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.

F1 Weekend Preview: Singapore

After two weeks off we head to the streets of Singapore for a night race which we haven’t been to since 2019. There is the possibility that Verstappen could wrap up the championship while most of the talk in the paddock will be about the changes in the driver market.

2023 driver line-up is all change

Whilst there is still a gap at Alpine after the Alonso/Piastri incident, there have been extensions and exits from other teams along the grid.

Tsunoda has his contact extended for 2023. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool.

Zhou was confirmed at Alfa Romeo for 2023 as well as an extension announced for Tsunoda over at Alpha Tauri. The interest in the Alpa Tauri drivers is likely to continue because, despite an announcement earlier in the season saying Gasly is staying, there has been significant interest in his seat as there is increasing pace in the rumours behind Gasly’s move to Alpine, but there has been no official confirmation of this.

One of the other interesting and slightly more inevitable announcements was the exit of Latifi from Williams at the end of the 2022 season. This was a long await change as Latifi hasn’t been performing to the same level as his teammates, and since the takeover of the team by Dorilton, they no longer need his money.

However, the timing of the announcement would suggest that the weekend in Monza sealed his fate. After Albon, unfortunately, had appendicitis he had to miss out on the race weekend, allowing Nyck de Vries to step in. While the race itself ended in an anti-climax behind the safety car, de Vries was able to finish his first F1 race in P9, comfortably ahead of Latifi and therefore bringing plenty of questions before Williams announced his exit from the team.

Nyck de Vries putting in a solid performance in Monza. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Can Verstappen round off the championship?

RedBull and Verstappen have had an incredible run of form recently, winning five races back to back and 11 races this season meaning Verstappen could wrap up the driver’s championship this weekend if the race goes in Verstappen’s favour.

The things to look out for is that if Verstappen wins without the fastest lap, Leclerc needs to finish P9 or lower and Perez needs to finish P5 or lower. If Verstappen wins with the fastest lap then Leclerc needs to be P8 or lower and Perez needs to be P4 or lower for Verstappen to win.

Considering the reliability and poor strategy calls of Ferrari, this situation is not out of the question. For Perez, RedBull will simply play the team game to make sure Verstappen secures the championship sooner rather than later.

Leclerc pleases home fans with Italian GP pole

Charles Leclerc delighted the Tifosi to take his eighth pole position of the season at Monza, with George Russell securing a front-row start after penalties for other drivers.

Leclerc beats Verstappen to pole at Ferrari’s home race. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton rounded out the fastest five in qualifying, but penalties for the quartet behind Leclerc drop them to fourth, eighteenth, tenth and nineteenth respectively. This has promoted the British duo of George Russell into second and McLaren’s Lando Norris into third place, on what will be a poignant weekend for the many Brits associated with Formula One after the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

Leclerc took advantage of a tow from Norris to go fastest with his final run in Q3, setting a 1:20.161 for his second pole position at Monza, and his seventeenth overall. Verstappen was a tenth and a half behind but will be confident that the Red Bull’s superior race pace can take him to an eleventh victory of the season.

First qualifying started in baking hot conditions in Monza, and there were plenty of drivers struggling to find grip in the early stages, as Mick Schumacher and Lance Stroll both had to react quickly to prevent their cars from spinning on their first runs. It was Ferrari who set the early pace, but with degradation extremely low around a circuit with very-few high load corners, drivers could stay out there for lap after lap – with Max Verstappen eventually going quicker than the Ferraris on his fourth run.

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

Haas were left wishing they had time to get even more runs in, as both drivers struggled to stay on track in the latter stages of the session. Kevin Magnussen had two laps deleted for track limits as he qualified nineteenth (sixteenth after penalties), ahead of his teammate Mick Schumacher, who went straight on at the Rettifilo chicane. Joining the Haas’ on the sidelines for Q2 was Nicolas Latifi, whose chances of retaining his seat will have taken a knock after being out-qualified by Nyck de Vries on debut, and the Aston Martin pairing of Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll.

Due to the nature of the Monza circuit, no one wants to be out on track first and give the rest of the field a handy slipstream on their hot laps. Once cars began to make their way out onto the circuit, it was Ferrari who again set the pace, despite Leclerc needing a second lap on his first run after locking up at Turn One.

Alpha Tauri decided not to bother sending Yuki Tsunoda out in Q2, with the Japanese driver having multiple driving and power-unit penalties, consigning him to a back of the grid start tomorrow. Only Daniel Ricciardo managed to pull himself out of the bottom five after the first runs, securing his first Q3 appearance since the summer break.

Esteban Ocon, Valtteri Bottas, Nyck de Vries, Zhou Guanyu and Tsunoda were the drivers to miss out in Q2, with de Vries having a major moment on the brakes into the second chicane, on what was a promising debut for the Dutch driver. Starting eighth tomorrow, in a car that is notoriously slippery in a straight line, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him score points on his F1 debut.

De Vries made it into Q2 on his first qualifying outing in F1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The first runs in Q3 saw Carlos Sainz go fastest, with his teammate Leclerc slotting in just behind, as the drivers alternated who would get the benefit of the tow. This proved to be the decisive factor on the final laps, with Leclerc’s double slipstream from Sainz and Norris potentially giving him the edge.

Daniel Ricciardo was eighth fastest and will start from fifth around the circuit where he took victory twelve months ago. Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso will start sixth and seventh, having both been caught out with track limits in the final qualifying session and failing to get a time on the board.

Ferrari has removed some upgrades from their car for Monza, and these changes look to have had the desired effect, certainly in qualifying. However, Leclerc has failed to convert any of his last five pole positions into a victory, with the Monegasque driver needing to end this streak tomorrow if he wants to keep his slim championship hopes alive.

2022 Spanish GP

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.

The front 2 clearly ahead of the rest on the start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

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.

Ricciardo overtaken by hos teammate early on. Image courtesy pf Pirelli F1 Press Room

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.

Perez making a move on Russell. Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool

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.

Hamilton making moves. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

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.

 

F1 Race Preview: Into the Desert

The 2022 season is finally here with a race at Bahrain to kick us off for the third year in a row. The anticipation is high with the new regulations, new tyres and optimism that the cars will be able to race much closer than last year.

Having been pushed back a year because of covid we finally get to see Formula 1’s big changes to produce more exciting racing. However, testing is over and the teams and drivers, hopefully, understand their cars a little better after all the changes and upgrades between Barcelona and Bahrain.

Mercedes will be looking to defend their constructors title with their new, slimmed down car very different to anything else on the grid. In Barcelona they didn’t blow everyone away despite putting in the fastest laps, but they seem to have improved in Bahrain. During testing Lewis Hamilton did say they might not be competing for wins, but we have heard that before?

Ferrari look to be very reliable and so far meeting the expectations of those that thought they were going to have a quick car this year. They looked to be one of the fastest teams in both testing sessions and have been very consistent and reliable throughout both tests.

Red Bull are there or thereabouts. They have had issues, but reigning world Champion Verstappen finished with the fastest lap of testing. Looking towards the year he will be looking to drag everything out of that car to defend his title.

McLaren look to be the other team which may be in the title fight after testing. They had a solid car in Barcelona, but reliability issues and a sick driver means they haven’t had the running they would like to go into the first race. Daniel Ricciardo should be back for FP1, provided he has a negative covid test.

Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press

Looking further back Aston Martin and Alpine are still very much looking towards the midfield with a hope for some podiums. Alfa Romeo and Williams look to be close to each other as will. They have been very close on times throughout testing so will be in a battle with each other all season.

Haas have been the surprise of testing. They were granted an extra hour at the end of day 2 and 3 in Bahrain to make up for their lack of running in the morning of day 1 because of flight delays. However, with the return of Kevin Magnussen, he went fastest at the end of day 2. Not to be left out Mick Schumacher was P2 by the end of day 3.

Testing times can never been taken as the definitive order, however it has been great to see how these cars might work in race conditions. We won’t completely know until Sunday afternoon if the new philosophy has worked but we are all excited to get racing again 92 days later.

The race on Sunday is 3pm GMT.

US GP: Verstappen takes pole in a front row lockout with Hamilton

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Red Bull and Verstappen reigned supreme at the circuit of the Americas on Saturday as the Dutch driver beat Hamilton to pole by two tenths of a second, setting up a front row lock out with his championship rival. Verstappen’s teammate Perez will start the race at P3 after a strong qualifying, which could come in handy for Verstappen in his fight for the title.

Mercedes struggled to match the Redbulls for pace in qualifying until Hamilton pulled out a decent lap in the last run of Q3. Unfortunately it was only emough to get the better of one Redbull and it was not his rival Verstappen. The Englishman has it all to do in the race on Sunday to try and beat Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes will be starting P9 on the grid after yet another engine change which means a grid penalty. This could be a blow for Mercedes in a scenario where they would require Bottas to play the team game in order to try and push for the driver’s title.

Ferrari looked fast over the course of the weekend in free practice sessions but even with that, their pace was no match to that of Redbull and Mercedes. They will be starting P4 and P5 on the grid with Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz respectively and crucially ahead of both the McLarens who are their closest rival in the constructors championship.

A nice battle is now shaping up for third place in the constructors championship between McLaren and Ferrari with only 7.5 points between them and both the McLaren drivers will be starting at P6 with Daniel Ricciardo and Norris at P7 respectively. With both the Ferraris ahead of them, they will have their work cut out from lights out if they want to maintain 3rd in the constructors championship.

Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauris completed the last remaining spots in the top 10 after qualifying P9 and P10 respectively. The 5th row on the grid will however change tomorrow as Bottas’ penalty relegates him to P9 while Gasly moves a place ahead to P8. Both the drivers for the Italian team managed to put in clean laps which was not the case for many other drivers on Saturday.

Esteban Ocon in the Alpine qualified at P11 after a little help from his teammate Fernando Alonso . The Spaniard who has taken a new engine this weekend will be starting from the back of the grid but showed that he was a true team player by providing Ocon a tow on the back straight in Q2. It was however not good enough for the Frenchman to make it all the way to Q3.

Sebastian Vettel and George Russell will be joining Alonso at the back of the grid after taking new engine components and incurring grid penalties. This however did not stop them from making it to Q2 and setting times. With Vettel’s time being faster than Alonso’s and Russell’s he will be starting P18, while Alonso will be starting P19 followed by Russell at P20.

Giovinazzi made it to yet another Q2 continuing his decent qualifying form and will be starting the race from P12 which gives him a good chance to grab some world championship points. Unfortunately for his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, it was an unstable Q1 after having lap times deleted and the Finnish driver will be starting from P15 on the grid.

Russell’s teammate Latifi in the Williams will be starting from P14 on the grid after qualifying P17 and both the Haas cars will be starting at P16 and P17 respectively, a bit higher than the usual. Lance Stroll in the Aston Martin will be starting P13 despite getting knocked out in Q1, where he looked quite off the pace compared to his teammate.

The battle for the driver’s championship is waiting for yet another chapter to be written in its tale as Verstappen and Hamilton go into the race with a front row start. With the way that the battle has shaped up so far this season, it is set to be yet another exhilarating start to the United States Grandprix, which will makes its return after two years and is on the verge of delivering a classic race.

Turkish Grand Prix: Hamilton fastest in qualifying as 10 place grid penalty awaits

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton breezed past competition in Istanbul Park on Saturday afternoon to set the fastest lap in qualifying. Unfortunately he will be starting P11 thanks to an ICE change on his Mercedes, which resulted in a 10-place grid penalty.

Hamilton’s teammate Bottas is set to start from pole position after he finished P2 in qualifying and crucially for Mercedes, he will be starting ahead of Max Verstappen in the Redbull, who is set to start P2 on the grid after his P3 finish in qualifying. This could be an interesting line up in the grand scheme of things leading up to the WDC title fight between Verstappen and Hamilton. While Bottas is up there with Max Verstappen on the front row, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez in the other Redbull will only be starting P6 tomorrow for the race.

The Ferrari of Charles Leclerc will line up at P3 on the grid tomorrow after the Italian team showed signs of pace in the free practice sessions on Friday. Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz is set to start from the back of the grid thanks to a complete power unit change. The 2nd row will see a back in form Pierre Gasly line up at P3 after the French driver looked really fast throughout the weekend .Gasly’s teammate Tsunoda managed to make it to Q3 but could not make any major inroads and he will be starting P9 for the race tomorrow.

McLaren will have their work cut out for the race come Sunday, as Lando Norris could only manage a lap fast enough for P8 in qualifying, which means P7 for the race. The English driver would be looking forward to quickly put the disappointment in Sochi behind him by delivering a strong finish for McLaren tomorrow. Daniel Ricciardo had a qualifying session to forget, especially after coming to Turkey with very strong results in the last two races, a P4 in Sochi and a race win in Monza. The Australian driver will start P15 on the grid, thanks to grid penalties for Carlos Sainz.

Fernando Alonso has proven yet again this season that class is permanent, after he finished P6 in qualifying and making it look easy while other drivers were struggling for tyre temperatures and grip on a relatively damp track. The Spaniard will start P5 on the grid for the race tomorrow and his teammate Esteban Ocon in the other Alpine will only be starting P12 alongisde Lewis Hamilton at P11.

It was a relatively good day at the office for Aston Martin on Saturday, as Lance Stroll finished P9 in qualifying, which means a P8 start on the grid for the race tomorrow. The Canadian driver has had his moments in Q2 where he ran wide and was at the mercy of other drivers’ lap times. Fortunately he lived to fight another day and will be looking for some good points in the race tomorrow. His teammate Sebastian Vettel missed out on Q3 but will start P10, which is not all bad for the German driver as he will have free tyre choice for the race on Sunday, despite starting in P10.

George Russell in the Williams was so close to making it to yet another Q3 in the season but the English driver ran wide in the very last corner in the final run of Q2, undoing all the good work he has put in during the lap. which will serve as a A gentle reminder of how cruel F1 can be as a sport. He is set to start the race from P13 on the grid while his teammate Latifi will start from P16.

Haas finally had a moment that they could savour this season as Mick Schumacher made it to Q2 for the second time this season but unlike the previous time, participated in it and put in a lap that was good enough for P14. His teammate Mazepin had yet another qualifying session to forget where he would be just happy to have kept the car in one piece, after spinning multiple times during the course of Q1 and he is set to start P19 on the grid. Both the Alfa Romeo cars failed to get out of Q1 in changing track conditions and they are set to start with Giovinazzi in P18 and Raikkonen in P19.

Valtteri Bottas might not yet be done playing his part in the title race but unfortunately for the Finn, it will not be for his own sake. With his teammate Hamilton starting from P11, it is his job to battle Verstappen and prevent the Dutchman from taking a win, which would minimize the damage for Lewis Hamilton. It is set to be an exciting 9th world championship Turkish Grandprix as the championship fight for both constructors and drivers enters the final phase with 7 races remaining on the calendar.

 

Belgian GP: Verstappen takes pole ahead of Russell as Norris crashes at Eau Rouge

Max Verstappen has taken pole for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix ahead of Williams’s George Russell, who put in a great performance in challenging conditions. Lando Norris crashed at Eau Rouge in the early stages of Q3, raising even more questions about the barriers at that corner.

The beginning of Q1 was initially delayed for 12 minutes because of heavy rain, but when it began both Russell and Nicholas Latifi headed out on track as the sole cars on intermediates. It was a decision that every other driver soon followed when the rain eased, as the times began to tumble.

Intermediates were the tyres of choice for Q2 as well. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas left it late to get a good lap in, being brought in for new sets and only moving out of the drop-zone in the closing moments.

The rain came down heavier for the start of Q3.

Sebastian Vettel was one of the first drivers to head out, and he almost immediately radioed his engineer saying he thought the session should be red-flagged because of how bad the conditions were.

It was indeed red-flagged a couple of minutes later, but only after Lando Norris crashed heavily at the Eau Rouge/Radillion complex. Vettel pulled up alongside the McLaren to check that Norris was okay, voicing some very angry comments over the radio. “What did I say?” he demanded.

At the time of writing, Norris has been taken for a precautionary x-ray on his elbow, but he managed to get out of the car on his own at least.

Following as his crash does from the six-car pile-up during W Series qualifying yesterday at the same corner, there is certainly a debate to be had over the barriers at Eau Rouge. Norris was sent spinning back across the track, and it was only good fortune that meant no-body was following close behind and put in danger of collecting him.

After a half an hour-long delay Q3 restarted.

Hamilton took provisional pole after the first runs, only to be bested by George Russell. It looked for a moment as if the Williams would actually take pole, only for Verstappen to cross the line and go fastest of all by three tenths.

More of the same can be expected for the race tomorrow in terms of weather, and we are certainly in for an interesting 44 laps!

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

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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