Hamilton on top in Qatar!

Hamilton wins the inaugural Qatar GP with Verstappen in P2 to bring the gap down in the championship. Alonso back on the podium since Hungry 2014 with a very solid performance. Tyre drama in the closing stages of the race meant the one stop strategy didn’t work for most that tried it, Russell, Latifi and Bottas suffering from punctures.

After another night waiting for the stewards to make a decision, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas got a 5 place and 3 place penalty respectively. This meant that Verstappen would start P7, Bottas P6 but importantly Gasly started on the front row with Alonso starting P3. All set to add to the drama of the 2021 Formula 1 championship!

Lights out and Hamilton immediately covered the inside from a very quick Alonso and Gasly. Verstappen made up 3 places in the first few corners with Alonso making a great move down the inside of Gasly. Bottas meanwhile had an awful start, losing 5 places in the first lap. Vettel was another driver who lost 7 places after a going very wide in turn 1.

Sergio Perez Valtteri Bottas  battle for track position round turn one at the start  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/RedBull Content Pool)

Lap 3 and the call came through from Verstappen that he was “stuck” behind Gasly. Told to let Verstappen past, Gasly went wide in the final corner on lap 4, allowing Verstappen to get through. Just 1 lap later Verstappen made an easy DRS move past Alonso, meaning normal business was resumed by lap 5 with Hamilton P1 and Verstappen P2.

Perez making good progress 10 laps in, resulting in Toto Wolff encouraging Bottas to overtake the cars in front because he hadn’t gained any places since the start. Lance Stroll went wide in 2nd to last corner, allowing Bottas to gain DRS. However, the battle was between Stroll, Bottas and Tsunoda with the Japanese driver in front at the start of the main straight but behind both drivers by the end. It was 1 lap later that Bottas managed to get past Stroll.

It seems encouragement is all Bottas needed, making up a further 2 places by lap 15. The race was now on between Perez and Bottas for the final podium place. With a full pitstop over P3 and flying out front, it looked like this would be Hamilton’s race to lose. Verstappen appeared to be struggling with damage and couldn’t keep up with Lewis.

Lap 18 and Verstappen was the first to pit. Hoping that the new set of hard tyres would help him close the gap. Mercedes immediately responded stopping Hamilton for hard tyres, comfortably coming out ahead of the RedBull. With a pitstop over P3 both drivers came back out in their own positions. RedBull then pitted Perez in an attempt to get Bottas to stop as well. However, Mercedes strategist’s saw more opportunities for Bottas with a one stop strategy so left him out for a longer stint on the mediums.

Max Verstappen makes a pitstop (Photo by Hamad I Mohammed – Pool/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

A lock up from Leclerc into turn 1 on lap 27 meant that Alonso could overtake on the inside, but Perez attempted to go through on the outside, ending up on the green tarmac. Into turns 2 and 3 Perez had the inside line and managed to get past Leclerc. Just 2 laps later Alonso was within his sights, pulling an almost identical move to get past the 2-time champion. Alonso did fight back but Perez had the pace to get through drama free.

Lap 34 and disaster for Mercedes as Bottas got a front left puncture halfway around the circuit on his way back to the pit he sprinkled gravel onto the track. A replacement nose and new hard tyres he made it back out in P14. Pirelli said before the race that the mediums would do about 30 laps, Bottas completed 33 before the tyre began to delaminate. This had major consequences in the constructor’s championship with the gap only 5 points.

The call of vibrations were coming through from both front runners on lap 40. 2 laps later and RedBull pit Verstappen for medium tyres who had over a 50 second gap to his teammate who pitted the following lap. Mercedes responded again putting scrubbed mediums on Hamilton’s car, who maintained the 8.5 second gap comfortably coming out ahead of Verstappen.

Having come out in P7, Perez was back on the charge and Alonso was in the final podium position. 3 cars between Perez and Alonso with 10 laps to go, one being the other Alpine of Ocon. Alonso encouraging his teammate all the way to tell him to “defend like a lion”. However, the pace advantage of the RedBull was too much for the Alpine and Perez went around the outside of turn 1. The fight wasn’t over as in turns 5 and 6 Ocon came back but ran out of road and Perez made the move stick.

The tyres didn’t seem to be coping with the track. As Mercedes retired Bottas, Russell got a front left puncture after 31 laps with his hard tyres. Norris pitted just 1 lap before, the McLaren seeing the potential danger. Latifi went just 1 lap after Russell, front left tyre failure again. Unfortunately for Latifi it began to go on the main straight so decided to pull over on a service road around turn 10. This caused concern for Alonso who was on a 1 stop strategy and needed to complete 32 laps on his tyres. Alonso told to stay off the curbs.

Virtual safety car was deployed so that the marshals could recover the Williams of Latifi. Verstappen pitted for softs to try and retain fastest lap if he got the chance to go again. Despite the fact that the VSC ended halfway through the final lap, Verstappen maintain fastest lap to take that point away from Hamilton.

Hamilton won having led from start to finish, Verstappen finished P2, and Fernando Alonso finished P3 for the first time in 104 races! There are now 8 points between the championship rivals heading into the final race of the season. If Hamilton wins and takes fastest lap with Verstappen P2 in the next race they will be level on points for the finale.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Second placed Max Verstappen and Third placed Fernando Alonso celebrate on the podium (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

A Dominant Verstappen win with Perez in P3!

Max Verstappen wins with a dominant performance after a lap 1, turn 1 overtake. Hamilton finished P2 but local hero Perez finished in P3, celebrating with the crowd after an excellent performance.

After an unexpected first front row lock out of the season for Mercedes, the anticipation was high! With Bottas finally entering the battle this year it was thought that both teams would use both cars to full advantage and team orders would be in play.

Lights out and Hamilton got a better start than Bottas going side by side into turn 1 but Verstappen from behind had a blistering second phase and went around the outside of both Mercedes in turn 1 with Hamilton moving into P2. Bottas between them both began to back out, causing Perez to take avoiding action onto the grass but the McLaren of Ricciardo behind locked up and tapped Bottas on the inside spinning him. Further back Ocon, Schumacher and Tsunoda got caught up in the cars slowing and avoiding Bottas now facing the wrong way. Ocon was sandwich between Tsunoda on the inside and Schumacher on the outside, both hitting the Alpine and causing damage to their cars. This brought out the safety car before the end of lap 1.

Max Verstappen  leads Lewis Hamilton and the rest of the field at the start (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images/RedBull content pool)

On the restart and through the stadium section Verstappen launched leaving Hamilton to go through a slow corner and gets away comfortably. The rest of the pack followed suit with some attempts but no successful passes, with Giovinazzi challenging Sainz for P6 but not able to make it stick. Bottas was now out of play for Mercedes, the strategy needed to change as Hamilton fights the Bulls.

Lap 25 and the cat and mouse game between the championship rivals was in full swing with Verstappen managing to open up the gap. However, Perez was putting in a solid performance and it looked increasingly likely that Hamilton would spend most of the race defending from Perez rather than attacking Verstappen. Hamilton’s teammate had made his way up to P12, following Ricciardo all the way through the pack and were now behind Norris.

Hamilton was the first to pit on lap 30 but it didn’t work out for them coming out behind Leclerc in the Ferrari, who thankfully for Mercedes, pitted the next lap. This put Hamilton in P4, behind Gasly, but was nearly 2 seconds per lap faster than Verstappen on fresh hard tyres. Gasly pitted which meant Hamilton had clear air, at this point both RedBull’s said their tyres were good and looked to be going longer.

Max Verstappen leads Lewis Hamilton (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images/RedBull content pool)

However, lap 33 and car number 33 came in for a quick stop from the team. Importantly he was now on fresh mediums comfortably ahead of Hamilton. Sergio Perez was leading the race having not pitted. He is the first Mexican driver to lead a Mexican Grand Prix. Often known as a master on the tyres, he stayed out for a longer stint saying that the tyres were good and wanted Verstappen to hold up Hamilton while Perez was holding the lead.

On lap 40 Perez finally pitted for hard tyres, coming out behind Hamilton. Bottas pitted a lap later but had a very slow stop. The front left wheel nut got stuck, meaning he had a 12 second stop, bringing him out in P15. The Finn’s day going from bad to worse.

Sainz looking faster than Leclerc puts in the call for a team orders switch. In a bid to stay ahead Leclerc started to make mistakes. Eventually there was a clean swap between the 2 drivers.

Lap 56 and Perez had now closed the gap to Hamilton to 3 seconds, gaining nearly 3 tenths on him each lap. Hamilton begun to make unusual mistakes under pressure as he went off track at turn 12, bringing in the RedBull even more. Just 4 laps later Perez was within DRS, gaining on Hamilton every straight. Hamilton was also suffering behind a lapped Norris. Due to the turbulent air Hamilton couldn’t get within the 1.3 second requirement for Norris to be shown blue flags. When they eventually were shown, Norris moved aside and let both cars through, keeping the battle alive.

The Mercedes began to overheat in the traffic, Hamilton told to lift and coast to give the brakes a chance to cool. At this point Perez had dropped out of DRS and then caught in traffic it neutralised the battle for P2.

Verstappen was nearly 20 seconds in front on lap 65 and was dominating this race. However, Bottas pitted for a set of used soft tyres in an attempt to take away the fastest lap point from Verstappen. This was a strategy call from Mercedes because Bottas wouldn’t get the point for the lap as he was still down in P14.

With 1 lap to go Bottas pitted again for a fresh set of soft tyres because the positioning hadn’t worked for Mercedes. Perez was now back within the DRS range for 1 final charge at the 7 time world champ to get on the second step of the podium. However, through both DRS zones he couldn’t get quite close enough, so Hamilton manged to hang on to P2.

Max Verstappen won the Mexican Grand Prix but Bottas achieved fastest lap right at the end. Hamilton P2, but the home hero, Sergio Perez finished in P3. This is the first time a Mexican driver has been on the podium of his home Grand Prix, when this time last year he didn’t have a seat for the 2021 season. He put in a solid performance all race, chasing down Hamilton and added to RedBulls constructors’ points, meaning they now lead both championships. This is a great way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Adrian Newey’s first win in Formula 1.

Third placed Sergio Perez  celebrates in parc ferme. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/RedBull content pool)

Verstappen goes to Brazil next week with a 20 point lead over Hamilton. The gap is getting wider but 1 DNF could swing this championship either way. The pressure is still on both drivers to perform at their best to complete the job. The question now is can Verstappen hold onto his lead or can Hamilton use his experience to claw back the points?

The Chinese Grand Prix – New deal signed with the FIA

Formula One announce that they have signed a new deal with the Chinese Grand Prix organiser Federation of Automobile and Motorcycle Sports of People’s Republic of China and the Shanghai Administration of Sports and the Chinese Grand Prix Promoter, Juss Sports Group to extend their contract to 2025.

The race has been on the calendar since 2004 and seen some dramatic moments over the years. From Lewis Hamilton’s dramatic 2007 exit in the pitlane, to Nico Rosberg taking his maiden grand prix victory in 2012. Rubens Barrichello took the first victory in 2004 when driving for Ferrari and Fernando Alonso who had already wrapped up the world championship that year took victory in 2005 from pole. The Spaniard also took victory in 2013 for Ferrari. Mercedes have taken the most victories at the track with six wins. It is also the place that Michael Schumacher took his final victory during 2006, his last year at Ferrari.

Photo credit: Ferrari Media

Stefano Domenicali, President and CEO of Formula 1, said:

“This is great news for all of our fans in China and we are delighted to announce this agreement that will see us racing in Shanghai until 2025. Our partnership with the promoter Juss Sports is incredibly strong and we look forward to continuing our long-term partnership. While we are all disappointed, we could not include China on the 2022 calendar due to ongoing pandemic conditions, China will be restored to the calendar as soon as conditions allow and we look forward to being back with the fans as soon as we can.”

Of course, the race has been cancelled for the last two years due to the pandemic, so the promoter will be happy that they have secured the future of the event on the calendar for the next few years.

2021 US GP: A premature Mexican standoff, with a predictable winner

Max Verstappen took a closely fought win at Austin, but his Red Bull was good enough for him to get the 25 points, with the strategy being the tip of the iceberg.

The US Grand Prix proved to be less of a write-off for Red Bull and Verstappen than they thought. Coming in to this week’s race, team principal Christian Horner, team advisor Helmut Marko, and even Verstappen himself didn’t believe that their car had any chance beating the Mercedes at COTA – and for good reason.

Before last Sunday’s race, Mercedes had only lost twice at that track: in 2013, to Sebastian Vettel, and in 2018, to Kimi Raikkonen. Lewis Hamilton had won four times, with Valtteri Bottas getting the win in 2019.

Kimi Raikkonen took what is likely his last ever win in Formula One at the US Grand Prix in 2018 – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Press

All the odds were in favor of a Mercedes win once again, but it did not pan out that way.

The reason for this ‘upset’ – if you can call anything an upset during this up and down season – lies primarily in the temperature of the track.

Red Bull are known to be able to hold their tires in a better shape even in hot conditions. Austin proved to be one of those occasions where the sun blasted on the track for the whole three days of the event, and especially on Sunday, when the forecasted rain never came by – not even a cloud!

As a result, Verstappen was in an advantageous position, since he was able to maximise the potential of his tires, without worrying to much about their longevity. He, of course, managed his pace in order to preserve the tires’ life, but he didn’t hold back when he didn’t have to.

Verstappen drove a superbly consistent race to hold off Hamilton for the victory on Sunday – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

On the other hand, Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes had to play it safely for the better part of the race. They knew that they had to get Verstappen at the start, and they succeeded, since that was the only way that they could win the race given the circumstances. But they saw that Verstappen had the pace to keep up with Hamilton, staying below the one second-mark during the first 10 laps of the race, and that he pitted earlier than predicted. They then understood the necessity of going longer on their stints to try to combat the Austrians’ undercut attempts.

“I had a great start. The goal was to get in the lead and I finally got a good start – I’ve not had as good a start as that for a long time so I was really happy with it,” said Hamilton.

“Then it was just about staying clean and coming out ahead and holding onto it. It felt good at the time, to get into the lead, I thought ‘okay, this is step one’ but, as I said, they were just too quick.”

Hamilton took the lead on the first lap, before being pegged back by the rapid Verstappen – Courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

Indeed they were.

It was the confidence of Verstappen to keep a competitive pace with a semi-worn set of tires, especially on his last stint with the hard compound, that won him the race.

Based on the teams’ calculations, a car that wanted to overtake another car in front of it had to be at least 1.2 seconds faster than it. Hamilton was at the very best 0.6 seconds faster than Verstappen in the latter stages of the race, and when he got close to DRS range, he lost some of the downforce due to the Dutchman’s wave of dirty air, and the tires not gripping for Hamilton as much as they did before.

Red Bull played it out beautifully, but they did have the odds with them – even though they didn’t think they did until Saturday afternoon.

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)