Sergio Pérez takes maiden victory in astonishing Sakhir GP

What a race! In the jumbled up 2020 calendar that began in July at the Red Bull Ring, the last three races are a triple feast in the Middle East. Beginning with the traditional Bahrain circuit last weekend and ending the season at the Yas Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi but that middle race would be another one at Bahrain. However it would be on the outer circuit which the F1 cars had been lapping at under a minute all through the weekend.

The lead up to the weekend was already packed with action, as Romain Grosjean’s horror crash from which he thankfully escaped with just a few burns meant that Haas drafted in reserve driver Pietro Fittipaldi. Then the huge bombshell dropped that world champion Lewis Hamilton had tested positive for COVID-19 which meant Mercedes had to go looking for a replacement driver. That turned out to be George Russell who left a vacant seat at Williams, and that ended up being F2 racer Jack Aitken.

F2 driver Jack Aitken stepped in for Mercedes-bound George Russell this weekend – Courtesy of Williams Media

In qualifying, it was Bottas who just pipped Russell to pole by a microscopic margin. Max Verstappen qualified third and Charles Leclerc put in a mighty lap to drag that lacklustre Ferrari to fourth on the grid, and following him were Pérez, Kvyat, Ricciardo, Sainz, Gasly, Stroll, Ocon, Albon, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Latifi, Aitken, Räikkönen, and at the back were Norris and Fittipaldi who had taken grid penalties.

At the start, Russell immediately got away better than Bottas who had to hold off Verstappen’s advances, and struggled to get out the first few corners. His compatriot Räikkönen spun in the back of shot and thankfully no awful imagery to worry about like last week at the same corner. But Bottas’ eyes were on Verstappen, closing the door on him which left an open opportunity for Pérez to go past the Red Bull.

After an intense qualifying, Russell pipped Bottas into the first corner – Courtesy of Mercedes media

But it was Leclerc who got caught out trying to brake for the corner, smacked into the Racing Point and spun him round, leaving Verstappen with nowhere to go but into the wall and retirement along with Leclerc. Somehow, Pérez was able to continue and pitted, benefitting from the subsequent safety car and was able to rejoin the back of the pack in 18th.

At the front, Russell’s massive lead that he got at the start was eliminated, but he wasn’t done. The safety car period ended on lap six and Russell eased off whilst Bottas was under pressure from McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who rose to third amid the first lap chaos. He went around the outside of Bottas into turn one, but going through the turn two and three complex, Sainz ran wide and that allowed the Merc right back through.

Whilst Russell was experiencing what it’s like to be in the lead in an F1 car, further down the order were two of his mates, Lando Norris and Alex Albon. Lap 20 and Albon made a move stick on Norris, who was then immediately overtaken by Pérez despite the Mexican being spun on the first lap. The following lap, Albon was then passed by Pérez at the same corner.

Back at the front with Russell, he already had a gap of over a second before the DRS was enabled. The Mercs began gapping Sainz, and it was a steady lead Russell held over Bottas which fluctuated as they negotiated lapped traffic. He extended that lead after he pitted, undercutting Bottas after he was left out for a further four laps, and the gap went to the highest it had been all race even in spite of a sensor scare.

Russell’s typical Williams teammate Nicholas Latifi pulled off and caused a Virtual Safety Car, and not much changed other than Bottas swiped into Russell’s lead. But Pérez was continuing his charge through the field, putting a move on teammate Lance Stroll going into turn four and then the following lap, on former Force India teammate Esteban Ocon. The Mexican was absolutely flying out there. He was now on course for a podium finish with his strategy completely played out.

However, Russell’s replacement at Williams Jack Aitken lost the car coming out of the last corner and clattered the tyre barrier, leaving his front wing on the track and he dove for the pits. A Virtual Safety Car was initially called, but that became a full Safety Car, and Mercedes felt the need to cover off Pérez. But man, did they mess up.

The two Mercs double stacked, Russell came in and they put on the tyres, all well and good. Then Bottas came in and there seemed to be some hesitation, and they sent him back out on the same tyres he pitted with, which was a bit odd as to why they did that. Then it became very apparent. Russell had been sent out on tyres which were intended for Bottas, so now he was bunched up behind the safety car with Pérez, Ocon and Stroll behind him and he was called back to the pits to change the tyres.

This was a huge mess-up on Mercedes’ part. Russell came back out in fifth behind Bottas who remained on his old set, but looked to have the best tyres out of everyone in the top five. Racing resumed and Russell was a man on a mission, making quick work of his teammate on the old set of tyres pulling off an immense outside move going through the long turn six, then passing Stroll and Ocon with the help of DRS. He then set to work catching Pérez who was a long way up the road.

Russell was eating into Pérez’s advantage lap after lap but yet again, disaster. Russell was called back to the pits AGAIN as he had a slow puncture and they put him on softs, whilst the other Mercedes of Bottas just went backwards as he was overtaken by Sainz, Ricciardo and Albon in very quick succession.

But up at the front, a man who for some reason doesn’t have a drive in 2021 guaranteed. Sergio Pérez took an incredible first win for both himself, and the team that he’s leaving after next week’s season finale. Esteban Ocon took second ahead of Lance Stroll, then it was Sainz, Ricciardo, Kvyat had also passed Bottas in the closing stages, Russell recovered to ninth ahead of Norris who scored the last point.

Russell finally got his long awaited first points finish as well as another for fastest lap, although it was little consolation for what was throughout the entire race looking set to be an incredible first win for the guy. He did absolutely incredibly all weekend, and it definitely will not be the last we hear from Russell, who may get a second stab at the cherry this weekend in Abu Dhabi providing Hamilton isn’t well enough to participate.

Esteban Ocon earned a thoroughly-well deserved podium – Courtesy of Renault Media

But it was Pérez who after 190 starts, finally took victory and became the first Mexican to win an F1 Grand Prix in 50 years. A win that was perhaps long overdue, especially if we harken back to Malaysia 2012 when he came very close in his Sauber to denying Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso a win that day. But better late than never, and hopefully Pérez is not out of F1 for long.

F2 Sakhir: Daruvala wins as Schumacher crowned champion in tense finale

Jehan Daruvala led a Carlin 1–2 in the Sakhir sprint race for his first win in Formula 2, while Mick Schumacher clinched the 2020 championship in a dramatic final round of the year.

Daruvala initially lost out at the start, as an unsuccessful move for the lead on polesitter Dan Ticktum into Turn 1 shuffled him back to third, with Schumacher benefiting to take second.

But at Turn 4 Schumacher had a major lockup as he tried to take the lead from Ticktum, and Daruvala retook second place as Schumacher got his car back under control.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

The lockup left Schumacher with a big flat spot on his right front tyre, which put him under pressure from his championship rival Callum Ilott in fourth. Schumacher briefly relieved that pressure by setting the fastest lap to catch and pass Daruvala again with a daring move around the outside of Turn 6. But that only lasted until lap 8 when Daruvala got back ahead once again.

As he struggled with the vibrations from his tyre, Schumacher made several lockups trying to keep Ilott behind. His teammate Robert Shwartzman tried to get involved as a rear gunner by harrying Ilott from fifth, but ultimately neither Prema was able to stop Ilott from breezing past Schumacher on lap 19.

Once Ilott was ahead, Schumacher plummeted through the points positions. He was passed by Shwartzman and Guanyu Zhou a few corners later, and spent the rest of the lap defending from Yuki Tsunoda before choosing to risk a pit stop for fresh softs.

With Schumacher coming back out in 20th, Ilott’s chances of winning the title rested on catching Ticktum and Daruvala to take the race win. But the laps spent trying to get past Schumacher had damaged Ilott’s tyres as well, and he wasn’t able to make any dent in his gap to the front.

Callum Ilott, UNI-Virtuosi (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

Meanwhile, Tsunoda started moving through the pack with rapid pace. On lap 24 he took fifth from Shwartzman, then fourth from Zhou a lap later.

On lap 26, Tsunoda caught Ilott and passed him into Turn 1. Ilott then began to drop back as Schumacher had. His teammate Zhou overtook him for fourth through Turn 4, before he was eventually shuffled back through the order and out of the points by Shwartzman, Giuliano Alesi, Luca Ghiotto and Nikita Mazepin.

As Tsunoda was carving his way through the field towards the podium, his teammate Daruvala was hassling Ticktum for the race lead as Ticktum struggled with fading rear tyres.

Daruvala cut the lead down to three tenths as early as lap 13. But despite Daruvala going for an overtake nearly every time the pair went through Turns 1 and 4, Ticktum was able to hold the Carlin behind for another 12 laps.

His defence came undone however with a lock up out of the final corner on lap 25, which allowed Daruvala through before the DRS straight. Daruvala then pounced clear for the remaining 10 laps, while Ticktum eventually fell back into the clutches of Tsunoda and had to settle for third behind the two Carlins.

Dan Ticktum, DAMS (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

Zhou finished fourth ahead of Shwartzman, Alesi, Ghiotto and Felipe Drugovich. Schumacher could only improve to 18th by the chequered flag, but with Ilott unable to get back into the points his championship was assured.

Tsunoda clinched third place in the standings ahead of Shwartzman and Mazepin, securing enough points for his FIA Super Licence and earning him the Anthoine Hubert Award for the highest-placed rookie driver. Carlin also beat Hitech to third in the teams’ standings.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 15
2 Yuki Tsunoda (FL) Carlin 14
3 Dan Ticktum DAMS 10
4 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 8
5 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 6
6 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport 4
7 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix 2
8 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 1
9 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix
10 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing
11 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System
12 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
13 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
14 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
15 Roy Nissany Trident
16 Marino Sato Trident
17 Sean Gelael DAMS
18 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing
19 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing
20 Artem Markelov BWT HWA Racelab
21 Theo Pourchaire BWT HWA Racelab
Ret. Ralph Boschung Campos Racing

 

F2 Sakhir: Tsunoda wins as title goes to the final race

Yuki Tsunoda won the feature race on the Sakhir outer loop after a frantic battle at the front of the field, while Callum Ilott and Mick Schumacher finished in the lower points to take the title fight to the final race tomorrow.

Tsunoda started from pole but lost the lead of the race into Turn 1, as he was passed by both Nikita Mazepin and Robert Shwartzman. Jehan Daruvala slipped back off the line, promoting Felipe Drugovich to fourth.

Meanwhile, Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher, both starting on the hard tyres, gained at the start, with the former reaching eighth and the latter moving from P18 to P16. Both drivers then set about making rapid progress past the cars on soft tyres around them throughout the opening laps.

As Zhou reeled in Ilott and Daruvala to move up to sixth, Schumacher picked his way through Louis Deletraz, Roy Nissany, Giuliano Alesi and Theo Pourchaire to get within touching distance of the points by the end of lap 7.

Mick Schumacher, Prema (Scuderia Ferrari Press Office)

At the front of the field, Tsunoda recovered from his drop at the first corner and retook second place from Shwartzman on lap 13. When Shwartzman and Mazepin then made their stops for hard tyres in the next few laps, Tsunoda stayed out to attempt the overcut and stopped at the end of lap 16.

The strategy seemed to work as Tsunoda emerged from the pits ahead of Mazepin, but his colder tyres meant he was soon passed by both Mazepin and Shwartzman on his out lap.

The overcut strategy was more successful for Drugovich, who stayed out until the end of lap 20 and managed to make up enough time to join Mazepin, Shwartzman and Tsunoda in the fight for the net lead.

With the frontrunners having stopped, the top three positions were assumed by Zhou, Dan Ticktum and Schumacher who were all running the alternative strategy having started on hards. Ticktum was the first of these to pit for softs at the end of lap 26, but Zhou and Schumacher both waited a few laps longer before making their own stops.

Once they were on softs, their pace advantage over the rest of the field on hards was plain to see. Schumacher rejoined the race in P12 but was very quickly up into the points with passes on Deletraz, Artem Markelov, Ticktum and Pedro Piquet, and set the fastest lap in the process.

Zhou meanwhile passed Daruvala and Ilott for the second time in the race to take fifth, and was closing rapidly on the leading quartet of Mazepin, Shwartzman, Tsunoda and Drugovich.

Felipe Drugovich, MP Motorsport (Rudy Carezzevoli / Getty Images)

As Zhou got closer behind them, Tsunoda took second from Shwartzman on lap 36 and started chipping away at Mazepin’s 1.3 second lead. Tsunoda got Mazepin within DRS range on lap 43, and at the start of the following lap he swung to the inside down the pit straight to make the move. Mazepin ran Tsunoda close to the pit wall to defend, but Tsunoda was through into the lead by Turn 1.

Mazepin then ran wide at the final corner of the lap, allowing Drugovich through for second and putting Mazepin under DRS pressure from Zhou, who had got by Shwartzman for fourth. After repeating the same defence he tried on Tsunoda a lap earlier, Mazepin briefly held his position but lost out to Zhou a few corners later.

Drugovich ran wide on lap 45 and gifted Zhou and Mazepin a position as he dropped to fourth. But the Brazilian regrouped to attack Mazepin for third on the final lap. Mazepin again put up a questionable defence, edging Drugovich towards the pit wall first and then off the road a few corners later, and was able to keep his car ahead.

With Mazepin defending from Drugovich, Zhou was able to pull clear to secure second place behind Tsunoda. Mazepin held on to third ahead of Drugovich, with Shwartzman coming home in fifth.

Guanyu Zhou, UNI-Virtuosi (Dan Istitene / Formula 1 via Getty Images)

Ilott and Schumacher finished sixth and seventh. With Schumacher taking an extra two points for the fastest lap, the gap between them in the standings remains at 14 points with 17 available in the sprint race. Daruvala will start that sprint race from pole after finishing eighth ahead of Ticktum and Piquet.

Schumacher only has to finish sixth or higher tomorrow to guarantee the title, regardless of Ilott’s position. For Ilott to overhaul his rival he’ll have to either win the race with Schumacher eighth or lower, or take second place and the fastest lap with Schumacher failing to score.

Nevertheless, Schumacher’s points together with Shwartzman’s fifth place was enough for Prema to secure the teams’ championship ahead of UNI-Virtuosi.

UPDATE: Mazepin was given two five-second penalties as well as two penalty points on his licence for forcing Tsunoda onto the pit exit on lap 44 and blocking Drugovich on the pit straight on lap 48. Mazepin drops to ninth in the classification, which promotes Drugovich to the podium.

Full race result:

Pos. Driver Team Points
1 Yuki Tsunoda Carlin 25
2 Guanyu Zhou UNI-Virtuosi Racing 18
3 Felipe Drugovich MP Motorsport 15
4 Robert Shwartzman Prema Racing 12
5 Callum Ilott UNI-Virtuosi Racing 10
6 Mick Schumacher Prema Racing 10
7 Jehan Daruvala Carlin 6
8 Dan Ticktum DAMS 4
9 Nikita Mazepin Hitech Grand Prix 2
10 Pedro Piquet Charouz Racing System 1
11 Marcus Armstrong ART Grand Prix
12 Louis Deletraz Charouz Racing System
13 Artem Markalov BWT HWA Racelab
14 Ralph Boschung Campos Racing
15 Giuliano Alesi MP Motorsport
16 Luca Ghiotto Hitech Grand Prix
17 Marino Sato Trident
18 Theo Pourchaire BWT HWA Racelab
19 Sean Gelael DAMS
20 Roy Nissany Trident
21 Christian Lundgaard ART Grand Prix
22 Guilherme Samaia Campos Racing

 

Bahrain – but not quite how we know it: Sakhir Grand Prix Preview

After a heart-in-mouth opening lap last time out in Bahrain, F1 returns to Sakhir this weekend, but the track will look a little different.

Turning left immediately after turn four, the drivers will embark on an oval version that goes round to the end of the lap, with sub-one minute lap times anticipated.

Due to the freshness of the outer layout, there will be an odd and intriguing contrast between a rubbered-in track and a green circuit with very little grip.

However, the outer part is mainly full throttle and requires a lot of power, which is why more Mercedes dominance is expected.

Despite that, a track like this is reminiscent to other short circuits like Austria. Losing even the slightest time can be of extreme detriment, and it will prove incredibly difficult to re-gain that time once it is lost, particularly in qualifying.

But while we were all expecting the new layout to be the main talking point of this weekend, it is the miracle escape for Haas’ Romain Grosjean that will dominate race preparations, following a moment that shocked the sporting world.

Romain Grosjean’s injuries mean he will not be taking part this weekend – Courtesy of Haas Media

Grosjean turned across the track and hit the Alpha Tauri of Daniil Kvyat, before smashing into the barrier and splitting his car in two, as it burst into flames in the process.

Having been in the fire for half a minute, the Frenchman was somehow able to escape from the car and, with the help of the heroic marshals and Dr. Ian Roberts, got away with only minor burns to his hands and ankles.

But the FIA will doubtless be looking closely at how the barrier broke in the way it did, and why there was such an enormous fireball upon impact. However, the halo and the safety mechanisms within the car did their job, and all came together to save Grosjean’s life.

He will be replaced by young Brazilian driver Pietro Fittipaldi while he continues to recover, and going up against Danish driver Kevin Magnussen will be the Test and Reserve’s first test in the F1 scene.

Pietro Fittipaldi will make his debut this weekend – Courtesy of Haas Media

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Mercedes will be striving to further push home their advantage in what is a version of the track that suits them even better than the previous. Lewis Hamilton is aiming for his 96th career win, as he also aims to surpass Sebastian Vettel for wins in Bahrain.

His team mate Valtteri Bottas had yet more horrible misfortune early on in bahrain which cost him a place on the podium, with Red Bull taking full advantage. Max Verstappen took second, while Alex Albon took his second podium of the season and strengthened his chances of retaining his Red Bull seat next year.

Red Bull were buoyed by a double-podium last time in Bahrain – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

The Ferrari-powered teams will likely struggle more this weekend and, having only seen Charles Leclerc’s works Ferrari score a single point last time, this may be another weekend to forget for the Prancing Horses, Alfa Romeo and Haas.

Charles Leclerc brought home the only point for the Ferrari-based teams last weekend – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Racing Point fell 17 points behind McLaren after the double non-finish last weekend. Lance Stroll found himself the wrong way up after Kvyat’s spear into turn eight, while a late and gut-wrenching engine failure for Sergio Perez cost him a podium. McLaren, meanwhile, scored points with both Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz. As a result, McLaren will come into this weekend knowing they can put themselves in a very strong position indeed going into the last race in Abu Dhabi as the battle for third intensifies.

McLaren are within touching distance of third in the Constructors’ Championship after the events of the Bahrain Grand Prix – Courtesy of McLaren Media

It is still Bahrain, but minus a large chunk of the track – and hopefully minus the heavy crashes too.

Feature Image Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Who is Pietro Fittipaldi?

In the wake of Romain Grosjean’s awful crash at the start of the Bahrain Grand Prix, the Haas F1 team have announced that to allow him some time to recover, the second Haas seat alongside Kevin Magnussen will be filled in for at least the Sakhir Grand Prix by Pietro Fittipaldi. In light of this announcement, it would be a good time to talk you through the career of another chapter in the Fittipaldi F1 dynasty.

Injuries sustained in last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix mean that Grosjean cannot take part in this weekend’s Sakhir Grand prix – Courtesy of Haas Media

So as you have already guessed, yes Pietro is related to 1972 and 1974 F1 world champion Emerson Fittipaldi. He began karting when he was eight years old in Florida having been born there, and went on to win three important championships between 2006 and 2010. He also racked up 37 wins, 63 podiums and 21 pole positions in that time.

He made the step up to car racing in the short-track NASCAR series, and his first taste of championship success came in 2011 when he won the individual track championship of the Hickory Motor Speedway, when he was aged only 15. At the end of 2012, he decided to make the trip across the Atlantic to Europe and have a crack at single-seaters.

He made his single-seater debut in the BARC Formula Renault championship, finishing 8th in the championship for 2013 and then for the following year he completely wiped the floor with the rest of the field, winning the championship by a huge margin. He also made a one-off appearance in the Formula Renault EuroCup series as well as a partial campaign in the Formula Renault Alps championship. Despite only doing four of the seven events, he still managed to finish a respectable ninth in the final standings.

For 2015, he stepped up to Euro F3 but endured a lowly year, scoring only 32 points and finishing 16th at the end of the season. His team Fortec Motorsports were not the force they once were in F3. Undeterred though, he stuck with Fortec and moved up to the Formula V8 3.5 Series for 2016.

The championship Pietro was entering was the phoenix rising out of the ashes of what was Formula Renault 3.5, just Renault had withdrawn their support for the series that was a strong alternative to GP2 (now Formula 2). It was a shell of its former self but still contained some notable talent, but it still didn’t help Pietro and he ended the season tenth. The following year however, he stuck to the series and moved to the Lotus-branded Charouz team for 2017.

The series made the step up in terms of new locations. Having only been racing in Europe the previous season, Formula V8 3.5 raced on the undercard to the FIA World Endurance Championship at the likes of the Mexican, US and Bahrain Grand Prix circuits. Grid numbers were dwindling however and the series was dying a slow death, but that didn’t take away what Pietro achieved that season.

Fittipaldi has impressed in the junior Formulae prior to his call-up this weekend in Sakhir – Courtesy of Ferrari Media

Battling to the last round, he went up against SMP Racing-backed Matevos Isaakyan and won the championship. So now Pietro would look to the following season as to what to compete in and logically the next step would be F2, however he opted for a heavy program in 2018. At least, he intended to.

Fittipaldi opted to compete in three different championships in 2018: Japanese Super Formula with Team LeMans, IndyCar with Dale Coyne Racing and the FIA World Endurance Championship with DragonSpeed. Some programs would have taken priority over others; the reason I say that is because it didn’t entirely pan out like that.

After doing a single event in IndyCar and Super Formula, Pietro was qualifying for the WEC 6 hours of Spa when his power steering seized going up Eau Rouge. He went straight into the tyre wall which resulted in a compound fracture of his lower left leg and broken right ankle. He required surgery and was out of action for a couple of months, but thankfully he was able to get back to competing in IndyCar for the last five races of the season.

For 2019, it was announced that Fittipaldi would become one of the test and reserve drivers for Haas F1 with the intention of getting some time in the car in Free Practice 1 sessions. Alongside that though, Fittipaldi was also confirmed to be competing in the DTM championship as one the Audi drivers, which didn’t yield much success but he still scored a respectable 22 points, and even a couple of fastest laps.

He didn’t remain in DTM for this year – I’m not entirely sure if he had a racing program for this year before the pandemic hit – but in any case he’s remained Haas’ reserve driver. Now, in the wake of Grosjean’s horror crash, Pietro Fittipaldi will make his F1 debut this weekend in the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix. It is unlikely we will see Pietro in F1 full time unfortunately unless he does what Kamui Kobayashi did and stun everyone enough in these last two races to earn a race drive. Though with pretty much all the seats taken, even that won’t mean he’ll earn one.

Fittipaldi, Haas’ test and reserve driver, will now make his Formula One Grand Prix debut

However it doesn’t mean he will be the last Fittipaldi in F1. Be on the look out for Pietro’s brother Enzo who is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy. He was Italian F4 champion in 2018, runner up in Formula Regional Europe last year and competed this year in FIA F3. Also Emerson Fittipaldi, Jr., who is part of the Sauber Junior Team and is competing in European karting. And yes.. he’s actually the uncle of Pietro and Enzo, despite being born in 2007.

Back to Pietro, don’t expect any miracles from him having never been in an F1 car in a race situation or tested extensively. However, any and all potential outcomes for Pietro can only be a win for him. Best of luck to him and of course, all our well wishes to Romain Grosjean and his family as he makes his recovery.