British GP Friday qualifying: Hamilton fastest at home

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton was the fastest on Friday qualifying after a blistering first lap in Q3 made sure that he would be starting from P1 for the sprint race on Saturday. An all new trial format for Formula 1 this weekend means that the drivers will go again on Saturday with a 17 lap race at Silverstone and the winner from that race will be awarded pole position for the actual race on Sunday. Hamilton’s teammate Bottas in the other Mercedes is set to start from P3 after his lap was two tenths shy of Hamilton’s lap time.

Hamilton’s closest title rival Max Verstappen was complaining of understeer through out qualifying and fell short of P1 by just about 0.075 seconds while his teammate Sergio Perez could only qualify 5th after his time from the second run during Q3 was deleted due to him exceeding track limits. Redbull who have been fastest during the course of the season will not be happy with this result and will have their work cut out before the sprint race.

Ferrari will take heart from Friday qualifying after Charles Leclerc managed to be the 4th fastest on Friday courtesy of a Perez deleted lap time. Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari could only manage a P9 but crucially for Ferrari, they have atleast one car ahead of McLaren at P4.

In what was a tough few days for McLaren off track with Lando Norris incident at Wemblely and team boss Zak Brown coming down with the coronavirus, it was not a bad outing for the British team after Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo have both put in lap times which are good enough for a P6 and P7 on the grid for sprint race tomorrow.

‘Mr. Saturday’ Geroge Russell has also proved that he would be an excellent ‘Mr.Friday’ should this new race weekend format stick, after a brilliant Q2 lap meant that he was into Q3 yet again. He then set another excellent lap time in Q3 which means 8th position on the starting grid is his for the sprint race. Things were not that great for his Canadian teammate Latifi in the other Williams after he could not get out of Q1 and will be starting from P18.

Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel makes up the last of top 10 fastest drivers on the grid after having his first lap time in Q3 deleted for exceeding track limits and will be starting P10 for the sprint race. His teammate Lance Stroll couldn’t quite find a similar pace and will be starting from P15.

It was a bad Friday outing for Alpha Tauri in comparison with the last few weekends, after Pierre Gasly only managed a lap good enough to put him on P12 for tomorrow while his teammate Tsunoda had things go worse for him after his lap was not good enough for the rookie driver to go to Q2 and he is set to start from P16.

Alpine’s Esteban Ocon finally managed to get out Q1 this time around and is set to start P13 for tomorrow while his teammate Fernando Alonso narrowly missed out on Q3 and will be starting P11. Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi managed to get out of Q1 but could only go as high as P14 while his teammate Kimi Raikkonen could not manage that and will only be starting P17. Both the Haas cars will be starting with Schumacher at P19 and Mazepin at P20, which has become rather predictable based on how their season is going.

A new format in on trial at a packed Silverstone but it is the old and familiar top 3 of Hamilton, Verstappena and Bottas is set to start the sprint race.  With points up for grabs and of course the pole position for the main race on Sunday, it is set to be an interesting 17-lap race on Saturday. Redbull seem to be running away with the title but a resurgence from Hamilton and Mercedes is definitely on the cards as the race for pole is on.

Verstappen wins but Norris is The Driver of the Day

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Round two in Austria set up to be the sequel that was better than the original. After a great qualifying session yesterday, the start seemed unpredictable and could spice up the championship fight. Drama is never far though as before the race Russell begun to report problems with the rear of the Williams, fans hoping that it wouldn’t be a repeat of last week.

As they lined up after the formation lap, Norris and Verstappen were pointed at each other, ready for battle. The lights went out and both got a good start, but Verstappen had a better second phase, moving in front of the McLaren before turn 1. Everyone got away cleanly, with Hamilton pressuring Perez for the entire lap but Perez coping well. The safety car deployed at the end of the first lap hampered anyone looking for a move. Esteban Ocon had been squeezed by Giovinazzi and Schumacher into turn 1, causing damage to his front suspension and eventually stopping on track.

At the safety car restart Verstappen backed everyone up until he got onto the main straight. Norris was caught out and Perez put him under pressure, with the Mercedes closely following behind. At turn 4 Perez tried to pass on the outside of Norris but ended up on the gravel at the exit. Sparking the beginning of what appeared to be a busy day at the office for the stewards, Norris was eventually handed a 5 second penalty for the incident.

By lap 15 Verstappen had pulled out a 6 second gap and had all but checked out at the front. Events continued for Norris though because he was managing to hold off advances from the 7 time world champion. Doing a great job of handling the pressure, Norris made it difficult for Hamilton who was beginning to suffer from being behind him. However, on lap 20 Hamilton managed to make a move that stuck, Norris knowing that strategically it wasn’t worth a huge battle over. Hamilton came over the radio to say that “Norris is such a great driver” recognising the job he is doing and making every Norris fan a bit emotional.

Further down the order on lap 18, action was happening all over the track. Perez, who had now dropped due to his turn 4 incident, was battling Leclerc who had DRS into turn 4, but Perez managed to out break him, keeping his place. Only for Leclerc to do a switch back on the exit and with better traction made the move stick. Ricciardo was also looked more comfortable with the McLaren and made a great move into turn 3 on Vettel.

Norris and Bottas were the first to pit of the front runners. Bottas managing to jump Norris because he had to serve his 5 second penalty. Once Hamilton and Verstappen pitted that looked it for the first 2 podium positions, Verstappen had a 13 second gap which Hamilton knew he wouldn’t be able to make up.

Meanwhile, after the stops the battle for P6 got interesting, Gasly, Ricciardo, Perez and Leclerc were fight but the main battle in the group between Perez and Leclerc was reaching boiling point. At turn 4 Leclerc tried a move down the outside of Perez, produce an almost exact same result as the Norris, Perez incident on lap 1. It took a total of 46 seconds for the stewards to go from investigating to giving Perez a 5 second penalty. Just 2 laps later however, neither driver had learned but this time the battle continued to turn 6, where it looked as if Perez had forced Leclerc onto the gravel again. Another p5 second penalty was awarded to Perez, added 10 seconds onto his time at the end of the race. Credit to the stewards because they were at least consistent with the penalties today.

Not featured much in the race, Hamilton began to struggle on the hard tyres just 15 laps after the pit stops and picked up some damage around lap 36 coming out of turn 10. This meant Bottas was allowed to close the gap. There was radio silence from Mercedes as they decided if they would let them race but eventually the call was made to let them race, then a team order for the drivers to switch came through and the deal was done in turn 1 of lap 55. Norris, who had been chasing down the pair of them, capitalised on the struggling Hamilton and overtook him just 1 lap later to see himself into the podium positions.

With just 10 laps to go Russell was still in P10 but Alonso had closed him down and the battle in continued for the last points positions. Fans most likely willing Alonso to stay behind with Russell doing an excellent job at defending under the pressure so that he could finally get a point for the Williams. However, today was not that day because with just 3 laps to go Russell was passed by Alonso.

The final 2 laps were full of drama. Sainz made a late move on Ricciardo to finish P5 for Ferrari once Perez’s penalties were added, important for the McLaren – Ferrari constructor’s battle. Raikkonen on lap 71 looked at a move on Russell but had to back out at turn 4, meaning Vettel saw an opportunity to gain a position, however in a bizarre mistake for Raikkonen, he appeared to turn in on Vettel causing both to crash into the gravel.

Whilst the incident between Raikkonen and Vettel was happening, Verstappen crossed the line for his 15th win. A dominant performance from lights out meant the win was never in doubt for him. Bottas finished P2 and Norris finished in P3 with driver of the day after putting in a fantastic performance, further showing his great from in 2021. Mercedes didn’t really appear to affect the race much and couldn’t answer the performance of Verstappen in Austria. However, with upgrades reported to be coming to Silverstone and a home crowd for Hamilton, could this see a change in fortune for Mercedes?

Info graphics courtesy of Pirelli motorsports

 

Austrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Norris splits the Red Bulls

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max Verstappen took his 3rd consecutive pole position of the 2021 season as Redbull continued their dominance in Austria. The Dutch driver continued his excellent form and the pole position never looked in doubt due to the sheer pace of the Redbull.

For once, the other English driver on the front in Austria tomorrow will not be Lewis Hamilton as Lando Norris managed to put together a brilliant lap which was good enough to beat both the Mercedes and Sergio Perez in the other Redbull onto the front row. He was closely following Verstappen in the second run of Q3 which meant that he got a great tow and  agonizingly fell short by only four hundredths of a second to the pole position. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the other McLaren could not find the similar pace and will only be starting P13.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes could only manage P4 and P5 after they failed to make any improvements in their second run in Q3 and will be quickly searching for answers and hoping that their upgrades scheduled for Silverstone will bring about the pace that they have been lacking compared to Redbull.

Another headline worthy story from today’s qualifying is yet another one about the Saturdays of George Russell, where this time the English driver managed to put his car into not just Q2 but Q3 and a grid position of P9 on raw pace alone. The Williams team would be overjoyed with the result and Russell himself might be putting pressure on the Mercedes team to give him a shot with a display like today’s.

Aston Martin managed to get both their cars into Q3 with Sebastian Vettel set to start at P8 and Lance Stroll set to start at P10. The former however is under the scrutiny after he impeded Fernando Alonso’s flying lap at turn 10 causing the Spaniard to lose all the momentum and manage only a P14 starting place for the grid. It is yet to be seen what kind of a punishment would be handed to the German driver.

Alpha Tauri put up a very strong display on a hot track today as Pierre Gasly will be starting P6 and his teammate Yuki Tsunoda will be starting P7 as they will be fancying themselves for a double points finish tomorrow.

It was a day of questionable decisions at Ferrari as Carlos Sainz and Leclerc will be starting P11 and P12 respectively. A second run on medium tyres in Q2 meant that both the Ferrari drivers could not improve their times and could have done so if they went out on the softs. This decision was probably taken based on the race pace data from the last weekend where Ferrari looked fast on the medium and hard compound tyres and the Italian team will now be hoping for a repeat of the same.

Alpine had a qualifying to forget after both the cars could not make it into Q3 with Alonso being unlucky and Ocon not finding any pace in the car in the very first qualifying session itself. A visibly distraught Alonso and Alpine will be hoping for the race to turn around their way tomorrow if they are to score any points from the weekend.

Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi and Raikkonen will be starting the race from P15 and P16 respectively after only one of them managed to get out of Q3. Nicholas Latifi in the Williams will be starting P18 after he could not get anywhere close to his teammate and both the Haas cars will be starting with Schumacher at P19 and Nikita Mazepin at P20 respectively, which makes up the grid.

An 18 point gap is set to become wider between championship leaders Verstappen and Hamilton unless the Mercedes make a strong comeback in terms of race pace and strategy on Sunday. Sergio Perez starting at P3 means that we have a race on our hands with the battle for the constructors championship heating up as well, which sets up beautifully for a brilliant race in the Styrian mountains.

Red Bull display dominance at the Red Bull Ring

Max Verstappen took a dominant victory at the Austrian Grand Prix on Sunday, as Mercedes went four races without a win for the first time in the hybrid era.

After an excellent qualifying session yesterday, the stage was set for the latest edition in the fight between Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen. The midfield fights also looked to spice up the race, with Norris benefiting from Valtteri Bottas’ penalty and Gasly qualifying really well. Points were possible for George Russell in his Williams starting in P10; the fans can hope. Overtaking is definitely possible at this track with 3 DRS zones and a powerful slipstream meant the battle was on!

The lights went out and Verstappen immediately cut across Hamilton before turn one, having trust that Hamilton would not lock up and go into the back of him. Looking further down there were 4 cars across the track in a battle up to turn 3. Leclerc clipped the rear left of Gasly with his front right wing and tyre, giving himself damage and causing a puncture in Gasly’s tyre. In an attempt to steer the car around turn 3, Gasly collected Latifi and Giovinazzi but luckily didn’t end any of their races. Unfortunately for Gasly that was the end of his race, coming into the pits with suspension damage – Leclerc was able to pit for a new set of tyres and continue.

An early incident with Pierre Gasly meant a busy afternoon for Charles Leclerc – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

As Verstappen was pulling out a gap of two seconds and almost checking out in the lead by lap 6, his team mate Sergio Perez began to struggle behind the McLaren of Lando Norris saying over the radio that he did not have the speed on the straights to keep up. There were questions as to whether they would fight the Red Bull and Mercedes cars behind them, or race to their own plan and focus on staying ahead of Ferrari. On lap eight, these questions were answered. Perez made what looked like an easy move on Norris using DRS, and Bottas passing just a lap later. McLaren said on lap 12 that they were happy with the situation with Norris who was not experiencing some of the early car issues that team mate Daniel Ricciardo had.

After a very positive start for Russell, he made up three places from P10. The issues began when his engineer said, “plan B for reliability”, and pitting on lap 26 for tyres it appeared he had a slow stop to add more pneumatic pressure to the car. Having had to change his rear brake by wire overnight, it was hoped that this would be the last of his problems. However, just one lap later Russell pitted a second time for more pressure. At this point the hearts of Russell fans sunk knowing that points were no longer a possibility. 10 laps later Russell retired with the issue not able to be resolved. Heartbreak for him and Williams.

Perez was the first of the front runners to stop, but he had a slow left rear which meant that when Mercedes pitted Bottas they could punish Red Bull for the mistake with the undercut being powerful here, although not as much as Paul Ricard last week. Bottas was able to come out in front of Perez, which was vital for both the team fight and the race strategy. The large gap now formed by the dominant performance by Verstappen means that when Hamilton pitted just a lap after Bottas, he could not close it when Verstappen pitted.

Whilst not a classic or shocking race, this did have its entertainer in Leclerc. He began his recovery drive on lap two, making places very quickly and seemingly on a charge by lap 25, making a fantastic late move on Ocon. This was then a theme throughout the race; Leclerc continued to make his was through the pack, making brilliant moves and almost colliding with Raikkonen but managing to keep it clean. He made a great switch back move on Tsunoda out of turn four which was so exciting to watch. He ended up being voted driver of the day for a very entertaining recovery drive to finish seventh.

By lap 35 there was over a 30 second gap to Norris in P5, so Red Bull pitted Perez for tyres hoping to take the fastest lap off of Hamilton at the time. Gaining on Bottas at nearly two seconds a lap, he achieved provisional fastest whilst closing the 20-second gap. With just 2 laps to go, having settled for 2nd place, Hamilton pitted for fresh tyres to re-take the fastest lap from Perez.

A late stop from Lewis Hamilton saw him claim the fastest lap of the race – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

As the race ended, Verstappen won with a 35 second lead, showing his impressive and dominant form over the weekend and the race. Hamilton achieved fastest lap to finish P2 and crucially get that world championship point. Perez was still gaining on Bottas, and was poised to overtake for the podium place, but the chequered flag came just in time for the Finn. One or two more laps and Perez could have ended up on the podium.

Styrian GP qualifying: Verstappen takes pole as Hamilton gets to the front row

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Max Verstappen reigned supreme in the first Austrian race this year as the Dutchman calmly put his Redbull on pole in the mountains of Spielberg. The qualifying went as expected for the home team as it seemed that Verstappen did not need to break a sweat to achieve pole position.

He was two tenths quicker than his nearest competitor in Valtteri Bottas who finished 2nd but will be relegated to 5th because of the penalty that the Finnish driver picked up in free practice 2 as he spun in the pitlane. This means that the stage is set for round 8 of thr Verstappen-Hamilton title fight as the championship leaders lock out the front row with only 12 points separating the two.

Verstappen’s teammate Perez in the other Redbull will be starting at P4 and crucially ahead of Bottas which will help Redbull in their bid to challenge for the constructors championship. Lando Norris delivered yet another stellar performance continuing his amazing season as the English driver will be starting from P3 alongisde Perez. His teammate Riccirado in the other McLaren will be starting from as low as P13 after what seemed like a good weekend based on practice pace sort of fell apart for the Aussie driver.

Honda powered cars of the Alpha Tauri were enjoying the Redbull ring as it was evident from both Gasly and Tsunoda’s pace after both the cars were comfortably in Q3 and they are set to start at P6 and P8 respectively. Tsunoda’s position is however not quite confirmed yet after the Japanese rookie driver failed to move out of the way of Valtteri Bottas who was on a flying lap and could well be handed a grid drop after a trip to the stewards.

Fernando Alonso on the radio was chirpy as the Spanish driver expressed his happiness with his Q2 lap which put him well into Q3. He will be starting P9 as it stands while his teammate Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine could only manage a P17 concluding a mixed Saturday for the French team. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin makes up the top 10 on the grid after the Canadian’s efforts in Q2 saw him get into Q3 by very fine margins while his teammate Vettel could only manage P14 after his time in Q2 was deleted as the German exceeded track limits at turn 10.

George Russell in the Williams continued to live up to his Mr.Saturday tag as the English driver was so close to making it to Q3 as he lost out by a few hundredths of a second but will be starting P11 which could still be a very good place to start in, considering the free tyre choice that will be available to him. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams will be starting P16 in what looks to be a season of a slow but continuous improvement for the Williams team.

Ferrari’s resurgence after having taken back to back poles in Monaco and Azerbaijan seems to be coming to a screeching halt after the problems continued in Austria as well. Both the drivers could not find any pace in comparison to the drivers at the front of the grid after Charles Leclerc only managed P7 and Carlos Sainz a P12 after his lap time was deleted in Q2. The Italian team will be hoping for a quick turnaround of fortunes with some rain possibly in the air tomorrow.

Alfa Romeo managed to put one car in Q2 which happened to be Antonio Giovinazzi who will be starting P15 while Kimi Raikkonen could only manage a P18 after his excursions into the gravel near turn 4 meant he could not improve his lap times. Haas only managed P19 and P20 for Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin respectively which a visibly Gunther Steiner described as a learning experience for the team from his pit wall to the commentators. A tough season is set be endured by them after the team’s focus is set on developing the car for the next year’s regulations.

With an 80% chance of rain for the race tomorrow, the battle for the championship is heating up. Redbull have a clear advantage over Mercedes in terms of one lap pace but it has looked pretty even so far when it comes to race day. Verstappen will be looking to increase his lead over Hamilton in the championship but Mercedes will definitely go after the Red Bulls in what promises to be a thrilling first race in Austria this season.

Max fights back in a great win for RedBull

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Since returning to France and Paul Ricard in 2018, the two races weren’t ‘thrillers’, Lewis Hamilton leading 105 of the 106 laps raced in 2018 and 2019 combined. Expectation for this race was therefore low, the main talking point being the raising of tyre pressures and temperatures to prevent the incidents that happened in Baku from happening in France.

With rain washing the track this morning and the Formula 3 cars clearing some of the rubber laid down over the weekend, anticipation began to build as the weather conditions changed. Unfortunately for fans hoping the weather could affect the outcome, this turned out to be a dry race.

As the lights went out and they all got a clean get away, it looked like Verstappen had the better start, staying ahead of the two Mercedes. However, he locked up going into turn one, manging to make the corner he then had to correct some huge understeer, making him cut turn two, narrowly missing the yellow bollards on the inside. This gave the lead to Hamilton, who opened up a one second gap by the end of the first lap. The stewards decided no investigation was needed to Verstappen’s trip off track because he had manged to make it around turn one without any issues, therefore he did not need to use the escape road to re-join the track.

There was movement all the way down the field in the opening few laps. Perez didn’t have a great start but was quickly back up into fourth place by the end of lap one. Sainz, Gasly and Leclerc began a tight battle, with only two seconds between the three of them by lap six, it appeared this was going to last all race.

The McLaren boys also started there afternoon of entertaining Formula 1 fans all over the world, by battling each other into turn one, Norris having to concede and use the escape road. Just a few laps later, they came across Alonso who had issues with grip from his tyres on lap 11. Ricciardo first made a great move using DRS into the chicane, Norris then taking advantage of a struggling Alonso in the slip stream and making a move down the inside just three corners later. Both the McLaren’s looked very competitive today, which was great to watch. They then brought the constructors championship battle on track and had some great racing with both the Ferrari’s and Gasly before the pitstops, where the undercut proved powerful and Ricciardo came out ahead of Sainz and Gasly.

Back to the leaders, and Verstappen pitted first, hoping that the undercut would work against Mercedes. Pitting just a lap later, Hamilton came out and it looked tight as Verstappen came down the main straight. The undercut had worked for RedBull, with Verstappen beating Hamilton into the first corner on warmer tyres. RedBull decided to leave Perez out, on the radio saying, “Plan A, plus 3”, seemingly suggesting the one stop plus three laps. This allowed them to pull Perez back into the team race after a not so great start. Perez is well known for his management of tyres, so was able to keep up a good pace whilst out for the extra nine laps.

Appearing to be on a longer strategy than his rivals around him, Norris began to question if it was the right choice before coming into pit much later than everyone else. However, this worked to his advantage, having younger, fresher tyres he made his way through the field with some fantastic moves. He nearly collided with Gasly on lap 29 but managed to pass him just one lap later. He then followed that up by making moves on Leclerc and Sainz for P5. It seems he didn’t get the memo that its hard to pass at Paul Ricard!

By lap 33 Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas were experiencing issues with graining, especially on the front tyres. All three were talking about switching to a two stop strategy, but Mercedes seemed to hold firm, telling Bottas to stay as they were. RedBull felt different and pulled the trigger by pitting Verstappen just a few laps later. With his teammate the only car between him and the Mercedes, it was a straightforward team move, with compliments all round. The question now was if Bottas could hold up Verstappen long enough for Hamilton to get the win. On lap 45 we got our answer. Already saying over the radio he had no tyres, Bottas managed to defend against a DRS move into the chicane, but went too deep, leaving the door open for Verstappen to show the true straight line speed advantage RedBull had over Mercedes this weekend and making the move. A feisty Bottas came over the radio to explain that this was why he wanted to switch to a two stop.

The battle was now on, and Verstappen was hunting down Hamilton. However, Hamilton had begun to respond to the threat he knew was coming by increasing his speed and matching Verstappen’s lap times, hoping this would be enough to stay ahead. Sadly for him, it wasn’t. Verstappen caught him with two laps to go and inevitable made the move for the lead into the chicane for the lead. A role reversal from Spain a few weeks ago.

Whilst this was happening Perez had caught Bottas and made a great move into turn one for the final step on the podium having kept up with the top three all race and now benefiting from the poor strategy choice at Mercedes.

Verstappen took a great victory, Hamilton finishing P2 and Perez P3. This is the first time RedBull have won three consecutive races since 2013, with Verstappen and Perez being on the podium together for the first time ever. This Win for Verstappen means he stays in the lead of the driver’s championship for the rest of the triple header and definitely makes this interesting in the title battle for both the constructors and drivers championships.

Is Experience the Best Teacher?

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was definitely a race that was missed during 2020. A street circuit which often produces some exciting racing, testing overall straight line speed but allows for overtaking whilst testing the driver’s abilities to be calculated and precise enough to thread the car through the high walls of the circuit.

image courtesy of Getty images/ Red Bull content pool

Experience in an Formula 1 car is often key at tricky circuits like this, which shone through during this race, which did not disappoint. This week it seemed to be all about the older drivers putting in some epic performances which we know they are very capable of. They did give the young guns a run for their money, but it didn’t work out for all of them. Most drivers had solid races at Baku, but the skill of some of the experienced drivers was evident during the race, meaning they were able to maximise on what was a crazy race.

Perez is well known for his experience in an F1 car. Racing since 2011 in F1, he has learned a few things to keep in the mix when it counts, and this race was a clear example of that. In the early stages of the race he was able to keep up with Verstappen whilst keeping the 7 time world champion behind him under constant pressure. He managed his tyres well, showing pace in them during the pitstops, and had it not been for a slow pitstop he may have come out in front of his teammate. During the red flag restart, it would have been easy to get caught up with Hamilton going straight on down into turn 1 if he hadn’t backed out of the move. Even though in his F1 career he has very rarely been at the front, he handled the pressure absolutely perfectly to come out on top with a very deserved win.

Clearly full of confidence after a fantastic performance in Monaco, Sebastian Vettel had an incredible race and a solid weekend all round. Had it not been for the red flag at the end of Q2, he was looking at an almost certain top 10 qualifying, adding to the excellent qualifying from the previous race. After qualifying P11, finishing in P2 was absolutely deserved, and he showed his pace in the Aston Martin early on. During the first round of pitstops he gained the lead by default as the front runners changed their tyres earlier than expected. Vettel was able to manage the soft tyres whilst still pulling a gap on his rivals to then come out P7 after his pitstop. On the safety car restart he showed his experience again, navigating his way past Leclerc without contact despite getting very close. Vettel has gotten used to the new car very quickly, showing he has enough trust to make moves during both the restarts. A resurgence from him is definitely what the fans wanted after a not so great year with Ferrari in 2020.

Alonso had a highly anticipated return to F1 at the beginning of the season, however so far he hasn’t been so successful, being out qualified and finishing behind his teammate Ocon on Sunday. This could be down to getting used to F1 again after his time away from the series, along with getting used to a new car with a relatively new team under new management. Watching his on board camera from the restart after the red flag, he clearly showed why he is a double world champion. Starting on the grid in P10, he made up for places to finish P6 by the end of the 2 lap sprint. What is striking about his on board though, is the skill involved. He had the inside line into turn 1 but was being squeezed by Sainz, who also had Ricciardo on the outside. Alonso did not make contact with the wall or the other cars during any of this. He then demonstrated his race craft by waiting for the right moment on the same lap to overtake Tsunoda. This created an epic finish for him, the likes of which we were used to seeing before.

The oldest man on the grid did not want to miss out on the action, as is normal for Kimi Raikkonen. For him the highlight of the day was a skillful move on Bottas into turn 7, the slowest on the track, during the safety car restart. Raikkonen has shown throughout his time at Alfa Romeo that he still has plenty of talent to keep him in F1 and finishing in the points with moves like this are often the reason for this.

When talking about the experienced drivers on the grid, Lewis Hamilton is part of this conversation being extremely consistent and changing his style over time. However, the incident after the red flag restart was a rare mistake from him, the team revealing afterwards that he had flicked on the magic brake button whilst changing gears. This changed the brake bypass to mostly front end, meaning the car couldn’t stop before the turn. This admittedly makes the error an odd one because this has never happened before, despite the buttons position never really moving. They say it’s best to learn from your mistakes and Hamilton says they will grow as a team.

Overall, Mercedes had a terrible weekend. This is where the team experience came in, allowing them to try different set ups, strategy’s, and tactics to get the most out of a seemingly lacklustre performance from the car all weekend. By the end of Q3, the changes made to Hamilton’s car were successful with him managing to secure P2. Bottas on the other hand was arguably hampered by the red flag at the end of the session but suffered massively during the race. The Mercedes is not known for its great ability to pass other cars in the midfield, but with what appeared to be the quickest straight line speed and the power of the slipstream, a few DRS based moves into turn 1 were expected. Instead Bottas made his way backwards at the restarts and didn’t perform well. However, he did have a different rear wing to Hamilton, which the team confirmed as driver preference, this may have ultimately hampered him when trying to overtake.

Looking forward to the next couple of weeks, Mercedes will need to win in France to make up the points in the constructor’s championship after having lost more to the RedBulls this week. The outcome of the race could also have a huge impact on the Driver championship, with the front runners not gaining any points this week, it is massively important they maximise each race, as cancellations become more frequent and look to threaten the 23 race calendar. France is not known for amazing action over the last few years, but with the 2021 season we are having it could be unpredictable.

Perez picks up the pieces as Baku strikes again!

Sergio Perez won a bonkers Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday as Lewis Hamilton finished fifteenth, failing to close the ground in the championship.

This race came with high anticipation because of all the incidents in qualifying which led to an unpredictable starting grid. Charles Leclerc managed to start on pole this week with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen behind with arguably faster cars on race pace. Positioning for Leclerc was key as the long run into turn 1 provides a great overtaking opportunity at the start of the race. Hamilton pointed at Verstappen, showing that he would be covering the Dutchman off.

The start of race was a clean one, everyone making it through turn one without any issues. Hamilton pushed Leclerc but decided to back out this time, while Sergio Perez made a great overtake on Pierre Gasly, meaning he gained two places. Antonio Giovinazzi gained five places with an epic first lap, to then come in and change for Hard tyres along with George Russell in a strategic move.

At the end of lap one, the power of the slipstream around Baku showed, as Hamilton was able to make a move on Leclerc to take the lead without the use of DRS. One lap later, Verstappen had the chance to overtake the Ferrari man; this time they both had DRS and Verstappen would not make the crucial move until lap seven. Perez was able to follow his teammate on the next lap, bringing in both Red Bulls against just one Mercedes from a strategic point of view.

As the pit stops began, Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso came in at the same time, continuing the battle from on track. Norris was able to overtake the Alpine with a great move on lap 11. Leclerc pitted on lap 10, considerably earlier than predicted and Tsunoda was told to push with a fantastic response by telling his engineers: “I am, Shut up!” At this point, Mercedes decided to pit Hamilton for the hard tyres; he was held for two seconds too many to allow a passing car. A very quick 1.9 second pit stop for Verstappen meant that the extra 2 seconds were costly for Hamilton. Perez had been quietly making up the gap and pushing while the front two were pitting. Once Perez came into his pit stop, he had a slow left rear tyre change, but Hamilton’s delay proved even more costly when Perez came out behind Verstappen but, importantly, ahead of the champion.

Vettel was then leading the race because he hadn’t stopped. He opened up a gap, allowing himself to create a gap to his rivals for when he pitted, gaining positions on them when he came out in P7. Valtteri Bottas was being given the hurry up from his team whilst Vettel pitted, while the Finn was locked in an intense battle with Norris, the team requiring him to pass for a top six finish. This was squashed when he took a small trip through the runoff area at turn 16, opening up the gap.

As we were settling into the race, on lap 31 Lance Stroll had a massive, high speed crash on the straight. Stroll was understandably shaken, but okay and got out of the car with no issues. It appeared to be a potential left rear tyre failure, but this yet to be confirmed. The safety car was brought out, the cars were bunched up, and the tyres could not be changed due to Stroll’s crash happening in the pit lane entry. This was the extra bit of excitement the race needed at that point.

At the restart, Vettel had an epic getaway, taking Leclerc and nearly making a move on Gasly to gain some places. The four-time champion then completed the move on Gasly and charged for Hamilton. Bottas, conversely, had a terrible restart, losing 3 places by the end of the lap. Unfortunately, his race went from bad to worse at that point, not able to make any overtakes at this circuit.

Azerbaijan was the first time sine Austria 2018 that neither Mercedes has scored points – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Once we had calmed down from that restart, there was a second major incident. This time Verstappen crashed near the start finish line on lap 48! Similarly, to Stroll’s crash it was the left rear tyre which appeared to have failed – again, this is yet to be confirmed. The race was then red-flagged after a very interesting FIA team radio with Red Bull was revealed, where it was suggested a red flag was necessary to allow everyone to change tyres after they had no warning that there was a problem.

It was then confirmed that the race would be restarted with a standing start; a 2 lap sprint race had everyone nervous and excited. After the 20-minute stop, they lined up on the grid, Hamilton’s brakes smoking very heavily. The lights went out, Hamilton had a better start on Perez and looked like he would take Perez in turn 1 with the inside line, but he went straight on! This was down to the brakes, revealing in a radio after the race that he “left the magic on”. The magic believed to be a is a tyre warming set up used for safety car tyre warm up (yet to be confirmed).

In an intense battle to the finish, Leclerc and Gasly fought for the final podium place. Mercifully for both Gasly and Perez the chequered flag came out. Perez won, with Vettel P2 and Gasly P3. The didn’t end there because Perez had to stop on the cool down lap with an apparent hydraulics issue which meant they nearly had to retire the car.

It was a huge result for all three podium-finishers – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

This is possibly one of the happiest podiums. Perez got his second win ever, and his first with is new team. Vettel looks to be back to his old form with a first podium for Aston Martin, and Gasly had a great race finishing third, definitely deserved for the whole Alpha Tauri team. With Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen out of the points, it was important that Perez picked up the extra points for Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship.

Azerbaijan GP: Leclerc takes his 2nd pole of the season in Baku

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

It was Charles Leclerc of Ferrari who took pole in Baku on Saturday afternoon after a frantic qualifying session. The Monegasque driver received a nice little slipstream behind the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton in the first run of Q3 and was able to put a competitive time on board which was good enough for pole position.

The second run of Q3 was brought to a halt after Yuki Tsunoda of Alpha Tauri  crashed into the barriers during his flying lap which was followed by Carlos Sainz of Ferrari locking up and losing his front wing in the same corner followed by a hard hit to the barriers. This meant that there was yet another red flag in the session and pole was decided. The Spaniard however managed a lap good enough for P5 in the first run but will not be too amused after the crash was severe on the back end of his car which might result in a gear box change.

Mercedes finished the session with Lewis Hamilton qualifying at P2 and Bottas at P10, after the Finnish driver provided Hamilton a tow during the first run of Q3 but could not get his own lap in during the second run. The team will be satisfied that they could put at least one car on the front row but Bottas will rue his misfortune on a track that he is generally good at.

Driver’s championship leader Max Verstappen drove a very good lap but only managed a P3 while his teammate Sergio Perez could only manage P7. One thing that Redbull can still be confident of is the fact that their race pace has looked promising in the season so far and crucially, the championship rival Hamilton is not so far up ahead.

Pierre Gasly continued to impress after an excellent lap saw the French driver place his Alpha Tauri at P4 after an amazing lap while his teammate Tsunoda managed a P8. An excellent position for the team overall barring the carsh for Tsunoda later on means they will be hunting that double points finish right from the start.

Lando Norris continued his good start to the season after qualifying at P6 but the English driver is under investigation for infringements after red flags in the first qualifying session. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s dismal season continued after the Australian driver crashed into the barriers towards the end of Q2 which ended his qualifying and put him on P13 on the grid for the race tomorrow.

Fernando Alonso bounced back from his bad outing in qualifying at Monaco and qualified into Q3 this time around with a mega performance. Having termed Baku 2018 as the best race of his career, Alonso will be looking to make the most of the scenario as he is set to start from P9 on the grid and is in with a chance for some valuable points tomorrow. His teammate Esteban Ocon could not get out of Q2 and will be starting the race from P12.

Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll brought on the first red flag of qualifying in Q1 after he crashed out towards the end of sector 2 on his first run in Q2 and will be starting at P19. His teammate Vettel narrowly missed out on Q3 by as less as three hundredths of a second after the red flag brought on by Ricciardo meant that he could not improve his lap time. The German driver will start at P11 but has an advantage of starting on tyres of his own choice.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi was involved in the second red flag during Q1 after crashing into the same corner as Lance Stroll and the Italian driver will be starting last. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen will be starts P14 after his Q1 laps were good enough to get out of it. Both the Haas cars had clean Q1 laps and they will be starting with Schumacher at P17 and Mazepin at P18 respectively.

George Russell in the Williams got out of Q1 yet again and will be starting the race at P15 but it was not certain before the start of the session. The English driver had to wait until the mechanics changed the entire power unit of his car after a water pipe leak meant he could not continue at the end of his last free practice. His teammate Latifi will line up at P16 after failing to get out of Q1.

The race is set to get underway with championship rivals Hamilton and Verstappen all set to start at 2nd and 3rd while Ferrari slowly seem to be improving and mounting challenges. The race promises to be a cracker as is the usual setting in Baku when the five lights go out.

Spanish GP: Hamilton takes win number 98

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took his 98th Formula 1 win on Sunday afternoon after delivering yet another stunning drive which was strategically very reminiscent of Hungary 2019. The English driver started from his 100th pole position and fell behind to his title rival Max Verstappen but thanks to an aggressive and well thought out strategy from the Mercedes team, he was able to come back into the race and take the lead towards the very end and went on to win.

Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas was once again limited to playing the team game as he failed to match either of Hamilton or Verstappen. The Finnish driver did not quite back down after team orders were implemented which meant Hamilton had to overtake him losing some time in the process. It all ended well as the English driver was able to catch the leading Redbull and take a healthy lead in the driver’s championship. Sergio Perez in the other Redbull could only manage only a 5th place finish which brings into question, the ever present dilemma surrounding the Redbull second car.

Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari drove an excellent race finishing 4th ahead of Sergio Perez in the Redbull which means it is good signs for the Ferrari after a season to forget last year. Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari also had a very good drive after his battles with the McLaren drivers saw him finish 7th. Daniel Ricciardo in the McLaren seems to have gotten over his shaky start to the season and drove an excellent race to finish P6 while his teammate Lando Norris just seems to have taken foot off the gas after a good start to the season and managed an 8th place finish only.

Esteban Ocon started off the weekend in a brilliant fashion after qualifying P6 but could only manage P9 in the race while his teammate Alonso after being involved in the tussle for the final points position for a long time had to pit towards the end and ended up at a lowly P17. Alpha Tauri had a mixed weekend after Yuki Tsunoda’s car had an engine failure very early in the race but Pierre Gasly managed his race well after he had to overcome the challenge of Aston Martin drivers.

Aston Martin had a very under the radar showing with both the drivers Stroll and Vettel finishing outside points and the team will be left to figure out how to better their fortunes in a fortnight’s time for the Monaco grandprix. It was a better outing for Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo than last time as he finished the race this time around and finished well at P12. His teammate on the other hand had to sit through a sub 40 second pit stop and could only manage a P15.

‘Mr.Saturday’ George Russell had yet another mellow Sunday interms of the result but the whole team will definitely take heart from a performance where he was close to P10 for the most of the afternoon but failed to put the final fight in for it and finished P14. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams finished at P16.

Haas cars had yet another slow outing during the race and Mick Schumacher managed an 18th placed finish despite a bright start from him and his teammate Nikita Mazepin only finished last of the lot while often being mentioned in the radio for not following the blue flags correctly.

Redbull definitely seemed to have the pace going into the race but they were caught out by Mercedes’ aggressive strategy just like Hungary 2019 as Lewis Hamilton drove his heart out in Barcelona. Max Verstappen will have many more chances in the upcoming part of the season to take the challenge to Hamilton on track but for now the momentum is with the British driver.