Verstappen wins in Dominant Style as we Round Out 2022

Verstappen takes a dominant win in the final race of the season while his teammate misses out on vice champion by just three points to Leclerc after a split in strategies for the Red Bulls. Sebastian Vettel got driver of the day as he closed out his F1 career by finishing in the points.

Perez got away well at the race start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

They lined up on the grid with last-day-of-term feelings echoing throughout the fandom. At lights out Perez got away well going side by side with his teammate into turn one but backing out before turn two. Behind them, Sainz had gotten a poor start allowing Hamilton past while Russell had let Norris through into turn one.

Hamilton did set his sights on the other Ferrari but was caught by Sainz towards the chicane at turn six. Sainz dived down the inside, and Hamilton went wide, bouncing over the sausage curb before getting ahead of Sainz again. The stewards noted the incident and after what sounded like some bargaining, eventually Hamilton had to give the place back.

This wasn’t too last long as just one lap later Hamilton was all over the back of Sainz. Making a move around turn nine Hamilton made the move stick. He was expected to pull away, but it appeared that the lap one incident may have damaged the Mercedes as he began to lose a bit of power. By lap nine he had been overtaken by Sainz and his teammate.

Vettel locked in a battle with the Alpines. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

On lap 12 Vettel found himself in an Alpine sandwich, fighting hard with Ocon in front but not quite able to make a move stick. This allowed Norris to focus on his driving and strategy to stay in the fight for P4 in the constructor’s championship.

This led to an epic three-lap-long battle between the drivers before Ocon went in for his first stop. This allowed Vettel to open up a gap to Alonso and was, at one point, in P4 on the track after others around him stopped for the first time during the race.

While these stops were happening, Russell came in but had a slow stop with an issue on the rear right. He eventually was released into the path of Norris which was immediately investigated. Russell ended up with a five-second time penalty which he had to take at his next stop.

Lap 28 is where it all unravelled for Alonso. He had pitted for a new set of hard tyres but sadly he wouldn’t make it as he retired from the race with a suspected water leak. This would mark the end of his third stint at the Enstone-based team before moving to Aston Martin for 2023.

At the front, there was lots of discussion about strategy, with the teams opting to split between cars. By lap 34, when Perez pitted for the second time. Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton, the top three, were on one-stop while their teammates were being kept on two-stop strategies.

So on lap 38, Leclerc in P2 was a confirmed one-stopper, and Perez was now in P6 with a 15-second gap to his rival and 20 laps to go. However, he was catching the Ferrari at a pace of about six-tenths per lap, and with four cars between them, it looked like it would be impossible.

Just as we were about to settle in to watch Perez catch Leclerc, a yellow flag was waved in sector two for Schumacher and Latifi who had both gone for a spin. Schumacher tapped the back of Latifi who appeared to be braking early into the corner. Both cars got back underway so there was no safety car needed. Schumacher got a five-second time penalty and Latifi eventually retired from the race.

Towards the closing stages of the race, Perez had made his way back up to P4 with only Hamilton between him and Leclerc. Perez, with more speed, made a good move down the inside of the Mercedes into turn six, but Hamilton had DRS going down the next straight and took the place back. It wasn’t too last long for the brit though as Perez made the move stick around turn nine. The Red Bull now had Leclerc in his sights with 10 laps to go.

In the final few laps, Perez was only three seconds behind Leclerc and it was going to be very tight. But at the same time, Hamilton’s gearbox let go and he was forced to retire on lap 56 of 58. This was Mercedes’s first and only mechanical retirement of 2022.

On the final lap, as Verstappen rounded the corner to take his 15th win of the year, Perez was not quite close enough to Leclerc meaning he had to settle for P3 while the Ferrari man celebrated taking vice champion status. This also meant that Ferrari kept their P2 place in the constructors.

In the battle for P4 between McLaren and Alpine, despite a car retiring, the French team kept ahead by 14 points. Norris did get an extra fastest lap point but sadly for them, Ocon finished P7 which was enough for Alpine.

Vettel didn’t disappoint. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

There were the now obligatory doughnuts at the end from Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez. Ricciardo did them at turn none and Vettel came down to the main straight after everyone else had finished completing their set. There was not a dry eye in the house after his interview with Jenson Button knowing that he has now completed his F1 career… although many drivers believe he will be back.

The 2022 season is over, 22 races officially complete… Only 105 days until Bahrain.

2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

The penultimate round of the 2022 F1 World Championship will take place in Brazil in front of a carnival-like atmosphere. After a very entertaining sprint race, the front of the grid is locked out by Mercedes for the first time this season. Can they finally win a Grand Prix this season after a year of developing their troublesome car? Or will RedBull use the extra set of soft tyres they have to their advantage?

Both Mercedes and Redbulls led away line astern, Norris in front of the Ferraris as the field all made it through the first 4 corners cleanly. Ricciardo and Magnussen came together later in the lap causing an instant safety car with the cars damaged and stranded on the track. Replays showed Ricciardo just missed his breaking point and tapped the Haas driver into a spin, the Haas then backed into the McLaren as it was coming to a stop.

Hamilton and Verstappen coming together at the safety car restart. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The race restarted on lap 7, and once again Hamilton and Verstappen come together as they always seem to do when in combat. Norris and Leclerc also made contact during the first restarted lap. Leclerc managed to get back onto the track and continue. Verstappen needed to pit for a new front wing. Hamilton fell back to 8th but continued.

By lap 11 Russell was leading Perez in the RedBull by 1.5 seconds. Hamilton moved ahead of Vettel and into P5 at the end of lap 13.

As that happened it was confirmed Verstappen and Norris had received 5 second time penalties for their parts in the earlier collisions. The world champion was not happy over the pit radio.

Lap 18 saw Sainz in the lead Ferrari pit for softs, he rejoined P12 behind the Williams of Albon. He quickly dispatched the Williams. The Ferrari driver was making the most of the new soft tyres by passing Stroll just two laps later.

A good stop by Mercedes for Russell. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The sister Ferrari pitted on lap 22, returning to the track down in 17th. The chances of Leclerc getting P2 in the title hunt looked to be disappearing. His rival for that position, Perez, pitted on lap 24 and was back out in 6th but in traffic. Mercedes reacted straight away and pitted leader George Russell. He came back out in second but was still 4 seconds ahead of Perez.

At the start of lap 25, Hamilton led, Verstappen pitted and took his five second penalty but seemed to have a slow stop as well. The retiring ex-world champion Vettel pitted on lap 27, showing well in the Aston Martin in P9.

There was some good racing in the midfield today between Bottas, Gasly and Vettel. Bottas was in great form, making it past Vettel and Gasly using DRS to his full advantage before Vettel followed passed the Alpha Tauri.

Sainz pitted for the second time on lap 37, a new set of mediums fitted to the Ferrari. Would he be able to make it to the end of them?

Somehow despite collisions and penalties Norris and Leclerc had found themselves on the same piece of the track again. On lap 43 the Ferrari made it passed the McLaren. A lap later Hamilton took second place from Perez, The Mercedes looking the best they have all year.

With all the excitement going on Verstappen had quietly made his way up to P9, stalking Norris in the McLaren. The McLaren pitted on lap 46 moving Verstappen up to 6th as two others pitted on the same lap.

Perez had his second stop on lap 48, returning to the track in 4th almost 12 seconds behind Sainz in 3rd.  Hamilton was next in for soft tyres, followed by leader Russell a lap later. With 21 laps left it was Rusell leading Sainz by 1.5 seconds, Hamilton a further 6 seconds back with Perez 4.5 behind the Mercedes.

Norris in the McLaren stopped on lap 53 with an electrical issue, his car was in a dangerous place, bringing the VSC into play. Sainz pitted losing positions to Hamilton and Perez. With Marshalls struggling to move the stricken McLaren the Safety car made its way onto the track.

A 12-lap shoot-out began as the Safety car pulled in. Leclerc had managed to get up to P5 and could somehow get a podium. Sainz and Perez battled through the first three turns with neither making ground on the other,

Sainz made it up to P3 with a great move on Perez on lap 63. A lap later and Leclerc also passes the RedBull. Alonso is next up behind the RedBull and was looking fired up. The Spaniard made his move on lap 65, another great drive from the veteran.

Redbull told Verstappen to go for it and take much-needed points off Leclerc and Alonso to help Perez out. Leclerc, thinking the same also radios Ferrari to ask Sainz to move aside. Ferrari ignored his requests.

Team orders gone wrong at RedBull. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

RedBull’s switch came with a promise to Perez that they would switch back if Verstappen couldn’t pass Leclerc. However, on the final lap, the team asked, and Verstappen did not comply. This led to what can only be described as ‘spicy’ radio messages at the end of the race.

Back at the front Russell went across the line to win his first-ever GP, a great performance with zero mistakes all day long. Following him over the line was Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Alonso, Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Bottas and Stroll rounding out the top ten.

Well, that was some race, Brazil always seems to provide a great race whether it’s wet or dry. The first Mercedes 1-2 of the year. It bodes well for next season.

One more race left this season and they return to Abu Dhabi next weekend.

F1 Weekend Preview: Brazil Brings the Final 2022 Sprint

The penultimate round of the season takes us to São Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix where we see the final sprint race of 2022. For Verstappen this year there is no threat as both championships are sealed, but further down the grid, everything is to play for.

The Best of the Rest is Up for Grabs

Ricciardo putting in a good performance in Mexico. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Alpine and McLaren have been locked in a battle all season for P4 in the constructor’s championship but in the last few races, with an improvement in Ricciardo’s performances and Alpine’s reliability problems, the gap has closed to just seven points.

McLaren will be doing everything in their power to get ahead of the French time in the last doubleheader and a sprint race may be what they need to gain extra points.

Behind them, Aston Martin sits just four points back from Alfa Romeo in P6 while Haas is clinging on to P8 by just one point from AlphaTauri. As we get into the last two rounds of the season every point for these teams will be crucial and reliability issues or driver errors could make the difference in the vital prize money awarded to each team.

Cautious Gasly

Another factor playing on the minds at AlphaTauri for the last two rounds will be the number of penalty points Gasly has gained. He now has 10 points, five of which were given in the last three rounds.

Gasly in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

In Japan he was penalised for speeding under red flag conditions, he was more than 10 car lengths behind the car in front of him during the safety car period in Austin and in Mexico, he was given another point for leaving the track and gaining and advantage in a battle with Lance Stroll.

The French driver is now only two points away from an automatic race ban so he will need to be weary in Brazil so he can compete in the last race at Abu Dhabi. Additionally, these points take a full year to be erased from his license, which means a potential race ban will hang over him until May 2023 at his new team, Alpine. Not an ideal start to a new season with a new team.

The 2023 Driver Line-up is Not Complete

The majority of the grid for next season has been decided, however, the future still seems uncertain for Hass and Riccardo as we are yet to have any official announcements for their plans next year.

Haas have not confirmed the driver taking the seat alongside Magnussen however the options look pretty clear. It appears a straight choice between Mick Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg who both appear to be at a loose end for next season.

Schumacher’s Ferrari contract will run out at the end of the 2022 season and has not been renewed. Further to this, he has made a few driver errors over the last few years and Gunther Stainer has been candid and said that they cost the small team huge amounts of money in spare parts.

Is Hulkenberg a possibility for 2023? Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Hulkenberg looks to be untied from the Aston Martin outfit as he was not mentioned in the Vandoorne announcement a few weeks ago. With experience, this could be a good fit for the Banbury-based team, but he hasn’t had a full-time drive since 2019 and could be expensive in terms of salary for Haas.

We are expecting confirmations before the end of the season so it is worth keeping an eye out for those.

Leclerc pleases home fans with Italian GP pole

Charles Leclerc delighted the Tifosi to take his eighth pole position of the season at Monza, with George Russell securing a front-row start after penalties for other drivers.

Leclerc beats Verstappen to pole at Ferrari’s home race. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton rounded out the fastest five in qualifying, but penalties for the quartet behind Leclerc drop them to fourth, eighteenth, tenth and nineteenth respectively. This has promoted the British duo of George Russell into second and McLaren’s Lando Norris into third place, on what will be a poignant weekend for the many Brits associated with Formula One after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Leclerc took advantage of a tow from Norris to go fastest with his final run in Q3, setting a 1:20.161 for his second pole position at Monza, and his seventeenth overall. Verstappen was a tenth and a half behind but will be confident that the Red Bull’s superior race pace can take him to an eleventh victory of the season.

First qualifying started in baking hot conditions in Monza, and there were plenty of drivers struggling to find grip in the early stages, as Mick Schumacher and Lance Stroll both had to react quickly to prevent their cars from spinning on their first runs. It was Ferrari who set the early pace, but with degradation extremely low around a circuit with very-few high load corners, drivers could stay out there for lap after lap – with Max Verstappen eventually going quicker than the Ferraris on his fourth run.

Vettel out in Q1 again. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 media

Haas were left wishing they had time to get even more runs in, as both drivers struggled to stay on track in the latter stages of the session. Kevin Magnussen had two laps deleted for track limits as he qualified nineteenth (sixteenth after penalties), ahead of his teammate Mick Schumacher, who went straight on at the Rettifilo chicane. Joining the Haas’ on the sidelines for Q2 was Nicolas Latifi, whose chances of retaining his seat will have taken a knock after being out-qualified by Nyck de Vries on debut, and the Aston Martin pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.

Due to the nature of the Monza circuit, no one wants to be out on track first and give the rest of the field a handy slipstream on their hot laps. Once cars began to make their way out onto the circuit, it was Ferrari who again set the pace, despite Leclerc needing a second lap on his first run after locking up at Turn One.

Alpha Tauri decided not to bother sending Yuki Tsunoda out in Q2, with the Japanese driver having multiple driving and power-unit penalties, consigning him to a back of the grid start tomorrow. Only Daniel Ricciardo managed to pull himself out of the bottom five after the first runs, securing his first Q3 appearance since the summer break.

Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas, Nyck de Vries, Zhou Guanyu and Tsunoda were the drivers to miss out in Q2, with de Vries having a major moment on the brakes into the second chicane, on what was a promising debut for the Dutch driver. Starting eighth tomorrow, in a car that is notoriously slippery in a straight line, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him score points on his F1 debut.

De Vries made it into Q2 on his first qualifying outing in F1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The first runs in Q3 saw Carlos Sainz go fastest, with his teammate Leclerc slotting in just behind, as the drivers alternated who would get the benefit of the tow. This proved to be the decisive factor on the final laps, with Leclerc’s double slipstream from Sainz and Norris potentially giving him the edge.

Daniel Ricciardo was eighth fastest and will start from fifth around the circuit where he took victory twelve months ago. Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso will start sixth and seventh, having both been caught out with track limits in the final qualifying session and failing to get a time on the board.

Ferrari has removed some upgrades from their car for Monza, and these changes look to have had the desired effect, certainly in qualifying. However, Leclerc has failed to convert any of his last five pole positions into a victory, with the Monegasque driver needing to end this streak tomorrow if he wants to keep his slim championship hopes alive.

F1 Weekend Preview: Monza

The final race of this triple header takes us back to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. It could be a homecoming for Ferrari which is dominated by the RedBull pace and an emergent Mercedes proving to be championship competitors towards the end of the season.

Who can stop Verstappen?

Verstappen was victorious at his home GP again. Image courtesy of RedBull content Pool

Verstappen and RedBull have put on a dominant display of pace and strategy in the two races after the summer break, extending their lead in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships. In Belgium, Verstappen was almost in his own league which was positive for them heading into Monza.

However, with Perez not having a great weekend in Zandvoort and Leclerc making it onto the podium, Leclerc has moved in P2 in the driver’s championship but is still 108 points back from the reigning world champion.

Ferrari will want to try and impress in front of their home fans, but their overall speed has dropped since the change in regulations and further messed-up strategy calls have made it difficult for the team to catch up to RedBull. Their Sainz pitstop issues in Zandvoort added to their lack of points and have now brought Mercedes into contention for P2 in both championships.

Having been very much battling for a win in Zandvoort on actual pace Mercedes will want to take that momentum forward with them. If it weren’t for the VSC and full safety car Hamilton could have had a win this year. Despite this, they will be cautious going into Monza because it hasn’t always been a track that has suited their car.

The battle for fourth hots up

Alpine and McLaren battling in Zandvoort. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Alpine and McLaren are locked in the fight to finish highest of the midfield teams by the end of the season. Currently Alpine is 24 points ahead in P4 going into Monza where engine power is important on the high-speed track.

Alonso has finished in the top 10 in the last 10 races which has helped Alpine to that P4 spot, however, Norris has got some good momentum and is the best of the rest in P7 in the championship. The teams are fairly evenly matched, but their performances are still unpredictable, making it exciting for fans to watch.

McLaren goes into Monza with memories of last year’s 1-2 finish and will want to bring that pace and teamwork back to the track this year with the aim of leaving Italy ahead of Alpine in the constructors’ championship.

F1 Weekend Preview: The Summer Break is Over!

The summer break is over and we are back in Belgium to find out if Ferrari can make a dent in RedBull’s championship charge, or if Mercedes can create a three-way fight to the end. The technical rule changes and driver market changes will certainly bring talking points throughout the weekend.

Technical changes

During the summer break, the FIA announced they had confirmed a few rule changes which are set to create waves in the paddock.

Lewis Hamilton at Baku where he suffered back pain from porpoising. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

The first is in response to the porpoising or vertical oscillations which began to bring driver safety concerns at some circuits like Baku. The FIA has decided to step in and have outlined a new metric where porpoising is acceptable. Anything outside of these limits could now result in penalties for the teams.

The biggest change could be the rule changes to the floor by introducing flexibility tests. The FIA announced that they would make changes to redefine the stiffness requirements of plank and skids around the thickness measurement holes. This is to prevent any floor-related design which might navigate around the intention of the regulations. This potentially could have the biggest effect on performance so will be fascinating to see how it affects the cars.

Silly Season has begun

With the driver market causing chaos over the summer break, it is good to know where everyone stands heading into Belgium.

Vettel to retire at the end of 2022. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

It all started with Sebastian Vettel announcing he was going to retire at the end of 2022 just before the Hungarian Grand Prix. The morning after the Hungarian GP Alonso announced he would replace Vettel at Aston Martin, which seemed to come as a shock to Alpine.

This is where it gets messy. Alpine then made an odd announcement that Oscar Piastri would be driving for them in 2023, but the statement had no quotes from the driver. Only a few hours later Piastri put out a statement saying he would not be driving for the French team, appearing to confirm rumours that he has been in talks with McLaren.

This would appear to make Daniel Ricciardo available to race next season, and with Haas, Williams, and Alfa Romeo yet to confirm their lineups they could secure themselves an experienced driver from McLaren. However, it has not been confirmed where Piastri is driving next season, so paddock talk will likely be all about the driver market.

A Three-way fight

Ferrari has hopefully used the summer break to re-focus and sort out their reliability and strategy issues. They will need an almost flawless second half of the season to stop RedBull and Max Verstappen from storming away with the championship.

However, Mercedes have been quietly making their way into the fight. They have been the most reliable car and have been consistently picking up podiums for the last seven rounds. They appear to have mostly got on top of the issues that plagued them at the beginning of the season and, with the possible performance changes with the new regulations, they could become a real contender towards the end of the season. For them, they can now focus on their pace which will need to improve to be with the teams ahead.

Mercedes double podium at the French GP. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Qualifying is on at 3pm BST and the race starts at 2pm BST.

F1’s silly season goes into overdrive

Although Sebastian Vettel’s retirement announcement on Thursday was a surprise to many, it wasn’t wholly unexpected. Few, however, could have predicted the events that have transpired since.

Aston Martin admitted to being caught unaware by Vettel’s retirement, with team principal Mike Krack talking only weeks ago about retaining the four-time world champion for another season. The rumours seemed to suggest that they would be replacing one German with another, with Mick Schumacher and current Aston Martin reserve Nico Hulkenberg being the main names touted for the seat.

It’s safe to say, therefore, that Monday’s announcement that Fernando Alonso would be extending his record-breaking career in green, rather than the blue and pink of Alpine, came almost out of nowhere. There had been mumblings that the Spaniard was considering a move out of Enstone for a third time, but many thought that a one-year extension for Alonso was a done deal. Even the 41-year-old said it would only take ’10 minutes’ to sort out a new contract with the French squad, but there was clearly some stumbling block in the background to force Fernando to go for a change.

Oscar Piastri testing for Alpine at the end of 2021. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

If Aston were surprised by Vettel’s announcement, Alonso’s left Alpine astounded. Team principal Otmar Szafnauer found out at the same time as everyone else, which is likely to lead to a very awkward meeting once the summer break is over. Once crumb of comfort for Otmar however, would have come with the fact that this freed up the seat for their junior driver Oscar Piastri, and it was announced on Twitter on Tuesday that he would be driving alongside Ocon in 2023.

As soon as the announcement was posted, however, questions started to be asked. There were no quotes from Piastri in the announcement. The tweet only spoke about how he was being ‘promoted’ into a race seat, not that he had signed any formal contract. And sure enough, just short of two hours later, the reigning F2 champion announced that he had not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023, and would not be driving for them next year. But how did Alpine get themselves into this mess?

Midway through last season, Esteban Ocon signed a contract for 2024 with the Enstone-based team. The plan seemed simple, keep Piastri in F2 for two seasons, and promote him once Alonso retired at the end of 2022. Problem one came when Piastri won the F2 championship, rendering him ineligible for the series this year. Problem two came with the fact that Alonso had no intention of leaving the sport just yet. Both are nice problems to have, but three into two doesn’t go, and frustrations were building in the background.

It looks like these frustrations have boiled over in the past week, and the lid will not be going back on this pot any time soon. Alonso feels his performances deserve more than a one-year contract, but as Alpine wanted to keep Piastri, this is all he was going to get. Other teams have picked up on this dilly-dallying from Alpine, with McLaren (who had the option to use Piastri as a reserve this season) allegedly swooping in to sign the highly rated 21-year-old for 2023, as a replacement for Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo winning in Monza in 2021. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

This isn’t the only contract shenanigans that McLaren finds themselves in at the moment. Over in IndyCar, reigning champion Alex Palou is being sued by his current team Chip Ganassi Racing, after they announced that he would be driving for them, prompting him to announce that he would be driving McLaren. If Palou and Piastri both end up in papaya next season, this gives them a glut of talent across IndyCar and F1, with their lineup for Formula E next season also yet to be announced.

It is possible then, that Alpine will have an Australian driving for them next season, just not the one they expected. Daniel Ricciardo did a stellar job in the yellow of Renault in 2020, and apart from a win in Monza last season has not looked close to the driver he was during his two-year spell with the French marque. The 33-year-old has made it clear he wants to stay in F1 next year, and this may well be his only opportunity.

Aston Martin fighting amongst themselves for the last points position in Hungary 2022. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

But let’s go back to how this all started. Sebastian Vettel clearly didn’t see enough progress at Aston Martin to convince him to stay in Formula One. His father said that the decision was made in Austria, where he qualified last and was involved in incidents in both races, which is enough to make anyone question their motivation. So if he’s not seen any positives, what has made Alonso take one last (presuming he does retire at the end of 2024) throw of the dice?

Next year’s Aston will be the first car to have the fingerprint of Dan Fallows on it. As a member of the aerodynamics department at Red Bull (and eventually the head of aero), Fallows was involved in the Milton Keynes-based team’s dominant run in the early noughties, as well as their recent resurgence. Joining Aston at the start of the season meant he was never able to have a massive impact on the 2022 car, although the new rear wing shown off at Hungary suggests he has some radical ideas to move the team up from the lower end of the order. Being ninth in the championship also means Aston Martin will get more wind tunnel time than nearly all their rivals, invaluable at any time but especially in this modern era of Formula One.

Vettel’s retirement brings to an end one of the most successful careers of all time, with only Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher securing more wins than Sebastian. He will certainly be missed in the F1 paddock, and it is ironic that for a man who doesn’t like the spotlight away from the track, his departure has delivered plenty of drama for fans to discuss over the summer break.

F1 Weekend Preview: Hungary Grand Prix

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

Hungarian GP 2021

Chaos at the start. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

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

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

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

Ferrari’s strategy calls in question… again

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

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

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

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

Double podium Mercedes

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

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

Alpine is at the top of the midfield pack

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

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

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

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

F1 Weekend Preview: The French GP

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

Are Ferrari’s problems getting worse?

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

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

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

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

Mercedes constant top 3

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

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

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

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

Silly season has begun

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

Daniel Ricciardo. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

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

Verstappen extends championship lead as Ferrari’s hopes go up in smoke

Max Verstappen extended his championship lead with victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as both Ferraris succumbed to reliability issues.

Sergio Perez came home in second to make it another 1-2 for Red Bull, with George Russell securing his third podium of the season in third place.

The big story of the race though will be the fragile state of the Ferraris, with both Carlos Sainz and polesitter Charles Leclerc retiring before the race distance. Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen also retired with power unit problems, in what was a worrying day for the Italian manufacturer.

Perez taking advantage of Leclerc’s lock up. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

It was Sergio Perez who led in the early stages, getting a superb start from second on the grid to take the lead into Turn One. A small lock up from Leclerc cost him any chance of getting the move back on the first lap one, as the Mexican driver quickly dropped the Ferrari outside of his DRS range.

Things looked to be settling down before Carlos Sainz’s retirement on lap nine with a hydraulics failure, which led to a Virtual Safety Car. Whilst both Red Bulls stayed out, the majority of the chasing pack, including Leclerc and both Mercedes, opted to pit, giving themselves the option of stretching out a one-stop, or pushing harder and making the two-stop work.

Baking hot conditions meant tyre management would be crucial in Baku, as the track temperatures reached 46 degrees Celsius at the start of the race. Pirelli were clearly concerned as well, raising the minimum tyre pressures to try and negate the risk of punctures, thankfully, there were none of the issues which plagued last years race.

Strangely, it was tyre management which looked to be Sergio Perez’s downfall. His early sprint on the medium tyres took too much out of the tyres, and Verstappen was soon able to catch and overtake the Mexican on lap 15, with Checo being told ‘not to fight’ into turn one. However, it looked unlikely that Perez would have been able to put up much of a defence even if he wanted to.

After the Red Bulls pitted to go onto a conventional one-stop strategy, Charles Leclerc had a comfortable lead, and it looked as the win was still a distinct possibility, even if there was a concern over how well the tyres would last. By lap 20 though, this was a moot point. The Monegasque driver’s engine expired on the pit straight, handing victory to Verstappen and Red Bull.

Further back, it was another solid race from Mercedes, even if they aren’t showing the improvements they would have wanted to. George Russell was in no-mans land for the majority of the race, coming home in a lonely third place. His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, had a much more eventful afternoon though. After losing out in the first VSC because of the double stack, Hamilton spent a lot of his second stint stuck behind traffic, with Esteban Ocon being particularly trick to overtake thanks to the Alpine’s straight line speed.

After clearing the Frenchman, Hamilton was able to take advantage of the second virtual safety car (triggered due to Magnussen’s retirement) to get a cheap pitstop, overtaking both of the Alpha Tauri’s to come home in fourth. The heat combined with the vicious porpoising of the Mercedes clearly took it’s toll on the Brit, as Lewis struggled to exit his car at the end of the race.

Hamilton catching Gasly before taking P4 at the end of the race. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Pierre Gasly finished fifth for Alpha Tauri in what was his best result of the season, and if it wasn’t for a broken rear wing (which necessitated a gaffer tape fix), Yuki Tsunoda would have likely come home just behind in sixth. In the end, Sebastian Vettel recovered from an early spin to finish sixth, ahead of Fernando Alonso, the McLaren’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, and Esteban Ocon.

Ricciardo and Norris seemed to be inseperable throughout the entire race, with the Australian consistently challenging Norris in the early stages, being told to hold station behind his teammate. The roles were reversed at the end, with Norris clearly unhappy at being told to stay behind Ricciardo. This is a nice problem for McLaren to have, with this weekend looking like one of Ricciardo’s best this season.

Although the McLaren team orders may have had an effect on their result, it’s doubtful that Red Bull’s did. Verstappen’s race pace was too much for Sergio Perez, and the Dutchman now has a twenty-one point lead in the championship over his Mexican teammate. Ferrari’s double DNF drops them to eighty points behind Red Bull, as their championship challenge has unraveled dramatically over the last four races, which has seen Leclerc take pole in each race but not reach the chequered flag first in either, becoming the first driver to do this since Juan Pablo Montoya twenty years ago.

Celebrating a RedBull 1-2. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Next, Formula One heads to Canada first the first time post-COVID, with the last race there being remembered for Sebastian Vettel receiving a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage of track, handing the victory to Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari will be hoping that this time around, they don’t hand victory to their rivals once more.

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