MotoGP Austria GP – Preview

The 11th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg in Austria, a week after the Czech Republic Grand Prix that amazed in so many ways.

Marc Márquez leads the world championship on 154 points after taking his second-successive victory of the season at the Brno Circuit after him and his team made some very smart calls in regards to their race strategy.

Starting in very intermediate conditions, bordering on dry conditions, Márquez and his Repsol Honda Team decided to start on the soft wet rear tyre, a tyre which in the eyes of many would degrade quicker than the medium wet rear tyre in those conditions. However, when Márquez realised that this wasn’t working, as he was falling back down the field, he pitted at the end of Lap Two to change bikes for one with dry tyres (medium front, medium rear), and it worked!

Most of the field were slow to realise that the track conditions had changed, and were made to look like fools by the fast-thinking Márquez, and his team, cruising in the end to a 12.438 second victory over his teammate Dani Pedrosa, who now sits fifth in the championship on 123 points, 31 points behind Márquez.

Second in the championship is the man who finished third in the Czech Republic, Maverick Viñales. The factory Yamaha rider was lucky not to lose more points against his main championship rival after pitting two laps later than Márquez. Viñales is now on 140 points, 14 points behind his fellow Spaniard.

Andrea Dovizioso is third in the world championship for Ducati on 133 points, 21 points behind the championship leader after finishing in sixth in the Czech Republic.

Dovizioso pitted three laps later than Márquez, and one lap later than teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who got caught out by his team not being ready for him to pit, meaning that he finished 15th in the race, and leaves Lorenzo down in 10th position in the championship on 66 points in what has been his worst season to date.

Valentino Rossi is fourth in world championship on his factory Yamaha on 132 points, 22 points behind Márquez after finishing fourth at the Brno Circuit, pitting three laps later than the race winner and championship leader.

Johann Zarco is sixth in the championship on his Yamaha on 88 points, 11 points ahead of his teammate Jonas Folger (77 points), who is ahead of both Danilo Petrucci and Cal Crutchlow, who are both on 75 points each.

Looking ahead to the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring, it looks to be a circuit on paper that suits the Ducati down to a tee. They were dominant last year at the Red Bull Ring, picking up a one-two finish with Andrea Iannone finishing ahead of Andrea Dovizioso at one of the most power sensitive circuits on the calendar, rewarding the straight-line speed and engine power of the Ducati.

The Red Bull Ring is also a circuit that also rewards a well-handling bike, with the Yamaha’s of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi finishing under four seconds behind the race winner, despite the supposed lack of power and straight-line speed from the Yamaha and their engine.

Also, despite their bad performance last year at the Red Bull Ring, you cannot rule out the two factory Honda’s having a big say in who is going to win the Austrian Grand Prix.

The maximum temperatures for the weekend in Spielberg are set to be ranging between 19 and 22 degrees Celsius, and that will certainly suit the factory Yamaha’s of Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi over the factory Honda’s of Marc Márquez and Dani Pedrosa if previous history is anything to go by in 2017.

However, as far as the track characteristics are concerned, all signs point to a Ducati win, and I believe Jorge Lorenzo will get his first victory for the Italian manufacturer in a one-two finish ahead of Andrea Dovizioso.

 

MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:55am, and 2:05pm local time (5:55pm, and 10:05pm AEST). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (5:55pm AEST), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (10:10pm and 10:35pm AEST). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (5:40pm AEST), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST).

MotoGP Czech Republic GP – Preview

The 10th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Brno Circuit in the Czech Republic, and after a mid-season break that seems to have gone on forever, it is time to get back to racing to start the second half of the season to continue an amazing championship battle.

And what a battle we have! The top five riders in the world championship are separated by 26 points heading into the final nine races of 2017, and have all won at least one race during the opening nine rounds of the season.

Marc Márquez leads the world championship on 129 points on his factory Honda, which is the lowest points score by a rider leading the world championship after the opening nine rounds since the current points-scoring system was introduced back in 1993, five points ahead of factory Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales, who is on 124 points.

However, Viñales has won more races so far in 2017 than his fellow Spaniard with three victories (Qatar, Argentina, and France), compared to Márquez, who has achieved two victories (Americas, and Germany).

Behind the two pre-season favourites after the halfway mark of the season is factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso on 123 points, six points behind Márquez in the world championship after winning two races (Italy, and Catalunya), and becoming the first Ducati rider since Casey Stoner back in 2010 to win consecutive races for the manufacturer.

Valentino Rossi is fourth in the championship on his factory Yamaha on 119 points, 10 points behind Márquez after achieving one victory during the opening half of the season, at the eighth round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship at Assen.

Behind Rossi is Dani Pedrosa, who is fifth in the world championship on 103 points, 26 points behind his factory Honda teammate Márquez after winning the Spanish Grand Prix earlier this year at Jerez, and is still well and truly in championship contention.

However, behind the battle for the championship is a great scrap for sixth in the championship standings between Johann Zarco (84 points), Jonas Folger (71 points), Danilo Petrucci (66 points), Jorge Lorenzo (65 points), and Cal Crutchlow (64 points).

All five of these riders have been on the podium at least once this season, and in the case of Petrucci, twice. As well as this, the three riders of those five (Zarco, Folger, and Petrucci) who haven’t won a race in the premier class in their careers to date have shown that they can challenge the very best on their day, and could possibly claim their first MotoGP race victories during the second-half of the season.

The two out of those five (Lorenzo and Crutchlow) who have won races in the premier class, and in the case of Lorenzo, world championships, have struggled to put together a string of good results so far in 2017, and need to find some consistency in the second-half to have any hope of achieving a top five finish in the championship.

So, MotoGP heads to the Czech Republic with at least ten riders who have shown that they are capable of winning a race in 2017, and with the conditions set to be fine, but hotter than normal, it leaves this race wide open.

However, especially given Honda have won five of the last six races at the Brno Circuit, if the track conditions are slippery, it will suit the Japanese manufacturer extremely well.

However, if the track has a lot of grip in its asphalt, it will bring it more in the favour of Yamaha, and in particular Ducati.

So, who am I tipping to win the Czech Republic Grand Prix?

Well, no rider has won at the Brno Circuit in consecutive years in MotoGP since Valentino Rossi won the races in 2008 and 2009, and suspect this record will still be standing at the end of the weekend.

So, I am going to tip Marc Márquez to win the tenth round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship in a fantastic battle with Dani Pedrosa.

 

MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:55am, and 2:05pm local time (5:55pm, and 10:05pm AEST). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (5:55pm AEST), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (10:10pm and 10:35pm AEST). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (5:40pm AEST), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST).

 

 

2017 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

The 11th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at the Hungaroring in the village of Mogyoród, just outside of Budapest in Hungary.

Sebastian Vettel comes into the Hungarian Grand Prix with a one point lead over his nearest championship rival Lewis Hamilton. Vettel leads on 177 points after a late tyre puncture cost him vital championship points at the British Grand Prix, finishing in seventh, and last on the lead lap at Silverstone.

Meanwhile, Hamilton (176 points) cruised to a fifth British Grand Prix victory, which equalled the records of Jim Clark and Alain Prost, which was his fourth victory of the season, and his third grand slam (pole position, race win, fastest lap, and leading every lap of the race) of 2017.

Challenging those two in the world championship battle is Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, who is just 23 points behind Vettel in the Drivers’ World Championship on 154 points, after helping Mercedes grab an unexpected one-two at Silverstone, capitalising on the tyre issues suffered by both Ferrari’s after starting ninth on the grid due to an unscheduled gearbox change.

Daniel Ricciardo is fourth in the world championship for Red Bull on 117 points, 60 points behind Vettel after finishing fifth at the British Grand Prix after starting 19th due to mechanical problems with his car in qualifying (although he had a five-place grid penalty for a unscheduled gearbox change), and an early run off the circuit during the opening laps of the race.

Kimi Räikkönen is fifth in the drivers’ world championship on 98 points after a brilliant drive at Silverstone, running in second for the vast majority of the race, and was faster than his teammate Vettel, before he had to pit because of a slow puncture. However, Räikkönen did recover to salvage third for Ferrari, and proved to all of the doubters, including his own team, that he is far from done in his Formula One career.

Talking about being far from done, Max Verstappen’s 2017 season hasn’t really gotten started, but at the British Grand Prix, his Red Bull managed to hold up and be reliable enough to claim fourth in the race to return to sixth in the world championship on 57 points, sneaking ahead of Force India driver Sergio Pérez (52 points), who finished ninth at Silverstone.

Esteban Ocon is eighth in the world championship on 43 points after finishing a position ahead of his teammate Pérez at the British Grand Prix, with Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz Jr. (29 points) ninth in the championship standings, ahead of Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg (26 points), who produced arguably his best performance of the season to date, qualifying sixth, starting fifth, and finishing in sixth position in a car that is no where near the standard of the front-runners.

Taking a look at the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (330 points) have extended their lead to 55 points over Ferrari (275 points), with Red Bull comfortably in third position on 174 points, ahead of Force India (95 points), who are comfortably ahead of a great scrap for fifth place, with Williams (41 points), Toro Rosso (33 points), Haas (29 points) and Renault (26 points) all within 15 points of each other.

Ninth in the Constructors’ World Championship is Sauber on five points, with the struggling McLaren on just two points.

Looking at who will be strong at the Hungaroring, the top three teams in Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have cars that should suit this circuit quite well, with some longer, faster corners that should suit Mercedes, point and squirt sections which will suit Ferrari, and a lack of long straights that will give Red Bull a podium sniff.

However, looking at the drivers who have been successful at the Hungarian Grand Prix, only one driver stands out.

That is Lewis Hamilton, who has won at the Hungaroring on five occasions, and while his main objective will be to claim his sixth Hungarian Grand Prix victory on Sunday, Hamilton, on Saturday, will be looking to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 career pole positions in Formula One, and similar to when he equalled Ayrton Senna’s pole position record in Canada, this would be the perfect place to equal this record, given the success he has had here, a place where Schumacher won at on four occasions.

Hamilton is my tip for the Hungarian Grand Prix, and if he does win, he will take the lead in the world championship.

As for the other podium positions, I am tipping Kimi Räikkönen to continue the form he showed at Silverstone to finish in second, ahead of a tight battle between (in no particular order) Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 2pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).

The 70 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (10pm AEST).

 

2017 British Grand Prix Preview

The 10th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at the Silverstone Circuit in Northamptonshire in England.

Sebastian Vettel comes into the British Grand Prix with the championship lead on 171 points, 20 points ahead of championship rival Lewis Hamilton (151 points), after the Ferrari driver finished second at the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend, pushing eventual winner, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, all the way.

Hamilton lost ground to Vettel in the championship standings after being forced to take a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change in his Mercedes. Starting from eighth on the grid, Hamilton managed to make up four positions before running out of time to pass Daniel Ricciardo for the final spot on the podium.

The winner of the Austrian Grand Prix, Bottas, is third in the world drivers’ championship on 136 points, 35 points behind Vettel, and in some people’s eyes, is starting to look like a serious championship contender, but if he is not considered by people as a serious championship contender, Bottas is at least stealing critical points away from Vettel on the days that Hamilton is having a struggle.

Ricciardo is fourth in the world championship in his Red Bull on 107 points, 64 points behind Vettel in the world championship after achieving his fifth-consecutive podium at the Austrian Grand Prix after holding off a fast-charging Hamilton, and although he isn’t a serious championship contender in 2017, Ricciardo has been in the right place at the right time to pick up the pieces when more fancied rivals are having a tough day, or weekend, to grab some solid results.

Someone who should be a championship contender is Kimi Räikkönen, but he is struggling in fifth position in the world championship on 83 points after finishing fifth at the Austrian Grand Prix. He is under serious pressure to keep his seat at Ferrari for 2018, and with a number of rising stars putting in some great performances in lesser machinery, his career could be coming to an end at the end of 2017.

Sergio Pérez is sixth in the world championship on 50 points, and has been putting in some solid performances in his Force India, just like his teammate Esteban Ocon, who sits in eighth in the drivers’ championship on 39 points.

However, it is the man who sits in seventh position in the championship that has had all the bad luck that you could imagine! Max Verstappen is having a horror run, with his third retirement in a row, and his fifth retirement of the season, which is precisely his fifth retirement in the last seven races.

Verstappen sits on 45 points in the world championship after finishing just four races out of the opening nine rounds. He has had problems ranging from a brake failure in Bahrain, to damage from a first lap collision with Räikkönen in Spain, to an electrical issue in Canada, to an oil pressure issue in Azerbaijan, to more opening lap collision damage in Austria.

In addition to this, Verstappen had misfire problems with his engine/powerunit in qualifying in China, which contributed to him starting 16th on the grid, which he recovered from spectacularly after a brilliant start, picking up nine places on the opening lap, which was the catalyst to his awesome drive to third, beating his teammate Ricciardo in the process.

So, Verstappen has only had three weekends where qualifying and/or the race hasn’t been interrupted by a serious issue. He needs a result this weekend to keep within touch of the front-runners in this world championship.

In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes still lead the way on 287 points, 23 points ahead of Ferrari (254 points). Red Bull are third on 152 points, while Force India are fourth on 89 points.

Looking at who will be strong at Silverstone this weekend, the fast-flowing nature of the circuit combined with a couple of long straights, the Wellington and Hangar straights to be precise, should suit the long-wheelbase of the Mercedes, although you would expect Ferrari to be a strong package at Silverstone, and you cannot rule out Red Bull here at a track which has suited them in the past.

However, only four of the current drivers have won the British Grand Prix, and while no one expects the winner of the 2006 and 2011 race, Fernando Alonso, to challenge in his McLaren-Honda, the other three drivers are all in race-winning machinery, and are capable of grabbing the crucial 25 points that are on offer.

Kimi Räikkönen, the 2007 winner looks the least likely given his form, but what is most is most surprising is that Sebastian Vettel has only won the British Grand Prix once, all the way back in 2009, the last race on the old layout in his first year with Red Bull. He will be looking to give Ferrari their first win at Silverstone since 2011.

Lewis Hamilton, on the otherhand, has a wonderful record at the British Grand Prix, winning the race four times, including the last three editions. He will be looking to join Jim Clark and Alain Prost as a five-time winner of the British Grand Prix, as well as become the first driver since Clark to win the British Grand Prix four years in a row.

And, if Hamilton grabs pole position on Saturday for the British Grand Prix, he will move to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of 68 career pole positions in Formula One.

So my tip this weekend is for a fifth British Grand Prix victory for Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 9am and 1pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 10am and 1pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).

The 52 lap race is on Sunday from 1pm local time (10pm AEST).

2017 Austrian Grand Prix Preview

The ninth round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria.

Sebastian Vettel leads the world drivers’ championship for Ferrari on 153 points, extending his lead over Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (139 points) to 14 points after both finishing off the podium in Azerbaijan in fourth and fifth respectively, making it the first race since the Malaysian Grand Prix last year where neither Vettel or Hamilton finished on the podium.

Both the championship protagonists had problems in Azerbaijan, with Vettel receiving a 10 second STOP-AND-GO penalty after causing a collision with Hamilton, while Hamilton had to unexpectedly pit to change his headrest after it wasn’t attached properly after the red flag midway through the race.

The penalty for Vettel received a lot of criticism for various media sources close to Formula One, as well as teams, drivers, and legends of the sport.

I have stated my opinion on the incident between Vettel and Hamilton last week and while I thought Vettel should have been disqualified for breaches of Article 27.4, and Article 39.8 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations, I can understand the difficulty stewards had in handing out a penalty that fit the crime due to the penalty-points system that has been introduced into Formula One in recent years, and thought it was the better way of handling the incident, although many people would disagree with this.

Valtteri Bottas is third in the world championship for Mercedes on 111 points after salvaging a miraculous second after being a lap down after two laps after a tyre puncture after a collision with Kimi Räikkönen.

Räikkönen drops to fifth in the world championship on 73 points after having a myriad of issues in Azerbaijan, eventually retiring with an oil leak. He needs to respond this with a podium (at worst), otherwise his place at Ferrari for 2018 will be under scrutiny.

The man in fourth position in the world championship is Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (92 points) after a remarkable victory on the streets of Baku, taking his fifth race win of his Formula One career, and capping off a run of four-consecutive podiums.

While he has never had to best car throughout his Formula One career so far, Ricciardo has this innate ability to put himself in at the right place, at the right time to pick up the pieces if rivals have problems, and run with it!

Talking about fierce rivals, Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen cannot a trick right now in his Red Bull, suffering his fourth retirement of the season, and his second retirement in a row at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, growing ever frustrated at his team’s inability to produce a reliable car.

Verstappen looked like a genuine contender for a race victory in Baku for most of the weekend until encountering issues with his car. Red Bull have got to sort out their reliability issues with both cars if they want to make sure they keep third place in the Constructors’ Championship ahead of Force India.

Before I touch on the Constructors’ Championship, I would like to give a special mention to Lance Stroll for his first podium in Formula One. Stroll drove a very mature race to become the second-youngest driver to finish on a Formula One podium, and while he is not the finished product yet, he does have some untapped potential and deserves to be persevered with.

In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (250 points) lead by 24 points over Ferrari (226 points), with both Red Bull (137 points) and Force India (79 points) comfortably in third and fourth respectively. There is a good scrap for fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship with Williams (37 points), Toro Rosso (33 points), Haas (21 points), and Renault (18 points) all within 19 points of each other, with Sauber (five points) and McLaren (two points) battling for ninth and 10th in the Constructors’ Championship after Fernando Alonso scored McLaren’s first points of the season in Azerbaijan.

Looking at who will be strong at the Red Bull Ring, on paper Mercedes looks like the better package, who have all the ingredients for success in Spielberg, with a strong powerunit, a well-balanced car through the quick corners and changes of direction, and decent traction out of the slow to medium speed corners.

Ferrari also look close to Mercedes on paper, while it will be interesting to see whether Red Bull will have a good package in Austria to challenge Mercedes and Ferrari.

I am tipping a Mercedes victory, with Lewis Hamilton leading home a Mercedes one-two finish.

 

The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 10am and 2pm local time (6pm and 10pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 11am and 2pm local time (7pm and 10pm AEST).

The 71 lap race is on Sunday from 2pm local time (10pm AEST).

2017 MotoGP German GP – Preview

This weekend, the ninth round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship will take place at the Sachsenring in the town of Hohenstein-Ernstthal near the German city of Chemnitz, and with the mid-season break fast approaching, a number of riders will be looking to achieve good results to consolidate or improve their position in the world championship.

The MotoGP field heads into the ninth round of 2017 with a new championship leader with Andrea Dovizioso leading on 115 points, which is the lowest for a world championship leader in the premier class after eight rounds since the current points-scoring system was introduced back in 1993.

Dovizioso leads by four points over Maverick Viñales (111 points), with Valentino Rossi (108 points), and Marc Márquez (104 points) all within 11 points of the championship leader, and is unsurprisingly the smallest margin covering the top four riders in the premier class after eight rounds since the current points-scoring system was introduced back in 1993.

Dovizioso will be looking to secure his third victory of the season this weekend, but has never won at the Sachsenring across any of the classes. His best performance at the German Grand Prix has been two third-place finishes back in 2012 and 2016 respectively.

Viñales too has never won the Sachsenring in his career to date, with his best performance at the German Grand Prix being two third-place finishes 2011 and 2013 in the beginner’s class (125cc/Moto3). However, Viñales will be desperate to grab his fourth victory of the season after crashing out of the Dutch TT under a week ago.

Rossi, unlike Dovizioso and Viñales, has had plenty of success at the Sachsenring, winning five times across all classes, although his last race victory at the German Grand Prix came back in 2009. However, if Rossi won for the seventh time at the Sachsenring, he would become the second-oldest rider to win back-to-back races in the premier class after winning the Dutch TT last week.

Márquez has also had plenty of success at the German Grand Prix, the most successful rider in fact, taking pole position and winning the race in the last seven years across all classes at the Sachsenring. However, he hasn’t got a pole position in the last five races, which is his longest streak without a pole position since joining the premier class back in 2013.

This weekend would seem like the perfect time and place to end that record, but other than Dovizioso, Viñales and Rossi, Márquez will be facing stiff competition from his teammate Dani Pedrosa, who too has a fantastic record at the German Grand Prix, winning it six times across all classes.

However, Pedrosa, who is currently fifth in the championship on 87 points, 28 points behind championship leader Dovizioso will be desperate to achieve his seventh victory at the Sachsenring as he looks to keep in touch with his championship rivals at a track where the Repsol Honda Team have won for the past seven years.

Other riders to look out for this weekend to challenge for the podium and possibly a race win include Johann Zarco (77 points), Danilo Petrucci (62 points), Jorge Lorenzo (60 points), and Cal Crutchlow (58 points).

Zarco won the Moto2 race last year at the Sachsenring, but Petrucci, who has never won a race, Crutchlow, and more surprisingly Lorenzo have never won at the Sachsenring across any class.

The German Grand Prix is a particularly big weekend for Lorenzo if he wants to get back into the world championship battle, trailing his teammate Andrea Dovizioso by 55 points heading into the last 10 races of the season.

He has had a real struggle to adapt to his factory Ducati, and has been rather inconsistent, finishing in the top six on only three occasions in 2017, with his only podium of the season so far coming at the Spanish Grand Prix in Jerez.

If Lorenzo can improve his form on the factory Ducati, he can still be a major player in the 2017 MotoGP World Championship, but you feel it has to start this weekend by claiming his first victory at the Sachsenring, a track where he has claimed six podiums across all classes.

However, I am tipping a resurgent run by Marc Márquez at arguably his favourite circuit on the calendar, and I believe he will dominate at the Sachsenring once again to win for the eighth time.

 

MotoGP Practice on Friday at 9:50am, and 2:00pm local time (5:50pm, and 10:00pm AEST). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 9:55am local time (5:55pm AEST), FP4 on Saturday at 1:30pm local time (9:30pm AEST), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 2:10pm and 2:35pm local time (10:10pm and 10:35pm AEST). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 9:40am local time (5:40pm AEST), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 2:00pm local time (10:00pm AEST).

My take on Vettel/Hamilton incident

The 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was one of the more remarkable and strangest races in recent times!

Daniel Ricciardo took a shock victory from tenth on the grid, which was the fifth race win of his career after falling to 17th after six laps after pitting on lap five from ninth to try and find some clear track to set some fast laps.

Valtteri Bottas took his fifth podium of the season, finishing second after falling a lap down after suffering a puncture on the opening lap after a collision with Kimi Räikkönen at Turn Two, while Lance Stroll got the first podium of his Formula One career, finishing third after starting in eighth, and became only the second teenager in history of Formula One to record a podium finish in a grand prix.

However, it is the two drivers who finished fourth and fifth in the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix that received all of the headlines in Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.

Hamilton and Vettel were first and second right from the opening lap respectively until the safety car was called on Lap 12/13 to recover the stranded Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat.

The race was restarted on Lap 17, but the safety car was called again after a piece of debris flew from Räikkönen’s car, and at the end of this safety car period, this was when the incident happened between Hamilton and Vettel.

On Lap 19, the announcement was made that the safety car was coming this lap, and as per normal, the leader of the race, which in this case was Hamilton, is allowed to control the speed of the field in the lead-up to the restart.

However, through Turn 15 on Lap 19, Hamilton was slower than Vettel expected, and on exit of Turn 15, Vettel hit the back of Hamilton’s car. Vettel, in the heat of the moment, thinking that Hamilton brake-tested him, came alongside Hamilton to show his disapproval to his championship rival, and then decided to turn in on him, causing a collision.

Data showed, according to the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), that Lewis Hamilton did not brake-test Sebastian Vettel, but it was clear that Vettel caused a collision with Hamilton, and the stewards had to hand down a justifiable penalty.

After Hamilton had to pit after his head-rest was not attached properly after a red flag period to clean up debris, Vettel received a 10-second stop-and-go penalty breaching Article 27.4 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations, and after the race, Vettel received three penalty points to take his total nine penalty points, leaving him three penalty points away from a one-race ban should he break the rules in a such a way in the next two races.

Article 27.4 reads:

27.4 At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person.

However, did The FIA Stewards of the Meeting in Paul Gutjahr, Enzo Spano, Danny Sullivan, and Anar Shukurov get the decision right in regards to the penalty for Sebastian Vettel?

In my opinion, I don’t think they did. At the time of the incident, and seeing a number of replays of the incident, I felt that Vettel had to be disqualified from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix for such a premeditated act.

However, in this case, I think the implementation of the penalty points system in recent years saw the stewards err away from the thought of disqualifying Vettel from the race, and implement a penalty they thought was much more appropriate to the situation, and what had happened.

Under Article 4.2 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations:

4.2 In accordance with Articles 31. 5 and 38.3, the stewards may impose penalty points on a driver’s Super Licence. If a driver accrues 12 penalty points his licence will be suspended for the following Event, following which 12 points will be removed from the licence.

Penalty points will remain on a driver’s Super Licence for a period of 12 months after which they will be respectively removed on the 12 month anniversary of their imposition.

However, the result of the penalty, after Hamilton had to pit to fix his issue, saw Vettel get ahead of Hamilton, and gain crucial world championship points over his championship rival didn’t seem morally right to most people, including Hamilton, who expressed his frustration of Vettel’s penalty during the race.

However, what wasn’t investigated was whether Sebastian Vettel overtook Lewis Hamilton under safety car conditions?

Under Article 39.8 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations:

39.8 With the exception of the cases listed under a) to h) below, no driver may overtake another car on the track, including the safety car, until he passes the first safety car line for the first time when the safety car is returning to the pits. However, if the safety car is still deployed at the beginning of the last lap, or is deployed during the last lap, Article 39.15 will apply.

The exceptions are :
a) If a driver is signalled to do so from the safety car.

b) Under 39.12 or 39.16 below.

c) When entering the pits a driver may pass another car remaining on the track, including
the safety car, after he has reached the first safety car line.

d) When leaving the pits a driver may overtake, or be overtaken by, another car on the
track before he reaches the second safety car line.

e) When the safety car is returning to the pits it may be overtaken by cars on the track
once it has reached the first safety car line.

f) Whilst in the pit entry, pit lane or pit exit a driver may overtake another car which is
also in one of these three areas.

g) Any car stopping in its designated garage area whilst the safety car is using the pit lane
(see 39.11 below) may be overtaken.

h) If any car slows with an obvious problem.

Looking at various replays of the incident again, it appeared that Vettel did pass Hamilton under safety car conditions, but this has appeared to have been missed by the stewards, and if this is the case, Vettel should have received another penalty.

It is something that the FIA and Formula One have got to review the footage as soon as possible to determine whether Vettel did overtake under safety car conditions.

However, the events of Azerbaijan will ensure that the world championship battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton will be one of titanic proportions!