2019 Russian Grand Prix – Preview

It wasn’t the greatest race of all-time, but it was the end of a 392 day victory drought for Sebastian Vettel, undercutting Lewis Hamilton and most crucially his teammate Charles Leclerc during the pit-stop period to claim the 2019 Singapore Grand Prix, his 53rd race win in his Formula One career, and the third-straight victory for Ferrari in what was Ferrari’s first one-two finish since the 2017 Hungarian Grand Prix.

It is just the second time since the start of 2014 that Mercedes haven’t won over a three-race period, and they will be determined to turn their recent form around at the Sochi Autodrom, a place where they not only haven’t been beaten at, but have also had three one-two finishes.

It is the 2019 Russian Grand Prix, Round 16 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Lewis Hamilton (296 points) still leads the championship by 65 points over his Mercedes teammate in Valtteri Bottas (231 points), and both will be desperate to end Ferrari’s great run of form.

Charles Leclerc (200 points) is up into third in the world championship for Ferrari, and ahead of Max Verstappen (200 points) from Red Bull Racing-Honda based on having one more second-place finish compared to Verstappen after finishing behind his teammate Vettel in Singapore, and given his form since the mid-season break, he could potentially challenge Bottas for second in the championship, something which Verstappen will also fancy his chances of grabbing with a couple of rounds coming up that he and Red Bull should enjoy, in particular in Mexico at high altitude, which will take away the power-unit advantage that both Mercedes and Ferrari have over the Honda (and the Renault).

Vettel (194 points) will also have this same mindset after ending his victory drought in Singapore, and you wouldn’t bet against him in challenging Bottas for second-place in the world championship.

Behind the Top Five in the championship, Pierre Gasly (69 points) remains in sixth in the standings after finishing eighth for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (58 points), while Alexander Albon (42 points) moves into eighth in the world championship after finishing sixth in his third race for Red Bull Racing-Honda, and is ahead of Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (34 points) and Gasly’s teammate Daniil Kvyat (33 points), who both failed to score in Singapore.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (527 points) have a lead of 133 points over Ferrari (394 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (289 points) continuing to consolidate third in the standings.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (89 points) pull away slightly from Renault (67 points), with Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (55 points) closing in slightly on the French constructor, followed by Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (46 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (35 points), Haas-Ferrari (26 points), and Williams-Mercedes (one point).

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

Ferrari on paper look very competitive at the Sochi Autodrom, but you feel you need a well-rounded, all-round car in Sochi, and Mercedes have that, and have shown this throughout 2019, consistently having the best race pace, but if Ferrari can win this weekend, they could start changing the face of this championship, if not for a championship challenge at Lewis Hamilton this season, a championship challenge at him and Mercedes in 2020.

2019 Singapore Grand Prix – Preview

Charles Leclerc has emerged as Ferrari’s lead driver in 2019 after claiming the second win of his career, and his second in as many races to move himself ever closer to third-place in the championship, and while Mercedes haven’t won any of the last two races, you sense the tide is about to turn back in their favour as they head to the Marina Bay Street Circuit in Singapore for Round 15 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Lewis Hamilton (284 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by 63 points over his teammate Valtteri Bottas (221 points) after finishing third despite applying a lot of pressure on Leclerc throughout the Italian Grand Prix, before making a mistake later in the race at Turn One, allowing Bottas to move ahead of Hamilton into second place.

However, you sense the track characteristics in Singapore will suit the Mercedes better, compared to Belgium and Italy.

Max Verstappen (185 points), and Red Bull Racing-Honda will also be thinking the same way after finishing in eighth at Monza despite starting from the back of the grid, and despite pitting for a new front wing at the end of the opening lap in what was a brilliant drive.

However, he is starting to feel the heat from Leclerc (182 points), who will look to challenge Verstappen for third in the world championship in the final seven races in 2019, while Sebastian Vettel (169 points) had an absolute shocker at Monza, finishing 13th after spinning on Lap Six, and then received a 10-second stop-go penalty for hitting the car of Lance Stroll after re-joining the track unsafely. Vettel will be looking to re-bound in a big this weekend in Singapore.

Behind the Top Five in the championship, Pierre Gasly (65 points) for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, and Carlos Sainz Jr. (58 points) for McLaren-Renault are still sixth and seventh in the standings respectively, while Daniel Ricciardo (34 points) is up into eighth in the world championship after finishing fourth at Monza, the best result Ricciardo has had since joining the team, and the team’s best result (under the Renault banner) since Nick Heidfeld finished third for the team back at the 2011 Malaysian Grand Prix, with teammate Nico Hülkenberg (31 points), who is currently 11th in the standings, finishing fifth.

Alexander Albon (34 points) is ninth in the championship after finishing sixth in his second race with Red Bull Racing-Honda, while Gasly’s teammate Daniil Kvyat (33 points) completes the Top 10 in the standings.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (505 points) have extended their lead over Ferrari (351 points) to 154 points despite the win for the latter at Monza, while Red Bull Racing-Honda (266 points) remain in a comfortable third.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (83 points) remain in a strong fourth, Renault (65 points) move into a solid fifth, while Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (51 points) and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (46 points) are locked in a battle for sixth, with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (34 points) and Haas-Ferrari (26 points) in a battle for eighth. Williams-Mercedes (one point) remain in a distant 10th and last in the Constructors’ Championship.

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

I sense it is going to be battle between Mercedes and Red Bull Racing-Honda, and most likely, a battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen on a circuit that should be well-suited to their cars, and given the form that Verstappen has shown in challenging Hamilton in Monaco and Hungary, I think the Red Bull driver can win in Singapore for the very first time.

2019 Italian Grand Prix – Preview

It was an emotional weekend last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, the first-ever win in Formula One for Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, but it was a weekend marred by tragedy, and the death of Formula Two driver Anthoine Hubert, who was killed in an accident on the second lap of the Formula Two Feature Race just beyond Turn Four, an accident which also resulted in serious injuries to Juan Manuel Correa.

I would like to send my deepest condolences to Anthoine’s family and friends at this difficult time, and wish Juan Manuel Correa all the very best in his recovery and rehabilitation after such a shocking accident, and I hope the Formula Two grid can come together, and race in honour of Anthoine Hubert this weekend at Monza.

This is also where Round 14 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship will be taking place, with the 2019 Italian Grand Prix set to be a battle between Mercedes and Ferrari.

Lewis Hamilton (268 points) leads the championship by 65 points over his Mercedes’ teammate Valtteri Bottas (203 points) after finishing a close second behind Leclerc in Belgium, and is really in complete control of the 2019 world championship over Bottas, who has been re-signed by Mercedes after great debate over whether he deserved to keep his spot in the team alongside Hamilton, while their test driver Esteban Ocon will be off to Renault in 2020 to be teammates with Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

Max Verstappen (181 points) is still third in the championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda despite crashing out of the Belgian Grand Prix at relatively low speed at Raidillon after suffering damage to his car after colliding with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen at Turn One on the opening lap of the race. To add insult to injury, Verstappen is set to take a grid penalty at Monza for using excessive power unit components.

Sebastian Vettel (169 points) is fourth, but just 12 points behind Verstappen after finishing a disappointing fourth last weekend behind third-placed Bottas, while his Ferrari teammate Leclerc (157 points) is closing in on the four-time world champion after his first race victory in Formula One, a victory tinged in sadness, with Leclerc dedicating his first win in Formula One to his long-time friend Anthoine Hubert.

Behind the Top Five in the standings, Pierre Gasly (65 points) is still sixth in the world championship after finishing ninth on his return to Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, remaining ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (58 points), who retired from the race after a power-unit failure on Lap Two.

Gasly’s new teammate at Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda Daniil Kvyat (33 points), Räikkönen (31 points), and the man who replaced Gasly at Red Bull Racing-Honda Alexander Albon (26 points) complete the Top 10 in the championship, with Albon finishing fifth from 17th on the grid in his first race with the senior Red Bull team.

In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (471 points) have had their sizeable lead cut by four points to 145 points over Ferrari (326 points), while Red Bull Racing-Honda (254 points) have lost ground to Ferrari, now trailing the Prancing Horse by 72 points.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (82 points) remain in a comfortable fourth, while Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (51 points) are in a battle for fifth with Renault (43 points) and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (40 points), while Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (32 points) and Haas-Ferrari (26 points) aren’t too far behind with Williams-Mercedes (one point) in last.

So, who will win the 2019 Italian Grand Prix?

Firstly, Formula One and the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI) have agreed to a new deal that will see Formula One and the Italian Grand Prix remain at Monza until the end of 2024, which is great news for the sport.

Secondly, it is going to be a battle between Ferrari and Mercedes, and given the form Ferrari showed at the Belgian Grand Prix, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see either Sebastian Vettel or Charles Leclerc win this weekend, and are really odds-on favourites to claim pole position and the front row for the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, but you cannot rule out Mercedes, given their almost-always brilliant race pace.

2019 Belgian Grand Prix – Preview

The long mid-season break is over, and the second half, or more accurately, the final nine races of the season is about to get underway as the Formula One grid heads to the historic Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium for the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix, Round 13 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, and there has been a big change at Red Bull Racing-Honda for the rest of the season.

Red Bull Racing-Honda have decided to drop Pierre Gasly (63 points), who is currently a distant sixth in the championship, back to Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, and have promoted Alexander Albon (16 points), who is currently 15th in the standings, up to the main Red Bull team to partner Max Verstappen (181 points), who sits currently in third in the world championship behind the two Mercedes drivers in Lewis Hamilton (250 points), and Valtteri Bottas (188 points).

Verstappen arguably has been the best driver in 2019, and is the only non-Mercedes driver to win races (two) this season, and has been performing to a level that is out of this world, seemingly out-performing his car race in, race out in comparison to Gasly, so it is going to be interesting to see if Albon is freakishly good, like Verstappen is, or whether his performance level is similar to Gasly’s, or whether Albon’s level is somewhere in-between over the course of the final nine races of 2019.

Talking about Hamilton, it was an amazing performance by him, and his team at the Hungaroring to defeat Verstappen and Red Bull in what a blisteringly great performance by both Hamilton and Verstappen, with Hamilton taking his 81st career victory, and now has a 62 point lead ahead of his teammate Bottas, whose future is still up in the air as to whether he stays at Mercedes, or whether he will need to search for greener pastures for the 2020 season.

Meanwhile at Ferrari, it hasn’t been a good season for them so far after so much promise before the start of the season, but it hasn’t been returned in equal measure with Sebastian Vettel (156 points) and Charles Leclerc (132 points) fourth and fifth in the world championship with no wins, and only really performing on circuits that have allowed their straight-line speed to shine.

Ferrari will be looking to utilise that strength over the next two races in Belgium and Italy to hopefully get a race victory or two before the end of the season.

Behind the Top Six in the championship, Carlos Sainz Jr. (58 points) is just five points behind Gasly in seventh for McLaren-Renault, while Kimi Räikkönen (31 points) for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Daniil Kvyat (27 points) for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, and Lando Norris (24 points) for McLaren-Renault complete the Top 10 in the standings.

In terms of the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (438 points) leads by a dominant 150 points over Ferrari (288 points), while Red Bull Racing-Honda (244 points) are 44 points behind Ferrari in third.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (82 points) look to have fourth position under lock and key, while Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (43 points) and Renault (39 points) battling for fifth, with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (32 points), Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (31 points), and Haas-Ferrari (26 points) looking to join that battle before the end of the season, while Williams-Mercedes (one point) is last.

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

You feel that this is Ferrari’s best chance (or at least one of their best chances) to claim a race victory in 2019, and you feel like that they will be favourites to claim pole position this weekend, but throughout most of the 2019 season, Mercedes have generally had the best race pace out of the entire field on a consistent basis, so should at worst be on the podium, but I think Sebastian Vettel is the one to beat this weekend!

2019 Hungarian Grand Prix – Preview

It was a chaotic 2019 German Grand Prix in changeable conditions, Max Verstappen got his second race victory of the season, Sebastian Vettel finished second from 20th on the grid after technical issues in qualifying, Daniil Kvyat grabbed his third career podium in Formula One, and the second-ever podium for Scuderia Toro Rosso!

However, many others had shocking races, with five drivers, including Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas, crashing out of the race, a further two retiring due to mechanical issues, including Daniel Ricciardo, while Lewis Hamilton almost crashed out of the race, not once, but twice, as he managed to somehow finish ninth in what was one of his worst races in his career to extend his championship lead heading into the 2019 Hungarian Grand Prix, Round 12 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Hamilton (225 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by 41 points over teammate Bottas (184 points) after what was his worst race result, excluding retirements, in his Formula One career since the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix after both Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi from Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari received 30-second time penalties after the German Grand Prix for infringements regarding the start, which they are going to appeal against, promoting Hamilton from 11th, which would have been his worst race result, excluding retirements, since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, where he finished 12th, to ninth.

Hamilton will be looking to bounce back this weekend at the Hungaroring, a place where he has won at six times (the most race wins at the Hungaroring), and will aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of most pole positions in Hungary (seven).

Meanwhile, Bottas must be feeling quite awful after crashing out of the German Grand Prix from fourth position to miss out on a golden opportunity to close the championship deficit, and with his drive under scrutiny from some quarters, he desperately needs a win in Hungary this weekend.

Verstappen (162 points) is third in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after his seventh race victory in Formula One in what was arguably the best performance of his career to date, and while you don’t necessarily think he is in contention for the championship, he could certainly challenge Bottas for second!

Vettel (141 points) is fourth in the championship for Ferrari after his come from behind drive at his home race, while his teammate Leclerc (120 points) is in fifth in the standings after a race that was in some ways similar to Monaco earlier this season, a race to forget!

Behind the Top Five in the world championship, Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (55 points) remains sixth in the standings despite going out late in the German Grand Prix due to collision damage on Lap 62, while McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (48 points) closes up on Gasly in the championship after finishing in fifth.

Behind them, Kvyat (27 points) has moved up to eighth in the standings after his shock podium finish for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, ahead of Räikkönen (25 points) for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, while McLaren-Renault’s Lando Norris (22 points) and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (22 points) are tied on points for 10th in the world championship, with Norris ahead due to two sixth-place finishes in 2019 compared with Ricciardo’s one.

Looking at the Constructor’s Championship, Mercedes (409 points) still have a huge 148-point lead over Ferrari (261 points), while Red Bull Racing-Honda (217 points) close their deficit to Ferrari to 44 points.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (70 points) consolidated their position as Formula One’s fourth-best team, while a huge fight is brewing for fifth in the championship between Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (42 points), Renault (39 points), Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (31 points), Haas-Ferrari (26 points), and Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (26 points), and at long last, Williams-Mercedes (one point) score their first point of 2019 thanks to a 10th-placed finish for the courageous Robert Kubica.

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

Mercedes showed in Monaco earlier this year what type of car they have in low speed corners, and given that the Hungaroring is similar in nature in so many ways (without the walls so close of course), you feel that Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton are the ones to beat, but you cannot rule out Ferrari and Red Bull Racing-Honda giving Mercedes a run for their money!

 

 

2019 Bahrain GP – Preview

The speculation that Mercedes had been knocked off their perch as Formula One’s dominant force had been greatly exaggerated, but it was Valtteri Bottas, not Lewis Hamilton, who took full advantage to win the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, claiming the single point for the fastest lap of the race to take the lead of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, which heads to the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir for the 2019 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Bottas (26 points) leads the championship by eight points over his teammate and defending world champion Hamilton (18 points) after defeating him by 20.886 seconds at Albert Park to claim the fourth race victory of his career, a performance Bottas himself regarded as the best of his career.

However, Hamilton suffered floor damage to his car on the fourth lap of the Australian Grand Prix, affecting the aerodynamic performance of the car, denying him any opportunity to challenge his teammate for the race victory after claiming pole position for the sixth-straight year, and the eighth time at Albert Park, becoming just the third driver after Michael Schumacher (Suzuka) and Ayrton Senna (Imola) to achieve eight pole positions at one circuit.

Whether Hamilton would have won the opening race of the season without his floor damage is up for debate, but it certainly would have been a lot closer, that is for sure!

Max Verstappen (15 points) is third in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after pushing Hamilton close at Albert Park, ahead of the two Ferrari’s of Sebastian Vettel (12 points) and Charles Leclerc (10 points), who after dominating pre-season testing, finished 57.109 and 58.203 seconds behind Bottas at the opening race of the season, and rightfully would feel ashamed of their performance in Melbourne, and will be hoping that this performance is just a one-off, and that they can challenge Mercedes for the championship throughout 2019.

Behind them in the standings are Kevin Magnussen (eight points) for Haas-Ferrari, Nico Hülkenberg (six points) for Renault, Kimi Räikkönen (four points) for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Lance Stroll (two points) for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes, and Daniil Kvyat (one point) for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, who all scored points in the opening race of 2019.

However, it was a disappointing weekend in Australia for Daniel Ricciardo, his first race with Renault, having some difficulties or teething issues with the car in practice, qualifying outside of the Top 10 in 12th, and then sustaining damage to his car just metres off the start line on Sunday, which forced him to retire from the Australian Grand Prix after 28 laps.

Ricciardo will be hoping for a much better weekend in Bahrain, but you sense the best result he can hope for at the moment, given the car that he has at the moment, is a sixth or seventh-place finish, and most likely a lap down on the leaders (Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull Racing-Honda).

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

In my opinion, it is always very hard to see a team bouncing back to win the next race after being smashed by almost a minute in the previous race, but if Ferrari’s performance in pre-season testing was genuine, and that Mercedes, and to a lesser extent Red Bull Racing-Honda haven’t actually gained genuine performance between pre-season testing and the first race, and that both of their performances in Australia were simply track specific, then they are a strong chance to bounce back.

However, it is not the first time that a team involving Lewis Hamilton has gained a huge chunk of time, usually in the region of about a second, in a short space of time to instantly become more competitive.

Think mid-season in 2009 when McLaren, the team Hamilton was driving for at the time, moved from near the back of the field, where they were at the British Grand Prix, to challenging Brawn and Red Bull, on speed at least, at the following race at the Nürburgring in Germany, with Hamilton winning the following race in Hungary.

Think 2011, when McLaren (with Hamilton) moved from what many predicted was a midfield position for the team in pre-season testing to being arguably the second-best car on the grid for the start of the season in Australia, although comfortably behind Red Bull generally throughout 2011.

It cannot be a coincidence because if you were to add a second to the times both Mercedes achieved in qualifying at Albert Park, those were the times/margins that many experts thought Mercedes were behind in relation to Ferrari, and to a lesser extent Red Bull Racing-Honda.

Hamilton has proven, if the form is genuine, to be the face of the catalyst of turning the competitiveness of a team around once again, and if you believe this, then you cannot be surprised of his standing today as a five-time Formula One World Champion!

I am predicting Hamilton to bounce back from the floor issue he suffered in the race with his car in Australia to win in Bahrain, but I think Max Verstappen can put in a sterling performance to finish in second, with Valtteri Bottas to finish in third, just ahead of the two Ferrari drivers.