Let’s talk about Carlos Sainz’s season

Carlos Sainz has been the best, most consistent Ferrari driver and he does not get the credit he deserves.

When they say that a driver is underrated, I tend to believe that he is not – simply because we talk about him, we mention his achievements and, by definition, he is not underrated.

Carlos Sainz claimed his first Ferrari podium in Monaco – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari press Office

In Carlos Sainz’s case, things are different.

He is truly underrated, and without a doubt the most consistent driver in the midfield during this season.

Firstly, it must be noted that this is not the first year in which Sainz is consistent or his performance is going under the radar. His tenure in McLaren was full of races where he did everything correctly and got to the points or even the podium. He was a focal point of McLaren’s ascent to the top of the midfield, with their 3rd position in the contructors’ standings last year being the ultimate proof of Sainz’s contribution to the team.

And all this starts with his brave decision to leave the Red Bull ‘family’ and go to Renault at first, and then to McLaren. He chose to leave the Austrians, because he felt he could achieve more outside their Verstappen-focused system.

This was a decision that paid off. He found himself as a person and a driver in McLaren, and he’s more mature than ever coming to Ferrari.

Driving for the Maranello squad is -without saying- the most challenging experience for any driver – even the very best of them have crumbled under the pressure this position puts to you.

The Ferrari pair of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz brought the cars home in fifth and seventh respectively – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

It must be said though, that every modern driver’s first year at Ferrari is a good one, generally speaking. Kimi Raikkonen won his one and only title in 2007, Fernando Alonso was the favourite for the championship in 2010, Sebastian Vettel returned to his winning ways in 2015 and Charles Leclerc took 2 wins and 7 pole positions in 2019.

It’s the second year, and what comes after it, that gets into the nerves of most drivers in that team.

Nevertheless, even with that ‘caveat’ (if you can call it like that), Sainz is impressive in terms of his speed and consistency.

This is a rundown of the Spaniard’s results this year, both in qualifying and in the race. Bear in mind that he has received a penalty only once in terms of qualifying position, in last week’s Turkish GP:

Race Q position R position
Bahrain 8 8
Emilia-Romagna 11 5
Portugal 5 11
Spain 6 7
Monaco 4 2
Azerbaijan 5 8
France 5 11
Styria 12 6
Austria 10 5
Britain 10 6
Hungary 15 3
Belgium 11 10
Netherlands 6 7
Italy 6 6
Russia 2 3
Turkey 19 8

You will notice that his qualifying performance is not his strongest point. That’s not a bad thing at all, because he is extremely good in race pace.

He has that kind of race craft that allows him to gain places in the race, even when the car is not the most competitive in the midfield.

What I find the most impressive result of them all (up until this point) is the one in Istanbul. He started P19 due to the new engine Ferrari fitted to his car, and he absolutely drove the wheels out of it. In a damp track, with intermediates and no DRS use, he seemed to be able to pass drivers left and right.

Sainz has shown some early positive signs of promise do far for Ferrari – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

On top of that, Sainz has managed to out qualify Charles Leclerc 3 times and finish ahead of him in the race on 5 occasions – and this comes from a driver who came to the team to serve an unofficial no. 2 role.

This goes to show that he entered this year’s campaign with a lot of confidence, which derives from his meticulous preparation before the season, his deep understanding of a car he didn’t help develop and set up, and his tendency to maximise what the car’s limit is, even in difficult situations.

An example of this latter argument is his ability to preserve his tires and do the opposite strategy from other drivers in the midfield. This is a trait that is handy when your team is in a tight battle with McLaren, and you have to get every point you can to help them win.

Carlos Sainz’s podium was not enough to close the gap to McLaren, but it was an impressive performance nonetheless – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

Carlos Sainz is an asset for Ferrari at this point, and this makes their partnership ahead of the big regulation changes of 2022 even more interesting.

Main image courtesy of Ferrari Media

 

Dominant Bottas wins ahead of the Bulls!

A dominant performance from Bottas to win ahead of both the RedBulls. But a Mercedes strategy call meant that Hamilton lost track position of P3 to finish P5 after holding off Gasly in P6. Carlos Sainz was awarded driver of the day after an outstanding performance to finish P8 from starting at the back of the grid.

The weather appeared to be playing a major role all weekend and rained before the race leaving a damp track to start and the intermediates on. Colder conditions often favour Mercedes with Hamilton having to take a penalty for a new combustion engine, this is something he was looking to take advantage of. Verstappen however was hoping to take the opportunity to take the lead and pull a gap in the championship.

After a poor result for Daniel Ricciardo in qualifying yesterday, McLaren decided to take a new engine themselves and therefore he started at the back of the grid with Sainz.

Lights out and Bottas got a great start leading Verstappen into turn 1. Alonso tried to go around the outside of Gasly but was tapped and spun, coming back into P15. Once back on the track in an attempt to move forward he tapped Schumacher. Gasly later gained a 5 second penalty for his incident with Alonso and the Alonso got one for the collision with Schumacher. Perez gained on the pair up the inside of turn 1, lap 1 moving up to P3. Hamilton gained a place on lap 1 and then moving into P9 by lap 3.

Yuki Tsunoda, leads Sebastian Vettel  and Lewis Hamilton  at the start during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Carlso Sainz was on a charge from lap 1. By lap 7 he gained another place and was up in P12, making the moves looking simple, and gaining positions every lap. The other driver on a charge was Hamilton. Finally making past Tsunoda after 7 laps with an excellent move around the outside of turn 3 and then dispatching of Stoll and Norris in the following 2 laps all while getting fastest lap.

The track was drying slowly due to the 94% humidity so talk of slicks seemed a little way off on lap 15, but Hamilton using all the warm intermediates to gain on Gasly by 1.5 seconds a lap and overtook with ease. He was now in P5 and hunting down Perez at a rapid pace. Sainz also gaining was in P10 after a slightly risky move making contact with Vettel into the final chicane.

Just 2 laps later and Hamilton complained of bald inters, bringing back the interslicks on a still damp track. RedBull seeing this then looked to release Verstappen from tyre perseveration as he started to gain by nearly half a second and achieve fastest lap. Bottas responded producing a fastest lap himself.

Lap 26 and everyone was trying to decide if it’s worth changing to new intermediates. Ricciardo had taken that decision a couple laps earlier and was now matching the leader’s pace. Just to add to the mix it had begun to rain slightly, stopping the track from drying but not heavily wetting the track. However, 4 laps later and Ricciardo’s speed neutralised, he was lapping the same as the people around him down in P18.

Hamilton meanwhile was still gaining on Perez passing through the backmarkers of Haas cars. There was nearly drama as Mazepin was shown the blue flags but closed the door on Hamilton almost clashing just to let him through on the back straight. Whilst this delayed Hamilton he was still gaining quickly on Perez and was within a second by lap 33.

Lap 34, Hamilton was with Perez and turn 12 the Mercedes picked up the slip stream and tried t go around the outside of turn 12 with the inside line for turn 13. Side by side Perez ended up to the left of the pit bollard but continued down the main straight to come out ahead of Hamilton by turn 1.

Sergio Perez  leads Lewis Hamilton during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Between lap 36 and 38 many of the drivers were pitting for new inters, however Vettel and Aston Martin decided to go for the medium slick tyres. He didn’t even complete a lap before coming back in for inters after spending most of the time sliding off the track.

Leclerc had been quietly going about his race and as the leaders pitted he then became P1. Happy with his tyres though, he decided to stay on his interslicks and keep track position. Hamilton agreed as on lap 41 Mercedes asked him to box and he refused.

Lap 46 and Leclerc was trying to hang on but Bottas was just that much faster and overtook him on the main straight. At this point Leclerc gave in to the team and pitted for new inters which looked to be a good decision because his teammate was setting fastest laps on tyres only a few laps older.

After resisting the team Hamilton pitted on lap 51 because Mercedes were insistent. He lost track position to both Perez and Leclerc. Now frustrated he lost P3 he was on a charge to get back to the podium gaining over 3 seconds on Leclerc on lap 53. However, graining on the tyres meant that he lost time to Leclerc and Gasly was just 1 second behind him. The strategy call from the team did not worked for them.

Valtteri Bottas won the race after a solid performance. Verstappen finished P2 not really battling Bottas all race knowing that he would gain points on Hamilton in the championship. Perez did an excellent job to put both the RedBulls on the podium. Leclerc finished P4 with a very frustrated Hamilton in P5, holding off Gasly who finished P6.

Verstappen now takes the lead of the championship heading into the next round by 6 points. No one has led the championship this year by more than 8 points and it looks like its going down to the wire, much to every F1’s delight.

Qatar completes 2021 F1 calendar

The F1 paddock this season have been known for keeping the worst secrets, like George Russell’s move to Mercedes that took a while to be confirmed. It’s been touted for a while now that the Losail International Circuit in Qatar will host an event this year, as F1 has been reviewing options to replace the Australian Grand Prix since mid-August.

The FIA has officially confirmed the 20th round of the 2021 season will be held at this track on the weekend of 19-21 November, a part of the Middle East finale as F1 then travels to the new Jeddah street track in Saudi Arabia, before concluding at the updated Yas Marina track in Abu Dhabi. The other interesting news is that Qatar will join the F1 calendar for 10 years from 2023 onwards as it has the FIFA World Cup to focus on in 2022, which suggests either F1 will either lose a race or is aiming for a 24-race calendar.

The Losail Circuit is 22 miles north of Doha, the capital of Qatar, and has a single stand of around 8,000 capacity, which they could expand for the F1 event. It holds an FIA grade 1 license and is 5.38km in length with a 1.06km start/finish straight which would be perfect for a DRS zone very similar to Bahrain. Since 2008 it has been known for night racing. The fastest time set at Losail by any motorsport is 1:35:741 set by Nico Hulkenburg in GP2 Asia qualifying in 2009.

Francesco Bagnaia at Qatar 2021 MotoGP. Image Courtesy of Ducati

Losail has been on the MotoGP calendar since 2004 and has been its season opener since 2007. World Superbikes have also raced throughout the years as the track favours two wheels compared to four, especially if you look at the twisty nature of sector two. The last four wheel action on the track was the World Touring Car Championship action in 2017.

The closest Losail has come to Formula 1 was the GP2 Asia series in the 2008-09 calendar, when it was a part of the six track championship. A worthy note is that Sergio Perez competed in that season of racing, finishing second in race one and winning race two, thus being the only driver on the current F1 grid to ever to compete there.

Will Lewis Hamilton make this his 30th different track to win on? Hamilton has done well at first time attempts in 2020 as he won at Mugello, Portimao and Imola, but 2021 is very much a different season for him and Mercedes.

The 2021 calendar is now complete, still with a record-breaking 22 events if not the 23 they wished. But sure that number will more than likely come next year with the Miami International Autodrome in May.

2021 Season Conclusion

10 Oct – Turkey (Istanbul Park) 🇹🇷

24 Oct – USA (COTA) 🇺🇸

7 Nov – Mexico (Mexico City) 🇲🇽

14 Nov – Brazil (Interlagos) 🇧🇷

21 Nov – Qatar (Losail) 🇶🇦

5 Dec – Saudi Arabia (Jeddah) 🇸🇦

12 Dec – Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) 🇦🇪

Heartbreak for Norris but it’s 100 for Hamilton!

Hamilton finally gets his 100th win in a race with changing conditions. Heartbreak for Norris who was leading for most of the race, but a call to stick to slicks as the rain got heavier with just 3 laps left meant that he finished P7. Verstappen gained the most though finishing P2 after starting at the back of the grid.

Qualifying yesterday created a dream top 3 for some fans, and with Verstappen starting from the back it was set to be a good race. Bottas took a shock engine penalty this morning meaning he start P17, interesting tactics by Mercedes? The weather, which had played a part all weekend, looked like it may play a part with rain out at sea closing in.

Lights out and Norris got a great start, Sainz was battling Russell through to turn 2 but wins out. Sainz picked up an incredible slip stream and takes the lead around the outside of turn 3. Hamilton had a terrible start, bogged down and lost out to Ricciardo and Stroll who picked up a slipstream from Hamilton as he was boxed in.

Now in P6, Hamilton was on a charge as part of the train behind Russell who was still in P3 on lap 5. Verstappen was making up places, up to P15 but was stuck behind Bottas. The Mercedes team game looking at the bigger championship picture. However, Verstappen made a move after just 3 laps, Bottas leaving the door open and Verstappen going through.

10 laps in and Norris was now within DRS of Sainz and closing every lap. Russell holding up the rest of the pack meant that the top 2 were now 7 seconds clear to battle each other. Just 1 lap later and Verstappen was making up more places. Leclerc made a move on Vettel on the inside of turn 4 but went too deep. Verstappen just behind wanted to take advantage, but nearly pinched into the wall he had to back out and wait for Leclerc to go wide again, which happened just 2 corners later.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Max Verstappen driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Lap 13 and Norris makes it past Sainz in a great move down the back straight using DRS. He managed to pull out a gap before Sainz went in to pit just a few laps later with an unfortunate slow stop. Stroll was the first to pit and took full advantage of the powerful undercut. Once Russell pitted, who was ahead of Stroll before pitting, he came out behind Stroll.

Ricciardo came into the pits 23 laps in. Both McLaren and Mercedes were ready but Hamilton was told to do the opposite. Ricciardo had a very slow stop trying to get to grips with the new, slower, pitstop system. The light didn’t change and therefore Ricciardo was held in his pit box. This played into Hamilton’s hands, who had a whole pitstop over Ricciardo. However, Hamilton, in clear air, decided to stay out longer and was putting in fastest laps. Lap 27 and having pulled a gap to Ricciardo, Hamilton had a clean stop but still came out behind Stroll. Verstappen pitted for mediums at the same time, coming out only 2 places behind Hamilton.

Norris finally pits for a set of hard tyres with a much cleaner stop. He came out in clean air with the 3 drivers ahead of him yet to stop. Hamilton on fresh hard tyres made use of the action packed back straight to dispatch of Stroll, Sainz and Gasly to begin gaining on Norris just over halfway through the race.

By lap 37 Verstappen was still behind Ricciardo, which was hurting his medium tyres. Perez pitted but had a very slow stop with problems on the rear right, meaning he came out just ahead of Verstappen. This is where team orders were expected but there was no change over and Verstappen lost out to Alonso who had fresh tyres, having pitted at the same time as Perez.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Sergio Perez F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Lap 46, the rain finally came around turn 5. Umbrellas were up and every team now deciding what to do because it came in initially as light rain. Norris thinking about the race win and Hamilton thinking about the championship. Sainz the first to make a call about getting ready for intermediates. Norris went wide on the wet corners, but Hamilton also had to go slowly around the corner and stayed behind Norris.

Trying to decide when to come in the entire grid were changing positions. Importantly Norris decided to stick with the slicks with a 25 second gap to Hamilton who did pit for intermediates. Hamilton had over a 40 second to Perez so knew he had a free pit stop.

As the rain got heavier chaos ensued. Norris couldn’t keep control and slides off down the back straight giving the place to Hamilton who was able to make up the gap with Norris  around. Verstappen, who did also pit for inters, took advantage of those falling off the track and made it up to P2 after starting from the back of the grid. Heartbreakingly for Norris, he couldn’t control the car into the pits, crossed the line twice and will likely get a penalty to add to his eventual P7 finish. Carlos Sainz rounded out the podium with a solid performance along with the right call at the right time for the intermediate tyres.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Race winner Lewis Hamilton, second placed Max Verstappen and third placed Carlos Sainz celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Yuri Kochetkov – Pool/Getty Images)

Sire Lewis Hamilton finally gets his 100th win. The first driver in Formula 1 history to achieve this especially in changing weather conditions. He also now leads the championship by only 2 points to Verstappen going into the next round.

McLaren back at the front of the pack!

Race 2 of the weekend for the full 53 laps at the temple of speed and all eyes were on the front of the grid. Verstappen looking to capitalise on the bad start for Hamilton yesterday and both McLarens in the fight who wanted to mix things up and get a podium.

After his crash yesterday Gasly had some issues on his reconnaissance lap with a stuck throttle. However, starting from the pitlane after having to replace parts of the car it looked like they had repaired the car in the garage and was able to start the race. However, the car was undriveable and Gasly was out by lap 5. On the other side of the garage there was some late drama for Tsunoda whose car was pushed off the grid and into the garage 5 minutes before the race start. The car had some hydraulic brake issues which is not normally a quick job so Alpha Tauri tried their hardest for a pitlane start but they couldn’t get it out in time, and he didn’t start the race. A race to forget for Alpha Tauri.

Lights out and Daniel Ricciardo beat Verstappen into the first corner and lead the race into turn 2. Hamilton managed to get around the outside of Norris into turn 1 and picked up the slipstream from Verstappen, moving alongside him into the second chicane. 2 into 1 doesn’t go and Hamilton ended up being forced wide, similar to Imola this year. Hamilton then lost another place to Norris who had watched it unfold.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 12: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 and Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 12, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Further back and Giovinazzi went wide at the same chicane, unsafely coming back onto the track and clipping the front of Sainz, spinning him into the wall and losing his front wing. This brought out the Virtual safety car to recover the debris for 2 laps before the track was cleared. Giovinazzi got a 5 second time penalty for this which he served at his next pitstop.

Perez was on the mediums and coming into play for RedBull as he made his way up the grid. He had a great battle with Sainz for P6 on lap 10 from turn 1 all the way to the second chicane where Perez eventually won out and gained the place. The other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was also making his way up the grid making the hard tyres work for him.

On lap 15 Vettel and Ocon were fighting for P12, Vettel closing in on Ocon into the second chicane and he was alongside going into the corner. However, Ocon was closing the door on Vettel, not leaving enough room, and the two made contact with Vettel losing out. Ocon gained a 5 second time penalty for his contact with Vettel and not leaving him enough room despite being alongside.

Lap 22 and the leader came into the pits with a perfect stop from McLaren. RedBull and Verstappen respond immediately but they had a terrible stop being held for 11 seconds in the pit box due to a slow right rear tyre. At the same time Hamilton finally overtook Norris and took the lead of the race. Norris then came into the pits and another perfect pit stop for McLaren.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 12: Max Verstappen driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda makes a pitstop during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 12, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Mercedes responded, he was held slightly but came out between Norris and Verstappen. Norris got past but Verstappen attempted to get around the outside of Hamilton into turn 1. Verstappen ended up on the sausage curb and was lifted over Hamilton, destroying the back wing but the halo doing its job as the tyre of the RedBull.

At the restart Ricciardo got away and Norris caught Leclerc out and used the tow to his advantage, taking P2 behind his teammate. Leclerc didn’t have a great restart and lost another place to Perez, then to Bottas moving down to P5. However, Perez hopped across the corner to gain the place and didn’t give the place back was awarded a 5 second time penalty which was added at the end of the race. Bottas on the mediums was faster than the leader Ricciardo by 1.3 seconds per lap. The charge was on for him and next to hunt down Perez and stay within that 5 second window.

After the chaos of the restart, by lap 40 normal racing had resumed and Norris was looking faster than Ricciardo but McLaren confirmed they would hold station to gain maximum points for the team. Just 4 laps later, after making contact with his teammate and locking up going straight on at turn 1, Mazepin’s engine gave out and he stopped bringing out a brief virtual safety car neutralising the battles.

Leading from start to finish after a great move into turn 1, Daniel Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix with his teammate Lando Norris in P2. To add to the achievements Ricciardo gained the fastest lap point on the last lap. This is the first win for McLaren in 9 years and its fantastic to see them back on top. Perez finished P3 on track but after the 5 second penalty he drops to P5 and Bottas finished on the podium.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren (McLaren Racing Media)

It has been a turn of fortune since coming back from the summer break for Daniel Ricciardo. McLaren have also been on the way back up since 2018. Shout out to Norris who put in a mature drive for the team to bring home a 1 – 2.

For the championship the crash means Verstappen leaves with the 5 points lead from yesterday. The incident is being investigated and the repercussions could last for weeks. This is becoming a very intense battle for the title which every fan is excited about. Good to see both drivers get out of the car OK and this will only add to the fight going into Russia in 2 weeks’ time.

Monza Sprint: Bottas wins but Verstappen on Pole

The highly anticipated second ‘Sprint’ of the season and it was Bottas who started at the front. He will take an engine penalty for tomorrows race but not for today because this was still part of qualifying. The strategic play from Mercedes was the talk of the paddock before the race with RedBull seemingly off the pace all weekend in comparison to the last few weeks.

Lights out and Hamilton had a terrible start losing 4 places before turn 1 putting him in P5. Gasly got caught up in the first corner pack and clipped the back wheel of Ricciardo, damaging the front wing and crashing into the barriers at turn 3 but was ok. In the other Alpha Tauri Tsunoda had an incident with Kubica at the second chicane, spinning Kubica. Tsunoda had to pit for a new wing, pushing him down to last. The safety car was brought neutralising the race.

Just 2 laps later and the safety car was in, Bottas had a great restart catching Verstappen out and pulling a gap to the RedBull. Alonso charging through the field on the restart and gaining places on Vettel and Ocon. Tsunoda made up 2 places on the restart and began his charge back up the grid.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Yuki Tsunoda driving the (22) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 11, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

The chase was then on for Hamilton to get back to the front of the grid for tomorrow. He was hunting down Norris, consistently in the DRS zone but not able to put a move on him. Norris was on the saft tyres, so Mercedes were hoping his tyres would drop off and Hamilton, on the mediums, could take advantage. Unfortunately for them, Norris was solid in his performance on those tyres.

Lap 9 and Stroll was battling for P10 with Perez. Into turn 1 Stroll had the inside line forcing Perez off the track. The fight continued into the next chicane, but Perez told to give the place back for gaining an advantage and overtaking the Aston Martin by going off the track. With DRS the following lap, Perez made it around the outside going into turn 1 and this time stayed on the track to make it stick.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Sergio Perez driving the (11) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda and Lance Stroll driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 11, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Back out in front Bottas had pulled out a nearly 2 second gap to Verstappen. With the knowledge of Bottas’ penalty tomorrow, RedBull were happy to sit behind him and gain 2 more points on Hamilton who would not be gaining any points.

With 3 laps to go Perez was in P9, having dropped down at the start he was back up to his qualifying position. He struggled to get past Giovinazzi who was having a fantastic drive in P8 after a great qualifying session. They finished in P8 and P9, a great result for the Alfa Romeo driver.

Valtteri Bottas lead from start to finish and took the 3 points for todays Sprint. Verstappen finished P2 and Ricciardo P3 taking 2 and 1 points respectively. With Bottas’ penalty applied Verstappen will take pole position and a front row start for Daniel Riccardo and McLaren in P2. Norris will start in P3 and Hamilton has work to do starting in P4. McLaren look strong for the race tomorrow so RedBull and Mercedes will need to be strong to come out on top after 53 laps.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Max Verstappen driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 11, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Italian GP: Bottas takes top spot for sprint race as Verstappen comes 3rd

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas pipped Lewis Hamilton to take the top spot for the sprint race on Saturday. Mercedes looked fastest in free practice 1 which also translated into the qualifying form for the German team as they beat Redbull by quite a margin. Hamilton will however be slightly disappointed not to have had the top spot as he will have to start much closer to championship rival Verstappen.

In a qualifying session where drivers were playing all sorts of tricks to have the all important tow in Monza, McLaren shined well. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo managed to put in a shift and placed their McLarens at P4 and P5 for the sprint race tomorrow. Verstappen could find no answer to the sheer pace of Mercedes and has to settle with 3rd spot for tomorrow while his teammate Perez in the other Redbull will be starting P9.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 10: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez of Mexico and Red Bull Racing talk in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Pierre Gasly continued his stellar run this season as he has put in yet another great performance in qualifying and put his Alpha Tauri at P6 for the sprint race tomorrow. His teammate Tsunoda however has his work cut out after a deleted lap time in Q1 means that he will be starting the sprint race from P17 tomorrow.

Both the Ferraris will be starting the sprint race from P7 and P8 with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc respectively, a result which the 50% capacity Monza crowd would probably not be too happy with.  Leclerc’s Ferrari experienced some engine braking issues during Q1 but Ferrari were able to fix it during the session and the Monegasque driver managed to make it to Q3.

Antonio GIovinazzi of Alfa Romeo continued his impressive run after the summer break as he qualified P10 for tomorrow’s sprint race after some really good laps in Q1 and Q2. The Italian might just be in serious contention to retain his seat alongside the newly announced driver Valtteri Bottas with a run like this. His teammate Robert Kubica who is still the stand-in driver for Kimi Raikkonen in the other Alfa Romeo could not manage get out of Q1 and will be starting at P19.

Aston Martin had both their cars knocked out in Q2 with Sebastian Vettel set to start P11 and Lance Stroll set to start at P12. They will be followed by both the Alpine cars in Fernando ALonso at P13 and Esteban Ocon at P14. This could be an interesting little midfield battle brewing in the bottom half of the grid and could make the sprint race all the more interesting.

Williams’ Geroge Russell made it out of Q1 thanks to Tsunoda’s deleted lap time but could not make a mark in Q2 after he is set to start at P15. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams will be starting from P16. The back of the field is yet again the familiar cars of Haas with Mick Schumacher at P18 and Nikita Mazepin at P20.

With points on offer for the top 3 finishers of the sprint race, Valtteri Bottas is set to start at P1 alongside Lewis Hamilton at P2, followed by Max Verstappen at P3. Bottas who has taken new engine components which exceeded his quota of allocated parts, will be starting the Italian GP from the back of the grid. However, a tactical move by Mercedes now means he will still start the sprint race from the top spot. This could mean that Mercedes could deny Verstappen a chance of getting any points from the sprint race.

2021 Italian Grand Prix, Friday – Steve Etherington

A new F1 qualifying format is set to be put to its 2nd test followed by SIlverstone from last time around. Monza being quite the track known for its sheer speed and overtaking, the sprint race which decides the grid for Sunday’s race is set to be a thriller.

Dutch GP: Verstappen pole position at home race ahead of Hamilton as Giovinazzi and Gasly shine

image courtesy of Red Bull content pool/ Boris streubel Getty images

Max Verstappen stormed to pole position in his home Grand Prix at Zandvoort after beating championship rival Lewis Hamilton by 0.038 seconds.

In a qualifying session where Verstappen looked unbeatable, it seemed quite straightforward until the last run of Q3, where an incredible final sector from Hamilton looked set to be enough for pole but would just fall short.  Verstappen has now become the 35th driver to qualify in pole position at a home Grand Prix in what was a 70th pole position for Red Bull.

Mercedes will be happy with their qualifying result as Valtteri Bottas seemed quite comfortable with the track and there is a chance that both Mercedes can set about to chase Verstappen. This might become even easier following Sergio Perez’s early Q1 exit as he could not make the chequered flag to finish a lap and will be lining up 16th on the grid.

Pierre Gasly was terrific throughout the weekend and set a blistering lap in the second run of Q3 which will now see him starting from fourth, giving him and Alpha Tauri a real shot at a good points haul. Conversely, his teammate Tsunoda could not get out of Q2 after consecutive red flags towards the end of the session meant that he could not get a lap in. The Japanese rookie driver will be starting 15th and will be looking at a tough race come Sunday at a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult.

Ferrari delivered on their promising Friday pace as both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz will start fifth and sixth. Sainz’s participation in qualifying was in doubt at one stage following the Spaniard’s heavy crash in the morning, but a swift job from the Ferrari mechanics meant that he was able to take part in the session.

Antonio Giovinazzi did a stellar job as the Italian driver put in a lap good enough to start in seventh place tomorrow, matching his best qualifying effort from Austria 2019. The driver will be happy with his performance after reports were that he was given an ultimatum by Alfa Romeo to prove himself in the races following the summer break. In a tough weekend off-track for Alfa Romeo with Kimi Raikkonen contracting coronavirus, reserve driver Robert Kubica stepped in and did a decent job of qualifying 18th in what was his first time driving an F1 car since Abu Dhabi 2019.

Alpine managed to get both their cars into Q3 with Esteban Ocon eighth and Fernando Alonso at ninth respectively. The team looks set for a double points finish after a good run in the last few races. However, it was a tough day for McLaren with Daniel Ricciardo being the only car in Q3 and will start from 10th position. Lando Norris looked off the pace and could only manage 13th.

It was a mixed afternoon for Williams as both cars managed to get into Q2 with George Russell set to start from 11th and Nicolas Latifi from 14th but both cars crashed in Q2 which eventually brought out consecutive red flags. Williams mechanics will have their work cut out overnight as there is damage on both the cars.

Aston Martin also had a tough outing as they were unable to make it into Q3  as Lance Stroll could only manage a lap good enough for 12th while Sebastian Vettel was left floundering in Q1 after being blocked by the Haas of Nikita Mazepin while aiming to set a competitive lap time. Mazepin is set to start 20th even before any possible grid penalties that might be awarded while his teammate Mick Schumacher is set to start 19th.

With the championship battle is shaping up nicely and there is virtually nothing between the leaders, the Dutch town of Zandvoort is set to produce a perfect F1 race following its 36-year hiatus. Home hero Max Verstappen starts on pole and with Hamilton next to him in second, it is set to be a cracker of a contest on Sunday.

 

Belgian GP: Verstappen takes pole ahead of Russell as Norris crashes at Eau Rouge

Max Verstappen has taken pole for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix ahead of Williams’s George Russell, who put in a great performance in challenging conditions. Lando Norris crashed at Eau Rouge in the early stages of Q3, raising even more questions about the barriers at that corner.

The beginning of Q1 was initially delayed for 12 minutes because of heavy rain, but when it began both Russell and Nicholas Latifi headed out on track as the sole cars on intermediates. It was a decision that every other driver soon followed when the rain eased, as the times began to tumble.

Intermediates were the tyres of choice for Q2 as well. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas left it late to get a good lap in, being brought in for new sets and only moving out of the drop-zone in the closing moments.

The rain came down heavier for the start of Q3.

Sebastian Vettel was one of the first drivers to head out, and he almost immediately radioed his engineer saying he thought the session should be red-flagged because of how bad the conditions were.

It was indeed red-flagged a couple of minutes later, but only after Lando Norris crashed heavily at the Eau Rouge/Radillion complex. Vettel pulled up alongside the McLaren to check that Norris was okay, voicing some very angry comments over the radio. “What did I say?” he demanded.

At the time of writing, Norris has been taken for a precautionary x-ray on his elbow, but he managed to get out of the car on his own at least.

Following as his crash does from the six-car pile-up during W Series qualifying yesterday at the same corner, there is certainly a debate to be had over the barriers at Eau Rouge. Norris was sent spinning back across the track, and it was only good fortune that meant no-body was following close behind and put in danger of collecting him.

After a half an hour-long delay Q3 restarted.

Hamilton took provisional pole after the first runs, only to be bested by George Russell. It looked for a moment as if the Williams would actually take pole, only for Verstappen to cross the line and go fastest of all by three tenths.

More of the same can be expected for the race tomorrow in terms of weather, and we are certainly in for an interesting 44 laps!

Ocon on top in a dramatic race at Hungary

Esteban Ocon took his first Formula 1 victory and the first for the Alpine team in a chaotic race at the Hungaroring, after multiple drivers were taken out at the first corner.

15 minutes before the race start, rain started to fall on the track. Adding to the anticipation, it started light but was due to continue for the first 30 minutes of the race and get heavier before mostly drying out by the end of the race. Intermediate tyres on to start, Lewis Hamilton indicating on the radio he was ready for the fight in the rain. Hamilton and Max Verstappen are both known for performing well in the wet, possibly a leveller but definitely exciting!

Lights out and all eyes turned to Verstappen and Hamilton. Both got a great launch, but Valtteri Bottas had an absolutely dreadful start with wheel spin from third. Lando Norris got in front of him off the line but was tapped by Bottas from behind who had missed his breaking point. Norris then crashed into Verstappen and Bottas hit Sergio Perez. Norris and Verstappen managed to carry on with significant damage, but Bottas and Perez were out.

Further back in turn 1, Lance Stroll tried to avoid some cars by heading towards the apex, but ended up on the grass and collected Charles Leclerc who hit and spun around Daniel Ricciardo. Unfortunately, that was the race over for Leclerc.

Ricciardo kept going and Stroll was able to keep driving after damage to the front of his car. A red flag was called to gather the debris left around turn 1. This allowed the Red Bull team to fix Verstappen’s car, potentially saving him from retirement. Norris and Stroll then had to retire due to the damage from the incident.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull (Mark Thompson, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool)

Hamilton was still in P1, but others had benefited from a high attrition first corner. Ocon and Sebastian Vettel were the biggest winners, starting P2 and P3 respectively. Yuki Tsunoda was in P5, Carlos Sainz P4 and the Williams’ were P6 and P8 whilst Verstappen had really lost out and started in P13. A fight from the back was on after quick recovery work by Red Bull. There was a standing re-start as the sun came out to a now quickly drying track, but the question then was slicks or inters?

Hamilton was the only one starting on the grid, so the race was in the pits with everyone coming in for slicks. George Russell came out on top, and with Hamilton pitting after it looked like Russell would lead the race, but Russell was told by the FIA to give back the places he’d taken in the pitlane. Mercedes didn’t come out well with Hamilton boxing after the restart and ending up last and importantly behind Verstappen. So, on lap 5 Ocon was leading the race, with Vettel P2 and Nicholas Latifi P3. Hamilton was catching Verstappen who still had damage, so the race was on!

Verstappen managed to get past Pierre Gasly but then became stuck behind Mick Schumacher for five laps before passing him with a daring move through Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4. They did touch but both were able to carry on. Meanwhile Hamilton was struggling behind Gasly, locking up a few times but both Gasly and Hamilton managed to pass Schumacher in the next two laps.

Hamilton stopped for hard tyres on lap 20 in an attempt to change the strategy and go longer. Red Bull and Verstappen responded so made the stop just one lap later. Ricciardo pitted at the same time as Verstappen, and he came out in front of the Red Bull. Hamilton was coming down the straight as the pair came out of the pits. Hamilton took advantage and got past not only Verstappen but also Ricciardo, putting a vital car between the Championship rivals.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes AMG)

On lap 32, Hamilton was the fastest car in the race passing Tsunoda into P5 with a fantastic move while Verstappen was still behind Ricciardo in P12. This move caused Ferrari and Sainz to react, and with enough gap Sainz pitted and came back out in P4 with fresh tyres ready to defend against Hamilton.

Meanwhile Schumacher was doing a great job in the Haas to keep 4 drivers behind him. However, after many laps of battling, Russell finally made it past Schumacher on lap 33 with a brave move on the outside of Turn 2. Schumacher then begun to lose places rapidly to Ricciardo and Verstappen on the next lap, very important for Verstappen in terms of the championship.

From the front, Vettel pitted with a slow stop but came out in P3, ahead of Sainz and Hamilton. Ocon told to push but Alpine appeared to have the advantage with both cars in the podium places fight. A good stop meant Ocon came out ahead of Vettel, but Vettel tried to fight it into Turn 4. Sadly for him nothing came of it and with only Fernando Alonso in front of Ocon it looked to be an Alpine win from lap 39.

It wasn’t over at the front though. Sainz and Hamilton in P3 and P4 were catching the leaders at a rapid pace. However, Hamilton pitted on lap 48 for the mediums. He came out behind Alonso, but this would mean he could push to the end of the race, with flashbacks to Hungary 2019 and Spain 2021. Vettel got closer to Ocon through the back markers in an attempt to pass him for the lead. On lap 50 the fight was not over with Vettel having DRS and the pressure piling on Ocon.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin (Courtesy of Aston Martin media)

Verstappen finally made a move on Ricciardo for P10 on Lap 61 and the final points position. This could be an important point for the championship and impressive driving considering the significant damage still on his car from lap 1.

On lap 57 a brilliant battle between Hamilton and Alonso began, Alonso defending and making the Alpine the widest thing on the track. This epic battle continued for over 10 laps, but Hamilton was eventually close enough when Alonso made a rare mistake and locked up into Turn 1. This did create problems for Hamilton though, who was on a mission to get to the front. However, catching Sainz on older tyres in P3 meant that just two laps later, Hamilton was in the podium places, but the gap was too big for Hamilton to catch Vettel in P2.

Esteban Ocon won the Hungarian Grand Prix! The first win for him and a great turn around since a relatively poor run of form. Vettel was in P2 after a great drive from the restart. Sainz was P4 ahead of Alonso, Gasly sneaked in a fastest lap right at the end in P6, and Tsunoda was P7. Both Williams finished in the points with Latifi P8 and Russell P9, which is vital for the constructors and their first double points finish since 2018. Russell finally managed to get those illusive points in a Williams!

For the championship Hamilton gained points on Verstappen, who finished P10, and leads going into the summer break. This has been a real swing in momentum after the British Grand Prix in the favour of Mercedes and Hamilton. It is all to play for as the teams regroup and look to improve for Spa at the end of August.