Back in Montreal for the Canadian GP at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and to say we had missed this circuit would be an understatement. It brought with it a mix of fortune for all the drivers during practice and a very interesting wet qualifying. This time around and unlike in Monaco, the wet tyres were actually used for what they are supposed to be.
Leading up to the weekend the F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali travelled to Johannesburg, South Africa for a visit to the Kyalami race track and a meeting with the CEO of Porsche SA and current owners of Kyalami Toby Venter. If all goes well and we are keeping our fingers and toes crossed they do, F1 could be returning to South Africa for the first time since 1993. Toyota Quantum as the safety car anyone?
The FIA has finally taken a positive proactive stance on an issue that the drivers have complained about and they are going to introduce a grid standard car height to combat the porposing and its damaging effect on the drivers. I don’t think Christian Horner and a few other team principles whose cars aren’t going up and down like a yoyo will be pleased with this.
During qualifying on Saturday, Fernando Alonso showed his experience and the great pace of the Alpine as he made his fought his way onto the front row start on the grid qualifying in second with Max Verstappen securing his first qualifying pole for the season.
The rain on Saturday meant no one used up any of their dry weather tyres and opened up the strategy options for the race as the top ten all started on mediums, and then there was a mix of between the mediums and hards down the order from Valtteri Bottas who started in P11.
Verstappen Holds off Sainz for Pole
With Charles Leclerc starting 19th due to a penalty for a new power unit and Sergio Perez crashing in Q2 on Saturday, Verstappen’s main challenger for pole going into the race was Alonso with Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari only able to qualify third.
This was a great chance for Sainz to close down on the championship but also a chance for Verstappen to increase the gap on his rivals. Verstappen got a good start off the line and had a steady lead from the get-go while Sainz made easy work of Alonso as he got past him in lap for thanks to DRS as well.
The Red Bull of Sergio Perez suffered a gearbox failure on lap 9 and his pulling off the track meant a Virtual Safety Car had to be deployed in order to move his car. This opened up the pitlane for a quick stop under the VSC and Verstappen pitted onto the hards, handing the race lead to Sainz. He would come out behind Alonso in third but he too makes light work of his overtake on Alonso three laps later on the main straight.
Sainz lead until Mick Schumacher pulled off the track on the exact same corner as Perez with a loss of power to his engine in lap 19. Another VSC was deployed as yet another Ferrari engine refused to be outdone on the failing to be on the reliable side of life and an early retirement for Schumacher’s Haas. This allowed Sainz to pit and he re-joined in fourth handing the lead to Verstappen. The chase was back on for Sainz.
Red Bull pitted Verstappen in lap 43 and much to his frustration came out behind Sir Lewis Hamilton and this only slows him down briefly in his chase for the podium. As luck would have it and a good call from the Ferrari pit wall, Yuki Tsunoda causes a full safety car on lap 49 after he crashes whilst rejoining the race from the pits. This gives Sainz another free stop and comes out on Verstappen with fresher tyres and thanks to the safety car, he is much closer to challenge at the restart and challenge, did he.
From the race restart on lap 55 until the end, Sainz was always within DRS range of Verstappen but couldn’t get past him as Verstappen did just enough to hold onto pole position, much to the delight and relief of the Red Bull team. Some consolation for Sainz as he finished the extra point for the fastest lap.
Well back Lewis
Not since the opening race in Bahrain has Hamilton finished on the podium and he equals his best finish so this season by taking third place at a track where he picked up his first-ever pole position.
Hamilton had complained on Friday that his car was nowhere closer to driveable as the Mercedes team tried something different with his set up but it just didn’t work out. Come qualifying on a wet track, Hamilton looked like a completely different driver as he powered his W13 to a fourth-place grid start. Seeing Alonso qualify second must have brought some nightmares and worry for the next day as the Alpine driver has been a difficult driver to overtake on one too many occasions.
Thankfully for Hamilton, Alonso wasn’t the immovable force he usually is and he was able to pass the Spaniard. And everything seemed to be going Hamilton’s way on Sunday. He was lucky to get away without a puncture defending his position from Kevin Magnussen on the first lap, and a VSC pit stop actually worked out well for him. And he was keeping up with the two frontrunners for most of the race finishing a mere seven seconds behind them.
We almost got to see a proper Hamilton and George Russell battle this weekend, with Russell chasing Hamilton for most of the race. Russell and Mercedes had been a little too ambitious during Q3 by sending the young Britt out on soft tyres on a wet track that was drying, but that just wasn’t dry enough for the gamble. His best time was set on intermediates and he only managed eighth but Mr Consistency made up for that with the sort of drive we’ve come to expect from him as he finished five seconds behind Hamilton. That’s another top-five finish in the bag.
For all the slack we have given the Mercedes AMG team this season, they have only failed to collect points from both cars once when Hamilton finished 13th in Italy. No, DNFs due to reliability to complain about. They might not be as quick as we expect them to be but they are reliable and it is this reliability, plus the overall talent of the drivers that have them and their drivers climbing up both championship tables. It really could have gone way worse for Mercedes and they keep picking up points and podiums when Ferrari and Red Bull fail to maximize.
Salvation for Leclerc
Going into the weekend we all could empathise with Leclerc. Two DNFs in three races all because of reliability and then having to start from the back in 19th as he took a new power unit to try remedy it all.
If he were African, we’d tell him to go appease the ancestors who do seem to be happy at all. Or maybe Jos Verstappen has a voodoo dollhouse modelled after the Ferrari factory and he keeps throwing a spanner in the works.
Lucky for Leclerc, the new parts worked well for him as he picked off drivers with some exceptional overtakes early on in the race. Most notably his overtake on Bottas in the 21st lap right at the last chicane. It wasn’t all rosy for him though, he struggled to get past Esteban Ocon’s Alpine come the 31st and had a slow stop on lap 41 that brought out 13th behind Daniel Riccardo and joined the DRS train led by Stroll in 9th.
He did manage to overtake both Alpines of Alonso and Ocon on lap 59 and 60, respectively and finished fifth three seconds behind the Mercedes. A few more laps and maybe, another overtake was on the cards against Russell.
Whatever jinx has been put on Ferrari is breaking the hearts of young drivers. This weekend, after an incredible qualifying performance that saw the Haas cars occupy fifth and sixth on the starting grid, the Ferrari jinx came back to haunt Mick Schumacher. On course for his first points ever in F1, the Ferrari engine in his Haas quit on him only 19 laps into the race. More needs to be done in Italy to curb these reliability issues otherwise we are going to see a lot more Ferrari cars parked on the side of the track instead of actually racing.
Kevin Magnussen suffered wing damage in the first lap trying to fight Hamilton and he was subsequently given a black & orange flag forcing him to pit lap eight to change the wing as the race stewards deemed it unsafe. As luck would have it, there was a VSC in the next lap caused by Perez. If they had waited for one more lap, their slow pit stop could have benefitted from the cars driving slower during the VSC. Race ruined and he finished dead last in 17th. Not the fairy tale end Guenther Steiner wanted.
Good Outing for Alpine and Alfa Romeo
The Alpines are fast and they have been showing up of late. One would have imagined a podium for Alonso after a very promising Free Practice three (FP3) lead to an exceptional qualifying in the wet weather. Unfortunately, the Alpine didn’t have the same continuous pace to last them a full race and Alonso wasn’t in the best of blocking moods. His last dash attempts to cross the line in P7 ahead of Bottas, coat him two places as he was given a five-second penalty for making more than one change in direction whilst defending a position.
That moved Bottas up to seventh and a good return for him after he had failed to make it into Q3 and out-qualified again by his young teammate Zhou Guanyu for a second consecutive race. His incredible 49-lap stint on the hards and running longer than anyone else earned him a well-deserved position in the points. Seventh was his to take and the stewards agreed.
Zhou was also fast in the sister Alfa Romeo and had a good qualifying session making it into Q3 and out-qualifying Bottas for a second consecutive weekend. He was frustrated by the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll who he couldn’t seem to get past even with DRS advantage. After the safety car restart, he had another Aston Martin to get past, this time though he was able to clear Sebastian Vettel and finish 9th. He too benefited from Alonso’s self-inflicted penalty and was promoted to 8th. Back in the points and well-deserved too after last week’s engine failure.
Ocon put in a solid drive in the other Alpine and was somewhat lucky the team orders were in his favour when Leclerc was chasing after him and Alonso who was faster than him. The team refused to change positions as doing so might have allowed Leclerc through. Not too long after, Leclerc got past both Alpines but the damage had already been done to Alonso. Ocon the happier driver finished sixth.
Rest of the Pack
Something went wrong at Aston Martin between FP3 and qualifying. The pace Vettel had was non-existent in qualifying and ruined a day of much promise. Loads of praise must be directed to the Canadian Lance Stroll who finished 10th with a one-stop drive as good as Bottas’. He started in 17th similar to his two other starts at his home GP, where he finished 9th on both occasions.
Double stacking isn’t for everyone and McLaren showed us this when their pit crew made a hash of it, reminiscent of Mercedes in 2019. Riccardo’s stop was not all that fast, delayed by the front right tyre mechanics. This meant Lando Norris had to slow down more so they could clear Riccardo. Mass confusion followed as the pit crew fitted the wrong tyres on his car and they didn’t have a tyre for the right side ready as the mechanics on that side were still trying to get their bearing from the Riccardo stop.
Not a good weekend for the team as Norris was plagued with engine problems which started on Saturday ruining his qualifying and race on Sunday. Riccardo didn’t have enough pace to keep in the points as he was passed by Stroll on lap 63. His spot at McLaren looks safer now that AlphaTauri has confirmed Pierre Gasly will race for them in 2023.
The decision to stay will not have had positive reinforcement after Gasly’s car suffered more problems that greatly affected his performance in qualifying and in the race. With the performance he put in during FP3 and his overall talent, he deserves a better-performing car and the junior Red Bull team can’t rely on Tsunoda just yet.
Spare a thought for Alex Albon who had done well to get into Q2 on Saturday and after putting in a good first stint was running 10th on Sunday but all his progress was undone when he pitted a lap before Schumacher’s VSC. This allowed everyone else to gain a faster pit stop and he was stuck towards the rear where he would have gained places when the other drivers would have taken the odd 20-second pit stop. As for his teammate Nicholas Latifi, his days in the Williams must be numbered. At least he didn’t finish dead last.
After an exciting two weekends of racing, we’re stuck with no action until the Great Britain GP at the Silverstone Circuit. That’s two weeks to get things right on all fronts for the teams and drivers.
Another street circuit but definitely one faster and more exciting than Monaco. The Baku City Circuit in the capital of Azerbaijan was the host of the eighth race on the F1 calendar.
The old city with its mix of stunning modern buildings had seen five different winners for each of the five races held there and three of these belonged to Mercedes drivers. History lessons are all the that the silver arrows are getting right at the moment.
The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is one normally characterised by red flags as drivers try to squeeze through tight corners coming off some fast straights. Last year Pirelli played a hand in causing red flag incidents with rapidly disintegrating tyres. This year the only red flag we saw was during qualifying when Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin went into the barriers.
Needless to say, it ruined Q1 for a lot of the drivers but his accident helped him beat Mich Schumacher who started last on the grid. Good thing Stroll and Sebastian Vettel were more behaved, on Sunday than they were during qualifying.
The porposing was more a concern for all the team as the street circuit threw out all the work done to combat it. After this weekend, I’m sure the drivers are going to need a soft cushion to sit on and a truckload of painkillers because all that bouncing up and down in the cars must have taken a toll on the body.
Red Bull Secure a One-Two Finish
The battle for pole had been between Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bulls’ Sergio Perez as the two traded best times in all three practices during the weekend. It was Leclerc who had the upper hand though as he scored his second Baku pole for Sunday’s race.
Saturday’s party was short-lived as Perez got the better start and a lockup into turn one by Leclerc lost him first place to Perez. The Ferrari seemed to not have an answer to Perez’s pace early on as he was already two seconds up on Leclerc by lap two. It’s no wonder he has signed a new contract with the team. Heck, even Carlos Sainz complained about how fast the Red Bulls were as he was falling back off Max Verstappen.
Somehow, Leclerc was able to keep Verstappen behind him even though the Red Bull driver had DRS but, it just wasn’t enough to get past the Ferrari who was getting a slipstream from Perez ahead and managing his electric power boost to perfection.
There wasn’t much action at the beginning of the race until Sainz’s Ferrari gave up on him as he went into the runoff area at turn four and had to retire from the race with hydraulic issues. This prompted a virtual safety carn(VSC) and a lot of drivers went in for the faster pitstop during VSC with many including Leclerc slapping on the hard tyre.
Something happened in the Red Bull garage as Perez seemed to have lost most of his blistering pace he had against his teammate Verstappen who passed him on lap 15. After pitting for hards on lap 19, he came out second behind Leclerc and the race car alive with him setting off to catch Leclerc. Verstappen’s job was made a lot easier when yet another Ferrari had to retire, much to the dismay of Leclerc who has now had two DNFs in three races.
Verstappen inherited pole position and had a comfortable race from there on finishing 20 seconds ahead of his teammate Perez. Though Perez managed to get the bonus point for the fastest lap, one begs the question again, what happened to Perez’s pace.
A bouncy 3rd and 4th for Mercedes
We have been waiting all season long to see a proper battle between the Mercedes drivers on race day and we almost had it this weekend but, again Sir Lewis Hamilton got the short end of the stick when he pitted straight after George Russell during the VSC caused by Sainz’s retirement. We have already seen Russell go up against Valtteri Bottas twice this season and come up on top, but that’s not the Mercedes battle we want. Bottas is still Hamilton’s ultimate wingman.
Hamilton was gaining on Pierre Gasly in fifth but due to a slow pitstop procedure, he was overtaken in the pits by Vettel and lost another place to Esteban Ocon who didn’t pit as he started on the hards for a one-stop race. That wasn’t the only time Lewis had to get past a fast Alpine as the king of blocking and now the longest-running driver in F1 was holding up the McLarens and Hamilton before pitting in lap 19.
Hamilton regained position and was ahead of Gasly before being pitted during another Ferrari-inspired VSC, this time after Kevin Magnussen’s Haas gave up in the 33rd lap. Fresher tyres and a faster Mercedes gave Hamilton an easy pass against the Alpha Tauri but catching up to Russell would need 20 more laps to achieve and even if they were on offer, I doubt Hamilton would have wanted to continue in that car that was taking a physical toll on him due to the excessive bouncing.
All along Russell was having a quiet and uninterrupted race. A good qualifying performance put him fifth on the grid and after the Ferraris bowed out of the race, a podium finish was an inevitable result. That’s three 3rd place finishes now for Russell who now sits fourth on the championship standings, 17 points behind Leclerc.
Is Ferrari the hill you chose to die on?
The moment Sainz pulled off onto the escape road in the ninth lap, we all thought he had bottled a good race again but it was the ever-reliable Ferrari that had given up on him. This looks all too familiar for Ferrari as they had a good start last season as well but consistency isn’t a popular word in their engineers’ vocab.
There is something seriously wrong at Ferrari right now. From bad strategy calls, to an engine that can’t seem to stand the pressure. Out of the five cars that retired this weekend, four of them were Ferrari-powered cars and I guess it’s only fair that the main team should suffer the most casualties.
Besides Sainz and Leclerc, Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu was the only other driver associated with the prancing pony having a good race. He out-qualified teammate Bottas for the first time this season and passed him as well on the way to tenth position before his car failed. Bottas had no pace and only finished 11th thanks to a good long first stint in the hards and the other retirements. The only highlight of the weekend was the new Italian flag livery that is reminiscent of Francesco the Italian racer in the animated movie Cars 2.
The Haas cars didn’t fare better and their race was already ruined by the red flag during qualifying on Saturday and a coincidental dip onto the slip road that caused a yellow flag by Alonso on the last lap of Q1. Ferrari blew this weekend more times than Sainz has all season. They are now 80 points behind Red Bull and only 38 points ahead of Mercedes, but hey it’s only the 3rd race of 22.
Best of the rest
After Perez’s new contract news, one must feel for Gasly and any other young driver in the Red Bull stable. This wasn’t the news they hoped for and shuts the door on a promotion to the senior team, though I strongly believe this is better for Gasly’s career. His performance this weekend was a good message to other teams that he’s still one of the best drivers on the grid and could have challenged more for fourth had the team pitted him during the last VSC. Fifth is still at a race he finished 3rd last year, is still a very good result and his best so far this season.
McLaren has a really tricky situation on their hands and we saw how team orders were not all that welcome by both Lando Norris and Daniel Riccardo. Danny was faster in the earlier stages of the race on the hard tyre but was kept behind Norris to protect him from a faster Alonso as they tried the overcut. It didn’t really pay off in the latter stages of the race as both papaya cars were chasing down Alonso with Danny leading the charge but now slower than Norris. To be fair, they played the team game better by not letting Norris past Danny. Norris evidently wasn’t pleased with this.
Eight and ninth is how it finished for Danny and Norris and a good comeback for Danny who qualified 12th. The McLarens had the slowest straight-line speed but some good strategy and solid driving from the pair saved the day. This could silence the rumour mongers on a Gasly switch (who made a good overtake on Danny in the 23rd lap as a result of being the good wingman) to McLaren for a little longer, although I don’t think it would be a bad move, as long as Danny has a seat elsewhere. Maybe at Alpine or Aston Martin when Vettel or Alonso finally retire.
Vettel was fast this weekend but not as fast as the Alpines and this was evident when he was chasing down Ocon after pitting during the Sainz VSC. A lockup and dip into the sliproad in lap 13 cost him places but a superb spin and recovery meant it didn’t cost him too much time. He managed to finish in sixth but more was on offer had it not been for the earlier error.
The odd and unexpected
It’s not bizarre to see duct tape in the F1 fraternity as many small fixes have been made to cars using duct tape but no one including the FIA would have expected the Alpha Tauri crew to mend Yuki Tsunoda’s faulty wing with duct tape.
On lap 37, the Japanese driver’s wing only opened on one side when DRS was activated which prompted race officials to wave an orange and black flag for the driver. The team either have to fix the problem or retire the car as a faulty rear wing could be the difference between the car being able to brake or not. Running in seventh, the team chose to stick the rear wing shut with duct tape and send out Tsunoda with no DRS for the remainder of the race.
Credit to them for giving him the faster soft compound tyre on a car that was looking pretty quick all weekend. Maybe Ferrari should try using duct tape as well.
Oh, and Nicholas Latifi had the most unfortunate 10-second stop and go penalty. Before the race started, a Williams mechanic went back onto the grid to give Latifi a push back in line to start the formation lap but this was done after the 15 second warning when all pit personnel are supposed to clear the track. Harsh, but rules are rules, well only when it suits the FIA.
Onwards to another street race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian GP for the first time since 2019.
Were you not entertained? That should be the tagline to everything Monaco, especially for all those who tune into the weekend’s action with lacklustre expectations for a thrill.
In a nutshell, there is a section of fans that dislike the Monaco Grand Prix held at the Circuit de Monaco because the race is decided during qualifying on Saturday with few grid positions lost on Sunday unless your team botched the pit stop like they did for Bottas in 2021. Or the more likely occurrence of losing your wits and succumbing to the tight corners and narrow track with a pricey crash.
Monaco is more famous for royalty, yachts, opulence and mega parties off the track. Well, that’s all that some choose to focus on especially with this being the last contracted year for the street circuit. Negotiations to renew the contract haven’t been going according to plan and there are calls by some fans to drop the race entirely.
I get that Monaco isn’t the most exciting race on the calendar and there aren’t many chances to overtake, but Monaco has a purpose to serve. It challenges the teams and drivers to reconfigure their cars and driving styles to try and get around the shortest circuit with the slowest corner faster than anyone in one lap. It plays to some drivers’ strengths and not so many others like Nicholas Latifi who has had a torrid time on a Saturday but somehow finds the pace throughout the race.
Before you advocate for its cancellation from the calendar, how’s about you take the trip down memory lane and name all the previous winners in the Monaco GP quiz.
A Long Sunday Race
Sunday’s race had rain and drama. The rain also brought confusion. It’s not just in the busy city centres where drivers lose their senses with a few drops of rain. If you ever felt useless in life, then spare a thought for the person who made wet tyres for F1.
Okay, that’s a bit harsh as no one had had any practice run on the wets and more rain did fall. And if you had any doubts about how treacherous the track was then Latifi and Lance Stroll’s crashes under the safety car at the beginning of the race are reasons we should trust the FIA race officials. I don’t think not having Michael Masi there helps improve their trustworthiness but, hey they knew better on Sunday.
There were many weird decisions necessitated by a multitude of factors. The race was reduced to a time limit and not a certain number of laps because it was going over the two-hour mark allocated to a race. Luckily there were enough laps for full points to be issued. There also were no standing starts even though the grid straight was dry enough for both cars on each side to get off safely, but I guess the FIA knew better.
Into the Title Race
The first time Sergio “Checo” Perez qualified in the top five in Monaco and he managed to convert it into a race win thanks again to some brilliant race strategy from Red Bull. To be fair, Perez did well to keep Max Verstappen behind him with his crash in the last few minutes of Q3 which brought an early end to qualifying. Second time in two years a red flag has ended the final run of Q3 in Monaco.
Perez pitted early onto the intermediates when the track was drying up and the inters were performing better than the wets. This was a chance for an undercut and when Red Bull double-stacked the cars, Perez retained first position from Carlos Sainz who was going for an overcut on his teammate by running longer on the wets and going onto the hard compound tyres with drier lines.
Red Bull rolled the dice and were the biggest winners when the Ferraris double-stacked onto the slicks and lost out on the exit as Charles Leclerc was relegated to fourth behind Verstappen.
The Mick Schumacher red flag brought a mixture of tyres for the grid with the Red Bulls fitting both cars with mediums and the Ferraris throwing on the hards which had more grip towards the end of the race. Thanks to the reduced race laps and some excellent defending from Perez, a first Monaco GP win was achieved and he is now the most successful Mexican racer with three wins.
This was a strong message to Red Bull from Perez after the Spanish team orders that handed pole to Verstappen in the last race. Perez moves into third, six points from Leclerc in second and 15 from championship leader Verstappen.
Leclerc Can’t Catch a Break
Finally, Leclerc gets to finish a race in his home GP. The curse of Monaco has been lifted but not completely as Ferrari got their strategy horribly wrong with Leclerc as they pitted him behind Sainz in a not so fast double stack which allowed the Red Bulls to jump each Ferrari and gain a lasting advantage.
Leclerc was furious with his team who were trying to ward off the Red Bull pit stops and Verstappen’s pace on the inters which was faster than Leclerc. There’s some controversy with Verstappen and Perez’s pit exits. The suggestion is they crossed the prohibited pit lane line on the exit and Ferrari had some questions for the race stewards which did not yield the results they wanted.
Leclerc had the faster car during qualifying with the Ferrari finding more speed through the slow turns in Monte Carlo. It just wasn’t meant to be for him and a weekend both pouncing ponies were showing were shining. Had we gone to the full race length, Sainz might have gotten the opportunity to overtake Perez and maybe, just maybe, Leclerc could have also gained a place or two. Maybe Sainz should be Leclerc’s strategist because he defied the team’s plan to pit early and rewrote Sunday’s plan for himself.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be but a good running for the number two drivers Perez and Sainz, the latter was unlucky to crash into Perez at the end of Q3. Thankfully that did little to affect their race on Sunday. Valuable points for both where the title favourites dropped points.
The Young Brits Shine On
McLaren’s Lando Norris had been suffering the effects of tonsillitis during the Spanish GP and he wasn’t 100% yet by the time the Monaco weekend came up. This didn’t hold back the young Brit from putting in a stellar qualifying performance, securing fifth spot on the starting grid.
Norris lost out to Mercedes George Russel when he pitted well before the safety car and red flag incident after the Schumacher crash. Russel yet again was the luckier of the two Mercedes drivers and jumped up one spot to fifth thus continuing his run of not finishing lower than fifth this season. What a season he is having.
The first few races for Russell must have felt like driving an upgraded Williams car. He is used to bringing the best out of an underperforming car and it’s no surprise he is able to get that Mercedes around tracks at a decent pace, which looks to be getting better with the new upgrades. Not that Sir Lewis Hamilton can’t squeeze the juice out of the W13 but it went so far back in terms of performance and has taken a lot more for him to get something noteworthy out of it.
Spare a thought for Daniel Riccardo as well whose time at McLaren is just not going as planned and although Danny has “thick skin” and a positive never quit attitude, we can only wonder how much more negative reinforcement from the weekend and Zak Brown’s comments he can take. I like Danny and want to see him do well. If you had any doubt about his abilities, just remember he has a race winner and Norris doesn’t.
The New Minister of Defence
Whilst Norris and Russell were going along well and keeping in touch with the front four, Fernando Alonso was controlling the pace of the midfield pack, much to the frustration of every other driver behind him.
Alonso was running in seventh place and did exactly what his Alpine teammate Estaben Ocon did in keeping Hamilton behind him with more defensive blocks than Thibaut Courtois had in the Champions League final. Alonso secured the seventh place by running two seconds slower than the leading pack in each lap and saving his tyres for the end of the race.
This ruined everyone else’s race behind him as Hamilton (eighth) and Bottas (tenth but promoted to ninth) who were faster than him could have gotten past and dropped him to at least ninth where he would have been the target for the rest of the pack chasing points. Alonso’s pace was so slow that the front four were able to catch up with the backbenchers and lap them. A few more laps and he too could have been lapped.
All is fair in race car driving I guess but I don’t think Ocon would have been pleased with Alonso whose actions forced him out of the points even as his ninth-place finish was nullified by the five-second penalty he incurred for colliding into Hamilton whilst defending. Sebastian Vettel benefitted from Ocon’s demise as he was promoted to tenth and collected the last point.
Takeaways from Monaco
Thank God Mick Schumacher was able to walk away from that accident. The continuous effort to make the F1 cars safer is not going unnoticed and everyone involved must be commended for the work put in.
With that said, it was a torrid weekend for Haas as Kevin Magnussen had to retire and it’s yet another crash for Schumacher. I can’t fault him much for this one but he is crashing out at almost the same rate as Latifi and Stroll. The only reason we don’t mention him much is that he’s only in his second season and he has been putting in better performances fighting for points, although he still hasn’t scored any yet. So maybe Stroll would be the safer bet here.
Someone needs to take away the red flag from the stewards that stopped Q1 after Yuki Tsunoda’s barrier tap. It wasn’t a “stop the race” worthy crash but because of it, lots of drivers lost out on a Q2 appearance.
Pierre Gasly needs more luck on his side. I feel like he and Hamilton have just been going through the most this season and aren’t able to deliver to their full potential. We know Gasly is fast and competent. He just needs a bit more luck and his car to be as reliable to get where we know he can be. I wonder how long it will take for us to hear of a team switch for him. Maybe take Hamilton’s seat when he retires.
A weekend’s rest and next up another tight street circuit in Baku!
The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya received a lot of stick long before the teams had arrived at the track for the Spanish Grand Prix. Many dubbed this to be one of the most boring races on the calendar.
If you put it into context and look at the last five races, Sir Lewis Hamilton had taken pole on every occasion. I highly doubt fans of the sport found his dominance boring, but then again if no one could topple him at the stop, it makes for a pretty straightforward race.
This weekend was a far cry from boring and it resembled the 10 years from 2007 to 2016 in which there was a different pole seater each year. Max Verstappen was a surprise winner in 2016, throwing a spanner in Mercedes’s dominance.
The new upgrades taken by a number of the teams (all except Haas) combined with the heat in Barcelona and 2022 car designs, helped make this an interesting race with a lot of overtakes. The drone footage wasn’t the best and made for some dizzying visuals on its maiden appearance and the pitstops weren’t shown for most of the first stops. Back to the drawing board for the broadcasters, I hope.
Finish The Race And Finish First!
Another finish for Verstappen and another race victory for him and Red Bull. Red Bull managed to get both cars on the top two podium places with Sergio Perez finishing second after having to play wingman again.
Sergio Perez had the cleaner race on Sunday and didn’t miss a step. He got off quicker than Hamilton on the start and after both Carlos Sainz and Verstappen spun off the track at turn four thanks to a tailwind, Perez had made his way to second behind Charles Leclerc.
Verstappen dropped to fourth behind George Russel and found it difficult to get past the Mercedes more so because his DRS wing would not open. The same thing happened in qualifying and restricted the Red Bull to second at the start. A frustrated Verstappen on some occasions opened and closed the wing as he was trying to get it to work on the main straight.
Lap 24 Verstappen managed to get past Russel into the first turn but the young Britt come back and retook the position almost immediately with some great wheel to wheel battle.
Credit to the Red Bull pitwall that changed Verstappen’s strategy to a three-stop and used the car’s natural speed to offset the lack of DRS to get Verstappen ahead of Russel and again the pitwall played a crucial part by moving Perez out of the way for his teammate. We’re only in the sixth race of the season and already Perez is getting team orders.
Perez wasn’t all too thrilled by this at the end of the race and you can understand why, but then we must remind each other that all priority is given to the Dutch driver. Perez is impressing in the second car and could have easily won the race if it weren’t for team orders on more than one occasion during the race.
Heartbreak For Leclerc
Leclerc come into the weekend after a not so pleasant drive in Monaco where he got to drive Niki Lauda’s 1974 Ferrari after brake failure into a turn. It would be cruel for me to say the spirit of Lauda must have been against the Monegasque as his Ferrari lost power in the 27th lap, forcing Leclerc to retire and ultimately handing the advantage to Red Bull.
Having spun out during Q3 on Saturday, Leclerc managed to pick himself back up and get the pole position for the start of the GP. He had a good start and was able to block off Verstappen before Turn one and from there it was smooth sailing until his car gave up on him. A great weekend ruined for Leclerc who drops to second place, six points behind the new championship leader Verstappen.
Carlos Sainz did well to recover after a tailwind caused the Spanish driver to spin into turn four. Sainz had also gotten a bad start off the line that saw him occupy 6th place and after his spin, he dropped to 11th. A three-stop strategy allowed the Spaniard to get past Valtteri Bottas and was close enough to Hamilton to benefit from the Mercedes’ problem late on in the race.
Fourth place and a good race return for Sainz who gave his home crowd something to cheer about.
Come Back Mercedes, Come Back For Hamilton
The Mercedes AMG team seem to have found some answers to a lot of their early-season problems, problems that have plagued Hamilton more than Russell who continues to impress for the Silver Arrows.
Mr Saturday (who should be named Mr Depandable for all his race day performances) started in fourth after another solid qualifying performance. Russell showed us all why he is the right man for the job. The DRS problems Verstappen was facing helped Russell keep him ahead, blocking off the Red Bull with a performance Fernando Alonso would be proud of.
He also had cooling issues but his were not as serve as Hamilton and took the final podium position to continue a fine run of form that has seen him finish no lower than fifth so far this season.
There were many highlights for Mercedes this weekend. Their car upgrades were working well and the car wasn’t bouncing around like Lando Norris basketball helmet. Both drivers should go pace during practice and that earned them fourth and sixth on the grid for Sunday.
The spotlight shone brightest on Hamilton who earned the Driver of the Day accolade for his fantastic drive from 19th to finish fifth. It could have easily been fourth had it not been for the overheating issues that slowed Hamilton down and lost the position to Sainz, who he had overtaken a few laps earlier.
Such was the pace of Hamilton, that had he not been hit by Kevin Magnussen in the first lap, he could have been in the mix for a podium position. A lot of people might have been shocked by Hamilton’s suggestion to retire the car early on when he was running in 19 but was told that an eight place was possible by the pitwall.
I can understand why he would want to retire the car then. He had just gotten a car he was comfortable with and there would be no point in wasting the engine if points weren’t on the table. Then again maybe it was another famous Hamilton bluff. How many times have we heard of him complain about his tyres and then go on to win the race?
“This isn’t the strategy we should have been on!”
The Alfa Romeo crew have taken a leaf out of Mercedes’ book in that they didn’t listen much to Bottas when he advised them that a two-stop strategy wasn’t the way to go.
Just like Mick Schumacher’s tyres, which “weren’t interested” in the race anymore, both were left for easy pickings on older tyres while the rest of the field had fresher tyres towards the end of the race. Both drivers had been having a good race with Schumacher in the running for his first points ever and Bottas running in fourth, third when Russell had pitted.
Their respective teams need to learn how to adapt their strategies faster during a race. Look at what Red Bull did with Verstappen and his dodgy DRS. The talent is in the drivers and if the teams play their part well, there are a lot of points on offer. Still another solid and dependable run from Bottas.
Best of the Rest?
A tale of two contrasting drives again for McLaren. Norris was able to recover from a deleted lap time on his final run in Q3 to finish eight, splitting the two Alpines. An ideal run for a driver who had health issues during the race.
It just keeps getting worse for Daniel Riccardo and very soon the empathy points might run out for him. Starting in ninth, he could only bring the car in for a 12th place finish. The rumour mill could be gathering momentum and we might see articles linking McLaren with a new driver. I sure hope not though.
We know Nicholas Latifi isn’t the best at setting qualifying laps but he has shown some good pace on race day and he did so on by finishing ahead of his highly-rated teammate Alex Albon and Haas’ Magnussen. Still, the rumours aren’t dying down and Nyck de Vries’ performance which had faster times than Latifi in the first practice on Friday would not have helped. Is he driving on eggshells?
The green Red Bull caused a stir this weekend but didn’t have the pace in qualifying to raise more eyebrows. Aston Martin won their case that was brought up by Red Bull for allegedly copying their car’s design. Maybe the tactic was to not perform so well that Red Bull would leave them alone and then start setting go times with the AMR22 next weekend when the coast is clear.
Onward to Monaco
The weather reports indicate chances of rain this weekend in Monaco and for once global warming is going to cause a positive shift for a race. Slapping on some wet tyres might bring the much-needed thrill and excitement at a circuit where the race result is usually decided during qualifying.
We all hope Leclerc can finally get it together at his home race. It hasn’t been the kindest place for the Ferrari driver in recent years.
The inaugural Miami Grand Prix had more stars attend the race than there are stars on the American flag. The sport’s popularity has grown in recent years, and as of 2023, America will host three races, with an even glitzier Las Vegas race being added to the calendar.
That means a lot more lights, “glamour” on epic and pompous proportions if the Miami race was anything to go by. There was an artificial harbour, but the yachts were at least real. The cars were more colourful with some coast life inspired wheel cap designs. Heck, even the helmets were more vibrant, with Lando Norris stealing the show with his basketball helmet. I guess it made sense with all the porpoising many of the cars have been experiencing.
We had the jewellery and underwear rule changes that for now only make sense to the shot callers and some over the top antics with the long drive to the podium presentation complete with a police escort that seemed to last longer than Zhou Guany’s race.
The race track itself, a repurposed parking lot around the Hard Rock Stadium, left a lot to be desired with some fast sections and some tricky turns. Driver safety was a major concern with the concrete barriers around the track, especially after Carlos Sainz’s crash on Friday and Esteban Ocon’s crash into the barriers in FP3 caused enough damage to rule him out of qualifying.
Okay, enough of sounding like an elitist old Bernie Ecclestone fan who is resistant to change. The Pirelli NFL helmets were a cool touch and the new fans were there in their thousands to support. The next ten years racing in Miami might not be a bad piggybank for the sport.
Finish the Race to Finish First!
With a mistake in the final lap of Q3 on Saturday, Max Verstappen lost out on pole position for the race on Sunday and handed the advantage to the two Ferraris with Charles Leclerc securing another pole start and a fantastic comeback by Sainz. The second row had Max and teammate Sergio Perez who was showing some good form and could have taken pole himself.
The Red Bulls carried their Saturday pace into Sunday with Max getting off the line quicker than Sainz and taking away second place from him. The Ferraris struggled against the Red Bull on the straights as their cars are more suited to maneouvring through corners fast but that also costs them the maximum speed.
Hounding Leclerc from the start, Max was able to get past the Ferrari in the 9th lap, thanks also to the extra speed provided by DRS. And from there Max began to pull away and create a comfortable gap up front. It is not until the accident between Norris and Pierre Gasly in the 41st lap brought out the safety car and bunch up the field which gave Leclerc a second chance to challenge for the lead. His old hard tyres had a lot more life in them but Max held off the challenge for victory.
Max has had two DNFs this season and the other three times he’s been able to finish the race, he has finished in first place. It’s good to see him race “clean” against Leclerc and this makes for a safer and fairer rivalry. Advantage Max, not so much Red Bull Perez’s switch to medium tyres under the safety car didn’t gain him enough of an advantage to take third from Sainz. A sensor fault for Perez helped slow him down just enough for Sainz to stay ahead.
Red Bull reliability is still an issue it seems.
“Valtteri, this is Toto”
For a lot of Valtteri Bottas’ career at Mercedes and certainly in his final season, the message to let Sir Lewis Hamilton past has been something we’ve heard quite too often over the radio.
Bottas produced a fantastic final qualifying lap to take fifth on the starting grid ahead of former teammate Hamilton. To be fair, Bottas was having a very good day on the track as he was consistent throughout qualifying.
For most of the race, he was able to keep Hamilton at bay but two laps after the safety car restart, Bottas went wide at the hairpin and was passed by the two Mercedes. A costly error that saw him finish in seventh place. Not the end he wanted but another good weekend nonetheless from the Fin. Or maybe he’s still the ultimate wingman!
Lucky Boy George
George Russell must be Irish because he surely is has the luck of the Irish when it comes to safety cars and free pitstops. Yet again Russell benefits from another safety car which helped him come out right behind his teammate and challenge for what was then fifth position.
And yet again, Mercedes failed to pit Hamilton during the safety car, although the hard compound tyres were giving better performance in the latter stages of the race. Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to help Hamilton ward off the challenge from the sister Mercedes, as crossed the line in fifth place.
A great comeback considering Russell failed to make it into Q3 for a second consecutive weekend, only managing a 12th grid start. The young Brit has certainly shown some good race pace and taken the opportunity for points when he could.
Both Mercedes were good in FP1 and FP2 setting some good lap times which saw them running in the top five. Everyone was shocked by that performance but we are all hoping that we start to see the Silver Arrows challenging for the podium spots soon.
Middle Order Battling
In the middle stages of the race, all the excitement was in the battle to get into the top ten. From 15th to 10th place, the cars were all in a DRS train trying to get past each other.
Slow pitstops due to hot wheel nuts not playing their part right led to some losing their advantages and getting caught up in the traffic. Norris was one of these whose battle for positions now included a Williams.
As exciting as the battle was, it became too close for comfort on many occasions and led to Fernando Alonso receiving a five second penalty for bumping wheels with Gasly. This lapse in judgment saw his final position moved from 8th to 11th.
Had it not been for Alonso, Gasly would not have been having trouble with grip in the turns and maybe there would not have been the accident between him and Norris. Not that we like to see crashes, but that one made the race interesting again with the pack bunched up after the safety car.
Mick Schumacher almost scored his first points of the season but the battle between adopted father Sebatian Vettel and him led to him crashing into Vettel and ultimately ending both their races and any chance for points.
Another Point for Albon
Fancy red hair for the Williams driver Alex Albon and two more points added to his tally. Makes you wonder what they need to do to get Nicholas Latifi his confidence back and put in some points scoring performances.
Lance Stroll looked good in qualifying making it to Q3 but was unlucky to have to start from the pits. drove well and put himself in a place to earn 10th place after Alonso’s penalty.
Two weeks from now we’ll be in Spain. Oleeeeee!
Finally, after two seasons we got to race in Melbourne again. We almost had a race last year but Australia’s stricter Covid restrictions and upsurges in the virus spread saw the race cancelled twice in one year.
Things weren’t going right down under and we can’t blame a country for wanting to protect its citizen. Thank the gods of speed this year was different and the organisers in Melbourne wanted to prove so with their track upgrades that saw four DRS (Drag Resistance System) zones included on the redesigned circuit. Australia already has the fastest chicane (two simultaneous turns shaped like an S) of all the current F1 race tracks and the added DRS zones meant more speed. Like loads more speed.
Unfortunately, our excitement was short-lived and Fernando Alonso led the charge for the DRS zones to be reduced to three, for safety reasons and quite understandably so. He proved we didn’t need the extra assisted speed as he was up on Charles Leclerc before his crash in Q3. Alonso on pole is a dream that soon could become reality if he can keep this pace in qualifying.
“Can We Go For The Fastest Lap?”
Dominant again was the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc who completed his first triple sweep with pole in qualifying on Saturday, pole on from start to finish on Sunday and getting in the fastest lap. Wait, wasn’t he also your driver of the day?
That is how good the Ferraris have been this season and I’m slowly being made to take back my words that this will not last. It’s just the third race but Leclerc now leads the driver’s championship with 71 points and 34 points ahead of the next best George Russell.
We’ve seen how pairing a fast and reliable car with a talented driver can it look like a walk in the park and we have missed this sort of edgy driving from the Italian legends. Both drivers are pushing to be the best but this just wasn’t the weekend Carlos Sainz had hoped for.
I now understand why people would get so angry at Valterri Bottas for his poor starts and putting the car in the middle of the field where it doesn’t belong. Certainly, Toto Wolff made his opinions felt in Imola last year when we had that nasty incident. The difference though between Bottas and some of his bad starts and Sainz this weekend is Bottas keeps a cool head most of the time and Sainz was so desperate to get back to the front and not lose any ground on Leclerc that he pushed too hard and beached himself.
Sainz looked like a man under pressure to stay relevant and not be overshadowed by his championship leading teammate. His mistake in the final qualifying lap and then a poor start on the grid sent him into the midfield dogfight where you need more skill than a faster car to survive. Tough weekend and a tough way to end the race, but it might have been better that way. He couldn’t cause any damage later on.
Is Reliability The Issue?
Could Max Verstappen be pushing the Red Bull too much or is it that this year’s car cannot match up to his tenacity? My bet is on the first one because we all know Max is the darling of Red Bull and they will literally sacrifice other drivers in their stable for him.
The Red Bull was fast, we saw that against the Mercedes with Sergio Perez and Sir Lewis Hamilton having a good go at it and Vettel’s crash not allowing Hamilton the opportunity to get back at Perez as they were entering the accident sector with double yellow flags stopping the fight. Perez regained third after Mercedes had gotten their pit strategy perfect to have Hamilton come out in front of Perez after both their first stops.
Perez would end up finishing second after Max’s car failed again and saw him retire on lap 38 with a fire in his engine. Much needed points and a podium for Perez, another torrid weekend after so much promise for Max.
First Mercedes Podium!
I bet the Mercedes team weren’t all that thrilled that the fourth DRS zone was removed as this could have helped the Mercedes team challenge better upfront.
Russell and Hamilton made good starts at the beginning of the race with Hamilton getting up to third and Russell occupying fifth place. Hamilton was frustrated with the Vettel crash which cost him in more ways than one.
Having stayed out a little longer than Perez, Hamilton turned up the pace and was helped by a fast pitstop to get ahead of Perez when he left the pits. The Vettel inspired safety car meant Russell who hadn’t pitted yet could do so and brought him out in third ahead of Alonso, Perez and Hamilton. Perez was able to pass Russell in lap 38 and set up a potential battle between the two Mercs. We didn’t really get to see one as Hamilton finished 2.5 seconds behind his teammate.
A first podium finish in Mercedes colours for Russell moves him up to second on the championship table. Quite a good start for him and not a bad return for the whole team, but Hamilton will rue the bad luck he keeps having with the pit lane.
Not A Shoey But Still A Smile
We all wanted Daniel Riccardo to do well in Australia. It’s home turf and Dani is one of the most loveable drivers on the F1 roster. It would have been a perfect Sunday had he won the race and given us the famous shoey celebration.
Alas, there was no champagne for Dani or McLaren but this was a positive weekend for them. Fifth for Lando Noris and sixth for Dani were much welcomed results for the team and the drivers.
I hope this is the beginning of better performances from the papaya cars.
Unfortunately, Haas who had taken over from McLaren’s glory had no cigar on the weekend team principal Gunter Steiner turned 50 as none of the cars were able to finish in the points. The first time this season.
Strategy, Strategy, Strategy
Strategy is the name of the game in F1. You can have the best driver or the fastest car, but if your strategy is not on cue, you can lose the whole race.
During the first safety car, Aston Martin pulled the best strategy move I’ve seen this year by pitting Lance Stroll onto the medium and then pitting him a lap later onto the hard compound tyre. Even though he would start at the back, Stroll would have a chance of scoring points as he had made his mandatory stop and had to drive 50+ laps on the hards.
A bold move and it would have worked but Stroll wasn’t really having the drive he needed to. Some dangerous weaving on the pit lane straight got him a 5-second penalty and he lost out to the faster cars of Pierre Gasly both Alfa Romeo’s who also had fresher tyres. Not a weekend to remember for Aston Martin but such bold strategy calls could bear fruit.
And the boldest strategy did bear fruit. Alex Albon, Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen were some of the drivers that started the race on the hard compound tyres with the plan being a one-stop strategy. Go long on the hards and get on to the faster mediums closer to the end of the race and make up the positions. It didn’t work out for Alonso who was looking solid all weekend but he got stuck behind the Stroll train and his tyres gave up before they were of any use.
The king of strategy goes to the Williams team who had Albon running seventh and did 57 laps on the hard tyre. Had it not been for the rule that he must take a mandatory stop, he would have finished seventh. His drive was still exceptional and was able to get in and out of the pits entering the last lap of the race and still ahead of Zhou Guanyu to take 10th. A point for him in his third race and a point for Williams. Aston Martin is now the only team not to score a point yet.
I bet Albon texted Russell and had a bit of a laugh, like mate why did it take you so long to score your first point with Williams? That Willaims car isn’t slow, but when you’re caught up at the back with dirty air and traffic, your performance is going to drop. Improve on qualifying and the team will be in a better position at the end of the season.
The New Mazespin?
It is the battle of the rich kids in F1. There isn’t anything wrong with using your bank balance to get you into an F1 team, I mean the teams need the investment anyway.
Why not just buy the team, and the next team so your son keeps racing. Stroll isn’t a bad driver at all. He has the talent but I think the cushion given by his father might not be so good for his career going forth.
The only problem is if you suck at the task at hand. Nikita Mazepin knew how to drive an F1 car but was he good at it? Now all the focus is on Nicolas Latifi who is having the worst start to the season. If we count last year’s crash in the final race, then Latifi has crashed in four consecutive races. Okay, I’ll cut him some slack because Saturday’s qualifying incident wasn’t his fault, but Latifi is fast being overshadowed by newcomer to the team Albon.
Albon has been given a second F1 chance and he isn’t going to let it slip. Latifi, well it’s hard to say what’s going on with him but he looks like a driver that could be dropped at the end of the season.
Next up is Imola, wonder if Bottas will try to get back at Russell for last year(lol).
Round two of the 2022 Formula 1 season took us to the fast street circuit of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia. Marred with some smoky controversy that had the drivers camping in Race Control for four hours on Friday.
It’s slightly ironic that the Mazepins are out of F1 for a war their country started but a terror attack close to the circuit is just a racing incident…
The Show Must Go On!
For all the uncertainty and fear from Friday’s attack, the rest of the weekend produced some more incredible duels, more reliability issues, and another Nicholas Latifi inspired race changing moment. The highlight of Willams’ weekend was yet again turning the race on its head.
Okay, that was mean, I’m sure Latifi is very much a competent driver and he doesn’t mean to take over from Mazespin. I actually hoped Williams would be a better team this year. Not having George Russell is a huge setback.
Latifi’s crash in the 17th lap took the lead away from Sergio Perez and Red Bull who were duped into pitting earlier than they would have liked by Ferrari. All the teams that had not yet pitted benefitted from the virtual safety car and the safety car, as they gained a free pitstop.
What was meant to be a two-stop strategy for most, turned into a one pitstop race with the hard tyre being the favoured tyre. Under the safety car, Perez dropped down to fourth with his teammate and the two Ferraris gaining a place.
First Points for the Red Bull Duo
For a second consecutive race, we saw Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc battle it out for first place. Leclerc was able to hold off Max by using the second DRS zone to retake the position after losing out on the pit straight.
Max learnt from his first few tries and waited for the second DRS zone to overtake Leclerc and he made it stick in lap 47. Leclerc tried till the chequered flag but it was all too much as Max crossed to take his first podium and first points of the season.
I’m not a Max fan and there’s no hiding the fact, but when he isn’t being overly aggressive, he is a very good driver. Max is “good” for the sport, I’m not so sure I could say the same for humanity.
The two Ferraris of Leclerc and Carlos Sainz completed the podium places with Perez unable to convert his podium start.
Battle of the Pinks
The opening stint on the medium tyres gave us an exhilarating and sometimes heart-stopping battle for sixth place between Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso in the Alpines.
There was almost a crash as Alonso tried to pass Ocon on the main straight diving to the left but Ocon wouldn’t have it moving to block Alonso and forcing him closer to the wall.
That wasn’t the first tricky bit as there were lock-ups and turns taken wide as the fight for the position. Their battle enabled Valtteri Bottas and Kevin Magnussen to catch up before Alonso made his overtake stick. Ocon was passed by Bottas and Magnussen before pitting.
Lap 35 was a blessing for Ocon as teammate Alonso’s car lost power and staggered to the beginning of the pitlane after developing a problem. In the same lap, Alonso joined Daniel Ricciardo at the pit entrance as his McLaren lost drive and couldn’t make it to the garage. More woes for the Australian driver who looked like he’d finish with a point.
One lap later and Bottas was forced to retire after having taken a second pitstop. A disappointing end for Bottas who was well on the way to scoring points for a second race in a row.
For the first time since Brazil 2017, Sir Lewis Hamilton failed to make it out of Q1. Qualifying P16 isn’t a position we’re used to seeing Hamilton. George Russell faired better qualifying sixth behind Ocon and finishing fifth. A solid and impressive start to the season for the young Britt.
Hamilton did well on his opening stint with the hard tyres to gain places and his signature rising from the ashes driving style was getting him up the order. By lap 35, Hamilton had moved up to sixth as Mercedes’ strategy was working well for a one stop.
It would have worked well had the pit wall been able to get Hamilton into the pits during the McLaren/Alpine inspired yellow flag period. It’s as if Mercedes forgot that Hamilton hadn’t taken his mandatory pitstop and missed an opportunity to pit Hamilton giving him orders to pit a few hundred meters after he had passed the pit entrance.
This dropped him back and he had to fight harder to make it to P10 and gain a point for himself and a point for the team. Again, there’s a lot of change that needs to come from Mercedes otherwise, Hamilton is going to continue falling behind.
The Rest of the Field
Mick Schumacher had a fortunate escape from a rather nasty crash during Q2 and unfortunately, Haas weren’t able to fix his car before the race on Sunday. Two more points for Magnussen who finished in P9 after a strong start on the hards and proving still he is the right senior driver to help Mick and the team as a whole.
Lando Norris will be pleased with Sunday’s race return after finishing seventh. Danny was ahead of him and in the points before his car had other thoughts and would have been much needed points for both drivers and team. A step in the right direction we hope.
Yuki Tsunoda was unfortunate to not even start the race as the Red Bull Honda-powered Alfa Tauri quit on him during the formation lap. I’m sure Sainz has something to say about the reliability of the energy drink team.
Onto the Next One
Historically the first race of the season, but because of Covid Australia hasn’t been able to host the Melbourne GP for the past two years. We were meant to be packing bug s
Pack your bug spray for the trip down under!
First race of the season and man oh man, what a start. There were so many outstanding performances, some that left us gasping for air and others had us baffled and questioning whether we were awake or not.
One thing I definitely missed was the commentators and their banter. For football fans, they know when Peter Drury has the mic, the commentary is colourful. That’s supersized with the Sky Sports team who add to the entertainment tenfold.
Let’s look at the Bahrain weekend highlights.
Prancing Horses Dominate
During testing in Bahrain, the Ferraris of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc looked like title contenders but the past two seasons had us all doubting they would go far. That’s until qualifying and the stellar performance on Sunday.
If that P1 duel between Max Verstappen and Leclerc after the first pitstops is a precursor for what we should expect throughout the season, then it’s going to be an electrifying one.
Leclerc dug deep to fight off Verstappen and controlled the race thereafter. He held his nerve too during the safety car restart to hold off Verstappen for victory.
In the sister Ferrari, Carlos Sainz kept his cool and was rewarded for his great driving all weekend managing to keep the Red Bull of Sergio Perez in his rearview mirrors and benefitting from the late Verstappen retirement to clinch a Ferrari one-two finish.
Clipping Red Bull’s Wings
If you’re a Mercedes fan and a fan of F1 (Verstappen fans look away), you would have enjoyed the downfall of the Red Bulls this weekend. Instant Karma maybe?
Running in eighth, Pierre Gasly’s Alpha Tauri lost power and created an unwanted “barbeque” and the safety car had to be deployed as the marshals tried to put out the fire and remove the car from the track.
For an energy drink team, you wouldn’t expect them to run out of steam as they did, but that’s what happened. Having taken ownership of engine production in their partnership with Honda this season, this weekend’s breakdowns will be of great concern for both the senior and junior teams.
Yuki Tsunoda was the only one to collect points as he did last year’s opener finishing one place better in eighth after Perez’s lapse in concentration and spin left him 18th. You have to be mentally tough to be the number two driver at Red Bull.
Christmas For Mercedes?
Mercedes were having a torrid time all weekend and this was evident in their fifth place and nineth place grid starts for Sir Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
Most fans of the Silver Arrows were left shocked and downhearted by the qualifying performance and could only hope the team would sort out their issues for the race. And boy did they do just that.
Hamilton paid tribute to the team after qualifying and after the race for all the effort they did to give him a car that helped produce another podium. Both Mercedes had a good start to the race, Russell picking up positions at the start and Hamilton having an interesting duel for fourth place with Perez.
The pressure from the back was enough to unsettle Perez and Mercedes were the biggest winner. Advantage Merc? Hopefully, they can sort out their early performance issues.
Fun fact; the last time Ferrari had a one-two podium finish in Bahrain was in 2010 with Fernando Alonso and Filipe Massa at the helm. The driver who third was none other than Lewis Hamilton.
A Happy Geunther!
I must admit, I wasn’t all excited when I heard Kevin Magnussen was taking over Nikita Mazepin’s (Mazespin) seat at Haas. I would have liked to see one of the junior drivers have a go at it but I guess Guenther Steiner knew best.
Magnussen had been outperforming a lot of the pack during testing and pulled off a top performance in qualifying to start P7. This was followed by a stellar take off and a bit of a shaky drive here and there, but an excellent return on investment with a P5 finish and the first points for Haas in two years.
And it had Geunther happy swearing, “Kevin, that was some fucking viking comeback!”
Mick Schumacher also produced some excellent driving and narrowly missed out on his first points as he crossed the line in 11th after a good battle with Alfa Romeo’s debutant Zhou Gaunyu.
The Chinese driver drove well all weekend and the final overtake on fresh softs, saw him clinch P10 and points on his first go. I don’t know who was happier, Geunther, Zhou or Valtteri Bottas who qualified in sixth and had a trademark bad start, but was able to finish where he started. Some good driving and strategy, add a bit of luck thanks to the Red Bulls and all in all a pleasant weekend with double points finish for Alfa Romeo.
Orange is the new Haas?
This definitely was a weekend to forget at McLaren. The team and fans had celebrated the news that Daniel Riccardo had recovered from his Covid scare that kept him out of testing a week earlier.
That seemed to be the only joy the team had as both drivers found the going very hard in the desert. Lando Norris had qualified ahead of Danny with the Australian failing to make it out of Q1 on Saturday but was passed by Danny in the pits as both McLarens made a succession of stops to try and get something out of the race. P14 and P15 was the result for Danny and Lando.
Come to think of it, the Mercedes powered teams had a torrid time in the desert. P12 to P17 was shared by Aston Martin, Williams and McLaren. Something has clicked yet and the other teams don’t have the luxury of a well-staffed Mercedes AMG Petronas factory and team to pull off an incredible save like they did.
I’m sure Toto Wolff will be getting a lot of calls from his customers about the new engine. This isn’t the start we expected and it “should” only get better from here.
Onward and Forward
It’s race week again with the desert adventure continuing in Saudi Arabia, where will get to see some more amazing helmet cam footage.
The pitstops have gotten slower with more safety regulations and the bigger wheels. We’re going to see more creative tyre warming since the blanket temps have been dropped and a lot more overtaking, as the 2022 design has already shown in Bahrain.
Round two in Saudi Arabia it is then!
Here we are again, at the beginning of a new Formula One season that has as much drama and controversy as the 2020 season. Albeit the 2022 season’s drama is more man-made.
Before we jump into the fast-paced world that is F1, we have to slow down and take a drive-through penalty to introduce this new blog platform.
I have been a fan of the sport for years now and I have had heated and yet informative conversions about F1 during and after races with friends, acquaintances and heck anyone who has watched ten minutes of a race. Yea some have only been fans as long as Mazepin’s F1 career, but the banter and chats are golden.
There are also a lot of people who’ve become overnight F1 fans and we applaud you for seeing the light. Trust me, you’re going to enjoy being a fan because this is one of the wildest and coolest sports when it comes to entertainment value. You have the underdogs to support with their own battles but you will find them visiting the top of the grid every now and again.
You have the juniors, out to prove a point. The in-team fights, the champions and former champions trying to hold onto glory. Everything culminates into an awesome race every time the drivers take to the track.
So this shall be a safe space for the average F1 fan, with fully biased analysis and commentary. Jokes, I will try to be as critical as possible and link you all to some of the best F1 content out there.
The goal is for all of us to have as much fun with the sport as possible and to learn where we can. Sundays are where we sit or stand if the action is heated and watch fuel being burnt, and drivers losing weight all in a quest to stand on the podium and hear their national anthem played.
Oh, I almost forgot. Why Blue Flag Racers? No, it doesn’t have any link to Bottas’ helmet or the Williams team. It’s more so with the drivers as a whole. When you are performing at your best and setting the fastest times on the track and you’re about to lap the car ahead of you, the race stewards help you out.
The blue flags are waved to tell the driver who is about to be lapped to move off the racing line and let you through. Yes, some drivers will let their pride get in the way and don’t move out of the way fast enough, but eventually, you get through.
Wave the blue flags because I’m coming through with some crazy cool F1 content.
Here’s to a whole season of blue flags, fewer red flags and more sweeping DRS inspired overtakes.
Bring on Bahrain!