That was an incredible season of F1. Incredible that it even got going during the Coronavirus pandemic, let alone getting to the finale in Abu Dhabi. It is testament to the FIA, Liberty media, F1, the circuit organisers, the teams and drivers that we even had a season of F1 in the first place after the Australian Grand Prix started but never went ahead after two McLaren team members tested positive for the virus and the first 8 races were cancelled.
The season eventually got underway in July, 217 days after the 2019 season finale; the third longest gap between seasons in F1 history as the 70th anniversary season started. It was historic as Michael Schumacher’s win record (91), podium (155) were beaten and his seven World Championship were equalled by Lewis Hamilton [Feature image above from formula1.com]. read more
What can I say after a race like the one we saw at Monza for the Italian Grand Prix? It does not happen often, but every so often you get a race where all of the usual suspects have difficulties and someone totally unexpected, a real underdog takes the glory of a Formula One race win. It was the first time since Australia 2013; 146 races since someone who did not drive for Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari took the chequered flag and the first race since Hungary 2012 neither team were on the podium. The race winner though [Pictured celebrating above; image from formula1.com], could not have been a more popular one!
It was a real rollercoaster of a Grand Prix weekend. It was an emotional farewell for Frank and Claire Williams in their last race in charge of the family team; the protest over the punishment handed out to Racing Point over the legality of their car closed and Renault announced they will be changing their name for 2021. The race saw a red flag for the first time since Baku 2017 and the first to see a standing restart rather than behind the Safety Car which really added something different. With the red flag coming halfway through and different strategies in play we got to see something of a reverse grid race and it was certainly entertaining. Qualifying on Saturday also marked the 5oth anniversary of Jochen Rindt’s death at Monza; F1’s only Posthmously crowned Champion.read more
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in the Ardennes Forest, Belgium is one of THE favourite circuits for drivers and fans alike so it was great to see the race going ahead this year. Usually, it is the traditional first race back after the summer break but it was the 7th of the unusual format of the 2020 season as F1 attempts to fulfil a now confirmed 17 race calendar. F1 arrived with a new concord arrangement in place with all ten teams committed to the sport until 2025, Williams under new ownership and the final races for the year confirmed.
A year on from the tragic passing of F2 driver Anthoine Hubert, the return to Spa was always going to be an emotionally charged weekend for the paddock with so many drivers in the paddock close friends of his including Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon. A minutes silence was held before each race from F1 down to F3.read more
Formula One returned from its four-week summer break with a back to back of power-hungry circuits beginning with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps; the longest circuit on the calendar followed the weekend after with the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
The first of those resulted in tragedy with the death of F2 driver Anthoine Hubert following a horrific incident in the Feature Race. Juan Manuel Correa is still in an induced coma and hopefully, he can recover from his injuries. It was a big loss in the paddock especially for Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc and Pierre Gasly on the F1 grid who grew up with Hubert. Both put in strong performances in the circumstances but for Leclerc, he produced a stunning performance to win his maiden Grand Prix win and the 108th different race winner in F1 history.read more
After four weeks of no F1 racing, the action returns with the traditional starter for the second half of the campaign. Situated in the Ardennes Forest, it’s the true racers circuit; Spa-Francorchamps. With nine races to go between this weekend and the end of the season in Abu Dhabi, there is still a lot that can be decided but there are also interesting developments worth discussing. The first of those is the big development at Red Bull during the summer recess…
Gasly dropped, Albon promoted
The big news of the summer was Red Bull’s decision to demote Pierre Gasly to Toro Rosso with Alexander Albon being promoted the other way to the Red Bull team. Gasly has not had the best of seasons at Red Bull and his future has been the subject of speculation leading into the four-week break. The decision though came as a surprise considering what Christian Horner told Sky Sports F1 at the Hungarian Grand Prix.read more
Yes, it is yet another post previewing a Formula One Grand Prix without actually reviewing one. Due to time constraints, I have been unable to review the three last Grand Prix (Hungary, Belgium and Italy) so will provide a brief outline of what happened in these race weekends.
• Sebastian Vettel won the final race before the summer break from pole position despite suffering from a steering issue in the race. His teammate Kimi Raikkonen could not get close enough to pass or was not allowed to by the pit wall (decide for yourselves) as they secured their first 1-2 race result in Hungary since 2004. • Mercedes had no answer for Ferrari at the Hungaroring. The team’s pit wall allowed Lewis Hamilton to pass Valtteri Bottas in the second stint of the race as he was faster. He could not pass the Ferrari’s and subsequently and admirably handed the place back to the Finnish driver at the final turn of the race. • The Red Bull drivers came to blows on the opening lap as Max Verstappen understeered into his teammate Daniel Ricciardo at turn 3 of the opening lap. Ricciardo’s race ended there while Verstappen climbed all the way up to 5th and close to the podium despite serving a penalty. • On a track where power and straight line speed is not everything, Fernando Alonso was eventually able to showcase his abilities in the McLaren-Honda as he got the better of Carlos Sainz in a race-long duel for 6th. Stoffel Vandoorne finished 10th for his first point of the season and first double points finish for the team. • Hungary also saw the very brief return of Paul Di Resta to the cockpit of a Formula One car as he filled in for the unwell Felipe Massa. Despite not driving the 2017 Williams car in vein prior to Qualifying, he did not qualify last and gave a solid account of himself in the race all considering before he was forced to retire from the race ten laps from the end.
• Lewis Hamilton marked his 200th Grand Prix by matching Michael Schumacher’s pole position record of 68 with an incredible qualifying performance in which he was in a league of his own. He set the new track record at Spa-Francorchamps three times on his way to pole. Then, after some great defensive driving to hold off the Ferrari of Vettel on the opening lap and then again after the restart, he went on to win the race becoming only the fourth man to win his 200th Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher, Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg are the other three. • The Safety Car was brought out by a collision between the two Force India drivers on the run down to Eau Rouge on lap 29. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon had already come to blows on the opening lap but did so again. On the second occasion, Perez seemed to cut in front of Ocon and suffered a rear right tyre puncture. Ocon suffered front wing damage but managed to recover and finish the race 9th. Perez failed to finish. Post-race, Vijay Malaya spoke of introducing team orders to avoid a repeat having previously allowing his drivers to race freely. • Daniel Ricciardo secured his 6th podium of the season in opportunistic fashion with a daring move on the restart from the Safety Car. On the climb up to Las Combes, the Australian made a double move to pass Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen to claim third place. He was able to hold on to that position until the end with Raikkonen finishing 4th and Bottas 5th. • Max Verstappen however, experienced the all too familiar sinking feeling as he pulled up on lap 7 having lost power in his car. This was his 6th retirement of the season and all of them have been due to mechanical issues. • The Haas F1 team could have been on for their second double points finish with both Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen in the top 10 during the Safety Car period. However, Magnussen braked too heavily at the final turn upon the race restart and required a fresh set of tyres which dropped him down to 15th.The main beneficiary was Carlos Sainz who finished 10th and scored 1 point.It proved more painful for Haas as the two sets of points would have made their Championship position stronger.Nico Hulkenberg finishing 6th for Renault meant the French they closed the gap to them in the battle for 7th in the Constructors Championship to one point.read more
Last weekend saw history in Formula One. On his 200th Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton equalled the 68 career pole position record set by Michael Schumacher with an incredible performance and setting the new track record for Spa-Francorchamps along the way. In the race, Hamilton was equally supreme in keeping the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel behind as the four-time World Champion was never more than 2 seconds behind him throughout. Championships the frustrations of Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen was evident in the early stages. The latter suffered his 6th mechanical DNF of the season as his car simply lost power. The former, felt the sinking feeling of a lack of power in his Honda engine as car after car found their way past him with the Spaniard telling his team to leave him alone at one stage. The Force India drivers were the major talking point. They had already banged wheels on the slope down to Eau Rouge on the opening lap when the collided again on lap 29. Sergio Perez tried to block his teammate getting past but succeeded in picking up a rear right tyre puncture and front wing damage for his Esteban Ocon. The contact and resulting debris brought out the Safety Car which became the defining moment of the race.
From the restart, Hamilton did well to defend from Vettel who picked up a tow after climbing Eau Rouge and almost had the move done. However, the Mercedes man held the inside line very well indeed. Kevin Magnussen squandered a points scoring position by locking up under braking at the restart and running wide. Daniel Ricciardo meanwhile, was the big winner. The Red Bull looked comfortable for 5th before hand. At the restart, he drove daringly to pass both Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas along the straight up to Las Combes and took 3rd place. He managed to hold on for the podium; Renault. Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag to win on his 200th Grand Prix start. He became only the fourth driver to do so after Michael Schumacher (2004 European Grand Prix), Jenson Button (2011 Hungarian Grand Prix) and Nico Rosberg (2016 Singapore Grand Prix).read more
Two weeks ago, F1 returned to its spiritual home; Monza in Northern Italy for the Italian Grand Prix. The Tifosi were out in force demonstrating quite easily why they are some of the most passionate F1 fans in the world. The other main winners were Nico Rosberg who got a much better start than Lewis Hamilton who suffered from an inconsistent clutch to control the race to take his 21st career victory. Hamilton recovered from the slow start and ending the first lap in 6th to finish 2nd while Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished 3rd. Ferrari closed the gap to Red Bull in the Constructors Championship to 11 points in the race for second and Williams retook 4th place from Force India.
F1 returned to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza for the 14th round of the 2016 season. The circuit, built in 1922 represents the oldest circuit on the F1 calendar and this weekend certainly added more to its history. The weekend saw a confirmed driver retirement, potential a second but is considered by some to be a sabbatical, the pole position record being equalled and the Driver’s Championship becoming ever more intense…
The Race Weekend
The big talking point coming into the weekend was the driving style of Max Verstappen after a controversial race in Belgium where it has to be said his driving at times was bordering on dangerous. Then, big news dropped as the teams prepared for the weekend was the announcement Felipe Massa would be retiring at the end of the season. However, as it came to business in Monza, Mercedes dominance continued. Nico Rosberg topped the timesheet in first practice session while Lewis Hamilton dominated the other two sessions. Maranello and the Tifosi hopes of some divine miracle did not seem apparent during practice as the nearest a Ferrari could get to the Mercedes was at best 0.453 seconds slower and it its worst; over a second. Interestingly though, the almost Ferrari ‘junior team’ that is Haas F1 (they have used an awful lost go Ferrari technology to be on the grid and employ their former reserve driver and a rumoured Ferrari driver elect in Grosjean) had at least one car in the top 10 in each of the three practice sessions.read more
F1 certainly came back with a bang! The Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps last weekend had controversy, turn 1 chaos, safety cars a red flag and much more as the weekend delivered a worth spectacle. The only thing that was missing was the unpredictable weather of Spa but then again; maybe raining at one part of the circuit and bone dry at the other is too predictable for Spa as last weekend the track temperatures were unusually hot.
Nico Rosberg won the incident filled race from pole position uninterrupted from start to finish despite the chaos ensuing behind him. He did all he could do last weekend to hurt his team mates Championship lead. However, the chaos and mayhem bringing out the safety car twice helped Lewis hamilton to score a podium finish having started 21st after serving a 55 place grid penalty for new engine parts which most people in F1 knew were coming at some point. The result meant Hamilton retained his Championship lead albeit having been reduced to 9 points. While Max Verstappen was accused of dangerous driving and causing mayhem; team mate Daniel Ricciardo went about his work quietly to finish 2nd for the second in time in as many races. Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez finished 4th and 5th to give Force India 4th in the constructors Championship; leapfrogging Williams who caused some controversy of their own having used team orders to ensure Valtteri Bottas finished ahead of veteran Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso finished an incredible 7th to help McLaren take 6th place in the Constructors from Torro Rosso having started the race plum last. Meanwhile, Kevin Magnusson suffered the most notable incident having lost control of his Renault at the top of Eau Rouge bringing doubts over his participation this weekend.read more