F1’s silly season goes into overdrive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verstappen dominates wet Canadian GP qualifying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 Spanish GP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton making moves. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

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

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

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

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

 

F1 Weekend Preview: The Sprint is Back!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ferrari’s Home Ground – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verstappen victorious in Round 2 of Ferrari vs Red Bull

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton makes the move stick. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton on top in Qatar!

Hamilton wins the inaugural Qatar GP with Verstappen in P2 to bring the gap down in the championship. Alonso back on the podium since Hungry 2014 with a very solid performance. Tyre drama in the closing stages of the race meant the one stop strategy didn’t work for most that tried it, Russell, Latifi and Bottas suffering from punctures.

After another night waiting for the stewards to make a decision, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas got a 5 place and 3 place penalty respectively. This meant that Verstappen would start P7, Bottas P6 but importantly Gasly started on the front row with Alonso starting P3. All set to add to the drama of the 2021 Formula 1 championship!

Lights out and Hamilton immediately covered the inside from a very quick Alonso and Gasly. Verstappen made up 3 places in the first few corners with Alonso making a great move down the inside of Gasly. Bottas meanwhile had an awful start, losing 5 places in the first lap. Vettel was another driver who lost 7 places after a going very wide in turn 1.

Sergio Perez Valtteri Bottas  battle for track position round turn one at the start  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/RedBull Content Pool)

Lap 3 and the call came through from Verstappen that he was “stuck” behind Gasly. Told to let Verstappen past, Gasly went wide in the final corner on lap 4, allowing Verstappen to get through. Just 1 lap later Verstappen made an easy DRS move past Alonso, meaning normal business was resumed by lap 5 with Hamilton P1 and Verstappen P2.

Perez making good progress 10 laps in, resulting in Toto Wolff encouraging Bottas to overtake the cars in front because he hadn’t gained any places since the start. Lance Stroll went wide in 2nd to last corner, allowing Bottas to gain DRS. However, the battle was between Stroll, Bottas and Tsunoda with the Japanese driver in front at the start of the main straight but behind both drivers by the end. It was 1 lap later that Bottas managed to get past Stroll.

It seems encouragement is all Bottas needed, making up a further 2 places by lap 15. The race was now on between Perez and Bottas for the final podium place. With a full pitstop over P3 and flying out front, it looked like this would be Hamilton’s race to lose. Verstappen appeared to be struggling with damage and couldn’t keep up with Lewis.

Lap 18 and Verstappen was the first to pit. Hoping that the new set of hard tyres would help him close the gap. Mercedes immediately responded stopping Hamilton for hard tyres, comfortably coming out ahead of the RedBull. With a pitstop over P3 both drivers came back out in their own positions. RedBull then pitted Perez in an attempt to get Bottas to stop as well. However, Mercedes strategist’s saw more opportunities for Bottas with a one stop strategy so left him out for a longer stint on the mediums.

Max Verstappen makes a pitstop (Photo by Hamad I Mohammed – Pool/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

A lock up from Leclerc into turn 1 on lap 27 meant that Alonso could overtake on the inside, but Perez attempted to go through on the outside, ending up on the green tarmac. Into turns 2 and 3 Perez had the inside line and managed to get past Leclerc. Just 2 laps later Alonso was within his sights, pulling an almost identical move to get past the 2-time champion. Alonso did fight back but Perez had the pace to get through drama free.

Lap 34 and disaster for Mercedes as Bottas got a front left puncture halfway around the circuit on his way back to the pit he sprinkled gravel onto the track. A replacement nose and new hard tyres he made it back out in P14. Pirelli said before the race that the mediums would do about 30 laps, Bottas completed 33 before the tyre began to delaminate. This had major consequences in the constructor’s championship with the gap only 5 points.

The call of vibrations were coming through from both front runners on lap 40. 2 laps later and RedBull pit Verstappen for medium tyres who had over a 50 second gap to his teammate who pitted the following lap. Mercedes responded again putting scrubbed mediums on Hamilton’s car, who maintained the 8.5 second gap comfortably coming out ahead of Verstappen.

Having come out in P7, Perez was back on the charge and Alonso was in the final podium position. 3 cars between Perez and Alonso with 10 laps to go, one being the other Alpine of Ocon. Alonso encouraging his teammate all the way to tell him to “defend like a lion”. However, the pace advantage of the RedBull was too much for the Alpine and Perez went around the outside of turn 1. The fight wasn’t over as in turns 5 and 6 Ocon came back but ran out of road and Perez made the move stick.

The tyres didn’t seem to be coping with the track. As Mercedes retired Bottas, Russell got a front left puncture after 31 laps with his hard tyres. Norris pitted just 1 lap before, the McLaren seeing the potential danger. Latifi went just 1 lap after Russell, front left tyre failure again. Unfortunately for Latifi it began to go on the main straight so decided to pull over on a service road around turn 10. This caused concern for Alonso who was on a 1 stop strategy and needed to complete 32 laps on his tyres. Alonso told to stay off the curbs.

Virtual safety car was deployed so that the marshals could recover the Williams of Latifi. Verstappen pitted for softs to try and retain fastest lap if he got the chance to go again. Despite the fact that the VSC ended halfway through the final lap, Verstappen maintain fastest lap to take that point away from Hamilton.

Hamilton won having led from start to finish, Verstappen finished P2, and Fernando Alonso finished P3 for the first time in 104 races! There are now 8 points between the championship rivals heading into the final race of the season. If Hamilton wins and takes fastest lap with Verstappen P2 in the next race they will be level on points for the finale.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Second placed Max Verstappen and Third placed Fernando Alonso celebrate on the podium (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

US GP: Verstappen takes pole in a front row lockout with Hamilton

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Red Bull and Verstappen reigned supreme at the circuit of the Americas on Saturday as the Dutch driver beat Hamilton to pole by two tenths of a second, setting up a front row lock out with his championship rival. Verstappen’s teammate Perez will start the race at P3 after a strong qualifying, which could come in handy for Verstappen in his fight for the title.

Mercedes struggled to match the Redbulls for pace in qualifying until Hamilton pulled out a decent lap in the last run of Q3. Unfortunately it was only emough to get the better of one Redbull and it was not his rival Verstappen. The Englishman has it all to do in the race on Sunday to try and beat Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes will be starting P9 on the grid after yet another engine change which means a grid penalty. This could be a blow for Mercedes in a scenario where they would require Bottas to play the team game in order to try and push for the driver’s title.

Ferrari looked fast over the course of the weekend in free practice sessions but even with that, their pace was no match to that of Redbull and Mercedes. They will be starting P4 and P5 on the grid with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz respectively and crucially ahead of both the McLarens who are their closest rival in the constructors championship.

A nice battle is now shaping up for third place in the constructors championship between McLaren and Ferrari with only 7.5 points between them and both the McLaren drivers will be starting at P6 with Daniel Ricciardo and Norris at P7 respectively. With both the Ferraris ahead of them, they will have their work cut out from lights out if they want to maintain 3rd in the constructors championship.

Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauris completed the last remaining spots in the top 10 after qualifying P9 and P10 respectively. The 5th row on the grid will however change tomorrow as Bottas’ penalty relegates him to P9 while Gasly moves a place ahead to P8. Both the drivers for the Italian team managed to put in clean laps which was not the case for many other drivers on Saturday.

Esteban Ocon in the Alpine qualified at P11 after a little help from his teammate Fernando Alonso . The Spaniard who has taken a new engine this weekend will be starting from the back of the grid but showed that he was a true team player by providing Ocon a tow on the back straight in Q2. It was however not good enough for the Frenchman to make it all the way to Q3.

Sebastian Vettel and George Russell will be joining Alonso at the back of the grid after taking new engine components and incurring grid penalties. This however did not stop them from making it to Q2 and setting times. With Vettel’s time being faster than Alonso’s and Russell’s he will be starting P18, while Alonso will be starting P19 followed by Russell at P20.

Giovinazzi made it to yet another Q2 continuing his decent qualifying form and will be starting the race from P12 which gives him a good chance to grab some world championship points. Unfortunately for his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, it was an unstable Q1 after having lap times deleted and the Finnish driver will be starting from P15 on the grid.

Russell’s teammate Latifi in the Williams will be starting from P14 on the grid after qualifying P17 and both the Haas cars will be starting at P16 and P17 respectively, a bit higher than the usual. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin will be starting P13 despite getting knocked out in Q1, where he looked quite off the pace compared to his teammate.

The battle for the driver’s championship is waiting for yet another chapter to be written in its tale as Verstappen and Hamilton go into the race with a front row start. With the way that the battle has shaped up so far this season, it is set to be yet another exhilarating start to the United States Grandprix, which will makes its return after two years and is on the verge of delivering a classic race.

Turkish Grand Prix: Hamilton fastest in qualifying as 10 place grid penalty awaits

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton breezed past competition in Istanbul Park on Saturday afternoon to set the fastest lap in qualifying. Unfortunately he will be starting P11 thanks to an ICE change on his Mercedes, which resulted in a 10-place grid penalty.

Hamilton’s teammate Bottas is set to start from pole position after he finished P2 in qualifying and crucially for Mercedes, he will be starting ahead of Max Verstappen in the Redbull, who is set to start P2 on the grid after his P3 finish in qualifying. This could be an interesting line up in the grand scheme of things leading up to the WDC title fight between Verstappen and Hamilton. While Bottas is up there with Max Verstappen on the front row, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez in the other Redbull will only be starting P6 tomorrow for the race.

The Ferrari of Charles Leclerc will line up at P3 on the grid tomorrow after the Italian team showed signs of pace in the free practice sessions on Friday. Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz is set to start from the back of the grid thanks to a complete power unit change. The 2nd row will see a back in form Pierre Gasly line up at P3 after the French driver looked really fast throughout the weekend .Gasly’s teammate Tsunoda managed to make it to Q3 but could not make any major inroads and he will be starting P9 for the race tomorrow.

McLaren will have their work cut out for the race come Sunday, as Lando Norris could only manage a lap fast enough for P8 in qualifying, which means P7 for the race. The English driver would be looking forward to quickly put the disappointment in Sochi behind him by delivering a strong finish for McLaren tomorrow. Daniel Ricciardo had a qualifying session to forget, especially after coming to Turkey with very strong results in the last two races, a P4 in Sochi and a race win in Monza. The Australian driver will start P15 on the grid, thanks to grid penalties for Carlos Sainz.

Fernando Alonso has proven yet again this season that class is permanent, after he finished P6 in qualifying and making it look easy while other drivers were struggling for tyre temperatures and grip on a relatively damp track. The Spaniard will start P5 on the grid for the race tomorrow and his teammate Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine will only be starting P12 alongisde Lewis Hamilton at P11.

It was a relatively good day at the office for Aston Martin on Saturday, as Lance Stroll finished P9 in qualifying, which means a P8 start on the grid for the race tomorrow. The Canadian driver has had his moments in Q2 where he ran wide and was at the mercy of other drivers’ lap times. Fortunately he lived to fight another day and will be looking for some good points in the race tomorrow. His teammate Sebastian Vettel missed out on Q3 but will start P10, which is not all bad for the German driver as he will have free tyre choice for the race on Sunday, despite starting in P10.

George Russell in the Williams was so close to making it to yet another Q3 in the season but the English driver ran wide in the very last corner in the final run of Q2, undoing all the good work he has put in during the lap. which will serve as a A gentle reminder of how cruel F1 can be as a sport. He is set to start the race from P13 on the grid while his teammate Latifi will start from P16.

Haas finally had a moment that they could savour this season as Mick Schumacher made it to Q2 for the second time this season but unlike the previous time, participated in it and put in a lap that was good enough for P14. His teammate Mazepin had yet another qualifying session to forget where he would be just happy to have kept the car in one piece, after spinning multiple times during the course of Q1 and he is set to start P19 on the grid. Both the Alfa Romeo cars failed to get out of Q1 in changing track conditions and they are set to start with Giovinazzi in P18 and Raikkonen in P19.

Valtteri Bottas might not yet be done playing his part in the title race but unfortunately for the Finn, it will not be for his own sake. With his teammate Hamilton starting from P11, it is his job to battle Verstappen and prevent the Dutchman from taking a win, which would minimize the damage for Lewis Hamilton. It is set to be an exciting 9th world championship Turkish Grandprix as the championship fight for both constructors and drivers enters the final phase with 7 races remaining on the calendar.

 

British GP Friday qualifying: Hamilton fastest at home

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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

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

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.

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