Bottas wins chaotic Austrian Grand Prix as Norris claims debut podium

Valtteri Bottas has taken victory at a chaotic Austrian Grand Prix that saw just eleven cars reach the chequered flag, with Charles Leclerc in P2 and Lando Norris claiming his first ever podium in P3. Lewis Hamilton finished second on the road but dropped to fourth due to a five-second penalty he received for a collision with Alex Albon.

The race was sedate enough for the first ten laps. Bottas built up a 3.2-second gap to Verstappen, while Norris slipped back to P5 behind Albon and Hamilton. On lap 11, though, Verstappen lost power on the approach to Turn 3 and told his engineer that his car kept going into anti-stall. He limped back to the pits and retired on lap 13.

LAT Images

The next casualties were Daniel Ricciardo and Lance Stroll. Ricciardo pulled into his garage with a cooling issue while Stroll, who had been struggling with a lack of power for several laps, retired due to a sensor issue.

Bottas had built up a six-second gap to Hamilton by lap 17, but on lap 21 Hamilton set a new fastest lap and began to reel his team-mate in. Four laps later, the gap was down to 3.8 seconds.

Lap 26 saw the first safety car of the race, brought out due to Kevin Magnussen suffering a brake failure at Turn 3. A flurry of pitstops ensued with every driver opting for the hard tyres except for Perez, who went with the mediums.

When the safety car period ended, Vettel lunged down the inside of Carlos Sainz going into Turn 3. He misjudged the attempt and span, dropping down the order to P15. While the incident was noted, no investigation was deemed necessary by the stewards.

On lap 42, Bottas and Hamilton were warned about sensor issues that had been detected in the gearbox of both cars and were told to stay off the kerbs. This warning was repeated several times and the gap between the two widened as Hamilton eased off slightly. Despite this apparent issue, the duo were still over ten seconds ahead of third-placed Alex Albon.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 51 saw the next retirements. George Russell ground to a halt from what had been a promising P12 and brought out the second safety car of the day. Romain Grosjean, meanwhile, ran off the track at the final corner and pulled into the pits with seemingly the same brake problem that curtailed team-mate Magnussen’s race.

Red Bull chose to bring in Albon for a change to the soft tyres, losing P3 to Perez in the process, while both Mercedes stayed out on hard tyres that had already completed 25 laps by that point.

The Safety Car came in on lap 54 briefly, after which Albon re-took third place from Perez after Perez locked up going into Turn 3.

At that exact moment, however, the safety car was brought out again, this time because Kimi Raikkonen’s front-left tyre had come clean off the chassis going into the final corner. It was initially unclear whether it was Albon or Perez who had been ahead at the moment the safety car came out, but it was decided a few laps later that Albon had been slightly ahead of Perez and thus the Red Bull driver slotted into P3.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 60 saw the safety car come back in and Albon set about chasing after Hamilton on his newer soft tyres. He saw an opportunity going into Turn 4 and went for it, only for the two to come to blows. Albon span and fell down the order to last place. The incident was duly noted and investigated, with Hamilton being given a five-second penalty.

Albon slowed a couple of laps later, saying over the radio that his engine was stopping. He wound up finishing P13, or last.

Between lap 64 and lap 66, Leclerc got past Norris and then Perez to find himself in P3 behind the Mercedes duo. It looked as if Perez was in with a shout of finishing on the podium due to Hamilton’s penalty, only for his hopes to be dashed when he was awarded a five-second penalty of his own for speeding in the pitlane and then being overtaken by Norris.

Lap 70 saw the last retirement of the race when one of Daniil Kvyat’s tyres disintegrated going into Turn 1. He managed to bring the car to a stop behind the barriers at a marshall post.

Bottas crossed the line to take the chequered flag at the end of lap 71 with Hamilton in P2, Leclerc in P3 and Norris in P4. Hamilton’s penalty, though, dropped him to P4 and promoted Leclerc to second and Norris to the final podium position.

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Austrian Grand Prix Preview: F1 is back, but not as we know it

112 days after the opener in Melbourne was supposed to get underway, the Formula One season will finally begin in Austria this Sunday.

As with the return of most sport during the COVID-19 pandemic however, things will work a little differently in the F1 paddock. Media presence will be lower, the freedom of the drivers to roam around the surrounding area during race week will decrease and, perhaps most prominently, there will be a complete absence of fans.

The Austrian Grand Prix will mark the first of two races at the 4.3-kilometre Red Bull Ring, with the Styrian Grand Prix following just a week later. This is all part of the FIA’s plan to satiate the year with as many races as possible so as to create as exhaustive a calendar as possible for the world championship season, which needs to be at least eight races long to classify as such.

Normally by this point of the year, we would know who is competitive and who is not, but the cars have not run since testing in Barcelona at the beginning of the year and, as we learned last year especially, testing pace is little to go by.

It is therefore quite difficult to determine who the favourites are going to be, but the same could generally be said in Spielberg last year. Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari were all competitive last season, with Max Verstappen narrowly beating Charles Leclerc to victory following a controversial overtake at the end of the race, the investigation for which was not concluded until hours after the drivers had stepped off the podium.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

One of the major points of interest is the perennially fascinating midfield battle. The Racing Point, designed on last year’s Mercedes, is tipped to be one of the major challengers to fourth place in the Constructors’ as they look to knock McLaren off their perch as best of the rest. Renault’s inconsistencies over the past couple of seasons will need to be rectified by their new driver-pairing of Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon, as the French team consider their future involvement in the sport they have failed to re-master since their return in 2016. Alpha Tauri – rebranded from Toro Rosso – and Alfa Romeo will also have an eye on challenging for the best of the midfield teams.

Haas are understood to be the only constructor not bringing upgrades to this race, as uncertainty looms about their interest in F1 too. Their upgrades last year affected them adversely rather than helping them progress after the first race, and they will look to avoid further regression this year. They managed a fourth and fifth-placed finish in Spielberg in 2018, while Kevin Magnussen qualified an impressive fifth last season. A gearbox penalty and the Haas car’s ghastly race pace saw him finish behind both the Williams cars.

Speaking of which, Williams’ car was three seconds quicker in testing in Spain than it was in the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix, which will lead the British team to believe they can climb off the bottom of the championship table and relieve some of the immense pressure currently on Claire Williams’ shoulders.

One of the shortest tracks on the calendar follows the longest wait for a Formula One season since the World Championship’s inception. The Styrian mountains will not be alive with the sound of fans, but they will still be alive with the sound of Formula One cars.

 

[Featured image – Matthias Heschl/Red Bull Content Pool]

Ferrari swoop up Sainz and Ricciardo moves to McLaren

In a blockbuster morning of Formula 1 news, Carlos Sainz has been confirmed as a Ferrari driver for the 2021 season, while Daniel Ricciardo will partner Lando Norris at McLaren for the new year.

Sebastian Vettel’s announcement earlier in the week that he is going to leave Ferrari at the end of the current season blew the driver market wide open, and the confirmed news today was swiftly followed as teams already look to complete their line-ups for the 2021 season.

Sainz has signed a two year deal with Ferrari, and will partner Charles Leclerc, who had a hugely impressive debut season with the Scuderia last year, winning two races and finishing third in the championship ahead of team-mate Vettel. Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto showed his satisfaction at the move, saying, “We believe that a driver pairing with the talent and personality of Charles and Carlos, the youngest of the past 50 years of the Scuderia, will be the best possible combination to help us reach the goals we have set ourselves.”

Sainz began his career in F1 with Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso, but his frustration at a lack of opportunity at the main Red Bull team led to him joining Renault on loan for the 2018 season, having replaced Jolyon Palmer at the end of 2017. The news of Daniel Ricciardo jumping the Red Bull ship and joining Renault pushed Sainz out of the team, who then joined McLaren in 2019.

His relationship with team-mate Lando Norris was one of the more cheerful sides of the 2019 season, and the two transcended expectations for a team that is embarking on an impressive rebuilding process, which is what has enticed Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo joined Renault from Red Bull for the 2019 season, but has quickly grown impatient at the team’s lack of performance, having seen a slump in pace. They finished fifth in 2019 compared to fourth in 2018, 54 points behind McLaren.

It is unknown the length of the contract Ricciardo has signed at the Woking-based team, but signing a prove race winner and a highly talented racing driver is a revolution in the recovery of the British outfit, and has been described by Racing Chief Executive Zak Brown as “an exciting new dimension to the team”.

Ricciardo and Sainz did, however, seem content enough to stay put at their respective teams, but the domino effect from Vettel’s departure has had a substantial knock-on effect on the rest of the grid.

There is now an vacant seat at Renault, for which the French team have an abundance of options. Sebastian Vettel may or may not retire at the end of the year, and former champion Fernando Alonso has been tipped for a return to partner Esteban Ocon for the new year. F2 stars Guanyu Zhou and Christian Lundgaard, who are part of the Renault programme, will also be vying for the seat, while Nico Hulkenberg has been name-dropped for a return. Hulkenberg was forced out of F1 after a contractual agreement between Toto Wolff and Renault saw Esteban Ocon take his seat for the 2020 season, which is expected to start in Austria in July amid the coronavirus crisis.

Depending on who does take the seat, the 2021 season could see the youngest grid in the 70 year history of the sport.

 

[Featured image courtesy of McLaren Media Centre]

Michael Schumacher- The 1994 Spanish Grand Prix in 5th Gear

Michael Schumacher had many incredible races, but this race showed his resilience and determination to finish a race even with his car having mechanical issues.

It was the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona and the first race held after the tragic deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at the previous race at Imola. Schumacher was driving one of the Benetton-Ford cars, with team-mate JJ Lehto in the other.

Several top-level names, including Schumacher, were instrumental in the set-up and running of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), and the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix was the first race after its formation. They had made the decision to install a temporary chicane before the Nissan corner, which was generally taken at near flat-out speed, in an attempt to improve safety by reducing speed at that point at the track.

Schumacher took pole position, the second of his career and second in a row, some half a second clear of Damon Hill, who in turn had qualified just one thousandth of a second ahead of Mika Hakkinen in third. Schumacher’s team-mate Lehto was fourth.

Jordan’s Rubens Barrichello qualified in fifth, followed by the two Ferrari’s of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. Martin Brundle managed P8 and David Coulthard, who was making his debut in Formula 1 for Williams, replacing Ayrton Senna, qualified a respectable P9. The Tyrrell of Ukyo Katayama completed the top ten.

Andrea Montermini had been elevated from test driver to race driver for Simtek after the death of Roland Ratzenberger, but he crashed heavily into the pit-wall and broke both ankles, this ending his race weekend and also his season.

Beretta retired on the formation lap when his Larousse-Ford’s engine failed on the formation lap. At the start of the 65-lap race, Schumacher led from pole position while Barrichello and Berger collided at the first corner. Neither driver retired as a direct result of the collision, although both did so later on.

Schumacher led for the opening 22 laps of the race before pitting with what looked like gearbox issues. The Benetton was left with only fifth gear still working.

Despite driving the last 40 laps in fifth gear and making another pitstop, in which he managed to not stall the car, Schumacher continued to set respectable lap times considering he was losing up to 20 miles an hour on the main straight. He adjusted his driving style to find new racing lines, backing off early on the straights and rolling through corners, drawing on his past experience as a World Sports Car driver for help.

Schumacher ended up finishing a very respectable P2 some 24 seconds behind the Williams of Damon Hill. It was a stunning drive to adapt to the ailing car and still bring it home on the podium, marking Schumacher as a true racer who kept fighting in conditions that were stacked against him.

Schumacher commented after the race, “At the beginning it was a bit difficult to take all the corners in fifth gear, but then I managed to find a good line and keep up lap-times that were more or less good enough to compete against the others behind me.”

It was a truly stunning drive from a true legend.

 

 

[Featured image credit: Martin Lee / Wikimedia Commons]

Australian Grand Prix Preview: The start of a new decade in Formula One, but not in happy circumstances

Usually joyful and vibrant, the start of a new season in Australia would ordinarily bring a sense of positivity to Formula One fans around the world. This year, however, it is overshadowed by the seemingly omnipotent threat of Coronavirus.

And, indeed, three members of the paddock – two from Haas and one from McLaren – have already self-isolated after being tested for the illness.

However, the focus is not all on the doom and gloom side. Melbourne remains as picturesque and atmospheric as ever, and it is ready to play proud first host to what will hopefully be an enthralling season of racing.

Although, the likelihood of such seems fairly low. Mercedes dominated pre-season testing, and Ferrari looked average at best, with team boss Mattia Binotto playing down any chances of success for the Scuderia this year. Notwithstanding, Mercedes looked a way off Ferrari in Barcelona last year, and ended up dominating the season, so the true performance of the top three teams – including the resurgent Red Bull – remains to be seen.

Speaking of the former champions, they were given some degree of promise from their outings in testing, with potential championship contender Max Verstappen finding the limits – and falling foul of them – on a few occasions,. They also appeared to leave a few engineers in red scratching their heads as the enigmatic Dutchman looks to challenge Lewis Hamilton for the championship crown.

The enticing prospect of the fresh and finally integrated Alex Albon is also something we can look forward to, as well as the inter-team battle between Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc at the Maranello outfit. Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, will have had no shortage of awareness of the effort and quality needed to defeat team-mate Hamilton this season.

Indeed, it was a positive start to 2019 for the Finn. He won last year at the 5.3-kilometre Albert Park circuit, and would win two of the first four races, but a frustrating barren spell of form would see Hamilton’s irresistible class shine through again.

It was, interestingly, only the fourth time that the driver starting from second had made to the first corner first at the track, so pole is inherently important there.

The newly-crowned six time world champion is certainly not resting on his laurels either. He comes into this season feeling ‘on another level’ – a stark proposition for those looking to knock him off his perch.

As always though, it is not all about the big guns up top. The vast majority of the competitive, intriguing racing came from the mid-pack and, provided the TV directors choose to give them some attention this time, there is a lot of action to look forward to.

Williams are at least a second quicker than last year, and have a distinct, tenacious habit of overcoming the several adversities they have been faced with in recent years, making them a good fit for a battle that will surely include everyone from McLaren down.

Well, maybe not everyone.

Racing Point – or the “Pink Mercedes”, as coined by Carlos Sainz – have copied Mercedes’ chassis design from last year to almost every meticulous detail, and as their resources incrementally rise to impressive extents year on year, they could challenge McLaren and re-take fourth spot in the Constructors’ dogfight – potentially even laying a stake on a top-three involvement as times this season. There would have to be a degree of fortuity however.

Another team in doubt for the midfield fight is Haas. After numerous problems both on and off track in 2019, the American outfit looked both slow and lacking in longevity, as Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean look to return their cars to points contention, and hopefully return them to the finish line without making contact this year.

As we say, though, testing is often little to go by, resulting in the discovery of many variables yet to be seen as the season goes on, and it all starts this weekend in Melbourne.

 

[Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]

2020 Mercedes-AMG Petronas Preview

Mercedes head into the 2020 season aiming to win their seventh consecutive constructors’ championship, a feat never before achieved in F1’s history. Likewise, Lewis Hamilton is aiming to win his seventh title, which would put him level with Michael Schumacher at the top of the all-time list.

Hamilton is also on the verge of potentially matching and even surpassing Schumacher’s record of race wins, which currently stands at 91. Hamilton goes into 2020 just seven behind that tally. Given he has won an average of ten races a year since 2014, that is a real possibility.

Bottas, too, will be hoping to further add to his tally of seven race wins, in what is his fourth year with the team.

2020 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 2, Day 2 – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Mercedes’ form in pre-season testing should give them the confidence that they are able to achieve their goals, even though there are potentially a few concerns and question marks to be addressed too.

They completed 903 laps across the six days of pre-season testing, the most of any team and 59 more than second-placed Ferrari. Bottas also posted the fastest lap of the entire test – a 1m 15.732 set on the third day of the first test.

Mercedes were also responsible for potentially the biggest headline to come out of pre-season testing when they debuted their new dual-axis steering system, known as DAS. It was noticeably used more in the first week of testing than the second, and it will be interesting come Australia to see in which situation it is used more – long runs or qualifying runs.

2020 Barcelona Pre-Season Test 2, Day 2 – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Things were not all good for the Silver Arrows, though.

Hamilton ground to a halt with an oil pressure problem on the second day of the second test, an issue that meant he completed just 14 laps on that particular day. Bottas also suffered an electrical issue, in the first week.

Add to that the fact that Mercedes’ customer team Williams had four power unit problems in just six days of testing, and there are a few worries about the reliability of Mercedes’ engine.

If those problems can be resolved, and considering the stability of the regulations for this year, Mercedes should be in a prime position to begin to realise those dreams of a seventh consecutive championship.

With the Australian Grand Prix now less than a week away, we don’t have long to wait to find out if that is true.

 

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]

Bottas quickest on final day of pre-season testing

Valtteri Bottas finished top of the timesheets on the final day of pre-season testing, setting the second fastest lap time of the entire winter.

His best time of a 1m 16.196, set on the C5 tyre, put him only +0.073 ahead of Max Verstappen. Verstappen also set his fastest time on the C5 tyres, but his previous best lap – which was set on the medium C3 tyres – still put him a very respectable +0.188 behind Bottas.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo was only +0.007 behind Verstappen, with Charles Leclerc, who completed the most laps of anyone with 177, in fourth.

Lewis Hamilton rounded out the top five with 90 laps to his name, aiming to bounce back after his engine failure yesterday confined him to the garage for a significant chunk of time.

Esteban Ocon finished in sixth ahead of four drivers who each completed over 140 laps each: Sergio Perez (153 laps), Carlos Sainz (159 laps), George Russell (143 laps) and Daniil Kvyat (157 laps).

Romain Grosjean in eleventh was the last driver whose fastest lap fell within a second of Bottas’ time, with Kimi Raikkonen behind in twelfth.

Kevin Magnussen suffered a clutch-related issue that saw him stuck in his garage for a few hours. The problem was eventually rectified and he emerged on track for the final thirty minutes of running. He completed just 25 laps.

Alex Albon rounded out the timesheets, +1.607 away from Bottas and with 59 laps to his name.

The Australian Grand Prix is next on the agenda for the teams with the problem of the coronavirus hanging over everybody’s heads. It is scheduled to take place between the 13th and 15th of March.

 

[Featured image – LAT Images]

Vettel fastest on penultimate day of testing, Hamilton breaks down

Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari finished fastest for the first time in pre-season testing this year, as Lewis Hamilton stopped on track due to engine problems.

Vettel set a 1m 16.841 on the soft tyre in the morning session, a time that would not be bested all day. It is the second quickest overall lap set so far during the five days of testing that have already taken place, and the first time that Ferrari have noticeably moved away from the long runs they had been conducting for much of the previous days.

Vettel did, however, also bring out a red flag when he ran though the gravel and span.

Pierre Gasly charged up the standings late on to finish two tenths behind Vettel and just +0.052 ahead of Lance Stroll in P3.

Fourth-placed Nicholas Latifi completed the most laps of anybody with 158, and also posted Williams’ fastest lap of testing so far.

McLaren’s Lando Norris finished in fifth with 112 laps to his name, ahead of Max Verstappen, who caused a red flag in the morning when he beached his car in the gravel at Turn 5.

Bottas nearly suffered a similar fate to Verstappen but managed to continue on his way and finish seventh in front of Ocon, Magnussen, Albon and Ricciardo.

Antonio Giovinazzi in P12 brought out the day’s first red flag when he crashed at Turn 4, but nonetheless completed 91 laps.

Lewis Hamilton completed just 14 laps in the afternoon, having taken over from Bottas, before he lost power and ground to a halt at Turn 6. He had suffered a reported oil pressure anomaly and would not return to the track for the rest of the session.

[Featured image – Scuderia Ferrari Press Office]

Kubica fastest on first day of second F1 test

Robert Kubica has finished fastest on the first day of the second pre-season test, as a late spin from Max Verstappen brought out the red flag and ended the day’s running prematurely.

Kubica set his time of a 1m 16.942 was set in the morning session on the C5 tyres, the softest available, and was not bested by anyone running in the afternoon.

Max Verstappen leapfrogged up the timing screens late in the day but closed only to within +0.4 of Kubica’s time and finished in P2. He also suffered a couple of spins , the second of which coincided with Daniil Kvyat coming to a halt at Turn 9 and brought out the red flag, ending the session for the day.

Sergio Perez continued to highlight Racing Point’s promising pre-season showing and finished third ahead of the AlphaTauri duo of Daniil Kvyat and Pierre Gasly, with Gasly having spent a significant chunk of the morning session confined to the garage for unknown technical reasons. He completed just 25 laps, the least amount of laps of any driver today.

Alex Albon in P6 also had trouble getting out on track and completed only four more laps than Gasly.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finished in P7 and P9, sandwiching Lance Stroll and completing 179 laps between them.

Sebastian Vettel span early on in the morning at Turn 8 and caused the first red flag of the day, but nevertheless put in Ferrari’s best lap of pre-season testing so far – a 1m 18.113 – and came in P10.

Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz in P10 and P11 were separated by just 0.007, ahead of Charles Leclerc, George Russell and Nicholas Latifi. Latifi caused the day’s second red flag when he stopped at Turn 9 with an engine problem, but the Williams team rectified the problem, allowing Russell to take over in the afternoon.

Romain Grosjean was the only driver to participate in both the morning and afternoon sessions, and completed 107 laps on his way to P16.

Rounding out the timesheets were Lando Norris, Kimi Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon.

 

[Featured image – Mark Thompson/Getty Images]

Bottas leads Mercedes 1-2 on final day of first test

Valtteri Bottas lead a Mercedes 1-2 on the final day of the first pre-season test, posting the fastest lap of any driver across the three days.

Bottas posted his time of a 1m 15.732 in the morning session on Pirelli’s C5 tyre, the softest available. His team-mate Lewis Hamilton also set his fastest lap on that tyre, but wound up almost eight tenths behind in P2.

Both drivers completed over a Grand Prix’s worth of laps each – 65 for Bottas and 73 for Hamilton – underlining the reliability and solid pace shown by the team across the three days of the first test.

In third, and +1.3s off Bottas’s pace, was the Renault of Esteban Ocon. He was followed by Lance Stroll, who completed 116 laps, with Daniil Kvyat rounding out the top five.

Antonio Giovinazzi completed the most laps by a single driver with 116 and wound up in P6 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who caused one of the day’s four red flags when he stopped on track on approach to Turn 9. Ricciardo was back out on track for the final hour of running, where a late surge moved him above former team-mate Max Verstappen, who had another solid day and finished P8 on 86 laps.

Pierre Gasly and Alex Albon both took over driving duties from their respective team-mates in the afternoon and completed the top ten.

Sebastian Vettel suffered an engine failure in the morning session, but recovered to complete a century of laps, albeit in P13.

Lando Norris was garage-bound for a while with brake issues before emerging to finish P14 on 49 laps, while Nicholas Latifi also hit problems when his engine also failed not long after the afternoon session began.

Kevin Magnussen finished the day last. He took over from Grosjean in the afternoon but only managed three laps before a puncture sent him into the barriers at Turn 8.

[Featured image – Wolfgang Wilhelm]