Joe’s Quali Report

Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
Saturday 08 July 2017.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _O3I7851

Valtteri Bottas secured only the second pole position of his Formula 1 career, and Mercedes’ 80th, on Saturday after pipping Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and teammate Lewis Hamilton to top spot at the Red Bull Ring in Austria with a blistering lap-time of 1:04.251.

The Fin was not only able to replicate the good pace he set throughout the weekend which saw him finish third at the end of FP1, 2 and 3, but managed to overcome the fierce competition set from the red Italians to clinch the vital grid position ahead on Sunday’s race.

 

“It feels good. I really enjoy driving here. I enjoyed it today the car was getting better and better as the grip was coming”, Bottas told Sky Sports.

 

“A decent lap at the end, it wasn’t perfect, but it was enough.”

 

The 27-year-old will have Vettel alongside him for company on the front row, whose best Q3 lap-time was just 0.042 seconds from the pole-sitter. It could have been different however, if Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who ended up in the barriers on Friday, hadn’t lost control in dramatic fashion on his final flying-lap to finish Q3 in the gravel trap under yellow flags.

 

“At Turn Seven I tried to be a little too aggressive with the throttle and lost the rear”, Verstappen said.

 

“I’m not sure on pace if we can get both cars on the podium. A lot of things will have to happen in front of us. Rain would be good for us.”

 

Even though Hamilton posted a time under 0.2s behind Vettel to grab P3, he will start in P8 on the supersoft tyres after a five-place grid penalty was issued due to an unsanctioned gearbox change.

 

The three-time world champion’s frustration was obviously evident after being unable to give himself the best possible chance of climbing the field, but he was still happy it was a Silver Arrow at the front of the grid.

 

“Congratulations to Valtteri, he did a fantastic job and Sebastian has been very quick. It just wasn’t meant to be today”, Hamilton stated.

 

“I’ll do the best job I can. I want to get up there and get a one-two with Valtteri.”

 

The Mercedes-man’s issues means that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, whose time pushed him into P4, will start third on the grid alongside Daniel Ricciardo, who for the first time in five races managed to out-qualify his teammate.

 

Verstappen and Romain Grosjean will occupy the third row, even though the Frenchman’s car had been somewhat difficult to handle this weekend on the high-paced circuit. The remainder of the top 10 will feature the Force India duo Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, split by the penalised Hamilton, and Carlos Sainz of Toro Rosso – who sat in P4 at the end of Q1.

 

Elsewhere, Lance Stroll was brought sharply back down to earth following his podium-clinching heroics in Baku two weeks ago, as the young Canadian and teammate Felipe Massa both failed to make it out of Q1 and will start on the second-last row of the grid.

 

Nico Hulkenberg will begin Sunday’s race in P11, but could have even forced his way into Q3 if it was not for a rear suspension failure during P2 that forced the German to abandon the remainder of the session.

 

It remains to be seen whether, similarly to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix a fortnight ago, the qualifying results will truly dictate the outcome of the race.

But with only four pole-sitters in the past 10 years going on to claim victory at the Red Bull Ring, the same number as P3, Sunday’s race is certainly not a foregone conclusion.

Baku Quali Review

courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Lewis Hamilton secured his 66th career pole and his first around the Baku City Circuit thanks to a blistering 1:40.593 – meaning the title-chaser will start at the front of the grid at Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Brit had struggled for pace throughout all three practice sessions, including finishing down in 10th at the conclusion of FP2 on Friday, however stormed his way to the front of the pack after being able to take 0.4 seconds off teammate Valtteri Bottas in sector two, who will start alongside his fellow Silver Arrow on the front row of the grid.

It looked as if car number 44 was to suffer pain similar to that of Q3 12 months ago as Daniel Ricciardo clipped the exit of turn six in his Red Bull and forced a red flag leaving just over three minutes of the session remaining with everyone’s favourite Austrian Toto Wolff looking on concerned.

With good reason too, as throughout the day it had taken Mercedes at least two warm-up laps to turn on the soft compound tyres due to the low degradation.

However, the Merc boss needn’t have been, as after just one long out-lap Hamilton broke the 1:41 barrier for the first time of the day, snatching pole from his teammate Bottas who had topped the timesheets up until Ricciardo’s crash.

Behind them title rival Sebastian Vettel did not enjoy his afternoon and will start on the second row of the grid in fourth alongside fellow Ferrari Kimi Raikkonen, after a 1:41.841 and a 1:41.693 respectively were not enough to challenge either of the Silver Arrows.

The Italian prancing horse pairing will have to have their wits about them when the lights go green as Friday practice time-topper Max Verstappen will be looking for any small avenue to sneak through sitting in fifth.

The Dutchman was unable to match his great race-pace shown during FP1 and FP2, but may just fancy taking on the struggling Vettel after out-qualifying his teammate for the second race weekend in a row with the Australian starting 10th.

Alongside the youngster from Red Bull sits Force India’s Sergio Perez, but will not take the headlines in the paddock with the pink panther’s teammate Estaban Ococ securing his best ever grid position of P7 behind the Mexican.

Lance Stroll also recorded his best finish in F1 after out-qualifying his partner Felipe Massa by 0.035s, with the Williams duo beginning Sunday’s race P8 and P9 respectively.

Elsewhere McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne both exited quali during Q1, with the veteran ending up in 16th and the rookie only able to secure P19 after Renault’s Jolyon Palmer not featuring. However, neither really matter, as with the help of a 70-place grid penalty between them, both Honda-powered cars will be starting the race from the back of the grid.

By Joe Owens

Joe’s Midweek Round up…

Hello and welcome to the second edition of The Crew’s Formula 1 Bitesize brought to you by The Pit Crew Online, and what a week it has been.

Last Sunday gave us arguably the best race weekend of the season so far. From Fernando Alonso’s sublime qualifying, to the first corner overtakes and antics, strategic masterclasses from Mercedes and Sauber, and McLaren did not have any Sunday reliability issues – crazy I know.

It wasn’t all good for McLaren Stoffel Vandoorne has received a grid penalty ahead of Monaco for his collision with Felipe Massa. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that he may have been caught out by the Williams’ Mercedes power.

But this update is not about the races as such, the Crew have all of that covered already. This is for what you may have missed in the week surrounding race and non-race weekends.

During this week’s bitesized report we cover some interesting Red Bull news, as well as comments from my favourite Austrian, Toto Wolff.

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking!

2021, The Four Numbers on Red Bull’s Lips

Red Bull Racing chief Helmut Marko has stated that the team may quit F1 if there are not significant changes planned for engine regulations ahead of the 2021 season.

Sport officials are already in talks regarding alterations for the power units after 2020, but the third-placed constructors’ championship sitters have some suggestions of their own after seemingly being left behind due to the Renault’s lack of power.

“The idea is very simple”, the energy-drink boss told El Confidencial.

“We want an engine that is 1000-horsepower, with a single standard KERS and battery, and development does not cost more than $15 million to $20 million.

“They should have sound and allow the driver to make the difference. And independent companies like Ilmor and Cosworth should be able to enter so that we or McLaren can use them if we want.

“Last year, Mercedes would not give us an engine; neither would Ferrari, and Renault was only forced by [Bernie] Ecclestone to give us one.

“We want to have an equal situation where we are not blackmailed by a manufacturer.”

It certainly would be a shame to lose Red Bull from the sport, however, these comments seem driven from a lack of progression in a season that offered promise in challenging Mercedes due to more focus on Aerodynamics.

It appears then that Marko is unimpressed with how things have panned out, but it feels like he is holding F1 to ransom because they have not been able to take advantage of the rule changes in the same way the Silver Arrows or Ferrari have.

The pinnacle of motorsport is certainly in transition under Chase Carey’s leadership and undoubtedly improvements will be made, however, Red Bull only have themselves to blame for the underwhelming start they have made to the 2017 season.

RB13 is Still Some Time Away

Staying with Red Bull and their underperformance, the team have announced that the major updates that were planned, but did not feature in Barcelona, will now not appear until the Austrian grand-prix in early July. All about Austria this week – great place.

Minor changes will occur ahead of Monaco and a low downforce package will debut in Canada, however, it will not be until the energy-drinks’ home race in just under two months’ time before we see the big RB13 upgrade with the team hopeful that Renault’s improved power unit will also be available.

“If we could turn the power up full, we would not be far from Mercedes and Ferrari”, an unnamed team member told F1i.com.

“But because of reliability, we can’t do it yet.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo may as well have been racing by himself on Sunday, finishing over 75 seconds behind winner Lewis Hamilton – clearly emphasising how much needs to be done if Christian Horner and his team want to challenge for any titles again in the near future.

Wolff: Alonso Could be a Mercedes Driver in 2018

Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, my favourite Austrian, has not ruled out the king of frustration, Fernando Alonso, joining the current constructors’ champions ahead of the 2018 campaign.

The two-time world champion has made no attempts in hiding his disappointment with this season’s McLaren car, particularly the sheer lack of power available from the Honda engine which averaged around 7mph slower over the 66 laps of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya compared to number 44.

In the past Wolff and Niki Lauda have ruled out the fiery Spaniard joining the Silver Arrows due to a potential personality clash, particularly with ex-teammate Hamilton, however now the 45-year-old has now stated that nothing is off the table.

“You cannot say ‘no’ in advance – that would be stupid”, the Merc boss told Spanish newspaper Marca.

“What you can say is that if he is not the best, he is one of the best out there. His energy and motivation are still there.

“He’s in the final stages of his career, but that does not mean he cannot win races and titles in the next two or three years.

“If you could choose the Fernando today as he is, as a person, it would be much easier than to choose him with all the historical context.

“Lewis plays a key role in this. I think a driver always accepts a challenge, and Fernando would be a challenge.

“But it’s much more than just Lewis feeling right with Fernando. The whole dynamic of the team is important. Everything has to fit, but I think Fernando is a different person to how he was in the past.”

Alonso has already shown he still has the passion to prove his capabilities by competing in the Indianapolis 500 and attempting to complete the motorsport triple-crown.

It would certainly be interesting to see the old-timer back in the seat of a title challenging car, however with a number of leading drivers available in 2019, Wolff and co. may find it more beneficial to hold off for a younger superstar.

Final Word

It has been another hectic week in the world of F1, including a stunning Spanish Grand-Prix on Sunday. We will catch up again same time next week with more news and views on the biggest stories of the week, and, just in case you are wondering, no I am not Austrian.

Until next time!

18/5/17

Images courtesy of McLaren Honda F1 Team

Spanish Grand Prix, Hamilton secured his 64th pole

Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain.
Saturday 13 May 2017.
World Copyright: Glenn Dunbar/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _31I4862

Lewis Hamilton secured his 64th career pole position ahead of Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix with a blistering time of 1.19.194 – nearly three seconds quicker than the time to beat last year, again set by the number 44 car.

The Mercedes man edged out nearest rival Sebastian Vettel, who will start alongside the Brit after crossing the line .051 seconds behind his title challenger and managing to split what looked set to be the Silver Arrows’ fourth consecutive lockout at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

It was a particularly impressive result for the German who, if it were not for his experience, would have been starting alongside Daniil Kvyat at the back of the grid after receiving team instructions to turn the engine off at the start of Q1.

This came as a result of Ferrari mechanics having to complete a full engine change before the beginning of qualifying in under two hours, and seemingly being unable to cure a water leakage which occurred at the end of FP3.

However, Vettel questioned the radio communications and managed to alter in-car settings to remain on track and boost his chances of maintaining the Driver’s Championship lead come the end of tomorrow’s race.

It was not the start Mercedes wanted in terms of reliability on Saturday morning either, with Valtteri Bottas also suffering from a similar engine issue overnight meaning the Finn had very little time out on track during FP3; a session in which Ferrari dominated with Kimi Raikkonen setting the fastest lap; .242 ahead of his teammate and .381 in front of Hamilton.

But the two countrymen will line-up together on the second row of the grid after both lost time in sector three whilst seemingly on course to pip pole position– with the chicane catching several drivers out throughout the weekend including Hamilton, Vettel, Max Verstappen and particularly Romain Grosjean – who starts 14th after abandoning his final lap in Q2 following a second lock-up of the afternoon.

The top six is completed by the two Red Bulls with, as has been the case all weekend so far, Verstappen coming out on top of their battle for supremacy, with Daniel Ricciardo seemingly struggling to match the pace of his Dutch teammate.

It was here 12 months ago the exciting youngster truly arrived on the F1 scene after a collision between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg allowed the former Toro Rosso man to take a maiden victory for the senior team. Something when asked if it could be repeated this year Verstappen joked would have to be involving the top four for him to stand any chance of taking away full points again.

Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso was somehow able to drag the McLaren up to seventh on the starting grid after more technical issues on Friday which forced the Spaniard to take some time way from the track to de-stress achieved by a game of tennis, seemed to be yet another episode in the long-line of disasters this season.

But the veteran was able to overcome no time on the track in FP1 and the colossal achievement sparked celebrations similar to those of the days the 35-year-old became a double world champion with Renault, leaving a sad comparison to see how much the great has fallen.

It was not all smiles in the McLaren garage however as Stoffel Vandoorne was unable to match the heroics of his teammate and lines up alongside Kvyat at the back of the grid – who claimed there was something broken on the car following the session.

There were similar looks of disappointment etched across the faces of Lance Stroll and Joylon Palmer, who both had Q1’s to forget and will begin Sunday’s race on the second row from the back.

It will be especially disappointing for the Renault driver after the Brit set a solid pace in Friday’s FP1 and FP2 and arrived in high spirits ahead of Saturday’s sessions only to comment after stating he was unhappy in the car and that it seemed to have lost its speed overnight.

Teammate Nico Hulkenberg was also unable to continue his good qualifying run which had seen him secure a place in Q3 for the last three consecutive races. The German’s 1.21.397 leaves him 12th on the tomorrow’s grid, again a disappointment following the weekend’s previous sessions.

A Look Ahead

The Silver Arrows and Hamilton will be hoping they can repeat the standings of FP1, FP2 and all of qualifying in which the three-time world champion secured top spot.

However, Vettel and Raikkonen will take spirit from their FP3 dominance and believe they have what it takes to force Mercedes all the way.

One thing that was certainly noticeable throughout both Friday and Saturday are the upgrades that have been placed on and in both the Mercedes and Ferrari’s ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix seem to have improved all four cars, however have not dampened the ferocity of the teams’ rivalry and it is sure to be another tense encounter in Barcelona.

Joe Owens

Image Courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Barcelona Track Preview

The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya is preparing to host its 26th annual Formula 1 Spanish Grand-Prix this Sunday since its inception into the race calendar in 1991. Its construction coincided with the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, where the circuit was used as the start-finish line for the road team time trial cycling event.

The 4.65 kilometre track containing 16 corners; nine right-handers and seven left, boasts five main overtaking points at turns 1, 2, 4, 10 and 13, as well as a 1.3km flat-out section where cars reach speeds of 332kph.

The left-hand side pole position sits 730 metres away from turn one, making it one of the most important starts of the season. However, wind-speed often violently fluctuates around the municipality of Montmelo, meaning without correct aerodynamic set-ups, the Catalan tarmac can particularly be a tough place to maintain a lead.

So, taking all the challenges that lay ahead for the 20 drivers this weekend into account, let’s look at this race-weekend’s track preview: The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Familiarity.

The circuit is a familiar one to all teams with it not only playing host to the Spanish Grand Prix, but is also the home of F1 winter testing. The FIA often receives criticism that there is little overtaking during the 66-lap race nowadays due to drivers being so knowledgeable of the track – with races during the early stages after construction littered with daring manoeuvres, particularly in the last two corners.

However, with track temperatures expected to be between 40.5 and 42.4 degrees Celsius, conditions are vastly different to those experienced during testing. Combining this with the ever-changing aerodynamics, the 307km-long battle can provide as many twists and turns as anywhere on the calendar.

We only have to take a look at last year’s collision between Mercedes pairing Lewis Hamiltion and Nico Rosberg to know Barcelona can provide thrilling entertainment.

Tyres.

We have already discussed how influential aerodynamics can be, however not many tracks provide as much tyre strain as that of Barcelona.

The circuit is known for being tough on tyres and teams often split between a two and three-stop strategy with Soft, Medium and Hard compounds the three options for this weekend.

History.

The 4.65km ribbon of tarmac has played host to the Spanish Grand Prix for the last 26 years, however it is someone who will be on the starting grid on Sunday who holds the current record.

Ferrari-man Kimi Raikkonen set a blistering lap of 1:21.670 back in 2008, 5.278 seconds faster than the fastest lap of last year’s race set by Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso.

The Spanish Grand Prix in general has been a happy hunting ground for Ferrari throughout its 104-year history, with the Italian Racehorse taking 12 wins – their most recent coming from Fernando Alonso in 2013 before the Silver Arrows’ hybrid dominance thereafter.

However, Mercedes have only been victorious six times in Spain, with two coming at Barcelona, a number that could have been three if it were not for their first-lap disaster last year.

Hamilton and Rosberg’s antics paved the way for a historic moment on Spain’s east coast, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen securing his first ever win in Formula 1 during his team debut – making him the youngest winner in the sport’s history.

What to expect from the 2017 Spanish Grand Prix.

This season has started out a very much two-horse manufacturer’s race, with Ferrari finally showing the race-pace practice and qualifying sessions promised last year.

With three different winners in the opening weeks of the campaign already, it would come as no surprise if Sunday gave us the fourth.

Ferrari’s testing pace pre-season looked promising, and Maurizio Arrivabene will be hoping they can emulate that success. Toto Wolff and the Mercedes garage on the other hand will be keen to secure their first back-to-back win of this term in a season they were expected to walk away with again.

By Joe Owens 10/05/17

Picture courtesy of Simon Tassie

Joe’s Midweek Report

Hello and welcome to this week’s Formula 1 round-up, your one-stop-shop for biggest stories in F1 over the past seven days.

Today we cover a shock deal that has apparently already been done ahead of the 2018 season, a fresh, new look for all cars on the grid ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix this weekend, a new deal that could see Honda become an even bigger presence in the sport than they already are, and a familiar face set to return. So, let’s get cracking.

Deal Done? Insider Seems to Think So

Ferrari’s number one driver, and the 2017 Driver’s World Championship leader Sebastien Vettel has a pre-contract agreement already in place with Mercedes for next year, according to someone close to Ferrari.

The German, who has a 13-point advantage over Silver Arrow Lewis Hamilton going into Sunday’s race at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, was contacted when Nico Rosberg left the constructer’s world champions at the end of last campaign – this is not new information.

However, now well-known F1 blogger, and Ferrari friend, Leo Turrini has stated that the 29-year-old has a deal in place to join his biggest rivals come the close of this term.

“It is no secret to anyone that after Rosberg’s retirement, Mercedes contacted Seb”, he said as reported by F1i.com.

“During the pre-season test in Barcelona, Niki Lauda told friends confidentially that Vettel has a pre-agreement with the Germans for next season.”

These comments mirror those of pundit Eddie Jordan who also believes negotiations have taken place.

“Of course they’re talking with Vettel”, the 69-year-old stated.

It is unsure whether any formal agreement has been reached between the two German parties, and with the Italian manufacturer’s impressive race pace this year it remains to be seen if any deal will be done.

Another New Rule from Charlie Whiting

As we head into race-weekend number five in the 2017 season, teams are finally getting to grips with the new rules and regulations of this year in practice, however now there’s a new one.

All drivers will now have easier to recognise designs on their cars, allowing spectators and race officials to identify who is who out on track, or Article 9.2 according to Charlie Whiting.

“We require each car number to be clearly visible from the front of the car (Article 9.2)”, he stated as reported on pitpass.com.

“We feel that to be clearly visible the numbers should be no less than 230mm high, have a minimum stroke thickness of 40mm and be of a clearly contrasting colour to their background.

“Each driver’s name (or TLA) is to be clearly legible on the external bodywork (Article 9.3).

“We feel that to be clearly legible the names should be no less than 150mm high, have a minimum stroke thickness of 30mm and be of a clearly contrasting colour to their background.”

Mercedes were the first to release their new design ahead of strict rulings that all teams must abide by or face the stewards’ wrath, and boy does it look good. Suppose on this one we must admit it’s a positive. Thanks Charlie!

More Than Just an Engine

Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn has stated that the Swiss F1 team’s new partnership with engine manufacturers Honda could go beyond just a power unit supply.

The ninth-placed constructers became the third team to sign a deal with the Japanese company ahead of next year, however the team principal has stated that there could be more to come from their new relationship.

“We’ll see how it all pans put”, the 46-year-old told Motorsport.com.

“We’re really at the beginning now. I don’t know their deals with McLaren. We are a very different project.

“We’ll see where we can benefit from each other in this. We’ve been in situations where we were a manufacturer team – we’re not a manufacturer team now, we’re a customer to them.

“But we know that there are a lot of opportunities there, and this is one of the reasons why we decided for this partnership.

“It’s far too early to say we’ll be doing this and that, but yes, we’re open to anything.”

Honda have done well to secure two additional teams to McLaren considering the reliability issues the former-F1 force have been facing.

However, if they were able to overcome the problems incurred this year, the Japanese company could once again prove that they can supply race-winning power units.

Familiar Face Set for Return

Former Jordan, Toyota, Virgin Racing and Marussia F1 driver Timo Glock is to make his return to the pinnacle of motorsport.

It has not yet been formally announced when the three-time podium sitter will feature on the grid again, however following a successful DTM season the 35-year-old announced via his official Facebook account he was contacted by an F1 team for a seat-fitting.

Now the question is, which team?

Has Fernando Alonso finally snapped at McLaren? Are Renault fed-up with Jolylon Parmer underachieving? Is this the back up for Seb Vettel after he moves to Mercedes? (I doubt it but you never know).

One thing is for sure we will find out soon, and it will be good to see the German back.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and I will see you all again next time.

Joe Owens, F1 Correspondent @joejournosun.

Picture courtesy of Pirelli Motorsport.

Valtteri Bottas: the dark horse of 2017?

Großer Preis von Russland 2017, Sonntag – Steve Etherington / Mercedes AMG Petronas

Valtteri Bottas secured his first win in Formula 1 last weekend after overcoming the first Ferrari lock-out in nine years. Going into turn two and holding onto the lead, the Finn had seemingly learnt from mistakes made in Bahrain fourteen days beforehand.

The 27-year-old crossed the finish line in Sochi 0.617s ahead of Sebastian Vettel and 36.320s before fellow Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton in fourth.

The 25 championship points secured thanks to a near-flawless drive placed the Fin just ten points behind his Mercedes teammate and within a race win of the German leader.

However, Bottas has already shown inconsistency this season—falling from pole in Bahrain to finish third and losing another three places in China where the former Williams man finished sixth.

So is there correlation between this season and the last? Or, is Bottas really in the title chase?

Großer Preis von Russland 2017, Sonntag – Steve Etherington / Mercedes AMG Petronas

Well, during the first four races of the 2016 campaign Bottas impressed, out-qualifying then-teammate Felipe Massa on three occasions; Bahrain, China and Russia, including a front-row start alongside Nico Rosberg in Sochi.

However, this season seems to be a similar scenario: Bottas has again showed great pace in what seem to be his favoured tracks, but, similar to last year, struggled with the opening race in Australia.

Barcelona again seems to be one that the Finn relishes. The 4.65km circuit was another happy hunting ground for Bottas in 2016 finishing fifth behind both Red Bull and Ferrari after the infamous collision between the Mercedes drivers early on.

However, throughout the remainder of the 2016 campaign, Bottas struggled to match both qualifying and race pace of Williams’ nearest rivals leading to an eighth-placed Drivers’ Championship finish.

The Monaco Grand Prix seemed to be the catalyst for this downfall, with a finish just inside the points which inevitably lead to a fifth-placed Constructors’ Championship finish for Williams—35 points behind Force India.

Using this, you cannot say that Bottas is in the title picture just yet. His downward spiral last season after a promising start showed no evidence that the 27-year-old is able to provide a consistent challenge.

However, if the Finn was to secure similarly impressive qualifying times and results to that of his previous two races, then he may well be considered as the third-horse in a current two-horse race.

Joe Owens, F1 Correspondent