F1 completes 2020 schedule as Istanbul returns

Yes, you heard that correct! With its heavily revised schedule that stemmed from F1 having to suspend its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we now know for a fact that F1 will have a season containing 17 Grands Prix from July to December.

Along the way, we have unfortunately lost fan favourite events such as Baku, Suzuka and Interlagos, and the two new additions to the schedule Hanoi and Zandvoort. But in their place we’ve had some incredible tracks added in to more than make up for it. These being new circuits such as Mugello and Algarve, and returning beloved circuits such as Nürburgring and Imola. Well another much beloved circuit is making an unexpected return and that’s Istanbul Park – the home of the Turkish Grand Prix between 2005 and 2011.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY – MAY 08: Mark Webber of Australia and Red Bull Racing holds off Fernando Alonso of Spain and Ferrari during the Turkish Formula One Grand Prix at the Istanbul Park circuit on May 8, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Mark Webber; Fernando Alonso // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI201412160311 // Usage for editorial use only //

With the announcement of the return to Turkey which will be on November 15th, also came the completion of the entire schedule. F1 will finish off the season with a triple header in the Middle East: two Grands Prix on the Bahrain International Circuit on November 29th and December 6th, then the ever beloved (I say with sarcasm) Yas Marina circuit will host the final GP on December 13th.

The second race in Bahrain however, does have an added variable. With the other two circuits to host two GP’s this year (Red Bull Ring and Silverstone), neither circuit was held on an alternative layout, but the two Bahrain races will not be on the same layout. For those of you who were watching F1 back in 2010, you’ll remember that Bahrain held the season opener and used a longer variant of the usual layout with a section between the typical turns four and five that extended out and fed back into the regular GP circuit.

2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

It wasn’t a beloved layout and they reverted back to the regular layout from 2012 onwards after the 2011 race had to be called off due to civil unrest. Rest assured, this second race in Bahrain isn’t going to be on what is dubbed the ‘Endurance’ layout, nor is it on the ‘Paddock’ layout that players of the most recent F1 games have grown accustomed to when racing the alternate Bahrain GP layout.

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix, Sunday

The second Bahrain race will take place on the ‘Outer circuit’, which breaks away from the traditional Grand Prix circuit at turn four like the Endurance layout, but then takes a detour to what is normally turn 13, so it misses the entirety of the infield. Ross Brawn has gone on record stating that it’s perhaps the closest F1 will get to an oval, so expect the teams to be running a radically different downforce package to the race on the traditional GP loop.

Alright now that’s over with, let us wax lyrical about how amazing Istanbul Park is! F1 hasn’t been to the Turkish GP venue since 2011 but it still holds a special place in F1 fans’ hearts. The circuit has not got one bad corner, the peak of which comes at the quadruple apex turn eight which a lot of F1 fans are excited about considering the cornering speeds of the current era cars.

ISTANBUL (TURCHIA) 06/05/2011
© FOTO ERCOLE COLOMBO

Istanbul has always had a lack of attendees, the result of the organisers not seeing value in it after their stunt in 2006. They attempted to get the world to recognise a breakaway of the island of Cyprus as the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” of which only Turkey recognises. This resulted in Cyprus filing a complaint and the FIA fined the organisers five million dollars.

Since losing the Grand Prix, the organisers have turned the circuit into an over-glorified car showroom, which just hurts to hear. it’s like using the Mona Lisa as a coaster for a hot drink mug. It had even lost its FIA Grade-1 rating which is why I wasn’t expecting it to be in the conversation to be hosting a Grand Prix on the revised schedule. But it has, and it is! Savour it everyone, potentially we may never see this circuit again.

Hopefully Codemasters can find a way to get all the new tracks into the next F1 game, even if it is later on as downloadable content.

That’s it, the 2020 Formula One World Championship will conclude on December 13th with the Abu Dhabi GP after 17 races. If only we could pick Istanbul up and drop it in France so the French could have a decent circuit to host their Grand Prix, but we don’t live in an ideal world. Nevertheless, I’m sure a lot of you out there are looking forward to seeing the return of this beloved circuit.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

F2 Abu Dhabi: Ghiotto wins final race of 2019

Luca Ghiotto won the Formula 2 sprint race at Yas Marina, the final race of the 2019 season and Ghiotto’s last race in the series.

Ghiotto started third on the reverse grid behind polesitter Giuliano Alesi and Nicholas Latifi, his rival for second in the standings, but jumped straight to second as Latifi was bogged down by wheelspin off the line.

In the opening laps Ghiotto held back from challenging Alesi in order to preserve his tyres. Although this allowed Alesi to build up a substantial early lead, Ghiotto’s strategy came to fruition when Alesi’s tyres ran out of grip shortly after and started costing him two seconds per lap.

On lap 8 Ghiotto took the lead with an easy move on the struggling Alesi, and quickly built up a lead over the rest of the field. Once Alesi lost the position he started falling back down the field, losing second to Latifi on lap 10 and third to Callum Ilott a lap later.

Ghiotto held a comfortable lead for the remaining laps, helped by a pair of virtual safety cars on laps 17 and 19 (the first brought out by Sean Gelael and the second by Nikita Mazepin and Matevos Isaakyan coming together). By the chequered flag Ghiotto won by 7.2 seconds over Latifi.

Jerry Andre, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Yesterday’s feature race winner Sergio Sette Camara had another strong race at Yas Marina.

He was dropped out of the points at the start by Mick Schumacher, but repassed the Prema a few laps later and gained another position when Guanyu Zhou dropped down the field to P11.

Shortly after half distance, Sette Camara made his way past the two Carlins of Louis Deletraz and Nobuharu Matsushita, who were locked in a tight battle between themselves for sixth. On lap 16 he then picked off Alesi and moved into fourth place.

His charge was hampered by the two virtual safety cars, but when racing resumed for the penultimate lap Sette Camara immediately reeled in Ilott to take third.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

Ilott finished P4 and Alesi managed to hold onto P5. Deletraz won the intra-team battle at Carlin to take P6 from Matsushita, while Jack Aitken beat Schumacher to the final point in P8.

Artem Markelov was stopped by a gearbox problem on lap 11, joining Gelael, Mazepin and Isaakyan in retirement. 2019 F2 champion Nyck de Vries was P13, for only his third finish outside the points all year.

Latifi’s second place, bolstered by the two points for fastest lap, was enough for him to secure the vice-champion position over Ghiotto by seven points. Sette Camara came close to overhauling Ghiotto for third in the standings, but ultimately fell three points short.

Aitken finished the season P5, and Matsushita managed to keep P6 ahead of Zhou by five points. Deletraz was P8, Jordan King P9, and the late Anthoine Hubert remained in the top 10 by three points over Ilott.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Championship

F2 Abu Dhabi: Sette Camara steals feature race win from Carlin

Sergio Sette Camara overhauled the Carlins of Nobuharu Matsushita and Louis Deletraz to claim his first Formula 2 feature race win in Abu Dhabi.

The DAMS driver took pole position in qualifying yesterday, but dropped to third off the line as Deletraz jumped into the lead ahead of Callum Ilott. Matsushita held his fourth place on the grid, ahead of Nyck de Vries, Guanyu Zhou, Jack Aitken, Nicholas Latifi, Mick Schumacher and Artem Markelov.

However, that order was reshuffled entirely over the course of the next few laps, as the supersoft tyres hit the cliff on lap 3 and its runners were forced to nurse them until the pit window opened at the end of lap 6.

This rapid loss of grip saw no fewer than 20 overtakes over those few laps, with the alternate strategy runners rising to the top of the field. When the supersoft runners pitted at the end of lap 6, Matsushita assumed the race lead ahead of Zhou, Giuliano Alesi, Luca Ghiotto, Nikita Mazepin, Christian Lundgaard, Marino Sato and Maheveer Raghunathan. Deletraz and Sette Camara rejoined the track in P9 and P10.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Media

With Matsushita at the front and Deletraz leading the drivers who had made their stops, Carlin looked to have the race in hand during the middle phase.

After a brief virtual safety car period on lap 10 when Raghunathan pulled over at Turn 16, Matsushita opened up a five-second lead over Zhou. Meanwhile, Deletraz worked his way up to P5 by lap 15 and reduced the gap to his teammate enough that he would inherit the lead again when Matsushita made his own pit stop in the final laps.

However, Sette Camara managed to follow Deletraz through the field and closed in on the Carlin driver as he found himself stuck behind Alesi’s Trident.

With Deletraz’s tyres suffering from the laps spent behind Alesi, Sette Camara then overtook him for the net lead of the race on lap 28.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F2 Media

Deletraz then continued to lose out as his tyres ran out of grip in the closing laps. Although he still had enough time over Matsushita to remain ahead when his teammate pitted, the pace deficit was such that Matsushita and Zhou were both able to pass Deletraz on their fresh supersofts for second and third in the final two laps.

Deletraz took the chequered flag in fourth, three seconds down on Zhou. Ilott finished fourth ahead of Ghiotto and Latifi, who are now separated by just eight points in their fight to be 2019 vice-champion. Alesi took eighth to secure reverse grid pole for tomorrow, and Schumacher and Mazepin rounded out the top ten.

Sette Camara’s win elevates him to third in the standings with one race remaining, and also gave DAMS enough points to clinch the 2019 Teams’ Championship over UNI-Virtuosi.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview: The curtain falls on 2019

Abu Dhabi sees the curtain drop on another Formula One season. However, it is a slightly tatted curtain and, much like the Greatest Showman – sorry to anyone who thought it was good – it is the end of a somewhat dull and monotonous year.

Of course, it has not been all doom and gloom. There have been some stunning races in 2019, like Austria, Silverstone, Germany and Brazil. However, the exciting and scintillating moments we associate so strongly with F1 have been few and far between.

With that said, the F1 bandwagon arrives at the 5.5-kilometre Abu Dhabi circuit – an excellent and enjoyable track for the drivers, not so much for the fans.

(Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

Abu Dhabi first appeared on the calendar in 2009, with Sebastian Vettel winning the race, and has played host to the last race on the calendar for eight of the last ten years.

However, the races have not always captured the eye for wheel-to-wheel magnificence. The circuit is rather clumsy to look at, especially the underground pit exit – which I am sure seemed a good idea to begin with – where it is difficult to mount cameras and no-one can actually see.

What rescues the track is the setting. The backdrop of the exhilarating Ferrari World, the grandstands and the pit complexes, and of course the pristine hotel with the LED lit roof, make the Abu Dhabi track quite the spectacle, and gives it a real feel of an end-of-season race. Speaking of which, this is the first time that the Formula One championship will have ever ended in December – hopefully the teams have remembered to pack their advent calendars.

Lewis Hamilton is a four-time winner in Abu Dhabi, and having wrapped up his sixth title already, he would love to see out the year in style with another victory.

As form has it, Mercedes have a good chance of another one-two finish under the lights. Abu Dhabi is predominantly a power track, but this has been a surprising area of inconsistency for both Mercedes and Ferrari all throughout the year, with the Honda power impressive in the back of the Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars. This was exemplified when Pierre Gasly out-dragged Lewis Hamilton to the line for a second placed finish in Brazil, so this race could yet be an interesting one.

2019 Brazilian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

2020 will likely not include Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg, and will definitely not include Williams’ Robert Kubica, and so these two drivers will probably make their F1 farewells this weekend. Although, the return of Esteban Ocon, mixed with Hulkenberg’s impressive consistency, could lead the German to believe that he has a shot at a seat in the future. Kubica’s seat at Williams seat is still up for grabs though.

Following Carlos Sainz’s remarkable podium finish in Brazil – McLaren’s first since Melbourne 2014 – he and Lando Norris, who has excelled in his first season in F1, have sealed fourth in the constructors’ in what has been a superb improvement on the last six years for the British team. 2020 could see them propel themselves even further in the right direction, but they are still a way off third best team Red Bull at the moment.

The real battle is for fifth in the Constructors’ between Renault, who currently occupy the spot, and Toro Rosso, who are just eight points behind. The midfield battle has been extraordinary this year, and Racing Point and Alfa Romeo are still mathematically in with a shot, but they are extreme outsiders. Haas are set to stay ninth in what has been an abysmal year for Grosjean and team-mate Kevin Magnussen, who managed to get both cars into Q3 in Brazil, only to fail to score points in the race.

All eyes are on the midfield then, but there are plenty of other places to look around the beautiful setting at the Yas Marina Circuit as Formula One heads into the final race of the decade.

(Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

And at the end of what has been a tumultuous year, let’s not forget those we have lost.

Charlie Whiting passed in his sleep just before the Australian Grand Prix at the start of the year. The race director was one of the most influential pioneers in F1’s pursuit of safety. He was forever on the side of the drivers and the fans, had a human side that simply could not be matched, and he had an infectious smile that warmed the heart. What he did for Formula One is the reason we are able to watch races in the way that we do today. He will be missed.

We also said goodbye to Niki Lauda. The Austrian was a three-time world champion who drove for both Ferrari and McLaren, and even continued to achieve great success after his horrific accident at the Nurburgring in 1976. In his later years, he worked as non-executive chairman of Mercedes, but he was so much more. He played a part in race weekends, strategies and was a phenomenal mentor to their drivers. Lewis Hamilton was so affected by his passing that he was excused media obligations before the Monaco Grand Prix, demonstrating the effect that Lauda had on the entire paddock, both on a racing level and on a personal level.

And finally, we lost promising French star Anthoine Hubert, whose crash at Spa in the summer claimed his life and left Juan Manuel Correa in hospital. Correa is now recovering at home. Hubert was a ray of sunshine in the F2 paddock, and had the racing prowess to match. His death rocked motorsport, and a minute’s silence was respectfully held on race day in both F1 and F3 on the Sunday – F2 chose not to race that day. He was a brightly shining star taken from us far too soon.

Though we will move on from 2019, we, as a motorsport family, will never forget them.

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]