F1 Winter Testing: Day One Round-Up

Barcelona enjoyed the dulcet tones of multiple V6 engines today, as the first session of winter testing finally got under way.

Alfa Romeo were awake bright and early to reveal their car and livery – becoming the final team to do so – before Kimi Raikkonen took it out for a quick spin (literally), getting stuck in the gravel in the first 15 minutes of the session.

Red Bull’s social media team were also up early do a second ‘reveal’, showing off the traditional matte livery they have used over the past four years and disappointing fans that had grown fond of the shakedown livery they had initially debuted.

Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari began taking the challenge to Mercedes early doors, putting in an impressive number of laps and topping the timing sheet with an eyebrow-raising 1m18. The same success could not be said of Ferrari’s sub-team Haas; Romain Grosjean was forced to pull over on track, causing a red flag after a couple of successful installation laps due to fuel pressure loss. At least Haas’s mechanics weren’t short of work to do!

At the lunchtime break, Vettel remained at the top of the timesheets with a 1m18 and an impressive 72 laps. Just behind him was Perez in the Racing Point car with a 1m19, and Bottas with a 1m20. While Ferrari seemed keen to display their might early on, Mercedes clearly felt no pressure to respond so early in the session.

Ferrari Media

The session recommenced at 2pm and although some teams chose to test with the same driver, others decided to make the swap and we saw five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton take the wheel for the first time since the shakedown at Silverstone last Friday.

Hamilton put in a healthy number of laps, most of them running in the 1m20 range, once again feeling absolutely no pressure to be topping the timing sheets just yet.

There was a slightly hair-raising moment for McLaren when Carlos Sainz’s car stopped at the end of the pit lane causing the third red flag of the day. McLaren were quick to redeem themselves though, managing to run an impressive 119 laps, staying comfortably in the 1m20s, and even managing to come second to Vettel’s Ferrari with a respectable 1:18.5. It’s an optimistic start for a team that has suffered a great deal of disappointment in previous seasons.

On the theme of disappointment, more sad news came from the Williams garage. After being unable to complete a planned shake-down on Saturday, and announcing they would not be taking part in today’s testing, a further announcement came after lunch confirming they would not be able to take part in testing until Wednesday ‘at the earliest’.

Deputy team boss Claire Williams described the delay as ‘extremely disappointing’, and indeed with Robert Kubica taking a seat this season after an eight-year hiatus from F1, it is disappointing to delay his anticipated return even further.

Daniel Ricciardo made his debut for Renault this afternoon after his teammate Nico Hulkenberg had a positive morning, describing the car as “the best I’ve seen at Renault”, which is a promising hint for what is to come. Both commentators and fans are slowly getting used to seeing Danny in a black and yellow race suit, this didn’t faze Danny who put in a respectable 44 laps, making Renault one of five teams that have surpassed the 100-lap milestone today.

Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault Sport F1 Team RS19.
Formula One Testing, Day 1, Monday 18th February 2019. Barcelona, Spain.

There was an interesting moment in the last hour of the session between Hamilton and Kvyat in the Toro Rosso, as Kvyat pushed Hamilton to work to overtake him. After a couple of laps and pointing out the nose of the Mercedes car, Hamilton was forced to back off as he was unable to complete the manoeuvre, which begs the question: do the front-wing changes help or hinder Mercedes performance?

Kimi Raikkonen was his usual charismatic self before completing 114 laps in the freshly unveiled Alfa Romeo car, going into the test with the aim of getting a ‘more real picture of the car’, but with the unintentional aim of causing the final red-flag of the day, one minute before the end of the session.

Today was unquestionably Ferrari’s day with Vettel putting in a whopping 169 laps and remaining quickest throughout the whole session with a 1:18.1. Second came Carlos Sainz in the McLaren with a 1:18.5 and Grosjean with a 1:19.1 in spite of only completing 65 laps before stopping on track earlier in the session.

Overall though, the theme for today was getting a feel for the car and putting the laps in; no exciting racing just yet, but it’s a promising start for the 2019 season.

 

[Featured image – Dan Istitene/Getty Images]

Ferrari’s year turned into Ferrari’s nightmare

Photo credit: Ferrari Media Site

My name is Dimitris Bizas, I am from Greece, and I study Communication, Media and Culture at Panteion University. I have been writing about Formula 1 since 2012, firstly at totalracing.gr and, for the past 18 months, for the ‘4Wheels’ magazine. Motorsport is my passion and getting to write and report on it is a true blessing.

2018 was supposed to be Ferrari’s year: they built a good, competitive at any given Sunday car, they had Sebastian Vettel at his prime and they carried with them a year’s worth of experience in title battles, from their 2017 campaign. However, they seem to have failed to capitalize on their chances once again, and the reason is simple, but not so obvious.

Let’s start from the very beginning of this season, the Australian Grand Prix. Ferrari did the unexpected, with Sebastian Vettel winning a race which Hamilton led up until the Safety Car, having taken a remarkable pole position the day before. They continued their winning ways at Bahrain, they were held up by the Red Bulls at China, and then came the first real ‘wake-up call’ for Vettel and his team: the Baku incident.

He could be on the podium, on the second or third place, hadn’t he been in such a hurry to overtake the Mercedes boys. He was somewhat lucky that he did not end up on the barriers at the exit of Turn 1, taking the checkered flag 4th.

This was the first sign of his lack of composure under pressure. But, since it was so early in the season, it didn’t affect his championship aspirations, despite the fact that his arch-rival, Lewis Hamilton, took his maiden 2018 win that day.

Fast forward to France, and Vettel has just taken a commanding victory on Hamilton’s ‘second home’, at Montreal. He grabbed a truly unbelievable pole on Saturday (sing of his confidence at that point of the season), and he went on to win, reminding to his nemesis that 2018 is not a 2017 repeat.

Of course, this feeling of superiority against Hamilton was short-lived. Paul Ricard marked the first of a series of mistakes from Vettel – mistakes that ultimately cost him the world title. He got off the line brilliantly, before hitting Bottas from behind, losing place after place, and finishing only 5th – a result far from representative for his overall performance that weekend.

Then there was Germany and his biggest mistake of his career, probably. That was the first turning point for his campaign – losing 25 points, in front of his home crowd, and seeing his rival taking the win instead, was a huge blow, not only for his team, but also for his confidence. Sebastian Vettel is and has

always been a driver whose performance is affected completely from his morale. If he is elevated and on a roll, he seems unstoppable, invincible. However, a single race gone bad can make him vulnerable, prone to mistakes. It is as if a huge weight is put to his shoulders, and this year, that weight is all the expectations from within his team and from the hundreds of thousands of Tifosi. It is not an easy task.

The final nail on his title hopes’ coffin was put at the Italian and the Singapore Grand Prix. His spin at Variante della Roggia and the crucial mistake during the FP2 at Marina Bay were the ones which gave Hamilton a huge advantage, both on the standings, and on the ‘psychological war’, as he calls it. He now stands 67 points ahead of Vettel, and Austin could be the place where he will have both hands on his 5th world championship.

Ferrari’s fault on this run

Although it is easy to point fingers and proclaim that Vettel lost the title on his own, Ferrari has been subpar when the stakes were extremely high.

One of their biggest weaknesses is the consistency they do not show during the season, not only on the track, but also back at the factory. Keeping a respectable –nay, a competitive- level of performance during the span of 21 races is crucial for the title battle, and the Maranello squad has not met the standards of their rivals, Mercedes.

Both at Brackley and at Brixworth, work was done in order to close the gap from the dominant –as it stood in the first 1/3 of the season- SF71H. The disadvantage on the power unit area and the tire management were the two main factor that held the Germans back, and they made a remarkable job recovering from a deficit on and off track. This allowed Hamilton to push harder, to build his confidence with the car, and ultimately to win one race after the other.

On the other hand, Ferrari made some marginal gains over the summer, and all their upgrades after the summer break were not what they expected. They fell back when their rivals pushed forward, got ahead of them and tried to stay there.

Even if Vettel was perfect (which is highly unlikely in such a lengthy season), his team would have failed on him. Stagnation is a poison for every F1 team, especially in such a hard-fought battle.

The bottom line is that the Ferrari-Vettel combination lost another chance to make history, to bring the crown back to Italy after 11 years. The legacy of this cooperation is still a work in progress, and if these two years are just the beginning, they have time to improve, to learn from their mistakes and

mishaps. But, if this was their final chance (and that’s a big hypothesis), then History will not be lenient with them.

Dimitris Bizas

Driver Ratings: Baku Does it Again!

Azerbaijan never ceases to amaze, I am unsure whether this beats 2017’s race which was amazing to watch. Lady luck was on a few driver’s side today, we’ll look in deeper detail at who had it in the rating review. As per always the rating will be done in results order.

Lewis Hamilton – 7

Lady luck was most definitely on his side today, he took longer to turn the tyres on unlike Vettel who led early on. He made some uncharacteristic mistakes especially at the first corner flat spotting both tyres he told pit wall the tyres were finished so had no choice but to change strategy and pit. The pace on the fresher yellow softs was slow but then the safety car came into play. He was gifted the win with misfortune of others.

Kimi Raikkonen – 7

Kimi being Kimi, you wouldn’t really remember he is a World Champion from 2007. He’s being used to a certain extent as a clear number two driver to Vettel. It all went wrong on Saturday with Ferrari only bringing one set of super softs he had to make one lap count, he didn’t do so. This forced him onto another strategy for Sunday. A silly collision on the first lap when he could of let off the throttle easily damaged his car, no penalty surprisingly, as others fell by the way side he took an unexpected second.

Sergio Perez – 9

Ever the opportunist, now the most successful Mexican driver in Formula 1 history and most successful at Baku in terms of podium finishes. Force India looked strong all weekend with their Mercedes grunt. Great pass on wounded Vettel along the straight. The catalyst the fourth placed team from 2017 need to push on this year?

Sebastian Vettel – 8

Go big or go home from the German, he took advantage of the safety car in Australia but this race it hindered him as we look at in a moment. A great flying lap for pole and early race from the quadruple champion. He pulled a clear lead out after the first safety car. He got a lacklustre restart from the second safety car and went for it on the brakes but with such a long straight they went cold, locked up and ran wide. He lost places rather than gaining, and dropped to P4, with then Perez getting him in the later laps due to his massive flat spot. The Ferrari was strongest all weekend, did he really have to go for it at the first attempt he had?

Carlos Sainz – 8

Flying the flag for Renault today for the first half of the race had they had the third best package. He got by the Red Bulls well and then pulled clear. When they got up to speed he kept up with them. He pitted early as started on the ultra softs and continued well to finish solidly in the points. Pretty much the reason why Renault ‘loaned’ the Spaniard from Red Bull this season.

Charles Leclerc – 9

The reason why Ferrari rate this driver highly was shown today as he scores his first World Championship points in P6. He did better than most turning on the super softs and had great pace from his impressive qualifying managing to keep Raikkonen at bay after the first restart. He would of still scored points even if others finished, he just got a few more as result. Great for the Sauber team to have points but more importantly a talent like Leclerc behind the wheel of one of their cars.

Fernando Alonso – 8

The character and grit that Alonso showed today was the reason why everyone rates him so highly. To begin with he got the McLaren round a near 2 minute lap with 2 wheels shod car into the pits with minimal damage. There was some to the floor of the car as a result but still managed to score decent points for the team. Good battle with fellow countryman Sainz today. Worth every penny to Mclaren once again.

Lance Stroll – 8

A happy hunting ground for the Canadian, after taking advantage of the 2017 race and scoring an unlikely podium, he scored his and the team’s first points this season. Great confidence booster for him and the team. He had the pace with the Mercedes power and good racecraft to finish in the points.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 6

Stoffel was off colour this weekend, but took advantage of others to finish in the low end of the points but also once again Alonso was on average a few tenths quicker than him all weekend. He continues to pile pressure on himself regardless of a points finish today, Lando Norris is looking pretty nifty in Formula 2.

Brendan Hartley – 6

The Kiwi has scored his first point in Formula 1. He had a very unorthodox way of entering the sport last year and has taken him a while to adjust, some say he still is and was the fortunate today. Bad driving on Saturday as he didn’t set a lap and his team mate nearly went flying over the top of him. He drove better on Sunday.

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Marcus was in the shadow of his team mate today, a collision on the first lap turn 2 restricted his performance. He received a penalty for the collision and was clearly at fault, no excuses. He flat spotted tyres which also ruined the strategy he was on halfway through the race. The car was good over the weekend which should give him confidence Bahrain can happen again.

Pierre Gasly – 7

He showed great racecraft on Sunday, and reactions on Saturday. He thought that he was going into the wall after coming across his team mate but managed to keep it away with lightning reactions. With yellows like his team mate he didn’t set a representitve lap time. The race was different all be it he has nothing to show from it, he managed to get up as high as P7 in the race after carving through the field’s destruction on lap 1. An out and out racer, battled with former rival Leclerc which was good to see. He was involved in a collision with Magnussen which prevented the attack for points as he had the pace.

Kevin Magnussen – 6

K-Mag was in the wars on Sunday after a tough qualifying. A short run to the 90 degree corners and being in the middle of the pack increases chances of collisions. He collided with Ericcson at turn 2 which ended his chance of a good finish at that stage. A further collision with Gasly after the second restart then ended his chance of points. Later reprimanded with 2 penalty points, 12 is the amount before a ban, at this current time he is on 8 in the 12 month period. Most dangerous driver Gasly has ever raced according to the Frenchman. An off colour performance to such a great start to the season.

Valterri Bottas – 8

He was on for a win with Mercedes but you could say poor marshalling and debris still scattered over the track resulted in his dramatic retirement. It was through no fault of his own. He managed the gap all race and was consistent, and midway was fastest driver. He made no mistakes throughout. Due to staying out longest he used the safety car to continue to lead. He then restarted well and pulled away but ran over debris which caused a dramatic puncture at around 180mph, forcing him to retire with only a handful of laps remaining. Great weekend but nothing to show for it, joy for one of the Silver Arrows but despair for the other.

Romain Grosjean – 5

Grosjean seemed to be in 2017 mood, very emotional and spins aplenty with one really silly. He was hindered by a gearbox problem in qualifying which resulted him starting last. He kept his nose clean driving through the mess and was on for good points. Every driver was struggling for tyre temperature. He tried to warm the tyres up behind the second safety car by weaving and too much the Frenchman hit the wall at slow speed, throwing away first points of the season ironically at the time putting Magnussen into the points. Bad day at the office.

Max Verstappen – 5

His fault or not but Max has now collided with other drivers 3 times in 4 races, beginning to remind me of the great Pastor Maldonado. He was playing with fire all race long with his team mate, great spacial awareness but sometimes a bit too aggressive with squeezes and double direction changes defending. He couldn’t get the red walled super soft tyre switched on early in the race resulting in both Renault passing him. Battery issues may of slowed his pace but the issue between team mates was brewing all race long. Once more a retirement and hefty bill for Red Bull to pay.

Daniel Ricciardo – 5

The high of Shanghai two weeks ago to the despair of Baku. He struggled to get by his team mate as the over powered DRS with gusty winds helped him dramatically. Various occasions the driver supposedly best on the brakes had his car side by side with his team mate but only pulled it off a few laps prior to the pit stop. He had better pace than Max at a track he did great on last year. Multiple times he was on the outside centimetres from the wall and multiple lock ups. He lost out to the overcut but with the warmer rubber from far back he tried to get by but went straight into the back of his team mate. The worst thing you can do in motorsport! Red Bull blame both drivers which you can understand, but much like Vettel did he have to go for it? Plenty of laps were remaining. There is talk of Ricciardo going to Ferrari with contracts ending for various drivers, not the first time he colliding with his team mate maybe sway his mind to leave the Austrian outfit?

Nico Hulkenburg – 5

With how the race played out, Nico could of finally got on the podium! He still waits to taste the champagne after being close on multiple occasions. He lost the car on his own accord after getting by the poor paced Red Bulls. Renault looked like the fourth best car. He needs to keep concentration as with more mental races and no mistakes from the German, he could be that podium soon.

Esteban Ocon – 7

A passenger in his crash with Raikkonen, surprised that the Ferrari driver didn’t receive a penalty. Strong qualifying and pace but nothing he could do on his short Sunday afternoon.

Sergey Sirotkin – 7

Best weekend for the Russian rookie, albeit the mistake into the wall in third practice. Qualified strongly and was unfortunate to be in the sandwich between drivers on the first lap which ended his race early. Extremely harsh that he has received a 3 place grid penalty for the next race in Spain.

Summary

So Hamilton got his win in Baku through some strong luck, whilst Vettel through his decision to go big at the restart lost points. Hamilton now leads the Championship for the first time this year. 

My driver of the day is a very tough decision, my toughest yet this year, and it’ll go to Sergio Perez for his podium finish. It just shades Charles Leclerc’s impressive points finish. Red Bull really need to look at the current situation, once more through collisions they have cars not finishing. 

Cars tend to change quite dramatically at Barcelona and that is where the Formula 1 circus is next at. Will Red Bull kiss and make up or will the fire get bigger? Mclaren say big upgrade for Spain, will it work and push them forward? What upgrades will Mercedes have in store to catch up to Ferrari? We have to wait 2 weeks to find out.

?image courtesy of Sahara Force India. Fetured image courtesy of RedBull Content pool

Chinese Grand Prix Preview: It’s time for Mercedes to hit back against Vettel and Ferrari

Formula One rolls into Shanghai to complete the first back-to-back Grand Prix sequence of 2018.

In the Chinese year of the dog Sebastian Vettel has started like a greyhound with two wins from two race this season, while Mercedes are yet to show that their bark is as bad as their bite.

Valtteri Bottas missed the chance to pass Vettel on better tyres in the closing stages of the Bahrain Grand Prix after an error-strewn Australian Grand Prix, while a mixture of bad luck and reliability have hamstrung Lewis Hamilton in the early stages of this season.

Bottas will rue his missed chance in Bahrain

Ferrari have defied pre-season expectations that had them third in the Formula One pecking order after going in a different direction with car design including a longer wheelbase, a decision that appeared to have them playing catch up.

Last year in China, Hamilton got his title challenge underway with victory in a wet-dry race as Vettel got some overtaking done after serving a penalty for a jump start to ignite a title fight between Ferrari and Mercedes.

Ferrari have four wins in Shanghai from 14 races, although only one in the last 11 years courtesy of Fernando Alonso’s victory in 2013.

Mercedes have won five of the last six races in China with Lewis Hamilton claiming three of those.

Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool
Red Bull will be aching to get back on track after a disappointing start

But what of Red Bull? Their race pace is on or close to that of Ferrari and Mercedes if you believe Free Practice times.

Problem is, they cannot get their cars into position. Daniel Ricciardo was penalised in Australia and was another VSC beneficiary in Australia, while Max Verstappen spent a lot of time behind the Haas of Kevin Magnussen and then latterly McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.

The least said about their Bahrain Grand Prix, the better. Ricciardo did nothing wrong and retired after a couple of laps, Verstappen retired after contact with Lewis Hamilton after chucking his Red Bull at a wall in qualifying.

Pierre Gasly’s stunning weekend in Bahrain has raised Toro Rosso expectations

Toro Rosso say they expect to be quick based on Bahrain, where Pierre Gasly secured an amazing fourth place to change not only the expectations of the team but the perceptions of the Honda Power Unit.

Renault and McLaren also look to be strong contenders for points, with McLaren having four points finishes from two races to show plenty of improvement from a disastrous Honda partnership.

Alonso is a man reborn, while Stoffel Vandoorne has added consistency this season to the flashes of speed shown from the middle of last year.

 

Prentice’s Picks: F1 curtain-raiser in Australia poses more questions than answers

The Australian Grand Prix failed to give observers much of a concrete answer as to this year’s exact running order despite Sebastian Vettel’s second successive win at Albert Park.

Yes, Lewis Hamilton had a clear pace advantage in qualifying and wasn’t uncomfortable in the race, but the Red Bulls were hamstrung while it is understood that Ferrari haven’t unlocked the full potential of their new car design just yet.

Unlike last year, Ferrari won when they weren’t the fastest, something Hamilton did on multiple occasions last season. However, the Scuderia were not without a huge slice of luck.

Vettel’s victory came in fortunate circumstances 

The Virtual Safety deployed midway through the race to recover the stricken Haas duo (more on them later) of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean slowed the race down as drivers were not to exceed a certain speed.

That meant that the impact of a pitstop lessened significantly. Where it would have cost Vettel 25 seconds to pit at normal racing speeds, at VSC speeds the cost was 11 seconds.

Vettel was 12 seconds clear of Hamilton. Ferrari had judged the maths perfectly, and a software glitch confused Mercedes.

Since then, there have been calls to ban pitting under the VSC.

This is not the first time that the VSC has changed the game during a race, if not quite to this extent.

Other beneficiaries include Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso, both of whom had not pitted and as a result made net gains. Ricciardo was fourth, with Alonso fifth.

The VSC adds a potential variable to a sport that is currently desperately lacking in those at present. It turned what was fast becoming a predictable race into one that had a battle for the lead…..until Hamilton was restricted by the lack of spare Power Unit elements and had to turn the wick down.

It was a case of what might have been for Haas in Melbourne, as the team emerged as early contenders for best of the rest but ended up plum last in the Constructors’ are two catastrophic pitstops.

Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images/Haas F1 Media
Haas were desperately unlucky to score nothing in Melbourne

Magnussen was fourth, just a second clear of teammate Grosjean as the two promised much for a team intent on building upon a solid first two seasons in the sport.

Grosjean commiserated and rallied the pit-crew member with what appeared to be the faulty wheelgun, and should Haas maintain their pace this will not hurt as much as it should.

Their task in staying fourth will get harder as the season wears on.

Watch out…..Fernando has his mojo back.
Steven Tee/LAT Images/McLaren Media

McLaren secured a double-points finish despite running nowhere near full wick because of (you guessed it) reliability worries from testing.

Due to the late switch to Renault Power Units, there’s still more to come from their chassis too, and in Fernando Alonso they have a man on the front foot.

It has not been difficult to notice a change in the Spaniard’s demeanour, encapsulated perfectly in his “speak up, don’t lose energy” and “now we can fight” messages on Sunday.

It’s good to have him back.

What goes around comes around

Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel are in party mode, after an unexpected victory in the first race of the 2018 season in Melbourne.

The German driver, qualified third, behind his team-mate and the 2017 world champion, Lewis Hamilton. The Italians took a risk and split the strategy between the drivers, Kimi Raikkonen pitted on lap 21, switched from ultrasofts to softs, Mercedes called Lewis Hamilton into the pits right after Kimi’s stop. Sebastian Vettel, remained on track for some extra laps, on the 25th lap Kevin Magnussen pitted from the fourth position, a few meters after Kevin re-joined the track, forced to step aside and park his car due to an error during the pit-stop.

A couple of laps later, Romain Grosjean pitted for a fresh set of supersofts tyres, but he copied his team-mate exact footsteps, Romain parked his car and retired from the race, for the same reason as Kevin Magnussen, loose wheels, after the pit-stop. The wheels on both cars were not being placed correctly before the nuts were tightened.

The only difference between Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, retirement, was the Grosjean’s car could not be easily recovered, hence the VSC deployed followed by a safety car.

During the VSC period, Sebastian Vettel pitted, that gave him a 10 second advantage over Lewis Hamilton. The German, re-join ahead of the Mercedes and he was leading the race. Hamilton pushed hard, after the SC, to catch and pass Vettel, the British champion was very close to Vettel’s Ferrari, but a small driving error cost him time and he also lost pace in the final laps of the race.

Sebastian Vettel celebrated a second consecutive victory in Australia and started the 2018 year with the same way he did in 2017.

A poor strategy, cost the chance to Red Bull to be competitive and score a podium in Australia. Both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen started the race on supersofts, Verstappen and Ricciardo qualified fourth and eighth respectively. A three place grid penalty was given to Daniel Ricciardo for failing to slow down for a red flag, during free practice.

The Dutch, was not quick enough to challenge the two Ferraris in the opening lap, at turn one on the tenth lap, Max spun his Red Bull and lost places. He was unable to recover, as he was also facing unbalance issues caused by the damaged floor on his car.

Daniel Ricciardo wanted to finish on the podium in his home race, after the retirement of the two Haas, the Australian was fourth behind Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn, had to defend his position as Daniel was on his tail for most of the time in the final laps of the Grand Prix.

At the end, Ricciardo finished fourth and Max Verstappen sixth, behind Fernando Alonso.

Double point finish for McLaren

For the first time since 2014, McLaren scored points in Melbourne. The fifth place that Alonso took matched his best ever result in three years with Honda power. McLaren, couldn’t imagine a better start, Alonso and Vandoorne scored 12 points combined in the opening race of the 2018 season.

Furthermore, Fernando Alonso had the pace to hold back a Red Bull and he finished ahead of Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes.

The outcome of the race affected by the VSC and Haas retirements, personally I was impressed with the pace the American team showed in the first laps of the Grand Prix and I would like to see them racing until the chequered flag.

It is still too early to judge, but I will take the risk to say that Asia will play a key role in the championship. If Ferrari has learnt from their mistakes, this year will be very interesting till the final chequered flag.

 

 

 

Season Review Part One, Mercedes too hard to die

Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.
Sunday 26 March 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _56I1907

Season finale once again, the 2017 Formula One season, belongs to the past, it’s hard to describe my feelings for this season. There are two emotional packages, the first one is before the summer break and the other one is after the break, mixed emotions but at the end, despite the results, despite the winner, there is no way to relieve the pain that appears when the F1 season ends. Now we have to wait until the first pre-season tests to hear the noise of the engines, but before that there will be massive debates about the Halo. Personally, I don’t like it, but the drivers’ safety is always the most important factor, end of discussion!

A traditional review would break the season into two parts and remind you round by round, or race by race, if you prefer, what happened the past months. Let’s try a different approach, a shorter  season review, which will try to put you in a flashback mode, and pass all the 2017 season in front of your eyes in 1 minute (okay maybe a bit more!)

8 months ago…

Australia

Season premiere, tonnes of coffee for us who are living in the European time zone, agony as well, like the first day in school after the summer break! Sebastian Vettel, started from the second place, had better set up and a faster car than his title rival, Lewis Hamilton, and won for the first time since the Singapore Grand Prix in September 2015. Mercedes asked from Hamilton to go faster, but the Brit had issues with his tyres and was unable to catch Vettel’s speed.

Not a race to remember for Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian’s Red Bull, stopped on the way to the grid, his mechanics sent him back to the race, and on the second lap he had another issue, returned to the track, to enjoy his home race, but retired before the 30th lap.

China

Lewis Hamilton took his revenge, the Briton won his first victory in 2017. On Saturday he secured the pole, and had an advantage the following day, Vettel was close but never too close and at the end Hamilton took the chequered flag. The drivers started the race on wets, Max Verstappen had an impressive race, moved from the 16th to the third. Antonio Giovinazzi crashed his Sauber on the third lap of the race and retired, a good result for Carlos Sainz who finished seventh and scored six points for Toro Rosso.

Bahrain International Circuit, Sakhir, Bahrain.
Sunday 16 April 2017.
World Copyright: Charles Coates/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _27I8921

Bahrain

Pole position for Valtteri Bottas, the first in his career, the Finn set the fastest lap on Saturday, followed by his team-mate and Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari, had the pace to challenge Mercedes, and win their second victory of the season. At that moment, it was clear that the 2017 title would be decided between Hamilton and Vettel. Lewis Hamilton received a five second time penalty, for driving slowly on the pit entry to hold up Daniel Ricciardo. Lewis, served his penalty during the second and final pit-stop, when he re-joined the track he was behind Vettel and Bottas. The Finn stepped aside, allowed to Hamilton to pass him and chase Vettel, but Hamilton was not able to cover the 12 second gap in nine laps.

Max Verstappen crashed on the eleventh lap of the race, due to brake problems and retired.

 

 

Russia

Russia was the next stop for the Formula 1 crew, after the Bahrain Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel was prepared to celebrate another victory in 2017, as he claimed the pole position in Bahrain, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas, but the Finn had other plans. The Silver Finn, jumped the two Ferraris in front of him and took the lead on the opening lap. Bottas, despite the pressure from Vettel during the final laps, managed to remain first until the chequered flag and scored his first victory in Formula 1.

Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada.
Sunday 11 June 2017.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I0800

Spain

Hola amigos, said Hamilton to Sebastian Vettel. After an amazing start, Vettel passed Hamilton on the first lap, but Mercedes had an ace under its sleeve. The Silver Arrows, decided not to follow Ferraris strategy and go for a quick stop, but to leave Hamilton on the track for a longer medium stint and gain an advantage on a later stage of the race. Valtteri Bottas, delayed Vettel, as the German couldn’t pass the Finn, Mercedes pitted Hamilton, after the end of VSC, and with 30 laps to go. The British champion, re-joined on softs, Vettel pitted a lap later and after a wheel to wheel battle with Hamilton managed to remain first. On lap 44, Lewis was on Sebastian’s tail, took advantage of the DRS and overtook the race. Since that moment Lewis has tried to increase the gap between him and Vettel and at the end, he took his second chequered flag of the season.

Hamilton vs Vettel = 2-2

Monaco

Kimi Raikkonen started from the pole position, after nine years, Kimi took advantage of Vettel’s mistakes on his flying lap, and took the pole on Saturday’s session. A race to forget for Hamilton, Lewis qualified 13th and finished seventh. Jenson Button, replaced Fernando Alonso, in Monaco, but collided with Pascal Wehrlein on lap 60 and retired the race.

Ferrari decided to pit Kimi on lap 34, Sebastian Vettel found the opportunity and set some flying laps, pitted after five laps, and re-joined ahead of his team-mate.

Daniel Ricciardo was the third person on the podium, it was Red Bull’s third podium of the season, and the second consecutive for Ricciardo.

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Sunday 14 May 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONZ6737

Canada

Easy weekend for Lewis Hamilton, the Briton started and finished the race from the same position, the first. Vettel, qualified second on Saturday, couldn’t follow the pace of the two Mercedes’ and Ricciardo’s, he finished only fourth. Sergio Perez, refused to follow Force India’s orders, to allow Ocon to pass, while he was fourth behind Ricciardo. At the end, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon finished fifth and sixth respectively.

Azerbaijan

Three safety cars, and several crashed were not enough to stop Daniel Ricciardo to win his first victory in 2017. Sebastian Vettel collided with Lewis Hamilton, he got a 10 second stop and go time for swearing in Hamilton’s car.

Daniel Ricciardo totally deserved the victory in the Baku Grand Prix, the Australian dropped down to 17th place, but moved up to the tenth position just before the first safety car. The two following, safety cars, and the troubles between the leading drivers, gave the advantage to Ricciardo to move all the way up in the first place.

A race that Stroll will never forget, the Canadian young driver finished on the podium for the first time in his career.

Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia.
Saturday 25 March 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _56I7996

Austria

Valtteri Bottas dominated in Austria, took his second victory in 2017. A five-place grid penalty dropped Hamilton to eighth position, the following day, Lewis finished fourth behind Daniel Ricciardo whilst Sebastian Vettel finished second. During the final laps of the race, Vettel was closing to Bottas and Hamilton to Ricciardo, for the third place, but both drivers didn’t improve their position.

After the Austrian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel was leading in the championship standings by 20 points.

United Kingdom

Home race for Lewis Hamilton and he couldn’t imagine a better way to thank his fans who appeared in Silverstone, than to win the British Grand Prix. With that victory, Lewis Hamilton tied the all-time record of five career wins in the British GP.

“The support has been incredible this weekend, I am so proud I could do this for you all. Now the plan is to win the championship.” Lewis Hamilton said after his victory in Silverstone.

An issue on Vettel’s front tyre, dropped him to seventh place behind Hulkenberg. Kimi Raikkonen, suffered the same problem a couple laps earlier, which cost him the second position, dropped him to the third place, whilst Bottas moved up to the second position.

Hungary

The last race before the summer break, Ferrari dominated in Hungary, and responded to Mercedes 1-2 in Silverstone. Sebastian Vettel, despite the problems that his Ferrari suffered, he won in Hungary, followed by his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, who was complaining about Vettel’s speed.

Lewis Hamilton, was not able to catch the two Ferraris in front of him and allowed Bottas to pass him and finish third. The Briton, kept the promise which made to Valtteri earlier in the race, when Bottas allowed Lewis to pass, as he was moving faster at that point of the race.

A great race for Fernando Alonso, who finished sixth and scored crucial points for McLaren, a positive result for Carlos Sainz Jnr too, the Spaniard finished seventh behind Alonso.

Season Review…Part One…

Stay..tuned…for..the..second..part…

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Mexican Grand Prix Review, Viva Mexico

The minute of silence in respect to the people who suffered from the earthquake in the Mexico City was one of the most emotional moments in the Mexican Grand Prix. People are above everything and we should always help and support each other.

Max Verstappen took the chequered flag in Mexico, but Lewis Hamilton was the big winner of the weekend. Hamilton became the first British, F1 racing driver, with four world titles.

On Saturday, Vettel set the fastest lap in Q3 of the qualifying session and took the pole position in Mexico, followed by Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton. Lights out, a brave start from the young Max Verstappen who added some pressure on Vettel, took the lead after a wheel to wheel battle with Sebastian, who forced to retreat, and had to fight with Hamilton for the second position. Vettel collided with Hamilton, damaged his front wing and caused a puncture to Hamilton’s rear left tyre. Both drivers pitted and dropped down to the back of the grid.

Lewis Hamilton stuck behind Sainz’s car, whilst Vettel was pushing hard to gain position. Sebastian had to finish in the first two positions, in order to have chances for the championship in the two remaining races.

For almost 30 laps, Hamilton, couldn’t find the speed to pass Carlos Sainz’s Renault, Brendon Hartley retired on lap 31 after an engine failure, gave the chance to Mercedes to call Hamilton into the pits, whilst the race was under VSC, and fit him the super-soft tyres.

The new tyres gave the chance to Hamilton to start his counter attack and cover ground as Vettel was gaining places and was hoping for a miracle in order to get a place on the podium. The German, was far behind the first three drivers, he managed to move up to position four and placed behind Raikkonen, Bottas and Verstappen.

A few laps before the chequered flag, Hamilton asked his team if Vettel could get the second position, Mercedes’ reply was “Negative” as Bottas was second and it would be hard for anyone to take it from him.

Esteban Ocon had his chance to shine, especially after lights out, Ocon was third, but after the first pit-stop period Kimi Raikkonen moved up to the third place and forced Esteban to retreat to fourth. Ocon, had to defend his place from Vettel, but that was not easy, and the German took the fourth place. Ocon’s fifth and Perez’s seventh place, were enough to give the fourth position to Sahara Force India in the constructors’ championship.

Lance Stroll had a quiet race, took advantage of Hulkenberg’s and Ricciardo’s retirements also gained an advantage from Hamilton’s and Vettel’s collision and managed to finish sixth and score eight points for Williams.

The four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton had a tough start this season, but despite the difficulties that he faced, mainly during the first half of the season, he had the courage to fight back, and showed to everyone why he is one of the best drivers on the grid. Silverstone was the spark that led to Hamilton’s comeback and to his fourth world title (2008, 2014, 2015, 2017).

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Mexico Grand Prix Preview with Austin Taste, Ariba Ariba

GP MESSICO F1/2016 – CITTA’ DEL MESSICO (MESSICO) 27/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Last back to back race of the season, directly tickets from Texas to Mexico City were booked by the Formula 1 staff, some had to climb Trump’s wall in order to arrive in Mexico, but everything is almost ready for the 18th race of the season.

Max Verstappen as another Speedy Gonzalez, will have to control his nerves and the “stab in the back” pain from FIA, must race as a normal racing driver under the official rules. Kimi Raikkonen from the other hand, the cool type that we all love, will go to Mexico with one purpose, to support Sebastian Vettel from Friday till the chequered flag. The Finn, was second in Austin and was looking very comfortable, but suddenly Ferrari discovered that he was going to run out of fuels, the order was clear “Save fuels, Kimi” and to our big surprise, Kimi stepped aside and let Vettel pass second, he almost lost the third place from Max, but as many said on the social media, one Finn supports the other, and Mika Salo advised the stewards to give 5 second time penalty to Max Verstappen after the chequered flag.

Circuit of the Americas, Austin, Texas, United States of America.
Sunday 22 October 2017.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I1833

Oh, I almost forgot to mention the 3.7-4 world time champion Lewis Hamilton. The Brit had an easy weekend in Austin, no pressure for him, he read the script and followed exactly Mercedes’ plan. The track suited perfectly to Lewis and his sixth victory in COTA proves that, now the Champ has to finish fifth or above in Mexico in order to celebrate his fourth world title.

AUTÓDROMO HERMANOS RODRÍGUEZ

Laps: 71

Circuit Length: 4.304 km

Race Distance: 305.354 km

Lap Record: 1:20.521 (Nico Rosberg – 2015)

Mexico Grand Prix re-appeared in the Formula One calendar in 2015, after a long absence. Nico Rosberg was the driver who took the chequered flag in that year. Last year Lewis Hamilton won the Mexican Grand Prix, and he will try to repeat his success this season as well.

It is a home race for Sergio Perez, the fans will cheer for him and hopefully he will not complain about Oconstistency’s pace.

Sergio Perez – “Racing at home means a lot for me. It’s always a busy week, both for me and the team, but being at home makes all the hard work we put in for our fans and our partners worthwhile. It’s definitely the most enjoyable weekend of the year for me. It’s a great race for everyone involved in Formula One. There’s so much passion and the whole week is a big celebration. Everyone in Mexico City is looking forward to the race.The track is quite fun to drive and being on those long straights is special. Because of the altitude, even though you’re running high wings, you still achieve very high speeds and it’s really hard to stop the car under braking – in that sense it feels like a bit like Monza.I am lucky I get to race in my country in front of my fans. Their support means so much to me and it’s inspiring to see fans waving the Mexican flag in every grandstand. I really want to give them a special result to celebrate.”

GP MESSICO F1/2016 – CITTA’ DEL MESSICO (MESSICO) 30/10/2016
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER PIRELLI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)

Felipe Massa – “First of all, it’s a shame to see what’s happened, it’s so sad to see the people losing their lives and also their homes from the earthquake so that’s really, really sad. I think we need to help them and get as much support for them. We need to pass the message to people around the world. That is the most important thing. Secondly, they are really in love with Formula One and they go crazy for the race. When you see the people in the grandstand and around the roads, they are proper Formula One fans and I think it’s fantastic to race there. I always enjoy it, I go with some friends, my father and we always enjoy the atmosphere there. It looks very similar to São Paolo so you also feel at home. I really hope we can have an important race for them in this difficult moment.”

In the American Grand Prix, Mercedes AMG celebrated their fourth consecutive constructors’ title, despite their bad start this season, the team managed to overcome their problems and the hard work paid off for them as they won the world title, massive congratulations to every member who contributed to the success.

Max Attack – Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen On How To Overtake & Win Races In F1 | M1TG

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Mercedes’ 2017 success is down to lessons learnt, but it shouldn’t all be doom and gloom for Ferrari

The Asian leg of Ferrari’s and Sebastian Vettel’s title bid has seen their title challenge hit the buffers somewhat.

After a double-DNF in Singapore when Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen sandwiched the Red Bull of Max Verstappen at the start, Raikkonen failed to make the grid at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Vettel started last after engine problems in qualifying there and his pace through the race as he rose to fourth suggested all was not lost, despite a 34-

point gap to Lewis Hamilton going into the Japanese Grand Prix.

At Suzuka, a promising start to the weekend once again unravelled. Vettel’s spark plug issues pre-race were solved for all of half a lap before they returned, and neither an out-of-position Raikkonen nor a hard-charging Verstappen could prevent Hamilton’s third win in four races.

GP UNGHERIA F1/2017
© FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO PER FERRARI MEDIA (© COPYRIGHT FREE)
Vettel was close in Spa but couldn’t overhaul Hamilton and Mercedes

Vettel is now 59 points behind Hamilton with just four races, and 100 points, left this season.

This was the season that was meant to finally return silverware to Maranello after nine years without any kind of end-of-season honours for Ferrari.

While the car has shown ultimate pace, particularly around more technical circuits, Mercedes’ knowhow and coolness appears to have seen off the challenge from Italy.

Vettel needs to put together a run not seen since his record-breaking nine-race winning streak in 2013 to have even half a chance of matching Juan Manuel Fangio’s total of five World Championships this season.

Vettel may look to lost points in the British Grand Prix, where from third he lost four places and nine points due to a puncture, or strategy calls in China and Spain that didn’t quite come off.

Quite simply, Mercedes have succeeded where on Hamilton’s car they failed last year, with robotic consistency and bulletproof reliability.

Having a co-operative teammate this time around has certainly helped too.

Steve Etherington / Mercedes-AMG Petronas

Where in 2016 Champion Nico Rosberg there was eventually a man willing to fight his own corner and scrap for every point over his teammate, Valtteri Bottas has certainly followed the rules.

It is that teamwork that has subtly won Hamilton points over the course of this season.

So, there we have it.

It might not be the last-race decider that everyone had predicted, and hoped for, but it has twisted, turned, thrilled and occasionally spilled.

While Mercedes have once again got it right, it is far from the end of the story for Ferrari.

Add Red Bull’s improved form to the mix and 2018 could be something special.

©2017 The Pitcrewonline