2018 Italian GP Review: Raging Tifosi

 

Round fourteen of the 2018 Formula One season saw teams arrive at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. Deemed the Temple of Speed for a reason, it would be a two-way fight for the victory between Ferrari and the Mercedes. Ferrari hoped to please the Tifosi at their home GP whilst Mercedes wanted to steal the show and dominate proceedings, over their Italian rivals.

In a dry qualifying it was Ferrari that took a front row lockdown, but not in the usual order. It was Kimi Räikkönen who profited from the slipstream he got from his teammate Sebastian Vettel, giving him the fastest ever F1 lap with an average speed of 263kmh. Vettel wasn’t happy with his P2, as he told his team they’d “talk about it” afterwards. He was most likely disappointed that the Finn got the slipstream instead of him as he’s a Drivers’ Championship contender. The second row belonged to Mercedes.

The Tifosi were in for a party as the front row coloured red, just as all the grandstands were. Räikkönen had a great start as he led into turns three and four. It was at that same corner that Lewis Hamilton went round the outside of Vettel which then led to contact. The Ferrari driver spun and headed to the pits to repair his front wing. The stewards would look into the incident between the two championship contesters. Before the drivers had cleared the first corner, the Safety Car (SC) was brought out for an incident involving  Brendon Hartley, after he got sandwiched on the straight between a McLaren and a Sauber. This meant his suspension broke and he had to pull the car onto the grass.

At the restart in lap four it was Hamilton who got past Räikkönen into turn one without DRS. However, a better exit gave Räikkönen the opportunity to get first place back, leading to big cheers from the Italian crowds. Vettel opted during his pit stop for the soft tyres, probably trying to avoid another pit stop.

At the back there was slight contact between Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen at the first Lesmo corner. Some debris flew onto the track and onto Magnussen’s car, but not enough to bring out another SC. Meanwhile the stewards decided to take no further action in the incident between Hamilton and Vettel.

During lap eight it was chaos in the fight for the last available point. Charles Leclerc got P12 from Pierre Gasly, and Daniel Ricciardo tried to profit from his poor exit but that almost cost him his front wing into turn four. One lap later Vettel overtook Leclerc for P13, who had already lost his P12 to Gasly. Drama for Fernando Alonso and McLaren again, as he had to retire the car only ten laps into the race due to an engine problem.  His “what a shame” comment sounded a bit sarcastic over the radio.

A huge fight between Ricciardo and the new 2019 Red Bull driver Gasly took place. It was the Australian who braked too deep into the corner, hitting the Toro Rosso on the side but without major damage.

Then Esteban Ocon taking sixth place from Carlos Sainz using DRS on the main straight. At front it was still Räikkönen leading Hamilton by 1.4 seconds. Meanwhile Vettel reported to his team that he still had some damage affecting the balance of the car. Max Verstappen, who was in third, was under increasing pressure from Valtteri Bottas, closing in on the Red Bull driver to try and get within DRS reach. Vettel was in ninth place by lap 16 and closing in on the Force India of Perez. Trying to overtake him the German braked too late, missed the apex and Perez got his eighth place back. Finally in lap 18, Vettel got past the Mexican for eight place, now heading towards the Renault of Sainz.

The battle between Verstappen and Bottas continued to heat up, causing both to lock up their tyres into turn one. Verstappen seemed to think Bottas was close enough to overtake him, but his team reported to him that “he was nowhere near.” Vettel meanwhile passed Sainz for seventh place, still around thirty seconds behind his teammate and race leader, Räikkönen. The Finnish Ferrari driver came into the pits during lap 21 whilst the Mercedes crew were ‘faking’ a pit stop. But only one lap later they were saying the famous words, “It’s hammer time!” He then didn’t come to the pits again, after his team ordered him to stay out as he still had the pace but his teammate Bottas was still struggling to get past Verstappen.

On lap 24 some drivers reported that it was raining at the back of the circuit around turns three and four, but one person who wasn’t worried about the rain was Vettel. He was still surging ahead and got into P5 after overtaking Ocon.  Then there was a big smoke plume behind Ricciardo – his new C spec Renault engine died, meaning he had to retire from the race. For the fourth time in six races the Australian didn’t make it to the end. His teammate Verstappen then asked his team if everything was alright with his engine, the team assured him that there was no problem. The Dutchman would soon come into the pits, opting for the soft tyres, but he dropped back to sixth place behind Vettel.

Bottas was told by his team to keep Räikkönen behind him to help Hamilton make a safe pit stop. He would opt for the soft tyres, but he couldn’t even get close to Räikkönen coming out of the pits. During lap 30, Vettel made his second pit stop of the race, now opting for the supersofts. Falling back to tenth place for doing so, he once again had to fight his way back to the front. Bottas was in “holding mode” – keeping Räikkönen behind him so that Hamilton could close the gap between himself and the Finn. Mercedes reported to Bottas that Räikkönen had blistered his left rear tyre.

AUTODROMO NAZIONALE MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 02: Back right tyre of Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari SF71H in parc ferme during the Italian GP at Autodromo Nazionale Monza on September 02, 2018 in Autodromo Nazionale Monza, Italy. (Photo by Manuel Goria / Sutton Images)

Hamilton was within a second of Räikkönen by lap thirty-five, splitting the top three by just less than two seconds. Finally, Bottas came into the pits from the leading position, going from the supersofts to the softs, but he would fall back behind Verstappen by three seconds. This pit stop gave Räikkönen the chance to create a gap between himself and Hamilton, but at this stage he was really struggling with his blistered tyre. Hamilton’s tyres were eight laps newer with fifteen laps left.

Vettel meanwhile overtook Perez for sixth place with only a small gap to catch Ocon, who headed to the pits, so Vettel surged to fifth. Whilst Räikkönen was struggling with blisters on the rear left, it was Hamilton who was struggling with blisters on the front left. The battle behind them was between Verstappen and Bottas who got very close to the Red Bull and tried to get past him in lap 42, but Verstappen defended well. One lap later he tried again but this time it cost him way more as he completely missed turn one after he and Verstappen made contact when the Dutchman went to the left where Bottas was trying to overtake him. Once again the stewards had a tough job to decide what to do. Bottas lost four seconds because of the incident. The stewards handed Verstappen a five-second time penalty for causing a collision. He didn’t sound too happy on the radio: “For what? I gave him space. They are doing a great job of killing racing, honestly.”

Then Monza had a new race leader as Hamilton finally got past Räikkönen using DRS into turn one, despite Räikkönen’s defense attempts. Seven laps to go and Räikkönen began losing time to Hamilton. Verstappen had a gap of just over one second on Bottas and with the time penalty he had it would mean he’d be in fourth place. The Dutchman also lost time to Vettel because he was fighting Bottas, but told his team, “I don’t care about it.”

Meanwhile it was worryingly to see that Sergey Sirotkin had unlapped himself by passing Räikkönen, when Ferrari had told the Finn that his tyre situation was critical.

After 53 laps, taking around 77 minutes, it was Hamilton who took his 86th career victory at Ferrari’s home GP. This made it extra painful for the Tifosi who really made this clear by booing the race winner and his ‘wingman’. Mercedes then angered the Tifosi even more as Bottas was told over the radio to stay next to Hamilton in “formation all the way out, just to show our Italian colleagues.” Hamilton even thanked his teammate for helping him out. One positive for the Tifosi was that Driver of the Day Räikkönen brought home his Ferrari in second place and Vettel fought back to finish in fifth position. Bottas completed the podium as Verstappen got demoted to fifth. Romain Grosjean, Ocon, Perez, Sainz and Lance Stroll completed the top ten.

Hamilton entered the weekend as Championship leader and left Monza still as the leader in the title fight, but now with an even bigger margin. He now has 256 points over Vettel’s 226 points, as the German threw away some very important points at his team’s home GP. Räikkönen extended the gap between himself and Bottas  to five points, and Verstappen once again shortened the gap to his teammate due to another retirement. While Mercedes are leading the Constructors’ Championship with 415 points with Ferrari trailing behind with 390 points.

F1 will return in two weeks for round 15 in Singapore. Vettel really has to get some points to keep Hamilton from running away with the Championship, and Singapore seems to be one of his biggest opportunities to do that. Will Vettel be able to bounce back, or will Hamilton take another big step towards his fifth World Championship?

Otmar Szafnauer: “We need to keep up the momentum from Spa”

Racing Point Force India’s recently-promoted team principal Otmar Szafnauer has said he is keen for the team to keep things moving forward after their tumultuous summer break and the impressive performance from their two drivers at the Belgian Grand Prix.

“The last few weeks have been a period of transition for the team, but with the support of the Commercial Rights Holder, the FIA, and our fellow competitors we returned to competition in Spa,” Szafnauer said. “Getting some points on the board was the priority and to come away with fifth and six places was a wonderful reward for the entire team.”

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Racing Point Force India F1 VJM11 celebrates with the team at the end of the race.
Belgian Grand Prix, Sunday 26th August 2018. Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.

The Silverstone-based team was put into administration over the summer break but, after a period of uncertainty, was saved by a consortium led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, father of Williams’ Lance Stroll. The buy-out saw Force India forfeit all of the constructors’ championship points they had accumulated over the first half of the season and effectively enter the Belgian Grand Prix as a new team, rebranded as Racing Point Force India.

Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez started the race at Spa P3 and P4 after a rain-affected qualifying, and on the first lap there was a moment going into Les Combes where it looked like Ocon might have challenged Hamilton and Vettel for the lead. The Frenchman eventually finished the race in sixth, with Perez one position ahead of him in fifth, vaulting Force India ahead of Williams in the constructors’ championship and leaving them just one point behind Sauber already.

“The new ownership gives us a welcome injection of stability and investment,” Szafnauer added. “We retain a wonderful group of people working back at base and trackside, and with the off-track distractions now behind us we can concentrate on doing what we do best – building cars and going racing. Our performance level in Spa was a real credit to the entire team. The sight of Esteban and Sergio challenging for the lead on lap one is an image that we will cherish.

“We head to Monza determined to deliver more points. We need to keep up the momentum from Spa. Monza is all about top speed and stability on the brakes, and I think it will play to our strengths. Looking further ahead, we have more performance to introduce to the car over the next few events, hopefully starting from Singapore.”

Esteban Ocon (FRA) Racing Point Force India F1 VJM11.
Belgian Grand Prix, Sunday 26th August 2018. Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.

 

Featured image – Esteban Ocon (FRA) Racing Point Force India F1 VJM11.
Belgian Grand Prix, Saturday 25th August 2018. Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium.

2018 Belgian GP Review: Chaos at Spa

Finally the summer break is over as Formula 1 returned to the Ardennes forests for the 13th round on the calendar, the Belgian Grand Prix.

Lots of things happened during the summer break; the shocking news of Daniel Ricciardo moving to Renault next year, Carlos Sainz moving to McLaren and the retirement of Fernando Alonso. Most important though was the news that (formerly) Sahara Force India was saved from bankruptcy by an investor group led by Lance Stroll’s father, Lawrence Stroll. It took until one day before the Grand Prix to really save the team because problems with previous investors meant that the team wasn’t officially allowed to start. FIA gave clearance as the team changed their name to Racing Point Force India. This came with its consequences though, as they lost all their Constructors’ Championship points from the previous 12 races.

Daniel Ricciardo due to leave Aston Martin Redbull Racing for Renault f1 for the 2019 season. Image courtesy Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The Saturday of the GP started bizarrely as Valtteri Bottas didn’t see Stoffel Vandoorne coming up Kemmel straight just after Raidillon in FP3 which resulted in the Belgian evading the Finn by running onto the wet grass. Vandoorne lost control of his McLaren and just missed the barriers. The incident was noted by the stewards, who only reprimanded the Mercedes driver. It was already a tough weekend for Bottas who started the race from the back of the grid due to his team fitting new parts to his car, which resulted in a grid penalty.

Then the qualifying started. Out of Q1 were Vandoorne, Stroll, Sergey Sirotkin, Alonso and Sainz. During Q2 the clouds came out, but there was still no sign of rain. The five drivers not making it into Q3 were Nico Hülkenberg (who didn’t even get to drive in Q2 due to a grid penalty), Marcus Ericsson, Charles Leclerc, Brendan Hartley and Pierre Gasly. When the lights went green in Q3 all drivers went out on slicks because of potential rainfall.  It was at Blanchimont that Bottas showed it was raining hard; spinning out of nowhere at high speeds. Only the Force Indias tried to set a lap on the slicks, which saw a spectacular save by Sergio Perez at Eau Rouge and Raidillon just keeping him from the tyre barriers. Then everyone went out on the intermediates, some fast times were put on the leader boards, but the rain was decreasing near the end of the session. Force India profited from this situation as they spectacularly took P3 and P4, with Romain Grosjean also surprisingly taking P5 and Lewis Hamilton took pole in front of rival Sebastian Vettel.

With a very mixed up grid the race on Sunday was looking to be crazy, which was definitely the case although not as you would expect. The Verstappen grandstand coloured Spa bright orange on race day, just like Max Verstappen’s special helmet for the weekend.

Lights Out at the Belgian GP 2018. Image courtesy of Ferrari Media

After the five red lights went out it took only a few hundred metres before total chaos ensued. Hülkenberg  completely missed his brake zone on the left, causing him to fully lock all of his tyres. He couldn’t do anything to avoid a collision with Alonso in front of him, who got catapulted into the air just over the car of Leclerc. Damage on Leclerc’s Halo showed that Alonso was dangerously close to hitting him. In all this chaos, Alonso hit the rear of Ricciardo’s car who lost a big part of his rear wing. The team could repair the car, but would eventually retired it near the end of the race to safe parts. In a chain reaction it was then Ricciardo who hit the back of Kimi Räikkönen’s car, causing a puncture. After some pit stops the race was over for the Finn as well. On the right side it was Bottas who braked too late as well, but only causing light damage to his front wing.

With all chaos behind them it was Vettel who took the lead from Hamilton after a better exit through Eau Rouge saw him overtaking the Brit on Kemmel straight. Just after his overtake the Safety Car (SC) was brought out to clean up the mess at La Source.

In lap 4 the SC came back into the pits. Hamilton tried to overtake Vettel into the final chicane, which allowed Vettel to pull away because he locked up. This was strange as they weren’t past the SC line yet. Three laps later it was Verstappen who overtook Esteban Ocon for P4, as the Dutchman clearly wanted to impress all the Dutch fans around the track. Meanwhile Bottas was storming through the grid, with a spectacular move at Eau Rouge on Hartley, giving him P13. Just later he also got into P12 when overtaking Sainz. In front it was Hamilton that was initially losing time to Vettel, but as the laps went by he gained more and more, and closed the gap between himself and the German. In lap 9 the other Ferrari driver Räikkönen came into the pits to retire from the race as the damage the car sustained after the manic start was too severe. Verstappen then overtook Perez for P3, leading to big cheers from the crowds who hoped he could finally get a podium at his home Grand Prix.

It was lap 22 when Hamilton went into the pits to fit soft tyres. Vettel responded to his decision by coming into the pits one lap later, also opting for the soft tyre. Vettel came back on track still leading the race with a gap of around two seconds between himself and Hamilton, who overtook Verstappen using DRS on the long straight. Verstappen hadn’t made a pit stop yet so he didn’t defend as aggressively as he usually does.

An interesting fight took place for the last points around lap 27/28 between Ericsson and Hartley. The Toro Rosso driver overtook Ericsson on the Kemmel straight, but the Swedish Sauber driver fought back by going down the inside of Hartley regaining his tenth place. On lap 28 it was Hartley who got his P10 back again by using DRS on the straight but only one lap later it was Ericsson who overtook the Kiwi that very same way again. In lap 31 Ricciardo had to come into the pits to retire his car. There was too much damage to continue and by retiring the car they can fit a new gearbox without any penalties as a result. Bottas, starting in 17th place, got P4 in lap 40 when overtaking Perez.

The race could have been more interesting without the chaos at the start, which meant that five cars retired from the race. There were a few interesting battles from time to time, but overall the gaps between the cars were big.

In the end it was Vettel who took the win, with a struggling Hamilton taking second place. Third place went to Verstappen, who finally got a podium at his ‘home’ Grand Prix. In fourth it was Bottas who really fought his way back into the top but just couldn’t get close to a podium. Force India should be happy with a fifth and sixth place meaning they now have 18 points, moving them into ninth in the Constructors’ Championship. Completing the top ten was Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Gasly and Ericsson.

Sebastian Vettel wins the 2018 Belgium GP. Image courtesy of Pirelli media

 

The win for Vettel meant that he gained seven points in the Drivers’ Championship, bringing the gap between himself and Hamilton down to 17 points. Bottas is closing in on Räikkönen, who was unlucky in the race, as he now has 144 points to Kimi’s 146 points. Verstappen has finally passed his teammate in the Championship. The Dutchman has 120 points and Ricciardo has 118 points as his retiring from the race meant he left with zero points.

It’s already race week again with the Italian Grand Prix taking place this weekend. Will Vettel please the Italian Tifosi at Ferrari’s home Grand Prix, or will Hamilton try to extend his lead in the championship?

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Belgian Grand Prix: Hamilton Claims Pole as Force India Impress in Rain-Affected Qualifying

Lewis Hamilton has claimed his 78th pole position in Formula One, setting a time seven tenths quicker than title rival Sebastian Vettel as rain showers shook things up in Q3 at Spa-Francorchamps.

The Brit now holds the record for the most pole positions claimed at the circuit, beating the previous record of four poles held by Juan Manuel Fangio and Ayrton Senna.

Ferrari had looked as if they had the edge coming into qualifying, with the Scuderia setting the fastest times in every practice session as well as in Q1 and Q2. However, when the rain started to fall in Q3, the pendulum swung in Mercedes’ favour. Sebastian Vettel managed to significantly improve his lap time in the final runs of Q3 as the track began to dry but it wasn’t enough to overthrow Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timing screens. He will start the race tomorrow in P2.

2018 Großer Preis von Belgien, Samstag – Steve Etherington

Force India, or Racing Point Force India if you want to be pedantic, saw both of their drivers put in superb performances. Esteban Ocon – whose future is uncertain amid rumours of Lance Stroll being drafted into the team as soon as Monza or Singapore – qualified an amazing P3. Team-mate Sergio Perez recovered from a huge moment coming out of Eau Rouge and going into Raidillon to post the fourth quickest time. There must be something in the Force India water at Spa, for this is the circuit where Giancarlo Fisichella claimed pole for them in 2009 and where previous incarnations of the team, notably Jordan Grand Prix, have always run well.

Also putting in a great performance was the Haas of Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman had been surprisingly off the pace all weekend, but he managed to get it together when it mattered and qualified P5.

Kimi Raikkonen had been looking particularly strong all weekend, but Ferrari made the strategic error of only giving him enough fuel for one lap in Q3. This meant the Finn was confined to the garage towards the end of Q3 at precisely the moment when the fastest laps were being set on track. He ended up P6.

The Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo will, like Raikkonen, definitely not be satisfied. Thanks to a mix of strategic error and the low-drag trim they had been running, they ended up P7 and P8 respectively and over four seconds away from Hamilton’s pole time.

2018 Großer Preis von Belgien, Samstag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

The other Haas of Kevin Magnussen qualified P9, nearly three seconds behind his team-mate, and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten having failed to set a time in Q3. The Finn came into qualifying carrying engine penalties and knowing that, whatever happened, he would be starting the Grand Prix from the back of the grid.

Outside the top ten, the main surprise came in the form of Renault’s Carlos Sainz being knocked out of Q1 by the Sauber of Marcus Ericsson.

Not so surprising, however, was the pace of the two McLaren cars. It is turning into a home race to forget for Stoffel Vandoorne – the Belgian had been slowest in FP1, FP2, and FP3, and that trend, unfortunately, continued into Q1. This was McLaren’s worst qualifying of the year so far, with Vandoorne’s team-mate Fernando Alonso also failing to make it out of Q1 and qualifying P17. They will, however, get bumped up a couple of places thanks to the engine penalties given to Valtteri Bottas and also to Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg.

 

Featured image: 2018 Großer Preis von Belgien, Samstag – Steve Etherington

2018 Mid-Season Review: Formula Won Again?

The Hungarian Grand Prix was the twelfth round of the 2018 Formula One season, meaning we are now over halfway through the year. All the teams will enjoy a well-deserved break for four weeks, which gives them the time to relax and maybe come up with some new ideas to improve the car and gives us the time to look back at this season before looking ahead to the Belgian Grand Prix.

After the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton leads the drivers’ championship with 213 points, in front of rival Sebastian Vettel who has 189 points. Behind him are Räikkönen (146 points), Bottas (132 points), Ricciardo (118 points), and Verstappen (105 points), with Hülkenberg (52 points), Magnussen (45 points), Alonso (44 points) and Perez (30 points) closing the top ten in the drivers’ championship.

However, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. How did it come to these standings? How did each team perform this year so far? How did the drivers perform? Let’s take a look at that, team by team.

 

Mercedes

Currently leading both the drivers’ championship with Lewis Hamilton and the constructors’ championship, it would seem that Mercedes are on another dominant run. However, that is far from the truth. Mercedes are having a very tough season currently. Their season started mediocre in Australia as Hamilton ended in a solid second place (the VSC cost him a shot at victory), but Bottas only ended up in eight place after an awful qualifying.

In Bahrain things got a little better for the Brackley-based team, with Hamilton bringing home eighteen points with his P2 finish, whilst Bottas brought home fifteen points with his third place finish. The following races they scored some good points too, although a late drama in Azerbaijan cost Bottas a victory as he ran over debris and incurred a puncture.

Mercedes have so far achieved two 1-2 finishes, one at the Spanish Grand Prix and one at the German Grand Prix, with the latter meaning a lot more to the German team, especially because Hamilton started from fourteenth place and came through to win the rain-affected race.

A definite all time low this season for Mercedes came at the Austrian Grand Prix, where both cars failed to cross the finish line due to mechanical problems (just after they got an upgraded engine).

The team can go into the summer break buoyed by a victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix, courtesy of Lewis Hamilton. Bottas had a disappointing race in Hungary, though, as he made contact with Vettel and Ricciardo in the last ten laps of the race, costing him his front wing and resulting in a ten-second time penalty after the race.

Mercedes are still the team to beat, and it is most likely that if they continue like this Lewis Hamilton will become a five-time World Champion. Bottas looks out of the running for the championship battle, because of his bad luck early on this season.

2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

 

Ferrari

Someone else who is hoping to become a five-time world champion is Sebastian Vettel. In the first couple of races of the year it was the German who got away with a full complement of points. A very chaotic Chinese Grand Prix, however, ruined his winning-streak as he got hit by Verstappen. Vettel was spun and picked up some damage so he could only finish in eighth.

His teammate Kimi Räikkönen scored some solid points too with a third position in Australia and China, although he retired from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Räikkönen will probably have to help his teammate in this fight – he got ordered at Hockenheim to let Vettel past. It was at that race where the biggest disaster this year so far took place for Ferrari, as Vettel crashed out of the lead of his home race in the rain. This very rare mistake from Vettel kept him from taking his first every victory at Hockenheim and, with the track’s uncertain future you wonder if it will even be possible for him to make up for it in the future. This meant he lost some important points, and with his rival Hamilton taking victory it meant Vettel lost the championship lead.

In the Hungarian GP Vettel crossed the line in second place, losing another seven points to his rival Hamilton, who took victory.

With the passing of Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne at the age of 66 just before the Hungarian Grand Prix the Italian team might lose some stability. Marchionne led Ferrari to become the team it is now and they are the closest they’ve ever been to a constructors championship since 2007. Let’s hope Ferrari can continue to fight Mercedes for the constructors championship and bring it home for Marchionne.

 

Red Bull

The Austrian team were the third-best team last year, and this year it is no different. They are not fast enough to regularly beat the Mercedes or Ferrari, but are much faster than Renault, Haas and McLaren in the mid-field.

Where Mercedes and Ferrari have a pretty stable point scoring record so far, Red Bull have had more problems. They have walked away from a race weekend with no points on two occasions this year. At the Bahrain Grand Prix mechanical issues ended the race of both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ended up as a major disaster for the team as their drivers crashed into each other, costing the team valuable points.

However, there were still some very good moments for the Austrian team this season. In China Ricciardo took victory because of a brilliant strategy in what was a chaotic race, whilst Verstappen took victory at the team’s home Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, although they were helped by the DNFs of both Mercedes drivers. Ricciardo also dominated at the Monaco Grand Prix, even though he suffered some problems with the car during the race.

The team announced earlier this season that they will switch to Honda engines for 2019, and they hope this will make it possible for them to not just fight for the third position in the teams standings, but also for the first place.

For now though, they still have ten races to go with Renault engines. With circuits coming up like Mexico and Singapore there should be enough possibilities for them to get at least another victory.

 

Renault

Best of the rest at the moment are Renault. The French team are currently embroiled in a tight battle for the fourth position in the constructors championship, with Force India, Haas and McLaren.

There has only been one race so far where they haven’t scored any points, which is a very impressive result for the French team.

Two fifth places are the highlights of the year so far, by Hulkenberg at his home Grand Prix at Hockenheim, and by Sainz at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The difference between the two teammates in the drivers’ championship, however, is big, with Hulkenberg on almost twice as many points as Sainz.

The fight for the constructors championship is still very much on, and Renault have to find improvements from Spa-Francorchamps onwards as their rivals are still on their tail.

Renault Sport F1 Team

 

Force India

After a terrible qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix the gap to their main rivals at Renault only increased for Force India. The team really struggle to even get in the top ten regularly, and there have been three races so far where Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez have not scored any points between them.

Their biggest points haul came from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where the team scored fifteen points in total, thanks to a spectacular third place for Perez.

Placed into administration over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, the team’s future is uncertain. Sergio Perez, his manager, BWT, and Mercedes want the money back Force India owes them, with Perez saying he brought action against his team to “save [them] and protect the 400 people who work there”. Now it is even a question whether they’ll start the Belgian Grand Prix or not. Let’s hope they can get out of trouble,as it would be a huge shame to lose such an amazing team.

 

Haas

Haas began the Hungarian Grand Prix equal on points with Force India. The so-called “second Ferrari” team started the season very promising at the Australian Grand Prix after an impressive qualifying. The race, however, ended in a horrible nightmare as two identical mistakes at the pit-stops of both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen meant they had to retire.

At the Austrian Grand Prix they once again put in an impressive qualifying and followed that up with an even more impressive race in which they scored twenty-two points thanks to a fourth place for Grosjean and fifth place for Magnussen.

After a pretty good Hungarian Grand Prix the team jumped to fifth in the constructors championship, leaving Force India behind.

The team seem to have found pace this year. Of course not all races ended well, but for a relatively new team they are surely proving what they are capable of. Can they keep up their good performances for the upcoming nine races?

 

McLaren

After years of disappointment due to problems with the Honda engine, this year could finally have meant the Woking team could fight for the podiums.

Now driving with a Renault engine, they were immediately aiming to fight the Red Bulls. At the Australian this looked very much possible, with Alonso finishing in P5 and saying “now we can fight!’”. Vandoorne ended that race in ninth, a nice result for McLaren then, scoring almost more points in one race than in the whole of last year. The dreams of fighting the Red Bulls continued when they finished the Bahrain Grand Prix in seventh and eighth.

Unfortunately, these dreams were shattered from Monaco onwards, where the pace had seemingly vanished and the points almost became out of reach. At the Monaco, Canadian and French Grand Prix the team scored no points, mostly because of retirements (Alonso had DNFs in all these races).

The highest position they achieved after these problems was P8 in Austria, Great Britain and Hungary, all thanks to Alonso. Team-mate Vandoorne was lacking pace, even losing almost a full second to Alonso at the qualifying for the British Grand Prix, and he had to retire from the Hungarian Grand Prix from what would have been a ninth-place finish.

The Renault engines have not brought the real change the team were hoping for. It even looks like the team are struggling more than ever, as qualifying pace is way off and results in the races are disappointing for such a great team. Maybe the summer break will bring the change they desperately need.

Steven Tee/McLaren

 

Toro Rosso

Currently standing eighth in the constructors standings with just twenty-eight points, the team will not be happy.

Brendon Hartley in particular has just had no luck. This became especially clear when he crashed heavily during free practice at the British Grand Prix due to a suspension failure. Two days later, he had to retire from the race after just one lap as the team found a problem with the car.

Seven races out of the twelve so far have yielded no points. When they have gotten into points though, the results have been very impressive. Gasly got P4 at the Bahrain Grand Prix and P6 at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Hartley has just two points to his name, whilst Gasly brought home twenty-six points. The Kiwi’s future is uncertain because of his disappointing results, but a lot has been due to problems out of his control.

 

Alfa Romeo Sauber

One driver showing his potential this season is Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari Driver Academy driver from Monaco just keeps on impressing everyone. With a car that shouldn’t regularly finish in the points, he got himself two consecutive points finishes in Baku and Spain. His sixth place in Baku definitely was a highlight for the team, bringing home eight very important points for the team. He even held up Alonso in Spain in a tense battle in a race where he finished in tenth place.

His teammate Ericsson has improved himself. Seemingly motivated by the speeds Charles has shown, he now too scores points from time to time. With five points for the Swedish and thirteen points for Leclerc, the team are now ninth in the constructors championship.

The last few races Sauber were able to out-qualify McLaren, and even in the races they have showed they have the pace to fight for position. Hopefully they are able to continue this fantastic performance.

 

Williams

It has been an absolute nightmare for Williams so far. Eleven of the twelve races resulted in zero points for the team, leaving them last in the championship. The only points they have managed so far were the four points Lance Stroll achieved because of his eighth position at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Even Robert Kubica, test driver for the team, said it is “embarrassing” to drive the car. Newcomer Sergey Sirotkin, while showing a few flashes of pace, doesn’t seem to be able to build up any momentum.

Williams has lots of work to do if it wants to score some points after the summer break. If they don’t, they will be hoping for another chaotic race like Azerbaijan, otherwise the points will be scarce.

 

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Ferrari.

2018 Hungarian Grand Prix Review: Silver versus Red

The last race before the teams could enjoy the summer break took place at the Hungaroring, on the outskirts of Budapest. The twelfth round of the season started very interesting with a spectacular wet qualifying. The starting grid was thus very shaken up, with Toro Rosso in P6 and P8. Carlos Sainz started from fifth, while Red Bull were disappointed with P7 and P12. Force India were disappointed as well, with neither driver making it to Q2. Lewis Hamilton took pole in front of his teammate, with Kimi Räikkönen following in third ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

A wet qualifying meant that all teams were free to choose on what dry tyre to start the race on. Both Mercedes drivers started on the ultrasofts, while Vettel chose the softs and Raikkonen chose the ultrasofts.

The start went well for Lewis Hamilton and he maintained the lead, while Bottas kept second. It was behind them where a change took place as Vettel overtook his teammate Räikkönen into turn two. By the end of the first lap there was already one retirement. Charles Leclerc was forced to bring his car to a halt after flying debris from contact between Ricciardo and Ericsson ahead of him damaged his radiator.

On lap six, Max Verstappen pulled over to the side of the circuit, telling his engineer over the radio that he had no power. He sounded very angry and disappointed, with the spotlight once again on Renault after yet another forced retirement. His expletive-filled message made sure that FOM had a busy time censoring it. It was reported that the problem lied within the MGU-K, meaning he might have to take a grid penalty at the Belgian Grand Prix.

On lap fifteen Kimi Raïkkönen was the first to make a pit stop. He went from the ultrasofts to the softs, which meant he was probably going for a two-stop strategy rather than a one-stop. The stop took a bit longer than normal, because there was some rubber stuck in the brakes that the mechanics had to remove. He emerged in sixth, in front of Sainz and Ricciardo.

2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Valtteri Bottas responded to Raikkonen’s stop by going to the soft tyre a lap after his fellow Finn. That same lap, Ricciardo finally got past Sainz, and he set about chasing down Raikkonen and claiming the fastest lap as he did so. Vettel  was losing time to Hamilton, and by lap nineteen the gap had opened up to almost nine seconds.

On lap twenty-two Ferrari told Vettel over the radio that they had switched to ‘plan C’. He began to close the gap, but a mistake on lap twenty-three meant he lost all the time he had gained.

McLaren were struggling for pace, with Alonso and Vandoorne fighting for eleventh place. Hamilton stopped for new tyres on lap twenty-six, changing from the ultrasofts to the softs. Could he make it to the end on these tyres?

Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile was fighting against Gasly. The Honda-powered Toro Rosso looked strong, but the Australian lunged down the inside at turn one and taking fifth place, although he had yet to make his pit stop.

Mercedes told Bottas that Vettel was probably going for another fifteen to twenty laps on his softs, and that the German was being held up by traffic.

After thirty-five of the seventy laps, Vettel was leading with a 12.5 second gap to Hamilton, who had a gap of twelve seconds to his teammate behind. Räikkönen was fourth, followed by Ricciardo, Gasly, Alonso, Vandoorne, Magnussen and Ocon completing the top ten.

On lap thirty-nine Ferrari mechanics brought Raikkonen in for a second pit stop, opting for another set of softs. A lap later Vettel pitted for his first stop of the race, choosing the ultrasoft tyres so he could try and attack the Mercedes duo. The pit stop was a bit slow, and he re-joined one second behind Bottas.

Daniel Ricciardo went to a set of ultrasoft tyres with twenty-five laps to go. He was sitting comfortably in fifth place, with a gap of fourteen seconds to Kimi ahead and twenty-two seconds to Gasly behind.

On lap fifty-one a yellow flag was brought out for Vandoorne, who had to retire the car because the gearbox was gone. This yellow flag resulted in a Virtual Safety Car, but Hulkenberg was the only one who used it to make another pit stop.

With fifteen laps to go the battle between Vettel and Bottas was heating up, as Vettel got into DRS range. Ferrari reported to Vettel that Bottas was struggling with his tyres, and to continue to put pressure on him.

2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

In the closing laps it became a three-way fight for P2, with Raikkonen having joined the fray, although it was clear that Räikkönen was not allowed to make it difficult for his German teammate. Over the radio Vettel was asked by his engineer how fast he could go. In response, he said he could go half a second faster but it was impossible as he was still stuck behind Bottas.

On lap sixty-five Vettel tried the overtake on Bottas, going around the outside of the Finn at turn one to get a better exit. He was in front of Bottas going into turn two and closed the door. Contact between the two, as Bottas clipped the back of Vettel, damaged the front wing of the Mercedes. Replays suggested Bottas braked too late, and that it was no more than a racing incident.

Bottas dropped back as a result, and found himself fighting with Ricciardo for fourth. By lap sixty-eight Ricciardo was in DRS range and tried to overtake Bottas around the outside of turn one, but it once again ended in disaster as Bottas ran a bit wide, making contact with Ricciardo’s sidepod and pushing the Australian wide.

Mercedes advised Bottas to let Ricciardo pass in the hope to avoid a penalty afterwards. He did get a ten-second penalty after the race, but he kept his fifth place because the gap to Gasly was big enough. He also received two penalty points.

Up front, Hamilton took victory, with Vettel and Räikkönen completing the podium. Bottas finished in fifth place after letting Ricciardo pass. Behind him, Gasly, Magnussen, Alonso, Sainz and Grosjean completed the top ten.

Hamilton now leads the championship with 213 points, and Vettel follows with 189 points. Meanwhile a Finnish battle for third place is on, with Räikkönen on 146 points and Bottas on 132 points.

Now the summer break finally has arrived. In four weeks time Formula One will return to the Ardennes forests for the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, a fan-favourite track and loved by the drivers. Let the fight for the championship go on.

 

 

Featured image – 2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Steve Etherington

F1 driver market: Who will twist after Mercedes sticks?

Last weekend’s German Grand Prix opened with the unsurprising news that Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas would be remaining with Mercedes for the next year and beyond.

Coming just before the summer break, Mercedes’ announcement is set to kick-start what has so far been a slow-building driver market for 2019. Daniel Ricciardo is expected to remain with Red Bull, while the current paddock word is that Ferrari will hand Kimi Räikkönen another year’s extension.

But with the top teams entering a holding pattern, what does that mean for any potential moves elsewhere on the grid?

Sahara Force India F1 Team

Force India, Renault now key to the midfield

With the grid’s top six seats filling up, all eyes are turning now to Force India, Renault and Esteban Ocon.

Despite Force India holding an option on Ocon’s services, Mercedes has been trying to place their young Frenchman at Renault next year to safeguard his career against the financial and legal troubles plaguing Force India. It’s unclear whether this switch will still go ahead now that Force India is no longer facing a winding up order, but the consensus is that it’s still on the cards at least.

If Ocon does make the move it will be at the expense of Carlos Sainz, even though the Spaniard will be free to commit to Renault long-term once Ricciardo blocks off the final Red Bull seat.

Force India could have another vacancy to fill, with Sergio Pérez on the shopping list for Haas. If there is a seat free at the Silverstone-based team, Lance Stroll will be at the front of the queue to take it with help from his father’s backing. Stroll is also said to be keen on bringing Robert Kubica with him from Williams, to act as his benchmark and mentor, should both Force India seats open up.

Andrew Hone / Williams F1

Williams and McLaren fall into place

With Stroll almost certain to switch to Force India, that leaves an opening at Williams. And despite that seat being arguably the least attractive on the 2019 grid, Williams does still have a few options to fill it.

The first is Kubica (if there’s no room for him at Force India), who would provide Williams with a relatively consistent lineup as they try to escape their downward spiral. Mercedes junior George Russell is also in the frame, and would bring with him a discount on the team’s power units to offset the loss of Williams’ Stroll and Martini funding. (Russell also has the added perk of being Williams’ first full-time British driver since Jenson Button in 2000.)

McLaren will also be keeping an interested eye on the Force India/ Renault situation as they look to finalise their 2019 lineup over the summer break. Fernando Alonso looks likely to stay with the team for another year at least now that their IndyCar talk has cooled, although Stoffel Vandoorne’s McLaren future is far less certain.

Early season reports had Lando Norris as sure to replace Vandoorne for next year, but a midseason F2 slump has put Norris’ F1 promotion into doubt for now. Sainz’s contractual limbo has moved him into play for the second McLaren seat, arguably the most competitive option open to him if he is forced out of Renault. Kubica has also been touted as an outside contender.

Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

Few options for Red Bull and Ferrari juniors

The deadlock at the top of the grid means that there isn’t much upward movement available for the likes of Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc. The latter has been linked to Grosjean’s Haas seat lately, but there seems little sense in Ferrari switching Leclerc from one midfield team to another for the sake of it—given his trajectory, it would be better to see how Leclerc develops in a sophomore year at Sauber.

Leclerc staying put rules out a Ferrari-backed Sauber placement for Antonio Giovinazzi—with one of the Scuderia’s juniors already in the team, Sauber is more likely to either keep Marcus Ericsson for a fifth season or pick up Vandoorne from McLaren.

As for Red Bull’s academy team, the likelihood of seeing a brand new face replacing Brendon Hartley is slim. Red Bull may want F3 protege Dan Ticktum in the car, but his lack of superlicence points is an obstacle the FIA won’t be willing to overlook—so too is the case for Honda juniors Nirei Fukuzumi and Tadasuke Makino.

Featured image by Steve Etherington, courtesy of Mercedes AMG

Is the end in sight for Force India’s troubles?

If you looked solely at Force India’s on-track results, you’d hardly believe there are any worries for the team at all. However, financial issues have been brewing for years, and they are now in need of a buyer to realistically stay afloat.

Many thought that the BWT deal – which was made at the start of 2017 and notably turned the car’s livery pink – was to be the beginning of the end of Force India’s financial worries. That turned out not to be the case, and now the likeable Silverstone-based team have found themselves on the brink of collapse with talks of them going into administration filling the German Grand Prix paddock.

Sahara Force India F1 Team

There is, however, a possible saviour for Force India amongst. Cue Lawrence Stroll. The Canadian billionaire famously bought son Lance’s way into Formula 1 with a multi-million dollar deal that saw the young driver placed at the then-midfield team of Williams. But, as Williams’ fortunes have since turned for the worse, the Stroll family are now looking for another team to throw their money at, in search of good results. Force India might just be that team.

There are some unconfirmed reports going around in German press circles that this supposed buyout has already happened but, for now at least, there is no official word.

Before we fully jump on the Stroll buyout hype-train, there are some things to bear in mind. This is not by any means the first time there’s been a rumoured buyout of Force India – there have been countless stories over the years that have reported a deal having been completed, but that ultimately came to nothing. Force India are one of the most popular teams for potential buyers – with a car already full of sponsors, you can see why. Even so, given the history of misleading reports, any rumours should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Force India have been at the head of the ‘best of the rest’ battle for the whole of the hybrid era. While they only finished sixth in the constructors’ standings in 2014, they rose to fifth the following year, and then to fourth in 2016 where they remained in 2017. However, that position has become under threat in 2018 due to the bunching up of the midfield. Renault are currently in fourth, and Force India are currently behind them in fifth with 59 points, equal with Haas but ahead by virtue of Perez’ Azerbaijan podium. McLaren, though challenging in the initial stages of the season, are becoming less of a threat as the year goes on, with their own woes to deal with.

Sahara Force India F1 Team

Anyway, back to the buyout talks. One key and expected consequence of the Stroll buyout, if it does go ahead as reported, is that Lance will take one of the seats at Force India. This will leave either Esteban Ocon or Sergio Perez out of a seat. However, with Ocon’s rumoured move to Renault seemingly a done deal, it will be the Mexican driver who will remain with Force India, where he has been since 2014.

Lance Stroll already has one podium to his name (Azerbaijan 2017) and a front row start (Italy 2017) – he is undoubtedly talented but has been hampered by a vastly underperforming Williams car this year. A Force India seat would give Stroll a chance to build on the potential he showed last year and get back to being a regular points scorer, rather than finishing last, second to last or not at all.

Overall, the Stroll buyout of Force India could only be a good thing, because it keeps one of the most-loved F1 teams well-funded and on the grid, as well as giving a young driver the kind of opportunity he deserves in F1, given his junior career. It’s a win-win situation… as long as it actually goes through! If not, Force India’s future will continue to hang in the balance.

 

 

Featured image – Sahara Force India F1 Team

F1 2018: British Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Looking at the results, you wouldn’t have thought much happened during the British Grand Prix, but some action at the start and a couple of safety car periods spiced the race up. The final race of the triple-header in Europe saw Sebastian Vettel take the win.

The 2018 Formula One British GP winners; (left to right)Lewis 2nd, Seb winner and Kimi 3rd. Image courtesy of Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel – 9

There were pre-race doubts about Vettel’s fitness – he had tape put on his neck after FP3 – but the adrenaline kicked in and his start was beautiful, waving concerns away. All the action happened behind him. The safety cars late on in the race put him behind on the track but a great dive-bomb up the inside of Bottas sealed the win. Great victory as we head towards Germany next! 

 

Lewis Hamilton – 9

The Brit got a tardy start which he would come to regret, even if he ended the race in a position where he lost minimal amounts of points. There were some very interesting comments from him afterwards suggesting that tactics from Ferrari were what resulted in him being taken out, bringing back memories of Mexico 2017. Hamilton was the last car on track at the end of lap one, but like a knife through butter he carved his way through the field. A disappointing start, but if you look from lap two onwards it was a great race for him.

 

Kimi Raikkonen – 7

Raikkonen has finished on the podium at the last three races, but never on the top step. The Finn owned up to his coming-together with Hamilton, saying the incident at turn three was his fault and accepting the penalty handed to him. Team-mate Vettel stormed off into the distance, while Raikkonen couldn’t quite match Hamilton near the end of the race.

 

Valtteri Bottas – 8

The Mercedes team threw away the lead again today, deciding to keep Bottas out after the second safety car. Before that he was faster than Vettel, so on a level playing field Bottas could have beaten the German and taken the flag first. Much like in China and Baku, strategy from his team may have cost him the victory once again, even if it may have been tougher in Silverstone to remain in the lead. A great start made amends for a poor qualifying on Saturday, but he is clearly still playing second fiddle to Hamilton.

 

Daniel Ricciardo – 7

Silverstone turned out to be a track which highlighted the frailties of the Red Bull package. Roughly 80% of the track is spent at full throttle, and power isn’t exactly Red Bull’s strong point. Ricciardo was out qualified once again by Verstappen, with a DRS issue hampering his performance. He was great at defending against Raikkonen during the race but unfortunately the safety car came out at the wrong time for him, as he had already made a pit-stop two laps beforehand. The lack of speed along the straights prevented him from passing Bottas in the closing laps of the race.

 

Nico Hulkenburg – 8

Best of the rest and great haul of points for the German. Renault were the only team to use the hard tyre during the race, having worried about blistering on the other compounds, and the tactic worked brilliantly. Hulkenberg did supremely well to keep the pack behind him at the two safety car restarts.

 

Esteban Ocon – 7

Ocon is showing his worth a lot more this season compared to last, and provided a great result at for Force India at what is essentially the team’s home race, given that their factory is literally just over the road. Ocon made it through to the final part of qualifying, and kept the car in the top ten on Sunday. 

 

Fernando Alonso – 8

Alonso’s McLaren may lack pace on a Saturday but on a Sunday, in the hands of the Spaniard, it is one of the best in the midfield. He took advantage of the safety cars to pit for some fresh rubber, allowing him to get past Kevin Magnussen at the end. He may appear calm on the outside, but it isn’t hard to imagine that deep down all is still not well with the relationship between himself and McLaren.

Sebastian Vettel leads the 2018 British GP. Image courtesy of Ferrari

Kevin Magnussen – 7

Hampered by the first lap accident with his team-mate, Magnussen did well to score points considering the clash inflicted some damage to his car, which restricted his speed. He was one of few drivers not to pit under the safety car which pushed him down the order late on, but he managed to hold on to salvage some points.

 

Sergio Perez – 6

Much like Hamilton, Perez saw the field drive past him after contact on the first lap spun him at turn one. He recovered well and found himself in contention for the last point, which was ultimately claimed by Pierre Gasly Chafter a collision between the two near the end of the race. After the race, though, Gasly was awarded a five-second penalty for the incident, meaning Perez inherited P10 and the one point that comes with it.

 

Stoffel Vandoorne – 4

It was a quiet weekend in general for Vandoorne. He was a whopping 0.9 seconds slower than Alonso on Saturday, and with others making the decision to start the race from the pit-lane it meant he was the last on the grid. He finished the race in 12th, meaning he now hasn’t scored since Baku. Lando Norris in currently second in Formula 2 and is hotly tipped for a drive in F1 next year. It could well be this seat that he takes.

 

Lance Stroll – 5

Williams are currently the worst car on the grid, and unfortunately nothing put that more on show than Sunday’s race. Prior to the first safety car they were the only team to have been lapped, and Stroll made a mistake in qualifying which ended up his car being beached in the gravel.

 

Pierre Gasly – 7

Gasly had a good Sunday and initially finished tenth, a welcome result given that Toro Rosso been having a tough time of it recently. The Frenchman collided with Perez with a few laps to go, and a harsh time penalty given to him after the race pushed him down the field. Silverstone was a track which showed Honda’s deficit to the other manufacturers, but there are still promising signs and it was a far better day for Gasly than the results suggested.

 

Sergey Sirotkin – 5

Sirotkin, along with his team-mate, started the race from the pits after taking on new parts. Like Stroll, Sirotkin also made a mistake in qualifying, but managed to keep the car going and set a lap, albeit one that turned out to be the slowest of the session. Seeing the Williams team run plum last is such a shame to see.

 

Max Verstappen – 7

Verstappen may have been classified as a finisher, but a brake-by-wire issue ended his day late into the race. Ever-hungry, he was running in a solid podium position, but with the deficit of his Renault power-unit he was a sitting duck at the restarts. His defending to Raikkonen was brilliant.

 

Carlos Sainz – 5

A poor performance for Sainz both on Saturday and Sunday. A less-than-par qualifying session put him in the thick of the action, and he collided with Romain Grosjean. A weekend to forget for the Spaniard.

 

Romain Grosjean – 5

Will Austria be seen as a peak in Grosjean’s season? Three collisions in one weekend isn’t good enough. The first occurred in practice, with the second being the cardinal sin of hitting his team mate on the first lap. The third, a tangling with Sainz at Copse, ended his race. Grosjean should have lifted off the throttle, but he kept his foot buried, causing instability and ultimately the collision.

 

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Ericsson’s DRS didn’t close as he approached turn one during the race and he crashed heavily, bringing out the first safety car. The crash rounded out an unfortunate weekend for the Swede, after England took his country out of the World Cup the day before. He did, however, have great pace during qualifying and got through to Q2.

 

Charles Leclerc – 8

An unfortunate error in the pits for Sauber resulted in Leclerc’s rear tyre not being fitted properly and the team telling him to stop the car. He had made another Q3 appearance on Saturday and had been running seventh at the time of the error, which meant the loss of a potentially big haul of points.

 

Brendan Hartley – N/A

You can’t really comment on what a horrible weekend the Kiwi has had. The suspension failure on Saturday pretty much ended his weekend. He didn’t see any track action in qualifying, and a last minute problem starting from the pit lane resulted in retirement after one lap. None of it whatsoever was his fault.

Ferrari Media

There is now a two-week break before we head to Hockenheim in Germany, a track that we see appear every so often on the calendar. Vettel won on Hamilton’s home turf this weekend, but can Hamilton strike back with victory in Germany? Vettel hasn’t got a record like Hamilton at his home track, and has only won in Germany once in his Red Bull days. The summer break looms and, for drivers such as Grosjean and Vandoorne, the pressure increases.

2018 British GP Review: Is it coming home?

Formula One hosted it first ever triple header, which concluded at round 10 The British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Silverstone normally produces drama and excitement and this year was no exception.

‘Homeboy’ Lewis Hamilton started the race from pole as he claimed his 76th career pole with a lap he called himself ‘’the toughest lap ever’’. Behind him was Vettel with a small gap of only +0.044s. It was a tense battle for pole. For many teams like McLaren and Williams the British Grand Prix is their home Grand Prix as well. They didn’t impress the home crowd like Lewis did, as Stroll caused a red flag for spinning into the gravel. Sirotkin did the same, but he managed to get back to the pits to try another flying lap. Vandoorne was almost a second slower than his teammate Alonso in qualifying. He ended up in P17 as Alonso started from P13. Was it really coming home for the Brits?

Sebastian Vettel leads the 2018 British GP. Image courtesy of Ferrari

The start of the race was a bit chaotic for Toro Rosso, as the car of Brendon Hartley wasn’t ready during the parade lap, as mechanics were still working on his car in the garage. He did manage to start the race though from the pits, but after already one lap he returned to the pits to retire. Hamilton had an awful start as Vettel overtook him into turn 1. To make things even worse, Lewis spun in turn 3 after he got hit by Kimi Räikkönen who locked his brakes. Kimi eventually got a 10-second time penalty for the incident. Hamilton thus had to start from the back. After two laps he was back up to P14 after overtaking some slower drivers. Perez had a difficult start as well as he spun in turn 1, almost collecting both the Williams cars that started from the pit lane.

Meanwhile a great battle between Max Verstappen and Kimi was unleashed, just like in Barcelona 2016. Max defended heavily whilst Kimi was looking for a move. Vettel took the lead and extended it by almost a second per lap on Bottas in second place. Renault did a good job, with Hülkenberg and Sainz making up some places at the start. Hamilton was in P8 by lap 9, catching up the Sauber of Leclerc and eventually overtaking him that same lap. Hülkenberg was his next target, but that wasn’t a problem for him as he got him in lap 10 using DRS on the Hangar Straight. Kimi was frustrated at his team as he was struggling to get past Max. His team reminded him of his penalty whilst he was ‘’just trying to help, but I probably shouldn’t be thinking’’. He clearly was unhappy as the pressure from behind of Ricciardo increased. As a result of this all, Räikkönen ended up being the first to do a pit stop in lap 14, putting on the mediums.

Williams and McLaren battled each other, but only for their honour as the points were out of reach. Force India had mixed feelings with Ocon in the top 10 but Perez in last place after the incident at the start. Haas impressed in Austria, but seemingly struggled at Silverstone as they were just fighting for the last few points.

Max Verstappen ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Image courtesy of Charles Coates/Getty Images via Red Bull Content pool

Max Verstappen went into the pits in lap 18, changing to the medium tyre which meant that Lewis passed the Dutchman. Hamilton however still had to make his pit stop. He was up to P3 when Daniel Ricciardo went into the pits, followed by Charles Leclerc to make his stop too. The team made an impressive 2.3 second pit stop, but it already looked too good to be real as he had to stop the car after exiting the pit lane.

Bottas passed Hamilton as he was on a new set of mediums, whilst Lewis was still going on his old softs. Valtteri was closing the gap to Vettel as he really pushed his new tyres to the limit. The only team that gave the new ‘Ice Blue’ hard tyre a try, to probably make it to the end of the race. With the exceptional high temperatures at Silverstone this didn’t seem like a bad idea. This was confirmed in lap 31 as Ricciardo made his second pit stop of the race, going back to the soft compound which meant he came back at P6 behind Hamilton who made his first and only pitstop in lap 25.

In lap 33 Ericcson crashed heavily in the first corner at full speed after using too much of the outside kerbstone. This brought out the yellow flag and eventually the Safety Car, as his car was deep into the tyre barriers. Luckily he could climb out of his car on his own. The Safety Car situation got the strategists thinking into overdrive: should they pit their cars now or wait. Bottas didn’t take a second pit stop, but Verstappen, Räikkönen and Vettel did. Bottas now led with his old mediums, whilst Vettel was in P2 with his new soft tyres and surprisingly Hamilton in third position. He didn’t make another pit stop too, which led to complaints from the British driver as he was worried he ‘’wouldn’t make it’’ on these tyres. His team assured him that he was the fastest driver on track and that he shouldn’t give up. Ricciardo didn’t get lucky during the SC, as he ended up in only P6 after he already had made his second pit stop. The team told him that ‘’the timing of the Safety Car was unfortunate’’.

The Safety Car went into the pits in lap 37, starting the fifteen lap sprint race to the finish flag. At the restart Vettel wasn’t focused as Bottas drove away. Kimi overtook Max in turn 6, which led to a massive fight between the two. This fight ended early as another Safety Car occurred for a crash between Sainz and Grosjean at Copse Corner. Sainz was at the outside, cutting to the inside where Grosjean already was. The Frenchman did have a moment of oversteer and crashed into Sainz. It thus looked like a racing incident.

The second Safety Car situation of the race ended in lap 41 of 52, shortening the sprint race from fifteen laps to just ten. These SC situations meant that Hamilton could manage his older tyres to the end. The second restart went horrible for Kimi as he went wide but he could get his P5 back. Vettel tried to overtake Bottas at turn 6 as he was very close but he had to lift, otherwise they would probably collide. Alonso had a good restart overtaking Magnussen for P9, but Magnussen took back his place the same lap. Max made a mistake coming up on Hangar Straight, making an overtake easy for Räikkönen. Vettel and Bottas had a legendary fight for the victory. Hamilton was under pressure from Kimi, whilst Lewis was increasing the pressure on Vettel who put Bottas under pressure. It was a massive fight for the podium between the four drivers, as the camera helicopter captured the top four in just one shot.

The problems for Max Verstappen got worse as he spun in lap 46, eventually leading to his retirement from the race as he had problems with the brake-by-wire system. Meanwhile Vettel overtook Bottas into turn 6 with an amazing speed and a lap later Hamilton also overtook Bottas, taking an impressive P2 after a terrible start. With just five laps to go Lewis was just two seconds away from a victory on home soil. Bottas went down from P2 to P4 in just three laps, he was really struggling for pace. He even had to defend his P4 from Daniel Ricciardo for the last three laps, which he did successfully because the Red Bull just wasn’t fast enough. In the end it looked like Hamilton was happy to take P2, losing some time on Vettel and probably more thinking about defending his position from Räikkönen.

The 2018 Formula One British GP winners; (left to right)Lewis 2nd, Seb winner and Kimi 3rd. Image courtesy of Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel took his 51st career victory at the 2018 British Grand Prix, whilst Lewis Hamilton got voted Driver of the Day by the fans after a heroic drive saw him finish in second place in front of his home crowd. It wasn’t meant to be for Lewis to win his sixth British GP, but at least he brought home some very important eighteen points. Vettel extended his championship lead by a small margin because of this victory. After an exciting race, the British fans should be very happy to see Hamilton on the podium. Lewis himself didn’t look happy though as he skipped the post-race interview. He later on said that Ferrari “used some interesting tactics”, probably suggesting that Räikkönen hit him on purpose to give Vettel the win. Mercedes teamboss Toto Wolff went even further, saying “it was deliberate or incompetence”. It’s an all out warfare between Ferrari and Mercedes this year. Will Lewis still bring it home this year?

Featured Image courtesy of Ferrari media