Verstappen wins in Dominant Style as we Round Out 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verstappen takes record-breaking Mexican GP victory

Max Verstappen became the first man in Formula One history to win fourteen races in a season with victory at the Mexican Grand Prix, as the Mercedes challenge failed to materialise on race day.

A different tyre strategy gave Mercedes hope of a first victory of the season, but Lewis Hamilton had to settle for second once again, with Sergio Perez coming home in third place.

The race start. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The start of the race turned out to be crucial, with pole position traditionally not the best at this circuit due to the 800m run towards turn one. Red Bull started Verstappen and Perez on the softs to give themselves the best chance versus the medium-shod Mercedes cars, and it worked out with Verstappen able to retain the lead, and Perez able to get ahead of Russell. Barring pitstops, it remained that way in the top four, with Ferrari unable to challenge in what was the Italian squad’s slowest weekend of the season.

Given the high altitude nature of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez stretches the cars’ cooling to the limit, it was perhaps unsurprising to see the field managing their cars throughout the early stages. Despite this, Red Bull weren’t able to stretch their soft tyres much beyond lap 20, with Perez the first of the front-runners to pit on lap 23, and Verstappen coming in two laps later. Both were put on medium tyres, raising the question as to whether they’d be able to manage these enough to get to the end, or whether they’d go aggressive and push for a two-stop strategy.

The pace of these fresh mediums was clear to see, especially on Perez’s car, with the Mexican setting fastest lap after fastest lap as a cacophony of cheers followed him around the circuit. Mercedes were forced to react to stop Hamilton from being undercut by Perez, with the Brit coming in on lap 29 for hard tyres.

George Russell was adamant that he wanted to stay out on the mediums for as long as possible, in an attempt to change to the soft tyres at the end of the race. Eventually, he was called in on lap 34, again for a set of hard tyres.

Verstappen leading Hamilton. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Mercedes were hoping that the mediums would degrade enough to give them a chance of taking victory for the first time this season, but Hamilton spent most of his second stint looking in the rearview mirrors at Perez, rather than closing the gap to Verstappen. Although the Mexican did briefly get within DRS range of the Mercedes, Hamilton’s superior pace through the final sector meant that, as was the case last year, an overtake was never really an option. From here on in the positions looked set in stone, with Verstappen, Hamilton and Perez cruising home to take the podium places, as Russell finished in fourth place after a late stop for softs, in order to secure the fastest laps. Carlos Sainz finished in fifth place ahead of Charles Leclerc in sixth, with the Monegasque driver now dropping behind Perez in the fight for second in the standings.

As is often the case in Formula One, it was the midfield that provided most of the action. Fernando Alonso led this pack for the majority of the race, after jumping the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas at the start. Unfortunately, reliability problems struck the Spaniard once again, and he retired for the fifth race this season, in what could be a big blow in Alpine’s battle with McLaren for fourth in the championship.

One of the few drivers to go for a medium-soft strategy was Daniel Ricciardo, and he utilised the red-walled Pirellis superbly, securing seventh place despite picking up a ten-second penalty for a collision with Yuki Tsunoda, which led to the Japanese driver’s retirement. Ricciardo overtook Lando Norris, Bottas, Alonso and Esteban Ocon in the final stint – in what was by far the Australian’s strongest showing this season. Ocon came home eighth ahead of Norris, with Bottas holding on to take tenth for his first points since the Canadian Grand Prix in June.

Ricciardo’s pace on the softs at the end may have left many drivers wondering what could have happened to their races if they had gone longer in the first stint – notably Hamilton and Russell. Mistakes from both drivers in qualifying helped Verstappen to secure pole position. Still, the Dutchman’s pace on race day was once again on a different level – with Verstappen also now having the record for most points in a Formula One season, with two races still to go. However, as Max is one of the first to admit, the points system and amount of races in a season now mean these records are perhaps easier to secure in the modern era.

After a week that was dominated by talk of cost-cap punishments, Red Bull will be glad they could do their talking on the track once again – in what is now their most successful season in the sport. With Brazil and Abu Dhabi still to come, you’d be a brave person to bet against Red Bull and Verstappen securing the top step on the podium once again this season.

F1 Race Weekend Preview: Mexico

Three rounds left to go, and both championships wrapped up but that doesn’t stop the action. Mexico is next with plenty of off-track drama to chat about before the on-track drama begins.

Haas vs Alpine vs RedBull vs The Stewards

During the US Grand Prix Alonso hit the back of Stroll after the Aston Martin made a late move down the back straight. This sent the front end of the Alpine into the air before brushing a barrier. Luckily for the Spaniard, he was able to get his car back to the pits for the team to change the tyres and front wing. However, it appeared his wing mirror was not attached properly and came off during the race.

Perez with his damaged wing. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The RedBull of Perez also had an issue with body parts falling off. After a first lap incident part of his front wing was flapping around for several laps before flying across the track. The team decided not to change his wing through the entire race because he would lose too much track position.

After the race, Haas protested against both RedBull and Alpine which led to a 30-second time penalty for Alonso, dropping him outside the points. Alpine has since contested the result and will be a part of a hearing, scheduled to take place today. The protest regarding Perez was seen as inadmissible by the stewards.

The problem actually lies with the stewards. They should have brought out the black and orange for both cars like they have done with Magnussen many times this season. This looks to be another case where the teams are coming out worst off from a decision which they should have made during the race by the stewards. This is likely to cause many rumours throughout the paddock.

Perez takes on his Home Race in a Championship Winning Car

Sergio Pérez celebrates after the Red Bull Racing Showrun in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

This year there is no doubt which team has been able to capitalise the most in races, and with both championships wrapped up, this may be Perez’s chance to be the first Mexican to win his home Grand Prix.

It has been no secret that Perez has had to play number two driver this year and last year, the difference now is that there is no need for the team to favour Verstappen to gain points for his championship. This means that Perez has everything behind him to win the race. However, performances have not been on his side lately.

Whilst overall he is still an extremely quick driver, he has struggled to keep up with his teammate as well as the Ferraris and often both Mercedes. He will be hoping for a turnaround in form so he can give the home crowd something to cheer about.

Qualifying is on Saturday at 9pm BST and the race starts at 8pm on Sunday.

F1 Race Weekend Preview: America 2.0

Rain-soaked confusion in Suzuka eventually led to Max Verstappen achieving his second World Drivers Championship. We move on to the states where we are back at COTA which will hopefully provide us with another crowd-pleaser.

Championship battles are not over yet

2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The race to first in the driver’s championship may be over, but second is still very much up for grabs. A P2 in Japan for Perez meant he moved back ahead of Leclerc by only one point heading into this weekend. With four rounds left, the fight for vice-champion could go down to the wire with both drivers wanting to finish best of the rest, and maybe save some dignity for Leclerc, who had been Verstappen’s main rival.

For the teams, however, their main focus is always the constructors as this is where the prize money is handed out. It looks inevitable that Mercedes will have their dominant run in the V6-turbo era ended as they are the only team to win the constructors championship in this period.

RedBull could complete the double at the end of the US Grand Prix if they win the race or are 147 points clear of Ferrari by the end of the weekend. This would be the first time RedBull would have won both championships in the same year since 2013 when Vettel became a four-time world champion.

The Cost Cap issue rolls on

After a delay in the announcement, RedBull’s celebrations were cut short as the FIA finally confirmed they and Aston Martin had breached the 2021 cost cap. RedBull had a “minor” infringement which is a less than 5% breach, whilst Aston Martin is reported to have an even smaller breach.

There have been official penalties from the FIA, but it is expected that this will be the main talking point on everyone’s lips, especially if RedBull do manage to wrap up the constructor’s title at the end of the weekend.

RedBull celebrating in Japan before the announcement. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

American Drivers back in F1

Logan Sargeant, Charouz (Rudy Carezzevoli, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Even if it is only for FP1, the young driver of Logan Sargeant will get his chance to take to the track in the Williams while Alex Palou is getting his shot in the McLaren which will give plenty of American fans something to cheer about.

Sargeant has been linked with the Williams seat available with Latifi departing and De Vries signing with Alpha Tauri. He is currently third in the standings in F2 and had an impressive season in 2021 which has led to this opportunity. He will want to impress the bosses at Williams to prove he is ready for the next step in his career.

 

It’s a late one for those in the UK. Qualifying starts on Saturday at 11pm BST and the race at 8pm BST on Sunday.

Perez provisionally takes Singapore GP victory, with potential penalty looming

Sergio Perez survived a late-race onslaught from Charles Leclerc to provisionally take victory at the Singapore GP but finished under a cloud as he awaits the results of an investigation for an infringement under the Safety Car.

Perez got a good start off the line to be P1 into turn 1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The Mexican took the lead at the start of the race and was never headed, in a race where he and Leclerc were the class of the field, finishing well ahead of Carlos Sainz who came home third in the second Ferrari. With Max Verstappen only finishing in seventh after an eventful afternoon, the championship battle continues onto next week’s race at Suzuka.

The race start was delayed due to torrential rain at the start, meaning that the formation lap finally got underway 65 minutes later than originally planned, at 21:05 local time. The entire field started on intermediate tyres, with conditions much wetter than they were in qualifying on Saturday.

Those on the traditionally ‘dirtier’ side of the grid got the better start, with Perez comfortably ahead of Leclerc before they hit the brakes for turn one. Sainz was also able to get ahead of Lewis Hamilton but it was a lot less straightforward for the Spaniard, as he made contact with Hamilton’s Mercedes before finally staying ahead. This was the start of a frustrating race for Hamilton, as he spent the first half staring at the diffuser of Sainz’s Ferrari.

Verstappen fighting Magnussen after losing places at the start. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool.

It was a difficult start to the race for Max Verstappen, who bogged down at the start, dropping down to twelfth on the first lap. The reigning champion didn’t waste any time moving through the field, however, quickly dispatching Kevin Magnussen (after contact between the two which caused the Dane to pit) and Pierre Gasly to get back into the points.

It was an attritional race at the Marina Bay circuit, with multiple safety car and virtual safety car periods. The first safety car came after Nicholas Latifi squeezed Zhou Guanyu into the wall as the Alfa Romeo attempted an overtake, with the resulting damage causing both to retire. Latifi was given a five-place grid penalty for Suzuka after the incident.

The next three interruptions were all virtual safety cars. Fernando Alonso was doing a superb job of keeping Verstappen behind in his 350th race, before pulling off with power unit issues. Shortly after, Alex Albon made contact with the wall, leaving his front wing out on track before retiring in the pits. Esteban Ocon compounded a miserable day for Alpine when his engine failed spectacularly on lap 28, as the Enstone-based team failed to score points for the second race in a row.

In a carbon copy of yesterday, the track reminded slippery well after the rain had stopped, meaning drivers had to struggle around on their old intermediates. The first person to try something different was George Russell, who had been stuck in a train all race after starting from the pit lane. His medium tyres looked to be the wrong call, before finally coming into their own by lap 34, as he started setting purple sectors.

Russell on the mediums sooner than expected. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

This led to a glut of cars coming into the pitlane, including Hamilton, who had to change his front wing after making contact with the barriers at turn seven. McLaren stayed out longer than everyone else, and their gamble paid off when Yuki Tsunoda crashed into the wall at turn ten after hitting a wet patch, bringing out the race’s second full safety car. This allowed Norris to retain his fourth place after the pitstops and brought Daniel Ricciardo up into sixth, with Verstappen sandwiched in between.

The Red Bull got a superb run on Norris into turn seven on the restart, but locked up on the damp part of the circuit, dropping down to last after taking to the escape road. He was able to recover back to the pits and put on a fresh set of soft tyres, eventually recovering to seventh place after a fantastic battle in the final laps with Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton nearly another collision as he tried to overtake Vettel, with his front wing coming within inches of the Aston Martin’s rear tyre, as Lewis ran deep to allow Max through.

Sainz didn’t have the best race despite finishing P3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Out in front, Perez and Leclerc were quickly able to pull away from Sainz and traded fastest laps with each other for the first laps after the restart. Even after DRS was activated, however, the Ferrari was not able to get close enough to Perez when it really mattered, with a small mistake in the final sector from Leclerc dropping him out of DRS range, and giving Perez a clear path to on-track victory.

The late drama with the leaders came as the FIA announced that Perez’s alleged safety car infringement would be investigated after the race. Red Bull were wise to any potential penalties, quickly telling Perez to up the pace, as he finished 7.7s ahead of Leclerc in second. However, with Perez under investigation for both safety car restarts, it is possible that Leclerc may still be awarded the victory.

Both McLarens finished in the top five, as they jumped Alpine to take fourth in the constructor’s championship. Lance Stroll finished sixth, his best of the season, ahead of Verstappen, Vettel, Hamilton and Gasly. The double points finish for Aston Martin means they leap both Alpha Tauri and Haas in the constructor’s championship, with the Silverstone squad now three points ahead of Haas and Alpha Tauri in the battle for seventh.

Results today mean Perez and Leclerc still have a mathematical chance of claiming the world championship. A win for Verstappen with his two rivals failing to finish second would secure a second world championship for the Dutchman, who will be hoping for a much more straightforward race next weekend.

The race podium. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

 

Leclerc secures Singapore GP pole in tricky conditions

Charles Leclerc mastered the conditions at the Marina Bay circuit to take his ninth pole position of the season, as championship leader Max Verstappen was forced to abort his final lap.

On a weekend where he can secure the championship, Verstappen will only start eighth, with the Dutch driver furious after being forced to abandon a potential pole lap due to a lack of fuel. His teammate, Sergio Perez, will start in second place, with Lewis Hamilton securing his best qualifying of the season in third.

Magnussen putting in good lap times despite a trip off track. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The session started in damp conditions, with drivers using the intermediate tyres after a wet FP3. The majority of the track seemed to be dry, with turns 8 and 17 proving to be stubbornly wet throughout the session. Despite struggling with tyre warmup in practice, Mercedes were instantly on the pace, with Hamilton and Russell setting the fastest times early in the session. Unsurprisingly, there was a multitude of yellow flags early on, as Alex Albon, Charles Leclerc and the Haas duo of Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher struggled with the greasy conditions.

On their second set of tyres, however, both Haas were able to briefly get inside the top 10 – showing how much the track was improving. In the end, Schumacher needed one final lap to get through to Q2, with Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Esteban Ocon, Albon and Nicolas Latifi dropping out.

Despite hot temperatures in Singapore, the track was slow to dry thanks to the high humidity and the nighttime running. Times were improving in Q2, with Leclerc setting the early pace in this session. Aston Martin decided it was worth a gamble to put both cars onto the slick tyres, but both drivers found the conditions too tricky to handle, as both skated into the run-off at the Anderson Bridge. Lance Stroll qualified 12th, with Sebastian Vettel 14th at the track where he secured his last victory three years ago.

Zhou Guanyu struggled on slicks as well to qualify 15th, with fellow Singapore newbie Schumacher qualifying 12th. The big shock in this session was the loss of George Russell, with the Mercedes man never looking comfortable throughout the session, as he missed out on the top 10 for the first time since the Miami GP. The Brit will start tomorrow from 11th.

Russell was not able to make it out of Q2. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

The majority of the field chose soft tyres in Q3, apart from Tsunoda and Magnussen who stuck with the intermediates. This briefly looked like the best call, as the majority of the slick-shod runners struggled to get their tyres up to temperature. All except Lewis Hamilton, who was two seconds faster than the next soft tyre runner after the first laps in qualifying. Staying out on the circuit to keep the temperature in the tyres was the best tactic, as Leclerc, Hamilton and Fernando Alonso traded times at the top of the order.

Leclerc managed to set a 1:49.412 on his penultimate run in qualifying, a time which would not be bettered. Perez and Hamilton both came close, but it was Verstappen who twice looked as though he was on the way to taking his fifth pole position of the season. Despite a lap which looked scruffy at times, he was nearly a second up on Leclerc’s time before being told by the team to box immediately, a decision which infuriated the championship leader. This was after he had backed off on a previous lap which would also have been good enough to challenge for the front two rows of the grid. It is likely that continuing on his final run would have led him to run out of fuel, meaning the Dutchman would have been unable to provide a fuel sample, thus starting from the back of the grid.

The top 3 for the race tomorrow. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The end result of this qualifying session is that Verstappen needs a crazy race tomorrow if he is to secure the championship with five rounds to go, on what has been a difficult weekend for Red Bull as both themselves and Aston Martin have been accused of breaching cost cap regulations.

Verstappen has won from lower than eighth though in two of the last four races, however, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him take his twelfth victory of the season and move one step closer to a second successive championship tomorrow.

F1 Weekend Preview: Zandvoort

From Spa to Zandvoort we move to the home Grand Prix of Max Verstappen who won in dominant style at Spa. The fast banking of Zandvoort is unlike any other track on the calendar so it will be a real test to see who can match RedBull’s pace.

Ferrari problems… again

Sainz enjoying P3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

At Spa, it was not Ferrari’s weekend. The RedBulls were just too fast for them to keep up so could only get a P3 and P6. Whilst the P3 for Carlos Sainz was the best they could have hoped for, Charles Leclerc had a very unlucky weekend.

Having started P15 with various engine penalties, he managed to make his way up to P9 until he was forced to stop when it appeared a tear-off from Verstappen got caught in his brake duct. Having managed to make his way back up to P5 throughout the race, Ferrari pitted him to put on soft tyres and take the fastest lap from Verstappen.

However, another Ferrari strategy didn’t quite work because he came out behind Alonso with only two laps to go. This meant he had to overtake Alonso and didn’t achieve the fastest lap. To add insult to injury he was speeding in the pitlane by 1km/h on his last stop and was given a 5-second time penalty at the end of the race. Putting him back to P6.

Ferrari will want to put that behind them and try to gain points on the RedBulls in Zandvoort. Leclerc may be able to keep up with a new engine at his disposal, however, with the pace of Verstappen, it is difficult to see how Ferrari can bring their way back into this championship fight.

Mercedes crashing back to reality

After a successful outing in Hungary and a competitive run before the summer break, it was expected that the new regulations would help Mercedes be even closer to the top two teams. This was not the way it worked out.

Hamilton fly’s after contact with Alonso. Image courtesy of Mercedes media

They were 1.8 seconds slower than the pole lap in qualifying, struggling to get the cold tyres to work for them. When it came to the race Hamilton had a first-lap clash with Alonso, forcing him to retire from the race early.

George Russell on the other hand had a reasonably solid performance if you ignore the pace of Verstappen. He finished a respectable P4 which showed once again Mercedes’s race pace is better than their qualifying pace.

The last thing Mercedes need now is to go back to the unpredictability of their car before Silverstone, but Zandvoort may not be in their favour with the high-speed banking. The key for them on Saturday will be tyre management to prevent the large deficit they had in Spa.

2022 Belgium GP

The summer break is over and F1 returns and where better to start the second half of the season than Spa Francorchamps, possibly the greatest track in the world.

The new technical directive regarding Flexi floors seems to have affected the RedBulls the least and sees them with the biggest advantage anyone has had all season. However, with a host of penalties throughout the field the grid is mixed up and should give us a great race, could we see Max Verstappen use that huge advantage and make his way through the field from 14th, or could we see a new winner this season with both Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton on the second row today. The weather looks good, almost the complete opposite from last year’s farcical “race” where not a single racing lap took place.

Hamilton fly’s after contact with Alonso. Image courtesy of Mercedes media

Lights out and Perez makes a poor start, Hamilton makes a move on Alonso into Les Combes and they touch sending the Mercedes into the air, he makes it through another couple of corners before coming to a halt with damage to the car. Into lap 2 and Latifi spins causing Bottas to spin in avoidance bringing out the safety car. Verstappen has already made it up to P8 with Leclerc right behind him. Sainz leads from Perez, Russell, and Alonso.

Leclerc pits under the safety car and puts on fresh mediums but drops to P17. Pit radio confirms a tear-off was stuck in his brake ducts but was removed at the stop. The safety car pulls in and we begin lap 5, Sainz leads the field away.

Alonso tries to overtake Russell but the Mercedes driver breaks later and keeps P3. Verstappen moves to P7 and has his sights on Ricciardo in the McLaren. At the chicane Verstappen makes it passed and is into P6 already. Albon also makes it passed the McLaren and gets his Williams into P7. Verstappen is flying on his soft tyres and is already up to the gearbox of Vettels Aston Martin. Once again into the chicane, he makes it up to P5, next up is Alonso in the Alpine.

Verstappen making it past the Alpine. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The World Champion simply drives passed the Alpine as if it was in reverse. Now up to fourth and only 5.5 seconds behind Sainz in the Ferrari in first position. One lap later he overtakes Russell, the straight-line speed of the RedBull is unstoppable. Meanwhile, Leclerc has made his way up to 14th but is 15 seconds behind Verstappen already. On lap 9 Lando Norris makes his way up to P11 overtaking Magnussen into Les Combes.

Up at the front and Sainz leads Perez by 1.3 seconds who is 0.6 ahead of his teammate. Sainz pits at the end of lap 11, as he pits Verstappen overtakes Perez and takes the lead. Sainz returns to the track in P6 behind the McLaren of Ricciardo, have Ferrari made another strategic error?

At the end of the next lap, Ricciardo and Ocon also pit. The RedBull’s are staying out pulling clear of the field. Russell pits from P3 and returns to the track in P7, he was matching the times of Perez in front of him. Verstappen has now pulled a gap of 3.7 seconds, Perez in second pits at the end of lap 14, he comes out ahead of Leclerc. Perez moves to defend into Les Combes and keeps the position.

Verstappen pits. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The leader pits at the end of lap 15, as he comes out Perez is behind him followed by Leclerc and Russel. Sainz now leads by 4.8 seconds. Russell moves ahead of Leclerc and into P4, Leclerc down to P5 ahead of Alonso, Tsunoda, Albon, Vettel, Ocon, Ricciardo, Gasly, Norris, Stroll, Zhou, Magnussen, Schumacher, and Latifi.

Verstappen closes the gap to less than a second at the start of lap 18. He retakes the lead with another move at Les Combes. It looks like he will just check out now as he is putting laps in that are over 2 seconds quicker than the Ferrari can manage.

At half distance Verstappen lead from Perez as the Mexican overtakes Sainz, The lead is 6.5 seconds, Sainz is already 1.5 behind Perez, Russell is a further 7.5 seconds behind the Ferrari and he is 9 seconds ahead of Leclerc who appears to be on the usual Ferrari Plan Z strategy. The field seems to have settled before the inevitable second round of pitstops.

The second round of stops begins with Sainz on lap 26, he is followed by his teammate Leclerc. Sainz on the hards and Leclerc on the mediums, surely Leclerc is going to run out of tyres before the end of the race. Albon and Stroll pit on lap 27, They are now at the back of the field along with Latifi.

Perez stops a lap later and returns still in front of the Ferrari of Sainz. His teammate has made it back up to P6 with a move on Ocon in the Alpine. Next up for Leclerc is Vettel who is 3 seconds up the road.

Russell pits in the Mercedes as we start lap 30. He is still in a comfortable P4 in yet another impressive display from the young British driver. Verstappen ends lap 30 by pitting, a fresh set of mediums fitted and he leads his teammate by 8 seconds. The dominance of the Redbulls this weekend has been scary, They have 13 laps now to cruise to an easy 1-2.

RedBull is clearly in a league of their own. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

As we begin the last 10 laps Russell is catching the Ferrari of Sainz and the gap is down to 4.2 seconds. Could he keep up the run of Mercedes podiums? Ocon moves up to P7 with a great move on both Vettel and Gasly, using the double slipstream to great effect and then outbraking the Alpha Tauri driver.

The gap between 10th and 15th is now just 4 seconds, the leader of the DRS train is Albon, followed by Stroll, Norris, Zhou, Tsunoda, and Ricciardo.

With just 5 laps to go, back at the front, Verstappen leads by 16.7 seconds ahead of Perez who is a further 9.7 seconds ahead of Sainz who is being followed by Russell a further 2.3 seconds behind.

Leclerc pits on lap 43 to go for the fastest lap point but Alonso makes it passed the Ferrari dropping him down to 6th. If he doesn’t get back past the Alpine, Ferrari has just thrown more points away. The Ferrari driver uses DRS to make it passed the Alpine but will he be able to get the fastest lap? He does a 1.49.984 which is over half a second slower than Max Verstappen’s quickest.

Verstappen wins. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

Verstappen wins by a huge 17.8 seconds ahead of his teammate who started from the front row, a dominant performance over the driver who is now his closest challenger almost 100 points behind him. Third is Sainz ahead of Russell, Leclerc, Alonso, Ocon, Vettel, Gasly, and Albon collecting the final point of the weekend. Next up was Stroll, Norris, Tsunoda, Zhou, Ricciardo, Magnussen, Schumacher, and Latifi, The only two retirees were Bottas and Hamilton.

As the podium interviews began it was announced that Leclerc had been given a five-second penalty for speeding in the pitlane for the pitstop that wasn’t needed which dropped him behind Alonso and down to P6.

It’s now just a matter of time before Verstappen wraps up the title for this season, after a display like this weekend it wouldn’t be surprising to see RedBull repeat 2013 where they dominated the season after the summer break.

In just 5 days’ time, the F1 circus will return to Holland for the Dutch GP, Verstappen’s home race, who would bet against him once again dominating?

 

2022 Belgium GP Qualifying

The summer break is over, F1 is back and it returns with one of the greatest circuits in the world, Spa Francorchamps, and the Belgium GP.

This will be the first weekend that the car has to comply with the new technical directive regarding Flexi floors, could this shake up the pecking order? Practice results would suggest not and it even looked as though RedBull had gained quite a big advantage over the rest of the field. Qualifying would be the true test and provide us with a view of how the changes have made difference If any.

Mick Schumacher, is one of many to take grid penalties. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

As usual in the Hybrid era, teams have decided to take engine penalties to introduce new parts into the seasons pool so they have more choice later in the season. This would mean that after today’s qualifying session, at least Verstappen, Leclerc, Norris, Ocon, Schumacher, Zhou, and Bottas would all receive grid penalties.

With ten minutes to go until the start of the session, the temperature had dropped to just 16 degrees, something that would mean Mercedes might struggle with their season-long battle to try and get temperature into their tyres. The start of qualifying would be delayed due to repairs being needed to some of the armco barriers after a crash in the Porsche Supercup support race.

25 minutes after it was originally scheduled to start, qualifying finally got underway. First out on track was Latifi in the Williams who went straight back into the pits at the end of his first lap. The first driver to set a time was Mick Schumacher. The two Mercedes jumped ahead of the Haas but were immediately beaten by Perez in the RedBull, by almost a second.

After the first runs, the top four were the usual suspects of both RedBull and Ferraris, led by Verstappen and Sainz, they were followed by the two Alpines. The two Mercedes went for a second lap on the softs but still could only make it to 10th and 11th with Russell ahead of Hamilton. Everyone went for another run on fresh tyres apart from the top four. The Mercedes drivers improved to 5th and 7th.

At the other end of the field and out of qualifying were Vettel, Latifi, Magnussen, Tsunoda, and Bottas. At the top of the field was Max Verstappen with a time of 1.44.581.

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

Q2 began, and the first driver to set a time was Lewis Hamilton. He was beaten by his teammate George Russell by 3 tenths of a second. Then came Max Verstappen beating the two Mercedes by a massive 1.5 seconds. The two Redbulls led the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz by almost three-quarters of a second. The Redbulls seemed to be in a league of their own this weekend. They were followed by Ocon, Norris, and Leclerc who had a scruffy lap and was complaining of handling issues. Then came Alonso, Russell, Gasly, and Hamilton rounding out the top ten. The final runs began with the two Alpines at the front of the queue.

Neither RedBull needed to go out again such was their dominance.  Leclerc had a better run and topped the times with a 1.44.551 ahead of the two Redbulls, behind them was Sainz, Hamilton, Russell, Ocon, Alonso, Norris, and Albon. The outward-bound McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo was the first to be illuminated in 11th along with Gasly, Zhou, Stroll, and Schumacher.

Albon joined the top teams in Q3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

A strange start to Q3 knowing 3 of the drivers taking part would have grid penalties applied at the end of the session. Halfway around Leclerc’s first lap he realised he had the wrong tyres on the car, yet another Ferrari error. The team ended up telling him to do the lap anyway. At the end of the first runs Verstappen was again top of the times ahead of Sainz in the Ferrari, next came Perez, Leclerc, Ocon, Norris, Russell, Albon, Hamilton, and Alonso who chose to abort his lap.

Verstappen with his grid penalty decided not to do a final run, the same went for Norris, and Leclerc, however, he reappeared on track and gave his team mate a tow down the long straight. It didn’t really seem to help as the Spaniard had a scruffy lap, however thanks to Verstappen’s penalty, he would still be on pole for the race tomorrow. Third was Perez, with Leclerc next up, then came Ocon and Alonso. Next up was Hamilton and Russell ahead of Albon and Norris.

Once all the penalties have been given out the grid will look very different at the start of tomorrow’s race.

Will the weather gods play games like last year or could we get a dry race with a very mixed-up grid providing us with a great race at a great race track?

Whatever happens, the Belgium GP should be a classic.

 

British GP: Carlos Sainz finally wins in Formula 1 amidst Drama

Carlos Sainz finally got his first win at the weekend with a fantastic drive amidst the drama of the British Grand Prix. Perez and Hamilton rounded out the podium with all three giving the passionate crowd plenty to cheer about.

After a wet qualifying, all eyes were on Sainz to see if he could convert his long-awaited pole into a win to take the pressure off him. Verstappen was poised to take the fight to both Ferrari’s with Leclerc in P3 while RedBull looked to use Perez in P4 to keep the championship battle very much alive.

The first race start. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Lights out and Verstappen got a better start than Sainz and was leading him into turn 1. Behind them Hamilton had a lighting start putting himself up to P3 ahead of Leclerc and Perez, making the crowd roar with approval. That was short-lived as further back there was a major crash.

George Russell bogged down on the start and fell back, as he moved forward he moved across to the left for the racing line. Next to him, Zhou was moving towards Russell however between their rear wheels Gasly was moving forward.

Russell checking on Zhou. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

This pincer move meant that Russell hit Gasly who in turn then hit Zhou. This flipped the Alfa Romeo onto the halo for 150 metres before hitting the gravel at speed. It flipped over and eventually rolled over the tyre barrier into the catch fencing, landing in the gap between the tyres and the fence. Russell immediately ran over to check he was ok and helped the marshals and medical team who did a great job. Luckily Zhou was ok after a check at the medical centre.

While that was going on Albon was tapped from behind by Sebastian Vettel. This dramatically flicked him right, hitting the pitwall and back out onto the track. As he headed across he collected Ocon and was pinged back, hitting Tsunoda before coming to a stop. Ocon suffered some suspension damage and Tsunoda lost his front wing. Albon was transferred to the hospital because the incident had triggered his G-Force sensor but he was ok and released on the same day.

After all of that, the red flag was brought out as they exited turn 3 and were brought back into the pits while they repaired the barrier. There was debate from the crowd but because they hadn’t completed an entire lap under the green flag, the standing start would go back to the qualifying grid formation.

As everyone waited for the restart we lost Russell, Albon and Zhou. The others were able to repair the cars during the red flag. This would also give Sainz the chance to re-do his start, hoping to stay in front of Verstappen.

The standing restart. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

On the restart, Sainz got a much better start but was on the outside of Verstappen heading into Abbey. He had the inside line for farm and pushed Verstappen wide taking the place. As Verstappen fought back Perez and Leclerc were having their own fight behind them and going into the loop they were four wide. This meant Leclerc (who was on the inside) hit the sausage curb and picked up damage to his front wing. Perez didn’t come away unscathed either, he also had damage on his front wing.

Coming onto the wellington straight Sainz was ahead, then Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez. The remaining brits in P5 and P6 were alongside each other all the way down to Brooklands. Hamilton on the outside and Norris on the inside. Both were evenly matched and the battle continued with Hamilton on the inside all the way around Luffield. Eventually, Hamilton yielded before heading into Copse corner.

Lap 6 and Perez went in early for a new set of mediums while repairing his front wing damage. This left the McLaren of Norris a sitting duck on the wellington straight without DRS to defend against Hamilton. The Mercedes used this to his advantage and makes the move down the inside of Brooklands. Hamilton could then stretch his legs and become the driver of last year, setting a new fastest lap almost every time he passed the finish line, catching the leaders.

A few laps later Verstappen was pressuring Sainz for the lead. Sainz made a mistake and went wide out of Becketts, leaving the door wide open for Verstappen, who took full advantage. However, it wasn’t too last. On lap 12 Verstappen appeared to be slowing down and both Ferrari’s overtook him before he divided in the pits.

Max Verstappen pitting. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool.

Sent back out on fresh tyres, the RedBull engineers confirmed it was body damage but was not critical. This did affect his performance though. After some encouragement from JP, Verstappen carried on in the race. He couldn’t keep up with the leaders and fell back into the midfield.

With Verstappen gone, the Ferrari’s were left to battle and keep Hamilton at bay, but with the Merc closing the gap rapidly it became clear that Leclerc was faster than Sainz in front. By lap 31 the team order came, and they swapped positions.

Eight laps later Ocon stops on the national pit straight with engine problems, bringing out the safety car.  Hamilton, Perez and Sainz all pitted for new soft tyres, but Ferrari left Leclerc out on his old tyres. This looked like another unusual strategy call from Ferrari.

At the restart, Leclerc was P1, Sainz P2, Hamilton P3 and Perez P4 with Alonso and Norris behind. Hamilton was caught napping a little and down the main straight Perez was all over the back of the Mercedes, trying to find a way past.

As they all rounded onto the wellington straight Sainz had better traction at the exit of the loop with newer tyres and was alongside his teammate into Brooklands. Leclerc eventually had to yield to Sainz before Luffield. Meanwhile, Perez was alongside Hamilton but was ahead before Brooklands.

Lap 45, Leclerc on the older tyres struggled to keep up with his teammate and now had Perez to defend from. An epic battle began down the Hangar straight as Perez had the inside line around Stowe, but Leclerc held on down towards the Vale chicane.

Leclerc had the inside line in the first corner and slightly ahead, Perez went off the track at the second corner pushing them wide at Club leaving the door wide open for Hamilton to steam past them both causing the crowd to erupt.

Perez went ahead of Leclerc and had good pace down the main straight. Into the braking zone of turn, 3 Perez was up the inside of Hamilton and took the P2 back, leaving Hamilton to defend off Leclerc who went around the outside of the Loop onto the Wellington straight.

Leclerc had more speed than Hamilton and into Brooklands Hamilton was looking behind at Alonso before trying again around the outside of Leclerc at Luffield. Eventually, they all had to back out before Copse but giving Sainz the chance to create a gap.

Hamilton making a move on Leclerc. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

On lap 48 Hamilton had DRS down the Wellington straight on Leclerc. He made a move around the outside of Luffield but came out ahead this time. However, Leclerc was with him all the way and went around the outside at Copse to take the place back. This wasn’t to last as with DRS again Hamilton took Leclerc down the Hangar straight before Stowe and made the move stick.

As the final lap approached Mick Schumacher had been making his way quietly into the points and was now P8. Verstappen was the car ahead and with performance problems, Schumacher had pace on the RedBull. On lap 51 Schumacher attempted to get past down the Wellington straight but unfortunately couldn’t make anything of it. So, on lap 52 of 52 he made one last attempt heading into Vale and around Club, almost alongside the RedBull but the finish line came too quickly for him to make it P7.

Carlos Sainz crossed the line to make it his first victory in Formula 1 and finally getting the pressure off his back about his performance. Perez was in P2 with Hamilton in P3 in what seemed to be a much improved Mercedes. A huge shoutout to Schumacher who finally got his first points finish and Haas got a double points finish with Magnussen in P8.

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