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2021 US GP Race Recap : The Bulls rage on in the Texan Sun!

Circuit of the Americas, also known as COTA, played host to the 2021 United States Grand Prix. The race made a return to the F1 calendar after a hiatus of two years. The circuit, one of the few anti-clockwise tracks on the F1 calendar, boasts a 30.6m elevation change along with some fast flowing corners.

Leading up to the Grand Prix weekend, the F1 world was abuzz with a host of updates. The FOM announced a 23 race calendar for 2022, with the season opener in Bahrain followed by Saudi Arabia. F1 and NBA announced a "content and promotion partnership" for the US GP weekend. The tie-up was also to celebrate 75 years of NBA. 

F3 racer Logan Sargeant joined the Williams Driver Acadamey as part of a long-term agreement. 

Aston Martin and Williams decided to give Vettel and Russell a new engine unit. As a result, the duo would start the race from the back of the grid. Despite taking a 5th ICE, Mercedes deemed it necessary to opt for a 6th unit on Bottas' car, which resulted in a five-place grid drop for the race.

Mercedes had brought in upgrades and hoped to help Hamilton overturn the six points deficit to Verstappen. Likewise, Ferrari looked to jump McLaren in the standings. How did the teams and drivers fare at one of the most demanding circuits on the F1 calendar?

Time for a recap of the US GP weekend!

Practice :

FP1 got underway, and Alonso's Alpine ground to a halt at turn 12. The session got Red Flagged briefly. Thankfully, the Spaniard returned in the latter half of the session. Leclerc lost the rear of his Ferrari through turn five and had a trip across the gravel. It was an eventful session for the Haas duo, with Mazepin suffering a spin at turn 19 and Schumacher banging wheels with Perez at 12. While Raikkonen suffered from a spin at turn 9, Giovinazzi had to pit for a helmet change. Track limits got enforced at turns 9 and 19, and there were several time deletions.

Bottas topped the timesheets, five-hundredths clear of Hamilton in P2. Verstappen was P3, followed by the Ferrari duo of Leclerc and Sainz. Gasly was P6 for Alpha Tauri, with Perez and Norris P7 and P8, respectively. The Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen completed the top 10. 

Russell was P11 for Williams. The Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel split the Alpines of Ocon and Alonso in P12 and P13. Ricciardo was P16 in the other McLaren, followed by Latifi and Tsunoda. The Haas duo of Schumacher and Mazepin brought up the rear of the field.

It was time for Free Practice 2, and the teams began their race simulation runs in full earnest. Hamilton and Verstappen went wheel-to-wheel at turn one, which compromised the latter's timed lap. Verstappen made his displeasure known over team radio. Norris had a troublesome FP2; the Briton had to pit to address an issue on the left-hand side of his cockpit. He then suffered a lock-up at turn 11, which flat-spotted his mediums. However, he recovered to set the 2nd quickest time! Alonso lost a portion of his rear wing endplate after suffering from a spin at turn 19. Hamilton, like several others, had his lap time deleted after exceeding the track limits at turn 19.

It was Perez who ended FP2 the quickest, from Norris and Hamilton. Bottas was P4 in the other Mercedes, followed by Ricciardo and Stroll. Verstappen split the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz in P8, while Giovinazzi completed the top 10 in his Alfa Romeo.

Gasly split the Alpines of Ocon and Alonso in P12, followed by Raikkonen, Vettel and Tsunoda. Schumacher was P17 for Haas, with the Williams of Latifi and Russell P18 and P19. Mazepin finished P20 at the back of the field.

COTA had never been a happy hunting ground for Red Bull, but the Milton-Keynes based outfit displayed competitive pace in the race simulations. As for Mercedes, both Hamilton and Bottas were consistent with their lap times. Ferrari seemed to have a better race pace than McLaren, but the latter edged them out on low fuel runs.

Alpine announced that Alonso would take his 4th Power Unit of the season, which sent him to the back of the grid for the Grand Prix.

The final Practice session ( FP3 ) got underway, and it was time to prepare for Qualifying. While Bottas suffered a spin at turn 7, Hamilton ran wide at turn 9, which resulted in his lap time getting deleted. Verstappen set the quickest time of FP3 but, like Hamilton, exceeded track limits at turn 19 and had his lap time deleted. A spin at turn 5 resulted in Russell flat-spotting his soft tyres.

Perez topped the timesheets again from Sainz and Verstappen. Norris was P4 for McLaren, followed by the Mercedes duo of Bottas and Hamilton and teammate Ricciardo. Gasly, Leclerc and Ocon completed the top 10. 

Vettel was P11 for Aston Martin, while Raikkonen split the Williams of Russell and Latifi in P13. Giovinazzi was P14 in the other Alfa Romeo, followed by Stroll and Alonso. Tsunoda, Schumacher and Mazepin completed the rear of the field.

Qualifying :

The track had gotten bumpier, and Red Bull discovered a hairline crack on the rear wing of Verstappen's car. The mechanics replaced it and got the car ready for Qualifying. There was a 40% chance of rain in the session, and the stands were full of fans waiting for the lights to go green for Qualifying.

Q1 got underway, and everyone chose the soft tyres for their first runs. Mazepin got his lap time deleted after exceeding the track limits at turn 19 and then ended up impeding Vettel on a quick lap, attracting the ire of the German. Mazepin was on the receiving end when Stroll got into his way on a flying lap. Both incidents got written off by the stewards. Meanwhile, Raikkonen and Stroll suffered lap deletions after exceeding the track limits at turn 19.

Ricciardo, Verstappen, Norris, Sainz, Perez and Bottas were the top 6 at the end of the first runs, with Alonso, Latifi, Schumacher, Raikkonen and Mazepin facing elimination.

Ricciardo, Norris and Sainz decided to stay put while the rest of the field headed out onto the track for their final runs of Q1. The Mercedes duo chose a used set of soft tyres for their second attempt. Giovinazzi got spun around after exiting turn one, which briefly brought out the yellow flags. The Alfa Romeo driver fell backwards and was on the cusp of elimination in P15. However, he made it into Q2. Stroll, Latifi, Raikkonen, Schumacher and Mazepin got eliminated, with Leclerc, Verstappen and Perez ending Q1 as the top 3. 

The front runners had preserved their medium tyres for Q2. Both the drivers at Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull chose the mediums while Ferrari split strategies by giving Sainz the soft tyres and Leclerc the mediums. While Tsunoda, Russell and Alonso chose a used set of soft tyres, Gasly and Ocon opted for the mediums. Vettel and Giovinazzi decided to stay put and planned a single attempt. With mixed tyres choices across the field, Q2 promised to be an exciting affair. 

Ricciardo and Perez had their lap times deleted after exceeding the track limits at turn 9 and 19. Russell, too, suffered a similar fate. Halfway through the session, Verstappen, Hamilton, Norris, Leclerc, Bottas and Sainz were the top 6, while Perez, Ricciardo, Russell, Vettel and Giovinazzi were in the drop zone. Those in the drop zone were yet to set a representative lap. 

Perez decided to head out early on a new set of medium tyres and managed only the 7th quickest time. Meanwhile, Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc and Bottas chose to not run again in Q2. The Alpha Tauri drivers and Vettel chose a fresh set of softs, Alonso the used while the others persisted with the mediums. Russell suffered from a lap time deletion after he exceeded track limits at turn 9. 

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

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

It was time for the final shootout ( Q3 ), and the Alpha Tauri drivers chose a used set of softs for their first timed laps. At the end of the first runs, Perez was the quickest driver, a hundredth clear of Verstappen with Bottas and Hamilton in P3 and P4. Halfway through Q3, the classification was two-by-twos; first, the Red Bulls, followed by the Mercedes and the Ferraris and then the  McLarens and the Alpha Tauris.

Everyone exited the pits on a new set of soft tyres. McLaren informed Norris that light rain would hit the circuit ( at turn 1 ) near the end of Qualifying. On their final attempts, Bottas failed to improve in sectors one and two. Hamilton went purple in sector two, Verstappen in one, while Perez set personal best sector times. 

Verstappen bagged pole position from Hamilton! Hamilton finished in P2, two-tenths adrift of the Dutchman. Perez had excessive wheelspin at the end and had to settle for P3. Although Bottas set the 4th quickest time, his penalty dropped him down to P9. Leclerc inherited P4, with teammate Sainz in P5 for Ferrari. The McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris were P6 and P7, while Gasly took the other spot on row 4 in P8. Row 5 got occupied by Bottas and Tsunoda. 

Red Bull finally found the sweet spot at COTA and seemed to have the measure of their rivals on Sunday. Verstappen produced a stellar lap and extracted the best out of his car. Although Hamilton was alongside him on the front row, Red Bull had Perez in P3 to play the perfect support role to his teammate. Perez had been strong all weekend, and P3 was a great starting position to launch a two vs one attack on Hamilton. 

As for Hamilton and Mercedes, the Briton had struggled with grip levels throughout Qualifying. Hamilton cut a dejected figure as he made his way back to the pits and knew that he had to dig deep if he hoped to outdo Verstappen. He had been the most successful driver at COTA and had the experience to turn his fortunes come Sunday. Meanwhile, Bottas, down in P9, had his work cut out for race day. Thankfully, with the myriad overtaking opportunities on offer, recovering to a satisfactory result was possible for Bottas. Reliability, however, remained the biggest concern for Mercedes.

Ferrari continued their resurgence, outperforming McLaren on Saturday. However, Sainz was at a disadvantage after having set his best lap in Q2 on soft tyres. Tyre preservation in the first stint was paramount for his chances of a strong result. Ferrari needed to make the right strategic calls if they hoped to outscore and reduce the deficit to McLaren. 

The McLaren duo of Ricciardo and Norris was right behind the Ferrari drivers on the grid. Both Ricciardo and Norris would start on the medium tyres, putting them at an advantage against Sainz ( if not Leclerc ). McLaren had had two humbling race weekends and needed to turn things around in the Championship to cement their hold on P3.

Alpha Tauri had reason to rejoice after seeing both its drivers in the top 10 again. Tsunoda had stepped up his performances and made another Q3 appearance, his second consecutive one. The consistency that Gasly had displayed throughout the season had given Alpha Tauri much encouragement. With Alpine and Aston Martin having one of their drivers at the back of the grid ( due to penalties ), COTA presented Alpha Tauri with a golden opportunity to outscore the rivals in their quest for P5 in the Constructors.  

P11 was the best that Ocon could manage despite the tows provided by Alonso in both Q1 and Q2. Alonso, meanwhile, with his engine penalty, would start P19. Both drivers had the luxury of a free tyre choice, and Ocon was Alpine's best hope to score points on the weekend. As for Alonso, the Spaniard faced a long Sunday afternoon as he tried to charge through the back of the pack. 

Aston Martin found themselves in a similar situation to Alpine. While Stroll managed a disappointing P13, Vettel would start P18 after his engine penalty. The team had produced commendable race strategies in the past, yet points finishes had eluded at least one driver. Aston Martin couldn't afford mediocrity on race day. 

Giovinazzi won the intra-team battle in Qualifying against Raikkonen for 2021. However, the latter has been the more consistent of the two on race day. With the 2nd seat still up for grabs at Alfa Romeo, Giovinazzi will be aiming to get into the top 10 and add more points to his season tally. As for Raikkonen, he has all to do on Sunday from P15. 

Williams will be hoping for a trouble-free weekend for both its drivers. Russell starts P20 after his engine penalty while Latifi is in P14. The Grove-based outfit will be hoping to capitalize on the slip-ups of those ahead to extract something fruitful from the weekend. As for Haas F1, P16 and P17 are good starting points, but the cars lack the pace to sustain a credible challenge. However, the team would be hoping for a decent showing at their home race.

Race :

Clear skies and hot weather greeted the drivers on race day. Alpha Tauri detected a sensor issue on Gasly's car, and the mechanics quickly replaced it on the grid.

C2, C3 and C4 were the tyre compounds available for the Grand Prix. Outside the top 10, Ocon and Vettel started the race on a used set of mediums while the others had fresh sets available.

The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for both Verstappen and Hamilton. However, Hamilton had reacted slightly quicker to the lights and gained momentum into turn one. Verstappen tried to cut him off, but Hamilton refused to back out. Eventually, Hamilton took the lead of the race while Verstappen got pushed off into the runoff. The Dutchman rejoined the track and would have gotten relegated to P3, but Perez backed out of the challenge. Further down the field, Latifi clipped the back of Stroll's car, which sent the latter into a spin and left the duo at the back of the pack.

Sainz and Ricciardo went wheel-to-wheel in the battle for P5, and as the duo bickered, Norris tried to take advantage down the back straight. Sainz got boxed into a McLaren sandwich and had to cede position to Ricciardo. Meanwhile, the Alfa Romeo duo of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen was up to P11 and P12, respectively. Vettel and Alonso had moved up to P14 and P15.

Verstappen was the quickest man on track as he tried to maintain pressure on Hamilton. Meanwhile, Bottas tried to challenge Tsunoda for P8 but lost P9 to Gasly instead on lap 3. Ocon had suffered front wing endplate damage on the opening lap after contact with Giovinazzi and had to pit on lap 4. The Frenchman switched to hard tyres and rejoined in P20. Latifi also pitted for a new front wing and hard tyres on lap six and managed to stay ahead of Ocon after exiting from the pits. 

Hamilton, Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Sainz, Norris, Tsunoda, Gasly and Bottas were the top 10 at the end of lap 7.

Meanwhile, Alonso and Giovinazzi pitted on laps 8 and 9, Alonso switching to the hards while Giovinazzi opted for the mediums again. On the track, Vettel got past Russell for P12. Tsunoda and Russell pitted for hard tyres on lap 10, rejoining in P14 and P17. Verstappen, Norris and Gasly followed suit a lap later. Verstappen had built a considerable gap to the rest of the field and rejoined behind Ricciardo in P5. He then overtook Ricciardo and began to set blistering lap times. Further down the field, Tsnuoda overtook Gasly and Schumacher to bag P12. 

Ricciardo and Sainz pitted for hard tyres on lap 12, rejoining in P7 and P9. Norris got past Stroll for P12, while Ocon overtook Schumacher for P18 on lap 12. Lap 13 saw Perez and Raikkonen pit for medium tyres and Leclerc for hards. Perez rejoined the race in P3, Leclerc in P5 and Raikkonen in P15. Meanwhile, Vettel got relegated to P9 by Sainz and Norris. Verstappen was now the fastest driver on the track as Hamilton got called in by Mercedes for a switch to the hard tyres. The Briton rejoined the race in P2, 6 seconds behind Verstappen. 

Gasly reported a rear suspension issue and had to retire from the race on lap 15. Meanwhile, Mercedes asked Bottas to push as they prepared for his pit stop on lap 16. The Finn switched to hard tyres, rejoining in P11. Raikkonen got side-by-side with Alonso in the battle for P13, and the duo made contact at turn one. Raikkonen muscled past Alonso but suffered floor damage to his car. A livid Alonso alleged that Raikkonen had completed an overtake off the racing line, but the stewards saw the overtake as legitimate and refused to investigate further. Vettel pitted for the medium tyres on lap 18 and rejoined in P15.

Stroll lost two positions to Tsunoda and Bottas and pitted immediately after for a fresh set of mediums on lap 19. The Canadian rejoined behind his teammate Vettel in P15. Meanwhile, Raikkonen was lapping quicker than Giovinazzi, and the team ordered a position swap ( for P10 ) on lap 19. Bottas, after several attempts, finally got past Tsunoda for P8. Giovinazzi got relegated to P12 by Alonso on lap 21, but it was an illegal overtake as the latter drove off the track and gained an advantage. The stewards instructed Alonso to return the place to Giovinazzi, and he complied with their request on lap 24. Alonso returned for bout two, and this time, Giovinazzi took to the runoff while defending P11. It was his turn to receive instructions to cede P11 to Alonso. 

Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Sainz, Norris, Bottas, Tsunoda and Raikkonen were the top 10 at the end of lap 26. 

Mazepin switched to the medium tyres on lap 26, while Vettel got past Russell for P13. Latifi and Giovinazzi pitted for hard tyres, while Ocon for the mediums, a lap later. The stewards decided to deploy the Virtual Safety Car as a marshall cleared debris off the track. The period was a brief one. 

At the front, Hamilton was honing in on Verstappen and had reduced the deficit to 3 seconds ( lap 29 ). Ferrari informed Leclerc that the hard tyres were lasting longer than anticipated. Verstappen made the second stop of his race on lap 30, taking on a fresh set of hard tyres. Alonso did likewise and rejoined in P14. Sainz pitted next for new hard tyres but got held up due to a slow right rear swap. The Spaniard rejoined in P8. On the track, Verstappen got past teammate Perez for P2. McLaren, having seen Sainz's pit stop, instructed Ricciardo to push to effect the overcut. It was mission accomplished for McLaren and Ricciardo as he pitted on lap 31. However, Norris wasn't able to jump Sainz after the team opted to double-stack its drivers.

The second round of pit stops continued with Raikkonen and Russell pitting for hard tyres and rejoining in P12 and P16. Leclerc's switch to the hard tyres on lap 33 was perfect timing as the Monegasque rejoined in P4, just ahead of Bottas. Perez was the fastest man on track as Tsunoda pitted for hard tyres and had to fend off a challenge by Raikkonen for P11 after rejoining the race. Stroll fell back to P12 after getting overtaken by Tsunoda and Raikkonen and pitted for hard tyres on lap 36. Bottas, too, switched to a fresh set of hard tyres, rejoining in P7. 

Mercedes tried to extend Hamilton's stint to give him fresher tyres near the end of the race. The Briton pitted for his 2nd stop on lap 38, rejoining almost 9 seconds adrift of Verstappen. Further down the field, Vettel and Alonso switched to the hards and the mediums on laps 39 and 40.

Hamilton was the quickest man on track and reduced the deficit to Verstappen to 6 seconds. A mechanical issue on Ocon's car led to his retirement on lap 42. Mazepin and Raikkonen got served Black and White flags for exceeding track limits during the race. Meanwhile, Alonso got past Stroll for P13.

Sainz had closed up on Ricciardo and began to pressure him for P5. On lap 42, the duo made contact, and Sainz suffered damage to the endplate of his front wing. The gap at the front was down to 1.9 seconds as Hamilton continued to lap faster than Verstappen. 

Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Leclerc, Ricciardo, Sainz, Bottas, Norris, Tsunoda and Raikkonen were the top 10 at the end of lap 48.

Stroll got served a Black and White flag for exceeding track limits on lap 49, and Alonso had to retire his Alpine after discovering that his rear wing broke ( lap 51 ). Meanwhile, Vettel relegated Giovinazzi to P12 and now had Raikkonen in his sights. A rare error by Raikkonen sent his car into a spin and through the gravel. The Finn fell out of the points and down to P12 ( lap 53 ). The battle for P6 was hotting as Bottas closed in on Sainz. Despite a couple of failed attempts, the Finn finally got past on the penultimate lap. After his trip across the gravel on lap 53, Raikkonen's tyres got destroyed, and Stroll caught up to him and relegated him to P13.

At the front, Hamilton was within one second of Verstappen as he tried to make one last attempt for the race victory. Verstappen managed to maintain the gap and took the win at the US GP! Hamilton had to settle for 2nd. Perez finished the race in P3, completing a double podium for Red Bull.  P4 was the best that Leclerc could manage in his Ferrari, followed by Ricciardo and Bottas in the other Mercedes. Sainz had to settle for P7, followed by Norris, Tsunoda and Vettel, who completed the top 10.

Stroll split the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen in P12, with the Williams of Russell and Latifi in P14 and P15, respectively. Schumacher and Mazepin completed the 17 classified finishers. 

It was another double podium finish for Red Bull and Honda's first victory on American soil! More importantly, Verstappen emerged victorious, extending his lead over Hamilton to 12 points in the Drivers Championship. Verstappen displayed stellar skills at tyre management, which helped him keep Hamilton at bay in the end. Perez finished a commendable P3, having completed the entire race without his drinks system in operation. It had been a challenging weekend, but Red Bull and Verstappen had broken Mercedes dominance at COTA. The aggressive strategy adopted by the team paid dividends. The team also managed to outscore Mercedes and reduce the deficit to 23 points in the Constructors. 

Another tactical error by Mercedes cost Hamilton a shot at victory. While the team wanted to give Hamilton fresher tyres at the end, they pitted him too late. However, Hamilton managed to grab the point for the fastest lap in addition to the 18 from P2 in the race. Despite having the best straight-line speed, Bottas struggled with his overtakes, and P6 was the maximum that he could extract on race day. The Finn also saw his lead cut to 35 points in the fight for P3 in the Championship. Reliability remained Mercedes' Achilles heel. 

Leclerc drove a lonely race in P4 but brought home a valuable points haul for Ferrari. Although Sainz had the pace to produce a better result, he had to settle for P7. Ferrari outscored McLaren by 4 points, reducing the deficit to 3.5 points. The Italian outfit was going through a resurgence and needed to carry the same momentum into the final five races.

P5 and P8 are what Ricciardo and Norris had to show for their efforts. Having started P6 and P7, the duo would have hoped to fare better. Norris lost P4 in the Championship to Perez, and his hopes of finishing third were slowly fading away. Ricciardo had newfound momentum since the summer break and was performing at comparable levels to Norris. His duel with Sainz allowed Leclerc to pull away. Nevertheless, McLaren got 14 valuable points from its drivers, still holding onto P3 in the Constructors, albeit by a mere 3.5 points. They needed to outperform their archrivals in the upcoming rounds.

Tsunoda produced a commendable drive in P9, bringing home 2 points for Alpha Tauri. The team was in contention for double points finish until Gasly's suspension failure. Despite the disappointment of a driver DNF, they managed to outscore Alpine, edging closer to the P5 spot in the standings. They now trailed Alpine by only 10 points. 

Aston Martin would have left COTA without a point had it not been for Raikkonen's error on lap 53. Vettel, however, took full advantage and held on to P10 at the end to ensure that Aston Martin didn't leave empty-handed. Stroll's race got compromised at the first turn of the opening lap, and the Canadian had to fight for scraps at the end of the day. Aston Martin trails Alpha Tauri by 32 points and needs a miracle to overturn that deficit.

Mechanical failures put both Ocon and Alonso out of the race. It was a forgettable weekend for Alpine, and it was back to the drawing board for the Enstone-based outfit. They couldn't afford any more slip-ups, especially with Alpha Tauri now within striking distance.

It was a case of "so near yet so far" for Alfa Romeo. Raikkonen was on course for a P10 finish when an uncharacteristic error bumped him out of the points. Giovinazzi, despite his heroics on Saturday, had his race compromised after the early stop. The Italian finished a commendable P11, showcasing good defensive skills against the more experienced contenders. Alfa Romeo has suffered from missed opportunities in 2021, and with five races remaining, the possibility of catching Williams seems bleak.

Russell and Latifi finished P14 and P15, capping off another disappointing showing by Williams. The team's travails in race-spec seem unending. They still have a 16 point cushion to Alfa Romeo. Nevertheless, the car's issues need addressing at the earliest. The Haas duo of Schumacher and Mazepin managed to complete another race and add more miles to their racing CV. Haas remains the only team yet to score a point in 2021, and it would be prudent to shift focus to 2022.

Red Bull and Verstappen had broken Mercedes' streak of dominance at COTA. Verstappen produced a stellar drive, and Red Bull pulled off a masterstroke with their strategy calls. The team is purpose-driven to claim top honours in both the Drivers and the Constructors. Mercedes powered cars face difficulties with the lower temperatures seen in Mexico, the next race on the F1 calendar.

Will we see Verstappen and Co emerge victorious in Mexico, or will Hamilton hit back with purpose in the 2nd race on the American subcontinent? Time will reveal all!

Until then, kudos to Red Bull and Verstappen for yet another race day masterclass! 

2021 Turkish GP Race Recap : The Flawless Finn in Fickle weather!

The 2021 F1 Season originally featured a 23 race calendar. However, with the world still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic, Formula One management faced challenges in adhering to the original schedule. The Japanese GP was one such race that got cancelled due to the Quarantine protocols of the country. As a result, the hunt began for a replacement, and it was Turkey that came to the sport's rescue. After a hiatus of 9 years, the circuit got included in 2020, and come 2021, Istanbul Park hosted the 2nd "fly-away" event of the revised F1 Calendar.

The Hermann Tilke designed circuit was another track that ran in an anti-clockwise direction and offered several overtaking opportunities. Ex-F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone dubbed it "the best track in the world". The changeable weather conditions had produced a humdinger of a GP in 2020. Hamilton got crowned the World Champion at this track, equalling the record of 7 world titles in 2020. While the weather forecast stated mixed conditions for the race in 2021, the Championship battle remained an open affair, be it the Drivers or the Constructors.

In the week leading up to the Turkish GP weekend, the FOM added Losail International Circuit ( Qatar ) to the 2021 calendar. Qatar also bagged a ten-year deal to host F1 races from 2023. 

While Japan got replaced by Turkey, it didn't prevent Red Bull from running "special White liveried" cars on both the teams ( Red Bull and Alpha Tauri ) as a tribute to engine supplier Honda. Red Bull and Honda also announced a collaboration beyond F1 from 2022. The Japanese manufacturer also offered its support to "Red Bull Powertrains" for 2022.

Meanwhile, Mercedes saw it wise to give Hamilton a 4th ICE ( Internal Combustion Engine ) for the Turkish GP weekend. As a result, the Briton got a ten-place grid penalty for the race. As for Sainz, the Spaniard opted for a completely new Power Unit, which relegated him to the back of the grid for the race. 

In an attempt to improve safety in the sport, the FIA asked Hamilton, Vettel, Sainz, Russell and Ricciardo to trial prototype gloves ( on Friday ) that featured better protection from heat.

Reliability was the biggest concern for the front running teams. With the season nearing its business end, the struggle to extend the shelf life of the components raged on.

Was there another twist in the title fight? Did the special livery give Red Bull and Honda a memorable weekend? Was Hamilton able to limit the effect of his grid penalty? Time for a recap of the Turkish GP weekend!

Practice :

Clear skies greeted the drivers at the start of FP1. Kimi Raikkonen, the first Turkish GP winner, had two lap times deleted after exceeding the track limits at turn 6. While Verstappen complained about low grip levels on the soft tyres, Leclerc looked competitive in his Ferrari. However, it was Hamilton who topped the timesheets, four-tenths clear of Verstappen and Leclerc. Bottas was P4 in the other Mercedes, followed by Sainz and Ocon. Ocon had set his best attempt on the hard tyres, which suggested that the Alpines looked set for a strong weekend. Likewise, his teammate Alonso set his quickest lap on the medium tyres. Norris was P7 for McLaren, followed by Gasly, Alonso and Perez, who completed the top 10.

Russell led the lower half of the field, with Ricciardo and Vettel P12 and P13, respectively. Latifi split the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen in P15, while P17 was the best that Stroll could manage in the other Aston Martin car. The back of the field got completed by Tsunoda, Schumacher and Mazepin.

FP2 got underway, and with the track rubbered in from FP1, lap times began to improve. Bottas suffered a lock-up at turn one while Norris went over the kerbs at nine and ten. Drivers jostled for track position, and Stroll caused a traffic jam, much to the displeasure of Alonso. Hamilton, too, had to take avoiding action. While Latifi got spun around at turn 9, Raikkonen had issues with his drinks system, which left him stuck in the garage for a considerable time. Gasly complained about his seat positioning and suffered a spin at turn 6, which flat-spotted his tyres. Mazepin suffered a similar fate, destroying his mediums at turn eight. Post FP2, Ocon's Alpine broke down while performing a practice start on the grid.

It was Hamilton again at the top of the timesheets, a tenth clear of Leclerc and Bottas. The Red Bulls of Perez and Verstappen were P4 and P5, with Norris completing the top 6. Alonso and Ocon were 7th and 8th for Alpine, followed by the Alpha Tauri of Gasly and the Alfa Romeo of Giovinazzi. 

Tsunoda was P11 in the other Alpha Tauri, with Sainz and Stroll P12 and P13, respectively. 14th was the best that Ricciardo managed in FP2, followed by Raikkonen and Vettel. The Williams of Latifi and Russell and the Haas cars of Schumacher and Mazepin completed the rear of the field.

Mercedes had a strong showing on Friday, while Red Bull struggled with setup issues. Ferrari, too, looked competitive and seemed to have a measure of rivals McLaren. Saturday promised to be another busy day for the teams and the drivers as they prepped the cars for Qualifying and then the Grand Prix. 

Rain hit the circuit overnight and in the early hours of the morning. As a result, FP3 saw wet weather conditions. While some drivers waited for conditions to improve, others decided to take to the track and gather data under changeable weather. Tsunoda was the first man out in FP3, followed by Gasly, who suffered a spin at turn 11. With increased grip levels, it became evident that the intermediates were the better tyres for the remainder of the session. However, Mazepin suffered a spin at turn 11, while Russell went surfing through the grass at turn two and beached his Williams in the gravel. As a result, the session got briefly Red Flagged. Turns nine and ten had standing water, and slip-ups by Leclerc, Vettel and Verstappen cost them a spin. Tsunoda got impeded by Perez on a flying lap while Alonso had a trip through the gravel.

It was Honda power in the top 3, with Gasly topping the timesheets from Verstappen and Perez. The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc were P4 and P5, followed by Alonso and Raikkonen. Tsunoda, Bottas and Ocon completed the top 10.

Giovinazzi was P11 in the other Alfa Romeo, followed by Vettel and Schumacher. The McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris were P14 and P15, respectively, with Stroll setting the 16th quickest time in his Aston Martin. Mazepin was P17 in the other Haas, while Hamilton was P18, having spent the majority of FP3 in the garage. The Williams of Latifi and Russell completed the rear of the field.

Qualifying :

The skies were overcast, and the risk of rain was at 100%. Post FP3, the track still had damp patches off the racing line. However, the teams and drivers deemed conditions to be fit to run slick tyres.

The lights went green for the start of Q1, and all the drivers rushed onto the track to set representative laps. Softs were the tyre of choice, with the cars fueled for multiple runs. McLaren informed Ricciardo that rain would hit the circuit three minutes into Q1. As the drivers began their first timed laps, Hamilton struggled to control his Mercedes at turn one and suffered a lap time deletion. His championship rival Verstappen spun at turn one, while Sainz's spin brought out the yellow flags in the first sector. There was a host of lap time deletions with drivers exceeding track limits, the Alfa Romeo duo of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi suffering the most. The rain arrived, and conditions got trickier with each passing minute. However, the drivers soldiered on with slick tyres.

Hamilton, Gasly, Verstappen, Bottas, Ricciardo and Stroll were the top 6, with Perez, Schumacher, Mazepin, Alonso and Sainz in the drop zone, halfway through Q1.

Tsunoda had an off-track excursion at turn one, while Leclerc and Raikkonen suffered from lap time deletions after exceeding track limits. Turn one saw two spins for Mazepin as several drivers returned to the pits for a fresh set of soft tyres in the final minutes. Red Bull informed Verstappen that conditions were improving as the rain eased off. Eventually, track evolution became rapid, and drivers jostled to be the last one to set a time. 

At the end of Q1, Hamilton, Verstappen, Gasly, Leclerc, Perez and Bottas were the top 6, with Ricciardo, Latifi, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen and Mazepin getting eliminated. Sainz was the last driver to attempt a lap and enjoyed the best conditions. He was pivotal in ousting Ricciardo, the shock of Q1.

Q2 got underway, and thankfully, the rain stayed away. The drivers had fuel for multiple runs, with Tsunoda, Schumacher and Russell opting for softs while the rest, the medium tyres. Sainz chose to stay put and save mileage on his engine. Perez lost control of his Red Bull and went across the gravel at turn one. 

Halfway through Q2, Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Alonso, Gasly and Tsunoda were the top 6, with Vettel, Stroll, Schumacher, Russell and Sainz facing elimination.

The drivers pitted for fresh tyres. Leclerc, on his flying lap, suffered a spin at the final turn. Meanwhile, Stroll missed his braking and ran wide at turn one and then across the gravel like Perez. Russell looked set to break into the top 10 on his final attempt when the rear of his Williams snapped out of control at the last turn. The Briton ran wide and was out of contention. Sainz emerged from the pits but didn't attempt a timed lap. Instead, he gave Leclerc a tow which catapulted the Monegasque into the top 10 with the 7th quickest time. 

Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Gasly, Alonso, Perez, Leclerc, Tsunoda, Stroll and Norris made it into Q3, while Vettel, Ocon, Russell, Schumacher and Sainz got eliminated.

The start of Q3 saw Tsunoda opt for the medium tyres, with Perez, Leclerc and Stroll choosing a used set of soft tyres. The drivers headed out for their first timed laps, with some aiming to complete two attempts.

Less than six-tenths separated the top 6 drivers as Bottas went quicker than Hamilton and Verstappen at the top. 

The drivers returned to the pits for the final minutes of the top-ten shootout. Hamilton, Tsunoda, Leclerc and Gasly went out earlier than the rest of the field, and everyone got a fresh set of softs.

Hamilton improved his lap time to go quickest and two-tenths clear of Bottas. The Briton attempted another lap but failed to improve. As for Bottas, it was a faster lap, but not enough to beat Hamilton's time. Verstappen set the 3rd quickest time, with Leclerc going P4. Four-tenths separated the top 4 drivers. Gasly, Alonso and Perez were within a second of Hamilton's attempt in P5, P6, and P7, respectively. Norris was P8, with row 5 getting occupied by Stroll and Tsunoda.

Although Hamilton was the quickest at the end of Q3, the Briton would eventually start the race in P11 due to his grid penalty. Bottas inherited pole position and had the opportunity of scoring a much-awaited victory come Sunday. As for Hamilton, it was the best possible result in Qualifying, and with the several overtaking opportunities, the Briton looked set to carve his way through the field. Reliability remained a challenge, though.

Red Bull had been 2nd best, and Verstappen predicted a tough battle against the Mercedes on Sunday. However, the Dutchman had a front-row start and was capable of beating Bottas over race distance. As for Perez, P6 wasn't the ideal result, but the Mexican got tasked with holding up Hamilton for as long as possible. The possibility of outscoring Mercedes seemed unlikely for Red Bull. 

Ferrari produced a tactical masterclass in Qualifying. The team made the right calls to hamper and compromise McLaren's chances on the weekend. While Sainz had a start from the back of the grid, the Spaniard took part in Qualifying and did enough to bump Ricciardo out of Q1. More importantly, the tow provided to Leclerc in Q2 helped the latter get a place in Q3. Leclerc repaid the team's efforts with a stellar lap which saw him inherit a P3 start. The Ferrari drivers had been strong in the race simulations in the practice sessions and looked set to outscore the McLaren duo. A podium finish was on the cards with the right strategic calls.

It had been a long time since Alpha Tauri had both its drivers in Q3. While Gasly remained ever efficient, Tsunoda, after a few hiccups, came good with the 9th quickest time. Qualifying was a confidence booster for Tsunoda since the rookie had been under fire for his mediocre performances the past few weeks. In the quest for P5 in the Constructors, outscoring Alpine was paramount, and with both its drivers in the top 10, Alpha Tauri aimed for a double points haul. 

Alonso out-qualified his teammate Ocon to start P5 on Sunday. The Spaniard was famous for lightning starts and gaining multiple positions on the opening lap. His race was pivotal for Alpine's hopes of keeping Alpha Tauri at bay. As for Ocon, a P12 start was far from ideal, but the Frenchman needed smart calls from the pit wall coupled with bold overtaking manoeuvres to break into the top 10. The presence of quicker cars behind made the task more challenging.

Norris was McLaren's best hope at salvaging what had been a tough weekend. P7 was the best that the Briton could achieve on Saturday, while Ricciardo qualified a lowly P15. The possibility of outscoring Ferrari was unlikely. McLaren was in damage limitation mode come Sunday. 

It wasn't smooth sailing for the Aston Martin drivers. While Stroll made it into Q3, Vettel narrowly missed out in P11. Nevertheless, the duo would start P8 and P10 following Hamilton's grid penalty. Although superior race strategies had helped Stroll and Vettel in the past, the presence of quicker cars behind them presented a challenge for staying in points-scoring positions. Aston Martin was trailing its rivals by a considerable margin and couldn't afford a mediocre result from either driver.

Russell's mistake on his final attempt of Q2 cost him a place in the top 10. The Briton rued the missed opportunity and qualified a disappointing P13. However, it was Sunday that mattered, and he hoped to make amends on race day. P16 was the best that Latifi could achieve in the other Williams. The Canadian faced a long Sunday afternoon. 

Schumacher had hoped for damp conditions, and like his father, produced a stellar lap to qualify P14 in a Haas. It was Schumacher's first Q2 appearance, an achievement after having started at the back row of the grid for the majority of the season. Race day posed a different challenge, and Schumacher didn't seem to have the pace to sustain P14. As for Mazepin, it was a baptism by fire. The Russian had off-track excursions, spins and lap time deletions which left him in P20 and last.  

Despite showing promise all weekend, Giovinazzi and Raikkonen could only manage P18 and P19, respectively. The duo suffered from several lap time deletions as neither got the optimal setup. A good race strategy was the only hope to salvage something from the weekend.

Race :

McLaren opted for a new ICE, Turbo and MGU-H for Ricciardo, which relegated him to the back of the grid alongside Sainz. 

C2, C3 and C4 were the dry tyres available for the race, but track conditions were more suitable for the intermediates after rain hit the circuit on Sunday morning.

The cars headed out for the formation lap, and Alpha Tauri informed Gasly that conditions would stay the same for the whole race. 

The race got underway, and after an initial stutter, it was a clean getaway for Bottas. Verstappen tried to challenge Bottas but had to relent at turn one. Gasly got sandwiched at turn one with Perez on the inside and Alonso on the outside. Alonso tried an opportunistic overtake and got hit by Gasly, which sent him into a spin and dropped him to P17. The incident got investigated, and Gasly got a five seconds time penalty. 

Further down the field, Hamilton made a cautious start in P10. The Alfa Romeo duo of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen was up to P12 and P13, respectively, with Ricciardo in P16. A spin for Latifi relegated him to P20. Russell got past Schumacher for P14, while Perez was up to P4.

Hamilton began his charge up the field with an overtake on Vettel for P9. Alonso got past Sainz for P16 but then hit Schumacher, which sent the latter into a spin ( at turn 4 ). The incident got investigated, and Alonso got a five seconds time penalty. Bottas was the quickest man on track and extended his lead to 1.6 seconds.

Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Gasly, Norris, Stroll, Tsunoda, Hamilton and Vettel were the top 10 at the end of lap 5.

The teams instructed their drivers to cool the intermediate tyres by going over damp patches on the circuit. Meanwhile, Sainz relegated Russell to P15 on lap 6. Hamilton honed in on Tsunoda and pressured him for P7, but the rookie rebuffed Hamilton's challenge. Sainz got past Giovinazzi and Raikkonen to move up to P12, while Hamilton finally overtook Tsunoda for P7 on lap 8. 

Further down the field, Latifi got past Schumacher for P19, while Ocon got relegated to P12 by Sainz ( lap 9 ). Hamilton, in clear air, began to push and closed up on Stroll, completing an easy overtake on the Aston Martin driver for P6. He then relegated Norris to P6 on lap 11. The Briton was now setting blistering lap times and reducing the deficit to Gasly rapidly.

At the front, Bottas informed Mercedes that the circuit was still damp and the track wasn't drying up despite the water getting dispersed by the 20 cars. The battle for P10 was hotting up with Sainz pressuring Vettel. The Spaniard got past on lap 14, but the duo banged wheels. Meanwhile, Gasly, struggling with graining on his intermediate tyres, put up a weak defence against Hamilton on lap 15. Hamilton was now P5. 

Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Hamilton, Gasly, Norris, Stroll, Tsunoda and Sainz were the top 10 on lap 16.

Verstappen and Bottas exchanged the fastest laps while Sainz got past Tsunoda for P9. McLaren asked Norris about grip levels, and the Briton quipped that his intermediates were now turning into slicks ( lap 21 ). Meanwhile, Ricciardo affirmed that he would be much quicker if McLaren pitted him. The team adhered to the request, and the Australian switched to a new set of intermediates on lap 22, rejoining in P18. 

Tsunoda suffered a spin at turn nine and got relegated to P13 ( lap 23 ). Leclerc was the quickest man on track as Gasly reported light rain at turn nine. Bottas was now 2.5 seconds clear off Verstappen in the lead. Sainz informed Ferrari that a one-stop strategy looked optimal for the race. 

Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc, Perez, Hamilton, Gasly, Norris, Stroll, Sainz and Vettel were the top 10 on lap 29.

Bottas reported light rain from turns six to twelve. Meanwhile, Alonso pitted for a fresh set of intermediates on lap 31 and rejoined in P18. Hamilton had closed upon Perez in the battle for P4 and got wheel-to-wheel with him going into the final turn. Perez almost got pushed into the pit lane entry while defending his position but put up a dogged defence, holding on to P4. Meanwhile, Ricciardo got past Latifi and Russell for P15. Norris pitted for new intermediates on lap 35 and rejoined in P9.

More drivers began to pit for a fresh set of intermediates, and Tsunoda, Russell, and Verstappen made the switch on lap 36. Lap 37 saw Sainz, Mazepin and Vettel pit. Sainz had a slow stop of 8.1 seconds after the team held him up to avoid an unsafe release ( into Mazepin's path ). Vettel, meanwhile, took the bold decision of switching to slick tyres. The German took a used set of mediums and tip-toed his way out of the pits. It, however, turned out to be the incorrect decision as Vettel struggled to keep his Aston Martin on the track, rapidly falling backwards. He returned to the pits after just one lap to switch back to the intermediates. 

Bottas and Perez pitted for a fresh set of intermediates on lap 38, with Raikkonen following suit on 39. Hamilton, now in clear air, began to push in P2. Meanwhile, Gasly and Stroll pitted for intermediates on lap 40, rejoining in P6 and P11, respectively. 

Leclerc, in the lead, contemplated going till the end of the race without pitting. Ferrari acknowledged his request but continued their discussions on the pit wall. Further down the field, Giovinazzi and Schumacher also pitted for new intermediates on lap 41. 

The Mercedes pit crew were ready in the pits for Hamilton, but the Briton went against the instructions on lap 42. He believed he could manage the current set of tyres until the end of the race. At the front, Bottas was catching Leclerc, who locked up and ran wide, reducing his lead to 2 seconds. Verstappen reported steering wheel issues on lap 44, while Sainz got past Ocon for P8. Bottas reclaimed the lead on lap 46, and immediately after, Leclerc pitted for new intermediates and rejoined in P4. Sainz was setting blistering lap times in clear air.

Bottas, Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc, Perez, Gasly, Norris, Sainz, Ocon and Stroll were the top 10 on lap 50. 

Hamilton and Mercedes had been in intense discussion, and it became evident that Hamilton wasn't able to bridge the gap to Verstappen. Meanwhile, Leclerc and Perez had begun to eat into his lead. Mercedes informed Hamilton that if he delayed pitting, then he would lose more positions. The Briton finally relented on lap 51 and rejoined in P5. Meanwhile, on the track, Perez got past Leclerc for P3 ( lap 52 ).

On asking his position on the track, Mercedes informed Hamilton that he was in P5. Hamilton made his displeasure known and questioned the team about not listening to his assessment of the tyres. The Briton closed up on Leclerc on lap 53 and suddenly lost grip! He had entered the graining phase of his new tyres and ended up losing 3 seconds on a single lap. Gasly and Norris, who had pitted earlier than Hamilton, were past that graining phase and began to pressure the latter into an error.

The battle for P9 saw Stroll emerge victorious over Ocon. Bottas set the fastest lap of the race on lap 57 and took the point that came with it. Further down the field, Ricciardo got relegated to P13 by the Alfa Romeo duo of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen. 

Bottas took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Turkish GP! Verstappen came home in 2nd, with Perez 3rd to complete a double podium finish for Red Bull. P4 was the best that Leclerc could manage for Ferrari, followed by a dejected Hamilton in P5. The Briton fended off the challenge by Gasly and Norris, who finished P6 and P7, respectively. Sainz, Stroll and Ocon completed the top 10.

The Alfa Romeo duo of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen were P11 and P12, followed by Ricciardo in the other McLaren. Tsunoda finished P14, with Alonso splitting the Williams of Russell and Latifi in P16. Vettel, Schumacher and Mazepin completed the classification, all 20 drivers finishing the Grand Prix.

It had been a long wait for Bottas, who hadn't won a race since the 2020 Russian GP. However, it was an assured display of racecraft by the Finn in changeable weather conditions. More importantly, he got the point for the fastest lap as well. The win cemented his hold on P3 in the Drivers' standings. As for Hamilton, it was a long post-race debrief as he questioned Mercedes' decision to switch him to new tyres in the final laps. He believed he would have held on to P3 ( on old tyres ) and further limited the dent caused to his title challenge by Verstappen. Hamilton had the pace to finish second best if not win, had the weather not played spoilsport. This result could prove pivotal in the title fight with Verstappen. In the Constructors standings, Mercedes outscored Red Bull by three points and extended their lead to 36.

Red Bull had a strong showing at a circuit where they looked to be struggling. The special livery gave the team a memorable weekend as they scored a double podium finish. Verstappen's P2 allowed him to retake the lead in the Drivers' Championship. The Dutchman led Hamilton by six points, having driven a measured race with minimal risks taken. As for Perez, the Mexican earned brownie points with his staunch defence against relentless pressure by Hamilton. The podium finish was also a confidence booster after many mediocre and under-performing race weekends. 

Leclerc and Sainz produced stellar drivers to give Ferrari a big haul of 16 points. While Leclerc tried to risk it all for a win, Sainz made the right calls along with opportunistic overtakes to charge through the field. Sainz also got awarded the "Driver of the Day". Eventually, Leclerc finished P4 and Sainz a commendable P8 to reduce the deficit to McLaren to only 7.5 points. Ferrari had looked competitive all weekend, and they capitalized on the opportunity.

Gasly's P6 finish and 8 points helped Alpha Tauri outscore Alpine and reduce the gap to 12 points in the Constructors. The coming together with Alonso on the opening lap got him a time penalty which seemed harsh. Nevertheless, the Frenchman recovered to produce a strong result. He came close to overtaking Hamilton in the final laps of the race. As for Tsunoda, a mistake on lap 23 bumped him out of the points, and the rookie never recovered from thereon. It was an opportunity missed for Tsunoda after having qualified in the top 10. 

Norris was McLaren's best hope for Sunday, and the Briton finished in P7, bringing home 6 points. As for his teammate Ricciardo, it was a tough day at the office. The Australian struggled with his rear brakes and pitted for fresh tyres too early. He eventually fell backwards to finish a lowly P13 and end a disappointing display. McLaren hadn't looked competitive all weekend and took a hit to the buffer they had built on Ferrari in the Constructors.

A strategic blunder with Vettel cost Aston Martin a double-points finish. The German ended his race in P18, ahead of the Haas cars, while his teammate Stroll, after numerous battles, managed P9. Aston Martin's deficit to Alpha Tauri increased further after another lacklustre weekend. The team needed change, and quickly if they were to salvage anything better than P7 in the Constructors.

Alpine, like Aston Martin, had a tough weekend. Ocon finished in P10 and got Alpine a point. He was the only driver who didn't pit for the entirety of the race. Had the Chequered Flag not been waved on lap 58, Ocon would have lost P10 to Giovinazzi, who on fresher tyres, and caught up to him and finished only seven-tenths adrift. A collision on the first lap, followed by a time penalty for sending Schumacher into a spin, destroyed Alonso's race. The Spaniard had the pace to finish the race in the top 6 but failed to recover from the incidents. He finished in P16. Alpine needed to forget this weekend as soon as possible.

It was yet another race on the cusp of points for Alfa Romeo. Giovinazzi and Raikkonen finished in P11 and P12, respectively, and were inseparable throughout the race. While Alfa Romeo tried a position swap between the duo, Raikkonen didn't close enough to enforce team orders. With the season nearing its end, Alfa Romeo would get limited opportunities for more points finishes and looked destined to finish P9 in the Championship.

Russell finished P14 while Latifi, despite his spin, recovered to P16. These results were the best that Williams duo could manage from a challenging weekend. As for Haas F1, after his heroics on Saturday, it was no secret that Schumacher would struggle to hold his own against quicker cars around him. Unfortunately, the incident with Alonso robbed him of a fighting chance on one of his best weekends. Mazepin finished P20, and last and Haas F1 was yet to score a point in 2021.

It is a see-saw battle between Hamilton and Verstappen, with the latter taking the lead after the Russian GP. The strategy call by Mercedes could prove to be one of the pivotal moments in this season's fight for supremacy. The next race is trans-Atlantic at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. Would we see another twist, or would the status quo remain? Time would reveal all.

However, the crown of the Turkish GP belonged to Valtteri Bottas, the Flawless Finn in the Turkish rain!

2021 Russian GP Race Recap : A Centurion in the Hammer-ing Rain!

The European Leg of the 2021 F1 Season was over, and the teams headed north to Russia for the first "fly-away" event. The Sochi Autodrom, venue for the Russian GP, was the fourth-longest track on the F1 Calendar. Designed by the German architect Hermann Tilke, the circuit is close to the Olympic Park, home of the 2014 Winter Olympics. 

Leading up to the Grand Prix, Aston Martin announced an unchanged line-up of Vettel and Stroll for 2022. Haas F1 Team did likewise with Mazepin and Schumacher. Raikkonen had recovered from COVID-19 and was fit to race for Alfa Romeo.

Meanwhile, Honda revealed that Verstappen had used an upgraded version of the "Energy Store" since Belgium. 

The FOM announced the inclusion of the Miami Grand Prix in the 2022 calendar. 

Mercedes knew that Hamilton needed the maximum haul of points from the weekend to retake the lead in the Championship. His teammate Bottas had been the better driver in Russia, and the question remained whether he would adhere to team orders ( if the need arose ). Mercedes remained the only Constructor to have won every race in Russia. As for Verstappen, Red Bull opted for a new Power Unit on his car, which meant that he would start the race from the back of the grid.

Ferrari, like Red Bull, decided to give Leclerc a new ( and upgraded ) Power Unit. He would also start at the back of the back. Ferrari's arch-rivals McLaren had the chance of further cementing their hold on P3 in the Constructors.

Rains had lashed the city all week, and the weather threatened to play havoc on Saturday too.

How did the teams and drivers fare at the Russian GP? Time for a recap!

Practice :

FP1 got underway, and clear skies greeted the drivers. The run-off area at turn 2 proved indispensable, with Giovinazzi missing his braking point and Gasly taking the escape road. Meanwhile, Norris suffered a spin and damaged his front wing while making his way into the pits. 

Bottas topped the timesheets at the end of FP1, two-tenths clear of Hamilton and Verstappen. Leclerc was P4 for Ferrari, followed by Vettel, Gasly and Sainz, who were more than a second off the paceP8 was the best that Norris could manage in his McLaren, while Perez and Alonso completed the top 10.

Ocon was P11 in the other Alpine, followed by Stroll in P12. Ricciardo split the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen in P14, while Tsunoda was P16 in the other Alpha Tauri. The Williams of Russell and Latifi were P17 and P18, followed by the Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher.

With the weather threatening the schedule for Saturday, the drivers pushed to complete their Race and Qualifying simulations in FP2. A spin at turn 8 resulted in Giovinazzi hitting the barriers, which damaged the rear of his Alfa Romeo. The Italian tried to limp back to the pits until the team advised him to do otherwise. The session subsequently got Red Flagged. Leclerc, too, suffered a spin at turn eight but managed to avoid hitting the barriers. Verstappen, meanwhile, complained to Red Bull about the lack of straight-line speed. His title rival Hamilton had an incident in the pit lane as he failed to stop in the pit box and knocked over the front-jack man. Thankfully, the mechanic escaped unhurt. 

Both Hamilton and Vettel took to the run-off area at turn 7, while Ricciardo's FP2 got compromised after McLaren discovered an issue with the Power Unit. Turn 2 claimed another victim in Pierre Gasly. The Frenchman went over the sausage kerbs near the end of FP2 and lost the front wing. 

Bottas was the quickest driver again, less than four-hundredths clear off Hamilton. Gasly was P3 for Alpha Tauri, followed by Norris, Ocon and Verstappen. Sainz set the 7th quickest time, with Alonso, Vettel and Leclerc completing the top 10.

P11 was the best that Perez could manage in the other Red Bull, with Russell splitting the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in P13. Stroll was P15 for Alpine, followed by Latifi, Ricciardo and Tsunoda. The Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher completed the back of the pack.

It was advantage-Mercedes going into Saturday, and the pace advantage to Red Bull on the two long straights was substantial. Bottas reigned supreme on Friday and was the favourite to come out on top in Qualifying too.

Rain pelted down on Saturday morning, flooding the support race paddock. As a result, both F2 and F3 races got postponed. Citing no improvement in the conditions, the FIA decided to cancel Free Practice 3. Michael Masi, the Race Director, believed that the rain would reduce in intensity and not hinder Qualifying.

Qualifying :

As predicted, the rain ceased, and Qualifying got the green light from the FIA.

Williams announced that Latifi would start the race from the back of the grid after taking a new Power Unit. 

The track was quite damp from the rains, which meant that this would be the first wet Qualifying in Sochi. 

Barring Alonso ( who chose the wets ), everyone else exited the pits with intermediate tyres for the start of Q1. All drivers had fuel for multiple runs, and Alpine informed Ocon that there would be no more rain until the end of Q1. Verstappen, destined to start from the back of the grid, returned to the pits after one sighting lap. Giovinazzi lost the rear of his Alfa Romeo and got spun around. It was a narrow miss for Leclerc, who was following the Italian around the circuit. 

Halfway through Q1, Hamilton, Bottas, Stroll, Gasly, Sainz & Norris were the top six. Giovinazzi, Alonso, Mazepin, Schumacher and Verstappen were facing elimination. Meanwhile, Alonso returned to the pits to switch to intermediates as lap times improved with increasing grip levels.

Perez suffered a spin at turn two while Stroll complained about getting impeded by Ricciardo. The incident got reported to the stewards, and McLaren got away with a formal warning for not informing Ricciardo.

Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Vettel, Norris and Gasly were the top 6 at the end of Q1. Raikkonen, Schumacher, Giovinazzi, Mazepin and Verstappen got eliminated.

Intermediates were the tyre of choice again for the start of Q2, and drivers had enough fuel for multiple runs. Bottas, Hamilton, Norris, Ocon, Gasly and Vettel were the top six at the end of the first runs. Alonso and Stroll, who were in the drop zone, improved to P4 and P5, respectively. Some drivers returned to the pits for another set of intermediates, but the Williams duo continued with used ones. Russell improved to set the 11th quickest time. The Briton had the opportunity of going even faster on his final run.

Hamilton, Bottas, Alonso, Norris, Perez, Ocon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Russell and Sainz were through to Q3. Vettel, Gasly, Tsunoda, Latifi and Leclerc got knocked out. While Gasly was livid with the result, Vettel couldn't hide his frustration after missing out on Q3 by five hundredths of a second.

It was time to battle for pole position as Q3 got underway. The Alpine drivers, Russell and Sainz, were on used intermediates for their first runs of Q1. As the drivers headed onto the track, a dry line began to appear on the circuit. Russell asked Williams to get the dry tyres ready. Despite the appearance of a dry racing line, the drivers chose to set a representative lap time on their first attempts.

Hamilton was on top of the timesheets from Norris and Bottas with Alonso in P4. Russell was the first driver to switch to the soft tyres, with others following suit shortly after. The aim was to set two timed laps in the remaining minutes of Q3. 

However, disaster struck Hamilton as he was entering the pits for the switch to dry tyres. The Briton lost control of his Mercedes and hit the wall, damaging the front wing. The mechanics had to remove the broken front wing and ready another with the identical spec. Bottas had also entered the pits by then and was waiting for his turn. Eventually, the mechanics had to push Hamilton out of the pit box to change Bottas' tyres and then return to service Hamilton's car. The resulting delay left the Mercedes duo with time for only one flying lap.

Meanwhile, on track, Sainz and Norris exchanged purple sectors. Norris was the quickest in sectors two and three and snatched Pole Position. Sainz set the 2nd fastest time, half a second adrift. Russell, on his third timed lap, went 3rd quickest! The focus now shifted to the Mercedes duo. While Bottas failed to improve, Hamilton suffered a spin tapping the barriers with the rear of his Mercedes. Nevertheless, the Briton's time on the intermediates got him P4 in Qualifying. 

Row three got occupied by Ricciardo and Alonso, while Bottas and Stroll were on four. Perez and Ocon completed the top 10. 

McLaren, Ferrari and Williams had qualified as the top three on the grid for the first time since the 2003 European GP. 

Norris bagged his first pole position of F1. The Briton was a master of changeable conditions and made the most of the opportunity presented to him. As for teammate Ricciardo, P5 gave McLaren a great chance of outscoring rivals Ferrari in the battle for P3. However, Ferrari wasn't going down without a fight. Sainz, too, bagged a front row start and, despite being on the "dirty side", hoped to challenge for the lead. His teammate Leclerc had his work cut out from the back of the grid. 

Mr Saturday ( Russell ) was another star performer on Saturday. The Briton bumped his Williams up to P3, which presented him with another points-finish on Sunday. Since his move to Mercedes got announced ( for 2022 ), Russell had out-qualified Hamilton twice in the past three races. Latifi faced a more challenging race with the engine penalty that put him at the back of the grid with Leclerc and Verstappen.

Hamilton and Mercedes blew a great chance of bagging the front row for the race. A rare mistake by Hamilton cost both him and Bottas a second attempt on the soft tyres. With Verstappen starting 20th and last, Hamilton needed to capitalize on both Saturday and Sunday. While Saturday was a humbling experience, the result on race day mattered. Having qualified in the top 6 for every Russian GP, Bottas was disappointed with P7. The Finn got denied a fight for pole position thanks to Hamilton's mistake in the pits. Nevertheless, he hoped to continue his run of success in Russia.

Alpine had a productive Qualifying with both its drivers in the top 10. Alonso, the more experienced of the two, made it into the top 6. Despite being the quicker one on Friday, Ocon could only manage P10. With both Alpha Tauris in the bottom half of the field, Alpine had a great chance of extending their lead over Alpha Tauri in the fight for P5. 

Stroll and Vettel qualified P8 and P11, respectively, for Aston Martin. Although Vettel narrowly missed a Q3 appearance, he had the pace to break into the top 10. With the Mercedes engine and a strong race strategy, Aston Martin had the means of securing a double-points finish. The priority was to reduce the deficit to Alpha Tauri in the quest for P6 in the Championship. 

It was another lacklustre performance by Perez for Red Bull. The Mexican could only manage P9, well off the pace of the Mercedes cars. His Qualifying struggles had no end in sight. With Verstappen having to charge through the field to break into the top 6, the likelihood of Red Bull outscoring Mercedes seemed bleak. 

The Alpha Tauri drivers were the biggest disappointments from Qualifying. Gasly was livid after he believed he got impeded on one of his runs. The Frenchman had been more consistent of the two, but the lack of Honda power down the straights presented a challenge to finish in the top 10 on Sunday. As for Tsunoda, the rookie was out-qualified by his teammate again and needed to do better on race day. 

Raikkonen and Giovinazzi managed P14 and P16, respectively. It wasn't smooth sailing for Giovinazzi, who suffered a spin in Qualifying, while Raikkonen complained about a lack of grip. The duo faced an uphill task of breaking into the top 10 with faster cars around them. Alfa Romeo was going backwards and needed to stem the tide. Schumacher split the Alfa Romeos in P15, while Mazepin qualified P17 for his home race. Haas F1 had been backmarkers in the earlier races, and anything else seemed unlikely. 

Race :

After a compromised Qualifying that saw him finish in P7, Mercedes decided to change the Power Unit on Bottas' car, which dropped him back to P17. Experts believed it to be a tactical move by Mercedes to hamper Verstappen's progress through the race. Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo changed the gearbox on Giovinazzi's car, but even with the grid penalty, the Italian stayed P16. 

C3, C4 and C5 were the dry tyres available for the race. The conditions were overcast, but the rain stayed away for the start of the race. 

Alonso, Perez, Gasly, Bottas, Giovinazzi, Leclerc and Verstappen chose the hard tyres while the rest were on mediums. 

McLaren informed Norris to stick to "Plan A" on the Formation Lap, while Verstappen reported Battery Drain issues. Thankfully, a change in the settings addressed the problem.

The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for everyone. Norris led the pack, but the drivers behind were lining up for a tow. Sainz got past Norris but locked up at turn two. Thankfully, the Spaniard made the corner and took the lead of the race! Alonso, however, had to use the run-off and go around the bollards before rejoining. Russell maintained P3 but Hamilton was the biggest loser as he got swamped at turn 2. The Briton was down to P7. Further down the field, Raikkonen was up to P10, Leclerc up to P12 and Mazepin P13. Bottas and Verstappen were more cautious in P15 and P18, respectively. Tsunoda, like Alonso, took to the run-off at turn two but hit the bollard and ended up P20. 

While Stroll inherited P4, Ricciardo got past Alonso for P5. Verstappen began his charge up the field with an overtake on Schumacher for P17 on lap 2. Schumacher then got relegated to P19 by Giovinazzi. The battle for P6 was hotting up, and Hamilton got past Alonso on lap 2. 

Perez was the quickest on lap 4. The Haas cars continued to lose positions, with Mazepin conceding positions to Bottas and Verstappen and Schumacher losing P19 to Tsunoda. 

DRS train was forming up behind Russell, who was running in P3. The Williams driver had the best straight-line speed, and Stroll, Ricciardo and Hamilton struggled to overtake him. Bottas was the quickest man on track ( lap 5 ) before Sainz took the honour away, a lap later.

Hamilton was now 10 seconds behind Sainz, his race getting compromised with each lap. Meanwhile, Verstappen closed up on Bottas and got past him. The Finn didn't fight for his position, although many expected more from him. Ferrari informed Sainz about extending Plan A by three more laps, while McLaren told Ricciardo about considering Plan B. 

Giovinazzi pressured Latifi for P17, but the Canadian rebuffed the challenge. Verstappen relegated Gasly to P14 on lap 8. At the front, Norris had closed in on Sainz and was within DRS range.

The battle for P11 was hotting up, and Leclerc pressured Vettel on lap 10. Meanwhile, Verstappen had closed in on the pair and looked to capitalize with an overtake at turn 3. Leclerc shut the door on Verstappen aggressively, and it was a close shave for the latter with the wall. However, a couple of corners later, a mistake by Leclerc allowed Verstappen to claim P12. On lap 11, Norris challenged Sainz for the lead, but the latter held on. Meanwhile, Giovinazzi finally got past Latifi for P17 on lap 11.

Sainz, Norris, Russell, Stroll, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Ocon and Raikkonen were the top 10 at the end of lap 12.

Stroll was the first driver to pit for hard tyres on lap 13. The Canadian rejoined in P15. Meanwhile, on the track, Norris took the lead of the race by overtaking Sainz. Further down the field, Giovinazzi got past Mazepin for P16.

Russell was the next driver to switch to the hard tyres on lap 14. The Briton rejoined in P14, ahead of Stroll, but Stroll overtook him, proving that the undercut was paying dividends. Meanwhile, Verstappen got past Vettel for P9, and then, the German lost another position to Leclerc on lap 14.

Sainz switched to the hard tyres on lap 15, rejoining in P13 ahead of Stroll. The Spaniard, however, lost time in the pits due to a problematic rear left tyre. Stroll was the fastest man on track on lap 15.

Ocon and Raikkonen pitted for hard tyres on lap 16, rejoining in P15 and P16, respectively. Verstappen had moved up to P6 and was only 8 seconds behind Hamilton. The Dutchman then set a series of fastest laps, going 1.3 seconds quicker than Hamilton on every attempt. 

Norris, Ricciardo, Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Verstappen, Leclerc, Vettel, Gasly and Bottas were the top 10 at the end of lap 19. 

Mercedes informed Bottas that a top 5 finish was possible, while Hamilton, stuck behind Ricciardo, asked the team to get ready to undercut the latter. At the back of the pack, Schumacher pitted for hard tyres on lap 21.

Ricciardo pitted for hard tyres on lap 23, but a slow stop wrecked his race. The Australian rejoined P14, behind Ocon. Replays showed that the "minimum reaction time" rule led to confusion in the pits. Ricciardo, however, wasted no time in getting past Ocon for P13. The McLaren driver then set the fastest lap of the race. Meanwhile, Raikkonen overtook Giovinazzi for P15.

Verstappen's charge through the field began to falter as the Dutchman complained to Red Bull about losing tyre performance. Hamilton, now in clear air after Ricciardo's stop, began to stretch his gap to Verstappen. Ferrari informed Sainz that they were looking at a P5 finish, much to the Spaniard's displeasure. 

Norris, Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Verstappen, Leclerc, Vettel, Gasly, Bottas and Sainz were the top 10 at the end of lap 26.

Hamilton pitted on lap 27, and Verstappen followed suit. While Hamilton switched to the hard tyres, Verstappen took the mediums, the duo rejoining in P9 and P12, respectively. Vettel also switched to the hard tyres on the same lap. Meanwhile, Sainz got past Bottas for P6, and Verstappen overtook Russell for P11. 

At the front, Norris had been setting consistent lap times, and McLaren asked him about extending his first stint. The Briton got asked to push, suggesting that he was due to pit. Norris pitted on lap 29, switched to the hards and rejoined in P4. Bottas also pitted on the same lap and rejoined in 16th after switching to the mediums.

Verstappen was the quickest man on track on lap 29 as Vettel got past Giovinazzi for P14. Ferrari informed Sainz that his tyres were in optimal condition and he could push until the end of the race. However, the Spaniard lost P6 to Hamilton on lap 30, who then got past Gasly for P5 later. Hamilton was the quickest as Ricciardo got past Stroll for P8. Further down the field, Bottas relegated Giovinazzi to P16. 

Stroll lost P9 to Verstappen on lap 32, while Schumacher got past teammate Mazepin for P19. It got revealed that Schumacher was nursing an issue on his Haas, which had become terminal. The German driver retired on lap 33. Hamilton was catching Norris and was within 5 seconds of the McLaren driver. Meanwhile, Gasly pitted for the mediums and rejoined in P16 ( lap 34 ). 

Norris started to carve his way to the front with a move on Leclerc for P3 on lap 34. A lap later, Hamilton did the same, relegating Leclerc to P5. The Monegasque finally made his mandatory pit stop and switched to the mediums on lap 36. He rejoined in P13, just ahead of Bottas. Perez and Alonso followed suit a lap later, and Norris retook the lead of the race. It was a slow stop for Perez ( 8.9 seconds ) due to a problematic rear right tyre. The Mexican lost track position to Sainz and Ricciardo and rejoined just ahead of Verstappen. 

Giovinazzi pitted for mediums on lap 37 and rejoined in P18. Hamilton was less than 2 seconds adrift and was honing in on Norris for the race lead. Alonso got past Verstappen for P6 as he was on fresher tyres. Meanwhile, Leclerc overtook Vettel for P12, and Ferrari informed him about rain hitting the track near the end of the race. Hamilton and Norris were exchanging the fastest laps as the latter tried to maintain his lead.

Leclerc continued his charge up the field with overtakes on Raikkonen and Ocon and moved into the points scoring positions. Perez challenged Ricciardo for P4, but the latter defended his position. Leclerc bagged P9 from Russell on lap 42, while Raikkonen sparred with Ocon for P11 but failed. As a result, he got compromised, and Vettel got past him on lap 44. 

Russell reported spots of rain at turn 10 ( lap 44 ). Meanwhile, Perez finally got past Ricciardo for P4, Vettel overtook Ocon for P11, and Leclerc relegated Stroll to P9 ( lap 45 ). Mercedes informed Hamilton that the risk of rain was increasing. 

Lap 46 saw a drizzle hitting the circuit, and the track started to get slippery. Sainz asked Ferrari to get the intermediate tyres ready, while Russell got pushed out of the points by Vettel.

Norris made a mistake at turn 5, which allowed Hamilton to close upon him. The McLaren driver opened up a gap again to Hamilton a few corners later. Meanwhile, Perez got past Sainz for P3, and in the battle for P9, Stroll cut across teammate Vettel. The Aston Martin duo banged wheels with Stroll's front wing clipping Vettel's rear tyre on the corner exit. Thankfully, both drivers continued without any damage. Further down the field, Raikkonen lost two places to Bottas and Gasly as the track conditions worsened.

Bottas, Russell, Raikkonen and Mazepin pitted for intermediates on lap 49 as DRS zones got disabled. Conditions were worsening steadily. Mercedes asked Hamilton to pit, but the latter refused. Verstappen, Sainz and Ricciardo also switched to the intermediates on lap 49 while Norris and Hamilton continued to defy team orders and continued on the slicks. Norris wanted to weather the conditions until the end. Meanwhile, Ricciardo got past Ocon for P10, and Alonso relegated Perez to P4 on lap 50.

Hamilton finally adhered to the team's requests and switched to the intermediates on lap 50, staying in P2. Norris again relayed his decision to stay on slicks despite being notified of Hamilton's pit stop. Further down the field, Stroll, who was on the dry tyres, suffered a spin, making contact with the barriers. The Canadian managed to rejoin the race. Meanwhile, Perez retook P3 from Alonso while Bottas got past Ocon for P11.

The drivers on intermediate tyres were now going seconds faster than those on the dry tyres. Mercedes informed Hamilton that if Norris chose against pitting for intermediates, then he would be in trouble. The rain was intensifying, and Norris went wide again. Hamilton gained 15 seconds in the first sector itself, and Norris couldn't bring his McLaren to a stop at turn five. Hamilton took the lead of the race! Norris made the wrong call and now had to tiptoe his way to the pits. 

Further down the field, a host of overtakes was taking place by those on the intermediate tyres. Verstappen made it up to P3 and looked destined to inherit P2 with Norris pitting. Norris finally pitted on lap 52 for intermediates and rejoined in P7. However, it wasn't an easy entry into the pits. The Briton slid off on the pit entry and cut the white line twice. The incident got flagged for investigation, but thankfully, Norris got away with a reprimand. Meanwhile, Verstappen and Sainz were into podium positions, with Alonso and Perez pitting ahead of them. To add insult to injury, Raikkonen got past Norris for P7, but the Briton fought back to retake the position on the final lap.

Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Russian Grand Prix. It was his career's 100th victory, the first F1 driver to achieve such a feat. Verstappen took an unthinkable P2 after having started P20 and last. Sainz was P3 for Ferrari, followed by Ricciardo and Bottas. Alonso was P6 for Alpine, while P7 was the best that Norris could manage at the end. Raikkonen achieved his best finish of 2021 with P8 for Alfa Romeo, while Perez and Russell completed the top 10.

The Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel finished just outside the points, followed by Gasly and Ocon. Leclerc was P15 in the other Ferrari, followed by Giovinazzi, Tsunoda and Mazepin, who completed the classified finishers.

Hamilton was relieved to win again, and more importantly, retook the lead in the Championship. He now led Verstappen by 2 points. Hamilton had his team to thank for the decision to switch to the intermediates at the opportune time. As for Bottas, it was a lacklustre display up until rain hit the circuit. The Finn powered through the field to finish a commendable P5. Mercedes outscored Red Bull and extended its lead to 33 points. They finally had built a buffer on their rivals, but they could have scored more had it not been for the drama in Qualifying.

Few would have bet on Verstappen to finish in the top 5, let alone a podium! The Dutchman was in damage limitation mode, and bagging the second-best result at a Mercedes dominated circuit made it a memorable Sunday. Although he relinquished the lead in the Championship, Verstappen trailed Hamilton by two points. It could have been much worse, but he had the weather to thank! As for Perez, the Mexican had a mercurial performance. A slow pit stop jeopardized his race, but he fought back with overtakes on track. He was on course for P3 before the rain hit the circuit. His decision to delay his switch to intermediates cost him several positions. Eventually, Perez finished in P9. Red Bull lost a chunk of points in what was a bitter-sweet day. 

Sainz led the race but later fell out of podium contention. The Spaniard desired more and his efforts paid off with a perfectly timed stop under changeable weather conditions. It was an afternoon full of wheel-to-wheel battles for Leclerc, who muscled his way up to P9 up until the weather playing spoilsport. Like Norris, the Monegasque chose to stick to dry tyres, suffered a spin and ended the race, a disappointing P15. Ferrari's deficit to McLaren increased by four to 17.5 points in the Constructors'. 

Norris, the winner elect, had everything going his way until the rain arrived. The McLaren driver had managed his race well and rebuffed the pressure from Hamilton with aplomb. However, his inexperience and incorrect decision making robbed him of victory in the end. Despite several messages from McLaren, Norris refused to pit and soldier on in ever-increasing slippery conditions. The Briton was so confident that he silenced his race engineer even after knowing that Hamilton had switched to intermediates like the majority behind them. Eventually, the track became too wet, and Norris fell backwards at a rapid rate. It was a hard pill to swallow, but Norris learnt an important lesson. The F1 world comforted the McLaren driver, reminding him that he too would become a Grand Prix winner one day. The team should have exercised more authority in their communications, with instructions to comply. The only consolation for Norris was that he got an extra point for the fastest lap and adjudged the "Driver of the Day". As for Ricciardo, confusion with the minimum reaction time cost him track position to his immediate rivals. The Australian charged back up the field, capitalizing with a well-timed stop at the end to finish P4. The 19 points haul allowed McLaren to open up a 17.5 points gap to Ferrari in the Constructors. It was a missed opportunity for McLaren to score back to back victories.

Alonso's racecraft and experience came to the fore for Alpine. The Double World Champion bagged P6 and 8 points for Alpine, which allowed the team to extend their lead over Alpha Tauri to 19 points in the battle for P5 in the Constructors. Ocon had a lacklustre day at the office, falling backwards and eventually finishing a lowly P14. 

Raikkonen, the oldest racer on the grid, made the early call to switch to intermediates, and the move paid dividends as the Finn bagged his best finish of 2021 in P8. Before the drama of the final laps, Raikkonen made positions at the race start and was in contention for points finish. It was a stellar drive after missing two races due to COVID-19. The Finn proved that he still had the competitive edge at the twilight of his career. As for Giovinazzi, the Italian lost radio contact with the team on lap one. He also suffered some damage on the opening lap but continued to fight. Considering the challenges faced in changeable conditions, P16 was commendable. Raikkonen's P8 fetched Alfa Romeo 4 points, which reduced the deficit to Williams to 16. In the battle for P8 in the Constructors', Alfa Romeo had to keep chipping away and needed both drivers in the top 10 in the upcoming races.

George Russell, after his heroics in Qualifying, fell backwards in the race. The Briton finished P10, bringing home one point for Williams. Latifi's race ended with retirement on lap 48. Although Williams has a 16 point cushion to Alfa Romeo, they need to keep pushing till the end of the season. 

It was a disappointing display by Aston Martin. Stroll and Vettel finished P11 and P12, but their coming together on lap 48 grabbed the attention of the media and fans. Lance Stroll was in contention for a points-finish until he ran out of grip. Meanwhile, Vettel was carving his way through the field but got caught out by the rain at the end. To add insult to injury, Stroll got ten seconds added to his race time and two penalty points on his license for hitting Gasly late in the raceIt was yet another point-less weekend for Aston Martin. They now trailed Alpine by 43 points, P6 they only realistic target in the Constructors.

Gasly finished P13, while Tsunoda was P16 for Alpha Tauri. The team was going through a lean season and falling away from Alpine. Tsunoda's lacklustre displays remained a worry. As for Gasly, the Frenchman struggled throughout the weekend. The lack of Honda power down the straights cost the team dearly. They needed a response in Turkey. 

Haas F1 remained backmarkers. While Schumacher retired on lap 33 due to a mechanical issue, Mazepin was P18 and last at his home race. It was best for Haas F1 to shift focus to 2022.

The final result at Russian GP proved that there was no substitute for experience. Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen made the correct strategic calls. The younger generation chose the more daring option, which backfired spectacularly. The biggest loser was Norris, the McLaren driver distraught after the race and trying to present a brave face. His day of supremacy would come, but it was just not today.

As for Hamilton, it took some time, but the century of wins had finally arrived! The Mercedes driver hadn't won a race since July, and the result brought his title challenge back on track. 

With only two points separating the contenders for the crown, the Turkish GP promised to be another humdinger of a race. 

However, today, it was time to celebrate Hamilton, the F1 Centurion!

2021 Italian GP Race Recap : Fearless Honey Badger at the Temple of Speed!

The Italian GP, held at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, was the final race of the first triple-header of the 2021 F1 Season. The fastest track on the F1 Calendar, the circuit is famously called the "Temple of Speed". Being the last race of the European leg before the fly-aways, Monza has produced some unexpected and exciting races in the past.

Variante Ascari, Curva Grande, the Lesmos, the Variantes and the Parabolica ( which got rechristened to Curva Alboreto ) make this circuit a must visit.

Like Zandvoort, which was full of Dutch fans in orange, Monza is the home of the Ferrari faithful, also known as the Tifosi, who come dressed in Scuderia red. It was also the home race for Alfa Romeo, the title sponsor for Sauber F1 and Alpha Tauri F1.

Leading up to the Grand Prix weekend, many teams confirmed their lineups for 2022.

With Raikkonen retiring from the sport, Valtteri Bottas took his place at Alfa Romeo with a multi-year contract. As for the seat vacated at Mercedes, George Russell got the promotion, while Alpha Tauri retained the services of Pierre Gasly and Tsunoda. A struggle ensued between Red Bull and Mercedes to get one of their academy drivers into the Williams seat. Finally, it was Albon who got hired for 2022, alongside Latifi, much to the chagrin of Mercedes. The former F1 driver got another chance to prove his mettle, denying ex-F2 and current FE Champion Nyck De Vries an F1 appearance.

Meanwhile, Alfa Romeo announced that Kubica would race instead of Raikkonen in Monza after the Finn failed to recover from COVID-19 in time. 

Monza was the second race at which the FIA decided to sample the new format for a race weekend after Silverstone.

While Friday would have one Practice Session followed by Qualifying, the latter would decide the grid for the F1 Sprint ( lasting 100 km or 18 laps ), which would get held on Saturday after a practice session in the morning. The results from the F1 Sprint would make up the starting grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday. The winner of the Sprint would get 3 points, second and third would get two and one points respectively. There would be no podium celebrations after the F1 Sprint. If a driver failed to finish the Sprint due to an accidentthe teams could change parts ( different spec allowed ) for the Grand Prix. The intriguing aspect of the weekend was that all 20 drivers would have a free tyre choice at the start of both the F1 Sprint and the Grand Prix. 

Verstappen led Hamilton by 3 points but had struggled in the previous races at Monza. Did Hamilton manage to overturn the deficit and retake the lead in the Championship? Mercedes and Red Bull also faced the dilemma of the unavoidable "engine penalty" ( if they opted for a 4th unit ) and whether it would be prudent to take the hit at Monza.

Ferrari hoped for a strong showing in front of its Tifosi, while Gasly hoped to repeat the feat from 2020 at Alpha Tauri's home race.

How did the weekend unfold for all the teams and drivers? Time for a recap of the Italian GP!

Friday Practice :

Friday Practice got underway, and the drivers set about finding the limits of the track. While Hamilton missed the braking point at the 2nd Variante, Norris had to negotiate the markers at the runoff at turn one. Track limits got enforced at turn 11, and there were several lap time deletions. Slip-streaming played a pivotal role at Monza, and as the drivers switched to Qualifying simulations in the latter half of the session, track position became equally vital. As a result, many drivers got caught up in traffic on their low-fuel runs.

Hamilton topped the timesheets at the end of Practice, with Verstappen splitting the two Mercedes cars in P2. Bottas was 3rd in the other Mercedes, followed by Stroll, Gasly and Vettel. The fastest Ferrari-powered car was Sainz in P7, with Alonso, Ricciardo and Perez going a second slower than Hamilton's best attempt.

Leclerc was P11 in the other Ferrari, ahead of Norris in the McLaren. Tsunoda and Ocon split the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Kubica in P14 and P15, respectively. The Williams of Russell and Latifi and the Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher completed the back of the field.

Qualifying :

Mercedes decided to give Bottas a new power unit ( his 4th ), which meant that he would start the race on Sunday from the back of the grid. The penalty didn't affect Bottas' chances for a better starting position for the F1 Sprint, though.

The Alpines decided to stay put as the rest of the field emerged from pits at the start of Q1. Softs were the tyre of choice for everyone. Leclerc reported issues about "engine braking", following which Ferrari asked him to return to the pits. Verstappen was on a flying lap when he got impeded by the Aston Martin and Alpine cars at the 2nd Variante. The Dutchman made his displeasure known over team radio.

Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Gasly, Giovinazzi and Norris were the top 6, with Tsunoda, Leclerc, Kubica, Schumacher and Mazepin facing elimination at the end of the first runs.

Norris improved to P3 but had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits. Gasly, on his 2nd attempt, got impeded by the Ferraris at Ascari.

Lap times kept improving with track evolution, and Verstappen, Sainz and Leclerc broke into the top 6 with five minutes remaining of Q1. The trio, along with Gasly, decided to stay put in the final minute of Q1 as the rest of the field headed out for their last attempts.

There was traffic at Parabolica as the drivers jostled for a tow down the main straight. 

Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Verstappen, Sainz and Giovinazzi were the top 6 at the end of Q1. Tsunoda seemed to have made it into Q2, having eliminated Russell, but the rookie had exceeded track limits at turn 11 at the start of his final lap. Subsequently, his lap time got deleted. As a result, Russell got promoted to P15, while Tsunoda got eliminated with Latifi, Kubica, Schumacher and Mazepin.

The Ferrari mechanics removed the engine cover on Leclerc's car and carried out extensive checks before Q2 got underway.

All 15 drivers were out on track at the start of Q2 with soft tyres. Leclerc's complaints about engine braking didn't cease, while Alonso missed his braking into turn one. The Spaniard went over the sausage kerbs and ended up in Perez's path. 

Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Ricciardo, Gasly and Verstappen were the top 6, with Ocon, Vettel, Sainz, Russell and Alonso in the drop zone halfway through Q2. 

The clock ran down, and a train of cars emerged from their garages for their final runs of Q2. The ensuing melee in the pit lane almost caused Vettel's Aston Martin to collide with Hamilton's Mercedes. Thankfully, barring a few disgruntled radio communications, there was no damage suffered by anyone. Nevertheless, the incident got flagged for investigation post-session. 

The Mercedes duo stuck to used soft tyres while the rest chose fresh sets. The following drivers made it to Q3 - Hamilton, Bottas, Norris, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Gasly, Giovinazzi, Sainz, Leclerc and Perez. 

Vettel, Stroll, Alonso, Ocon and Russell got eliminated.

Giovinazzi had tyres fit only for a single run in Q3, while Perez chose the used softs for his first run. Hamilton set the quickest time at the end of the first representative laps, a hundredth clear of Verstappen and Norris. Less than a second separated the top 10 going into the final minutes of Q3. 

On their final runs, Verstappen failed to improve in sectors 1 and 2. Bottas was the quickest in the first two sectors, while Ricciardo went purple in the third. Bottas went P1, and Hamilton, a few car lengths behind, failed to beat the Finn. Less than a hundredth of a second separated the Mercedes duo. 

Verstappen held on to P3, followed by the McLarens of Norris and Ricciardo. Only three-hundredths separated P3 from P5! Gasly was P6 for Alpha Tauri, followed by the Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc. Row 5 got completed by Perez and Giovinazzi.

Bottas got the "Speed King" / Fastest Qualifier award and hoped to bag the three points from the F1 Sprint. Although the Finn would start the Grand Prix from the back of the field, his pace in the F1 Sprint would help indicate what he could achieve on Sunday. Hamilton and Mercedes had the measure of Verstappen and Red Bull, as evident from the practice session and Qualifying. A tow from Perez helped Verstappen set a competitive lap on his first run from Q3. The Red Bull driver was in damage limitation mode, and every little detail was precious for his title aspirations. 

McLaren looked strong at Ferrari's home race, and all was not well in the latter's camp. Giovinazzi was the star of Qualifying with a Q3 appearance in his Alfa Romeo at his home race. The Italian was fighting for a drive for 2022 and had stepped up his game. As for Gasly and Alpha Tauri, the Frenchman produced another stellar performance to qualify in the top 6 for the 11th time in 14 races!

Post-session, Aston Martin and Alpine got fined 5000 Euros each for their misdemeanours in Q2. While Aston Martin made the mistake of releasing Vettel into Hamilton's path, an employee of Alpine got caught operating in an unsafe manner in the pit lane, according to the stewards.

Saturday Practice :

It was a challenging Saturday morning for Scuderia Ferrari. While Leclerc felt "unwell" and requested a return to the pits before the session ended, Sainz lost control of his car at Ascari and wrecked the front. The Spaniard was winded and had to visit the medical centre for preliminary checks. The Ferrari mechanics faced a race against time to get the car ready for the F1 Sprint. Meanwhile, on the track, Schumacher and Hamilton took to the runoff at the 2nd Variante while Ricciardo missed his braking at turn one. 

Hamilton topped the timesheets from Bottas and Verstappen. Perez was 4th in the other Red Bull, followed by Ocon and the Alfa Romeos of Kubica and Giovinazzi. Alonso, Gasly and Norris completed the top 10.

The Ferrari of Leclerc led the lower half of the field, followed by Ricciardo and the Williams of Latifi and Russell. Tsunoda was P15, while the Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel split the Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher in P17 and P18, respectively. The crash for Sainz left him with the slowest time of FP2.

F1 Sprint :

The sun was shining, and 18 laps separated the drivers from Pole Position at the Italian Grand Prix. All drivers had a free tyre choice. The McLarens opted for used soft tyres while others in the top 10 persisted with the mediums. In the latter half of the field, the Alpine drivers and Tsunoda were on new soft tyres while the Aston Martin duo chose a used set of softs. With a mixed tyre choice across the field, the F1 Sprint promised to be an exciting affair.

The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for Bottas. Hamilton suffered excessive wheelspin and got bogged down off the line. The Briton got overtaken by Verstappen, Ricciardo and Gasly as he tried to weave and defend from those behind him. Going into turn one, Norris had the inside line, and he also managed to get past Hamilton. Meanwhile, at turn one, Gasly clipped the back of Ricciardo's McLaren, which resulted in front-wing damage. Going into the Curva Grande, the front wing gave way, getting stuck under the car. Gasly was a mere passenger as his Alpha Tauri hurtled into the barriers and the advertisement boards. Hamilton inherited P5.

Further down the field, Tsunoda tapped Kubica at the 2nd Variante, sending the Alfa Romeo driver into a spin. Thankfully, Kubica managed to rejoin the race. However, the Safety Car got deployed to extricate Gasly's stricken Alpha Tauri. Tsunoda pitted for a new front wing and soft tyres, rejoining in P19 and last. Meanwhile, Mazepin had gained five places and was up into P15.

Racing resumed on lap 4, and once again, Bottas had a clean getaway. Vettel sparred with Alonso for P11, and despite the initial success, the latter regained the position from Vettel. Meanwhile, Russell got past Schumacher for P16, while Tsunoda overtook Kubica for P18. 

Bottas was the fastest man on track, while Russell relegated Mazepin to P16 on lap 6. Hamilton couldn't get closer to Norris for an overtake and seemed destined to finish the Sprint in P5. Meanwhile, Tsunoda continued his recovery up the field with overtakes on both Haas cars.

The battle for P9 was hotting up with Perez challenging Stroll. Perez missed the braking at turn one and went over the sausage kerbs. Although the overtake wasn't legitimate, the Mexican refused to return the position until Ascari.  The incident got flagged for investigation, but the stewards relented after hearing Red Bull's defence over the pit communications. Perez did eventually complete a legitimate overtake for P9.

Bottas took the Chequered Flag and victory in the F1 Sprint, followed by Verstappen and Ricciardo. Norris was P4 in the other McLaren, having fended off a challenge by Hamilton all race long. The Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz were P6 and P7, followed by Giovinazzi, Perez and Stroll, who completed the top 10.

Vettel split the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon in P12, while Latifi and Russell were P14 and P15 for Williams. P16 was the best that Tsunoda could manage, with Kubica splitting the Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher in P18.

While Bottas got the 3 points for finishing P1 in the F1 Sprint, the Finn would start the Grand Prix from the back of the grid due to his engine penalty. Ever since it got announced that the Finn would leave Mercedes at the end of the year, Bottas had stepped up his performances and looked certain for a strong finish on Sunday. As for Hamilton, the tables had turned. Hamilton should have won the Sprint if he had made a better start, but he found himself languishing in P4 and a further 5 points adrift from Verstappen in the Championship. The reigning World Champion looked distraught and didn't believe he had the pace to win the Grand Prix. 

Verstappen inherited Pole Position for the race besides bagging 2 World Championship points from the Sprint. It was Red Bull's first Pole Position at Monza since 2013 and Honda's first since 1991! Verstappen looked competitive in race trim and became the favourite to win the Grand Prix on Sunday. As for Perez, P8 wasn't the ideal starting position, and he prayed for an incident-free first lap if he wished to offer any assistance to Verstappen in the fight against Hamilton. 

Ricciardo, Norris and McLaren were the stars of the F1 Sprint. After a disappointing display in the Netherlands, the Woking-based outfit produced a befitting response in the F1 Sprint. Ricciardo was back on the front row and had a golden opportunity to bag his first podium with McLaren. Norris' consistency had paid dividends in the past, and his calibre came to the fore as he defended his position from Hamilton. Sunday was the big day, and McLaren needed to reduce the deficit to Ferrari in the fight for P3 in the Constructors.

Despite the hiccups and the incidents, the Ferrari drivers managed to qualify in the top 6 at the team's home race. It hadn't been a good showing for the Italian marquee in the past here, but they hoped to turn it around with a strong showing on race day. Giovinazzi, in his Ferrari-powered Alfa Romeo, equalled his best qualifying position in P7. The team's hopes for a points-finish banked on Giovinazzi, who was quickly turning into a team leader. As for Kubica, the reserve driver who stepped in for Raikkonen, it would be a long afternoon at the back of the pack.

The Aston Martins and the Alpine cars were inseparable in the F1 Sprint. Although Aston Martin had faded away in the battle for P5 in the Constructors, it had a great chance to recover lost ground. Mercedes power gave Aston Martin the edge on the power-hungry circuit, but Alpine had also gotten upgrades of its own. Race Strategy would play a pivotal role in this battle. Williams seemed to be struggling with balance issues, and a points-finish seemed unlikely. After getting announced as a Mercedes driver for 2022, Russell seemed distracted and off the pace. The Briton hoped for a better showing on Sunday after getting out-qualified by teammate Latifi.

Alpha Tauri suffered the biggest hit from the F1 Sprint. Gasly, their best hope, crashed on the opening lap, leaving him at the back of the pack for the start of the Grand Prix.  Meanwhile, Tsunoda had only managed P15 in yet another disappointing display. The team couldn't afford a points-less Sunday at its home race. Gasly, the winner from last year, looked gutted as he believed he had the pace to finish on the podium in both the F1 Sprint and the Grand PrixHaas F1 had a better showing in the F1 Sprint, but breaking into the top 10 was still a far-fetched idea. 

Race :

C2, C3 and C4 were the dry tyre compounds available for the race, and Pirelli predicted a one-stop strategy. 

Alpha Tauri replaced the Power Unit and Energy Store on Gasly's car, making it a pit lane start for the Frenchman. Meanwhile, a problem got detected on teammate Tsunoda's car, and the mechanics wheeled it back to the pits. The Japanese driver failed to join the cars on the formation lap, and the problem was terminal. Tsunoda wouldn't start the race!

Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly and Kubica chose the hard tyres while the rest of the field stuck with the mediums for the race start. The Aston Martin duo was on a used set of mediums, however. 

The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for Verstappen. Ricciardo in P2 had an equally good start off the line and challenged Verstappen for the lead. The Australian succeeded and was leading the Italian Grand Prix for McLaren! Hamilton managed to jump Norris into P3 and sparred with Verstappen going into 2nd Variante. The duo banged wheels, and Hamilton went over the kerbs, losing momentum and P3 to Norris.

Further down the field, Giovinazzi overtook Sainz and was challenging Leclerc for P5. Both Leclerc and Giovinazzi missed their braking into turn three, and Giovinazzi got tagged by Sainz on rejoining the track. The Italian suffered a spin and hit the wall, damaging the front and the floor on his Alfa Romeo. The incident got flagged for investigation, and Giovinazzi got a five-second time penalty for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner. Meanwhile, Stroll muscled his way past teammate Vettel, the latter losing momentum in the Lesmos and yielding positions to the Alpine drivers and Latifi. 

Bottas had made his way up to P15, and the stewards deployed the Virtual Safety Car to clear the gravel and debris off the racing line. Giovinazzi pitted for hard tyres and a new front wing, rejoining in P19.

The Virtual Safety Car period ended on lap 4, and Verstappen had closed within a second of Ricciardo at the front. Meanwhile, Bottas got past Kubica for P14 and then overtook Russell for P13 ( lap 6 ). Gasly returned to the pits and retired from the race on lap 5. Both Alpha Tauri drivers were out of the race!

Ricciardo, Verstappen, Norris, Hamilton, Leclerc, Sainz, Perez, Stroll, Alonso and Ocon were top 10 at the end of lap 7.

Latifi relegated Ocon to P11, while Perez challenged Sainz for P6. Despite a dogged defence by Sainz, Perez managed to get past on lap 9. Bottas continued his charge up the field with overtakes on Vettel and Ocon, moving up to P11. Meanwhile, Hamilton challenged Norris for P3, but the Briton managed to fend off his more experienced countryman. 

Bottas was into the points-scoring positions with a pass on Latifi on lap 13, while McLaren informed Ricciardo that they were sticking to "Plan A". The battle for P12 was hotting up, and Ocon failed to give Vettel enough space while defending his position. As a result, Vettel got pushed onto the gravel, and the duo banged wheels at the 2nd Variante. The incident got flagged for investigation, and Ocon got a five-second time penalty for forcing another driver off the track. 

Both Ricciardo and Verstappen reported that they were losing grip on the rear tyres. Alonso was the next to get relegated by Bottas, the Finn bagging P9 on lap 17. Mercedes informed Bottas that he was setting similar lap times as the race leaders. 

Ricciardo, Verstappen, Norris, Hamilton, Leclerc, Perez, Sainz, Stroll, Bottas and Alonso were in the top 10 at the end of lap 20.

Verstappen suffered a lock-up at the first chicane and reiterated the lack of grip on his worn tyres ( lap 21 ). Meanwhile, Bottas overtook Stroll for P8 on lap 22.

The pit stop window for those on the medium tyres had opened, and race leader Ricciardo pitted on lap 22. Red Bull informed Verstappen to do the opposite of Ricciardo, hoping to jump the McLaren driver with the overcut. Ricciardo switched to the hards and rejoined in P7. A lap later, Verstappen dived into the pits for his switch to the hard tyres, but an issue on the right front wheel left him stationary for 11.1 seconds! The Dutchman rejoined the race in P10, under threat of losing positions to both Norris and Hamilton. Latifi also switched to hard tyres and rejoined in P14.

Meanwhile, Hamilton got past Norris and took the lead of the race on lap 24! Norris pitted immediately after, switched to the hards and rejoined in P8. Ricciardo and Verstappen made their way through the field with overtakes on Sainz and Alonso for P4 and P9, respectively ( lap 25 ). Despite his blistering laps, Verstappen couldn't prevent Norris from jumping him after the pit stops. The Dutchman trailed the McLaren driver by only a second and was closing in on an overtake.

Interestingly, Mercedes decided to cut Hamilton's stint on the hard tyres and pitted him on lap 26. The Briton switched to the mediums, and as he exited the pits, he got released into the Norris-Verstappen sandwich. While Norris went unchallenged into turn one, Hamilton defended from Verstappen. Verstappen didn't relent in his challenge and was almost side-by-side with Hamilton into the 2nd chicane. The Dutchman tried to squeeze his Red Bull into an ever-reducing gap and clipped the sausage kerb at the 2nd turn. The resulting hit sent him airborne, the rear wheel going up and over the rear wing of the Mercedes. The Red Bull then went over Hamilton's TV Pod and the HALO, which protected Hamilton from a severe impact. The cars got beached in the gravel, and both were out of the race! Verstappen and Hamilton ( thankfully )walked away from the accident, and the incident got flagged for investigation post-race.

The Safety Car had to be deployed by the Stewards for the safe extrication of the two cars. While Stroll and Alonso had pitted on lap 26, switching to the hards, those yet to make a switch utilized the Safety Car period for their stops. Leclerc, Perez, Sainz and Bottas pitted under the Safety Car on lap 27. While the Ferraris and Perez switched to the hard tyres, Bottas opted for the mediums. Ocon, Russell, Kubica and Vettel ( 2nd stop ) were the next pit stoppers, with Ocon and Russell choosing the hards and Kubica and Vettel the mediums.

Ricciardo, Leclerc, Norris, Perez, Sainz, Bottas, Stroll, Alonso, Russell and Latifi were the top 10 at the end of lap 28.

Racing resumed on lap 31, and it was a clean getaway for Ricciardo. Leclerc came under pressure from Norris in the fight for P2, and the duo banged wheels at turn one. However, Norris managed to grab P2. Meanwhile, Bottas went wheel-to-wheel with Sainz for P5, but the Ferrari driver defended his position. Further down the field, Giovinazzi got past Schumacher for P14. Schumacher initially had a coming together with Vettel at turn one and then got spun around after Mazepin hit the rear of his car at the 2nd Variante. Mazepin got a five-second time penalty for causing the collision.

Bottas got past Sainz for P5 while Ocon pushed Latifi out of the points on lap 32. Perez pressured Leclerc for P3 but going into the 2nd Variante, the Mexican went over the kerbs, gaining an advantage and refused to hand the position back to Leclerc. The incident got flagged for investigation, and Perez got a five-second time penalty for his illegal overtake. 

Leclerc was falling backwards and fell into the clutches of Bottas on the next lap. The Monegasque defended his position, but Bottas got the better of him on lap 34. Bottas was the quickest man on track, lapping 1.5 seconds faster than the leaders.

Mazepin missed his braking into turn one and had to go through the markers in the runoff area, which allowed Schumacher to retake P15 ( lap 39 ). McLaren told Ricciardo to push and use all the grip available on the hard tyres. Norris was keen on challenging his teammate for the race lead, but McLaren asked him to hold the fort. Meanwhile, in the battle for P3, Bottas challenged Perez into the 2nd Variante, but Perez reclaimed the position with the switchback.

The Virtual Safety Car got deployed after Mazepin suffered a mechanical failure and stopped at Ascari. Racing resumed on lap 45, and Vettel overtook Kubica for P12. 

Ricciardo, Norris, Perez, Bottas, Leclerc, Sainz, Stroll, Alonso, Russell and Ocon were the top 10 on lap 46. 

Perez reported that vibrations were increasing on his hard tyres while Giovinazzi got past his teammate Kubica for P13 on lap 49. Stroll got flagged for investigation for not slowing down under Yellow Flag conditions. The Canadian got let off with a warning for his misdemeanour. 

Ricciardo set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap and claimed victory at the Italian Grand Prix. Norris came home in 2nd to complete a McLaren 1-2! Perez was P3 but fell back to P5 after getting the five seconds added to his race time. Bottas got promoted to the podium in P3, while Leclerc got P4 for Ferrari. His teammate Sainz was P6, followed by the Aston Martin of Stroll. Russell split the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon in P9.

Latifi was P11 in the other Williams, with Vettel in P12. The Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Kubica were P13 and P14, while Schumacher in P15 completed the classification.

Ricciardo returned to the top step of the podium for the first time since the Monaco GP in 2018 ( 1204 days ). The 2012 Brazilian GP was the last time that McLaren had won a race. It had been 4109 days since McLaren's previous 1-2 at the Canadian GP in 2010. McLaren was the first team to achieve a 1-2 finish in the 2021 Season. 

The result helped them jump Ferrari in the Constructor standings. More than P3 and the 13.5 point lead, they had finished 1-2 at their arch-rival's home race! It was more than just a victory. As for Ricciardo, he silenced the doubters, showing that he could still win racesThe Australian pounced on the opportunity and produced a flawless performance to victory, also setting the fastest lap. Norris, his teammate, was mature enough to adhere to team instructions and not challenge for the win, which could have compromised both drivers. The Briton closed the gap to Bottas for P3 in the Drivers' Championship. McLaren had produced a strong showing throughout 2021, and a win was the icing on the cake!

After starting from the back of the grid, Bottas charged through the pack to end up on the podium. The Finn ensured that Mercedes outscored Red Bull on the weekend, increasing their buffer to 18 points. Bottas had transformed into another driver after being released from Mercedes for 2022. He looked free from obligations, racing for himself and producing a stellar drive.

Perez and Red Bull got caught out by the illegal overtake on Leclerc. The Mexican looked strong in race trim but managed only P5, leaving Red Bull further adrift in the Constructors. Qualifying remained his biggest weakness, and Red Bull needed him to improve if they hoped to win the title in 2021.

Ferrari produced a strong showing at its home race. Leclerc, consistent as ever, finished a commendable P4 while Sainz, after his mistake on Saturday morning, compensated with a P6 finish. The Spaniard was lucky to get away with minimal damage after contact with Giovinazzi on the opening lap. Despite the double-points haul, Ferrari got outscored by McLaren and faced an uphill task to overturn the deficit. Nevertheless, the Tifosi witnessed a better Sunday than the one in 2019. 

Aston Martin, with its 007 liveries from the James Bond series, bagged P7 with Stroll. Unfortunately, Vettel could only manage P12 and finished outside the points. While Vettel lost four positions on the opening lap, the German failed to make inroads due to collisions with Ocon and Schumacher. As for Stroll, the six points helped Aston Martin outscore Alpha Tauri and Alpine in the Constructors Championship. They remained 7th, 25 points shy of Alpha Tauri.

Alonso and Ocon finished in the points again for Alpine. While Alonso had an uneventful race in P8, Ocon sparred with the likes of Latifi and Vettel over the final points-scoring position. The three points helped Alpine extend their lead over Alpha Tauri to 11 points, further cementing their hold on P5 in the Constructors.

Mr Saturday turned into Mr Sunday! Russell, after the disappointments of Qualifying and the F1 Sprint, recovered to bag P9 for Williams. His teammate Latifi fought hard but finished P11, just outside the points. It had been a tough weekend for Williams, but thanks to Russell, they managed to capitalize on the mistakes made by those in front. They extended their lead to 19 points over Alfa Romeo in the battle for P8. The deficit looked unassailable for Alfa Romeo.

The triple-header was a story of missed opportunities for Alfa Romeo. While Giovinazzi produced yet another stellar performance in the F1 Sprint to start P7, his mistake on the opening lap damaged his car. The Italian struggled throughout the race to extract performance, and P13 was the best he could manage. It was yet another weekend of what could have been. Kubica, his teammate, finished P14, having intense battles with Vettel in the latter half of the race. The absence of Raikkonen due to COVID badly hurt the team's chances over the last two weekends. Alfa Romeo had lost a chunk of points throughout the year, sometimes to unfortunate incidents on track, sometimes to driver errors but more often than not to strategic calls. 

Haas F1 had another lacklustre weekend. While Mazepin retired due to a mechanical failure, Schumacher finished P15 and last. A public apology for rear-ending Schumacher followed post-race ( from Mazepin ), but overall, it was a disappointing display. It seemed highly unlikely that Haas would score in 2021.

Alpha Tauri was one of the biggest losers from the weekend. While Tsunoda failed to start the race due to mechanical issues, Gasly, too, returned to the pits with similar problems. It wasn't the showing that Alpha Tauri had hoped for at its home race, especially after Gasly's win last year. Nevertheless, they had the resources to turn it around in the upcoming rounds.

Hamilton and Verstappen, the title contenders, had an unpleasant accident, which ended their races, maintaining the status quo in the Championship. Verstappen still led Hamilton by 5 points in the Championship. The accident, however, became the talking point for both the media and the fans. After going through the footage and assessing the facts and defences presented by the drivers and their representatives, the stewards ruled that Verstappen was at fault for trying to pass Hamilton despite seeing the gap disappear at turn two. The Dutchman got a three-place grid drop and two penalty points on his super-licence for his dangerous manoeuvre. Verstappen also faced heat from a particular set of media and fans for not checking on Hamilton's wellbeing and simply walking away from the accident. 

As for Hamilton, it was a lucky escape, thanks to the HALO Safety Device, which protected him from getting a grievous injury after Verstappen's Red Bull went over the TV Pod and the cockpit of his car. Hamilton, however, suffered a sprain to his neck after Verstappen's right rear-wheel brushed the top of his helmet. 

The jury remained in disagreement with the stewards' verdict. While Hamilton sympathizers believed that Verstappen shouldn't have attacked the corner knowing that the former had the right of way, the other side demanded more racing room from Hamilton rather than sticking to a line that a driver would conventionally take in the absence of another car. 

Strategically, Verstappen with the hards would have had more tyre life than Hamilton ( on mediums ) towards the end of the race and could have attempted an overtake then. The Dutchman would have been seething inside his helmet after losing his shot at victory due to Red Bull's slow pit stop. He looked like a man on a mission as he cut his way through slower cars up until the incident. Seeing Hamilton emerge from the pits ahead of him would have added to the desperation, and Verstappen decided to risk the overtake at the first opportunity itself. The decision proved to be a disastrous one. With Hamilton shutting the door and Verstappen persisting with his line, the latter went over the dreaded sausage kerbs and airborne into Hamilton's path. 

As for Hamilton, the Briton didn't want to yield track position since his car was not comfortable sitting in the dirty air of another. More importantly, it was his title rival that Hamilton was sparring with coming out of the pit lane. Going into turn one, he was ahead and then followed his racing line into turn two. The Briton didn't expect Verstappen to not relent in his challenge and the door shut on the latter. The rest is history. Both drivers blamed the other for their predicament. The verdict was out, and it stood, satisfactory or not.

Over the years, the sport has witnessed iconic fights for the Championship. This incident between Verstappen and Hamilton, like the one in Silverstone, will change the dynamics of the title fight. It won't be the last time that Hamilton and Verstappen tussle or have a coming together this year. However, the one who shows more maturity and foresight will emerge Champion at the end of the year.

The next Grand Prix is a fortnight away, and everyone will get a chance to recover, regroup and return reenergized. The title battle will rage on in Russia, but in Italy, the F1 world celebrated the triumph of Ricciardo, Norris and McLaren! 

Aussie Aussie Aussie, Oi Oi Oi!

2021 Dutch GP Race Recap : A Raging Bull in a Sea of Oranje!

The Dutch Grand Prix last appeared in the 1985 F1 Season. Circuit Zandvoort, since then, went through a series of upgrades and improvements but never got a place on the F1 calendar again.

The arrival of Max Verstappen, the next big star of the sport, had the Oranje Army travelling all over Europe, and the time was nigh for a home race.

The FIA and FOM heeded the pleas, and the Dutch GP announced its return in the 2020 Season. Zandvoort finally had the facilities to get classified as "F1 spec". However, the onset of the Pandemic COVID-19 put a spanner in the works, and the race got cancelled in 2020.

However, the circuit finally debuted in the turbo era as round 13 in the 2021 season. Circuit Zandvoort, built by the same designer who made the Suzuka Circuit in Japan, is famous for the steep bankings at turns three, thirteen and fourteen. A fast-flowing, old-school track with big gravel traps, Zandvoort is unique. The narrow nature of the circuit makes overtaking a challenge.

Leading up to the Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen announced his retirement from the sport. The Flying Finn had had his fill of the sport and desired to move onto better things in life after 2021. A flurry of farewell messages poured in from across the world. A tribute on my blog will get published at the opportune time.

Inclement weather played spoilsport on Sunday at Spa-Francorchamps the previous weekend, and the fans yearned for a proper race in the Netherlands. 

Hamilton knew that he would get a frosty reception at Verstappen's home race. Only 3 points separated the two drivers going into the weekend, and the battle for the Constructors was closer than ever.

Who reigned supreme on the shores of the North Sea? 

Time for a recap of the Dutch GP!

Practice :

Technical issues with FIA Safety Systems delayed the start of FP1 and FP2.

Tsunoda, who hadn't raced at Zandvoort before, suffered a spin after exiting the pits at the start of FP1. His teammate Gasly narrowly missed hitting the wall while Ocon had an offtrack excursion in his Alpine

It was a problematic morning for Vettel, who first reported an MGU-K issue. After a quick fix in the pits, the German returned to the track, but as he began his timed lap, smoke billowed from the back of his engine. Aston Martin instructed Vettel to come to an immediate stop. The German helped the marshalls in dousing the flames, but the vehicle couldn't get extricated since the green light was active on the car ( electrically live ). When the car finally got towed, 37 minutes of the one-hour session had passed. It was an engine failure for Vettel and Aston Martin.  

Eventually, the track was clear with six minutes remaining, and all the drivers rushed to gather as much data as possible. Norris went over a gravel trap, and then on another lap, almost got pushed off the track when Ocon cut across. The incident got flagged for investigation, and Ocon received a warning for his error.

Hamilton topped the timesheets at the end of FP1, nine-hundredths clear of home hero Verstappen. The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc were P3 and P4, followed by Bottas and the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon. Giovinazzi, Stroll and Gasly completed the top 10.

P11 was the best that Norris could manage from Latifi and Raikkonen. Ricciardo was P14 in the other McLaren, with Russell and Perez P15 and P16, respectively. The Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher, Vettel and Tsunoda, completed the back of the pack. 

There was drama at the start of FP2, with Hamilton coming to a stop on track due to an oil pressure anomaly detected by Mercedes. The Briton would take no further part, and the session got red-flagged to extricate the car safely. Another Red Flag followed shortly after, with Mazepin getting stuck in the gravel at turn eleven. 

The Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz ended FP2 the quickest, with Ocon, Bottas, Verstappen and Alonso completing the top 6. Gasly was P7 in his Alpha Tauri, followed by Norris, Giovinazzi and Vettel.

Despite his session getting cut short, Hamilton set the 11th quickest time, ahead of Perez, Tsunoda and Stroll. Ricciardo was P15 in the other McLaren, followed by Raikkonen and Schumacher. Mazepin split the Williams of Latifi and Russell at the back of the field.

It was a compromised Friday for several drivers due to the frequent Red Flags in FP1 and FP2. The lack of high-fuel running left Hamilton at a disadvantage, and the Mercedes engines seemed to have chinks in their armour with breakdowns. The Ferraris looked competitive over one lap, and less than a second covered the top 10 in both sessions.

There was work to do for all the drivers in FP3.

Raikkonen tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday morning, which led to his withdrawal from the weekend. Alfa Romeo announced Robert Kubica, their reserve driver, as his replacement.

FP3 got underway, and the emphasis was on single-lap pace. While Vettel had a trip across the gravel at turn 10, Leclerc took to the runoff area at turn twelve. Norris and Schumacher too narrowly escaped from getting stuck in the gravel traps. However, Sainz lost the back of his Ferrari and clattered into the barriers at turn 3, bringing out the Red Flags. Thankfully, the Spaniard was unhurt, but the team faced a race against time to get the car ready for Qualifying.

Verstappen was the quickest at the end of the session, half a second clear of Bottas and Hamilton. Perez was P4 in the other Red Bull, with Alonso and Norris completing the top 6. The Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel were P7 and P8, followed by Leclerc and Gasly in P9 and P10, respectively.

Ricciardo was P11 in the other McLaren, while Ocon split the Williams of Latifi and Russell in P13. Giovinazzi set the 15th quickest time, followed by Sainz and Tsunoda. At the back of the pack, Kubica split the Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher.

A clear track, along with optimal use of track evolution, would prove pivotal in the battle for Pole Position.

Qualifying :

It was time for Qualifying, and Sainz's Ferrari was ready for battle after a quick repair job by the Ferrari mechanics.

Q1 got underway, and, barring the Mercedes duo, the rest of the field opted for the soft tyres. The cars got fueled for multiple runs and lap times improved with more rubber getting laid onto the race track.

At the end of the first runs, Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc and Alonso were the top 6 with Tsunoda, Sainz, Mazepin, Schumacher and Kubica facing elimination. 

Ferrari informed Sainz that track evolution would make the lap times quicker by a second, and sure enough, the Spaniard improved to P8. Russell, in his Williams, was the next driver to move up to P5.

As the lap times kept improving for everyone, the Mercedes drivers also switched to the soft tyres for their final runs. Barring Verstappen, Gasly and Alonso, everyone else was on track to better their times.

Traffic was forming up in the last sector as the drivers jostled for track position. Perez was at the back of this queue and failed to start his final attempt before the clock ran out. Vettel, on a flying lap, got impeded by the Haas duo, especially Mazepin. The incident got flagged for investigation, but the stewards decided against penalizing the Russian.

Less than a second separated the top 16 at the end of Q1. Leclerc, Sainz, Verstappen, Giovinazzi, Latifi and Hamilton were the top 6, with Perez, Vettel, Kubica, Schumacher and Mazepin getting eliminated in Q1.

Softs were the tyres of choice for all the 15 drivers participating in Q2.  Halfway through Q2, Verstappen, Leclerc, Gasly, Hamilton, Bottas and Ricciardo were the top 6, while Russell, Stroll, Norris, Latifi and Tsunoda were in the drop zone.

The Williams drivers decided to head out earlier than the rest of the field for their final run of Q2. Russell looked on course to break into the top 10 when he carried too much speed into turn 13. He got spun around and suffered an impact with the barriers on the rear of his car. The stewards Red Flagged the session, but the Briton managed to limp back to the pits for a damage assessment. Eventually, when the session restarted, Russell's Williams wasn't fit to take further part in Qualifying. 

The final minutes of Q2 saw Leclerc and Giovinazzi stay put while the rest prepared to spar on the track for a place in Q3. Latifi, in the other Williams, was the first driver to start his flying lap but put a wheel on the grass at turn 8. The Canadian lost control of his Williams and rammed into the barriers, wrecking the rear of his car. The session got Red Flagged again, and the stewards announced that Q2 had ended!

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

Q3 got underway, and all ten drivers opted for a fresh set of soft tyres. The drivers wasted no time in setting a representative time. Verstappen went the quickest, three-tenths clear of Bottas and Hamilton at the end of the first run. Gasly, Leclerc and Sainz were into the top 6, with Giovinazzi going 8th quickest in his Alfa Romeo. 

The drivers returned to the pits for refuelling and new tyres. It was time for the final battle for pole position. Verstappen failed to improve in the first sector but went quickest in the second. He eventually went faster than his first attempt. Meanwhile, the Mercedes drivers set their personal best sector times. Hamilton went the fastest of anybody in sector three but ended the lap second best, three hundredths shy of Verstappen's time. Bottas' best lap was three tenths slower than Verstappen's.

Verstappen bagged pole position at his home race! His title rival Hamilton was on the front row in P2, with Bottas P3 in the other Mercedes. Two stellar laps in Q3 saw Gasly bag P4, followed by an all-Ferrari third row in Leclerc and Sainz. Giovinazzi equalled his best Qualifying result in P7, beating the Alpines of Ocon and Alonso. Ricciardo completed the top 10.

Replays showed that Verstappen's rear wing failed to open when he hit the DRS button on the pit straight. The resulting failure cost him two-tenths on his final lap. It was a Qualifying masterclass by Verstappen in Zandvoort, in front of the Oranje Army. However, his teammate Perez qualified a dismal 16th after a tactical error denied him his final attempt in Q1. It would be a long Sunday afternoon for the Mexican as he hoped to make up places on a track with limited overtaking opportunities. Red Bull was at a disadvantage with Verstappen having to contend with both Mercedes alone on Sunday. As for Mercedes, Hamilton and Bottas were right up there with Verstappen. Mercedes could outscore its rivals in the Constructors' Championships, with Bottas playing the perfect support role as Hamilton locked horns with Verstappen. However, the breakdown on Friday showed that Mercedes had chinks in its armour.

Gasly, like every other weekend, was the shining star for Alpha Tauri. The Frenchman continued to impress and looked set for a sizeable haul of points on Sunday. As for Tsunoda, P15 was the best that the Japanese could achieve. Team Principal Franz Tost hoped to see Tsunoda break into the top 10 on Saturday, but the latter failed to match it. Tsunoda was fighting for his seat in 2022 and couldn't afford mediocrity on Sunday. 

Ferrari-powered cars had looked strong on Friday, and the works team didn't disappoint come Qualifying. Despite the crash in FP3, the Ferrari mechanics got Sainz's car ready for Qualifying. Less than a hundredth of a second separated the Ferrari duo. The team had the opportunity of outscoring and retaking P3 from McLaren in the Constructor standings.

Antonio Giovinazzi was the revelation of Qualifying. The Italian equalled his best Qualifying performance in P7. With Raikkonen out of the race weekend due to COVID-19, the onus was on Giovinazzi to salvage some points. As for Kubica, who stepped in for Raikkonen for the remainder of the weekend, P18 was a commendable attempt in Qualifying. Although the lead built by Williams seemed insurmountable, Alfa Romeo needed to keep chipping away, and Giovinazzi was their best hope for Sunday.

Ocon and Alonso had been consistent in all practice sessions, with the team going through a resurgence since the past few races. Alpine hoped to outscore Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin on Sunday and further cement P5 in the Championship. As for the Aston Martin duo of Stroll and Vettel, it was a disappointing session. P12 and P17 were the best that Stroll and Vettel could achieve, and the possibility of getting into points-scoring positions on race day seemed bleak. 

Daniel Ricciardo managed to outqualify teammate Norris for the second consecutive time. The Australian seemed to have found a solution for his troubles at McLaren. Meanwhile, Norris had a forgettable Saturday in P13 and faced a long Sunday afternoon. In a hotly contested battle for P3, McLaren faced an uphill task at maintaining its slim cushion of 4.5 points.  

Russell and Latifi looked set for Q3 appearances when mistakes by both drivers cost them higher grid positions for the race. Latifi came off worse from the incidents, the rear of his Williams wrecked by the impact. Both drivers were apologetic towards the team but seemed to have the pace to recover some pride on Sunday. The struggles for Haas F1 continued, and once again, Schumacher managed to beat teammate Mazepin at the back of the field.

Race Strategy, combined with a clean opening lap, would pay dividends on Sunday. On a physically demanding circuit like Zandvoort, the drivers needed to maintain their focus throughout the race. One slip-up and the gravel traps would wreck their aspirations for the weekend.

Race :

Red Bull decided to change the power unit on Perez's car along with a new energy store. On a track where overtaking is difficult, it was a prudent decision to take up new components and serve the necessary penalties that came with it. As a result, the Mexican started the race from the pit lane.

Williams opted to change the front wing and nose assembly on Latifi's car to a different spec, resulting in a pit lane start for the Canadian.

The FIA issued a new directive for the race, considering the narrowness of the pit lane. The ruling was that a second car ( in the event of double stacking ) could block the pit box behind or end up hampering oncoming vehicles in the fast lane. Such an incident of impeding, if detected, would get referred to the stewards as an infringement.

Unlike Spa-Francorchamps, the sun was shining at Zandvoort. C1, C2 and C3 were the dry tyre compounds available for the race.

Outside the top 10, Russell, Norris, Kubica, Mazepin and Latifi opted for the mediums while Perez chose hard tyres for the start of the race. 

The five red lights went out, and the Dutch GP got underway. It was a clean getaway for Verstappen off the line. Hamilton and Bottas held onto P2 and P3, respectively, but further down the field, Giovinazzi dropped back to P10 after hitting the back of Ocon's Alpine, who cut across the track. Alonso and Ocon were up to P7 and P8, while Perez got past Latifi for P19. Meanwhile, the Haas cars were sparring, and Mazepin almost put Schumacher into the wall, much to the German's displeasure.

Verstappen pulled away from Hamilton and was the fastest man on track, building a lead of 3 seconds. Ocon was pressuring Alonso for P7, but the Spaniard fended off the challenge. Schumacher switched to the hard tyres on lap 5, rejoining last. 

Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Alonso, Ocon, Ricciardo and Giovinazzi were the top 10 at the end of lap 6. 

Ocon complained to Alpine that Alonso was holding him up. Meanwhile, Perez suffered a massive lock-up into turn one while contending with Mazepin for P17 ( lap 7 ). The resulting flat spot on his tyres led to vibrations, and Red Bull instructed Perez to pit on lap 10. The Mexican switched to the mediums, rejoining in P19. 

Ferrari informed Leclerc that they were switching to Plan B. Hamilton was the fastest man on track as Verstappen reached the milestone - 1000 race laps led on lap 10. Vettel pitted for the mediums on lap 11, rejoining in P18. Latifi got past Mazepin for P16, while Stroll pressured Russell for P11. Perez began his charge up the field with overtakes on Mazepin, Latifi and Kubica on laps 16, 19, and 21, respectively.

Hamilton was losing tyre performance and pitted for a fresh set of mediums on lap 21. It was 3.6 seconds stop due to an issue with the front right tyre. Verstappen followed suit, a lap later, and maintained his advantage on Hamilton. 

Meanwhile, Perez got past Tsunoda for P14, while Vettel overtook Mazepin for P17. Gasly and Latifi pitted for mediums and hard tyres, respectively ( lap 25 ). While Gasly rejoined in P7, Latifi dropped down to P19. At the front, Hamilton had reduced the gap to Verstappen to only 1.2 seconds.

The first round of pit stops continued as Giovinazzi, Russell and Stroll pitted on lap 29. While Giovinazzi switched to the mediums, Russell and Stroll chose the hard tyres. Gasly got past Ocon for P6 on lap 28.

Bottas was yet to stop for fresh tyres, and Verstappen was closing in on him to reclaim the lead. Mercedes instructed Bottas to hold up Verstappen for as long as possible. The defence was short-lived as Verstappen retook the lead on lap 31, with Hamilton relegating his teammate to P3 a couple of corners later. Further down the field, Latifi got past Mazepin for P18.

A slew of pit stops followed, with Ricciardo switching to the hard tyres on lap 31 and Bottas switching to the mediums on lap 32. Lap 32 also saw Sainz, Ocon and Tsunoda pit for fresh tyres. While Sainz chose the hard tyres, Ocon and Tsunoda took the mediums. Alonso was the next driver to switch to the medium tyres on lap 34, rejoining in P9.

Meanwhile, on the track, Stroll got past Kubica for P14, while Russell got handed a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Leclerc pitted for the hard tyres on lap 35, rejoining in P5, while Giovinazzi suffered a puncture and had to pit again for a fresh set of mediums. The unfortunate incident took him out of contention for points. 

Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Norris, Perez, Alonso and Ocon were the top 10 at the end of lap 36.

Vettel challenged Kubica for P14 and suffered a spin at turn three, losing positions to Tsunoda and Latifi. Bottas, who was lapping the field, saw the spin ahead of him and locked up. The Finn had to take avoiding action and lost time to Verstappen and Hamilton at the front. 

Hamilton pitted again on lap 40, switching to a used set of mediums and rejoining in P2. Verstappen pitted a lap later, switched to the hards, and retained his lead. Meanwhile, Tsunoda got past Kubica for P14. Hamilton was the fastest man on the track on lap 42. 

At the back of the pack, Mazepin suffered a hydraulic failure and retired from the race. The second round of pit stops had begun, and Norris switched to hard tyres on lap 44, while Vettel to the mediums a couple of laps later.

Hamilton couldn't close the gap to Verstappen and quipped that the bluff of an early stop hadn't worked. Meanwhile, McLaren switched Norris and Ricciardo's positions to allow Norris to build a gap to others behind on fresher tyres. Perez had got himself into contention for a points finish and switched to the soft tyres on lap 49. The Mexican rejoined in P11 but lost a position to Russell, only to reclaim it a lap later. Alpha Tauri detected an issue on the PU Data, which forced Tsunoda to retire on lap 50. Meanwhile, Hamilton was the fastest driver on the track.

Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly, Leclerc, Sainz, Alonso, Ocon, Norris and Ricciardo were the top 10 at lap 53.

Perez was setting blistering lap times and closing in on Ricciardo in the battle for P10. McLaren instructed Ricciardo to hold up Perez to protect Norris' P9. The ploy failed, and Ricciardo got relegated to P11 on lap 55. Meanwhile, Verstappen and Hamilton were making their way through the backmarkers, and the ensuing traffic allowed Hamilton to close up within 1.5 seconds of Verstappen. 

Further down the field, Vettel got past Kubica for P16 ( lap 57 ), while Giovinazzi relegated Latifi to P15 ( lap 60 ). Vettel continued his recovery with overtakes on Latifi and Giovinazzi to move up to P14. In the battle for P9, Perez had closed upon Norris. Similarly, Alonso began to pressure Sainz for P6.

Perez and Norris were side-by-side going into turn one on lap 67. Norris had the inside line but opted to go wide on the corner exit. Meanwhile, Perez opted to make a move on the outside of Norris. The duo banged wheels, and both cars lost some aerodynamic bits from the contact. Nevertheless, Perez claimed P9 from Norris and began to hunt down Ocon. 

Mercedes asked Bottas to pit for soft tyres on lap 68 as a "precaution" against the vibrations building on his existing tyres. He then got instructed to refrain from attempting the fastest lap and allow Hamilton to gain that point. The Finn didn't heed the request despite James Vowles' communication ( Chief Strategist ) to abort the attempt. As a result, Hamilton got forced to pit again on the penultimate lap and switch to the soft tyres. Russell also pitted for soft tyres and served his time penalty in the pits. 

Meanwhile, on track, Perez managed to get past Ocon for P8 ( lap 71 ) and closed up on Alonso and Sainz in the battle for P6. While Alonso got past Sainz for P6 on the final lap, Russell returned to the pits with a gearbox problem and retired. 

Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Dutch GP, while Hamilton came home in 2nd, having bagged the point for the fastest lap of the race on the final lap. Bottas came home in 3rd to complete a double podium for Mercedes.

Gasly produced another stellar drive to finish P4, followed by Leclerc and Alonso. Sainz managed to hold onto P7 from Perez, who put him under intense pressure. Ocon and Norris completed the top 10.

P11 was the best that Ricciardo could achieve, followed by the Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel. Giovinazzi and Kubica were 14th and 15th, respectively, for Alfa Romeo, with Latifi, Russell and Schumacher completing the classified finishers.

The Dutch supporters were overjoyed at the sight of their home hero winning the race. For Verstappen, it was win number seven in 2021. The Red Bull driver reclaimed the lead in the Drivers' Championship. He led Hamilton by 3 points going into Monza. Verstappen had been flawless all weekend and deserved the win. Such was the dominance of Verstappen that he lapped everyone up to P4. As for his teammate Perez, he recovered from the disappointment of Qualifying to finish a commendable P8. Red Bull trailed Mercedes by 12 points in the Constructor Standings, but today was a day of celebration for their star driver.

As for Mercedes, a double podium with an extra point for the fastest lap helped them outscore Red Bull by two on the weekend. Hamilton did all he could to challenge Verstappen, but the Dutchman romped to victory unopposed. The mechanical issue on Friday compromised Hamilton's preparations for the weekend, and P2 was damage-limitation. The Briton relinquished his lead in the Championship. Bottas put in a composed drive to P3, overtaking Norris in the battle for P3 in the Drivers' standings. He, however, ruffled some feathers with his disobedience to team orders. 

Gasly continued to impress with another P4 finish for Alpha Tauri. The Frenchman had finished in the top 6 for three races on the trot. Tsunoda suffered a retirement but was recovering well until the car broke down. Gasly's 12 points helped Alpha Tauri reduce the deficit to Alpine to six points in the battle for P5 in the Constructors'. 

Leclerc had another strong showing in P5, while Sainz finished P7 in the other Ferrari. While Leclerc achieved the best result possible, Sainz complained about engine power the entire race, finishing 30 seconds behind his teammate. Nevertheless, Ferrari regained P3 in the Constructors', opening up a lead of 11.5 points to arch-rivals McLaren. 

It was another double points-finish for the Alpine duo, with Alonso bagging P6 and Ocon P9. The Frenchman believed that he had more pace and got stuck behind Alonso during the early part of the race. Alpine maintained its hold on P5 in the Constructors' despite getting outscored by Alpha Tauri. 

McLaren had a weekend to forget in the Netherlands. P10 and one point were the best that they could extract from the weekend. While Norris bagged the better result, Ricciardo once again went backwards to finish just outside the points. The result dealt a severe blow to their aspirations for P3 in the Constructors. The team needed to turn things around in Monza.

Aston Martin had another weekend without any points, its drivers getting stuck behind slower cars at pivotal moments of the race. Like McLaren, they too had a weekend to forget, slowly fading away from the midfield battle. They now trailed Alpha Tauri by 29 points and remained a lowly 7th in the Constructors.

Giovinazzi's heroics on Saturday came to nought after a puncture in the race dropped him out of the points. The Italian fought hard to salvage some pride for the team, but P14 was the best he achieved from a highly compromised Sunday. Kubica finished in P15, having enjoyed a Grand Prix driving a "much better car" than those from the past. The unavailability of Raikkonen due to COVID-19 hurt the team's chances, and with Williams going point-less this weekend, it was a missed opportunity for Alfa Romeo to reduce the deficit.

Despite retiring on the final lap, Russell got classified as P17, behind his teammate Latifi. The mistakes by both the drivers on Saturday ended any hopes for a top 10 finish on Sunday. It was a disappointing weekend for Williams after the highs of Spa-Francorchamps. 

As for the Haas F1 Team, history was repeating itself as its drivers sparred both on and off the track. The friction from Saturday poured onto the race on Sunday, and Mazepin's defensive tactics didn't go down well with the top brass. Addressing the misunderstandings was a priority to avoid any untoward incidents at Monza.

Verstappen had made the most of the home advantage and won the race. Expectations were high, and Verstappen didn't falter in his performance. 

The F1 contingent would now travel to Monza, Italy, to compete for supremacy at the Temple of Speed. The home of the Tifosi, Ferrari's beloved fans, Monza is the fastest track on the calendar and promises another humdinger of a race. It is also the home race for Alpha Tauri and Alfa Romeo, who will hope for a good showing.

Everyone prayed for Raikkonen to return fully fit for one last dance at Monza in front of the Tifosi and the fans of Alfa Romeo, who have loved him through his years of racing in F1.

Let the countdown to the Italian GP begin!

2021 Belgian GP Race Recap : A Spa-ctacular Washout!

The second half of the 2021 F1 Season began with the Belgian Grand Prix, held at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. The teams and drivers faced a hectic schedule with six races over seven weeks at the start of the latter half of the season. The Belgian GP would be the first race of the two triple-headers in 2021.

The inclement weather, combined with the various gradient changes, make Spa-Francorchamps a circuit like no other. Nestled in the Ardennes, the track features famous sections such as Eau Rouge, Raidilion, La Source, Les Combes, Kemmel, Rivage, Blanchimont and the Bus Stop. It is also the longest circuit on the calendar. While sectors one and three demand straight-line speed, the second needs better downforce.

A lot transpired over the summer break leading up to the Belgian GP.

The FIA decided to introduce the "minimum reaction time" during pit stops from the Belgian GP.

Red Bull renewed Sergio Perez's contract for 2022, while Alpine retained the services of Fernando Alonso. 

The Japanese GP got cancelled due to a surge of COVID cases in Japan. Subsequently, the calendar got cut down to 22 races, with the FOM yet to announce a replacement.

Honda confirmed that ( both ) Verstappen and Perez had lost the second of their three engines due to the "irreparable damage" suffered from the incidents at Silverstone and Hungary. 

Bottas and Stroll stared at five-place grid penalties at Belgium due to their misdemeanours at the Hungarian GP.

While Red Bull looked to reclaim the lead in the championship, Mercedes felt optimistic about rebuffing any challenges that came their way.

How did the teams fare after returning from the summer break? Who came out on top? Did we have a new leader in the standings, or was the status quo maintained? 

Time for a recap of the Belgian GP!

Practice :

There was rain in the air at the start of FP1, and despite the track drying at a rapid rate, conditions remained tricky. Mercedes and Red Bull ran similar programs between their drivers, with one driver focused on straight-line speed and the other on better downforce. Raikkonen and Tsunoda suffered from spins at La Source, while the former hit the wall on entry into the pit lane. Hamilton got held up by Latifi on his timed lap, while Stroll impeded Russell on his. 

Bottas topped the timesheets, a tenth clear of Verstappen with Gasly half a second adrift in 3rd. The Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz were 4th and 5th, followed by Perez, Vettel and Norris. Ocon and Alonso completed the top 10.

Stroll was P11 in the other Aston Martin, followed by Ricciardo and Giovinazzi. Tsunoda split the Williams of Russell and Latifi in 15th, with Raikkonen and Hamilton P17 and P18, respectively. The Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher were at the back of the pack.

FP2 got underway, and Ocon suffered a spin at turn 14. Leclerc lost the rear of his Ferrari at turn six and crashed into the barriers, bringing out the Red Flags. The session resumed with 10 minutes remaining, and the drivers hurried to gather more data on race simulations. 

Verstappen got spun around at the exit of turn seven and hit the barriers, sending a lot of gravel across the track. The Dutchman was out, with the session getting Red Flagged again and the stewards deciding against resuming FP2. 

Verstappen ended FP2 the quickest, less than a tenth clear of Bottas and Hamilton. Alonso was 4th, followed by Gasly, Stroll and teammate Ocon. The top ten got completed by Vettel, Norris and Perez.

Sainz was P11 for Ferrari, followed by Tsunoda and the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen. P15 was the best that Ricciardo could manage in his McLaren. The Williams of Latifi and Russell were P16 and P17, and Leclerc, Mazepin and Schumacher brought up the rear of the field.

Friday had restricted runs in the dry, but more importantly, the two Red Flags compromised the race simulation programs of the drivers. With rain and inclement weather predicted on Saturday, drivers and teams faced an uphill task to get their cars ready for race day.

Charles Leclerc switched to a new chassis after it cracked following his crash in FP2.

The final Practice Session ( FP3 ) got held in the rain. While some opted for full wets, others persisted with the intermediate tyres. Several drivers had off-track moments as they explored the limits. Eventually, a dry line began to appear, and drivers managed to set representative lap times. Meanwhile, Raikkonen's session got cut short after the Finn suffered from a brake-by-wire failure. 

Midway through FP3, the rain returned, hampering the practice programs of the drivers. The Red Bull drivers topped the timesheets, with Verstappen edging out his teammate Perez by almost a second. Hamilton was P3 for Mercedes, followed by Norris and Ocon. Gasly split the Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel in P7, while Russell and Alonso completed the top 10.

Bottas was P11 for Mercedes, followed by Latifi and Ricciardo. Schumacher was in a Ferrari sandwich in P15. P17 was the best that Tsunoda managed with Giovinazzi, Mazepin and Raikkonen completing the rear of the field.

Rain was the biggest threat in Qualifying, and the drivers had to be prudent with their tyre usages.

Qualifying :

Rain delayed the start of Qualifying. Thankfully, track conditions improved, and Q1 got underway. The Williams drivers opted for intermediates while the rest of the field stuck with full wets. The cars had fuel for multiple runs.

Russell's opening lap got jeopardized due to Latifi spinning at turn twelve. Soon enough, it became evident that track conditions were more feasible for intermediate tyres. Everyone, bar the Williams drivers, returned to the pits to switch to the intermediates. 

Russell, Latifi, Norris, Verstappen, Bottas, and Stroll were the top 6, while Mazepin, Sainz, Raikkonen, Schumacher and Ocon faced the threat of elimination. 

Mercedes informed Bottas that rain would hit the circuit in the final minutes of Q1. The lap times kept improving, and at the end of the session, Norris, Verstappen, Hamilton, Perez, Russell and Bottas were the top 6. Ocon managed to scrape through in P15, but Giovinazzi, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Raikkonen and Mazepin got eliminated.

Q2 got underway, and everyone exited the pits with intermediate tyres. The Mercedes drivers, however, came out on used sets and instantly regretted their decision. Mercedes wasted no time in pitting Hamilton and Bottas. Ferrari informed Sainz that as per their forecast, rain would hit the circuit five minutes into Q2. 

Norris, Verstappen, Vettel, Gasly, Perez and Leclerc were the top 6, with Latifi, Ocon, Alonso, Hamilton and Bottas in the drop zone, halfway through Q2. The Mercedes duo improved to P7 and P9 but dropped out of the top 10 again in the final minutes of Q2. 

The rain stayed away, and as the track dried up, the lap times improved for everyone across the field. In a desperate attempt to make it into Q3, the Mercedes drivers decided to use another set of intermediate tyres. The decision was fruitful as Hamilton and Bottas broke into the top 3. Sainz allegedly impeded Ocon, and the incident got flagged for investigation. Thankfully, the Spaniard escaped any penalties.

Norris, Hamilton, Bottas, Gasly, Verstappen, Vettel, Perez, Russell, Ricciardo and Ocon got through to Q3, while Leclerc, Latifi, Sainz, Alonso and Stroll suffered from elimination.

The rain finally arrived at the start of Q3, and the conditions looked treacherous. Gasly, Perez and Russell took the bold step of opting for the intermediate tyres, while Norris and Vettel chose the full wets. The drivers complained about the presence of standing water on the track, with some suffering from aquaplaning. Vettel suggested that the stewards should Red Flag Q3 until conditions improved.

Norris was the first driver to attempt a flying lap, and as he went through Eau Rouge and Raidilion, he lost the rear of his McLaren and careered heavily into the barriers. His car got wrecked, and immediately the stewards red-flagged the session. Norris looked winded and got transferred to the medical centre for further checks. 

The FIA had to complete barrier repairs and clean the track before the session resumed after a long wait. Thankfully, the rain eased in intensity, and the track conditions improved. Russell and Ocon opted for the wet tyres while the rest chose the intermediates. Eventually, all the remaining nine drivers switched to the inters for their runs in Q3.

Hamilton was on "provisional pole", almost a second clear of Verstappen and Bottas. The lap times kept getting quicker, and Perez improved to P2, half a second shy of Hamilton's best attempt.

The final run of Q3 commenced, and Russell and Hamilton exchanged purple sector times. Russell, in a Williams, produced a stellar lap to go thirteen-hundredths clear of Hamilton at the top. It seemed that the Briton would bag P1 until Verstappen, on his final run, took pole position away by going faster by three-tenths.

Nevertheless, it was an unthinkable front row start for Russell alongside Verstappen. Hamilton had to settle for P3, followed by Ricciardo in his McLaren. Vettel and Gasly were on row three, with Perez and Bottas on four. A five-place grid drop for Bottas dropped the Finn to P13. As a result, Ocon would line up alongside Perez.

A gearbox change for Norris bumped him down to P14, promoting Leclerc and Latifi into the top 10, while Sainz Bottas and Alonso moved up a position each.

Verstappen ensured that he would start from the best position on race day. Perez, meanwhile, qualified a disappointing 7th and faced a long Sunday afternoon. Red Bull hoped for a clean opening lap for its drivers and seemed confident about the cars in race-trim.

Williams was on the front row at Spa-Francorchamps for the first time since 2001. The team had last bagged a front-row start at Italy in 2017, and Russell produced a stellar lap to achieve the unthinkable. If similar conditions prevailed, he could fight for a podium on SundayLatifi, too, was in the top 10, and along with Russell, could help Williams achieve a strong haul of points. 

As for Hamilton and Mercedes, a second-row start was far from ideal but outscoring Verstappen was the priority. The Briton didn't have new intermediates for the race since he used all his sets in Qualifying. Bottas, like his teammate, was in a similar situation and, after a mediocre display in Qualifying, would start a lowly P12. The Finn, under intense scrutiny, was fighting for his seat in 2022 and couldn't afford more lacklustre displays.

Norris was looking strong until his high-speed shunt at the start of Q3. The Briton was one of the favourites to bag pole position until the accident. The car was a wreck, and the McLaren mechanics faced a race against time to make it ready for race day. Thankfully, the doctors declared the driver fit for the race. The race stewards got a lot of heat for their inaction and delay at not red-flagging Q3 despite receiving information about poor conditions from those on track, which eventually led to the accident. Norris would start the race in P14, having attracted a grid penalty for a gearbox change. As for Ricciardo, the Australian produced his best Qualifying performance for McLaren to date and lined up alongside Hamilton. It was his best chance at silencing critics and doubters on race day. 

After a topsy-turvy Qualifying, Vettel's experience came to the fore for Aston Martin. The German was the team's best hope for a strong points-finish. As for Stroll, it was a start from the back of the grid due to the penalty from Hungary. The team needed to reduce the deficit to its midfield competitors, and strategy was key to an optimal finish. 

Gasly remained Alpha Tauri's main hope for a points-finish. The Frenchman qualified in the top 6 again, but Tsunoda, his teammate, was a disappointing 16th. In a hotly contested midfield, Alpha Tauri couldn't afford any slip-ups. 

Ocon, the latest Grand Prix winner, was P8 for Alpine, while Alonso qualified P13. The duo was more than capable of capitalizing on mistakes made by those further up the field. Alpine hoped for a double points haul on Sunday.

Leclerc narrowly out-qualified Sainz in what was a disappointing Saturday for Ferrari. A tactical error denied the duo a Q3 appearance. Nevertheless, the Ferraris looked competitive in race-trim and hoped to outscore arch-rivals McLaren in the battle for P3 in the Constructors. 

Antonio Giovinazzi remained the better performing of the two Alfa Romeo drivers on Saturday. The Italian qualified in P15 while his more experienced teammate Raikkonen would start in P18. It was an uphill battle for Alfa Romeo all weekend, and their chances of a points-finish hinged on mistakes made by those further up the grid.

Schumacher managed to outqualify Mazepin again in the Haas. However, the team seemed destined to remain at the back of the pack.

Inclement weather remained a threat for the drivers on Sunday. Strategy calls from the pit wall would prove pivotal in the battle for supremacy at Spa-Francorchamps.

Race :

Ricciardo celebrated 200 Race Starts in F1. His teammate Norris, along with Russell, completed 50. 

Honda completed 50 race weekends with Red Bull!

Alfa Romeo decided to change the rear wing on Raikkonen's car, to improve the downforce, which meant that he would start the race from the pit lane. 

C2, C3 and C4 were the dry tyre compounds available for the race, but these choices were immaterial. It was raining since morning, and for the Grand Prix, wet tyres were the choice for everyone.

The track conditions were poor, with low visibility, as the drivers headed out of their boxes to make it to the grid.

Disaster struck Red Bull after Perez crashed into the barriers on his sighting lap. The car suffered front right suspension damage, and Perez was out of the race!

Citing the treacherous conditions, the FIA announced that the formation lap would be behind the Safety Car. The rain intensified, and the start got delayed by 25 minutes. 

The Safety Car led the field away for the formation lap, but several drivers complained about the conditions and visibility. After a couple of formation laps, the stewards decided to suspend the Race Start!

The drivers returned to the pit lane, awaiting further instructions. 

The mechanics carried out repairs on the Red Bull car after Perez's crash on his sighting lap. As a result, Perez failed to take part in the formation laps. Meanwhile, Jonathan Wheatley, Red Bull Sporting Director, contacted the FIA, requesting that the Race Director allow Perez to join the race at the restart. Michael Masi, the Race Director, decided to consult the stewards before giving his final verdict on Perez's participationThe result was positive, and Perez got the nod to start the race from the pit lane ( if the race commenced ). 

Eventually, the work got completed, and Perez was ready to race.

The waiting game continued, and the stewards stopped the race clock to accommodate at least one hour of racing before sunset. The FIA kept postponing updates hoping for the weather to improve.

Meanwhile, Aston Martin changed the rear wing on Stroll's car, which attracted the stewards' attention.

Finally, after a wait of more than three hours, the FIA announced that the race would resume. The timer got set to one hour as the Safety Car led the cars out onto the track. There was a collective roar by the fans who hoped to see some racing finally.

However, the weather didn't let up, and several drivers complained about aquaplaning and visibility. A procession of 3 laps behind the Safety Car followed, and the race got Red Flagged!

As per the FIA Regulations, half the Championship points would get awarded if the race lasted for more than two laps and up to 75% of the total distance. Citing no improvement in the conditions, the Race Director announced that the race would not resume.

The results of Qualifying stood became the final classification for the race, barring Perez's crash and the relevant penalties.

So Verstappen won the race, with Russell and Hamilton on the podium. Ricciardo finished in P4 for McLaren, followed by Vettel, Gasly and Ocon. Leclerc, Latifi and Sainz completed the top 10.

The latter half of the field comprised of Alonso, Bottas, Giovinazzi, Norris, Tsunoda, Schumacher, Mazepin, Stroll, Raikkonen and Perez.

The results allowed Verstappen to reduce the deficit to Hamilton to 3 points. More importantly, Red Bull saved some mileage on his engine, considering that his second unit was irreparable. In the Constructor Standings, Red Bull trailed Mercedes by 7 points.

Perez was the biggest loser since his accident on the sighting lap robbed him of free points and could have put Red Bull above Mercedes. 

Russell's P2, combined with Latifi's P9, helped Williams bag 10 points, extending their buffer over Alfa Romeo to 17. The finish should cement P8 for Williams in the Constructor Championship. Russell deserved the podium, the fruit of his effortshaving delivered sensational results in Qualifying in the past and even playing the team game at the Hungarian GP.

Ricciardo's P4 allowed him to jump Gasly for P8 in the Drivers' Championship, besides being his best finish for McLaren. McLaren reclaimed P3 from Ferrari, narrowly leading them by 4.5 points. As for Ferrari, the tactical gaffe in Qualifying proved costly. However, the damage to their P3 hopes was minimal, and the team could turn its fortunes around at Zandvoort.

As for Aston Martin, Vettel added 5 points to the tally versus Gasly's 4 for Alpha Tauri and Ocon's 3 for Alpine. Only one driver scored points for each of the three midfield teams, thus maintaining the status quo. 

The atrocious conditions denied F1 fans across the world an exciting Belgian Grand Prix. The race turned out to be the shortest in the sport's history, and it was the Medical Car that completed the most laps on race day. However, citing the safety of the drivers, the FIA made the right decision to postpone and eventually suspend the race.

Kudos to the fans and the marshalls at the track for displaying exemplary patience and resolve over four hours, waiting for a race. The drivers acknowledged their heroism, passion and love for the sport.

While rain and weather played spoiled sport in Belgium, F1 fans had Zandvoort in the Netherlands to look forward to the following weekend. The track would finally make its debut on the F1 calendar, and the Orange Army would come out in droves to support their home hero Max Verstappen, cheering him on to possible victory.

Thankfully, we have five more races in six weeks, so the frustrations from the Belgian GP will soon fade away.

The Driver Merry-Go-Round... New Voyage but New Navigators?

The 2021 F1 Season, the longest in the sport's history, is nearing the end of its mid-season break. It is that time of the year when those drivers, without a contract, become the centre of attention. The Paddock gets abuzz with rumours and speculations, some of which last up until the end of the season. Some drivers are in the twilight of their career, while some are waiting to jump into the big league.

With the complexity of the overhaul of Technical Regulations for the 2022 F1 Season, some teams will have to make tough decisions.

So, who has put pen to paper and which team is yet to confirm its driver-lineup for 2022? 

First up, the teams that have no concerns with their driver choices.

McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren is a team that is going through a resurgence. The Woking-based outfit will continue with Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo for 2022. Both drivers have a contract till the end of 2023, and McLaren can focus on building a race-winning car in its quest to return to the sharp end of the grid. 

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, the most successful team in the sport, has retained the services of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jr for 2022. Leclerc is the more experienced of the duo, but Sainz is quickly settling into life at Maranello. 

As for Ferrari, the focus is on returning to being successful again, and like McLaren, the journey has begun.

Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team :

Aston Martin boasts a good mix of experience and youth in Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll. Vettel will be instrumental in developing the 2022 car, while Stroll, who has spent more time with the team, can be mentored by the former World Champion into a better driver. It is Lawrence Stroll's dream to make Aston Martin Championship winning unit. They might have found the ideal pairing for this goal. 

Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Alpine, like Aston Martin, have a mix of experience and youth too in Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon. Ocon managed to silence doubters with his win at the Hungarian GP, while Alonso, with his performances so far, has shown that he hasn't lost any of his competitive edges. The Spaniard, with his vast experience and championship-winning credentials, is an invaluable asset. As the only Renault-powered team on the grid, it is more challenging for Alpine to build a potent contender for 2022. Now, they can focus on performance on track rather than matters off it.

Haas F1 Team :

The biggest of worries that Haas F1 faces are the performances on the track. The team retains the services of its rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin for 2022. Mick Schumacher, son of the legendary Michael Schumacher and current F2 Champion, can bring home results with a potent car. As for Mazepin, the Russian's performances are improving with each passing weekend, and the financial backing that he enjoys helps the team stay afloat. 

Now, for the teams that have one seat available for 2022.

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, the most successful team in the Turbo Era, has retained its prized asset in Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton has rewritten history books, and his new contract keeps him with Mercedes until the end of 2023. 

As for Valtteri Bottas, his future hangs in the balance. Bottas' contract went through a couple of one-year renewals in the past, and as a driver, he plays a support role to Hamilton. He is a team player, adhering to the instructions of the higher-ups, thus making life easier for Hamilton at Mercedes. However, in the recent past, his performances have dipped. The reality check came when George Russell, the Mercedes Protegee and Williams driver, stepped in for Hamilton ( who had contracted COVID-19 ) at the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix.

Russell comfortably beat Bottas in his debut race with Mercedes. Come 2021, Bottas is yet to win a race, failing to impress and making a rookie error at the recently concluded Hungarian Grand Prix.

Russell, a firm favourite to replace Bottas at Mercedes for 2022, continues to impress in a Williams, be it on Saturday or a Sunday.

Hamilton holds the key to Mercedes retaining Bottas for 2022. Hamilton is locked in an intense battle with Verstappen for the Drivers' Title. He can add to his record-equalling tally of seven world titles in this year and beyond. The job would be a lot harder and more unsettling with the presence of George Russell ( should he get the promotion from Williams ). Hence, the likelihood of Bottas getting another extension ( one year ) seems more likely. If Mercedes choose otherwise, Bottas has a choice either at Alfa Romeo ( who are reportedly in contact or with his ex-team Williams Racing. But will the Finn move from a Championship and Race-winning team to one fighting further down the field? The demotion remains a bone of contention.

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Like their arch-rivals Mercedes, Red Bull Racing face the dilemma of choosing a teammate for Max Verstappen for 2022. The Red Bull driver program has gone through stagnation with limited talent coming through, suitable for F1. While Verstappen remains Red Bull's prized asset and number one driver, the team's struggles to find a driver with a similar level of performance continue. 

Sergio Perez's performances have been mercurial, but the Mexican has a win and podium to show in his first year at Red Bull. His performances, however, have been more convincing than his predecessor, Alex Albon. The Mexican got only a one year contract and will be hoping for a renewal. It would be unfair to assess his abilities based on a single season.

Pierre Gasly, who got demoted to Alpha Tauri ( midway during the 2019 season ), has produced stellar drives to warrant a promotion. He, too, remains a candidate for the seat, but Red Bull has reservations about his competitiveness in a high-pressure situation. 

Verstappen, too, will have a say and the likelihood of Sergio Perez getting retained seems more realistic. Everyone is hoping for the top brass at Red Bull to think likewise.

While more than half the field has at least one driver secured for 2022, three teams remain with both the seats ( each ) up for grabs.

Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Alpha Tauri, Red Bull's B-team and the assessment place for Red Bull before the "big promotion" is yet to announce its driver lineup for 2022. Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda are currently on their roster, and the team is contesting for P5 in the Constructor Championship.

Gasly has spearheaded the charge since his return midway through the 2019 season. The Frenchman managed to win a race in 2020 and feature once on the podium in 2021 ( so far ). While he garners hope of returning to the A-team, Gasly is also on the radar of other teams. Like Ricciardo and Sainz Jr, who were products of the Red Bull Driver Program, the Frenchman can opt for greener pastures elsewhere, but the options further up the grid are currently non-existent. The driver manages his career himself, and it would be prudent for him to stay with Alpha Tauri for another year. His place within the team is under no threat whatsoever.

However, for Yuki Tsunoda, the Honda-backed rookie, life in F1 has been a baptism by fire. The Japanese driver has failed to match the performances of Gasly's besides making many errors, which attracted the ire and displeasure of Dr Helmut Marko, advisor to Red Bull Racing and Head of the Driver Program. The clock is ticking for Tsunoda, and he must step up his game in the second half if he wishes to stay put at the team. Honda's withdrawal from the sport at the end of 2021 won't help his chances either. However, the lack of talent in the lower series ( from the program ) might force Red Bull to continue with the current partnership for 2022. Alex Albon, ex-Red Bull and currently the Reserve Driver, remains an option, but his chances hinge on Tsunoda's performances from hereon. 

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo announced a multi-year extension of its agreement with Sauber Engineering, with Team Principal Frederic Vasseur getting a free hand to choose his drivers for 2022. This announcement has freed the team from reserving a seat for Ferrari's "upcoming talent" and focus on their betterment. 

Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi currently drive for Alfa Romeo, their third year as teammates. While Raikkonen, at the age of 42, is nearing the end of his career, the former World Champion remains the more successful of the two on race day. His expertise and knowledge have been invaluable, and the Finn will be an asset in developing Alfa Romeo's 2022 Contender. However, will he still have this competitive edge going into 2022 is a cause for concern. Age is the biggest challenge, not motivation. As for Antonio Giovinazzi, the Italian looks more settled, performing on par with Raikkonen at several races. 

Both drivers understand the team and have built a base for 2022 with Alfa Romeo. To bring in a new signing or a rookie could mean rebuilding a car more suited to the new driver's driving style. It would be wise for Alfa Romeo to persist with their current lineup to maintain continuity. 

If Alfa Romeo were to look elsewhere, then they aren't short on options. Team Principal Fredric Vasseur is in contact with Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes. Bottas is a multi-race winner, but unlike Raikkonen, he lacks the latter's experience and credentials. He could partner his countryman, but there is little to find fault with what Giovinazzi has accomplished so far.

The team is also monitoring the progress of Guanyu Zhou and Callum Ilott in F2. Ilott is also the team's Reserve Driver and a hot contender for the 2022 seat. However, the reduction of Ferrari's influence on the team could jeopardize his chances. Former F3 Champion and F2 Racer Robert Schwartzman is also an option. However, like Ilott, he too is a part of Ferrari's driver program.

As for Zhou, the Chinese driver is currently leading the F2 Championship. Despite being a part of the Alpine Driver Academy, Zhou might need to advance his career in the sport with another team since Alpine has both its current drivers on multi-year contracts. While Alpine is open to Zhou joining another outfit, it seems highly unlikely.

Williams Racing F1 Team :

Williams Racing retained the services of George Russell and Nicolas Latifi in 2021. The duo has put in commendable performances, and it would be a no-brainer to continue with the same partnership. Latifi is currently above Russell in the standings and destined to renew his contract again. Finances are a factor in decision making, and Latifi has the desired backing that the team needs.

George Russell is on the wishlist of Mercedes F1 and will eventually make the jump. He remains committed to the Williams cause, but if Mercedes comes calling in 2022, it leaves Williams with limited options as replacements. 

The team recently released F2 driver Dan Ticktum from its driver program, leaving Jack Aitken and Jamie Chadwick on the roster. 

Williams finds themselves in the same boat as Alfa Romeo. 

Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou ( should Alpine allow ) are feasible options for 2022. Bottas, an ex-Williams driver, is well versed in the working and functioning of the team. The Finn will also bring in a wealth of data from front-runners Mercedes which will help Williams develop a more capable car for 2022. There is no substitute for experience, and development is going to be paramount for 2022. 

A lot is at stake in the second half of 2021. Performances and the subsequent decisions will make or break what follows in 2022. The teams have enough resources to ascertain the calibre of every driver and decide what is best for the future and their chances.

So will the Old Guard get a chance to prove their mettle in the new chapter of racing, or will the next generation get the nod and join the elite club of Formula One racing?

Time will reveal all, and soon!

2021 F1 Mid Season Review - Can the Bulls be Tamed??

The 2021 F1 Season will be the longest in the sport's history featuring 23 races in the calendar year. The FIA and FOM are committed to adhering to this number despite the logistical challenges and the relevant COVID restrictions.

While the overhaul of the technical regulations got delayed to 2022, the governing body proceeded with the enforcement of cost caps.

The governing body also introduced a new race weekend format featuring Qualifying on Friday, a Sprint race on Saturday which would decide the grid for the Grand Prix on Sunday. The same got showcased at Silverstone and attracted positive reviews from fans.

The F1 world also saw the arrival of iconic names such as Aston Martin and Alpine onto the grid, along with the return of former Double World Champion Fernando Alonso. Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin and Yuki Tsunoda were the new entrants in the elite club of F1 drivers.

Eleven races in, and the F1 world headed into the mid-season break. Contrary to 2020, Austria was the only track to host two back-to-back race weekends in Europe. The European leg of the season nears its end before the advent of the fly-away events.

So, how have the teams fared so far in 2021? Time for the mid-season report card! 

Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes has been the best team in the new era of F1, but the crown has come under immense threat by Verstappen and Red Bull. The change in technical regulations disadvantaged Mercedes, being a low rake car. Despite the W12 not being the fastest car on the grid, the team leads the Constructor Standings by 12 points. 

Lewis Hamilton, the reigning World Champion, and the most successful driver in the sport, miraculously leads the Championship by 8 points at the halfway mark. The Briton currently has four wins ( Bahrain, Portugal, Spain and Silverstone ), besides four podium finishes. A rare mistake on the race restart in Baku saw him finish outside the points, bringing an end to a record run of consecutive point finishes. Hamilton's opening lap accident with Verstappen at Silverstone ended the latter's race, becoming the centre of attraction before the Hungarian GP.  

Valtteri Bottas, on the other hand, has had a mediocre season and is yet to win a race in 2021. His best result was 2nd in Austria, followed by five podium finishes. The Finn sits 4th in the Championship, five points behind Norris. Bottas has played the team game till now, and Mercedes will expect him to continue with the same for the latter half of the year.

The team is yet to suffer from any mechanical failures, which will prove pivotal in the title battle. Mercedes cannot afford any slip-ups or mediocrity against a resurgent Red Bull. Upgrades and development need to continue for the remainder of the season if Hamilton and Co wish to stand on the top step again.

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Since the dawn of the turbo era, Red Bull has been relentless in its quest to return to supremacy. From switching engine suppliers from Renault to Honda to trying out different driver combinations, it seems like Red Bull has finally hit the sweet spot this season. 2021, so far, has been a revelation for the team from Milton Keynes. They have a potent driver lineup in Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, who they signed at the end of last year. The RB16B has emerged as the fastest car on the grid, with Verstappen the favourite for the drivers' crown. 

Unfortunately, the team trails arch rivals Mercedes by 12 points going into the summer break. 

The last two races before the summer break titled the battle in Mercedes' favour. While Hamilton's coming together with Verstappen put the latter out of the race at Silverstone, Bottas was to blame for the opening lap melee at Hungary that prematurely ended Perez's race and damaged Verstappen's car heavily. The two incidents led to damage on multiple components on both cars, and in a financially regulated season, Red Bull faces the threat of potential penalties in the latter half. Christian Horner, the Team Principal, was visibly frustrated with the situation and didn't mince his words in the media.

Verstappen is the lead driver at Red Bull and, despite his stellar drives, trails Hamilton by 8 points at the summer break. The Dutchman has five victories to his name ( Imola, Monaco, France, Styria, Austria ) and would have added a sixth at Baku, but for a tyre failure near the end of the race. The Dutchman also bagged three podium finishes. 

As for Perez, his teammate, the Mexican, has struggled in Qualifying but displayed more character on race days. A win in Baku with a podium finish in France place him 5th in the standings, nine points shy of Norris in 3rd. Perez, like Bottas, has to be the team player for Verstappen and Red Bull. Red Bull will need him to produce better results on Saturday and get closer to the Mercedes cars. 

The team has a golden opportunity to return to the top step in the turbo era, but reliability and battered components could return to haunt them. Nevertheless, Red Bull has beaten Mercedes under legitimate racing conditions more often than not. All they need are some incident-free weekends!

Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, the most successful team in the sport's history, has gone from strength to strength after the disappointment of 2020. They currently sit P3 in the standings, level on points with McLaren, but placed above them due to better podium finishes. On the driver lineup front, Carlos Sainz Jr joined the team alongside Charles Leclerc. 

Ferrari has had its moments of brilliance, and a return to the sharp end of the grid seem near.

Only 3 points separate the two teammates, with Sainz bagging two podiums to Leclerc's one. Leclerc didn't start the race in Monaco after getting pole position and retired on the opening lap in Hungary following the turn one melee. Nevertheless, the Monegasque finished 2nd in Silverstone, besides finishing in the top 10 on seven occasions. Meanwhile, Sainz bagged two podiums, P2 in Monaco and P3 in Hungary, and like Leclerc, finished in the points on seven occasions. Leclerc has been more consistent of the two, with Sainz working hard to settle with life at Maranello.

Ferrari admitted that with Leclerc, the possibility of grid penalties for exceeding the allocated number of engine components for the season seem real, which could prove detrimental to their aspirations for finishing P3 at the end of the year. 

McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren, the best of the rest in 2020, finds itself locked in an intense battle with Ferrari, level on points in the Constructor Standings. Ferrari is above McLaren due to better race results. 

McLaren brought in Daniel Ricciardo to replace Carlos Sainz Jr for 2021. The Australian, however, is struggling to extract the best out of his McLaren. While Norris has three podium finishes to his name, P5 ( at Silverstone ) is the best that Ricciardo could manage till now. Norris comfortably leads the intra-team battle, having scored more than double the points of Ricciardo's in the first half of the year. Norris has finished on the podium thrice ( P3 in Imola, Monaco and Austria ) and, until Hungary, was the only driver to have scored points in every race.

Norris is in P3 in the Driver Standings, 5 and 9 points clear off Bottas and Perez, respectively. If he manages to fend the duo until the end of the season, then he will establish himself as one of the best drivers on the grid.

As for Ricciardo, he is currently P9 in the standings, level on points with Gasly. The Australian needs to work over the summer break and is capable of turning things around.

Reliability remains the team's forte, and this could pay dividends at the end of the season. However, if they intend to finish P3, then McLaren needs consistency from both drivers. Ferrari, with the upgrades, has become a formidable force, and the battle for supremacy between these two greats of the sport will be an intriguing one.


Alpine Racing F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 Team got rechristened to Alpine Racing F1, named after the company's performance and racing division. The Black and Yellow livery got done away with for blue and red! While Ricciardo switched over to McLaren, seeking greener pastures, Fernando Alonso joined Alpine alongside Esteban Ocon. Alpine also brought in Davide Brivio, former chief of Suzuki's Championship-winning Moto GP team, to take the mantle of Racing Director. 

Ocon leads Alonso in the intra-team battle by one point, thanks to an unlikely victory at the Hungarian GP. The win was a combined team effort, with Alonso putting up a staunch defence against Hamilton. While Alonso has had eight finishes in the top 10, Ocon managed six. Their best finishes were P1 and P4 in Hungary. 

Alpine is going through a resurgence of sorts. As the only Renault-powered team on the grid, it has been tough to maintain competitiveness in 2021. The second half of the season will be equally challenging, and the team will need a weekend similar to that experienced in Hungary if they wish to keep Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin at bay.

Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Alpha Tauri, Red Bull's B-team, is locked in an intense battle for P5 in the Constructors' Championship. The team currently is 6th, with 68 points to its name, 20 points clear of Aston Martin, but trailing Alpine by 9. 

The Italian team brought in the Honda-backed rookie Yuki Tsunoda from F2 to partner Pierre Gasly for the 2021 season. However, the rookie has had a mediocre first half, scoring a mere 18 points versus Gasly's 50. While Tsunoda has had five points-finishes in the first half of the season, Gasly has managed eight! 

Dr Helmut Marko, Head of Red Bull's Driver Development Program, was critical of Tsunoda's performances thus far but reiterated that the latter had the talent to turn things around in the second half of the year. As for Gasly, the Frenchman has been the star at Alpha Tauri, producing stellar drives every weekend. The Frenchman even secured a podium for the team at the Azerbaijan GP. Gasly has outperformed Tsunoda in Qualifying and will remain the lead driver for the remainder of the year.

Alpha Tauri will need consistent performances from its drivers for the latter half of the season if they wish to surpass Alpine in the battle for P5 in the Championship. 

Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team :

Aston Martin, an iconic name in the automobile world, returned to the sport in 2021. The team, formerly known as Racing Point, hoped to replicate the successes of 2020. The team roped in the services of Sebastian Vettel, a four-time World Champion, to partner the much younger Lance Stroll. However, the regulation changes of 2021 disadvantaged the low rake cars, and Aston Martin is one such team suffering due to this. 

The team is 7th in the standings, 20 points shy of Alpha Tauri, having lost a big haul of points following Vettel's disqualification from P2 in Hungary due to a fuel irregularity issue. Vettel leads the intra-team battle with 30 points to his name and a podium finish ( P2 in Baku ). The German finished in the points at Monaco and France as well. As for Stroll, the Canadian has managed to finish in the top 10 on six occasions, with P8 being his best finish at Imola, Monaco, Styria and Silverstone. 

In a tightly contested midfield, Aston Martin can afford no slip-ups in the second half of the season. They have the resources to beat Alpha Tauri and Alpine, but it's easier said than done.

Williams Racing :

Williams F1 Racing, owned by Dorilton Capital, persisted with George Russell and Nicolas Latifi for 2021. While Russell had been one of the top performers in Qualifying on several weekends, a finish in the top 10 eluded him on race day. Latifi, too, struggled to extract the best out of his Williams on Sundays, but their hard work finally bore fruit at the Hungarian GP.  

Russell finally scored his first points at Williams and playing the team man with his radio exchange in Hungary. In a race riddled with inclement weather at the start, both drivers found themselves in the top 10, comfortably holding onto their season-best finishes ( so far ). Latifi's P7 and Russell's P8 helped Williams bag 10 points going into the summer break. The British outfit now sat seven points clear off Alfa Romeo in the Constructor Standings.

Williams has the upper hand going into the second half of the year and will look to hold onto P8. They should manage to rebuff challenges by Alfa Romeo and reap the financial benefits of not finishing last in the Constructor Standings.

Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo has struggled to replicate its first-half form of 2019 in the past two seasons. The Swiss-based outfit sits 9th in the standings after relinquishing P8 to Williams at the final race before the mid-season break. 

While Giovinazzi has outshone his more experienced teammate, Raikkonen, on Saturdays, the latter has displayed superior racecraft on Sundays. Poor strategic calls combined with the lack of power from the Ferrari power unit are the Achilles heel for Alfa Romeo. 

Raikkonen's best finish was P10 in Baku and Hungary, while Giovinazzi made it into the points at Monaco. 

Alfa Romeo will get limited opportunities to score points for the remainder of the year and cannot afford to make poor decisions. The deficit of seven points to Williams might be too big an ask, however.

Haas F1 Team :

The baptism by fire continues for Haas F1. The team hired the services of the current F2 Champion Mick Schumacher and F2 graduate Nikita Mazepin but are yet to score a point in 2021. The rookies have battled each other as backmarkers, with Schumacher narrowly edging out his team. The team's best finish was P12 at the recently concluded Hungarian Grand Prix. 

The team owner, Gene Haas, is keen on shifting the team's focus to 2022, and the chances of a point finish this season seem bleak. However, the team can take heart from the talent and maturity showed by their dynamic rookie duo up until the halfway mark of the 2021 F1 season.

The season so far has witnessed battles throughout the field. While Mercedes and Red Bull lock horns at the top, Ferrari and McLaren are contending for P3. Alpine, Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin are vying for P5, and Williams hopes to hold onto P8 from Alfa Romeo. 

Verstappen and Red Bull have stepped up to the challenge in 2021 and are more than just a match for Hamilton and Mercedes. In an ideal world, Verstappen and Red Bull would have been leading their respective championships. However, due to sheer misfortune, they find themselves trailing the reigning Champions. All that transpired in Silverstone and Hungary has left Red Bull yearning for a befitting response. The gloves will be off, the time for niceties will be over, and the battle will get feistier than ever.

Will Hamilton and Mercedes be able to fend off Verstappen and Red Bull? Do they have enough to tame the Bulls?

Time will reveal all!

2021 Hungarian GP Race Recap : A New Blue, Hungary for Wins!

The Hungarian Grand Prix was the final race before the summer break of the 2021 F1 Season. Hungaroring, a street circuit located near Budapest, the capital of Hungary, features a 71 lap race with two DRS zones and has delivered exciting battles in the past, despite its tight and twisty nature. It is also referred to as "Monaco, but without the walls". 

Leading up to the Hungarian GP, the clash between Hamilton and Verstappen at the British GP remained the centre of focus. Hamilton became the victim of online racial abuse, but the F1 world rallied to support the World Champion and reiterate their stand against racism

Verstappen's crash cost Red Bull 1.3 million pounds, and Red Bull's top brass wasn't pleased with the severity of the penalty meted out to Hamilton at the British GP, requesting another review of the footage of the clash with Verstappen. The petition to review got disallowed by the race stewards. Mercedes issued a statement welcoming the stewards' decision and extended its full support to Hamilton. 

Verstappen, meanwhile, revealed that Hamilton had called him to check on his well-being, and the duo had a "discussion". The Dutchman, however, remained critical of Hamilton's post-race celebrations at the British GP.

The FIA decided to scrap the "minimum reaction time" rule ( for pit stops ) due to be introduced on the Hungarian GP weekend.

Hamilton had been playing catch-up in 2021, and now, only 8 points separated him from Verstappen. As for Mercedes, they were only 4 points shy of Red Bull. Hungaroring had been a fortress for Hamilton, with Mercedes enjoying a fair amount of success in the turbo era. Verstappen and Red Bull suffered a big dent in their quest for the Championships at the British GP and hoped to bounce back and extend their lead going into the summer break. Only nine points separated three teams vying for 5th place in the standings, while McLaren and Ferrari continued a heated battle for P3.

Who reigned supreme at Hungaroring? Time for a quick recap of the Hungarian GP!

Practice :

Kubica got the nod to take Raikkonen's place at Alfa Romeo for Free Practice 1. Alonso suffered a spin in the early minutes of FP1, with Leclerc running wide at turn five and Tsunoda losing the rear of his Alpha Tauri at turn nine. The session was short-lived for Tsunoda as the back of his car hit the barriers and brought out the red flags. 

Verstappen topped the timesheets at the end of FP1 from Bottas and Hamilton. Sainz was 4th for Ferrari, followed by Gasly, Alonso and Leclerc, who completed the top 7. Perez's best lap got him P8, with Norris and Stroll going a second slower than Verstappen in 9th and 10th, respectively. 

Ocon was 11th in the other Alpine, followed by Tsunoda, Vettel and Ricciardo. The Williams of Russell and Latifi were 15th and 16th. Kubica split the Haas cars of Schumacher and Mazepin in 18th, while teammate Giovinazzi was the slowest at the end of FP1. The Italian's program got cut short after five laps due to a technical issue. 

High track temperatures greeted the drivers at the start of FP2, and Verstappen complained about balance issues throughout the session. Norris and Hamilton had off-track moments while Leclerc locked up his medium tyres on an early run. 

Bottas was the fastest at the end of FP2, two-hundredths of a second clear of Hamilton, with Verstappen, almost three-tenths adrift in 3rd. Ocon was 4th for Alpine, followed by Perez, Gasly and Alonso. The Aston Martins of Vettel and Stroll got split by Norris in P9.

Leclerc and Sainz led the bottom half of the field. Ricciardo was P13 in the other Mclaren, followed by Raikkonen, who was more than two seconds slower than Bottas' time. The Williams of Russell and Latifi were 15th and 16th. Tsunoda, who got confined to the pits after his crash in FP1, managed to do one flying lap at the end of FP2, setting the 17th quickest time. Giovinazzi split the Haas cars of Schumacher and Mazepin at the back of the field.

The pace delta between the softs and the medium tyres meant that the front runners would get forced to set their Q2 times on the softer compound, subject to Qualifying being a dry session. Red Bull struggled to find the ideal balance on Verstappen's car, and they had work to do on Saturday morning. It seemed like advantage Mercedes.


It was an eventful Free Practice 3 on Saturday morning with Giovinazzi clipping the back of Stroll's car while exiting his pit garage. Alfa Romeo got fined 5000 euros for the unsafe release. The Italian would then get a reprimand ( his first of 2021 ) for impeding Gasly, who was on a flying lap. Schumacher lost control of his Haas and ended up hitting the barriers at turn 11, which brought out the yellow flag. The mechanics needed to thoroughly check the chassis and replace the gearbox, which attracted a five-place grid penalty for the race. It was a race against time before the start of Qualifying later in the afternoon. 

Hamilton ended FP3 the quickest, eight-hundredths clear off Verstappen. Bottas was 3rd, two-tenths adrift. The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc were 4th and 5th, while Perez split the McLarens of Norris and Ricciardo in 7th. Alonso and Stroll completed the top 10.

Gasly was 11th for Alpha Tauri, followed by Ocon and Vettel. His teammate Tsunoda was 14th, with Raikkonen getting the jump on the Williams duo of Russell and Latifi in 15th. Giovinazzi was 18th in the other Alfa Romeo, followed by the Haas cars of Schumacher and Mazepin.

Qualifying :

The track temperature was at an all-time high of 58 degrees C at the start of Qualifying. 

The Haas mechanics were busy working on Schumacher's car to ready it for a run in Q1. Tsunoda, Mazepin, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi were the first drivers out on track with a set of soft tyres. The tight and twisty nature of the circuit meant that drivers had to build a gap to avoid being hindered by the dirty air coming from the back of another car. 

Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Sainz, Gasly and Norris were the top 6, with Tsunoda, Russell, Latifi, Mazepin and Schumacher facing elimination at the end of the first runs. Replays showed that Gasly got impeded by Sainz at turn one. The Ferrari driver emerged from the pits and had to get onto the kerbs to avoid a collision with Gasly, who was on a flying lap. Thankfully, the Spaniard got a let off. Perez, who was a second slower than Verstappen, went in for another run but failed to make inroads and stayed in 9th. 

The final minutes of Q1 saw the Red Bulls, Ferraris, Alpines and Gasly stay put while the rest emerged from the pits with a fresh set of soft tyres. 

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

The start of Q2 saw both the Mercedes and Red Bull drivers emerge from the pits with medium tyres. Sainz, who was on his first attempt with a set of soft tyres, made a mistake at the penultimate corner and slid into the wall sideways, tearing off his front wing. He tried to get going again, but the front wing got lodged under the Ferrari, bringing him to a stop. The session got red-flagged with less than 7 minutes remaining. 

Hamilton, Leclerc, Verstappen, Alonso, Vettel and Gasly were the top 6, with Norris, Stroll, Raikkonen, Sainz and Giovinazzi facing elimination.

Grip levels were improving, and everyone else, except for Bottas, switched to the soft tyres for their final runs of Q2. Bottas improved to P3, while Verstappen went the quickest at the end of Q2. 

The following drivers made it to Q3 - Verstappen, Norris, Gasly, Perez, Alonso, Hamilton, Leclerc, Bottas, Ocon and Vettel while Ricciardo, Stroll, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi and Sainz suffered elimination. Eight-hundredths of a second denied Ricciardo from a Q3 appearance, the McLaren driver, visibly frustrated.

It was time for the top-ten shootout, and softs were the tyre of choice for all the drivers. Hamilton was the quickest at the end of the first runs, three-tenths clear of Bottas, with Verstappen half a second further adrift. 

Vettel opted to go out-of-sync with the rest and set the 8th quickest time ( provisionally ). 

The final minutes saw Hamilton emerge ahead of both the Red Bulls out of the pits. The Briton was slow on his out-lap, and both Verstappen and Perez faced the threat of failing to start their flying lap before the timer ran out. Hamilton backed up the Red Bull duo even more, eventually locking up at the penultimate corner himself. Although Verstappen survived Hamilton's ploy and started his lap before the timer ran out, Perez got denied a final shot. 

The change in track temperatures prevented the top 3 from improving their lap times.

Hamilton bagged Pole Position, the 101st of his career, from Bottas and Verstappen. Perez managed to hold onto 4th, less than seven-hundredths clear off Gasly, Norris and Leclerc. The Alpines of Ocon and Alonso were 8th and 9th, with Vettel completing the top 10.

Despite his questionable tactics at the end, Hamilton produced a stellar lap to take Pole Position. Mercedes locked out the front row after a long time in 2021 and seemed to have found a response to the Red Bull dominance. Verstappen, who had complained about balance and understeer issues all weekend, could only manage 3rd, while Perez, his teammate, had his work cut out playing the team role for Sunday. The Red Bulls were at a disadvantage with tyre choice as well, but if they could get a jump on the Mercedes drivers, they could influence a different result in the race.

Gasly was Alpha Tauri's best hope for points on Sunday again, while Tsunoda needed to charge from the back of the field, which seemed unlikely. The Japanese rookie continued to struggle, ending up in a lowly 16th, 1.5 seconds slower than his teammate. McLaren had a better chance at outscoring Ferrari, thanks to Sainz's crash in Q2. Norris managed to outqualify his teammate Ricciardo again. The latter had a free tyre choice, though, and a good strategy could help him make places on race day. As for Ferrari, Leclerc was their best bet for a big points haul, while Sainz needed to go aggressive if he was to salvage his weekend, a challenge considering the nature of the track.

Alpine had both its drivers in the top 10 and had an opportunity of reducing the deficit to Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin. Vettel would start the race on the softs, but Stroll had a free tyre choice; going deep into the race before their pit stops had paid dividends for the Aston Martin duo in the past. How the team would approach race day was a matter of great intrigue. 

Alfa Romeo had a better day at Qualifying with both its drivers in Q2. Raikkonen managed to outqualify Giovinazzi only for the second time this year but, with his superior racecraft, had an opportunity for another points-scoring finish. Russell failed to spring any surprise for Williams on Saturday. Latifi was second-best again. Schumacher couldn't participate in Qualifying but got the all-clear to race. Williams and Haas seemed destined for the back of the field. 

Race :

Red Bull decided to change the ICE, MGU-H, MGU-K, Turbo and Exhaust System on Verstappen's car after detecting a problem after Qualifying. The team believed it to be an after-effect of the crash suffered at Silverstone. Thankfully, the Dutchman didn't incur a penalty.

Sunday morning saw F3 Race 3 ( a support race ) happen under wet conditions after torrential rain hit the circuit. However, conditions changed quickly, with the track drying up before the Grand Prix. The threat of rain remained, though.

C2, C3 and C4 were the dry tyres available for the race, but a light downpour before the race made it unfeasible for the slicks. All teams chose to start the race with intermediate tyres. The FIA proceeded with a standing start. The weather forecast predicted 25 minutes of rain with increasing intensity, and then the circuit would dry up for slick tyres.

Giovinazzi decided to gamble and switched to the medium tyres at the end of the formation lap. The rest of the field stuck with the intermediate tyres and lined up on the grid for the race start.

The five red lights went out, and Verstappen had the best start off the line. Hamilton had a clean getaway too, but Bottas got swamped by Norris and Perez. Bottas then missed his braking point and rear-ended Norris, who went and crashed into Verstappen. Bottas claimed another victim in Perez in the same incident. Gasly had to take avoiding action and lost positions. Meanwhile, Stroll got onto the kerbs at turn one ( out-braking himself ) and hit Leclerc, who ended up hitting Ricciardo in the other McLaren, sending the latter into a spin. 

Bottas and Perez suffered from terminal damage, while Verstappen rejoined down in 9th, the right side of his Red Bull damaged severely ( bargeboard gone ). Leclerc and Stroll also retired from the race, while the McLarens of Ricciardo and Norris continued their race, with a lot of bodywork damage and aero loss. 

Verstappen pitted at the end of lap one for another set of intermediates and rejoined in 13th, losing more bodywork at the exit of the pit lane.

Debris got strewn across the track due to the two accidents on the opening lap, and the stewards decided to Red Flag the race. 

Hamilton had come out unscathed from the turn one melee, while Ocon and Vettel had moved up to 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Sainz and Tsunoda had gained 11 positions each and were up into 4th and 5th. The Williams of Latifi and Russell were 6th and 8th, while Raikkonen ( P9 ) and Schumacher ( P10 ) were in the points.

The cars returned to the pit lane, and Verstappen's car underwent extensive repairs. The Red Bull mechanics taped up parts of the floor in a quest to make the car as race-worthy as possible. Raikkonen opted for a front wing change while McLaren wheeled Norris' car into the garage. McLaren then informed the FIA Race Director that they were retiring Norris from the race. 

A brief lull followed, and sunshine broke through the clouds. The teams, however, stuck with the intermediate tyres for the new formation lap of the race restart. Only 15 drivers remained for the rest of the race. The FIA confirmed that it would be a standing start again. As the drivers made it around the track, a couple quipped that the conditions were ideal for switching to the slick tyres. 

Everyone bar Hamilton dived into the pits and switched to the medium tyres. The pit lane was a hub of activity, with some teams double stacking their stops. Alfa Romeo released Raikkonen from his box at the same time when Mazepin was turning into his. The duo made contact, with Raikkonen's left rear tyre clipping the right front tyre of Mazepin's Haas. The resulting contact damaged the front wishbone, and Mazepin was out of the race. The incident got flagged for investigation. Raikkonen's teammate Giovinazzi was also in trouble for speeding in the pit lane. 

Meanwhile, on track, Hamilton was the only driver to line up on the grid for the race restart, while the rest of the field waited in the pit lane for the light to go green. Hamilton had a clean getaway while Russell jumped some cars in the pit lane, re-entering the race in 2nd. Alonso got past Raikkonen for P8, and Russell got instructed by the FIA to hand the positions back after his illegal overtake in the pit lane. The Briton fell back from P2 to P7 on the restart lap itself ( lap 4 ). 

Hamilton acknowledged ruefully that the track was dry, and Mercedes instructed him to pit for slick tyres. The Briton pitted for a set of mediums but rejoined at the back of the pack in 14th. His title rival, Verstappen, was up to P11.

Ocon, Vettel, Latifi, Tsunoda, Sainz, Alonso, Russell, Raikkonen, Ricciardo and Schumacher were the top 10 at the end of lap 5.

Hamilton began his recovery in full earnest and was the quickest man on track. He closed in on Giovinazzi in the battle for P13. The Italian put up a fight but was unable to hold off the Mercedes on lap 10. Giovinazzi also got a ten-second stop-go penalty for his infringement of speeding in the pit lane ( at the restart ). Further up the field, Verstappen was now pressuring Schumacher for P10. 

Giovinazzi served his penalty on lap 12, while Schumacher defended valiantly from Verstappen. Verstappen, however, got past him on lap 15 after some fair but hard racing. Raikkonen's contact with Mazepin ( during his pit stop ) resulted in a ten-second penalty, making matters worse for Alfa Romeo. Meanwhile, Gasly also got past Schumacher for P11 on lap 16. 

Raikkonen pitted on lap 16 to serve his time penalty, switched to the hard tyres, and the team cleared debris from the front left brakes of his car. The debris had caused his front brakes to reach critical temperatures. The Finn rejoined in 14th and last. Hamilton relegated Schumacher to P12 on lap 16 and continued to set blistering lap times. Raikkonen closed up on Giovinazzi, and Alfa Romeo swapped their positions on lap 18.

Ocon, Vettel, Latifi, Tsunoda, Sainz, Alonso, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Gasly were the top 10 on lap 19. 

Vettel was within the DRS range of Ocon when Alpine asked the latter to extend plan A by five more laps. Hamilton, who had closed up on Gasly in the battle for P10, struggled to get past him, and Mercedes decided to switch his strategy, pitting him for a set of hards on lap 20. Hamilton rejoined in 12th, just ahead of Raikkonen, who set the fastest lap of the race. 

Ricciardo and Verstappen followed suit a lap later, switching to the hard tyres. However, a brilliant out-lap by Hamilton allowed him to jump the duo, the undercut working in Mercedes' favour. Hamilton then managed to jump Russell on lap 22 after the latter pitted for a fresh set of hard tyres. Hamilton was the fastest man on track, and Ferrari, sighting a threat for Sainz, asked him to pit on lap 23, but the Spaniard refused and decided to extend his stint a little more. Tsunoda, however, pitted for Alpha Tauri, jumping Latifi after the latter's stop to end up P6. Meanwhile, Hamilton got past Schumacher for P9 on lap 24.

Ocon, Vettel, Sainz, Alonso, Gasly, Tsunoda, Latifi, Hamilton, Schumacher and Russell were the top 10 at the end of lap 26.

Hamilton continued his charge up the field with a move on Latifi for P7, while there was a train of cars forming up behind Schumacher. Russell, Ricciardo and Verstappen got stuck behind the Haas car, and this allowed Raikkonen to reduce the deficit to the quartet. 

Gasly pitted for hard tyres on lap 31, rejoining in P8. Meanwhile, Hamilton got past Tsunoda for P5 ( lap 32 ). As soon as Hamilton completed the overtake on Tsunoda, Ferrari called Sainz in for his pit stop and switched him to the hard tyres. The Spaniard re-emerged in 4th.

Schumacher's tyres were rapidly losing grip, and the German lost four positions to Russell, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Raikkonen in the space of two laps. The German immediately pitted for hard tyres, rejoining in P13. 

Vettel finally pitted for hard tyres on lap 37 but had a 3.3 second stop. Alpine responded immediately, pitting Ocon on the next lap. The Frenchman emerged from the pits and managed to fend off the challenge from Vettel, who had set blistering sector times on his out-lap. Alonso, who inherited the lead after the pit stops, pitted on lap 40 for his only stop of the race and switched to the hard tyres. He rejoined the race in P5, behind Hamilton.

Gasly got past Latifi for P7 while Verstappen completed his 2nd pit stop, switching to the mediums and rejoining in P11 ( lap 41 ). Alonso was the fastest man on track, while Hamilton struggled to challenge Sainz for P3.

Ocon, Vettel, Sainz, Hamilton, Alonso, Tsunoda, Gasly, Latifi, Russell and Ricciardo were the top 10 at the end of lap 46.

Hamilton pitted again, on lap 48, switched to the medium tyres and rejoined the race in P5. The Briton got told to push till the end, and Mercedes believed he had the pace to win the race. Meanwhile, at the front, Ocon and Vettel closed in on Giovinazzi to lap the Alfa Romeo driver, and Ocon got compromised on the pit straight. The backmarker problem allowed Vettel to challenge Ocon for the lead into turn one, but Ocon managed to rebuff him. Alpha Tauri informed its drivers to swap positions as they believed Gasly had more speed than Tsunoda. The swap for P6 happened on lap 49. 

While Ocon and Vettel were busy clearing backmarkers, Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race, going four seconds faster than anyone on the track! Verstappen began his recovery for points by relegating Raikkonen to P12 on lap 50. 

The battle for P3 was hotting up, with Alonso getting within the DRS range of Sainz, and Hamilton, closing in on the duo. Meanwhile, Verstappen was pressuring Ricciardo for P10. Raikkonen pitted for the 2nd time, switching to the soft tyres on lap 55 and rejoined in P12. On the track, Hamilton sparred with Alonso in the battle for P4, but the latter fended off the challenge. The duo was side-by-side again a couple of laps later, but Alonso ensured that the status quo got maintained. Verstappen got into the points with an overtake on Ricciardo for P10 on lap 61.

Alonso continued to rebuff challenge after challenge by Hamilton, who complained about Alonso "moving under braking". The Spaniard finally made an uncharacteristic error at turn one, locking up his brakes ( lap 65 ) and leaving the door open. Hamilton closed up and overtook him with DRS assistance into turn two. The battle continued into the next couple of turns, but Hamilton had finally bagged P4. The Briton then quickly caught up to Sainz and got past him for P3 on lap 67. Less than six seconds separated Ocon and Vettel from Hamilton with four laps remaining.

Alonso pressured Sainz for P4, while Raikkonen got past Ricciardo for P11 ( lap 68 ). Gasly pitted for the soft tyres on lap 69, retaining P6 and going for the fastest lap point. The Frenchman achieved it on the final lap.

Ocon took the Chequered Flag and victory, having held off Vettel throughout the Grand Prix. Vettel was 2nd for Aston Martin, with Hamilton 3rd, just eight-tenths adrift.

Sainz bagged P4 for Ferrari, followed by Alonso and Gasly. Tsunoda was 7th in the other Alpha Tauri, followed by the Williams of Latifi and Russell, who managed to keep Verstappen at bay. Verstappen got the final point in P10.

Raikkonen finished P11 for Alfa Romeo, followed by Ricciardo in a heavily damaged McLaren. Schumacher and Giovinazzi completed the classified finishers. 

The results were provisional as Ocon got called to the stewards for not following the Race Director post-race procedure. The Frenchman had missed the pit entry and went down the start-finish straight again. He stopped his car at the end of the pit straight and ran back to Parc Ferme for the podium celebrations. Meanwhile, Vettel, who finished in P2, stopped on the track due to low fuel. Russell did likewise. 


Vettel, Bottas, Sainz and Stroll got called to the stewards for allegedly "not following the Race Director's instructions - the pre-race procedure". 

The quartet, along with Ocon, got reprimands for their mistakes. 

Celebrations broke out in the pit lane as the mechanics of Alpine and Aston Martin celebrated a famous podium. Alonso, also, was on Parc Ferme to celebrate Ocon's win. 

The stewards gave Bottas and Stroll a five-place grid drop ( each ) for the Belgian Grand Prix ( along with two penalty points each ) for their misdemeanours on the opening lap. 

The dust settled on the celebrations, and drama stuck an hour later. Vettel's Aston Martin didn't have the minimum quantity of fuel required ( one litre ) for post-race testing, and the team got summoned to the stewards. The FIA could extract only 0.3 litres, and due to this infringement, Vettel got disqualified from the race! Aston Martin believed that they had enough fuel onboard ( 1.44 litres to be precise ) for sampling and appealed against the decision.  

The appeal got rejected on Monday, and Vettel got excluded from the final classification. The exclusion meant that all drivers moved up a position, with Hamilton ending up in P2 and Sainz getting promoted to P3 and onto the podium.

Hamilton had a trying Sunday and, despite the tactical gaffe at the restart, recovered well to finish P3 and then inherited P2. The Briton now led the Driver Standings by 8 points, gaining momentum going into the summer break. It was not an easy drive as the reigning World Champion admitted that he was suffering from the effects of "Long Covid". Nevertheless, it was "advantage Hamilton" going into the second half of the season. A rookie error brought Bottas' race to a premature end, and unfortunately, the Finn wiped out both the Red Bulls and Norris. The mistake compromised his next race in Belgium, and Bottas faced a lot of scrutiny post-race. The likelihood of his contract getting renewed at Mercedes seemed bleak. Mercedes jumped Red Bull in the standings and now led their arch-rivals by 12 points. Team Principal Toto Wolff issued a public apology for the first lap collision caused by Bottas, which took out Perez and Norris and heavily damaged Verstappen's car. 

As for Red Bull, the team managed to score only five points from the last two races. Bottas was the culprit and Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Principal, wasn't pleased with the apology offered by Mercedes. Perez's engine suffered substantial damage, and the threat of incurring grid penalties due to new components became a concern. Verstappen was in a similar boat but salvaged a couple of points in a highly compromised car. The Dutchman had a Mercedes to blame again for his misfortune. The past two races saw his lead of 32 points turn into a deficit of eight. Verstappen & Co would now have to play catch-up due to no fault of their own. 

It was a bitter-sweet day for Ferrari. While Sainz secured P3 and his second podium with Ferrari in 2021, Leclerc, who would have challenged those ahead of him, got taken out by Stroll in the melee at turn one. The Monegasque cut a dejected figure as he clambered out of the car and into retirement on the opening lap. As for Sainz, the Spaniard struggled in the first half of the race and his decision to overturn Ferrari's strategy calls paid dividends. Sainz's P3 helped Ferrari get level with McLaren in the Constructor Standings. The battle for 3rd in the Constructors was well and truly on!

McLaren had a disastrous weekend. While Norris got taken out by Bottas, Ricciardo got hit by Leclerc on the opening lap. Both suffered damage, but for Norris, it was terminal. Norris was the only driver to have scored points in every race up until Hungary. The Briton was distraught as an opportunity for a win or possibly a podium went begging. Ricciardo was left fighting for scraps in the lower half of the field. The Australian cut a forlorn figure in 11th, his struggles in his new life at McLaren never-ending. As for Norris, the only silver lining from the weekend was that none of his immediate rivals scored any points. Bottas, Leclerc and Perez all suffered retirements, and it was status quo in the battle for P3 in the Driver Championship. McLaren's failure to score allowed Ferrari to get level in the fight for P3. The Woking-based outfit faced an uphill task for the second half of the season.

Ocon and Alpine hadn't put a foot wrong the entire race, placing his car in the right place and taking an opportunistic line at turn one, which kept him safe from all the incidents. The Frenchman displayed character and calmness in the face of unrelenting pressure from Vettel, taking an unlikely victory at one of the toughest races on the calendar. His calibre and talent came to the fore, but Ocon also had Alonso to thank. Alonso held up Hamilton for ten laps, which was enough to deny the Briton a shot at victory. Alonso got awarded the "The Driver of the Day".  The former double World Champion earned everyone's respect en route to a fine P4. The 37 points haul helped Alpine catapult themselves up into P5 in the Constructors' standings, nine points clear of Alpha Tauri. 

As for Aston Martin, the 18 points achieved by Vettel in 2nd got reversed after the rejection of the appeal. The team failed to add to their tally of points. Vettel had driven a great race nonetheless. The former World Champion tried hard to pressure Ocon for the win but came up short after several attempts. Stroll's mistake on the opening lap denied the team a strong result, and the Canadian's five-place grid drop complicated matters for Belgium. Aston Martin now trailed Alpha Tauri by 20 points in P7.

Despite scoring 19 points, Alpha Tauri lost out to Alpine but extended their lead to Aston Martin. Gasly was the stronger of the two drivers again, also bagging the point for the fastest lap and denying Hamilton the same at the end. Tsunoda kept it clean and recovered from the disappointment of Saturday. The Italian based team remain a strong contender in the midfield battle. 

It was a weekend to remember for the Williams F1 Team. Latifi and Russell made up several places after the opening lap melee. The duo displayed great racecraft and deserved to be in the top 10. Russell played the team game and offered Williams the chance to prioritize Latifi since the latter was running in the podium places for several laps. Nevertheless, P7 and P8 were more than the team could ask for on such an eventful weekend. Williams jumped Alfa Romeo into P8 and 7 points clear of their immediate rivals. 

As for Alfa Romeo, it was another weekend of "what could have been". Giovinazzi suffered from the penalty of speeding in the pit lane. Raikkonen got pulled up due to the "unsafe release" by Alfa Romeo, which lead to the coming together with Mazepin and the latter's retirement. Both drivers had the pace to perform better but got let down by poor decision making again. Raikkonen's promotion to P10 helped Alfa Romeo get one point. The team needed reforms over the summer break if they were to salvage their season. Surpassing Williams now became the priority.

Schumacher's talent and feistiness came to the fore in his battle with Russell and Verstappen. The German was briefly running in the points, and although he ended the race in P12, Haas seemed to have made improvements in their car. Mazepin's race got cut short after his incident with Raikkonen in the pits, so what he could have accomplished remained a mystery. 

The marathon 70 laps at the Hungarian GP produced a humdinger of a race. The title battle had turned on its head due to the unexpected results of the last two races. Mercedes and Hamilton were riding high from the success, while Red Bull and Verstappen had multiple factors to blame for their misfortune. The contenders had a month to assess and restrategize for the second half of the season. The duel would resume in the hills of the Ardennes at the iconic track of Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, the home of the Belgian GP.

Hungary gave the fans of the sport a New Grand Prix Winner in Esteban Ocon. Eight years had passed since Alpine F1, under the guise of Lotus F1, had last won a race with Kimi Raikkonen. The journey from thereon had been a challenging one. It was "Redemption Day" for Alpine F1 in Hungary.

The season ahead will have many more surprises in the title battle, and eventually, F1 would have a Champion. 


However, in Hungary, the glory belonged to Ocon, Alonso and Alpine F1!

Allez Les Bleus!

2021 British GP Race Recap : Hammer-ing a Dent on the Home Turf!

The penultimate round before the summer break of the 2021 F1 Season got held at the iconic circuit of Silverstone. Silverstone, the home of the British GP, had served up exciting races in the past and was the first venue to hold "the new format for a race weekend" that got announced by the FOM earlier in the season. A majority of the teams had the British GP as their home race. The stands were full of spectators for the second time in 2021.

So what were the changes in the new format?

Twelve sets of dry tyres were available for each driver - six softs, four mediums and two hards for the entire weekend.

The British GP would feature a revamped schedule with Friday featuring only one practice session, followed by Qualifying, which would decide the grid for the F1 Sprint on Saturday. Friday Practice would last for 60 minutes, while Qualifying would follow the same format as a regular race weekend. Parc-Ferme conditions would get imposed before Qualifying. Drivers had access to only the soft tyres ( four from their allocation ) for Qualifying, with those making it into Q3 getting an extra set. The timings for the sessions got pushed back to later in the day to accommodate more viewership.

The term "Pole Position" got replaced by "the Fastest Qualifier".

Saturday would feature another 60-minute Practice Session, followed by an F1 Sprint later in the day. The F1 Sprint was the star attraction from the weekend, with drivers lining up based on their Qualifying results from Friday. 

The F1 Sprint followed a shorter race format, a total distance of 100 km ( 17 laps ), lasting 25-30 minutes. Drivers had free tyre choice and were not obligated to make a pit stop. The Sprint Race winner would bag Pole Position, and the results of the Sprint would decide the grid for the main Grand Prix on Sunday. The winner of the Sprint would get 3 points, second and third would get two and one points respectively. There would be no podium celebrations after the F1 Sprint. If a driver failed to finish the Sprint due to an accidentthe teams could change parts ( different spec allowed ) for the Grand Prix.

Sunday would feature the main event - The British Grand Prix over 52 laps, with points getting awarded to the top 10 drivers ( regular format ). The intriguing aspect of the weekend was that all 20 drivers would have a free tyre choice at the start of both the F1 Sprint and the Grand Prix. 

More Details about the New Race Weekend are here:

Leading up to the British GP, the Australian GP got called off due to restrictions and logistical challenges relating to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

Carlos Reutemann, a leading F1 driver in the 1970s and 1980s, passed away aged 79. Lando Norris suffered from a traumatic experience, getting robbed of his Richard Mille McLaren watch after attending the Euro 2020 final, in which the English Football Team came up second-best. McLaren got hit with more bad news after Zak Brown, the CEO, and two other members tested positive for COVID-19 and underwent isolation.

Alfa Romeo announced a multi-year extension of its agreement with Sauber Engineering, with Team Principal Frederic Vasseur getting a free hand to choose his drivers for 2022. 

The FOM also unveiled their concept of the 2022 F1 Car under the new regulations.

In 2020, tyre delaminations in the final laps of the race threatened to change the result of the British GP. While Bottas lost a position to Verstappen, Hamilton limped home with three tyres to win the British GP in a dramatic climax.

Come 2021, Mercedes had been playing catchup since the past five races and needed a response at the home race. Hamilton was banking on home advantage and crowd support to get his Championship fight back on track. How did the title battle unfold, and was there another twist in the tale? Time for a recap of the British GP weekend!

Friday Practice :

Free Practice 1, the only Practice Session before Qualifying, and the teams had their work cut out for sixty minutes. Stroll quipped that he didn't feel confident at the wheel of his Aston Martin, while Russell had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits. Sainz suffered a spin at the exit of turn three, and Verstappen reported a loss of power at the final two turns on one of his flying laps. 

Nevertheless, the Dutchman topped the timesheets at the end of FP1, seven-tenths clear of Norris and Hamilton. Bottas split the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz in 5th, while Vettel, Perez, Ricciardo and Ocon completed the top 10. 

The Alpha Tauris of Gasly and Tsunoda were P11 and P12, with Alonso splitting the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen in P14. Latifi was 16th in his Williams, followed by Schumacher and Stroll. Mazepin and Russell completed the back of the field. 

Qualifying for F1 Sprint :

The soft tyres ( C3 ) were the only available choice for all the sessions of Qualifying. Red Bull carried out some setup changes on Verstappen's car before the start of Qualifying. The sun was shining, but the track temperatures were lower than those in FP1. 

Q1 got underway, and Ocon, Verstappen and the Aston Martin drivers decided to stay put in the early minutes. The track, however, saw the full quota of cars when ten minutes remained of Q1. Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Perez and Norris were the top 6, with Sainz, Raikkonen, Stroll, Schumacher and Mazepin facing elimination after the first runs.

The lap times started dropping as more rubber got laid on the track, and while Sainz improved to P5, Leclerc made a mistake on the penultimate corner on his flying lap.

For the final runs of Q1, Verstappen and Alonso chose to stay put while the rest of the field emerged with a fresh set of soft tyres. There was a rapid track evolution, and everyone improved on their final runs. Tsunoda, Raikkonen, Latifi and Schumacher got eliminated from Qualifying, while Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc, Perez, Ricciardo and Sainz ended as the top 6. Less than a second separated the top 14 drivers at the end of Q1.

Everyone bar Giovinazzi began their first attempt of Q2 on a fresh set of soft tyres. Nine-hundredths of a second separated Hamilton from Verstappen at the top, with Bottas, Perez and Vettel remaining in close contention. Gasly, Russell, Alonso, Stroll and Giovinazzi were in the drop zone at the end of the first runs. 

Perez and Vettel opted to not run again in Q2 while the rest of the field tried to better their attempts in the final minutes. 

Hamilton went the quickest, three-tenths clear of Verstappen. Russell produced a stellar lap to finish Q2 in P7! Bottas, Sainz, Leclerc, Perez, Vettel, Ricciardo and Norris were the others who got through to Q3, while Alonso, Gasly, Ocon, Giovinazzi and Stroll suffered elimination. Two-hundredths of a second separated Alonso from Q3, a matter of close margins again. 

The Ferrari drivers opted for a used set of soft tyres for their first attempts of Q3. Vettel had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits, while Russell decided to go out-of-sync with the rest of the field.

Hamilton discovered newfound pace and went two-tenths clear of Verstappen, with Bottas and Perez a further two-tenths adrift. Verstappen wasn't pleased with the balance of his car and complained about understeer in the final sector. Meanwhile, Russell emerged from the pits on a clear track and set the 7th quickest time amongst loud cheers from his home crowd. 

The final minutes of Q3 saw all drivers ( bar Russell ) emerge for the final top-ten shootout with a fresh set of soft. 

Hamilton set purple sector times but made a mistake at the Vale chicane. The Briton failed to improve on his previous attempt. Meanwhile, Verstappen set personal best times in sectors one and three but couldn't pip Hamilton to become the Fastest Qualifier. Seven hundredths of a second separated the duo at the end of Q3. 

Bottas qualified P3 while Perez had set the 4th quickest time but had his lap deleted for exceeding track limits. The deletion promoted Leclerc to P4, with Perez getting accompanied by Norris on row three of the grid. Ricciardo was P7 in the other McLaren, followed by Russell, Sainz and Vettel, who completed the top 10.

It had been an intense Qualifying, but Hamilton, despite his error, emerged as the first "Fastest Qualifier" in the new format. He had the best opportunity of bagging "Pole Position" for the Grand Prix and three points from the F1 Sprint. As for Verstappen, he had suffered a psychological blow, and the setup changes before Qualifying proved detrimental. Mercedes had stepped up to the challenge and had both its cars in the top 3, while Perez's lap time deletion ( in the end ) compromised Red Bull's plans for the F1 Sprint. 

Leclerc had his Ferrari in the mix, but Russell was the star of Qualifying, having finished P8 in a Williams, only a tenth slower than Leclerc in P4. 

In a tightly contested midfield, there was no room for errors, and the F1 Sprint race would prove pivotal in "making or breaking" the prospects of a driver and his team on Grand Prix Sunday. However, before that, the drivers would get one more opportunity to practice on Saturday morning.

Saturday Practice :

Saturday Practice ( FP2 ) saw teams attempt race simulations, with tyre options split between their drivers. Tyre choice for the F1 Sprint later in the day was equally important, and some drivers reported blisters even on the medium tyres. Bottas suffered from a spin after the end of FP2 and flat-spotted his soft tyres. 

Verstappen topped the timesheets from Leclerc and Sainz. Ocon was P4 for Alpine, followed by Perez and the McLarens of Norris and Ricciardo. Hamilton, Bottas and Gasly completed the top 10.

Russell was P11 in his Williams, while Alonso split the Alfa Romeos of Giovinazzi and Raikkonen in P13. Latifi set the 15th quickest time, from Tsunoda and the Aston Martins of Vettel and Stroll. The Haas cars of Schumacher and Mazepin brought up the rear of the field.

Sainz, Vettel and Mazepin got summoned to the stewards for failing to follow Race Director's instructions with practice starts during FP2. The trio got let off with formal warnings.

F1 Sprint :

The sun was beating down on Silverstone, and track temperatures hit 48 degrees C. It was time for the maiden F1 Sprint of the 2021 F1 Season. Seventeen laps separated the drivers from Pole Position for the British Grand Prix.

The drivers set out on the formation lap, and four drivers chose the aggressive approach by opting for the soft tyres - Bottas, Alonso, Ocon and Raikkonen. Bottas was on a used set of softs. The rest of the field persisted with the mediums, with the Aston Martins starting on previously used tyres. 

The drivers lined up on the grid, and smoke was billowing from Verstappen's front brakes. 

As the five red lights illuminated and went out, Hamilton was hesitant off the line, but Verstappen timed his launch correctly and took the lead into turn one! Bottas, with his gripper tyres, also had a good launch off the line and pressured Hamilton only to relent at turn one. Meanwhile, Alonso displayed stellar racecraft jumping six positions into P5. Raikkonen, the most experienced driver on the grid, made up four places to end up P13. 

Russell and Sainz banged wheels, which sent the latter wide, bumping him down to P18. The incident got flagged for investigation post-session. The Haas cars had a coming together, and Mazepin got spun around. Meanwhile, Perez got past Ricciardo for P7.

Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Alonso, Norris, Perez, Ricciardo, Vettel and Russell were the top 10 at the end of lap 3.

Hamilton and Verstappen were trading the fastest laps at the front, while Sainz began his recovery with overtakes on Giovinazzi and Stroll for P14. Meanwhile, Norris, who had closed upon Alonso, couldn't get past due to the latter's tactics of "weaving while defending". Alonso's actions got reported to the stewards. Perez was also closing in on Ricciardo when an extra throttle input sent him spinning through the gravel at Maggotts-Becketts. The Mexican avoided hitting the barriers but fell to P19 and had massive flat spots and vibrations on his tyres. 

Norris finally got past Alonso for P5 on lap 6, while Verstappen extended his lead at the front to 1.7 seconds. Ricciardo honed in on Alonso and relegated him to P7 on lap 9. The latter tried to fight back using the slipstream, but Ricciardo rebuffed the challenge. Further down the field, Sainz got past Raikkonen for P12. Those who had started on the soft tyres were slowly losing grip and lap times.

Verstappen continued to stretch his lead, and Hamilton asked his team for options to maintain pressure. Both drivers had started to suffer from blistering on the right front tyres. Alonso had now fallen into the clutches of Vettel, who was pressuring him in the battle for P7. Alonso finally got warned by the stewards for "moving under braking". Meanwhile, Sainz overtook Gasly for P11.

Red Bull informed Verstappen that he had a comfortable lead of three seconds over Hamilton, asking him to avoid the kerbs as a fail-safe against tyre delamination. His teammate Perez, who had suffered a spin and had massive vibrations going through the car, got asked to retire. He would get the luxury of changing parts on his car but would start at the back of the grid on race day. 

Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and became F1's first sprint winner. The Dutchman scored three points, bagging Pole Position for the British GP. Hamilton was 2nd and scored two points, while Bottas was 3rd for Mercedes and had one point added to his Championship tally.

Leclerc was 4th for Ferrari and would start alongside Bottas. Row 3 was an all-McLaren lineup with Norris and Ricciardo, followed by Alonso and Vettel on row 4. Russell and Ocon completed the top 10.

Sainz qualified P11 in the other Ferrari, followed by Gasly and Raikkonen. Stroll was 14th for Aston Martin, from Giovinazzi and Tsunoda. Latifi, Schumacher, Mazepin and Perez completed the back of the field. Whether Perez would start the race from the back of the grid or the pit lane remained to be seen. 

Alonso was the star of the F1 Sprint after his opening lap heroics. The top 3 finishers got onto a truck for a "Victory Lap Parade", and Verstappen had a wreath put around him. 

Red Bull had finally scored a Pole Position in Silverstone after nine years. Mark Webber was the last Red Bull driver to start on pole at the 2012 British GP. Although Verstappen struggled on Qualifying Friday, his Red Bull was set up better in race mode, and he was the favourite to take the win on Sunday. Hamilton and Bottas had no answer for Verstappen's pace. However, Mercedes had both its cars on the sharp end of the grid, while Perez, the other Red Bull driver, was at the back of the pack. 

Tyre wear would prove pivotal in the battle for victory, as seen from the blisters on all tyres at the end of the F1 Sprint.

Leclerc ensured that at least one Ferrari started ahead of both the McLarens, while Sainz hoped to recover more places with an aggressive strategy on Sunday. The battle for P3 in the Constructors' was a hotly contested one, and both McLaren and Ferrari needed their drivers to score big on Sunday. Alpine's decision to start both its drivers on the softs in the F1 Sprint paid dividends, and they hoped to reduce the deficit to Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin. As for Alpha Tauri, Gasly and Tsunoda were in the lower half of the field, the duo facing a long Sunday afternoon. While Vettel continued to go from strength to strength, Stroll failed to find confidence at the wheel of his Aston Martin. However, a lot could change come Sunday. 

Russell was the star on Qualifying Friday and remained in the top 10 for the start of the Grand Prix. While Russell got a summons for his clash with Sainz in the F1 Sprint, Sainz was under investigation for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner. Subsequently, Russell got penalized with a three-place grid drop for his coming together with Sainz, having locked up and pushed "another car off track". The resulting sentence demoted Russell to P12. Sainz escaped from a penalty. 

Latifi continued to get out-qualified by Russell but had the opportunity of turning things around in the race. Raikkonen, like Alonso, made up places at the start, which put him ahead of his teammate Giovinazzi. It was unlikely that Alfa Romeo would score points on the weekend. Haas F1 was going through a torrid time with its results, and the friction between its two young rookies wasn't helping matters. 

Race :

Red Bull gave Perez's car a new Energy Store, Control Electronics and Rear Wing Assembly. The replacements were in breach of the Parc Ferme regulations, which meant that Perez would start the race from the pit lane.

Alonso, on his sighting lap, spun out of Woodcote. Thankfully, his Alpine didn't suffer any damage.  

Raikkonen had 20 race starts at Silverstone, setting a new record for the most starts by a driver at any circuit.

C1, C2 and C3 were the tyres available for the race, and Pirelli predicted a two-stopper for those on an aggressive strategy. 

Everyone, bar Perez, opted to start the race on the medium tyres. The Mercedes, Aston Martin and Haas Cars were on a used set of mediums.

Track temperatures were at an all-time high at 52 degrees C, and teams were concerned with tyre wear.

The five red lights went out, and it was a clean getaway for Verstappen. Hamilton pressured him into turn one but slotted back into 2nd after minor contact. Leclerc jumped Bottas into 3rd. The battle for the lead was not over yet as Hamilton tried to get the tow off Verstappen and challenge him on the Wellington Straight. The duel continued, and they were almost side-by-side going into Copse. Hamilton's left front tyre clipped the right rear of Verstappen's car, leading to immediate suspension damage on the Red Bull and sending Verstappen flying off the track and into the barriers!

Verstappen was out of the race! 

Leclerc saw the opportunity and jumped Hamilton going into Maggotts-Becketts. The Safety Car got deployed, and Hamilton reported damage to his car. Meanwhile, Verstappen looked winded from the impact, and the medical car rushed to check on his wellbeing. The Dutchman had suffered a 51G crash, and the FIA medical team surmised that he needed a thorough check-up at a nearby hospital. 

Further down the field, the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi had made up positions and were up into P9 and P13, respectively. Russell was down to 14th, while Perez stayed P19 and last at the end of the opening lap.

The impact from Verstappen's crashed had damaged the tyre barriers, and the race stewards decided to Red Flag the race, carry out repairs and safely extricate the stricken Red Bull. The collision got flagged for investigation by the stewards, and Hamilton, in his defence, said that Verstappen turned in on him.

There was a series of radio communications between the FIA Race Director Michael Masi and the two teams. The Race Director reiterated that the stewards, and not him, would give a resolution on the matter. In the pit lane, the Mercedes mechanics taped up the damaged components on the front wing and replaced a cracked wheel rim on Hamilton's car. As for Verstappen's car, the Red Bull Mechanics were at the crash site and inspecting the underside. The car was still "live", possibly leaking fluid, and after safety checks, it finally got pulled out of the barriers. The right side of Verstappen's Red Bull suffered damage beyond recognition as it made it's way back to the pits. 

The FIA announced a standing start for the restart of the race, and this time, Leclerc had a clean getaway from P1. Hamilton couldn't challenge for the lead, but Norris managed to jump Bottas for P3. Further down the field, Vettel and Alonso were sparring over P6 when Vettel gave too much throttle and spun by himself at Luffield. The German fell back to 19th and last. Meanwhile, Ocon got past Giovinazzi for P10 while Perez was already up to P16.  

The stewards decided to give Hamilton a ten-second time penalty for his collision with Verstappen. The Briton was due to serve it during his pitstop, which would compromise his race considerably. On the track, Ocon relegated Raikkonen to P10, and Sainz overtook Alonso for P6. Further down the field, Perez got past Latifi for P15 ( lap 5 ). Leclerc was the fastest man on track as Givoinazzi lost P11 to Gasly.

Vettel and Perez were making their way through the field, with overtakes on Mazepin and Russell for P18 and P13, respectively. Hamilton set the fastest lap as he reduced the deficit to Leclerc to 1.3 seconds. Meanwhile, Raikkonen got track limits warning on lap 8, while Perez got past Giovinazzi for P12. 

Leclerc, Hamilton, Norris, Bottas, Ricciardo, Sainz, Alonso, Stroll, Ocon and Raikkonen were the top 10 at the end of lap 10.

Ferrari informed Sainz that they would switch to either plan B or C, while Leclerc got instructions to switch to plan B ( lap 13 ). Hamilton struggled to stay in touch with Leclerc until the latter reported an engine cut and power loss on lap 15.  Ferrari guided Leclerc through some settings changes, but the issue returned a lap later. Bottas was setting blistering lap times as he tried to close in on Hamilton and Leclerc while Hamilton was within DRS range of Leclerc. The issue for Leclerc finally got resolved, and the Monegasque extended his lead at the front to 2 seconds again.

Meanwhile, Gasly got a Black & White Flag for exceeding track limits multiple times. The pit stop window for those on the medium tyres was now open, and Raikkonen, Russell and Vettel pitted for the hard tyres. Perez pitted as well but switched to the mediums. Leclerc set the fastest lap of the race, and Vettel got past Schumacher for P17. While Latifi and Ocon pitted for the hard tyres on lap 20, Perez finally managed to get past Raikkonen for P13. 

The McLaren drivers were next to pit for the hard tyres on laps 21 and 22. An issue on the right rear left Norris stationary for 6 seconds during his pit stop. 

At the front, Leclerc's engine woes continued with momentary losses of power. Bottas pitted for hard tyres on lap 23, with Mercedes pouncing on the slip up by McLaren with Norris' stop. Sure enough, Bottas emerged from the pits ahead of Norris. The Finn then relegated Alonso to P5, while Ocon lost P12 to Perez, who resumed his charge through the field. Alonso then lost another position to Norris on lap 24.

Giovinazzi and Stroll were the next to pit for the hard tyres on lap 24, rejoining in P15 and P10, respectively.  

Leclerc, who had a 2.5 seconds lead at the front, got instructions to not upshift during the engine power cuts. Alonso had run out of grip on his medium tyres and pitted for the hards on lap 25. However, he, too, had a slow stop due to issues on the right rear tyre. He lost a position to Stroll but immediately reclaimed it on track ( P9 ). 

Bottas was the fastest man on the track on lap 26, and Mercedes finally asked Hamilton to pit on lap 28 after he reported that his front left tyre had lost all grip. The Briton served his time penalty and exited the pits after having been stationary for 14.5 seconds. Hamilton was now P5 and needed to complete overtakes on track if he wished to take victory at his home race. 

A lap later, Sainz and Gasly pitted for the hard tyres. Sainz had an issue with his front left wheel, resulting in a slow stop. The Spaniard rejoined in P6. As for Gasly, his extended stint on the medium tyres helped him jump Raikkonen, and he quickly relegated Ocon to 12th.

Hamilton began his recovery with the fastest lap of the race on lap 30, while Leclerc got the call to pit and switch to the hard tyres. The Monegasque emerged from the pits, still in the race lead! Hamilton got past Norris for P3, while Tsunoda pitted for the hard tyres on lap 31. Hamilton was now catching Bottas while simultaneously eating into Leclerc's lead of 13 seconds.

Leclerc, Bottas, Hamilton, Norris, Ricciardo, Sainz, Alonso, Stroll, Perez and Gasly were the top 10 on lap 35.

The battle for P5 was hotting up with Sainz closing in on Ricciardo. The Spaniard tried to pressure Ricciardo, but he rebuffed the challenge. Bottas reported to Mercedes that it was impossible to make it to the end on a one-stop strategy if he maintained his current pace. Meanwhile, his teammate was setting blistering lap times in his quest for victory. Further down the field, Perez pitted again for another set of mediums and relegated Vettel to P17 just after his stop ( lap 40 ). 

Hamilton was now within a second of Bottas, and team orders got enforced. The drivers swapped positions with minimal time loss on lap 41, freeing Hamilton to go for victory. Leclerc still enjoyed an 8.8 seconds cushion to Hamilton. Meanwhile, Perez got past Latifi for P15 and then Giovinazzi for P14. Vettel, who had spun around at the restart, got told to retire due to issues in his car ( lap 41 ). 

Leclerc's lead got cut to 6.5 seconds as Hamilton continued to set blistering lap times. Ferrari instructed Leclerc to switch to the highest engine mode available and go full throttle until the end. Further down the field, Perez completed overtakes on Russell and Tsunoda and was up to P12. He was now pressuring Raikkonen for P11, but the Finn used his experience to rebuff multiple challenges.

The battle for the lead was hotting up as Hamilton continued to lap almost a second quicker than Leclerc, bringing the gap down to 2.5 seconds on lap 47. Alpha Tauri detected a puncture on Gasly's car, and the Frenchman got forced to pit. Meanwhile, Perez seemed to have finally gotten past Raikkonen, but the Finn didn't relent and the two tangled at the penultimate turn. The resulting contact sent Raikkonen into a spin, bumping him down to P16 ( lap 48 ). The incident got flagged for investigation, but neither driver got penalized. 

The gap at the front was down to a second, and a victory for Hamilton seemed all but certain. The point for the fastest lap seemed destined to go to Hamilton. To counter this, Red Bull pitted Perez for a set of soft tyres, thus denying Hamilton of that point. 

Hamilton was now all over Leclerc, and the latter made a mistake going into Copse. Under pressure, Leclerc ran wide, ending up in the runoff and allowing Hamilton to take the lead of the race on lap 50!

Hamilton continued to push and opened up a lead of 2 seconds on Leclerc. Further down the field, Gasly got past Russell for P11, and Perez set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap. 

Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and Victory at the British Grand Prix. Leclerc came home in 2nd for Ferrari, while Bottas held onto third to complete a double podium for Mercedes.

Norris and Ricciardo were P4 and P5 for McLaren, the latter unrelenting in defence against Sainz, who finished P6 in the other Ferrari. Alonso was P7 for Alpine, followed by Stroll, Ocon and Tsunoda, who completed the top 10.

Gasly finished just outside the points in P11, with Russell only managing P12 after his heroics on Friday and Saturday. Giovinazzi was P13 for Alfa Romeo, followed by Latifi and teammate Raikkonen. It was a weekend to forget for Perez, who finished in P16, followed by the Haas cars of Mazepin and Schumacher, who completed the classified finishers. 

Hamilton won at Silverstone for the 8th time, and it was his 99th Career victory. Verstappen looked set for his 4th straight win, but the tangle with Hamilton on the opening lap wrecked his chances and cut his lead down to only 7 points in the Championship. The F1 World got split over the severity of Hamilton's punishment, considering that Verstappen needed medical assistance at a hospital to treat a possible concussion. Those at the helm in Red Bull even called for a race ban. Hamilton's celebrations post-race got seen as unsportsmanlike, attracting the ire of Verstappen's supporters. The Red Bull driver himself took to social media to make his displeasure known. While Verstappen got taken out on lap 1, Perez had a lacklustre day at the office and failed to score, leaving Red Bull with a cushion of only four points. As for Bottas, Hamilton's teammate, his drive helped Mercedes get a double podium. The Finn played the team game by complying with Mercedes' instructions to let Hamilton by. He jumped to 4th in the Championship, but his challenge for the title was all but over.

Leclerc led the Grand Prix for all laps but two. The Monegasque would have scored a famous victory and looked gutted after finishing P2. Nevertheless, it was his first podium finish of 2021 and a strong result for Ferrari. Sainz's finish in P6 helped Ferrari outscore McLaren by 4 points, reducing the deficit to 16 points in the battle for P3 in the Constructors' Championship. As for McLaren, Norris got denied a podium finish due to his botched pit stop, while Ricciardo managed to fend off Sainz at the end. Norris remains the only driver to score points in every race this season. The performance delta between the two teams seemed to be reducing, and neither team could afford a mediocre weekend from here on.

Alpine edged closer to Aston Martin and Alpha Tauri, with points finishes for both its drivers. Alonso produced a strong drive in P7 while Ocon recovered from his disappointments of Qualifying ( Friday ) to move into a position of contention on race day. Nine points separate three teams in the battle for P5, and like those placed above them, there remained no room for errors. A rare mistake by Vettel denied Aston Martin a double-point finish at Silverstone, but Stroll's P8 salvaged some pride at their home race. The team was able to make up places thanks to a good race strategy, and despite the result, the future looked bright. Meanwhile, Vettel got recognition and respect from the F1 world after he helped the Silverstone staff clear the litter from the stands post-race. 

Alpha Tauri had both its drivers in the points until they discovered a puncture on Gasly's car. The Frenchman pitted and charged back up the field to finish in 11th, just outside the points. The Italian outfit left Silverstone with only one point, thanks to Tsunoda. Aston Martin was out on the heels, and the possibility of losing P5 in the Championship looked real. 

Russell, after his heroics on Friday and Saturday, struggled to stay in the points on Sunday. However, he continued to outperform his teammate Latifi in the other Williams. A points-finish continued to elude the team as they struggled to find the ideal setups for the race. Giovinazzi and Raikkonen displayed a good race pace, but the latter's efforts got undone after an entanglement with Perez near the end of the race. The strategy adopted by Alfa Romeo remained questionable, and the team lacked outright pace. As for Haas F1, Mazepin outperformed his teammate Schumacher for the first time since the Monaco GP. Their travails at the back of the pack continued with no resolution in sight.

Hamilton and Mercedes reigned supreme on their home turf. The incident and penalty aside, the Briton dug deep to recover and take an unlikely victory against all odds. It was a Champion's drive from the reigning World Champion. However, his tactics and unwillingness to back out of a fight cost Verstappen a big shunt. Verstappen, thankfully, was unhurt from the crash and had two weeks to rest, recuperate and regroup before the next race. The Dutchman, like Hamilton, refused to yield and was on the received end. His lead of 32 points almost got wiped out, and from here on, he needed to play the long game. 

Verstappen would come back hard and leave no stone unturned in his quest for the crown. The gloves were off in the title fight, and we could see the tables turn in Hungary. 

Would Hamilton hit a century of wins, or would Verstappen return with a vengeance and flatten his opposition to victory?

Time will reveal all at the Hungarian GP!