After a very interesting Spanish Grand Prix we go to Monaco which always tests the talent of the drivers. Unlike most tracks, qualifying is often the most important element of the whole weekend with overtaking almost impossible around the tight street circuit.
Charles Comeback at Home
Last time out in Barcelona it was the turn of Ferrari and Charles Leclerc to have reliability issues when his engine gave up halfway through the race. He was easily controlling the pace after a pit stop for Verstappen put him behind the Mercedes of George Russell with a DRS problem, unable to get past.
It was not all lost hope for Charles Leclerc though. He delivered arguably his best pole lap ever in Spain and the Ferrari’s were quicker all weekend on one lap pace compared to the RedBulls. Set up will be very different for Monaco but this is encouraging signs with track position important.
There is one thing that needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to Monaco though… Charles Leclerc is yet to finish a race there. He recently crashed out of the Monaco historic Grand Prix in Niki Lauda’s 1974 Ferrari after it had a brake failure around rascasse. He will be hoping to break that run of luck this weekend.
Six rounds in and Verstappen now leads the championship after Leclerc’s DNF. The momentum appears to have swung in favour of RedBull over the last few races, so much so that they used team orders this early on in the season to help Verstappen win the race.
Perez seemed to be the ultimate teammate after having a good strategy and getting past Russell to take the lead towards the end of the race before the radio message came in to let Verstappen past. The 1-2 for RedBull was already secured with only the Mercedes behind them not able to keep up. However, the team have decided already to put all their eggs in Verstappen’s basket.
Whilst this is not at all surprising and somewhat expected from RedBull, to have team orders from any team this early on in a very long season does seem to be premature. Even Perez seemed a bit disappointed after the race, saying that they would discuss it later in the race de-brief away from the radio and cameras.
Mercedes with Consistent Pace
In Spain the upgrades Mercedes brought seemed to have worked and this time they were able to extract much more performance out of the car. Russell kept is cool, making his 2m wide car the same witdth of the track when defending against Verstappen. He was also able to get past a fast Bottas and comfortably stay ahead, something which they could achieve in previous races.
After his lap one incident with Magnussen, Hamilton was P19 having stopped for a puncture. However, he made his way back through the grid, putting in a champions drive to make it back to P5 by the end of the race. He potentially could have finished in P4 but a water leak issue in the final few laps meant he had to back off and Sainz was able to take P4.
It seems Mercedes are most of the way towards solving their issues by being able to operate the car in a wider window of performance compared to Miami. It is now a case of wait and see if they can compete for more poles and race wins.
Qualifying on Saturday is at 3pm BST and the Race is at 2pm BST. You can also listen to us live on twitter spaces for all the action on Saturday and Sunday.
The Spanish Grand Prix brings us round 6 of this years World Championship. The season so far has been a story of Ferrari versus RedBull, with this race being the race where the first major upgrades are brought to the cars would we see a change in the pecking order, would Mercedes be back in the hunt for wins? A scorching day in Barcelona would bring us all the answers we have been waiting for.
The front row had Leclerc and Verstappen again and could deliver us a titanic battle into turn one. Strategy would be key in the hot weather and whoever looks after their tyres the best would surely go on to win the race.
Home favourite Fernando Alonso took an engine penalty and would start from last, the 2 time world champion promising to give it everything and put on a show for his adoring fans. Could his popular compatriot Carlos Sainz improve his form after an indifferent start to his season, a win not impossible for the Spaniard. Everyone will start on the soft tyre apart from Lewis Hamilton who chose to start on the mediums.
Lights out and the battle to the first corner was between the front two, they came through the first turns in the same order that they started. Russell up to third. Hamilton then had a collision with Magnussen who tried to go around him on the outside of turn 4 causing a puncture with Magnussen into the gravel. Both drivers pitting at the end of the first lap.
At the start of Lap 5 Bottas went around the outside to Mick Schumacher into turn one. Alonso in the Alpine already up to P14, plenty of overtaking moves so far including a great pass from Alonso again on Sebastian Vettel. Sainz then makes a big mistake and spins into the gravel at turn 4 putting him down in 11th.
At the start of lap 9 Max Verstappen also lost it at turn 4 and went into the gravel, returning to the track in 4th. The RedBull team telling him it was a gust of wind. Russell now ahead of both RedBulls and clearly holding them up, RedBull clearly order Perez to let Verstappen through to see if he can make any ground on the Mercedes.
The McLaren of Ricciardo is falling down the order with the Aussie now down on 15th after pitting for fresh soft tyres. Lap 13 and Norris pits in his McLaren returning to the track in 9th place ahead of Sainz in the Ferrari. Both Russell and Verstappen pitted together, the world champion would need to get passed quickly to try and salvage his race. The RedBull struggling with an intermittent DRS fault meaning Verstappen couldn’t get to close to the Mercedes on the main straight. The world champion looking very ragged in the RedBull complaining on the radio that they should be able to get the DRS working.
Leclerc up front still hadn’t pitted at the start of lap 20 and led by 30 seconds from Russell and Verstappen. The top 10 completed by Perez, Bottas, Ocon, Sainz, Vettel, Norris and Tsunoda. Alonso now up to 11th after starting last in his Alpine. Hamilton in the Mercedes seemingly with damage as he has only moved back to 16th.
Lap 22 and Leclerc finally pits, a great stop by the Ferrari team at 2.2 seconds, he returns to the track with 4.6 second lead but he now has tyres 8 laps fresher than the cars behind him.
At the start of lap 24 Hamilton pits for new medium tyres but falls down to 19th. Verstappen makes a move into turn one but Russell hangs him out to dry and makes him go the long way around and he can’t quite do it. Great defending by George Russell. Anyone who thought this race would be boring was very wrong. Perez now behind Verstappen asking the team to get him out of the way.
Suddenly Leclerc has trouble and the Ferrari is limping back to the pits, The first DNF of the season for the championship leader. Russell now leads in the Mercedes, Verstappen still struggling to find a way by the slower Mercedes.
Back down the field Lance Stroll again runs out of talent and spins after contact with the Alpha Tauri into turn one. RedBull decide to pit Verstappen dropping him to 4th but in clean air. Surely a 3 stop is now on the cards. Russell now out front ahead of Perez but the Mexican goes straight passed at the first attempt. His team mate now back up to 3rd, just 13 seconds behind.
At half distance this race is between the two RedBulls but seeing as team orders were clearly used earlier surely it is Verstappens race to lose now. As he closes on Russell the Brit pits in his Mercedes. The two RedBulls now leading the pack just 6 seconds apart. Perez pits the very next lap for mediums, returning to the track clear of Russell in the Mercedes. Further down the field Lando Norris is now up to 8th position despite feeling unwell this weekend.
Hamilton in the Mercedes is currently the quickest car bar the RedBulls and showing that the Mercedes does in fact have quite a lot of pace which shows well for the rest of the season, the 7 time world champion now up to 6th.
Lap 45 and Verstappen pits for what surely is the last time. He comes back out ahead of Russell, just 5 seconds behind his team mate. Sainz in the sole remaining Ferrari also pits for the 3rd time. He is now 7th, another disappointing show from the Ferrari driver.
Lap 49 and RedBull tell Perez to let Verstappen passed for the lead, The Mexican agreeing but not very happy with the order.
Mercedes pit Russell again for fresh soft tyres, he remains in 3rd and on for a podium, RedBull bring Perez back in also to protect his 2nd position.
The rest of the field seems to have settled with a few battles developing for the back end of the top ten before the end of the race.
With 10 laps to go Verstappen leads from Perez, Russell, Bottas, Sainz, Hamilton, Ocon, Norris, Alonso, Schumacher, Tsunoda, Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Stroll, Magnussen, Latifi and Albon with the only 2 retirements being Leclerc and Zhou.
Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton were running within a second of each other at the start of lap 58. Sainz is straight passed down the main straight, Hamilton then drives around the outside of turn three to overtake his former team mate. The Brit in his Mercedes clearly on a mission after the disappointment of lap one. His sights now clearly on the Ferrari ahead. He swoops around the outside of the Ferrari into turn one, a great drive today from Hamilton that might stop all the Netflix fans saying he’s finished.
After 66 laps Verstappen crossed the line as the race winner and also takes the lead of the world championship, he is followed over the line by Perez and the Mercedes of George Russell, Sainz is fourth after taking Hamilton one lap from the end due the Mercedes having to lift and coast for the last few laps, Hamilton finishes fifth ahead of Bottas, Ocon, Norris, Alonso and Tsunoda rounding out the top ten.
The rest of the classified finishers were Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Schumacher, Stroll, Latifi, Magnussen and Albon.
Probably the best Spanish Grand Prix since 1991, plenty of overtaking and battles throughout the field all race long. The next stop on the F1 circus is Monaco, obviously we wont have the amount of overtaking that we did here but every lap has jeopardy and so anything can happen.
Round 6 of the 2022 F1 World Championship brings us to the traditional start of the European season at Barcelona for the Spanish GP. Every team apart from Haas has brought big upgrades to their cars, the biggest seems to be with Constructors champions Mercedes who look too have cured most of the porpoising issues they have suffered from all season long. The most surprising upgrade is that of the Aston Martins who appear to have blatantly copied the RedBull design, whether they have done this legally or not will no doubt be something that rumbles on all season long.
After the three practice sessions the top 6 drivers were all from the top 3 teams, it could be the closest battle for pole so far this season. Going into qualifying Ferrari looked to be favourite for the front row closely followed by RedBull and Mercedes.
Q1 began in scorching temperatures. First out on to the track was the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu, he was followed out onto the track by the Alpha Tauri’s of Gasly and Tsunoda. After the first runs the top six were the two Ferrari’s, Verstappen, the two Mercedes and then Valterri Bottas in the Alfa.
Out of qualifying at the end of the session were Vettel, Alonso, Stroll, Albon and Latifi. At the front it was Leclerc on a 1.19.861 ahead of Sainz, Verstappen , Russell, Magnussen and Hamilton in 6th.
It seems the green RedBull is not as quick as a blue one. A big shock that both of the Aston’s were out in Q1 along with home favourite Alonso who had been looking quick so far this weekend.
The two Mercedes started the action in Q2, Russell going fastest with a 1.19.470, three tenths ahead of his team mate. At the end of the first runs the Mercedes were first and second, however they used new tyres whereas the RedBull and Ferrari used a scrubbed set of tyres. Perez was third ahead of Leclerc, Bottas and Verstappen.
For the final runs both Mercedes stayed in their garage feeling safe at the top of the standings, so did Leclerc in the Ferrari. Sainz needed to go back out as his first run was only good enough seventh. He crossed the line and moved to first giving the home support something to cheer about.
As the session ended Max Verstappen went quickest on a 1.19.219 ahead of Sainz, Russell and Hamilton. Out of qualifying were Lando Norris who had his fastest time deleted because of track limits, Ocon in the Alpine, Tsunoda, Gasly and Zhou.
And so to Q3, would we get the top 6 fighting it out for pole as it has seemed we would get throughout the weekend so far.
Lewis Hamilton was first over the line and so went fastest. He was quickly bettered by Verstappen, Sainz, Perez and team mate Russell. Leclerc spun on his quick lap at the final chicane and immediately returned to the pits. Everyone else then returned to the pits to prepare for their final runs. The top 5 were covered by half a second but 3 tenths of that was between first and second.
Charles Leclerc came out earlier than everyone else obviously trying to make up for the mistake on his first run. He set a blistering time of 1.18.750, an amazing lap under such pressure. Verstappen aborted his lap after complaining of no power but remained second. Third was Sainz who was joined on the second row by George Russell. Then came Perez, Hamilton, Bottas, Magnussen, Ricciardo and rounding out the top ten was Mick Schumacher.
Not quite as close as everyone had hoped but the top six is definitely closing up. Tomorrow will be a shoot out down to turn one. The RedBull race pace on Friday looked pretty ominous so could come down to a race of strategy and tyre management.
It’s finally here. The inaugural Formula 1 Miami GP is set to be fast and furious as the teams get used to this street track from Friday practice to the race on Sunday.
After years in the making, Miami, Florida has its own Grand Prix on the calendar. The track has only been finished recently so drivers and teams have had limited data to put into simulators. They can only get a real feel for the track and what it might have in store when we get to Friday.
What we do know is that we have another very fast street track for the drivers to conquer. With a potential 3 DRS zones this is set to give us thrilling flying laps in qualifying. There a long swooping corners after turn 1 which lead to a straight before the first major overtaking spot at turn 11.
Sector 2 does look to be twister making the set up very important for the teams. This leads to the final, very long, final straight before another perfect overtaking opportunity if the turn 17 hairpin. That is set to be the last obvious overtaking spot before heading back to the main straight.
Ferrari ‘s time to fight back
Ferrari had a weekend to forget last time in Imola after Red Bull dominated the weekend, taking 58 out of a possible 59 points. To make things worse Sainz ended up in the gravel on lap 1 and with Charles Leclerc in prime position to take a podium, he spun out late on in the race, finishing P6.
On their home turf they really suffered, so Ferrari will be looking to bring the heat in Miami. With Red Bull performance still mostly unpredictable after the first few rounds, Ferrari need to capitalise on every opportunity they get.
Leclerc has gone into the barriers at the chicane!
Mercedes are still not even close to where they want to be, fighting for podiums and wins consistently. In fact, McLaren seem to have solved their problems and are now their main rivals or possibly the faster car.
However, all is not lost because they are rumoured to be bringing a large upgrade package to Miami which will hopefully solve their porpoising problems.
It has been evident from the last few races that Mercedes are not the only team to suffer from serious bouncy car syndrome, with Ferrari showing the problem affects them. But it appears to be affecting their handling less when coming into corners compared to the Mercedes.
This is a problem which they are very much approaching cautiously but they are hopeful that they can solve these issues and be up at the front with Red Bull and Ferrari.
Qualifying is 9pm GMT on Saturday and the Race is 8;30pm GMT Sunday.
This weekend we see the return of the sprint race which had mixed reviews last year. However, they have been a few changes to the rules and couple of new hosts in an attempt to make the sprint race format work better for 2022.
The sprint race is still a 100km dash to the line with no mandatory stops. There are still only 3 races on the calendar which will host the event as sanction by the FIA because the teams are also getting to grips with the new regulations. This year Imola and Austria will join Brazil in hosting an event which allowed Hamilton his 25 place come back over last season.
There have been two major changes to note, the first is the points for the sprint race. In 2021, only the top 3 drivers would get points, with P1 getting the maximum of 3 points. For this year the top eight drivers will get points, with P1 getting a more desirable 8 points down to P8 who will get 1 point. This means that there is a maximum of 34 points available to the drivers in one weekend (win sprint race, Grand Prix and fastest lap).
The other thing which caused much confusion amongst fans was that the winning driver of the sprint was awarded pole for the weekend. This year, the FIA and Formula 1 have out their heads together and decided common sense means that pole is now to be awarded to the fastest driver in the qualifying session on Friday. They will start the sprint race on pole and the winner of the sprint will start the Grand Prix on pole. Much simpler.
Ferrari’s Home Ground – Part 1
This will be the third time in as many years we have had two Italian races on the calendar, and with Ferrari at the top with seemingly nothing to stop them, the tifosi definitely have something to shout about now. So is there anyone that can stop them?
Max Verstappen finally broke his ‘Italian curse’ at Imola last year but in 2022 his car appears to be less reliable despite its pace. This adds an element of unpredictability to the Red Bull race weekend, and at 46 points behind Leclerc, Verstappen will be looking to take advantage of the sprint race.
Sergio Perez is currently the most consistent Red Bull driver, picking up the podium at Albert Park last weekend. However, as the only definite second driver on the grid at the moment he will be used to help out Verstappen when his car is working properly.
A loss for Red Bull means a Mercedes gain as they have been there to pick up podiums when they became available. They are, however, still struggling to tame the porpoising enough to get the full potential out of the car. Mercedes did make some improvements in Albert Park though so they will be looking to capitalise on any positive developments they can make.
Alpine’s have been really solid so far this season, and if it weren’t for a bit of luck in Melbourne then Alonso may have had a closer fight to Verstappen as his car gets faster. McLaren also took a big jump in Australia. They were competing for the last few positions in rounds one and two, but they finished P5 and P6 respectively at Melbourne.
It will be an interesting weekend with the return of the sprint under the new regulations, as well as improvements for teams up and down the paddock as they start to get used to the 2022 cars.
Qualifying starts 4pm GMT on Friday, the Sprint is 3:30pm GMT on Saturday and the Race starts 2pm GMT on Sunday.
Charles Leclerc took the latest win in the growing rivalry between Red Bull and Ferrari in Australia. Red Bull are trying to stay in the battle but with another DNF for Max Verstappen this is not how to keep up the fight.
It looks as if a fuel leak caused Verstappen’s engine to shut down and catch fire on lap 38 of the Grand Prix. It doesn’t appear as if it’s same issue which caused a double DNF for Red Bull in Bahrain but that was also a fuel system issue. However, Verstappen had been nursing an issue for the entire race before his retirement. Luckily for them though Perez was unaffected in Australia and picked up P2.
These reliability issues are understandably causing Verstappen and Red Bull to become frustrated. In a post-race interview with Sky Sports, Verstappen explained he was aiming at P2 because he couldn’t fight Leclerc but “we didn’t even finish the race, which is pretty frustrating and unacceptable”.
In response, Christian Horner simply said, “I’d rather fix a fast car the make a reliable slow one”. But how can they expect to be really in the battle if they can’t consistently finish races? Only finishing one third of races is not a statistic which the reigning world champion will want to continue for much longer. The Ferrari of Leclerc was obviously in a league of its own in Australia and Horner’s opinions may be inaccurate if they can’t keep up with him even when the car is working.
Leclerc is now ahead of everyone else by 34 points in the driver’s standings with George Russell in P2. To add to Red Bulls pain Mercedes will smirk at Horner’s philosophy as they sit higher in the constructor’s championship with their relatively slower, but more reliable car. This is due to them picking up the podiums which Red Bull couldn’t keep hold of in Bahrain and Australia.
It’s becoming more and more likely that Red Bull will be fighting Mercedes for points if they can’t resolve these reliability problems, leaving Ferrari out in front. Further to this they will become more reliant of Sergio Perez for points meaning the dynamic in that team may need to change.
It’s no secret that Perez is the number two driver at Red Bull, but he seems to treat the car with a little less aggression compared to Verstappen. This means that it could be possible that reliability issues may come more often to Verstappen’s car. Along with the hard battles which we have already seen between him and Leclerc, potentially leading to future incidents.
If Red Bull learnt anything from last year, it should be that they need both drivers to be consistently at the top to secure the constructor’s title. Mercedes had both Bottas and Hamilton fighting for the team, picking up points and ultimately winning the constructor’s title for the 8th time. This is the sort of attitude they will need to adopt to disturb Ferrari’s apparent comfort at the top.
Fortunately for Red Bull, in Australia Carlos Sainz had a weekend to forget. His qualifying session did not go well with an eventual red flag meaning he started the race in P9. Then on lap 2 he went too wide at turn 9 meaning he ended up in the gravel trap and was out. He had an electrical issue all weekend which didn’t affect his teammate.
Looking forward to Imola, Ferrari will want to capitalise on their momentum to bring a win for the tifosi. Red Bull want to upset that by coming back stronger like they did in Jeddah. The key to this championship appears to the reliability and consistency. We are only 3 races into a 23 race calendar so now is when Red Bull need to fix their problems if they want to be at the top by the end of the year.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc converted pole position into his second victory of the season at Albert Park, as Max Verstappen failed to finish with hydraulic issues.
The only time the victory looked in doubt for the Monegasque driver was after the second safety car, when a slow restart gave Verstappen an opportunity to attack into turn one, but Leclerc held on to extend his championship lead to thirty-four points over Mercedes’ George Russell.
In the end, even if Verstappen had made the overtake it would have been inconsequential, as Red Bull’s reliability issues reared their ugly head once again, with the Dutchman’s car failing at the start of lap 39, just seconds after he had set the fastest lap of the race.
Sergio Perez secured his first podium of the season in second place, as Mercedes matched their best result of the season from Bahrain, with George Russell leading Lewis Hamilton home in third and fourth.
It was Hamilton who had the best start out of the front runners, jumping from fifth to third on the run towards the first corner, overtaking Perez and Lando Norris. One man who did not have a good start was Carlos Sainz, dropping five places as he struggled with the hard tyres. Tyre warmup was the least of his concerns on lap two however, as the Spaniard went deep into turn nine, losing the car over the grass and ending beached in the gravel. This is the first time Sainz has failed to score points since the French GP last year.
Perez was able to work his way back past Hamilton in the first stint, but the Mercedes driver looked to be managing his tyres better, and was briefly able to make the overcut work on the Mexican driver, before Perez struck back with a bold move around the outside of turn ten.
Lewis may feel aggrieved that it was his teammate who scored the podium, and not him. Russell admitted afterwards he had been fortunate with the timing of the second safety car, which was brought out by Sebastian Vettel’s miserable weekend coming to an end in the barrier at turn four. This allowed Russell to take advantage of a cheap pit stop to come out ahead of Perez in third, but the Mexican was soon able to make his way past the Briton.
It was a much more promising race for Mercedes, who looked to be matching the Red Bulls on pace at times throughout the race. McLaren also had their best result of 2022, with Norris just finishing ahead of home hero Daniel Ricciardo, as they finished fifth and sixth. Esteban Ocon secured seventh for Alpine, in what was a very quiet race for the Frenchman.
This was the first race at the Albert Park circuit since 2019, and since then changes had been made to the track, most noticeably the removal of the chicane at what was turns eight and nine, in an attempt to improve the racing. There was no doubting the effectiveness of this in the midfield, with the different strategies leading to some brilliant battling.
Lance Stroll pitted twice early on, and this allowed him to climb as high as ninth at one stage. However, worn tyres combined with a five-second penalty for weaving on the straight meant points were always going to be a difficult task, and the Aston Martin dropped down the field in the later stages.
Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly finished eighth and ninth respectively, with Alexander Albon securing a shock point for Williams in tenth. After starting on the hards from last, the Thai driver was forced on to a different strategy by the safety cars. Whereas Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen took advantage of the virtual safety car caused by Verstappen’s retirement to change onto the medium tyres, Albon stayed out on the hards.
He eventually pitted on the penultimate lap (the latest allowed by the regulations), coming out on a fresh set of softs to secure the Grove-based team’s first point of the season. Alonso and Magnussen struggled with the graining that dogged many of the front runners in the early stages, finishing comfortably outside the points.
Although Leclerc took victory in Bahrain, this was the first time this season where the Ferrari looked comfortably clear of the Red Bull in race pace. The Formula One calendar heads to Imola in two weeks time for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which will also host the first ‘sprint race’ of the season.
When Formula One’s new regulations were revealed for the 2022 season, it was with the hope that it would lead to closer, more exciting racing. Two races in, they’ve certainly delivered.
In Bahrain, it was the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc who came out on top as the Scuderia secured a 1-2, after late race breakdowns for both Red Bulls left them pointless. There were no such issues for the reigning champions in Jeddah though, as Max Verstappen kickstarted his championship defence with a hard-fought, and well-thought, victory.
Once again, the top two toyed with each other when it came to using DRS on multiple occasions. Verstappen made the first move into the final corner, but as we saw a week ago, Leclerc was able to instantly fight back on the next straight. Thus began the cat and mouse games that might define this generation of Formula One. Just one lap later, neither driver wanted to cross the all important detection line into Turn 27 first, with the Monegasque driver catching Verstappen napping, and briefly being able to build a one-second lead. When Verstappen got back within DRS range however, Leclerc was powerless to stop the Red Bull driver marching to his first victory, and first points of the season.
Many expected Verstappen and Leclerc to be stars of the future from the moment they set foot in an F1 car, and it looks like this season will be the first time we get to see them fight consistently against each other at the front. Admittedly, the ‘fights’ have so far been fairly straightforward DRS overtakes. Albert Park, home of the next race in two weeks time, is usually a much tougher place to pass, so might see Max and Charles get closer than they have done so far this season, perhaps even repeating their antics from Spielberg and Silverstone in 2019.
Those previous battles three years ago might be why we’re seeing a tamer Verstappen than we saw last year. He knows that Leclerc isn’t afraid to get his elbows out, whereas Lewis was more likely to try and avoid contact at any cost. It would not be surprising if this year’s top two send carbon fibre flying on more than one occasion throughout the remaining twenty-one races.
So far, it is one each between Max and Charles, but it could have been so different. Sergio Perez was unlucky with a pit-stop the lap before Nicolas Latifi found the barrier and brought out the safety car, turning a possible victory for the Mexican into a lonely race to fourth. His misfortune promoted Carlos Sainz onto the podium for the third consecutive race, but this was another weekend where the Spaniard looked off the pace compared to his teammate. The battle between the ‘number twos’ could be crucial in determining the destination of both champions this year, especially on any weekend when one team has a clear pace advantage.
The midfield entertained as always, with both Alpines adding many grey hairs to team principals Otmar Szaufner’s head in the opening laps. Kevin Magnussen also pulled off some good moves, but the early safety car meant that anyone that was starting on the hard tyres would be on the back foot when it came to strategy.
This was also the case for Lewis Hamilton, on arguably his most difficult weekend (pace-wise) in the hybrid era. One point will be scant consolation for the seven-time world champion, with George Russell coming home in fifth. Barring any issues for Red Bull or Ferrari, a porpoising fix, or performance found in a ‘reliability’ engine upgrade, it looks like fifth will be the best the Brackley team can manage over the next few races.
Sunday’s race passed without any controversy, which definitely couldn’t be said about last years. Once again though, the track proved to be brutally punishing, with Mick Schumacher and Cem Bolukbasi both missing their races after heavy accidents at Turn 12. These crashes, and the missile strike at the nearby Aramco refinery during Friday practice, will quite rightly raise questions about the wisdom of holding a race in Saudi Arabia.
No matter who you support, perhaps the best news from this weekend is that it is over, and everyone is able to leave safely.
Verstappen wins a good race in Jeddah after a safety car meant Perez dropped positions behind both Ferrari’s.
We started off today one car down with Haas deciding to run only 1 car after Mick Schumacher’s crash in qualifying. Schumacher is ok but they were worried that if he had another crash they wouldn’t have enough parts to go to Australia with.
Just when we thought we would get a 19 car grid Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari had an issue with an hour to go. Fortunately for him they fixed problem and he made to the grid. However, whist on the way to the grid to join Sainz, Tsunoda stopped on track with an engine issue therefore having to miss the start of the race.
Lights out and everyone managed to get away clean. Verstappen got a great start getting down the inside of turn 1 to then sweep around the outside of Sainz at turn 2, putting him in P3. Zhou seemingly had the same problem as Bottas last week with a poor start meaning several drivers past him and into turn 1 he was late on the brakes, tapping the back wheel of Ricciardo but coming out worse off.
Lap 4 and the alpines were locked in a battle between themselves. Alonso had DRS down the main straight, but Ocon made a late defensive move to stay in front. Only a few laps later Alonso did get past but that was not the end of it.
Ocon tried again on lap 8 but had to use the runoff at turn 1 and 2 to keep the place. This meant he had to give the position back he tried 1 more time on lap 12 when Ocon went too deep again, and Alonso stayed ahead.
All the battles at alpine mean that Bottas had closed the gap. When Ocon was told to hold position, he backed off meaning Bottas then had DRS down the main straight into lap 14 and made an easy overtake into turn 1.
At this point Hamilton had made it past Norris into P11, making up 3 places in 6 laps. He was quickly gaining places and on the hard tyre he appeared to be going for a 1 stop strategy.
Lap 16 and Leclerc starts the pit stops with a radio call, but the strategy was do the opposite of Red Bull. Ferrari came into the pit and Red Bull reacted bringing Perez in. Leclerc stayed out and Ferrari seemed to have successfully bluffed Red Bull into a stop.
Just as Perez came out of the pits Latifi crashed into the barriers and a virtual safety car was initially deployed, playing into Ferrari and Leclerc hands. He now had an almost free stop, coming out of the pit lane still leading the race. However, Verstappen had also stayed out meaning he had to pit during the safety car, gaining places to come out P2.
A full safety car was then deployed when Sainz came into the pits. As he left however Perez was coming down the main straight. Sainz looked as if he got to the safety car line first but Perez closed the door on him to stay in P3.
The lights went out on the safety car to indicate it was going in on lap 20. As it pulled away from Leclerc he was controlling the pack but Verstappen kept moving alongside Leclerc in an attempt to force him to make an error or go early.
On the restart though Verstappen couldn’t keep up with the Ferrari staying in P2. Carlos gained the place back on Perez with but radio messages revealed Perez was told to give the place back to avoid a penalty.
Lap 23 and Hamilton gets past the Haas of Magnussen at the final corner but with DRS down the main straight he got back past. The next lap and this time Hamilton closed the gap but backed off into the final corner to get the DRS down the main straight and late on the brakes overtook into turn 1.
Hulkenburg was holding his own after the restart however he began to drop back rapidly with Ricciardo, Norris and Gasly passing him on the main straight on laps 27, 28 and 29.
Lap 35 and Alonso was now battle the Haas. He got DRS down the mains straight making a simple pass into turn 1 however it didn’t stick with Magnussen making back past just 1 lap later. This battle quickly turned into a problem for Alonso though when on lap 38 he started moving slowly on track. He reported no power with an alarm on his wheel to say cool the car. The engine had overheated.
Almost simultaneously Ricciardo stopped on track just in front of the pit lane entry when he lost drive coming out of the last corner. Just as that news was being shown Bottas was retired from the race but had made it back to the garage.
The pit lane entry was eventually closed but Magnussen and Hulkenburg had managed to get in and change his tyres before the message. Hamilton just missed the pit lane as the virtual safety car was deployed so couldn’t change his tyres. Hoping that it would end as he came round to the pits again Mercedes were on the radio but unfortunately for Hamilton he had to wait another lap, when he was round the other side of the track and the VSC had ended.
As the VSC ended Verstappen seemed to have gained on Leclerc so the gap was much tighter. On lap 42 Verstappen had DRS into the final corner and took the lead but Leclerc could fight back on the main straight using DRS himself and took the lead again into turn 1.
Verstappen the went too deep and locked up on the inside line into the final corner on the following lap meaning Leclerc could sweep around the outside. This time even though Verstappen had DRS down the main straight it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Ferrari.
At the end of lap 46 Verstappen had learnt to have patience into the final corner and backed out of an overtake to make sure he had DRS this time. He made the move stick into turn 1 but his challenge now was to hold off the Ferrari which had been stronger in sector 1 all race.
Leclerc did close the gap on lap 48 and lined up a move but double waved yellows into turn 1 meant that but couldn’t overtake. Albon and Stroll came together when Albon tried to overtake stroll down the inside. Albon received a grid penalty in Australia for this.
This saved Verstappen from a move, but they were racing all the way to the line. Leclerc lined up a move at the final corner on the final lap, but sadly for him, he wasn’t close enough. Verstappen took with win with Leclerc in P2 and Sainz in P3.
Perez finally gets a pole position with an outstanding lap around Jeddah. He beat both Ferrari’s and his teammate to start at the front of the grid tomorrow.
Q1 started as normal but with 11 minutes to go Latifi had a big accident into turn 13 hitting the wall at high speed and causing a red flag. It looked like the back end stepped out and he hit both the front and back of car against the barriers. Thankfully he was ok.
Once going again Tsunoda’s qualifying came to an end early where he had to retire with issues that are fuel related. This was later confirmed to be a cooling system issue which couldn’t be resolved quickly.
The Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in particular were having speed issues for the whole session. While Russell managed P4 in Q1, Hamilton couldn’t get much faster than P13, ending up being pushed down into the bottom 5, finishing P16. A shock departure for him from qualifying by not making it into Q2 for the first time since Brazil 2017.
The first runs of Q2 and Russell was now the only works Mercedes in the session is also the only driver to come out on the mediums. McLaren have improved from last week putting in solid times and looking to get into Q3 with Russell. At the front, Leclerc still has the upper hand on both Red Bulls but by only 0.04 seconds., but sadly were both out in Q2 in P11 and P12.he just made it through to Q3.
The Haas drivers looked strong today with both drivers setting quick first laps. But with 5 minutes to go though Mick Schumacher was on a flying lap when the back end stepped out onto the curb on the exit of turn 10 which he tried to correct but hit the wall at some speed causing a second Red Flag of qualifying. The speed of the car meant his car finally stopped at the entry of turn 11. Reports were that he was conscious and talking to the doctors but they had to extract him safely from the car and took him to the medical centre by an ambulance. He had spoken to his mum and was taken to the hospital for precautionary scans but was ok.
Mick Schumacher has been assessed at the Medical Centre. The assessment revealed no injuries.
After a lengthy delay while they fixed the barriers and soaked up the oil, we were underway with nearly 5 minutes left. Those that didn’t have any lap times now needed to nail a lap with almost only 1 shot at it. The Ferrari’s were still on top at the end of the session with Sainz joining Leclerc at the top of the time sheet.
McLaren sadly couldnt get out of the bottom 5 and were both out in Q2 in P11 and P12. Russell just made it through to Q3 meaning he was the only car with a Mercedes power unit in the top 10.
Q3, the final 10 and the battle again was between the Ferrari’s and the Red Bulls. Everyone made it through the first runs cleanly with Sainz coming out on top with his teammate right behind. Perez was P3 with Verstappen struggling for grip on fresh tyres.
The Alpines split the Red Bulls with laps 0.5s slower than Perez. Gasly was P7, Bottas P8 and K Mag P9 while Russell came out in the gap between runs. He pulled out a great lap for the Mercedes to split the alpines for P5, closely followed by Bottas who put it P6.
It looked like the fight for pole as they all came back out was between the Verstappen and the Ferrari’s. Sainz couldn’t improve on his time but Leclerc had pace and beat his teammate to provisional pole. Perez was next who was on an absolute flyer. He took provisional pole with only his teammate to stop him. Verstappen came round the final corner and he had not improved his time. It was only good enough for P4 so Sergio Perez is finally on pole.
Every person in the paddock was happy for Perez who has worked hard for many years to reach that goal. It will be interesting to see what he can do from Pole.