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2020 F1 Season Review - Still they Rise, for the Seventh Time!

Formula 1 celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2020. The pinnacle of motorsport had elaborate plans for the 2020 season with a record 22 races in 22 different countries, promising a memorable experience for the fans. Vietnam and Zandvoort were the newest entrants with the season kicking off in March and ending in November. 


However, the news of a new virus called COVID-19 threatened to put the schedule in disarray. The new virus eventually became a pandemic and hit some in the F1 fraternity on the Australian GP weekend. The start of the season got postponed, and soon enough, the world went into a state of lockdown. 13 races got subsequently cancelled.


The pandemic intensified, and there were doubts about whether the season would get underway, but the FOM had worked hard to ensure a sizeable season. The revised calendar got announced, featuring 17 races, majority of which were in Europe. Many venues hosted two race weekends, and there were double-headers and triple-headers in the revised calendar. It was a hectic schedule for the teams and their members. Classic tracks like Nurburgring, Imola and Istanbul got added while Mugello and Portimao ( Portugal ) hosted an F1 Grand Prix for the first time. A couple of races saw fans ( in limited attendance ), but the FOM ensured that fan engagement was at its best throughout the season.


How did the teams and drivers fare in this season like no other? Time for a recap!



Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Mercedes, the kings of the Turbo Era, were untouchable in 2020 too. The team sported an "All Black Livery" to support their fight against racism with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas leading the charge. There were some challenges along the way, but none caused concern as Hamilton romped to his 7th World Title. Hamilton broke the record for the maximum number of poles and victories with 11 wins and three podiums in 2020. The only blip he suffered was when he contracted COVID-19 and missed the Sakhir GP weekend. George Russell, his replacement, was winner elect but for some misfortune that left him languishing down in 9th. Valtteri Bottas began his challenge in 2020 on the right note with a win in Austria. However, he had no answer to Hamilton, who found a new gear every time Bottas tried to bridge the deficit. His second win was at Russia besides eight podium finishes. The Finn ended the season second best, once again and would need to dig deeper to give Hamilton a semblance of a challenge.

Mercedes were relentless in their quest for the 7th title and amassed 573 points, comfortably clear of Red Bull in 2nd. 

Hamilton is yet to renew his contract for 2021, and this remains a concern for Mercedes. 



Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing has been going from strength to strength after switching to Honda Power. The power unit was one of their biggest forte in 2020. Max Verstappen had a brilliant 2020, taking the fight to the Mercedes duo. The Dutchman won 2 races ( 70th Anniversary GP and Abu Dhabi ) and was on the podium on nine other occasions. Albon, meanwhile, managed only two podium finishes in Tuscany and Bahrain. Verstappen finished the season 3rd in the standings while Albon was 7th having scored less than half of Verstappen's haul. 

The absence of both their drivers at the sharp end of the grid ( regularly ) cost Red Bull dearly. There were a few gremlins and a couple of incidents which cost the team and drivers points, but Red Bull was the only challenger to Mercedes all season long. 

Red Bull finished the season with 319 points, well off the leaders Mercedes. 2021 is the final year for Honda and where Red Bull goes for their power unit needs will be interesting. The arrival of Sergio Perez to partner Verstappen for 2021 will help the team bring home consistent results.

 


McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren has been on a resurgence since the past couple of seasons. The partnership of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr has augured well for the Woking-based outfit. The team was involved in an intense midfield battle throughout the 2020 season but emerged victorious thanks to its excellent chassis and parts reliability. They ended the season 3rd in the Constructors' Championship with 202 points, seven clear of Racing Point in 4th. 

Sainz won the intra-team battle. The Spaniard secured a podium ( 2nd ) in Monza besides 11 points finishes. Norris scored the first podium of his career at the opening race in Austria and finished in the points on 12 occasions. Sainz finished the season tied on points ( but ahead ) with Albon in 6th while Norris was 9th. 

Despite having a long term contract with McLaren, Sainz decided to switch to Ferrari to replace Vettel. Time will tell if it was the right decision or not. As for McLaren, they were delighted to have landed the services of Ricciardo for 2021 besides switching to Mercedes power. 2020 has given them the perfect launchpad to push for the sharp end of the grid in 2021.



Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point began its charge in 2020 by retaining its driver pairing in Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. While all was calm in the driver lineup, Racing Point's 2020 challenger, RP20 attracted the attention of one and all at the pre-season tests. The car had a striking resemblance to the Championship winning 2019 Mercedes and got named the "Pink Mercedes". The competition wasn't pleased with the designs and data getting shared between the Mercedes works team and its customer and a protest got lodged against Racing Point over the legality of its brake duct design. Subsequently, the team got fined 400,000 Euros besides the docking of 15 Constructors' Points before the 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone. 

Nevertheless, they had their best season in F1 finishing 4th with 195 points in a hotly contested midfield. They were only 7 points shy of McLaren in 3rd and got relegated to 4th after a disappointing final race.

Perez had a strong start to the season but contracted COVID-19 before the British GP ruling him out of the double-header. Nico Hulkenberg got the call to replace Perez but didn't start the race due to a mechanical issue on his RP20. He got another shot at it a week later and finished a commendable 7th. 

Lance Stroll also caught the virus at the Eifel GP weekend, and Hulkenberg got called in again, coming home in 8th. 

Perez was a revelation in 2020 having finished 4th in the Drivers' Standings with 125 points to his name. The Mexican helped the team register their first win at the Sakhir GP with great racecraft. He also secured 2nd at Turkey besides points finishes in 11 other races. 

Perez had a contract till 2022, but the team decided to replace him with Vettel for 2021. The Mexican was without a drive until Red Bull came calling after the season ended. 

Stroll, his team-mate, also bagged two 3rd place finishes in Monza and Sakhir, but five retirements along the way cost him valuable points. The Canadian finished the season in 11th, tied with Gasly on 75 points. 

The team undergoes a makeover for 2021, becoming Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team, and with a four-time World Champion in Vettel coming in, the sky is the limit!



Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault has been an integral part of F1 for many years. The French marque returned to being a full works team in 2016 and have striven to return to winning ways in the Turbo era. The fight has been uphill with little to celebrate along the way. Daniel Ricciardo got a new team-mate in Esteban Ocon for 2020. The Frenchman who was the reserve driver for Mercedes in 2019 made a return to F1. 

Renault was involved in an intense midfield battle which saw them finish 5th in the Constructors' Standings, but they had moments to cheer about in 2020. 

Ricciardo scored two 3rd place finishes at Nurburgring and Imola while Ocon came home in 2nd at the Sakhir GP. Ricciardo was the more consistent of the two team-mates with points finishes in 12 ( other ) races to Ocon's 9. The Australian finished the season in 5th with 119 points while Ocon managed 62 and 12th place. The team suffered retirements at pivotal moments in the season, costing it the chance to finish higher in the Constructors'. 

Reliability remains the biggest chink in Renault's armour. They would be disappointed about losing to a customer team in McLaren.

Despite the improvements seen in 2020, Ricciardo announced that he would switch to McLaren for 2021. Fernando Alonso, the Double World Champion who had retired in 2018 ( apparently ) makes a return with a two-year contract. The absence of a customer team in 2021 will pose an added challenge. Renault will become Alpine Racing F1 ( named after the brand's racing division ). Hopefully, the future is bright and blue!



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

The Ferrari works team had an interesting 2020. It wasn't smooth sailing between the new team-mates ( Vettel and Leclerc ) in 2019, but fans hoped to see one of them take the fight to Hamilton for the title in 2020. Ferrari worked hard over the winter to improve the downforce on their car. They had the most powerful engine on the grid which came under the scanner due to a dodgy fuel flow sensor. The FIA findings forced Ferrari to dial down the engine power. The result was devastating, and all Ferrari powered cars suffered from a lack of straight-line speed. 

There was more drama over the winter when an announcement broke out that Sebastian Vettel would be leaving the team at the end of the season with Carlos Sainz taking his place. Vettel later revealed that the team did not attempt to renew his contract, an experience that left him with a sour taste. The lack of trust set the tone for Vettel's season as the four-time World Champion struggled with multiple issues ( balance ) on his car. The 3rd place in Turkey was his best finish besides points finishes in 6 other races. He ended the season a lowly 13th with a mere 33 points to his name. 

Leclerc, on the other hand, yielded better results with two podiums in Austria and Silverstone. The Monegasque scored points in 8 more races, but the team failed to score a win for the first time since 2014. Leclerc finished the season in 8th with 98 points.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen" is synonymous with Ferrari's performance in 2020. Change is needed at multiple levels to stem the downturn, and 2021 is where the journey begins.



Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Red Bull's B-team, formerly known as Scuderia Toro Rosso got a new name for 2020. Named after Red Bull's fashion line, the Italian outfit got rechristened as Scuderia Alpha Tauri. 

The team had one of its best seasons in the sport. 

Pierre Gasly led the charge with an unlike victory at Monza, amassing 75 points and bagging 10th place in the Drivers' Standings. He scored points finishes in 9 other races while his team-mate Daniil Kvyat was able to bag only 32 points. Kvyat's best finish was 4th at Imola with points finishes in six more races. 

Alpha Tauri finished the season in 7th in the Constructors' Standings, only 24 points shy of the mighty Scuderia Ferrari. Honda Power was one of the reasons for its success in 2020. The Red Bull and Honda Protegee Yuki Tsunoda landed a drive alongside Gasly for 2021 and the only way forward is upwards for Alpha Tauri. 



Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo Racing had a great 2019 and hoped for an even better showing in 2020. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi renewed their partnership with Robert Kubica joining them from Williams as a reserve driver. However, like the Ferrari works team, Alfa Romeo too struggled with straight-line speed, unable to replicate their successes from 2019. They finished 8th in the Constructors' Championship with their drivers scoring 4 points apiece. Raikkonen's best finish was 9th at Mugello and Imola while Giovinazzi bagged 9th place at the season-opener in Austria and 10th in Nurburgring and Imola. Giovinazzi won the intra-team battle in Qualifying, but Raikkonen was more consistent on race day. 

Some race strategies adopted by the team were questionable and cost them more points finishes. 

The goal for 2021 would be to bridge the points gap to Alpha Tauri and build a car to counter the lack of outright speed from the Ferrari Power Unit.



Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 persisted with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for the 2020 season, a decision that attracted mixed reactions from the fans and experts. The Ferrari-powered Haas cars had a torrid 2020, the lack of straight-line speed combined with braking issues costing them dear in close racing. The team managed to score only 3 points over the year with Grojean's 9th place finish at the Eifel GP and Magnussen's 10th at Hungaroring. Gene Haas, the team owner, re-considered Haas' commitment to the sport citing its poor run over the recent years. However, the team decided to persist with this venture until 2025. 

Grosjean had a near-death experience when he collided with the barriers at the start of the Bahrain GP, emerging from a rising inferno, an image which became the flag-bearer for safety in the sport. The Frenchman who eventually won the intra-team battle was unfit for the final two rounds of the season. Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of the legendary Emerson Fittipaldi, got the nod to take his seat. 17th was the best that Fittipaldi Jr could manage at the Sakhir GP. 

Haas needed to bring a change if they were to better their results in 2021, and announced an all-new driver lineup with Mick Schumacher ( Michael Schumacher's son ) teaming up with Nikita Mazepin ( F2 Driver ) for 2021. Returning to more points-scoring finishes is a priority, and it was time to choose youth over experience. 



Williams Racing F1 Team :

Williams began its 2021 campaign with George Russell and rookie Nicolas Latifi with the hopes of reducing the deficit to the rest of the field. However, 2020 was another challenging year for the team. They failed to score a point despite coming close on a few occasions. The recurring costs and the challenges associated with running a team became too big a mountain for the Williams family to scale and Williams Racing got sold to a US-based investment firm Dorilton Capital in August. 

Russell had the rare opportunity of racing at Sakhir GP with Mercedes when Hamilton contracted COVID-19, but an unfortunate incident robbed him of what would have been a famous victory. Jack Aitken, the reserve driver, also got the opportunity to race and finished a commendable 16th. Russell's best finish was 11th at the Tuscan GP while Nicolas Latifi bagged three 11th place finishes in Austria, Italy and Emilia Romagna. The Canadian had an impressive debut year with Williams and will be pivotal in the team's plans to return to higher finishes in 2021.

The talented pairing in Russell and Latifi combined with the financial influx of new owners should make 2021 a different story for the Grove-based outfit. 



2020 was a memorable year for the sport despite the challenges that it posed. Fans got treated to great races throughout the year, and there was a lot done by the sport to improve fan engagement. 


Hopefully, 2021 would feature the full calendar with tracks opening their doors to fans again!


Mercedes and Hamilton were flawless in defence of their respective titles. Winning it for the 7th time was no easy feat, and it highlighted how the hunger for success never dies. Records got broken, and there will be more mountains to climb in 2021. Hamilton is now the most successful driver in the history of F1. Is he the "Greatest of all time?" is a discussion for another time.


The contenders for the titles in 2021 have work to do over the winter break, but for now, Hamilton and Mercedes keep rising.


2020 Abu Dhabi GP Race Recap : Clinical, Calm and Composed in a Bull!

The finale of the F1 season gets held at the Yas Marina International Circuit, and 2020 was no exception. The circuit designed by Hermann Tilke, situated on Yas Island, is the venue for farewells and goodbyes as drivers and mechanics move on to other ventures or teams for the next season.



This year was no different with a host of changes happening in 2021. Renault F1 and Racing Point F1 would race under the names of Alpine Racing F1 and Aston Martin Racing F1 next year. The drivers who would call it a day with their current teams were - Vettel at Ferrari, Perez at Racing Point, Sainz at McLaren, Ricciardo at Renault, Magnussen at Haas, Kyvat ( probably ) at Alpha Tauri. While Vettel, Sainz and Ricciardo had their future contracts locked in, uncertainties remained over Perez, Kvyat and Albon with Magnussen taking a sabbatical from the series.


Mercedes unveiled a special livery for the weekend, featuring the name of each person who has been a part of their success. Offtrack, McLaren announced that it had sold a minority stake ( in its F1 team ) to a consortium of US-based investors including MSP Sports Capital ( valued at 185 million pounds ).


Romain Grosjean, who had suffered a life-threatening accident at the Bahrain GP was unable to recover for the season finale and Fittipaldi, the reserve driver, got another opportunity in the Haas. Hamilton's availability ( due to COVID 19 ) was still a question mark. The reigning World Champion, however, tested negative in Bahrain on Wednesday, travelled to Abu Dhabi on Thursday where he produced another negative test, thus fulfilling the protocols of the UAE government and confirming his participation of the Final GP of the year. Russell returned to Williams while Aitken got re-assigned to the Reserve Driver Role.



The battle for P2 in the Drivers' Championship wasn't over, and neither was 3rd place in the Constructors'. Bottas, who had a mediocre showing against his stand-in team-mate ( Russell ) in Sakhir, hoped for a better showing in Abu Dhabi. Verstappen's charge got brought to a halt when he crashed on the opening lap ( at the Sakhir GP ), but Bottas' poor result kept him in the hunt for 2nd in the Championship.



Racing Point, who celebrated their maiden win and double podium were on the backfoot with Perez starting at the back of the grid due to a power unit change ( over and above the allocation ). Magnussen in the Haas was another driver to suffer a similar fate. Meanwhile, Leclerc carried a three-place grid penalty for his misdemeanour at the Sakhir GP. 



So, who reigned supreme in the lights of the Yas Marina International Circuit? Time for a quick recap!



Practice :


Free Practice 1 got underway with drivers trying different setups and exploring the limits of their cars. The teams also brought in 2021 parts to gather data and understand real-world results. Mick Schumacher, the 2020 F2 Champion and Haas F1 Driver for 2021 replaced Magnussen during FP1 while Kubica got another Friday drive at Alfa Romeo, taking Giovinazzi's place. Albon suffered a spin entering the marina section while Ricciardo ground to a halt with a fuel pressure problem that ruled him out of further participation in FP1. Meanwhile, Hamilton had a brake issue and had to sit out half of the session. It was Verstappen who topped the timesheets at the end of FP1, three-hundredths clear of Bottas. Ocon was 3rd for Renault ahead of Albon, Hamilton and Stroll who completed the top 6. Perez was 7th in the other Racing Point followed by the Alpha Tauris of Kvyat and Gasly who were having a strong second half with Raikkonen, the fastest Ferrari powered car in 10th.

Leclerc split the McLarens of Sainz and Norris followed by his team-mate Vettel in the other works Ferrari. Kubica was 15th from Russell and Latifi with the Haas cars of Schumacher and Fittipaldi completing the rear of the field. Ricciardo didn't set a lap time in FP1.




Pirelli had brought in the 2021 tyres for testing to Abu Dhabi, and the drivers were obliged to run eight timed laps on those sets. Raikkonen escaped a fire at the back of the Alfa Romeo in FP2, the Finn trying his best to assist the marshalls in finding the source of the flames. Smoke was still billowing when the car got extricated near the end of the session. Russell was another driver to suffer a power unit related issue, and the Williams crew exercised extreme caution as they tried to find the source of the problem since the car was leaking current. Albon had an eventful FP2, running wide several times and having his lap times deleted, and almost had a coming together with Ocon on a DRS straight. 

Meanwhile, Gasly suffered a spin at turn one while Vettel locked up his hard tyres at the same spot. The brake issues on Haas cars didn't seem to go away with Fittipaldi locking up both his tyres. The fastest time of FP2 belonged to Bottas, the Finn three-tenths clear of his team-mate, Hamilton. Verstappen led the two Red Bulls followed by Norris in 5th. Three-thousandths of a second separated Ocon, Perez, Leclerc and Ricciardo with Stroll completing the top 10. 

Sainz was in an Alpha Tauri sandwich of Kvyat and Gasly ahead of Raikkonen and Vettel. Magnussen was the fastest Haas car in 16th followed by Giovinazzi and Russell. Fittipaldi and Latifi completed the rear of the field. 




The Red Bulls reigned supreme in FP3 with Verstappen half a second clear of his team-mate Albon. The Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon popped in a surprise with the 3rd and 4th fastest times followed by Norris and Hamilton. Stroll was 7th for Racing Point, ahead of Sainz in the other McLaren with Bottas and Perez completing the top 10. The Alpha Tauris of Kvyat and Gasly had Leclerc splitting them with Vettel another three-tenths adrift. Russell got ahead of the Alfa Romeos while Latifi was in a Haas sandwich at the back of the field. 



It seemed to be a close affair between Mercedes and Red Bull, and the battle of "fine margins" continued in the midfield.



Qualifying :


Q1 got underway with the entire field choosing the soft tyres for their first runs. Ocon decided to stay in the pits and go "out-of-sync". There was drama in the pit lane with Verstappen having to slam the brakes to avoid hitting Latifi who got released out of the box by Williams, just ahead of the Dutchman. The incident got flagged for investigation by the stewards. Verstappen suffered a flat-spot on his tyres and expressed his displeasure. Giovinazzi and Hamilton had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 20. Hamilton straddled over the kerbs and requested the team to check for floor damage. The top 6 at the end of first runs were - Bottas, Perez, Albon, Stroll, Sainz and Leclerc. 


Hamilton and Verstappen managed only the 7th and the 10th quickest times, respectively. However, Verstappen improved to 2nd with 5 minutes remaining on the clock.


Raikkonen was on the cusp of elimination with Magnussen, Fittipaldi, Russell, Latifi and Giovinazzi in the drop zone. The Red Bulls, Racing Points, Sainz and Ricciardo chose to stay in the pits while the rest of the field came out on a fresh set of soft tyres. The lap times improved with track evolution, and Hamilton ended Q1 with the quickest time, followed by Bottas and Leclerc. Verstappen, Norris and Perez completed the top 6. Giovinazzi made it into Q2, eliminating his team-mate Raikkonen with Magnussen, Russell, Fittipaldi and Latifi being the other eliminations at the end of Q1.



Tyre choice was pivotal at the start of Q2, and there was a mixture of strategies adopted by the drivers. Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault sent their drivers on mediums while Alpha Tauri and Giovinazzi ( Alfa Romeo ) chose the softs. McLaren split the strategy with its drivers, Sainz choosing the mediums and Norris the softs. 


Albon and Ricciardo had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 21. Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Sainz, Verstappen and Gasly were the top 6 at the end of the first runs with Ocon, Giovinazzi, Albon, Ricciardo and Perez in the drop zone. Although Perez was to start at the back of the grid, the Mexican exited the pits to complete an installation lap on the soft tyres. 


Verstappen and Leclerc exited the pits with another set of medium tyres while the rest of the field chose softs for their final runs of Q2. Despite having fresh tyres, the majority of the drivers were unable to improve on their lap times. The top 6 at the end of Q2 changed to Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Albon, Norris and Leclerc with Ocon, Ricciardo, Vettel, Giovinazzi and Perez getting eliminated.



It was time for the top-ten-shootout, and the Alpha Tauris and Norris were on a used set of soft tyres for their first runs of Q3. A tenth and a half separated the top four drivers with Bottas on provisional pole from Verstappen, Hamilton and Albon. Sainz and Norris were 5th and 6th, followed by Stroll, Leclerc and the Alpha Tauris of Kvyat and Gasly.


Everyone was on a fresh set of soft tyres in the final minutes of Q3. Hamilton set blistering sector times and seemed to have bagged pole before Bottas relegated him to 2nd. However, a few seconds later, Verstappen crossed the finish line and pipped Bottas to pole! Norris catapulted his McLaren into 4th with Albon slotting in at P5. Sainz was 6th in the other McLaren followed by Kvyat and Stroll on row 4 and Leclerc and Gasly in row 5.




It was the first time in 2020 that a non-Mercedes car had bagged pole! Verstappen had pipped Bottas by two-hundredths and Hamilton by eight-hundredths of a second for the best starting position on Sunday. Celebrations erupted in the Red Bull garage, their months of hard work finally coming to fruition on Saturday. Verstappen had the perfect launch pad to fight for 2nd place in the Championship. Bottas was looking sharp all weekend while Hamilton was still getting back up to speed after his ten-day layoff due to COVID. Mercedes knew it wasn't going to be a leisurely Sunday evening drive. 


In a tight midfield, McLaren had a great chance of outscoring the Racing Points with their 4th and 6th place in Qualifying. Once again Red Bull didn't have both its cars in the top four but hoped to see Albon challenge the Mercedes since he would start on the faster and grippier soft tyres. 


Kvyat admitted that this was the best qualifying effort of his career as he looked to capitalize on Sunday. Stroll was Racing Point's best hope since Perez needed to carve his way through the field and needed an optimal strategy. The team was already on the backfoot in its defence for P3 in the Constructors' Championship. A stellar qualifying effort by Leclerc ensured Ferrari representation in the top 10. Gasly was 10th, and it was rare to see him getting out-qualified by his team-mate.


The biggest surprise of Qualifying was the Renaults. The duo had exceptional pace in FP3 but came up short in Qualifying. A free tyre choice, combined with a good strategy, could tip the balance in their favour. Vettel's travails continued on his farewell weekend, and the German was glad that only the race remained for his ordeal to end. Giovinazzi proved the doubters wrong by out-qualifying his more experienced team-mate Raikkonen and winning the team-mate battle for the season. Sunday was the day that mattered though. Haas and Williams remained stuck in the backmarker battle with Magnussen and Russell being the drivers on whom their hopes were riding. 



The race would be long and demanding, but it was time for one final push in 2020!



Race :


Sunday arrived, and it was time for the final race of 2020. C3, C4 and C5 were the compounds provided by Pirelli in what seemed to be a one-stop race.


Norris, Albon, Kvyat, Stroll and Gasly were the drivers inside the top 10 who started the race with their ( soft ) tyres from Q2. Those in the latter half of the field chose the mediums with Ricciardo, Perez and Magnussen opting for the hards.


The drivers took a knee in the fight against racism, stood in honour of the national anthem before handing Chase Carey, the outgoing CEO of F1 a helmet signed by all the drivers on the grid. It was then time for the formation lap, and the drivers got themselves ready for the final bout under the lights. 



The race got underway, and it was a clean getaway for Verstappen, the Dutchman comfortably fending off any challenge from the Mercedes into turn one. Bottas had a slower exit out of turn one but was able to hold onto 2nd despite the pressure from Hamilton. Further down the field, Ocon was able to jump Gasly for 10th while Vettel and Raikkonen overtook their team-mates for 12th and 14th, respectively. Magnussen moved up three positions from the back of the grid, and it was an incident-free opening lap.



Verstappen wasted no time in building a gap to the Mercedes and was 1.7 seconds clear at the end of lap 1. Gasly recovered 9th from Ocon on lap two at turn 9. Verstappen set the fastest lap on lap three while Perez, who had started 19th after the engine change, got past Fittipaldi for P18. Norris was holding off Albon in the battle for 4th, and the latter quipped that Norris was overdriving and might not be able to complete the race with a single stop. 



Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Norris, Albon, Sainz, Kvyat, Stroll, Gasly and Ocon were the top 10 at the end of lap 4. 



Perez relegated Russell to 17th ( lap 5 ) and Giovinazzi to 16th ( lap 6 ) while Renault instructed Ocon to let Ricciardo by ( for P10 ) a lap later. The battle for 4th culminated with Albon getting the better of Norris with DRS assistance. The Racing Point drivers were making overtakes on track with Stroll getting past Kvyat for 7th, and Perez completing a move on Raikkonen for 14th. Kvyat then lost 8th to team-mate Gasly while the VSC got deployed due to an incident in sector 3. Perez had ground to a halt at turn 19 ( lap 10 ), retiring from his final race with Racing Point. 



It was still early for a pit stop, but the teams decided to utilize the VSC period to pit their drivers. The Ferraris, Ricciardo, Giovinazzi and Magnussen chose to stay out while the rest of the field pitted for a fresh set of hard tyres. Sainz got flagged for investigation ( post-race ) for driving unnecessarily slowly in the pitlane. The marshalls needed more time for extrication, and the VSC got changed to a full Safety Car. As the field got bunched up again, Hamilton complained about balance issues on his car. Perez and his mechanics at Racing Point were distraught, and they knew the ramifications of this retirement in the battle for 3rd in the Constructors'.



The Safety Car returned to the pits at the end of lap 13, and it was a clean getaway by Verstappen again. Raikkonen got past Magnussen for 15th while Sainz relegated Leclerc to 9th on lap 14. Giovinazzi, one of the drivers who chose to stay out, lost 12th to Ocon while Stroll got past Leclerc for 9th, only for the Monegasque to fight back and retake the position at the end of the straight. Giovinazzi continued to fall backwards with Kvyat and Raikkonen getting past the Italian in the space of 2 laps while Sainz overtook Vettel for 7th ( lap 17 ). 



Leclerc suffered a similar fate and got overtaken by Stroll, Gasly and Ocon, warning the team that he needed to pit if he wanted to salvage something from the race. He finally pitted from 12th on lap 23, for a set of hard tyres, rejoining in 19th and last. On the track, Russell got past Giovinazzi for 15th while Stroll was honing in on Vettel for 8th, but ran wide at turn 11, allowing Gasly to reduce the deficit to him instead. 



Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Albon, Ricciardo, Norris, Sainz, Vettel, Stroll and Gasly were the top 10 at the end of lap 26. 



Leclerc began to recover the places he had lost with overtakes on Fittipaldi, Latifi and Magnussen for 18th, 17th and 16th respectively. Giovinazzi pitted on lap 29 for hard tyres, rejoining in 19th while Latifi got past Magnussen for 16th. Verstappen was lapping six-tenths quicker than the Mercedes duo and extended his lead to 7 seconds at the front. 



Stroll, who had failed to get past Vettel, now found himself defending 9th from Gasly. The defence didn't last long, and Gasly was up into 9th on lap 30. The Frenchman then closed in on Vettel and got past him for 8th, but the latter put up a dogged fight, his tyres unable to provide the levels of traction like Gasly's though. Further down the field, Magnussen lost 17th to Fittipaldi. The Haas driver finally pitted for mediums on lap 33, rejoining in last. The battle for 14th was an intense one between Russell and Leclerc, and the latter was able to get the job done on lap 35.



Hamilton reported that he had suffered a flat-spot on his tyres while Vettel finally pitted for a set of medium tyres on lap 36, rejoining in 15th behind Russell. Latifi did the same on lap 37, rejoining in 17th. The last of the drivers to pit, amongst those who had started on the hard tyres, was Ricciardo. The Australian pitted from P5, having held off Norris long enough, for a fresh set of mediums on lap 40, and rejoined in 7th. Leclerc was now on the tail of Raikkonen for 12th and had an opportunity to pass on lap 41, but Raikkonen fended off the challenge, his experience coming to the fore.



Vettel got past Russell for 14th on lap 42 while Mercedes asked Bottas to start pushing and close the gap to Verstappen in front. However, Verstappen responded with quicker laps of his own, extending his lead by another two seconds. 



Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Albon, Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo, Gasly, Stroll and Ocon were the top 10 at the end of lap 45. 



Leclerc got a Black and White Flag for exceeding track limits at turn 21 multiple times. Haas pitted both its drivers with Magnussen switching to new mediums and Fittipaldi to softs on laps 49 and 50 respectively. Giovinazzi was honing in on Russell in the battle for 15th as Albon started to catch Hamilton for the final podium position, reducing the deficit to less than 2 seconds. Ocon closed up on Stroll and got past him for P9 on the last lap.



Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and Victory at the 2020 Abu Dhabi GP. The Dutchman could have completed the "Grand Slam" but for Ricciardo to take the point for the fastest lap off him on the last lap. Bottas and Hamilton came home in 2nd and 3rd for Mercedes, followed by Albon in the other Red Bull and the McLarens of Norris and Sainz. Ricciardo, Gasly, Ocon and Stroll completed the top 10. 


Kvyat was 11th in the other Alpha Tauri, followed by Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo. The works Ferrari team could only manage 13th and 14th followed by Russell and Giovinazzi. Latifi, Magnussen and Fittipaldi were the final classified finishers. 



While Verstappen celebrated with Red Bull on parc-ferme, Hamilton and Bottas performed their customary season-ending donuts on the start-finish straight. Magnussen did the same in the final sector as the Dane returned to the pits, his last race in F1. The radio channels got flooded with emotional exchanges between teams and drivers, some bidding farewell and some thanking their mechanics for the season, vowing to return re-energized for the challenge in 2021. 



Verstappen had given it his all, but Bottas' 2nd place was enough for P2 in the Drivers' Championship. Albon did all he could in the other Red Bull, but the final decision about renewal for 2021 rests with the team. Hamilton had recovered from COVID-19 but not to full fitness, and it showed. The Mercedes duo was managing an MGU-K issue which explained their lack of pace against the Red Bull of Verstappen. Norris and Sainz' 5th and 6th place finish combined with Perez's retirement in the race allowed McLaren to jump Racing Point in the Constructors' Championship. The investigation on Sainz ended with "no action taken", and McLaren had bagged 3rd place in the Championship


Perez didn't get an ideal farewell with Racing Point, but finishing 4th in the Drivers' Championship makes his CV for 2021 stronger. It had been an eventful year for Racing Point, from its RP20 being called the "Pink Mercedes" to having 15 points docked in Constructors' Championship. Despite the penalties dished out to them, they had accomplished a lot in 2020.


Renault had another double-points weekend, and they would miss the services of Ricciardo who is McLaren bound for 2021. They were locked in an intense battle all season long, and 5th was the best they could achieve. Alpha Tauri had a strong second half and got close to outscoring Ferrari. Gasly was the star of the show and with Honda backed F2 driver Tsunoda coming in, things can only get better in 2021. 


Raikkonen had a strong end to the season, finishing the highest of the Ferrari-powered cars in the season finale. Giovinazzi out-qualified his team-mate, Raikkonen, and would be looking to produce more points-scoring finishes in 2021. It was back to the drawing board for Ferrari, the Maranello-based outfit ending the season a dismal 6th in the Constructors'. Russell carried a thank-you tribute on his helmet for Sir Frank Williams and Claire Williams and would be hoping to bring Williams further up the grid next year. His team-mate Latifi would also need to step up his performances. Magnussen said goodbye to the sport, having spent the majority of his career in the midfield, his talent never getting the recognition it deserved. It was a good learning experience ( in the final two rounds ) for Fittipaldi who would take up the role of reserve driver again in 2021.



Verstappen controlled the race from start to finish, kept it clean and reaped the rewards at the end. Hamilton and Bottas had no answer to his pace and looked second-best throughout the weekend, but they had already accomplished what they set out to achieve. Nevertheless, this win helped Verstappen and Red Bull sign off 2020 on the right note and carry the momentum into 2021.



2020 had been a tough year for the world, and the likelihood of having a sizeable F1 season seemed improbable at the onset of the pandemic in March. However, the FIA, FOM and Liberty Media planned an elaborate yet hectic calendar of 17 races and accomplished the task. Kudos to them! The sport returned to some classic tracks besides visiting venues where F1 had never raced before. Some even welcomed fans. The 2020 Season had been unique in that way. There were 78000 COVID Tests throughout the season, and the protocols set in place got followed to the T. 

 


The start of the 2021 F1 Season is less than 100 days away, and the battle will resume in March, Down Under!



Till then, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

2020 Sakhir GP Race Recap : The Last became the First!

The 2020 F1 Season was drawing to a close, and two races remained from the truncated calendar. The final triple-header of the year saw two back-to-back races at the Bahrain International Circuit, with the penultimate race getting held on the outer loop of the track. The circuit, which has six variations, had never seen racing on this layout. F1 cars could complete a lap in 55 seconds with drivers applying full throttle for 75% of the lap. A marathon race of 87 laps awaited the teams and drivers where fuel management could prove pivotal. 



It had been an eventful week after the Bahrain GP which saw Romain Grosjean escape from a life-threatening crash. The FIA added a tyre wall to the repaired barriers at turn 3, which was the scene of the accident the previous weekend. Grosjean was still on the mend, and the team brought in the Reserve Driver, Pietro Fittipaldi ( grandson of Emerson Fittipaldi ) as the replacement. Fittipaldi Jr. wasn't the only rookie to take the F1 wheel, however. 



News broke out that Lewis Hamilton, the Seven-Time World Champion had tested positive for COVID-19 and would sit out the Sakhir GP weekend. Mercedes had Reserve Driver Stoffel Vandoorne waiting in the wings, but they chose to promote their protegee George Russell into the vacant W11 seat. While Russell moved across the paddock, Williams gave Jack Aitken, their reserve driver, the chance of driving their 2020 contender. Would these replacements remain for the final race or not remained to be seen, but it was an incredible opportunity for the rookies and Russell to prove their talent and mettle in the best racing series.



Meanwhile, off track, Ferrari announced a reorganisation in their technical department for 2021 with Simone Resta, the head of the Chassis Engineering Department moving to Haas F1. Enrico Cardile was the replacement announced. Haas F1 Team announced their driver line-up for 2021 by bringing in Mick Schumacher, the son of the legendary Michael Schumacher and F2 driver Nikita Mazepin. Callum Ilott, the other contender for the 2020 F2 Crown and Ferrari Academy Driver, got overlooked, unfortunately. 



Only 12 points separated Bottas from Verstappen, and with Hamilton out of the reckoning, both had an opportunity of scoring the maximum haul of points on the weekend. Was the newcomer Russell able to throw a spanner in the works? Albon, in the sister Red Bull, had two more opportunities to prove his worthiness for 2021, was he able to do his chances any good? Racing Point had an opportunity of making right the disappointments of the previous weekend. How did they fare?



Time for a quick recap!



Practice :


FP1 got underway with drivers learning the limits of the new layout while negotiating the bumps and sudden changes of direction. Traffic was another challenge due to the short duration of a lap. Norris narrowly missed hitting Perez while Leclerc ran wide at turn six and Albon suffered a spin at turn two. Gasly's Alpha Tauri's wing mirror came loose, and the Frenchman had to return to the pits cautiously. Russell's tall frame was the cause of some discomfort ( for his shoulders ) in the Mercedes, but the Briton managed to set the fastest time of FP1, a 54.5 seconds lap. 


Less than a second separated the top 10 drivers with Verstappen, Albon, Bottas, Kvyat and Gasly completing the top 6. Vettel split the Renaults of Ocon and Kvyat with Leclerc a further two-tenths adrift. The Racing Points of Stroll and Perez were 11th and 12th followed by Sainz in his McLaren. Raikkonen and Giovinazzi were the fastest Ferrari customer drivers ( in the Alfa Romeo ) while Norris had a disappointing FP1 in 16th. Magnussen, Latifi, Fittipaldi and Aitken completed the rear of the field.



Track limits got enforced at turn eight by the stewards at the start of FP2.  Several drivers had run wide in FP1, and the stewards deemed it necessary to dish out lap-time deletions for infringements. Bottas was one such driver who had a torrid time in FP2, leaving the confines of the track on multiple occasions. He even suffered from multiple lap time deletions from exceeding track limits. The flying gravel from one of his off-track excursions hit Gasly's finger which left him grimacing over the radio. Understeer became a challenge for both Red Bull drivers as they tried to push harder on their qualifying and race simulations. Vettel suffered two spins in the sessions, at turns two and five, narrowly missing a collision with Magnussen in the second incident. Leclerc, in the sister Ferrari, suffered a driveshaft failure early on in the session and was unable to rejoin in FP2. Norris went over the kerbs at turn three which damaged the floor of his McLaren. The Briton returned to the track in the latter half of the session but returned to the pits after McLaren discovered multiple issues on the out-lap. Sainz too suffered from "gear synchronisation" issues, but it was a quick fix in the garage. 


Russell topped the timesheets again with Verstappen and Perez less than two-tenths adrift. Ocon, Albon and Kvyat completed the top 6 with Stroll, Ricciardo and Gasly less than half a second shy of the fastest lap time. Sainz was 10th in his McLaren with Bottas setting only the 11th fastest time in the other Mercedes ( but on the hard tyres ). The Finn's lap times in qualifying simulations on soft tyres got deleted due to exceeding of track limits. The Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi improved to 12th and 13th with Magnussen and Latifi a second down on Russell's time. Vettel and Norris languished down in 16th and 17th ahead of rookies Fittipaldi and Aitken. Leclerc didn't set a time in FP2. 



The Friday Practice sessions were a close affair between the teams. A few tenths separated those in the midfield, and it was imperative to have a clean lap on a ( relatively ) clear track to gain the positions on offer. Bottas had a challenging Friday and needed to get the right balance for Saturday. Ferrari and McLaren had compromised running on Friday and needed to do a lot more come Free Practice 3.



Saturday arrived, and it was time for Free Practice 3. Verstappen suffered a spin at turn two while Vettel switched to a different setup for FP3. However, his run got curtailed after a trip on the kerbs and Ferrari opted to change Vettel's engine as a precautionary measure. It was Verstappen who set the fastest time of FP3, two tenths clear of Bottas. Gasly was 3rd in the Alpha Tauri with Ocon, Norris and Albon completing the top 6. Russell was 7th in the other Mercedes followed by Perez, Stroll and Sainz. 


Giovinazzi was performing well in his Alfa Romeo and set the 11th fastest time followed by Kvyat in the other Alpha Tauri. It was a lucky escape for Leclerc who spun at the last turn in the final minutes of the session, en route to the 13th quickest time. Ricciardo split the Ferraris followed by Raikkonen who was more than a second slower of Verstappen's time in 16th. Magnussen, Latifi, Fittipaldi and Aitken remained at the back of the pack.



The Mercedes duo and Verstappen were the class of the field, and the battle for pole promised to be a tight affair. The fight for supremacy in the midfield too was a matter of "fine margins" going into Qualifying. The teams needed to get their calculations right to ensure that their drivers would have the best possible chance to qualify. 



Qualifying :


Fittipaldi got a grid penalty and would start at the back of the grid. The team had to make changes to his power unit elements ( new control electronics and energy store ). Nevertheless, the Brazilian took to the track at the start of Q1. Haas, Williams, Sainz and Raikkonen were the early runners in Q1 with Sainz choosing the hard tyres. The Alpha Tauris and Mercedes followed shortly with medium tyres with the rest of the field opting for softs. All cars were out on track with 10 minutes left of Q1. Norris had his lap time deleted for exceeding of track limits at turn 8.


Verstappen, Perez, Ricciardo, Bottas, Albon and Stroll were the top 6 at the end of the first runs. Sainz was on the cusp of elimination with Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Aitken, Latifi and Fittipaldi in the drop zone. It wasn't smooth sailing for Raikkonen who complained about braking issues on his first run.


The drivers came out with a fresh set of tyres ( softs ) and the lap times kept improving with track evolution. Aitken jumped to 15th, Latifi to 16th and Raikkonen to 13th. Verstappen, Perez, Ricciardo, Sainz and Albon chose to stay put as the rest of the field tried to sure up their chances of making it into Q2. Bottas went the fastest at the end of Q1 from Verstappen and Russell. The McLaren of Norris was 4th fastest followed by Gasly and Perez. Albon had a lucky escape in the final minutes of Q1 as he ended with only the 15th quickest time. The eliminations from Q1 were Magnussen, Latifi, Aitken, Raikkonen and Fittipaldi. 




Q2 got underway with the Renaults, Racing Points and Albon opting to stay in the pits while the Mercedes, Ferraris and Verstappen chose the medium tyres for their first runs. Gasly exceeded track limits at turn eight and had his lap time deleted. Five-hundredths of a second separated Perez, Bottas, Sainz, Russell and Stroll ( top 5 ) with Gasly, Leclerc, Vettel, Norris and Giovinazzi in the drop zone. 


The Ferrari drivers emerged with a new set of medium tyres, but Vettel aborted his flying lap and returned to the pits. Vettel didn't have the confidence of making it into Q3 with the mediumsbut Leclerc continued and broke into the top 6. Barring the Mercedes drivers, the rest of the field chose the soft tyres. Norris made two attempts to set a representative lap time but aborted both attempts. 


Verstappen ended Q2 with the quickest time from Perez and Bottas. Sainz, Russell and Leclerc completed the top 6 with Ocon, Albon, Vettel, Giovinazzi and Norris getting knocked out.



The start of Q3 saw Gasly emerge out of the pits with a set of medium tyres while his team-mate Kvyat and the Racing Point drivers chose to stay put. The first runs were complete, and it was Verstappen on provisional pole from Leclerc and Bottas, a tenth separating the trio. Perez was 4th, splitting the Mercedes following by Ricciardo, Sainz, Stroll, Kvyat and Gasly. However, the Mercedes duo had set their lap times on used softs, and they would go quicker on their final runs.


Leclerc had set a blistering lap time, but was out of soft tyres and couldn't take further part in Q3. Bottas and Russell had tyres for two more attempts, and both didn't disappoint. They locked out the front row with five minutes left on the clock. The final minutes of Q3 saw the battle for pole intensify. 


Bottas, Russell and Verstappen were setting blistering sector times, but it was Bottas who bagged pole for the Sakhir GP. Russell was shy by two-hundredths and Verstappen by five-hundredths. Leclerc's earlier attempt was good enough for 4th with Perez and Kvyat taking up row 3. Row 4 got snapped up by Ricciardo and Sainz and five by Gasly and Stroll.



It had been a close contest for pole, but Bottas got the job done in the end. Russell put in a fine effort to be within two-hundredths of Bottas' time on his first outing. Mercedes got another front-row lockout and were the favourites for victory on race day. Verstappen would be disappointed to have missed a front row start by a small margin. No one predicted Ferrari to be on row 2 of the grid, but Leclerc accomplished the unthinkable. Sunday would be the real challenge though. Perez's performances in the Racing Point continued to impress one and all, and Kvyat produced a stellar lap to end up 6th on the grid. The midfield was tight as ever, and strategy would prove pivotal in the battle between the Renaults, McLarens, Racing Points and the Alpha Tauris. 


Albon had yet another mediocre performance on Saturday and needed to step up on Sunday whereas Vettel was still struggling with the balance of his car. The German had a free tyre choice, and the race could be a different story. Giovinazzi would be encouraged with another appearance in Q2 for Alfa Romeo, edging out Norris who looked off the pace throughout Qualifying. Magnussen was the best bet for Haas, and Latifi and Aitken would be ecstatic about edging out former World Champion Raikkonen in Qualifying. Raikkonen, on the other hand, would be looking to set things right on Sunday.



A mammoth 87 laps awaited the teams in what promised to be an exciting race under the lights of the Bahrain International Circuit. 



Race :


Pirelli provided the same sets of dry tyres from the previous weekend ( C2, C3 and C4 ) in what seemed to be a two-stop race.


Norris and McLaren decided to switch to a new power unit and started the race at the back of the grid alongside Fittipaldi. 


The Mercedes drivers were on the medium tyres from Q2 while others in the top 10 on the softs. The following drivers outside the top 10 chose the softs - Norris, Latifi, Magnussen and Fittipaldi while Ocon, Albon, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Aitken and Raikkonen opted for the mediums.


Bottas led the field away on the formation lap while Russell was slower off the line. The Briton was still learning about his loaned Mercedes and needed a good start to fend off the challenge from Verstappen. 



The five red lights went out, and it was a good start off the line for both the Mercedes cars. However, it was Russell who got the inside line at turn one and took the lead of the race! Perez and Verstappen were jostling for position, but Verstappen held onto P3. Bottas was slow out of turn two and got swamped by the trio of Verstappen, Perez and Leclerc. The quartet was racing close to each other, and there was drama at turn four. Perez got tagged at the rear by Leclerc, sending him into a spin and breaking the latter's front suspension. Verstappen, who was on the outside, tried to take avoiding action, ending up in the gravel and eventually running out of road. He collided with the barriers, retiring from the race along with Leclerc. Perez was able to continue, but pitted for mediums, rejoining in last. The incident got flagged for investigation, and Leclerc got a three-place grid drop for the next race.


Further down the field, Raikkonen suffered a spin at turn two while Norris had a mega start and was up to 10th, having started P19. 


The Safety Car got deployed to remove the stricken cars and racing didn't resume until lap 7. Russell had a clean restart while Sainz got past Bottas for 2nd, but ran wide, allowing Bottas to retake the position. Raikkonen lost 17th to Perez who then dispatched Fittipaldi and Aitken for 15th a lap later, and Norris overtook Vettel for 9th. Perez continued his charge up the field with an overtake on Giovinazzi for 13th, while Raikkonen got past Fittipaldi for P17 ( lap 9 ).


Russell started pulling away with the fastest lap ( lap 10 ) while Perez relegated Magnussen to 13th. Raikkonen got past Aitken for P16 while Perez was closing in on the battle between Vettel and Albon for 10th. It was job done for Albon on lap 12 with Vettel losing 11th to Perez on the same lap. The Mercedes duo started to pull away from the rest of the field, and Sainz had Ricciardo's company in the battle for third. 


Russell, Bottas, Sainz, Ricciardo, Kvyat, Stroll, Gasly, Ocon, Norris and Albon were the top 10 at the end of lap 16. 


Magnussen got relegated to 15th by Latifi and Giovinazzi while Bottas set the fastest lap of the race. Albon and Perez got past Norris for 9th and 10th respectively, and the Briton pitted immediately after for a set of medium tyres, rejoining in 18th and last. It was 9th for Perez who got past Albon while Russell set the fastest lap of the race. 


Raikkonen pitted for hard tyres on lap 25, but it was a slow stop due to a troublesome left front tyre. Norris got past Fittipaldi for 16th, and the pit stop window was now open for those on a two-stop strategy. Giovinazzi and Magnussen pitted on lap 27 for hards and mediums respectively while Kvyat was the first from the top 10 to pit for a set of mediums. There was a slew of pit stops with Sainz and Gasly switching to the mediums ( lap 29 ) followed by Ricciardo a lap later. The undercut worked for Kvyat who jumped Ricciardo in the round of pitstops while Norris got past Aitken for P12. Vettel, the only Ferrari left in the race, pitted on lap 33 for a set of hard tyres, rejoining in 13th behind Latifi, but immediately overtaking the Canadian. Ricciardo was harrowing Kvyat for P8, but the Russian was able to fend off the challenge and set the fastest lap of the race. 


Russell, Bottas, Stroll, Ocon, Perez, Albon, Sainz, Kvyat, Ricciardo and Gasly were the top 10 at the end of lap 38. 


Ocon pitted on lap 42, switching to the hard tyres and rejoining in 10th. Stroll pitted a lap later, switching to the mediums and emerged out of the pits ahead of Ocon. However, Ocon had his tyres up to operating temperatures and regained track position with the help of DRS. He then went on to set the fastest lap of the race on lap 45 while Russell was nearing his first pit stop and got told to push by the team. Russell pitted from the lead on lap 46, putting on the hard tyres and rejoining in 2nd. He reclaimed the fastest lap time a couple of laps later as he began reducing the gap to his team-mate Bottas who was yet to pit. The Briton reported power issues which got resolved with a settings-change on the dash. 


Perez and Albon were the next to pit for hard tyres, emerging in 9th and 11th with Norris splitting the duo. The stewards issued Albon Black and White Flag for exceeding track limits multiple times ( lap 49 ). Bottas, who had tried to extend his stint on the mediums, finally pitted on lap 50 for hard tyres but had lost time to Russell, now 8 seconds adrift. Mercedes asked Russell to be careful while driving at turns 7 and 8 since it was putting a strain on the front left tyre. Gasly had to pit for the 2nd time on lap 52 for hard tyres, dropping him out of the points. Albon got past Norris for P9 on lap 53 while Kvyat pitted for the hard tyres. Gasly caught up to Vettel and overtook him for P11 on lap 55 just before the Virtual Safety Car got deployed for an incident on track.


It was Latifi who came to a halt at the exit of turn 8 with what seemed to be a mechanical issue. Norris pitted under VSC, switching to the medium tyres while Vettel and Magnussen chose the soft tyres. It was a slow stop for Vettel, the front left tyre getting stuck. Giovinazzi was another driver who ditched his hard tyres for a fresh set of mediums. The Virtual Safety Car period didn't last long, and Sainz and Ricciardo pitted just after green flag racing had resumed, switching to the mediums and hards respectively, and lost time in the process. Perez, who was managing his power unit, had closed in on his team-mate Stroll who made a mistake at turn four allowing the Mexican to take 4th. A lap later, it was Ocon who got bumped out of 3rd by Perez on the pit straight with the help of DRS. Meanwhile, at the front, Bottas was honing in on Russell, and the gap was down to 5.5 seconds. The Finn further reduced the deficit with two blistering laps on his hard tyres. 


The Virtual Safety Car got deployed again due to debris on the track. It was Aitken who had lost his front wing and pitted for a new front wing and soft tyres. The rookie had spun at the final corner and hit the orange barriers, losing his front wing in the process. The dislodged front wing was on the racing line, and there wasn't a gap big enough for the stewards to extricate the debris. The stewards decided to deploy the Safety Car and bunch up the field.



Mercedes called in their drivers for another stop, going in for the "double stack". It was a slightly slow stop for Russell who switched to the mediums, but there was chaos when Bottas drove into the box. The mechanics weren't ready with the tyres, and there was confusion with the tyres to put on; then, the left front brake overheated and caught fire while the tyre gun malfunctioned. Bottas emerged from the pits with the same set of hard tyres that he had pitted on! The Finn's 27 seconds stop had cost him track position to Perez, Ocon and Stroll, and he was down in 5th. The drama didn't end there. Mercedes discovered that they had put the wrong set of tyres on Russell's car. The Briton was driving with the tyres allocated to Bottas! He got the instruction to pit again a lap later, switched to the soft tyres, and rejoined behind Bottas. Russell, who was coasting to victory, now found himself down in 5th, all his hard work undone while Bottas had gone through a lengthy stop without switching to a new set of tyres! Mercedes had lost the initiative. Further down the field, Vettel, Raikkonen and Fittipaldi pitted for the third time, switching to the soft tyres for the final stint in the race.



The lapped cars were allowed to overtake the Safety Car and return on the lead lap, and racing resumed at the end of lap 68. Stroll almost rear-ended Ocon as Perez tried to bunch up the field. It was a great restart by Perez who led the field into turn one while Albon got past Gasly for P9. Russell wasted no time in his quest of reclaiming the top stop, getting past team-mate Bottas at turn eight in a spectacular yet clean overtake. Raikkonen and Magnussen went wheel-to-wheel for 14th, and it was job done for Raikkonen on lap 71. Magnussen got warned with a Black & White flag for exceeding track limits on multiple occasions. 



Russell relegated Stroll to 4th on lap 72 and was into 2nd with a pass on Ocon a lap later. Perez had built a gap of 3.5 seconds to Russell but was on old hard tyres. He wouldn't stand a chance against the charging Briton once he closed up and they wheel-to-wheel. The charge for victory began in full earnest as Russell set the fastest lap of the race on lap 76, bringing the gap down to 2.5 seconds. His team-mate Bottas was going the other way. His hard tyres had fallen off the cliff, and he lost positions to Sainz, Ricciardo, Albon and Kvyat in the space of 2 laps. 



There was more drama on lap 78. Russell had closed the gap to Perez to 2.1 seconds when Mercedes informed him about a puncture on the rear left tyre! Russell had to pit for the 4th time, dropping him down to 15th place! The Briton didn't hold back his exasperation, all his hard work coming to nought. To add insult to injury, the stewards decided to investigate the issue of "incorrect tyres" on Russell's car after the race. 



Perez now led the race with a cushion of 8 seconds from Ocon and Stroll. Russell began his charge through the field, passing Magnussen, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi and Vettel in the space of 2 laps. Bottas, on the other hand, complained about his old tyres being "undrivable", but the team asked him to soldier on. Perez had extended his lead to 10 seconds and continued to pull further away while Norris got past Gasly for 9th ( lap 85 ). A lap later, Russell was back into the points, relegating Gasly to 11th. The final lap had begun, and Perez and Racing Point seemed destined to win their first-ever race. Russell got past Norris for 9th, and that would be the best he would finish with at the end of the day. 



Perez crossed the finish line to win the 2020 Sakhir GP for Racing Point! Ocon came home in 2nd for Renault and Stroll completed a double podium for Racing Point. 4th was the best that Sainz could achieve, having run in the podium positions for the early part of the race with Ricciardo ending up in 5th. Both lost time when they pitted just after the Virtual Safety Car period had ended. Albon was 6th for Red Bull followed by Kvyat in his Alpha Tauri. Bottas and Russell came home in 8th and 9th for Mercedes with Norris taking the final points-scoring position.


Gasly drove hard but ended up in 11th. Vettel was 12th for Ferrari ahead of the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen. Magnussen, Aitken and Fittipaldi were the final classified finishers.



It was a day of contrasting emotions - while Racing Point and Perez were celebrating their wina disconsolate Russell was lying on the grass at the back of the paddock, thinking about what "could have been" had there not been a mix-up in the pit lane with regards to the tyres. 



Russell had driven his heart out, led from the start, controlling the race clinically and yet coming up short. There was no doubt that he would win one day, not just a race or two, but the Championship; but that day would come on another day. Motorsports can be cruel, and some experiences are gut-wrenching. Raikkonen who suffered a fair share of bad luck in his younger days used to quip "these things happen in sport, part and parcel of racing", and this experience would make Russell stronger, mentally. Nevertheless, his performance on the weekend proves how ready he is for the sharp end of the grid. 


Lewis Hamilton's availability for Abu Dhabi hangs in the balance. The reigning World Champion faces a race against time as he tries to recover from COVID-19. If he is unable to fulfil the protocols set by the UAE government, then Russell would remain in the Mercedes seat for the final round of the 2020 season and have another shot at victory. 


Russell deserves to be in a Mercedes, full-time, sooner rather than later. He is worthy of that honour. 



Mercedes got fined 20000 Euros for their mistake with the incorrect tyres on Russell's car. The stewards decided against disqualification ( which is the rule ) and imposed a financial penalty instead. An intercom failure was to blame for the blunder that cost the team another 1-2 finish and Russell a win. Such days are rare for a team like Mercedes, but they are humans at the end of the day. An apology by the team followed shortly after.  



Bottas blew a golden chance of cementing 2nd place in the Drivers' Championship when Verstappen retired from the race. The Finn lacked motivation and looked lacklustre the entire race. He cannot afford such mediocrity if he is to pose a semblance of a challenge to Hamilton in 2021. He needs to step up his performances as the threat of losing his seat to a younger and more talented driver looms large. 



Verstappen would have been in the reckoning for victory but crashed ( no fault of his own ) on the opening lap while trying to take avoiding action. The Dutchman can still claim 2nd in the Championship and will go all out in Abu Dhabi. Albon's 6th place was uninspiring; there were shades of brilliance, but yet not good enough. If he doesn't produce something magical in Abu Dhabi, a sabbatical awaits him. 



The midfield battle has taken another dramatic turn with Racing Point and Renault's haul of points this weekend. McLaren was in damage limitation mode and would need a better outing in Abu Dhabi, needing to outscore the Racing Points by 11 points or more. Renault is still in the hunt for 3rd place, but a 22 points deficit might be too big an ask. Ocon scored the first podium of his F1 career, a stellar drive by the Frenchman who stopped only once during the race. He is getting stronger with each passing weekend, and this augurs well for Renault.



Ferrari blew their chance of a strong finish when Leclerc made contact with Perez on the opening lap leading to the Monegasque's retirement. A three-place grid penalty for Leclerc in Abu Dhabi only compounds matters. Vettel is counting down the days left with Ferrari as his season goes from bad to worse with each passing race. They need to fend off a resurgence from Alpha Tauri, or they would end the season a disappointing 7th. Alfa Romeo's mercurial performances in 2020 remain a mystery while Haas and Williams would be proud of the drives put in by their rookies Fittipaldi and Aitken. Fittipaldi would race again since Grosjean was declared unfit for participation in the season-ender at Abu Dhabi following his horrific crash. Aitken's eligibility is dependent on Hamilton's, but the Briton had a commendable outing in his first Grand Prix.



Perez and Racing Point scored their maiden win in F1. It was also the team's first-ever double podium, and a Mexican driver won again after a gap of 50 years! Perez was last and out of the reckoning at the end of lap 1, but he produced a drive full of character and skill as he made his way through the field, being in the right place at the right time when misfortune hit the Mercedes duo. He has done more than one can ask to warrant a drive in 2021, yet his career remains in limbo. The cries for a top seat grow louder; hopefully, Perez wouldn't have to wait for long. However, he can bask in the glory and the honour of being a Grand Prix winner. Stroll had another strong weekend, taking up the final podium spot, stopping only once like Ocon in the race. 



Racing Point had two eventful weekends; from suffering a Double DNF ( with Stroll getting inverted at the race restart and Perez suffering from an MGU-K failure while running in 3rd ) to scoring their first-ever win and double podium a weekend later. A complete change of fortunes for the Silverstone-based outfit. The team was short on parts to build two race cars, and parts got flown in on Thursday evening, such were the challenges faced by Racing Point! 



The final race of the season at the iconic Yas Marina Circuit beckons. Will we see a young protegee on the top step of the podium or will the seasoned campaigner make a return in time? 



Time will tell! 

A Tribute to the Heroes of Formula 1!

F1 is the pinnacle of Motorsport. Every racer dreams of being in the sport and winning races and championships, but only a few make it to the zenith. The drivers in F1 get the fastest machines on the planet, race in multiple locations across the globe getting the love of scores of fans. Life in the sport, as thrilling as it may be, comes with its fair share of dangers.



Fatalities in F1 were a common occurrence up until the 1990s, and the sport lost many talented racers in their prime. Sir Jackie Stewart was a crusader for safety during the 60s and the 70s. Ayrton Senna's untimely death at Imola in 1994 was a big wakeup call. The Triple World Champion had been an advocate of improving the safety standards, and the onus was on the FIA and the FOM to deliver, and step up they did; with Professor Sid Watkins, Charlie Whiting, Herbie Blash and many others taking drastic steps in this regard.



F1, the pioneer in innovation and technology, was setting new benchmarks with each passing year, but disaster struck the sport in 2014. Jules Bianchi, Ferrari protegee, lost his life due to the injuries sustained from a heart-wrenching accident with a tractor crane at the Japanese GP. 



The governing bodies had done so much and yet come up short. The steps taken to mitigate such incidents began with the introduction of Virtual Safety Car periods ( in double yellow flag conditions ) and the HALO System. HALO is a slingshot shape piece, made of titanium, that sits over a driver's cockpit to protect the driver from flying debris. It was capable of bearing a load of 12 tonnes, which was the equivalent weight of a London Double Decker Bus. Prototypes got tested, and the drivers raised the issues of visibility and ease of ingress and egress from the car. 



Nevertheless, the HALO got formally introduced in F1 in the 2018 season, making its way to the feeder series and other open-cockpit series across the world.  It's effectiveness came to the fore at the 2018 Belgian GP. Charles Leclerc, the Sauber F1 driver, was part of a first turn pile-up and narrowly escaped injury when Alonso's McLaren went over his cockpit, the HALO acting as the barrier. The system grabbed headlines again when Hulkenberg's car got flipped by Grosjean on the opening lap of the 2018 Abu Dhabi GP. His Renault caught fire, but the marshalls were quick to put the flames out and get Hulkenberg safely extricated. The absence of the HALO could have complicated matters. 



The technological advances, combined with several complex electronic systems onboard ( an F1 car ), pose an unprecedented challenge with regards to safety. The FIA are relentless in their efforts to make racing as safe as it can be by running through several ( possible and sometimes unthinkable ) scenarios to ensure the aversion of a tragedy. Man and machine get put through the rigours throughout the season. Everything is under constant review, from marshalling procedures, barriers, run-off areas, track & tarmac quality to the testing of the fire suits, gloves, boots that a driver would wear. Compliance with the safety standards of the FIA is mandatory, and there can be no compromise.



However, there comes a day when the systems in place get tested to the hilt in real-world conditions. 29th November 2020 was once such day.



The Bahrain Grand Prix got underway, and the FIA Medical Car was following the twenty racers to complete a lap as per Standard Operating Procedure. Alan van der Merwe and Dr Ian Roberts were on board, and as they made their way through the first couple of turns, they discovered a car in the barriers, split in half, with flames billowing into the night sky. Mr Merwe and Dr Roberts immediately swung into action, along with the marshalls who were fighting the fire with extinguishers, drawing near to the car to extricate the driver stuck inside. 

Dr Ian Roberts saw Grosjean emerge from the inferno and immediately pulled the Frenchman away from danger. Alan van der Merwe didn't waste a moment to douse the flame on Grosjean's race suit with the extinguisher he had. The Medical Delegates carried an injured Grosjean away to administer first aid, then stretchered him to the medical centre, before airlifting him to the military hospital in Manama. Their action and response was nothing short of heroic, but also the result of a mentality of saving another man's life in the face of overwhelming circumstances. They admitted that they had never been in such a situation before, but they emerged unscathed. 



Grosjean had smashed into the guardrails at high speed, a 52G crash, and the car had split into half from the impact. The Survival Cell in which the driver is seated was intact, while the HALO had taken the brunt of the guardrails when they got bent. One can only imagine the complications in the absence of the HALO. Grosjean's suit was capable of resisting the flames for 20 seconds, and the time was enough for him to unstrap himself and clamber out to safety. The HANS Device, the seatbelts, the HALO, the Survival Cell had served their purpose. The driver survived!


Kudos to the fitness of Grosjean, both mental and physical, to be conscious after a high G accident and have the presence of mind to react quickly in the face of adversity. The human instinct for survival took over. 



Kudos to the marshalls who rushed to the scene, equipped with extinguishers, directing the flames away as the driver climbed out of the cockpit. Finally, kudos to the men at the helm, people like Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Michael Masi, and so many others who have taken steps to make the racing as safe as it can be.



We, as fans, tend to forget the risks that a racing car driver takes whenever he or she takes the wheel. Yes, they know its dangerous, yes, they love doing it, yes, it's their job. They have made unbelievable sacrifices along the way, and that is what sets them apart. They love what they do and are willing to give their all for it. 


Racers deserve respect, irrespective of where a fan's loyalties or allegiances lie. If there were no racers, there wouldn't be an F1 ( or any other series ), and fans would never exist! 



Thankfully, Grosjean lived to drive another day and is recovering well in the hospital ( as per the latest update received ) from his bruises and burns, and fortunately, no internal injury!


The list is long, but today we are thankful for the efforts put into safety since the inception of the sport by those who purposed to keep our heroes safe while they gave us myriad reasons to smile and celebrate and become the icons they are.


Today we salute those Heroes and are indebted to those who are the flagbearers of Safety in the Sport!



Thank you to the pioneers of safety in F1 - Sir Jackie Stewart, Professor Sid Watkins, Ayrton Senna, Charlie Whiting, Herbie Blash, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Michael Masi, Bernd Maylander, Alan van der Merwe, Dr Ian Roberts, the FIA, The FOM, the medical teams, the marshalls and to so many others!



Thank You!

2020 Bahrain GP Race Recap : Halo, the Lifesaver & Safety, the Real Winner!

The 2020 F1 Season drew to its conclusion with another triple-header, this time in the Middle-East. The Bahrain International Circuit was the venue for the first of these with the traditional Grand Prix layout. 


The weekend also saw the return of Formula 2, a feeder series lower than F1 featuring contenders like Mick Schumacher, Callum Ilott, Christian Lundgaard, Yuki Tsunoda and Robert Schwartzman. 


Bahrain, the first twilight race of the year, is a power-based circuit, and Mercedes powered cars have dominated races in the past. 

Hamilton and Mercedes were the Champions of 2020, but a lot was at stake, be it for P2 in the Drivers' Championship or 3rd in the Constructors'. 


Bottas hoped to finish the remainder of 2020 on a high and carry the momentum into 2021. Ferrari was back in the fight for 3rd in the Constructors' and could leapfrog Renault with another strong result. A seat at Red Bull in 2021 was still up for grabs, and Albon had another weekend to prove his worthiness. 


How did the teams and drivers fare in the desert? Time for a quick recap of the weekend!



Practice :


Track temperatures were lower than those in April, the usual race month, so teams needed to re-learn and change their setups during the practice sessions.


Pirelli had brought in their 2021 tyre compounds for the teams to test in Practice and give feedback for further development. Running the tyre compound was optional in FP1 but mandatory in FP2. Teams opted to run aero rakes and extra sensors to gather data as well.


Roy Nissany and Kubica, the reserve drivers, got the nod to take the wheels of Williams and Alfa Romeo in FP1. Grosjean suffered a big spin at turn three and damaged his tyres in the process. Turn ten had become a handful for Bottas who suffered from lock-ups throughout the session. Verstappen was another driver to suffer from a spin, but at the final turn. 

Hamilton set the fastest time of FP1, half a second clear of his team-mate Bottas. Perez and Sainz were 3rd and 4th, within a second of Hamilton's time, but on softer tyres. The Alpa Tauri of Gasly was 5th, ahead of the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Albon. Ocon, Stoll and Ricciardo completed the top 10.

11th and 12th were the best that the works Ferrari could do in FP1 while Kubica produced a commendable effort for Alfa Romeo in 13th. Grosjean and Magnussen were 14th and 15th for Haas, ahead of Giovinazzi in the other Alfa Romeo. Kvyat and Norris had a challenging practice with the Williams completing the rear of the field. 



The start of FP2 began with the teams trying to complete six timed laps ( as per mandate ) with the 2021 Tyre Compounds made by Pirelli. Mercedes had stated that they would utilize the remainder of the year for the development of its 2020 contender and Hamilton and Bottas did more laps than anyone else on the prototype tyres. It wasn't smooth sailing for everyone though with Gasly getting stuck behind Bottas on his flying lap, much to the former's displeasure and Verstappen having a close call with Perez. 

Leclerc had an off-track moment on the final turn but was able to continue. Albon, however, wasn't as fortunate as he ended up losing the rear of the car in the run-off at the final turn, hitting the barriers and smashing up the back of his car. It would be a long night for the mechanics to make the car track-worthy again. The session got Red Flagged to extricate the stricken RB 16. Another stoppage followed shortly after, this time due to the presence of a dog on track! 

Lewis Hamilton was the fastest at the end of FP2, three and a half tenths clear of Verstappen and Bottas. Perez, Ricciardo and Gasly completed the top 6. It was 7th for Norris in his McLaren from Stroll, Kvyat and Albon. 

Ocon was 11th in the other Renault with Sainz splitting the Ferraris of Vettel and Leclerc. Giovinazzi was ahead of Magnussen and team-mate Raikkonen while Latifi finished ahead of Grosjean and Russell to complete the rear of the field. 



The teams needed to gather more data in the final practice session with Red Bull looking closer to the Mercedes in the fight for pole. The midfield battle would intensify on Saturday while Ferrari needed to find more pace to make it into the top 10. 



The final practice session ( FP3 ) before Qualifying saw Verstappen top the timesheets despite a flapping rear wing ( DRS issue ). The Mercedes duo of Hamilton and Bottas set the 2nd and 3rd fastest time respectively, the former suffering an electrical issue towards the end of the session. Albon, in the other Red Bull, was 4th with Sainz and Gasly completing the top 6. Norris, Kvyat and the two Racing Points made it into the top 10, closely followed by the two Renaults. Only two-tenths of a second separated the eight drivers. Giovinazzi split the Ferrari drivers with Russell ahead of the two Haas cars, Raikkonen and Latifi. 

Mercedes and Red Bull seemed to be locked in a battle for the front two rows with Hamilton and Verstappen having the upper hand over their team-mates. The midfield battle was close as ever, and Qualifying would be all about fine-margins. 



Qualifying :


The start of Q1 was sedate with Russell and Verstappen the only drivers on track. Russell aborted his lap after a mistake in the second sector. Everyone was out of the pits with 10 minutes remaining of Q1. Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Gasly, Sainz and Perez were the top 6 at the end of the first runs with Russell, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Magnussen and Latifi in the drop zone. Leclerc was the driver on the cusp of elimination; the Monegasque getting stuck in traffic on his flying lap. Barring Stroll, the rest of the field had set their representative lap times on the soft tyres. 

Verstappen, Gasly, Sainz and Ocon decided to gamble by staying in the pits while the rest of the field went out on their second runs with new soft tyres. The track was evolving, and the lap times improved for everyone. 

There was a change in the top 6 with Stroll and Albon improving to 2nd and 3rd respectively. Russell was into Q2 for Williams for the 9th time in 2020 with the 14th fastest time. Norris scraped through for McLaren in 15th, but Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Magnussen, Grosjean and Latifi got eliminated.



The soft tyres didn't seem to have the endurance for the race, and except for the Alpha Tauris and Russell ( who stayed in the pits ), everyone else chose the medium tyres for their first runs of Q2. As the drivers began their flying laps, Sainz suffered a spin at turn one which brought out the double yellow flags. The Spaniard was unable to get going again, and the session got Red Flagged with 9 minutes remaining on the clock. McLaren later discovered that the car had suffered a rear brake failure. The session restarted with the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers along with Perez and Norris exiting the pits on medium tyres with the rest choosing to stay put. Hamilton went the quickest with Verstappen splitting the Mercedes followed by Albon, Norris and Perez. Albon had run wide on the final turn and lost a considerable amount of time. It seemed that the Thai driver would have to go out again to sure up his chances of getting into Q3. 

Ocon was the first of the remaining drivers to head out on track for his run in Q2. Ocon set the 7th fastest time, and Red Bull deemed it necessary for Albon to head out again, this time on soft tyres. Norris followed suit. However, the chasing pack weren't able to challenge the times set by them, and the duo aborted their laps to ensure that they start the race on the medium tyres. Ricciardo produced a stellar lap to get into the top 6 while the Ferraris failed to get out of Q2.

The drivers that made it into Q3 were Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Ricciardo, Albon, Norris, Perez, Ocon, Kvyat and Gasly. Those eliminated were Vettel, Leclerc, Stroll, Russell and Sainz.

The biggest shock was Stroll, who became the victim of an error made by the team. A tyre mix-up meant that the Canadian had set his fastest lap on a used set of medium tyres! Nevertheless, he would have a free choice on Sunday and could salvage a result. 



It was time for the final shootout, and everyone was on a fresh set of soft tyres. Hamilton carried his momentum into Q3 and was on provisional pole from Verstappen and Bottas. Perez was 4th with Ocon and Gasly completing the top 6. Albon was 7th in the other Red Bull with Norris getting ahead of Kvyat and Ricciardo ( who made an error ) at the end of the first runs. 

The drivers returned to the pits to refuel, regroup and explore the areas where they could go faster. The battle for pole resumed in the final minutes of Q3. Hamilton and Bottas were setting scorching sector times, but it was Hamilton who got the better of his team-mate again. It was a track record for the Briton with Bottas finishing 2nd, three-tenths adrift. Verstappen could only manage 3rd while Albon improved to 4th completing an all Red Bull 2nd row. It was another stellar lap by Perez which saw him qualify 5th ahead of Ricciardo who pipped his team-mate, Ocon, to 6th by two-thousands of a second! Norris split the two Alpha Tauris of Gasly and Kvyat. 



Hamilton continued his dominance in 2020 with the 98th Pole Position of his career and Mercedes bagging a front-row lockout for the 11th time this season! Bottas had struggled over the past two days and needed to produce something special to emerge victorious on race day. Verstappen did all he could to challenge the Mercedes but was unable to make it to the front row. However, he had the company of his team-mate, and Red Bull could fight on Sunday with both their cars on the sharp end of the grid.

Only four-tenths of a second separated 4th from 10th and Sunday promised to be a monumental duel between the midfield teams.

Perez continued to impress with his performances, and the audition for a 2021 seat continued. The Renault drivers had done their best on Saturday and had a great chance of bringing home a strong result for the team on Sunday. Alpha Tauri was in the thick of the midfield battle and could close the gap to Ferrari in 6th. McLaren and Racing Point should have had both cars in the top 10, but a brake failure and a tyre gaffe cost them dearly. It was a disappointing Saturday for Ferrari, but they seemed to have the pace for the race. Russell brought joy to the Williams by making it into Q2 and hoped to bag his first points of 2020. Sainz's race seemed compromised after the brake failure which had destroyed a medium set of tyres. 

Alfa Romeo and Haas F1 were off the pace the entire weekend, and their drivers seemed destined for a long Sunday evening.



Race :


C2, C3 and C4 were the tyres available for the race, and C4 ( the softest ) seemed to be lacking the endurance of completing a sizeable stint. However, Sainz had no option but to start on the soft tyres due to his brake failure in Qualifying which destroyed a set of mediums. Leclerc, Grosjean and Latifi chose to start on the hard tyres while the rest of the field opted for the mediums.


The race got underway, and it was a clean start for Hamilton. Bottas got bogged down and ended up losing places into the first couple of turns. The Finn was down to 6th with Verstappen, Perez, Albon and Ricciardo getting the better of him. Meanwhile, further down the field, Norris tangled with Gasly and Ocon and damaged his front wing. Stroll and Raikkonen ran wide at turn three while the cars fought for positions in the midfield. However, disaster struck near turn 4. Grosjean's Haas got hit by flying debris from Stroll's car when the Frenchman tried to switch lines aggressively. The switch resulted in the rear right wheel of his car making contact with the left front of Kvyat's. Grosjean was a passenger as he rammed into the guardrails at high speed, the car splitting in half and bursting into flames!


The race got Red Flagged immediately as the marshalls, and the Medical Car gathered at the scene of the accident and tried to put out the flames. Miraculously, Grosjean clambered out of the inferno as the Medical Team of Alan van de Merwe, and Dr Ian Roberts offered their assistance. Replays showed that the "survival cell" was the only thing that survived, and it was the Halo that saved Grosjean from a life-threatening head injury. He lost a boot in the process and was under a lot of duress, so had to be stretchered off. He received treatment at the medical centre before being airlifted for further tests. He received bruises and burns to his hands and knees beside a suspected broken rib. 



The cars returned to the pits, and there was collective applause in the pit lane on seeing Grosjean clamber out of his stricken car. The FIA announced a stoppage of 45 minutes as repair work got carried out. The FIA replaced the damaged guardrails with concrete blocks.



Vettel and Norris' cars underwent repairs under the watchful eyes of the FIA Technical Delegate. The Race Director announced that the session would restart at 18:35 hrs local time, after a stoppage of almost 75 minutes. The grid got reshuffled as the cars exited the pits behind the Safety Car for the formation lap. The reshuffle resulted in Bottas gaining two places before the restart. There was also a change in the tyre choices with Kvyat joining Sainz on the soft tyres and Gasly, Vettel and Magnussen switching to the hard tyres. The rest of the drivers persisted with the mediums.



It was a standing start, and as soon as the five red lights went out, Hamilton was quick off the line and got a clean getaway. Verstappen was slow off the blocks and had to fend off a challenge by Perez into turn 1. Meanwhile, Bottas tried to pressure Perez, but the Mexican held onto third. Ricciardo had a poor start and was down in 9th. The Alfa Romeo team-mates sparred at the restart, and Raikkonen suffered damage to his front wing. The Finn was up to P13 while Giovinazzi lost places and ended up in 17th. Vettel was unhappy with Leclerc for not honouring the pre-race agreement, complaining about the lack of racing room from his team-mate. 


The drivers had not completed a full lap, and the Safety Car got deployed! Stroll's Racing Point was upside down and fortunately, the Canadian was ok and crawled out of his car. Replays showed that Kvyat had tried to make an overtake, but Stroll rapidly shut the door on him, which resulted in the coming together. The incident got investigated by the stewards, and Kvyat incurred a 10 seconds time penalty. Vettel had to take avoiding action and slammed on the brakes, getting relegated to 15th in the process. Magnussen ended up hitting Vettel from behind which damaged his Haas' front wing.


Bottas' race got worse when Mercedes informed him about a slow puncture which forced him to pit on lap 5. He rejoined in 16th on the hard tyres. Magnussen pitted for a new front wing and hard tyres, rejoining in 18th and last ( lap 7 ). 


The Safety Car returned to pits at the end of lap 8, and Hamilton made another flawless start. There was a lot of racing happening behind him with Leclerc challenging Ocon for 6th, but the Frenchman put up a stoic defence. Russell got past Latifi for 13th while Sainz got his soft tyres up to temperature quickly, overtaking Ricciardo for 8th. Russell then relegated Raikkonen to 13th while Hamilton started to pull away from Verstappen at the front.  


DRS got enabled on lap 11, and Leclerc lost two positions on lap 12 to Sainz and Ricciardo. Vettel, in the other Ferrari, also went backwards with Bottas, Giovinazzi and Magnussen relegating him to 18th. Vettel communicated to the team that the car felt undrivable while Leclerc lost 9th to Gasly on lap 13. It was a race of recovery for Bottas who continued his charge up the field with an overtake on Latifi for 14th, and compatriot Raikkonen the next target. Despite a damaged front wing which was sparking on the straights, Raikkonen was able to hold off Bottas until his pit stop on lap 18. Ricciardo pitted for the hard tyres ( lap 17 ), rejoining in 18th and last. Ocon, Kvyat and Raikkonen followed suit a lap later, with Kvyat serving his ten seconds during the pit stop and Raikkonen getting a front wing change. Ocon switched to the mediums while Kvyat and Raikkonen emerged with new hard tyres. 


Ocon overtook Vettel for 14th on lap 19 while Norris switched to the medium tyres, rejoining in 10th. Hamilton and Albon also switched to the medium tyres after pitting on lap 20, rejoining in 3rd and 7th respectively. The Renault drivers were recovering the positions lost after their pit stops with Ocon getting past Magnussen and Ricciardo overtaking Giovinazzi and Latifi. Verstappen relinquished the lead on lap 21 when he pitted for the hard tyres with Perez doing likewise, rejoining in 5th. There were more pit stops on lap 21 with Russell and Giovinazzi getting a new set of hard tyres and Vettel switching to the mediums. 


Sainz had done a 22 laps stint on the soft tyres, a commendable job with regards to prolonging the life of the C4 compound. He switched to the medium tyres, rejoining in 11th behind the Renault duo. Albon got past Leclerc for 5th while Latifi pitted for medium tyres, rejoining last. Verstappen set the fastest lap of the race, reducing the gap to Hamilton to 4.5 seconds as he tried to go aggressive with his strategy ( lap 23 ). 


Gasly ( 3rd ) and Leclerc ( 6th ) were the only drivers yet to pit, and the duo was losing a lot of time. Gasly lost two places to Perez and Albon in the space of two laps while Leclerc switched to the hard tyres, rejoining in 12th. Norris overtook Bottas for 6th on lap 25 while Leclerc overtook Magnussen for 11th. Gasly finally pitted on lap 27, followed by Bottas switching to the hards and medium tyres respectively. 


Renault was contemplating a position swap between Ricciardo and Ocon when Sainz relegated Ricciardo to 7th and Ocon to 6th. Bottas, who rejoined in 14th, got past Kvyat, Russell and Magnussen and was up to 11th. Raikkonen had floor damage, and Alfa Romeo performed a position swap with Giovinazzi ( lap 29 )while Renault did the same with Ricciardo and Ocon ( lap 30 ). Vettel overtook Raikkonen for 15th while Bottas got back into the points with a pass on Leclerc. 


Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Albon, Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo, Ocon, Gasly and Bottas were the top 10 on lap 34.


Verstappen, Albon and Kvyat pitted for hard tyres on lap 35, but a long stop for Verstappen hurt his strategy. Further down the field, Ocon pitted as well rejoining in 12th. Hamilton pitted a lap later, switched to the hards and extended his lead at the front. Meanwhile, Ocon got past Russell for 11th. The window for the second round of pit stops had begun with Perez and Ricciardo getting new hard tyres, and rejoining in 5th and 11th respectively. Unfortunately for Ricciardo, the undercut allowed Ocon to get past him, and the Australian had to complete an overtake on track to reclaim track position. Sainz lost 4th to Perez while Norris and Bottas pitted for the hard tyres. Albon wasted no time in relegating Sainz to 5th on lap 39, and the latter peeled into the pits for his final stop of the day. 


Further down the field, Russell and Vettel pitted for the medium and hard tyres, respectively ( lap 41 ). Leclerc, who was due for a stop, tried to fend off a challenge by Sainz but was unable to do so, losing 7th in the process and pitting immediately after for hard tyres. He got past Giovinazzi for 11th on lap 43. Magnussen was the driver going backwards and lost three places to Vettel, Latifi and Raikkonen while Norris got past Gasly for 5th. 


Verstappen pitted again on lap 47, this time for mediums. The Dutchman had a free pit stop and intended to bag the point for the fastest lap. Sainz was closing the gap to Gasly in the battle for 6th while Kvyat got past Giovinazzi for 12th and Bottas overtook Ocon for 9th. Verstappen set the fastest lap of the race on lap 49, bagging the extra point that comes with it. Gasly was losing traction out of the corners due to his worn-out tyres. The Frenchman had pitted only once, and the team wanted him to go till the end. He asked for more engine power to defend from Sainz who had closed up to his gearbox, but Gasly's defence was shortlived as Sainz got past for 6th on lap 52. 


The field was a bit spread out after that, and the only real battle was for 8th between Ricciardo and Bottas. However, disaster struck Perez on lap 54. The Racing Point driver had smoke billowing out of the back of his car, but he kept driving. Eventually, the engine gave up, and he got forced to pull to the side of the track, the rear of his car catching fire. The Safety Car got deployed as a result, and Albon got promoted to 3rd! The marshalls tried to put out the flames, and one of them ran across the track just ahead of Norris. It was heartbreak for Racing Point which suffered a double DNF, and Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer cutting a solitary figure on the pit wall. 


Mercedes informed Bottas of a "possible rear right puncture while Magnussen and Giovinazzi pitted for the soft tyres. 


Racing didn't resume, and the Safety Car peeled into the pits as Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and the 98th win of his career. Verstappen and Albon were 2nd and 3rd for Red Bull, the team completing a double podium for the first time since the Japanese GP in 2017. Norris and Sainz were 4th & 5th for McLaren followed by Gasly who continued to impress in his Alpha Tauri. P7 was the best that Ricciardo could achieve, but managed to hold off a charge from Bottas. Ocon and Leclerc bagged the final points-scoring positions. 


Kvyat and Russell finished just outside the points, the latter yet to score points in 2020. Vettel was 13th in the other Ferrari followed by Latifi and Raikkonen who was able to jump Giovinazzi and Magnussen due to their pit stops under the Safety Car.




Hamilton had won for the 4th time in Bahrain and remained in top gear going into the final two rounds of the season. Debris got lodged into Bottas' car resulting in a performance loss, and the Finn has been a victim of a lot of misfortune. He, however, remains 2nd in the Championship.  Verstappen pushed hard, but P2 was the best that he could achieve along with Albon, who inherited P3  from Perez's retirement. McLaren would be ecstatic with the result they achieved; Norris and Sainz were flawless, and the team had scored a big haul of points against their midfield rivals. Alpha Tauri outscored Ferrari, with Gasly scoring more points than Leclerc. Kvyat, in the sister car, expressed his displeasure with the penalty dished out to him. The uncertainty and late calls by cost Renault a better result, but "something is better than nothing" as the Enstone-based outfit reduces the deficit to Racing Point to 10 points. It was heartbreak for Racing Point who were so near yet so far with Perez's retirement while running in 3rd, and Stroll getting taken out at the start of the race by Kvyat. This result could prove pivotal in the fight for 3rd as McLaren surged past them and now hold a 17 point lead. 


Ferrari, a team that has enjoyed much success in Bahrain could only bag a point, a humbling experience for the most successful team on the grid. Vettel's travails with the 2020 car continued as the German failed to get past the Williams of Russell. Williams showed an improvement, but points still eluded them. Alfa Romeo was off the pace the entire weekend while Haas would have had Grosjean's crash in the back of their minds the whole race.



Everyone was relieved to see Grosjean escape with bruises and burns and no internal damage ( as per the latest update ) in what was a horrific crash. He was able to climb out of the fiery wreckage, and this was a testament to the levels of safety the sport had achieved. The incidents involving Stroll and Perez were equally heart-stopping. The Halo had saved Grosjean from a life-threatening crash, and the timely intervention by the marshalls and the FIA Medical Delegates saved him from more grievous injuries. 


The safety teams and Grosjean himself were the heroes and the real victors at the end of the day!



Racing resumes in less than a week at the same venue, on a new layout along the "Outer Loop". Hopefully, the FIA would have enough time to assess and deploy even better safety measures.

2020 Turkish GP Race Recap : Win Number 94, Title Number 7, but no stroll in the Park!

The Istanbul Park Circuit became the venue for Round 14 of the 2020 F1 Season. Turkey, which had last hosted an F1 race in 2011, made an unlikely return to the sport in the pandemic-hit season. The Hermann Tilke designed circuit was another to run in an anti-clockwise direction and had gone through a re-surfacing procedure a fortnight before the F1 weekend. The new tarmac made it an added challenge for those who had never raced here before.


The season was nearing its end, and reliability becomes a concern for teams and drivers. Allocations get exceeded leading to penalties, and Russell was one such driver to incur a power-unit grid penalty.

 

The Williams team acting team principal Simon Roberts tested positive for COVID-19 and had to miss the race weekend. 


Hamilton hoped to seal the Drivers' Title for the 7th time after his team bagged the Constructors' crown a fortnight earlier. The midfield battle was intense as ever while Alpha Tauri was closing in on Ferrari for 6th in the Constructors' Standings. 


Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 celebrated 500 races in F1 while it was the 300th race weekend for Red Bull Racing. 


Time for a quick recap of the Turkish GP Weekend.



Practice :


Low Temperatures with fresh tarmac that was wet from the rain overnight greeted drivers for the start of FP1 on Friday morning. The drivers found conditions to be extremely difficult, the hard compound tyres complicating matters further. The bollard at the pit entry got taken out by Leclerc which Red Flagged the session for a brief period. Turns 1 and 14 were the culprits for multiple lap times deletion as drivers tried to explore different racing lines and limits of their cars. It was a tricky and challenging Friday morning with many drivers suffering from spins and some reporting that it felt like "driving on ice". Sainz had electrical issues on his McLaren and retired with more than an hour of running left in FP1. 

The Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Albon topped the timesheets at the end of FP1 followed by Leclerc, Gasly and Vettel. Norris, who celebrated his 21st birthday, was P7 for McLaren followed by Giovinazzi, Bottas and Ocon. Latifi set the 11th fastest time in his Williams, the Canadian enjoying the slippery conditions. The Racing Point cars were 12th and 13th, followed by Grosjean and Hamilton, who was 5 seconds adrift of the fastest time of FP1. The Briton had opted to sit out the majority of FP1. It was 16th for Raikkonen, the race winner of the inaugural Turkish GP in 2005 while Magnussen was 17th in the other Haas car. Ricciardo could manage only the 18th fastest time followed by Sainz and Russell.



The drivers had persisted with the medium and hard compounds for the entirety of FP1, and it was time to test the soft tyres in FP2. Drivers hoped to find more grip with higher ambient temperatures and ( some ) track evolution ( due to the running earlier ). However, the trend of spins due to lack of grip continued in FP2. Drivers also complained about the tyre-life of soft tyres, most complaining about graining after clocking up a few miles. Nevertheless, Leclerc and Kvyat managed to do 45 and 43 rounds of the track respectively. 

Verstappen was fastest again in FP2, having gone 7 seconds faster than his best time in FP1. Leclerc was P2 in his Ferrari followed by Bottas and Hamilton. Albon was 5th in the other Red Bull, and Kvyat and Gasly made it 4 Honda-powered cars in the top 7. Vettel was 8th in the other Ferrari with Stroll making it into the top 10 with the 9th fastest time followed by Norris in the McLaren. Less than a second covered P11 from P16 with Perez leading the second half of the field from Ocon and Giovinazzi. Sainz, Ricciardo and Raikkonen were 14th, 15th and 16th with Russell and Latifi split by the Haas cars at the back of the field. 



Friday had been a "baptism by fire" for almost all drivers. The fastest time on Friday was 4 seconds slower than the lap record set in 2005 by Juan Pablo Montoya. The track was slippery, and the lack of support races meant that it wasn't getting "rubbered in". The organisers deployed some road cars to lay extra rubber overnight, but the plan failed when the rain hit the circuit again.  


Saturday promised to be equally challenging with teams having to get their setups right in FP3 and Qualifying.  



FP3 got underway with the risk of rain at 90%, and the drivers opted for intermediate tyres. However, the grip levels were low, and Perez suffered a spin while Leclerc had a coming together with Ocon at turn 12. The rain intensified, and more drivers suffered from spins. The decision to switch to full Wet tyres didn't improve matters, and the drivers decided to return to their garages as the session timer ran down. The weather forecast for Qualifying was no different, and the teams had to make the tough call of sending their drivers out ( once the conditions improved ) or stay put to avoid incidents and possible repairs. It was a close call for Giovinazzi who brushed the barriers but escaped only with endplate damage on his front wing.

Verstappen was once again fastest at the end of FP3 with Leclerc splitting the Red Bulls in 2nd. Ocon, Norris and Vettel completed the top 6, more than 5 seconds adrift of Verstappen's time. Vettel managed to do 14 laps, the most by any driver in the session. It was a surprise to see Magnussen in 9th, the Dane splitting the Racing Point cars with his Haas. The only driver to have set his best lap on wet tyres was Ricciardo in 11th followed by Sainz and Giovinazzi. Grosjean was 15th in the other Haas with Raikkonen and Kvyat 16th and 17th respectively. The Williams duo and Hamilton did installation laps but failed to set a representative lap time.



Qualifying :


There was a drizzle in the air, and the risk of a deluge threatened overhead. The teams sent their drivers fueled for multiple laps at the start of Q1. The majority of the field opted for the wet tyres while the Red Bulls, McLarens, Ferraris, Perez and Grosjean chose the intermediates for their first runs. Albon and Grosjean wasted no time in switching to the wet tyres at the end of their out-lap. Verstappen, on the intermediate tyres, suffered a big scare down the straight as he lost the rear of his car. Ocon, Bottas, Stroll, Hamilton, Perez and Norris were the top 6 while Raikkonen got his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 1. Leclerc, Grosjean, Gasly, Russell, Latifi were in the drop zone as the rain intensified. Verstappen was on the cusp of elimination and ditched his intermediate tyres for full wets. However, the track conditions were getting tougher with each passing minute, and many drivers suffered spins. Eventually, the stewards decided to red flag Q1 until the conditions improved. Drivers also complained about visibility and condensation issues on their visors.

The downpour stopped, and the FIA deployed track sweepers to remove standing water from the track. Bernd Maylander, the Safety Car driver, did a couple of laps to recheck track conditions and the session resumed after a stoppage of 45 minutes. The two Red Bulls, Ferraris and Raikkonen were the first ones out as soon as the pitlane light went green. Raikkonen, who was second in this queue of cars, suffered a spin on the out-lap and lost track position to the Ferrari of Leclerc. Everyone was out of the pits with 5 minutes left on the clock. Leclerc ran wide at turn one on his flying lap while Grosjean got beached in the gravel at the same turn a few seconds later. The session got Red Flagged again!

There was a scramble in the garages with only three and a half minutes left when the light went green again. Kvyat was the next driver to suffer a spin but managed to carry on. Verstappen produced a stellar lap to set the fastest time at the end of Q1. Albon, Raikkonen, Vettel, Leclerc and Gasly completed the top 6. Hamilton set only the 14th quickest time but made it into Q2. Latifi went off at turn eight and got stuck in the gravel which brought out the double yellow flags. Those behind him came under investigation for ignoring the flags. 

Magnussen, Kyvat, Russell, Grosjean and Latifi got eliminated at the end of Q1.

Sainz had allegedly impeded Perez during Q1, and the stewards decided to investigate the incident.

The stewards decided to investigate all drivers who had set their fastest laps under yellow flag conditions post the end of Qualifying.  



Q2 got underway, and the McLaren drivers made a bold decision to put on intermediates while the rest of the field persisted with the wet tyres. Norris had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits at turn six, but lap times kept improving as more rubber got laid on the track. Stroll, Albon, Bottas, Verstappen, Raikkonen and Perez were the top 6 halfway through the session with Perez suffering from a lap time deletion for exceeding track limits at turn 6. Vettel, Giovinazzi, Gasly, Leclerc and Sainz were in the drop zone. 

The McLaren drivers switched to the wets as well while Verstappen moved to the top of the pile followed by the Mercedes duo and Albon.  The track was evolving at a rapid rate, and the drivers had fuel till the end of the session. The Chequered Flag was out to signal the end of Q2, but a lot of drivers were still improving on their final runs. 


Verstappen, Albon, Hamilton, Stroll, Giovinazzi, Ocon, Bottas, Raikkonen, Perez and Ricciardo made it into Q3 while both the Ferraris, the McLarens and Gasly got eliminated from Qualifying.



It was time for the top-10 shootout and Perez and Ocon chose the intermediate tyres. Verstappen was on the charge again, going 4 seconds clear of Bottas, Albon and Hamilton. However, his place at the top got usurped by Perez, the Mexican spinning on his second flying lap though. Verstappen was quick to respond and set the overall fastest times in sectors 1 and 2. However, Red Bull made a debatable call of calling him into the pits to switch to the intermediate tyres. Stroll, Giovinazzi and the Mercedes duo were the next to switch to intermediates for the final minutes of the session. Verstappen exited the pits but got stuck behind Raikkonen who was continuing his run on the wet tyres. 

Bottas and Giovinazzi were the next to suffer from spins as the lap times kept improving. Raikkonen made a mistake on his final attempt while Perez was leading a Racing Point 1-2. Perez too made an error and couldn't improve further. Meanwhile, his team-mate found grip and bagged Pole Position! Only Verstappen remained the real challenger but failed to dethrone Stroll falling short by less than three-tenths of a second! 

It was a Racing Point 1-3 with Verstappen splitting Stroll and Perez. Albon was 4th in the other Red Bull while Ricciardo was 5th for Renault. P6 was the best that Hamilton could manage. Ocon and Raikkonen took up row 4 with Bottas and Giovinazzi completing the top 10.



Sainz incurred a three-place grid penalty for impeding Perez in Q1. The Stewards concluded that Norris hadn't slowed enough under double yellow flag conditions ( due to Latifi's incident ) and handed him a five-place grid drop. The McLaren duo would start 15th and 16th.



It was the first-ever pole position for Stroll and best-ever starting position for Perez. The team had last celebrated a pole position at the Belgium Grand Prix in 2009 ( when they were called Force India ). It was the first time that a driver, other than Hamilton and Bottas, was on pole in 2020! In a tightly contested midfield, this was Racing Point's chance to bring home a big haul of points.

A disgruntled Verstappen sat disconsolately in the pits wondering what could have been. He didn't complete his faster attempt and got stuck behind Raikkonen for two laps in the final minutes of Qualifying ( after his pit stop ). Red Bull is still the best team ( in race trim ) in changeable weather conditions, and he could turn it around come Sunday. The team was also pleased with Albon's effort who did a commendable job to qualify in 4th. 

Renault had both its cars in the top 10 and hoped to outscore Racing Point and McLaren. The Alfa Romeo Racing cars made it into Q3 for the first time this year, and another dual-points finish beckoned. It had been a challenging qualifying for the Mercedes duo, and they hoped for an incident-free race start come Sunday. Ferrari and Alpha Tauri struggled to find the right balance and were hoping for better track conditions on race day. It had been a torrid qualifying session for McLaren with both drivers copping penalties. They would need a miracle to make it into the points. The chances of a decent finish seemed bleak for the Haas and Williams drivers.



Race :


The grid got finalised only 90 minutes before the race start. Russell also incurred a five-place grid penalty for ignoring double waved yellow flags in Q1 along with three penalty points on his license. Williams had decided to start both its cars from the pitlane, and the penalty became irrelevant.  Gasly got relegated to the back of the field after Alpha Tauri requested a full PU change on Saturday night and the stewards weren't pleased with the justification provided.


There was more drama before the start of the race when Giovinazzi spun at turn two and hit the barriers. He got stuck in the gravel and got craned out of his predicament. Meanwhile, Russell hit the wall at the pit entry and limped back to the pits. Both incidents happened on the sighting laps, but fortunately, the drivers were able to start the race after some quick repair work by their mechanics. 


Pirelli had chosen the C1, C2 and C3 compounds for the racebut the track was wet at the race start, and the need for slick tyres seemed improbable. Barring the Williams drivers, everyone else chose the wet tyres.



The five red lights went out, and it was one of the slowest starts off the line as everyone battled for grip. Verstappen got bogged down, and it was a Racing Point 1-2 with Stroll leading into turn 1. Hamilton, Ricciardo and Ocon were side-by-side into turn one, and Ricciardo's tried to take avoiding action from Hamilton on the inside which resulted in him tagging his team-mate and sending him into a spin. Bottas, a couple of car lengths behind too suffered a spin and dropped down the field. The Finn suffered another spin on the opening lap ( at turn 16 ), eventually ending up in 18th. Hamilton was P3, and Vettel made up seven places at the start to go P4! Hamilton was pushing hard and missed his braking point at turn 6. The Briton had to go around the bollard, and Vettel got promoted to 3rd on the opening lap! Hamilton lost two more positions to the Red Bulls ending up in 6th at the end of the opening lap.


Ocon had flat-spotted his tyres and pitted on lap 2 for another set, rejoining in 20th. Stroll was the fastest driver on track on lap 3 with Stroll, Perez, Vettel, Verstappen, Albon, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Sainz and Magnussen completing the top 10. 


Stroll continued to bang in fastest laps as he extended his lead to 6 seconds. Meanwhile, Sainz got past Raikkonen for P8 on lap 6. Perez, who was 2nd, finally got his tyres up to working temperatures and began eating into his team-mate's lead at the front. Stroll had notified the team that the track was drying and Leclerc was the first one to switch to intermediates on lap 7, rejoining in 19th. Bottas followed suit while Hamilton became the fastest man on track on lap 8. The switch to intermediates proved right as Leclerc went about setting purple sectors. There was a slew of pit stops which followed, with Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Magnussen, Kvyat, Giovinazzi and Grosjean switching to the intermediate tyres a lap later. 


Stroll pitted from the lead on lap 10 for a set of intermediate tyres, rejoining in 4th while Verstappen set the fastest lap of the race. Leclerc got past Russell for P12 while Norris pitted for intermediates, rejoining in 16th. The pit lane remained a hive of activity with Perez, Sainz, Ricciardo, Gasly and Ocon switching to the intermediates on lap 11. On the track, Leclerc got past Raikkonen for P10 and Grosjean overtook Ocon for P18. 


Verstappen expressed his desire to prolong his stint on wet tyres since he felt comfortable with the grip levels they had on offer. However, the team notified him of the lap times set by the majority of the field, instructing him to pit on lap 12. The Dutchman obeyed and rejoined in 3rd, jumping Vettel after his stop. Albon, the only driver on wet tyres, followed suit a lap later, rejoining in 6th. He lost a position to Hamilton in the process.


Raikkonen lost two more places to Russell and Bottas after a mistake on lap 13 while Kvyat went past Giovinazzi for P16. Giovinazzi stopped at turn nine a few seconds later with what seemed to be a mechanical issue. The stewards deployed the Virtual Safety Car for the extrication of the stricken Alfa Romeo. VSC lasted for a couple of laps, and when the racing resumed, Hamilton tried to make a move on Vettel only to run wide and lose 5th to Albon ( lap 16 ). Albon then got past Vettel for 4th a few corners later. Further down the field, Bottas got past Russell for P11 only to spin and get relegated to 14th. The damp conditions seemed tricky for the Finn who was trying his best to salvage a result and prolong his challenge for the title. 


Albon was the quickest driver on track on lap 17 while Norris got past Raikkonen for P12. Verstappen had closed in on Perez and was challenging him for 2nd but ran wide and did a pirouette at high speed. He lost three positions and had to pit for a new set of intermediates after flat-spotting his tyres, rejoining in 8th after his stop. The Dutchman attracted the attention of the stewards after he seemed to have crossed the white line at pit exit. However, he escaped a penalty following an investigation post-race. Albon and Leclerc were the fastest drivers on the circuit and exchanging fastest laps ( lap 19 to 21 ).


Stroll, Perez, Albon, Vettel, Hamilton, Ricciardo, Sainz, Verstappen, Leclerc and Magnussen were the top 10 at the end of lap 21.


Meanwhile, Bottas suffered yet another spin in sector one and was languishing in 17th. Hamilton was unable to overtake Vettel and started falling backwards while Norris relegated Russell to P12 ( lap 26 ). Norris then got past Magnussen and was into the points. Numerous drivers were complaining about the wear on intermediate tyres, and some moved away from the racing line to cool their tyres. The teams wanted to prolong the stint since the track wasn't ready for slick tyres yet. The exact moment of transitioning from the intermediates to the slicks could prove pivotal in this race. 


The Race Director enabled DRS on lap 29, and Gasly got past Raikkonen for P13. While the drivers and teams debated about the correct choice of tyres on this damp, slippery yet drying track, Leclerc decided to pit for a new set of intermediates on lap 31 rejoining in 9th. Raikkonen followed suit a lap later, but a slow stop cost him three positions, and he was down to 17th, the Finn going backwards after having started in the top 10. A mistake by Ricciardo allowed Sainz to move up to 6th, but the Australian immediately dived into the pits for a fresh set of intermediates. 


The battle at the front was hotting up with Perez reducing the deficit to Stroll to two seconds while Albon who was dropping back suffered a spin after losing traction into turn 4. Vettel and Sainz pitted for new intermediates on lap 34, but it was a slow stop for Vettel. The duo rejoined in 6th and 8th respectively. Gasly did likewise, rejoining in 16th after his pit stop. Red Bull decided to pit Albon on lap 35, the Thai driver rejoining in 6th while Magnussen retired from the race after a loose wheel ( after his stop ) brought him to a halt at the end of the pit lane.


Hamilton asked his team not to pit him as he tried to extend his stint on the old intermediates ( lap 35 ). Perez was now within DRS range of his team-mate when he got the call to pit on lap 36. Stroll rejoined in 4th, behind Verstappen who had pitted a few laps earlier due to his spin. Meanwhile, Hamilton got past Perez to take the lead of the race! Stroll started complaining about his tyres graining while Hamilton began to build a gap at the front. Further down the field, Gasly got past Russell for P14 on lap 37. 


Hamilton now had a 5 seconds lead at the front, and Norris set the fastest lap of the race on lap 39. Stroll, the driver who had led the race for more than half the race distance fell back into the clutches of the Ferrari drivers on lap 40. Vettel got past him for P4, but the Canadian tried to fight back, running wide in the process and losing 5th to Leclerc on the same lap! Raikkonen got past Russell for 15th as drivers started to hear on their radios that there could be more rain on the way!


Bottas suffered another spin at turn two while Grosjean had an off-track moment at turn 10. The Ferrari team-mate tussle on track led to Leclerc getting the better of Vettel on lap 41. There was further misery for Stroll when Albon relegated him to 7th and then Sainz to 8th in the space of two laps. Leclerc moved into the final podium position after Verstappen pitted for a new set of intermediates on lap 44 and rejoined in 7th ahead of Stroll. Albon lost 5th to Sainz who went on to set the fastest lap of the race on lap 45. 


Hamilton had started lapping the backmarkers, and it was his team-mate and title contender who fell a lap down on lap 46. Gasly then got past Bottas for P13 who pitted for another set of intermediate tyres on lap 48 and rejoined in 15th. The track was drying, but there were a lot of wet patches, but Hamilton and Perez soldiered on with their old intermediate tyres. Ricciardo and Norris went head to head, and Norris got past the Australian for P9. Ricciardo tried to fight back but ended up spinning ( lap 49 ). Verstappen had closed up on Albon in the battle for P6, and they were about to lap Raikkonen on lap 50 when the latter and Verstappen ended up spinning at turn 4. Albon was able to take avoiding action and got some respite from his sparring team-mate. Raikkonen made a third stop and stayed 15th while Grosjean retired from the race having suffered from spins and a coming together with Latifi.


Hamilton had run down his intermediate tyres, and they had turned into slicks, but there was still the threat of rain. Perez was in a similar boat as Hamilton, and Racing Point didn't want to give up track position. Meanwhile, Verstappen got past Albon for 6th, and Norris was setting blistering lap times in 9th. The McLaren driver caught up with Stroll and bagged P8 on lap 56. Mercedes decided to pit Hamilton on lap 56 for a "safety stop". The Briton was 25 seconds clear of Perez and would stay in the lead. However, he overruled the team's decision, opting to stay out!


The decision would prove to be a masterstroke as the rain stayed away and Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Turkish GP! The battle for P2 saw drama on the final lap. Perez ran wide, and Leclerc got past him only for the Mexican to challenge him at the end of the DRS straight. Leclerc missed his braking point and ran wide which allowed Perez to retake 2nd and Vettel to jump up into 3rd! The four-time world champion bagged his first podium of 2020! Leclerc came home in 4th followed by Sainz who wasn't too far behind. 6th was the best that Verstappen could achieve at the end of the day followed by his team-mate Albon and Norris, the man who had won the point for the fastest lap. Poleman Stroll was a distant 9th with Ricciardo coming home in 10th. 

Ocon finished 11th in the other Renault followed by the Alpha Tauris of Kvyat and Gasly. Bottas, Raikkonen and Russell were the final classified finishers.



Hamilton had done a stint of 50 laps on the intermediate tyres while Perez had clocked 48 laps on his. The duo had run down their tyres to the level of slicks and driven a stellar race, worthy of top honours! 



It was win number 94 for Hamilton, but more importantly, he had won the Drivers' World Championship for a record-equalling 7th time! He was as successful as the legendary Michael Schumacher! Overcome by emotions on parc-ferme, the Mercedes driver took a couple of minutes to take it all in as the other podium finishers came over to congratulate him. Vettel, a driver for whom Hamilton has utmost respect, was gracious and classy as ever in his wishes. 



He wasn't the favourite for victory, yet Hamilton emerged victorious with a strategy that was championship-worthy. Such was his dominance on the worn tyres that he lapped his team-mate who was languishing in the lower half of the field having spun six times in the race. Perez put in a contract winning performance ( for 2021 ), and there is no doubt that he has the racecraft and experience to perform well if he lands a drive with a top team. His 2nd place helped Racing Point build a lead of 5 points to McLaren in the battle for 3rd in the ConstructorsVettel rolled back the years and once again proved what he is capable of despite the odds stacked up against him. 



The hunger showed by Leclerc to push right till the end augurs well for Ferrari, and the Monegasque is a prized asset to have for the future. Ferrari, the hunted became the hunter and now lie 6 points shy of Renault in 5th! Sainz was consistent as ever, and Norris brought in a good haul of points for a team that looked down and out at the end of Qualifying on Saturday. Verstappen would be keen to understand what went wrong in conditions that he is known to excel in while Albon had a decent outing as he fights to keep his seat at Red Bull. Renault got only a point this weekend, but they should consider this as only a blip in form. Alpha Tauri had a tough weekend while Alfa Romeo needs to understand why they went backwards in the race. Haas had another disappointing Sunday while Williams remained stuck at the back of the pack.



The 2020 F1 Season has three races remaining, the last triple-header in the Middle-East, in a fortnight. The Championships are done and dusted, but there is still a lot at stake. Bottas conceded defeat this year but vowed to try and beat Hamilton in 2021. He must begin his charge from the remaining rounds of 2020 if he wishes to reach the summit; that is what a Rosberg did!



Bring on Bahrain! 

2020 Emilia Romagna GP Race Recap : Steamrolling the Competition, for the 7th Time!

The 2020 F1 Season has seen the return of some classic tracks. Imola, which was the venue for the San Marino Grand Prix up until 2006 made a return in 2020, this time under the guise of the Emilia Romagna GP. The Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari is a track owned by Ferrari and one of the few circuits to run in an anti-clockwise direction. It would host a truncated F1 weekend with only one practice session on Saturday before Qualifying and the Race.  


Italy would have hosted 100 races in F1 at the end of this race besides hosting three in 2020 itself. Kudos to the country that was one of the worst-hit by the pandemic COVID-19. 


The logistical challenges associated with moving men and equipment from Portimao to Imola was the reason behind this move. 

A two-day event posed a unique challenge for the teams and drivers; they would need to compress their Qualifying and Race simulations into one session subject to reliability.

Overtaking isn't the easiest on this old school track, and race strategy could tilt the battles up and down the field.

Raikkonen was the only driver from the current grid to have driven at Imola in an F1 car.


Meanwhile, there were updates in the Drivers' Line-up for 2021. Alfa Romeo retained Raikkonen and Giovinazzi while Williams squashed all rumours by announcing that Russell and Latifi would continue with them for 2021. A podium and an unlikely win at Monza got Gasly another year at Alpha Tauri.

Alfa Romeo renewed their partnership ( as Title Sponsor ) with Sauber Engineering for another year. 



Mercedes had the chance of lifting the Constructors' Title if they outscored Red Bull by 34 pointsand Hamilton looked to extend his unassailable lead of 77 points against Bottas. Ferrari hoped for a good showing at their home track.


How did the drivers fare at this iconic circuit? Time for a quick recap!



Practice :


The solo practice session before Qualifying was a 90 minutes affair with Hamilton topping the time charts from Verstappen and Bottas. Gasly was 4th for Alpha Tauri while Leclerc bagged the 5th fastest time. The Renault drivers took up the next two spots, a second slower than Hamilton while Kvyat suffered a lock-up at turn 2, but managed to set the 8th fastest time. Albon and Stroll completed the top 10. The midfield battle was close as ever with Perez, Vettel, Grosjean and Sainz separated by half a second. Sainz and Norris set their best times on medium tyres, the latter having an incident with Magnussen while contending for track position. The Dane also had a run across the grass, but the car suffered no harm. Norris split the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen while Magnussen split the Williams of Russell and Latifi. A brake-by-wire issue compromised Latifi's session. 




Qualifying :

There was more learning to be done by the drivers during Qualifying, and Q1 saw a fair bit of traffic on track. 13 cars exited the pits at the start of Q1 with all drivers hoping to do multiple runs. Hamilton hit the kerb on his flying lap and asked the team to check for damage. The lap times kept dropping as the track evolved with more rubber getting laid. Ricciardo was the only driver yet to set a banker lap with ten minutes left on the clock. Verstappen, Leclerc, Hamilton, Gasly, Kvyat and Norris were the top 6 with Latifi, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Bottas and Ricciardo in the drop zone. Bottas, along with Albon, had his lap time deleted due to exceeding of track limits at turn 9. Ricciardo finally set a banker lap with the 11th quickest time.

Verstappen, Gasly, Leclerc, Kvyat stayed put and didn't come out for the final minutes of Q1. Magnussen ran wide at the last corner and lost the chance of making it into Q2; Giovinazzi suffered a similar fate with a mistakes laden lap. Russell put in a stellar effort to go 14th while Stroll made it into Q2 by the skin of his teeth. Bottas went the quickest at the end of Q1 from Hamilton and Verstappen. Leclerc, Gasly and Norris completed the top 6 and those eliminated included Grosjean, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Latifi and Giovinazzi. 




Q2 got underway with Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull opting for the medium tyres and the rest of the field the softs. Verstappen reported a loss of power and returned to the pits. The team quickly wheeled him into the garage to check for issues, and the culprit was a faulty spark plug. The replacement procedure required a minimum of 15 minutes, but the Red Bull mechanics tried to beat the clock in full earnest. 

Meanwhile, on track, Bottas still had the best time from Hamilton and Gasly with Ricciardo, Norris and Perez slotting in behind the trio. The medium tyres weren't suiting Albon who was in the elimination zone and suffered a spin to add insult to injury. Stroll, Russell, Vettel and Verstappen were others under threat of elimination.

Everyone switched to the soft tyres for the final run of Q2 with Verstappen still stuck in the pits. Kudos to the mechanics who beat the clock and managed to get him out in time to put in a lap. The Dutchman emerged with the medium tyres, pushed hard and didn't disappoint as he set the 6th fastest time safely getting into Q3. He would start the race on medium tyres, just like the Mercedes duo who backed out of their final flying laps ( on softs ).

Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren and Alpha Tauri had both their cars into Q3 along with the Renault of Ricciardo and Ferrari of Leclerc. Perez missed out on Q3 by a hundredth of a second while Stroll who had set a lap time worthy of qualification had exceeded track limits which resulted in the deletion of his time. Ocon, Vettel and Russell were the others eliminated at the end of Q2.



It was time for the final shootout ( Q3 ), and Renault released Ricciardo straight into the path of Verstappen, much to his displeasure. Hamilton stepped up and was on provisional pole at the end of the first run with Bottas only three-hundredths of a second adrift, the Mercedes duo one second clear of Verstappen in 3rd. Gasly was a commendable 4th from Leclerc and Norris with Kvyat, Ricciardo, Sainz and Albon completing the top 10 going into the final minutes of Qualifying.

It was time to put on another set of soft tyres to battle for the best spots on the grid for race day! Hamilton and Bottas were neck and neck with Hamilton going purple in sector one and Bottas in sector two. However, Bottas managed to find almost a tenth throughout the lap and snatched pole position from Hamilton! Verstappen came home in 3rd, half a second adrift. It was a stellar performance on a Saturday by Gasly who put his Alpha Tauri on row 2 for Sunday. Ricciardo and Albon took up row 3, followed by Leclerc and Kvyat. An all McLaren row 5 completed the top 10 starters for the Emilia Romagna GP. P4 to P10 were separated by half a second, a close affair indeed!



Bottas managed to dig deep and get the pole, maintaining the momentum from Q1 and Q2. He would have the best position to start his race from and hoped to reduce the deficit to Hamilton in the championship. It was the 74th front-row lockout for the Mercedes cars. Verstappen wasn't far behind, and Red Bull had a comparable race pace to fight for victory. Alpha Tauri had the measure of its midfield rivals and hoped to maximize their results come Sunday while Ricciardo showed his consistency with yet another 5th place in Qualifying. It would have been ideal to have both cars in the top 10, but Ferrari would be impressed with what Leclerc had achieved with an underperforming car. McLaren and Racing Point would be disappointed with their performances, but the latter has a free tyre choice for Sunday and could salvage some points with a more optimal strategy. Vettel was a lowly 14th, behind Russell in a Williams, his final months at Ferrari seemed to be coming to a tumultuous end. Haas and Alfa Romeo came up short but would have the chance of turning it around on the day that matters. 



Race :


Mercedes replaced the seat on Hamilton's car while mechanics were frantically working on Gasly's car on the grid. 

C2, C3 and C4 were the available compounds for the race, and except Giovinazzi, all others outside the top 10 were on medium tyres. The drivers hoped to finish the race on a one-stop strategy. 

Bottas suffered a lock-up on the formation lap, causing a small flat-spot on his front left tyre.


The five red lights illuminated and the race got underway. It was a clean start for Bottas, but Hamilton came under pressure from Verstappen and Ricciardo. Verstappen moved up into 2nd while Ricciardo slotted in behind Hamilton, having made two positions at the start. Vettel made contact with Magnussen, and the Dane got spun around with Vettel suffering damage to his endplate. The incident got flagged for investigation, but the stewards deemed it as a racing incident. The Alfa Romeo drivers were the biggest movers with Giovinazzi up by six positions and Raikkonen four. The midfield was tight, and Ocon shut the door on Stroll causing the latter to lose a big part of his front wing. The Canadian had to pit at the end of the opening lap for a new front wing and switched to the hard tyres. 


The trio at the front slowly started to pull away from the rest of the field with Hamilton and Bottas trading fastest laps. Sainz got past Norris with the help of DRS for P9 on lap 6. Hamilton was now in DRS range and pressurizing Verstappen for P2. Bottas set the fastest lap of the race on the 8th lap while Alpha Tauri asked Gasly to return to the pits as they had a terminal issue, and would retire the car. The coolant leak in the radiator was the culprit, and the Frenchman had a dismal end to the race after a brilliant Saturday. Grosjean got past Latifi for P16 and pitted for hard tyres on lap 10. Giovinazzi also switched to the hard tyres, rejoining in 17th. Bottas put in another fastest lap on lap 12 while Russell was the next driver to switch to the hard tyres, rejoining in 16th ahead of Giovinazzi. Hamilton reported that his right front tyre was degrading at a rapid rate while Leclerc, Ocon and Norris pitted on lap 14 with Leclerc switching to the hard tyres and the others switching to the mediums. The story of pit stops continued with Ricciardo, Albon and Kvyat pitting a lap later for hard tyres, covering themselves from any undercuts. Ricciardo exited the pits just in front of Leclerc who went in too hot, locked up his tyres and almost rear-ended Ricciardo. 


Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Sainz, Perez, Vettel, Raikkonen, Latifi, Magnussen and Ricciardo were the top 10 at the end of lap 17.


Kvyat and Albon contended for 12th, the duo making contact, but Albon held on. Sainz pitted for the medium tyres and rejoined in 13th ( lap 18 ) while Verstappen switched to the hard tyres, rejoining the race in 3rd ( lap 19 ). The Mercedes pit crew were ready for Bottas on lap 20 who switched to the hard tyres, conceding the lead to Hamilton. Hamilton went on to set the fastest time, requesting the team not to pit him and the team reiterating that they were extending his stint. Bottas was losing performance after he suffered floor damage on the 2nd lap from debris on the track. A part of Vettel's endplate had got lodged into the bargeboards on the left. Hamilton was setting blistering lap times as Verstappen slowly closed in on Bottas getting within DRS range. The team asked Hamilton if he would be able to extend his stint by ten more laps and the response was in affirmative.

There was a train forming up behind Magnussen with Ricciardo, Leclerc, Albon, Kvyat and Sainz on fresher tyres. 


Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Perez, Vettel, Raikkonen, Latifi, Magnussen, Ricciardo and Leclerc were the top 10 on lap 27, but the order was to change soon. Ricciardo got past Magnussen for 8th on lap 28 while Leclerc followed suit despite some dogged defending by Magnussen. Perez pitted for hard tyres and rejoined in 7th, having jumped six positionsthe others getting stuck behind a slower Magnussen. Disaster struck when Ocon pulled to the side of the track with what seemed to be a clutch issue ( lap 29 ). Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race, and the stewards deployed the Virtual Safety Car to clear the stricken Renault. The VSC period allowed Hamilton to pit for a fresh set of hard tyres, the Briton losing only 17 seconds against the usual 27. Stroll also took the opportunity to switch to medium tyres, rejoining in last. Bottas relinquished the lead of the race, the Finn undone by the timing of the VSC. Latifi pitted on lap 36, switching to the hard tyres and rejoining in 15th while Stroll got past Magnussen for P17. 


Vettel and Raikkonen were the only drivers yet to make a pit stop, having extended their stint on the medium tyres to 37 laps. They hadn't lost any performance as they set competitive lap times in 4th and 5th. Meanwhile, at the front, Red Bull informed Verstappen that they were losing time behind Bottas and he needed to try an overtake. The Dutchman was pushing hard, and his opportunity came when Bottas made a mistake at the penultimate corner. Verstappen tried to get past with the use of DRS, but Bottas fended off the challenge. Vettel finally pitted on lap 40 for hard tyres, but the right front and left rear tyres got stuck, resulting in a slow pit of 13.1 seconds! The German rejoined in 14th, the hopes of a strong finish in the points now gone. 


Bottas made another mistake, running wide in the middle of Rivazza corner, which allowed Verstappen to close upon him, the Dutchman getting past into 2nd on lap 43. Further down the field, Vettel began his recovery with an overtake on Giovinazzi for 13th. Magnussen felt unwell, reporting that he was getting a headache due to the upshifts on his Haas. The team asked him if he would like to retire, but he retorted that it was his job.  


Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on lap 49 while Raikkonen finally pitted after completing a mammoth stint of 49 laps on the medium tyres. He switched to the soft tyres, rejoining in 12th behind Russell, having jumped Vettel. Magnussen pitted as well, retiring from the race due to health issues.


There was drama on lap 51. Timing screens showed Bottas back into 2nd, and on track, Verstappen was on the gravel with what seemed to be rear right tyre delamination. The Dutchman was unable to get unstuck, and was out of the race! Mercedes were 1-2 and firm favourites to lift the Constructors' crown at the end of the race. The stewards decided to deploy the Safety Car while replays showed that something had broken ( without warning ) on the rear of Verstappen's car. The Safety Car deployment brought about a slew of pit stops with those pitting switching to the soft tyres. Perez who was up into 3rd, but the team decided to switch him to soft tyres which relegated him to 7th. Ricciardo who chose not to pit ( along with Leclerc and Albon ) now had the final podium position. Hamilton and Bottas pitted as well, the race now a shootout to the finish. Russell was in 10th, having moved up places due to cars around him pitting, and looked set to bag the first point of his F1 career. Disaster struck on lap 53 when he, trying to build temperature into his tyres, lost control of his car and hit the barriers at Acque Minerale during the Safety Car period! It was race over for the Briton, who was distraught and sat down by the side of the track, unwilling to interact with the track marshalls. The crash led to the extension of the Safety Car period. Meanwhile, Stroll failed to brake in time, hitting the front jack man during his pit stop. Thankfully, the medical centre declared the mechanic fit and fine. 



Racing resumed at the end of lap 57, and it was a clean getaway for Hamilton. Bottas suffered excessive wheelspin but was able to hold onto 2nd comfortably. Kvyat was the big mover at the restart, getting past Perez, Albon and Leclerc! The Russian in his Alpha Tauri was up into P4 and hunting down Ricciardo for that final podium position. Perez relegated Albon to 7th who made an uncharacteristic error and got spun around. Sainz took avoiding action, and Albon was out of the points in 15th. Grosjean tried to pressurize Latifi for 11th, but the Canadian held on. Leclerc was able to bring his hard tyres up to operating temperatures and held off a challenge from Perez for P5. Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on lap 60 while Albon switched to the soft tyres due to vibrations on his flat-spotted hard tyres. Hamilton extended his lead at the front by pumping in fastest lap after fastest lap.



He took the Chequered Flag and the victory at the Emilia Romagna GP. Bottas came home in 2nd to complete another Mercedes 1-2, crowning them the Constructors' Champion for 2020! 


Renault celebrated another podium with Ricciardo with Kvyat producing a stellar drive for 4th in his Alpha Tauri. P5 was the best Leclerc could do for the works Ferrari team while Perez came home in 6th, the chance of a possible podium missed. Sainz and Norris ensured that both McLarens scored points in 7th and 8th while Alfa Romeo scored their first double-points finish in 9th and 10th with Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. 


It was "so near yet so far" for Latifi who was 11th for Williams from Grosjean and Vettel whose botched pit stop cost him a points-finish. Grosjean got a 5 seconds time penalty for exceeding track limits and was demoted to 14th, behind Stroll but ahead of Albon who was the final classified finisher. 



Mercedes was the first team to win seven consecutive Constructors' Championships! They accomplished it at a circuit owned by Ferrari, the previous record holders.


Hamilton scored the 93rd win of his F1 career, extending his lead at the top. Verstappen was out of the race, and Bottas only had a mathematical possibility of winning the Drivers' Title in 2020. 


Ricciardo's second podium of the year helped Renault to 3rd in the Constructors' Championship, one point clear of McLaren and Racing Point tied on 134 points apiece. The Enstone based outfit was improving with each race, and they would have had an even better finish had Ocon not retired due to a mechanical failure. Alpha Tauri could have been on the podium had both its cars finished the race, but their 4th place finish with Kvyat was a great result nonetheless. Leclerc did the best he could for the works Ferrari team while Vettel suffered from step-motherly treatment yet again. Racing Point justified their move of pitting Perez again under Safety Car while McLaren was the only midfield team to have both cars finish in the points. 


Kimi Raikkonen was the "Driver of the Day", having made up nine places from where he started besides completing an unthinkable stint of 49 laps on the medium tyres. His team-mate Giovinazzi maintained his 100% record of making up places on the opening lap and was 10th, having made up ten places himself. Alfa Romeo would be pleased with their performances, the incentive of contract renewals doing wonders for both its drivers. A points-finish still eluded Russell who made an uncharacteristic error and would learn from his crash. Haas would want to end this season as soon as possible to start afresh next year.



The European leg comes to an end, and there are four fly-away events to bring the 2020 season to a close. COVID-19 threatens to put the continent of Europe into lockdown again due to the onset of a second wave. Hopefully, F1 would be able to march on in the face of this adversity. 



The Turkish GP beckons in a fortnight and Hamilton could be Champion for the 7th time! Can the inevitable be delayed?? The chances seem bleak.

2020 Portuguese GP Race Recap : Records are meant to be broken!

 2020 is the year of new races and new tracks in F1. Portimao, a town in the Algarve Region of Southern Portugal became the host for the Portuguese Grand Prix. The country returned to the F1 stage after a 24 years hiatus, this time at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve!


The circuit had never hosted an F1 race before, and the new entrant promised drivers and fans a "roller-coaster" experience thanks to its multiple gradient changes and high-speed turns. The Portugues GP also saw the return of the Paddock Club, the hospitality experience offered by the sport to its high-flying guests. 


Drivers and teams were excited for the challenge that lay before them after the completion of their Thursday track walks.


Off-track, news broke out that Haas F1 would not be continuing with Grosjean and Magnussen in 2021 and Stroll had tested positive for COVID-19 post the Eifel GP weekend, but had recovered in time and deemed fit to race in Portugal. Meanwhile, Racing Point retained Hulkenberg as a Reserve / Backup driver in case of an emergency.


Hamilton could become the most successful driver in the history of the sport if he clinched another victory. Bottas had to ensure a clean, flawless and trouble-free weekend if he wanted to sustain his fight for the title. Ferrari got new diffuser upgrades with the hope of getting back into the top six ( in Qualifying ) consistently.



Time for a recap of the weekend!



Practice :


Free Practice 1 got underway with cloudy skies. FP1 would see teams and drivers do track induction runs, learning the limits of their car with the optimum racing lines and braking points. It was quite a slippery surface, and several drivers suffered spins or had off-track moments. Bottas set the fastest time of FP1, three-tenths clear of Hamilton and Verstappen. Leclerc split the Red Bull drivers while Sainz was P6 in his McLarenPerez was P7 with Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Gasly completing the top 10. A mechanic issue for Gasly cut short his FP1. Vettel was 11th in the other Ferrari, a second slower than his team-mate. Norris and Kvyat were 12th and 13th in the sister McLaren and Alpha-Tauri while Magnussen set the 14th fastest time in his Haas. Stroll could only manage P15 followed closely by Giovinazzi and Grosjean. Ocon split the two Williams at the back, his session cut short due to a Power-Unit issue. 



Pirelli decided to run their new prototype tyres in Free Practice 2 and what followed was an incident-packed session. Verstappen and Stroll had a coming together at turn 1, the contact causing both to retire from the session. Stroll was on back-to-back flying laps when Verstappen had started one of his own. The incident attracted the attention of the stewards, but no driver incurred any penalty. 

Grosjean had a run across the gravel while Perez, Sainz and Kvyat suffered spins. Vettel had to take avoiding action from rear-ending Latifi on his timed lap before suffering a spin at turn 14 himself. Drivers complained about the lack of grip in FP2 as well with more drama unfolding halfway into the session. Gasly lost power and stopped by the side of the track; soon enough the back of his Alpha Tauri was ablaze, and the session was red-flagged for the safe extrication of his car. Bottas set the fastest lap of the session again, half a second clear of Verstappen and Norris. 

Leclerc was P4, the only other driver within a second of Bottas' time. Sainz split the Ferraris to make it both McLarens in the top six. It was 7th for Gasly at the end of FP2 with Hamilton managing only the 8th fastest time. Ocon and Albon completed the top 10. Russell put in a stonking lap in his Williams to go P11 ahead of Perez and Ricciardo. Latifi was 14th in the other Williams with Raikkonen being the fastest customer Ferrari car ahead of Magnussen and Kvyat. The rear of the field got completed by Grosjean, Stroll and Giovinazzi. 



It had been an eventful Friday for the teams. The track remained a challenge, and the drivers needed to make the most of FP3  to ensure the best possible setup for Qualifying and Race. Mercedes remained the team to beat with Ferrari showing a marked improvement. It looked like Red Bull was the only challenger for victory with Racing Point having the measure of Renault and McLaren in the midfield battle.



Bottas edged out Hamilton in Free Practice 3 with Verstappen slotting in in third, less than two-tenths down on medium tyres. Gasly split the Red Bulls while Leclerc finished in the top 6 despite a spin. The midfield battle raged on with Sainz, Perez, Norris and Ocon separated by less than half a second. Only eight-tenths of a second covered the lower half of the field with Kvyat almost matching Vettel's time in 12th. Kimi Raikkonen was 13th for Alfa Romeo with Ricciardo managing 14th; the Australian struggling from DRS malfunction. Lock-ups were a common occurrence and Russell flat-spotted a set of soft tyres en route to the 15th fastest time while Stroll languished in 16th. Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Latifi and Grosjean completed the rear of the field. 

The session got cut short after a drain cover came loose at turn 14 under Vettel's car. The FIA decided to inspect all the drainage covers to ensure safety before going into Qualifying. 



Track Limits was another challenge for drivers with several lap time deletions throughout the three practice sessions, and it seemed that drivers would need multiple runs on a single set of tyres to extract the optimal lap time.



Qualifying :


Qualifying got delayed by 35 minutes as track repairs got carried out under the watchful eyes of the FIA Stewards. 

Everyone chose the soft tyres at the start of Q1, and there was enough fuel on board for multiple attempts. Verstappen ran wide at his first attempt but was able to set the 2nd fastest time, marginally behind the Mercedes duo. Perez, Leclerc and Gasly completed the top 6 with Grosjean, Raikkonen, Russell, Magnussen and Latifi in the elimination zone. The top 5 and Ricciardo opted to not run again in Q1. Raikkonen improved to 15th, and Giovinazzi got knocked out of Q1. Russell was on a great lap and pipped Raikkonen to 15th and made it into Q2! 

Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Grosjean, Magnussen and Latifi got eliminated while Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Gasly, Perez and Leclerc were the top 6 at the end of Q1.



Mercedes and Ferrari opted for the medium tyres at the start of Q2 while the rest of the field chose softs. Ocon stayed put choosing to go "out of sync" with the rest. Traffic became an issue for a few drivers as they battled for track position. Hamilton was one such driver to have his lap compromised. The top 6 after the first runs were Bottas, Perez, Norris, Verstappen, Gasly and Albon with Hamilton, Sainz, Vettel, Leclerc and Ocon in the drop zone. Vettel improved to 10th while Leclerc got up to 6th with his multiple runs. Hamilton suffered a lock-up and set the 2nd fastest time, albeit with compromised tyres. The top 6 now changed to Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz and Norris while Ocon, Stroll, Kvyat, Vettel and Russell were looking at elimination. 

Everyone was out again with less than three minutes left on the clock, the Mercedes and Ferrari drivers opting for medium tyres once more.  Russell improved to 14th, but Vettel wasn't able to go faster and ended up in 15th! In the dying minutes of the session, Ricciardo lost control at turn 11 and ended up in the gravel, his rear wing making contact with the barriers. He managed to keep the car going and limped back to the pits. Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz and Norris were the top 6 at the end of Q2 with Ocon, Stroll, Kvyat, Russell and Vettel bowing out of Qualifying.



Gasly stayed in the pits at the start of Q3 with Albon switching to medium tyres. The rest of the field ( bar Ricciardo ) came out on soft tyres for the final shootout. Bottas was on provisional pole, four-hundredths of a second clear of Hamilton with Verstappen a tenth further adrift. Leclerc was 4th for Ferrari from Perez, Albon, Norris and Sainz. Gasly joined the rest for their final runs while Ricciardo stayed put in the pits as Renault went about a rear-wing swap. He wasn't able to take part in Q3 and would start P10. The Mercedes drivers were out on medium tyres for their final run as well with Hamilton exiting the pits half a minute earlier than Bottas. The duo had fuel for a couple of runs and Hamilton went the fastest with less than two minutes left on the clock. Bottas snatched it back, but Hamilton had another flying lap still. 

The Briton extracted the maximum out of his tyres and snatched pole, a tenth clear of Bottas! Verstappen pushed hard but was unable to get close to the Mercedes. P4 got bagged by Leclerc in the Ferrari while Perez and Albon completed row 3 of the grid. It was an all-McLaren 4th row with Gasly and Ricciardo completing the top 10 for the start of the race. 



Hamilton had aced it when it mattered, bagging the 97th pole position of his career along the way. Bottas had led all the practice sessions leading into Qualifying but come up short again. Verstappen remained the "best of the rest" while Leclerc had put in a stellar drive to give Ferrari a fighting chance on Sunday. The midfield battle was tight as ever with Racing Point, Renault and McLaren. Russell finally made it into Q2 in 2020 and hoped for his first points finish while Vettel would face a long afternoon come Sunday. Alfa Romeo and Haas F1 seemed destined to remain backmarkers.

Perez had impeded Gasly in Q3 and picked up a reprimand for the same.



Race :


C1, C2 and C3 were the tyre options provided by Pirelli for the race. Raikkonen was the only driver outside the top 10 to choose the soft tyres while Magnussen did the same with the hard tyres. The rest of the drivers in the latter half started with the medium tyres.


The skies were overcast, and there was rain forecasted during the race. A drizzle hit the circuit just before the formation lap, and the drivers did their best to bring their tyres up to temperatures for the race start. 


The race got underway, and Hamilton had a clean start off the line. Bottas and Verstappen went wheel to wheel with the latter momentarily getting past. However, Bottas gathered himself and retook P2 a couple of corners later. Verstappen was all over the place and missed his braking points a couple of times allowing Perez to close in on him. Perez tried a move around the outside, but the Dutchman tagged the rear left tyre of Perez's car sending him into a spin. The Mexican limped back to the pits for a front wing change, new tyres and the incident got flagged for investigation. The stewards deemed it as "no action necessary" a few laps later.


There was plenty of action happening throughout the field with Bottas getting past Hamilton who seemed to be going slower than usual. Sainz went wheel to wheel with Verstappen and got past. He was then up into second with a move on Hamilton! Norris relegated Verstappen to P5 while Raikkonen had made up nine places on the opening lap and pressurizing Leclerc for P6. 


The drivers who had started on the soft tyres had their tyres in the operating temperatures and making up places in the early stages of the race. 


Sainz got past Bottas to take the lead of the race on the 2nd lap while Raikkonen overtook Leclerc for P6 in a three-way battle. He briefly got past Verstappen only for the latter to recover his position a corner later. Albon lost two places to Stroll and Ocon, getting relegated to P12. Sainz was pulling away in the lead and set the fastest lap of the race while Albon got past Ocon for P11.


Those on the medium tyres were now getting back into the game and Bottas set the fastest lap on lap 5. Verstappen retook P4 from Norris while Bottas caught up and got past Sainz to reclaim the lead. The track was dry again, and Leclerc was past Ricciardo for P7 while Hamilton relegated Sainz to 3rd, and Kvyat overtook Latifi for 17th a lap later. 


More overtakes followed in the next few laps with Verstappen getting past Sainz for P3, Leclerc overtaking Raikkonen for P6 ( lap 8 ) and then Norris for 5th ( lap 9 ). Raikkonen was falling back into the clutches of the faster cars with Ricciardo and Gasly relegating him to 9th while Kvyat got past Grosjean for P16.


Bottas set the fastest lap of the race while Stroll received a Black and White flag for exceeding track limits. Verstappen came on the radio and communicated to his team that the front left tyre was running out of life. Gasly overtook Ricciardo for 7th while Raikkonen lost 9th to Stroll on lap 11. Leclerc retook 4th from Sainz a lap later, and Raikkonen decided to ditch the soft tyres for a fresh set of mediums, rejoining in last. 


Meanwhile, battles continued up and down the field with Vettel relegating Giovinazzi to 14th, Gasly getting past Norris for 6th and Stroll overtaking Ricciardo for 8th. 


Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Norris, Stroll, Ricciardo and Ocon were the top 10 at the end of lap 14.


Ricciardo pitted on lap 15 and switched to the medium tyres, rejoining in 19th. Russell overtook Giovinazzi for 12th while Perez began his charge up the field with a pass on Grosjean for 15th. The battle for P5 was hotting up between Sainz and Gasly while Stroll was contending with Norris for 7th. Stroll got into the slip-stream on the pit straight and with DRS assistance tried to get past Norris. However, he missed his braking point, going over the kerbs and trying an impractical move on the outside at turn 1. He failed to leave a car's width, and the duo made contact with Stroll spinning around. Both suffered floor and front wing damage and had to return to the pits for repairs ( lap 18 ). They switched to the hard tyres, and the incident got investigated by the stewards. Stroll got a five seconds time penalty for his misdemeanour. 


Meanwhile, at the front, Hamilton was honing in on Bottas, and the lead changed hands on lap 19! He quickly got out of DRS range and started to build a gap at the front.


Albon pitted on lap 20 for a set of medium tyres, rejoining in 18th. Gasly got past Sainz for 5th while Perez overtook Kvyat for P11. The Mexican was back into the points with a move on Giovinazzi a lap later. Verstappen pitted on lap 24 for medium tyres and rejoined in 6th. Hamilton was pulling away at the front and set the fastest lap of the race on lap 25. There was a slew of pit stops over the next couple of laps with Latifi, Grosjean, Kvyat and Vettel switching to the hard tyres and Sainz switching to the mediums. Ricciardo and Raikkonen got past Magnussen, relegating him to 12th while Gasly and Giovinazzi pitted for the medium and hard tyres, respectively. 


Hamilton set another fastest lap on lap 30 and was now leading Bottas by almost 8 seconds. Grosjean was the next driver to receive a Black and White flag for exceeding track limits, and the stewards didn't shy away from dishing out a 5 seconds time penalty to Stroll for repeating the same infringement for the fourth time. Ricciardo got past Gasly for 8th while Giovinazzi and Grosjean went wheel-to-wheel for P16, but the Italian didn't relent. His team-mate Raikkonen put up a stoic defence for 10th while fending off Sainz while Magnussen pitted on lap 33 after losing 12th to Albon. He rejoined in 18th with a fresh set of medium tyres.


Bottas reported about a warning on his dash to cool the car while Sainz finally got past Raikkonen for P10 on lap 34. The duo had displayed sensational wheel-to-wheel racing. Perez and Ocon showcased a version of their own as they battled for P5 which Perez finally bagged on lap 35. Leclerc pitted from 3rd for a set of hard tyres, rejoining in 4th while Stroll switched to the soft tyres ( lap 36 ). Grosjean overtook Kvyat for 16th while Latifi held onto P18 while defending from Magnussen. Russell pitted for hard tyres and rejoined in 14th only to lose it to Giovinazzi a few corners later. 


Hamilton was happy with the health of his tyres, but the team called him into the pits on lap 41 to switch to the hard tyres. Bottas who was due for a stop on the next lap requested for the soft tyres, but the request got denied. Grosjean was the next driver to get a 5 seconds time penalty for exceeding track limits, and McLaren informed Norris about a slow puncture on his car. He switched to a set of medium tyres on lap 45, rejoining in 17th. Kvyat got flagged for investigation for ignoring blue flags while Hamilton set the fastest lap on lap 45. Gasly overtook Ricciardo for 7th while Perez made his second stop of the race, rejoining in 6th with a set of soft tyres. 


Bottas was having difficulty getting his hard tyres up to temperature, and Verstappen was slowly closing in on him. Albon pitted again on lap 48, this time for soft tyres, rejoining in 12th while Sainz got past Ricciardo for P8. Ocon was the only driver who hadn't pitted and was still setting competitive lap times on the worn set of mediums. Bottas finally got his tyres working for him and set the fastest time on lap 49. Russell got past Giovinazzi for P13 on lap 51 while Vettel who was closing in on Raikkonen for the final points-scoring position suffered a massive lock-up causing flat spots on his hard tyres. The extensive damage on Stroll's car from his contact earlier forced the team to retire the car on lap 54 while Ocon finally pitted for a set of soft tyres, rejoining in 8th. 


Kvyat got a 5 seconds time penalty for exceeding track limits multiple times while Vettel got past Raikkonen for P10 on lap 55. The infringements caused by the drivers with regards to track limits didn't end with Norris getting served a Black and White flag this time. He, however, managed to get past Giovinazzi for P14. Hamilton retook the point for the fastest lap while Kvyat pitted for the soft tyres, serving his penalty during the pit stop and rejoining in 19th ( lap 57 ). Hamilton reported that he was suffering from cramps on his right leg ( lap 58 ), having to lift off multiple times to ease off the pressure on his leg. However, that didn't stop him from lapping Perez, who was running in 5th on lap 59. Norris relegated Russell to 14th while McLaren informed Sainz about some light rain in the pit lane.


Hamilton's blistering pace continued with two more fastest laps while the battle for 5th was hotting up between Perez and Gasly. Bout one went to Perez who gave no quarters and shut the door on Gasly into turn 1. A lap later, on 65, Gasly tried a move on the outside of Perez. He succeeded and was up into P5. The defence put up by Perez didn't go down well with the stewards who initiated an investigation, handing him another reprimand on the weekend post-race. He was now one reprimand away from copping a ten-place grid penalty. The Mexican had lost performance in his soft tyres and was falling back into the clutches of Sainz. He got relegated to 7th on the final lap.



Hamilton took the chequered flag and the 92nd win of his career to become the most successful driver in the history of the sport having surpassed the great Michael Schumacher. Bottas came home in 2nd, 25.5 seconds adrift of his team-mate to complete another 1-2 finish for Mercedes. It was Verstappen who was 3rd again, having suffered some hiccups at the start. Leclerc drove a stellar race to come home in 4th, having aced his race strategy, the updates working well for him.


Alpha Tauri had a strong weekend with Gasly in 5th while 6th was the best Sainz could accomplish having led the race for a few laps at the start. A brilliant recovery drive from Perez after his first lap contact with Verstappen saw him come home in 7th while Ocon finished ahead of Ricciardo and Vettel who completed the top 10.


Raikkonen finished just outside the points in 11th, a shame after having made up ten places on the opening lap thanks to his monster start. The Iceman once again showed that there was no substitute for experience. He was impeccable, both in attack and defence and the "Driver of the Day" for me. Albon had a tough race, getting bogged down at the start and then running a compromised strategy to produce yet another lacklustre performance in 12th. The damage sustained from contact with Stroll meant that Norris couldn't do better than 13th while Russell came home in 14th, his first point in F1 eluding him. Giovinazzi was 15th in the other Alfa Romeo followed by the Haas drivers, Latifi and Kvyat who completed the classified finishers. 



Hamilton had dominated once he took the lead from Bottas. The Finn had no answer and is now 77 points behind in a Championship which seems done and dusted. Hamilton had lapped everyone up until 5th, an occurrence rarely seen in F1. Mercedes has one hand on the Constructors' Championship with another 1-2 finish. Verstappen had lapped his team-mate Albon in the race, something that doesn't augur well for the latter. Red Bull needs both its drivers to be fighting at the sharp end of the field, and it remains to be seen whether Albon would stay or leave at the end of 2020. 



The upgrades brought in by Ferrari seemed to work well for Leclerc, but the travails that Vettel faces in 2020 don't seem to go away. Renault failed to score more points than rivals Racing Point and McLaren despite having both cars in the top 10. Alpha Tauri and Alfa Romeo are improving with each race, and Raikkonen deserved to be in points for the performance he had put in on Sunday. Williams and Haas had another disappointing weekend and need to keep working hard if they want to offload the tag of "backmarkers".



Round 13 of the 2020 F1 Season will take place in Imola, known as the home circuit of Ferrari in the Emilia-Romagna region. The teams face an added challenge with the weekend being only a two-day event ( thanks to logistical challenges ) consisting of only one practice session. It will be interesting to see how the teams complete their qualifying and race simulation programs on a truncated weekend.



Hamilton is on track to match Schumacher's record of 7 World Championships, and if he renews his contract at Mercedes ( which should be a no-brainer ), will be favourite to lift the title again in 2021. 



The thought of a driver breaking Schumacher's record of 91 race victories was a far fetched one, but as the famous saying goes, "Records are meant to be broken!"


On to Imola!

2020 Eifel GP Race Recap : Hamilton, emulating the Legend himself!

Germany has given a lot to the world of F1 - Michael Schumacher, the most successful driver in F1, Sebastian Vettel, a four-time World Champion besides Nico Rosberg who beat Hamilton in a tightly contested title battle in 2016. Who can forget the contributions of drivers such as Ralf Schumacher, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Nick Heidfeld, Timo Glock, Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg, Andre Lotterer and Wolfgang von Trips! 

Hockenheimring and Nurburgring were venues loved by the purists of the sport. The exclusion of the German GP from the 2020 F1 calendar was a shock to one and all. However, the onset of the pandemic COVID-19 brought about the rescheduling of the calendar with Nurburgring making an unlikely return after seven years. The legendary circuit would host what got known as "The Eifel GP". 


  The pandemic hit the  F1  paddock again, this time two members of the  Mercedes AMG F1  team testing positive. One test was inconclusive while four other team members weren't allowed to take any part for the rest of the weekend. Six replacements got called in by the team.


While Kimi Raikkonen would become the most experienced driver in the sport on Sunday, Lewis Hamilton was chasing his 91st victory to equal the number of wins of Michael Schumacher. 

There was a lot of excitement and hype around the appearance of Mick Schumacher in FP1, Ferrari Academy Driver and Michael Schumacher's son; the German slated to take the wheel of the Alfa Romeo C39. His academy mate Callum Ilott would get a chance to drive the 2020 Haas car, giving Ferrari an idea of the capabilities of the duo. 


Nurburgring, like its older brother the Nordschleife, is a fast-flowing yet unforgiving circuit with changeable weather conditions. The majority of the field had never raced here in an F1 car which made the challenge even more daunting!


How did the teams and the driver fare at the Eifel GP? Time for a quick recap!


Practice :

It wasn't the best time of the year to host an F1 race at Nurburgring. The 24 hours Nurburgring, the GT endurance event held a fortnight before the F1 weekend suffered from stoppages due to rain, and the signs of F1 suffering a similar fate seemed ominous.

Bad weather hit both the practice sessions on Friday with a heavy mist/fog settling over the circuit and its vicinity. Intermittent rainfall compounded matters, and the FIA delayed the start of the sessions multiple times. The medical helicopter wasn't able to fly due to the conditions prevalent over the track and the route to the nearest medical facility or hospital ( Koblensk ). As a result, running on Friday had to be called off, and the fans were left disappointed. 

Schumacher Jr. and Ilott would need to wait for another day at another circuit to prove their F1 worthiness.

The cancellation of running on Friday meant that Free Practice on Saturday would be a busy affair for all teams. They would need to manage the tyre allocations to avoid jeopardizing the sets available for the race ( in the event of inclement weather ). 



Clear skies greeted the teams on Saturday morning and what followed was a busy Free Practice 3. Racing Point had a difficult start to the day with Stroll reported as being unwell. Stroll's unavailability left them with Perez alone for FP3 and the need for calling in a replacement urgently.

Thankfully, Nico Hulkenberg made himself available and drove down to Nurburgring at short notice.

George Russell went sliding across the grass while Vettel and Latifi suffered a spin at the last chicane. The track temperatures were low due to the chilly weather around, and Hamilton had a couple of lock-ups while Norris needed something to keep his hands warm in the cockpit. 

Bottas set the fastest time of FP3, a tenth clear of his team-mate Hamilton. Ferrari got upgrades to the track, and both cars were in the top 6, split by Verstappen. Norris was P7 for McLaren while Perez set the 8th fastest time in the lone Racing Point. Albon and Gasly completed the top 10. Ocon, Kvyat and Sainz finished just outside the top 10 in a closely contested midfield while Raikkonen was 14th for Alfa Romeo. The Haas drivers were 15th and 16th with Russell getting the better of Giovinazzi and Latifi.


The lack of data due to no running on Friday meant that all teams would need to adopt an aggressive approach to Qualifying. However, there seemed to be no threat to the Mercedes at the top with Bottas enjoying a cleaner session than Hamilton. 



Qualifying :

Racing Point officially announced Hulkenberg as Stroll's replacement for the weekend, the German driving the RP20 for the first time at Nurburgring in Qualifying. Hulkenberg needed to use Q1 for learning the limits of his car and wasn't likely to make it into Q2 which would compromise the chances of a strong weekend for Racing Point. The team had this driver pairing for the first time since 2016. 



Q1 got underway with Russell and Perez opting for medium tyres while the rest of the field chose softs. Russell ditched his medium tyres after a sighting lap and switched to the softs as well. Gasly came to an abrupt stop outside his pit-box when a tyre warmer blanket got stuck to the left front tyre. Thankfully, the mechanics dislodged it in time. Kevin Magnussen had his lap time deleted due to exceeding of track limits at turn 4. 

Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Albon and Ricciardo were the top 6 after the first runs with Magnussen, Raikkonen, Latifi, Giovinazzi and Hulkenberg in the drop zone. Many drivers had fuel for another run, and the track was evolving as more rubber got laid. Latifi improved to 13th before returning to pits. Barring the top 3, the rest of the field headed out again in the final five minutes of Q1. Grosjean set a quick lap only to have it deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 4.  

Norris and Ricciardo got into the top 6 while Magnussen and Giovinazzi were into the top 16. Grosjean's lap time deletion cost him dearly as he failed to make it into Q2. Russell, Latifi, Raikkonen and Hulkenberg were the other eliminations.

Raikkonen would be disappointed to be on the last row of the grid for his record-breaking 323rd race start. Hulkenberg's predicament came as no surprise, the German doing his best with the limited running he got.

Giovinazzi made his first Q2 appearance of 2020, the Italian beating his more experienced team-mate as he fights for a racing seat in 2021.



The top teams had a tough decision to make at the start of Q2 and Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault ( with Ricciardo ) decided to roll the dice, sending their drivers out on medium tyres. Kvyat meanwhile, exited the pits with a used set of soft tyres for his first run. Verstappen, Hamilton, Albon, Norris, Ocon and Sainz were the top 6 at the end of the first runs with Vettel, Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Kvyat and Gasly in the drop zone. The top 6 were separated by a second while Bottas, Leclerc and Ricciardo were on the cusp of elimination, their decision to use the medium tyres not bringing the desired result. 

The Ferrari cars were carrying extra fuel onboard nevertheless, and both drivers decided to do another flying lap. However, they were unable to improve, eventually returning to the pits for a fresh set of tyres. 

All drivers ( barring Albon ) were out on the soft tyres for the final minutes of Q2, Bottas trying to improve after a mediocre first attempt. Kvyat and Vettel fought over track position on their out-laps. The lap times improved thanks to "track evolution" and Hamilton set the fastest time of Q2, ahead of Verstappen and Bottas. Ricciardo and Leclerc improved to 4th and 5th while Albon got into Q3 with the 6th fastest time. Perez, Sainz and Ocon completed the top 10.

Vettel failed to make it into Q3 despite having the upgrades; the German would, however, have a free tyre choice come Sunday. Both the Alpha Tauri drivers got eliminated along with Giovinazzi and Magnussen at the end of Q2.



The final shootout got underway ( Q3 ) with everyone barring Perez exiting the pits to set banker laps. Verstappen drew first blood, going six hundredths clear of Bottas' best effort. Hamilton could only manage third on his banker lap, another two-hundredths adrift. Perez was out of sync with the rest of the field and set only one representative lap time.

Albon set the 4th fastest time from Leclerc and Perez followed by Renault powered cars of Ocon, Norris, Sainz and Ricciardo. 

The battle for pole position was hotting up with the contenders on fresh tyres as the clock ran down. Everyone was improving on their final runs and Hamilton was the first to cross the line in what seemed to be another pole position for the Briton. However, Bottas had other ideas and pipped his team-mate to pole! Verstappen was on a quick lap as well, but a mediocre third sector relegated him to the second row. A stunning lap by Leclerc catapulted him to 4th in his Ferrari. Albon was a commendable 5th from Ricciardo and Ocon. Norris, Perez and Sainz completed the top 10. 



Mercedes completed another front-row lockout despite the limited running on the weekend. Bottas had the best platform to fight for victory on Sunday and was going through a mini-resurgence. Hamilton would leave no stone unturned to make things right on Sunday while Verstappen knew he had a car which had the speed to fight for a win on race day. Albon ensured that his team-mate was not alone in the fight at the front. The upgrades brought in by Ferrari were doing wonders on the race track, and Leclerc hoped to capitalize on the opportunity. Vettel had a disappointing Qualifying but had the experience and talent to turn it around at his home race. Renault and McLaren had the chance of scoring more points than Racing Point in the Constructors' Championship. Alpha Tauri hoped to make it into the points scoring positions after a challenging day in Qualifying. Alfa Romeo, Haas and Williams seemed destined to remain backmarkers in the race.



Race :

McLaren changed the Power Unit on Norris' car on Saturday night, and it was within his allocation for the season. 

Pirelli chose the C2, C3 and C4 tyre compounds for the weekend and even though it was cloudy, the rain stayed away for the race start.


Vettel, Gasly, Kvyat and Grosjean chose the medium tyres while the rest of the drivers outside the top 10 were on the softs.


The race got underway, and Hamilton had a quicker getaway compared to that of Bottas. The Briton braked late and went wide at turn one, sending Bottas even wider. The latter didn't relent and kept his foot down into turn two, retaking the lead. Meanwhile, Verstappen came under intense pressure from Ricciardo but managed to hold onto third. It was a poor start for Albon who was down in 6th. Further down the field, Grosjean had lost four positions while Giovinazzi and Hulkenberg were up into P11 and P17 respectively. 


Magnussen got past Gasly for P13 on ( lap 2 ) while Bottas pulled away from Hamilton, opening up a gap of 1.5 seconds. He then went on to set a series of fastest laps, pushing hard on the soft tyres. The trio at the front was pulling away while there was a train forming behind the Ferrari of Leclerc. Ricciardo was searching for a way past him, but the Monegasque positioned his car well on the track. Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on the 7th lap while Gasly went wheel-to-wheel with Magnussen for 13th but failed to get past.


McLaren informed Sainz that there was a prediction of light rain while Albon who had suffered a flat-spot on his left front tyre due to a lockup on the opening lap pitted for a fresh set of medium tyres on lap 8. He rejoined last after a slow stop with the front left tyre. On the track, Ricciardo got the job done, relegating Leclerc to 5th on lap 9. Norris came under pressure from Perez who tried an enthusiastic move at turn three only to back off later ( lap 10 ). 


Leclerc, having flat-spotted his tyres from a mistake at turn one on lap 6, pitted for a fresh set of medium tyres, rejoining in 19th. Raikkonen followed suit rejoining in 20th and last. Gasly got past Magnussen for 10th while Vettel who was chasing Giovinazzi got spun around after he tried to take avoiding action from rear-ending the latter's car. His tyres got flat-spots as well, compromising his race strategy. The German pitted at the end of the lap for hard tyres, rejoining in 18th. Russell, in his Williams, switched to the medium tyres. 


The lead at the front changed hands on lap 13! Bottas missed his braking point, had a massive lockup at turn one which allowed Hamilton to close up and muscle past him for the lead. The Finn had flat-spotted his tyres and needed to pit early to avoid compromising his race further. There was more drama at the back of the field. Vettel, Russell and Raikkonen were racing each other when Russell tried to get past Vettel at the turn one. The German held on, but Russell became vulnerable to an overtake from Raikkonen. Raikkonen to avoid hitting Vettel locked up his front tyre, losing the rear of his car and hitting the side of Russell's car when he tried to correct the slide; this sent Russell into a spin, the Briton suffering a puncture and rear suspension failure. The Stewards flagged the incident for investigation. 


Bottas, unable to manage the flat spots on his tyres, pitted for a fresh set of medium tyres on lap 14, rejoining in 4th behind Ricciardo. Albon got past Magnussen for P12 while Gasly overtook Giovinazzi for 9th. Meanwhile, Leclerc relegated Grosjean to 17th. Magnussen and Latifi pitted for a fresh set of medium tyres while Bottas began his recovery drive with an overtake on Ricciardo for 3rd on lap 15. Giovinazzi pitted for medium tyres, rejoining in 15th while the Virtual Safety Car got deployed after Russell rolled to a stop at one of the run-off areas. Hamilton, Verstappen and Ricciardo pitted under VSC, switching to the medium tyres with Verstappen having jumped Bottas after the first round of stops.


The Virtual Safety Car period was a brief one, and Kvyat ran onto the grass on turn 14, which compromised him into the final turn. Albon got past him for P10, but cut back across, ripping the front wing off the Russian's car. Kvyat now needed to complete an entire lap without his front wing, rapidly losing positions in the process. He switched to the hard tyres and a new front wing.


Disaster struck on lap 18. Bottas reported a loss of power and lost two places to Norris and Perez as he tried to arrest the issue with some changes in the settings. The problem seemed terminal, and the Finn returned to the pits and into retirement on lap 19. It was a Power Unit failure. Meanwhile, Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on lap 20 while Leclerc got past Hulkenberg for P10.


Raikkonen got a ten-second time penalty for his incident with Russell earlier which the Finn served when he pitted for the second time in the race.

Hamilton, Verstappen, Norris, Perez, Ocon, Sainz, Ricciardo, Gasly, Albon and Leclerc were the top 10 at the end of lap 21.


The battle for 8th was hotting up with Albon trying to get past Gasly. The Frenchman put up a stoic defence causing Albon to lock up his tyres ( again ) at turn one. He suffered a flat spot on his second set of tyres and relayed to the team that the Alpha Tauri drivers were racing too hard with him. Ricciardo got past Ocon on lap 23 in what seemed to be a Renault going slow on track. Ocon had suffered a mechanical issue and limped back to the pits to retire from the race. Albon's mistake of taking out Kvyat's front wing got him a five-second time penalty which he wasn't able to serve as a stray stone had gotten into the exhaust of his car leading him to retire from the race on lap 25. 


The powertrain issues continued to haunt other drivers, this time Norris reporting a loss of power ( lap 26 ), an issue which kept getting worse. McLaren discovered a sensor issue on the car and tried to guide Norris through some changes to the settings. The problem was worsening, and Norris got the instructions to manage it for the remainder of the race. Meanwhile, Leclerc got past Gasly for 7th ( lap 28 ). 


Perez and Sainz pitted for a set of medium tyres on lap 29, rejoining in 7th and 9th respectively. Grosjean pitted for hard tyres, rejoining in 15th. Norris was due for his pit stop and switched to a fresh set of mediums on lap 30 while Hulkenberg followed suit a lap later. Perez got past Norris for 5th on lap 31 while Alpha Tauri called Gasly in to switch him to the medium tyres as well. Ferrari informed Leclerc that they were changing to "Plan C" while Hulkenberg overtook Latifi for 13th. Latifi lost another position to Grosjean a lap later while Norris was struggling with his issues as Sainz relegated him to 7th. Perez was now putting pressure on Leclerc for 4th and got past him just before the DRS Detection zone before the start-finish straight, but Leclerc fought back and reclaimed his position. Gasly overtook Magnussen for 11th while Latifi pitted for mediums, rejoining in 15th ( lap 35 ). Leclerc's defence didn't last long as Perez got past him before turn 13 on lap 36. 


Hamilton reported issues of graining on his tyres while Leclerc and Magnussen ditched their existing sets for a new set of medium tyres. Giovinazzi who was doing a stellar job for Alfa Romeo in 7th pitted for another set of medium tyres on lap 38, rejoining in 13th. Meanwhile, Raikkonen lost three places in the span of two laps to Leclerc, Gasly and Hulkenberg as he tried to prolong his stint. Vettel suffered a similar fate to Raikkonen, the duo now out of the points-scoring positions. Vettel was also suffering from a flat spot on his hard tyres and switched to the soft tyres for his final stint on lap 43. Perez in 4th was honing in on Ricciardo, lap by lap, hoping to challenge him in the final stages of the race. 


There was another twist on lap 44. Norris was unable to manage his sensor issue and came to a halt on the run-off area at turn 6 with smoke billowing out of the rear of his car. The Race Director decided to deploy the Safety Car! 


Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Sainz, Gasly, Hulkenberg and Raikkonen all pitted under the Safety Car for a fresh set of soft tyres which would last them till the end of the race. Perez also switched to the same compound a lap later. The ten lapped cars were allowed to overtake and get back on the lead lap as the Safety Car did a few more laps around the track. 


Racing resumed on lap 50, and it was a clean getaway for Hamilton. Verstappen got bogged down and came under pressure from Ricciardo, but managed to stay ahead. Grosjean, who hadn't pitted under Safety Car lost two places to Gasly and Hulkenberg while Leclerc got relegated to 7th by Gasly on lap 51. Hamilton set the fastest laps of the race ( back to back ) as he extended his lead at the front. DRS got enabled on lap 53, and Latifi lost 12th to Vettel and 13th to Raikkonen. Vettel was on the cusp of scoring points when he got past Magnussen on lap 55, the duo banging wheels in what was a feisty duel on track. Magnussen failed to fend off Raikkonen as well, getting relegated to 13th. 


Hamilton set the fastest lap on the penultimate lap only to have it robbed off him by Verstappen on the final lap.


Nevertheless, no one could deny him the chance of equalling Michael Schumacher's record of wins in F1. The Briton took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Eifel GP, scoring the 91st win of his F1 career! Verstappen came home in 2nd, a few seconds adrift, and it was Ricciardo who took the final podium place, Renault returning to the podium for the first time since 2011! Perez was 4th for Racing Point, Sainz and Gasly completed the top 6. Leclerc was pleased with another strong showing for Ferrari in 7th while Hulkenberg finished a commendable 8th in the other Racing Point. It was the first points-scoring finish for Grosjean in 9th while Giovinazzi produced a stellar drive in his Alfa Romeo, fending off a late charge from Vettel to bag the final point. Vettel, Raikkonen, Magnussen, Latifi and Kvyat were the other classified finishers.



Hamilton and Verstappen were a class apart today. The duo would have lapped everyone up to P3 had there not been a Safety Car period. Bottas suffered another blow to his title aspirations with his Power Unit failure and needed to cover a deficit of 69 points in the upcoming rounds. Verstappen closed in on Bottas for P2 in the Championship, and it seems that this fight will go on till the end of the season. Ricciardo's hard work with Renault finally paid off, and the Australian would be hoping to do even better in the upcoming rounds. Perez did the best he could for Racing Point, but Hulkenberg, the "Driver of the Day", accomplished an unthinkable finish having spent less than 24 hours in the cockpit of the RP20 at Nurburgring. The German surely deserves a seat in the sport! Grosjean and Giovinazzi drove exceptionally well for their teams, and these drives will go a long way in improving their reputations within the paddock. 



Mercedes had a bitter-sweet race with a chance of another one-two finish gone but extended their lead in the Constructors' Championship thanks to one Red Bull failing to finish the race due to mechanical issues. Renault was the 7th Constructor to score a podium finish in 2020; 2012 was the last time the sport had the same statistic. However, they lost points with Ocon's retirement. Racing Point would be pleased with the way their fortunes changed, especially with the finish Hulkenberg achieved, stepping in for Stroll who was unless. In a tightly contested midfield, McLaren would be ruing the retirement suffered by one of its cars. The double points-finish allowed Racing Point to jump to third in the Constructors' Championship. Ferrari's upgrades seem to be working, and the team would be hoping for better weekends in the upcoming races. Alpha Tauri capitalized on the slip-ups by the competitors while Haas and Alfa Romeo enjoyed a points-scoring weekend. Williams remains the only team yet to score a point in 2020.


Kimi Raikkonen completed 323 race starts, granting him the record of the "most experienced driver in F1." The Iceman keeps racing and doing what he loves.



Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher's record of race wins and was gifted a race-worn helmet ( from 2012 ) of Schumacher by Michael's son Mick Schumacher at parc-ferme. He could now become the most successful driver in the history of the sport with his next win. 



The teams head to Portugal in a fortnight, to a track that has never hosted an F1 race before. One can only speculate the surprises in store for the contenders for the crown. 

Bring on Portimao!!


2020 Russian GP Race Recap : It ain't over till it's over!

The second half of the 2020 F1 Season kickstarted with the Russian GP in the city of Sochi. The Sochi Autodrom is a street circuit built around the Olympic Park by the legendary circuit designer Hermann Tilke consisting of many medium-speed corners.

The Russian GP was the first one-off GP of the 2020 season followed by a two-week break before the return of Nurburgring for the German GP and then a double-header in Portugal and Italy.


The sport also saw a reshuffle in its leadership with Ex-Ferrari Team Principal & Lamborghini supremo Stefano Domenicali taking over the role of CEO and Chase Carey becoming the Non-Executive Chairman.


Sochi had been a happy hunting ground for Mercedes, and their dominance in 2020 made them the runaway favourites. Hamilton was one victory shy of equalling Michael Schumacher's record of wins ( 91 ) besides extending his lead in the Championship. Red Bull hoped to see both its cars on the sharp end of the grid in its quest for a podium here. Ferrari had aerodynamic updates, and Stroll had the privilege of driving an upgraded Racing Point car, the Canadian being a beneficiary of a new chassis after his crash in Mugello a fortnight ago. Pirelli chose the softest three tyre compounds for this weekend.


Let us have a quick recap of the Russsian GP weekend.


Practice :

Valtteri Bottas was the fastest driver at the end of Free Practice 1, half a second clear of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. The Dutchman wasn't pleased with Russell in the Williams impeding him on his fast lap.

Perez and Stroll were in the top 6 for Racing Point followed by Ocon in the Renault. Kvyat had a spin but managed to set the 7th fastest time with Albon, Vettel and Gasly completing the top 10. The 2019 pole position man Leclerc was P11 for Ferrari followed by the McLaren duo of Sainz and Norris. It was a tough session for Sainz who suffered a spin at turn 10, the rear of his car hitting the barriers, leaving his rear-wing hanging precariously as he limped back to the pits.

The Alfa Romeo cars were 14th and 15th fastest followed by Magnussen and Russell. Grosjean was P18 for Haas, having gone wheel-to-wheel with Leclerc over track position during the session, leaving the Monegasque a bit flummoxed. It was a quiet FP1 for Hamilton who managed to set only the 19th fastest time on hard tyres. Latifi had a similar crash to Sainz at turn 10, the impact leaving him winded and the car a wreck. The stewards Red Flagged the session to clear the stricken car. The Canadian came out unscathed thankfully.


Free Practice 2 got underway with teams splitting the sessions into low fuel runs and race simulations. Turns 2 and 13 turned out to be notorious ones in FP2. Hamilton had a big lockup and just avoided the barriers at turn 13. Stroll, meanwhile, spun at the same spot. Norris and Albon had to use the run-off at Turn 2 after missing their braking point while Verstappen made a rare mistake and got spun around at Turn 14.

It was Bottas who had the momentum on Friday and set the fastest time, more than two-tenths clear of his team-mate Hamilton. Ricciardo carried his FP1 form into FP2 and was third fastest, but a second adrift. Sainz, Norris and Perez ensured McLaren and Racing Point representation in the top 6 while Verstappen was the fastest Honda-powered car in 7th.

Ferrari had both its cars in the top 10 with Ocon splitting the "Prancing Horses". Albon, in P12, was in an Alpha Tauri sandwich while Raikkonen in his Alfa Romeo ( in P14 ) was the fastest Ferrari-powered customer car. Latifi had a better FP2 with the 15th fastest time, edging out his team-mate, but more than two seconds slower than Botttas.

It was a disappointing FP2 for Stroll who managed only the 17th fastest time with Magnussen, Giovinazzi and Grosjean bringing up the rear of the field.



The Final Practice Session ( FP3 ) saw Hamilton find his mojo, setting the fastest time, eight tenths clear of team-mate Bottas. The Briton went wide at turn 13, skating over the sausage kerb. Only two-tenths separated four drivers from four different teams, and it was Sainz who set the third quickest time from Ocon, Perez and Verstappen. Ocon had an off-track moment at turn 17 but was able to continue without any damage. It was an encouraging session for Vettel, the Ferrari driver setting the 7th fastest time from Stroll, Kvyat and Ricciardo. Gasly was P11 in the other Alpha Tauri having suffered a spin at turn 15.

Leclerc was P12 in the other Ferrari with Russell catapulting his Williams to 13th. Issues with the general balance of the car led to incessant complaining by Grosjean, the Frenchman suffering a similar spin like Gasly's but managing to put in the 14th quickest time. Latifi and Magnussen were P15 and P16 for Williams and Haas, but more than 2 seconds slower than the fastest time of FP3. The Alfa Romeo cars were struggling in 17th and 18th while Albon, in the sister Red Bull, had a very unsettled FP3. The Thai driver needed to step up his game in Qualifying. McLaren's upgrades didn't seem to work on Norris' car, the British driver 20th at the end of the session.



Sochi is a power-sensitive circuit, and the Mercedes works team had a clear edge over the rest of the field. It was advantage Bottas in the intra-team battle. Pirelli's choice of having the softest three compounds for the weekend would bring Red Bull into the fray, but Friday running suggested that they might not be the real contenders. Renault power came to the fore, and the works team with Ricciardo was right in the mix for the top 6 along with McLaren, their customer team. Ferrari powered cars seemed destined for a long Sunday afternoon, their lack of straight-line speed costing them dear. However, the works team had both its cars in the top 10 and were optimistic of keeping it that way come Qualifying. Perez, without the upgrades, was faster of the two Racing Point cars which might have made the team to reconsider the effectiveness of the updates brought in. The midfield promised to be a closely contested affair come Sunday.


Qualifying :

The skies were overcast for the start of Qualifying, and the threat of rain loomed at the beginning of Q1. Russell was the first driver out on track with medium tyres but had to abort his flying lap due to traffic. A slew of cars emerged behind him, five minutes into the session, all on soft tyres. The Renault drivers were also on medium tyres on their first runs.
Hamilton and Magnussen had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 2. The sausage kerbs were unsettling a lot of cars on their flying laps. The reigning World Champion recovered to P2 on his second attempt. Bottas, Hamilton, Perez, Sainz, Verstappen and Leclerc were the top six after the first runs with Ocon, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Grosjean and Latifi in the drop zone. Vettel and Magnussen were on the cusp of elimination and needed to improve their times.

Only Bottas and Verstappen from the top 6 ventured out for another run in the final minutes of Q1. Raikkonen missed his braking point and got unsettled over the kerb at turn 2. The resulting imbalance sent his Alfa Romeo into a spin, ruining his and his team-mate's lap who was following closely behind. The lap times came down rapidly ( for the others ) with track evolution. Leclerc and Vettel managed to scrape through to Q2 in 14th and 15th. Meanwhile, Russell put in a stonking lap to go 13th quickest while Kvyat, Ocon and Ricciardo broke into the top 6. Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Magnussen, Latifi and Raikkonen got eliminated at the end of Q1.




Spots of rain got reported by the drivers on their out-laps at the start of Q2. Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen had opted for the medium tyres while the rest of the field ( bar Russell ) stuck to the softs. Hamilton set the fastest time on his banker lap but his lap time got deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 18. Ricciardo led from Sainz and Perez at the end of the first runs. Bottas, Norris, Gasly, Verstappen, Ocon, Leclerc and Kvyat completed the top 10 with Albon, Stroll, Vettel, Hamilton and Russell in the drop zone. Hamilton wanted to do another run on his existing medium tyres, but the team denied him the request, asking him to switch to a fresh set of medium tyres for the remainder of Q2. Russell, who was out of sync with the rest of the runners, set the 13th quickest time ( provisional ) on soft tyres.

Ricciardo chose to not run again in Q2 while Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen went out with a fresh set of medium tyres. There were two minutes left on the clock and Vettel was on a flying lap, just ahead of Leclerc. The German clipped the inside of the kerb at turn 4, his car getting spun around, making him a passenger as he careered into the barriers while sliding over the sausage kerb. It was a big wreck, and his front wing got dislodged. Leclerc ended up going over some debris, and the session got Red-Flagged! Hamilton, who was on a flying lap as well couldn't complete his lap and remained in the drop zone, yet to set a representative lap time. These were tense times for Mercedes and Hamilton, his race strategy compromised as well.

It was a lengthy halt to the session, and when the pit lane was due to open, a queue had formed up at the pit exit. Hamilton exited the garage with soft tyres and would have to pass several cars on his out-lap if he wanted to start his lap in time. Matters got complicated further when Stroll encountered trouble as he waited for the session to resume. The Racing Point mechanics had to wheel him back into the garage, an overheating issue to blame. He was out of Q2 as well. The Red Bulls were quick off the blocks as soon as the session resumed. The Alpha Tauris behind them decided to hold up the rest of the field for a few more seconds before they pulled out onto the race track. Hamilton got informed by the team that they were critical on timing, asking him to push.

The cold tyres on his car caused him to run wide at turn 2, forcing him to take the longer route around the markers set by the FIA Race Director. The clock was ticking down, and Sainz and Perez failed to start their lap. Hamilton, just ahead of the duo, was able to commence his final run, beating the clock by less than a second! A close call for the reigning World Champion. He was able to set a lap, ending the session with the 4th fastest time. Meanwhile, Verstappen was flying on his final attempt but slowed down at the end to avoid starting the race on soft tyres. Leclerc made a mistake, putting him out of contention for Q3.
Ricciardo ended Q2 with the quickest time from Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton. Perez was the solo Racing Point car to get into Q3 with Norris and Gasly 6th and 7th. It was another close call for Albon, who got the job done in the final minutes of Q2 with the 8th fastest time. Verstappen and Ocon completed the top 10. Leclerc, Kvyat, Stroll, Russell and Vettel were the eliminations from Q2.




The final shootout got underway ( Q3 ), and Hamilton stepped up when it mattered. He was on provisional pole with a healthy lead of eight-tenths of a second from Bottas. Verstappen and Ricciardo were the only other drivers within a second of his time. Perez, Sainz, Ocon, Albon, Gasly and Norris completed the rest of the top 10.
The drivers opted to not wait for the final minutes of Q3 to complete their second runs. The Red Bull drivers let the rest of the field to clear before joining the track a minute behind. Bottas, the first challenger for pole, lost time in the first sector after his car got a bit awry at turn 2. He failed to improve in sector two as well, eventually setting a time that was half a second slower of his team-mate's first attempt. Hamilton, behind him, went even faster and set a new track record! Pole position was his unless Verstappen had a say. Verstappen benefitted from a tow from Bottas ( who was on the cooldown lap ) and relegated him to P3, helping Red Bull get its first front row start in Sochi. It was pole position for Hamilton again!
Perez qualified an unlikely 4th having pipped Ricciardo by four-hundredths of a second. Sainz, Ocon and Norris made it Renault Powered rows three and four for Sunday while Gasly qualified ahead of Albon to start P9.




Hamilton, Magnussen, Grosjean and Latifi got summoned to the stewards' room for not following the Race Director's instructions with regards to rejoining the track at turn 2. However, they escaped any penalties.




It had been an eventful and frenetic Qualifying session in Sochi. Hamilton, with all the setbacks and hiccups, reigned supreme on Saturday. However, it was a compromised strategy for him with his immediate rivals starting the race on medium tyres. Verstappen and Bottas would be hoping to get the tow from Hamilton to jump him on the run into turn 2. Perez was giving other F1 teams a great audition with his performance on Saturday. The Renault powered cars weren't short on power and would be a handful come Sunday. Albon would need to salvage his weekend on a Sunday again after a disappointing performance in Qualifying. The lack of straight-line speed would make it a challenging race for the Ferrari powered cars, and they would need smart strategic calls to capitalize on the slip-ups ahead. Russell was brilliant on Saturday for Williams but would he be able to maintain the momentum on Sunday was a different matter altogether. The Alfa Romeo drivers were disappointing with their performances since a Q2 appearance for both was definitely on the cards. Haas F1 needed to address its balance issues if the team hoped to have a fruitful Sunday.



Race :

Albon and Latifi got five-place grid drops each due to a gearbox change. There was drama before the start of the race with Hamilton coming under investigation for practice starts outside the designated area. The race start drew nigh, and the stewards were yet to make a decision.


Raikkonen and Kvyat opted for the hard tyres while Leclerc, Stroll, Russell, Vettel, Grosjean, Giovinazzi and Magnussen were on the mediums. Albon, who got demoted to P15, due to the penalty had to start on the soft tyres from Q2 on Saturday.


The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for Hamilton from pole position. Verstappen who was on the "dirty side" of the grid got bogged down and lost second to Bottas. Bottas got into the tow behind Hamilton, and the team-mates were side-by-side going into turn 2. Unfortunately, the Finn had to relent, and Hamilton kept his position. Verstappen tried to avoid Ricciardo who had the inside line, getting forced to go around the bollards at turn 2. Chaos unfolded further down the field. Sainz, in the midfield tussle, too was pushed off the track at turn 2, but tried to rejoin the circuit too quickly and ended up hitting the wall with his left front tyre. It was race over for the Spaniard. A slew of cars had to take avoiding action and Norris, his team came off the worst, having lost ten places on the opening lap. There was more drama two corners later with Leclerc tapping the right rear wheel of Stroll's car, the contact sending the Canadian into the barriers. He became the second retirement of the race on the opening lap. The stewards deemed it as "no action necessary".


The Safety Car got deployed by the stewards to clear the debris on the track caused by the incidents. It was a lightning start for the Haas cars, the duo up into P9 and P10 while Giovinazzi was P12 for Alfa Romeo. Russell, Norris and Albon decided to pit at the end of the opening lap for a fresh set of hard tyres with Norris' stop being longer as the team checked for damage and debris. Norris also reported issues with his steering, the team asking him to manage it till the end of the race.


Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Ocon, Ricciardo, Perez, Gasly, Leclerc, Magnussen and Grosjean were the top 10 behind the Safety Car.


The Safety Car pulled into the pits, and it was a clean restart for Hamilton ( lap 6 ). Russell and Raikkonen went wheel-to-wheel, but Raikkonen held on to P15. Norris and Albon too had a tussle with Norris relegating the Thai driver to 18th. Hamilton had already opened up a 1.5 seconds gap to Bottas at the end of lap 6.


The verdict was out on the infringement committed by Hamilton earlier. The stewards penalized him with two 5 seconds penalties for two violations of practice starts outside the designated area. He would have to serve it at the time of his pitstop.


Kvyat got past Grosjean for P10 on lap 8 with Verstappen reporting grip issues on his rear tyres. Raikkonen overtook Latifi for P14 on lap 9. A three-way battle unfolded at the back of the field with Norris putting pressure on Russell for P16 and Albon waiting for the right opportunity to pounce on any mistake by the duo. Russell held on to 16th, but Norris lost 17th to Albon. Meanwhile, at the front, Mercedes asked Bottas to close the gap to Hamilton ( lap 12 ) while Russell locked up at turn 13 and lost 16th to Albon. Kvyat overtook Magnussen for P9 while Norris got past Russell for P17 ( lap 13 ).


Mercedes asked Hamilton to push to build a gap and mitigate the time lost at the time of serving his penalty. He refused to pit at the end of lap 14 and went on to set the fastest lap of the race. Perez got past Ricciardo for P5 on lap 15 while Russell pitted for mediums, having flat-spotted his exiting set. Ricciardo, having lost P5 pitted immediately after for hard tyres and rejoined in 14th. Hamilton didn't let up on his pace and set the fastest lap of the race again on lap 16 while Albon relegated Latifi to P16.


Hamilton finally pitted on lap 17, serving his 10 seconds penalty and switching to the hard tyres. He rejoined in 11th, and out of contention for race victory ( unless there was to be another Safety Car period ). Giovinazzi too pitted from 11th, rejoining in 17th with a set of hard tyres. Ontrack, Norris overtook Latifi for 15th.


Bottas, now in clear air went on to set a series of fastest laps as he prolonged his stint on the medium tyres. Grosjean and Latifi pitted on lap 18 for hard and medium tyres, rejoining in 15th and 17th respectively. Ocon and Gasly pitted a lap later, both switching to the hard tyres. Gasly rejoined in 13th while Ocon in 9th just behind Vettel. Meanwhile, Hamilton, who was in 11th moved up three places with those ahead of him pitting and got past Vettel for 7th, gaining track position on Ocon.


Magnussen pitted on lap 20 for hard tyres rejoining in 14th while Ricciardo got past Raikkonen for P9. Perez pitted from 3rd a lap later for hard tyres, rejoining in 6th behind Hamilton, and jumping Ocon who got stuck behind the Ferrari of Vettel in 8th. Bottas' pace at the front was relentless as he set another fastest lap of the race. Ocon's race was getting compromised with his inability to clear Vettel which allowed his team-mate Ricciardo to close upon him and get within DRS range. Renault instructed the Frenchman to let Ricciardo by, and he obliged on lap 25. However, Ricciardo locked up on the run into turn two and went over the kerbs, attracting the attention of the stewards.


Verstappen pitted for hard tyres on lap 26, rejoining in 4th behind Leclerc and Kvyat. He had a 6 seconds lead over Hamilton. Bottas pitted a lap later and retained his lead, switching to the hard tyres for his final stint. Verstappen cleared Kvyat for P3 ( lap 27 ) while Ricciardo relegated Vettel to 8th on lap 28. However, Ricciardo got a 5 seconds time penalty for not following the Race Director's instructions on rejoining the track at turn 2 ( the infringement on lap 25 ). Vettel lost another position to the Renault of Ocon, the Frenchman finally getting past, but all his hard work brought to nought with the time lost.


Meanwhile, Albon pitted from 11th for medium tyres and rejoined in 16th ( lap 28 ). Leclerc made his mandatory pitstop a lap later, switching to the hard tyres and ending in 7th ahead of Ocon. Albon and Russell made another stop and switched to the medium tyres. Kvyat pitted for medium tyres on lap 31 from 3rd, rejoining in P8. Vettel followed the Russian into the pits and switched to the hard tyres, relegated to 16th. Raikkonen was the only driver yet to pit and was putting up a spirited defence against Gasly in the battle for P9.


Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Ocon, Kvyat, Raikkonen and Gasly were the top 10 at the end of lap 32.


Gasly finally got past Raikkonen on lap 34 while Renault informed Ricciardo about his time penalty, asking him to push and build a gap to Leclerc behind. The Australian replied with "I shall drive faster". Red Bull informed Verstappen about the deficit to Bottas and the lap times he was setting, Verstappen replied that he focused on his own pace, vary of Hamilton behind. He had given up on his chances of a victory. Raikkonen was the last driver to pit on lap 36, switching to the medium tyres, but the left front got re-attached slowly. The Finn rejoined in 16th, 12 seconds adrift of Vettel.


Albon overtook Giovinazzi for P13 ( lap 38 ) and then got past Grosjean a couple of laps later. Grosjean ran wide at turn two and had to go around the bollards which made him vulnerable to an overtake from Giovinazzi behind. The Frenchman couldn't hold onto P13 and had to relent on lap 41. Vettel was the next driver to overtake Grosjean, the two banging wheels at turn 2, and Grosjean taking out the bollards in his attempt to adhere to the Race Director instructions. The Haas drivers lost more positions with Albon relegating Magnussen to P12 ( lap 42 ) and Raikkonen getting past Grosjean for P15 ( lap 43 ). The Virtual Safety Car period got initiated by the race stewards as the marshalls went about the job of replacing the foam bollards destroyed by Grosjean earlier.


Gasly pitted from 9th, trying to take advantage of the VSC period, but it ended as soon as he entered the pit lane. He switched to the medium tyres and lost two positions in the process. Grosjean pitted for medium tyres, rejoining in 18th and last. The battle for 9th was hotting up with Norris, Albon and Gasly on laps 45 and 46. Albon closed in on Norris with DRS assistance, but Norris slowed him down on the exit of turns ten and eleven, making Albon vulnerable to Gasly who wasted no time and relegated him to 11th. It was now Gasly's turn to go wheel-to-wheel with Norris who was putting up a stoic defence. It was job done for the Frenchman on lap 48 with Albon doing the same a few corners later. The Briton eventually pitted at the end of the lap for a fresh set of medium tyres, ending up in 15th behind Raikkonen.


Giovinazzi, who was having a strong weekend with Alfa Romeo was on the cusp of scoring points again when he got past Magnussen for P11 on lap 49. Meanwhile, Verstappen at the front decided to push till the end and set the fastest lap of the race. A three-way battle unfolded between Magnussen, Vettel and Raikkonen who had reduced the deficit after completing his pit stop. Kvyat was now within DRS range of Ocon and had P7 in his sights ( lap 50 ). Verstappen reduced Bottas' lead to 5.5 seconds who responded by snatching the fastest lap of the race from the Dutchman. Raikkonen kept up the pressure on Vettel, hoping to make up a position on his former team-mate while Russell pitted for soft tyres on the penultimate lap.


Bottas took victory from Verstappen, taking home the point for the fastest lap as well. Hamilton recovered to 3rd but was unhappy with the punishment meted to him. These three drivers finished on the podium for the sixth time in 2020. Perez came home in a commendable 4th with Ricciardo finishing in 5th for Renault. The Australian retained his position despite the time penalty. Leclerc was 6th for Ferrari, followed by Ocon who held onto 7th from Kvyat. Gasly and Albon completed the top 10. The stewards had dished out a five-seconds time penalty to Albon as well, but the Thai driver, like Ricciardo, had built a big enough gap to retain the final scoring points finish.


Giovinazzi produced a fine drive in 11th for Alfa Romeo, shame that he was unable to finish in the points again. Magnussen did well to fend off a late challenge from Vettel and Raikkonen while Norris finished a dismal 15th for McLaren. Latifi was 16th with Grosjean and Russell the final classified drivers.


Mercedes were flawless in their strategy calls, and an early pit stop was damage limitation for Hamilton. Bottas kept it clean throughout and managed his race pace well. Red Bull and Verstappen weren't able to mount a serious challenge and would be happy to have split the Mercedes drivers nonetheless. Racing Point had a bitter-sweet weekend with Perez doing an exceptional job in the older-spec car but Stroll suffering from an early end to his race. Renault had the best result from the midfield teams with both drivers finishing in the points. McLaren would want to put this weekend behind them as soon as possible. Leclerc produced a stellar drive in his under-performing Ferrari, the Monegasque benefitting from great strategy calls from the pit lane. The Alpha Tauri drivers finished in the points again ahead of Albon who had another compromised weekend due to the gearbox penalty. He has the backing of the team still, but patience would be running out for some of the top brass. Giovinazzi drove a strong race for Alfa Romeo and drives such as these will help in his quest for a contract in 2021. Magnussen remained the better of the two Haas drivers while Vettel's poor form in the 2020 Ferrari continued. Raikkonen would rue his qualifying mistake since he had the speed to finish higher than he did. Williams went backwards again on a Sunday.


Bottas was going through a lean patch since his finish outside the points ( British GP ). His inability to capitalize on Hamilton's mistakes drew a lot of criticism from fans and experts alike. He vowed to keep pushing and not give up until it's over and this victory will do his confidence a world of good. Hamilton would have to wait for another day to equal Schumacher's record.


The F1 Fraternity now travel ( in a fortnight ) to the legendary circuit of Nurburgring, the venue for the Eiffel GP. Seven years have passed since it hosted an F1 race. The inclement weather has produced some exciting races in the past. Bring on round 10 of the 2020 F1 Season!