Ferrari vs Red Bull 2022: Consistency is Key

Charles Leclerc took the latest win in the growing rivalry between Red Bull and Ferrari in Australia. Red Bull are trying to stay in the battle but with another DNF for Max Verstappen this is not how to keep up the fight.

It looks as if a fuel leak caused Verstappen’s engine to shut down and catch fire on lap 38 of the Grand Prix. It doesn’t appear as if it’s same issue which caused a double DNF for Red Bull in Bahrain but that was also a fuel system issue. However, Verstappen had been nursing an issue for the entire race before his retirement. Luckily for them though Perez was unaffected in Australia and picked up P2.

These reliability issues are understandably causing Verstappen and Red Bull to become frustrated. In a post-race interview with Sky Sports, Verstappen explained he was aiming at P2 because he couldn’t fight Leclerc but “we didn’t even finish the race, which is pretty frustrating and unacceptable”.

In response, Christian Horner simply said, “I’d rather fix a fast car the make a reliable slow one”. But how can they expect to be really in the battle if they can’t consistently finish races? Only finishing one third of races is not a statistic which the reigning world champion will want to continue for much longer. The Ferrari of Leclerc was obviously in a league of its own in Australia and Horner’s opinions may be inaccurate if they can’t keep up with him even when the car is working.

Leclerc is now ahead of everyone else by 34 points in the driver’s standings with George Russell in P2. To add to Red Bulls pain Mercedes will smirk at Horner’s philosophy as they sit higher in the constructor’s championship with their relatively slower, but more reliable car. This is due to them picking up the podiums which Red Bull couldn’t keep hold of in Bahrain and Australia.

George Russell’s P3 after Verstappen drops out. Image courtesty of Mercedes Media

It’s becoming more and more likely that Red Bull will be fighting Mercedes for points if they can’t resolve these reliability problems, leaving Ferrari out in front. Further to this they will become more reliant of Sergio Perez for points meaning the dynamic in that team may need to change.

It’s no secret that Perez is the number two driver at Red Bull, but he seems to treat the car with a little less aggression compared to Verstappen. This means that it could be possible that reliability issues may come more often to Verstappen’s car. Along with the hard battles which we have already seen between him and Leclerc, potentially leading to future incidents.

The fight from Jeddah between the rivals. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

If Red Bull learnt anything from last year, it should be that they need both drivers to be consistently at the top to secure the constructor’s title. Mercedes had both Bottas and Hamilton fighting for the team, picking up points and ultimately winning the constructor’s title for the 8th time. This is the sort of attitude they will need to adopt to disturb Ferrari’s apparent comfort at the top.

Fortunately for Red Bull, in Australia Carlos Sainz had a weekend to forget. His qualifying session did not go well with an eventual red flag meaning he started the race in P9. Then on lap 2 he went too wide at turn 9 meaning he ended up in the gravel trap and was out. He had an electrical issue all weekend which didn’t affect his teammate.

Looking forward to Imola, Ferrari will want to capitalise on their momentum to bring a win for the tifosi. Red Bull want to upset that by coming back stronger like they did in Jeddah. The key to this championship appears to the reliability and consistency. We are only 3 races into a 23 race calendar so now is when Red Bull need to fix their problems if they want to be at the top by the end of the year.

Dominant Leclerc extends championship lead with Australian GP victory

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc converted pole position into his second victory of the season at Albert Park, as Max Verstappen failed to finish with hydraulic issues.

The only time the victory looked in doubt for the Monegasque driver was after the second safety car, when a slow restart gave Verstappen an opportunity to attack into turn one, but Leclerc held on to extend his championship lead to thirty-four points over Mercedes’ George Russell.

In the end, even if Verstappen had made the overtake it would have been inconsequential, as Red Bull’s reliability issues reared their ugly head once again, with the Dutchman’s car failing at the start of lap 39, just seconds after he had set the fastest lap of the race.

Sergio Perez secured his first podium of the season in second place, as Mercedes matched their best result of the season from Bahrain, with George Russell leading Lewis Hamilton home in third and fourth.

It was Hamilton who had the best start out of the front runners, jumping from fifth to third on the run towards the first corner, overtaking Perez and Lando Norris. One man who did not have a good start was Carlos Sainz, dropping five places as he struggled with the hard tyres. Tyre warmup was the least of his concerns on lap two however, as the Spaniard went deep into turn nine, losing the car over the grass and ending beached in the gravel. This is the first time Sainz has failed to score points since the French GP last year.

Into turn 1 at the start of the GP. Image courtesy of Red Bull content Pool

Perez was able to work his way back past Hamilton in the first stint, but the Mercedes driver looked to be managing his tyres better, and was briefly able to make the overcut work on the Mexican driver, before Perez struck back with a bold move around the outside of turn ten.

Lewis may feel aggrieved that it was his teammate who scored the podium, and not him. Russell admitted afterwards he had been fortunate with the timing of the second safety car, which was brought out by Sebastian Vettel’s miserable weekend coming to an end in the barrier at turn four. This allowed Russell to take advantage of a cheap pit stop to come out ahead of Perez in third, but the Mexican was soon able to make his way past the Briton.

It was a much more promising race for Mercedes, who looked to be matching the Red Bulls on pace at times throughout the race. McLaren also had their best result of 2022, with Norris just finishing ahead of home hero Daniel Ricciardo, as they finished fifth and sixth. Esteban Ocon secured seventh for Alpine, in what was a very quiet race for the Frenchman.

The McLarens solid performance all weekend. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

This was the first race at the Albert Park circuit since 2019, and since then changes had been made to the track, most noticeably the removal of the chicane at what was turns eight and nine, in an attempt to improve the racing. There was no doubting the effectiveness of this in the midfield, with the different strategies leading to some brilliant battling.

Lance Stroll pitted twice early on, and this allowed him to climb as high as ninth at one stage. However, worn tyres combined with a five-second penalty for weaving on the straight meant points were always going to be a difficult task, and the Aston Martin dropped down the field in the later stages.

The Stroll train in full affect during the GP. Image courtesy of Aston Martin Media

Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly finished eighth and ninth respectively, with Alexander Albon securing a shock point for Williams in tenth. After starting on the hards from last, the Thai driver was forced on to a different strategy by the safety cars. Whereas Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen took advantage of the virtual safety car caused by Verstappen’s retirement to change onto the medium tyres, Albon stayed out on the hards.

He eventually pitted on the penultimate lap (the latest allowed by the regulations), coming out on a fresh set of softs to secure the Grove-based team’s first point of the season. Alonso and Magnussen struggled with the graining that dogged many of the front runners in the early stages, finishing comfortably outside the points.

Although Leclerc took victory in Bahrain, this was the first time this season where the Ferrari looked comfortably clear of the Red Bull in race pace. The Formula One calendar heads to Imola in two weeks time for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, which will also host the first ‘sprint race’ of the season.

F1’s latest rivalry revs up once again

When Formula One’s new regulations were revealed for the 2022 season, it was with the hope that it would lead to closer, more exciting racing. Two races in, they’ve certainly delivered.

In Bahrain, it was the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc who came out on top as the Scuderia secured a 1-2, after late race breakdowns for both Red Bulls left them pointless. There were no such issues for the reigning champions in Jeddah though, as Max Verstappen kickstarted his championship defence with a hard-fought, and well-thought, victory.

Once again, the top two toyed with each other when it came to using DRS on multiple occasions. Verstappen made the first move into the final corner, but as we saw a week ago, Leclerc was able to instantly fight back on the next straight. Thus began the cat and mouse games that might define this generation of Formula One. Just one lap later, neither driver wanted to cross the all important detection line into Turn 27 first, with the Monegasque driver catching Verstappen napping, and briefly being able to build a one-second lead. When Verstappen got back within DRS range however, Leclerc was powerless to stop the Red Bull driver marching to his first victory, and first points of the season.

The final few laps at Jeddah 2022. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Many expected Verstappen and Leclerc to be stars of the future from the moment they set foot in an F1 car, and it looks like this season will be the first time we get to see them fight consistently against each other at the front. Admittedly, the ‘fights’ have so far been fairly straightforward DRS overtakes. Albert Park, home of the next race in two weeks time, is usually a much tougher place to pass, so might see Max and Charles get closer than they have done so far this season, perhaps even repeating their antics from Spielberg and Silverstone in 2019.

Those previous battles three years ago might be why we’re seeing a tamer Verstappen than we saw last year. He knows that Leclerc isn’t afraid to get his elbows out, whereas Lewis was more likely to try and avoid contact at any cost. It would not be surprising if this year’s top two send carbon fibre flying on more than one occasion throughout the remaining twenty-one races.

The battle between Max and Charles which entertained us all at Silverstone 2019. Image courtesy of Red Bull content Pool

So far, it is one each between Max and Charles, but it could have been so different. Sergio Perez was unlucky with a pit-stop the lap before Nicolas Latifi found the barrier and brought out the safety car, turning a possible victory for the Mexican into a lonely race to fourth. His misfortune promoted Carlos Sainz onto the podium for the third consecutive race, but this was another weekend where the Spaniard looked off the pace compared to his teammate. The battle between the ‘number twos’ could be crucial in determining the destination of both champions this year, especially on any weekend when one team has a clear pace advantage.

The midfield entertained as always, with both Alpines adding many grey hairs to team principals Otmar Szaufner’s head in the opening laps. Kevin Magnussen also pulled off some good moves, but the early safety car meant that anyone that was starting on the hard tyres would be on the back foot when it came to strategy.

This was also the case for Lewis Hamilton, on arguably his most difficult weekend (pace-wise) in the hybrid era. One point will be scant consolation for the seven-time world champion, with George Russell coming home in fifth. Barring any issues for Red Bull or Ferrari, a porpoising fix, or performance found in a ‘reliability’ engine upgrade, it looks like fifth will be the best the Brackley team can manage over the next few races.

The leading Mercedes of George Russell at Jeddah. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Sunday’s race passed without any controversy, which definitely couldn’t be said about last years. Once again though, the track proved to be brutally punishing, with Mick Schumacher and Cem Bolukbasi both missing their races after heavy accidents at Turn 12. These crashes, and the missile strike at the nearby Aramco refinery during Friday practice, will quite rightly raise questions about the wisdom of holding a race in Saudi Arabia.

No matter who you support, perhaps the best news from this weekend is that it is over, and everyone is able to leave safely.

 

Verstappen victorious in Round 2 of Ferrari vs Red Bull

Verstappen wins a good race in Jeddah after a safety car meant Perez dropped positions behind both Ferrari’s.

We started off today one car down with Haas deciding to run only 1 car after Mick Schumacher’s crash in qualifying. Schumacher is ok but they were worried that if he had another crash they wouldn’t have enough parts to go to Australia with.

Just when we thought we would get a 19 car grid Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari had an issue with an hour to go. Fortunately for him they fixed problem and he made to the grid. However, whist on the way to the grid to join Sainz, Tsunoda stopped on track with an engine issue therefore having to miss the start of the race.

Lights out and everyone managed to get away clean. Verstappen got a great start getting down the inside of turn 1 to then sweep around the outside of Sainz at turn 2, putting him in P3. Zhou seemingly had the same problem as Bottas last week with a poor start meaning several drivers past him and into turn 1 he was late on the brakes, tapping the back wheel of Ricciardo but coming out worse off.

Lap 4 and the alpines were locked in a battle between themselves. Alonso had DRS down the main straight, but Ocon made a late defensive move to stay in front. Only a few laps later Alonso did get past but that was not the end of it.

Ocon tried again on lap 8 but had to use the runoff at turn 1 and 2 to keep the place. This meant he had to give the position back he tried 1 more time on lap 12 when Ocon went too deep again, and Alonso stayed ahead.

The Alpines in a battle between each other. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

All the battles at alpine mean that Bottas had closed the gap. When Ocon was told to hold position, he backed off meaning Bottas then had DRS down the main straight into lap 14 and made an easy overtake into turn 1.

At this point Hamilton had made it past Norris into P11, making up 3 places in 6 laps. He was quickly gaining places and on the hard tyre he appeared to be going for a 1 stop strategy.

Lap 16 and Leclerc starts the pit stops with a radio call, but the strategy was do the opposite of Red Bull. Ferrari came into the pit and Red Bull reacted bringing Perez in. Leclerc stayed out and Ferrari seemed to have successfully bluffed Red Bull into a stop.

The Perez pit stop. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Just as Perez came out of the pits Latifi crashed into the barriers and a virtual safety car was initially deployed, playing into Ferrari and Leclerc hands. He now had an almost free stop, coming out of the pit lane still leading the race. However, Verstappen had also stayed out meaning he had to pit during the safety car, gaining places to come out P2.

A full safety car was then deployed when Sainz came into the pits. As he left however Perez was coming down the main straight. Sainz looked as if he got to the safety car line first but Perez closed the door on him to stay in P3.

The lights went out on the safety car to indicate it was going in on lap 20. As it pulled away from Leclerc he was controlling the pack but Verstappen kept moving alongside Leclerc in an attempt to force him to make an error or go early.

On the restart though Verstappen couldn’t keep up with the Ferrari staying in P2. Carlos gained the place back on Perez with but radio messages revealed Perez was told to give the place back to avoid a penalty.

Lap 23 and Hamilton gets past the Haas of Magnussen at the final corner but with DRS down the main straight he got back past. The next lap and this time Hamilton closed the gap but backed off into the final corner to get the DRS down the main straight and late on the brakes overtook into turn 1.

Hamilton makes the move stick. Image courtesy of Mercedes Media

Hulkenburg was holding his own after the restart however he began to drop back rapidly with Ricciardo, Norris and Gasly passing him on the main straight on laps 27, 28 and 29.

Lap 35 and Alonso was now battle the Haas. He got DRS down the mains straight making a simple pass into turn 1 however it didn’t stick with Magnussen making back past just 1 lap later. This battle quickly turned into a problem for Alonso though when on lap 38 he started moving slowly on track. He reported no power with an alarm on his wheel to say cool the car. The engine had overheated.

Almost simultaneously Ricciardo stopped on track just in front of the pit lane entry when he lost drive coming out of the last corner. Just as that news was being shown Bottas was retired from the race but had made it back to the garage.

The pit lane entry was eventually closed but Magnussen and Hulkenburg had managed to get in and change his tyres before the message. Hamilton just missed the pit lane as the virtual safety car was deployed so couldn’t change his tyres. Hoping that it would end as he came round to the pits again Mercedes were on the radio but unfortunately for Hamilton he had to wait another lap, when he was round the other side of the track and the VSC had ended.

As the VSC ended Verstappen seemed to have gained on Leclerc so the gap was much tighter. On lap 42 Verstappen had DRS into the final corner and took the lead but Leclerc could fight back on the main straight using DRS himself and took the lead again into turn 1.

Verstappen the went too deep and locked up on the inside line into the final corner on the following lap meaning Leclerc could sweep around the outside. This time even though Verstappen had DRS down the main straight it wasn’t enough to keep up with the Ferrari.

At the end of lap 46 Verstappen had learnt to have patience into the final corner and backed out of an overtake to make sure he had DRS this time. He made the move stick into turn 1 but his challenge now was to hold off the Ferrari which had been stronger in sector 1 all race.

Leclerc did close the gap on lap 48 and lined up a move but double waved yellows into turn 1 meant that but couldn’t overtake. Albon and Stroll came together when Albon tried to overtake stroll down the inside. Albon received a grid penalty in Australia for this.

This saved Verstappen from a move, but they were racing all the way to the line. Leclerc lined up a move at the final corner on the final lap, but sadly for him, he wasn’t close enough. Verstappen took with win with Leclerc in P2 and Sainz in P3.

The podium in Jeddah. Image courtesy on Pirelli F1 Press Room

Perez on pole for the first time

Perez finally gets a pole position with an outstanding lap around Jeddah. He beat both Ferrari’s and his teammate to start at the front of the grid tomorrow.

Q1 started as normal but with 11 minutes to go Latifi had a big accident into turn 13 hitting the wall at high speed and causing a red flag. It looked like the back end stepped out and he hit both the front and back of car against the barriers. Thankfully he was ok.

Once going again Tsunoda’s qualifying came to an end early where he had to retire with issues that are fuel related. This was later confirmed to be a cooling system issue which couldn’t be resolved quickly.

The Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton in particular were having speed issues for the whole session. While Russell managed P4 in Q1, Hamilton couldn’t get much faster than P13, ending up being pushed down into the bottom 5, finishing P16. A shock departure for him from qualifying by not making it into Q2 for the first time since Brazil 2017.

The first runs of Q2 and Russell was now the only works Mercedes in the session is also the only driver to come out on the mediums. McLaren have improved from last week putting in solid times and looking to get into Q3 with Russell. At the front, Leclerc still has the upper hand on both Red Bulls but by only 0.04 seconds., but sadly were both out in Q2 in P11 and P12. he just made it through to Q3.

The Haas drivers looked strong today with both drivers setting quick first laps. But with 5 minutes to go though Mick Schumacher was on a flying lap when the back end stepped out onto the curb on the exit of turn 10 which he tried to correct but hit the wall at some speed causing a second Red Flag of qualifying. The speed of the car meant his car finally stopped at the entry of turn 11. Reports were that he was conscious and talking to the doctors but they had to extract him safely from the car and took him to the medical centre by an ambulance. He had spoken to his mum and was taken to the hospital for precautionary scans but was ok.

After a lengthy delay while they fixed the barriers and soaked up the oil, we were underway with nearly 5 minutes left. Those that didn’t have any lap times now needed to nail a lap with almost only 1 shot at it. The Ferrari’s were still on top at the end of the session with Sainz joining Leclerc at the top of the time sheet. 

McLaren sadly couldnt get out of the bottom 5 and were both out in Q2 in P11 and P12. Russell just made it through to Q3 meaning he was the only car with a Mercedes power unit in the top 10.

Daniel Ricciardo on his way to P12. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Q3, the final 10 and the battle again was between the Ferrari’s and the Red Bulls. Everyone made it through the first runs cleanly with Sainz coming out on top with his teammate right behind. Perez was P3 with Verstappen struggling for grip on fresh tyres.

The Alpines split the Red Bulls with laps 0.5s slower than Perez. Gasly was P7, Bottas P8 and K Mag P9 while Russell came out in the gap between runs. He pulled out a great lap for the Mercedes to split the alpines for P5, closely followed by Bottas who put it P6.

It looked like the fight for pole as they all came back out was between the Verstappen and the Ferrari’s. Sainz couldn’t improve on his time but Leclerc had pace and beat his teammate to provisional pole. Perez was next who was on an absolute flyer. He took provisional pole with only his teammate to stop him. Verstappen came round the final corner and he had not improved his time. It was only good enough for P4 so Sergio Perez is finally on pole.

Pole position for Sergio Perez. Image courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Every person in the paddock was happy for Perez who has worked hard for many years to reach that goal. It will be interesting to see what he can do from Pole.

F1 Race Preview: The fast streets of Jeddah

Round 2 at Jeddah this weekend and after the reliability issues last time out all eyes are on Red Bull to come back stronger.

Red Bull Reliability

If you haven’t seen the drama of the double Red Bull retirement, Red Bull have said initial investigations seem to suggest a fuel pump/system issue which means that the final few litres of fuel for the end of the race didn’t make it into the engine despite having enough fuel in the tank.

Interestingly this year the fuel systems are comprised of parts made by the teams, the power unit manufacturer and a third party who won FIA tenders to supply standard parts. However, it is not known which part was at fault and therefore who supplied it.

In any case Red Bull get a chance to redeem themselves this weekend at the very high speed circuit in Saudi Arabia.

Last time in Jeddah

When we last raced here the championship was really hotting up and the rivalry between the leaders was getting ugly. The on track battle was epic and summed up the season long battle between Lewis Hamilton and Verstappen.

However, this wasn’t the only talking point from that race. This is where the steward’s room and race director came under scrutiny as they were becoming more dominant in each race. They had begun to tell the narrative here at the newest and fastest street track.

Qualifying was thrilling but the race was incident back and the longevity of the circuit came under fire. Changes would need to be made to make this a viable race in the future.

Chaos in the background as Verstappen leads the race. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Both in 2021 and 2022 the human rights conversation surrounding this race is important and getting louder. It is important to keep talking about it especially now with current events in the area. Formula 1 say they are monitoring the situation, but this will continue to be a big part of the race weekend.

The Fast Ferrari’s

In Bahrain Ferrari delivered on the pre-season rumours being the fastest on race day. All Ferrari engine powered cars had great performances with only Mick Schumacher finishing outside the points in P11.

This could mean Ferrari have the advantage at the high speed track in Jeddah. However, as seen last weekend, consistency is very important and Charles Leclerc dos not have the best relationship with street circuits.

In Monaco last year he pulled out a great lap to take pole in the first runs of Q3 but crashed on the final runs meaning he couldn’t start the race with gear box issues. In Baku 2019 he crashed heavily and producing the now infamous line “I am Stupid”.

Despite this, last year he finished P6, ahead of Sainz so will be looking to capitalise on his momentum from last weekend and improve on this result.

Ferrari’s 1-2 last time out in Bahrain. Image courtesy of Pirelli F1 Press Room

Qualifying is 5pm GMT and the race starts at 6pm GMT.

Max Verstappen World Champion in Last Lap Drama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Dominant Verstappen win with Perez in P3!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ocon on top in a dramatic race at Hungary

Esteban Ocon took his first Formula 1 victory and the first for the Alpine team in a chaotic race at the Hungaroring, after multiple drivers were taken out at the first corner.

15 minutes before the race start, rain started to fall on the track. Adding to the anticipation, it started light but was due to continue for the first 30 minutes of the race and get heavier before mostly drying out by the end of the race. Intermediate tyres on to start, Lewis Hamilton indicating on the radio he was ready for the fight in the rain. Hamilton and Max Verstappen are both known for performing well in the wet, possibly a leveller but definitely exciting!

Lights out and all eyes turned to Verstappen and Hamilton. Both got a great launch, but Valtteri Bottas had an absolutely dreadful start with wheel spin from third. Lando Norris got in front of him off the line but was tapped by Bottas from behind who had missed his breaking point. Norris then crashed into Verstappen and Bottas hit Sergio Perez. Norris and Verstappen managed to carry on with significant damage, but Bottas and Perez were out.

Further back in turn 1, Lance Stroll tried to avoid some cars by heading towards the apex, but ended up on the grass and collected Charles Leclerc who hit and spun around Daniel Ricciardo. Unfortunately, that was the race over for Leclerc.

Ricciardo kept going and Stroll was able to keep driving after damage to the front of his car. A red flag was called to gather the debris left around turn 1. This allowed the Red Bull team to fix Verstappen’s car, potentially saving him from retirement. Norris and Stroll then had to retire due to the damage from the incident.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull (Mark Thompson, Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool)

Hamilton was still in P1, but others had benefited from a high attrition first corner. Ocon and Sebastian Vettel were the biggest winners, starting P2 and P3 respectively. Yuki Tsunoda was in P5, Carlos Sainz P4 and the Williams’ were P6 and P8 whilst Verstappen had really lost out and started in P13. A fight from the back was on after quick recovery work by Red Bull. There was a standing re-start as the sun came out to a now quickly drying track, but the question then was slicks or inters?

Hamilton was the only one starting on the grid, so the race was in the pits with everyone coming in for slicks. George Russell came out on top, and with Hamilton pitting after it looked like Russell would lead the race, but Russell was told by the FIA to give back the places he’d taken in the pitlane. Mercedes didn’t come out well with Hamilton boxing after the restart and ending up last and importantly behind Verstappen. So, on lap 5 Ocon was leading the race, with Vettel P2 and Nicholas Latifi P3. Hamilton was catching Verstappen who still had damage, so the race was on!

Verstappen managed to get past Pierre Gasly but then became stuck behind Mick Schumacher for five laps before passing him with a daring move through Turns 1, 2, 3 and 4. They did touch but both were able to carry on. Meanwhile Hamilton was struggling behind Gasly, locking up a few times but both Gasly and Hamilton managed to pass Schumacher in the next two laps.

Hamilton stopped for hard tyres on lap 20 in an attempt to change the strategy and go longer. Red Bull and Verstappen responded so made the stop just one lap later. Ricciardo pitted at the same time as Verstappen, and he came out in front of the Red Bull. Hamilton was coming down the straight as the pair came out of the pits. Hamilton took advantage and got past not only Verstappen but also Ricciardo, putting a vital car between the Championship rivals.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (Wolfgang Wilhelm / Mercedes AMG)

On lap 32, Hamilton was the fastest car in the race passing Tsunoda into P5 with a fantastic move while Verstappen was still behind Ricciardo in P12. This move caused Ferrari and Sainz to react, and with enough gap Sainz pitted and came back out in P4 with fresh tyres ready to defend against Hamilton.

Meanwhile Schumacher was doing a great job in the Haas to keep 4 drivers behind him. However, after many laps of battling, Russell finally made it past Schumacher on lap 33 with a brave move on the outside of Turn 2. Schumacher then begun to lose places rapidly to Ricciardo and Verstappen on the next lap, very important for Verstappen in terms of the championship.

From the front, Vettel pitted with a slow stop but came out in P3, ahead of Sainz and Hamilton. Ocon told to push but Alpine appeared to have the advantage with both cars in the podium places fight. A good stop meant Ocon came out ahead of Vettel, but Vettel tried to fight it into Turn 4. Sadly for him nothing came of it and with only Fernando Alonso in front of Ocon it looked to be an Alpine win from lap 39.

It wasn’t over at the front though. Sainz and Hamilton in P3 and P4 were catching the leaders at a rapid pace. However, Hamilton pitted on lap 48 for the mediums. He came out behind Alonso, but this would mean he could push to the end of the race, with flashbacks to Hungary 2019 and Spain 2021. Vettel got closer to Ocon through the back markers in an attempt to pass him for the lead. On lap 50 the fight was not over with Vettel having DRS and the pressure piling on Ocon.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin (Courtesy of Aston Martin media)

Verstappen finally made a move on Ricciardo for P10 on Lap 61 and the final points position. This could be an important point for the championship and impressive driving considering the significant damage still on his car from lap 1.

On lap 57 a brilliant battle between Hamilton and Alonso began, Alonso defending and making the Alpine the widest thing on the track. This epic battle continued for over 10 laps, but Hamilton was eventually close enough when Alonso made a rare mistake and locked up into Turn 1. This did create problems for Hamilton though, who was on a mission to get to the front. However, catching Sainz on older tyres in P3 meant that just two laps later, Hamilton was in the podium places, but the gap was too big for Hamilton to catch Vettel in P2.

Esteban Ocon won the Hungarian Grand Prix! The first win for him and a great turn around since a relatively poor run of form. Vettel was in P2 after a great drive from the restart. Sainz was P4 ahead of Alonso, Gasly sneaked in a fastest lap right at the end in P6, and Tsunoda was P7. Both Williams finished in the points with Latifi P8 and Russell P9, which is vital for the constructors and their first double points finish since 2018. Russell finally managed to get those illusive points in a Williams!

For the championship Hamilton gained points on Verstappen, who finished P10, and leads going into the summer break. This has been a real swing in momentum after the British Grand Prix in the favour of Mercedes and Hamilton. It is all to play for as the teams regroup and look to improve for Spa at the end of August.

Home is where the heart is for Red Bull – Austrian GP preview

The Formula One circus stays in the Styrian mountains as the Red Bull Ring plays host to the Austrian Grand Prix, just seven days after Max Verstappen claimed victory at the same circuit in the Styrian Grand Prix.

It would take a brave person to bet against Verstappen taking his third consecutive victory on Sunday, given his dominant performance last weekend. Sergio Perez will be hoping he can make it two Red Bulls on the podium, after coming within a second of Valtteri Bottas in the previous race.

A double podium is probably the best case scenario once again for Mercedes with Lewis Hamilton making a rare trip to the Brackley simulator in an aim to extract every last inch of performance out of his car. The quick turnaround means no upgrades for this race, and there are mixed messages from the Mercedes camp regarding how much more development we will see on their 2021 car.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes (LAT Images / Mercedes AMG F1)

The pace from the top two teams meant Ferrari and McLaren were once again left fighting for fifth. Although it was Lando Norris who won the midfield battle last weekend, Daniel Ricciardo was showing good pace before reliability troubles dropped him down the order. Ferrari will also be hoping for a smoother weekend from Charles Leclerc, who showed some inspired moves after being controversially involved in Pierre Gasly’s retirement.

AlphaTauri, Alpine and Aston Martin will look to pick up some of the lesser points once again, in what looks to be one of the tightest midfield battles for years. Strategy could well be key in this battle, as free air is hard to come by on the track with the shortest lap time of the year. Pirelli are also bringing softer tyres to the Austrian GP than they did at the Styrian round, which might lead to more action in the pitlane.

For George Russell, he will be hoping his pitlane action is much more conventional this weekend. A pneumatic leak cost him a shot at his first ever points for Williams, with the Brit admitting that there’s no guarantee he will be able to replicate that performance again this time around. His teammate will also be hoping for a better result, after being an innocent victim in last weekend’s lap one shenanigans.

 

Alfa Romeo will be hoping they can sneak a point, after just missing out with Kimi Raikkonen last time around. The intriguing battle between the Haas cars will also be one to watch, as Mick Schumacher and his teammate battle for inter-team supremacy, which must be a small ray of light in a very difficult debut season for both drivers.

It’s fair to say last week’s race was not a classic, but different tyres (and possibly different weather) could make the Austrian GP an entirely different beast indeed.

 

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