5 Drivers who need a good Qatar GP today

A lot has changed at the venue of the forthcoming F1 race, the Losail International circuit and it doesn’t only concern changes made to track to make it fast paced and competitive for Grand Prix racing.

Besides changing the pit lane entrance completely, Losail’s presence on the F1 calendar is a change in itself. Not once previously has an F1 race been held at the track famous for hosting many a mighty MotoGP battle.

Now that it’s ready, it seems the home to the Qatar Grand Prix is all set to unfurl a mega contest that would see the man second in the driver standings claw back to the thick of things concerned with the 2021 championship.

Having said that, which 5 drivers need to deliver a strong Qatar GP?

1 – Charles Leclerc

Leclerc’s qualifying performance wasn’t up to his usual high standards

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc begins his maiden assignment at Qatar from thirteenth on the grid. Unable to put together a strong lap in Q2 meant that for the first time this season, the Monegasque found himself knocked out.

Someone not accustomed or fond of staying away from the main battle on the grid, Leclerc, sixth in the driver’s standings, would want to hold the upper hand in the teammate battle on Sunday.

For that, he’d have to deliver a belter of a race since his good friend at Ferrari Carlos Sainz is a long away ahead in seventh.

Though a cool-headed bloke, Leclerc would also be wary of other challenges the likes of which require him to focus on the larger context of the battle: the fight against McLaren.

His closest rival in this year’s standings, Lando Norris (3 points ahead of Charles) is also ahead on the grid having found better grip and traction than his struggling McLaren teammate, Daniel Riccardo on Saturday.

Among the key questions for this year’s maiden Qatar GP would be to see who might hold the edge in the battle for supremacy on Sunday. Can Charles deliver a strong race?

2 – Daniel Ricciardo

To put it simply, there are multiple reasons as to why Ricciardo in his McLaren would want to finish off his maiden drive at Qatar on a high.

For starters, when compared to Lando Norris’s 2 points from the last two races, a driver much younger to him, Ricciardo has managed none.

A DNF at Brazil and his P12 at Mexico didn’t help Daniel Ricciardo’s cause one bit.

Moreover, the mega talent found himself struggling under lights on the twisty high speed circuit where much like others, Ricciardo struggled and found himself knocked out in Q2.

While his qualifying form still needs to find the much needed improvement, purely on race performance there can be no undermining of the Honeybadger. But, the question is whether the smiling man in that McLaren can come up trumps at Qatar in the next few hours from now?

3 – Sebastian Vettel

Prior to entering the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix, the famous German had declared, “I’m not here for midfield racing!”

Which is precisely what he’s been doing, albeit pushing his Aston Martin mighty well toward the front end of the track with much gusto in 2021.

One look at what both Aston Martin drivers have managed would reveal Vettel having easily neutralised his younger teammate, Lance Stroll. The German bagging 42 points to his Canadian teammate’s 26.

But at Qatar, the former Red Bull driver would be up against a different challenge altogether.

While the younger F1 lot that’s still to cement its place in the sport, think Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin can still make errors and will be overlooked for they’re largely learning their craft, the experienced bunch of drivers will have a real test at their hands.

Not that any among Kimi, Fernando or Sebastian need to feel unnecessary pressure, they’d still like to set an example for the rest of the grid to follow. By that count alone, Vettel, who’s always relished a new challenge, would like to give it all at the night race at Qatar where he begins from a strong tenth on the grid.

How about converting a promising start into a mighty fine result in the Grand Prix?

4 – Antonio Giovinazzi

For a driver who didn’t necessarily enjoy what’s now turned out to be his final Formula 1 season, unless and until a sudden return to single seater racing’s top flight becomes apparent much too sudden, somewhere Gio is upset. And he’s grieving.

It’s not hard to see why. He must drive whatever’s left of this championship and what remains are only three final races, with all his might.

Try and convert the inner turmoil into a reason to excel on the track.

So that the adieu he bids to the sport is a mighty one in that the team that didn’t give him another shot to reclaim himself – this is when he consistently outperformed Raikkonen in qualifying- can see there’s a lot left in the driver who’s been snubbed away.

Moreover, Antonio Giovinazzi hasn’t helped his cause a bit by finishing behind his teammate and Latifi, on eighteenth. A strong result would be such a fine end to what’s been a testing time this weekend at Qatar.

After coming mighty close at scoring a point each at Mexico and previously, the USA, Antonio would desire competing in a blessed weekend.

5 – Max Verstappen

If the fighting duo of the grid finish at Qatar exactly where they currently are – P1 and P2, respectively- then Verstappen would see his lead over Hamilton shrink by some margin.

He’d still be in the lead but with only a seven point advantage over second-placed Sir Lewis Hamilton.

That Red Bull have clearly struggled from what one has seen so far, Perez sliding down below on eleventh only exacerbating the woes of the Milton Keynes outfit, should be considered a clear and present danger of what could happen if one doesn’t push the throttle and focus on Sunday. 

For Verstappen to regain control, and not lose out on the momentum he’s built ever so painstakingly in this year’s championship, a strong result, maybe even a win, must happen. 

But then, can a Hamilton in such great form as seen in the last few races ever let that happen? 

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to yesterday’s Qatar GP Qualifying? Never fear, the Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast! Louis Edwards hosted Tom Downey, Tom Horrox and Jawad Yaqub in the 2021 Qatar GP Qualifying analysis show. Both video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

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