Mercedes have claimed a sixth successive Constructors’ Championship at the Japanese Grand Prix, with Valtteri Bottas taking the race win and Lewis Hamilton finishing in third.
The pair had started in third and fourth respectively, but Bottas capitalised on a mistake from Sebastian Vettel at the start to take the lead going into turn one. Hamilton inherited third when Charles Leclerc pitted on lap four for a new front-wing, following a coming-together with Max Verstappen on the first lap.
“We never thought this would be possible,” Toto Wolff said, “and I’m incredibly happy for everybody who has been a part of this journey. It’s not always been easy, the entire team put in a lot of hard work and we had our fair share of painful moments, but we were always able to pick ourselves up.”
Wolff also spoke of this year’s championship being particularly emotional in the wake of Niki Lauda’s passing in May.
“This sixth Championship is a very special one – and we dedicate it to Niki,” he said. “He has been such an important part from the beginning, and we all miss him dearly. I think about him every day and still find it hard to believe that he’s not here anymore.
“I keep thinking to myself, ‘What would Niki say, what would he think?’ Today, he probably would have said, ‘Congratulations for the sixth one, but you have a challenge on your hands for next year’. It was his way of making sure that we’re never complacent.”
Mercedes become the first team to claim six successive championships since Ferrari did so between 1999 and 2004, and things are set to get even more rosy for them in the coming races. Bottas’ win and Hamilton’s third-place means that they alone remain in contention for the Drivers’ Championship, with Vettel, Leclerc and Verstappen’s mathematical hopes being put to bed.
As such, Mercedes will become the first team in F1’s history to claim six successive Constructors’ and Drivers’ Championships, regardless of which of their line-up claims the title.
Formula One heads to the streets of Singapore, for the start of the final flyaway leg of 2019 under the lights at Marina Bay.
Ferrari and Charles Leclerc head to Singapore on the crest of two wins on the bounce at Spa and Monza. But compared to those two high-speed circuits, Ferrari’s low downforce package won’t be anywhere near as effective on the tight Marina Bay Street Circuit.
As has been the case for most of the 2019 season, Mercedes is expected to be the team to beat this weekend. It was in Singapore last year, where Lewis Hamilton took pole position and the race win, that Mercedes finally seemed to understand what was needed to conquer one of its few “bogey” circuits. And judging by the fact Mercedes has won every street race since, there’s every reason for them to be confident about their chances on Sunday.
However, Mercedes does have one shadow looming over them this weekend—engine reliability. Since introducing their Spec 3 power unit at Spa three weeks ago, Mercedes have seen uncharacteristic failures in the customer cars of Sergio Perez’s Racing Point and Robert Kubica’s Williams. So far the works team has had no blowouts of its own, but after two demanding power tracks and with Singapore’s reputation for testing cars to their limit, there’s no room for complacency.
The other threat to Mercedes this weekend comes in the form of Max Verstappen and Red Bull. Verstappen has run well in in Singapore in recent years, qualifying second in 2017 and 2018 and finishing runner-up to Hamilton last year.
With the Red Bull-Honda package improving with every race, it would be no surprise to see Verstappen duelling with Hamilton for his third win of the season.
As always, the difficulty and unpredictability of Singapore will provide the midfield teams with plenty of opportunities to sneak away with big points hauls.
Renault took a double points finish at Marina Bay last year, but their RS19 has been much more at home on high speed and lower downforce tracks this year. Given their results from slower tracks like Monaco and Hungary, Renault will likely find themselves scrapping with or even behind the likes of McLaren, Alfa Romeo and Toro Rosso this weekend.
Haas will also be bracing themselves for another tough Grand Prix on Sunday. Although their prolonged dispute with former title sponsors Rich Energy has finally come to an end, their struggles with tyre degradation certainly have not. And in the heat of Singapore, there aren’t many worse problems to have.
However, Haas and Renault can both take some optimism from the fact that this is the Singapore Grand Prix. With tempers running high and the walls never far away, Singapore is the place where anything can happen.
Charles Leclerc has claimed his second ever win in F1 at this afternoon’s Italian Grand Prix, the first time a Ferrari driver has won at Monza since 2010.
The Mercedes pairing of Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton finished second and third respectively, having pushed Leclerc for much of the race. Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg came home fourth and fifth.
The other Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel, by comparison, faltered. Vettel span at the Ascari chicane on lap seven and collected the Racing Point of Lance Stroll as he rejoined. He received a ten-second stop/go penalty for ‘rejoining the track in an unsafe manner’, behind only disqualification in terms of harshness. He damaged his front wing and pitted twice on his way to a lowly P13 finish.
Leclerc started from pole position with Hamilton alongside him, and led into turn one despite Hamilton initially getting a better start.
The pair came into the pits on lap twenty and lap twenty-one respectively; Hamilton changed onto the soft tyres, while Leclerc went onto the hard compound.
On lap twenty-three, Hamilton attempted to pass Leclerc round the outside going into the Variante della Roggia chicane but was forced to take to the escape road, saying over the radio that Leclerc hadn’t given him a car’s width of room. Leclerc was given a black and white flag as a warning, but escaped a penalty.
Hamilton continued to pressure Leclerc, and on lap 36 Leclerc locked up going into the first chicane and cut across the kerbs. Though this allowed Hamilton to further close on him, the Ferrari driver successfully defended his position and maintained his lead. The stewards noted that Leclerc had failed to take the apex at turn two, but decided that no investigation was necessary.
At this stage in the race, Hamilton’s medium tyres were starting to fade and Bottas began to reel him in, his own tyres some seven laps fresher than Hamilton’s.
Hamilton locked up and took to the escape road on lap 42, allowing Bottas to move up into P2 and chase down Leclerc. Though he then got to within DRS range of Leclerc, a couple of errors meant he was not able to make any attempts to pass for the lead.
Leclerc crossed the line just over eight tenths ahead of Bottas to take his second career victory, much to the joy of the Tifosi in the grandstands. The win moves him ahead of Vettel in the championship. Hamilton, meanwhile, pitted late on to chase the extra point for fastest lap. Bottas’s P2 finish means Hamilton’s championship lead has been shortened by two points.
Alex Albon finished in sixth ahead of Sergio Perez, with Max Verstappen coming from nineteenth on the grid to end up eighth. Antonio Giovinazzi and Lando Norris complete the top ten.
Lewis Hamilton has taken victory at the Hungarian Grand Prix, making best use of a free pit stop to chase down Max Verstappen and take the lead in the closing laps of a race that saw every driver outside the top four lapped.
Verstappen had retained his lead after the first pit stops and fended off an attacking Hamilton as the pair picked their way through traffic. Running wide when attempting an overtake at turn four, Hamilton dropped back and the gap to Verstappen stabilised around the one-and-a-half second mark.
With a sizeable gap to the Ferrari duo in P3 and P4, Mercedes made the decision to bring Hamilton in on lap 49 for what was a free stop, switching him onto the medium tyres. He emerged some 20 seconds behind Verstappen and set about chasing him down, being told by his team that Verstappen would be down to “zero rubber” by the end of the race.
Sure enough, Verstappen reported on lap 64 that his tyres were dead, and Hamilton closed at a rate of almost two seconds a lap to make a move round the outside of turn one and take the lead with just three laps to go.
With Verstappen reporting that he couldn’t make it to the end of the race, he made a free pit stop on lap 68 to switch to the soft tyres and chase the bonus point for fastest lap.
Sebastian Vettel finished a distant third, overtaking team-mate Leclerc on lap 68. Vettel ran a very long first stint and only came into the pits on lap 40 to change onto the soft tyres. By the time he had caught up to his team-mate, Leclerc’s hard tyres were some 40 laps old, and this allowed Vettel to dive down the inside going into turn one and take the final podium position. With the gap to Hamilton at over a minute, Ferrari will certainly be hoping that the long straights of Spa and Monza will allow them to claw back
Carlos Sainz finished in an impressive fifth place for the second race in a row, with Gasly and Raikkonen behind in sixth and seventh respectively.
The other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas took himself out of win and podium contention on the first lap. Lock-ups going into the first two corners allowed Hamilton to slip past and take second, and then contact with Leclerc damaged his front wing and forced him to pit. Dropped to plum last on the road, it was a long day for the Finn and he eventually reached the chequered flag in eighth place.
The top ten was completed by Lando Norris – who was hampered by a slow pit stop – and Alex Albon.
Hamilton’s victory means he heads into the summer break with a 62-point lead in the championship. Two bad races in a row means that Bottas is now just seven points ahead of Verstappen in P2, and you have to think that second is now firmly in Verstappen’s sights going into the next half of the season.
Hungary was the fourth good race in a row this season following Austria, Silverstone and Hockenheim, but can the trend continue when the F1 circus reconvenes at Spa at the end of the month?
Beyoncé may have said “if you like it, then you should’ve put a ring on it”, but in motorsport we race the rings instead. Yes, it’s race weekend once again, as F1 is welcomed by the circuit previously known as the Österreichring!
It was known as such between 1969 and 1995, and then became known as the A1 Ring from 1996 to 2003. Finally, Dietrich Mateschitz bought the circuit and in 2008 started a reconstruction. From 2014, the newly-branded Red Bull Ring became host once again to a European round of the Formula One Championship.
The Red Bull Ring was originally 5.911km in length, with its weakness being its safety record and high speeds (second only to Silverstone during its Österreichring period). Something had to be done, and as such it was shortened to 4.326km in its guise as the A1 Ring, and again in 2016 to 4.318km.
Red Bull Ring sectors. Image courtesy of Pirelli.This weekend we head back to the Red Bull Rin after last week’s French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, which was dominated by Mercedes with Hamilton and Bottas finishing 1-2.
Can I mention hot air? No, not the untruths one may hear, but instead air streams from the African continent. Tyres could again play a massive part in the race this weekend, with it predicted to be one of the hottest days in Europe so far, courtesy of very warm air streams. Last weekend in France saw temperatures hit 56°C, but this weekend could hit 60°C. That alone will shift the working windows of the tyres and also will vary between teams . With higher air temps we could also see the 2019 aero regulations cause some teams issues with heat distribution.
The Red Bull Ring, following its 2014 redesign, is one of the shortest tracks on the F1 calendar, with the current configuration’s lap record being a 1:06.957, set by Kimi Raikkonen in 2018. With four sharp turns (T1, T3, T7 and T8) and three DRS zones allowing overtaking, the race is not a foregone conclusion.
2019 has been a year of Mercedes dominance, with them having won all eight races so far – two for Valtteri Bottas and six for Lewis Hamilton.
Ferrari has had correlation issues in their fluid dynamics simulation to wind tunnel analysis, hence the testing of new front wing and floor assemblies at Paul Ricard. With that issue presumably sorted, can their car finally show its promise?
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen won here in 2018, and he will be hoping for that to happen again this year to finally break the Mercedes strong-hold on the championship.
And if Verstappen, Vettel and Leclerc can’t mount a challenge? It will, yet again, be between the Mercedes boys of Hamilton and Bottas.
[Featured Image courtesy of Colombo Images/Scuderia Ferrari]
What a mess. The 2019 season finally came to life in Canada, but perhaps not in the way we wanted it to.
Sebastian Vettel was pushing to protect his lead from Lewis Hamilton, who was displaying much better pace on the hard tyres than Vettel himself. In his attempts to break away, Vettel locked his rear tyres going into turn three. He ran over the grass, re-joined the track, lost the rear again, and very nearly made contact with Hamilton. He did manage to stay ahead though, with the gap between the two roughly the same as before.
Then came the real drama. The stewards decided that Vettel’s actions warranted a five-second penalty, added at the end of the race. In bizarre circumstances, Vettel crossed the line first, knowing that the win would be instead taken by a conflicted Lewis Hamilton, who stated that this was not the way he wanted to win.
A furious Vettel deliberated over whether he would attend the podium celebration, eventually deciding to join Hamilton and third-placed finisher Charles Leclerc, but not before switching the Parc Fermé boards around and declaring himself the deserved winner of the race.
Honourably, he discouraged the booing directed towards Lewis Hamilton by the fans and instead told them to aim their collective anger towards the stewards. But did the stewards do anything wrong? Are the rules wrong?
Ultimately, you could say both. The penalty was put down to unsafely re-joining the track, which may have been fair, but cast your minds back to Monaco 2016 when Hamilton left the track trying to stay ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, re-joined and, in doing so, very nearly put the Australian in the wall. No penalty was given.
What this highlights is an abhorrent lack of consistency in the rule-enforcement, which simply should not happen in a professional sport. In this respect, the Canadian Grand Prix was a humiliating day for Formula One.
However, F1 is just the same as any other sport, in that it has massive talking points that we can debate long into the night, with everyone having their own opinions on every aspect. This will naturally lead to different stewards having different views on how the rules should be applied and enforced.
You could therefore say that the stewards did not make this decision malevolently towards Vettel. Instead, they were simply interpreting the rules made by the FIA.
But how the should the rule about drivers leaving the track and gaining an advantage have been judged?
Ferrari’s view is that Vettel made his mistake and re-joined the track, actually losing time in the process. Once he had made his error, Vettel was back on track and the incident was over, with the German ahead of Hamilton after the incident just as he had been before. He then got very close to Hamilton, but did not make contact.
Mercedes’ view, which was also adopted by the FIA, is that Vettel went off the track and gave Hamilton a chance to pass him for the lead. Vettel then effectively denied him this opportunity by re-joining the track in a hazardous manner and nearly pushing Hamilton into the wall.
The general consensus from viewers and pundits came from the classic racing perspective. An innocent mistake was made – things may have gotten close, but then racing is supposed to be close. No-one crashed as a result, so on we go without another word said.
This, nostalgically but comparatively speaking, was the attitude held in previous eras of racing. Perhaps we need to accept that this era is over and that you simply can’t re-join the track and close the door on another driver any more. This may be within reason, but it was all in the spirit of good close racing, which is danger of dying if the FIA continues to heftily punish on-track mistakes.
So is the rule wrong? Vettel, ultimately, had nowhere to go other than back onto the track once he had gone off. He couldn’t just vanish out of Hamilton’s way, and he couldn’t just stop. Creating more rules isn’t going to eliminate the basic human aspect that we all make mistakes. More specifically, Vettel was ahead of Hamilton both before and after the mistake, no-one crashed, and both drivers were able to continue.
However, Hamilton will feel as though Vettel illegally denied him a passing opportunity, and that had he not taken avoiding action then the consequences of Vettel’s mistake could have been more severe.
As a result, it becomes difficult to find a way through which we can properly establish fault using the sport’s law. Therefore, the stewards should be expected to interpret and apply laws through basic common sense which, if I may step off the fence for a second, did not seem to be present among the stewards in Canada.
These incidents are always subject to interpretation, and so we cannot expect consistency if the stewards are always different. The FIA cannot create a million laws for a million scenarios. The interpretation must be specific to each incident, which raises questions about the use of the different stewards at every race.
At a sport of this level, we simply cannot accept the unbelievable level of inconsistency from the FIA, who somehow do not seem to see the blatant issue that exists within F1.
These incidents, however, are not black and white, and there are always deeper layers to every story.
This next particular level, unfortunately, resembles a concerning pattern for Vettel. Ultimately, if Vettel had not made the error he did, none of this would have happened. By making the mistake and re-joining the track in front of Hamilton, Vettel gave the stewards something to consider, and this fell unfavourably for him.
This is not the first time he has made such an error. He was the architect of his own downfall last year, crashing from the lead in Germany, before spinning in Japan and the USA. The year before, Singapore effectively spelled the end of his title challenge, when a clumsy move across the track at the start saw him collide with Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen. That night perfectly highlighted the fact that Ferrari themselves have repeatedly ruined their attempts to secure championship glory.
Truth be told, Sebastian Vettel’s title hopes are probably dead in the water at this point. Even Valtteri Bottas, who made a sublime start to the season, is beginning to see his title aspirations wither at the ominous, constant, and unrelenting brilliance of Lewis Hamilton.
The shame is that the Canadian Grand Prix wasn’t decided by brilliance, but rather by a harsh stewarding decision that reflects badly on the sport and sets a dangerous precedent that hard racing cannot be permitted any more.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel says he believes the team ‘deserved the win’ at the Canadian Grand Prix, after a controversial penalty demoted him to second place behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton.
Vettel had started on pole and led for much of the race, however on lap 48, with Hamilton breathing down his neck, he lost the rear of his car going into turn three and ran over the grass. He rejoined the track and did keep his lead, but the stewards deemed the manner in which he had rejoined to have been unsafe. The FIA said he had forced Hamilton off the track, and gave Vettel a five-second penalty to be added to his time at the end of the race.
Vettel took the chequered flag just over two and a half seconds ahead of Hamilton, meaning he was classified P2 once the penalty was applied.
“I think we had a great race,” Vettel said, “and the stewards’ decision is too harsh.
“In turn three, I lost control of my car and I had to run long onto the grass, rejoining at turn four ahead of Lewis. I couldn’t see where he was, as I was too busy trying to keep my car on track without crashing and I didn’t squeeze him on purpose.”
The penalty was met with almost universal condemnation, with many voicing their support for Vettel and Ferrari. Vettel himself expressed his regret that the penalty meant he was unable to repay the support of the fans at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with what would have been Ferrari’s best result of the season so far.
“I think given the way things wen this weekend and even though our rivals’ race pace was very strong, we deserved the win,” Vettel said. “I get the impression that lots of the spectators here today at the circuit agree with me.
“It’s always nice to race in Canada. I feel a lot of support from the people and it would have been wonderful to have given all our fans the first big result of the season.”
Ferrari’s Team Principal Mattia Binotto echoed Vettel’s sentiments, and spoke of the team’s decision to appeal the penalty.
“At the moment, we, as a team, are naturally disappointed, but most of all our thoughts are with Sebastian and the spectators,” he said. “As for Seb, I don’t think he could have done things differently, which is why we have decided to appeal the stewards’ decision.”
Sebastian Vettel drove a storming lap in almost perfect conditions in qualifying at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montréalon Saturday, clocking a stunning lap time of 1:10.240. It was a new track record and the 56th pole position of the German’s career.
The rest of the grid shaped up with a few surprise results, including Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen who was knocked out in Q1 and started in P17. Kevin Magnussen suffered a crash at the infamous Wall of Champions, ruining the lap times of several other drivers in the final moments of Q2, including the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, who was forced to start in 11th place.
As a result of Magnussen’s crash, several repairs were required and the Haas team later announced that he would be starting the race from the pit lane, moving every driver up a place from P10 to P20.
The most surprising result of the day, was Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, who drove a stunning lap to secure fourth place, his highest qualifying spot with the Enstone-based team so far.
With Vettel leading the pack for Ferrari, current championship leader Lewis Hamilton started alongside him, ahead of Charles Leclerc and Ricciardo on the second row. Both Leclerc and Ricciardo were seeking a strong result after experiencing some bad luck in the first six races of the season.
The race began under blue skies, with Vettel stretching out a 1.2 second lead after the first lap, with the top four retaining their initial positions. Lando Norris and Max Verstappen had an exciting scrap for P8, however by lap nine the McLaren driver had retired from the race, after the sweltering heat affected both his suspension and brakes.
Valtteri Bottas was threatened by Verstappen, with the Dutchman using DRS in an attempt to pass.
Antonio Giovinazzi was extremely lucky and miraculously avoided hitting the Wall of Champions as Hamilton closed the gap to Vettel. The Brit got very close, however he then locked up and lost a chunk of time.
Vettel became the first of the leaders to pit when he came in on lap 26. Mercedes, meanwhile, left Hamilton out on track, feeling there wasn’t a big enough gap between the pair for Hamilton to come out of his stop ahead of the Ferrari driver.
He would pit two laps later, with both Vettel and teammate Leclerc were told to switch to ‘plan B’ of their strategy. On lap 33, Leclerc pitted, however he found himself stuck in traffic alongside Verstappen in the Red Bull.
Other noticeable incidents saw Giovinazzi spin and Hülkenberg speak of his concerns over team radio regarding downshifts in the gearbox. His teammate Ricciardo brilliantly defended his position against Bottas as Leclerc passed Verstappen for third. Hamilton once again closed the gap to Vettel, and by lap 39 the leaders were less than a second apart.
Hamilton went too deep at the hairpin and lost some time, while Vettel went on to post the fastest lap of the race on lap 42.
Further down the field, PierryGasly struggled to pass Lance Stroll, who was still racing with the tyres he had started on.
Vettel voiced his concerns about the temperature of his brakes and, on lap 48, went wide on the grass, almost losing the lead of the race to Hamilton. Hamilton reported the incident to his team.
Verstappen passed both Renaults to take P5 and the stewards announced that they were investigating the incident between Hamilton and Vettel. This resulted in a five-second penalty being given to the Ferrari driver, due to unsafe re-entry and forcing another driver off track. This decision was met with much criticism from the German, stating that the stewards were stealing the victory from him.
With just five laps remaining in the Grand Prix, Toro Rosso’s Albon retired, his car having suffered damage during an early clash with Giovinazzi. Leclerc attempted to catch Hamilton, as Bottas dived into the pits in order to seal a bonus point for the fastest lap. Carlos Sainz lost two more places, to Racing Point driver Stroll and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat.
Sebastian Vettel crossed the finish line first, however Lewis Hamilton ultimately inherited the victory after Vettel’s five-second penalty. Leclerc managed to close the gap and just missed out in taking second place from his teammate.
The final result also saw Bottas in fourth, Verstappen in fifth and a stellar performance from Daniel Ricciardo secured sixth, with his teammate Hülkenberg just behind. Gasly finished in eighth with Kvyat in tenth and Lance Stroll securing points in P9 at his home race.
Valtteri Bottas snatched the fastest lap of the race with a 1:13:078. Sebastian Vettel was voted driver of the day and in his frustration, after the race, switched the 1st and 2nd place signs in parc fermé. He would also receive two penalty points on his super license.
The 8th round of the 2019 Formula 1 season will begin with Free Practice on the 21st of June at Circuit Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has taken pole at the Canadian Grand Prix, his 56th career pole position and his first since the 2018 German Grand Prix, some 17 races ago.
Hamilton had been on provisional pole for much of Q3, but Vettel’s last lap of a 1:10.240 was good enough to beat him into P2 by two tenths of a second. Charles Leclerc was a further five tenths behind in P3 and will start ahead of a very impressive Daniel Ricciardo in P4, and Pierre Gasly in P5.
It was a very messy Q3 for the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who spun coming out of turn two early on in the session and was left with just one attempt to set a competitive time. A couple of lock-ups and a too-deep line going into the hairpin meant his lap was only good enough for P6, ahead of Hulkenberg, Norris and Sainz.
Haas’s Kevin Magnussen did technically make it through into the final stage of qualifying, but he did not take part after crashing heavily on the pit-straight in the final moments of Q2.
The subsequent red flag curtailed Max Verstappen’s attempt to make it through to Q3. The Dutchman had been pushed into the drop-zone relatively early on, complaining of traffic and low grip. He switched to the soft tyres and was on track to make it through to the next stage, only for Magnussen’s crash to put a stop to things and leave him high and dry in P11, but with free tyre choice for the race.
He lines up ahead of Kvyat, Giovinazzi, Albon, and Grosjean down in P15. Grosjean, too, was affected by Magnussen’s crash; he had locked up and bailed out of his earlier lap and, like Verstappen, found himself with just one lap to make it through to Q3. He had been coming out of the last corner at the time of Magnussen’s crash, with just a couple of seconds separating him from a Q2 elimination and progression into Q3.
Towards the lower end of the grid, it was a home qualifying to forget for Racing Point, with both Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll eliminated in Q1. Kimi Raikkonen was also knocked out, with it being only the second time this season that he has been out-qualified by his team-mate. The Williams pair of Russell and Kubica will make up the last row of the grid.
Over the course of the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, the world of Formula 1 came together to celebrate the extraordinary life of Niki Lauda, triple world champion who sadly passed away in Vienna on the 20th of May at the age of 70.
The drivers all paid their respects, and the teams placed their own tributes on their cars, with Mercedes’ tributes have been most poignant. Lauda had been the non-executive chairman of the team and was regularly seen in the team garage alongside Toto Wolff; he had been an enormously important figure in bringing Lewis Hamilton to the team.
Lauda was always seen in the paddock wearing a red cap and so, in tribute, Hamilton and Bottas‘ cars had a red star painted on the bodywork – a reportedly permanent change – and the normally silver halo was painted red in the triple world champion’s honour.
Prior to the start of the Grand Prix, a minute’s silence was held to remember the Austrian, who fought against all odds following a horrific crash at the Nürburgring in 1976. At the time, his chance of recovery was slim and a priest administered the last rites and yet, miraculously, he survived. As the F1 world took a moment to remember a legend, few words were needed, other than ‘Danke Niki.’
Qualifying once again saw Mercedes at the front of the pack, with Lewis Hamilton taking pole position with a staggering 1:10.166. Teammate Valtteri Bottas, who posted a time just eight hundredths of a second slower, lined up alongside the Brit. Max Verstappen had looked quick in free practice and secured third position, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel securing 4th. Unfortunately for Charles Leclerc, his home race weekend didn’t get off to the best of starts and he qualified 16th after a major strategic error from his Ferrari team. The midfield once again remained incredibly close, bringing hopes of wheel-to-wheel action and entertainment in a race which is notorious for being fairly uneventful.
As the race got underway, Hamilton got a perfect start, with teammate Bottas also starting well. Around Sainte Devote, Charles Leclerc and Antonio Giovinazzi had to cut the corner, however the stewards deemed an investigation was unnecessary. Leclerc fought his way past the cars ahead, making a memorable move around Lando Norris at the hairpin. Despite an impressive start and progression up the pecking order, a tussle with Nico Hülkenberg caused a puncture in the Ferrari driver’s right rear tyre and damage to the floor of his car.
With debris from Leclerc’s tyre littered across the circuit, the safety car was brought out and many drivers dived into the pits. In a rare mistake from the Red Bull pit crew, Max Verstappen was let out of his pitbox too soon and found himself pushing Bottas near to the wall. As a result, Bottas lost second place and was forced to pit again, changing onto the hard compound tyres. The stewards investigated and gave Verstappen a five-second penalty for the unsafe release, which was to be added to his time post-race. He was also given 2 points on his license.
Leclerc was stuck at the back of the train of cars due to his collision with Hülkenberg, and on lap 16, both himself and George Russell found the road ahead blocked by Antonio Giovinazzi and Robert Kubica, the latter having been hit by the Alfa Romeo when the Italian took the inside line at Rascasse. Luckily, all four drivers managed to get back on track and carry on with their race, even though Giovinazzi was given a ten-second penalty for the incident.
Leclerc made another pitstop and switched to softs, but his car was suffering from a severe lack of downforce. Unfortunately, he was forced to return to the Ferrari garage and retire from his home race.
Stroll was investigated by the stewards for a clash with Kimi Räikkönen – the Finn taking part in his 300th Grand Prix – and was given a five-second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage.
By lap 48, the leaders were caught in a train of backmarkers, with Bottas being compromised by Lance Stroll and losing a chunk of time.
Lewis Hamilton was doing his utmost best to care for his tyres, however their deteriorating condition and Mercedes’ strategy left the Brit anxious. In the closing stages of the race, Verstappen remained on Hamilton’s tail, posting similar lap times which kept him on average just half-a-second behind the leader. Sebastian Vettel had been running in 3rd place for most of the race and it was a quiet and uneventful afternoon for the four-time World Champion.
After a brilliant effort to pass the race leader with two laps to go, Verstappen and Hamilton made contact at the Nouvelle Chicane, but luckily both escaped the incident unscathed. The stewards reviewed the incident, but confirmed no further action was needed.
Hamilton took his fourth victory of the season, dedicating the win to Niki Lauda, with Verstappen finishing second. However, because of his penalty, he was classified fourth behind Vettel and Bottas.
Pierre Gasly secured a bonus point for posting the fastest lap time, the second time he has done so this year. Carlos Sainz had a strong race for McLaren, finishing in 6th, while both Toro Rossos impressed in 7th and 8th. Daniel Ricciardo took the final point for Renault, with Lando Norris just missing out in eleventh.
There are now 17 points between Hamilton and Bottas in the Drivers’ Championship. Mercedes appear to be running away at the top of the Constructors’ standings
The seventh round of the 2019 Formula 1 season will take place on the 9th of June at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian Grand Prix.