Hungarian Grand Prix – Hammer time

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, dominated the wet-dry conditions Hungarian Grand Prix.  The British champion, claimed the pole on Saturday’s qualifying session and had an easy Sunday afternoon.

The drama in Hungary started early, more specifically while the drivers were driving to the grid, Max Verstappen crashed into the barriers at turn 12, the track was wet and the drivers were on intermediate tyres. Red Bull’s mechanics urgently repaired Max’s car and that allowed him to start the race from the seventh position.

At the start, Valtteri Bottas moved before lights out and that was the reason why he stopped immediately, for a few seconds, which cost him position and allowed Stroll to jump ahead, behind  Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen and Vettel had a good start, Max placed third and Vettel fourth.

The track was drying off, on the third lap Bottas and Leclerc pitted for slicks, the Finn rejoined on mediums whilst Charles swapped to softs. A risky move by Ferrari, which didn’t pay off, Leclerc was struggling a lot with the soft tyres, he was complaining to his team on the team-radio. On the following lap, Hamilton, Stroll and Vettel pitted for mediums.

Haas, started both Magnussen and Grosjean on slicks. Their strategy was smart and after the chaotic period with the pit stops, Kevin was third and Romain fourth.  The happiness in Haas’ garage didn’t last long, Stroll passed both Haas’ drivers and moved up to the third place.

Leclerc, couldn’t follow the pace of the rest of the drivers, Albon was right behind Charle’s car on lap 14 and was trying to pass Ferrari and move up to the seventh position. Alex requested extra power from Red Bull and overtook Charles on lap 18.

It was obvious that Ferrari had to protect Leclerc. They called him into the pits for the hard tyres on lap 21 and returned on the track on the 15th position.

More rain was expected during the race, teams started calling their drivers into the pits for fresher tyres, some drops appeared on the track but that was not enough to affect the strategy of the teams.

Mercedes went for the undercut to give the opportunity to Bottas to overtake Stroll for the third place. Lance Stroll pitted a couple of laps later and rejoined behind the Mercedes.

Bottas was closing to Verstappen for the second place, on lap 50 the Finn pitted again for the hard tyres. He rejoined behind Verstappen but he had fresher tyres. Bottas was pushing until the end of the race, he managed to reduce the gap but he didn’t get the chance to make a move on Max for the second place.

Lewis Hamilton pitted for softs in order to secure the fastest lap of the race and score the extra point. Lewis was not challenged at all during the race and secured an easy victory, the second one this season and 86th in total.

 

2019 Australian Grand Prix Driver Ratings

The first round of the 2019 Formula 1 season is complete – here we look at Australian GP driver ratings:

Valtteri Bottas – 9

Sunday was near perfect, with a lightning start allowing him to jump his team mate and from then he just went off into the distance, getting an extra point for fastest lap as well. He wasn’t necessarily the winner we expected from pre-season testing but he was without a doubt the driver of the day.

2019 Australian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Lewis Hamilton – 7

Hamilton is well known for having the Saturday pace which generally puts him in good stead for Sunday, but he was beaten fair and square during the race. Still, he’ll take the podium along with the equal record for the most poles at one circuit.

Max Verstappen – 8

Verstappen put in the best performance for Honda in the whole of the hybrid era with his podium finish. He managed his tyres well and made an easy move on Vettel. A mistake at turn one hindered a late attack on Hamilton, but he will leave Melbourne with a smile on his face.

Sebastian Vettel – 7

Vettel had a solid start and was quick in the first stint, attempting to attack with an undercut which ultimately didn’t work. You can guarantee an investigation will be underway at Ferrari to figure out how they ended up 57 seconds behind the winner.

Charles Leclerc – 6

A great start by Leclerc but he was rather ambitious to attempt a move on his team-mate which could have ended in tears. Unlike his team-mate, he was slow in the first half of the race but fast in the second, and caught up to Vettel before being told to hold position. He showed he had speed in Q2 but the Ferrari doesn’t seem to be the package everyone thought.

Ferrari Media

Kevin Magnussen – 8

Magnussen was best of the rest in Australia, with solid pace and what seems to be the fourth quickest car. It was a better result than last year with no faulty pitstops, even if he was outqualified by his team-mate.

Nico Hulkenburg – 7

It was another result in a familiar place for the German. He started 11th so had free choice of tyres, which benefitted him in the race as he got the move on a few other drivers.

Kimi Raikkonen – 8

Raikkonen did exceptionally well considering where the team was last year, with a very aggressive package seeming to suit him well. He got the car into Q3 and kept that momentum going into Sunday.

Lance Stroll – 7

Stroll always raises eyebrows due to how he got into the sport, but in the race he showed he was fully deserving of the seat at Racing Point as he was in the thick of it all weekend. He scored the team’s only point, having some great battles whilst keeping the car clean.

Danil Kvyat – 6

A good return to the sport, ignoring a mistake at turn three. He was ambitious to run the hard tyre and defended well from faster cars behind, taking his car deeper into the race and allowing him to overcut the majority of them for the last point.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Pierre Gasly – 4

Australia will be a race to forget for Gasly. A mistake on Saturday by the team cost him dearly and he spent most of the race staring at Kvyat’s rear wing, unable to get past even on the softest tyre.

Lando Norris – 7

It was a great Saturday from Norris, but an early stop in the race in reaction to others put him in traffic. He was unable to pass Giovinazzi for several laps and just missed out on the points. Expect big things from Norris this season.

Sergio Perez – 5

It was an off-day for the Mexican on Sunday as he was classified down in 13th. He got caught up in the midfield battle which let others overcut him. The car looks great though, so there will be plenty more opportunities for him.

Alex Albon – 6

Despite being the first to spin this season in similar circumstances to his incident in testing, Albon did a good job. He matched Kvyat for outright pace on Saturday but was just caught up in the ever-so-tight midfield squabble. A good Sunday debut.

Antonio Giovinazzi – 5

The returning Italian was a pain for most at Melbourne, stuck on a confusing strategy with his tyres were ruined, and becoming a replacement for the infamous ‘Trulli train’. He showed true grit in terms of defence but not a lot of outright speed, though this is only his third ever race in F1.

George Russell – 6

Russell blitzed his much more experienced team-mate, but that’s not saying much considering Kubica is really the only competition he has due to Williams being so far behind the others. He finished his debut race and hopefully get in the mix, sooner rather than later.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing FW42.
Australian Grand Prix, Sunday 17th March 2019. Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.

Robert Kubica – 3

A race to forget and move on from for Kubica. He hit the wall twice on Saturday and then hit Gasly at turn one on the first lap of the race. Williams will have collected some data though, and Kubica will get quicker and quicker throughout the season.

Romain Grosjean – 7

Another pit stop failure resulted in early retirement for the Frenchman, after being on course for a good points haul. A long delay in the pits pushed him down the order, and he then had to stop the car on track due to a ill-fitted left-front tyre.

Daniel Ricciardo – 5

For the first time in Melbourne in the turbo era, Ricciardo failed to get through to Q3 on Saturday, and his race – his first for Renault – was pretty much over in a few seconds when he pushed wide onto the grass and broke his front wing. He decided to retire the car.

Carlos Sainz – 4

Sainz was beaten by his rookie team mate on Saturday comprehensively, and was the first to retire on Sunday. Because of the nature of the track he had been unable to make up much ground prior to the retirement. He is a fighter though, and will be back for Bahrain.

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Ferrari’s year turned into Ferrari’s nightmare

Photo credit: Ferrari Media Site

My name is Dimitris Bizas, I am from Greece, and I study Communication, Media and Culture at Panteion University. I have been writing about Formula 1 since 2012, firstly at totalracing.gr and, for the past 18 months, for the ‘4Wheels’ magazine. Motorsport is my passion and getting to write and report on it is a true blessing.

2018 was supposed to be Ferrari’s year: they built a good, competitive at any given Sunday car, they had Sebastian Vettel at his prime and they carried with them a year’s worth of experience in title battles, from their 2017 campaign. However, they seem to have failed to capitalize on their chances once again, and the reason is simple, but not so obvious.

Let’s start from the very beginning of this season, the Australian Grand Prix. Ferrari did the unexpected, with Sebastian Vettel winning a race which Hamilton led up until the Safety Car, having taken a remarkable pole position the day before. They continued their winning ways at Bahrain, they were held up by the Red Bulls at China, and then came the first real ‘wake-up call’ for Vettel and his team: the Baku incident.

He could be on the podium, on the second or third place, hadn’t he been in such a hurry to overtake the Mercedes boys. He was somewhat lucky that he did not end up on the barriers at the exit of Turn 1, taking the checkered flag 4th.

This was the first sign of his lack of composure under pressure. But, since it was so early in the season, it didn’t affect his championship aspirations, despite the fact that his arch-rival, Lewis Hamilton, took his maiden 2018 win that day.

Fast forward to France, and Vettel has just taken a commanding victory on Hamilton’s ‘second home’, at Montreal. He grabbed a truly unbelievable pole on Saturday (sing of his confidence at that point of the season), and he went on to win, reminding to his nemesis that 2018 is not a 2017 repeat.

Of course, this feeling of superiority against Hamilton was short-lived. Paul Ricard marked the first of a series of mistakes from Vettel – mistakes that ultimately cost him the world title. He got off the line brilliantly, before hitting Bottas from behind, losing place after place, and finishing only 5th – a result far from representative for his overall performance that weekend.

Then there was Germany and his biggest mistake of his career, probably. That was the first turning point for his campaign – losing 25 points, in front of his home crowd, and seeing his rival taking the win instead, was a huge blow, not only for his team, but also for his confidence. Sebastian Vettel is and has

always been a driver whose performance is affected completely from his morale. If he is elevated and on a roll, he seems unstoppable, invincible. However, a single race gone bad can make him vulnerable, prone to mistakes. It is as if a huge weight is put to his shoulders, and this year, that weight is all the expectations from within his team and from the hundreds of thousands of Tifosi. It is not an easy task.

The final nail on his title hopes’ coffin was put at the Italian and the Singapore Grand Prix. His spin at Variante della Roggia and the crucial mistake during the FP2 at Marina Bay were the ones which gave Hamilton a huge advantage, both on the standings, and on the ‘psychological war’, as he calls it. He now stands 67 points ahead of Vettel, and Austin could be the place where he will have both hands on his 5th world championship.

Ferrari’s fault on this run

Although it is easy to point fingers and proclaim that Vettel lost the title on his own, Ferrari has been subpar when the stakes were extremely high.

One of their biggest weaknesses is the consistency they do not show during the season, not only on the track, but also back at the factory. Keeping a respectable –nay, a competitive- level of performance during the span of 21 races is crucial for the title battle, and the Maranello squad has not met the standards of their rivals, Mercedes.

Both at Brackley and at Brixworth, work was done in order to close the gap from the dominant –as it stood in the first 1/3 of the season- SF71H. The disadvantage on the power unit area and the tire management were the two main factor that held the Germans back, and they made a remarkable job recovering from a deficit on and off track. This allowed Hamilton to push harder, to build his confidence with the car, and ultimately to win one race after the other.

On the other hand, Ferrari made some marginal gains over the summer, and all their upgrades after the summer break were not what they expected. They fell back when their rivals pushed forward, got ahead of them and tried to stay there.

Even if Vettel was perfect (which is highly unlikely in such a lengthy season), his team would have failed on him. Stagnation is a poison for every F1 team, especially in such a hard-fought battle.

The bottom line is that the Ferrari-Vettel combination lost another chance to make history, to bring the crown back to Italy after 11 years. The legacy of this cooperation is still a work in progress, and if these two years are just the beginning, they have time to improve, to learn from their mistakes and

mishaps. But, if this was their final chance (and that’s a big hypothesis), then History will not be lenient with them.

Dimitris Bizas

Singapore Grand Prix Preview: City lights, crashgate and championship heartbreak

Photo credit, Renault F1

Located just south of Malaysia is the city-state of Singapore, the home of the only F1 street circuit in Asia, and the first ever night race in F1 history.

Singapore may have hosted a race for motorbikes and sportscars as far back as 1966, but the F1 Grand Prix as we know it was introduced in 2008. The five kilometre and 23 corner track, designed by Hermann Tilke, winds its way through Marina Bay, high end hotels, and brilliant road infrastructure, completed by fantastic night lights that reveal the true beauty of the city.

Speaking of 2008, the first ever Singapore Grand Prix in F1 was won by Fernando Alonso. The race, however, was marred by controversy and drama. Nelson Piquet, Alonso’s Renault team-mate, was told to deliberately crash into the wall so as to bring out a safety car, allowing Alonso to get to the front. As a result, Pat Symonds was suspended from the sport, team boss Flavio Briatore was banned for life, and all this came about after Piquet was sacked by Renault and informed the FIA of the incident.

Singapore’s explosive debut also had massive implications for the championship. Felipe Massa left his pit box with the fuel hose still attached to his car, and the time lost as a result of the team running to the end of the pit lane to get him back on his way saw him finish the race in 13th with no points. He would go on to lose the championship to Lewis Hamilton by just two points.

Singapore has, in fact, been notorious for denting championship hopes. In 2014, Nico Rosberg came into the race 22 points ahead of Hamilton in the championship, but a major engine issue before the race had even started saw him start from the pitlane and eventually retire the car several laps in. Hamilton won the race, and took a three point lead which Rosberg would ultimately be unable to overturn.

And who can forget last year? Sebastian Vettel, who was poised to take the championship lead by starting on pole, moved across on Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen at the start, leading to a crash that eliminated all three of them from the race. Hamilton went on to win, and Vettel found himself 28 points behind Hamilton in the championship.

This year, however, the roles are reversed, and Hamilton finds himself 30 points in front of Vettel in the championship. Vettel may just need some help from the unforgiving Singapore circuit to get himself back into contention.

As Fernando Alonso discovered in that shocking night in 2008, you certainly can take advantage of the safety car in Singapore, which has been deployed a remarkable 17 times in 10 races under the lights.

Vettel, despite his misfortunes last year, is the most successful driver at Marina Bay, winning in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. His title rival Hamilton has won 3 times, in 2009, 2014 and 2017.

As well as crashes, safety cars, and title game changers, Singapore is also famous for its almost unbearable heat. The temperature, even at night, is typically around 30 degrees, and Daniel Ricciardo said after his first race at Singapore in 2011 with HRT that the physical demands of the race gave him a feeling he “never wanted to experience in a race car again”.

With so many variables in Singapore, this could be a chance to start a road to redemption, not only for Vettel’s title challenge but also for several others chasing seats in F1 for 2019, and it’s these variables that have us and the drivers excited about racing under the lights in Singapore.

Austrian GP driver ratings

In Formula 1 anything can happen, and it usually does! That was what Murray Walker always said, and it did indeed happen at the Red Bull Ring this weekend. A very hot Sunday played havoc with the field, though some acclimatised better than others.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen: 9.5

This was a great weekend for Verstappen, as he continued his podium form and this time to the top step. Fortune favoured the brave on the first lap with a great move on Raikkonen. One of the first to pit under the Virtual Safety Car, Verstappen made his tyres last in the heat while others struggled with blistering. He is a driver known for his speed, but this weekend Verstappen proved he can drive calmly.

Kimi Raikkonen: 8

Austria was one of Raikkonen’s better races of the year. After a great start (marred slightly by running wide on the first lap) Raikkonen put in a tyre management drive reminiscent of his Lotus days to take a superb second place. With reports saying Leclerc is all set to join Ferrari next year, could this be the beginning of Raikkonen’s swan song?

Sebastian Vettel: 7

After this weekend sees Vettel leave Austria as the Championship leader, he won’t mind too much about the grid penalty he was given for impeding Carlos Sainz in qualifying. Vettel’s race started poorly on Sunday as he fell to 8th, but a good recovery drive put him on the podium. 

Haas F1 Media

Romain Grosjean: 8

The Frenchman finally sees the flag in the top ten! Grosjean was very impressive on Saturday when he outqualified a Red Bull, and was one of the better drivers on Sunday at keeping the tyres in good condition. A great result for him and especially Haas, as teammate Magnussen finished behind him in P5.

Kevin Magnussen: 8

Magnussen continued his impressive 2018 in Austria with a great haul of points in P5. Together with Grosjean, Magnussen’s points this weekend helped Haas back up their statement about being the fourth-best team. A great drive from Magnussen all weekend, evening if Grosjean had shaded him on race day. 

Esteban Ocon: 8

Ocon is a name being frequently mentioned in the drivers’ market as a hot talent, and he proved why in Austria. Starting in P11 he had the free choice of tyres, and used that well to finish P6. He had a fresher set of tyres later on than most which helped him too.

Sergio Perez: 7

After dropping out of qualifying in Q1 it looked like Perez would struggle. But with grid penalties ahead of him, Perez started P15 and made up the most places of who took the grid to finish P7—his first points finish since Spain.

Steven Tee/McLaren

Fernando Alonso: 8

Alonso started from the pitlane on Sunday because his car was taken out of parc fermé for a change of front wing and MGU-K. He was on the radio early on calling for a new strategy to get out from behind Hartley’s Toro Rosso, and and an early pit stop allowed Alonso to come back through the field as he kept his tyres from blistering. A much better race for the 2018 Le Mans winner.

Charles Leclerc: 8

Through to Q2 again for the sixth weekend in a row, Leclerc’s Sauber showed great pace on Saturday. A gearbox penalty meant he dropped back to P17 on the grid, but a strong recovery brought him up into the points—and all on the weekend that his move to Ferrari for next year has reportedly been decided.

Marcus Ericsson: 7

Ericsson had a pretty poor Saturday as he said couldn’t find a gap on track in qualifying, but put that behind him to help Sauber to its first double points finish since China 2015. To sweeten the deal, Ericsson only had to wait seven races between his last points finish and this, as opposed to the two whole seasons before. The Sauber is being developed well.

Pierre Gasly: 7

Gasly’s tyres just gave up on him at the end of the race as he suffered from the blistering that affected most of the field. He was running a strong P8 with a few laps remaining but his tyres were past it. For a very power hungry track, Gasly qualified a fine P12 with the Honda power unit. His raw pace is noticeable. 

Renault Sport F1 Team

Carlos Sainz: 6

Sainz was only one of two drivers to finish further back from his grid place in Austria. He started P9 and actually got by Vettel for half a lap, but his two-stop strategy didn’t pan out and he dropped to P12 by the end of the race.

Sergey Sirotkin: 6

Out in Q1, Sirotkin struggled to get to grips with his car in the early part of the weekend. However it was a better Sunday from the Russian, as he finished P13 and ahead of his teammate.

Lance Stroll: 6

A great Saturday performance saw Stroll get into Q2 for the first time since Azerbaijan. On the first lap he was running as high as P12 and points were possible, but a ten-second penalty for ignoring blue flags resulted in him finishing P14. 

Stoffel Vandoorne: 4

Austria was another poor weekend by Vandoorne, with a Q1 exit on Saturday and a collision with Gasly on the first lap on Sunday. After pitting for a new front wing the Belgian was way down the order and off the pace. He retired lap 66 due to damage, and the pressure to defend his seat for next year is building.

Steve Etherington / Mercedes AMG F1

Lewis Hamilton: 7.5

With upgrades on his car Hamilton was the one to beat in the early part of the race. But when the VSC came out on lap 14 he didn’t pit like everyone else, and as a result lost the race lead. Hamilton then retired on lap 64 with a loss of fuel pressure—his first retirement since Malaysia 2016—and lost the lead of the championship to Vettel.

Brendon Hartley: 5

Hartley’s Sunday began with a 35-place grid penalty for changing his power unit, and ended when his gearbox failed on lap 57 and put him into retirement.

Daniel Ricciardo: 6

The Austrian Grand Prix may have been on Ricciardo’s 29th birthday, but sadly it ended in retirement. It was a sour start to the weekend with him being outqualified by Grosjean and an argument with his teammate over slipstreaming tactics. Ricciardo put a trademark late-braking move on Raikkonen early in the race but struggled with tyre blisters later, then retired due to a broken exhaust. He’ll be hoping for a stronger weekend in Silverstone.

Valtteri Bottas: 9

Bottas seems to love the Red Bull Ring, and pole and the win last year gave him huge confidence into this year’s event. He managed to get pole again this year but didn’t get as good a start as he got in 2017 and lost the lead to Hamilton in Turn 1. A great double overtake on the first lap saw Bottas recover to P2, although luck wasn’t on his side as the seemingly ever-reliable Mercedes broke again with a hydraulics failure. Two mechanical DNF’s for the Silver Arrows.

Nico Hulkenburg: 6

The first failure of the race came to Hulkenberg, a massive engine failure with smoke and lots of fire. Hulkenberg was in place for reasonable points but lost power on the straight. He had great pace in qualifying and got through to Q3 but reliability caught him this weekend.

Driver Ratings: Baku Does it Again!

Azerbaijan never ceases to amaze, I am unsure whether this beats 2017’s race which was amazing to watch. Lady luck was on a few driver’s side today, we’ll look in deeper detail at who had it in the rating review. As per always the rating will be done in results order.

Lewis Hamilton – 7

Lady luck was most definitely on his side today, he took longer to turn the tyres on unlike Vettel who led early on. He made some uncharacteristic mistakes especially at the first corner flat spotting both tyres he told pit wall the tyres were finished so had no choice but to change strategy and pit. The pace on the fresher yellow softs was slow but then the safety car came into play. He was gifted the win with misfortune of others.

Kimi Raikkonen – 7

Kimi being Kimi, you wouldn’t really remember he is a World Champion from 2007. He’s being used to a certain extent as a clear number two driver to Vettel. It all went wrong on Saturday with Ferrari only bringing one set of super softs he had to make one lap count, he didn’t do so. This forced him onto another strategy for Sunday. A silly collision on the first lap when he could of let off the throttle easily damaged his car, no penalty surprisingly, as others fell by the way side he took an unexpected second.

Sergio Perez – 9

Ever the opportunist, now the most successful Mexican driver in Formula 1 history and most successful at Baku in terms of podium finishes. Force India looked strong all weekend with their Mercedes grunt. Great pass on wounded Vettel along the straight. The catalyst the fourth placed team from 2017 need to push on this year?

Sebastian Vettel – 8

Go big or go home from the German, he took advantage of the safety car in Australia but this race it hindered him as we look at in a moment. A great flying lap for pole and early race from the quadruple champion. He pulled a clear lead out after the first safety car. He got a lacklustre restart from the second safety car and went for it on the brakes but with such a long straight they went cold, locked up and ran wide. He lost places rather than gaining, and dropped to P4, with then Perez getting him in the later laps due to his massive flat spot. The Ferrari was strongest all weekend, did he really have to go for it at the first attempt he had?

Carlos Sainz – 8

Flying the flag for Renault today for the first half of the race had they had the third best package. He got by the Red Bulls well and then pulled clear. When they got up to speed he kept up with them. He pitted early as started on the ultra softs and continued well to finish solidly in the points. Pretty much the reason why Renault ‘loaned’ the Spaniard from Red Bull this season.

Charles Leclerc – 9

The reason why Ferrari rate this driver highly was shown today as he scores his first World Championship points in P6. He did better than most turning on the super softs and had great pace from his impressive qualifying managing to keep Raikkonen at bay after the first restart. He would of still scored points even if others finished, he just got a few more as result. Great for the Sauber team to have points but more importantly a talent like Leclerc behind the wheel of one of their cars.

Fernando Alonso – 8

The character and grit that Alonso showed today was the reason why everyone rates him so highly. To begin with he got the McLaren round a near 2 minute lap with 2 wheels shod car into the pits with minimal damage. There was some to the floor of the car as a result but still managed to score decent points for the team. Good battle with fellow countryman Sainz today. Worth every penny to Mclaren once again.

Lance Stroll – 8

A happy hunting ground for the Canadian, after taking advantage of the 2017 race and scoring an unlikely podium, he scored his and the team’s first points this season. Great confidence booster for him and the team. He had the pace with the Mercedes power and good racecraft to finish in the points.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 6

Stoffel was off colour this weekend, but took advantage of others to finish in the low end of the points but also once again Alonso was on average a few tenths quicker than him all weekend. He continues to pile pressure on himself regardless of a points finish today, Lando Norris is looking pretty nifty in Formula 2.

Brendan Hartley – 6

The Kiwi has scored his first point in Formula 1. He had a very unorthodox way of entering the sport last year and has taken him a while to adjust, some say he still is and was the fortunate today. Bad driving on Saturday as he didn’t set a lap and his team mate nearly went flying over the top of him. He drove better on Sunday.

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Marcus was in the shadow of his team mate today, a collision on the first lap turn 2 restricted his performance. He received a penalty for the collision and was clearly at fault, no excuses. He flat spotted tyres which also ruined the strategy he was on halfway through the race. The car was good over the weekend which should give him confidence Bahrain can happen again.

Pierre Gasly – 7

He showed great racecraft on Sunday, and reactions on Saturday. He thought that he was going into the wall after coming across his team mate but managed to keep it away with lightning reactions. With yellows like his team mate he didn’t set a representitve lap time. The race was different all be it he has nothing to show from it, he managed to get up as high as P7 in the race after carving through the field’s destruction on lap 1. An out and out racer, battled with former rival Leclerc which was good to see. He was involved in a collision with Magnussen which prevented the attack for points as he had the pace.

Kevin Magnussen – 6

K-Mag was in the wars on Sunday after a tough qualifying. A short run to the 90 degree corners and being in the middle of the pack increases chances of collisions. He collided with Ericcson at turn 2 which ended his chance of a good finish at that stage. A further collision with Gasly after the second restart then ended his chance of points. Later reprimanded with 2 penalty points, 12 is the amount before a ban, at this current time he is on 8 in the 12 month period. Most dangerous driver Gasly has ever raced according to the Frenchman. An off colour performance to such a great start to the season.

Valterri Bottas – 8

He was on for a win with Mercedes but you could say poor marshalling and debris still scattered over the track resulted in his dramatic retirement. It was through no fault of his own. He managed the gap all race and was consistent, and midway was fastest driver. He made no mistakes throughout. Due to staying out longest he used the safety car to continue to lead. He then restarted well and pulled away but ran over debris which caused a dramatic puncture at around 180mph, forcing him to retire with only a handful of laps remaining. Great weekend but nothing to show for it, joy for one of the Silver Arrows but despair for the other.

Romain Grosjean – 5

Grosjean seemed to be in 2017 mood, very emotional and spins aplenty with one really silly. He was hindered by a gearbox problem in qualifying which resulted him starting last. He kept his nose clean driving through the mess and was on for good points. Every driver was struggling for tyre temperature. He tried to warm the tyres up behind the second safety car by weaving and too much the Frenchman hit the wall at slow speed, throwing away first points of the season ironically at the time putting Magnussen into the points. Bad day at the office.

Max Verstappen – 5

His fault or not but Max has now collided with other drivers 3 times in 4 races, beginning to remind me of the great Pastor Maldonado. He was playing with fire all race long with his team mate, great spacial awareness but sometimes a bit too aggressive with squeezes and double direction changes defending. He couldn’t get the red walled super soft tyre switched on early in the race resulting in both Renault passing him. Battery issues may of slowed his pace but the issue between team mates was brewing all race long. Once more a retirement and hefty bill for Red Bull to pay.

Daniel Ricciardo – 5

The high of Shanghai two weeks ago to the despair of Baku. He struggled to get by his team mate as the over powered DRS with gusty winds helped him dramatically. Various occasions the driver supposedly best on the brakes had his car side by side with his team mate but only pulled it off a few laps prior to the pit stop. He had better pace than Max at a track he did great on last year. Multiple times he was on the outside centimetres from the wall and multiple lock ups. He lost out to the overcut but with the warmer rubber from far back he tried to get by but went straight into the back of his team mate. The worst thing you can do in motorsport! Red Bull blame both drivers which you can understand, but much like Vettel did he have to go for it? Plenty of laps were remaining. There is talk of Ricciardo going to Ferrari with contracts ending for various drivers, not the first time he colliding with his team mate maybe sway his mind to leave the Austrian outfit?

Nico Hulkenburg – 5

With how the race played out, Nico could of finally got on the podium! He still waits to taste the champagne after being close on multiple occasions. He lost the car on his own accord after getting by the poor paced Red Bulls. Renault looked like the fourth best car. He needs to keep concentration as with more mental races and no mistakes from the German, he could be that podium soon.

Esteban Ocon – 7

A passenger in his crash with Raikkonen, surprised that the Ferrari driver didn’t receive a penalty. Strong qualifying and pace but nothing he could do on his short Sunday afternoon.

Sergey Sirotkin – 7

Best weekend for the Russian rookie, albeit the mistake into the wall in third practice. Qualified strongly and was unfortunate to be in the sandwich between drivers on the first lap which ended his race early. Extremely harsh that he has received a 3 place grid penalty for the next race in Spain.

Summary

So Hamilton got his win in Baku through some strong luck, whilst Vettel through his decision to go big at the restart lost points. Hamilton now leads the Championship for the first time this year. 

My driver of the day is a very tough decision, my toughest yet this year, and it’ll go to Sergio Perez for his podium finish. It just shades Charles Leclerc’s impressive points finish. Red Bull really need to look at the current situation, once more through collisions they have cars not finishing. 

Cars tend to change quite dramatically at Barcelona and that is where the Formula 1 circus is next at. Will Red Bull kiss and make up or will the fire get bigger? Mclaren say big upgrade for Spain, will it work and push them forward? What upgrades will Mercedes have in store to catch up to Ferrari? We have to wait 2 weeks to find out.

?image courtesy of Sahara Force India. Fetured image courtesy of RedBull Content pool

What goes around comes around

Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel are in party mode, after an unexpected victory in the first race of the 2018 season in Melbourne.

The German driver, qualified third, behind his team-mate and the 2017 world champion, Lewis Hamilton. The Italians took a risk and split the strategy between the drivers, Kimi Raikkonen pitted on lap 21, switched from ultrasofts to softs, Mercedes called Lewis Hamilton into the pits right after Kimi’s stop. Sebastian Vettel, remained on track for some extra laps, on the 25th lap Kevin Magnussen pitted from the fourth position, a few meters after Kevin re-joined the track, forced to step aside and park his car due to an error during the pit-stop.

A couple of laps later, Romain Grosjean pitted for a fresh set of supersofts tyres, but he copied his team-mate exact footsteps, Romain parked his car and retired from the race, for the same reason as Kevin Magnussen, loose wheels, after the pit-stop. The wheels on both cars were not being placed correctly before the nuts were tightened.

The only difference between Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, retirement, was the Grosjean’s car could not be easily recovered, hence the VSC deployed followed by a safety car.

During the VSC period, Sebastian Vettel pitted, that gave him a 10 second advantage over Lewis Hamilton. The German, re-join ahead of the Mercedes and he was leading the race. Hamilton pushed hard, after the SC, to catch and pass Vettel, the British champion was very close to Vettel’s Ferrari, but a small driving error cost him time and he also lost pace in the final laps of the race.

Sebastian Vettel celebrated a second consecutive victory in Australia and started the 2018 year with the same way he did in 2017.

A poor strategy, cost the chance to Red Bull to be competitive and score a podium in Australia. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen started the race on supersofts, Verstappen and Ricciardo qualified fourth and eighth respectively. A three place grid penalty was given to Daniel Ricciardo for failing to slow down for a red flag, during free practice.

The Dutch, was not quick enough to challenge the two Ferraris in the opening lap, at turn one on the tenth lap, Max spun his Red Bull and lost places. He was unable to recover, as he was also facing unbalance issues caused by the damaged floor on his car.

Daniel Ricciardo wanted to finish on the podium in his home race, after the retirement of the two Haas, the Australian was fourth behind Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn, had to defend his position as Daniel was on his tail for most of the time in the final laps of the Grand Prix.

At the end, Ricciardo finished fourth and Max Verstappen sixth, behind Fernando Alonso.

Double point finish for McLaren

For the first time since 2014, McLaren scored points in Melbourne. The fifth place that Alonso took matched his best ever result in three years with Honda power. McLaren, couldn’t imagine a better start, Alonso and Vandoorne scored 12 points combined in the opening race of the 2018 season.

Furthermore, Fernando Alonso had the pace to hold back a Red Bull and he finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes.

The outcome of the race affected by the VSC and Haas retirements, personally I was impressed with the pace the American team showed in the first laps of the Grand Prix and I would like to see them racing until the chequered flag.

It is still too early to judge, but I will take the risk to say that Asia will play a key role in the championship. If Ferrari has learnt from their mistakes, this year will be very interesting till the final chequered flag.

 

 

 

Season Review Part One, Mercedes too hard to die

Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.
Sunday 26 March 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _56I1907

Season finale once again, the 2017 Formula One season, belongs to the past, it’s hard to describe my feelings for this season. There are two emotional packages, the first one is before the summer break and the other one is after the break, mixed emotions but at the end, despite the results, despite the winner, there is no way to relieve the pain that appears when the F1 season ends. Now we have to wait until the first pre-season tests to hear the noise of the engines, but before that there will be massive debates about the Halo. Personally, I don’t like it, but the drivers’ safety is always the most important factor, end of discussion!

A traditional review would break the season into two parts and remind you round by round, or race by race, if you prefer, what happened the past months. Let’s try a different approach, a shorter  season review, which will try to put you in a flashback mode, and pass all the 2017 season in front of your eyes in 1 minute (okay maybe a bit more!)

8 months ago…

Australia

Season premiere, tonnes of coffee for us who are living in the European time zone, agony as well, like the first day in school after the summer break! Sebastian Vettel, started from the second place, had better set up and a faster car than his title rival, Lewis Hamilton, and won for the first time since the Singapore Grand Prix in September 2015. Mercedes asked from Hamilton to go faster, but the Brit had issues with his tyres and was unable to catch Vettel’s speed.

Not a race to remember for Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian’s Red Bull, stopped on the way to the grid, his mechanics sent him back to the race, and on the second lap he had another issue, returned to the track, to enjoy his home race, but retired before the 30th lap.

China

Lewis Hamilton took his revenge, the Briton won his first victory in 2017. On Saturday he secured the pole, and had an advantage the following day, Vettel was close but never too close and at the end Hamilton took the chequered flag. The drivers started the race on wets, Max Verstappen had an impressive race, moved from the 16th to the third. Antonio Giovinazzi crashed his Sauber on the third lap of the race and retired, a good result for Carlos Sainz who finished seventh and scored six points for Toro Rosso.

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.
Sunday 16 April 2017.
World Copyright: Charles Coates/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _27I8921

Bahrain

Pole position for Valtteri Bottas, the first in his career, the Finn set the fastest lap on Saturday, followed by his team-mate and Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari, had the pace to challenge Mercedes, and win their second victory of the season. At that moment, it was clear that the 2017 title would be decided between Hamilton and Vettel. Lewis Hamilton received a five second time penalty, for driving slowly on the pit entry to hold up Daniel Ricciardo. Lewis, served his penalty during the second and final pit-stop, when he re-joined the track he was behind Vettel and Bottas. The Finn stepped aside, allowed to Hamilton to pass him and chase Vettel, but Hamilton was not able to cover the 12 second gap in nine laps.

Max Verstappen crashed on the eleventh lap of the race, due to brake problems and retired.

 

 

Russia

Russia was the next stop for the Formula 1 crew, after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel was prepared to celebrate another victory in 2017, as he claimed the pole position in Bahrain, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn had other plans. The Silver Finn, jumped the two Ferraris in front of him and took the lead on the opening lap. Bottas, despite the pressure from Vettel during the final laps, managed to remain first until the chequered flag and scored his first victory in Formula 1.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada.
Sunday 11 June 2017.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I0800

Spain

Hola amigos, said Hamilton to Sebastian Vettel. After an amazing start, Vettel passed Hamilton on the first lap, but Mercedes had an ace under its sleeve. The Silver Arrows, decided not to follow Ferraris strategy and go for a quick stop, but to leave Hamilton on the track for a longer medium stint and gain an advantage on a later stage of the race. Valtteri Bottas, delayed Vettel, as the German couldn’t pass the Finn, Mercedes pitted Hamilton, after the end of VSC, and with 30 laps to go. The British champion, re-joined on softs, Vettel pitted a lap later and after a wheel to wheel battle with Hamilton managed to remain first. On lap 44, Lewis was on Sebastian’s tail, took advantage of the DRS and overtook the race. Since that moment Lewis has tried to increase the gap between him and Vettel and at the end, he took his second chequered flag of the season.

Hamilton vs Vettel = 2-2

Monaco

Kimi Raikkonen started from the pole position, after nine years, Kimi took advantage of Vettel’s mistakes on his flying lap, and took the pole on Saturday’s session. A race to forget for Hamilton, Lewis qualified 13th and finished seventh. Jenson Button, replaced Fernando Alonso, in Monaco, but collided with Pascal Wehrlein on lap 60 and retired the race.

Ferrari decided to pit Kimi on lap 34, Sebastian Vettel found the opportunity and set some flying laps, pitted after five laps, and re-joined ahead of his team-mate.

Daniel Ricciardo was the third person on the podium, it was Red Bull’s third podium of the season, and the second consecutive for Ricciardo.

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Sunday 14 May 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONZ6737

Canada

Easy weekend for Lewis Hamilton, the Briton started and finished the race from the same position, the first. Vettel, qualified second on Saturday, couldn’t follow the pace of the two Mercedes’ and Ricciardo’s, he finished only fourth. Sergio Perez, refused to follow Force India’s orders, to allow Ocon to pass, while he was fourth behind Ricciardo. At the end, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished fifth and sixth respectively.

Azerbaijan

Three safety cars, and several crashed were not enough to stop Daniel Ricciardo to win his first victory in 2017. Sebastian Vettel collided with Lewis Hamilton, he got a 10 second stop and go time for swearing in Hamilton’s car.

Daniel Ricciardo totally deserved the victory in the Baku Grand Prix, the Australian dropped down to 17th place, but moved up to the tenth position just before the first safety car. The two following, safety cars, and the troubles between the leading drivers, gave the advantage to Ricciardo to move all the way up in the first place.

A race that Stroll will never forget, the Canadian young driver finished on the podium for the first time in his career.

Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.
Saturday 25 March 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _56I7996

Austria

Valtteri Bottas dominated in Austria, took his second victory in 2017. A five-place grid penalty dropped Hamilton to eighth position, the following day, Lewis finished fourth behind Daniel Ricciardo whilst Sebastian Vettel finished second. During the final laps of the race, Vettel was closing to Bottas and Hamilton to Ricciardo, for the third place, but both drivers didn’t improve their position.

After the Austrian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel was leading in the championship standings by 20 points.

United Kingdom

Home race for Lewis Hamilton and he couldn’t imagine a better way to thank his fans who appeared in Silverstone, than to win the British Grand Prix. With that victory, Lewis Hamilton tied the all-time record of five career wins in the British GP.

“The support has been incredible this weekend, I am so proud I could do this for you all. Now the plan is to win the championship.” Lewis Hamilton said after his victory in Silverstone.

An issue on Vettel’s front tyre, dropped him to seventh place behind Hulkenberg. Kimi Raikkonen, suffered the same problem a couple laps earlier, which cost him the second position, dropped him to the third place, whilst Bottas moved up to the second position.

Hungary

The last race before the summer break, Ferrari dominated in Hungary, and responded to Mercedes 1-2 in Silverstone. Sebastian Vettel, despite the problems that his Ferrari suffered, he won in Hungary, followed by his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who was complaining about Vettel’s speed.

Lewis Hamilton, was not able to catch the two Ferraris in front of him and allowed Bottas to pass him and finish third. The Briton, kept the promise which made to Valtteri earlier in the race, when Bottas allowed Lewis to pass, as he was moving faster at that point of the race.

A great race for Fernando Alonso, who finished sixth and scored crucial points for McLaren, a positive result for Carlos Sainz Jnr too, the Spaniard finished seventh behind Alonso.

Season Review…Part One…

Stay..tuned…for..the..second..part…

*Twitter @FP_Passion

Mexican Grand Prix Review, Viva Mexico

The minute of silence in respect to the people who suffered from the earthquake in the Mexico City was one of the most emotional moments in the Mexican Grand Prix. People are above everything and we should always help and support each other.

Max Verstappen took the chequered flag in Mexico, but Lewis Hamilton was the big winner of the weekend. Hamilton became the first British, F1 racing driver, with four world titles.

On Saturday, Vettel set the fastest lap in Q3 of the qualifying session and took the pole position in Mexico, followed by Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Lights out, a brave start from the young Max Verstappen who added some pressure on Vettel, took the lead after a wheel to wheel battle with Sebastian, who forced to retreat, and had to fight with Hamilton for the second position. Vettel collided with Hamilton, damaged his front wing and caused a puncture to Hamilton’s rear left tyre. Both drivers pitted and dropped down to the back of the grid.

Lewis Hamilton stuck behind Sainz’s car, whilst Vettel was pushing hard to gain position. Sebastian had to finish in the first two positions, in order to have chances for the championship in the two remaining races.

For almost 30 laps, Hamilton, couldn’t find the speed to pass Carlos Sainz’s Renault, Brendon Hartley retired on lap 31 after an engine failure, gave the chance to Mercedes to call Hamilton into the pits, whilst the race was under VSC, and fit him the super-soft tyres.

The new tyres gave the chance to Hamilton to start his counter attack and cover ground as Vettel was gaining places and was hoping for a miracle in order to get a place on the podium. The German, was far behind the first three drivers, he managed to move up to position four and placed behind Raikkonen, Bottas and Verstappen.

A few laps before the chequered flag, Hamilton asked his team if Vettel could get the second position, Mercedes’ reply was “Negative” as Bottas was second and it would be hard for anyone to take it from him.

Esteban Ocon had his chance to shine, especially after lights out, Ocon was third, but after the first pit-stop period Kimi Raikkonen moved up to the third place and forced Esteban to retreat to fourth. Ocon, had to defend his place from Vettel, but that was not easy, and the German took the fourth place. Ocon’s fifth and Perez’s seventh place, were enough to give the fourth position to Sahara Force India in the constructors’ championship.

Lance Stroll had a quiet race, took advantage of Hulkenberg’s and Ricciardo’s retirements also gained an advantage from Hamilton’s and Vettel’s collision and managed to finish sixth and score eight points for Williams.

The four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton had a tough start this season, but despite the difficulties that he faced, mainly during the first half of the season, he had the courage to fight back, and showed to everyone why he is one of the best drivers on the grid. Silverstone was the spark that led to Hamilton’s comeback and to his fourth world title (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017).

Twitter @FP_Passion

United States Grand Prix Preview, Who will be the next Texan Cowboy?

GP USA F1/2016 – AUSTIN (TEXAS) 23/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Formula One is travelling to the United States and more specifically in Texas for the American Grand Prix which will be held in Austin.

Lewis Hamilton needs to score 16 more points than Sebastian Vettel in order to secure his fourth title in his Formula 1 career, considering Ferrari’s performance in the last races, it is not an unachievable target for the British driver.

Ferrari was not able to be competitive in Asia and now Lewis Hamilton has the upper hand in the drivers’ championship. Scuderia, must finish ahead of the two Mercedes if they want to stay in the game and go to Mexico, a track which suits Ferrari, with more confidence and hopes.

Austin entered Formula 1 in 2012, it is an anti-clockwise circuit which is contained by 20 corners.  The 5.5 kilometre track, designed by Hermann Tilke in collaboration with local architects, the layout of the circuit was inspired by other tracks.

Circuit of the Americas

Laps: 56

Circuit Length: 5.513 km

Race Length: 308.405 km

Lap Record: 1:39.347 (Sebastian Vettel – 2012)

Pirelli will provide three tyre compounds to the teams, Ultrasoft (purple), Supersoft (Red) and Soft (Yellow).

Lewis Hamilton is the only driver, on the grid, who have won more than once in COTA, Sebastian Vettel have won only one time in the American Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen’s best finish was second, whilst Daniel Ricciardo have finished two times on third place.

Brendon Hartley will make his Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso, the New Zealander will replace Pierre Gasly, who will race for the Super Formula series in Japan.

Carlos Sainz will make his debut with Renault in COTA, the Spanish driver said:

“I’m very excited to joining the team and I hope to hit the ground running. We have some hard work ahead of us going into Austin with lots of things to learn and many people to meet. I’m going to give everything to be on the pace as soon as possible even though I know it can take a bit of time to adapt, but I’m confident we can do it. It’s key to have this immediate taste with Renault and get to know the people and the car. It’s a big challenge, but it motivates me. We have this last push for the season and I have to find where the limit of the car is, get used to the steering wheel, things like that. That’s the procedure and I will embrace the challenge. It’s good to see the people at Enstone putting the work in to get back to the top. They can be sure all the effort being put in is being matched on my side of things and I will be pushing flat out to help the team. Austin is one of my favourite tracks and I had one of my best races in Formula 1 there last year, finishing sixth. I can go there with confidence as I know how to go fast in Austin. I just need that adaptation to the car and the engineers. The first sector is special, it’s one of these modern tracks which is well designed, very fast with quick changes of direction and high G-forces. I love these sort of tracks and it’s a good opportunity for me to test the limit of the R.S.17.”

GP USA F1/2016 – AUSTIN (TEXAS) 20/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Red Bull Racing was competitive in the final races and they want to keep up the pace. The Bulls aiming for another podium, if Ricciardo finishes on the podium, it will Daniel’s 10th podium this season.

“Everyone knows I love the city of Austin but I also love the circuit. It’s certainly unique with the wide apexes, you can pass in more than three areas, it’s fast, it flows well and it’s definitely one of the best tracks on the calendar for overtaking.In the city there is so much to see, I like going to the well-known places like Pete’s Piano Bar but also some of the more local places for live music and food. I have done Barton Springs, visited a ranch and this year I’m doing Austin City limits, there’s so much to do and it’s all so good.Some people are asking if I have a beard plan for Austin this year, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet but I still feel my little beard in 2014 was my best, so I might just bring that one back.”

Watch Max Vertappen’s preview for the U.S. Grand Prix via Mobil 1 The Grid.

I am expecting to see a fast and strong Lewis Hamilton who will give everything for the pole-position and the chequered flag, the British feel comfortable in COTA and he wants to secure his fourth title as soon as possible.

Twitter * FP_Passion