Author Archives: Tommy Wharton

F1 2021 Russian Grand Prix Preview: Can the rain help Max pull off a miracle?

I used to think the Gods of F1 were blind. Lightning bolts desperately needed to be cast down on someone not named Mercedes and fan desperation never seemed to be enough to persuade them to pull the trigger. Well, here we are.

After yet another stunning race result nobody saw coming in Italy, it’s safe to say our calls have been answered. The booms from the thundering Gods are so loud nobody can know what’s going to happen next.

“Mercedes win in Russia”, “Max terrorises Sochi”, “McLaren finish 1-2 again”, “Kimi Raikkonen wins for Alfa Romeo”. At this point, none of those headlines would be a surprise and each is worth cheering for its own reasons.

Track guide

Russia is justifiably decried as one of the most boring tracks on the F1 calendar. It’s dead flat, unimaginative, and looks as though it was fenced like a prison yard. But it is wickedly fast and a place where mistakes are punished. While it has rarely held exciting races since its 2014 inception, this year’s F1 landscape is wholly different.

Image: F1

Sochi’s main point of interest is the huge left-hand Turn 3 that finishes off the fast Sector 1. From there, Sector 2 slows down and challenges the drivers with sharp corners leading to the back straight and a good passing opportunity. Sector 3 is all about getting it right before blasting down the main straight. Watch for an opening lap lead change or general mayhem at Turn 2.

Last time out

This was Ricciardo’s first win in over three years

Monza is F1 royalty for good reason. Every year, the Temple of Speed serves up a classic and this year was no different. A perfectly executed emphasis on aerodynamic balance saw Daniel Ricciardo earn McLaren’s first race win since 2012. Lando Norris followed the Australian home in second place to underscore the team’s triumph.

Lewis and Max made contact twice, finally taking each other out in a scary fashion the second time, and adding to the intrigue of their title fight. Valtteri Bottas, seeming like a man possessed since his contract non-renewal at Mercedes, fought all the way back to the podium from last. To say Monza was a race filled with story threads would be an understatement.

Will Verstappen and Hamilton collide again?

We could see similar scenes to this in Sochi again this weekend

There is more than one pivotal point to watch in Sochi. The most obvious is whether Max and Lewis can keep the racing contact-free. The two title contenders have seemed magnetic at times and it has cost them both. They are each fortunate the title fight remains intense.

Further incidents will start having more pronounced effects on the points table and with both teams seemingly capable of winning it all, an incident that heavily favours one team may wind up deciding it all.

As discussed earlier, McLaren won in Monza but, interestingly, the team did it on merit. With pole-sitter Bottas taking penalties and starting last, Ricciardo mugged his former teammate Verstappen into Turn 1 and dominated from there. He never appeared under serious threat even with a safety car working against him.

It would be premature to assume McLaren are suddenly in the title fight, but it is not so crazy to think they’ll be hanging around the top for the remainder of 2021.

Sergio Perez is another driver to keep an eye on this weekend. The Mexican has seen an up-and-down 2021 with a recent run of mixed results. He has always driven the Sochi Autodrome well and will be looking for a return to the podium.

Russia may sometimes be looked at like a race that can be missed. But in 2021, with the wild swings, surprise results, tight races and championship leads it would a mistake not to be excited for this weekend. The Russian Grand Prix is this Sunday, September 26th.

Session Times

Practice 1, Sept 24th: 09:30 – 10:30 (4:30 – 5:30 EST)

Practice 2, Sept 24th: 13:00 – 14:00 (8:00 – 9:00 EST)

Practice 3, Sept 25th: 10:00 – 11:00 (5:00 – 6:00 EST)

Qualifying, Sept 25th: 13:00 – 14:00 (8:00 – 9:00 EST)

Race, Sept 26th: 13:00 (8:00 EST)

All times are British Summer Time (BST), unless stated

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Russian GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their Russian GP preview! Ruby Price hosted George Howson, Tom Downey, and Louis Edwards in their latest podcast. Both audio and video versions of the show are available below:

F1 2021 Austrian Grand Prix Preview

Formula 1 fans outside of the U.K. have seldom found themselves hoping for a better turn of fortune for Mercedes during the hybrid era. Yet, here we are.

Max Verstappen is laying burnouts – quite literally – all over the competition. What started as a fight is turning into a demolition and the savagery is stunning.

At this point, it does not look like anything can stop Mad Max in 2021 – but is it too soon to count seven times champion Sir Lewis Hamilton out?

Track Guide

F1 cars in all their beauty will be singing their song in the Austrian Alps again this weekend.

While it’s always too early to dismiss Hamilton from a title fight, the long straights and wonderfully fast-flowing corners of the Red Bull Ring seems unlikely to be the place Mercedes mount a renewed charge.

We’re racing at the Red Bull Ring for the second weekend in a row. Image: F1

Few tracks on the calendar conjure up such easy images of magnificent surroundings and blindingly fast cars. While most of the passing happens at the hard-right turn three, the most daring drivers will make it stick around Turn 6.

The rest of the lap is where speed shines and the chase intensifies before bottoming out in Turn 10 and blazing towards the stopwatch at the line.

Last time out

The fact that this week has been spent discussing the safety of Verstappen’s race-ending celebratory burn out on the finish line (how awesome was that?) because he finished so far ahead of second place tells the story of last week’s Styrian Grand Prix completely.

Verstappen dominated wire-to-wire for Red Bull’s fourth consecutive win and only a slow pit stop prevented Sergio Perez from joining him on the podium.

Mercedes did well to salvage second and third place for big points in the Constructor’s standings but the Silver Arrows were never a threat to Verstappen’s win.

Thankfully, at least Valtteri Bottas looked Iike the solid second driver that Mercedes desperately need for the first time in a while.

Beyond the leading four, both Ferrari and McLaren had one driver finish out of position and are likely to correct those anomalies for this repeat race which should make the midfield just as exciting this weekend.

Rinse and Repeat

Hindsight being the all-conquering view that it is, only sudden reliability woes will stop Red Bull from having two drivers on the podium this Sunday.

Can Verstappen win three races in a row for the first time in his F1 career on Sunday?

Though Mercedes may yet mount a more sustained challenge to Verstappen, given the Dutchman’s dominant display last Sunday, it seems more likely they’re in for another soul-crushing defeat. And it’s about time that happened. 

The Austrian Grand Prix rounds out the first of F1’s 2021 triple-header weekends and will be roaring across your screen this weekend.

Session Times

Practice 1  –  2nd July      10:30 – 11:30

Practice 2 –  2nd July     14:00 – 15:00

Practice 3 – 3rd July    11:00 – 12:00

Qualifying – 3rd July    14:00 – 15:00

Race – 4th July                 14:00

*All times BST

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Austrian GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew previewed this weekend’s race in their latest podcast. Louis Edwards hosted Owain Medford, Garry Sloan and Tom Downey. Both video and audio versions of the show are linked below:

F1 2021 French Grand Prix Preview: Can Mercedes Regain Their Winning Form?

The pinnacle of motorport rolls into France this weekend with the title challenges hotter and more savory than overcooked crepes. Only six of the eventual 23 races in, the astonishing end of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix has left F1 in the midst of amazing competition.

Adding to the excitement is the realisation that it’s only the beginning of the first racing triple-header weekend during the most exciting season in years.

Track Guide

The only downside to this weekend is the difficulty in finding words that make Circuit Paul Ricard seem like a place racing fans could love. It is hands-down one of the ugliest tracks on the F1 calendar and usually a complete stranger to great racing.

Its layout has directly contributed to some wonderfully lame only-in-F1 penalties (ask Daniel Ricciardo) and has most often been a procession following Mercedes home. The French Grand Prix has a long and wonderful history that has been marginalised since it’s lackluster return to the calendar in 2018. However, race organisers have reprofiled and resurfaced much of the track in an effort to aid racing battles and return the overdue race glory.

Last Time Out

The Azerbaijan Grand Prix is exactly what a modern F1 track should be and it always lends itself towards the best the drivers have to offer. Yet again, it did not disappoint in 2021. What looked to be a Max Verstappen Red Bull romp to victory changed to a Mercedes win and then back to Red Bull victory by Sergio Perez in the space of a few laps.

Sebastian Vettel had a breakthrough in his Aston Martin to finish second and the always excellent Pierre Gasly climbed the podium once more. In 2018 and 2019, the last year the French GP was run, Mercedes dominated and Lewis Hamilton cruised to easy victories.

Does Hamilton still have it?

The racing in Azerbaijan up until the point race-leading Verstappen’s tire blew had been good – the final laps were stunning. But, as in Monaco, there had been a clear advantage for Red Bull. Fittingly, they increased their Constructor’s championship lead but Verstappen and Hamilton remain within 4 points of each other for the Driver’s championship.

Hamilton will have to rediscover his winning streak if he’s to close the gap to Verstappen.

It’s been an uncharacteristic drop in form from the Silver Arrows – both drivers finished out of the points in Baku – and a return to a more traditional track should lift their spirits. As was shown in the earlier races of the year, the pace is there for them when the right conditions exist.

They will consider themselves lucky to go pointless in Baku and still emerge in the thick of a title fight. Undoubtedly, Hamilton will be licking his chops to see the Circuit Paul Ricard. If Valtteri Bottas can be a decent wingman, they have every chance of winning in France.

One thing is for sure, it’s a new race weekend but Hamilton’s mirrors will still be filled with Red Bull blue. Verstappen has, at times this season, seemed unbeatable. Perez has finally come to grips with the RB16b and is just as capable of winning on Sunday as anyone. And with the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc performing weekly miracles, well, nothing is quite set in stone this weekend – thankfully.

Session Times

Practice 1: June 18            10:30 – 11:30 BST (5:30 – 6:30 am EST)

Practice 2: June 18            14:00 – 15:00 BST (9:00 – 10:00 am EST)

Practice 3: June 19           11:00 – 12:00 BST (6:00 – 7:00 am EST)

Qualifying: June 19           14:00 – 15:00 BST (9:00 – 10:00 am EST)

Race: June 20                    14:00 BST (9:00 am EST)

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your French Grand Prix weekend? Never fear! The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast. George Howson hosted Owain Medford, Steve Jackson and Tom Downey in their French GP Prixview. Both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

F1 2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix Preview: Can Red Bull Convert their pace into a win?

F1 fans have been hibernating bears for nearly a decade, only waking up for little snacks in 2016 and 2017. We have gotten restless and yearn for bygone years of drama that F1 has so often provided us. We talk about “what-ifs” – what if George Russel was Lewis Hamilton’s teammate?

We see occasional displays of glory (see: Monza, 2020) that make us forget the truth for a week or two at a time. But the reality surrounding the competition level at the sharp end of the grid cannot be escaped. No matter how many times Sebastian Vettel teased us only to collapse before the finish line we are still waiting to fully arise. 

Like a waking animal smelling it’s first meal in months, 2021 has a different scent for F1 fans, one that’s left us drooling in anticipation after Bahrain. As we dive into Imola, will we know if the hype is real: is this finally the year somebody beats Mercedes? 

Track Guide

The 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix will be contested over 63 laps in Imola this weekend. Every metre of it’s 4.909km distance is a thrill ride for fans and drivers alike. Because of Covid19 restrictions, the former San Marino Grand Prix returned to F1 in 2020 for the first time since 2006.

The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is a narrow, sweeping track with lots of opportunity for drama, but few obvious passing areas. As we discovered last year, this doesn’t necessarily mean a boring race but it does heighten the importance of Qualifying – though not to the same degree as Monaco. 

A good mix of medium and high speed corners with punishing, old-school runoff areas makes this counter-clockwise circuit a beautiful and challenging one for drivers. In 2020, pre-race practice was limited to one session so many drivers still have a relatively low level of experience here. With three full days ahead of them more should be able to nail that perfect lap.

Last Time Out

F1 2021 began with such a banging Bahrain Grand Prix that it’s almost easy to forget it was the first of 23 races this year. The fight for the top was as close as we have seen on merit for years and, most importantly, it took a stroke of strategic genius for Lewis Hamilton to come out ahead of Max Verstappen. 

Vettel will be under intense pressure after his embarrassing crash in Bahrain

Beyond the Mercedes/Red Bull battle, the midfield that looked to have no room for movement in 2020 somehow tightened up to an intensity only rivalled by cosmic forces. McLaren have not lost a step and start as loose favourites for third.

Ferrari seem to be in the hunt to regain their lost mojo from a year ago and AlphaTauri is the official dark horse, primed to reach the podium once more. Lando Norris, Sergio Perez, Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz all followed Valtteri Bottas, who was a distant third, home in Bahrain separated by less than 20 seconds.

READ MORE: WILL VETTEL REGRET HIS ASTON MARTIN MOVE?

Yuki Tsunoda collected two points for ninth in his first F1 race after mugging Lance Stroll on the final lap. Stroll and the entire Aston Martin team are further on the back foot than any other team except the towel-waving American team Haas. What remains to be discovered is if any of these results were anomalies. 

What else does 2021 have in store for us? When will Sergio Perez come to grips with his Red Bull and become the winning threat we know he is? Is Yuki Tsunoda the most exciting prospect since Verstappen? How does an F1 fan honestly contain his or her excitement for this weekend?

Has the Titanic shift actually happened?

In six months we’ll know how the cards are playing out. We’ll know if Red Bull is in the driver’s seat of this championship. Despite finishing in second and fifth place in Bahrain, they legitimately look like the season long team to beat – if you can say that after one race.

Hamilton and Verstappen are the strong early favourites for the 2021 championship

Their qualifying form, all important in Imola, was unassailable, the team’s driver pairing is arguably the best on the grid and Imola is a track that will play to their strengths. In other words, if Verstappen is actually the title threat he has appeared since pre-season testing we will know it this weekend.

Alternatively, if Mercedes have found a way to make the low-rake concept of their W12 work and they win again this weekend, we might as well crown Hamilton now. That’s the big story of this weekend: Mercedes versus Red Bull for the 2021 crown. Come Saturday, the world will revel in that battle.

READ MORE: IN THE PIT LANE – IS LAWRENCE STROLL CASH-STRAPPED?

Session Times

Practice 1: 16 April               10:00-11:00 (7:30-8:30 AM EST)

Practice 2: 16 April               13:30-14:30 (11AM–12PM EST)

Practice 3: 17 April               10:00-11:00 (5-6 AM EST)

Qualifying: 17 April             13:00-14:00 (8-9 AM EST)

Race: 18 April                       14:00 (9 AM EST)

All times in BST, unless stated

It should be noted that these are the updated times, as Friday and Saturday’s running was altered to clashing with the funeral of HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh on Saturday.

Grid Talk Podcast

If you want more content to preview this weekend’s Emilia-Romagna GP, the Grid Talk crew has you covered as always! Ruby Price hosted Alex Booth, Owain Medford and Sam Thatcher in the team’s Imola GP preview. Both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Preview: Shaken-up Grid to Provide Entertaining Race

The casual racing fan might have been tempted to turn away from F1 and it’s predictability after Lewis Hamilton put the final nail in the championship coffin several rounds ago.

It’s understandable; both titles already belong to Mercedes while second place handily sits with Red Bull. That fan might be thinking there is little left to fight for. But they would be wrong. 

The Track

Bahrain’s outer “almost oval” circuit shares Turns 14 through 4 with the standard layout. The rest has never been touched by an F1 car. Lap times in qualifying are set to be under one minute, while the race will take place over 87 laps.

Average speeds won’t be at the fastest of the year though, Monza, Spa and Silverstone are still faster.

Last Time Out – 2020 Bahrain GP

Having never run on Bahrain’s outer ring configuration, there isn’t anything precise to judge this weekend’s grand prix against. However, the standard track setup shares half it’s layout with the outer one and F1 put rubber to road there less than a week ago. 

While Romain Grosjean’s crash (and his miraculous survival) has rightfully dominated headlines since Sunday, there are still other big picture items to note. Red Bull, crucially Alex Albon, cleaned up what was left from Lewis Hamilton’s win and Valtteri Bottas’ lackluster day.

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

Third place in the Constructor’s was and is where the fiercest fight remains. Racing Point and their pink Mercedes had an awful day while Renault was unable to capitalise in the same way McLaren did by finishing in fourth and fifth place.  

A Wide-Open Weekend

In the wake of Lewis Hamilton’s contraction of COVID-19, we’ll finally get to find out what F1 would be like without him for a weekend. Mercedes have announced that George Russell will step-up to replace the world champion, so we’ll find out how the Brit can do in a fast car.

Who will replace Russell at Williams isn’t clear, but it’s believed to be either Jack Aitken or Stoffel Vandoorne.

Romain Grosjean will also be out of action this weekend. The Haas driver has been released from hospital, though, the team have confirmed. Pietro Fittipaldi will get his F1 debut this weekend in place of the Frenchman.

READ MORE: CHARLES LECLERC: F1’S NEXT NEW WORLD CHAMPION

In the midfield battle, the team from Woking now has a lead, but a vulnerable one, for third place. With two races remaining and a points gap of 27 between all three teams, don’t expect Racing Point or Renault to give up the chase.

Sergio Perez had shown every indication of a podium finish before his Mercedes engine packed it in. And it’s almost asking for a miracle for McLaren to repeat their showing from last weekend. 

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

In addition to the Constructor’s battle, Ricciardo, Perez and Charles Leclerc are  separated by only four points in the battle for fourth while seventh is within touching distance of Lando Norris, Carlos Sainz and Albon (who is fighting to keep his race seat).

To say Sunday should be exciting would be an understatement. 

READ MORE: F1 2020: THE YEAR OF THE HONEYBADGER

While the casual fan may be forgiven for feeling a little blasé about F1’s predictability the seasoned fan knows better. That kind of F1 fan knows the most compelling reasons for watching F1 are just now reaching a boiling point. 

Third place in the Constructor’s Championship, with its accompanying respect and prize money, is a dogfight between three closely matched teams. And a race win is on the line in a way it normally is not. Every tenth of a second counts on Saturday and every move has to stick on Sunday to emerge victorious. 

Session Times

Practice 1: 27 November 14:30 – 16:00 (9:30-11:00 AM EST)
Practice 2: 27 November 17:30 – 19:00 (12:30-2:00 PM EST)
Practice 3: 28 November 14:00 – 15:00 (9-10 AM EST)
Qualifying: 28 November 17:00 – 18:00 (12-1 PM EST)
Race: 29 November 17:10 – 19:10 (12:10-2:10 PM EST)

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

F1 2020 Turkish Grand Prix Preview

It is reassuring that even during the odd year that is 2020, some things have remained constant. Children still dressed up for Halloween, property taxes were paid and Lewis Hamilton will win the Formula 1 Championship.

This weekend, F1 returns to Turkey for the first time since 2011 where Mercedes’ W11 is virtually guaranteed to continue it’s dominating run. 

Track Guide

Istanbul Park is one of the best of Hermann Tilke’s creations. Like all modern tracks, it features a mix of high and low-speed sections. Turn 8 is one quadruple-apex epic corner that should be taken flat-out in the current cars and Turn 12 will be a hot overtaking spot.

Only 5 of today’s drivers have experience with the track and this may lead to some mistakes. 

Last Time Out

F1 was a long way from where it is today the last time an event was held at Istanbul Park. In 2011, Red Bull led the field home with a 1-2 finish. Hamilton missed out on a podium to Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari and Michael Schumacher was bumbling through his Mercedes comeback years. Suffice to say, 2020’s final classification will look significantly different than 2011’s. 

READ MORE: F1 2020: The Year of the Honeybadger

At Imola, safety cars mixed up the order and the racing but the result was another Mercedes 1-2 finish. Daniel Ricciardo followed the duo home in third and Daniil Kvyat drove beautifully for fourth. Charles Leclerc willed his Ferrari into another top 5 with Sergio Perez, both McLarens and both Alfa Romeo drivers rounding out the points. 

Matching Michael

The big story is still Hamilton’s quest for a record-equalling seventh Drivers Championship. If he wins, the championship is his. There is a small window of possibility for Valterri Bottas to prolong the championship fight but asking him to dethrone Hamilton is simply too much: he’s no Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton Matched Schumacher’s 91 win in Germany

Max Verstappen, reliability issues not withstanding, should round out the podium yet again. However, the fights further down the order are very much alive.

Daniel Ricciardo, Charles Leclerc, Sergio Perez and both McLaren drivers could all reasonably claim fourth. In an extremely tight midfield third place in the Constructor’s championship standings is still up for grabs.

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

McLaren and Racing Point now having to keep an eye on a resurgent Ferrari only 30 points adrift. Regardless of how the field finishes, the day will likely belong to Hamilton.

His excellence as a racing driver has been recognised and the accolades are piling up so quickly that soon there will be no more records to set. As Shumacher was during the twilight of his career, the man is a living legend and mere days away from claiming another foregone title.

But it will also feel different this year. Maybe it’s because there are no fans, maybe we’re all a little tired of Mercedes’ dominance, or maybe it’s the pandemic bubble effect. Until the world of sport returns to normal, even the reliable and amazing will seem unusual. 

Session Times

Practice 1  11:00 – 12:30 local time    Practice 1  8:00 – 9:30 UK time    

Practice 2  15:00 – 16:30                    Practice 2  12:00 – 13:30 

Practice 3  12:00 – 13:00                    Practice 3  9:00 – 10:00

Qualifying  15:00 – 16:00                    Qualifying  12:00 – 13:00

Race          13:10 Race.         10:10

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Turkish Grand Prix weekend? Host Ruby Price with panlestis Louis Edwards, Owain Medford and Garry Sloan stared in Grid Talk’s Turkish GP Prixview: