Author Archives: Mikael Kataja

F1 2021 QATAR GRAND PRIX: Hamilton dominates to pole

The first F1 qualifying in Qatar saw some shocking eliminations early on. It also saw a masterclass performance from Sir Lewis Hamilton, as he beat his championship rival Max Verstappen to pole.

Q1

The Haas drivers were the first ones out on track, followed by half of the grid. Most cars opted for the soft tyre compound, though Pierre Gasly used medium tires putting himself 4th on his first try.

The first attempts of Hamilton and Verstappen put the two in a completely different league. Hamilton led by two tenths, but Lando Norris in third was over half a second behind Verstappen. On his second attempt, Valtteri Bottas lifts himself up to first place, three thousandths ahead of Hamilton.

Both Alfa Romeo and Haas drivers struggled on their first attempts, sitting in P17 to P20. Charler Leclerc and Daniel Ricciardo also had a difficult time, only getting up to 12th and 13th respectively. The track was improving towards the end of the session, with Russell putting his Williams to P10 with two minutes to go.

A lot of traffic collected in the final sector, catching out Nicholas Latifi who could not go onto make his final lap.

Hamilton ended Q1 on top, followed by Verstappen and Bottas. The eliminated drivers were Raikkonen, Latifi, Giovinazzi, Schumacher, and Mazepin.

Q2

Medium was the tyre of choice for most teams, though AlphaTauri goes out with softs on both cars. Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas retain their places from A1 on their first attempts, until Gasly took second place.

Perez’s first attempt was a dud, with the Mexican only eighth and almost one second behind Hamilton. The Aston Martin’s and Alpine’s came out on the softs after the other teams finish their attempts. Their speed forces Leclerc and both McLaren’s to change their medium tires to softs.

Perez was also forced to take the soft tyre, as he finds himself on 12th place with 5 minutes to go in Q2.

Leclerc cannot improve enough and is left in P13, with Ricciardo struggling to 14th. The Biggest shock is Perez being eliminated in 11th place. Ferrari’s gamble with putting Sainz on mediums paid of, as the Spaniard qualified for Q3 in 10th place. The Alpines and AlphaTauri flew in Q2 and get both of their cars into Q3.

Q3

All drivers headed out straight away after the green light in Q3. The first attempts echo the standings from Q1 and Q2, with Hamilton leading ahead of Verstappen and Bottas with two tenths between all three drivers. Gasly and Alonso complete the top five, all five inside just over four tenths.

Hamilton was the first one out for the final attempts with little over three minutes left on the clock. Mercedes splits their cars a sector apart, quite unusual for the team. Verstappen was the last car to leave the pits.

Hamilton dug out an incredible first sector, beating everyone by three tenths. He finishes his lap with a 1:20.827, over four tenths faster than his previous fastest lap. Gasly’s front wing broke in the last sector, puncturing his tyre and causing short yellow flags. This meant Hamilton took the pole by four and a half tents to Verstappen in P2, followed by Bottas in P3. Gasly and Alonso kept their impressive P4 and P5.

Norris got 6th, followed by his golfing partner Sainz. Tsunoda was an impressive 8th, with Ocon in 9th. Vettel could only manage 10th in his Aston Martin.

Full Classification

via @F1 on Twitter

F1 2021 Italian Grand Prix: Hamilton slumps in Sprint Qualifying

The second-ever Formula 1 Sprint Qualifying took place in the sunny and hot Italian afternoon. This was the warmest weather yet during the weekend, and that perhaps played into the decisions of the teams regarding the starting tire compounds. In the top 10, all cars had mediums except for the McLaren duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris, who had opted for the soft compound.

The start was brilliant from Bottas starting from the front. His teammate Lewis Hamilton struggled getting off of the line, and the Briton fell to sixth behind Verstappen as well as both McLarens and even AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly. Gasly however had quite an exit off-track in turn 3, when his front wing fell off after making contact with one of the McLarens in the first corner. Gasly was out after his crash and the safety car was brought out while the tire wall got fixed.

In the restart, Bottas has a good start once more, pulling a gap of 1.5 seconds to Verstappen on the first lap following the restart. Hamilton had a more difficult time, and could not mount a challenge on Lando Norris in fourth place.

Some action was offered by Red Bull’s Sergio Perez when he tried to overtake Lance Stroll in turn 1, but run out of room and had to cut the chicane. He was instructed by his team to give the position back, but overtook Stroll again, this time legitimately on the subsequent lap.

Bottas and Verstappen were the kings of Saturday, pulling far away from Ricciardo on third. Hamilton in the end was not able to overtake Norris, finishing a disappointing fifth. Due to Bottas’ penalties, the Finn will be at the back of the grid on Sunday, with Verstappen and Ricciardo lining up on the front row. For the Dutchman, the pole surely means much more than his two points from today.

More to follow

F1 2021 Belgian GP: Leclerc, Verstappen cause red flags in practice

Rain did not cause much concerns to the teams in Spa on Friday. However, two red flags in the final 20 minutes of FP2 did more than enough damage to the weekend of both Ferrari and Red Bull. Mercedes must feel in form to start the second half of the season.

FP1

With cloudy weather and a damp track it was a quiet start to the weekend in Spa, Belgium. The Ferraris were the first cars to go out trying on intermediate tyres. Carlos Sainz was qouick to report back to his gaage that the track was dry enough for slicks.

The first corner caught out drivers in the beginning of the session. Both Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen and Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda spun there, Tsunoda even blocking the pit exit for a brief moment.

Red Bull lead the session for quite long, with Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez having set fast lap times early in the session. Verstappen kept improving his time and retained his top spot until Valtteri Bottas put his Mercedes on the top with seven tenths of a difference to Verstappen.

Rain began closing in on the track with ten minutes to go in FP1, resulting in most of the grid wrapping up their planned sessions slightly before the chequered flag.

Image
@F1 on Twitter

FP2

We received big news before the start of FFP2 as Red Bull announced that Sergio Perez would remain at Red Bull in 2022.

Bottas opened the session with once again a damp track on intermediate tires, reporting the track is too dry for inters.  After 15 minutes the drivers were finishing their first timed laps on slicks, with Bottas leading on 1:44.513, Hamilton following closely behind by 31 thousandths. Verstappen sat comfortably in third, six tenths behind the Mercedes duo however.

Hamilton was the first car out on soft compound, but failed to improve his time on his first try. Verstappen’s attempts on the softs brought him the top spot on the leaderboard, overtaking Bottas by 0.041s.

Esteban Ocon had a big spin in the exit of turn 13, but the Frenchman reported no damage on his Alpine car. Minutes later Charles Leclerc crashed in turn 7, causing red flags for 10 minutes. The session was able to resume with eight minutes left on the clock, meaning many teams were not able to complete their plans for the session.

Another red flag appeared with three minutes left in FP2, as Max Verstappen had crashed his Red Bull in the exit of the same corner where Leclerc had crashed before. The rear of his Red Bull was totaled, and the Dutchman could not move his car back to the garage.

Image
@F1 on Twitter

F1 2021 French GRAND PRIX: FP1 & 2 REPORT – MERCEDES Strong as alpine impresses

Many fans have dreaded F!’s return to France this season considering the dullness that has seem to almost being the rule at Paul Ricard. After the Friday practices it seems that those fears will materialize. The Mercedes are looking very strong, with Max Verstappen being the only driver on the grid that is able to be in close contention with the Brackley outfit.

FP1

The Friday practices kicked of in sunny southern France with Mick Schumacher going close to the wall on his first lap. Apparently the touch caused some distress for Haas, as the German only returned to the track halfway through the session.

The question of overtly punishing kerbs is bound to return at Paul Ricard. In tun two, the yellow kerbs just outside of the track caused a piece of the front wing to break off from Valtteri Bottas’ Mercedes. Mercedes voiced their complaints to the FIA about removing these kerbs, but no action was taken prior to FP2.

Little action took place in FP1 that was out of the ordinary. The Mercedes duo finished the session off with a 1-2, closely followed by Red Bulls about hlf a second behind. The Alpines made a strong showing with Fernando Alonso finishing fith and Esteban Ocon seventh. Ferrari has problems getting up to speed in the practice, s neither driver made into top ten as Leclers was 11th and Sainz 16th.

FP1 standings

Image

FP2

All cars are quick to exit the pits in the beginning of the session. Only Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc stayed in the garage at the five-minute mark. Valtteri Bottas sets a blistering 1.32.880 lap time on his first run.

Yellow flags in last sector as Mazepin had spun in the final corner. This resulted in some traffic for the drivers behind, while Mazepin’s re-entry onto the track seemed to disturb some of those on fast laps behind. Mazepin’s teammate Mick Schumacher also had an exit in the first sector, damaging the tires.

Virtual safety car was called as a piece of Max Verstappen’s front wing broke off and landed on the racing line. This happened in turn 2, with the same kerbs that broke Bottas’ font wing in FP1.

With 30 minutes left in the session, cars started to emerge from the pits to start their qualifying practice attempts. Verstappen laid down a strong performance, beating Bottas’ first run time by eight thousands. The Dutchman quickly returned to the pits, suggesting he was running a very low fuel load.

FP2 finished with no great action, similar to FP1. Max Verstappen ended the session on top with a 1.32.872. Bottas remained 0.008 seconds behind, with Hamilton over losing over two tenths to the top 2. The Alpine’s also looked fast on their first quali runs with Fernando Alonso on P4 losing by only 0.468 to Verstappen, and Ocon following closely in 7th

After two street circuits, order returns

It had seemed that the order on the grid had gone completely mad in Monaco and Azerbaijan. Now with the F1 circus returning to a purpose-built race circuit, it seems that the natural order of things has returned. Mercedes and Red Bull fighting in the top 3, with the rest of the field following somewhat behind. From the way things looked on Friday, it seems were in for another dull French GP.

More to follow.

F1 2021 Spanish Grand Prix: FP1 & 2 Report – Mercedes Lead On Friday

A Mercedes driver topped both practices on Friday in sunny Catalonia. Charles Leclerc carried Ferrari and the Alpines showed good pace in the afternoon.

FP1

The first practice in Catalonia began under familiar Iberian sunshine. It did not take long for another familiar sight to take place, as Haas’ Nikita Mazepin drove onto the gravel in Turn 8 on his out lap.

Mazepin was also not making friends on track, as he blocked Charles Leclerc’s lap, which prompted Leclerc to state that “Mazepin will never change” on his team radio.

Two reserve drivers were on track in FP1, Robert Kubica for Alfa Romeo, and Roy Nissany for Williams.

The kerbs around the track emerged as a problem for multiple drivers, and they were warned about breaking their front wings on them. Red Bull was especially worried about this, warning both of their drivers.

The practice got halted from a red flag with 20 minutes to go, as Kubica had gotten stuck in the gravel and his car required a crane to be moved.

Verstappen managed to split the Mercedes for second in the standings. There was also a good effort from McLaren’s Norris to finish FP1 in fourth place.

FP2

The sunny conditions remained for FP2, as Bottas and Hamilton were quick to put the Mercedes at the top of the standings. The silver arrows would stay at the summit for the rest of FP2.

The kerbs continued to cause trouble for the drivers, with Yuki Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri switching off when the Japanese rattled the car.

When the soft tyre runs came about, Leclerc was able to push his Ferrari near the times of the Mercedes duo, less than two tenths behind Hamilton.

The Alpine cars were also notably quick on softs, finishing fourth and fifth. Verstappen was unable to get a clean lap on his softs, resulting in Red Bull stopping the qualification simulation short.

Mercedes shine on Friday

We should always keep in mind that on Friday, the teams run their own programs. The observable pace seen from these results is likely not representative for the rest of the weekend.

Regardless, the Mercedes seem to have come to Catalonia with an elevated drive and performance.

Considering the layout of the track, we know the race is unlikely to be very entertaining. Mercedes’ performance today would suggest that attention for good racing might be better of directed to positions five and below.

Full Classifications

Image
Image

F1 2021 Emilia Romagna GP Qualifying Report: Hamilton on Pole, but with 2 Red Bulls behind

Red Bull appeared to be the fastest in Bahrain, but that pace advantage has seemingly evaporated in three week.

Sir Lewis Hamilton powered around the tight and narrow Imola circuit in Italy to claim his 99th pole position in Formula 1.

It wasn’t all positive for Mercedes though, as Valtteri Bottas had a poor day and the Red Bull drivers will be directly behind the world champion tomorrow.

Q1

The Haas drivers opened Q1 being the only ones out at the start. After a few minutes, most of the drivers left the pits and very quickly the risk of traffic became apparent,as the track map became littered with coloured dots.

Sebastian Vettel had a difficult start to his qualifying. The German went wide in sector 2 on his first run and was forced to abandon his attempt. With 12 minutes to go in the session, AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda crashed in Turn 15 at the exit of the chicane, wrecking the backend of his car.

Yuki Tsunoda’s crash meant he starts from the back of the grid tomorrow. Image: F1

The session was red flagged while the car was removed from the track. Tsunoda quickly confirmed he was okay and walked to the medical car. Only five drivers had completed timed laps before the red flag.

With the red lights still on at the pit exit, both Ferraris and Red Bulls went out to line up for the restart. Perez’s lap was deleted for crossing the track limits in Turn 9.

The same thing befell Pierre Gasly in Turn 15. Valtteri Bottas broke the 1:15 limit on his first try with a 1:14.926. Before the last tries, the Williams and Haas drivers were in danger of elimination, with Tsunoda in P20.

Williams upset the field with both Russell and Latifi making it to Q2, with Latifi on P12, two positions above Russel. Their success resulted in the elimination of both Alfa Romeo drivers. Fernando Alonso scraped by to Q2 a tenth of a second above Räikkönen.

Both Williams surprisingly made it through to Q2. Image: F1

Q2

Mercedes, Williams, and Max Verstappen began Q2 with medium tyres. Half of the cars stayed in the pits at the start of the session.

Hamilton was the fastest with a 1:14.817, six hundredths ahead of Verstappen. Interestingly, Checo Perez opened his Q2 with the soft tyre. In the middle of the session, Norris put himself to the top with the soft tyre by one tenth over Hamilton.

Lando Norris’ blistering Q2 pace was a sign of things to come for the young Brit. Image: F1

Williams made their last effort with the soft compound, but it wasn’t enough to get them into Q3. Russell beat his teammate and got P12, while Latifi is P14.

Fernando Alonso had a difficult Q2, just like Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, as both Spaniards were eliminated from Q2. Sainz just missed out on P11, while Alonso sunk to P15. Sebastian Vettel completes the list of drivers eliminated in Q2 in P13.

Q3

McLaren opened the final session as Norris sets 1:14.875 to set a benchmark for others. Hamilton, Perez, and Verstappen beat Norris, but the young Briton held P4 as Bottas had a bad first lap that left him sixth. The drivers behind him did their opening laps on used soft tyres.

The Mercedes drivers got out early on their final tyres, determined to avoid any potential traffic in the final corners. Bottas ahead, Hamilton behind.

Bottas’ first sector was four tenths behind Hamilton’s time, ruining his chances in the pole fight. The Finn wasn’t able to beat Norris’ first time.

In fact, Norris set sectors 1 and 2 blazing in purple and made it up to P2, but his lap time got deleted for track limits.

Perez took P2 from Verstappen, who starts third tomorrow. Bottas slumped to P8 as Leclerc, Gasly and Ricciardo beat him. Hamilton’s time held and he takes his first pole in Imola.

Sir Lewis Hamilton claimed his first pole at Imola and 99th in Formula 1. Image: F1

Full Classifiction

F1 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix: Verstappen with a Dominant Pole Position

Max Verstappen starts the 2021 season off with a bang, beating the reigning champion Lewis Hamilton by 388 thousandths of a second. The rest of the grid was a mixed bag, with some drivers falling victim to bad timing.

Q1

The first qualifying session of the 2021 season was opened by both Haas and Williams drivers lining up at the end of the pit lane, waiting for the green light.

On their first timed laps, both George Russel and Nicholas Latifi pulled into the pits without setting a time, while Haas’ Nikita Mazepin spun in turn 13 ruining his opening lap.

Mick Schumacher was the only one to set a time. After the pioneers came back to the pits, the entire rest of the grid went out onto the track.

Lando Norris was the first to set a time, a warm-up time of 1:31.754. Verstappen and Hamilton were matching each other’s pace on first tries, with Verstappen squeezing out in front with a 1:30.499, beating Hamilton’s 1:30.617. Valtteri Bottas was off the pace with a first run of 1:31.200.

The real surprise of Q1 was delivered by the AlphaTauri drivers, with Yuki Tsunoda getting second and Pierre Gasly 4th on their runs. Both of them decided to stay in pits during the last runs, alongside Verstappen.

George Russell continues his amazing qualifying performances from last season by getting himself up to 8th initially. With Mazepin spinning in Turn 1, this secured the Williams driver’s place in Q2.

Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari engine stopped in sector 2, hampering the laps of Sebastian Vettel and Esteban Ocon. Both got eliminated from Q1 on 18th and 16th respectively, alongside a less surprising bunch of Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin. Notably, all cars that made it into Q2 were within less than 1.2 seconds in Q1.

READ MORE: F1 BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE SILVER ARROWS DUEL IN THE DESERT

Q2

The familiar top trio from 2020 opened Q2, with Hamilton just beating Verstappen with a 1.30:085, leaving the Red Bull driver just over two tenths behind. Valtteri Bottas could not match the pace of his teammate, losing almost half a second on his first lap.

In addition to the Mercedes and Red Bull cars, the AlphaTauris also used medium tires for their laps in Q2. On their first runs however, they barely scraped into the top 10. Perez and Ricciardo would be under pressure on their second tries, as both got their times deleted due to track limit infringements in Turn 4.

A long queue set off for second attempts with three minutes to go, with Russell being the sole exception, accepting his fate in 15th place. Gasly improves his time from first attempt, making it to Q3 with the medium compound.

Red Bull’s risk with sending Perez out with mediums backfired as the Mexican is eliminated on 11th, while Tsunoda’s spotlight from Q1 got dimmer as he was eliminated on the medium compound, taking 13th position.

Q3

Daniel Ricciardo was the first one to leave the pits in Q3; with all but Leclerc, Alonso, and Stroll following the Honey Badger. Gasly sets a great time of 1:30.014, which Bottas is unable to match.

Hamilton and Verstappen are in their own league, however, as Verstappen beats Hamilton by 23 thousandths with a 1.29:526.

Bottas lead the group into the last attempts, with Hamilton and Gasly in close proximity. Both Mercedes drivers improved, but Verstappen set every sector alight with purple and took his first pole in Bahrain with a 1:28.997, beating Hamilton by a massive gap of 0.388 seconds.

Bottas secured third but he was nowhere near with almost six tenths to Verstappen. Leclerc finishes his qualifying a high by overtaking Gasly to secure fourth on the grid for tomorrow.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – WHO REALLY OWNS WILLIAMS F1?

Full Classification

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to qualifying? Ruby Price hosted panelists Louis Edwards and Tom Horrox on Grid Talk’s Bahrain Qualifying Review. Audio and Video versions are both available below:

OPINION: What Valtteri Bottas needs to do in 2021

Valtteri Bottas is set to begin his fifth season at the Mercedes Formula 1 team this year. Whether his time at the German outfit has been successful or not is a matter of debate. However, what isn’t in doubt is that Bottas’ future is unclear. What does the Flying Finn have to do to keep his job from 2022? We’ve given our take below!

How to respond to Lewis

Assuming that the 7-time world champion Lewis Hamilton reaches an agreement with Mercedes, Bottas will face a similar challenge to his four previous seasons at the Brackley outfit. While his teammate and main opponent is one of the best drivers to have ever raced in Formula 1, the setting has to be a little different as the teams (hopefully) arrive to Bahrain in late March.

Hamilton and Bottas have won four constructors’ championships in a row at Mercedes

Hamilton has equalled Michael Schumacher in the number of world championship, as well as become the driver with the most pole positions and race wins. One could question Lewis’ hunger for driving in F1, especially with the backdrop that he will most likely had to have taken a major cut in his salary demands.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – ARE THE DAYS OF BIG MONEY DRIVER CONTRACTS HISTORY?

I have nothing against Hamilton’s professionalism, but we have observed in previous seasons that after he has won the championship, he dials his performance down just a bit. If Lewis’ hunger for an eight championship is not at the same level as for his seventh or sixth, perhaps Bottas may have an opening to throw his toughest challenge yet.

Bottas needs to raise his game too

Don’t get me wrong, it is not only about Hamilton dropping his performance, Bottas does equally need to increase his. Especially as he has stated he will not start playing dirty tactics within the team. In the last two seasons, Bottas has been of to an excellent start, only to see the point difference to Hamilton increase as the season went on.

Bottas won last year’s opening round in Austria, one of only two victories in 2020

Bottas will have to retain the killer form he normally starts a season with for much longer; and stay away from bad luck. No doubt his tyre giving up on the last laps of the British GP last year, dropping him from the points while Hamilton squeaked out a victory on three tires broke Bottas’ form.

Down to bad luck, yes, but also had he put himself in Lewis’ position, perhaps he might have been leading the championship after the race.

While it is admirable that Bottas does not want to take Mercedes infighting to the brink of a civil war similar to 2016 campaign, it is difficult to see how he can respond to Lewis in the endurance competition that is the championship.

How to retain a Mercedes seat for 2022?

If Bottas’ situation is such that he cannot throw a season-long challenge to Hamilton, what must he do then? With the new regulations hopefully coming in 2022, the Finn will certainly want to remain in the sport for some years past 2021. Regardless of the new regulations, Mercedes certainly remains as his number one choice for a seat in 2022.

A new challenger to Bottas’ seat has risen in the form of George Russell

Not rocking the boat at Mercedes is a wise call for Bottas if he is looking for another 1-year extension. With the relationship between Hamilton and the bosses at Mercedes allegedly suffering a blow due to the Brit’s salary demands.

Portraying himself as the solid, stable choice to fill one of the Black Arrows seems like a sensible solution. Although, so would winning the championship. Even in the unlikely scenario that George Russell steps up to fill the second seat at Mercedes, be it in 2021 or 2022, Bottas’ role as a solid team player is likely to guarantee him a seat for 2022.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – STROLL SEALS THE BIG DEAL AGAIN

It would be quite shocking to see Hamilton and Russell form Mercedes’ driver duo in 2022, not because they would not deserve it, but because having two ‘fastest-of-their-generation’ drivers in one team is a situation ready to blow up.

Personally, I see it to be more likely that Hamilton will not renew with Mercedes for 2021, than for him and Russell becoming teammates in 2022. This sets Bottas well for some more years as the nice guy at Mercedes.

How to reignite his career somewhere else?

Although it is unlikely that Mercedes would want to shake things up for 2022, there is always a possibility that they decide they have let Russell drive at Williams for long enough, and that he deserves to be promoted to drive alongside Hamilton.

Could Bottas find himself back at Williams in the near future?

While I struggle to see Toto Wolff and his higher-ups making this move, let us entertain the thought for now. Where could Bottas reach out to, assuming he want to stay in F1? Well, with the new regulations, there is a chance that the marching order between the teams gets all mixed up, a good thing in the case of rejection from Mercedes.

What is not a good thing, however, is that most of the teams in the better half of the current grid are well set with their driver duos. Ferrari’s doors will not be open, unless Sainz flops massively this year. And even in that case, they would likely bring up Mick Schumacher from Haas.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – THE UAE FLASH THE CASH

Aston Martin will also remain locked up and Red Bull will not look further than Alex Albon in the unlikely case they want to play another round of musical chairs for Verstappen’s teammate. McLaren will not be giving up on Ricciardo or Norris.

Renault, well, while 2021 could be an absolute dumpster fire for team moral with the combination of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon, it is unlikely that they would kick either one out. And even is they did, there is a long line of Renault Academy drivers that would certainly have the priority over Bottas.

We’re running out of options…

The teams that are left are a sad read for Bottas. AlphaTauri, no chance. Haas, possible, if Mazepin got the boot (difficult to imagine what would lead to this apart from a life-long ban from the FIA), or if Schumacher replaced Sainz at Ferrari (also very unlikely to happen).

Alfa Romeo is difficult to see happening, even if they had two empty seats for 2022 they are likely to be filled by one or two Ferrari Driver Academy drivers, from the list of Callum Ilott, Robert Schwartzmann, Marcus Armstrong and I’d throw Arthur Leclerc as a hail Mary option too.

And so that leaves us with Williams, the most likely option in my opinion, but still a farfetched one. Firstly, as they have been at the back of the grid for many years now, it is hard to see them jumping to podium battles even with new regulations.

Would Bottas be motivated to take the risk? Maybe, but it’s not a certainty. Another question is whether Bottas would be welcomed back to his inaugural team with open arms. After all, the Williams family are not the owners anymore.

Perhaps the heads at Dorilton Capital would be open for Bottas’ return, alongside Nicholas Latifi or another driver with large financial backing. But this move if definitely less certain now than it would have been one year ago.

Overall, if Bottas left Mercedes, I believe he would leave Formula 1 entirely. He’s 31 years old, which isn’t old by any stretch, but he’s not the young hot prospect he was when he joined in 2017.

Perhaps, he could emulate his compatriot Kimi Raikkonen by spending a few years out of the sport before re-joining in 2023, or leave permanently to compete in the WRC.

F1 2020 Emilia Romagna GP: Bottas pips Hamilton for the pole in Imola

Valtteri Bottas took the 15th pole of his career in Imola, beating his teammate Lewis Hamilton by a mere tenth of a second. The other cars could not get close to the silver arrows, but Max Verstappen, Pierre Gasly, and the track limits provided some excitement in the qualifying.

Q1

Highlighting the lack of Friday practices, most cars got out onto the track early. It was apparent that traffic would play a role in the qualifying, as Valtteri Bottas was forced to scrap his first try as he ran into traffic in the final corners. Max Verstappen and Kimi Räikkönen were also victims of traffic on their opening timed laps.

Renault and Daniel Ricciardo took a different approach to Q1, with the Australian going for his out lap with only eight minutes left in the session. Ricciardo performs well and qualifies easily to Q2.

Valtteri Bottas and Alex ALbon were under a lot of pressure on their final tries, as their lap times from earlier were deleted due to exceeding track limits. Both of them managed to save themselves through to Q2.

Williams’ George Russell continued to impress everyone as he made it to Q2 yet again, on P14. The AlphaTauris also managed well in the first session, Gasly and Kvyat finishing the session on 4th and 9th respectively

Q2

The Mercedes, Red Bulls and Ferraris all opted for the medium tires. It was clear the Ferraris were not fast enough on the tire and they had to come in for mediums. Verstappen was unable to even get a lap on the medium tire, as he suffered an engine issue, forcing him to return to the pits. The Red Bull mechanics started hustling around his engine to get him back out on track with less than ten minutes to go in Q2. The first try was not much better for Red Bulls second man, as Alex Albon had a spin and was lucky not to hit the wall.

With four minutes to go the cars returned onto the track for their final tries. Verstappen was fitted with mediums regardless of him lacking a time in Q2. He managed to climb up to fifth, just behind his teammate who got 4th on a set of soft tires.

Both Mercedes were commandingly the top 2 in the session, as Racing Point’s surprisingly faulter with Perez 11th and Stroll 15th. Sebastian Vettel also had a lackluster day, finishing 14th. The AlphaTauri duo kept up their performance from Q1, both making it through to Q3.

Q3

All ten cars were quick to leave the pits in the beginning of Q3. Mercedes quickly wiped out any hopes of a challenger, with Hamilton setting an impressive 1:13.781 with Bottas close behind with 1:13.812. Verstappen was unarmed, a solid seven tenths behind Hamilton after the first tries. Hamilton did go wide in the last corner, bringing gravel onto the track for the others to navigate through. Albon suffered another deleted time as he exceeded track limits in Turn 9.

In their last tries, Hamilton improved slightly, but the polesitter for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix is Valtteri Bottas, as the Finn took pole by 97 thousands-of-a-second. Verstapped secured third, but will be accompanied in the second row by his former teammate Pierre Gasly on 4th place, continuing his impressive efforts of this season with a strong qualifying in Imola. Albon recovered to 6th place, as Charles Leclerc brought Ferrari a lukewarm 7th place, under the watchful eyes of Ferrari CEO Louis Camillieri.

Full Classification

Pos.No.DriverConstructorTime/Gap
177Valtteri BottasMercedes1:13.609
244Lewis HamiltonMercedes0.097s
333Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing0.567s
410Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri0.893s
53Daniel RicciardoRenault0.911s
623Alex AlbonRed Bull Racing0.963s
716Charles LeclercFerrari1.007s
826Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri1.087s
94Lando NorrisMcLaren1.205s
1055Carlos SainzMcLaren1.302s
Q2
1111Sergio PerezRacing Point1:15.061
1231Esteban OconRenault1:15.201
1363George RussellWilliams1:15.323
145Sebastian VettelFerrari1:15.385
1518Lance StrollRacing Point1:15.494
Q1
168Romain GrosjeanHaas1:15.918
1720Kevin MagnussenHaas1:15.939
187Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo1:15.953
196Nicholas LatifiWilliams1:15.987
2099Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo1:16.208

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix qualifying? Host Louis Edwards with panelists Owain Medford, Jack Watson and Philip Mathew stared in Grid Talk’s Emilia Romagna GP Qualfying Analysis:

F1 2020 Portuguese GP: Hamilton Makes History in Portimao

Lewis Hamilton has broken Michael Schumacher’s all-time F1 win record by claiming his 92nd victory, as Formula 1 returns to Portugal after 24 years. The new track and gloomy weather caught some drivers off guard, making the first few laps the most exiting part of the race.

As was expected, the first corners were full of action. Rather surprisingly though, it was thanks to a slippery track. Verstappen was able to overtake Bottas for 2nd place into Turn 1, but Bottas claimed his position back in the following corners. Perez tried to overtake Verstappen, but the two collided and Perez dropped to the back of the pack.

Drivers on the mediums seemed to struggle more on the first laps than soft, with Kimi Räikkönen blasting through the field to 6th, a gain of 10 places on the first lap. Even more impressively, Carlos Sainz success fully took the lead as Hamilton and Bottas both lacked grip in Sector 2.

After chaotic first laps, the Mercedes duo overtook Sainz, and by Lap 14 Bottas lead Hamilton by 2.3 seconds. Kimi Räikkönen opened the pit game by stopping on lap 11, opting for medium tyres. Hamilton complained about his left front tyres on lap 14, after which he did the fastest laps of the race so far on Laps 16 and 17.

Lance Stroll challenged Norris to turn 1, and the two crashed as Stroll tried to go around the outside. Both drivers suffered damage and had to pit. Hamilton managed to catch Bottas by lap 20, and with DRS the overtake was not much of a challenge. After this Hamilton quickly built a lead of 3 seconds in the subsequent laps.

Perez had recovered well from his collision with Verstappen on lap one, returning to top 10 on lap 24 by passing Giovinazzi with DRS. Verstappen pitted for mediums on the same lap, dropping to 6th place in front of Esteban Ocon. Bottas reported his tires were graining by Lap 23, as Hamilton praised the condition of his tyres.

By Lap 29, Hamilton had increased his lead to 8.5 seconds by lap 33, laying the foundation for his record-breaking win. Stroll received a five seconds penalty for his crash with Norris, and he received a second penalty for breaking the track limits repeatedly. Charles Leclerc had been quietly driven to a secured 4th place, as he came to the pits on Lap 34.

By Lap 39, only Esteban Ocon and the two Mercedes were out on their starting tyre sets, and on Lap 40 Hamilton was called in. He remarked his tires were still good but trusted his team by stopping hard tires.

Bottas was informed about Hamiltons tire, and he expressed the idea of going for softs, as he was already over 10 seconds behind. On lap 41 however, he received hard tires. Norris was forced to give up his fight for points, as a slow puncture forced him to pit on lap 46.

Stroll became the only retirement of the race, as he drove his Racing Point to the garage on lap 53. Ocon finally made his first pitstop on lap 53, going from mediums o softs and coming out 8th, just in front of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo. Hamilton reported he was suffering a cramp on lap 59, which spurred him to do a fastest lap of the race, increasing his lead to 18 seconds over Bottas. The fight for fifth place culminated in Perez’s aggressive defending against Gasly to turn 1 on three laps before the end, and on the next lap Gasly was able to overtake the Mexican. Perez’s impressive comeback was dimmed a bit as Carlos Sainz overtook him on the last lap with the help of the DRS.

After very exiting first laps, the podium  turned out to be the same old same old: Lewis Hamilton won the Portuguese GP with a monumental 25 second lead over Valtteri Bottas, with Max Verstappen following the second Mercedes to third place.

Final Classification

Pos.No.DriverConstructorTime/Gap
144Lewis HamiltonMercedes1:29:56.828
277Valtteri BottasMercedes+25.592s
333Max VerstappenRed Bull Racing+34.508s
416Charles LeclercFerrari+65.312s
510Pierre GaslyAlphaTauri+1 lap
655Carlos SainzMcLaren+1 lap
711Sergio PerezRacing Point+1 lap
831Esteban OconRenault+1 lap
93Daniel RicciardoRenault+1 lap
105Sebastian VettelFerrari+1 lap
117Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo+1 lap
1223Alexander AlbonRed Bull Racing+1 lap
134Lando NorrisMcLaren+1 lap
1463George RussellWilliams+1 lap
1599Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo+1 lap
1620Kevin MagnussenHaas+1 lap
178Romain GrosjeanHaas+1 lap
186Nicholas LatifiWilliams+2 laps
1926Daniil KvyatAlphaTauri+2 laps
2018Lance StrollRacing PointDNF

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to the Portuguese Grand Prix weekend? Host Ruby Price with panelists Philip Mathew, Sam Thatcher and Alex Booth stared in Grid Talk’s Portuguese Grand Review.

Audio and video versions of the show is linked below: