Turkish GP: Hamilton wraps up 7th championship in Turkish delight

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Win number 94, world championship number 7, records broken, records equaled. Lewis Hamilton reigned supreme in changing conditions on Sunday by putting in yet another world class performance to take his 2nd Turkish grandprix win and his 7th world driver’s championship.

The lights went out on a fairly wet track at Istanbul Park and all the chaos unfolded as the cars set out on their way. Racing Point had the best possible start they could ask for with Stroll leading into turn one and Perez following him swiftly, thanks to the slow starting Max Verstappen in the Redbull. The Dutch driver failed to get the wheels going and fell behind, allowing the Racing Point drivers to pull away.

The absolute winner of the start had to be Sebastian Vettel, who started all the way down at 11th and managed to get to 3rd, all on the first lap. His teammate comparatively had a slower start but came alive later in the race to finish a high 4th. The start also saw Hamilton’s only remaining championship rival Bottas tangle with the Renault of Ocon which caused him to spin out, taking him out of contention. Carlos Sainz was another big gainer at the start, leaping six places on the first lap alone.

As the race progressed, there were no signs of any rain and the track slowly but surely kept drying up. Racing Point, especially Lance Stroll was enjoying a very big lead early vs his teammate Perez while Max Verstappen recovered quickly from a poor start and was battling the fast starting Ferrari of Vettel in the early laps. The track still had considerable amount of water on it at this point but it was Charles Leclerc of Ferrari who blinked first among all the drivers and made a switch to inters.

Following his pace closely, were many other teams and most of them made the switch to inters immediately in the following few laps. Verstappen however chose to overcut the drivers in front of him and it worked out well for him as he came out ahead of Vettel after the first round of pit stops while the Racing Points were still maintaining 1-2. This led to a nice little battle for a few laps between Vettel and Hamilton as the British driver set about to catch the German, a sight reminiscent of 2017 and 2018.

Around lap 20, Verstappen seemed to have made the overcut strategy work perfectly for him until he came out 2nd best while chasing Perez and went spinning at turn 11. This caused him to drop down all the way down to 6th as he flat spotted his tyres and was taken out of the picture for the race win. At the midway point after the Verstappen incident, there was a 5-way fight for the race win with Stroll, Perez, Albon, Vettel and Hamilton all covered by 12 seconds as things started to get really tight.

A second round of pit stops were the order of the day as the inter tyres seemed to be overworked and everybody but Hamilton and Perez made the call to go to a new set of inters. The pair who were 1-2 in the race at this point chose to keep track position as opposed to the rest of the field, a decision which proved worthy at the end of the race with them finishing 1-2 as they were. The second phase of pit stops really altered the course of the race as Lance Stroll, who was once comfortably leading the race started getting picked off by the drivers behind him as the Canadian could not find any grip on his new inter tyres and could only finish 9th.

The McLarens mad their way into the race in a fine manner after starting as low as 15th and 16th on the grid. Carlos Sainz after getting a really good start,  fully capitalized on it as the race progressed. The Spaniard was calm and collected and took the race as it came to him. He managed both the wet and inter tyres really well and finished an excellent 5th while his teammate Norris also drove a very good race to finish 8th. Renault however could only salvage one point in the race despite starting high up on the grid. Daniel Ricciardo made a couple of mistakes which he could not completely recover from and only managed 10th place while his teammate Ocon managed a 11th place after spinning out at the start.

It was a day to forget for Valtteri Bottas who had a dreadful start to the race and it did not stop for him there. The Finnish driver kept spinning in the race at regular intervals, pushing him all the way back down after every time he seemed to have made up some ground. His misery was complete when his own teammate lapped him towards the end of the race. It was however Ferrari’s best day of the season with Sebastian Vettel finishing on the podium and Charles Leclerc finishing 4th. At one point, it seemed like Leclerc was on course for a 2nd place finish but his move on Perez came undone as the Monegasque locked up and went wide and his German teammate who was right behind him, took full advantage of the mistake and snatched a podium place on the very last corner of the final lap of the race.

Redbull would be disappointed after what seemed to be a very good first part of the race for both drivers, ended only otherwise. Mistakes from Verstappen and Albon throughout meant that they could only finish as high as 6th and 7th respectively, which otherwise looked set to be a double podium at one point. Both the Haas cars were forced to retire during the race as so did Nicolas Latifi of Williams, after starting from the pitlane and Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo. George Russell in the Williams also had to start from the pitlane after damaging his front wing while coming on to the starting grid before the race and he finished at 16th. Kimi Raikkonen in the other Alfa Romeo finished 15th, after having his share of incidents during the race.

Alpha Tauris had a quiet day compared to how the race went after Danil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly finished 12th and 13th respectively. They were however not without incident after a curfew breach with Gasly’s car saw him relegated to the back of the grid before the start of the race.

A day which promised excitement, chaos and unpredictability truly delivered in what was record breaking race and a record equaling championship for Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes. The English driver now has 7 world driver’s championships to his name, an honour only shared by Michael Schumacher.

Pirelli info graphics

Turkish GP: Lance Stroll takes surprise pole in a rain hit qualifying

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lance Stroll came out on top on Saturday afternoon at Istanbul Park where order was totally disrupted in one of the most chaotic qualifying sessions of the season. He became the first driver who isn’t from the traditional top 3 teams to be on pole since Felipe Massa at Williams, a feat achieved all the way back in the first year of the turbo hybrid era in 2014.

Racing Point pulled off an unlikely masterstroke by sending out both of their cars on intermediates as opposed to the rest of the field who were on wets,  setting them up for a brilliant race tomorrow. Both Perez and Stroll duly delivered lap after lap and it all paid off in the end with Stroll taking pole position and image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Sergio Perez taking P3 on the grid.

In a qualifying session where it looked like Max Verstappen was certain of pole, Redbull’s decision to mirror Racing Point and sticking intermediates on the Dutchman’s car did not quite work out for them. To make matters worse, Verstappen was on his way to a provisional pole lap while the call was made, causing the driver to abandon his lap. In the end, the Redbull driver had to make do with P2, but will be more than fancying his chances for a victory tomorrow. His teammate Albon also had a really good qualifying session putting him at P4.

The track was heavily criticized as the practice sessions unfolded, especially by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who was quite unhappy with the things out there. Taking 17 out of 17 poles so far this season, it comes as a very big surprise that the German team could only manage P6 and P9 for Hamilton and Bottas respectively. Both their cars struggled to find grip throughout the weekend and a wet track only made matters worse. The championship equation for Hamilton becomes much simpler for Hamilton tomorrow, as he can be crowned champion if it stands this way.

Q1 started off as scheduled but had to be red flagged with 7 minutes to go thanks to heavy rain and it was a good 45 minute delay until the pitlane opened again. Lap times kept improving once the session restarted but the session had to be red flagged once again as Romain Grosjean in the Haas beached his car in the gravel and could not get it running again.

A little bit of controversy unfurled towards the end of Q1 when Nicolas Latifi also beached his car in the gravel and there were doubled waved yellows in the middle part of the track. Kevin Magnussen was seen complaining on the radio, alleging that a lot of drivers who made it past Q1 had not lifted their foot of the throttle as required in those conditions. The incident is set to be investigated and could change the line-up on the grid. This resulted in both Haas drivers Magnussen and Grosjean, Williams drivers George Russell and Latifi, Kvyat in the Alfa Tauri all getting knocked out in Q1.

Q2 was fairly straightforward on an otherwise chaotic session which saw both the Ferraris of Vettel and Leclerc get knocked out after yet another sub-par display, which continued their woes for the season. Both the McLarens were also out of Q2 which is a bit of a blow for the English team considering their competitors Renault and Racing Point had very good qualifying sessions. The team will line up with Land Norris at P11 and Carlos Sainz at P13 and will be playing catch up right from the start.

Pierre Gasly was another surprise name to not make it to Q3 considering his form throughout the season but the biggest result of Q2 ultimately belongs to Alfa Romeo, which saw both Kimi Raikkonen and Antionio Giovinazzi make it to Q3 while also beating both the works Ferraris in the process. The team will have a very good chance at grabbing some precious points towards the end of the season with Raikkonen starting P8 and Giovinazzi starting P10.

Renault produced an excellent qualifying result with Ricciardo at P5 and Ocon at P7, giving them a platform to get some crucial points in their bid to take the 3rd place in the constructors championship. Track limits were once again the topic of the session as several drivers kept having their times deleted throughout the session but ultimately, it did not prove costly for anyone which might not be the case for tomorrow.

A promising race seems to be on the cards with the track offering very less grip to the drivers and to make matters complicated, the weather might also have a say tomorrow. The magic number for Lewis Hamilton’s 7th world championship is set to be ‘8’ as he has to make sure that his teammate and only remaining championship rival Bottas does not outscore him by more than 8 points. If that does happen, the title would be decided in Bahrain, in a couple of weeks time.

Where do the changes at Ferrari’s helm leave them?

Ferrari CEO and Chairman Sergio Marchionne was supposed to stay on with the company until 2021, only leaving once a successor had been found and readied. Things, however, have not gone to plan. Marchionne was taken into hospital for planned shoulder surgery, but complications have since arisen which have left him unable to return to work and in an undetermined state of health.

Once it became clear that Marchionne would not be able to return, Ferrari’s Board of Directors convened and named John Elkann as the new Chairman and proposed Louis Camilleri as the new CEO, splitting Marchionne’s old role into two separate ones. Before these appointments, Elkann was the CEO and Chairman of investment company Exor, while Camilleri was already a board member at Ferrari.

Ferrari Media

This movement has rocked Ferrari’s settling boat. The team say that their thoughts remain with Marchionne and his family, but a change this big and unscheduled will have undoubtedly thrown them.

There are going to be some sizeable short and long-term consequences of the shift for the team as they try to work out where they stand, and prepare themselves for the remainder of what could be a title-winning season for them.

One of the first issues for the new bosses to deal with is the matter of who drives alongside Sebastian Vettel next year. When Marchionne was in charge, it was thought that the team were leaning more towards the much-hyped Charles Leclerc as opposed to the aging Kimi Raikkonen but this, like everything else, has seemingly changed.

Promoting Leclerc into the Scuderia is a huge risk considering his lack of experience in F1, whereas Raikkonen is a known quantity who, while no longer very exciting, doesn’t represent as much of a gamble. This means that the Finn is much more likely to be retained now than he was before, simply because the new management aren’t going to want to come in and have one of their first major decisions be a big risk. It would be a shame for Leclerc, but he has time on his side and will certainly get to Ferrari one day.

Another thing that needs addressing is the negotiations surrounding F1’s 2021 regulation change. Marchionne had threatened to pull Ferrari out of F1 as a result of the planned engine changes, although many saw this as a bluff to give them more influence in the talks. The main question is if Ferrari’s tune will stay the same with new management – will they deal with F1’s owners Liberty Media in the same way or will things change?

F1 Chairman Chase Carey has said that they will give Ferrari time to sort themselves out before resuming talks. However, with the team having been left somewhat unstable following Marchionne’s departure, it could mean that their position in those talks will be subsequently weakened.

Ferrari Media

Then there’s the rest of this season to deal with. After issuing unclear team orders at the German Grand Prix, Raikkonen was certainly unhappy and the team as a whole just seemed a bit flustered. Vettel hit the wall and saw not only an almost certain victory slip away from him, but also the lead in both championships. Ferrari can’t afford to let another championship escape their grasp, as this is the closest they’ve been for a decade – their last constructors’ title came in 2008, with their last drivers’ title in 2007.

The Ferrari revolution, led by Marchionne, had almost been completed. The team were almost back to their championship-winning ways, and it was just that last little bit of work that was missing.

Now, with the new management in place, the question is whether Ferrari continue Marchionne’s good work, or whether it will go to waste? Only time will tell, but these next few weeks and months will be pivotal for the future of Ferrari’s F1 team.

 

Featured image – Ferrari Media

Opinion Piece: How has Liberty Media’s first year gone?

F1 has completed its first full season under Liberty Media’s ownership, all 20 races have been and gone, the champion has been crowned and everyone’s preparing for the year ahead. Liberty are the new kids on the block, their arrival has been met with a mixed response and they’ve got a lot to learn if they’re to manage the sport successfully.

While critics will argue that Liberty haven’t achieved an awful lot so far, it’s important to remember the unstable mess that they picked from Bernie Ecclestone on the 23rd January 2017. Bernie’s strategy was to keep F1 on an unstable platform so that no one got too comfortable however, this is the opposite of what is needed for growth and expansion.

The bias within the F1 remains for now, Ferrari still get a disproportionate amount of prize money but that’s unlikely to change as it is part of the Concorde Agreement which was signed in 2013 and runs to 2020. In spite of this, Liberty have made it clear that they intend on scrapping the controversial agreement as soon as possible.

“We have the infamous document called the Concorde Agreement, which is this agreement that comes up every six to eight years – it comes up in 2020 – which defines the financial arrangements with teams,”

“Our goal is to create much more of a long-term partnership, not a partnership that sort of has a point in time that you go out and renegotiate the next eight-year partnership, that there’s a continuum.” – Chase Carey, F1 Chairman

Even with the majority of the inner workings of F1 being locked in contracts, Liberty have started to make changes to the social element of the sport. Almost immediately the strict regulations surrounding social media usage in the paddock were relaxed, allowing teams and drivers to better connect with and involve fans.

The London Live event was an entirely new concept for F1 which brought all the drivers, bar Hamilton, to the centre of London with live music, interviews and an impressive demo run in the old cars. This type of event is going to become more common in the coming years and, with the relaxation of more regulations, can now include the current cars doing demo runs.

Another of Liberty’s changes was to the logo, this was met with swathes of criticism however, the FIA stood by Liberty’s decision so the new logo will be sticking around for 2018 and beyond.

“What we wanted to do was provide a fresh energy to the sport and I think we have a lot of plans for the future, a lot of things we want to do and we thought the logo was a good way to emphasise the excitement, fresh energy and a new day to take the sport to a new place,” – Carey

F1 unveiled their new logo at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

2017 was just the start of Liberty’s new venture, they intend to set up an in-house live streaming service for 2018 however, it will only be available in countries where there isn’t a pre-exiting TV deal that guarantees exclusivity, for example the UK and Sky.

They will also have to tackle the looming engine regulation change, set to come in for 2020. The current hybrid engines have proven to be unpopular with fans, monumentally expensive to teams and have detracted any new manufactures from joining – just look what happened to Honda. The change will be a delicate balancing act to please the current manufactures while attracting new ones and improve the show for the fans.

It’s clear that some fundamental changes need to be made to F1 if it’s to succeed in this modern world. Liberty need to take back control from the manufactures for a start; if Ferrari want to quit, let them – decisions need to be made for the benefit the sport, not one or two manufactures.

Likewise, changes need to be made to the ludicrous engine penalties; capping them at 15 places for 2018 is a start but more needs to be done to stop them ruining races, confusing fans and even deciding the championship.

Even with all that, F1 as a whole needs to be modernised, it needs to attract new fans and it needs to have a bigger, more global reach. F1 was the fastest growing sport on social media in 2017 but it still has a long way to go to have anything like the presence of the NBA, the Premier League, La Liga and such like.

 

Overall, Liberty Media’s first year in charge has gone as well as it could’ve, the confident manner in which they are talking is promising but there’s still a long way to go and a lot more hurdles to clear before F1 is anywhere near where it should be.