Verstappen wins in Dominant Style as we Round Out 2022

Verstappen takes a dominant win in the final race of the season while his teammate misses out on vice champion by just three points to Leclerc after a split in strategies for the Red Bulls. Sebastian Vettel got driver of the day as he closed out his F1 career by finishing in the points.

Perez got away well at the race start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

They lined up on the grid with last-day-of-term feelings echoing throughout the fandom. At lights out Perez got away well going side by side with his teammate into turn one but backing out before turn two. Behind them, Sainz had gotten a poor start allowing Hamilton past while Russell had let Norris through into turn one.

Hamilton did set his sights on the other Ferrari but was caught by Sainz towards the chicane at turn six. Sainz dived down the inside, and Hamilton went wide, bouncing over the sausage curb before getting ahead of Sainz again. The stewards noted the incident and after what sounded like some bargaining, eventually Hamilton had to give the place back.

This wasn’t too last long as just one lap later Hamilton was all over the back of Sainz. Making a move around turn nine Hamilton made the move stick. He was expected to pull away, but it appeared that the lap one incident may have damaged the Mercedes as he began to lose a bit of power. By lap nine he had been overtaken by Sainz and his teammate.

Vettel locked in a battle with the Alpines. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

On lap 12 Vettel found himself in an Alpine sandwich, fighting hard with Ocon in front but not quite able to make a move stick. This allowed Norris to focus on his driving and strategy to stay in the fight for P4 in the constructor’s championship.

This led to an epic three-lap-long battle between the drivers before Ocon went in for his first stop. This allowed Vettel to open up a gap to Alonso and was, at one point, in P4 on the track after others around him stopped for the first time during the race.

While these stops were happening, Russell came in but had a slow stop with an issue on the rear right. He eventually was released into the path of Norris which was immediately investigated. Russell ended up with a five-second time penalty which he had to take at his next stop.

Lap 28 is where it all unravelled for Alonso. He had pitted for a new set of hard tyres but sadly he wouldn’t make it as he retired from the race with a suspected water leak. This would mark the end of his third stint at the Enstone-based team before moving to Aston Martin for 2023.

At the front, there was lots of discussion about strategy, with the teams opting to split between cars. By lap 34, when Perez pitted for the second time. Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton, the top three, were on one-stop while their teammates were being kept on two-stop strategies.

So on lap 38, Leclerc in P2 was a confirmed one-stopper, and Perez was now in P6 with a 15-second gap to his rival and 20 laps to go. However, he was catching the Ferrari at a pace of about six-tenths per lap, and with four cars between them, it looked like it would be impossible.

Just as we were about to settle in to watch Perez catch Leclerc, a yellow flag was waved in sector two for Schumacher and Latifi who had both gone for a spin. Schumacher tapped the back of Latifi who appeared to be braking early into the corner. Both cars got back underway so there was no safety car needed. Schumacher got a five-second time penalty and Latifi eventually retired from the race.

Towards the closing stages of the race, Perez had made his way back up to P4 with only Hamilton between him and Leclerc. Perez, with more speed, made a good move down the inside of the Mercedes into turn six, but Hamilton had DRS going down the next straight and took the place back. It wasn’t too last long for the brit though as Perez made the move stick around turn nine. The Red Bull now had Leclerc in his sights with 10 laps to go.

In the final few laps, Perez was only three seconds behind Leclerc and it was going to be very tight. But at the same time, Hamilton’s gearbox let go and he was forced to retire on lap 56 of 58. This was Mercedes’s first and only mechanical retirement of 2022.

On the final lap, as Verstappen rounded the corner to take his 15th win of the year, Perez was not quite close enough to Leclerc meaning he had to settle for P3 while the Ferrari man celebrated taking vice champion status. This also meant that Ferrari kept their P2 place in the constructors.

In the battle for P4 between McLaren and Alpine, despite a car retiring, the French team kept ahead by 14 points. Norris did get an extra fastest lap point but sadly for them, Ocon finished P7 which was enough for Alpine.

Vettel didn’t disappoint. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

There were the now obligatory doughnuts at the end from Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez. Ricciardo did them at turn none and Vettel came down to the main straight after everyone else had finished completing their set. There was not a dry eye in the house after his interview with Jenson Button knowing that he has now completed his F1 career… although many drivers believe he will be back.

The 2022 season is over, 22 races officially complete… Only 105 days until Bahrain.

RedBull do the 2022 Double after Verstappen Recovers from Slow Pitstop

Verstappen makes it a double championship win for RedBull in 2022 after putting in a great recovery drive when he had a slow second pit stop. Hamilton finished P2 after leading the race for several laps before being inevitability overtaken by the frustrated and incredible quick Verstappen.

After penalties were applied Sainz still started on pole, but Verstappen was alongside him with a second-row lockout for Mercedes. Leclerc and Perez would have to make their way through the pack if they wanted to have a chance at a podium.

Russell was given a 5-second time penalty for the turn one incident with Sainz. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

A great start from Verstappen to take the lead on the inside of turn one which proved to be all-important as Sainz collides with Russell who was on the inside of Hamilton of the line. Russell locked up into turn one as Sainz came back across the track, spinning the Ferrari and meaning he had to retire the car with a water leak.

With the change up front, this meant that coming out of the first corner Stroll ended up in P3 between the Mercedes. The Canadian had a brilliant start from P5 and capitalised on the drama for the pole man. We were then back to 2021 with Verstappen leading Hamilton, Stroll, Russell, and Vettel in P5, who was making the most of the Aston Martin pace this weekend.

By lap 10 however, Perez and Leclerc were back up with the leading pack. Vettel was under threat from the Ferrari while Perez made short work of the Aston Martin pair to be in P4 behind Russell. However, the Mexican had picked up damage from a lap one incident, so his front wing was compromised.

As drivers came into the pits to change tyres most were opting for the hard tyres. Bottas was yet to pit when, on lap 18, he spun on the exit of turn 19 and ended up in the gravel pointing in the wrong direction. This brought out the safety car and gave Leclerc a cheap pit stop bringing him right back into the mix for the lead.

Safety Car deployed. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Verstappen went early on the restart, but Hamilton went with him leaving Perez behind. By the time they got to the start-finish line, there were gaps forming at the front while battles ensued behind them.

Out of turn, one Alonso was gaining on Stroll at a rapid pace. Alonso moved towards the inside on the run down to turn two, but Stroll put on a very late defensive move. Alonso couldn’t avoid the rear right corner of the Aston, lifting the front of the Alpine in the air and having an extremely high-speed crash with debris spread everywhere.

Both drivers were ok with Alpine able to put new tyres and a front wing on Alonso’s car so he could carry on. Stroll’s car was very second-hand and therefore brought out the safety car again while they recovered the stricken vehicle.

At the second safety car restart, everyone got away well while Ocon and Magnussen were side by side into turn one. Ocon coming out on top in that battle. Perez was able to keep ahead of Leclerc but just a few laps later Leclerc was on the tail of the RedBull.

Lap 30, and Leclerc used DRS to get alongside Perez down the back straight but couldn’t slow down in time for the corner and went wide. One lap later the Ferrari had another go, this time using the inside line to put a late lunging move on Perez which the Monaquase made stick.

Redbull brought Verstappen in for his second stop on lap 16 but it was slow as there was an issue with the front left wheel gun. To make matters worse for RedBull, Ferrari had brought in Leclerc and managed to get him out in front of Verstappen. This was now a fight back to the front for the current world champion.

Three laps later Verstappen had closed the gap to Leclerc meaning he was able to make a move down the inside of turn one. Leclerc used the switch back though to hang on to the P2. However, coming down the back straight Verstappen still had DRS and this time made a clinical move to take P2 from Ferrari and start to close the gap on Hamilton in the lead.

Hamilton leads the rapid RedBull. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

With 10 laps to go, every Mercedes and Hamilton fan was on the edge of their seats as Verstappen ever so slightly closes the gap each lap. It appeared to start with that the 3.5-second gap may be enough, with the drivers exchanging equal lap times each lap.

Despite this Verstappen was able to gain ground on the Mercedes and used DRS to take Hamilton into turn one with six laps to go. We will have to wait for the final few rounds to see if Hamilton can keep his record of winning in every F1 season he has competed in.

Just when we thought the drama was over Track limit warnings began to appear for Verstappen. He was given a black-and-white flag with 4 laps to go meaning all Hamilton had to do was stay within five seconds of Verstappen if he got a penalty. Hamilton himself then got a black and white flag trying to keep up with the RedBull so he decided to back off and settle for P2.

Winning the race for RedBull means it is mathematically impossible for another team to catch them in the constructors. With Sainz out early, however, this was almost sealed by the end of lap one. The cost cap debate still looms over RedBull, but to win the double is a fitting tribute to their founder Dietrich Mateschitz.

A Third Career Pole for Sainz on a Sad Day for RedBull

We started today off on a sad note with the news, which broke an hour before qualifying, that RedBull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz had passed away at the age of 78. His passion for motorsport sparked the events which have led to successful teams not just in Formula 1 but in motorsport series across the world.

Nevertheless, the cars headed out on track for the US Grand Prix qualifying.

Sainz showed his pace all the way through qualifying. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

After the first few laps of Q1, the Ferraris were on top with Sainz ahead of his teammate. This pace from the Spaniard would be crucial because it was confirmed that Leclerc will take a 10-place grid penalty for engine parts and turbocharger. Mercedes looked very much in the mix with Hamilton splitting the RedBulls and Russell not too far behind.

As they came across the line at the end Ricciardo could only make it to P13 which wasn’t good enough to keep him out of the drop zone while his teammate made it into Q2 in P8. Another shock early exit was Ocon who ended up P18 after not being able to put a good lap together.

It was not a great session for Haas at their home race, as they join Ocon and Ricciardo with both cars dropping out in Q1. Magnussen qualified P16 while Schumacher took a small pirouette on his way to the line meaning he couldn’t improve his time and finished P19, ahead of Latifi.

Q2 began with the usual top six topped by Leclerc. Alonso continued his run of form by being the best of the rest in P7 but was still three-tenths behind Hamilton, in P6. The two-time champion was ahead of both Alfa’s, who were having a very good qualifying.

The one in trouble was Norris, who was in P10 and on the edge for most of Q2. The Mclaren driver still didn’t match the pace of the drivers around him and ended up in P11. He wasn’t out though because Zhou’s final lap, which had put the Chinese driver in the top 10, was deleted due to track limits. This meant Norris was saved and Zhou was pushed back down to P14.

Stroll making it into Q3. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Aston Martin appeared to be continuing their solid practice performances by being well clear of the drop zone in Q1. But by Q2 the pace was closer than the team would like and only Stroll made it to the top 10 shootout with Vettel qualifying in P12.

Also joining Vettel and Zhou were Tsunoda, Albon and Gasly, who was not very happy with his car over the radio on his way into the pits.

The first runs in Q3 continued with the Ferrari’s on ahead but this time Hamilton put his Mercedes ahead of both RedBulls which would have effectively put him on the front row with penalties applied. His teammate sat down in P6 with Stroll in P7, ahead of Alonso, Norris and Bottas.

Hamilton showing pace and being right in the mix for Q3. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Stroll stayed out for a clear track while the others had their normal break before heading back out on track for their final runs. With Hamilton right in the mix, Verstappen improving in pace and the Ferrari’s fastest so far, it was going to be a tight battle for pole.

Hamilton had made sure he was last to cross the line, but he had a poor first sector where everyone else was improving. Sainz was looking quick throughout the session and took the provisional pole, ahead of his teammate just waiting for Verstappen to cross the line.

The 2022 world champion got a bad exit out of the final corner meaning he couldn’t beat either Ferrari and ended up qualifying in P3. However, with Leclerc’s penalty, Verstappen will start on the front row alongside Sainz.

Perez, Alonso and Zhou also carry five-place grid penalties each meaning the starting grid will be different to the end of qualifying but tomorrow’s race is set up to be a great one.

F1 Race Weekend Preview: America 2.0

Rain-soaked confusion in Suzuka eventually led to Max Verstappen achieving his second World Drivers Championship. We move on to the states where we are back at COTA which will hopefully provide us with another crowd-pleaser.

Championship battles are not over yet

2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The race to first in the driver’s championship may be over, but second is still very much up for grabs. A P2 in Japan for Perez meant he moved back ahead of Leclerc by only one point heading into this weekend. With four rounds left, the fight for vice-champion could go down to the wire with both drivers wanting to finish best of the rest, and maybe save some dignity for Leclerc, who had been Verstappen’s main rival.

For the teams, however, their main focus is always the constructors as this is where the prize money is handed out. It looks inevitable that Mercedes will have their dominant run in the V6-turbo era ended as they are the only team to win the constructors championship in this period.

RedBull could complete the double at the end of the US Grand Prix if they win the race or are 147 points clear of Ferrari by the end of the weekend. This would be the first time RedBull would have won both championships in the same year since 2013 when Vettel became a four-time world champion.

The Cost Cap issue rolls on

After a delay in the announcement, RedBull’s celebrations were cut short as the FIA finally confirmed they and Aston Martin had breached the 2021 cost cap. RedBull had a “minor” infringement which is a less than 5% breach, whilst Aston Martin is reported to have an even smaller breach.

There have been official penalties from the FIA, but it is expected that this will be the main talking point on everyone’s lips, especially if RedBull do manage to wrap up the constructor’s title at the end of the weekend.

RedBull celebrating in Japan before the announcement. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

American Drivers back in F1

Logan Sargeant, Charouz (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Even if it is only for FP1, the young driver of Logan Sargeant will get his chance to take to the track in the Williams while Alex Palou is getting his shot in the McLaren which will give plenty of American fans something to cheer about.

Sargeant has been linked with the Williams seat available with Latifi departing and De Vries signing with Alpha Tauri. He is currently third in the standings in F2 and had an impressive season in 2021 which has led to this opportunity. He will want to impress the bosses at Williams to prove he is ready for the next step in his career.

 

It’s a late one for those in the UK. Qualifying starts on Saturday at 11pm BST and the race at 8pm BST on Sunday.

F1 Race Weekend Preview: Back in Japan but the drama is focused on 2021 budgets.

Adding to the list of tracks we haven’t been to since 2019, we are back in Japan this weekend to take on the famous corners of Suzuka. All the drama surrounding the 2021 budget cap still hasn’t been resolved while Verstappen has another attempt at wrapping up the 2022 championship.

Cost Cap D-day

Aston Martin appearing to go under the radar in the 2021 cost cap discussion. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media.

In Singapore, the main topic on everyone’s lips was the alleged breaking of the 2021 budget cap by a couple of teams, Aston Martin and most notably, RedBull. After months of investigation, the official certificates of who was found to have gone over budget will now not be released until Monday the 10th.

The original date was set for today, however, the FIA has said that it’s “a long and complex process” but this won’t stop the speculation in the paddock due to the nature of the potential punishments for those teams found guilty. These include points deductions from constructors and/or drivers’ championships, limitations on aerodynamic or other testing and a further reduction on the overall cost cap going forward.

For RedBull, the date change means that they can carry the Honda name, added to the car for the Japanese GP, without confirmation of any wrongdoing. Despite this, all the questions Horner will be facing will be on these accusations as the media and the fans try to piece together what might happen if they are found guilty.

Horner celebrating Verstappen’s championship win in 2021. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool.

Verstappen taking the championship 2.0

As it stands Verstappen is 104 points ahead of Leclerc meaning that the reigning champion needs to outscore the Ferrari driver by 8 points to clinch his second title in Japan. Another way of putting it is that if Verstappen wins with the fastest lap he will win the championship regardless of where Leclerc finishes. However, if Verstappen wins without the fastest lap and Leclerc finishes second the fight will carry over to the next race.

Some are suggesting that Verstappen may have pints deducted from this year’s season based on the findings of the 2021 budget review. However, this is a rumour and going into the race weekend at Suzuka the 2022 championship could be decided by the end of the weekend.

Verstappen started in P8 in Singapore and finished P7 meaning he couldn’t wrap up the championship. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool.

You can watch qualifying on Saturday at 7 am BST and the race on Sunday at 6 am BST.

Perez provisionally takes Singapore GP victory, with potential penalty looming

Sergio Perez survived a late-race onslaught from Charles Leclerc to provisionally take victory at the Singapore GP but finished under a cloud as he awaits the results of an investigation for an infringement under the Safety Car.

Perez got a good start off the line to be P1 into turn 1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The Mexican took the lead at the start of the race and was never headed, in a race where he and Leclerc were the class of the field, finishing well ahead of Carlos Sainz who came home third in the second Ferrari. With Max Verstappen only finishing in seventh after an eventful afternoon, the championship battle continues onto next week’s race at Suzuka.

The race start was delayed due to torrential rain at the start, meaning that the formation lap finally got underway 65 minutes later than originally planned, at 21:05 local time. The entire field started on intermediate tyres, with conditions much wetter than they were in qualifying on Saturday.

Those on the traditionally ‘dirtier’ side of the grid got the better start, with Perez comfortably ahead of Leclerc before they hit the brakes for turn one. Sainz was also able to get ahead of Lewis Hamilton but it was a lot less straightforward for the Spaniard, as he made contact with Hamilton’s Mercedes before finally staying ahead. This was the start of a frustrating race for Hamilton, as he spent the first half staring at the diffuser of Sainz’s Ferrari.

Verstappen fighting Magnussen after losing places at the start. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool.

It was a difficult start to the race for Max Verstappen, who bogged down at the start, dropping down to twelfth on the first lap. The reigning champion didn’t waste any time moving through the field, however, quickly dispatching Kevin Magnussen (after contact between the two which caused the Dane to pit) and Pierre Gasly to get back into the points.

It was an attritional race at the Marina Bay circuit, with multiple safety car and virtual safety car periods. The first safety car came after Nicholas Latifi squeezed Zhou Guanyu into the wall as the Alfa Romeo attempted an overtake, with the resulting damage causing both to retire. Latifi was given a five-place grid penalty for Suzuka after the incident.

The next three interruptions were all virtual safety cars. Fernando Alonso was doing a superb job of keeping Verstappen behind in his 350th race, before pulling off with power unit issues. Shortly after, Alex Albon made contact with the wall, leaving his front wing out on track before retiring in the pits. Esteban Ocon compounded a miserable day for Alpine when his engine failed spectacularly on lap 28, as the Enstone-based team failed to score points for the second race in a row.

In a carbon copy of yesterday, the track reminded slippery well after the rain had stopped, meaning drivers had to struggle around on their old intermediates. The first person to try something different was George Russell, who had been stuck in a train all race after starting from the pit lane. His medium tyres looked to be the wrong call, before finally coming into their own by lap 34, as he started setting purple sectors.

Russell on the mediums sooner than expected. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

This led to a glut of cars coming into the pitlane, including Hamilton, who had to change his front wing after making contact with the barriers at turn seven. McLaren stayed out longer than everyone else, and their gamble paid off when Yuki Tsunoda crashed into the wall at turn ten after hitting a wet patch, bringing out the race’s second full safety car. This allowed Norris to retain his fourth place after the pitstops and brought Daniel Ricciardo up into sixth, with Verstappen sandwiched in between.

The Red Bull got a superb run on Norris into turn seven on the restart, but locked up on the damp part of the circuit, dropping down to last after taking to the escape road. He was able to recover back to the pits and put on a fresh set of soft tyres, eventually recovering to seventh place after a fantastic battle in the final laps with Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton nearly another collision as he tried to overtake Vettel, with his front wing coming within inches of the Aston Martin’s rear tyre, as Lewis ran deep to allow Max through.

Sainz didn’t have the best race despite finishing P3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Out in front, Perez and Leclerc were quickly able to pull away from Sainz and traded fastest laps with each other for the first laps after the restart. Even after DRS was activated, however, the Ferrari was not able to get close enough to Perez when it really mattered, with a small mistake in the final sector from Leclerc dropping him out of DRS range, and giving Perez a clear path to on-track victory.

The late drama with the leaders came as the FIA announced that Perez’s alleged safety car infringement would be investigated after the race. Red Bull were wise to any potential penalties, quickly telling Perez to up the pace, as he finished 7.7s ahead of Leclerc in second. However, with Perez under investigation for both safety car restarts, it is possible that Leclerc may still be awarded the victory.

Both McLarens finished in the top five, as they jumped Alpine to take fourth in the constructor’s championship. Lance Stroll finished sixth, his best of the season, ahead of Verstappen, Vettel, Hamilton and Gasly. The double points finish for Aston Martin means they leap both Alpha Tauri and Haas in the constructor’s championship, with the Silverstone squad now three points ahead of Haas and Alpha Tauri in the battle for seventh.

Results today mean Perez and Leclerc still have a mathematical chance of claiming the world championship. A win for Verstappen with his two rivals failing to finish second would secure a second world championship for the Dutchman, who will be hoping for a much more straightforward race next weekend.

The race podium. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

 

Leclerc secures Singapore GP pole in tricky conditions

Charles Leclerc mastered the conditions at the Marina Bay circuit to take his ninth pole position of the season, as championship leader Max Verstappen was forced to abort his final lap.

On a weekend where he can secure the championship, Verstappen will only start eighth, with the Dutch driver furious after being forced to abandon a potential pole lap due to a lack of fuel. His teammate, Sergio Perez, will start in second place, with Lewis Hamilton securing his best qualifying of the season in third.

Magnussen putting in good lap times despite a trip off track. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The session started in damp conditions, with drivers using the intermediate tyres after a wet FP3. The majority of the track seemed to be dry, with turns 8 and 17 proving to be stubbornly wet throughout the session. Despite struggling with tyre warmup in practice, Mercedes were instantly on the pace, with Hamilton and Russell setting the fastest times early in the session. Unsurprisingly, there was a multitude of yellow flags early on, as Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc and the Haas duo of Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher struggled with the greasy conditions.

On their second set of tyres, however, both Haas were able to briefly get inside the top 10 – showing how much the track was improving. In the end, Schumacher needed one final lap to get through to Q2, with Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon, Albon and Nicolas Latifi dropping out.

Despite hot temperatures in Singapore, the track was slow to dry thanks to the high humidity and the nighttime running. Times were improving in Q2, with Leclerc setting the early pace in this session. Aston Martin decided it was worth a gamble to put both cars onto the slick tyres, but both drivers found the conditions too tricky to handle, as both skated into the run-off at the Anderson Bridge. Lance Stroll qualified 12th, with Sebastian Vettel 14th at the track where he secured his last victory three years ago.

Zhou Guanyu struggled on slicks as well to qualify 15th, with fellow Singapore newbie Schumacher qualifying 12th. The big shock in this session was the loss of George Russell, with the Mercedes man never looking comfortable throughout the session, as he missed out on the top 10 for the first time since the Miami GP. The Brit will start tomorrow from 11th.

Russell was not able to make it out of Q2. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

The majority of the field chose soft tyres in Q3, apart from Tsunoda and Magnussen who stuck with the intermediates. This briefly looked like the best call, as the majority of the slick-shod runners struggled to get their tyres up to temperature. All except Lewis Hamilton, who was two seconds faster than the next soft tyre runner after the first laps in qualifying. Staying out on the circuit to keep the temperature in the tyres was the best tactic, as Leclerc, Hamilton and Fernando Alonso traded times at the top of the order.

Leclerc managed to set a 1:49.412 on his penultimate run in qualifying, a time which would not be bettered. Perez and Hamilton both came close, but it was Verstappen who twice looked as though he was on the way to taking his fifth pole position of the season. Despite a lap which looked scruffy at times, he was nearly a second up on Leclerc’s time before being told by the team to box immediately, a decision which infuriated the championship leader. This was after he had backed off on a previous lap which would also have been good enough to challenge for the front two rows of the grid. It is likely that continuing on his final run would have led him to run out of fuel, meaning the Dutchman would have been unable to provide a fuel sample, thus starting from the back of the grid.

The top 3 for the race tomorrow. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The end result of this qualifying session is that Verstappen needs a crazy race tomorrow if he is to secure the championship with five rounds to go, on what has been a difficult weekend for Red Bull as both themselves and Aston Martin have been accused of breaching cost cap regulations.

Verstappen has won from lower than eighth though in two of the last four races, however, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take his twelfth victory of the season and move one step closer to a second successive championship tomorrow.

Leclerc pleases home fans with Italian GP pole

Charles Leclerc delighted the Tifosi to take his eighth pole position of the season at Monza, with George Russell securing a front-row start after penalties for other drivers.

Leclerc beats Verstappen to pole at Ferrari’s home race. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton rounded out the fastest five in qualifying, but penalties for the quartet behind Leclerc drop them to fourth, eighteenth, tenth and nineteenth respectively. This has promoted the British duo of George Russell into second and McLaren’s Lando Norris into third place, on what will be a poignant weekend for the many Brits associated with Formula One after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Leclerc took advantage of a tow from Norris to go fastest with his final run in Q3, setting a 1:20.161 for his second pole position at Monza, and his seventeenth overall. Verstappen was a tenth and a half behind but will be confident that the Red Bull’s superior race pace can take him to an eleventh victory of the season.

First qualifying started in baking hot conditions in Monza, and there were plenty of drivers struggling to find grip in the early stages, as Mick Schumacher and Lance Stroll both had to react quickly to prevent their cars from spinning on their first runs. It was Ferrari who set the early pace, but with degradation extremely low around a circuit with very-few high load corners, drivers could stay out there for lap after lap – with Max Verstappen eventually going quicker than the Ferraris on his fourth run.

Vettel out in Q1 again. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 media

Haas were left wishing they had time to get even more runs in, as both drivers struggled to stay on track in the latter stages of the session. Kevin Magnussen had two laps deleted for track limits as he qualified nineteenth (sixteenth after penalties), ahead of his teammate Mick Schumacher, who went straight on at the Rettifilo chicane. Joining the Haas’ on the sidelines for Q2 was Nicolas Latifi, whose chances of retaining his seat will have taken a knock after being out-qualified by Nyck de Vries on debut, and the Aston Martin pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.

Due to the nature of the Monza circuit, no one wants to be out on track first and give the rest of the field a handy slipstream on their hot laps. Once cars began to make their way out onto the circuit, it was Ferrari who again set the pace, despite Leclerc needing a second lap on his first run after locking up at Turn One.

Alpha Tauri decided not to bother sending Yuki Tsunoda out in Q2, with the Japanese driver having multiple driving and power-unit penalties, consigning him to a back of the grid start tomorrow. Only Daniel Ricciardo managed to pull himself out of the bottom five after the first runs, securing his first Q3 appearance since the summer break.

Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas, Nyck de Vries, Zhou Guanyu and Tsunoda were the drivers to miss out in Q2, with de Vries having a major moment on the brakes into the second chicane, on what was a promising debut for the Dutch driver. Starting eighth tomorrow, in a car that is notoriously slippery in a straight line, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him score points on his F1 debut.

De Vries made it into Q2 on his first qualifying outing in F1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The first runs in Q3 saw Carlos Sainz go fastest, with his teammate Leclerc slotting in just behind, as the drivers alternated who would get the benefit of the tow. This proved to be the decisive factor on the final laps, with Leclerc’s double slipstream from Sainz and Norris potentially giving him the edge.

Daniel Ricciardo was eighth fastest and will start from fifth around the circuit where he took victory twelve months ago. Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso will start sixth and seventh, having both been caught out with track limits in the final qualifying session and failing to get a time on the board.

Ferrari has removed some upgrades from their car for Monza, and these changes look to have had the desired effect, certainly in qualifying. However, Leclerc has failed to convert any of his last five pole positions into a victory, with the Monegasque driver needing to end this streak tomorrow if he wants to keep his slim championship hopes alive.

Verstappen victorious in Dutch GP after late drama

Max Verstappen secured his tenth victory of the season and his fourth in a row with victory at the Dutch Grand Prix, to move even closer to his second world championship.

A late Safety Car had the potential to mix up the order, but Lewis Hamilton was powerless to stop the Dutchman overtaking on the restart, with victory at Zandvoort putting Verstappen 109 points ahead in the championship with seven rounds remaining. George Russell took second place to secure his best finish of the season, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc coming home in third.

In the end, it was a fairly straightforward victory for Verstappen, but there was a real possibility that Mercedes could have taken their first win of the season, as Hamilton and Russell looked to make a one-stop work. However, a virtual safety car caused by the Alpha Tauri of Yuki Tsunoda made Verstappen a favourite for the win.

Hamilton leads Verstappen during the safety car period. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

A safety car caused by Valtteri Bottas’ stricken Alfa Romeo looked like it might have brought Mercedes back into the fight for the win, as Hamilton and Russell both initially stayed out on their old mediums. Russell made the call to come in a lap later for a set of soft tyres, and this turned out to be crucial for the Brit. Hamilton stayed out on the mediums, with the seven-time champion fuming at the decision not to pit for fresh rubber.

At the start, Verstappen and Leclerc got away evenly, allowing the Dutchman to keep the lead into Turn One. Things were tighter behind as Carlos Sainz and Hamilton made slight contact at the apex, but both were able to continue. Further down the field, Kevin Magnussen made contact with the barrier on lap two, but the Haas was able to continue, albeit with a lot more paint on the sidewall on his rear-left tyre.

Most people expected the softs and the mediums to be the chosen race tyres, with a two-stop therefore being the only viable option. However, both Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris were able to make the white-walled tyres work to good effect opening up the possibility of a one-stop strategy. Mercedes took this gamble, and it looked as though it was going to be a fascinating end to the race, as Verstappen would have had to work his way past both Hamilton and Russell.

Ferrari not where they wanted to be today. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Despite showing promising pace on Saturday and at the start of the race, Ferrari were clearly the third fastest car on race day, with Leclerc only taking third at the end thanks to the advantage of fresh soft tyres. His teammate had a much more eventful day, coming home eighth after being given a 5-second penalty for an unsafe release, forcing his compatriot Alonso to slam on the brakes. That wasn’t the only pit lane peril for Sainz, as he dropped back from third after Ferrari only had three tyres ready for his first stop, in yet another calamity for the Scuderia which will only add more pressure to beleaguered team boss Mattia Binotto. The Spaniard also came close to being penalised for overtaking under yellow flags, but it appeared he had already committed to the move on Esteban Ocon into Turn One before reaching the first yellow flag.

The main talking points of the race began on lap 46, as Yuki Tsunoda stopped at the side of the track, claiming his tyres weren’t fitted correctly. He was told to continue on, and the Japanese driver came back to the pits at a severely reduced pace, before having a long pit stop to seemingly refasten his seatbelts, which is certain to be investigated by the FIA. He was released on to the circuit only to stop a few corners later, bringing out the VSC which greatly benefitted Alpha Tauri’s sister team.

Verstappen’s victory was put in doubt by the later full safety car (due to Bottas’ retirement), but the speed and tyre advantage of the Red Bull meant Hamilton had no chance of stopping him. A furious Hamilton managed to hold on to finish in fourth place ahead of Sergio Perez, with whom he had had a fascinating battle in the middle of the race which got interrupted by Sebastian Vettel, who impeded the Brit and earned himself a five-second penalty in what was a weekend to forget for the Aston Martin driver.

Verstappen overtook Hamilton into turn 1 at the safety car restart. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Fernando Alonso came home in sixth ahead of Lando Norris, who looked for the majority of the race that he would finish best of the rest before losing out in the pitstops. Esteban Ocon was ninth, helping tighten Alpine’s grip on fourth in the championship, with Lance Stroll securing his fifth tenth place of the season to round out the points. Gasly, Albon, Schumacher, Vettel, Magnussen, Zhou, Ricciardo and Latifi were the rest of the finishers.

They say it’s not over until the fat lady sings, but her vocal cords must be warming up by now. It is surely a case of when, not if, Verstappen secures his second world championship, and in much less controversial circumstances than his first. The Italian GP at Monza is taking place next weekend, and you’d be a brave man to bet against the Dutchman spoiling Ferrari’s homecoming party.

F1 Weekend Preview: Zandvoort

From Spa to Zandvoort we move to the home Grand Prix of Max Verstappen who won in dominant style at Spa. The fast banking of Zandvoort is unlike any other track on the calendar so it will be a real test to see who can match RedBull’s pace.

Ferrari problems… again

Sainz enjoying P3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

At Spa, it was not Ferrari’s weekend. The RedBulls were just too fast for them to keep up so could only get a P3 and P6. Whilst the P3 for Carlos Sainz was the best they could have hoped for, Charles Leclerc had a very unlucky weekend.

Having started P15 with various engine penalties, he managed to make his way up to P9 until he was forced to stop when it appeared a tear-off from Verstappen got caught in his brake duct. Having managed to make his way back up to P5 throughout the race, Ferrari pitted him to put on soft tyres and take the fastest lap from Verstappen.

However, another Ferrari strategy didn’t quite work because he came out behind Alonso with only two laps to go. This meant he had to overtake Alonso and didn’t achieve the fastest lap. To add insult to injury he was speeding in the pitlane by 1km/h on his last stop and was given a 5-second time penalty at the end of the race. Putting him back to P6.

Ferrari will want to put that behind them and try to gain points on the RedBulls in Zandvoort. Leclerc may be able to keep up with a new engine at his disposal, however, with the pace of Verstappen, it is difficult to see how Ferrari can bring their way back into this championship fight.

Mercedes crashing back to reality

After a successful outing in Hungary and a competitive run before the summer break, it was expected that the new regulations would help Mercedes be even closer to the top two teams. This was not the way it worked out.

Hamilton fly’s after contact with Alonso. Image courtesy of Mercedes media

They were 1.8 seconds slower than the pole lap in qualifying, struggling to get the cold tyres to work for them. When it came to the race Hamilton had a first-lap clash with Alonso, forcing him to retire from the race early.

George Russell on the other hand had a reasonably solid performance if you ignore the pace of Verstappen. He finished a respectable P4 which showed once again Mercedes’s race pace is better than their qualifying pace.

The last thing Mercedes need now is to go back to the unpredictability of their car before Silverstone, but Zandvoort may not be in their favour with the high-speed banking. The key for them on Saturday will be tyre management to prevent the large deficit they had in Spa.

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