2020 Andalucían GP (MotoGP) – Preview

What a return for grand prix motorcycle racing  in Jerez! It was drama glarore in scorching hot conditions in southern Spain, with Fabio Quartararo grabbing his first MotoGP race victory, becoming the first French rider to win a premier class grand prix since Régis Laconi, who won the 1999 Valencian Grand Prix.

It was also the first race victory for a Yamaha satellite team (non-factory team), and the first race victory for a satellite team for any manufacturer with the exception of Honda, giving Quartararo the perfect start as he looks for his first world championship!

However, it wasn’t the perfect start for six-time MotoGP World Champion Marc Márquez for the Repsol Honda Team, running off the track at Turn 3/4 on Lap Five, falling all the way down to 16th before fighting his way back through the field to be back in third-place by the end of Lap 20, before crashing spectacularly on Lap 22 in one of the greatest Did Not Finish results of all-time, but suffered a fractured humerus in the process to turn the 2020 MotoGP World Championship upside down as we head into the second round of this shortened season, the 2020 Andalucían Grand Prix back at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto.

Quartararo (25 points) leads the championship for Petronas Yamaha SRT by virtue of his first win in MotoGP, and given the injury to Márquez, and the likely prospect of him missing this weekend, as well as the injuries to Cal Crutchlow (wrist) and Álex Rins (shoulder), Quartararo will be one of a number of riders sensing that this is their opportunity to win their first MotoGP World Championship!

Maverick Viñales (20 points), who finished second at the Spanish Grand Prix for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, is another one who will be feeling that 2020 is their year! Viñales decided to go with the soft front tyre (with most of the grid selecting the hard front tyre), and it didn’t quite pay off for the Spaniard, but he will be aiming to get his first race victory of 2020 this weekend to be, at worst, leading the world championship with Quartararo after the opening two races of this shortened season.

Andrea Dovizioso (16 points) will also be hoping 2020 is finally his year after starting this shortened championship by finishing third for the Mission Winnow Ducati Team at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, the first time he has ever finished on the podium at the Spanish Grand Prix in the premier class, and given the fact that he has finished second in the championship standings behind Márquez in each of the last three seasons, you sense 2020 could well be his final chance, if that opportunity hasn’t already passed, to win his first MotoGP World Championship!

And the other rider who I believe can benefit from the changed circumstances of the 2020 world championship is Jack Miller (13 points), who finished just off the podium in fourth for Pramac Racing at the Spanish Grand Prix. I feel like he could very well be the dark-horse of this year’s championship, and has a chance to follow in the footsteps of Wayne Gardner, Mick Doohan, and Casey Stoner to become Australia’s fourth premier class world champion.

However, a rider who I don’t think can add to his seven premier class world championships in 2020 is Valentino Rossi, who was almost anonymous throughout the entire Spanish Grand Prix, running only as high as eighth before retiring from the race due to mechanical issues with his bike.

In my mind, his performance at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix was embarrassing, and I think Rossi should retire at the end of the 2020 season!

So, who do I think is going to win the 2020 Andalucían Grand Prix?

Well, you sense it is wide open, and given that conditions at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto are going to be very similar to what it was last weekend, I expect to see more carnage and drama, and if that is the case, I think whoever is leading the championship after this weekend will be the favourite to win the 2020 MotoGP World Championship!

And with that in mind, I think if Maverick Viñales can put all the pieces of the puzzle together all at the same time, he will win the 2020 Andalucían Grand Prix to take the lead of the championship, and will have the weight of pressure and expectation right on his back!

2020 Spanish GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The return of grand prix motorcycle racing! The return of another global sporting competition! The return of MotoGP!

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the world, with many events of social significance and importance either cancelled or postponed as a result, and many, many people around the world losing their lives as a result of COVID-19!

However, MotoGP returns this weekend, becoming the second global sporting competition, after Formula One, to return to action, with the first of what at this stage is a 13-round season (although it could possibly extend to 16 rounds) taking place at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto to start the 2020 MotoGP World Championship at the 2020 Spanish Grand Prix, and can anybody beat Marc Márquez?

On Wednesday, Márquez looked strong for the Repsol Honda Team, topping the time-sheets in the morning test sesssion, before finishing third in the afternoon test session, proving to everyone that the defending world champion is fully fit after the shoulder surgery he had during the off-season, and that his team have fixed the aerodynamic issues surrounding the bike!

In my mind, Márquez is still the man to beat, and after finishing first or second in 18 of the 19 races in 2019, the legendary Spaniard will be looking to become the MotoGP World Champion for the seventh time in 2020, and win his ninth world championship across all classes, which would equal the record of Valentino Rossi across both departments in terms of premier class world championships, and world championships across all classes overall!

So, who can challenge Márquez, and deny him of this milestone?

Álex Rins put his hand up on Wednesday as a potential contender for Team Suzuki Ecstar, and although he didn’t set the fastest time in either test session, he finished a strong second and fourth in both the morning and afternoon sessions respectively. Rins will looking to improve on finishing fourth in the 2019 championship, and finish at worst inside the Top Three in the shortened 2020 world championship.

Fabio Quartararo has taken off from where he finished 2019, showing plenty of speed in finishing fifth and second in testing for Petronas Yamaha SRT, and will be aiming not only to improve on his fifth-place finish in the 2019 world championship, but also to claim his first MotoGP victory before moving to Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP in 2021.

And, the other genuine championship contender in my view is Maverick Viñales for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP. The Spaniard claimed two race victories and a further five podiums in 2019, and although he only finished 13th in the morning test session, he was the fastest in the afternoon test session, and was consistently the fastest in original pre-season testing before the COVID-19 hiatus. The question is whether he can be consistently on the pace of Márquez, something which he struggled to do in 2019, but was the only rider in 2019 to be able to win without Márquez challenging him on the final lap (when Márquez was still in the race), so if he can be consistently on the pace with Márquez, then possibly Viñales is the man to end his reign!

And, while there could be surprises and upsets throughout the field, the four championship contenders, and therefore regular challengers, for race wins in 2020 in my view are Marc Márquez, Álex Rins, Fabio Quartararo, and Maverick Viñales!

So, who is going to win the opening race of 2020?

In my mind, Marc Márquez is the man to beat this weekend for the Repsol Honda Team, and while I think Fabio Quartararo for Petronas Yamaha SRT, and Maverick Viñales for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP could be slightly quicker over one lap, although I don’t think there is much between those three over one lap on their current machinery, I think Márquez will start the shortened 2020 MotoGP World Championship in the best way possible, with Quartararo and Viñales completing the podium, and Rins in a close fourth for Team Suzuki Ecstar.

2019 Malaysian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

The margin won’t say so, but the 2019 Australian Grand Prix was one of the best races of the year, with plenty of battles at the front of the field before it became a battle between Marc Márquez and Maverick Viñales, with Márquez shadowing Viñales for a number of laps until the final lap, when Márquez made his move, passing Viñales on the Gardner Straight/into the Doohan Corner (Turn One).

Viñales tried all he could to overtake Márquez, but crashed out on the final lap entering the braking zone of Turn 10, throwing away a certain podium, and Márquez went onto claim his third win at Phillip Island, his 11th for the season, and the 55th of his premier class career, overtaking Mick Doohan into third on the all-time premier class winners list.

However, there is still plenty on the line for not only Márquez, but also the rest of his rivals as we head into the penultimate round, the 2019 Malaysian Grand Prix, Round 18 of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (375 points) leads the championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 135 points over Andrea Dovizioso (240 points) from Mission Winnow Ducati after winning in Australia, and despite having the world championship well and truly wrapped up, Márquez still has plenty to play for, including equalling his win tally from 2014 of 13, as well as the record for the most points in a premier class season, Márquez currently just eight points away from Jorge Lorenzo’s record of 383 points that was set back in 2010, and the biggest world championship winning margin, with the Spaniard’s lead just 12 points away from Valentino Rossi’s record winning margin of 147 points set back in 2005 when the great Italian was at the peak of his powers.

Meanwhile, Dovizioso has secured second in the championship for the third-straight season in what has been a difficult season overall with two races remaining.

Behind the Top Two though, it is a giant battle for third in the standings between Álex Rins (183 points) from Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, Viñales (176 points) from Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Danilo Petrucci (169 points) from Mission Winnow Ducati, and Fabio Quartararo (163 points) from Petronas Yamaha SRT.

However, the only rider to finish the 2019 Australian Grand Prix from these four riders was Rins, who finished in a lowly ninth after another disappointing qualifying session, qualifying 12th in a performance symptomatic of his season, and his performance over one lap is something that must be addressed if he is to ever challenge for a MotoGP World Championship.

Behind those four, Valentino Rossi (153 points) from Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP, Jack Miller (141 points) from Alma Pramac Racing, and Cal Crutchlow (133 points) from LCR Honda are still in the hunt for third in the championship, but it will be a tall order for those three to challenge the four ahead of them in the standings for third.

However, the performances of Crutchlow in finishing second, and Miller in finishing in third at Phillip Island were simply magnificent, and they will be hoping to take this form into the final two races of 2019.

Behind them, Franco Morbidelli (105 points) closes out the Top 10 for Petronas Yamaha SRT.

In terms of the Teams’ Championship, the Repsol Honda Team (408 points) are somehow, thanks largely to the performances of Márquez, just a single point behind Mission Winnow Ducati (409 points) heading into the final two races as Honda look to win the Riders’, Constructors’, and Teams’ championships.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Malaysian Grand Prix?

There is only one rider that you could tip with confidence, supreme confidence, to win this weekend, and is probably in his best form since the first 10 races of 2014. It has got to be Marc Márquez to claim his sixth-straight race victory, and win the Malaysian Grand Prix for just the third time in the premier class.

2019 Australian GP (MotoGP) – Preview

It was another well-managed race by Marc Márquez at Motegi to claim the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, and in the process helped Honda to their fourth-consecutive Constructors’ Championship, their eighth in nine seasons, and their 25th overall in the premier class.

However, with Márquez just 33 points behind the record for most points scored in a season, a record incidentally held by his current teammate Jorge Lorenzo (383 points), which was set back in 2010, and the Teams’ Championship very much up for grabs for the Repsol Honda Team, and Mission Winnow Ducati, there is still a lot to play for as the grid heads to Australia, and to the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit for the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, Round 17 of the 2019 MotoGP World Championship.

Márquez (350 points) leads by 119 points for the Repsol Honda Team over Andrea Dovizioso (231 points) from Mission Winnow Ducati, who looks as if he has got second in the championship under complete control, and can officially secure second in the standings for the third-straight season if he can not be outscored by Álex Rins and Maverick Viñales by five points or more, by Danilo Petrucci by 12 points or more, and by Fabio Quartararo by 18 points or more.

Behind the Top Two in the standings, there is a four-way battle developing for third in the championship between Rins, Viñales, Petrucci, and Quartararo.

Rins (176 points) is third in the world championship for Team SUZUKI ECSTAR, level on points with Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP rider Viñales (176 points), but ahead of Viñales on the basis of having two wins to the lone race victory that Viñales had at Assen.

Petrucci (169 points) is fifth in the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati after a seventh-straight finish outside of the Top Five, while the rapidly-rising Quartararo (163 points) is sixth in the standings for Petronas Yamaha SRT after a second-straight podium finish, his fourth in six races, including three in his last four.

Valentino Rossi (145 points) is seventh in the world championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after suffering his fourth Did Not Finish (DNF) result of the season, the most DNF results he has had in a season in the premier class, with Jack Miller (125 points) in eighth for Alma Pramac Racing, Cal Crutchlow (113 points) in ninth for LCR Honda, and Franco Morbidelli (100 points) completing the Top 10 in the championship for Petronas Yamaha SRT.

As far as the Teams’ Championship is concerned, the Repsol Honda Team (383 points) is remarkably 17 points behind Mission Winnow Ducati (400 points) with three races remaining in a battle which will surely go down to the final race in Valencia.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Australian Grand Prix?

On paper, Phillip Island should suit Marc Márquez perfectly, but has only won twice at Phillip Island in the premier class, and despite the fact it should suit him, the track characteristics of Phillip Island tend to bring the grid closer together, and make it such a tight fight.

Outside of Márquez, the rider that is deserving of a race victory in 2019 is Fabio Quartararo, especially after claiming the Rookie of the Year award last weekend in Motegi, and if Márquez isn’t the one to claim victory this weekend, I think Quartararo will claim his first premier class race victory.

2019 Japanese Grand Prix – Preview

Mercedes rebounded in Russia, a place which they have always won at, with Lewis Hamilton winning in Sochi for the fourth time, claiming his ninth race victory of the season in a Mercedes one-two finish.

However, with Ferrari once again showing great speed in Sochi, and Red Bull Racing-Honda wanting to perform well in Honda’s own backyard, the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Round 17 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, is going to be interesting!

Hamilton (322 points) leads the championship by 73 points over teammate Valtteri Bottas (249 points) after taking advantage of the mechanical issues for Sebastian Vettel, and getting lucky with the virtual safety car (which turned into a full safety car) to overtake Vettel’s Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc to take his 82nd career victory, with Bottas also finishing ahead of Leclerc.

Bottas needs to win the Japanese Grand Prix this weekend you feel to keep his slim championship hopes alive.

Leclerc (215 points) for Ferrari, and Max Verstappen (212 points) for Red Bull Racing-Honda are still in mathematical contention for the world championship, but are likely to be knocked out of contention this weekend, but Leclerc will be looking to continue Ferrari’s general upturn in form, while Verstappen will be looking to show off the brand new Honda power-unit, and take victory at the home circuit of Honda, which would be the first win for a Honda-powered car in Japan since Gerhard Berger for McLaren-Honda in 1991.

Meanwhile, Vettel (194 points) is out of contention for the 2019 championship, but will be looking to rebound after losing power with his power-unit in Russia, and challenge Leclerc and Verstappen for third in the standings.

Behind the Top Five, Pierre Gasly (69 points) is sixth in the championship for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda after starting the first 12 races of 2019 with Red Bull Racing-Honda, three points ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (66 points), with Alexander Albon (52 points) closing quickly in eighth since joining Red Bull Racing-Honda from Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, ahead of Lando Norris (35 points), the teammate of Sainz, while Daniel Ricciardo (34 points) remains inside the Top 10, just ahead of his Renault teammate Nico Hülkenberg (34 points) based on finishing fourth ahead of Hülkenberg at the Italian Grand Prix.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (571 points) lead by 162 points over Ferrari (409 points), and have a chance of clinching their sixth-straight Constructors’ Championship this weekend, which would equal Ferrari’s record for most consecutive Constructors’ Championships from 1999 to 2004 by out-scoring Ferrari by 14 points or more.

Red Bull Racing-Honda (311 points) have secured at worst third in the Constructors’ Championship, but are still a chance of claiming second, with McLaren-Renault (101 points) in a clear and comfortable fourth behind them.

Renault (68 points) are leading the battle for fifth ahead of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (55 points) and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (52 points), with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (35 points) and Haas-Ferrari (28 points) battling for eighth, with Williams-Mercedes (one point) still in 10th and last.

So, who will win the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix?

The weekend looks set to be affected by adverse weather conditions, and while Suzuka not in the direct path of Typhoon Hagibis at the moment, Saturday in particular looks set to be wet, and there could be a chance that qualifying might have to be postponed until Sunday morning, but regardless of whether that happens or not, Sunday looks set to be fine and sunny at Suzuka.

So, in terms of my prediction, I think Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will be the ones to beat as he searches for his sixth victory in Japan to equal Michael Schumacher’s record at the Japanese Grand Prix, and his fifth at Suzuka, but it is set to be a tight fight between the Top Three teams on the grid.

2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Preview

The 20th and final round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend from the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and while the battle for both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship has been decided, there is still plenty to play for many drivers and teams on the grid.

Lewis Hamilton (345 points) for Mercedes leads the drivers’ championship by an unassailable 43 points over Sebastian Vettel (302 points) for Ferrari. Hamilton had an unusual weekend in Brazil, being strong in practice before losing control of his car on the first flying lap in qualifying, going straight into the wall, forcing him to a pit-lane start after his team decided to change and add new components to his car. Then he stormed from the back of the field to the front, leading the race for 13 laps, starting on Lap 30, before finishing in fourth, 5.468 seconds behind race winner Vettel.

Vettel, after his win in Brazil, is on track to claim second spot in the championship ahead of Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas (280 points). This will only change if Bottas wins in Abu Dhabi, and Vettel finishes ninth or lower.

The battle for fourth in the championship is interesting between Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo (200 points), and Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen (193 points), who are only separated by seven points in the championship. They are followed in the championship by Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen (158 points), who cannot catch fifth-place Räikkönen in the championship standings.

Also important to note is that it will be the final race in the Formula One career of Felipe Massa, currently 10th in the championship on 42 points. From 268 starts, Massa has won 11 races, claimed 41 podiums, 16 pole positions, and 15 fastest laps in a career spanning from 2002 to 2017, driving for Sauber, Ferrari, and Williams. We wish him all the very best for his future endeavours!

Looking at the constructors’ championship, Mercedes (625 points), Ferrari (495 points), Red Bull (358 points), and Force India (177 points) have secured the top four spots respectively, while Williams (82 points), Toro Rosso (53 points), who are starting their last race with a Renault engine, Renault (49 points), and Haas (47 points) are all in mathematical contention for fifth spot, while McLaren (28 points), who are starting their last race with a Honda engine, are in mathematical contention for sixth spot in the constructors’ championship, and are ahead of Sauber (five points), who are in mathematical contention for eighth in the championship.

As for who is going to win the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, this circuit on paper suits the Ferrari, and should really ought to end the season on a high, for Vettel to secure second spot in championship, but I think Lewis Hamilton is going to bounce back after a couple of difficult races to claim his 10th victory of the season to set a marker for the 2018 season.


The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 1pm and 5pm local time (Friday 8pm and Saturday 12am AEDT).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 2pm and 5pm local time (Saturday 9pm and Sunday 12am AEDT).

The 55 lap race is on Sunday from 5pm local time (Monday 12am AEDT).

2017 MotoGP Australian GP – Preview

The 16th round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship takes place this weekend from the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Australia, which is located about 140 kilometres south-south-east of Melbourne, and it is the second of three-straight flyaway weekends (Japan, Australia, and Malaysia), and from what we saw in Japan, we are set for some great racing at this breathtaking circuit.

Marc Márquez (244 points) leads the world championship on his factory Honda, but his championship lead over factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso (233 points) has been cut to just 11 points after the Italian’s sensational victory at the Twin Ring Motegi in very wet conditions, overtaking Márquez on the final lap to grab his fifth victory of the season, which is the most wins Dovizioso has had in a season since he claim the 125cc championship in 2004. It was also Dovizioso’s seventh podium of the season, which is the equal most he has achieved in a season during his premier class career (2010, 2011, and 2017).

And while the lead for Márquez was cut to 11 points, the Spaniard could celebrate his 100th podium in Grand Prix Motorcycle Racing in just his 165th race, and with that podium, it is the seventh time in the last eight years that Márquez has achieved 10 podiums or more in a season across all classes.

Third in the championship is factory Yamaha rider Maverick Viñales (203 points), 41 points behind Márquez after a disappointing ninth-place finish in the Japanese Grand Prix, struggling in very wet conditions on his Yamaha, a bike that has struggled all season long in wet conditions, and after scoring three wins in the opening five races of the season, Viñales has only been able to manage three podiums in the last 10, a run of form that will surely cost him any hope of winning his first MotoGP World Championship in 2017.

Dani Pedrosa (170 points), the teammate of Márquez, is the last rider in mathematical contention for the world championship, but is 74 points (out of a possible 75) behind Márquez in the championship after retiring from the Japanese Grand Prix, and will need a miracle if he was to win his first MotoGP World Championship in 2017.

Valentino Rossi (168 points) is fifth in the championship on his factory Yamaha, but officially out of championship contention after crashing out in Motegi, struggling like his teammate Viñales in the wet conditions.

Johann Zarco (125 points) is ahead of Jorge Lorenzo (116 points), and Danilo Petrucci (111 points) in the battle for sixth in the championship, which will be battle outside of the championship battle that will be sure to captivate great interest among the fans as this season draws closer to the end.

Cal Crutchlow (92 points) is ninth in the championship, and is ahead of Jonas Folger (84 points) who missed the Japanese Grand Prix due to a mystery virus, and looks set to miss the Australian Grand Prix, as well as the Malaysian Grand Prix the week after.

As far as who is going to win at Phillip Island, Honda, Ducati, and Yamaha should all have strong bikes to handle the fast, sweeping corners around this iconic circuit.

It is important to note that Phillip Island is one of just five circuits on the current MotoGP calendar that run in an anti-clockwise direction, and at the three anti-clockwise circuits (Circuit of the Americas, Sachsenring, and Motorland Aragón) MotoGP has been to in 2017, Marc Márquez has won all three, while Andrea Dovizioso has struggled, finishing sixth, eighth, and seventh respectively at those three circuits.

However, Márquez has only won the Australian Grand Prix once since joining the premier class in 2013, but could have potentially won all of those races. Márquez was disqualified in 2013 after failing to pit within the prescribed pit-stop window in the first-ever dry flag-to-flag race, before crashing at Turn 10 in 2014 while leading the race comfortably, before winning a thriller in 2015 when he was out of championship contention, overtaking Jorge Lorenzo on the last lap, and then crashed at Turn Four (Honda Corner) while leading the race again in 2016.

Conditions this weekend are set to be fine, but cool, which should suit the Yamaha better, but I think the Honda and Ducati have been developed much further and better than the Yamaha, and given his record on anti-clockwise circuits, both in 2017 and in general, it is very hard to tip against Márquez moving a step closer to a fourth MotoGP World Championship, and his sixth championship across all classes.


MotoGP Practice on Friday at 10:55am, and 3:05pm local time (10:55am, and 3:05pm AEDT). MotoGP FP3 on Saturday at 10:55am local time (10:55am AEDT), FP4 on Saturday at 2:30pm local time (2:30pm AEDT), Q1 and Q2 on Saturday at 3:10pm and 3:35pm local time (3:10pm and 3:35pm AEDT). MotoGP Warm Up on Sunday at 11:40am local time (11:40am AEDT), and MotoGP race on Sunday at 4:00pm local time (4:00pm AEDT).


2017 Italian Grand Prix – Preview

The 13th round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at Monza in Italy, and the battle between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton is set to explode, and likewise between Ferrari and Mercedes with only eight races remaining in the season.

Vettel (220 points) for Ferrari leads by a slender seven point margin over Mercedes driver Hamilton (213 points) as we head towards the most important stages of the season. Both drivers haven’t had to retire from a single race so far in 2017, and have finished inside the points in every single race, and in fact, the lowest finish both drivers have had in 2017 has been a seventh place finish (Vettel at Silverstone, Hamilton at Monaco).

Overall, Hamilton has the most race victories so far in 2017 with five, compared to Vettel’s four, but the Ferrari driver has had more podium finishes with nine, compared with seven for the Mercedes driver.

The teammates of both Hamilton and Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen look set to be cast into support act roles for the remainder of the season by both Mercedes and Ferrari respectively as both teams focus on the drivers’ world championship, and their lead drivers Hamilton and Vettel.

Bottas (179 points) is third in the championship, 41 points behind Vettel, and 34 points behind teammate Hamilton, and has had a wonderful season, his first season with the Mercedes team, with eight podiums, and two potentially crucial race victories in Russia and Austria when Hamilton was having a difficult weekend, preventing Vettel, who finished second in both of those races, from extending his championship lead to a greater margin.

However, Bottas will likely be deployed as a number two driver for the rest of the season, but has shown that he is very capable of stealing crucial points away from Ferrari, and in particular Vettel in the championship battle.

However, Räikkönen (128 points), who is fifth in the championship, 92 points behind teammate Vettel, and 85 points behind Hamilton, hasn’t been able to show in 2017 that he can get that crucial victory to help his teammate in the championship, and deny Hamilton of vital world championship points, but has had four podiums so far in 2017.

In saying that though, Räikkönen has been deployed by Ferrari as a number two driver throughout most of 2017, but at some point during the last eight races, he is going to be faced with a scenario where he has going to have to win a race when Vettel is in trouble, or having a difficult weekend to potentially deny Hamilton the championship. Whether he can or not remains to be seen in 2017.

However, someone who can spoil Vettel’s or Hamilton’s championship challenge is Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, who sits fourth in the world championship on 132 points, 88 points behind Vettel, and 81 points behind Hamilton.

Ricciardo has shown that he has that uncanny knack of getting himself into the right place at the right time to pick up a race victory in Azerbaijan, as well as a further five podiums (all third places) in a car not as quick as either the Mercedes or Ferrari, but his teammate Max Verstappen has had lots of reliability issues with his car.

Currently sixth in the world championship on 67 points, Verstappen has had six retirements in the opening 12 races, most of them mechanical, and needs some luck to go his way, as he has generally been quicker than Ricciardo. I think if his car is reliable, Verstappen can win a race in 2017 in the right conditions, and have an impact on the championship battle.

In seventh and eighth position in the world championship are the two Force India drivers, Sergio Pérez (56 points) and Esteban Ocon (47 points), and while this is not a battle for the world championship, it is battle to settle their futures that has erupted out on the track with collisions in Azerbaijan and Belgium in a feud that has threatened to overheated since Canada.

And while you would suspect, due to his Mercedes connection, that Ocon will remain with the team next year, Pérez has got to be very careful because he could end up without a seat in Formula One next year if this feud continues.

In terms of the Constructors’ World Championship, Mercedes (392 points) lead by 44 points over Ferrari (348 points), with Red Bull (199 points) comfortably in third position, ahead of Force India (103 points), who are equally comfortable in fourth position in the constructors’ championship. After them is a tight battle for fifth in the championship, with Williams (45 points), Toro Rosso (40 points), Haas (35 points), and Renault (34 points) separated by just 11 points, with McLaren (11 points) and Sauber (five points) bringing up the rear of the field.

Fernando Alonso, who is currently 15th in the championship on 10 points, is getting increasingly frustrated about the reliability and performance of the Honda, and has been heavily criticised for perhaps retiring the car in Belgium when it had no problem, which was the eighth time in the 11 races he has competed in during 2017 that his car hasn’t seen the chequered flag, although two of the times he has been classified as a finish.

Unless something dramatic happens at McLaren as far as their relationship with Honda is concerned, Alonso looks set to leave the team, and I believe he could well be heading to Williams, and I doubt he will be worried how much he is paid considering the troubles of the last three years.

Looking ahead to who will win the Italian Grand Prix, I sense it is going to be a tight battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, and I think Vettel might get the victory ahead of Hamilton in front of the patriotic Italian crowd in a thriller.


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

2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix – Preview

The eighth round of the 2017 Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) Formula One World Championship takes place this weekend at the Baku City Circuit, on the streets of Baku, which is the capital city of Azerbaijan.

Coming into the eighth race of this intriguing and exciting 2017 season, Lewis Hamilton (129 points) has closed the gap to championship leader Sebastian Vettel (141 points) to 12 points after winning the Canadian Grand Prix last time out, claiming the fourth grand slam of his career (pole position, race victory, fastest lap, and leading every lap of the race), with Vettel salvaging fourth-place after suffering a damaged front wing on the opening lap in Montreal.

Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas is third in the world drivers championship on 93 points, 48 points behind championship leader Vettel, and 36 points behind Hamilton after being comprehensively outperformed by his teammate in Canada, to the tune of 19.783 seconds, despite finishing second in the race, and it is looking ever more likely that Bottas will be playing second-fiddle to Hamilton throughout the rest of 2017.

Likewise Kimi Räikkönen at Ferrari, whose disappointing seventh-place at the Canadian Grand Prix leaves him on 73 points, 68 points behind his teammate and world championship leader Vettel.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo leads the charge for Red Bull Racing on 67 points, 74 points behind the championship leader after securing a distant third-place finish in Montreal, while his teammate Max Verstappen had to retire from the Canadian Grand Prix due to electrical issues with his car, making it his third retirement of the season.

In terms of the Constructors Championship, Mercedes (222 points) retakes the lead of the championship from Ferrari (214 points) by eight points, with Red Bull being a distant third on 112 points, with only Force India (71 points) putting up a somewhat consistent challenge for third-place in the Constructors Championship, 41 points behind Red Bull.

After this, there is a good scrap for fifth-place in the Constructors Championship, with Toro Rosso (29 points), Williams (22 points), Renault (18 points), and Haas (15 points) all looking like that they can challenge for the final points-scoring positions on any given weekend.

However, they are all lacking a consistent two driver points-scoring effort, with only Toro Rosso (twice) with their drivers Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat, and Haas (once) with their drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, achieving at least double points-scoring finish in 2017 so far.

Then it is the sorry sight of Sauber (four points), who are in turmoil after team principal Monisha Kaltenborn left the team in the lead-up to this grand prix, and will be moving from Ferrari to Honda power-plants from 2018.

Talking about Honda, McLaren continue to be the most awful and disappointing story of 2017, having scored no points in the first seven rounds, and wanting to end their relationship with Honda, who simply haven’t performed close to anyone’s very realistic expectations, in terms of delivering a strong, quality power-plant.

The actual chassis, according to most industry insiders, is just about on par with the Red Bull, and would be capable, with the right power-plant in it, of challenging for podiums, and maybe even the odd race victory.

However, the two people I feel most sorry are the two drivers in Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne, who was considered by McLaren as a better overall driver than Kevin Magnussen, is struggling to develop in an environment, and with equipment, that is simply not up to Formula One standard as a first-year driver in the premier category in world motorsport, which is a terrible shame.

As for Alonso, many people who will read this article will consider him still to be the best driver in the sport, or at least right up there with the best, and the way he has performed so far in 2017 shows that he hasn’t lost it, out-qualifying and in races, out-performing his teammate numerous times as long as reliability has held up, with probably his best performance coming in qualifying at the Spanish Grand Prix, where he qualified seventh in front of his home crowd in what was undoubtedly one of the laps of the season so far, and definitely of that qualifying session.

At this stage, McLaren are on-track, other than being disqualified from the Constructors Championship in 2007 after the espionage controversy, also known as “Spygate”, for their first season without scoring a single point, which would be a terrible shame for their supporters, and for Formula One.

Going back to the front-runners, the Baku City Circuit is expected again to be low grip, and should suit Ferrari, but the high-speed nature of the street circuit should also suit Mercedes, so it should be another great battle between the two best teams.

My tip is for a Lewis Hamilton victory in a close battle with Sebastian Vettel, with Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen fighting for the final spot on the podium.


The first two practice sessions (90 minutes each) are on Friday at 1pm and 5pm local time (7pm and 11pm AEST).

The final practice session (60 minutes) and qualifying is on Saturday at 2pm and 5pm local time (8pm and 11pm AEST).

The 51 lap race is on Sunday from 5pm local time (11pm AEST).