Author Archives: Phil Mathew

F1 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix Preview: New Season Beckons with Plenty on the Horizon

After a season unlike any other in the history of the Formula 1 World Championship in 2020, the 2021 season begins in Bahrain this weekend and numerous changes have taken place across the grid. While Mercedes AMG-Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton has returned in search of his eighth World Driver’s Championship along with 100 wins/100 poles, the chasers behind are hungry to take down the dominant figure in the sport.

One of those contenders is Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen. The Dutchman is coming off a season-ending pole and victory at Abu Dhabi, while leading the entire race. The young charger is ready to battle Hamilton for the Driver’s title, but will Red Bull provide him the car necessary to compete on a per-race basis? And can Valtteri Bottas finally stand up and challenge the Stevenage product? 

Track Guide

Sunday’s race on the 5.412 km Grand Prix Circuit will present a unique set of challenges for all the teams and drivers coming off the winter break.  Long straights, hard braking and three DRS zones will emphasise having strong aerodynamic balance and tyre wear characteristics. 

Bahrain GP Circuit Layout. Image: Racingcircuits.info

Since becoming a night race in 2014, the Bahrain Grand Prix has had its fair share of outstanding battles. The ability to see the driver’s eyes and the sparks fly also helps the spectacle. 

Even with the recent testing, Friday’s initial practice will be more about sweeping the track and building a line to use during the remainder of the weekend. Conservation on all aspects is key with a 23-race calendar on deck, as of now.  The grip will be low at the start but improves with track evolution meeting its peak during Saturday qualifying. 

READ MORE FORMULA 1: F1’S CLASS OF 2021: WHAT CAN WE EXPECT?

Last Time Out

As mentioned earlier, Verstappen dominated at Abu Dhabi with a 15.976sec margin of victory over Bottas. Hamilton rounded out the podium, but just over 1.5 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Alexander Albon. McLaren’s Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, Jr. completed the top six, with Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Riccardo’s teammate Esteban Ocon and Racing Point’s Lance Stroll all in the points. 

Can Max Verstappen carry his season-ending form into 2021? Image: F1

Winter testing saw Red Bull and the new McLaren-Mercedes combination show pace while Mercedes struggled.  Questions of sandbagging by Mercedes aside, the form book should follow what we have seen in recent years once lights go out on Sunday. 

The midfield battle will be tight, with AlphaTauri doing well with Gasly and rookie Yuki Tsunoda. Returning two-time champion Fernando Alonso is with Alpine, four-time champion Sebastian Vettel has gone to Aston Martin and one can never count out Ferrari with Charles Leclerc and Sainz.

READ MORE: F1 2021 TESTING DAY 3: TSUNODA STARS AS VERSTAPPEN TOPS THE TIMES

Further back, can George Russell finally score a point for Williams this year? After his epic performance in the Sakhir Grand Prix in place of Hamilton, the new director of the GPDA will have an opportunity based on reliability and a stable platform provided. Williams’ battle with Alfa Romeo and Haas F1 will be interesting early on, but we could finally see Williams back in a competitive place after a few years of being on the back foot.

Will Lewis Hamilton’s Domination Continue?

Since 2014, one driver and team has truly set the tone in Formula 1. Hamilton, along with Mercedes-AMG Petronas, have consistently won races and poles to a level unseen since Michael Schumacher’s run with Ferrari from 2000-2004. 

With the relatively stable rules moving into massive changes in 2022, is this the last hurrah for Lewis and Mercedes? 

Hamilton and Mercedes have won 13 of the last 14 F1 drivers’ and constructors’ championships

Hamilton’s struggles in testing have been well-documented but assume that the 44 will be back to form. However, Verstappen, Sergio Perez, Bottas and others will make getting that eighth title a greater challenge. Add McLaren’s resurgence with Riccardo and Norris and we could have a championship similar to 2010 and 2012. 

Session Times

Practice 1: 26 March               11:30-12:30 (7:30-8:30 AM EST)

Practice 2: 26 March               15:00-16:00 (11AM–12PM EST)

Practice 3: 27 March               12:00-13:00 (8-9 AM EST)

Qualifying: 27 March             15:00-16:00 (11AM-12PM EST)

Race: 28 March                       16:00-18:00 (11AM-1PM EST)

All times in GMT, unless stated

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview the Bahrain Grand Prix? George Howson hosted panelists Louis Edwards, Sam Thatcher and Jack Watson in the Grid Talk Bahrain GP Preview. Full audio and video versions of the show are available below:

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview: Bizarre 2020 Season Ends at Yas Marina

In a season that has seen multiple drivers miss races due to illness and teams/drivers winning races that usually do not, the 2020 Formula 1 campaign ends at Abu Dhabi with drivers and constructors points positions still to be determined. 

The mundane Yas Marina circuit will host the season finale after Racing Point’s Sergio Perez earned his first Grand Prix win in his 190th start at the Sakhir Grand Prix.  Will Lewis Hamilton clear COVID-19 protocols to race after last week’s absence?  Who drives for Haas in place of Romain Grosjean?

Track Guide

Sunday’s race at the 5.554 km Yas Marina Grand Prix layout marks the end of a three-week Middle East trek. Yas Marina is known for the unique architecture, lights and pit road exit underneath the track itself. However, the racing here leaves a lot to be desired. 

Outside of two long straightaways with DRS zones connected by a chicane, the remainder of the track is low to medium-speed corners, which usually provides a processional race.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – FORMULA 1’S CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

Grip will be at a premium early in the weekend, but will improve through practice and qualifying. Track position will be at a premium with the lack of overtaking areas and tyre wear not being as severe like Bahrain.

Last Time Out

With Hamilton missing a Grand Prix for the first time in his career, Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Valtteri Bottas took pole for the Sakhir Grand Prix on the Bahrain outer layout. Alongside was teammate and Hamilton substitute George Russell.

Sergio Perez became the first Mexican to win a Formula 1 race in half a century

The young Englishman took advantage of a great start to lead going into the first turn.  Behind him, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Perez made contact which collected Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. The crash ended Leclerc and Verstappen’s races on the spot while Perez fell to last. 

However, the veteran Mexican driver (who is still looking for a 2021 seat) charged through the field on hard tyres and made crucial overtakes through the pit-stop sequences.

READ MORE: THE DEVIL’S IN THE DATA: WHAT PEREZ COULD BRING TO RED BULL

Jack Aitken replaced Russell at Williams and his crash off the final turn caused a comedy of errors so bad that Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff to drop an expletive during a live post-race interview. 

In the process, Russell lost the lead due to having Bottas’ tyres mounted after a late call to pit under the full safety car. Bottas was stuck on his hard tyres which proved costly in the end.

READ MORE: FORMULA 1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

Russell was able to claw back through the field and was within two seconds of Perez before suffering a puncture which ended Russell’s chances and gave the soon-to-be unemployed Perez his maiden victory. 

Ocon scored his first career podium and Stroll took his second podium of 2020 after the equally insane Italian Grand Prix. 

Points Battles and Who Is Driving?

Bottas comes into Abu Dhabi with a 16-point advantage over Verstappen in the chase for second in the drivers’ championship. Perez’s win vaulted him into a 13-point lead over Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo for fourth. 

Ricciardo could still finish 4th in the driver’s standings

There’s an 11-point gap between four drivers (Leclerc, Carlos Sainz, Alexander Albon, Lando Norris) to decide sixth in the drivers’ championship. Qualifying will be a major factor in who comes out on top in these battles.  

On the constructors’ side, Racing Point has a 10-point lead on McLaren for third after a double podium in Bahrain, while McLaren leads Renault by 12 points.  Each organisation has shown great pace and performance at different circuits, so this battle will go down to final lap.

READ MORE: DANIIL KVYAT: NOT DONE YET

Lewis Hamilton will return to driving for Mercedes this weekend. This means that George Russell reverts back to Williams and Jack Aitken’s Formula 1 cameo comes to and end.

What is known is that Pietro Fittipaldi will be in the Haas again this weekend, as Romain Grosjean’s burns are still too severe to race. His horror-crash in Bahrain has effectively retired the Swiss-born Frenchman from Formula 1. He should get a test in an F1 car when he is fit again to say goodbye to the sport.    

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – SAFETY DOESN’T HAPPEN BY ACCIDENT

Session Times

Practice 1: 11 December         9:00 – 10:30 (4-5:30 AM EST)

Practice 2: 11 December         13:00 – 14:30 (8-9:30 AM EST)

Practice 3: 12 December         10:00 – 11:00 (5-6 AM EST)

Qualifying: 12 December       13:00 – 14:00 (8-9 AM EST)

Race: 13 December                 13:10 – 15:10 (8:10-10:10 AM EST)

(Session times are UK GMT time, unless stated)

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend?  Host George Howson with panellists Mikael Kataja, Alex Booth and Garry Sloan stared in Grid Talk’s Abu Dhabi Prix Preview.  Video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

Bahrain Grand Prix Preview: Midfield Battle Takes Centre Stage


With Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton clinching the Constructors and Drivers titles, the focus in the closing three weeks will be on the tight midfield battles in both championships.

Hamilton clinched his record-equalling seventh World Drivers Championship with a Turkish Grand Prix victory after cold temperatures, rain and a resurfaced track wreaked havoc all weekend.

Racing Point’s Sergio Perez and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel rounded out the podium. Perez currently sits fourth in the drivers’ championship with four points separating him, Charles Leclerc for Ferrari and Daniel Ricciardo with Renault.

Track Guide

Sunday’s race will be the 14th time Formula 1 has raced at this version of the Bahrain International Circuit. Racing under the lights and three separate DRS zones will produce plenty of overtaking and slipstreaming battles.

This track has plenty of paved runoff areas and initially starts low-grip due to the wind and sand blown onto the track. However, the circuit usually improves over the weekend.

Most of the turns are sharp angles allowing for hard braking but there are sweepers opening up into DRS zones so medium to high-speed cornering and downforce will play a huge role.

Those DRS zones will emphasise the better power units and teams that can balance the trim and grip necessary to overtake and keep the tyres alive.

Last Time Out

Lance Stroll won his first career pole for Racing Point and led twice for 32 laps but suffered front wing damage which cost him an opportunity for his first win. Hamilton led the last 22 laps of the race to earn his 94th win and tie Michael Schumacher with seven World Drivers Championships.

Valtteri Bottas had a nightmare race, spinning six times and finishing a lap
down in 14th, which ended his opportunity to win the title.

Perez finished 31.633 seconds behind in second and continues to perform even with no drive as of this writing. Vettel earned his first podium since Mexico in 2019 after teammate Leclerc’s last-lap attempt to get second went awry.

McLaren’s Carlos Sainz finished fifth with less than three seconds separating positions 2-5.

Red Bull teammates Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon finished sixth and seventh, followed by McLaren’s Lando Norris, Stroll and Ricciardo.

Four-way Midfield tussle

As mentioned earlier, the battle for fourth in drivers and third in constructors takes centre stage since the main titles are decided. Perez and Racing Point are five points ahead of McLaren in constructors with Renault a further 13 points back.

Ferrari’s recent resurgence brings them within 24 points of Racing Point with vital aero development time on the line depending on their finish with the new cost cap in play for 2021.

Perez is still looking for a ride in 2021 and could finish best of the rest with Leclerc and Ricciardo both standing in the way of his best points finish of his career.

Session Times

Practice 1: 27 November 14:00 – 15:30 (6-7:30 AM EST)
Practice 2: 27 November 18:00 – 19:30 (10-11:30 AM EST)
Practice 3: 28 November 14:00 – 15:00 (6-7 AM EST)
Qualifying: 28 November 17:00 – 18:00 (9-10 AM EST)
Race: 29 November 17:10 – 19:10 (9:10-11:10 AM EST)

READ MORE: F1 ANNOUNCES SAUDI GP, BUT DO WE REALLY RACE AS ONE?

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Bahrain Grand Prix weekend? Host Louis Edwards with panellists Owain Medford, Garry Sloan and Soumil Arora stared in Grid Talk’s Bahrain Grand Prixview.

Video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

Portuguese GP Preview: Hamilton’s Quest for 92 Wins Starts at Portimao

Lewis Hamilton comes to this weekend’s Portuguese Grand Prix on the cusp of passing Michael Schumacher’s record as the leader in Formula 1 race wins.

Hamilton dominated the Eifel Grand Prix at the Nurburgring two weeks ago on his way to tying Schumacher. The six-time World Drivers Champion comes to the third brand new circuit on the 2020 calendar with a 69 point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Track Guide

The 4.684 km Autodromo Internacional do Algarve, or Portimao Circuit, presents a similar challenge to Mugello was for the drivers and teams.

The circuit is fast and tyre management will be key with so many sweeping corners. Like Mugello, sand traps line the run-off areas, which puts a premium on car control and staying on track compared to Tilke designs.

Passing will be at a premium, with a single DRS detection starting before the final corner (Galp) and leading into a tight radius Turn 1 (Primeria).

Outside of DRS, the most likely passing zone will be the hairpin Torre VIP corner, which has the signature tower as a backdrop.

For American motorsports fans, Portimao has characteristics of Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama or Circuit of the Americas, where the U.S. Grand Prix usually takes place around this time of year.

Last Time Out

Bottas started on pole and led comfortably through 12 laps. However, a mistake in Turn 1 on Lap 13 allowed Hamilton by and on his way to victory.

Bottas soon fell out of the race due to power unit issues which destroyed any momentum built from his Russian GP triumph.

DESPAIR: Bottas’ mechanical failure in Germany all but ended his title challenge

Max Verstappen set the fastest lap for Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, but finished 4.470 seconds behind the Mercedes AMG Petronas driver in second.

Daniel Ricciardo took his first podium since winning the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix and Renault’s first podium as a constructor since 2011.

Sergio Perez took his Racing Point from ninth to finish fourth while Carlos Sainz rounded out the top five for McLaren. Rounding out the points scorers were Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, Nico Hulkenberg (substituting for Lance Stroll), Romain Grosjean and Antonio Giovinazzi.

Record-breaker


As mentioned earlier, Lewis Hamilton can break Michael Schumacher’s win record in Portugal. He can also go one step closer to tying the German with seven World Driver’s Championship this season.

HUMBLED: Hamilton was taken aback after receiving Schumacher’s helmet

Based on the performance of the Mercedes W11 car and power unit in general, Hamilton should be able to add to his brilliant record of winning seven of the first 11 races of 2020.

However, the possibility of safety cars and red flags does exist with the lack of personnel at the track. As well as the opportunities to have major off course incidents.

This could open up strategies where Hamilton could get stuck in a similar fashion to the Italian Grand Prix, where Gasly famously won over Sainz and Stroll.

Session Times

Practice 1: 23 Oct 11:00 – 12:30 (6-7:30 AM EST)
Practice 2: 23 Oct 15:00 – 16:30 (10-11:30 AM EST)
Practice 3: 24 Oct 11:00 – 12:00 (6-7 AM EST)
Qualifying: 24 Oct 14:00 – 15:00 (9-10 AM EST)
Race: 25 Oct 13:10 – 15:10 (9:10-11:10 AM EST)

All times in BST, unless stated otherwise.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Portuguese Grand Prix weekend? Host Ruby Price with panelists Owain Medford, Louis Edwards and yours truly stared in Grid Talk’s Portuguese Grand Prixview.

Video and audio versions of the show are linked below: