Dual in the desert Bahrain

What a race…

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

After what seemed like an unusually long winter Formula 1 is back with a bang in the desert.

After winter testing, three practice sessions and qualifying all that we knew for sure was the grid had indeed tightened up, especially for the top two teams in Mercedes and Red Bull.

Max Verstappen had taken pole position from Lewis Hamilton by just under four tenths of a second with the sister Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas in third and Charles Leclerc in fourth.

Even sitting thousands of miles away the anticipation at the start was palpable.

The instillation lap did nothing to calm the nerves as Checo Perez loses power initialising a second instal lap.

He did manage to power up the ailing Red Bull but had to start from the pit lane.

Five red lights go out and we’re away for the Bahrain Grand Prix and indeed the start of the 2021 season. Unsurprisingly to many fans the number two Haas crashes out at turn one and his race ends before it can even start, leaving Mick Schumacher the sole Haas driver as the safety car is deployed.

Leclerc had managed to snatch third from Bottas before the safety car was deployed! Sainz lost out at the start and is down in P10, with Alonso and Stroll both gaining a position from him.

Verstappen leads the pack away from Hamilton who is left to defend from Leclerc into turn one.

Bottas takes third place back as we settle into a familiar pattern.

Verstappen pulls out a small lead of just under two seconds.

Further down the pack Sergio Perez starts to haul the Red bull through the field.

Mercedes are first to blink and try the undercut, putting the hard tyres on and it looks like a great decision as Red bull stays out as Lewis starts pumping in purple sectors and is the fastest man on track.

Verstappen’s in at last! And goes from mediums to mediums, he will have to stop again. He exits the pits nearly seven seconds behind Hamilton!

The top three are Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas. Further down the field Vettel and Alonso are fighting it out for P8!

Max is putting in the strong laps now on tyres ten laps newer than Hamilton’s. He closes to within two seconds or so, as Mercedes once again throws the dice and pull Lewis in for a new set of hard boots.

He exits the pits in third behinds Bottas in second and Max in first.

Bottas stops but there’s a problem with the front left! It’s a 10.9s stop and he comes out behind Leclerc in P5

Verstappen pits for hards and is stationary for an incredible 1.9 seconds and leaves himself 8.7s to make up to Hamilton in the final 17 laps.

Hamilton’s trying to keep his tyres going until the end, andy it’s falling back into Verstappen’s hands as he starts to take chunks off Lewis.

Verstappen is eating into Hamilton’s lead like its an open buffet. Half a second out in the middle sector alone, and he can see the Mercedes on the straights now.

Hamilton brakes another record this time for the most laps led in F1 with 5,112!

Vettel and Ocon have come together. Both have got going again, but Vettel has some damage to his front wing. Looks like Sebs fault but that’s one for the stewards to decide.

Max is like a lion hunting down his prey with only the odd back marker to hold him back, Lewis locks up and goes wide at Turn ten! He keeps the lead but Verstappen is just a second behind now and within DRS range.

Lap 52 and Hamilton only has half a second over Verstappen as he tries around the outside of Turn one but Hamilton holds him off!

Down to Turn four and Verstappen goes around the outside again, and this time he takes the lead!

Max Is immediately told by his team to give the place back as he’s left the circuit whilst taking the position, if he doesn’t do it a penalty could be costly.

Verstappen’s loses grip in Hamilton’s wake but he’s now out of DRS range on the start finish straight.

Bottas stops for a new set of tyres as he attempts to grab the extra point for fastest lap.

Hamilton starts the final lap and Verstappen is back within DRS range, no matter how well Max has driven this weekend he just can’t get passed the exuberant Hamilton who takes the win from Verstappen and Bottas.

Norris, Perez, Ricardo and Yuki Tsunoda all make impressive debuts, Alonso and Seb looked good and should improve as we get further into the season.

Mick Schumacher had a quiet race finishing last but that’s all that can be expected in the under developed Haas.

HAM

VER

BOT

NOR

PER

LEC

RIC

SAI

TSU

STR

RAI

GIO

OCO

RUS

VET

MSC

DNF: GAS, LAT, ALO, MAZ

Bahrain Test Part Two

BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN – MARCH 12: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during Day One of F1 Testing at Bahrain International Circuit on March 12, 2021 in Bahrain, Bahrain. (Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)

Here we go, four more hours but I can’t see much changing except for the odd driver and the weather.

Daniel Ricciardo still on top of the timing sheets as we start with Gasly and Verstappen close behind in the standings

This session can be described in one word, dusty! They can’t push the cars and are having to short shift and are actually off the throttle at some points on the track.

Coming up to the three hour remaining mark and very little has changed, we’re waiting on the first appearance of the seven time World Drivers Champion Lewis Hamilton

Will they refer to him as Sir Lewis?

First sight of Carlos Sainz in his new Ferrari, it’s a big year for the young Spaniard.

Three hours and two minutes and the World Champion joins the track for the first time and looks straight on it power sliding his way around the track. Times are still down on Ricardos best set earlier today in the morning session, laps are around four to five seconds slower.

Verstappen goes fastest on a 1:31.4O on the hard tyre After completing 80 laps.

Drivers seem to be finding some grip now as Max remains out gaining valuable data for the team.

Tsunoda has impressed on his first outing in the AlphaTauri it’s a little odd seeing the number 22 and not having Jenson Button driving behind the wheel.

With 1 hour 37 minutes left on the clock Lewis and the Mercedes seem to be getting into their stride with a lap still a full 1.5 seconds behind the pace set by Verstappen.

With 90 minutes remaining

1 VER 1:31.412

2 NOR +0.397
3 GIO +0.533
4 OCO +0.716
5 RIC +0.791

The number 9 Haas has completed 48 uneventful laps.

55 minutes to go and Verstappen puts in a flier 1:30.6 and has completed 113 laps just as Carlos Sainz spins his Ferrari.

Hamilton getting the laps in, still off the pace but getting valuable data and obviously we don’t know his fuel levels.

Lando Norris is comfortably third on the timing sheets behind Ocon and Verstappen. The McLaren looks very happy with its new Mercedes engine.

24 minutes to go and Lando posts a faster lap taking him into second place overall. McLaren have had a solid first day of testing.

Lance stroll posts an impressive 1:31.7 and moves up to fourth in the over all rankings.

Hamilton is out lapping in his Mercedes, but he is seriously lacking in traction, spectacular to watch but he’s not improving his times.

Under five minutes to go and the virtual safety card has been deployed, and that brings the session to an end.

1 VER 1:30.674 139

2 NOR +0.215 46

3 OCO +0.472 129

4 STR +1.108 46

5 SAI +1.245 57

6 GIO +1.271 68

7 RIC +1.529 45

8 GAS +1.557 74

9 TSU +2.053 37
10 HAM +2.238 42

Bahrain Testing Day One, Part one

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

The first day of testing is always an exciting event for Formula 1 fans but this year with Covid still affecting global sports we kick of in Bahrain instead of what has become the usual annual pilgrimage to Barcelona.

What’s different? Well the big difference other than location is this year we have just three days of testing instead of the usual six.

It’s an early 7am start for us in Europe, first things first as Haas officially launch their 2020 challenger.

Mick Schumacher, Haas F1 Team, F1

Flo fizz and aero rakes at the ready and off we go, for the first four hour session.

First shock of the day, Mercedes has a gearbox issues and Valtteri Bottas has missed over 100km plus of valuable testing time. With sands storms threatening every valuable minute needs to be taken advantage of.

The first couple of hours, how we’ve missed the sounds of Formula 1.

Early form Daniel Ricciardo is setting the pace in his McLaren Mercedes with Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda just behind and Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri with the third fastest time.

The Ferrari in the hands of Charles Leclerc in fourth seems to have made up some of the lost time from last years challenger.

Into the second half of the morning stint and Gasly is now on top of the timing sheets with a 1:32.5

Ricardo straight back out onto track and posts an even faster lap taking three tenths of Gaslys time. Still no sign of Bottas in his Mercedes.

It’s fantastic to see that Micks Schumacher’s three letter code is MSC and not SCH A nice nod to his dad who of course was MSC as he raced alongside his brother Ralf Schumacher.

With just 90 minutes remaining there’s still no sign of the Mercedes and Bottas

On the plus side the new liveries look resplendent in the sunshine. Personal opinion but the Alpine, Aston Martin and dare I say Haas are my favourites.

Roy Nissany driving the Williams has a green light on the back of his car indicating that he’s not got his super license points, I had to fact check this with my colleagues at Crow Towers. James Matthews pointed out that L plates wouldn’t stay attached to a F1 car at speed! He’s here all week.

Bottas is finally out in his Mercedes and is running almost five seconds off the pace with a large Aero rack on the back of the car.

The top three with under 30 minutes to go are Daniel Ricardo Pierre Gasly and Max Verstappen.

Ten minutes to go and Charles Leclerc has stopped at turn four with what sounds like an engine miss fire, bringing out the red flag. After initially impressing the Ferrari isn’t looking on top of things, early days though.

That’s the first four hour session done.

  • 1 RIC1:32.203 45 M
  • 2 GAS+0.028 74 M
  • 3 VER+0.042 60 H
  • 4 OCO+0.756 55 M
  • 5 LEC+1.039 59 M
  • 6 RAI+1.117 63 H
  • 7 VET+1.539 51 T
  • 8 NIS+2.586 39 M
  • 9 MSC+3.924 15 H
  • 10 BOT+4.647 6 H

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.

Emilia Romagna GP: Hamilton wins as Mercedes secure 7th straight constructors championship

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes took his 93rd Formula 1 win and their 7th consecutive constructors championship respectively at Imola on Sunday afternoon in what was an event filled race in the third Italian grandprix of the season. It was not a straightforward win for Hamilton as the English driver lost out at the start thanks to fast starting Max Verstappen from 3rd.

Things started falling into place for him as the race progressed and it all played very nicely into his hands after an extended first stint paid off thanks to a virtual safety car around lap 30 which enabled him to assume the lead of the race ahead of his teammate Bottas and Verstappen in the Redbull. The drama did not end there as Max Verstappen crashed out of the race with less than 10 laps to go triggering a full course safety car.

A Mercedes 1-2 and Redbull not scoring any points meant that Mercedes have now secured their 7th consturctors crown, beating a previous record of 6 by Ferrari set in the 1999-2004 period. The whole team would be overjoyed at the achievement but Valtteri Bottas might not share the complete enthusiasm as the Finnish driver would feel he missed out on a victory.

Daniel Ricciardo made waves again after he drove a fantastic race to make it two podiums in three races as the Aussie driver had to sustain pressure from Leclerc in the early parts of the race and Kvyat in the final stages after the safety car. His teammate Ocon in the other Renault had to retire at the midpoint of the race thanks to a clutch issue.

Danil Kvyat’s best result of the season heavily depended on the safety car as the Russian drives came out all guns blazing following the restart as he made really good overtake moves on Leclerc and almost made a podium out of all this for himself but failed to get past Ricciardo. His teammate Gasly in the other Alpha Tauri had to retire early in the race due to terminal issue after starting from as high as P4.

Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari secured another very good result for the team after finishing 5th thanks to a good start to the race. His teammate Vettel was on course for a points finish but it was all undone when the Ferrari mechanics had a tough time during his one and only pitstop and the German driver was left stranded for 13 seconds in the pits, a scenario that pretty much summed up how his season has been progressing.

Sergio Perez looked set for a podium finish after a Racing Point’s strategy seemed to have paid off which saw the Mexican driver jump 7 places from his starting position but deciding to stop under the safety car for fresher tyres proved costly for the Mexican as he dropped to 6th and could not finish higher. His teammate Stroll in the other Racing Point could only finish 13th after tangling with Ocon in the opening lap which meant a front wing change for the Canadian driver very early on.

It was a low double points finish for McLaren with Sainz at 7th and Norris at 8th which keeps the team still in the battle for the 3rd place in the constructors championship with Renault and Racing Point. The British team will certainly hoping for better results in the next few races with Renault and Racing Point looking faster than them on the track at the moment.

It was also a double points finish for Alfa Romeo with Raikkonen at 9th and Giovinazzi at 10th after the former drove a stellar first stint on the medium tyres for almost 50 laps which meant he performed an overcut on most of the out of points runners. The team will be delighted to pick up points in their home country that will put them above Haas and Williams in the standings. As for Williams, George Russell looked set to pick up his first ever points in 38 F1 races but he had a Grosjean-esque moment under the safety car and crashed out of the race while trying to keep his tyres within temperature. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams finished just outside the points in 11th.

Redbull had a race to forget thanks to a DNF for Verstappen which triggered the safety car and from the restart after the safety car, Albon spun around all by himself after being overtaken by Perez and could only finish 15th which means that there is now more doubt looming on his future in F1.  As for Haas, Kevin Magnussen had to retire after he had complained about headache issues and could not finish the race in that condition while his teammate Grosjean finished 14th after a very late 5-second penalty for exceeding track limits multiple times.

Another race win for Hamilton means that a win or a 2nd place finish in the upcoming race irrespective of Bottas’ result will secure the 7th world championship for the Englishman, which seems like a real possibility the way things have been going on this season. Despite constructors championship being wrapped up, it is a lot to look forward to in the upcoming final four races of the season.

Potuguese GP: Hamilton makes history at Portimao

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton absolutely demolished opposition on Sunday afternoon at Portimao to take the coveted win number 92 which has been the talk of the weekend. Hamilton lost out at the start to his teammate Bottas and the fast starting McLaren of Carlos Sainz and had to make his way back into the lead of the race, which he did in spectacular style.

It was a chaotic start to the race which started off in very light rain conditions meaning that the cars starting on the dirty side of the grid had their work cut out for them. This meant that both Mercedes cars lost out to the McLarens at the very beginning and the race briefly saw Sainz lead the proceedings for a few laps. Normality was restored after Mercedes drivers managed to get their tyres going and made it into the 1-2 positions and eventually ended up there.

Max Verstappen starting at 3rd also lost out at the start to McLarens and the Racing Point of Sergio Perez and later made his way back into the race, finally finishing at 3rd. It was not so simple for the Dutchman as he was involved in a first lap incident with Sergio Perez which saw the Mexican driver go spinning out of the track. This meant that Perez had to really work hard for a decent result and he did a stellar job and finished in points at 7th place.

Pierre Gasly’s excellent year continued at Portimao after the French driver put in another excellent performance to finish at 5th place. On an afternoon where almost every other driver struggled to make soft tyres work, Gasly made them work just right during his first stint which made the ultimate difference for him and provided that very strong finish.

McLaren were on course for a high points finish but it was all undone when Lando Norris was tagged by Lance Stroll in an overtake attempt but it did not come off well for the Canadian after he sustained damage on his car and also inflicted some on Lando’s car for which he received a time penalty as well, adding to the one he received for infringing track limits. The Racing Point had to retire towards the end due to damage and a wing change for Norris meant that he could not finish any higher than 13th.

Renault were the big winners in the battle for 3rd in the constructors championship after their Sunday afternoon earned them a double points finish with Ocon at 8th and Daniel Ricciardo at 9th. The former went an astounding 55 laps on medium tyres before finally switching to softs towards the end through which he was able to overcut most of his competitors and achieved a good finish.

It was a good day for Ferrari as well compared to how their 2020 has been going after Charles Leclerc finished at 4th place, producing yet another fantastic drive as he has been doing so far this season and Sebastian Vettel, finally after quite a few races, finished in the last points position following his battle with Kimi Raikkonen. The German driver was also closer to a 9th place finish after he got ever so close to Ricciardo but a major lock up prevented him from making that move.

It was an amazing start to the race for Kimi Raikkonen after he made up as many as 10 places on the opening lap to fins himself at 6th but the ultimate lack of pace from the Alfa Romeo meant that it was inevitable that he would drop down the order and finally finish 11th. His teammate Giovinazzi in the other Alfa Romeo finished 15th following his battles with Magnussen and Russell at the back of the field.

It was a flurry of time penalties in the race after both Romain Grosjean and Danil Kvyat were handed 5 seconds each when they breached track limits and this meant that they could not salvage much out of the weekend as they finished well outside points. George Russell drove a good race which saw him finish 14th but that elusive points finish still seems to evade him. His teammate Latifi could only manage an 18th place finish.

The one talking point among the out of points finishers has to be Alex Albon who has had yet another underwhelming weekend, With Christian Horner admitting that Red Bull are prepared to look outside their pool of drivers, a 12th place finish does not exactly make the case for Albon retaining his seat in the Milton Keynes based team and this means that the Thai driver will have to ensure a strong finish to his season.

Today’s race has seen yet another Schumacher record broken, this time the biggest one in the form of number of race wins. 92 is the magic number for Lewis Hamilton in car no.44, who extends his championship lead to 77 points over the car no.77 of Valtteri Bottas. The record equaling 7th driver’s championship is now a matter of when, rather than if, for one of the all time greats of F1.

Russian GP: Bottas reigns supreme in Sochi

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

In a race that was decided pretty much by the events happening before the lights going out, Valtteri Bottas took his 2nd victory of the year, long after the win in the first race of the season. His teammate Lewis Hamilton was awarded two different 5-second penalties for two practice start violations that he committed prior to the race start, in the locations where he was not supposed to.

This made the race very difficult for the record chasing English driver as he dropped well down the order after he had to serve the penalty in a pitstop. He recovered well to be able to finish on a podium but will be gutted to miss out on a win. Bottas on the other hand would welcome this victory at a track where he is supposedly at his strongest.

It was a lonely Sunday afternoon drive for Max Verstappen, which pretty much sums up his season so far barring the last couple of races. The Dutchman dropped to as low as 4th on the race start but recovered immediately to 3rd place and Lewis’ penalty meant that he would comfortably finish 2nd. It was a similar race for Sergio Perez in the racing Point at 4th place after he too recovered from a poor start.

It was a chaotic start to the grandprix after many incidents unfolded one after the other. McLaren lost the most out of all the teams at the start after Carlos Sainz crashed into the wall in an attempt to try and go around the bollards and his teammate Norris ran over the debris left by Sainz and only managed to finish 15th at the end of the race after a forced pitstop. Racing Point also lost one car on the opening lap after Lance Stroll got tagged on the right rear tyre by the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc which sent the former spinning into the barriers. The effect of the new upgrades was not to be seen today and will have to wait until the Nurburgring at the earliest.

A couple of mini battles unfolded in the midfield between Ferrari and Renault followed by another between the Alpha Tauris and Albon’s redbull. Renault’s bid to swap their cars and catch Perez ended in a way they would not have wanted after Ricciardo was handed a 5-second time penalty for not following race director guidelines. It did not quite help Ocon’s case after the Frenchman was stuck behind the Ferrari of Vettel and could not catch Leclerc towards the end of the race. Ricciardo’s penalty did not hurt him much after he managed to pull ahead of Leclerc and finish 5th. For Ferrari, it was a mixed result as Leclerc managed to finish 6th and Vettel paid the price for staying out long and could only manage P13 on his 250th GP start.

Both the Alpha Tauris managed a double points finish with home driver Kvyat at 8th and Gasly at 9th following their battle with Albon in the other RedBull. Kvyat could have finished ahead of Ocon at 7th after the Russian battled the Renault driver almost towards the end of the race but it just wouldn’t happen for him thanks to the superior straight line speed of the Renault.

Kimi Raikkonen could only manage 14th in his record equaling 322nd race start but his teammate Giovinazzi in the other Alfa Romeo would be very happy with his race result at P11, just missing out on the points. Haas also registered one decent result with Magnussen at P12, ahead of a works Ferrari but they would quickly want to forget the P17 salvaged by Romain Grosjean. Both the Williams finished with Latifi at P16 and Russell at P18, with what was an unusual 3-stop race for the English driver, with the last stop seemingly an ambitious attempt for a fastest lap. It was however not there for the taking as Bottas eventually ended up with the point on offer.

In what was expected to be the 91st win for Lewis Hamilton, the race win went out of the window thanks to the pre-race events. His teammate jumped in at the chance to take maximum advantage to cut the gap in the championship standings to 44 points with a handful of races to go. Hamilton will now have to be careful for the next 4 races as he has picked up 2 penalty points today and two more would mean that a race ban would be handed to him, which could seriously dent his championship hopes.

 Pirelli Motorsports info-graphics

 

Tuscan GP review – Mayhem at Mugello

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Due su due as the Italians would say. If you thought the red flagged madness of Monza from last week was extreme enough, F1’s first visit to Tuscany at the Mugello circuit was that turned up to eleven!

It was Lewis Hamilton though who took victory ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, which on the surface sounds very typical but it was anything but that. The race began with the long run down to turn one, and Max Verstappen – who had some drama pre-race with the mechanics trying to check something, he had a good initial launch but his car seemed to almost forget how to use its engine for a moment. Tumbling down the order and then got caught up in a collision.

Verstappen seemed to get rear ended by Räikkönen heading into turn two, who was in a bad position next to Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean trying to claim the same piece of tarmac. Just up the road, Carlos Sainz got tapped by Lance Stroll which sent him spinning, and Sebastian Vettel couldn’t avoid him in the one-off burgundy liveried Ferrari and limped back to the pits with a broken front wing.

Bottas had jumped Hamilton at the start and they were running ahead of Charles Leclerc and Alex Albon. But a safety car was called as both Gasly and Verstappen were out of the race, and coming to the restart, Bottas left it as late as he was legally allowed to before he bolted, trying to give his rivals behind him as little a slipstream as possible. However, chaos ensued.

Sainz, Magnussen, Giovinazzi and Latifi were caught up in melee coming to the restart as many drivers had tried to get the jump on the restart. The race was stopped and the drivers gathered in the pits, and now standard procedure is a standing restart after seeing it for the first time only last week.

Second time around, Hamilton swung round the outside Bottas at turn one and Leclerc retained third place, before being passed by Stroll and Ricciardo. The Ferrari driver elected to pit early for hard compound tyres as he was just bleeding time on the set he was on. Ricciardo then came in to attempt an undercut on Stroll, a strategy that seemed to be working due to high speed nature of Mugello and it was successful as when the Racing Point driver boxed, Ricciardo was ahead.

The other Racing Point driver Sergio Pérez was passed by Lando Norris before he then successfully undercut the McLaren driver. Meanwhile, the sole remaining Red Bull in the race of Alex Albon had elected to go longer than the rest of the field.

At the front, the two Mercs were on medium compound tyres and Bottas was hoping to do the opposite of what Hamilton was doing. However Bottas came in before Hamilton due to the condition of his tyres and put on hard compound, which gave Hamilton a comfortable buffer to then come in on the next lap and do the same, and retained his gap in front.

Bottas was hoping for a safety car, and well he got one. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll went off at the very high speed uphill right hander Arrabbiata after suffering what was suspected to be a puncture. Bottas dove for the pits and it was thought he had gotten a huge advantage as the safety car was called just as Hamilton drove past, but it didn’t come out in time to serve as a help for Bottas, as Hamilton managed to make it round again and pitted.

The race was then red-flagged for a second time, and with only twelve cars left in the race. Bottas was hoping to keep the trend of second place getting the better getaways but this time, it wasn’t to be as both Hamilton and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo rocketed off the line.

Meanwhile at the back, heartache for the newly taken-over Williams team as George Russell had lined up ninth on the restart but had been passed by everyone. He soon got back past Grosjean but even with a 5-second penalty looming over Räikkönen, it looked increasingly unlikely that he would get back into the points.

But for his best mate Alex Albon, things were about to get rosier. He put a beautiful move around the outside of turn three on Pérez and after previously being denied two podiums by coming together with Lewis Hamilton in both Brazil last year and Austria this year, the Anglo-Thai driver put a move on for third and made it stick past Ricciardo. Cyril Abiteboul having made a bet with his driver that if he scores a podium before he leaves the team, he will get a tattoo of the smiley Australian’s choice.

However it wasn’t meant to be as finally, in a time where everyone was expecting a switcheroo between him and last week’s Italian GP winner Pierre Gasly, he finally got to stand on the podium with Bottas and Hamilton.

Ricciardo came home fourth ahead of Pérez, Norris, Kvyat, Leclerc, Räikkönen (who finished ahead of Leclerc but dropped back from the penalty he received for crossing the pitlane entry line too late) and Vettel rounded out the points finishers.

Carnage ensued in the hills of Tuscany, and also whilst not a result that Ferrari would have wanted, it is still very fitting that they have their 1,000th Grand Prix be at a circuit they owned since 1988. A proper old school circuit with plenty of elevation change and gravel traps which have punished a few drivers this weekend across all the races.

F1 goes on a week long break, can we all survive that? The circus reconvenes at Sochi Autodrom on September 27th and following on from that is a run of races which include circuits such as Nürburgring, Portimão, Imola, Istanbul, two races at Bahrain on different layouts before the season concludes at Abu Dhabi on December 13th.

Italy presents us with a strong, unexpected argument for a reverse grid as Pierre Gasly wins in Monza

Benvenuti a Monza! We’re here and we’ve settled in for two weeks of exciting racing in Italy, but should we have come? Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari might like to weigh in on that one.

The Italian Grand Prix was the first weekend where the teams were no longer permitted to use their ‘party-mode’ engine modes, typically used in qualifying by certain teams to boost their chances of a better lap time.

At the start of the race it was a tale of two halves for the two Mercedes drivers, as Hamilton got yet another great start off the line, gliding into first place unchallenged as Bottas got swallowed up by the pack. McLaren had an excellent start with Sainz quickly taking 2nd position, and his team-mate Lando Norris overtaking a struggling Bottas going through the first and second Lesmos, which is testament to McLaren’s progress in recent years.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Bottas was quickly overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo, putting the Renault driver into 5th, and pushing Bottas down to 6th. Bottas was quick to report a possible puncture but chose not to pit. Bottas’ race engineer, Ricciardo Musconi, confirmed there were no issues with his tyres, but Bottas still looked to be struggling as he was overtaken by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen through the Parabolica.

It was a sorry start for the home favourites Ferrari, who qualified in 13th and 17th. Just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, Sebastian Vettel reported brake failure on lap four, smashing through the foam barriers at the end of the pit straight and limping his way back to the pits, where the car was retired for the second time this season.

Ferrari’s hopes were then pinned on Leclerc, who didn’t appear to be having the same issue but didn’t really seem to be having a much better race. Hope was quickly abandoned after a a shocking crash going into the Parabolica, where the Ferrari ploughed into the tyre wall, bringing out the safety car for the second time and red flagging the session. Leclerc’s crash athough dramatic, proved exactly how valuable the halo truly was, as he was able to get out of the car and run from the scene unscathed. All this in the same weekend that Netflix were spending time with Ferrari.

Shortly before the crash, Hamilton had made a quick decision to pit after the safety car came out for Kevin Magnussen, who was forced to stop on track just before the pit entrance with a suspected power unit issue.

Mercedes took what they thought was a risk-free pit-stop, with Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi following suit shortly after. It wasn’t long until the race was stopped due to Leclerc’s incident, and both Hamilton and Giovinazzi were placed under investigation for entering the pits after it had been closed due to Magnussen’s stoppage.

This visibly rattled Mercedes, who were looking pretty comfortable. Hamilton took it upon himself to grab his scooter and make his way to Race Control during the red flag in an attempt to justify his actions, arguing on the radio that “there was no light” going into the pit lane.

This didn’t save him nor Giovinazzi, who were both given a 10-second stop and go penalty, serving F1 fans with the biggest game-changer in the hybrid era.

Hamilton was noticeably annoyed by this decision and was talking about building up a lead once again before taking his penalty. He was dissuaded from doing this by his race engineers, who had decided to ‘take the hit’ on this occasion.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Mercedes’ loss meant some considerable gains to the likes of Alpha Tauri, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo and McLaren.

The red flag wasn’t in place for too long and on lap 27 we were back on track heading for a dramatic restart.

Gasly was lightning fast on the restart, overtaking Stroll to take what was essentially first place, as Hamilton made his way around and back into the pits to serve his penalty. He re-joined the race 23 seconds behind the rest of the pack, meaning he would have to have had the drive of his life to get back to a podium finish.

Though it looked like a good opportunity for the Racing Point, Stroll seemed to have issues with the brakes, causing him to run off on the Della Roggia chicane and giving away two positions and putting him down into 5th. This was quickly taken from him by Sainz who had his eyes firmly set on the prize.

The same ambition and determination weren’t felt in either of the Red Bull cars, who have struggled more than usual. Albon was the first to have issues, running wide on lap one after being squeezed by Stroll and Gasly down the main straight, and causing damage to the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Albon was given a 5-second penalty for the damage he caused.

As usual, there was greater expectation of success with Verstappen, who was making some respectable overtakes, and scrapping with Bottas for 6th/7th position. Unfortunately, this was short lived as he was forced to retire the car on lap 31 due to a power unit issue.

Come lap 34, Sainz was chasing Gasly for the win after he and Raikkonen gave fans an absolute masterclass in overtaking through Turn 1.

Stroll bounced back from his earlier brake issue and overtook Raikkonen the following lap, moving him into third place.

Sainz continued to chase Gasly right down to the final lap of the race. Gasly just managed to stay ahead and out of DRS range of the determined McLaren driver and took his first ever F1 win, something absolutely none of us expected would happen going into this race weekend.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 06: Race winner Pierre Gasly of France and Scuderia AlphaTauri celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 06, 2020 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202009060423 // Usage for editorial use only //

After being essentially demoted from Red Bull in the middle of 2019, this win is exactly the boost Gasly and the wider Alpha Tauri team needed. You’d have to be a hard individual not to feel some emotion watching him sit on the podium, sipping champagne in sheer disbelief. It’s only a shame the Tifosi weren’t there to make his win even more special.

We cannot end this race review however, without giving a special mention to Williams, who had its final race with their de-facto team principal, Claire Williams. It followed the announcement last Thursday that the family had decided to step away from Formula 1 after 43 years. It’s a real shame for us to see both she and the family say goodbye to the F1 family.

We owe Williams so much after having been an enormous part in F1’s development, bringing iconic moments for us all to appreciate and look back on with fondness. Though they will continue to race under the same name, something tells me it just won’t quite be the same anymore, so thank you Frank, thank you Claire, and thank you Williams for the great memories. We hope to see you back on top soon.