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

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


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


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


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



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



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



Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


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


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


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


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




Red Bull Racing F1 Team :


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

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


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


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


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


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



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :


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

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


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


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



McLaren F1 Team :


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


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


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


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


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


 

Alpine Racing F1 Team :


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


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


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




Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :


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


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


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


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



Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team :


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


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


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



Williams Racing :


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


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


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




Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :


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


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


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


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




Haas F1 Team :


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


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




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



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



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


Time will reveal all!

2020 F1 Season Review - Still they Rise, for the Seventh Time!

Formula 1 celebrated its 70th Anniversary in 2020. The pinnacle of motorsport had elaborate plans for the 2020 season with a record 22 races in 22 different countries, promising a memorable experience for the fans. Vietnam and Zandvoort were the newest entrants with the season kicking off in March and ending in November. 


However, the news of a new virus called COVID-19 threatened to put the schedule in disarray. The new virus eventually became a pandemic and hit some in the F1 fraternity on the Australian GP weekend. The start of the season got postponed, and soon enough, the world went into a state of lockdown. 13 races got subsequently cancelled.


The pandemic intensified, and there were doubts about whether the season would get underway, but the FOM had worked hard to ensure a sizeable season. The revised calendar got announced, featuring 17 races, majority of which were in Europe. Many venues hosted two race weekends, and there were double-headers and triple-headers in the revised calendar. It was a hectic schedule for the teams and their members. Classic tracks like Nurburgring, Imola and Istanbul got added while Mugello and Portimao ( Portugal ) hosted an F1 Grand Prix for the first time. A couple of races saw fans ( in limited attendance ), but the FOM ensured that fan engagement was at its best throughout the season.


How did the teams and drivers fare in this season like no other? Time for a recap!



Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :


Mercedes, the kings of the Turbo Era, were untouchable in 2020 too. The team sported an "All Black Livery" to support their fight against racism with Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas leading the charge. There were some challenges along the way, but none caused concern as Hamilton romped to his 7th World Title. Hamilton broke the record for the maximum number of poles and victories with 11 wins and three podiums in 2020. The only blip he suffered was when he contracted COVID-19 and missed the Sakhir GP weekend. George Russell, his replacement, was winner elect but for some misfortune that left him languishing down in 9th. Valtteri Bottas began his challenge in 2020 on the right note with a win in Austria. However, he had no answer to Hamilton, who found a new gear every time Bottas tried to bridge the deficit. His second win was at Russia besides eight podium finishes. The Finn ended the season second best, once again and would need to dig deeper to give Hamilton a semblance of a challenge.

Mercedes were relentless in their quest for the 7th title and amassed 573 points, comfortably clear of Red Bull in 2nd. 

Hamilton is yet to renew his contract for 2021, and this remains a concern for Mercedes. 



Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing has been going from strength to strength after switching to Honda Power. The power unit was one of their biggest forte in 2020. Max Verstappen had a brilliant 2020, taking the fight to the Mercedes duo. The Dutchman won 2 races ( 70th Anniversary GP and Abu Dhabi ) and was on the podium on nine other occasions. Albon, meanwhile, managed only two podium finishes in Tuscany and Bahrain. Verstappen finished the season 3rd in the standings while Albon was 7th having scored less than half of Verstappen's haul. 

The absence of both their drivers at the sharp end of the grid ( regularly ) cost Red Bull dearly. There were a few gremlins and a couple of incidents which cost the team and drivers points, but Red Bull was the only challenger to Mercedes all season long. 

Red Bull finished the season with 319 points, well off the leaders Mercedes. 2021 is the final year for Honda and where Red Bull goes for their power unit needs will be interesting. The arrival of Sergio Perez to partner Verstappen for 2021 will help the team bring home consistent results.

 


McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren has been on a resurgence since the past couple of seasons. The partnership of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr has augured well for the Woking-based outfit. The team was involved in an intense midfield battle throughout the 2020 season but emerged victorious thanks to its excellent chassis and parts reliability. They ended the season 3rd in the Constructors' Championship with 202 points, seven clear of Racing Point in 4th. 

Sainz won the intra-team battle. The Spaniard secured a podium ( 2nd ) in Monza besides 11 points finishes. Norris scored the first podium of his career at the opening race in Austria and finished in the points on 12 occasions. Sainz finished the season tied on points ( but ahead ) with Albon in 6th while Norris was 9th. 

Despite having a long term contract with McLaren, Sainz decided to switch to Ferrari to replace Vettel. Time will tell if it was the right decision or not. As for McLaren, they were delighted to have landed the services of Ricciardo for 2021 besides switching to Mercedes power. 2020 has given them the perfect launchpad to push for the sharp end of the grid in 2021.



Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point began its charge in 2020 by retaining its driver pairing in Sergio Perez and Lance Stroll. While all was calm in the driver lineup, Racing Point's 2020 challenger, RP20 attracted the attention of one and all at the pre-season tests. The car had a striking resemblance to the Championship winning 2019 Mercedes and got named the "Pink Mercedes". The competition wasn't pleased with the designs and data getting shared between the Mercedes works team and its customer and a protest got lodged against Racing Point over the legality of its brake duct design. Subsequently, the team got fined 400,000 Euros besides the docking of 15 Constructors' Points before the 70th Anniversary GP at Silverstone. 

Nevertheless, they had their best season in F1 finishing 4th with 195 points in a hotly contested midfield. They were only 7 points shy of McLaren in 3rd and got relegated to 4th after a disappointing final race.

Perez had a strong start to the season but contracted COVID-19 before the British GP ruling him out of the double-header. Nico Hulkenberg got the call to replace Perez but didn't start the race due to a mechanical issue on his RP20. He got another shot at it a week later and finished a commendable 7th. 

Lance Stroll also caught the virus at the Eifel GP weekend, and Hulkenberg got called in again, coming home in 8th. 

Perez was a revelation in 2020 having finished 4th in the Drivers' Standings with 125 points to his name. The Mexican helped the team register their first win at the Sakhir GP with great racecraft. He also secured 2nd at Turkey besides points finishes in 11 other races. 

Perez had a contract till 2022, but the team decided to replace him with Vettel for 2021. The Mexican was without a drive until Red Bull came calling after the season ended. 

Stroll, his team-mate, also bagged two 3rd place finishes in Monza and Sakhir, but five retirements along the way cost him valuable points. The Canadian finished the season in 11th, tied with Gasly on 75 points. 

The team undergoes a makeover for 2021, becoming Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team, and with a four-time World Champion in Vettel coming in, the sky is the limit!



Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault has been an integral part of F1 for many years. The French marque returned to being a full works team in 2016 and have striven to return to winning ways in the Turbo era. The fight has been uphill with little to celebrate along the way. Daniel Ricciardo got a new team-mate in Esteban Ocon for 2020. The Frenchman who was the reserve driver for Mercedes in 2019 made a return to F1. 

Renault was involved in an intense midfield battle which saw them finish 5th in the Constructors' Standings, but they had moments to cheer about in 2020. 

Ricciardo scored two 3rd place finishes at Nurburgring and Imola while Ocon came home in 2nd at the Sakhir GP. Ricciardo was the more consistent of the two team-mates with points finishes in 12 ( other ) races to Ocon's 9. The Australian finished the season in 5th with 119 points while Ocon managed 62 and 12th place. The team suffered retirements at pivotal moments in the season, costing it the chance to finish higher in the Constructors'. 

Reliability remains the biggest chink in Renault's armour. They would be disappointed about losing to a customer team in McLaren.

Despite the improvements seen in 2020, Ricciardo announced that he would switch to McLaren for 2021. Fernando Alonso, the Double World Champion who had retired in 2018 ( apparently ) makes a return with a two-year contract. The absence of a customer team in 2021 will pose an added challenge. Renault will become Alpine Racing F1 ( named after the brand's racing division ). Hopefully, the future is bright and blue!



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

The Ferrari works team had an interesting 2020. It wasn't smooth sailing between the new team-mates ( Vettel and Leclerc ) in 2019, but fans hoped to see one of them take the fight to Hamilton for the title in 2020. Ferrari worked hard over the winter to improve the downforce on their car. They had the most powerful engine on the grid which came under the scanner due to a dodgy fuel flow sensor. The FIA findings forced Ferrari to dial down the engine power. The result was devastating, and all Ferrari powered cars suffered from a lack of straight-line speed. 

There was more drama over the winter when an announcement broke out that Sebastian Vettel would be leaving the team at the end of the season with Carlos Sainz taking his place. Vettel later revealed that the team did not attempt to renew his contract, an experience that left him with a sour taste. The lack of trust set the tone for Vettel's season as the four-time World Champion struggled with multiple issues ( balance ) on his car. The 3rd place in Turkey was his best finish besides points finishes in 6 other races. He ended the season a lowly 13th with a mere 33 points to his name. 

Leclerc, on the other hand, yielded better results with two podiums in Austria and Silverstone. The Monegasque scored points in 8 more races, but the team failed to score a win for the first time since 2014. Leclerc finished the season in 8th with 98 points.

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen" is synonymous with Ferrari's performance in 2020. Change is needed at multiple levels to stem the downturn, and 2021 is where the journey begins.



Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Red Bull's B-team, formerly known as Scuderia Toro Rosso got a new name for 2020. Named after Red Bull's fashion line, the Italian outfit got rechristened as Scuderia Alpha Tauri. 

The team had one of its best seasons in the sport. 

Pierre Gasly led the charge with an unlike victory at Monza, amassing 75 points and bagging 10th place in the Drivers' Standings. He scored points finishes in 9 other races while his team-mate Daniil Kvyat was able to bag only 32 points. Kvyat's best finish was 4th at Imola with points finishes in six more races. 

Alpha Tauri finished the season in 7th in the Constructors' Standings, only 24 points shy of the mighty Scuderia Ferrari. Honda Power was one of the reasons for its success in 2020. The Red Bull and Honda Protegee Yuki Tsunoda landed a drive alongside Gasly for 2021 and the only way forward is upwards for Alpha Tauri. 



Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo Racing had a great 2019 and hoped for an even better showing in 2020. Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi renewed their partnership with Robert Kubica joining them from Williams as a reserve driver. However, like the Ferrari works team, Alfa Romeo too struggled with straight-line speed, unable to replicate their successes from 2019. They finished 8th in the Constructors' Championship with their drivers scoring 4 points apiece. Raikkonen's best finish was 9th at Mugello and Imola while Giovinazzi bagged 9th place at the season-opener in Austria and 10th in Nurburgring and Imola. Giovinazzi won the intra-team battle in Qualifying, but Raikkonen was more consistent on race day. 

Some race strategies adopted by the team were questionable and cost them more points finishes. 

The goal for 2021 would be to bridge the points gap to Alpha Tauri and build a car to counter the lack of outright speed from the Ferrari Power Unit.



Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 persisted with Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean for the 2020 season, a decision that attracted mixed reactions from the fans and experts. The Ferrari-powered Haas cars had a torrid 2020, the lack of straight-line speed combined with braking issues costing them dear in close racing. The team managed to score only 3 points over the year with Grojean's 9th place finish at the Eifel GP and Magnussen's 10th at Hungaroring. Gene Haas, the team owner, re-considered Haas' commitment to the sport citing its poor run over the recent years. However, the team decided to persist with this venture until 2025. 

Grosjean had a near-death experience when he collided with the barriers at the start of the Bahrain GP, emerging from a rising inferno, an image which became the flag-bearer for safety in the sport. The Frenchman who eventually won the intra-team battle was unfit for the final two rounds of the season. Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of the legendary Emerson Fittipaldi, got the nod to take his seat. 17th was the best that Fittipaldi Jr could manage at the Sakhir GP. 

Haas needed to bring a change if they were to better their results in 2021, and announced an all-new driver lineup with Mick Schumacher ( Michael Schumacher's son ) teaming up with Nikita Mazepin ( F2 Driver ) for 2021. Returning to more points-scoring finishes is a priority, and it was time to choose youth over experience. 



Williams Racing F1 Team :

Williams began its 2021 campaign with George Russell and rookie Nicolas Latifi with the hopes of reducing the deficit to the rest of the field. However, 2020 was another challenging year for the team. They failed to score a point despite coming close on a few occasions. The recurring costs and the challenges associated with running a team became too big a mountain for the Williams family to scale and Williams Racing got sold to a US-based investment firm Dorilton Capital in August. 

Russell had the rare opportunity of racing at Sakhir GP with Mercedes when Hamilton contracted COVID-19, but an unfortunate incident robbed him of what would have been a famous victory. Jack Aitken, the reserve driver, also got the opportunity to race and finished a commendable 16th. Russell's best finish was 11th at the Tuscan GP while Nicolas Latifi bagged three 11th place finishes in Austria, Italy and Emilia Romagna. The Canadian had an impressive debut year with Williams and will be pivotal in the team's plans to return to higher finishes in 2021.

The talented pairing in Russell and Latifi combined with the financial influx of new owners should make 2021 a different story for the Grove-based outfit. 



2020 was a memorable year for the sport despite the challenges that it posed. Fans got treated to great races throughout the year, and there was a lot done by the sport to improve fan engagement. 


Hopefully, 2021 would feature the full calendar with tracks opening their doors to fans again!


Mercedes and Hamilton were flawless in defence of their respective titles. Winning it for the 7th time was no easy feat, and it highlighted how the hunger for success never dies. Records got broken, and there will be more mountains to climb in 2021. Hamilton is now the most successful driver in the history of F1. Is he the "Greatest of all time?" is a discussion for another time.


The contenders for the titles in 2021 have work to do over the winter break, but for now, Hamilton and Mercedes keep rising.


2020 F1 Mid Season Review - Can the Unrelenting Juggernaut be stopped?

F1, the pinnacle of Motorsports, celebrates its 70th year of racing in 2020. The Formula One Management drew up an elaborate plan for the season - a 22 race calendar, the longest ever in the history of the sport.


Unfortunately, the world got hit by the Pandemic COVID-19 and the start of the season seemed to be in jeopardy. Nevertheless, the FOM decided to proceed with the season-opener in Australia until they had to call it off on the Friday of the event when a couple of personnel tested positive for the virus in the paddock. The entire world then went into lockdown from mid-March, with a host of races getting cancelled or postponed. Thankfully, things started to improve, and new plans got drawn up for the season.


The season opener got shifted to Austria with most of the races announced as "closed-door" events. The 2020 season would now have 17 races consisting of triple-headers and double-headers. Some iconic tracks made an unlikely return while a couple would host an F1 Grand Prix for the first time.



The 2020 F1 Season has reached the halfway point ( an achievement in itself in 2020 ), and eight races remain before the Champions of 2020 get crowned.


It is time to review the performance of the teams and drivers at the halfway point of the season!



Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes AMG F1, the undisputed kings of the turbo era, are runaway favourites in 2020 again. The fight for the Constructors' title now remains a mathematical formality. The only blips Mercedes had were at Silverstone ( with Bottas ) and Italy where an incorrect call cost them victory. The car still suffers in the "dirty air" behind another and overtaking can be challenging, but the competitors have failed to exploit these chinks in their armour. Mercedes and Hamilton have dominated the proceedings in 2020.

Hamilton ( with six victories ) is the Championship leader, having rebuffed an early challenge by his team-mate Bottas. Bottas is settling into a "number 2" position again, contrary to his claims. The Finn's title challenge got derailed in Silverstone with the tyre delamination incident, and he hasn't been able to capitalize on any slip-ups by Hamilton. He lies a distant 2nd on 135 points and is under threat from Verstappen in 3rd. Hamilton enjoys a healthy lead of 55 points and has Schumacher's all-time wins record in his sights. A record-equalling 7th title also beckons. Is he the greatest of all time? Well, that is a debate for another day, but credit where credit is due, the Briton has been impeccable when it comes to racing in the modern era and deserves all the accolades coming his way. Bottas, unfortunately, hasn't been able to operate on the same level as his World Champion team-mate, having to settle as second best again.

Toto Wolff, the team principal, is being eyed by Racing Point ( which becomes Aston Martin in 2021 ) and Hamilton's contract is due for renewal at the end of the year, so the team has its hands full when it comes to the retaining its prized assets at the end of the year.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull had a strong end to the 2019 season and continues its momentum into 2020. It has emerged as the only challenger to the Mercedes, but the deficit remains wide. Unlike the table toppers, Red Bull hasn't been able to have both its drivers in the sharp end of the grid to fight for top honours. Albon has struggled to get to grips with his car on Saturday, which eventually denies him better results on a Sunday. His career-best finish and the first podium of his F1 career in Mugello would have reinstilled some confidence in his abilities. Red Bull is also doing its best to make the car suit Albon's driving style. Albon is 5th on 63 points, with a podium, and six other finishes in the top 10. His performances in the second half of 2020 will determine his retention for next year, so a lot is at stake.

Verstappen is Red Bull's trump card, and the Dutchman has capitalized on most of the opportunities presented to him. He isn't out of the reckoning for the Drivers' Title ( mathematically ), and can also easily surpass Bottas who is going through a lean patch. Verstappen is 3rd on 110 points, only 25 short of Bottas in P2. It would have been a much closer affair with Hamilton had it not been for his three retirements ( all mechanical failures ).

Honda, the engine supplier for Red Bull, has speeds comparable to that of the Mercedes power unit but still lacks the reliability of the latter. If Verstappen and Red Bull want to win championships, they need everything to be working in perfect harmony, and currently, they come up short in the face of the mighty Mercs. It also remains to be seen as to how long Verstappen will persist with Red Bull in his quest for the title. The team can't afford to lose a driver of his talent and racecraft to a rival, so they need to ensure he gets the fastest, the most reliable, and the best equipment.



McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren, one of the oldest teams in F1, is going from strength to strength in 2020. The team is third at the halfway point of the season, 14 points clear of Racing Point in 4th.

Lando Norris leads the intra-team battle with 65 points to his name while Sainz Jr has managed 41. The midfield battle is a tight affair with Albon just two points adrift of Norris in 4th and Sainz two points behind Gasly in 11th. Norris and Sainz have scored a podium each ( 3rd and 2nd respectively ), but have had mediocre Sundays too; while Norris has finished in the points on seven other occasions, Sainz has managed only four. The Spaniard has also suffered from a technical issue in Belgium and an accident in Mugello. He would like to sign off from McLaren on a strong note before heading off to Ferrari in 2021.

McLaren has done enough to attract the attention of a top driver in Daniel Ricciardo for next year, and with the switch to Mercedes power, things can only get better in 2021. They have a brilliant aero package and should retain 4th by the end of 2020. It isn't going to be a walk in the park though with Racing Point having strong points finishes practically every weekend. The team, with its capable leadership, has learnt to grind out results, even on tracks where good results were unlikely. The second half of 2020 will be an intriguing affair.



Racing Point F1 Team :

Its been an eventful year for Racing Point F1. The team's challenger, RP 20, got dubbed the "Pink Mercedes" for its uncanny resemblance to the 2019 factory Mercedes car, the W10. The controversial brake-duct design attracted the attention of various teams, leading to a series of protests and a docking of points, 15 to be exact along with a financial penalty of 400,000 Euros by the FIA. The team had breached the sporting regulations and decided against contesting the fine.

There was activity in their driver lineup for 2021 as well - Sebastian Vettel got the nod ahead of Sergio Perez to partner Lance Stroll. The news drew mixed reactions from the fans. The team will also race under a new name ( Aston Martin ) in 2021, so exciting times await the Silverstone-based outfit.

Ontrack, Perez and Stroll have been doing a commendable job, and the team sits 4th, splitting McLaren and Renault in a tightly contested midfield. Stroll bagged a podium ( 3rd place ) in Italy along with points finishes in six other races and sits 6th in the Championship. Perez is in 10th with 43 points. The Mexican's 2020 campaign suffered a setback when he tested positive for COVID-19 and had to sit out the two race weekends in the UK. Nico Hulkenberg got called as the replacement but could compete in only one race ( 70th Anniversary GP ) after technical trouble ruled him out of the British GP.

Racing Point has a capable car and will need both its drivers to maintain this momentum if they are to relegate McLaren at the end of 2020.



Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault brought in Esteban Ocon to partner Daniel Ricciardo for 2020. The French brand has been steadily improving since its return to the sport as a full works team. The team is currently 5th in the standings, hot on the heels of Racing Point F1. Daniel Ricciardo, who announced that he would be switching to McLaren, came close to getting that elusive podium thrice this year. If we were to go by current form, he should accomplish this feat for the team in the second half of the season. Besides his three 4th place finishes, the Australian has scored points in three other races and sits 7th in the Championship with 53 points.

Ocon, on the other hand, has had a more challenging time with 5th place in Belgium being his best result. He is currently 12th in the Championship with 30 points.

Renault's commitment to F1 is unquestionable. They will race under a new avatar - Alpine Racing F1, in honour of the brand's performance division besides re-signing ( for 2021 ) Fernando Alonso, the man who won them two championships in the early 2000s. There is no substitute for experience, and Alonso will be pivotal in helping them return to winning ways. They need to keep pushing in the second half of 2020 to try and finish 4th and build themselves a great platform for 2021.



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

"Oh, how the mighty have fallen" is the English saying that is synonymous with Ferrari's mid-term report card. The controversial double fuel flow sensor became the bone of contention and got done away with for 2020. However, this led to a sudden loss of straight-line speed for the Ferrari powered cars. In their quest to improve the aerodynamics package, the team added more downforce complicating matters. The loss of speed, coupled with the added drag, has left the team contending in the lower half of the midfield. Their decision to sign Carlos Sainz Jr for 2021 without offering Vettel a new contract has caused further unrest within the team. Fans and experts alike aren't happy with the treatment meted out to the four-time World Champion.

Charles Leclerc, the future according to Ferrari, is P8 in the Championship with two ( fortunate at best ) podium finishes and two other finishes in the points. Vettel meanwhile, managed five finishes in the points but is in 13th with sixth being his best finish ( Hungary ). Both drivers have suffered a couple of retirements ( each ).

Ferrari is in a lowly 6th in the Constructors' standings with Alpha Tauri threatening to relegate them further. Their chances of improving to fifth seem bleak, their supremo admitting that they won't return to winning ways up until 2022.

The most successful team in the history of the sport completed the milestone of 1000 GPs recently. Unfortunately, this iconic season hasn't given them much to celebrate. However, the ruling of having "closed-door" races has saved them the blushes in front of their beloved Tifosi.

They have the resources and the men to turn it all around. It is never too late.



Scuderia Alpha Tauri F1 Team :

Scuderia Toro Rosso got rechristened as Scuderia Alpha Tauri, to promote Red Bull's fashion brand in 2020. The Red Bull B Team is having a fantastic season. 

Pierre Gasly is leading the team-mate battle, having scored an unlikely victory at the Italian GP! Monza has always been a happy hunting ground for the Italian outfit, and the win is like gold-dust in a tightly contested midfield. Gasly has also scored points finishes in four other races ( Austria, Great Britain, Spain and Belgium ). The Frenchman is making a strong case for himself and should go from strength to strength in the second half of the season.

Daniil Kvyat, on the other hand, has been struggling with 7th being his best effort at the Tuscan GP. The Russian sits 14th in the Championship and needs to step up his performances to warrant a seat in 2021. His performances will be pivotal in the team's quest for P6 in the Constructors' Championship.

Alpha Tauri is only 13 points adrift of Scuderia Ferrari, and the prospect of beating the most successful team in the sport doesn't present itself every year! Franz Tost, the Team Principal, is considered to be one of the best in the business and has the will and vision to accomplish this feat. Can't wait to see what is in store in the second half of the season!



Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen F1 Team :

Alfa Romeo Racing was the best customer Ferrari team in 2019 with regular points finishes. Kimi Raikkonen was 6th in the standings going into the mid-summer break last year. However, all has changed come 2020. The team lies 8th in the standings with only 4 points to its name. Both Raikkonen and Giovinazzi have finished in the points only once with Giovinazzi yet to make an appearance in Q2. The lack of straight-line speed in the 2020 Ferrari engine is the cause of their undoing. The team's aero setup has faired well, even beating the works Ferrari on a couple of occasions, but they remain a mere shadow of their former self. A seventh-placed finish seems like a distant dream with their rivals Alpha Tauri having bagged an unlikely win this year. The team must aim to capitalize on points finishes ( whenever the opportunity arises ) for the remainder of 2020.

Raikkonen and Giovinazzi are yet to get a drive for 2021 with Raikkonen the popular choice for a contract renewal. Mick Schumacher, the legendary Michael Schumacher's son, is performing well in Formula 2, and if he meets the terms set by Ferrari ( which is finishing at least 3rd in the Championship ), the 2021 drive will be his! Giovinazzi had a strong start to the year but had a blip in form, both in qualifying and on race day. He has the talent to do well in F1, and a step-up in performances from the Italian could leave the team spoilt for choice for 2021.


Haas F1 Team :

It has been another torrid year for Haas F1. The American owned outfit persisted with their lineup of Grosjean and Magnussen contrary to beliefs that one of them would lose his drive for 2020. The duo is having yet another lacklustre year with Magnussen managing a solitary point for the team at Hungary. Lack of power in the 2020 Ferrari PU coupled with balance issues, has left the team sparring with Williams Racing at the back of the field. 

It is time for them to shift their focus to development for next year besides exploring the option of hiring a new driver lineup altogether. The team has made its commitment to the sport up until 2025 by signing the new Concorde Agreement, and Gene Haas, the owner, would not want his team to be an "also-rans" in the sport.


Williams Racing F1 Team :

Williams has been unable to stem their slide in the Turbo-Era. Russell and Latifi, their drivers for the 2020 season, have languished in the rear of the field despite having better outings on Qualifying day. The team came close to opening their account with Russell on three occasions but came up short.

However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The takeover by the American-based investment firm Dorilton Capital brings a promise of things getting better in the future. It is sad to see the Williams family bow out of the sport, but a change was necessary. They will finish tenth and last but can focus on building a faster car for a renewed challenge in 2021.



Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes seemed destined to lift the Drivers' and Constructors' titles for the 7th time. Bottas might still have a say, but would he be able to sustain the challenge? I highly doubt it. Verstappen and Red Bull remain the best of the rest while the Midfield Tussle is one of the most exciting aspects of 2020.


All teams have handled the various challenges of this fast-paced but truncated racing calendar with aplomb. 2020 has produced some unpredictable and exciting races. A lot can happen in the final eight rounds.


Time will reveal all!

2019 F1 Season Review - & That's A Six!

Formula 1, the Pinnacle of Motorsport has given its fans so many champions... Senna & Schumacher being the most popular. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes AMG Petronas ( 5 Championships for each ) have broken a lot of records since the return of the Turbo Era in 2014. The competitors ran it close on many occasions but the three-pointed star prevailed. The 2018 season saw a close fight between Scuderia Ferrari F1 and Mercedes. The former would have a great base to mount their challenge in 2019. 

2019 also saw a lot of Personnel changes. Charles Leclerc moved to Ferrari while Kimi Raikkonen went the other way to Sauber F1, now known as Alfa Romeo Racing F1. Daniel Ricciardo switched to Renault Sport F1 while Pierre Gasly got promoted to the Red Bull Racing Team. Robert Kubica made a return to the sport with Rokit Williams Racing F1 Team, a feat after his career-ending injury in rallying in 2011. George Russell ( 2018 F2 Champion ), Lando Norris and Alexander Albon were the rookies making their entry into the big league. 

2019 was also the year where drivers would also be awarded a point for the fastest lap in the race ( should they finish in the top 10 ), a great way to mix things up when it comes to strategies on track.

How did the season unfold for the champions and the contenders? Let us have a quick recap!


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes weren't the fastest team in 2019. However, they raced as a team, fought as a team and eventually won as a team! They made winning in 2019 seem so easy! Neither Valtteri Bottas nor Lewis Hamilton put a foot wrong when it mattered. Germany and Brazil were their only blemish, although those races were a lottery due to changeable conditions. Valtteri started the season on a great note with a win in Australia, two 2nd places in Bahrain & China and another win in Baku. His next win, however, didn't come until Japan and then Austin but by then it was too late to sustain a challenge for the Championship. He eventually finished 2nd in the Standings with 326 points, 4 wins and 11 podiums.

Lewis Hamilton was in a class of his own again! It didn't take him much time to get up to speed and capitalized whenever the others slipped up. His team-mate was his only true competitor in the second half of the season and he sealed the Championship at the United States GP. Lewis amassed 413 points with 11 wins and 6 podiums! He suffered no retirements unlike Bottas who didn't finish Germany and Brazil and his worst finish was 9th in GermanyLewis deserves all the credit for being relentless in his quest to win and being consistent throughout the season. A 6 Time World Champion..surreal!

Mercedes AMG Petronas flattened their opponents in 2019. The Strategic calls throughout the season were on the money, they managed both drivers well and wrapped up their 6th Championship at the Japanese GP. The only disappointment of the season was at the German GP, a GP where the team celebrated 125 years in Motorsport and their 200th F1 Race Start ( oh the irony ). After locking out the front row in qualifying, a 1-2 was all but confirmed on Sunday. However, the weather played havoc and what unfolded was a chaotic race ( The Race of the decade for me ) with Bottas crashing out and Lewis finishing 9th after a couple of incidents on track. I am sure this disappointment would be long forgotten. The quest to win the 7th beckons!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari roped in the services of their wunderkind Charles Leclerc who would partner the 4 times World Champion and Hamilton's closest contender in 2018, Sebastian Vettel. They had put up a valiant fight in 2018 and hopes were high after being the fastest car in pre-season. However, it was anything but that. The team was plagued with strategic errors, reliability issues ( Charles Leclerc should have won the Bahrain GP but for engine issues ) & even Driver errors ( Germany & Brazil ). Sebastian Vettel was denied victory in Canada after Marshalls penalized him for dangerously rejoining the track while leading the race. The team had a resurgence of sorts after back to back wins in Belgium & Italy for Charles Leclerc followed by victory in Singapore for Sebastian Vettel. They finished 2nd ( again ) in the Constructors' Championship with 504 points. Charles Leclerc won the intra-team battle, finishing 4th in the Championship with 264 points with wins in Belgium & Italy, podium finishes in Bahrain, Canada, France, Austria, Great Britain, Singapore, Russia and Abu Dhabi. Sebastian Vettel was 5th with 240 points with a solo victory in Singapore and podiums in China, Baku, Monaco, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Japan & Mexico. The team had made it clear that Vettel would have a preference but over the year his younger team-mate challenged this claim and beat the veteran ( cause for friction between the 2 as well ). Vettel seemed to be a mere shadow of his former self amid the challenge mounted by his younger team-mate. The coming together of the two team-mates in Brazil summed up the season for Ferrari..a thorough disappointment after all that the pre-season had promised. 

It turned to be another year of "What could have been". Mattia Binotto, the Team Principal admitted that there was a fundamental flaw in the design and they were in damage limitation mode with their 2019 contender, something that didn't go down well with the Tifosi. Ferrari needs to get their act together both on track and off it if they want to mount a serious challenge against the Mercedes. Not much has changed in 2019..hopefully 2020 will be different.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing chose to switch to Honda Power ( a 2-year deal ) for 2019 and 2020. It was a big move because the Engine Supplier had struggled with Pace & Reliability Issues since its return to F1 in the Turbo Era. Red Bull also promoted their protegee Pierre Gasly from Scuderia Toro Rosso to replace the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo. Red Bull wasn't the fastest but they pounced on every slip-up by their competitors. Max Verstappen was brilliant as ever, Gasly had a very mercurial start to the season. Eventually, the bosses decided that Gasly wasn't the best fit for the team and replaced him after Hungary. Rookie Alexander Albon got the nod ahead of Daniil Kvyat from the Toro Rosso team and performed very well in the second half. Max Verstappen finished 3rd in the Drivers' Championship, a great feat beating the Ferrari duo. He had 3 wins to his name - Austria, Germany & Brazil, Germany being the most memorable one. He also had podiums in Australia, Spain, Hungary, Singapore & USA. Gasly's best finish with Red Bull came at the British Grand Prix ( 4th ), along with 8 other points finishes. Alexander Albon matched Gasly's best finish in Japan and always finished in the top 6 ( except Brazil where he was robbed of a podium by Hamilton ) after his promotion to the A-Team. Gasly & Albon finished a close 7th and 8th with 95 and 92 points respectively. 

Red Bull can be immensely proud of their season gone by. Honda as an engine manufacturer has announced their return to the sharp end of the grid with the Victories and the podiums ( even with the sister Red Bull ). Its onwards and upwards from here for the Milton Keynes based outfit. Red Bull finished the season in 3rd with 417 points, comfortably clear of the 4th placed McLaren F1 Team. 


McLaren Racing F1 Team :

McLaren sported a new lineup with Carlos Sainz Jr. & Rookie Lando Norris in 2019. They finished 4th in the Constructors' Championship with 145 points The Team had a slow start to the season and it wasn't smooth sailing after either. However upgrades kept trickling in throughout the season and the team were rewarded for their efforts when they bagged 3rd place with Carlos Sainz Jr. in Brazil, a podium after 5 years ( 2072 days to be precise )! Carlos Sainz Jr. was the best of the rest in 6th place ( winning the B Championship as many call it ) with 96 points. His best finish was 3rd at the Brazilian GP along with points finishes in 12 races. Lando Norris was 11th with 49 points to his name, 6th in Bahrain and Austria being his best finishes along with 9 other Points Finishes. 

Carlos Sainz Jr. has been a great asset for the team. He is the Driver of the Season for me. His consistency and ability to maximize results helped the team in 2019. Lando Norris had a decent first season but I wasn't expecting the deficit between the two to be this big. He needs to up his game, considering the talent that he is. A lot of credit must also go to Andreas Seidl who came onboard as the Team Principal this year. His experience in the world of motor-racing be it in WEC or Formula E has been extremely beneficial. This is a great base to build from for 2020 and the added financial benefit ( of finishing higher ) is the icing on the cake.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 had a good 2018 and were hoping for a better outing in 2019. Daniel Ricciardo joined forces with Nico Hulkenberg to help the team return to the sharp end of the grid. The arrival of Ricciardo was a big boost for the team but a bold move for the driver. He gave up his place in a race-winning car to be with a works team still coming up the ranks. Nico Hulkenberg was the experienced warhorse, consistent and dependable. Renault, however, had a very mercurial 2019 with reliability issues hampering their progress throughout the year. McLaren, their customer team were able to beat them to 4th while they only just managed to beat Scuderia Toro Rosso, who finished behind them in 6th place. Renault has work to do over the winter. 

Daniel Ricciardo outperformed his team-mate and finished on 54 points ( 9th in the Standings ), 4th in Italy being his best result. Nico Hulkenberg was 14th in the standings with 37 points, his best result coming at the Italian GP as well ( 5th ). Ricciardo finished in the points on 7 other occasions while Hulkenberg could manage 9. The Team also suffered disqualification after the Japanese GP ( 9 points lost ) after the discovery of an illegal breaking aid. Renault F1 are blessed with good personnel and infrastructure to turn things around but it is taking longer than anticipated. It also remains to be seen whether the parent company is willing to stay patient or sees this as a sport that is bleeding their finances. Ricciardo is in a really difficult position, hopefully, 2020 will be kinder. Hulkenberg bid adieu to the team at the end of 2019 and will be replaced by Esteban Ocon, Frenchman ( in a French-owned team ). I think 2020 will be their "make or break" year.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Scuderia Toro Rosso had quite an eventful 2019. They began their season with Daniil Kvyat ( who returned after a short stint as a reserve driver with Ferrari ) and rookie Alexander Albon. The latter was a sensation in F2 and it was time for his entry into F1. Albon's year got even better when Red Bull decided to promote him to the main team after Gasly couldn't meet the team's expectations. The announcement came just a week after the Hungarian GP during the mid-season break. It came as a surprise to many since Albon was still a rookie and being consistently beaten by his team-mate. Kvyat proved that he deserved to be in F1 after a stellar 3rd place in Germany. He also finished in the Points in 9 other races; ending the season in 13th with a total of 37 points. Albon, after a really slow first half, finished in the points in 6 races with 6th in Germany being his best finish. Gasly ( who replaced him ) stepped up his game in Toro Rosso and even bagged 2nd place in Brazil ( besides finishing in the points in 4 other races ). He finished the season in 7th with 95 points, 3 more than Albon. A statement had been sent out to the bosses of Red Bull. 

The performance of a more reliable Power Unit along with a balanced chassis played a big part in catapulting them to 6th in the standings at the end of the season. They were narrowly beaten by Renault ( who were 5th with 91 points ) but they can take great encouragement from the fact that they can beat even those with a larger financial kitty. Kvyat had a really strong return to the sport while Gasly has come into his own after his demotion. The future looks promising for both.


Racing Point F1 Team :

Racing Point, an old team with a new name & new ownership were in a rebuilding phase in 2019. Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's father led the consortium of investors who completed the takeover of the team. Sergio Perez retained his drive while Lance came in from Williams replacing Esteban Ocon (despite intense pressure from Mercedes ). The former team-mates ( Perez and Ocon ) didn't enjoy a healthy relationship and the team lost a considerable number of points due to incidents on track in 2018. 

Racing Point ended the 2019 season with 73 Points ( 7th in the Constructors' standings ). Sergio Perez was 10th in the standings with 52 points while Lance Stroll was 15th with 21. Lance brought home the team's best finish with 4th in the highly entertaining German Grand Prix ( he even led the race for a few laps ). He finished in the points on 5 other occasions. Sergio Perez's best finish was 6th in Baku & Belgium with points finishes in 9 other races. He deserves all the praise for his performances and consistency throughout the year. Lance Stroll had a decent maiden year with the team but has a lot to learn from his team-mate. The Team will need both their drivers to perform at a consistent level if they are to challenge those in this extremely close midfield. There is a lot of scope for improvement..thankfully they have the finances to improve results on the field.


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :

Sauber F1, rechristened as Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team ( thanks to Alfa Romeo becoming the title sponsor ) was another team to have a new driver lineup in 2019. Kimi Raikkonen returned to the team he started his F1 career within 2001 and he had the Italian Stallion Antonio Giovinazzi ( A Scuderia Ferrari Protegee ) partnering him. Charles Leclerc switched seats with Kimi while Marcus Ericsson took up the reserve driver role. It was a tale of 2 halves for the team. Kimi Raikkonen scored all points ( but one ) for the team and was 8th in the standings! Giovinazzi scored his first point of the season in Austria. However, the team struggled in the second half of the season. Giovinazzi managed a 9th and 10th in Italy and Singapore respectively but Raikkonen failed to be in the points up until the Brazilian GP. Brazil saw a big resurgence from the team, narrowly missing out on a podium with Kimi who was 4th and Giovinazzi who ended up 5th. Kimi Raikkonen eventually finished the season in 12th with 43 points on the board. A stronger second half helped Giovinazzi finish with 14 points and 17th in the Championship. Kimi is the seasoned campaigner and is an ace at turning things around. Giovinazzi came into his own in the second half of the season, one must remember that he has been away from competitive racing since the past 3 years.

Strategies and Outright race pace were the Achilles' heel for the team. The team struggled to keep up with the competitors ( in terms of R&D and funding ) but they had a much better outing compared to 2018. They will also have a bigger kitty to work within 2020, not to forget the sponsors coming onboard..they can be proud of the season gone by, not to forget the bouts they had with the bigger fish in the pond. 


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 persisted with their lineup of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2019, something that baffled everyone. Continuity can be the only plausible reason behind this decision. They finished the season in 9th with 28 points on the board. Kevin Magnussen won the team-mate battle, scoring 20 points ( 16th in the Championship ) to Grosjean's 8 ( 18th in Drivers' Standings ). Magnussen's best finish was 6th in Australia and finished in the points in Spain, Germany and Russia. Grosjean's best finish was 7th in Germany and scored a point each in Spain and Monaco. Another disappointing season for the Frenchman. 

It was a season to forget for Haas. They were flying high in 5th at the end of the 2018 season but 12 months later they are languishing in 9th. Flaws in Car Design is one of the major reasons, friction between the team-mates another. Team Principal Guenther Steiner had to play peace-maker often and I think this affected the performances of the team as a whole. They have a lot of work to do over the winter to make things right and they do have the personnel to accomplish it, even though they would have taken a considerable financial hit due to their final position in the standings. 


Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :

2018 F2 Champion George Russell teamed up with Robert Kubica for the 2019 season. It was a great achievement for Kubica to make a return to F1 after all that he has been through since 2011. The team did lose a considerable amount of investment after Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's ( Williams driver in 2018 ) father decided to direct his funds away from the team to Racing Point, his son's new ride in 2019. There was some consolation with PKN Orlen, Kubica's backer but Williams' woes on the track continued in 2019. They struggled to stay in touch with the rest of the field, lapping consistently slower all season long. Upgrades towards the end of the season did help performance to some extent but not enough to beat other back-markers. They scored a solitary point with Robert Kubica at the German GP ( thanks to a penalty to the Alfa Romeo Team ) but it meant nothing in the grander scheme of things. George Russell's best finish was also at the German GP in 11th. Both suffered a couple of retirements in the season, so reliability wasn't an issue. 

It is getting really difficult for the bosses at Williams to stem the tide. They require a complete overhaul, personnel at the top included..but will it happen??



2019 promised to be a close contest between the top 3 teams but it turned out to be a mauling. Mercedes once again proved to be the class of the field, emphasizing the fact that you win as a team and having the fastest car doesn't equate to being a championship-winning car. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were efficient and consistent, the former once again showing why he deserves to be a 6 time World Champion. Bottas will hope to offer a stronger fight in 2020; as for the competitors in Ferrari, they need to have a hard look at the way they operate on a race weekend and the strategies they devise from the Pit Wall. Red Bull capitalized on every opportunity and know they can mount a big challenge in 2020. Renault has a long winter ahead, so does Haas, Racing Point and Williams F1. McLaren, Toro Rosso and Alfa Romeo will be pleased with what they have achieved in 2019.  

Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team can bask in the glory of their 6th Championship..the 7th beckons next year..can't wait for the 2020 season to start!

2019 F1 Mid Season Review - The Runaway Favourite

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

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


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


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

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

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


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

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

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


Aston Martin Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

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

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


McLaren Racing F1 Team :

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

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


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

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

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


Renault Sport F1 Team :

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

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


Alfa Romeo Racing F1 Team :

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

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

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



Sportpesa Racing Point F1 Team :

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


Haas F1 Team :

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


Rokit Williams F1 Racing Team :

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


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

2018 F1 Season Review - It's not how you begin, It's how you finish!

2018 was the equal-longest season in the history of F1. It was also the year when HALO was introduced ( a safety feature added for open cockpit racing ) not just for F1 but also for the feeder series. 2018 also saw a new alliance between McLaren F1 and Renault ( as engine suppliers for the team ). Sergei Sirotkin, Charles LeClerc were the new kids on the block. 

How did the season pan out? Was a New driver and team crowned Champions at the end of 2018 or was status quo maintained?

Lets have a quick look.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team 

Mercedes AMG F1 are the best in the business since the Turbo Era. However the competitors are quickly catching up and creating a more level playing field. 2018 was a classic example of the same. Ferrari were the fastest in the Pre-season testing and had the upper hand in the first half of 2018. However uncharacteristic mistakes coupled with strategic errors allowed Mercedes to close in on them and eventually take the lead in both the Drivers' and the Constructors' Titles. The Team in Brackley worked round the clock to reduce the performance deficit over the season and their efforts did pay off. 

Lewis Hamilton's flawless drives got them the wins, his pole lap in Singapore ( the team's bogey track ) was one of the highlights of the season. Valtteri Bottas was presented with a couple of good opportunities for a victory but luck and team orders didn't go his way as he played 2nd fiddle for the majority of the season. Lewis Hamilton was playing catch up up until Germany, post which he simply moved into another gear. Hamilton won 11 races and 6 podiums on his way to the title. Bottas failed to win a race but finished on the podium in 8 races. Hamilton ended the season on a mammoth 408 points while Bottas finished in 5th with 247. Mercedes took home the Constructors' crown yet again! Lewis Hamilton was now a 5 Time World Champion!


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari was the team to beat in 2018. The year that promised a lot became yet another season of "what could have been". I have begun to think that the team has forgotten the way of winning championships, a drought that continues from 2007 ( Drivers' ) and 2008 ( Constructors' ). Incidents on track, Driver errors, Strategic howlers by the pit wall marred the performances and eventually cost the team top honours. Some updates introduced later in the year were a disaster, points were lost and this turned the tide in the Drivers' Title fight. 2018 revealed that Sebastian Vettel can also buckle under pressure and make mistakes. 

Vettel won 5 Races and bagged 7 podiums to finish P2 in the standings with 320 points. Kimi Raikkonen had a very strong 2018, as successful as his championship winning year in 2007. He finally won a race since Australia 2013 at the US GP in Austin in fine fashion. His 11 podiums helped him reach 251 points and P3 in the Championship. Scuderia Ferrari finished P2 in the Constructors' with 571 points. 

If Ferrari wants to pose a serious challenge to Mercedes in 2019 then they must ensure that everyone operates within their designated fields / professions and the decision making process must not be interfered with. The Power struggle within the team didn't help matters either. The passing away of the FCA CEO Mr. Sergio Marchionne was a big loss for the team as well. 

It was a much better year in terms of performances, however "yet so near..yet so far". Charles LeClerc steps in to partner Vettel in 2019. It will be interesting to see how they get along as team-mates and whether they can bring back the glory days or not.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing finished P3 in the Standings with 419 Points. It was like a lonely season for them with no competitor to challenge for P3 and the Top 2 teams in a league of their own. Red Bull attributed a lot of blame to Renault power for their performance deficit in 2018. Will it change after their switch to Honda in 2019? Lets see. 

Max Verstappen missed P3 in the Championship by 2 points. The Dutchman was the recipient of a lot of bad luck in the first half of the season but he won in Austria, benefiting from the retirements suffered by the Mercedes duo. He drove flawlessly to win in Mexico the cooler temperatures and higher altitude allowed the Renault to perform better. He also finished on the podium 9 times, a fantastic feat nonetheless. Daniel Ricciardo struggled on the other hand, specially after the announcement of his decision to leave Red Bull for Renault in 2019. The Australian bagged 170 points with wins in China and Monaco, the latter redemption for the Pit Stop fiasco that robbed him victory in 2016. He didn't finish on the podium in the other races, something he will be looking to improve in 2019. P6 in the Standings does not justify the talent of the man.

Red Bull will be backing Verstappen in 2019 as Gasly ( Ricciardo's replacement ) finds his feet. Hopefully we will have a great contest!


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 was P4 in the Standings at the mid season break and they maintained their momentum till the end of the year. It wasn't smooth sailing with Haas F1 breathing down their necks but the Enstone based team prevailed.The disparity with the Top 3 Runners was huge but their ability to beat customer teams with faster engines will serve as good encouragement in 2019. 

Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished P7 and P10 respectively. Hulkenberg finished in the points in 11 races, P5 in Germany being his best result. Sainz finished in the points on 13 occasions with P5 in Baku being his best result. Hulkenberg was the best of the rest or as the media terms it the B Championship. A Podium still eludes him. Sainz switches to McLaren with Renault roping in the services of Ricciardo. Renault has the funding as a works team and are expanding their R&D on war footing. 2019 will be fun. Go Renault!!


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 once again proved to be the strongest Ferrari customer team. Achieving P5 in the Constructors' standings is a big achievement; a potent chassis coupled with a fantastic powertrain the main reasons. Gene Haas will be hoping to go one better next year. The Team finished on 93 points. The Team also have the FIA to thank who stripped Racing Point of their points up until the Hungarian GP, else they would have been leapfrogged. ( Elaborated later )

Kevin Magnussen scored the majority of the points for the team, finishing in the points in 11 races with P5 in Bahrain and Austria being his best results. He was P9 in the Championship with 56 points. Romain Grosjean's travails with the braking system didn't seem to end as he suffered from many non - finishes and struggled to find the right setups at most of the races. He only had 7 finishes in the points with P4 being his best effort at the Austrian Grand Prix. The Frenchmen scored a total of 37 points in P14, an underachiever in all honesty. A lot will be expected of him in 2019 considering the amount of experience he has racing in F1. 

The battle in the midfield is always a case of fine margins, the team has to iron out the issues and ensure both drivers finish well to bridge the gap above.


McLaren Renault F1 Team :

McLaren began 2018 with a lot of hope..a hope that their switch to Renault power would address their performance issues and put them on the road to recovery. Sadly it was anything but that. Renault power was the saving grace wherever it could be but the design flaws in the car were magnified on most tracks. McLaren were left red faced on most occasions as the car suffered from reliability and performance issues and failed to bring home the expected results. It became quite evident to the world that it wasn't Honda to blame entirely for McLaren's miseries but their chassis design. 

Fernando Alonso did what Fernando Alonso does best, extracting every ounce of performance out of the car. His best finish was P5 in the opening round in Australia. He finished in the points at 8 other races and P11 in the Championship with 50 points. The Spaniard made no secret of the criticism of the car over the course of the year. It also led him to the decision of taking a sabbatical from the sport. The Double World Champion had not seen a race victory since 2013 and a podium since 2014. We wish him the best in his future endeavours and hope to see him on the grid again! Stoffel Vandoorne had a mediocre 2018. He was unable to beat his team-mate in Qualifying and finished in the points in only 4 races. P16 with 12 points, a horrendous year for the Belgian

The team ended the season in P6 on 62 Points, better than where they were in 2017 but not where they hoped to be. 

They have a lot of work to do in 2019.


Racing Point Force India F1 Team :

Racing Point Force India, ( now Racing Point F1 saw a change in ownership over the mid-season break. The Team name changed from Sahara Force India to Racing Point with Vijay Mallya and the Sahara group selling their team assets to a consortium of businessmen lead by Lawrence Stroll, Lance Stroll's father. Perez even sued Force India, sending the team into administration before they were acquired by the investors. The consequence of the acquisition was that the team lost all the points scored up until the mid-season break i.e. up until Hungarian GP and had to enter the season as a new entrant. The team scored a total of 52 points from the Belgian Grand Prix and had their points been retained, they would have finished P5 in the Championship with 111 points ahead of Haas F1. The Drivers were allowed to retain their points. 

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon weren't the best of mates and there was a fair bit of rivalry between the two. Incidents between the duo on track also cost the team some valuable points, specially vs McLaren F1. There was even news about Ocon being replaced in season by Lance Stroll from Williams but better sense prevailed and the Frenchman was allowed to continue racing. Sergio Perez was P8 in the Championship with 62 points grabbing a P3 once again at Baku, Racing Point's favourite track. Esteban Ocon had 10 finishes in the Points with P6 being his best finish in Monaco, Austria, Belgium and Italy. He finished P12 in the Championship with 49 points. 

2019 promises a lot, will the investors be repaid for their efforts? We shall see.



Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 Team was on the rise since the start of 2018. Their results improved with each passing race and they finished on 48 points and P8 in the Constructors' at the end of the year. The Team has also benefited from a faster Ferrari engine in 2018. Charles LeClerc spearheaded their challenge with points finishes in 14 races and P6 was his best finish ( Baku ). He had 39 points to his name at the end of the year. Marcus Ericsson in comparison massively under-performed and finished in the points in only 6 races, P9 being his best finish. Sauber F1 will be thankful for LeClerc and for what he achieved since a better finish means more money to use for next year. 

Sauber is now Alfa Romeo F1, so hopefully they wont be as cash strapped as they were at the end of 2017.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso had a very mediocre 2018. Honda power and its reliability issues are to blame ( to some extent ). The team scored only 33 points in 2018 and finished P9 in the Championship, losing P8 to Sauber post the mid season break. The Red Bull B Team will have to pull up their socks if they want to bring any respectability to their tally in 2019. Pierre Gasly performed well enough to warrant a seat in the A Team for 2019. Brendon Hartley not so. The Frechman scored in 5 races and P4 was his best finish ( Bahrain ). Brendon Hartley struggled all year round with mechanical failures, incidents and setup issues. He only managed 4 points in 2018, 9th in the US GP and 10th in Baku and Germany. 

Toro Rosso will be hoping for a better outing in 2019.


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams, a name that is well known in the annals of F1. The team is now a mere shadow of its former glory days. Its truly a sad situation within the team, be it the lack of finances, sponsors or direction in terms of development. The progress curve stagnated for the team in 2018. The results were poor, even though a top man like Paddy Lowe was added to the management. The team also said goodbye to Rob Smedley who decided to call it a day on his career and spend time with his young family ( for now at least ). Sergei Sirotkin and Lance Stroll were the drivers hired for 2018 ( pay drivers purely ) and the funding they carried helped the team last the year. 7 points was all they could conjure, best being 8th for Lance Stroll in Baku. 

Williams need a revamp for 2019. They need to become appealing again and ensure their driver portfolio boasts of that too. We wish them well.



A lot has happened over the course of 2018.  

I had the opportunity of attending 3 races - Germany, Belgium and Abu Dhabi and I must say that Liberty Media should be commended for revitalizing F1 as a sport and modernizing it. They also improved Fan interaction and involvement.


We said goodbye to Fernando Alonso, a legend of the sport, his absence will definitely leave a void. Esteban Ocon, Stoffel Vandoorne, Brendon Hartley, Sergei Sirotkin and Marcus Ericsson will not be on the grid in 2019. Charles LeClerc was a revelation and the Tifosi will hope to see a new champion in Scarlet Red in 2019. 

Kimi Raikkonen finally won a race again and can bow out of Ferrari with his head held high! 


McLaren started strong hoping the trend would continue into the season..sadly it didn't, Sahara Force India were already in the red ( financially ) and hoped to weather the storm..the management couldn't; Ferrari was the fastest car on the grid and they hoped this would be the year of top honours..sadly it wasn't.


This season served as a good reminder for us, be it in life or Motorsport..it doesn't matter how you begin, what matters is how you finish! Mercedes AMG F1 and Lewis Hamilton ran the race well and deserved to be on the top step. 

Other contenders have a lot to learn..still...

2018 F1 Mid Season Review - The Contenders, The Wingmen & The Also-Rans

12 Races done, 9 to go and we are already in the Summer Break. The 2018 F1 Season has flown by!

This season is the longest in the Calendar with 21 rounds and there will be a lot to fight for in the 2nd half. We shall also be entering into a phase where grid penalties will become a common feature and resources for many will get strained.


How is 2018 treating teams and drivers? Lets have a quick peek :


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

Mercedes, the kings of the Turbo Era are nervously looking over their shoulder in 2018. Clearly this is the toughest battle they have faced. Unlike the years gone by, they have been unable to break free from the Prancing Horse and the limits of their cars are being tested. One slip up and the contenders are ready to pounce. They are also aware that inspite of being the fastest, they aren't the best car on the grid. Lack of composure in the dirty air of the car in front, faster tyre degradation are 2 major challenges faced by them this year.  They had a slow start to the year but the team gained momentum from Baku. They currently lead the Constructors' battle by a slender 10 points but with 43 points up for grabs every weekend, the lead can disappear with one bad race. 

Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have had their fair share of ups and downs this season. Bottas is yet to win a race and suffered some bad luck with retirements in Baku and Austria ( while leading ) and being tagged by Vettel in France. However he is 4th in the Championship with 132 points, 14 points behind Kimi in 3rd. Lewis leads the Championship ( after playing catch-up for most of the first half ) with 5 wins to his name ( Baku, Spain, France, Germany, Hungary ). He has a sizeable lead of 24 points over Vettel, the latter's DNF in Germany costing him big time. Lewis must maximize results in Belgium and Italy before the fly-aways commence and the F1 circus heads to circuits which aren't the kindest to a Mercedes. Bottas, although in contention, is already being considered a wingman for Lewis' title charge. 

Can Mercedes hold onto both titles in 2018? I highly doubt. 


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, a team that has been playing catch up in the Turbo era is slowly turning the tables on Mercedes. Clearly the most balanced, kindest on tyres and very close to a Merc in outright pace, Ferrari have the car and the tools for making this THE YEAR. Only 10 points separate them from Mercedes and its turning out to be one of the most closely contested fights in recent history. A lot of credit goes to the duo of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, the latter more so. Kimi got learner over the winter, faster and is enjoying having a more aggresive front-end to his car and that is bringing home the results. He looks hungrier than ever is really enjoying life in F1. Vettel on the other hand is the well-oiled German Machine that never stops being consistent. 

Sebastian Vettel sits 2nd in the Championship with 189 points, trailing Hamilton by 24 while Kimi Raikkonen is 3rd with 146 to his name. Vettel has had 4 wins ( Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Britain ), two 2nd places and one 3rd place, total of 7 podiums. 

Kimi Raikkonen is yet to win a race in 2018 but has 8 podiums, one more than Seb's. The Botched pit-stop in Bahrain and the PU failure in Spain cost the Iceman valuable points and podium finishes which would have brought him closer to his team-mate's tally of 189. He is still running the earlier-spec engine and should finally receive an upgraded unit in Belgium ( confirmed to me by a Ferrari Insider ). Qualifying still remains his Achilles heel and this is one major reason why a win still eludes him. However this is the best year since his return to the team and his 3rd strongest season overall ( both stints at Ferrari combined )

Vettel on the other hand had a very strong start to the year but his drives have not been flawless. The Big Mistake came in Germany when he aquaplaned in changing conditions knocking him out of the race and handing Lewis a big win in the grander scheme of things. The lock-up in Baku at the safety car restart, coming together in France with Bottas and the unfortunate tag by Max in China have added to the "points lost" tally. 

Ferrari have two world champions racing for them vs Mercedes' one. Their combined experience is better than the Merc duo. Ferrari should win the Constructors' Title in 2018 in my opinion...but then anything can happen in the world of motorsport! This definitely is Ferrari's Title to lose.

  

Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull predicted at the start of 2018 that it will be difficult to stay in touch with the Mercedes and the Ferraris. The Constructors' table does suggest that but Red Bull have enjoyed their moments of glory in the first half of 2018. Daniel Ricciardo's win in China was exploiting the conditions on offer and applying a master strategy. His win in Monaco ( a track suited to Red Bull ) was a memorable one, redemption for the debacle in 2016. Many argue that Max would have won in the Principality. He was a step ahead of everyone but a crash in qualifying blew his chances and probably denied the team the chance of a famous 1-2. Come Austria, Red Bull's home race and Max took an unexpected win. Austria is a power circuit where the lack of top end grunt in the Tag Heuer branded Renault Power Unit is massively exposed and the what would have been damage limitation for the team turned into ecstasy. Retirements and PU failures have cost the team badly. Both drivers have 4 retirements each to their name, retirements from podium positions in the race, costing the team valuable points in the Constructors. Daniel Ricciardo is 5th in the Championship with 118 points while Max is 6th with 105. Ricciardo has 2 wins to his name while Max has 1 win and 3 podiums. It seems like Red Bull will finish P3 again in the Championship. They have enough breathing space from Renault and trail Ferrari by a massive 112 points. A lot can change in the final 9 rounds with Singapore being the major points scoring opportunity for Red Bull but giving Ferrari a run for P2 is highly unlikely.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault, who made a return to F1 as a full works team in 2016 is making a steady climb up the ladder. 4th in the standings at the summer break is a massive achievement. They have already bettered their tally of a meagre 57 points in 2017 before the summer break this year. The Facilities in Oxfordshire are expanding, personnel being hired and updates to the car coming at the pivotal moments. Nico Hulkenberg and loanee Carlos Sainz Jr. offer a great combination of youth and speed to the team. Hulkenberg leads the Intra-team battle with 52 points on the board while Sainz Jr has 30. Will Renault be able to better their current position by the end of the year? No. The gap ahead is still large and there is a lot of work to do but they will definitely extend their lead to the chasers by the end of the year. The challenge has just begun for Renault Sport F1, to challenge those in the big league is no mean task but the recruitment of Daniel Ricciardo for 2019 is a step in the right direction!


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1, the strongest Ferrari customer team on the grid is improving each weekend. Haas' improvement curve since their entry into the sport is really inspiring. Working closely with the Ferrari Power units, the chassis is very balanced and performs pretty well at most circuits. The only thing eluding them is a podium, which I still think is at least an year away. Kevin Magnussen has borne the responsibility of scoring the chunk of the points. He is currently 8th in the Drivers' Championship with 45 points, his best finish being 5th in Bahrain and Austria. Romain Grosjean is having a torrid time with crashes and DNFs ( thanks to a ghost version of Marcus Ericsson :P ). He has amassed only 21 points, scoring in 3 of the last 4 rounds of going into the summer break. 4th in Austria was his best finish, a drive which showed that the Frenchman has it in him and he just needs to keep it clean. The mid-table battle between Haas, Force India and McLaren is very intense and its imperative for both drivers to finish races in the points consistently. A non-finish for both and the tables can turn drastically. Haas don't have the resources of a McLaren but they know to invest wisely. I believe they will eventually come out on top in this 3 way bout.


Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India is going through some really testing times. One of the creditors went to the court for dissolution of the team and the team is destined to go into administration until the new owners take charge. Their challenger on track isn't having the best outing either. The team is currently 6th in the standings, 2 places lower than their best position in the recent years. Renault and Haas have jumped them, although overtaking Haas by the end of the year should still be an achievable task. A 3rd place by Perez in Baku brought some joy to the team but both Perez and Ocon have scored 59 points combined, too few going into the summer break. Perez leads his team-mate by a point with Ocon finishing in the points on 6 occasions compared to Perez's 5. The lack of funding is hurting the team bad and I doubt they might finish 6th by the end of the year. Anything lower than 4th is a disaster but that is the reality and the team must ride the tide and hope for fortunes to change in 2019.  Astonishingly, Force India remains the most successful Mercedes Customer Team on the grid.


McLaren F1 Team :

McLaren switched to Renault power for 2018 and hoped for a better outing. Its been anything but that. The experts always believed that McLaren had an excellent chassis but their design flaws have been exposed this year. One can argue that its only their first year with Renault and every team needs time to completely adjust to a new engine manufacturer. Fernando Alonso is digging deep to bring home the results and after a strong start to the year, is now struggling to keep McLaren in the fight. Stoffel Vandoorne seems to be struggling with multiple issues and is nowhere near the level of racing he has been. Alonso sits 9th in the Standings with 44 points while Vandoorne is in 16th with just 8 points. Fernando is one driver who will give his 110 % week in week out and is unbeatable when it comes to race wit. Vandoorne must drive better to save his seat, a shame if he was to lose his. Eric Boullier, the Racing Director at McLaren resigned during the triple header and that didn't help matters. McLaren needs to start afresh, begin from scratch and have the right people in the right positions with the legitimate authority to make some tough decisions. 2018 is a good lesson for the team but they still have time to turn things around. Force India is only 7 points ahead and with the issues they face off-track and on it, McLaren must capitalize on every opportunity to put pressure on them in the races and steal P6 off them. Its a long road ahead and we have seen many stories being re-written, so all is not lost for the Woking based outfit. 


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso made the big leap from Renault to Honda for 2018, practically becoming the guinea pig for feasibility and amalgamation with a Red Bull Chassis for 2019. Pierre Gasly and Brendan Hartley drive for the men in blue and both had their share of retirements and incidents. Gasly is the better performer of the two with 26 points in the championship and 3 finishes in the points. ( 4th being his best ). Hartley on the other hand scored two 10th places in Baku and Germany. His F1 career is under serious scrutiny and the WEC World Champion is finding it difficult to establish himself in the sport. The Duo need to be on the top of their game and hope that the Honda Power Unit at the back doesn't let up ( like it has in the first half ) to ensure they keep the Saubers at bay. Gasly's aim will be to impress the bosses in the A team and make a strong case for himself to be seen as an ideal fit for the outgoing Daniel Ricciardo, a move that has put the cat amongst the pigeons ( will explore this in the Driver Markets post ). Toro Rosso are known for having a balanced chassis and this might prove to be the winning card in their quest to stay P8 in the Championship.


Alfa-Romeo Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber sits 9th in the Standings with 18 points to their name. Charles Leclerc, the Scuderia Ferrari Academy Driver has led the charge with 5 points finishes, 6th in Baku his best result; while Marcus Ericsson finished in the points only thrice with 9th being his best finish in Bahrain and Germany. Its a closely contested battle with Scuderia Toro Rosso who have 10 more than them and ideally, Sauber should have been ahead but mistakes and reliability issues in the recent rounds hit them hard. On the financial side, they are in better waters thanks to Alfa-Romeo and will have enough resources to give Toro Rosso a serious headache. Charles Leclerc is making a name for himself in the paddock while Marcus Ericsson's credentials are being questioned. The Swede needs to pull up his socks in the second half else his financial backing wont be able to get him a drive in 2019.


Williams Martini F1 Racing Team :

Williams is going through a very tough phase in their history. The Team has gone backwards and seem a bit lost in their quest to close up on competitors. Incidents, Non-finishes and a single points finish to show for their efforts leaves them languishing in 10th and last in the Constructors' table. Lance Stroll managed the best finish for the team in Baku with 8th, a stark contrast from the podium they bagged the year before.They claimed to have identified the source of their problems but amends can only be made in 2019. Williams are destined to finish last in 2018 and also bound to lose their title sponsor in Martini at the end of the year. Williams will only be able to score if misfortunes hit the cars closest to them.The Future looks grim and we hope for the best for one of the most decorated teams of F1.


The title battle is wide open this year and all 4 drivers ( Mercedes and Ferrari ) are in contention for the crown...which begs the question : Will the teams allow Bottas and Raikkonen to challenge Hamilton and Vettel respectively? Parity between team-mates is claimed by both team but what happens on-track is contrary to claims. We are nearing that stage of the season when its wise to choose the real contenders for the crown; at this stage its a tough call to make since the Finns are not too far in terms of points. However one bad race or non-finish will seal them as the number 2 in their respective team. Their jobs will be reduced to Mere Wingmen, snippets of which were showed in Germany and Hungary.

Mercedes and Ferrari are in a class of their own. They are the True Contenders for the crown. Red Bull can only capitalize on the mistakes made up front and they have exploited it on a few occasions. The rest of the field will continue to contend amongst themselves to be the best of the rest.


A lot is still at stake...I can't wait for Round 2 of the Bout!


2017 F1 Season Review - Fantastic Fourth!

F1 turned over a new leaf in 2017. The ownership changed hands and Liberty Media added a freshness to the sport. Fan Interactions increased, Experiences were added and the future looks bright for a sport that aims at expanding its global footprint.

2017 also saw 3 rookies make it to the grid - Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly & WEC Champion Brendan Hartley ( replaced Daniil Kvyat towards the end of the season )

20 races made up the 2017 Season and pre-season tests suggested that Ferrari would be a formidable challenger. Red Bull seemed to be off the pace while Mercedes had another reliable run into 2017. Was Ferrari able to dethrone Mercedes from their perch? How did Red Bull fare with their new Tag Heuer branded engine? Bottas vs Hamilton? Hamilton vs Vettel? Bottas vs Raikkonen? Who reigned supreme in 2017? Well lets have a quick recap of the season gone by.


Mercedes AMG F1 Team :

Mercedes, the most successful team and engine supplier in the turbo-era went into 2017 with a little bit of uncertainty. The W08, their 2017 challenger was fast but not the easiest to handle. Nico Rosberg the reigning World Champion retired from the sport and Mercedes had to hire Valtteri Bottas from Williams, so that wasn't ideal. Questions were raised about the worthiness of Valtteri Bottas. Doubts lingered about the kind of relation he would have with Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari seemed to have done their homework and the gap was considerably lower than in 2016. This was going to be one tough fight.

The season started off more as a boxing bout as the contenders to the crown traded punches taking victories in alternate rounds. Lewis Hamilton took the first win of the season for the team in China and Bottas responded with a win of his own in Russia. Hamilton then took victories in Spain ( a hard fought one ), Canada and Great Britain while Bottas notched up another win in Austria. The Finn kept his more experienced team-mate honest in the title fight. Hamilton went on a winning spree in Belgium, Italy and Singapore and became the Number 1 driver in the team. Japan and USA sealed the deal. P2 in Mexico saw him being crowned the Drivers' Champion for the 4th time! He also surpassed Michael Schumacher's record of the most pole positions in Italy and with the British Grand Prix win, he equalled the records of Alain Prost and Jim Clark, who also won the race five times each. Lewis made it happen when it mattered the most. He won the those little battles to win the war and a well deserved title it was. Kudos to the Englishman for his win. Hamilton had amassed 363 points with 9 wins and 4 podium finishes at the end of 2017. Bottas who played catchup with Vettel in the second half of the year eventually finished in P3 with 305 points, 3 race wins and 10 podium finishes under his belt.

Mercedes will still be the team to beat in 2018. Period.


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari, the most successful team in F1 - A name synonymous with winning. A lot of hopes were pinned on the Maranello based outfit to take the fight to the Mercs . Many believed this was the year that Ferrari would finally deliver; after all it had been 10 years since they last won a Drivers' Championship! Ferrari persisted with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen a pair that gets along extremely well. The year started off on the right note for Vettel with 3 wins out of 6 and Lewis Hamilton having to play catchup. Going into the mid-season break, the German trailed by 3 points in the championship with 4 wins ( Australia, Bahrain, Monaco, Hungary ) & 6 podium finishes. His championship hopes seemed to be on track after Lewis struggled in qualifying in Mercedes' bogey track ( Singapore ) and Vettel put it on pole. However an uncharacteristic error on the Sunday ( on a wet track ) took the top 3 qualifiers Vettel, Verstappen and Raikkonen out of the race. Verstappen got sandwiched with Vettel cutting across and Raikkonen, who had a blistering start overtaking him resulting in a mighty shunt for the 3. Lewis took the win and it dealt a heavy blow to the championship. Retirement in Japan proved to be the final nail in the coffin and Lewis took the championship in Mexico. Vettel finished P2 ( albeit just ) with 317 points and 5 wins under his belt.

Kimi Raikkonen on the other hand had a slower start to the year. He put his car on pole in Monaco and could have won but for Vettel to come out on top thanks to a better strategy. Kimi played second fiddle throughout the year ( inspite of constant denial by the team ). He finished P4 in the Championship with 7 podium finishes, his best being 2nd in Monaco and Hungary. Once again, the Iceman didn't have reliability and circumstances going his way, robbing him of more podium finishes and possible victories. Kimi was praised for being a team player on many occasions and Belgium is one instance that comes to mind. On his final run in qualifying, Kimi made an error and had to abort the lap. He managed to give Vettel the tow towards the end of the lap, that helped the German end up on the front row to challenge for the win. One thing is certain though, he might be the oldest driver on the grid but he hasn't lost his racing edge. On his day, the Iceman is still untouchable. Will we see him win again? ever? Well that is one question no one can answer.

Ferrari were on track in the first half of the season, then they lost the plot altogether. It isn't going to be easy beating Mercedes over a season but the team can take encouragement from the fact that their competitors aren't invincible.


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull Racing began their 2017 campaign with a Tag Heuer branded power unit. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen renewed their partnership and things didn't seem too promising at the start of the season. However the duo gave the works team a run for their money notching a victory each under their belt. Ricciardo won in a power dominated circuit in Baku ( thanks to Vettel and Hamilton bickering and incidents galore around him ). Verstappen after a slew of retirements ( thanks to mechanical failures ) finally won in Malaysia. A coming together in Hungary brought Ricciardo grief but the Australian prevailed over the Dutchman, finishing 5th in the Drivers' Championship with 1 win and 8 podium places. 3 retirements towards the end of the season denied him the chance to retain 4th place ( eventually taken by Raikkonen ). Verstappen too suffered retirements at pivotal moments in the season and finished in 6th place with 2 wins ( Malaysia and Mexico ) and 2 podium finishes.

Red Bull must ensure that they lock down the duo for the future as they share a wonderful chemistry and have an abundance of talent. The chink in the armour was the reliability of the power units. The difference to Ferrari in 2nd seems big but it would have been a lot closer with more podiums and points finishes. They were perceived as the biggest threat towards the end of the season. Red Bull know how to win. They have been there, done that. Improving in 2018 is a given.


Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India continue to go from strength to strength in the Turbo Era. The Best Mercedes Customer Team tag remained with them in 2017. Sergio Perez & Esteban Ocon pushed each other throughout the year. The push became a shove and the team had to ban them from racing each other in order to protect their position in the championship. Perez finished on 100 points in P7, 13 ahead of his team-mate Ocon with points finishes in every race barring 3. His best finish was P4 in Spain. Ocon went on a record run of race finishes until his retirement in the Brazilian GP. The Frenchmen scored 87 points with his best finishes of P5 in Spain and Mexico.

Force India were truly a force to reckon with in 2017. Finishing P4 in the championship was no mean feat. They even made the Big 3 sweat on a few occasions. 2018 wont be easy sailing as those trailing behind will have more powerful units under them.


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams fielded a mix of experience and youth in Felipe Massa and Rookie Lance Stroll. Massa called it a day at the end of the 2016 season but had to return after Bottas switched to Mercedes AMG F1. Williams finished 5th in the Constructors' Championship and amazingly managed to bag a podium with Lance Stroll in Baku! The team's struggle continued in 2017 after the initial successes of 2014. Felipe Massa outscored Stroll but only just ( 3 points ), 6th being his best finish in Australia and Bahrain. Paul di Resta stepped into Massa's Seat for one race ( Hungary ), the Brazilian having to sit it out due to illness. Lance Stroll struggled in the initial rounds of the season but the 3rd place finish in Baku sent many doubters into silence. Stroll finished in the points in 7 races and suffered 4 retirements. His performances are bound to approve in 2018. The 19 year old still has a lot to learn in the world of motor racing and the team has played a big gamble by having another rookie join their ranks in 2018.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault Sport F1 finished the season in 6th in the Constructors' Championship, a marked improvement from their performances in 2016. They would not like to be where they are at but the only way forward is upwards and thankfully being a works team will ensure that funding never becomes an issue for R&D.

Nico Hulkenberg scored 43 points and finished 10th in the Drivers' Championship. He finished in the points in 8 races with 6th being his best finish on 4 occasions. Jolyon Palmer had a painful 2017 again, only 6th in Singapore being his finish in the points. He was eventually relieved of his services after Japan, a forgettable F1 Career for the former GP2 Champion. Carlos Sainz Jr. then joined the ranks and produced his best finish of 7th ( for the team ) in Austin, USA.

Renault will be a potent team in 2018. The dynamic duo of Hulkenberg and Sainz Jr. will be pushing each other and I see the team finishing at least P4 in 2018.


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso began the 2017 campaign with Daniil Kvyat & Carlos Sainz Jr. Kyvat was then replaced by Pierre Gasly for Malaysia & Japan and left the team after the US Grand Prix. Red Bull Loaned Carlos Sainz Jr. to Renault F1 for a year ( for 2018 ) but Renault relieved Jolyon Palmer of his services after Japan so Sainz had to effect the switch earlier. LMP1 Porsche Driver and WEC Champion Brendon Hartley took his place for the final 4 rounds of the season. This merry-go-round didn't create the ideal situation for the team since they had to fight hard to retain their place against a resurgent Haas towards the business end of the season. The team also suffered from misfiring Renault Units on many occasions.

Carlos Sainz Jr. led the charge with a career best 4th in Singapore, who can forget the Radio Communication that night "Vamos Vamos Vamos!" Daniil Kvyat only managed 5 points, 9th being his best finish. Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley weren't able to open their accounts.

Toro Rosso won't have it easy in 2018 as they switch to Honda Power. Gasly and Hartley are supremely talented but will need a reliable car under them to help the team achieve the points that they need.


Haas F1 Team :

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen led the charge for Haas F1 in 2017 and the relatively new team continue to impress in their 2nd year. Finishing P8 in the championship, they narrowly missed beating Scuderia Toro Rosso ( 6 points ) to P7. Romain Grosjean bagged 28 points in 2017 inspite of having brake troubles throughout the year. His best finish was 6th in Austria. Kevin Magnussen's best finish was P7 in Azerbaijan and he finished the season on 19 points.

F1 is a demanding sport and Haas will have to maintain a steep development curve to stay in touch with those in front. Nevertheless they can take pride in the fact that they have fielded a more reliable car in 2017.


McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren's partnership with Honda has been one of its biggest fiascos. The Engine Manufacturer failed to make inroads even in 2017 and the team suffered massively from multiple engine penalties over different race weekends. There were silver linings but the news of a split developed through the year. The Team had both cars cross the chequered flag only on 7 occasions. They did reduce the deficit to Haas F1 towards the end but were unable to finish any better than P9 at the end of the year.

Fernando Alonso & Stoffel Vandoorne finished their season on 17 and 13 points respectively, their best finishes being 6th and 7th. Alonso also enjoyed the opportunity of racing in the Indy 500 in the US which coincided with the Monaco GP. Jenson Button was recalled out of retirement and got to race but had to retire after an incident with Wehrlein. There is no doubt in the ability of the duo and results will improve with a much faster and more reliable Renault power unit for 2018.


Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 finishes last in the standings, financial constraints limiting their progress in 2017. The team already had a power deficit with a 2016 Ferrari engine and their problems were compounded when the team principal Monisha Kaltenborn left mid-season. Marcus Ericsson drew a blank again while Pascal Wehrlein's P8 in Spain & P10 in Azerbaijan brought home the team's points. Antonio Giovinazzi, Ferrari's Reserve Driver also got 2 weekends under his belt in Australia & China after Wehrlein injured himself in the Race of Champions earlier in the year and felt under-prepared for the start of the season.

Its been a disappointing year again for Sauber F1 but with Alfa Romeo investing in them for 2018, a lot can change.


I had the privilege of attending the Spanish Grand Prix and the Belgian Grand Prix in 2017. Planning to do 3 races in 2018, God Willing.

The 2018 season kicks off with pre-season testing in Barcelona in February. The much debated Halo makes its debut. The lineup for 2018 is complete and car launch dates are out too.

Mercedes won a hard fought battle in 2017. Ferrari were left wondering what could have been.

Truly
it was a Fantastic Fourth for the team from Brackley! Well Done Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team!

The Countdown to the 2018 season has begun. Can't wait!




2017 F1 Mid Season Review - There Can Only Be One..

2017 turned a page in the turbo era of F1. Bigger tyres, more downforce, faster lap times and the good emanating out of new ownership of the sport prove that F1 is slowly making its way back to the glory days. 2017 has brought a sense of freshness to the sport and the teams have embraced the challenges with aplomb. New Partnerships were created and New Rivalries were born. The Mid-Season Break is ongoing but the work carries on in the respective team factories. So how good have the contenders been up until the halfway point of the season?

Lets have a quick peek.


Mercedes AMG F1 Team :

Mercedes, the undisputed champions of the Turbo Era are tipped to retain the crown for both the Drivers' as well as the Constructors' but unlike the years gone by, the competitors have posed a bigger threat than they ever have before. Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are having to play catch-up with Sebastian Vettel. Mercedes' lead in the Constructors' is a slender 39 points and they have been outclassed in a few races this year. Lewis Hamilton is P2 in the Championship, 14 points adrift with 4 wins and 2 podiums to his name. Valtteri Bottas is P3 with 169 points with 2 wins and 6 podiums.

Its advantage Lewis in the intra-team battle according to me. Lewis knows how the team functions and has shown time and again why he is a 3 time world champion. The Team will look to him to aid their defense of the world title. Valtteri Bottas on the other hand is a revelation and surprised one as he settled into his new team fairly quickly. Bottas is keeping Lewis honest in this title fight. The team must ensure that a healthy environment is maintained between the 2 garages. Mercedes maintained a fair fight on the track and delivered on their promise so far. They still have the fastest car on the grid but an unsettled one as well when stuck behind another car. 


Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari persisted with Sebastian Vettel & Kimi Raikkonen for 2017 and they have upped their game this year. Sebastian Vettel has been leading the charge and is currently the leader in the Drivers' Championship with 202 points with 4 wins to his name ( Australia, Bahrain, Monaco & Hungary ) and four 2nd place finishes. Kimi Raikkonen was the slow starter again and had many issues hampering his progress, both on the mechanical and the strategic fronts. The Iceman's performances improved in the races going into the break. Kimi Raikkonen is P5 in the Championship with 4 podium finishes to his name.

The Gap between Mercedes and Ferrari is 39 points. Momentum is with the Prancing Horse. Mercedes are definitely looking nervously over their shoulders. I wish to quote Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene : At Ferrari, there is no holiday. We have to stay humble and keep pushing. Unquote.

Sebastian Vettel is the favourite for the driver's title. Kimi Raikkonen is providing the perfect support role. Mathematically Kimi isn't out of the title race but realises its best to not jeopardize team chances by unsettling his team-mate in races ( inspite of being faster ). Kimi had the chance to win 2 races, one in Monaco and the other in Hungary but the team chose otherwise. Once again the Finn has shown that he is a team man and a class act. Ferrari will always be indebted to him


Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull had a strong 2016 and had hopes to replicate it in 2017. However Ferrari arrived a lot stronger and currently maintain a healthy lead over them. Red Bull are unbeatable when it comes to chassis design and aerodynamics. However the Renault Power Tag Heuer branded Power Unit continues to be their Achilles' Heel. Daniel Ricciardo sits P4 in the Drivers' Standings with 117 Points and 1 victory to his name. ( Azerbaijan ). Max Verstappen has been very unfortunate with issues in his car causing him to retire from strong finishing positions in 4 Races. Verstappen's  best finish was P3 in China. Max is P6 in the championship with 67 points.

Red Bull must ensure that both cars reach the Chequered Flag. They don't face an immediate threat from Force India but if they plan to dethrone Ferrari by the end of the season reliability will be the key. Red Bull top brass will be thoroughly displeased if they are unable to bag P2 in the Championship. Realistically, its a far fetched dream. The Development curve must not stop and Red Bull must aim to carry their progress into 2018 to be closer to the fastest teams on the grid.


Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India continue to be a revelation in 2017. They are right up there with the big boys fighting wheel to wheel and causing some upsets along the way as well. An accomplished power unit in Mercedes alongwith a capable chassis has ensured that Force India is the strongest customer team on the grid. They are well ahead of Williams in the Constructors but considerably behind Red Bull so improving to P3 at the end of 2017 seems uncertain. Barring Monaco, the team has always scored points. Sergio Perez leads the team-mate battle with 56 points to his name and P4 being his best finish ( Spain ). Esteban Ocon isn't far behind with 45 points, Spain his best result ( 5th ). Team Livery also is a talking point - eye-catching pink coloured cars on the grid. Driver Race Suits were similar and this invited some healthy banter with other teams over social media.

P4 would be a great finish and for a team with financial constraints like Force India, they can be extremely proud of what they have achieved so far.


Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams started well in 2014 with the New Turbo Engines suiting their cars well. However they have gone backwards since and sit 5th in the standings in the mid season break. Felipe Massa returned from retirement to take up Valtteri Bottas' place who left for Mercedes AMG F1. Lance Stroll, the rookie joined forces with him. Williams have underachieved in the first half of 2017. Lance Stroll's 3rd Place in Baku Azerbaijan was a surprise but Massa has been the more consistent of the two. His experience has been vital in keeping the team in 5th, albeit just 2 points ahead of the fast charging Toro Rossos. Massa's best finishes came in Australia and Bahrain ( 6th ) alongwith points finishes in 4 other races. Stroll is on 18 points scoring in 2 other races barring his podium. Its early days for the Canadian but in a demanding sport like F1, its vital to find your feet quickly.

The biggest advantage for Williams is the Mercedes Power Unit and there are still some power circuits left on the calendar so holding onto P5 shouldn't be an issue for the team. 


Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso, the final step before a Red Bull Driver Program protegee steps into the A Team prove time and again that a team operating on a small budget can still perform well with the right chassis and personnel. Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. continued their alliance going into 2017. The quest to impress the bosses has token a toll on Kvyat. Incidents, accidents, retirements have marred the Russian's performances and he must pray for a strong second half to retain his seat. Carlos Sainz Jr. is in a league of his own outclassing his team-mate and bringing home majority of the points. He sits 9th in the Drivers' Standings with 35 points while Kvyat has managed only 4 and is 17th currently.

Toro Rosso will have the backing of Red Bull for the rest of the season but as much as they have to stay focused to hunt down Williams who are 2 points ahead they have to keep an eye out for those behind as well. Renault and McLaren will be forces to reckon with by the end of the year. Its imperative for the team to "make hay while the sun shines"


Haas F1 Team :

Haas F1 fielded Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen for 2017 and they deserve credit for the start provided in 2017. Haas impressed one and all since their arrival in F1 and at half-way point in 2017 they lead 2 works' teams! Grosjean has 18 points to Magnussen's 11 and unlike the teams below them, both drivers have scored points whenever presented with an opportunity. Haas is powered by Ferrari so the unit is potent enough for strong results. However the Chassis needs improvements and the team will improve with experience.

They are 10 points off Toro Rosso and it will be a close battle up until the end of the season. Toro Rosso wont be an easy team to beat but the mid-field battle is about to get fiesty in the second half of the season as Haas are no slouches.


Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault returned as a factory team in 2016 with an elaborate road map. They made their intentions clear by acquiring the services of the talented Nico Hulkenberg and the German has been a great investment. He has scored all the points for the team this season, the tally of which stands at 26, seemingly safe from McLaren Honda. Nico's best results were 6th in Spain and Great Britain. Renault is improving the performance of its power unit and I predict P6 for them at the end of the year. Like McLaren the chassis is pretty competent and Renault have the privilege of pumping in more money unlike their immediate competitors. Another concern for the team is the performance of Jolyon Palmer. The Former GP2 Champion is yet to score a Championship Point and is fairly off the pace in comparison to Hulkenberg. He missed being in the points on 3 occasions and he must start bringing home the desired results to aid his own career as well as the team's chances in moving up the order.

Renault has the money, the tools, the personnel, the facilities to improve race by race and as a fan I definitely believe that they will soon be fighting at the sharp end of the grid. Priority though is to have a strong second half in 2017.


McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren in the second year of its partnership with Honda still languishes in ninth in the Constructors' Standings. The Chassis has been brilliant but Power Unit Issues have cost them at many races. The past few rounds promise a change of fortune and as claimed by Honda, the unit should be powerful enough to beat a Renault. Will this turn out to be true? Highly doubt it. Fernando Alonso is ahead in the intra-team battle with 10 points on the board to Stoffel Vandoorne's one. Both achieved their best result in Hungary, a circuit where power isn't the deciding factor for a strong result.

Mclaren cannot afford to be P9 by the end of the season and Honda must get its act together to ensure they don't lose sponsors and vital financial benefits of finishing higher up in the pecking order. Fernando Alonso is another asset they cannot afford to lose. I believe he is the best driver on the grid with race craft second to none. Reliability with performance will lead to stronger results to make a strong case for the Spaniard to stay put.


Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber F1 currently stands 10th and last in the Constructors' Standings. They have managed only 5 points till now and are still adrift of McLaren by 6 points. Sauber went through a change of leadership with Monisha Kaltenborn leaving the team and Frederic Vasseur taking over the reins. Its hard to see them move up from the back of the grid ( due to cash constraints ). Pascal Wehrlein has impressed again bagging all the points for the team. Marcus Ericsson needs to pull his socks up and capitalize on finishing in the points whenever the opportunity arises. Antonio Giovinazzi stepped in for Wehrlein for the first 2 races after the German's preparations for 2017 were halted with a crash in the Race of Champions. He finished 12th and retired in the next race.

Its difficult to see Sauber finish higher at the end of 2017.


The final leg of the race will resume from Belgium.  A lot of action, drama awaits us in the second half of the season. The Second Half will also see many drivers suffering grid drops as components are changed on cars and exceed the permitted number by the FIA. The Teams must wait for the opportune time for such changes to ensure Damage Limitation. These could make or break the contest in the Drivers' Championship.

5 contenders to the Drivers' crown. 2 for the Constructors' but There Can Only Be One!

Bring on Spa - Francorchamps!

2016 F1 Season Review - Like Father, Like Son

2016 was the longest F1 Season with 21 Races on the Calendar. Baku became the European Grand Prix and the Season also saw the arrival of a new customer team in Haas F1 powered by Ferrari. Red Bull became Red Bull - Tag Heuer ( Renault engines branded as Tag Heuer ), Renault became a works team hiring the Services of Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, Romain Grosjean joined Esteban Gutierrez in Haas F1 while Pascal Wehrlein & Rio Haryanto got drives in Manor ( formerly Marussia ) Racing F1 Team.


I had the privilege of attending the Spanish GP and the Hungarian GP this year and both were amazing venues to watch a race. Spain was special since Ferrari achieved a double podium with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.


Experts predicted a close fight for supremacy in 2016. Lets do a quick recap of how it all unfolded in 2016.


Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team :

The Undisputed Kings of the new Turbo era continued their dominance winning 19 races in the season. Nico Rosberg continued where he left off in 2015, winning the first 4 races until a coming together in Spain ( with Lewis ). Lewis Hamilton rose up to the challenge after Spain winning the next 6 out of 7 races. Austria witnessed another incident between the two. Belgium, Italy, Singapore - Rosberg reigned supreme. The Big Twist in the tale came in Malaysia when Hamilton was comfortably leading only to see his engine blow up and hand the lead to RosbergThe difference stood at 23 points now! Rosberg won in Japan and the difference rose to 30 points. The victory meant that he had to only finish 2nd in the final 4 races ( should Hamilton win each of them ). Easier said than done. Lewis won in US & Mexico, Nico was 2nd. The Big Test came in Brazil. Hamilton was the master of Racing in Rain and was virtually untouched. Max Verstappen got the measure of Rosberg and passed him into P2. There were multiple stoppages, multiple crashes, treacherous conditions yet the Mercedes' strategists pulled off a master stroke to help Rosberg achieve P2. Then came the final round in Abu Dhabi! Lewis Hamilton pulled away from pole with Nico P2. Max pointed the wrong way at T1 but made up to P3 with a long stint on Medium Tyres. Nico was P4 after his pit stop and needed to pass Max to keep his championship hopes alive. The pass was 'critical'. Sebastian Vettel who led the race for a long time made up places in his final stint and was P3 with 6 laps left. Lewis, who regained the lead, went against team instructions and slowed down to back Nico into Vettel and Verstappen. He tried his best and by the time the race ended, the top 4 were separated by less than a second! Nico had done it. He was the 2016 F1 World Champion! Nico had been the more consistent of the two ( one retirement vs two of Lewis' ) although Lewis had won one more race. However the outgoing Champion can be proud of his season. One might say his tactics in the final race were unsporting but he did everything he could ( in his capacity ) to win the championship and its not easy to back anyone up into a chasing pack. It requires a lot of skill. Credit where credit is due, Hamilton is a born racer and there are very few like him in F1. There were a lot of conspiracy theories doing the rounds that Lewis' car was sabotaged to help Nico win the championship - a German champ for a German team. Its unfortunate to have mechanical issues which rob you of victories or precious points at pivotal moments in the championship. Kimi Raikkonen was robbed like this in 2003 and 2005 but that is how motorsport is. It can be pretty unforgiving.

Nico has announced his retirement from the sport as well. We won't see him defending his World Championship which is a shame but his priorities are different and we must respect that.

Mercedes will have a strong package and a strong pairing in 2017. Pace is not an issue, reliability still is and that will be focused upon in the 2017 development. What Mercedes would not want is to see Reliability dictate who wins and who loses. 

It will be difficult to beat them to the title!



Red Bull Racing F1 Team :

Red Bull parted ways with Renault at the end of 2015 but continued to use their power units, albeit with Tag Heuer branding. Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat started the season together and the latter bagged 3rd place in China. However a mistake in Russia caused a crash and costed Kvyat his seat for the rest of the season. There was a lot of furore but experts believed that the Russian was already on borrowed time. Max Verstappen got promoted to the A team in Spain and won the race on debut for his new team! He also became the youngest F1 Race Winner silencing all critics and justifying Red Bull's decision. Ricciardo stepped up his performances too and a shambolic pit stop costed him victory at Monaco. He finally won in Malaysia, making it 2 wins in the season for the team, a marked improvement from their previous year. Red Bull brought in a lot of aero upgrades throughout the season and they eventually overtook Ferrari. Daniel Ricciardo finished P3 in the standings with 256 points with 1 win & 7 podiums. Max Verstappen finished in P5 with 204 points with 1 win and 6 podiums, an incredible achievement considering that he raced for Toro Rosso in first 4 races. Max proved his worth again with a stellar drive in treacherous and rainy conditions in Brazil finishing P3 behind Lewis and Nico.

Red Bull should be extremely pleased with their season. They can gain a lot of encouragement from the fact that they have 2 young but incredibly talented drivers in a potent car for 2017. The added downforce might tip the advantage in their favour in the Constructors' battle. They will definitely have a more enjoyable winter compared to 2015. Onwards and Upwards for the team!



Scuderia Ferrari F1 Team :

Ferrari flattered to deceive, that is how I sum up their season. They had a strong start to the season but the challenge petered out over the course of the year. Strategic howlers robbed them of potential podiums and the car struggled to stay in touch with the top even after liberally using the upgrade tokens throughout the season. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were delegated with the task of keeping the tifosi happy and they did it to the best of their abilities. Kimi Raikkonen outqualified his team-mate ( 11-10 ) over the course of the season which was a pleasant surprise. The Iceman also managed to get 4 podiums finishing 6th in the Championship with 186 points. Sebastian achieved 6 podiums and P4 in the standings with 212 points.

The team failed to win a race this year, their main target at the start of 2016. Overall its been a disappointing performance. The Power Deficit couple with Aerodynamic deficiency hampered progress. The car was also slow in getting the tyres upto temperature. They also need to have more faith in their strategies and not react to what others are doing during a race.

The Result? Red Bull eventually caught up and overtook them, outscoring Ferrari by 70 points.

Kimi had a decent year but it could have been a lot better if Ferrari had not made strategic errors in a few races. He could have achieved some more podiums. Kimi should be strong in 2017.

Ferrari need a major overhaul if they need to challenge for the title in 2017. The learning curve is going to be steep but with the Financial Resources they have, progress should be faster.



Sahara Force India F1 Team :

Force India ended 2016 as the strongest Mercedes Customer Team. The team went from strength to strength each year and they are reaping the fruits of their hard work now. Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg produced the goods again as the team clinched 4th place in the Constructors enabling them a strong base to start from in 2017.

Sergio Perez achieved 2 podiums in Monaco and Canada and finished in the points on 14 occasions. Hulkenberg's best finish came in Belgium ( 4th ) with 14 points finishes as well. Perez finished the season on 101 points with Hulkenberg scoring 72.

Force India should be proud of what they have achieved this year with the limited resources they had. The Drivers were consistent in bringing home results and although P3 will be a tough ask, finishing P4 again is achievable.



Williams Martini Racing F1 Team :

Williams had a strong 2014 and 2015. However 2016 saw a sharp drop in performances and results. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas teamed up for 2016. Bottas got a podium ( 3rd ) finish in Canada while Massa's best finish was 5th in Australia & Russia.

Bottas amassed 85 points while Massa finished 11th in the standings with 53 points. The team was overshadowed by Force India though. The Silverstone based outfit prevailed against them in a hard fought battle.

Felipe Massa announced his retirement from the sport and was given a fitting farewell by one and all in F1.

The Team dropped to 5th in the Constructors' standing as against 3rd last year. They never looked like challenging the works team in the 2nd half of the season. The team would be very displeased to lose another position to Force India, a team operating with a smaller budget than theirs. The saving grace for them was the power advantage of their Mercedes unit, else P5 would be a tough ask too.

Williams have work to do for 2017.



McLaren Honda F1 Team :

McLaren continued with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button for 2016. Alonso suffered a bad accident with Gutierrez in Australia and had to skip Bahrain GP. Stoffel Vandoorne, the reserve driver, finished 10th in Bahrain grabbing the first point of the season for McLaren. Alonso won the team-mate battle finishing 10th in the overall standings with 54 points. His best finish was 5th in Monaco and USA. Jenson Button who announced his retirement from the sport at the end of the season finished 15th with Austria yielding his best race finish ( 6th ).

McLaren improved considerably in their 2nd year with the Honda engine. They managed to put in a fair number of miles throughout the season. Results improved considerably but still they are nowhere near the performance levels that they should be. 2017 will be an interesting year. Hopefully Honda can concentrate on power rather than reliability over the winter break.



Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 Team :

Toro Rosso had a torrid time with Renault powered engines in 2015 and reverted to Ferrari powertrains, albeit the 2015 one. Toro Rosso continued with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Max Verstappen for 2016 but the lineup changed post Russia after Kvyat caused a collision and was demoted to Toro Rosso, Verstappen moving up the order. Many questioned this move mid-season but Red Bull reiterated that this was necessary to help Kvyat develop into a better racer.

Toro Rosso had a very capable chassis and produced strong results throughout the season - 63 Points and 7th in the Constructors' Championship. Carlos Sainz Jr. finished 8th in the Drivers' Championship with 46 points, Max scored in 3 races ( till Russia ) while Kvyat managed to score in only 3 races after his demotion. Sainz showcased his class again with 6th place finishes in 3 races and being consistent throughout the season. One has to feel for Kvyat, first the demotion, then the struggles and problems he faced during the season. He has another year to make things right but with Gasly breathing down his neck, I have my reservations.

Toro Rosso can take pride in the fact that they have given F1 world class drivers and Max ensured the tradition continues. Carlos too is waiting in the wings. Red Bull have their hands full.


Haas F1 Team :

Haas, the new boys in F1 garnered a lot of attention both in pre-season and through the season. Romain Grosjean left Lotus to join Haas with the plan of eventually stepping up into the Ferrari Works team ( should an opportunity arise ) while Esteban Gutierrez landed the 2nd seat, courtesy of Ferrari, the engine suppliers for the team. Gene Haas always had a presence in F1 but coming in as a full fledged team would pose a different challenge altogether.

Romain Grosjean scored all the points for the team. The Frenchman amassed 29 points which helped Haas finish 8th in the standings. His best finish was 5th in Bahrain. Esteban Gutierrez drew a blank but missed out on points on a few occasions. It was quite evident that having a more experienced driver helped the team considerably. Romain was retained for 2017 while Gutierrez has lost his seat to Magnussen. One does feel sympathy for Esteban but he was so comprehensively beaten by his team-mate that there would be very few people who would justify giving him another year.

It was a fantastic maiden year for Haas F1. Very few would predict an 8th place finish, one ahead of a works team. They have a strong platform to build from for 2017. I believe the teething issues of their maiden year will be addressed and Haas will be a force to contend with.



Renault Sport F1 Team :

Renault broke off from Red Bull and purchased Lotus F1 to become a full-time Works Team in F1. It was a tough ask to turn it all around in 2016. Lotus had a better outing in 2015, even grabbing a podium but one must not forget that it was a Mercedes powered chassis. As informed to me by my friend, the 2016 Challenger was essentially a 2015 car with a lot of upgrades. The Delay in the takeover left little time in developing a new car. Renault however was here to stay and a roadmap to supremacy was laid up. Renault hired the services of Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen after Grosjean left for Haas and Maldonado was relieved of his duties.

Progress, as expected was tough and Renault had to address issues throughout the season. Nevertheless, Kevin Magnussen managed to fetch 7 points for the team, finishing in the Points in Russia and Singapore. Jolyon Palmer on the other hand had a poor debut season with a solitary point in Malaysia. However he was also the victim of reliability issues and unfortunate incidents. His performances did improve in the latter half of the season which was enough to warrant him a seat for 2017. Renault finished the season in 9th with 8 points.

Renault will be working over the winter break. They were finding their feet in 2016. 2017 must produce a big step up in terms of results.



Sauber F1 Team :

Sauber had a horrid 2014, 2015 and 2016 was destined to be the same until Nasr clinched 9th place in Brazil. These 2 points elevated them to 10th place in the Constructors' Standings, the final place in receiving a financial bonus. Marcus Ericsson finished the season pointless, his best finish 11th in Mexico. The Chassis has been the main challenge for the team. The 2015 Ferrari powered unit was strong enough but poor chassis design and lack of aerodynamics hampered progress.

Sauber is a cash strapped team and one can empathize with where they are now. Hopefully they have a more decent outing next year and with a potential take-over doing the rounds, money might pour in to help them stay afloat and develop a stronger car.


Manor Racing F1 Team :

Manor, formerly Marussia hired the services of Rio Haryanto & Mercedes Protegee Pascal Wehrlein for 2016. However Haryanto lost his race seat ( after Germany ) after the sponsors failed to meet the financial obligations to the team. His best finish was 15th in Monaco.

Esteban Ocon replaced Rio for the second half of the season and was very impressive in his performances. His best finish was 12th in Brazil and his performances were good enough to land him a seat in Force India in 2017.

Pascal Wehrlein
had a fantastic debut year in F1. He Secured the team's solitary point in Austria, a Result that almost won them 10th place in the Constructors but for what conspired in Brazil.

Manor had a decent 2016 and should be proud of their performances. There is news of a takeover as well. Can they move up from where they are now? Time will tell.





Felipe Massa
said goodbye to F1 and its sad to see such a fantastic racer and human being leave the sport. Jenson Button, another gentleman and a former World Champion takes a one year sabbatical ( but I do feel he is retiring ). There will be a change of guard in 2017. Hope to see the new boys do well in 2017.

Nico Rosberg won the Championship. Mercedes retained the Constructors' title. Mercedes again exhibited their prowess in the new turbo era. Their Engine has been pretty reliable, their upgrades effective and both their drivers just flattened the opposition.

True Nico Rosberg has left the sport after fulfilling his childhood dream and we wont see him defend his title. However we must cherish the performances the man has produced to the title and we wish him all the best for the future. Keke Rosberg won it in 1982, Nico Rosberg wins it in 2016!

I wrote a short tribute on my blog a few days back :http://tech-know-crat.posthaven.com/nico-rosberg-racer-champion-legend



Well, Like Father, Like Son!