Tuscan GP review – Mayhem at Mugello

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Due su due as the Italians would say. If you thought the red flagged madness of Monza from last week was extreme enough, F1’s first visit to Tuscany at the Mugello circuit was that turned up to eleven!

It was Lewis Hamilton though who took victory ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, which on the surface sounds very typical but it was anything but that. The race began with the long run down to turn one, and Max Verstappen – who had some drama pre-race with the mechanics trying to check something, he had a good initial launch but his car seemed to almost forget how to use its engine for a moment. Tumbling down the order and then got caught up in a collision.

Verstappen seemed to get rear ended by Räikkönen heading into turn two, who was in a bad position next to Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean trying to claim the same piece of tarmac. Just up the road, Carlos Sainz got tapped by Lance Stroll which sent him spinning, and Sebastian Vettel couldn’t avoid him in the one-off burgundy liveried Ferrari and limped back to the pits with a broken front wing.

Bottas had jumped Hamilton at the start and they were running ahead of Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon. But a safety car was called as both Gasly and Verstappen were out of the race, and coming to the restart, Bottas left it as late as he was legally allowed to before he bolted, trying to give his rivals behind him as little a slipstream as possible. However, chaos ensued.

Sainz, Magnussen, Giovinazzi and Latifi were caught up in melee coming to the restart as many drivers had tried to get the jump on the restart. The race was stopped and the drivers gathered in the pits, and now standard procedure is a standing restart after seeing it for the first time only last week.

Second time around, Hamilton swung round the outside Bottas at turn one and Leclerc retained third place, before being passed by Stroll and Ricciardo. The Ferrari driver elected to pit early for hard compound tyres as he was just bleeding time on the set he was on. Ricciardo then came in to attempt an undercut on Stroll, a strategy that seemed to be working due to high speed nature of Mugello and it was successful as when the Racing Point driver boxed, Ricciardo was ahead.

The other Racing Point driver Sergio Pérez was passed by Lando Norris before he then successfully undercut the McLaren driver. Meanwhile, the sole remaining Red Bull in the race of Alex Albon had elected to go longer than the rest of the field.

At the front, the two Mercs were on medium compound tyres and Bottas was hoping to do the opposite of what Hamilton was doing. However Bottas came in before Hamilton due to the condition of his tyres and put on hard compound, which gave Hamilton a comfortable buffer to then come in on the next lap and do the same, and retained his gap in front.

Bottas was hoping for a safety car, and well he got one. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll went off at the very high speed uphill right hander Arrabbiata after suffering what was suspected to be a puncture. Bottas dove for the pits and it was thought he had gotten a huge advantage as the safety car was called just as Hamilton drove past, but it didn’t come out in time to serve as a help for Bottas, as Hamilton managed to make it round again and pitted.

The race was then red-flagged for a second time, and with only twelve cars left in the race. Bottas was hoping to keep the trend of second place getting the better getaways but this time, it wasn’t to be as both Hamilton and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo rocketed off the line.

Meanwhile at the back, heartache for the newly taken-over Williams team as George Russell had lined up ninth on the restart but had been passed by everyone. He soon got back past Grosjean but even with a 5-second penalty looming over Räikkönen, it looked increasingly unlikely that he would get back into the points.

But for his best mate Alex Albon, things were about to get rosier. He put a beautiful move around the outside of turn three on Pérez and after previously being denied two podiums by coming together with Lewis Hamilton in both Brazil last year and Austria this year, the Anglo-Thai driver put a move on for third and made it stick past Ricciardo. Cyril Abiteboul having made a bet with his driver that if he scores a podium before he leaves the team, he will get a tattoo of the smiley Australian’s choice.

However it wasn’t meant to be as finally, in a time where everyone was expecting a switcheroo between him and last week’s Italian GP winner Pierre Gasly, he finally got to stand on the podium with Bottas and Hamilton.

Ricciardo came home fourth ahead of Pérez, Norris, Kvyat, Leclerc, Räikkönen (who finished ahead of Leclerc but dropped back from the penalty he received for crossing the pitlane entry line too late) and Vettel rounded out the points finishers.

Carnage ensued in the hills of Tuscany, and also whilst not a result that Ferrari would have wanted, it is still very fitting that they have their 1,000th Grand Prix be at a circuit they owned since 1988. A proper old school circuit with plenty of elevation change and gravel traps which have punished a few drivers this weekend across all the races.

F1 goes on a week long break, can we all survive that? The circus reconvenes at Sochi Autodrom on September 27th and following on from that is a run of races which include circuits such as Nürburgring, Portimão, Imola, Istanbul, two races at Bahrain on different layouts before the season concludes at Abu Dhabi on December 13th.

Valtteri Bottas sets the benchmark in FP1 at the Tuscan Grand Prix

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Valtteri Bottas was fastest during free practice one at the Tuscan Grand Prix. It is the first timed session that we have been able to see with Formula One cars at the famous Mugello circuit.

Bottas set a time of a 1:17:879 closely followed by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen (+0.048). His teammate Alex Albon finished down in P9 (+1.189)

Genuine pace or a masquerade? Regardless Charles Leclerc went third fastest (+0.307) on Ferrari’s 1000th Grand Prix in a surprising up-turn in pace. There were some questions as to whether the ‘Red Car’ were running extremely light to set positive headlines in Italy. Well, it may have worked as there will be an enthusiastic tifosi willing the team on to a potential top 6 result.

Leclerc has been running a new chassis after his collision at the Parabolica last weekend. There is no evidence that it is a new design, but it is entirely possible that they could be tweaks for Ferrari’s famous weekend.

As for Sebastien Vettel, it was a familiar story. Finishing down in P13 (+1.388), the German will no doubt be setting the headlines off-track more so than on-track. With his famous move to Aston Martin for 2021 now in the open, perhaps pressure will be off Vettel this weekend with his future in Formula One assured?

Lewis Hamilton finished down in fourth place (+0.530) in a rather uneventful session, in which the only memorable moment came from a radio transmission asking Lewis to turn the engine down. Mercedes feeling the strain on the engine perhaps?

Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly and Danil Kvyat finished in an impressive P5 (+0.797) and P7 (+0.960) freshly following the Frenchman’s win at Monza. Earlier in the session there was a slight concern as engineers crowded around Pierre’s bargeboard. However, this seemingly didn’t hinder the team’s pace who have a strong chance to continue their strong run of form since Spa.

Esteban Ocon finished in P6 (+0.926) with Daniel Ricciardo in P10 (+1.261) Renault have shown glimpses of form since Spa however have some strong competition with the resurgence of both McLaren and Alpha Tauri.

McLaren’s Lando Norris finished P8 (1.102) with Carlos Sainz P15 (+1.578). The British team tested a range of different aero parts, particularly a new front wing. From casual observation the wing is similar to that of the Mercedes with a narrow body, short stubby pillars under the nose to connect to the wing and a higher cape.

Outside the top ten was a train of Ferrari powered cars starting with the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen in P11 (+1.340), the Haas of Romain Grosjean in P12 (+1.345) and Giovinazzi in P14 (+1.443). It is going to be a constant balancing act of lower the downforce to gain on the straight. However, the number of high-speed corners may mean that sacrificing too much downforce will be too much risk on a track such as this. Grosjean had a small moment with the Racing Point of Sergio Perez in which the Swiss driver complained on the radio that he was blocked coming into the second sector.

George Russell finished in P16 (+1.599) closely followed by Kevin Magnussen in P17 (+1.672)

Interestingly, the Racing Point’s decided to not run the soft tyres and focus on race simulations. Stroll finishing in P18 (+1.957) and Perez P19 (+1.961). The Silverstone based team need to find a solution to their confusing drop off in race pace and may be testing to see if they can make the medium tyres last on a one stop strategy.

The final position was rounded out by the Williams of Nicholas Latifi in P20 (+2.155) who’s most memorable moment was a spin during the final ten minutes of the session.

As we draw closer to Free Practice Two. The drivers will be seeking the aid of their trainers and physiotherapists to negate the strain on their necks. While the Mugello circuit is something of a beauty with the backdrop of the Florence and the mountains nearby, it is a double-edged sword. The undulating, medium and high-speed corners are tricky, demanding and will prove a stiff test for many of the drivers to acclimatise before qualifying on Saturday.

FP1 Classification

  1. Bottas (1:17:879)
  2. Verstappen (+0.048)
  3. Leclerc (+0.307)
  4. Hamilton (+0.530)
  5. Gasly (+0.797
  6. Ocon (+0.926)
  7. Kvyat (+0.960)
  8. Norris (+1.102)
  9. Albon (+1.189)
  10. Ricciardo (+1.261)
  11. Raikkonen (+1.340)
  12. Grosjean (+1.345)
  13. Vettel (+1.388)
  14. Giovinazzi (+1.443)
  15. Sainz (+1.578)
  16. Russell (+1.599)
  17. Magnussen (+1.672)
  18. Stroll (+1.957)
  19. Perez (+1.961)
  20. Latifi (+2.155)

 

Italy presents us with a strong, unexpected argument for a reverse grid as Pierre Gasly wins in Monza

Benvenuti a Monza! We’re here and we’ve settled in for two weeks of exciting racing in Italy, but should we have come? Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari might like to weigh in on that one.

The Italian Grand Prix was the first weekend where the teams were no longer permitted to use their ‘party-mode’ engine modes, typically used in qualifying by certain teams to boost their chances of a better lap time.

At the start of the race it was a tale of two halves for the two Mercedes drivers, as Hamilton got yet another great start off the line, gliding into first place unchallenged as Bottas got swallowed up by the pack. McLaren had an excellent start with Sainz quickly taking 2nd position, and his team-mate Lando Norris overtaking a struggling Bottas going through the first and second Lesmos, which is testament to McLaren’s progress in recent years.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Bottas was quickly overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo, putting the Renault driver into 5th, and pushing Bottas down to 6th. Bottas was quick to report a possible puncture but chose not to pit. Bottas’ race engineer, Ricciardo Musconi, confirmed there were no issues with his tyres, but Bottas still looked to be struggling as he was overtaken by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen through the Parabolica.

It was a sorry start for the home favourites Ferrari, who qualified in 13th and 17th. Just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, Sebastian Vettel reported brake failure on lap four, smashing through the foam barriers at the end of the pit straight and limping his way back to the pits, where the car was retired for the second time this season.

Ferrari’s hopes were then pinned on Leclerc, who didn’t appear to be having the same issue but didn’t really seem to be having a much better race. Hope was quickly abandoned after a a shocking crash going into the Parabolica, where the Ferrari ploughed into the tyre wall, bringing out the safety car for the second time and red flagging the session. Leclerc’s crash athough dramatic, proved exactly how valuable the halo truly was, as he was able to get out of the car and run from the scene unscathed. All this in the same weekend that Netflix were spending time with Ferrari.

Shortly before the crash, Hamilton had made a quick decision to pit after the safety car came out for Kevin Magnussen, who was forced to stop on track just before the pit entrance with a suspected power unit issue.

Mercedes took what they thought was a risk-free pit-stop, with Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi following suit shortly after. It wasn’t long until the race was stopped due to Leclerc’s incident, and both Hamilton and Giovinazzi were placed under investigation for entering the pits after it had been closed due to Magnussen’s stoppage.

This visibly rattled Mercedes, who were looking pretty comfortable. Hamilton took it upon himself to grab his scooter and make his way to Race Control during the red flag in an attempt to justify his actions, arguing on the radio that “there was no light” going into the pit lane.

This didn’t save him nor Giovinazzi, who were both given a 10-second stop and go penalty, serving F1 fans with the biggest game-changer in the hybrid era.

Hamilton was noticeably annoyed by this decision and was talking about building up a lead once again before taking his penalty. He was dissuaded from doing this by his race engineers, who had decided to ‘take the hit’ on this occasion.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Mercedes’ loss meant some considerable gains to the likes of Alpha Tauri, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo and McLaren.

The red flag wasn’t in place for too long and on lap 27 we were back on track heading for a dramatic restart.

Gasly was lightning fast on the restart, overtaking Stroll to take what was essentially first place, as Hamilton made his way around and back into the pits to serve his penalty. He re-joined the race 23 seconds behind the rest of the pack, meaning he would have to have had the drive of his life to get back to a podium finish.

Though it looked like a good opportunity for the Racing Point, Stroll seemed to have issues with the brakes, causing him to run off on the Della Roggia chicane and giving away two positions and putting him down into 5th. This was quickly taken from him by Sainz who had his eyes firmly set on the prize.

The same ambition and determination weren’t felt in either of the Red Bull cars, who have struggled more than usual. Albon was the first to have issues, running wide on lap one after being squeezed by Stroll and Gasly down the main straight, and causing damage to the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Albon was given a 5-second penalty for the damage he caused.

As usual, there was greater expectation of success with Verstappen, who was making some respectable overtakes, and scrapping with Bottas for 6th/7th position. Unfortunately, this was short lived as he was forced to retire the car on lap 31 due to a power unit issue.

Come lap 34, Sainz was chasing Gasly for the win after he and Raikkonen gave fans an absolute masterclass in overtaking through Turn 1.

Stroll bounced back from his earlier brake issue and overtook Raikkonen the following lap, moving him into third place.

Sainz continued to chase Gasly right down to the final lap of the race. Gasly just managed to stay ahead and out of DRS range of the determined McLaren driver and took his first ever F1 win, something absolutely none of us expected would happen going into this race weekend.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 06: Race winner Pierre Gasly of France and Scuderia AlphaTauri celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 06, 2020 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202009060423 // Usage for editorial use only //

After being essentially demoted from Red Bull in the middle of 2019, this win is exactly the boost Gasly and the wider Alpha Tauri team needed. You’d have to be a hard individual not to feel some emotion watching him sit on the podium, sipping champagne in sheer disbelief. It’s only a shame the Tifosi weren’t there to make his win even more special.

We cannot end this race review however, without giving a special mention to Williams, who had its final race with their de-facto team principal, Claire Williams. It followed the announcement last Thursday that the family had decided to step away from Formula 1 after 43 years. It’s a real shame for us to see both she and the family say goodbye to the F1 family.

We owe Williams so much after having been an enormous part in F1’s development, bringing iconic moments for us all to appreciate and look back on with fondness. Though they will continue to race under the same name, something tells me it just won’t quite be the same anymore, so thank you Frank, thank you Claire, and thank you Williams for the great memories. We hope to see you back on top soon.

Belgian GP Review: Hamilton takes 89th career win

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took his 5th win of the season and 89th win of his career on Sunday afternoon in Spa on a day that called for very high tyre management. The Englishman started on pole and had to fend off an early challenge on lap one from his teammate and Max Verstappen. Once he was out in front, it was rarely any challenge apart from managing the tyres which were falling off at the end.

Both him and his teammate Bottas pitted under the safety car around lap ten during a safety car brought on due to Giovinazzi losing his rear and ending up in the barriers while collecting George Russell in the process. The Mercedes duo put on hard tyres like pretty much the rest of the field and limped to the end to finish 1-2.

Max Verstappen of Redbull failed to mount a challenge to the Mercedes after he was put on the same hard compound tyres following the safety car and he had to go into management mode as well. The outright winners of the race apart from the top 3 has to be the Renault sport team after Daniel Ricciardo drove a mega race to finish P4 and take the fastest lap in the process while finishing only 3 seconds behind Verstappen.

His teammate Ocon pulled off a last lap overtake on Red bull’s Albon to finish 5th and the team will be very much looking forward to Monza given the similar characteristics of the Italian circuit. Albon has to be content with 6th after a different strategy call from his team saw him finish the race on mediums which put him at a disadvantage towards the end.

McLaren had a mixed raceday after Carlos Sainz’s bad luck followed him to Spa this weekend. The Spaniard failed to even make it to the grid following an exhaust failure while bringing the car on to the track and will be hoping for something to go his way during next week. The other McLaren of Lando Norris put on a decent show after he finished 7th towards the end passing Lance Stroll on the way and putting up a fight with Albon and Ocon for 5th.

Pierre Gasly certainly put in a driver of the day performance after starting the race on the hard tyres and choosing not to stop under the safety car which enabled him to be on fresher tyres towards the end of the race. The Frenchman definitely made most of this strategy and put in some brilliant moves, especially one up the Eau Rouge onto Radillon on the inside vs Sergio Perez. This saw him finish 8th despite starting outside the top 10 and earned him some well deserved points. His teammate Kvyat in the other Alpha Tauri finished 11th after a quiet race.

Racing Point had a very average race following a similar qualifying and they will be left pondering on the loss of the really good pace that they have been showing so far in the season. Sergio Perez finished in the final points spot at 10th despite trying a different strategy to his teammate Lance Stroll who finished 9th.

Ferrari had a similar, if not worse race compared to qualifying after both the drivers swapped their qualifying positions with Vettel finishing 13th and Leclerc finishing 14th. Leclerc got off to a great start and put himself in 9th place before eventually losing places lap after lap. His pitstop under the safety car did not go according to the plan as well and he had to spend more than 30 seconds in the pitlane. As if this wasnn’t enough, he was then called in for an unexplained pitstop which left him visibly disgruntled on the radio, akin to his teammate.

It was not a completely bad day for the ferrari powered cars after Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo finished 12th ahead of both the works Ferraris while passing one of them on the track in a straight fight. Both the Haas cars finished with Grosjean at 15th and Magnussen at 17th after another very underwhelming weekend for the American team. Latifi finished 16th in the only remaining Williams after his teammate was taken out by a crashing Giovinazzi much earlier in the race.

With the promise of rain yet again not being fulfilled, Spa did not deliver the quite the race every F1 fan had hoped for. Mercedes and Hamilton would not be complaining to much after finishing 1-2 yet again and hamilton extending his lead at the top to 47 points over Verstappen. Renault will be the ones looking forward to another power hungry track in Monza while Ferrari might not be missing the Tifosi too much given how they have been performing so far this season.

Belgian GP qualifying: Hamilton takes his 6th pole at Spa

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took pole position on Saturday afternoon after beating his teammate Valtteri Bottas by nearly half a second. The six time world champion put in one of the best laps of his career, just like he has been doing for all this season so far. The Englishman dedicated the pole position to actor Chadwick Boseman who passed away earlier today following a battle with cancer. Bottas will be looking to make up for a sub-par Saturday outing tomorrow by trying to get an early jump on his teammate on a track that very much is set up for it.

Max Verstappen missed out on the front row by one tenth of a second despite putting in a stellar lap in the second run of Q3. The Dutch driver looked to have been running with extra downforce given the chance of rain for the race tomorrow. Daniel Ricciardo is the surprise entrant in the second row after the Aussie driver put in a great lap during the first runs of Q3. His teammate Ocon managed a lap that put him at 6th place for tomorrow’s race alongside Alex Albon who would presumably be happy with a 5th place on the grid following his effort in Q3.

McLaren had a change of fortunes for Spa following the below average qualifying result in Catalunya last time around. The British team lines up with Carlos Sainz at 7th and Lando Norris in 10th and will be hoping for a strong double points finish tomorrow. Racing Point will be looking to go back to the drawing board after lining up with Perez at 8th and Stroll at 9th. They will certainly be wanting a better race tomorrow given the strong car they have had with them all season long.Image courtesy of Racing Point

Ferrari’s woes worsened following today’s qualifying after both the drivers barely scraping out of Q1 and ended up with Leclerc at 13th and Vettel at 14th on the grid. It will be yet another long day of thinking back at Mugello wondering what they can do to salvage the season and also what can be done to put on a better show in the coming few races in Italy.

Alpha Tauri are set to line up 11th and 12th with Danil Kvyat finally out-qualifying his teammate Pierre Gasly this season. With the tyre choice set to be in their favour, the team can hope to put up a challenge for a good points finish tomorrow. George Russell of Williams is slowly but surely establishing himself as a regular in Q2 after putting in yet another good lap in Q1 and maintaining his perfect record against his teammate which will see him start 15th tomorrow. His teammate Latifi is all set to line up at 19th on the last row of the grid.

The bad weekend for the Ferrari powered cars continued after Kimi Raikkonen and Giovinazzi failed to make it out of Q1 and will line up 16th and 18th on the grid. Both the Haas cars are set to line up with Grosjean at 17th and Magnussen at 20th after Magnussen’s error at the end of Q1 that put him on the gravel and dead last on the grid.

With the possibility of rain at 60% for tomorrow’s race, it could be a lot to play for in the midfield which could even mean Ferrari scoring points or Renault challenging for an unlikely podium. Mercedes will be wary of an ever present Verstappen threat from the 2nd row which could become much bigger given the rain forecast as Spa promises to be a cracker like it always is.

Spanish GP: Hamilton takes his 4th consecutive win in Catalunya

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Lewis Hamilton absolutely demolished the competition on Sunday afternoon in Spain to take his 88th grand prix victory in what was a very straightforward race for him. The Englishman got off to a brilliant start off the line and never looked back after and now has the most f1 podiums to his name at 156. His teammate Bottas however would be ruing his fortunes after failing to make a decent start which left him on a recovery mode for the rest of the race. The Finnish driver managed to make his way on to the podium which happens to be the 50th of his career.

Max Verstappen had yet another amazing race weekend considering this is the best result that Redbull could have hoped for given the pace of the Mercedes but the Dutchman got off to a good start jumping the Mercedes of Bottas into 2nd place and then managed to hold on to it to the end of the race. His teammate Albon finished 8th after stopping twice and the Thai driver would not be overly pleased with his raceday considering he started 6th but unfortunately found himself in the thick of the midfield battle.

Racing Point managed to convert their good qualifying result into the race result as well after Lance Stroll finished 4th after he got off to a good start and drove a good race from that point. Sergio Perez put in a great show after returning from illness and finished 5th behind his teammate despite finishing 4th on the track. The Mexican driver was penalized by the stewards for ignoring blue flags which meant that 5 seconds were added to his time.

Ferrari’s mixed fortunes continued long into this raceday as well after an electrical failure saw Leclerc retire around lap 40 after the Monegasque driver was just beginning to put on a charge and head for a points finish. A disgruntled Vettel on the radio showed up with a few laps to go after the German driver was asked to push his dying soft tyres to the end of the race. He managed to get on with it however and finished 7th by making the one stop strategy work, which would be a welcome result after a dismal last couple of weekends at Silverstone.

Carlos Sainz finally had an incident free race at his home grandprix after the Spanish driver finished a decent 6th following an aggressive McLaren strategy which saw him put on soft tyres twice followed by mediums to the end.  His teammate Norris however could not make the most of the strategy and got caught in traffic and ended up at 10th.

Pierre Gasly continued his impressive form this season after he finished 9th today. The French driver had to fend off early pressure from the Ferrari of Leclerc during his first stint which he did well and managed to achieve a points finish. His teammate Kvyat finished exactly where he started at 12th and also picked up the same 5-second penalty as the likes of Perez for ignoring blue flags.

Renault would like to quickly put this weekend past them after Ricciardo and Ocon managed to finish 11th and 13th out of points despite starting off aggressively. The team would be looking to get things into order quickly with them losing ground in the constructors championship to the other midfield teams. Kimi Raikkonen had a great weekend after the Finnish driver managed P14 where he drove a pretty quiet race apart from an early battle with Ocon.

Both the Haas drivers finished their races with Magnussen at 15th and Grosjean at 19th with the latter having to make quite a save at turn 4 after he lost the back end and risked ending up in gravel. He somehow managed to keep the car on track and finish the race. Both the Williams finished with Russell at 17th and Latifi at 18th after a quiet showing for both the drivers. Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo just finished above both the Williams at 16th. The Italian would be somewhat happy with that after starting dead last on the grid.

Hamilton is now perfectly poised to take his 7th world driver’s championship after extending his lead over Max Verstappen to 37 points by the end of this race with his teammate Valtteri Bottas sitting a further 6 points behind the Dutch driver. The midfield battle seems to be heating up as we progress further into the season with Racing Point at 63 points, followed by McLaren at 62 and Ferrari at 61.

BRITISH GP REVIEW: HAMILTON WINS RECORD 7TH BRITISH GP

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamliton had to literally drag his Mercedes across the finish line at Silverstone on Sunday afternoon to become the record 7th time winner of the British Grand Prix.

The Sunday for Mercedes was going in a very expected manner with both the cars comfortably leading 1-2 until it all kicked off with 5 laps to go. Valtteri Bottas complained about heavy tyre vibrations which did not seem like a big deal until his front left tyre suffered a puncture with 3 laps to go and he was out of a points finishing place just like that after having to make a pitstop which saw him finish 11th. Luck was on Lewis Hamilton’s side as he also suffered the same fate as his teammate but it was on the very final lap which enabled him to carry the Mercedes across the line for his 88th race win.

Max Verstappen took 2nd place amidst all the chaos on an afternoon where he looked set for a lonely 3rd place finish until the sequence of punctures kicked off which promoted him to 2nd. He could have even taken victory if not for the team’s idea of pitting for fresh tyres in order to go for the fastest lap just the lap before Lewis’ puncture. Charles Leclerc also ended up with a very unlikely last podium spot for Ferrari despite running at 4th the whole race thanks to Mercedes chaos at the end. Sebastian Vettel in the other Ferrari finished his race at the final points spot in 10th to cap off what was a very below average weekend for the German driver. Alex Albon in the other Red Bull made a late charge through the field after stopping twice which saw him finish 8th. The Thai driver will take the result as welcoming concerning the pressure on him about keeping his seat coming into this weekend and also after tangling with Kevin Magnussen in as early as the second lap which ended up with the Danish driver retiring out of the race and could also have ended badly for Albon too.

McLaren also looked set for a strong finish with Sainz at 5th and Norris at 6th when Sainz suffered the same problem as both the Mercedes on the penultimate lap which saw the Spainard finish 13th. Norris managed a 5th place finish despite being overtaken by Ricciardo who hung in there the whole race and finished an impressive 4th after all the events of the race unfolded. Esteban Ocon in the other Renault finished 6th after a strong drive following his earlier battle with the Racing point of Lance Stroll who finished 9th. The Silverstone based team would definitely be very unimpressed with the weekend as they could only get one car to the grid as the sensational return of Nico Hulkenberg did not go according to plan. Mechanical issues meant that the returning German driver’s race had finished before it even began.

Pierre Gasly probably had the best weekend out of the rest after finishing 7th following an impressive drive throughout the race. The Frenchman starting 11th on the grid was on the back of Vettel’s Ferrari from very early on and managed to pass him with a slightly controversial move. He had a mini battle with the only Racing Point as well and came out on top and made his way into a high points place. The other Alpha Tauri of Danil Kvyat retired very early on as he carried too much speed into Maggotts while suffering a right rear puncture and ended up in the barriers. Both the Alpha Romeo drivers were complaining about rare tyres during the race and ended their races with Giovinazzi at 14th and Kimi at 17th. George Russell finished 12th in his Williams after complaining about handling issues during the race. He would be left pondering as to what could have been if he had not had the 5 place grid penalty following an excellent qualifying on Saturday.

For the first time this season, Bottas failed to secure a top 3 finish after the events during the final laps which means that his championship hopes have taken a massive hit as he now sits 30 points behind his teammate Hamilton, who is in the driver’s seat to take his 7th championship and equal Michael Schumacher’s all time record. Max Verstappen also looks to be slowly cementing his 3rd place in the driver standings after his strong 2nd place finish today. It is however going to be all to play for from P4 to P10 with the midfield battle looking very promising between Racing Point, McLaren, Renault and Ferrari.

Opinion: Lando Norris is an important figure for F1’s future

We have been blessed over the last couple of years with a flurry of young and exciting talented drivers, including Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Alex Albon. Fast and aggressive, they make up a new era and a changing of the guard, waiting to pick up where Lewis Hamilton leaves off after he retires.

However, there’s one driver in particular who I think is going to pick up the baton that Hamilton drops – that driver is Lando Norris.

I know what you’re thinking. Yes, Verstappen and Leclerc have the race wins and in a straight fight between the three 2019 F1 rookies, Norris lost out to Russell in the F2 championship but there’s more to it than that.

McLaren Media Centre

I first started taking note of Norris in the first round of the 2017 FIA F3 European championship, where won his first race. The name Lando Norris was not one you were likely to forget, and I tried to remember where I knew it from. After a quick internet search, I realised I knew him from his Ginetta Juniors days. I also realised I was there at Croft when he took his first win in the championship, on his way to third overall.

I then saw he was racking up junior formulae championships like it was kills in Call of Duty. 2015 MSA Formula champion, three separate titles in 2016 in the Toyota Racing Series and two separate Formula Renault championships, as well as being the youngest ever world karting champion. It’s safe to say I was in utter awe and also bewilderment, because how did I let this guy slip right under my nose?

I followed his progress throughout 2017 in European F3, a series almost completely dominated through its entire existence by Prema. Between 2012 and 2018, every team’s championship was won by the Italian outfit, and all but one of those driver’s titles was won by a Prema driver. That, is apart from one. Lando Norris.

Moving into F2, I wanted to see Norris perform a full clean sweep with Carlin, having won the F4 and F3 championships with them but unfortunately he couldn’t quite match George Russell. No matter, because Norris got the call up by McLaren to race for them in F1 the following year.

In his first season, Norris quite rightfully got the reputation for being a joker. His antics with team-mate Carlos Sainz and many other drivers earned him a legion of adoring fans. He seemed to be so uncompromised by the ever heavily monitored world of F1.

But he wasn’t just a joker, putting in some pretty remarkable performances. In only his second race at Bahrain he performed a hugely audacious move around the outside of Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly to finish sixth. He beat his vastly more experienced teammate in the qualifying head-to-head and was very unlucky not to score more than 49 points throughout the season.

Of course, we all know how this season began for Lando. He earned a podium in the delayed season opening Austrian Grand Prix. I was absolutely elated when it was confirmed he was on the right side of five seconds to the penalised Hamilton. However it was long before that when Lando really sealed his reputation as the future of F1.

Back when the Australian Grand Prix was called off, Norris and Max Verstappen committed very early to the replacement sim racing events. Both have been a strong presence in the virtual racing world and it was here where Norris really shone.

Streaming to his extremely popular Twitch channel, it really added a whole new layer to his character and so many of his fellow drivers have followed in his footsteps. During the lockdown, Norris took part in the likes of Veloce’s Not The GP series, the F1 Virtual Grand Prix events, IndyCar and Aussie Supercars iRacing races and the Le Mans 24 Virtual. He may not have been winning everything; certainly after Leclerc, Russell and Albon joined him in the F1 Virtual Grand Prix events, Lando quickly took a back seat to the trio whilst he fought hardware issues.

McLaren Media Centre

But had it not been for Norris, none of them would have had the opportunity to showcase a new side to themselves. Yes, they’re just playing video games but if anything, that makes it all the more important.

Darren Cox – the former head of Nismo and GT Academy – referenced a recent survey that found 72% of people who play video games got into motorsport as a result of racing games, and that the average age of racing fans is declining. He has a point. It’s how I got my foot into the door of motorsport, so F1 needs engaging personalities like Lando and the Esports world to help attract the next generation of racing fans.

Norris is important because of how active he is in the world of sim racing and interacting with his fans. When Lando was invited by IndyCar to compete in the iRacing Challenge round on the Circuit of the Americas he worked with his old performance engineer Andrew ‘Jarv’ Jarvis, who had taken a job in McLaren’s new IndyCar effort.

There are videos of Lando and Jarv from Twitch talking in such excessive and exquisite detail about the setup of the car which, considering how little access we have to racing teams and the process they go through to get the right setup, was extremely fascinating.

In the end, what else is it about Lando? Well, he’s just a very likeable, charismatic, unproblematic chap who is very unassuming, enthusiastic, personable, and has the raw ability to match that. He reminds me so much of Jenson Button, in that he seems so unafraid and easy-going. It takes a lot of effort to dislike him.

At the moment, Lewis Hamilton continues to bring new audiences to F1 and leads the charge for F1 to attract a more diverse, multicultural audience that will appeal to new markets. Once Lewis does hang up his helmet, not only will Lando along with the likes of Russell and Albon fill the grandstands at Silverstone, but Lando along with all these new young stars will be the leading lights, spearheading motorsport into the new age.

Oh, and one more thing. Lando Norris is just incredibly relatable. Everyone hears his jokey and enthusiastic radio calls and his infectious giggle, and we are reminded that he’s just like the rest of us. Whilst we would revere other-worldly figures like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher, we relate to Lando and a lot of these younger drivers. We are reminded that they aren’t mighty men who we could never have a hope in hell of being like. Instead, we can be like them no matter what we set our minds to, that we are bound by nothing and we have no anchors holding us back.

 

[Featured image – McLaren Media Centre]

Hungary hat-trick for Hamilton? 2020 Hungarian Grand Prix

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

As 2020 hits its third race on the bounce, Lewis Hamilton looks to claim his third consecutive victory at the Hungaroring as F1 heads to the Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

A 21 minute drive from the city centre of Budapest, the 4.3 kilometre Hungaoring circuit prepares to host its 35th Formula One Grand Prix, and it is an eagerly awaited one.

With rain expected on race day, the acclimatised Red Bull to this downforce orientated track will have a strong chance of taking victory at a venue where, surprisingly, the pole sitter has failed to win the race on 19 occasions.

The last wet race was a dire one for current world champion Lewis Hamilton, who was one of many to succumb to the treacherous penultimate corner of Turn 16 in Hockenheim last year, albeit he was ill for much of the weekend. He did, however, put in a stunning performance in qualifying in Austria in extremely wet conditions, asserting the dominance that could well be about to take him to his seventh World Championship.

To take another step towards it this weekend though, he will no doubt face stern competition from team mate Valteri Bottas, winner of the first race in Austria, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who impressed with a podium finish at the Styrian Grand Prix.

This also promises to be a competitive weekend between McLaren, Renault and Racing Point, who have all seemed to take an early incentive in the midfield battle –  McLaren enjoying the most success thus far. After a fastest lap point in each of the first two races as well as a podium finish with Lando Norris, this relatively short track, coupled with the downforce element, will show us whether the McLaren has definitive pace in the corners. It will also be a display of whether they could again challenge for the podium. Carlos Sainz qualified an exquisite third in the wet in Styria, and will be sensing an opportunity this weekend.

We are still yet to learn the outcome of the protest Renault filed against Racing Point after the second Grand Prix in Austria, but with two cars that seem closely matched should hopefully come some heated competition.

Ferrari’s lack of pace is expected to be slightly mitigated at a track that requires less power, which may also come as a relief to their customer teams Haas and Alfa Romeo, both of whom were also strugglers over the two weeks in Spielberg. Ferrari are anticipated to be bring some upgrades so as to try to figure out what exactly is going wrong with, not only their Power Unit, but their Chassis as well. What would of course help their cause is avoiding contact on the first lap this time.

The last time anyone won this race two seasons running was Hamilton himself – in 2012 and 2013. And with rain forecast on Sunday and a potentially thrilling race in store, the six time world champion looks to build on that record, and close the gap to team mate Valtteri Bottas at the head of the championship.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix preview: second chance in Spielberg

Another week, another visit to Austria’s Red Bull Ring—this time for the Formula 1 Styrian Grand Prix.

Last week’s Austrian Grand Prix was a terrific opening round to the 2020 season. Valtteri Bottas landed an early blow in the title fight with Lewis Hamilton, Lando Norris earned his maiden podium with a last-gasp effort, and there was plenty of close-quarters racing throughout.

Last week’s result was also largely unexpected, thanks to incidents and reliability issues almost halving the field by the chequered flag. That means we could get a very different result again this weekend, if the teams and drivers don’t have half as much trouble keeping their cars on track.

One of the teams that’s sure to factor more in the Styrian Grand Prix is Red Bull. It was clear last time out in Austria that they were Mercedes’ closest challengers, but technical problems for both Max Verstappen and Alex Albon led to a double DNF instead. Both drivers will be going into this weekend pushing hard to make up for that, with Albon especially motivated after coming so close to his first F1 podium.

Racing Point F1 Team

Racing Point will also be hoping for a much better result this time out. The RP20 showed more evidence of its considerable pace in practice and qualifying, but a technical DNF for Lance Stroll and a penalty dropping Sergio Perez behind both McLarens in P6 left a lot still on the table for the team. Provided everything goes to plan for them this weekend, Racing Point should be able to finish ahead of their midfield rivals and take away a decent haul of points.

However, there will be several teams hoping for a repeat of last Sunday’s attrition. Alpha Tauri and Alfa Romeo both managed to score points last time out, with Pierre Gasly in P7 and Antonio Giovinazzi in P9, but on pace alone neither team looked that close to the top ten throughout the weekend.

And then there’s Ferrari. Although Charles Leclerc finished second in the opening race, that was very much a great result salvaged from a terrible outing. The SF1000 looked sluggish all weekend, never troubling Mercedes or Red Bull and qualifying behind McLaren and Racing Point. Add to that Sebastian Vettel’s spin after colliding with Carlos Sainz, and the result was a very sobering start to the season.

One glimmer of hope for the Scuderia was that the car looked much more responsive later in the race on the harder tyres, and the team will have hopefully learned something from last weekend’s pain that can be used to improve this weekend. If not, Leclerc and Vettel will likely find themselves scrapping away with the upper midfield rather than challenging for the podium.

The 2020 Styrian Grand Prix gets underway with free practice this Friday, with full coverage on our Twitter feed.

Scuderia Ferrari Press Office