Verstappen takes pole ahead of Japanese Grand Prix

Max Verstappen has taken pole ahead of tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix, with team-mate Sergio Perez making it Red Bull’s 27th front row lock-out.

It was perhaps closer than most were expecting between the duo, with just +0.066 separating them at the chequered flag. In comparison, the gap from Verstappen to P2 last year was over half a second.

Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

McLaren’s Lando Norris initially split the Red Bulls after the first runs in Q3, but Perez eeked out more of an improvement in the second runs to leapfrog the McLaren into second.

The top five was rounded out by Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso. The other Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, in contrast, missed out on advancing to Q2 by only +0.061 and will start tomorrow’s race down in P16.

Oscar Piastri will start P6 with Lewis Hamilton in P7, the Brit sounding more buoyant about the set-up of his Mercedes than he has in recent weeks.

Charles Leclerc ran out of sync with the rest of the top ten in Q3, setting his only lap of the session with the entire track to himself. His time initially put him P7, but with the rest of the field re-emerging a few minutes later for their second runs he slipped to P8 by the time the chequered flag was brought out.

George Russell qualified P9. He was released into the path of Piastri in the pits during Q1 but has escaped a grid drop, with Mercedes instead receiving a €5,000 fine for an unsafe release.

Home favourite Yuki Tsunoda rounds out the top ten.

Verstappen on another level in Bahrain.

Verstappen dominated the Bahrain Grand Prix, leading his teammate and Sainz as he crossed the line to take what could be the first of many wins this season.

The 2024 season has begun. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Lights out and Leclerc got a good start managing to get alongside Verstappen into turn 1. However, the Red Bull forced the Ferrari to take the outside line where Leclerc had to back out and let Verstappen go. Perez also got a great start as he gained a place in one lap. 

Further back, Stroll was spun round and went from P12 to last at turn 1. At the pinch point Bottas bumped into the back of Hulkenberg who then tapped the back of the Aston Martin. Hulkenberg and Bottas picked up front wing damage, causing Hulkenberg to pit while Bottas was able to cope with the damage for the rest of the race.

It didn’t take long for Norris to gain places as he made a move on Alonso into turn 1. This left the door open for Piastri who was able to take advantage just a few laps later.

Meanwhile, Russell spent the first few laps pressuring Leclerc and was able to make a move around the outside of turn 4 on lap three. Perez was not far behind but took his time to take on the Ferrari. Leclerc was suffering with some brake issues which haunted him all race, but on lap seven Leclerc locked up and went wide out of turn 10. This made the move easier for Perez, who took the place from Leclerc. 

The Monegasque problems didn’t end there, Leclerc had a big lock up out of turn 1 just a lap later, which gave Sainz hope to turn 4 but Leclerc was still inside the DRS of Perez meaning he just kept ahead. It didn’t take long though for Sainz to use DRS into turn 1 on lap 11, taking on his teammate in a very close wheel to wheel battle, no teams orders at play here.

It was then time for the first round of stops. Every car swapped for hard tyres, with Russell and Leclerc pitting at the same time and Perez choosing to stop one lap later. The undercut can be very powerful at Bahrain and it very nearly worked for Perez but he came out just behind Russell.

On new tyres though Perez had better grip up the hill after turn 1 and down into turn 4. Russell took a very defensive line but couldn’t make it work for him on the exit and the Red Bull completed the switch back with perfection.

Close racing. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Sainz was unable to make the undercut work for him, he stayed out a couple of laps but came out behind his teammate. Meaning another close fight was imminent. It therefore only took a couple of laps before Sainz lunged from very far back down the inside of turn 1, taking the place from Leclerc.

While Verstappen pitted without a single car around him, Russell was defending his podium position from Sainz but was unsuccessful as Sainz took the inside line into turn 4. The chase was now on for Sainz to take on the Red Bulls.

Leclerc wasn’t the only driver nursing issues. Both Mercedes were told to lift and coast around lap 24 to control the power unit temperatures. Albon was also experiencing similar issues with the Mercedes engines. However, when not in traffic all these problems improved and were much easier to manage.

During the second round of pit stops Bottas came in for a switch of tyres, however this was set to be his second slowest ever stop. This time it was less than a day but he was stationary for 52.4 seconds while the team had to get a new wheel nut as the one they had refused to go on the rim. 

As of lap 44 the unhealthy cars of Leclerc and Russell appeared to make a recovery, with Leclerc all over the back of Russell at every corner. Russell locked up under the pressure in turn 10 and went very wide. Side by side down to turn 11, Leclerc had enough confidence with his brakes to take the position from the Ferrari.

Tsunoda not happy with his team. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Further down the pack, the RBs asked for a driver swap despite Tsunoda being within DRS to Magnussen in front with his teammate behind in DRS. Despite protests Tsunoda complied on lap 53 but this hurt both drivers as Verstappen lapped them a few corners later. Ricciardo lost time to Magnussen and neither RB got past the Haas before the end of the race.

Verstappen ended the race as he began, in P1, with Perez in second and Sainz rounding out the podium. The Dutchman finished 20 seconds ahead of his teammate, which is six seconds less than 2023 but still a large gap to the rest of the grid. He is going to take some beating again this year.

A shoutout to Stroll who had solid performance to recover from the back of the pack after turn 1 lap one, to finish in P10 and gaining a point for his efforts.

The top 3 for the Bahrain Grand Prix 2024. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen on pole in Bahrain but Ferrari not far behind.

Verstappen took pole in Bahrain but was closely followed by Leclerc and Russell in P2 and P3. The most exciting part, by the end of Q3, the top 9 were covered by just over half a second.

Starting with Q1, anticipation was high as each practice session produced a different fastest three so far. It was set to be unpredictable at both ends of the grid.

The Ferrari’s and Red Bull’s were swapping times at the time with the odd lap from the McLaren’s. Stroll put in a stunning lap to make it to P2 just behind Sainz at the very end of qualifying.

Bottas not able to make it out of Q1. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

After looking slow in testing, Haas picked up pace in practice and showed their true colours during qualifying were able to make it into Q2 just beating both Sauber’s who qualified in P16 and P17 respectively. Sargent followed this pair, not able to make any improvement on his lap.

The story for Alpine is very different. After struggling all weekend, they couldn’t make it out of Q1, qualifying last and second last on the grid. Over the radio Ocon had some words of encouragement for his team despite only getting one proper run in Q1. 

Out in Q1 – Bottas, Zhou, Sargent, Ocon, Gasly.

Q2 gave us hope for a tight battle for pole in Q3. Verstappen topped the times after the first runs with a 1.29.374, closely followed by his teammate. However, on new tyres, there was a glimmer of hope for Norris, who was half a second back from the pair of them.

With the second runs being completed Sainz was only two tenths from Verstappen and Leclerc put in a stunning lap to go P1 with a 1.29.165. Hulkenberg was also enjoying his Haas by placing it in P6 and making it to Q3.

Lewis Hamilton trying to improve in Q2. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

The Mercedes looked in trouble as they couldn’t compete with Ferrari, RedBull but were able to get P4 and P7 to get into Q3. They were competing with the RB’s who were quick in FP1 but both couldn’t get any further in qualifying. Tsunoda was just out qualified by the McLaren’s by 0.007s but importantly for him, beat his teammate. 

Despite putting in some strong laps earlier, Stroll couldn’t improve during Q2 and was eliminated while Alonso put in a solid lap to put himself between Hamilton and Hulkenberg. The other Haas driver, Magnussen rounded out those completing qualifying in Q2.

Out in Q2 – Tsunoda, Stroll, Albon, Ricciardo and Magnussen.

It was all to play for in Q3. After the first runs the gap was only 0.059 between Verstappen and Leclerc, meaning the fight was on. Russell was in P3 and driving well, beating Sainz to that top 3 spot. 

Alonso heading out on new tyres. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

Hope was alive as we waited for the second run with the clock counting down. Keeping us entertained was Alonso, who put on new tyres in the gap and went for his quick lap. With the track to himself he moved up into P3 with a 1.29.542.

Alonso headed back in, everyone else came out of the pits to start their last flying laps. Russell improved his time to take back P3 while his teammate finished down in P8 but has said his car is set up more towards race pace. At the very top Verstappen improved his time to a 1.29.179 which was slower than the lap Leclerc completed in Q2. 

It was down to Ferrari to take pole, however, Leclerc improved but not enough to take pole from Verstappen. Sainz couldn’t get any closer either but moving up into P4, pushing Alonso down to P5. The McLaren’s followed behind, Norris ahead of Piastri and Perez finished down in P9, despite his teammate taking pole. Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10 but only completed laps on used tyres in Q3, saving a new set for the race.

The top 3 in tomorrows race. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Area

The grid is set for the first race of the season. RedBull don’t look to have completely run away with qualifying but the race could be a completely different story. The race starts at 3pm GMT, don’t miss it.

Sainz Wins an Interesting Singapore GP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Verstappen Breaking Records at the Italian GP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2023 Italian GP Qualifying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perez finally overtakes Sainz.

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

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

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

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

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

Canadian Grand Prix: Verstappen Dominates in Montreal

Max Verstappen took a lights-to-flag victory in Montreal to complete another dominant weekend for Red Bull Racing.

The win is Red Bull’s 100th in Formula One since the energy drinks company bought Ford out in 2005, and also puts Max Verstappen level on wins with Ayrton Senna at 41.

Triumph at the Circuit de Gilles Villeneuve sees the Dutchman extend his championship lead over teammate Sergio Perez to 69 points, as Red Bull now head Mercedes in the Conctructors’ Championship by a whopping 154 points.

Fernando Alonso in his Aston Martin held on for second ahead of a charging Lewis Hamilton for Mercedes, while the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz recovered to fourth and fifth respectively.

Perez ended a disappointing sixth from 12th on the grid, a point for fastest lap scant consolation for the Mexican who suffered a third disappointing weekend in a row.

As has been the norm in 2023, Verstappen led away from the start and controlled the race from the outset, briefly interrupted by a Safety Car brought out after 12 laps following George Russell’s collision with the barriers.

From there, the two-time World Champion controlled the race, with Verstappen even able to laugh at nearly crashing at Turn Nine in the same way Russell did, such was his comfort five laps from the end.

The big fight was for second, as Hamilton passed Alonso off at the start and held station until shortly after the Safety Car returned to the pits, when Alonso outbraked his old nemesis into the final chicane and gently broke away.

In truth from there on, the Spaniard’s main annoyance after surviving an early race brush with the Turn 4 barrier was having to lift and coast despite that Safety Car, owing to a brake wear problem.

Those two were closely followed by Russell until lap 12, the Norfolk driver clouting the wall after taking too much kerb at Turn 9.

He was able to carry on until 20 laps from the end, when a brake issue that was a legacy of that crash damage sustained from that early race shunt, having fought up to 8th from there.

Driver of the Day Alexander Albon was an excellent seventh in his much upgraded Williams, six points lifting the Grove team off the bottom of the Constructors’ Championship.

That came courtesy of Williams’ straight line speed, with Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Valtteri Bottas, Oscar Piastri and Pierre Gasly all within five seconds of the Thai driver at race end. A penalty dropped Norris to 13th at race end.

Aston Martin and Mercedes begin to close the gap?

In Alonso and Hamilton, Aston Martin and Mercedes have two world class drivers reinvigorated of late.

Alonso has been the closest thing to a challenge Red Bull has had all season, while Hamilton was in the fight for second all the way until the end, a huge upgrade package from Mercedes a introduced a month ago paying dividends.

This weekend it was Aston Martin’s turn to bring upgrades, and in finishing eight seconds behind Verstappen the Silverstone squad will feel those improvements have worked, irrespective of whether Red Bull weren’t exactly going flat out.

Further back, Stroll fought his way up to ninth after a poor qualifying session, a penalty and a compromised race strategy as Mercedes’ George Russell was running well before his incident on lap 12.

More punishment for Perez

For Sergio Perez it was another lacklustre weekend as for a third straight race, the man second in the standings was punished for a poor qualifying performance.

It was another disappointing weekend for Sergio Perez

Starting 12th, he failed to make much of an impact on those ahead barring a first lap scrap with Sainz until the Safety Car saw him jump to sixth on the alternative strategy.

He failed to use the advantage of softer medium tyres against the Ferraris ahead later in the race having originally started on hard tyres, and was dropped by the Scuderia pair to a point where Red Bull elected to pit him for a go at the fastest lap, an extra point that will provide scant consolation.

The gap between he and teammate Verstappen is almost three full races, and it is now a question of when the two-time World Champion wins the 2023 Drivers’ crown.

Any notion of a title challenge has long since disappeared.

Improvements from Ferrari.

Ferrari have been much maligned for their race management and strategy over the last two seasons, but they deserve credit for turning a poor Saturday into a good Sunday.

It looked as if old problems would rear their head again when Leclerc went out of qualifying early, and a penalty for Sainz drop the Spaniard to 11th on the grid.

The call to stay out on medium tyres looked bold when the Safety Car came out on lap 12, but both Sainz and Leclerc managed used mediums well until laps 39 and 40 before fitting fresh hards.

Sainz may have been a driver behind that decision after appearing to resist a call to pit on lap 32, but operationally this was much better for the Prancing Horse.

Awesome Albon 

The final word must be saved for Williams and Alex Albon.

It was a shock to see the Thai driver top Q2 on Saturday and he was expected to fall back from 10th on the grid.

It didn’t play out that way and good strategy, good straight line speed coupled with a litany of upgrades on Albon’s car this weekend saw him lead home a train two-stoppers for seventh place, which marks the best result for Williams since Spa’s 2021 “race” when George Russell stood on the podium.

That lifts Williams off the bottom of the Constructors’ Standings.

 

Images courtesy of Pirelli Sport

Verstappen takes Monaco pole as Perez crashes

Max Verstappen has taken pole position for the first time in Monaco after one of the most thrilling qualifying sessions in years. The world champion ended up just 0.084 ahead of Fernando Alonso, while the top 10 were covered by less than a second.

The most important qualifying session of the season started under bright blue skies, almost everyone going straight out onto the circuit knowing getting a lap in early could be crucial.

The early pace setter as expected was Verstappen, who went quickest with his first flying lap backed up by his team-mate Sergio Perez in second place. Both Aston Martins were also within tenth of the leading Red Bull. With just 11 minutes left of the session the red flag came out after Perez hit the wall at St Devot. The RedBull driver would not take any further part in qualifying.

The session resumed for a frantic shoot out to get through to Q2; Verstappen ended the session quickest with a time of 1.12.386 just ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in the AlphaTauri with Williams’ Alex Albon third. Both Carlos Sainz and Sir Lewis Hamilton had to leave it late after scrappy first runs but they both got through in the end. Out of Q1 were Perez, Guanyu Zhou, Nico Hulkenberg, Kevin Magnussen and Logan Sargeant in the Williams.

After a frantic Q1 the second session began in calmer fashion, Verstappen once again quickest straight from the off, closely followed by Alonso. The first runs were all completed without any dramas. Norris had a scrape with the wall at Tabac after damaging his left front suspension when exiting the chicane, ending the McLaren driver’s session. Hamilton again left it late but managed to get within 2 tenths of the quickest time set by Verstappen with a time of 1.11.908

Out at the end of Q2 were Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll, Albon, Nyck De Vries and Oscar Piastri.

Q3 began with Verstappen straight out on track to get his lap in early to avoid any red flags ruining his session as they had in recent years. The world champion set an early 1.12 but was beaten almost immediately by Alonso, Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc. All three of them managed to get into the 1:11s.

With six minutes left Lando Norris left the pitman after McLaren had worked some magic to get his car back on track.

Verstappen managed to get a good lap in halfway through the session and went to the top of the timesheets but amazingly was beaten by Ocon in the Alpine.

The last runs began with just 2 minutes left in the session. The driver at the top of the timesheets kept changing but ended once again with Verstappen at the top on a 1.11.365 just 0.084 ahead of Alonso. On the second row are Leclerc and Esteban Ocon, they will be followed by Sainz, Hamilton, Pierre Gasly, George Russell, Yuki Tsunoda and Norris.

The stewards are currently investigating Stroll for missing the weigh bridge in Q2, while Leclerc may yet be in trouble for holding up Norris in the final session by moving slowly in the tunnel.

The race will be long on Sunday and the threat of rain could mix it up; Verstappen and Alonso into turn one could get tasty.

Featured image curtesy of by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen wins Miami Grand Prix from ninth on the grid

Max Verstappen took victory at the Miami Grand Prix despite starting down in ninth.

Verstappen made his way up to second after a series of overtakes in the opening 17 laps of the race, while Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc did battle with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.

One of the Dutchman’s moves was a neat double overtake on Leclerc and Magnussen as they diced into Turn One. The world champion was on a charge.

A mega stint on hard tyres saw him re-join right behind polesitter and team-mate Sergio Perez, before passing the Mexican for the win in the closing stages.

Fernando Alonso comfortably held on to take third, while George Russell passed Carlos Sainz for fourth. The Spaniard picked up a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane, but stayed ahead of Sir Lewis Hamilton, who recovered from 13th to sixth.

Charles Leclerc stayed seventh ahead of Alpine’s Pierre Gasly, whose team-mate Esteban Ocon and Haas’ Magnussen rounded out the points after a fourth-placed start.

Yuki Tsunoda took 11th, and he was followed by Lance Stroll – the Canadian failing to make the points after a difficult qualifying on Saturday.

Alex Albon came home 14th, with Nico Hulkenberg and Zhou Guanyu following the Williams across the line.

A horrible day for McLaren saw Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri finish 17th and 19th respectively, either side of Nyck De Vries. Logan Sargeant, at his home race, endured a miserable day as he finished 20th and last having taken front wing damage on the opening lap.

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