Grand Prix of Mexico FP3 Reactions

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports (Andrew Home)

Going into Free Practice 3 the big question remains, “Will Lewis Hamilton claim his 4th Drivers Championship?”
High altitude and dust at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez makes life more difficult for the teams, and yesterday’s struggles for grip underscore the challenges. A stiff headwind leading into Turn 1 made for a good deal of excitement as drivers entered the braking zone, and the lower temperatures made for a struggle getting supersoft tyres up to snuff.

The FIA has taken a more aggressive approach to track limits by putting additional measures in place to prevent drivers from gaining an advantage by playing fast and loose with the boundaries. Additional kerbing has been laid out to provide immediate consequences for running wide, with further markers being set up overnight at Turn 11. If drivers cut Turn 10, they’ll need to drive through the markers to ensure they don’t gain an advantage. The stewards will additionally remind the teams about certain corners of concern. Racing drivers are competitive in the same way that the ocean is damp, and curbing their natural tendencies to extract every advantage leads to stewarding being a thankless job at times. It’s thus important that they enforce the rules consistently.

From the session, Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly will face an uphill fight in tomorrow’s race, his FP3 (and later Qualifying) literally vanishing in a puff of smoke due to a mechanical failure after two laps. With only 10 laps completed yesterday due to an engine issue, and two today, he’s desperately short of real-world track time. Simulator time and study are important tools, but there’s no substitute for getting actual miles in the car.

After losing the Super Formula championship by half a point when the race he skipped Austin for was cancelled due to Typhoon Lan, it feels like Gasly can’t win for losing. We hope his luck improves for the remainder of the weekend! With the Honda power supply deal looming next year, the cynical response would be to say, “Get used to it, kid.”

On the other side of the Baby Bulls’ garage, Brendon Hartley put in another quiet, workmanlike performance to finish the session in 11th. Hartley continues to demonstrate his skill, and Toro Rosso wouldn’t go amiss with him on the roster in 2018.

Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Valtteri Bottas seems to be finding his form again, setting a track record of 1:17.681 on ultrasofts near the midpoint of the session, only to top it with 1:17.537 moments later. Though his record wasn’t to stand, being topped by Ferrari, Red Bull, and his teammate Lewis Hamilton, Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is just the sort of circuit Bottas enjoys, so here’s hoping for a good show from him both during Qualifying and the race.

Championship leader Lewis Hamilton spent much of the session lurking near the top of the timesheet, but reported engine issues during the middle portion of the session. Happily for Lewis, the response from the pit wall was that it was something that’d just require a calibration adjustment. Hamilton himself went on to sit briefly atop the timings with a momentary record of 1:17.118

Despite being the overall favorites for pace thus far, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen faced some struggles getting his supersoft tyres into shape. The first sector caused him particular trouble, and given Pirelli’s skittishness about lowering tyre pressure the main option to put more heat and grip on the front will be aero. Of course, Verstappen’s first sector times weren’t exactly bad, so one is left wondering if he simply got placebo changes. Whatever they did to resolve it, it seemed to work as Max went on to top Bottas’ and Vettel’s and Hamilton’s top fastest times to finish the session with the new track record of 1:17.113.

Scuderia Ferrari concentrated much of their session on the supersoft compound, but when they switched to ultrasofts their true pace shone through. Sebastian Vettel briefly topped the timing sheets, with a lap time of 1:17.230. Barring quality gremlins, Ferrari will be a force to contend with tomorrow.

Local boy Sergio Perez of Force India ran an uneventful session, finishing in 7th just ahead of his teammate Esteban Ocon. Should Force India conclusively lock up 4th in the Constructors Championship, ‘Best Name in F1’ winner Otmar Szafnauer has said that the drivers will be free to race again. Here’s wishing the team a solid weekend so we can enjoy the Perez-Ocon rivalry in the final events of the season. They’ve certainly done a good job of reining it in for the team, and it’d be great to see them unleashed.

Though it is of course difficult to generalize from practice performance, there should be an exciting battle at the front of the pack between Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes. Onward to Qualifying!

Grand Prix of Mexico Qualifying Reaction

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

The twin themes for Qualifying are excitement and disappointment. On the excitement front, watching the shootout for P1 was thrilling. While it’s certainly au courant to knock the current generation of power units, as the 2017 package hits high levels of development it’s fantastic to see the track records falling. Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in its current incarnation may not have much of a history to compare against, but it’s nonetheless exciting to see records fall.

On the disappointment front, the luckless Pierre Gasly of Scuderia Toro Rosso will be starting from the back after missing Qualifying due to a power unit change, and Brendon Hartley’s promising start to qualifying was also cut short due to an engine failure of his own. Haas failed to perform to expectations, and even typical high performers Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo qualified below their proven potential. One can perhaps understand Ricciardo’s slower pace in comparison to his teammate as Verstappen has a more advanced power unit, but it’s still unusual to see him so far behind. McLaren continues to show how what could have been, and Williams continues in their inconsistent form.

Renault and Force India occupied the middle ground between the extremes. Their drivers all delivered competent performances, qualifying in the lower half of the top 10, but apart from the crowd’s obvious love for Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez the highs and lows experienced by the other teams overshadowed their solid performance.

It was no surprise to see Ferrari open with a strong performance on supersoft tyres, though while Sebastian Vettel finished the session in 4th his teammate Kimi Raikkonen fell to 7th, behind McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Force India’s Sergio Perez.

While Mercedes was able to beat Ferrari, they did it on ultrasofts. While Mercedes’ pace is generally undeniable, their need for the softer compounds this round shows that they’re not as safe as they might be.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen topped the Ferrari times – also on supersofts. Hamilton’s engine gremlins continued, with Hamilton reporting another engine cut during the latter half of the session. Regardless, his early time of 1:17.518 ensured he’d safely advance to Q2. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo completed the session in 10th.

Force India’s Sergio Perez, the local favorite, put delivered a solid performance for his supporters the grandstands and occupied 6th.

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso continued to demonstrate the sadly-unrealized potential of the car by climbing to 5th in the first half of Q1 following a forgettable series of practice sessions. The waning moments of Q1 showed Honda’s return to form as Alonso reported no power and no turbo. Despite this, he still managed to deliver excellent sector times as the flag fell.

The flying laps after the chequered flag saw the usual last-minute excitement among the backmarkers. Alonso’s teammate Stoffel Vandoorne climbed to 13th. Toro Rosso’s resident Kiwi, the impressive Brendon Hartley, advanced, finishing the session in 14th. Williams’ Lance Stroll rounded out the Q2 field in 15th. Sadly, Haas and Sauber both failed to put together enough performance to advance to Q2. Given the disparity between Sauber and Haas’ power units, Haas’ finishing behind Sauber is troubling.



Records continued to have a very short lifespan due to the battle at the top of the timing chart, and ultrasofts are the order of the session among the frontrunners. Bottas rocketed to the top of the leaderboard with an opening time of 1:17.161 on ultrasofts, but was topped by Vettel with 1:17.058 (incidentally setting a new track record). Hamilton, disregarding any worries over his engine, put in a blistering new record time of 1:17.035 in turn.

Hartley’s Toro Rosso let him down in the early stage of the session with a sadly-familiar puff of smoke echoing Gasly’s FP3 misfortune. His radio message to the pit wall, “No power, no power,” signaled the end of a promising day and bringing out a yellow.

The yellow flags caused Max Verstappen to back off a promising lap, but he recovered to set his own new record of 1:16.524. Vettel fought back and topped Hamilton, but wasn’t able to unseat Verstappen.

Force India and Renault certainly took part in Q2, but apart from the crowd’s cheering for Checo there wasn’t much notable in their performance – but an unexciting advancement to Q3 is just as much an advancement to Q3 as an exciting one, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Williams continued to suffer from their ongoing inability to quite bring everything together, and elected to only run late in the session. The lower air pressure at altitude contributed to their woes thanks to the associated lack of downforce, and they weren’t able to rise out of the drop zone.

While Vandoorne and Alonso did each put in an early lap, McLaren elected to not attempt to set times for Q2 to preserve tyres, and likely power units, for the race. After Alonso’s excellent Q1 performance it’s disappointing to see McLaren still making these decisions.



The crowd loves Checo, and their excitement seeing him in Q3 comes through.

The battle for pole didn’t disappoint, and once again the boots of choice were ultrasofts. Bottas got a good start, but was forced to abort his early flying lap when he came up on a slower-moving Verstappen in the Foro Sol section. While Verstappen did move off to the left, Bottas wound up braking hard and locking up briefly before diving for the pits where he was to remain until the closing minutes of the session. The stewards announced an investigation into Verstappen for impeding Bottas, but in a move that will doubtless ease any sense of anti-Verstappen bias determined that no action was warranted.

Hamilton put in a valiant effort and sat briefly in P1 himself with a repsectable-but-not-unbeatable time of 1:16.934. The churn in P2 was entertaining, with Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Sainz, and Ocon occupying the position in turn until Sebastian Vettel coaxed his SF70H, Gina, into delivering a lap of 1:16.833, pushing everyone ahead of Verstappen down a spot.

Verstappen responded with a fastest first and second sector, going on to set an excellent time of 1:16.574. For a moment it seemed that a record other than track time, namely youngest pole winner, might be broken, but this sadly wasn’t to be.

After the mid-session lull, Bottas completed his flying lap with a 4th-place 1:16.958 shortly before the chequered flag fell. Hamilton was unable to improve his time.

After the flag fell, Vettel completed his own flying lap to set a new record with a time of 1:16.488, securing his 50th pole position. Verstappen was unable to improve his own time, taking second. Bottas’s own final lap wasn’t enough to improve his position.

As with Q2, the battle at the front overshadowed otherwise competent drives from Renault and Force India. And as with advancing to Q3, an unexciting top-10 starting position is just as much a top-10 as an exciting one. Ocon certainly had the best performance of the midfield, qualifying a surprising 6th ahead of Ricciardo.

As the dust settled on an exciting qualifying session, the grid prior to penalties was VET VER HAM BOT RAI ECO RIC HUL SAI PER MAS STR HAR ALO VAN ERI WEH MAG GRO GAS.

With Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen on the front row, one can only imagine the conversations in the Ferrari and Red Bull camps, hoping to avoid a repeat of the carnage at the start of the Singapore Grand Prix. Even though it’s quite possible that we’ll see the Drivers Championship locked up for Lewis Hamilton during the race session, it’s still exciting to see Red Bull and Ferrari bringing the fight to Mercedes at this late stage of the season. Hamilton’s engine gremlins certainly add an element of uncertainty, and Renault-powered teams will doubtless be keeping a wary eye on their engines following Toro Rosso’s troubles.

United States Grand Prix Yee-haw-cap

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America.
Sunday 22 October 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONY2503

The weather just south of Austin, Texas was fine for the start of the United States Grand Prix, with the early morning rains moving on with plenty of time. That heavy rain, though, cleaned the track up considerably with all the rubber deposited over practice and qualifying washed away. This newly-green surface added an element of uncertainty to the pre-race proceedings. The very-American opening ceremony proved to be polarizing. For every fan that enjoyed Michael Buffer’s boxing-style driver introductions (beneficial to an American audience, many of whom aren’t as familiar with Formula One), there was one who found it ‘cringey AF.’ Whatever your reaction, you can’t deny that Liberty Media delivered on the promise of spectacle for this race’s opening ceremonies.

The word of the day for the United States Grand Prix was ‘poised’. After a record-setting weekend, Lewis Hamilton and his teammate Valtteri Bottas faced the day poised to secure the fourth consecutive Constructors Championship for Mercedes AMG Petronas. Sebastian Vettel was poised to breathe a bit of life into the Drivers Championship if he drove well, and if he didn’t (or if he suffered some other issue) Hamilton was poised to seal his fourth Drivers Championship. Carlos Sainz was poised to make a good impression in his debut with Renault. Brendon Hartley was poised to make a good showing in his first single-seater race in years. The paddock was full of expectations. Who would see their goals realized? Who would leave disappointed?

When the lights went out, Lewis Hamilton made a solid start but Sebastian Vettel did him one better, leaping off the line to take the lead at the outset. The remainder of the field enjoyed a fairly clean start.

The opening lap saw a great deal of shakeups in the field. Force India’s Esteban Ocon briefly got the jump on Kimi Raikkonen for 5th, but it was not to last. Fernando Alsonso’s McLaren overtook Carlos Sainz’s Renault for 7th, in what I’m sure McLaren hopes to be a harbinger of next season. Williams’ Felipe Massa overtook the other Force India of Sergio Perez for 9th. At the bottom of the field, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg took 17th from Haas’ Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne of McLaren took 19th from Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. There was a contact between Weherlein and Magnussen, which was later determined to not merit any further action by the stewards.

And Max Verstappen began his inexorable climb in his Red Bull. In the first lap alone, he overtook both Saubers and Williams’ Lance Stroll, bringing him up from 16th to 13th. In the second lap, he claimed Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Toro Rosso’s Dany Kvyat. Lap 3 saw him pass Perez, and Massa in lap 4, rising to 9th by lap 5.

Toward the front of the field, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo brought the fight to Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas several times in the early laps, but wasn’t able to make any of the attempts stick. Raikkonen lurked quietly behind Ricciardo, searching for an opening. Hamilton and Vettel traded fastest laps early on, with Hamilton declaring that the, “[p]ace feels pretty good,” as he settled into the groove. Hulkenberg’s race came to an untimely end in lap 4 thanks to an engine failure, to the disappointment of both his fans and his team.

Lap 6 saw Hamilton finally able to make a move on Vettel to retake the lead. Despite a valiant defense, Vettel was unable to deny Hamilton, and the #44 Silver Arrow found its legs. Weherlein’s race came to an end at this point with a retirement due to damage.

Lap 10 brought Max Verstappen into 6th place, overtaking Ocon in at turn 12. The teams began eyeing pit stops, with Stroll going in for softs on lap 11 and Ricciardo requesting that he be brought in as soon as there’d be good track position. Vettel reported blistering on the left front during lap 12, and Raikkonen made an attempt on Ricciardo.

Pit stops began in earnest in lap 13, with Ricciardo and Perez both taking new tyres. Perez, pitting from 11th and rejoining in 15th, opted for a set of softs, while Ricciardo pitted from 4th left the pits on a set of supersofts to rejoin in 9th. Ricciardo’s stop allowed Raikkonen to rise to 4th and Verstappen to 5th. With his fresh tyres, Ricciardo handily overtook Sainz to advance to 8th. Ocon and Alonso both stopped for fresh rubber in lap 15, with Ocon rejoining in 12th and Alonso in 14th on soft tyres.

After setting the fastest lap thus far, misfortune struck Ricciardo. His Tag Heuer-branded Renault power unit gave up the ghost, leading him to coast to a halt on the grass past turn 15 and bringing out a double yellow for sector 3 as his car was recovered. Both Renault and Red Bull were doubtless feeling a bit of nervousness for their remaining drivers, though (spoiler alert!) there were no further Renault-powered retirements.

By this time, a significant gap had emerged between the Mercedes, Ferraris, and lone Red Bull at the front of the pack.

Lap 17 saw Vettel dive for the pits from second, emerging on his new set of soft tyres in 5th behind the hard-charging Verstappen. When faced with Vettel’s pit stop, Hamilton confidently declared, “Tyres are good, I can extend.” His confidence in his well-worn ultrasofts seemed to be well-placed, as the onboard camera shots showed no indication of striping or blistering. Nonetheless, worn ultrasofts, no matter how well-managed, would be tricky to match against Vettel’s fresh set of softs. Vettel confirmed his tyres’ puissance by setting the fastest second and third sectors, and then going on to set the fastest lap shortly thereafter.

Mercedes brought Bottas in for soft tyres in lap 18, causing him to take his turn in 5th when he rejoined the track and allowing Raikkonen, Verstappen, and Vettel to each climb one place. The battle in the midfield continued apace, with Sainz and Massa jockeying for position with McLaren and Force India. Sainz’ stop in lap 19 for – you guessed it, softs – left Massa in 6th, trailed by Ocon, Alonso, Perez, and Vandoorne. Alonso issued a call to his team for strategy information, sarcastically telling them, “It’d be nice to know what I’m doing.” Rejoining in 11th, Sainz would face an uphill battle for position for the remainder of the race.

Hamilton finally entered the pits in lap 20, also taking a set of soft tyres. His crew turned in an excellent stop, though this led to a fraught moment for Mercedes, as Vettel was closing fast while Hamilton climbed out of the pits and up to turn 1. While his tyres were a few laps newer than Vettel’s, they were cold while the Ferrari’s rubber was already up to temperature. Hamilton did manage to rejoin in 3rd, just in front of Vettel, and was able to defend his position. Vettel wobbled and ran a bit wide in turn 1, and Hamilton set about rebuilding his lead and catching Max Verstappen.

With Raikkonen entering the pits for softs in lap 21 (and duly taking his turn in 5th upon exit), Verstappen’s strategy became a hot topic. Verstappen began the race on a used set of supersofts, and despite his masterful performance thus far they clearly wouldn’t last forever. This was brought into focus in lap 23 when Hamilton was able to successfully attack Verstappen and reclaim the lead. The question of a Verstappen-Vettel battle began to loom when Red Bull finally called their wunderkind into the pits in lap 25 for a set of… softs. Verstappen dutifully rejoined in 5th.

In the midfield, Marcus Ericsson went into the pits in lap 21, emerging with softs of his own but falling from 13th to 18th in the process. In lap 25 tragedy – by now firmly farce – then struck struck Fernando Alonso. Again. With a call from the pit advising him to back off, he returned to the garage and ended his race with yet another Honda-powered retirement. Our hats are off to Alonso for being able to maintain any sense of equanimity after the absolute disaster that is the modern McLaren-Honda partnership, though doubtless seeing the Renault-shaped light at the end of the tunnel helps. We also wish Toro Rosso the best of luck for 2019. Unless Honda is able to resolve these serious issues, they’ll need it.

The following lap, Alonso’s more fortunate teammate pitted for a set of ultrasofts, rejoining in 15th. Sainz began to methodically reel Force India in up in the middle of the pack, while Perez and Ocon continued to vie for position themselves. Happily, both Force India drivers kept it clean, avoiding the on-track contact that cost the team so dearly earlier in the season.

At the front of the pack, Verstappen went on to set the fastest lap of the race. Vandoorne meanwhile passed Hartley on lap 28 and Stroll in lap 29 to rise back to 13th. Massa made his first stop of the race in lap 30, trading his supersofts for a set of new ultrasofts. This late stop did cost him, as he rejoined in 12th. Meanwhile, Hartley continued his quiet-but-proficient drive, breathing down Stroll’s neck.

Continuing the long, slow burning battle between the Force India drivers and Sainz, Perez’s calls to the pit wall requesting that Ocon let him by were denied. Ocon’s fine, he was told, YOU need to manage better, and management’s what we need right now. Sainz’ patience finally paid off, and he overtook Perez at turn 19 to advance to 7th. This in turn left Perez in Kvyat’s sights. In the midst of all this, Massa began to regain positions, overtaking Magnussen in lap 32 and later claiming the other Haas in lap 39.

Lap 38 saw a surprise pit stop from Max Verstappen for a set of supersofts. While exiting the pit, his crew radioed, “You know what we’re up to. We need a big lap.” Vettel followed Max in on lap 39 for a set of supersofts of his own. Pitting from second, he rejoined in 4th. This was a risky move. Would Verstappen’s new supersofts outperform Vettel’s used set? Would Vettel be able to close the gap to Raikkonen and Bottas? Ferrari would doubtless issue team orders, instructing Raikkonen to let Vettel pass, but Bottas certainly wouldn’t be so obliging. Verstappen then set the fastest lap thus far.

By lap 42, Raikkonen was able to mount a successful challenge on Bottas for second. By lap 44, commentators were discussing the scenario of Vettel passing Bottas, and Raikkonen being issued the expected orders to let Vettel pass.

In an example of the interesting things that can happen when the front runners lap the backmarkers, on lap 46 Marcus Ericsson attempted to follow Vettel past Kevin Magnussen at turn 12 under the blue flags. Magnussen wasn’t having it and tried to close the door. The drivers bumped, with Magnussen coming out worse for the wear after a spin, plummeting to 16th. Though Ericsson did briefly claim 13th, the stewards handed him a 5-second time penalty for his trouble and Stroll quickly overtook him for the position.

Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz continued his long search for advantage over Esteban Ocon, but Ocon’s defense continued to be impregnable. This so impressed the world feed directors that they continued to broadcast the feed from Sainz’s car as Vettel set the fastest lap of the race and approached DRS range on Bottas.

By turn 1 of lap 51, Vettel was in position to attack Bottas. Bottas, apparently relying on traffic to provide cover, miscalculated the his position relative to Vettel and the lapped Vandoorne and failed to mount an effective defense against Vettel’s attack on the outside. This cost Bottas 3rd, and opened him up to attack from Verstappen. Bottas was able to more effectively use traffic, in the form of Romain Grosjean’s Haas, to hold Verstappen off for a bit.

In lap 52, the expected radio call from Ferrari’s pit wall to Kimi Raikkonen arrived. “Seb is now the car behind, Seb is now the car behind. OK, if Seb comes alongside, let him by.” The Finn dutifully ceded 2nd place to his teammate. A short distance behind, Bottas had run out of time against Vertstappen. Verstappen attacked on the inside, forcing Bottas wide. Bottas wasn’t able to make his counterattack stick, and with nothing to lose he made a gamble of his own by pitting for a set of ultrasoft tyres. Sadly, it amounted to nothing and Mercedes’ in-house Finn was left to finish in 5th.

Overshadowed by the action at the front, Massa quietly overtook Kvyat for 9th place, and a couple of points for Williams.

Having dispensed with Bottas, Verstappen then set his sights on Raikkonen. With only 2 laps left and a little more than a second between them, Verstappen would have only one chance to attack Raikkonen. Pushing hard, it appeared that Verstappen would fall just short of Raikkonen.

As Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to secure the fourth consecutive Constructors Championship title for Mercedes AMG Petronas, Verstappen mounted an audacious attack on Raikkonen at turn 17 as the chequered flag fell, and claimed third place for his efforts.

In what will doubtless be a long-discussed penalty, the stewards determined that Verstappen had exceeded the track limits to gain advantage, and gave him a five second time penalty. This led to an awkward moment after the race, as Verstappen was already in the cool-down room.

The final finishing order, after time penalties, was:


Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton for a well-fought victory in Austin! Congratulations to Mercedes AMG Petronas for the fourth consecutive Constructors Championship! Congratulations to Sebastian Vettel for setting the fastest lap of the race, with 1:37.766 and keeping the Drivers Championship alive, at least mathematically! Congratulations Max Verstappen for getting us up out of our seats and shouting in the dwindling seconds of the race!

We can’t wait to see what Mexico brings us on Sunday.

‘David against Goliath’ the battle between Vettel and Alonso

Two of the best drivers on the grid battled several times, each other for the title of the world champion. Fernando Alonso is a two time world champion currently racing for McLaren-Honda, before that he was a test driver for Benetton, joined Minardi in 2001, Renault was his next station from 2003 to 2006, then signed a contract with McLaren where he raced for only one season and returned back to Return in 2008. Fernando’s next step was Ferrari, from 2010 to 2014. In 2015, he returned to McLaren and he is racing there since now.

The Spaniard, while he was racing for Renault, finished first on the drivers’ championship for two consecutive years. Nando, won his first title in 2005 and the following season celebrated his second and final title.

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel born in Heppenheim on July 3rd, 1987, at his early steps as a Formula One driver, Sebastian joined BMW Sauber as a test driver and made his official debut at the United States Grand Prix in 2007, then he signed a contract with Toro Rosso and remained there until 2008. The next stop in his career was Red Bull Racing, during his period with the Bulls he celebrated four championships (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). In 2015, the German fulfilled his childhood dream, signed a contract with Scuderia Ferrari and he is still racing for Ferrari alongside Kimi Raikkonen.

David vs Goliath

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel fought each other for the championship while they were racing for Ferrari and Red Bull respectively. Two times Fernando was very close to beat Vettel and win the championship with Ferrari, the first was in 2010 and the second was two years later in 2012. The Spaniard wished to become David and finish ahead of his opponent, but unfortunately Goliath was stronger, and Red Bull was unbeatable those years.

In 2010, Sebastian Vettel finished first in the drivers’ championship, the difference to his rival Alonso, was just four points. The German scored 256 points, whilst the Spaniard collected 252 points. In 19 races Vettel and Alonso were fighting wheel to wheel for the world title, during those races Sebastian retired three times and finished out of the points only in Belgian Grand Prix. Furthermore, Vettel won five races same number of victories with his opponent Fernando Alonso.

From the other hand, Fernando Alonso retired in Belgium, didn’t finish the Malaysian Grand Prix and finished out of the top ten at Silverstone. In the last six races of the 2010 season, Nando won three Grands Prix and finished twice third. Fernando played his final card for the championship in the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Vitaly Petrov the Russian title decider

A thrilling race took place in Yas Marina, before the race, Fernando Alonso was leading the drivers’ championship with 246 points, followed by Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel which collected 236 and 231 points respectively. Lewis Hamilton had also mathematical chances to win the title as he had 222 points and he was 24 points behind Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard, had to secure the first two places in order to win the title without having to consider the other results.

On Saturday’s qualifying, Sebastian Vettel secured the pole-position, Lewis Hamilton was the second quickest driver on the grid and Fernando Alonso took the third position followed by Jenson Button and Mark Webber. At the first lap of the race, Sebastian Vettel was leading the race, followed by Hamilton and Jenson Button. Alonso had a slow start which cost him the third place and dropped him down to fourth. After the first pit-stops, Alonso re-joined behind Petrov. Fernando was on hard tyres and Petrov had already done his pit-stop, Alonso couldn’t overtake Vitaly. Even when the Spaniard tried to attack the Russian, Petrov was always in position to defend his position.

Sebastian Vettel led the race all the way, Lewis Hamilton finished second, Jenson Button third, and Fernando Alonso, after 40 laps of battling with Petrov, finished seventh. That result was enough for Sebastian Vettel to secure his first world title in his Formula One career.

Two years later…

Credit: Pirelli

In 2012, the two drivers crossed their swords once again. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso fought closely, but at the end the Germans always win. Vettel scored 281 points in 20 races, whilst Alonso scored 278 points. The German, finished five times on the top step of the podium, retired in the European Grand Prix and finished out of the points in two races, the first was in Malaysia and the second in Italy.

Fernando Alonso, won three races during the season and finished ten times on the podium. The Spaniard, retired in Belgium and in Japan, but despite those two retirements he finished in the top-10 in the rest races.

In Italy, Sebastian Vettel retired on lap 47 due to failed alternator, after that race the German won four consecutive races, finished third in Abu Dhabi, second in the USA and sixth in the final race of the season in Brazil. In Brazil, Sebastian Vettel needed to defend his 13 point lead in order to secure his third championship. The fourth position, would be enough for Sebastian to give him the title, even if Alonso won the race.

Fernando Alonso, qualified eighth whilst Sebastian Vettel set the fourth quickest lap on the grid and placed behind Hamilton, Button and Webber. The rain altered everything during the race, the teams were confused about which strategy would be correct for their drivers. On lap 23, the safety car deployed, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were fifth and fourth respectively. The damage on Vettel’s car didn’t allow him to set a quick dry laps, few laps later the rain forced all the drivers to pit for intermediates.

At the end of the race, Fernando Alonso finished second and Sebastian Vettel sixth, still Vettel collected enough points in order to celebrate his third world title.

Hopefully, one day we will see these top two drivers to fight, once again, each other for the title.

The Red Bull’s Legend – Sebastian Vettel

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull currently have four constructors titles and four drivers titles, those four titles are all courtesy of one driver, Sebastian Vettel. The German’s relationship with the team begun in 1998 at the age of 11, when he signed to their junior team. His success in the junior formulae acted as a precursor to his career at the top table as he won the Junior Monaco Kart Cup in 2001.

He then went on to win the 2004 German Formula BMW Championship, with a whopping 18 wins from 20 victories. This opened up his door to F1 as he was rewarded with a test in the Williams FW27. While he was winning these cups in the junior categories, in Formula One another German was taking all the plaudits. As Vettel won 18 from 20 races in 2004, Michael Schumacher was taking his seventh world championship in his most dominant season. He took 13 wins from 18 races and took his final championship win.

Vettel begun testing for the BMW Sauber Formula One team in 2006, while participating in the F3 Euroseries, coming second to Paul Di Resta. 2007 saw him get his big break, while racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. Following Robert Kubica’s horror smash at the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel was called up to replace him for the US Grand Prix. He qualified seventh and finished eighth, taking his first point and becoming the youngest point scorer in history, aged 19 years and 349 days.

BMW released Vettel so that he could join the Scuderia Toro Rosso team for the remainder of the 2007 season, replacing Scott Speed. This is where his journey to Red Bull stardom began. Following a few impressive results, his big break came at the Italian Grand Prix in 2008. He qualified on pole in horrendous conditions, becoming the youngest polesitter, which he then masterfully translated into his and Toro Rosso’s first win. He broke Fernando Alonso’s record set at the 2003 Hungarian Grand Prix of youngest winner.

For 2009, Red Bull promoted Vettel to their team alongside Mark Webber, and the rest, as they say, is history. He took Red Bull’s first win at the Chinese Grand Prix, with team mate Mark Webber in second. He took four wins that season and finished second in the championship to Jenson Button in the dominant Brawn.

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

2010 however, was an interesting year for the team, at the Turkish Grand Prix, while challenging Webber for the lead, the pair collided, putting Vettel out of the race, and the relationship turned sour from that moment on. Both were fighting for the championship come the end of the season, with Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso joining them, in a winner takes all clash at Abu Dhabi. He took pole and won the race, taking his first championship, following in the footsteps of John Surtees in 1964 and James Hunt in 1976 in not leading the championship at any point during the season.

2011 was another story, he was dominant, taking 11 wins from 19 races, showing his driving prowess and the newly found power of Red Bull in Formula One. The Austrian team had beaten the heavyweights of McLaren and Ferrari in becoming the top team in the sport. Vettel was quickly becoming known as one of the best drivers in the sport, taking record after record. 2012 saw him take his third consecutive title, emulating Juan Manuel Fangio and Michael Schumacher in the process.

He was in a battle with Fernando Alonso, again, and it went down to the final race in Brazil. After a first lap collision, Vettel was at the back of the grid, he battled back through the grid, taking sixth, while Alonso finished second, meaning there was nothing Alonso could do. A rather symbolic moment from the race however was Mercedes’ Michael Schumacher moving over for Vettel to take sixth place in Schumacher’s final race. It was almost like there was a changing of the guard between the two.

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

2013 saw Vettel take an impressive fourth title, not without its hairy moments, with the now infamous multi-21 incident in Malaysia. Vettel ignored team orders and overtook Webber, taking the win, the Australian was incandescent. Their relationship was already fragile following the incident in 2010, and this was the final straw, with Webber believing the team was against him, he decided to retire from Formula One at the end of the season.

He was booed at some races and Vettel revealed it did have a negative impact on him, though it was widely condemned by many drivers. It didn’t appear to faze him too much as he ended the season with 13 wins from 19 races, including nine consecutive wins at the end of the season.

2014 was the beginning of the end for Red Bull and Vettel, with the rules being changed, Mercedes became the dominant force, with Vettel being overshadowed by new team mate Daniel Ricciardo. In Japan it was confirmed that Vettel would join Ferrari, ending a 16 year association with Red Bull. A German at Ferrari, sound familiar?

Vettel is currently fighting for the title with Lewis Hamilton, but it’s clear that without Red Bull, Vettel’s career could have been so different.

Mid-Season Report, Who will Rule Formula 1?

It’s this time of the season, where the drivers and the crews are taking their summer break and enjoying some days off with their families and friends.

For the fans, it’s a good point to see how the Formula One teams and drivers performed during the first half of the season. After eleven races Sebastian Vettel is leading in the drivers’ standings (202 pts) followed by the British champion Lewis Hamilton (188 pts), the gap between the two drivers is just 14 points, Mercedes and Ferrari are very close this season, that can be seen from their results and the points that the two teams have collected.

The Silver Arrows are first, on the constructors’ standings, by 39 points. As it seems the title will be a battle of two teams, but what about the drivers?  Will it be decided only between Vettel and Hamilton?

There is one driver who seems able to challenge the two champions, he will try to take advantage of their battle and slowly he will try to claim Formula One’s throne. That driver is Valtteri Bottas.

The Finn is third with 169 points, he is 19 points behind his team-mate and 33 points behind the leader, Sebastian Vettel. Bottas, have finished eight times on the podium and have won two races, his first victory was in Russia and his last one in Austria. It is a great achievement if you consider that it’s his debut season with Mercedes and that he is racing alongside a three-time champion who is fighting for his fourth title.

London, United Kingdom.
Wednesday 12 July 2017.
Carlos Sainz Jr, Toro Rosso STR12 Renault.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _X4I1034

Mercedes will face a challenge, Bottas is in a good form, Hamilton is desperately wanting to win this season, after last year’s defeat from his team-mate, now their team has to decide if they will let them race or if they will pull the card of number 1 and number 2 driver.

Red Bull Racing is far away from the two contenders, the Bulls are currently third, they have scored 184 points and most of these points were scored by Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian has finished five times on the podium and won in Azerbaijan. From the other hand, Daniel’s team-mate, Max Verstappen is not facing, the best moments of his Formula 1 career. The young driver finished third in China, and retired on five of the eleven races. It looks that Red Bull can secure the third place and focus one the following season, their only threat is Force India.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon are doing a good job this season, they have scored 101 points, 72 less of the points which Force India scored in 2016. They both look to be enjoying their season, Perez has finished in the points in nine of the eleven races, whilst Ocon failed to score point/s only in Monaco where he finished 12th.

Williams is not facing its best season so far, Felipe Massa returned from retirement, in order to give the chance to Bottas to move to Mercedes and try his luck in a better team, was it the right decision? The Brazilian finished sixth in the season premiere in Australia, in Bahrain he also finished in the same position, these were Massa’s two best finishes. Last season at the summer break, Felipe had 38 points, fifteen more points from those that he has now.

Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan.
Sunday 25 June 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _54I4953

From the other hand, his team-mate, Lance Stroll crashed or trashed (if you prefer) his Williams with every possible way he could think of. From the pre-season tests the young driver was not looking very “skilful”, his results confirmed that. The Canadian had four retirements in the first four races of the season and one more retirement in Monaco, five DNF in eleven races. He scored his first two points in Canada, where he finished 9th. In Azerbaijan, Lance achieved the unachievable, after a top drive he finished third. That was the only podium for Williams this season.

Toro Rosso is only two points behind Williams and chasing them for the fifth place in the constructors’ championship. A battle between Williams, Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault is expected for the fifth place. Last season, Williams secured easily the fifth place, but now they are struggling, these four teams are close to each other and all of them have at least one good drive to racing.

Romain Grosjean finished sixth Austria and scored eight valuable points for Haas, a one man show is a good slogan, which suits, to Renault as Nico Hulkenberg have scored all their points (26) so far. Toro Rosso is in an almost similar situation, Kvyat has scored just four points, whilst Sainz is doing all the hard work. Carlos, finished sixth in Monaco, that was his highest finish and until now he has 56 points, eleven less than Max Verstappen.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada.
Friday 09 June 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONY2825

McLaren, is the team which impressed me the most in the last race before the summer break. Fernando, was ready for his holidays but he had only one obstacle to face, the Hungarian Grand Prix. The Spaniard, finished sixth in Hungary, scored eight points and then he took his yacht and visited Greece.

Pascal Wehrelin is trying to save Sauber from its disaster, but his results are not enough. Five points for Pascal, he finished eighth in Spain and tenth in Azerbaijan, his team-mate(s) is still trying to figure out if he is racing in Formula One or..

With nine races to go I am expecting a strong fight between Vettel Hamilton and Bottas, don’t underestimate the Finns!

Who will rule the Formula 1 Kingdom?

Have a nice holiday!

Victor Archakis

*Twitter: @FP_Passion

Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel Have Had Their Fair Share of Bad Luck, it’s Game On Now

The Hungarian Grand Prix  this weekend sees three men in with a chance to lead the World Drivers’ Championship after the race.

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton are virtually neck and neck at the summit, but Valtteri Bottas has certainly put himself in the hunt.

Suddenly there is a lot more riding on this weekend.

The British Grand Prix set the cat amongst the pigeons in the Formula One World Championship fight.

Where before, Vettel had a lead of 20 points and was steadily extending his lead in the Championship on diet of consistency served with a side of controversy, that gap is no more.

Hamilton’s dominant display at Silverstone coupled with Vettel’s afternoon from hell meant that the Brit’s deficit was cut to just one point.

We’re now exactly halfway through the season, and while Vettel and Hamilton have been the two central figures, Bottas in the second Mercedes cannot be ruled out of the running either.

The Finn has quietly and calmly closed the gap since retirement in Spain from third place – had he finished that race, he’d be only eight points behind Vettel.

Hamilton’s headrest strife in Azerbaijan following that series of crazy events in Baku undoubtedly cost him 15 points, while he was off colour all weekend in Sochi.

Vettel was on for third in Silverstone before his tyre blowout and also should have been higher in Canada after contact with Max Verstappen’s Red Bull caused extensive damage to his front wing and floor, costing the German a podium.

Bottas has confounded experts who said that he was a stop gap until Fernando Alonso could break free from his McLaren contract at the end of 2017.

Victories in Russia and Austria have put him within a race win of the decorated Hamilton.

And that could cause Mercedes a headache. While Ferrari can, and have, lined up behind Vettel from early on this season, Mercedes cannot.

Budapest suits Lewis Hamilton. After all, he has won there five times already – although never in a season in which he has won a world title.

Tighter circuits similar to the Hungaroring layout have tended to suit the Ferrari car, and with the weather often hot in Hungary the Prancing Horse will also be bullish about their chances.

Vettel also has a victory here, taken at the chaotic 2015 staging of the event.

The last time the winner of the Hungarian Grand Prix went on to win the World Championship in the same season was 2004 during the Schumacher/Ferrari juggernaut.

One of the three title contenders will have something to say about that this weekend.


IMAGE CREDIT: Mercedes AMG F1 Photography Pool – Wolfgang Wilhelm, Australian Grand Prix 2017

Ferrari Review: Sebastian Vettel’s penalty not a talking point if Lewis Hamilton’s headrest had stayed attached

Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan.
Sunday 25 June 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONY8206 via Pirelli media

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s incident is unquestionably the hot topic of what was a crazy Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

For Ferrari it represents points lost in the Constructors’ Championship as Kimi Raikkonen retired after an eventful evening while Valtteri Bottas produced a comeback worthy of Felipe Massa to finish second behind eventual winner Daniel Ricciardo, after stealing extra points from Lance Stroll on the line.

Ultimately after a race containing more than a few melees Vettel gained on his title rival Hamilton by finishing fourth, a place ahead of the Brit, who had to pit from the lead to address a broken headrest.

So, I might as well get straight to it.

On lap 21 Lewis Hamilton appeared to slow slightly (Not brake) at turn 16 to prepare for the restart of the race after a Safety Car period for debris.

For whatever reason Vettel was wrong-footed and ran into Hamilton, angering the German.

While madly gesticulating in a return to last year’s red mist mayhem at Mexico, Vettel hit Hamilton with his hands off the steering wheel.

I would find it very difficult to believe that Vettel would risk his car in such a way as to deliberately wheel-bang into his rival.

At 50mph it is very easy to break the suspension of both your car and your target if you were to deliberately ram into another car.

What is more logical is that he simply wasn’t looking at his steering angle in his rush to perform hand-gymnastics in the direction of Hamilton.

And then there is the furore over the 10-second stop/go penalty that the stewards dished out on one of their busier days.

That cost Vettel half a minute, and was a fittingly severe penalty for a moment of stupidity from a vastly experienced World Champion.

It doubtlessly cost him the race victory.

The reason I say that is because no amount of F1 dodgems would have caused Hamilton’s headrest to become loose.

Without Hamilton’s strife Vettel would have lost at least 15 points and thus surrendered the lead of the World Drivers’ Championship, and with only himself to blame.

Had Hamilton not hit structural gremlins then precisely nobody would be calling Vettel’s penalty lenient, least of all the frustrated three-time champion – who branded Vettel a “disgrace.”

So yes, Vettel ended the race with upper hand but it had nothing to do with his lovetap of Hamilton’s Mercedes.

The punishment was announced at the same time that Hamilton pitted to fix his headrest, and that means it would have been decided beforehand.

So to then alter the punishment based on Hamilton’s issues would have been mind-bogglingly amateurish. They were rightly chastised with their handling of Daniil Kvyat’s penalty(ies) in Canada for parade lap infringements.

The stewards had to stick with what was the correct punishment.

The incident was at low-speed and because of aforementioned factors it was unclear just how deliberate the contact was bearing in mind Vettel wasn’t looking where he was going (The key shot is the onboard).

There have been far more heinous acts committed in a Formula One car, if not necessarily far more thoughtless ones.

The incident adds fire to what was a peaceful Drivers’ Championship fight. This could turn into a fight as heated as the Rosberg years.

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8

A Dreaming Start for Scuderia Ferrari

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.
Sunday 16 April 2017.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _31I3281

Two wins in the first three races have moved the Ferrari in the first place on the championship board, not far from Mercedes which is just three points behind.

Sebastian Vettel has found his lost personality and leads the Scuderia to one of the most thrilling seasons. Two chequered flags, a second position in China and 68 points for the four-time world champion so far in this season. Whilst his main title contender, Lewis Hamilton, won one race and finished two times in the second place.

It’s still too early to judge, but I strongly believe that it will be a very close battle between two of the best drivers on the grid. Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have the ability to get the 100% of their car and fight wheel to wheel for the title. Lewis Hamilton looks satisfied because finally Ferrari is competitive and Sebastian Vettel is a respected opponent in his eyes. From the other side, Vettel wants to return to the top and win his fifth title in his Formula One career and fulfill one of his childhood dreams.

In China the safety car gave an advantage on Lewis to lead the race, as Ferrari called Vettel into the pits earlier, when the virtual safety car was deployed, but in Bahrain the safety car was in Ferrari’s favour, and a five seconds time penalty which Hamilton received might cost him the race or at least a battle between him and Vettel for the chequered flag.

The only ‘disappointing’ so far is that Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen are not as fast as their team-mates. The Finns, are struggling to follow Hamilton’s and Vettel’s pace, Valtteri showed some of his skills by taking the pole position in Bahrain, but that was not enough to secure him a good race on the following day. But it is not fair to judge Bottas, as he moved from Williams to Mercedes only a few months ago and he is still trying to find an ideal set-up for him.

From the other hand, Kimi Raikkonen is far away from his good side, the Finn is looking lost and unable to help Ferrari at that moment. Kimi finished fourth in Australia and Bahrain, and fifth in China, so far he has scored 34 points in the championship, half the points which Vettel have scored.

Raikkonen had a good season last year, hence everyone was expecting something good from him this year, but he failed to satisfy his fans. He is a very experienced driver, and I hope that he will improve his performance and will manage to fight for a place on the podium and for a victory in the following races.

The new regulations have improved the quality of the sport. Faster cars, wheel to wheel battles and very impressive overtakes make the 2017 season the best season of the last years.

It was obvious from last year that Ferrari wanted to take advantage of these changes and make a reliable and fast car, the risk paid off for the reds until now and Tifosi are dreaming a tittle after almost nine years.

I cannot predict the winner of the 2017 season, but I certainly can say that this year will make us to hold our breath until the final chequered flag in Abu Dhabi.

Victor Archakis – F1 Editor – @FP_Passion

©2014-2024 ThePitCrewOnline