British GP Friday qualifying: Hamilton fastest at home

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton was the fastest on Friday qualifying after a blistering first lap in Q3 made sure that he would be starting from P1 for the sprint race on Saturday. An all new trial format for Formula 1 this weekend means that the drivers will go again on Saturday with a 17 lap race at Silverstone and the winner from that race will be awarded pole position for the actual race on Sunday. Hamilton’s teammate Bottas in the other Mercedes is set to start from P3 after his lap was two tenths shy of Hamilton’s lap time.

Hamilton’s closest title rival Max Verstappen was complaining of understeer through out qualifying and fell short of P1 by just about 0.075 seconds while his teammate Sergio Perez could only qualify 5th after his time from the second run during Q3 was deleted due to him exceeding track limits. Redbull who have been fastest during the course of the season will not be happy with this result and will have their work cut out before the sprint race.

Ferrari will take heart from Friday qualifying after Charles Leclerc managed to be the 4th fastest on Friday courtesy of a Perez deleted lap time. Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari could only manage a P9 but crucially for Ferrari, they have atleast one car ahead of McLaren at P4.

In what was a tough few days for McLaren off track with Lando Norris incident at Wemblely and team boss Zak Brown coming down with the coronavirus, it was not a bad outing for the British team after Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have both put in lap times which are good enough for a P6 and P7 on the grid for sprint race tomorrow.

‘Mr. Saturday’ Geroge Russell has also proved that he would be an excellent ‘Mr.Friday’ should this new race weekend format stick, after a brilliant Q2 lap meant that he was into Q3 yet again. He then set another excellent lap time in Q3 which means 8th position on the starting grid is his for the sprint race. Things were not that great for his Canadian teammate Latifi in the other Williams after he could not get out of Q1 and will be starting from P18.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel makes up the last of top 10 fastest drivers on the grid after having his first lap time in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits and will be starting P10 for the sprint race. His teammate Lance Stroll couldn’t quite find a similar pace and will be starting from P15.

It was a bad Friday outing for Alpha Tauri in comparison with the last few weekends, after Pierre Gasly only managed a lap good enough to put him on P12 for tomorrow while his teammate Tsunoda had things go worse for him after his lap was not good enough for the rookie driver to go to Q2 and he is set to start from P16.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon finally managed to get out Q1 this time around and is set to start P13 for tomorrow while his teammate Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on Q3 and will be starting P11. Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi managed to get out of Q1 but could only go as high as P14 while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen could not manage that and will only be starting P17. Both the Haas cars will be starting with Schumacher at P19 and Mazepin at P20, which has become rather predictable based on how their season is going.

A new format in on trial at a packed Silverstone but it is the old and familiar top 3 of Hamilton, Verstappena and Bottas is set to start the sprint race.  With points up for grabs and of course the pole position for the main race on Sunday, it is set to be an interesting 17-lap race on Saturday. Redbull seem to be running away with the title but a resurgence from Hamilton and Mercedes is definitely on the cards as the race for pole is on.

Austrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Norris splits the Red Bulls

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Max Verstappen took his 3rd consecutive pole position of the 2021 season as Redbull continued their dominance in Austria. The Dutch driver continued his excellent form and the pole position never looked in doubt due to the sheer pace of the Redbull.

For once, the other English driver on the front in Austria tomorrow will not be Lewis Hamilton as Lando Norris managed to put together a brilliant lap which was good enough to beat both the Mercedes and Sergio Perez in the other Redbull onto the front row. He was closely following Verstappen in the second run of Q3 which meant that he got a great tow and  agonizingly fell short by only four hundredths of a second to the pole position. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the other McLaren could not find the similar pace and will only be starting P13.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes could only manage P4 and P5 after they failed to make any improvements in their second run in Q3 and will be quickly searching for answers and hoping that their upgrades scheduled for Silverstone will bring about the pace that they have been lacking compared to Redbull.

Another headline worthy story from today’s qualifying is yet another one about the Saturdays of George Russell, where this time the English driver managed to put his car into not just Q2 but Q3 and a grid position of P9 on raw pace alone. The Williams team would be overjoyed with the result and Russell himself might be putting pressure on the Mercedes team to give him a shot with a display like today’s.

Aston Martin managed to get both their cars into Q3 with Sebastian Vettel set to start at P8 and Lance Stroll set to start at P10. The former however is under the scrutiny after he impeded Fernando Alonso’s flying lap at turn 10 causing the Spaniard to lose all the momentum and manage only a P14 starting place for the grid. It is yet to be seen what kind of a punishment would be handed to the German driver.

Alpha Tauri put up a very strong display on a hot track today as Pierre Gasly will be starting P6 and his teammate Yuki Tsunoda will be starting P7 as they will be fancying themselves for a double points finish tomorrow.

It was a day of questionable decisions at Ferrari as Carlos Sainz and Leclerc will be starting P11 and P12 respectively. A second run on medium tyres in Q2 meant that both the Ferrari drivers could not improve their times and could have done so if they went out on the softs. This decision was probably taken based on the race pace data from the last weekend where Ferrari looked fast on the medium and hard compound tyres and the Italian team will now be hoping for a repeat of the same.

Alpine had a qualifying to forget after both the cars could not make it into Q3 with Alonso being unlucky and Ocon not finding any pace in the car in the very first qualifying session itself. A visibly distraught Alonso and Alpine will be hoping for the race to turn around their way tomorrow if they are to score any points from the weekend.

Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi and Raikkonen will be starting the race from P15 and P16 respectively after only one of them managed to get out of Q3. Nicholas Latifi in the Williams will be starting P18 after he could not get anywhere close to his teammate and both the Haas cars will be starting with Schumacher at P19 and Nikita Mazepin at P20 respectively, which makes up the grid.

An 18 point gap is set to become wider between championship leaders Verstappen and Hamilton unless the Mercedes make a strong comeback in terms of race pace and strategy on Sunday. Sergio Perez starting at P3 means that we have a race on our hands with the battle for the constructors championship heating up as well, which sets up beautifully for a brilliant race in the Styrian mountains.

Styrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Hamilton gets to the front row

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max Verstappen reigned supreme in the first Austrian race this year as the Dutchman calmly put his Redbull on pole in the mountains of Spielberg. The qualifying went as expected for the home team as it seemed that Verstappen did not need to break a sweat to achieve pole position.

He was two tenths quicker than his nearest competitor in Valtteri Bottas who finished 2nd but will be relegated to 5th because of the penalty that the Finnish driver picked up in free practice 2 as he spun in the pitlane. This means that the stage is set for round 8 of thr Verstappen-Hamilton title fight as the championship leaders lock out the front row with only 12 points separating the two.

Verstappen’s teammate Perez in the other Redbull will be starting at P4 and crucially ahead of Bottas which will help Redbull in their bid to challenge for the constructors championship. Lando Norris delivered yet another stellar performance continuing his amazing season as the English driver will be starting from P3 alongisde Perez. His teammate Riccirado in the other McLaren will be starting from as low as P13 after what seemed like a good weekend based on practice pace sort of fell apart for the Aussie driver.

Honda powered cars of the Alpha Tauri were enjoying the Redbull ring as it was evident from both Gasly and Tsunoda’s pace after both the cars were comfortably in Q3 and they are set to start at P6 and P8 respectively. Tsunoda’s position is however not quite confirmed yet after the Japanese rookie driver failed to move out of the way of Valtteri Bottas who was on a flying lap and could well be handed a grid drop after a trip to the stewards.

Fernando Alonso on the radio was chirpy as the Spanish driver expressed his happiness with his Q2 lap which put him well into Q3. He will be starting P9 as it stands while his teammate Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine could only manage a P17 concluding a mixed Saturday for the French team. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin makes up the top 10 on the grid after the Canadian’s efforts in Q2 saw him get into Q3 by very fine margins while his teammate Vettel could only manage P14 after his time in Q2 was deleted as the German exceeded track limits at turn 10.

George Russell in the Williams continued to live up to his Mr.Saturday tag as the English driver was so close to making it to Q3 as he lost out by a few hundredths of a second but will be starting P11 which could still be a very good place to start in, considering the free tyre choice that will be available to him. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams will be starting P16 in what looks to be a season of a slow but continuous improvement for the Williams team.

Ferrari’s resurgence after having taken back to back poles in Monaco and Azerbaijan seems to be coming to a screeching halt after the problems continued in Austria as well. Both the drivers could not find any pace in comparison to the drivers at the front of the grid after Charles Leclerc only managed P7 and Carlos Sainz a P12 after his lap time was deleted in Q2. The Italian team will be hoping for a quick turnaround of fortunes with some rain possibly in the air tomorrow.

Alfa Romeo managed to put one car in Q2 which happened to be Antonio Giovinazzi who will be starting P15 while Kimi Raikkonen could only manage a P18 after his excursions into the gravel near turn 4 meant he could not improve his lap times. Haas only managed P19 and P20 for Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin respectively which a visibly Gunther Steiner described as a learning experience for the team from his pit wall to the commentators. A tough season is set be endured by them after the team’s focus is set on developing the car for the next year’s regulations.

With an 80% chance of rain for the race tomorrow, the battle for the championship is heating up. Redbull have a clear advantage over Mercedes in terms of one lap pace but it has looked pretty even so far when it comes to race day. Verstappen will be looking to increase his lead over Hamilton in the championship but Mercedes will definitely go after the Red Bulls in what promises to be a thrilling first race in Austria this season.

Azerbaijan GP: Leclerc takes his 2nd pole of the season in Baku

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It was Charles Leclerc of Ferrari who took pole in Baku on Saturday afternoon after a frantic qualifying session. The Monegasque driver received a nice little slipstream behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in the first run of Q3 and was able to put a competitive time on board which was good enough for pole position.

The second run of Q3 was brought to a halt after Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri  crashed into the barriers during his flying lap which was followed by Carlos Sainz of Ferrari locking up and losing his front wing in the same corner followed by a hard hit to the barriers. This meant that there was yet another red flag in the session and pole was decided. The Spaniard however managed a lap good enough for P5 in the first run but will not be too amused after the crash was severe on the back end of his car which might result in a gear box change.

Mercedes finished the session with Lewis Hamilton qualifying at P2 and Bottas at P10, after the Finnish driver provided Hamilton a tow during the first run of Q3 but could not get his own lap in during the second run. The team will be satisfied that they could put at least one car on the front row but Bottas will rue his misfortune on a track that he is generally good at.

Driver’s championship leader Max Verstappen drove a very good lap but only managed a P3 while his teammate Sergio Perez could only manage P7. One thing that Redbull can still be confident of is the fact that their race pace has looked promising in the season so far and crucially, the championship rival Hamilton is not so far up ahead.

Pierre Gasly continued to impress after an excellent lap saw the French driver place his Alpha Tauri at P4 after an amazing lap while his teammate Tsunoda managed a P8. An excellent position for the team overall barring the carsh for Tsunoda later on means they will be hunting that double points finish right from the start.

Lando Norris continued his good start to the season after qualifying at P6 but the English driver is under investigation for infringements after red flags in the first qualifying session. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s dismal season continued after the Australian driver crashed into the barriers towards the end of Q2 which ended his qualifying and put him on P13 on the grid for the race tomorrow.

Fernando Alonso bounced back from his bad outing in qualifying at Monaco and qualified into Q3 this time around with a mega performance. Having termed Baku 2018 as the best race of his career, Alonso will be looking to make the most of the scenario as he is set to start from P9 on the grid and is in with a chance for some valuable points tomorrow. His teammate Esteban Ocon could not get out of Q2 and will be starting the race from P12.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll brought on the first red flag of qualifying in Q1 after he crashed out towards the end of sector 2 on his first run in Q2 and will be starting at P19. His teammate Vettel narrowly missed out on Q3 by as less as three hundredths of a second after the red flag brought on by Ricciardo meant that he could not improve his lap time. The German driver will start at P11 but has an advantage of starting on tyres of his own choice.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was involved in the second red flag during Q1 after crashing into the same corner as Lance Stroll and the Italian driver will be starting last. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen will be starts P14 after his Q1 laps were good enough to get out of it. Both the Haas cars had clean Q1 laps and they will be starting with Schumacher at P17 and Mazepin at P18 respectively.

George Russell in the Williams got out of Q1 yet again and will be starting the race at P15 but it was not certain before the start of the session. The English driver had to wait until the mechanics changed the entire power unit of his car after a water pipe leak meant he could not continue at the end of his last free practice. His teammate Latifi will line up at P16 after failing to get out of Q1.

The race is set to get underway with championship rivals Hamilton and Verstappen all set to start at 2nd and 3rd while Ferrari slowly seem to be improving and mounting challenges. The race promises to be a cracker as is the usual setting in Baku when the five lights go out.

Spanish GP: Hamilton takes win number 98

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Lewis Hamilton took his 98th Formula 1 win on Sunday afternoon after delivering yet another stunning drive which was strategically very reminiscent of Hungary 2019. The English driver started from his 100th pole position and fell behind to his title rival Max Verstappen but thanks to an aggressive and well thought out strategy from the Mercedes team, he was able to come back into the race and take the lead towards the very end and went on to win.

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was once again limited to playing the team game as he failed to match either of Hamilton or Verstappen. The Finnish driver did not quite back down after team orders were implemented which meant Hamilton had to overtake him losing some time in the process. It all ended well as the English driver was able to catch the leading Redbull and take a healthy lead in the driver’s championship. Sergio Perez in the other Redbull could only manage only a 5th place finish which brings into question, the ever present dilemma surrounding the Redbull second car.

Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari drove an excellent race finishing 4th ahead of Sergio Perez in the Redbull which means it is good signs for the Ferrari after a season to forget last year. Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari also had a very good drive after his battles with the McLaren drivers saw him finish 7th. Daniel Ricciardo in the McLaren seems to have gotten over his shaky start to the season and drove an excellent race to finish P6 while his teammate Lando Norris just seems to have taken foot off the gas after a good start to the season and managed an 8th place finish only.

Esteban Ocon started off the weekend in a brilliant fashion after qualifying P6 but could only manage P9 in the race while his teammate Alonso after being involved in the tussle for the final points position for a long time had to pit towards the end and ended up at a lowly P17. Alpha Tauri had a mixed weekend after Yuki Tsunoda’s car had an engine failure very early in the race but Pierre Gasly managed his race well after he had to overcome the challenge of Aston Martin drivers.

Aston Martin had a very under the radar showing with both the drivers Stroll and Vettel finishing outside points and the team will be left to figure out how to better their fortunes in a fortnight’s time for the Monaco grandprix. It was a better outing for Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo than last time as he finished the race this time around and finished well at P12. His teammate on the other hand had to sit through a sub 40 second pit stop and could only manage a P15.

‘Mr.Saturday’ George Russell had yet another mellow Sunday interms of the result but the whole team will definitely take heart from a performance where he was close to P10 for the most of the afternoon but failed to put the final fight in for it and finished P14. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams finished at P16.

Haas cars had yet another slow outing during the race and Mick Schumacher managed an 18th placed finish despite a bright start from him and his teammate Nikita Mazepin only finished last of the lot while often being mentioned in the radio for not following the blue flags correctly.

Redbull definitely seemed to have the pace going into the race but they were caught out by Mercedes’ aggressive strategy just like Hungary 2019 as Lewis Hamilton drove his heart out in Barcelona. Max Verstappen will have many more chances in the upcoming part of the season to take the challenge to Hamilton on track but for now the momentum is with the British driver.

Portuguese GP: Hamilton takes 2nd win of the season

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took his 97th career win at Portimao on Sunday afternoon after fending off the challenge from his teammate Bottas and Redbull’s Max Verstappen. The English driver started 2nd on the grid behind his teammate Valtteri Bottas and got off to a steady start. He was later jumped by Verstappen at the early safety car restart and was running 3rd at one point. Hamilton then made his way back into the race in fiery fashion after picking off both Verstappen and Bottas on the main straight and never looked back once he was in control.

The race saw a very early safety car brought in on lap 2 after both the Alfa Romeos tangled on the main straight with Kimi Raikkonen losing the front wing in the process. The Finnish driver then had to retire while his teammate managed to stay on. It was a good restart from the other Finnish driver in the Mercedes which enabled him to open up a gap over the drivers behind him. The race was not the one to remember for him however as he was later on overtaken by both his teammate and Verstappen. A little comfort for him was that the final pitstop made towards the end of the race enabled him to grab the fastest lap and the extra point from today’s outing.

Redbull ended their day where they started on the grid with Verstappen at 3rd and Perez at 4th but would have hoped for much more from the race, especially with the car looking quick enough to challenge Mercedes this year. Verstappen was initially awarded the fastest lap of the race towards the end but the lap time was deleted thanks to the Dutch driver exceeding limits at track 14. His teammate Perez ended his race at 4th after having a super long first stint on medium tyres for 53 laps and went with soft tyres for the rest of his race.

It was yet another top 5 finish for Lando Norris in his McLaren as his excellent start to the season continued. The English driver was mega at the restart and battled Alpine’s Esteban Ocon to jump places. His teammate Ricciardo in the McLaren also bounced back from a poor show in qualifying on Saturday and finished in the points at 9th place after a stellar drive.

Ferrari had a mixed showing at the grandprix, mostly brought upon by themselves as Leclerc finished at P6 after starting 8th and Carlos Sainz despite having a good start, only managed P11 after a questionable strategy call from the team. The Italian outfit will however take heart from their showing compared to the kind of season they had last year.

Alpine managed a double points finish with Esteban Ocon in 7th and Fernando Alonso in 8th after excellent drives from both the drivers. Alonso turned the clock back years with some fine overtaking moves while Ocon showed why he deserves to be in F1. The final place in the points belonged to Pierre Gasly who had a decent race and managed to finish 10th while his rookie teammate Yuki Tsunoda could only manage a 15th placed finish.

With Kimi Raikkonen retiring as early as lap 2, Alfa Romeo had only one car finishing the race with Giovinazzi at P12 after the Italian driver managed to pull some moves towards the end of the race. Aston Martin could only manage out of points finishes for their drivers with Vettel finishing P13 and Stroll finishing at P14. The team will hope for a better performance in the coming weekend and will quickly want to turn their season around if they want to be anywhere close to where they were last year.

It was a poor showing for Williams on Sunday especially with George Russell starting at P11. The English driver could not manage to hold his place there during the course of the race and could only manage a 16th place finish while his teammate in the other Wiliiams only managed 18th. Haas will be very disappointed with their result after Mick Schumacher could only manage a 17th place finish and his Russian teammate Nikita Mazepin finished last of the runners, with a whole minute behind his own teammate at one point during the race.

The season is definitely off to a great start with Redbull looking a lot closer to Mercedes than they ever were and with Lewis Hamilton’s dominance under threat from the ever hungry Max Verstappen, this could go on to be one of the classic seasons of F1.

Dual in the desert Bahrain

What a race…

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

After what seemed like an unusually long winter Formula 1 is back with a bang in the desert.

After winter testing, three practice sessions and qualifying all that we knew for sure was the grid had indeed tightened up, especially for the top two teams in Mercedes and Red Bull.

Max Verstappen had taken pole position from Lewis Hamilton by just under four tenths of a second with the sister Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in third and Charles Leclerc in fourth.

Even sitting thousands of miles away the anticipation at the start was palpable.

The instillation lap did nothing to calm the nerves as Checo Perez loses power initialising a second instal lap.

He did manage to power up the ailing Red Bull but had to start from the pit lane.

Five red lights go out and we’re away for the Bahrain Grand Prix and indeed the start of the 2021 season. Unsurprisingly to many fans the number two Haas crashes out at turn one and his race ends before it can even start, leaving Mick Schumacher the sole Haas driver as the safety car is deployed.

Leclerc had managed to snatch third from Bottas before the safety car was deployed! Sainz lost out at the start and is down in P10, with Alonso and Stroll both gaining a position from him.

Verstappen leads the pack away from Hamilton who is left to defend from Leclerc into turn one.

Bottas takes third place back as we settle into a familiar pattern.

Verstappen pulls out a small lead of just under two seconds.

Further down the pack Sergio Perez starts to haul the Red bull through the field.

Mercedes are first to blink and try the undercut, putting the hard tyres on and it looks like a great decision as Red bull stays out as Lewis starts pumping in purple sectors and is the fastest man on track.

Verstappen’s in at last! And goes from mediums to mediums, he will have to stop again. He exits the pits nearly seven seconds behind Hamilton!

The top three are Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas. Further down the field Vettel and Alonso are fighting it out for P8!

Max is putting in the strong laps now on tyres ten laps newer than Hamilton’s. He closes to within two seconds or so, as Mercedes once again throws the dice and pull Lewis in for a new set of hard boots.

He exits the pits in third behinds Bottas in second and Max in first.

Bottas stops but there’s a problem with the front left! It’s a 10.9s stop and he comes out behind Leclerc in P5

Verstappen pits for hards and is stationary for an incredible 1.9 seconds and leaves himself 8.7s to make up to Hamilton in the final 17 laps.

Hamilton’s trying to keep his tyres going until the end, andy it’s falling back into Verstappen’s hands as he starts to take chunks off Lewis.

Verstappen is eating into Hamilton’s lead like its an open buffet. Half a second out in the middle sector alone, and he can see the Mercedes on the straights now.

Hamilton brakes another record this time for the most laps led in F1 with 5,112!

Vettel and Ocon have come together. Both have got going again, but Vettel has some damage to his front wing. Looks like Sebs fault but that’s one for the stewards to decide.

Max is like a lion hunting down his prey with only the odd back marker to hold him back, Lewis locks up and goes wide at Turn ten! He keeps the lead but Verstappen is just a second behind now and within DRS range.

Lap 52 and Hamilton only has half a second over Verstappen as he tries around the outside of Turn one but Hamilton holds him off!

Down to Turn four and Verstappen goes around the outside again, and this time he takes the lead!

Max Is immediately told by his team to give the place back as he’s left the circuit whilst taking the position, if he doesn’t do it a penalty could be costly.

Verstappen’s loses grip in Hamilton’s wake but he’s now out of DRS range on the start finish straight.

Bottas stops for a new set of tyres as he attempts to grab the extra point for fastest lap.

Hamilton starts the final lap and Verstappen is back within DRS range, no matter how well Max has driven this weekend he just can’t get passed the exuberant Hamilton who takes the win from Verstappen and Bottas.

Norris, Perez, Ricardo and Yuki Tsunoda all make impressive debuts, Alonso and Seb looked good and should improve as we get further into the season.

Mick Schumacher had a quiet race finishing last but that’s all that can be expected in the under developed Haas.

HAM

VER

BOT

NOR

PER

LEC

RIC

SAI

TSU

STR

RAI

GIO

OCO

RUS

VET

MSC

DNF: GAS, LAT, ALO, MAZ

Bahrain Test Part Two

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 12: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during Day One of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on March 12, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)

Here we go, four more hours but I can’t see much changing except for the odd driver and the weather.

Daniel Ricciardo still on top of the timing sheets as we start with Gasly and Verstappen close behind in the standings

This session can be described in one word, dusty! They can’t push the cars and are having to short shift and are actually off the throttle at some points on the track.

Coming up to the three hour remaining mark and very little has changed, we’re waiting on the first appearance of the seven time World Drivers Champion Lewis Hamilton

Will they refer to him as Sir Lewis?

First sight of Carlos Sainz in his new Ferrari, it’s a big year for the young Spaniard.

Three hours and two minutes and the World Champion joins the track for the first time and looks straight on it power sliding his way around the track. Times are still down on Ricardos best set earlier today in the morning session, laps are around four to five seconds slower.

Verstappen goes fastest on a 1:31.4O on the hard tyre After completing 80 laps.

Drivers seem to be finding some grip now as Max remains out gaining valuable data for the team.

Tsunoda has impressed on his first outing in the AlphaTauri it’s a little odd seeing the number 22 and not having Jenson Button driving behind the wheel.

With 1 hour 37 minutes left on the clock Lewis and the Mercedes seem to be getting into their stride with a lap still a full 1.5 seconds behind the pace set by Verstappen.

With 90 minutes remaining

1 VER 1:31.412

2 NOR +0.397
3 GIO +0.533
4 OCO +0.716
5 RIC +0.791

The number 9 Haas has completed 48 uneventful laps.

55 minutes to go and Verstappen puts in a flier 1:30.6 and has completed 113 laps just as Carlos Sainz spins his Ferrari.

Hamilton getting the laps in, still off the pace but getting valuable data and obviously we don’t know his fuel levels.

Lando Norris is comfortably third on the timing sheets behind Ocon and Verstappen. The McLaren looks very happy with its new Mercedes engine.

24 minutes to go and Lando posts a faster lap taking him into second place overall. McLaren have had a solid first day of testing.

Lance stroll posts an impressive 1:31.7 and moves up to fourth in the over all rankings.

Hamilton is out lapping in his Mercedes, but he is seriously lacking in traction, spectacular to watch but he’s not improving his times.

Under five minutes to go and the virtual safety card has been deployed, and that brings the session to an end.

1 VER 1:30.674 139

2 NOR +0.215 46

3 OCO +0.472 129

4 STR +1.108 46

5 SAI +1.245 57

6 GIO +1.271 68

7 RIC +1.529 45

8 GAS +1.557 74

9 TSU +2.053 37
10 HAM +2.238 42

Sebastian Vettel: Possible Redemption?

So the worst kept secret in F1 is out. Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel will be moving to Racing Point for next season when it is rebranded as Aston Martin. It all was the result of Vettel’s departure from Ferrari who he has raced for since 2015, a partnership that he had hoped would have resulted in a fifth championship – but it wasn’t meant to be.

Vettel won four straight championships with Red Bull who housed him throughout his junior career, however nowadays you would be forgiven for doubting that this was the same driver. The Vettel of today has been so dejected, dare I say humbled by his lack of success with the Scuderia, and there’s a narrative these days that it’s all because of Ferrari. I however disagree with this notion, it’s not all one party’s fault the relationship has soured.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates his fourth and final championship with the Red Bull Team – courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Before I proceed, I feel the need to put forward my biases and perspective so everyone knows. I wasn’t a fan of Vettel back in his Red Bull domination days, and to an extent I’m still not a fan but even now, I do have some sympathy for him.

When he joined Ferrari, it was the beginning of the Mercedes dominance in the turbo hybrid era so Vettel had a mountain to climb. He had just come off the back of a winless final season with Red Bull in which he was shown up rather considerably by new Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, who took three wins on his way to third in the championship.

He took the seat of departing Fernando Alonso, who had hoped to be Ferrari’s next champion and came very close but lost out to Vettel in 2010 and 2012, and lined up alongside Ferrari’s last champion Kimi Räikkönen. Vettel really surprised in his first season with the Scuderia, as he took three victories at Malaysia, Hungary and Singapore on his way to third in the championship.

Vettel enjoyed a positive first season with Ferrari – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

However unlike his teammate the previous season Daniel Ricciardo, Vettel took those victories on pure pace as opposed to benefiting from some misfortunes that befell both Mercedes cars. In fact from 2014-2016, it was Vettel’s three wins that were the only ones that were won not from misfortunes for Mercedes. Even with Merc’s dominance, Vettel came very close to denying Nico Rosberg runner-up in the championship that year.

2016 was a bit of a nothing year for Vettel, but with the regulation change coming into 2017 there was renewed hope for Vettel and Ferrari that they could take the battle to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. At first it was very much hopeful, as Vettel and Hamilton traded places in the first two races and then the Ferrari driver began opening up a lead.

Despite a promising 2017 season, Vettel fell short of his fifth title, losing out to Lewis Hamilton – Courtesy of Ferrari media

Whilst the two drivers were relishing this opportunity to battle it out for the championship, it did all come to a head at Azerbaijan when Hamilton led Vettel under safety car conditions, Vettel didn’t anticipate Hamilton’s movement and ran into the back of him, assumed he brake tested him so he did the thing he believed was a good idea, drove alongside Hamilton and deliberately ran into him.

Then the infamous Singapore start collision caused by Seb moving over on Kimi and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen handed the momentum to Hamilton, and with Mercedes outdeveloping Ferrari, the 2017 title race was swiftly over. A rejuvenated Vettel went into 2018 feeling confident, and he took two wins from the first two races to open up an early lead. But before long, Vettel began making more and more errors.

He threw away a win at Baku when he locked his brake going into turn one on a safety car restart, locked up at the start at the French GP and clipping Bottas, thus ruining both their races. However it was Hockenheim that sealed Vettel’s fate, where he had a commanding lead and when some drizzle arrived and he lost it heading into the stadium section and burying it in the gravel and tyre barrier.

From then on, it came thick and fast. Monza lap one when he spun after touching Hamilton, Suzuka when he spun when trying to pass Verstappen heading into spoon, lap one at the US Grand Prix when he tapped Ricciardo and, you guessed it, spun. Couple that with Hamilton driving like a man possessed, Hamilton went from trailing Vettel in terms of championships 4-1 to then being 5-4 in his favour.

Meanwhile on the other side of both garages, their Finnish teammates were highlighting the difference between them.

Whilst Vettel had Räikkönen as his teammate, Hamilton had Valtteri Bottas. Both of them were playing supporting roles, but it was quickly becoming obvious that whilst Hamilton’s driving was warranting the lead driver status, Vettel clearly wasn’t doing enough to have his teammate hang back. This coincided with the meteoric rise of a Ferrari-backed driver from Monaco, called Charles Leclerc.

After winning titles in GP3 and Formula 2, Leclerc spent his rookie F1 campaign with Sauber and got the call-up to Ferrari for 2019. Clearly very highly rated by many, there was expectations that Leclerc could do what Ricciardo did in 2014 and wipe the floor with Seb. In a way, he kind of did.

As Leclerc looked set to take victory in only his second race for the team before a mechanical failure dropped him to third, Vettel had it difficult to hold him back initially and then spun again when passed by Hamilton later in the race. Vettel then got a penalty for skipping across the chicane at Canada and nearly colliding with Hamilton, which ultimately lost him the race and he protested after the race with an act of defiance switching of the first and second place boards.

Vettel’s dangerous re-join at last year’s Canadian Grand Prix earned him a race-costing penalty – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

At Silverstone, he locked up and slammed into the back of Max Verstappen just after he overtook Vettel after spending the majority of the race up until that point having a very close battle with Leclerc. Another spin at Monza was further compounded by Leclerc taking victories at the previous race at Spa, and then in front of the Tifosi, but even with Seb taking victory at Singapore the following round couldn’t shake the narrative that he was losing it.

It wasn’t helped when in Brazil, Vettel swiped at Leclerc putting them both out in an incident very similar to when he did the same at Istanbul back in 2010 to his then Red Bull teammate Mark Webber. In the end, Leclerc won the qualifying battle and despite Vettel being ahead in more races, he still finished behind Leclerc.

Ferrari endured a tumultuous 2019 season with among a tense inter-team rivalry between Vettel and Charles Leclerc

I am not just pointing these out to kick Vettel whilst he’s down, I took no pleasure in watching him make these errors which were becoming an all too common occurrence, prompting the meme ‘SBINALLA’ whenever he would mess up. Of course, before this delayed season began it was announced that Vettel’s Ferrari contract would not be renewed and he’d be replaced in 2021 by Carlos Sainz.

Since then, it’s been a narrative of “Vettel didn’t perform because Ferrari didn’t believe in him”. To that I say, well can you blame them? If a rookie kept making the mistakes Vettel was making, they would have probably been replaced. It’s a two-way system, Vettel made a lot of unforced errors which resulted in Ferrari losing faith, and now they don’t give him the belief that he needs.

Vettel will leave Ferrari having failed to win a championship with the team

Again I don’t take pleasure in saying this, even I’ve begun to feel sorry for the guy. However maybe the move to Aston Martin is just what he needs. A fresh start (which seemed to bode well for him in 2015), plus the current ‘Pink Mercedes’ which will be used again in 2021 could lend well to his driving style. The turbo hybrid cars don’t have as much rear downforce as pre-2014 cars due to the exhaust gases not being channeled under the car.

Vettel’s style could bode even better when the 2022 regulations roll around since they utilise ground effect. However by that point, maybe the likes of Verstappen, Leclerc and all the other young guns will be the benchmark.

I’m not writing him off completely, but Vettel has got a lot to be proud of in his career. Winning for Toro Rosso at Monza, winning four straight championships at Red Bull, and he could do very well with Aston Martin. But ultimately, just because he has done that in the past doesn’t mean his errors during his time at Ferrari can be overlooked.

I hope Vettel gets his mojo back and can bring a win or two for the team that started out as Jordan back in 1991, I hope he can prove to himself and everyone else that they are wrong.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Alonso returns to F1 with Renault

(Image courtesy of Fernando Alonso Instagram)

When Fernando Alonso announced in 2018 that he would be stepping away from Formula 1, very few of thought he would return. With the current status-quo as it is with the last few years dominated by Mercedes with only Red Bull and Ferrari able to hold a candle to them, and Alonso growing evidently tired of being in a lackluster McLaren, it was perhaps understandable that many of us didn’t believe these rumours of the two-time champion returning to F1 with the team that took him to those two world championships, Renault.

But sure enough, it was confirmed by Renault that Alonso would make his F1 comeback next year partnering up with Esteban Ocon and replacing the McLaren-bound Daniel Ricciardo. The former Red Bull driver signed a two-year deal with the French automotive manufacturer which was estimated to be in the region of nearly €25 million per year. But the promise of a car being able to challenge for podiums in the coming years wasn’t convincing enough for Ricciardo, and he will now take the seat of Carlos Sainz who is off to Ferrari to replace four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.

Alonso claimed he would not return to F1 unless he had a race winning car, and in a post on Instagram, he seems to be pinning all his hopes on the upcoming revolutionary 2022 regulations which will close the gap between the top three teams. With the teams having agreed to continue using their current cars for 2021, Renault certainly don’t look like a frontrunning team right now.

The experience of Alonso will undoubtedly play a part in developing their 2022 car but even so, time isn’t on his side. He will be turning 41 in 2022 which means at the very most, he has at most three years if Michael Schumacher’s three-year tenure in his comeback with Mercedes is anything to go by. Will he still be at the top of his game? Even if by some miracle, Renault are consistent front runners and he’s challenging for podiums, wins and maybe even the championship, would Fernando still be capable?

Then there’s the question of Renault’s academy drivers. With Esteban Ocon being out of F1 for 18 months prior to the Austrian Grand Prix and having only raced two full seasons prior with Force India as well as a couple of races with the Manor team in 2016, he’s far from being able to lead a team just yet so that undoubtedly factored in when finding who could take Ricciardo’s seat. However there’s still questions to be asked about where this leads the two probable F1 graduates in Renault’s academy right now.

These two drivers are Formula 2 racers Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard. Zhou is entering his second season of F2, prior to his first season , he hadn’t been that impressive in the junior formula, although was runner-up in Italian F4 in 2015. He had been on the Ferrari driver academy before joining Renault’s for 2019, and despite his time in European F3 not being indicative of being potential F1 material, he stepped it up when it mattered.

Zhou scored five podiums and a pole position on his way to seventh overall, and began the 2020 season with a pole at the Red Bull Ring, and was set for his first win before his Virtuosi F2 car let him down. Plus you have to think that Zhou is also a marketing goldmine for a manufacturer like Renault, since he would be the first Chinese driver and China is always a market that brands want to sell in so it would make sense from a marketing standpoint.

Then we have Lundgaard, who won two F4 championships in 2017, finished runner-up in Formula Renault EuroCup and took a race win last year in FIA Formula 3 with ART Grand Prix. He’s now in F2 with ART and scored a fourth and fifth in his first F2 races. He has had a rapid rise through the lower ranks and undoubtedly has the ability, but perhaps it may have been too early and he could be in prime position to be in the Renault F1 drive after Alonso retires for good.

Since we are talking about Renault juniors, it would be an insult if we didn’t talk about the driver who was perhaps in the best position for that seat alongside Ocon.

Lundgaard may have remained in F3 for a title charge in 2020, but that ART F2 drive had already been paid for by Renault so he was promoted into the seat that most likely would have been occupied by 2018 GP3 champion Anthoine Hubert.

Having won two sprint races last season in F2 at Monaco and Paul Ricard with BWT Arden, but tragedy struck at Spa-Francorchamps when Hubert was fatally injured. I would have put a lot of money on Hubert being champion in F2 this year had he been in that ART seat, considering the past two champions George Russell and Nyck De Vries raced with ART as well.

(Image taken from F1 2020 Game Play)

Nevertheless, it’s the return of Fernando Alonso with Renault for 2021. I can definitely imagine a few more iconic moments from him, especially in the Drive to Survive season focusing on the 2021 season, the combination of Fernando and Cyril Abiteboul is going to make for some interesting moments for us, that’s for sure.