Tag Archives: F1 2021

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:

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.]

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 2021 Dutch GP – QUalifying report: Max takes pole at his first home race!

It’s been a delayed by a year, but finally we get to see Formula One cars take to the Zandvoort track foe qualifying.

Max Verstappen finally got to the top of the timing sheets in FP3 and looked to be the driver to beat. But with Zandvoort being a new track, it was still unclear how the rest of the grid would form up.

But for the first time 36 years, it was time for qualifying for the Dutch Grand Prix.

Q1

After Kimi Raikkonen’s positive Covid-19 test, Robert Kubica was now taking his place in the Alfa Romeo. After his first run, he was faster than both Haas cars.

Vettel almost speared into the back of Nikita Mazepin as he met a Haas blockade. Credit: F1

Carlos Sainz was also back out of track after a heavy shunt in FP3. The Ferrari’s were looking quick in Practice and Leclerc was 4th after his first run. Sainz was 17th after his first run, but he improved all the way up to 8th on his second run.

Mercedes opted for the Medium tyres for their first runs and Lewis Hamilton was only 0.15 seconds off Max Verstappen who set his time on the softs.

Both Williams cars looked very competitive in the midfield with both Russell and Latifi looking fast. It was Aston Martin who seemed to be in trouble after the first runs and it didn’t get better.

Stroll could not get out of the bottom five after his second run while Vettel was right on the edge of danger.

Daniel Ricciardo was in real danger of dropping out, but he managed to recover and put his McLaren in 9th. Norris scraped through in 15th.

Sergio Perez could not get a second run in and as the track ramped up, the drivers behind were all able to put in faster lap time and he was eliminated.

Sebastian Vettel was also not able to complete his final flying lap as he was blocked by Nikita Mazepin as Vettel approached the final corner. He was out, but his team-mate Lance Stroll was able to escape and move into Q2.

Eliminated: Perez (16th), Vettel (17th), Kubica (18th), Schumacher (19th), Mazepin (20th)

Q2

No medium tyres for Max Verstappen as he emerged for Q2.

Russell pushed a bit too hard and found himself in the gravel, bringing out the red flag. Credit:F1

Mercedes had opted for Medium tyres in Q1, but this time they also went for the soft tyres. Both Mercedes drivers could not get anywhere near Verstappen. Hamilton was over 6 tenths off Verstappen with Bottas another tenth off Lewis.

Lando Norris did not look comfortable in his McLaren. His first run was slower than both Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo and George Russell in the Williams.

McLaren’s rivals, Ferrari, were looking very fast. Leclerc topped Q1 and put his Ferrari above both Mercedes and into 2nd place.

Pierre Gasly also managed to leapfrog the Mercedes cars, nearly two tenths of a second faster than Lewis Hamilton. After one run he already looked comfortably into Q3.

It looked even more comfortable when George Russel spun out on the final corner and brought out the red flag with just under four minutes to go. Luckily for Russell the car was not damaged and he was able to drive out of the gravel and bring his car back to the pits.

This put a lot of pressure on the likes of Lando Norris and other drivers towards the back to get a lap in.

But they wouldn’t get a lap in anyway. Nicolas Latifi in the other Williams crashed out with just over a minute and a half left. The red flag was brought out and the session would not restart. This was great news for Antonio Giovinazzi as he would progress to Q3.

Eliminated: Russell (11th), Stroll (12th), Norris (13th), Latifi (14th), Tsunoda (15th)

Q3

It didn’t look like anyone could touch Max Verstappen and it looked to be the case again from the start of Q3. He was 3 tenths faster than both Mercedes drivers.

Bottas was able to pip Hamilton by about half a tenth. Lewis’ lap was a little scrappy and couldn’t get a clean lap together, but despite that, he would have still been behind Max.

Ferrari were looking quick, but Pierre Gasly managed to go faster than them both and put his AlphaTauri in 4th place.

Giovinazzi had done an impressive run after his first run by putting himself in 8th, ahead of Ricciardo in 9th and Ocon in 10th.

As the drivers came out to do their final runs, it was going to be a big job for Mercedes to take pole off Max Verstappen.

Gasly held off the charge from the Ferrari’s and held onto fourth place. Giovinazzi improved his place and overtook Alonso for 7th place.

Max Verstappen improved his lap by half a tenth on his second run and this would prove to be crucial as Lewis was only 0.038 seconds off taking Pole off to home hero. Bottas couldn’t improve and will start 3rd.

Max is on pole and we have a great race on our hands for tomorrow.

Full classification

2021 Dutch Grand Prix – FP1&FP2 report: Lewis loses power as Max struggles at home

Formula One returns to Zandvoort for the first time since 1985. With the banked corners and rolling hills, it was going to be a great spectacle to watch.

Verstappen fans were out in force for his first ever home Grand Prix and the stands were packed full of people.

But let’s get straight into the Friday action.

FP1

Formula One cars emerged onto the Zandvoort track for the first time in 36 years and it was Yuki Tsunoda who was the first to be caught out on the new track. He spun his car round only 2 minutes into the session. He is the only driver not to race on this track in any category so this was the last thing he needed.

Tsunoda goes for another spin early in the morning session. Credit: F1

But things were even worse for Sebastian Vettel who had an engine failure only 15 minutes into the session and brought out the red flag.

Vettel was straight out of the car and rushed to get the fire extinguisher. Fireman Seb was on hand to put his car out.

The red flag last for just over 35 minutes as marshalled worried the car was still live and needed Aston Martin mechanics to make sure that it was all okay to be recovered.

This left only seven minutes for drivers to get any running in and rivers were all quick to get out on track.

Traffic was an issue coming into the final corner which Lando Norris found out the hard way. He looked to pass Ocon to start a flying lap, however, Ocon was looking at a Red Bull on his right and was looking to get out of the way of them. Norris went of Ocon’s left and three don’t go into one and Norris was pushed slightly onto the grass.

But once the dust had settled and the drivers got their runs completed, it was Lewis Hamilton who topped the timing sheets. Verstappen was second, less than a tenth of a second behind his title rival.

Both Ferrari’s were only a tenth off Lewis too with Sainz and Leclerc in 3rd and 4th respectively.

FP2

The start of second practice was mysteriously delayed by five minutes with no reason given by the stewards.

Lewis Hamilton’s session ended with a loss of power. How could this affect his weekend? Credit:F1

The drivers were eager to get out as soon as possible, given the lack of running they got in the morning session.

It looked like the afternoon session was looking to imitate the morning session as Lewis Hamilton this time was plagued with engine trouble.

The red flag this time did not last and drivers were back on track in no time. However, for Hamilton, this would be the end of his session.

Bottas was now Mercedes’ guinea pig and they sent him out on a set of soft tyres to get some quick runs in so the team had some data with no Lewis out on track.

The red flag helped Sebastian Vettel as he returned to the track not long after the green flag was waved.

Many of the drivers were settling into their quali and long runs, but it came to a halt once again when Nikita Mazepin went too hot into turn 11 and beached his car into the gravel.

Max Verstappen was getting very frustrated as he was still yet to set a competitive lap time. When the track went green again, he was straight out but could only go fifth fastest.

It was Ferrari who has both of their cars at the top of the timing sheets. Esteban Ocon put his alpine in 3rd place. Bottas could only get 4th, but he was ahead of Max Verstappen.

Ferrari look like contenders

Ferrari were quick in both sessions and looked to be taking the fight to Red Bull and Mercedes.

Ferrari topped the second practice. Could they be on the podium this weekend? Credit: F1

They currently sit only a few points behind McLaren in the constructors championships and looked comfortably faster than McLaren in both session.

Zandvoort seemed like a track that would be tough for Ferrari, given the lack of slow speed corners. The results of the practice sessions looked to mimic that of the Hungarian Grand Prix, a track that Ferrari looked quick at and could have got a better result if not for incidents in Qualifying and the race.

Qualifying tomorrow is going to be very important. With the lack of overtaking opportunities, getting as far up on the grid could yield a lot of points.

Ferrari will be hoping that they carry this momentum into the rest of the weekend.

FP1 Classification

Credit: F1

FP2 Classification

5 Drivers who need a Good Belgian Grand Prix today

The 2021 Belgian Grand Prix might or might not be a great race in the end, but certainly from what one saw at the rain-soaked qualifying yesterday, it does appear that we saw the best qualifying battle thus far in the season.

Can the race make the contest even bigger and brighter especially for the able young drivers out there who are keen to write their own script in a sport as dogged and difficult at Formula 1 – we shall have to wait and see. 

Can we have a young race winner? The one who might be vying for a Mercedes driver albeit amid circumstances that aren’t always determined by driver skill alone but perhaps by making politically correct decisions? 

Questions there are many, most of which  will be answered when the five red lights turn green at the most serene albeit daunting F1 venue. 

That being said, which drivers will need to deliver a strong Belgian GP?

Charles Leclerc

The Ferrari driver missed out of Q3 for the first time in his Ferrari career at the Belgian GP. Remember he was the race winner here at Spa in 2019, where he led every single lap from pole to gather a brave win ahead of the mighty Lewis Hamilton. 

But amid rains and unbearable driving conditions, Leclerc’s race craft – or would you call it- rain craft got tested a bit. 

Along with Sainz, his was the other Ferrari that failed to make it to Q3. 

Originally, Leclerc, who got an eleventh, would clearly have had his task cut out that being to break into the top ten, but owing to Norris’ grid drop thanks to the gearbox change for today’s race, Leclerc has not such a terrible race lined up ahead. 

It’ll be now down to how well can he maximise his chances at the famous Grand Prix of Belgium. 

Daniel Ricciardo

Even as the great Australian driver has managed a fighting fourth as of Saturday, for his own race form and chances in the remainder of the year, Daniel Ricciardo must deliver a strong race weekend. 

A race win will be very difficult, what can’t be ruled out – and shouldn’t- is a podium finish. 

Moreover, a P4 is a very delightful and strong qualifying result, the best thus far, for Ricciardo. 

But for that to happen, the smiling man from Perth, due to contest his 200th Grand Prix will have to make the best of his sandwiched position, with Vettel on fifth and Hamilton up in third. 
What can the Honeybadger do when the lights go green at Spa? 

Kimi Raikkonen

Last year he managed a twelfth here and this year if he makes it anywhere close to P12, you’d term it moral victory. 

Once called the King of Spa once for his undulating consistency at the longest venue when compared to all on the calendar, might not be wrong to call the Iceman the man behind a new sobriquet- the ‘spin of Spa,’ his current fortunes attributed to how sadly do fortunes spin in Formula 1, once a repeat winner now nosediving to a back marker position. 

P18 is what a four-time winner at Spa managed on Saturday. Moreover, what many might not remember is that back in 2019, when aligned with a stronger machine, Raikkonen grabbed a fighting P8 on qualifying day.

He proved he still had it but that was for as long as the car suited his style and offered power. 

Now, almost 41, Kimi is having none of the chill that so quintessentially decorated his career.

One can only offer wild theories at what might he do today. So, let’s leave him alone and see what happens at Spa! 

Yuki Tsunoda

Time and again, the F1 newcomer has been outwitted completely by a more experienced campaigner Pierre Gasly, the Sagamihara-born’s teammate. 

On Sunday, Yuki, who begins his maiden Spa drive from 16th on the grid would be aware of the challenge that’s to unfold at the most picturesque F1 venue.

Being pursued by Mick Schumacher, P17, one of his young adversaries and trailing Giovinazzi, P15, under pressure to retain his Alfa Romeo seat. 

But fortunately, being allied by a car that’s anything but a vapid, underperforming machine, Tsunoda would want to maximise his challenges and offer something to write home about. 

Though, can that happen? 

Valtteri Bottas

Starting a Grand Prix with Fernando Alonso in your rear can be a daunting experience. More so when you are comfortably out of the top ten. 

Life for Valtteri Bottas, P13, in qualifying has hardly been a bed of roses. However, it could soon turn into a house of thorns should young George Russell bag his Mercedes seat even as the idea seems mired in utopia and less determined by plausibility for with all due respect, how can Hamilton be assisted in the end, also determines Mercedes’ team mate decision.  

Though truth certainly is that the Finn, whose career isn’t quite frankly going anywhere, isn’t the happiest man in F1. 
After causing a string of crashes at Hungary, his 2021 Spa drive has already got compromised by a five place grid drop. Moreover, there’ll be a host of hungrier drivers out there to vie for a best possible spot much like Valtteri on race day. 

Think Leclerc. Think Vettel. Don’t forget Ocon and Perez. 

But should Bottas, who’s yet to win at Spa Francorchamps, deliver a promising race result, it might just ease some of the insane pressure he’s been under, though for absolutely no fault of his critics. 

He’s got the car that might not be the fastest this year but is yet, second best only to the Red Bull. 

This article was written by Dev Tyagi for Sportlightpro.com

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