F1 Race Weekend Preview: 2022 Comes to an End

It’s the final race of the season and it brings around mixed emotions for many F1 fans. Abu Dhabi is not known for exciting races but last year there was plenty of drama. This year is likely to bring a different kind of drama with a battle between teammates slipping over from last week’s Brazilian GP. We also see the end to the great career of Sebastian Vettel along with losing Latifi, Ricciardo and Schumacher who haven’t confirmed their plans for 2023.

The Four-Time World Champion Bows Out

Just before the Hungarian GP this year Vettel announced his retirement from Formula 1 at the end of the season. Whilst many F1 fans will be in denial, the beloved driver will take to the track in his Aston Martin for one last time on Sunday.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates his third world championship in a Renault-powered Red Bull

Having arrived in the sport in 2007 during the USA GP racing for BMW Sauber as a replacement for Kubica, he has gone on to be one of the best drivers in the sport winning his four world championships with RedBull in the process.

While in RedBull he did split opinion like many drivers at the top but is now much more than that. He will not only be known for his driving ability but has made strides in campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights, saving the bees and standing alongside Hamilton during the black lives matter movement.

He is now considered one of the most adored drivers on the grid and will be missed by many fans old and new.

Vettel in his Aston Martin. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Is This the Final Race for Others?

While Vettel announced his own retirement there are other drivers who haven’t confirmed their plans for next season. Williams announced earlier on in the season that Latifi will no longer be with the team with Logan Sargent joining Williams on the condition he gets enough super license points.

Magnussen showing his form in Brazil. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Haas already has Magnussen signed on a multi-year deal, but the other seat is yet to be confirmed. Schumacher has cost the team huge amounts with driver error incidents, and with his contract with Ferrari ending this year, it is looking more likely that he will not be on the grid for 2023. That doesn’t mean he won’t be back. Haas may keep him, but Hulkenberg is becoming the favourite for the second seat in the Banbury-based team.

Another driver who won’t be in a full-time seat next year is Ricciardo. He is being replaced at McLaren by fellow Australian and former Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri. Ricciardo has hinted at a reserve drive and the rumours suggest either Mercedes or Red Bull but he has said he will be around the paddock for 2023, which will please a lot of fans.

Red Bull Team Controversy… Again

The Milton Keynes team are no strangers to inter-team battles, but this one has sort of come out of the blue with Verstappen refusing to let Perez back past after they had swapped at the end of the Brazilian GP. This has not done any favours for the reigning world champion’s popularity.

Perez helping out his teammate in 2021. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen came over the radio to say he “had his reasons”, with many theorising it had something to do with Perez crashing out during Q3 in Monaco, stopping Verstappen from getting pole. However, Checo is very much loved among fans and has done plenty to help Verstappen to win both world championships, especially in Abu Dhabi last year where he slowed Hamilton in an epic three-lap battle.

This fight is likely to dominate conversations in the media when talking to RedBull to really get to the bottom of what possible reason Verstappen would have to stop his teammate from securing P2 in the drivers’ championship even though he has already wrapped up P1 therefore it would have no effect on his position or 2022 campaign.

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

F1 Weekend Preview: Brazil Brings the Final 2022 Sprint

The penultimate round of the season takes us to São Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix where we see the final sprint race of 2022. For Verstappen this year there is no threat as both championships are sealed, but further down the grid, everything is to play for.

The Best of the Rest is Up for Grabs

Ricciardo putting in a good performance in Mexico. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Alpine and McLaren have been locked in a battle all season for P4 in the constructor’s championship but in the last few races, with an improvement in Ricciardo’s performances and Alpine’s reliability problems, the gap has closed to just seven points.

McLaren will be doing everything in their power to get ahead of the French time in the last doubleheader and a sprint race may be what they need to gain extra points.

Behind them, Aston Martin sits just four points back from Alfa Romeo in P6 while Haas is clinging on to P8 by just one point from AlphaTauri. As we get into the last two rounds of the season every point for these teams will be crucial and reliability issues or driver errors could make the difference in the vital prize money awarded to each team.

Cautious Gasly

Another factor playing on the minds at AlphaTauri for the last two rounds will be the number of penalty points Gasly has gained. He now has 10 points, five of which were given in the last three rounds.

Gasly in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

In Japan he was penalised for speeding under red flag conditions, he was more than 10 car lengths behind the car in front of him during the safety car period in Austin and in Mexico, he was given another point for leaving the track and gaining and advantage in a battle with Lance Stroll.

The French driver is now only two points away from an automatic race ban so he will need to be weary in Brazil so he can compete in the last race at Abu Dhabi. Additionally, these points take a full year to be erased from his license, which means a potential race ban will hang over him until May 2023 at his new team, Alpine. Not an ideal start to a new season with a new team.

The 2023 Driver Line-up is Not Complete

The majority of the grid for next season has been decided, however, the future still seems uncertain for Hass and Riccardo as we are yet to have any official announcements for their plans next year.

Haas have not confirmed the driver taking the seat alongside Magnussen however the options look pretty clear. It appears a straight choice between Mick Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg who both appear to be at a loose end for next season.

Schumacher’s Ferrari contract will run out at the end of the 2022 season and has not been renewed. Further to this, he has made a few driver errors over the last few years and Gunther Stainer has been candid and said that they cost the small team huge amounts of money in spare parts.

Is Hulkenberg a possibility for 2023? Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Hulkenberg looks to be untied from the Aston Martin outfit as he was not mentioned in the Vandoorne announcement a few weeks ago. With experience, this could be a good fit for the Banbury-based team, but he hasn’t had a full-time drive since 2019 and could be expensive in terms of salary for Haas.

We are expecting confirmations before the end of the season so it is worth keeping an eye out for those.

F1 Race Weekend Preview: Mexico

Three rounds left to go, and both championships wrapped up but that doesn’t stop the action. Mexico is next with plenty of off-track drama to chat about before the on-track drama begins.

Haas vs Alpine vs RedBull vs The Stewards

During the US Grand Prix Alonso hit the back of Stroll after the Aston Martin made a late move down the back straight. This sent the front end of the Alpine into the air before brushing a barrier. Luckily for the Spaniard, he was able to get his car back to the pits for the team to change the tyres and front wing. However, it appeared his wing mirror was not attached properly and came off during the race.

Perez with his damaged wing. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The RedBull of Perez also had an issue with body parts falling off. After a first lap incident part of his front wing was flapping around for several laps before flying across the track. The team decided not to change his wing through the entire race because he would lose too much track position.

After the race, Haas protested against both RedBull and Alpine which led to a 30-second time penalty for Alonso, dropping him outside the points. Alpine has since contested the result and will be a part of a hearing, scheduled to take place today. The protest regarding Perez was seen as inadmissible by the stewards.

The problem actually lies with the stewards. They should have brought out the black and orange for both cars like they have done with Magnussen many times this season. This looks to be another case where the teams are coming out worst off from a decision which they should have made during the race by the stewards. This is likely to cause many rumours throughout the paddock.

Perez takes on his Home Race in a Championship Winning Car

Sergio Pérez celebrates after the Red Bull Racing Showrun in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

This year there is no doubt which team has been able to capitalise the most in races, and with both championships wrapped up, this may be Perez’s chance to be the first Mexican to win his home Grand Prix.

It has been no secret that Perez has had to play number two driver this year and last year, the difference now is that there is no need for the team to favour Verstappen to gain points for his championship. This means that Perez has everything behind him to win the race. However, performances have not been on his side lately.

Whilst overall he is still an extremely quick driver, he has struggled to keep up with his teammate as well as the Ferraris and often both Mercedes. He will be hoping for a turnaround in form so he can give the home crowd something to cheer about.

Qualifying is on Saturday at 9pm BST and the race starts at 8pm on Sunday.

2022 Spanish GP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton making moves. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

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

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

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

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

 

F1 Race Preview: We are finally back!

We are finally back in Australia to go racing for the first time since 2019. When we arrived in Albert park for the beginning of the 2020 season we saw a press conference before FP1 on the Friday announcing that the weekend was cancelled after a paddock member tested positive for COVID 19.

Albert Park has undergone significant changes in a bid to make the racing more interesting and to enhance the new regulations which so far have proven to add excitement. Turns 1, 3, 6 and 13 have been widened to allow for harder attacking and defending.

The most significant change comes between turn 6 and 11. The old chicane at turn 9/10 is gone so its now flat out from turn 6, through turns 7 and 8 to what used to be turns 11/12 which is now 9/10. The back straight will now be used as the new DRS zone.

The front of the grid

Red Bull and Ferrari have now taken one win each with Ferrari seemingly having the upper hand with both cars on the podium in the first two rounds. They are providing us with the battle at the front which we needed after an epic season-long fight last year.

Melbourne is a typical street circuit which means qualifying is very important. But with these two teams and specifically Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen made it very clear in Jeddah that this isn’t a problem for them.

Leclerc and Verstappen battling it out under the lights. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

The best of the rest

Mercedes have dominated Melbourne since 2014, but with their recent issues keeping up they don’t look like they can get past 5th and 6th. They will very much be hoping that the changes at the circuit will benefit them.

Haas and Kevin Magnussen seem to be their closest competitor. The last time out in Melbourne Magnussen had his best finish of 2019 in P6. He has already past that by getting P5 in Bahrain. He is currently the main competitor for Mercedes and will be looking to continue the momentum.

Good news for Aston Martin as Vettel has been cleared to race at Albert Park after having COVID and missing the first two rounds. Hulkenberg has done a great job for the team as a super sub putting in solid drives with no time in the car before the season.

Hulkenberg in Jeddah. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

The race starts live at 6am GMT. Make sure you tune in to our commentary on Twitter spaces for qualifying and the race.

F1’s latest rivalry revs up once again

When Formula One’s new regulations were revealed for the 2022 season, it was with the hope that it would lead to closer, more exciting racing. Two races in, they’ve certainly delivered.

In Bahrain, it was the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc who came out on top as the Scuderia secured a 1-2, after late race breakdowns for both Red Bulls left them pointless. There were no such issues for the reigning champions in Jeddah though, as Max Verstappen kickstarted his championship defence with a hard-fought, and well-thought, victory.

Once again, the top two toyed with each other when it came to using DRS on multiple occasions. Verstappen made the first move into the final corner, but as we saw a week ago, Leclerc was able to instantly fight back on the next straight. Thus began the cat and mouse games that might define this generation of Formula One. Just one lap later, neither driver wanted to cross the all important detection line into Turn 27 first, with the Monegasque driver catching Verstappen napping, and briefly being able to build a one-second lead. When Verstappen got back within DRS range however, Leclerc was powerless to stop the Red Bull driver marching to his first victory, and first points of the season.

The final few laps at Jeddah 2022. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Many expected Verstappen and Leclerc to be stars of the future from the moment they set foot in an F1 car, and it looks like this season will be the first time we get to see them fight consistently against each other at the front. Admittedly, the ‘fights’ have so far been fairly straightforward DRS overtakes. Albert Park, home of the next race in two weeks time, is usually a much tougher place to pass, so might see Max and Charles get closer than they have done so far this season, perhaps even repeating their antics from Spielberg and Silverstone in 2019.

Those previous battles three years ago might be why we’re seeing a tamer Verstappen than we saw last year. He knows that Leclerc isn’t afraid to get his elbows out, whereas Lewis was more likely to try and avoid contact at any cost. It would not be surprising if this year’s top two send carbon fibre flying on more than one occasion throughout the remaining twenty-one races.

The battle between Max and Charles which entertained us all at Silverstone 2019. Image courtesy of Red Bull content Pool

So far, it is one each between Max and Charles, but it could have been so different. Sergio Perez was unlucky with a pit-stop the lap before Nicolas Latifi found the barrier and brought out the safety car, turning a possible victory for the Mexican into a lonely race to fourth. His misfortune promoted Carlos Sainz onto the podium for the third consecutive race, but this was another weekend where the Spaniard looked off the pace compared to his teammate. The battle between the ‘number twos’ could be crucial in determining the destination of both champions this year, especially on any weekend when one team has a clear pace advantage.

The midfield entertained as always, with both Alpines adding many grey hairs to team principals Otmar Szaufner’s head in the opening laps. Kevin Magnussen also pulled off some good moves, but the early safety car meant that anyone that was starting on the hard tyres would be on the back foot when it came to strategy.

This was also the case for Lewis Hamilton, on arguably his most difficult weekend (pace-wise) in the hybrid era. One point will be scant consolation for the seven-time world champion, with George Russell coming home in fifth. Barring any issues for Red Bull or Ferrari, a porpoising fix, or performance found in a ‘reliability’ engine upgrade, it looks like fifth will be the best the Brackley team can manage over the next few races.

The leading Mercedes of George Russell at Jeddah. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Sunday’s race passed without any controversy, which definitely couldn’t be said about last years. Once again though, the track proved to be brutally punishing, with Mick Schumacher and Cem Bolukbasi both missing their races after heavy accidents at Turn 12. These crashes, and the missile strike at the nearby Aramco refinery during Friday practice, will quite rightly raise questions about the wisdom of holding a race in Saudi Arabia.

No matter who you support, perhaps the best news from this weekend is that it is over, and everyone is able to leave safely.

 

Perez on pole for the first time

Perez finally gets a pole position with an outstanding lap around Jeddah. He beat both Ferrari’s and his teammate to start at the front of the grid tomorrow.

Q1 started as normal but with 11 minutes to go Latifi had a big accident into turn 13 hitting the wall at high speed and causing a red flag. It looked like the back end stepped out and he hit both the front and back of car against the barriers. Thankfully he was ok.

Once going again Tsunoda’s qualifying came to an end early where he had to retire with issues that are fuel related. This was later confirmed to be a cooling system issue which couldn’t be resolved quickly.

The Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in particular were having speed issues for the whole session. While Russell managed P4 in Q1, Hamilton couldn’t get much faster than P13, ending up being pushed down into the bottom 5, finishing P16. A shock departure for him from qualifying by not making it into Q2 for the first time since Brazil 2017.

The first runs of Q2 and Russell was now the only works Mercedes in the session is also the only driver to come out on the mediums. McLaren have improved from last week putting in solid times and looking to get into Q3 with Russell. At the front, Leclerc still has the upper hand on both Red Bulls but by only 0.04 seconds., but sadly were both out in Q2 in P11 and P12. he just made it through to Q3.

The Haas drivers looked strong today with both drivers setting quick first laps. But with 5 minutes to go though Mick Schumacher was on a flying lap when the back end stepped out onto the curb on the exit of turn 10 which he tried to correct but hit the wall at some speed causing a second Red Flag of qualifying. The speed of the car meant his car finally stopped at the entry of turn 11. Reports were that he was conscious and talking to the doctors but they had to extract him safely from the car and took him to the medical centre by an ambulance. He had spoken to his mum and was taken to the hospital for precautionary scans but was ok.

After a lengthy delay while they fixed the barriers and soaked up the oil, we were underway with nearly 5 minutes left. Those that didn’t have any lap times now needed to nail a lap with almost only 1 shot at it. The Ferrari’s were still on top at the end of the session with Sainz joining Leclerc at the top of the time sheet. 

McLaren sadly couldnt get out of the bottom 5 and were both out in Q2 in P11 and P12. Russell just made it through to Q3 meaning he was the only car with a Mercedes power unit in the top 10.

Daniel Ricciardo on his way to P12. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Q3, the final 10 and the battle again was between the Ferrari’s and the Red Bulls. Everyone made it through the first runs cleanly with Sainz coming out on top with his teammate right behind. Perez was P3 with Verstappen struggling for grip on fresh tyres.

The Alpines split the Red Bulls with laps 0.5s slower than Perez. Gasly was P7, Bottas P8 and K Mag P9 while Russell came out in the gap between runs. He pulled out a great lap for the Mercedes to split the alpines for P5, closely followed by Bottas who put it P6.

It looked like the fight for pole as they all came back out was between the Verstappen and the Ferrari’s. Sainz couldn’t improve on his time but Leclerc had pace and beat his teammate to provisional pole. Perez was next who was on an absolute flyer. He took provisional pole with only his teammate to stop him. Verstappen came round the final corner and he had not improved his time. It was only good enough for P4 so Sergio Perez is finally on pole.

Pole position for Sergio Perez. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Every person in the paddock was happy for Perez who has worked hard for many years to reach that goal. It will be interesting to see what he can do from Pole.

Charles wins the first race with final lap drama

Charles Leclerc wins from pole in an action filled final few laps of Bahrain. Red Bull had engine problems with Verstappen having to retire and Perez retiring in the last 2 laps of the race.

First race of the season and we had Leclerc on pole to defend against the reining world champion in P2. Most predicted a messy start with neither driver known for yielding. As they lined up on the grid we waited to see if Formula 1 could deliver on their promises of exciting racing.

Lights out and it’s a clean getaway for all the drivers. Verstappen tucked in behind Leclerc as they got very similar starts. Hamilton had a quick launch in the first phase, but Sainz was later on the brakes and kept P3. After a short battle with Perez, Hamilton moved up to P4.

Kevin Magnussen had a very quick start and made it up to P5, he was fighting Hamilton into turn 1 at the start of lap 2. However, just a few laps later he went deep into turn 1 with a lock up which opened up the door for Perez who was able to close the gap. A well fought battle to turn 4, where Perez made it through. Just 1 lap later he went deep again and left the door open for George Russell, meaning he was back down to P7.

The race start. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 10 and so far the new regulations were delivering with action up and down the grid. Perez had closed the gap to Hamilton, getting DRS down the back straight. Perez was just carrying more speed and swooped around the outside getting back into P4.

3 laps later Hamilton is the first to pit for new hard tyres. It was a very quick stop, but the tyres only had the blanket temperatures meaning they were too cold going into turn 1. Hamilton had no grip and went deep into turn 1 letting Zhou through. Once the tyres had warmed up though he was back past the following lap.

The undercut looks to be powerful here when Leclerc pitted just 1 lap after Verstappen with a 3 second advantage but came out only 0.3s ahead. Verstappen did stay behind but he was biding he time for the next lap.

Verstappen kept the gap within 1 second and got DRS down the main straight. Into turn 1 and Verstappen takes the inside line coming out in front of Leclerc. But Leclerc had good traction out of the corner keeping tight to Verstappen and crucially getting DRS on the way to turn 4. The Ferrari swoops around the outside to re-take the lead.

The battle didn’t end there when Verstappen tried again the following lap, but the story repeated itself. This time Leclerc took the inside line into turn 4 to take the lead. So, attempt number 3, Verstappen had DRS into turn 1 but he locked up causing him to go very deep and leaving the door wide open for Leclerc. The Ferrari then had the advantage, and the duel came to an end on lap 19.

3rd time unlucky for Max Verstappen. Image Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

McLaren meanwhile were having a terrible weekend. At the start of the race both dropped down to the back being the only drivers which started on the mediums. At lap 28 they were running P18 and P20. Norris then pitted for hard tyres, looking to go to the end.

Lap 34 and Verstappen has had enough of his soft tyres which had begun to where off after his battle with Leclerc. He pitted for mediums but was told to take it slightly easier on the out lap but still hoped the undercut would work. Ferrari reacted and pitted Leclerc for mediums. This time Verstappen was too far back which resulted in a frustrated message back to the team saying he would never take the outlap easy again.

10 laps later both Red Bulls are in the pits causing confusion amongst fans. However, Sainz came in and Hamilton follows for soft tyres. Verstappen constantly on the radio though with what appears to be an issue with the steering after the pitstop. He did stay out hoping he could cope with it for the rest of the race.

Just 11 laps from the end Gasly’s car overheats bringing out the safety car while they recover the car which was in flames. He got out the car safely, but it looks like it was an electrical issue. With that, in came Leclerc and almost all the rest of the grid for new softs apart from Mick Schumacher. The pack was bunched together, and the all the lapped cars could unlap themselves.

The safety car in and Leclerc bolts while Verstappen has to deal with his steering problems while Sainz pulls alongside into turn 1. Verstappen comes out ahead and the gaps begin to open up by turn 4. Mick Schumacher on the older tyres suffers and drops back from P10 to P13 in just 3 laps.

Lap 54, Verstappen has battery issues and Sainz passes him at turn 4. Only 1 corner later and Verstappen has to retire with terminal problems. Hamilton at this point was all over the back of Perez who was also reporting problems.

The final lap, Hamilton kept his car within DRS down the main straight. Perez was comfortably ahead turning into turn 1 but the engine had other ideas and cut out mid corner, causing him to spin and was out of the race.

After all that last lap drama Charles Leclerc came out on top, with Sainz P2 and Hamilton P3. Russell finished just behind his teammate which is more than they could have hoped for today. A special shoutout to Kevin Magnussen who finished P5 in the Haas.

The jury is still out on the new regulations, but reliability is key. Both Red Bulls and Gasly’s Alpha Tauri looked to have engine issues which they will need to get sorted to compete for the championship this year.

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