Japanese GP: Verstappen and Red Bull win big

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leclerc takes pole for Azerbaijan sprint race despite last minute crash

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has taken pole position for today’s sprint race in Azerbaijan despite hitting the wall in the closing moments of the session.

It was the first outing of the new sprint weekend format, with an extra qualifying session to determine the starting order of the sprint race. The twelve-minute long SQ1 and ten-minute long SQ2 required the drivers to use the medium tyres, while the final eight-minute SQ3 mandated the use of a new set of soft tyres.

SQ1 ended with a bang when Logan Sargeant crashed at Turn 17, possibly distracted by the two slow Ferraris on the inside of the corner. With only 25 seconds left on the clock, the session wasn’t restarted.

In SQ2, Oscar Piastri narrowly missed out on advancing to the next stage by only +0.0032. His team-mate Lando Norris did scrape through, despite not having a new set of soft tyres available to him and therefore not being able to take part in SQ3!

Leclerc set the pace in the first runs of SQ3 and took provisional pole. On his second run, however, he hit the wall at Turn 5 and damaged his front wing. He was able to back out and continue round to the pits, but compromised his team-mate Sainz’s lap in the process.

Both Verstappen and Perez improved on their times in the closing moments, but it wasn’t enough to usurp Leclerc. It’s the Monegasque driver’s second pole of the weekend.

RedBull on Pole but no Front Row Lock Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F1 Race Weekend Preview: Under the Lights for Race 2

2023 has officially begun with RedBull dominance in the desert. We move to the updated streets of Jeddah for race two. Most F1 fans will be hoping that this isn’t a continuing trend throughout the season, especially Ferrari and McLaren fans. However, Leclerc already has reason to potentially write off 2023 as a championship year. Aston Martin could be the surprise challenger for the season. 

Ferrari are on the back foot… already.

Leclerc before being forced to retire in Bahrain. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

If you haven’t heard by now, Charles Leclerc heads into the weekend with a 10-place grid penalty for taking a third Control Electronics power unit, taking him over the allocation for the season. The collective pain of the long-suffering Ferrari fans could be heard across the globe as the penalty was announced.

This comes after he was running in P3 before retiring at the side of the track in Bahrain having replaced his Energy Store and Control Electronics on his engine before the race began. 

While we will be hoping that Ferrari’s can sort out their reliability issues quickly this season, fans can take some solace from the curse of the first race winner. Since 2017, the driver who won the opening round has not gone on to win the championship, and last season Verstappen retired from the race before becoming a double world champion. So maybe Ferrari’s fortune will change?

Can Aston Martin be the 2023 underdogs?

Alonso coming home in P3 in Bahrain. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

In a surprise to everyone who watched last season, Aston Martin have stepped up their game and look like real challengers for the 2022 top three. Alonso finished on the podium and pulled off some great moves, while a recovering Stroll managed to get P6, just behind Lewis Hamilton.

Mercedes had originally thought they would be fighting for wins or at least challenging for more podiums against Ferrari and RedBull, but now they are looking at a battle for third in the constructor’s championship with Aston Martin. 

As we visit different circuits throughout the year this will show off the different strengths of the teams so it will be interesting to see how the Mercedes factory team measures up to a Mercedes engine customer team during the season. 

Track changes. 

Saudi Arabia has provided us with an extremely fast circuit since 2021 and that is not about to change. They have, however, taken on some feedback from the drivers and adapted some of the corners to help with the visibility of the racing line. 

They have moved the walls at turns 8, 10, 14 and 20, with rumble strips added to the latter two to help the drivers know when they are outside track limits. 

They have also tweaked a few of the kerbs to deal with the newer cars while the chicane at turns 22 and 23 has been tightened to reduce speeds.

The clam before the storm in Jeddah. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Qualifying on Saturday starts at 5pm GMT and the Race is at 5pm GMT on Sunday.

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

 

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