The Chequered Flag Falls On The 2018 Season With Dramatic Finale in Abu Dhabi

After another impressive season with Mercedes, it seems that nothing could stop five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton from dominating the race track once again on Sunday afternoon in a somewhat dramatic fashion.

Qualifying results meant that Mercedes had a front row lockout, Hamilton taking prime place on pole position followed by Bottas in second, ahead of the two Ferrari’s of Vettel and Raikkonen in third and fourth, and the two Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in fifth and sixth. The top ten was completed by Romain Grosjean in seventh, an impressive lap time put Charles Leclerc in eighth, Esteban Ocon  was ninth and rounding out the top ten was Nico Hulkenberg for Renault.

As daylight faded and the floodlights dominated the night sky, the drivers lined up on the grid, many facing an emotional race ahead; the likes of Kimi Raikkonen who was about to take on his last race for Ferrari, Daniel Ricciardo’s last dance for Red Bull Racing, and of course Fernando Alonso’s final ever Formula One race. It was going to be a challenging afternoon in the desert.

Lights out and both Mercedes, followed by both Ferraris and Daniel Ricciardo, got a clean start into turn one, chased by the rest of the pack. Grosjean and Alonso both ran wide but quickly rejoined, with Fernando losing a few places to Ericsson and Gasly. Max Verstappen was strong off the line, however he encountered a problem with a water temperature sensor which temporarily slowed him into turn two, dropping him down the order.  After speaking over the team radio, Max managed to reset the system and the sensor issue was resolved.

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Sunday – Steve Etherington

Leclerc shot up the order to sixth followed by Grosjean, Hulkenberg, Verstappen, Ocon, Sainz and Perez. Leclerc was closing in on Ricciardo and the two switched places numerous times, with Daniel eventually fighting his way back up the field.

Meanwhile, Grosjean and Hulkenberg were fighting behind them for position. Grosjean’s Haas was on the outside line going into the corner, Hulkenberg right alongside him. Nico attempted to move across in front of Grosjean, however he misjudged the corner and, as a result, the pair locked wheels, forcing Hulkenberg’s car to barrel through the air into the barriers, the car coming to rest upside down and with some flames igniting in some of the rear bodywork. The Safety Car was deployed and, thankfully, Nico was unscathed if not a little shaken from the accident.

It was a disappointing race for Kimi Raikkonen whose Ferrari came to a stand still on the start-finish straight at the end of lap seven, the display on his steering wheel going black; a disappointing end to his last race for Ferrari.

Kimi’s technical issue meant that Virtual Safety Car was deployed and Mercedes took the plunge, deciding to bring Hamilton in for supersoft tyres on lap eight of fifty-five. He emerged in P5.

Numerous battles were being had across the board, notably between Ocon and Verstappen who had collided in Brazil. This time, Max got the place without any problems. Gasly and Ericsson were having a scrap before Ericsson’s car suffered a technical failure, and Ocon and Sainz were scrapping for P7.

2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Sunday – Steve Etherington

By lap 23, many of the drivers had pitted. However, Red Bull decided to keep Daniel Ricciardo out for a long stint on the ultrasofts, the Australian leading the race before pitting on lap 34 for supersofts, the slower of the compounds. He came out of the pitlane in P5 behind teammate Verstappen.

By lap 35 Bottas was struggling, locking up on several occasions. Sebastian Vettel took advantage of this and managed to steal second place. Both Red Bulls soon closed up on a struggling Bottas and snatched another two places from him, Max up to the final podium spot and Daniel in 4th position.

As the race reached its closing stages, technical issues arose for Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly and Marcus Ericsson who all were forced to retire, a disappointing end to each of their seasons.

Despite the drama behind him, Lewis Hamilton had a faultless race, cruising to his 73rd career victory in Formula One. The podium was completed by Sebastian Vettel in 2nd place and Max Verstappen in 3rd, Daniel Ricciardo finishing his 100th race and last for Red Bull Racing in an admirable 4th position.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Valtteri Bottas finished in 5th followed by an impressive result for Renaults’ Carlos Sainz in 6th and Alfa Romeo Saubers’ Charles Leclerc in 7th, both in their final races for their respective teams before moving on to pastures new at McLaren and Ferrari.

It was a well fought but disappointing final race for double world champion Fernando Alonso, who just missed out on the points in P11. At the end of the race, Alonso was joined by Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who all performed doughnuts on the home straight for the Abu Dhabi crowds as a farewell to the 2018 season and the legendary Spanish driver, a truly remarkable end to the championship. The countdown is on for 2019!

 

Featured Image: 2018 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Ferrari Media

2018 Mid-Season Review: Formula Won Again?

The Hungarian Grand Prix was the twelfth round of the 2018 Formula One season, meaning we are now over halfway through the year. All the teams will enjoy a well-deserved break for four weeks, which gives them the time to relax and maybe come up with some new ideas to improve the car and gives us the time to look back at this season before looking ahead to the Belgian Grand Prix.

After the Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton leads the drivers’ championship with 213 points, in front of rival Sebastian Vettel who has 189 points. Behind him are Räikkönen (146 points), Bottas (132 points), Ricciardo (118 points), and Verstappen (105 points), with Hülkenberg (52 points), Magnussen (45 points), Alonso (44 points) and Perez (30 points) closing the top ten in the drivers’ championship.

However, these numbers don’t tell the whole story. How did it come to these standings? How did each team perform this year so far? How did the drivers perform? Let’s take a look at that, team by team.

 

Mercedes

Currently leading both the drivers’ championship with Lewis Hamilton and the constructors’ championship, it would seem that Mercedes are on another dominant run. However, that is far from the truth. Mercedes are having a very tough season currently. Their season started mediocre in Australia as Hamilton ended in a solid second place (the VSC cost him a shot at victory), but Bottas only ended up in eight place after an awful qualifying.

In Bahrain things got a little better for the Brackley-based team, with Hamilton bringing home eighteen points with his P2 finish, whilst Bottas brought home fifteen points with his third place finish. The following races they scored some good points too, although a late drama in Azerbaijan cost Bottas a victory as he ran over debris and incurred a puncture.

Mercedes have so far achieved two 1-2 finishes, one at the Spanish Grand Prix and one at the German Grand Prix, with the latter meaning a lot more to the German team, especially because Hamilton started from fourteenth place and came through to win the rain-affected race.

A definite all time low this season for Mercedes came at the Austrian Grand Prix, where both cars failed to cross the finish line due to mechanical problems (just after they got an upgraded engine).

The team can go into the summer break buoyed by a victory in the Hungarian Grand Prix, courtesy of Lewis Hamilton. Bottas had a disappointing race in Hungary, though, as he made contact with Vettel and Ricciardo in the last ten laps of the race, costing him his front wing and resulting in a ten-second time penalty after the race.

Mercedes are still the team to beat, and it is most likely that if they continue like this Lewis Hamilton will become a five-time World Champion. Bottas looks out of the running for the championship battle, because of his bad luck early on this season.

2018 Großer Preis von Ungarn, Sonntag – Wolfgang Wilhelm

 

Ferrari

Someone else who is hoping to become a five-time world champion is Sebastian Vettel. In the first couple of races of the year it was the German who got away with a full complement of points. A very chaotic Chinese Grand Prix, however, ruined his winning-streak as he got hit by Verstappen. Vettel was spun and picked up some damage so he could only finish in eighth.

His teammate Kimi Räikkönen scored some solid points too with a third position in Australia and China, although he retired from the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Räikkönen will probably have to help his teammate in this fight – he got ordered at Hockenheim to let Vettel past. It was at that race where the biggest disaster this year so far took place for Ferrari, as Vettel crashed out of the lead of his home race in the rain. This very rare mistake from Vettel kept him from taking his first every victory at Hockenheim and, with the track’s uncertain future you wonder if it will even be possible for him to make up for it in the future. This meant he lost some important points, and with his rival Hamilton taking victory it meant Vettel lost the championship lead.

In the Hungarian GP Vettel crossed the line in second place, losing another seven points to his rival Hamilton, who took victory.

With the passing of Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne at the age of 66 just before the Hungarian Grand Prix the Italian team might lose some stability. Marchionne led Ferrari to become the team it is now and they are the closest they’ve ever been to a constructors championship since 2007. Let’s hope Ferrari can continue to fight Mercedes for the constructors championship and bring it home for Marchionne.

 

Red Bull

The Austrian team were the third-best team last year, and this year it is no different. They are not fast enough to regularly beat the Mercedes or Ferrari, but are much faster than Renault, Haas and McLaren in the mid-field.

Where Mercedes and Ferrari have a pretty stable point scoring record so far, Red Bull have had more problems. They have walked away from a race weekend with no points on two occasions this year. At the Bahrain Grand Prix mechanical issues ended the race of both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, and the Azerbaijan Grand Prix ended up as a major disaster for the team as their drivers crashed into each other, costing the team valuable points.

However, there were still some very good moments for the Austrian team this season. In China Ricciardo took victory because of a brilliant strategy in what was a chaotic race, whilst Verstappen took victory at the team’s home Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, although they were helped by the DNFs of both Mercedes drivers. Ricciardo also dominated at the Monaco Grand Prix, even though he suffered some problems with the car during the race.

The team announced earlier this season that they will switch to Honda engines for 2019, and they hope this will make it possible for them to not just fight for the third position in the teams standings, but also for the first place.

For now though, they still have ten races to go with Renault engines. With circuits coming up like Mexico and Singapore there should be enough possibilities for them to get at least another victory.

 

Renault

Best of the rest at the moment are Renault. The French team are currently embroiled in a tight battle for the fourth position in the constructors championship, with Force India, Haas and McLaren.

There has only been one race so far where they haven’t scored any points, which is a very impressive result for the French team.

Two fifth places are the highlights of the year so far, by Hulkenberg at his home Grand Prix at Hockenheim, and by Sainz at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The difference between the two teammates in the drivers’ championship, however, is big, with Hulkenberg on almost twice as many points as Sainz.

The fight for the constructors championship is still very much on, and Renault have to find improvements from Spa-Francorchamps onwards as their rivals are still on their tail.

Renault Sport F1 Team

 

Force India

After a terrible qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix the gap to their main rivals at Renault only increased for Force India. The team really struggle to even get in the top ten regularly, and there have been three races so far where Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez have not scored any points between them.

Their biggest points haul came from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where the team scored fifteen points in total, thanks to a spectacular third place for Perez.

Placed into administration over the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend, the team’s future is uncertain. Sergio Perez, his manager, BWT, and Mercedes want the money back Force India owes them, with Perez saying he brought action against his team to “save [them] and protect the 400 people who work there”. Now it is even a question whether they’ll start the Belgian Grand Prix or not. Let’s hope they can get out of trouble,as it would be a huge shame to lose such an amazing team.

 

Haas

Haas began the Hungarian Grand Prix equal on points with Force India. The so-called “second Ferrari” team started the season very promising at the Australian Grand Prix after an impressive qualifying. The race, however, ended in a horrible nightmare as two identical mistakes at the pit-stops of both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen meant they had to retire.

At the Austrian Grand Prix they once again put in an impressive qualifying and followed that up with an even more impressive race in which they scored twenty-two points thanks to a fourth place for Grosjean and fifth place for Magnussen.

After a pretty good Hungarian Grand Prix the team jumped to fifth in the constructors championship, leaving Force India behind.

The team seem to have found pace this year. Of course not all races ended well, but for a relatively new team they are surely proving what they are capable of. Can they keep up their good performances for the upcoming nine races?

 

McLaren

After years of disappointment due to problems with the Honda engine, this year could finally have meant the Woking team could fight for the podiums.

Now driving with a Renault engine, they were immediately aiming to fight the Red Bulls. At the Australian this looked very much possible, with Alonso finishing in P5 and saying “now we can fight!’”. Vandoorne ended that race in ninth, a nice result for McLaren then, scoring almost more points in one race than in the whole of last year. The dreams of fighting the Red Bulls continued when they finished the Bahrain Grand Prix in seventh and eighth.

Unfortunately, these dreams were shattered from Monaco onwards, where the pace had seemingly vanished and the points almost became out of reach. At the Monaco, Canadian and French Grand Prix the team scored no points, mostly because of retirements (Alonso had DNFs in all these races).

The highest position they achieved after these problems was P8 in Austria, Great Britain and Hungary, all thanks to Alonso. Team-mate Vandoorne was lacking pace, even losing almost a full second to Alonso at the qualifying for the British Grand Prix, and he had to retire from the Hungarian Grand Prix from what would have been a ninth-place finish.

The Renault engines have not brought the real change the team were hoping for. It even looks like the team are struggling more than ever, as qualifying pace is way off and results in the races are disappointing for such a great team. Maybe the summer break will bring the change they desperately need.

Steven Tee/McLaren

 

Toro Rosso

Currently standing eighth in the constructors standings with just twenty-eight points, the team will not be happy.

Brendon Hartley in particular has just had no luck. This became especially clear when he crashed heavily during free practice at the British Grand Prix due to a suspension failure. Two days later, he had to retire from the race after just one lap as the team found a problem with the car.

Seven races out of the twelve so far have yielded no points. When they have gotten into points though, the results have been very impressive. Gasly got P4 at the Bahrain Grand Prix and P6 at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Hartley has just two points to his name, whilst Gasly brought home twenty-six points. The Kiwi’s future is uncertain because of his disappointing results, but a lot has been due to problems out of his control.

 

Alfa Romeo Sauber

One driver showing his potential this season is Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari Driver Academy driver from Monaco just keeps on impressing everyone. With a car that shouldn’t regularly finish in the points, he got himself two consecutive points finishes in Baku and Spain. His sixth place in Baku definitely was a highlight for the team, bringing home eight very important points for the team. He even held up Alonso in Spain in a tense battle in a race where he finished in tenth place.

His teammate Ericsson has improved himself. Seemingly motivated by the speeds Charles has shown, he now too scores points from time to time. With five points for the Swedish and thirteen points for Leclerc, the team are now ninth in the constructors championship.

The last few races Sauber were able to out-qualify McLaren, and even in the races they have showed they have the pace to fight for position. Hopefully they are able to continue this fantastic performance.

 

Williams

It has been an absolute nightmare for Williams so far. Eleven of the twelve races resulted in zero points for the team, leaving them last in the championship. The only points they have managed so far were the four points Lance Stroll achieved because of his eighth position at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Even Robert Kubica, test driver for the team, said it is “embarrassing” to drive the car. Newcomer Sergey Sirotkin, while showing a few flashes of pace, doesn’t seem to be able to build up any momentum.

Williams has lots of work to do if it wants to score some points after the summer break. If they don’t, they will be hoping for another chaotic race like Azerbaijan, otherwise the points will be scarce.

 

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Ferrari.

The British Grand Prix: The Summer Festival of Formula One

It’s that time of the year again. No, not Christmas—the British Grand Prix. Once an airfield in the Second World War, Silverstone was turned into a race track in the late 1940s, and it is the second oldest track on the F1 calendar behind Monza.

The 5.1-kilometre track has seen some changes in recent years. The left-right Abbey chicane which led to Bridge was changed into a right-hander—now Turn one—and Bridge was disused, but is still an attraction for spectators during the weekend. Instead, we have the Wellington straight which leads to the long left-hander of Brooklands. The start/finish line is no longer the straight between Woodcote and Copse, but instead the uphill run from Vale to Abbey.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the appeal of the race. The activities, the camping, the barbecues and the atmosphere among the fans gives the British GP weekend a real festival feel, and expect it to be no different this weekend. The appeal of the Maggots, Becketts and Chapel complex has never changed either in 70 years of Silverstone. The high-speed section provides speed, fun and excitement for the drivers, and with these high downforce cars, most of it is now flat out.

Silverstone hasn’t always been the home of Formula One racing in Britain, however. It used to alternate with Aintree in the 1970s, and Brands Hatch has also hosted the race.

Ferrari Media

The third part of Formula One’s first ever triple-header will see British favourite Lewis Hamilton race in front of his home fans—he has won each of the last four races at Silverstone.

Sebastian Vettel comes into this weekend with a one-point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship after his third-place finish in a crazy Austrian Grand Prix. Max Verstappen won the race, his first win in 2018, from Kimi Raikkonen, while Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Hamilton all retired due to mechanical failures. As a result, Ferrari also lead the Constructors’ Championship—it was a pivotal moment in the season, and it is all perfectly poised coming into one of the most eagerly anticipated weekends of the year.

The favourites will be Mercedes. The power-sensitive nature of the track, coupled with the extra motivation of it being Hamilton’s home race, will work in their favour. However, the high speed sections will be more suited to Ferrari and Red Bull, and let’s not forget the power Ferrari have as well.

As the Red Arrows fly over, will it be the Prancing Horses, the Silver Arrows, or the Charging Bulls who will enjoy the taste of victory in the one of the biggest sporting events of the summer? We’ll find out this weekend at the home of British Motorsport.

Austrian Grand Prix: Bottas Claims First Pole of the Year

Image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Valtteri Bottas has claimed his first pole position of the year, and leads a Mercedes 1-2 into tomorrow’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Of the big-hitters, only Bottas and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen had a truly clean session. Both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made mistakes early on – at turn three and turn four respectively – and ended up relatively far back after the first Q3 runs had been completed. It took until the last couple of minutes for the pair to pull themselves back up the order – Hamilton ultimately qualified P2, and Vettel P3, with both pushing Kimi Raikkonen down into P4. Vettel was noted as being under investigation for allegedly impeding Carlos Sainz in Q2, but since Sainz did advance to Q3 it is uncertain whether Vettel will receive any penalty.

Red Bull had expected qualifying to be a struggle compared to Mercedes and Ferrari coming into the weekend. Max Verstappen may have qualified P5 but he was still two tenths behind Raikkonen, and Daniel Ricciardo ended up P7 behind the Haas of an impressive Romain Grosjean. Replays of team radio throughout the session indicated a certain amount of tension in the team, with Ricciardo frustrated that Verstappen did not follow orders to lead the Australian for a lap and give him a tow, as Ricciardo had done for Verstappen the lap before.

Kevin Magnussen and the two Renaults of Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg complete the top ten.

Further down the order, Charles Leclerc continues to impress in the Sauber. He qualified P13 but carries a five-place grid penalty due to his gearbox needing to be changed following a stoppage on track in FP3.

Force India’s Sergio Perez had a nightmare of a session. The Mexican complained of running out of battery during his first run and of getting stuck in traffic during his second. He failed to make it out of Q1 and starts P17.

It was also a frustrating session for McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne and Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley. Both were looking to pull themselves out of the drop-zone and into Q2, but encountered yellow flags on their flying laps when Charles Leclerc ran through the gravel trap in the final moments of Q1.

Both Mercedes and Red Bull will start tomorrow’s Grand Prix on the supersoft tyres, with all those around them starting on the ultras. Bottas will be hoping to convert pole position into a win, at the circuit where he claimed his second ever victory in 2017.

Austrian Grand Prix Grid

1. Valtteri Bottas – 1:03.130

2. Lewis Hamilton – 1:03.149

3. Sebastian Vettel – 1:03.464

4. Kimi Raikkonen – 1:03.660

5. Max Verstappen – 1:03.840

6. Romain Grosjean – 1:03.892

7. Daniel Ricciardo – 1:03.996

8. Kevin Magnussen – 1:04.051

9. Carlos Sainz – 1:04.725

10. Nico Hulkenberg – 1:05.019

11. Esteban Ocon – 1:04.845

12. Pierre Gasly 0 1:04.874

13. Fernando Alonso – 1:05.058

14. Lance Stroll – 1:05.286

15. Stoffel Vandoorne – 1:05.271

16. Sergio Perez – 1:05.279

17. Sergey Sirotkin – 1:05.322

18. Charles Leclerc – 1:04.979 *5-place penalty for gearbox change

19. Brendon Hartley 1:05.366

20. Marcus Ericsson – 1:05.479

 

Update – 17:30 – Sebastian Vettel has been given a three-place penalty by the stewards for impeding Carlos Sainz at turn one in Q2. The German will now start P6, promoting Kimi Raikkonen to P3, Max Verstappen to P4, and Romain Grosjean to P5.

F1 2018: French Grand Prix Returns After 10-Year Absence

The French Grand Prix returns to Paul Ricard this week, ten years after the last race in the country was held. Spare a thought for all the teams, who will no doubt be bracing themselves for the prospect of Formula One’s first ever triple-header, with the French, Austrian and British Grand Prix all taking place over the coming weekends.

Last time out in Canada was something of a shock to the system for many. Past form would have suggested Mercedes were set to dominate the weekend, but that was not the case at all. It may not have been the most exciting race in the world – it was really so very, very far from that – but Sebastian Vettel was sublime all weekend and he cruised to victory from pole position, followed home by Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen. With Lewis Hamilton in P5, it means that Sebastian Vettel is now in the lead of the championship, by just one point.

Ferrari won the last French Grand Prix – which was held at Magny Cours in 2008 and was won by Felipe Massa – and Kimi Raikkonen is one of only two drivers on the current grid, the other being Fernando Alonso, who have won the Grand Prix before. The power unit upgrades Ferrari introduced for Canada proved fruitful, and with Paul Ricard’s long straights you can expect the team to go very well again this weekend.

Mercedes, meanwhile, are set to finally introduce the power unit upgrades that were originally meant to be brought in for Canada, but were ultimately delayed because of quality control issues. There is no getting away from the fact that they were very underwhelming in Canada, and will definitely be grateful for the upgrades in France given the nature of the track.

Max Verstappen finished P3 in Canada – the first race this season that he has put in a weekend without incident – continuing Red Bull’s tradition in the hybrid era of performing better there than otherwise might be expected of them. With Daniel Ricciardo also finishing in the top five, and both drivers happy with the upgrades introduced, there is no apparent reason to suggest that Red Bull won’t be able to replicate that sort of performance in France.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon’s first win in a single-seater was actually at Paul Ricard, and he believes that he is potentially on for a good result this weekend. “On paper, the track should suit us,” he said, “with a long straight and some slow corners where we can use our car’s mechanical grip really well. It’s a track which will be new for everyone and we’re usually good at finding a set-up quickly, so I’m not too worried.”

Renault are currently enjoying their best start to a season since they returned to F1 as a works team in 2016, and they head into their home race having been bolstered by the power unit upgrade they brought in Canada. They are a respectable P4 in the WCC, 16 points ahead of McLaren. If both Renault and McLaren perform in France as they did in Canada, expect that gap to grow considerably.

Last time out at the Canadian Grand Prix, Haas introduced a new front wing and floor plus a revised bargeboard, and they are optimistic that these will suit the layout of the Paul Ricard track after two consecutive races of not getting either car into the points. This will actually be Romain Grosjean’s first home race in F1 – his rookie year was in 2009, a year after the last French Grand Prix took place – so expect him to be especially keen for a good result.

Both Toro Rosso drivers are similarly optimistic about what they might be able to achieve in the race. Pierre Gasly, for whom this is also a first home race in F1, has either won or at least gotten on to the podium every time he has raced at Paul Ricard, and Brendon Hartley, who crashed out of the last race in Canada along with Lance Stroll after contact between the pair, has said: “Paul Ricard is a circuit I know well, although not in a Formula 1 car. We did a lot of testing there with WEC in the LMP1 car and I won the LMP2 category in 2013. It was always a popular track for endurance testing and I’m also pretty handy round there in the night-time, although that’s not going to come into play in a Formula 1 car!”

Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada
Sunday 10 June 2018.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren, and Stoffel Vandoorne, McLaren, on the grid.
Image courtesy of  Andy Hone/McLaren ref: Digital Image _ONZ4265

Speaking of the World Endurance Championship, there is no doubt that the majority of the off-track spotlight will be on McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, fresh from winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside his #8 Toyota co-drivers Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakijima. However, it may be a case of coming back to reality with a bump for Alonso, as well as for team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne. They struggled around Canada – Vandoorne finished two laps down in P16 and Alonso retired – and with Paul Ricard’s long straights it may unfortunately be more of the same for the Woking-based outfit.

Charles Leclerc is on a very impressive run of performances at the moment. In Canada he finished ahead of Gasly, both Haas cars, the McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, Sergey Sirotkin and even Sergio Perez in the Force India, and managed to hold off Fernando Alonso in several wheel-to-wheel duels before the Spaniard retired from the race.

Williams’ Lance Stroll is a lot more muted about the track than some of his rivals. “I know [it] from when I drove in Formula 3. I had a good time there and won a race, but I have to be honest because I can’t say I like it,” he said in Williams’ race preview. “It is just run offs everywhere and I am not a big fan.” As mentioned, he crashed out of the Canadian Grand Prix on the first lap – that just about sums up the luck he and the Williams team have been having this year – but maybe don’t expect the French Grand Prix to be the best place for a turn in fortunes.

Featured Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

F1 2018: Canadian Grand Prix Preview

The Formula One circus will soon begin its busiest period of the year, with the prospect of four races in five weeks looming on the horizon, kick-started this weekend by the Canadian Grand Prix.

On the face of it, it would seem that there is no greater contrast on the calendar than the jump from Monte Carlo to Montreal. The former is known for its slow speeds where downforce is king, whereas the latter boasts one of the highest average speeds of any race on the calendar, with 45% of the lap spent at full throttle. There are, however, more similarities than you might think. Like Monaco, Canada has areas where there is virtually no run-off with the walls only a whisker away. Controlled aggression is the name of the game, and any small mistake could prove extremely costly.

Red Bull arrive at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve off the back of a strong showing in Monaco. Yes, Max Verstappen may have binned it in FP3 but he was the source of the most overtakes during the race, and you could not fault Ricciardo for his race-winning performance up front.

Unfortunately, it is likely that the Australian will be receiving a grid penalty after his MGU-K failure during that race. Each driver is only allowed two MGU-Ks per season, and Ricciardo has already used up both of his. Using a third merits an automatic ten-place grid penalty. Furthermore, he has also used up his allowance of batteries and control electronics, which would mean an additional five-place penalty for each should they have to be changed as well.

Red Bull have in recent years gone better in Canada than perhaps would have been expected of them, given their Renault power unit’s deficiency to both Mercedes and Ferrari. Last year, for instance, Ricciardo finished P3 ahead of both Ferraris and both Force Indias, and Canada is of course the place where he scored his first F1 victory back in 2014.

It is arguable that this is a must-win race for Ferrari. Lewis Hamilton has a fourteen-point gap to Sebastian Vettel in the championship, and the next few races are probably more suited to the Silver Arrows than the Scuderia. Ferrari haven’t taken the top step of the podium since Bahrain back in early April, and it was at this point in the season last year that things began to slip away from them.

A single podium, in 2016 courtesy of Sebastian Vettel, is the highlight of the team’s trips to Canada in the hybrid era – surprisingly, even Red Bull have more podium finishes than that – although it is worth noting that in 2017 Vettel managed to recover to P4 after dropping to the back of the grid when contact with Verstappen on lap one broke his front wing.

If there has been one constant in Canada in recent years, it’s that this is Mercedes’ race to lose. There has only been one Canadian Grand Prix since the hybrid era began – the aforementioned race in 2014 – that Mercedes have failed to win. This is one of Lewis Hamilton’s best tracks on the calendar – he won the race in 2010, 2012, and every year between 2015 and 2017 inclusive – and it was here last year that he matched Ayrton Senna’s record for the number of pole positions claimed.

Team-mate Valtteri Bottas also has good history with the track. He finished on the podium twice when he was racing for Williams, and also last year in his first year with Mercedes. He also qualified an amazing P3 in his rookie year in 2013, in a car that only finished in the points once in the entire year.

Further down the grid, Toro Rosso will be hoping for a better showing than last year, when both Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz retired. Brendon Hartley in particular needs to put in a good performance, with questions about the safety of his seat continuing to be asked.

Williams have gone well in Canada recently. As mentioned, Valtteri Bottas finished on the podium twice during his stint driving for them, and in 2017 it was one of home favourite Lance Stroll’s best races. They struggled around Monaco, but they will be crossing their fingers that the long straights of Canada will better suit the design of their car and enable them to add to their meagre haul of points so far this year.

Force India will also be expecting good things – Sergio Perez scored a podium back in 2012, and Esteban Ocon will be keen to keep up the momentum from his P6 finish in Monaco.

Haas have claimed to have solved the braking problems that have plagued them seemingly since they joined the sport in 2016 and for that they will certainly be grateful, as a lot of time can be found around the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve just through having confidence on the brakes. They only have one points finish to their name in Canada so far, but there is a fair chance they will be able to add to that this weekend.

Renault are another team who have been on the bubble of being able to score points in Canada in the past. According to Cyril Abiteboul they are scheduled to introduce the next stage of their power unit development along with some aero upgrades, but with Canada’s long straights there will be no place to hide if those updates don’t prove fruitful.

McLaren – who will also be receiving updates from Renault – will be hoping that won’t be the case, but they are nonetheless bracing themselves for a difficult weekend.. Sunday’s race will be Fernando Alonso’s 300th in F1, but the track will not be one of McLaren’s best with its slow corners and long blasts at full throttle.

Finally, Sauber’s Charles Leclerc will be keen to bounce back from the brake failure he suffered in Monaco, and he believes Canada will be one of the best races of the year for himself and team-mate Marcus Ericsson, with both believing that the worst races are over and done with.

Monaco Grand Prix: Dominant Ricciardo Takes Pole with New Lap Record

Image courtesy of the Red Bull content pool.

Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo has claimed his second ever pole position in Formula One, setting a new lap record around the circuit where he incidentally also claimed his first.

Red Bull were always expected to fly around Monaco and it has certainly been an extremely impressive weekend so far for the team – and Ricciardo in particular – save for Max Verstappen’s crash in FP3. Ricciardo was fastest in every single practice session and every segment of qualifying, breaking the lap record numerous times before ultimately taking pole with a 1:10.810, in doing so becoming the only driver to break into the 1:10s.

The Australian’s nearest competitor was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. In the dying moments of the session Vettel managed to improve and close the gap to P1, but he was still over two tenths away from Ricciardo, with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton another two tenths back in P3.

Kimi Raikkonen will perhaps have been hoping for more than P4; he starts ahead of fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas and best-of-the-rest Esteban Ocon, who put in a great performance in the Force India to go P6. McLaren will no doubt be glad to have gotten at least one car into the top ten  – Fernando Alonso will start tomorrow’s race in P7 ahead of Sainz, Perez, Gasly and Hulkenberg – because it looked for a while in the early stages of the weekend as though they may be out-performed by Toro Rosso and their Honda engine. The other McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne, however, failed to make it through to Q3 and starts P12.

Image courtesy of the Red Bull content pool.

Sergey Sirotkin’s performance mustn’t be underplayed as well. He may be starting P13, but he qualified a huge eight tenths ahead of his team-mate Lance Stroll, who has been struggling all weekend and complained of a loose head-rest and a general lack of traction in Q1. He starts down in P18.

Home favourite Charles Leclerc qualified P14 ahead of an out-of-sorts Romain Grosjean, who qualified P15 but carries a three-place grid penalty because of the crash he caused in Spain.

Brendon Hartley was my surprise of qualifying, and unfortunately not in a good way. The Kiwi had initially shown very strong pace in free practice – he was P7 in FP3 – and seemed to be on par with team-mate Pierre Gasly, but for some reason he failed to convert that in qualifying and ultimately ended up P16 ahead of Marcus Ericsson.

Rounding out the grid are a frustrated Kevin Magnussen in P19 – another surprise given that he finished sixth last time out in Spain – and Max Verstappen, who didn’t even take part in qualifying because of his FP3 crash and will be receiving a somewhat redundant five-place grid penalty because of a change of gearbox.

It is hard to look past anyone but Daniel Ricciardo for the win tomorrow. It’s one of the great cliches of Formula One that it’s impossible to overtake around Monaco but, at the same time, I’m sure there will be some interesting battles further down the order that will be worth keeping an eye on.