The Paddock Weekends - 2019 Belgian GP - Day 2

Saturday on a Grand Prix weekend features the last Free Practice Session, FP3 and Qualifying for F1. Its shortly followed by the Feature Race in F2. This was a Saturday that we can never forget..

An early start to the day helped us beat some traffic to the track.

Enroute to the Circuit from Hasselt :


We were also in time for the Saturday Morning Pit Lane Walk.

Shots from the Pit Lane Walk :


The Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Garage :


Kimi Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo being Fired up before FP3 ( Video Link ) :



A beautiful morning in the Paddock :


Healthy Breakfasts anyone?


It was then time for Free Practice 3 and I found a nice place to shoot some pictures of cars going up Raidillon :


I made my way back to Turn 1 ( La Source ) and met Porsche Carrera Cup Drivers on the way while going through the Support Race Paddock.

Dylan Pereira, Supercup Porsche Carrera Cup Racing Driver :


Some more shots of the cars coming out of La Source Hairpin :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during FP3 :


Charles Leclerc was fastest in FP3 from Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi were P8 and P9 respectively.


A Quick Lunch in the Motorhome :


Timo Glock, Ex-F1 and DTM Racer :


The Motorhome, a busy place during Lunch :


Heikki Kulta of Finnish Press :


It was also time for the 2nd Pit Lane walk of the day. 

The Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Garage!


I headed out to the La Source hairpin stand after the Pit Lane Walk to meet my friend and long time Kimi Supporter Zakria!


Qualifying got underway soon after. Shots from Q1 :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during Q1 :


Charles Leclerc was the fastest in Q1 from Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen. Both the Alfas made it into Q2!


Shots from Q2 :

Antonio Giovinazzi's car suffered a mechanical failure in Q2 and couldn't set a time. He would eventually start the race in P18 after serving the penalties incurred for the parts change. Charles Leclerc was the fastest from Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen made it into Q3.


Shots from Q3 :

Charles Leclerc took Pole from Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen qualified a commendable P8 ( effective P6 after Ricciardo's and Hulkenberg's penalties ).

Ferrari were ecstatic after locking out the front row!

Post Qualifying celebrations :


Taking the Cars to Parc-Ferme :


I made it back to the paddock to unwind for a bit before heading home.

Mark Webber and David Coulthard, highly successful Racers in F1 and beyond :


Brett Arnall, Mark Arnall's brother and my friend Kimi Raikkonen fan Jane Bleach :


During the F2 Feature Race, a massive crash happened just after Raidillon. Young Drivers Anthoine Hubert and Juan Manuel Correa were involved in the incident. The Race was red-flagged and later cancelled. Both were rushed to the Medical Centre. 

Inspite of their best efforts, Anthoine Hubert didn't make it. We were shocked and shaken after hearing the news. True Motorsports is dangerous but a talent who was only 21 was taken away from us, in the cruelest way possible. Words fall short to describe the mood in the Paddock. Everyone rallied around the near and dear ones of this Renault Program young driver. It once again showed how closed knit the Racing Community. Juan is still under treatment and after a couple of critical surgeries is on a rough road to recovery. All of us shed tears, all of us were one...all of us..

As we head back to Hasselt, our hearts were heavy, our senses numb, we still didn't want to believe this to be true..but such is life..


This incident reminded us that racers sacrifice their all to live their dreams, to race, to enthrall, to entertain, to give us memories that will be etched in the hearts of us fans forever and yet, all it takes is a moment, one instance to end it all. This Sport unites us..as one big family..fans and racers alike..we race as one, we win as one....and in the times of mourning we mourn as one..There is an old saying "life goes on"..for Anthoine's Family, life would never be the same again..

May his soul rest in peace..


The legacy of Anthoine Hubert lives on..


The Sunday experience follows next.. 

The Paddock Weekends - 2019 Belgian GP - Day 1

The 2019 Belgian Grand Prix was a special Grand Prix. All the Grands Prix that I attended have been memorable but this year's Belgian GP was the beginning of a new experience - an experience of being a guest of the team in the Motorhome for the Entire Weekend. The weekend saw a beginning of a New Series on my Blog. 

The New Series is called "The Paddock Weekends". It was truly an amazing feeling to be the guest of the Alfa Romeo Racing F1 team for the entire weekend. I would get a Paddock Pass with my name on it, have access to their Motorhome, Garage and Podium Access post qualifying and the race. I would have to find a new spot to capture stills over the weekend ( no Paddock Club access ) which wasn't really an issue. Armed with my Sony RX 10 IV and Samsung Note 10+, I stepped out to live my childhood dream!

I stayed in Hasselt ( just like in 2017 ) and the drive to Spa Francorchamps was never more than an hour. Accompanying me were friends from UK Jane & Kaz!

This is the Friday Experience.


Enroute to the Circuit :

Some shots with the Samsung Note 10+ :


What an Elegant Race Pass!!


Friday Morning in the Paddock. Kimi Raikkonen walking in with the Alfa Romeo Team Manager Beat Zehnder :


The Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Motorhome! The Chocolates served with Coffee were lovely. I was sharing the table with ANTONIO GIOVINAZZI! What an honour!


Sometime after settling in it was time for Free Practice 1 to begin. Kimi Raikkonen heading out with his trainer Mark Arnall :


I decided to get some shots of the Paddock while heading down to the Alfa Romeo Garage :


Waiting outside the Alfa Romeo Garage :


I got to the Garage and met a dear friend of Kimi!

Antii Pyrhonen, Team Manager for Red Bull IceOne Husqvarna Factory Team in Motocross & one of Kimi Raikkonen's closest friends :


A 40 minute stop in the garage and it was time to rush out and grab a spot to capture some stills.

Jos Verstappen, Max's father and ex-F1 Driver :


Shots from Free Practice 1 :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during FP1 :


Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were the Fastest in FP1. Kimi Raikkonen & Antonio Giovinazzi were P13 and P15 respectively.


The Paddock in Belgium is a two - tier one. The upper tier is used for Debriefs and Engineers' meets while the Lower Tier houses the various motorhomes of the teams.


Kimi Raikkonen, in deep conversation with his Father-in-law Mr. Kimmo Virtanen! The Iceman..so close!!


Time to walk around for some more selfies!

Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport F1 Racing Team :


Triple World Champion and F1 Legend, Sir Jackie Stewart!


Stoffel Vandoorne! Belgian Ex-F1 Racer now racing in Formula E :


Juan Pablo Montoya, another F1 legend!


Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of Double World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi :


I decided to pay the F1 Village a visit and FP2 had already begun! It was nice to see the fans unwinding in front of the big screens in the Village.


Shots from FP2 :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team during FP2 :


Charles Leclerc was the fastest in FP2 from Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas. Kimi Raikkonen was P7 while Antonio Giovinazzi P16.

I headed back to the Paddock after FP2.


The Famous Media Pen!


Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team!


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Reserve Driver and Indy Racer Marcus Ericsson :


Fredric Vasseur, Team Principal, Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Toto Wolff, Team Principal, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


The day was winding down. A lot of the personnel left for their hotels. I was busy in conversation with the near and dear ones of Kimi Raikkonen when I was invited to share a seat at his table..THIS...


Mr. Kimmo Virtanen, Minttu Raikkonen's Father and Kimi Raikkonen's Father-in-law :


Beat Zehnder, Team Manager for Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team :


Christian Horner, Team Principal, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Racing Team :


Jehan Daruwala, Indian Racer in F3 racing with Prema Racing Team :


Ottmar Szafnauer, CEO and Team Principal, Racing Point F1 Team :


James Vowles, Chief Strategist, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Racing Team :


Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


George Russell, Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team :


Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Daniel Ricciardo, Renault Sport F1 Team :


Max Verstappen, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


Alexander Albon, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


Kimi Raikkonen! Yes its Kimi Raikkonen!! The Weekend is made! He now races with Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Returning to our hotel in Hasselt :


It was an amazing Friday at Spa Francorchamps. The Alfa Romeo duo seemed quick and the weekend ahead promised to be a really positive one! 

I would like to thank Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team for the hospitality shown towards me over the weekend.

The Saturday experience follows next!

A Gallery of Memories - Part 19

The next post in the "Gallery of Memories" Series is from the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix. I was privileged to be a guest of Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team and had Paddock Access on all days.

Truly this was a special weekend! 


Antii Pyrhonen, Team Manager for Red Bull IceOne Husqvarna Factory Team in Motocross & one of Kimi Raikkonen's closest friends. Truly one of the nicest people you will ever meet in the Paddock 


Jos Verstappen :


Nico Hulkenberg, Renault Sport F1 Team :


Christian Horner, Team Principal, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


James Allison, Technical Director, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Racing Team :


Jehan Daruwala, Indian Racer in F3 racing with Prema Racing Team :


Ottmar Szafnauer, CEO and Team Principal, Racing Point F1 Team :


James Vowles, Chief Strategist, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Racing Team :


George Russell, Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team :


Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Daniel Ricciardo, Renault Sport F1 Team :


Max Verstappen, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


Alexander Albon, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


Kimi Raikkonen! Yes its Kimi Raikkonen!! The Weekend is made!


Beat Zehnder, Team Manager for Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Mr. Kimmo Virtanen, Minttu Raikkonen's Father and Kimi Raikkonen's Father-in-law :


Toto Wolff, Team Principal, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Fredric Vasseur, Team Principal, Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Reserve Driver and Indy Racer Marcus Ericsson :


Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team!


Triple World Champion and F1 Legend, Sir Jackie Stewart!


Stoffel Vandoorne!


Juan Pablo Montoya, another F1 legend!


Pietro Fittipaldi, grandson of Double World Champion Emerson Fittipaldi :


Cyril Abiteboul, Managing Director, Renault Sport F1 Racing Team :


Dylan Pereira, Supercup Porsche Carrera Cup Racing Driver :


Masahi Yamamoto, Managing Director for Honda Racing in F1 :


Kimi Raikkonen's Race Engineer in Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team, Mr. Julien Simon-Chautemps :


Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :


Sebastian Vettel! Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team!


Double World Champion in Formula E, ex F1 racer Jean-Eric Vergne :


Esteban Ocon, Reserve Driver for Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


The fighter Robert Kubica, Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :


Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :


Carlos Sainz Jr., McLaren Racing F1 Team :


Mark Webber and David Coulthard, highly successful Racers in F1 and beyond :


Heikki Kulta of Finnish Press :


Timo Glock, Ex-F1 and DTM Racer :


Brett Arnall, Mark Arnall's brother and my friend Kimi Raikkonen fan Jane Bleach 


A Big Thank You to Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team for their hospitality over the weekend!

This post is only a teaser to what follows..watch this space! Its the start of a new series in my Formula One Journeys!



The Driver Merry-Go-Round...Desperate Times call for Desperate Measures

The summer break is coming to an end and the second half of the F1 Season is due to kickoff in Spa ( Belgium ). The time for contract renewals for the drivers is nigh and the Paddock is abuzz with theories and rumours of who goes where. 

Which teams are certain of what they want in 2020? Which aren't? Will any rookies get a shot in 2020? 

Lets have a quick peek at how the teams could stack up..


First Up, Teams will both drives sealed...


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Sebastian Vettel and Charles LeClerc will continue their partnership in 2020. Its the right decision for Ferrari who are still playing catch-up with Mercedes in the Turbo Era. Hopefully the duo can help the team build a potent machine for 2020.


McLaren Racing F1 Team :

McLaren were the first to lock down their drivers for 2020. Carlos Sainz Jr and Lando Norris will continue with the Woking based Outfit. McLaren made the right call by not delaying this decision. Sainz is having one of his best years in F1 while Lando is slowly coming upto speed. Red Bull Racing which runs a driver program would be ruing the decision of letting Sainz go. Their options have dwindled after Ricciardo left for Renault and there was a possibility that Sainz could have been snatched up had McLaren not moved quickly; so credit to McLaren.



Teams with one spot available...


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Lewis Hamilton continues with Mercedes for 2020 ( a no-brainer ) while Valtteri Bottas is out of contract. Mercedes has Esteban Ocon, their Protegee from the Driver Program waiting in the wings. The pressure is increasing on Bottas with every mediocre drive. The Finn started the season on a great note but his performances dipped and his seat is now under serious threat from Ocon. 
Will Mercedes bite the bullet and replace him with Ocon for 2020?

Bottas has been with the team since the last 3 years and enjoyed a great relationship with Hamilton. His performances were important in helping the team win the Constructors' too. Maintaining consistency like Lewis over the course of the season is what he lacks and if he can address that in the second half, he should be able to retain his seat. Esteban Ocon on the other hand is young, talented and Championship material. The fact that he has beaten Verstappen in the lower series speaks volumes about his abilities. However I believe Ocon's appointment might unsettle Lewis in the team. The team might end up having another Nico - Lewis situation and even jeopardize their Constructors' title fight.The flip side to this is by not offering Ocon a seat they would be wasting a talent in his prime. Ocon was also a part of the Renault Driver Program and there is a seat available there for 2020. Citing Renault's performances this year, it will be difficult for them to be on the sharp end of the grid. Would Ocon want another season in the midfield melee or opt to sit out another year if Mercedes do decide to persist with Bottas? Its a very difficult decision for the Frechman and sitting out of the sport for 2 seasons would mean premature closure to his F1 career. I do hope the best for him but I don't really see Mercedes taking the drastic step of not renewing Bottas for 2020. It would be better for Ocon to pursue a seat at Renault.


Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull is enjoying a resurgence with Max Verstappen. Pierre Gasly, the "underperforming" team-mate has already been replaced by rookie Alexander Albon from the Belgian GPMax has a contract till the end of 2021 but the other seat is up for grabs and Albon has a golden chance to prove his worth in the second half of the season. Gasly, whose been demoted to Toro Rosso will feel a little hard done but according to Red Bull, he was given enough time to come upto speed. In a closely contested Constructors' Championship with Ferrari, Red Bull needs both drivers to be right up there and Gasly failed to deliver. Kvyat would have been a better replacement than Albon but the Russian has a history with the team and that was the hindrance in not being selected with the A Team. Albon should do well and I see him land the seat for 2020. However Red Bull will be ruing the decision of letting Sainz Jr go a couple of years back. 


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault acquired the services of Daniel Ricciardo which was a masterstroke for 2019. The Australian continues for 2020 while Nico Hulkenberg is due for a contract renewal. Will the renewal happen? I have my reservations. He currently holds the controversial record of the longest number of races without recording a podium. He has made mistakes when opportunities for a strong finish came knocking ( Germany ). Esteban Ocon who was a part of their Driver Program is also waiting in the wings. If Ocon is to land the seat ( latest reports suggesting that ), Hulkenberg could try for a team like Haas, though he isn't best buddies with Kevin Magnussen. The chances of him switching to another series like WEC or Formula E seem more likely. If Ocon doesn't land a drive with either Mercedes or Renault, it will be a great loss for F1. Unfortunately there are less than 20 spots available every year..and some have to be turned away.


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :

Kimi Raikkonen's contract runs out at the end of 2020 and he is doing a brilliant job of keeping Alfa Romeo in the midfield mix this year. Antonio Giovinazzi is going through a baptism of fire. The Italian has scored a solitary point and will have to produce some solid drives in the second half to land a drive for 2020. Antonio is being mentored by Kimi and there have been moments when he has shown snippets of what he is made of. Hopefully the team persist with him and give him another chance to establish himself as a solid consistent racer. They do have a Development program but it would be a horrendous decision to promote another racer, the others simply aren't ready.


Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team :

George Russell is confirmed for 2020. Robert Kubica is out of contract. Williams are consistently off the pace vs the rest. The recent rounds have seen them make progress and Kubica even grabbed the unlikely point in Germany. However over the course of this season, its Russell who has had the measure of Kubica. Williams is a team that needs money and Kubica with his considerable financial backing is one of the favourites to retain his seat. The only threat would come in the form of another driver with a similar financial clout. Williams is in a rebuilding phase so they might not be too keen to sport youngsters on the grid. Time will tell who bags that seat.


Teams with both seats up for grabs...


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso has both seats up for grabs in 2020. Daniil Kvyat has been fantastic this year and retaining him should be a no-brainer. Gasly returns to Toro Rosso for the second half of 2019 and I believe he will be there in 2020 also. Red Bull's driver program is short on talent and I don't see any from their roster that deserves a F1 drive. Albon who has been promoted to the A team from Spa has a great chance of cementing himself as a solid number 2 to Max ( even become a race winner himself ). 


Sportpesa Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point hired the services of Lance Stroll and Sergio Perez for 2019. Lawrence Stroll, Lance's Father brought in a number of sponsorship deals ( some from Williams Racing ) and there is no doubt that he will ensure his son continues with the team for 2020. Sergio Perez, the faithful one has a great financial backing in Telmex and I don't see his seat being under threat either. Racing Point is in a rebuilding phase. The team will look to continue with the same pair to ensure their development isn't hampered both ontrack and off it.


Haas F1 Team :

Haas, the biggest underperformer of 2019 is going through a torrid time with its drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen. The duo locked horns ontrack in 2018 and had to be banned from racing each other to not jeopardize the team's chances. 2019 is a repeat. Romain's woes continue while Kevin Magnussen is as fiesty as ever. Haas might not renew Romain's contract for 2020 citing his poor performances over the past 2 years. Kevin should stay put but Haas has to look for a replacement for Romain and he mustn't be a rookie. Guenther Steiner, the team principal has made this clear in one of his recent interviews ( They do have Louis Deletraz & Pietro Fitipaldi waiting in the wings ) The only candidate that comes to mind then is Nico Hulkenberg, should he lose his seat at RenaultHowever its no secret that Magnussen and Hulkenberg aren't the best of mates; so it might be a case of "out of the frying pan into the fire". Haas have their hands full.


These are my predictions ( my views based on my assessment ) taking into consideration the information collected in the last few weeks. I might be completely wrong when the lineups are confirmed officially by the teams. 
Hulkenberg, Bottas, Grosjean and Gasly have the second half to prove their worth to their current employers or give better auditions to prospective drives..The clock is ticking and Desperate Times call for Desperate Measures...

2019 F1 Mid Season Review - The Runaway Favourite

Its 12 races down and 9 to go in the 2019 F1 Season. This isn't the midpoint of the season but the sport is enjoying its Summer Break and it gives us ample time to unwind and take stock of whats gone by and whats in store.  

The second half of the season is a fortnight away and we shall also enter a phase where resources of some will get strained and grid penalties will start to become a common feature.


Lets have a quick look of how the teams have fared going into the break.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, can they ever put a foot wrong? Yes Germany, their home race and their 200th in F1 was a fiasco but put that aside and its very difficult to find faults with the team. Lewis Hamilton looks set to lift his 6th title sooner than expected while Valtteri Bottas who started a season on a strong note is gone into a lean patch, a patch that could jeopardize his chances of retaining his seat for 2020. Lewis leads the Championship with 250 points, 62 points clear of his team-mate who is in 2nd. Lewis is on 8 wins to Bottas' 2. He started strong but Lewis flexed his muscles and started pulling away from the Spanish GP. Valtteri had a great chance of reducing the deficit in Germany but a driving error put him into the wall and retirement from the race. The Finn will now be looking over his shoulder and has only a 7 point buffer to Max. He cannot afford mediocre drives. There is a lot riding on the second half of the season ( his seat included ). I do hope he has a good second half.

Mercedes are in a league of their own. Their greatest strength ( besides the car ) has been the strategic calls from the pit wall. They are a comfortable 150 points ahead of Ferrari. Their car has been more reliable too. There aren't many tracks in the second half which would make life difficult for them. Constructors' Championship is theirs already!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari has had a horrid first half of the season. They were the fastest car in the Pre-season tests and even had the fastest car in straight line. However they are yet to win a race this season! They came close with Charles LeClerc in Bahrain and Sebastian Vettel in Canada but fell short, reliability in the first case, controversy in the second. Their Achilles heel has been cornering speed and the lack of downforce. There still are some power circuits left on the calendar so we could see some wins coming their way but the team has gone down the wrong path of development. Sebastian Vettel was given preference but Charles LeClerc showed he is equally capable of being number 1 in the team. Vettel is going through a resurgence of sorts and should be stronger in the 2nd half of the year. He enjoys a 24 point cushion to LeClerc and has finished all races in the points with 6 podiums. Charles rookie errors in Monaco and Germany cost him dearhad he kept it clean he would have won in Germany. He is quick but needs to stop overdriving. Baku is another example. He will come around eventually but Ferrari's shot at glory is done and dusted. The Mercs will have to self-destruct at multiple races to bring Ferrari back into contention. 

Ferrari's focus should be to win a couple of races in the 2nd half of the year and keep Red Bull off their backs. They also need to shift focus to development for 2020 and 21. Shambolic calls on Race Strategies have cost them time and again. The lesson is to stick to their plans and not be unnerved or unsettled by what their competitors are doing around them. A lot has to be mended for the glory days to return. 


Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing lost a great driver in Daniel Ricciardo to Renault. Pierre Gasly got promoted to partner Max Verstappen for 2019 and he has been nowhere near the performance level of Max. Red Bull has run out of patience and demoted him to Toro Rosso from the Belgian GP while Alexander Albon has inherited the seat ( more on that later ). Max Verstappen's performances have given Honda enough reasons to celebrate. He won in Austria & Germany besides finishing on the Podium in Australia, Spain and Hungary. Max also grabbed his maiden pole in Hungary and would have won but for a strategic masterplan from Mercedes. He sits in 3rd with 181 points, breathing down Valtteri Bottas' neck. He should be able to finish 2nd in the championship with the momentum he has going into the break. Gasly is languishing in 6th place in the standings with just 63 points to his name and no podiums. 4th was the best he could conjure at the British GP. 

Red Bull Racing are on the up and the general consensus is that they are the 2nd best team on the grid. Red Bull's resurgence in the past few races means that Ferrari's P2 in the Constructors is under serious threat. Its imperative for Red Bull to ensure that both sides of the garage have optimum equipment and can produce optimum results. Finishing P2 would give them a major boost for 2020. Gasly scored only a third of the points so far and Red Bull can't afford to have mediocre days, specially when his team-mate is producing stellar drives week in week out. Patience is something that teams don't have in abundance, such is the nature of the sport. Gasly was unable to deliver what was asked of him and as cruel as it may sound, I believe the team did what was in their best interests. I am skeptical about the replacement though. I personally feel that Kvyat was a safer bet than Albon ( no disrespect to him ). Albon is a rookie and he could end up making rookie errors while pushing too hard. Honda is due to bring upgrades in the second half and there is a possibility of Red Bull copping penalties. This is a golden opportunity for Red Bull to beat Ferrari to P2.


McLaren Racing F1 Team :

McLaren promoted their Protegee Lando Norris from F2 while Carlos Sainz Jr came in to replace his childhood hero Fernando Alonso. Its really amazing to see McLaren in P4 going into the summer break. The Turbo Era has been tough on them and even with an unreliable Renault engine, they are doing a fine job. Carlos has been more consistent of the two with 8 points finishes to Lando's 4. Carlos sits P7 in the Championship ( leading the B Championship as folks in the media like to call it ) while Lando is 10th. Carlos has been one of the top performers on the grid. Lando is going from strength to strength in his rookie season and will be a force to reckon with in the coming races. 

I believe McLaren won't be able to better P4 by the end of the year. Toro Rosso in P5 aren't really a threat inspite of their strong performances going into the break. McLaren however must aim to reduce the pace deficit to the front runners to improve their chances for 2020 and also for a podium at one of the races in the second half of the season. They aren't there yet but they will be..soon enough!


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso in in fine form in 2019. The Honda Customer team and Red Bull's B Team is sitting 5th in the Constructors Championship with 43 points, 4 Points clear of Renault Sport F1 Team. Its amazing to see two Honda Powered teams in the top 6. The Japanese manufacturer has been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism and this is like a redemption of sorts. There will be penalties due when performance upgrades are brought in but the issue of reliability seems addressed. 

Daniil Kvyat leads the intra-team battle in 9th with 27 points. The best result was the podium ( 3rd ) in Germany! It was nice to see an unlikely podium for Toro Rosso, a great drive by the Russian after returning to the team this year. Alexander Albon is 15th with 5 points finishes and 6th being his best in Germany. Albon has now been promoted to Red Bull with Gasly making his way back to Toro Rosso. The majority are unhappy with the decision as they believe Kvyat should have been the ideal replacement for Gasly. The Top Brass at Red Bull share a different opinion and I hope they haven't made an error with this decision. Gasly will need a couple of races to settle into the team so the onus will be on Kvyat to carry them forward and if possible retain 5th. Their biggest challenge is staying ahead of Renault and Red Bull will cherish this if the same is accomplished. The Toro Rosso has a great package and once again they have shown that they are no pushovers.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Its disheartening to see, Renault, a works team languishing in 6th in the Constructors. They finished 2018 in 4th and the team would have hoped to be closer to Red Bull if not beating them. 2019 seems to be anything but that. Daniel Ricciardo was signed in from Red Bull ( a prize catch ) to partner Nico Hulkenberg. Both are talented drivers, the former a multi-race winner but retirements and mechanical failures are affecting their performances. Daniel is on 22 points and 11th in the Championship while Nico is 14th in the Championship with 17 points. Many experts believe that Daniel will be regretting his decision to leave Red Bull. Citing the current situation it seems they are right but Renault is a works team and are bringing in a lot of capable people to overturn this rut.

Renault's best shot is at P5 by the end of the season. McLaren seem clear favourites to retain P4. Renault must iron out their reliability issues and aero performance over the summer break if they are to make any headway into the points deficit. I don't see them go better than P5 or P6 at the races in the 2nd half of the season ( unless we have a chaotic race like Germany ). Mediocre performances in F1 can cause a lot of damage to a brand and it shall be interesting to see how patient Renault is willing to be in their quest to be the best again. The clock is ticking....they better get their act together and fast.


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo made a return to F1 in 2019, acquiring the majority stake in Sauber F1 Team. The acquisition led to better R&D facilities, hiring new staff and the results are starting to show on the racetrack. Kimi Raikkonen returned to the team he started his F1 career with in 2001. Antonio Giovinazzi was roped in as well for 2019.Antonio has scored just a solitary point for the team ( Austria ), the Italian struggling to make it work. Hopefully he is able to turn things around in the second half. He has the talent and needs to gain confidence by scoring more points at the races. He has a great mentor in Kimi and I wish the best for him. 

Kimi is a transformed racer at Alfa. He is enjoying his time racing in the midfield, free from politics that existed at Ferrari and living his life to the full with his family. He sits 8th in the Championship with 31 points, having scored almost all the points for the team. His best finish is P7 but will be looking to improve on that in the 2nd half. As a fan, I am so glad to see Kimi racing unhindered and showcasing his skill and racecraft.

Alfa is a great team with a capable set of people. The upgrades are coming in at a steady pace and bringing the desired results. Pit Stops and Strategy calls are hurting the team and if they can iron those out, even finishing P5 is a possibility. The Ferrari engine at the back is an ideal weapon for attack or defense in straight line and we have seen many instances of these this year. Alfa trail Renault and Toro Rosso by 7 and 11 points respectively and a lot can change in just one weekend. Keep an eye out for those Red and White Stallions!



Sportpesa Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point is an old team in new colours and new ownership in 2019. Sergio Perez was joined by Lance Stroll for this yearThe team currently sits in 8th, on 31 points, 5 clear of Haas F1 Team. Stroll is currently leading the intra-team battle with 18 points to Perez' 13. Stroll's best finish was P4 in Germany, a strategic masterstroke by the team in variable conditions. His drive to P9 at his home race in Canada was a memorable one too. Perez' scored his maximum with P6 in Baku followed by 8th and 10th in China and Bahrain respectively. His form has waned a little and the summer break will be a good time for him to rest and recuperate. The team is hot on the heels of Alfa Romeo, only a point separating the 2 teams. Unlike last year, financially they are in safe hands and that might prove to be decisive in this midfield melee. If they keep this development curve alive then snatching 7th or even 6th place in Constructors is a possibility. 


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 is going through a tough year in F1. They are struggling to make the car work and the tussle offtrack with their Title Sponsor Rich Energy was an unwelcome hassle . Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen aren't the best of friends and the former seems to be under immense pressure fighting for his seat. Kevin Magnussen has amassed 18 points to Grosjean's 8 and its pretty evident that the latter needs to arrest this decline. Romain has finished in the points in 3 races with 7th being his best result in Germany. He needs to stop making mistakes and build on his confidence..finishing in points will follow. Kevin's best finish was P6 in the season opener in Australia followed by points finishes in 7th and 8th in Spain & Germany respectively. Kevin's crash in Canada during qualifying was one of his rare mistakes. He needs to stay consistent if Haas has to have any chance of moving up the order. In a mid-field where the competition is intense, its the fine margins that decide who comes out on top and who doesn't. The Team is aware of this and needs the duo to follow the same vein of thought. I see them being banned from racing each other in the second half. Beating Racing Point in 8th seems to be the only realistic target for them. 


Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :

Williams was the 3rd best team on the grid in 2014. One Bad Decision sent them into a downward spiral and the team have never been able to reverse this. George Russell teamed up with Robert Kubica after Lance Stroll's switch to Racing Point F1 Team at the start of 2019. Stroll's switch also caused a heavy financial blow. Russell and Kubica have struggled to even keep up with the rest of the field, lapping 3 to 4 seconds slower than the others at certain tracks. The more recent rounds offer a ray of hope but the possibility of finishing better than last at the end of the year seems bleak. Russell has performed better over the first half of the year but its Kubica who has bagged the team's only point after finishing 10th in the chaotic German Grand Prix. Russell is a star in the making and I hope he has a car to showcase his talent.


The titles seem decided at the summer break. Such has been the dominance of the Three Pointed Star. However there is a lot to play for in the midfield and this season has seen one of the tightest battles. Who will be the best of the rest? It still is difficult to predict. One thing is certain though, Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are the Runaway Favourites!

Paddock Club Diaries - 2019 Canadian GP - Day 3

The Paddock Club Diaries for this weekend draws to a close with the experience on Sunday, the day that matters. Its Raceday! Win on Sunday and all else is forgiven. It was also the day when I got the opportunity of having a Paddock Pass for the whole day.


So how was the Overall Experience? Lets have a quick recap!


Enroute to the Circuit :


I got my Paddock Pass at the F1 Experiences Suite and wasted no time in getting downstairs.

Walking around the Paddock :


Some stills with the Samsung Note 9 :


Its pretty obvious that one would bump into some known faces in F1.


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Manager Beat Zehnder!


Julien Simon-Chautemps, Kimi Raikkonen Race Engineer in Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :


Daniil Kvyat, Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :


Mr. Giorgio Piola, Journalist, Technical Artist and Watchmaker!


Fredric Vasseur, Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Principal :


I made my way back up, just in time to see the Ferrari Challenge Cars line up on the grid for their Race Start :


My friends at Ferrari informed me that Charles LeClerc would be visiting their Suite for a quick Interview!


He was soon followed by the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Principal Mattia Binotto :


It was then time for the final Pit Lane Walk of the Weekend!


Sportpesa Racing F1 Point Pit Stop Practice ( Video Link ) :


Slow Motion Edition :



Shots of the Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team Garage :


The Teeam was busy practicing their pit stops :


Alfa Romeo Team Pit Stop Practice ( Video Link ) :


Slow Motion Edition :



I decided to pay the Paddock Area another visit and there was an atmosphere of tension, as is the case before the start of every race on Sunday :