2018 Russian GP – Preview

Lewis Hamilton took a potentially-decisive stranglehold on the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship by winning the Singapore Grand Prix for the fourth time, converting from pole position, the 200th by a English driver in Formula One, to claim his fourth win in the last five races, and put Sebastian Vettel firmly on the back foot as they head to Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix.

Hamilton (281 points) for Mercedes leads by 40 points over Ferrari’s Vettel (241 points) as the quest for five world championships swings heavily in the British driver’s favour. If Hamilton claims pole position in Russia, it would be his 80th in Formula One, and should he win on Sunday, it would be the 70th win of his career, and move him to within 21 of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins, who Hamilton replaced of course after Schumacher retired from the sport for a second time at the end of 2012.

Behind the championship battle, the fight for third is intensifying with Kimi Räikkönen (174 points) and Valtteri Bottas (171 points) now being separated by just three points after finishing fifth and fourth respectively in Singapore, and are most certainly looking very much the support cast in their teammates quest to claim their fifth world championship.

Max Verstappen (148 points) has moved closer to the battle for third in the championship after finishing in third in Singapore, but his Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer teammate Daniel Ricciardo (126 points) is falling away from this battle despite ending a run of two-straight retirements with a sixth-place finish at the Singapore Grand Prix. Ricciardo is now officially out of contention for the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship, even though it wasn’t expected that he could fight for the championship in 2018.

Behind the clear top six, there are eight drivers fighting for seventh in the world championship, as well as places inside the top 10, with those eight drivers separated by 26 points with six races left in the season.

In terms of the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (452 points) extended their lead to 37 points over Ferrari (415 points) after their shock performance in Singapore, with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (274 points) in a clear third. Behind them, Renault (91 points) pull away again from Haas-Ferrari (76 points) in the battle for fourth, while McLaren-Renault (58 points) are in a clear, but stagnant sixth, followed by Force India-Mercedes (32 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (30 points), Sauber-Ferrari (21 points), and the hapless Williams-Mercedes (seven points), whose best chance for points in the final six races might be here in Sochi.

So, who will win the Russian Grand Prix?

Since the race came into the championship in 2014, Mercedes have won each of the four races in Sochi, with Lewis Hamilton taking the first two in 2014 and 2015, before Nico Rosberg won in 2016 to complete a run of seven-straight wins, including four at the start of 2016, and Valtteri Bottas claimed his first race victory in his Formula One career after holding off Sebastian Vettel in 2017.

Overall, I think Mercedes are going to have a tough battle with Ferrari once again, but it won’t be just Hamilton and Vettel, but both Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen will play a huge part. In my opinion, it is most certainly a must win for Vettel, but whoever finds their stride the best at the start of the weekend will most certainly be the ones to beat, and I think Hamilton might just snatch another race from underneath the noses of Ferrari, and pull the world championship further away from Vettel.

2018 Aragon GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a wonderful, fine, and sunny weekend at Misano, where Andrea Dovizioso took victory to help Ducati, and the Ducati Team, complete the “Italian double”, winning at both Mugello and Misano in the same season for the very first time, the MotoGP grid left the Adriatic coast of Italy to head to the desert-like surrounds of Motorland Aragón in Alcañiz in Spain for Round 14 of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, and with six rounds remaining, you sense that something unfortunate would need to happen to deny Marc Márquez his fifth MotoGP World Championship, and his seventh world championship across all classes.

Márquez (221 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 67 points over Dovizioso (154 points) after finishing a safe second after sitting behind Jorge Lorenzo for the majority of the race, following his fellow Spaniard as he tried to chase down his teammate, before watching Lorenzo crash out with only a few laps to go to secure second-place, but Márquez couldn’t chase down Dovizioso, who was well out of sight by that point.

Valentino Rossi (151 points) slipped to third in the championship after struggling once again on his Yamaha, finishing in seventh as the Movistar Yamaha MotoGP, and Yamaha as a manufacturer, now on their longest winless streak (22 races) in their history, with no win since the 2017 Dutch TT.

Lorenzo (130 points) is fourth in the world championship despite crashing out while trying to chase down his teammate Dovizioso, remounting to finish in 17th, while Rossi’s teammate Maverick Viñales (124 points) is fifth in the championship after finishing fifth at Misano as the struggles of Yamaha continued.

Closing in on Viñales is LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow (119 points), taking advantage of Lorenzo’s crash to take a well-deserved third, while Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (110 points) and Alma Pramac Racing’s Danilo Petrucci (110 points) are starting to slip back in the championship after poor results in Misano. Zarco’s struggles are particularly evident with no top six finishes in the last eight completed MotoGP races.

The two Team Suzuki Ecstar riders in Andrea Iannone (92 points) and Álex Rins (79 points) completes the Top 10 in the championship, and with some luck, should be capable of achieving a podium in one of the last six races of the season, with Dani Pedrosa (76 points), the teammate of Márquez, just outside of the Top 10 in his final season in MotoGP.

So, who is going to win the Aragon Grand Prix?

This circuit in the recent past has been a favourite for Marc Márquez, and is one of the few anti-clockwise circuits on the calendar, with Márquez winning at least three races in each of his seasons since joining the premier class on anti-clockwise circuits, and will most certainly be the one to beat.

Outside of Márquez, the two Ducati’s of Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso will be his closest challengers, with Dovizioso perhaps the only rider who could snatch the world championship away from the defending champion, but you sense last season was his best chance of winning a MotoGP World Championship.

Right now, you sense Marc Márquez is a win away from having one hand on a third-straight world championship.


2018 Singapore GP – Preview

Once again, in a pressure-filled race at the home of Italian motorsport where the two main championship contenders needed to win in order to hold the supremacy heading into the flyaway races, it was Lewis Hamilton who handled the pressure the best, while Sebastian Vettel spun his grip of the championship, in terms of momentum, firmly out of his grasp, and now looks at Singapore as a race he must win in order to stay in contention for a fifth world championship.

Hamilton (256 points) leads the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship for Mercedes by a healthy 30 points over Ferrari’s Vettel (226 points) after winning the Italian Grand Prix for the fifth-time, equalling Michael Schumacher’s record for most wins at the Italian Grand Prix, while Vettel managed to recover from his spin on the opening lap to finish in fourth.

Vettel has had not so much of a habit, but an ability under pressure to make some mistakes, like we saw when he was leading the German Grand Prix back in July, sliding out of the race in inclement conditions, and last year at the Singapore Grand Prix, which saw both Ferrari’s retire on the opening lap for the first time in history, and saw the front row of Vettel and Max Verstappen wiped out on the opening lap.

However, the spin which saw Vettel having to charge back through the field at Monza was not too dissimilar to the spin he had on the opening lap of the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix when he was fighting for the world championship in the final race of the season with Fernando Alonso. Luckily for Vettel, he managed to do just enough to win what was his third world championship, finishing in seventh, but when Vettel is under pressure, he is vulnerable to a mistake, and right now, Vettel is under the most pressure heading into Singapore.

Looking behind the battle for the championship, there is a close battle for third in the championship between Kimi Räikkönen (164 points) and Valtteri Bottas (159 points) for Ferrari and Mercedes respectively after finishing second and third at Monza, with the Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer duo of Max Verstappen (130 points) and Daniel Ricciardo (118 points) starting to slip away from that battle due to mistakes and/or reliability issues, with Singapore a key race for them to keep their hopes of third in the drivers’ world championship alive.

Going back to Räikkönen, he will be moving back to Sauber in 2019, the same team which gave him his start in Formula One back in 2001, and will be replaced by Charles Leclerc, who has impressed in a number of races this year in the Sauber-Ferrari, a car which is certainly nowhere near the class of the front-runners.

Below the top six in the world championship, there is a five-way battle for seventh with Nico Hülkenberg (52 points) for Renault, Kevin Magnussen (49 points) for Haas-Ferrari, and the two Force India-Mercedes of Sergio Pérez (46 points) and Esteban Ocon (45 points) completing the top 10 in the championship, with McLaren-Renault’s Fernando Alonso (44 points) slipping out of the top 10 after consecutive retirements.

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (415 points) lead by 25 points over Ferrari (390 points), with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (248 points) in a very comfortable third. They are ahead of a tight battle for fourth between Renault (86 points) and Haas-Ferrari (76 points), with McLaren-Renault (52 points) in sixth ahead of Force India-Mercedes (32 points) in seventh, with Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (30 points), Sauber-Ferrari (19 points), and Williams-Mercedes (seven points) completing the standings.

So, who will win the Singapore Grand Prix?

In my opinion, it is a must win race for Sebastian Vettel if he wants to stay in touch with Lewis Hamilton in the championship, and Ferrari should be stronger here than Mercedes, but the only complication here for Ferrari is that Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer should be strong here, like they were in Monaco, another street circuit with similar characteristics.

I think given recent events, and mechanical reliability, I am going to tip Max Verstappen to win his first Singapore Grand Prix, with Sebastian Vettel in a close second, Daniel Ricciardo, providing that his power-unit is reliable, and that he doesn’t have a grid penalty, in third, with Lewis Hamilton finishing in fourth.