2020 F1 Season Review Part 5: Red Bull & Mercedes

Featured Image by Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0) on Wikimedia Commons

Following the conclusion of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship, we review the performances of each team that participated in the Championship. This is Part 5 of a 5 Part series. For Part 5, we focus on the 2 teams who finished at the top of the standings – Red Bull & Mercedes.

Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

Team Personnel & Car Details:

Team Principal: Christian Horner
Race Drivers: Alexander Albon (#23, All Rounds), Max Verstappen (#33, All Rounds)

Car: Red Bull RB16
Designers: Adrian Newey (Chief Technical Officer), Pierre Wache (Technical Director), Rob Marshall (Chief Engineering Officer), Dan Fallows (Head of Aerodynamics)
Engine: Honda RA620H
Gearbox: Red Bull Technology 8 Speed + 1 Reverse

Season Stats:

Best qualifying position: P1
Best race: P1 (x2)
Constructors’ Championship position: P2 (2019 position: P3)
Constructors’ Championship points: 319 (2019 points: 417)
Points per driver: Max Verstappen (214), Alex Albon (105)

Season in a nutshell: Realistically, the best the team could have done in the standings. Points wise could have certainly been better for the second car…

Truthfully speaking, this was the really the only place that anyone expected Red Bull to be at the end of the Season. 2nd. But points-wise, Red Bull could, and should have done better. The points distribution was split 214/105. 214 for Verstappen, including 1 pole, 2 wins & 9 podiums. 105 for Albon, including 2 podiums.

From pre-season testing, it was clear that Red Bull would be finishing a clear second. Mercedes was outpacing every team, including Red Bull by a huge margin. Ferrari had effectively eliminated themselves with a weak Power Unit. However, it was clear that as usual, Red Bull was holding their cards close to their chest, and “sandbagging”.

Unlike most teams who set their fastest times on the softest tyre, the C5 Compound, Red Bull had not done so. Both drivers set their fastest laps on the C4 compound.

Max Verstappen was the standout driver for Red Bull this season, and the consistency he exhibited each weekend really showed how refined the Dutchman had become. He finished on the podium at nearly every race he finished, bar Turkey. A mix of 2nd and 3rds. Had it not been for 5 retirements, the Dutchman would have looked to set a new points record for himself. It should also be noted that only 1 of his 5 retirements were caused by an action of himself, in Sakhir, where he ran into a barrier trying to avoid a collision.

On the other side of the garage with Albon, it was generally a frustrating season, which held some promise in the first few rounds, before his form plummeted. 2 podiums were the only takeaway for the British-Thai driver, who will be sitting out the 2021 season, having been replaced by Sergio Perez for 2021.

All in all, Red Bull may come away from the 2020 Season being somewhat disappointed. 2 wins were all that the team received, but this was really the best that the team could expect. Especially given the sheer size of the gap between themselves and Mercedes then..

For 2021, Red Bull will be looking to balance it’s efforts between 2021 and 2022, with a greater emphasis on the latter, with the aim of putting up a fight against Mercedes for the long-term.

Season Score: 8/10

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport

Renault R.S.20 / Daniel Ricciardo / AUS / Renault F1 Team
Alberto-g-rovi (CC BY 3.0)

Team Personnel & Car Details:

Team Principal: Zak Brown (Chief Executive Officer), Andreas Seidl (Team Principal)
Race Drivers: Lewis Hamilton (#44, R1-R15, R17), Valtteri Bottas (#77, All rounds), George Russell (#63, R16)

Car: Mercedes-AMG F1 W11 EQ Performance
Designers: James Allison (Technical Director), Mike Elliott (Technology Director), John Owen (Chief Designer), Kevin Taylor (Head of Engineering), Jarrod Murphy (Head of Aerodynamics)
Engine: Mercedes-AMG F1 M11 EQ Performance
Gearbox: Mercedes 8 Speed + 1 Reverse

Season Stats:

Best qualifying position: P1
Best race: P1
Constructors’ Championship position: P1 (2019 position: P1)
Constructors’ Championship points: 573 (2019 points: 739)
Points per driver: Lewis Hamilton (347), Valtteri Bottas (223), George Russell (3)

Season in a nutshell: Yet another year of domination for Mercedes.

For Mercedes, 2020 was a re-definition of the word “dominant”. The team won 13 of the 17 races, scored 15 of the 17 pole positions, while having at least one driver finishing on the podium at almost every race. On the technical side of things, Mercedes had effectively outdone, and one may even say, crushed any potential opposition right from the get-go.

From pre-season testing, it was already clear to everyone that Mercedes were almost certain to dominate the season. Across the 6 days of testing, Mercedes had managed to complete a whopping 903 laps, far ahead of any other team, with the nearest being Ferrari at 844 laps. Not only that, Mercedes had even managed to beat the whole field by a huge margin. 0.6 seconds on long-run pace, and over a second faster on one-lap pace. Then there was the DAS debacle, which saw the device banned for 2021, but still allowed for 2020, which was part of the reason for the W11’s sheer pace over the competition.

However, it should be said, that even without DAS, it was still clear how much faster the W11 was over it’s “competitors” on track. At the Portuguese Grand Prix, Mercedes removed the DAS system from both cars. Removing the DAS system really just showed how far ahead Mercedes were, over the competition on the Technical front. Lewis Hamilton took pole, with a 1:16.652. The fastest non-Mercedes was the RB16 of Max Verstappen. Verstappen was almost 4 tenths down on Hamilton. By the time the chequered flag flew, Hamilton had won the race with a lead of over 30 seconds on Verstappen.

In the world of Formula One, where time is measured in milliseconds, it may as well have been an eternity. Hamilton’s teammate Bottas finished 25 seconds behind him. How far behind was Verstappen? Another 9 seconds. Granted, the race was chaotic. But there was absolutely no denial that Mercedes was far ahead of the competition on the technical side of things.

So what happened in the other 4 races that Mercedes “lost”? Well, at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the W11 struggled with it’s tyres. When it came to the Italian Grand Prix, the team made the mistake of sending Hamilton into the pits when it was closed. At the Sakhir Grand Prix, a messy double stack pit stop ruined what could have been a surefire 1-2, and the maiden win for Hamilton’s stand-in, George Russell. At Abu Dhabi, the team turned down the engines on both cars for “reliability reasons”.

All in all, Mercedes simply had a great season. Sure. On the Race Operations side of things, several major blunders. But these blunders were simply insignificant when it came to the big picture, courtesy of the Technical department. While Mercedes should work on preventing the blunders from reoccurring next season in the Race Operations department, the Technical Department, and the team as a whole, is fully deserving of the praise it is receiving.

Season Score: 9/10

Preview: 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Featured Photo by Abed Ismail on Unsplash

The Sakhir Grand Prix, held a weekend ago, at the Bahrain International Circuit saw a surprise podium. Amid the trouble at Mercedes, alongside the retirement of Max Verstappen on Lap 1, Sergio Perez & Racing Point emerged victorious, with Esteban Ocon in 2nd for Renault, alongside 3rd for his Perez’s teammate Lance Stroll.

This weekend, we find ourselves at the Yas Marina Circuit, located in Sakhir, Bahrain, for the final race of the season. Max Verstappen starts from Pole, with Valtteri Bottas behind him in second.

Continue reading “Preview: 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix”

Preview: 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix

Featured Image by Tobias Sattler on Flickr

The Bahrain Grand Prix, held a weekend ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with Max Verstappen in 2nd for Red Bull, alongside 3rd for his teammate Alex Albon. This weekend sees changes everywhere, in both Formula One & Formula 2, with a new circuit, and several driver changes.

For today’s Sakhir Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas will start from pole position, with George alongside him on the front row of the grid. Ahead of the race, we have compiled a list of things to look out for…

Continue reading “Preview: 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix”

2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Weekend Preview

Featured Image by Tobias Sattler on Flickr

The Bahrain Grand Prix, held a weekend ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with Max Verstappen in 2nd for Red Bull, alongside 3rd for his teammate Alex Albon. This weekend sees changes everywhere, in both Formula One & Formula 2, with a new circuit, and several driver changes.

This weekend will also see the finale of the 2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship. The Sakhir GP weekend marks the final weekend where Formula 2 will run a Feature & Sprint race. The Championship had announced that it would switch to running a 3 race weekend from 2021, as part of cost-cutting measures, which would see 8 race weekends instead of 12 race weekends.

Last weekend, Felipe Drugovich scored victory on Saturday’s Feature Race, while Sunday saw Robert Shwartzman win the shortened Sprint Race.

This weekend, we find ourselves at the Bahrain International Circuit, located in Sakhir, Bahrain. Ahead of any on-track action in Formula 1 & 2, we have compiled a list of things to look out for, as the weekend unfolds ahead, and on-track action begins!

Continue reading “2020 Sakhir Grand Prix Weekend Preview”

Preview: 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix

Featured Image by Habeed Hameed on Flickr

The Turkish Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with Sergio Perez in 2nd for Racing Point & 3rd for Sebastian Vettel & Ferrari. The race also saw Lewis Hamilton achieve his 7th World Drivers’ Championship title, equaling Michael Schumacher’s record for the most WDC titles.

Lewis Hamilton starts today’s race from pole, with Valtteri Bottas alongside him on the front row. Trailing the 2 Silver Arrows, are the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen, and Alex Albon in 3rd & 4th respectively.

The Circuit – Bahrain International Circuit

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Bahrain_International_Circuit--Grand_Prix_Layout.svg

Serkan Demirbaş / CC BY-SA 3.0

This weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix will be held on the Grand Prix Circuit of the Bahrain International Circuit. The track, also set to host next week’s Sakhir Grand Prix, on the Outer Circuit, is a permanent race track in the Sakhir desert, located in outskirts of the Bahraini capital, Manama. Construction on the track began in 2002, with the track being fully complete in 2004.

The track features 6 configurations, alongside a Drag Strip (Dark Grey) . The layouts are as follows:

Grand Prix Circuit (5.411km)
Endurance Circuit (6.299km)
Paddock Circuit (3.705km)
Outer Circuit (3.644km)
Inner Circuit (2.550km)
Flat Oval (2.5 km)

Track maps by Serkan Demirbaş / CC BY-SA 3.0

Aside from the Test Oval & Drag Strip, all configurations meet the FIA Grade 1 standard. The Test Oval & Drag Strip are unrated. As of time of writing, Formula One has used mostly used the Grand Prix Circuit for the Bahrain Grand Prix, bar the 2010 edition, which used the longer Endurance Circuit.

The 5.412km long Grand Prix Circuit features a mix of long straights, alongside a diverse variety of corners, ranging from high-speed to slow corners, and the resultant heavy braking zones. The circuit features 3 DRS zones, located on the pit straight, the straight between Turns 3 & 4, alongside the straight between turns 10 & 11. The 3 DRS detection points are placed 50 metres before Turn 1, 10 metres before Turn 9 and 110 metres before Turn 14.

This means that the circuit remains relatively unchanged, with the sole change being the DRS detection point ahead of Turn 14 being moved back by 2 metres.

Pedro de la Rosa holds the official lap record, a 1:31.447 set in the 2005 Bahrain Grand Prix in the McLaren MP4-20. Charles Leclerc holds the absolute lap record with a 1:27.866 set in Qualifying for the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix, in the Ferrari SF90.

Formula One:

The Battle for 3rd in the Constructors

Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix, a close fight for 3rd in the Constructors Championship is emerging. Currently, 4 teams are vying for 3rd in the Constructors Championship. Racing Point, McLaren, Renault & Ferrari. Racing Point, which currently sits 3rd, with 154 points (following a deduction of 15 points), is trailed closely by McLaren with 149 points. Further behind the 2 are Renault with 136 points, and Ferrari with 130 points.

A total of 24 points separate the 4 teams, meaning that if one team is to score a good result at Bahrain with both cars in the top 6, the trailing teams (McLaren, Renault & Ferrari) could realistically leapfrog up the standings.

Alex Albon: Sink or Swim in the desert battle?

Ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix, Alex Albon had been on a streak of poor performances following his Tuscany Grand Prix podium. During the Eifel Grand Prix, Albon started the race in 5th, before the race began to unfound around him. A lockup on Lap 1 left him with a flat-spotted tyre, compromising his race strategy, and leaving him plummeting down the order. Later on, a clumsy overtake on Daniil Kvyat saw him rip the Russian’s front wing, resulting in a 5 second time penalty for the Anglo-Thai Driver. Albon would wind up retiring from a punctured radiator.

Portugal was no different. Starting from 6th, he plummeted down the order to 12th. Neither was the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Starting from 6th, outqualfied by the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly, he spun on his own accord while in 5th, finishing far down the order in 15th.

Turkey was perhaps a turning point for Albon. From the outset, Albon was on the pace, finishing in the top 6 for each FP session, including 2nd in FP1, and 3rd in FP3. He then qualified in 4th, before going onto finish 7th in the tricky conditions, just behind teammate Verstappen.

By all accounts, Turkey was perhaps the best race weekend Albon had in a long time. Could this be the turning point Albon needs to finish the season on a high? We certainly hope so. Albon’s weekend has been relatively decent thus far, and he managed to secure 4th on the grid in yesterday’s qualifying session.

A good result today will only serve to boost his confidence, and improve his chances of retaining his seat for 2021.

Can Ferrari make some gains in the race?

Ferrari had yet another miserable qualifying, with both cars unable to make it out of Q2. While Ferrari was expected to struggle at Bahrain, given the characteristics of the circuit, it comes after several weekends where the Scuderia made much progress up the order.

An interesting thing to note, however, was that the previous few circuits exhibited characteristics which were somewhat similar to Bahrain, with long, power demanding straights, alongside high speed corners. Even at those circuits, Ferrari had been able to get Leclerc into Q3, to start near the front of the grid…

Unlike most of the other circuits, which are notorious for being difficult to overtake at, Bahrain is a track where overtaking is relatively easy. Could this help Ferrari make progress up the field? It’s certainly a possibility, but this could also prove to be a problem for Ferrari..

Preview: 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix Weekend – Formula 1 & 2

Featured Image by Isabell Schulz on Flickr

The Turkish Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, with Sergio Perez in 2nd for Racing Point & 3rd for Sebastian Vettel & Ferrari. The race also saw Lewis Hamilton achieve his 7th World Drivers’ Championship title, equaling Michael Schumacher’s record for the most WDC titles.

This weekend, Formula 2 returns, after a break of nearly 2 months. The Bahrain GP weekend marks the final 2 weekends where Formula 2 will run a Feature & Sprint race. The Championship had announced that it would switch to running a 3 race weekend from 2021, as part of cost-cutting measures, which would see 8 race weekends instead of 12 race weekends.

Last time out in Russia, Mick Schumacher scored victory on Saturday’s Feature Race, , while Sunday saw Guan Yu Zhou won the shortened Sprint Race. The Sprint Race victory was the Chinese driver’s first Formula 2 race win.

This weekend, we find ourselves at the Bahrain International Circuit, located in Sakhir, Bahrain. Ahead of any on-track action in Formula 1 & 2, we have compiled a list of things to look out for, as the weekend unfolds ahead, and on-track action begins!

Continue reading “Preview: 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix Weekend – Formula 1 & 2”

Preview: 2020 Turkish Grand Prix

Featured Image By Adbar on Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, while Valtteri Bottas finished second, and Daniel Ricciardo rounded off the podium. Hamilton’s win saw him eclipse Michael Schumacher’s race win record of 91 wins, while dealing yet another blow to Valtteri Bottas’ title fight.

This weekend, we find ourselves in Turkey after a 9 year absence, for the Turkish Grand Prix. Formula One returns to the Intercity Istanbul Park for a one-off event, after a 14 year absence.

For today’s race, Lance Stroll starts on Pole, with Max Verstappen Alongside him.

The Circuit – Intercity Istanbul Park

Map by Will Pittenger on Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Intercity Istanbul Park, also simply known as Istanbul Park, is a permanent motorsports complex located in Tulza, located east of Istanbul. The track was designed by Hermann Tilke, and opened on 21 August 2005.

The track runs anti-clockwise, featuring a total of 2 configurations, a Grand Prix circuit, and an Intermediate circuit. Formula One will use the 5.333 km Grand Prix circuit. The circuit is no stranger to Formula One, previously hosting the race from 2005-2011. The circuit has not undergone changes since Formula One’s last visit.

2 DRS Zones are on the circuit, located on the backstraight, and the start/finish straight.

Things to Watch:

Overtaking

How much overtaking can we expect to see this weekend? For Formula One fans who desire to see some overtaking action, the outlook could be good….

Istanbul Park is a circuit with several overtaking opportunities, most notably at Turn 1, alongside the long run from Turn Nine to the final three corners. Prior to the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix, the 2011 Turkish Grand Prix also saw the highest number of overtakes on a dry race, with 80 overtakes.

Formula 1 drivers have said that they anticipate easier overtakes compared at the track at Imola. Daniel Ricciardo stated: “I think it will provide good racing as overtaking should be more straightforward [than Imola],”

How will driver inexperience & reduced data affect teams?

Today’s FP1 was essentially being held on a half-damp track, with almost zero grip, resulting in numerous spins. The half-damp surface came after officials opted to wash the track in the morning, and the water failing to dry in time for FP1.

With the low track grip in FP1 and half-damp surface, it appears that the data collection for teams to understand the track has been hampered. The situation for most teams is not helped by a lack of experience on the circuit for most drivers, with only Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel having ever raced at the track.

This comes alongside a recent resurfacing which effectively led to Pirelli bringing the “wrong” tyres for the race. Mario Isola, Pirelli Formula 1 boss revealed that Pirelli was not aware of the track resurfacing at Istanbul Park, following FP2.

Ferrari

How will Ferrari perform today? Ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix, Ferrari had been expected to struggle, given Istanbul Park’s reputation for being a power-demanding circuit. This was even admitted by team personnel..

Ferrari Sporting Director Laurent Mekies stated in an interview with Pitpass, stating: “Looking at the track characteristics, it won’t be an easy weekend for us. Nevertheless, the pecking order behind the top three drivers is always very close as it has been all season and the slightest thing can make the difference between fighting for a place on the second row or not making it to Q2.”

Ferrari’s form this weekend remains slightly puzzling. The Free Practice results suggested that good things could be on the horizon this weekend for the Scuderia, only for Qualifying to demonstrate otherwise.

In the spin-filled FP1, held on a half-damp track, Ferrari managed to finish 3rd (Charles Leclerc) & 5th (Sebastian Vettel). In FP2, Ferrari managed to come home with 2nd (Charles Leclerc) & 8th (Sebastian Vettel). In FP3, Leclerc came in 2nd, while Vettel came in 6th.

Qualifying on the other hand, could only be described as a disaster. Both cars were in the top 5 for Q1, but when Q2 came around, both cars failed to make it out of the bottom 5, behind both Alfa Romeos. Vettel will start in 11th, while Leclerc will start in 12th.

Ferrari have demonstrated that they can perform in both the dry and the wet with the SF1000 at Turkey in FP. The question is: Can Ferrari be on form in the race and keep themselves in the points or even in sight of a podium? Or will it be another repeat of Q2?

Alex Albon

Is this going to be Albon’s redemption weekend? So far, the Anglo-Thai driver has endured an awful season, with much pressure placed upon him for failing to come close to teammate Max Verstappen in several areas.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner had said previously that Albon had 2 races to show he deserved a 2021 seat at the senior team. Horner identified the races as the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, alongside the Portuguese Grand Prix. Unfortunately for Albon, both races were disasters for him, as he score no points.

Albon has performed consistently well thus far this weekend, with top 5 finishes in all 3 FP sessions, and then qualifying 4th. A very respectable job thus far this weekend, and we certainly hope to see him perform as well in the race!

The Skies Above

Qualifying and FP3 saw a wet track, and many spins on the relaid asphalt on the track earlier in the weekend. Should there be a wet track, chaos and carnage could surely be on the cards for the fans…

So, what does the weather forecast say?

The probability of rain during the race is currently 20%, with a maximum expected temperature of 14 degrees. In the event of precipitation, it is likely to be light rain. While those looking for a spectacle on TV today might feel disappointed, just remember, a few damp spots on the circuit could still give us some drama on track!

Is Hamilton’s 7th title coming today?

This weekend also sees Hamilton have the chance to win his 7th Formula One title, equaling that of Michael Schumacher’s record. Below, we have placed a table depicting the scenarios which will grant Hamilton his 7th title.

For Bottas to deny Hamilton his title, Bottas must finish no lower than 7th on Sunday…

If Bottas Finishes

Hamilton Must Finish

1st + Fastest Lap

Title fight continues at Bahrain

1st

2nd

2nd + fastest lap

4th

2nd

5th + fastest lap / 4th

3rd + fastest lap

5th

3rd

6th

4th + fastest lap

7th

4th

8th + fastest lap / 7th

5th + fastest lap

8th

5th

9th + fastest lap / 8th

6th + fastest lap

9th

6th

10th

7th & Below

Hamilton wins 7th title

Preview: Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Featured Image by Marpol on Wikimedia Commons

The Portuguese Grand Prix, held a fortnight ago, saw Lewis Hamilton & Mercedes emerge victorious, while Valtteri Bottas finished second, and Max Verstappen rounded off the podium. Hamilton’s win saw him eclipse Michael Schumacher’s race win record of 91 wins, while dealing yet another blow to Valtteri Bottas’ title fight.

This weekend, we find ourselves in Italy for the third time this season, with the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix. Formula One returns to the historic Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari for a one-off event, after a 14 year absence.

Ahead of the weekend’s first on-track action, we take a look at things to lookout this weekend

The Circuit – Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari

The Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, also simply known as Imola, is a permanent motorsports complex located outside the town of Imola. The track is named after the late Enzo Ferrari, and his son, Alfredo Ferrari. 

The track features a total of 2 configurations, a Grand Prix circuit, and a Motorcycle circuit. Formula One will use the 4.909 km Grand Prix circuit, without the Variante Bassa Chicane. The circuit is no stranger to Formula One, previously hosting the San Marino Grand Prix from 1980-2006. However, the circuit has undergone changes since Formula One’s last visit, with the elimination of the Variante Bassa Chicane on the Start/Finish straight in 2008, alongside a new pit complex with a longer pitlane.

Today, Imola features a mix of medium to fast corners, alongside a series of elevation changes in the second sector. A Single DRS Zone is located on the start/finish straight.

Things to Watch:

Overtaking

How much overtaking can we expect to see this weekend? For Formula One fans who desire to see some overtaking action, the outlook appears to be not so good….

Imola is circuit with a reputation for being hard to overtake at, and with a single DRS zone, it appears like that we will only see overtakes on the start/finish straight on the run to Tamburello…

How will a lack of data affect teams?

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix Weekend will be held over 2 days, unlike the traditional 3 day weekend. Will this affect the pecking order?

Earlier in the season, the Eifel Grand Prix saw Friday running curtailed due to weather, resulting in just 2 days of on-track running, alongside a single practice session. From the Eifel Grand Prix, we can make the following deductions: In the front of the field, expect to see little to no change in the pecking order. In the midfield however, expect to see a potential shake up in the pecking order, as the close performance of the cars leave little room to error for those teams…

Track Limits

This weekend has seen the debate over track limits spring up again, with drivers taking opposing sides on the issue. This comes after numerous drivers wound up breaching track limits in practice & subsequently qualifying. The situation in practice resulted in drivers forcing changes to the limits at the exits of turn 13 & 15 following practice.

Despite the expanded track limits, expect the issue to continue today in the race, as drivers push the limits, in a bid to take places, especially in the opening laps, with the track’s reputation for being notorious to overtake at…

The fight for 4th

Pierre Gasly stormed to 4th in Q3 yesterday, setting a blistering lap of 1:14.502. Given the narrow nature of the Imola circuit, overtaking will be a challenge. Starting alongside him however, is none other than Daniel Ricciardo, well known for his aggressive overtakes. Expect a close fight between the 2 on the run down to Tamburello corner, for the victor could realistically hold onto the place for the rest of the race. However, there is still more than 1 contender for 4th, Gasly aside.

Behind the duo sits Alex Albon & Charles Leclerc. Alex Albon is currently under much pressure at Red Bull, and will most certainly be seeking to chase down Gasly, to avoid yet another embarrassment after Q3. The Anglo-Thai driver is under much pressure to perform, after last week’s miserable result at the Portuguese Grand Prix. In order to retain his seat, beating a “lesser” AlphaTauri is an absolute must for him.

Starting alongside Albon is Leclerc. Like Ricciardo, Leclerc is a rather aggressive driver, and while he may be held back by the limitations of the Ferrari PU and chassis, he will certainly be on the attack at the start of the race..

Preview: 2020 Russian Grand Prix

The Circuit – Sochi Autodrom

Pitlane02 / CC BY-SA 3.0

This weekend’s Russian Grand Prix will be held at the Sochi Autodrom. The track, formerly known as the Sochi International Street Circuit and the Sochi Olympic Park Circuit, is a semi-permanent race track in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi in Krasnodar Krai, Russia. The track snakes round the Olympic Park utilised for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, with the starting grid being located in the northern section of the area, just south of the Imeretinsky Kurort railway station.

The track features 2 configurations, the semi-permanent Grand Prix Circuit, and the permanent short circuit. The Russian Grand Prix will be held on the semi-permanent layout, which features 18 turns and has a length of 5.848 km, including 2 DRS Zones, located on the start/finish straight, and the curved backstretch.

The official lap record stands at 1:35.761, set by Lewis Hamilton in 2019, while the outright fastest lap was set by Valtteri Bottas in 2018, with a 1:31.387. The Formula 2 Lap Record stands at 1:46.476, set by Nyck de Vries in 2018.

The Things to Watch Out For:

Albon’s fightback

Ahead of the race, it was announced that Alex Albon would be taking a 5 place grid penalty owing to a gearbox change, which violated the 6 race per gearbox rule. This deals a further blow to Albon this weekend, the British-Thai driver having qualified in 10th, a lowly result for a Red Bull driver.

Not only was Albon over a second behind teammate Max Verstappen in Q3, who is set to start the race in P2, Albon was consistently outpaced by the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly across qualifying. Albon has to demonstrate solid race pace & results, if he seeks to retain his seat with the team for 2021.

While Red Bull has pledged it’s support for Albon, the pressure is undoubtedly mounting on him once more, and Gasly beating him in an “inferior” AlphaTauri is not a good sign for him. A pledge of support at Red Bull could well be a meaningless PR statement, as Pierre Gasly found out last year, and Albon needs to produce an excellent race today.

Overtaking

How many or how few overtakes will we see today? The past few races have seen a large number overtakes due to various factors that added much spice to the on-track action, even on circuits where overtaking has, or was expected to be poor. The Sochi Autodrom happens to be a track that falls into this category, with the 2017 edition of the race seeing just a single overtake.

Valtteri Bottas

The Sochi Autodrom is a place that holds a mix of good and bad memories for Valtteri Bottas. The track was where Bottas scored his first fastest lap, in the 2014 edition, and his first victory, in 2017. The track was also the site of a controversial team order, which saw Bottas being asked to cede his lead to Hamilton, an order the Finn did not expect.

Bottas arrives in Russia, with a single win, 2 poles, and 135 points. His biggest rival, and teammate, Lewis Hamilton on the other hand, arrives in Russia with 6 wins, 7 poles, and 190 points. The gap has been growing at nearly every race, and Bottas is aware his title chances are steadily decreasing as he continues to finish behind Hamilton each race.

Bottas starts the race on the backfoot compared to Hamilton, with the Finn starting on the second row of the grid.

Russia has been a place where his happiest, and darkest moments in the sport have occured. Can Bottas add yet another happy memory in Russia, by using Sunday’s race to breathe life into his title charge? We shall see later today.

Preview: 2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Weekend

Formula 1 returns to Silverstone, once more on the Arena Grand Prix Circuit after an action packed race last Sunday. The 2020 Britsh Grand Prix saw a chaotic ending, with drivers encountering various issues with tyres, and with both categories running softer, and less durable compounds this weekend, it could prove to be an exciting race to watch…

Continue reading “Preview: 2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Weekend”