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”.

Russian GP: Hamilton takes pole in an intense qualifying

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took his 5th straight pole of the season at Sochi on saturday afternoon to put himself in an excellent position in his bid to equal Schumacher’s record tomorrow (91 wins). The pole position looked set to evade him today after the fiasco in Q2 almost saw him miss out on Q3.

Hamilton failed to register a time in Q2 as he crossed track limits during the first run of Q2 and this meant that the 6 time world champion had only one run under his belt to put a time on the charts. However, a Sebastian Vettel crash during the second run of Q2 brought out a red flag with exactly 2 minutes and 15 seconds to go and Hamilton barely made it to the finish line before the flag fell, setting a lap time good enough to go into Q3.

It is not Valtteri Bottas, but Max Verstappen on the front row this time as the Dutchman put in an amazing lap in the second run of Q3 to go 2nd. Bottas who started the weekend well could not make it onto the front row after hitting the sausage kerb in turn 2 and losing momentum going into the rest of the lap.

Sergio Perez put in a great effort despite not having upgrades on his Racing Point and qualified on the second row alongside Bottas while his teammate Stroll could not make it out of Q2 after getting his lap time deleted in the first run and suffering a temperature issue towards the end of Q2.

Ricciardo’s fine form during the weekend continued after his efforts in qualifying will see him start at 5th on the 3rd row next to Carlos Sainz in the McLaren. The 4th row will be a repeat of the colours in the 3rd row but with Ocon in Renault at 7th and Norris in the McLaren at 8th.  Gasly in the Alpha Tauri is set to line up at 9th next to Albon in the RedVull who will be hoping for a much better race than the qualifying today.

Both the Ferraris crashed out of Q2, one literally of Sebastian Vettel at turn 4 after hitting the kerb and one of Charles Leclerc narrowly missing out and all set to start at P11 as the advantage from the minor upgrades they have got this weekend also seems to be minor. Danil Kvyat is set to line up next to Leclerc at 12th and will look to score some good points in his home race, especially after his car seems to be showing a decent race pace.

George Russell in the Williams made it into Q2 for the sixth time this season  and will line up at 14th after yet another good effort in Q3 but his teammate Latifi will have to be content with 19th. It is going to be a Ferrari powered bottom 6 except Latifi after both the Haas cars and the Alfa Romeos are all in the bottom 5.

Kimi Raikkonen went spinning in the second run of Q1 which will mean that he is set to start 20th on the grid and his teammate Giovinazzi will start 17th. Grosjean and Magnussen in their respective Haas cars are set to start 16th and 18th with Grosjean surprisingly offering some positive feedback at the end of Q1.

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

With Hamilton set to start on the soft tyres thanks to the Q2 drama and with Max Verstappen just next to him, it might not be a straightforward drive to win number 91 for the English driver. It is also worth remembering that Bottas’ last victory at Sochi came from 3rd on the grid, which is where he will line up tomorrow, with a tyre advantage. It is all set to play for, in the Russian Grand Prix.

Formula 1 is broken!

Formula 1 is broken!

It’s not the fault of Hamilton or Mercedes but instead the strict formula that teams have to work to. If there’s to be a constructors championship then we need looser regulations so designers and engineers can have more freedom, different engine types and different aero design. Then, lets go racing!

If not, we might as well have a single construction championship like Formula 2 where the racing is much closer and more exciting, even if admittedly some of that is because young drivers make more mistakes.

Formula 1 should be open. I bet that if it was, you’d have more than just hybrid engines! We’d have the possibility of an electric car racing a combustion engine in the not too distant future. I’m afraid that if huge changes aren’t made then F1 will be left behind. If we had those kind of regulations would Formula E even have got up and running? Look how exciting the races are. Guess what? They are all driving the same car!

I’m not advocating that F1 should be a single constructors championship, but if they are to all build their own designs completely then they need to take the shackles off. Budgets have been cut now going forward which can only be a good thing, but all of the teams working towards a single design framework will lead to almost identical cars again.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Somehow, like in football, the richer teams like Ferrari and Mercedes will find a way to attract the best people even on a restricted budget. We need to make room for initiative, give a chance to the next Adrian Newey or Colin Chapman, whose ideas revolutionised the sport. With tight regulations these kinds of ideas are harder to find.

If they really want to save money then Friday free practice should go! Other than a cheap day out to watch Formula 1 cars I can see little need for it.

Here’s my road map for the sport.

You probably have your own ideas on how to fix F1. These are just me spit balling mine. We’d love to hear your ideas.

A. Loosen the restrictions to allow for innovation in both engine and chassis design.

B. Cut costs by cutting out Friday free practice sessions.

C. Teams should be allowed to race three cars but the third driver must be a young driver or a guest with enough super license points. The team would lose the points of the third driver.

D. Tyres should only be one small element of the teams strategy, so maybe another tyre manufacturer should come in.

If the Formula 1 changes that are scheduled now for 2022 – when in all likelihood Lewis Hamilton will be an eight-time world champion – do not make the significant difference that they promise, F1 will not attract enough new young fans to make it viable and, in my opinion, Formula E will become the de-facto pinnacle of motorsports. 

Italy presents us with a strong, unexpected argument for a reverse grid as Pierre Gasly wins in Monza

Benvenuti a Monza! We’re here and we’ve settled in for two weeks of exciting racing in Italy, but should we have come? Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari might like to weigh in on that one.

The Italian Grand Prix was the first weekend where the teams were no longer permitted to use their ‘party-mode’ engine modes, typically used in qualifying by certain teams to boost their chances of a better lap time.

At the start of the race it was a tale of two halves for the two Mercedes drivers, as Hamilton got yet another great start off the line, gliding into first place unchallenged as Bottas got swallowed up by the pack. McLaren had an excellent start with Sainz quickly taking 2nd position, and his team-mate Lando Norris overtaking a struggling Bottas going through the first and second Lesmos, which is testament to McLaren’s progress in recent years.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Bottas was quickly overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo, putting the Renault driver into 5th, and pushing Bottas down to 6th. Bottas was quick to report a possible puncture but chose not to pit. Bottas’ race engineer, Ricciardo Musconi, confirmed there were no issues with his tyres, but Bottas still looked to be struggling as he was overtaken by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen through the Parabolica.

It was a sorry start for the home favourites Ferrari, who qualified in 13th and 17th. Just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, Sebastian Vettel reported brake failure on lap four, smashing through the foam barriers at the end of the pit straight and limping his way back to the pits, where the car was retired for the second time this season.

Ferrari’s hopes were then pinned on Leclerc, who didn’t appear to be having the same issue but didn’t really seem to be having a much better race. Hope was quickly abandoned after a a shocking crash going into the Parabolica, where the Ferrari ploughed into the tyre wall, bringing out the safety car for the second time and red flagging the session. Leclerc’s crash athough dramatic, proved exactly how valuable the halo truly was, as he was able to get out of the car and run from the scene unscathed. All this in the same weekend that Netflix were spending time with Ferrari.

Shortly before the crash, Hamilton had made a quick decision to pit after the safety car came out for Kevin Magnussen, who was forced to stop on track just before the pit entrance with a suspected power unit issue.

Mercedes took what they thought was a risk-free pit-stop, with Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi following suit shortly after. It wasn’t long until the race was stopped due to Leclerc’s incident, and both Hamilton and Giovinazzi were placed under investigation for entering the pits after it had been closed due to Magnussen’s stoppage.

This visibly rattled Mercedes, who were looking pretty comfortable. Hamilton took it upon himself to grab his scooter and make his way to Race Control during the red flag in an attempt to justify his actions, arguing on the radio that “there was no light” going into the pit lane.

This didn’t save him nor Giovinazzi, who were both given a 10-second stop and go penalty, serving F1 fans with the biggest game-changer in the hybrid era.

Hamilton was noticeably annoyed by this decision and was talking about building up a lead once again before taking his penalty. He was dissuaded from doing this by his race engineers, who had decided to ‘take the hit’ on this occasion.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Mercedes’ loss meant some considerable gains to the likes of Alpha Tauri, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo and McLaren.

The red flag wasn’t in place for too long and on lap 27 we were back on track heading for a dramatic restart.

Gasly was lightning fast on the restart, overtaking Stroll to take what was essentially first place, as Hamilton made his way around and back into the pits to serve his penalty. He re-joined the race 23 seconds behind the rest of the pack, meaning he would have to have had the drive of his life to get back to a podium finish.

Though it looked like a good opportunity for the Racing Point, Stroll seemed to have issues with the brakes, causing him to run off on the Della Roggia chicane and giving away two positions and putting him down into 5th. This was quickly taken from him by Sainz who had his eyes firmly set on the prize.

The same ambition and determination weren’t felt in either of the Red Bull cars, who have struggled more than usual. Albon was the first to have issues, running wide on lap one after being squeezed by Stroll and Gasly down the main straight, and causing damage to the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Albon was given a 5-second penalty for the damage he caused.

As usual, there was greater expectation of success with Verstappen, who was making some respectable overtakes, and scrapping with Bottas for 6th/7th position. Unfortunately, this was short lived as he was forced to retire the car on lap 31 due to a power unit issue.

Come lap 34, Sainz was chasing Gasly for the win after he and Raikkonen gave fans an absolute masterclass in overtaking through Turn 1.

Stroll bounced back from his earlier brake issue and overtook Raikkonen the following lap, moving him into third place.

Sainz continued to chase Gasly right down to the final lap of the race. Gasly just managed to stay ahead and out of DRS range of the determined McLaren driver and took his first ever F1 win, something absolutely none of us expected would happen going into this race weekend.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 06: Race winner Pierre Gasly of France and Scuderia AlphaTauri celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 06, 2020 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202009060423 // Usage for editorial use only //

After being essentially demoted from Red Bull in the middle of 2019, this win is exactly the boost Gasly and the wider Alpha Tauri team needed. You’d have to be a hard individual not to feel some emotion watching him sit on the podium, sipping champagne in sheer disbelief. It’s only a shame the Tifosi weren’t there to make his win even more special.

We cannot end this race review however, without giving a special mention to Williams, who had its final race with their de-facto team principal, Claire Williams. It followed the announcement last Thursday that the family had decided to step away from Formula 1 after 43 years. It’s a real shame for us to see both she and the family say goodbye to the F1 family.

We owe Williams so much after having been an enormous part in F1’s development, bringing iconic moments for us all to appreciate and look back on with fondness. Though they will continue to race under the same name, something tells me it just won’t quite be the same anymore, so thank you Frank, thank you Claire, and thank you Williams for the great memories. We hope to see you back on top soon.