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.

Verstappen takes record-breaking Mexican GP victory

Max Verstappen became the first man in Formula One history to win fourteen races in a season with victory at the Mexican Grand Prix, as the Mercedes challenge failed to materialise on race day.

A different tyre strategy gave Mercedes hope of a first victory of the season, but Lewis Hamilton had to settle for second once again, with Sergio Perez coming home in third place.

The race start. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The start of the race turned out to be crucial, with pole position traditionally not the best at this circuit due to the 800m run towards turn one. Red Bull started Verstappen and Perez on the softs to give themselves the best chance versus the medium-shod Mercedes cars, and it worked out with Verstappen able to retain the lead, and Perez able to get ahead of Russell. Barring pitstops, it remained that way in the top four, with Ferrari unable to challenge in what was the Italian squad’s slowest weekend of the season.

Given the high altitude nature of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez stretches the cars’ cooling to the limit, it was perhaps unsurprising to see the field managing their cars throughout the early stages. Despite this, Red Bull weren’t able to stretch their soft tyres much beyond lap 20, with Perez the first of the front-runners to pit on lap 23, and Verstappen coming in two laps later. Both were put on medium tyres, raising the question as to whether they’d be able to manage these enough to get to the end, or whether they’d go aggressive and push for a two-stop strategy.

The pace of these fresh mediums was clear to see, especially on Perez’s car, with the Mexican setting fastest lap after fastest lap as a cacophony of cheers followed him around the circuit. Mercedes were forced to react to stop Hamilton from being undercut by Perez, with the Brit coming in on lap 29 for hard tyres.

George Russell was adamant that he wanted to stay out on the mediums for as long as possible, in an attempt to change to the soft tyres at the end of the race. Eventually, he was called in on lap 34, again for a set of hard tyres.

Verstappen leading Hamilton. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Mercedes were hoping that the mediums would degrade enough to give them a chance of taking victory for the first time this season, but Hamilton spent most of his second stint looking in the rearview mirrors at Perez, rather than closing the gap to Verstappen. Although the Mexican did briefly get within DRS range of the Mercedes, Hamilton’s superior pace through the final sector meant that, as was the case last year, an overtake was never really an option. From here on in the positions looked set in stone, with Verstappen, Hamilton and Perez cruising home to take the podium places, as Russell finished in fourth place after a late stop for softs, in order to secure the fastest laps. Carlos Sainz finished in fifth place ahead of Charles Leclerc in sixth, with the Monegasque driver now dropping behind Perez in the fight for second in the standings.

As is often the case in Formula One, it was the midfield that provided most of the action. Fernando Alonso led this pack for the majority of the race, after jumping the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas at the start. Unfortunately, reliability problems struck the Spaniard once again, and he retired for the fifth race this season, in what could be a big blow in Alpine’s battle with McLaren for fourth in the championship.

One of the few drivers to go for a medium-soft strategy was Daniel Ricciardo, and he utilised the red-walled Pirellis superbly, securing seventh place despite picking up a ten-second penalty for a collision with Yuki Tsunoda, which led to the Japanese driver’s retirement. Ricciardo overtook Lando Norris, Bottas, Alonso and Esteban Ocon in the final stint – in what was by far the Australian’s strongest showing this season. Ocon came home eighth ahead of Norris, with Bottas holding on to take tenth for his first points since the Canadian Grand Prix in June.

Ricciardo’s pace on the softs at the end may have left many drivers wondering what could have happened to their races if they had gone longer in the first stint – notably Hamilton and Russell. Mistakes from both drivers in qualifying helped Verstappen to secure pole position. Still, the Dutchman’s pace on race day was once again on a different level – with Verstappen also now having the record for most points in a Formula One season, with two races still to go. However, as Max is one of the first to admit, the points system and amount of races in a season now mean these records are perhaps easier to secure in the modern era.

After a week that was dominated by talk of cost-cap punishments, Red Bull will be glad they could do their talking on the track once again – in what is now their most successful season in the sport. With Brazil and Abu Dhabi still to come, you’d be a brave person to bet against Red Bull and Verstappen securing the top step on the podium once again this season.

RedBull do the 2022 Double after Verstappen Recovers from Slow Pitstop

Verstappen makes it a double championship win for RedBull in 2022 after putting in a great recovery drive when he had a slow second pit stop. Hamilton finished P2 after leading the race for several laps before being inevitability overtaken by the frustrated and incredible quick Verstappen.

After penalties were applied Sainz still started on pole, but Verstappen was alongside him with a second-row lockout for Mercedes. Leclerc and Perez would have to make their way through the pack if they wanted to have a chance at a podium.

Russell was given a 5-second time penalty for the turn one incident with Sainz. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

A great start from Verstappen to take the lead on the inside of turn one which proved to be all-important as Sainz collides with Russell who was on the inside of Hamilton of the line. Russell locked up into turn one as Sainz came back across the track, spinning the Ferrari and meaning he had to retire the car with a water leak.

With the change up front, this meant that coming out of the first corner Stroll ended up in P3 between the Mercedes. The Canadian had a brilliant start from P5 and capitalised on the drama for the pole man. We were then back to 2021 with Verstappen leading Hamilton, Stroll, Russell, and Vettel in P5, who was making the most of the Aston Martin pace this weekend.

By lap 10 however, Perez and Leclerc were back up with the leading pack. Vettel was under threat from the Ferrari while Perez made short work of the Aston Martin pair to be in P4 behind Russell. However, the Mexican had picked up damage from a lap one incident, so his front wing was compromised.

As drivers came into the pits to change tyres most were opting for the hard tyres. Bottas was yet to pit when, on lap 18, he spun on the exit of turn 19 and ended up in the gravel pointing in the wrong direction. This brought out the safety car and gave Leclerc a cheap pit stop bringing him right back into the mix for the lead.

Safety Car deployed. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Verstappen went early on the restart, but Hamilton went with him leaving Perez behind. By the time they got to the start-finish line, there were gaps forming at the front while battles ensued behind them.

Out of turn, one Alonso was gaining on Stroll at a rapid pace. Alonso moved towards the inside on the run down to turn two, but Stroll put on a very late defensive move. Alonso couldn’t avoid the rear right corner of the Aston, lifting the front of the Alpine in the air and having an extremely high-speed crash with debris spread everywhere.

Both drivers were ok with Alpine able to put new tyres and a front wing on Alonso’s car so he could carry on. Stroll’s car was very second-hand and therefore brought out the safety car again while they recovered the stricken vehicle.

At the second safety car restart, everyone got away well while Ocon and Magnussen were side by side into turn one. Ocon coming out on top in that battle. Perez was able to keep ahead of Leclerc but just a few laps later Leclerc was on the tail of the RedBull.

Lap 30, and Leclerc used DRS to get alongside Perez down the back straight but couldn’t slow down in time for the corner and went wide. One lap later the Ferrari had another go, this time using the inside line to put a late lunging move on Perez which the Monaquase made stick.

Redbull brought Verstappen in for his second stop on lap 16 but it was slow as there was an issue with the front left wheel gun. To make matters worse for RedBull, Ferrari had brought in Leclerc and managed to get him out in front of Verstappen. This was now a fight back to the front for the current world champion.

Three laps later Verstappen had closed the gap to Leclerc meaning he was able to make a move down the inside of turn one. Leclerc used the switch back though to hang on to the P2. However, coming down the back straight Verstappen still had DRS and this time made a clinical move to take P2 from Ferrari and start to close the gap on Hamilton in the lead.

Hamilton leads the rapid RedBull. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

With 10 laps to go, every Mercedes and Hamilton fan was on the edge of their seats as Verstappen ever so slightly closes the gap each lap. It appeared to start with that the 3.5-second gap may be enough, with the drivers exchanging equal lap times each lap.

Despite this Verstappen was able to gain ground on the Mercedes and used DRS to take Hamilton into turn one with six laps to go. We will have to wait for the final few rounds to see if Hamilton can keep his record of winning in every F1 season he has competed in.

Just when we thought the drama was over Track limit warnings began to appear for Verstappen. He was given a black-and-white flag with 4 laps to go meaning all Hamilton had to do was stay within five seconds of Verstappen if he got a penalty. Hamilton himself then got a black and white flag trying to keep up with the RedBull so he decided to back off and settle for P2.

Winning the race for RedBull means it is mathematically impossible for another team to catch them in the constructors. With Sainz out early, however, this was almost sealed by the end of lap one. The cost cap debate still looms over RedBull, but to win the double is a fitting tribute to their founder Dietrich Mateschitz.

Leclerc secures Singapore GP pole in tricky conditions

Charles Leclerc mastered the conditions at the Marina Bay circuit to take his ninth pole position of the season, as championship leader Max Verstappen was forced to abort his final lap.

On a weekend where he can secure the championship, Verstappen will only start eighth, with the Dutch driver furious after being forced to abandon a potential pole lap due to a lack of fuel. His teammate, Sergio Perez, will start in second place, with Lewis Hamilton securing his best qualifying of the season in third.

Magnussen putting in good lap times despite a trip off track. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The session started in damp conditions, with drivers using the intermediate tyres after a wet FP3. The majority of the track seemed to be dry, with turns 8 and 17 proving to be stubbornly wet throughout the session. Despite struggling with tyre warmup in practice, Mercedes were instantly on the pace, with Hamilton and Russell setting the fastest times early in the session. Unsurprisingly, there was a multitude of yellow flags early on, as Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc and the Haas duo of Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher struggled with the greasy conditions.

On their second set of tyres, however, both Haas were able to briefly get inside the top 10 – showing how much the track was improving. In the end, Schumacher needed one final lap to get through to Q2, with Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon, Albon and Nicolas Latifi dropping out.

Despite hot temperatures in Singapore, the track was slow to dry thanks to the high humidity and the nighttime running. Times were improving in Q2, with Leclerc setting the early pace in this session. Aston Martin decided it was worth a gamble to put both cars onto the slick tyres, but both drivers found the conditions too tricky to handle, as both skated into the run-off at the Anderson Bridge. Lance Stroll qualified 12th, with Sebastian Vettel 14th at the track where he secured his last victory three years ago.

Zhou Guanyu struggled on slicks as well to qualify 15th, with fellow Singapore newbie Schumacher qualifying 12th. The big shock in this session was the loss of George Russell, with the Mercedes man never looking comfortable throughout the session, as he missed out on the top 10 for the first time since the Miami GP. The Brit will start tomorrow from 11th.

Russell was not able to make it out of Q2. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

The majority of the field chose soft tyres in Q3, apart from Tsunoda and Magnussen who stuck with the intermediates. This briefly looked like the best call, as the majority of the slick-shod runners struggled to get their tyres up to temperature. All except Lewis Hamilton, who was two seconds faster than the next soft tyre runner after the first laps in qualifying. Staying out on the circuit to keep the temperature in the tyres was the best tactic, as Leclerc, Hamilton and Fernando Alonso traded times at the top of the order.

Leclerc managed to set a 1:49.412 on his penultimate run in qualifying, a time which would not be bettered. Perez and Hamilton both came close, but it was Verstappen who twice looked as though he was on the way to taking his fifth pole position of the season. Despite a lap which looked scruffy at times, he was nearly a second up on Leclerc’s time before being told by the team to box immediately, a decision which infuriated the championship leader. This was after he had backed off on a previous lap which would also have been good enough to challenge for the front two rows of the grid. It is likely that continuing on his final run would have led him to run out of fuel, meaning the Dutchman would have been unable to provide a fuel sample, thus starting from the back of the grid.

The top 3 for the race tomorrow. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The end result of this qualifying session is that Verstappen needs a crazy race tomorrow if he is to secure the championship with five rounds to go, on what has been a difficult weekend for Red Bull as both themselves and Aston Martin have been accused of breaching cost cap regulations.

Verstappen has won from lower than eighth though in two of the last four races, however, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take his twelfth victory of the season and move one step closer to a second successive championship tomorrow.

F1 Weekend Preview: Zandvoort

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

Ferrari problems… again

Sainz enjoying P3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

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

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

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

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

Mercedes crashing back to reality

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

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

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

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

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

Verstappen Wins while Ferrari have more Strategy Problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F1 Weekend Preview: Hungary Grand Prix

The last race before the summer break takes us to Hungary, a track that last year produced carnage at the start and one of the strangest restarts in history with only Hamilton taking the lights on the grid. Ferrari has it all to do so that they can go into the summer break with some positive energy in the team.

Hungarian GP 2021

Chaos at the start. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Last year saw the race start wet, which meant everyone started on intermediates but created chaos at the start. Bottas got a poor start but couldn’t slow down fast enough for turn one, hitting the back of Norris. This created a chain reaction, Norris hit Verstappen, Bottas hit Perez and behind them, Stroll had crashed into Leclerc, who hit Ricciardo.

This created a red flag, allowing the track to dry, and on the formation lap to the restart grid, all drivers apart from Hamilton dived into the pits to get slick tyres, creating one of the weirdest standing starts in Formula 1 history.

The race itself is known as an exciting track with plenty of overtaking opportunities and a great place to rack up some decent points for the championship.

Ferrari’s strategy calls in question… again

It’s no secret that in the last few years Ferrari has managed to build a reputation for making strategic decisions that often get in their own way. The French GP was no exception to this.

Sainz putting in a solid performance from P19. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

After losing Leclerc from the race early on, they only had to focus on Sainz, who was making great progress through the field and looked on pace for a podium. However, with 10 laps to go Ferrari decided to pit him for fresh tyres. He was on the mediums, and it was questionable if they would make it to the end, but Sainz was at a good pace and had just past Perez in P4.

These calls have now created a situation where Ferrari will need an almost flawless performance from now on. For Leclerc who is now 63 points behind Verstappen, he needs a clean weekend to take that confidence into the summer break

Double podium Mercedes

Mercedes had their first double podium since the Saudi Arabian GP in 2021. They are currently the most reliable team on the grid, and at their fastest, they have been able to pick up podiums when the top two falter.

However, they are now consistently on the pace and fight for the podium places now merit. Hamilton seems to have returned to his performance after a shaky first part of the season and Russell is still consistent. Hungary has always been a happy hunting ground for them, so they will want to replicate their past success.

Alpine is at the top of the midfield pack

The end of an epic battle. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Alpine has fond memories of the Hungarian GP last year, Ocon got his first win in Formula 1 and Alonso had an epic battle with Hamilton, helping out his teammate from the charging Silver Arrow. This year they appeared to have a faster car to bring to the fight.

In France, Alpine definitely had the measure of its closest championship rival, McLaren. Alonso appeared to taunt the papaya behind him and finished P6, while his teammate finished in P8 after an early incident with Tsunoda.

However, they are only four points ahead and McLaren seems to be having unpredictable performances. Alpine can’t rely on that pace alone with the midfield battle so close.

Leclerc loses out again as Verstappen wins French GP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Leclerc takes Pole in France

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

Hamilton in qualifying. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perez in P3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

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

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

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

F1 Weekend Preview: The French GP

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

Are Ferrari’s problems getting worse?

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

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

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

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

Mercedes constant top 3

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

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

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

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

Silly season has begun

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

Daniel Ricciardo. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

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

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