F1 Weekend Preview: Singapore

After two weeks off we head to the streets of Singapore for a night race which we haven’t been to since 2019. There is the possibility that Verstappen could wrap up the championship while most of the talk in the paddock will be about the changes in the driver market.

2023 driver line-up is all change

Whilst there is still a gap at Alpine after the Alonso/Piastri incident, there have been extensions and exits from other teams along the grid.

Tsunoda has his contact extended for 2023. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool.

Zhou was confirmed at Alfa Romeo for 2023 as well as an extension announced for Tsunoda over at Alpha Tauri. The interest in the Alpa Tauri drivers is likely to continue because, despite an announcement earlier in the season saying Gasly is staying, there has been significant interest in his seat as there is increasing pace in the rumours behind Gasly’s move to Alpine, but there has been no official confirmation of this.

One of the other interesting and slightly more inevitable announcements was the exit of Latifi from Williams at the end of the 2022 season. This was a long await change as Latifi hasn’t been performing to the same level as his teammates, and since the takeover of the team by Dorilton, they no longer need his money.

However, the timing of the announcement would suggest that the weekend in Monza sealed his fate. After Albon, unfortunately, had appendicitis he had to miss out on the race weekend, allowing Nyck de Vries to step in. While the race itself ended in an anti-climax behind the safety car, de Vries was able to finish his first F1 race in P9, comfortably ahead of Latifi and therefore bringing plenty of questions before Williams announced his exit from the team.

Nyck de Vries putting in a solid performance in Monza. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Can Verstappen round off the championship?

RedBull and Verstappen have had an incredible run of form recently, winning five races back to back and 11 races this season meaning Verstappen could wrap up the driver’s championship this weekend if the race goes in Verstappen’s favour.

The things to look out for is that if Verstappen wins without the fastest lap, Leclerc needs to finish P9 or lower and Perez needs to finish P5 or lower. If Verstappen wins with the fastest lap then Leclerc needs to be P8 or lower and Perez needs to be P4 or lower for Verstappen to win.

Considering the reliability and poor strategy calls of Ferrari, this situation is not out of the question. For Perez, RedBull will simply play the team game to make sure Verstappen secures the championship sooner rather than later.

F1 Weekend Preview: Monza

The final race of this triple header takes us back to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. It could be a homecoming for Ferrari which is dominated by the RedBull pace and an emergent Mercedes proving to be championship competitors towards the end of the season.

Who can stop Verstappen?

Verstappen was victorious at his home GP again. Image courtesy of RedBull content Pool

Verstappen and RedBull have put on a dominant display of pace and strategy in the two races after the summer break, extending their lead in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships. In Belgium, Verstappen was almost in his own league which was positive for them heading into Monza.

However, with Perez not having a great weekend in Zandvoort and Leclerc making it onto the podium, Leclerc has moved in P2 in the driver’s championship but is still 108 points back from the reigning world champion.

Ferrari will want to try and impress in front of their home fans, but their overall speed has dropped since the change in regulations and further messed-up strategy calls have made it difficult for the team to catch up to RedBull. Their Sainz pitstop issues in Zandvoort added to their lack of points and have now brought Mercedes into contention for P2 in both championships.

Having been very much battling for a win in Zandvoort on actual pace Mercedes will want to take that momentum forward with them. If it weren’t for the VSC and full safety car Hamilton could have had a win this year. Despite this, they will be cautious going into Monza because it hasn’t always been a track that has suited their car.

The battle for fourth hots up

Alpine and McLaren battling in Zandvoort. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Alpine and McLaren are locked in the fight to finish highest of the midfield teams by the end of the season. Currently Alpine is 24 points ahead in P4 going into Monza where engine power is important on the high-speed track.

Alonso has finished in the top 10 in the last 10 races which has helped Alpine to that P4 spot, however, Norris has got some good momentum and is the best of the rest in P7 in the championship. The teams are fairly evenly matched, but their performances are still unpredictable, making it exciting for fans to watch.

McLaren goes into Monza with memories of last year’s 1-2 finish and will want to bring that pace and teamwork back to the track this year with the aim of leaving Italy ahead of Alpine in the constructors’ championship.

F1 Weekend Preview: The Summer Break is Over!

The summer break is over and we are back in Belgium to find out if Ferrari can make a dent in RedBull’s championship charge, or if Mercedes can create a three-way fight to the end. The technical rule changes and driver market changes will certainly bring talking points throughout the weekend.

Technical changes

During the summer break, the FIA announced they had confirmed a few rule changes which are set to create waves in the paddock.

Lewis Hamilton at Baku where he suffered back pain from porpoising. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

The first is in response to the porpoising or vertical oscillations which began to bring driver safety concerns at some circuits like Baku. The FIA has decided to step in and have outlined a new metric where porpoising is acceptable. Anything outside of these limits could now result in penalties for the teams.

The biggest change could be the rule changes to the floor by introducing flexibility tests. The FIA announced that they would make changes to redefine the stiffness requirements of plank and skids around the thickness measurement holes. This is to prevent any floor-related design which might navigate around the intention of the regulations. This potentially could have the biggest effect on performance so will be fascinating to see how it affects the cars.

Silly Season has begun

With the driver market causing chaos over the summer break, it is good to know where everyone stands heading into Belgium.

Vettel to retire at the end of 2022. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

It all started with Sebastian Vettel announcing he was going to retire at the end of 2022 just before the Hungarian Grand Prix. The morning after the Hungarian GP Alonso announced he would replace Vettel at Aston Martin, which seemed to come as a shock to Alpine.

This is where it gets messy. Alpine then made an odd announcement that Oscar Piastri would be driving for them in 2023, but the statement had no quotes from the driver. Only a few hours later Piastri put out a statement saying he would not be driving for the French team, appearing to confirm rumours that he has been in talks with McLaren.

This would appear to make Daniel Ricciardo available to race next season, and with Haas, Williams, and Alfa Romeo yet to confirm their lineups they could secure themselves an experienced driver from McLaren. However, it has not been confirmed where Piastri is driving next season, so paddock talk will likely be all about the driver market.

A Three-way fight

Ferrari has hopefully used the summer break to re-focus and sort out their reliability and strategy issues. They will need an almost flawless second half of the season to stop RedBull and Max Verstappen from storming away with the championship.

However, Mercedes have been quietly making their way into the fight. They have been the most reliable car and have been consistently picking up podiums for the last seven rounds. They appear to have mostly got on top of the issues that plagued them at the beginning of the season and, with the possible performance changes with the new regulations, they could become a real contender towards the end of the season. For them, they can now focus on their pace which will need to improve to be with the teams ahead.

Mercedes double podium at the French GP. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Qualifying is on at 3pm BST and the race starts at 2pm BST.

F1’s silly season goes into overdrive

Although Sebastian Vettel’s retirement announcement on Thursday was a surprise to many, it wasn’t wholly unexpected. Few, however, could have predicted the events that have transpired since.

Aston Martin admitted to being caught unaware by Vettel’s retirement, with team principal Mike Krack talking only weeks ago about retaining the four-time world champion for another season. The rumours seemed to suggest that they would be replacing one German with another, with Mick Schumacher and current Aston Martin reserve Nico Hulkenberg being the main names touted for the seat.

It’s safe to say, therefore, that Monday’s announcement that Fernando Alonso would be extending his record-breaking career in green, rather than the blue and pink of Alpine, came almost out of nowhere. There had been mumblings that the Spaniard was considering a move out of Enstone for a third time, but many thought that a one-year extension for Alonso was a done deal. Even the 41-year-old said it would only take ’10 minutes’ to sort out a new contract with the French squad, but there was clearly some stumbling block in the background to force Fernando to go for a change.

Oscar Piastri testing for Alpine at the end of 2021. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

If Aston were surprised by Vettel’s announcement, Alonso’s left Alpine astounded. Team principal Otmar Szafnauer found out at the same time as everyone else, which is likely to lead to a very awkward meeting once the summer break is over. Once crumb of comfort for Otmar however, would have come with the fact that this freed up the seat for their junior driver Oscar Piastri, and it was announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he would be driving alongside Ocon in 2023.

As soon as the announcement was posted, however, questions started to be asked. There were no quotes from Piastri in the announcement. The tweet only spoke about how he was being ‘promoted’ into a race seat, not that he had signed any formal contract. And sure enough, just short of two hours later, the reigning F2 champion announced that he had not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023, and would not be driving for them next year. But how did Alpine get themselves into this mess?

Midway through last season, Esteban Ocon signed a contract for 2024 with the Enstone-based team. The plan seemed simple, keep Piastri in F2 for two seasons, and promote him once Alonso retired at the end of 2022. Problem one came when Piastri won the F2 championship, rendering him ineligible for the series this year. Problem two came with the fact that Alonso had no intention of leaving the sport just yet. Both are nice problems to have, but three into two doesn’t go, and frustrations were building in the background.

It looks like these frustrations have boiled over in the past week, and the lid will not be going back on this pot any time soon. Alonso feels his performances deserve more than a one-year contract, but as Alpine wanted to keep Piastri, this is all he was going to get. Other teams have picked up on this dilly-dallying from Alpine, with McLaren (who had the option to use Piastri as a reserve this season) allegedly swooping in to sign the highly rated 21-year-old for 2023, as a replacement for Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo winning in Monza in 2021. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

This isn’t the only contract shenanigans that McLaren finds themselves in at the moment. Over in IndyCar, reigning champion Alex Palou is being sued by his current team Chip Ganassi Racing, after they announced that he would be driving for them, prompting him to announce that he would be driving McLaren. If Palou and Piastri both end up in papaya next season, this gives them a glut of talent across IndyCar and F1, with their lineup for Formula E next season also yet to be announced.

It is possible then, that Alpine will have an Australian driving for them next season, just not the one they expected. Daniel Ricciardo did a stellar job in the yellow of Renault in 2020, and apart from a win in Monza last season has not looked close to the driver he was during his two-year spell with the French marque. The 33-year-old has made it clear he wants to stay in F1 next year, and this may well be his only opportunity.

Aston Martin fighting amongst themselves for the last points position in Hungary 2022. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

But let’s go back to how this all started. Sebastian Vettel clearly didn’t see enough progress at Aston Martin to convince him to stay in Formula One. His father said that the decision was made in Austria, where he qualified last and was involved in incidents in both races, which is enough to make anyone question their motivation. So if he’s not seen any positives, what has made Alonso take one last (presuming he does retire at the end of 2024) throw of the dice?

Next year’s Aston will be the first car to have the fingerprint of Dan Fallows on it. As a member of the aerodynamics department at Red Bull (and eventually the head of aero), Fallows was involved in the Milton Keynes-based team’s dominant run in the early noughties, as well as their recent resurgence. Joining Aston at the start of the season meant he was never able to have a massive impact on the 2022 car, although the new rear wing shown off at Hungary suggests he has some radical ideas to move the team up from the lower end of the order. Being ninth in the championship also means Aston Martin will get more wind tunnel time than nearly all their rivals, invaluable at any time but especially in this modern era of Formula One.

Vettel’s retirement brings to an end one of the most successful careers of all time, with only Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher securing more wins than Sebastian. He will certainly be missed in the F1 paddock, and it is ironic that for a man who doesn’t like the spotlight away from the track, his departure has delivered plenty of drama for fans to discuss over the summer break.

F1 Weekend Preview: Hungary Grand Prix

The last race before the summer break takes us to Hungary, a track that last year produced carnage at the start and one of the strangest restarts in history with only Hamilton taking the lights on the grid. Ferrari has it all to do so that they can go into the summer break with some positive energy in the team.

Hungarian GP 2021

Chaos at the start. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Last year saw the race start wet, which meant everyone started on intermediates but created chaos at the start. Bottas got a poor start but couldn’t slow down fast enough for turn one, hitting the back of Norris. This created a chain reaction, Norris hit Verstappen, Bottas hit Perez and behind them, Stroll had crashed into Leclerc, who hit Ricciardo.

This created a red flag, allowing the track to dry, and on the formation lap to the restart grid, all drivers apart from Hamilton dived into the pits to get slick tyres, creating one of the weirdest standing starts in Formula 1 history.

The race itself is known as an exciting track with plenty of overtaking opportunities and a great place to rack up some decent points for the championship.

Ferrari’s strategy calls in question… again

It’s no secret that in the last few years Ferrari has managed to build a reputation for making strategic decisions that often get in their own way. The French GP was no exception to this.

Sainz putting in a solid performance from P19. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

After losing Leclerc from the race early on, they only had to focus on Sainz, who was making great progress through the field and looked on pace for a podium. However, with 10 laps to go Ferrari decided to pit him for fresh tyres. He was on the mediums, and it was questionable if they would make it to the end, but Sainz was at a good pace and had just past Perez in P4.

These calls have now created a situation where Ferrari will need an almost flawless performance from now on. For Leclerc who is now 63 points behind Verstappen, he needs a clean weekend to take that confidence into the summer break

Double podium Mercedes

Mercedes had their first double podium since the Saudi Arabian GP in 2021. They are currently the most reliable team on the grid, and at their fastest, they have been able to pick up podiums when the top two falter.

However, they are now consistently on the pace and fight for the podium places now merit. Hamilton seems to have returned to his performance after a shaky first part of the season and Russell is still consistent. Hungary has always been a happy hunting ground for them, so they will want to replicate their past success.

Alpine is at the top of the midfield pack

The end of an epic battle. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Alpine has fond memories of the Hungarian GP last year, Ocon got his first win in Formula 1 and Alonso had an epic battle with Hamilton, helping out his teammate from the charging Silver Arrow. This year they appeared to have a faster car to bring to the fight.

In France, Alpine definitely had the measure of its closest championship rival, McLaren. Alonso appeared to taunt the papaya behind him and finished P6, while his teammate finished in P8 after an early incident with Tsunoda.

However, they are only four points ahead and McLaren seems to be having unpredictable performances. Alpine can’t rely on that pace alone with the midfield battle so close.

Verstappen dominates wet Canadian GP qualifying

Max Verstappen was fastest in all three parts of qualifying as he took his second pole position of the season at the Canadian GP, as his teammate Sergio Perez crashed out in qualifying.

The Mexican driver will have to fight his way up from thirteenth on the grid, as will Charles Leclerc, who starts nineteenth after power unit penalties. Towards the front, it was Verstappen who adapted best to the changeable conditions, as he took pole position by seven tenths of a second from Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, with Carlos Sainz putting his Ferrari third on the grid.

George Russell setting early pace in the wet. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Conditions at the start of qualifying were similar to the morning’s free practice session, with visibility extremely limited in the full wet conditions. George Russell set the early pace with a 1:36, over 20 seconds slower than what the cars managed in Friday’s dry running. Impressively, there were no major incidents in the first part of qualifying, but turn one proved to be particularly tricky thanks to a massive puddle on the apex, which stubbornly remained throughout the entirety of qualifying.

Leclerc did get through to the second part of qualifying, which will allow him to start ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who also has multiple penalties for exceeding his power unit allowance. The biggest shock of the first qualifying stage was the lack of pace from the Aston Martins, especially given that Sebastian Vettel was third in FP3. Both him and Lance Stroll failed to make Q2, along with the two Alpha Tauris and Nicolas Latifi, in his first home race since joining Williams in 2020.

Strategies were mixed at the start of Q2, with the inters proving to be faster, but only if you could keep it on the drying line. Alexander Albon failed to do this into turn six, sliding slowly towards the barrier, but was able to escape with only a broken front wing. Perez, on the other hand, was less lucky. A much harder hit into turn four wedged the Mexican’s wing under the TecPro barrier, bringing out the only red flag of the session, meaning Perez missed out on the top 10 for the first time since the Qatar GP last November.

Once the car had been removed (and the barriers repaired), everyone was out on the intermediates. It was Verstappen who found pace instantly, going 1.3s faster than the field on his first run. As the track continued to dry, and the drivers gained confidence, the lap times plummeted, and it was clear that whoever was the last car across the line would have the best conditions. Unfortunately for Lando Norris, a power unit issue meant he spent most of the session in the pitlane, and once he was out on track all was still not well with the McLaren, meaning the Brit starts in fourteenth. Joining him and Perez on the sidelines for Q3 were Valtteri Bottas, Albon, Perez and Leclerc (who stayed in the pits for the whole of Q2).

Verstappen was fastest out of the blocks again in the top-10 shootout, going more than a second faster than the Spanish duo of Sainz and Alonso, and remaining ahead even after huge improvements on their second laps. Most of the track was dry at this point, apart from the aforementioned standing water into turn one, which discouraged all drivers but one from choosing slick tyres for their final run.  George Russell was the brave individual who went for the soft tyres, but it was clear that the first few corners were just too wet, as his Mercedes slid into the wall at turn two. He was able to continue, but could not improve on his first intermediate run.

The top three on Saturday. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The final laps looked like being a Red Bull-Ferrari shootout, with Verstappen and Sainz separated by hundredths in the first two sectors. One slight mistake out of the final chicane by Sainz proved to be costly, and allowed Alonso to jump onto the front row for the first time since the German GP in 2012, 3,619 days ago.

Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes in fourth position, but the surprise package of qualifying was the Haas team, with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher looking quick throughout, and they shared the third row of the grid, with sixth for Schumacher being a career best. Esteban Ocon was seventh in his Alpine, ahead of Russell, Daniel Ricciardo and Zhou Guanyu, who was delighted to secure his first Q3 appearance in Formula One.

The race is expected to start in dry conditions, but the track may still be ‘green’ given the lack of dry running on Saturday. Verstappen is in the ideal position to extend his championship lead given that his two closest rivals are outside the top 10, and he will certainly be expecting to see the chequered flag first for the fifth time in six races.

F1 Weekend Preview: Montreal is back!

After the inevitable drama in Baku, we move on to Canada for the first time since 2019. RedBull look to keep up momentum while Ferrari will need to investigate power unit issues. Mercedes had serious problems with porpoising on the long straights and want to change that for Montreal.

Ferrari’s Reliability Issues

Baku produced its normally unpredictability this year but this time with less safety cars and more reliability issues. We only had two Virtual Safety Cars for the entire race, but each was caused by what looked like a failing Ferrari engine.

It was a Sunday to forget for the team in red when both cars DNF’d with engine issues. Carlos Sainz had technical issues in lap 16 but his teammate had an engine blow up about 20 laps in. This was the second time that Charles Leclerc had been leading the race comfortably this season when reliability became a problem.

For Ferrari though this wasn’t just isolated to their own cars, other Ferrari powered cars had to retire with similar issues to the factory team. Magnussen and Zhou both appeared to have engine problems, forcing them to retire from the race. For Haas in particular this was a loss of any points from the race with Schumacher not able to push the car forward.

Ferrari will look to bounce back with extra strength if they want to outperform RedBull, who have a very strong car for the rest of the season. Ferrari have good one lap pace with Leclerc taking pole at six of the eight races this year, but on race pace RedBull have the edge. Ferrari need this to change.

Mercedes Bouncing into Canada

Lewis Hamilton telling his team he was OK despite physical back pain from the race. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

It was obvious that down the main straights Mercedes had the worst of the porpoising in Baku. The set up wasn’t right and after the race Lewis Hamilton had to exit his car very carefully with what looked like serious back pain.

Despite a podium, Mercedes and many drivers have spoken about getting the FIA involved with the issue which is now causing a safety concern for the drivers. However, those teams who haven’t been as badly effected suggest it’s a design flaw which can be dsigned out of the car.

Regardless of what happens with the FIA, Mercedes now have to tackle Canada, with the long straights towards the end of the lap we could see a repeat of the extreme bouncing and bottoming out of the cars. For them they will want to set the car up to get rid of the problem as much as possible without affecting performance.

The Midfield Battle Getting Tasty

It’s no secret that the most exiting battles between cars often happens in the midfield where everyone is fighting for the same 5 positions. This year the teams race much closer together with different cars performing well at different tracks.

In Baku Alpine seemed to be the midfield team everyone had to get past. They had impressive race pace, particularly down the straights where they seemed to be able to use DRS to pass cars with ease. Vettel often found himself behind Ocon trying to overtake and had a great, race long, battle with him.

Canada is normally needing a lower downforce set up to have maximum performance, testing the driver’s precision around some of the tight walls and corners. This could play nicely into Alpine’s hands where we could see them walk away with a large haul of points.

Qualifying starts at 9pm BST on Saturday and the race starts at 7pm BST on Sunday.

2022 Spanish GP

The Spanish Grand Prix brings us round 6 of this years World Championship. The season so far has been a story of Ferrari versus RedBull, with this race being the race where the first major upgrades are brought to the cars would we see a change in the pecking order, would Mercedes be back in the hunt for wins? A scorching day in Barcelona would bring us all the answers we have been waiting for.

The front row had Leclerc and Verstappen again and could deliver us a titanic battle into turn one. Strategy would be key in the hot weather and whoever looks after their tyres the best would surely go on to win the race.

Home favourite Fernando Alonso took an engine penalty and would start from last, the 2 time world champion promising to give it everything and put on a show for his adoring fans. Could his popular compatriot Carlos Sainz improve his form after an indifferent start to his season, a win not impossible for the Spaniard. Everyone will start on the soft tyre apart from Lewis Hamilton who chose to start on the mediums.

The front 2 clearly ahead of the rest on the start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Lights out and the battle to the first corner was between the front two, they came through the first turns in the same order that they started.  Russell up to third. Hamilton then had a collision with Magnussen who tried to go around him on the outside of turn 4 causing a puncture with Magnussen into the gravel. Both drivers pitting at the end of the first lap.

At the start of Lap 5 Bottas went around the outside to Mick Schumacher into turn one. Alonso in the Alpine already up to P14, plenty of overtaking moves so far including a great pass from Alonso again on Sebastian Vettel. Sainz then makes a big mistake and spins into the gravel at turn 4 putting him down in 11th.

At the start of lap 9 Max Verstappen also lost it at turn 4 and went into the gravel, returning to the track in 4th. The RedBull team telling him it was a gust of wind. Russell now ahead of both RedBulls and clearly holding them up, RedBull clearly order Perez to let Verstappen through to see if he can make any ground on the Mercedes.

Ricciardo overtaken by hos teammate early on. Image courtesy pf Pirelli F1 Press Room

The McLaren of Ricciardo is falling down the order with the Aussie now down on 15th after pitting for fresh soft tyres. Lap 13 and Norris pits in his McLaren returning to the track in 9th place ahead of Sainz in the Ferrari. Both Russell and Verstappen pitted together, the world champion would need to get passed quickly to try and salvage his race. The RedBull struggling with an intermittent DRS fault meaning Verstappen couldn’t  get to close to the Mercedes on the main straight. The world champion looking very ragged in the RedBull complaining on the radio that they should be able to get the DRS working.

Leclerc up front still hadn’t pitted at the start of lap 20 and led by 30 seconds from Russell and Verstappen. The top 10 completed by Perez, Bottas, Ocon, Sainz, Vettel, Norris and Tsunoda. Alonso now up to 11th after starting last in his Alpine. Hamilton in the Mercedes seemingly with damage as he has only moved back to 16th.

Lap 22 and Leclerc finally pits, a great stop by the Ferrari team at 2.2 seconds, he returns to the track with 4.6 second lead but he now has tyres 8 laps fresher than the cars behind him.

At the start of lap 24 Hamilton pits for new medium tyres but falls down to 19th. Verstappen makes a move into turn one but Russell hangs him out to dry and makes him go the long way around and he can’t quite do it. Great defending by George Russell. Anyone who thought this race would be boring was very wrong. Perez now behind Verstappen asking the team to get him out of the way.

Suddenly Leclerc has trouble and the Ferrari is limping back to the pits, The first DNF of the season for the championship leader. Russell now leads in the Mercedes, Verstappen still struggling to find a way by the slower Mercedes.

Back down the field Lance Stroll again runs out of talent and spins after contact with the Alpha Tauri into turn one. RedBull decide to pit Verstappen dropping him to 4th but in clean air. Surely a 3 stop is now on the cards. Russell now out front ahead of Perez but the Mexican goes straight passed at the first attempt. His team mate now back up to 3rd, just 13 seconds behind.

At half distance this race is between the two RedBulls but seeing as team orders were clearly used earlier surely it is Verstappens race to lose now. As he closes on Russell the Brit pits in his Mercedes. The two RedBulls now leading the pack just 6 seconds apart. Perez pits the very next lap for mediums, returning to the track clear of Russell in the Mercedes. Further down the field Lando Norris is now up to 8th position despite feeling unwell this weekend.

Perez making a move on Russell. Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool

Hamilton in the Mercedes is currently the quickest car bar the RedBulls and showing that the Mercedes does in fact have quite a lot of pace which shows well for the rest of the season, the 7 time world champion now up to 6th.

Lap 45 and Verstappen pits for what surely is the last time. He comes back out ahead of Russell, just 5 seconds behind his team mate. Sainz in the sole remaining Ferrari also pits for the 3rd time. He is now 7th, another disappointing show from the Ferrari driver.

Lap 49 and RedBull tell Perez to let Verstappen passed for the lead, The Mexican agreeing but not very happy with the order.

Mercedes pit Russell again for fresh soft tyres, he remains in 3rd and on for a podium, RedBull bring Perez back in also to protect his 2nd position.

The rest of the field seems to have settled with a few battles developing for the back end of the top ten before the end of the race.

With 10 laps to go Verstappen leads from Perez, Russell, Bottas, Sainz, Hamilton, Ocon, Norris, Alonso, Schumacher, Tsunoda, Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Stroll, Magnussen, Latifi and Albon with the only 2 retirements being Leclerc and Zhou.

Hamilton making moves. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton were running within a second of each other at the start of lap 58. Sainz is straight passed down the main straight, Hamilton then drives around the outside of turn three to overtake his former team mate. The Brit in his Mercedes clearly on a mission after the disappointment of lap one. His sights now clearly on the Ferrari ahead. He swoops around the outside of the Ferrari into turn one, a great drive today from Hamilton that might stop all the Netflix fans saying he’s finished.

After 66 laps Verstappen crossed the line as the race winner and also takes the lead of the world championship, he is followed over the line by Perez and the Mercedes of George Russell, Sainz is fourth after taking Hamilton one lap from the end due the Mercedes having to lift and coast for the last few laps, Hamilton finishes fifth ahead of Bottas, Ocon, Norris, Alonso and Tsunoda rounding out the top ten.

The rest of the classified finishers were Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Schumacher, Stroll, Latifi, Magnussen and Albon.

Probably the best Spanish Grand Prix since 1991, plenty of overtaking and battles throughout the field all race long. The next stop on the F1 circus is Monaco, obviously we wont have the amount of overtaking that we did here but every lap has jeopardy and so anything can happen.

 

F1 Weekend Preview: The Sprint is Back!

This weekend we see the return of the sprint race which had mixed reviews last year. However, they have been a few changes to the rules and couple of new hosts in an attempt to make the sprint race format work better for 2022.

The sprint race is still a 100km dash to the line with no mandatory stops. There are still only 3 races on the calendar which will host the event as sanction by the FIA because the teams are also getting to grips with the new regulations. This year Imola and Austria will join Brazil in hosting an event which allowed Hamilton his 25 place come back over last season.

Hamilton gaining places in Sao Paulo during the sprint in 2021. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

There have been two major changes to note, the first is the points for the sprint race. In 2021, only the top 3 drivers would get points, with P1 getting the maximum of 3 points. For this year the top eight drivers will get points, with P1 getting a more desirable 8 points down to P8 who will get 1 point. This means that there is a maximum of 34 points available to the drivers in one weekend (win sprint race, Grand Prix and fastest lap).

The other thing which caused much confusion amongst fans was that the winning driver of the sprint was awarded pole for the weekend. This year, the FIA and Formula 1 have out their heads together and decided common sense means that pole is now to be awarded to the fastest driver in the qualifying session on Friday. They will start the sprint race on pole and the winner of the sprint will start the Grand Prix on pole. Much simpler.

Imola sprint top 3 Imola 2021. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Ferrari’s Home Ground – Part 1

This will be the third time in as many years we have had two Italian races on the calendar, and with Ferrari at the top with seemingly nothing to stop them, the tifosi definitely have something to shout about now. So is there anyone that can stop them?

Max Verstappen finally broke his ‘Italian curse’ at Imola last year but in 2022 his car appears to be less reliable despite its pace. This adds an element of unpredictability to the Red Bull race weekend, and at 46 points behind Leclerc, Verstappen will be looking to take advantage of the sprint race.

Sergio Perez is currently the most consistent Red Bull driver, picking up the podium at Albert Park last weekend. However, as the only definite second driver on the grid at the moment he will be used to help out Verstappen when his car is working properly.

Sergio Perez on the podium in Melbourne 2022. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

A loss for Red Bull means a Mercedes gain as they have been there to pick up podiums when they became available. They are, however, still struggling to tame the porpoising enough to get the full potential out of the car. Mercedes did make some improvements in Albert Park though so they will be looking to capitalise on any positive developments they can make.

Alpine’s have been really solid so far this season, and if it weren’t for a bit of luck in Melbourne then Alonso may have had a closer fight to Verstappen as his car gets faster. McLaren also took a big jump in Australia. They were competing for the last few positions in rounds one and two, but they finished P5 and P6 respectively at Melbourne.

McLarens putting in a solid performance in Melbourne 2022. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

It will be an interesting weekend with the return of the sprint under the new regulations, as well as improvements for teams up and down the paddock as they start to get used to the 2022 cars.

Qualifying starts 4pm GMT on Friday, the Sprint is 3:30pm GMT on Saturday and the Race starts 2pm GMT on Sunday.

F1’s latest rivalry revs up once again

When Formula One’s new regulations were revealed for the 2022 season, it was with the hope that it would lead to closer, more exciting racing. Two races in, they’ve certainly delivered.

In Bahrain, it was the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc who came out on top as the Scuderia secured a 1-2, after late race breakdowns for both Red Bulls left them pointless. There were no such issues for the reigning champions in Jeddah though, as Max Verstappen kickstarted his championship defence with a hard-fought, and well-thought, victory.

Once again, the top two toyed with each other when it came to using DRS on multiple occasions. Verstappen made the first move into the final corner, but as we saw a week ago, Leclerc was able to instantly fight back on the next straight. Thus began the cat and mouse games that might define this generation of Formula One. Just one lap later, neither driver wanted to cross the all important detection line into Turn 27 first, with the Monegasque driver catching Verstappen napping, and briefly being able to build a one-second lead. When Verstappen got back within DRS range however, Leclerc was powerless to stop the Red Bull driver marching to his first victory, and first points of the season.

The final few laps at Jeddah 2022. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Many expected Verstappen and Leclerc to be stars of the future from the moment they set foot in an F1 car, and it looks like this season will be the first time we get to see them fight consistently against each other at the front. Admittedly, the ‘fights’ have so far been fairly straightforward DRS overtakes. Albert Park, home of the next race in two weeks time, is usually a much tougher place to pass, so might see Max and Charles get closer than they have done so far this season, perhaps even repeating their antics from Spielberg and Silverstone in 2019.

Those previous battles three years ago might be why we’re seeing a tamer Verstappen than we saw last year. He knows that Leclerc isn’t afraid to get his elbows out, whereas Lewis was more likely to try and avoid contact at any cost. It would not be surprising if this year’s top two send carbon fibre flying on more than one occasion throughout the remaining twenty-one races.

The battle between Max and Charles which entertained us all at Silverstone 2019. Image courtesy of Red Bull content Pool

So far, it is one each between Max and Charles, but it could have been so different. Sergio Perez was unlucky with a pit-stop the lap before Nicolas Latifi found the barrier and brought out the safety car, turning a possible victory for the Mexican into a lonely race to fourth. His misfortune promoted Carlos Sainz onto the podium for the third consecutive race, but this was another weekend where the Spaniard looked off the pace compared to his teammate. The battle between the ‘number twos’ could be crucial in determining the destination of both champions this year, especially on any weekend when one team has a clear pace advantage.

The midfield entertained as always, with both Alpines adding many grey hairs to team principals Otmar Szaufner’s head in the opening laps. Kevin Magnussen also pulled off some good moves, but the early safety car meant that anyone that was starting on the hard tyres would be on the back foot when it came to strategy.

This was also the case for Lewis Hamilton, on arguably his most difficult weekend (pace-wise) in the hybrid era. One point will be scant consolation for the seven-time world champion, with George Russell coming home in fifth. Barring any issues for Red Bull or Ferrari, a porpoising fix, or performance found in a ‘reliability’ engine upgrade, it looks like fifth will be the best the Brackley team can manage over the next few races.

The leading Mercedes of George Russell at Jeddah. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Sunday’s race passed without any controversy, which definitely couldn’t be said about last years. Once again though, the track proved to be brutally punishing, with Mick Schumacher and Cem Bolukbasi both missing their races after heavy accidents at Turn 12. These crashes, and the missile strike at the nearby Aramco refinery during Friday practice, will quite rightly raise questions about the wisdom of holding a race in Saudi Arabia.

No matter who you support, perhaps the best news from this weekend is that it is over, and everyone is able to leave safely.

 

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