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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 Emilia Romagna GP Race Recap : Dutch Perfection in Inclement Weather

The 2021 season kicked off in Bahrain, and Red Bull and Verstappen looked firm favourites for victory on Sunday. However, Mercedes and Hamilton, thanks to a bold strategy, denied them the win. Three weeks have passed since, and the teams returned to Europe to regroup and rejoin the battle with reinforcements and upgrades on their cars. 



There were some developments over the break, off-track. Nico Hulkenberg got awarded the Reserve Driver Role at Cognizant Aston Martin Racing while Mercedes announced Mike Elliott as Technical Director, replacing James Allison, who became the Chief Technical Officer. The rising number of COVID cases led organisers to cancel the Canadian GP. The FOM is yet to announce a replacement.



Round 2 of the 2021 Formula One season got held at the "Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari Circuit" in Imola, Italy. The circuit, which made an unlikely return in the pandemic-hit 2020 F1 season, saw Lewis Hamilton take victory from Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo last year.



While Mercedes and Hamilton hoped to emulate the success of 2020, Red Bull looked to bounce back from the disappointments of Bahrain. Ferrari and McLaren were confident of an improved showing, while Alpine brought in a few upgrades in their quest to return to the sharp end of the grid.



The narrow nature of the circuit meant overtaking was a task. However, the extension of the DRS zone at the start-finish straight promised to add some respite.



So who came out on top at the end of Race day?

Time for a recap of the Emilia Romagna GP weekend!



Practice :


There were technical difficulties at the start of FP1 with teams getting access to a limited amount of data from their cars. The lack of communication resulted in a coming together between Ocon and Perez, with the latter's rear left tyre clipping the right front tyre of Ocon's car. The contact ended FP1 for both drivers due to suspension damage. Mazepin's struggles in F1 continued with the Russian suffering from an off-track excursion and then a crash just before the pit lane entry. 


Drivers were exploring the limits of the track, with Verstappen, Tsunoda, Latifi and Hamilton going off in FP1. It was Bottas who topped the timesheets, less than a tenth clear of Hamilton and Verstappen. Gasly was 5th, splitting the Ferraris of Leclerc and Sainz. Alonso, Stroll, Latifi and Ricciardo completed the top 10. It was a productive session for Williams, with Russell setting the 11th quickest time, followed by Raikkonen, Norris and Vettel in the other Aston Martin. Giovinazzi was 16th in the other Alfa Romeo, ahead of Perez and Ocon. Mazepin, Schumacher and Tsunoda rounded off the table.



FP2 got underway, with Verstappen suffering from a driveshaft failure, having taken too much kerb on one of his flying laps. Nikita Mazepin had two more off-track excursions and hit the wall in the second incident. Russell, Norris and Alonso were some of the other drivers who got undone by the kerbs and gravel traps around the circuit. Leclerc crashed into the barriers, the stewards having to red flag the session. The Mercedes duo of Bottas and Hamilton topped the timesheets again, with Bottas being one-hundredth of a second clear. He set his quickest time on the medium tyres. The surprise of FP2 was Gasly, who got his Alpha Tauri up into 3rd, only seven-hundredths slower than Bottas' time. Sainz, Leclerc and Perez completed the top 6. Tsunoda was 7th in the other Alpha Tauri, followed by Norris, Giovinazzi and Stroll. 


The Alpine cars were in the thick of the midfield battle, with Latifi splitting them. The mechanical failure restricted Verstappen's running, and 14th was the best he could achieve on Friday afternoon. Vettel was 15th in the other Aston Martin, followed by Russell. Frequent incidents and the subsequent red flag denied Raikkonen the chance of setting a proper lap time on the soft tyres. The 2007 World Champion set the 17th fastest time, followed by Ricciardo, who struggled to find the right balance throughout. The Haas cars were 19th and 20th.



The running from Friday suggested that Mercedes had found a sweet spot in terms of balance, be it for Qualifying or the Race. Valtteri Bottas, the pole-sitter from last year, had a productive Friday while the Red Bull drivers had compromised sessions. The midfield battle was close as ever, with Ferrari discovering newfound pace. Williams looked to have better balance than its rivals Haas and Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen.



It was a chilly Saturday morning, and the teams waited for track temperatures to improve before venturing out for some laps. Latifi lost control of the rear of his Williams, hitting the barriers and damaging his front wing in the process. The session got red-flagged, albeit for a short period. The drivers were pushing on their Qualifying simulation runs, and several drivers went off-track or went over the kerbs. While Tsunoda complained about traffic while jostling for track position, Raikkonen had a trip through the gravel, and Giovinazzi got spun around after exiting the pits, cold tyres to blame. 


Verstappen was the quickest at the end of FP3 from Norris and Hamilton. Perez was 4th in the other Red Bull, followed by Leclerc and Gasly. Sainz and Bottas were 7th and 8th, within a second of Verstappen's lap time, and the Alpines of Alonso and Ocon completed the top 10. 


The Alpha Tauri of Tsunoda was in P11, with Ricciardo splitting the Aston Martins of Stroll and Vettel in 13th. Russell was 15th in the Williams, followed by Schumacher and Latifi. Giovinazzi, Raikkonen and Mazepin completed the rear of the field. 



Track limits at turns 9, 14 and 15 were the bone of contention for several drivers, with FP3 seeing 18 lap time deletions. The FIA was unforgiving, and the slightest infringement could tip the battle for pole position come Qualifying. Qualifying promised to be a tight affair, with many drivers being within a second of the fastest time as seen in all three practice sessions.




Qualifying :


Haas was the first team out of the pits at the start of Q1. While Verstappen, Latifi and Perez chose to stay put, the rest of the field headed out with 12 minutes left on the clock. Several drivers had just begun their first runs when Tsunoda lost control of his Alpha Tauri and went into the barriers at Variante Alta ( turn 15 ). There was considerable damage to the rear of the car, and the session got red-flagged. The Japanese driver's Qualifying was over.

A brief lull followed before the session restarted, and everyone was out on track with 10 minutes remaining of Q1. 


Lap time deletions returned with Giovinazzi and Perez suffering from exceeding track limits at turn 9, while Gasly and Latifi committed infringements at Variante Alta


Bottas, Hamilton, Norris, Verstappen, Perez and Leclerc were the top 6, with Schumacher, Latifi, Mazepin, Russell and Tsunoda facing the threat of elimination at the end of the first runs. The Red Bull drivers, Norris, Leclerc and Gasly, chose to not run again in Q1.


Mazepin had yet another off-track excursion while Schumacher had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits. Russell improved to 14th, which pushed the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi into the drop zone. Traffic and "a lack of racing etiquette" from Mazepin, as Giovinazzi put it, cost him the chance of a final run. 


Ocon got into the top 6 at the end of Q1 while his team-mate Alonso scraped through to Q2 in 15th. Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Schumacher, Mazepin and Tsunoda got eliminated at the end of Q1.



Tyre choice has always been critical for the front runners in Q2, and Red Bull decided to split the strategies with Perez opting for the soft tyres and Verstappen the mediums. Mercedes and Williams were the other teams to opt for the mediums at the start of Q2. 


Vettel and Gasly had their lap times deleted after they exceeded track limits. Norris was the quickest from Hamilton and Verstappen at the end of the first runs. Leclerc, Bottas and Perez completed the top 6 with Ricciardo, Alonso, Ocon, Latifi and Vettel facing potential elimination. The Aston Martin drivers decided to complete their final runs of Q2 early, with Vettel ending up out of sync due to the lap time deletion suffered earlier in the session. Stroll and Vettel improved to 7th and 8th, respectively.


Bottas and Norris chose to stay in the pits while the rest of the field came out on the soft tyres. Perez ended Q2 with the quickest time, beating Norris' attempt by two-thousandths of a second. Leclerc, Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Gasly, Ricciardo, Ocon and Stroll were the others who got into Q3, while Sainz, Russell, Vettel, Latifi and Alonso got eliminated.




The final part of Qualifying ( Q3 ) got underway, with all drivers opting for the soft tyres for their first runs. Less than a second covered the top 7, with Hamilton setting the fastest time at the end of the banker laps, nine-hundredths clear of Verstappen with Perez two-tenths further away. Norris, Leclerc, Bottas and Gasly were also in the mix. Stroll opted to run only once in the session and stayed in the pits.


It was now time for the final shootout! The drivers put on a fresh set of soft tyres and emerged from the pits for the battle for pole position. Bottas was the first to start his lap, but a mistake in sector one put him out of the reckoning for pole. The Finn improved to 5th ( provisionally ). 



Further back, Hamilton also wasn't able to improve on the time from his first run. He was on provisional pole, however. Norris was the driver on fire, going the fastest in sectors 1 and 2, and crossing the line to take P2, four-hundredths shy of Hamilton's time. However, his joy was short-lived as the FIA surmised that the Briton had exceeded track limits turn 9. The lap-time deletion dropped him down to 6th. The Red Bull drivers were the only challengers left for pole. Perez set personal best times in sectors 1 and 2 but made an error at the final turn. Verstappen, meanwhile, went the quickest of everyone in sector 2, but neither was able to pip Hamilton to pole! 


Perez, however, out-qualified Verstappen, falling short of pole position by three-hundredths of a second. Verstappen was eight-hundredths shy of Hamilton's time in 3rd. Leclerc put in a stellar lap to put his Ferrari on row 2 of the grid. Gasly and Ricciardo were 5th and 6th, followed by Norris and Bottas on the 4th row. Ocon was 9th in his Alpine with Stroll in 10th, having failed to set a representative lap time in Q3.



Only eight-tenths of a second separated the top 9, a feat never repeated since 2012. Hamilton and Mercedes managed to hold onto pole position despite Red Bull's best efforts. It was the 99th Pole Position for Hamilton. The Briton would have the best place on the grid come Sunday. However, Mercedes were in a spot of bother with Bottas having a lacklustre showing in Qualifying. The Finn had been exceptional on Friday but came up short on Saturday, starting the race down in 8th. Red Bull had both its cars in the top 3, with Perez starting on the softer tyres. It was an opportunity for the team to put pressure on the reigning champions. 


Norris was gutted with his mistake but hoped to make amends on Raceday. McLaren seemed to be the best of the rest and held the advantage going into race day by having both its cars in the top 10. It was a bitter-sweet day for Ferrari, with Leclerc qualifying 4th, but Sainz becoming a casualty in Q2 and starting only 11th. Alpha Tauri was another team that had a mixed day, with Gasly making it to the 3rd row but Tsunoda crashing out of Qualifying and starting at the back of the grid. Sunday was the day that mattered, though. 


Alpine and Aston Martin were further back in the midfield battle, the upgrades not bringing the desired effect in Qualifying. The Williams drivers had been performing well in the Practice sessions and translated that form into Qualifying. The Alfa Romeo drivers struggled from balance issues but hoped to make up some positions on race day.  Haas seemed destined to remain at the back of the pack but were relieved to see Mazepin have a trouble-free session. Schumacher, the other rookie, was also finding his feet and getting quicker with each weekend. 



Race :


Alpha Tauri replaced the Power Unit, Exhaust System and Gearbox on Tsunoda's car for the race. 


The heavens opened, and there was rain an hour before the race start. The drivers on their sighting laps discovered that some parts of the circuit were bone dry and some wet. The sighting laps had a bit of drama, with Alonso running wide and damaging his front wing after hitting the barriers. The Spaniard was able to continue and limped to the grid. Mercedes suspected a puncture on the rear-left tyre of Bottas' car. Aston Martin discovered that the brakes were on fire on Stroll's car. He drove through the pits, with smoke billowing from his rear brakes. The Canadian made it to the grid, and it was a race against time for the mechanics to get the car ready for the start.


There was more trouble for Aston Martin when Vettel discovered a brake-by-wire failure on his car and had to be wheeled back into the garage for repairs. The German had to start the race from the pit lane. 



C2, C3 and C4 were the dry tyre compounds available for the race, but citing track conditions, drivers faced a tough choice between "intermediates" and "full wet" tyres. There was still a lot of standing water along with a drizzle across the track.


Gasly, Ocon, Schumacher and Mazepin opted for the wet tyres while the rest chose the intermediates for the race start. 



The cars set out for the formation lap, which saw more drama with Leclerc getting spun around. Luckily, the Monegasque was able to continue and regained his position for the race start.



The five red lights went out, and the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix got underway! Hamilton had a good start off the line but got swamped by both the Red BullsVerstappen had the best start of the top 3 and pressured Hamilton into turn 1. Hamilton defended tooth and nail, but Verstappen barged through into the lead. The battle led to contact between their cars, and Hamilton went over the yellow kerbs, getting a damaged endplate on his front wing in the process. 


Perez then tried to get past Hamilton, but the Briton recovered and held onto P2. Leclerc, who was P4 in his Ferrari, took 3rd from Perez thanks to a mistake made by him. His teammate Sainz went off track but didn't lose places. 


Norris made contact with Stroll and lost three positions while Bottas dropped down to 10th. Latifi also suffered a spin at the same place as Sainz ( turn Acque Minerali ). The Canadian tried to defend himself from losing more positions. He made contact with Mazepin and hit the barriers at Variante Alta, bringing out the Safety Car. 


The Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi were up into 12th and 13th, and Tsunoda had made up six positions on the opening lap. 


It had been an eventful opening lap, and the Safety Car got sent to the track to ensure the safe extrication of Latifi's car.


Ocon decided to switch to intermediates immediately and pitted at the end of the opening lap. The Frenchman rejoined in P19. Alpha Tauri informed Gasly that there was more rain in the pit lane while Vettel too decided to switch to the intermediates on lap 4.  


Schumacher was warming the tyres on the start-finish straight and lost control of his car. The German careered into the wall and lost the front wing in the process. The stewards had to close the pit lane entry to allow the marshalls to clear the debris, and this forced Schumacher to complete another lap of the circuit bar the front wing. 


Perez had a big snap of oversteer at Piratella, ran wide, but managed to regain 4th from Gasly and Ricciardo, behind the Safety Car. This move got flagged for investigation, and the Mexican got a 10 seconds stop-go penalty. Schumacher finally got the chance to pit for a new front wing besides switching to intermediate tyres on lap 6.



The Safety Car peeled into the pits, and the race got underway on lap 7. Verstappen had a clean getaway, but Hamilton got into his slipstream and tried to challenge him into turn one. Verstappen held onto the lead. Further down the field, Mazepin lost two positions to Ocon and Vettel while Sainz got past Stroll and Gasly for 6th. 


Verstappen wasted no time and built a lead of 3 seconds at the front. He also set the fastest lap on lap 8. The midfield battle intensified with Gasly, Norris and Sainz going wheel-to-wheel for 6th. Gasly regained 6th, Norris got up into P7 while Sainz dropped back to 8th. The order changed again, a lap later, with Gasly losing two positions to Norris and Sainz. Verstappen continued to be the fastest man on track while Perez reported issues with his steering wheel on lap 10. Gasly, who was still on the wet tyres, fought off a challenge by Stroll for 8th while Ocon got past Alonso for P15 ( lap 10 ). It was job done for Stroll a lap later, however. 


The track was still treacherous in places, and Sainz ran wide in 7th, losing time to Norris ahead. Further up the field, Norris had settled into a groove and started to challenge Ricciardo in the other McLaren for 5th. Track conditions worsened for those still on the wet tyres, and there was a train of cars stuck behind Gasly. The drivers were losing 8 seconds worth of lap time behind him. Finally, Bottas kicked off a series of overtakes, with Gasly dropping from 9th to 14th in the space of 3 laps. Vettel was the next driver in the queue and overtook Ocon and Gasly for P14. Sainz had another off-track excursion through the gravel at Tosa, while Gasly finally pitted for a set of intermediate tyres, rejoining in 18th ( lap 16 ).


Verstappen, Hamilton, Leclerc, Perez, Ricciardo, Norris, Sainz, Stroll, Bottas and Russell were the top 10 at the end of lap 16.



Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on lap 17, while Norris requested the team for clear air and believed that he could go much quicker. The team obliged his request, and Ricciardo got instructed to give his place up. Norris wasted no time in building a gap and was 5 seconds clear after three laps. Leclerc reported that his tyres were losing performance, while Perez became the fastest man on track.


The teams were monitoring track conditions and asking their drivers if the track was ready for dry tyres. Vettel was the first driver to take the risk on lap 22 and switched to the medium tyres. The German rejoined in 16th and struggled for traction out of some corners. He got relegated to 17th by Gasly on his out-lap. To add insult to injury, the stewards issued a 10 seconds stop-go penalty for not having his tyres fitted at the "5 minutes" signal before the race start. Vettel served it on lap 24. Schumacher was another driver to switch to dry tyres ( softs ) on lap 24. 


Meanwhile, on track, Hamilton informed Mercedes that the grip was improving on his tyres, and the Briton was able to reduce the gap at the front to 2 seconds. Ricciardo, who had relented P5 to Norris, kept falling backwards and into the clutches of Sainz. The Australian then lost 6th on lap 26.


The teams surmised that the "crossover" point had reached, and it was time to switch to the slick tyres. A slew of pit stops followed with Tsunoda, Verstappen, Russell, Raikkonen, Gasly, Sainz and Ricciardo pitting for the mediums ( laps 27 and 28 ). 



Verstappen relinquished the lead when he pitted for dry tyres on lap 28, but Hamilton and Mercedes decided to use the clear air, going a lap longer on the intermediate tyres. Hamilton came into the pits on lap 29 for medium tyres, but a slow stop on the right front tyre negated the advantage he had gained. Leclerc, Stroll, Ocon, Bottas and Giovinazzi followed suit on the same lap. Perez served the penalty incurred on lap 29, switched to the mediums and had a steering wheel swap. 



Norris got ahead of Perez for 4th, while Tsunoda jumped Giovinazzi for P12 after their pitstops. Verstappen and Hamilton came upon a train of cars, and Bottas was one of the drivers to get lapped. Stroll, citing an opportunity, followed the leaders and relegated Bottas to P9. 



Lap 31 saw more drama unfold. Hamilton, while lapping Russell, ran wide at Tosa and hit the barriers. He got stuck and was unable to make a turn. As a last resort to escape retirement, he reversed his way out of the gravel trap and was able to rejoin in 7th, having lapped everyone up to P8 before his crash. The Briton had damaged his front wing and limped back to the pits. There was more chaos on track, with Russell and Bottas colliding at high speed in the DRS zone, which wrecked both cars and left debris strewn all over. Alonso also ran wide but was able to continue at the same place. The Safety Car got deployed by the Race Director. Hamilton pitted for a new front wing and rejoined in 9th. There was too much debris on track for the marshalls, and the stewards decided to Red Flag the race ( lap 34 ).



The stewards decided to have a rolling start behind the Safety Car, and the lapped cars got instructed to complete a lap and rejoin in the order they were on lap 34 for the restart. Kimi Raikkonen, in 8th, suffered a spin but was able to rejoin and made it back to the pits. The Safety Car led the field out for the de facto formation lap, and Alfa Romeo instructed Raikkonen to give up two places. The Finn had dropped down to 10th after his spin but regained 8th on entry into the pit lane. The team wasn't sure about the new regulations and hence asked him to drop back two places as a precaution to escape infringement. The stewards, however, flagged this for investigation after the race. 



Norris, Ricciardo, Perez, Tsunoda and Vettel opted for the soft tyres while the rest persisted with the mediums for the remaining laps.



The Safety Car returned into the pits, and as Verstappen led the field for the restart, he suffered a slide at Rivazza but managed to hold onto P1. The race restarted, and Verstappen pulled away from the chasing pack. Norris overtook Leclerc for 2nd while Tsunoda suffered a spin and fell to the back of the field. 



Verstappen, Norris, Leclerc, Perez, Sainz, Ricciardo, Stroll, Hamilton, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi were the top 10 at the end of lap 37.



Verstappen went to set blistering lap times, pulling away from the rest comfortably. His teammate Perez lost control and got spun around at Villeneuve chicane. The Mexican fell to 14th, promoting Alonso to 10th and into the points. Meanwhile, Hamilton began his recovery and got past Stroll for P6 on lap 39. He then went on to set the fastest lap of the race on lap 40. The Aston Martin drivers, Stroll and Vettel, reported shifting issues, and the team acknowledged that they were having problems with the gear sync. Alfa Romeo had both its cars in the points when Giovinazzi got instructed to come into the pits to remove a visor tear-off which had gotten lodged into his car's brake ducts. The resulting stop dropped him out of the points into 15th. 



Hamilton relegated Ricciardo to 6th and set another fastest lap of the race ( lap 43 ). Alpha Tauri informed Tsunoda that he had received a track-limits warning for abusing the restrictions set at turn 9 ( lap 45 ). He then got served a Black and White Flag. Gasly got past Raikkonen for P8 while Verstappen retook the fastest lap from Hamilton on lap 46. Perez and Vettel went wheel-to-wheel in the battle for 12th. Perez completed the overtake but overcooked turn one allowing Vettel to regain the position. It was job done for Perez a lap later ( lap 48 ). 



Hamilton had caught up to Sainz in the battle for P4, and despite Sainz's best efforts, the Briton took 4th on lap 50. He set the fastest lap of the race again on lap 51 and started to close the gap to Leclerc in 3rd. Tsunoda got past Vettel for P13 while Verstappen had built a lead of 15 seconds at the front. Hamilton overtook Leclerc on lap 55, gaining P3 in the process. The team encouraged him to keep pushing and notified him that P2 was possible. 



Tsunoda didn't heed the warnings by the stewards and copped a five-second time penalty for repeatedly exceeding track limits at turn 9. Gasly, in his quest for P7, ran wide at Rivazza, easing the pressure on Stroll for the remainder of the race. Meanwhile, in the battle for P2, Hamilton had closed upon Norris and was within the DRS Range ( lap 58 ). Norris had restarted the race on soft tyres and had preserved some life on them to defend from a charging Hamilton. The defence lasted for three laps as Hamilton made use of DRS to get past him at Tamburello. Norris had fought valiantly but couldn't match the pace of the Mercedes. 



Hamilton, now in clear air, put in the fastest lap of the race and bagged the point that comes with it ( lap 61 ). Mazepin added another spin to his total tally on the penultimate lap while Aston Martin asked Vettel to return to the pits and retire the car. The German had to limit gear shifting to prevent further damage to the gearbox. 



Verstappen took the Chequered Flag and victory from Hamilton and Norris. Leclerc and Sainz were 4th and 5th for Ferrari, followed by Ricciardo in the other McLaren. Stroll was 7th, from Gasly, Raikkonen and Ocon, who completed the top 10.



Alonso finished just outside the points in 11th, while Perez had an eventful but forgettable race in 12th. 13th was the best Tsunoda could manage at Alpha Tauri's home Grand Prix, followed by Giovinazzi and Vettel, who was classified 15th despite retiring from the race. The Haas cars of Schumacher and Mazepin were the final classified finishers.



The results didn't stand for long, as Stroll and Gasly got called to the stewards for an incident at turn two on lap 11. Stroll passed Gasly but cut across the chicane, gaining an advantage and not handing the place back. The stewards added five seconds to Stroll's time for the infringement, dropping him down to 8th and promoting Gasly to 7th. Raikkonen also got called to the stewards for the incident during the rolling start. After publishing a long explanation, the stewards gave him a 10 seconds stop-go penalty, applied retrospectively, which equated to an additional 30 seconds on his race time. The addition put him out of the points, promoting Ocon to 9th and Alonso to 10th.



The talking point from the race was the incident between Bottas and Russell. The high-speed crash ended their race, and Bottas was a bit winded after the incident. Although the stewards deemed the accident as "a Racing Incident" after their investigation, tension brewed between the drivers as perceived from the post-race interviews. Hopefully, Toto Wolff and Mercedes were able to play peacemaker after.



Verstappen drove a flawless race ( bar the hiccup at the restart ), making amends for the disappointment in Bahrain. Red Bull had both its cars in the top 3 at the race start, but Perez made a host of errors, something he needs to iron out at the earliest. He was apologetic to the team and would hope to make things right in Portimao in two weeks. Hamilton made a rare error but produced a stellar drive to extract the maximum out of a compromised weekend. Bottas had another poor showing up until his crash with Russell. The Finn's title challenge is off to a stuttering start. 



McLaren made the right call to swap positions, and Norris bagged the 2nd podium of his career. Ricciardo is still finding his feet in the new team, but it was a memorable weekend for the third-fastest team on the grid. Leclerc and Sainz drove a stellar race to give Ferrari a double-points finish, that also in the top 6. The only way is upwards for the Italian marquee. 



It was a weekend of "what could have been" for Alpha Tauri, with Tsunoda crashing early on in Qualifying and Gasly having an extended stint on the wet tyres at the start of the race. Nevertheless, they take away 6 points from the weekend. Aston Martin's travails with the new regulations continue. Stroll and Vettel suffered from gear sync issues, but the team is nowhere close to the level of performance they enjoyed in 2020. The rule changes in 2021 have cost them dearly, and the team has been exploring options to have their concerns addressed. Alpine scored their first points of the season, with both their drivers getting into the top 10 thanks to Raikkonen's penalty. They have had a slow start to the season and would hope to fare better in Portimao. 



Alfa Romeo had a strong showing and seemed destined for a double-points finish before Giovinazzi had to pit due to an issue with the tear-off visor. Raikkonen, who initially finished 9th, got bumped down to 13th after getting a time penalty post-race. Alfa Romeo isn't far from the midfield battle, and if they can have a good run in the next few races, they shall be back in the reckoning. Haas has two rookies in its lineup, and there were rookie errors by both its drivers. Mazepin's spins continued, but thankfully he has a race finish under his belt. Schumacher, on the other hand, kept it clean after his mistake under the Safety Car. 



Williams was set for a good weekend with a possible points finish, but Latifi's crash on the opening lap followed by Russell's highspeed collision with Bottas denied them the opportunity. The team has the pace that can easily match that of the Alfa Romeos; it needs an incident-free weekend from both its drivers. 



Hamilton is currently one point clear of Verstappen in the title battle. Round 3 is just a fortnight away, and it seems that this year won't be a walk in the park for Hamilton and Mercedes.



We can't wait for Portimao!!

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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



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


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



Practice :


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




Qualifying :

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

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




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

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

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

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



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

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



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



Race :


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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



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



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


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


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



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


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


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


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



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



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

2020 Tuscan GP Race Recap : Entanglements, Crashes, Stoppages, Restarts & Win Number 90!

The pandemic COVID-19 threatened to jeopardize the 2020 F1 Season as the world went into lockdown, and a lot of races were postponed or cancelled. Racing returned in July with a series triple-headers, the governing body planning for 17 to 18 races in the season. Many iconic tracks got added to the calendar while some made a return after a long hiatus.

Mugello had been a regular feature on the Moto GP calendar but had never hosted an F1 race. F1 however, had an in-season test here in 2012 where Grosjean had come out fastest for Lotus F1. It was also the venue where Kimi Raikkonen tested for Sauber in 2000, eventually getting him a ticket to F1 a year later. The track finally got the opportunity to host a full F1 weekend in 2020, and the race got christened "The Tuscan GP".


It would also play host to Scuderia Ferrari's 1000th GP in F1. The Italian marquee has been the most successful team in F1, having participated every year since the sport's inception and sported retro Burgundy livery to commemorate the weekend. The sport welcomed fans ( in limited number ) to the grandstands for the first time this year.


The driver market was abuzz in the leadup to the Tuscan GP. Sergio Perez announced that he would be leaving Racing Point at the end of the season with no alternate destination ( currently ). The replacement got announced the very next day, and it was none other than the 4 Time World Champion Sebastian Vettel! The team would also change its name to Aston Martin from 2021.

Renault Sport F1 also decided to change their name and livery to Alpine Racing F1, 2021 onwards. Alpine, the brand's sports performance division relaunched in 2017 had been a regular feature in the World Endurance Championship. The cars would be powered by Renault E-Tech Hybrid Engines, however.

Simon Roberts, Williams Racing's former MD got appointed as the acting Team Principal for the transitional period.


The Italian Grand Prix threw up a major upset with Gasly taking an unlikely win for Alpha Tauri. Hamilton and Mercedes hoped to reclaim the top step in Mugello. Verstappen and Bottas looked to make amends from last weekend while Ferrari prayed for a memorable 1000th GP in the sport. The midfield battle was hotting up between McLaren, Racing Point and Renault and a good result was the need in Mugello since it marked the halfway stage of the 2020 season.


Who reigned supreme in the wilderness of Tuscany?

Time to revisit the inaugural Tuscan GP!


Practice :

Sunny skies greeted the teams on Friday morning for the start of Free Practice 1. FP1 was a learning experience for all the drivers as they explored different lines and tested the limits of their cars. It wasn't an uneventful session though with Latifi suffering a spin, barely escaping the gravel trap and Grosjean expressing his displeasure after being held up by Perez on his flying lap. Bottas was the fastest in FP1 and the first driver to set a "track record" in an F1 car. Verstappen was a close second with Leclerc finishing an unlikely third. Hamilton, Gasly and Ocon completed the top 6. The top 15 drivers had set their best lap times on the soft tyres while Russell used the mediums and the two Racing Points along with Latifi stuck to the hard tyres.
Raikkonen was P11 for Alfa Romeo, quicker than a works Ferrari driven by Vettel. The German was languishing in P13, a second adrift of his team-mate who was third. Sainz managed only the 15th fastest time while both the Racing Point cars were only quicker than one Williams.
The pecking order would change considerably in FP2 though.



Free Practice 2 got underway with Norris' session getting cut short due to a crash at turn 3. The Briton ran wide, putting his left rear wheel on the gravel that sent him into a spin making him lose his front wing and hit a concrete wall. The session got Red Flagged briefly. A technical issue on his Haas car restricted Grosjean, the Frenchman completing only five laps. Perez got into trouble with the stewards after his left front tyre clipped the rear of Raikkonen's car. The Mexican was exiting the pit lane while Raikkonen had just started a flying lap. The contact sent the latter into a spin and onto the gravel. Thankfully, he was able to continue. Both Ferrari cars suffered spins with Vettel suffering a power loss near the end of the session.
Bottas was the class of the field again, bettering the track record set by him in FP1. The top 6 were two-by-two, the Mercedes followed by the Red Bulls and the Renaults. Perez, Gasly, Raikkonen and Leclerc completed the top 10. The deficit between the Ferrari team-mates reduced with Vettel finishing in 12th, a tenth adrift of his team-mate Leclerc. The McLarens were 13th and 14th, and Kvyat was 15th for Alpha Tauri. Giovinazzi split the two Williams in 17th while the Haas cars brought up the rear of the field.


Perez incurred a one-place grid drop for his earlier misdemeanour.


It was advantage Bottas at the end of day one at Mugello. However, Hamilton finds a new gear come Saturday. Verstappen was doing all he could to keep the Mercedes duo honest, and it seemed that he would finally get some assistance from his team-mate Albon. Red Bull's pace on race simulations was encouraging as well. The midfield battle was a close on based on the results from Friday.

Free Practice 3 saw Bottas continue his dominance at the top, but the gap reduced to less than two-hundredths of a second to Verstappen. Hamilton was a further six-hundredths adrift, qualifying promising to be a close-run affair. Gasly split the two Racing Points in a commendable P5 but had a major off-track excursion at turn 11 while Leclerc ensured Ferrari representation in the top 8 with the 7th fastest time. Albon was 8th in the other Red Bull with Kvyat 9th. The big surprise of FP3 was Grosjean in 10th whose running on Friday got limited due to gremlins. Renault fell backwards with Ocon in P11 and Ricciardo in P17. McLaren too had a disappointing session with only the 12th and 19th fastest times. The chances of making it into Q2 seemed bright for the Alfa Romeo duo who were 13th and 14th fastest. Vettel's woes continued as he could manage only the 18th fastest time. A brake-by-wire failure kept Russell in the pits for almost the entirety of Free Practice 3.



Qualifying :

Williams was the first team to head out on track at the start of Q1. The rest of the field followed suit shortly after, and Gasly, Raikkonen, Russell, Grosjean and Magnussen were in the drop zone after the first set of runs. Vettel and Norris were the drivers under threat while Gasly got hampered by traffic on his first run. Bottas, Verstappen and Stroll opted to stay in the pits, and the rest went out for their final runs of Q1. A mistake in sector two compromised Russell's attempt. The Briton was on a good lap before a short trip over the edge of a gravel trap. He still improved to P12 only to fall back into elimination as others improved on their lap times. Vettel and Norris had fallen into elimination but improved to P14 and P9 respectively. Gasly was the first big casualty of Q1. The winner of the Italian GP from last week got eliminated from Q1 along with Giovinazzi, Latifi, Russell and Magnussen.
Bottas was the fastest in Q1 from Hamilton and Verstappen. Albon, Leclerc and Perez completed the top 6. It was a close call for Vettel who was relieved to make it into Q2. Raikkonen was now making it a regular feature to get into Q2 with Alfa Romeo. It was Gasly's first Q1 elimination since Belgium 2019.



The start of Q2 saw some drama in the pit lane when Racing Point released Stroll just in front of Verstappen, and the Dutchman wasn't pleased with his strategy getting compromised. Everyone opted for the soft tyres and exited the pits for their first runs of Q2. Grosjean, however, decided to stay put and adopt the "out-of-sync" strategy. The pecking order got reversed with Hamilton edging out Bottas by thirteen-hundredths of a second on his first run. Verstappen was two tenths slower in 3rd, followed by Albon, Ricciardo and Stroll. Albon was finally getting to grips with his one-lap pace while Ricciardo was "out of breath" after his first effort of Q2.
The drivers in the drop zone were Kvyat, Sainz, Vettel, Grosjean and Raikkonen. Raikkonen had used a used set of soft tyres from Q1 which explained the deficit to the rest of the field.
The top 5 chose to not run in Q2 again as the others headed out on a fresh set of soft tyres. Vettel improved on his final run, but couldn't make it into the top 10 while his team-mate Leclerc failed to improve, eventually finishing in 8th. Stroll stayed 6th fastest while Raikkonen relegated Vettel to 14th. The Iceman set an identical lap time to Sainz ( who was yet to complete his second run ) and Kvyat. Kvyat made a mistake at turn seven which sent him over some gravel, compromising his final attempt of Q2. The yellow flags from Kvyat's offtrack moment caused Perez to abandon his lap while Sainz improved to P10 and put Norris into the drop zone. The top 5 remain unchanged at the end of Q2 with Norris, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Vettel and Grosjean getting eliminated from Q2. Vettel was only half a second slower than his team-mate, but that was the difference between a P8 and a P14!

The top 10 shootout was underway in Q3 with Ocon and Perez opting for only one run and Perez choosing the "out-of-sync" strategy. Hamilton was on provisional pole from Bottas and Verstappen. The deficit was only six-hundredths of a second between the Mercedes team-mates. Verstappen, four-tenths adrift seemed to be the best of the rest. Albon was the 4th fastest from Stroll, Ricciardo, Leclerc and Sainz.
Perez decided to complete his only run early in the session, desiring to have a clear track. He went 5th fastest, making it an all Racing Point third row ( provisionally ). The final minutes of Q3 saw the nine contenders head out on track for one final faceoff. Hamilton couldn't improve on his second run, a mistake in sector one costing him time. Verstappen went quicker than his previous best lap but stayed in third. There was drama in the dying minutes of the session as Ocon lost the rear of his car at turn 3, spinning him around and bringing out the yellow flags. The yellow flags in sector one compromised the lap times of all the runners behind him, and Bottas was one of them. The Finn wouldn't improve, and Hamilton claimed pole position! Albon ensured a second-row lockout for Red Bull while Leclerc gave the Tifosi some hope with the 5th fastest time. Perez and Stroll were P6 and P7 for Racing Point while Sainz split the Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon.

It was Pole Number 95 for Hamilton with Mercedes securing a front-row lockout for the seventh time in 2020! Bottas was a bit unfortunate with the yellow flags in the end, but it was a hard-fought battle. Nonetheless, he had a great platform to mount a challenge for the win on Sunday. Red Bull was pleased to have both its drivers in the fight at the front and Ferrari pinned their hopes on Leclerc for their historic weekend. Perez was faster than his team-mate, in a car that was an older spec. Renault didn't capitalize with its drivers on Saturday but hoped for a better showing on Sunday. It had been a tough weekend for the McLaren drivers and a long afternoon awaited them on race day. The Alpha Tauri drivers made mistakes which cost them dear in qualifying, and they couldn't afford the same on Sunday. Raikkonen was the fastest customer Ferrari and even did one better than Vettel who was in the works team. The Iceman hoped to bag his first points of 2020 come Sunday. Haas and Williams struggled again and seemed destined to remain the backmarkers for this weekend as well.


Race :

Sunday was a special day for Scuderia Ferrari F1 as they celebrated their 1000th GP with a small pre-race celebration. Mick Schumacher, the son of the most successful driver in F1, Michael Schumacher, had the opportunity of driving his father's title-winning Ferrari from 2004 around the circuit. 


Pirelli chose the C1, C2 and C3 tyre compounds for this race weekend and most drivers had plans to stop twice during the race.


The drivers made it to the grid after their reconnaissance laps, and Verstappen reported issues with his power unit. There was a flurry of activity around his car as the mechanics first addressed a brake light issue and then the software and electronics. Thankfully, the power unit issue got addressed in time, and Verstappen was ready for the battle ahead.


Kvyat, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Russell and Latifi opted for the medium tyres while the rest were on softs.


The five red lights went out, and the inaugural Tuscan GP got underway! It was a slow start for Hamilton who got overtaken by Bottas and also by Verstappen. However, the Red Bull driver suffered a sudden loss of power, rapidly losing positions and ending up in a midfield tussle. Bottas led from Hamilton, Leclerc and Albon but there was mayhem further down the field. Raikkonen suffered a touch of oversteer out of turn 1, having to correct his line. Gasly was sparring with Grosjean when he ended up in a Raikkonen-Grosjean sandwich. The trio banged wheels with Gasly tangling badly with Raikkonen, getting lifted into the air momentarily and hitting Verstappen. Raikkonen couldn't control his braking due to the locked wheels and rear-ended Verstappen as well, sending the Dutchman into the gravel. Further up, Sainz got spun around by one of the Racing Point cars and suffered damage. Vettel was unable to take avoiding action and damaged his front wing in the process.

The resulting debris on track forced the stewards to deploy the Safety Car. Verstappen was out of the race for the second weekend in a row. The incident got flagged for investigation, but later got termed as a "racing incident".

Vettel and Raikkonen pitted at the end of the first lap for a new wing and a fresh set of medium tyres.

The order behind the Safety Car was - Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Albon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Ocon, Russell, Magnussen, Latifi, Giovinazzi, Sainz, Grosjean, Raikkonen and Vettel.

Magnussen was a big winner, having made up eight positions on the opening lap.

It was a lengthy Safety Car period as the marshalls tried to extricate Verstappen's stricken Red Bull. 

The Safety Car peeled back into the pits at the end of lap 6 with Bottas bunching up the field to time his restart perfectly. It was a clean restart at the front, but further down, the midfield got tangled in an ugly crash on the start-finish straight. Sainz, Giovinazzi and Magnussen collided on the restart, parking up on the pit straight. Magnussen went slow at the restart, but Giovinazzi reacted quicker and went into the back of his car. The duo then collided with Sainz and Latifi which caused the Safety Car to get deployed again. Grosjean, Raikkonen and Vettel did well to avoid the mayhem in front of them.

The stewards deemed it best to Red Flag the race to remove the excess debris and the cars on the start-finish straight. Alfa Romeo and Haas also had the opportunity to inspect and repair the damage sustained by Raikkonen and Grosjean in the first lap incident. Both had extensive floor-damage, and the mechanics were busy taping up the gaps under the watchful eyes of the FIA Scrutineers.


The race restart incident got investigated, and the following drivers were issued warnings ( post-race ) for inconsistent application of throttle and brake for the restart procedure - Magnussen, Kvyat, Latifi, Albon, Stroll, Ricciardo, Perez, Norris, Ocon, Russell, Giovinazzi and Sainz.


The restart would be a standing start again but the Red Flag period claimed another victim in Ocon. The Frenchman retired due to his brakes overheating. Only 13 cars remained at the restart. It was turning into a race of attrition. Bottas, Hamilton, Russell and Raikkonen opted for the mediums ( Raikkonen on used ) while the rest of the field was on soft tyres. Lap 9 became the formation lap for the restart. Hamilton's front brakes were smoking as he waited on the grid for the five red lights to illuminate.

Everyone had a clean getaway, but Bottas lost the lead to Hamilton into turn 1. Albon was down in P7 while Raikkonen had moved up into P10. Vettel got past Grosjean for P12 on lap 11 while Russell overtook Raikkonen for P10 a lap later. Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on lap 13 and was pulling away from Bottas and Leclerc.

Ricciardo overtook Perez for P5 on lap 15 while Vettel relegated Raikkonen to P13. The battle for the final podium position was hotting up with Stroll closing in on Leclerc. It was job done on lap 18 for the Canadian. Albon began to make amends for his poor restart with a pass on Perez for P6 on the same lap. Leclerc then lost three places in the span of three laps with Ricciardo, Albon and Perez getting the better of the Ferrari driver. He didn't want to lose more time and pitted on lap 22 for hard tyres, the team switching him to plan "C". Leclerc rejoined in 13th and last.

Hamilton, Bottas, Stroll, Ricciardo, Albon, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Russell and Vettel were the top 10 at the end of lap 24.

Ricciardo was closing up on Stroll in the battle for P3 while Leclerc cleared Grosjean for P12. Norris was in acknowledgement with the team's idea of undercutting Perez while Bottas requested Mercedes to put him on the opposite strategy to Hamilton. Ricciardo pitted on lap 28 for medium tyres and rejoined in 8th. Raikkonen pitted for hard tyres, but a slow left-rear and miscommunication with the rear jack-man kept him stationary for almost 13 seconds. He rejoined last, far adrift from the rest of the field. Meanwhile, on track Norris got past Perez for P5 on the 28th lap.

There were more pit stops over the next couple of laps with Perez, Stroll, Norris and Kvyat pitting for the mediums and Vettel, Grosjean and Russell for the hards. Perez got the jump on Norris as the undercut seemed to be the smarter call. Ricciardo was another beneficiary, displacing Stroll for P3. Perez set the fastest lap of the race on lap 32 while Bottas pitted having nursed his tyres till that stop. He switched to the hard tyres and rejoined in third. Mercedes asked Hamilton to pit, but the Briton wanted to go longer since his tyres felt fine. The team asked him to pit for "safety reasons" and cover him off against the undercut. Hamilton pitted on lap 33 for hard tyres and rejoined, his lead intact while Albon switched to the medium tyres on the same lap, emerging in 5th. Norris got past Leclerc for P7 while Raikkonen overtook Grosjean for P12. Bottas set the fastest lap of the race on lap 35 as he tried to reduce the gap to Hamilton at the front. Kvyat was closing in on Leclerc for P8, the latter's tyres losing performance. Leclerc got rid of his hard tyres on lap 38, switching to the mediums and rejoining in 11th.

Albon was the fastest man on track ( lap 40 ) and honing in on Stroll in P4. Russell had quietly moved up to P9 in his Williams, hoping to stay in the points. Mercedes asked both its drivers to avoid the kerbs since they were concerned about the health of the tyres.

There was more drama on lap 43 with Stroll crashing at turn 9. He picked up a rear-tyre puncture and was a passenger as he hit the barriers. The Safety Car got deployed for the third time, and Bottas was the first to pit for medium tyres. Ricciardo, Albon, Perez, Norris, Kvyat, Raikkonen, Grosjean and Vettel pitted for the soft tyres while Hamilton switched to the mediums a lap later. Replays showed the Raikkonen entered the pit lane at the last moment, cutting across the white line, which got flagged by the stewards for investigation.


The old school nature of the track meant that the extrication of Stroll's car was becoming difficult. The barriers also needed repairing, and the Stewards decided to Red Flag the race for the second time! It was a complete reset for the remaining drivers and a golden opportunity for Bottas to try for victory. The drivers returned to the pits to await further instructions about the race restart and have some maintenance work done on their cars. Meanwhile, the Racing Point of Stroll looked like a complete wreck with the marshalls having to use extinguishers to put out fires at the back of the car.

Raikkonen and Grosjean were a lap down to the rest of the field and instructed to complete a lap before rejoining the back of the queue under Safety Car for the formation lap. Lap 46 became the formation lap for the third standing start of the race! Everyone was on the soft tyres for the final stint of this race.


The lights went out and the race restarted with Hamilton getting away nicely. Bottas got overtaken by the fast-starting Renault of Ricciardo with Albon and Perez fighting wheel-to-wheel behind them. Russell, who was in P9 got bogged down at the restart and fell back to P12. Raikkonen was up into P8, ahead of Grosjean and the Ferrari drivers.

Bottas reclaimed P2 from Ricciardo on lap 48 and went about chasing his team-mate in full earnest. He set the fastest lap of the race on lap 49. Meanwhile, Raikkonen got a five-second time penalty for crossing the line at pit entry in the Safety Car period earlier. The Iceman was under threat of finishing outside the points, and the team asked him to keep pushing till the end of the race.

Leclerc overtook Grosjean for P9 on lap 50 while Albon got past Ricciardo for P3 a lap later. The Thai driver looked set to bag the first podium of his career. Grosjean got relegated to P11 by Vettel on lap 51 while Hamilton extended his lead with the fastest lap of the race. Grosjean lost another position, this time to Russell who was trying to recover the places he had lost at the restart. Russell was informed about Raikkonen's time penalty, and the team asked him to keep pushing until the end. They believed they could finish 10th and take home a point at the end of the race.

Albon was closing in on Bottas, but the Finn responded with the fastest lap of the race on lap 53. Russell was now in DRS range of Vettel for P10, the duo falling away from Raikkonen and Leclerc in front. Alfa Romeo was updating Raikkonen about the gaps at the end of each lap, and the Finn consistently kept setting personal best lap times to build a buffer to the chasing pack behind him. Eventually, Vettel and Russell failed to stay within five seconds of Raikkonen. The Finn was pulling away comfortably from Leclerc as well.

Ricciardo was keeping Albon honest but was unable to mount an attack for P3. Albon had to keep it clean for two more laps, and the final podium place was his! Hamilton didn't want the point for the fastest lap to slip away and bagged it on the penultimate lap of the race. Russell couldn't sustain his challenge and fell away from Vettel.


Hamilton took the Chequered Flag and victory at the Tuscan Grand Prix! Bottas was second best again, and Albon was ecstatic to bag the first podium of his career! Ricciardo matched his best result at Renault with P4, narrowly missing on what could have been a famous podium. Perez, Norris and Kvyat had escaped the midfield melee unscathed and finished in 5th, 6th and 7th respectively. Raikkonen came home in 8th, but only 3.5 seconds ahead of Leclerc which meant that he would lose P8 to the Monegasque driver ( due to the time penalty ). He, however, finished P9, finally scoring his first points of the 2020 season. Vettel was 10th with Russell and Grosjean finishing just outside the points. Ironically, the three podium finishers from the previous race weekend didn't finish the race! The Tuscan GP became the longest race of the 2020 season.


Mercedes celebrated 100 Grand Prix victories since their return to F1 in 2010. Hamilton was one shy of equalling Schumacher's record of wins in F1 ( 91 ). Red Bull was pleased to see Albon finally finish on the podium, something that was long due. Ricciardo was the driver of the day and had there not been the third restart he would have won Renault's first podium since their return. He drove a flawless race. Raikkonen did a fine job after the final restart in a car that had a badly damaged floor. Alfa Romeo was steadily improving with each weekend. Ferrari was the only team along with Mercedes to have both their cars finish the race. P8 and P10 were the best they could with the lack of speed. Williams and Russell were disappointed to have finished just outside the points.

Verstappen with his third retirement of the season was out of the title race. Bottas vowed to keep pushing until the end, but Hamilton remained relentless in his quest for the 7th title.


This race was a reminder of the saying - "to finish first, first, you have to finish". Hamilton had clean getaways and made no mistakes at the front. Others kept it clean amid utter chaos which unfolded around them. This race was a test of the mental calibre, fortitude and fitness of every racer and kudos to the men who got across the finish line.


We have reached the halfway point of the 2020 season, and racing resumes in a fortnight in the city of Sochi, Russia. Will anyone be able to dethrone Mercedes on another power track?

The challengers have the time to regroup, restock, restrategize and return renewed for round ten of the season.

2020 Italian GP Race Recap : Gasly, the New Alpha at the Temple of Speed!!

Round 8 of the revised 2020 F1 Season took place at Circuit Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, also known as the Temple of Speed. The circuit situated near the city of Milan is the home Grand Prix for Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team, and it's faithful, the Tifosi. Unfortunately this year the race was held behind closed doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The FIA enforced the ban on "quali modes" from this weekend. The ban came into effect on Saturday, meaning the teams had to use a single-engine setting from the start of qualifying till the end of the race. 


Williams Racing announced that Claire Williams, the Deputy Team Principal, would step down from her position after the Italian GP weekend. The new owners Dorilton Capital chose to continue with the Williams name, but it was an end to a rich legacy of racing history. 


Mercedes reigned supreme at Spa and seemed destined for the same in Italy. Ferrari's lack of straight-line speed caused them much pain at Spa while Renault produced their best result of 2020 ( till now ). Autodromo Monza is the fastest circuit on the calendar, demanding a low downforce setup from all teams. Would there be a new winner or would status quo be maintained? How did all the teams fare at this historic track?


Time for a quick recap!


Practice :

Free Practice 1 saw Valtteri Bottas top the timesheets from Lewis Hamilton and Alex Albon. Kvyat, Verstappen and Gasly completed the top 6. It was a fruitful session for Alpha Tauri, its duo within a second of the high-flying MercedesVerstappen suffered a spin at the Ascari chicane in the early part of FP1, hitting the wall and damaging his front wing and bringing out the red flags. There were a lot of cars running wide onto the gravel at turns causing "stones" to end up on the racing line which came to the notice of Raikkonen. The midfield battle resumed between Racing Point, McLaren and Renault with Perez, Norris, Ricciardo and Sainz making it into the top 10. Leclerc was P11 for Ferrari, in a car that was a mere shadow of its predecessor. Vettel had a torrid time in the other works Ferrari suffering from balance issues and locking up his tyres regularly. He could only manage the 19th fastest time. Ocon and Stroll were 12th and 13th, respectively. The Haas drivers were 14th and 15th, followed by the two Alfa Romeos. Roy Nissany, the reserve driver for Williams, got the nod for another FP1 session and was the faster of the two Williams drivers. 




Mercedes reigned supreme in Free Practice 2 with Hamilton setting the fastest ever practice time at Monza, two tenths clear of his team-mate Bottas. Turn 5 was the nemesis with a lot of drivers struggling for corner grip. Norris was the surprise of FP2 with the 3rd fastest time in his McLaren. Gasly's Friday got better with a P4 finish followed by Verstappen and Sainz who were more than a second adrift of Hamilton's time of FP2. The resurgence of Alpha Tauri continued with Kvyat in the sister car setting the 7th fastest time from StrollLeclerc and Perez. Stroll had a sparring time with the Haas cars, impeding Grosjean and then getting impeded by Magnussen on his flying lap. Leclerc had his share of off-track moments, relaying how difficult it was to drive the car. His team-mate Vettel suffered a spin ( at turn 6 ) but was able to get his car back to the pits after escaping unscathed from contact with the barriers. He managed the 12th fastest time. The Renault drivers were P11 ( Ocon ) and P15 ( Ricciardo ), but ascertaining their pace was difficult since some of their laps got deleted due to exceeding track limits. Getting a tow is invaluable on a circuit like Monza ( for better straight-line speed ), and the drivers tried to practice for qualifying by queueing up one behind the other, resulting in traffic jams, and some drivers missing their braking points. Giovinazzi however, benefitted from the tow and was P13 ahead of Albon in a Red Bull. Raikkonen, in P17, was in a Haas sandwich with Latifi and Russell bringing up the rear of the field.



Hamilton seemed to have the upper hand with regards to one-lap pace, but how large would the disparity be with the chasing pack by the banning of engine modes remained to be seen. Everyone needed to stay "within the white line" to avoid having lap times deleted. The effect of the tow could also throw up a few surprises on Saturday, needing the teams to form up an effective strategy to benefit from this.




It was a dry Saturday, and Free Practice 3 got underway with the teams running their qualifying simulations. Bottas was the fastest in FP3, three tenths clear of his team-mate Hamilton in P5. Hamilton's final run was compromised after the Briton had to make an evasive manoeuvre to avoid hitting slow-moving cars ( near Parabolica ). Renault power came to the fore with SainzNorris and Ricciardo making it into the top 4. A suspected fuel pump failure on Ricciardo's car cut his session short and briefly brought out the red flags. Verstappen slotted in at P6, his best lap on the medium tyres. Albon, Ocon and the Racing Point duo completed the top 10. Leclerc was P11 for Ferrari, just clear of Gasly and Kvyat in 12th and 13th. Grosjean, in P14, was the first driver more than a second slower of the fastest time of FP3. Vettel split the Haas drivers with Raikkonen, Latifi, Russell and Giovinazzi bringing up the rear of the field. There were a few drivers who had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 11, and this trend continued into qualifying.


The desire for a better tow along with optimum track position was leading to massive traffic jams and it became pretty evident that this could cause an accident besides denying some the opportunity to set a lap time ( a repeat of 2019 ). Some drivers were also found guilty of driving too slowly on their warmup laps. Eight drivers got summons at the end of FP3 - Latifi, Grosjean, Perez, Hamilton, Gasly, Stroll, Albon and Sainz. The incident at the Parabolica where Hamilton was the aggrieved party also got investigated.




Qualifying :

Williams and the three Ferrari-powered teams were the first cars out on track at the start of Q1. The rest of the field exited the pits with thirteen minutes left on the clock, everyone barring the Mercedes works team was on soft tyres. Leclerc, Magnussen, Gasly & Stroll had their lap times deleted for exceeding track limits at turn 11. The top 6 after the first runs were Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Sainz, Norris and Verstappen. The drivers in the drop zone were Latifi, Stroll, Gasly, Leclerc and Magnussen. The list changed again as the latter half of the field went for a second run. Meanwhile, Albon had his lap time deleted for exceeding track limits and was on the cusp of elimination in P15. 

A flurry of cars exited the pits with three minutes of Q1 remaining with Perez, Sainz and Verstappen choosing to stay put. Grosjean, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Russell and Latifi were in the drop zone. The fight for the optimum tow and track position made the Alfa Romeo drivers overtake a couple of cars ahead of them, leading to complete chaos at the exit of Parabolica. Six drivers were battling on the pit straight at the start of their final flying lap of Q1. It seemed to be more of a race rather than a qualifying session as the contenders jostled for position, and the results were disastrous. Vettel got impeded by Russell and had to back out of his final run, eventually pitting and getting eliminated in Q1! Raikkonen got an excellent tow from Ocon, but the Frenchman, himself on a flying lap didn't budge, and the two were millimetres away from a high-speed collision. The replays showed how messy the out laps were for the final runs and almost all drivers got compromised on their flying laps. Russell and Raikkonen made their displeasure known over team radio.

The stewards decided to investigate the incident involving Ocon, Raikkonen and Latifi after the session.

Grosjean, Vettel, Giovinazzi, Russell and Latifi got eliminated at the end of Q1.  

Hamilton was fastest in Q1 from Bottas and Perez. Sainz, Gasly and Verstappen completed the top 6. Leclerc made it into Q2 with the 10th fastest time while Albon was fortunate to scrape through in 15th. Raikkonen and Alfa Romeo made an appearance in Q2 for the second time this season.



All teams opted for the soft tyres for their first runs of Q2, and it was Hamilton who set the fastest lap time ( on the first run ), going past the previous track record of Raikkonen set in 2018. Bottas was second quickest with only five-hundredths of a second separating Perez and Sainz in 3rd and 4th. Verstappen was P5 along with Gasly in P6, the Frenchman continuing to impress in his Alpha Tauri. Kvyat, Ocon, Leclerc, Magnussen and Raikkonen were in the drop zone, Magnussen and Raikkonen having set their banker laps with used soft tyres from Q1. There was a beeline at the pit exit in the final minutes of Q2 with everyone on a fresh set of soft tyres. The Renault drivers had clear air and track position with Ricciardo leading Ocon on their flying laps. Ricciardo had to improve as he was only 9th fastest and was pushing hard for a better lap time. Unfortunately, an error on the exit of turn 5 sent him wide and over the gravel bringing his effort to an end. Magnussen also went wide on the second Lesmo bringing out yellow flags in sector 2. 

Bottas, however, found more pace and went the fastest at the end of Q2, making the track record his own. He was into the high 1:18s, two tenths clear of Hamilton and Sainz. Perez, Verstappen and Gasly completed the top 6. Ricciardo was the only works Renault driver in Q3 with the 9th fastest time while Albon had yet another close call in Q2 with a P10 finish.

Kvyat, Ocon, Leclerc, Raikkonen and Magnussen got eliminated at the end of Q2. 



Q3 got underway with the Mercedes duo having a comfortable buffer to the rest of the field. Hamilton was on provisional pole from Bottas and Perez. Verstappen and Sainz were 4th and 5th fastest. Norris completed the top 6 after the first runs while Albon had another lap time deletion due to exceeding of track limits. Ricciardo, Gasly and Stroll were the others to set banker laps. Hamilton and Bottas didn't wait for the final minutes of qualifying and drove out of the pits with five minutes remaining on the clock. The rest of the field mirrored their strategy. The Mercedes cars were into the 1:18s again with Hamilton setting a new track record, en route to the 94th pole position of his career! Bottas improved on his lap but was a tenth slower than Hamilton's pole lap. McLaren sprung a surprise with Sainz who went third fastest, eighth tenths adrift of the Mercedes. It was the highest starting position for the Ferrari bound Spaniard.

It would be the first time in 2020 that a Red Bull would not feature on the second row of the grid with Perez pipping Verstappen to P4. Row three got taken up by Verstappen and Norris while Ricciardo and Stroll occupied row four. Albon and Gasly completed the top 10.


The stewards' decision was "no further action" for the incident from Q1 ( Raikkonen, Ocon & Latifi ).


It was no secret that the Mercedes would be unbeatable on a Saturday. The deficit would have only been wider if running higher engine modes were allowed. They were clear favourites, and another 1-2 beckoned. Hamilton bagged the 94th pole position of his career besides setting the fastest lap in the history of F1. Sainz had a great qualifying for McLaren and looked a serious contender for the podium on Sunday. Red Bull had Racing Point and Alpha Tauri breathing down their necks while Renault was there to capitalize on mistakes by its competitors. It was a very tight midfield, and teams had to draw up their best strategies for Sunday. Ferrari seemed destined to contend with its customer teams ( Haas and Alfa Romeo ) for yet another weekend while Williams rued a missed opportunity in qualifying and hoped to make amends on race day.


Race :

Bottas had some drama on his reconnaissance lap, locking up his tyres and his car bouncing over the kerbs. No damage suffered though.

The risk of rain during the race was 20%.

The tyre compounds available for the race were C2, C3 and C4. The top 10 started the race on the soft tyres from their Q2 session. Kvyat and Vettel chose the hard tyre, Leclerc and Ocon the softs and the rest were on mediums for the start of the race.

It was a clean getaway for Hamilton when the lights went out. Bottas had a decent start but got swamped by the McLarens into turn 1. Sainz got the jump into P2 while Norris made contact with Bottas on his overtake for P4 a couple of corners later. It got worse for the Finn with Perez and Ricciardo getting past him in the Lesmos and at Ascari.

Raikkonen and Giovinazzi moved up two and four positions on the opening lap while Albon lost six places. The Thai driver tangled with Gasly at the first turn of the opening lap and was down in P15. The incident got noted, the stewards deeming it as "no investigation necessary".

Magnussen pitted at the end of the opening lap, switching to the hard tyres, rejoining almost a minute behind the rest of the pack. He had picked up front-wing and nose damage.

Stroll got past Verstappen for P7 on lap 2, and Vettel overtook Russell for P17. Bottas suspected a slow puncture on his car, but the team assured him that all was fine. Verstappen got back into Stroll's slipstream and reclaimed P7 on lap 3. Meanwhile, Hamilton was motoring away in the lead and set the fastest lap of the race on lap 4. Leclerc and Raikkonen battled for P12, but the latter put up a dogged defence. 

There was drama on lap 6. Vettel suffered a rear brake failure while fighting with Russell over P17 and was unable to brake at the first chicane. He went straight through the polystyrene board, his brake-by-wire system having exploded. Ferrari had made him aware of the situation on the previous lap, and his brakes were already on fire out of Ascari. Bits of the brake components flew off on the entry into Parabolica, eventually sending him through those boards at turn 1. He slowly made it back to the pits and into retirement on lap 7.

Albon incurred a five-second time penalty for not giving Grosjean a car's width while defending his position at turn 1. He suffered massive floor damage as a result of that contact. The Perez and Norris battle heated up on lap 9, the former having to back out of a move at turn 1. Bottas wasn't able to close up on Ricciardo, the chance of a race win dwindling with each passing lap.


Hamilton, Sainz, Norris, Perez, Ricciardo, Bottas, Verstappen, Stroll, Ocon and Gasly were the top 10 at the end of lap 12.


The team decided to put Bottas on the alternate strategy, asking him to go longer than the cars ahead of him on his first stint ( lap 16 ). He also was asked to move off the racing line wherever possible to cool off the temperatures on his car and came under pressure from Verstappen who was in DRS range. Bottas wasn't happy about the setup and the engine settings he was on, his car struggling in the dirty air. Hamilton meanwhile had opened a ten seconds gap to Sainz at the front and looked in control.

Latifi pitted for the hard tyres on lap 17 while Albon made a move on Leclerc for P13. Leclerc didn't waste time and pitted immediately to switch to the hard tyres, rejoining in P17. Raikkonen pitted a lap later for hard tyres, rejoining in P16. The Finn was a bit confused with the strategy call by the team since he believed the medium tyres had some life left. The team wanted to cover off Leclerc and Raikkonen was forced to relent. Latifi overtook Magnussen for P18 ( lap 19 ), and Magnussen rolled to a stop near the pit entry with an engine failure.

Gasly pitted for hard tyres, rejoining in P15 and just after that the Safety Car got deployed ( lap 20 ). Hamilton and Giovinazzi decided to capitalize and pitted for mediums and hard tyres, respectively. The rest of the field stayed out since the stewards had closed the pit lane entry.

Hamilton and Giovinazzi got flagged for investigation for entering the pit lane when it was closed!! Replays showed that the lightboxes had a red cross and the duo had committed a safety breach!

The Pit lane entry cleared on lap 22 and, there was a slew of pit stops. McLaren, Red Bull and Renault decided to double stack their cars. Perez, Bottas, Kvyat, Grosjean and Russell were the others who pitted. Bottas was able to jump Ricciardo and Perez in the pit stops. It was a slow stop for Perez, his right front tyre to blame. All chose the medium tyres. Stroll was the only driver who didn't pit under the Safety Car and was up into P2. Gasly, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Leclerc and Latifi had jumped into the top 8 after the round of pit stops.

The Safety Car was in at the end of lap 23 and racing resumed in full earnest.

Hamilton was quick off the blocks with Gasly in tow. Leclerc made a double overtake on the Alfa Romeo cars, moving up into P4. Raikkonen got past his team-mate for P5, and there was a lot of action throughout the field. Sainz was past Latifi for P7, Verstappen cleared Perez for P12, the latter losing three more positions to Ocon, Kvyat and Russell. He recovered to repass Russell. Latifi lost two more places to Norris and Bottas and was down to P10 while Ocon sparred with his old nemesis Verstappen for P12 but couldn't complete the overtake. Further down the field, Albon got past Grosjean of P17.

There was more drama on lap 24 when Leclerc lost the rear of his car under acceleration out of Parabolica and got sent straight into the barriers. It was a big crash, and the Monegasque sounded a bit winded over team radio. Thankfully, he got out of his car and jogged away from the scene of the accident.

The Safety Car got deployed again, but citing the damage done to the barriers, the stewards decided to Red Flag the race. The cars headed back to the pits, and the verdict from the pit lane investigation was out. Giovinazzi incurred a ten seconds stop-go penalty for his earlier infringement. Mercedes informed Hamilton a similar punishment was coming their way.

The cars returned to the pits while the stricken Ferrari got extricated by the Marshalls.

The stewards didn't wait long to punish Hamilton with the same ten seconds stop-go penalty, and this would put him out of contention for the win ( lap 26 ).

Hamilton decided to visit the stewards' office during the break to reason with them, and Mercedes decided to change some bits on both their cars ( specially Bottas ) under the watchful eyes of Joe Bauer, the FIA Technical Delegate.

Norris was also in trouble for driving too slowly in the pit lane entry. Stroll was the biggest beneficiary of the Red Flag. He hadn't stopped for fresh tyres under normal racing conditions or during the Safety Car period and could now swap his tyres until the end of the race. He was in P2 and could inherit the lead once Hamilton came in to serve his penalty. Gasly was P3 with Raikkonen in 4th for Alfa Romeo.

The stewards decided on a standing start for the race restart, and lap 27 became the formation lap behind the Safety Car. 

The pit lane lights went green, and Hamilton led the field away for the second "formation lap" of the race. Raikkonen, Giovinazzi and Ocon had opted for the soft tyres ( a dicey call ), their teams expecting them to complete a stint of 26 laps! Hamilton, Albon and Grosjean were on the hard tyres and the rest of the pack on the mediums. The incident between Verstappen and Perez from lap 24 got flagged for investigation as the cars lined up on the grid.

Hamilton had a clean restart, but Stroll lost P2 to Gasly. Raikkonen and Giovinazzi got passed him as well. Stroll had a big lock-up at the Second Variante, losing another place to Sainz but retaking it at the Ascari chicane. Kvyat got past Latifi ( for P11 ) who continued to fall backwards while Verstappen was down in P14.

Hamilton decided to serve his penalty on the next lap ( 29 ) and rejoined in last, thirty seconds adrift. Gasly led the race for Alpha Tauri with the two Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Giovinazzi in second and third respectively! Who could have imagined such a situation!
Meanwhile, Perez got past Latifi for P11 while Grosjean overtook Verstappen for 13th. Hamilton's other title challenger Bottas was in P7 battling for P6 with Norris. Giovinazzi served his penalty on lap 31, rejoining in P16 and last. Verstappen also pulled into the pits and retirement with an engine issue. It was a lacklustre weekend for the Dutchman.

Hamilton set the fastest lap of the race on lap 32, giving his all to reduce the deficit to the cars in front. Russell and Grosjean were sparring over P12, but the Frenchman held firm. Alfa Romeo's decision to put Raikkonen on the soft tyres was turning into a farce as Raikkonen rapidly lost places over the next few laps. He went from second to eighth in the space of five laps, losing positions to Sainz, Stroll, Norris, Bottas and Ricciardo. Thankfully, the racing was hard but fair as the Iceman put up a stoic defence but for a losing cause. The team and driver were having a heated discussion about preserving the tyres while pushing for points finish. Further down the field, Grosjean and Russell tussled over P12 and Hamilton had caught up to Albon and overtook him for P14 on lap 40.

Sainz was within three seconds of Gasly as Hamilton continued his charge up the field with overtakes on Russell and Grosjean for P13 and P12 ( lap 42 ). Raikkonen lost two more places to Kvyat and Ocon in the space of two laps. He was in P9 and under threat of finishing outside the points. Hamilton got past Latifi for P11 on lap 45 as the gap at the front reduced to two seconds. Perez went wheel to wheel with Raikkonen and relegated him to P10 on lap 46. Hamilton had caught up to the duo and put Raikkonen out of the points on the same lap. The fight for the win was hotting up with Sainz reducing the deficit to Gasly to just 1.2 seconds. These were anxious times in both the garages.

Perez lost 9th to Hamilton on lap 49, and the team asked Gasly to start pushing till the end of the race. Sainz got the license to use more battery power and closed the gap in the first sector, only to lose time in the dirty air in the second. Lap 50 saw Norris pulling away from Bottas who was falling back into the clutches of Ricciardo in the battle for P5. Hamilton picked off Kvyat for P8 on lap 51, and Raikkonen lost P11 to Latifi on the penultimate lap.

McLaren asked Sainz to "keep it clinical" and bring the car home in P2, but Sainz wanted to win this race. The battle went into the final lap, and Sainz gave it all under DRS to close up on Gasly. However, the Alpha Tauri had better exits out of the corners and was able to fend off the challenge. Further down the field, Hamilton got past Ocon for P7 and Grosjean relegated Raikkonen to P13.


Gasly took the chequered flag and victory at the Italian Grand Prix!! Sainz had to settle for 2nd while Stroll completed his recovery to 3rd. It was a missed opportunity for the Canadian, the mistakes on the restart costing him dearly. Norris came home in 4th, capping off a great Sunday for McLaren. Bottas could only manage P5 while Ricciardo held on to P6 from a charging Hamilton. It was an inspired recovery from the back of the field for the six-time World Champion. Ocon, Kvyat and Perez completed the top 10.
Latifi finished in P11, just outside the points in his Williams. Grosjean was 12th for Haas while Raikkonen had a frustrating end in 13th. Russell, Albon and Giovinazzi were the other classified finishers.



Celebrations erupted in the pit lane, the Alpha Tauri mechanics celebrating an unthinkable victory. The person responsible for their COVID tests joined them as well! McLaren was ecstatic with the second podium finish of 2020. Ontrack, Gasly was screaming with joy on the radio while Sainz was proud of the best finish of his career. He badly wanted the win for McLaren who hadn't won a race since Brazil 2012, but it was not to be. He wished for one more lap to get the job done. Ocon and Renault had an exchange of words, the team reminding him to avoid discussing sensitive matters over the radio. Raikkonen was livid with the strategy, and Alfa Romeo was apologizing for this gaffe. Latifi and Russell got on the radio to thank the Williams family for their support and wished them the best in their future endeavours.



Gasly was the first French winner since Olivier Panis' win in Monaco in 1996. It was the second victory for Alpha Tauri F1, 4371 days had passed since their last win in Monza in 2008 with Vettel. The Italian GP, their home race had become a happy hunting ground. F1 had a winner who didn't belong to Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull after 146 races. The last was Kimi Raikkonen with Lotus F1 at Australia in 2013.



The Williams Family said goodbye to the world of F1, Claire Williams emotional after her last Grand Prix with the team.
9 Constructor's Championships, 7 Driver's Championship, 114 Race Victories, 312 Podiums and 133 Fastest Laps were part of the legacy they leave behind!


The marshalls and the track representatives unfurled a gigantic Italian tricolour on the start-finish straight as the Alpha Tauri mechanics sang the Italian National Anthem with vigour during the podium celebrations.



Mercedes and Hamilton blew the chance of sure-shot victory with the pit lane infringement. Bottas had a humbling experience in the other car while Verstappen, the other title challenger to Hamilton, failed to capitalize and suffered retirement. McLaren was pleased with a strong performance while Racing Point made a recovery of sorts after a mediocre Belgian GP. Albon had a forgettable weekend, and his Red Bull seat was now under serious threat. Williams finished just outside the points unfortunately but would be encouraged with the race pace displayed by its drivers. Alfa Romeo's aggressive strategy backfired, and the team can't afford such mistakes when the chances of points finish are few and far between. Ferrari had an embarrassing weekend with double DNFs, and the absence of the Tifosi saved them further blushes. Their chances of salvaging this season are dwindling with each weekend.



Alpha Tauri and Gasly kept it clean and capitalized when the opportunity came. Honda power reigned supreme on the fastest track of the calendar. They have come a long way since their days of unreliability and lack of pace. Kudos to them! The past 18 months have been an emotional rollercoaster for Gasly, the jump to Red Bull in 2019 only to lose his seat midway through the season; then losing his friend Anthoine Hubert in Belgium and bagging his first podium ( 2nd ) in Brazil at the end of the year to winning this year with Alpha Tauri. Life had come full circle for the Frenchman. He spent a few moments in solitude on the podium, reminiscing the time gone by, remembering his deceased mate and taking in the feeling of being a Grand Prix winner. He was deserving of this honour. He fought hard, prevailed and came out triumphant. He was a new Alpha in the world of motorsport!



The next race on the calendar is the Tuscan Grand Prix. Mugello, a circuit that is a regular feature on the Moto GP calendar will host F1 for the first time. It is also Ferrari's 1000th GP, so the event has even more significance. 

Will we see a new winner in Mugello? Time will tell!




















The Flying Diaries : BOM - MXP - BOM ( Emirates First )

September 2013 saw me take the First Emirates Flight as a Gold Member on Skywards.

F1 travelled to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix and this gave me the opportunity to fly First Class on Emirates once again.


The Outbound journey was on 4th September 2013 and Inbound on 13th September.


Mumbai - Milan ( 4th September 2013 ) :

Shots from the Lounge :


The First Class Suite in the Boeing 777-300ER is one of the best in the Airline Industry. I also got a quick peep into the cockpit. Some stills of my seat :


Taxiing to the Runway :


The Breakfast Menu :


Breakfast. The Presentation excellent as always :


Time for some privacy and time to catch up on some sleep :


The Doors of the Suite shut to ensure complete privacy and also have a "Do Not Disturb" feature and believe me, no one disturbs :)


The Mumbai Dubai Leg is always a short flight and soon enough we were approaching Dubai International Airport :


Nearing Touchdown at Dubai :


Touchdown and we had the company of the famed Airbus A380 :


Shots from the Dubai International Airport :


The First Class Lounge offers A-la-carte dining to its guests and I helped myself to some lip-smacking Indian Starters and Delicious Desserts :


Shots from the Emirates First Class Lounge :


The 2nd Leg of the Journey wasn't as comfortable as the first as it was an older aircraft. However we only had 2 guests onboard in First Class and the crew left no stone unturned in ensuring a comfortable flight for me.

My Seat :


Taxiing for Departure :


So, What's for Lunch?


Time for a quick bite onboard :


The Flight to Europe offers some Picturesque views :


My Bed for the next few hours. Very Comfy and I immediately fell asleep


Nearing touchdown at Milan Mapensa Airport :


Touchdown at dusk :


My ride to the Hotel was a Mercedes Benz S 350.


Milan - Mumbai ( 13th September 2013 ) :

A Mercedes Benz S 350 for the pickup again :


Enroute to the Airport :


The sky looks stunning :


Milan Mapensa Airport :


A Brisk Check - in, Fast Track Security and Immigration and it was time to enjoy what the Lounge had to offer!


Dinner Time in the Lounge!


Boarding commenced from the Lounge and I quickly settled into my seat, no Suite on this flight either.


Night Flights always reward you with some amazing amenities. Who can forget the Goodie Basket!!


Dinner Menu onboard :


Time to have some dinner. The Options were brilliant and the food was really well made :


I chose to head to bed immediately after dinner and the Lie-Flat Bed does its job amazingly well.


The Time advances and after a 3.5 hours of sleep, we were nearing touchdown at the Dubai International Airport :


Touchdown on a hazy morning in Dubai and a line of Emirates Aircrafts ready for Departure.


Shots from the First Class Lounge :


The wait at the Lounge was a longer one and I really enjoyed some sleep in the Quiet Room.


It was time to board the afternoon flight to Mumbai for the Final Leg and the Boarding commenced from the Lounge.

Settling into my seat :


Dubai International Airport is a big hub for various airlines and here are some sharing airspace with Emirates :


Various Emirates Flights leaving for different destinations across the world :


Takeoff from Dubai and bound for Mumbai :


Lunchtime :


No Mattress or Duvet onboard this flight :


Mumbai and we are home :


There is definitely a difference between the services offered in First Class and Business Class . However one must opt to fly First when First Class Suites are on offer.


Emirates Airlines strive to ensure that their guests have an enjoyable flight and it was nice to see the crew recognize my Gold Status. Offering Personalized Services is a hallmark of Emirates and I would like to thank them for all the Hospitality shown to me.


Next post? - Emirates Business to Dubai and this time I have a co-traveller. Watch this space! 

Paddock Club Diaries - Italian GP 2013 Day 3

The Big Day arrived.

Sundays are always Special, the Stands are filled, the atmosphere is awesome. The Tension slowly builds as how you fare on the Sunday is all that matters. Friday and Saturday Performances don't bring home any points.


An early start on Sunday morning ensured that I had a smooth run to Monza :

Brisk Travel :


A short walk to the Paddock :


We were ushered straight into the Pit Lane, most shutters were down with team personnel yet to arrive.


The Shutters coming up :

McLaren Mercedes celebrated 50 Years of Racing and all Team Personnel wore Vintage attire. RESPECT McLaren Mercedes!


It was them time to enter the Paddock Club and the gifts today were simply fantastic!!


Tea Time :


Shots from the GP2 Grid ( 2nd Race ) :


The Motorhomes on Sunday Morning :


The Helicopters having a busy Sunday Morning ferrying Drivers and Top Team Personnel :


It was time for Kimi Raikkonen to arrive!!!! The Line was huge and many people wanted a moment with the Iceman. I missed the opportunity but I still have a couple more chances!!


However I was able to gift Kimi the gift I had made for him and the Team was gracious enough to publish it on Twitter!!

THE GIFT :


The Photo on Twitter :


Lunch :


Shots from the Final Pit Lane Walk :


Some Entertainment on Track :


The Team Pit-Wall


Practice Makes Perfect :


Got an autograph from Dani Pedrosa who came down for the race. He raced at Misano one week later in MotoGP.


A Light Shower made everyone run helter-skelter while the Mechanics ensured all that was important was covered :


I hurriedly finished my Dessert to ensure that I don't lose a good place to shoot photos from.


The Activity on the Grid :


The Cars ready for the Formation Lap :

Video Link :




The Cars taking their Grid Slots :


The Race Start ( Video Link ) :




Vettel had a clean getaway while Kimi too had a fantastic start. However Perez cut across Kimi and missed his braking point. Kimi suffered a huge lockup and rammed into the back of the McLaren, damaging his Front wing pretty badly. This isn't the first time these 2 have crossed paths and it is clear that McLaren are running out of patience with Perez. The Ensuing Damage meant that Kimi had to pit for a front wing change and rejoined way back down the grid. Frustrating.....


Shots from the first few laps :  

Lotus F1 Team
having to play catchup. Romain was in a better position though.


Some Close Battles being fought :



Some more Shots from the Race :


Lotus F1 Team
in action :


The Lotus F1 Pit Wall discussing Strategic Changes :


Their Planning paid dividends as Romain Grosjean reeled in the McLarens and the Toro Rosso.


Kimi Raikkonen
too passed the Force India with relative ease and was on the tail of the McLaren duo :


Adrian Sutil drove into Retirement on the Penultimate Lap with Brake Failure :


Kimi Raikkonen's and Mark Webber's Cars stopped just after the Chequered Flag to save fuel for later scrutiny.


Sebastien Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber were the Podium Finishers. Massa, Hulkenberg, Rosberg, Ricciardo, Grosjean, Hamilton and Button completed the Top 10. Hamilton's late pit stop allowed up to charge upto 9th. Raikkonen produced a spirited drive but just missed out on points in 11th.


The Tifosi running towards the Podium


Fans as far as the Eyes can see!! Amazing, Absolutely Amazing!!



Podium Celebrations. Adrian Newey, the Da Vinci of Aerodynamics in F1 represented Red Bull Racing for collecting the Constructors' trophy. The Podium Interviews were carried out by the Great Sir John Surtees and Jean Alesi!



Mark Webber saying Goodbye to Fans in Europe :( He will be missed. AussieGrit all the Way!!



Fernando Alonso obliging the Tifosi with some photos :


Podium Celebrations ( Video Link ) :



As the Fans slowly left the track, the trucks came in and it was time to packup!!


Quick Photos with Kimi Raikkonen's Helmet!!


The Suite now bearing a deserted look :


The Motorhomes of 2013, for one last time!!


Made New Friends!!

Thank you Lotus F1 for all the Hospitality and Thank you Guys and Gals!



The way back to the Hotel :


It was a nice Sunday. We didn't achieve good results but memorable 3 days nonetheless.

Once again, a Big Thank You to the Lotus F1 Team for all the hospitality. Thank you to Anne-Charlotte Remy and Oliver Anderson for all the logistical help.

Thank you to Anita Nyers, Fleur Foster,  Luca Mazzocco, Francois Puentes, Frederic Garcia & Veronica Sassella for hosting me over the 3 days. Really enjoyed the Experience.


Indian GP is my next stop, till then God Bless and stay safe!!



Paddock Club Diaries - Italian GP 2013 Day 2

Saturday is always a busy day for Teams. Activity starts early in the morning with the Team Pit-Stop Practice. Setting up the Car for Qualifying is also very important. Any problems or niggles have to be ironed out so that the Drivers can have unhindered sessions.

I missed the Pit-Stop Practice in Germany so an early start allowed me to be in the thick of action.


En route to the Circuit :


The FIA Weigh-Bridge ( would see a lot of activity on Saturday ) :


Mercedes AMG - Petronas getting ready for their Pit-Stop Practice :


Francois and Oliver are all smiles as they welcome the Team Guests on Saturday :


The Car ready for Practice :


As the Boys were getting ready for practice, I grabbed the opportunity of sharing screen space with Alan Permane ( Lotus F1 Trackside Operations Director ), Ciaron Pilbeam ( Lotus F1 Chief Race Engineer ), Paul Seaby ( Lotus F1 Team Manager ) & Ayao Komatsu ( Romain Grosjean's Race Engineer ). 

Ciaron was fantastic and very welcoming. He was loving the challenge of pushing Lotus up the Grid, just like his stint at Red Bull Racing until last season.



The Mechanics busy practising :


Video Link :




More shots from the Garage :


Now that is a nice welcome ;)


The Paddock Area abuzz with Activity. Photographers waiting for Drivers to walk in :


Saturday Practice would see Teams run Race Simulations but the main agenda was to have Qualifying Simulations done.

Lotus F1 had run the Long Wheelbase Version for Kimi on Friday but as the difference was marginal, he switched back to the Standard Version for Saturday.

Some Shots from FP3 :



Lotus F1 Team in Action!!


Sebastien Vettel was the Fastest, Kimi and Romain 10th and 14th Respectively.


We were soon joined by Sir Jackie Stewart. The Triple World Champion talked about the Team's Performance so far this season. He talked about the changes brought into F1 down the years. He also stressed on the importance of Sponsorships for the teams.



Moments with the Legend himself !!


You cannot neglect nutrition in all this and I don't like missing lunch at the Paddock Club :)

A Quick Lunch and it was time to head down for the Pit-Lane Walk!

Oliver
had a surprise for me. I had 20 minutes to scurry around the Paddock and meet whoever I could! Fantastic!


The Paddock - Ground Zero!!



The SKY PAD - Best tool for Analysis!!

The Man who mans the Sky Pad - Anthony Davidson. Great Guy. The Waistline Difference is appalling!


Uh, wrong place Ma'am :P

With Romain Grosjean's Car :


It was now time for Qualifying! The Sessions that would decide the Grid for Sunday!

Q1 saw the slowest 6 being eliminated.

Shots from Q1 :



Lotus F1 Team in Q1 :

Sebastien Vettel topped Q1, Kimi was 11th and Romain 8th.

Gutierrez ( Sauber-Ferrari ), Bottas ( Williams-Renault ), Van Der Garde ( Caterham-Renault ), Pic
( Caterham-Renault ), Bianchi ( Marussia-Cosworth ) and Chilton ( Marussia-Cosworth ) were eliminated.



Times were reset after Q1. The Slowest 6 drivers from the remaining 16 would be eliminated in Q2.


Shots from Q2 :

Lotus F1 Team in Q2 :


Monza was never a Great Track for Lotus F1 and the lack of pace from the Renault Engine meant that both the Lotuses were Eliminated in Q2.

Sebastien Vettel Topped Q2. Kimi missed Q3 by a tenth of a second ( whisker ) while Romain was about 3 tenths slower than the 10th place Vergne.

Lewis Hamilton too was eliminated
but it was later revealed that Adrian Sutil impeded him on his flying lap. Sutil received a 3 place Grid Penalty.

Raikkonen ( Lotus-Renault ), Hamilton ( Mercedes ), Grosjean ( Lotus-Renault ), Sutil ( Force India-Mercedes ), Maldonado ( Williams-Renault ) and Di Resta ( Force India-Mercedes ) were eliminated from Q2.

A disappointing Qualifying Session but we were optimistic about the Race. The Lap Times were too close and the Lotus is confident in Race Trim, so all was not lost. A Free Tyre choice also meant that strategies could be different from the front runners.


The Times were Reset and it was time for the Top - 10 Shootout!! Q3 would see some really close battles!!

Shots from Q3 :


Sebastien Vettel dominated all three sessions and bagged Pole Position! Mark Webber ensured that the Red Bulls lock out the front row. Nico Hulkenberg sprung a surprise for Sauber-Ferrari and qualified 3rd on the Grid. The Team did well in 2012 too and now had a platform to score big on Sunday.


An Ecstatic Sauber Pit-Wall and Manisha Kaltenborn!