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

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


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


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

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


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


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



Practice :


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


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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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



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

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



Qualifying :


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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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



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

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

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

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



Race :


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


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


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



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



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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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


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



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


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



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

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

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


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

 

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


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


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


Time for a quick recap of the Turkish GP Weekend.



Practice :


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

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



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

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



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


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



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

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



Qualifying :


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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



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

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

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



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



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

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

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



Race :


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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



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



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



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



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



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



Bring on Bahrain! 

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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



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


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



Practice :


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




Qualifying :

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

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




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

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

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

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



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

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



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



Race :


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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



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



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


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


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



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


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


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


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



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



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

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

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


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


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


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


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



Time for a recap of the weekend!



Practice :


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



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

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

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



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



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

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



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



Qualifying :


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

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

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



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

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



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

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



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

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



Race :


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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



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



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



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



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



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


On to Imola!

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


Practice :

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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



Qualifying :

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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



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



Race :

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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



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


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



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



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

Bring on Portimao!!


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

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

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


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


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


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


Practice :

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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

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



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


Qualifying :

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

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




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

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

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

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




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




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




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



Race :

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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!




















2020 Belgian GP Race Recap : Mercedes Masterclass in the Ardennes

The third triple-header of the F1 season kicked off at the awe-inspiring circuit of Spa-Francorchamps nestled in the Ardennes forest near the town of Spa. The drivers returned after a week of respite for Round Seven of the revised racing calendar. 

There was news from the F1 world in the interim.

Dorilton Capital, US-based investment firm took over Williams Racing F1 Team. Williams Racing was a family-run outfit and the third oldest team on the grid with a great history of racing in the sport. One can only hope that this acquisition would help them get back up the field. 

All ten teams signed the Concorde Agreement confirming their participation until 2025.

The FIA also decided to delay their ban on engine modes or "quali modes" until the Italian GP weekend, the weekend after Belgium.


The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps is the longest track on the F1 calendar and demands a mix of power and balance for optimum lap times. The inclement weather and varying track conditions have the potential to play havoc in the races.


All teams carried a tribute for Anthoine Hubert, the Formula 2 racer from France who succumbed following an accident in the F2 Feature Race last year.


Here is a quick recap of the 2020 Race Weekend!



Practice :

It was a cold and windy Friday morning with grey skies in Spa-Francorchamps. Free Practice 1 got underway with only a few runners in the first thirty minutes of the session. Norris ran wide at La Source while his team-mate Sainz suffered from DRS issues. Grosjean returned to the pits after complaining about a lack of power on his first run. His car would remain on stands with what seemed to be an engine issue. Magnussen suffered a similar fate in the other Haas car.  Ferrari powered cars were slow in straight-line speed while Mercedes and Honda the quickest through the speed traps. Raikkonen and Hamilton tried different setups with their rear wings to get the right balance. However, it was birthday boy Valtteri Bottas who was fastest in FP1. He suffered a puncture near the end of the session but was able to return safely to the pits. Less than a second covered P1 from P12 and a tenth the top 3. Hamilton was P2 from Verstappen and Perez. Stroll and Albon completed the top 6. 

Renault powered cars were in the top 10 with Ocon, Sainz, Ricciardo and Norris. Kvyat and Gasly were 11th and 12th for Alpha Tauri and Raikkonen 13th for Alfa Romeo. Leclerc and Vettel could only manage 14th and 15th while Latifi and Russell completed the list of those who set a lap time. Giovinazzi suffered from technical issues and was the third driver ( besides the Haas duo ) unable to set a lap time.


There was a downpour during Formula 3 qualifying, but the track dried up at the start of Free Practice 2. Giovinazzi and Raikkonen were the first drivers on track with the former trying to make up for the time lost in FP1. Raikkonen suffered from tyre vibrations throughout FP2 and Norris reported abnormality in engine power which got addressed in the pits. Woes for Haas F1 continued into FP2 with the mechanics trying to make both cars track-worthy. Magnussen and Grosjean were finally able to get some laps with thirty minutes left of the session, both on new power units. As more rubber got laid, the lap times started going down. It was Verstappen who reigned supreme in FP2 with Ricciardo catapulting his Renault into P2. It wasn't a trouble-free session for the Australian though with Renault asking him to bring the car to a halt on the Kemmel straight with what seemed to be a hydraulics issue. Hamilton looked well settled in P3 while Albon got the other Red Bull into the top 4. Racing Point had representation in the top 6 with Perez and Bottas had a couple of hairy moments at Les Combes, ending the session in P6. Norris was P7 for McLaren from Ocon, Sainz and Gasly. Stroll's best lap fetched him the 11th fastest time, but on the medium tyres. Kvyat was P12 from Giovinazzi and Raikkonen. Ferrari had a forgettable Friday with Leclerc down in P15 and Vettel suffering a series of lock-ups to finish the session in P17. Russell split the Ferraris while Latifi and the two Haas cars brought up the rear of the field.

Red Bull with Verstappen seemed to be a worthy challenger for pole on Saturday and Albon looked more settled with his one-lap pace. Mercedes looked primed and ready for qualifying Saturday while the Ferrari powered teams were sweating after a troublesome Friday. The works team had a lot of setup changes to perform if they were to mount any challenge come Sunday. Belgium has always been a happy hunting ground for Racing Point, and Friday running didn't suggest otherwise. Renault was in the mix only if they could keep their gremlins away. Alpha Tauri drivers seemed to have become consistent top 10 performers and were bullish about qualifying.


The final practice session before Qualifying ( FP3 ) got underway with cloudy skies and intermittent light rain. However, the weather didn't warrant the need for Intermediate tyres. The Haas duo were the first cars out on track and completed six laps each before light rain set in. McLaren and Alpha Tauri were the other teams to venture out, but only for installation laps. Raikkonen complained about battery issues and had to return to the pits for some settings change. The mechanics were busy at work, repairing the floor of Norris' McLaren and taping up bits on Sainz' car as well. Everyone had set representative lap times by then, some with soft tyres and some with mediums and hards. All drivers drove out with a fresh set of soft tyres with five minutes remaining on the clock for their low fuel runs. The Haas drivers had a clear track and set their respective lap times. Bottas made a couple of mistakes on his first run, running wide at La Source and couldn't improve his lap time. The Bus-Stop chicane saw a queue of cars lining up to gain an optimum launch for their laps. Hamilton was the fastest in FP3 from Ocon and Norris. Albon was P4 for Red Bull from Bottas' best attempt ( on mediums ). Verstappen's run on soft tyres was compromised due to traffic and couldn't go faster than his time on the medium tyres. Ricciardo set the 7th fastest time.
Stroll was P8 for Racing Point from Sainz and Perez. A mistake on his final run denied Perez a better lap time on soft tyres, and he got summoned by the stewards for allegedly impeding Grosjean. The Alpha Tauri cars continued to be competitive with the 11th and 12th fastest times from Latifi in a Williams in 13th. Magnussen was the fastest Ferrari powered car in 14th from Grosjean and Raikkonen. Ferrari was languishing in 17th with Leclerc and last with Vettel. They were slower than their customer teams, and the possibility of a Q1 elimination seemed real! Russell and Giovinazzi split the Ferraris in 18th and 19th.



Qualifying :


The threat of rain loomed large at the start of Q1, and the Haas cars were again out on track early. Many teams experimented with slip-streaming between their drivers. Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo, Sainz, Verstappen and Albon were the top six after the first set of runs with Latifi, Raikkonen, Vettel, Grosjean and Magnussen the drivers under threat. Leclerc, in the other Ferrari, was hanging on precariously in P14. The final three minutes of Q1 saw a flurry of cars head out, and spar over track position and clean air. Bottas and Verstappen from the top 6 and everyone from P7 ( bar Ocon ) went for another run in Q1. There were improvements on the final run of Q1 and Vettel jumped out of danger to 13th. Leclerc was on the cusp of elimination, but no driver was able to beat his time. Magnussen's off-track excursion at turn 14 didn't help matters either. Raikkonen, the only challenger, missed the cutoff by eight-hundredths of a second! Raikkonen, Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Latifi and Magnussen were the eliminations of Q1. Hamilton was the quickest in Q1 from Bottas, Verstappen, Gasly, Stroll and Kvyat. Russell maintained his record of making it into Q2 ( 14th ) while Ferrari scraped through in 13th and 15th, saving themselves an embarrassment.



Q2 got underway with tyre choice being a pivotal decision for both team and driver. Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Stroll and Perez opted for the medium tyres while the rest of the field chose the softs. Hamilton was fastest from Bottas and Verstappen after their first runs while Ricciardo, Ocon and Albon completed the top 6. The decision to run medium tyres didn't work for the Racing Point cars, and they could manage only the 11th and 12th fastest times. Vettel, Leclerc and Russell were the others in the drop zone, Russell returning to the pits after aborting his lap. It was time to refuel, take a breather, put on a fresh set of tyres and go again. Ricciardo couldn't join the rest of the field due to a brake-by-wire issue. He was in 4th and hoped to make it into Q3. The Racing Point duo made the sensible decision to switch to the soft tyres for their final run, and both made it back into the top 10. Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen were on quick laps but backed off right at the end to not jeopardize their tyre choice for the race on Sunday. The top 2 were unchanged with Albon improving to third on his final run of Q2. Verstappen, Sainz, Ricciardo, Stroll, Ocon, Perez, Norris were through to Q3 while Kvyat, Gasly, Leclerc, Vettel and Russell got eliminated. However, those eliminated would be eligible for a free tyre choice. 


It was time for the top 10 to faceoff in Q3. Hamilton flexed his muscles and pulled away from the rest of the field. The Briton set a new track record, half a second clear off his team-mate. Bottas made a couple of mistakes which cost him time around sectors 1 and 2. Ricciardo overcame his brake-by-wire issues and was third fastest on his first run of Q3 from Verstappen and Albon. Positions six to ten after the first run of Q3 were: Sainz, Ocon, Perez, Stroll, Norris.
Tow and slip-stream duties were switched between team-mates after their first runs with Albon assisting Verstappen and Ocon giving a tow to Ricciardo. Racing Point didn't send their cars back on track which came as a surprise to many. Hamilton was flying again and went even faster, beating his own time to bag the 93rd Pole of his career! It was a new track record at Spa-Francorchamps. Bottas improved on his final run but was still half a second adrift. Verstappen retook P3 from Ricciardo who had a scruffy lap and bailed out of it. Verstappen was a hundredth of a second away from a front-row start and rued the decision to use up his battery power on the early part of his flying lap. Ricciardo sealed his best qualifying position at Spa-Francorchamps in P4. Albon qualified in a commendable P5 with Ocon ensuring both Renaults made it into the top 6. Sainz and Perez occupied row 4 and Stroll and Norris row 5.



Hamilton and Mercedes were the class of the field once again. Bottas wasn't displeased about a front row start and hoped to use the tow from Hamilton to challenge for the lead on the Kemmel Straight. Red Bull was pleased to have both cars in the top 6 and knew they had the pace to fight the high-flying Mercs. Renault's resurgence with Ricciardo continued with Ocon joining the cause as well. A close contest with their ex-customers ( Red Bull ) awaited them. Racing Point would be disappointed with a poor showing on Saturday, setup changes for what could be a rainy Sunday possibly to blame. McLaren and Alpha Tauri looked as strong midfield teams. Ferrari had a dismal two days. They were the only team who failed to go faster than their lap times set in 2019. It seemed that they would be contending with other Ferrari customer teams and Williams come Sunday. Alfa Romeo and Haas F1 remained the backmarkers of 2020.



Race :

The sky was sunny on Sunday with rain predicted later in the race. The cars left the pitlane for sighting laps, and Sainz reported a problem in his car with smoke spewing out the back of his McLaren. The Spaniard returned to the pits for inspection, but the problem was terminal. He would not start the race due to an exhaust failure. 

The drivers took part in the "End Racism" campaign on the grid followed by a minute's silence to honour the memory of Anthoine Hubert. It was a sober moment for everyone and a reminder that motorsport is dangerous. 


Leclerc adopted an aggressive approach for the start of the race by choosing soft tyres. Gasly decided to go deep into the race with hard tyres while others outside the top 10 chose the mediums.


The race got underway, and it was a clean start for everyone. Bottas was unable to pressure Hamilton into Eau Rouge and Raidillon, but Ricciardo was all over Verstappen for P3. Their battle carried on into Les Combes, but Verstappen managed to hang onto P3. Further down the field, Leclerc extracted the maximum out of his soft tyres and was up to P8 while Giovinazzi and Magnussen moved up four and five places respectively. Norris ran wide at Les Combes and lost positions, relegating him to P11. Raikkonen overtook Russell to retake P16 on the opening lap while Gasly made a move on Perez for P9 on lap 2. The Frenchman wasn't pleased with the Racing Point driver for squeezing him into the wall while defending his position out of La Source.


Hamilton's lead over Bottas was over a second already, and Leclerc was under pressure from Gasly after his mega start. Leclerc lost two positions to Gasly and Perez in the space of two laps, the Ferrari a sitting duck on the Kemmel Straight. Raikkonen overtook Magnussen for P15 on lap 4 with Russell doing the same a lap later. The Mercedes duo was pulling away from the rest of the field and exchanging fastest laps. Meanwhile, Ferrari was down in 10th and 13th, clinging on to the final points-scoring position. Leclerc's defence of P10 didn't last long, and he yielded to Norris on lap 6. Grosjean overtook his team-mate for P17 while Bottas requested permission to attack Hamilton, but the team asked him to hold station, as discussed earlier in the pre-race brief. Leclerc kept going backwards with Kvyat snatching P11 from him on lap 7. Gasly caught up to Stroll, and both went wheel to wheel for P7. Magnussen also had to defend his place from Latifi further down the field. Hamilton was managing the gap at the front and trying to extend his stint as much as possible. 


There was a massive crash out of Fanges on lap 11. Giovinazzi and Russell got eliminated from the race. Giovinazzi, in P14, ran wide out of Fanges, spinning around, the rear of the car hitting the barriers. A loose wheel from his car went across the track and struck the right front of Russell's car who was trying to take avoiding action. The impact sent Russell into the barriers on the opposite side, the halo saving him from a serious incident. The Haas cars went through unscathed, but there was debris strewn across the track. The stewards decided to deploy the Safety Car.


It was a bit early for those on the medium tyres to pit, but they did nonetheless. Leclerc, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Magnussen and Latifi were the first to pit. Ferrari wasn't ready for Leclerc, and the stop cost him track position to Raikkonen. Mercedes and Renault decided to double-stack their pit stops, and it was close for Bottas who exited the pits just ahead of Verstappen. Albon, Stroll, Norris, Kvyat and Vettel were the final set of drivers to pit under the safety car. All drivers except Albon ( medium tyres ) were on the hard tyres. Perez and Gasly chose to not pit and were P4 and P5 after the round of pit stops.


Racing resumed on lap 15 and Hamilton had a clean start again. Stroll came under intense pressure from Norris but defended his position. Raikkonen overtook Vettel for P12 on lap 16 without the use of DRS, an embarrassment for Ferrari to see its customer performing better than its works' car. Ricciardo made light work of Perez for P5 on lap 17 who was then under pressure from Albon and Ocon. It was job done for Albon a lap later. Perez eventually pitted on lap 19 for hard tyres, rejoining in 17th and last. Leclerc tried a move on Vettel at the end of the Kemmel Straight, the duo banging wheels and Leclerc having to relent to avoid further contact. Ricciardo's charge up the field continued with a move on Gasly for P4 ( lap 21 ).


Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Gasly, Albon, Ocon, Stroll, Norris, Kvyat were the top 10 on lap 22. 


Perez overtook Latifi for P16 ( lap 23 ) and Magnussen for P15 ( lap 24 ) while Albon got past Gasly for P5 ( lap 24 ). Hamilton's pace at the front was unrelenting with fastest lap times on laps 25 and 27. Leclerc pitted again on lap 26 for a set of medium tyres, but it was a slow stop, the team having to refill some pneumatic pressure in his car. He rejoined in 17th and last. Ocon finally got past Gasly for P6 on lap 26, and Gasly pitted a lap later for his only stop, switching to the medium tyres for his final stint. He rejoined in 16th. Gasly got past Latifi for P15 on lap 28. Vettel communicated to the team that he wouldn't be able to pass the cars ahead of him and demanded a pit stop. However, the team didn't seem keen on heeding his request. An overtake by Perez for P11, a lap later, added insult to injury. Gasly was moving up the field rapidly with overtakes on both the Haas drivers and honing in on Vettel. Verstappen reported vibration on his tyres ( lap 31 ) while Latifi pitted for medium tyres. Gasly completed his move on Vettel for P12 on lap 32, the German locking up his tyres and running wide under braking. 


Perez was in DRS Zone, and it was an easy overtake on Raikkonen for P10 on the Kemmel Straight ( lap 33 ). Gasly caught up and did the same a lap later. Bottas reported numbness in his left leg while vibrations on Verstappen's car were getting worse. The top 3 were told by their teams to look after their tyres to avoid a repeat of Silverstone. Leclerc went past Magnussen ( for P15 ) who pitted for soft tyres on the same lap. Perez and Gasly got past Kvyat on lap 37, Kvyat making way for his team-mate who was on an alternate strategy. They were back into points-scoring positions. Norris completed an overtake on Stroll for P7.


Hamilton made a rear error at the Bus Stop Chicane, locking up his tyres and going wide. Bottas made the same mistake a couple of laps later, the lock-ups not helping their tyre management efforts. Mercedes asked Bottas to avoid using the kerbs on the "right side" as the drivers started to lose mechanical grip. Hamilton too didn't feel confident about the health of his front tyres. Gasly completed a move on Perez for P9 on lap 40 while Ocon went wheel to wheel with Albon, but the Thai driver defended well. 


There was a battle unfolding for P5 between Albon, Ocon and NorrisRicciardo was reeling in Verstappen who was closing in on Bottas. The last three laps promised a lot of action. Ocon tried an overtake on Albon again ( on lap 42 ) but couldn't make it work. Gasly overtook Stroll for P8 on the penultimate lap, a brilliant charge up the field after his pit stop. Ocon finally completed his move on Albon on the final lap while Leclerc went past Grosjean for P14.



Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag victory at the end of 44 laps from Bottas and Verstappen. A charging Ricciardo reduced the deficit to Verstappen to only three seconds and also set the fastest lap of the race on the final lap! Ocon came home in fifth for Renault from Albon and Norris. Gasly, the driver of the day finished in P8, Stroll and Perez completing the top 10. 
Kvyat, Raikkonen, Vettel, Leclerc, Grosjean, Latifi and Magnussen were the drivers who finished outside the points.



It was Win Number 89 for Lewis Hamilton and another 1-2 for Mercedes in 2020. The team would be happy to go away with the best result possible from both its drivers. Red Bull continued to come up second best and need both their drivers to be involved in the battle at the front. Renault would be ecstatic with 4th and 5th, their best result in 2020 till now. It was damage limitation for McLaren after one car failed to start the race due to technical issues. Gasly produced yet another stellar drive, making a strong case for himself to drive with the Red Bull A team. Racing Point would be mulling over what went wrong with their cars at Spa. They hoped for a better Sunday. Kimi Raikkonen was the fastest Ferrari powered car, showing there is no substitute for experience. Alfa Romeo would take some positives from his result. A mistake proved costly for Giovinazzi, but the Italian displayed strong race pace up until then. Haas F1 and Williams had a mediocre weekend again.


Belgium was a humbling experience for Ferrari. The Prancing Horse, which was so dominant a year back, finished in a dismal 13th and 14th. Change is necessary and imminent. They cannot continue like this. They need to salvage whatever they can in 2020.




The next race is at the Temple of Speed, the Home of the Tifosi, in Ferrari homeland, in Monza, Italy. The fastest circuit on the F1 calendar, Monza holds a special place in the hearts of drivers and fans alike. Sadly, the fans will not be able to witness the race live on track, but for some, it might prove to be a blessing in disguise!




BRING ON ITALY!!


2020 Spanish GP Race Recap : Hammer Time in the Mediterranean

The Circuit de Catalunya was the venue for the sixth round of the 2020 Formula One season and the last race of the second triple-header of 2020. The circuit, situated in the town of Montmelo near Barcelona, Catalunya is the most used track on the calendar with the teams participating in two pre-season tests held here besides the GP itself. The Spanish GP is held in May but got postponed to August due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Circuit de Catalunya is a track that has a "little bit of everything" and tests the true capability of a car. Deficiencies if any, are exposed on this fast, flowing, high downforce circuit and the respective lap times indicate the real pecking order of the F1 grid.


The recently concluded 70th Anniversary GP served up a thrilling race thanks to the tyre choice made by Pirelli for the second weekend in Silverstone. However, the Italian marquee decided to take a conservative approach for Catalunya and chose the hardest tyre compounds ( C1, C2 and C3 ) for the Spanish GP weekend. 

Sergio Perez, who had missed the two races at Silverstone, returned to racing with Racing Point after testing negative for Covid-19. 

The FIA also decided to ban "quali modes" after the Spanish GP weekend, intending to bring more parity in the field. The teams will have to run the same engine mode for qualifying and the race from next GP ( Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium ).


More Details about the ruling here :

https://www.formula1.com/en/latest/article.qualifying-engine-modes-what-are-the-proposed-changes-and-why-do-they-matter.OI3cSGqWS6mONcBHUFncL.html


Red Bull bagged a great victory with Max Verstappen at the 70th Anniversary GP. Mercedes suffered due to the higher track temperatures and tyre blistering.

The weather forecast for the Spanish GP weekend wasn't any different.


Did we have a repeat of the previous race or did Mercedes overcome the gremlins to take another victory in 2020? Did Ferrari have a better outing with a higher downforce package? Were Racing Point, Renault and McLaren able to get into the sharp end of the grid? Were Haas F1 and Alfa Romeo able to score points this weekend?

Time for a recap of the events from the weekend!



Practice :


Vettel ( Ferrari ) and Sainz ( McLaren ) got a new chassis for the weekend, the duo hoping to address the issues they faced from the opening rounds. 

Williams Reserve Driver, Roy Nissany got the nod for a practice session, in place of George Russell, the Israeli rookie following his father's footsteps who was the reserve driver for Minardi in 2005. Stroll and Perez came within close contact of Bottas and Raikkonen in the tight and twisty last section of the circuit. The Finns had to relent and give up on their laps. Bottas narrowly missed hitting a bird on one of his flying laps while debutant Nissany suffered a spin ( at turn 10 ) while getting to grips with his Williams. George Russell took to pit lane duties and acted as the lollipop man for his team. 
Bottas was the fastest in Free Practice 1, four-hundredths of a second clear of his team-mate Hamilton. Verstappen was third lastest, less than a second adrift. Leclerc and Vettel were 4th and 5th for Ferrari with Grosjean joining them in the top 6 in his Haas. Perez was P7 for Racing Point. Albon, Magnussen and Stroll completed the top 10. McLaren could only manage P11 and P13 while the Renault drivers set the 12th and 18th fastest times. Giovinazzi and Raikkonen ( P15 and P16 ) split the Alpha Tauris of Gasly and Kvyat. Latifi and Nissany were 19th and 20th for Williams.

Everyone set their representative lap times on the soft tyres except for Perez, Stroll, Ocon and Nissany who were on mediums.


Free Practice 2 was an eventful session with low fuel runs and racing simulations for almost all drivers. Mercedes was the class of the field with Hamilton, three-tenths of a second clear of Bottas. A wobble at the exit of turn 15 along with a trip across the gravel denied Bottas a clean session. Verstappen kept the Mercedes duo honest in third while Ricciardo catapulted his Renault to P4. Haas F1 was in the top 6 again with Grosjean repeating his performance of FP1 with the 5th fastest time. Leclerc ensured works Ferrari representation with P6 while Sainz improved to P7 for McLaren. The Spaniard still struggled with cooling issues on his car. The Stewards reprimanded Sainz for using the run-off area for gaining a position on a slower car, the manoeuvre saving him brake usage. Perez was P8 for Racing Point while Ocon got both Renault cars into the top 10 with P9. It wasn't a trouble-free session for the Alpha Tauri duo with both drivers spending a considerable amount of time in the garage. However, Gasly was able to set the tenth fastest time while Kvyat was only P15, his flying lap compromised by a Williams on the racing line. Stroll was P11 for Racing Point while Vettel was down to P12 in his Ferrari. Albon's travails on a Friday continued with only the 13th fastest time. Norris was P14 from Kvyat, Magnussen, Raikkonen and Giovinazzi. Russell returned in FP2 but was critical of the lack of grip quipping that it felt like "driving on ice". He was the slowest of the session, three-tenths of a second off his less experienced team-mate Latifi's best time. 

Only six-tenths of a second separated P6 from P16, suggesting a tight midfield battle could unfold on Qualifying day. Haas was encouraged by their strong showing on Friday while Alfa Romeo still had no answer for their lack of pace. Red Bull was the best of the rest on Friday with Mercedes holding a considerable advantage over one lap pace. The race simulations in FP2 saw some running the medium tyres and some the hards. The Red Bull cars did comparable lap times with the Mercedes cars on the medium tyres. Christian Horner, the Red Bull Team Principal, believed that this could reduce the deficit come Sunday.


Haas F1 broke the curfew restrictions on Friday night to change the Power Unit on Grosjean's car, the first of their two exemptions in the season. McLaren changed the Internal Combustion Engine, MGU-H and MGU-K to mitigate any issues of cooling on Sainz' car.  


Hamilton led another Mercedes 1-2 in Free Practice 3. Searing track temperatures put a strain on the soft tyres with Mercedes asking its drivers to drive under the shade of the grandstands to cool them down. The lap times got faster as drivers laid rubber on the track. Hamilton made full use of track evolution and was a tenth and a half clear of his team-mate. Verstappen was third, half a second slower with Sainz, Perez and Leclerc completing the top 6. Alpha Tauri looked strong going into Qualifying with P7 for Gasly. Stroll, Albon and Ricciardo completed the top 10. Ocon was P11 but suffered a late crash that brought out the Red Flag and ended the session. The Frenchman got overtaken by Magnussen who seemed to back out of his flying lap three hundred metres later. Magnussen then tried to move off the racing line to the middle of the track when Ocon caught up at turn 3. Ocon, however, didn't react soon enough and had to do a hard turn to avoid ramming Magnussen from behind. The sudden change of direction sent him into the wall, damaging the front portion of his Renault. The stewards investigated the incident but deemed it as "no action necessary" since data on Magnussen's car showed that he was harvesting energy and Ocon had enough time to react. Vettel was P12 in the other Ferrari, ahead of Grosjean and Raikkonen. Norris could only manage P15 with Kvyat, Magnussen, Giovinazzi and the two Williams bringing up the rear of the field. 



Qualifying :

It was a long afternoon for Renault mechanics who got Ocon's car ready, just in time for qualifying. Q1 got underway with the entire field opting for soft tyres. It was a close contest with one second separating P1 from P15. Hamilton, Perez, Stroll, Bottas, Verstappen and Sainz were the provisional top 6 with Grosjean, Raikkonen, Magnussen, Latifi and Giovinazzi in the drop zone. Giovinazzi asked the team to check for floor damage after running wide on the penultimate corner and bouncing over the kerbs. Kvyat had allegedly impeded Magnussen on his flying lap, the stewards deeming it necessary for investigation post-qualifying. A huge bottle-neck formed up in the final minutes of Q1 as the drivers jostled for clear air and track position. The lap times tumbled due to track evolution. Raikkonen catapulted his Alfa Romeo to P14 before ending on the cusp of elimination. The others behind couldn't go faster. Alfa Romeo was into Q2 for the first time this season! Magnussen, Grosjean, Russell, Latifi and Giovinazzi were the drivers eliminated in Q1 with Hamilton being the fastest from Perez, Verstappen, Bottas and Leclerc. The loss of pace for Haas F1 flummoxed one and all, the chances of a promising result seemed bleak.


Tyre choices dominated team discussions in Q2. The teams would run "quali modes" for the last time in the turbo era. All the drivers opted for the soft tyres for their first run in Q2. The order after the first runs was - Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Sainz, Leclerc, Perez, Stroll, Norris, Albon, Ricciardo, Vettel, Ocon, Gasly, Kvyat and Raikkonen. Both the Mercedes drivers and Verstappen chose not to run in Q2 while the rest of the field bar Raikkonen exited the pits on a fresh set of soft tyres. Raikkonen didn't have any new soft tyres left and had to use the mediums for his final run in Q2. The top three remained unchanged with Stroll improving to P4 and Gasly producing a stellar lap to jump up to P5. Sainz, Perez, Leclerc, Albon and Norris completed the top 10. Albon and Norris scraped through to Q3, escaping elimination by five-thousandths and three-thousandths of a second! A lucky escape indeed! Most of the runners were unable to improve on their final runs into Q2, track temperatures going outside the operating range of the soft tyres being the probable cause. Vettel was the big casualty of Q2, failing to make it into Q3 again by the smallest of margins. These setbacks never seemed to end for the four-time world champion. Kvyat was P12 while Renault had a forgettable Saturday with Ricciardo in P13 and Ocon in P15. Raikkonen qualified P14 for Alfa Romeo, faster than a Renault, with medium tyres and narrowly missing a chance of getting into Q3 ( 0.22 seconds slower ). He believed the car had the pace to qualify in the top 10, but for the shortage of soft tyres!


The top-ten shootout got underway a few minutes later. Red Bull released Albon into the path of Hamilton, the latter having to take evasive action. The contenders for pole were out on soft tyres for their banker laps in Q3. Five chose the used soft tyres for their first run - Norris, Sainz, Gasly, Leclerc and Albon. 

Hamilton was on provisional pole, five-hundredths of a second clear of Bottas in P2. Verstappen was P3 from Perez, Stroll and Norris. Leclerc, Albon, Sainz and Gasly completed the provisional top 10. The final minutes of Q3 saw changes in the pecking order with everyone switching to a fresh set of soft tyres. Bottas set the fastest overall time in the second sector but ran out of grip in the final section. He couldn't improve on his first run. Hamilton couldn't improve on his previous lap time either. The Racing Point cars of Perez and Stroll were unable to break into the top 3. Verstappen pushed hard in his Red Bull yet failed to split the Mercedes. Albon improved to P6 in the other Red Bull followed by Sainz and Norris in P7 and P8. Leclerc had reported abnormal engine behaviour on his out-lap but went faster on his final run. He was P9 from Gasly, both a second and a half adrift of the fastest time. Kvyat got a formal warning for his impeding infringement in Q1.


Hamilton was on pole for the 92nd time in his career! Bottas completed a Mercedes front-row. Red Bull was pleased to see both their cars in the top 6 while Racing Point posed a potent challenge to the Milton-Keynes based outfit. The McLarens were there again, ready to pounce on any slip-ups by the drivers ahead. Ferrari continued to be off the pace, despite their higher downforce setup. Alpha Tauri had a great qualifying session and hoped to score some points on Sunday. It was a better showing for Alfa Romeo on Saturday while Renault had their work cut out for Sunday. Haas F1 and Williams Racing were a disappointment, yet again. 



Race :

Red Bull changed the ICE, Turbo, MGU-H and MGU-K on Verstappen's car ahead of the race. They were components used earlier, so no penalty incurred. Racing Point also took new control-electronics and energy store for Perez. 

There was a 20% risk of rain during the race. Vettel, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Ocon, Grosjean, Latifi and Giovinazzi started the race on medium tyres, the rest choosing the softs. The Mercedes drivers used their DAS system to good effect on the formation lap, bringing their tyres to optimum temperatures.




Hamilton had a clean start off the line with Bottas' slower launch getting him swamped into turn 1. Verstappen and Stroll got mega starts and used the tow to jump him on the 600m drag to turn 1. Verstappen was up into P2 with Stroll demoting Bottas to P4. Perez tried to make it worse for the Mercedes driver but couldn't make it work. Norris got bogged down and fell back to P10. Further down the field, Giovinazzi made up a place on Latifi while Ricciardo also gained a couple of places. Gasly was up to P8 while Kvyat made a pass on Ricciardo for P12 on lap 2.


Hamilton was 1.5 seconds clear of Verstappen at the front. Mercedes asked Bottas to quickly dispatch Stroll so that his race wouldn't be compromised. He tried a couple of times with DRS assistance but the Canadian held firm. It was job done on lap 5 with Verstappen the next target, three seconds further up the road. Russell got past Grosjean for P17 on the same lap as Verstappen tried to maintain his advantage with the fastest lap of the race. Bottas, in clean air, went faster on lap 6. Red Bull informed Verstappen that the gap to Hamilton was reducing, the Briton trying to control the pace of the race while extending his stint on the soft tyres. Albon, in the other Red Bull, was closing in on Perez whose tyres had started to overheat. 


The top ten at the end of lap 10 were Hamilton, Verstappen, Bottas, Stroll, Perez, Albon, Sainz, Gasly, Leclerc and Norris. McLaren was confident about "Plan A" ( race strategy ) for Sainz, as communicated to him on the team radio. 


Hamilton put in a series of fastest laps from laps 10 to 13 as Verstappen continued to complain about his tyres and a tail-wind which had picked up out of turn 7, hampering his drive. The field had begun to spread out with only Kvyat and Raikkonen the drivers within DRS range of the cars in front of them. Kvyat tried to make a move on Vettel for P11 under DRS but wasn't close enough. The battle for P14 was hotting up between Magnussen, Raikkonen and Ocon. 


Albon was the first of the front runners to pit on lap 18 for hard tyres. He rejoined in P16, right in the thick of the Magnussen, Raikkonen and Ocon battle. Russell pitted on lap 20 for medium tyres, rejoining in P20. Albon tried to make an overtake on Ocon but had to back out of it. Ocon, on the other hand, got past Raikkonen for P15 with Albon doing the same a couple of corners later. The Alfa Romeo driver had no more grip and pitted for a fresh set of medium tyres on lap 21.


Frustration over lack of grip due to tyre-wear left Verstappen fuming. Red Bull fulfilled his wish to pit, on lap 22, executing a 1.9 seconds pit stop to bring him out just ahead of Stroll and Perez in P3 with medium tyres. A flurry of pitstops followed over the next couple of laps. Gasly, Norris, Kvyat and Giovinazzi pitted on lap 23 with Norris choosing the soft tyres and the rest, the mediums. Mercedes decided to do a "double-stack" and pitted both its drivers for a fresh set of mediums. It was a slower stop for Hamilton with an issue on his left rear tyre. Thankfully, he didn't lose track position to Verstappen. Bottas, however, was demoted back to P3 after their first round of pit stops. Sainz pitted on lap 25 for soft tyres and rejoined in P12, being passed by Albon out of turn 1. 


Kvyat made a move on Latifi for P16 while Albon got stuck in traffic in P11, the strategy call not paying off. He came under intense pressure from Sainz who was on fresher tyres. Verstappen wasn't too pleased with Red Bull continuously informing him about the strategies adopted by the Mercedes duo. He reprimanded his engineer for being too preoccupied with what others were doing and asked him to focus on their performance instead. Meanwhile, Kvyat went past Grosjean for P15 and Raikkonen overtook Latifi for P18. Stroll pitted on lap 28 for mediums and rejoined in P8. Magnussen lost places in the space of one lap to Ocon, Albon and Sainz. He immediately pitted, along with Latifi, for fresh medium tyres while Latifi switched to the hard set. There was more action on track with Sainz relegating Albon to P11 on lap 29, thanks to his fresher tyres. 


Perez, Leclerc and Vettel were the next drivers to pit on lap 30. Perez and Leclerc switched over to the mediums while Vettel chose the soft tyres. Leclerc and Vettel rejoined in 13th and 14th, respectively. Perez rejoined in P7, just behind Sainz who was completing an overtake manoeuvre on Ocon into turn 1. Ricciardo, Ocon and Grosjean were the drivers who still hadn't pitted. Perez regained track position on Sainz with an overtake on lap 31 while Leclerc got past Kvyat for P12Russell got past Grosjean for P15 and Leclerc had honed in Norris on lap 32. 


Perez tried a daring move on Stroll on lap 33, much to the displeasure of the team principal Ottmar Szafnauer. Stroll held on to P5. Further down the field, Raikkonen made a move on Grosjean for P16. Grosjean pitted on lap 34, rejoining in P19 with soft tyres on his car. Albon moved up into P8 with an overtake on Ocon. Leclerc went wheel-to-wheel with Norris for P11, but the latter put up a strong defence despite a couple of lock-ups. Ricciardo finally pitted on lap 36 for a set of soft tyres, rejoining in 13th while Russell pitted for a set of medium tyres, down to P18. Ferrari informed Vettel that there was rain forecasted around lap 50. However, they had weightier issues to address on lap 37. Leclerc spun, getting stuck at turn 14 and unable to get going again. Replays showed that the Monegasque's engine had given up, sending him into a spin. The problem seemed terminal even though he recovered from the shutdown. Leclerc wanted to pit as his seat-belts had gotten loose as well.


Hamilton was now 9 seconds clear of Verstappen. Bottas, Stroll, Perez, Sainz, Albon, Gasly, Norris and Kvyat completed the top 10 at the end of lap 40. Leclerc pitted on lap 41 to address the issues on his car. Albon also pitted, for a fresh set of medium tyres and rejoined in P11. The Ferrari mechanics couldn't repair the car and wheeled Leclerc into the garage and retirement. A disappointing end to a promising Sunday. The battle at the front intensified with Bottas reducing the deficit to Verstappen, the latter pitting for the second time ( lap 42 ) for another set of medium tyres. Sainz pitted a lap later and managed to rebuff a challenge by Albon for P10 on exiting the pits. Bottas set the fastest lap of the race on lap 43. 


The second round of pit-stops had begun. Stroll and Gasly pitted on lap 44 for softs and mediums, rejoining in P8 and P11, respectively. Norris pitted on lap 46 for medium tyres, rejoining behind Gasly. Hamilton now held the fastest lap time. Raikkonen pitted from P14 for soft tyres and rejoined in 19th. Kvyat and Giovinazzi followed suit a lap later, opting for mediums and softs. Bottas pitted on lap 48 for soft tyres while Vettel asked the team's opinion on pitting again. He was in P5 but converting to a one-stop strategy seemed to be a tough ask. Bottas had to bridge a six seconds gap to Verstappen and had the fastest tyres under him. Meanwhile, Hamilton discussed tyre choices with his team and demanded the medium set for his final stint. Mercedes heeded to his demand in his pit stop on lap 51.


Perez was found guilty for ignoring blue flags and came under investigation. He got a five-second time penalty for his infringement ( lap 53 ). Ferrari, unsure of their plans, asked Vettel about the possibility of extending his soft tyres stint till the end. The German was exasperated, asking why they didn't consider this earlier, presumably before he started taking extra life out of his tyres.
Daniil Kvyat was next on the list to receive a five-second time penalty, ignoring blue flags the crime again ( lap 56 ). 


Bottas was unable to close the gap to Verstappen ahead, the Dutchman extending his cushion to more than seven seconds! There was no sign of rain in the closing stages of the race. Racing Point asked Stroll to push, realising that an overtake would have to be made on track for P5. Stroll completed the move on Vettel on lap 57 with DRS assistance. He had clear air ahead of him and a chance to bag P4 from his team-mate Perez should he finish within five seconds off him. Ocon got past Magnussen for P13. Raikkonen completed an overtake on Grosjean for P16 on the pit straight ( lap 59 ) but wasn't happy with the Frenchman. Grosjean moved under braking, once again and Raikkonen had to slam on the brakes to avoid ramming him from behind. The Flying Finn made another move on the same lap, snatching P15 from Russell. 


Stroll was catching Perez who like Vettel had opted for a one-stop strategy. Stroll was comfortably within the five-second bracket, so a P4 finish was assured. Sainz demoted Vettel to P7 ( lap 60 ) with Albon lining him up next. Grosjean tangled with Giovinazzi while unsuccessfully defending P17 and ran wide at turn 1, causing debris from his car to end up on the track. Hamilton drove over that debris and got concerned about damage. Thankfully, all was ok. The Stewards decided to investigate the Grosjean and Giovinazzi incident after the race. Raikkonen relegated Magnussen to P15 on lap 61 while Giovinazzi completed an overtake on Russell a lap later. The Mercedes duo sparred for the fastest lap of the race on lap 63. Bottas cut the deficit to Verstappen to two seconds, but it was too little too late. He had lost performance on his soft tyres. Grosjean pitted on lap 65 after suffering a tank-slapper at turn 9.


Bottas pitted on the penultimate lap for medium tyres, resigned to P3 but determined to grab the fastest lap point. A train of cars had formed up behind Vettel; Albon, Gasly, Norris and Ricciardo all vying for a higher finish. The German managed his defence of P7 well, positioning his car and using his battery power sensibly to fend off attack after attack from Albon. 


Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag and victory at the 2020 Spanish GP! Max Verstappen came home in 2nd, 24 seconds adrift. Bottas set the fastest lap of the race on the last lap, completing the podium in P3. Stroll and Perez were P4 and P5 for Racing Point followed by Sainz, Vettel, Albon, Gasly and NorrisRicciardo was P11 for Renault from Kvyat, Ocon and Raikkonen. Magnussen, Giovinazzi, Russell, Latifi and Grosjean completed the classified runners. 




Hamilton had dominated on a Sunday again. He had lapped everyone up to P4 and was in a league of his own. It was his 88th career victory, three short of the record of 91 wins of Michael Schumacher. He surpassed the German with this result being his 156th podium finish! Another record for the six-time World Champion.



Kimi Raikkonen, too set a record this weekend. The Finn achieved the record of longest distance raced in an F1 car ( 83846 km ) which equates to 2 full laps of the earth. He accomplished this feat on lap 37 of the race! Kudos!


Vettel crossed 3000 points in his F1 career with his 7th place.


Mercedes bounced back from the disappointment of last weekend with another flawless win. They would be a tad disappointed with Bottas' race, but except for Verstappen, no one else poses a threat to their title chances. Red Bull needs to have both cars contending with the Mercedes, and the onus is on Albon to improve from the next race. Racing Point continues its upward climb despite the reprimands and protests of their competitors. There was another protest lodged by Renault which got withdrawn as the Technical Delegate had already highlighted the ( same ) brake duct design to the stewards. Racing Point got another reprimand this weekend.


Ferrari would rue a missed opportunity for a double-points finish with the electrical failure on Leclerc's car. It was a mini-revival for Vettel, his P7 finish testament to his never-give-up attitude. Alpha Tauri would be pleased with Gasly's result, the Frenchman's reputation rising with each race weekend. McLaren and Renault seem to be going through a blip in form and need to improve their overall performance to stay in touch with the high flying Racing Point. Alfa Romeo would be encouraged with a better showing on Saturday and Sunday, but finishing in the points remains a target. Haas F1 and Williams Racing have a lot of work to do over the next fortnight if they are to stem this decline in 2020.




The season resumes in a fortnight at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps ( Belgium ), the next destination on the F1 calendar. It will be the first race of the next triple-header of the season. An iconic track with unique challenges that only a classic F1 circuit can present, the Belgian Grand Prix must not be missed!


Time for the drivers to refresh, regroup and return for round seven, in a fortnight!