The bigger problem with Max Verstappen’s comments


Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool.

Over the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend, Max Verstappen was on the receiving end of some criticism after labelling Lance Stroll a “retard” and a “mongol” in which the two came together at the very fast first corner in practice. He was dismissive when pressed about it, and has since had a letter penned to him by the Mongol Identity Organisation requesting he apologise for his actions.

Now we have heard drivers say things in the heat of the moment. Infact Lando Norris during the race also had a run-in with Stroll at turn one in which he called him a few regrettable names in the wake of their clash, but apologised for saying them after the race. Though in Lando’s case, the words he referred to Stroll as may have been rude but not belittling.

We’ve all called someone a dickhead or a particular word beginning with C when frustrated with their actions, however Verstappen’s comments and his attitude afterwards cause some concern.

Firstly, I believe I’m not well versed enough to talk about his “mongol” comment, so I’m not talking about it not because I don’t think it’s important but I believe it wouldn’t be a good idea to talk about it when not completely able to understand the complexities. It’s better to not talk about something when you’re ignorant about it, than to try to talk about it and just ending up looking like so arrogant as to not know what you are talking about and trying to anyway.

I will however talk a lot about ableism and my own personal experiences being on the receiving end of comments like “retard”.

Full disclosure, I am on the autistic spectrum. Going through all my years in school, I always required extra support which was somewhat demoralising anyway but as a result of needing that extra support, I was always a target to mean spirited students. Of course, my experience isn’t exclusive to me and everyone regardless of the hands they’ve been dealt in life will have dealt with bullying in one form or another.

But in my personal experience, being part of a unit for kids with ‘special needs’ left me an open target to comments such as spacker and retard. These insults are derived from a place of believing someone is not of high intellect, and being at school when you’re the only one who needs support in class is already very demoralising.

So to then see people mock you by slapping their wrist with their tongue out when you are trying your best to fit in, it doesn’t matter what you did as to them, all you are is just some retard. Because of needing extra support, you are seen as lesser than them and will never be equal.

This is why when people use the word retard to describe someone doing an idiotic action, it further pushes this notion that the blatant accidental wrongdoings are associated as being the actions of someone who is mentally impaired. Now I could have chalked it up to a heat of the moment thing which we again have all been guilty of, but Verstappen’s dismissive attitude about it was very disappointing.

Now I’m not about censorship, and over the years I have appreciated Verstappen’s character and not being restrained by the overly monitored and polished media-friendly world. But I do draw the line when it comes to words that can fall back on others, because it’s not like a driver will say “piece of s***” and a toilet opens up somewhere in the world and some feces are going to pop out to say “I take issue with this!”.

The bigger issue comes about when you see people on social media who treat it like a non-issue and believe the “SNOWFLAKES ARE AT IT AGAIN!”. This is something that I really do take issue with, basic empathy is treated like an attempt to take away free speech and infringe on rights. It is seemingly born out of this need to be as far from “politically correct” as possible, but most of the time when it concerns you, people can change their tune. Even when confronted with the truth, some people seem so unwilling to concede that they were insensitive.

A couple of years ago, I would often misuse the word ‘triggered’, in line with the meme in which people get annoyed or angry about something. Someone told me that the word was insensitive because it mocks people who have post traumatic stress disorder. When these people are triggered, it represses awful memories that could really mess them up and they have to live with that.

Now if I was anything like the people who are like “LOOK AT ALL THESE SNOWFLAKES WHO JUST WANT TO GET OFFENDED BY EVERYTHING”, I’d have dismissed this person and sent an obnoxious amount of laughing-crying emojis and called them oversensitive. But instead, I listened and have attempted to educate others on this, and now I’ve adopted the term ‘Rattled’ in place of triggered in the context of someone getting angry.

Though all these people on the internet who don’t want to be educated on this and continue to spout ignorant and insensitive stuff, it’s very discouraging and disappointing for people like Max Verstappen to feed into this negative loop. Max has fans who receive these hateful remarks, and by failing to recognise the influence he has, he’s further alienating the people who live this reality every day and only giving the hate-spouting “i BeLiEvE iN fReEdOm oF sPeEcH” nonsense brigade all the time more fuel to further their toxicity.

If Max Verstappen went a step further, if he had someone crash with him and he said over the radio in response to it “This guy is 100% autistic” then I’d never forgive him. I’d rip my Max Verstappen flag off my wall, which I don’t want to have to do because I do like Max but also because the flag is from my best friend Nadine who is from the Netherlands and I don’t want to have to get rid of something that she bought for me.

We aren’t trying to cancel anyone here, but these people who have this reach on people, they need to recognise that their words can have major influence. We all know the phrase about sticks and stones, about how words can never hurt us, I do disagree with this notion. Words have power, words can tell us when we aren’t valued at a base level, and that you are not important.

There are pitiful attempts to look like you’re playing both sides as to not alienate anyone, but sometimes you need to call a spade what it is, a spade. You may think you’re being all hard with a silent H, by not caring about human rights, mental health, believing this has just been a ‘political’ post, that I’m preaching, telling you what to think, that you don’t care about what others think or what value you have towards others, you are kidding yourself when you think this is a non-issue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neste World Rallycross of Riga, Latvia – Preview

10km east of Riga in Latvia lies the Biķernieku forest. Here, a 1295m rallycross track with 60% asphalt and 40% dirt can be found. In this COVID-19-impacted season, it holds the fifth and sixth rounds of the FIA World Rallycross season. Johan Kristoffersson has taken two wins in the first and third rounds of the series with Mattias Ekström and Niclas Gronhölm taking wins in the second and fourth rounds respectively.

Coming into this weekend, Kristoffersson has a 17-point lead over Ekström in the championship standings. This is a strong track for Kristoffersson as he has two wins here, coming in 2017 and 2018.

After a successful weekend at home in Finland, Gronhölm comes to Riga in third place in the standings with a six-point gap to Timmy Hansen in fourth. Gronhölm’s teammate Timur Timerzyarnov is in 10th place after scoring a third place in the fourth round.

As mentioned before, 2019 World Champion Timmy Hansen is in fourth place in the championship with only one podium in the first four rounds. His younger brother and teammate Kevin is just behind him in fifth place. Both have undertaken some testing before this round which they are hoping will allow them to extract as much out of the car as possible this weekend.

Credit: FIAWorldRallycross.com

Timo Scheider has had his best ever start to a World Rallycross season by making it to three out of the four finals that have been held including a third place in the first round of the season. This has helped him to seventh place in the standings. Team boss of the ALL-INKL.COM Münnich Motorsport team, René Münnich, has had a tougher season than his teammate and is only 16th.

Monster Energy GRX RX Cartel’s Liam Doran has had multiple technical failures leading him to be 21st in the championship, but team-mate Andreas Bakkerud has had more luck by reaching the final on two occasions and scoring 53 points.

Anton Markund for GCK Bilstein is currently in ninth place after the four rounds and will be hoping to make it through to the final at one of these rounds again. The GCK Unkorrupted pairing of Rokas Baciuška and Guerlain Chicherit are in 15th and 17th respectively.

Joining the 14 permanent racers is home favourite Renis Nitišs, who makes his first appearance of the season with ESmotorsport Eigesa WRX Team in the Škoda Fabia. Jani Paasonen also returns with Ferratum Team in the Ford Fiesta and Krisztián Szabó returns after Höljes with GRX SET in the Hyundai i20.

The time difference to Riga from London is two hours so Qualifying 1 for World Rallycross begins at 8.30 am BST. If the last four rounds are anything to go by, this event is not to be missed!

Spanish GP Qualifying: Hamilton takes pole as Mercedes lock-out front row

Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes on pole by 0.059 seconds on a hot Saturday afternoon in Barcelona. Valtteri Bottas seemed to be on a mega lap during his second Q3 run but fell short in the final sector and has to be content with second. This pole means Hamilton now has 92 pole positions and 150 front row starts in Formula 1, and the Englishman will be looking to sign it off with a win tomorrow.

Last weekend’s race winner Max Verstappen put his Red Bull in third and will be hoping for a repeat of the last race. However the Dutchman does not have the luxury of a different strategy this time around with both him and the Mercedes cars set to start on the soft tyres. His teammate Albon will have to be content with starting on the 3rd row after he managed to put a lap together to be placed 6th on the grid.

Racing Point will be happy with the qualifying this afternoon as Sergio Perez is set to start on the second row alongside Verstappen in fourth after missing out the last two races and Lance Stroll starting at fifth alongside Albon on the third row. The team would have definitely liked to be closer to Verstappen but will have to be content with fourth and fifth despite showing promising pace throughout the weekend.

Ferrari’s dismal year looks set to continue after Leclerc only managed 9th place after some complaints with the car in the second run of Q3 and with Sebastian Vettel crashing out in Q2 yet again but this time by just two milliseconds. The Italian team will only be looking for a points finish tomorrow with anything more than that looking like a distant possibility.

GP SPAGNA F1/2020 – SABATO 15/08/2020
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

McLaren look set to have a better weekend than last time around as they have locked out the fourth row with Carlos Sainz in 7th and Lando Norris in 8th. The team will be aiming for a double points finish tomorrow and with this being Sainz’s home Grand Prix, the Spaniard will be hoping for a change in fortunes this time around.

Another team that will be happy with qualifying is Alpha Tauri with Gasly managing 10th after a decent qualifying and Danil Kvyat managing 12th place. Gasly will definitely be eyeing another strong points finish given the French driver has been having a much better year compared to the last one.

Renault would be looking to salvage something out of Sunday after a poor showing today with Ricciardo in 13th and Ocon in 15th as the French team just seemed to have been lost for pace. Ocon would hope his situation changes tomorrow after the Frenchman crashed into the wall during FP3 after a poor judgement call followed by a poor qualifying.

A surprise name in Q2 today was Kimi Raikkonen who finally managed to end his streak of exiting in Q1 this season. His teammate Giovinazzi is set to start 20th on the grid after a poor showing in Q1 and damaging his floor during the first run in Q1.

Both Haas cars are set to line up with Magnussen in 16th and Grosjean in 17th with both the drivers admitting they could’ve put together the better laps. George Russell might be bemoaning about him not being to able to score points on social media but his qualifying game seemed on point as he managed to keep his perfect record over teammate Latifi with both the Williams cars set to start in 18th and 19th respectively.

With Mercedes locking out the front row yet again at the Spanish GP, Hamilton is in with a great chance to edge closer to Schumacher’s win record unless his teammate takes the fight to him on Sunday. Max Verstappen might also be in with a chance if Redbull have a strategy masterstroke up their sleeves yet again. Racing Point would not rule themselves out from an unlikely podium but they will have to work for it.

*The Grid:

Hamilton                     Bottas

Verstappen               Perez

Stroll                             Albon

Sainz                             Norris

Leclerc                        Gasly

Vettel                           Kvyat

Ricciardo                    Raikkonen

Ocon                             Magnussen

Grosjean                     Russell

Latifi                             Giovinazzi

*Subject to change after investigation of a turn 2 incident between Kvyat and Magnussen

 

 

Spanish Grand Prix: Hamilton scorches to the top in FP2 as Ricciardo and Grosjean impress

Under the scorching hot Barcelona weather, it was Lewis Hamilton who topped the time sheets with a 1:16:883. His teammate Valtteri Bottas finished in P2 (+0.287) behind. It seems like normal service is resumed for the Mercedes team after locking out the top two earlier in the day.

The temperature at the Circuit de Catalunya increased by three degrees celsius by the time FP2 came around which made tyre degradation key to every teams’ running plans. The track temperature was so high that running through sector three would put a much more significant level of load through the rear tyres and push the soft compounds out of their optimum operating window. It was likely we would see slower times than earlier in the day.

Thus, teams took this time to work out the delta between the medium and hard compounds. The question on everybody’s lips will be whether the top teams will risk running the hard compound tyres in Q2. This session was critical to figuring these questions out.

Red Bull had a bitter-sweet session in which Max Verstappen finished P3 (+0.821) ahead of both Mercedes drivers. However, Alexander Albon continued to struggle, only good enough for P13. Verstappen was able to reduce the deficit to Mercedes by a tenth however it seems a little farfetched to think that the Red Bull will be able to challenge the Mercedes going into Saturday.

Daniel Ricciardo finished another impressive P4 as the Australian continues to impress in that ever-improving Renault. If they can make it through to Q3 on the harder compound tyres, do not count out the Honey Badger to make a massive impression in this race. Esteban Ocon finished in P9 (+1.420) but given the young Frenchman’s ability to make the one stop work at Silverstone, expect him to be a factor in a race that is expecting high temperatures and high degradation.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team RS20.
Spanish Grand Prix, Friday 14th August 2020. Barcelona, Spain.

Haas will be extremely pleased with their performance this weekend with a surprising time set by Romain Grosjean in P5 (+ 1.250). We saw earlier in FP1, the Frenchman setting a similar time good enough for P6. His session ended ten minutes before the end with a mechanical issue. Whether P5 is representative of their true pace or a sign of their nearest rivals sandbagging before qualifying, it remains to be seen. But it will be a positive sign for the American team who have regularly missed out on Q2 this season. Kevin Magnussen struggled down in P16 (+1.878) but will be eager to replicate his teammates impressive pace.

McLaren began the session testing some parts on the bargeboard of Lando Norris’s car. However, they will be worried about the sudden drop in pace over the past few races. Perhaps the new bargeboard will help in the high-speed corners later in the weekend but a P7 (+1.331) for Sainz and a P14 (+1.623) for Norris leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Likewise, Racing Point had a difficult day with Sergio Perez in P8 (+1.410) while Lance Stroll was down in P11 (+1.474). However, Perez will be happy to outperform his teammate in both sessions the weekend he returns after suffering mild symptoms of COVID-19. As the controversy of the Racing Point break-ducts consume the discourse off-track they may be pleased that it will distract from their on-track plateau in performance. However, I expect Racing Point to be up there with Renault vying for a Q3 slot.

Alpha Tauri had a decent day in which Pierre Gasly finished P10 (+1.429) ahead of Danil Kvyat in P15 (+1.759). The Russian once again struggled to find pace in the car and had further frustrations when the Williams of Nicholas Latifi blocked him going into turn 2. The team have shown signs of improvement in the races and so may choose to run the harder compound in Q2 to start on an alternate strategy.

Alfa Romeo finished with Raikkonen in P17 (+2.017) and Giovinazzi in P18 (+2.081). Though they were a few tenths faster than their nearest rivals Williams.

Rounding out the final two places were the Williams drivers, Nicholas Latifi in P19 (+2.272) and George Russell P20 (+2.508). The Canadian will be happy to outperform his highly rated teammate going into Saturday. However, it seems to be the young British driver’s tendency to deliver a lap time out of nowhere when it comes to qualifying and so will be ready to achieve his fifth Q2 appearance in a row.

While the Mercedes lock out the top two positions the fight for best of the rest will be captivating to watch. Ricciardo and Grosjean are showing glimpses of brilliance. Leclerc is still outperforming that Ferrari and Carlos Sainz will be eager to put on a good performance at his home race in order to reverse his run of bad luck.

 

 

Spanish Grand Prix: Valtteri Bottas fastest in FP1, Ferrari improve

Valterri Bottas set the quickest time during FP1 of the Barcelona Grand Prix. His teammate Lewis Hamilton was second, only 0.039 seconds behind. Those times were set on a qualifying run in the latter half of the session on the soft tyres.

Mercedes will be looking to bounce back after a disappointing result at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Barcelona has been a good track for the German team in the past,  but there will be concerns that the temperature over the weekend will potentially harm their tyre wear, similar to what happened at Silverstone.

However, they can breathe a sigh of relief that they can mitigate that risk by being almost a second clear of the rest of the competition again.

2020 Spanish Grand Prix, Friday – LAT Images

Max Verstappen set the third fastest time +0.939 seconds behind the Mercedes drivers. Following a race win last weekend the Dutchman will be hoping for another positive drive at a circuit where he achieved his first race win.

Alexander Albon finished  lower in P8  (+1.821). The Thai driver has been facing criticism recently after a string of results where he has failed to perform at a level close to his teammate. The Red Bull car seems to be a handful which was communicated to the team early on in the session, Albon complaining of a ‘sharp’ car.  This simply means that the car is too reactive. When a driver turns the steering wheel, if the car reacts too sharply it will inevitably give you a nervous feeling. Even before you reach a corner you are already worried about your input. Max is naturally faster in a sharper car while Albon is having to adapt his driving style.

Luckily, later in the session Albon mentioned that he was happier with the balance of the car, despite losing time on the straights.

Ferrari will be happy that Sebastian Vettel was closer to his teammate. While Charles Leclerc has had an impressive run of races where he has finished on the podium twice, a new chassis was brought to this race in an attempt to solve the difficulties Vettel has been having. Charles Leclerc finished P4 +1.185 off the pace while Vettel finished in P5, one hundredth of a second behind.

The Scuderia were surprisingly good on managing the Pirelli tyres at Silverstone. If both drivers can capitalise on a good qualifying position, things may be looking up for the team to score good points this weekend.

Haas will be pleased with their efforts as Romain Grosjean finished in P6 +1.506 off the pace while Kevin Magnussen was P9 +1.835 off.

They will be hoping to score points for the first time since Budapest after a disappointing run of form.

Sergio Perez was back in action after the fiasco following a positive coronavirus test. His time only good enough for P7 (+1.689) however was set on the medium compound tyres. Likewise, Lance Stroll set his fastest time on the medium compound tyres good enough for P10 (+1.858), nearly two seconds off the pace.

Racing Point certainly have more pace than that and may have been running high fuel, long race runs. Time will tell what their true pace will be on soft tyre and low fuel.

Racing Point Media

Renault had a productive day once again running a combination of long and short stints throughout the session. Esteban Ocon was P12 +1.951 adrift while his teammate Daniel Ricciardo was P18 +2.445 off.

While Renault’s season has been a mixture of positives and negatives, they will hope to replicate their impressive form at Silverstone here. The Enstone team have been playing around with a fundamental front suspension change and have been trying to find the optimum balance between front aerodynamics and front suspension for many weekends. It seems the second race at Silverstone gave them to opportunity to find the right setup for the demands of the circuit.

As Barcelona mimics Silverstone with many flowing high speed corners. Renault may be able to dial that car in and give there drivers something stable and quick to race with.

McLaren were running a specific programme in order to figure out the cooling issues they experienced with Carlos Sainz at Silverstone. Carlos Sainz finished P11 +1.948 off while Lando Norris was P13 (+1.959).

Sainz will be hoping for a positive result after a string of reliability issues and horrendous pit stops have cost the Spaniard over 25 points at least since Styria. At Styria, Budapest and the 70th Anniversary McLaren have not delivered a sub five second pit stop for Carlos, putting him into traffic after he was running best of the rest each time. All of these, on top of the tyre failure at the first Silverstone race while in P4 shows he has had his fair share of bad luck this season. Andreas Seidl iterated this point after practice to Sky F1 saying that: “On Carlos’s side, we clearly have to admit we have let him down as a team several times this year”.

Alpha Tauri was P14 with Pierre Gasly (+2.103) while Danil Kvyat was P17 (+2.360). The Russian a good potion of the session in the garage, when he was finally able to get a run out he was complaining about the headrest in his cockpit.

Pierre Gasly has been in magnificent form and will be hoping to extend his unbeaten qualifying record against his teammate this season.

Antonio Giovinazzi finished P15 (+2.132) while Kimi Raikonnen was alongside him in P16 (+2.196). Another uneventful session for the Italian team, who have looked like the slowest car on the grid at times.

Williams gave test driver Roy Nissany a run out this session. He finished P20 just under three tenths slower than Nicholas Latifi in P19. However, the Israeli set his time on the mediums and for most the session was very close to the Canadian. It was a relatively uneventful session for the British team apart from a spin caused by Roy Nissany going into sector three.

As the weekend progresses the temperatures are expected to rise. It will be interesting to see the effect this has on teams who have struggled in the heat such as Mercedes and McLaren.

Hamilton takes 91st pole position ahead of British Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has taken the 91st pole position of his career ahead of tomorrow’s British Grand Prix, three tenths in front of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and over a second clear of third-placed Max Verstappen. It makes Mercedes the first team in F1’s history to take eight consecutive pole positions at the same circuit.

Hamilton suffered a spin at Luffield on his first run in Q3 but recovered to post two laps good enough for pole, the quickest being a new track record of a 1:24.303.

Charles Leclerc got to within a tenth of Verstappen in what is Ferrari’s first second-row start of the season. McLaren’s Lando Norris will line up a very respectable P5.

Lance Stroll only just made it through to Q3 and qualified P6 ahead of Sainz and the two Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon.

Having struggled all weekend, Vettel will line up only tenth for tomorrow’s race. What’s more, he will be starting the race on the soft tyres rather than the more favourable mediums.

Alex Albon failed to make it through to Q3 for the second race in a row and only managed P12 behind the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. He suffered a hefty crash during free practice on Friday and was plagued by an electrical issue on Saturday morning.

Nico Hulkenberg, drafted in at the last possible moment to replace Sergio Perez after Perez tested positive for COVID-19, qualified P13.

Daniil Kvyat will start P14 ahead of George Russell, who made it through to Q2 for the third consecutive time in his Williams. He was, however, investigated for failing to slow for yellow flags after his team-mate span at Luffield in Q1.

Both Alfa Romeo cars failed to make it through to Q2 yet again, as did both Haas cars. Nicholas Latifi will line up P20 after his aforementioned spin.

 

[Featured image – Steve Etherington]

Hulk is back – The German driver impresses on his F1 return with Racing Point

With news that Sergio Perez had tested positive for COVID-19 breaking on Thursday evening, Racing Point had a decision to make as to who would come in and effectively replace him for at least this weekend’s British Grand Prix and even possibly for the 70th anniversary race weekend the next week. Well, it was all to perfect for a certain German driver who’s last race came some 243 days ago.

After losing his seat at Renault at the end of last season, Nico Hulkenberg was most likely wondering how he could get himself back in a seat. However, what he probably wasn’t expecting was how it would come about and how much earlier an opportunity for him to return to the grid would arise. With that said, news broke hours before the start of Free Practice 1 that Racing Point had opted to replace Checo with Nico, who had already spent three-quarters of an hour of Friday morning in the Racing Point simulator ahead of his scheduled return.

With 177 Grand Prix’s to his name, it absolutely makes sense for both Nico and the Pink Panthers for him to take the drive, replacing his former Force India teammate and he did not disappoint!

Glen Dunbarr / Racing Point F1 Team

Free Practice 1:

Nico’s initial lap of the historic Silverstone track was slightly delayed due to the fact we were still awaiting the result of his own COVID test, however, it wasn’t too long of a wait and before you knew it, Nico was taking to the track in the RP20 and was actually the first out.

After a couple of bedding in laps and a could of stops into the pits, Nico went on to complete an impressive 24 laps and subsequently posted a best lap time of 1:28.592 which was good enough to see him end FP1 in 9th just +1.170 behind the fastest man of the session – Max Verstappen (1:27.422).

What was more impressive was the fact that while he was just over one second off Verstappen, Nico was only +0.591 off his teammate Lance Stroll, who ended up finishing the first session third fastest posting a 1:28.004 (+0.582 behind Verstappen).

Post FP1 thoughts had you thinking that given Nico hasn’t taken to the track whatsoever this season let alone jumping into a car which has a serious chance of challenging this weekend, he could only get fast. Excitement building for FP2? Absolutely.

Final Session Times:

Free Practice 2:

FP2 got underway and Nico took his time in the garage before heading out to put an initial lap time of 1:29.906 for 13th with almost 20 minutes of the session gone. The following lap, Nico got himself into the top 10 with a much more improved 1:29.041 (9th), pace was starting to gather for the 32-year-old German.

With just under an hour of practice left, Nico saw teammate Stroll set a session fastest 1:27.274 during a qualifying simulation run. Nico’s answer? Well, it was 1:27.910 to go 5th fastest and move to within +0.636 of Stroll.

With just three quarters of an hour left in the session though, Red Bull’s Alex Albon went off the track at Stow in a big way after losing the rear end and spinning in barriers. The session was red flagged and all car’s returned to the pits for around 15 minutes.

With restart of the session and around 30 minutes to go, Nico went on to complete a further 25 laps and ultimately ended up in P7 at the checkered flag. As for his teammate Stroll, well.. he ended up being the fastest man of the session with his before mentioned lap of 1:27.274 which was +0.090 fastest than second quickest Alex Albon, who after his crash at Stow, didn’t return for the rest of the session.

Final Session Times:

 

What Nico Had To Say:

“The 24 hours has been a bit special. Crazy and wild. 16:30pm yesterday afternoon I got the call took a plane here and then seat fitted until 2am last night. Then into the simulator at 8am for an hour with a bit of prep work. It was a short night, but all worthwhile.”

Mark Sutton / Racing Point F1 Team

Overall Assessment:

Nico’s return to the track after 243 days was a very impressive one giving the circumstances. With as much notice as he had, I don’t think you could have asked much more from him. Yes, we all know that the car he was in control of could and should have been up with Stroll’s timing but let’s be honest, 24 hours on from being told he was coming in, Nico did an excellent job in staying within six hundred tenths of his teammate.

The rest of the weekend will now be an opportunity for Nico to repay Racing Point’s trust in giving him to replace Checo. You can well imagine that with the data collected from his laps today and the debriefing to follow, Nico’s confidence will have grown massively and could show not only in tomorrow’s FP3 but also in what is expected to be a much cooler Qualifying.

It’s fair to say that despite the circumstances that surround his return, it’s great to see the man that they call Hulk back in a Formula One car. Welcome back, Nico!

Hamilton wins Styrian Grand Prix as Ferrari implode again

An excellent drive from Lewis Hamilton saw him take a dominant victory at the Styrian Grand Prix, while Ferrari scored no points after Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel collided on the first lap.

Hamilton grabbed a superb pole position in a treacherous wet qualifying on Saturday and got off to a good start, getting clear of second-placed Max Verstappen, who battled hard in the first sector with the McLaren of Carlos Sainz.

Into Turn 3, Leclerc dived down the inside of multiple drivers in the midfield, but the space into the apex tightened up and Leclerc mounted his team mate’s rear wing, having bounced up off the sausage kerb on the inside. Vettel retired from the race after losing his rear wing while Leclerc’s race was ultimately ended by the subsequent excessive floor damage.

George Russell’s great work in qualifying for Williams was undone when he ventured into the gravel following a battle with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen.

Valtteri Bottas managed to get past Sainz in the opening stint of the Grand Prix, before Alex Albon followed suit with a routine move into Turn 4. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton’s consistent lap times were seeing him slowly pull away from Verstappen.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

A slow stop for Sainz would then push him further down the midfield pack, compounding what had been a challenging start for McLaren, with Lando Norris battling away with the Racing Point of Sergio Perez.

The Renaults of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon also battled hard in the opening exchanges, with Ocon eventually having to relinquish the position to his McLaren-bound team mate after a tense battle as they were chasing Ricciardo’s future team-mate Carlos Sainz for fifth.

Ocon would then retire with a terminal issue, while Kimi Raikkonen and Kevin Magnussen gave us a couple of really good battles, with the Finn eventually coming out on top in the Alfa Romeo.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen pitted almost in tandem with each other, both re-joining in front of Verstappen’s team mate Alex Albon, demoralisingly for the Thai-British driver.

Perez and Norris then went long in the first stint, along with Valtteri Bottas, all hoping their strategies would win them their respective battles. As Perez re-joined, he pulled off an absolutely exceptional move on Carlos Sainz round the outside of Turn 6, and set off in pursuit of his team mate Lance Stroll. After a close encounter with the Canadian, he squeezed past him and breezed past the Renault of Daniel Ricciardo, who continued to frustrate Stroll.

After an intense battle into Turn 4 with Verstappen, Bottas eventually got past a steely Verstappen, with the Dutchman scoring his first points of the season in third following an early non-finish last week.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Perez, during all this, had caught up to Albon in the other Red Bull but very nearly recreated the incident between Hamilton and Albon last week, making contact with the Red Bull, but not spinning him. Unfortunately for Perez however, the contact cost him his front wing.

This would prove disastrous for the Mexican. Lando Norris had been allowed past his team mate Sainz and set the fastest lap of the race, and set after the squabbling Stroll and Ricciardo.

After Hamilton had crossed the line to claim an imperious win, a frustrated Stroll dived down the inside of Ricciardo and that sent both of them off the track, allowing the resurgent Norris, who started ninth, to pass them both into turn four, jinking between the Renault and the Racing Point.

Perez, meanwhile, was crawling to the chequered flag after his front wing had all but fallen off following his contact with Albon, and Norris brilliantly snuck past him into the final corner. It was then a photo-finish between Perez, Stroll and Ricciardo to the line. Perez just held onto seventh place, while Ricciardo had to settle for eighth behind Stroll having once been running in fifth.

After making another stop, Sainz smashed the fastest lap record set by Raikkonen in 2018 with a 1:05.6, and he would take the fastest lap point in ninth.

It was a resurgent Hamilton after a tough weekend at the Austrian Grand Prix last time out, but his 85th career win at the Styrian Grand Prix puts him right back into championship contention, and six wins behind the all-time 91 race win record set by Michael Schumacher.

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Bottas wins chaotic Austrian Grand Prix as Norris claims debut podium

Valtteri Bottas has taken victory at a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix that saw just eleven cars reach the chequered flag, with Charles Leclerc in P2 and Lando Norris claiming his first ever podium in P3. Lewis Hamilton finished second on the road but dropped to fourth due to a five-second penalty he received for a collision with Alex Albon.

The race was sedate enough for the first ten laps. Bottas built up a 3.2-second gap to Verstappen, while Norris slipped back to P5 behind Albon and Hamilton. On lap 11, though, Verstappen lost power on the approach to Turn 3 and told his engineer that his car kept going into anti-stall. He limped back to the pits and retired on lap 13.

LAT Images

The next casualties were Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll. Ricciardo pulled into his garage with a cooling issue while Stroll, who had been struggling with a lack of power for several laps, retired due to a sensor issue.

Bottas had built up a six-second gap to Hamilton by lap 17, but on lap 21 Hamilton set a new fastest lap and began to reel his team-mate in. Four laps later, the gap was down to 3.8 seconds.

Lap 26 saw the first safety car of the race, brought out due to Kevin Magnussen suffering a brake failure at Turn 3. A flurry of pitstops ensued with every driver opting for the hard tyres except for Perez, who went with the mediums.

When the safety car period ended, Vettel lunged down the inside of Carlos Sainz going into Turn 3. He misjudged the attempt and span, dropping down the order to P15. While the incident was noted, no investigation was deemed necessary by the stewards.

On lap 42, Bottas and Hamilton were warned about sensor issues that had been detected in the gearbox of both cars and were told to stay off the kerbs. This warning was repeated several times and the gap between the two widened as Hamilton eased off slightly. Despite this apparent issue, the duo were still over ten seconds ahead of third-placed Alex Albon.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 51 saw the next retirements. George Russell ground to a halt from what had been a promising P12 and brought out the second safety car of the day. Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, ran off the track at the final corner and pulled into the pits with seemingly the same brake problem that curtailed team-mate Magnussen’s race.

Red Bull chose to bring in Albon for a change to the soft tyres, losing P3 to Perez in the process, while both Mercedes stayed out on hard tyres that had already completed 25 laps by that point.

The Safety Car came in on lap 54 briefly, after which Albon re-took third place from Perez after Perez locked up going into Turn 3.

At that exact moment, however, the safety car was brought out again, this time because Kimi Raikkonen’s front-left tyre had come clean off the chassis going into the final corner. It was initially unclear whether it was Albon or Perez who had been ahead at the moment the safety car came out, but it was decided a few laps later that Albon had been slightly ahead of Perez and thus the Red Bull driver slotted into P3.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 60 saw the safety car come back in and Albon set about chasing after Hamilton on his newer soft tyres. He saw an opportunity going into Turn 4 and went for it, only for the two to come to blows. Albon span and fell down the order to last place. The incident was duly noted and investigated, with Hamilton being given a five-second penalty.

Albon slowed a couple of laps later, saying over the radio that his engine was stopping. He wound up finishing P13, or last.

Between lap 64 and lap 66, Leclerc got past Norris and then Perez to find himself in P3 behind the Mercedes duo. It looked as if Perez was in with a shout of finishing on the podium due to Hamilton’s penalty, only for his hopes to be dashed when he was awarded a five-second penalty of his own for speeding in the pitlane and then being overtaken by Norris.

Lap 70 saw the last retirement of the race when one of Daniil Kvyat’s tyres disintegrated going into Turn 1. He managed to bring the car to a stop behind the barriers at a marshall post.

Bottas crossed the line to take the chequered flag at the end of lap 71 with Hamilton in P2, Leclerc in P3 and Norris in P4. Hamilton’s penalty, though, dropped him to P4 and promoted Leclerc to second and Norris to the final podium position.

[Featured image – LAT Images]