Verstappen wins in Dominant Style as we Round Out 2022

Verstappen takes a dominant win in the final race of the season while his teammate misses out on vice champion by just three points to Leclerc after a split in strategies for the Red Bulls. Sebastian Vettel got driver of the day as he closed out his F1 career by finishing in the points.

Perez got away well at the race start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

They lined up on the grid with last-day-of-term feelings echoing throughout the fandom. At lights out Perez got away well going side by side with his teammate into turn one but backing out before turn two. Behind them, Sainz had gotten a poor start allowing Hamilton past while Russell had let Norris through into turn one.

Hamilton did set his sights on the other Ferrari but was caught by Sainz towards the chicane at turn six. Sainz dived down the inside, and Hamilton went wide, bouncing over the sausage curb before getting ahead of Sainz again. The stewards noted the incident and after what sounded like some bargaining, eventually Hamilton had to give the place back.

This wasn’t too last long as just one lap later Hamilton was all over the back of Sainz. Making a move around turn nine Hamilton made the move stick. He was expected to pull away, but it appeared that the lap one incident may have damaged the Mercedes as he began to lose a bit of power. By lap nine he had been overtaken by Sainz and his teammate.

Vettel locked in a battle with the Alpines. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

On lap 12 Vettel found himself in an Alpine sandwich, fighting hard with Ocon in front but not quite able to make a move stick. This allowed Norris to focus on his driving and strategy to stay in the fight for P4 in the constructor’s championship.

This led to an epic three-lap-long battle between the drivers before Ocon went in for his first stop. This allowed Vettel to open up a gap to Alonso and was, at one point, in P4 on the track after others around him stopped for the first time during the race.

While these stops were happening, Russell came in but had a slow stop with an issue on the rear right. He eventually was released into the path of Norris which was immediately investigated. Russell ended up with a five-second time penalty which he had to take at his next stop.

Lap 28 is where it all unravelled for Alonso. He had pitted for a new set of hard tyres but sadly he wouldn’t make it as he retired from the race with a suspected water leak. This would mark the end of his third stint at the Enstone-based team before moving to Aston Martin for 2023.

At the front, there was lots of discussion about strategy, with the teams opting to split between cars. By lap 34, when Perez pitted for the second time. Verstappen, Leclerc and Hamilton, the top three, were on one-stop while their teammates were being kept on two-stop strategies.

So on lap 38, Leclerc in P2 was a confirmed one-stopper, and Perez was now in P6 with a 15-second gap to his rival and 20 laps to go. However, he was catching the Ferrari at a pace of about six-tenths per lap, and with four cars between them, it looked like it would be impossible.

Just as we were about to settle in to watch Perez catch Leclerc, a yellow flag was waved in sector two for Schumacher and Latifi who had both gone for a spin. Schumacher tapped the back of Latifi who appeared to be braking early into the corner. Both cars got back underway so there was no safety car needed. Schumacher got a five-second time penalty and Latifi eventually retired from the race.

Towards the closing stages of the race, Perez had made his way back up to P4 with only Hamilton between him and Leclerc. Perez, with more speed, made a good move down the inside of the Mercedes into turn six, but Hamilton had DRS going down the next straight and took the place back. It wasn’t too last long for the brit though as Perez made the move stick around turn nine. The Red Bull now had Leclerc in his sights with 10 laps to go.

In the final few laps, Perez was only three seconds behind Leclerc and it was going to be very tight. But at the same time, Hamilton’s gearbox let go and he was forced to retire on lap 56 of 58. This was Mercedes’s first and only mechanical retirement of 2022.

On the final lap, as Verstappen rounded the corner to take his 15th win of the year, Perez was not quite close enough to Leclerc meaning he had to settle for P3 while the Ferrari man celebrated taking vice champion status. This also meant that Ferrari kept their P2 place in the constructors.

In the battle for P4 between McLaren and Alpine, despite a car retiring, the French team kept ahead by 14 points. Norris did get an extra fastest lap point but sadly for them, Ocon finished P7 which was enough for Alpine.

Vettel didn’t disappoint. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

There were the now obligatory doughnuts at the end from Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez. Ricciardo did them at turn none and Vettel came down to the main straight after everyone else had finished completing their set. There was not a dry eye in the house after his interview with Jenson Button knowing that he has now completed his F1 career… although many drivers believe he will be back.

The 2022 season is over, 22 races officially complete… Only 105 days until Bahrain.

2022 Abu Dhabi GP Qualifying

The final race of the 2022 season took place in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit, the most expensive F1 facility in the world.

With four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel taking part in his final GP, can he make it Q3 for the final time in his illustrious career? It was also the final qualifying session for now for Mick Schumacher and Daniel Ricciardo, who has a three place grid penalty for his incident in the race last weekend. Surely they will want to make a good impression for their chances of making a comeback in 2024.

Q1 began with half the field immediately coming onto track. The first driver to set a time was Tsunoda in the Alpha Tauri with a 1.26.135, followed by Mick Schumacher just 0.130 behind him.

The first of the front runners to start a flying lap was Leclerc in the Ferrari, immediately setting purple sectors. He set a 1.25.211 to go quickest but was very close to exceeding track limits at the final corner. He was then beaten by Perez in the Red Bull by almost four tenths.

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Lando Norris put his McLaren in P4 with his team mate Ricciardo directly behind him. The Mercedes finished their laps last and ended 4th and 6th, quite a way off the pace, surprising after their showings so far this weekend. At the top Max Verstappen was 0.066 ahead of his team-mate, who is hoping to secure second in the championship this weekend.

With just under four minutes left in the session the final runs began. Vettel first to cross the line put his Aston Martin in fifth. As they all cross the line, the five drivers eliminated are Magnussen, Gasly, Bottas, Albon and Latifi.

At the start of Q2 Mercedes decided to do their first runs on used soft tyres, clearly wanting to keep fresh sets for Q3 and tomorrow’s race. Lewis Hamilton crossed the line first with a 1.25.772, but was then beaten by his team mate George Russell with a time of 1.25.363.

The rest of the field were now on their first runs. Both Ferraris and Norris in the McLaren were setting quicker sectors than the Mercedes pair. All three of them went quicker to take the top three positions on the timing screens. Then came the Red Bulls, for once led by Perez who was some four tenths quicker than his team mate.

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The Mercedes put fresh softs on and Hamilton moved his car up to P2 just three tenths behind Perez. Russell crossed the line with a time of 1.24.940 and into P4. The Mercedes were out of sync with everyone else.

Leclerc in his Ferrari managed to find some pace to end Q2 just 0.098 away from the leading Red Bull. Sainz was P3 and Verstappen P4. Out of qualifying at the end of Q2 were Alonso, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Stroll and Zhou. Vettel did indeed get through to Q3 for his final weekend in F1 after a great lap in the Aston Martin.

Q3 was contested by both Red Bulls, both Mercedes, both Ferraris, both McLarens, and Vettel and Ocon. Once again the Mercedes cars were first onto the track. Hamilton completed his lap with a 1.24.678, with Russell next just 0.016 behind.

Both were then beaten by Leclerc and Sainz, the Ferrari drivers some four tenths quicker than the Mercedes. Then came the Red Bulls, Perez making a mistake at the final corner losing time and only making P2. Verstappen came next with a time of 1.23.988 to take provisional pole position.

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Vettel decided to do his lap with no cars on the track. He made it to P7 some 0.973 away from the leading Red Bull. With 2 minutes to go the final runs of the season began.

Leclerc improved to P2, and Verstappen improved again to 1.23.824, followed by his team mate Perez. The second row was an all Ferrari affair with Leclerc ahead of Sainz, then the two Mercedes of Hamilton and Russell. 7th was Norris in the McLaren, then Ocon in the Alpine. The final two places in the top 10 were taken by Ricciardo and Vettel.

The race is all set up tomorrow to decide who will take second place in the World Championship. Who will come out on top, between Perez in the Red Bull and Leclerc in the Ferrari?

 

F1 Race Weekend Preview: 2022 Comes to an End

It’s the final race of the season and it brings around mixed emotions for many F1 fans. Abu Dhabi is not known for exciting races but last year there was plenty of drama. This year is likely to bring a different kind of drama with a battle between teammates slipping over from last week’s Brazilian GP. We also see the end to the great career of Sebastian Vettel along with losing Latifi, Ricciardo and Schumacher who haven’t confirmed their plans for 2023.

The Four-Time World Champion Bows Out

Just before the Hungarian GP this year Vettel announced his retirement from Formula 1 at the end of the season. Whilst many F1 fans will be in denial, the beloved driver will take to the track in his Aston Martin for one last time on Sunday.

Sebastian Vettel celebrates his third world championship in a Renault-powered Red Bull

Having arrived in the sport in 2007 during the USA GP racing for BMW Sauber as a replacement for Kubica, he has gone on to be one of the best drivers in the sport winning his four world championships with RedBull in the process.

While in RedBull he did split opinion like many drivers at the top but is now much more than that. He will not only be known for his driving ability but has made strides in campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights, saving the bees and standing alongside Hamilton during the black lives matter movement.

He is now considered one of the most adored drivers on the grid and will be missed by many fans old and new.

Vettel in his Aston Martin. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Is This the Final Race for Others?

While Vettel announced his own retirement there are other drivers who haven’t confirmed their plans for next season. Williams announced earlier on in the season that Latifi will no longer be with the team with Logan Sargent joining Williams on the condition he gets enough super license points.

Magnussen showing his form in Brazil. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Haas already has Magnussen signed on a multi-year deal, but the other seat is yet to be confirmed. Schumacher has cost the team huge amounts with driver error incidents, and with his contract with Ferrari ending this year, it is looking more likely that he will not be on the grid for 2023. That doesn’t mean he won’t be back. Haas may keep him, but Hulkenberg is becoming the favourite for the second seat in the Banbury-based team.

Another driver who won’t be in a full-time seat next year is Ricciardo. He is being replaced at McLaren by fellow Australian and former Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri. Ricciardo has hinted at a reserve drive and the rumours suggest either Mercedes or Red Bull but he has said he will be around the paddock for 2023, which will please a lot of fans.

Red Bull Team Controversy… Again

The Milton Keynes team are no strangers to inter-team battles, but this one has sort of come out of the blue with Verstappen refusing to let Perez back past after they had swapped at the end of the Brazilian GP. This has not done any favours for the reigning world champion’s popularity.

Perez helping out his teammate in 2021. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen came over the radio to say he “had his reasons”, with many theorising it had something to do with Perez crashing out during Q3 in Monaco, stopping Verstappen from getting pole. However, Checo is very much loved among fans and has done plenty to help Verstappen to win both world championships, especially in Abu Dhabi last year where he slowed Hamilton in an epic three-lap battle.

This fight is likely to dominate conversations in the media when talking to RedBull to really get to the bottom of what possible reason Verstappen would have to stop his teammate from securing P2 in the drivers’ championship even though he has already wrapped up P1 therefore it would have no effect on his position or 2022 campaign.

2022 Sao Paulo Grand Prix

The penultimate round of the 2022 F1 World Championship will take place in Brazil in front of a carnival-like atmosphere. After a very entertaining sprint race, the front of the grid is locked out by Mercedes for the first time this season. Can they finally win a Grand Prix this season after a year of developing their troublesome car? Or will RedBull use the extra set of soft tyres they have to their advantage?

Both Mercedes and Redbulls led away line astern, Norris in front of the Ferraris as the field all made it through the first 4 corners cleanly. Ricciardo and Magnussen came together later in the lap causing an instant safety car with the cars damaged and stranded on the track. Replays showed Ricciardo just missed his breaking point and tapped the Haas driver into a spin, the Haas then backed into the McLaren as it was coming to a stop.

Hamilton and Verstappen coming together at the safety car restart. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The race restarted on lap 7, and once again Hamilton and Verstappen come together as they always seem to do when in combat. Norris and Leclerc also made contact during the first restarted lap. Leclerc managed to get back onto the track and continue. Verstappen needed to pit for a new front wing. Hamilton fell back to 8th but continued.

By lap 11 Russell was leading Perez in the RedBull by 1.5 seconds. Hamilton moved ahead of Vettel and into P5 at the end of lap 13.

As that happened it was confirmed Verstappen and Norris had received 5 second time penalties for their parts in the earlier collisions. The world champion was not happy over the pit radio.

Lap 18 saw Sainz in the lead Ferrari pit for softs, he rejoined P12 behind the Williams of Albon. He quickly dispatched the Williams. The Ferrari driver was making the most of the new soft tyres by passing Stroll just two laps later.

A good stop by Mercedes for Russell. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The sister Ferrari pitted on lap 22, returning to the track down in 17th. The chances of Leclerc getting P2 in the title hunt looked to be disappearing. His rival for that position, Perez, pitted on lap 24 and was back out in 6th but in traffic. Mercedes reacted straight away and pitted leader George Russell. He came back out in second but was still 4 seconds ahead of Perez.

At the start of lap 25, Hamilton led, Verstappen pitted and took his five second penalty but seemed to have a slow stop as well. The retiring ex-world champion Vettel pitted on lap 27, showing well in the Aston Martin in P9.

There was some good racing in the midfield today between Bottas, Gasly and Vettel. Bottas was in great form, making it past Vettel and Gasly using DRS to his full advantage before Vettel followed passed the Alpha Tauri.

Sainz pitted for the second time on lap 37, a new set of mediums fitted to the Ferrari. Would he be able to make it to the end of them?

Somehow despite collisions and penalties Norris and Leclerc had found themselves on the same piece of the track again. On lap 43 the Ferrari made it passed the McLaren. A lap later Hamilton took second place from Perez, The Mercedes looking the best they have all year.

With all the excitement going on Verstappen had quietly made his way up to P9, stalking Norris in the McLaren. The McLaren pitted on lap 46 moving Verstappen up to 6th as two others pitted on the same lap.

Perez had his second stop on lap 48, returning to the track in 4th almost 12 seconds behind Sainz in 3rd.  Hamilton was next in for soft tyres, followed by leader Russell a lap later. With 21 laps left it was Rusell leading Sainz by 1.5 seconds, Hamilton a further 6 seconds back with Perez 4.5 behind the Mercedes.

Norris in the McLaren stopped on lap 53 with an electrical issue, his car was in a dangerous place, bringing the VSC into play. Sainz pitted losing positions to Hamilton and Perez. With Marshalls struggling to move the stricken McLaren the Safety car made its way onto the track.

A 12-lap shoot-out began as the Safety car pulled in. Leclerc had managed to get up to P5 and could somehow get a podium. Sainz and Perez battled through the first three turns with neither making ground on the other,

Sainz made it up to P3 with a great move on Perez on lap 63. A lap later and Leclerc also passes the RedBull. Alonso is next up behind the RedBull and was looking fired up. The Spaniard made his move on lap 65, another great drive from the veteran.

Redbull told Verstappen to go for it and take much-needed points off Leclerc and Alonso to help Perez out. Leclerc, thinking the same also radios Ferrari to ask Sainz to move aside. Ferrari ignored his requests.

Team orders gone wrong at RedBull. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

RedBull’s switch came with a promise to Perez that they would switch back if Verstappen couldn’t pass Leclerc. However, on the final lap, the team asked, and Verstappen did not comply. This led to what can only be described as ‘spicy’ radio messages at the end of the race.

Back at the front Russell went across the line to win his first-ever GP, a great performance with zero mistakes all day long. Following him over the line was Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Alonso, Verstappen, Perez, Ocon, Bottas and Stroll rounding out the top ten.

Well, that was some race, Brazil always seems to provide a great race whether it’s wet or dry. The first Mercedes 1-2 of the year. It bodes well for next season.

One more race left this season and they return to Abu Dhabi next weekend.

Russell Wins Saturday Sprint in Sao Paulo

George Russell has claimed his maiden F1 race win in Sao Paulo, winning the sprint race ahead of Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton. This means Russell will start tomorrow’s race from pole position.

George Russell fought hard to claim his maiden victory and win the sprint race in Brazil. It took three attempts but, on lap 15, he finally bested this year’s champion, Max Verstappen, to take the lead. Russell quickly pulled out a comfortable lead and left the pack to scrap for the remaining podium places.

Carlos Sainz, who started in 5th, ended the day with a 2nd place medal around his neck. Lewis Hamilton, having recently been granted honourary Brazilian citizenship, delighted fans as he claimed the final podium position.

Verstappen found himself in the lead on lap 3 when he passed pole-sitter, Kevin Magnussen, on the start-finish straight. However, as he tried to continue his clean sweep of sprint race wins this season, Verstappen struggled and eventually ended the race in 4th. Magnussen was eventually shuffled down to 8th to take the final championship point – a result he was still thrilled with.

It was a very frustrating day for Charles Leclerc, much like Friday’s qualifying. After a mistake by the team left him unable to qualify above 10th, he failed to make waves in the sprint race and eventually made it up to 6th. Just ahead of him, in 5th, was his nearest championship rival, Sergio Perez.

For tomorrow’s race, thanks to a grid penalty for Sainz, we will have a front-row lockout for Mercedes – their first in 2022. Verstappen and Perez will line up just behind them to start in 3rd and 4th respectively. Both Ferarri drivers will have a difficult day ahead, as Leclerc lines up in 5th with Sainz in 7th, after his penalty for an engine change. Having qualified in 11th, Alex Albon will have to start tomorrow’s race in last place after spinning out of the race on lap 13.

However, there could still be movement amongst the grid as we have a number of drivers under investigation. Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Zhou Guanyu, who finished in 3rd, 11th and 13th respectively, are being investigated for a start procedure infringement. This is suspected to be an issue with their position within their grid boxes. Pierre Gasly, who finished in 10th, is under investigation for driving too slowly on his way to the grid. Both Alpine drivers are also under investigation for a mid-race clash, adding further woes to their dramatic day.

The 24-lap race was packed with action from start to finish, providing a much-needed boost to the debated sprint race format. In 2023, we will have 6 sprint races with the format still yet to be decided. It is clear that today’s showing will have helped its cause.

 

AS IT HAPPENED

As he made his way around the track for the formation lap, pole-sitter Magnussen was told by his team to “have fun”, and that’s certainly what he did. The Haas driver enjoyed a brilliant start and quickly pulled a nice lead ahead of the rest of the grid, who quickly started to battle hard. Verstappen, starting in 2nd, seemed to get swallowed by those around him but eventually came out on top to retain 2nd place.

One of the toughest battles on the opening lap was between Alpine teammates, Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. As Alonso attempted a move for 6th place, he was pushed wide and onto the kerb. As he tried to maintain control of the car, he twitched and made contact with the side of Ocon’s car. Alonso emerged unscathed whilst Ocon was left with a hole in his sidepod. The following lap saw Alonso again try a move for 6th. This time, Ocon made a very late defensive move and Alonso clipped his rear tire and broke his front wing.

Image Credit: Formula 1

Forced to pit for a new front wing, Alonso dropped to the back of the grid and his race was effectively over. As Alpine continue its fierce championship battle with McLaren, this lack of points will be a blow for the French team.

As the pack settled into their rhythm, it was Lance Stroll and Mick Schumacher who enjoyed the best starts – Stroll gaining 3 places and moving up to 12th, with Schumacher gaining 4 places and moving up to 16th.

It seemed overtakes were happening up and down the grid, with Hamilton taking 5th from Lando Norris and Magnussen quickly dropping from 1st to 4th – he was first passed by Verstappen, then Russell and Sainz who sat in the top three, in that order, for the early stages of the race.

By lap 7, it felt like things were settling down a little, but Russell was still within DRS range of Verstappen and looking hungry for the win.

On lap 9, it was the turn of the Aston Martin teammates to start their battle as they fought for 11th. At the pitlane exit, Lance Stroll pushed Sebastian Vettel off the track and onto the grass, with an excessively aggressive move. Taking to the radio, Vettel’s response was a simple “OK”, but this move was quickly noted by the stewards and Stroll was awarded a 10-second penalty for a “dangerous manoeuvre”.

As the pair started the next lap, lap 10 of 24, Vettel finally made his way past his teammate on the start-finish straight, to claim 11th place.

It was at the halfway point of the race that Russell started to make himself known to Verstappen. He first attempted a move around the outside of turn 1 but struggled to get ahead. The same move on lap 13 also failed to give him the lead but he continued to battle for the rest of the lap.

At this point, Verstappen took to the radio to tell his team that he has hit some debris – this is likely to have come from Alonso’s broken front wing and could have caused damage to the champion’s car. Shortly after this message, on lap 15, he lost the lead to Russell who quickly pulled a gap of 2 seconds.

The previous time penalty didn’t seem to deter Stroll and he was soon back in action, this time with Haas driver Schumacher as the pair fought for 12th. An incredibly late and defensive move from Stroll, which almost caused Schumacher to drive into the back of him, was also noted by the stewards. At the time when the race ended, no decision had yet come from race direction on this incident.

In the dying laps of the race, with Russell now 2 seconds clear of the pack, a huge scrap started between Verstappen, Sainz and Hamilton. It became clear that Verstappen was either struggling on the medium tires or had been significantly affected by the previous debris that he hit – he was visibly struggling to keep control of the Red Bull, which was twitching as he tried to defend 2nd place.

As Sainz made his move and overtook Verstappen for 2nd, there was contact between the pair. Adding to the Dutchman’s woes, his front wing end plate flew off as a result of the contact. It was then just a matter of corners until he lost 3rd to Hamilton.

On lap 21, with just 3 laps remaining, Sainz jumped on the radio to inform his team that he was “running out of tires”. This prompted Mercedes to encourage Hamilton to “keep the pressure on” as he kept Sainz in view. Despite keeping with DRS range, Hamilton simply couldn’t get close enough to make a move for 2nd.

Meanwhile, further down the grid, Norris took 7th place from pole-sitter Magnussen, who was now in the final points position in 8th.

With 2 laps remaining, Perez was quickly catching his teammate in 4th and he asked his engineers if he would be given the position – a fair question as his battle with Charles Leclerc for 2nd in the championship heats up. However, the chequered flag came too soon for the Mexican and he was forced to settle for 5th.

As the chequered flag fell, it was Russell who crossed the line in a comfortable 1st place, nearly 4 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.

The action wasn’t just reserved for on the track, though, as Esteban Ocon’s Alpine caught fire in parc ferme. This was the result of contact with his teammate in the race and resulted in the post-race interviews quickly moving to the grid, rather than the pitlane.

Feature Image Credit: Formula 1

A Danish Pole in a Damp Brazil

Kevin Magnussen ends a Friday evening qualifying session on pole ahead of the Sprint tomorrow. Haas timed his Q3 run perfectly, getting out ahead of everyone else he was able to put in the fastest lap before a red flag and the pouring rain meant he will start at the front in Brazil.

As Q1 began the rain had stopped but the track was still damp, so everyone made their first runs on intermediate tyres. The battle for pole was expected to be between RedBull and Ferrari with Mercedes having issues with grip in FP1.

Hamilton improving during Q1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

However, it wasn’t long before the track started to dry out, so the lap times kept tumbling down. Hamilton saw the first indication of this as he set the quickest in the final sector in the first runs of Q1 with Alonso going to P1 with 10 mins to go.

Gasly was the first to brave the slicks but sadly couldn’t make them work fast enough meaning his first lap was a bit cautious. However, he was able to build up some heat in the softs and put it at the top of the time sheets.

Seeing this, Ferrari brought Leclerc in for a stop, but the camera showed a shot of the Monegasque in the pit box with no tyres on. The mechanics scrambled out of the garage with what appeared to be new soft tyres. Just more strategic in-decision from Ferrari.

With two and a half minutes left of Q1, it was officially time for slicks, so every driver was on soft tyres trying to put in a decent time as there was a threat of rain still hanging in the air. Albon went with the improved times and was able to top the time sheets himself proving that Williams still has good pace.

As the chequered flag fell on Q1 Leclerc was down in the bottom five and was getting caught behind Tsunoda but was able to put in one final lap to make it into Q2. Ricciardo miss timed his last lap and crossed the line just seconds after the flag came out but luckily was safe after everyone else had finished their laps.

The biggest shock was both Alfa Romeo’s out in Q1, qualifying in P16 and P17 respectively. They were joined but Stroll, Schumacher, and Latifi.

Latifi not able to make it into Q2 again. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Q2 began and this meant that DRS was now enabled as the track was declared dry so an improvement in lap times was to be expected. Starting as they ended in Q1, Mercedes, RedBull and Ferrari came out on scrubbed tyres compared to all the other teams which had new tyres.

After a message from Russell, when many drivers were reporting rain around the back of the circuit, Mercedes changed both drivers to new tyres as they were in the bottom five. Luckily for the team, the call paid off and both drivers were able to massively improve meaning they were P3 and P4 when the rain began to come down harder with four minutes to go.

However, in the final couple of minutes, the harder rain may have eased off with every driver improving their times before the end of the session. It all seemed to go back to normality just for a session as it stayed dry. Out in Q2 were Albon, Gasly, Vettel, Ricciardo, and Stroll.

Gasly out in Q2 after a strong Q1 performance. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

Q3 started and the sky had gotten darker, but importantly it was still dry. Ferrari decided to split the strategy by going out on inters with rain potentially on its way in a matter of minutes.

This would be a terrible decision by Ferrari as Leclerc didn’t come in immediately so had to do a lap on the intermediates before coming in for soft tyres. This was also an issue for Perez, who had gotten stuck behind Leclerc going slower n the incorrect tyres.

Whilst we were all consumed by the Leclerc, Ferrari drama Russell ended up beaching himself at turn 4. He locked up and skipped across the gravel, managing to stay out of the barrier but buried himself while avoiding a major incident. This then brought out the red flag.

Magnussen was on provisional pole as the session was stopped to recover the Mercedes. This opened up the very real possibility of the Dane starting at the front of an open-wheeled series for the first time since 2013 in formula Renault 3.5. With the rain coming down and light fading the fans waited with bated breath to see what might happen.

Q3 was restarted but by this point, the rain had begun to come down hard and with a wet track improvements to lap times seemed to be impossible. Perez came out for a sight lap and Hamilton scrubbed a set of intermediates for tomorrow’s Sprint, but the remainder of the cars stayed in the garage.

A very frustrated Leclerc went to talk to his team on the pit wall after a botched strategy means he will start in P10. Russell managed to save his position in P3 with Verstappen in P2, but all eyes were on the Haas garage as the time ticked down on Q3 and the team could start to celebrate their first-ever Formula 1 pole position.

It is a massive achievement for the team and for Magnussen who was understandably in shock when interviewed at the end of qualifying. The grid is a Haas sandwich with Schumacher starting in P20, but it is all set up to be a fascinating action-packed race over half distance before Sunday’s race.

Magnussen on pole for the Sprint. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

F1 Weekend Preview: Brazil Brings the Final 2022 Sprint

The penultimate round of the season takes us to São Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix where we see the final sprint race of 2022. For Verstappen this year there is no threat as both championships are sealed, but further down the grid, everything is to play for.

The Best of the Rest is Up for Grabs

Ricciardo putting in a good performance in Mexico. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Alpine and McLaren have been locked in a battle all season for P4 in the constructor’s championship but in the last few races, with an improvement in Ricciardo’s performances and Alpine’s reliability problems, the gap has closed to just seven points.

McLaren will be doing everything in their power to get ahead of the French time in the last doubleheader and a sprint race may be what they need to gain extra points.

Behind them, Aston Martin sits just four points back from Alfa Romeo in P6 while Haas is clinging on to P8 by just one point from AlphaTauri. As we get into the last two rounds of the season every point for these teams will be crucial and reliability issues or driver errors could make the difference in the vital prize money awarded to each team.

Cautious Gasly

Another factor playing on the minds at AlphaTauri for the last two rounds will be the number of penalty points Gasly has gained. He now has 10 points, five of which were given in the last three rounds.

Gasly in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

In Japan he was penalised for speeding under red flag conditions, he was more than 10 car lengths behind the car in front of him during the safety car period in Austin and in Mexico, he was given another point for leaving the track and gaining and advantage in a battle with Lance Stroll.

The French driver is now only two points away from an automatic race ban so he will need to be weary in Brazil so he can compete in the last race at Abu Dhabi. Additionally, these points take a full year to be erased from his license, which means a potential race ban will hang over him until May 2023 at his new team, Alpine. Not an ideal start to a new season with a new team.

The 2023 Driver Line-up is Not Complete

The majority of the grid for next season has been decided, however, the future still seems uncertain for Hass and Riccardo as we are yet to have any official announcements for their plans next year.

Haas have not confirmed the driver taking the seat alongside Magnussen however the options look pretty clear. It appears a straight choice between Mick Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg who both appear to be at a loose end for next season.

Schumacher’s Ferrari contract will run out at the end of the 2022 season and has not been renewed. Further to this, he has made a few driver errors over the last few years and Gunther Stainer has been candid and said that they cost the small team huge amounts of money in spare parts.

Is Hulkenberg a possibility for 2023? Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Hulkenberg looks to be untied from the Aston Martin outfit as he was not mentioned in the Vandoorne announcement a few weeks ago. With experience, this could be a good fit for the Banbury-based team, but he hasn’t had a full-time drive since 2019 and could be expensive in terms of salary for Haas.

We are expecting confirmations before the end of the season so it is worth keeping an eye out for those.

Verstappen takes record-breaking Mexican GP victory

Max Verstappen became the first man in Formula One history to win fourteen races in a season with victory at the Mexican Grand Prix, as the Mercedes challenge failed to materialise on race day.

A different tyre strategy gave Mercedes hope of a first victory of the season, but Lewis Hamilton had to settle for second once again, with Sergio Perez coming home in third place.

The race start. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The start of the race turned out to be crucial, with pole position traditionally not the best at this circuit due to the 800m run towards turn one. Red Bull started Verstappen and Perez on the softs to give themselves the best chance versus the medium-shod Mercedes cars, and it worked out with Verstappen able to retain the lead, and Perez able to get ahead of Russell. Barring pitstops, it remained that way in the top four, with Ferrari unable to challenge in what was the Italian squad’s slowest weekend of the season.

Given the high altitude nature of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez stretches the cars’ cooling to the limit, it was perhaps unsurprising to see the field managing their cars throughout the early stages. Despite this, Red Bull weren’t able to stretch their soft tyres much beyond lap 20, with Perez the first of the front-runners to pit on lap 23, and Verstappen coming in two laps later. Both were put on medium tyres, raising the question as to whether they’d be able to manage these enough to get to the end, or whether they’d go aggressive and push for a two-stop strategy.

The pace of these fresh mediums was clear to see, especially on Perez’s car, with the Mexican setting fastest lap after fastest lap as a cacophony of cheers followed him around the circuit. Mercedes were forced to react to stop Hamilton from being undercut by Perez, with the Brit coming in on lap 29 for hard tyres.

George Russell was adamant that he wanted to stay out on the mediums for as long as possible, in an attempt to change to the soft tyres at the end of the race. Eventually, he was called in on lap 34, again for a set of hard tyres.

Verstappen leading Hamilton. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Mercedes were hoping that the mediums would degrade enough to give them a chance of taking victory for the first time this season, but Hamilton spent most of his second stint looking in the rearview mirrors at Perez, rather than closing the gap to Verstappen. Although the Mexican did briefly get within DRS range of the Mercedes, Hamilton’s superior pace through the final sector meant that, as was the case last year, an overtake was never really an option. From here on in the positions looked set in stone, with Verstappen, Hamilton and Perez cruising home to take the podium places, as Russell finished in fourth place after a late stop for softs, in order to secure the fastest laps. Carlos Sainz finished in fifth place ahead of Charles Leclerc in sixth, with the Monegasque driver now dropping behind Perez in the fight for second in the standings.

As is often the case in Formula One, it was the midfield that provided most of the action. Fernando Alonso led this pack for the majority of the race, after jumping the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas at the start. Unfortunately, reliability problems struck the Spaniard once again, and he retired for the fifth race this season, in what could be a big blow in Alpine’s battle with McLaren for fourth in the championship.

One of the few drivers to go for a medium-soft strategy was Daniel Ricciardo, and he utilised the red-walled Pirellis superbly, securing seventh place despite picking up a ten-second penalty for a collision with Yuki Tsunoda, which led to the Japanese driver’s retirement. Ricciardo overtook Lando Norris, Bottas, Alonso and Esteban Ocon in the final stint – in what was by far the Australian’s strongest showing this season. Ocon came home eighth ahead of Norris, with Bottas holding on to take tenth for his first points since the Canadian Grand Prix in June.

Ricciardo’s pace on the softs at the end may have left many drivers wondering what could have happened to their races if they had gone longer in the first stint – notably Hamilton and Russell. Mistakes from both drivers in qualifying helped Verstappen to secure pole position. Still, the Dutchman’s pace on race day was once again on a different level – with Verstappen also now having the record for most points in a Formula One season, with two races still to go. However, as Max is one of the first to admit, the points system and amount of races in a season now mean these records are perhaps easier to secure in the modern era.

After a week that was dominated by talk of cost-cap punishments, Red Bull will be glad they could do their talking on the track once again – in what is now their most successful season in the sport. With Brazil and Abu Dhabi still to come, you’d be a brave person to bet against Red Bull and Verstappen securing the top step on the podium once again this season.

F1 Race Weekend Preview: Mexico

Three rounds left to go, and both championships wrapped up but that doesn’t stop the action. Mexico is next with plenty of off-track drama to chat about before the on-track drama begins.

Haas vs Alpine vs RedBull vs The Stewards

During the US Grand Prix Alonso hit the back of Stroll after the Aston Martin made a late move down the back straight. This sent the front end of the Alpine into the air before brushing a barrier. Luckily for the Spaniard, he was able to get his car back to the pits for the team to change the tyres and front wing. However, it appeared his wing mirror was not attached properly and came off during the race.

Perez with his damaged wing. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The RedBull of Perez also had an issue with body parts falling off. After a first lap incident part of his front wing was flapping around for several laps before flying across the track. The team decided not to change his wing through the entire race because he would lose too much track position.

After the race, Haas protested against both RedBull and Alpine which led to a 30-second time penalty for Alonso, dropping him outside the points. Alpine has since contested the result and will be a part of a hearing, scheduled to take place today. The protest regarding Perez was seen as inadmissible by the stewards.

The problem actually lies with the stewards. They should have brought out the black and orange for both cars like they have done with Magnussen many times this season. This looks to be another case where the teams are coming out worst off from a decision which they should have made during the race by the stewards. This is likely to cause many rumours throughout the paddock.

Perez takes on his Home Race in a Championship Winning Car

Sergio Pérez celebrates after the Red Bull Racing Showrun in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

This year there is no doubt which team has been able to capitalise the most in races, and with both championships wrapped up, this may be Perez’s chance to be the first Mexican to win his home Grand Prix.

It has been no secret that Perez has had to play number two driver this year and last year, the difference now is that there is no need for the team to favour Verstappen to gain points for his championship. This means that Perez has everything behind him to win the race. However, performances have not been on his side lately.

Whilst overall he is still an extremely quick driver, he has struggled to keep up with his teammate as well as the Ferraris and often both Mercedes. He will be hoping for a turnaround in form so he can give the home crowd something to cheer about.

Qualifying is on Saturday at 9pm BST and the race starts at 8pm on Sunday.

RedBull do the 2022 Double after Verstappen Recovers from Slow Pitstop

Verstappen makes it a double championship win for RedBull in 2022 after putting in a great recovery drive when he had a slow second pit stop. Hamilton finished P2 after leading the race for several laps before being inevitability overtaken by the frustrated and incredible quick Verstappen.

After penalties were applied Sainz still started on pole, but Verstappen was alongside him with a second-row lockout for Mercedes. Leclerc and Perez would have to make their way through the pack if they wanted to have a chance at a podium.

Russell was given a 5-second time penalty for the turn one incident with Sainz. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

A great start from Verstappen to take the lead on the inside of turn one which proved to be all-important as Sainz collides with Russell who was on the inside of Hamilton of the line. Russell locked up into turn one as Sainz came back across the track, spinning the Ferrari and meaning he had to retire the car with a water leak.

With the change up front, this meant that coming out of the first corner Stroll ended up in P3 between the Mercedes. The Canadian had a brilliant start from P5 and capitalised on the drama for the pole man. We were then back to 2021 with Verstappen leading Hamilton, Stroll, Russell, and Vettel in P5, who was making the most of the Aston Martin pace this weekend.

By lap 10 however, Perez and Leclerc were back up with the leading pack. Vettel was under threat from the Ferrari while Perez made short work of the Aston Martin pair to be in P4 behind Russell. However, the Mexican had picked up damage from a lap one incident, so his front wing was compromised.

As drivers came into the pits to change tyres most were opting for the hard tyres. Bottas was yet to pit when, on lap 18, he spun on the exit of turn 19 and ended up in the gravel pointing in the wrong direction. This brought out the safety car and gave Leclerc a cheap pit stop bringing him right back into the mix for the lead.

Safety Car deployed. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Verstappen went early on the restart, but Hamilton went with him leaving Perez behind. By the time they got to the start-finish line, there were gaps forming at the front while battles ensued behind them.

Out of turn, one Alonso was gaining on Stroll at a rapid pace. Alonso moved towards the inside on the run down to turn two, but Stroll put on a very late defensive move. Alonso couldn’t avoid the rear right corner of the Aston, lifting the front of the Alpine in the air and having an extremely high-speed crash with debris spread everywhere.

Both drivers were ok with Alpine able to put new tyres and a front wing on Alonso’s car so he could carry on. Stroll’s car was very second-hand and therefore brought out the safety car again while they recovered the stricken vehicle.

At the second safety car restart, everyone got away well while Ocon and Magnussen were side by side into turn one. Ocon coming out on top in that battle. Perez was able to keep ahead of Leclerc but just a few laps later Leclerc was on the tail of the RedBull.

Lap 30, and Leclerc used DRS to get alongside Perez down the back straight but couldn’t slow down in time for the corner and went wide. One lap later the Ferrari had another go, this time using the inside line to put a late lunging move on Perez which the Monaquase made stick.

Redbull brought Verstappen in for his second stop on lap 16 but it was slow as there was an issue with the front left wheel gun. To make matters worse for RedBull, Ferrari had brought in Leclerc and managed to get him out in front of Verstappen. This was now a fight back to the front for the current world champion.

Three laps later Verstappen had closed the gap to Leclerc meaning he was able to make a move down the inside of turn one. Leclerc used the switch back though to hang on to the P2. However, coming down the back straight Verstappen still had DRS and this time made a clinical move to take P2 from Ferrari and start to close the gap on Hamilton in the lead.

Hamilton leads the rapid RedBull. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

With 10 laps to go, every Mercedes and Hamilton fan was on the edge of their seats as Verstappen ever so slightly closes the gap each lap. It appeared to start with that the 3.5-second gap may be enough, with the drivers exchanging equal lap times each lap.

Despite this Verstappen was able to gain ground on the Mercedes and used DRS to take Hamilton into turn one with six laps to go. We will have to wait for the final few rounds to see if Hamilton can keep his record of winning in every F1 season he has competed in.

Just when we thought the drama was over Track limit warnings began to appear for Verstappen. He was given a black-and-white flag with 4 laps to go meaning all Hamilton had to do was stay within five seconds of Verstappen if he got a penalty. Hamilton himself then got a black and white flag trying to keep up with the RedBull so he decided to back off and settle for P2.

Winning the race for RedBull means it is mathematically impossible for another team to catch them in the constructors. With Sainz out early, however, this was almost sealed by the end of lap one. The cost cap debate still looms over RedBull, but to win the double is a fitting tribute to their founder Dietrich Mateschitz.

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