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.

 

F1 Weekend Preview: Montreal is back!

After the inevitable drama in Baku, we move on to Canada for the first time since 2019. RedBull look to keep up momentum while Ferrari will need to investigate power unit issues. Mercedes had serious problems with porpoising on the long straights and want to change that for Montreal.

Ferrari’s Reliability Issues

Baku produced its normally unpredictability this year but this time with less safety cars and more reliability issues. We only had two Virtual Safety Cars for the entire race, but each was caused by what looked like a failing Ferrari engine.

It was a Sunday to forget for the team in red when both cars DNF’d with engine issues. Carlos Sainz had technical issues in lap 16 but his teammate had an engine blow up about 20 laps in. This was the second time that Charles Leclerc had been leading the race comfortably this season when reliability became a problem.

For Ferrari though this wasn’t just isolated to their own cars, other Ferrari powered cars had to retire with similar issues to the factory team. Magnussen and Zhou both appeared to have engine problems, forcing them to retire from the race. For Haas in particular this was a loss of any points from the race with Schumacher not able to push the car forward.

Ferrari will look to bounce back with extra strength if they want to outperform RedBull, who have a very strong car for the rest of the season. Ferrari have good one lap pace with Leclerc taking pole at six of the eight races this year, but on race pace RedBull have the edge. Ferrari need this to change.

Mercedes Bouncing into Canada

Lewis Hamilton telling his team he was OK despite physical back pain from the race. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

It was obvious that down the main straights Mercedes had the worst of the porpoising in Baku. The set up wasn’t right and after the race Lewis Hamilton had to exit his car very carefully with what looked like serious back pain.

Despite a podium, Mercedes and many drivers have spoken about getting the FIA involved with the issue which is now causing a safety concern for the drivers. However, those teams who haven’t been as badly effected suggest it’s a design flaw which can be dsigned out of the car.

Regardless of what happens with the FIA, Mercedes now have to tackle Canada, with the long straights towards the end of the lap we could see a repeat of the extreme bouncing and bottoming out of the cars. For them they will want to set the car up to get rid of the problem as much as possible without affecting performance.

The Midfield Battle Getting Tasty

It’s no secret that the most exiting battles between cars often happens in the midfield where everyone is fighting for the same 5 positions. This year the teams race much closer together with different cars performing well at different tracks.

In Baku Alpine seemed to be the midfield team everyone had to get past. They had impressive race pace, particularly down the straights where they seemed to be able to use DRS to pass cars with ease. Vettel often found himself behind Ocon trying to overtake and had a great, race long, battle with him.

Canada is normally needing a lower downforce set up to have maximum performance, testing the driver’s precision around some of the tight walls and corners. This could play nicely into Alpine’s hands where we could see them walk away with a large haul of points.

Qualifying starts at 9pm BST on Saturday and the race starts at 7pm BST on Sunday.

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.

 

F1 Weekend Preview: Baku for Late Drama

After the changing conditions of Monaco we move on to the streets of Baku. This track often producing exciting races which can really affect the championship. With Perez now very much a championship contender he will be hoping Ferrari doesn’t have a change in fortune and the Mercedes still have trouble finding the right balance in the car.

Perez is In

Last time out Perez put himself very much in the mix as a title contender after RedBull seemingly looked to back Verstappen in Spain. With a good strategy from RedBull and a strategic slip from Ferrari, Perez stuck out the wet conditions to take home the win.

Lewis Hamilton failing to turn of the ‘magic button’ in 2021. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Perez was definitely happier with the RedBull than his teammate in Monaco even with a crash in Q3. He looked to make is claim in the team and hopefully RedBull have now got to consider that they have two potential 2022 world champions in the team.

This sort of confidence is something that Perez will want to take to a track which last year he also picked up the spoils with the title rivals Hamilton and Verstappen both having their issues in the race.

Ferrari Losing Momentum

Ferrari have looked very much on top at the beginning of the season. In Australia Leclerc was comfortably ahead of the RedBull’s and the first few races of the season Ferrari’s reliability made them the team to beat. However, there appears to have been a momentum switch in favour of RedBull.

Sainz manages to split the RedBulls in Monaco. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The last few races have not been kind to the red team who’s turn it was to have their own reliability issues. In Spain Leclerc was controlling the pace until lap 34 when his power unit gave up. Sainz couldn’t bring home a podium in that race either but managed to salvage P2 in Monaco after an awful strategy from the team meant Leclerc went from P1 to P4.

The team now have to re-focus to bring the fight back to RedBull in Baku and hope that the late drama Baku is known for will be in their favour.

Which set up is correct?

Mercedes have still not quite got the hang of their performance. They seem to have almost got rid of the extreme porpoising which was holding them back, and in Spain they did have good pace. But Baku is unique in that a low or high downforce set up can yield good lap times.

However, based on the previous years low downforce is better over a single lap but increases tyre degradation in the race. This is the decision the teams need to make and for Mercedes, who introduced their low downforce wing at Miami, this could mean enough pace to compete with RedBull and Ferrari for qualifying.

The low downforce wing from Miami. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Qualifying is on Saturday at 3pm BST and the race on Sunday is at 12pm BST.

TT 2022 – It begins!

After what feels like the longest 3 years, the 37.73 miles of the Isle of Man TT Course is once again alive with the sound of race bikes. Visitors are arriving in their thousands to see the spectacle, and many of the fan’s favourites are back on the course to pit their wits against the tarmac and trees.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

Whilst many of the competitors arrived fresh from the North West 200, given the Dunlop tyre issues there it hasn’t been as clear an indicator of form on the Superbikes as we’ve seen in previous years.

Peter Hickman was showing great pace at the NW200 on the Gas Monkey/FHO BMW before the tyre problems and his closest challengers have to be Dean Harrison on the DAO Kawasaki; Davey Todd on the Padgett’s bike; and his teammate (Isle of Man born and bred) Conor Cummins.

Despite the late changes in machinery, and a lucky escape with the tyre issues, Michael Dunlop can never be discounted and with his knowledge and experience, John McGuinness will also be one to watch.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

It’s hard to write an article that doesn’t just become a list of competitors – by it’s nature the Isle of Man Mountain Course is never easy to predict – the distance, the speed at which conditions change, the wide open Mountain Section contrasting with the lower tree lined sections make it a really fascinating prospect.

There are some talented new names to look out for too. As they make the step up from the Manx Grand Prix, James Hind and Nathan Harrison have already put in some solid laps during Practice Week. Glenn Irwin makes his debut on the Isle of Man, as does Milo Ward.

On the Superstocks, as the current lap record holder Hickman is an obvious one to watch, so too is Davey Todd. Dunlop on his Carl Cox support machine, and local lad N Harrison will also be pushing.

We’ve not yet mentioned Lee Johnston – he’s got to be worth a look on the Supersport and with 16 podiums, Dean Harrison will hoping for another trip up the famous steps. Once again Todd & Cummins will be competitive, and Michael Dunlop is showing his experience as the current lap record holder.

The Supertwins could be an interesting one to watch – again Dunlop is on the Paton, with the mightily experienced Rutter contrasting against the young man James Hind who is the current Manx Grand Prix Lap record holder – he has the capability to secure a top 8 finish. We also have the North West 200 success of Pierre Yves Bian who is obviously one to watch as he brings that to the Island.

The Sidecar entry is made up of a lot of well known and highly successful names. Dave Molyneux and Darryl Gibson will be debuting the KTM. Speaking of debut, Harry Payne and Mark Wilkes make their first attempts at conquering the course – somewhat different to the circuits they have enjoyed recent success on.

IOM TT – Picture courtesy of Keith Quirk

The locals are well represented this year with Callum and Ryan Crowe vying for a podium finish and of course the Mansfield brothers. Ben & Tom Birchall will be continuing their charge and hoping to add to their previous wins. The sidecars also sees Michael Russell making the crossover from solo in an attempt to contest all 8 races during race week…!

It would be wrong to write this without mentioning the sad loss of Mark Purslow following an incident at Ballagarey during the Wednesday evening practice session. Mark was a previous winner at the Manx Grand Prix, and this was to be his second TT. Our thoughts are with all those affected by his passing.

Leclerc takes pole after Perez crash brings a premature end to qualifying

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc took his second successive pole position at Monte Carlo, in a truncated qualifying session after Sergio Perez crashed out at Portier.

Carlos Sainz made it a front row lockout for the Maranello-based team, with Sergio Perez out qualifying his teammate and championship leader Max Verstappen to start third.

Track evolution during the first qualifying session meant we saw a variety of drivers head to the top of the times. Red Bull were fastest early on, before Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris displaced them for the top two.

Yuki Tsunoda past a marshal waving a red flag. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

It took a few laps for Charles Leclerc to get into his rhythm, but he was fastest ahead of his teammate Carlos Sainz, before a small tap to the wall from Yuki Tsunoda led to a rogue red flag – allegedly caused by a marshal accidentally picking one up rather than a yellow flag.

Only two and a half minutes were remaining in Q1 after this, and with space at a premium around Monaco, someone was always going to be left frustrated. Ironically, it was Pierre Gasly who lost out the most due to the red flag, dropping out in the first part of qualifying alongside Albon, Stroll, Latifi and Zhou.

Leclerc continued his fantastic pace in the second part of qualifying, becoming the first man to get into the 1:11s. It wasn’t all plain sailing though for the Monegasque driver – he missed the weighbridge on the way into the pits, and had to be pushed back by the Ferrari mechanics to avoid a penalty. Daniel Ricciardo’s tough weekend continued, as he qualified down in thirteenth place. Tsunoda, Bottas, Magnussen and Schumacher also failed to make it into the top ten.

Charles Leclerc making his way around the streets. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

It was only the Ferraris and the Red Bulls who used fresh tyres for the first runs in Q3, which proved to be the deciding laps for the front positions. Charles Leclerc went fastest with a 1:11.376, nearly a quarter of a second ahead of Sainz. As has been the case for the majority of the weekend, Perez looked more comfortable than Verstappen, with the Mexican securing third place ahead of Max in fourth.

Whether he’ll be able to start there though, is another matter entirely. Perez crashed on his final run through Portier, losing the car on turn-in, and heavily damaging the rear. Sainz was slow to react to the yellow flags and made contact with the Red Bull, and could well get another reprimand which would lead to a 10-place grid drop.

Lando Norris defied his illness to qualify fifth , ahead of Russell, Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and Ocon.

Leclerc’s ‘Monaco curse’ has been well documented, as he is yet to see the chequered flag in six races in the principality across different categories. Starting from pole position gives him the ideal opportunity to break this curse once and for all, and retake the championship lead, but the potential for rain on Sunday means victory is not a foregone conclusion for the Ferrari driver.

F1 Weekend Preview: The Famous Streets of Monaco

After a very interesting Spanish Grand Prix we go to Monaco which always tests the talent of the drivers. Unlike most tracks, qualifying is often the most important element of the whole weekend with overtaking almost impossible around the tight street circuit.

Charles Comeback at Home

Last time out in Barcelona it was the turn of Ferrari and Charles Leclerc to have reliability issues when his engine gave up halfway through the race. He was easily controlling the pace after a pit stop for Verstappen put him behind the Mercedes of George Russell with a DRS problem, unable to get past.

It was not all lost hope for Charles Leclerc though. He delivered arguably his best pole lap ever in Spain and the Ferrari’s were quicker all weekend on one lap pace compared to the RedBulls. Set up will be very different for Monaco but this is encouraging signs with track position important.

There is one thing that needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to Monaco though… Charles Leclerc is yet to finish a race there. He recently crashed out of the Monaco historic Grand Prix in Niki Lauda’s 1974 Ferrari after it had a brake failure around rascasse. He will be hoping to break that run of luck this weekend.

Team Orders Already?

Six rounds in and Verstappen now leads the championship after Leclerc’s DNF. The momentum appears to have swung in favour of RedBull over the last few races, so much so that they used team orders this early on in the season to help Verstappen win the race.

Sergio Perez overtaking George Russell on the outside of turn 1. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Perez seemed to be the ultimate teammate after having a good strategy and getting past Russell to take the lead towards the end of the race before the radio message came in to let Verstappen past. The 1-2 for RedBull was already secured with only the Mercedes behind them not able to keep up. However, the team have decided already to put all their eggs in Verstappen’s basket.

Whilst this is not at all surprising and somewhat expected from RedBull, to have team orders from any team this early on in a very long season does seem to be premature. Even Perez seemed a bit disappointed after the race, saying that they would discuss it later in the race de-brief away from the radio and cameras.

Mercedes with Consistent Pace

George Russell defending against the fast Bulls. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

In Spain the upgrades Mercedes brought seemed to have worked and this time they were able to extract much more performance out of the car. Russell kept is cool, making his 2m wide car the same witdth of the track when defending against Verstappen. He was also able to get past a fast Bottas and comfortably stay ahead, something which they could achieve in previous races.

After his lap one incident with Magnussen, Hamilton was P19 having stopped for a puncture. However, he made his way back through the grid, putting in a champions drive to make it back to P5 by the end of the race. He potentially could have finished in P4 but a water leak issue in the final few laps meant he had to back off and Sainz was able to take P4.

It seems Mercedes are most of the way towards solving their issues by being able to operate the car in a wider window of performance compared to Miami. It is now a case of wait and see if they can compete for more poles and race wins.

George Russell with podium pace in Spain. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Qualifying on Saturday is at 3pm BST and the Race is at 2pm BST. You can also listen to us live on twitter spaces for all the action on Saturday and Sunday.

Round 3 WorldSBK Estoril, Portugal, Race 2

The earlier Superpole race saw Rea (KRT Kawasaki), claim his first win of the weekend, followed by Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) and Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati).

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Lights out for race 2, and it’s Toprak with the hole shot, followed by Rea 2nd, Locatelli (Pata Yamaha) 3rd, Bautista 4th, Leucona (Honda HRC) 5th and Rinaldi (Aruba.it Ducati) 6th. And then drama as light rain began to fall – would this have a bearing on the race?

Next lap, and Rea again showing good pace, takes over the lead from Toprak. His team mate, Lowes, was showing good early pace too and moved up into 5th, and then quickly into 4th moving through on Lecuona, setting a fastest lap of 1:37.222 in the process.

With 18 laps of 21 remaining, it was Lowes with another fastest lap this time 1:37.039, and moved past Bautista with a neat pass. Both the ZX10-RR machines were looking quick in the early stages of the race. Positions were as follows; 1. Rea 2. Razgatlioglu 3. Lowes 4. Bautista 5. Lecuona 6. Locatelli 7. Rinaldi 8. Vierge (Honda HRC) 9. Bassani (Motocorsa Ducati) 10. Redding (BMW Motorrad).

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Lecuona Picture courtesy of Honda Racing Corporation

With 13 laps to go, a group of 4 riders had splintered away from the others, with Locatelli trailing by 2s back in 5th. Positions were as follows; 1. Rea 2. Toprak 3. Lowes 4. Bautista. The former then moves past Lowes to take 3rd. The good news was the earlier light rain had stopped, with the track remaining dry.

With 11 laps to go, as he had in race 1, Bautista was showing good late race pace, and used the top end grunt of the Ducati to overtake both Rea and Toprak down the straight and into turn 1, moving from 3rd into the lead. Meanwhile further back, Bassani was having a decent race and was now up to 7th.

Next lap, and Rea comes through on Bautista, after the Spaniard made a mistake running wide and missing the apex. Rea had gone with the softer tyre option, and it looked to be a valid choice, as the Irishman set a new fastest lap of 1:37.751.

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Vierge Picture courtesy of Honda Racing Corporation

With 8 laps to go, Bautista again using the top end speed of the Ducati, powers past Rea to retake the lead into turn 1. Further back it was 10. Redding 12. Baz (Bonovo Action BMW) and 13. Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK).

With 6 laps to go, the leading group was now down to 3, as Lowes went off the track briefly, losing contact in the process. The win looked likely to be fought out amongst the leading group of Rea, Toprak and Bautista.

With 2 laps to go, it was the turn of Toprak to lose contact with Rea and Bautista, after the reigning champion made a mistake and ran wide, seemingly struggling with tyre grip again.

WorldSBK Estoril 22.05.2022 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Last lap, and Rea was all over the back of Bautista, he made his move into the chicane, cutting under the Ducati to take the lead. He held the slim gap into the final sector, and crossed the line to take his 2nd win of the day, and his 117 career win to date. 2nd Bautista, 3rd Toprak, 4th Lowes, 5th Locatelli, 6th Lecuona, 7th Bassani, 8th, Rinaldi, 9th Vierge.

Result top 5:

  1. Rea (KRT Kawasaki)
  2. Bautista (Aruba.it Ducati)
  3. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  4. Lowes (KRT Kawasaki)
  5. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)

Championship top 3:

  1. Bautista – 161 pts
  2. Rea – 144
  3. Razgatlioglu – 109

Round 3 WorldSBK Estoril, Portugal, Race 1

With the extended break, it was a welcome return to action back on track. The skies were grey and gloomy, but the racing was white hot. Rea (KRT Kawasaki) would claim the Superpole with a fastest lap of 1:35.346, followed by Razagatlioglu (Pata Yamaha) and Bautista (aruba.It Ducati) in 2nd and 3rd respectively.

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Lights out and it was Razgatlioglu with the hole shot into turn 1 followed by Rea, Locatelli (Pata Yamaha), Bautista and Lowes (KRT Kawasaki). Mercado (MIE Racing Honda) crashed out, and his race was over.

With 20 laps to go, it was Toprak and Rea setting a very quick pace, and they were already pulling out a gap to the group of Locatelli and Bautista behind. Rea had gone with the harder tyre option and was able to match the pace of Toprak on the softer tyre, Rea setting a fastest lap of 1:36.258. Then drama into turn 6, Rea ran into the back of Toprak making contact with his rear tyre, but both riders were able to stay upright. The gap to Locatelli in 3rd was now at 1.0s.

With 18 laps to go Redding was again showing an improvement on the BMW, and was in 5th. Bautista used the top end speed of his Ducati to blast past Locatelli down the straight and took over 3rd. Meanwhile at the front both Toprak and Rea were still very much locked in battle, with only a gap of 0.5s between them.

With 16 laps to go, Razgatlioglu who was giving everything, ran too hot into turn 3, allowing Rea to come through and take the lead. Positions were as follows: 1. Rea 2. Razgatlioglu 3. Bautista 4. Locatelli 5. Redding (BMW Motorrad) 6. Lecuona (Honda HRC) 7. Vierge (Honda HRC) 8. Lowes.

With 14 laps to go Toprak out brakes Rea into turn 1 to retake the lead. Bautista was struggling to match the pace of the two at the front.

With 12 laps out of 21 remaining, it was now Rea who out braked Toprak again into turn 1, and took over the lead. Neither rider was giving an inch, and you felt the race win would be fought out between the two of them. Bautista had distanced Locatelli, and was having a lonely ride in 3rd. Meanwhile further back it was Laverty (Bonovo action BMW) in 13th and Nozane (GRT Yamaha WorldSBK) in 14th.

Next lap, and Toprak retakes the lead, again it’s into turn 1. Bautista was 1.7s behind in 3rd.

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Just over half race distance, and Rea responds yet again, retaking the lead again into turn 1. This was becoming one of the all time great battles between Rea and Toprak, with the lead changing virtually every lap. Meanwhile Bautista was finding good late race pace, and set a new fastest lap of 1:36.7. The Spaniard wasn’t out of contention for the race win yet.

Next lap and the battle between Toprak and Rea showed no sign of ending, and yes, you guessed it, Toprak retook the lead into turn 1, both riders leaving braking to the very latest possible into the corner.

With 8 laps of 21 remaining, Rea again stuffs his ZX10-RR under the Yamaha R1 of Toprak, again it’s turn 1, and he retakes the lead. This battle looked to be going down to the wire. Meanwhile further back there was a 3 way battle for 5th between Redding, and the Honda team mates of Lecuona and Vierge. Bautista however, had now closed the gap to Toprak to 1.0s.

Next lap and once again the lead changed hands, this time the reigning champion retakes the lead, again it’s turn 1. The constant battle between Rea and Toprak had allowed Bautista to catch them, and he was now 0.4s behind, and was looking to have managed his tyres well.

With 6 laps to go, Rea was pushing hard, and ran wide into turn 1, allowing Bautista to come past and into 2nd. The Spaniard now had Toprak in his sights, and was looking quick. Meanwhile further back, Lecuona had got past Redding, and was now in 5th.

With 4 laps to go, Toprak held a gap of 0.4s to Bautista. Rea looked to have completely lost tyre grip, and was losing contact with the two at the front. Meanwhile further back it was Lowes in 8th, Baz (Bonovo action BMW) 9th and Rinaldi (aruba.it Ducati) in 10th.

With 2 laps remaining, Bautista was all over the back of Toprak and looking for the pass. The hard battle between Rea and Razgatlioglu had taken a toll on the tyres, and both of them were now struggling with limited grip in the closing stages of the race.

WSBK Estoril Race 1 Picture courtesy of Kawasaki Racing Team

Last lap, and Toprak was desperately still trying to keep Bautista at bay. Into the final corner, and Bautista got the drive out of the corner to power past Toprak and pip him to the line. Toprak looked disgusted and shook his head, but Bautista had judged the race to perfection using all of his experience to claim the win. Top ten positions were as follows: 1. Bautista 2. Razgatlioglu 3. Rea 4. Locatelli 5. Vierge 6. Lecuona 7. Lowes 8. Redding 9. Rinaldi 10. Baz. If the Superpole race and race 2 are anything as exciting as this one, race fans are in for a treat.

Result Top 5:

  1. Bautista (aruba.it Ducati)
  2. Razgatlioglu (Pata Yamaha)
  3. Rea (KRT Kawasaki)
  4. Locatelli (Pata Yamaha)
  5. Vierge (Honda HRC)

Top 3 championship:

  1. Bautista 134
  2. Rea 107
  3. Razgatlioglu 84

 

 

 

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