F1 Weekend Preview: The British are coming

We are in the UK at Silverstone for the 10th round of the Formula 1 calendar where another sell-out crowd lines this high-speed track. Leclerc will be looking to attack after the fight from the back of the grid in Montreal. Mercedes have also promised good things for Silverstone while the midfield battle is spicing up.

Can Leclerc recover?

It’s been a roller-coaster of a first half of the season for Leclerc. He started off on top, but reliability issues have meant that is now looking for a recovery to get himself back in the championship fight.

Charles Leclerc fighting his way back to P5. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Despite staring from the back of the grid in Canada he did have a strong performance to finish P5 by the end of the race. This does also mean though that Leclerc has a fresh engine for the British GP where the track is high speed and about power.

That might be some good news for Ferrari fans, along with the fact that he always goes well at Silverstone. He almost won in 2021 if not for a great Mercedes strategy and power. For him and Ferrari, he will be hoping to make his way back to the top.

Mercedes bringing the brits performance

With Mercedes all British driver line-up they want to improve on the success in Canada in front of their home crowd. They have appeared to have learned some lessons from a not-so-great Baku to finish a strong P3 and P4 in Montreal.

Hamilton finishing P3 in Canada. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

There were some off-track technical distractions in Canada, but Toto Wolff believes they have the opportunity in Silverstone to win the race now that they seem to have learned some lessons. They also have drivers which love this circuit and go well here, Hamilton with the most British GP wins ever (eight) and Russell having a great qualifying and weekend performance last year.

Hamilton has also won the 10th round in 2009 and 2013, years he didn’t have a championship-winning car. However, with the unpredictability of the performance window for Mercedes, they will want to have a more constantly positive weekend.

The History of Silverstone

In 1950 the first-ever Formula 1 World Championship race was held at Silverstone and has been a popular track ever since. Whilst it has held the Formula 1 British GP every year of the championship, it is often in the same conversations as Spa, Monza, and Monaco when it comes to history.

Sell-out crowds at Silverstone. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Over the years it has many track changes, but the current layout is high-speed corners and straights so favours those cars with good engine power. The atmosphere is like no other circuit and is often a highlight for drivers. With three brits on the grid, the home fans have plenty to shout about.

Canadian GP: Verstappen holds off Sainz to take victory at Montreal

Max Verstappen drove yet another beautiful race on Sunday afternoon in Canada despite late pressure from Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari. Multiple VSCs and a safety car in Montreal meant that victory was not going to be straightforward for the reigning world champion who was in control during the entire weekend. His teammate Sergio Perez had a entirely different story after the Mexican driver’s gearbox failed during the race and he was forced to retire.

Fernando Alonso was the talk of the town for starting from P2 but the Spanish driver ultimately could not keep up with the faster cars behind him and ended up in P7.  The Spaniard was grumpy towards the end of the race and a minor issue with the engine did not help the cause. His teammate Ocon finished just ahead of him in P6 after battling the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc for the most parts of the race.

Lewis Hamilton back on the podium in 2022. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Mercedes had a perfect Sunday with Lewis Hamilton taking the last spot on the podium and with George Russell finishing in P4. Coming to Canada on the back of a painful week in Baku, the team will take heart with the result and look to push on with Silverstone coming on next, a track where they have been traditionally strong.

Charles Leclerc drove a solid recovery drive from P19 all the way to P5, pulling off quite a few moves on the way. The Monegasque driver had his work cut out but he executed overtakes one after the other in fine fashion and reached his target of P5 that Ferrari aimed for on Saturday. This however leaves him with a lot more to do in his quest for the championship as his rival Verstappen extended his lead to 49 points at the top.

Zhou making good progress. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

It was a good weekend for Alfa Romeo with both their drivers finishing in the points. Zhou finally picked up points after the first race of the season after finishing P9 and Valtteri Bottas kept up his good form for this season and  finished in P8. Lance Stroll made up the final points scoring position at P10 after the safety car stoppages worked out for him and the Canadian driver will be happy to pick up a point in his home race. His teammate Sebastian Vettel could only manage a P12 finish after he had issues with his tyres during all the stints.

It was a Sunday to forget for McLaren after an ambitious double stack under a safety car went terribly wrong for the British team. A slow stop for Ricciardo meant that Norris was held up and then was subjected to an extremely slow stop for himself. Ricciardo finished the race at P11 but Norris could only manage a lowly P15 and the English driver will look to put this entire weekend out of his mind and go on to his home race with a fresh mind.

Verstappen with a great start but Magnussen and Hamilton come together behind him. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

It was a disastrous weekend for the Haas team after Mick Schumacher dropped out of a points scoring position owing to a mechanical failure. Kevin Magnussen in the other Haas tangled with Hamilton on the very first lap and had to come in for a front wing change. Haas will be furious with the way their weekend turned out especially after their strong qualifying on Saturday.

Alpha Tauri also had a dismal weekend with Gasly finishing at P14 and Yuki Tsunoda crashing on his way out of the pits. It was a mixed Sunday for Williams after Albon finished P13 and Latifi finished P16. It was a case of what if for Williams after Albon looked closer to the top 10 during the beginning stages of the race but could not capitalize on the safety car periods.

A fantastic drive for Max Verstappen handed him his 6th win for the 2022 season and a solid lead in his bid for chasing the WDC. With his teammate retiring and Charles Leclerc forced to do a recovery drive, Verstappen comes out as the ultimate winner from the Canadian GP weekend. With a handful of races to go before the summer break, Silverstone is up next and promises to be a thriller with the teams looking to bounce back from this weekend.

 

Verstappen extends championship lead as Ferrari’s hopes go up in smoke

Max Verstappen extended his championship lead with victory in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, as both Ferraris succumbed to reliability issues.

Sergio Perez came home in second to make it another 1-2 for Red Bull, with George Russell securing his third podium of the season in third place.

The big story of the race though will be the fragile state of the Ferraris, with both Carlos Sainz and polesitter Charles Leclerc retiring before the race distance. Zhou Guanyu and Kevin Magnussen also retired with power unit problems, in what was a worrying day for the Italian manufacturer.

Perez taking advantage of Leclerc’s lock up. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

It was Sergio Perez who led in the early stages, getting a superb start from second on the grid to take the lead into Turn One. A small lock up from Leclerc cost him any chance of getting the move back on the first lap one, as the Mexican driver quickly dropped the Ferrari outside of his DRS range.

Things looked to be settling down before Carlos Sainz’s retirement on lap nine with a hydraulics failure, which led to a Virtual Safety Car. Whilst both Red Bulls stayed out, the majority of the chasing pack, including Leclerc and both Mercedes, opted to pit, giving themselves the option of stretching out a one-stop, or pushing harder and making the two-stop work.

Baking hot conditions meant tyre management would be crucial in Baku, as the track temperatures reached 46 degrees Celsius at the start of the race. Pirelli were clearly concerned as well, raising the minimum tyre pressures to try and negate the risk of punctures, thankfully, there were none of the issues which plagued last years race.

Strangely, it was tyre management which looked to be Sergio Perez’s downfall. His early sprint on the medium tyres took too much out of the tyres, and Verstappen was soon able to catch and overtake the Mexican on lap 15, with Checo being told ‘not to fight’ into turn one. However, it looked unlikely that Perez would have been able to put up much of a defence even if he wanted to.

After the Red Bulls pitted to go onto a conventional one-stop strategy, Charles Leclerc had a comfortable lead, and it looked as the win was still a distinct possibility, even if there was a concern over how well the tyres would last. By lap 20 though, this was a moot point. The Monegasque driver’s engine expired on the pit straight, handing victory to Verstappen and Red Bull.

Further back, it was another solid race from Mercedes, even if they aren’t showing the improvements they would have wanted to. George Russell was in no-mans land for the majority of the race, coming home in a lonely third place. His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, had a much more eventful afternoon though. After losing out in the first VSC because of the double stack, Hamilton spent a lot of his second stint stuck behind traffic, with Esteban Ocon being particularly trick to overtake thanks to the Alpine’s straight line speed.

After clearing the Frenchman, Hamilton was able to take advantage of the second virtual safety car (triggered due to Magnussen’s retirement) to get a cheap pitstop, overtaking both of the Alpha Tauri’s to come home in fourth. The heat combined with the vicious porpoising of the Mercedes clearly took it’s toll on the Brit, as Lewis struggled to exit his car at the end of the race.

Hamilton catching Gasly before taking P4 at the end of the race. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Pierre Gasly finished fifth for Alpha Tauri in what was his best result of the season, and if it wasn’t for a broken rear wing (which necessitated a gaffer tape fix), Yuki Tsunoda would have likely come home just behind in sixth. In the end, Sebastian Vettel recovered from an early spin to finish sixth, ahead of Fernando Alonso, the McLaren’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, and Esteban Ocon.

Ricciardo and Norris seemed to be inseperable throughout the entire race, with the Australian consistently challenging Norris in the early stages, being told to hold station behind his teammate. The roles were reversed at the end, with Norris clearly unhappy at being told to stay behind Ricciardo. This is a nice problem for McLaren to have, with this weekend looking like one of Ricciardo’s best this season.

Although the McLaren team orders may have had an effect on their result, it’s doubtful that Red Bull’s did. Verstappen’s race pace was too much for Sergio Perez, and the Dutchman now has a twenty-one point lead in the championship over his Mexican teammate. Ferrari’s double DNF drops them to eighty points behind Red Bull, as their championship challenge has unraveled dramatically over the last four races, which has seen Leclerc take pole in each race but not reach the chequered flag first in either, becoming the first driver to do this since Juan Pablo Montoya twenty years ago.

Celebrating a RedBull 1-2. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Next, Formula One heads to Canada first the first time post-COVID, with the last race there being remembered for Sebastian Vettel receiving a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage of track, handing the victory to Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari will be hoping that this time around, they don’t hand victory to their rivals once more.

2022 Azerbaijan GP Qualifying

Its already round 8 of the 2022 F1 World championship and this weekend brings the Azerbaijan GP, a crazy high speed street circuit that always delivers drama. Already this season its clear that the title battle is going to be between RedBull and Ferrari, the result in Monaco also brought Sergio Perez into contention giving us a three way battle. Even though Carlos Sainz has had a poor season by his usual high standards a change in form could also bring him right into the mix.

After the three practice sessions the top four were again close and looking at long run pace were evenly matched. The chasing pack are further behind this weekend but with the usual mix of crashes and safety cars this weekends race could be won by anyone. Qualifying isn’t as important at this track as at most but nonetheless an intense battle loomed.

The start of the session was delayed by 15 minutes due to a shunt in the F2 race which delayed the start of FP3 and the regulations state that there must be a 2 hour gap between the end of practice and the start of qualifying.

With a minute to go before the green light the pitlane resembled the worlds most expensive car park. They were led out by Lando Norris in his McLaren. Everyone would be looking for a slipstream down the very long main straight. Ferrari decided to stay in the garage to avoid all the jostling for a clean bit of track.

Lando Norris around the streets of Baku. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Norris went quickest with a 1.45.0 but that would quickly be beaten by Alonso immediately behind him. With the first runs completed the two RedBulls were top ahead of the two Ferraris. Russells lap was hindered by Verstappen so he aborted and went again, putting his Mercedes into P4 on his quick lap.

The Ferrari’s went for a second lap on the soft tyres and replaced the RedBulls at the top of the timesheets. Leclerc again ahead of his team mate Sainz. Next up for a second run were the Redbulls, Perez went quickest but was then beaten by just 0.011 by his World Champion team mate. With the top four seemingly locked in the rest of the field would have to battle to not be in the bottom 5 and avoid being eliminated from qualifying.

Lewis Hamilton was first to set a time and put his Mercedes in P8, 1.2 seconds behind the Redbulls. With just 4 minutes left Lance Stroll decided it was about time he redesigned the front wing of his Aston Martin going straight on into one of the tech pro barriers. An incident almost as common during a GP weekend as the chequered flag being waved. Whilst returning to the pits to get a new wing he somehow managed to hit the wall again. Replays show he actually carried on without returning to the pits and at turn 2 carried far too much speed and wiped out the front right corner of his car. At this rate he will need his own cost cap budget to make it to the end of the season. This brought out the red flag, Two and half minutes remained and again the pitlane was full of cars waiting to get back out for a shoot out.

First out was Hamilton desperate not to go out in Q1, He stayed in 9th, not improving his time, he fell to 11th with other cars coming across the line, not many improved due to the fact they were all fighting for clean bit of track and getting in each others way. Out in Q1 were Magnussen, Albon, Latifi, Stroll and Schumacher. At the top was Max Verstappen ahead of Perez, Leclerc and Sainz.

The Redbulls got Q2 underway, with Perez leading out Verstappen. Perez crossed the line with a 1.42.258, his team mate then crossing the line 0.031 quicker. Gasly then went 3rd quickest with a great lap in his Alpha Tauri. Russell in his Mercedes went 4th quickest before the two Ferraris took over at the top, for once Sainz ahead of Leclerc by just 0.094. Replays then showed Leclerc went a little wide into the corner before the long straight, amazingly keeping his foot flat to the floor whilst the car was going sideways.

Gasly putting in a solid perfomrance. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool

The top four were separated by just 0.170, Gasly in 4th was a second further back but the next 10 cars were covered by just over half a second. With 7 minutes left Sebastien Vettel gently went into the barrier at turn 14, unlike his team mate he didn’t seem to have damaged the car so would be able to go again after checking the car in the pits. The Redbulls were still out on track and Perez returned to the top of the times by over a tenth. The bottom five in Q2 were Norris, Ricciardo, Ocon, Zhou and Bottas.

And so to Q3, the battle to win pole position. Who of the top 4 will get their lap inch perfect and land at the top of the times.

The wily two time world champion Fernando Alonso was first onto the track. everyone bar the two top teams were using used soft tyres for their first runs. Sainz went quickest after the first runs with a time of 1.41.814, just 0.047 ahead of his team mate Leclerc, then came Perez 0.126 behind the leading Ferrari with Verstappen 0.175 behind Sainz. Behind them came Gasly, Russell, Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso and Tsunoda.

During the couple of minutes break in action between runs, replays showed the RedBulls and Ferraris all coming close the walls at different parts of the circuit clearly fully on it.

Out came the cars for the dramatic final runs. Perez had a small issue in the garage and was later to come back out on track.

Carlos Sainz just missing out on a front row start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Sainz was the first of the top 4 to set a lap, touching the wall gently at the exit of turn 2, At the first split he was already half a second down. His team mate Leclerc was improving on his lap, he crossed the line with an amazing time of 1.41.359 a massive half a second ahead of his team mate. Verstappen put his RedBull in 2nd 0.347 behind but was beaten again by his team mate Perez who got within 0.282 of the leading Ferrari. 4th was Sainz, then came Russell in the Mercedes, Gasly, Hamilton who was being investigated for driving slowly in Q2 then Tsunoda, Vettel and Alonso.

With the top four so closely matched tomorrows race should be another battle of strategy and getting the decisions right when the inevitable chaos ensues.

 

2022 Spanish GP

The Spanish Grand Prix brings us round 6 of this years World Championship. The season so far has been a story of Ferrari versus RedBull, with this race being the race where the first major upgrades are brought to the cars would we see a change in the pecking order, would Mercedes be back in the hunt for wins? A scorching day in Barcelona would bring us all the answers we have been waiting for.

The front row had Leclerc and Verstappen again and could deliver us a titanic battle into turn one. Strategy would be key in the hot weather and whoever looks after their tyres the best would surely go on to win the race.

Home favourite Fernando Alonso took an engine penalty and would start from last, the 2 time world champion promising to give it everything and put on a show for his adoring fans. Could his popular compatriot Carlos Sainz improve his form after an indifferent start to his season, a win not impossible for the Spaniard. Everyone will start on the soft tyre apart from Lewis Hamilton who chose to start on the mediums.

The front 2 clearly ahead of the rest on the start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Lights out and the battle to the first corner was between the front two, they came through the first turns in the same order that they started.  Russell up to third. Hamilton then had a collision with Magnussen who tried to go around him on the outside of turn 4 causing a puncture with Magnussen into the gravel. Both drivers pitting at the end of the first lap.

At the start of Lap 5 Bottas went around the outside to Mick Schumacher into turn one. Alonso in the Alpine already up to P14, plenty of overtaking moves so far including a great pass from Alonso again on Sebastian Vettel. Sainz then makes a big mistake and spins into the gravel at turn 4 putting him down in 11th.

At the start of lap 9 Max Verstappen also lost it at turn 4 and went into the gravel, returning to the track in 4th. The RedBull team telling him it was a gust of wind. Russell now ahead of both RedBulls and clearly holding them up, RedBull clearly order Perez to let Verstappen through to see if he can make any ground on the Mercedes.

Ricciardo overtaken by hos teammate early on. Image courtesy pf Pirelli F1 Press Room

The McLaren of Ricciardo is falling down the order with the Aussie now down on 15th after pitting for fresh soft tyres. Lap 13 and Norris pits in his McLaren returning to the track in 9th place ahead of Sainz in the Ferrari. Both Russell and Verstappen pitted together, the world champion would need to get passed quickly to try and salvage his race. The RedBull struggling with an intermittent DRS fault meaning Verstappen couldn’t  get to close to the Mercedes on the main straight. The world champion looking very ragged in the RedBull complaining on the radio that they should be able to get the DRS working.

Leclerc up front still hadn’t pitted at the start of lap 20 and led by 30 seconds from Russell and Verstappen. The top 10 completed by Perez, Bottas, Ocon, Sainz, Vettel, Norris and Tsunoda. Alonso now up to 11th after starting last in his Alpine. Hamilton in the Mercedes seemingly with damage as he has only moved back to 16th.

Lap 22 and Leclerc finally pits, a great stop by the Ferrari team at 2.2 seconds, he returns to the track with 4.6 second lead but he now has tyres 8 laps fresher than the cars behind him.

At the start of lap 24 Hamilton pits for new medium tyres but falls down to 19th. Verstappen makes a move into turn one but Russell hangs him out to dry and makes him go the long way around and he can’t quite do it. Great defending by George Russell. Anyone who thought this race would be boring was very wrong. Perez now behind Verstappen asking the team to get him out of the way.

Suddenly Leclerc has trouble and the Ferrari is limping back to the pits, The first DNF of the season for the championship leader. Russell now leads in the Mercedes, Verstappen still struggling to find a way by the slower Mercedes.

Back down the field Lance Stroll again runs out of talent and spins after contact with the Alpha Tauri into turn one. RedBull decide to pit Verstappen dropping him to 4th but in clean air. Surely a 3 stop is now on the cards. Russell now out front ahead of Perez but the Mexican goes straight passed at the first attempt. His team mate now back up to 3rd, just 13 seconds behind.

At half distance this race is between the two RedBulls but seeing as team orders were clearly used earlier surely it is Verstappens race to lose now. As he closes on Russell the Brit pits in his Mercedes. The two RedBulls now leading the pack just 6 seconds apart. Perez pits the very next lap for mediums, returning to the track clear of Russell in the Mercedes. Further down the field Lando Norris is now up to 8th position despite feeling unwell this weekend.

Perez making a move on Russell. Image courtesy of Red Bull content pool

Hamilton in the Mercedes is currently the quickest car bar the RedBulls and showing that the Mercedes does in fact have quite a lot of pace which shows well for the rest of the season, the 7 time world champion now up to 6th.

Lap 45 and Verstappen pits for what surely is the last time. He comes back out ahead of Russell, just 5 seconds behind his team mate. Sainz in the sole remaining Ferrari also pits for the 3rd time. He is now 7th, another disappointing show from the Ferrari driver.

Lap 49 and RedBull tell Perez to let Verstappen passed for the lead, The Mexican agreeing but not very happy with the order.

Mercedes pit Russell again for fresh soft tyres, he remains in 3rd and on for a podium, RedBull bring Perez back in also to protect his 2nd position.

The rest of the field seems to have settled with a few battles developing for the back end of the top ten before the end of the race.

With 10 laps to go Verstappen leads from Perez, Russell, Bottas, Sainz, Hamilton, Ocon, Norris, Alonso, Schumacher, Tsunoda, Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Stroll, Magnussen, Latifi and Albon with the only 2 retirements being Leclerc and Zhou.

Hamilton making moves. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton were running within a second of each other at the start of lap 58. Sainz is straight passed down the main straight, Hamilton then drives around the outside of turn three to overtake his former team mate. The Brit in his Mercedes clearly on a mission after the disappointment of lap one. His sights now clearly on the Ferrari ahead. He swoops around the outside of the Ferrari into turn one, a great drive today from Hamilton that might stop all the Netflix fans saying he’s finished.

After 66 laps Verstappen crossed the line as the race winner and also takes the lead of the world championship, he is followed over the line by Perez and the Mercedes of George Russell, Sainz is fourth after taking Hamilton one lap from the end due the Mercedes having to lift and coast for the last few laps, Hamilton finishes fifth ahead of Bottas, Ocon, Norris, Alonso and Tsunoda rounding out the top ten.

The rest of the classified finishers were Vettel, Ricciardo, Gasly, Schumacher, Stroll, Latifi, Magnussen and Albon.

Probably the best Spanish Grand Prix since 1991, plenty of overtaking and battles throughout the field all race long. The next stop on the F1 circus is Monaco, obviously we wont have the amount of overtaking that we did here but every lap has jeopardy and so anything can happen.

 

Emilia Romagna GP Race Report

Round 4 of this years World Championship is taking place at Imola. One of the most historic tracks but one which will forever be associated with the dreadful weekend in 1994 where Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna lost their lives.

So far this weekend every session for both F1 and the support races has been interrupted by either safety cars or red flags. Early scenes from the track this morning showed the rain had returned so this looked to be a factor for today’s race.

World Champion Max Verstappen would start from 1st alongside his 2022 nemesis Charles Leclerc. Then came Perez, a resurgent Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari. Lando Norris was next up alongside team mate Daniel Ricciardo. The top 10 was rounded out by Bottas, Magnussen, Alonso and Mick Schumacher.

With 5 minutes to go before lights out the track was still damp so the intermediates looked to be the tyres best to start on. Could we see a mad flurry of pitstops early on or would a safety car be more likely to play a part in today’s strategies?

Lights out and Leclerc got a bad start. Sainz and Ricciardo collided with Sainz out at turn one, his dreadful last run of races continuing. Russell in the Mercedes made a storming start and was up to 6th. The safety car was deployed without a single lap being completed. The two Redbulls led the way with Norris third and Leclerc 4th. Replays showed Sainz was the innocent victim after Ricciardo slid a little wide into the Ferrari. It looked like a racing incident. Ricciardo pitted under the safety for a fresh set of inters. Charles Leclerc was already on the radio saying the track was drying quickly.

The race would restart on lap 5 as the safety car pulled into the pitlane. The restart was a little calmer than the original start, the only mover being Vettel on Alonso. Verstappen was already pulling clear of his team mate, Leclerc was stalking Norris in 3rd. Alonso continued to fall down the order and was now down to 12th. The replay of Hamilton overtaking the Spaniard show part of his engine cover flying off the car, He pitted on lap 7 and retired the car.

Alonso losing bodywork as the bouncy Mercedes drives past. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Just 2 laps after the restart Verstappen had pulled 3 seconds on his team mate, Leclerc was still stuck behind Norris in the McLaren. Leclerc made his move on the start of lap 8, overtaking Norris with some late braking into Tamburello. He was already 6 seconds behind his title rival though with Perez in between them. Already some drivers were complaining about the inters going off, the track however wasn’t dry enough for slicks yet. Who would be the first to make the change?

Russell was now harrying Magnussen in the Haas fighting for 5th place. Without DRS he couldn’t quite get past the Haas before the end of the pit straight. The next lap round he made it passed but couldn’t stop the car in time for turn one and went wide. The Haas slipped back passed at the next turn. Later on in the lap the Mercedes made it passed and made it stick.

Magnussen then came under pressure from Bottas. The Alfa man made it passed before the end of the lap. Back upfront Verstappen continued to pull away from Perez who was being caught by Charles Leclerc.

Daniel Ricciardo the trend setter. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

At the start of lap 17 Daniel Ricciardo decided it was time for slicks, now everyone would be looking at the timesheets to see if it was the right choice or not. Lewis Hamilton over the radio said it was too early still. Others disagreed as Vettel, Gasly and Albon all pitted. Ricciardo was setting his quickest sector times but still not purple sectors, RedBull sacrificed Perez and put him on the medium tyres at the start of lap 19. Mercedes also pitted Russell on the same lap, he was followed in by Hamilton. Ocon was released in front of the Mercedes in what seemed a possible unsafe release. Ocon was later given a 5 second time penalty for the unsafe release.

The leaders then also pitted with the whole field now on slicks. The Ferrari of Leclerc made it out ahead of Perez but thanks to the already warm slick on the RedBull Perez made it back passed him almost immediately.

With the field settling down Verstappen led by 7 seconds from Perez, and Leclerc was a further 1.7 seconds down. The fastest laps were now tumbling and at the start of lap 22 Leclerc was right behind Perez. For some reason race control still hadn’t allowed the use of DRS, a strange decision seeing as everyone was now on slicks. This was costing Leclerc massively as he couldn’t get close enough to overtake the RedBull.

Perez keeping Leclerc at bay. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Further back Mick Schumacher went straight on at the chicane and then spun when rejoining the track. Everyone on the track was having problems overtaking as offline the track was still very damp and still DRS hadn’t been allowed to be activated.

As we got to half race distance Lewis Hamilton was struggling in his Silver Space Hopper down in 14th place, with the team learning nothing new about the car surely they would pit him to let him run in free air and use the rest of the race as a test session. This was not the case.

On lap 33 race control decided DRS would now be available, unfortunately for Leclerc he had now fallen to 2 seconds behind Perez so this wouldn’t benefit him until he closed to within a second of the RedBull. Nobody wanted to risk going to far onto the damp parts of the track so still no movements were really being made through the field.

As Verstappen started lap 41 he lapped Lewis Hamilton, possibly the most dramatic thing to happen in the race at this point. The Mercedes team knew they had work to do but to be lapped with still over 20 laps remaining must surely make the World Champion Constructors wonder whether their no sidepod car was indeed the wrong way to go. Hamilton had been caught behind Gasly since the pit stops and even with DRS didn’t look like he was going to be able to overtake him anytime soon.

Gasly keeping the 7 time world champion behind him. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Lap 48 suddenly brought us some much needed action with a great move Tsunoda on Magnussen 8th position. If only DRS was allowed earlier in the race.

As lap 50 begun Ferrari decided to roll the dice and fit the soft tyre to Leclerc, he lost position to Norris but would be back in front of him once the tyres were warmed up. The very next lap RedBull did the same with Perez, a battle was now on for fastest lap and that extra bonus point. Verstappen unsurprisingly with the lead he pitted a lap later so the top three remained the same.

With just 11 laps left Verstappen led by 13.8 seconds from Perez but Leclerc seemed to be enjoying the new tyre more and had closed to within a second of the second RedBull. Unfortunately for the Monagasque he spun at the chicane and damaged his front wing. He pitted on lap 54 for a new wing but was now down in 9th position, an error like that could prove very costly later in the season. He would now need a big charge to try to save decent points this afternoon.

With just 6 laps left the main fight was between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas. These 2 have history on this track as just last season they came together here causing a race stopping crash. As they battled away, behind them Leclerc had made it up to P7. With 2 laps remaining Leclerc took P6 from Tsunoda, would he now go for fastest lap as well?

After 63 laps Max Verstappen crossed the line for what must be his easiest win yet, he was followed 16.5 seconds later by his team mate. They would be joined on the podium by Lando Norris after yet another fine display by the Brit in his McLaren.

The Podium. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Next up was George Russell in the Mercedes after a great performance with Bottas right behind him at the chequered flag. Then came Leclerc who must surely be feeling he had thrown away big points today. Tsunoda was next up followed by Vettel, Magnussen and Stroll finishing up the top 10.

11th was Albon in the Williams, 12th Gasly just ahead of Lewis Hamilton, then came Ocon in the Alpine and Zhou in the second Alpha Romeo. Latifi, Schumacher and Ricciardo were the last classified finishers.

A race that promised a lot didn’t really deliver especially considering the weather. Questions need to be asked about the delay in allowing DRS to be used, another very questionable decision by race control.

The title race closes after this weekend, Leclerc’s huge points lead cut to 27 points, just over one race victory, Verstappen moves up to P2 in the standings despite two DNFs already. Perez is now third on 54 points (5 behind his team mate) and Russell somehow 4th in the Mercedes on 49 points.

The next race is in 2 weeks when F1 visits Miami for the first time, Will Mercedes bring upgrades? Which car out of the top 2 will suit the track better? In just under two weeks time we will find out.

Verstappen victorious in Imola sprint race

Max Verstappen recovered from a poor start to take victory in Saturday’s sprint race at the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, overtaking Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on the penultimate lap.

The reigning world champion was able to manage his tyres last better than Leclerc, closing back within DRS range in the final five laps. The Dutchman was able to get close enough to go around the outside into Tamburello on lap 20 to secure the eight points.

It was a poor getaway from Verstappen, who struggled with wheel spin and gear sync issues off the line, allowing the Monegasque driver to take the lead. Fernando Alonso also had a difficult start, dropping behind Sergio Perez and Daniel Ricciardo on lap one.

At least Verstappen and Alonso had a chance to recover from their poor start however. Zhou Guanyu dropped behind Pierre Gasly in the first few corners, and collided with the Alpha Tauri trying to regain the position into Piratella. This sent the Chinese driver careering into the barriers, ending his race and bringing out the Safety Car.

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo (Germain Hazard, Royal Spark / Alfa Romeo Media)

After the Safety Car, Leclerc was able to extend his lead, stretching out to over two seconds ahead of Verstappen before the Red Bull was able to reel him in. The ‘number two’ cars of Carlos Sainz and Perez both had difficult qualifying sessions, and the sprint race provided a great opportunity to work their way back up the field. Perez set the fastest lap on his way up into third place, with Sainz snatching fourth from McLaren’s Lando Norris in the final few laps. Norris came home fifth, with a sixth place for Daniel Ricciardo continuing the good form seen by the Woking-based team in Melbourne.

The majority of the field chose to compete on the soft tyres, with a few drivers choosing the mediums. One of these was Kevin Magnussen, who had secured Haas’ best ever qualifying on Friday with fourth position. The Dane was unable to keep with the pace of those on the softs throughout the sprint however, securing one point for eighth place having been overtaken by Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas in the final stages of the race.

Alonso just missed out on points behind the Haas, with Mick Schumacher’s tenth place meaning the German will start higher than he ever has done before in a Formula One race on Sunday. After showing promise in FP2 earlier in the day, both Mercedes spent their day stuck in a DRS train, as George Russell came home in eleventh with Lewis Hamilton down in fourteenth place, meaning that there will be no Mercedes in the top 10 of the grid for a Grand Prix for the first time since the Suzuka in 2012.

Despite losing out to Verstappen at the end, Leclerc extends his lead in the championship to 40 points, with Carlos Sainz now in second. Red Bull also moved up to second in the championship, and find themselves 57 points behind Ferrari heading into Sunday’s race.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Emilia Romagna Qualifying Report

Round 4 of the 2022 F1 World Championship takes us to a wet and soggy Imola, after the one practice session that the drivers get before the Qualifying session on a Sprint Race weekend it looked like  Ferrari were once again going to be the team to beat with Charles Leclerc 1.4 seconds ahead of third placed Max Verstappen but with the field so far apart with the track drying it would be all to play for in the qualifying session.

Qualifying began in the best conditions seen all day but the track was still damp in places meaning the session would be very interesting. The first runners entered the track on a mix of slicks and intermediate tyres. The first driver to set a time was Lewis Hamilton in the very bouncy Mercedes, it would seem they still have massive issues with porpoising. His time was quickly beaten by both Aston Martins and by some margin. Both Mercedes immediately pitted for new slick tyres. The session was then red flagged thanks to Alex Albons Williams having a fire at the right rear end of the car causing a small explosion which then deposited debris onto the track.

The session restarted with 12 minutes remaining. The times began to tumble as soon as the first laps were completed. The Ferrari’s once again went to the top of the timesheets. Verstappen split them on his second timed run. With the track drying with every lap being driven the times were changing as each driver crossed the line. Then came the now customary Latifi spin, for once he avoided the barriers. As the session came to a close the Ferrari of Leclerc was fastest with 1.18.796 half a second clear of Verstappen. Out in Q1 were Albon, Ocon, Latifi, Gasly and Tsunoda. The Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton just making it into Q2 with a late lap but the World Champion Constructors are clearly really struggling again.

A Friday to forget for the Alpha Tauri Drivers. Image Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Q2 began with the threat of rain again, everyone rushed to get on track to try and set a time before the expected downpour. Sainz was first to set a time but was beaten by Verstappen, on his next flying lap Sainz ended up in the tyre wall at Revazza causing the second red flag of the qualifying session, replays showed Sainz lost the rear of his Ferrari going in to the second part of the corner. The rain began coming down again before the session restarted, this meant the 2 Mercedes were in very real danger of both being out in Q2, the worst result for the German manufacturer in some 10 years.

The session restarted but nobody returned to the track as it was clear nobody was going to be able to improve their times. With 2 minutes left Vettel returned to the track to get his eye in for Q3. A few more drivers followed clearly all wanting to get some experience of the wet track before Q3 began. Out of Q2 were Stroll, Zhou, Hamilton, Schumacher and Russell. The fastest time was set by Verstappen with 1.18.793

Stroll qualifying P11 ahead of the Mercedes. Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Only 9 cars would begin Q3 with the Ferrari of Sainz out of the session. The track was quite wet in some places but in others was already visibly drying. However almost straight away the Haas of Magnussen was into the tyre barriers and the session was red flagged, Magnussen managed to get his car out of the barriers and the gravel and returned to the pits seemingly unscathed.

A nine minute shoot out would begin when the green light at the end of the pitlane lit up. First man to set a time was Magnussen, he was beaten by Lando Norris who was then topped by his team mate Ricciardo. They were both then beaten by Leclerc and Verstappen. Verstappen then went even faster despite having to lift off for a yellow flag caused by Bottas in the Alfa Romeo. This then turned into another red flag.

The final 3 minutes would again be a shoot out for pole position, those at the front would get two flying laps, those further behind would get one shot. During the delay it began to rain again meaning the session was theoretically over. All the drivers returned to the track but the track looked a lot wetter than at the start of Q3. Lando Norris then lost it at Aqua Minerale and was stuck in the gravel, this brought out the final red flag of the session as only 38 seconds remained.

Pole position for Saturdays sprint race would go to Max Verstappen with a lap time of 1.27.999,  alongside him was Leclerc, on the second row would be Lando Norris and Kevin Magnussen, they were followed by Alonso, Ricciardo, Perez, Bottas, Vettel and Sainz.

F1 Weekend Preview: The Sprint is Back!

This weekend we see the return of the sprint race which had mixed reviews last year. However, they have been a few changes to the rules and couple of new hosts in an attempt to make the sprint race format work better for 2022.

The sprint race is still a 100km dash to the line with no mandatory stops. There are still only 3 races on the calendar which will host the event as sanction by the FIA because the teams are also getting to grips with the new regulations. This year Imola and Austria will join Brazil in hosting an event which allowed Hamilton his 25 place come back over last season.

Hamilton gaining places in Sao Paulo during the sprint in 2021. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

There have been two major changes to note, the first is the points for the sprint race. In 2021, only the top 3 drivers would get points, with P1 getting the maximum of 3 points. For this year the top eight drivers will get points, with P1 getting a more desirable 8 points down to P8 who will get 1 point. This means that there is a maximum of 34 points available to the drivers in one weekend (win sprint race, Grand Prix and fastest lap).

The other thing which caused much confusion amongst fans was that the winning driver of the sprint was awarded pole for the weekend. This year, the FIA and Formula 1 have out their heads together and decided common sense means that pole is now to be awarded to the fastest driver in the qualifying session on Friday. They will start the sprint race on pole and the winner of the sprint will start the Grand Prix on pole. Much simpler.

Imola sprint top 3 Imola 2021. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Ferrari’s Home Ground – Part 1

This will be the third time in as many years we have had two Italian races on the calendar, and with Ferrari at the top with seemingly nothing to stop them, the tifosi definitely have something to shout about now. So is there anyone that can stop them?

Max Verstappen finally broke his ‘Italian curse’ at Imola last year but in 2022 his car appears to be less reliable despite its pace. This adds an element of unpredictability to the Red Bull race weekend, and at 46 points behind Leclerc, Verstappen will be looking to take advantage of the sprint race.

Sergio Perez is currently the most consistent Red Bull driver, picking up the podium at Albert Park last weekend. However, as the only definite second driver on the grid at the moment he will be used to help out Verstappen when his car is working properly.

Sergio Perez on the podium in Melbourne 2022. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

A loss for Red Bull means a Mercedes gain as they have been there to pick up podiums when they became available. They are, however, still struggling to tame the porpoising enough to get the full potential out of the car. Mercedes did make some improvements in Albert Park though so they will be looking to capitalise on any positive developments they can make.

Alpine’s have been really solid so far this season, and if it weren’t for a bit of luck in Melbourne then Alonso may have had a closer fight to Verstappen as his car gets faster. McLaren also took a big jump in Australia. They were competing for the last few positions in rounds one and two, but they finished P5 and P6 respectively at Melbourne.

McLarens putting in a solid performance in Melbourne 2022. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

It will be an interesting weekend with the return of the sprint under the new regulations, as well as improvements for teams up and down the paddock as they start to get used to the 2022 cars.

Qualifying starts 4pm GMT on Friday, the Sprint is 3:30pm GMT on Saturday and the Race starts 2pm GMT on Sunday.

Dominant Leclerc extends championship lead with Australian GP victory

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc converted pole position into his second victory of the season at Albert Park, as Max Verstappen failed to finish with hydraulic issues.

The only time the victory looked in doubt for the Monegasque driver was after the second safety car, when a slow restart gave Verstappen an opportunity to attack into turn one, but Leclerc held on to extend his championship lead to thirty-four points over Mercedes’ George Russell.

In the end, even if Verstappen had made the overtake it would have been inconsequential, as Red Bull’s reliability issues reared their ugly head once again, with the Dutchman’s car failing at the start of lap 39, just seconds after he had set the fastest lap of the race.

Sergio Perez secured his first podium of the season in second place, as Mercedes matched their best result of the season from Bahrain, with George Russell leading Lewis Hamilton home in third and fourth.

It was Hamilton who had the best start out of the front runners, jumping from fifth to third on the run towards the first corner, overtaking Perez and Lando Norris. One man who did not have a good start was Carlos Sainz, dropping five places as he struggled with the hard tyres. Tyre warmup was the least of his concerns on lap two however, as the Spaniard went deep into turn nine, losing the car over the grass and ending beached in the gravel. This is the first time Sainz has failed to score points since the French GP last year.

Into turn 1 at the start of the GP. Image courtesy of Red Bull content Pool

Perez was able to work his way back past Hamilton in the first stint, but the Mercedes driver looked to be managing his tyres better, and was briefly able to make the overcut work on the Mexican driver, before Perez struck back with a bold move around the outside of turn ten.

Lewis may feel aggrieved that it was his teammate who scored the podium, and not him. Russell admitted afterwards he had been fortunate with the timing of the second safety car, which was brought out by Sebastian Vettel’s miserable weekend coming to an end in the barrier at turn four. This allowed Russell to take advantage of a cheap pit stop to come out ahead of Perez in third, but the Mexican was soon able to make his way past the Briton.

It was a much more promising race for Mercedes, who looked to be matching the Red Bulls on pace at times throughout the race. McLaren also had their best result of 2022, with Norris just finishing ahead of home hero Daniel Ricciardo, as they finished fifth and sixth. Esteban Ocon secured seventh for Alpine, in what was a very quiet race for the Frenchman.

The McLarens solid performance all weekend. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

This was the first race at the Albert Park circuit since 2019, and since then changes had been made to the track, most noticeably the removal of the chicane at what was turns eight and nine, in an attempt to improve the racing. There was no doubting the effectiveness of this in the midfield, with the different strategies leading to some brilliant battling.

Lance Stroll pitted twice early on, and this allowed him to climb as high as ninth at one stage. However, worn tyres combined with a five-second penalty for weaving on the straight meant points were always going to be a difficult task, and the Aston Martin dropped down the field in the later stages.

The Stroll train in full affect during the GP. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly finished eighth and ninth respectively, with Alexander Albon securing a shock point for Williams in tenth. After starting on the hards from last, the Thai driver was forced on to a different strategy by the safety cars. Whereas Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen took advantage of the virtual safety car caused by Verstappen’s retirement to change onto the medium tyres, Albon stayed out on the hards.

He eventually pitted on the penultimate lap (the latest allowed by the regulations), coming out on a fresh set of softs to secure the Grove-based team’s first point of the season. Alonso and Magnussen struggled with the graining that dogged many of the front runners in the early stages, finishing comfortably outside the points.

Although Leclerc took victory in Bahrain, this was the first time this season where the Ferrari looked comfortably clear of the Red Bull in race pace. The Formula One calendar heads to Imola in two weeks time for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which will also host the first ‘sprint race’ of the season.

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