Red flags cause chaos in qualifying for Azerbaijan GP

The sun was shining over the Baku Street Circuit this afternoon as qualifying for the 2019 Azerbaijan Grand Prix got underway.

Q1 began with two brief yellow flags when Hamilton and Hulkenberg both ran off-track before rejoining the circuit, with Stroll also having a brief scrape with the wall.

A red flag came out just moments after the chequered flag fell on Q1, with Williams’ driver Robert Kubica clipping the wall at turn eight and hitting the barriers. Kubica was okay, but Williams were left with a huge repair job on their hands.

The first session ended with Pierre Gasly in P1, followed by Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton. The five drivers knocked out of Q1 were Stroll, Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Russell and Kubica.

LAT Images

After a delayed start due to the recovery of Kubica’s William’s, Q2 finally got underway, but the red flag was brought out again within minutes when Charles Leclerc crashed into the barriers at turn eight – the exact same place where Kubica crashed in Q1. Leclerc was uninjured but was left understandably frustrated as he made his way back to the Ferrari garage.

After yet another half-hour delay, Q2 finished without further incident. Max Verstappen topped the time sheets followed by Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton in P3. The five drivers out in Q2 and lining up from P11-P15 on the grid for tomorrow’s race are Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen and Pierre Gasly, who didn’t set a time in Q2 due to his penalty for missing the weigh-in yesterday in practice. He will start tomorrow’s race from the pit-lane.

Q3 was relatively uneventful with nine out of ten drivers out on track in a bid to get pole position. Despite having crashed out in Q2, Leclerc set a competitive time and will start tomorrow’s race in tenth place.

Valtteri Bottas set a sensational lap time of 1:40.495, placing him on pole position for tomorrow’s race. Hamilton completed the front row with Sebastian Vettel behind in P3 next to Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The rest of the grid consists of Perez in P5, Kvyat in P6, Lando Norris in an impressive 7th, with Giovanazzi, Raikkonen and Leclerc rounding out the top ten.

LAT Images

If today’s dramatic qualifying is anything to go by, tomorrow promises to be a very interesting race in Azerbaijan!

[Featured image – LAT Images]

2019 Australian GP Review: A Great Start

After a long winter break, Formula One finally returned to Down Under for the Australian GP.

Qualifying made clear that the testing results from Barcelona weren’t very representative. Gasly didn’t make it through to Q2, as Red Bull thought his first run was good enough. A big surprise for McLaren was the eighth place for rookie Lando Norris, showing that McLaren are ready for points again.

In front it was the big question if Ferrari and Red Bull indeed closened the gap to Mercedes. After three Free Practice sessions it still wasn’t clear, but the third qualifying session did clear things up. Mercedes are still the ones to beat, Ferrari are behind them and Red Bull are still third, although Max Verstappen (P4) qualified in front of new Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc (P5). Lewis Hamilton took pole by a sensational 0.7s to rival Vettel (P3), with Bottas close behind him.

A dramatic start for the local hero Daniel Ricciardo, who lost his front wing after a good start trying to overtake but had to go onto the grass were there was a small bump.

In front it was Bottas who took the lead from Hamilton and immediately created a gap. Charles Leclerc tried to overtake on the outside through turn 1, but had to be cautious with his teammate in front.

Pierre Gasly tried to make his way through the field, which wasn’t an easy task at this circuit as he struggled to get past the Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.

In lap nine Leclerc made a small mistake into turn 1, going through the gravel and losing three seconds to Verstappen ahead. One lap later one of the Renault engines failed, causing the McLaren of Carlos Sainz to catch fire.

The first regular pit stop of the race was for Kimi Räikkönen in lap thirteen, opting for the mediums. Next lap Nico Hülkenberg pitted for the hard tyre, so already there were different strategies.

Vettel went to the mediums as well in lap fifteen. Meanwhile Netflix documentary F1: Drive to Survive rivals Magnussen and Hülkenberg were battling each other heavily on track out of the pits.

Another pit stop drama for Haas as the front left tyre of Grosjean didn’t go on quickly, costing him a few seconds.

In the midfield Norris tried to get past Alfa Romeo rookie Antonio Giovinazzi, showing that the new aero regulations made for closer racing. The Giovinazzi train grew bigger with Grosjean, Albon and Perez joining the battle. In lap twenty-six Norris finally passed the Italian, who was defending his place like his life depended on it.

Twenty-nine laps in and Leclerc finally made his first pit stop, going for the hard tyre which seemed like a strange decision.

Local hero Ricciardo had to retire the car in lap 31. At the same moment it was Grosjean parked his car behind the barriers, the bad pit stop seemingly the cause of the retirement.

An overtake attempt by Kvyat on Perez ended up in the gravel trap, but he could go on. Gasly immediatly pitted, but couldn’t get past the Russian.

With fifteen laps to go Vettel was really struggling for pace in P4, asking his team: “Why are we so slow?”

After fifty-eight laps it was Valtteri Bottas who took the first win of 2019 (and his first since Abu Dhabi 2017), outclassing his teammate Hamilton. Verstappen should be happy about his third place, and Hamilton should be worried about second due to the twenty-two second gap to his teammate.

The biggest worries, however, should be at Ferrari. No real impressive race pace and Leclerc almost out finished

his teammate albeit a gap of over ten seconds before the pit stops.

The first winner of the extra point for fastest lap was Valtteri Bottas, leaving Australia with the full twenty-six points. Next race is Bahrain, will we see a revival of Ferrari or are Red Bull ahead of the reds? We’ll see in two weeks time.

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Hamilton steals the show in Albert Park qualifying

Formula One is back with a bang, and Albert Park’s two days of running have culminated in a scattergun grid, topped by Lewis Hamilton.image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports.

The five time World Champion picked up his stellar form from 2018’s end, landing his sixth consecutive pole in Melbourne and, surprisingly, scorching the tipped favourites Ferrari on one lap pace.

The session started with a twist – 1st to 18th were separated by just a second, and when Red Bull newbie Pierre Gasly didn’t show in the final minutes, he surfed down the order to 17th.

 Lance Stroll joined him in the Q1 dropzone, as did an unlucky Carlos Sainz, who found his final sector to be compromised by a limping Robert Kubica who had moments ago brushed the wall and picked up a puncture. Kubica and his teammate George Russell endured a nightmare, their Williams over a second away from the nearest car.

 Q2 saw many new, and returning, faces still in the hunt. Daniil Kvyat’s impressive return to the frontline ultimately earned him 15th place, while his teammate Alexander Albon placed his Toro Rosso a more than respectable 13th on his first qualifying outing.

 The home boy, Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, didn’t have the session he had hoped for: general consensus was that the Renault is the 4th quickest package, but neither he nor Nico Hulkenberg were able to extract it and line up 11th and 12th, the German getting first blood.

The two extremes of the F1 grid, 19 year old Lando Norris and 39 year old Kimi Raikkonen both stole the show in the midfield, to earn a McLaren and Sauber representation in Q3.

Norris ended the final session in eighth place, marking an admirable U-turn from the dismal form McLaren had the season prior, while Raikkonen achieved a solid 9th. Sergio Perez brought up the rear, while once again the Haas package looks strong around Albert Park, with Romain Grosjean 6th and Kevin Magnussen 7th.

 But it was Hamilton who ultimately stole the show – while Valtteri Bottas had the initial time to beat, he came back with a splendid lap on the edge that showed while the Mercedes might be a nervy car to drive, the pace is there in abundance.

Bottas lines up second on the grid, with Sebastian Vettel behind in 3rd and an opportunistic Max Verstappen completing the second row, ahead of Charles Leclerc.

Red Bull ‘driving into a new era’ with the launch of RB15

Red Bull Racing revealed their 2019 F1 car today, labelled the RB15, ahead of pre-season testing in a few weeks time. This comes after Toro Rosso’s unveiling on Monday which revealed another high-shine and  vibrant livery with the trade-mark Red Bull colours.

Red Bull have been a hive of activity on social media in the build-up to the launch, conducting interviews with drivers Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly that discussed how they have geared up for the new season, and how nice it is having an Aston Martin as a company car. Verstappen also addressed the youthfulness of this year’s driver pairing and said, “I don’t think it is an advantage but also not a disadvantage… When you are 30 years old you have a lot more experience, it’s not necessarily that you are faster”. Quite right Max.

In the 2018 F1 season fans enjoyed a sleek, matte livery, contrasting with the Baby Bulls ‘fizzy drink’ aesthetic, with Aston Martin’s sponsorship proudly displayed on its rear spoiler.

Today, Red Bull have treated fans to a one-off livery in honour of an official filming day at Silverstone. It is unclear whether this livery will be used in pre-season testing, however it is thought normal service will resume come the Melbourne Grand Prix.

The Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB15. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

For now, fans can enjoy yet another matte navy blue and red livery; the car retains its traditional ‘charging bull’ motif, but with a greater emphasis on geometric patterns than in previous years.

So, what can we conclude from today’s unveiling?

Yep, it’s definitely a Red Bull!