Renaults have proven their pace with near podium finishes and they now lie 5th in the championship, honing in on both the Racing Points and McLarens who sit fourth and third. Daniel Riccardo is still in high hopes of sealing a bet with Cyril Abiteboul which amusingly details that if he was to gain a podium before the end of the season, the Renaults chief principle will be getting a Tattoo of Riccardo’s choice.

The Streaming superstars of Lando Norris, Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc and George Russell have all surprised us this season in regards to performance and results. The remarkable efforts of Russell have gotten the Williams into Q2 five times this season and the famous ‘Last Lap Lando’ attacks have provided plenty of late drama. Will we see these drivers taking the headlines if any of them at the Autodrome this weekend?

George Russell has impressed again in 2020 for Williams – Courtesy of Williams media

After Lance Strolls suspected puncture incident at Mugello and the car hitting the wall causing excessive damage, Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer suggested the upgrade that was on the car had a couple to three-tenths improvement. Due to the damage of Lance Stroll’s car, by the race weekend, Lance may still only be the one with the upgrade. And with Russia being a tight circuit that is difficult for overtaking, the overall pace of a car is vital for the higher positions and to optimise strategy.

With the news of reshuffling and the potential of F2 drivers making the jump to Formula One next year, this could cause worry for some of the drivers. Which makes this race an important statement to keep them in the team. Pierre Gasly – following the frustration of ending his Tuscan Grand Prix no more than two corners in after winning previous – will want to return to his exceptional ways that may prow the eyes of Red Bull for a potential step-up or other teams. However, with the current situation at Red Bull Albon may have found the confidence back that he was looking for after his P3 finish last time out.

Alex Albon’s podium in Mugello was his first in F1 – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

The set tyre choices for the 2020 season being predominantly soft tyres may see teams opt for a more aggressive strategy for the 5.8 km circuit, and maybe even a two-stop strategy with the evident tyre degradation in the new Pirelli tyres. And with the weather set to be clear it should be a straight forward strategy come race day for the teams.

A healthy gap to the rest of the field sees Mercedes lead by an enormous 152 points in the constructors’ standings, which will be difficult to close for Red Bull especially with the trend of this season let alone the track itself. Taking a look down the field there is a close battle with Ferrari just 17 points shy of Renault and the Alpha Tauri a further 13 behind.

Hamilton is aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s tally of 91 wins this weekend – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

The Crew from Netflix will be on Mercedes for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix with the hopes to capture a moment in history no one would have called, as the reigning Champion Lewis Hamilton is tipped to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Formula 1 is broken!

Formula 1 is broken!

It’s not the fault of Hamilton or Mercedes but instead the strict formula that teams have to work to. If there’s to be a constructors championship then we need looser regulations so designers and engineers can have more freedom, different engine types and different aero design. Then, lets go racing!

If not, we might as well have a single construction championship like Formula 2 where the racing is much closer and more exciting, even if admittedly some of that is because young drivers make more mistakes.

Formula 1 should be open. I bet that if it was, you’d have more than just hybrid engines! We’d have the possibility of an electric car racing a combustion engine in the not too distant future. I’m afraid that if huge changes aren’t made then F1 will be left behind. If we had those kind of regulations would Formula E even have got up and running? Look how exciting the races are. Guess what? They are all driving the same car!

I’m not advocating that F1 should be a single constructors championship, but if they are to all build their own designs completely then they need to take the shackles off. Budgets have been cut now going forward which can only be a good thing, but all of the teams working towards a single design framework will lead to almost identical cars again.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Somehow, like in football, the richer teams like Ferrari and Mercedes will find a way to attract the best people even on a restricted budget. We need to make room for initiative, give a chance to the next Adrian Newey or Colin Chapman, whose ideas revolutionised the sport. With tight regulations these kinds of ideas are harder to find.

If they really want to save money then Friday free practice should go! Other than a cheap day out to watch Formula 1 cars I can see little need for it.

Here’s my road map for the sport.

You probably have your own ideas on how to fix F1. These are just me spit balling mine. We’d love to hear your ideas.

A. Loosen the restrictions to allow for innovation in both engine and chassis design.

B. Cut costs by cutting out Friday free practice sessions.

C. Teams should be allowed to race three cars but the third driver must be a young driver or a guest with enough super license points. The team would lose the points of the third driver.

D. Tyres should only be one small element of the teams strategy, so maybe another tyre manufacturer should come in.

If the Formula 1 changes that are scheduled now for 2022 – when in all likelihood Lewis Hamilton will be an eight-time world champion – do not make the significant difference that they promise, F1 will not attract enough new young fans to make it viable and, in my opinion, Formula E will become the de-facto pinnacle of motorsports. 

Tuscan GP review – Mayhem at Mugello

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Due su due as the Italians would say. If you thought the red flagged madness of Monza from last week was extreme enough, F1’s first visit to Tuscany at the Mugello circuit was that turned up to eleven!

It was Lewis Hamilton though who took victory ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, which on the surface sounds very typical but it was anything but that. The race began with the long run down to turn one, and Max Verstappen – who had some drama pre-race with the mechanics trying to check something, he had a good initial launch but his car seemed to almost forget how to use its engine for a moment. Tumbling down the order and then got caught up in a collision.

Verstappen seemed to get rear ended by Räikkönen heading into turn two, who was in a bad position next to Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean trying to claim the same piece of tarmac. Just up the road, Carlos Sainz got tapped by Lance Stroll which sent him spinning, and Sebastian Vettel couldn’t avoid him in the one-off burgundy liveried Ferrari and limped back to the pits with a broken front wing.

Bottas had jumped Hamilton at the start and they were running ahead of Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon. But a safety car was called as both Gasly and Verstappen were out of the race, and coming to the restart, Bottas left it as late as he was legally allowed to before he bolted, trying to give his rivals behind him as little a slipstream as possible. However, chaos ensued.

Sainz, Magnussen, Giovinazzi and Latifi were caught up in melee coming to the restart as many drivers had tried to get the jump on the restart. The race was stopped and the drivers gathered in the pits, and now standard procedure is a standing restart after seeing it for the first time only last week.

Second time around, Hamilton swung round the outside Bottas at turn one and Leclerc retained third place, before being passed by Stroll and Ricciardo. The Ferrari driver elected to pit early for hard compound tyres as he was just bleeding time on the set he was on. Ricciardo then came in to attempt an undercut on Stroll, a strategy that seemed to be working due to high speed nature of Mugello and it was successful as when the Racing Point driver boxed, Ricciardo was ahead.

The other Racing Point driver Sergio Pérez was passed by Lando Norris before he then successfully undercut the McLaren driver. Meanwhile, the sole remaining Red Bull in the race of Alex Albon had elected to go longer than the rest of the field.

At the front, the two Mercs were on medium compound tyres and Bottas was hoping to do the opposite of what Hamilton was doing. However Bottas came in before Hamilton due to the condition of his tyres and put on hard compound, which gave Hamilton a comfortable buffer to then come in on the next lap and do the same, and retained his gap in front.

Bottas was hoping for a safety car, and well he got one. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll went off at the very high speed uphill right hander Arrabbiata after suffering what was suspected to be a puncture. Bottas dove for the pits and it was thought he had gotten a huge advantage as the safety car was called just as Hamilton drove past, but it didn’t come out in time to serve as a help for Bottas, as Hamilton managed to make it round again and pitted.

The race was then red-flagged for a second time, and with only twelve cars left in the race. Bottas was hoping to keep the trend of second place getting the better getaways but this time, it wasn’t to be as both Hamilton and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo rocketed off the line.

Meanwhile at the back, heartache for the newly taken-over Williams team as George Russell had lined up ninth on the restart but had been passed by everyone. He soon got back past Grosjean but even with a 5-second penalty looming over Räikkönen, it looked increasingly unlikely that he would get back into the points.

But for his best mate Alex Albon, things were about to get rosier. He put a beautiful move around the outside of turn three on Pérez and after previously being denied two podiums by coming together with Lewis Hamilton in both Brazil last year and Austria this year, the Anglo-Thai driver put a move on for third and made it stick past Ricciardo. Cyril Abiteboul having made a bet with his driver that if he scores a podium before he leaves the team, he will get a tattoo of the smiley Australian’s choice.

However it wasn’t meant to be as finally, in a time where everyone was expecting a switcheroo between him and last week’s Italian GP winner Pierre Gasly, he finally got to stand on the podium with Bottas and Hamilton.

Ricciardo came home fourth ahead of Pérez, Norris, Kvyat, Leclerc, Räikkönen (who finished ahead of Leclerc but dropped back from the penalty he received for crossing the pitlane entry line too late) and Vettel rounded out the points finishers.

Carnage ensued in the hills of Tuscany, and also whilst not a result that Ferrari would have wanted, it is still very fitting that they have their 1,000th Grand Prix be at a circuit they owned since 1988. A proper old school circuit with plenty of elevation change and gravel traps which have punished a few drivers this weekend across all the races.

F1 goes on a week long break, can we all survive that? The circus reconvenes at Sochi Autodrom on September 27th and following on from that is a run of races which include circuits such as Nürburgring, Portimão, Imola, Istanbul, two races at Bahrain on different layouts before the season concludes at Abu Dhabi on December 13th.

Sebastian Vettel: Possible Redemption?

So the worst kept secret in F1 is out. Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel will be moving to Racing Point for next season when it is rebranded as Aston Martin. It all was the result of Vettel’s departure from Ferrari who he has raced for since 2015, a partnership that he had hoped would have resulted in a fifth championship – but it wasn’t meant to be.

Vettel won four straight championships with Red Bull who housed him throughout his junior career, however nowadays you would be forgiven for doubting that this was the same driver. The Vettel of today has been so dejected, dare I say humbled by his lack of success with the Scuderia, and there’s a narrative these days that it’s all because of Ferrari. I however disagree with this notion, it’s not all one party’s fault the relationship has soured.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates his fourth and final championship with the Red Bull Team – courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Before I proceed, I feel the need to put forward my biases and perspective so everyone knows. I wasn’t a fan of Vettel back in his Red Bull domination days, and to an extent I’m still not a fan but even now, I do have some sympathy for him.

When he joined Ferrari, it was the beginning of the Mercedes dominance in the turbo hybrid era so Vettel had a mountain to climb. He had just come off the back of a winless final season with Red Bull in which he was shown up rather considerably by new Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who took three wins on his way to third in the championship.

He took the seat of departing Fernando Alonso, who had hoped to be Ferrari’s next champion and came very close but lost out to Vettel in 2010 and 2012, and lined up alongside Ferrari’s last champion Kimi Räikkönen. Vettel really surprised in his first season with the Scuderia, as he took three victories at Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore on his way to third in the championship.

Vettel enjoyed a positive first season with Ferrari – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

However unlike his teammate the previous season Daniel Ricciardo, Vettel took those victories on pure pace as opposed to benefiting from some misfortunes that befell both Mercedes cars. In fact from 2014-2016, it was Vettel’s three wins that were the only ones that were won not from misfortunes for Mercedes. Even with Merc’s dominance, Vettel came very close to denying Nico Rosberg runner-up in the championship that year.

2016 was a bit of a nothing year for Vettel, but with the regulation change coming into 2017 there was renewed hope for Vettel and Ferrari that they could take the battle to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. At first it was very much hopeful, as Vettel and Hamilton traded places in the first two races and then the Ferrari driver began opening up a lead.

Despite a promising 2017 season, Vettel fell short of his fifth title, losing out to Lewis Hamilton – Courtesy of Ferrari media

Whilst the two drivers were relishing this opportunity to battle it out for the championship, it did all come to a head at Azerbaijan when Hamilton led Vettel under safety car conditions, Vettel didn’t anticipate Hamilton’s movement and ran into the back of him, assumed he brake tested him so he did the thing he believed was a good idea, drove alongside Hamilton and deliberately ran into him.

Then the infamous Singapore start collision caused by Seb moving over on Kimi and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen handed the momentum to Hamilton, and with Mercedes outdeveloping Ferrari, the 2017 title race was swiftly over. A rejuvenated Vettel went into 2018 feeling confident, and he took two wins from the first two races to open up an early lead. But before long, Vettel began making more and more errors.

He threw away a win at Baku when he locked his brake going into turn one on a safety car restart, locked up at the start at the French GP and clipping Bottas, thus ruining both their races. However it was Hockenheim that sealed Vettel’s fate, where he had a commanding lead and when some drizzle arrived and he lost it heading into the stadium section and burying it in the gravel and tyre barrier.

From then on, it came thick and fast. Monza lap one when he spun after touching Hamilton, Suzuka when he spun when trying to pass Verstappen heading into spoon, lap one at the US Grand Prix when he tapped Ricciardo and, you guessed it, spun. Couple that with Hamilton driving like a man possessed, Hamilton went from trailing Vettel in terms of championships 4-1 to then being 5-4 in his favour.

Meanwhile on the other side of both garages, their Finnish teammates were highlighting the difference between them.

Whilst Vettel had Räikkönen as his teammate, Hamilton had Valtteri Bottas. Both of them were playing supporting roles, but it was quickly becoming obvious that whilst Hamilton’s driving was warranting the lead driver status, Vettel clearly wasn’t doing enough to have his teammate hang back. This coincided with the meteoric rise of a Ferrari-backed driver from Monaco, called Charles Leclerc.

After winning titles in GP3 and Formula 2, Leclerc spent his rookie F1 campaign with Sauber and got the call-up to Ferrari for 2019. Clearly very highly rated by many, there was expectations that Leclerc could do what Ricciardo did in 2014 and wipe the floor with Seb. In a way, he kind of did.

As Leclerc looked set to take victory in only his second race for the team before a mechanical failure dropped him to third, Vettel had it difficult to hold him back initially and then spun again when passed by Hamilton later in the race. Vettel then got a penalty for skipping across the chicane at Canada and nearly colliding with Hamilton, which ultimately lost him the race and he protested after the race with an act of defiance switching of the first and second place boards.

Vettel’s dangerous re-join at last year’s Canadian Grand Prix earned him a race-costing penalty – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

At Silverstone, he locked up and slammed into the back of Max Verstappen just after he overtook Vettel after spending the majority of the race up until that point having a very close battle with Leclerc. Another spin at Monza was further compounded by Leclerc taking victories at the previous race at Spa, and then in front of the Tifosi, but even with Seb taking victory at Singapore the following round couldn’t shake the narrative that he was losing it.

It wasn’t helped when in Brazil, Vettel swiped at Leclerc putting them both out in an incident very similar to when he did the same at Istanbul back in 2010 to his then Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. In the end, Leclerc won the qualifying battle and despite Vettel being ahead in more races, he still finished behind Leclerc.

Ferrari endured a tumultuous 2019 season with among a tense inter-team rivalry between Vettel and Charles Leclerc

I am not just pointing these out to kick Vettel whilst he’s down, I took no pleasure in watching him make these errors which were becoming an all too common occurrence, prompting the meme ‘SBINALLA’ whenever he would mess up. Of course, before this delayed season began it was announced that Vettel’s Ferrari contract would not be renewed and he’d be replaced in 2021 by Carlos Sainz.

Since then, it’s been a narrative of “Vettel didn’t perform because Ferrari didn’t believe in him”. To that I say, well can you blame them? If a rookie kept making the mistakes Vettel was making, they would have probably been replaced. It’s a two-way system, Vettel made a lot of unforced errors which resulted in Ferrari losing faith, and now they don’t give him the belief that he needs.

Vettel will leave Ferrari having failed to win a championship with the team

Again I don’t take pleasure in saying this, even I’ve begun to feel sorry for the guy. However maybe the move to Aston Martin is just what he needs. A fresh start (which seemed to bode well for him in 2015), plus the current ‘Pink Mercedes’ which will be used again in 2021 could lend well to his driving style. The turbo hybrid cars don’t have as much rear downforce as pre-2014 cars due to the exhaust gases not being channeled under the car.

Vettel’s style could bode even better when the 2022 regulations roll around since they utilise ground effect. However by that point, maybe the likes of Verstappen, Leclerc and all the other young guns will be the benchmark.

I’m not writing him off completely, but Vettel has got a lot to be proud of in his career. Winning for Toro Rosso at Monza, winning four straight championships at Red Bull, and he could do very well with Aston Martin. But ultimately, just because he has done that in the past doesn’t mean his errors during his time at Ferrari can be overlooked.

I hope Vettel gets his mojo back and can bring a win or two for the team that started out as Jordan back in 1991, I hope he can prove to himself and everyone else that they are wrong.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Ferrari 1000 GP: Hamilton takes pole at Mugello

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took his 95th career pole beating teammate Bottas in a close fight at the inaugural Tuscan Grand prix qualifying. It was a pretty anti-climactic second Q3 run as it was expected that both the Mercedes would go head to head since Bottas was leading the free practice sessions and seemed to be in the zone.

It was all for nothing towards the end of Q3 when Esteban Ocon in the Renault made a mistake in the first sector which sent him spinning onto the grass. The yellow flags that followed meant that the drivers on flying laps had to lift and this brought an end to Q3 except for Hamilton, Verstappen and Leclerc. The only winner out of these three drivers has to be Charles Leclerc after the Monegasque driver put in a lap good enough to secure him 5th since both the Racing Point drivers behind him could not get a lap in.

The third row presents an all RedBull line up after Albon finally got his qualifying act right this season lining him up at 4th next to his teammate Verstappen at 3rd. The practice sessions indicated that one of the two Redbulls might be in with a shot at pole position but as Q3 unfolded, it was not to be the case.

Leclerc after qualifying at 5th alongside Stroll instead of Perez thanks to a one place grid drop for the Mexican driver for an incident in yesterday’s free practice. Perez now starts at 7th next to Ricciardo at 8th who was one of the drivers who couldn’t get in a second lap because of yellow flags in sector 1. Carlos Sainz was the only McLaren in Q3 who will be starting 9th next to Ocon which rounds off the top 10.

Lando Norris missed out Q3 for the first time this season as his best lap in Q2 only put him up to P11. A contrasting weekend awaits the British team after such a high in Monza. It was a difficult qualifying session for the Monza hero Pierre Gasly after he failed to get out Q1 and qualified 16th, four places behind his teammate Danil Kvyat, who has out-qualified Gasly only for the second time this season despite making a mistake in Q2.

While 5th place in qualifying might not seem like a bad result for Ferrari at their landmark grand prix, it was not all good for them as Vettel could only qualify 14th behind Kimi Raikkonen in 13th. The German driver even seemed surprised on the radio to be out of Q1 which quite sums up the kind of season that the team from Maranello are having.

Both the Haas cars will line up with Grosjean at 15th and Magnussen at 20th for their engine suppliers’ 1000th GP. George Russell has maintained his 100% qualifying record vs his teammate which now stands at 30-0 and will see him start at 18th ahead of his teammate Latifi at 19th. The English driver had quite a big moment in Q1 after he ran on to the gravel but yet somehow spectacularly managed to keep his car on the track and finished ahead of his teammate. Giovinazzi will line up in his Alfa Romeo at 17th finishing the grid.

With Mugello seeming like a track where overtaking might be scarce, track position is set to be key ahead of the race tomorrow. Ferrari would have hoped to be in a much better position for their landmark race but it is Mercedes, who look set to take the maximum points from the event. Max Verstappen at 3rd will be ever hungry to split the Mercedes at the start, which has been a virtue of the 2020 season so far.

Valtteri Bottas sets the benchmark in FP1 at the Tuscan Grand Prix

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Valtteri Bottas was fastest during free practice one at the Tuscan Grand Prix. It is the first timed session that we have been able to see with Formula One cars at the famous Mugello circuit.

Bottas set a time of a 1:17:879 closely followed by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen (+0.048). His teammate Alex Albon finished down in P9 (+1.189)

Genuine pace or a masquerade? Regardless Charles Leclerc went third fastest (+0.307) on Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix in a surprising up-turn in pace. There were some questions as to whether the ‘Red Car’ were running extremely light to set positive headlines in Italy. Well, it may have worked as there will be an enthusiastic tifosi willing the team on to a potential top 6 result.

Leclerc has been running a new chassis after his collision at the Parabolica last weekend. There is no evidence that it is a new design, but it is entirely possible that they could be tweaks for Ferrari’s famous weekend.

As for Sebastien Vettel, it was a familiar story. Finishing down in P13 (+1.388), the German will no doubt be setting the headlines off-track more so than on-track. With his famous move to Aston Martin for 2021 now in the open, perhaps pressure will be off Vettel this weekend with his future in Formula One assured?

Lewis Hamilton finished down in fourth place (+0.530) in a rather uneventful session, in which the only memorable moment came from a radio transmission asking Lewis to turn the engine down. Mercedes feeling the strain on the engine perhaps?

Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Danil Kvyat finished in an impressive P5 (+0.797) and P7 (+0.960) freshly following the Frenchman’s win at Monza. Earlier in the session there was a slight concern as engineers crowded around Pierre’s bargeboard. However, this seemingly didn’t hinder the team’s pace who have a strong chance to continue their strong run of form since Spa.

Esteban Ocon finished in P6 (+0.926) with Daniel Ricciardo in P10 (+1.261) Renault have shown glimpses of form since Spa however have some strong competition with the resurgence of both McLaren and Alpha Tauri.

McLaren’s Lando Norris finished P8 (1.102) with Carlos Sainz P15 (+1.578). The British team tested a range of different aero parts, particularly a new front wing. From casual observation the wing is similar to that of the Mercedes with a narrow body, short stubby pillars under the nose to connect to the wing and a higher cape.

Outside the top ten was a train of Ferrari powered cars starting with the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen in P11 (+1.340), the Haas of Romain Grosjean in P12 (+1.345) and Giovinazzi in P14 (+1.443). It is going to be a constant balancing act of lower the downforce to gain on the straight. However, the number of high-speed corners may mean that sacrificing too much downforce will be too much risk on a track such as this. Grosjean had a small moment with the Racing Point of Sergio Perez in which the Swiss driver complained on the radio that he was blocked coming into the second sector.

George Russell finished in P16 (+1.599) closely followed by Kevin Magnussen in P17 (+1.672)

Interestingly, the Racing Point’s decided to not run the soft tyres and focus on race simulations. Stroll finishing in P18 (+1.957) and Perez P19 (+1.961). The Silverstone based team need to find a solution to their confusing drop off in race pace and may be testing to see if they can make the medium tyres last on a one stop strategy.

The final position was rounded out by the Williams of Nicholas Latifi in P20 (+2.155) who’s most memorable moment was a spin during the final ten minutes of the session.

As we draw closer to Free Practice Two. The drivers will be seeking the aid of their trainers and physiotherapists to negate the strain on their necks. While the Mugello circuit is something of a beauty with the backdrop of the Florence and the mountains nearby, it is a double-edged sword. The undulating, medium and high-speed corners are tricky, demanding and will prove a stiff test for many of the drivers to acclimatise before qualifying on Saturday.

FP1 Classification

  1. Bottas (1:17:879)
  2. Verstappen (+0.048)
  3. Leclerc (+0.307)
  4. Hamilton (+0.530)
  5. Gasly (+0.797
  6. Ocon (+0.926)
  7. Kvyat (+0.960)
  8. Norris (+1.102)
  9. Albon (+1.189)
  10. Ricciardo (+1.261)
  11. Raikkonen (+1.340)
  12. Grosjean (+1.345)
  13. Vettel (+1.388)
  14. Giovinazzi (+1.443)
  15. Sainz (+1.578)
  16. Russell (+1.599)
  17. Magnussen (+1.672)
  18. Stroll (+1.957)
  19. Perez (+1.961)
  20. Latifi (+2.155)

 

Ferrari’s 1000th race – but hardly a celebration: Tuscan Grand Prix Preview

We did get an Italian team on the top step of the podium in Monza, and I would love to say it was not the Italian team we expected.

But in reality, no one was anticipating that there would be a Ferrari – or an Alpha Tauri –  winning in front of the Tifosi like they did last year, and no one would predict that this weekend either at Mugello.

But as the F1 circus rolls in towards the 5.2 kilometre Tuscan race track, Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly enters the weekend as the 109th different winner in F1 history following his tremendous and shock victory last Sunday at the temple of speed.

Pierre Gasly celebrates his momentous victory in Monza – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

For Ferrari, their 1000th race will be played out in front of the 10,000 spectators that will be permitted to enter the grandstands, but following the presence of the Netflix during what was a disastrous weekend for the Scuderia, they will probably be wishing they were not in attendance.

A brake failure for Sebastian Vettel and an enormous crash for Charles Leclerc followed on from a horrible qualifying performance for them in Monza. However, the slightly more downforce-orientated nature of the Mugello circuit compared to Monza may soften the blow to the Ferrari team that have been battered and bruised thus far by the car’s terrible lack of performance.

The Italian Grand Prix was a home race to forget for Ferrari – Courtesy of Ferrari Press Office

Mercedes, meanwhile, were dealt their first real blow of the 2020 season, as a polemic pitstop penalty for Lewis Hamilton cost him any chance of a victory, while team mate Valtteri Bottas continued his frustrating run of form by finishing fifth and failing to capitalise on the red flag and penalty drama. A win at what is a very technical and tricky race track would do his confidence a world of good, even if his world championship hopes seem to have dissipated.

Racing point and McLaren enter the weekend on almost as big a high as Alpha Tauri, following magnificent podium finishes for Lance Stroll in third and Carlos Sainz in second, but the Spaniard did not hide his disappointment at not being able to snatch the win from Gasly at the end. The higher-downforce nature at Mugello will suit McLaren slightly better than Alpha Tauri and Racing Point, but it would probably need a race equally as eventful as Monza to earn them a podium.

Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll join Gasly on the podium in Monza – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

But having said that, Stroll and Lando Norris are tied for points for fourth place in the drivers’ championship. They find themselves both ahead of Red Bull’s Alex Albon, who failed to score last weekend and is under pressure from the driver he replaced at the senior team last year – Pierre Gasly.

The Frenchman will be fully aware he is back in with a shout of being promoted once again for next season, and there will now be much anticipation as F1 heads to the first of the new tracks hurriedly introduced in the wake of the pandemic-affected 2020 season.

Following the second win for Alpha Tauri in the Italian Grand Prix, a second Italian chance beckons as Ferrari prepare for their 1000th race.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Red Bull content Pool