British GP Friday qualifying: Hamilton fastest at home

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WorldSBK UK Round: Race 2

Weather was again a factor in the Superpole race earlier in the day, giving the riders a lot of doubt when it came to tyre choice, some going for an intermediate option, and others preferring slicks. Jonathan Rea ( Kawasaki Racing Team KRT) finished the 10 lap shoot out fastest, with the BMW teammates of Tom Sykes, and Michael van der Mark finishing 2nd and 3rd respectively.

WSBK
Picture courtesy of https://wsbk.hondaracingcorporation.com/

By the time race 2 started the weather had cleared up, with the sun back out. As in race 1, Rea was again with the hole shot into turn 1 followed by Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) who had moved up from 6th place on grid, and Sykes (BMW) in 3rd. Garrat Gerloff (GRT Yamaha) again was having an impressive weekend, in a solid 4th place.

Rea was trying to put the hammer down early on, but Razgatlioglu was responding with a series of fastest laps 1:28.452 and 1:28.418. With 20 laps to go Toprak Razgatlioglu made the same move, and in the same place on Rea as he had done in race 1. Rea now using the soft X tyre choice was finding better traction, and was able to stay with the Pata Yamaha rider, not letting him clear away as was the case in race 1, and keeping the gap to 0.2.

Further down the field, Lowes (KRT), and Van der Mark (BMW) were resuming the tussle they had in race 1, coming into contact again with each other, in the battle for 6th and 7th places. Redding (Aruba.it Ducati) was making steady progress from a grid position of 11th and now found himself in 8th.

Nearing the halfway point in the race, and Razgatlioglu goes wide into a corner, Rea accepting the open invitation, goes through to retake the lead. Jonas Folgers’ weekend goes from bad to worse, as he adds another DNF to it.

Gerloff now within striking distance of Sykes, gets by on him. Then with 13 laps remaining, absolute disaster for Rea who ran into turn 8 too hot, lost the front end and unceremoniously dumped his KRT machine into the gravel. He had looked comfortable in front, but the pressure from the Turkish rider behind was telling. Incredibly he picked up his bike, and rejoined the track in last place, with a mountain of work to do if he was to take any points away.

It was now Razgatlioglu clearing away out front, followed by Gerloff 2nd, Sykes 3rd, Redding 4th, and Lowes in 5th. Redding was making good time, and had closed right down on Sykes in 3rd. Further back, Lowes and Van der Mark were still battling it out for 5th place.

Inside the final 3 laps now and the gap between Sykes 3rd, and Redding 4th, was now down to 0.563. Would there be enough laps left for Redding to make the pass? Rea had not been able to make up any time, and was still languishing at the back of the field, no doubt frustrated at how his final race of the weekend was turning out.

WSBK
Picture courtesy of https://wsbk.hondaracingcorporation.com/

Final lap now, and with a gap of 2.9 back to the Texan in 2nd place, Razgatlioglu would not be caught, unless something major happened. Redding now right on Sykes, and looking for a way past, runs out wide into the Melbourne Loop and with it his chance for a podium place.

With enough fuel left in the tank this time, Razgatlioglu crosses the finish line to become the new championship leader, with it becoming the first ever Turkish rider to lead a WorldSBK championship. Gerloff gets his best ever finish in 2nd, and Sykes takes 3rd. Rea completes his miserable race in 20th.

Top 10 result:

  1. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  2. Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team)
  3. Sykes (BMW)
  4. Redding (Aruba.it Ducati)
  5. van der Mark (BMW)
  6. Lowes (Kawasaki)
  7. Davies (Ducati)
  8. Rinaldi (Ducati)
  9. Haslam (Honda)
  10. Bautista (Honda)

Top 5 Championship

  1. Razgatlioglu  183 points
  2. Rea 181
  3. Redding 117
  4. Lowes 114
  5. Rinaldi 94

See you for round 5 of the WorldSBK championship in two weeks from Assen.

Round 4 WorldSBK Donington Park Race 1

World Super Bikes makes a welcome return to Donington Park after missing out last year due to the Covid 19 restrictions. The historic track, being the place where it all began back in 1988, hosting the first ever WorldSBK race.  Would we see history in the making this weekend?

Dramatic scenes at Donington. (Courtesy of: WorldSBK website).

Championship leader Jonathan Rea (Kawasaki) was looking in scintillating form, setting the fastest time in FP 1, as well as in a wet FP3. With the heavens opening to make for a wet Superpole, it wouldn’t dampen Rea’s pace, topping the grid in an unbeaten time of 1:40.101. Completing the front row would be the BMW teammates, Michael van der Mark  1:40.626, and Tom Sykes in 1:40.763.

The weather for Race 1 was looking typically mixed for a British summers day. With a massive downpour earlier in the morning, the race was declared wet, even although by start time the track was dry in most places. Tyre choice would be crucial, and it seemed most of the grid was going for slicks.

Lights out, and it was Jonathan Rea who got the hole shot into turn 1, closely followed by the two BMWs of van der Mark, and Sykes. It was Toprak Razgatlioglu (Yamaha) with a wonder start who was grabbing all the headlines early on, scything through the field from a lowly qualifying position of 13th, by turn 1 he was already up to 5th place. Winner last time around in Misano race 2, Razgatlioglu (TR) wasn’t hanging about, getting past both BMWs by the end of the first lap.

T.R was now hunting down Rea, who nearly went down after his rear tyre hit a damp patch. Further back in the field it was still very close, Gerloff (Yamaha) was passed in the Melbourne Loop by Redding (Ducati) who subsequently went down at the top of Craner Curves. The damp track was causing havoc, who was going to be able to hold their nerve? Another crash through the Craner Curves and its Christophe Ponsson (Yamaha) who went down.

T.R was now caught up to Rea and made his pass on lap 2. Across the start/finish line to begin lap 3, Rea again slides at the top of Craner Curves, this time running off the track and down across the wet grass, somehow managing to avoid a massive crash, rejoins the track to remain in 2nd place. Razgatlioglu lays down the first marker by putting in a fastest lap of 1:33.292.

Spectators get a fantastic race. (Courtesy of WorldSBK website).

Van Der Mark (BMW) was now right behind Rea after his excursion, and looking for a way past. Further back it was Leon Haslam (Honda) in 5th place clawing his way up to Sykes in 4th, while Gerloff in 7th was closing up to Alex Lowes (Kawasaki) in 6th. Both Razgatlioglu and Gerloff were using the slick soft X-tyre, and it was noticeable in their times.

With 20 laps to go, Razgatlioglu already held a gap of 3.1 to Rea, and was slowly applying more pressure, putting in another fastest lap of 1:32.706. The world champion would respond the next lap setting a new fastest lap of 1:31.441. It was turning out to be ‘anything you can do, I can do better.’

Again, with 18 laps to go Rea puts in another fastest lap of 1:30.648, reducing the gap to T.R to 1.948. He wouldn’t be giving up any time soon. With the track mostly dry now, faster times were being set. Razgatlioglu responded with 17 laps to go, setting a new fastest lap of 1:30.126. The drying track was still catching some riders out, with Andrea Locatelli (Yamaha) crashing hard, but he managed to walk away unhurt.

Another big moment for Rea at Redgate turn 1 with 15 laps to go, the rear stepped out, the slide is saved, but Rea lost valuable time to T.R. With the sun now shining down onto the track, the fans were being treated to absolutely sublime racing. Donington we missed you!

With 13 laps to go, van der Mark was getting closed down quickly by his team mate in 4th, and Lowes in 5th. Gerloff got through on Haslam with 12 laps to go. In a ding-dong battle, Sykes decides to make a move on his teammate, opening the door for Lowes, van der Mark now going from 3rd to 5th. All the while Gerloff was gaining on the trio.  Into the Melbourne Loop van der Mark runs in hot, and bumps shoulders with Lowes, somehow both riders managed to stay on, but this allowed Gerloff to gain a place – moving up to 5th.

Meanwhile at the front with 11 laps remaining, Rea puts in a new fastest lap of 1:28.908, hoping to claw his way back to T.R. The gap now at 3.4. Immediately the next lap T.R responds with a 1:28.815, not allowing Rea to have any momentum. Tito Rabat (Ducati) retires due to a mechanical problem.

With 9 laps to go Lowes makes a move on Sykes, out-braking him into the Melbourne Loop – pushing him wide, this in turn leaves Gerloff space to dive inside Sykes, going from 3rd to 5th in one corner. Last corner, turn 12 (Goddards) and Gerloff drives up the inside of Lowes, aggressive riding by the Texan – now on for a podium.

Razgatlioglu now lapping Jonas Folger (BMW) with 8 laps to go, showing no signs of slowing down. The gap to Rea now at 3.9. Drama for Gerloff going into turn 12 with 7 laps to go, he loses the front end and goes down, managing to get back on track now in 8th position, no doubt seething under his helmet after all the work he did earlier.

Lap 18 of 23 and the gap between Razgatlioglu to Rea now at 4.2, with Rea seemingly having accepted his 2nd place, or possibly not able to respond anymore to Razgatlioglu’s lap times – tyre wear almost certainly an issue for both riders now.

With 5 laps remaining Alvaro Bautista (Honda) had steadily moved up to 7th from a grid position of 16th, although he had Gerloff looking to make a pass on him, which he did, pushing him back a position. Gerloff was now hunting down Haslam in 6th place with only 4 laps remaining. Meanwhile at the head the gap between Razgatlioglu and Rea was now up to 5.0.

Last lap – late drama, Razgatlioglu’s bike looks to be spluttering from low fuel, he managed to cross the line, but lost the gap he made to Rea, who crossed in 2nd place.  Lowes the local lad, gets 3rd place for his 200th WSBK start.

Sportsmanship between first and second place. (Courtesy of: WorldSBK website).

There is a star on the Turkish flag, and Razgatlioglu no doubt surely is one, with a bright future ahead of him. After an action packed race 1, what will the Superpole race, and race 2 bring?

Race Results:

  1. Toprak Razgatlioglu – Yamaha
  2. Jonathan Rea – Kawasaki
  3. Alex Lowes – Kawasaki
  4. Tom Sykes – BMW
  5. Michael van der Mark – BMW
  6. Leon Haslam – Honda
  7. Garrett Gerloff – Yamaha
  8. Alvaro Bautista – Honda
  9. Lucas Mahias – Kawasaki
  10. Axel Bassani – Ducati

Out – Jonas Folger – BMW, Tito Rabat – Ducati, Andrea Locatelli – Yamaha, Scott Redding – Ducati, Christophe Ponsson – Yamaha.

Championship Standings:

  1. Rea – 169 pts
  2. Raz – 154
  3. Red – 104
  4. Low – 104
  5. Rin – 86

 

(Featured image – courtesy of: BBC)

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.

Charging Bulls Return Home: Austrian Grand Prix Preview

This is a familiar sight. Formula One embarks on a double-header in Austria starting this weekend, as Red Bull return to their home Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen’s victory in France last time out gives him a 12-point advantage as we approach the 4.3 kilometre circuit that also happens to provide some happy memories for F1 as a whole. Spielberg ended the drought of races during the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, allowing fans around the world to enjoy cars going quickly in circles again. It hosted the first two races of 2020, and now returns to host the eighth and ninth races of a thus far remarkable 2021 season.

Red Bull have now won three consecutive races for the first time since 2013, and expectations that Mercedes were about to return to form in France were bulldozed by the Austrian team’s victory and double-podium.

Max Verstappen’s victory in France gives him a 12-point lead coming into Austria – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

For what is really the first time since the arrival of the hybrid era, Mercedes find themselves in desperate need of a result. Red Bull are pushing them perhaps harder than anyone has been able to since 2014, and a short, technical track with little margin for error will likely suit Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, meaning that we are set for a stunning couple of races.

And the Red Bull Ring is not devoid of overtaking spots, so the battle behind the front two teams should be an intense one. There remains ambiguity over Ferrari’s sheer lack of pace in the French Grand Prix, with the Hard tyres refusing to switch on for either Carlos Sainz or Charles Leclerc, so keeping the rubber in check may just be another head-scratcher for the likes of McLaren, Alpine, Aston Martin and anyone else who plans to obtain third in the Constructors’ standings come the end of the year.

A terrible Sunday for Ferrari in France yielded no points – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press

But that may not even have to be a factor. Thunderstorms, along with an orange weather warning, are anticipated this weekend in the Styrian mountains, so expect there to be some strategic and handling difficulty for the teams and drivers.

Mercedes need another bounce back, but they are going to have to achieve it in Red Bull’s back yard. The next two weeks will be massive in the context of this year’s world championship.

F3 Paul Ricard preview: will Prema dominate again in France?

FIA Formula 3 returns this weekend for the second round of the season in Paul Ricard.

It’s a circuit that Prema will be very happy to return to. The last time F3 raced at Le Castellet, the Italian team dominated proceedings with a win apiece for Robert Shwartzman and Jehan Daruvala.

That past form bodes well for Prema considering they’ve also started this season with two wins out of the opening three races. But it’s an especially good omen for championship leader Dennis Hauger, who last time out took a near-perfect feature race win with pole and the fastest lap, and looked set to win the second sprint race too but for a collision with Matteo Nannini just three laps from the finish.

But while Hauger will enter the weekend as the early favourite, he’s not going to have it all his own way. His teammate Olli Caldwell, who inherited that second sprint race win from Hauger’s crash and sits just two points behind Hauger in the standings, will be looking for more podiums this weekend to establish his championship campaign.

Crucially, Caldwell has experience around Paul Ricard from his Formula 4 and Formula Regional European days while Hauger has never raced here before, so expect Caldwell to be a threat from the off.

Fresh start for Leclerc?

Arthur Leclerc, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Speaking of Prema’s title protagonists, one name is conspicuously absent — Arthur Leclerc. The Monegasque had a torrid opening weekend in Barcelona. After qualifying just 15th for the feature race, Leclerc then had a puncture in race one, started from the back in race two, and finished 13th in the feature race itself.

He’ll be coming into Paul Ricard hoping to put that weekend behind him and reset his championship campaign with a solid result. Luckily for him, like Caldwell he’s also raced at Le Castellet before in previous categories, including two wins and a second place in his 2020 FREC season.

Leclerc will also know that this early in the season, he only needs a little reversal of fortune for himself and his Prema teammates and he’ll be right back in the game.

Novalak and Martins aiming for home glory

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Bryn Lennon, Getty Images / FIA F3)

Prema may be leading both championships, but their drivers are far from the only contenders for victory this weekend. And of their challengers, Clement Novalak and Victor Martins — third and fourth in the standings respectively — will have extra incentive to take up the fight as they come to their home race.

Martins burst onto the F3 scene in Barcelona with a superb third place in qualifying and a podium in the second sprint race. Expect to see him threaten the front in qualifying again, as one lap pace has been one of his strengths throughout his junior career so far.

Novalak meanwhile has shown some of the best race pace so far this season, and looks so at home with his new Trident team. Not that he’s any slouch in qualifying either, so he will be in the mix in any of the three races this weekend as he hunts his first F3 win.

Keep an eye out for Crawford

Jak Crawford, Hitech (Dutch Photo Agency / Red Bull Content Pool)

If experience is going to play any part in the results this weekend, then it’s hard to ignore Hitech’s Jak Crawford. The 18-year-old Red Bull junior had a respectable start to his rookie year with points in the second Barcelona sprint race, but it’s arguably his exploits outside of F3 that have marked him as a contender this time out.

Alongside F3, Crawford’s also doubling up a Euroformula Open campaign with Motopark. And at the last round at Paul Ricard, Crawford took pole position, scored the fastest lap across all three races, and came away with two wins and a second place.

Another Paul Ricard win might be a long shot for Crawford in F3, but at the very least look out for him running in the points or possibly challenging for a podium across the weekend.

British Speedway Premiership Roundup: Aces on top, Wolves make a statement, highs and lows for the Witches and the Stars off the mark

The Belle Vue Aces moved to the top of the Speedway Premiership, following an excellent 45-45 draw at Ipswich up with a bank holiday double header that saw them draw at home to and win away the Peterborough Panthers.

Dan Bewley scored 29 from 30 available points last bank holiday Monday as a rescued 45-45 at the National Speedway Stadium was bettered by a 50-40 win at the East of England Arena.

That performance came after a solid 11 point haul away at Ipswich, with Foxhall a track that Bewley traditionally does not ride well at, leading his side to two away points.

Belle Vue host Ipswich tonight with the Suffolk side depleted with injuries as Jason Crump broke eight ribs in a crash at Wolverhampton, with Jordan Stewart injuring his collarbone, shoulder and ribs while doubling up with Redcar in the Championship.

The Witches’ injury list lengthened when Cameron Heeps suffered a shoulder separation during the home defeat to King’s Lynn, with Ipswich calling upon the ousted King’s Lynn Number One Craig Cook to guest in place of Crump while Berwick rider Aaron Stewart deputises for Heeps.

A narrow 44-46 reverse at home to the Stars compounded a poor week for Ipswich, who were smashed 62-28 at Monmore Green after having previously soundly beaten the Sheffield Tigers 51-39 the previous week.

Sheffield marked their long awaited returned to Owlerton with a 49-41 success over Wolves – particularly impressive considering the visitors’ aforementioned score over Ipswich coming just three days after they annihilated King’s Lynn 32-58 in Norfolk.

The Stars responded to that by releasing Craig Cook after just two meetings, and signing up Richard Lawson in his place, and have since replaced Ryan Kinsley and Lewis Bridger with Connor Mountain and Ricky Wells.

That proved to be the difference when they went to Foxhall looking to avenge opening day defeat by Ipswich, with Lawson top scoring with 13 points including a final heat 5-1 to swing the match in favour of King’s Lynn, who go to Peterborough on Monday in more derby action.

The Panthers will be looking to make up for lost time after having their opening match at Sheffield postponed because of the weather, and have ridden only twice against Belle Vue so far this season.

An excellent 45-45 draw at Belle Vue was followed by home defeat, and Peterborough will be desperate to land their first victory of the season at home to their local rivals, before another derby day at Ipswich on Thursday.

Position Team PL Points
1 Belle Vue Aces 4 10
2 Wolverhampton Wolves 3 7
3 Ipswich Witches 5 7
4 Sheffield Tigers 3 4
5 King’s Lynn Stars 3 3
6 Peterborough Panthers 2 2

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

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adventures around the Isle of Man

You’ve been going to the Isle of Man for the TT races for many years, you’ve been there, watched it, bought the T-shirt. You know the island like the back of your hand, you’ve got all your favourite locations to visit. But maybe you’re on the lookout for something a bit different to do, a bit of exploring or somewhere new to visit.

I’ve been going to the TT and Manx Grand Prix for over 15 years, and I’ve also lived there for a couple of years, and I still haven’t been everywhere I want to visit on the island. Here are a few of my suggestions, most of which I’ve done, but some are still high on my to-do list!

A burnout at the winners enclosure

A great way to get a different perspective on roads you’ve travelled many times is by public transport. You can make a day of it, with a rover ticket that covers all forms of public transport. My mate and I like to spend one day of the holiday working our way around the island, covering trams, buses and steam trains. Or if it’s a spectacular day we’ll jump on the tram up Snaefell for cake in the café at the top, and hopefully a glimpse of all seven kingdoms (the Isle of Man, England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the sea and the sky).

If history is your thing, read up in advance about the history of the Island away from the racing. For example, the island was used as an internment camp during World War 2, and some of the locations are still in evidence.

And talking of history, there are plenty of museums to visit, some focusing on the Island, including the Manx Museum in Douglas and the House of Manannan in Peel, some based around motoring, such as the Isle of Man Motor Museum in Jurby, and Murray’s Motorcycle Museum in Santon. On the road to the Calf of Man, the village of Cregneash is a living museum, and Castle Rushen in Castletown is the perfect destination for a rainy day.

The TT course hasn’t always included the Mountain Road – on a day off from the racing, seek out the original race circuits – the St John’s Course, a 15 mile route used for the 1907 TT, and the 10 mile Clypse Course which was used between 1954 and 1959.

And keep an eye out for other racing taking place around the same time – the Billown Course near Castletown hosts the Pre- and Post-TT Classics, which many of the TT riders take part in. There is usually beach racing taking place in Peel and Douglas, plus stock car racing at Onchan Raceway. And don’t forget the World Famous Purple Helmets!

For race days, find spectating spots which are different to your usual haunts. Maybe watch the commentary team in action at Glen Helen or Ramsey Hairpin, or gradually work your way round the course spectating from a different pub each time. Or if you’re feeling brave, attempt a TT circuit pub crawl on a non-race day!

One of my favourite spectating spots which people tend to overlook is the entry to Governor’s Dip under the trees – there is always plenty of room on the grass, and you get a close-up view of the machines as they tip into the hairpin, around the famous white-painted stone post. If you walk up the hill slightly, you can sit on the high bank – one of the few places left on the course where the bikes still go under your feet.

I also recommend having a bit of a walk around Ramsey – not too far from Parliament Square you can nip down the side streets and escape the crowds, or cross at the footbridge and watch from the inside of the course.

An emergency cake stop at St Ninian’s Church

And I can’t end this article without mentioning cake! I am always on the lookout for new and interesting places to have cake, and am currently most excited about going back to the little café in the steam train station at Port Erin, for lemon drizzle and a trip back in time.

The Isle of Man really is full of surprises, even when you’ve visited so often you think you’ve seen everything. I haven’t even scratched the surface here, but hopefully I’ve given you some ideas for some new adventures!