Heartbreak for Norris but it’s 100 for Hamilton!

Hamilton finally gets his 100th win in a race with changing conditions. Heartbreak for Norris who was leading for most of the race, but a call to stick to slicks as the rain got heavier with just 3 laps left meant that he finished P7. Verstappen gained the most though finishing P2 after starting at the back of the grid.

Qualifying yesterday created a dream top 3 for some fans, and with Verstappen starting from the back it was set to be a good race. Bottas took a shock engine penalty this morning meaning he start P17, interesting tactics by Mercedes? The weather, which had played a part all weekend, looked like it may play a part with rain out at sea closing in.

Lights out and Norris got a great start, Sainz was battling Russell through to turn 2 but wins out. Sainz picked up an incredible slip stream and takes the lead around the outside of turn 3. Hamilton had a terrible start, bogged down and lost out to Ricciardo and Stroll who picked up a slipstream from Hamilton as he was boxed in.

Now in P6, Hamilton was on a charge as part of the train behind Russell who was still in P3 on lap 5. Verstappen was making up places, up to P15 but was stuck behind Bottas. The Mercedes team game looking at the bigger championship picture. However, Verstappen made a move after just 3 laps, Bottas leaving the door open and Verstappen going through.

10 laps in and Norris was now within DRS of Sainz and closing every lap. Russell holding up the rest of the pack meant that the top 2 were now 7 seconds clear to battle each other. Just 1 lap later and Verstappen was making up more places. Leclerc made a move on Vettel on the inside of turn 4 but went too deep. Verstappen just behind wanted to take advantage, but nearly pinched into the wall he had to back out and wait for Leclerc to go wide again, which happened just 2 corners later.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Max Verstappen driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Lap 13 and Norris makes it past Sainz in a great move down the back straight using DRS. He managed to pull out a gap before Sainz went in to pit just a few laps later with an unfortunate slow stop. Stroll was the first to pit and took full advantage of the powerful undercut. Once Russell pitted, who was ahead of Stroll before pitting, he came out behind Stroll.

Ricciardo came into the pits 23 laps in. Both McLaren and Mercedes were ready but Hamilton was told to do the opposite. Ricciardo had a very slow stop trying to get to grips with the new, slower, pitstop system. The light didn’t change and therefore Ricciardo was held in his pit box. This played into Hamilton’s hands, who had a whole pitstop over Ricciardo. However, Hamilton, in clear air, decided to stay out longer and was putting in fastest laps. Lap 27 and having pulled a gap to Ricciardo, Hamilton had a clean stop but still came out behind Stroll. Verstappen pitted for mediums at the same time, coming out only 2 places behind Hamilton.

Norris finally pits for a set of hard tyres with a much cleaner stop. He came out in clean air with the 3 drivers ahead of him yet to stop. Hamilton on fresh hard tyres made use of the action packed back straight to dispatch of Stroll, Sainz and Gasly to begin gaining on Norris just over halfway through the race.

By lap 37 Verstappen was still behind Ricciardo, which was hurting his medium tyres. Perez pitted but had a very slow stop with problems on the rear right, meaning he came out just ahead of Verstappen. This is where team orders were expected but there was no change over and Verstappen lost out to Alonso who had fresh tyres, having pitted at the same time as Perez.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Sergio Perez F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Lap 46, the rain finally came around turn 5. Umbrellas were up and every team now deciding what to do because it came in initially as light rain. Norris thinking about the race win and Hamilton thinking about the championship. Sainz the first to make a call about getting ready for intermediates. Norris went wide on the wet corners, but Hamilton also had to go slowly around the corner and stayed behind Norris.

Trying to decide when to come in the entire grid were changing positions. Importantly Norris decided to stick with the slicks with a 25 second gap to Hamilton who did pit for intermediates. Hamilton had over a 40 second to Perez so knew he had a free pit stop.

As the rain got heavier chaos ensued. Norris couldn’t keep control and slides off down the back straight giving the place to Hamilton who was able to make up the gap with Norris  around. Verstappen, who did also pit for inters, took advantage of those falling off the track and made it up to P2 after starting from the back of the grid. Heartbreakingly for Norris, he couldn’t control the car into the pits, crossed the line twice and will likely get a penalty to add to his eventual P7 finish. Carlos Sainz rounded out the podium with a solid performance along with the right call at the right time for the intermediate tyres.

SOCHI, RUSSIA – SEPTEMBER 26: Race winner Lewis Hamilton, second placed Max Verstappen and third placed Carlos Sainz celebrate on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on September 26, 2021 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Yuri Kochetkov – Pool/Getty Images)

Sire Lewis Hamilton finally gets his 100th win. The first driver in Formula 1 history to achieve this especially in changing weather conditions. He also now leads the championship by only 2 points to Verstappen going into the next round.

McLaren back at the front of the pack!

Race 2 of the weekend for the full 53 laps at the temple of speed and all eyes were on the front of the grid. Verstappen looking to capitalise on the bad start for Hamilton yesterday and both McLarens in the fight who wanted to mix things up and get a podium.

After his crash yesterday Gasly had some issues on his reconnaissance lap with a stuck throttle. However, starting from the pitlane after having to replace parts of the car it looked like they had repaired the car in the garage and was able to start the race. However, the car was undriveable and Gasly was out by lap 5. On the other side of the garage there was some late drama for Tsunoda whose car was pushed off the grid and into the garage 5 minutes before the race start. The car had some hydraulic brake issues which is not normally a quick job so Alpha Tauri tried their hardest for a pitlane start but they couldn’t get it out in time, and he didn’t start the race. A race to forget for Alpha Tauri.

Lights out and Daniel Ricciardo beat Verstappen into the first corner and lead the race into turn 2. Hamilton managed to get around the outside of Norris into turn 1 and picked up the slipstream from Verstappen, moving alongside him into the second chicane. 2 into 1 doesn’t go and Hamilton ended up being forced wide, similar to Imola this year. Hamilton then lost another place to Norris who had watched it unfold.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 12: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 and Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 12, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Further back and Giovinazzi went wide at the same chicane, unsafely coming back onto the track and clipping the front of Sainz, spinning him into the wall and losing his front wing. This brought out the Virtual safety car to recover the debris for 2 laps before the track was cleared. Giovinazzi got a 5 second time penalty for this which he served at his next pitstop.

Perez was on the mediums and coming into play for RedBull as he made his way up the grid. He had a great battle with Sainz for P6 on lap 10 from turn 1 all the way to the second chicane where Perez eventually won out and gained the place. The other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was also making his way up the grid making the hard tyres work for him.

On lap 15 Vettel and Ocon were fighting for P12, Vettel closing in on Ocon into the second chicane and he was alongside going into the corner. However, Ocon was closing the door on Vettel, not leaving enough room, and the two made contact with Vettel losing out. Ocon gained a 5 second time penalty for his contact with Vettel and not leaving him enough room despite being alongside.

Lap 22 and the leader came into the pits with a perfect stop from McLaren. RedBull and Verstappen respond immediately but they had a terrible stop being held for 11 seconds in the pit box due to a slow right rear tyre. At the same time Hamilton finally overtook Norris and took the lead of the race. Norris then came into the pits and another perfect pit stop for McLaren.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 12: Max Verstappen driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda makes a pitstop during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 12, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Mercedes responded, he was held slightly but came out between Norris and Verstappen. Norris got past but Verstappen attempted to get around the outside of Hamilton into turn 1. Verstappen ended up on the sausage curb and was lifted over Hamilton, destroying the back wing but the halo doing its job as the tyre of the RedBull.

At the restart Ricciardo got away and Norris caught Leclerc out and used the tow to his advantage, taking P2 behind his teammate. Leclerc didn’t have a great restart and lost another place to Perez, then to Bottas moving down to P5. However, Perez hopped across the corner to gain the place and didn’t give the place back was awarded a 5 second time penalty which was added at the end of the race. Bottas on the mediums was faster than the leader Ricciardo by 1.3 seconds per lap. The charge was on for him and next to hunt down Perez and stay within that 5 second window.

After the chaos of the restart, by lap 40 normal racing had resumed and Norris was looking faster than Ricciardo but McLaren confirmed they would hold station to gain maximum points for the team. Just 4 laps later, after making contact with his teammate and locking up going straight on at turn 1, Mazepin’s engine gave out and he stopped bringing out a brief virtual safety car neutralising the battles.

Leading from start to finish after a great move into turn 1, Daniel Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix with his teammate Lando Norris in P2. To add to the achievements Ricciardo gained the fastest lap point on the last lap. This is the first win for McLaren in 9 years and its fantastic to see them back on top. Perez finished P3 on track but after the 5 second penalty he drops to P5 and Bottas finished on the podium.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren (McLaren Racing Media)

It has been a turn of fortune since coming back from the summer break for Daniel Ricciardo. McLaren have also been on the way back up since 2018. Shout out to Norris who put in a mature drive for the team to bring home a 1 – 2.

For the championship the crash means Verstappen leaves with the 5 points lead from yesterday. The incident is being investigated and the repercussions could last for weeks. This is becoming a very intense battle for the title which every fan is excited about. Good to see both drivers get out of the car OK and this will only add to the fight going into Russia in 2 weeks’ time.

Belgian GP: Verstappen takes pole ahead of Russell as Norris crashes at Eau Rouge

Max Verstappen has taken pole for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix ahead of Williams’s George Russell, who put in a great performance in challenging conditions. Lando Norris crashed at Eau Rouge in the early stages of Q3, raising even more questions about the barriers at that corner.

The beginning of Q1 was initially delayed for 12 minutes because of heavy rain, but when it began both Russell and Nicholas Latifi headed out on track as the sole cars on intermediates. It was a decision that every other driver soon followed when the rain eased, as the times began to tumble.

Intermediates were the tyres of choice for Q2 as well. Both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas left it late to get a good lap in, being brought in for new sets and only moving out of the drop-zone in the closing moments.

The rain came down heavier for the start of Q3.

Sebastian Vettel was one of the first drivers to head out, and he almost immediately radioed his engineer saying he thought the session should be red-flagged because of how bad the conditions were.

It was indeed red-flagged a couple of minutes later, but only after Lando Norris crashed heavily at the Eau Rouge/Radillion complex. Vettel pulled up alongside the McLaren to check that Norris was okay, voicing some very angry comments over the radio. “What did I say?” he demanded.

At the time of writing, Norris has been taken for a precautionary x-ray on his elbow, but he managed to get out of the car on his own at least.

Following as his crash does from the six-car pile-up during W Series qualifying yesterday at the same corner, there is certainly a debate to be had over the barriers at Eau Rouge. Norris was sent spinning back across the track, and it was only good fortune that meant no-body was following close behind and put in danger of collecting him.

After a half an hour-long delay Q3 restarted.

Hamilton took provisional pole after the first runs, only to be bested by George Russell. It looked for a moment as if the Williams would actually take pole, only for Verstappen to cross the line and go fastest of all by three tenths.

More of the same can be expected for the race tomorrow in terms of weather, and we are certainly in for an interesting 44 laps!

Ocon on top in a dramatic race at Hungary

Esteban Ocon took his first Formula 1 victory and the first for the Alpine team in a chaotic race at the Hungaroring, after multiple drivers were taken out at the first corner.

15 minutes before the race start, rain started to fall on the track. Adding to the anticipation, it started light but was due to continue for the first 30 minutes of the race and get heavier before mostly drying out by the end of the race. Intermediate tyres on to start, Lewis Hamilton indicating on the radio he was ready for the fight in the rain. Hamilton and Max Verstappen are both known for performing well in the wet, possibly a leveller but definitely exciting!

Lights out and all eyes turned to Verstappen and Hamilton. Both got a great launch, but Valtteri Bottas had an absolutely dreadful start with wheel spin from third. Lando Norris got in front of him off the line but was tapped by Bottas from behind who had missed his breaking point. Norris then crashed into Verstappen and Bottas hit Sergio Perez. Norris and Verstappen managed to carry on with significant damage, but Bottas and Perez were out.

Further back in turn 1, Lance Stroll tried to avoid some cars by heading towards the apex, but ended up on the grass and collected Charles Leclerc who hit and spun around Daniel Ricciardo. Unfortunately, that was the race over for Leclerc.

Ricciardo kept going and Stroll was able to keep driving after damage to the front of his car. A red flag was called to gather the debris left around turn 1. This allowed the Red Bull team to fix Verstappen’s car, potentially saving him from retirement. Norris and Stroll then had to retire due to the damage from the incident.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull (Mark Thompson, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool)

Hamilton was still in P1, but others had benefited from a high attrition first corner. Ocon and Sebastian Vettel were the biggest winners, starting P2 and P3 respectively. Yuki Tsunoda was in P5, Carlos Sainz P4 and the Williams’ were P6 and P8 whilst Verstappen had really lost out and started in P13. A fight from the back was on after quick recovery work by Red Bull. There was a standing re-start as the sun came out to a now quickly drying track, but the question then was slicks or inters?

Hamilton was the only one starting on the grid, so the race was in the pits with everyone coming in for slicks. George Russell came out on top, and with Hamilton pitting after it looked like Russell would lead the race, but Russell was told by the FIA to give back the places he’d taken in the pitlane. Mercedes didn’t come out well with Hamilton boxing after the restart and ending up last and importantly behind Verstappen. So, on lap 5 Ocon was leading the race, with Vettel P2 and Nicholas Latifi P3. Hamilton was catching Verstappen who still had damage, so the race was on!

Verstappen managed to get past Pierre Gasly but then became stuck behind Mick Schumacher for five laps before passing him with a daring move through Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4. They did touch but both were able to carry on. Meanwhile Hamilton was struggling behind Gasly, locking up a few times but both Gasly and Hamilton managed to pass Schumacher in the next two laps.

Hamilton stopped for hard tyres on lap 20 in an attempt to change the strategy and go longer. Red Bull and Verstappen responded so made the stop just one lap later. Ricciardo pitted at the same time as Verstappen, and he came out in front of the Red Bull. Hamilton was coming down the straight as the pair came out of the pits. Hamilton took advantage and got past not only Verstappen but also Ricciardo, putting a vital car between the Championship rivals.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes AMG)

On lap 32, Hamilton was the fastest car in the race passing Tsunoda into P5 with a fantastic move while Verstappen was still behind Ricciardo in P12. This move caused Ferrari and Sainz to react, and with enough gap Sainz pitted and came back out in P4 with fresh tyres ready to defend against Hamilton.

Meanwhile Schumacher was doing a great job in the Haas to keep 4 drivers behind him. However, after many laps of battling, Russell finally made it past Schumacher on lap 33 with a brave move on the outside of Turn 2. Schumacher then begun to lose places rapidly to Ricciardo and Verstappen on the next lap, very important for Verstappen in terms of the championship.

From the front, Vettel pitted with a slow stop but came out in P3, ahead of Sainz and Hamilton. Ocon told to push but Alpine appeared to have the advantage with both cars in the podium places fight. A good stop meant Ocon came out ahead of Vettel, but Vettel tried to fight it into Turn 4. Sadly for him nothing came of it and with only Fernando Alonso in front of Ocon it looked to be an Alpine win from lap 39.

It wasn’t over at the front though. Sainz and Hamilton in P3 and P4 were catching the leaders at a rapid pace. However, Hamilton pitted on lap 48 for the mediums. He came out behind Alonso, but this would mean he could push to the end of the race, with flashbacks to Hungary 2019 and Spain 2021. Vettel got closer to Ocon through the back markers in an attempt to pass him for the lead. On lap 50 the fight was not over with Vettel having DRS and the pressure piling on Ocon.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin (Courtesy of Aston Martin media)

Verstappen finally made a move on Ricciardo for P10 on Lap 61 and the final points position. This could be an important point for the championship and impressive driving considering the significant damage still on his car from lap 1.

On lap 57 a brilliant battle between Hamilton and Alonso began, Alonso defending and making the Alpine the widest thing on the track. This epic battle continued for over 10 laps, but Hamilton was eventually close enough when Alonso made a rare mistake and locked up into Turn 1. This did create problems for Hamilton though, who was on a mission to get to the front. However, catching Sainz on older tyres in P3 meant that just two laps later, Hamilton was in the podium places, but the gap was too big for Hamilton to catch Vettel in P2.

Esteban Ocon won the Hungarian Grand Prix! The first win for him and a great turn around since a relatively poor run of form. Vettel was in P2 after a great drive from the restart. Sainz was P4 ahead of Alonso, Gasly sneaked in a fastest lap right at the end in P6, and Tsunoda was P7. Both Williams finished in the points with Latifi P8 and Russell P9, which is vital for the constructors and their first double points finish since 2018. Russell finally managed to get those illusive points in a Williams!

For the championship Hamilton gained points on Verstappen, who finished P10, and leads going into the summer break. This has been a real swing in momentum after the British Grand Prix in the favour of Mercedes and Hamilton. It is all to play for as the teams regroup and look to improve for Spa at the end of August.

Home is where the heart is for Red Bull – Austrian GP preview

The Formula One circus stays in the Styrian mountains as the Red Bull Ring plays host to the Austrian Grand Prix, just seven days after Max Verstappen claimed victory at the same circuit in the Styrian Grand Prix.

It would take a brave person to bet against Verstappen taking his third consecutive victory on Sunday, given his dominant performance last weekend. Sergio Perez will be hoping he can make it two Red Bulls on the podium, after coming within a second of Valtteri Bottas in the previous race.

A double podium is probably the best case scenario once again for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton making a rare trip to the Brackley simulator in an aim to extract every last inch of performance out of his car. The quick turnaround means no upgrades for this race, and there are mixed messages from the Mercedes camp regarding how much more development we will see on their 2021 car.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (LAT Images / Mercedes AMG F1)

The pace from the top two teams meant Ferrari and McLaren were once again left fighting for fifth. Although it was Lando Norris who won the midfield battle last weekend, Daniel Ricciardo was showing good pace before reliability troubles dropped him down the order. Ferrari will also be hoping for a smoother weekend from Charles Leclerc, who showed some inspired moves after being controversially involved in Pierre Gasly’s retirement.

AlphaTauri, Alpine and Aston Martin will look to pick up some of the lesser points once again, in what looks to be one of the tightest midfield battles for years. Strategy could well be key in this battle, as free air is hard to come by on the track with the shortest lap time of the year. Pirelli are also bringing softer tyres to the Austrian GP than they did at the Styrian round, which might lead to more action in the pitlane.

For George Russell, he will be hoping his pitlane action is much more conventional this weekend. A pneumatic leak cost him a shot at his first ever points for Williams, with the Brit admitting that there’s no guarantee he will be able to replicate that performance again this time around. His teammate will also be hoping for a better result, after being an innocent victim in last weekend’s lap one shenanigans.

 

Alfa Romeo will be hoping they can sneak a point, after just missing out with Kimi Raikkonen last time around. The intriguing battle between the Haas cars will also be one to watch, as Mick Schumacher and his teammate battle for inter-team supremacy, which must be a small ray of light in a very difficult debut season for both drivers.

It’s fair to say last week’s race was not a classic, but different tyres (and possibly different weather) could make the Austrian GP an entirely different beast indeed.

 

Why Lando Norris’ harsh words are actually fair

When Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crossed the line at Monza back in 2019 to join the likes of Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso as first-time winners for the Scuderia in front of the Tifosi, I was absolutely elated for him. However the following year came and Ferrari were heavily hampered by amendments to rules regarding the engine. They plummeted from second in the constructors’ championship in 2019 with three wins, to sixth in 2020 with a best of a second place finish courtesy of Leclerc at the season opener in Austria.

Charles Leclerc’s P2 at the Austrian Grand Prix last year was the best result in a dire season for Ferrari – Courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari Media

After spending a lot of time prior to the delayed 2020 opener on the F1 game with Leclerc, Lando Norris was asked during the season if he felt sorry for the Monegasque and he answered that he did not. On the surface, it might seem as if Lando is being very callous in his response but when you actually take the time to understand what he’s saying, it does make sense.

Norris pointed out that Leclerc had been in a position to win races in 2019, winning two and coming close to winning many more. You have to consider yourself very fortunate to find yourself in such a position; not every driver is able to be in racing-winning machinery and as a wiser person than me once said, you have to savour the good days because they don’t always last.

The reason I bring this up is because Lando repeated this comment in relation to his new teammate at McLaren, Daniel Ricciardo. The Aussie found himself in a race-winning position many times during his tenure at Red Bull between 2014 and 2018, before making a move to Renault and now McLaren for this season.

Daniel Ricciardo claimed seven wins with Red Bull, the last of which coming in Monaco in 2018 – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Ricciardo hasn’t had the smoothest of starts to his time with the Woking-based outfit, so far only out-racing Norris in the most recent race at Spain, with Lando having moved over for him, repaying the favour that Daniel did for him at Imola which resulted in the Brit scoring a podium finish.

When Norris was asked about his teammate’s struggles, he was again brutally honest. He pointed out that adapting to a new car and overcoming these issues are part and parcel of this cutthroat business of Formula One. He also said that he has no doubt that Daniel will get the hang of it eventually.

But even then, success is not guaranteed or handed to you on a plate. Even if you’re Sebastian Vettel, who is the only non-Alfa Romeo, Williams or Haas driver to have failed to score a point so far this year, you can’t use the excuse “But he’s a four-time champion”.

When the announcement of Ricciardo and Norris becoming teammates at McLaren happened, a lot of people began making mountains out of molehills claiming Lando was scared, that there’s tension between them and that they’ll be glad when Ricciardo ends Lando’s career.

Who needs Netflix to do it for Drive To Survive when we already are creating this needless and petulant drama?

But my point is, Lando clearly isn’t saying any of this with malice. There may come a point when Lando is in a position where he is winning races and contending for championships; I would hope that is soon. But if after that, things aren’t going his way, you shouldn’t pity him. That’s the way life is when you’re in a sport that is as competitive as Formula One.

People are reading way too much into his comments believing he’s immensely arrogant, rude and doesn’t even have the results to justify his demeanor. First of all, even if you’re as successful as Lewis Hamilton, it still doesn’t mean you get to treat people terribly. But that’s besides the point.

Primarily though, Norris is mature enough to understand that success isn’t guaranteed and you need to overcome your difficulties in your own way. He’s said some regrettable stuff and has acknowledged that, impressing many of us with how self-aware he is.

In the end, people will create conflict where there is none and the people who are successful will have earned it, in spite of what they’ve achieved before. Think of it this way: Lando Norris was the best placed driver outside of Mercedes and Red Bull in the first three races, with that streak broken in Spain. Do we feel sorry for him for that? No.

There are plenty of people who said he underperformed last year. Whether you agree with that or not, that’s up to you. I don’t believe so personally, finishing only eight points behind his vastly more experienced teammate Carlos Sainz, and winning the intra-team qualifying battle in both seasons together. Yes there will have been some elements skewing those numbers but that’s part and parcel of life.

But do we feel sorry for him that he didn’t get more points or wasn’t more successful? No. You just have to take what comes at you in this sport and hope brighter days are only ahead, and even if not, there’s nothing you can do about it.

It’s not like Lando is smugly reveling in the misfortunes of others. He’ll face highs and lows like many of the drivers; the highs will have come from hard work and the lows will require effort to be overcome. We can all learn a thing or two from Norris’ approach – of course not everything can be overcome with hard work but the last thing any of us needs is to be wallowing in pity.

Norris has competed exceptionally alongside more experience team mate Ricciardo this year – Courtesy of McLaren Media

In the cases of the likes of Daniel Ricciardo and Charles Leclerc, I can see things are definitely improving already and it’s very likely they will be contending for regular podiums throughout the season. So don’t read into Lando’s comments and assume he’s saying it with hostility. It’s ridiculous.

F1 testing: Bottas fastest on day 2 despite more Mercedes problems

Valtteri Bottas ended the second day of pre-season testing in Bahrain with the fastest time, despite more mechanical problems afflicting Mercedes and their customer Aston Martin.

Bottas set his pacesetting lap of a 1:30.289s late in the afternoon session, on a run on the softest C5 tyres. However, Bottas lost a considerable amount of running earlier in the session due to an issue with his car’s floor, which compounded the gearbox problems that held him back yesterday.

Similar Mercedes gearbox issues stopped Sebastian Vettel from getting any meaningful running with Aston Martin. The German managed just six laps in the morning session before his car began a lengthy spell on jacks in the garage. Vettel did return to the track before the end of the session, but only recorded four more laps before handing over to Lance Stroll for the afternoon.

Courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Team

Lewis Hamilton also had a troubled day of testing for Mercedes. The defending champion drove in the morning but spun into the gravel towards the end of the session and brought out the red flag. He ended the day 15th fastest, only ahead of Vettel.

Not all the Mercedes-powered teams had problems today, however, with McLaren continuing the strong pace displayed yesterday. Daniel Ricciardo was one of the early pacesetters and topped the morning session, while Lando Norris was quickest for a while in the afternoon before ultimately ending the day fourth behind Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Stroll.

Alpine also had a solid day with Fernando Alonso at the wheel of the A521. The Spaniard was second-quickest behind Ricciardo in the morning session, and logged a total of 128 laps by the end of the day. He also completed a comprehensive run plan that included testing three different floor configurations and two different engine covers.

Courtesy of Alpine Racing Media

Following Esteban Ocon’s 129 laps from day one, Alpine are now leading the way in terms of combined mileage heading into the final day of testing. Meanwhile, all four Mercedes-powered teams have the fewest total laps, with Williams on 215 followed by McLaren (195), Aston Martin (177) and Mercedes themselves (162).

However, Nicholas Latifi did record the most laps of any driver on day two, with 132 for Williams.

Day 2 classification:

Pos. Driver Team Time Laps
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:30.289 58
2 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +0.124 87
3 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +0.171 70
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes +0.297 52
5 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +0.471 124
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.597 73
7 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1.383 132
8 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda +1.393 117
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1.926 52
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +2.050 127
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +2.395 57
12 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2.594 88
13 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +2.783 56
14 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2.812 76
15 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +3.110 58
16 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +8.560 10

McLaren launches 2021 contender

McLaren have become the first F1 team to unveil their 2021 challenger in a launch held at their factory in Woking.

Externally, the MCL35M is quite similar to its 2020 predecessor, featuring the same orange and blue livery. The most notable difference is around the power unit with tighter bodywork and a narrower floor.

McLaren Media Centre

Speaking of the launch in a press release, CEO Zak Brown said, “After a challenging but rewarding 2020, we have firmly hit the reset button for this season as we continue on our path towards the front of the grid. This will be an even tougher season but we’re ready to meet the challenge. I want to pay tribute to Formula 1 and the FIA and our fellow teams in continuing to work hard for the benefit of our sport as we strive to bring exciting racing to fans around the world.”

McLaren’s driver line-up has partially changed for 2021. Lando Norris is staying on for a third season, while Daniel Ricciardo is now driving alongside him. He replaces Carlos Sainz, who has moved to Ferrari for this year.

Team Principal Andreas Seidl said, “Together, Lando and Daniel comprise one of the most competitive driver line-ups in the sport. With these two behind the wheel of the MCL35M, we know we’ll have a team that gives total commitment in the pursuit of on-track performance as we head into the 2021 season.”

After using a Renault power unit from 2018 to 2020, the 2021 McLaren features a Mercedes power unit. McLaren previously worked with Mercedes between 1995 and 2014, a partnership that yielded three drivers’ championships and one constructors’ championships.

McLaren Media Centre

Speaking of the partnership, Technical Director James Key said, “One of the key elements of the MCL35M design is the integration of the Mercedes-AMG power unit, which has taken a considerable effort from the team in Woking, as well as our colleagues at Mercedes. Despite our limited scope for installation in a homologated car, the team has done a fantastic job of optimising our design work.”

The MCL35M will run for the first time at Silverstone tomorrow as part of a filming day.

Lights out on an extraordinary year: Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview

What a year. 2020 was tipped by many to be one of the most exciting in modern times and, well they were not wrong.

This has been by far the most astonishing year any of us have ever witnessed, both on and off the track, and even the most ardent of optimists cannot deny that it has been a struggle for everyone.

However, you also have to appreciate the fruits that have come out of a very tough situation. We have seen amazing race tracks like Mugello, Imola, Istanbul, Portimao and the Nurburgring introduced to a revised calendar, which has been a real delight for us all.

The Eifel Grand Prix saw a welcome return to the Nurburgring – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

We went from 22 races to 17, and it all culminates this weekend at the Yas Marina Circuit for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. In a year that has been dim for many, the floodlights will shine a light of F1’s season finale.

The 5.5 kilometre track made its debut in F1 in 2009, closing out Jenson Buttonb’s title-winning year, and Brawn GP’s successor Mercedes arrive here having won every race in Abu Dhabi since 2014.

And this will fill them with hope, because a horrible race in Bahrain last weekend leaves them desiring a strong result to close out what has been an otherwise phenomenal year.

Following a devastating result in Sakhir, George Russell may get a shot at redemption this weekend – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

It is yet unclear whether newly-crowned seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, who contracted Coronavirus in the build-up to the Sakhir Grand Prix, will recover in time for this weekend. It therefore may be that George Russell returns to the car that he so nearly steered to victory in a stunning debut last race, only to be denied by not one, but two disasters.

Mercedes fitted team mate Valtteri Bottas’ tyres to race leader Russell’s car, forcing him to stop again and Bottas to stay out on dead tyres after a safety car. Having passed Bottas and made his way back up to second, Russell was baring down on Sergio Perez, only for a slow puncture to send him back to the pits. He would finish ninth, while Bottas ended up just one place better in eighth.

It was the aforementioned Perez that took his first ever F1 win, and the first ever for Racing point too. Following his devastating retirement last race that cost him a podium, he gave himself a great chance of securing fourth in the drivers’ standings this weekend, while Racing Point have now moved 10 points clear of McLaren in the battle for third in the Constructors’. Renault sit a further 12 points back.

Sergio Perez’s stunning victory was his first in F1, and Racing Point’s first as a team – Courtesy of Pirelli Media

It makes for an extremely intense finale in the context of the midfield battle, with all eyes firmly fixed on who will claim valuable positions in the drivers’ and constructors’ standings.

The gains will be valuable both financially and in terms of personal pride, and McLaren would be fully grateful of third following their cash flow issues at the start of 2020. As the race for third reaches a head, we eagerly anticipate this enormous battle between Racing Point and McLaren under the lights of Abu Dhabi.

Racing Point are locked in an intense battle with McLaren and Renault as we head to the final race – Courtesy of Racing Point Media

It has been a tough year for many, but hopefully F1 has helped make it that bit easier for you all, and we look forward to covering one last race for you before we gladly turn our backs on 2020.

Sergio Pérez takes maiden victory in astonishing Sakhir GP

What a race! In the jumbled up 2020 calendar that began in July at the Red Bull Ring, the last three races are a triple feast in the Middle East. Beginning with the traditional Bahrain circuit last weekend and ending the season at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi but that middle race would be another one at Bahrain. However it would be on the outer circuit which the F1 cars had been lapping at under a minute all through the weekend.

The lead up to the weekend was already packed with action, as Romain Grosjean’s horror crash from which he thankfully escaped with just a few burns meant that Haas drafted in reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi. Then the huge bombshell dropped that world champion Lewis Hamilton had tested positive for COVID-19 which meant Mercedes had to go looking for a replacement driver. That turned out to be George Russell who left a vacant seat at Williams, and that ended up being F2 racer Jack Aitken.

F2 driver Jack Aitken stepped in for Mercedes-bound George Russell this weekend – Courtesy of Williams Media

In qualifying, it was Bottas who just pipped Russell to pole by a microscopic margin. Max Verstappen qualified third and Charles Leclerc put in a mighty lap to drag that lacklustre Ferrari to fourth on the grid, and following him were Pérez, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Sainz, Gasly, Stroll, Ocon, Albon, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Latifi, Aitken, Räikkönen, and at the back were Norris and Fittipaldi who had taken grid penalties.

At the start, Russell immediately got away better than Bottas who had to hold off Verstappen’s advances, and struggled to get out the first few corners. His compatriot Räikkönen spun in the back of shot and thankfully no awful imagery to worry about like last week at the same corner. But Bottas’ eyes were on Verstappen, closing the door on him which left an open opportunity for Pérez to go past the Red Bull.

After an intense qualifying, Russell pipped Bottas into the first corner – Courtesy of Mercedes media

But it was Leclerc who got caught out trying to brake for the corner, smacked into the Racing Point and spun him round, leaving Verstappen with nowhere to go but into the wall and retirement along with Leclerc. Somehow, Pérez was able to continue and pitted, benefitting from the subsequent safety car and was able to rejoin the back of the pack in 18th.

At the front, Russell’s massive lead that he got at the start was eliminated, but he wasn’t done. The safety car period ended on lap six and Russell eased off whilst Bottas was under pressure from McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who rose to third amid the first lap chaos. He went around the outside of Bottas into turn one, but going through the turn two and three complex, Sainz ran wide and that allowed the Merc right back through.

Whilst Russell was experiencing what it’s like to be in the lead in an F1 car, further down the order were two of his mates, Lando Norris and Alex Albon. Lap 20 and Albon made a move stick on Norris, who was then immediately overtaken by Pérez despite the Mexican being spun on the first lap. The following lap, Albon was then passed by Pérez at the same corner.

Back at the front with Russell, he already had a gap of over a second before the DRS was enabled. The Mercs began gapping Sainz, and it was a steady lead Russell held over Bottas which fluctuated as they negotiated lapped traffic. He extended that lead after he pitted, undercutting Bottas after he was left out for a further four laps, and the gap went to the highest it had been all race even in spite of a sensor scare.

Russell’s typical Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi pulled off and caused a Virtual Safety Car, and not much changed other than Bottas swiped into Russell’s lead. But Pérez was continuing his charge through the field, putting a move on teammate Lance Stroll going into turn four and then the following lap, on former Force India teammate Esteban Ocon. The Mexican was absolutely flying out there. He was now on course for a podium finish with his strategy completely played out.

However, Russell’s replacement at Williams Jack Aitken lost the car coming out of the last corner and clattered the tyre barrier, leaving his front wing on the track and he dove for the pits. A Virtual Safety Car was initially called, but that became a full Safety Car, and Mercedes felt the need to cover off Pérez. But man, did they mess up.

The two Mercs double stacked, Russell came in and they put on the tyres, all well and good. Then Bottas came in and there seemed to be some hesitation, and they sent him back out on the same tyres he pitted with, which was a bit odd as to why they did that. Then it became very apparent. Russell had been sent out on tyres which were intended for Bottas, so now he was bunched up behind the safety car with Pérez, Ocon and Stroll behind him and he was called back to the pits to change the tyres.

This was a huge mess-up on Mercedes’ part. Russell came back out in fifth behind Bottas who remained on his old set, but looked to have the best tyres out of everyone in the top five. Racing resumed and Russell was a man on a mission, making quick work of his teammate on the old set of tyres pulling off an immense outside move going through the long turn six, then passing Stroll and Ocon with the help of DRS. He then set to work catching Pérez who was a long way up the road.

Russell was eating into Pérez’s advantage lap after lap but yet again, disaster. Russell was called back to the pits AGAIN as he had a slow puncture and they put him on softs, whilst the other Mercedes of Bottas just went backwards as he was overtaken by Sainz, Ricciardo and Albon in very quick succession.

But up at the front, a man who for some reason doesn’t have a drive in 2021 guaranteed. Sergio Pérez took an incredible first win for both himself, and the team that he’s leaving after next week’s season finale. Esteban Ocon took second ahead of Lance Stroll, then it was Sainz, Ricciardo, Kvyat had also passed Bottas in the closing stages, Russell recovered to ninth ahead of Norris who scored the last point.

Russell finally got his long awaited first points finish as well as another for fastest lap, although it was little consolation for what was throughout the entire race looking set to be an incredible first win for the guy. He did absolutely incredibly all weekend, and it definitely will not be the last we hear from Russell, who may get a second stab at the cherry this weekend in Abu Dhabi providing Hamilton isn’t well enough to participate.

Esteban Ocon earned a thoroughly-well deserved podium – Courtesy of Renault Media

But it was Pérez who after 190 starts, finally took victory and became the first Mexican to win an F1 Grand Prix in 50 years. A win that was perhaps long overdue, especially if we harken back to Malaysia 2012 when he came very close in his Sauber to denying Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso a win that day. But better late than never, and hopefully Pérez is not out of F1 for long.