Max Verstappen World Champion in Last Lap Drama

Max Verstappen is the new World champion after a dramatic finish to what has been an incredible season. Hamilton gave it all he had but it came down to the final lap of the race after a safety car.

To start the day of drama Mazepin tested positive for Covid and was not able to race. It was too short notice for Haas so they ran with only 1 car.

Lights out and Hamilton gets a much better start leading Verstappen into turn 1. This meant Verstappen had the slipstream down the back straight, he made a lunge into the corner alongside Hamilton who had left the door open. It nearly ended in tears when the 2 touched as Verstappen went too deep and Hamilton had to go to the escape road, coming out ahead. The stewards decided that the gap had not changed from before the move and that Verstappen forced Hamilton wide and therefore did not investigate. Perez gained a place on Norris in turn 1 but Bottas had lost 2 places in the first lap so RedBull had both cars fighting Hamilton in his lone Mercedes out at the front.

Lewis Hamilton leads Max Verstappen and the rest of the field at the start (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images/Red Bull Content)

The RedBulls pitted first for the hard tyres on lap 14 and came out behind Norris and Leclerc. However, Leclerc went straight on at turn 3 so Verstappen only had to dispatch of Norris down the back straight. Hamilton responded just 1 lap later but came out P2 while Verstappen was in P4. This meant they now had tyres at the same level. With Perez in the lead RedBull tried to use their 2nd driver to hold up Hamilton.

On lap 17 Verstappen was pushing hard behind Sainz who was driving very well. In the penultimate corner Verstappen got caught int the dirty air and went very wide into the corner. This meant he had to wait another lap to overtake his former teammate using DRS down the back straight. So, on lap 18 the gap between Perez and Hamilton was shrinking but Verstappen was now in P3 catching the pair of them.

Hamilton had caught Perez on lap 20 but Perez was doing his job by making his RedBull by having a fantastic battle all the way from the back straight to the start/finish straight constantly swapping places cleanly and fairly. This gave Verstappen plenty of time to catch and the ordered swap between the teammates was clean making the gap between the championship rivals just under 2 seconds.

Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton battle for track position (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/Red Bull Content)

Lots of things were happening at the end of this season, including Kimi Raikkonen leaving Formula 1, and on lap 23 he came in for his final ever scheduled pit stop. Every fan around the world shed a small tear. Just 4 laps later and his career in formula 1 nearly ended in the barriers. He had a brake issue going into turn 9 and spun, brushing the barrier. He made it back to the pits, but he turned car off and had to retire from the race.

George Russell was also having problems with his gears right up until his power unit appeared to lose drive. He also had to retire from his last race with Williams before moving on the Mercedes next year. Not the end these 2 drivers would want.

The day went from bad to worse for Alfa Romeo because on lap 36 Giovinazzi stopped on track with gear shifting problems. This brought out the VSC and whilst some cars did pit, including both Ferrari’s but Mercedes decided to stay out. Verstappen and RedBull did pit coming out with a gap of 17 seconds behind Hamilton. So, with fresh tyres they were hoping to catch Hamilton as his tyres lose grip later on in the race. The battle was truly on.

There was a battle for the final points positions with Alonso losing places to both Alpha Tauri’s on lap 41 and 42. It was a tense fight from both Alpha’s, Alpine’s and Ricciardo. Leclerc was catching this pack hoping to get back into the points. Not too much further up the road Bottas was fighting Norris for P5. At this point Mercedes were still winning the constructors championship with the RedBulls in P2 and P3.

Yuki Tsunoda and Charles Leclerc compete for position on track during (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/Red Bull Content)

Lap 50, the gap at the from was down to 12 seconds but Verstappen had to get through the same traffic of that pack fighting for the last points positions. Norris came in with a puncture in the hard tyres from the curbs. This could have come into play for the 7 time world champion who was now running tyres over 30 laps old.

With 5 laps to go Latifi had a big crash into the barrier and a full safety car was deployed. In an odd choice Mercedes decided not to pit Hamilton to keep track position. Again, RedBull did pit Verstappen for new soft tyres knowing that if the race did restart that he would get a good jump on Hamilton who had heavily used tyres.

Perez pitted to retire the car at this point to retire the car and Mercedes had officially won the constructors title for the 9th year in a row. The stewards decided they wanted to see the race finish on a racing lap and therefore the lapped cars were not allowed through. It is not mandatory for the stewards or FIA to let the lapped cars through, the rule says they may be let through. However, they then changed their minds to let just 5 lapped cars in front of max through.

This set up a dramatic race to the finish with a 1 lap shoot out. Into turn 5 Verstappen used his soft tyres to his advantage. But Hamilton fought back gaining a slipstream on the back straight. Verstappen would come out on top though with Hamilton having to concede in the final complex.

Verstappen finished P1 and was therefore the new World Champion! Hamilton finished a very disappointed P2 but once out of the car both him and his dad headed straight to the Verstappen’s to congratulate them.

Max Verstappen  is congratulated by Lewis Hamilton (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/Red Bull Content)

A shout out to Carlos Sainz who finished P3 helping his team to solidify their P3 finish in the constructor’s championship.

It was a crazy end to an amazing season. This may yet continue into the next few weeks with Mercedes questioning why only 5 cars were allowed through. Despite this both Hamilton and Verstappen have driven heroically all season and it will go down as one of the greatest championship rivalries of all time.

Hamilton Wins after Clashing with Verstappen!

Hamilton wins a crazy race in Jeddah with Verstappen finishing 2nd and Bottas in P3. There were some controversial moments between the two and the track will come under some scrutiny. But its all square going into the season finale.

After a crash from Verstappen at the end of Q3 yesterday Hamilton appeared to have the advantage going into the race. However, no gear box change for Verstappen so he started P3 with only Bottas between him and his championship rival. All eyes were on turn 1…

Lights out and Hamilton had a clear get away from Bottas and Verstappen. Perez makes a lighting start nearly through to P4 but locked up in turn 1, having to give way to Leclerc into turns 2 and 3. Gasly had a terrible start losing out to Norris. After a disappointing qualifying Sainz made up 2 places with Russell falling back to P17 by the end of lap 2.

Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc battle for track position at the start  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images/ Red Bull Content Pool)

It was settled by lap 8 at the front but further back the DRS was helping the action. Daniel Ricciardo finally making it past the Alpha Tauri of Gasly while Alonso was losing places to Giovinazzi and Sainz. However, just as we thought we were settling in for the night, Mick Schumacher had a heavy crash running into the barriers at turn 22 after losing control the back end of the car on lap 10.

Many leapt into the pits, including Mercedes who double stacked the cars onto hard tyres. RedBull decided to stay out and gain track position and have fresher tyres later in the race. With another safety car were hoping to get another chance for a ‘cheap’ pitstop. Once the car was removed the FIA needed to make sure the barrier was safe and therefore the red flag came out. RedBull were able to change Verstappen’s tyres, ready for a standing start.

Restart lights out and Hamilton got a much better start than Verstappen, leading into turn 1 but Verstappen was later on the brakes. Hamilton shut the door on the corner, but Verstappen came back over the curb forcing Hamilton out of the move leaving a gap for Ocon to take P2. Bottas locked up going into turn 1 nearly taking out Verstappen put losing a place to Ricciardo.

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, Sunday – LAT Images

Turn 3 and the drama happened. Perez was pinched between Gasly and Leclerc meaning Leclerc hit the back wheel of Perez who then spun into the wall. He was out and with the cars slowing around the incident all but 1 made it safely through. Mazepin, not knowing the cars around him were slowing, ploughed straight into the back of George Russell, both were then out of the race. Another standing start and after some negotiations Verstappen gave the place back to Hamilton but also Ocon, so Ocon started in P1 with Hamilton P2 and Verstappen P3.

3Rd time lucky and both Hamilton and Verstappen had a good start but with Verstappen on the medium tyres he had better grip and in the second phase he gained on Hamilton. Turn 1 and Hamilton was pinched between Ocon and Verstappen but all 3 made it fairly through the corner with Verstappen coming out on top. He then sped away leaving Hamilton to overtake Ocon the following lap. Thankfully all the cars made through the lap and we were racing again.

Esteban Ocon, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen  battle for track position at the second restart  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images/ Red Bull Content Pool)

Lap 20 and Verstappen reported lack of power which was just the battery topping up. This did allow Hamilton to catch up to within the DRS zone. It appeared that in the corners Verstappen was the faster car putting in purple sectors, but in a straight line the Mercedes had the upper hand. The battle was truly on.

Just 3 laps later and Tsunoda went deep into turn 1, Vettel thought he could take advantage, but he was tagged by Tsunoda trying to make the apex of turn 2. This only brought out the virtual safety car meaning everyone could maintain the gap. Tsunoda got the car going again and the VSC ended when he got to the pits. Tsunoda got a 5 second time penalty for the move while Vettel’s car suffered small damage. Green flag and the gap was still nearly 1 second between the championship rivals.

Yuki Tsunoda  in the Pitlane for a new front wing (Photo by Andrej Isakovic – Pool/Getty Images/ Red Bull Content Pool)

Raikkonen was battling the already suffering Aston Martin but going into turn 10 the two collided adding to the damage. At this point there seemed to be debris all over the track. This ended up with 3 VSCs in succession causing Alonso to come on the radio calling for a full safety car which never came. On track this was keeping a close gap between Hamilton and Verstappen but did squash some of the excitement.

Lap 36 and with the VSCs ending the gap began to come down again between the front runners. Hamilton would gain by 6 tenths and then Verstappen would open the gap again in sector 1. Within DRS on lap 37 Hamilton went alongside and into turn 1 both of them ended up off the track. Halfway round the lap Verstappen was told by his engineers to give the place back. Slowing down Hamilton didn’t know what was happening and ended up hitting the back of the RedBull.

After conversations on the pit wall between the FIA and both teams the incident would end up being investigated after the race. However, the turn 1 incident was investigated, and Verstappen given a 5 second time penalty. This didn’t matter though, lap 43 and Hamilton got past Verstappen. It looked like Verstappen may have let him past so that he could nurse his tyres home because he lost a second every lap to Hamilton after that.

The battle was on for P3 though between Ocon and Bottas. Swapping places for the last few laps but on the final lap, Bottas had DRS and right on the line Bottas took P3 which was really importantly for the constructor’s championship. He joins his teammate on the podium in P1 and Verstappen in P2.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Second placed Max Verstappen and Third placed Valtteri Bottas stand on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia. (Photo by Andrej Isakovic – Pool/Getty Images)

The championship goes down to Abu Dhabi with them on level points after Hamilton got fastest lap. Whoever finishes ahead will win the championship. 2021 has really delivered this year, 1 race to go next week.

Hamilton on top in Qatar!

Hamilton wins the inaugural Qatar GP with Verstappen in P2 to bring the gap down in the championship. Alonso back on the podium since Hungry 2014 with a very solid performance. Tyre drama in the closing stages of the race meant the one stop strategy didn’t work for most that tried it, Russell, Latifi and Bottas suffering from punctures.

After another night waiting for the stewards to make a decision, Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas got a 5 place and 3 place penalty respectively. This meant that Verstappen would start P7, Bottas P6 but importantly Gasly started on the front row with Alonso starting P3. All set to add to the drama of the 2021 Formula 1 championship!

Lights out and Hamilton immediately covered the inside from a very quick Alonso and Gasly. Verstappen made up 3 places in the first few corners with Alonso making a great move down the inside of Gasly. Bottas meanwhile had an awful start, losing 5 places in the first lap. Vettel was another driver who lost 7 places after a going very wide in turn 1.

Sergio Perez Valtteri Bottas  battle for track position round turn one at the start  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/RedBull Content Pool)

Lap 3 and the call came through from Verstappen that he was “stuck” behind Gasly. Told to let Verstappen past, Gasly went wide in the final corner on lap 4, allowing Verstappen to get through. Just 1 lap later Verstappen made an easy DRS move past Alonso, meaning normal business was resumed by lap 5 with Hamilton P1 and Verstappen P2.

Perez making good progress 10 laps in, resulting in Toto Wolff encouraging Bottas to overtake the cars in front because he hadn’t gained any places since the start. Lance Stroll went wide in 2nd to last corner, allowing Bottas to gain DRS. However, the battle was between Stroll, Bottas and Tsunoda with the Japanese driver in front at the start of the main straight but behind both drivers by the end. It was 1 lap later that Bottas managed to get past Stroll.

It seems encouragement is all Bottas needed, making up a further 2 places by lap 15. The race was now on between Perez and Bottas for the final podium place. With a full pitstop over P3 and flying out front, it looked like this would be Hamilton’s race to lose. Verstappen appeared to be struggling with damage and couldn’t keep up with Lewis.

Lap 18 and Verstappen was the first to pit. Hoping that the new set of hard tyres would help him close the gap. Mercedes immediately responded stopping Hamilton for hard tyres, comfortably coming out ahead of the RedBull. With a pitstop over P3 both drivers came back out in their own positions. RedBull then pitted Perez in an attempt to get Bottas to stop as well. However, Mercedes strategist’s saw more opportunities for Bottas with a one stop strategy so left him out for a longer stint on the mediums.

Max Verstappen makes a pitstop (Photo by Hamad I Mohammed – Pool/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

A lock up from Leclerc into turn 1 on lap 27 meant that Alonso could overtake on the inside, but Perez attempted to go through on the outside, ending up on the green tarmac. Into turns 2 and 3 Perez had the inside line and managed to get past Leclerc. Just 2 laps later Alonso was within his sights, pulling an almost identical move to get past the 2-time champion. Alonso did fight back but Perez had the pace to get through drama free.

Lap 34 and disaster for Mercedes as Bottas got a front left puncture halfway around the circuit on his way back to the pit he sprinkled gravel onto the track. A replacement nose and new hard tyres he made it back out in P14. Pirelli said before the race that the mediums would do about 30 laps, Bottas completed 33 before the tyre began to delaminate. This had major consequences in the constructor’s championship with the gap only 5 points.

The call of vibrations were coming through from both front runners on lap 40. 2 laps later and RedBull pit Verstappen for medium tyres who had over a 50 second gap to his teammate who pitted the following lap. Mercedes responded again putting scrubbed mediums on Hamilton’s car, who maintained the 8.5 second gap comfortably coming out ahead of Verstappen.

Having come out in P7, Perez was back on the charge and Alonso was in the final podium position. 3 cars between Perez and Alonso with 10 laps to go, one being the other Alpine of Ocon. Alonso encouraging his teammate all the way to tell him to “defend like a lion”. However, the pace advantage of the RedBull was too much for the Alpine and Perez went around the outside of turn 1. The fight wasn’t over as in turns 5 and 6 Ocon came back but ran out of road and Perez made the move stick.

The tyres didn’t seem to be coping with the track. As Mercedes retired Bottas, Russell got a front left puncture after 31 laps with his hard tyres. Norris pitted just 1 lap before, the McLaren seeing the potential danger. Latifi went just 1 lap after Russell, front left tyre failure again. Unfortunately for Latifi it began to go on the main straight so decided to pull over on a service road around turn 10. This caused concern for Alonso who was on a 1 stop strategy and needed to complete 32 laps on his tyres. Alonso told to stay off the curbs.

Virtual safety car was deployed so that the marshals could recover the Williams of Latifi. Verstappen pitted for softs to try and retain fastest lap if he got the chance to go again. Despite the fact that the VSC ended halfway through the final lap, Verstappen maintain fastest lap to take that point away from Hamilton.

Hamilton won having led from start to finish, Verstappen finished P2, and Fernando Alonso finished P3 for the first time in 104 races! There are now 8 points between the championship rivals heading into the final race of the season. If Hamilton wins and takes fastest lap with Verstappen P2 in the next race they will be level on points for the finale.

Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Second placed Max Verstappen and Third placed Fernando Alonso celebrate on the podium (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

A Dominant Verstappen win with Perez in P3!

Max Verstappen wins with a dominant performance after a lap 1, turn 1 overtake. Hamilton finished P2 but local hero Perez finished in P3, celebrating with the crowd after an excellent performance.

After an unexpected first front row lock out of the season for Mercedes, the anticipation was high! With Bottas finally entering the battle this year it was thought that both teams would use both cars to full advantage and team orders would be in play.

Lights out and Hamilton got a better start than Bottas going side by side into turn 1 but Verstappen from behind had a blistering second phase and went around the outside of both Mercedes in turn 1 with Hamilton moving into P2. Bottas between them both began to back out, causing Perez to take avoiding action onto the grass but the McLaren of Ricciardo behind locked up and tapped Bottas on the inside spinning him. Further back Ocon, Schumacher and Tsunoda got caught up in the cars slowing and avoiding Bottas now facing the wrong way. Ocon was sandwich between Tsunoda on the inside and Schumacher on the outside, both hitting the Alpine and causing damage to their cars. This brought out the safety car before the end of lap 1.

Max Verstappen  leads Lewis Hamilton and the rest of the field at the start (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images/RedBull content pool)

On the restart and through the stadium section Verstappen launched leaving Hamilton to go through a slow corner and gets away comfortably. The rest of the pack followed suit with some attempts but no successful passes, with Giovinazzi challenging Sainz for P6 but not able to make it stick. Bottas was now out of play for Mercedes, the strategy needed to change as Hamilton fights the Bulls.

Lap 25 and the cat and mouse game between the championship rivals was in full swing with Verstappen managing to open up the gap. However, Perez was putting in a solid performance and it looked increasingly likely that Hamilton would spend most of the race defending from Perez rather than attacking Verstappen. Hamilton’s teammate had made his way up to P12, following Ricciardo all the way through the pack and were now behind Norris.

Hamilton was the first to pit on lap 30 but it didn’t work out for them coming out behind Leclerc in the Ferrari, who thankfully for Mercedes, pitted the next lap. This put Hamilton in P4, behind Gasly, but was nearly 2 seconds per lap faster than Verstappen on fresh hard tyres. Gasly pitted which meant Hamilton had clear air, at this point both RedBull’s said their tyres were good and looked to be going longer.

Max Verstappen leads Lewis Hamilton (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images/RedBull content pool)

However, lap 33 and car number 33 came in for a quick stop from the team. Importantly he was now on fresh mediums comfortably ahead of Hamilton. Sergio Perez was leading the race having not pitted. He is the first Mexican driver to lead a Mexican Grand Prix. Often known as a master on the tyres, he stayed out for a longer stint saying that the tyres were good and wanted Verstappen to hold up Hamilton while Perez was holding the lead.

On lap 40 Perez finally pitted for hard tyres, coming out behind Hamilton. Bottas pitted a lap later but had a very slow stop. The front left wheel nut got stuck, meaning he had a 12 second stop, bringing him out in P15. The Finn’s day going from bad to worse.

Sainz looking faster than Leclerc puts in the call for a team orders switch. In a bid to stay ahead Leclerc started to make mistakes. Eventually there was a clean swap between the 2 drivers.

Lap 56 and Perez had now closed the gap to Hamilton to 3 seconds, gaining nearly 3 tenths on him each lap. Hamilton begun to make unusual mistakes under pressure as he went off track at turn 12, bringing in the RedBull even more. Just 4 laps later Perez was within DRS, gaining on Hamilton every straight. Hamilton was also suffering behind a lapped Norris. Due to the turbulent air Hamilton couldn’t get within the 1.3 second requirement for Norris to be shown blue flags. When they eventually were shown, Norris moved aside and let both cars through, keeping the battle alive.

The Mercedes began to overheat in the traffic, Hamilton told to lift and coast to give the brakes a chance to cool. At this point Perez had dropped out of DRS and then caught in traffic it neutralised the battle for P2.

Verstappen was nearly 20 seconds in front on lap 65 and was dominating this race. However, Bottas pitted for a set of used soft tyres in an attempt to take away the fastest lap point from Verstappen. This was a strategy call from Mercedes because Bottas wouldn’t get the point for the lap as he was still down in P14.

With 1 lap to go Bottas pitted again for a fresh set of soft tyres because the positioning hadn’t worked for Mercedes. Perez was now back within the DRS range for 1 final charge at the 7 time world champ to get on the second step of the podium. However, through both DRS zones he couldn’t get quite close enough, so Hamilton manged to hang on to P2.

Max Verstappen won the Mexican Grand Prix but Bottas achieved fastest lap right at the end. Hamilton P2, but the home hero, Sergio Perez finished in P3. This is the first time a Mexican driver has been on the podium of his home Grand Prix, when this time last year he didn’t have a seat for the 2021 season. He put in a solid performance all race, chasing down Hamilton and added to RedBulls constructors’ points, meaning they now lead both championships. This is a great way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Adrian Newey’s first win in Formula 1.

Third placed Sergio Perez  celebrates in parc ferme. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images/RedBull content pool)

Verstappen goes to Brazil next week with a 20 point lead over Hamilton. The gap is getting wider but 1 DNF could swing this championship either way. The pressure is still on both drivers to perform at their best to complete the job. The question now is can Verstappen hold onto his lead or can Hamilton use his experience to claw back the points?

Dominant Bottas wins ahead of the Bulls!

A dominant performance from Bottas to win ahead of both the RedBulls. But a Mercedes strategy call meant that Hamilton lost track position of P3 to finish P5 after holding off Gasly in P6. Carlos Sainz was awarded driver of the day after an outstanding performance to finish P8 from starting at the back of the grid.

The weather appeared to be playing a major role all weekend and rained before the race leaving a damp track to start and the intermediates on. Colder conditions often favour Mercedes with Hamilton having to take a penalty for a new combustion engine, this is something he was looking to take advantage of. Verstappen however was hoping to take the opportunity to take the lead and pull a gap in the championship.

After a poor result for Daniel Ricciardo in qualifying yesterday, McLaren decided to take a new engine themselves and therefore he started at the back of the grid with Sainz.

Lights out and Bottas got a great start leading Verstappen into turn 1. Alonso tried to go around the outside of Gasly but was tapped and spun, coming back into P15. Once back on the track in an attempt to move forward he tapped Schumacher. Gasly later gained a 5 second penalty for his incident with Alonso and the Alonso got one for the collision with Schumacher. Perez gained on the pair up the inside of turn 1, lap 1 moving up to P3. Hamilton gained a place on lap 1 and then moving into P9 by lap 3.

Yuki Tsunoda, leads Sebastian Vettel  and Lewis Hamilton  at the start during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Carlso Sainz was on a charge from lap 1. By lap 7 he gained another place and was up in P12, making the moves looking simple, and gaining positions every lap. The other driver on a charge was Hamilton. Finally making past Tsunoda after 7 laps with an excellent move around the outside of turn 3 and then dispatching of Stoll and Norris in the following 2 laps all while getting fastest lap.

The track was drying slowly due to the 94% humidity so talk of slicks seemed a little way off on lap 15, but Hamilton using all the warm intermediates to gain on Gasly by 1.5 seconds a lap and overtook with ease. He was now in P5 and hunting down Perez at a rapid pace. Sainz also gaining was in P10 after a slightly risky move making contact with Vettel into the final chicane.

Just 2 laps later and Hamilton complained of bald inters, bringing back the interslicks on a still damp track. RedBull seeing this then looked to release Verstappen from tyre perseveration as he started to gain by nearly half a second and achieve fastest lap. Bottas responded producing a fastest lap himself.

Lap 26 and everyone was trying to decide if it’s worth changing to new intermediates. Ricciardo had taken that decision a couple laps earlier and was now matching the leader’s pace. Just to add to the mix it had begun to rain slightly, stopping the track from drying but not heavily wetting the track. However, 4 laps later and Ricciardo’s speed neutralised, he was lapping the same as the people around him down in P18.

Hamilton meanwhile was still gaining on Perez passing through the backmarkers of Haas cars. There was nearly drama as Mazepin was shown the blue flags but closed the door on Hamilton almost clashing just to let him through on the back straight. Whilst this delayed Hamilton he was still gaining quickly on Perez and was within a second by lap 33.

Lap 34, Hamilton was with Perez and turn 12 the Mercedes picked up the slip stream and tried t go around the outside of turn 12 with the inside line for turn 13. Side by side Perez ended up to the left of the pit bollard but continued down the main straight to come out ahead of Hamilton by turn 1.

Sergio Perez  leads Lewis Hamilton during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Between lap 36 and 38 many of the drivers were pitting for new inters, however Vettel and Aston Martin decided to go for the medium slick tyres. He didn’t even complete a lap before coming back in for inters after spending most of the time sliding off the track.

Leclerc had been quietly going about his race and as the leaders pitted he then became P1. Happy with his tyres though, he decided to stay on his interslicks and keep track position. Hamilton agreed as on lap 41 Mercedes asked him to box and he refused.

Lap 46 and Leclerc was trying to hang on but Bottas was just that much faster and overtook him on the main straight. At this point Leclerc gave in to the team and pitted for new inters which looked to be a good decision because his teammate was setting fastest laps on tyres only a few laps older.

After resisting the team Hamilton pitted on lap 51 because Mercedes were insistent. He lost track position to both Perez and Leclerc. Now frustrated he lost P3 he was on a charge to get back to the podium gaining over 3 seconds on Leclerc on lap 53. However, graining on the tyres meant that he lost time to Leclerc and Gasly was just 1 second behind him. The strategy call from the team did not worked for them.

Valtteri Bottas won the race after a solid performance. Verstappen finished P2 not really battling Bottas all race knowing that he would gain points on Hamilton in the championship. Perez did an excellent job to put both the RedBulls on the podium. Leclerc finished P4 with a very frustrated Hamilton in P5, holding off Gasly who finished P6.

Verstappen now takes the lead of the championship heading into the next round by 6 points. No one has led the championship this year by more than 8 points and it looks like its going down to the wire, much to every F1’s delight.

Gardner extends lead in Moto2 championship

Remy Gardner dominated the 8th round of Moto2 at the Sachsenring in Germany to take third win in a row, increasing his lead at the top of the championship.

Raul Fernandez at the 2021 Moto2 Le Mans Race. Image courtesy of Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)/KTM

Heading into the weekend, Gardner on 139 points was only 11 points ahead of his teammate Raul Fernandez, with Italian Marco Bezzecchi 3rd on 101, and Britain’s Sam Lowes 4th on 75.

The Sachsenring, at 2.28 miles, is a tight, twisty track, and the focus for the weekend was on tyre preservation. High temperatures on Friday and Saturday, with a slightly cooler temperature on race day also added to the tension, with the whole field on a hard compound on the front and a soft rear.

A blistering lap time of 1:23.397 in Q2 earned Raul Fernandez pole, pushing Di Giannantonio into 2nd, with Remy Gardner completing the front row. After a crash in Q2, Britain’s Sam Lowes started on the 3rd row of the grid in 7th place.

Fernandez took the lead off the line, closely followed by Gardner. Di Giannantonio dropped back into 6th, and Xavi Vierge moved up from 5th on grid up into 3rd.

The opening laps seemed to be shaping up to be another battle between Fernandez and Gardner, as the two Ajo KTMs pulled away from the rest of the field, with a half second gap opening up behind them to Vierge.

On lap two, Gardner passed his teammate and took the lead, as Sam Lowes dropped back into 14th.

The Ajo’s increased their lead with every lap – 2.5 secs ahead of third place on lap 3, and on lap 4 a gap of 3.8 secs.

Gardner settled into a rhythm putting in faster lap times, with Raul Fernandez pushing hard to stay on his tail, but on Lap 5 the rookie showed his lack of experience and lost the front end at turn 3, sliding into the gravel and out of the race.

Spain’s Aron Canet, who started 10th on the grid, had worked his way up through the field and now moved up to second, starting to pull away from Bezzecchi.

Gardner, riding a lonely race, gradually stretched out his lead to 5 seconds ahead of Canet with Bezzecchi in 3rd.

On lap 21 Lowes moved up into 8th place, meanwhile Bezzecchi & Di Giannantonio swapped places in a battle for 3rd, with Bezzecchi eventually making it stick.

Gardner extended his lead to 6.5 secs over 2nd place Canet, who in turn was over 2 seconds ahead of Bezzecchi.

On lap 26 Honda Team Asia rookie Ai Ogura passed Xavi Vierge to move up into 5th, and both Ogura and Bezzecchi started to close in on Canet.

Remy Gardner at the 2021 Le Mans Moto2 RaceImage courtesy of Rob Gray (Polarity Photo)/KTM

The last lap brought yet more surprises, with Vierge, running in 6th, crashing out on turn 1, followed by Joe Roberts at the same corner, and Ai Ogura out on turn 8. Gardner crossed the line comfortably ahead of Canet who held onto 2nd, with Bezzecchi in 3rd. Di Giannantonio claimed 4th, and after the incidents on the last lap Sam Lowes moved up to take 5th.

The gap at the top of the championship has now widened, with Gardner going into the next round at Assen 36 points clear of teammate Fernandez, who is now only 11 points ahead of Bezzecchi. Can Fernandez pull something out of the bag at the Dutch TT, or will Gardner make it four in a row and further increase his lead?

First fifteen riders:

1              Remy Gardner AUS – Red Bull Ajo KTM – 25 points

2              Arón Canet SPA – Aspar Team – 20

3              Marco Bezzecchi ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 16

4              Fabio Di Giannantonio ITA – Federal Oil Gresini – 13

5              Sam Lowes BRI – Elf Marc VDS Racing Team – 11

6              Marcel Schrotter GER – Liqui Moly Intact – 10

7              Jorge Navarro SPA – MB Conveyors Speed Up – 9

8              Albert Arenas SPA – Inde Aspar Team – 8

9              Marcos Ramirez SPA – American Racing – 7

10           Cameron Beaubier USA – American Racing – 6

11           Nicolo Bulega ITA – Federal Oil Gresini Moto2 – 5

12           Alonso López SPA – Flexbox HP40 – 4

13           Bo Bendsneyer NED – Pertamina SAG – 3

14           Barry Baltus        BEL – NTS RW Racing GP – 2

15           Celestino Vietti ITA – SKY Racing Team VR46 – 1

Is Experience the Best Teacher?

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix was definitely a race that was missed during 2020. A street circuit which often produces some exciting racing, testing overall straight line speed but allows for overtaking whilst testing the driver’s abilities to be calculated and precise enough to thread the car through the high walls of the circuit.

image courtesy of Getty images/ Red Bull content pool

Experience in an Formula 1 car is often key at tricky circuits like this, which shone through during this race, which did not disappoint. This week it seemed to be all about the older drivers putting in some epic performances which we know they are very capable of. They did give the young guns a run for their money, but it didn’t work out for all of them. Most drivers had solid races at Baku, but the skill of some of the experienced drivers was evident during the race, meaning they were able to maximise on what was a crazy race.

Perez is well known for his experience in an F1 car. Racing since 2011 in F1, he has learned a few things to keep in the mix when it counts, and this race was a clear example of that. In the early stages of the race he was able to keep up with Verstappen whilst keeping the 7 time world champion behind him under constant pressure. He managed his tyres well, showing pace in them during the pitstops, and had it not been for a slow pitstop he may have come out in front of his teammate. During the red flag restart, it would have been easy to get caught up with Hamilton going straight on down into turn 1 if he hadn’t backed out of the move. Even though in his F1 career he has very rarely been at the front, he handled the pressure absolutely perfectly to come out on top with a very deserved win.

Clearly full of confidence after a fantastic performance in Monaco, Sebastian Vettel had an incredible race and a solid weekend all round. Had it not been for the red flag at the end of Q2, he was looking at an almost certain top 10 qualifying, adding to the excellent qualifying from the previous race. After qualifying P11, finishing in P2 was absolutely deserved, and he showed his pace in the Aston Martin early on. During the first round of pitstops he gained the lead by default as the front runners changed their tyres earlier than expected. Vettel was able to manage the soft tyres whilst still pulling a gap on his rivals to then come out P7 after his pitstop. On the safety car restart he showed his experience again, navigating his way past Leclerc without contact despite getting very close. Vettel has gotten used to the new car very quickly, showing he has enough trust to make moves during both the restarts. A resurgence from him is definitely what the fans wanted after a not so great year with Ferrari in 2020.

Alonso had a highly anticipated return to F1 at the beginning of the season, however so far he hasn’t been so successful, being out qualified and finishing behind his teammate Ocon on Sunday. This could be down to getting used to F1 again after his time away from the series, along with getting used to a new car with a relatively new team under new management. Watching his on board camera from the restart after the red flag, he clearly showed why he is a double world champion. Starting on the grid in P10, he made up for places to finish P6 by the end of the 2 lap sprint. What is striking about his on board though, is the skill involved. He had the inside line into turn 1 but was being squeezed by Sainz, who also had Ricciardo on the outside. Alonso did not make contact with the wall or the other cars during any of this. He then demonstrated his race craft by waiting for the right moment on the same lap to overtake Tsunoda. This created an epic finish for him, the likes of which we were used to seeing before.

The oldest man on the grid did not want to miss out on the action, as is normal for Kimi Raikkonen. For him the highlight of the day was a skillful move on Bottas into turn 7, the slowest on the track, during the safety car restart. Raikkonen has shown throughout his time at Alfa Romeo that he still has plenty of talent to keep him in F1 and finishing in the points with moves like this are often the reason for this.

When talking about the experienced drivers on the grid, Lewis Hamilton is part of this conversation being extremely consistent and changing his style over time. However, the incident after the red flag restart was a rare mistake from him, the team revealing afterwards that he had flicked on the magic brake button whilst changing gears. This changed the brake bypass to mostly front end, meaning the car couldn’t stop before the turn. This admittedly makes the error an odd one because this has never happened before, despite the buttons position never really moving. They say it’s best to learn from your mistakes and Hamilton says they will grow as a team.

Overall, Mercedes had a terrible weekend. This is where the team experience came in, allowing them to try different set ups, strategy’s, and tactics to get the most out of a seemingly lacklustre performance from the car all weekend. By the end of Q3, the changes made to Hamilton’s car were successful with him managing to secure P2. Bottas on the other hand was arguably hampered by the red flag at the end of the session but suffered massively during the race. The Mercedes is not known for its great ability to pass other cars in the midfield, but with what appeared to be the quickest straight line speed and the power of the slipstream, a few DRS based moves into turn 1 were expected. Instead Bottas made his way backwards at the restarts and didn’t perform well. However, he did have a different rear wing to Hamilton, which the team confirmed as driver preference, this may have ultimately hampered him when trying to overtake.

Looking forward to the next couple of weeks, Mercedes will need to win in France to make up the points in the constructor’s championship after having lost more to the RedBulls this week. The outcome of the race could also have a huge impact on the Driver championship, with the front runners not gaining any points this week, it is massively important they maximise each race, as cancellations become more frequent and look to threaten the 23 race calendar. France is not known for amazing action over the last few years, but with the 2021 season we are having it could be unpredictable.

‘It was hard racing’ Hometown Heroes take the Austrian Grand Prix, eventually…

Looking out into the stands you could almost be forgiven for thinking the McLaren’s fans had taken over, but in Austria, a sea of orange can only mean one thing – Max Verstappen has come home (kind-of).

Max Verstappen, passing the Netherlands fans that are supporting him. Image courtesy of Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen put in a steady performance in FP1, but found himself involved in an unfortunate high-speed crash at turn 10 in FP2 which saw him lose the back end of the car and collide with the barrier. Thankfully, Verstappen was unhurt and the car was made ready in enough time for FP3 and the Qualifying session on Saturday afternoon.

Max and the team were optimistic in spite of the set-back; ‘Crashes can happen unfortunately, but maybe it’s a good thing because they’ll take the whole car apart and so a few new parts on it.’

Sure enough, as if by magic, Verstappen’s positivity, a lot of hard work overnight from the Red Bull engineers and a rare grid-penalty for Lewis Hamilton resulted in an excellent qualifying position for the Dutchman, starting 2ndon the grid, next to Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

It was an impressive run for Max who confessed after qualifying he had been dreading bringing the car to Austria; ‘Before we came here, I was not really looking forward to qualifying because I knew it was going to be hard.’

Sat at the front of the grid, the pressure was on for Max to make a good start to the Austrian Grand Prix. Unfortunately, after being sat for over half a minute, the RB15’s anti-stall system kicked in when it really mattered, setting him back to 7thplace before reaching turn one. Thankfully Verstappen’s determination and a huge amount of encouragement from the crowd saw the Red Bull flying through the pack in spite of the ropey start.

FIA Formula One World Championship 2019 Stop 9 – Spielberg, Austria
Photographer Credit:
Philip Platzer/Red Bull Content Pool

Speaking to Sky F1 after the race, Max said he was ‘extremely disappointed but I just kept pushing hard… I had to stay calm and get through them cleanly’. The RB15 sailed through the grid overtaking Valterri Bottas for second place on Lap 56 in spite of a hair-raising issue with an exhaust sensor, causing what Verstappen describe as a ‘loss of power’ over the team radio.

This was quickly forgotten about as Max pushed on to close what was a 5 second gap between himself and Leclerc’s Ferrari. By Lap 69 Verstappen was in a position to challenge Leclerc, which he quickly achieved in a controversial overtake at turn 4 which caused the two cars to bump tyres and push Leclerc into the run-off area.

The chequered flag fell in favour of Verstappen and Red Bull, much to the delight of the army of Dutch fans. This was quickly overshadowed by a furious Leclerc protesting the move, followed by a notice from the Stewards who put the ‘incident’ under investigation.

The Stewards decision to put the overtake under investigation exposes Formula 1 to yet more criticism, following their poor decision to give Vettel a 5-Second time penalty which ultimately handed Hamilton the race win in Canada. The fact that something like a driver running off the track or touching wheels, something we see on an almost weekly basis at the start of a race, suddenly warrants an investigation, shows the lack of consistency and a reluctance to allow actual racing to take place.

It took the FIA almost 3 hours to decide on something that should have gone down as good, close racing. Perhaps it says more about the lack of action in the sport in recent races, that when the stewards see something mildly exciting happening on track, they’ve forgotten how to deal with it.

There has been and continues to be an enormous push forwards in terms of safety in Formula 1, the most recent of which was the introduction of the halo in 2018 to further protect the drivers head in the car. The controversy about Vettel’s ‘unsafe re-entry’ in Canada and now the debate over Verstappen’s overtake in Austria clearly comes from a concern about safety, however in doing so, this hints at a fear from the FIA of allowing for racing and the minor racing incidents that go along with it. Clearly, the FIA need to re-evaluate and make allowances for true racing and entertainment.

The drama doesn’t seem to have dampened the spirits of Red Bull and Honda, who have seen their first win since 2006. Indeed, Max’s initial comment after getting out of his car hit the nail on the head; ‘It was hard racing. If it’s not allowed, what’s the point in racing in F1?’.

Whatever your thoughts on the winner, the Austrian Grand Prix has produced yet another talking point in Formula 1. It’s unfortunate that once again, real racing is overshadowed by the stewards.

But still, the best man took the win, eventually!

‘Performance is strong’ at Red Bull Racing

The iconic Monaco Grand Prix marked the sixth race of the 2019 F1 season, and while the focus this week has been on the loss of F1 legend and Mercedes mentor Niki Lauda, the race around the streets of Monte Carlo finally brought a long-awaited challenge to reigning champion Lewis Hamilton, in the form of Max Verstappen and Red Bull.

Red Bull’s decision to kiss goodbye to their partnership with Renault in 2018 was hardly a surprise to the world of F1, after a number of seasons falling short of their dominant years with Sebastian Vettel. It was also hardly a surprise to find that fans were dubious about their subsequent contract with Honda, who famously struggled in their partnership with McLaren.

With Max Verstappen hungry to win his first championship, the move to a power unit that had been even less reliable than Renault seemed like very risky business, but is the risk beginning to pay off?

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Rob Marshall, Red Bull’s chief engineering officer, certainly seems to think so, even if they are under no illusion they still have a way to go.

“We can see areas around the power-unit packaging-wise,” he said. “It’s just making different bits and moving a few things around. [Honda] are very open to our suggestions.”

The Red Bull and Toro Rosso drivers both felt the benefit of an upgrade brought to Baku, which was reflected in Verstappen’s solid performance. The same could not be said for his team mate Pierre Gasly, however, who was forced to retire on lap 40 out of 51 due to a loss of power.

In the run up to the Monaco Grand Prix, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who has been highly critical of the suppliers in the past, expressed the teams delight in working with Honda this season.

“We are very happy with the progress that’s being made […] to have closed that gap [to the top 2 teams] and put that performance on the car is really encouraging,” he said.

Horner was under no illusion about still having work to do with the car generally but, aside from Gasly’s retirement in Baku, reliability hasn’t been as much of an issue for the team.

“Reliability compared to previous years has been fantastic, and performance is strong […] Now we have to try and focus on diminishing the gap further to Mercedes”.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen found enough pace to challenge Hamilton’s Mercedes, running in second position in Monaco from lap 11 after exiting the pit lane ahead of Bottas following an unsafe release. Though Verstappen finished in fourth place as a result of his five-second penalty, he is still positive about his race overall.

“Of course I would have liked to have been on the podium but if we look at the pace and performance, we were strong,” he said.

Pierre Gasly also had a respectable performance around the streets of Monaco, finishing fifth and also taking an extra point for fastest lap for the second time this season.

In terms of points and podiums, then, Red Bull is building a steady lead ahead of the other teams. After Monaco, Red Bull are on 110 points and are beginning to close the gap between themselves and Ferrari, who currently have 139 points. In the drivers’ championship, Verstappen is in fourth position with 78 points, behind Vettel with 82 points.

Pierre Gasly is in sixth position with 32 points behind Leclerc who has 57 points. Verstappen has also finished third twice so far this season – Monaco would have been another podium had it not been for the unfortunate penalty.

It almost goes without saying that Mercedes are the ones to beat, however with Red Bull’s newfound pace, it’s certainly an encouraging start for a team that were once the ones to beat.

 

[Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]

IndyCar reveals Red Bull designed Aeroscreen for 2020

Following the race debut of the Advanced Frontal Protection (AFP) device at the Indianapolis GP, IndyCar has announced their next step in cockpit safety which takes the shape of an ‘Aeroscreen’.

This latest development will be designed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies and bears resemblance to the aeroscreen that Red Bull tested in 2016 when F1 was assessing options before ultimately deciding to adopt the halo.

For IndyCar, the solution was always going to be slightly harder to find because their problem is more complicated. The biggest problem with a halo-type structure is the visibility issues that it would present on the ovals, which is where the protection is needed the most.

Also, the halo leaves sizeable areas that are unprotected from debris, meaning it isn’t that effective at protecting the driver from smaller pieces of debris, which tend to be more common in IndyCar.

The Aeroscreen will be introduced at the start of next season and will be a polycarbonate laminated screen with a titanium framework. In testing, the device has shown the same load-bearing capacity as F1’s halo but has the added benefit of complete frontal protection. There will also be an anti-reflective coating on the inside of the screen to aid driver visibility.

The idea of closed cockpits was never really on the table this time around as there are numerous hurdles to overcome, mainly regarding driver extraction, though it’s expected that’ll be the direction of all single-seater motorsport in the future.

On-track testing of the Aeroscreen is expected to start at the beginning of the summer with all teams expected to take delivery of the Aeroscreens by the autumn.

Credit: IndyCar

At a joint press conference announcing the Aeroscreen, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said: “Since the first prototypes were developed and demonstrated in 2016, the potential of Aeroscreen to improve the safety for drivers in the event of frontal impacts in the cockpit area of cars has been clear.”

“This new partnership with IndyCar gives us at Red Bull Advanced Technologies the go-ahead to fully explore that potential, and to deliver a protection system that will help prevent serious injuries and potentially save lives in the US premier single-seater series. Over the coming months we’ll be working closely with IndyCar and its drivers to refine and perfect Aeroscreen and we’re looking forward to seeing the results on the cars in 2020.”

IndyCar President Jay Frye said: “This collaborative effort on the Aeroscreen truly exhibits an unrelenting commitment and passion for enhancing driver safety. We would like to thank everyone at Red Bull Advanced Technologies for creating a design that will be significant in the evolution of motorsports safety not only for the NTT IndyCar Series but from a global perspective.”

Featured Image Credit: IndyCar