Tag Archives: Formula 1

2021 Qatar Grand Prix: FP1 & FP2 report: Bottas tops FP2, but Lewis stuck behind Verstappen.

F1 arrives in Qatar for the very first time and Friday practice was, for many of the drivers, their first look at the track. This track has been used for MotoGP for many years, so it would be interesting to see how the F1 cars get on.

With three races left, the tension has really ramped up in the title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Today’s session would give us an insight if Mercedes could have another dominant weekend.

Let’s get straight in Friday Practice!

FP1

It took a while for the drivers to finally get to grips with the new track, but no matter how much preparations the drivers do, there will always be those who push the limits a bit too hard and get punished for it.

The two Haas drivers were the first to start pushing the track limits as Mazepin went wide at turn 4 and kicked up a lot of dust. Schumacher pushed the limits a bit too much and found himself having a trip through the gravel at the end of the session.

Plenty of drivers were kicking up dust onto the track and the kerbs were also providing a spectacular show. George Russell ran wide and sparks were literally flying, I’m sure Williams would have a look at the floor after that.

McLaren would have definitely looked as Norris ran wide and a piece a bodywork flew off the car as he went over the kerbs.

As the session went on, the time were tumbling as the dust clears and the track rubbered in. But, it was Max Verstappen who was looking comfortable at the top of the timing sheets.

Lance Stroll’s session ended prematurely as he suffered a brake by wire problem which ruled him out of the session.

Problems then hit Lando Norris as he was crawling down the pit-lane. It appeared as though he was having some engine issues. The replays showed him riding the kerbs very aggressively again which seemed to have caused the issue. Lando was able to roll his car down the pit-lane to the garage and got back out on track later in the session.

Lewis Hamilton then looked to have an issue with his front wing as the Mercedes mechanics were having a very close look at the problem.

When the session ended, it was Max Verstappen who topped the timing sheets followed by Pierre Gasly.

FP2

We were now under the lights in Qatar as the drivers took to the track for Free Practice 2.

The stewards had taken a very laisse-faire attitude to track limits in FP1 as they looked to see where the drivers were gaining an advantage. The stewards had decided that they were going to use the purple and white kerbs as the track limits.

There would be an absence from this session as Nikita Mazepin required a brand new chassis after the old one was damaged during FP1.

It was an immediate battle between Red Bull and Mercedes as all four drivers topped the timing sheets as one point as they explored the track on the Medium tyres. But, it was Valterri Bottas who was looking comfortably quickest at the top.

The kerbs were still proving to be troubling for a few drivers. Lance Stroll who was having problems in FP1 had a moment over the kerbs and so did Antonio Giovinazzi. We saw a huge piece of bodywork fly off the back of the Alfa Romeo.

Max Verstappen was trying his hardest to wrestle his Red Bull closer to Valterri Bottas, but he couldn’t quite do it. He was losing time in all sectors as his Red Bull looked to be struggling to find the right balance.

As the cars ditched their quick runs and settled into their long runs, some drivers were being plagued by traffic issues. Sebastian Vettel ran into traffic twice in one lap as he was held up by both Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez.

For others, the dust was still roving to be a bit of a problem. Lewis Hamilton went straight on at turn1 and kicked up plenty of dust as he re-joined the track.

Charles Leclerc dipped a wheel on the AstroTurf which dragged him into the gravel trap. He was fortunate not to get bogged down and re-joined the track.

But at the end of the session it was Valtteri Bottas who was fastest followed by Pierre Gasly and then Max Verstappen.

Bahrain 2.0 for Tsunoda?

We have slowly seen Yuki Tsunoda ditch his demons and start to be more competitive, but we have yet to see a performance that rivals is first race in Bahrain all the way back in April.

However, Yuki Tsunoda has been looking very competitive so far this weekend. He has been a lot closer to Pierre Gasly this weekend and been generally competitive in the midfield.

AlphaTauri are currently in a tight battle with Alpine for 5th in the Constructor’s championship and while Pierre Gasly has been doing a lot of the heavy lifting for AlphaTauri this season, Yuki Tsunoda will have to start pulling his weight if he hopes to aid his team to 5th.

If there is a track that could be good for Yuki Tsunoda, it does look as though the Losail track could be a good fit for him.

Pierre Gasly has been looking phenomenally quick so far, finishing 2nd in FP1 and FP2. It will be quite the achievement if he can be faster than both Red Bulls this weekend, but certainly he could be up there.

Time will tell for AlphaTauri this weekend, but pace from today looks very promising.

FP1 Classification

FP2 Classification

F1 Blast from the Past: Hill bests Schumacher at a soaking Suzuka

Background

The penultimate round of the 1994 Formula 1 World Championship took place at Suzuka in Japan.

After his return from a two-race suspension, Michael Schumacher had scored an emphatic victory in Jerez. The German had extended his lead over Damon Hill in the championship to five points.

1994 had been the year of driver changes and yet more took place prior to Suzuka. Jos Verstappen relinquished his Benetton seat to Johnny Herbert. The Englishman’s vacant Ligier drive was taken by French F3000 driver, Franck Lagorce.

Salo made his F1 debut for the doomed Lotus team

Japanese F3000 driver Mika Salo made his debut at Lotus, while another Finn, JJ Lehto returned to Sauber in place of the retired Italian Andrea de Cesaris. Japanese driver Taki Inoue made his debut for Simtek in place of Domenico Schiattarella.

Qualifying

In Friday qualifying, Schumacher took provisional pole position by almost half a second over Hill. Fellow German Heinz-Harald Frentzen was a sensational third in the Mercedes-powered Sauber. Nigel Mansell was fourth ahead of the impressive Johnny Herbert in the second Benetton.

Mansell was finding his pace again. Image: Twitter

Eddie Irvine’s Jordan rounded out the top six grid placings. On Saturday, heavy rain meant there was no chance for anyone to improve their positions and the grid was decided on Friday’s times.

The first race

The rain didn’t cease to fall on race day and the scheduled 53 lap race got underway with Schumacher maintaining his lead over the rest of the field following in the spray. Before a single lap was completed, local driver Hideki Noda has spun his Larrousse into retirement. Lehto was also out with engine problems.

Sauber’s fortunes went from bad to worse on lap two as Frentzen compromised his race by running wide into the second corner. Schumacher began to pull out a small lead over Hill. At the end of Lap 3, all of the Japanese drivers were out, as Ukyo Katayama clouted into the pitlane wall and escaped with minor injuries.

Taki Inoue also crashed coming onto the pit straight. Johnny Hebert’s Benetton was also out after aquaplaning off on the straight itself, all of which brought out the Safety Car.

When the Safety Car peeled off, Schumacher pulled away from Hill again, with the Englishman struggling to keep the Benetton insight. On Lap 10, Lagorce’s debut came to an early end after colliding with the Minardi of Pierluigi Martini, the Italian’s teammate Michele Alboreto spun off in sympathy.

Gerhard Berger’s Ferrari was also out with battery problems. The rain worsened further and on Lap 14, Gianni Morbidelli’s Footwork aquaplaned off before the Degner Curve. The Italian was lucky to escape unhurt, moments later Martin Brundle crashed at the same corner, the McLaren struck a marshal who thankfully suffered nothing more serious than a broken leg.

Brundle feared for his life as he narrowly avoided the recovery vehicle. After these incidents, the race was red-flagged.

Japanese GP – Part 2

Some drivers were in favour of the race been abandoned and debate raged on about whether it should be restarted. Nigel Mansell, using his experience of rolling starts in Indy Car, voiced his opinion that starting behind the Safety Car was the safest way for the race to resume. Incidentally, the only driver to remain strapped in his car was Damon Hill, his mind fully focussed.

A rolling start was decided, with the result to be decided on aggregate timing. Schumacher yet again pulled away from Hill but came into the pits early to refuel, confirming that Benetton had opted for a two-stop strategy. After his stop the German found himself stuck behind Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren.

Schumacher continued to lead the race on aggregate, but Hill had put the hammer down and began to eat into his lead. Meanwhile, further back, Jean Alesi and Nigel Mansell were providing some terrific entertainment in a ferocious battle. The Ferrari’s top speed advantage allowed the Frenchman to keep the Williams behind.

Hill made his one and only stop and as well as maintaining his lead on the road, the corrected aggregate times recorded that he was fractionally ahead of Schumacher. It was not a trouble-free stop however, as the right-rear wheel was unable to come off, leaving the Williams with just three new tyres.

With the rain beginning to ease later in the race, Schumacher came in for a splash and dash and a fresh set of wet tyres. Schumacher immediately set about rapidly closing down Hill’s Williams. With the Benetton lapping two seconds a lap faster than Hill.

In six laps, Schumacher had gone from 12 seconds behind on aggregate timing to just two as the final of lap of the race begun. Schumacher had finished the first part of the race 6.8 seconds ahead of Hill prior to the red flag.

Hill took the chequered flag as the Williams team eagerly awaited Schumacher, the German found himself coming up behind Christian Fittipaldi’s Footwork who delayed him slightly. The Benetton crossed the line 10 seconds later giving Hill a 3.3 second lead on aggregate timing and his sixth victory of the season.

Behind them, Mansell made a banzai move around the outside into the chicane on the final lap to overtake Alesi but the Frenchman kept third position on aggregate. Mansell nonetheless had shown he had lost none of his speed and aggression. The final points were taken by Irvine’s Jordan and Frentzen’s Sauber.

After a season of controversy and tragedy, the Japanese Grand Prix had provided an enthralling race. The championship battle would go down to the last round in Adelaide, Australia with Schumacher on 92 points and Hill on 91.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Qatar GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the Qatar GP Preview. Owain Medford hosted Adam Burns and Tom Downey in episode 152 of the show. Both audio and video versions of the podcast are available below:

F1 2021 Qatar Grand Prix Preview: Who will master the Losail Circuit?

The final leg of the last triple-header in the 2021 Formula 1 season sees us travel to a new circuit. Brought in to replace the cancelled Australian GP, this weekend sees the inaugrual F1 Qatar Grand Prix. Losail has never seen an F1 race, instead being used to host MotoGP since 2004.

This year’s championship battles shows no sign of being resolved anytime soon, so the action in Qatar will be crucial to see who comes out on top. Every twist and turn in 2021 has been entertaining, let’s see what Round 20 will bring!

Track Guide

The Losail Circuit was built in 2004 but will see its first F1 race on Sunday. This will be the only Formula 1 race here too, as the Qatar GP takes a hiatus in 2022 before moving to a purpose-built circuit in 2023.

Qatar’s layout is as flat as pancake with miles of runoff in every direction. That doesn’t sound entertaining, but its corners are very high-speed and the long start/finish straight will promote overtaking. The race will take place at sunset too, so it will be similar to Abu Dhabi in that regard.

Sir Lewis strikes back in Brazil

Hamilton’s win in Brazil was one of the best of his career

Sir Lewis Hamilton put on a show that we’ll never forget in Brazil last week. The defending champion produced one of the best drives of his career, as he not only overcame disqualification to take the top step, but also an additional five-place grid penalty.

Hamilton pulled off 25 overtakes across the Sprint and Race, including excellent passes on both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez. Verstappen maintains his championship lead, but it’s now down to 14 points when it could’ve easily been 28. Valtteri Bottas had a solid weekend and completed the podium ahead of Perez.

Ferrari consolidated their third place in the constructors championship with Charles Leclerc ahead of Carlos Sainz (5th-6th). Pierre Gasly scored more solid points in seventh, ahead of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon (8th-9th). Lando Norris overcame a first-lap puncture to recover to 10th by the end.

Verstappen in trouble?

Hamilton secured his 101st F1 win despite some controversial defending from Max Verstappen. Verstappen ran both himself and Hamilton off the road in Turn 4 and maintained his lead. Verstappen was passed a few laps later, but a five-second penalty would’ve dropped him to third.

Mercedes have protested the Dutchman’s moves, which the FIA are now investigating. At the time of writing, though, nothing has been decided.

The Stewards couldn’t access Verstappen’s onboard footage when the decision to not investigate was made. That’s utterly bizarre in this day and age. Either way, the gloves are well and truly off now, and these final three rounds in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will be fascinating watches.

Session Times

Practice 1, Nov 5th: 10:30 – 11:30 (5:30 – 6:30 EST)

Practice 2, Nov 5th: 14:00 – 15:00 (9:00 – 10:00 EST)

Practice 3, Nov 6th: 11:00 – 12:00 (6:00 – 7:00 EST)

Qualifying, Nov 20th: 14:00 – 15:00 (9:00 – 10:00 EST)

Race, Nov 21st: 14:00 (9:00 EST)

All times are UK time (GMT), unless stated

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Qatar GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the Qatar GP Preview. Owain Medford hosted Adam Burns and Tom Downey in episode 152 of the show. Both audio and video versions of the podcast are available below:

5 Drivers who need a good Mexican GP today

The last time a Mexican Grand Prix was held, it’s rather interesting to note, Nicholas Latifi and Yuki Tsunoda weren’t even F1 drivers.


Now that one of the most-anticipated F1 races is back, it would be interesting to see what happens in the 71-lap contest. That’s more so for the drivers championship still hangs on the knife’s edge even as Verstappen is out in the lead.


But where it comes to the 2021 Mexican Grand Prix, that’s not the case, for the one who’s out in the lead is neither F1’s “Mad Max,” nor the meastero Sir Lewis Hamilton.


With Bottas capturing his nineteenth career pole and Mercedes locking out the front row in Mexico, it seems that we have ahead of us a closely fought duel between the Black Arrows and the Bulls.


But having said that, which drivers need to have a strong Mexican Grand Prix?


1. Sergio Perez

The fact that a local hero doesn’t shine in his home race always stands out albeit not as the strongest point- right? In that regard, that Perez has never even been on the podium at his home race serves the Red Bull driver that extra bit of motivation to deliver a strong Mexican Grand Prix.


But in order to do that, the in-form driver, fresh from a P3 at Austin, USA will have to battle hard and that too, against a fighting troika of the two Mercedes’ as well as his own teammate, Max Verstappen.


That said, should the 31-year-old driver manage to step onto the podium, he’d have completed his first hat-trick of podiums in the ongoing season (P3 each at Istanbul and COTA).


2. Yuki Tsunoda

The young Japanese driver, who bounced back to some bit of form at the US Grand Prix given his P9, having lost it for good measure for much of the season, will be keen to improve here at Mexico.


But that’s also because Yuki Tsunoda currently finds himself sixteenth on the grid for the Mexican Grand Prix. To make matters worse, the rookie F1 driver found himself in the centre of the storm after he was allegedly called out for compromising Verstappen’s final Q3 run as Red Bull singled out Tsunoda for something he should perhaps not have been blamed for.


What was clear- if not significantly so- was that Tsunoda, in his final qualifying run, wasn’t really setting a flying lap but instead helping Gasly by giving him the slipstream.


Yet, that he went off the track only to see Perez follow him, which in turn, led to Max backing off didn’t help anyone’s cause and resultantly, led to others calling out Tsunoda for the gaffe, which wasn’t even one in the first place!


A strong performance at the Mexican GP will only aid the young driver who has massive talent. But can Yuki deliver a strong drive at the upcoming race?


3. Lando Norris

The marvelous talent who took pole for the Russian GP and in the process, stunned one and all, including Sir Lewis Hamilton, hasn’t really been in sensational form in the events that have since happened.

Take the Turkish GP and the US GP where the young British driver finished eighth and seventh, respectively.

Now that Norris has copped a penalty for a power unit change, he begins his Mexican drive from the rearend of the grid.

Can that ever be a fine position to begin any race from?

A fine run by Norris at the 2021 Mexican GP will do two things- it’ll help McLaren, fighting hard with Ferrari in the Constructor battle, gather useful points and will also boost the confidence of a driver who’s won everyone’s hearts given his talent.

Mind you, he’s also the same talent who really needs to find his groove especially where recent results stand as mentioned above.

4. Antonio Giovinazzi

Time’s running out for Antonio Giovinazzi, who’s yet to find his name announced for the 2022 season (or possibly beyond) by his Alfa Romeo racing team.

It’s imperative for the Italian driver’s confidence to get an F1 seat, should he harbour hopes of etching a bold racing career at the top annals.

One saw the Martina Franca-born drive an ace of a race at COTA recently where despite Alonso’s mighty assault at the midfield, the long locked bloke kept fighting back. 

In the end, a rare error from Kimi allowed Giovinazzi to take eleventh, but even that wasn’t the most ideal result for the man who is still sitting on a solitary point in the 2021 campaign.

Can that change at Mexico? Can we expect a strong drive from the very driver who needs to prove his doubters wrong and contest a strong contest in Perez-land?

It’s all to play for one of the nicest and often, under-appreciated drivers on the grid at the Mexico GP

To make things better, the Italian starts the 71-lap run from P11.

5. Lewis Hamilton

It’s not always that a legend of the sport like Hamilton finds his name on a list that lists drivers who need to do better than they are. But then, if the defending world champion expects to bring home an eighth world title, he will have to deliver a strong Mexican Grand Prix.

That Sir Lewis Hamilton can do anything possible on his day is beyond doubt but whether that’ll actually happen at Mexico will be down to the fact that Hamilton will find in his front mirrors a Mercedes to beat whilst having two-not one- Red Bulls in his rearview mirrors.

The last time that Hamilton won the Mexican GP was back in 2019, so a return to the top step of the podium will be an ideal step forward for the great Briton. And that’ll only help his chances at taking a new world title for even as Max finishes P3, the Dutchman will still maintain lead over the Mercedes stalwart.

2021 Mexican Grand Prix: Practice report – Could Red Bull run away this weekend?

The Mexican fans were out in force to support Sergio Perez after a two year absence. But the focus for the rest of us was not on Sergio Perez, but instead on his team-mate Max Verstappen and his title rival, Lewis Hamilton.

As we head into the final five races, these practice sessions are going to more important as the drivers will want to feel as comfortable as possible on track to get the most out of the remaining races.

Let’s get straight into the Friday action!

FP1

The cars headed out onto a very dusty track as Free Practice 1 got underway.

The dusty conditions were making things tricky for the drivers out on track and lead to different tyre strategies for different teams.

Mercedes went straight for the soft tyres while Red Bull went for the Hard tyres. Regardless of the tyres, it was difficult for any driver to keep it on the tarmac.

Leclerc was having a horrid time keeping his rear end in check and eventually it spun on him and put him in the barrier on the entrance to the final corner. He was lucky not to do any significant damage to the back of his car as he drove out of the wall and into the pits.

The same couldn’t be said for home hero Sergio Perez. He got onto the raised curb as he headed into the final corner and spun the car. He caught the first slide, but the rear went again, and he slammed into the wall.

Sergio Perez lost half of his front wing and appeared to do more damage as they had the floor off the car when he returned back to the garage. But after some speculation that his session might be over, he got back into the car with 20 minutes remaining.

The track conditions did continue to improve as the session and the times did tumble, but the track was far from easy.

We saw a great display from Daniel Ricciardo as he drifted round every corner in the stadium section. It was impressive to watch and I’m sure it was fun for Daniel.

Mercedes’ pace seemed to take many by surprise as they came straight out to go first and second fastest in the session.

Red Bull were not far behind though, but on paper, I think we were expecting Red Bull to be faster. But maybe Red Bull were waiting until FP2 to show their real pace.

FP2

FP2 time and cars were going out to set their flying laps as soon as possible.

But the problem that comes with all the cars out on track to set fast laps is traffic and with the slow and tight nature of the final sector, this was becoming an issue for those who tried to get out early.

Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen were having a bit of a battle with neither wanted to give each other room to set their fast laps.

It was Red Bull who were setting the initial pace on the Medium tyres, but both Mercedes drivers were on the hard tyres, but their pace was still very good.

Those hard tyres would be useless for the race though as both Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas had huge double lock-up going into the first corner and went straight on over the grass.

The dust issues from FP1 had not gone away and this was still catching drivers off guard as they charged down into turn 1.

George Russell was the last driver to get out to try and set a lap time, but it was not long before he was back into the garage. He reported an issue with the gearbox and was stuck in fifth gear as he cruised back to the pit-lane.

The mystery got curiouser as replays showed a lose fixing fall off the back of Russell’s car as he left the pit-lane. That marked the end of the session for George Russell as was sat on the pit-wall not long later.

When the drivers made the switch onto the soft tyres, it was Red Bull who were much faster than Mercedes. Max Verstappen was over half a second clear of Lewis Hamilton and four tenths faster than Valtteri Bottas.

The drivers now settled in to do their long runs in preparation for the race. From here the session really settles down, but for Nicolas Latifi he was lucky to escape the wall.

He got a bit out of shape going into the final corner before slamming on the brakes before he speared the barrier. He managed to get the car into reverse before carrying on his way.

Could McLaren lose third in the constructors this weekend?

McLaren have not looked encouraging in either of the two free practice sessions and have looked far off the pace of Ferrari.

Both teams went very well in Monaco and given the high downforce demands of this track, I would have expected both teams to be close like they were in Monaco, but it would appear Ferrari have the upper hand.

Both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have looked very quick as they battle with Alpha Tauri who have also been incredibly quick in both practice sessions so far. Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda have looked solid so far and could eb another threat to McLaren this weekend.

Lando Norris did manage to be comfortably quicker than Ricciardo in FP2, but the Aussie was forced to sit out much of FP2 with a gearbox issue.

With McLaren’s somewhat lack of pace, it could provide an opportunity for McLaren to get their engine penalties out of the way.

It has been discussed that McLaren would take an engine penalty for Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo either at this Grand Prix or in Brazil in a weeks’ time.

It will be crucial for McLaren to try and find a good balance in the car before qualifying if they hope to get higher up the order for Qualifying.

We will find out soon if McLaren do take the option to change the engine.

FP1 classification

FP2 classification

F1 2021 Mexican Grand Prix Preview: Title battle heats up as we enter the final five

Five to go. Five races left to decide the titanic shifting battle that has been F1 in 2021. In what will go down historically as an outstanding season, both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen have looked the part of champion. But only one of them will walk away from the podium in December carrying the trophy. It’s up to us now, and them always, to watch every minute, every engine penalty, every qualifying, every teammate and backmarker and every race to celebrate who will come out on top. Nothing is to be missed.

Track Guide

Mexico got skipped because of the pandemic in 2020. Lots has changed since then but the track remains an interesting one where both championship leaders have found success. Max won in 2017 and 2018, Lewis won in 2016 and 2019. Interestingly, Hamilton clinched the drivers title both times Verstappen won. However, the story surrounding this trip around the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez could not be further from those memories.

Like all Hermann Tilke creations, the track features a long straight, a shorter straight and a bunch of tight corners meant to encourage passing. Also, like all Tilke creations, it achieves this to a moderate degree of success; races are rarely processions but we haven’t seen a Baku Bomb just yet. Then again, the hybrid era hasn’t seen a competitor and competition like this before. The chance this year could add some degree of excitement to an already decent grand prix is very high.

Max seized the USGP

As has been the case all season, the RB16B and its Honda engine have had the measure at every former Mercedes stronghold. Hamilton has put together one of his most determined efforts of recent memory and yet has somehow found himself repeatedly staring at the back of Verstappen. The US Grand Prix was no different; after seizing a first corner lead, Hamilton then lost it via the undercut during the pit-stop phase and agonizingly ran out of time to pass the hard-defending Dutchman.

Not all about Max and Lewis

Could we see another collision between the championship protagonists this weekend?

Further down the pecking order another scintillating battle rages. Since their recent engine upgrade, Ferrari are on a tear and now sit hot on the heels of McLaren for third in the Constructor’s Championship. While it’s unlikely either of their drivers will catch Lando Norris individually, to overhaul the Woking outfit would be a huge accomplishment for the Scuderia after a wickedly disappointing 2020 season. Their rivalry and battles have been fierce of late and should continue during the Mexico City Grand Prix.

While the entirety of 2021 has been remarkable for its ability to entertain throughout the order, there can be no doubt that after Austin, Red Bull have a car that can answer anything. And Max? Well, with the exception of Monza, Max can’t seem to miss. His reward has so far amounted to being 12 points up on Hamilton for the championship lead – despite two additional DNF’s. And, with the seasonal flow trending his direction, Verstappen seems likely to add to that lead this weekend in Mexico. But, like in all things racing, the races still have to be run and Lewis is far from a man incapable of winning.

Session Times

Practice 1, Nov 5th: 17:30 – 18:30 (13:30 – 14:30 EST)

Practice 2, Nov 5th: 21:00 – 22:00 (17:00 – 18:00 EST)

Practice 3, Nov 6th: 17:00 – 18:00 (13:00 – 14:00 EST)

Qualifying, Nov 6th: 20:00 – 21:00 (16:00 – 17:00 EST)

Race, Nov 7th: 19:00 (15:00 EST)

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

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Mexican GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the Mexican GP Preview. Owain Medford hosted Louis Edwards, Tom Horrox and Tan Jui Shien Ray in episode 146 of the show. Both audio and video versions of the podcast are available below:

F1 Blast from the Past: Prost wins as Mansell pulls off stunning overtake

Background & Qualifying

The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City was the venue for round 6 of the 1990 Formula One World Championship.

After two consecutive victories for Ayrton Senna and McLaren-Honda, the Brazilian held a 12-point lead in the driver’s standings over his teammate Gerhard Berger. In Mexico however, it was the Austrian who took his second pole position of the season.

Riccardo Patrese qualified his Williams Renault in second place ahead of Senna in the other McLaren, the Brazilian conspicuous by his absence from the front row. Nigel Mansell hauled his Ferrari to fourth on the grid ahead of the second Williams of Thierry Boutsen and the inspired Jean Alesi in the Tyrrell Ford.

Reigning World Champion Alain Prost had suffered numerous problems with the qualifying set-up on his Ferrari, and opted to set his car up for the race. The result was a lowly 13th position on the grid. The Frenchman’s difficulties were nothing compared to the fortunes of the Leyton House-March team, as neither Ivan Capelli nor Mauricio Gugelmin could qualify on the notoriously bumpy circuit.

With Berger and Senna in the top-three, the pre-race expectations were for a McLaren Honda walkover.

Race day

The 69-lap Mexican Grand Prix got underway with Patrese making an excellent getaway to take the lead from Berger. Senna also got the upper hand on his teammate, passing him on the inside going into the first corner. Senna immediately set about grabbing the lead from Patrese’s Williams, the Italian firmly shutting the door at the end of the back straight.

At the end of the lap, Patrese led from Senna and Berger, with Boutsen fourth ahead of Nelson Piquet’s Benetton and Nigel Mansell who had dropped to sixth. As the field started the second lap, Senna breezed past Patrese down the pit straight, with Berger following suit into the first corner.

Patrese quickly fell backwards, his tyre compound of choice not paying off as Boutsen and Piquet also moved ahead. Tyres would be the order of the day as Gerhard Berger made a stop at the end of Lap 13 to change his blistered Goodyears, dropping all the back to 12th place.

Senna now had a healthy 15 second lead over Nelson Piquet. Though, the three-time World Champion was disposed of by Nigel Mansell on Lap 37. Piquet’s tyres also began to fade, and Alain Prost, who had been quietly been making progress from his poor grid position, took third place on Lap 42 as Piquet headed for the pits.

On Lap 55, Prost found a way past his teammate after Mansell was boxed in behind the lapped Gregor Foitek in the Onyx. Both Ferrari’s were quickly making inroads into Senna’s lead. The Brazilian’s pace had dropped substantially due to a slow-puncture. He had gambled on going the distance without a stop but it did not pay off.

On Lap 60, Prost took the lead going into Turn 1, and Senna could do nothing to stop him. Mansell quickly followed his teammate past the McLaren but on lap 64 the Englishman spun exiting turn three and handing second back to Senna.

The Brazilian would not hold the position for very long however, his right-rear tyre exploded and Senna would limp back to the pits, his 100th Grand Prix ended prematurely. Mansell’s spin had allowed Gerhard Berger to close in, the Austrian had worked his way back up the field after his early stop, to third place.

With just three laps to go, Berger audaciously dived down the inside of Mansell into turn one, barging the Ferrari out of the way to take second place. The furious Mansell was not about to let Berger get away with that manoeuvre and quickly fought back.

Coming out of the esses on Lap 68, Mansell took the outside line as they headed into the infamous Peralta corner, the Englishman took the sweeping right-hander flat out while Berger was obliged to lift the throttle slightly in one of Formula One’s all-time classic overtaking moves.

25 seconds ahead, Prost took his second victory of the season and the 41st of his career. Mansell in second completed the first Ferrari one-two since the 1988 Italian Grand Prix. Berger may have lost out in the ferocious duel between himself and Mansell but nonetheless enjoyed himself and took third place for McLaren. 

Alessandro Nannini had a solid race to take fourth place for Benetton ahead of Boutsen’s Williams. While Piquet took sixth place off Alesi in the closing stages.

With Senna not scoring his lead in the championship was cut to eight points over his bitterest rival and the stage was set for an excellent championship battle, just as the season was about to be written off as another year of McLaren domination.

Grid Talk Podcast

Want more content to preview your Mexican GP weekend? The Grid Talk crew have you covered with their latest podcast, the Mexican GP Preview. Owain Medford hosted Louis Edwards, Tom Horrox and Tan Jui Shien Ray in episode 146 of the show. Both audio and video versions of the podcast are available below:

Leclerc: Ferrari’s in-form midfield man

In a sport eternally wired in the feats and performances of the front runners, it is the midfield where non-stop action often takes place, but isn’t necessarily afforded the headline-making importance.

So, how does a midfielder stand out? 

Where the ongoing championship is concerned, it could be said, a keen narrative has ensued. 

Quietly going about his business

If one looks at the last five races this season, you can find that Charles Leclerc has done quite well in demonstrating the kind of consistency that his Scuderia stable so keenly needed in 2021. 

Barring Sochi’s disappointing P15, Charles Leclerc has beaten Carlos Sainz in every single event. Whether it’s Zandvoort, Monza, Istanbul Park or COTA (USGP), the Monegasque has bested his teammate. 

Leclerc (left) and Sainz have created an extremely impressive partnership in 2021. Image: Motor Sport Magazine

To many, this may seem like boisterous stats whose end purpose is to sanitise the image of a driver in the eyes of the audience when it’s not even the case. Charles Leclerc, the very man who garnered, at the end of seventeen races last year, merely 98 points has already collected 128 points this year. 

Looking for a driver with honest improvement and that irrepressible X-factor, look nowhere but Charles Leclerc. That there are five races yet to be contested offers sufficient evidence of the large ground Ferrari and their Prince from Monaco have already covered than where they were last year where point-scoring opportunities were scant. 

Points, not podiums

Charles Leclerc’s result at the recent US Grand Prix, even if it didn’t translate into top three finish, did well to tell fans and critics alike that the young driver was keen to collect whatever opportunity that came his way. 

Leclerc’s 4th place finish in the USGP is one of his best results of the season. Image: Motorsport week

A P4 finish in the end, therefore, or twelve strong points carried their own value in that the driver hailing from the famous principality surpassed his new Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz Jr. on the standings. 

This was no ordinary moment; to a driver who arrived at Ferrari with one intention and one alone; to make a space for himself, one having nothing to do with shenanigans but one with everything to do with peace and resilience then it was special. Trailing his more experienced teammate, the Spaniard is currently behind Charles by 5.5 points. 

Fundamentally, Sainz may be trailing Leclerc but you’d contend that it is the Monegasque who’s struggled to finish runner-up in any race so far. 

Moreover, that he’s got raw pace is fine and for all to see. But that has he been on the weaker footing thanks to heartbreaks at Monaco and Hungary establish Charles Leclerc as a solider who simply fought and is fighting without even knowing the tiniest fate of his battle. 

His time will come

For as they say, good things come to those who wait and maybe it’s fate, but I’m most happy to have Charles interact with faster cars in midst of a race, think the remarkable ease with which Mercedes and Ferrari conquered the track position at Baku. 

2019 proved that when Leclerc has the car, he will win races

The pole-sitter, who was let down by a lack of grip and pace this year but then, did well enough to defend from Hamilton and Verstappen for the first few laps. 

And in so doing, the the young Ferrari talent earned the winner of the most prestigious yet fictitious award of the FIA, perhaps the price money deny eager sure one for defying the . We can vote. 

Leclerc, sadly with the only podium that he managed nearly two months ago, and that too, at Silverstone, where it’s never easy to break onto the podium places, reminded the scarlet red fans that all wasn’t over for as long as he and his teammate kept trying. 

This has exactly been the case because between both drivers, there are 4 podiums and 2 pole positions. The Ferrari that was struggling to even gather points finish regularly for much of 2020 is clearly a superior unit fighting (ever so regularly) for strong finishes this season. But most importantly, through brave scraps out in the midfield in 2021. Keep fighting Ferrari; keep going Charles

2021 US Grand Prix – FP1 & FP2 report: Red Bull recover from a worrying morning

It may have been two years since we last saw on-track action at the Circuit of the Americas, but F1 was looking to come back with a bang with every driver aiming to show off their new helmets for this weekend.

It was a hot and sunny day in Austin and this seemed to be a bit of a worry for some teams as there was no idea how the tyres would cope on the hot and bumpy track.

Let’s have a look at how the drivers got on in practice.

FP1

It took no time at all before we got the first red flag. Drivers were queuing up to get out, but they were back in the garage when Fernando Alonso came to a stop on the exit of Turn 12.

Bottas was 0.045 seconds faster than Hamilton to top FP1. Credit: F1

He was crawling down the straight with what looked like an engine issue, but we couldn’t tell what happened until he stopped. Fluid was pouring out of the bottom of the Alpine. Something had gone wrong and it looked to be the end of Alonso’s session.

It’s never good for any driver to miss a practice session, but especially when it’s a track that you haven’t driven in a few years.

Ferrari had a great weekend in Turkey, but for Charles Leclerc, it started with a spin. He was very fortunate to keep it out of the wall as he lost it out of Turn 6. He also managed to drag the car out of the gravel and go on his merry way. One thing was for sure, he would not be able to use those tyres again.

The big news to come out of FP1 was that Valterri Bottas would take on yet another ICE. This means he will take another 5-place grid penalty for the race.

Mercedes didn’t need to worry though, as their pace on the soft tyre was mighty. Both Hamilton and Bottas were a second faster than Max Verstappen who was a distant 3rd place.

The track was getting hotter as the session went on and it didn’t seem to bother Mercedes. Red Bull looked to be struggling in the final sector. It looked as though they were also struggling to control the rear.

Even Sergio Perez, who was doing his session on the hard tyres, was struggling through various parts of the track. He then tangled with Mick Schumacher at the end of the session as he lunged up the inside of him at turn 12, but slammed into the side of the Haas.

Advantage Mercedes in the morning, but could Red Bull recover in the Afternoon?

FP2

The cars wasted no time on getting onto the track to prepare for tomorrow’s qualifying session.

Mercedes were testing the limits of the soft tyres in the early session, so they were straight out on the medium tyres. Red Bull also opted for the medium tyres for their first run and they looked a lot more competitive after the first runs than they did in FP1.

Fernando Alonso had a frustrating day which ended with a spin. Credit: F1

Sergio Perez was the fastest after the first runs, but only 0.036 separated Perez in 1st and Hamilton in 4th.

Lando Norris ran less than Fernando Alonso in FP1 and his FP2 session didn’t get off to an ideal start either, as he had something loose in his cockpit. He was forced to box before he could return to the track to get some running done.

As Verstappen and Hamilton went to start their second flying laps, they seemed to forget that it was Friday and not Sunday. They engaged in a drag race up into Turn 1 with Lewis on the inside. Max tried to hang around the inside, but he had to concede, not before he gave Hamilton the finger to show his disapproval.

Issues with equipment and cars kept creeping up throughout the session. Nikita Mazepin was forced to box as the anti-fog spray in his helmet had gotten in his eyes. Minutes later Leclerc was forced to pit as he had something loose by the pedals.

Back on track, it was the turn of the soft tyre quali runs. Hamilton shot to the top of the timing sheets, but it wasn’t for long as his time was deleted for exceeding track limits. His second lap was good, but Perez was the driver firmly planting himself at the top.

Verstappen was getting very wound up in his car as he could not find space to set a second flying lap. Eventually he gave up and pitted instead of doing a second lap.

McLaren looked to be bouncing back from a relatively poor weekend in Turkey. Norris went second fastest on his final flying lap. Daniel Ricciardo was looking good as well, only three tenths off Norris and sat in 5th place behind the two Mercedes.

The drivers now settled in to do their long runs and Mercedes were looking very strong. Verstappen was doing very competitive times, but there was still some tuning needed.

With three minutes to go, Fernando had a spin on the exit of turn 19 and went through the gravel. He did a very good job to limit the damage. He was able to drive out of the gravel and get back to the pit-lane.

The championship mind games coming into play

The tiff between Hamilton and Verstappen during FP2 is starting to show the lengths these two are having to go to to get a mental edge.

We didn’t get to see who was behind who before they started the lap, but it doesn’t matter. With only 6 races left and 6 points between them, both drivers need to make sure they are laser focused.

By getting under each other’s skin in a free practice session, it sets a precedence for the rest of the weekend. Lewis was sending a clear message that Max was not getting passed and for the race, he would not leave him any room.

This move got Max riled up and he showed his frustration through the session. It was clear that it got to him and in the end he gave up on doing a qualifying run and pitted instead.

His decision to do that could be a problem for Red Bull as they will have no real data for Max to use.

With Mercedes looking faster over a single lap, Max will have to do his very best to put in on pole tomorrow.

FP1 Classification

FP2 Classification

In the Pit Lane: Liberty Media embrace gambling in Formula 1

Back in the day when F1 was run by the sport’s ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone, betting was a dirty word with Ecclestone believing the gambling industry would tarnish F1’s image. How this squared with his love of tobacco money was always a mystery.

When Liberty Media took control, Formula 1’s head of digital media Adam Crothers was tasked with coming up with a strategy to make money from sports betting.

How gambling has been embraced by F1

The key to this was data that would enable live betting during races. Liberty immediately signed up the Interregional Sports Group (ISG) on a five-year deal worth an estimated $100m, allowing ISG the commercial rights to sell F1 to gambling companies. 

Partnering with ISG would be European tech start-up Sportradar, who would extract the data directly from the circuit which provides 1.1 million data points from the track and the cars every second.

Hamish Bicket, director for sports content and partnerships at Sportradar, had this to say on the state and potential of F1 betting,

“Motorsports in general, there hasn’t been a real huge interest in betting and that’s not just live betting. Betting in general. But if there is a sport that’s able to change that needle, then it’s Formula 1. Look at their global fan base. I think you’ve got around 19 million viewers on a race day weekend and 500 million fans across the world, so … a huge opportunity for us.”

Sportradar was able to create 22 betting options such as 1st to retire, driver total overtaking’s, and winning margin.

Business has been good for Sportradar which supports more than 900 betting operators around the world, 350 media outlets, and more than 150 sports leagues.

How this strategy has changed around the world

Capitalising on this growth, the company went public in September with a valuation of $7.98bn netting founder Carsten Koerl $2.4bn. ISG’s strategy was to use digital replacement technology which allows sponsors logos to be superimposed on electronic billboards and on-screen graphics during televised races broadcast in different countries.

This was critical, as while a handful of large companies currently control the online sports betting industry, none are truly global so the ability to advertise by region is essential to these brands. ISG is aiming to complete seven regional sponsorship deals starting with Asia, Europe, the Americas then looking towards Russia and Latin America.

Interestingly for a sport embracing the Middle East, issues over gambling advertising mean the region is a non-starter.

The pieces of the jigsaw are eventually falling into place starting in March with online bookmaker 188BET becoming the official Asian partner in a five-year deal worth $8m per season. 

In July, Flutter the holding company for a range of international brands including Paddy Power, Betfair, PokerStars, Sky Bet, Sportsbet, FOX Bet, FanDuel, TVG, and Adjarabe joined the party with its PokerStars brand signed up for an exclusive European broadcast facing sponsorship until 2023.

Although some countries are banning sports betting advertising recent US Supreme Court rulings striking down a federal ban on sports betting and few restrictions in markets like the UK bodes well.

The future of sports betting

Nigel Currie, founder of sports consultancy NC Partnership has stated, “It is probably going to get tougher for the gambling industry [to do sports sponsorship and advertising] in certain markets.” 

F1 is one of the harder sports for regulators because it is so international and there are so many different [countries] that will probably provide a good return on investment.”

There of course are the ethical and moral questions around gambling.

Liberty Media surprise surprise has decided to take the money and much like its stance on other ethical issues has put forward the ‘we are part of the solution’ argument.

Ross Brawn has recognised concerns about influencing minors and addiction commenting to Reuters, “Betting is not going to go away. Betting in an unstructured, unmonitored way is far worse than doing it in a responsible and structured fashion.”

What F1 needs to be on its guard for is the dark side of sports gambling.

Match-fixing in Football and ball-tampering in Cricket to name a few have soiled sports reputation in recent years.

Sportradar runs the high-browed ‘Integrity services division’ claiming as many as one percent of the matches they monitor show suspicious betting patterns that may be indicative of match-fixing.

What about F1?

Could for instance a Far East betting syndicate ‘buy’ a mechanic who in turn messes up a critical pitstop?

Well, sadly human nature has always shown the maxim ‘every man (or woman) has their price’.

More concerning F1 has not been without its various cheating scandals over the years instigated at the very highest levels in the sport.

No greater reminder is needed in the week news emerges that Flavio Briatore may return to F1.

If a team principal was prepared to instruct his driver to crash for a points advantage for his teammate imagine what a team principal would do for money!

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

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.

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