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.

F1 Weekend Preview: The British are coming

We are in the UK at Silverstone for the 10th round of the Formula 1 calendar where another sell-out crowd lines this high-speed track. Leclerc will be looking to attack after the fight from the back of the grid in Montreal. Mercedes have also promised good things for Silverstone while the midfield battle is spicing up.

Can Leclerc recover?

It’s been a roller-coaster of a first half of the season for Leclerc. He started off on top, but reliability issues have meant that is now looking for a recovery to get himself back in the championship fight.

Charles Leclerc fighting his way back to P5. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Despite staring from the back of the grid in Canada he did have a strong performance to finish P5 by the end of the race. This does also mean though that Leclerc has a fresh engine for the British GP where the track is high speed and about power.

That might be some good news for Ferrari fans, along with the fact that he always goes well at Silverstone. He almost won in 2021 if not for a great Mercedes strategy and power. For him and Ferrari, he will be hoping to make his way back to the top.

Mercedes bringing the brits performance

With Mercedes all British driver line-up they want to improve on the success in Canada in front of their home crowd. They have appeared to have learned some lessons from a not-so-great Baku to finish a strong P3 and P4 in Montreal.

Hamilton finishing P3 in Canada. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

There were some off-track technical distractions in Canada, but Toto Wolff believes they have the opportunity in Silverstone to win the race now that they seem to have learned some lessons. They also have drivers which love this circuit and go well here, Hamilton with the most British GP wins ever (eight) and Russell having a great qualifying and weekend performance last year.

Hamilton has also won the 10th round in 2009 and 2013, years he didn’t have a championship-winning car. However, with the unpredictability of the performance window for Mercedes, they will want to have a more constantly positive weekend.

The History of Silverstone

In 1950 the first-ever Formula 1 World Championship race was held at Silverstone and has been a popular track ever since. Whilst it has held the Formula 1 British GP every year of the championship, it is often in the same conversations as Spa, Monza, and Monaco when it comes to history.

Sell-out crowds at Silverstone. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Over the years it has many track changes, but the current layout is high-speed corners and straights so favours those cars with good engine power. The atmosphere is like no other circuit and is often a highlight for drivers. With three brits on the grid, the home fans have plenty to shout about.

Verstappen dominates wet Canadian GP qualifying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F1 Weekend Preview: Montreal is back!

After the inevitable drama in Baku, we move on to Canada for the first time since 2019. RedBull look to keep up momentum while Ferrari will need to investigate power unit issues. Mercedes had serious problems with porpoising on the long straights and want to change that for Montreal.

Ferrari’s Reliability Issues

Baku produced its normally unpredictability this year but this time with less safety cars and more reliability issues. We only had two Virtual Safety Cars for the entire race, but each was caused by what looked like a failing Ferrari engine.

It was a Sunday to forget for the team in red when both cars DNF’d with engine issues. Carlos Sainz had technical issues in lap 16 but his teammate had an engine blow up about 20 laps in. This was the second time that Charles Leclerc had been leading the race comfortably this season when reliability became a problem.

For Ferrari though this wasn’t just isolated to their own cars, other Ferrari powered cars had to retire with similar issues to the factory team. Magnussen and Zhou both appeared to have engine problems, forcing them to retire from the race. For Haas in particular this was a loss of any points from the race with Schumacher not able to push the car forward.

Ferrari will look to bounce back with extra strength if they want to outperform RedBull, who have a very strong car for the rest of the season. Ferrari have good one lap pace with Leclerc taking pole at six of the eight races this year, but on race pace RedBull have the edge. Ferrari need this to change.

Mercedes Bouncing into Canada

Lewis Hamilton telling his team he was OK despite physical back pain from the race. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

It was obvious that down the main straights Mercedes had the worst of the porpoising in Baku. The set up wasn’t right and after the race Lewis Hamilton had to exit his car very carefully with what looked like serious back pain.

Despite a podium, Mercedes and many drivers have spoken about getting the FIA involved with the issue which is now causing a safety concern for the drivers. However, those teams who haven’t been as badly effected suggest it’s a design flaw which can be dsigned out of the car.

Regardless of what happens with the FIA, Mercedes now have to tackle Canada, with the long straights towards the end of the lap we could see a repeat of the extreme bouncing and bottoming out of the cars. For them they will want to set the car up to get rid of the problem as much as possible without affecting performance.

The Midfield Battle Getting Tasty

It’s no secret that the most exiting battles between cars often happens in the midfield where everyone is fighting for the same 5 positions. This year the teams race much closer together with different cars performing well at different tracks.

In Baku Alpine seemed to be the midfield team everyone had to get past. They had impressive race pace, particularly down the straights where they seemed to be able to use DRS to pass cars with ease. Vettel often found himself behind Ocon trying to overtake and had a great, race long, battle with him.

Canada is normally needing a lower downforce set up to have maximum performance, testing the driver’s precision around some of the tight walls and corners. This could play nicely into Alpine’s hands where we could see them walk away with a large haul of points.

Qualifying starts at 9pm BST on Saturday and the race starts at 7pm BST on Sunday.

Verstappen extends championship lead as Ferrari’s hopes go up in smoke

Max Verstappen extended his championship lead with victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as both Ferraris succumbed to reliability issues.

Sergio Perez came home in second to make it another 1-2 for Red Bull, with George Russell securing his third podium of the season in third place.

The big story of the race though will be the fragile state of the Ferraris, with both Carlos Sainz and polesitter Charles Leclerc retiring before the race distance. Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen also retired with power unit problems, in what was a worrying day for the Italian manufacturer.

Perez taking advantage of Leclerc’s lock up. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

It was Sergio Perez who led in the early stages, getting a superb start from second on the grid to take the lead into Turn One. A small lock up from Leclerc cost him any chance of getting the move back on the first lap one, as the Mexican driver quickly dropped the Ferrari outside of his DRS range.

Things looked to be settling down before Carlos Sainz’s retirement on lap nine with a hydraulics failure, which led to a Virtual Safety Car. Whilst both Red Bulls stayed out, the majority of the chasing pack, including Leclerc and both Mercedes, opted to pit, giving themselves the option of stretching out a one-stop, or pushing harder and making the two-stop work.

Baking hot conditions meant tyre management would be crucial in Baku, as the track temperatures reached 46 degrees Celsius at the start of the race. Pirelli were clearly concerned as well, raising the minimum tyre pressures to try and negate the risk of punctures, thankfully, there were none of the issues which plagued last years race.

Strangely, it was tyre management which looked to be Sergio Perez’s downfall. His early sprint on the medium tyres took too much out of the tyres, and Verstappen was soon able to catch and overtake the Mexican on lap 15, with Checo being told ‘not to fight’ into turn one. However, it looked unlikely that Perez would have been able to put up much of a defence even if he wanted to.

After the Red Bulls pitted to go onto a conventional one-stop strategy, Charles Leclerc had a comfortable lead, and it looked as the win was still a distinct possibility, even if there was a concern over how well the tyres would last. By lap 20 though, this was a moot point. The Monegasque driver’s engine expired on the pit straight, handing victory to Verstappen and Red Bull.

Further back, it was another solid race from Mercedes, even if they aren’t showing the improvements they would have wanted to. George Russell was in no-mans land for the majority of the race, coming home in a lonely third place. His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, had a much more eventful afternoon though. After losing out in the first VSC because of the double stack, Hamilton spent a lot of his second stint stuck behind traffic, with Esteban Ocon being particularly trick to overtake thanks to the Alpine’s straight line speed.

After clearing the Frenchman, Hamilton was able to take advantage of the second virtual safety car (triggered due to Magnussen’s retirement) to get a cheap pitstop, overtaking both of the Alpha Tauri’s to come home in fourth. The heat combined with the vicious porpoising of the Mercedes clearly took it’s toll on the Brit, as Lewis struggled to exit his car at the end of the race.

Hamilton catching Gasly before taking P4 at the end of the race. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Pierre Gasly finished fifth for Alpha Tauri in what was his best result of the season, and if it wasn’t for a broken rear wing (which necessitated a gaffer tape fix), Yuki Tsunoda would have likely come home just behind in sixth. In the end, Sebastian Vettel recovered from an early spin to finish sixth, ahead of Fernando Alonso, the McLaren’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, and Esteban Ocon.

Ricciardo and Norris seemed to be inseperable throughout the entire race, with the Australian consistently challenging Norris in the early stages, being told to hold station behind his teammate. The roles were reversed at the end, with Norris clearly unhappy at being told to stay behind Ricciardo. This is a nice problem for McLaren to have, with this weekend looking like one of Ricciardo’s best this season.

Although the McLaren team orders may have had an effect on their result, it’s doubtful that Red Bull’s did. Verstappen’s race pace was too much for Sergio Perez, and the Dutchman now has a twenty-one point lead in the championship over his Mexican teammate. Ferrari’s double DNF drops them to eighty points behind Red Bull, as their championship challenge has unraveled dramatically over the last four races, which has seen Leclerc take pole in each race but not reach the chequered flag first in either, becoming the first driver to do this since Juan Pablo Montoya twenty years ago.

Celebrating a RedBull 1-2. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Next, Formula One heads to Canada first the first time post-COVID, with the last race there being remembered for Sebastian Vettel receiving a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage of track, handing the victory to Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari will be hoping that this time around, they don’t hand victory to their rivals once more.

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