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F1 2021 Turkish Grand Prix: Qualifying Report: Hamilton fastest, but Bottas takes a crucial pole

It was wet in FP3, but the track looked to be drying before Qualifying. But, to add further excitement to the session, rain would be on its way. Lewis Hamilton took a new internal combustion engine for this weekend and received a 10-place grid penalty. Carlos Sainz also took a brand new engine and would be at the back of the grid regardless of his qualifying position.

It was set to e a very interesting qualifying session. Let’s get straight into the action!

Q1

With two minutes to go until qualifying started, there was already a lengthy queue at the end of the Pit-lane. With the rain on its way, teams were eager to get their drivers out on track as soon as possible.

Mick Schumacher got his Haas into Q2 for the second time this season, Previously at the French GP. Credit Haas.

The track was still damp from the rain during FP3, so getting a smooth lap was going to be very difficult.

It was a race to get onto a flying lap as most believed that there would only be the chance for one lap. Lewis skipped past both Ferraris to get track position in the final corners. Lewis blew his lap at the first corner as he exceeded track limits at turn 1.

A few drivers went for a spin at turn 1. Sainz and Verstappen went for a spin, but Verstappen manged to get another lap in to go fastest.

Drivers were able to get more laps than they believed they would as they were still running on slicks with 10 minutes left of the session.

Times were still improving as the session went on and some drivers were putting in some great lap times. George Russell went fastest at one point but was still hanging in the top 10.

The track was no means dry though and some other drivers were finding this out the hard way. Turn 1 was still proving to be very difficult. Tsunoda had a big moment that he over-corrected and put his car through the grass. Mazepin also had a spin as he looked to get out of last place.

The rain that was promised didn’t come so it was going to be tense for those at the bottom of the timing sheet as the track started to dry out and lap times started to tumble.

For the final flying laps the cars were flying and for Daniel Ricciardo this meant he dropped out in Q1. There were some familiar faces joining Ricciardo as he sat out the rest of Qualifying, But Mick Schumacher would not be one of them as he dragged his Haas into Q2.

Eliminated: Ricciardo (16th), Latifi (17th), Giovinazzi (18th), Raikkonen (19th), Mazepin (20th)

Q2

Q2 started and still no rain. The track was still not fully dry, but still dry enough for slick tyres.

Graining was becoming an issue in Q1, so Mercedes and Red Bull opted for the medium tyres straight away. They were joined by the rest of the grid, apart from Yuki Tsunoda who still opted for the soft tyres.

Leclerc left it all to the end after this spin on his penultimate flying lap. Credit F1.

Not many representative times were being set as there was no rush to get a lap time done. The drivers were doing multiple warm-up laps to get the tyres to a good temperature before going for a push lap.

The track conditions were still catching out drivers and it was Sergio Perez who had an identical spin to Yuki Tsunoda in Q1. He manged to keep the car out the wall, but his tyres were not in the best conditions.

While some drivers still struggled, others thrived. Fernando Alonso was doing a great job in his Alpine was not far off Max Verstappen who was behind both Mercedes in 3rd.

Tsunoda was showing pace was hadn’t seen for a while. Both him and Gasly were doing well and looked comfortable in the top 10.

Charles Leclerc was doing brilliantly until David Croft praised his pace and then Charles promptly spun at the final corner. This left him in the drop zone with a lot to do to be safe.

Stroll was just about in the top 10, but he had a moment into turn 1 on his last flying lap and it left him vulnerable. Leclerc was able to improve with help from his team-mate, but more commentator cursing from David Croft saw George Russell run wide at the final turn and he was out. Lance was safe.

Eliminated: Vettel (11th), Ocon (12th), Russell (13th), Schumacher (14th), Sainz (15th)

Q3

It was time for Q3.

Lewis Hamilton had been dominant up to this point with Bottas not far behind. It was going to take a mega effort from Max Verstappen to break Mercedes.

Bottas showed good pace, and even though he couldn’t beat Hamilton, he still got ahead of verstappen

Lewis does have his penalty, but he will be looking to qualify as high up the grid as possible to give him the best possible opportunity in the race.

The two Mercedes were the first out the gate and it was Bottas who went 0.022 seconds faster than Hamilton. Both times were good enough to lock-out the provisional front row.

Verstappen had a big of a moment during his lap and he was 2 tenths off Bottas’ fastest time, but still managed to go 3rd.

Gasly put in yet another brilliant lap to put his Alpha Tauri ahead of the Red Bull of Sergio Perez to go provisionally 4th.

Both Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc who had shown great pace were 7th and 8th respectively after their first laps. You would expect to see them improve on their second attempts.

Hamilton bucked the usual qualifying trend and went out early to set a second flying lap. He went purple in the first two sectors and went two tenths faster than Bottas. He had enough time to cool the tyres and get another lap in before the end.

Verstappen would set his final lap before the Mercedes, but it was only good for 3rd place. Bottas would come across the line second, but he could not improve his position so it would be pole position for Bottas despite Lewis setting the fastest lap.

Norris couldn’t improve his time, but Leclerc shot up to 4th on his final effort, ahead of Gasly in 5th. Perez could only get 7th place. Not what Red Bull needed.

Final Classification

F1 2021 Turkish Grand Prix Preview: Can Hamilton repeat his heroics from last year?

Despite starting at opposite ends of the grid, by the end of the Russian Grand Prix, Max Verstappen and Sir Lewis Hamilton were seperated by only one place. Hamilton appeared to be surprised to see his title rival take the number two spot on the podium, but it’s great for the title fight, as the pair are almost inseperable.

This weekend sees the Turkish Grand Prix make its second one-off appearace in a row, and just like twelve months ago, rain is forecast.

Track guide

Istanbul Park is considered to be one of the best circuits to have been designed by Hermann Tilke. It’s hard to argue against that as well, as thrilling corners like Turn 8 are one of the best in Formula 1. Turkey’s track surface caused chaos last season, as a recent resurfacing made the circuit like greased ice after a deluge of rain.

Image: F1

As thrilling as that was to witness, we are very unlikely to see that replicated in 2021. Even if we do experience large amounts of rain, the circuit organisers have ensured that there is more grip on the tarmac that in 2020.

As for overtaking spots, the main passing points are at the end of the DRS Zones at Turns 1 and 12. You can also pass through the 13-14 chicane as well, as both the inside and outside lines are fast here.

Last time out

Hamilton mastered the wet conditions to take victory in Russia two weeks ago

2021 has been a bizarre year in Formula 1. Circuits that are considered to be poor for action have produced incredible races, including Sochi a fortnight ago. Lando Norris started from his first ever pole position and dominated the majority of the race. After being overtaken by Carlos Sainz at the start, Norris expertly took the lead back after 15 laps.

The rain hit with a few laps to go and Norris gambled on staying on dry tyres. This backfired massively, as the circuit became impossible on slicks. Hamilton had battled through the pack and took his fifth win in Russia, and 100th overall in F1.

Max Verstappen started from the back row, but incrdeibly used the wet weather to his advantage and came home in second. Sainz completed the podium with third, a great result. Daniel Ricciardo finished an impressive fourth to spare McLaren’s blushes, with Valtteri Bottas lucking into a fifth place.

Sixth was the evergreen Fernando Alonso, dragging that Alpine to heights it doesn’t deserve to be in. Norris limped across the line in seventh, with Sergio Perez a disappointing ninth. Kimi Raikkonen got Alfa Romeo’s best result of the season in eighth, with George Russell scoring another point for Williams with tenth.

Can Max keep it together in Turkey?

Verstappen couldn’t keep his car pointing the right way last year in Turkey

If there’s been one criticism of Max Verstappen both this year and in past seasons, it’s that the Dutchman can make mistakes under pressure. This is Verstappen’s first title fight and is his seventh season in Formula 1. That’s the same amount of titles that Hamilton has won in his illustrious career.

While Hamilton was blamed by the stewards for their crash at Silverstone, Max handed a penalty for their Monza clash. Istanbul Park is also a circuit where Verstappen should’ve won last year, had he not spun mid-race. With rain predicted again this weekend, could we see Mad Max go for a slide?

We certainly hope not and it’s unlikely given Max’s incredible talent in the rain. What Max and Red Bull need the most is for Perez to get back to his form earlier in the season and back the Dutchman up against the Mercedes of Bottas and Hamilton.

Session Times

Practice 1, Oct 8th: 09:30 – 10:30 (4:30 – 5:30 EST)

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

Practice 3, Oct 9th: 10:00 – 11:00 (5:00 – 6:00 EST)

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

Race, Oct 10th: 13:00 (8:00 EST)

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

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Turkish GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their Russian GP preview! Ruby Price hosted Jack Watson, 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: Raikkonen wins first Turkish GP to close championship gap

Background

Formula 1 arrived at the Istanbul Park in Turkey for the first time in 2005, the fourteenth round of the World Championship.

Kimi Raikkonen had made small inroads into Fernando Alonso’s lead in the driver’s championship following the Finn’s victory in Hungary. Alonso had failed to score at the previous round, but the Spaniard still had a healthy 26 points lead over the McLaren driver.

Qualifying

Raikkonen claimed the first ever F1 pole in Turkey

The new circuit 30 miles outside Istanbul saw several drivers find the limits of the track throughout practice and qualifying. Jacques Villeneuve, Jenson Button and Takuma Sato were all caught out at the tricky turn eight. Both Schumacher brothers also made mistakes at turn nine.

Michael failed to set a time at all and would start at the back, along with Sato who was stripped of his time after impeding Mark Webber. Kimi Raikkonen produced an excellent lap to take his fifth pole position of the season, ahead of the two Renault’s with Giancarlo Fisichella outqualifying Fernando Alonso. Juan Pablo Montoya in the second McLaren lined up fourth.

Race day

The race got underway in searing Turkish heat

The circuit had been critically acclaimed throughout the weekend and 58 laps of the Istanbul Park got underway on Sunday afternoon. Raikkonen was slow off the line, and the Renault’s surrounded the McLaren going into the first corner, Fisichella had the inside line and took the lead.

There was trouble further back as Felipe Massa’s Sauber made contact with Nick Heidfeld’s Williams, the Brazilian was forced to pit to replace his front wing and would retire later with an engine failure. Fisichella didn’t hold the lead for long, as a mistake on the exit of turn ten allowed Raikkonen to retake first place.

The Italian didn’t give up easily though, and Alonso too fancied his chances, but the McLaren was through. Alonso quickly passed his teammate to take second place.

Mid-race melee

After Jenson Button’s mistake in qualifying, the Brit found himself starting 13th but the opening laps saw the BAR driver scything his way up the order. By Lap 11, he was up to sixth.

Mark Webber in the Williams on the other hand had a disastrous to the race. After an early puncture, he was a lap down on the leaders. Then, trying to make up for lost time on Lap 14, the Australian made a botched attempt at unlapping himself from Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari. The German turned in and contact was made.

Schumacher and Webber would both later retire as a result of this clash. Image: Motorsport images

Webber was aggrieved that Schumacher left him no space, while Schumacher lay all the blame at the Australian’s feet, saying that it was pointless to try and make up such a deficit. The damage would eventually end Schumacher’s race.

It was to be a miserable day for the Williams team. After pitting to change his front wing, Webber suffered a second right-rear tyre failure and retired on Lap 21. Teammate Nick Heidfeld also sustained two right-rear tyre failures and his race ended on Lap 30.

The championship battle

Unsurprisingly, it was McLaren and Renault battling for the top spot on Sunday. Image: Motorsport images

After the first round of stops, the McLaren vs. Renault duel continued, with Raikkonen holding the lead. Montoya was second, despite a mishap with the fuel rig release at his first stop. Alonso was third and Fisichella, after a fuel rig failure of his own, was fourth and dropping back.

The order remained the same after the second round of stops. Everything looked good for the first McLaren one-two in five years, until Montoya was hit up the back by a lapped Tiago Monteiro with just four laps to go. This was an incident that was reminiscent of his collision with Jos Verstappen in Brazil four years previously.

The incident flat-spotted the Colombian’s tyres and with just two laps to go, trying to fend off a closing Fernando Alonso, ran wide at turn eight. The Spaniard was through to second and crucially giving just two points away to Raikkonen in the fight for the championship.

Kimi Raikkonen took the chequered flag to win the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix after leading every lap of the race. However, McLaren were disappointed to see a one-two slip away with Montoya livid with his mistake and ending up third behind Alonso.

Fisichella’s race never recovered after his early pit stop calamity but salvaged fourth. Jenson Button had an excellent race to finish fifth ahead of Jarno Trulli in the Toyota with the two Red Bulls of David Coulthard and Christian Klien completing the points paying positions after a race long battle.

Kimi Raikkonen had conquered all in an entertaining first Grand Prix in Turkey, but with Fernando Alonso 24 points ahead in the championship with just five races remaining, it was looking tantalising closer for the Spaniard.

Top 10 Memes of the 2021 Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix

Gifted an opportunity that’s notoriously bad for on-track overtakes, Lewis Hamilton looked to completely turn the tables on title rival Verstappen. As F1 re-wrote the script for Sochi, a well earned podium by Red Bull leaves Hamilton in the lead, but not by much, with just 2 points separating the two going into Istanbul.

1

Posted on Reddit by Tj0ektj0ek

After a frankly underwhelming Qualifying for Hamilton, the champion’s aim for the Russian Grand Prix will have been to score as many un-answered points as possible.

Initially cautious, starting P4 and going backwards, the champ made use of excellent tyre wear and well-timed pitstops to take a well-earned win…with one small problem, Max Verstappen’s podium. The championship battle continues.

READ MORE – F1 2021 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX: LEWIS HAMILTON TAKES WIN AHEAD OF MAX VERSTAPPEN IN A DRAMATIC WET FINISH IN SOCHI

2

Posted on Reddit by Oli258

As we’ve established, Hamilton took the win today, and now we have the horrible job of breaking the news of who it came at the cost of.

While he can only blame himself for the scenario in which it happened, eschewing intermediate tyres that almost immediately became the de-facto compound to use, that will be of little to no comfort to himself and his fans. While his time will come, Norris needs to remove these incidents from his races to stand on the top step.

3

Posted on Reddit by stephennedumpally

The championship fight between Hamilton and Verstappen is now tight enough with so few races left to l swing the odds in your favour, both teams are now wont to do whatever it takes to try and gain a usable points advantage. This now means sacrificing the second driver in the team if you’re a Mercedes team with a 20 point advantage in the Constructor’s championship. That lead is now extended by another 15 points so expect that to only continue.

4

Posted on Reddit by eggheadking

The aforementioned strategies only work however, if the second driver is willing to play ball.

As a driver with a seat somewhere else, Bottas has no incentive to do much to help Mercedes’ plans even with a faster car and a predisposition to success at Sochi.

READ MORE 5 DRIVERS WHO NEED A GOOD RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX TODAY

5

Posted on Reddit by Summerof1974

Normally Sochi is a bland affair with little in the way of excitement or action. This year this was not the case and we almost feel like we’ve been robbed of a “Strike it from the calendar” hit-piece article. Better luck next year.

6

Posted on Reddit by Lucid_Night

As much as we may grumble about not being able to criticise Sochi, we are glad the race was interesting for once, and hope the same is replicated for years to come.

7

Posted on Reddit by Oli258

This meme works so well with the driver position tracker and a heartbeat, but the rain added a huge amount of variability and, more importantly, skill to the end of the race.

Teams and drivers having to manage the situation changing by the second as the best tyre type to use ebbed and flowed, finally moving towards the intermediates.

READ MORE – F1 2021 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX: QUALIFYING REPORT: NORRIS TAKES HIS FIRST POLE IN TRICKY CONDITIONS

8

Posted on Reddit by christopher_msa

That wasn’t to say the race was boring otherwise, the rain was more of a cherry on top of a very tasty Grand Prix. A mixed-up grid, free tyre choice for everyone and unseasonably cool weather all culminated in a tension filled race from start to finish.

9

Posted on Reddit by Ikcatcher

The race did have a more mundane section in the middle, as is to be expected and more importantly, a trait a lot of the good races have.

Azerbaijan 2017 was held up as a shining example of a thrilling race and yet that too had a slower middle section as the pitstops unfolded. What’s important to remember is that the race needs stakes and tension to become a classic.

10

Posted on Reddit by Unfunny_Gamer

It’s inevitable with the former team-mates battling in the early stages of the race and at other times during the season that there’s going to be some artistic license in DTS’ editing to cultivate drama and a story next spring. Get ready for it, you heard it here first.

With the gap in the championship as narrow as it’s been since Bahrain, Lewis Hamilton will look to replicate his 2020 win, hopefully with more favourable track conditions.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want to unravel exactly what caused the excitement today? The Grid Talk crew produce a preview, qualifying analysis show and race review for every Grand Prix weekend. You can check out the latest show on our Podcast section.

F1 2021 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX: LEWIS HAMILTON TAKES WIN AHEAD OF MAX VERSTAPPEN IN A DRAMATIC WET FINISH IN SOCHI

5 DRIVERS WHO NEED A GOOD RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX TODAY

F1 2021 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX: QUALIFYING REPORT: NORRIS TAKES HIS FIRST POLE IN TRICKY CONDITIONS

F1 2021 RUSSIAN GRAND PRIX PREVIEW: CAN THE RAIN HELP MAX PULL OFF A MIRACLE?

IN THE PIT LANE – WHAT IS DIMITRY MAZEPIN’S NEXT MOVE?

F1 2021 Russian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton takes win ahead of Max Verstappen in a dramatic wet finish in Sochi

Lewis Hamilton has taken his 100th Grand Prix win at the Russian Grand Prix after a dramatic wet finish saw leader Lando Norris spinning off the track with two laps to go.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was able to fight to the front from the back of the grid to finish in P2 ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz.

All Important Start

For the front four of Norris, Sainz, George Russell and Hamilton all eyes were on who would exit Turn 2 in the lead with the long straight offering the perfect slipstream opportunity for those who could take advantage.

Norris started strong off the line along with the Williams of Russell but they were quickly under pressure from Sainz, threading his way between the pair and taking the lead out of Turn 2 by the sixth lap he had stretched out a 1.9s to Norris behind.

Courtesy F1 Media

Hamilton had a tough start with Daniel Ricciardo getting past along with Fernando Alonso in front before the end of the first lap.

It wasn’t long before Hamilton started to fight back after a difficult start and was able to get passed the Alpine of Alonso but it took the seven-time world Champion a few more laps to make it passed Daniel Ricciardo with Sergio Perez slowly making up ground behind.

The early undercut

Aston Martin were the first to gamble with the early undercut, pitting Lance Stroll from P4 for the hard tyres. Triggering Williams to make the same decision a lap later, but Russell came out of the pits behind Stroll.

Despite pulling out an early lead by Lap 10 Norris had closed within DRS range of his former teammate – Sainz – in the Scuderia Ferrari. The McLaren driver passed on the run into Turn 12 on Lap 14.

The pass triggered Ferrari to pit for the hard tyres but Norris continued, making him more vulnerable to the undercut from Sainz. It became evident as the laps progressed that the early pit stop would not be as advantageous as first thought and McLaren had made the right call.

Courtesy F1 Media

Mercedes made the same decision as McLaren to stay out on track as others pitted for the Hard tyres. Hamilton, struggling to get ahead of Ricciardo, was not able to find any clear air to make up time on Stroll and Russell who had already pitted and making up time on Mercedes for a short time.

Hamilton had Perez in his mirrors, but he was still unable to make it passed Ricciardo ahead. McLaren pitted Ricciardo first but a problem on the stop meant that the release light did not go green, adding crucial seconds onto the stop.

The threat of rain however was still growing as the race approached the halfway point and Norris was stretching out his lead as the McLaren team tried to find a gap to pit but Hamilton, also yet to pit, was finding some pace behind.

Norris pitting on Lap 29, a lap later than Hamilton, released him in P4 with Leclerc, Alonso, and Perez ahead all yet to pit. Hamilton also on fresh hard tyres, passed Pierre Gasly into clear air and started to close the gap to Norris.

RedBull recovery

Max Verstappen, starting at the back of the grid taking an engine penalty, battled his way into the points using his fresh hard tyres to close down on a possible podium finish in the second half of the race.

As the first stint progressed the championship leader was charging through the field, sweeping easily up the inside of Turn 12 on Valtteri Bottas, giving RedBull early confidence that Verstappen could finish at least in the points.

Courtesy F1 Media

Verstappen was clearly hungry for a points finish, making his way through the field, unlike Bottas in the Mercedes.

RedBull’s chances opened up as Perez was able to extend his first stint on the medium tyres, but his efforts were ruined by a slow stop of 8.9s, pushing him out of podium contention and finishing P4.

Save the rain until last

As the closing laps approached, the Grand Prix was still all to play for with Hamilton closing the gap to Norris in the McLaren in P1. The Ferrari of Sainz seemingly was comfortably heading for a P3 finish but the threat of rain still loomed over the track.

Spots of rain began to fall by Lap 44, rolling in from the Black Sea, Norris went wide but was able to hang on in the damp conditions with Hamilton clinging onto the rear of the McLaren.

Into the pits went Russell, Bottas, Raikkonen and Nikitia Mazepin first with others following suit a lap later. But the front runners opted to stay out, squirming around on the worsening track conditions.

Courtesy F1 Media

Hamilton meanwhile pitted for intermediates; giving him a 25 second gap to Norris with three laps to go.

Meanwhile, the two Aston Martin teammates came together in a clumsy move. Stroll went spinning two laps later but was able to keep running, despite being sent out of the points.

As Hamilton closed down on the Intermediate tyres Norris went spinning off the track as the conditions worsened, leaving him no option but to pit, handing the win to Hamilton and P2 to Verstappen.

Norris being sent from P1 to P7 within 1 lap, along with crossing the solid white line of the pitlane to put him at risk of picking up a penalty from the race stewards after the race.

Perez and Leclerc also lost out by not switching to Inters earlier but Sainz was able to regain the final podium position.

More to Follow.

5 Drivers who need a Good Russian Grand Prix Today

Sochi, the venue where Mercedes have dominated with stupendous consistency could well see the dominant narrative making space for a boy who’ll dominate the sport in the years to come. 

In what is an excellent opportunity for Lando Norris to storm to a maiden victory, McLaren quite literally are in the driver’s seat. With a clear track ahead of them to bag a second – and lest it not be forgotten, stupendous- victory in 2021. 

Followed by the quietly efficient Sainz, in his maiden season with the Scuderia and Russell in third, Sochi’s starting three could well be this year’s most admired and widely exciting troika. 

What’ll happen up ahead is something only time will tell. But for now, let’s see which drivers would love to make a race to remember given not such a fantastic quali and recent race form?

Kimi Raikkonen

Raikkonen’s final season in F1 isn’t going to plan

The Iceman, competing in the last few races of his F1 career, will be keen to make the most of what’s left. It didn’t help Kimi, standing next to an abominable points tally of 2, that he had to sit out of Monza and Zandvoort thanks to the Coronavirus. 

Yet, true to the surprising ways in which one of the sport’s icons has fought back, the Finn’s got something that’s admirable. 

The old man of the grid has shown the youngsters how it’s done on race days. Despite 2021 being the year where his qualifying form has been “s*it” as how he’d himself put it, he’s still gained the most positions when compared to nineteen others on the grid (29) after fourteen rounds. 

Moreover, a P16 in the driver’s standings means Raikkonen has, at least, emerged ahead of Giovinazzi, who’s constantly outpaced him on most Saturdays so far, hasn’t done too miserably. 

Not that the soon-to-be 42-year-old would count it as anything but still, in the context of the race and knowing his penchant to make the most on the race days, Kimi Matias Raikkonen will be keen, albeit reticently, to make a race out of Sochi. 

But can he actually do that? 

Sebastian Vettel

Aston Martin are slowly slipping further and further behind AlphaTauri

Here are the previous four race results for the German Aston Martin driver, all set to start his Russian contest from eleventh on the grid. 

A 12th at Italy, 13th at Zandvoort, a 5th at Spa-Francorchamps, and an embarrassing – if not controversial- disqualification at the Hungaroring. 

It’s been a season where one’s witnessed shades of the dauntless Vettel of the past, the man who stormed to a fine podium at the incident-marred Azerbaijan Grand Prix, a result that should ideally have shut his critics’ mouth. 

But that being said, Vettel, who’s not been able to ace his Saturday game as such this season, would look at Sochi as a great opportunity to bounce back to form and collect handy points. 

That the last two races didn’t result in any should motivate the four-time world champion to get up to speed and hit back hard. 

But will it be any easy given Ocon (tenth), Perez (ninth) and teammate Stroll (eighth) could possibly make life difficult for Vettel? 

It’s a Bond of trust and redoubtable capability that the German would like to forge with his AMR 21 here at Sochi. 

Forget not that the License to drive and excel rests with you, Seb! 

Yuki Tsunoda

Tsunoda finds himself in this dishonourable top five yet again

Tsunoda, who starts from thirteenth on the grid, would be keen to convert his insipid qualifying result into a prominent performance at Sochi. 

But hang on, P13 isn’t nearly as bad as what the AlphaTauri driver managed in the previous two Saturday battles! 

Since the Italian and Dutch GP, quali runs were anything but mind-blowing. 

A seventeenth on the starting grid at Monza and a fifteenth at Zandvoort suggest Tsunoda’s not exactly been having a ball on Saturdays. 

This is primarily why his Sochi run is a tad bit disappointing albeit being better than the recent efforts. 

But in a few hours’ time, it’ll be down to how Yuki manages his race at Sochi which will form one of the key highlights of the race, especially down to the fact that he’ll be right behind Gasly for the 53-lap run. 

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen will hope he can charge through the field this afternoon

The last three race results for the current championship reader read- DNF at Monza, which came prior to two race wins, one each at the returning Dutch GP and the Belgian GP. 

While Spa-Francorchamps’s race win may not count as a win from the purist’s perspective, the win at Zandvoort was Max back to his best. Something he’d quite like to have maintained at Monza which is when the dramatic, widely debated and rancor-causing crash with Hamilton happened. 

While it ended both drivers’ race, from the perspective of maintaining the lead over the championship, it was a massive blow for Verstappen in that where it stands today, his lead over second-place Lewis Hamilton is a mere five and a half points. 

It’s something he’d quite like to have build on here at Sochi had the start from the back of the grid not have hurt Max’s chances, which are seriously slated to dent a chance in his championship unless a miracle happens and the Flying Dutchman is able to storm to the top three at Sochi. 

It’ll be an exciting contest to watch out for. 

Lewis Hamilton

Hamilton has work to do if he’s to capitalise on Verstappen’s back-row start. Image: F1

A fourth in qualifying isn’t the worst possible place on the starting grid- is it? 

But the moment you see Mercedes, winners of every single Grand Prix here at Sochi, starting from behind a troika comprising McLaren, Ferrari and Williams, the latter, their customer team, you feel something’s amiss. 

Where Sir Lewis Hamilton, second on the Driver Standings, is concerned, a result among the top three, which isn’t impossible at all, would be akin to a win given his target has to be to finish as ahead as possible over his archrival Max Verstappen. 

But what shall the 53 laps up ahead unfold- a triumph for LH 44 or a disappointing race finish given those in front of the seven-time world champion are among the youngest and finest on the grid- it’ll be endlessly fascinating. 

Can Hammertime strike the remainder of the grid akin to Putin’s feared reign of Russia? Let’s wait and see. 

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more reaction to qualifying at the Russian GP? Never fear, the Grid Talk crew are here with their latest podcast! Ruby Price hosted Tom Downey and Louis Edwards as they analysed qualifying for the Russian Grand Prix. Both audio and video versions of the show are linked below:

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:

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:

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