2020 Styrian Grand Prix – Preview

What a return! What a dramatic race! Only 13 cars were classified as finishers, with just 11 cars crossed the finishing line at the end in a race of great attrition, with all nine cars that didn’t cross the finish line retiring due to mechanical issues, and with a number of others right on the edge of their reliability limits.

Despite this, the racing was first class, Valtteri Bottas winning the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix from pole position in what was one of the best performances of his career so far, leading all 71 Laps of the race, while Lewis Hamilton after receiving a three-place grid penalty for going too fast under yellow flags in qualifying, moved up from fifth to second by Lap 11 following the retirement of  Max Verstappen due to electronic issues with his Red Bull Racing-Honda, pressured his teammate Bottas throughout the race while both Mercedes were battling gearbox issues, which were compounded to a degree by three safety car periods, the first on Lap 25 when Kevin Magnussen retired at Turn Two with brake issues for Haas-Ferrari, the second on Lap 50 when George Russell had to retire with a loss of fuel pressure in his Williams-Mercedes, and on Lap 54, the lap the second safety car period ended when Kimi Räikkönen of Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari lost his right-front wheel.

This was before Hamilton clashed with Verstappen’s teammate Alexander Albon on Lap 61 after Albon attempted to pass Hamilton around the outside of Turn Four, ending Albon’s hopes of a first podium in Formula One (although he retired (classified 13th) from the race on Lap 67 due to electronic issues), and Hamilton, who finished second on the track, received a five-second time penalty as a result.

This gave the opportunity for Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari that was no where near the quickest cars on merit during the weekend to pounce and grab a surprise second-place, while Lando Norris snatched his first podium in Formula One for McLaren-Renault by setting the fastest lap of the race on the final lap, beating Hamilton to third (after Hamilton’s time penalty) by 0.198 seconds!

That was just a small snapshot of the return of Formula One, which remains at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria this weekend for the first-ever running of the Styrian Grand Prix, Round Two of the 2020 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Bottas (25 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by seven points over Ferrari’s Leclerc (18 points) after the opening round of 2020. Ferrari, despite finishing second through the efforts of Leclerc, were never in the hunt for the race victory. Leclerc just managed to scrape into the third period (Top 10) of qualifying on Saturday, while his teammate Sebastian Vettel (one point), who finished the opening race of 2020 in 10th after spinning and almost colliding with McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr., who incidentally will be replacing Vettel at Ferrari in 2021, on Lap 32 as the race resumed after the first safety car, just missed out on getting into the third period of qualifying.

Right now, Ferrari have the fifth-fastest car on paper, which is worse than expected, and are now going to bring updates to their car for the Styrian Grand Prix, instead of waiting for the following weekend at the Hungarian Grand Prix as they had originally intended. If the updates don’t work for Ferrari, then Leclerc’s second-place finish at the Austrian Grand Prix could well become a distant memory for the Prancing Horse.

Norris (16 points) is third in the standings for McLaren-Renault after becoming third-youngest driver in Formula One history to score a podium finish, while Hamilton (12 points) is fourth for Mercedes after his clash with Albon at Turn Four, which is the second time they have touched each other in the last three races after coming together last year in Brazil.

In my view, while the stewards were probably right to give Hamilton a five-second time penalty, I felt it was very close to a racing incident just because of the high degree of difficulty of making a pass around the outside of someone at Turn Four at the Red Bull Ring, especially around the outside of a six-time world champion.

If it had been Albon’s teammate Verstappen in that position rather than Albon, I think Verstappen would have made a successful pass around the outside of Hamilton due to the extra level of speed Verstappen has, thus the extra level of respect that Hamilton would have had for Verstappen due to his extra level of speed, and this extra level of respect is not the type of respect that you can earn over time!

It is the type of respect that you either born with, or not born with (relative to the opposition), and if Albon is going to be successful in his Formula One career, he is likely going to have to be done through greater hard work and grit, rather than going down the route of doing it via audaciousness and natural speed!

Carlos Sainz Jr. (10 points) is fifth in the world championship for McLaren-Renault, Sergio Pérez (eight points) is sixth for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes after receiving a five-second time penalty for speeding in the pit-lane, although that wouldn’t have moved him up any further, while Pierre Gasly (six points) for AlphaTauri-Honda, Esteban Ocon (four points) for Renault, Antonio Giovinazzi (two points) for Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, and Vettel (one point) for Ferrari complete the points-scoring finishers, while Nicholas Latifi missed out on a points-scoring finish for Williams-Mercedes on his Formula One debut.

As for the other drivers who didn’t finish the race (that I haven’t mentioned), Daniel Ricciardo retired on Lap 17 for Renault due to overheating and cooling issues with his car, Lance Stroll was a casualty for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes three laps later with an engine issue, while Romain Grosjean (brakes) and Daniil Kvyat (suspension) retired on Lap 49 and Lap 69 for Haas-Ferrari and AlphaTauri-Honda respectively, with Kvyat classified in 12th.

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (37 points) lead by 11 points over McLaren-Renault (26 points), with Ferrari (19 points) a further seven points adrift, while Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (eight points), AlphaTauri-Honda (six points), Renault (four points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (two points) all claimed points in a car-breaking grand prix, with Williams-Mercedes (zero points), Red Bull Racing-Honda (zero points), and Haas-Ferrari (zero points) yet to get off the mark.

So, who will win the inaugural Styrian Grand Prix?

If the conditions are cooler this weekend, particularly for race day, then you would expect a more predictable race, especially in terms of reliability, and likewise a more predictable final result. If Mercedes are reliable, they should finish first and second, and if that is the case, I tip Lewis Hamilton to bounce back to his very best this weekend!

However, if rain or car reliability (through failures or grid penalties) affects the weekend, then all bets will be off once again, but regardless of what happens, it should be another great race!

2019 Mexico Grand Prix – Preview

It was a magnificent, but more importantly a morale-boosting performance from Valtteri Bottas to claim the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, his third race victory of the season, and is now the only driver that can challenge Lewis Hamilton for the 2019 championship, which means for the first time in Formula One history, a team, which in this case is Mercedes, will win six-consecutive driver and constructor championships after Mercedes claimed their sixth-straight Constructors’ Championship at Suzuka!

However, with Ferrari showing fantastic speed over one lap, and Red Bull Racing-Honda normally very strong at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, there will be a lot of factors for Mercedes to deal with as we head into Round 18 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, the 2019 Mexico Grand Prix.

Hamilton (338 points) leads the championship by 64 points over his Mercedes’ teammate Bottas (274 points), the only driver that can challenge Hamilton for the world championship, and this weekend, Hamilton can move to within one of Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world championships if (and please note that you must finish inside the Top 10 in the race to claim a point for setting the fastest lap):

1. Hamilton wins the race (with the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes fourth or lower.

2. Hamilton wins the race (without the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes fifth or lower (with or without the fastest lap).

3. Hamilton finishes 2nd (with or without the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes eighth or lower (without the fastest lap).

4. Hamilton finishes 2nd (without the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes ninth or lower (with or without the fastest lap).

5. Hamilton finishes 3rd (with the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes ninth or lower.

6. Hamilton finishes 3rd (without the fastest lap), and Bottas finishes 10th or lower (without the fastest lap).

However, you sense it is going to be uphill struggle for Hamilton and Mercedes this weekend given the challenges they have had in recent times at high altitude in Mexico, which could very well mean that the championship goes onto the Circuit of the Americas the week after the Mexico Grand Prix.

Charles Leclerc (221 points) is third in the championship, and the best of the rest for Ferrari despite finishing the Japanese Grand Prix in seventh after fighting back through the field after colliding with Max Verstappen on the opening lap, forcing Leclerc to come into the pits to change his front wing.

Verstappen (212 points) is still fourth in the standings for Red Bull Racing-Honda despite having to retire from the race at Suzuka due to damage suffered to his car after the collision with Leclerc. Vettel (212 points) is now level on points with Verstappen for Ferrari after finishing second behind Bottas in Japan, but still trails Verstappen in the championship due to having more wins than Vettel (two wins to one).

Behind the Top Five in the world championship, Carlos Sainz Jr. (76 points) is sixth in the world championship for McLaren-Renault, followed by Pierre Gasly (75 points) and Alexander Albon (64 points) for Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda, who will be changing their name to Scuderia Alpha Tauri-Honda in 2020, and Red Bull Racing-Honda respectively, while Sergio Pérez (37 points) for Racing Point-BWT Mercedes and Lando Norris (35 points) for McLaren-Renault complete the Top 10 in the standings following the disqualifications of both Renault drivers (Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg) from the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix after both cars were found to have had illegal pre-set, automated brake bias system after a protest by Racing Point-BWT Mercedes.

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (612 points) have claimed their sixth-consecutive title, and have an unassailable 177-point lead over Ferrari (435 points), who have a 112-point lead over Red Bull Racing-Honda (323 points). Ferrari can claim second in the 2019 Constructors’ Championship this weekend if they outscore Red Bull Racing-Honda by 21 points or more.

Behind the Top Three, McLaren-Renault (111 points) have increased their grip on fourth, while Renault (68 points), after the disqualifications of both their cars from the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix, are slipping back into the clutches of Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (62 points), and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (58 points), with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (35 points) and Haas-Ferrari (28 points) in a battle for eighth, while Williams-Mercedes (one point) look set to remain in last barring a minor miracle in the last four races.

So, who will win the 2019 Mexico Grand Prix?

Mercedes have a poor recent record at Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez due to the track characteristics in part, but more specifically the higher than usual altitude, which affects the usual cooling package of their car, meaning that they have to allow more air into the car to cool various components, including components within the power-unit, thus reducing the overall performance of the car.

With that being the case, I look towards both Ferrari and Red Bull Racing-Honda, and while Ferrari have shown a great upturn in form since the mid-season break generally, I am going to tip Max Verstappen to grab his third race victory of 2019, and place heavy pressure on Charles Leclerc in the battle for third in the world championship.

And, with that, the championship battle between Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas will continue onto the United States!

2019 Australian Grand Prix – Preview

It has been an interesting off-season in Formula One, with a number of big changes. Daniel Ricciardo leaving Red Bull Racing-Honda to join Renault and being replaced by Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc joining Ferrari to replace Kimi Räikkönen, who has join Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari, Lance Stroll joining Racing Point-BWT Mercedes, and new driver pairing at McLaren-Renault (Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr.), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (Alexander Albon and Daniil Kvyat), and Williams-Mercedes (George Russell and Robert Kubica).

However, the most decisive change may well be the addition of a championship point for the driver who sets the fastest lap of each race in 2019, as long as the driver who sets it finishes the race inside the Top 10, and with an extra 21 points potentially on the line, could this decide who wins the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship, which starts this weekend at Albert Park in Melbourne?

Possibly, but who are the championship contenders?

Realistically, based on the results of testing, three teams are capable of challenging for the world championship.

Mercedes are obviously going to be right up there, and are chasing an unprecedented sixth-straight drivers/constructors championship double. Five-time world champion Lewis Hamilton is undoubtedly in career-best form as he looks to hunt down a number of records held by seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, including most championships, most race wins (Schumacher 91 to 73), most podiums (Schumacher 155 to 134), and most races led (Schumacher 142 to 129), while his teammate Valtteri Bottas will be looking for a vastly-improved performance in 2019 after finishing fifth in the world championship in 2018.

However, Mercedes face a huge battle to maintain their superiority against Ferrari, who have been very quick in testing in the hands of four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, and his new teammate Charles Leclerc, who will become the youngest driver to race for Ferrari since the late Ricardo Rodriguez (19 years and 208 days) in 1961 at the age of 21 years and 153 days.

Vettel, who is looking for a third-straight win in Australia, will be desperate to deliver Ferrari their first driver’s world championship since Kimi Räikkönen back in 2007, and the Prancing Horse have been quick in testing, leading the timesheets on four of the eight days of testing at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, and if that is anything to go by, Ferrari will be serious championship contenders to Mercedes in 2019, but the obvious question marks will be whether Vettel and Ferrari can sustain a championship challenge for a full season against the juggernaut that is Hamilton and Mercedes, and whether Leclerc will prove a handful for Vettel, and deny the German the fifth world championship that he has been seeking since joining Ferrari in 2015?

The third team that appears to be a championship contender is Red Bull Racing-Honda with Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly. Verstappen is perhaps the most natural talent in Formula One today with the possible exception of Lewis Hamilton, and if he and Red Bull can get on a good run, they can challenge Mercedes and Ferrari for the world championship. However, the jury is still out on Gasly, and whether he can fill the large shoes of Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull.

Talking about Ricciardo, he is now with Renault for the 2019 season, driving alongside Nico Hülkenberg, and on the face of it, they look like they may well be the fourth-quickest, and the best of the rest behind Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull. However, I don’t think Renault are quite at that level of being a championship contender just yet, but if there is a chance of a really strong result, you know Ricciardo will be there to take the opportunity, and maybe a race victory, which would be the eighth of his career, isn’t out of the realms of possibility!

However, a team that won’t be challenging anywhere near the front is Williams-Mercedes. It was a disastrous off-season for the great British team, with the team not getting their car out onto the track until the second half of the third day of testing in Barcelona, and appear comfortably behind the rest of the field, which is a shame considering the miraculous return to Formula One of Robert Kubica for the first time since 2010 after the shocking rally accident in February 2011, which he came close to losing his life.

Hopefully at some point in 2019, we can see Kubica and Williams in a competitive position, but that seems unlikely at the moment.

So, who is going to win the 2019 Australian Grand Prix, and perhaps the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship?

In regards to both, it is going to be battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, as well as Max Verstappen from Red Bull Racing-Honda, and despite speculation that they have been knocked off their perch, I think Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will rise to the top, and dominate the weekend at Albert Park, and the two times when he has won the Australian Grand Prix (2008, 2015), he has gone onto win the world championship, and if he gets off to the perfect start, it is going to be a tall order for anyone to stop him winning his sixth championship, and moving to within one of Michael Schumacher!


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).