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
The Circuit de Barcelona-Cataluyna hosted its 30th edition to the Spanish Grand Prix a little bit later than planned this year. Slightly surprisingly going ahead six months after pre-season testing at the circuit in February, it was a different story to those cool temperatures. After the 70th Anniversary race at Silverstone, the heat and tyres was always going to be a factor; would Mercedes struggle again? Could Max Verstappen bring himself into play? Consequently, for most, it was a two-stop race but it is a difficult circuit to overtake on so while lap records tumbled again, it wasn’t that entertaining of a race as only three finished on the lead lap.
It was notable for several reasons though. Kimi Raikkonen broke the record for most distance raced in an F1 car on lap 37 at over 52,000 miles; more than twice the circumference of the Earth, Sergio Perez returned to the paddock after his experience with Coronavirus and potentially, the last time in Qualifying Mercedes could use their infamous ‘party mode’ with the high power qualifying modes expected to be banned by the time F1 goes racing in Belgium. For the race winner Lewis Hamilton [Pictured above, image from South China Morning Post], he recorded a landmark150th front row start and translated that into his 88th victory and 156th podium; taking the record for most podiums in F1 outright.read more
Formula One’s summer shutdown and four-week break is nearing an end. The title race commences at Spa-Francorchamps in the Ardennes Forest, Belgium. That is followed by the temple of speed, Monza in Italy the following weekend in yet another Grand Prix double bill. However, before the racing restarts, let us remind ourselves of the season so far…
Australia:The season kicked off in Melbourne and having taken a commanding pole position, Lewis Hamilton’s pace in the Mercedes is negated by a computer glitch that allows Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari undercuts them to the win having pitted behind the Virtual safety car. Winner: Vettel read more
I am now on the countdown to 100 of these posts. I never expected to still be doing this long enough to reach 100 but I have enjoyed doing this regardless of what anyone thinks. Needless to say, I will be marking that with a special post.Oh and for the record this is number 96.
The promised review of this doubleheader and including my driver ratings for during F1’s first ever tripleheader will be the next F1 post. Then, there will be none until the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August as the team and drivers go for their summer break; hence no Grand Prix to comment on.
Away from the F1 posts and the next football post will be a review of the World Cup in Russia while there will be a preview of the upcoming Premier League season published before the opening weekend of the new season.
As for the sharing of my political opinions, there are a few in the pipeline so watch this space…
A week on from the rain impacting upon the race at Hockenheim, the rain impacted upon Qualifying at the Hungaroring. That meant there were surprises to be had in the Qualifying hour as whoever had the best tyre at the right time would do well. Daniel Ricciardo was one of those caught out by the conditions in Q2 as he failed to get into the top 10 while both Toro Rosso’s did with Pierre Gasly out-qualifying even Max Verstappen in Q3. However, it was Lewis Hamilton who mastered the tricky conditions to deliver pole position and lead a Mercedes one-two despite Ferrari being the pacesetters up to that point.
For the race, Ferrari split their strategies with Raikkonen starting on the ultra-soft tyre and Vettel on the soft tyre. That did not go to plan as Raikkonen did not pass ether Mercedes but instead found himself passed by his teammate around the outside of turn two. Elsewhere through the grid, Ricciardo did not have a great start and was down to 16th after contact with his front left tyre at turn 1 while Charles Leclerc’s race ended after contact of his own on the opening lap. Hamilton led away from Bottas.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
It has been four weeks since we last saw some F1 racing with the incident filled race at the Hungaroring. The drivers have had their summer holidays, a number of them spending a significant amount of time on the water, others did Charity work and spent time with their dogs (Lewis Hamilton did some work in Cuba with UNICEF). Valtteri Bottas amongst others just enjoyed some home comforts, Fernando Alonso did some training in Mikenos while some of the younger drivers had time partying with friends (Lance Stroll spent time in Ibiza). The Red Bull drivers took time out for some adverting with Ricciardo biking in his native Australia and Max Verstappen having a go at Quad biking while Jolyon Palmer found time to climb Mount Kilimanjaro!
Four weeks ago…
Sebastian Vettel claimed pole position for Ferrari four weeks ago in Hungary and went on to claim his fourth race victory of the season. It was not all plain sailing for the four-time world champion as a steering issue made it a difficult race for him. His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen was quicker at times in the race but could not get close enough to pass. Whether or not Ferrari told him not to is up for debate and he could well be cemented in now as a number two driver. They managed to hold off an aggressive looking Lewis Hamilton in the second half of the race to secure their first 1-2 race result since another team-order controlled race in Germany; 2010. Mercedes had allowed Hamilton to pass Bottas on the understanding if he could not get past the Ferrari he would give the place back to Bottas. Hamilton and Mercedes kept to their word with the English driver letting the Finn through at the final turn of the race for 3rd. Three points dropped for Hamilton in the Championship which could prove crucial to all three drivers involved in the battle. Behind them, Max Verstappen finished 5th though it could easily have been much more. Red Bull had been the surprise pace setters in Friday practice and although they qualified on the third row, they still had a chance of a surprise. However, Verstappen understeered into his teammate at turn 2 which earned him a 10 second time penalty which cost him a realistic chance of competing for the win. Fernando Alonso rolled back the years with a race long duel with compatriot Carlos Sainz for 6th and Stoffel Vandoorne scored his first points of the season as McLaren scored their first double points finish of the season. It was no fluke and thoroughly deserved as even with the weaker Honda engine in their car, the McLaren looked strong all weekend and afterwards, Alonso took a well earned pre-holiday rest in a deck chair. Force India also maintained their consistency in 2017 with a 9th double point finish. The race was also notable for the deputy appearance of Williams reserve driver Paul Di Resta. The Scottish driver had not expected to take part in the Grand Prix weekend but Felipe Massa’s illness gave him a way in. Despite not having driven the car in vain, he did not qualify last and gave a solid account of himself in the car before eventually having to retire due to mechanical issues.read more
It has been a long 4 weeks hasn’t it? The football season has started up again, the Olympics in Rio have come and gone; Team GB came back with 67 medals and the UK is still no nearer to leaving the EU. However, F1 is back! The drivers have had their summer holidays in which Kimi Raikkonen got married, Nico Rosberg spent time with his dogs, Lewis Hamilton took a trip round the Caribbean, Jenson Button and Daniel Ricciardo met up in the US while Fernando Alonso trained at Palm Springs in California.. They’ve had their fun and it is time for them to get back down to business for the final 9 races of the 2016 season. It’s time to get back in the car, extract the maximum from it, fight for points, pole position, podiums wins and championship position. For some it will be glory or pride’s sake, for others it will be about saving their F1 career.