Normal service was resumed at Suzuka in Japan after Redbull had a bit of a disaster in Singapore last week. Max Verstappen won the race by 19.4 seconds after having dominated the entire weekend right from the start of free practice, assuring everyone that the top is where they belong in 2023.
A second consecutive constructor’s championship was also wrapped by Redbull this weekend in Suzuka despite only Verstappen finishing the race, such is the dominance of the bulls this season. It was a race to forget for his teammate Perez after a series of incidents saw him penalized and also lose his front wing a couple of times in the process. The Mexican driver had to eventually retire his car but ventured out at a point during the race to serve his time penalty and retired again eventually after.
Jubilation entailed McLaren as Norris and Piastri ensured a double podium finish for the British team and it was Piastri’s first ever podium in Formula 1. McLaren fended off Ferrari and Mercedes chasing from behind with pure pace and superior tactics to ensure they were the best of the rest in the race, a promising sign of things to come in the later stages of the season.
Ferrari and Mercedes were involved in battle throughout the race as they seemed to have a similar race pace. It all boiled down to strategy calls and utilizing the safety cars to come out on top and it ended as an even battel with Charles Leclerc finishing 4th ahead of Hamilton in 5th. An interesting battle developed towards the end of the race between Russell, Hamilton and Sainz, reminiscent of last week. Hamilton eventually came out on top of this mini battle for 5th while Sainz got the better of Russell, who could not make a one stop strategy work in a heavy tyre deg circuit.
Fernando Alonso was the only Aston Martin that finished the race in 8th place after his teammate Stroll had to retire early. Stroll was one among the five drivers that did not finish the race that was quite eventful if the leading Redbull was forgotten about. Williams had a weekend to forget as both their drivers did not finish the race owing to multiple incidents and failures. Bottas was yet another non finisher as he had multiple incidents when he was overtaken and eventually the car was rendered undrivable by the Finn.
Alpine made up the final two places in the points with Ocon finishing 9th and Gasly finishing 10th. Liam Lawson in the Alpha Tauri beat his teammate Tsunoda to finish 11th and yet again reminded everyone as to why he belongs in F1 amidst an inevitable return of Daniel Ricciardo coming soon. Alfa Romeo had only one finisher in Zhou at 13th while both the Haas cars finished last of the remaining drivers in the race.
With the constructor championship wrapped up by Redbull, focus is now shifted to when Verstappen would be crowned as the triple champion. A DNF for his teammate today means that Verstappen could wrap this up unusually on a Saturday as the next race weekend in Qatar offers a sprint race and a chance to score the needed points.
Featured Image courtesy of Bryn Lennon/Getty Images/ Red Bull Content Pool.
Max Verstappen will once again start from pole position in tomorrow’s Grand Prix but, for the first time in his career, he was the fastest in qualifying in Australia. He will be joined on the front row by Mercedes’ George Russell with World Champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso on the second row. Once again, the reigning World Champion came out on top after an exciting session. Thanks to cooler temps and weather, every driver stayed out for the full session setting times throughout the session to maintain tyre temperatures.
Q1 began with rain in the air so most drivers opted to go out onto the track straight away. Alex Albon briefly led the time charts but, when on an even quicker lap he put a wheel onto the grass at the second to last corner and lost the red end of his Williams, he managed to recover to the pitlane.
Just after that Sergio Perez locked up and beached his Red Bull in the gravel and mud turn 4. The Mexican was the first driver out of qualifying. The session restarted with 12 minutes remaining.
The session ended with Max Verstappen once again quickest, The five drivers who didn’t make it through to Q2 were Perez in his stranded RedBull, Bottas in the Alfa Romeo, Sergeant in the Williams, the second Alfa of Zhou and then home favourite Oscar Piastri in the McLaren.
Q2 again started with the whole field trying to get some laps in, the tyres were taking longer to warm up here so each driver was choosing to do longer runs and get some temp into the tyres.
Lando Norris took a quick trip through the gravel trap that Perez succumbed to, but the Brit managed to drive through the gravel and back to the pits for some new rubber.
It was another session where everyone seemed to fuel up for the whole session and keep doing laps to keep the tyre temps up and get some consistently quick lap times in. Once again Verstappen led the field by just 0.227 from Alonso in the Aston Martin. Out of Q2 were De Vries, Magnussen, Norris, Tsunoda and Ocon.
The threat of rain was still in the air so everyone came out early for Q3. Verstappen was first across the line setting a time of 1.17.578 but was unusually scruffy from the 2-time World Champion. He was beaten by Hamilton, Alonso, Russell, Sainz and Leclerc but went on a second run and moved ahead of the field again. He then went quicker again on his final run with a time 0.236 quicker than second-placed George Russell.
Third was Lewis Hamilton, alongside him was Alonso in the Aston Martin, then Sainz, Stroll, Leclerc, and Albon with Gasly and Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten.
A grid is set up nicely for the race on Sunday, with the same conditions forecast the first few laps will be very interesting as people struggle to generate heat on the tyres and get a grip. Will Verstappen again pull away in the Red Bull or can Mercedes fight against them with Fernando Alonso in the mix as well?
Perez took pole while his teammate suffered a driveshaft issue in Q2 meaning he will start P15. Alonso was unable to capitalise on his speed in practice, managing P3 with Leclerc getting P2 before his penalty is applied. This is how it happened during Qualifying.
Q1 began like normal, with the faster teams choosing to stay back while everyone else took to the track. It wasn’t long before the incidents started to bring out the yellow flags.
De Vries nearly caused the first red flag of Qualifying by locking up and spinning into turn 1. However, he was able to use the run-off and get his car going again.
With 10 minutes to go, Norris made contact with the wall on the way into turn 27. The team worked hard to get his car back out, hoping for a red flag but unfortunately, they couldn’t make it work. Norris will start in P19 and was forced to watch as his teammate went front strength to strength.
Alonso went for a quick spin on his first fast-lap run. He managed to keep the car out of the wall by completing a full 360. He appeared to get on the power early out of turn 10, he overwhelmed the rears and went around.
There were plenty more mistakes in Q1 than in any of the practice sessions. The drivers were complaining about the track, saying it was not where they wanted it but had to stick to the strategy. The grip just wasn’t with them in the session after the Formula 2 race.
After having a lap time deleted for track limits at turn 27, Sargent spun, bringing out only a yellow flag as he got going again. He lit up the rears heading through turns 22 and 23 which he had been having problems with all weekend.
Alpha Tauri tried to recover from De Vries’ incident but they seemed to be having poor luck in Jeddah. Both drivers were out in Q1 with Tsunoda in P16 and De Vries in P18.
Williams joined them with Albon couldn’t make it out of Q1 but qualified P17 while Sargent still had issues getting a lap together and damaged the car on his final run meaning he goes away in P20.
Q2 has most people out on soft tyres, apart from RedBull, who at this point could potentially come out on the wet tyres and still go fastest.
9 minutes left and Verstappen came over the radio with what he thought was an engine issue. He managed to limp home for the team to have a look at the car and potentially solve the problem. However, within seconds of being back in the garage, the double-world champion was out of the car and out of qualifying. RedBull have since reported it as a driveshaft issue. Cue an angry Verstappen making his way through the pack on Sunday.
Meanwhile, his teammate set a lap time good enough for P2, just behind Alonso. Behind them, Sainz had a big moment narrowly missing the wall and being able to carry on. In P11 with only 2 minutes to go, it was very important for the Spaniard to put in a good lap.
Alfa Romeo and Haas went about qualifying very quietly but had strong sessions each. They made up the remainder of the eliminated cars from Q2, joining Verstappen.
Out in Q2, Hulkenburg, Zhou, Magnussen, Bottas, and Verstappen.
Q3 seemed to be wide open now that Verstappen was out. However, we were looking at a potential pole for Alonso for the first time since 2012. Perez was out to stop that and pick up the pieces of his teammate’s problems.
The First runs were done, and Perez was half a second in front of Leclerc in P2 with Russell in P3. Alonso wasn’t far behind but it appeared there was more pace to come out from the only RedBull in the session.
Both Alpines made it into the top 10 for a strong qualifying for both drivers after a not-so-great weekend in Bahrain. Ocon starts in P6 while Gasly starts in P9. Piastri joined them for his first Q3 session and made a good effort against his more experienced rivals, but starts P8 with Leclerc’s penalty.
Hamilton will not be pleased with starting P7. Still unable to adapt to the car properly while Russell starts in P3 after Leclerc’s penalty is applied. This was the story for the Silver Arrows during qualifying who had a generally mixed session. However, in a race that has a 100% chance of a safety car, they will be looking to use their reliability to gain points tomorrow.
Ferrari had a decent qualifying for them, but none of that matters with Leclerc’s penalty. He will start P11 while Sainz will start P4, alongside Russell. If they want to mount a challenge on Verstappen and RedBull this season they will need to take advantage of having the reigning world champion behind them suffering from reliability issues.
Tomorrow will be an extremely interesting race to watch with Verstappen and Leclerc starting out of position and Alonso hunting down the remaining RedBull at the front of the pack. Can Russell take advantage of his good starting position or will Sainz get ahead? Will there be a safety car or red flag which changes the race, probably, but it’s worth watching to find out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.