Monaco Grand Prix: Dominant Verstappen and heartbreak for Leclerc

Before the race began, Leclerc had issues on his lap to the grid. Finally making it back to his garage, it was a race to discover and fix the problem before the pitlane closed. This, however, was not possible.

After several messages between the FIA and Ferrari, the car was not able to start the race due to a failure of the left drive shaft. This was more heartbreak for the Monégasque, who has never finished a race in Monaco after getting DNFs in both 2018 and 2019 and in 2017 with Formula 2.

Because of this there was some question over whether the grid would be shuffled up. The FIA quickly decided, though, to keep everyone in the grid positions they qualified in. This meant that, for the first time since David Coulthard in 2001, nobody would start in pole position at Monaco.

Bottas then had a clean track on the inside to start with only Verstappen on the dirty side, leaving a potential for carnage at the start of the race.

Lights out and Bottas had a better start, but this was shut down by Verstappen before Turn 1. The rest of the pack got away cleanly, which is unusual for Monaco.

(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images) – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

From there it was a relatively straight forward race before the pitstops. On lap 24, Hamilton was the first to pit in an attempt to undercut Gasly. However, it didn’t work on this occasion.

Bottas pitted on the next lap and drama unfolded as the wheel nut on the front right was machined off and the wheel became stuck on the car. Initially it looked as if they may be able to get it off, but this was to be the end of his race.

This created a huge opportunity for Red Bull and Verstappen. Some excellent team play by Red Bull meant that Perez had opened up a gap on Hamilton, Gasly and Vettel to be able to pit without losing too many positions. Bono had to break the news to an already very annoyed Hamilton that he had lost a further position to Perez as a result.

With 20 laps to go, Lando Norris started to complain about his tyres as Perez began to catch him at nearly one second per lap. However, as is normal around Monaco, it is very difficult to overtake and Norris managed to hold off Perez for the final podium position.

McLaren Media Centre

Having accepted his position on the track, Hamilton pitted for soft tyres to fight for the fastest lap point. This was not as simple as it seemed, as he had to let Verstappen lap him before charging for fastest lap. He did eventually get the extra point, a consolation prize after a not-so-successful weekend. This point, whilst not important now, could become crucial in the last stages of the season.

Finally, after a very dominant performance, Max Verstappen won the Monaco Grand Prox. He broke his Monaco ‘curse’ by making it onto the podium for the first time. Sainz followed in P2 with Norris in P3. This was one of the happiest podiums in Formula 1, with all drivers excited to be there. It also gave the fans a great Sainz and Norris reunion which everyone has been wanting since Sainz moved to Ferrari.

Vettel got a well deserved driver of the day vote after a great performance, gaining two places in the race and making a great move on Gasly when he came out of the pits to secure him P5.

Due to his win Verstappen now leads the driver championship, which is the first time since Australia 2013 that it has been led by someone other than a Mercedes driver or Vettel. This is also the first time Red Bull have led the constructor’s championship since 2013.

Monaco Grand Prix Qualifying: Leclerc crashes onto pole at home race

Charles Leclerc took pole in his home race at Monaco on Saturday afternoon after delivering a good lap on his first run in Q3. The qualifying session did not end in the best way for the rest of the drivers though, after the Monegasque driver lost control of his car coming out of the swimming pool section and ended up in the barriers and brought out the red flag.

This bitter-sweet ending to his qualifying session meant that Max Verstappen, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz, who were all setting decent times behind him, had to abort their laps.

© Copyright: FIA Pool Image for Editorial Use Only – FOTO COLOMBO IMAGES SRL

A frantic Q1 got underway under cloudy Monaco skies with cars all over the short layout track and drivers had to do multiple warm-up laps to get the tyres to running temperatures as the track was colder compared to previous sessions. Both the Haas cars saw their drivers go out in Q1, especially Mick Schumacher who had a huge crash coming out of the casino square in free practice even failed to make it onto the track in the session.

A surprise knockout of Q1 was Fernando Alonso of Alpine who has had such a brilliant record at the track previously and this meant he would only be starting as high as P17 for tomorrow’s race. His teammate Ocon on the other hand qualified at a decent P11 giving himself a chance to score points. Highly talented Japanese rookie Yuki Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri was another driver who had to exit Q1 after his hot lap could only manage to put him at P16. Latifi in the Williams could only manage a P18 while his teammate George Russell got out of Q1 yet again and will be starting at P15.

Q2 saw the 2018 Monaco GP winner Daniel Ricciardo get knocked out after his lap was only good enough to be placed at P12 which shows that the Australian is still getting accustomed to the McLaren car. His teammate Lando Norris however had yet another good qualifying session at put his McLaren at P5. Lance Stroll of Aston Martin and Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo were the rest of the drivers to be knocked out of Q2 and they are set to start from P13 and P14.

Credit: McLaren Media Centre

Q3 got off to a brilliant start as expected with Verstappen in the Redbull taking on the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc but it was Leclerc who came out on top after the first runs. Mercedes who were struggling all weekend will take some comfort from the fact that Valtteri Bottas atleast managed to put his car onto P3 at the grid after the end of the session. Concern will still be present around Lewis Hamilton’s starting position after the championship leader could only manage a lap good enough to put him at P7.

Pierre Gasly put in another stellar performance even outqualifying Hamilton in the process and will be starting his race P6 alongside Norris in P5. Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin impressed yet again after qualifying for Q3 and he will lining up alongside an old rival in Lewis Hamilton at P8.

The Monaco GP returning after a 1 year break is all set to alter the course of the championship standings should Verstappen finish where he is starting from. Fate could still intervene for Charles Leclerc at his home race as his pole position might be taken away from him if his gear box has suffered from the crash but for now, Ferrari have a real chance of making a statement after a horrible season of 2020.

 

Formula 1 announces multi-year extension with Suzuka until 2024

Formula 1 announces a multi-year extension with the Japanese Grand Prix, ensuring that racing will remain at Suzuka Circuit for at least another three years. The multi-year extension between Formula 1 and race promoter Mobilityland will see the FIA Formula One World Championship continue to visit the historic circuit until 2024.

A mainstay on the Formula 1 calendar since 1987, the circuit has hosted many iconic championship deciders as well as some of its most memorable moments. Its only breaks in 34 years came in 2007 and 2008 when Fuji Speedway took over, including when it was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Japanese Grand Prix’s contract had been due to expire after the 2021 season.

Suzuka has struggled financially at times, not helped in part thanks to poor fan interest with no Japanese presence on the grid, the last being Kamui Kobayashi in 2014. The 2017 Japanese Grand Prix saw a 5.5% decline in attendance, the biggest percentage drop on the Formula 1 calendar at the time. Moreover, the Japanese Grand Prix only counted for 2.8% of TV audience in Japan, compared to 5.5% for European races.

However, there has been a remarkable shift in Japanese participation and success in recent years. Honda became the sole supplier for Red Bull and Alpha Tauri, taking seven victories in little over two seasons. Additionally, highly-rated Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda has given the Japanese fans someone to support, hopefully for years to come.

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Image) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1:

I am truly delighted that Formula 1 will continue to race at Suzuka Circuit for another three years. Japan holds a special place in the hearts and minds of F1 fans all over the world, and Suzuka has played host to many of the sport’s most legendary moments, with 11 Drivers’ titles being decided there. The Japanese Grand Prix has always showcased gripping, edge-of-your-seat drama, and I am thrilled we can continue to bring the action and excitement that is Formula 1 to the passionate motorsport fans of Japan.

“This extension is part of our long-term commitment to growing the sport in Asia, and we are pleased to be able to continue our successful relationship with Mobilityland. I’d like to personally thank Mr Tanaka and his team for their continued efforts in reaching this agreement, and we look forward to working with the promoter to increase the popularity and fanbase of Formula 1 there.”

Kaoru Tanaka, President Representative Director of Mobilityland Corporation:

“As a result of repeated negotiations with Formula 1, we have been able to conclude a contract on hosting the event from the year 2022 and onward. We would like to express our sincere gratitude to Formula 1 members, including first of all Mr Stefano Domenicali, for the great understanding that was shown during the negotiations.

“We are determined to continue to our efforts together with local residents of Mie Prefecture and Suzuka City so that Suzuka Circuit will continue to be loved by fans all over the world and contribute to the prosperity of the motorsports culture.

“In 2022, Suzuka Circuit will celebrate its 60th anniversary. In addition to the Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix that will be held from the year 2022 and onward, we will take on new challenges for the future while also cherishing the history and traditions of the sport so that we may provide fans with surprises, joys and emotional experiences. Please look forward to the events to come.”

With the likes of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato in IndyCar, Le Mans winner Kazuki Nakajima and Yuki Tsunoda in Formula 1 – it has never been a better time to be a motorsport fan in Japan.

The 2021 Japanese Grand Prix is set to be held on the 10th October providing no further postponements or cancellations.

McLaren launches 2021 contender

McLaren have become the first F1 team to unveil their 2021 challenger in a launch held at their factory in Woking.

Externally, the MCL35M is quite similar to its 2020 predecessor, featuring the same orange and blue livery. The most notable difference is around the power unit with tighter bodywork and a narrower floor.

McLaren Media Centre

Speaking of the launch in a press release, CEO Zak Brown said, “After a challenging but rewarding 2020, we have firmly hit the reset button for this season as we continue on our path towards the front of the grid. This will be an even tougher season but we’re ready to meet the challenge. I want to pay tribute to Formula 1 and the FIA and our fellow teams in continuing to work hard for the benefit of our sport as we strive to bring exciting racing to fans around the world.”

McLaren’s driver line-up has partially changed for 2021. Lando Norris is staying on for a third season, while Daniel Ricciardo is now driving alongside him. He replaces Carlos Sainz, who has moved to Ferrari for this year.

Team Principal Andreas Seidl said, “Together, Lando and Daniel comprise one of the most competitive driver line-ups in the sport. With these two behind the wheel of the MCL35M, we know we’ll have a team that gives total commitment in the pursuit of on-track performance as we head into the 2021 season.”

After using a Renault power unit from 2018 to 2020, the 2021 McLaren features a Mercedes power unit. McLaren previously worked with Mercedes between 1995 and 2014, a partnership that yielded three drivers’ championships and one constructors’ championships.

McLaren Media Centre

Speaking of the partnership, Technical Director James Key said, “One of the key elements of the MCL35M design is the integration of the Mercedes-AMG power unit, which has taken a considerable effort from the team in Woking, as well as our colleagues at Mercedes. Despite our limited scope for installation in a homologated car, the team has done a fantastic job of optimising our design work.”

The MCL35M will run for the first time at Silverstone tomorrow as part of a filming day.

Alpine Academy launches their 2021 line-up

Alpine Academy rebrand (Courtesy of AlpineCars)

Alpine has relaunched their young driver academy with the aim of nurturing emerging talent towards Formula 1.

Alpine – until recently known as the Renault F1 Team – has a rich history of developing young talent, including Robert Kubica, Pastor Maldonado, Heikki Kovalainen, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon.

Since 2002, the programme has gone through multiple iterations including the RF1 Driver Programme, Renault Driver Development Programme, LRGP Academy, Lotus F1 Team iRace Professional Programme, Lotus F1 Junior Team and until recently the Renault Sport Academy.

Their FIA Formula 2 roster will include Guanyu Zhou, who will race alongside Felipe Drugovich at UNI-Virtuosi. Zhou will be returning for his third season having claimed his maiden victory in the series last at Sochi.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Christian Lungaard will be alongside Theo Pourchaire at ART after a rookie season in which he scored two sprint race victories, six podiums and a maiden pole position at Mugello.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Clive Mason / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

FIA Formula F3 champion Oscar Piastri will also debut alongside Ferrari protégé Robert Schwartzman at Prema.

With six combined wins across two championships last year, Alpine are confident their drivers will have no trouble competing at the very top in 2021. In particular, Alpine Academy Director,Mia Sharizman has high hopes that the likes of Zhou and Lungaard will challenge for the title:

“For Zhou and Lungaard it is to challenge for the title, and they know that themselves.” Mia said during the official Alpine Academy launch.

“That is always the aim and especially when you are a returning driver with knowledge and experience. That is something for us to look at moving forward with a view to Formula 1. “

Likewise, for debutant Oscar Piastri there are high hopes the Australian who impressed against Logan Sargeant for the Formula  3 title. It will be a tough learning year for Oscar, Mia suggested:

“For Oscar, the approach is similar to when he started in Formula 3. You take it step by step. You get your first pole, your first podium, your first win and suddenly it just rolls on.”

Oscar Piastri, Prema (Courtesy of Prema Racing)

Alpine have been reluctant to promote their junior drivers to Formula 1 for a number of years with Fernando Alonso getting the nod for 2021 over its academy prospects. However, they wlll certainly have their targets set for 2022-2023.

“At the end of the day for all of them there has to be a good pressure, a good target because whatever they do this year it will impact the plans for them next year.”

Meanwhile, Victor Martins and Ciao Collet will race as teammates at MP Motorsports in FIA Formula 3. Mia was keen to underplay the pressure on both drivers, citing experience and learning as key targets.

“If you look at the level below the FIA Formula 3, Ciao and Victor were the top two drivers in that level of category. […] we believe they will be able to work together, raise the bar and we’re quietly confident of them making their mark. Again, step by step with the team the right package and the engineers.”

Caio Collet, R-Ace (François Flamand, DPPI / Alpine Racing Media)

Laurent Rossi, Chief Executive Officer at Alpine presented a clear case for the academy, placing it central to Alpine’s future plans:

We are proud to announce the Academy’s sixth ever driver line-up and its first as part of the Alpine Racing universe. Having a young driver programme is part of our DNA as a race team and as in previous years, the Academy will draw benefits from the development of the Formula 1 team.

Rossi also made it clear of Alpine’s intentions to see an academy prospect in Formula 1 in the near future:

“The Academy’s goal has been to develop and push our young drivers into Formula 1 to become a champion with the F1 team, and we remain committed as ever to seeing this goal achieved. This year we are eager to watch our Academy prospects in both Formula 2 and Formula 3 continue to go from strength to strength as they represent the Alpine name.”

F1 2020: End of Season Awards

The 2020 season has come to a close – at 161 days, it was the shortest since 1966, condensing 17 races into that window which has in previous seasons taken nearer 300. The final race took place on the 13th December. The time has now come to reflect on some of the extraordinary achievements that were made and exceeded in times that happen in every hundred years. Most of these decisions were made by the public using @PitCrewOnline and Twitter Poll. 

We start with our first award, Qualifying Lap of Year, where you get to see the cars at the fastest! Our four options, place they qualified and resulting race are:

Hulkenberg P3 – 70th GP

Gasly P4 – Emilia Romagna GP

Stroll P1 – Turkish GP

Leclerc P4 – Sakhir GP

Winner: Hulkenberg – 62% of Public vote

This was his second consecutive race filling in for Sergio Perez after he tested positive for covid-19, although he couldn’t start the British Grand Prix due to a last minute problem with the car. Unlike the latter Bahrain rounds where the track changed to shortened Sakhir track, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone had no changes from the British event. He qualified a fantastic P3, going faster than Verstappen; he was only beaten by the fastest car ahead of him in Mercedes. He ended Sunday in P7 so managed to score points, but the podium continues to elude him.

Nico Hulkenberg brilliantly deputised for Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll at various points of the season – Courtesy of Racing Point Media

The next award is: Best Start of the Year. the nominees are:

Max Verstappen – P7 to P3 – Hungarian GP

Kimi Raikonnen – P16 to P7 – Portuguese GP

Carlos Sainz – P7 to P2 – Portuguese GP

Sebastian Vettel  – P11 to P3 – Turkish GP

Winner: Kimi Raikkonen – 44% of Public vote

Kimi had a great start at Portimao, gaining 9 places on the opening lap; he even continued to rise to sixth place in the race for a further few laps before others tyres began to get temperature on the unique surface the track had. It narrowly beat Vettel’s start which received 33% of the vote at Turkey. 

2020 was Kimi Raikkonen’s second year with Alfa Romeo – Courtesy of Alfa Romeo Media

The Third award is: Overtake of the Year. We love wheel to wheel action – even better when DRS isn’t involved! Our options are:

Charles Leclerc on Lando Norris – outside of turn 4 – Austrian GP

Alex Albon on Lance Stroll – Outside of Copse – 70th Anniversary GP

Sergio Perez on Charles Leclerc – lap long battle – Eifel GP

George Russell on Valtteri Bottas – Sakhir GP

Winner: George Russell – 77% of Public vote

George Russell took his chance at the Sakhir Grand Prix with both hands but things out of his control prevented a maiden victory. He showed his skills and the pass on his team mate at the beginning of the final stint of the race after a calamitous safety car period for the team was one of these.

George Russell’s excellent performance at the Sakhir Grand Prix was undone by Mercedes’ blunders – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Next is an award for Pit Crew of the Year, which didn’t need a poll; a much more statistical thought!

Red Bull

9 times this year they have broken the 2 second barrier, with their fastest time being 1.86 on two occasions – close to the world record 1.82 time. Another remarkable feat was replacing Verstappen’s front left suspension in record time after his error en route to the grid at Budapest which led to his fantastic start. They won the DHL Fastest pit stops with 555 points with Williams next to 264. They only failed to achieve the fastest pit stop at Spa and Monza. 

Red Bull’s remarkable work on the grid helped Max Verstappen onto the podium after his crash before the race – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

A bit of a hysterical award next! The Dyson Hoover Award

(Other hoover brands are available)

Valterri Bottas – For picking up bargeboards, and getting them stuck in his airflow which ruined his car’s downforce. He has also a habit of getting punctures of running over debris – Baku 2018 springs to mind.

Rookie of the Year!

Nicholas Lati… There was only one full time rookie this year? Nicholas Latifi! Solid job on his debut year. He nearly scored points in the inferior Williams at Imola where the unfortunate Russell made his one of his very few mistakes of the season in P11. Next season will be about cutting that deficit at the tracks we visited this year and spending time on the simulator; points in 2021 will be the target! Especially with Montreal looking likely to be one of our venues, Latifi will want better understanding and a better car for that event!

Nicholas Latifi’s first season was solid, but he will be hoping for a slightly stronger performance next year – Courtesy of Williams Media

Race of the Year!

Max Verstappen’s win – 70th Anniversary GP

Lewis Hamilton’s 92nd win – Portuguese GP

Lewis Hamilton secures 7th Title – Turkish GP

Sergio Perez wins after Mercedes fail – Sakhir GP

Winner: Sakhir GP – 38%

The Sakhir GP took it by just 3% over the title securing Turkish event. Sakhir had the action! The lap one drama took out the touted Verstappen and putting the unlikely victor Perez last! Mercedes were the creators of their own downfall, and what if Jack Aitken, technically driving Russell’s car, didn’t put it in the wall? People questioned the shortened Sakhir layout, but it was great. if anything, another DRS zone before the final corner would have been great.

A crazy Sakhir race saw Esteban Ocon earn his first ever podium – Courtesy of Renault Media

Driver of the Year!

The drivers to the left of the quarter final option were seeded in Championship order and then drawn at random against the other four randomly who had fantastic seasons in other cars. These were the agreed top 8 by Pit Crew census then each went to a 3 hour poll except for the final. That went for a 24 hour poll during Abu Dhabi weekend.

Quarter Finals

Sergio Perez (67%) – Pierre Gasly (33%)

Max Verstappen (52%) – Carlos Sainz (48%)

Lewis Hamilton (57%) – Charles Leclerc (43%)

Daniel Ricciardo (44%) – George Russell (56%)

Semi Finals

Sergio Perez (59%) – Max Verstappen (41%)

Lewis Hamilton (59%) – George Russell (41%)

Final

Sergio Perez (56%) – Lewis Hamilton (44%)

The public decided that Sergio Perez is the 2020 driver of the season! Congratulations to Checo! The season has come to a close, and some drivers are yet to be confirmed. Will our driver of the year get a call from the Red Bull hierarchy placing Albon on the sidelines for 2021? 

Sergio Perez has inexplicably been left without a seat for next year… so far – Courtesy of Racing Point Media

That is the Awards for 2020, with the calendar being arranged on short notice and bubbles being kept to with only a few positive cases it looks like F1 can call 2020 a success. Old friends of Imola and Turkey came to assist whilst Portugal and Mugello came to show what they could do. Vaccines look to be starting to be distributed to assist with the pandemic, so fingers crossed some normality resumes to the world of Motorsport and beyond.

Hammer year for Mercedes, Τoto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton

A very uncertain year, turned out ideally for Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton. The six-time world champion, proved once again that he is currently one of the best, if not the best, driver on the grid, even with the season premiere postponed for a couple of months, Hamilton remained in top form.

In Austria, Hamilton received a time-penalty and finished fourth, whilst his main rival for the title, Valtteri Bottas claimed the victory. Since then, Lewis has finished only once outside the top three and that was in Monza and he has won nine of the thirteen races this season.

IMOLA, ITALY – NOVEMBER 01: Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1, Winning Constructor Representative, Race Winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 and Daniel Ricciardo, Renault F1 celebrate on the podium during the Emilia-Romagna GP at Imola on Sunday November 01, 2020, Italy. (Photo by Andy Hone / LAT Images)

It was only a matter of time until Hamilton matched and then broke Michael Schumacher’s 91 victories record. At the Eifel Grand Prix, the British Champion started second behind his team-mate, it took him 13 laps and a lock up from Bottas to take the lead on Sunday. From there, Lewis Hamilton had a comfortable victory and equalized Michael Schumacher’s wins record.

Very emotional moments followed, after the chequered flag, Lewis Hamilton said:

“Honestly as I came into the pit lane that was only when I realised I equalled it, I hadn’t even computed it before that across the line. I couldn’t have done it without this incredible team, everyone continuing to push behind me and giving it their everything. So a big, big thank you and huge respect to Michael.”

Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 celebrates on the podium

At the age of 35, Lewis Hamilton looks on top form and he found the inspiration that he needed to keep him going on full speed. In the past six years only one driver managed to stop him and that was his ex-team-mate Nico Rosberg. In 2016 the German driver won the championship with 385 points, five more than his title rival.

These records cannot be achieved without having a team, which supports you on every step, during good and bad moments. The key to Hamilton’s success is Mercedes, the team that he is driving for.

Mercedes, achieved something that no other team has managed in the F1 history, they have won seven consecutive world titles, it is the most successful team in the hybrid era.

The maestro of this success is of course Toto Wolff. The Austrian has led Mercedes all these years, he is the α and the ω of this team. Alongside him, he has a team of skilful engineers who are working hard to stay at the top each season.

ALGARVE INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, PORTUGAL – OCTOBER 25: Race Winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 celebrates on the podium with the trophy after taking his 92nd Grand Prix win, the most for any driver in F1 history during the Portuguese GP at Algarve International Circuit on Sunday October 25, 2020, Portugal. (Photo by Sam Bloxham / LAT Images)

Toto had a short racing career in motorsport, he raced in Austrian Ford Racing and won the Nürburgring 24 Hours in 1994. After three years, the Austrian, decided to quit racing, he completed his studies at the Vienna University of Economics and Business and founded his own investment company in 1998.

In 2009, Toto invested in Williams F1 Racing and after only three years in 2012, he became the Executive Director of the team and Williams celebrated their first victory in eight years at the Spanish Grand Prix.

By the end of 2013, Toto Wolff purchased 30% of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd. He was appointed Head of the Mercedes group and had the responsibility of the whole Mercedes-Benz group. A few months later, Mercedes celebrated their first constructors’ title in their F1 history and since then they haven’t tasted second place in the championship.

The good news is that Toto Wolff announced that he will remain at Mercedes in 2021.

‘I love this team and I think this is my place’ Wolff said.

Even a non-Hamilton and Mercedes fan has to admit that this driver and that team managed to achieve something unique in the sport, they have proved that money is not the only key to success, a team spirit and the correct decisions are needed as well.

 

Eifel GP Qualifying: Bottas beats Hamilton to pole at Nurburgring as Hulkenberg makes a return

Valtteri Bottas absolutely smashed the competition from his teammate Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to take pole at Nurburgring on a chilly Saturday afternoon. With yesterday’s practice sessions washed out, the little running that did happen in FP3 suggested that there would be a close fight for pole and things exactly unfolded that way.

Mercedes’ 72nd front row lockout will certainly be a welcome result for them but missing out on pole here means Lewis Hamilton’s quest for the famous 91st win is still set to continue. Verstappen held provisional pole during the first run of Q3 but the Dutchman complained of lesser grip during the second run which ultimately saw him end up in P3.

It looked set to be an all-Red Bull second row after a decent qualifying run from Alex Albon but an amazing lap from Charles Leclerc saw the Monegasque driver finish P4, repeating a similar story from the previous races this season where he has been driving his red car to the limits, sometimes even over. Things were not that good for his teammate Vettel after his qualifying effort saw him finish only at P11 and miss out on Q3 by over three tenths of a second.

GP GERMANIA F1/2020 – SABATO 10/10/2020
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

It was another excellent qualifying session for Renault after Daniel Ricciardo overcame his bad first run in Q3 and managed to qualify at P6, just ahead of his teammate Ocon in P7.  This result in qualifying means that Renault will have a slight advantage going into the race, especially considering third place in the constructors championship seems to be anybody’s between McLaren, Racing Point and Renault.

Racing Point found themselves in a similar situation to Silverstone earlier this year with the team needing to call up Hulkenberg again, this time for Lance Stroll who has been taken sick and missed out on FP3 earlier. The German driver was luckily in Cologne and was readily available as a replacement. The outing proved quite tough for him after he could only finish last but nevertheless, a commendable effort. Sergio Perez in the other Racing Point finished 9th, splitting the McLarens with Norris in P8 and Sainz in P9.

Both the Alpha Tauri cars could not manage to get into Q3 which was slightly surprising given Gasly’s amazing form this year. They are set to start with Gasly in P12 and Kvyat in P13. A surprise entrant into the top 15 this year is Antonio Giovinazzi, who has finally managed to get into Q2 in his Alfa Romeo and will be starting in P14. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen will start his record-breaking 323rd Grand Prix , the most by any driver, in only P19.

Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean are set to line up 15th and 16th in their Ferrari-powered Haas cars after a flurry of deleted lap times for both drivers in their Q1 runs. Williams are set to line up with George Russell in P17 and Latifi in P18 with Russell, despite being unhappy with his lap, maintaining a 100% qualifying record versus his teammate.

A three-way fight for pole ensured a tight Saturday in the very cold temperatures of the Nurburgring and with conditions set to become more cooler and damper compared to today, a similar fight could pan out for the race win. A slight possibility of rain is also set to be in the mix for the race which can only make things that much unpredictable. Hamilton would be very eager to make it 91 wins on Schumacher’s home soil but his party might be spoiled by either his teammate or by Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, all pointing towards the prospect of a classic German Grand Prix.

Interlagos – Could it be the End?

Image courtesy of Haas F1 Team

To the heartbreak of most it is looking like that the track Autódromo José Carlos Pace or Sao Paulo/Interlagos may have seen its last Formula 1 race. Chase Carey in one of his final moves as Chief Executive of the sport before stepping aside for Stefano Domenicali looks like to have penned a deal with Rio Motorsports LLC at a new location completely from the historic circuit having held races since 1972. Brazilian President Bolsonaro has supported the switch saying that Interlagos is no longer financially viable but the location of choice is causing uproar as it is Rio’s last forested area, and environmentalists are against it, but if it gets approval by the State Environmental Control Commission Interlagos could be off the calendar and Rio will be on the provisional 2021 schedule . Hamilton has also spoken about his disinterest in the venue not only because he likes Interlagos but of the effect of the forest. Chase Carey’s final move as CEO could see one of the locations I personally look forward to each year being taken off the calendar.

Here’s a few races in my lifetime, three of the best?

Senna, The dream happens – 1991

Ayrton Senna is renowned as one of the best in the Sports history, and did so much for his country and from his debut career in 1984 Brazil was always a bogey track, 6 years and 4 retirements, with a best place of second in 1990. 1991 was the year for him albeit it didn’t come easy, lights to flag victory for the great. He was clear within the early laps but Mansell begun to close before pitstop trouble for Brit managed to give Ayrton breathing space. There were more battles with Mansell and Patrese later on though as the gearbox gremlins began for them all it was survival, Senna was hit with it first losing fourth gear. Mansell fell first though on lap 61 spinning and unable to get going again, whilst Senna battled on losing further gears. Patrese closed further only 2.9 behind from nearly half a minute, Senna stayed in sixth losing time but he held on. When the Brazilian saw the chequered flag at the 71st lap he couldn’t stop screaming, much louder than a Frenchman in 2019 out dragging Lewis Hamilton! He finally managed to win his home event, superstition? 7th time lucky? The struggle of him doing so caused him to slow and get into the medical car to drive him to the podium where he struggled to lift the trophy, he put 110% into that display that day.

Raikkonen Wins, or does he?! – 2003

The 2003 Grand Prix was held in horrid conditions, and began behind the safety car. There were several laps behind it before the track went green and fan favourite Barrichello lost the lead instantly to the disgust of home fans to Coulthard. The track began to dry except for turn 3, which had a water stream across it, which over the period of the race became a car park as 6 cars aqua planed, including Michael Schumacher! It was his first time he failed to finish since his home GP in 2001. Jenson Button in the BAR was the heaviest collision out of the six but all unharmed. Coulthard lead on worn tyres and home favourite Barrichello took the lead to the crowd’s joy on lap 45, but Rubens was to retire, a ninth time in a row! He ran out of fuel and DC retook the lead two laps later. Raikkonen and Fisichella were battling behind him as he pit on lap 52. Kimi then in his younger years with tyre wear and pressure caused by Fisichella made a mistake lost the lead on lap 54 letting the Jordan by. Webber lost control of his car behind them and hit the wall across climb of the hill on front straight, tyres strewn across the track. The safety car was deployed but the communication didn’t get across to Alonso in the Renault who hit a tyre at 170mph, and wall now known to reach 35G. With the damage to track and over 75% completion done the race was ended early. Fisichella was lucky his car was on fire but timekeepers deemed Raikkonen as the winner on countback! Albeit this was reviwed ahead of San Marino and the final result was handed to the Jordan driver of Fisichella.

2008 – Is that Glock?

Hamilton had memories of 2007 of which trouble in the race stopped him becoming a rookie champion, and 2008 was between himself and another Brazilian Felipe Massa, that country has some great talents throughout the years. Weather once more played its part this year! Massa got off well, but all Hamilton needed to do was finish P5 or higher and sat P4 from the start. In Coulthard’s final race of his career it ended at turn 2 due to collision, he was given permission to have Red Bull’s Wings for Life Charity across his car, this brought the safety car out and the track begun to dry under this, in which Fisichella pit early for tyres. This was a smart play which got him up the order which briefly put Massa in title winning position before Hamilton first pit stops happened. Massa was truly engaged he was setting fastest lap after fastest lap as the track dried further but clouds in the distance didn’t look promising. A noteable pit stop happened half distance, lap 36 by Toyota as Glock pitted for fuel and tyres until the end, and two laps later Massa pitted the first of the Championship runners albeit he was to pit again. Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen pit a further 2 laps later on laps 40-42. Hamilton was comfortably in position to win the Championship being in the top three with Massa in the lead. Vettel having an impressive second half of the season since his first win at Monza pitting on lap 51 was closing in Hamilton on fresher rubber but can afford to give him the position. Rain begun to fall 12 laps later with Vettel still over the Mclaren’s rear wing, he just can’t get by. Everyone followed Heidfield’s lead bar Glock as he stayed out as he had the fuel from previous stop to which dropped Hamilton to fifth, now in danger with Vettel on his rear wing. The Brit made an error and Vettel got by, so he now was sixth! Massa on lap 69 was in Championship winning position, but the rain begun to fall heavier. Massa took the victory and the crowd and the Ferrari crew go wild but then cameras pan to Hamilton as we see Glock go slowly due to car cannot cope as Hamilton going down the inside Juncao and the famous Brundle words ‘IS THAT GLOCK?!’ Hamilton then crosses the line in P5 and Mclaren then go crazy with Ferrari stunned, Massa was Champion for around 20 seconds.

What is your favourite Brazilian Grand Prix? Other noteable mentions for 2012 and 2019.

The first for when Vettel recovers from spin on lap 1 to win his third Championship, and it looked like Schumacher let him by handing over the baton to the new generation of drivers. Button took his final victory of the sport, but the main memory is Alonso’s face post race, a meme created to this day.

The second for which could be the final ever at the track where Verstappen takes victory and Gasly second, the first 1+2 for Honda powered cars since Adelaide 1991. No rain but three teams battled for victory in the hybrid era, Sainz took his first podium of his career.

The 2020 calendar saw a possible new track with Vietnam, so this could be the 2021 new track along with the introduction of Vietnam and return of Zandvoort, other series are beginning to reveal their plans for next year so this could be the beginning.

 

Honda to leave F1 at the end of 2021

Honda has announced that it will be withdrawing from Formula 1 as a power unit supplier at the end of the 2021 season.

The Japanese manufacturer stated its desire to realise “carbon neutrality by 2050” as its reason for withdrawing.

“Honda needs to funnel its corporate resources in research and development into the areas of future power unit and energy technologies,” a statement read, “including fuel cell vehicle (FCV) and battery EV (BEV) technologies, which will be the core of carbon-free technologies.”

Honda only returned to F1 back in 2015 as a supplier for McLaren. This relationship – which lasted until 2017 – was fraught with unreliability and performance issues.

They have, however, since made improvements. They joined forces with Alpha Tauri (then named Toro Rosso) in 2018 and Red Bull in 2019 and have powered them to a combined five race victories, making them the only power unit supplier to win races with more than one team since the start of the hybrid era in 2014.

Their withdrawal, though, now leaves both Red Bull and Alpha Tauri in something of a limbo and with not much time to find a new supplier.

If they are unable to find an alternative, then Renault are bound by the regulations to supply them. This is because Renault currently supply the least number of teams, with Mercedes and Ferrari already at the maximum permissible number of three.

However, Red Bull’s split from Renault in 2018 was acrimonious to say the least and it would no doubt be with great reluctance that both parties rekindle that relationship.

Honda’s withdrawal might also have implications for Japanese F2 racer Yuki Tsunoda. Tsunoda is a Honda-backed driver and there were rumours that he was set to be promoted to Alpha Tauri in the near future. However, with Honda now out of the picture that promotion is uncertain.

Red Bull have said that they “acknowledge” Honda’s decision, and have thanked the manufacturer for “its exceptional efforts as power unit supplier”.