Japanese GP: Verstappen and Red Bull win big

Normal service was resumed at Suzuka in Japan after Redbull had a bit of a disaster in Singapore last week. Max Verstappen won the race by 19.4 seconds after having dominated the entire weekend right from the start of free practice, assuring everyone that the top is where they belong in 2023.

A second consecutive constructor’s championship was also wrapped by Redbull this weekend in Suzuka despite only Verstappen finishing the race, such is the dominance of the bulls this season. It was a race to forget for his teammate Perez after a series of incidents saw him penalized and also lose his front wing a couple of times in the process. The Mexican driver had to eventually retire his car but ventured out at a point during the race to serve his time penalty and retired again eventually after.

SUZUKA, JAPAN – SEPTEMBER 24: Race winner Max Verstappen of theGrand Prix of Japan at Suzuka .image curtesy of Clive Rose/Getty Images/ Red Bull Content Pool

Jubilation entailed McLaren as Norris and Piastri ensured a double podium finish for the British team and it was Piastri’s first ever podium in Formula 1. McLaren fended off Ferrari and Mercedes chasing from behind with pure pace and superior tactics to ensure they were the best of the rest in the race, a promising sign of things to come in the later stages of the season.

Ferrari and Mercedes were involved in battle throughout the race as they seemed to have a similar race pace. It all boiled down to strategy calls and utilizing the safety cars to come out on top and it ended as an even battel with Charles Leclerc finishing 4th ahead of Hamilton in 5th. An interesting battle developed towards the end of the race between Russell, Hamilton and Sainz, reminiscent of last week. Hamilton eventually came out on top of this mini battle for 5th while Sainz got the better of Russell, who could not make a one stop strategy work in a heavy tyre deg circuit.

Fernando Alonso was the only Aston Martin that finished the race in 8th place after his teammate Stroll had to retire early. Stroll was one among the five drivers that did not finish the race that was quite eventful if the leading Redbull was forgotten about.  Williams had a weekend to forget as both their drivers did not finish the race owing to multiple incidents and failures. Bottas was yet another non finisher as he had multiple incidents when he was overtaken and eventually the car was rendered undrivable by the Finn.

Alpine made up the final two places in the points with Ocon finishing 9th and Gasly finishing 10th.  Liam Lawson in the Alpha Tauri beat his teammate Tsunoda to finish 11th and yet again reminded everyone as to why he belongs in F1 amidst an inevitable return of Daniel Ricciardo coming soon. Alfa Romeo had only one finisher in Zhou at 13th while both the Haas cars finished last of the remaining drivers in the race.

With the constructor championship wrapped up by Redbull, focus is now shifted to when Verstappen would be crowned as the triple champion. A DNF for his teammate today means that Verstappen could wrap this up unusually on a Saturday as the next race weekend in Qatar offers a sprint race and a chance to score the needed points.

Featured Image courtesy of Bryn Lennon/Getty Images/ Red Bull Content Pool.

Sainz Wins an Interesting Singapore GP

Carlos Sainz wins the Singapore Grand Prix through some intelligent driving under immense pressure from behind. Verstappen made up places but the Red Bulls were not in good form while the Mercedes team made an impressive strategy call to challenge for the lead.

The Ferrari’s away cleanly at the start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Lights out and Sainz got away cleanly but behind him Russell bogged down meaning Leclerc made it past the Mercedes before turn one. The challenge was now on for Leclerc, who started on softs, to keep up with his teammate in the first stint.

Slightly further back Hamilton had a great start to out-break Norris before heading around the outside of Russell but having to take to the escape road and then back on track. Hamilton eventually gave back both places and then settled into his P5 position for a while.

It wasn’t all clean racing on lap one as there was a small amount of contact between Tsunoda and Perez which led to the Alpha Tauri retiring a few corners later. Luckily for the drivers he was able to pull off the circuit safely and the race continued.

Verstappen had gained a place in the first couple of laps and was now on the tail of Magnussen. It was a tight battle between the pair but Verstappen took advantage of DRS to make it into P8. His next job was to chase down Gasly, however, on the hard tyres the Red Bull was still sliding around so Verstappen was told a few times to back off and cool the car down.

Verstappen trying to gain places early on. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

The race began to settle down while we waited for the first pit stop window to open. Sainz was managing the race well by keeping the pack close together, however, this meant that even 15 laps in, if the Spaniard had pitted from the lead, he would have come out in P17.

Just a few laps later Sargent ended up hitting the barrier around turn eight and damaging his front wing. Sargent was able to get back to the pits but not without leaving debris along the track and causing a safety car.

Ferrari took this opportunity to double stack. Most Ferrari fans waited with bated breath as this was the sort of thing that could ruin a Ferrari race, however they managed to pull it off… to a certain extent. 

Leclerc had backed up the pack in order to create himself a gap to allow the double stack to happen. Because of this a queue of cars formed behind him and all filed into the pit lane as the Monégasque needed to leave, so he had to be held in his pit box until there was a gap, which cost him track position.

In an interesting strategy call, Red Bull didn’t pit either of their cars as they had started with the hard tyres. However, Sainz came out ahead of Verstappen after his stop so the plan hadn’t paid off for the World Champion. This meant that he and Perez were on old tyres with everyone else of fresh hards around them at the restart.

The safety car restart. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

On lap 23 the safety car came in and Sainz had the lead from Verstappen who was struggling to defend against Russell. Just behind them Perez had to fend off Norris and Hamilton who were closing rapidly. 

Almost synchronised, Russell overtook Verstappen and Norris gained a place on the other Red Bull. Perez nearly left the door open for Hamilton but the Mexican was able to stay ahead for a few more corners before the Mercedes made a move stick using DRS.

This then became the trend for a few laps. The Red Bulls began to tumble with Norris and Hamilton gaining places on Verstappen in quick succession. Perez was at the start of a train of cars which led to an interesting battle between the Red Bull, Alonso, and Ocon. 

On lap 37 Alonso dived up the inside of Perez but went in deep and Perez was able to fight back. This opened the door for Ocon to join the fight which was getting closer and closer to the wall. Perez defended the inside of turn eight from Alonso but Ocon went around the outside of the Aston Martin to go side by side into the next few turns.

Ocon was able to make the move on Alonso stick for P8, and was able to pull off a switch back on Perez just a lap later. Alonso then saw his opportunity and overtook Perez a few corners later before the Red Bull headed into the pits for his tyre change.

Sainz at the front had been controlling the race at a decent but slow pace which meant the pack were still quite close together. By the time Perez exited the pit lane, he went from P9 to P18. The story wasn’t much better for Verstappen who came in one lap later from P6 to come back out P15.

Two laps after both Red Bulls changed tyres, the virtual safety car was deployed for Ocon who had stopped just before turn two with a gearbox issue. The top five had already passed the pit entry when the VSC came out but that didn’t stop Mercedes making a bold move.

They double stacked their cars on the next lap for some new mediums to come out P4 and P5 in clean air and only the top three ahead of them. Russell was ahead of Hamilton and it was a very aggressive call but as they headed out the VSC ended and both Brits were on a charge, closing in by two seconds per lap to the leaders. 

With 17 laps left it was now an incredible strategy race to see the Mercedes pushing in full force for the podium. Something we haven’t seen for a few seasons. Because of this, it wasn’t long before both cars were within the DRS range of Leclerc in P3.

Out of the corner Russell pulled out a switch back and won the battle of traction against Leclerc to take P3. One lap later and his teammate made a similar move to take P4 from the Ferrari. Now the hunt was on to claim P2 from Norris ahead.

The Mercedes were gaining on the leaders. Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1

The Mercedes were closing at an alarming rate, so Sainz came over the radio to ask for the gap to Norris on every lap for the last five laps. When told Norris was 0.8 seconds Sainz replied with ‘that’s the point’. In some very clever driving, Sainz kept Norris within DRS range to give the McLaren some help with speed down the straights. This not only helped Norris but also meant Sainz would likely keep hold of his win.

It was the final lap and the top four were still within 1.5 seconds. Both Mercedes were moving all over the road in a bid to get past Norris. However, with only a few corners to go, Norris tapped the wall on his rear right but came away unscathed. Russell behind him was not so lucky as he clattered the wall with his front right, breaking the suspension and going head first into the barrier. He was ok but had lost P3 right at the end for his teammate to claim the podium.

Sainz was able to break the Red Bull 2023 win streak by taking the win, Norris finished on the second step of the podium while Hamilton took P3.

It was a fascinating race which intrigued not only this Formula 1 fan but many around the world. We are at Suzuka next weekend which will likely see the Red Bulls back on form.

Verstappen Breaking Records at the Italian GP

Max Verstappen takes the win at the Italian Grand Prix, which means he has taken the record for 10 consecutive wins in a season. It wasn’t plain sailing for him and his teammate, but they came home with a 1-2, while Sainz rounded out the podium after starting on pole. 

The camera showed the stricken Alpha Tauri of Tsunoda as the front row began to line up on the grid after the formation lap. Unfortunately for him and the team, there was an immediate engine failure, which left the car in gear and therefore led to a second formation lap.

However, an aborted start meant that confusion ensued as the cars were parked on the grid with engines off while the teams were waiting at the gate to be let back onto the grid. The red flag was never brought out, but there was a delay of a few minutes before the engineers could be let onto the grid.

Despite this, after a 23-minute delay, we could get going with another formation lap.

The eventual race start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Lights out, and Sainz got off to a great start by cutting off Verstappen into turn one and holding on to the lead. Just behind them, Leclerc had tried to dive up the inside of Verstappen, but the door closed, and the attempt left room for Russell to put pressure on the Ferrari. Russell couldn’t make a move stick.

Both McLarens had a good start, with Piastri making up a place on Albon into turn one as the Williams driver got boxed in. Although the Willams in a straight line is very slippery, just one lap later, Albon was back up into P6.

It didn’t take long for Verstappen to become a hunter with Sainz the hunted. Leclerc couldn’t keep up with the leading pair as the Red Bull pushed the Ferrari all the way. Verstappen was always within the DRS zone and tried to make a move around the outside of turn one on lap six, but it didn’t pay off with Sainz defending well.

Slightly further back, on lap eight, Verstappen’s teammate was mounting a charge on the Mercedes of Russell as he tried a move that didn’t pay off. He built up pressure until lap 14 when Perez tried a move around the outside, outbraked himself, and went straight on which meant he had to give back the place he gained. Two laps later though, the Mexican took the inside line into turn one and this time the move stuck.

Sainz locked up before losing the lead to Verstappen. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Meanwhile, the Dutch Red Bull driver was closer to Sainz by a couple of tenths heading into the main straight. He tried around the outside of the Ferrari, and even though the move didn’t work, Sainz locked up, which meant Verstappen had better traction coming out of the corner. On lap 15, the inevitable happened into the chicane as the Red Bull had more speed than the Ferrari.

With the world champion unleashed, he gained a 1.5-second lead within one lap. The race began to settle as the pit stops started.

Struggling with tyres after locking up, Sainz was the first of the Ferrari drivers to come in. One lap later, the team pitted Leclerc; however, it was tight between the teammates, and they nearly touched as Leclerc came out of the pit lane. The Monegasque ended up staying behind his teammate, with Perez coming out behind them after his stop.

A similar story was unfolding with the two McLaren’s on lap 24. Norris was the first to pit, with Piastri changing his tyres the lap after. However, Piastri was on the inside of Norris into turn one as he came out from his stop, but unlike the Ferraris, the McLarens made contact. Luckily for both drivers, they were able to carry on, and the stewards decided to take no further action.

Hamilton was the last driver to stop, as he started on the hard tyres so he could go for a longer stint. Coming out from his stop, it didn’t take too long before his new mediums warmed up and he began to gain places on those now on hard tyres. He started with Alonso into turn one on lap 29.

The Mercedes wasn’t the only one on a charge. Norris had been chasing down Albon for several laps, when on lap 38, Norris made a move around the outside but went off the track and gained an advantage. He managed to give the place back and unfortunately for the Brit, this is where he would stay.

A few laps later, Hamilton could smell the chance to make a move on Piastri but couldn’t make it stick. Towards the end of the lap, Hamilton was within the DRS zone of the McLaren and looked for a move on the inside but opted for the switch back, getting better traction out of the corner. Hamilton was mostly in font heading towards the chicane but, crucially, not completely past. 

As Hamilton moved towards the racing line, his back wheel made contact with the front of Piastri’s car, damaging the McLaren’s front wing. Both drivers were able to carry on, but Piastri did need to pit for a new front wing, and Hamilton got a five-second time penalty for causing a collision.

While this was happening, Perez had gained a place on Leclerc to put him on the podium and was chasing down P2. It wasn’t long before Perez was within the DRS zone of Sainz, and he used that to his advantage on lap 46, where he made it past Sainz.

This meant the final five laps were all about which Ferrari would be in P3. The radio call came saying, ‘Still race, but no risk’, However, the teammates knew what was at stake. Leclerc kept the pressure on right until the final lap, where he had a huge lockup and nearly took out both cars, Luckily, he avoided an accident, and Sainz finished in P3 with Leclerc in P4.

However, no one had an answer for Verstappen’s performance, as he crossed the line with a substantial lead over his teammate. A new record was broken, and the speed of the Red Bulls continues to be unmatched.

Next up is Singapore, which Verstappen has never won. Is that an omen or another record to extend?

2023 Italian GP Qualifying

Carlos Sainz has made the Tifosi’s dreams come true and secured pole position for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Celebrating on the track in front of the Ferrari fans the Spaniard who has been very quick all weekend put in one of the laps of his life to beat Max Verstappen by the smallest of margins.

Q1 began with everyone on the Hard Pirelli compound as this qualifying session was being used for the new mandatory tyre allocation strategy trial of hards being used for Q1, mediums for Q2  the softs for Q3.

Max Verstappen’s first lap of qualifying was deleted for exceeding track limits, He immediately pitted, came back out and went quickest by 0.338 from team mate Sergio Perez. They were followed by Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin and then the Williams of Alex Albon.

The track was getting quicker as the session went on meaning the final runs would be crucial.

Ocon out after damage in Q1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

As the final runs ended Albon moved up to P2 with Leclerc also up to P3. At the other end Zhou, Gasly, Ocon, Magnussen, and Stroll were all out of qualifying.

Q2 started with both Ferrari drivers under investigation for not being under the new maximum time to get round for a lap to prevent everyone going slowly on their outlaws, This would be investigated after the session so the result of qualifying might be decided in the stewards room.

Once again Verstappen was first on track and immediately went to the top of the time sheets, Shortly after that Sainz in the Ferrari sent the Tifosi wild and went quickest by 0.044, Behind them was Leclerc and Albon in the flying Williams.

Surprisingly the Mercedes pair went out to the track later than everyone else, Even with the clear track they could only manage 6th and 12th.

All 15 cars left the garages at the same time leaving the pitlane looking like the worlds most expensive car park.

When the last runs finally began the Williams of Sargeant was at the front of the pack, he didn’t improve though and stayed 14th. Joining him in not making it trough were Tsunoda, Lawson, Hulkenberg and Bottas.

Hamilton making his way into Q3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

The top of the timesheet had a familiar look about it with Verstappen fastest with a 1.20.937 ahead of Leclerc, Sainz and Perez. Albon was next up continuing to impress in the Williams, Hamilton improved to 6th ahead of his team mate Russell. Completing the top 10 and making it to Q3 were Piastri, Alonso and Norris.

Q3 brought the inevitable excitement with Verstappen dipping a wheel into the gravel on his first lap but still managing to make the top 3, At the front it was Sainz from Leclerc, then Verstappen and Russell, Behind them were Albon, Perez, Norris , Piastri Hamilton and then Alonso.

The final runs of the session would be the ones to determine the grid for Sundays race.

Charles Leclerc went first and moved to provisional pole, then came Verstappen who beat him but he was then beaten by Sainz in the Ferrari with a scintillating lap time of 1.20.294, the top three separated by just 0.067

4th was George Russell, then came Perez, Albon, Piastri, Hamilton and Norris and Alonso closing out the top 10.

Sainz gets a pole at the home of Ferrari. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Almost immediately after the session was completed it was confirmed no further action was necessary for the Ferrari’s earlier transgression meaning Sainz had pole in a Ferrari at Monza.

Can the Tifosi get their dream result tomorrow or will Max Verstappen continue his run and win a 10th successive race.

F1 Weekend Preview: It’s all Change for Baku

After what felt like an extremely long time, Formula 1 is back with a street race in Baku. However, while the winner and fastest team may be predictable, the weekend format has changed. There will be six sprint weekends this season, starting with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but after a vote, the sprint weekend format is drastically different.

Sprint Saturday

At the last Sprint in Brazil Magnussen started on pole. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

For those that didn’t know, there was rumour and discussions amongst the teams regarding the structure of a sprint weekend from the start of the season. A vote was taken and it has been decided that qualifying for Sunday’s race will be on Friday with Saturday becoming ‘Sprint Saturdays’.

A one-hour Sprint Shootout will determine the grid for the Sprint just a few hours later. This makes Saturday a stand-alone day meaning teams don’t have to worry about where they finish affecting them for Sunday’s Grand Prix. 

The reason for this is that Pirelli hasn’t been able to make enough tyres for the season so this is the solution Formula 1 has come up with. Another reason will likely be in the name of entertainment for the viewer. 

There will be many opinions floating around about the changes, but this will be the format for all six events this year so we will have to wait until the last one to see if this is a format that will work for Formula 1 in the future.

Formula 1 Cars on track again

It has been a month since we last saw the teams take to the track in Melbourne for what ended up being a chaotic race with many controversies and lots to talk about. However, we are now back on the streets of Baku but the results could be a familiar story.

Verstappen won in Australia but the other teams weren’t too far behind. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Red Bull will likely be very dominant again with their overall raw pace. But in the break, other teams have been able to go away and develop their cars because, unlike in the summer, there has been no mandatory factory shutdown. 

With this in mind we could see Alonso push his way past the Mercedes, or will they have done enough to stay ahead? George Russell has said there will be plenty of changes to the car for this race.

For those long-suffering Ferrari fans they will have their fingers crossed the team managed to pull out some development to make their car and strategy more reliable, while McLaren fans will be hoping for more pace. There are many reasons to watch this weekend but the progression of some teams will go unnoticed but is worth keeping an eye on.

A sport or a show? F1 keeps finding itself on the wrong side of the line

First things first, sport is meant to be entertaining. The unpredictability, the drama, and the displays of skill and athleticism are all reasons why we watch it. 

The third standing start of the day caused chaos in the first corner. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Sometimes Formula One falls short on the first two, hence the introduction of the budget cap, sprint races and many other rule changes brought in over the years in an attempt to ‘spice up the racing’. How ironic it is that on the weekend where Michael Masi returned to the F1 paddock for the first time since Abu Dhabi 2021, the talk is once again about how the rules have been applied in ways they weren’t intended – and the debate on how far Formula One should go to supply entertainment reignited once again.

It looked like the race was heading to a very predictable conclusion, with Max Verstappen cruising to victory, as Lewis Hamilton looked to be doing just enough to hold on to second from Fernando Alonso. That predictability was shattered, however, when Kevin Magnussen lost a tyre after hitting the wall. The Dane pulled off-track, but with his left rear stricken on the racing line, people’s thoughts understandably turned to a virtual, or even a full, safety car. This was initially the case before the decision was made to red flag the race, as the amount of debris on the circuit would have led to the race finishing under the safety car.

Many drivers voiced their astoundment at this decision, both during and after the race. There had already been one red flag, after Alex Albon had crashed out, in another situation where it seemed like a safety car would be sufficient. This second stoppage meant there would only be two laps of racing action left, effectively giving fans a super short sprint race. Which turned out to last less than a sector, with three accidents before turn three leading to a final stoppage, and the race finishing under the safety car – exactly the scenario that the race directors were trying to avoid.

The red flag led to what could be known as ‘Schrodinger’s lap 56’. On the one hand, the lap never happened, as the final restart was carried out using the positions from the end of lap 55. On the other hand, both Alpines, Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargeant had been eliminated from the race in the chaos, with Carlos Sainz receiving a 5-second penalty for spinning Alonso, even though the Aston Martin had now technically lost nothing in the spin. In normal situations, a 5-second penalty is annoying, but this penalty effectively equalled a disqualification, dropping Sainz to the back of the field with no chance of recovery.

Of course, safety has to come first in Formula One, and the safest way of clearing up debris after an accident is ensuring that no cars can come near the marshals, hence the need for safety cars and red flags. But the amount of red flags and safety cars in recent seasons has led to rumblings that they are used as a tool to close up the pack and inject excitement into races which seems a foregone conclusion. This alone isn’t a bad thing, as long as it is clear when this is going to happen, so viewers, drivers and teams aren’t left guessing what decision the FIA will make today. Team bosses made comments in a similar vein, with Christian Horner and Toto Wolff being in rare disagreement that they want to see races finish under a green flag, but it should be clear what the procedure is with late-race incidents.

Fans want to be left on the edge of their seats by what they are seeing out on track. If it feels necessary to stop a race to add to that excitement, then perhaps the sport has bigger problems that no amount of flag-waving will solve.

 

 

Chaos in Australia

Verstappen wins a chaotic Australian Grand Prix under very confusing circumstances. Hamilton finished P2 in a mixed day for the team while Alonso finished in P3 for the third time this season despite nearly being taken out of the race by Sainz in a dramatic restart towards the end of the race.

The race start. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Lights out and Verstappen came straight across to cover off the advances of Russell, but his attempt was not successful. The reigning world champion did appear to exercise some caution with a slower exit from turn two. He seemed to be struggling.

Behind them, Leclerc had made a good start but Stroll was coming up close behind him. Leclerc turned into turn three but Stroll had taken the apex of the corner and tapped his rear right-hand side. Leclerc went for a spin and ended up in the gravel, ending his race prematurely. 

At the same time, Verstappen leaves enough gap for Hamilton to be alongside him into turn three. It was a brave move from the seven-time world champion but he makes it through the inside of Verstappen. There were a few complaints on the radio but everything was deemed a lap one racing incident.

The safety car was deployed with a Mercedes one-two. On the restart, Russell made sure he pulled a gap to his teammate and the now-frustrated Verstappen. Everyone got a clean lap with Hamilton and Verstappen closing gradually on Russell. The driver from Kingslynn was on the radio asking if he is to defend against his teammate or preserve his tyres but he was answered when they called him into the pits for a new set of hard tyres. Russell came out in P7 on lap 6, but just one lap later it would prove to be the wrong decision. 

Albon lit up the rear tyres into turns six and seven and spun straight into the barrier, projecting gravel all over the track. Albon was out and initially, the safety car was deployed. But the FIA needed time to get rid of the gravel on the track and brought out the red flag. 

This gave everyone a free choice of tyres before the restart but was unfortunate timing for Russell. They rolled out on the formation lap before lining up on the grid for the restart. Russell was down in P7 with work to do while Hamilton was in P1 with Verstappen alongside. 

Most drivers were on hard tyres so at the restart it was obvious they couldn’t get the immediate grip they wanted. Verstappen struggled again with the standing start but Alonso backed out of a move on the outside of turn one due to the lack of temperature in his tyres. 

Hamilton in front before Verstappen powered through. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The lead for Hamilton wouldn’t last long though. On lap 12 Verstappen had DRS and a superior pace around the outside of Hamilton to take the lead of the race. Meanwhile, behind them, the other Mercedes made his way up into P4, past Gasly.

Sainz and Perez were also making their way through the pack. Sainz made turn three his new favourite overtaking spot but getting past Norris and then Tsunoda in consecutive laps. Perez used his extra pace to make it up to P13 before the next major incident.

Without warning, on lap 19, flames began to spit out the back of Russell’s car. Mercedes later suggested it was a power unit failure. However, Russell was able to safely stop at the end of the pitlane and get out of the car. This brought out a Virtual Safety Car and closed the pitlane. Therefore there were no changes of tyres for anyone and the race got back underway once the flames had been put out.

Perez continued his good form by making it into the points with a fantastic double move on Piastri and Tsunoda on lap 23. Piastri and Tsunoda had been battling for the majority of the race at this point, so when Piastri finally made the move on the Alpha Tauri on lap 29, the home crowd roared.

By lap 32 the race had settled into business as usual. Verstappen was setting consistent fastest laps, but Perez was able to make the most of DRS zones and get his name on the fastest lap board. Hamilton and Alonso then entered the fastest lap chat as they closed the gap to Verstappen.

At this point, the teams were considering a second stop due to potentially being on the hard tyres for 49 laps by the end of the race. The battle was mostly between Aston Martin and Mercedes trying to work out who would jump first. 

However, their questions were answered when, in a strange incident, Magnussen lost his rear right tyre. It appeared that on the exit of turn two, he just went too wide and hit the wall, losing his tyre and bringing out another safety car, and eventually the red flag two laps later. 

The third standing start of the day. Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool

It was all set up then for a two-lap sprint to the finish with everyone changing to soft tyres. It would be another standing start as stipulated in the rules. As the cars lined up on the grid it looked as though Verstappen was very far forward in his box. He was however his wheels were still on the line and therefore in the box.

Absolute chaos ensued at the restart. Verstappen got away well with Hamilton hanging on the P2. Behind the Sainz had made a good start but he hit the rear of Alonso in front causing the Aston to spin on the exit of turn two.

Behind them, Gasly locked up into turn one and ended up across the grass before getting back on the track. As he arrived on the track he didn’t see the car of his teammate on the outside of turn two. Gasly veered back to the racing line but collided with Ocon pushing both into the wall and out of the race. 

Perez also took a trip across the gravel but made it out safely, while at the back Sargent locked up into the back of De Vries. Both got stuck in the gravel and were out of the race. Unsurprisingly the red flag was deployed again but this led to some confusion about restarting for a fourth time.

With everyone back in the pitlane the clock was on lap 58 of 58, meaning only one racing lap left. Any laps behind the safety car count as racing laps so it appeared the race would finish behind the safety car, but the question was what order would the cars be in. 

At the British Grand Prix in 2022, the red flag came out before the cars had made it through sector one so they went back to the last known order of the cars, the grid. This was a similar situation. The red flag came out before Verstappen made it to turn five, meaning they didn’t have any timings for drivers after the restart and would have to go back to the order from the grid on lap 57. 

Once the crashed cars had been taken out of this grid order, it meant that Alonso was back up in P3 with Sainz in P4, Piastri in the points and Hulkenberg down in P8. This frustrated Haas as Hulkenberg was up in P4 after the carnage at the start. To rub salt in the wound for them, Sainz was given a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Alonso. 

After a re-shuffle of the cars in the pitlane, they headed out on the final lap. At the end, the safety car peeled off and Verstappen took the chequered flag with Hamilton in P2 and Alonso in P3. Sainz attempted to create a small gap but with the cars bunched up he dropped to the back of the pack and out of the points. 

Only 12 cars finished the race and McLaren managed to capitalise on this with both cars getting points. Piastri was extremely happy to get his first points in F1 in his first home race and he gave plenty for the home fans to cheer about after a long race day.

We now wait until the end of April for the next race, but I imagine this won’t be the last we hear of the restart procedure for that time.

Saudi Arabia GP: Perez takes a convincing win as Redbull finish 1-2, again

JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA - MARCH 19: Race winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 19, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA – MARCH 19: Race winner Sergio Perez of Mexico and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia at Jeddah Corniche Circuit on March 19, 2023 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez took yet another street circuit win at Jeddah on Sunday night as Redbull reigned supreme yet again, much like their first outing in Bahrain earlier this season. The Mexican driver faltered at the start and lost the lead to Alonso by turn 1, but the unmatchable pace of the Redbull meant that there was no one stopping him from taking the win tonight, not even his teammate.

It was an eventful beginning to the race as Alonso in the Aston Martin got the better of Perez at turn 1 while there was a lot of action between the Mercedes, Aston Martin and Ferrari cars behind. The joy was short lived for Alonso after Perez passed him again, which was then followed by a 5-second time penalty as the Spaniard was out of position at the start. Things got worse for Alonso after the national anthems of Mexico and Austria on the podium as he was hit with a further 10-second time penalty for serving his 5-second time penalty incorrectly. The post-race penalty for Alonso meant that Geroge Russell and Mercedes had their first podium of the season, which looked like a far off possibility based on the mood around the Mercedes paddock.

Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari had a great start as he was able to gain three places in no time after starting from P12 thanks to a penalty pertaining to the control electronics while Verstappen further behind from P15 had a steady opening to his race. A dummy call from the Ferrari pit-wall meant that Stroll of Aston Martin was the first of the front runners to come in to the pits for a change of tyres and it proved costly for him. Both Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc overcut the Canadian and were well ahead of him after the first round of stops and things got even worse for him as a mechanical issue forced him to retire which brought the safety car out.

It looked like there was no need for a safety car as Stroll seemed to park well of the track but an incorrect GPS indication from Stroll’s car meant that the inevitable has happened. Mercedes and Verstappen were one of the few to take advantage of the safety car and Ferrari were the ones to come out of it with a lot of bad luck. The race was pretty much decided at this point as Max’s pace proved to  be too fast for anyone else on the track apart from his teammate, who ultimately won the grandprix.

It was a good result for Alpine as both Ocon and Gasly finished in the points scoring positions at P8 and P9 respectively, with Kevin Magnussen in the Haas scoring the last available point after a feisty battle with Tsunoda towards the end of the race. His teammate Hulkenberg in the other Haas only managed a P12 just outside the points. Alfa Romeo have had a mixed race with Zhou Guanyu finishing in P13 while his teammate Bottas finished P18 and last of the running cars in the race.

McLaren might have thought that their fortunes have changed a little with Piastri starting P8 in the race but an tussle in the opening lap meant that the rookie driver needed a front wing change. It got worse for them when Norris came in the next lap as well with the same issue. This meant that the pair were running at the back of the grid for the large parts of the race and McLaren were forced to issue team orders when Piastri was faster than Norris. He then made it count by making a pass on fellow rookie driver Logan Sargeant in the Williams for P15, while Norris finished P17. Alex Albon in the other Williams had to retire with a break issue, making him the second driver to not be classified in the race. It was a decent outing for Alpha Tauri albeit it was without points as Tsunoda was P11 at the end and his teammate De Vries finished the race at P14.

With yet another Redbull 1-2 unfolding at Jeddah, it is going to take a mighty effort from the remaining frontrunners in Aston Martin, Mercedes and Ferrari to cause any damage to the bulls. It is still early in the season to think that Redbull could end up winning both the championships but the tone that has been set by them in the first two races certainly fits the thinking. The Australian Grandprix arrives in about two weeks time before F1 goes for almost a month’s break in April.

 

RedBull on Pole but no Front Row Lock Out

Perez took pole while his teammate suffered a driveshaft issue in Q2 meaning he will start P15. Alonso was unable to capitalise on his speed in practice, managing P3 with Leclerc getting P2 before his penalty is applied. This is how it happened during Qualifying.

Q1 began like normal, with the faster teams choosing to stay back while everyone else took to the track. It wasn’t long before the incidents started to bring out the yellow flags.

De Vries nearly caused the first red flag of Qualifying by locking up and spinning into turn 1. However, he was able to use the run-off and get his car going again.

With 10 minutes to go, Norris made contact with the wall on the way into turn 27. The team worked hard to get his car back out, hoping for a red flag but unfortunately, they couldn’t make it work. Norris will start in P19 and was forced to watch as his teammate went front strength to strength.

Alonso warming up for his spin. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Alonso went for a quick spin on his first fast-lap run. He managed to keep the car out of the wall by completing a full 360. He appeared to get on the power early out of turn 10, he overwhelmed the rears and went around.

There were plenty more mistakes in Q1 than in any of the practice sessions. The drivers were complaining about the track, saying it was not where they wanted it but had to stick to the strategy. The grip just wasn’t with them in the session after the Formula 2 race.

After having a lap time deleted for track limits at turn 27, Sargent spun, bringing out only a yellow flag as he got going again. He lit up the rears heading through turns 22 and 23 which he had been having problems with all weekend. 

Alpha Tauri tried to recover from De Vries’ incident but they seemed to be having poor luck in Jeddah. Both drivers were out in Q1 with Tsunoda in P16 and De Vries in P18.

Williams joined them with Albon couldn’t make it out of Q1 but qualified P17 while Sargent still had issues getting a lap together and damaged the car on his final run meaning he goes away in P20.

De Vries making his way around Jeddah. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Q2 has most people out on soft tyres, apart from RedBull, who at this point could potentially come out on the wet tyres and still go fastest.

9 minutes left and Verstappen came over the radio with what he thought was an engine issue. He managed to limp home for the team to have a look at the car and potentially solve the problem. However, within seconds of being back in the garage, the double-world champion was out of the car and out of qualifying. RedBull have since reported it as a driveshaft issue. Cue an angry Verstappen making his way through the pack on Sunday.

Meanwhile, his teammate set a lap time good enough for P2, just behind Alonso. Behind them, Sainz had a big moment narrowly missing the wall and being able to carry on. In P11 with only 2 minutes to go, it was very important for the Spaniard to put in a good lap.

Alfa Romeo and Haas went about qualifying very quietly but had strong sessions each. They made up the remainder of the eliminated cars from Q2, joining Verstappen. 

Out in Q2, Hulkenburg, Zhou, Magnussen, Bottas, and Verstappen.

Q3 seemed to be wide open now that Verstappen was out. However, we were looking at a potential pole for Alonso for the first time since 2012. Perez was out to stop that and pick up the pieces of his teammate’s problems.

The First runs were done, and Perez was half a second in front of Leclerc in P2 with Russell in P3. Alonso wasn’t far behind but it appeared there was more pace to come out from the only RedBull in the session. 

Both Alpines made it into the top 10 for a strong qualifying for both drivers after a not-so-great weekend in Bahrain. Ocon starts in P6 while Gasly starts in P9. Piastri joined them for his first Q3 session and made a good effort against his more experienced rivals, but starts P8 with Leclerc’s penalty.

Hamilton was not able to get the most out of the car. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Hamilton will not be pleased with starting P7. Still unable to adapt to the car properly while Russell starts in P3 after Leclerc’s penalty is applied. This was the story for the Silver Arrows during qualifying who had a generally mixed session. However, in a race that has a 100% chance of a safety car, they will be looking to use their reliability to gain points tomorrow. 

Ferrari had a decent qualifying for them, but none of that matters with Leclerc’s penalty. He will start P11 while Sainz will start P4, alongside Russell. If they want to mount a challenge on Verstappen and RedBull this season they will need to take advantage of having the reigning world champion behind them suffering from reliability issues.

Tomorrow will be an extremely interesting race to watch with Verstappen and Leclerc starting out of position and Alonso hunting down the remaining RedBull at the front of the pack. Can Russell take advantage of his good starting position or will Sainz get ahead? Will there be a safety car or red flag which changes the race, probably, but it’s worth watching to find out.

2023 F1 Testing Report/2023 Season Preview

Just a few months after the 2022 season finished with a victory for Max Verstappen and his RedBull team in both championships in what was their most dominant season ever, the F1 family arrived in Bahrain ready for just 3 days of testing before the new season would begin at the same circuit.

It was a very busy 3 days with the teams trying to get a grip on their new cars and hoping to see improvements from last year.

Testing times are always difficult to read with differing fuel loads, not knowing which engine modes are being used and teams even hiding their hands to not give too much away. However, you can always tell which teams are happy with their winter’s work and which ones are confused and wondering where they have gone wrong.

With no big rule changes this year, most cars would just be an evolution of last year’s car. The main rule change was the floor being lifted by 15mm, this would mean a loss of downforce but most teams would have recovered this already by the time the test ended. In fact, during the first morning of testing the cars were already beating last year’s times.

The quickest times from each day were ;

Day 1 – Max Verstappen – 1.32.837

Day 2 – Zhou Guanyu – 1.31.610

Day 3 – Sergio Perez – 1.30.305

Obviously, this time next week, times will be critical but as this is testing they are not the most important thing to look for. How many laps the teams do, reliability issues, how easily they switch each compound of tyre on, and how easily the balance can be changed are among the things teams will be looking at. With that in mind a summary of each team shows the following.

RedBull – 413 laps (Verstappen – 1.31.650  – Perez – 1.30.305)

Max Verstappen testing the RB19 on day one. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

The World Champions may not have completed the most laps but they had seemingly no problems during the three days, in fact, the biggest drama seemed to be when the car fell off the jack in the pitlane during one of the sessions. For the rest of the field, it looks ominous as they ran through 3 days of programmes without any issues and were quick on each compound of the tyre. It was very reminiscent of the early Hybrid era days when Mercedes used to pound round tracks for fun and be fastest even without trying for performance. In fact, Verstappen only used the C3 tyre for the whole test not feeling the need to use any of the softer compounds, yet looking quick at all times and having what looked the easiest car to control. 2023 could be yet another year of domination for the reigning champions.

Ferrari – 416 laps (Leclerc – 1.31.024 – Sainz – 1.31.036)

Last year’s runners-up started testing with the hope that stopping the development of last year’s car early to concentrate on this year would bring big rewards. To be fair Ferrari are one of the hardest teams to judge following testing. It seemed as if they didn’t go for performance runs at all but it also looked as if they took a few wrong directions with different setups during their race runs. There are no real reliability issues over the three days and no stand-out moments during the runs. The car looks fast but have they done enough to catch RedBull up or are they even further away at the start of the new season?

Both drivers seemed happy after the test so only time will tell.

Mercedes – 398 laps (Hamilton – 1.30.664 – Russell – 1.31.442)

Russell taking the W14 for a spin. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The 8 times World Champions had by their standards a shocking season in 2022 with their striking zero sidepod cars failing to live up to expectations. Going into this test the team have stuck with this concept hoping they have all the data to make the concept work. although the team did set some very competitive times the car looked very much on the edge and it seemed they were pushing harder than any other of the top teams. The test was by no means a disaster for them and they are definitely looking better than at this time last year but from this test, it looks as though they are further behind than at the end of last season when they looked to have clawed a lot of the deficit to RedBull and Ferrari back. If they are not in the top three next week they will be pinning all their hopes on a big upgrade already which is not how they would have wanted to start this season.

Alpine – 353 laps (Gasly – 1.32.762 – Ocon – 1.33.257)

The French Alpine team came to the test boasting of an improved engine and a much-improved car. Although the car looked the most twitchy of all on track and seemed to still be suffering from the dreaded porpoising the team sounded confident and most observers seemed impressed with them and the fact they didn’t seem to show their hand too much. This season could see them jump free from the midfield and with two very hungry drivers could be a surprise package this year.

Mclaren – 311 laps (Norris – 1.32.160 – Piastri – 1.33.175)

Piastri trying to get to grips with the car. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

McLaren had another poor test which seems to be the norm for the once-great team. With Piastri joining Norris this season the team had hoped they could move forward after a slightly disappointing 2022. Things didn’t start well when the front wheel winglets came loose and the team had to strengthen them before any more running could be done. The team confirmed they hadn’t hit their targets in the test and look to be starting the season on the backfoot already. Could they already be hoping a big upgrade coming early in the season would save their blushes?

Alfa Romeo – 401 laps (Bottas – 1.30.827 – Zhou – 1.31.610)

This time last year Alfa Romeo was suffering from reliability issues and was not looking good. Fast forward a year and although they had one major issue causing Bottas to stop on track and cause a red flag they look to be in good shape. Consistent running on all three days and even setting the fastest time on day 2 means the team could be looking at a very impressive start to the season with points a definite possibility at the early races.

Aston Martin – 387 laps (Alonso – 1.31.450 – Drugovich – 1.32.075)

The new and improved Aston Martin at the hands of Alonso. Image courtesy of AMF1 Media

Possibly the biggest talking point of the test was Aston Martin, Just before the test it was announced Lance Stroll would not be taking part thanks to an injury caused by a cycling accident whilst training. The team haven’t announced his injuries, but he could miss not only the first race but also a few after that. This would leave the majority of testing to new driver Fernando Alonso with reserve driver Felipe Drugovich also taking part. The missing Stroll didn’t seem to stop the team as they look to have made a massive step forward with a revolutionary new car. Not only could they set quick one-off lap times but in fact on Alonso’s race run on the final day not only did he have little tyre degradation but his times made him the third-quickest driver over a race distance. The team look to be in a very good place and even with the doubts over Stroll, they must be looking forward to a very competitive start to the season.

Haas – 414 laps (Magnussen – 1.31.381 – Hulkenberg – 1.32.466)

In 2022 Haas made a very competitive start to the season and although they slipped back down the order through the season they moved away from the back end of the field that they had made their own in previous seasons. During this test, the team looked to have maintained their speed with a car performing well with Magnussen and the returning Nico Hulkenberg at the wheel. They will be hoping they can score some early points before teams on the back foot bring upgrades and NPC doubt overhaul them.

Alpha Tauri – 456 laps (De Vries – 1.32.222 – Tsunoda – 1.31.261)

The team that completed the most laps of the three days. Setting some decent times, they clearly used their 2 drivers to test different setups each day which was showed by the difference in their times each day. Obviously, they have a reliable car which was proven by the number of laps they completed. Another team with a new pairing this season but the fact they have 2 drivers who need to outshine each other to move their careers forwards should help the team have some very competitive outings this season. With rumours in the paddock that the team might be sold this season they will be looking to put on an impressive start to the season.

Williams – 439 laps (Albon – 1.32.793 – Sargeant – 1.32.549)

The last few years for Williams have seen them become the team at the back more often than not. This season could see them move forward, Probably not into the midfield but at the very least clinging to their coat tales. They ran reliably over the 3 days which is always a good starting point and Alex Albon has a proven quick driver who is more than capable of solid results. They will need Logan Sergeant to be up to speed immediately if they are to move forward. All in all, it looks like Williams could finally be moving away from the back of the grid this season.

Williams appeared to make the most gains from last season’s testing. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

With the first race of the season being held at the same track in a week’s time the paddock didn’t have the usual rush to pack everything away so will no doubt spend the next week going over all the data and looking where they can find more speed for next weekend and also where to start looking for development.

The longest season ever is ahead of them, so the teams will know they have time to work through developments and make sure they go in the right direction for the season.

With RedBull looking not only quick but reliable, they will be the happiest of all the teams. Ferrari will be hoping to keep them honest and Mercedes could still be in the hunt from the first race. 2023 promises more surprises and entertainment and in just a week’s time, we will know who has got it right and who needs to go back to the drawing board.

F1 IS BACK.

 

 

 

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