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]

Renault: Building everything from scratch.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Renault Sport F1 Team RS18.
Mexican Grand Prix, Friday 26th October 2018. Mexico City, Mexico.

Photo credits: Renault Mediacentre

2016 marked Renault’s return to Formula 1, A six year plan was put in place for the French marque’s comeback to the top of the grid. Three years into that timetable, things are going well for the team.

At the end of 2015, the Lotus team, powered by Mercedes engines, was in a constant demise. Poor results and a declining financial state had the British-Russian team on the ropes. Renault’s intention to return as a works team was rumoured around the paddock for quite some time, and on 28 September 2015, it was officially announced. The Enstone factory would be yellow again.

We have seen this scenario before, and the examples from recent history are profound. Red Bull did the same thing back in 2005, Mercedes, too, in 2010. And they all succeeded, because they all had a thorough plan.

The fact that the managerial positions in Renault are not being held by the same people anymore does not affect the fact that the French are a ‘work in progress’, with signs of improvement every single year.

Their driver line-up is improving little by little. Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen was just the beginning, although they would love to have Romain Grosjean on board, had he not left for Haas.

2017 saw Nico Hulkenberg joining the team, making him their number one driver, for some reason the German scored points on 7 occasions, finishing 10th on the standings. And for the 2018 season, Carlos Sainz joined him.

Next year Daniel Ricciardo will have the Renault badge on his chest, this shows the team’s determination to push through a really hard driver market and make the necessary moves, to ensure that it can have the drivers who will be able to extract the maximum potential out of the car. Does it ring a bell Red Bull did the same with Mark Webber firstly and Sebastian Vettel two years later; so did Mercedes with Michael Schumacher for its first ‘awkward years’ and Lewis Hamilton for its domination.

Apart from that, Cyril Abiteboul, team principal for Renault Sport, has done a fairly good job recruiting experienced and talented people at the team’s technical side. Marcin Budkowski, Ex FIA man, joined them last April, and James Allison is rumoured to make the step from Brackley to Enstone. It’s highly important for them to have staff that knows how to make the right choices and develop a championship-winning car.

2021 is the biggest chance for Renault to be in the contention for the world title. It is not an easy task, but they have already shown their progress from 2016 to 2017, and from 2017 to 2018. From 9th on the standings, they currently are 4th, having the ‘best of the rest’ car and the ‘best of the rest’ driver in Hulkenberg.

If they can continue like this, success is a matter of time.

Dimitris Bizas

Five Things We Take Away From The Mexico Grand Prix

 

Max Verstappen the winner of the 2018 Mexico Grandprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

1 – Max sticks to his word

All season it has been said that Red Bull realistically have talked up winning at Monaco, Hungary and Singapore. But if you were to ask that question to Max Verstappen, he would say ‘and Mexico too.’ He wasn’t a happy man on Saturday though as another chance at pole position went begging. On Sunday it took great guts to be the latest braker into turn 1 and his kindness to his tyres took him to victory, like he has been saying all season. He had two sets of new red supersoft tyres compared to the rest of the field, who only had one, and he won by a clear 15 seconds – his fifth victory in F1, and second of the 2018 season.

 

Photo Credit: Suceria Ferrari

2 – Vettel is gracious in defeat

When David Coulthard was doing the pre-podium interviews it was great to see Sebastian Vettel go to Lewis Hamilton and congratulate him. The German knew where it all fell apart this season and didn’t want to discuss it at the time. A true sportsman as he probably wasn’t in high spirits and he wasn’t standing on the first position on the podium. After this he entered the Mercedes pit section and congratulated the team too. The German will look to build on this season and look  ahead to the challenges that 2019 hold. 

 

Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas

3 – Mercedes tyre wear haunts them

The tyres that the Silver Arrows cars used just fell apart, which resulted in Hamilton finishing a distant P4 and Bottas pitting 3 times before finishing a distant P5. They had great starts but it was easy for others to overtake them, and poor mistakes from both Hamilton and Bottas put them back to P4 and P5. An investigation will surely be had after the celebration of Hamilton’s 5th title, as they were the team that struggled the most with tyres and they are close to wrapping up another Constructor’s title.

 

 

4 – Superb Sauber

Sauber had to start on the ‘chewing gum’ tyres, the pink wall hypersofts, and still managed P7 and P9. They both made a ‘one stop’ strategy work, taking us back to the days of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez doing it so well in the Sauber colours. They jumped Toro Rosso in the standings for P8, as Pierre Gasly had a solid Sunday, but more grid penalties only helped Sauber further. It was a great haul of points by the team considering they started on the hypersoft tyres. 

 

Daniel Ricciardo in Aston Martin RedBull Racing garage at the 2018 Mexico Granprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

5 – Ricciardo can’t wait for his new challenge to begin with Renault

“Just let Gasly drive it” was the quote from the Honey Badger in the media pen after his eighth retirement of the season and his second mechanical failure in a row. He probably feels that his 2018 car is cursed and hasn’t taste champagne since his victory in Monaco. His new chapter edges closer and most are unsure how close he will be to the podium in the future, considering that Nico Hulkenburg, as of yet, still hasn’t been there. 

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.

Monaco 2018 Driver Ratings

The principality of Monaco is the jewel in the crown of the Formula 1 season. It’s one of the triple crown of motorsport, the others being the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours. The tight and twisty track leaves little room for error, giving a full punishment for hitting the wall, as some experienced this weekend, one in paticular. There was without a doubt a driver of the weekend no one can argue with that.

Ricciardo – 10

? courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Super from the Honeybadger, his best win without a doubt, the first time he has won a Grand Prix starting within the first two rows. He was fastest in all practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday. On Sunday he once again in a different league, he got off the line well, and pulled away from the field. The problems came with his engine many thought the curse had struck again but with a car much less power he kept his cool to win! Redemption from 2016, a great drive, his best win out of the seven wins. He led every lap of the race and without a doubt driver of the day!

Vettel – 8

A solid drive and took points off Hamilton. His start was great but Ricciardo just closed the gap so was unable to overtake. Kept Ricciardo within distance but does seem Ferrari are harder on their tyres. Coasted to second late on as he struggled to get back up to pace.

Hamilton – 7

An uneventful weekend for the Championship leader three points lost a damage limitation race leaving a 14 points gap between him and Vettel. Mercedes knew that this wasn’t a good track for them and felt they had the third fastest car. Hamilton nearly caught Vettel midway through the race but fell away late on. Good haul of points.

Raikkonen – 7

In the battle of the number two drivers Kimi won this time. He was close to getting ahead of Hamilton and Vettel in qualifying. At a stage all three were 0.005 apart, but others improved whilst he didn’t. The cool Finn kept it out the walls and helped Ferrari outscore Mercedes.

Bottas – 6

He was off pace all weekend and at one stage it was touch and go in Q2 whether he would get through as Mercedes tried a different strategy. He left it really late to get in to the shootout. Due to his choice of tyres he had better grip which allowed him to close the gap, he didn’t have a lunge to even test Raikkonen with his better traction. 

Ocon – 9

Best of the rest from the Frenchman, only 5 seconds behind Bottas. Force India tend to not be known for their downforce and more their top speed hence previous results at Baku. Great qualifying and racecraft, a seasoned veteran now.

Gasly – 8

Pierre continues to impress, technically still a rookie season as he only drove for a few races last year from Round 15 onwards. The Honda engines not as bad in previous years, especially Monaco hiding the disadvantage. He battled with Alonso and Hulkenburg whilst keeping it clean. A long stint on the hypersoft gave him this chance, an opportunistic driver.

Hulkenberg – 7

A points finish after his two DNF’s in Baku and Barcelona. Just what he needed, he may of been out qualified on Saturday but a strong drive on Sunday gave him what he more often than not achieves for his team, points!

Verstappen – 6

The Dutchman needs to learn that sometimes you don’t need to go 100%. This was costly for him over the weekend when clearly Red Bull had the fastest car. A crash in FP3 in the swimming pool section, identical to a crash in 2016 cost him action in qualifying. The car was not rebuilt in time after a deeper look and had to start last. Max was more like himself on Sunday from great overtakes to score points but feel he was thinking about race win prior to third practice. Disapointing once again, involved in a collision somehow in the last six Grand Prix weekends.

Sainz – 6

The Spaniard had an unimpressive Sunday and left the principality with only one point after qualifying so well. He did a great job to defend his position from Ericcson at the end. 

Ericcson – 7

A good race in the streets of Monaco for the Swede. Finished in a solid P11, and was right up Sainz’s gearbox for the final stages. Seems a Sunday driver more than a Saturday, made the most positions up besides Verstappen.

Perez – 5

Finished 47 seconds behind his team mate which would of dented his confidence within himself. He had great pace as got through to Q3 but only went backwards on Sunday. Great potential, left with nothing.

Magnussen – 5

Out performed his team mate in a poor weekend for the Haas team. Hopefully just a blip for the Dane, has raced well at upcoming tracks but no joy in Monaco. Rather little happened to comment.

Vandoorne – 5

Another performance where very little was seen of him. Finished the race behind his starting grid position. He did have the pace it seemed in practice but it fell away on Sunday.

Grosjean – 4

Romain was already in hot water as he carried a three place grid penalty over from Barcelona. Haas where of form and couldn’t get their car in the sweet spot, so much so they ran 19th and 20th for the early laps. Grosjean seems to be in a rut and this race did him no favours.

Sirotkin – 6

The result hides what a great early weekend he had. He blitzed his team mate and made Q2. He suffered from two punctures but seems to be finally getting to grips with the Williams.

Stroll – 5

Sirotkin made Stroll look silly as a whole this weekend. The Canadian qualified P18 and was nowhere to anyone in the race. Finished last of who took the chequered flag. Williams as a whole hope Canada, a more power influenced track will push them up the grid.

Leclerc – 7

His record at Monaco isn’t that hot, and it continues. He failed to finish in both Formula 2 races last year. A brake failure ended his day early as he collided with Hartley. He couldn’t avoid the incident so unlike Verstappen his rating wasn’t hindered by it. Once more made it into Q2 and qualified strongly.

Hartley – 6

A waste of such a good weekend for Toro Rosso and on this side of the garage. Seventh fastest in practice as he failed to get out of Q3. He collided on the first lap damaging his car. Taken out by Leclerc but the pressure continues to mount.

Alonso – 6

I wonder if Fernando would of liked to be in America once again rather than Monaco. A gearbox failure on the front straight whilst battling with Gasly late on ended his race. He was deep into the points and raced well. Not a fan of Monaco this year and had a few choice words to say to the media.

We go from the heavily downforce influenced track of Monaco to the more power influenced track of Montreal in Canada in 2 weeks time. Renault and Honda are bringing substantial upgrades to their engines which should help the teams that use them. 

The main questions are if this would help Red Bull still keep the top step of the podium or will Mercedes bounce back to the top? 

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

2018 Chinese GP Driver Ratings

2018 is turning out to be the an exciting season. For the first time in the hybrid era it has been three races since the Silver Arrows last jumped on the topstep. China tends to be a race with very few retirements but safety cars aplenty and it was a factor today. 

Daniel Ricciardo – 10

He never wins a boring race, a stat that shows this is that he has never won a race from starting in the top three. ‘Sometimes you’ve got to lick the stamp and send it.’ That is what he said on the podium after his moves, especially on the divebomb from far back on Hamilton at turn 14. He was sixth at the restart, and through some great moves he finished first. Once he got through the field he pulled a gap and was never seen again. It is the first shooey of the season, some more to follow?

Valterri Bottas – 8

Flying the flag for Mercedes in the race, the Finn got a great start managing to jump one of the Ferrari’s. He kept it behind him and didn’t let the other get away. This allowed him to a great outlap to undercut the Ferrari to get the lead and control the race. His tyres lost him the lead but kept the other Finn behind him for a great second place considering had the second best car.

Kimi Raikkonen – 8

He got screwed by his team, Ferrari seem to be putting all their eggs in one basket with Vettel. It isn’t always going to work if they do. Kimi was a bit fortunate with the timing of the safety car after losing around 15 seconds to Hamilton after being left out there by the team. Had tyre age on his side to allow him to pull some passes off and finish on the podium. Spoilt today with a a few words on the podium too! 

Lewis Hamilton – 7

It was a grumpy Lewis Hamilton day much like Bahrain, he was never happy. ‘Is it me or there a lot of cars with fresh tyres behind me’ was a quote in the race. This was a clear shot at the team as was left in no mans land. He was just behind the others all weekend, with everything happening around him he closes the gap on his championship rival. Two races though not on the podium for the Brit.

Max Verstappen – 6

Patience, that is what the Dutchman needs more of, we all know he has the speed. Twice in one race he made mistakes on overtaking. First, on the outside of Hamilton where he could of waited for the DRS rather than losing places to Ricciardo. The second being the half gap on the inside of Vettel for the following lap as time was on his side. He would of probably won the race if he kept it clean but instead fifth due to a penalty. Unlike Bahrain he admitted it was his fault, think a talk with himself tonight needs to be done.

Nico Hulkenburg – 9

Once more this German is so under rated, with contracts up in air at the end of this season surely teams have to take a note. He has never been on the podium but consistently in the points and keeps it clean unlike others. Another strong day for him that puts him firmly as the number one driver at Renault.

Fernando Alonso – 8

Ringing the neck out of his car, finding the pace which his team mate cannot. His racecraft that he has only helps him further from starting so far back in the field. Kept tyres in good condition and his nose clean to push on. Nice move on Vettel late on to get even more points, due to a higher result is sixth in the standings.

Sebastian Vettel – 8

Through no fault of his own the championship leader finished down in eigth. He started the race well and did his token fast first lap to break the DRS on second place. He managed the gap well to keep the field behind him which was brilliant. The team kept him out too long which as a result allowed Bottas to jump him, and then running wide at the hairpin gave the aggresive Verstappen a gap that he would attempt a pass causing a spin. He lit the rears up when trying to get back pointing in the right direction which hindered him for the remaining laps. Had the pace but others hurt him. 

Carlos Sainz – 7

Very much in the shadows of his team mate currently, he needs a big display. Nearly got the stricken Ferrari at the end of the race but more points for him, albeit another finish far behind his team mate.

Kevin Magnussen – 7

Said he was lucky to just miss out on Q3. He qualified eleventh allowing him to have first choice of tyre. He went with the soft and slowly picked off the positions, undercuts pushed him back to further down the field though, more points for the American team.

Esteban Ocon – 6

An okay race for Ocon, he finished higher than he started which is something good to take for him. Hope for the team at Baku when they were strong last year but keep it clean! 

Sergio Perez – 6

The Mexican well renowned for his skill to keep life in his tyres you’d have thought would thrive in these conditions. A result from probably being one of the ten to go through into Q3 he was not helped by starting on the ultra soft tyres. The damage was done as went long on second stint and had no pace throughout.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 6

The Belgian is in the same boat as Carlos Sainz, playing second fiddle to his team mate. Mclaren seem to be talking a lot of gas and air when it comes to the performance of their car, but Vandoorne isn’t getting what his team mate can out of it. This time drivers’ didn’t retire so finished out of the points.

Lance Stroll – 7

A great start for Stroll today, quite a few positions picked off at the 270 degree turn one. Williams had a bit more pace this weekend albeit being slower than last year in qualifying. Solid midfield finish, confidence can be built as we head into the European season.

Sergey Sirotkin – 6

Is growing into the seat but questions continue to be asked if signing him was the correct decision. Is learning the car well, and gaining confidence. Not much was said about him throughout the race. 

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Good finish for Marcus, showing his rookie team mate that there is more potential in the Sauber Alfa Romeo. Peope saw him as a pay driver as they dropped the impressive Wehrlein over him but mixing it in the midfield and not always coming out second best.

Romain Grosjean – 5

Besides the few explicit words on the radio early on in the race when it seems the team said to let his team mate through Romain had a very quiet race. Getting into qualifying three seemed to hinder him. Forget and move on, but take confidence pace in the car is there.

Pierre Gasly – 5

It was the Frenchman’s eigth start and that showed, a bit of a yo-yo season thus far. Toro Rosso struggled with China very power concentrated track. He took out his team mate causing the safety car and ruined both races for the team. Gone back to Australia, want to keep the Bahrain-esque form up. Very silly, but he’ll learn from that.

Charles Leclerc – 6

For a driver that had never been to China he wasn’t adrift of the field, of course there are simulators that can be used but great display. The European season is when Leclerc will come to a next level.

Brendon Hartley – 5

The car wasn’t at the races today and was pretty much held back. The Kiwi was doing his own thing before being a passenger to a collision with his team mate. Had to retire late on due to damage.

Two things to conclude really, Verstappen, we rave how exciting he is to watch but he needs to learn. One of the late great Ayrton Senna’s quotes ‘If you no longer go for the gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver’ can be used to defend him. I don’t even think that he would of attempted that optimistic move.

Gave Ricciardo the driver of the day, but a big shout out to the Red Bull team for the whole of the weekend. A record breaking engine change in this era yesterday, and the two double stack pit stops really shows drive in the team to do the best they can at the track. Off track great tactics was decided in a few seconds when the safety car was called too. In a fortnight the Formula 1 circus is off to Baku, much earlier this year.

 

Images Courtesy of Redbull content pool

Red Bull Season 2017 Review #1

Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
Sunday 09 July 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONY3502
As we head into the the latter end of the 2017 season, one by one at Pit Crew we are looking into each individual team with specific weeks. This we look into the Austrian outfit Red Bull Racing. The drivers continued from the 2016 season with Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who always is a joy to watch with deep braking and has a cracking personality. Dutchman ‘Go big or go home’ Max Verstappen also stays, his first full season in the Red Bull after his halfway season swap with Danil Kyvat in 2016 from Toro Rosso. Many think that Red Bull have the best driving partnership on the grid.
Pre-Season
Everyone was optimistic about Red Bull’s chances for the 2017 season. The regulation changes were based on aerodynamics for the season forthcoming and Red Bull always are known for their grear aerodynamics and chassis. It was hoping with that it would outweigh the deficit that the Renault has in terms of horsepower to Ferrari and Mercedes. In the original release of the Red Bull the car looked very basic unlike its rivals, which raised concern. It did have the unique hole in its nose. This did though made the car launch more popular.
In the pre-season tests pace did look promising as day by day additions were coming in from Milton Keynes to adapt onto their RB13. Their car was building well, but again reliability was something that was out of their control. Much like Renault and Toro Rosso their gearbox and engines had problems, so much so they had to revert to 2016 items for the first few races. These were heavier and less powerful which hindered them. The cars still looked very basic compared to the depth of sidepod changes that Ferrari had between 2016 & 2017. They also did not introduce a T-Wing till later in the season. Adrian Newey at this time was away so did not have his full say in the car’s full design.
Australia, Melbourne
This was where we first saw the order of the pack, and it showed that Red Bull were in No Mans Land, as per 2016, it seems Deja Vu for the Austrian team. They were too far behind to challenge Ferrari & Mercedes, but too far ahead to be challenged by Force India & Williams. Their race pace was promising but just lack outright qualifying speed. Ricciardo had a weekend to forget, in Q3 he ended up in the wall after a rare mistake. His car then failed twice on Sunday, on the way to the grid, missing the start, and then towards the end of the first sector halfway through the race on lap 25. Verstappen qualified 5th and then finished 5th. He ended much closer to Raikonnen than people expected. Seemed to set the trend that as per mentioned the race pace of the RB13 is strong but lacks outright speed on Saturday.
Driver Points: Verstappen 10 – Ricciardo 0
China, Shanghai
The Chinese Grand Prix was hindered significantly in its Friday running, when the weather restricted the medical helicopter to fly. Only 20 mins of practice was raced throughout weekend. Reliability gremlins were still in the Red Bull pit area following on from Austrailia but this time it was Verstappen that struggled. He suffered with power deficit and the Shanghai back straight is one of longest of the season, it resulted in him being knocked out in Q1. Ricciardo was best of the rest, qualifying 5th, very much a role reversal from Austrailia.
The weather had a say in the race on Sunday, the majority of the track was dry, but on the main straight and few areas it was still wet from overnight rain. 19/20 drivers started on intermediates. Verstappen due to penalties started 16th, his start was simply amazing! He was up in the top ten crossing the line into lap 2 through passing at the start and midpack collisions. Verstappen was coy and through use of his skill as per seen in Brazil last year and the early safety car he managed to finish an incredible 3rd. Ricciardo was hot on his heels finishing 4th. Great wheel to wheel action but it was kept clean. A much better weekend for the Austrian outfit with a double points finish. Verstappen moved to 3rd in the drivers championship, whilst Ricciardo scored his first points of the season.
Driver Points: Verstappen 25 – Ricciardo 12
Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
Sunday 09 July 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _54I1370
Bahrain, Sakhir
The form of China carried on into the desert of Bahrain. The team looking closer again to the two in front of them. It was just once again, they couldn’t turn their engine up like them. Mercedes had on average a 2 second difference from their Q1 time to Q3 whilst Red Bull only found a second. They were edging closer though, Ricciardo managed to out qualify Raikonnen’s Ferrari. The car was looking better, new additions around the front end of the car was to blame.
They both started well in the Grand Prix, but then on lap 11 after a pit stop for Verstappen trouble happened, heading to the end of sector 1, the second heavy braking area around the track the car didn’t respond to him, it ground to halt in the gravel. He unfortunately retired due to a brake failure. Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll had an incident as well which brought out the safety car, Ricciardo was caugh among a controversial move by Hamilton. He ended at the end of the period ahead of the British driver. Hamilton turned up the engine and passed him easily along the main straight on the restart. Kimi Raikonnen also passed him later on, as a result he finished 5th. Verstappen due to his non-finish dropped to 5th in the overall standings.
Driver Points: Verstappen 25 – Ricciardo 22
Russia, Sochi
Sochi was moved for the 2017 season, swapping places with Maylasia. This track unlike Bahrain is much more focused on the power of the car rather than outright grip. Williams were much closer to Red Bull as a result, Ricciardo qualified 1.9 seconds behind the eventual pole sitter Sebastien Vettel. Felipe Massa in the Williams managed to split the Red Bull duo, a shade quicker than Verstappen.
The race start was clean, not much contact had occurred on the first lap so far this point of the season, with wider cars, everyone thought that it would be even more collisions. Ricciardo was challenging Raikonnen for 4th, but got caught in, as a result Verstappen got passed the Williams of Massa and Ricciardo into 5th place. The race was very lacklustre after the first lap, there wasn’t any overtakes, except if it does count when Ricciardo’s brake caught alight. It did end up with the Australian failing to finish, back to back brake failures, and their third mechanical retirement of the season. Verstappen finished 5th, a whole minute behind the winner Bottas, a very lonely race for the Dutchman.
Driver Points: Verstappen 35 – Ricciardo 22
Silverstone, Northamptonshire, UK.
Friday 14 July 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _56I8274
Spain, Barcelona
Much promise was made of Red Bull, with the supposed RB13B being introduced at Spain. As per mentioned with Russia swapping with Maylasia, Spain for the first time wasn’t the first European race of the season. Barcelona tends to be where the first big set of upgrades are brought. After a disapointing beginning of the season albeit podium places here and there they want to be fighting for the championship. They brought updates, the car looking much less basic than it was back in Australia. Renault importantly also did too, if you look back to this article we wrote earlier in the season about their MGU-K. The Red Bull had a new colour scheme in practice, quite a lot of flowviz paint was used.
The car was much more competitive but once more others could turn the wick on their engine up. It was much better though, Verstappen was only 0.6 seconds slower to the 1.2 seconds they were back in Sochi. Ricciardo didn’t have the best of days on the Saturday, a whopping 0.4 behind Verstappen.
Race day was upon us, Red Bull looked good in terms of matching on certain compounds Ferrari and Mercedes, it was all down to the start. The original launch was good for Verstappen, was making the most of the new settings they follow this year, got up alongside Raikonnen into turn 1, but a bang of wheels plush on resulted in terminal damage for both drivers. This resulting in the iconic small video clip of the boy in the stand crying his eyes out. Ricciardo as a result moved up into 4th following, the two Mercedes and Vettel, but this soon became 3rd as a rare failure on the Mercedes happened as Bottas car pulled to the side with engine failure. Ricciardo finished 75 seconds behind the two championship contagnists, being the only 1 besides them not to be lapped. Ricciardo overtook Verstappen in the championship for the first time this season.
Driver Points: Verstappen 35 – Ricciardo 37
Monaco, Monaco
The unique race amongst the principality of Monaco was round 6 in the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, much like Barcelona a less demanding power track, much hoped Red Bull could be in with the mix for the victory much like last year if it weren’t for the mishap that Ricciardo had in the race. From the offset they looked competitive with Verstappen 3rd quickest on the Thursday, Ricciardo was there abouts, albeit he didn’t get to do a full on lap in practice 3 due to another brake failure on his car so his true pace wasn’t seen until qualifying.
Qualifying did show a shock with Lewis Hamilton being eliminated in Q2, this did give the Bulls an opportunity to qualify higher than they have done this season. Verstappen was the closest Red Bull got to pole all season, the top four being himself, Bottas and the two Ferrari’s only 0.3 seconds between them. Ricciardo made a mistake on his fast lap, but was best of the rest in 5th.
For the first time since China both drivers finished the race, and much like China one of them ended up on the podium. This was once more Ricciardo, himself and Vettel both used the overcut to effect rather than at any other tracks more than likely the undercut being the best option. Monaco always a tough one to pass around, but through the sole pit stop phase Ricciardo went from behind Verstappen, to passing him and Bottas. A late safety car piled the pressure on Ricciardo from Bottas behind but it was a great drive from him once more. Verstappen not best pleased with the team as he missed out on that opportunity. They outscored the Mercedes team with Hamilton finishing 7th.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 52
 
Canada, Montreal
Montreal is such a stunning track, the flow of the circuit and scenery that is surrounded by makes it one of the best on the calendar. The track does have many memorable moments, much like Ricciardo’s 2014 victory. Montreal is back to Russia, more a power themed track than out right downforce than the previous two races. Red Bull had a few more new developments here, and their race pace was promising compatable with the speeds of Hamilton and Vettel. They got close to Raikonnen in qualifying, but Hamilton and Vettel were in a league of their own on the Saturday.
Verstappen without a doubt thus far has the best start of the season award, starting on the 3rd row in 5th he managed to climb 3 places, going into the second corner in 2nd place just behind the gearbox of Hamilton. Ricciardo also managed to pass Raikonnen, at the end of the first lap, they were 2nd and 5th. Hamilton couldn’t get away but on to the start of lap 11 and Verstappen suffered another engine electrical failure, amazing from the teenager but once more with nothing to show for it. Ricciardo held onto 3rd, Raikonnen was nowhere in the race, whilst Vettel only finished 0.7 behind the Austrailian. A third podium in a row now for the Australian, he was closing in on 4th in the championship and pulling away from Verstappen.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 67
Red Bull are not where they are wanting to be at this current time. Adrian Newey, the greatest designer in the F1 world was appearing more often at the Grand Prix. His project with Aston Martin and the Americas Cup boat championship has been put aside. A few new boosts to power were showing from Renault and Newey began to adapt his thoughts on the RB13. Our second part of the Red Bull 2017 series will follow shortly, from Azerbaijan to Italy. Will Newey and Renault’s input make way for further success for the Red Bull team?
Chris Lord