Canadian GP: Verstappen holds off Sainz to take victory at Montreal

Max Verstappen drove yet another beautiful race on Sunday afternoon in Canada despite late pressure from Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari. Multiple VSCs and a safety car in Montreal meant that victory was not going to be straightforward for the reigning world champion who was in control during the entire weekend. His teammate Sergio Perez had a entirely different story after the Mexican driver’s gearbox failed during the race and he was forced to retire.

Fernando Alonso was the talk of the town for starting from P2 but the Spanish driver ultimately could not keep up with the faster cars behind him and ended up in P7.  The Spaniard was grumpy towards the end of the race and a minor issue with the engine did not help the cause. His teammate Ocon finished just ahead of him in P6 after battling the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc for the most parts of the race.

Lewis Hamilton back on the podium in 2022. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Mercedes had a perfect Sunday with Lewis Hamilton taking the last spot on the podium and with George Russell finishing in P4. Coming to Canada on the back of a painful week in Baku, the team will take heart with the result and look to push on with Silverstone coming on next, a track where they have been traditionally strong.

Charles Leclerc drove a solid recovery drive from P19 all the way to P5, pulling off quite a few moves on the way. The Monegasque driver had his work cut out but he executed overtakes one after the other in fine fashion and reached his target of P5 that Ferrari aimed for on Saturday. This however leaves him with a lot more to do in his quest for the championship as his rival Verstappen extended his lead to 49 points at the top.

Zhou making good progress. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

It was a good weekend for Alfa Romeo with both their drivers finishing in the points. Zhou finally picked up points after the first race of the season after finishing P9 and Valtteri Bottas kept up his good form for this season and  finished in P8. Lance Stroll made up the final points scoring position at P10 after the safety car stoppages worked out for him and the Canadian driver will be happy to pick up a point in his home race. His teammate Sebastian Vettel could only manage a P12 finish after he had issues with his tyres during all the stints.

It was a Sunday to forget for McLaren after an ambitious double stack under a safety car went terribly wrong for the British team. A slow stop for Ricciardo meant that Norris was held up and then was subjected to an extremely slow stop for himself. Ricciardo finished the race at P11 but Norris could only manage a lowly P15 and the English driver will look to put this entire weekend out of his mind and go on to his home race with a fresh mind.

Verstappen with a great start but Magnussen and Hamilton come together behind him. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

It was a disastrous weekend for the Haas team after Mick Schumacher dropped out of a points scoring position owing to a mechanical failure. Kevin Magnussen in the other Haas tangled with Hamilton on the very first lap and had to come in for a front wing change. Haas will be furious with the way their weekend turned out especially after their strong qualifying on Saturday.

Alpha Tauri also had a dismal weekend with Gasly finishing at P14 and Yuki Tsunoda crashing on his way out of the pits. It was a mixed Sunday for Williams after Albon finished P13 and Latifi finished P16. It was a case of what if for Williams after Albon looked closer to the top 10 during the beginning stages of the race but could not capitalize on the safety car periods.

A fantastic drive for Max Verstappen handed him his 6th win for the 2022 season and a solid lead in his bid for chasing the WDC. With his teammate retiring and Charles Leclerc forced to do a recovery drive, Verstappen comes out as the ultimate winner from the Canadian GP weekend. With a handful of races to go before the summer break, Silverstone is up next and promises to be a thriller with the teams looking to bounce back from this weekend.

 

Verstappen dominates wet Canadian GP qualifying

Max Verstappen was fastest in all three parts of qualifying as he took his second pole position of the season at the Canadian GP, as his teammate Sergio Perez crashed out in qualifying.

The Mexican driver will have to fight his way up from thirteenth on the grid, as will Charles Leclerc, who starts nineteenth after power unit penalties. Towards the front, it was Verstappen who adapted best to the changeable conditions, as he took pole position by seven tenths of a second from Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, with Carlos Sainz putting his Ferrari third on the grid.

George Russell setting early pace in the wet. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Conditions at the start of qualifying were similar to the morning’s free practice session, with visibility extremely limited in the full wet conditions. George Russell set the early pace with a 1:36, over 20 seconds slower than what the cars managed in Friday’s dry running. Impressively, there were no major incidents in the first part of qualifying, but turn one proved to be particularly tricky thanks to a massive puddle on the apex, which stubbornly remained throughout the entirety of qualifying.

Leclerc did get through to the second part of qualifying, which will allow him to start ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who also has multiple penalties for exceeding his power unit allowance. The biggest shock of the first qualifying stage was the lack of pace from the Aston Martins, especially given that Sebastian Vettel was third in FP3. Both him and Lance Stroll failed to make Q2, along with the two Alpha Tauris and Nicolas Latifi, in his first home race since joining Williams in 2020.

Strategies were mixed at the start of Q2, with the inters proving to be faster, but only if you could keep it on the drying line. Alexander Albon failed to do this into turn six, sliding slowly towards the barrier, but was able to escape with only a broken front wing. Perez, on the other hand, was less lucky. A much harder hit into turn four wedged the Mexican’s wing under the TecPro barrier, bringing out the only red flag of the session, meaning Perez missed out on the top 10 for the first time since the Qatar GP last November.

Once the car had been removed (and the barriers repaired), everyone was out on the intermediates. It was Verstappen who found pace instantly, going 1.3s faster than the field on his first run. As the track continued to dry, and the drivers gained confidence, the lap times plummeted, and it was clear that whoever was the last car across the line would have the best conditions. Unfortunately for Lando Norris, a power unit issue meant he spent most of the session in the pitlane, and once he was out on track all was still not well with the McLaren, meaning the Brit starts in fourteenth. Joining him and Perez on the sidelines for Q3 were Valtteri Bottas, Albon, Perez and Leclerc (who stayed in the pits for the whole of Q2).

Verstappen was fastest out of the blocks again in the top-10 shootout, going more than a second faster than the Spanish duo of Sainz and Alonso, and remaining ahead even after huge improvements on their second laps. Most of the track was dry at this point, apart from the aforementioned standing water into turn one, which discouraged all drivers but one from choosing slick tyres for their final run.  George Russell was the brave individual who went for the soft tyres, but it was clear that the first few corners were just too wet, as his Mercedes slid into the wall at turn two. He was able to continue, but could not improve on his first intermediate run.

The top three on Saturday. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The final laps looked like being a Red Bull-Ferrari shootout, with Verstappen and Sainz separated by hundredths in the first two sectors. One slight mistake out of the final chicane by Sainz proved to be costly, and allowed Alonso to jump onto the front row for the first time since the German GP in 2012, 3,619 days ago.

Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes in fourth position, but the surprise package of qualifying was the Haas team, with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher looking quick throughout, and they shared the third row of the grid, with sixth for Schumacher being a career best. Esteban Ocon was seventh in his Alpine, ahead of Russell, Daniel Ricciardo and Zhou Guanyu, who was delighted to secure his first Q3 appearance in Formula One.

The race is expected to start in dry conditions, but the track may still be ‘green’ given the lack of dry running on Saturday. Verstappen is in the ideal position to extend his championship lead given that his two closest rivals are outside the top 10, and he will certainly be expecting to see the chequered flag first for the fifth time in six races.

F1 Weekend Preview: Montreal is back!

After the inevitable drama in Baku, we move on to Canada for the first time since 2019. RedBull look to keep up momentum while Ferrari will need to investigate power unit issues. Mercedes had serious problems with porpoising on the long straights and want to change that for Montreal.

Ferrari’s Reliability Issues

Baku produced its normally unpredictability this year but this time with less safety cars and more reliability issues. We only had two Virtual Safety Cars for the entire race, but each was caused by what looked like a failing Ferrari engine.

It was a Sunday to forget for the team in red when both cars DNF’d with engine issues. Carlos Sainz had technical issues in lap 16 but his teammate had an engine blow up about 20 laps in. This was the second time that Charles Leclerc had been leading the race comfortably this season when reliability became a problem.

For Ferrari though this wasn’t just isolated to their own cars, other Ferrari powered cars had to retire with similar issues to the factory team. Magnussen and Zhou both appeared to have engine problems, forcing them to retire from the race. For Haas in particular this was a loss of any points from the race with Schumacher not able to push the car forward.

Ferrari will look to bounce back with extra strength if they want to outperform RedBull, who have a very strong car for the rest of the season. Ferrari have good one lap pace with Leclerc taking pole at six of the eight races this year, but on race pace RedBull have the edge. Ferrari need this to change.

Mercedes Bouncing into Canada

Lewis Hamilton telling his team he was OK despite physical back pain from the race. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

It was obvious that down the main straights Mercedes had the worst of the porpoising in Baku. The set up wasn’t right and after the race Lewis Hamilton had to exit his car very carefully with what looked like serious back pain.

Despite a podium, Mercedes and many drivers have spoken about getting the FIA involved with the issue which is now causing a safety concern for the drivers. However, those teams who haven’t been as badly effected suggest it’s a design flaw which can be dsigned out of the car.

Regardless of what happens with the FIA, Mercedes now have to tackle Canada, with the long straights towards the end of the lap we could see a repeat of the extreme bouncing and bottoming out of the cars. For them they will want to set the car up to get rid of the problem as much as possible without affecting performance.

The Midfield Battle Getting Tasty

It’s no secret that the most exiting battles between cars often happens in the midfield where everyone is fighting for the same 5 positions. This year the teams race much closer together with different cars performing well at different tracks.

In Baku Alpine seemed to be the midfield team everyone had to get past. They had impressive race pace, particularly down the straights where they seemed to be able to use DRS to pass cars with ease. Vettel often found himself behind Ocon trying to overtake and had a great, race long, battle with him.

Canada is normally needing a lower downforce set up to have maximum performance, testing the driver’s precision around some of the tight walls and corners. This could play nicely into Alpine’s hands where we could see them walk away with a large haul of points.

Qualifying starts at 9pm BST on Saturday and the race starts at 7pm BST on Sunday.

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.

F1 Weekend Preview: Baku for Late Drama

After the changing conditions of Monaco we move on to the streets of Baku. This track often producing exciting races which can really affect the championship. With Perez now very much a championship contender he will be hoping Ferrari doesn’t have a change in fortune and the Mercedes still have trouble finding the right balance in the car.

Perez is In

Last time out Perez put himself very much in the mix as a title contender after RedBull seemingly looked to back Verstappen in Spain. With a good strategy from RedBull and a strategic slip from Ferrari, Perez stuck out the wet conditions to take home the win.

Lewis Hamilton failing to turn of the ‘magic button’ in 2021. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Perez was definitely happier with the RedBull than his teammate in Monaco even with a crash in Q3. He looked to make is claim in the team and hopefully RedBull have now got to consider that they have two potential 2022 world champions in the team.

This sort of confidence is something that Perez will want to take to a track which last year he also picked up the spoils with the title rivals Hamilton and Verstappen both having their issues in the race.

Ferrari Losing Momentum

Ferrari have looked very much on top at the beginning of the season. In Australia Leclerc was comfortably ahead of the RedBull’s and the first few races of the season Ferrari’s reliability made them the team to beat. However, there appears to have been a momentum switch in favour of RedBull.

Sainz manages to split the RedBulls in Monaco. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The last few races have not been kind to the red team who’s turn it was to have their own reliability issues. In Spain Leclerc was controlling the pace until lap 34 when his power unit gave up. Sainz couldn’t bring home a podium in that race either but managed to salvage P2 in Monaco after an awful strategy from the team meant Leclerc went from P1 to P4.

The team now have to re-focus to bring the fight back to RedBull in Baku and hope that the late drama Baku is known for will be in their favour.

Which set up is correct?

Mercedes have still not quite got the hang of their performance. They seem to have almost got rid of the extreme porpoising which was holding them back, and in Spain they did have good pace. But Baku is unique in that a low or high downforce set up can yield good lap times.

However, based on the previous years low downforce is better over a single lap but increases tyre degradation in the race. This is the decision the teams need to make and for Mercedes, who introduced their low downforce wing at Miami, this could mean enough pace to compete with RedBull and Ferrari for qualifying.

The low downforce wing from Miami. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Qualifying is on Saturday at 3pm BST and the race on Sunday is at 12pm BST.

2022 Spanish GP

The Spanish Grand Prix brings us round 6 of this years World Championship. The season so far has been a story of Ferrari versus RedBull, with this race being the race where the first major upgrades are brought to the cars would we see a change in the pecking order, would Mercedes be back in the hunt for wins? A scorching day in Barcelona would bring us all the answers we have been waiting for.

The front row had Leclerc and Verstappen again and could deliver us a titanic battle into turn one. Strategy would be key in the hot weather and whoever looks after their tyres the best would surely go on to win the race.

Home favourite Fernando Alonso took an engine penalty and would start from last, the 2 time world champion promising to give it everything and put on a show for his adoring fans. Could his popular compatriot Carlos Sainz improve his form after an indifferent start to his season, a win not impossible for the Spaniard. Everyone will start on the soft tyre apart from Lewis Hamilton who chose to start on the mediums.

The front 2 clearly ahead of the rest on the start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Lights out and the battle to the first corner was between the front two, they came through the first turns in the same order that they started.  Russell up to third. Hamilton then had a collision with Magnussen who tried to go around him on the outside of turn 4 causing a puncture with Magnussen into the gravel. Both drivers pitting at the end of the first lap.

At the start of Lap 5 Bottas went around the outside to Mick Schumacher into turn one. Alonso in the Alpine already up to P14, plenty of overtaking moves so far including a great pass from Alonso again on Sebastian Vettel. Sainz then makes a big mistake and spins into the gravel at turn 4 putting him down in 11th.

At the start of lap 9 Max Verstappen also lost it at turn 4 and went into the gravel, returning to the track in 4th. The RedBull team telling him it was a gust of wind. Russell now ahead of both RedBulls and clearly holding them up, RedBull clearly order Perez to let Verstappen through to see if he can make any ground on the Mercedes.

Ricciardo overtaken by hos teammate early on. Image courtesy pf Pirelli F1 Press Room

The McLaren of Ricciardo is falling down the order with the Aussie now down on 15th after pitting for fresh soft tyres. Lap 13 and Norris pits in his McLaren returning to the track in 9th place ahead of Sainz in the Ferrari. Both Russell and Verstappen pitted together, the world champion would need to get passed quickly to try and salvage his race. The RedBull struggling with an intermittent DRS fault meaning Verstappen couldn’t  get to close to the Mercedes on the main straight. The world champion looking very ragged in the RedBull complaining on the radio that they should be able to get the DRS working.

Leclerc up front still hadn’t pitted at the start of lap 20 and led by 30 seconds from Russell and Verstappen. The top 10 completed by Perez, Bottas, Ocon, Sainz, Vettel, Norris and Tsunoda. Alonso now up to 11th after starting last in his Alpine. Hamilton in the Mercedes seemingly with damage as he has only moved back to 16th.

Lap 22 and Leclerc finally pits, a great stop by the Ferrari team at 2.2 seconds, he returns to the track with 4.6 second lead but he now has tyres 8 laps fresher than the cars behind him.

At the start of lap 24 Hamilton pits for new medium tyres but falls down to 19th. Verstappen makes a move into turn one but Russell hangs him out to dry and makes him go the long way around and he can’t quite do it. Great defending by George Russell. Anyone who thought this race would be boring was very wrong. Perez now behind Verstappen asking the team to get him out of the way.

Suddenly Leclerc has trouble and the Ferrari is limping back to the pits, The first DNF of the season for the championship leader. Russell now leads in the Mercedes, Verstappen still struggling to find a way by the slower Mercedes.

Back down the field Lance Stroll again runs out of talent and spins after contact with the Alpha Tauri into turn one. RedBull decide to pit Verstappen dropping him to 4th but in clean air. Surely a 3 stop is now on the cards. Russell now out front ahead of Perez but the Mexican goes straight passed at the first attempt. His team mate now back up to 3rd, just 13 seconds behind.

At half distance this race is between the two RedBulls but seeing as team orders were clearly used earlier surely it is Verstappens race to lose now. As he closes on Russell the Brit pits in his Mercedes. The two RedBulls now leading the pack just 6 seconds apart. Perez pits the very next lap for mediums, returning to the track clear of Russell in the Mercedes. Further down the field Lando Norris is now up to 8th position despite feeling unwell this weekend.

Perez making a move on Russell. Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool

Hamilton in the Mercedes is currently the quickest car bar the RedBulls and showing that the Mercedes does in fact have quite a lot of pace which shows well for the rest of the season, the 7 time world champion now up to 6th.

Lap 45 and Verstappen pits for what surely is the last time. He comes back out ahead of Russell, just 5 seconds behind his team mate. Sainz in the sole remaining Ferrari also pits for the 3rd time. He is now 7th, another disappointing show from the Ferrari driver.

Lap 49 and RedBull tell Perez to let Verstappen passed for the lead, The Mexican agreeing but not very happy with the order.

Mercedes pit Russell again for fresh soft tyres, he remains in 3rd and on for a podium, RedBull bring Perez back in also to protect his 2nd position.

The rest of the field seems to have settled with a few battles developing for the back end of the top ten before the end of the race.

With 10 laps to go Verstappen leads from Perez, Russell, Bottas, Sainz, Hamilton, Ocon, Norris, Alonso, Schumacher, Tsunoda, Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Stroll, Magnussen, Latifi and Albon with the only 2 retirements being Leclerc and Zhou.

Hamilton making moves. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton were running within a second of each other at the start of lap 58. Sainz is straight passed down the main straight, Hamilton then drives around the outside of turn three to overtake his former team mate. The Brit in his Mercedes clearly on a mission after the disappointment of lap one. His sights now clearly on the Ferrari ahead. He swoops around the outside of the Ferrari into turn one, a great drive today from Hamilton that might stop all the Netflix fans saying he’s finished.

After 66 laps Verstappen crossed the line as the race winner and also takes the lead of the world championship, he is followed over the line by Perez and the Mercedes of George Russell, Sainz is fourth after taking Hamilton one lap from the end due the Mercedes having to lift and coast for the last few laps, Hamilton finishes fifth ahead of Bottas, Ocon, Norris, Alonso and Tsunoda rounding out the top ten.

The rest of the classified finishers were Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Schumacher, Stroll, Latifi, Magnussen and Albon.

Probably the best Spanish Grand Prix since 1991, plenty of overtaking and battles throughout the field all race long. The next stop on the F1 circus is Monaco, obviously we wont have the amount of overtaking that we did here but every lap has jeopardy and so anything can happen.

 

2022 Spanish GP Qualifying

Round 6 of the 2022 F1 World Championship brings us to the traditional start of the European season at Barcelona for the Spanish GP. Every team apart from Haas has brought big upgrades to their cars, the biggest seems to be with Constructors champions Mercedes who look too have cured most of the porpoising issues they have suffered from all season long. The most surprising upgrade is that of the Aston Martins who appear to have blatantly copied the RedBull design, whether they have done this legally or not will no doubt be something that rumbles on all season long.

After the three practice sessions the top 6 drivers were all from the top 3 teams, it could be the closest battle for pole so far this season. Going into qualifying Ferrari looked to be favourite for the front row closely followed by RedBull and Mercedes.

Gasly setting pace in Q1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Q1 began in scorching temperatures. First out on to the track was the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu, he was followed out onto the track by the Alpha Tauri’s of Gasly and Tsunoda. After the first runs the top six were the two Ferrari’s, Verstappen, the two Mercedes and then Valterri Bottas in the Alfa.

Out of qualifying at the end of the session were Vettel, Alonso, Stroll, Albon and Latifi. At the front it was Leclerc on a 1.19.861 ahead of Sainz, Verstappen , Russell, Magnussen and Hamilton in 6th.

It seems the green RedBull is not as quick as a blue one. A big shock that both of the Aston’s were out in Q1 along with home favourite Alonso who had been looking quick so far this weekend.

Lance Stroll couldn’t get better than P17. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

The two Mercedes started the action in Q2, Russell going fastest with a 1.19.470, three tenths ahead of his team mate. At the end of the first runs the Mercedes were first and second, however they used new tyres whereas the RedBull and Ferrari used a scrubbed set of tyres. Perez was third ahead of Leclerc, Bottas and Verstappen.

For the final runs both Mercedes stayed in their garage feeling safe at the top of the standings, so did Leclerc in the Ferrari. Sainz needed to go back out as his first run was only good enough seventh. He crossed the line and moved to first giving the home support something to cheer about.

As the session ended Max Verstappen went quickest on a 1.19.219 ahead of Sainz, Russell and Hamilton. Out of qualifying were Lando Norris who had his fastest time deleted because of track limits, Ocon in the Alpine, Tsunoda, Gasly and Zhou.

Lewis Hamilton driving the improved Mercedes in Q2. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

And so to Q3, would we get the top 6 fighting it out for pole as it has seemed we would get throughout the weekend so far.

Lewis Hamilton was first over the line and so went fastest. He was quickly bettered by Verstappen, Sainz, Perez and team mate Russell. Leclerc spun on his quick lap at the final chicane and immediately returned to the pits. Everyone else then returned to the pits to prepare for their final runs. The top 5 were covered by half a second but 3 tenths of that was between first and second.

Leclerc completing his stunning pole lap. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Charles Leclerc came out earlier than everyone else obviously trying to make up for the mistake on his first run. He set a blistering time of 1.18.750, an amazing lap under such pressure. Verstappen aborted his lap after complaining of no power but remained second. Third was Sainz who was joined on the second row by George Russell. Then came Perez, Hamilton, Bottas, Magnussen, Ricciardo and rounding out the top ten was Mick Schumacher.

Not quite as close as everyone had hoped but the top six is definitely closing up. Tomorrow will be a shoot out down to turn one. The RedBull race pace on Friday looked pretty ominous so could come down to a race of strategy and tyre management.

F1 Weekend Preview: Barcelona Battle Incoming

After the inaugural race in Miami had mixed reviews but was definitely a spectacle. We move to the familiarity of Barcelona which is expected to be a real test of the new regulation, with teams bringing upgrades.

A Rollercoaster Championship Battle

Verstappen beating both Ferrari’s in Miami. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

In Miami, Ferrari managed to lock out the front row in qualifying after Verstappen had an error in the final runs of Q3. However, Verstappen showed his pace at the beginning of the race, creating a lead which the Ferrari’s couldn’t keep up with. This means that he keeps his form of winning every race he finishes.

Charles Leclerc has pushed him hard and still leads the championship by winning the races Verstappen didn’t finish and picking up podiums in all but 1 race. Leclerc will be looking to bring back the initial pace from testing in Barcelona, where they were clearly ahead of the rest.

For Carlos Sainz he will want to capitalise on the race winning car he has found himself in for his home race. The last time a Spanish driver won the Spanish Grand Prix was in 2013 where Fernando Alonso put his Ferrari on the top step after an epic start. Sainz will want to give the Spanish fans something to shout about again.

Carlos Sainz on his way to another podium in Miami. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Upgrades in Spain

Barcelona is the race which teams traditionally bring upgrades to. It is the start of a European run which, now due to the budget cap, parts are easily transported to the track at lower cost. It also comes as teams are now more on top of the regulations and developing their cars.

Particularly for Mercedes, previous upgrades brought to Miami appeared to show more of the potential of the car, but also displayed a very small window in which the car can run at optimum performance. But, with more upgrades due in Spain, they might be able to extract the speed required to bring them back to the top.

Fighting to get higher up the grid in Miami. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

The New Regulations put to the Test

The aim of the new regulations was to allow the drivers to get closer together without the cars losing downforce. So far we have had exciting racing, and, with the exception of possibly Miami, the regulations appeared to have worked.

However, Barcelona is notoriously difficult to overtake at, often dreaded by fans as a more boring race on the calendar. This will test if the regulation changes have actually created closer racing at this style of track.

Following along behind in Miami. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

We saw an improved race in Imola but it still had mixed reviews. Miami seemed to suggest that it doesn’t matter what the regulations are, a street track is always difficult to overtake at. Therefore, the feeling is mostly of cautious optimism as we look to Spain.

Last year the race was strategically exciting, keep fans on the edge in what was a very unusual season. Any repeats of this would make for a great race.

Watch Qualifying on Saturday at 3pm BST and the Race on Sunday at 4pm BST.

Mercedes AMGF1 – Decision Time

5 races into the 2022 F1 World Championship and the defending Constructors Champions are without a pole position or a win, In fact they have just 2 podiums to their name and Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell are 6th and 4th in the drivers standings with the team 3rd a staggering 62 points behind Ferrari.

Clearly the dominant force of the hybrid era haven’t forgotten how to design and build a racing car but after practically giving up on developing their 2021 car to concentrate on this season they will be massively disappointed in what has happened so far this season.

No sidepod Merc on day 3 of the Bahrain testing. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

When they rolled out their revolutionary zero sidepod car at the second test in Bahrain the F1 world were already saying if it dominated and the rival teams wanted to protest it, then the rule makers could decide that the car wasn’t in line with the spirit of the new regulations and would make the team change the car. Even though the car set disappointing lap times most experts thought the team were sandbagging and come the first race would dominate as usual.

The first race in Bahrain confirmed that not only were they not sandbagging but that they were almost a second a lap slower in the race. The major cause of the gap seemed to be the porpoising that the car suffered, although most teams this season are suffering from this it seems Mercedes suffer from it the worst no matter how they try to solve it.  How could they have got it so wrong ?

This performance deficit has continued throughout the first few races but at the fifth race in Miami the team brought the first big upgrades of the season. A new front wing, rear wing and beam wing were fitted to the car in the hope it would not only cure the issues the car had, but also reduce drag allowing the car to be quicker on the long straights of the Miami circuit.

Lewis Hamilton enjoying the faster car on Friday in Miami. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

During the first practice sessions on Friday it seemed that the upgrades not only worked but returned the team to the front of the field with Russell going quickest in FP2. The porpoising had also gone but watching every other car they had also cured the issue. Or was it just a characteristic of the circuit and the need for a low downforce setup.

On Saturday the porpoising had returned maybe because the team had been in search of a few more tenths thinking they were in the hunt for pole position. Qualifying was disappointing by the teams high standards and they ended up 6th and 12th. The closest Lewis Hamilton could get the fastest time was again almost a second down.

Once again it wasn’t a good race for the team, even with the upgrades they were just under a second a lap slower than the top 2 teams. After the race team principle Toto Wolff seemed bemused and confused. Although he was pleased that they had been quickest on Friday, Toto couldn’t explain why the car had been so good or why it had suddenly become so bad again for the rest of the weekend.

After another disappointing weekend what will the team do now? Obviously they will bring a big upgrade to Spain as most teams will. Even if they bring an upgrade that cures the problems and makes the car significantly quicker, it would be a surprise if both Ferrari and RedBull don’t do the same so they will have an even bigger gap to close than the one they have had all season long.

Fighting to get higher up the grid. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Its clear that the car can be quick but does it have such a small window in which it needs to be set up that it will be almost impossible to mount a challenge for wins, let alone a title shot if it stays so temperamental. The Spanish race will probably decide what the team does for the rest of the season, continue development of the current car or write off 2022 and start concentrating on next year already and use the rest of the season as an extended test session.

If they do manage to bring an upgrade package that puts them back in the hunt we could be about to see one of the greatest F1 seasons ever, so soon after the great (albeit tarnished 2021 season) 3 teams fighting at the front for the first time in years would be great.

By the end of the race in Spain we should know how the rest of the season will pan out in terms of who will be in the fight for the title. Perhaps more importantly we will know what decision Mercedes have made in their fight to tame the Silver space Hopper.

F1 Weekend Preview: Miami GP

It’s finally here. The inaugural Formula 1 Miami GP is set to be fast and furious as the teams get used to this street track from Friday practice to the race on Sunday.  

After years in the making, Miami, Florida has its own Grand Prix on the calendar. The track has only been finished recently so drivers and teams have had limited data to put into simulators. They can only get a real feel for the track and what it might have in store when we get to Friday.

What we do know is that we have another very fast street track for the drivers to conquer. With a potential 3 DRS zones this is set to give us thrilling flying laps in qualifying. There a long swooping corners after turn 1 which lead to a straight before the first major overtaking spot at turn 11.

Sector 2 does look to be twister making the set up very important for the teams. This leads to the final, very long, final straight before another perfect overtaking opportunity if the turn 17 hairpin. That is set to be the last obvious overtaking spot before heading back to the main straight.

Miami Preview. Image courtesy of Pirelli

Ferrari ‘s time to fight back

Ferrari had a weekend to forget last time in Imola after Red Bull dominated the weekend, taking 58 out of a possible 59 points. To make things worse Sainz ended up in the gravel on lap 1 and with Charles Leclerc in prime position to take a podium, he spun out late on in the race, finishing P6.

On their home turf they really suffered, so Ferrari will be looking to bring the heat in Miami. With Red Bull performance still mostly unpredictable after the first few rounds, Ferrari need to capitalise on every opportunity they get.

Mercedes with upgrades

Mercedes are still not even close to where they want to be, fighting for podiums and wins consistently. In fact, McLaren seem to have solved their problems and are now their main rivals or possibly the faster car.

However, all is not lost because they are rumoured to be bringing a large upgrade package to Miami which will hopefully solve their porpoising problems.

It has been evident from the last few races that Mercedes are not the only team to suffer from serious bouncy car syndrome, with Ferrari showing the problem affects them. But it appears to be affecting their handling less when coming into corners compared to the Mercedes.

This is a problem which they are very much approaching cautiously but they are hopeful that they can solve these issues and be up at the front with Red Bull and Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton struggling in Imola. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Qualifying is 9pm GMT on Saturday and the Race is 8;30pm GMT Sunday.

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