F1 Weekend Preview: The British are coming

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

Can Leclerc recover?

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

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

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

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

Mercedes bringing the brits performance

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

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

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

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

The History of Silverstone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zhou making good progress. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Verstappen dominates wet Canadian GP qualifying

Max Verstappen was fastest in all three parts of qualifying as he took his second pole position of the season at the Canadian GP, as his teammate Sergio Perez crashed out in qualifying.

The Mexican driver will have to fight his way up from thirteenth on the grid, as will Charles Leclerc, who starts nineteenth after power unit penalties. Towards the front, it was Verstappen who adapted best to the changeable conditions, as he took pole position by seven tenths of a second from Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, with Carlos Sainz putting his Ferrari third on the grid.

George Russell setting early pace in the wet. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Conditions at the start of qualifying were similar to the morning’s free practice session, with visibility extremely limited in the full wet conditions. George Russell set the early pace with a 1:36, over 20 seconds slower than what the cars managed in Friday’s dry running. Impressively, there were no major incidents in the first part of qualifying, but turn one proved to be particularly tricky thanks to a massive puddle on the apex, which stubbornly remained throughout the entirety of qualifying.

Leclerc did get through to the second part of qualifying, which will allow him to start ahead of Yuki Tsunoda, who also has multiple penalties for exceeding his power unit allowance. The biggest shock of the first qualifying stage was the lack of pace from the Aston Martins, especially given that Sebastian Vettel was third in FP3. Both him and Lance Stroll failed to make Q2, along with the two Alpha Tauris and Nicolas Latifi, in his first home race since joining Williams in 2020.

Strategies were mixed at the start of Q2, with the inters proving to be faster, but only if you could keep it on the drying line. Alexander Albon failed to do this into turn six, sliding slowly towards the barrier, but was able to escape with only a broken front wing. Perez, on the other hand, was less lucky. A much harder hit into turn four wedged the Mexican’s wing under the TecPro barrier, bringing out the only red flag of the session, meaning Perez missed out on the top 10 for the first time since the Qatar GP last November.

Once the car had been removed (and the barriers repaired), everyone was out on the intermediates. It was Verstappen who found pace instantly, going 1.3s faster than the field on his first run. As the track continued to dry, and the drivers gained confidence, the lap times plummeted, and it was clear that whoever was the last car across the line would have the best conditions. Unfortunately for Lando Norris, a power unit issue meant he spent most of the session in the pitlane, and once he was out on track all was still not well with the McLaren, meaning the Brit starts in fourteenth. Joining him and Perez on the sidelines for Q3 were Valtteri Bottas, Albon, Perez and Leclerc (who stayed in the pits for the whole of Q2).

Verstappen was fastest out of the blocks again in the top-10 shootout, going more than a second faster than the Spanish duo of Sainz and Alonso, and remaining ahead even after huge improvements on their second laps. Most of the track was dry at this point, apart from the aforementioned standing water into turn one, which discouraged all drivers but one from choosing slick tyres for their final run.  George Russell was the brave individual who went for the soft tyres, but it was clear that the first few corners were just too wet, as his Mercedes slid into the wall at turn two. He was able to continue, but could not improve on his first intermediate run.

The top three on Saturday. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

The final laps looked like being a Red Bull-Ferrari shootout, with Verstappen and Sainz separated by hundredths in the first two sectors. One slight mistake out of the final chicane by Sainz proved to be costly, and allowed Alonso to jump onto the front row for the first time since the German GP in 2012, 3,619 days ago.

Lewis Hamilton put his Mercedes in fourth position, but the surprise package of qualifying was the Haas team, with Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher looking quick throughout, and they shared the third row of the grid, with sixth for Schumacher being a career best. Esteban Ocon was seventh in his Alpine, ahead of Russell, Daniel Ricciardo and Zhou Guanyu, who was delighted to secure his first Q3 appearance in Formula One.

The race is expected to start in dry conditions, but the track may still be ‘green’ given the lack of dry running on Saturday. Verstappen is in the ideal position to extend his championship lead given that his two closest rivals are outside the top 10, and he will certainly be expecting to see the chequered flag first for the fifth time in six races.

F1 Weekend Preview: Montreal is back!

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

Ferrari’s Reliability Issues

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

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

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

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

Mercedes Bouncing into Canada

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

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

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

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

The Midfield Battle Getting Tasty

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

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

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

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

2022 Azerbaijan GP Qualifying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

F1 Weekend Preview: Baku for Late Drama

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

Perez is In

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

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

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

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

Ferrari Losing Momentum

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

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

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

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

Which set up is correct?

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

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

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

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

Monaco GP: Sergio Perez takes dramatic win in the Principality

Sergio Perez of Redbull became the first ever Mexican driver to win the Monaco GP on Sunday afternoon. A strategic masterclass from Redbull followed by an excellent drive from Perez delivered what was his 3rd win of the career for the Mexican driver. The changing conditions in Monaco followed by a frustratingly delayed start did not seem to dampen the spirit of Perez as he came home to take the chequered flag as the clock stopped in Monaco.

The wet conditions of Monaco. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Media

The race was delayed from the 3pm start time in Monaco for fifteen minutes after race control were playing it safe to not risk chaos on the track. A couple of formation laps were underway behind the safety car but the track was deemed too wet for a race to start. A lengthy delay began at this point and it was 45 minutes before the race restarted. The drivers started behind the safety car with full wet tyres on once again with 77 laps to go. Charles Leclerc set the pace and was doing steady laps as the track was drying out very quickly.

A few back markers decided to try out intermediate tyres at this point with Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri being one of them. He was setting up decent lap times and even pulled of a couple of highly unusual overtakes which made the leaders take notice. Redbull were the first of the front runners to pull the trigger and Perez was in for his pitstop. This proved fruitful for Redbull as Ferrari could not cover this off for Leclerc and the Monegasque driver was left in 2nd place at this point.

A few laps later, the track dried out completely and Ferrari’s unintentional double stack meant that Leclerc went down to 4th place as Sainz slotted into 2nd behind Perez. A Schumacher crash coming out of the swimming pool section brought out the red flag and another lengthy delay ensured because the barriers had to be repaired. At this point, it was the clock that was going to decide the end of the race rather than the amount of laps. With about 45 minutes remaining, the race restarted yet again.

The race finished with a dramatic 4 way fight towards the end with all the top four cars seperated by less than 3 seconds with Perez taking the win, Sainz at 2nd, Max at 3rd and Leclerc at 4th. The Monegasque was visibly distraught at the end of the race after his excellent weekend was undone by strategy when it mattered the most. Behind the leading pack, George Russell in the Mercedes had an impressive race after he finished P5, coming under pressure in the final laps from Lando Norris in the McLaren who finished P6.

Fernando Alonso in the Alpine did extremely well to manage his pace and keep Hamilton behind the entire race and finished P7 while the British driver only managed P8. It would be considered a disappointing end to the weekend in Monaco for Hamilton after a promising show in Spain last weekend. Ocon in the other Alpine finished P9 on track but a 5 second time penalty owing to his earlier collision with Hamilton meant that he only finished P12 and out of points.

Vettel on his way to a points finish. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

Valtteri Bottas in Alfa Romeo picked up some handy points from the weekend after the Finnish driver ended his race in P9. His teammate Zhou in the other Alfa Romeo only managed to finish P16. Sebastian Vettel of Aston Martin was the last of the drivers to pick up points in Monaco this weekend after the German driver finished P10. His teammate Lance Stroll only managed P14 in what was an okayish weekend for Aston Martin.

Daniel Ricciardo brought his Monaco weekend to end by finishing P13 after the Australian was yet again not able to extract the same amount of pace as his teammate Lando Norris from is McLaren. It was an overall forgettable weekend for Ricciardo following his crash from FP2 and he would want to have a fresh start going into Baku in two weeks time. Latifi in the Williams finished P15 despite crashing at the hairpin under the safety car while his teammate Albon had to retire before the end of the race.

It was a forgettable weekend for Haas after Magnussen had to retire due to a mechanical issue and Schumacher crashed out during the race. Yuki Tsunoda was the last of the classified runners with a P17 finish in what was an overall bad weekend for the Alpha Tauri team.

The 2022 Monaco Podium. Image courtesy of RedBull Content Pool

Sergio Perez took his first win of the season propelling himself into the championship battle with just 15 points behind his teammate and 6 points behind Charles Leclerc. The Mexican driver by all means is not be discounted out of the race for WDC given his start to the season and if he keeps this up, Redbull will have a tough time managing their drivers. With almost a third of the season done, the battles for the driver’s and constructor’s championship are nicely setup going ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F1 Weekend Preview: The Famous Streets of Monaco

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

Charles Comeback at Home

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

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

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

Team Orders Already?

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

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

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

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

Mercedes with Consistent Pace

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 Spanish GP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton making moves. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

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

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

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

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

 

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