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2022 F1 Season Review - Second Bullseye for the Dutch Lion!

2022 saw the advent of a new era in F1. COVID-19 delayed the introduction of new technical regulations by a year. The FIA, the sport's governing body, hoped to improve wheel-to-wheel racing and make it easier to follow cars with the planned changes. There were several challenges with the new designs, porpoising on the straight being the most prevalent amongst most teams, but everyone managed to find a solution in this new chapter of the Turbo Era. 

The calendar, slated for 23 races, saw China back out due to logistical challenges and the presence of COVID-19 in the country. The sport reopened its doors to the fans, relaxing access restrictions in the new season. 

As for personnel changes, there were quite a few. While Bottas said goodbye to Mercedes to move to Alfa Romeo, Russell graduated from Williams to take his place. Albon returned to full-time racing at Williams, while Zhou Guanyu entered the big league from F2. Russia's invasion of Ukraine forced Haas F1 to part ways with its title sponsor Uralkali, and Nikita Mazepin, as the team chose to stand in solidarity with the rest of the world. The fallout allowed Kevin Magnussen to make an unlikely return to the sport after a hiatus of only a year. 

With Formula 1's growing popularity in the west, Miami got added to the F1 calendar.

Sprint Races returned for Imola, Austria and Brazil, with tweaking in the points system, which would see the top 8 finishers earn points rather than the top three. 

How did the teams and drivers fare with the new regulations and less downforce in 2022? Was there a new contender for the crown? 

Time for a quick recap!

Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing F1 had an unforgettable 2021. After a seven-year drought, the team finally won the Drivers' Championship with Max Verstappen ( albeit under questionable circumstances, according to many ), their first in the Turbo Era. After all the drama and controversy of Abu Dhabi ( in 2021 ) and the events that followed, Red Bull was keen on reaffirming their dominance in this new chapter of F1. 

Sergio Perez continued to partner with Max Verstappen in 2022, but Red Bull's campaign began on a faltering note. Both drivers struggled with reliability failures early in the season, and Ferrari seemed to be the more reliable and quicker car. However, post-Imola, Verstappen upped his performances and went on a winning spree which saw him take the lead in the Championship in Spain. Silverstone was a rare blip after Verstappen's car suffered damage from going over some debris, which eventually saw him finish P7. The Dutchman bagged 15 wins in the season, the most ever in Formula 1, going two better than the legend Michael Schumacher. Verstappen won his second world championship in Japan, ending the season with a mammoth 454 points from 15 wins and two podium finishes.

His teammate, Sergio Perez, struggled to match Verstappen's performances but won at two of the most prestigious races, both street circuits - Monaco and Singapore. The Mexican was on the podium in nine other races and contending for P2 in the Championship. An amicable and healthy relationship seemed to turn sour after Verstappen refused to concede his position in Brazil, citing his reasons ( already known to Red Bull ). Perez didn't mince his words post-race, and the team worked hard to bring closure before the season finale in Abu Dhabi. Despite his best efforts, Perez failed to beat Leclerc, settling for P3, three points shy of the latter's tally. 

Red Bull flattened the opposition in the Constructors' battle with a 205 points victory over Ferrari. It was a dominating performance by the Milton-Keynes-based outfit, ironing out the flaws and the reliability issues faced early in the season. Red Bull, however, couldn't escape scrutiny over breaching the cost cap in the previous season ( 2021 ). The FIA announced that Red Bull had breached the $145 million cost cap. Red Bull, which overspent by 1.6%, was fined $7 million and will have a 10% reduction in its aerodynamic testing allowance for 12 months. Will this affect the campaign in 2023, or does the team have enough to fend off another challenge by the suitors? The Pre-season Test will be a good indicator. 

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Scuderia Ferrari had a mercurial time in the first chapter of the Turbo Era. With the new regulations in force, everyone hoped to see a better showing, probably even a championship-winning one. The tried and tested duo of Charles Leclerc & Carlos Sainz Jr continued their alliance with Ferrari into 2022. The season kickstarted on the right note with an unthinkable Ferrari 1-2 followed by another win for Charles Leclerc in Australia, his 2nd in the first three races. The Monegasque stretched his lead over Verstappen, who suffered from two retirements in the first three races. However, things started to go downhill from thereon. Imola saw Verstappen respond with a vengeance both in the Sprint and the race. Meanwhile, Leclerc's campaign began to falter with strategic mistakes, reliability failures and driver errors. As for Sainz Jr, the Spaniard had his fair share of reliability issues and looked second best at most of the races.

While Leclerc managed to win again in Austria, it was his only win after Bahrain and Australia. He bagged eight podium finishes. Sainz Jr, meanwhile, won for the first time in his F1 career at Silverstone, his only in 2022, besides eight podiums. As the season continued, the challenge for both titles petered out rapidly. Verstappen became World Champion again in Japan with four races remaining. The tactics employed by the team attracted the ire of the Tifosi, who believed that the F1-75 Ferrari's car in 2022 ) had the potential to win both titles. Despite several pole positions bagged on Saturday, both drivers failed to convert these into wins on Sunday. Leclerc ended the season in P2, 146 points adrift of Verstappen, narrowly beating Sergio Perez. Sainz had a more humbling season with 246 points and P5 in the Drivers' Championship. Ferrari managed to prevail over Mercedes, with 39 points separating the two teams at the end of the season. 

2022 was "what could have been" for Ferrari. Mattia Binotto, the Team Principal, faced a lot of flak and parted ways with the team at the end of the year. Ferrari has appointed Alfa Romeo F1 Orlen Team Principal Fredric Vasseur to spearhead their charge in 2023. Will he be the answer to securing the title that has been eluding Ferrari for 14 years? Time will tell.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 changed its driver lineup for 2022 by bringing in its protegee George Russell from Williams Racing to partner Lewis Hamilton. The 2021 Abu Dhabi GP fiasco made Hamilton and Mercedes return with renewed vigour to challenge for the title. The team returned to its original "Silver Arrows" livery for 2022. 

Mercedes had been the undisputed king of the Turbo Era, winning eight consecutive Constructors' Championships. However, the latest technical regulations overhaul left Mercedes' W13 with severe balance and porpoising issues. The car was more than a handful to drive, and Russell seemed to adjust to it better than Hamilton. The new Power Unit was also short on performance, adding to Mercedes' woes. The customer teams also struggled with outright pace. The team made several changes to reduce drag on the car, and things seemed to improve in the latter half of the season. The only silver lining in 2022 was the robustness and reliability exhibited by the machinery. Barring Hamilton's retirement in the season finale, there had been no other mechanical failure on either car. Reliability would become a base to build from for 2023.

In the intra-team battle, new arrival Russell got the better of Hamilton. Russell also secured his first win in F1 at the Brazilian GP. The Briton scored seven podiums, besides twelve other finishes in the top 10. Russell, who earned the nickname of Mr Saturday in 2021, got rechristened as Mr Consistent for his performances on race days in 2022. Russell bagged P4 in the Drivers' Standings with 275 points, beating Carlos Sainz Jr, who was in a quicker but unreliable Ferrari.

As for Hamilton, 2022 was a season to forget. Despite his best efforts, the most successful driver in F1 history went winless in 2022, his first-ever season such as this. He did get close to winning the race in Brazil, but Russell held on to the lead despite unrelenting pressure. Hamilton had nine podiums and ten other finishes in the top 10 that placed him P6 in the standings, on 240 points, six short of Carlos Sainz Jr's tally.

Mercedes finished 2022 as the third-best team with 515 points after reducing the deficit to Ferrari in the 2nd half.

Alpine F1 Team :

Alpine F1 finished P4 in the Constructor Standings with 173 points, edging  McLaren after a topsy-turvy battle. The Enstone-based team looked to Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso for success, and the duo helped the team do better than in 2021. 

Ocon won the intra-team battle, but it wasn't as straightforward as it looked. Alonso suffered more retirements due to unreliable machinery, making his displeasure known quite often on and off the track. Only 11 points separated the two teammates in P8 and P9, with Ocon securing his best finish in P4 in Japan. The Frenchman finished in the top 10 in 15 other races. As for Alonso, P5 was his best finish at Silverstone, Belgium and Sao Paulo. Besides these, he had 12 more results in the top 10. 

Both drivers had been consistent as long as the machinery under them was reliable. However, Alpine's plan of fighting at the sharp end of the grid hasn't reached fruition. With Gasly coming in to replace Alonso for 2023, the all-French team would hope to inch closer to the top. Alpine has the resources as a works team, and bringing success to the table is imperative for the future.

McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren, the 2nd oldest team on the grid, had a disappointing 2022. They got beaten by Alpine and had to settle for P5 in the Constructors Standings with 159 points. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo had contrasting seasons, with the latter suffering from the handling of the car all season. The team scored an unlikely P3 with Norris at Imola, their only podium finish of 2022.

Norris scored most of the points, finishing P7 in the Drivers' Championship with a tally of 122. Besides the P3 at Imola, the Briton finished in the top 10 in every race bar five, which included two retirements. Meanwhile, Ricciardo managed a meagre 37, finishing P11 in the standings, tied with Vettel. The Australian's best result was P5 at Singapore, besides six other finishes in the top 10. The gulf of performance between the two drivers cost the team dearly, and Ricciardo eventually fell out of favour with the team. 

There have been changes at the Woking-based outfit, with Ricciardo replaced by fellow Australian and the 2021 F2 Champion Oscar Piastri. Andreas Seidl bid farewell to the team, and Andrea Stella got promoted to Team Principal for 2023. Will the changes bode well for McLaren? Time will reveal all!

Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen :

Alfa Romeo sported an all-new Driver Lineup for 2022. While Kimi Raikkonen retired from the sport, the team parted ways with Antonio Giovinazzi, which paved the way for Zhou Guanyu, Chinese F2 driver, to leap into the big league. As for the seat vacated by Raikkonen, the team secured the services of Valtteri Bottas, who left the Mercedes AMG F1 team after a five-year stint. 

With the assistance of an upgraded Ferrari power unit, Alfa Romeo experienced a drastic change of fortunes in 2022. The team finished P6 in the Constructor Standings, level on points with Aston Martin, but placed higher due to a better finish at the races. 

Bottas finished P10 in the Driver Standings with 49 points to his name. The Finn's best result was P5 in Imola, fending off a challenge by Leclerc in that race. He also had eight other finishes in the points. 

On the other hand, Zhou scored only 6 points in his rookie year with two 10th-place finishes in Bahrain and Italy, along with a P8 in Canada. The Chinese driver needs to improve his performance in 2023 if he wishes to hold onto his seat. 

With the arrival of Andreas Seidl as the CEO in 2023 and the announcement that Sauber will become an Audi Works team in 2026, the future looks promising!

Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team :

Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll renewed their partnership at Aston Martin for 2023. The Silverstone-based outfit fared poorly in 2022, ending the season level on points with Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Orlen ( 55 points ) but got placed lower due to a better finish for Alfa Romeo. An underperforming Mercedes Power Unit didn't help either, as the AMR22 suffered from a lack of performance and balance issues throughout the season. 

In the intra-team battle, Vettel outscored his younger teammate with ten top-ten finishes, P6 being his best result at Azerbaijan and Singapore. The four-time World Champion missed the first two races due to Covid-19 but still managed to bag P12 in the Drivers' Standings with 37 points, tied with Daniel Ricciardo. He got replaced by Reserve Driver Nico Hulkenberg, who finished P17 and P12 in the first two rounds.

As for Stroll, the Canadian had eight finishes in the points ( majorly P10 ), with P6 in Singapore being his best result.

It was a humbling 2022 for Aston Martin, having failed to compete regularly in the midfield. The saving grace, more often than not, was their pit-stop strategies. With Vettel hanging his boots, the team needed an equally talented driver to lead the charge in 2023. Fernando Alonso decided to switch over from Alpine, and it will be interesting to see how the Spaniard adjusts to his new life at Aston Martin.

Haas F1 Team :

2022 was an eventful season for Haas F1 Team. The team kickstarted its pre-season testing with Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher. However, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the sporting world took drastic measures, isolating Russian athletes. Haas F1 team followed suit and parted ways with Mazepin and its title sponsor, Uralkali, Russian Fertilizer company owned by Mazepin Senior.

There was uncertainty surrounding the team's future, but Haas F1 weathered the storm and re-hired an old accomplice in Kevin Magnussen! The Dane made an unlikely return to the sport, having plied his trade in North America in 2021. The decision paid dividends as Magnussen scored double the points Schumacher managed and was instrumental in securing P8 in the Constructors' Championship for Haas F1. It was a more fruitful first half of the season, with five finishes in the top 10 to one in the latter half. P5 at the season opener in Bahrain was Magnussen's best finish. The Dane finished the season on 22 points, P13 in the Drivers' Standings. 

Schumacher, meanwhile, had only two finishes in the points, P8 in Silverstone and P6 in Austria. The German driver was level on points with Tsunoda but placed higher ( P16 ) due to a better finish in 2022. 

Haas F1 managed to outscore Alpha Tauri to secure P8 in the Constructors' Championship, a stark improvement from a point-less 2021. The upgraded Ferrari engine played a pivotal role in improving their performances in 2022. 

The top brass at Haas F1 saw it necessary to replace Schumacher after an under-whelming year, and Nico Hulkenberg got the callup for 2023. 

Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Scuderia Alpha Tauri, Red Bull's B Team, retained the services of Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda for 2022. 2022 was a baptism by fire for the Italian-based outfit, the team finishing a lowly P9 with only 35 points, two shy of Haas F1 Team. 

Gasly outshone Tsunoda again, finishing in the points in 6 races, with P5 being his best result in Azerbaijan. The Frenchman was P14 in the Drivers' Championship with 23 points. As for Tsunoda, P7 in Imola was his best result, besides point finishes in 3 other races. The Japanese driver scored 12 points, finishing P17 in the Standings, level on points with Mick Schumacher. 

Scuderia Alpha Tauri needs to arrest its downward spiral, and the team should hope for a better outing in 2023. The arrival of Nyck De Vries, who replaces the outgoing Pierre Gasly, is a welcome change within the team's ranks. 

Williams Racing F1 Team :

Williams Racing hired Alexander Albon to partner with Nicolas Latifi for the 2022 season after losing George Russell to the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team. The team hoped to maintain its momentum after a strong showing in 2021. However, with the overhaul of technical regulations with a not-so-quick Mercedes engine, the team struggled to replicate its performances from the previous season. 

The team scored a meagre 8 points in 2022, with Albon securing two 10th-place finishes in Australia & Belgium and P9 in Miami. As for Latifi, P9 in Japan fetched him 2 points. Albon got hit with Covid-19, which allowed Nyck De Vries to step in for him in Italy, securing P9 on his F1 debut!

Williams finished the season in P10 and last, 27 points adrift of Scuderia Alpha Tauri. With the appointment of James Vowles as its new Team Principal for 2023, along with their protegee Logan Sargeant, who replaces Latifi, the team hopes to give its fans and sponsors a stronger showing.

2022 was a great year for F1. The FIA achieved its goal of improving wheel-to-wheel racing with hard-fought battles at several races. Verstappen and Red Bull enjoyed a clean sweep, and deservedly so. Although Ferrari faltered in its challenge, it formed a base to build on for 2023. Mercedes could manage only one win in 2022, but reliability was its forte, and with performance gains over the winter, the kings of the Turbo Era might reclaim the crown in 2023. 

It was sad to see Sebastian Vettel say goodbye to the sport. He was instrumental in bringing Red Bull to the top, not to forget his stellar drives at Ferrari and Aston Martin. Here is wishing him a happy & restful retired life! F1 lost two icons, Raikkonen, and Vettel, in 2021 and 2022, but as the old guard leaves, new legends will be born! 

With the changes in personnel and a Team Principal merry-go-round that unfolded over the winter, 2023 promises to be an exciting prospect for everyone throughout the grid. 

2022 saw the Dutch Lion reign supreme again with his beloved Red Bull. Will the "Prancing Horses" challenge him, or will the "Silver Arrows" hit the jackpot in 2023? Could a new contender be joining the fight? 

Bring on 2023!

A Gallery of Memories - Part 22

The 2022 Belgian Grand Prix was the 2nd race in the 2022 F1 Calendar that I had the privilege of attending, as a guest of the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team.

The Belgian Grand Prix is my favourite race on the calendar and this was my 5th visit to Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. To kickstart documenting my Belgian GP experience, here is the latest addition to the "Gallery of Memories" series.

Mika Hakkinen, Double F1 World Champion :

with Jehan Daruvala, Prema Racing F2 Driver :

F2 Driver for Carlin and Williams Racing Academy, Logan Sargeant :

Juri Vips and Liam Lawson! What an amazing duo this is!

Meeting Juan Manuel Correa, who fought all odds to return to a full-time racing seat, following the accident in Spa 2019 :

Robert Schwartzman, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Development Driver :

McLaren CEO, Zak Brown :

Felipe Drugovich, who went on to become the Formula 2 Champion :

Arthur Leclerc, Prema Racing and Charles Leclerc's younger brother :

Emerson Fittipaldi, Double World Champion and a legend of F1 :

Caio Collet, MP Motorsport F3 Driver and Alpine Driver Academy :

Theo Pourchaire, Sauber Driver Academy and ART Grand Prix Formula 2 Driver :

So happy to see Tatiana Calderon back in F2 at Charouz Racing :

Mattia Binotto, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Principal :

Mick Doohan, 5 time Moto GP World Champion, again! 

To have a personalized signature of my Motorsport hero, what a humbling moment :

Meeting Jack Doohan, his son, who finished P2 in the Sprint Race :

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reigning Formula E World Champion :

Nyck De Vries, reserve driver for Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

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

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

Jost Capito, CEO and Team Principal, Williams Racing F1 Team :

Frederic Vasseur, MD, CEO and Team Principal of Alfa Romeo F1 Orlen Team :

Andreas Seidl, Team Principal, McLaren F1 Team :

Otmar Szafnauer, CEO and Team Principal, Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Lando Norris, McLaren Racing F1 Driver :

Peter Bonnington, famously known as Bono, Lewis Hamilton's Race Engineer :

Jacky Ickx, an F1 legend and six-time Le Mans winner :

Bernd Maylander, Formula 1 Safety Car Driver :

Paul di Resta, Ex-F1 Driver and Sky Sports F1 Presenter :

Belgian and Manchester City footballer Kevin de Bruyne :

Guenther Steiner, Haas F1 Team Principal :

Mats Hummels, Germany and Borussia Dortmund Football Team, my favourite centre-back:

Nicholas Latifi, Williams Racing F1 Team :

Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo F1 Orlen Team :

Christian Horner, Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

A silver medalist at rowing in the Olympics and Daniel Ricciardo's Race Engineer, Tom Stallard :

A selfie, well not really, with the reigning World Champion Max Verstappen :

Esteban Ocon, Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Sergio Perez, Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren F1 Team :

Fernando Alonso, Double World Champion, Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Mara Sangiorgio and Federica Masolin, journalists from Sky Sports F1 Italia :

The Hosts at Ferrari F1 Club always do a fantastic job of entertaining guests over the weekend :

A big thank you to the Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team for hosting me over the weekend and helping me forge memories that will last me over my lifetime. Thank you to Edge Global Events for organising the race passes and giving me a seamless experience leading up to the weekend.

The Paddock Club Diaries follow soon, so watch this space!

A Gallery of Memories - Part 21

The 2019 Japanese GP was the last race I had the privilege of attending before COVID-19 overtook the world. Little did I know that it would be three years before I would get an opportunity to be at a Formula 1 race again. Despite a few hiccups, I was back with my F1 travels with the 2022 Hungarian GP being the first trip since COVID-19.

The "Gallery of Memories" makes a return to kickstart the experiences from the Hungarian GP weekend, featuring people from the F1 Fraternity and otherwise.

Former Honda F1 Boss and now Consultant to Red Bull Racing, Masashi Yamamoto :

W Series and Le Mans Racer Beitske Visser. One of the best women racers of our era! More Power to her!

Nicolas Longuet, F1 Esports Driver for Alfa Romeo :

Pietro Fittipaldi, Reserve driver for Haas F1 Team :

Red Bull Junior and F2 Driver for Carlin, Liam Lawson :

F2 Driver and Reserve for Williams Racing, Roy Nissany :

David Coulthard, ex-McLaren F1 Driver and Presenter :

Mattia Binotto, Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team Principal :

Enzo Fittipaldi and Juri Vips after the F2 Sprint Race :

Jack Doohan, the Winner of the F2 Sprint Race!

Meeting my hero, the man who made me fall in love with Motorsport. Got me hooked on Moto GP. Mick Doohan!

Pat Fry, a Legend of F1 and Chief Technical Officer for Alpine F1 Team :

Pierre Gasly, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 driver :

Yuki Tsunoda, Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 driver :

Fernando Alonso, Double F1 World Champion and Alpine F1 Driver :

Ralf Schumacher, Ex-Williams and BMW Williams F1 Driver, brother to Michael Schumacher and now an F1 Presenter :

Andrea Stella, Executive Racing Director for McLaren with a glorious career in F1 :

Jock Clear, Senior Performance Engineer for Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Kevin Magnussen, Haas F1 Driver :

Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo F1 Orlen Driver :

Guenther Steiner, Haas F1 Team Principal :

Sebastian Vettel!! Quadruple F1 World Champion and Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team Driver :

Christian Horner, Red Bull Racing Team Principal :

Tom Kristensen, a Record Nine-time LeMans winner!

A big thank you to Scuderia Ferrari for hosting me over the weekend. The Paddock Club Diaries also make a return!

Watch this space to relive the experiences from Hungary with me!

2022 F1 Mid Season Review - The Raging Bull or the Prancing Horse?

The 2022 F1 Season saw the start of a new chapter in the Turbo Era of Formula 1. With an overhaul of technical regulations that would see closer racing, it was back to the drawing board for all teams for 2022. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the Russian GP got excluded from the calendar, making 2022 a 22-race season. The Australian, Japanese and Canadian Grand Prix returned to the calendar following a two-year absence ( due to COVID-19 ), while the Miami Grand Prix made its debut in 2022.

2022 also saw a change in personnel at some teams. The F1 Sprint weekend format would feature at Imola, Red Bull Ring and Interlagos ( Brazil ).

With eleven races completed, how are things unfolding for the contenders? Is there a change in the pecking order? What are the challenges posed by the new technical regulations? 

Time to review the performances of the teams and drivers midway through 2022!

Oracle Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Verstappen, the reigning World Champion, had a tough start to the 2022 Campaign, suffering from two retirements in the opening three races. The Dutchman trailed Leclerc by 40 points before going on a race-winning spree that saw him overturn the deficit and take the lead in the Championship. The Dutchman won six races in the first half of the season, besides two podium finishes in Monaco and Austria. Damage to his car ( due to debris ) denied him victory in Britain. Verstappen seems to be the favourite to lift the crown again and is 38 points clear of Leclerc in the Championship.

As for teammate Perez, who sits in P3, trails Verstappen by 57 points. Perez suffered from retirements in Bahrain, Canada and Austria but bagged his first win of 2022 at Monaco. With five 2nd place finishes, Perez has displayed exceptional consistency in the first half of 2022 and has already earned himself a seat at Red Bull until 2024. The Mexican still harbours hopes of fighting for the Championship but will Red Bull maintain the status quo in the second half of 2022? It seems unlikely.

Despite a stuttering start to 2022, Red Bull sits 56 points clear at the top in the Constructor Standings. The Milton Keynes-based outfit has had fewer reliability issues than Ferrari. It seems likely that Red Bull also might incur penalties in the latter half of the year for exceeding the allocation.

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Leclerc and Sainz renewed their partnership in 2022, and the duo remains locked in an intense battle for supremacy within the team. At the halfway point, Leclerc is 37 points clear of his teammate in P2. The Monegasque has three wins to his name along with two podium finishes. Reliability problems robbed Leclerc of victories/podium finishes in Spain and Baku, while strategic blunders denied him wins at Monaco and Britain. Leclerc also incurred a grid penalty during the Canadian GP for exceeding the allowed allocation of Power Units. Although he trails Verstappen by 38 points, Leclerc is Ferrari's best hope of winning the Drivers' Championship.

Sainz Jr bagged the first win of his career at the British GP, besides five podium finishes at the halfway point of the season. The Spaniard sits P4 in the standings, 37 points shy of teammate Leclerc. Having suffered more retirements than anyone else in the top 4, Sainz cannot afford more mediocre days if he wishes to harbour any thoughts of fighting for a Championship.

Reliability remains the biggest chink in Scuderia Ferrari's armoury. The 2022 challenger has enough performance to win races, but sudden failures in the future can cost the team and driver precious points. The team also needs to decide on prioritizing one driver over the other. The cost cap has only compounded matters, but thus far, it has been a more positive display by the Maranello-based outfit.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, the undisputed champions of the Turbo Era, are yet to win a race in 2022. The 2022 challenger has been struggling with porpoising and bouncing issues, which have gotten addressed, finally. 

On the personnel front, George Russell is partnering with Lewis Hamilton with Bottas moving over to Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen. Russell leads the intra-team battle by 19 points, with three podium finishes and finishing in the points in all races bar one ( Britain ). Russell, dubbed Mr Saturday in 2021, is now called Mr Consistent on a Sunday with his performances in an under-performing Mercedes. 

Except for Imola, Hamilton has finished every race in the points, including four podiums. However, the multi-world champion is struggling more than Russell in extracting performance from the car. The porpoising and bouncing issues were physically draining in Baku, while a crash in Qualifying at the recently concluded Austria Grand Prix denied Hamilton a chance to finish higher than P3. 

Although Mercedes has had its fair share of issues in 2022, they remain the most reliable team on the grid, capitalizing on the errors of the teams above them. With their balance issues out of the way, Mercedes is moving in the right direction and should return to winning ways in the latter half of 2022.

McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren retains the services of Norris and Ricciardo in 2022, and thus far, it has been an underwhelming display by the latter. While Norris managed a P3 in Imola and 7 points finishes en route to 64 points, Ricciardo has managed only 17. P6 in Australia was Ricciardo's best result ( thus far ). The Australian has come under intense scrutiny but soldiers on as he tries to find his groove again. 

Norris is currently P7, While Ricciardo 12th in the Drivers' Standings. McLaren, level on points with Alpine ( in 4th ) but ahead due to a podium finish, continues to struggle with the 2022 Challenger. The lack of straight-line speed in the Mercedes engine has compounded matters.

The possibility of losing out to Alpine F1 if they can't improve in the latter half of the season seems plausible.

BWT Alpine F1 Team :

Alpine F1, with a new title sponsor in BWT, renewed its title challenge in 2022 with Ocon and Alonso. Ocon leads the intra-team battle with 8 points finishes, P5 being his best result at the recently concluded Austrian GP. Meanwhile, Alonso is 10th in the standings, with 29 points to his name, 23 separating the duo. Alonso's best finish was also P5 ( in Britain ), besides finishing in the points in seven races. Both drivers have had reliability issues, with Alonso bearing the brunt of it.

In the Constructors', Alpine is tied with McLaren on 81 points and would hope to continue their upwards trend in this battle. As a works team, Alpine has the resources to do even better in the latter half of 2022. The car's straight-line speed is second only to Red Bull, but reliability remains the team's Achilles heel.

Alfa Romeo F1 Team Orlen :

Alfa Romeo F1 acquired the services of Bottas and Zhou for 2022. Sporting an all-new driver lineup in a new era of the sport was a risk, which has paid dividends thus far. 

Bottas' expertise and knowledge from his years at Mercedes have helped propel Alfa Romeo into the thick of the midfield. The Finn is currently P9 in the standings with 46 points to his name, with P5 being his best finish at Imola. Saudi Arabia and Silverstone were two races where he retired due to mechanical issues, but Bottas has featured regularly in the top 10, be it on a Saturday or a Sunday. 

The Formula 2 rookie and the first ever Chinese F1 Driver, Zhou has had a tough start with only two results in the points in the first 11 races. The Chinese driver's best finish came in Canada ( P8 ), and he has suffered from more reliability issues than Bottas. Following a horrifying crash on the opening lap in Silverstone, which saw the HALO save his life, Zhou was back to racing again in Austria.

Although Alfa Romeo trail McLaren and Alpine by 30 points, they are only 17 clear of Haas F1 Team, the other Ferrari customer team. If Zhou can step up his performances to match Bottas' in the latter half of 2022, getting closer to P5 in the Championship will be possible. The reliability of the Ferrari PUs remains a concern still.

Haas F1 Team :

After a few seasons of mediocrity and hardship, Haas F1 are on the rise again in the new era of F1. It was a tumultuous start to the year, with the team terminating Mazepin's contract and saying goodbye to its title sponsor in Uralkali in a show of solidarity towards Ukraine, invaded by Russia. The search for a replacement led them to an old associate in Kevin Magnussen, who pounced at the opportunity to partner Mick Schumacher, the son of the legendary Michael Schumacher.

Magnussen has been the more consistent of the two drivers, with five results in the points, P5 being his best at the season opener in Bahrain. Schumacher secured two points finishes, P8 and P6, in Silverstone and Austria, respectively. Haas F1 is currently P7 in the Constructor Standings, 17 points shy of Alfa Romeo F1 Orlen. It is a close contest in the lower half of the field, but with the chasing pack suffering from various issues, Haas F1 should be able to hold on to P7 if not challenge Alfa Romeo.

Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Alpha Tauri, Red Bull's B-team, has had a trying first half of the season. The team retained the services of Gasly and Tsunoda for 2022. Both drivers continue to struggle with balance issues. Incidents on opening laps and intra-team battles have not helped matters either. 

The team has gone backwards, and it seems unlikely this downturn will get arrested in 2022. Alpha Tauri is currently P8 in the Constructor Standings, 9 points clear of Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1.

In the intra-team battle, Gasly remains the better performing driver with 16 points and three finishes in the top 10. P5 in Baku is the Frenchman's best result. Tsunoda's best finish was P7 in Imola, besides P8 and P10 in Bahrain and Spain, respectively. 

Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team :

Aston Martin F1 is going through a baptism by fire in 2022. The team, like Alpha Tauri, is struggling with multiple issues, despite trying to emulate some above them in the standings. As a team that has enjoyed so many great days in its history, it is disheartening to see a tally of only 18 points at the halfway point of 2022.

Vettel had 4 points finishes, with P6 in Baku being his best result. He missed the first two races of the season due to COVID-19 and got replaced by the reserve driver, Nico Hulkenberg. Vettel has scored almost all the points for the team ( 15 out of 18 ), while Vettel's younger teammate and son of the owner, Lance Stroll, has only three 10th place finishes to show for all his efforts. 

The team has plans for expansion with the construction of its new factory in the UK, but it might all come crashing down if they can't turn performances around on the track.

Williams Racing F1 Team :

After its acquisition by Dorilton Ventures, Williams Racing F1 is slowly and steadily returning to a level of competitiveness desired from a team with such a rich history. While the team lost Russell to Mercedes for 2022, they snatched up Reserve Driver of Red Bull ( in 2021 ), Alexander Albon, to partner Nicholas Latifi. 

Albon secured 3 points for the team with P9 and P10 in Miami and Australia, respectively. Latifi's performances continue to be underwhelming, and the Canadian is yet to secure a top 10 finish. The rumours that the team are searching for a replacement are doing rounds, and Latifi needs to start matching Albon's results to squash such claims.

It is unlikely that Williams would do better than P10 unless there is a bizarre race result in the latter half of 2022. 

The first half of 2022 produced its fair share of thrills and spills, and as things stand, Verstappen and Red Bull are en route to lifting the crown again. Ferrari and Leclerc had their reliability problems but aren't out of reckoning yet. As for Mercedes, they have found a base to mount a challenge and trim the deficit to the teams ahead.

Will the Bulls keep raging on? or will the Horse prance to the finish line first? Time will reveal all! 

2021 F1 Season Review - Eighth for One, but not the Other!

The 2021 F1 Season got underway in March, and despite the challenges faced due to the COVID 19 Pandemic, the FOM ensured that 22 races would get held over the season. While some tracks failed to host an F1 race for the second time in a row, others stepped up to the plate and helped the sport achieve its objective of a sizeable season. Zandvoort ( Netherlands ), Lusail ( Qatar ) and Jeddah ( Saudi Arabia ) were the new entrants in 2021. 

2021 was also the season where the FIA and FOM sampled a new race weekend format, which featured Qualifying on Friday, followed by the F1 Sprint, a 100 km long race that decided the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday. With the overhaul of the technical regulations due for 2022, many teams shifted their focus to the new era. However, some persisted with success in 2021.

Although technical regulation changes ( in 2021 ) benefitted cars with a high rake aero setup, Hamilton and Mercedes remained favourites for the title. Verstappen and Red Bull hoped to be closer than ever in their quest to dethrone their arch-rivals. Did 2021 see the crowning of a new Champion? How did the teams and drivers fare in the final season of 1st chapter of the Turbo era?

Time to revisit the performances in 2021.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, the undisputed king of the Turbo Era, faced a formidable challenge from Red Bull in 2021. Mercedes retained the services of Hamilton and Bottas. It wasn't smooth sailing in the title fight, but Mercedes prevailed at the end to take their 8th consecutive Constructors' Championship. Although they secured the Constructors, they felt that Hamilton got robbed of the Drivers' title due to the controversial calls of the FIA Race Director near the end of the Abu Dhabi GP. The team even boycotted the FIA Awards Ceremony, expressing their displeasure and protesting against the Stewards verdict.

The final race marred what had been an incredible battle between two of the best drivers ( Hamilton and Verstappen ) in the sport.

Hamilton ended 2021 eight points behind Verstappen, with eight wins and nine podiums to his name. Barring a coming together with Verstappen in Italy, Hamilton went pointless only in Baku. However, small mistakes and dodgy strategy calls from the pit wall throughout 2021 proved pivotal in the title fight. 

A solitary win in Turkey ended what had been an underwhelming season for Bottas. The Finn scored ten other podium finishes but couldn't challenge the likes of Verstappen or Hamilton. P3 was the best that Bottas could manage in the Drivers' Championship but being more consistent than Perez allowed Mercedes to clinch the Constructors' Championship.

Mercedes announced the appointment of Russell alongside Hamilton for 2022. Although Hamilton is yet to confirm his participation in the new era, Mercedes remains hopeful at convincing the Briton to stay put and battle in 2022.

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull entered the 2021 season intending to remain relentless in their quest for winning the Championship. There was no room for mediocrity, and the team decided to replace Albon with Perez to partner Verstappen. The upgrades brought throughout the season bore fruit for Red Bull, and they managed to stay within striking distance of Mercedes. However, resurgent performances by Hamilton and Bottas made it evident that Red Bull wouldn't secure the Constructors' title towards the end. While Red Bull's challenge fizzled out, Verstappen managed to lead and fend off Hamilton in the Drivers' Championship. Eventually, in the season finale at Abu Dhabi, both Verstappen and Hamilton were level on points in a winner-takes-all race.

The race turned out to be a roller coaster of emotions for both teams and fans, and after a controversial ending, Verstappen took the Drivers' Title for 2021! Perez also played a pivotal role in the race, and celebrations broke out in the Red Bull camp. Despite the controversial end to the season and the protests lodged by Mercedes, Verstappen retained the Championship. The Dutchman was the more consistent over the season and won 10 races ( to Hamilton's 8 ), securing eight podium finishes. The retirement at Baku and the accidents in Silverstone and Monza were some setbacks, but Verstappen didn't slip whenever the opportunity arose. 

As for Perez, it was a mercurial debut year with Red Bull. Barring his victory in Baku and the four podium finishes in France, Turkey, USA and Mexico, the Mexican struggled with the role of the second driver at Red Bull. The Mexican ended 2021 in 4th, 36 points behind Bottas. 

Red Bull achieved to break Hamilton's run of titles since 2016. They also denied the Briton the opportunity to become the most successful driver in the sport, keeping Schumacher's record of 7 titles intact. The team would now focus on retaining the Drivers' Championship and hoping for better performances from Perez to bring them closer to the Constructors in 2022. 

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari had a dismal 2020 and needed to turn things around in 2021. Carlos Sainz joined their ranks to partner Leclerc. Progress was slow in the first half of the season, but the Scuderia finished it strongly to take P3 in the Constructors'. Although the gulf to the top two remained big, to be the best of the rest was no mean feat after the disappointments of 2020.

Interestingly, it was Sainz who won the intra-team battle against Leclerc. The Spaniard finished P5 in the Championship, 5.5 points clear of his teammate. Sainz bagged four podiums - P2 in Monaco and P3 in Hungary, Russia and Abu Dhabi. He failed to score in only two races, making him one of the most consistent in 2021. 

Leclerc was winner elect in Monaco when he crashed his Ferrari in Q3 and couldn't start the race as a result. Nevertheless, the Monegasque secured P2 in Silverstone, his only podium finish of the season. He suffered another retirement in Hungary due to a turn one collision on the opening lap. France and Russia were the other tracks where Leclerc failed to score.

Ferrari retains the same line-up for 2022 and is working hard to produce a contender worthy of victories in the new era. The only way is upwards for the most successful team in F1. 

McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren was the 3rd best team at the end of 2020. They had a formidable pairing in Sainz and Norris but lost Sainz to Ferrari for 2021. The replacement arrived in the form of Ricciardo from Alpine. McLaren remained locked in an intense battle for P3 with Ferrari, but their challenge petered out towards the end of the season. Eventually, the Woking-based team finished in P4, 48.5 points adrift. McLaren, however, managed to secure an unthinkable 1-2 in Monza, Italy, at Ferrari's home turf.

Norris ended the season P6 in the standings, P2 at Monza being his best finish. He also secured two P3s at Monaco and Austria, finishing in the top 10 on 16 other occasions. The Briton would have secured his first victory at Russia, but inclement weather made him overrule the pit calls, eventually relegating him to P7.

Ricciardo took victory for McLaren at Monza but failed to be as consistent as Norris. The Australian couldn't score in 9 races, bringing his tally to 115 points in P8 in the standings. However, being his first year with the team, Ricciardo was still settling into his new life at McLaren. 

McLaren has been inching towards the sharp end of the grid but will need consistent performances from both its drivers to challenge the likes of Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari.

Alpine F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 got rechristened Alpine F1 in 2021, named after the brand's performance division. As a full-works team, Alpine had a bitter-sweet 2021. They welcomed the return of Fernando Alonso to their ranks, alongside Esteban Ocon, and the duo managed to fend off an intense challenge by Alpha Tauri to give Alpine P5 in the Constructors. 

Alonso edged out his teammate by 7 points to finish P10 in the Drivers' Championship. The former Double-World Champion bagged a podium ( P3 ) in Qatar besides finishing in the points in 14 other races. 

Ocon, meanwhile, took an unlike victory at Hungary to give Alpine its first win since Australia 2013 ( when Raikkonen won with Lotus F1 ). Like Alonso, Ocon failed to score in 8 races yet managed 74 points.

The Alonso-Ocon pairing in 2021 has given Alpine a base to work with for their 2022 challenger. Will they be closer to the sharp end of the grid or remain in the midfield melee remains the million-dollar question.

Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Scuderia Alpha Tauri, Red Bull's B team, brought in Honda protegee Yuki Tsunoda to partner Pierre Gasly for 2021. With Honda engines improving in performance with each passing year, Alpha Tauri mounted a commendable challenge for P5 in the Constructors'. Although they fell short of their target by 13 points against Alpine, a full-works team, it had been a strong year for the Italian outfit.

Gasly was instrumental in scoring the bulk of the points for the team. The Frenchman finished P9 in the standings with 110 points, P3 in Azerbaijan being his best result. His Qualifying performances ensured him points- finishes in 14 other races. 

Tsunoda, on the other hand, had a challenging rookie season. The Japanese driver managed a mere 32 points, finishing in the top 10 on seven occasions. P4 in Abu Dhabi was his best finish. Although Tsunoda's performances were sub-par, Red Bull decided to give him another chance in 2022. 2022 is a journey into the unknown, but Alpha Tauri has the resources of repeating the performances of 2021.

Aston Martin Racing F1 Team :

Aston Martin Racing, previously Racing Point, had a disappointing showing in 2021. After the highs of finishing P4 in the Constructors' in 2020, the Silverstone-based outfit managed only 77 points and P7 in 2021. Aston Martin got caught off-guard after the FIA brought about a change in technical regulations, which benefitted the teams running a high rake design. Although Aston Martin pushed for redesigns, it was too little too late as they slowly fell backwards in a highly-contested midfield. 

With Perez getting released at the end of 2020, Aston Martin looked to Vettel for his experience and expertise alongside Stroll. The team sported an all-green livery ( with shades of pink ), the characteristic Aston Martin colours. 

Vettel won the intra-team battle by 9 points, finishing P12 in the standings, followed by Stroll in 13th. Vettel secured P2 in Azerbaijan and Hungary but got disqualified in the latter due to a fuel irregularity. He finished in the points in six other races. Stroll's best finish was in Qatar ( P6 ), besides eight other points-finishes. 

Aston Martin has retained the services of both its drivers for 2022. 

Williams Racing F1 Team :

After their takeover by Dorilton Capital in 2020, Williams Racing has gone from strength to strength in 2021. After ending 2020 without a point to their name, Williams jumped to P8 in the Constructors, scoring 23 points and an unlikely podium with Russell ( P2 ) in Belgium. The team persisted with Russell and Latifi for 2022, and the duo repaid the team for trusting in them.

Russell ended 2021 P15 in the Drivers' Standings, with 3 points finishes ( Hungary, Italy and Russia ) and a podium finish ( P2 in Belgium ) to his name. Meanwhile, Latifi finished P7 in Hungary and P9 in Belgium. Russell's P2 in Belgium turned the tide in the battle for P8 against Alfa Romeo, and Williams remained unchallenged ever since. 

While Russell switches to Mercedes for 2022, Albon joins Latifi at Williams, and the team hopes to do equally well, if not better, in the new year. 

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo ended the 2021 F1 Season 9th in the Constructors' Standings. It was a mediocre season for the Hinwil-based outfit, strategic calls and lack of outright pace hurting them against their immediate rivals in Williams. Although they retained their driver line-up of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi for 2021, the team failed to capitalize on the opportunities presented throughout the season, ending 10 points shy of Williams in 8th.

While Giovinazzi outperformed Raikkonen on Saturdays, the veteran fared better on race days. Raikkonen finished in the points on four occasions, with 8th in Russia and Mexico being his best performance in 2021. The Finn announced his retirement from the sport, having finished 16th in the Drivers' Standings in his final year in F1. 

As for Giovinazzi, P10 in Monaco and P9 in Saudi Arabia were his two finishes in the points. Like Raikkonen, he also suffered from poor tactical calls, which denied him better finishes in many races. 

Alfa Romeo decided to start afresh in 2022 and announced an all new-lineup in Bottas and F2 graduate Guanyu Zhou. Will a new driver line-up ensure better results in 2022? Only time will tell.

Uralkali Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 sported an all-rookie lineup in Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin. The team failed to score in 2021, their first-ever season without a point in F1. While Ferrari protegee and Michael Schumacher's son Mick had a consistent season, Mazepin recovered from a tumultuous start to his F1 career. 

Schumacher achieved his best result in Hungary ( P12 ) and suffered from 3 retirements. Meanwhile, Mazepin couldn't finish four races and withdrew from the season finale in Abu Dhabi due to a mechanical issue. P14 in Azerbaijan was the Russian's best result. 

Haas needs to stem the tide of going backwards ( like Williams ), and 2022 presents an opportunity. Schumacher and Mazepin remain with the team and, with more experience under their belt, should produce a better showing in the new era. 

2021 was an intriguing year for F1. Fans returned to attend many races in the season, and the addition of new tracks helped the sport increase its global footprint. Although the season end got marred in controversy, 2021 produced one of the best duels between the best drivers and teams on the grid. The battle at the front was intense, and the one in the midfield was as close as it could get. Verstappen and Hamilton had been in a league of their own, and both drivers deserved to win the title. But there could only be one winner at the end of the day. The FIA has launched an investigation to ascertain how the events of the controversial season finale unfolded. It might be too little, too late, though.

Will Verstappen reign supreme again, or will Hamilton reclaim the crown that got taken away from him? Could we see a new contender in the ranks in the next chapter of the Turbo Era?

Bring on 2022!

2021 Abu Dhabi GP Race Recap : And then, there were Two...

The 2021 F1 Season finale got held at the iconic Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The circuit on Yas Island is famous for hosting a race at dusk, with the Chequered Flag getting waved under lights. Designed by Hermann Tilke, the track has been the venue for season finales for several years since its inception. Recently, the circuit got awarded a ten-year extension up until the 2030 F1 Season. 

The Abu Dhabi GP has seen several farewells over the years, and this year was no different. Kimi Raikkonen bid goodbye to the world of Formula 1, ending a career that spanned two decades. The Iceman had been one of the most popular drivers of the sport, endearing himself with his straightforward approach to life in F1. The Finn would complete 349 race starts, the most by any F1 driver, leaving behind a legacy like no other.

Meanwhile, his teammate Giovinazzi would end a three-year tenure with Alfa Romeo Racing, only to switch to Formula E for 2022. Williams said its farewells to Russell, who would replace Bottas at Mercedes in 2022, while the Finn would move over to Alfa Romeo to replace the retiring Raikkonen. Meanwhile, Haas F1 announced Pietro Fittipaldi as their reserve driver for 2022. Logan Sargeant ( F2 Driver ) got a chance to drive an F1 car with Williams at the young drivers' test, scheduled after the Abu Dhabi GP weekend. 

The season finale was a tense affair for the title contenders. With Verstappen and Hamilton level on points in the Drivers' Championship, the stakes were as high as they could be. This feat got repeated for the first time since 1974. Abu Dhabi had been a happy hunting ground for Verstappen, but Hamilton had the momentum going into the weekend.

Although Red Bull trailed Mercedes by 28 points, their focus was to win the Drivers' title. Bottas and Perez had their work cut out for the weekend. A DNF for both Verstappen and Hamilton would crown Verstappen the 2021 Champion! 

The Yas Marina Circuit promised better battles and closer racing, having gone through a reconfiguration at certain turns.

Which driver proved himself worthy of the crown? Time for a recap of the final race of 2021!

Practice :

Williams gave Jack Aitken, their reserve driver, a chance to participate in FP1 in place of Russell. It was an eventful FP1 for Ocon, who narrowly escaped hitting the wall and got stuck in neutral after going over the kerbs. A settings change quickly resolved the false-neutral issue. The McLaren and the Ferrari drivers took to the run-off areas on a few occasions. Hamilton had several lap times deleted for exceeding track limits. Leclerc was unhappy with Verstappen, who drifted into his path in the final sector. Raikkonen suffered a spin at turn nine, while Vettel lost the rear of his Aston Martin near the end of the session. 

Verstappen topped the timesheets, with Bottas and Hamilton P2 and P3 for Mercedes. Perez was P4 in the other Red Bull, while Alonso split the Alpha Tauris of Tsunoda and Gasly in P6. The Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz were P8 and P9, and Vettel completed the top 10.

Ocon was P11 in the other Alpine, followed by Norris and the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. P15 was the best that Stroll could manage, with Ricciardo P16. The Williams of Aitken and Latifi were P17 and P18, with Schumacher and Mazepin completing the rear of the field in the Haas cars. 

It was time for the race simulations in Free Practice 2, and all eyes were on the lap times set by Verstappen and Hamilton. Bottas locked up his tyres at turn 12 and tapped the barriers at 14. Meanwhile, Latifi damaged his rear wing after a spin at turn 13. Alonso suffered from several lap time deletions after exceeding track limits.

The session got Red Flagged at the end after Raikkonen wrecked the rear of his Alfa Romeo at turn 14. Thankfully, the Finn was ok and returned to the pits in the medical car. 

Hamilton ended FP2 the quickest, from Ocon and Bottas. The Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez were P4 and P5, followed by Alonso and Tsunoda. Leclerc and Sainz were P8 and P9 for Ferrari, with Gasly completing the top 10. 

Giovinazzi split the McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris in P12. The Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel were P14 and P15, respectively, with Raikkonen 16th in the other Alfa Romeo. Russell and Latifi were P17 and P18 for Williams, with Schumacher and Mazepin completing the rear of the field.

While Hamilton had the better one-lap race, Verstappen looked menacing in race trim. Which team was masking its actual pace remained a mystery. Saturday promised to be an intriguing day. 

FP3 got underway, and gusty conditions at turn 12 unsettled some cars. While Norris ran wide, Hamilton had to take corrective action on his flying lap. A pit marker almost fell on Gasly's car as he exited his pit box. Meanwhile, Mazepin wasn't pleased with Hamilton ending up in his path ( again ). Thankfully, the Briton got away without an investigation.

Hamilton topped the timesheets, and Bottas split the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez in P3. Norris was P5 for McLaren, followed by the Alpha Tauris of Tsunoda and Gasly. Ricciardo split the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc in P9. 

Stroll was P11 for Aston Martin, followed by Ocon and the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. P15 was the best that Alonso could manage from Vettel and Russell. Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin completed the rear of the field.

Qualifying :

The lights went green for the start of Q1, and, barring the Ferraris who chose the mediums, everyone else persisted with the softs. Schumacher ran wide at turn one, and many drivers had fuel for multiple runs. 

Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Norris, Alonso and Gasly were the top 6, with Stroll, Vettel, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin in the drop zone, halfway through Q1. 

Verstappen improved to P2, while Gasly had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 16. Schumacher's eventful Qualifying continued as he hit the bollard at the final turn, followed by Norris driving over it. The session got Red-Flagged for safe extrication of the bollard. Replays showed that Vettel clipped the wall at turn 14, and then Ocon impeded him at the end of his lap. The incident got flagged for investigation. 

Everyone switched to the soft tyres for their final runs, and Giovinazzi locked up his brakes at turn one. Vettel complained about traffic in the last sector again. 

Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Perez, Tsunoda and Gasly were the top 6, while Latifi, Russell, Raikkonen, Schumacher and Mazepin got elimiated at the end of Q1.

Q2 got underway, and the Aston Martins ( used ), Ferraris, Alpines and Ricciardo chose the soft tyres for their first runs. Verstappen began his flying lap but locked up at turn one, which resulted in a flat spot on his tyre. Nevertheless, the Dutchman set a representative lap time. At the end of the first run, Sainz, Hamilton, Verstappen, Leclerc, Bottas, and Tsunoda were the top 6, with Ricciardo, Stroll, Giovinazzi, Vettel and Gasly in the drop zone. 

With Verstappen flat-spotting his medium tyres, Red Bull saw it prudent to send him again on a set of softs. Barring the Mercedes and Alpha Tauri drivers, everyone chose the soft tyres for their final attempts of Q2. A queue of cars began to form up in the last sector. As the drivers jostled for track position, Vettel stopped to clear himself off the traffic. Alonso was unhappy with a McLaren in front, while Gasly reported brake-by-wire issues which hampered his lap time.

The following drivers made it to Q3 - Verstappen, Perez, Hamilton, Sainz, Leclerc, Bottas, Norris, Tsunoda, Ocon and Ricciardo. 

Alonso, Gasly, Stroll, Giovinazzi and Vettel got eliminated. 

It was time for the final shootout of 2021 ( Q3 ), and everyone bar Ricciardo emerged from the pits with a fresh set of soft tyres. Red Bull deployed a strategy to help Verstappen gain time in the second sector. His teammate Perez used his Red Bull to give Verstappen a tow down the straight, and the Dutchman didn't falter. He was the quickest ( provisionally ), half a second clear of Hamilton. Perez was P3, eight-tenths adrift. Meanwhile, Tsunoda had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits. 

Hamilton and Bottas emerged earlier than the rest for their final attempts of Q3. Hamilton couldn't improve in sector one but set personal best times in two and three. However, his lap time wasn't enough to dethrone Verstappen at the top. The Briton got within three-tenths of Verstappen's time, though. Verstappen was improving on his 2nd attempt but backed off as soon as it got confirmed that he would be on pole position. Meanwhile, Perez got bumped down to P4 by Norris in the dying minutes of Q3!

So the Championship contenders lined up on the front row, with Verstappen starting on pole position. Norris was P3, followed by Perez. Sainz and Bottas were on row 3, with Leclerc and Tsunoda on 4. The top 10 got completed by Ocon and Ricciardo.

Ocon got a reprimand for impeding Vettel, while Ricciardo got let off for holding up Alonso.

It had been an eventful Qualifying for Red Bull. With Verstappen flat-spotting his medium tyres, the team got forced to switch to an alternate strategy. While it wasn't ideal to start the race on the softer tyres, Verstappen would enjoy better traction from P1. Perez, meanwhile, also deserved credit for his role in Qualifying. The Mexican was instrumental in helping Verstappen with the tow that eventually got him the pole position. Having qualified P4, Perez was better placed than Bottas to help his teammate. Red Bull needed to get their strategy right to help Verstappen win the title. Although Red Bull trailed Mercedes by 28 points, they still had a chance of winning the Constructors with teamwork. 

As for Hamilton and Mercedes, it wasn't the ideal situation. Having set the quickest lap times in Free Practice sessions, Hamilton was the favourite to claim Pole Position. The Briton still had a front-row start, and with the medium tyres, could go longer than Verstappen in the race. Bottas had a disappointing Qualifying, managing only P6. Bottas needed to gain positions quickly to negate the Red Bull advantage, but like Hamilton, he too had the medium tyres and was under threat from guys with the faster rubber ( soft ). 

Norris produced a stellar lap to go P3, while Ricciardo struggled to qualify only P10. McLaren had fallen back in the race for P3 against Ferrari but hoped to end 2021 with a strong result for Norris and Ricciardo. 

With Sainz and Leclerc qualifying P5 and P7, Ferrari looked set for a double-points haul and securing P3 in the Constructors' Championship. Who would win the intra-team battle remained a mystery.

It had been a tough day for Gasly, who got plagued by brake-by-wire issues throughout Qualifying. The Frenchman could only manage P12, while his teammate, Tsunoda, did a commendable job to qualify P8. If Alpha Tauri could address Gasly's issues and if Tsunoda could keep himself incident-free, the cars had the pace to achieve a double-points finish in the season finale. 

It hadn't been a strong Saturday showing for Alpine. While Ocon qualified P9, Alonso managed P11. Thankfully, the latter had free tyre choice and could make up places by overcutting those ahead. As for Ocon, he needed to maximise the use of the softer rubber to gain positions at the start.

Aston Martin had had a mediocre second half of a season, and the trend threatened to continue in Abu Dhabi. Both drivers lacked outright pace, and going deeper into the race was the only solution for a finish in the top 10. Vettel felt hard done by traffic in Qualifying, while Stroll hoped to make amends in his 100th race start.

It was an emotional weekend for Alfa Romeo Racing as it bid goodbye to its drivers, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. Giovinazzi, with his Qualifying performance, again showed his mettle over one lap, while Raikkonen's Qualifying got cut short due to an error on his final attempt of Q1. The team needed a potent strategy to give both drivers a memorable finish and a fitting farewell for their time in F1.  The fight for P8 with Williams wasn't over yet. 

An error by Russell took him out of contention for Q2 in his final race for Williams. The Briton also got out-qualified by Latifi. Williams looked quicker only than the Haas cars. As for Haas F1, it was an eventful session, with Schumacher taking out the bollard, which caused the Red Flag in Q1. The German rookie out-qualified Mazepin yet again, the duo destined to remain as backmarkers.

All eyes were on Verstappen and Hamilton. Was Verstappen at a disadvantage by starting on soft tyres, or would Hamilton try and claim track position at turn one with his mediums? If there was a Safety Car, who would benefit from it? Would Norris get into the mix and challenge for a win? The season finale promised a humdinger of a race.

Race :

Mazepin tested positive for COVID-19 and couldn't take part in the race for Haas F1.

Fifty-eight laps separated the F1 world from its 2021 World Champion. C3, C4 and C5 were the tyres available for the race, and there was a mixed choice outside the top 10. While Gasly ( new ) and Alonso ( used ) chose hard tyres, Schumacher opted for the softs while the rest persisted with the mediums. Pirelli predicted a one-stop race. 

The five red lights went out, and Hamilton had a better get away from the line, leading into turn one. Verstappen slotted into P2, while Perez moved up to P3 after Norris ran wide. Meanwhile, Bottas fell back to P8. 

Verstappen, desperate to retake the lead, tried a divebomb at the Turn 9 hairpin. The duo banged wheels, and Hamilton had to cut the chicane to rejoin the race. Hamilton seemed to have gained a visual advantage over VerstappenMercedes acknowledged that Hamilton had "restored" the original gap to Verstappen. The stewards decided against investigating the incident.

Further down the field, Raikkonen got past Latifi for P16. Hamilton was the fastest man on the track as the DRS got enabled on lap 3. The Aston Martin teammate battle saw Vettel get the better of Stroll for P14. Hamilton began to extend his lead at the front. Red Bull continued its discussions with the Race Director about the opening lap incident, but the justifications got ignored. Meanwhile, Verstappen complained about his tyres losing grip.

Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Norris, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Bottas, Ocon and Ricciardo were the top 10 on lap 10. 

Hamilton continued to set blistering lap times as the field got spread out. Meanwhile, McLaren informed Norris that he had to manage his gearing issues throughout the race. 

The first round of pit stops kickstarted with Verstappen pitting for the hard tyres on lap 14. He rejoined P5. Leclerc, racing behind Verstappen on the track, got distracted by the Dutchman and ran wide. The Monegasque lost P6 to Tsunoda as a result. Verstappen began his charge on the hard tyres with an overtake on Norris for P4. Meanwhile, Leclerc retook P6 from Tsunoda on lap 15. 

Mercedes decided to pit Hamilton for the hard tyres on lap 15 to negate Verstappen's pace. The Briton rejoined in P2, behind Perez. Leclerc and Ocon followed suit a lap later. Hamilton was the fastest man on the track as Leclerc got past Latifi, and Verstappen relegated Sainz to P4. Norris and Giovinazzi switched to the hard tyres on lap 18, while Ricciardo and Sainz followed suit on 19 and 20, respectively. 

Hamilton, meanwhile, had closed upon Perez, who was leading the race. Red Bull extended the Mexican's stint on the soft tyres to hold up Hamilton and allow Verstappen to close the gap. The ploy worked as every attempt by Hamilton got thwarted. Perez made Hamilton lose more than 5 seconds to Verstappen over one lap. The Briton wasn't pleased with the standard of driving, and when he eventually got past on lap 21, Verstappen had reduced the deficit to 1.2 seconds only. 

Verstappen got past Perez without any drama, and Hamilton's advantage got negated. Further down the field, Norris and Leclerc relegated Raikkonen to P13. Perez, Stroll and Raikkonen pitted for the hard tyres on lap 22. Vettel and Tsunoda followed suit two laps later.

Hamilton began to build a gap to Verstappen at the front while Giovinazzi overtook Russell for P14. Disaster struck Raikkonen on lap 26. The Finn suffered from brake failure, got spun around, and hit the barriers at turn 6. He limped back to the pits, the issue being terminal. It was a cruel end to his racing career in F1. Russell, meanwhile, also retired from the race with Williams detecting a Power Unit failure on his car. Latifi switched to the hard tyres on lap 29.

Hamilton was the fastest man on the track, extending his lead at the front. Meanwhile, Bottas pitted for hard tyres on lap 31 and rejoined in P9 behind Leclerc. 

Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Alonso, Gasly, Sainz, Norris, Leclerc, Bottas and Tsunoda were the top 10 on lap 34.

Bottas, after a few attempts, finally got past Leclerc for P8. Giovinazzi was the next casualty from the race, with what looked like a hydraulic failure on his car. The Italian, like Raikkonen, got robbed of a befitting farewell. The incident caused the stewards to deploy the Virtual Safety Car, and a few drivers decided to pit again. More importantly, Mercedes chose to keep Hamilton on the older hard tyres to avoid giving track position. Red Bull, however, did the opposite and switched Verstappen to another set of hard tyres. Leclerc and Perez were the others who did likewise, while Alonso and Gasly opted for mediums.

Racing resumed on lap 38, and Verstappen trailed Hamilton by 17 seconds. The Dutchman began his charge to reduce the deficit, and with Hamilton carving his way through traffic, it happened quicker. Verstappen was the fastest man on track as Tsunoda and Alonso jostled for P7. Hamilton asked Mercedes if they had made the right decision by not pitting him as he believed he would run out of grip towards the end. The Briton's lead over Verstappen got reduced to 14 seconds.  

Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Norris, Bottas, Tsunoda, Gasly, Alonso and Ocon were the top 10 on lap 46.

Norris was holding off Bottas for P5 when McLaren detected a slow puncture on his car. The Briton pitted for new tyres and rejoined in P10. Mercedes informed Hamilton to avoid the kerbs at turns 15 and 16 ( lap 50 ) as Verstappen reduced the gap to 11 seconds. Norris got past Ocon for P9 and then Alonso for P8. At the back of the field, Latifi was racing with Schumacher for P15 when he ran wide and rejoined the track only to lose grip at turn 14 and clatter into the barriers!

The Williams was a wreck, and there was no option for the stewards but to deploy the Safety Car! Mercedes chose decided against pitting Hamilton! They believed that the incident would last long enough to end the race behind the Safety Car. However, Red Bull switched Verstappen to the soft tyres. Ricciardo, Perez, Stroll and the Alpha Tauri drivers did likewise. The marshalls had to use fire extinguishers to douse the flames from the brakes and the Safety Car period got prolonged.  

The top 10 changed to - Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Sainz, Bottas, Tsunoda, Gasly, Norris, Alonso and Ocon on lap 55.

Red Bull detected an oil and water leak on Perez's car and called him back to the pits, leading to his retirement on lap 56. Five lapped cars separated Verstappen from Hamilton, and Michael Masi, the Race Director, chose against letting the lapped cars overtake the Safety Car.

The decision attracted the displeasure of the Red Bull pit wall, and on the penultimate lap, Masi overturned his previous decision. Surprisingly, he also decided to end the Safety Car period on the same lap, which paved the way for Verstappen to make one last attempt at victory on the final lap.

Mercedes were livid with the decision making but couldn't affect further change. The Safety Car peeled into the pits, and Verstappen's eagerness to attack Hamilton momentarily put him ahead of the Safety Car-line. Racing resumed, with Verstappen attacking Hamilton at turn five and succeeding in taking the lead. He tried to break the slipstream that Hamilton desired and fended off a challenge at turn six. Hamilton hadn't given up made another attempt to retake the lead at turn nine, but Verstappen had more grip to retain the position.

Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Abu Dhabi GP! He became the 2021 F1 World Champion! He also took the point for the fastest lap. Hamilton had to settle for P2 while Sainz completed the podium finishers.

The Alpha Tauris of Tsunoda and Gasly were P4 and P5, with Bottas P6 in the other Mercedes. Norris finished P7, followed by the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon, with Leclerc completing the top 10.

Ricciardo split the Aston Martins of Vettel and Stroll in P12, with Schumacher in P14 completing the classified finishers.

Celebrations erupted in the Red Bull garage as they had finally won a Drivers' Championship after eight years. Both Max Verstappen and Christian Horner were in tears, overwhelmed by the joy of winning again. Hamilton cut a forlorn figure in the pits, Mercedes speechless with the events from the last few laps. As other drivers made it to Parc-Ferme to congratulate Verstappen, the new Champion, Hamilton took refuge in the arms of his father. Jos Verstappen joined in his son's celebrations, the dream achieved.

Hamilton was gracious in defeat and congratulated Verstappen for his exploits in 2021. However, Mercedes was unhappy with the result, and Toto Wolff got told off by Michael Masi for his protests. As the podium celebrations kickstarted, Kimi Raikkonen got the "The Driver of the Day" award, the fans recognising the legacy of the Iceman. 

It had been a titanic battle in 2021, but Verstappen finally emerged Champion. The Dutchman had no answer to Hamilton's pace but used the circumstances to his advantage to tip the scales in his favour. Verstappen had repaid the faith that Red Bull had had in him. He also had Perez to thank, who was instrumental in holding up Hamilton, which eventually proved pivotal during the VSC and SC periods. Although Perez ended the race in retirement, he had played the perfect support role to his teammate. Christian Horner had said that the team's focus was to win the Drivers' Championship and enjoy the prestige it carried. Verstappen became the first non-German and non-English Champion since Raikkonen in 2007. It was also a year of redemption for Honda powertrains, who had attracted a lot of criticism ever since their return to F1. They bid goodbye to the sport, having broken Hamilton's domination through Verstappen.

Mercedes had been outwitted and outclassed by the Red Bull pit wall. The strategists at Mercedes refused to give up the track position, which eventually brought Hamilton's undoing. The strategy calls in 2021 had let the team down more often than not, and despite having the speed advantage, Mercedes was unable to help Hamilton to his 8th World Title. Poor Race Direction by Michael Masi led Mercedes to lodge two protests - the first being the incident where Verstappen was momentarily ahead and the other where the FIA had broken their regulations concerning lapped cars and Safety Car. The stewards ruled that the Race Director had the right to control the deployment or withdrawal of the Safety Car as per his judgement of conditions. The protests got dismissed, and Mercedes lodged a right to appeal, which meant that the decision would go to the Court of Arbitration. Mercedes had won their 8th Constructors Title, continuing their team domination in the Turbo Era. It was the first time since 2008 ( Ferrari ) where a team failed to win the Drivers' Championship despite winning the Constructors. Bottas, in his farewell race, had a tough day at the office and could only manage P6.

Sainz's P3 saw him leapfrog Norris and Leclerc in the Drivers' Standings ( P5 ). Leclerc managed P10, and the double points haul was enough to seal P3 in the Constructors for Ferrari. Ferrari had been on a resurgence in the second half, and the future looked promising for the Italian outfit.

Tsunoda secured his best finish in 2021 with P4, followed by teammate Gasly, who had remained consistent throughout the season. Although Alpha Tauri couldn't dethrone Alpine from P5 in the Constructors', they finished the season on a high, with a memorable farewell to their powertrain supplier, Honda. 

Norris finished P7, while Ricciardo could only manage P12 for McLaren. It was a disappointing day for Norris, who had qualified P3 and fell backwards in the race. The Briton was nursing an issue with gearing throughout the race. Ricciardo, like Norris, lacked the speed to challenge those in the front. McLaren finished 2021 in P4 in the Constructor standings.

Alpine secured P5 in the Championship with a double-points finish for Alonso and Ocon. The duo finished P8 and P9 after some great wheel-to-wheel battles with those around them. Only 13 points separated Alpine and Alpha Tauri at the end. As a works team, Alpine hoped for an improved showing in 2022.

Vettel finished P11, while Stroll managed P13 for Aston Martin. It was another point-less weekend for Aston Martin, completing a dismal 2021 season. It was back to the drawing board with improvements needed in all departments for 2022.

Williams had a double DNF. While Russell's final race with the team ended prematurely with an engine failure, Latifi crashed out of the race after hitting the wall at turn 14. The Canadian had run off track a few corners earlier and lost grip due to the tyres getting dirty. His incident tipped the scales of the title battle in Red Bull's favour. For Williams, though, a double DNF for Alfa Romeo saw them secure P8 in the Constructors, a marked improvement from the mediocrity of 2020.

It wasn't the fondest of farewells for either Raikkonen or Giovinazzi. While Raikkonen suffered from brake failure, a hydraulics issue cut short Giovinazzi's race. Alfa Romeo suffered a double DNF, ending their challenge for P8 in the Constructors. Be it 2013, 2018 or 2021, all the farewell races for Raikkonen have been DNFs. The Iceman got a standing ovation from the crown as he bid farewell to a sport he had been a part of for the past two decades. Despite a commendable Qualifying performance, Giovianzzi got denied the opportunity to challenge for a top 10 finish. The Italian had a strong 2021 but would ply his trade in Formula E for 2022.

Haas F1 had only Schumacher participating in the Grand Prix after Mazepin tested positive for COVID-19. The German had some wheel-to-wheel battles at the back of the field, eventually finishing P14 and last. Haas F1 failed to score in 2021, finishing last in the Constructor standings.

2021 had been one of the most exciting seasons in the history of F1. Verstappen and Hamilton were in a league of their own and, after 21 races, were inseparable at Abu Dhabi. Although Hamilton looked Champion elect, circumstances swung the title to Verstappen. While Red Bull and Verstappen had produced a racing masterclass to victory, Mercedes and Hamilton felt hard done by the Race Director's decisions and rulings. Neither driver deserved to lose, but there could only be one winner!

The "Dutch Lion" had emerged as the new king of the F1 jungle. Hamilton was hurting but would be back, with a vengeance in 2022, to reclaim his crown. 

Verstappen, the beloved of the Oranje Army, was the 2021 F1 World Champion! The efforts at Red Bull Racing finally bore fruit! 

As the dawn of the 2022 season nears, we remember the legacy of a young Finn who took the F1 world by storm in the early 2000s, became Champion and continued to enthral in the new era of racing.

The Racer, the Champion, the Legend, Kimi Matias Raikkonen!

Kiitos Kimi! Wishing you a happy retirement!

2021 Saudi Arabian GP Race Recap : Entanglements, Crashes & Drama on an Arabian Night!

The penultimate round of the 2021 F1 Season got held at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia became the 34th country to host an F1 Grand Prix, adding to the roster of night races on the calendar. Although the Jeddah Corniche Circuit was a street track, it boasted average speeds of 252 km/hr, second only to Monza, the home of the Italian GP. With 27 corners and three DRS zones, the drivers needed utmost focus while going full throttle over 79% of the lap.

Leading up to the Grand Prix, PKN Orlen extended its title partnership alongside Alfa Romeo for 2022. Mercedes announced that their chief aerodynamicist, Eric Blandin, would move to Aston Martin Racing in 2022. Meanwhile, Haas presented FDA driver Robert Schwartzman with the opportunity to participate in the young driver's test at Abu Dhabi postseason. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya extended its contract for hosting F1 races till 2026.

The F1 world got hit by the news of the demise of Sir Frank Williams CBE, Founder and Former Team Principal of Williams Racing, at the age of 79. Tributes poured in from all across the world for one of the most iconic figures of F1. His hard work, passion for racing and innovation was unmatched. He spearheaded Williams Racing's domination of the 80s and the 90s, steamrolling the competition to seven Drivers' and nine Constructors' Championships.  All the F1 teams sported a special tribute on their car liveries ( for the weekend ), honouring Sir Frank Williams CBE. 

Meanwhile, Jost Capito, the current Team Principal of Williams Racing, tested positive for COVID-19. Aston Martin confirmed that a small fire had broken out in the extraction system of their wind tunnel at one of their facilities in the UK. Thankfully, the situation got contained in time. 

Mercedes and Hamilton brought their new ICE unit ( as used in Brazil ) to further reduce the deficit to Verstappen in the Drivers' Championship. Meanwhile, Red Bull looked at options of their own to counter Hamilton's charge. Who reigned supreme through the streets of Jeddah? Was the 2021 Drivers' Champion crowned, or did the title fight continue to the season finale in Abu Dhabi?

Time for a quick recap of the race weekend!

Practice :

Free Practice 1 got underway in the setting sun, and the drivers took to the track to search for the optimal setup for the race. While Bottas got held up by Mazepin, Raikkonen took avoiding action from grazing the wall on a flying lap. Tsunoda needed a helping hand from his engineers as he tried to manoeuvre his Alpha Tauri out of the garage.

Hamilton topped the timesheets, five-hundredths clear of Verstappen, with Bottas a further two-tenths adrift. Gasly was P4 in his Alpha Tauri, followed by Giovinazzi in the Alfa Romeo. The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc were P6 and P7, with Ricciardo, Alonso and Vettel completing the top 10. 

Perez led the latter half of the field in the other Red Bull, followed by Ocon and Norris. Stroll was P14 in the other Aston Martin, with Tsunoda and Raikkonen P15 and P16, respectively. Schumacher split the Williams of Russell and Latifi in P18, with teammate Mazepin in P20.

The temperature was cooler under the floodlights at the start of FP2. Mazepin needed a helmet change to tackle the lighting on the track. Mazepin then suffered a spin at turn two while his teammate Schumacher brushed the wall on his flying lap. Several drivers suffered from lock-ups at turn one, while the kerbs at eleven caused sparks to fly as the car skidplates grazed over them. While Russell reported a momentary Brake-by-wire failure, Hamilton got caught up in traffic on one of his Qualifying simulation runs. Verstappen ran wide at turns seven and eight but continued without further incidents. 

Leclerc lost control of his Ferrari and hit the barriers at turn 22, ending his Free Practice 2 prematurelyThe Monegasque wrecked the rear of his Ferrari. The Stewards decided against restarting the session, and Hamilton topped the timesheets again. Less than a tenth separated Hamilton from Bottas and Gasly, with Verstappen finishing P4. The Alpines of Alonso and Ocon were P5 and P6, with Sainz getting the better of Tsunoda and Perez in P7. Leclerc completed the top 10.

The McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris were P11 and P12, followed by the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen. Stroll and Vettel were P15 and P16 for Aston Martin, with Schumacher splitting the Williams of Russell and Latifi in P18. Mazepin was P20, more than 2.5 seconds slower than Hamilton's time.  

Be it the battle at the top or those in the midfield, FP3 and Qualifying promised to be a close affair. 

The Final Practice session ( FP3 ) got underway, and Hamilton locked up his tyres at turn one. The Briton was in hot water when he ended up impeding Gasly and Mazepin. It was a lucky escape for Hamilton as Mazepin managed to take avoiding action from rear-ending Hamilton. The incident got flagged for investigation, with Hamilton getting summoned to the stewards. Meanwhile, Stroll had to return to the pits after running over debris on the track. His teammate Vettel went wide at turn nine but was able to continue.

Verstappen ended FP3 the quickest, from Hamilton and Perez. The Alpha Tauris of Tsunoda and Gasly were P4 and P5, with Bottas completing the top 6. Leclerc and Sainz were P7 and P8 for Ferrari, followed by Ocon and Norris.

Alonso was P11 in the other Alpine, with the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen P12 and P13. P14 was the best that Ricciardo could manage in the McLaren, while Russell split the Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel in P16. Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin completed the rear of the field.

Hamilton also got summoned for failing to adhere to double-waved Yellow flags. The Briton escaped penalty but got a reprimand for impeding Mazepin. Mercedes didn't inform Hamilton ( in time ) about a faster car behind and received a 25000 euros fine from the Stewards. 

Mercedes detected a fuel leak on Bottas' power unit at the end of FP3. The Finn got forced to switch to another engine before the start of Qualifying. Thankfully, he didn't incur a penalty.

Qualifying :

It was time for Qualifying, and a queue of cars formed up at the pit lane exit at the start of Q1. Soft tyres were the choice for everyone, and as the cars headed out onto the track, Leclerc was concerned about the issue of traffic.

Hamilton went wide at turn one on his first attempt and had to do another lap to set a representative time. With 10 minutes remaining, Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Norris, Sainz and Bottas were the top 6, while Raikkonen, Stroll, Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin faced the threat of elimination.

The drivers had fuel for multiple runs and the lap times began to drop as more rubber got laid on the track. Less than a second separated the top 14 drivers going into the final minutes of Q1. Several drivers switched to a new set of soft tyres, and the pecking order was changing rapidly. Meanwhile, Verstappen, on a flying lap, got impeded in the last sector by traffic, one driver being Bottas, who reported a misfire on his engine. The Finn limped back to the pits and ground to a halt, his engine shutting down completely. Thankfully, the Mercedes mechanics wheeled him back to the garage for further assessment. 

Perez, Bottas, Ricciardo, Sainz, Verstappen and Leclerc ended Q1 as the top 6, while Latifi, Vettel, Stroll, Schumacher and Mazepin got eliminated. 

Replays showed that Gasly had allegedly impeded Sainz on his flying lap. The incident got flagged for investigation post-session.

The Frenchman got let off with a formal warning.

Q2 got underway, and the Alpine drivers, along with Giovinazzi, chose to stay put in the early minutes of the session. While Russell opted for the soft tyres, the rest of the drivers switched to the mediums. Perez had his lap time deleted after he exceeded the track limits at turn four. Sainz suffered a spin, clipping the barriers at eleven with his rear wing. 

Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Bottas, Leclerc and Ricciardo were the top 6, with Russell, Giovinazzi, Ocon, Alonso and Sainz facing elimination halfway through Q2. 

Raikkonen, Norris and Verstappen switched to the soft tyres for their final attempts of Q2. Sainz suffered another incident at turn 11 that eliminated him from Q2. The Spaniard notified Ferrari that the car felt "undrivable". Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Alonso and Russell joined Sainz in elimination.

The following drivers made it to Q3 - Hamilton, Perez, Verstappen, Bottas, Tsunoda, Gasly, Norris, Leclerc, Ocon and Giovinazzi.

Incidentally, Hamilton completed four more laps than Verstappen on the medium tyres while Giovinazzi clipped the wall on his final flying lap. Thankfully, the Alfa Romeo driver didn't suffer damage. Replays showed that Bottas and Raikkonen had a coming together, the former clipping the right rear of Raikkonen's car. Both drivers escaped unscathed. 

The lights went green for the start of Q3, and the Mercedes, Alpha Tauri drivers, along with Leclerc, emerged from the pits with a fresh set of soft tyres. Hamilton, pushing on his first attempt, almost lost control and had to take to the runoff. Hamilton seemed to have lost the initiative in the battle for Pole Position. Meanwhile, Verstappen headed out onto the track and went four-tenths clear of Hamilton's attempt. Bottas improved to P2 as five minutes remained of Q3. 

Hamilton began his final run of Q3 earlier than the rest, setting a personal best time in sector one and going purple in two and three. The Briton was the quickest driver ( provisionally ). Bottas went P2 in the other Mercedes, a tenth adrift. It was time for Verstappen to respond, and although the Dutchman scraped the wall at turn 2, he went the quickest in sector one. He then nailed sector two, going three-tenths clear of Hamilton. Verstappen was en route to a famous Pole Position when he locked up his brakes at turn 27 and got too eager on the throttle at the corner exit. The result was deadly as the Dutchman couldn't control his Red Bull from hitting the wall, damaging the rear right wishbone on his car and bringing him to a halt at the side of the track! Red Bull feared that the impact with the wall could have damaged his gearbox.

Hamilton had inherited Pole Position, with teammate Bottas alongside him on the front row. Despite his error, Verstappen managed to set the 3rd quickest time, followed by Leclerc in P4. Perez and Gasly were on row 3, followed by Norris and Tsunoda on four. Ocon and Giovinazzi completed the top 10.

Mercedes aimed for a front-row lockout on Saturday, and thanks to Verstappen's error, it was mission accomplished. Bottas could now play rearguard to Hamilton if he held onto P2 after the opening lap. Mercedes now had the chance to extend their lead over Red Bull, while Hamilton was favourite to end on the top step of the podium in Jeddah. The only concern for Mercedes was that Hamilton had done four more laps than Verstappen on his race start tyres ( mediums from Q2 ).


As for Verstappen and Red Bull, it was a day of despair and frustration. Verstappen was flying across the track en route to a famous lap for Pole Position when his eagerness to recover lost time cost him spectacularly. Red Bull now needed to check the fitness of the gearbox before the race. If they deemed it necessary to replace the gearbox, then Verstappen would face a five-place grid penalty, adding insult to injury. Meanwhile, his teammate, Perez, did a commendable job to qualify P5 after his struggles in the Practice sessions. He would still need to contend with Leclerc to get alongside Verstappen. 

While Sainz struggled to control his Ferrari and qualified a lowly P15, Leclerc bumped up his to the second row of the grid. With Ferrari having a comfortable lead over McLaren in the battle for P3, the goal was to outscore the latter. Leclerc had the perfect opportunity to jump Norris in the driver standings. As for Sainz, he needed to carve his way through the field to break into the top 10. Would he be able to do a better job in race trim remained the million-dollar question?

The Alpha Tauris had been strong over a single lap, and both drivers didn't disappoint in Qualifying. While Gasly remained consistent with another top 6 performance, Tsunoda qualified P8. Alpha Tauri, now chasing Alpine for P5 in the Championship, couldn't afford a poor showing on Sunday. 

It was a mixed Saturday for McLaren. Norris qualified P7 but Ricciardo managed P11. With a free tyre choice for the race, Ricciardo hoped to break into the top 10. McLaren had experienced a drop in performances and couldn't afford another mediocre showing if they wished to reduce the deficit to Ferrari.

Ocon and Alonso were P9 and P13 in the Alpines. Strategic calls were pivotal for the French outfit if they hoped to do better in the race. The focus was on outperforming Alpha Tauri, and with Alonso getting on the podium in the previous round, anything was achievable. 

Alfa Romeo had a strong showing in Qualifying. A stellar performance by Giovinazzi saw him feature in Q3, the Italian qualifying P10. Meanwhile, Raikkonen set the 12th quickest time. The Finn has been faster in race trim, and Alfa Romeo needed to produce a potent strategy to achieve a double-points finish.

Williams were also in the midfield mix, with Russell outperforming Latifi again. The race pace was a cause of concern, however. Aston Martin had a disappointing Qualifying. Neither Vettel nor Stroll could find the optimal setup for their cars, and the duo faced a long Sunday evening. Aston Martin, with opportunistic strategies, had salvaged similar weekends in the past. As for Haas F1, they looked destined to remain backmarkers.  

Race :

Red Bull, after extensive checks, announced that Verstappen wouldn't need a new gearbox for the race. 

Fifty laps awaited the teams and drivers through the Jeddah Corniche!

Ricciardo, Sainz and Vettel ( used ) opted for the hard tyres, while the rest outside the top 10 persisted with the mediums. 

The five lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for the top 3 drivers. Perez tried to pressure Leclerc for P4 but locked up his tyres and almost hit Verstappen. Hamilton led the field, followed by Bottas and Verstappen. Further down the field, Ocon and Tsunoda made contact while Tsunoda fell back to P12.

Ricciardo was up to P9, Alonso P11, and Sainz got the better of Raikkonen for P13 on the opening lap. Hamilton was the fastest driver on lap 3, while Sainz got past Tsunoda for P12. The Mercedes duo exchanged the fastest laps as Giovinazzi overtook Alonso for P10 ( lap 7 ). Ricciardo got past Gasly for P8, while Sainz relegated Alonso to P12 on lap 8.

Disaster struck the Haas F1 team when Schumacher lost control of his car and careered into the barriers. The car was a wreck, and the Safety Car got deployed ( lap 10 ). Sainz got past Giovinazzi for P10 just before the Safety Car period got enforced. Russell and Stroll were the first to switch to hard tyres. Mercedes decided to do likewise with Hamilton and Bottas on lap 11. As the team prepared to double stack, Bottas slowed down to give himself a buffer to Hamilton. Verstappen, getting impeded, made his displeasure known over team radio. Meanwhile, Norris and Alonso also switched to the hard tyres.

Verstappen now inherited the lead of the race. The top 10 after the pit stops were - Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Ocon, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Gasly, Perez, Sainz and Giovinazzi.

The marshalls needed more time to repair the barriers where the Haas had crashed, and the stewards decided to Red Flag the race! Verstappen got free tyre choice as a result of the stoppage. Hamilton wasn't pleased with Mercedes' decision to pit him, having a radio exchange with the strategists. He asked them about the possible scenarios to salvage a victory.

The stewards announced a standing start for the race. Ricciardo, Perez and Latifi chose new mediums, while Sainz and Vettel got used sets. Verstappen wasn't happy with the Safety Car going "too slow" since he struggled to get his tyres up to temperature. To make matters worse, Verstappen alleged that Hamilton wasn't maintaining the car cars gap at the back, riling Verstappen even more.

It was a clean getaway, but Hamilton had the better start from P2. Verstappen tried to go around the outside at turn one, and both got compromised into the next. While Verstappen retained the lead, Ocon got past Hamilton to take P2. Bottas locked up his brakes at turn one and dropped to P5. Further down the field, Perez and Leclerc made contact, which sent Perez into the wall. The Mexican lost his front wing and suffered terminal damage. Mazepin arrived at the incident and left without a racing room. The Russian rear-ended Russell, the latter's Williams getting wrecked by the resulting contact. 

The stewards had to Red Flag the race ( again ) due to the debris on the track and to extricate Perez, Mazepin and Russell's stricken cars. While Leclerc and Perez's incident got flagged for investigation post-race, the Stewards ruled out penalties. Leclerc, however, suffered "floor damage" on the right side. As for the Verstappen-Hamilton incident into turn one, Verstappen faced the threat of a time penalty.

Michael Masi, the Race Director, offered Red Bull the option to start P3 behind Ocon and Hamilton. Red Bull complied reluctantly. The race would restart with a standing start, and the drivers opted for different strategies with their tyre choices. Verstappen ( new ), Ricciardo, Bottas, Sainz, Vettel, Tsunoda and Stroll opted for the mediums, while the rest of the field stuck to the hards. 

Racing got underway again on lap 17. Ocon, from P1, had a clean getaway, but Hamilton responded to the lights quicker. Meanwhile, Verstappen from P3 made an opportunistic move on the inside of turn one. With three drivers abreast at the first turn, there was contact between Hamilton's front wing and Ocon's rear tyre, but thankfully, neither driver suffered extensive damage. Verstappen led the race, again!

Further down the field, Tsunoda got past Ocon for P9, and Hamilton retook P2 from Ocon on lap 18. Hamilton and Verstappen continued to exchange the fastest laps.

Verstappen, Hamilton, Ocon, Ricciardo, Bottas, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Vettel, Tsunoda and Leclerc were the top 10 at the end of lap 20.

DRS got enabled on lap 22, and Tsunoda tried overtaking Vettel but collided with him instead. The resulting contact caused both to spin and, Tsunoda lost his front wing. Further behind, both Ferraris were battling for track position and had to take avoiding action from hitting either Tsunoda or Vettel. Meanwhile, Tsunoda tried to get rid of his front wing, which got stuck on the underside of his Alpha Tauri. He limped back to the pits for a new front wing and the hard tyres.

The stewards deployed the Virtual Safety Car period, which lasted till lap 24. On lap 25, Alonso made an error that spun him around and allowed Norris and Latifi to move up to P13 and P14, respectively. Another Virtual Safety Car period got enforced when Raikkonen tried an opportunistic overtake on Vettel. Both suffered damage, but Vettel got asked to continue. Meanwhile, Raikkonen pitted for a front wing change and switched to the mediums ( lap 27 ).  

Alonso reported the presence of debris on the track and requested the Race Director to enforce a VSC period to clear them. After a lengthy period, the race finally returned to full speed on lap 33. Alonso got past Vettel for P13, while Hamilton, with his fastest laps, was within the DRS range of Verstappen.  He tried to challenge Verstappen for the lead on lap 36, but Verstappen caused both drivers to run wide at turn one. The incident got flagged for investigation.

Red Bull tried to hand Hamilton the lead of the race, albeit in a "strategic manner". Verstappen slowed down before the 3rd DRS zone, but Hamilton, unaware of Verstappen's intentions, couldn't take avoiding action in time. The Briton ended up hitting the back of the Red Bull and lost more downforce on his front wing. The Mercedes garage was livid! Verstappen, after "brake testing" Hamilton, continued with his race. Meanwhile, despite the collision, Hamilton continued with his stricken front wing. The incident got flagged for investigation ( lap 37 ).

Meanwhile, Giovinazzi got overtaken by both Ferraris and was down to P9. After a failed attempt, Bottas finally got past Ricciardo for P4. At the front, Red Bull instructed Verstappen to allow Hamilton to overtake him. The Dutchman complied but immediately, with DRS assistance, retook the race lead. However, the Dutchman's chances for victory took a hit when the stewards decided to punish him with a five seconds time penalty for "going off track and gaining an advantage" at the turn one incident on lap 36.

Hamilton wanted to win this race on the track and took the race lead on lap 43. Meanwhile, Vettel retired from the race after extensive damage suffered to his car. Alonso switched to the soft tyres on lap 46. Verstappen began to lose grip and slowly fell backwards. 

Hamilton, Verstappen, Ocon, Bottas, Ricciardo, Gasly, Sainz, Leclerc, Giovinazzi and Norris were the top 10 on lap 47.

Bottas was honing in on Ocon for P3, while Hamilton continued with his blistering lap times. Leclerc retook P7 from Sainz on the final lap ( 50 ).

Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Saudi Arabian GP! He also bagged the point for the fastest lap. Verstappen came home in P2, getting the "The Driver of the Day" award. 

Bottas, despite Ocon's dogged defence, managed to snatch P3 on the finish line, a tenth separating the duo. Ricciardo was P5 for McLaren, followed by Gasly and the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz. Giovinazzi and Norris completed the top 10.

Stroll finished P11 for Aston Martin, with Latifi P12 for Williams. Alonso could only manage P13, followed by Tsunoda and Raikkonen, who completed the classified finishers.

After reviewing the footage from lap 37, the stewards deemed it appropriate to give Verstappen a penalty of ten seconds, added to his race time. The result remained the same, however.

Hamilton was now level on points with Verstappen, the latter ahead courtesy of an extra victory. The Briton had to play the hunter after the two stoppages, and despite the damage sustained to his front wing, Hamilton not only won but also set the fastest lap of the race. He didn't mince his words when asked about the incidents with Verstappen. However, experience over youth came to the fore as the defending World Champion continued his unrelenting charge. As for Bottas, it was a recovery drive after getting bumped down to P5 at the restart. The Finn secured P3 in the Drivers Championship! 

The double podium helped Mercedes open a 28 points gap to Red Bull, the Constructors' battle almost over.

Verstappen's tactics in the race were questionable. The Dutchman completed a couple of great overtakes and led for several laps. However, Red Bull's decision to switch him to the medium tyres left him with heavily degraded rubber at the end. Nevertheless, the Dutchman refused to yield, which led to the collision on lap 37. Due to his driving standards, Verstappen got a fair amount of criticism from many in the F1 world. He was in no mood to celebrate and stormed off the podium after the National Anthems. For many, Verstappen had crossed the line of racing ethics. He now had to outscore Hamilton if he wanted to be Champion in 2021. As for Perez, a racing incident with Leclerc prematurely ended his race. The Mexican's DNF cost Red Bull valuable points in the Constructors. Christian Horner, the Team Principal said, their focus was on the Drivers Championship, which was a matter of prestige rather than the money earned in the Constructors. Red Bull had given up the fight against Mercedes, or so it seemed.

Ocon's P4 was instrumental in helping Alpine open up a 29 point gap to Alpha Tauri in the Constructor Standings. Alpine had all but secured P5 in 2021. The Frenchman had driven a flawless race, and despite being on "pole position" at the restart, he was wise to pick his battles en route to a fine P4. As for Alonso, a spin cost him track position and time, which eventually saw him finish a disappointing P13. 

After the disappointments of the previous few races, McLaren finally secured a double-points finish with Ricciardo and Norris. Ricciardo charged through the field to bag P5, while Norris was unfortunate to get bumped down the grid due to the Red Flag from Schumacher's crash. Nevertheless, he recovered to P10 for the solitary point. 38.5 points separated McLaren from P3 in the Constructors' standings. The fight was all but over.

Gasly's consistency in 2021 has been unmatched, and once again, the Frenchman ensured that Alpha Tauri remained in the fight for P5 in the Championship. After his heroics on Saturday, Tsunoda faltered in the race and wrecked a top 10 finish following a collision with Vettel. The rookie was disappointed, his performances repeatedly costing Alpha Tauri precious points.

The Ferraris had been in a battle of their own. The duo of Leclerc and Sainz was inseparable on the track, and the 10 points haul helped Ferrari maintain a comfortable cushion to McLaren. A P7 finish allowed Leclerc to open a 4 point lead over Norris ( P6 ). Ferrari's resurgence in 2021 continued!

A stellar race featuring some wholesome wheel-to-wheel battles saw Giovinazzi finish P9! The Italian kept it clean, maintaining his focus through the tight and twisty and blazingly fast turns of Jeddah to bring Alfa Romeo closer to Williams by two points. As for Raikkonen, it had been a lacklustre weekend for the Finn, the incident with Vettel ending the chances of a top 10 finish. Alfa Romeo now trailed Williams by 10 points and needed a miracle in Abu Dhabi to secure P8 in the Constructors Championship.

It had been a weekend to forget for Aston Martin. After making up places, Vettel's race got cut short by collisions with Tsunoda and Raikkonen, while Stroll couldn't match the pace of those ahead, eventually finishing just outside the points in P10. 2021 had been a baptism by fire for Aston Martin, and they wouldn't go better than P7 in the Constructors.

Latifi finished P12 for Williams, while Russell got rear-ended by Mazepin, who himself had no space after Perez got tagged by Leclerc. Ideally, Williams Racing would have hoped for both cars to finish the race in memory of Sir Frank Williams, but destiny chose otherwise. As for Haas F1, a driver error by Schumacher and a high-speed collision for Mazepin left Haas with a double DNF. They now had to contend with extensive repairs on both cars before the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi beckons next, a race in the setting sun. Abu Dhabi would witness the crowning of the 2021 World Champion. After 21 races, the contenders for the crown remained inseparable. Both Hamilton and Verstappen had been in a league of their own throughout the season. The events that unfolded in Jeddah revealed that the Championship fight had taken an ugly turn. There have been titanic battles throughout the sport's history, some unforgettable. The duel through the Jeddah Corniche circuit was controversial, and it showed how determined the protagonists were for the victor's crown.

Would experience triumph over youth eventually? Abu Dhabi would reveal all!

More importantly, the sport would also say farewell to a legend, a World Champion and one of the most loved in the world of Formula 1..., KIMI RAIKKONEN! While the Iceman would say his farewells with a style he knows best, those who adore him know that there will never be another.

Abu Dhabi will be memorable yet painful for some.

2021 Qatar GP Race Recap : Lewis sails under the Lights of Losail!

The last race of the final triple-header of the 2021 F1 Season got held at Losail International Circuit near Doha, Qatar. The circuit, a regular feature on the Moto GP calendar, had to be prepared to make it suitable for F1 cars. It became the 75th venue and the 33rd nation to hold an F1 Grand Prix. Qatar also bagged a ten-year contract ( from 2023 ) to host F1 races.

Qatar, a night race featuring high-speed sections, also had a kilometre long pit straight to add to the overtaking opportunities on offer. The track surroundings had artificial grass to prevent the encroachment of sand onto the track. It was a trip into the unknown as the teams and drivers prepared to race under the lights at Losail.

Leading up to the weekend, McLaren squashed rumours about a possible takeover by Audi. Alfa Romeo announced that Antonio Giovinazzi would leave the team at the end of 2021. He would get replaced by Chinese F2 racer Guanyu Zhou, who would partner Valtteri Bottas. Zhou would become the first full-time Chinese racer in F1. Finances played a role in the decision-making process, and this attracted the ire of many fans. Giovinazzi chose to move to Formula E, getting a drive with Dragon Penske Autosport. Meanwhile, Alpine announced Oscar Piastri as their reserve driver for 2022. 

The drama from the recently concluded Brazilian GP continued as Mercedes lodged a "Right to Review" request with the FIA. Mercedes alleged that Verstappen had breached the International Sporting Code as he defended his lead from Hamilton on lap 48. Verstappen's dogged defence caused Hamilton and him to run wide at turn four in Brazil. The stewards, after some deliberation, denied Mercedes their request. 

With three races remaining in 2021, the title battle was as intense as ever.

How did the teams and drivers fare at the inaugural edition of the Qatar GP? 

Time for a quick recap!

Practice :

Free Practice 1 saw drivers and teams learn about the ideal setups, racing lines and limits of their car at a new circuit. Track temperatures were scorching hot at the start of FP1. 

Mazepin and Russell exceeded track limits, while Hamilton reported power issues on his Mercedes engine. The team eventually retired him from the session. While Stroll had a brake-by-wire problem on his Aston Martin, Norris ran wide and over the sausage kerbs at turn 14 and damaged the underside of his McLaren. Schumacher suffered a lock-up at turn seven and went across the gravel, while Tsunoda had to take avoiding action from rear-ending a Ferrari on the pit straight. 

Verstappen topped the timesheets from Gasly, followed by the Mercedes of Bottas and Hamilton. Tsunoda was P5 in the other Alpha Tauri, with the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc in P6 and P7. P8 was the best that Perez could manage, followed by Ocon and Norris, who completed the top 10.

Ricciardo was P11 in the other McLaren, with the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen splitting the Williams of Latifi and Russell in P14 and P15. Alonso was P17 in the other Alpine, followed by Schumacher, Stroll and Mazepin. 

FP2 got underway, and the track got lit up at dusk. Mazepin got forced to skip FP2 after his Haas suffered extensive chassis damage from the running in FP1. The Red Bull mechanics carried out repairs on the rear wings of both their cars, while Giovinazzi lost a piece of bodywork after drifting over the sausage kerbs. Vettel got impeded twice on his low fuel runs, while the Ferrari duo had off-track moments as they tried to avoid other cars. 

Less than half a second separated the top 6 drivers. The session ended with Bottas, the quickest from Gasly and Verstappen, with his teammate Hamilton, P4. Norris was P5 for McLaren, followed by Stroll and Tsunoda. Perez set the 8th fastest time in the other Red Bull, while Vettel and Sainz completed the top 10.

The Alpines of Ocon and Alonso were P11 and P12, respectively, followed by Leclerc and Ricciardo. Russell split the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in P16, while Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin were at the back of the pack.

With extensive running completed on Friday, the teams and drivers aimed for a better showing on Saturday. Many cars had suffered from underside damage, and the drivers needed to avoid the sausage kerbs in the upcoming sessions. Gasly was the star on Friday, having set the 2nd quickest time in both the practice sessions. Tsunoda was also in the mix, making Alpha Tauri a top contender for the weekend. 

The final practice session of the weekend ( FP3 ) got underway, another closely contested session. Mazepin's woes continued as the Russian suffered an engine problem after exiting the pits and ground to a stop. The mechanics rolled the stricken Haas back to the garage, with the session getting Red Flagged for a short period. Perez had an offtrack moment at turn 15, while Gasly suffered a spin at two. Leclerc was another to lose control of his car at turn two. 

Bottas led a Mercedes 1-2 at the end of FP3, less than eight-hundredths of a second separating the duo. Gasly split the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez in P5, with Sainz completing the top 6. The Alpines of Alonso and Ocon were P7 and P8, followed by Leclerc and Tsunoda.

Vettel split the McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris in P12, with Russell P14 in the Williams. Stroll was P15 in the other Aston Martin, followed by the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin were at the rear of the field.

Qualifying :

Track temperatures were 8 degrees cooler than that observed in FP3 for the start of Qualifying. 

Track limits got enforced at turns 2, 10 and 16. 

Q1 got underway, and Mazepin, on his flying lap, suffered damage to his front wing. Although it didn't get dislodged, it was at an odd angle throughout the lap. Gasly was the only driver to opt for mediums on his first run while the rest of the field chose soft tyres. Meanwhile, Schumacher had his lap time deleted after exceeding track limits at turn two. Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso, Gasly, Norris and Tsunoda were the top 6, with Stroll, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Mazepin and Schumacher facing elimination at the end of the first runs.

Leclerc and Norris suffered lap time deletions after exceeding track limits at turn 16. Ocon reported brake issues on his Alpine. The team acknowledged the problem but didn't have time to address it in Qualifying. The Red Bulls joined Gasly in choosing the medium tyres for their final runs of Q1. The final minute of Q1 saw a train of cars lining up for their last attempt. 

Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Sainz, Perez and Alonso were the top 6, with Raikkonen, Latifi, Giovinazzi, Schumacher and Mazepin getting eliminated at the end of Q1.

Tyre choice was a factor in Q2, and the field got split in their decision making. While the Alpha Tauris, Alpines, Aston Martins and Russell opted for the soft tyres, others chose the mediums for their first runs. 

Hamilton, Gasly, Verstappen, Bottas, Tsunoda and Alonso were the top 6 with Norris, Perez, Russell, Ricciardo and Leclerc in the drop zone, halfway through Q2. Russell chose to go out of sync with the rest of the field and completed his 2nd attempt sooner. The Briton couldn't better P13. Bottas and Sainz were the only drivers on the medium tyres for their final runs of Q2. Lap times improved quickly as more rubber got laid.

Hamilton, Gasly, Alonso, Verstappen Bottas, Ocon, Tsunoda, Vettel, Norris and Sainz got through to Q3, while Perez, Stroll, Leclerc, Ricciardo and Russell got eliminated.

Leclerc sounded listless about the lack of pace over team radio, while Perez was the major upset of Q2.

It was time for the final session of Qualifying and the battle for Pole Position! Norris, Tsunoda, Ocon and Vettel had to stick with a used set of softs for their first runs of Q3. Hamilton went the quickest on his first attempt, only two-tenths separating him from Verstappen and Bottas. 

The battle was hotting up as all ten drivers headed out with fresh soft tyres in the final minutes of Q3. Hamilton went purple in all three sectors and looked to have secured Pole Position. However, further back, Bottas and Verstappen were also setting personal best sector times. Their progress got cut short when the marshalls waved double waved yellow flags in sector 3. Gasly was on his flying lap when he went over the sausage kerbs at turn 15. The resulting vibrations dislodged his front wing, which ripped the right front tyre. Bits of carbon fibre and tyre rubber got strewn over the track, and Gasly ground to a halt on the pit straight. No other driver ( bar Hamilton ) could improve on their first attempts of Q3, and Hamilton inherited Pole Position for Sunday. Verstappen had to settle for 2nd, followed by Bottas in 3rd.

Gasly joined Bottas on the 2nd row, while row 3 got occupied by Alonso and Norris. Sainz was the quickest Ferrari in P7, followed by Tsunoda in the other Alpha Tauri. P9 was the best that Ocon could manage in an ailing Alpine, with Vettel completing the top 10.

Post Qualifying, Verstappen got summoned to the stewards for failing to respect the double yellow flags in Q3. Sainz and Bottas also got the summons, but for single waved yellows. Meanwhile, Ferrari discovered a crack on Leclerc's chassis, replaced it, and hoped to have the car ready before the race started.

Mercedes and Hamilton had upped their game after the performances witnessed in Brazil. Bottas, too was in the mix, in the top 3 to asset more pressure on Verstappen. With a two versus one situation on Sunday, Red Bull and Verstappen were at a disadvantage. While Mercedes had the opportunity of extending its lead over Red Bull, Hamilton hoped to trim the deficit to Verstappen. 

Perez's elimination in Q2 threw a spanner in the works for Red Bull. While Verstappen did his best to get into P2, the Dutchman faced an uphill battle without the presence of his wingman. Verstappen could overturn the disadvantage ( as seen in Mexico ), but starting on the dirtier side of the track in P2 posed an added challenge. 

The Alpha Tauri drivers had stolen the limelight with their performances in the practice sessions, and they didn't disappoint in Qualifying. While Gasly qualified P4, Tsunoda set the 8th quickest time. Both drivers would start on the soft tyres, which would give them extra grip at the start of the race. With Alpha Tauri level on points with Alpine in the Constructor Championship, the battle for P5 promised to be a closely contested affair. 

Like Alpha Tauri, Alpine had displayed excellent pace in all three practice sessions. Alonso and Ocon didn't falter, setting the 5th and the 9th quickest time, respectively. Although Ocon struggled with brake problems in Qualifying, Alpine hoped to repair it by race day. With the Alpine drivers starting on the soft tyres, priority was to make up positions early on the race, especially against their rivals, Alpha Tauri.

Both McLaren and Ferrari had only one driver in the top 10. While Norris ended up ahead of Sainz, Ricciardo trailed Leclerc in the latter half of the field. With Leclerc's car going through a chassis change, things didn't look good for Ferrari. Colder track temperatures had affected the balance on the Ferraris. As for McLaren, they were struggling with outright pace all weekend. Both teams faced a long evening with McLaren knowing that it couldn't afford a mediocre weekend against a resurgent Ferrari. 

Vettel out-qualified his teammate Stroll at Aston Martin. The team looked destined to finish P7 in the Constructors, and finishing in the points was the priority. Stroll got a free tyre choice for the race start, and with an optimal strategy, the team had the pace to secure a double-points finish.

Williams and Alfa Romeo were locked in a tussle for P8 in the Constructors, with the latter still 12 points adrift. Unless there was a slip-up by those in the top 10, having a points-scoring weekend seemed unlikely for either team. Alfa Romeo, however, seemed to be having better weekends than the Williams in the recent races.

Haas F1 was having a troublesome weekend with Mazepin's car undergoing extensive repairs and replacements. Nevertheless, the mechanics were able to get both cars ready for Qualifying. The team would remain backmarkers, however. 

Race :

Sunday kickstarted with a lot of drama as the verdicts from the investigation ( from Q3 ) came to the fore.

The stewards, after much deliberation, gave Bottas a three-place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags. Verstappen also got penalized, which saw him drop back to P7 for the race start. Meanwhile, Sainz escaped any punishment after data showed that he had slowed enough.

As a result of the penalties, Sainz would eventually start P5, Bottas P6 and Verstappen P7.

C1, C2 and C3 were the tyres available, with Pirelli recommending a two-stop strategy for the 57 lap race. 

Those in the latter half of the field went with mixed tyre choices. While Perez, Stroll, Leclerc, Ricciardo and Mazepin chose the mediums, Russell, Raikkonen, Latifi, Giovinazzi and Schumacher ( used ) persisted with the soft tyres.

The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for all cars. Hamilton, under threat from the grippier soft tyres on Gasly and Alonso's cars, cut across to mitigate their challenge into turn one. The Briton held on to the lead. His title contender Verstappen made up three positions at turn one but got pushed out onto the grass by Alonso. Nevertheless, the Dutchman secured P4. Meanwhile, Alonso pressured Gasly and got the better of the Frenchman for P2.

Further down the field, Schumacher got past Latifi for P18, while Giovinazzi overtook Russell for P14. Raikkonen was up to P12, while Stroll and Perez had broken into the top 10. Bottas had a shocking start in the other Mercedes and had fallen back to P11.

Perez got past Stroll for P9, while Hamilton extended his gap at the front with the fastest lap. Meanwhile, Latifi reclaimed P18 from Schumacher.

Verstappen began to pressure Gasly for P3, and at the final turn, the former went wide. The mistake allowed Verstappen to close up and get past for P3 on lap 4. Verstappen was now the quickest man on track as he tried to hone in on Alonso for P2. It was "job done" for the Dutchman, and Verstappen now trailed Hamilton by 4 seconds.

Meanwhile, his teammate Perez continued his charge through the field with an overtake on Tsunoda for P8. Lap 6 saw Leclerc overtake Raikkonen for P12 and Perez pressure Sainz for P7. The Mexican completed the overtake but ran wide at turn one, which allowed Sainz to reclaim the position. Meanwhile, Ricciardo got past Russell for P15. 

Perez finally got the better of Sainz on lap 8. Replays showed that Verstappen had suffered endplate damage after going over the kerbs at turn one. The front wing had also suffered imbalance on the Red Bull car, and the team asked Verstappen to be careful. Further down the field, Ricciardo continued his recovery with an overtake on Giovinazzi for P14.

Perez got past Ocon for P6, while Tsunoda lost two places to Stroll and Bottas on lap 9, getting relegated to P11. At the front, Hamilton was setting blistering lap times and stretching his lead over Verstappen. Norris began to pressure Gasly for P4, but the latter held the fort. Tsunoda was the first driver to pit, an early stop for the rookie, switching to the mediums. 

Bottas got past Stroll for P9, while Raikkonen was the next driver to switch to the mediums on lap 11. Gasly lost two positions to Norris and Perez in the space of 2 laps. The Frenchman pitted on lap 14 and switched to a used set of medium tyres. Meanwhile, Vettel got past Russell for P13, and Hamilton extended his lead over Verstappen to 7 seconds. 

Bottas overtook Sainz for P7 ( lap 15 ) while Perez relegated Norris to P5 ( lap 16 ). Further down the field, Giovinazzi switched to the medium tyres on lap 16. Hamilton continued to hammer in blistering laps as Bottas got past Ocon for P6. 

Red Bull surprisingly pitted Verstappen for hard tyres on lap 18. The Dutchman rejoined in P2, having built a gap to those behind. Ricciardo also pitted for hard tyres on the same lap, while Gasly got past Schumacher for P14. Meanwhile, Hamilton informed Mercedes that he was happy with his tyres and wanted to extend his stint. However, the team decided to pit him for hard tyres on lap 19 to cover off against Verstappen. The Briton rejoined in the lead, now with a 9 seconds buffer.

Perez was the next driver to pit for the hard tyres on lap 20, the Mexican rejoining in P12. Hamilton was the fastest man on the track as Tsunoda got past Mazepin for P15. Perez battled with Vettel for P11, but the latter delayed the inevitable overtake. Meanwhile, Mazepin lost P16 to Raikkonen on lap 22. The battle for P4 ended with Bottas getting the better of Norris on lap 23. The round of pit stops continued with Schumacher switching to the used mediums ( lap 23 ) and Alonso and Stroll choosing the hard tyres ( lap 24 ). Alpine timing of Alonso's stop allowed the Spaniard to rejoin the race ahead of Ricciardo and Perez, gaining track position on the latter. 

Giovinazzi overtook Mazepin for P16, while Verstappen was the fastest man on the track. Ocon pitted for the hard tyres on lap 25, while Perez got past Ricciardo for P8. Norris pitted for the hard tyres on lap 26, and Alonso got past Leclerc for P5. Perez, who had also closed up on the Alonso-Leclerc battle, tried to follow Alonso with an overtake on Leclerc but delayed it until a few corners later. He was now P6 and hunting down Alonso. 


Ricciardo and Vettel pitted on lap 27, with Vettel switching to the mediums and Ricciardo the hards. Ferrari decided to double stack with its drivers on lap 28, switching both to the hards. Meanwhile, Perez got the better of Alonso for P4 despite some dogged defence on lap 29. 

Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Perez, Alonso, Gasly, Norris, Ocon, Stroll and Sainz were the top 10 on lap 30. 

Raikkonen pitted for the 2nd time, switching to another set of hard tyres on lap 32. Meanwhile, at the front, Hamilton and Verstappen were setting blistering lap times. Disaster struck Bottas on lap 33 when he reported a puncture on the left front tyre. The Finn had gotten into contention for P3, extending his stint on the medium tyres when the front left gave way. He had to tiptoe his way around the circuit and also went across the gravel, losing time and track positions to Perez and Alonso before he finally entered the pits. Mercedes had to change the front wing on his car besides switching him to the hard tyres. Bottas rejoined in P14.

Tsunoda and Gasly pitted for the hards and mediums, respectively, while Raikkonen got past Schumacher for P17. Latifi got relegated to P16 by Tsunoda on lap 40, while Giovinazzi got the better of Schumacher for P18 on lap 41. Verstappen and Perez pitted for medium tyres on lap 42, the latter taking on a used set. Hamilton followed suit a lap later. On the track, Bottas got past Ricciardo for P12, while Raikkonen overtook Latifi for P16. Perez was the fastest man on lap 44 as he began his quest for P3. Tsunoda got past Russell for P14 on lap 45.

Perez, with his fresher tyres, was honing in on Stroll and Ocon for P5. Alonso in P3 was aware that he would come under threat from Perez towards the end and asked Alpine to request Ocon to defend against Perez with all his might. Perez got past Stroll for P6 on lap 46 and then tried to get past Ocon for P5 on 48. The Frenchman couldn't defend in the DRS zone but fought back a few corners later, which delayed Perez's charge. Nevertheless, Perez bagged P5 and now had Norris in his sights. 

Meanwhile, at the front, Hamilton and Verstappen were exchanging "fastest laps".

Hamilton, Verstappen, Alonso, Norris, Perez, Ocon, Stroll, Sainz, Leclerc and Vettel were the top 10 on lap 49.

Raikkonen got past Russell for P15, while McLaren detected a slow puncture on Norris' car. The Briton got forced to pit for new mediums on lap 51. Norris immediately got past Gasly for P10. Meanwhile, Mercedes decided to retire Bottas after discovering multiple issues with his car. There was more drama on lap 51 as Russell suffered a puncture on his left front tyre and had to return to the pits for soft tyres. Williams' woes didn't end there as Latifi too suffered the same fate, a lap later and had to retire from the race, grinding to a halt at one of the run-off areas. 

Those drivers on a one-stop strategy seemed to be in peril with their worn-out hard tyres. More teams feared delaminations, and Alonso in P3 got told to avoid the kerbs altogether. Perez now trailed Alonso only by 8.5 seconds, and the gap was reducing with every lap. Meanwhile, Norris got past Vettel for P9 on lap 54.

The stewards decided to enforce the Virtual Safety Car to allow safe extrication of Latifi's stricken Williams. The VSC period allowed Verstappen to pit for soft tyres, which would secure him the point for the fastest lap of the race. The VSC ended on the final lap, and it was a race to the finish line in the battle for P3 between Alonso and Perez.

Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and the victory at the inaugural Qatar GP. Verstappen came home in P2, having secured the extra point for the fastest lap at the end. Alonso held off Perez's charge to score his first podium in 7 years! 

P4 was the best that Perez could achieve, followed by Ocon and Stroll. The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc were 7th and 8th, with Norris and Vettel completing the top 10.

Ricciardo split the Alpha Tauris of Gasly and Tsunoda in P12, followed by the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in P14 and P15, respectively. Schumacher, Russell and Mazepin completed the classified finishers.

The entire weekend, Hamilton and Mercedes had been unchallenged. With Verstappen getting relegated to P7 ( due to the penalty ), Hamilton's task got simpler at the start. The Briton remained flawless at the front, building and managing the gap en route to a fine victory. The win helped him reduce the deficit to Verstappen to 8 points. Mercedes looked set for a double podium finish until Bottas' puncture on lap 33. The team was pushing its luck by extending Bottas' first stint and had to bear its consequences. It was a wretched weekend for Bottas, who first suffered from a grid drop and then had to charge through the field after a poor start only to have his race cut short due to a puncture and PU issues. Mercedes saw its lead in the Constructors trimmed down to 5 points, and with two races remaining, fortunes could change quickly.

Like Brazil, it was damage limitation day for Verstappen and Red Bull. Despite the grid drop, the Dutchman made overtaking look easy and finished 2nd only to Hamilton. He also bagged the point for the fastest lap, losing 6 to his title challengerAlthough Verstappen still led the title battle, it was an uphill task to keep a resurgent Hamilton at bay in the final two races. As for Perez, after the disappointment of Saturday, he responded in style and almost got on to the podium. He wasn't in agreement with Red Bull for pitting him for the 2nd time, but it did prove to be the correct decision in the end. The battle with Ocon, coupled with the VSC period, denied him the opportunity of attacking Alonso for P3 at the end. He was now just 13 points shy of Bottas in the fight for P3 in the Drivers' Championship. The results helped Red Bull outscore Mercedes by six points and reduce the deficit to only five in the Constructors.

Meanwhile, the FIA gave Christian Horner ( Red Bull Team Principal ) a formal warning for his choice of words while criticizing a marshall who he believed was to blame for Verstappen's grid penalty.

After Hungary, this was the best weekend for Alpine. Alonso achieved his first podium of the season ( after a gap of 7 years ), having managed to eek more life out of his worn hard tyres at the end. While Ocon delayed Perez's charge, the VSC at the end gave Alonso the respite he needed from the charging Perez. Alonso also got the "The Driver of the Day" award, and deservedly so. Ocon produced a stellar drive in P5. The combined tally of 25 points allowed Alpine to open a gap of the same margin to Alpha Tauri in the battle for P5. This weekend would prove pivotal if Alpine held onto P5 at the end of the year.

Aston Martin finally broke into the top 10 with both its drivers after quite a few races. While Stroll bagged P6, Vettel took the final point in P10. The team made the right strategic calls, and despite a one-stop strategy, both drivers did a commendable job with tyre management. The 9 points took Aston Martin's tally to 77, but the deficit to Alpha Tauri was still a sizeable 35 points.

P7 and P8 were the best that the Ferrari drivers could achieve, but that was enough to outscore McLaren again. Like many others, Leclerc and Sainz pitted only once in the race, and the Ferrari mechanics did a stellar job with double-stacking. The result saw Ferrari extend their lead to 39.5 points over McLaren. 

It was a weekend to forget for McLaren. While Norris fell out of P4 due to a slow puncture, Ricciardo had to undergo fuel management for most of the race. Norris finished P9, with only two points to show for his efforts. It was another lacklustre weekend for Ricciardo in a lowly 12th. Time was running out for McLaren to overturn their poor run of form.

Alpha Tauri flattered to deceive. After the heroics of Saturday, both drivers fell backwards in the race. The lack of speed was unexplainable, despite having a two-stop strategy. Gasly and Tsunoda eventually finished outside the points. With Alpine scoring a podium and opening a 25 point gap, Alpha Tauri looked to be out of the reckoning for a P5 finish in the Constructors.

The Alfa Romeo drivers made up positions at the start, but with a mediocre strategy ended in P14 and P15. The decision to start on soft tyres didn't pay off, and both drivers struggled to make inroads even after stopping twice. It seemed unlikely for Alfa Romeo to overtake Williams in the final two races.

Williams had a dismal day with punctures and delaminations on both Russell and Latifi's cars. While Latifi had to retire, Russell managed to continue and finish in P17. As for Haas F1, P16 and P18 were the best that Schumacher and Mazepin could achieve. Like Williams, it had been a troublesome weekend for Haas. It seemed like Haas would be the only team to go point-less in 2021.

Hamilton and Mercedes had the momentum, and with the title battles being as close as they were, anything could transpire at a new track like Saudi Arabia. Although the next race was a fortnight away, there was no time to rest for the teams or their drivers.

It was time for the final push, through the streets of Jeddah, followed by the season-ender in Yas Marina, Abu Dhabi. 

But in Qatar, the glory belonged to Hamilton and Mercedes! Hamilton sailed to victory under the lights of Losail!

2021 Brazilian GP Race Recap : A Herculean Weekend, Defying all odds!

The Americas leg of the 2021 F1 Season came to an end at Interlagos, Sao Paulo, the home of the Brazilian Grand Prix. One of the shortest circuits on the calendar, the race had seen many pivotal battles through the years. With four races remaining on the calendar, it was time for the final charge for the teams and drivers.

Be it for the title battle or a higher position in the Constructors, no team or driver could afford a mediocre weekend. The 1.2 km long straight up until turn one meant that straight-line speed was paramount for a better race result. It was also the race where the FIA sampled the new race weekend format.

Mercedes and Hamilton were facing a formidable opponent in Red Bull and Verstappen in 2021. Mercedes opted to give Hamilton a new ICE, which resulted in a five-place grid penalty for the race. With the Mercedes engines suffering massive performance degradation, the team couldn't risk reliability issues with Hamilton. 

How did the World Champion recover from this setback? Was he able to reduce the deficit to Verstappen? Verstappen had never scored at an F1 Sprint weekendDid he break the rut? 

Was Red Bull able to take the lead in the Constructor battle? Did Ferrari continue its resurgence, or did McLaren recover in the fight for P3? Which midfield team had the best weekend in Brazil? 

Time for a recap of the Brazilian GP!

Friday Practice :

Hamilton also sported a new helmet design offering a tribute to his hero, the late Aryton Senna.

Friday Practice got underway, and the drivers had limited time to get their setups right before Qualifying later that day. Hamilton complained about the front suspension settings, while Ricciardo suffered from a massive lock-up at turn 10. Raikkonen took to the run-off at turn seven and then reported an issue with his rear-left wheel.

Hamilton topped the timesheets, four-tenths clear of Verstappen and Perez. His teammate Bottas was P4, followed by Gasly and the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc. The Alpines of Ocon and Alonso were P8 and P9, with Stroll completing the top 10. 

Tsunoda was P11 in the other Alpha Tauri, from Vettel and the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. P15 was the best that Norris could manage, followed by Schumacher in the Haas. Latifi and Russell were P17 and P18 for Williams, with Ricciardo and Mazepin completing the classification.

Qualifying :

The conditions were overcast, and the threat of rain loomed over the circuit.

Q1 got underway, and Gasly, along with the Ferrari duo, opted for used soft tyres. The others, however, chose a fresh set for their first runs. 

Hamilton, Sainz, Verstappen, Gasly, Tsunoda and Bottas were the top 6 with Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Leclerc, Schumacher and Mazepin facing elimination with 7 minutes remaining in Q1.  

Leclerc and Schumacher had their lap times deleted after they exceeded the track limits at turn 4. The lap times began to improve as more rubber got laid on the track. 

The entire field opted for the soft tyres in the final minutes of Q1. Less than a second separated 17 drivers. 

Hamilton, Bottas, Sainz, Leclerc, Perez and Verstappen were the top 6 at the end of Q1, while Stroll, Latifi, Russell, Schumacher and Mazepin got eliminated.

All drivers decided to stay put in the early minutes of Q2. While Perez and the Alfa Romeo duo chose a used set of soft tyres for their first runs, the rest of the field persisted with new. Hamilton exceeded the track limits at turn four and suffered from a lap time deletion.

At the end of the first runs, Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc and Sainz were the top 6, with Ocon, Tsunoda, Vettel, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in the drop zone. 

Everyone opted for soft tyres for their final attempts, and at the end of Q2, the following drivers made it into Q3 - Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Gasly, Perez, Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo and Alonso.

Ocon, Vettel, Tsunoda, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi got eliminated from Q2.

The start of Q3 saw drivers staying put in the early minutes ( again ). Leclerc was on used softs with the rest on a fresh set for their first runs. Hamilton went the quickest from Verstappen, Bottas and Perez, with half a second separating the top 3 drivers from each other. Verstappen reported that his front tyres were overheating. 

It was time for the final shootout, and Hamilton went purple in sectors 2 and 3. Meanwhile, Verstappen and Bottas made mistakes on their last attempts and couldn't beat Hamilton's lap time.

Hamilton bagged the Speed King / Fastest Qualifier award and would start the F1 Sprint from P1. Verstappen would start P2, followed by Bottas and Perez. Row 3 got occupied by Gasly and Sainz, while Leclerc and Norris were on four. Ricciardo and Alonso completed the top 10.

Hamilton's straight-line speed was unmatchable and attracted the attention of Verstappen, who tried to inspect it on Parc-Ferme. Hamilton's car then got referred to the stewards for a DRS Technical infringement. The stewards decided to impound the part for further investigation. 

Verstappen got summoned to the stewards for allegedly touching Hamilton's rear wing while inspecting it on Parc Ferme. 


The Dutchman got a 50000 Euros fine for breaching Parc Ferme regulations. However, Hamilton's title aspirations suffered a big dent when the stewards surmised that Mercedes had committed a technical infringement with the DRS on the rear wing of Hamilton's car. The Briton got disqualified from Qualifying and started the Sprint from the back of the grid! Mercedes chose against appealing the decision.

Saturday Practice :

The drivers focused on preparing for the F1 Sprint later on Saturday afternoon, and there was a mix of tyre choices throughout the field. 


Alonso surprised one and all by topping the timesheets in Saturday Practice, four-tenths clear of Verstappen. Bottas was P3, a second adrift. Alonso's teammate, Ocon, set the 4th quickest time, followed by Hamilton and Perez. The Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen got split by the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc in P8 and P9.

Stroll was P11 for Aston Martin, followed by the McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris. Russell split the Alpha Tauris of Gasly and Tsunoda in P15, with Vettel setting the 17th quickest time. Latifi, Schumacher and Mazepin completed the rear of the field.

F1 Sprint :

The skies were clear as the teams and drivers prepared for the 3rd F1 Sprint of the season. Twenty four laps of flat-out racing awaited the fans on Saturday afternoon.

All eyes were on Hamilton, whose aim was to charge through the field from P20 and limit the effects of the five-place grid penalty on Sunday. 

Tyre choice was a big concern, with some opting for the softs and some choosing the more durable mediums.

The following drivers chose new mediums - Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, Norris, Ricciardo, Alonso, Latifi, Russell and Hamilton. The Aston Martin duo opted for the used mediums.

While Bottas, Sainz and Gasly had used sets of soft tyres, Ocon, Tsunoda, the Alfa Romeos and the Haas drivers persisted with brand new ones. 

The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for both Verstappen and Bottas. However, Bottas, due to his grippier soft tyres, made it sooner into turn one than Verstappen and took the lead of the Sprint. Perez also lost out to Sainz and got relegated to P4. Sainz then got into the slipstream of Verstappen, and in a wheel-to-wheel battle, the latter got pushed off-track, rejoining in P3.

Further down the field, Hamilton was already up to P16. Raikkonen and Giovinazzi overtook Alonso from either side on the pit straight. Raikkonen tried to commit to a tighter line and got tagged on the rear left by Giovinazzi. The Finn got spun around and fell back to P20. Meanwhile, Giovinazzi was up to P11, and Hamilton had recovered to P14 on lap 2.  

Verstappen reported gear sync issues but addressed them with a setting change. The Dutchman then got past Sainz to reclaim P2 on lap 4. Meanwhile, Alonso got the better of Giovinazzi for P11, and Hamilton overtook Tsunoda for P13. Hamilton then relegated Giovinazzi to P13, while Raikkonen got past Mazepin at the back of the pack. 

Hamilton was the fastest man on track as he began to hone in on Alonso, while Perez tried to pressure Sainz for P3, but the Spaniard didn't relent. Meanwhile, Raikkonen overtook Schumacher for P18. Hamilton closed up on Alonso and got past him for P11 on lap 8. The battle for P5 was hotting up as Norris began to pressure Leclerc. It was "job done" for Norris on lap 9. 

Verstappen was the fastest man on the track as a DRS train began to form up behind Ocon. The Frenchman in P8 was holding off the trio of Vettel, Ricciardo and Hamilton. Hamilton broke into the top 10 with a move on Ricciardo on lap 13.

Bottas, Verstappen, Sainz, Perez, Norris, Leclerc, Gasly, Ocon, Vettel and Hamilton were the top 10 on lap 14.

Hamilton got the better of Vettel for P9 on lap 15. At the front, Verstappen got within the DRS range of Bottas, but the latter held on to the lead. Hamilton continued his charge through the field with overtakes on Ocon and Gasly to move up to P7.

Sainz reported that his tyres had lost grip, and the Spaniard was becoming increasingly vulnerable to an overtake by Perez. Hamilton relegated Leclerc to P7 on lap 20 and began to reduce the deficit to Norris in P5. The Briton was lapping quicker than those ahead and eventually bagged P5 on the final lap. Meanwhile, Stroll got past Tsunoda for P14.

Bottas took the Chequered Flag and Pole Position for the Grand Prix on Sunday. Verstappen would start P2, on the front row alongside Bottas. Sainz took P3, followed by Perez in P4. 

Hamilton finished in P5 but would eventually start in P10 after serving his penalty. Row 3 got occupied by Norris and Leclerc. Gasly and Ocon were on row 4, with Vettel and Hamilton completing the top 10.

Ricciardo led the latter half of the field from Alonso and Giovinazzi. Stroll was P14, followed by Tsunoda in the other Alpha Tauri. The Williams of Russell and Latifi would start the GP in P16 and P17, respectively, followed by Raikkonen, Schumacher and Mazepin at the back of the field.

Bottas' pole position fetched Mercedes an invaluable 3 points in the Constructors' Championship. It extended their buffer to Red Bull to 2 points. An inspired drive by Hamilton from the back to the grid to P5 earned the respect of one and all. He was a serious contender for a podium finish on Sunday.

It wasn't an ideal Saturday for Red Bull, with Verstappen losing out to Bottas for pole position and Perez getting outperformed by Sainz. Nevertheless, they lost only one point to Mercedes and could turn it around on Sunday. More importantly, Verstappen now led Hamilton by 21 points and had the chance of extending his lead even further on Sunday. Perez needed to step up his performance on Sunday and play a better support role to Verstappen.

Ferrari had the better of McLaren on Saturday and hoped to repeat the feat on Sunday. The Italian outfit had its drivers in the top 6 and looked set for another big points haul. As for McLaren, Norris would start P5, but Ricciardo could only manage P11. The possibility of outscoring Ferrari seemed highly unlikely unless weather or circumstances played a part. 

Gasly would start P7 and again was the only Alpha Tauri driver in the top 10. As for his teammate Tsunoda, P15 was far from ideal, and the rookie faced a long Sunday afternoon. With Alpha Tauri level on points with Alpine, outscoring the latter was paramount. 

P8 and P12 were decent starting positions for the Alpine drivers. Alpine was locked in an intense battle with Alpha Tauri, having lost a considerable lead to the latter. They couldn't afford a mediocre showing on Sunday. 

Vettel qualified P9, while Stroll bagged P14. Aston Martin, running out of time to catch up to Alpha Tauri and Alpine in the battle for P5, needed points from both its drivers to stay in contention. The team had made pivotal strategic calls in the past, and they needed a similar Sunday.

It was a bittersweet day for Alfa Romeo. While Giovinazzi qualified P13, an error by Raikkonen bumped him down to P18. The Finn miscalculated an overtake on Giovinazzi, the resulting contact sending him into a spin. With free tyre choices for the race start, both drivers had the opportunity of breaking into the top 10 with an optimal strategy. 

Williams and Haas F1 were having a tough weekend and looked destined to be at the back of the pack. Interestingly, Latifi out-qualified his better-performing teammate in Russell. Whether the pecking order would remain the same or not on Sunday was a different matter altogether. 

Race :

Alfa Romeo decided to change the rear wing on Raikkonen's car to a different spec, which resulted in a pit-lane start for the Finn.

C2, C3 and C4 were the tyres compounds available for the weekend. Tsunoda was the only driver to choose the softs for the race start. While the Aston Martin duo had used mediums, the rest of the field opted for fresh sets.

The race got underway, and it was a clean getaway for Bottas and Verstappen. Bottas cut across to block Verstappen, but the latter managed to get side-by-side and pushed him wide at turn one to take the lead of the race! Bottas lost momentum out of turn one and had to defend from Perez, who had jumped Sainz at the start. The Finn missed his braking at turn 3, running wide, allowing Perez to take P2, making it a Red Bull 1-2! 

Further down, Norris tried to pass Sainz at the race start, but the duo made contact, and Norris suffered instant delamination on his rear left tyre. The Briton had to limp back to the pits with the puncture. Norris switched to the hards and rejoined in P20. 

Ricciardo got past Ocon for P9, while Mazepin overtook Schumacher for P14. Vettel was up to P6, while Hamilton had gained three positions on the opening lap and was P7. Tsunoda got the better of Schumacher for P14, while Ocon retook P9 from Ricciardo.

Hamilton overtook Vettel for P6 and then got past Sainz for P5, a lap later. Verstappen was the fastest man on track and tried to build a gap at the front. Meanwhile, Tsunoda got past Giovinazzi for P13, and Latifi overtook Russell for P17.

Tsunoda now had Stroll in his sights and tried to attack the latter at turn one. Tsunoda tried an opportunistic overtake, resulting in contact between the two drivers. The Japanese rookie lost his front wing, and bits of bodywork got strewn across the track. The incident got flagged for investigation, and Tsunoda got a 10 seconds time penalty for his misdemeanour. He had to pit for hard tyres and a new front wing shortly after.

Meanwhile, Hamilton continued to push with an overtake on Leclerc before a position swap with Bottas on lap 5 for P3. Hamilton was now the quickest driver on the track as he tried to hunt down Perez. 

The incident between Tsunoda and Stroll had left a lot of debris on the track, and the Race Director decided to deploy the Safety Car. The Safety Car directed the field through the pit lane as the marshalls cleared the debris from the track. Meanwhile, Russell pitted for the hard tyres. 

Racing resumed on lap 10, and it was a clean getaway for Verstappen. Perez managed to fend off any challenge by Hamilton and Bottas, and the status quo got maintained. Further down the field, Latifi lost two positions to Raikkonen, Norris and Tsunoda and was down to P19. Raikkonen got the better of Schumacher for P15, but the latter lost his front wing from a resulting contact. The stewards deployed the Virtual Safety Car to remove the debris from the track, and Schumacher pitted for another front wing and new hard tyres.

Racing resumed on lap 14, and Norris relegated Mazepin to P15. Meanwhile, Tsunoda got past Russell for P17 and then overtook Raikkonen for P16 on lap 17. 

Hamilton was now all over Perez in the battle for P2, and the Briton got past him at turn one. However, Perez, with the use of the 2nd DRS zone, reclaimed P2. The Mexican had no answer for Hamilton on lap 19, though, getting relegated to P3 on lap 19. Further down the field, Gasly overtook Vettel for P7, while Tsunoda and Raikkonen relegated Mazepin to P17. 

Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Bottas, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Vettel, Ricciardo and Ocon were the top 10 on lap 20.

Alonso overtook Stroll for P11, and the latter pitted for the hard tyres on lap 23. Meanwhile, at the front, Verstappen's lead over Hamilton was hovering around the 3.5 seconds mark. Gasly was the next driver to switch to the hard tyres on lap 26 and got past Raikkonen for P14 shortly after rejoining the race.

Hamilton pitted for the hard tyres on lap 27, Mercedes trying to undercut Verstappen and Red Bull. Sainz also pitted on the same lap but switched to another set of mediums. Red Bull wasted no time in pitting Verstappen to cover off for Hamilton's earlier stop. The Dutchman pitted on lap 28 and rejoined the race, albeit 1.7 seconds clear of Hamilton. Hamilton had to get past Ricciardo on track which cost him an extra second. Meanwhile, Verstappen wasn't pleased about losing time due to the undercut and requested Red Bull to ensure that they don't lose the initiative later in the race.

Leclerc pitted for medium tyres on lap 28 and rejoined in P9. His teammate Sainz got past Tsunoda for P12, who then got relegated to P13 by Gasly. Meanwhile, Norris overtook Giovinazzi for P10, and Stroll got the better of Latifi for P18. Sainz continued his recovery, getting past Giovinazzi for P11, while Perez pitted for hard tyres and rejoined in P5. 

Hamilton was the fastest man on track as he tried to get within attacking range of Verstappen. Further down the field, Vettel and Raikkonen pitted for the hard tyres. Gasly got the better of Norris for P10, while Stroll, battling with Russell down the pit straight, lost more bodywork from his Aston Martin. The stewards deployed the Virtual Safety Car to extricate the debris from the track.

Taking advantage of the VSC period, Bottas, Ricciardo and Ocon switched to the hard tyres on lap 31. Pitting under the VSC allowed Bottas to jump Perez in the battle for P3. 

The VSC period ended shortly after, and Ocon got past Russell for P12 while Gasly overtook Ricciardo for P8. Bottas was the fastest man on the track as Leclerc got the better of Alonso for P5, and Raikkonen relegated Latifi to P18 on lap 33. Vettel got past Russell for P13, the Briton going backwards in the Williams.

Pit stops continued with Alonso switching to the hard tyres on lap 35 and Norris pitting for a 2nd time, again for the hards on 38. On the track, Ocon broke into the top 10 with an overtake on Tsunoda, with the latter losing more positions to Vettel and Alonso, who were on fresher tyres. Tsunoda pitted for the 2nd time, served his time penalty and took a new set of hard tyres on lap 40.

Meanwhile, Alonso got past Vettel for P10. At the front, Verstappen had begun to report about his tyres losing grip, and Red Bull decided to pit him again on lap 41. The Dutchman rejoined in P4, with another set of hard tyres for his final stint in the race. His pit exit, however, got compromised by Latifi, who had also pitted in his Williams. 

Mercedes called in Bottas on lap 42 to switch him to new hards, while Hamilton extended his stint at the front. Perez followed suit a lap later, rejoining in P5, which allowed Bottas to regain track position. Verstappen was the fastest man on track on lap 43 and began to reduce the deficit to Hamilton.

Mercedes couldn't afford further delays and pitted Hamilton again on lap 43. It was now a race to the finish between the two title protagonists. Hamilton wasn't pleased with getting another set of hard tyres for his final stint, but Mercedes insisted that this was the correct choice and the mediums wouldn't have lasted for the remainder of the race. Bottas and Perez exchanged the fastest laps of the race, and the latter got past Leclerc for P4. Further down the field, Stroll lost positions to Raikkonen and Norris, dropping down to P14.

Hamilton was setting blistering lap times and got within the DRS range of Verstappen. Verstappen had the edge over Hamilton in the 2nd sector, but the latter made up ground on the straights in sectors one and three. Lap 48 saw Hamilton pressure Verstappen for the lead. The Briton was side-by-side with Verstappen going into turn 3, but the latter didn't turn in enough, resulting in the duo running wide. Verstappen held onto the lead. The incident got noted by the stewards and, after deliberation, decided against an investigation. 

Meanwhile, Norris got Raikkonen for P12, and Stroll had to retire from the race due to the extensive damage suffered from the earlier incidents. Ricciardo also retired on lap 51 after reporting a "power loss" on his Mercedes engine. Gasly and Leclerc switched to another set of hard tyres on laps 52 and 53, respectively. Sainz followed suit on lap 54, with Raikkonen switching to the mediums. Vettel was the next driver to pit for the medium tyres on lap 57.

At the front, Hamilton continued to pressure Verstappen but failed to get closer to launch an attack. Verstappen got caught weaving down the straights as he tried to break the tow to Hamilton. The Dutchman got served a Black and White Flag for his unsportsmanlike behaviour. 

Hamilton was closer than ever on lap 59 and tried to attack Verstappen at turn one. The Dutchman rebuffed the challenge but then had no answer in the run-up to the third turn. Hamilton, with the DRS assistance, finally got past Verstappen to take the lead of the race. 

The Briton then started to pull away and build a gap to Verstappen. Meanwhile, despite his best efforts, Ocon couldn't hold off Gasly in the battle for P8. Gasly then got past Alonso for P7 on lap 62. 

Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Perez, Leclerc, Sainz, Gasly, Alonso, Ocon and Norris were the top 10 on lap 65.

Hamilton was now 7 seconds clear of Verstappen en route to a famous victory! Red Bull pitted Perez on the penultimate lap to deny Hamilton the extra point for the fastest lap. The Mexican, with a set of soft tyres, accomplished the task on the final lap. 

Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Brazilian GP! Verstappen had to settle for P2, while Bottas took P3 in the other Mercedes.

Perez finished P4, followed by the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz. A stellar drive by Gasly saw him finish P7 for Alpha Tauri, with the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon, P8 and P9, respectively. Norris completed the top 10.

Vettel finished P11 in the Aston Martin, while Russell split the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in P13. Tsunoda was P15 in the other Alpha Tauri, followed by Latifi, Mazepin and Schumacher, who completed the classified finishers. 

Hamilton was ecstatic to win at his hero's ( Ayrton Senna ) home race and stopped to take a Brazilian flag from a marshall. While waving to the crowd, he unbuckled one of his safety belts, which was against the safety standards set by the FIA. Hamilton got a 5000 Euros fine, with a further 20000 Euros, suspended for 2022 ( should he repeat this infringement ). 


No driver could match Hamilton's performance the entire weekend. Against all odds, the Briton kept pushing through both the F1 Sprint and the Grand Prix to take an unlikely victory. The Safety Car period at the start benefitted his chances, and Hamilton went from a podium contender to a prospective race winner. Verstappen did his best to make life uncomfortable for Hamilton, but the straight-line speed of the Mercedes was too much to handle. Although Red Bull managed to take the point for the fastest lap off Hamilton, the Briton's win reduced the deficit to Verstappen to 14 points. With three races remaining and a new ICE on his Mercedes, the momentum was with Hamilton to go all the way! 

As for Bottas, it was a tough start, losing positions to both Verstappen and Perez, but then he reclaimed P3 from Perez thanks to a VSC period. The Finn kept it clean after that and believed that he could have achieved a 1-2 with Hamilton had he not pitted for the 2nd time. The result helped him cement his grip on P3 in the Driver Standings. More importantly, Mercedes outscored Red Bull in the Constructors to extend the buffer to 11 points at the front. Mercedes looked favourites to retain the Constructors crown.

It was damage limitation day for Red Bull. While Verstappen led for most of the race, he ran out of steam against a charging Hamilton towards the end. The Dutchman eventually finished the race 10 seconds adrift, accepting that P2 was the best result achievable from the weekend. Verstappen saw his lead get trimmed to 14 points in the title battle. Meanwhile, Perez was unfortunate with the timing of the Virtual Safety Car, which robbed him of P3 against Bottas. The Mexican now trailed Bottas by 25 points in the battle for P3 in the Driver Standings. Red Bull lost ground to Mercedes in the Constructors, and it promised to remain a tight affair until the end.

Ferrari was the best of the rest, with Leclerc and Sainz bagging P5 and P6, a big haul of points in their battle against McLaren. Ferrari was confident about a two-stop strategy from the start, and their planning paid dividends. The Italian outfit now led McLaren by 31.5 points and strengthened its hold on P3 in the Constructor standings. 

Alpha Tauri stayed level on points with Alpine in the Constructor standings, thanks to Gasly's P7. The Frenchman had yet another stellar performance in the sister Red Bull, completing several overtakes on the track, getting past the Alpine duo as well. It was a frustrating day for Tsunoda in P15. The Japanese rookie had never raced at Brazil and would like to put this result behind him as soon as possible. His accident with Stroll earned him a time penalty and brought out the Safety Car, which allowed Mercedes to close up on the Red Bull cars. If Alpha Tauri hoped for securing P5 in the Constructors, it needed Tsunoda to feature in the top 10 in the final three races.

Ocon's P8 and Alonso's P9 ensured that Alpine scored as many points as Alpha Tauri. Alpine stayed P5 due to the victory earned in Hungary. It wasn't a straightforward race for the Alpine duo, with both having to defend and overtake other cars en route to the final positions. 

It was a horrid weekend for McLaren in Brazil. Ricciardo was in contention for points finish until McLaren detected power issues in his engine. The Australian eventually retired. Norris suffered a puncture on the opening lap from his collision with Sainz and bagged the final point in P10. The result was far from ideal, and McLaren was fading away rapidly against a resurgent Ferrari. Overturning a 31.5 points deficit seemed highly unlikely for the Woking-based team. 

Aston Martin had another point-less weekend. While Vettel finished P11, Stroll had to retire the car after suffering extensive damage from the accident with Tsunoda. Neither driver seemed to have the pace to challenge other midfield teams, and once their tyres got older, both began to fall backwards rapidly. Aston Martin was out of the race for P5 ( although not mathematically ) and running out of positives in the season. 

An inspired drive by Raikkonen after a pit-lane start saw him finish P12. Only Hamilton had gained more positions than Raikkonen ( 8 vs 9 ). Giovinazzi had another mediocre pit strategy to blame for his finish in P14. He got called to the pits sooner than he would have liked ( just like Mexico ). Both drivers struggled with outright performance as soon as their tyres began to age. Alfa Romeo has work to do in the final three races, or else they will finish the season as the 9th best team.

Russell and Latifi could only manage P13 and P16 in the Williams cars. Like the Alfa Romeo drivers, the Williams duo couldn't compete with other midfield teams. Both the drivers at Haas F1 had never raced at Sao Paulo, so race finishes for both was an achievement in itself. Schumacher was in the mix until a collision with Raikkonen bumped him to the back of the pack. Mazepin also managed to keep it clean en route to his P17 finish. 

The F1 circus now travels trans-Atlantic to the Middle East, with two countries hosting a Grand Prix for the first time. Momentum will play a pivotal role in the title battle, and Hamilton and Mercedes seem to have a measure of their rivals. 

Hamilton was feisty, determined and purpose-driven in Brazil. Will there be a response by Verstappen in Qatar? 

Time will reveal all!

2021 Mexican GP Race Recap : The Max-ican Fortress, Challenged but Unconquered!

The 2021 F1 Season was nearing its end, and the final triple-header kicked off at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. The Mexican GP made a return after the 2020 edition got cancelled due to the Pandemic COVID-19. At an altitude of 2240 metres, the track presents a unique challenge for the drivers and the teams. Redesigned with Hermann Tilke's assistance, modern F1 cars could reach speeds over 360 kph down the main straight. The track had been a field hospital during the peak of the Pandemic, and the lack of racing made the tarmac dusty.  

With five races in six weeks, reliability remained the biggest challenge for the teams. Aston Martin and Alpha Tauri chose new engine components for Stroll and Tsunoda, resulting in a start from the back of the grid on Sunday.

Mexico was the start of the final push for Hamilton and Verstappen for the 2021 crown. Twelve points separated the duo at the top of the standings. Meanwhile, Sergio Perez hoped to become the first Mexican driver to win or be on the podium at his home race. Mercedes had struggled with the cooler temperatures of Mexico in the pastDid they have a change of fortunes? Or did the Red Bulls romp to victory unchallenged? Was McLaren able to fend off the late charge by Ferrari in the battle for P3, and who achieved the best result in the quest for P5 in the Constructors'?

Time for a recap of the Mexican GP weekend!

Practice :

FP1 got underway, and the drivers tried to find the limits under dusty conditions. Perez and Leclerc hit the wall at turn 16 after suffering spins. Both drivers damaged their cars' rear wings and had to return to the pits for repairs. Hamilton and Raikkonen had offtrack moments at turn one and failed to comply with the Race Director instructions. The duo got a reprimand from the stewards for rejoining the track incorrectly. 

Bottas topped the timesheets at the end of FP1, followed by teammate Hamilton and the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Perez. Gasly was P5 for Alpha Tauri, while Alonso split the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc in P7. The top 10 got completed by Ocon and Vettel. 

Tsunoda was P11 in the other Alpha Tauri, followed by Raikkonen and Stroll. The McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris were P14 and P15, respectively. P16 was the best that Giovinazzi could manage in the other Alfa Romeo, followed by the Williams of Russell and Latifi. Schumacher and Mazepin were at the back of the pack. 

Clear skies greeted the drivers at the start of FP2. The lap times began to improve as more rubber got laid on the track. The Mercedes duo suffered lock-ups at turn one and had to take to the run-off area. While Leclerc complained about setup issues, Ocon reported that the problems of Austin had resurfaced on his Alpine. A gearbox failure for Russell ended his session prematurely. 

Verstappen ended FP2 the quickest from Bottas and Hamilton. His teammate Perez was P4, with Gasly splitting the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc in P6. Tsunoda was P8 in the other Alpa Tauri, while Vettel and Alonso completed the top 10. 

Norris split the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in P12, while Ocon was P14 in the other Alpine. P15 was the best that Ricciardo could manage, with Schumacher setting the 16th quickest time in his Haas. Stroll was P17, followed by Latifi and Mazepin, with Russell failing to set a lap time due to his gearbox issues in P20.

Red Bull seemed to have the upper hand in the race simulation runs, while Ferrari looked quicker than the McLarens, who failed to break into the top 10 on Friday.

Meanwhile, Russell got hit with a five-place grid drop as Williams had to replace his faulty gearbox. 

Norris and Ocon got forced to take new PU components for the remainder of the weekend, which sent the duo to the back of the grid.

The final practice ( FP3 ) saw Hamilton, Norris and Alonso run wide at turn one after suffering from lock-ups. Leclerc suffered a spin at turn three as he exited the pits on a fresh set of soft tyres. 

Perez was the quickest at the end of FP3, followed by Verstappen and the Mercedes of Hamilton and Bottas. Sainz was one second slower than Perez in P5, with Ricciardo splitting the Alpha Tauris of Tsunoda and Gasly in P7. The top 10 got completed by Leclerc and Norris. 

Stroll led the lower half of the field from the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi, with Vettel P14 in the other Aston Martin. P15 was the best that Alonso could manage, followed by teammate Ocon. Russell, Schumacher, Latifi and Mazepin completed the rear of the field. 

With a pace deficit of six-tenths, Mercedes seemed to have no answer to Red Bull's pace. 

Qualifying :

Williams detected an issue in the Power Unit on Russell's car but addressed it by the start of Qualifying. Clear skies greeted the drivers, and track temperatures were hitting 45 degrees Celcius. 

The Williams, Haas and Alfa Romeo drivers were the first ones out on track at the start of Q1. The rest of the teams waited for more rubber to get laid on the circuit. The Williams duo opted for medium tyres for their first runs. With 11 minutes remaining, everyone was out trying to set representative lap times. Stroll was about to start his flying lap when he lost control of his Aston Martin and careered into the barriers at the final turn. The resulting impact wrecked his car, and the session got Red Flagged. Raikkonen saw the Red Flag and attempted to enter the pit lane before aborting the decision. The Finn got summoned to the stewards and escaped with a reprimand, his 2nd of the weekend. 

The FIA inspected the barriers as the marshalls went about their repairs. The session finally restarted, and the Haas and Williams cars exited the pits close to each other. Both Williams drivers inadvertently crossed the white line at the pit exit and thankfully escaped punishment by the stewards. Meanwhile, Sainz reported that he had no engine power. Ferrari guided the Spaniard, and the issue got addressed a few seconds later. Everyone chose the soft tyres for their final runs.

Bottas, Leclerc, Verstappen, Gasly, Perez and Hamilton were the top 6 at the end of Q1. Alonso, Latifi, Schumacher, Mazepin and Stroll got eliminated.

The start of Q2 saw Tsunoda opt for new softs, Ocon the used. While Russell chose to continue with a used set of mediums, the rest chose new ones. Verstappen, Hamilton, Tsunoda, Bottas, Leclerc and Perez were the top 6, with Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Ocon, Russell and Vettel facing elimination at the end of the first runs.

The final minutes of Q2 saw all 15 drivers out on track, with Verstappen, Russell ( new ), and Tsunoda ( used ) opting for soft tyres. Giovinazzi, on his final attempt, suffered a spin at turn 12 and hit the barriers sideways, momentarily bringing out the Yellow Flags. 

The following drivers made it through to Q3 - Hamilton, Verstappen, Tsunoda, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc, Perez, Ricciardo, Sainz and Norris. 

Vettel, Raikkonen, Russell, Giovinazzi and Ocon got eliminated.

It was time for the final top-ten shootout, and everyone chose the soft tyres for their first runs of Q3. The teams ensured that the faster driver got a tow from his teammate. Bottas went the quickest, a tenth clear of Hamilton on his first run. The Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Perez were four-tenths adrift. Verstappen reported a lack of balance on the rear, while Norris suffered a lock-up at turn one again. 

While Norris and Tsunoda opted for used softs, the others had the advantage of new tyres for the final minutes of Q3. Bottas went purple in sector one but couldn't improve on his previous attempt. Hamilton failed as well. Meanwhile, both Perez and Verstappen got a tow on their final run. However, Tsunoda ran wide on the high-speed section and his off distracted Perez, who followed suit. With the duo running wide, Verstappen had to lift through those corners, which cost him time across the remainder of the lap.

Bottas took pole position from Hamilton and Verstappen. P4 was the best that Perez could manage, despite his heroics. Gasly qualified P5 for Alpha Tauri, followed by Sainz in the Ferrari. Row 4 got occupied by Ricciardo and Leclerc. 

Tsunoda and Norris finished P9 and P10 but got bumped down to P17 and P18 due to their respective engine penalties.

The penalties paved the way for Vettel and Raikkonen to break into the top 10, albeit with a free tyre choice for the race.

Mercedes had been second best and seemed to have no answers for Red Bull's dominance until the final Qualifying. The decision to send the Mercedes duo sooner than the rest of the field paid dividends. More importantly, Hamilton had the track position on Verstappen and hoped to maintain the status quo on lap 1. 

As for the Red Bulls, despite both drivers getting a tow, a mistake by Tsunoda in the sister team jeopardized a guaranteed front-row lockout. Questions would get raised over why Tsunoda participated in Q3 as he already had a penalty to send him to the back of the grid. Astonishingly, the Red Bull drivers were only a tenth quicker than Gasly in the Alpha Tauri. With Verstappen's rear wing taped up, things looked far from ideal. However, points got awarded on Sunday, and Red Bull had the resources to turn things around.

Gasly and his top 6 Qualifying performances continued with another P5 on Saturday. While Tsunoda showed marked improvement in the past few races, he got shamed by the Red Bull management for jeopardizing Perez and Verstappen's final laps. The criticism was uncalled for, and many chose to stand by the rookie. 

Sainz and Leclerc looked strong the entire weekend, and with P6 and P8 as their starting positions, the duo looked to overturn the deficit to McLaren ( for Ferrari ). Ferrari had executed the tow between its drivers quite well throughout Qualifying and making progress towards the return of their glory days.

Ricciardo in P7 was the only real contender for McLaren, while Norris would start from a lowly P18 after his engine penalty. McLaren had had a few humbling weekends, and relinquishing P3 in the Constructors looked all but certain. Norris, however, had the pace to break into the points.

Aston Martin had representation in the top 10 in the form of Vettel in P9, but a crash for Stroll left the team with expensive repairs on Saturday night. Both drivers had a free tyre choice, and with a superior strategy, could score a handful of points on the weekend. 

Alfa Romeo had a strong showing on Saturday. Raikkonen inherited P10, while Giovinazzi got P11 for the race on Sunday. Like Aston Martin, Alfa Romeo needed a potent strategy to ensure a points-finish, and with faster cars charging through the field, it was a tough ask.

Despite getting the tow from Ocon, Alonso failed to make it into Q2. However, the Spaniard moved up to P12 after those ahead served their relevant penalties. Meanwhile, his teammate Ocon would start in P19. Alpine had been off the pace in all three practice sessions, and a points finish looked unlikely. 

Latifi qualified P13 with teammate Russell in P16. Despite his gearbox penalty, Russell stayed P16. The Williams duo faced a long Sunday afternoon, their main goal to keep the faster cars behind them at bay.

Schumacher and Mazepin's P14 and P15 made it a fruitful Qualifying for Haas F1 Team. However, like Williams, the American-backed outfit lacked the outright pace and would fall back through the race.

Would team orders come into play if Bottas led Hamilton? The latter needed all the points available to cut down the deficit to Verstappen. 

An intriguing race awaited the teams and drivers.

Race :

Raikkonen got a fine for speeding on his way to the grid. C2, C3 and C4 were the dry tyres available for the race.

At the start of the race, Vettel and Raikkonen were on used mediums, along with Norris Q2 set ), while Tsunoda started on the soft tyres from the Q2 session. While Ocon opted for the softs, the rest outside the top 10 were on the mediums.

The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for the top 4 drivers. Going into turn one, Verstappen was abreast with Bottas and Hamilton and made a move on the outside to take the lead of the race! Bottas got overtaken by Hamilton at turn one for P2 but got spun around by Ricciardo, who locked up his brakes and failed to slow down. Subsequently, Ricciardo lost his front wing. The incident caused a couple of drivers to go off track, with Perez holding off Gasly for P3. Ocon got sandwiched between Tsunoda and Schumacher. The trio made contact, and Tsunoda and Schumacher's race came to a premature end. There was debris strewn across the track, and the Safety Car got deployed.

Giovinazzi was up to P6, Russell up to P9, Mazepin P11 and Ocon P14 despite an eventful opening lap. Ricciardo and Bottas pitted for hard tyres ( and front wing for Ricciardo ) under the Safety Car ( lap 2 ). 

Racing resumed on lap 5, and it was a clean getaway for Verstappen again. Sainz got past Giovinazzi for P5, Alonso overtook Mazepin for P11, Norris relegated Ocon to P14, and Ricciardo got the better of Bottas for P17. 

Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Giovinazzi, Vettel, Russell and Raikkonen were the top 10 at the end of lap 7.

Verstappen was the fastest man on the track and began to extend his lead to Hamilton. Meanwhile, Raikkonen got past Russell for P9, and Norris relegated Latifi to P14 on lap 9. Alonso bumped Russell out of the points on lap 10. Norris got past Mazepin for P12, while Latifi lost P15 to Stroll on lap 11. 

Latifi pitted for hard tyres on lap 12 and rejoined in P18. Stroll followed suit a lap later and managed to fend off Latifi. More pit stops followed with Mazepin, Ocon, Russell and Giovinazzi switching to hard tyres ( laps 14 to 17 ). Red Bull informed Perez that they were switching to "Plan B". At the front, Verstappen was 8 seconds clear of Hamilton and in total control.

Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso and Norris were the top 10 on lap 24. 

The pit window was open for those on a one-stop strategy. Bottas stuck behind Ricciardo in the battle for P11, tried to pressure the Australian but got rebuffed. Meanwhile, Red Bull asked Perez to reduce the gap to Hamilton. Hamilton pitted for hard tyres on lap 30 and rejoined in P5 but lost track position to Leclerc. However, Hamilton lost minimal time with Leclerc pitting ( for hard tyres ) a lap later. Hamilton was the fastest man on track as Gasly pitted for hards and rejoined in P7 ( lap 32 ). Meanwhile, Leclerc got past Alonso for P8.

Raikkonen pitted for hard tyres on lap 33, rejoining in P10. Red Bull covered off Hamilton's early stop by pitting Verstappen for hard tyres on lap 34. The Dutchman rejoined in P2, and Perez inherited the lead of the race. Perez was leading his home race, inviting big cheers by the fans across the track. The Mexican was happy to extend his stint on the medium tyres. 

The Aston Martin duo of Vettel and Stroll pitted for hard and medium tyres, respectively. It was a slow stop for Stroll ( 6.7 seconds ). Bottas tried to pressure Ricciardo for P11 again, but the Australian didn't relent. However, Ricciardo pitted for medium tyres on lap 39 ( his 2nd stop ), which released Bottas into clear air. Ocon got past Russell for P14, while Alonso pitted for hard tyres on lap 40. 

Perez finally pitted for hard tyres on lap 41, rejoining in P3 behind Hamilton. Hamilton asked his race engineer about Verstappen's lap times, requesting information about the corners where the latter was quicker. Further down the field, Bottas, who had been in clear air for a couple of laps, pitted for medium tyres on lap 42. However, a slow swap on the left front tyre left him stationary for 11.7 seconds, and the Finn rejoined the race a lowly 15th. 

Perez was the fastest man on track as Sainz pitted for hard tyres on lap 43. Meanwhile, Bottas got past Russell for P14. Norris was the only driver yet to make a pit stop, and the Briton finally switched to hard tyres on lap 45, rejoining in P10. Bottas continued his recovery with an overtake on Ocon for P13 ( lap 47 ). Meanwhile, in the battle for P2, Perez continued to set blistering lap times and reduced the deficit to Hamilton to 6 seconds.

Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso and Norris were the top 10 at the end of lap 51.

Verstappen set the fastest lap of the race on lap 53. Meanwhile, Ricciardo and Bottas had closed up on Giovinazzi in the battle for P11. Ferrari asked Leclerc to swap positions with Sainz while Stroll got past Russell for P15. 

Perez was now only 2.5 seconds behind Hamilton, and the duo was closing up on backmarkers. Ferrari swapped the driver positions on lap 58, and Sainz began to hunt down Gasly in P4. With Hamilton having to negotiate his way through the backmarkers, Perez gained faster than expected and was within the DRS range of the Briton. Hamilton finally got some respite on lap 63 as he pulled a second out on Perez.

Meanwhile, Mercedes pitted Bottas for soft tyres on lap 65 to rob the point for the fastest lap from Verstappen. The Finn got released into Verstappen's path and got impeded by the latter on his first attempt. Bottas then unlapped himself, and Verstappen made his displeasure known over team radio. Eventually, Bottas got instructions to allow Verstappen through and pitted him again on lap 70. This time, Bottas had a clear track to push for the fastest lap. 

Perez was within DRS range of Hamilton on the final lap but couldn't close up enough to overtake. Meanwhile, Leclerc got handed back P5 by Sainz after the latter failed to challenge Gasly. Bottas overtook Russell and bagged the fastest lap of the race on the final lap. He also set a new track record.

Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and Victory at the Mexican GP! Hamilton had to settle for P2, with Perez completing the podium finishers in P3. It was the first time a Mexican had finished on the podium at his home race, and celebrations broke out on Parc Ferme.

A stellar drive by Gasly saw him finish P4, followed by the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz. Vettel was P7 for Aston Martin, followed by Raikkonen in P8. Alonso and Norris completed the top 10.

Giovinazzi was P11 in the other Alfa Romeo, followed by Ricciardo, Ocon and Stroll. Poleman Bottas finished a dismal P15, followed by Russell, Latifi and Mazepin, who completed the race classification.

It was a hattrick of wins for Verstappen and Red Bull at Mexico, the Dutchman having extended his lead to 19 points in the Drivers' Championship. His race-winning overtake on the opening lap was also a pivotal moment in his title fight with Hamilton. Perez's P3 sent the fans at his home race into a frenzy. The Mexican did well to extend his stint on the medium tyres but ran out of time to challenge Hamilton for P2. More importantly, Red Bull now trailed Mercedes by a mere point in the Constructors' standings. The Milton-Keynes outfit had turned it around after a disappointing Saturday. 

Bottas was unfortunate to be bumped out of contention by Ricciardo on the opening lap. The Finn never recovered and finished a dismal P15. Questions would be raised in the debrief about how Verstappen got a clean run into turn one on both the Mercedes cars and whether Bottas adopted the right line or not. No driver had won the Mexican GP from pole position, and the trend continued. As for Hamilton, P2 was the best result on Sunday. The Briton had no answer for Verstappen's pace, having to fend off a challenge by Perez as well near the end of the race. With a front-row lockout on Saturday, Mercedes had hoped for a better showing on Sunday. The battle for the Constructors was wide open.

Gasly's P4 brought Alpha Tauri level on points with Alpine, with the latter placed higher due to Ocon's victory at Hungary. It was yet another stellar performance by Gasly, who still harbours hopes of a call-up to the Red Bull A-team one day. As for Tsunoda, a first lap contact with Ocon led to his retirement from the race. Tsunoda's contribution ( in the last four races ) needed to be as substantial as Gasly's if Alpha Tauri wished to finish in P5 at the end of the season.

An 18 points haul by Leclerc and Sainz saw Ferrari leapfrog McLaren in the Constructor standings. P5 and P6 were that the Ferrari duo could manage, and their efforts allowed Ferrari to open a 13.5 point lead over McLaren. Ferrari was going through a resurgence of sorts and now looked "the best of the rest".

Vettel made the most of his start from the top 10, finishing a commendable P7 for Aston Martin. It was an eventful race for Stroll, but the Canadian lacked the pace to charge through the field. Stroll's efforts yielded only P14. Nevertheless, Vettel's P7 gave Aston Martin six points against Alpine's twoAlthough the deficit to Alpine and Alpha Tauri is still 38 points, Aston Martin remains committed in their fight for a position higher than P7 in the Constructors. 

Raikkonen produced a stellar drive in P8 to give Alfa Romeo 4 points from the weekend, reducing the deficit to Williams to 12 points. However, Alfa Romeo made a strategic howler with Giovinazzi's race. The Italian was running in P6 until Alfa Romeo called him in for an early stop. On rejoining, Giovinazzi got stuck behind Ricciardo and Bottas, which put him out of contention for the top 10. Nevertheless, the Italian recovered to P11, and it was a day of "what could have been" had it not been for the blunder from the Alfa Romeo pit wall. This result ( like many others earlier ) will haunt Alfa Romeo if they fail to beat Williams at the end of the season.

P9 was the best result that Alonso could manage in an Alpine that looked to struggle all weekend. The Spaniard also had a slow pit stop, which prevented him from challenging Raikkonen for P8. As for Ocon, his accidents with Tsunoda and Schumacher on the opening lap compromised his race. It was a humbling weekend for Alpine, who are now ahead of Alpha Tauri only due to Ocon's win in Hungary. They cannot afford more mediocrity in the final four races if they wish to hold onto P5 in the Constructors.

McLaren had a weekend to forget in Mexico. While Ricciardo's mistake on the opening lap took him out of contention for points, Norris could only manage P10 after his charge from the back of the grid. The decision to pit as late as lap 45 didn't pay off for Norris in the end. The Woking-based outfit was faltering in the fight for P3 in the Constructors against a resurgent Ferrari. They could ill afford another Mexico in the final four races.

Despite making positions at the start, Russell and Latifi went backwards in the race. Eventually, they finished P16 and P17, remaining quicker only against Haas. As for Haas F1, Schumacher's hopes of a strong finish ended with a collision on the opening lap. Mazepin was as high as P11 but went backwards like the Williams duo in the race. Haas is yet to score a point in 2021, and it seems highly unlikely that their fortunes will change at the business end of the season.

Mexico had been a fortress for Verstappen and Red Bull in the past, and they ensured that it stayed that way. Hamilton and Mercedes faced an uphill task playing the chasers, something they hadn't experienced before in the turbo era. With Hamilton yet to take an engine penalty, the possibility of New Champions getting crowned seemed plausible. 

Would there be another shift in the title fight, or would the odds favour Verstappen and Red Bull even more after the Brazilian GP, which was less than a weekend away? Time would reveal all.

Until then, Verstappen could bask in the glory of yet another famous and flawless Mexican GP victory!