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2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Blog

Firstly, congratulations to Max Verstappen and all involved at Red Bull. Max joins the highly coveted list of just 34 F1 Drivers’ World Champions. Very well done.

Was it a hollow victory? Yes. When the dust settles even Red Bull may find themselves troubled by the way in which events unfolded, which is a real shame because the team themselves do not deserve to be criticised for their part in proceedings.

As the race unfolded, Red Bull could see the Championship slipping away, so they gambled and took a different strategy to Mercedes. It was a longshot, but what happened next was nothing short of extraordinary. Race director Michael Masi certainly has some explaining to do. The way he handled the situation was bizarre to say the least.

“THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE!!!!”

“Max is an absolutely fantastic driver who has had an incredible season and I have nothing but huge respect for him, but what just happened is absolutely unacceptable. I cannot believe what we’ve just seen.”

George Russell tweeting immediately after the race.

He’s right. Formula 1 has been accused of being boring in the past and bosses are desperate to make the sport appeal to a wider audience, but do we need drama at all costs? It seems to us that FIA changed the rules during Sunday’s race to sensationalise the result. It has left a sour taste after what has been a sensational season.

But let’s backtrack – how did we get into this situation in the first place?

Mercedes had been in complete control of the race. Hamilton got off to a flyer and lead Verstappen into Turn 1. On Lap 2, Max made a lunge down the inside at Turn 7. The gap was there, and he was marginally ahead of the Mercedes, but it forced Hamilton wide into the corner. Lewis backed out and took the escape route across the runoff area instead. By cutting the corner he re-joined the track even further ahead of his opponent. Should he give the place back? Not according to the stewards who said: “no investigation necessary.”

This was an early blow for Red Bull and shaped the remainder of the race. Mercedes were on ‘Plan A’ with their preferred tyre choice and Hamilton stretching his lead. Verstappen pitted for hard tyres on Lap 14, but it made no real difference as Mercedes simply followed suit with Hamilton on Lap 15. Throughout the afternoon we watched a game of ‘cat and mouse’, but it was clear that Mercedes had the superior setup. It looked to be a case of by how far Hamilton win would.

An important side note now because, sadly, Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire his Alpha Romeo on Lap 28. This was not the ending that anyone wanted for him. But what a career! It says it all that the Finn was awarded ‘Driver of the Day’ with a huge 42.8% of the vote. We wish you well Kimi.

Things then started to get interesting when Antonio Giovinazzi stopped out on track on Lap 36 due to a mechanical issue. Innocuous enough, but this prompted a VSC period. Verstappen took advantage of a ‘cheap’ pit stop and switched to a fresh set of tyres. Mercedes decided not to copy, believing instead that track position was more important.

“Bit of a risk leaving me out, no?” asked Hamilton over the radio on Lap 40.

“I won’t be able to keep this pace up for the whole way,” he said on Lap 41.

The tension in Lewis’ voice was clear and for a few laps it was squeaky bum time at Mercedes. Had they misjudged it?

The answer is no. A few laps later and Verstappen’s progress started to slow. As it transpired, he was suffering from as much tyre degradation as the car he was chasing. Come Lap 49 and Red Bull had pretty much thrown in the towel. Christian Horner was gracious enough to talk to race commentators from the pit wall and said simply that Max “Needs a miracle.”

Christmas is a time for miracles though, isn’t it? On Lap 54 Nicholas Latifi clipped a kerb, lost control of his Williams and collided heavily into the barriers at Turn 14. With debris strewn all over the track it was inevitable the safety car had to come out.

Red Bull rolled the dice. With nothing to lose they put Verstappen on soft tyres. Hamilton stayed out, again. Mercedes still adamant that track position was key.

It looked likely that race would end under the safety car as the marshal’s scrambled to get the track clear. But on Lap 57/58 things got really confusing with a message from Michael Masi saying: “Lapped cars will not be allowed to overtake the safety car” followed by the message to just the five cars between Lewis and Max being told to pass. Anyone who can enlighten us as to the thinking here, answers on a postcard please.

The way we see it is F1 bosses wanted a finish that would create as much drama as possible. They effectively gifted Verstappen the title because when the race restarted, he was in P2 on a brand-new set of soft tyres against Hamilton in P1 who had well worn hard tyres. It was the equivalent of racing a Ferrari against a Ford Fiesta.

Verstappen won the race of course, and in doing so the Drivers’ Title (subject to any further Mercedes appeals). The problem though is that Max is a racer at heart and deep down he will know he didn’t deserve to win the race on Sunday. Something like that can eat away at you.

After an epic season the drivers and teams all deserve a well-earned rest. What we all hope is that Lewis and Max recoup over the winter and then come back as strong as ever in 2022. Mercedes are feeling aggrieved and will want to do their talking on the track. Red Bull have a title to defend, and they need to prove that it was not a fluke.

The 2022 Bahrain Grand Prix takes place in just 98 days’ time and pricing for all races should be available in the next 2-3 weeks. If you would like to join us at an F1 race weekend next season, please call +44 (0)207 107 1640 or email f1@edgeglobalevents.com.

In the meantime, we’d like to wish all our clients, colleagues, and friends all the best for Christmas & the New Year.

2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Blog

A week ago, it looked like the Jeddah Corniche Circuit may not be ready at all. They were still bolting in kerbs and sweeping dust from the track on Friday morning before Practice. But come nightfall, and the track looked magnificent. This was an incredible achievement for all involved.

It may have been sparkling under the lights, but make no mistake, Jeddah Corniche Circuit is brutal. The F2 race was suspended after a start line shunt and one got the feeling that something similar might happen during the main event. Nothing could prepare us for what transpired though. The first ever Saudi Arabian GP will live long in the memory as one of the most dramatic events in years. The race was red flagged twice, featured three standing starts, and had an amazing series of clashes between the two title protagonists, Lewis Hamilton & Max Verstappen.

So much happened during this Grand Prix it’s hard to recount everything in a short blog. The key points though are this: Lewis Hamilton won, even though he crashed into the back of the Red Bull at one point during the race. Any other result would have been unjust. Verstappen’s driving was at times questionable, to say the least. The stewards felt the same, handing the Dutchman a total of 15 seconds worth of time penalties for his performance. Crucially though, this was not enough to stop Verstappen from finishing in second place. This was a dream result for neutral fans as it means the two drivers are now level on points going into a final showdown in Abu Dhabi.

How did it all end up like this? Let’s back track to the first major incident of the race, when Mick Schumacher lost control of his Haas and slammed into the barriers at Turn 22. Mercedes looked in control at the time, with Hamilton leading from teammate Valtteri Bottas. The Silver Arrows, sensibly, decided to pit both drivers for fresh tyres under a safety car. Red Bull, equally sensibly, kept Verstappen out as they needed a different race strategy to have any chance of winning. Luck was on Red Bull’s side because shortly afterwards the race was stopped to repair the barriers. The rules allow drivers to change tyres under a red flag and this was a huge boost to Verstappen’s chances.

The first standing restart went Hamilton’s way with his Mercedes quickest off the line, but Verstappen re-passed him by going off the track at the left/right chicane. Lewis had no time to react as the race was immediately stopped again due to two more crashes towards the rear of the field. The most frightening incident of the race occurred here as Nikita Mazepin smashed into the back of George Russell’s slow-moving Williams. Both drivers walked away unscathed, but this could have been nasty.

Things got even more bizarre when the cars returned to the pit lane and fans were played radio commentary of Red Bull negotiating with Michael Masi over what position Max Verstappen should be in for the restart. Eventually the team agreed that he would be third behind Esteban Ocon and Lewis Hamilton. We have never seen this before, but it would seem in such circumstances the race director has special dispensation to find a solution which all parties are happy with, without involving the stewards.

Come the third restart, and this time it was Hamilton who was caught napping. He drifted towards Esteban Ocon in the centre of the track, leaving the door wide open for Verstappen to pass on the inside and lead the race. Hamilton quickly regained his composure and passed Ocon a few moments later to close in on his rival. It was obvious to everyone that the Mercedes was the faster of the two cars and it seemed a matter of when, not if, Lewis would get him.

Lap 37 was when things really kicked off. Lewis tried to pass Max on the outside of Turn 1 and was just ahead, but the Red Bull driver refused to yield and forced them both off the track. Verstappen emerged still in first place but was told by Michael Masi to hand the position back. It took a while for this to sink in and Verstappen remained in the middle of the track but he did slow down, very abruptly as is happens, causing Hamilton to run into the back of his car and damage the Mercedes front wing in the process.

“He just brake-tested me” shouted Lewis over the radio. For what it’s worth, we agree. This has been the most competitive F1 season in recent memory and it is brilliant to see two drivers so dedicated to their cause, but there comes a point where you can overstep the mark, which is what Max did here.

It takes a special kind of person to be an F1 driver though and even in his post-race interview, Verstappen did not believe he had done anything wrong. He said: “There was definitely a lot of action today, a lot of things happened. I was told to give the position back, so I moved off the racing line and slowed down, Lewis just stayed behind me, I don’t understand why he didn’t pass. I don’t agree with the five-second penalty, but it is what it is and we’ll just move on.”

Move on we will, to Abu Dhabi this coming weekend. Lewis & Max are now tied on 369.5 points each, so we it will be a ‘winner takes all’ showdown at Yas Marina Circuit. We will be in Abu Dhabi from Tuesday, and we can’t wait to see how things pan out.

Paddock Club is officially sold out in Abu Dhabi now, but we still have a limited number of 3-day Club Suite passes available. We also have the last few places in our W Hotel Suite. Plus, we have a small number of rooms available staying at Yas Island hotels. If you’d like to join us at Yas Marina Circuit to see it all happen live, please call us on +44 (0)207 107 1640 or email us at f1@edgeglobalevents.com.

2021 Qatar Grand Prix Blog

A triple header, late into the season and spread across 3 continents, was a huge ask for all the teams and drivers. However, Lewis Hamilton was showing no signs of fatigue. His determination to defend his title saw him put in a relentless performance in Qatar, which culminated in a dominant victory in the race.

As you may have guessed, it was Max Verstappen who chased Hamilton home. This time around though the Red Bull was definitely second best, finishing 25 seconds behind the Mercedes.

To tell the truth, Max lost this race on Saturday after the stewards ruled that he had failed to respect double waved yellow flags, following Pierre Gasly’s puncture during the third Qualifying session. Verstappen was handed a 5-place grid penalty, meaning he would start the race in seventh. Try as he might, it was an impossible task to peg back the Mercedes from there. The best Red Bull could hope for was second place, and that’s what Verstappen delivered. To put into context how far clear the pair were – Fernando Alonso claimed the final spot on the podium with a time that was nearly a full minute behind Lewis.

Of course, being nearly a minute behind didn’t take the smile of Fernando’s face. The Spaniard has endured a 7-year wait (105 races) to get back on the rostrum and he was delighted. Alonso, who has admitted to privately wondering if he would ever finish on the F1 podium again, said afterwards: “It felt fantastic today and to be back on the podium was so good. We deserved this result as a team and I’ve had to wait seven years since my last one. Hopefully we don’t need to wait this long again!” This was a red-letter day for Alpine, with Esteban Ocon also scoring highly in P5. They should be proud of their efforts.

We haven’t seen tyre issues in F1 for quite a while now, but the problem reared its head again at Losail as first Bottas, then Russell and then Latifi all suffered front-left punctures. Two may have been a coincidence, three was not. Pirelli boss Mario Isola suggested the problem could be down to the teams running longer stints, saying: “For sure, we had a few teams trying a one-stop strategy, because here it’s difficult to overtake, they didn’t want to lose time in the pit.” Isola suggested that these tactics had put too much stain on the tyres. He was, however, at a loss to explain why just the front-left had failed. This is something which needs to be investigated before F1 returns to Qatar in 2023.

Back to the racing and Lance Stroll deserves a mention. We haven’t always been his biggest fans but the Canadian put in a solid display to bring his Aston Martin home in P6. His efforts didn’t go unnoticed by Otmar Szafnauer, who commented: “That was a complex race from a technical point of view, and I want to pay tribute to two brilliant drives, particularly by Lance, who managed tyre wear and pressure from the Ferraris superbly to finish sixth under intense racing throughout all 57 laps. He was the star of our race today.”

But the most exciting thing about yesterday’s race was the result, as it means the Drivers’ Championship now hangs on a knife edge. Verstappen has an 8-point lead, but Hamilton has all the momentum coming off the back of two race wins. Whose shoes would we rather be in? Probably Mercedes, but only just.

Toto Wolff is sounding confident. When asked if their car was better now than it had been all season, he replied: “Yes, definitely… The car is quick on the straight and good in the corners. Lewis is totally in the zone, the lion got woken up at Interlagos. Saudi Arabia should be a good track for us. If everybody finishes the race, [the Championship] is going to go to Abu Dhabi.”

We certainly hope so! Paddock Club is officially sold out at Yas Marina Circuit now, but we still have a limited number of 3-day Club Suite passes available. We also have the last few places in our W Hotel Suite. Both options will make for a fantastic experience at the 2021 F1 season finale. If you’d like to join us at Yas Marina Circuit for the final race of the year, please call us on +44 (0)207 107 1640 or email us at f1@edgeglobalevents.com

The Qatar grand prix will take a rest for the 2022 season because they are hosting the world cup, but will be back for the 2023 season.

2021 Brazilian Grand Prix Blog

“One of the best drives I’ve ever seen in Formula 1 – by anyone. Utterly awesome.” That was Damon Hill’s assessment of Lewis Hamilton’s performance in the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. Few people would argue.

Proceedings at Interlagos started off just as Mercedes would have planned. As one of the three ‘Sprint’ races on the 2021 calendar, Qualifying took place on Friday night. This didn’t seem to bother Hamilton who looked imperious and aced Q3 finishing more than four tenths ahead of title rival Max Verstappen.

But it was events off the track which then took a turn for the worse. As the drivers emerged from their cars, Verstappen seemed to be fixated by Hamilton’s rear wing. Indeed, he was later fined €50,000 by race stewards for examining and touching it in Parc Ferme. Crucially though, the Red Bull driver was not handed a grid penalty.

Verstappen must have smelt a rat as Hamilton was subsequently disqualified from Qualifying for a rear-wing rule infringement. He was allowed to take part in the Sprint at the stewards’ discretion but started in P20. In addition to this, the Mercedes driver would be forced to drop 5 grid places for the Grand Prix itself for taking on a new Internal Combustion Engine after exceeding his allocation.

Not ideal then, especially as Mercedes performance on Friday had looked so promising. Hamilton later admitted he was “devastated” by the steward’s verdict. He didn’t let it show on track though, scything through the field and making up an impressive 15 places to finish just two seconds off the Sprint podium.

The Grand Prix itself presented the Silver Arrows with a fresh set of challenges. Despite their obvious pace, a win for Hamilton seemed unlikely with him starting down in tenth place (due to ICE grid penalty). Nobody passed this memo onto Lewis though and he was up to P6 by the end of Lap 1. After three laps Hamilton was closing in on his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who was ordered to let him past, thus leaving Lewis in P3 with only the two Red Bulls ahead.

Checo was Lewis’ next victim. The Mexican defended as best he could, but the straight-line speed of the Mercedes proved too much, and Hamilton powered past him at Turn 1 on Lap 19. Now into second place, only Max Verstappen stood between him and victory.

What followed was an enthralling contest. Both teams opted for double pit stops, thus leaving their drivers to fight it out over the remaining 27 laps. Soon enough Hamilton had closed the gap, but could he overtake? On his first attempt to pass around the outside, Verstappen seemed to force the Mercedes wide and both cars left the track. The stewards looked at it but deemed no investigation was necessary. The air in the Mercedes garage would have been blue.

Hamilton did the sensible thing and backed off enough to preserve his tyres for a few laps, but by Lap 59 the Mercedes was once again on the tail of the Red Bull. Try as he might, Verstappen couldn’t hold him off any longer and Hamilton used his superior speed to squeeze past on the inside to take the lead. Once in front, he was never going to slow down, winning the race by a 10s margin in the end. Take nothing away from Hamilton. This was one of the best, if not THE best, drive of his career. That didn’t stop the stewards from having another go at him though, this time handing Lewis a €25,000 fine for undoing his safety belt on the warm-down lap.

Toto Wolff was pleased with the result but blunt in his post-race assessment, saying: “I think we’ve just had many, many punches in the face this weekend… Decisions that could have swung either side against us or for us. It’s something that I’m just angry about and I will defend my team, my drivers to what comes. I’ve always been very diplomatic in how I discuss things, but diplomacy has ended today.”

Red Bull will be aware that their car was second best this weekend. Christian Horner said afterwards: “To come away with second and fourth today, plus the fastest lap was damage limitation this weekend. We scored 20 points for Max this weekend versus their 25 for Lewis in the Drivers’ Championship, so we’ll take that… We’ve got some catching up to do this week. There’s a lot of racing still to go, so we’ll brush ourselves down and come back fighting in Doha.”

Mercedes may be feeling hard done by, but neutral fans around the globe will be rubbing their hands together. This is the closest F1 Drivers’ Championship we’ve had for years. Verstappen holds a 14-point lead, with 3 races to go, but those races are at circuits which could potentially favour Mercedes. Who will win? We don’t know but it looks to be going down to the wire.

We still have F1 Paddock Club and W Hotel Suite Hospitality passes available for the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi. If you’d like to join us at Yas Marina Circuit this year, please call us on +44 (0)207 107 1640 or email us at f1@edgeglobalevents.com