Monza Sprint: Bottas wins but Verstappen on Pole

The highly anticipated second ‘Sprint’ of the season and it was Bottas who started at the front. He will take an engine penalty for tomorrows race but not for today because this was still part of qualifying. The strategic play from Mercedes was the talk of the paddock before the race with RedBull seemingly off the pace all weekend in comparison to the last few weeks.

Lights out and Hamilton had a terrible start losing 4 places before turn 1 putting him in P5. Gasly got caught up in the first corner pack and clipped the back wheel of Ricciardo, damaging the front wing and crashing into the barriers at turn 3 but was ok. In the other Alpha Tauri Tsunoda had an incident with Kubica at the second chicane, spinning Kubica. Tsunoda had to pit for a new wing, pushing him down to last. The safety car was brought neutralising the race.

Just 2 laps later and the safety car was in, Bottas had a great restart catching Verstappen out and pulling a gap to the RedBull. Alonso charging through the field on the restart and gaining places on Vettel and Ocon. Tsunoda made up 2 places on the restart and began his charge back up the grid.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Yuki Tsunoda driving the (22) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 11, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

The chase was then on for Hamilton to get back to the front of the grid for tomorrow. He was hunting down Norris, consistently in the DRS zone but not able to put a move on him. Norris was on the saft tyres, so Mercedes were hoping his tyres would drop off and Hamilton, on the mediums, could take advantage. Unfortunately for them, Norris was solid in his performance on those tyres.

Lap 9 and Stroll was battling for P10 with Perez. Into turn 1 Stroll had the inside line forcing Perez off the track. The fight continued into the next chicane, but Perez told to give the place back for gaining an advantage and overtaking the Aston Martin by going off the track. With DRS the following lap, Perez made it around the outside going into turn 1 and this time stayed on the track to make it stick.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Sergio Perez driving the (11) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda and Lance Stroll driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 11, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Back out in front Bottas had pulled out a nearly 2 second gap to Verstappen. With the knowledge of Bottas’ penalty tomorrow, RedBull were happy to sit behind him and gain 2 more points on Hamilton who would not be gaining any points.

With 3 laps to go Perez was in P9, having dropped down at the start he was back up to his qualifying position. He struggled to get past Giovinazzi who was having a fantastic drive in P8 after a great qualifying session. They finished in P8 and P9, a great result for the Alfa Romeo driver.

Valtteri Bottas lead from start to finish and took the 3 points for todays Sprint. Verstappen finished P2 and Ricciardo P3 taking 2 and 1 points respectively. With Bottas’ penalty applied Verstappen will take pole position and a front row start for Daniel Riccardo and McLaren in P2. Norris will start in P3 and Hamilton has work to do starting in P4. McLaren look strong for the race tomorrow so RedBull and Mercedes will need to be strong to come out on top after 53 laps.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Max Verstappen driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 11, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Italian GP: Bottas takes top spot for sprint race as Verstappen comes 3rd

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas pipped Lewis Hamilton to take the top spot for the sprint race on Saturday. Mercedes looked fastest in free practice 1 which also translated into the qualifying form for the German team as they beat Redbull by quite a margin. Hamilton will however be slightly disappointed not to have had the top spot as he will have to start much closer to championship rival Verstappen.

In a qualifying session where drivers were playing all sorts of tricks to have the all important tow in Monza, McLaren shined well. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo managed to put in a shift and placed their McLarens at P4 and P5 for the sprint race tomorrow. Verstappen could find no answer to the sheer pace of Mercedes and has to settle with 3rd spot for tomorrow while his teammate Perez in the other Redbull will be starting P9.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 10: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez of Mexico and Red Bull Racing talk in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Pierre Gasly continued his stellar run this season as he has put in yet another great performance in qualifying and put his Alpha Tauri at P6 for the sprint race tomorrow. His teammate Tsunoda however has his work cut out after a deleted lap time in Q1 means that he will be starting the sprint race from P17 tomorrow.

Both the Ferraris will be starting the sprint race from P7 and P8 with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc respectively, a result which the 50% capacity Monza crowd would probably not be too happy with.  Leclerc’s Ferrari experienced some engine braking issues during Q1 but Ferrari were able to fix it during the session and the Monegasque driver managed to make it to Q3.

Antonio GIovinazzi of Alfa Romeo continued his impressive run after the summer break as he qualified P10 for tomorrow’s sprint race after some really good laps in Q1 and Q2. The Italian might just be in serious contention to retain his seat alongside the newly announced driver Valtteri Bottas with a run like this. His teammate Robert Kubica who is still the stand-in driver for Kimi Raikkonen in the other Alfa Romeo could not manage get out of Q1 and will be starting at P19.

Aston Martin had both their cars knocked out in Q2 with Sebastian Vettel set to start P11 and Lance Stroll set to start at P12. They will be followed by both the Alpine cars in Fernando ALonso at P13 and Esteban Ocon at P14. This could be an interesting little midfield battle brewing in the bottom half of the grid and could make the sprint race all the more interesting.

Williams’ Geroge Russell made it out of Q1 thanks to Tsunoda’s deleted lap time but could not make a mark in Q2 after he is set to start at P15. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams will be starting from P16. The back of the field is yet again the familiar cars of Haas with Mick Schumacher at P18 and Nikita Mazepin at P20.

With points on offer for the top 3 finishers of the sprint race, Valtteri Bottas is set to start at P1 alongside Lewis Hamilton at P2, followed by Max Verstappen at P3. Bottas who has taken new engine components which exceeded his quota of allocated parts, will be starting the Italian GP from the back of the grid. However, a tactical move by Mercedes now means he will still start the sprint race from the top spot. This could mean that Mercedes could deny Verstappen a chance of getting any points from the sprint race.

2021 Italian Grand Prix, Friday – Steve Etherington

A new F1 qualifying format is set to be put to its 2nd test followed by SIlverstone from last time around. Monza being quite the track known for its sheer speed and overtaking, the sprint race which decides the grid for Sunday’s race is set to be a thriller.

Verstappen dominant in front of the Orange Army

Max Verstappen took victory at his home Dutch Grand Prix with a dominant display at Zandvoort.

36 years since the last race at Zandvoort and anticipation was high. The Orange Army were in full force all weekend as Super Max blared through the speakers at the track. Having qualified on pole, it was all set for Verstappen to win with overtaking being notoriously difficult here.

Having gone out in Q1, Sergio Perez was already on the back foot but a change in engine for both him and Latifi meant they started from the pitlane. This meant that Verstappen would have to fight off both Mercedes to take the victory.

Sergio Perez’s Q1 exit on Saturday was exacerbated by a pit lane start – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Lights out and both front runners got a good start with Verstappen closing the door on Hamilton before turn 1. All cars managed to get through lap 1 cleanly, the Alpines touched but Alonso got around the outside of his teammate in turn 3. There was some concern for Daniel Ricciardo whose engine appeared to be blowing smoke and dropping oil. However, the team were happy with the car and asked him to carry on. Verstappen had pulled out a 2 second gap at the end of lap 2 and the cars began to separate, making this a race of strategy.

After a huge flat spot on the hard tyres trying to overtake the Haas, Perez came in early on lap 10 to get rid of those vibrations. There was also a switch up of strategy from Aston Martin, who pit Vettel for a new set of soft tyres around lap 13. An unexpected move from them as most pitstops were predicted at lap 25, but this was to try an affect his race.

Overtaking is difficult here but not impossible as Perez makes a great move on Mazepin through the chicane stadium section. Proving the Red bull is a very fast car, he quickly made his way past Latifi, Kubica and Tsunoda in the next couple of laps.

Hamilton came in on lap 21, with a slow stop on the front right. Verstappen then reacted the next lap with a good stop from them and expectedly came out in front of Hamilton. Importantly, Mercedes left Bottas out longer than Hamilton, so he was leading the race after the pit stops. This looked to be a strategy to hold up Verstappen and potentially back him into Hamilton.

It was now time to see if leaving Bottas out was a good decision, Verstappen had caught up around lap 30. The narrow track made it hard for Verstappen to pass Bottas, he was only help up for 1 lap, but it was enough to bring Hamilton into the DRS zone. Although once in clean air, the gap was back to 1.5 seconds between the top 2.

Hamilton and Bottas attempted to pincer Max Verstappen after the first stop – to little avail – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Just as George Russell makes a great move around turn 1 on his former teammate Kubica, he received a 5 second time penalty for speeding in the pitlane. Lando Norris was P8 at the halfway point and still putting in impressive lap times on his 35 lap old medium tyres. He was managing his tyres back into the points after starting 14th on the grid.

Vettel went for a spin around turn 3, briefly bringing out the yellow flag and impeding Bottas who had to take avoiding action to miss Vettel’s car in the middle of the corner. This meant that when the 2 leaders pitted, he was no longer able to help Mercedes.

Hamilton pitted again on lap 40 and use the extra set of new medium tyres Mercedes have over Red Bull. A response from Red Bull the following lap with Verstappen, who ended up on new hard tyres, importantly the slower of the 2 sets. The chase was then on for Hamilton, only just edging Verstappen for fastest lap each lap.

By lap 55 Hamilton started to catch Verstappen with a gap now back down to 1.5 seconds. Having been told by his team to focus on P2, he could see Verstappen in front of him so decided to ignore his engineer and close the gap. However, the medium tyres couldn’t cope with the speed and, with 10 laps to go, Hamilton had to back off and the gap opened up again.

A battle between Perez and Norris was rising in tension for P9. Both drivers put in solid performances all race with each putting in some decent moves. Perez managed to make the move on Norris at lap 67 around turn 3 after carrying the speed on the outside of turn 1, touching wheels on the way. Alonso was also showing his experience, looking for a move on Sainz who had a very different race to his teammate, being off Leclerc’s pace by at least half a second.

The Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz brought the cars home in fifth and seventh respectively – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

Mercedes pitted Bottas as a precautionary measure in case they needed to pit Hamilton for fastest lap point. Bottas was told not to do the fastest lap attempt, and after going purple in sectors 1 and 2 it was the infamous message “Valtteri, it’s James” and was told to abort the lap. Bottas did slow down but it was not enough, and he achieved fastest lap. Hamilton was then forced to pit with 1 lap left.

Verstappen won with a very dominant performance around a Zandvoort lined with Orange. Hamilton crucially got the fastest lap on the line but conceded defeat from an outright faster Verstappen and Red Bull. Bottas rounded off the podium with a P3 finish. Verstappen led from start to finish, achieving over 1000 race laps lead. He was in control for the whole race meaning Mercedes had no answer for him.

Gasly managed to convert his great P4 qualifying into a P4 finish, an excellent result for him and Alpha Tauri after Tsunoda had to retire early having had power issues on track. Perez got a deserved driver of the day and finished P8 from starting in the pitlane.

This means that Verstappen goes into Monza next week with a 3 point lead in the championship. Having broken his Italy curse earlier on in the year he will want to replicate today’s performance.

The race that never was!

A rainy Spa on a Sunday after a wet qualifying? F1 fans everywhere anticipated the race with anxious excitement knowing both how good and how dangerous this race can be. Our first drama arrived 30 minutes before lights out as on the way to the grid Sergio Perez went over the paint at Les Combes and had little control as he slid into the wall. The car was not repairable before the scheduled start of the race and Red Bull were looking like they would have to take a DNS.

After two formation laps behind the safety car the start procedure was suspended, and everyone went back into the pit lane. It originally looked like the race had not started however, confirmed by Michael Masi, under article 6.5 of the technical regulations, the three hour window to complete a race started at the scheduled start time.

In the Red Bull camp, a fascinating conversation transpired between Johnathan Wheatly and Michael Masi as to whether Perez could re-join the race. Initially, Masi said he couldn’t because he had ‘outside assistance’, but the race had not officially started and therefore he could still make the start of the race. This actually caused Masi to check and get back to Red Bull. Masi confirmed almost 30 minutes later that Perez could start from the pit lane, much to Red Bull’s delight. It was then revealed that one lap had been taken off the lap count, suggesting Perez would be a lap down. However, with unprecedented circumstances, the regulations showed a loop pole which meant that Perez could start on the lead lap from the pitlane but could not start on the grid – eventhat was assuming they would go back to the grid. The confusion was mutual between fans, commentary, the teams, and the FIA.

After his team’s exceptional efforts, Sergio Perez’s crash and torrential rain cost him a chance at scoring points – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

The confusion continued as to whether we would be on lap two or lap 6. Regulations are not covered for this sort of event, but you can probably expect to see them changed after today. Added to the mess, the three-hour count down clock was stopped with an hour of the time left. This is a ruling which the stewards are allowed to exploit according to the regulations for these sorts of circumstances.

Just over two hours after the race was due to start, the message that every fan wanted – ‘race will be resumed at 18:17 local time – was issued, and it seemed a timed race would be on! There was still potential that this could just be laps behind the safety car but either way, those fans at Spa deserved to see some cars. Coming out of the pits the race had officially started and as long as two laps were completed a classification and half points could be awarded. Whilst the track looked OK in terms of standing water, the problem still remained that the spray made visibility virtually zero for the drivers. Because of this, the race was suspended again.

Just 10 minutes later the dreaded message saying the race would not resume was produced. Max Verstappen won with George Russell getting a P2 and celebrating on the podium after some brilliant work yesterday was absolutely deserved. The biggest loser was Perez, who, despite re-joining the race, finished 20th making it not really worth running.

Whilst anti-climactic compared to yesterday’s qualifying, it is worth saying that, yes they have started in worse conditions in past decades, but these regulations are here for the driver’s safety, which is the most important thing, and it was definitely too wet to race.

Some of the most exciting action came from the fans, who, despite the awful weather, stuck with it and were out in force. Every time the camera panned to them they were laughing and joking having a great time. Daniel Ricciardo went out to entertain the grandstand opposite the pitlane with a Mexican wave, and full participation was achieved! Some of the most loyal fans in the world.

We go to Zandvoort in seven days and hoping that the weather doesn’t follow F1 there.

Belgian GP: Verstappen takes pole ahead of Russell as Norris crashes at Eau Rouge

Max Verstappen has taken pole for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix ahead of Williams’s George Russell, who put in a great performance in challenging conditions. Lando Norris crashed at Eau Rouge in the early stages of Q3, raising even more questions about the barriers at that corner.

The beginning of Q1 was initially delayed for 12 minutes because of heavy rain, but when it began both Russell and Nicholas Latifi headed out on track as the sole cars on intermediates. It was a decision that every other driver soon followed when the rain eased, as the times began to tumble.

Intermediates were the tyres of choice for Q2 as well. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas left it late to get a good lap in, being brought in for new sets and only moving out of the drop-zone in the closing moments.

The rain came down heavier for the start of Q3.

Sebastian Vettel was one of the first drivers to head out, and he almost immediately radioed his engineer saying he thought the session should be red-flagged because of how bad the conditions were.

It was indeed red-flagged a couple of minutes later, but only after Lando Norris crashed heavily at the Eau Rouge/Radillion complex. Vettel pulled up alongside the McLaren to check that Norris was okay, voicing some very angry comments over the radio. “What did I say?” he demanded.

At the time of writing, Norris has been taken for a precautionary x-ray on his elbow, but he managed to get out of the car on his own at least.

Following as his crash does from the six-car pile-up during W Series qualifying yesterday at the same corner, there is certainly a debate to be had over the barriers at Eau Rouge. Norris was sent spinning back across the track, and it was only good fortune that meant no-body was following close behind and put in danger of collecting him.

After a half an hour-long delay Q3 restarted.

Hamilton took provisional pole after the first runs, only to be bested by George Russell. It looked for a moment as if the Williams would actually take pole, only for Verstappen to cross the line and go fastest of all by three tenths.

More of the same can be expected for the race tomorrow in terms of weather, and we are certainly in for an interesting 44 laps!

Ocon on top in a dramatic race at Hungary

Esteban Ocon took his first Formula 1 victory and the first for the Alpine team in a chaotic race at the Hungaroring, after multiple drivers were taken out at the first corner.

15 minutes before the race start, rain started to fall on the track. Adding to the anticipation, it started light but was due to continue for the first 30 minutes of the race and get heavier before mostly drying out by the end of the race. Intermediate tyres on to start, Lewis Hamilton indicating on the radio he was ready for the fight in the rain. Hamilton and Max Verstappen are both known for performing well in the wet, possibly a leveller but definitely exciting!

Lights out and all eyes turned to Verstappen and Hamilton. Both got a great launch, but Valtteri Bottas had an absolutely dreadful start with wheel spin from third. Lando Norris got in front of him off the line but was tapped by Bottas from behind who had missed his breaking point. Norris then crashed into Verstappen and Bottas hit Sergio Perez. Norris and Verstappen managed to carry on with significant damage, but Bottas and Perez were out.

Further back in turn 1, Lance Stroll tried to avoid some cars by heading towards the apex, but ended up on the grass and collected Charles Leclerc who hit and spun around Daniel Ricciardo. Unfortunately, that was the race over for Leclerc.

Ricciardo kept going and Stroll was able to keep driving after damage to the front of his car. A red flag was called to gather the debris left around turn 1. This allowed the Red Bull team to fix Verstappen’s car, potentially saving him from retirement. Norris and Stroll then had to retire due to the damage from the incident.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull (Mark Thompson, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool)

Hamilton was still in P1, but others had benefited from a high attrition first corner. Ocon and Sebastian Vettel were the biggest winners, starting P2 and P3 respectively. Yuki Tsunoda was in P5, Carlos Sainz P4 and the Williams’ were P6 and P8 whilst Verstappen had really lost out and started in P13. A fight from the back was on after quick recovery work by Red Bull. There was a standing re-start as the sun came out to a now quickly drying track, but the question then was slicks or inters?

Hamilton was the only one starting on the grid, so the race was in the pits with everyone coming in for slicks. George Russell came out on top, and with Hamilton pitting after it looked like Russell would lead the race, but Russell was told by the FIA to give back the places he’d taken in the pitlane. Mercedes didn’t come out well with Hamilton boxing after the restart and ending up last and importantly behind Verstappen. So, on lap 5 Ocon was leading the race, with Vettel P2 and Nicholas Latifi P3. Hamilton was catching Verstappen who still had damage, so the race was on!

Verstappen managed to get past Pierre Gasly but then became stuck behind Mick Schumacher for five laps before passing him with a daring move through Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4. They did touch but both were able to carry on. Meanwhile Hamilton was struggling behind Gasly, locking up a few times but both Gasly and Hamilton managed to pass Schumacher in the next two laps.

Hamilton stopped for hard tyres on lap 20 in an attempt to change the strategy and go longer. Red Bull and Verstappen responded so made the stop just one lap later. Ricciardo pitted at the same time as Verstappen, and he came out in front of the Red Bull. Hamilton was coming down the straight as the pair came out of the pits. Hamilton took advantage and got past not only Verstappen but also Ricciardo, putting a vital car between the Championship rivals.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes AMG)

On lap 32, Hamilton was the fastest car in the race passing Tsunoda into P5 with a fantastic move while Verstappen was still behind Ricciardo in P12. This move caused Ferrari and Sainz to react, and with enough gap Sainz pitted and came back out in P4 with fresh tyres ready to defend against Hamilton.

Meanwhile Schumacher was doing a great job in the Haas to keep 4 drivers behind him. However, after many laps of battling, Russell finally made it past Schumacher on lap 33 with a brave move on the outside of Turn 2. Schumacher then begun to lose places rapidly to Ricciardo and Verstappen on the next lap, very important for Verstappen in terms of the championship.

From the front, Vettel pitted with a slow stop but came out in P3, ahead of Sainz and Hamilton. Ocon told to push but Alpine appeared to have the advantage with both cars in the podium places fight. A good stop meant Ocon came out ahead of Vettel, but Vettel tried to fight it into Turn 4. Sadly for him nothing came of it and with only Fernando Alonso in front of Ocon it looked to be an Alpine win from lap 39.

It wasn’t over at the front though. Sainz and Hamilton in P3 and P4 were catching the leaders at a rapid pace. However, Hamilton pitted on lap 48 for the mediums. He came out behind Alonso, but this would mean he could push to the end of the race, with flashbacks to Hungary 2019 and Spain 2021. Vettel got closer to Ocon through the back markers in an attempt to pass him for the lead. On lap 50 the fight was not over with Vettel having DRS and the pressure piling on Ocon.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin (Courtesy of Aston Martin media)

Verstappen finally made a move on Ricciardo for P10 on Lap 61 and the final points position. This could be an important point for the championship and impressive driving considering the significant damage still on his car from lap 1.

On lap 57 a brilliant battle between Hamilton and Alonso began, Alonso defending and making the Alpine the widest thing on the track. This epic battle continued for over 10 laps, but Hamilton was eventually close enough when Alonso made a rare mistake and locked up into Turn 1. This did create problems for Hamilton though, who was on a mission to get to the front. However, catching Sainz on older tyres in P3 meant that just two laps later, Hamilton was in the podium places, but the gap was too big for Hamilton to catch Vettel in P2.

Esteban Ocon won the Hungarian Grand Prix! The first win for him and a great turn around since a relatively poor run of form. Vettel was in P2 after a great drive from the restart. Sainz was P4 ahead of Alonso, Gasly sneaked in a fastest lap right at the end in P6, and Tsunoda was P7. Both Williams finished in the points with Latifi P8 and Russell P9, which is vital for the constructors and their first double points finish since 2018. Russell finally managed to get those illusive points in a Williams!

For the championship Hamilton gained points on Verstappen, who finished P10, and leads going into the summer break. This has been a real swing in momentum after the British Grand Prix in the favour of Mercedes and Hamilton. It is all to play for as the teams regroup and look to improve for Spa at the end of August.

British GP Friday qualifying: Hamilton fastest at home

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton was the fastest on Friday qualifying after a blistering first lap in Q3 made sure that he would be starting from P1 for the sprint race on Saturday. An all new trial format for Formula 1 this weekend means that the drivers will go again on Saturday with a 17 lap race at Silverstone and the winner from that race will be awarded pole position for the actual race on Sunday. Hamilton’s teammate Bottas in the other Mercedes is set to start from P3 after his lap was two tenths shy of Hamilton’s lap time.

Hamilton’s closest title rival Max Verstappen was complaining of understeer through out qualifying and fell short of P1 by just about 0.075 seconds while his teammate Sergio Perez could only qualify 5th after his time from the second run during Q3 was deleted due to him exceeding track limits. Redbull who have been fastest during the course of the season will not be happy with this result and will have their work cut out before the sprint race.

Ferrari will take heart from Friday qualifying after Charles Leclerc managed to be the 4th fastest on Friday courtesy of a Perez deleted lap time. Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari could only manage a P9 but crucially for Ferrari, they have atleast one car ahead of McLaren at P4.

In what was a tough few days for McLaren off track with Lando Norris incident at Wemblely and team boss Zak Brown coming down with the coronavirus, it was not a bad outing for the British team after Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have both put in lap times which are good enough for a P6 and P7 on the grid for sprint race tomorrow.

‘Mr. Saturday’ Geroge Russell has also proved that he would be an excellent ‘Mr.Friday’ should this new race weekend format stick, after a brilliant Q2 lap meant that he was into Q3 yet again. He then set another excellent lap time in Q3 which means 8th position on the starting grid is his for the sprint race. Things were not that great for his Canadian teammate Latifi in the other Williams after he could not get out of Q1 and will be starting from P18.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel makes up the last of top 10 fastest drivers on the grid after having his first lap time in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits and will be starting P10 for the sprint race. His teammate Lance Stroll couldn’t quite find a similar pace and will be starting from P15.

It was a bad Friday outing for Alpha Tauri in comparison with the last few weekends, after Pierre Gasly only managed a lap good enough to put him on P12 for tomorrow while his teammate Tsunoda had things go worse for him after his lap was not good enough for the rookie driver to go to Q2 and he is set to start from P16.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon finally managed to get out Q1 this time around and is set to start P13 for tomorrow while his teammate Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on Q3 and will be starting P11. Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi managed to get out of Q1 but could only go as high as P14 while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen could not manage that and will only be starting P17. Both the Haas cars will be starting with Schumacher at P19 and Mazepin at P20, which has become rather predictable based on how their season is going.

A new format in on trial at a packed Silverstone but it is the old and familiar top 3 of Hamilton, Verstappena and Bottas is set to start the sprint race.  With points up for grabs and of course the pole position for the main race on Sunday, it is set to be an interesting 17-lap race on Saturday. Redbull seem to be running away with the title but a resurgence from Hamilton and Mercedes is definitely on the cards as the race for pole is on.

Austrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Norris splits the Red Bulls

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max Verstappen took his 3rd consecutive pole position of the 2021 season as Redbull continued their dominance in Austria. The Dutch driver continued his excellent form and the pole position never looked in doubt due to the sheer pace of the Redbull.

For once, the other English driver on the front in Austria tomorrow will not be Lewis Hamilton as Lando Norris managed to put together a brilliant lap which was good enough to beat both the Mercedes and Sergio Perez in the other Redbull onto the front row. He was closely following Verstappen in the second run of Q3 which meant that he got a great tow and  agonizingly fell short by only four hundredths of a second to the pole position. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the other McLaren could not find the similar pace and will only be starting P13.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes could only manage P4 and P5 after they failed to make any improvements in their second run in Q3 and will be quickly searching for answers and hoping that their upgrades scheduled for Silverstone will bring about the pace that they have been lacking compared to Redbull.

Another headline worthy story from today’s qualifying is yet another one about the Saturdays of George Russell, where this time the English driver managed to put his car into not just Q2 but Q3 and a grid position of P9 on raw pace alone. The Williams team would be overjoyed with the result and Russell himself might be putting pressure on the Mercedes team to give him a shot with a display like today’s.

Aston Martin managed to get both their cars into Q3 with Sebastian Vettel set to start at P8 and Lance Stroll set to start at P10. The former however is under the scrutiny after he impeded Fernando Alonso’s flying lap at turn 10 causing the Spaniard to lose all the momentum and manage only a P14 starting place for the grid. It is yet to be seen what kind of a punishment would be handed to the German driver.

Alpha Tauri put up a very strong display on a hot track today as Pierre Gasly will be starting P6 and his teammate Yuki Tsunoda will be starting P7 as they will be fancying themselves for a double points finish tomorrow.

It was a day of questionable decisions at Ferrari as Carlos Sainz and Leclerc will be starting P11 and P12 respectively. A second run on medium tyres in Q2 meant that both the Ferrari drivers could not improve their times and could have done so if they went out on the softs. This decision was probably taken based on the race pace data from the last weekend where Ferrari looked fast on the medium and hard compound tyres and the Italian team will now be hoping for a repeat of the same.

Alpine had a qualifying to forget after both the cars could not make it into Q3 with Alonso being unlucky and Ocon not finding any pace in the car in the very first qualifying session itself. A visibly distraught Alonso and Alpine will be hoping for the race to turn around their way tomorrow if they are to score any points from the weekend.

Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi and Raikkonen will be starting the race from P15 and P16 respectively after only one of them managed to get out of Q3. Nicholas Latifi in the Williams will be starting P18 after he could not get anywhere close to his teammate and both the Haas cars will be starting with Schumacher at P19 and Nikita Mazepin at P20 respectively, which makes up the grid.

An 18 point gap is set to become wider between championship leaders Verstappen and Hamilton unless the Mercedes make a strong comeback in terms of race pace and strategy on Sunday. Sergio Perez starting at P3 means that we have a race on our hands with the battle for the constructors championship heating up as well, which sets up beautifully for a brilliant race in the Styrian mountains.

Styrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Hamilton gets to the front row

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max Verstappen reigned supreme in the first Austrian race this year as the Dutchman calmly put his Redbull on pole in the mountains of Spielberg. The qualifying went as expected for the home team as it seemed that Verstappen did not need to break a sweat to achieve pole position.

He was two tenths quicker than his nearest competitor in Valtteri Bottas who finished 2nd but will be relegated to 5th because of the penalty that the Finnish driver picked up in free practice 2 as he spun in the pitlane. This means that the stage is set for round 8 of thr Verstappen-Hamilton title fight as the championship leaders lock out the front row with only 12 points separating the two.

Verstappen’s teammate Perez in the other Redbull will be starting at P4 and crucially ahead of Bottas which will help Redbull in their bid to challenge for the constructors championship. Lando Norris delivered yet another stellar performance continuing his amazing season as the English driver will be starting from P3 alongisde Perez. His teammate Riccirado in the other McLaren will be starting from as low as P13 after what seemed like a good weekend based on practice pace sort of fell apart for the Aussie driver.

Honda powered cars of the Alpha Tauri were enjoying the Redbull ring as it was evident from both Gasly and Tsunoda’s pace after both the cars were comfortably in Q3 and they are set to start at P6 and P8 respectively. Tsunoda’s position is however not quite confirmed yet after the Japanese rookie driver failed to move out of the way of Valtteri Bottas who was on a flying lap and could well be handed a grid drop after a trip to the stewards.

Fernando Alonso on the radio was chirpy as the Spanish driver expressed his happiness with his Q2 lap which put him well into Q3. He will be starting P9 as it stands while his teammate Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine could only manage a P17 concluding a mixed Saturday for the French team. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin makes up the top 10 on the grid after the Canadian’s efforts in Q2 saw him get into Q3 by very fine margins while his teammate Vettel could only manage P14 after his time in Q2 was deleted as the German exceeded track limits at turn 10.

George Russell in the Williams continued to live up to his Mr.Saturday tag as the English driver was so close to making it to Q3 as he lost out by a few hundredths of a second but will be starting P11 which could still be a very good place to start in, considering the free tyre choice that will be available to him. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams will be starting P16 in what looks to be a season of a slow but continuous improvement for the Williams team.

Ferrari’s resurgence after having taken back to back poles in Monaco and Azerbaijan seems to be coming to a screeching halt after the problems continued in Austria as well. Both the drivers could not find any pace in comparison to the drivers at the front of the grid after Charles Leclerc only managed P7 and Carlos Sainz a P12 after his lap time was deleted in Q2. The Italian team will be hoping for a quick turnaround of fortunes with some rain possibly in the air tomorrow.

Alfa Romeo managed to put one car in Q2 which happened to be Antonio Giovinazzi who will be starting P15 while Kimi Raikkonen could only manage a P18 after his excursions into the gravel near turn 4 meant he could not improve his lap times. Haas only managed P19 and P20 for Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin respectively which a visibly Gunther Steiner described as a learning experience for the team from his pit wall to the commentators. A tough season is set be endured by them after the team’s focus is set on developing the car for the next year’s regulations.

With an 80% chance of rain for the race tomorrow, the battle for the championship is heating up. Redbull have a clear advantage over Mercedes in terms of one lap pace but it has looked pretty even so far when it comes to race day. Verstappen will be looking to increase his lead over Hamilton in the championship but Mercedes will definitely go after the Red Bulls in what promises to be a thrilling first race in Austria this season.

Azerbaijan GP: Leclerc takes his 2nd pole of the season in Baku

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

It was Charles Leclerc of Ferrari who took pole in Baku on Saturday afternoon after a frantic qualifying session. The Monegasque driver received a nice little slipstream behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in the first run of Q3 and was able to put a competitive time on board which was good enough for pole position.

The second run of Q3 was brought to a halt after Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri  crashed into the barriers during his flying lap which was followed by Carlos Sainz of Ferrari locking up and losing his front wing in the same corner followed by a hard hit to the barriers. This meant that there was yet another red flag in the session and pole was decided. The Spaniard however managed a lap good enough for P5 in the first run but will not be too amused after the crash was severe on the back end of his car which might result in a gear box change.

Mercedes finished the session with Lewis Hamilton qualifying at P2 and Bottas at P10, after the Finnish driver provided Hamilton a tow during the first run of Q3 but could not get his own lap in during the second run. The team will be satisfied that they could put at least one car on the front row but Bottas will rue his misfortune on a track that he is generally good at.

Driver’s championship leader Max Verstappen drove a very good lap but only managed a P3 while his teammate Sergio Perez could only manage P7. One thing that Redbull can still be confident of is the fact that their race pace has looked promising in the season so far and crucially, the championship rival Hamilton is not so far up ahead.

Pierre Gasly continued to impress after an excellent lap saw the French driver place his Alpha Tauri at P4 after an amazing lap while his teammate Tsunoda managed a P8. An excellent position for the team overall barring the carsh for Tsunoda later on means they will be hunting that double points finish right from the start.

Lando Norris continued his good start to the season after qualifying at P6 but the English driver is under investigation for infringements after red flags in the first qualifying session. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s dismal season continued after the Australian driver crashed into the barriers towards the end of Q2 which ended his qualifying and put him on P13 on the grid for the race tomorrow.

Fernando Alonso bounced back from his bad outing in qualifying at Monaco and qualified into Q3 this time around with a mega performance. Having termed Baku 2018 as the best race of his career, Alonso will be looking to make the most of the scenario as he is set to start from P9 on the grid and is in with a chance for some valuable points tomorrow. His teammate Esteban Ocon could not get out of Q2 and will be starting the race from P12.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll brought on the first red flag of qualifying in Q1 after he crashed out towards the end of sector 2 on his first run in Q2 and will be starting at P19. His teammate Vettel narrowly missed out on Q3 by as less as three hundredths of a second after the red flag brought on by Ricciardo meant that he could not improve his lap time. The German driver will start at P11 but has an advantage of starting on tyres of his own choice.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was involved in the second red flag during Q1 after crashing into the same corner as Lance Stroll and the Italian driver will be starting last. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen will be starts P14 after his Q1 laps were good enough to get out of it. Both the Haas cars had clean Q1 laps and they will be starting with Schumacher at P17 and Mazepin at P18 respectively.

George Russell in the Williams got out of Q1 yet again and will be starting the race at P15 but it was not certain before the start of the session. The English driver had to wait until the mechanics changed the entire power unit of his car after a water pipe leak meant he could not continue at the end of his last free practice. His teammate Latifi will line up at P16 after failing to get out of Q1.

The race is set to get underway with championship rivals Hamilton and Verstappen all set to start at 2nd and 3rd while Ferrari slowly seem to be improving and mounting challenges. The race promises to be a cracker as is the usual setting in Baku when the five lights go out.