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2021 Turkish Grand Prix Blog

Congratulations to Valterri Bottas. He has become somewhat F1’s forgotten man as the title challenge swings between Max and Lewis. But on Sunday he put in a flawless display to claim his 10th Grand Prix victory. Very well done.

During the build up to the race, the Turkish GP had the hallmarks of being a classic. It was a grey and drizzly day at Istanbul Park. The track was wet at the start, but with the potential for drying conditions, the teams could have to make some serious strategy calls.

We’ve had our fair share of rain affected races this season and maybe the drivers are getting used to it. There wasn’t the usual chaos at the start of this Grand Prix. Pierre Gasly tagged Fernando Alonso at the first corner and sent him spinning to the back of the pack, but aside from that it was a clean getaway. More surprising still, all 20 cars finished the race.

The problem was though this race never really got going. All drivers were on intermediate tyres, which were adapt for the conditions but also seemed to last forever. Charles Leclerc may disagree with us here as he tried, and failed, to hold the lead using a set of old inters before losing out to Valtteri Bottas and being forced to pit on lap 47. That incident aside though, the track was never dry enough for slicks. So Bottas and Verstappen got their tactics right in opting for a one-stop strategy and switching to fresh inters with around 20 laps to go.

Sebastian Vettel can be commended for his bold decision to try a set of slick tyres, but it was a disastrous call. The Aston Martin looked more like Bambi on Ice than an F1 racing car for its solitary lap on this compound. In truth, Vettel did well to get the car back to his garage, such was the lack of control. The German also accepted responsibility, saying about the call: “In the end I made the decision, I wanted to try to go for it.”

Another driver bemoaning his team’s strategy after the race was Lewis Hamilton. The Briton started P11 on the grid following Mercedes decision to take a fourth engine of the season, due to reliability concerns. Lewis drove a solid race, not rushing overtakes but slowly and surely gaining places through the field. With 15 laps to go, Hamilton was in P4 and must have sensed the chance of a podium finish when he overruled team instructions to pit.

The difference of opinion between team and driver here was obvious. Mercedes wanted to pit and guarantee the points they would get from a fifth-place finish, maybe even higher. Doing this meant no risk of the tyres falling off completely, or exploding, which could have resulted in a DNF. Hamilton wanted to stay out and go for glory. He thought his tyres would hold out and, with the track drying all the time, there was a chance that everyone would have to stop for dry tyres anyway.

This argument went on an on but eventually Hamilton conceded and pitted from third place on Lap 50. He re-joined the race down in P5 and quickly closed in on Charles Leclerc (P4) before dropping back again. Lewis was clearly annoyed and didn’t mince his words over the radio, saying: “We shouldn’t have come in… Massive graining man. I told you.”

Much as we love exciting racing and dramatic finishes, we think Mercedes made the right call. The last driver to complete a Grand Prix without changing tyres was Miko Salo racing for Tyrrell back at Monaco in 1997. Mercedes would have known this and concluded that it was an unacceptable risk to take. Chief engineer Andrew Shovlin summed things up well, saying: “The decisions were sensible and, in a championship battle, there is a point where you have to stop taking risks and cut your losses and, although these decisions are difficult, you have to be strong and you have to take them.”

So where does this leave things in the Drivers’ Standings? Red Bull had a good afternoon with a double podium finish. Max Verstappen was P2, which means he now has a 6-point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the title fight. Christian Horner was pleased with the result but emphasised how close things are in his post-race interview, saying: “The next race in Austin has been a Hamilton strong hold so we are going to have to be at the very top of our game, it’s great to be in this fight and the whole team is really enjoying it.”

We are enjoying it too and will be there at COTA in two weeks’ time to see exactly how that battle pans out. This will be our first visit to Texas for a couple of years now and we’re very much looking forward to it!

Hospitality options at all six remaining 2021 F1 races are limited now, with many being sold out. We do still have some great packages available though, especially for the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi. If you’d like to be there to see a race weekend live, please call us on +44 (0)207 107 1640 or email us at f1@edgeglobalevents.com

 

 

2021 Russian Grand Prix Blog

On Sunday afternoon in Sochi, Lewis Hamilton recorded his 100th Formula 1 race win. He’s in unchartered territory now. Never before has this been achieved, and we’re not sure if it will ever happen again. Huge congratulations to Lewis. And to the Mercedes team as a whole for making it possible.

For every winner there must be a loser and, in the context of the Russian Grand Prix, that person was Lando Norris. Heavy rain on Saturday resulted in FP3 being cancelled, leaving the teams and drivers with several unknowns at the start of Qualifying. At the start of the session the track was wet, but drying quickly, which prompted a move from intermediate tyres to slicks in Q3. Ultimately it was the young Brit who put together the fastest lap, earning his place at the front of the pack in also McLaren’s first pole position since 2012.

Come race day and we had a mixed-up grid order, thanks to an unpredictable Qualifying. The line-up was as follows: 1) Norris, 2) Sainz, 3) Russell, 4) Hamilton, 5) Ricciardo, 6) Alonso, 7) Stroll… One got the feeling that this could be anyone’s race. Except perhaps Max Verstappen who was starting at the back of the grid after taking a new Honda power unit for the race.

Interestingly, once the news about Verstappen broke, Mercedes announced that Valtteri Bottas would also be starting down in P16 due to a PU change. The cynics amongst us thought that this was a deliberate ploy to try and hold Max up at the back of the field. Surely Mercedes would never dream of doing such a thing? In the event, it didn’t make a bit of difference as Verstappen cruised past Bottas on the inside during lap 7. The Red Bull driver may have been surprised, as this was one of the easiest overtakes that he could have wished for.

At the business end, it was Carlos Sainz in front up until lap 14 when he surrendered the lead back to Lando Norris. The race then fell into a rhythmical pattern and McLaren looked to have got their tactics spot on as Lando controlled things from the front. His main threat, Lewis Hamilton, was held up in traffic and it seemed to take him an age to catch up.

On lap 35 Hamilton finally managed to pass Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc to take second place and set his sights firmly on the McLaren ahead of him. To his credit, Lando did not panic and defended well until mother nature played her hand… All afternoon the teams had been assessing the treat of rain and on lap 46 it materialised…

The rain was light at first but, with a thin film of water covering parts of the track, Sochi Autodrom turned into something akin to an ice rink. The cars were all tiptoeing around and the million-dollar question for the teams was should they stay out or pit for new tyres. The hapless Valterri Bottas gave Mercedes an advantage here. He was racing out of the points, which meant they had nothing to lose when pitting him with 6 laps to go. What this did provide though was the information they needed to make a call on Lewis Hamilton. The weather radar said heavier rain was coming and they called Hamilton into pit the lap after Bottas. The only thing is though… he refused!

Speaking after the race, Lewis explained his decision saying: “I only had three laps to catch up 24 seconds… So it was like ‘no way’.”

In the event, the rain then became a deluge, so Lewis conceded and pitted for fresh tyres on the following lap. This was the right call. Lando’s slick tyres were so unsuited by the conditions that he was like a rabbit in the headlights. The Mercedes ate up the deficit and, when the McLaren slid off the track, Hamilton was past him and driving towards his 100th victory. Lando did eventually pit, but much too late, and finished the race down in seventh place.

Whilst we are delighted for Lewis’ achievement, the final stages of this race were tough to watch. Neutral fans around the globe surely wanted to see Lando Norris win his first Grand Prix and the manner in which this was taken away seemed cruel. Having said that, this sport is about getting your tactics right, and that’s why Mercedes are the best at what they do.

A post-race exchange between Lando and Lewis was particularly telling, when they said:
Hamilton: “Lando…you didn’t want to come in?”
Norris: “No.”
Hamilton: “Me neither! I was like [Lando] is right there in front of me. And I guess you were looking in the mirrors thinking the exact same thing.”
Norris: “Yeah until then it was dry enough for slicks.“
Hamilton: “[It was wet] between Turn 5 and 7 right?”
Norris: “Yeah…which was tough, but [everywhere else] was dry. So our decision and what I got told was that the rain was just going to stay like that. Apparently what you got told was different…”
Hamilton: “Yeah, yeah, yeah. My team were…pretty great. I ignored the first call because I knew you were right there.”
Norris [smiling]: “Well I ignored them the whole time.”

The one thing which took the icing off the cake for Mercedes is that during the melee Max Verstappen somehow managed to steer his Red Bull up into second place. Having started at the back of the grid, that is an amazing achievement. The result, according to Christian Horner, “feels like a victory”. Whilst Lewis Hamilton described it as “mega damage limitation”.

The outcome has left the drivers’ championship on a knife edge. Lewis now leads Max by just two points. With seven rounds to go, everything is still to play for.

Another weekend off next week, before battle commences again in Istanbul for the Turkish Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

If you’d like to be there to see a race weekend live, please call us on +44 (0)207 107 1640 or email us at f1@edgeglobalevents.com

2021 Italian Grand Prix Blog

Firstly, we’d like to say a huge congratulations to Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris and everyone who is involved at McLaren. Going into this weekend, if you had offered the Woking based outfit a place on the podium, they would have snapped your hand off. To achieve a P1 and P2 finish is simply unbelievable. It’s the stuff of dreams!

How did McLaren achieve such lofty heights? Well, it was in no small part due to a nasty collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Max’s car was flipped into the air when he left the track at the first chicane, with the rear of the Red Bull landing on top of the Mercedes. This was a horrible moment. Verstappen’s rear wheel was still spinning, and Lewis was crouching low in his cockpit with the tyre bouncing off his helmet. Thank goodness he was able to walk away unscathed.

Hamilton has been a critic of the halo in the past and once described it as the “worst-looking modification in F1 history”. On Sunday it may well have saved his life, and the Briton was quick to admit he was “very, very fortunate” to walk away from the crash before adding: “Thank God for the halo which saved me, and saved my neck.”

Let’s rewind a bit and examine what happened in the build up to the crash on lap 26 – Max had been running in second place, with a healthy four second lead over Lewis who was down in fourth place. When Verstappen pitted on Lap 23 he was reacting to race leader, Daniel Ricciardo’s, tyre change the lap before. But a disastrous 11.1 pit stop which Red Bull said was caused by “human error” meant the Dutchman re-joined the race down in ninth place. An expletive ridden rant over the radio let us all know exactly how he felt.

Lewis Hamilton in the meantime decided to change tyres on Lap 26 and should have been able to re-join well clear of his title rival, but a slow (4 second) stop, meant the Mercedes emerged from the pit lane just as Lando Norris and Max Verstappen were charging down the home straight. The McLaren scooted ahead of Hamilton as he merged back onto track but, crucially, the Red Bull was slightly behind the Mercedes. There is no love lost between either driver, so we shouldn’t have been surprised that neither gave an inch as they battled into the first chicane, but what happened next though was frightening.

When asked for his version of events, Verstappen said: “I don’t know why he kept pushing wider and wider… You need two people to work together to make the corner work but unfortunately, we touched. If one guy is not willing to work, it is not going to happen… It’s very unfortunate what happened today”.

Both drivers were interviewed post-race by the stewards, and it was Verstappen who they deemed to have caused the incident. The Red Bull driver has handed a three-place grid penalty at the next Grand Prix.

For what it’s worth, we don’t think Max deserved a penalty. This was a highly unfortunate set of circumstances, but both drivers had a 50/50 share of the blame in our opinion. What is certain though is that the halo has proved its worth once again!

The atmosphere inside Monza this weekend was superb. Local fans would have been hoping for a strong race from Ferrari and they were not left disappointed with a P4 (Leclerc) and P6 (Sainz) finish. The Monegasque driver deserves special credit, and he said afterwards: “I put my whole heart into it today. In terms of my personal performance, I would rank this as one of my top drives since joining Formula 1.”

On any other weekend, Leclerc may have done enough to be awarded ‘Driver of the Day’. But, with Australians voting in their thousands, that honour goes to Daniel Ricciardo. The McLaren driver said afterwards: “A big thanks to the team. Not only winning, but a one-two’s incredible. A lot of hard work went into this and we really earned it out there. I’m really, really happy.”

Valtteri Bottas is another driver who deserves a special mention. He officially won Saturday’s Sprint race, earning a valuable 3-points for his team in the process, but took an engine penalty and so started at the back of the grid on Sunday. Despite this setback, Bottas kept a cool head during the Grand Prix and it was a remarkable drive to finish third and claim a spot on the podium. Well done him.

After a triple-header the F1 teams and drivers deserve a weekend off but they will be back in Sochi for the Russian Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

If you’d like to be there to see a race weekend live, please call us on +44 (0)207 107 1640 or email us at f1@edgeglobalevents.com

2021 Dutch Grand Prix Blog

Toto Wolff has proclaimed Zandvoort as the blueprint design for future tracks, claiming the onboard footage makes you “pee in your pants”. Lewis Hamilton was equally impressed, tweeting on Sunday evening: “ZANDVOORT. What a circuit, what a race.”

But what did the fans think? It was difficult to spot anyone not wearing an orange shirt, and when local hero Max Verstappen came home in front, the reaction was euphoric. However, even before his victory there was a carnival like atmosphere. Warm weather and the seaside location helped, so we think it’s safe to say the 65,000 in attendance on Sunday will have enjoyed themselves!

This was an important weekend for F1. Racing in Holland for the first time in 36 years, they needed to showcase the sport in its best light… and that is exactly what they did. Well done to all involved in making it happen.

Let’s look at the racing now. Zandvoort is undoubtedly a great track to drive but what worries us slightly is the lack of overtaking opportunities. Don’t get us wrong, it was possible to make up ground, as Sergio Perez proved when he started from the pit lane and finished P8. The thing is though, Perez had the fastest car on the grid. Where performance levels were similarly matched, we watched drivers all afternoon struggling to make their moves stick.

Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton is an obvious example. The margins were small, with Hamilton only just beaten to pole, and both cars having almost identical race pace, but the Mercedes was never able to lay down a serious challenge to the Red Bull. Lewis’ post-race assessment was fair when he said: “I was just trying to keep as close as possible but I tell you, he was fast today… They were on another level that I generally couldn’t answer really in most of those laps.”

Take nothing away from Red Bull. They got their tactics spot on, forcing Mercedes into a split race strategy, and giving them no real opportunities all afternoon. If you have the fastest car and the correct strategy, then you should win. But special credit must go to Verstappen for the part he played too. Max has been around for so long that people forget he is only 23 years old. Martin Brundle summed up the Dutchman’s performance well with a tweet saying: ‘If Max can stand the pressure of expectation from that amazing home crowd, and Lewis giving it absolutely everything in a works Merc, he really does have nerves of steel.’

Pierre Gasly also had a mighty race result coming home in fourth place. That is surely a better result than Alpha Tauri could have dreamed. The Frenchman said afterwards: “P4 is an amazing result today, I don’t think we could really hope for much better and it’s 12 important points for us. I really enjoyed all 72 laps here in Zandvoort, it’s a fantastic track.” This does, however, back up the theory that it is difficult to overtake here.

Race tactics from Mercedes during the final few laps also raised a few eyebrows. The team decided to pit both Valtteri Bottas (lap 67 of 72) and then Lewis Hamilton shortly afterwards for soft tyres, effectively throwing in the towel and gifting the race win to Red Bull. The Silver Arrows evidently saw more benefit in getting Hamilton a bonus point for fastest lap, but Bottas nearly ruined this by setting the fastest lap himself. Having gone purple through the first two sectors, Mercedes race strategist James Vowles came on the radio to tell Valtteri to “abort” his fastest lap attempt. Bottas did slow down, but not quickly enough, and so set the fastest lap anyway. As things turned out, Lewis was able to reclaim this honour, putting in his own flying effort on the final lap of the race.

When quizzed afterwards about what happened, Bottas said: “I was just playing around”. But, with an announcement expected imminently about his future, are we seeing tensions starting to run high at Mercedes? Nico Rosberg certainly thinks so. He may have ruffled a few feathers when in an interview with Sky Sports F1, he said:

“By the way, on George Russell, I’ve got a rumour… A certain streaming service [Netflix] was called into the office of Toto to film the signature… That’s the rumour that’s circulating in the paddock for George Russell.”

It may be the worst kept secret in Formula 1 anyway, but this is not something Bottas wants to hear.

This weekend F1 heads to Monza for the final leg of the European season. The Italian fans, like the Dutch, have an amazing passion for the sport. We never get tired of seeing the Tifosi flock to the circuit in their thousands. We’ll be there too and can’t wait to see if Max can extend his lead in the Championship or will Lewis be able to claw back some points at one of Mercedes favourite tracks?

If you’d like to be there to see a race weekend live, please call us on +44 (0)207 107 1640 or email us at f1@edgeglobalevents.com