Sainz Wins an Interesting Singapore GP

Carlos Sainz wins the Singapore Grand Prix through some intelligent driving under immense pressure from behind. Verstappen made up places but the Red Bulls were not in good form while the Mercedes team made an impressive strategy call to challenge for the lead.

The Ferrari’s away cleanly at the start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Lights out and Sainz got away cleanly but behind him Russell bogged down meaning Leclerc made it past the Mercedes before turn one. The challenge was now on for Leclerc, who started on softs, to keep up with his teammate in the first stint.

Slightly further back Hamilton had a great start to out-break Norris before heading around the outside of Russell but having to take to the escape road and then back on track. Hamilton eventually gave back both places and then settled into his P5 position for a while.

It wasn’t all clean racing on lap one as there was a small amount of contact between Tsunoda and Perez which led to the Alpha Tauri retiring a few corners later. Luckily for the drivers he was able to pull off the circuit safely and the race continued.

Verstappen had gained a place in the first couple of laps and was now on the tail of Magnussen. It was a tight battle between the pair but Verstappen took advantage of DRS to make it into P8. His next job was to chase down Gasly, however, on the hard tyres the Red Bull was still sliding around so Verstappen was told a few times to back off and cool the car down.

Verstappen trying to gain places early on. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

The race began to settle down while we waited for the first pit stop window to open. Sainz was managing the race well by keeping the pack close together, however, this meant that even 15 laps in, if the Spaniard had pitted from the lead, he would have come out in P17.

Just a few laps later Sargent ended up hitting the barrier around turn eight and damaging his front wing. Sargent was able to get back to the pits but not without leaving debris along the track and causing a safety car.

Ferrari took this opportunity to double stack. Most Ferrari fans waited with bated breath as this was the sort of thing that could ruin a Ferrari race, however they managed to pull it off… to a certain extent. 

Leclerc had backed up the pack in order to create himself a gap to allow the double stack to happen. Because of this a queue of cars formed behind him and all filed into the pit lane as the Monégasque needed to leave, so he had to be held in his pit box until there was a gap, which cost him track position.

In an interesting strategy call, Red Bull didn’t pit either of their cars as they had started with the hard tyres. However, Sainz came out ahead of Verstappen after his stop so the plan hadn’t paid off for the World Champion. This meant that he and Perez were on old tyres with everyone else of fresh hards around them at the restart.

The safety car restart. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

On lap 23 the safety car came in and Sainz had the lead from Verstappen who was struggling to defend against Russell. Just behind them Perez had to fend off Norris and Hamilton who were closing rapidly. 

Almost synchronised, Russell overtook Verstappen and Norris gained a place on the other Red Bull. Perez nearly left the door open for Hamilton but the Mexican was able to stay ahead for a few more corners before the Mercedes made a move stick using DRS.

This then became the trend for a few laps. The Red Bulls began to tumble with Norris and Hamilton gaining places on Verstappen in quick succession. Perez was at the start of a train of cars which led to an interesting battle between the Red Bull, Alonso, and Ocon. 

On lap 37 Alonso dived up the inside of Perez but went in deep and Perez was able to fight back. This opened the door for Ocon to join the fight which was getting closer and closer to the wall. Perez defended the inside of turn eight from Alonso but Ocon went around the outside of the Aston Martin to go side by side into the next few turns.

Ocon was able to make the move on Alonso stick for P8, and was able to pull off a switch back on Perez just a lap later. Alonso then saw his opportunity and overtook Perez a few corners later before the Red Bull headed into the pits for his tyre change.

Sainz at the front had been controlling the race at a decent but slow pace which meant the pack were still quite close together. By the time Perez exited the pit lane, he went from P9 to P18. The story wasn’t much better for Verstappen who came in one lap later from P6 to come back out P15.

Two laps after both Red Bulls changed tyres, the virtual safety car was deployed for Ocon who had stopped just before turn two with a gearbox issue. The top five had already passed the pit entry when the VSC came out but that didn’t stop Mercedes making a bold move.

They double stacked their cars on the next lap for some new mediums to come out P4 and P5 in clean air and only the top three ahead of them. Russell was ahead of Hamilton and it was a very aggressive call but as they headed out the VSC ended and both Brits were on a charge, closing in by two seconds per lap to the leaders. 

With 17 laps left it was now an incredible strategy race to see the Mercedes pushing in full force for the podium. Something we haven’t seen for a few seasons. Because of this, it wasn’t long before both cars were within the DRS range of Leclerc in P3.

Out of the corner Russell pulled out a switch back and won the battle of traction against Leclerc to take P3. One lap later and his teammate made a similar move to take P4 from the Ferrari. Now the hunt was on to claim P2 from Norris ahead.

The Mercedes were gaining on the leaders. Image courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1

The Mercedes were closing at an alarming rate, so Sainz came over the radio to ask for the gap to Norris on every lap for the last five laps. When told Norris was 0.8 seconds Sainz replied with ‘that’s the point’. In some very clever driving, Sainz kept Norris within DRS range to give the McLaren some help with speed down the straights. This not only helped Norris but also meant Sainz would likely keep hold of his win.

It was the final lap and the top four were still within 1.5 seconds. Both Mercedes were moving all over the road in a bid to get past Norris. However, with only a few corners to go, Norris tapped the wall on his rear right but came away unscathed. Russell behind him was not so lucky as he clattered the wall with his front right, breaking the suspension and going head first into the barrier. He was ok but had lost P3 right at the end for his teammate to claim the podium.

Sainz was able to break the Red Bull 2023 win streak by taking the win, Norris finished on the second step of the podium while Hamilton took P3.

It was a fascinating race which intrigued not only this Formula 1 fan but many around the world. We are at Suzuka next weekend which will likely see the Red Bulls back on form.

Verstappen Breaking Records at the Italian GP

Max Verstappen takes the win at the Italian Grand Prix, which means he has taken the record for 10 consecutive wins in a season. It wasn’t plain sailing for him and his teammate, but they came home with a 1-2, while Sainz rounded out the podium after starting on pole. 

The camera showed the stricken Alpha Tauri of Tsunoda as the front row began to line up on the grid after the formation lap. Unfortunately for him and the team, there was an immediate engine failure, which left the car in gear and therefore led to a second formation lap.

However, an aborted start meant that confusion ensued as the cars were parked on the grid with engines off while the teams were waiting at the gate to be let back onto the grid. The red flag was never brought out, but there was a delay of a few minutes before the engineers could be let onto the grid.

Despite this, after a 23-minute delay, we could get going with another formation lap.

The eventual race start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Lights out, and Sainz got off to a great start by cutting off Verstappen into turn one and holding on to the lead. Just behind them, Leclerc had tried to dive up the inside of Verstappen, but the door closed, and the attempt left room for Russell to put pressure on the Ferrari. Russell couldn’t make a move stick.

Both McLarens had a good start, with Piastri making up a place on Albon into turn one as the Williams driver got boxed in. Although the Willams in a straight line is very slippery, just one lap later, Albon was back up into P6.

It didn’t take long for Verstappen to become a hunter with Sainz the hunted. Leclerc couldn’t keep up with the leading pair as the Red Bull pushed the Ferrari all the way. Verstappen was always within the DRS zone and tried to make a move around the outside of turn one on lap six, but it didn’t pay off with Sainz defending well.

Slightly further back, on lap eight, Verstappen’s teammate was mounting a charge on the Mercedes of Russell as he tried a move that didn’t pay off. He built up pressure until lap 14 when Perez tried a move around the outside, outbraked himself, and went straight on which meant he had to give back the place he gained. Two laps later though, the Mexican took the inside line into turn one and this time the move stuck.

Sainz locked up before losing the lead to Verstappen. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Meanwhile, the Dutch Red Bull driver was closer to Sainz by a couple of tenths heading into the main straight. He tried around the outside of the Ferrari, and even though the move didn’t work, Sainz locked up, which meant Verstappen had better traction coming out of the corner. On lap 15, the inevitable happened into the chicane as the Red Bull had more speed than the Ferrari.

With the world champion unleashed, he gained a 1.5-second lead within one lap. The race began to settle as the pit stops started.

Struggling with tyres after locking up, Sainz was the first of the Ferrari drivers to come in. One lap later, the team pitted Leclerc; however, it was tight between the teammates, and they nearly touched as Leclerc came out of the pit lane. The Monegasque ended up staying behind his teammate, with Perez coming out behind them after his stop.

A similar story was unfolding with the two McLaren’s on lap 24. Norris was the first to pit, with Piastri changing his tyres the lap after. However, Piastri was on the inside of Norris into turn one as he came out from his stop, but unlike the Ferraris, the McLarens made contact. Luckily for both drivers, they were able to carry on, and the stewards decided to take no further action.

Hamilton was the last driver to stop, as he started on the hard tyres so he could go for a longer stint. Coming out from his stop, it didn’t take too long before his new mediums warmed up and he began to gain places on those now on hard tyres. He started with Alonso into turn one on lap 29.

The Mercedes wasn’t the only one on a charge. Norris had been chasing down Albon for several laps, when on lap 38, Norris made a move around the outside but went off the track and gained an advantage. He managed to give the place back and unfortunately for the Brit, this is where he would stay.

A few laps later, Hamilton could smell the chance to make a move on Piastri but couldn’t make it stick. Towards the end of the lap, Hamilton was within the DRS zone of the McLaren and looked for a move on the inside but opted for the switch back, getting better traction out of the corner. Hamilton was mostly in font heading towards the chicane but, crucially, not completely past. 

As Hamilton moved towards the racing line, his back wheel made contact with the front of Piastri’s car, damaging the McLaren’s front wing. Both drivers were able to carry on, but Piastri did need to pit for a new front wing, and Hamilton got a five-second time penalty for causing a collision.

While this was happening, Perez had gained a place on Leclerc to put him on the podium and was chasing down P2. It wasn’t long before Perez was within the DRS zone of Sainz, and he used that to his advantage on lap 46, where he made it past Sainz.

This meant the final five laps were all about which Ferrari would be in P3. The radio call came saying, ‘Still race, but no risk’, However, the teammates knew what was at stake. Leclerc kept the pressure on right until the final lap, where he had a huge lockup and nearly took out both cars, Luckily, he avoided an accident, and Sainz finished in P3 with Leclerc in P4.

However, no one had an answer for Verstappen’s performance, as he crossed the line with a substantial lead over his teammate. A new record was broken, and the speed of the Red Bulls continues to be unmatched.

Next up is Singapore, which Verstappen has never won. Is that an omen or another record to extend?

2023 Italian GP Qualifying

Carlos Sainz has made the Tifosi’s dreams come true and secured pole position for tomorrow’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza. Celebrating on the track in front of the Ferrari fans the Spaniard who has been very quick all weekend put in one of the laps of his life to beat Max Verstappen by the smallest of margins.

Q1 began with everyone on the Hard Pirelli compound as this qualifying session was being used for the new mandatory tyre allocation strategy trial of hards being used for Q1, mediums for Q2  the softs for Q3.

Max Verstappen’s first lap of qualifying was deleted for exceeding track limits, He immediately pitted, came back out and went quickest by 0.338 from team mate Sergio Perez. They were followed by Fernando Alonso in the Aston Martin and then the Williams of Alex Albon.

The track was getting quicker as the session went on meaning the final runs would be crucial.

Ocon out after damage in Q1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

As the final runs ended Albon moved up to P2 with Leclerc also up to P3. At the other end Zhou, Gasly, Ocon, Magnussen, and Stroll were all out of qualifying.

Q2 started with both Ferrari drivers under investigation for not being under the new maximum time to get round for a lap to prevent everyone going slowly on their outlaws, This would be investigated after the session so the result of qualifying might be decided in the stewards room.

Once again Verstappen was first on track and immediately went to the top of the time sheets, Shortly after that Sainz in the Ferrari sent the Tifosi wild and went quickest by 0.044, Behind them was Leclerc and Albon in the flying Williams.

Surprisingly the Mercedes pair went out to the track later than everyone else, Even with the clear track they could only manage 6th and 12th.

All 15 cars left the garages at the same time leaving the pitlane looking like the worlds most expensive car park.

When the last runs finally began the Williams of Sargeant was at the front of the pack, he didn’t improve though and stayed 14th. Joining him in not making it trough were Tsunoda, Lawson, Hulkenberg and Bottas.

Hamilton making his way into Q3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

The top of the timesheet had a familiar look about it with Verstappen fastest with a 1.20.937 ahead of Leclerc, Sainz and Perez. Albon was next up continuing to impress in the Williams, Hamilton improved to 6th ahead of his team mate Russell. Completing the top 10 and making it to Q3 were Piastri, Alonso and Norris.

Q3 brought the inevitable excitement with Verstappen dipping a wheel into the gravel on his first lap but still managing to make the top 3, At the front it was Sainz from Leclerc, then Verstappen and Russell, Behind them were Albon, Perez, Norris , Piastri Hamilton and then Alonso.

The final runs of the session would be the ones to determine the grid for Sundays race.

Charles Leclerc went first and moved to provisional pole, then came Verstappen who beat him but he was then beaten by Sainz in the Ferrari with a scintillating lap time of 1.20.294, the top three separated by just 0.067

4th was George Russell, then came Perez, Albon, Piastri, Hamilton and Norris and Alonso closing out the top 10.

Sainz gets a pole at the home of Ferrari. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Almost immediately after the session was completed it was confirmed no further action was necessary for the Ferrari’s earlier transgression meaning Sainz had pole in a Ferrari at Monza.

Can the Tifosi get their dream result tomorrow or will Max Verstappen continue his run and win a 10th successive race.

Hamilton takes record ninth pole for Hungarian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has taken pole for tomorrow’s Hungarian Grand Prix – his first since 2021 – setting a record for the most number of pole positions at one circuit by one driver. He lines up ahead of Max Verstappen and Lando Norris, with the trio separated by only +0.085.

It was the first try-out of a new qualifying format, with drivers mandated to use only hard tyres in Q1, medium tyres in Q2 and soft tyres in Q3.

2023 Hungarian Grand Prix, Friday – Steve Etherington

McLaren locked out the second row, further delivering on their upgrades from the last round in Silverstone. Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu had a strong showing in fifth, having topped Q1 earlier.

Slightly further down in the top ten, Perez finally put an end to his run of Q1 eliminations and lines up P9 on the grid for tomorrow’s race.

In his first qualifying session back in F1 – having been brought in as a replacement for Nyck de Vries at Alpha Tauri – Daniel Ricciardo ended up P13, with team-mate Yuki Tsunoda in P17.

Although Mercedes have reason to celebrate with Hamilton’s pole, it was not an entirely great day for the team. George Russell complained about traffic on the build-up to his last Q1 lap and wasn’t able to improve, finding himself all the way down in P18.

Verstappen’s clean sweep in Austria amongst Track Limit Dramas.

Verstappen took a clean sweep in Austria with Leclerc in P2 and Perez making a great recovery drive to finish on the podium. But, late penalties meant the on-track finishing positions changed hours after the race. 

Less than 24 hours after an entertaining Sprint, F1 fans settled down to watch the Grand Prix with the grid set from Friday’s qualifying session. Unlike Sprint Saturday, Sunday’s race was set to be dry with the Ferrari’s able to launch a double attack on Verstappen ahead, if they could catch him.

Vertappen narrowly leading Leclerc into turn 4. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area.

Lights out and Verstappen got a clean start with the Ferrari’s following behind. Both Mercedes had a better launch than Norris in front, and Hamilton went around the outside of the McLaren while a small tangle with Stroll behind meant Norris was compromised and had to give the place up to Hamilton.

Further back in the pack many were trying to get three wide through turn 1 which didn’t end well for Tsunoda who picked up front wing damage. Having lost downforce he locked up into turn 4 but was able to make it back to the pits for a quick front wing change. However, a safety car was deployed at the end of lap 2 to recover the debris from the Alpha Tauri.

On the restart everyone got away cleanly with very few dramas. The Alpha Tauri’s were getting very close together while Magnussen tried to go around the outside of turn 4 but managed to get back on track. Perez also gained a position on Ocon.

Just nine laps in and this is where the track limits debacle began. Norris was reporting Hamilton using every inch possible and slightly more on each lap. This was due to a brake issue Hamilton was managing meaning he couldn’t slow the car properly, however he did manage to pick up a black and white flag by lap 13.

While this was happening, Hamilton’s teammate, Russell, was under pressure from Perez. It took a few laps of great defending from the Mercedes but he made a mistake into turn 3 and went wide, leaving the door open for the Mexican driver to take advantage of DRS and make his move which eventually stuck by turn 4.

One lap later, a very slow Haas pulled to the side of the track. Hulkenburg lost power and had to retire the car. A Virtual Safety Car was deployed as they pulled the stricken vehicle to the escape road. However, it only took them two laps, and by lap 16 the green flag was shown.

Confusion now rained over the grid with main making pitstops as this was the first stop window of the day. However, Ferrari and Aston Martin missed the initial VSC call so came in just as the green flag was shown. To make matters worse for Ferrari, their double stack didn’t work, Leclerc’s stop was slow which compromised Sainz who came out in P6, losing 3 places.

A four car battle on track. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area.

Through the now interesting developments in the race, Tsunoda was the second driver to pick up a penalty for track limits. Meanwhile Ocon, Albon, Magnussen, Stoll and Gasly had an intense battle on lap 20. It was hard to keep up with everything going on.

Despite most coming in for a change of tyres during the VSC, Verstappen chose to stay out and not come in until lap 25. He came out having lost two places behind the Ferrari’s now in P1 and P2. There was finally action for the lead however, this was not to last very long because within five laps Verstappen was back out in front.

As the race began to settle again Norris in his upgraded McLaren was pressuring Hamilton at every turn. On lap 28 he made a great move around the outside of turn 4 to make it into P4. Some great racing between the brits.

Sainz then became the third victim of the time penatlies fro track limits while Ocon was given one for an unsafe release during the stops. At this point four drivers had penalties but this was not the end.

Gasly was added to the list on lap 38 with De Vries picking up a penalty for pushing Magnussen out wide around turns 5 and 6. While it may seem like there were a lot of penalties, at this point nearly half the grid had been shown the black and white flag, so some penalties were taking longer than normal to be given.

To make matters worse for Tsunoda he was given a 10 second time penalty for not serving his original penalty correctly. This was added to his time at the end of the race. 

The action on track never stopped. Perez was making his way through the pack and came up against Sainz in P4 on lap 59. This led to a three-lap long battle between the drivers as Sainz attempted to hold off the faster car behind. After some great racing however, Perez learned to hang back slightly into turn 3 and gain DRS towards turn 4, eventually making the move stick.

Perez finally overtakes Sainz.

Sargent and Magnussen picked up time penalties for track limits while Verstappen picked up his 7th Grand Prix win of the year. However, the race was not over yet.

Aston Martin lodge a protest of the results which was accepted and reviewed. The complaint was regarding the track limits violations which seemingly hadn’t all been through the stewards so more penalties were yet to be dished out.

In total 83 lap times were deleted, resulting in the following penalties:

Sainz – 10 seconds, Hamilton – 10 seconds, Gasly – 10 seconds, Albon – 10 seconds, Ocon – 30 seconds, Sargent – 10 seconds, De Vries – 15 seconds, Tsunoda – 5 seconds.

It is fair to say the track limits issue tainted the race with results being decided hours after the chequered flag dropped. This will be a talking point at least for the next week as we head to the British Grand Prix next where track limits are not considered as much of an issue.

Leclerc takes pole for Azerbaijan sprint race despite last minute crash

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc has taken pole position for today’s sprint race in Azerbaijan despite hitting the wall in the closing moments of the session.

It was the first outing of the new sprint weekend format, with an extra qualifying session to determine the starting order of the sprint race. The twelve-minute long SQ1 and ten-minute long SQ2 required the drivers to use the medium tyres, while the final eight-minute SQ3 mandated the use of a new set of soft tyres.

SQ1 ended with a bang when Logan Sargeant crashed at Turn 17, possibly distracted by the two slow Ferraris on the inside of the corner. With only 25 seconds left on the clock, the session wasn’t restarted.

In SQ2, Oscar Piastri narrowly missed out on advancing to the next stage by only +0.0032. His team-mate Lando Norris did scrape through, despite not having a new set of soft tyres available to him and therefore not being able to take part in SQ3!

Leclerc set the pace in the first runs of SQ3 and took provisional pole. On his second run, however, he hit the wall at Turn 5 and damaged his front wing. He was able to back out and continue round to the pits, but compromised his team-mate Sainz’s lap in the process.

Both Verstappen and Perez improved on their times in the closing moments, but it wasn’t enough to usurp Leclerc. It’s the Monegasque driver’s second pole of the weekend.

F1 Weekend Preview: It’s all Change for Baku

After what felt like an extremely long time, Formula 1 is back with a street race in Baku. However, while the winner and fastest team may be predictable, the weekend format has changed. There will be six sprint weekends this season, starting with the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, but after a vote, the sprint weekend format is drastically different.

Sprint Saturday

At the last Sprint in Brazil Magnussen started on pole. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

For those that didn’t know, there was rumour and discussions amongst the teams regarding the structure of a sprint weekend from the start of the season. A vote was taken and it has been decided that qualifying for Sunday’s race will be on Friday with Saturday becoming ‘Sprint Saturdays’.

A one-hour Sprint Shootout will determine the grid for the Sprint just a few hours later. This makes Saturday a stand-alone day meaning teams don’t have to worry about where they finish affecting them for Sunday’s Grand Prix. 

The reason for this is that Pirelli hasn’t been able to make enough tyres for the season so this is the solution Formula 1 has come up with. Another reason will likely be in the name of entertainment for the viewer. 

There will be many opinions floating around about the changes, but this will be the format for all six events this year so we will have to wait until the last one to see if this is a format that will work for Formula 1 in the future.

Formula 1 Cars on track again

It has been a month since we last saw the teams take to the track in Melbourne for what ended up being a chaotic race with many controversies and lots to talk about. However, we are now back on the streets of Baku but the results could be a familiar story.

Verstappen won in Australia but the other teams weren’t too far behind. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Red Bull will likely be very dominant again with their overall raw pace. But in the break, other teams have been able to go away and develop their cars because, unlike in the summer, there has been no mandatory factory shutdown. 

With this in mind we could see Alonso push his way past the Mercedes, or will they have done enough to stay ahead? George Russell has said there will be plenty of changes to the car for this race.

For those long-suffering Ferrari fans they will have their fingers crossed the team managed to pull out some development to make their car and strategy more reliable, while McLaren fans will be hoping for more pace. There are many reasons to watch this weekend but the progression of some teams will go unnoticed but is worth keeping an eye on.

A sport or a show? F1 keeps finding itself on the wrong side of the line

First things first, sport is meant to be entertaining. The unpredictability, the drama, and the displays of skill and athleticism are all reasons why we watch it. 

The third standing start of the day caused chaos in the first corner. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Sometimes Formula One falls short on the first two, hence the introduction of the budget cap, sprint races and many other rule changes brought in over the years in an attempt to ‘spice up the racing’. How ironic it is that on the weekend where Michael Masi returned to the F1 paddock for the first time since Abu Dhabi 2021, the talk is once again about how the rules have been applied in ways they weren’t intended – and the debate on how far Formula One should go to supply entertainment reignited once again.

It looked like the race was heading to a very predictable conclusion, with Max Verstappen cruising to victory, as Lewis Hamilton looked to be doing just enough to hold on to second from Fernando Alonso. That predictability was shattered, however, when Kevin Magnussen lost a tyre after hitting the wall. The Dane pulled off-track, but with his left rear stricken on the racing line, people’s thoughts understandably turned to a virtual, or even a full, safety car. This was initially the case before the decision was made to red flag the race, as the amount of debris on the circuit would have led to the race finishing under the safety car.

Many drivers voiced their astoundment at this decision, both during and after the race. There had already been one red flag, after Alex Albon had crashed out, in another situation where it seemed like a safety car would be sufficient. This second stoppage meant there would only be two laps of racing action left, effectively giving fans a super short sprint race. Which turned out to last less than a sector, with three accidents before turn three leading to a final stoppage, and the race finishing under the safety car – exactly the scenario that the race directors were trying to avoid.

The red flag led to what could be known as ‘Schrodinger’s lap 56’. On the one hand, the lap never happened, as the final restart was carried out using the positions from the end of lap 55. On the other hand, both Alpines, Nyck de Vries and Logan Sargeant had been eliminated from the race in the chaos, with Carlos Sainz receiving a 5-second penalty for spinning Alonso, even though the Aston Martin had now technically lost nothing in the spin. In normal situations, a 5-second penalty is annoying, but this penalty effectively equalled a disqualification, dropping Sainz to the back of the field with no chance of recovery.

Of course, safety has to come first in Formula One, and the safest way of clearing up debris after an accident is ensuring that no cars can come near the marshals, hence the need for safety cars and red flags. But the amount of red flags and safety cars in recent seasons has led to rumblings that they are used as a tool to close up the pack and inject excitement into races which seems a foregone conclusion. This alone isn’t a bad thing, as long as it is clear when this is going to happen, so viewers, drivers and teams aren’t left guessing what decision the FIA will make today. Team bosses made comments in a similar vein, with Christian Horner and Toto Wolff being in rare disagreement that they want to see races finish under a green flag, but it should be clear what the procedure is with late-race incidents.

Fans want to be left on the edge of their seats by what they are seeing out on track. If it feels necessary to stop a race to add to that excitement, then perhaps the sport has bigger problems that no amount of flag-waving will solve.

 

 

Chaos in Australia

Verstappen wins a chaotic Australian Grand Prix under very confusing circumstances. Hamilton finished P2 in a mixed day for the team while Alonso finished in P3 for the third time this season despite nearly being taken out of the race by Sainz in a dramatic restart towards the end of the race.

The race start. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Lights out and Verstappen came straight across to cover off the advances of Russell, but his attempt was not successful. The reigning world champion did appear to exercise some caution with a slower exit from turn two. He seemed to be struggling.

Behind them, Leclerc had made a good start but Stroll was coming up close behind him. Leclerc turned into turn three but Stroll had taken the apex of the corner and tapped his rear right-hand side. Leclerc went for a spin and ended up in the gravel, ending his race prematurely. 

At the same time, Verstappen leaves enough gap for Hamilton to be alongside him into turn three. It was a brave move from the seven-time world champion but he makes it through the inside of Verstappen. There were a few complaints on the radio but everything was deemed a lap one racing incident.

The safety car was deployed with a Mercedes one-two. On the restart, Russell made sure he pulled a gap to his teammate and the now-frustrated Verstappen. Everyone got a clean lap with Hamilton and Verstappen closing gradually on Russell. The driver from Kingslynn was on the radio asking if he is to defend against his teammate or preserve his tyres but he was answered when they called him into the pits for a new set of hard tyres. Russell came out in P7 on lap 6, but just one lap later it would prove to be the wrong decision. 

Albon lit up the rear tyres into turns six and seven and spun straight into the barrier, projecting gravel all over the track. Albon was out and initially, the safety car was deployed. But the FIA needed time to get rid of the gravel on the track and brought out the red flag. 

This gave everyone a free choice of tyres before the restart but was unfortunate timing for Russell. They rolled out on the formation lap before lining up on the grid for the restart. Russell was down in P7 with work to do while Hamilton was in P1 with Verstappen alongside. 

Most drivers were on hard tyres so at the restart it was obvious they couldn’t get the immediate grip they wanted. Verstappen struggled again with the standing start but Alonso backed out of a move on the outside of turn one due to the lack of temperature in his tyres. 

Hamilton in front before Verstappen powered through. Image courtesy of Mercedes F1 Media

The lead for Hamilton wouldn’t last long though. On lap 12 Verstappen had DRS and a superior pace around the outside of Hamilton to take the lead of the race. Meanwhile, behind them, the other Mercedes made his way up into P4, past Gasly.

Sainz and Perez were also making their way through the pack. Sainz made turn three his new favourite overtaking spot but getting past Norris and then Tsunoda in consecutive laps. Perez used his extra pace to make it up to P13 before the next major incident.

Without warning, on lap 19, flames began to spit out the back of Russell’s car. Mercedes later suggested it was a power unit failure. However, Russell was able to safely stop at the end of the pitlane and get out of the car. This brought out a Virtual Safety Car and closed the pitlane. Therefore there were no changes of tyres for anyone and the race got back underway once the flames had been put out.

Perez continued his good form by making it into the points with a fantastic double move on Piastri and Tsunoda on lap 23. Piastri and Tsunoda had been battling for the majority of the race at this point, so when Piastri finally made the move on the Alpha Tauri on lap 29, the home crowd roared.

By lap 32 the race had settled into business as usual. Verstappen was setting consistent fastest laps, but Perez was able to make the most of DRS zones and get his name on the fastest lap board. Hamilton and Alonso then entered the fastest lap chat as they closed the gap to Verstappen.

At this point, the teams were considering a second stop due to potentially being on the hard tyres for 49 laps by the end of the race. The battle was mostly between Aston Martin and Mercedes trying to work out who would jump first. 

However, their questions were answered when, in a strange incident, Magnussen lost his rear right tyre. It appeared that on the exit of turn two, he just went too wide and hit the wall, losing his tyre and bringing out another safety car, and eventually the red flag two laps later. 

The third standing start of the day. Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool

It was all set up then for a two-lap sprint to the finish with everyone changing to soft tyres. It would be another standing start as stipulated in the rules. As the cars lined up on the grid it looked as though Verstappen was very far forward in his box. He was however his wheels were still on the line and therefore in the box.

Absolute chaos ensued at the restart. Verstappen got away well with Hamilton hanging on the P2. Behind the Sainz had made a good start but he hit the rear of Alonso in front causing the Aston to spin on the exit of turn two.

Behind them, Gasly locked up into turn one and ended up across the grass before getting back on the track. As he arrived on the track he didn’t see the car of his teammate on the outside of turn two. Gasly veered back to the racing line but collided with Ocon pushing both into the wall and out of the race. 

Perez also took a trip across the gravel but made it out safely, while at the back Sargent locked up into the back of De Vries. Both got stuck in the gravel and were out of the race. Unsurprisingly the red flag was deployed again but this led to some confusion about restarting for a fourth time.

With everyone back in the pitlane the clock was on lap 58 of 58, meaning only one racing lap left. Any laps behind the safety car count as racing laps so it appeared the race would finish behind the safety car, but the question was what order would the cars be in. 

At the British Grand Prix in 2022, the red flag came out before the cars had made it through sector one so they went back to the last known order of the cars, the grid. This was a similar situation. The red flag came out before Verstappen made it to turn five, meaning they didn’t have any timings for drivers after the restart and would have to go back to the order from the grid on lap 57. 

Once the crashed cars had been taken out of this grid order, it meant that Alonso was back up in P3 with Sainz in P4, Piastri in the points and Hulkenberg down in P8. This frustrated Haas as Hulkenberg was up in P4 after the carnage at the start. To rub salt in the wound for them, Sainz was given a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Alonso. 

After a re-shuffle of the cars in the pitlane, they headed out on the final lap. At the end, the safety car peeled off and Verstappen took the chequered flag with Hamilton in P2 and Alonso in P3. Sainz attempted to create a small gap but with the cars bunched up he dropped to the back of the pack and out of the points. 

Only 12 cars finished the race and McLaren managed to capitalise on this with both cars getting points. Piastri was extremely happy to get his first points in F1 in his first home race and he gave plenty for the home fans to cheer about after a long race day.

We now wait until the end of April for the next race, but I imagine this won’t be the last we hear of the restart procedure for that time.

2023 Australian GP Qualifying.

Max Verstappen will once again start from pole position in tomorrow’s Grand Prix but, for the first time in his career, he was the fastest in qualifying in Australia. He will be joined on the front row by Mercedes’ George Russell with World Champions Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso on the second row. Once again, the reigning World Champion came out on top after an exciting session. Thanks to cooler temps and weather, every driver stayed out for the full session setting times throughout the session to maintain tyre temperatures.

Q1 began with rain in the air so most drivers opted to go out onto the track straight away. Alex Albon briefly led the time charts but, when on an even quicker lap he put a wheel onto the grass at the second to last corner and lost the red end of his Williams, he managed to recover to the pitlane.

Just after that Sergio Perez locked up and beached his Red Bull in the gravel and mud turn 4. The Mexican was the first driver out of qualifying. The session restarted with 12 minutes remaining.

The session ended with Max Verstappen once again quickest, The five drivers who didn’t make it through to Q2 were Perez in his stranded RedBull, Bottas in the Alfa Romeo, Sergeant in the Williams, the second Alfa of Zhou and then home favourite Oscar Piastri in the McLaren.

Piastri was not able to push his car out of Q1 at home. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Q2 again started with the whole field trying to get some laps in, the tyres were taking longer to warm up here so each driver was choosing to do longer runs and get some temp into the tyres.

Lando Norris took a quick trip through the gravel trap that Perez succumbed to, but the Brit managed to drive through the gravel and back to the pits for some new rubber.

It was another session where everyone seemed to fuel up for the whole session and keep doing laps to keep the tyre temps up and get some consistently quick lap times in. Once again Verstappen led the field by just 0.227 from Alonso in the Aston Martin. Out of Q2 were De Vries, Magnussen, Norris, Tsunoda and Ocon.

De Vries is down in P15 for tomorrow’s GP. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

The threat of rain was still in the air so everyone came out early for Q3. Verstappen was first across the line setting a time of 1.17.578 but was unusually scruffy from the 2-time World Champion. He was beaten by Hamilton, Alonso, Russell, Sainz and Leclerc but went on a second run and moved ahead of the field again. He then went quicker again on his final run with a time 0.236 quicker than second-placed George Russell.

Third was Lewis Hamilton, alongside him was Alonso in the Aston Martin, then Sainz, Stroll, Leclerc, and Albon with Gasly and Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten.

A grid is set up nicely for the race on Sunday, with the same conditions forecast the first few laps will be very interesting as people struggle to generate heat on the tyres and get a grip. Will Verstappen again pull away in the Red Bull or can Mercedes fight against them with Fernando Alonso in the mix as well?

Hamilton is happy with qualifying. Image courtesy of Pirelli Press Area

 

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