Reminiscing over Lewis Hamilton’s seven Championships

After a stunning display of driving during a tricky Turkish Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton secured his seventh World Driver’s Championship.

Lewis Hamilton’s win in Turkey put him level with Michael Schumacher on seven championships – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

He now equals the legendary Michael Schumacher for championship wins, with many believing he will beat the record in the next few years. When Michael retired at the end of 2006 (and equally at the end of 2012 after his stint at Mercedes) it appears only he believed that his records could be broken. But just 8 years on from when Schumacher last raced in Formula 1, Lewis Hamilton has been able to match him. But how did Lewis win his championships? Let’s reminisce…

2008:

Lewis’ first championship came in just his second season in Formula One, following an incredible rookie campaign where he lost out on the championship to Kimi Raikkonen by just one point. Naturally for a rookie, you would assume the mistakes that cost him the 2007 title would affect him coming into the new season, but not so. He stormed to pole position at the Australian Grand Prix and subsequently took the chequered flag in a race that saw only 7 drivers finish – 6 after Rubens Barrichello was disqualified.

Hamilton’s quick start didn’t last long however,  as the next 4 races were dominated by Ferrari – Raikkonen and Felipe Massa winning alternately. Lewis achieved podium finishes in the Spanish and Turkish Grands Prix, but could not find a way past the prancing horses. Monaco followed, where Lewis took his first victory in the principality, despite a puncture sustained after making light contact with the barrier mid-race.

Lewis’ only retirement that season came due to a pit lane incident in Canada where he wiped both himself and Raikkonen out of the race, with Nico Rosberg needing a nose change.

Kimi Raikkonen’s wrecked Ferrari sits at the end of the pitlane after being wiped out by Hamilton – courtesy of Ferrari media

Perhaps Hamilton’s most famous victory that season (or even ever), came at Silverstone, where he charged through the lashing rain to lap the entire field bar 2nd and 3rd and finish a whopping one minute, eight seconds ahead of Nick Heidfeld in second. It was a race that saw many people give him the title “Rain Master”, and judging by his performance that day, he definitely deserved it.

Soon after came the controversy of Spa where Hamilton’s victory was stripped from him for leaving the track and gaining an advantage during a battle with Raikkonen. Kimi made slight contact with Lewis, causing the Brit to take to the run-off. Hamilton gave Kimi the position back, but received a 25 second time penalty after the race which saw him drop down to third; a decision that many saw as unfair.

Felipe Massa won the 2008 Belgian Grand Prix after controversy cost Hamilton the win – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Following redemption in China, Lewis went into the final race in Brazil leading the championship by 7 points over Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. To win the championship Hamilton just needed to finish in 5th place or better, with Massa needing to win. Massa never really looked in doubt for the victory but after some rain started to fall in the closing laps, Hamilton lost fifth place to Sebastian Vettel. They battled hard and as Massa won the race the title looked to have slipped away. Until….”IS THAT GLOCK!?”.  Those imortalised words. The words that meant Lewis had won the championship. The words that stopped the premature celebrations in the Ferrari garage. Anybody who was watching that race (or have seen it since) will always remember the celebrations in the McLaren garage, the unfortunate incident between the Ferrari mechanic and the wall, and the crying Massa on top of the podium. It was a race, and a title battle, that has become the stuff of legends.

Hamilton’s last corner overtake cost a devastated felipe Massa the title in 2008 – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

It was a year in which Hamilton had made some mistakes, but had also had some incredible performances. His first title had gone down to the wire but in the end it would be difficult to say he didn’t deserve it. In just his second season in the sport, Lewis Hamilton was a world champion.

2014:

In the years between 2008 and 2014, Lewis Hamilton struggled to get a quick enough car beneath him to challenge for a title. Whilst he won a race in every single season, the Red Bull and the Brawn GP cars were just too quick week in week out to be able to chase his second drivers title.

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s dominance snuffed out Hamilton’s hopes of winning another championship in his McLaren days – courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

But that would soon change in 2014. Now with Mercedes, who Hamilton joined in 2013, Lewis partnered Nico Rosberg in a team that absolutely nailed the new engine regulations. The car was far superior to anyone else’s and that set up a tense Hamilton vs Rosberg title scrap.

Rosberg took first blood in Australia, winning by a comfortable margin over second placed debutant Kevin Magnussen. Lewis was forced to retire due to an engine issue. Hamilton then won the next four races, the most notable of which was Bahrain. Rosberg and Hamilton battled lap after lap but ultimately it was Lewis who came out on top. It remains to this day one of the most exciting battles for the lead of the modern era.

In Hungary, Hamilton got off to a poor start, sustaining front wing damage after colliding with the wall. Throughout the rest of the race, Hamilton had a great drive to finish 3rd, despite running in last place after the initial crash. Ricciardo won that race after Rosberg was punished by a late safety car.

Daniel Ricciardo took advantage of Mercedes’ struggles for the second time in 2014 in Hungary – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Tensions between the two started to fray in the following race in Belgium, as Rosberg made contact with Hamilton’s tire as the pair went into Les Combes. Lewis suffered a puncture and was later forced to retire from the race as a result. Again, it was Daniel Ricciardo who was there to sweep up and take the victory.

Hamilton then won the next five races, one of which was the Japanese Grand Prix, where we tragically saw the sport lose one of its most exciting young talents in Jules Bianchi.

Going into the Abu Dhabi finale, both Rosberg and Hamilton could still win the championship. In order to win, Lewis needed to finish in the top two, owing to the fact that the 2014 Abu Dhabi grand prix was the only race in history to offer double the usual number of points. Hamilton took the lead into the first corner and never looked like losing it. Whilst his teammate suffered car issues that saw him finish outside the points, Lewis went untroubled as he secured his second drivers title.

Hamilton’s Abu Dhabi victory in 2014 secured his second world title – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

It had been a year of dominance for Mercedes and Hamilton, with the team winning 16 of the 19 races and Lewis winning an incredible 11 of them. When Lewis wasn’t winning, he either finished on the podium or never finished at all, which in itself is very impressive. In a season that brought the world the Hamilton – Rosberg rivalry, it was first blood to Lewis.

2015:

2015 saw Mercedes continue to dominate the sport as Hamilton could not be matched by his teammate. Lewis took victory in three of the opening five rounds, finishing second in those he failed to win.

Then came Monaco, and a rare blunder in strategy for Mercedes saw Hamilton lose the lead and second place to Rosberg and Sebatian Vettel respectively. Mercedes decided it would be a good idea to pit Lewis whilst the virtual safety car was deployed following Verstappen’s heavy crash with the barrier at Sainte Devote. But the German team had misjudged Hamilton’s gap to his teammate, allowing Nico (who had stayed out) to pass him and take the lead of the race. It was a race-losing mistake as Lewis failed to regain the positions he had lost.

An ill-timed pit stop for Hamilton gave Nico Rosberg the win in Monaco in 2015 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

So far the championship battle had been tightly contested between Hamilton and Rosberg with the gap never being larger than 28 points. However, it was Lewis who came back from the summer break in better form, winning in both Spa and crucially Italy, where Rosberg was forced to retire. The gap between the pair was beginning to grow larger and larger.

Hamilton then took victory in Japan and Russia, the latter proving to be very costly for Rosberg after he was again forced to retire from the race. This allowed Lewis to go into the race in the USA able to wrap up the title by outscoring Vettel by nine points and Rosberg by two. Rosberg started on pole with Lewis alongside. However, it was the brit who led into turn one after he got off of the line better and was able to hang Rosberg out to dry at the first corner. Hamilton lost the lead to Ricciardo later on in the race but was able to gain it back during the pit stops. Lewis went on to win followed by Rosberg and then Vettel, after a race-costing error by his team mate.

Hamilton took advantage of a crucial Rosberg mistake to win his third title in the USA in 2015 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

With only three races to go, Hamilton could no longer be caught in the drivers championship and thus he was crowned champion. It would be Hamilton’s last victory of the season with Rosberg gaining momentum going into the following season.

The 2015 Formula One World Championship had by no means been a classic, but Lewis was able to capitalise on Rosberg’s unfortunate set of circumstances to take what turned out to be a dominant championship victory. Ferrari had just started to emerge as challengers, but nobody could match the consistency of both Hamilton and Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton was now a three-time world champion.

2017:

Following a challenging season in 2016, Hamilton went into 2017 with a fresh face in the other Mercedes. Reigning champion Nico Rosberg decided to leave the sport on a high following his one and only title win. It would be Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who would partner Lewis for the 2017 season. But could he prove a close match for Hamilton?

Nico Rosberg won his sole championship in 2016 following an intense finale in Abu Dhabi – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

In short: no.  Lewis did not have the championship all his own way, however. After a disappointing 2016, which saw them fail to improve on the promising results of 2015, it was Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari who would prove to be Hamilton’s closest competition. Vettel started the season strongly taking 3 victories and 3 second place finishes in the first 6 races, whilst Hamilton was only able to achieve 4 podium finishes in that time. By this time, Vettel led the championship by 25 points.

Tensions between Vettel and Hamilton were beginning to boil over however, as an incident under the safety car in Azerbaijan saw Lewis and Sebastian both fail to finish on the podium. Hamilton was leading when the safety car was called out with Vettel right behind him. Coming out of Turn 15, Vettel accelerated a lot more than Hamilton, subsequently causing the German to run into the back of him. Vettel wrongly believed that Lewis had brake-checked him and came alongside the Mercedes driver and drove into him. Sebastian was later given a ten second stop/go penalty for this incident. Whilst Vettel served his penalty, Hamilton’s head restraint started to come loose and he was forced to pit on safety grounds to fix it. Lewis eventually finished behind Sebastian with Daniel Ricciardo winning the race, despite dropping to the back of the field on Lap 1. It would be one of the most exciting races of 2017.

Despite a penalty for a moment of road rage, Vettel still managed to finish ahead of Hamilton in Baku in 2017 – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Silverstone has always been a special place for Lewis, and that proved to be so in 2017. Lewis himself had a comfortable lead throughout the entire race, but his luck really played out when both Ferraris suffered punctures. Vettel’s puncture came at the worst possible time for him, as he had to crawl almost the entire way around the track on 3 wheels. With Lewis winning the race and Sebastian finishing seventh, the gap in championship was down to just a single point in Vettel’s favour.

Lewis, however, is famous for coming alive in the second half of seasons and 2017 was no different. Victories in Belgium and Italy preceded a victory in the infamous 2017 Singapore Grand Prix. Hamilton started a lot lower down the order than expected, but rain before the race had started to cause some intrigue. The drivers arrived in their grid slots at the end of the formation lap and the lights started to turn on. As they turned out, Vettel moved over to the left-hand side of the track in order to cover off Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Unbeknownst to Vettel however, his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, had made an even better start and was on the other side of Verstappen. Three cars tried to be in one place at the same time and all three crashed out of the race, allowing Hamilton to take the lead; something he would not go on to lose.

A dramatic collision off the line saw Vettel, Raikkonen and Max Verstappen retire from the race in Singapore in 2017 – Courtesy of LAT Images

Victory in Japan and then the USA saw Hamilton place one hand on the championship, especially after Vettel retired in Japan following a spark plug problem. Lewis went into the Mexican Grand Prix just needing to fail to be outscored by Vettel by 16 points to have an unattainable lead over the rest of the field. However, it would not be as simple as it appears. Following a long run off the line into the first corner, Vettel, Verstappen and Hamilton were all jostling for the lead into Turn 1. Then, disaster struck, as contact with Verstappen caused Vettel to puncture Lewis’ rear tire as he himself sustained significant wing damage. Both came into the pits at the end of the first lap and the rest of the race became a reconnaissance mission. Vettel was able to climb his way back to fourth position, whilst Lewis could only finish P9. This, though, was enough to secure Lewis the championship.

Hamilton’s ninth-placed finish was enough to earn him his fourth world championship at the Mexican Grand Prix in 2017 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

The 2017 season gave birth to the Vettel-Hamilton rivalry; something that was much needed for the sport to be entertaining. Lewis’ new teammate Valtteri Bottas proved to be an excellent number two driver, but just couldn’t match Hamilton across the entire season and so, had it not been for Vettel and Ferrari, we would have been in for a very uninteresting season. It was a season in which the championship was neck and neck for large portions but, in the end, it was Lewis who was able to match Sebastian on 4 world drivers championship titles.

2018:

Many saw the 2018 season as the “race to five championships” as Hamilton and Vettel looked to renew their rivalry coming into the new campaign. As with the season prior, Ferrari looked to be on par with Hamilton and Mercedes, and it’s safe to say Bottas did not.

Vettel started the season strongly, taking victory in the first two rounds in Australia and Bahrain to immediately put him in the lead of the championship. Hamilton bounced back in Azerbaijan, though, after he capitalised on an unfortunate incident that gave teammate Bottas (who was winning at the time) a puncture and caused him to retire. It was believed that the puncture was caused by some debris that had not been removed following the safety car restart. The victory moved Hamilton into the lead of the championship by just four points over Vettel.

Race winner Hamilton consoles Valtteri Bottas after a penultimate lap puncture cost the Finn victory at the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

The championship swung again in Austria, where both Hamilton and Bottas suffered from engine and gearbox troubles and were both forced to retire from the race. With Vettel finishing in 3rd, he retook the championship lead by a single point. This was then extended to eight points the following race as Vettel took the victory at Silverstone – Hamilton’s “back yard”.

It was ultimately Lewis who had the last laugh though as a very tricky race in Germany saw Vettel crash in changing conditions and Hamilton win. After an issue in Qualifying 1 prevented him from completing the rest of qualifying, Lewis started from 14th place on the grid. The race began and Vettel was comfortably leading the way, whilst Lewis slowly climbed up the order. Then the rain started  to fall. In the wet conditions, race leader Vettel locked up his brakes and got buried in the gravel trap. He was out. In order to retrieve Vettel’s stricken car, the stewards brought out a safety car and Bottas, who had inherited the race lead, was pitted.

The team, however, were not ready for him and the resulting chaos meant he was stationary for twenty seconds. A miscommunication with his engineer also saw Hamilton begin to come into the pits but change his mind, causing him to allegedly cross the white line. He then took the victory but was summoned to the stewards for the pit lane incident. Hamilton was not given a penalty, a decision which many saw as controversial. This was the turning point in the championship.

Hamilton claimed victory in a remarkable and dramatic German grand prix in 2018 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Lewis went on to win five of the next six races, whilst Vettel continued to struggle under the pressure. The gap between the pair had grown to 70 points heading into the Mexican Grand Prix and all Hamilton had to do to claim his 5th world drivers championship was fail to be outscored by Vettel by 21 points. The race itself was largely uneventful as Hamilton sought to secure his position (4th) and thereby the championship. Lewis now had an unattainable lead over second place Vettel and the championship was sealed with two races to go.

When you look back on the 2018 season, you can’t help but think that Vettel’s unforced error in Germany affected him greatly. From that point forward, Hamilton and Mercedes were streaks ahead of the rest and only Bottas had a chance at challenging him. For the second season in a row Bottas failed to do so. Lewis had had an incredibly consistent year, rarely finishing off of the podium. He was the deserved champion, and Juan Manuel Fangio’s number of titles had just been equaled.

For the second consecutive year, Hamilton claimed the championship in Mexico in 2018 – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

2019:

It’s fair to say Mercedes hadn’t truly dominated the sport for a couple of seasons; they took it upon themselves to put that right. The opening five races were 1-2s for the German team as Hamilton won 3 and Bottas won 2. In order for the viewers to have a championship battle to watch, Bottas needed to step up his game from 2018. And to his credit, he did.

Despite Bottas’ uptake in form, it was still not quick enough to cause Lewis too many problems, with the Brit having won 7 of the 10 completed races heading into Germany. But Germany 2019 was an uncharacteristic race for Lewis to say the least. The race eventually started in heavy rain after several formation laps, then the chaos started.

The tricky conditions saw drivers were unable to keep the car in a straight line, spinning off and crashing constantly. On Lap 22, Leclerc was a victim of the slippery track and got beached into the gravel. Hamilton joined him that same lap, making contact with the wall, but unlike Leclerc was able to get out of the gravel trap. Lewis needed to pit but in doing so crossed the same white line he allegedly crossed at the same track the year prior.

Panic ensued in the Mercedes garage as they were not expecting Lewis and did not have the tries or a new front wing ready. To top it off, Lewis received a penalty for crossing the white line. Later on in the race, Hamilton spun at turn one; this time just avoiding the barriers. His teammate also spun there, but was not so lucky. In a race where Bottas could have capitalised on Hamilton’s errors, the Finn went home empty handed as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen took the victory. By this stage the gap in the championship was 41 points.

Max Verstappen won a phenomenal German Grand Prix after a disastrous day for Mercedes – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

After the summer break, Ferrari  – who had looked good on one lap pace all season – were finally able to take three victories in a row, the first being the tough weekend in Belgium which had seen the loss of rising star Anthoine Hubert in the F2 Feature Race. Ferrari’s pace wouldn’t last long though as Hamilton won in Russia, and then again in Mexico, sandwiching a Bottas victory in Japan. Going into the US Grand Prix, Bottas needed to outscore Lewis by 22 points to prevent him from taking the title. The weekend started well for the Finn as he took pole with Lewis down in fifth. Bottas went on to win the race, but with Lewis finishing second, the championship had been sealed.

Despite Bottas’ victory, Hamilton’s second placed finish sealed his sixth world title – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

With the Mercedes being as dominant as they were at the start of the season, the responsibility of having a championship battle rested solely on Bottas’ shoulders.  Whilst his performances were much improved, he could not match Lewis’ consistency and some impressive drives made branded him a deserved winner. Lewis Hamilton was by now a six time world champion. Roll on 2020!

2020:

How else can you describe 2020 other than “it was 2020”? A season that was hotly tipped to be incredible ground to a halt before it even got started in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After a considerable time away from the track, the season did eventually start with a new-look race calendar in Austria.

When the teams arrived in Austria, it was Mercedes yet again who dominated the field. The main challengers from prior seasons, Ferrari, had endured a woeful time developing the car and they had become the fifth and occasionally even sixth fastest team. The only team that could challenge Mercedes would be Red Bull, whose car was not fast enough to be a true title contender. Yet again, a title battle rested on Bottas’ shoulders.

Bottas started the season the stronger of the two Mercedes drivers, winning a crazy first race which saw just 11 finishers. Hamilton crossed the line in second place but was dropped down to fourth after he received a penalty for causing a collision with Alex Albon.

Bottas’ victory in the first race in Austria has been one of the few highlights of the season for the Finn – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Lewis bounced back in the following two races, however, taking victory in both the second race in Austria, and the Hungarian Grand Prix.

This saw Lewis enter the first race in Silverstone five points clear of Bottas in the championship standings. Hamilton started on pole at the British Grand Prix and looked comfortable in the lead for almost the entire race. However, in the dying laps, teammate Valtteri Bottas started complaining of vibrations on his tires. Soon after that, his front left tire became punctured and he dropped to the back of the pack as he made a pit stop. To add to the drama, on the final lap, Hamilton’s left front also blew out and he was forced to complete the race with only three inflated wheels, a la Lightning McQueen. Second placed Max Verstappen slowly closed the gap between him and Lewis, just falling short at the line as Lewis took an unprecedented victory.

Following a bizarre final few laps, Hamilton won the British Grand Prix this year – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Further victories in Spain and Belgium meant Lewis went into the Italian Grand Prix 47 points clear of Max Verstappen, who had overtaken Bottas for 2nd in the championship. But the Italian Grand Prix proved tricky for Hamilton, who was only able to finish seventh, despite starting on pole. A rare loss of concentration meant Lewis came into the pits after it had closed and subsequently picked up a ten second stop/go penalty. Bottas, whose only issue that race was that he didn’t feel like being quick, failed to capitalise on Lewis’ error. Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly went on to take the victory – a very popular winner.

A pit lane blunder from Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes in Monza opened the door for a remarkable Pierre Gasly win – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Victories in four of the next five races meant Hamilton went into a slippery Turkish Grand Prix needing to avoid being outscored by Bottas by eight points to retain the title. Rain, paired with the resurfacing of the track, meant there was very little grip and we were in for a cracking grand prix. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll led from pole position and it looked as if we would have a new race winner.

However, after the first round of pit stops, Stroll dropped off in pace and Lewis was slowly starting to get quicker. As the track dried, Hamilton was one of the few drivers able to keep his car in a straight line and as his tires wore out, the wet weather intermediate tire became more like a very soft slick, allowing him to keep them in a good temperature window. The way he nursed the tires to the end of the race and took victory was extremely impressive. It was a race deserving of sealing his seventh title.

2020 has posed many challenges to the teams and drivers, but the ever-adaptable Lewis Hamilton showed us once again why he deserved to win the championship this season.

Hamilton will now be gunning for an eighth world championship and the title of the most successful driver in Formula One history – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

So, they are Lewis’ seven world championships to date. Throughout his career he has shown the world the sheer amount of talent he has. Yes, he has had the best car for almost all of his championships, but it is near impossible to win one without the best car, especially with the amount of races we see today. To suggest it is all the car is also naive. If it were all the car, how come Rosberg didn’t beat him more often? How come Bottas isn’t closer in pace? The truth is Hamilton is one of the sport’s all-time greatest drivers and thoroughly deserves to be a seven time world champion. Many believed Schumacher’s records would not be broken for a long time, but Hamilton has now matched him and could potentially beat him next year. He is one of the most successful drivers in the sport and still he rises!

2020 Turkish Grand Prix Preview

After a nine-year absence, Formula One will finally make its long-awaited return to Intercity Istanbul Park this weekend, as F1 gears up for the final four rounds of the championship.

With Mercedes having sealed a remarkable seventh-straight Constructors’ Championship in Imola last race, Lewis Hamilton has his sights set on a seventh drivers’ title, and could achieve such if he finishes within seven points of Bottas – so a P2 would seal the deal so long as the Finn does not take the fastest lap.

The Silver Arrows pair are now the only two drivers left who have a mathematical chance of winning the title, and Bottas’ efforts both for the team and his own championship gains have been praised by Hamilton. The championship leader has paid tribute to Bottas in the last week, saying that he “does not get the credit he deserves,” describing him as an “amazing team mate” both on and off the track.

Valtteri Bottas stands on the podium after winning the Russian Grand prix – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Overall, the pair have blown away the competition from the excellent Max Verstappen and Red Bull, at the track where, last time a Formula One race was held, Sebastian Vettel won for the Milton Keynes-based outfit.

This was, of course, a time of the last great period of dominance in the sport, but Mercedes have since far surpassed that, and Vettel’s new employers Ferrari, who last won this race in 2008 with Felipe Massa, have flattered to deceive in a hugely underwhelming 2020.

Felipe Massa was the last Ferrari driver to win in Turkey 12 years ago – Courtesy of Ferrari media

Living fairly vicariously on their past successes, the Italian team’s performance improvement, particularly with Charles Leclerc, has not gone unnoticed, but they are now a world away even from the 2018 car that almost carried Vettel to title victory.

However, perhaps even more enticing is the incredibly engaging battle for fourth in the drivers’ championship and third in the constructors’. Two-time podium finisher this year Daniel Ricciardo leads Leclerc by 10 points, with a further 22 points covering the six positions between fifth and tenth.

Daniel Ricciardo’s two impressive podiums have put him in fourth in the championship – Courtesy of Renault Media

Holding that tenth spot is Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, who sits just one point behind Alex Albon in the senior Red Bull team. The Thai-Brit will be more than aware that he has less than a handful of races left to impress Christian Horner and Helmut Marko enough to convince them to give him a drive in 2021. His unfortunate error of judgement the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix left him 118 points off Lewis Hamilton and 98 points behind team mate Verstappen.

This weekend very much has an end-of-season feel about it, as Mercedes look to build on their success, teams and drivers vie for best of the rest, and drivers set out to Istanbul with a point to prove for next year.

The 5.3 Kilometre Istanbul circuit has been one of the magnificent bi-products of the Coronavirus-hit season, and it is unlikely that we will see it on a Formula One calendar again after this year, so enjoy it!

Renault: Building everything from scratch.

Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Renault Sport F1 Team RS18.
Mexican Grand Prix, Friday 26th October 2018. Mexico City, Mexico.

Photo credits: Renault Mediacentre

2016 marked Renault’s return to Formula 1, A six year plan was put in place for the French marque’s comeback to the top of the grid. Three years into that timetable, things are going well for the team.

At the end of 2015, the Lotus team, powered by Mercedes engines, was in a constant demise. Poor results and a declining financial state had the British-Russian team on the ropes. Renault’s intention to return as a works team was rumoured around the paddock for quite some time, and on 28 September 2015, it was officially announced. The Enstone factory would be yellow again.

We have seen this scenario before, and the examples from recent history are profound. Red Bull did the same thing back in 2005, Mercedes, too, in 2010. And they all succeeded, because they all had a thorough plan.

The fact that the managerial positions in Renault are not being held by the same people anymore does not affect the fact that the French are a ‘work in progress’, with signs of improvement every single year.

Their driver line-up is improving little by little. Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen was just the beginning, although they would love to have Romain Grosjean on board, had he not left for Haas.

2017 saw Nico Hulkenberg joining the team, making him their number one driver, for some reason the German scored points on 7 occasions, finishing 10th on the standings. And for the 2018 season, Carlos Sainz joined him.

Next year Daniel Ricciardo will have the Renault badge on his chest, this shows the team’s determination to push through a really hard driver market and make the necessary moves, to ensure that it can have the drivers who will be able to extract the maximum potential out of the car. Does it ring a bell Red Bull did the same with Mark Webber firstly and Sebastian Vettel two years later; so did Mercedes with Michael Schumacher for its first ‘awkward years’ and Lewis Hamilton for its domination.

Apart from that, Cyril Abiteboul, team principal for Renault Sport, has done a fairly good job recruiting experienced and talented people at the team’s technical side. Marcin Budkowski, Ex FIA man, joined them last April, and James Allison is rumoured to make the step from Brackley to Enstone. It’s highly important for them to have staff that knows how to make the right choices and develop a championship-winning car.

2021 is the biggest chance for Renault to be in the contention for the world title. It is not an easy task, but they have already shown their progress from 2016 to 2017, and from 2017 to 2018. From 9th on the standings, they currently are 4th, having the ‘best of the rest’ car and the ‘best of the rest’ driver in Hulkenberg.

If they can continue like this, success is a matter of time.

Dimitris Bizas

Five Things We Take Away From The Mexico Grand Prix

 

Max Verstappen the winner of the 2018 Mexico Grandprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

1 – Max sticks to his word

All season it has been said that Red Bull realistically have talked up winning at Monaco, Hungary and Singapore. But if you were to ask that question to Max Verstappen, he would say ‘and Mexico too.’ He wasn’t a happy man on Saturday though as another chance at pole position went begging. On Sunday it took great guts to be the latest braker into turn 1 and his kindness to his tyres took him to victory, like he has been saying all season. He had two sets of new red supersoft tyres compared to the rest of the field, who only had one, and he won by a clear 15 seconds – his fifth victory in F1, and second of the 2018 season.

 

Photo Credit: Suceria Ferrari

2 – Vettel is gracious in defeat

When David Coulthard was doing the pre-podium interviews it was great to see Sebastian Vettel go to Lewis Hamilton and congratulate him. The German knew where it all fell apart this season and didn’t want to discuss it at the time. A true sportsman as he probably wasn’t in high spirits and he wasn’t standing on the first position on the podium. After this he entered the Mercedes pit section and congratulated the team too. The German will look to build on this season and look  ahead to the challenges that 2019 hold. 

 

Credit: Mercedes-AMG Petronas

3 – Mercedes tyre wear haunts them

The tyres that the Silver Arrows cars used just fell apart, which resulted in Hamilton finishing a distant P4 and Bottas pitting 3 times before finishing a distant P5. They had great starts but it was easy for others to overtake them, and poor mistakes from both Hamilton and Bottas put them back to P4 and P5. An investigation will surely be had after the celebration of Hamilton’s 5th title, as they were the team that struggled the most with tyres and they are close to wrapping up another Constructor’s title.

 

 

4 – Superb Sauber

Sauber had to start on the ‘chewing gum’ tyres, the pink wall hypersofts, and still managed P7 and P9. They both made a ‘one stop’ strategy work, taking us back to the days of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez doing it so well in the Sauber colours. They jumped Toro Rosso in the standings for P8, as Pierre Gasly had a solid Sunday, but more grid penalties only helped Sauber further. It was a great haul of points by the team considering they started on the hypersoft tyres. 

 

Daniel Ricciardo in Aston Martin RedBull Racing garage at the 2018 Mexico Granprix. Image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

5 – Ricciardo can’t wait for his new challenge to begin with Renault

“Just let Gasly drive it” was the quote from the Honey Badger in the media pen after his eighth retirement of the season and his second mechanical failure in a row. He probably feels that his 2018 car is cursed and hasn’t taste champagne since his victory in Monaco. His new chapter edges closer and most are unsure how close he will be to the podium in the future, considering that Nico Hulkenburg, as of yet, still hasn’t been there. 

Monaco 2018 Driver Ratings

The principality of Monaco is the jewel in the crown of the Formula 1 season. It’s one of the triple crown of motorsport, the others being the Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours. The tight and twisty track leaves little room for error, giving a full punishment for hitting the wall, as some experienced this weekend, one in paticular. There was without a doubt a driver of the weekend no one can argue with that.

Ricciardo – 10

? courtesy of Pirelli Motorsports

Super from the Honeybadger, his best win without a doubt, the first time he has won a Grand Prix starting within the first two rows. He was fastest in all practice and qualifying sessions on Saturday. On Sunday he once again in a different league, he got off the line well, and pulled away from the field. The problems came with his engine many thought the curse had struck again but with a car much less power he kept his cool to win! Redemption from 2016, a great drive, his best win out of the seven wins. He led every lap of the race and without a doubt driver of the day!

Vettel – 8

A solid drive and took points off Hamilton. His start was great but Ricciardo just closed the gap so was unable to overtake. Kept Ricciardo within distance but does seem Ferrari are harder on their tyres. Coasted to second late on as he struggled to get back up to pace.

Hamilton – 7

An uneventful weekend for the Championship leader three points lost a damage limitation race leaving a 14 points gap between him and Vettel. Mercedes knew that this wasn’t a good track for them and felt they had the third fastest car. Hamilton nearly caught Vettel midway through the race but fell away late on. Good haul of points.

Raikkonen – 7

In the battle of the number two drivers Kimi won this time. He was close to getting ahead of Hamilton and Vettel in qualifying. At a stage all three were 0.005 apart, but others improved whilst he didn’t. The cool Finn kept it out the walls and helped Ferrari outscore Mercedes.

Bottas – 6

He was off pace all weekend and at one stage it was touch and go in Q2 whether he would get through as Mercedes tried a different strategy. He left it really late to get in to the shootout. Due to his choice of tyres he had better grip which allowed him to close the gap, he didn’t have a lunge to even test Raikkonen with his better traction. 

Ocon – 9

Best of the rest from the Frenchman, only 5 seconds behind Bottas. Force India tend to not be known for their downforce and more their top speed hence previous results at Baku. Great qualifying and racecraft, a seasoned veteran now.

Gasly – 8

Pierre continues to impress, technically still a rookie season as he only drove for a few races last year from Round 15 onwards. The Honda engines not as bad in previous years, especially Monaco hiding the disadvantage. He battled with Alonso and Hulkenburg whilst keeping it clean. A long stint on the hypersoft gave him this chance, an opportunistic driver.

Hulkenberg – 7

A points finish after his two DNF’s in Baku and Barcelona. Just what he needed, he may of been out qualified on Saturday but a strong drive on Sunday gave him what he more often than not achieves for his team, points!

Verstappen – 6

The Dutchman needs to learn that sometimes you don’t need to go 100%. This was costly for him over the weekend when clearly Red Bull had the fastest car. A crash in FP3 in the swimming pool section, identical to a crash in 2016 cost him action in qualifying. The car was not rebuilt in time after a deeper look and had to start last. Max was more like himself on Sunday from great overtakes to score points but feel he was thinking about race win prior to third practice. Disapointing once again, involved in a collision somehow in the last six Grand Prix weekends.

Sainz – 6

The Spaniard had an unimpressive Sunday and left the principality with only one point after qualifying so well. He did a great job to defend his position from Ericcson at the end. 

Ericcson – 7

A good race in the streets of Monaco for the Swede. Finished in a solid P11, and was right up Sainz’s gearbox for the final stages. Seems a Sunday driver more than a Saturday, made the most positions up besides Verstappen.

Perez – 5

Finished 47 seconds behind his team mate which would of dented his confidence within himself. He had great pace as got through to Q3 but only went backwards on Sunday. Great potential, left with nothing.

Magnussen – 5

Out performed his team mate in a poor weekend for the Haas team. Hopefully just a blip for the Dane, has raced well at upcoming tracks but no joy in Monaco. Rather little happened to comment.

Vandoorne – 5

Another performance where very little was seen of him. Finished the race behind his starting grid position. He did have the pace it seemed in practice but it fell away on Sunday.

Grosjean – 4

Romain was already in hot water as he carried a three place grid penalty over from Barcelona. Haas where of form and couldn’t get their car in the sweet spot, so much so they ran 19th and 20th for the early laps. Grosjean seems to be in a rut and this race did him no favours.

Sirotkin – 6

The result hides what a great early weekend he had. He blitzed his team mate and made Q2. He suffered from two punctures but seems to be finally getting to grips with the Williams.

Stroll – 5

Sirotkin made Stroll look silly as a whole this weekend. The Canadian qualified P18 and was nowhere to anyone in the race. Finished last of who took the chequered flag. Williams as a whole hope Canada, a more power influenced track will push them up the grid.

Leclerc – 7

His record at Monaco isn’t that hot, and it continues. He failed to finish in both Formula 2 races last year. A brake failure ended his day early as he collided with Hartley. He couldn’t avoid the incident so unlike Verstappen his rating wasn’t hindered by it. Once more made it into Q2 and qualified strongly.

Hartley – 6

A waste of such a good weekend for Toro Rosso and on this side of the garage. Seventh fastest in practice as he failed to get out of Q3. He collided on the first lap damaging his car. Taken out by Leclerc but the pressure continues to mount.

Alonso – 6

I wonder if Fernando would of liked to be in America once again rather than Monaco. A gearbox failure on the front straight whilst battling with Gasly late on ended his race. He was deep into the points and raced well. Not a fan of Monaco this year and had a few choice words to say to the media.

We go from the heavily downforce influenced track of Monaco to the more power influenced track of Montreal in Canada in 2 weeks time. Renault and Honda are bringing substantial upgrades to their engines which should help the teams that use them. 

The main questions are if this would help Red Bull still keep the top step of the podium or will Mercedes bounce back to the top? 

Driver Ratings: Baku Does it Again!

Azerbaijan never ceases to amaze, I am unsure whether this beats 2017’s race which was amazing to watch. Lady luck was on a few driver’s side today, we’ll look in deeper detail at who had it in the rating review. As per always the rating will be done in results order.

Lewis Hamilton – 7

Lady luck was most definitely on his side today, he took longer to turn the tyres on unlike Vettel who led early on. He made some uncharacteristic mistakes especially at the first corner flat spotting both tyres he told pit wall the tyres were finished so had no choice but to change strategy and pit. The pace on the fresher yellow softs was slow but then the safety car came into play. He was gifted the win with misfortune of others.

Kimi Raikkonen – 7

Kimi being Kimi, you wouldn’t really remember he is a World Champion from 2007. He’s being used to a certain extent as a clear number two driver to Vettel. It all went wrong on Saturday with Ferrari only bringing one set of super softs he had to make one lap count, he didn’t do so. This forced him onto another strategy for Sunday. A silly collision on the first lap when he could of let off the throttle easily damaged his car, no penalty surprisingly, as others fell by the way side he took an unexpected second.

Sergio Perez – 9

Ever the opportunist, now the most successful Mexican driver in Formula 1 history and most successful at Baku in terms of podium finishes. Force India looked strong all weekend with their Mercedes grunt. Great pass on wounded Vettel along the straight. The catalyst the fourth placed team from 2017 need to push on this year?

Sebastian Vettel – 8

Go big or go home from the German, he took advantage of the safety car in Australia but this race it hindered him as we look at in a moment. A great flying lap for pole and early race from the quadruple champion. He pulled a clear lead out after the first safety car. He got a lacklustre restart from the second safety car and went for it on the brakes but with such a long straight they went cold, locked up and ran wide. He lost places rather than gaining, and dropped to P4, with then Perez getting him in the later laps due to his massive flat spot. The Ferrari was strongest all weekend, did he really have to go for it at the first attempt he had?

Carlos Sainz – 8

Flying the flag for Renault today for the first half of the race had they had the third best package. He got by the Red Bulls well and then pulled clear. When they got up to speed he kept up with them. He pitted early as started on the ultra softs and continued well to finish solidly in the points. Pretty much the reason why Renault ‘loaned’ the Spaniard from Red Bull this season.

Charles Leclerc – 9

The reason why Ferrari rate this driver highly was shown today as he scores his first World Championship points in P6. He did better than most turning on the super softs and had great pace from his impressive qualifying managing to keep Raikkonen at bay after the first restart. He would of still scored points even if others finished, he just got a few more as result. Great for the Sauber team to have points but more importantly a talent like Leclerc behind the wheel of one of their cars.

Fernando Alonso – 8

The character and grit that Alonso showed today was the reason why everyone rates him so highly. To begin with he got the McLaren round a near 2 minute lap with 2 wheels shod car into the pits with minimal damage. There was some to the floor of the car as a result but still managed to score decent points for the team. Good battle with fellow countryman Sainz today. Worth every penny to Mclaren once again.

Lance Stroll – 8

A happy hunting ground for the Canadian, after taking advantage of the 2017 race and scoring an unlikely podium, he scored his and the team’s first points this season. Great confidence booster for him and the team. He had the pace with the Mercedes power and good racecraft to finish in the points.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 6

Stoffel was off colour this weekend, but took advantage of others to finish in the low end of the points but also once again Alonso was on average a few tenths quicker than him all weekend. He continues to pile pressure on himself regardless of a points finish today, Lando Norris is looking pretty nifty in Formula 2.

Brendan Hartley – 6

The Kiwi has scored his first point in Formula 1. He had a very unorthodox way of entering the sport last year and has taken him a while to adjust, some say he still is and was the fortunate today. Bad driving on Saturday as he didn’t set a lap and his team mate nearly went flying over the top of him. He drove better on Sunday.

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Marcus was in the shadow of his team mate today, a collision on the first lap turn 2 restricted his performance. He received a penalty for the collision and was clearly at fault, no excuses. He flat spotted tyres which also ruined the strategy he was on halfway through the race. The car was good over the weekend which should give him confidence Bahrain can happen again.

Pierre Gasly – 7

He showed great racecraft on Sunday, and reactions on Saturday. He thought that he was going into the wall after coming across his team mate but managed to keep it away with lightning reactions. With yellows like his team mate he didn’t set a representitve lap time. The race was different all be it he has nothing to show from it, he managed to get up as high as P7 in the race after carving through the field’s destruction on lap 1. An out and out racer, battled with former rival Leclerc which was good to see. He was involved in a collision with Magnussen which prevented the attack for points as he had the pace.

Kevin Magnussen – 6

K-Mag was in the wars on Sunday after a tough qualifying. A short run to the 90 degree corners and being in the middle of the pack increases chances of collisions. He collided with Ericcson at turn 2 which ended his chance of a good finish at that stage. A further collision with Gasly after the second restart then ended his chance of points. Later reprimanded with 2 penalty points, 12 is the amount before a ban, at this current time he is on 8 in the 12 month period. Most dangerous driver Gasly has ever raced according to the Frenchman. An off colour performance to such a great start to the season.

Valterri Bottas – 8

He was on for a win with Mercedes but you could say poor marshalling and debris still scattered over the track resulted in his dramatic retirement. It was through no fault of his own. He managed the gap all race and was consistent, and midway was fastest driver. He made no mistakes throughout. Due to staying out longest he used the safety car to continue to lead. He then restarted well and pulled away but ran over debris which caused a dramatic puncture at around 180mph, forcing him to retire with only a handful of laps remaining. Great weekend but nothing to show for it, joy for one of the Silver Arrows but despair for the other.

Romain Grosjean – 5

Grosjean seemed to be in 2017 mood, very emotional and spins aplenty with one really silly. He was hindered by a gearbox problem in qualifying which resulted him starting last. He kept his nose clean driving through the mess and was on for good points. Every driver was struggling for tyre temperature. He tried to warm the tyres up behind the second safety car by weaving and too much the Frenchman hit the wall at slow speed, throwing away first points of the season ironically at the time putting Magnussen into the points. Bad day at the office.

Max Verstappen – 5

His fault or not but Max has now collided with other drivers 3 times in 4 races, beginning to remind me of the great Pastor Maldonado. He was playing with fire all race long with his team mate, great spacial awareness but sometimes a bit too aggressive with squeezes and double direction changes defending. He couldn’t get the red walled super soft tyre switched on early in the race resulting in both Renault passing him. Battery issues may of slowed his pace but the issue between team mates was brewing all race long. Once more a retirement and hefty bill for Red Bull to pay.

Daniel Ricciardo – 5

The high of Shanghai two weeks ago to the despair of Baku. He struggled to get by his team mate as the over powered DRS with gusty winds helped him dramatically. Various occasions the driver supposedly best on the brakes had his car side by side with his team mate but only pulled it off a few laps prior to the pit stop. He had better pace than Max at a track he did great on last year. Multiple times he was on the outside centimetres from the wall and multiple lock ups. He lost out to the overcut but with the warmer rubber from far back he tried to get by but went straight into the back of his team mate. The worst thing you can do in motorsport! Red Bull blame both drivers which you can understand, but much like Vettel did he have to go for it? Plenty of laps were remaining. There is talk of Ricciardo going to Ferrari with contracts ending for various drivers, not the first time he colliding with his team mate maybe sway his mind to leave the Austrian outfit?

Nico Hulkenburg – 5

With how the race played out, Nico could of finally got on the podium! He still waits to taste the champagne after being close on multiple occasions. He lost the car on his own accord after getting by the poor paced Red Bulls. Renault looked like the fourth best car. He needs to keep concentration as with more mental races and no mistakes from the German, he could be that podium soon.

Esteban Ocon – 7

A passenger in his crash with Raikkonen, surprised that the Ferrari driver didn’t receive a penalty. Strong qualifying and pace but nothing he could do on his short Sunday afternoon.

Sergey Sirotkin – 7

Best weekend for the Russian rookie, albeit the mistake into the wall in third practice. Qualified strongly and was unfortunate to be in the sandwich between drivers on the first lap which ended his race early. Extremely harsh that he has received a 3 place grid penalty for the next race in Spain.

Summary

So Hamilton got his win in Baku through some strong luck, whilst Vettel through his decision to go big at the restart lost points. Hamilton now leads the Championship for the first time this year. 

My driver of the day is a very tough decision, my toughest yet this year, and it’ll go to Sergio Perez for his podium finish. It just shades Charles Leclerc’s impressive points finish. Red Bull really need to look at the current situation, once more through collisions they have cars not finishing. 

Cars tend to change quite dramatically at Barcelona and that is where the Formula 1 circus is next at. Will Red Bull kiss and make up or will the fire get bigger? Mclaren say big upgrade for Spain, will it work and push them forward? What upgrades will Mercedes have in store to catch up to Ferrari? We have to wait 2 weeks to find out.

?image courtesy of Sahara Force India. Fetured image courtesy of RedBull Content pool

2018 Chinese GP Driver Ratings

2018 is turning out to be the an exciting season. For the first time in the hybrid era it has been three races since the Silver Arrows last jumped on the topstep. China tends to be a race with very few retirements but safety cars aplenty and it was a factor today. 

Daniel Ricciardo – 10

He never wins a boring race, a stat that shows this is that he has never won a race from starting in the top three. ‘Sometimes you’ve got to lick the stamp and send it.’ That is what he said on the podium after his moves, especially on the divebomb from far back on Hamilton at turn 14. He was sixth at the restart, and through some great moves he finished first. Once he got through the field he pulled a gap and was never seen again. It is the first shooey of the season, some more to follow?

Valterri Bottas – 8

Flying the flag for Mercedes in the race, the Finn got a great start managing to jump one of the Ferrari’s. He kept it behind him and didn’t let the other get away. This allowed him to a great outlap to undercut the Ferrari to get the lead and control the race. His tyres lost him the lead but kept the other Finn behind him for a great second place considering had the second best car.

Kimi Raikkonen – 8

He got screwed by his team, Ferrari seem to be putting all their eggs in one basket with Vettel. It isn’t always going to work if they do. Kimi was a bit fortunate with the timing of the safety car after losing around 15 seconds to Hamilton after being left out there by the team. Had tyre age on his side to allow him to pull some passes off and finish on the podium. Spoilt today with a a few words on the podium too! 

Lewis Hamilton – 7

It was a grumpy Lewis Hamilton day much like Bahrain, he was never happy. ‘Is it me or there a lot of cars with fresh tyres behind me’ was a quote in the race. This was a clear shot at the team as was left in no mans land. He was just behind the others all weekend, with everything happening around him he closes the gap on his championship rival. Two races though not on the podium for the Brit.

Max Verstappen – 6

Patience, that is what the Dutchman needs more of, we all know he has the speed. Twice in one race he made mistakes on overtaking. First, on the outside of Hamilton where he could of waited for the DRS rather than losing places to Ricciardo. The second being the half gap on the inside of Vettel for the following lap as time was on his side. He would of probably won the race if he kept it clean but instead fifth due to a penalty. Unlike Bahrain he admitted it was his fault, think a talk with himself tonight needs to be done.

Nico Hulkenburg – 9

Once more this German is so under rated, with contracts up in air at the end of this season surely teams have to take a note. He has never been on the podium but consistently in the points and keeps it clean unlike others. Another strong day for him that puts him firmly as the number one driver at Renault.

Fernando Alonso – 8

Ringing the neck out of his car, finding the pace which his team mate cannot. His racecraft that he has only helps him further from starting so far back in the field. Kept tyres in good condition and his nose clean to push on. Nice move on Vettel late on to get even more points, due to a higher result is sixth in the standings.

Sebastian Vettel – 8

Through no fault of his own the championship leader finished down in eigth. He started the race well and did his token fast first lap to break the DRS on second place. He managed the gap well to keep the field behind him which was brilliant. The team kept him out too long which as a result allowed Bottas to jump him, and then running wide at the hairpin gave the aggresive Verstappen a gap that he would attempt a pass causing a spin. He lit the rears up when trying to get back pointing in the right direction which hindered him for the remaining laps. Had the pace but others hurt him. 

Carlos Sainz – 7

Very much in the shadows of his team mate currently, he needs a big display. Nearly got the stricken Ferrari at the end of the race but more points for him, albeit another finish far behind his team mate.

Kevin Magnussen – 7

Said he was lucky to just miss out on Q3. He qualified eleventh allowing him to have first choice of tyre. He went with the soft and slowly picked off the positions, undercuts pushed him back to further down the field though, more points for the American team.

Esteban Ocon – 6

An okay race for Ocon, he finished higher than he started which is something good to take for him. Hope for the team at Baku when they were strong last year but keep it clean! 

Sergio Perez – 6

The Mexican well renowned for his skill to keep life in his tyres you’d have thought would thrive in these conditions. A result from probably being one of the ten to go through into Q3 he was not helped by starting on the ultra soft tyres. The damage was done as went long on second stint and had no pace throughout.

Stoffel Vandoorne – 6

The Belgian is in the same boat as Carlos Sainz, playing second fiddle to his team mate. Mclaren seem to be talking a lot of gas and air when it comes to the performance of their car, but Vandoorne isn’t getting what his team mate can out of it. This time drivers’ didn’t retire so finished out of the points.

Lance Stroll – 7

A great start for Stroll today, quite a few positions picked off at the 270 degree turn one. Williams had a bit more pace this weekend albeit being slower than last year in qualifying. Solid midfield finish, confidence can be built as we head into the European season.

Sergey Sirotkin – 6

Is growing into the seat but questions continue to be asked if signing him was the correct decision. Is learning the car well, and gaining confidence. Not much was said about him throughout the race. 

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Good finish for Marcus, showing his rookie team mate that there is more potential in the Sauber Alfa Romeo. Peope saw him as a pay driver as they dropped the impressive Wehrlein over him but mixing it in the midfield and not always coming out second best.

Romain Grosjean – 5

Besides the few explicit words on the radio early on in the race when it seems the team said to let his team mate through Romain had a very quiet race. Getting into qualifying three seemed to hinder him. Forget and move on, but take confidence pace in the car is there.

Pierre Gasly – 5

It was the Frenchman’s eigth start and that showed, a bit of a yo-yo season thus far. Toro Rosso struggled with China very power concentrated track. He took out his team mate causing the safety car and ruined both races for the team. Gone back to Australia, want to keep the Bahrain-esque form up. Very silly, but he’ll learn from that.

Charles Leclerc – 6

For a driver that had never been to China he wasn’t adrift of the field, of course there are simulators that can be used but great display. The European season is when Leclerc will come to a next level.

Brendon Hartley – 5

The car wasn’t at the races today and was pretty much held back. The Kiwi was doing his own thing before being a passenger to a collision with his team mate. Had to retire late on due to damage.

Two things to conclude really, Verstappen, we rave how exciting he is to watch but he needs to learn. One of the late great Ayrton Senna’s quotes ‘If you no longer go for the gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver’ can be used to defend him. I don’t even think that he would of attempted that optimistic move.

Gave Ricciardo the driver of the day, but a big shout out to the Red Bull team for the whole of the weekend. A record breaking engine change in this era yesterday, and the two double stack pit stops really shows drive in the team to do the best they can at the track. Off track great tactics was decided in a few seconds when the safety car was called too. In a fortnight the Formula 1 circus is off to Baku, much earlier this year.

 

Images Courtesy of Redbull content pool

Red Bull Racing 2017 Review #2

As we carry on with the Red Bull Racing 2017 review…..

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary.
Saturday 29 July 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONY1841

Azerbaijan, Baku

The European Grand Prix was once more taken off the calendar for 2017, but it was still in Baku, placed at Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Tight and twisty amongst the streets of Baku for the first two thirds, and then that mammoth straight in the final sector of track. The setup on this track is one of the tougher ones in the calendar. Practice looked good for the Red Bull boys as Verstappen was fastest in both sessions on Friday, with Ricciardo also having reasonable pace throughout.
It looked like Mercedes and Ferrari once more turned the power down in practice as they found 2.2 seconds between 3rd practice and the final qualifying positions, Verstappen was best of the rest in 5th. Ricciardo once more crashed when it mattered in Q3, he started 10th. It was the most chaotic start of the season, with Sainz clipping his team mate Kvyat and various drivers stopping with debris. Ricciardo was one of them and on lap 6 he pitted, he returned to track 17th. Verstappen was up in the thick of it but once again it was his car, and oil pressure problem made him ground to halt on the long front straight on lap 12.
Ricciardo then used the safety car periods and the red flag to full effect, as he jumped both Williams drivers at the restart on lap 24, latter on through Vettel’s rage he was awarded a 10 second stop-go penalty for colliding with Hamilton, and Hamilton had to pit due to safety reasons his headrest came loose. This left Ricciardo to drive the closing laps on his own, Bottas was flying and managed to pip Stroll to the line for 2nd, but Ricciardo was just too far away.
Ricciardo with this amazing victory jumped Raikonnen to 4th in the driver’s standings, whilst Verstappen was once more left frustrated with another race of opportunity thrown away with retirement due to mechanical issues.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 92
Austria, Speilberg
The Red Bull Ring is the ninth round of the 2017 calendar of the season, the fast cars they are pushing closer and closer to being near under a minute. Qualifying was as per previous with the two teams leading up front with Red Bull best of the rest, albeit Hamilton due to a gearbox change he has now got a penalty. Ricciardo qualified 5th and Verstappen 6th, as a result of the penalty they start 4th and 5th respectively.
Lights out and away they went Ricciardo had a solid start, but Verstappen got clipped in the rear spinning him around and Alonso collecting him as a result. Verstappen had to retire due to terminal damage, another weekend to forget the Dutchman. Ricciardo was currently 3rd, following Bottas and Vettel. Hamilton was chasing up the field from his low start, Ricciardo pitted and got out just in front of the bit, and he managed to held on for another podium. Only 6 seconds behind eventually race winner of Bottas so much better for Red Bull.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 107
Spa Francorchamps, Belgium.
Friday 25 August 2017.
World Copyright: Steven Tee/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _R3I9622
Britain, Silverstone
Silverstone in Northamptonshire in England is such an iconic track, the first race in the F1 world Championship history since it begun in 1950. The new cars this year show that copse, maggets and becketts are near enough all flat out now, which make the lap times so quick! Red Bull in their second home race now, following on from Austria, England where the team is based in Milton Keynes. A few new parts have been put onto the RB13, Adrian Newey was seen at the race this weekend. Verstappen did well on Friday, set the 3rd fastest overall, but Ricciardo was just doing his own thing getting the laps done.
Saturday qualifying was far from any of the weather we had on the Friday, it was wet and miserable, and all cars started the session where using the intermediate tyre. They both thrive in the wet, Ricciardo went out to set a lap and managed to go fastest, but the track was getting faster and faster. Ricciardo unfortunately halfway through Q1 stopped, resulting a series of engine penalties, Verstappen starts 5th.
A clean start for the Red Bull boys, Verstappen kept 5th place whilst Ricciardo closed up the field, avoiding the contact earlier on from the Toro Rosso collision. Ricciardo lap by lap moved up the field, eventually finishing an amazing 5th from great pit stop speed and skill from Christian Horner on the pit wall. Verstappen finished 4th, the punctures that Ferrari got did make Red Bull play itself with Verstappen to pit too, rather than risk it for the podium. First time in a while that the team has double points, Verstappen scores points for the first time in a long time.
Driver Points: Verstappen 55 – Ricciardo 117
Hungary, Budapest
Budapest is one of these tracks on the F1 calendar much like Monaco and Singapore is where you need downforce and run high wings. Red Bull as a resultlook strong this weekend, much closer to the front four drivers. Their race pace on the tyreswere close, if not on certain lengths, better than Mercedes. They locked out the 3rd row of the grid, only 9 hundreths behind Hamilton, Ferrari were 0.5 secs ahead of the team.
Lights out on the Sunday in perfect clear skies, Ricciardo got the better start than Verstappen for a change, and they both attacked Mercedes into turn 1, Ricciardo edged Verstappen on the outside into turn 2, drama though as a lock up from Verstappen resulted in the two Bulls hitting each other! Severe damage to Ricciardo’s car unfortunately resulted in an early retirement but Verstappen continued, he received a 10 second penalty as a a result of the contact. Verstappen left it late to pit, was matching the likes of Vettel and Hamilton on their fresh rubber. He pit and then was on fire, closing the two Mercedes, who managed to swap on the last lap, but couldn’t take advantage, so 5th place for him.
Raikonnen finished 2nd, so caught up to Ricciardo, he is now only 1 point behind the Austrailian, Red Bull currently 83 points ahead of nearest team Force India.
Driver Points: Verstappen 65 – Ricciardo 117
Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary.
Sunday 30 July 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONZ0620
Belgium, Spa
The legendary Spa-Francorchamps, the track that most drivers love and feel to be their favourite, from the formidable Eau Rouge, and flat out corners of Pouhon and Blanchimont. Blanchimont is famous for Verstappen’s outside manoeuvre in previous seasons. Red Bull seemed to take a bit more wing of the car than most to balance their less power down the straight, but still manage to produce enough downforce through the middle sector. Verstappen out qualified Ricciardo, both on the 3rd row of the grid, close to beating Raikonnen, missing out by a tenth.
This is the closest Verstappen will get to a home Grand Prix and the crowds were in bright orange, orange for Holland. He started off well, as like Ricciardo both keeping their positions. The Kemmel Straight was were overtaking could of been done via slipstream, Vettel couldn’t get passed Hamilton and no one could pass Red Bull cars. Once more down the Kemmel Straight was when the next action happened, heart break for Verstappen as his car came to a stuttering halt. He was furious, but held it back and waved to the fans saying better luck next time. It did bring out a virtual safety car, and Raikonnen failed to lift which as a result he received a penalty which helped Ricciardo jump him in the pits.
Force India then collided once again, with a full course safety car out with the bodywork scattered across the track. Few laps remained and it went to green, Ricciardo jumped upon Bottas on the safety car restart, much like when he overtook the Williams at Baku. He then pulled away from Bottas, and Raikonnen eventually overtook his fellow Finn. Ricciardo had another podium finish to his name, much happier for the Honey Badger, but once more it was Verstappen left annoyed with mechanical failure.
Driver Points: Verstappen 65 – Ricciardo 132
Italy, Monza
The 13th round of the season is at the temple of speed, Monza. A track which of recent years hasn’t been a happy hunting ground for the Red Bulls in recent years due to their lack of brute power on the straight hurts them. Red Bull as a result increase their rake, and they take more wing off than most which also hampers them around the Lemos and Ascari chicane. Tactically they decided to take penalties here, 45 between the two drivers.
Qualifying was literally torrential downpour, a dry tyre wasn’t seen. Verstappen and Ricciardo were the second and third fastest drivers. They both drive so great in the wet, memories came back to fans of Brazil 2016 and that Verstappen’s Dad put dry tyres on his kart on a soaking wet track and told him to go find the grip.
They love those conditions, through various penalties amongst 9 drivers, they started 12th & 16th. Ricciardo drove amazingly to finish 4th, hunting down Vettel for the podium late on. He started on the slower softs and managed to get up the field, Verstappen dug his own grave, a collision with Massa ended up with him pitting with right front puncture. He managed to get into the points and finish 10th place beating Magnussen who was a bit irate with his overtake on him. Ricciardo gained a further few points on Raikonnen.
Driver Points: Verstappen 66 – Ricciardo 144
Looking Ahead
Bit by bit Red Bull seem to be getting there, all in all, it seems its a case of Deja Vu for the Austrian outfit, close but take any opportunity if the car is reliable enough like Ricciardo in Baku, but unlike Verstappen in Canada. Asia is a much more happy hunting ground than the late European season, with the likes of Singapore and Suzuka on the horizon more dependant on the overall down force of the car. Red Bull seem to be more than secure of their 3rd place spot in the standings, with the drivers far clear of the midfield. Just need to hope their reliability is cured, as Verstappen has failed to finish on various occasions now from brakes through to multiple power unit issues. Newey has helped close the gap, am sure that he is most likely looking at 2018 now, when the halo is introduced and shark/t-wings are banned too to see if he can find something to put them back at the front again.
Chris Lord
04/09/2017

Red Bull Season 2017 Review #1

Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
Sunday 09 July 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONY3502
As we head into the the latter end of the 2017 season, one by one at Pit Crew we are looking into each individual team with specific weeks. This we look into the Austrian outfit Red Bull Racing. The drivers continued from the 2016 season with Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who always is a joy to watch with deep braking and has a cracking personality. Dutchman ‘Go big or go home’ Max Verstappen also stays, his first full season in the Red Bull after his halfway season swap with Danil Kyvat in 2016 from Toro Rosso. Many think that Red Bull have the best driving partnership on the grid.
Pre-Season
Everyone was optimistic about Red Bull’s chances for the 2017 season. The regulation changes were based on aerodynamics for the season forthcoming and Red Bull always are known for their grear aerodynamics and chassis. It was hoping with that it would outweigh the deficit that the Renault has in terms of horsepower to Ferrari and Mercedes. In the original release of the Red Bull the car looked very basic unlike its rivals, which raised concern. It did have the unique hole in its nose. This did though made the car launch more popular.
In the pre-season tests pace did look promising as day by day additions were coming in from Milton Keynes to adapt onto their RB13. Their car was building well, but again reliability was something that was out of their control. Much like Renault and Toro Rosso their gearbox and engines had problems, so much so they had to revert to 2016 items for the first few races. These were heavier and less powerful which hindered them. The cars still looked very basic compared to the depth of sidepod changes that Ferrari had between 2016 & 2017. They also did not introduce a T-Wing till later in the season. Adrian Newey at this time was away so did not have his full say in the car’s full design.
Australia, Melbourne
This was where we first saw the order of the pack, and it showed that Red Bull were in No Mans Land, as per 2016, it seems Deja Vu for the Austrian team. They were too far behind to challenge Ferrari & Mercedes, but too far ahead to be challenged by Force India & Williams. Their race pace was promising but just lack outright qualifying speed. Ricciardo had a weekend to forget, in Q3 he ended up in the wall after a rare mistake. His car then failed twice on Sunday, on the way to the grid, missing the start, and then towards the end of the first sector halfway through the race on lap 25. Verstappen qualified 5th and then finished 5th. He ended much closer to Raikonnen than people expected. Seemed to set the trend that as per mentioned the race pace of the RB13 is strong but lacks outright speed on Saturday.
Driver Points: Verstappen 10 – Ricciardo 0
China, Shanghai
The Chinese Grand Prix was hindered significantly in its Friday running, when the weather restricted the medical helicopter to fly. Only 20 mins of practice was raced throughout weekend. Reliability gremlins were still in the Red Bull pit area following on from Austrailia but this time it was Verstappen that struggled. He suffered with power deficit and the Shanghai back straight is one of longest of the season, it resulted in him being knocked out in Q1. Ricciardo was best of the rest, qualifying 5th, very much a role reversal from Austrailia.
The weather had a say in the race on Sunday, the majority of the track was dry, but on the main straight and few areas it was still wet from overnight rain. 19/20 drivers started on intermediates. Verstappen due to penalties started 16th, his start was simply amazing! He was up in the top ten crossing the line into lap 2 through passing at the start and midpack collisions. Verstappen was coy and through use of his skill as per seen in Brazil last year and the early safety car he managed to finish an incredible 3rd. Ricciardo was hot on his heels finishing 4th. Great wheel to wheel action but it was kept clean. A much better weekend for the Austrian outfit with a double points finish. Verstappen moved to 3rd in the drivers championship, whilst Ricciardo scored his first points of the season.
Driver Points: Verstappen 25 – Ricciardo 12
Red Bull Ring, Spielberg, Austria.
Sunday 09 July 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _54I1370
Bahrain, Sakhir
The form of China carried on into the desert of Bahrain. The team looking closer again to the two in front of them. It was just once again, they couldn’t turn their engine up like them. Mercedes had on average a 2 second difference from their Q1 time to Q3 whilst Red Bull only found a second. They were edging closer though, Ricciardo managed to out qualify Raikonnen’s Ferrari. The car was looking better, new additions around the front end of the car was to blame.
They both started well in the Grand Prix, but then on lap 11 after a pit stop for Verstappen trouble happened, heading to the end of sector 1, the second heavy braking area around the track the car didn’t respond to him, it ground to halt in the gravel. He unfortunately retired due to a brake failure. Carlos Sainz and Lance Stroll had an incident as well which brought out the safety car, Ricciardo was caugh among a controversial move by Hamilton. He ended at the end of the period ahead of the British driver. Hamilton turned up the engine and passed him easily along the main straight on the restart. Kimi Raikonnen also passed him later on, as a result he finished 5th. Verstappen due to his non-finish dropped to 5th in the overall standings.
Driver Points: Verstappen 25 – Ricciardo 22
Russia, Sochi
Sochi was moved for the 2017 season, swapping places with Maylasia. This track unlike Bahrain is much more focused on the power of the car rather than outright grip. Williams were much closer to Red Bull as a result, Ricciardo qualified 1.9 seconds behind the eventual pole sitter Sebastien Vettel. Felipe Massa in the Williams managed to split the Red Bull duo, a shade quicker than Verstappen.
The race start was clean, not much contact had occurred on the first lap so far this point of the season, with wider cars, everyone thought that it would be even more collisions. Ricciardo was challenging Raikonnen for 4th, but got caught in, as a result Verstappen got passed the Williams of Massa and Ricciardo into 5th place. The race was very lacklustre after the first lap, there wasn’t any overtakes, except if it does count when Ricciardo’s brake caught alight. It did end up with the Australian failing to finish, back to back brake failures, and their third mechanical retirement of the season. Verstappen finished 5th, a whole minute behind the winner Bottas, a very lonely race for the Dutchman.
Driver Points: Verstappen 35 – Ricciardo 22
Silverstone, Northamptonshire, UK.
Friday 14 July 2017.
World Copyright: Zak Mauger/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _56I8274
Spain, Barcelona
Much promise was made of Red Bull, with the supposed RB13B being introduced at Spain. As per mentioned with Russia swapping with Maylasia, Spain for the first time wasn’t the first European race of the season. Barcelona tends to be where the first big set of upgrades are brought. After a disapointing beginning of the season albeit podium places here and there they want to be fighting for the championship. They brought updates, the car looking much less basic than it was back in Australia. Renault importantly also did too, if you look back to this article we wrote earlier in the season about their MGU-K. The Red Bull had a new colour scheme in practice, quite a lot of flowviz paint was used.
The car was much more competitive but once more others could turn the wick on their engine up. It was much better though, Verstappen was only 0.6 seconds slower to the 1.2 seconds they were back in Sochi. Ricciardo didn’t have the best of days on the Saturday, a whopping 0.4 behind Verstappen.
Race day was upon us, Red Bull looked good in terms of matching on certain compounds Ferrari and Mercedes, it was all down to the start. The original launch was good for Verstappen, was making the most of the new settings they follow this year, got up alongside Raikonnen into turn 1, but a bang of wheels plush on resulted in terminal damage for both drivers. This resulting in the iconic small video clip of the boy in the stand crying his eyes out. Ricciardo as a result moved up into 4th following, the two Mercedes and Vettel, but this soon became 3rd as a rare failure on the Mercedes happened as Bottas car pulled to the side with engine failure. Ricciardo finished 75 seconds behind the two championship contagnists, being the only 1 besides them not to be lapped. Ricciardo overtook Verstappen in the championship for the first time this season.
Driver Points: Verstappen 35 – Ricciardo 37
Monaco, Monaco
The unique race amongst the principality of Monaco was round 6 in the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, much like Barcelona a less demanding power track, much hoped Red Bull could be in with the mix for the victory much like last year if it weren’t for the mishap that Ricciardo had in the race. From the offset they looked competitive with Verstappen 3rd quickest on the Thursday, Ricciardo was there abouts, albeit he didn’t get to do a full on lap in practice 3 due to another brake failure on his car so his true pace wasn’t seen until qualifying.
Qualifying did show a shock with Lewis Hamilton being eliminated in Q2, this did give the Bulls an opportunity to qualify higher than they have done this season. Verstappen was the closest Red Bull got to pole all season, the top four being himself, Bottas and the two Ferrari’s only 0.3 seconds between them. Ricciardo made a mistake on his fast lap, but was best of the rest in 5th.
For the first time since China both drivers finished the race, and much like China one of them ended up on the podium. This was once more Ricciardo, himself and Vettel both used the overcut to effect rather than at any other tracks more than likely the undercut being the best option. Monaco always a tough one to pass around, but through the sole pit stop phase Ricciardo went from behind Verstappen, to passing him and Bottas. A late safety car piled the pressure on Ricciardo from Bottas behind but it was a great drive from him once more. Verstappen not best pleased with the team as he missed out on that opportunity. They outscored the Mercedes team with Hamilton finishing 7th.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 52
 
Canada, Montreal
Montreal is such a stunning track, the flow of the circuit and scenery that is surrounded by makes it one of the best on the calendar. The track does have many memorable moments, much like Ricciardo’s 2014 victory. Montreal is back to Russia, more a power themed track than out right downforce than the previous two races. Red Bull had a few more new developments here, and their race pace was promising compatable with the speeds of Hamilton and Vettel. They got close to Raikonnen in qualifying, but Hamilton and Vettel were in a league of their own on the Saturday.
Verstappen without a doubt thus far has the best start of the season award, starting on the 3rd row in 5th he managed to climb 3 places, going into the second corner in 2nd place just behind the gearbox of Hamilton. Ricciardo also managed to pass Raikonnen, at the end of the first lap, they were 2nd and 5th. Hamilton couldn’t get away but on to the start of lap 11 and Verstappen suffered another engine electrical failure, amazing from the teenager but once more with nothing to show for it. Ricciardo held onto 3rd, Raikonnen was nowhere in the race, whilst Vettel only finished 0.7 behind the Austrailian. A third podium in a row now for the Australian, he was closing in on 4th in the championship and pulling away from Verstappen.
Driver Points: Verstappen 43 – Ricciardo 67
Red Bull are not where they are wanting to be at this current time. Adrian Newey, the greatest designer in the F1 world was appearing more often at the Grand Prix. His project with Aston Martin and the Americas Cup boat championship has been put aside. A few new boosts to power were showing from Renault and Newey began to adapt his thoughts on the RB13. Our second part of the Red Bull 2017 series will follow shortly, from Azerbaijan to Italy. Will Newey and Renault’s input make way for further success for the Red Bull team?
Chris Lord