Category Archives: Formula 1

F1 2021 Russian Grand Prix: Qualifying report: Norris takes his first pole in tricky conditions

Rain stopped play earlier this morning as the thunder storms rolled over the Sochi Autodrome. No running in the morning gave this session a bit more mystery to the outcome. But one thing was for sure, Max Verstappen would not be on pole.

Verstappen had taken a completely new engine for this race and would start at the back of the grid. The same would happen for Charles Leclerc as well.

The rain had cleared in time for qualifying so the session could start on time, so let’s get straight into the qualifying action!

Q1

The rain had ended, and it was time for Q1.

Most drivers opted for the intermediate tyres, but with no running in the wet on this track Fernando Alonso went for a set of the wet tyres.

Not been a great weekend for Giovinazzi as he went for a spin. Managed to keep it out of the wall today. Credit :F1

With no rain expected throughout the session, the track was getting faster with every car that went round.

Even though the grip was improving, it wasn’t easy for all drivers. Sergio Perez struggled on his first lap and was well off the pace of Pierre Gasly who was fastest after the first run of laps.

Antonio Giovinazzi also wasn’t having the best time in the damp conditions. He was a bit too eager on the accelerator and spun his car on the exit of turn 16. He was lucky not to collect Charles Leclerc who wasn’t far behind the Alfa Romeo, but Leclerc was able to continue on his way.

Normality started to restore as the session went on. Hamilton topped the timing sheets with Bottas behind, but behind the two flying Mercedes, the order was far from normal.

Latifi was up in 6th, ahead of both Ferraris and McLarens. But most importantly the elimination zone was looking much more familiar. With the exception of Verstappen who was not participating, it was the two Alfa Romeos and the Haas cars who occupied the bottom four.

Russell looked to be the only one in danger of dropping into the bottom five, only two tenths of a second ahead of Kimi Raikkonen.

Russell went faster and it gave him 1.3 seconds faster than Raikkonen which would be enough to see him safe as the iceman dropped out of qualifying. Schumacher was also improving but it wasn’t enough either.

Both Williams through to Q2.

Eliminated: Raikkonen (16th), Schumacher (17th), Giovinazzi (18th), Mazepin (19th), Verstappen (20th)

Q2

Q2 started and it was the intermediate tyres once again. We saw the track performance start to improve through Q1, but it looked as though the wet tyres would be here to stay through Q2.

Lewis seemed to have the edge on Bottas through Quali, but we would have to see what Q3 offered. Credit :F1

Lando Norris didn’t seem to have any fear of the wet conditions after his big crash in Spa as he put in a mega effort to be only 0.158 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton after his first run. The same couldn’t be said for Daniel Ricciardo. He was 1.3 off Lando and just couldn’t put a decent lap together.

Bottas had a moment at turn 2 on his first lap which hindered his first flying lap, but on his second attempt he went straight to the top of the timing sheets.

But it wasn’t for long as Lewis fought back to go a tenth faster than the Finn. Lewis didn’t stop there as he went even faster to put in the best position going into Q3

Williams chose a weird strategy with Nicholas Latifi. Latifi was sat in the pits for a long time before he was allowed out on track to set a lap time. He would only get a single flying lap to see what he could do.

He would have to jump Tsunoda, Sainz, Russell and Ricciardo if he wanted to get into Q3. Both Sainz and Ricciardo went faster.

George Russell put in a mega time to go 9th fastest and push Sebastian Vettel out of Q2. Carlos Sainz was very fortunate that Tsunoda couldn’t improve and Latifi didn’t set a lap time and scraped through.

Eliminated: Vettel (11th), Gasly (12th), Tsunoda (13th), Latifi (14th), Leclerc (15th)

Q3

Q3 time and still the intermediate tyres were still the preferred tyre for all the drivers. But there was a clear line that was drying. The track was cold so it would be a tricky task, but it could be worth a go.

Lando Norris took his first pole in Formula One. Credit: F1

Russell was the first to tell his team to prepare slick tyres and as the cars were going round, it was clear to see that the level of spray in most parts of the tracks was little to none.

But all drivers committed to do a banker lap on the intermediate tyres to get a time on the board.

It was Lewis Hamilton who was on provisional pole position, with Lando Norris ahead of Bottas in second. Alonso was in 4th place.

Russell was the first to change for the soft tyres and would be able to complete the most amount of laps.

The rest of the field started to follow suit with the McLarens and the Alpines straight onto a set of the softs.

Mercedes looked to leave it late and this went from bad to worse as Hamilton hit the wall on the entry to the pits and broke his front wing. It looked like it would cost him precious time to get out there and get some temperature in his tyres.

It would come down to the final laps to set faster times as the green sectors started to creep in.

Ocon failed to improve. Stroll did improve. Sainz went fastest.

Lando went purple in the middle sector and put his McLaren on pole position ahead of his old team-mate. In third place was George Russell who judged the session to perfection to put his car in a brilliant position.

Hamilton spun on his final lap and could not improve his lap.

Full classification

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 Blast from the Past: Hamilton closes in on third title at Sochi

Background

Formula 1 made its second visit to the Sochi Autodrom for the fifteenth round of the 2015 season.

Lewis Hamilton led the Driver’s World Championship by 48 points coming into Russia following his victory in
Suzuka two weeks earlier. His teammate Nico Rosberg, however, continued his recent qualifying form by taking his second pole position in a row ahead of Hamilton.

Rosberg claimed pole position in Sochi. Image: Bleacher Report

Valtteri Bottas had been the star in Sochi in 2014, and looked impressive again with third on the grid ahead of the two Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen. The two Force India’s of Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez lined up behind the Prancing Horses.

The major talking point on Saturday was the massive 46g crash sustained by Carlos Sainz Jr. in the Toro Rosso in the morning practice session. Miraculously, the Spaniard was unhurt and although he would have start from the back of the grid after missing qualifying, he was declared fit to race.

Race day

Race day was overcast but dry as 53 laps of Sochi got underway. Rosberg maintained the lead from Hamilton and Bottas, as Raikkonen got ahead of Vettel. As the field negotiated the first two corners, Nico Hulkenberg spun on cold tyres and collected both Max Verstappen and Marcus Ericsson.

Hulkenberg and Ericsson were out on the spot but Verstappen was able to continue, although the young Dutchman had to crawl back to the pits with a puncture.

After a brief Safety Car period, the race resumed on lap three. Bottas, having lost a position to Raikkonen on the opening lap, regained third place. On lap seven, Hamilton took advantage of Rosberg running wide into turn two and took the lead, however all was not well with the German’s car.

A problem with the throttle was unable to be remedied by the team and Rosberg retired for the only the second time in 2015.

On Lap 12, Romain Grosjean was running 13th in the Lotus when the Frenchman lost control in turn three and had a heavy shunt into the barriers. Thankfully, Grosjean was uninjured but with debris from the wrecked Lotus strewn across the track the Safety Car made a second appearance.

With the race still in its early stages, most of the front runners opted to stay out, but Force India and Red Bull decided on a different strategy. Perez and Riccardo both made a pit-stop and re-joined ninth and tenth, respectively.

Pit-stops change everything

Valtteri Bottas became the first of the leading runners to pit at the end of Lap 27. The Williams pit crew performed a good turnaround, but the Finn emerged in traffic and that allowed Vettel to leapfrog him after the German made his stop on Lap 31.

Raikkonen couldn’t quite get ahead of his compatriot though, and re-joined after his stop behind the Williams. Perez and Riccardo were both preserving their old tyres, but had Bottas and Raikkonen both closing them down, Bottas successfully moved ahead of Riccardo on Lap 45. Raikkonen found the Red Bull harder to pass, eventually finding his way through on Lap 49.

Worse was to come for Riccardo though, as suspension failure resulted in the Australian’s third retirement of the year.
At the front, Hamilton and Vettel were secure in first and second, but Perez in third on old tyres could not hold off a charging Bottas and Raikkonen for much longer.

Frantic final laps

With two laps to go, Bottas seized his opportunity and moved into third, with Raikkonen also getting ahead as the Mexican was offline. With just one lap to go Raikkonen made an optimistic move on Bottas, the two collided and Bottas
was into the barriers, Raikkonen continued but with heavily-damaged front-left suspension.

Force India were suitably pleased as this collision, as it promoted Perez back up to third.

But it was Lewis Hamilton’s day, untroubled at the front to take his ninth victory of the year.

Sebastian Vettel’s second place pushed him into the runner-up spot in the championship, albeit some 66
points behind Hamilton. The ecstatic Perez was third with Massa salvaging something for Williams in
fourth.

Raikkonen crossed the line fifth, but was demoted to eighth after a 30-second penalty for the incident with Bottas. Local hero Daniil Kvyat inherited fifth place ahead of Felipe Nasr in an excellent sixth for Sauber. Pastor Maldonado had a competitive race in the Lotus finishing seventh.

While at McLaren-Honda, a double points finish was lost when Fernando Alonso lost 10 th place thanks to a time penalty for exceeding track limits. Max Verstappen took the final point after a good recovery drive.

For Lewis Hamilton, however, a third title was virtually in the bag, while Mercedes secured their second consecutive constructors crown.

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:

In the Pit Lane – What is Dimitry Mazepin’s next move?

The “American” Team

As the F1 circus moves on to Sochi for the next round of the 2021 season, Russian President Vladimir Putin will no doubt be pleased the Haas cars can circumvent the ban on drivers racing under the Russian flag with the adoption of the ‘Russian-themed’ livery.

Haas have courted much controversy for their perceived Russian flag livery. Image: Autosport

The irony of course is Haas arrived on the F1 scene with the emphasis on the team being F1’s American team!

Much has been written over why Gene Haas remains in F1, with various theories doing the rounds.

One school of thought is Gene Haas turned down the more than generous offers tabled in 2019 by the Saudi’s and Dmitry Mazepin from a patriot standpoint ensuring an American team remains on the grid. 

This may have been in doubt, as William’s new owners’ American private equity firm Dorilton Capital was also rumoured to be ‘having a look’ at Haas. The patriotic angle can now be dismissed, however, as news has emerged that Michael Andretti’s Andretti Autosport approached Gene Haas to buy the team only to be turned down.

Andretti Autosport is in the process of raising $287.5m to top up its available spending pot to $400m. Andretti was a potential bidder for Force India, and only walked away when faced with what they perceived to be ridiculous valuations.

With Williams, Dorilton outbid all interested parties to secure the ownership for its unknown mystery beneficial owner.

Andretti back in F1?

Andretti Autosport is a serious player running a 4-car Indy team. a Formula E team with BMW, a 4-car Indy Lights team, and an LMP3 car in the ISMA’s Sportscar series.

Andretti’s IndyCars are just one of the outfits racing teams

Undeterred by Gene Haas’ rebuttal, Michael Andretti confirmed a continuing interest in F1 telling Racer magazine, “If the right opportunity comes up, we’ll be all over it. But we’re not there yet, It would be great, but there’s a long way to go if it were to happen.”

Instead of selling, Gene Haas took Mazepin’s sponsorship Rubles in return for Junior’s race seat and of course the opportunity to brand the cars. Mazepin Sr. may or may not be disappointed with Nikia’s performance to date, but he is apparently delighted with the global exposure his company Uralkali has received.

The sponsorship has been instrumental in opening doors and has resulted in new business that has more than recouped his investment.

Could Mazepin invest outside of Haas?

The world’s biggest potash producer has just got even bigger, and this may have increased his desire to own a team not only for his son’s career but for the business opportunity that F1 presents not dissimilar to Lawrence Stroll’s F1 journey.

Unsurprisingly, Mazepin Senior has funded his son’s racing career from the get-go

If Mazepin wants to own a team, there are only two other realistic options, Williams, or Sauber, but both will in all likelihood be out of reach. 

In William’s case, if Mazepin writes a big enough cheque, you would naturally assume a private equity firm would do what private equity firms do, namely take the money and run. 

A similar scenario exists at Sauber aka Alfa Romeo which is owned by billionaire Swedish Finn Rausing worth $14.4bn courtesy of the Tetra Pak empire. Rausing became involved in F1 when back in 2016, he was approached by fellow Swede Marcus Ericsson who drove for the Sauber F1 team that was in financial difficulties.

Rausing bought out owner Peter Sauber and chief executive Monisha Kaltenborn initially through his secretive Swiss investment firm Longbow Finance SA, later transferring the ownership to himself. He appointed trusted family friend Pascal Picci as chairman and took no active role in the running of the team.

Rausing quietly attendees race weekends without any media attention.

He is a regular visitor to the factory in Hinwil, Switzerland spending hours happily chatting away to engineers. Rausing currently supports the team to the tune of $20-$30m, so it may be like Williams a heart and not a head decision. Well, he’s got to spend his money on something!

Mazepin F1 on the way?

The million-dollar question, or more accurately the multi-million-dollar question, is would Mazepin start a new team with all that involves?

Well, Liberty Media would like to expand the number of teams on the grid after the pandemic has ended. Sporting Director Ross Brawn commented to Russian broadcaster RT in July 2020, “If there was interest from a Russian team or any other that we thought was sustainable then we would be fully open to exploring the opportunity.”

One option for Mazepin would be to join forces with fellow Russian billionaire Boris Rotenberg, founder of the Russian bank SMP. Along with his brother Arkady, Boris owns the SGM Group, the largest construction company for gas pipelines and electrical power supply lines in Russia.

Rotenberg is a close confidant of President Vladimir Putin from his childhood. Both men learned judo together in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg).

Rotenburg has had a few issues…

It’s not all been plain sailing for Boris. Image: Moscow Times

The SGM Group was involved in large infrastructure projects in Crimea, which after the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014 led to American sanctions of both brothers and their assets.

The U.S. Treasury claimed that Putin had awarded the Rotenberg’s billions of dollars in contracts from Gazprom and for the Sochi Winter Olympics. 

EU sanctions followed, but only covered property in Rome and Sardinia valued at €30m.

As Rotenberg held Finnish citizenship, due to a previous marriage to a Finnish citizen, he bypassed the sanctions. The assets included three villas in Eze, Nice, and Rotenberg’s racing team SMP Racing, which also trains drivers in the city of Le Luc, France.

SMP Racing has a host of Russian drivers on its books, including ex-Williams F1 driver Sergey Sirotkin and rising star Robert Schwartzman.

Rotenberg has more than money behind him…

Rotenberg is a confirmed petrolhead and raced in a variety of series from 2011 to 2014 with his biggest achievement coming 2nd in the 2012 – 24 hours of Barcelona race.

Rotenberg is interested in forming an all-Russian F1 team using SMP racing and made clear his intentions back in October 2019 at the Russian Grand Prix. He said, “The more you try to create in motorsport, the more chance you have to flourish. Do we want to create a Formula 1 team? I think the more teams there are, the more opportunities there will be for our drivers.

“Everything is possible. The main thing is to make the effort. First of all, are the financial considerations.”

Well, in 2020 Rotenberg planned to invest in Dutch car maker Spyker that would enable the company to resume producing a range of three sportscars in 2021 namely The C8 Preliator supercar, the D8 Peking-to-Paris SUV, and the b6 Ventator supercar. 

Hoping to emulate Ferrari, McLaren, and Aston Martin with a sportscar manufacturer sponsoring their own F1 team Rotenberg ambitiously claimed, “Our group of companies will launch the Spyker brand successfully in the league of the world’s best super sportscars.”

Alas, it all ended in tears with the investment never materialising and Spyker filing for bankruptcy in January.

In May 2021 BR Engineering, the race car constructor established by SMP Racing released details of their third single-seater car, the BR03 developed specifically for the Russian market.

Rotenberg may be down but is not out and no doubt is planning his next move aboard his brother’s $75m superyacht ‘Rahil’.

So, will a combination of Mazepin’s money and Rotenberg’s expertise create a new all-Russian F1 team?

Time will tell.

Garry Sloan is an author, columnist, and podcaster more details at garrysloan.com

Copyright ©2021 Garry Sloan

[Note: The opinions expressed on this website are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors and/or publishers.]

Deadly Driver Review: Unique concept keeps you gripped throughout

Travelling the world, competing in top-level sport and having millions of admirers all sound like dreams so many of us hope to achieve.

But there’s often a dark side to every story, and Bryce Winters’ tale has one of the darkest of them all. Winters’ fictional story is chronicled in Deadly Driver, an excellent book by J.K. Kelly. On the surface, Winters appears to be a racing driver, but through the lens of Deadly Driver, we read about his government-sanctioned activities and how he ended up in this situation.

A Formula 1 driver being a secret agent is a concept that most of us would never have considered, but Kelly explores this idea and does so brilliantly.

Caught between a rock and a hard place

Bryce Winters is an American racing driver with one goal, to beat Mario Andretti’s record as the most-successful U.S. Formula 1 driver ever. Winters already has one championship under his belt, but a second would see him stand above both Andretti and Phil Hill in this tally.

Winters’ racing goal is to beat the great Andretti’s record

Winters though, lives a double life, with the second being as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA have dirt on Winters, and use him to carry out missions overseas, including assassinations.

It’s a situation that could easily be farfetched, but Kelly does a great job of humanising Winters and making him relatable. Most people, especially those with families, could level with Winters and would probably make the same choices if they found themselves with the CIA’s axe swinging above their heads.

Rags to riches

Max Werner is perhaps inspired by Mercedes’ Toto Wolff

The road to Formula 1 was a very long one for Winters, but he’s bankrolled by Max Werner, German billionaire and F1 team owner. Winters worked his way up through series like NASCAR and IndyCar to get to F1, thanks to Werner’s ambition and finances.

The relationship between Winters and Werner has echoes of that between Ayrton Senna and Honda, or Valtteri Bottas and Toto Wolff. It’s something that we haven’t seen in F1 to this extent, though, and their arc is probably the best in this story.

A real human

Winters would undoubtedly be a fan-favourite like Kimi Raikkonen is in our world

At its core, Deadly Driver is the story of a man who drives fast and wants to be the best in the world at it. He’s already proven himself, but outside factors complicate his life and provide layers to his story.

This is further fleshed out by the excellent cast of supporting characters. Everybody from Bryce’s Uncle, to his best friend, love interest and CIA handler work so well.

Winters is in a situation that, in truth, is unrealistic, it’s never likely to happen in the real world. However, he’s humanised and feels more real than some of the Formula 1 drivers we know. He’ll sit down at a bar and have a drink, party in between races and make full use of the hospitality provided to him.

Something that should be mentioned is that this story has very little to do with the racing on-track. You’re kept up to date with events in the championships, but the recaps are little more than a few lines. Kelly describes the world of Formula 1 well, but petrolheads could be disappointed by what at times is a summary that’s too brief.

Another slight gripe is that real-life historical drivers like Senna and Andretti are mentioned, but current drivers aren’t. Given the nature of the book, it’s understandable why this is, but how cool would it be to have the likes of Hamilton and Verstappen thrown into this mix?

Overall, we highly recommend giving Deadly Driver a go. Both motorsport fans and non-motorsport fans will definitely enjoy this Formula 1 spy thriller!

Sportlight Rating 4.5/5 Stars

5 Drivers who need a good Italian Grand Prix today

Despite winning the sprint race at Monza, Valtteri Bottas finds himself at the rear end of the pack owing to a lot of changes in his Mercedes car. This means an opportunity has been lost for the Finn, despite having won a short stint at the heartland of the Italian Grand Prix. 

But which drivers have the most work to do today? These are the five men we think need a good Sunday drive later on!

Antonio Giovinazzi 

Italian Jesus may need a miracle to score points later today.

Blessed will be those who’ll get to see the Italian Jesus, as he’s called, save his career and secure a fascinating finish to the Monza race. Among the nicest-natured drivers in the sport, and one who certainly won the qualifying battle this year against Kimi Raikkonen, is a man on a mission. 

His brave defensive driving from a rapid Sergio Perez helped Antonio Giovinazzi collect a P8, which tomorrow will be a seventh-place start underlined his passion to succeed. The man who brought home the first points for his Alfa Romeo team this season by showing great skill at Monaco now has his task cut out at Monza. 

He’s got a solid grid position too, from which to launch himself into a fine battle up ahead. 

May he continue to persevere and succeed in bringing much-needed points for a Constructor that’s demonstrated exceedingly underwhelming results this season. Honestly, it’s all to play for, for the long-locked bloke behind the beard and innocent smile.  

Lewis Hamilton 

It’s not always that one finds a certain Sir Lewis Hamilton on the list of drivers who need to deliver a strong Grand Prix. But to err is human, even though Hamilton’s penchant for great results and unbelievable consistency since 2014 onward have merited him a superhuman persona.

The man who got passed by a Red Bull, then both McLarens and will be keen to make amends for the lost ground during the sprint race. 

Known for his proclivity to raise his game especially under pressure -remember his recovery drive at the Hungaroring– don’t be surprised if Hamilton finishes second, if at all, a race win is utterly out of his grasp. 

But his boots are meant for racing, and pushing the throttle hard is what they’ll do. The five-time Monza winner would love to mount a daring fightback against the drivers who found him wanting on a not-so-sunny Saturday after all for Mercedes. 

Sebastian Vettel 

Aston Martin need both drivers to perform to catch AlphaTauri and Alpine

Sebastian Vettel couldn’t do anything astounding in the sprint race other than the decent move he pulled on another great veteran of the sport – Alpine’s Fernando Alonso. This was right after the safety car period. Though, the two-time world champion fought right back against the four-time world champion to retake track position even as Stroll, in the other Aston Martin stayed clear of the two battling heroes of the sport. 

But given Vettel’s disqualification at Hungaroring, followed by a fifth at Spa, and then a lowly thirteenth at Zandvoort, the German is clearly one of the drivers who needs to deliver a strong race at Monza. 

That’s also from the perspective of keeping up the pressure on his teammate Lance Stroll, on whom he enjoys a lead of 17 precious points in the standings where it currently stands. 

So, can race day at Monza unfurl the familiar battler on the track, one who secured a brilliant win with Toro Rosso in 2008 or will we see an under pressure driver who forged a dubious reputation as a spinner, remember the opening lap episode of 2018 at the very track? 

Only Seb has the answers and only time will tell. 

Charles Leclerc 

Ferrari look set to lose ground to McLaren this weekend

Not only because it’s Ferrari’s home Grand Prix should Charles Leclerc raise his game, but the fact that he’s contesting on the very track where he brought home a magnificently fought victory, back in 2019, should push the Monegasque to achieve a higher result in the race. 

At present, Leclerc, who qualified sixth but as a result of Bottas’ receding to the very end of the grid starts fifth, has an ample opportunity to push hard on Sunday. Though the only issue is he’ll be tailed by another Ferrari, Sainz, who is all set to begin from sixth on the grid. 

So will team orders come into play and if so- by whose side will we find Ferrari? 

Eventually, what matters is that Ferrari, the team, as one unit, should do well in front for the Tifosi and to continue to fight back to the top, which is where it’s always belonged. 

Yuki Tsunoda 

Tsunoda is making yet another appearance on this list after a poor qualifying

The last three Grands Prix results for the young Alpha Tauri driver read- P6 at Hungaroring, followed by a fifteenth at the Belgian Grand Prix- if it could be called a Grand Prix- and a DNF in the Netherlands. 

Though, that’s not the only reason why Yuki Tsunoda would want to do a better job at Monza, where he drives his maiden Italian Grand Prix. Driving the same car as his teammate, who won twelve months back at the same venue, Tsunoda’s lost the momentum and flourish that one saw in the first half of the season. 

Remember, this is a bloke who attained massive reception at the back of a brave P9 finish at Bahrain, his Formula 1 debut drive. But the Japanese driver one sees today, albeit still highly inexperienced and only on his maiden season, can do much better than what he is at present. 

A reason to spur himself to greater performances is that he neither has an insipid or weak machine nor a car that would make him this grid’s back marker. 

At Monza’s Sprint race, Yuki also had some colourful words for one of racing’s veterans, Robert Kubica with whose Alfa Romeo the Sagamihara-born driver would clash albeit both drivers narrowly avoiding what could’ve been a heavy crash. That’s even as Kubica was the loser in this episode, his car spinning out in the opening lap only to minimise his chances of getting a better track finish.  

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to today’s Sprint Qualifying? Never feat, the Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast. Owain Medford hosted Steve Jackson, Aaron Harper and Mikael Kataja in their 2021 Italian Grand Prix Sprint Qualifying Analysis. Both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

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 Italian Grand Prix – Qualifying report: Advantage Bottas for the Sprint race

F1 takes a second bite of the sprint qualifying cherry this weekend. Just like at Silverstone this means qualifying for the sprint race is on Friday.

We only had the single practice session to judge the cars going into this session and it looked like Lewis Hamilton could run away with it, but we had to see what would come.

Let’s get straight into the action.

Q1

Qualifying brings traffic in Monza, so the Ferrari’s were wasting no time to get onto the track to get a lap onto the board. Leclerc didn’t have great time on this first flying lap, complaining of brake issues. His lap put him behind both Williams cars, faster only than the Haas.

Traffic is a problem at Monza as Gasly found a Ferrari parked on the apex of Ascari. Credit: F1

Lando Norris was on it after a subdued free practice and went four tenths faster than Max Verstappen. Verstappen had a little trip into the gravel on the exit of the second chicane which put him down the order.

Both Mercedes drivers went straight to the the top of the times as expected.

The Monza mayhem started early in Q1 with Max being caught up in heavy traffic on his second run and both Alpines having to slalom through traffic on their flying laps.

Williams looked to play it smart towards the end of the session and get their cars out early before mob emerged. Russell could only get 11th and Latifi 13th, so it would a tense final minute for Williams.

Both Aston Martins cars were in danger of dropping out, but two huge efforts from Vettel and Stroll made sure they were safe. Also, a late charge from Alonso made sure he progressed to Q2.

It looked as though both Williams cars were out, but Tsunoda’s lap time was deleted and dropped him into 17th. This meant George was promoted to 15th and would be in Q2.

Eliminated: Latifi (16th), Tsunoda (17th), Schumacher (18th), Kubica (19th), Mazepin (20th)

Q2

Leclerc’s issues from Q1 followed him into Q2. The issues with his brakes seemed to be a cause for concern for Ferrari, however they sent him out to see what he could do.

Silly scenes in the pit-lane as drivers went for their second runs.

The alarming difference between Red Bull and Mercedes this weekend was emphasised in this session as Hamilton was over seven tenths faster.

Both McLarens and Pierre Gasly separated Verstappen from the Mighty Mercs at the front.

Antonio Giovinazzi was going incredibly well in his Alfa Romeo. He almost matched Verstappen’s time after his first run and was looking for another Q3 appearance at his home race.

Leclerc was 9th despite his brake issues, and it was going to be a big second run for Carlos Sainz as he was sat in 13th place.

The Monza mayhem kicked off in the put lane at the end of Q2 as the Aston Martin of Sebastian Vettel was released into the path of Hamilton. Vettel was also lucky not to hit both a Aston Martin and Alpine mechanic. The fact there wasn’t an accident was a miracle.

But on the track the drivers were out for their final flying laps.

Perez manged to improve his lap time and he would scrape through in 10th place as both Ferrari’s found themselves into Q3.

Antonio Giovinazzi was 7th after a great effort, but for Aston Martin, both of their drivers were out, despite an improvement from Vettel on his second lap.

Neither Alpine drivers could do any better and were eliminated.

Eliminated: Vettel (11th), Stroll (12th), Alonso (13th), Ocon (14th), Russell (15th)

Q3

The drivers emerged for Q3 and it looked as though 1st and 2nd were already sorted so the battle for 3rd was there for anyone to take.

Norris bounced back after a poor qualifying in Zandvoort to put himself in a great spot for the sprint tomorrow. Credit F1

Lando Norris has been looking very fast in his McLaren, putting his car 3rd in both sessions before.

Bottas had a bit of a moment through the gravel which put him down the order and it allowed Verstappen to be in 2nd and only 0.017 seconds off Hamilton on provisional “pole”.

Lando Norris was also within a tenth of Hamilton, only 0.065 seconds off Hamilton. Ricciardo in the other McLaren also put in a great lap to go 4th, crucially ahead of Bottas.

Perez in the other Red Bull was not on the pace of his team-mate. He could only do as well as 9th, behind both Ferraris and only ahead of Giovinazzi.

It was the two Red Bulls who were out first as Perez was sacrificed as the leader of the tow train. Behind him was Max Verstappen.

Bottas, Hamilton and Norris planted themselves as the back of the line. We would see how these tactics who play out.

Max was down on his first sector and then his second sector was down again. It was Gasly who was taking advantage of the two Red Bulls in front. Verstappen couldn’t improve his lap, but Bottas was purple in all sectors and went four tenths clear at the top. Lewis fell short of his team-mate by a tenth of a second.

Lando Norris improved his time but could not jump Max Verstappen so he would only be fourth.

Bottas will be on pole for tomorrow’s sprint race.

Final classification

With so many investigations, this could change.

F1 2021 Italian Grand Prix Preview: Can Max Make it 3-in-a-row at Monza?

A lot can change in just a few races in Formula 1, just ask Sir Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen.

Verstappen’s back-to-back wins have seen him take back the driver’s championship lead. The onus is now on Hamilton and Mercedes to respond, but can the Temple of Speed see them win for the first time since the British GP in July?

Track Guide

The Autodromo Nazionale Di Monza is the fastest circuit on the F1 calendar. Drivers are on full-throttle for around 80% of the 160 mph average speed lap.

Image credit: Formula 1

Monza has hosted all but one Italian Grand Prix since F1’s beginning in 1950 and is one of the cornerstone races of the season.

Monza may have multiple long straights, but passing here isn’t easy, thanks to the minimal downforce cars run. Straight-line speed is king here, but you need downforce to get around corners like the Lesmos and the Parabolica.

Last time out

Verstappen may have lucked into a win at Spa (in some people’s eyes) but he absolutely earned his victory at Zandvoort last weekend.

The Flying Dutchman was the class of the field in the Netherlands and won thanks to a faultless drive.

Verstappen is riding a huge wave of confidence after winning his home race. Image: Guardian

Mercedes earned a double podium with Hamilton second and Valtteri Bottas in third. Merc still sit too of the constructors championship as a result.

Pierre Gasly produced the biggest surprise of the day with an incredible 4th place in his AlphaTauri.

Ferrari leapfrog McLaren into third in the constructor’s standings thanks to a 5th for Charles Leclerc and 7th for Carlos Sainz.

It was a great day for Alpine too, Fernando Alonso overtaking his biggest fan for 6th and Esteban Ocon a respectable 8th.

Sergio Perez went from the pit-lane to 9th, while Lando Norris scored a solitary point for McLaren in 10th.

Can Mercedes challenge at a power track?

In general so far this season, Red Bull have been faster at power circuits, with Mercedes better at the windy, more downforce-orientated tracks.

Zandvoort and the Hungaroring bucked that trend though, with Red Bull and Mercedes, respectively, being the quickest.

Hamilton hasn’t won a race since his incredible win at the British Grand Prix. Image: Guardian

Honda will leave Formula 1 at the end of this season, and as such, have thrown everything into their final season as an engine supplier. That has seemingly paid off, as Red Bull and AlphaTauri have both seen fantastic results at power circuits.

Monza has not been a happy bunting ground for Red Bull though, with only 2 wins to their names here. Incredibly, that’s the same amount of wins as Toro Rosso & AlphaTauri have managed here combined.

Verstappen has never won here, with Hamilton taking the top step five times and looking to break Michael Schumacher’s record tally this weekend. This would also be Lewis’ 100th Grand Prix victory too, if he managed it.

Session Times

Practice 1: 10 September              13:30-14:30 (8:30-9:30 AM EST)

Qualifying: 10 September             17:00-18:00 (12:00-13:00 EST)

Practice 2: 11 September               11:00-12:00 (6:00-7:00 EST)

Sprint Qualifying: 11 September  15:30 -16:00 (10:30 -11:00 EST)

Race: 12 September              14:00 (9:00 EST)

All times are in British Standard Time (BST), unless stated otherwise.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Italian Grand Prix weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the 2021 Italian Grand Prixview. George Howson hosted Tom Downey and Jawad Yaqub, both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

F1 Blast from the Past: Championship Rivals Collide at Monza

Background & Qualifying

The twelfth round of the 1995 Formula 1 season brought the championship to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix. Michael Schumacher had extended his championship lead over Damon Hill to 15 points after the German’s sensational victory at Spa.

David Coulthard claimed his second pole for Williams at the Italian GP. Image: DeviantArt

Both title contenders had to give way to David Coulthard in qualifying however, the young Scotsman was in dominant form over the weekend and recorded a pole position time half a second faster than Schumacher’s Benetton.

Gerhard Berger gave the Tifosi some cause for optimism with third on the grid ahead of Damon Hill. Jean Alesi was fifth in the second Ferrari, with Rubens Barrichello an impressive sixth for Jordan-Peugeot.

READ MORE BLAST FROM THE PAST: FERRARI OUT-SMART MCLAREN AT THE A1 RING

Race day

The 53-lap race had not even started when the drama began, polesitter Coulthard unbelievably spun off on the
formation lap exiting the Variente Ascari and was unable to take the start. Schumacher thus inherited the top starting spot and got away from the line first with Gerhard Berger challenging him on the run down to the Retifilio chicane.

Schumacher inherited the lead from Coulthard, but it wouldn’t last long. Image: F1

Alesi was up to third with Johnny Herbert making a storming start from seventh to fourth ahead of Hill’s Williams.
Coming out of the Variente Alta, a spin from Max Papis’ Footwork on the dust triggered from Coulthard’s Williams caused chaos.

Jean-Christophe Boullion, Roberto Moreno and Andrea Montermini were all eliminated, and the race was immediately brought to a halt. Moreno’s Forti and Montermini’s Pacific were unable to take to the restart while the red flag was music to Williams’ ears, as David Coulthard was able to start the race and from his pole position.

Second time lucky

At the second start, Coulthard converted pole into the lead while Berger made an even better getaway than he done at the first start. Schumacher was relegated to third, with Hill holding his fourth position ahead of Alesi and Johnny Herbert, as the field settled into the race.

Ten laps in and Martin Brundle was out of the race after a puncture damaged the Ligier’s suspension, bitter disappointment for the Englishman after such an impressive performance in Belgium two weeks earlier.

On Lap 14, Coulthard spun off again at the Variente della Roggia, though as he re-joined it became clear that this time, driver error was not the cause for the Scotsman’s demise. A failed front-wheel bearing resulting in his sixth retirement of the year. Much to the excitement of the Tifosi, Berger took over the lead.

Gerhard Berger now led the race, but he too would fall foul of bad luck. Image: Pinterest


On Lap 24, the Austrian continued to lead ahead of Schumacher second and Hill in third. The two title contenders were lapping Taki Inoue’s Footwork as they entered the Variente della Roggia. Inoue’s presence caught out Hill, who mis-timed his braking and hit the back of Schumacher’s Benetton. For the second time in 1995, the pair had collided, and both were out of the race.

Schumacher was furious and remonstrated with Hill, as the Englishman sat in his car.

At the end of Lap 25, Berger made his one and only scheduled pit-stop, the Austrian was demoted to sixth, while Alesi took the lead. A string of pit-stops unfolded, as Alesi headed to the pits one lap later.

Barrichello, Hakkinen and then Johnny Herbert in the sole surviving Benetton led for two laps before his pit stop. Slick work by his mechanics ensured he re-joined ahead of Barrichello and Hakkinen in third position. Eventually, Alesi had regained the lead ahead of teammate Berger.

Dream turns to nightmare

The Italian Tifosi were dreaming of the first Ferrari one-two finish since 1990, but on Lap 33, their hopes were dashed when Alesi’s onboard camera parted company with the Frenchman’s car. In a cruel twist of fate, it bounced into Berger’s left-front suspension and the Austrian was out of the race.

Alesi would also fall foul of some awful luck in Ferrari’s home race. Image: Girando & Co.

Jordan had been enjoying a strong afternoon, but the Irish team’s race unravelled in the space of four laps when Eddie Irvine’s engine blew, and Barrichello lost fourth place when his clutch failed.

At the front, Alesi looked set for his second victory of the season, when with just eight laps remaining, it was heartbreak for the Frenchman, as the right-rear wheel bearing failed.

The double-retirement for Ferrari allowed Johnny Herbert, who after suffering so much misfortune in his career found himself having the luck fall on his side. The Englishman took his second victory of the season, over 17 seconds clear of Hakkinen in second and Heinz-Harald Frentzen scored his and the Sauber team’s first ever podium finish with third.

Mark Blundell finished fourth, putting both McLaren’s in the points for only the second time in 1995, while Mika Salo scored the first points of the season for Tyrrell in fifth. The final point was taken by Jean-Christophe Boullion in sixth, the Frenchman having overtaken Max Papis on the very last lap.

Herbert was understandably delighted with his victory, and firmly stated his claim for a drive in 1996 after been dropped by Benetton. However, the major talking point focused on his teammate Schumacher and his collision with Hill.

The championship battle was stalemate due to both retiring from the race, but Hill had some explaining to do. Schumacher apologised to Hill after Taki Inoue accepted responsibility for the incident, and the pair resumed their quest for the 1995 championship.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Italian GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their Italian Grand Prix Preview! George Howson hosted Tom Downey and Jawad of from Hit the Apex in their latest podcast. Both audio and video versions of the show are available below:

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