F1 Weekend Preview: Brazil Brings the Final 2022 Sprint

The penultimate round of the season takes us to São Paulo for the Brazilian Grand Prix where we see the final sprint race of 2022. For Verstappen this year there is no threat as both championships are sealed, but further down the grid, everything is to play for.

The Best of the Rest is Up for Grabs

Ricciardo putting in a good performance in Mexico. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Alpine and McLaren have been locked in a battle all season for P4 in the constructor’s championship but in the last few races, with an improvement in Ricciardo’s performances and Alpine’s reliability problems, the gap has closed to just seven points.

McLaren will be doing everything in their power to get ahead of the French time in the last doubleheader and a sprint race may be what they need to gain extra points.

Behind them, Aston Martin sits just four points back from Alfa Romeo in P6 while Haas is clinging on to P8 by just one point from AlphaTauri. As we get into the last two rounds of the season every point for these teams will be crucial and reliability issues or driver errors could make the difference in the vital prize money awarded to each team.

Cautious Gasly

Another factor playing on the minds at AlphaTauri for the last two rounds will be the number of penalty points Gasly has gained. He now has 10 points, five of which were given in the last three rounds.

Gasly in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

In Japan he was penalised for speeding under red flag conditions, he was more than 10 car lengths behind the car in front of him during the safety car period in Austin and in Mexico, he was given another point for leaving the track and gaining and advantage in a battle with Lance Stroll.

The French driver is now only two points away from an automatic race ban so he will need to be weary in Brazil so he can compete in the last race at Abu Dhabi. Additionally, these points take a full year to be erased from his license, which means a potential race ban will hang over him until May 2023 at his new team, Alpine. Not an ideal start to a new season with a new team.

The 2023 Driver Line-up is Not Complete

The majority of the grid for next season has been decided, however, the future still seems uncertain for Hass and Riccardo as we are yet to have any official announcements for their plans next year.

Haas have not confirmed the driver taking the seat alongside Magnussen however the options look pretty clear. It appears a straight choice between Mick Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg who both appear to be at a loose end for next season.

Schumacher’s Ferrari contract will run out at the end of the 2022 season and has not been renewed. Further to this, he has made a few driver errors over the last few years and Gunther Stainer has been candid and said that they cost the small team huge amounts of money in spare parts.

Is Hulkenberg a possibility for 2023? Image courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Media

Hulkenberg looks to be untied from the Aston Martin outfit as he was not mentioned in the Vandoorne announcement a few weeks ago. With experience, this could be a good fit for the Banbury-based team, but he hasn’t had a full-time drive since 2019 and could be expensive in terms of salary for Haas.

We are expecting confirmations before the end of the season so it is worth keeping an eye out for those.

F1 Race Weekend Preview: Mexico

Three rounds left to go, and both championships wrapped up but that doesn’t stop the action. Mexico is next with plenty of off-track drama to chat about before the on-track drama begins.

Haas vs Alpine vs RedBull vs The Stewards

During the US Grand Prix Alonso hit the back of Stroll after the Aston Martin made a late move down the back straight. This sent the front end of the Alpine into the air before brushing a barrier. Luckily for the Spaniard, he was able to get his car back to the pits for the team to change the tyres and front wing. However, it appeared his wing mirror was not attached properly and came off during the race.

Perez with his damaged wing. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The RedBull of Perez also had an issue with body parts falling off. After a first lap incident part of his front wing was flapping around for several laps before flying across the track. The team decided not to change his wing through the entire race because he would lose too much track position.

After the race, Haas protested against both RedBull and Alpine which led to a 30-second time penalty for Alonso, dropping him outside the points. Alpine has since contested the result and will be a part of a hearing, scheduled to take place today. The protest regarding Perez was seen as inadmissible by the stewards.

The problem actually lies with the stewards. They should have brought out the black and orange for both cars like they have done with Magnussen many times this season. This looks to be another case where the teams are coming out worst off from a decision which they should have made during the race by the stewards. This is likely to cause many rumours throughout the paddock.

Perez takes on his Home Race in a Championship Winning Car

Sergio Pérez celebrates after the Red Bull Racing Showrun in Mexico. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

This year there is no doubt which team has been able to capitalise the most in races, and with both championships wrapped up, this may be Perez’s chance to be the first Mexican to win his home Grand Prix.

It has been no secret that Perez has had to play number two driver this year and last year, the difference now is that there is no need for the team to favour Verstappen to gain points for his championship. This means that Perez has everything behind him to win the race. However, performances have not been on his side lately.

Whilst overall he is still an extremely quick driver, he has struggled to keep up with his teammate as well as the Ferraris and often both Mercedes. He will be hoping for a turnaround in form so he can give the home crowd something to cheer about.

Qualifying is on Saturday at 9pm BST and the race starts at 8pm on Sunday.

Verstappen seals championship amid confusion after Japanese GP win

Max Verstappen cruised to victory at Suzuka to take his twelfth victory of the season and his second world championship, in bizarre circumstances after a late-race penalty for Charles Leclerc.

A mistake from Leclerc at the final chicane led to a five-second penalty for the Ferrari driver, dropping him behind Sergio Perez, which when combined with a confusing quirk in the regulations, secured Verstappen his second successive title. For the second week in a row, the race was time-limited, finishing after 28 of the scheduled 53 laps due to an extended red flag period early on due to torrential rain. The way the championship was decided, plus other incidents throughout the race will once again raise questions about the FIA’s running of the championship.

SUZUKA, JAPAN – OCTOBER 09: Race winner and 2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates on the podium during the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210090387 // Usage for editorial use only //

All the drivers started on intermediate tyres, in conditions which were arguably more suited to the full wet tyres. Leclerc was initially able to challenge Verstappen into turn one, but the Red Bull swept around the outside to retain the lead. Further back, Sebastian Vettel collided with Fernando Alonso, sending the Aston Martin driver plummeting down the field.

Conditions were extremely treacherous at this point, and Carlos Sainz was caught out in dramatic fashion, crashing heavily at the entry to turn twelve. He was lucky not to be collected by the field, with Lewis Hamilton coming inches away from striking the stricken Ferrari. Further back, Zhou Guanyu had a spin and was able to continue, with Alex Albon retiring with a power unit problem.

The Safety Car was deployed, and unsurprisingly the race was red flagged on lap two as conditions worsened. Pierre Gasly had to make a pitstop after collecting an advertising hoarding on his car, and was catching the pack when he came frighteningly close to hitting a tractor, which had been released onto the circuit to collect Sainz’s car. Questions will surely be asked about how this was allowed to happen, with Gasly still travelling around at speed to catch the end of the train.

This led to a two-hour stoppage with the race resuming at 16:15 local time, although the FIA originally planned to restart at 14:50 local time, before calling this off less than 2 minutes before the cars were meant to head out on circuit. Once they did finally resume, it was clear that the full wet tyres wouldn’t be needed for much longer, and as the safety car came in after three laps, Vettel and Nicholas Latifi followed it down the pitlane to change to intermediate tyres, and were instantly the fastest cars in the field, with 40 minutes of racing action left.

All the field eventually changed to the intermediate tyres, with Mick Schumacher being the last to change, as his Haas team gambled on a safety car or on the rain returning – a move which could have potentially put them on the podium if successful – but led to the young German cast adrift of the field in last place. Verstappen and Leclerc were comfortably ahead of the field at this point, and initially continued to pull away.

In the difficult conditions, overtaking opportunities were always going to be hard to come by. Lewis Hamilton spent the entire race stuck behind Esteban Ocon, with his Mercedes not having enough straight-line speed to be able to comfortably make the move. His teammate was finding things easier however, pulling off some sublime moves around the outside at the Esses to work his way up to eighth place, after dropping places in the pit stop period.

At the front, Verstappen was pulling away from Leclerc at a rate of one second per lap, with the Ferrari struggling badly for understeer as the intermediates wore out, which allowed Perez to close onto the rear of Leclerc. This was a problem for many across the field, and became acutely clear when Zhou pitted for fresh tyres and immediately set the fastest lap. Others reacted to this and came in for fresh tyres, most notably Fernando Alonso, who dropped from seventh to tenth with eight minutes remaining.

Alonso was soon ahead of Lando Norris and Latifi, and dispatched Russell with one lap to go. Soon he was on the back of Vettel, with the two drag racing across the line as Vettel came out on top by 0.011s.

Out in front, Verstappen cruised across the line, over 25 seconds clear of the pack after 28 laps. It looked as though Leclerc had held on for second, before a costly mistake at the final chicane forced him to cut the corner, as he barely held on across the line from Perez. However, he was adjudged to have gained an advantage from this, dropping him behind Perez and into third, and giving Red Bull their fifth 1-2 of the season. The rest of the points finishers were Ocon, Hamilton, Vettel, Alonso, Russell, Latifi and Norris.

This is where the confusion began. After the Spa debacle of 2021, the rules regarding points in suspended races were changed. Under the previous rules, any race where between 2 laps and 75% of laps are completed, half points would be awarded. Many people interpreted the new rules as giving Verstappen 19 points for the win (having completed between 50-75% of the full race distance), with Perez getting 14 and Leclerc getting 12. However, these rules now only apply to races which are suspended and not resumed, meaning full points were awarded at Suzuka, putting Verstappen 113 points clear with 112 remaining, and securing the championship for the Dutchman. Given that this rule therefore means it is possible to have a three-lap race and give full points, it would only be sensible for this to be looked at.

SUZUKA, JAPAN – OCTOBER 09: Race winner and 2022 F1 World Drivers Champion Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates with his team after the F1 Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka International Racing Course on October 09, 2022 in Suzuka, Japan. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images ) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI202210090615 // Usage for editorial use only //

It had looked for a while as though it was always going to be when Max secured the title, not if, given his dominance of the season so far. With four races to go, he is just one behind Vettel and Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in a season, with the RB18’s fourteenth win making it Adrian Newey’s most successful car yet. Once again though, it is under controversial circumstances for Max, given the points confusion and the looming cost-cap report. With regulations remaining largely stable however until 2026, there is a huge possibility that Verstappen will claim a straightforward championship sooner rather than later.

Verstappen takes pole in Suzuka

Max Verstappen took his first Japanese Grand Prix pole position on Saturday after a tremendously close battle between Red Bull and Ferrari.

We started the day off with the news that Pierre Gasly will be joining Esteban Ocon at Alpine next season, while Yuki Tsunoda is set to be partnered by Nyck de Vries, who was so impressive in his appearance at the Italian Grand Prix with Williams.

Despite brake issues, Yuki Tsunoda made it into the second phase of qualifying 12th time this season at his home race, while Kevin Magnussen, who shone during Friday practice, was disappointingly eliminated in Q1.

Alex Albon almost squeezed out of the bottom five, but he was denied by a good lap from Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel.

The Thai-Briton was joined in the drop zone by Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll and Nicholas Latifi, whose five-place grid penalty picked up in Singapore is now immaterial.

Max Verstappen had set the early pace for Red Bull, and he led Charles Leclerc at the end of Q2, as Lando Norris faced a battle to make it into the top 10.

The Briton climbed up to fifth as team-mate, Daniel Ricciardo, failed to make the final session having been pushed out by George Russell’s late heroics.

Sebastian Vettel’s exceptional effort saw him make it through, maintaining his record of starting in the top 10 every time he has raced at Suzuka.

Home hero Tsunoda was eliminated too, along with Valtteri Bottas, Zhou Guanyu and Mick Schumacher.

Sergio Perez snatched the fastest lap time, while a fine run by Fernando Alonso lifted him to second, setting up an intriguing top 10 shootout.

Verstappen set the early pace in Q3, with three tenths separating him and Carlos Sainz in third, either side of Leclerc.

The reigning champion got caught up in a slight incident with Norris on the out-lap ahead of the first run. The McLaren driver sent it through 130R while Verstappen was crawling, and Norris had to take to the grass to avoid him following a kick of oversteer.

The Dutchman found Norris on his way back to the pits, and appeared to offer a hand of apology. The stewards are now investigating the precarious moment.

Try as they might, neither Leclerc nor Sainz could improve, so Verstappen kept pole despite setting a slower second run, before Esteban Ocon climbed to a brilliant fifth.

Hamilton split the two Alpines as Fernando Alonso took seventh, ahead of George Russell, Vettel and Norris.

With half a tenth separating the top three, we are set for an incredible race on Sunday.

Verstappen’s pole is still pending the stewards’ investigation.

F1 Race Weekend Preview: Back in Japan but the drama is focused on 2021 budgets.

Adding to the list of tracks we haven’t been to since 2019, we are back in Japan this weekend to take on the famous corners of Suzuka. All the drama surrounding the 2021 budget cap still hasn’t been resolved while Verstappen has another attempt at wrapping up the 2022 championship.

Cost Cap D-day

Aston Martin appearing to go under the radar in the 2021 cost cap discussion. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media.

In Singapore, the main topic on everyone’s lips was the alleged breaking of the 2021 budget cap by a couple of teams, Aston Martin and most notably, RedBull. After months of investigation, the official certificates of who was found to have gone over budget will now not be released until Monday the 10th.

The original date was set for today, however, the FIA has said that it’s “a long and complex process” but this won’t stop the speculation in the paddock due to the nature of the potential punishments for those teams found guilty. These include points deductions from constructors and/or drivers’ championships, limitations on aerodynamic or other testing and a further reduction on the overall cost cap going forward.

For RedBull, the date change means that they can carry the Honda name, added to the car for the Japanese GP, without confirmation of any wrongdoing. Despite this, all the questions Horner will be facing will be on these accusations as the media and the fans try to piece together what might happen if they are found guilty.

Horner celebrating Verstappen’s championship win in 2021. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool.

Verstappen taking the championship 2.0

As it stands Verstappen is 104 points ahead of Leclerc meaning that the reigning champion needs to outscore the Ferrari driver by 8 points to clinch his second title in Japan. Another way of putting it is that if Verstappen wins with the fastest lap he will win the championship regardless of where Leclerc finishes. However, if Verstappen wins without the fastest lap and Leclerc finishes second the fight will carry over to the next race.

Some are suggesting that Verstappen may have pints deducted from this year’s season based on the findings of the 2021 budget review. However, this is a rumour and going into the race weekend at Suzuka the 2022 championship could be decided by the end of the weekend.

Verstappen started in P8 in Singapore and finished P7 meaning he couldn’t wrap up the championship. Image courtesy of RedBull content pool.

You can watch qualifying on Saturday at 7 am BST and the race on Sunday at 6 am BST.

Verstappen Wins while Ferrari have more Strategy Problems

Max Verstappen wins from P10 with Hamilton finishing P2 from 7th and Russell rounding out the podium after getting pole in qualifying. Ferrari had another disastrous strategy resulting in them finishing off the podium in P4 and P6.

The weather looked like it could have played a part when it began to spit before the start of the race. Several cars locked up into turn 2 with the strong tailwind that was being created and could have affected them during the race.

Russell is ahead at the start of the GP. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Lights out and George Russell gets a great start from pole but behind him, Sainz has kept up with him going side by side with Carlos on the outside of into turn 1. Russell closes the door and manages to stay ahead of both Ferraris. Leclerc got a slow start meaning Norris could pressure for P3 but with no success. Hamilton was the main mover at the start, making it to P5 before turn 1.

Bottas got a slow start so both RedBulls were able to jump ahead of him and begin to chase down the Alpines. On lap 7, with a much faster car, Verstappen was able to make a move down the inside of turn 1 and move past Alonso before chasing after and passing Ocon. Perez was not far behind and took both Alpines just the next lap.

Hamilton lining up a move on Norris. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

By lap 12 Verstappen had closed down the gap to Hamilton in P5 who was battling Norris for P4. Just as Verstappen reached within the DRS range of the Mercedes, Hamilton made a DRS move on Norris down the inside of turn 1. Verstappen took advantage of this as Norris went slightly wide to have a drag race into turn 2. Verstappen, still with DRS, was able to go around the outside of Norris meaning the McLaren lost two places within two corners.

Just before the first pitstops, Leclerc began to complain that he was faster than Sainz in front of him. To solve this they brought Sainz in leaving Leclerc out for a longer stint. However, this benefited Leclerc who came in for his stop on lap 22 and then came out behind Russell but ahead of his teammate.

With fresher tyres, Leclerc didn’t take long to catch and overtake the Mercedes for the lead. On lap 30 Leclerc used DRS down the main straight to make a move around the outside of turn 1 which this time he made stick. Sainz was not far behind so this was Ferrari’s race to control.

Russell made a move on Leclerc. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

10 laps later it was time for stop number two for Leclerc and Russell. In a bold move Ferrari but on the hard tyres, which no one had been able to make work in the cooler conditions. The pitstop hadn’t worked for Mercedes as Russell came out behind both RedBulls, with Leclerc out just in front of them.

The hard tyres would prove to be Leclerc’s undoing though. As he couldn’t get them to warm up and find pace, just one lap later Verstappen had DRS and passed him down the inside of turn 1. Just when we thought Verstappen had made the move stick for the net lead, he went for a spin, losing the back end of the car coming out of the penultimate corner.

This had a domino effect on Perez, who got caught up behind his teammate and now had to defend from Russell going down the main straight. Side by side, the Mercedes was able to make it around the outside of Perez in turn 1, nearly making it past the other RedBull before having to yield.

It wasn’t long before Verstappen caught up to Leclerc and overtook him in a similar fashion to before. This time though he was able to make it stick and create a gap to the Ferrari, which still had the hard tyres on.

On lap 54 Russell had now closed the gap on Leclerc as well and looked on for a move. Leclerc defended the inside of turn 1 but unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to keep the Mercedes behind him. Moving Russell back into P2. Ferrari then decided enough was enough and pitted Leclerc for mediums one lap later. It was too late though as he came out behind Perez, who had struggled but was finding some good pace towards the end of the race.

At this point, Hamilton was back on a charge having made a late stop for soft tyres. Putting in fastest lap after fastest lap, he was able to make his way up to the podium places with ease. When he came across his teammate 5 laps from the end there appeared to be no team orders and they were allowed to race. However, Hamilton was just faster and after a clean battle, he did a switch back coming out of turn 1 on his teammate to take P2.

Verstappen took the chequered flag to win his 50th Grand Prix and be 80 points ahead in the drivers’ championship heading into the summer break. Mercedes got a second consecutive double podium, and it looks like they are on pace to compete for race wins if it weren’t for issues in qualifying. However, with the technical directive coming into play in Spa, this could affect the race pace of the top teams. Either way, Ferrari needs a flawless second half of the season to get back in the championship hunt.

F1 Weekend Preview: Hungary Grand Prix

The last race before the summer break takes us to Hungary, a track that last year produced carnage at the start and one of the strangest restarts in history with only Hamilton taking the lights on the grid. Ferrari has it all to do so that they can go into the summer break with some positive energy in the team.

Hungarian GP 2021

Chaos at the start. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Last year saw the race start wet, which meant everyone started on intermediates but created chaos at the start. Bottas got a poor start but couldn’t slow down fast enough for turn one, hitting the back of Norris. This created a chain reaction, Norris hit Verstappen, Bottas hit Perez and behind them, Stroll had crashed into Leclerc, who hit Ricciardo.

This created a red flag, allowing the track to dry, and on the formation lap to the restart grid, all drivers apart from Hamilton dived into the pits to get slick tyres, creating one of the weirdest standing starts in Formula 1 history.

The race itself is known as an exciting track with plenty of overtaking opportunities and a great place to rack up some decent points for the championship.

Ferrari’s strategy calls in question… again

It’s no secret that in the last few years Ferrari has managed to build a reputation for making strategic decisions that often get in their own way. The French GP was no exception to this.

Sainz putting in a solid performance from P19. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

After losing Leclerc from the race early on, they only had to focus on Sainz, who was making great progress through the field and looked on pace for a podium. However, with 10 laps to go Ferrari decided to pit him for fresh tyres. He was on the mediums, and it was questionable if they would make it to the end, but Sainz was at a good pace and had just past Perez in P4.

These calls have now created a situation where Ferrari will need an almost flawless performance from now on. For Leclerc who is now 63 points behind Verstappen, he needs a clean weekend to take that confidence into the summer break

Double podium Mercedes

Mercedes had their first double podium since the Saudi Arabian GP in 2021. They are currently the most reliable team on the grid, and at their fastest, they have been able to pick up podiums when the top two falter.

However, they are now consistently on the pace and fight for the podium places now merit. Hamilton seems to have returned to his performance after a shaky first part of the season and Russell is still consistent. Hungary has always been a happy hunting ground for them, so they will want to replicate their past success.

Alpine is at the top of the midfield pack

The end of an epic battle. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Alpine has fond memories of the Hungarian GP last year, Ocon got his first win in Formula 1 and Alonso had an epic battle with Hamilton, helping out his teammate from the charging Silver Arrow. This year they appeared to have a faster car to bring to the fight.

In France, Alpine definitely had the measure of its closest championship rival, McLaren. Alonso appeared to taunt the papaya behind him and finished P6, while his teammate finished in P8 after an early incident with Tsunoda.

However, they are only four points ahead and McLaren seems to be having unpredictable performances. Alpine can’t rely on that pace alone with the midfield battle so close.

Leclerc loses out again as Verstappen wins French GP

Max Verstappen took a giant step towards retaining the world championship with his seventh victory of the season at Paul Ricard, as Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed out from the lead.

The Monegasque driver looked to be controlling the race before losing the rear at turn 11, hitting the barriers and retiring from the lead for the third time this season. This handed the race to Verstappen, who never looked like losing after that, and now has a sixty-three-point lead over Leclerc in the championship.

It was a great day for Mercedes, with Lewis Hamilton coming home second with George Russell in third, securing the Brackley-based team’s first double podium in 2022. Sergio Perez was fourth for Red Bull after a disappointing weekend for the Mexican.

Hamilton’s great start. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

In a race where track temperatures reached upwards of 50°C, tyre management was crucial, and the opening stages resembled Friday practice, with Verstappen looking to have the pace over Leclerc. Both were pulling away from the rest of the pack, which was being led by Hamilton after a brilliant start from the Brit, who was celebrating his 300th race in Formula One.

Despite this apparent pace advantage, Verstappen could only get alongside the Ferrari once, as overtaking opportunities were once again at a premium. This would prove to be his one and only chance to make the move on track, as the pace pendulum swung towards Leclerc. Being able to manage his tyres in clean air (and keep Max behind where it mattered), meant that Charles was in a better position as the laps ticked by, and was eventually able to pull a two-second gap before Verstappen pitted on lap 16.

Ferrari chose not to react instantly, with Leclerc’s tyres seemingly in a good condition. The car had looked unstable at the rear on a few occasions in the race, and it was that instability that proved to be fatal to their chances of a race victory. Leclerc lost the rear coming through turn 11, and his race ended in the barriers on lap 18. This handed the lead to Verstappen, who was able to control the race from the front, with Lewis Hamilton coming home in second, despite having a faulty drinks bottle throughout the race.

The safety car was brought out by Leclerc early on. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The ensuing Safety Car did allow the other Ferrari of Carlos Sainz to close up to the front of the field, but the timing was less than ideal. The Spaniard had to remove his hards earlier than planned, and things got worse for him as an unsafe release led to a five-second penalty. The medium tyres though were working well for Sainz, as he effortlessly dispatched of Ricciardo and Norris after the safety car ended, and soon found himself on the back of Russell after overtaking Alonso.

Unsurprisingly, this was a lot less straightforward for the Spaniard, but he was able to force Russell off-line into the Mistral chicane on lap 30, before sweeping around the outside of Signes to claim fourth, and was soon on the back of Perez. It was here where Ferrari’s strategical indecision reared its ugly head once more. Aware that a pit stop would cost them over half a minute (due to the penalty and an unusually long pit lane at Paul Ricard), Ferrari seemed in two minds as to whether to bring Sainz in and guarantee fifth, or keep him out and risk a podium. In the end, after a brilliant battle between the Ferrari and the Red Bull of Perez, which cost them both time, Ferrari brought in Sainz with only ten laps to go. He was able to recover to fifth and secured the fastest lap but was left wondering what might have been.

Perez’s prolonged battle with Sainz brought Russell into play, and the Brit was determined to take advantage. Russell attempted a move into the Mistral chicane, making slight contact with Perez who was forced to skip the chicane. This infuriated the Mercedes man, who felt he was squeezed onto the kerb, with team principal Toto Wolff having to come onto the radio to calm the 24-year-old down.

It looked like Perez was going to hang-on, until a virtual safety car was deployed as Zhou Guanyu retired from the race with mechanical issues. As this VSC ended, Perez was caught napping in the final sector, allowing Russell to sweep past at turn 13 and secure his fourth podium of the season.

Further back, Alpine and McLaren had an interesting battle for the best-of-the-rest crown, with Fernando Alonso coming home in sixth, ahead of Lando Norris in seventh. Norris’ teammate Daniel Ricciardo was eighth, with Esteban Ocon recovering to ninth, after a five-second penalty for a first-lap collision with Yuki Tsunoda, which ultimately led to the Japanese driver’s retirement.

Aston Martin provided some action in the final laps, as Sebastian Vettel was all over the back of Lance Stroll for the last point. Stroll smartly parked his car on the apex of the final corner on the final lap to prevent the German from getting ahead, coming home tenth for the fourth time this season.

Gasly trying to get past the Aston Martin. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Pierre Gasly was twelfth as Alpha Tauri’s pace woes continue, with the Italian team failing to score in four consecutive races for the first time since the Toro Rosso days of 2018. Alex Albon was 13th for Williams, ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Mick Schumacher. It was a disappointing day for Haas, who lost out in the safety car period, with both cars also making contact with others during the race. Schumacher collided with Zhou after the safety car restart, with Kevin Magnussen and Nicolas Latifi colliding later at turn one. Both the Dane and the Canadian later retired in the pits, in order to save the car.

Verstappen knows from last year just how quickly a championship lead can evaporate, but the Dutchman has never previously led by such a margin in Formula One. Leclerc holds on to second by just seven points from Perez, with Sainz, Russell and Hamilton rounding out the top six. In the constructors, Red Bull has an eighty-two-point lead over Ferrari, despite having their own reliability woes earlier in the season.

The F1 paddock moves to Budapest next weekend, for the Hungarian GP, and it is expected that this track will suit Ferrari thanks to its twisty nature. If Leclerc is to remain in the championship challenge, he can not afford to leave empty-handed.

Charles Leclerc takes Pole in France

Charles Leclerc takes pole from Max Verstappen as the Ferrari looks fastest over Qualifying. Perez makes it P3 meaning Leclerc will have to fight off two RedBulls with his teammate at the back of the grid.

Hamilton in qualifying. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

As the first runs in Q1 began it became obvious that the Mercedes were both way down on pace compared to their latest performances against the top two teams. Both cars were down nearly 1.5 seconds from Leclerc at the top.

Down at the bottom though it seemed the same cars were battling to get out of the top 5. A familiar story for Aston Martin who can’t seem to find enough pace to improve. Right towards the end of the session Albon spun, right in front of Hamilton, and brought out the yellow flag. This affected Stroll but Vettel made it through.

Haas was struggling for pace and initially appeared to leave Magnussen in the pits, knowing he had an engine penalty to serve. But, in the final runs they sent him out and he managed to put in a great lap time, making it into Q2.

His teammate was hovering around the bottom but drove an incredible lap to put him in Q2. However, just as Q1 ended his lap time was deleted for track limits. He wasn’t sure to start with if he could still run, but it was confirmed he was out of Q1, along with Gasly, Stroll, Zhou, and Latifi.

Vettel making it into Q2. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

With Q2 underway the Mercedes were first out and setting times of 1:33’s, which were quickly broken by Norris with a 1:32:777. Then the top teams came out with Sainz setting a lap nearly one second faster than anyone else.

It appeared that Verstappen may have been having some issues with his car, having some understeer on almost every lap. However, he was able to make this work, staying in the top three for the whole of Q2.

With five minutes left in the session, the second runs were underway, Mercedes very much under pressure looking like they might not make it out of Q2. Their one-lap pace seems to be giving them problems, they are relying on their race pace to bring in good points.

Ocon was the first to cross the line, going P6, Vettel couldn’t make it out of the bottom five as Tsundo and Alonso put in faster times. Russell made it out of the drop zone, quickly followed by his teammate, who pushed out Ricciardo and Bottas. Magnussen also made it into Q3, taking the battle for P19 all the way to the end.

Out in Q2 was Ricciardo, Ocon, Bottas, Vettel, and Albon.

Ricciardo only just missed out on Q3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Q3 had Perez setting the initial benchmark, but with Sainz providing a tow for Leclerc, he was able to only just go faster. Verstappen couldn’t answer the Ferrari and went P2 by 0.008. It was all the brits after that, with Russell in P4 then Hamilton and Norris. Alonso and Tsunoda rounding out the lap times, with Magnussen and Sainz not setting a time.

Perez in P3. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

Round 2 with 4 minutes left of the session and this was it. Sainz was back out to provide the slipstream and protect pole for his teammate. The same strategy as before, Sainz provided a tow through turns 8 and 9. Leclerc improved by 3 tenths with Verstappen who couldn’t improve so starts P2 behind the Ferrari on pole.

Perez had enough pace to keep P3 while Hamilton made it onto the second row in P4. Norris managed to split the Mercedes in P5, with Russell in P6. Alonso beat Tsunoda for the final times in Q3.

A championship battle on the front row and a battle of the brits behind them. Perez up there to take advantage of the lone Ferrari. All to play for tomorrow.

F1 Weekend Preview: The British are coming

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

Can Leclerc recover?

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

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

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

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

Mercedes bringing the brits performance

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

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

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

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

The History of Silverstone

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

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

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

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