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.

More twists and turns in Moto2 at the Circuit of the Americas

There’s definitely one thing the 2021 Moto2 season has not been, and that is predictable.  Last weekend’s outing at the Red Bull Ring of the Americas was no exception, creating yet more twists and turns in a fascinating and entertaining season.

Moto2 Americas Augusto Fernandez. Picture courtesy of marcvds.com

Over the last few rounds the championship has evolved into a two-horse race between the Ajo KTM teammates Remy Gardner and Raul Fernandez, with Gardner holding onto the top spot with a seemingly comfortable lead.  Going into the weekend, Gardner, on 271 points, was 34 points ahead of Fernandez on 237 with Marco Bezzecchi in third place on 190.

Team Ajo KTM yet again dominated the front row with Raul Fernandez starting on pole (the sixth of his rookie season in Moto2), Gardner second and Fabio Di Giannantonio third. Behind them, Marco Bezzecchi started in fourth place, alongside American Cameron Beaubier in fifth, his best start of the season, and Augusto Fernandez in sixth.

Britain’s Jake Dixon started on row 5 in 13th place and Sam Lowes on row 6 in 16th.

Into turn 1 the local rider Cameron Beaubier slots through to take the lead, but only briefly as he runs wide, allowing both Ajo KTM riders through, with Raul taking the lead.

Beaubier drops back to fourth and then fifth as he is passed by Di Giannantonio and Bezzecchi, but comes back at Bezzecchi to regain fourth.

Gardner passes his teammate, but is unable to make it stick, and on lap 2 Gardner is passed by Di Giannantonio, then Beaubier passes both of them to edge back up into second. The ensuing battle allows Fernandez to stretch out a lead of almost 2 seconds at the front.

Lap 3, and Gardner is back up into second place, Beaubier is pushing hard and passes him on lap 4, but is unable to make it stick.

Everything changes on lap 6 as Gardner crashes out, losing the front end in the tight left hander of Turn 15. He tries desperately to restart his stalled machine, but eventually returns to his garage to watch the remainder of the race.

Raul Fernandez now leads by 2.2 seconds from Di Giannantonio, with Bezecchi, Beaubier and Italy’s Tony Arbolino battling for third.

Digiannantonio starts to make inroads into Fernandez’s lead, bringing it down to 1.7 seconds by lap 9.

Sam Lowes, who dropped back several places in the early stages of the race, suffered mechanical issues and limped his Elf Marc VDS machine back to the pitlane.

Moto2 Americas Sam Lowes. Picture courtesy of marcvds.com

By lap 14 Raul Fernandez has again stretched out a 2 second lead over Di Giannantonio, who is in turn 2.7 seconds ahead of 3rd place Bezzecchi, with Augusto Fernandez in 4th, Beaubier in 5th and Arbolino in 6th. These positions remained the same for the final few laps.

After an eventful weekend, Gardner’s championship lead is reduced to nine points, but with Raul Fernandez on a roll can he keep his place at the top as we return to Misano?

First fifteen riders:

1              Raul Fernandez SPA – Red Bull KTM Ajo – 25 points

2              Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 20

3              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 16

4              Augusto Fernandez SPA – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 13

5              Cameron Beaubier USA – American Racing – 11

6              Tony Arbolino ITA – Liqui Moly Intact GP                – 10

7              Ai Ogura JPN – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 9

8              Xavi Vierge SPA – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 8

9              Marcos Ramirez                SPA – American Racing – 7

10           Jake Dixon GBR – Petronas Sprinta Racing – 6

11           Aron Canet – SPA Inde Aspar Team – 5

12           Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 4

13           Simone Corsi ITA – MV Agusta Forward Racing – 3

14           Somkiat Chantra THA – IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia – 2

15           Bo Bendsneyder NED – Pertamina Mandalika SAG Team – 1

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.

 

Round 11 WorldSBK Portimao, Portugal Race 2

The Superpole race saw vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) claim the win followed by Redding (aruba.it Ducati) in 2nd and Baz (go eleven Ducati) 3rd.

WorldSBK Portimao 03.10.21 Race 2 Razgalioglu Picture courtest of Pata Yamaha Racing

Lights out for race 2 and its Redding with the hole shot into turn 1, followed by the Pata Yamaha team mates of Locatelli and Razgatlioglu. Rea (Kawasaki KRT) was a man on a mission, already up to 3rd, from a grid position of 10th. It was Redding, followed by Locatelli 2nd, Rea 3rd, Razgatlioglu 4th, Bassani (motocorsa Ducati) 5th and vd Mark 6th.

With 18 laps to go, Rea blasts past Locatelli down the straight to take 2nd, then cuts up on Redding down the sweeping left hander to take over the lead for the first time.

Next lap, and Rea subsequently loses his lead to both Redding and Razgatlioglu down the straight. Rea now in 3rd. Further back it was Locatelli 4th, Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) 5th, Bautista (HRC Honda) 6th, Baz 7th and vd Mark who had a terrible start, was now languishing in 8th.

WorldSBK Portimao 03.10.21 Race 2 Rinaldi Picture courtesy of Honda Racing Corporation

With 16 laps to go, Razgatlioglu tries to out brake Redding into turn 1 but locks up the front, which allows Rea space to pass. Following corner, and this time Redding runs wide, again Jonny capitalises and retakes the lead for the 2nd time.

With 15 laps to go, Rea puts in a fastest lap of 1:41.942. Again as in race 1, it is this group of title contenders pulling away from the rest. Razgatlioglu finally does make his move on Redding, moving up to 2nd and is now 0.3 behind Rea.

With 13 laps to go, Razgatlioglu passes Rea down the straight, the Kawasaki suffering from a lack of top end speed in comparison to the Yamaha R1. Toprak is next to post a fastest lap of 1:41.522, but Rea is able to stay right on his wheel. Meanwhile Bautista has moved up to 5th.

With 9 laps to go, Razgatlioglu loses the front end of his Yamaha into the high speed turn 15, nearly an identical crash to Rea in race 1. The Yamaha flying into the gravel. The Turkish rider is able to get onto his feet, but his race is over. Redding meanwhile, is starting to lose touch with Rea, the gap now 1.1.

With 7 laps to go there was a three way battle for 3rd between Locatelli, Bautista and Baz. Both of them subsequently passing the Italian. It was Baz 3rd, Bautista 4th and Locatelli 5th.

WorldSBK Portimao 03.10.21 Race 2 Bautista Picture courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

Last 2 laps remaining, and Rea has increased his lead over Redding to 2.6 and looking comfortable at the front. Meanwhile Bautista makes a lunge from along way back into turn 5 on Baz, who then makes contact with Bautista and subsequently punts him off the track.

Rea crosses the line for his 13th win at Portimao, followed by Redding 2nd, Baz 3rd, Locatelli 4th, Gerloff 5th and vd Mark 6th.

Result top 5:

  1. Rea (Kawasaki KRT)
  2. Redding (aruba.it Ducati)
  3. Baz (go Eleven Ducati)
  4. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)
  5. Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team)

Out: Bautista, Razgatlioglu, Rabat, Epis, Ruiu

Championship top 3:

  1. Razgatlioglu – 478 pts
  2. Rea – 454
  3. Redding 424

 

Round 11 WorldSBK Portimao, Portugal, Race 1

Toprak Razgatlioglu claimed victory in Race One in Portimao after a thrilling race.

WorldSBK Round 11 Portimao 02.10.2021 Picture courtesy of arubi,it Ducati

Superpole saw Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) claim top spot with an unbeaten lap of 1:40.219, followed by Rea (Kawasaki KRT) 2nd and Haslam (HRC Honda) in 3rd. The WorldSBK show would be bidding farewell to Europe after this weekend of racing ahead of the international races in Argentina and Indonesia.

Lights out and it was Razgatlioglu with the hole shot into turn 1, but he gets mugged by Jonathan Rea straight away after drifting wide.  All the while Scott Redding (aruba.it Ducati) now in third is watching the action unfold in front of him. It is Razgatlioglu, followed by Rea in 2nd, Redding 3rd, Haslam 4th, Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) 5th and Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) 6th.

With 19 laps to go, Razgatlioglu again drifts wide into a corner, opening the door for Rea, who doesn’t hesitate and dives up the inside. Toprak is having none of it and forces his way up the inside of Rea the next corner, the two riders coming together and swapping paint. Only lap 2 and the “red mist” has already descended on these two title contenders, the action really heating up now.

WorldSBK Round 11 Portimao 02.10.2021 Picture courtesy of arubi,it Ducati

With 18 laps to go, Redding puts in a fastest lap of 1:41.719, the pace of the front three already distancing Haslam and the group behind. Rea tries the same move on Razgatlioglu, this time making it stick to take the lead. Now it is the turn of Redding, who uses the slipstream of the two bikes in front to power past both of them into turn 1 and take over the lead for the first time. It was breathtaking racing and as dramatic as the whole season has been so far.

With 17 laps to go, it is the turn of Rea to put in a new fastest lap of 1:41.645 and he held a gap of 1.6 to Haslam behind in fourth. Further back it was Rinaldi 5th, Locatelli 6th, Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) 7th and Baz (go Eleven Ducati) 8th, (still riding for the injured Chaz Davies. )

Rea then moves from 3rd to take the lead; both Redding and Razgatlioglu had gone wide in the previous corners and Rea was looking fired up. And then into the high speed turn 15, huge drama as Rea loses the front of his Kawasaki at around 150 MPH, viciously sending it cartwheeling down the track and into the gravel. Amazingly he gets back onto his feet, very lucky to walk away from a scary crash seemingly unhurt.

With 13 laps to go, Redding and Razgatlioglu had continued to pull away from the rest, the gap now at 4 seconds, There was now a large group of five riders who were all battling it out for 3rd. It was Haslam 3rd, Rinaldi 4th, Locatelli 5th, Baz 6th, Gerloff 7th, Bautista (HRC Honda) 8th and vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) 9th.

A lap later, Bautista, again as in Jerez, was showing great pace late on and had moved up to 6th.

With 10 laps to go, Razgatlioglu makes his move on Redding into turn 1, coming from a long way out and out brakes the Ducati rider. Toprak looks to have the pace to push on further, while Redding looks to just be hanging on.

Shortly thereafter into turn 5, Locatelli runs into the back of vd Mark, taking them both out. The Dutchman was understandably furious as he was making good progress.

Into the final four now, and Redding has closed right onto the back of Razgatlioglu, but he can’t find a way past the Turkish rider on the brakes. He would have to find another option to have any chance of the win.

Last lap and Toprak now held a gap of 0.3 to Redding, but could he hold off the charging Ducati behind? Meanwhile further back it was Bautista and Baz fighting it out for 3rd.

WorldSBK Round 11 Portimao 02.10.2021 Picture courtesy of arubi,it Ducati

Razgatlioglu crosses the line to take the win, holding off Redding who takes 2nd, Baz 3rd, after Bautista crashes into the last corner. Rinaldi 4th, Haslam 5th, Gerloff 6th and Bassani (motocorsa Ducati) 7th.

Top Five Classification:

  1. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  2. Redding (aruba.it Ducati)
  3. Baz (go Eleven Ducati)
  4. Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati)
  5. Haslam (HRC Honda)

Out: Rea, vd Mark, Bautista, Epis (Kawasaki), Ruiu

Top three championship Classification:

  1. Razgatlioglu – 474
  2. Rea – 429
  3. Redding – 395

 

Round 10 WorldSBK Jerez, Spain, Race 2

Track temperatures were now in excess of 40 degrees Celsius as the track had been heating up during the day. As the Superpole race had been cancelled, positions on the grid were the same as for race one.

Race 2 Jerez Michael Rinaldi and Scott Redding Picture courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

Lights out and its Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) yet again with the quickest start off the line to get into turn 1 ahead of the others. Followed by Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) in 2nd, Rea (Kawasaki KRT) in 3rd, Redding (aruba.it Ducati) 4th and Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) in 5th.

Toprak was looking keen to get away but the Ducati team mates of Rinaldi and Redding were looking good in the higher track temperatures, as they had in Navarro earlier in the season. So too the Honda team mates of Haslam and Bautista in 6th and 7th, were looking much better.

With 18 laps to go Rea looked to be losing time and now had Redding pass him to demote the Irishman to 4th. Locatelli was now eyeing up the Kawasaki ahead of him.

With 17 laps to go, Redding puts in a fastest lap of 1:40.776 and was looking to make a move on his team mate . Meanwhile Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) loses control of his bike into turn 6 and that spells the end of his race.

With 15 laps to go Redding makes the move on Rinaldi up the inside into the last corner to take 2nd. Meanwhile further back Locatelli cuts up the inside of Rea to take 4th. Rea was really struggling to get his Kawasaki stopped into the hard braking corners and was losing ground, with Bassani (motocorsa Ducati) right behind.

Race 2 Jerez Scott Redding and Toprak Razgatlioglu Picture courtesy of Aruba.it Ducati

With 12 laps to go Redding had closed the gap down to Toprak to 0.4 and was looking comfortable in the warmer conditions. Further down the field it was vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) in 8th, Baz (go eleven Ducati) 9th and Laverty (BMW Motorrad) 10th.

With 10 laps to go, the gap between Razgatlioglu and Redding was further closing with the gap now 0.3, meanwhile Rea was still holding off Bassani for 6th.

With 8 laps to go Bautista (Honda HRC) had now caught up to the back of the Rinaldi, Locatelli group but went too hot into a corner going wide and losing time.

With 7 laps to go, Locatelli gets by Rinaldi into turn 6 to take 3rd. Bautista was showing great late race pace and was looking for a way past Rinaldi who was dropping back looking to be suffering from tyre wear issues. Bautista does make the pass and takes 4th.

With 4 laps to go, Razgatlioglu goes slightly wide into a corner, leaving space for Redding to drive the Ducati up the inside and take over the lead for the first time. Meanwhile it was now the turn of Bassani (motocorsa Ducati) to go past Rinaldi for 6th, Rinaldi who was continuing to lose ground had previously been passed by Rea who was now in 5th.

With 3 laps to go, Bautista goes through on Locatelli. Meanwhile at the front Razgatlioglu retakes the lead diving under Redding into the last corner. The Yamaha showing how much better it could turn in comparison to the Ducati.

Race 2 Jerez Garratt Gerloff Picture courtesy of Pata Yamaha Racing

Last lap and would Redding be able to retake the lead? He was lining up Toprak and looked to be gaining momentum through the last series of corners it could be a last corner pass as it has been so often here at Jerez.

Razgatlioglu holds off Redding and crosses the line to take the double win this weekend. Redding 2nd, Bautista 3rd.

Result top 5:

  1. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  2. Redding (aruba.it Ducati)
  3. Bautista (Honda HRC)
  4. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)
  5. Rea (Kawasaki KRT)

Out: Cresson (Perdercini Kawasaki), Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team), Ponsson (Gil Yamaha)

Championship top 3:

  1. Razgatlioglu – 449 pts
  2. Rea – 429
  3. Redding 375

 

 

 

Round 10 WorldSBK Jerez, Spain, Race 1

Superpole on Saturday, saw Toprak Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) claim pole with a fastest lap of 1:38.512, with the Kawasaki KRT team mates of Lowes and Rea in 2nd and 3rd.

Race 1 Jerez Leon Haslam Picture courtesy of HRC Racing

Track conditions were near enough perfect for race 1 with a mix of tyre choices throughout the grid. Toprak going for the softer SCX rear tyre, while Rea went for the harder option. After the tragedy yesterday in the Supersport 300 race there was definitely a sombre mood over the grid with riders all deep in their own thoughts before the start.

Lights out and its Razgatlioglu with the hole shot up into turn 1, followed by Rea in 2nd, Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) 3rd, Lowes 4th and Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) in 5th. Rea is not hanging around and dives underneath Razgatlioglu, hoping to get away early.

Next lap and Locatelli has moved up to 3rd, Rinaldi went wide into a corner and loses a position, while Redding (aruba.it Ducati) is 5th Lowes had a terrible start and now finds himself slipping back to 8th. Special mention for Eugene Laverty (BMW Motorrad) who is back racing on Tom Sykes’s bike, who misses the race due to injury last week and is in 13th.

With 19 laps to go Redding moves past his team mate not wanting to lose touch with the group up front. Further back its the Honda team mates of Haslam and Bautista in 6th and 7th respectively, vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) in 8th and Lowes who continues to slip back, is now in 10th.

With 18 laps to go, Rea puts in a fastest lap of the race with  a 1:39.837 no doubt trying to break Razgatlioglu behind. This relentless pace being set was distancing everyone behind, except for Locatelli in 3rd who was trying to hang on.

With 16 laps to go Rinaldi loses control of his Ducati sending it sprawling down the track and ploughing into the gravel. His race is over.

With 14 laps to go Razgatlioglu comes from a long way out into the Pedrosa corner, turn 6, but is unable to get it stopped in time and runs into the back of Rea. Fortunately both riders are able to stay upright, but this gives Rea extra incentive to get away from the Turkish rider.

With 12 laps to go, Baz (go eleven Ducati) who is riding Chaz Davies’s bike, also out due to injury, moves up to 7th. Meanwhile Haslam is falling back and now in 9th. Redding in 4th, initially looked to have the pace to catch Locatelli in 3rd but now seems to be unable to gain any more time on the Italian rider.

With 7 laps to go, Razgatlioglu makes his move on Rea, diving up the inside into turn 1. Another tough pass but that is how the Turkish rider races and it would not have been a surprise for Rea who would be looking to respond.

Race 1 Jerez Garratt Gerloff Picture courtesy of PATA Yamaha Racing Team

With 4 laps to go Razgatlioglu now held a gap of 0.8 to Rea in 2nd and was looking comfortable in the lead. Meanwhile Locatelli was still holding onto 3rd with Redding in 4th.

Last lap now, and Redding has closed right up to Locatelli, he makes the move using the power of the Ducat and takes 3rd. Further back vd Mark is trying to hold of Bassani (motocorsa Ducati) who has shown great late race pace for 7th.

Razgatlioglu crosses the line for the first win of the weekend followed by Rea in 2nd, Redding 3rd, Locatelli 4th, Bautista 5th, Baz 6th, vd Mark 7th and Bassani in 8th.

Result top 5:

  1. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  2. Rea (Kawasaki KRT)
  3. Redding (aruba.it Ducati)
  4. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)
  5. Bautista (Honda HRC)

Out: Mercado (Honda), Cavalieri (Ducati), Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati)

Championship top 3:

  1. Razgatlioglu – 424 pts
  2. Rea – 418
  3. Redding 355

F2 Sochi preview: will winning experience prove key at Sochi?

Formula 2 returns this weekend for Round 6 of the championship at Russia’s Sochi Autodrom.

The Sochi circuit is one that’s well known to the F2 championship and plenty of this year’s drivers. In fact, of the 24 drivers taking to the grid this weekend, 18 of them have raced around Sochi in the last three years, and six — Guanyu Zhou, Juri Vips, Richard Verschoor, Christian Lundgaard, David Beckmann and Marcus Armstrong — have won before in their various feeder series outings.

Only Oscar Piastri, Theo Pourchaire, Lirim Zendelli and Enzo Fittipaldi have yet to turn a racing lap around Sochi in their careers. And given that Piastri, and to an extent Pourchaire, are in the title fight this year, that difference in experience could prove crucial this weekend.

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Michael Regan, Getty Images / FIA F2)

Zhou, who currently sits second in the standings and 15 points behind Piastri after Monza, will certainly be hoping his experience plays its part. Along with Marino Sato, Zhou has the most knowledge of Sochi in an F2 car, having raced there in the last two seasons of F2 — but as well as that, Sochi was also the site of Zhou’s first F2 win in last year’s sprint race.

After Piastri dominated last time out in the Monza feature race, Zhou will be looking to repeat his 2020 win at Sochi and return to the top of the standings. But on the other hand a lack of experience hasn’t hampered Piastri so far this year, as he won at Bahrain and found the podium at Baku despite having never raced at either circuit before this year.

Shwartzman looking for big points on home soil

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F2)

It’s not just Guanyu Zhou who will come to Sochi motivated by memories of past results. Robert Shwartzman will take to the track this weekend not only buoyed by his home support, but also by the fact that it was at Sochi that he clinched the 2019 Formula 3 title.

If that brings Shwartzman any extra confidence in 2021, then it will be gratefully received. Shwartzman was keen to point out in Monza that despite the title focus being firmly on Piastri and Zhou, he was far from out of the equation himself.

After all, Shwartzman is still third in the championship with two wins to his name. And although he had a rocky start in the first two rounds, since his breakthrough win in the first Baku sprint race he has actually outscored Zhou by 75 points to 66.

Shwartzman doesn’t need a perfect weekend in Sochi, he just needs a solid one. That starts with qualifying well, which has largely been his Achilles heel this year compared to Piastri and Zhou. But Shwartzman knows how to get one lap pace at this track, as he showed when he took pole for the 2019 F3 feature race.

If Shwartzman can start high up the grid and close the gap to Piastri and Zhou, then he’ll be in a great position to really challenge for the title on the home stretch in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.

F3 Sochi preview: title beckons for Hauger in Sochi finale

Formula 3 returns to action this weekend for the final time this season, as Russia’s Sochi Autodrom plays host to the championship showdown between Prema’s Dennis Hauger and Trident’s Jack Doohan.

That title fight is now Hauger’s to lose. With four wins, eight podiums and two pole positions to his name so far, Hauger comes to Sochi with a 43-point advantage over Doohan, with 65 points still left to play for this weekend.

That advantage means that Hauger can clinch the title after Saturday’s second sprint race, provided he doesn’t concede any more than 13 points to Doohan across the two sprint races. And even if Doohan still has a chance going into Sunday’s feature race, he’ll be aiming for almost every point available for victory, pole and the fastest lap unless Hauger’s Saturday really falls apart.

Jack Doohan, Trident (Red Bull Content Pool)

Doohan needs a lot of things to go his way if he’s going to snatch the title from Hauger. But pressure can play a big part in title showdowns, even for drivers who have otherwise been as composed all year as Hauger.

If Doohan can start applying that pressure early, such as by taking pole or closing the gap in the first sprint race, then he can start using that to try and force a mistake from Hauger when it really matters.

Neither driver has raced at the Sochi Autodrom so far in their careers, so both will be learning the circuit fresh this weekend. With only one practice session, whoever can hit the ground running fastest will have a big advantage over the weekend’s three races.

Fight for third as tight as ever

Victor Martins, MP Motorsport (Joe Portlock, Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

It may just be Hauger and Doohan battling for the F3 title this weekend, but there is still an equally intense fight for third place in the championship yet to be resolved — and a four-way fight at that.

Clement Novalak is currently leading that quartet on 122 points after his double podium result at Zandvoort. The Trident driver has shown impressive consistency all year long to reach this position in the championship, with points finishes in all but one of the last nine races — although what’s arguably more impressive is that he is the only driver of these four still yet to win this season.

Just behind Novalak are Victor Martins and Frederik Vesti, both level on 117 points and each with a win to their name. Martins’ victory came in the second Zandvoort sprint race and was the peak of a brilliant bounce back after a disappointing run leading into the summer break. He seems to be riding on a second wind right now, which is the perfect momentum to have running into the season finale.

But Vesti is almost in the opposite situation. He showed great pace early in the season and is still the only driver outside of Hauger and Doohan to take a feature race win this year, but as Novalak and Martins hit their stride Vesti dropped back from the front of the championship.

Frederik Vesti, ART (Dan Istitene , Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images / FIA F3)

Vesti was back on the podium at Zandvoort — his first since his feature race win at the Red Bull Ring — so hopefully that will give him the boost he needs to end his season on the form it started.

And lastly there’s Alex Smolyar, who is 15 points behind Novalak in sixth despite having more wins than both Martins and Vesti and more podiums than Novalak. But he’s also missed the points on six occasions and consistency has been his main weakness this year.

However, Smolyar is the only one of this pack of drivers with any racing experience of the Sochi Autodrom, and his last visit during his 2017 SMP F4 days resulted in a double podium. That will surely give Smolyar confidence as he comes into the weekend needing a great result to overhaul the drivers ahead of him.

Round 9 WorldSBK Catalunya, Spain, Race 2

Thankfully we had blue skies and the sun was out for dry racing conditions on Sunday. For the Superpole race, Rea (Kawasaki KRT) decided on the harder Sc0 tyre, while most of the other riders went for the softer ScX rear tyre. After a restarted race due to a crash and subsequent red flag, Rea went on to take his first win of the weekend followed by Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) in 2nd and Bautista (Honda HRC) in 3rd, who takes his first podium of the season.

WorldSBK Race 2 Catalunya 19.09.2021 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team Provec Racing

For race 2, the riders were barely off before a big incident at turn 1 involving Sykes (BMW Motorrad) and Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing) saw the race red flagged for the second time today. It was decided the restarted race would be brought down to 19 laps.

Lights out for the shortened race and its Razgatlioglu with the hole shot down into turn 1, followed by Rea in 2nd, Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) 3rd, Bautista 4th and Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) in 5th. Redding, as in race 1, was down in 10th.

Track temperature was around 40 degrees Celcius and the riders knew the second half of the race would be crucial in terms of managing tyre wear. Only the Ducati team mates of Rinaldi and Redding had gone with the harder Sc0 rear tyre, while everyone else went with a softer option.

With 17 laps to go, it was Rinaldi who set a new fastest lap of 1:42.566 and he was breathing down the neck of the Turkish rider in front after powering past Rea down the straight.

Next lap and Redding was now up to 6th and, as he had in race 1, he was now finding his groove and looking ready for a fight. Bautista was in front of Redding and feeling more confident on his Honda after his podium in the Superpole race. Gerloff (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) was in 7th and trying to hang onto the group in front of him.

Lap 6 of 19 now, and Rinaldi finds a way past Razgatlioglu and holds a lead of 0.4. Rea was in 3rd and Locatelli was in 4th, followed by the group of Bautista, Redding and Gerloff who was starting to slip backwards.

WorldSBK Race 2 Catalunya 19.09.2021 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team Provec Racing

Redding was desperate to get past Bautista and tried several times to dive up the inside of the Honda rider although every time he tried, he was way too hot into the corner going wide which allowed Alvaro to respond and retake the position back.

With 11 laps to go Rea was dropping back to Locatelli, no doubt suffering tyre wear issues. Both Bautista and Redding were doing faster lap times and would soon catch him. Meanwhile further back it was Bassani (motocorsa racing Ducati) in 8th, Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Team) 9th and vd Mark (BMW Motorrad) in 10th.

With 9 laps to go, Redding takes both Bautista and Rea, the latter who had himself been passed by Locatelli and was dropping back like a stone now really struggling with grip.

With 8 laps to go, Razgatlioglu fights back and dives up the inside of Rinaldi into turn 6 to retake the lead. If he was also suffering with tyre wear, the Yamaha rider was definitely handling it better. However the harder tyre choice seemed to be working very well for both of the Ducati riders.

With 5 laps to go, Rinaldi out brakes Razgatlioglu down the long straight and into turn 1 to retake the lead. The two holding a gap of 3 seconds to Locatelli in 3rd.

Three laps to go and Rinaldi was pulling away from Razgatlioglu and now held a  gap of 1.5 to the Turkish rider. Meanwhile Redding moves up the inside of Locatelli down into turn 1 and was now hunting down the Yamaha rider in 2nd.

Onto the last lap now and Redding was within a second of Razgatlioglu. Further back Rea was still holding onto 6th, with Gerloff in 7th. Toprak was definitely falling back but would there be enough time for Redding to catch him?

Rinaldi crosses the line to take the win followed by Razgatlioglu who holds on for 2nd, Redding 3rd, Bautista 4th, Locatelli 5th, Rea 6th, Gerloff 7th and Bassani 8th.

WorldSBK Race 2 Catalunya 19.09.2021 Picture courtesy of Yamaha Racing

And the result means Razgatlioglu retakes the top spot of the championship yet again, this time by a single point. This season is going down to the wire and is still too hard to call.

Result top 5:

  1. Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  3. Redding (aruba.it Ducati)
  4. Bautista (Honda HRC)
  5. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)

Rider out: Sykes (BMW Motorrad), Lowes (Kawasaki KRT), Epis (Pedercini Kawasaki), Cresson (Pedercini Kawasaki), Mahias (Kawasaki Puccetti Racing)

Championship top 3:

  1. Razgatlioglu –  399 pts
  2. Rea 398
  3. Redding 339