2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

The penultimate round of the 2022 F1 World Championship will take place in Brazil in front of a carnival-like atmosphere. After a very entertaining sprint race, the front of the grid is locked out by Mercedes for the first time this season. Can they finally win a Grand Prix this season after a year of developing their troublesome car? Or will RedBull use the extra set of soft tyres they have to their advantage?

Both Mercedes and Redbulls led away line astern, Norris in front of the Ferraris as the field all made it through the first 4 corners cleanly. Ricciardo and Magnussen came together later in the lap causing an instant safety car with the cars damaged and stranded on the track. Replays showed Ricciardo just missed his breaking point and tapped the Haas driver into a spin, the Haas then backed into the McLaren as it was coming to a stop.

Hamilton and Verstappen coming together at the safety car restart. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The race restarted on lap 7, and once again Hamilton and Verstappen come together as they always seem to do when in combat. Norris and Leclerc also made contact during the first restarted lap. Leclerc managed to get back onto the track and continue. Verstappen needed to pit for a new front wing. Hamilton fell back to 8th but continued.

By lap 11 Russell was leading Perez in the RedBull by 1.5 seconds. Hamilton moved ahead of Vettel and into P5 at the end of lap 13.

As that happened it was confirmed Verstappen and Norris had received 5 second time penalties for their parts in the earlier collisions. The world champion was not happy over the pit radio.

Lap 18 saw Sainz in the lead Ferrari pit for softs, he rejoined P12 behind the Williams of Albon. He quickly dispatched the Williams. The Ferrari driver was making the most of the new soft tyres by passing Stroll just two laps later.

A good stop by Mercedes for Russell. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The sister Ferrari pitted on lap 22, returning to the track down in 17th. The chances of Leclerc getting P2 in the title hunt looked to be disappearing. His rival for that position, Perez, pitted on lap 24 and was back out in 6th but in traffic. Mercedes reacted straight away and pitted leader George Russell. He came back out in second but was still 4 seconds ahead of Perez.

At the start of lap 25, Hamilton led, Verstappen pitted and took his five second penalty but seemed to have a slow stop as well. The retiring ex-world champion Vettel pitted on lap 27, showing well in the Aston Martin in P9.

There was some good racing in the midfield today between Bottas, Gasly and Vettel. Bottas was in great form, making it past Vettel and Gasly using DRS to his full advantage before Vettel followed passed the Alpha Tauri.

Sainz pitted for the second time on lap 37, a new set of mediums fitted to the Ferrari. Would he be able to make it to the end of them?

Somehow despite collisions and penalties Norris and Leclerc had found themselves on the same piece of the track again. On lap 43 the Ferrari made it passed the McLaren. A lap later Hamilton took second place from Perez, The Mercedes looking the best they have all year.

With all the excitement going on Verstappen had quietly made his way up to P9, stalking Norris in the McLaren. The McLaren pitted on lap 46 moving Verstappen up to 6th as two others pitted on the same lap.

Perez had his second stop on lap 48, returning to the track in 4th almost 12 seconds behind Sainz in 3rd.  Hamilton was next in for soft tyres, followed by leader Russell a lap later. With 21 laps left it was Rusell leading Sainz by 1.5 seconds, Hamilton a further 6 seconds back with Perez 4.5 behind the Mercedes.

Norris in the McLaren stopped on lap 53 with an electrical issue, his car was in a dangerous place, bringing the VSC into play. Sainz pitted losing positions to Hamilton and Perez. With Marshalls struggling to move the stricken McLaren the Safety car made its way onto the track.

A 12-lap shoot-out began as the Safety car pulled in. Leclerc had managed to get up to P5 and could somehow get a podium. Sainz and Perez battled through the first three turns with neither making ground on the other,

Sainz made it up to P3 with a great move on Perez on lap 63. A lap later and Leclerc also passes the RedBull. Alonso is next up behind the RedBull and was looking fired up. The Spaniard made his move on lap 65, another great drive from the veteran.

Redbull told Verstappen to go for it and take much-needed points off Leclerc and Alonso to help Perez out. Leclerc, thinking the same also radios Ferrari to ask Sainz to move aside. Ferrari ignored his requests.

Team orders gone wrong at RedBull. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

RedBull’s switch came with a promise to Perez that they would switch back if Verstappen couldn’t pass Leclerc. However, on the final lap, the team asked, and Verstappen did not comply. This led to what can only be described as ‘spicy’ radio messages at the end of the race.

Back at the front Russell went across the line to win his first-ever GP, a great performance with zero mistakes all day long. Following him over the line was Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Alonso, Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Bottas and Stroll rounding out the top ten.

Well, that was some race, Brazil always seems to provide a great race whether it’s wet or dry. The first Mercedes 1-2 of the year. It bodes well for next season.

One more race left this season and they return to Abu Dhabi next weekend.

A Danish Pole in a Damp Brazil

Kevin Magnussen ends a Friday evening qualifying session on pole ahead of the Sprint tomorrow. Haas timed his Q3 run perfectly, getting out ahead of everyone else he was able to put in the fastest lap before a red flag and the pouring rain meant he will start at the front in Brazil.

As Q1 began the rain had stopped but the track was still damp, so everyone made their first runs on intermediate tyres. The battle for pole was expected to be between RedBull and Ferrari with Mercedes having issues with grip in FP1.

Hamilton improving during Q1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

However, it wasn’t long before the track started to dry out, so the lap times kept tumbling down. Hamilton saw the first indication of this as he set the quickest in the final sector in the first runs of Q1 with Alonso going to P1 with 10 mins to go.

Gasly was the first to brave the slicks but sadly couldn’t make them work fast enough meaning his first lap was a bit cautious. However, he was able to build up some heat in the softs and put it at the top of the time sheets.

Seeing this, Ferrari brought Leclerc in for a stop, but the camera showed a shot of the Monegasque in the pit box with no tyres on. The mechanics scrambled out of the garage with what appeared to be new soft tyres. Just more strategic in-decision from Ferrari.

With two and a half minutes left of Q1, it was officially time for slicks, so every driver was on soft tyres trying to put in a decent time as there was a threat of rain still hanging in the air. Albon went with the improved times and was able to top the time sheets himself proving that Williams still has good pace.

As the chequered flag fell on Q1 Leclerc was down in the bottom five and was getting caught behind Tsunoda but was able to put in one final lap to make it into Q2. Ricciardo miss timed his last lap and crossed the line just seconds after the flag came out but luckily was safe after everyone else had finished their laps.

The biggest shock was both Alfa Romeo’s out in Q1, qualifying in P16 and P17 respectively. They were joined but Stroll, Schumacher, and Latifi.

Latifi not able to make it into Q2 again. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Q2 began and this meant that DRS was now enabled as the track was declared dry so an improvement in lap times was to be expected. Starting as they ended in Q1, Mercedes, RedBull and Ferrari came out on scrubbed tyres compared to all the other teams which had new tyres.

After a message from Russell, when many drivers were reporting rain around the back of the circuit, Mercedes changed both drivers to new tyres as they were in the bottom five. Luckily for the team, the call paid off and both drivers were able to massively improve meaning they were P3 and P4 when the rain began to come down harder with four minutes to go.

However, in the final couple of minutes, the harder rain may have eased off with every driver improving their times before the end of the session. It all seemed to go back to normality just for a session as it stayed dry. Out in Q2 were Albon, Gasly, Vettel, Ricciardo, and Stroll.

Gasly out in Q2 after a strong Q1 performance. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

Q3 started and the sky had gotten darker, but importantly it was still dry. Ferrari decided to split the strategy by going out on inters with rain potentially on its way in a matter of minutes.

This would be a terrible decision by Ferrari as Leclerc didn’t come in immediately so had to do a lap on the intermediates before coming in for soft tyres. This was also an issue for Perez, who had gotten stuck behind Leclerc going slower n the incorrect tyres.

Whilst we were all consumed by the Leclerc, Ferrari drama Russell ended up beaching himself at turn 4. He locked up and skipped across the gravel, managing to stay out of the barrier but buried himself while avoiding a major incident. This then brought out the red flag.

Magnussen was on provisional pole as the session was stopped to recover the Mercedes. This opened up the very real possibility of the Dane starting at the front of an open-wheeled series for the first time since 2013 in formula Renault 3.5. With the rain coming down and light fading the fans waited with bated breath to see what might happen.

Q3 was restarted but by this point, the rain had begun to come down hard and with a wet track improvements to lap times seemed to be impossible. Perez came out for a sight lap and Hamilton scrubbed a set of intermediates for tomorrow’s Sprint, but the remainder of the cars stayed in the garage.

A very frustrated Leclerc went to talk to his team on the pit wall after a botched strategy means he will start in P10. Russell managed to save his position in P3 with Verstappen in P2, but all eyes were on the Haas garage as the time ticked down on Q3 and the team could start to celebrate their first-ever Formula 1 pole position.

It is a massive achievement for the team and for Magnussen who was understandably in shock when interviewed at the end of qualifying. The grid is a Haas sandwich with Schumacher starting in P20, but it is all set up to be a fascinating action-packed race over half distance before Sunday’s race.

Magnussen on pole for the Sprint. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Verstappen victorious in Dutch GP after late drama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F1 Weekend Preview: Zandvoort

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

Ferrari problems… again

Sainz enjoying P3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

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

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

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

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

Mercedes crashing back to reality

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

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

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

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

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

Verstappen Wins while Ferrari have more Strategy Problems

Max Verstappen wins from P10 with Hamilton finishing P2 from 7th and Russell rounding out the podium after getting pole in qualifying. Ferrari had another disastrous strategy resulting in them finishing off the podium in P4 and P6.

The weather looked like it could have played a part when it began to spit before the start of the race. Several cars locked up into turn 2 with the strong tailwind that was being created and could have affected them during the race.

Russell is ahead at the start of the GP. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Lights out and George Russell gets a great start from pole but behind him, Sainz has kept up with him going side by side with Carlos on the outside of into turn 1. Russell closes the door and manages to stay ahead of both Ferraris. Leclerc got a slow start meaning Norris could pressure for P3 but with no success. Hamilton was the main mover at the start, making it to P5 before turn 1.

Bottas got a slow start so both RedBulls were able to jump ahead of him and begin to chase down the Alpines. On lap 7, with a much faster car, Verstappen was able to make a move down the inside of turn 1 and move past Alonso before chasing after and passing Ocon. Perez was not far behind and took both Alpines just the next lap.

Hamilton lining up a move on Norris. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

By lap 12 Verstappen had closed down the gap to Hamilton in P5 who was battling Norris for P4. Just as Verstappen reached within the DRS range of the Mercedes, Hamilton made a DRS move on Norris down the inside of turn 1. Verstappen took advantage of this as Norris went slightly wide to have a drag race into turn 2. Verstappen, still with DRS, was able to go around the outside of Norris meaning the McLaren lost two places within two corners.

Just before the first pitstops, Leclerc began to complain that he was faster than Sainz in front of him. To solve this they brought Sainz in leaving Leclerc out for a longer stint. However, this benefited Leclerc who came in for his stop on lap 22 and then came out behind Russell but ahead of his teammate.

With fresher tyres, Leclerc didn’t take long to catch and overtake the Mercedes for the lead. On lap 30 Leclerc used DRS down the main straight to make a move around the outside of turn 1 which this time he made stick. Sainz was not far behind so this was Ferrari’s race to control.

Russell made a move on Leclerc. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

10 laps later it was time for stop number two for Leclerc and Russell. In a bold move Ferrari but on the hard tyres, which no one had been able to make work in the cooler conditions. The pitstop hadn’t worked for Mercedes as Russell came out behind both RedBulls, with Leclerc out just in front of them.

The hard tyres would prove to be Leclerc’s undoing though. As he couldn’t get them to warm up and find pace, just one lap later Verstappen had DRS and passed him down the inside of turn 1. Just when we thought Verstappen had made the move stick for the net lead, he went for a spin, losing the back end of the car coming out of the penultimate corner.

This had a domino effect on Perez, who got caught up behind his teammate and now had to defend from Russell going down the main straight. Side by side, the Mercedes was able to make it around the outside of Perez in turn 1, nearly making it past the other RedBull before having to yield.

It wasn’t long before Verstappen caught up to Leclerc and overtook him in a similar fashion to before. This time though he was able to make it stick and create a gap to the Ferrari, which still had the hard tyres on.

On lap 54 Russell had now closed the gap on Leclerc as well and looked on for a move. Leclerc defended the inside of turn 1 but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep the Mercedes behind him. Moving Russell back into P2. Ferrari then decided enough was enough and pitted Leclerc for mediums one lap later. It was too late though as he came out behind Perez, who had struggled but was finding some good pace towards the end of the race.

At this point, Hamilton was back on a charge having made a late stop for soft tyres. Putting in fastest lap after fastest lap, he was able to make his way up to the podium places with ease. When he came across his teammate 5 laps from the end there appeared to be no team orders and they were allowed to race. However, Hamilton was just faster and after a clean battle, he did a switch back coming out of turn 1 on his teammate to take P2.

Verstappen took the chequered flag to win his 50th Grand Prix and be 80 points ahead in the drivers’ championship heading into the summer break. Mercedes got a second consecutive double podium, and it looks like they are on pace to compete for race wins if it weren’t for issues in qualifying. However, with the technical directive coming into play in Spa, this could affect the race pace of the top teams. Either way, Ferrari needs a flawless second half of the season to get back in the championship hunt.

Russell takes first F1 pole position ahead of Hungarian Grand Prix

George Russell has taken the first pole position of his Formula 1 career ahead of tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix, while championship leader Verstappen could only muster tenth owing to power issues.

Russell flew somewhat under the radar in Q3, setting no purple sectors but instead improving on his own personal best in each to take a surprise pole.  It follows what Russell himself referred to in the post-session interview as the ‘worst Friday of the season’ for his Mercedes team.  Indeed, after the rain in FP3 on Saturday morning there were some concerns that he and team-mate Hamilton were in danger of not even making it out of Q1.

Lining up behind Russell on the grid will be Sainz and Leclerc, the former having looked to be the favoured driver to take pole until the final moments of the session.

2022 Hungary Grand Prix – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Further down the order, Hamilton could only manage P7 owing to a DRS issue that forced him to abandon his final run in Q3.

It was not a good day for championship leaders Red Bull. Verstappen had looked competitive, but as he left the garage for his final run and started his out lap he warned his engineer over the radio that he had ‘no power’. He was given a couple of potential solutions but it was to no avail. The Dutchman starts tomorrow’s race in P10.

Things weren’t much better for his team-mate, Sergio Perez. Perez had had a lap deleted in Q2 due to an alleged track limits breach at Turn 5, only for replays to show he hadn’t actually crossed the white line at all. His time was reinstated and he looked to be safe. However, in the closing moments of the session he was pushed into the drop zone. In a case of bad timing from Red Bull, rather than being out on track and able to respond, Perez was instead being wheeled back into the garage. He starts P11.

With a few drivers relatively out of position compared to a ‘normal’ qualifying session, tomorrow’s race promises to be a very intriguing one.

Leclerc loses out again as Verstappen wins French GP

Max Verstappen took a giant step towards retaining the world championship with his seventh victory of the season at Paul Ricard, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed out from the lead.

The Monegasque driver looked to be controlling the race before losing the rear at turn 11, hitting the barriers and retiring from the lead for the third time this season. This handed the race to Verstappen, who never looked like losing after that, and now has a sixty-three-point lead over Leclerc in the championship.

It was a great day for Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton coming home second with George Russell in third, securing the Brackley-based team’s first double podium in 2022. Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull after a disappointing weekend for the Mexican.

Hamilton’s great start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

In a race where track temperatures reached upwards of 50°C, tyre management was crucial, and the opening stages resembled Friday practice, with Verstappen looking to have the pace over Leclerc. Both were pulling away from the rest of the pack, which was being led by Hamilton after a brilliant start from the Brit, who was celebrating his 300th race in Formula One.

Despite this apparent pace advantage, Verstappen could only get alongside the Ferrari once, as overtaking opportunities were once again at a premium. This would prove to be his one and only chance to make the move on track, as the pace pendulum swung towards Leclerc. Being able to manage his tyres in clean air (and keep Max behind where it mattered), meant that Charles was in a better position as the laps ticked by, and was eventually able to pull a two-second gap before Verstappen pitted on lap 16.

Ferrari chose not to react instantly, with Leclerc’s tyres seemingly in a good condition. The car had looked unstable at the rear on a few occasions in the race, and it was that instability that proved to be fatal to their chances of a race victory. Leclerc lost the rear coming through turn 11, and his race ended in the barriers on lap 18. This handed the lead to Verstappen, who was able to control the race from the front, with Lewis Hamilton coming home in second, despite having a faulty drinks bottle throughout the race.

The safety car was brought out by Leclerc early on. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The ensuing Safety Car did allow the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz to close up to the front of the field, but the timing was less than ideal. The Spaniard had to remove his hards earlier than planned, and things got worse for him as an unsafe release led to a five-second penalty. The medium tyres though were working well for Sainz, as he effortlessly dispatched of Ricciardo and Norris after the safety car ended, and soon found himself on the back of Russell after overtaking Alonso.

Unsurprisingly, this was a lot less straightforward for the Spaniard, but he was able to force Russell off-line into the Mistral chicane on lap 30, before sweeping around the outside of Signes to claim fourth, and was soon on the back of Perez. It was here where Ferrari’s strategical indecision reared its ugly head once more. Aware that a pit stop would cost them over half a minute (due to the penalty and an unusually long pit lane at Paul Ricard), Ferrari seemed in two minds as to whether to bring Sainz in and guarantee fifth, or keep him out and risk a podium. In the end, after a brilliant battle between the Ferrari and the Red Bull of Perez, which cost them both time, Ferrari brought in Sainz with only ten laps to go. He was able to recover to fifth and secured the fastest lap but was left wondering what might have been.

Perez’s prolonged battle with Sainz brought Russell into play, and the Brit was determined to take advantage. Russell attempted a move into the Mistral chicane, making slight contact with Perez who was forced to skip the chicane. This infuriated the Mercedes man, who felt he was squeezed onto the kerb, with team principal Toto Wolff having to come onto the radio to calm the 24-year-old down.

It looked like Perez was going to hang-on, until a virtual safety car was deployed as Zhou Guanyu retired from the race with mechanical issues. As this VSC ended, Perez was caught napping in the final sector, allowing Russell to sweep past at turn 13 and secure his fourth podium of the season.

Further back, Alpine and McLaren had an interesting battle for the best-of-the-rest crown, with Fernando Alonso coming home in sixth, ahead of Lando Norris in seventh. Norris’ teammate Daniel Ricciardo was eighth, with Esteban Ocon recovering to ninth, after a five-second penalty for a first-lap collision with Yuki Tsunoda, which ultimately led to the Japanese driver’s retirement.

Aston Martin provided some action in the final laps, as Sebastian Vettel was all over the back of Lance Stroll for the last point. Stroll smartly parked his car on the apex of the final corner on the final lap to prevent the German from getting ahead, coming home tenth for the fourth time this season.

Gasly trying to get past the Aston Martin. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Pierre Gasly was twelfth as Alpha Tauri’s pace woes continue, with the Italian team failing to score in four consecutive races for the first time since the Toro Rosso days of 2018. Alex Albon was 13th for Williams, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Mick Schumacher. It was a disappointing day for Haas, who lost out in the safety car period, with both cars also making contact with others during the race. Schumacher collided with Zhou after the safety car restart, with Kevin Magnussen and Nicolas Latifi colliding later at turn one. Both the Dane and the Canadian later retired in the pits, in order to save the car.

Verstappen knows from last year just how quickly a championship lead can evaporate, but the Dutchman has never previously led by such a margin in Formula One. Leclerc holds on to second by just seven points from Perez, with Sainz, Russell and Hamilton rounding out the top six. In the constructors, Red Bull has an eighty-two-point lead over Ferrari, despite having their own reliability woes earlier in the season.

The F1 paddock moves to Budapest next weekend, for the Hungarian GP, and it is expected that this track will suit Ferrari thanks to its twisty nature. If Leclerc is to remain in the championship challenge, he can not afford to leave empty-handed.

Charles Leclerc takes Pole in France

Charles Leclerc takes pole from Max Verstappen as the Ferrari looks fastest over Qualifying. Perez makes it P3 meaning Leclerc will have to fight off two RedBulls with his teammate at the back of the grid.

Hamilton in qualifying. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

As the first runs in Q1 began it became obvious that the Mercedes were both way down on pace compared to their latest performances against the top two teams. Both cars were down nearly 1.5 seconds from Leclerc at the top.

Down at the bottom though it seemed the same cars were battling to get out of the top 5. A familiar story for Aston Martin who can’t seem to find enough pace to improve. Right towards the end of the session Albon spun, right in front of Hamilton, and brought out the yellow flag. This affected Stroll but Vettel made it through.

Haas was struggling for pace and initially appeared to leave Magnussen in the pits, knowing he had an engine penalty to serve. But, in the final runs they sent him out and he managed to put in a great lap time, making it into Q2.

His teammate was hovering around the bottom but drove an incredible lap to put him in Q2. However, just as Q1 ended his lap time was deleted for track limits. He wasn’t sure to start with if he could still run, but it was confirmed he was out of Q1, along with Gasly, Stroll, Zhou, and Latifi.

Vettel making it into Q2. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

With Q2 underway the Mercedes were first out and setting times of 1:33’s, which were quickly broken by Norris with a 1:32:777. Then the top teams came out with Sainz setting a lap nearly one second faster than anyone else.

It appeared that Verstappen may have been having some issues with his car, having some understeer on almost every lap. However, he was able to make this work, staying in the top three for the whole of Q2.

With five minutes left in the session, the second runs were underway, Mercedes very much under pressure looking like they might not make it out of Q2. Their one-lap pace seems to be giving them problems, they are relying on their race pace to bring in good points.

Ocon was the first to cross the line, going P6, Vettel couldn’t make it out of the bottom five as Tsundo and Alonso put in faster times. Russell made it out of the drop zone, quickly followed by his teammate, who pushed out Ricciardo and Bottas. Magnussen also made it into Q3, taking the battle for P19 all the way to the end.

Out in Q2 was Ricciardo, Ocon, Bottas, Vettel, and Albon.

Ricciardo only just missed out on Q3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Q3 had Perez setting the initial benchmark, but with Sainz providing a tow for Leclerc, he was able to only just go faster. Verstappen couldn’t answer the Ferrari and went P2 by 0.008. It was all the brits after that, with Russell in P4 then Hamilton and Norris. Alonso and Tsunoda rounding out the lap times, with Magnussen and Sainz not setting a time.

Perez in P3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Round 2 with 4 minutes left of the session and this was it. Sainz was back out to provide the slipstream and protect pole for his teammate. The same strategy as before, Sainz provided a tow through turns 8 and 9. Leclerc improved by 3 tenths with Verstappen who couldn’t improve so starts P2 behind the Ferrari on pole.

Perez had enough pace to keep P3 while Hamilton made it onto the second row in P4. Norris managed to split the Mercedes in P5, with Russell in P6. Alonso beat Tsunoda for the final times in Q3.

A championship battle on the front row and a battle of the brits behind them. Perez up there to take advantage of the lone Ferrari. All to play for tomorrow.

F1 Weekend Preview: The French GP

Just past the halfway point now, Verstappen has a commanding lead in the championship over Leclerc. The Mercedes are making progress and the midfield battle has tightened. From an exciting double header, we move to the circuit of Paul Ricard, infamous for being boring, however, in 2021 it entertained us with a thrilling battle at the top.

Are Ferrari’s problems getting worse?

At the start of the season Ferrari seemed to have nailed the new regulations while RedBull had reliability problems. However, RedBull appeared to have solved their problems after three races, but that’s when the problems for Ferrari started.

For Carlos Sainz, the latest of these meant his car literally exploded with only a few laps left of the Austrian Grand Prix. After the highs of his first win in Silverstone, he felt the heartbreak of his engine letting him down again.

Leclerc faster but in Austria despite team issues. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Ferrari needs to go back to Maranello and properly investigate their issues. This means that RedBull are very much on top with Verstappen 38 points ahead of Leclerc at the halfway point. It won’t be the first time a team and driver has come back from behind to win, but Ferrari will be hoping for a positive weekend in France if they want to push their arguably the quicker car to the top.

Mercedes constant top 3

Mercedes seem to have had a very different journey to the top two teams. They have had considerable porpoising issues since the start but in the last couple of races appear to have overcome these, getting consistent podiums.

Hamilton on the podium in Austria. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

For them, the difference has been that they have a reliable car that needed some significant issues fixing. This also meant the drivers who were adapting to the car with the new regulations. However, whilst Russell seemed to get to grips with the bouncing better than Hamilton in the first part of the season, Hamilton is now on a roll with three consecutive podiums and performing well every time he gets in the car.

Mercedes still don’t have the raw pace of Ferrari and RedBull, but the French Grand Prix last year ended up being unpredictable and a good race to watch. This year could be another one that Mercedes will need to capitalise on.

Silly season has begun

With rumours circulating around, McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo seem to be the main topic of conversation. The suggestion being that Ricciardo may lose his seat at the end of the season based on his performances. This reached its peak when Ricciardo had to take to social media to issue a statement to say he is not planning on leaving and is committed to McLaren until the end of next year at least.

Daniel Ricciardo. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Ricciardo hasn’t had the best performances this year, Norris comfortably beating him and even getting a podium early on. However, in the last few races, he has gotten closer to his teammate despite McLaren’s overall performances lacking pace. He will want to prove himself in the second half of the season to avoid the rumours becoming reality by the end.

F1 Weekend Preview: The Hills are alive with F1 cars

Britain brought drama and a three-team battle for the podium places. We now move to Austria where Mercedes have traditionally gone well but this year they have been having unpredictable weekends. It’s a home race for RedBull but Ferrari will want to spoil the party if they can get on form.

Ferrari is at it again

Carlos Sainz finally got his first win in Formula 1 after taking his first F1 pole position on Saturday. He fought hard through the drama and mostly kept his cool under the building pressure from the previous 9 races. For him, the strategy worked in his favour and the battle behind him on the safety car restart meant he could get a gap and stay out of trouble.

Ferrari team orders before strategy nightmare for Leclerc. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

His teammate was not so lucky though. Leclerc picked up damage in the restart of the race but, unlike RedBull with Perez, he didn’t repair his damage or change tyres early in the race. Initially, he was faster than his teammate, taking the lead, and didn’t look to affect him during the race. However, during the safety car Hamilton, Perez and Sainz were all pitted for softs, but Leclerc was left out on old hard tyres.

This would turn out to be a poor decision for Leclerc’s race. He lost out to his teammate on the restart and then entered into a great battle but came out the loser between himself, Perez and Hamilton. For the championship battle, this means Leclerc is 43 points behind Verstappen. Ferrari needs to close this gap and bring a strong strategy to Austria.

Have Mercedes found form?

All weekend at Silverstone Mercedes looked quick and like they could actually trouble RedBull and Ferrari. Whilst they qualified in P5 and P8, their race pace was much better than their one-lap speed. Lewis Hamilton in particular really triumphed in the wet session before RedBull and Ferrari took over in Q3.

Lewis Hamilton after the restart. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

During the race Lewis Hamilton was undeniably quick, putting in fastest laps throughout the race and closing the gap to the Ferrari’s in front. It looked like a very real possibility that he could have won the race.

However, without George Russell competing in the race it was hard to tell the overall pace of the team. Moving forward to Austria, Mercedes will want to bring the improvements they made at Silverstone to the RedBull Ring and put in another solid performance.

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