Dominant Bottas wins ahead of the Bulls!

A dominant performance from Bottas to win ahead of both the RedBulls. But a Mercedes strategy call meant that Hamilton lost track position of P3 to finish P5 after holding off Gasly in P6. Carlos Sainz was awarded driver of the day after an outstanding performance to finish P8 from starting at the back of the grid.

The weather appeared to be playing a major role all weekend and rained before the race leaving a damp track to start and the intermediates on. Colder conditions often favour Mercedes with Hamilton having to take a penalty for a new combustion engine, this is something he was looking to take advantage of. Verstappen however was hoping to take the opportunity to take the lead and pull a gap in the championship.

After a poor result for Daniel Ricciardo in qualifying yesterday, McLaren decided to take a new engine themselves and therefore he started at the back of the grid with Sainz.

Lights out and Bottas got a great start leading Verstappen into turn 1. Alonso tried to go around the outside of Gasly but was tapped and spun, coming back into P15. Once back on the track in an attempt to move forward he tapped Schumacher. Gasly later gained a 5 second penalty for his incident with Alonso and the Alonso got one for the collision with Schumacher. Perez gained on the pair up the inside of turn 1, lap 1 moving up to P3. Hamilton gained a place on lap 1 and then moving into P9 by lap 3.

Yuki Tsunoda, leads Sebastian Vettel  and Lewis Hamilton  at the start during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Carlso Sainz was on a charge from lap 1. By lap 7 he gained another place and was up in P12, making the moves looking simple, and gaining positions every lap. The other driver on a charge was Hamilton. Finally making past Tsunoda after 7 laps with an excellent move around the outside of turn 3 and then dispatching of Stoll and Norris in the following 2 laps all while getting fastest lap.

The track was drying slowly due to the 94% humidity so talk of slicks seemed a little way off on lap 15, but Hamilton using all the warm intermediates to gain on Gasly by 1.5 seconds a lap and overtook with ease. He was now in P5 and hunting down Perez at a rapid pace. Sainz also gaining was in P10 after a slightly risky move making contact with Vettel into the final chicane.

Just 2 laps later and Hamilton complained of bald inters, bringing back the interslicks on a still damp track. RedBull seeing this then looked to release Verstappen from tyre perseveration as he started to gain by nearly half a second and achieve fastest lap. Bottas responded producing a fastest lap himself.

Lap 26 and everyone was trying to decide if it’s worth changing to new intermediates. Ricciardo had taken that decision a couple laps earlier and was now matching the leader’s pace. Just to add to the mix it had begun to rain slightly, stopping the track from drying but not heavily wetting the track. However, 4 laps later and Ricciardo’s speed neutralised, he was lapping the same as the people around him down in P18.

Hamilton meanwhile was still gaining on Perez passing through the backmarkers of Haas cars. There was nearly drama as Mazepin was shown the blue flags but closed the door on Hamilton almost clashing just to let him through on the back straight. Whilst this delayed Hamilton he was still gaining quickly on Perez and was within a second by lap 33.

Lap 34, Hamilton was with Perez and turn 12 the Mercedes picked up the slip stream and tried t go around the outside of turn 12 with the inside line for turn 13. Side by side Perez ended up to the left of the pit bollard but continued down the main straight to come out ahead of Hamilton by turn 1.

Sergio Perez  leads Lewis Hamilton during the F1 Grand Prix of Turkey. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

Between lap 36 and 38 many of the drivers were pitting for new inters, however Vettel and Aston Martin decided to go for the medium slick tyres. He didn’t even complete a lap before coming back in for inters after spending most of the time sliding off the track.

Leclerc had been quietly going about his race and as the leaders pitted he then became P1. Happy with his tyres though, he decided to stay on his interslicks and keep track position. Hamilton agreed as on lap 41 Mercedes asked him to box and he refused.

Lap 46 and Leclerc was trying to hang on but Bottas was just that much faster and overtook him on the main straight. At this point Leclerc gave in to the team and pitted for new inters which looked to be a good decision because his teammate was setting fastest laps on tyres only a few laps older.

After resisting the team Hamilton pitted on lap 51 because Mercedes were insistent. He lost track position to both Perez and Leclerc. Now frustrated he lost P3 he was on a charge to get back to the podium gaining over 3 seconds on Leclerc on lap 53. However, graining on the tyres meant that he lost time to Leclerc and Gasly was just 1 second behind him. The strategy call from the team did not worked for them.

Valtteri Bottas won the race after a solid performance. Verstappen finished P2 not really battling Bottas all race knowing that he would gain points on Hamilton in the championship. Perez did an excellent job to put both the RedBulls on the podium. Leclerc finished P4 with a very frustrated Hamilton in P5, holding off Gasly who finished P6.

Verstappen now takes the lead of the championship heading into the next round by 6 points. No one has led the championship this year by more than 8 points and it looks like its going down to the wire, much to every F1’s delight.

McLaren back at the front of the pack!

Race 2 of the weekend for the full 53 laps at the temple of speed and all eyes were on the front of the grid. Verstappen looking to capitalise on the bad start for Hamilton yesterday and both McLarens in the fight who wanted to mix things up and get a podium.

After his crash yesterday Gasly had some issues on his reconnaissance lap with a stuck throttle. However, starting from the pitlane after having to replace parts of the car it looked like they had repaired the car in the garage and was able to start the race. However, the car was undriveable and Gasly was out by lap 5. On the other side of the garage there was some late drama for Tsunoda whose car was pushed off the grid and into the garage 5 minutes before the race start. The car had some hydraulic brake issues which is not normally a quick job so Alpha Tauri tried their hardest for a pitlane start but they couldn’t get it out in time, and he didn’t start the race. A race to forget for Alpha Tauri.

Lights out and Daniel Ricciardo beat Verstappen into the first corner and lead the race into turn 2. Hamilton managed to get around the outside of Norris into turn 1 and picked up the slipstream from Verstappen, moving alongside him into the second chicane. 2 into 1 doesn’t go and Hamilton ended up being forced wide, similar to Imola this year. Hamilton then lost another place to Norris who had watched it unfold.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 12: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) McLaren F1 Team MCL35M Mercedes leads Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes W12 and Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda on track during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 12, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Further back and Giovinazzi went wide at the same chicane, unsafely coming back onto the track and clipping the front of Sainz, spinning him into the wall and losing his front wing. This brought out the Virtual safety car to recover the debris for 2 laps before the track was cleared. Giovinazzi got a 5 second time penalty for this which he served at his next pitstop.

Perez was on the mediums and coming into play for RedBull as he made his way up the grid. He had a great battle with Sainz for P6 on lap 10 from turn 1 all the way to the second chicane where Perez eventually won out and gained the place. The other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas was also making his way up the grid making the hard tyres work for him.

On lap 15 Vettel and Ocon were fighting for P12, Vettel closing in on Ocon into the second chicane and he was alongside going into the corner. However, Ocon was closing the door on Vettel, not leaving enough room, and the two made contact with Vettel losing out. Ocon gained a 5 second time penalty for his contact with Vettel and not leaving him enough room despite being alongside.

Lap 22 and the leader came into the pits with a perfect stop from McLaren. RedBull and Verstappen respond immediately but they had a terrible stop being held for 11 seconds in the pit box due to a slow right rear tyre. At the same time Hamilton finally overtook Norris and took the lead of the race. Norris then came into the pits and another perfect pit stop for McLaren.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 12: Max Verstappen driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda makes a pitstop during the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 12, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)

Mercedes responded, he was held slightly but came out between Norris and Verstappen. Norris got past but Verstappen attempted to get around the outside of Hamilton into turn 1. Verstappen ended up on the sausage curb and was lifted over Hamilton, destroying the back wing but the halo doing its job as the tyre of the RedBull.

At the restart Ricciardo got away and Norris caught Leclerc out and used the tow to his advantage, taking P2 behind his teammate. Leclerc didn’t have a great restart and lost another place to Perez, then to Bottas moving down to P5. However, Perez hopped across the corner to gain the place and didn’t give the place back was awarded a 5 second time penalty which was added at the end of the race. Bottas on the mediums was faster than the leader Ricciardo by 1.3 seconds per lap. The charge was on for him and next to hunt down Perez and stay within that 5 second window.

After the chaos of the restart, by lap 40 normal racing had resumed and Norris was looking faster than Ricciardo but McLaren confirmed they would hold station to gain maximum points for the team. Just 4 laps later, after making contact with his teammate and locking up going straight on at turn 1, Mazepin’s engine gave out and he stopped bringing out a brief virtual safety car neutralising the battles.

Leading from start to finish after a great move into turn 1, Daniel Ricciardo won the Italian Grand Prix with his teammate Lando Norris in P2. To add to the achievements Ricciardo gained the fastest lap point on the last lap. This is the first win for McLaren in 9 years and its fantastic to see them back on top. Perez finished P3 on track but after the 5 second penalty he drops to P5 and Bottas finished on the podium.

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren (McLaren Racing Media)

It has been a turn of fortune since coming back from the summer break for Daniel Ricciardo. McLaren have also been on the way back up since 2018. Shout out to Norris who put in a mature drive for the team to bring home a 1 – 2.

For the championship the crash means Verstappen leaves with the 5 points lead from yesterday. The incident is being investigated and the repercussions could last for weeks. This is becoming a very intense battle for the title which every fan is excited about. Good to see both drivers get out of the car OK and this will only add to the fight going into Russia in 2 weeks’ time.

Monza Sprint: Bottas wins but Verstappen on Pole

The highly anticipated second ‘Sprint’ of the season and it was Bottas who started at the front. He will take an engine penalty for tomorrows race but not for today because this was still part of qualifying. The strategic play from Mercedes was the talk of the paddock before the race with RedBull seemingly off the pace all weekend in comparison to the last few weeks.

Lights out and Hamilton had a terrible start losing 4 places before turn 1 putting him in P5. Gasly got caught up in the first corner pack and clipped the back wheel of Ricciardo, damaging the front wing and crashing into the barriers at turn 3 but was ok. In the other Alpha Tauri Tsunoda had an incident with Kubica at the second chicane, spinning Kubica. Tsunoda had to pit for a new wing, pushing him down to last. The safety car was brought neutralising the race.

Just 2 laps later and the safety car was in, Bottas had a great restart catching Verstappen out and pulling a gap to the RedBull. Alonso charging through the field on the restart and gaining places on Vettel and Ocon. Tsunoda made up 2 places on the restart and began his charge back up the grid.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Yuki Tsunoda driving the (22) Scuderia AlphaTauri AT02 Honda during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 11, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

The chase was then on for Hamilton to get back to the front of the grid for tomorrow. He was hunting down Norris, consistently in the DRS zone but not able to put a move on him. Norris was on the saft tyres, so Mercedes were hoping his tyres would drop off and Hamilton, on the mediums, could take advantage. Unfortunately for them, Norris was solid in his performance on those tyres.

Lap 9 and Stroll was battling for P10 with Perez. Into turn 1 Stroll had the inside line forcing Perez off the track. The fight continued into the next chicane, but Perez told to give the place back for gaining an advantage and overtaking the Aston Martin by going off the track. With DRS the following lap, Perez made it around the outside going into turn 1 and this time stayed on the track to make it stick.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Sergio Perez driving the (11) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda and Lance Stroll driving the (18) Aston Martin AMR21 Mercedes during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 11, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Back out in front Bottas had pulled out a nearly 2 second gap to Verstappen. With the knowledge of Bottas’ penalty tomorrow, RedBull were happy to sit behind him and gain 2 more points on Hamilton who would not be gaining any points.

With 3 laps to go Perez was in P9, having dropped down at the start he was back up to his qualifying position. He struggled to get past Giovinazzi who was having a fantastic drive in P8 after a great qualifying session. They finished in P8 and P9, a great result for the Alfa Romeo driver.

Valtteri Bottas lead from start to finish and took the 3 points for todays Sprint. Verstappen finished P2 and Ricciardo P3 taking 2 and 1 points respectively. With Bottas’ penalty applied Verstappen will take pole position and a front row start for Daniel Riccardo and McLaren in P2. Norris will start in P3 and Hamilton has work to do starting in P4. McLaren look strong for the race tomorrow so RedBull and Mercedes will need to be strong to come out on top after 53 laps.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 11: Max Verstappen driving the (33) Red Bull Racing RB16B Honda during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 11, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images)

Italian GP: Bottas takes top spot for sprint race as Verstappen comes 3rd

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas pipped Lewis Hamilton to take the top spot for the sprint race on Saturday. Mercedes looked fastest in free practice 1 which also translated into the qualifying form for the German team as they beat Redbull by quite a margin. Hamilton will however be slightly disappointed not to have had the top spot as he will have to start much closer to championship rival Verstappen.

In a qualifying session where drivers were playing all sorts of tricks to have the all important tow in Monza, McLaren shined well. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo managed to put in a shift and placed their McLarens at P4 and P5 for the sprint race tomorrow. Verstappen could find no answer to the sheer pace of Mercedes and has to settle with 3rd spot for tomorrow while his teammate Perez in the other Redbull will be starting P9.

MONZA, ITALY – SEPTEMBER 10: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing and Sergio Perez of Mexico and Red Bull Racing talk in parc ferme during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Italy at Autodromo di Monza on September 10, 2021 in Monza, Italy. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Pierre Gasly continued his stellar run this season as he has put in yet another great performance in qualifying and put his Alpha Tauri at P6 for the sprint race tomorrow. His teammate Tsunoda however has his work cut out after a deleted lap time in Q1 means that he will be starting the sprint race from P17 tomorrow.

Both the Ferraris will be starting the sprint race from P7 and P8 with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc respectively, a result which the 50% capacity Monza crowd would probably not be too happy with.  Leclerc’s Ferrari experienced some engine braking issues during Q1 but Ferrari were able to fix it during the session and the Monegasque driver managed to make it to Q3.

Antonio GIovinazzi of Alfa Romeo continued his impressive run after the summer break as he qualified P10 for tomorrow’s sprint race after some really good laps in Q1 and Q2. The Italian might just be in serious contention to retain his seat alongside the newly announced driver Valtteri Bottas with a run like this. His teammate Robert Kubica who is still the stand-in driver for Kimi Raikkonen in the other Alfa Romeo could not manage get out of Q1 and will be starting at P19.

Aston Martin had both their cars knocked out in Q2 with Sebastian Vettel set to start P11 and Lance Stroll set to start at P12. They will be followed by both the Alpine cars in Fernando ALonso at P13 and Esteban Ocon at P14. This could be an interesting little midfield battle brewing in the bottom half of the grid and could make the sprint race all the more interesting.

Williams’ Geroge Russell made it out of Q1 thanks to Tsunoda’s deleted lap time but could not make a mark in Q2 after he is set to start at P15. His teammate Latifi in the other Williams will be starting from P16. The back of the field is yet again the familiar cars of Haas with Mick Schumacher at P18 and Nikita Mazepin at P20.

With points on offer for the top 3 finishers of the sprint race, Valtteri Bottas is set to start at P1 alongside Lewis Hamilton at P2, followed by Max Verstappen at P3. Bottas who has taken new engine components which exceeded his quota of allocated parts, will be starting the Italian GP from the back of the grid. However, a tactical move by Mercedes now means he will still start the sprint race from the top spot. This could mean that Mercedes could deny Verstappen a chance of getting any points from the sprint race.

2021 Italian Grand Prix, Friday – Steve Etherington

A new F1 qualifying format is set to be put to its 2nd test followed by SIlverstone from last time around. Monza being quite the track known for its sheer speed and overtaking, the sprint race which decides the grid for Sunday’s race is set to be a thriller.

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.

 

Class of 92: Portuguese Grand Prix Preview

Back we come then to the scene of Lewis Hamilton’s 92nd Grand Prix victory in Formula One, and the seven-time champion seeks to use the energy of what has become a historic venue in the sport after just one race.

The theme of 2021 though, variably from Mercedes’ almost-unanswered dominance last year, has been the emergence of Max Verstappen as a genuine title contender.

With one win a piece, Hamilton is locked in a battle with Red Bull’s enigmatic Dutchman. A tricky, technical yet powerful circuit will be a test of both their skill and, almost as intriguingly, a test of Honda’s ability to challenge Mercedes this year.

Verstappen will also know that he has a team mate this year that can back him up. Sergio Perez out-qualified Verstappen by a slender margin last time out in Imola, but huge slices of misfortune in both of the opening two rounds have hindered the Mexican’s season thus far. There is no doubting, however, that he can be a huge help to Verstappen this weekend when strategies play out. Though in saying that, his hugely impressive pace will make him believe there are victories and title challenges on the cards for him behind the wheel of a Red Bull.

Sergio Perez has thus far proven himself an extremely able performer for Red Bull – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Part of the reason that strategies will be important is that it is difficult to overtake at Portimao; there are so many high-speed corners and few heavy braking zones – just ask Lance Stroll and Lando Norris how difficult it is to go side-by-side in Algarve.

This difficulty means that Valtteri Bottas, if he is to prove himself a useful backup to Hamilton and mount any sort of championship bid of his own, needs a big performance. His one-lap pace will need to be strong, as well as his race pace to hold off what will be an uber-competitive leading pack.

Bottas’ incident with Williams’ George Russell two weeks ago heated up what was already an intense rivalry for the Mercedes seat next season, although it is worth noting that Hamilton still does not have a contract beyond 2021.

Bottas comes into this weekend needing a statement performance – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Largely disappointing so far have been Alpine and Aston Martin. Fernando Alonso crashed before the start in Imola, compounding the French team’s tricky beginning to 2021. Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll were both put on the back foot through brake trouble before the race start; they are hoping for a trouble-free weekend in Portugal to give them the platform to succeed here. They still maintain that the current regulations adversely affect low-rake teams.

Title credentials are still to be established, rivalries are intensifying, and this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix is set to be a huge one.

F1 testing: Bottas fastest on day 2 despite more Mercedes problems

Valtteri Bottas ended the second day of pre-season testing in Bahrain with the fastest time, despite more mechanical problems afflicting Mercedes and their customer Aston Martin.

Bottas set his pacesetting lap of a 1:30.289s late in the afternoon session, on a run on the softest C5 tyres. However, Bottas lost a considerable amount of running earlier in the session due to an issue with his car’s floor, which compounded the gearbox problems that held him back yesterday.

Similar Mercedes gearbox issues stopped Sebastian Vettel from getting any meaningful running with Aston Martin. The German managed just six laps in the morning session before his car began a lengthy spell on jacks in the garage. Vettel did return to the track before the end of the session, but only recorded four more laps before handing over to Lance Stroll for the afternoon.

Courtesy of Aston Martin F1 Team

Lewis Hamilton also had a troubled day of testing for Mercedes. The defending champion drove in the morning but spun into the gravel towards the end of the session and brought out the red flag. He ended the day 15th fastest, only ahead of Vettel.

Not all the Mercedes-powered teams had problems today, however, with McLaren continuing the strong pace displayed yesterday. Daniel Ricciardo was one of the early pacesetters and topped the morning session, while Lando Norris was quickest for a while in the afternoon before ultimately ending the day fourth behind Bottas, Pierre Gasly and Stroll.

Alpine also had a solid day with Fernando Alonso at the wheel of the A521. The Spaniard was second-quickest behind Ricciardo in the morning session, and logged a total of 128 laps by the end of the day. He also completed a comprehensive run plan that included testing three different floor configurations and two different engine covers.

Courtesy of Alpine Racing Media

Following Esteban Ocon’s 129 laps from day one, Alpine are now leading the way in terms of combined mileage heading into the final day of testing. Meanwhile, all four Mercedes-powered teams have the fewest total laps, with Williams on 215 followed by McLaren (195), Aston Martin (177) and Mercedes themselves (162).

However, Nicholas Latifi did record the most laps of any driver on day two, with 132 for Williams.

Day 2 classification:

Pos. Driver Team Time Laps
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:30.289 58
2 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +0.124 87
3 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +0.171 70
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes +0.297 52
5 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +0.471 124
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +0.597 73
7 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1.383 132
8 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda +1.393 117
9 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1.926 52
10 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +2.050 127
11 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +2.395 57
12 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2.594 88
13 Carlos Sainz Ferrari +2.783 56
14 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2.812 76
15 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +3.110 58
16 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +8.560 10

Mercedes unveils “old friend” W12

Mercedes has unveiled its new W12, the car with which it hopes to win an eighth consecutive pair of F1 titles in the hands of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.

Courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1

The Mercedes AMG F1 W12 keeps the black base livery introduced last year as part of the team’s anti-racism commitments, fading to silver on the engine cover. It also features much more prominent AMG branding across the car as per Mercedes’ plans to foreground its high-performance division within its F1 marketing.

The most visible changes to the design that’s carried over from 2020 are towards the rear, which is more tightly packaged around the engine. The front of the car is largely the same, which bucks the trend of the front-end development seen in the launches so far, but that could still change before testing next week.

Mercedes technical director James Allison called the W12 “an old friend in many ways”. However, he admitted that the launch spec of the car was missing some aero developments to the floor, which the team wanted to keep hidden from its rivals before testing.

Allison also said that AMG High Performance Powertrains have added more power to the engine for 2021. Beneath the chassis, the W12 features further improvements to the suspension and cooling systems.

Although the W12 is the clear title favourite for 2021, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff greeted the new challenger with his trademark scepticism. “Every year we reset our focus,” he said. “The scoreboard goes to zero and there’s always more performance to be found.

“It’s very natural to get used to success, and therefore not fight as hard for it. But this team has not shown any of that. I see the same fire, hunger and passion now as I did the first time I walked through the doors in 2013.”

Courtesy of Mercedes AMG F1

The fall of Michael Schumacher’s record? F1 2021 season preview

At just 103 days, the winter break between 2020 and 2021 is one of the shortest, certainly in modern history in Formula One. In actual fact, it was set to be shorter still, but with the postponement of the Australian Grand Prix, the new season will kick off in Bahrain, but what can we expect from this year?

Well, in truth, this year will probably be a case of “same, but different”, as regulations set in place for 2021 mean that the 2020 cars have been carried over to this year, and only aero parts and PUs are eligible to be changed. Fundamentally, though, the cars must remain the same, and the chassis will be identical to last year, so do not expect any massive jumps in performance.

This means to say that Mercedes should still be top dogs, Red Bull should be a close second, and the midfield will still be as intense as it was throughout the entirety of the 17 races last year.

Mercedes seek to win their eighth consecutive Constructors’ title this year – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

But while substantial increases or otherwise in performance is too much to expect, little nuggets of gold may just help swing the tide a little as someone, somehow, looks to topple Mercedes’ absolute brilliance at the front.

Sergio Perez, surprise winner of the crazy Sakhir Grand prix last season, will make his highly-anticipated Red Bull debut having replaced the hapless Alex Albon. The discussion has been raging as to whether he will be able to beat their current titan Max Verstappen, and whether the Mexican truly does have the pace to compete at the front and spur Red Bull into serious Constructors’ Championship contention. It is widely expected that, if Perez is dominated by Verstappen the way Albon and Pierre Gasly were, it is a case of the car being geared to the Dutchman, as opposed to a lack of pace from Max’s team mates.

264 points separated Mercedes and Red Bull last year, so it will be fascinating to see if Red Bull’s third driver pairing in as many years will be able to close the gap and make life a little more uncomfortable for the imperious champions.

After leaving Racing Point following seven years with the team, Sergio Perez arrives at Red Bull to replace the departing Alex Albon – Courtesy of Red Bull Content Pool

Speaking of whom, newly-crowned champion Lewis Hamilton has finally put pen to paper on a new contract with the German team, in a deal that takes him to the end of the 2021 season.

Reasons for just the one-season extension have been speculated about; who knows if it could be down to the impending salary cap, or whether it is because Hamilton feels as though he only has one year left with the Silver Arrows, and in Formula One as a whole?

This would make sense. Hamilton is set to win his eighth championship this season, beating Michael Schumacher’s remarkable seven in the process.  The sport could certainly do with having Hamilton around next year, and we are likely set to see one of the most historical moments in the history of Formula One.

His team mate Valtteri Bottas could well be going into his last year with the Silver Arrows, but conversely to Hamilton, his future may not be in his own hands. In spite of a second-placed finish in the championship last season, Bottas’ overall performance has occasionally left something to be desired, and he will need to show stronger title credentials this year if he is to remain a part of the team in 2022.

A large part of this equation is the impressive progress of George Russell who, with a good performance in the Williams in 2021, could find himself in line for a drive next season. Particularly after Russell’s magnificent pace last year in the Sakhir Grand Prix alongside Bottas, this season will be a monumental one for both of them.

Depending on his 2021 performance, George Russell could well be in line for a 2022 drive with Mercedes – Courtesy of Williams Media

Further down, Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo are definitely ones to watch as they make their debuts for Ferrari and McLaren respectively. Ferrari acquired the services of Sainz after Sebastian Vettel’s departure for Aston Martin, while Australian Daniel Ricciardo left Renault for McLaren, replacing Spaniard Sainz. Ferrari’s new engine and aero parts for this season could lift them further into the midfield battle, and above the abysmal eighth place they managed last season with Vettel and Leclerc. Vettel meanwhile, with his new team and new haircut to boot, will attempt to make his presence felt in his new adventure with the new Aston Martin team, who take over from Racing Point this year.

Just as exciting as the German’s new venture, Fernando Alonso makes his comeback in 2021 in the Alpine team that has replaced Renault for this year, and after two seasons out, expectation is high. Frenchman Esteban Ocon, who managed his first podium last season in Sakhir, gets a real test of his ability by going up against a driver who, as well as being a two-time champion, is widely regarded as one of the quickest and most skilled drivers in F1’s rich history.

Fernando Alonso returns to F1 this year after two years away from the sport – Courtesy of Renault Sport Media

Alonso, though, comes back probably feeling a fair bit older than he did when he left. He raced against Jos Verstappen and Michael Schumacher during his first 18-year spell in the sport, and he is now about to race against their sons.

While Max had already become a fixture towards the end of Alonso’s first tenure, Michael’s son Mick will now be on the same grid as one of his father’s greatest rivals, as two generations collide.

Ferrari Academy Driver Mick Schumacher makes his F1 debut with Haas this year – Courtesy of Ferrari F1 Media

Schumacher claimed glory in the F2 championship last season with Prema, and he arrives in Formula One with one of Ferrari’s junior teams: Haas. The American outfit enter this year will a new driver lineup; the departing Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen are replaced by Schumacher and car number nine.

As Lewis Hamilton seeks a record eighth championship, and Mercedes try to extend their record of Constructors’ championship successes, the 2021 season is a huge one for a lot of drivers, in what is the last year before the regulation changes in 2022.