Russian GP: Hamilton takes pole in an intense qualifying

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton took his 5th straight pole of the season at Sochi on saturday afternoon to put himself in an excellent position in his bid to equal Schumacher’s record tomorrow (91 wins). The pole position looked set to evade him today after the fiasco in Q2 almost saw him miss out on Q3.

Hamilton failed to register a time in Q2 as he crossed track limits during the first run of Q2 and this meant that the 6 time world champion had only one run under his belt to put a time on the charts. However, a Sebastian Vettel crash during the second run of Q2 brought out a red flag with exactly 2 minutes and 15 seconds to go and Hamilton barely made it to the finish line before the flag fell, setting a lap time good enough to go into Q3.

It is not Valtteri Bottas, but Max Verstappen on the front row this time as the Dutchman put in an amazing lap in the second run of Q3 to go 2nd. Bottas who started the weekend well could not make it onto the front row after hitting the sausage kerb in turn 2 and losing momentum going into the rest of the lap.

Sergio Perez put in a great effort despite not having upgrades on his Racing Point and qualified on the second row alongside Bottas while his teammate Stroll could not make it out of Q2 after getting his lap time deleted in the first run and suffering a temperature issue towards the end of Q2.

Ricciardo’s fine form during the weekend continued after his efforts in qualifying will see him start at 5th on the 3rd row next to Carlos Sainz in the McLaren. The 4th row will be a repeat of the colours in the 3rd row but with Ocon in Renault at 7th and Norris in the McLaren at 8th.  Gasly in the Alpha Tauri is set to line up at 9th next to Albon in the RedVull who will be hoping for a much better race than the qualifying today.

Both the Ferraris crashed out of Q2, one literally of Sebastian Vettel at turn 4 after hitting the kerb and one of Charles Leclerc narrowly missing out and all set to start at P11 as the advantage from the minor upgrades they have got this weekend also seems to be minor. Danil Kvyat is set to line up next to Leclerc at 12th and will look to score some good points in his home race, especially after his car seems to be showing a decent race pace.

George Russell in the Williams made it into Q2 for the sixth time this season  and will line up at 14th after yet another good effort in Q3 but his teammate Latifi will have to be content with 19th. It is going to be a Ferrari powered bottom 6 except Latifi after both the Haas cars and the Alfa Romeos are all in the bottom 5.

Kimi Raikkonen went spinning in the second run of Q1 which will mean that he is set to start 20th on the grid and his teammate Giovinazzi will start 17th. Grosjean and Magnussen in their respective Haas cars are set to start 16th and 18th with Grosjean surprisingly offering some positive feedback at the end of Q1.

image courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

With Hamilton set to start on the soft tyres thanks to the Q2 drama and with Max Verstappen just next to him, it might not be a straightforward drive to win number 91 for the English driver. It is also worth remembering that Bottas’ last victory at Sochi came from 3rd on the grid, which is where he will line up tomorrow, with a tyre advantage. It is all set to play for, in the Russian Grand Prix.

Why Domenicali is the right man for F1’s future

Former Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali is set to take over from Chase Carey as Formula One’s new CEO later this year, according to reports published on Tuesday night.

Inevitably the reports have drawn no small amount of criticism for the fact that between Domenicali, F1’s managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn and FIA president Jean Todt, F1 would effectively be in the control of three former Ferrari heavyweights.

But despite spending more than 20 years at Maranello, Domenicali is more than just a Ferrari man. Indeed, his history with the Scuderia didn’t stop Domenicali resigning as team principal in 2014, in protest to then-Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo’s calls for scapegoats to be fired for the team’s poor hybrid engine performance.

That’s not the action of someone so beholden to the Prancing Horse that it would taint his ability to lead F1, nor of someone who would yield to any Ferrari bias from above (if that even existed).

(Foto Studio Colombo / Scuderia Ferrari Media)

In many ways, Domenicali is an excellent choice for F1’s top position. For starters, he’s an intelligent and capable businessman with the CV to prove it.

After leaving Ferrari he joined Audi as vice-president of new business initiatives before moving across the VW Group to become Lamborghini’s CEO in 2016. In his time heading the brand Domenicali oversaw Lamborghini beat its own global sales records year on year, with the company’s 2019 sales figures more than double what they were when Domenicali joined.

It’s also worth pointing out that Ferrari’s last drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 2007 and 2008 respectively came under Domenicali’s leadership.

But perhaps more importantly, Domenicali is able to combine that business acumen with his racing pedigree. It’s become an F1 cliché to justify someone’s role in running the sport by describing them as a “real racer at heart”, but for Domenicali that saying is actually true.

He joined Ferrari straight out of university in 1991 and stayed at the top of F1 right up until 2014. Even after leaving Ferrari, Domenicali remained a prominent motorsport leader as the president of the FIA’s single-seater commission, and was responsible for the revival of Formula 2 and the creation of the more streamlined FIA Formula 3 Championship.

(Foto Studio Colombo / Scuderia Ferrari Media)

Domenicali’s entire career has been in motorsport, and that’s something current F1 CEO Chase Carey just doesn’t have. When Liberty Media bought F1 in 2016, Carey’s commercial and media expertise was necessary for the sport to move on from the Bernie Ecclestone era. We have that to thank for Drive to Survive, F1’s long-overdue embracing of social media and the additions of Zandvoort and Hanoi to the calendar, all of which have helped to reinvigorate the sport’s global profile.

But with those foundations in place, F1 now needs a leader who has an inside understanding of how to run the sport itself as well as the show. Someone who knows how to make the right changes to improve the racing and competition, and who has the principle to oppose kneejerk responses that just up the spectacle instead.

And if that’s not Stefano Domenicali, F1 would be hard-pressed to find someone better.

Formula 1 is broken!

Formula 1 is broken!

It’s not the fault of Hamilton or Mercedes but instead the strict formula that teams have to work to. If there’s to be a constructors championship then we need looser regulations so designers and engineers can have more freedom, different engine types and different aero design. Then, lets go racing!

If not, we might as well have a single construction championship like Formula 2 where the racing is much closer and more exciting, even if admittedly some of that is because young drivers make more mistakes.

Formula 1 should be open. I bet that if it was, you’d have more than just hybrid engines! We’d have the possibility of an electric car racing a combustion engine in the not too distant future. I’m afraid that if huge changes aren’t made then F1 will be left behind. If we had those kind of regulations would Formula E even have got up and running? Look how exciting the races are. Guess what? They are all driving the same car!

I’m not advocating that F1 should be a single constructors championship, but if they are to all build their own designs completely then they need to take the shackles off. Budgets have been cut now going forward which can only be a good thing, but all of the teams working towards a single design framework will lead to almost identical cars again.

2020 Styrian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Somehow, like in football, the richer teams like Ferrari and Mercedes will find a way to attract the best people even on a restricted budget. We need to make room for initiative, give a chance to the next Adrian Newey or Colin Chapman, whose ideas revolutionised the sport. With tight regulations these kinds of ideas are harder to find.

If they really want to save money then Friday free practice should go! Other than a cheap day out to watch Formula 1 cars I can see little need for it.

Here’s my road map for the sport.

You probably have your own ideas on how to fix F1. These are just me spit balling mine. We’d love to hear your ideas.

A. Loosen the restrictions to allow for innovation in both engine and chassis design.

B. Cut costs by cutting out Friday free practice sessions.

C. Teams should be allowed to race three cars but the third driver must be a young driver or a guest with enough super license points. The team would lose the points of the third driver.

D. Tyres should only be one small element of the teams strategy, so maybe another tyre manufacturer should come in.

If the Formula 1 changes that are scheduled now for 2022 – when in all likelihood Lewis Hamilton will be an eight-time world champion – do not make the significant difference that they promise, F1 will not attract enough new young fans to make it viable and, in my opinion, Formula E will become the de-facto pinnacle of motorsports. 

Italy presents us with a strong, unexpected argument for a reverse grid as Pierre Gasly wins in Monza

Benvenuti a Monza! We’re here and we’ve settled in for two weeks of exciting racing in Italy, but should we have come? Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari might like to weigh in on that one.

The Italian Grand Prix was the first weekend where the teams were no longer permitted to use their ‘party-mode’ engine modes, typically used in qualifying by certain teams to boost their chances of a better lap time.

At the start of the race it was a tale of two halves for the two Mercedes drivers, as Hamilton got yet another great start off the line, gliding into first place unchallenged as Bottas got swallowed up by the pack. McLaren had an excellent start with Sainz quickly taking 2nd position, and his team-mate Lando Norris overtaking a struggling Bottas going through the first and second Lesmos, which is testament to McLaren’s progress in recent years.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Bottas was quickly overtaken by Daniel Ricciardo, putting the Renault driver into 5th, and pushing Bottas down to 6th. Bottas was quick to report a possible puncture but chose not to pit. Bottas’ race engineer, Ricciardo Musconi, confirmed there were no issues with his tyres, but Bottas still looked to be struggling as he was overtaken by the Red Bull of Max Verstappen through the Parabolica.

It was a sorry start for the home favourites Ferrari, who qualified in 13th and 17th. Just when they thought it couldn’t get any worse, Sebastian Vettel reported brake failure on lap four, smashing through the foam barriers at the end of the pit straight and limping his way back to the pits, where the car was retired for the second time this season.

Ferrari’s hopes were then pinned on Leclerc, who didn’t appear to be having the same issue but didn’t really seem to be having a much better race. Hope was quickly abandoned after a a shocking crash going into the Parabolica, where the Ferrari ploughed into the tyre wall, bringing out the safety car for the second time and red flagging the session. Leclerc’s crash athough dramatic, proved exactly how valuable the halo truly was, as he was able to get out of the car and run from the scene unscathed. All this in the same weekend that Netflix were spending time with Ferrari.

Shortly before the crash, Hamilton had made a quick decision to pit after the safety car came out for Kevin Magnussen, who was forced to stop on track just before the pit entrance with a suspected power unit issue.

Mercedes took what they thought was a risk-free pit-stop, with Alfa Romeo’s Giovinazzi following suit shortly after. It wasn’t long until the race was stopped due to Leclerc’s incident, and both Hamilton and Giovinazzi were placed under investigation for entering the pits after it had been closed due to Magnussen’s stoppage.

This visibly rattled Mercedes, who were looking pretty comfortable. Hamilton took it upon himself to grab his scooter and make his way to Race Control during the red flag in an attempt to justify his actions, arguing on the radio that “there was no light” going into the pit lane.

This didn’t save him nor Giovinazzi, who were both given a 10-second stop and go penalty, serving F1 fans with the biggest game-changer in the hybrid era.

Hamilton was noticeably annoyed by this decision and was talking about building up a lead once again before taking his penalty. He was dissuaded from doing this by his race engineers, who had decided to ‘take the hit’ on this occasion.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Mercedes’ loss meant some considerable gains to the likes of Alpha Tauri, Racing Point, Alfa Romeo and McLaren.

The red flag wasn’t in place for too long and on lap 27 we were back on track heading for a dramatic restart.

Gasly was lightning fast on the restart, overtaking Stroll to take what was essentially first place, as Hamilton made his way around and back into the pits to serve his penalty. He re-joined the race 23 seconds behind the rest of the pack, meaning he would have to have had the drive of his life to get back to a podium finish.

Though it looked like a good opportunity for the Racing Point, Stroll seemed to have issues with the brakes, causing him to run off on the Della Roggia chicane and giving away two positions and putting him down into 5th. This was quickly taken from him by Sainz who had his eyes firmly set on the prize.

The same ambition and determination weren’t felt in either of the Red Bull cars, who have struggled more than usual. Albon was the first to have issues, running wide on lap one after being squeezed by Stroll and Gasly down the main straight, and causing damage to the Haas of Romain Grosjean. Albon was given a 5-second penalty for the damage he caused.

As usual, there was greater expectation of success with Verstappen, who was making some respectable overtakes, and scrapping with Bottas for 6th/7th position. Unfortunately, this was short lived as he was forced to retire the car on lap 31 due to a power unit issue.

Come lap 34, Sainz was chasing Gasly for the win after he and Raikkonen gave fans an absolute masterclass in overtaking through Turn 1.

Stroll bounced back from his earlier brake issue and overtook Raikkonen the following lap, moving him into third place.

Sainz continued to chase Gasly right down to the final lap of the race. Gasly just managed to stay ahead and out of DRS range of the determined McLaren driver and took his first ever F1 win, something absolutely none of us expected would happen going into this race weekend.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 06: Race winner Pierre Gasly of France and Scuderia AlphaTauri celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 06, 2020 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202009060423 // Usage for editorial use only //

After being essentially demoted from Red Bull in the middle of 2019, this win is exactly the boost Gasly and the wider Alpha Tauri team needed. You’d have to be a hard individual not to feel some emotion watching him sit on the podium, sipping champagne in sheer disbelief. It’s only a shame the Tifosi weren’t there to make his win even more special.

We cannot end this race review however, without giving a special mention to Williams, who had its final race with their de-facto team principal, Claire Williams. It followed the announcement last Thursday that the family had decided to step away from Formula 1 after 43 years. It’s a real shame for us to see both she and the family say goodbye to the F1 family.

We owe Williams so much after having been an enormous part in F1’s development, bringing iconic moments for us all to appreciate and look back on with fondness. Though they will continue to race under the same name, something tells me it just won’t quite be the same anymore, so thank you Frank, thank you Claire, and thank you Williams for the great memories. We hope to see you back on top soon.

Racing Point Appeal Withdrawn as “Reverse Engineering” Banned

image courtesy of Racing Point

Racing Point have decided to withdraw their appeal against their fifteen point reduction today after the teams agreed to a new regulation. The soon to be rebranded team incurred a fifteen point deduction earlier on in the season as a result of their break ducts being too similar to that of last year’s Mercedes.

Racing Point had caused a lot of controversy at the beginning of the season as they arrived at testing with a car that looked to be a carbon copy of the W10. A lot of teams questioned the legality of the pink team’s car with Renault lodging an official protest. The FIA deemed that whilst Racing Point hadn’t broken any technical regulations, they had broken some ambiguous sporting ones and were docked points as a result.

image courtesy of Racing Point

Team Co-Owner Lawrence Stroll fiercely defended the team and they lodged an appeal to the FIA which they have now withdrawn following clarification banning such cars from 2021 onwards. In a statement, Racing Point said “We welcome the resolution… and we’re pleased the FIA has provided much-needed clarification.” Later adding “we have decided to withdraw our appeal in the wider interests of the sport….This issue has been a distraction for us and the other teams”.

As a result of the withdrawal, Racing Point will keep their fifteen point deduction which has had little effect, with the team sitting just 2 points off of third placed McLaren in the constructors championship. However, with Ferrari currently maintaining they intend to appeal for a harsher penalty, this issue seems far from settled and could go on for some time.

Formula E champion Da Costa may make Portimao F1 debut

Back in 2014, former Audi WEC driver and three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer made a one-off F1 appearance with the struggling Caterham team for the Belgian Grand Prix. After not making it very far into the race, Lotterer turned down an offer to race in the Italian Grand Prix and has since made his home in Formula E with Porsche.

That was the last time a driver made a surprise appearance in a one-time race deal. Many others have tried, including rally legend Sébastien Loeb who attempted to acquire a super licence to race for Toro Rosso in the 2009 F1 season finale at Abu Dhabi, but that didn’t happen. But now we have the prospect of another high profile one-off race cameo.

In the midst of the frantic motorsport rescheduling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,  a country that has benefitted handsomely from this is Portugal. Both F1 and MotoGP haven’t had an event there since 1996 and 2012 respectively, both at the Estoril circuit.

But now their other prominent motor racing venue Algarve will host the two top level championships, with F1 going there on October 25th and MotoGP hosting their season finale there on November 22nd.

In MotoGP, Portugal already has a hero. In the most recent MotoGP race, Miguel Oliveira won in a stunning last lap, last corner move at the Red Bull Ring to win on his Tech 3 KTM. However in F1, Portugal hasn’t had a representative driver since Tiago Monteiro and no realistic prospects in the lower formulae. However with the news of F1 returning to Portugal, there is a very strong likelihood that we could see a home driver at Algarve.

Courtesy of FIA Formula E Media

António Félix da Costa is no stranger to the F1 paddock. Having previously come close to a Toro Rosso seat for 2014 after Daniel Ricciardo’s call-up to Red Bull, he ultimately lost out to reigning GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat.

Da Costa had looked like the more likely candidate. He was expected to win the 2013 Formula Renault 3.5 championship, but finished third to future F1 drivers Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, and despite Formula Renault 3.5 being closer to F1 performance than GP3, it was Kvyat who got the call-up. Undeterred, Da Costa became a BMW factory driver and has competed in the likes of DTM, the World Endurance Championship and Formula E.

Da Costa won a few races in DTM and even took a second victory at Macau in 2016. But it was Formula E where he made his name, having competed since the series’ inception back in 2014 and won races for Team Aguri, BMW i Andretti and DS Techeetah. It was this season though that Da Costa proved his potential, finally claiming that long awaited first Formula E championship.

Under the management of Monteiro, Da Costa is apparently in high demand after his Formula E title win. He’s been approached by teams from WEC, IndyCar and also F1. Two F1 teams according to Monteiro have approached him about a drive for Da Costa, although it is unknown as to whether that will be for an FP1 appearance or maybe even a race drive in front of his home crowd.

Courtesy of FIA Formula E media

Having had the majority of F1 races behind closed doors this year, the Tuscan Grand Prix at Mugello will mark the return of fans on a reduced scale and Portugal is allowing spectators too. FOM are said to be very keen to see Da Costa compete which will guarantee filling the spectator stands (again on a smaller scale).

Which F1 team could it be? You would think having had previous connections with Red Bull, perhaps Alpha Tauri could be a realistic option. It would be very poetic if he ends up taking the place of Kvyat, the same driver who leapfrogged him to the F1 drive in the first place.

It would be very interesting to see how Da Costa will perform if this comes to fruition. I remember back when he lost the seat believing that it was the wrong decision, and that Da Costa had been robbed. Nevertheless, the Formula E champion will undoubtedly relish this unprecedented opportunity to race in F1 at his home Grand Prix, if it does indeed come to happen.

Italian GP qualifying: Hamilton takes 94th career pole as Sainz impresses

Lewis Hamilton took his 94th career pole and his seventh at Monza on Saturday afternoon after pipping Bottas in a very close fight. The English driver took pole by 0.069 seconds after putting in a mega lap in the second stint of Q3. He now has 68 poles with Mercedes alone which equals Michael Schumacher’s all-time career poles.

2020 Italian Grand Prix, Saturday – LAT Images

Carlos Sainz put in the biggest performance in qualifying after driving a mega lap to put his McLaren in third place on the grid. His luck seems to have at least turned around for qualifying, and whether it will turn around for the race is yet to be seen. His teammate Lando Norris put the other McLaren on the third row in sixth after a very good effort.

Carlos Sainz, McLaren MCL35

In what was an unusual happening, Max Verstappen failed to make it to the second row on a Saturday after what seems to be an effect of FIA’s decision of not using higher engine modes for qualifying. The Dutchman will be starting on the third row in fifth and will have some work to do for a podium place unlike the last few races where it was a very straightforward affair. His teammate Alex Albon is set to start from ninth position after yet another underwhelming qualifying.

Sergio Perez put in another stellar qualifying performance after putting himself on the second row alongside Carlos Sainz in fourth. The Mexican will be keen to make great use of the track position to challenge for the podium considering how well the Racing Point handles itself around Monza and the threat of Max Verstappen is not at its highest around this place. His teammate Lance Stroll will be lining up alongside Daniel Ricciardo on the fourth row in eighth place. Pierre Gasly made it to Q3 yet again continuing his impressive form but failed to make any inroads into the session and will have to settle for 10th place on the grid.

It was a Q3 without the drama of last year where eight of ten cars failed to make it to the starting line before the flag because all the teams decided to come out and register lap times with more than 5 minutes to go in the session. It was however not a session without drama as Q1 was quite a hassle after everyone was tripping over each other to put in a quick lap and take advantage of the slipstream.

It all started off when the Alfa Romeo cars tried to overtake everyone in front of them on the outlap which ended up in compromising everybody’s laps. At the front of it all, Esteban Ocon was racing Kimi Raikkonen towards the first chicane, trying to cover the inside while George Russell had to try and stay away from there to not compromise his own lap. This turned into a chain reaction when Vettel had his lap compromised as well thanks to the events unfolding infront of him. In the frantic second stint of Q1, both the Williams, Vettel in the Ferrari, Giovinazzi in Alfa Romeo and Grosjean in the Haas were all knocked out, with some of them quite vocal on the team radio expressing their anguish at how things went about.

GP ITALIA F1/2020 – VENERDÌ 04/09/2020
credit: @Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

Q2 did not serve up any similar sort of drama apart from the continuation of woes of the home team Ferrari. The Tifosi would not be minding not being in the grandstands after yet another disastrous Saturday saw them qualify with Leclerc in 13th and Vettel in 17th. An exhausted Leclerc was out on the radio at the end of Q2 saying this was the best he could do and it was evident with the kind of lap he put in. The pace just doesn’t seem to be there for the Italy-based team and they will not have much to hope for the race tomorrow.

Esteban Ocon has been called to the stewards for his Q1 antics where he blocked Raikkonen and the rest and it has to be seen whether there will be any action taken. As of now he lines up 12th on the grid alongside Danil Kvyat in the Alpha Tauri in 11th.

George Russell (GBR) Williams Racing FW43.
Italian Grand Prix, Saturday 5th September 2020. Monza Italy.

George Russell will not be making it into Q2 after a good run following the drama in Q1 and will be lining up on the last row in 19th next to his teammate Nicolas Latifi in 20th in what will be the last race as team principal for Claire Williams. Both the Haas cars will line up with Magnussen in 15th and Grosjean in 16th.

With Mercedes clear of the field, it is very clear who will have the biggest advantage in terms of winning the race but the fight for podium is set to be interesting considering McLaren and Racing Point seem to have a better car compared to Red Bull Honda at least in qualifying. The midfield battle is set to be intriguing as well considering Renault will start further behind compared to their expected positions, which should give us an exciting Grand Prix to look forward to.

 

Feature Image Courtesy of  Steve Etherington/Mercedes Media

Ranking the F1 chances of F2’s top five hopefuls

This year the Formula 2 grid is full of drivers from F1 junior academies, with the top spots in the standings locked out by proteges from Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault.

With plenty of 2021 F1 seats still up for grabs, we’re taking a look at the chances of these young hopefuls stepping up to the top tier next season.

Yuki Tsunoda, Carlin (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

1. Yuki Tsunoda

Of all the young academy drivers on the 2020 F2 grid, joint Red Bull/ Honda talent Yuki Tsunoda looks the most likely to join F1 next year. Not only is he already racking up wins, poles and podiums in an impressive debut season, but Alpha Tauri boss Franz Tost has said it’s only a matter of time before Tsunoda is promoted to the team.

At almost 40 points adrift of the championship leader Callum Ilott, Tsunoda is an outside contender for the F2 title at best. But given Red Bull’s comments, so long as he can remain within the top four of the standings to secure the necessary super licence points, it seems almost a sure bet that Tsunoda will be a 2021 Alpha Tauri driver.

Robert Shwartzman, Prema (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

2. Robert Shwartzman

If Tsunoda is the most likely F2 driver to get an F1 promotion for next year, then Ferrari protege Robert Shwartzman isn’t far behind. After a dominant run to last year’s F3 title, Shwartzman immediately staked his claim to this year’s F2 crown with two wins early in the campaign.

Shwartzman may have lost the F2 lead to fellow Ferrari junior Callum Ilott, but that doesn’t seem to have harmed the Russian’s status as the FDA’s golden boy. And as well as his formidable talent, Shwartzman comes with additional backing from SMP Racing, which would be an excellent sweetener for Alfa Romeo should he be lined up to replace Antonio Giovinazzi.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Courtesy of Ferrari Media)

3. Mick Schumacher

Ahead of the season Mick Schumacher was touted as one of the favourites for the F2 title. But although he’s scored more points and podiums than he did in his 2019 debut, a mix of incidents and mistakes means Schumacher’s campaign is still without a win.

However, Schumacher’s chances of an F1 promotion still remain relatively high for two reasons. Firstly, because there’s still half the F2 season left to run, meaning he has another 12 races to break his winless run and move up from fifth in the standings. And secondly, because if he can get in a position to earn his super licence, there’s every chance Ferrari will want to take the opportunity at getting a Schumacher back into F1 as soon as possible.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

4. Callum Ilott

It may seem odd or even unfair putting Callum Ilott behind his fellow FDA members Shwartzman and Schumacher, considering he is currently leading both in the F2 standings and should therefore be Ferrari’s F1 priority. But although Ilott’s every bit their match on track, Shwartzman and Schumacher both have a certain extra “superstar” quality that has left Ilott somewhat in their shade.

However, being F2 champion brings plenty of its own superstar quality. If Ilott can see off Shwartzman in the second half of the season and take the crown himself, he’ll give Ferrari no choice but to take notice of him instead.

Christian Lundgaard, ART (Joe Portlock / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

5. Christian Lundgaard

As F2 debuts go, Christian Lundgaard’s has been excellent so far. With a win and two further podiums to his name, the Renault junior has not just performed well on his step up from F3, but is currently third in the championship behind Ilott and Shwartzman.

However, even if Lundgaard were to march forward in the rest of the year and snatch the F2 title, the chances of it leading to an F1 seat are very slim at best. Renault have none available, having signed Fernando Alonso to partner Esteban Ocon for the next two years. And with no customer team to place him at either, Lundgaard’s F1 hopes probably depend on waiting for a gap at the works team to open up in 2022.

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.