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.

 

Verstappen victorious in Round 2 of Ferrari vs Red Bull

Verstappen wins a good race in Jeddah after a safety car meant Perez dropped positions behind both Ferrari’s.

We started off today one car down with Haas deciding to run only 1 car after Mick Schumacher’s crash in qualifying. Schumacher is ok but they were worried that if he had another crash they wouldn’t have enough parts to go to Australia with.

Just when we thought we would get a 19 car grid Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari had an issue with an hour to go. Fortunately for him they fixed problem and he made to the grid. However, whist on the way to the grid to join Sainz, Tsunoda stopped on track with an engine issue therefore having to miss the start of the race.

Lights out and everyone managed to get away clean. Verstappen got a great start getting down the inside of turn 1 to then sweep around the outside of Sainz at turn 2, putting him in P3. Zhou seemingly had the same problem as Bottas last week with a poor start meaning several drivers past him and into turn 1 he was late on the brakes, tapping the back wheel of Ricciardo but coming out worse off.

Lap 4 and the alpines were locked in a battle between themselves. Alonso had DRS down the main straight, but Ocon made a late defensive move to stay in front. Only a few laps later Alonso did get past but that was not the end of it.

Ocon tried again on lap 8 but had to use the runoff at turn 1 and 2 to keep the place. This meant he had to give the position back he tried 1 more time on lap 12 when Ocon went too deep again, and Alonso stayed ahead.

The Alpines in a battle between each other. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

All the battles at alpine mean that Bottas had closed the gap. When Ocon was told to hold position, he backed off meaning Bottas then had DRS down the main straight into lap 14 and made an easy overtake into turn 1.

At this point Hamilton had made it past Norris into P11, making up 3 places in 6 laps. He was quickly gaining places and on the hard tyre he appeared to be going for a 1 stop strategy.

Lap 16 and Leclerc starts the pit stops with a radio call, but the strategy was do the opposite of Red Bull. Ferrari came into the pit and Red Bull reacted bringing Perez in. Leclerc stayed out and Ferrari seemed to have successfully bluffed Red Bull into a stop.

The Perez pit stop. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Just as Perez came out of the pits Latifi crashed into the barriers and a virtual safety car was initially deployed, playing into Ferrari and Leclerc hands. He now had an almost free stop, coming out of the pit lane still leading the race. However, Verstappen had also stayed out meaning he had to pit during the safety car, gaining places to come out P2.

A full safety car was then deployed when Sainz came into the pits. As he left however Perez was coming down the main straight. Sainz looked as if he got to the safety car line first but Perez closed the door on him to stay in P3.

The lights went out on the safety car to indicate it was going in on lap 20. As it pulled away from Leclerc he was controlling the pack but Verstappen kept moving alongside Leclerc in an attempt to force him to make an error or go early.

On the restart though Verstappen couldn’t keep up with the Ferrari staying in P2. Carlos gained the place back on Perez with but radio messages revealed Perez was told to give the place back to avoid a penalty.

Lap 23 and Hamilton gets past the Haas of Magnussen at the final corner but with DRS down the main straight he got back past. The next lap and this time Hamilton closed the gap but backed off into the final corner to get the DRS down the main straight and late on the brakes overtook into turn 1.

Hamilton makes the move stick. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Hulkenburg was holding his own after the restart however he began to drop back rapidly with Ricciardo, Norris and Gasly passing him on the main straight on laps 27, 28 and 29.

Lap 35 and Alonso was now battle the Haas. He got DRS down the mains straight making a simple pass into turn 1 however it didn’t stick with Magnussen making back past just 1 lap later. This battle quickly turned into a problem for Alonso though when on lap 38 he started moving slowly on track. He reported no power with an alarm on his wheel to say cool the car. The engine had overheated.

Almost simultaneously Ricciardo stopped on track just in front of the pit lane entry when he lost drive coming out of the last corner. Just as that news was being shown Bottas was retired from the race but had made it back to the garage.

The pit lane entry was eventually closed but Magnussen and Hulkenburg had managed to get in and change his tyres before the message. Hamilton just missed the pit lane as the virtual safety car was deployed so couldn’t change his tyres. Hoping that it would end as he came round to the pits again Mercedes were on the radio but unfortunately for Hamilton he had to wait another lap, when he was round the other side of the track and the VSC had ended.

As the VSC ended Verstappen seemed to have gained on Leclerc so the gap was much tighter. On lap 42 Verstappen had DRS into the final corner and took the lead but Leclerc could fight back on the main straight using DRS himself and took the lead again into turn 1.

Verstappen the went too deep and locked up on the inside line into the final corner on the following lap meaning Leclerc could sweep around the outside. This time even though Verstappen had DRS down the main straight it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Ferrari.

At the end of lap 46 Verstappen had learnt to have patience into the final corner and backed out of an overtake to make sure he had DRS this time. He made the move stick into turn 1 but his challenge now was to hold off the Ferrari which had been stronger in sector 1 all race.

Leclerc did close the gap on lap 48 and lined up a move but double waved yellows into turn 1 meant that but couldn’t overtake. Albon and Stroll came together when Albon tried to overtake stroll down the inside. Albon received a grid penalty in Australia for this.

This saved Verstappen from a move, but they were racing all the way to the line. Leclerc lined up a move at the final corner on the final lap, but sadly for him, he wasn’t close enough. Verstappen took with win with Leclerc in P2 and Sainz in P3.

The podium in Jeddah. Image courtesy on Pirelli F1 Press Room

F1 Race Preview: Into the Desert

The 2022 season is finally here with a race at Bahrain to kick us off for the third year in a row. The anticipation is high with the new regulations, new tyres and optimism that the cars will be able to race much closer than last year.

Having been pushed back a year because of covid we finally get to see Formula 1’s big changes to produce more exciting racing. However, testing is over and the teams and drivers, hopefully, understand their cars a little better after all the changes and upgrades between Barcelona and Bahrain.

Mercedes will be looking to defend their constructors title with their new, slimmed down car very different to anything else on the grid. In Barcelona they didn’t blow everyone away despite putting in the fastest laps, but they seem to have improved in Bahrain. During testing Lewis Hamilton did say they might not be competing for wins, but we have heard that before?

Ferrari look to be very reliable and so far meeting the expectations of those that thought they were going to have a quick car this year. They looked to be one of the fastest teams in both testing sessions and have been very consistent and reliable throughout both tests.

Red Bull are there or thereabouts. They have had issues, but reigning world Champion Verstappen finished with the fastest lap of testing. Looking towards the year he will be looking to drag everything out of that car to defend his title.

McLaren look to be the other team which may be in the title fight after testing. They had a solid car in Barcelona, but reliability issues and a sick driver means they haven’t had the running they would like to go into the first race. Daniel Ricciardo should be back for FP1, provided he has a negative covid test.

Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press

Looking further back Aston Martin and Alpine are still very much looking towards the midfield with a hope for some podiums. Alfa Romeo and Williams look to be close to each other as will. They have been very close on times throughout testing so will be in a battle with each other all season.

Haas have been the surprise of testing. They were granted an extra hour at the end of day 2 and 3 in Bahrain to make up for their lack of running in the morning of day 1 because of flight delays. However, with the return of Kevin Magnussen, he went fastest at the end of day 2. Not to be left out Mick Schumacher was P2 by the end of day 3.

Testing times can never been taken as the definitive order, however it has been great to see how these cars might work in race conditions. We won’t completely know until Sunday afternoon if the new philosophy has worked but we are all excited to get racing again 92 days later.

The race on Sunday is 3pm GMT.

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