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2021 Austrian Grand Prix Blog

Maybe it was a case that the drivers have become a bit too familiar with the Red Bull Ring circuit, but it seemed to us that a few of them ‘had their elbows out’ more than normal in Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix.

At the start of the race, Lando Norris and Sergio Perez were battling for second place. The Red Bull tried to pass the McLaren around the outside of Turn 4 but the Brit wouldn’t give up any track space, forcing the Mexican off the track and into the gravel. For what it is worth, we felt that the cars were pretty much level at the time, so this should have gone down as a racing incident. It did not, with the stewards handing Norris a 5-second time penalty. But that was nothing compared to Perez’ predicament, who re-joined the race down in P10.

What goes around comes around and Perez himself was handed a 5-second time penalty on Lap 41 in a near carbon copy of the Lando Norris incident, however, this time it was he who forced the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc off the track. It seems that the ‘red mist’ had got to Perez by this stage and before he could even serve this penalty, he shoved Leclerc into the gravel again, this time around Turn 6, meaning the Mexican was hit with yet another 5-second time penalty.

It’s fair to say that Checo didn’t make any new friends in yesterday’s race but he was quick to apologise for the Leclerc incidents, saying: “With Charles I’m extremely sorry because that’s not the way I like to be racing, in both occasions I just tried to brake as late as possible, ended up without road.” Perez was less remorseful about Lando Norris, complaining: “It was a disaster, my race… First with Lando, I think it wasn’t fair racing there. He was lucky not to have any damage but next time it can be different. Anyway, my race was ruined after that.”

In the end, it was a messy race all round. Kimi Raikkonen was involved in a bizarre last lap crash with Sebastian Vettel. The pair were out of the points and disputing P12 when Vettel made a move down the inside of Turn 4. Their cars drifted towards each other and the front right of the Alpha Romeo tagged the left rear of the Aston Martin, sending both spinning into the gravel. Vettel retired but Raikkonen was able to nurse his car home in P16, only to be handed a further 20-second time penalty by the stewards, plus two penalty points on his super licence.

Nicholas Latifi and Nikita Mazepin also attracted the attention of race officials for failing to slow under double yellows. Both were given 10-second stop-and-go penalties, which equates to c. 30 seconds added to their race times, plus three penalty points on their licences. A host of other drivers were investigated for the same offence with Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly, Charles Leclerc, Antonio Giovinazzi, and Daniel Ricciardo all being cleared without further punishment.

One driver who managed to steer clear of any such incidents was Max Verstappen. All around the circuit there were armies of Dutch fans in orange shirts who had come to support their hero, and he never gave them a moment to worry about. This was Verstappen’s fourth win out of the last five races and surely one of the most straightforward of his career. Lewis Hamilton maybe summed up his performance best, saying: “Max is walking away with it right now and there is not really much we can do about it.”

It has been a tough few weeks for Mercedes but perhaps things are not as bleak as Lewis suggests. Yes, they’ve been outclassed in the two races in Austria, but this is a circuit which was always going to play to Red Bull’s strengths. Let’s not forget that Hamilton would have won in France two weeks ago but for a strategy error from his team.

Silverstone is another high-speed circuit and is somewhere that Mercedes will be hoping to utilise the strengths of their car to full advantage. Can they claim a much-needed victory?

We still have last minute hospitality options available for the British Grand Prix. If you’d like to be there in person and see the race live, please contact us on +44 207 107 1640 or email: f1@edgeglobalevents.com

2021 Styrian Grand Prix Blog

F1 made their first visit of the year to the Austrian Alps this weekend. It is fair to say the Red Bull Ring is a circuit that the teams and fans alike always look forward to. The scenery is simply stunning. Who would not enjoy watching F1 cars battle it out around this tight winding track?

Well, Mercedes for one. This is a circuit which favours the setup on the Red Bull and, after a disappointing result in France, the Silver Arrows would have been fearing the worst. Max Verstappen seemed in no mood to let his advantage slip, topping the charts in both of Friday’s practice sessions, before cruising to one of his more straightforward pole positions in Qualifying on Saturday. It was looking ominous for Mercedes, who were not helped by Valtteri Bottas being handed a three-place grid penalty for ‘dangerous driving’ due to a spin in the pit lane. Perhaps the weather could save them but when asked about the prospect of rain, Hamilton sounded worried, saying: “Either way, I need to bring my A game. End of story.”

Come Sunday and the race got underway in dry conditions. Verstappen was quick off the line, leading into the first corner but there was plenty of trouble in behind him. Piere Gasly bumped Charles Leclerc off the track at Turn 1. As the Ferrari re-joined, Leclerc tagged the left rear of the Alpha Tauri causing a puncture. Now with little control over his car, Gasly sailed on at Turn 3, knocking the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi into a spin. What followed was a kind of domino effect with Nicholas Latifi also caught up in the melee. Inevitably some cars fared better than others, with Gasly coming off worst. He pitted but was forced to retire due to damage to his suspension. Leclerc also had to come in for a new front wing.

One driver who did well to avoid all this was the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian had endured a terrible Qualifying session, starting in P13 whilst his teammate, Lando Norris, was in P3 on the grid. Daniel really needed a good start, and he got it, climbing up to P8 after just a couple of laps. Sadly all this was in vain as the McLaren suffered a brief loss of power a few laps later and he dropped back down to P13. Where he had started…

Reliability has not been a major issue so far this season, but with the higher altitude (800m above sea level), it was not too surprising to see some cars struggle. Our hearts went out to George Russell though who looked on course to score his first points for Williams. The young Brit was running in P8 for around a third of the race before a power unit issue came to light. Williams did their best to manage the situation, but to no avail, and they eventually had to retire the car. In his post-race interview, Russell said: “I’m just gutted for the team to be honest.”

Back at the head of the field and Max Verstappen was cruising in the lead. He was a comfortable 5s clear of Lewis Hamilton by Lap 25 and looked in no danger. Red Bull may be annoyed with themselves at how Sergio Perez’s race played out though. They choose to pit Perez first, but a slow (4.8s) stop, played havoc with this strategy because it allowed Bottas to pit one lap later and jump him into P3.

It was plain for all to see that Red Bull had the faster car, but with limited overtaking opportunities Perez was unable to re-pass Bottas and so the team decided to take a chance with a second stop, bringing him in for new medium tyres on Lap 54. This was by no means ‘Plan A’ but it made for an intriguing final few laps as the Mexican fought to close down his target. Ultimately though, he came up short, crossing the line just 0.527s behind Bottas.

So, Mercedes had two drivers on the podium, but they are a team who are used to winning and this will have felt like a loss. Toto Wolff summed up their feelings, saying: “A double podium with the second fastest car was the best damage limitation we could do today – we fought with everything we had but it wasn’t enough. Red Bull clearly had the quicker package this weekend.” Worrying times as we cannot see how they will be able to change that around in less than a week.

We should also mention Charles Leclerc, who left the track smiling having been voted ‘Driver of the Day’ for steering his Ferrari from the back of the field to finish in P7. The Monegasque passed Tsunoda, Alonso and Stroll in quick succession, reminding everyone that, in a good car, he is a force to be reckoned with.

We have the third leg of a ‘triple-header’ next weekend. The F1 teams will be relived to be staying in Austria and hopefully they can grab some R&R time before we do it all again for the Austrian Grand Prix.

After that, we have the small matter of Silverstone to contend with. The British Grand Prix will take place from 16-18 July, and we are delighted that a capacity crowd will be allowed to attend. With the very first ‘F1 Sprint Race’ also on the agenda, this looks set to be one of the biggest events of the season! If you would like to be our guests at the British GP this year, please contact us on +44 207 107 1640 or email: f1@edgeglobalevents.com

2021 French Grand Prix Blog

The French Grand Prix isn’t normally the most exciting of races. In the past, both drivers and fans alike have criticised the circuit due to it having few low-speed corners and ‘Carpark’ run off areas. Well that all changed this year. On Sunday we were treated to one of the most intense Grands Prix in recent memory. The leading teams were split between a one and two stop race strategy, and it was genuinely unclear who would come out on top in a race which went down to the wire.

First of all, let’s look at Qualifying. Since it returned to the calendar in 2018, Circuit Paul Ricard has been a Mercedes stronghold with Lewis Hamilton taking pole in each edition. It will therefore have surprised a few people in the Paddock that Max Verstappen was able to clinch top spot on the grid for this year’s race. This perhaps illustrates the improved performance of the Red Bull.

Come Sunday and the Dutchman may have been feeling the pressure with the two Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas breathing down his neck. Maybe that is why he made an uncharacteristic error and ran wide at Turn 2, handing Hamilton the lead. It was a costly mistake and Mercedes seemed to have the race under control leading through the first stint. They decided to pit Valterri Bottas (P3) on Lap 17, which forced a response from Red Bull who pitted Verstappen one lap latter. Everyone had expected Hamilton to pit on Lap 18 as well, but for reasons known only to Mercedes, they kept him out. At the time Lewis held a 3+ second lead and we guess the team felt it was safe to wait one more lap.

They were wrong! In theory Verstappen could not make up enough time to make the undercut pay off, but somehow with fresh tyres he did exactly that and cruised past Hamilton into Turn 1 as the Mercedes was coming out of the pit lane. Hamilton was clearly shocked, saying: over the radio: “I don’t know [how it happened]… Great pit stop. Have to go back and look at it. I was definitely down on my in-lap, my tyres were getting worse.”

Anger Lewis Hamilton at your peril, because what followed was a relentless assault by the world champion to try and regain the lead. He pushed really hard and for nine laps was within a second of the Red Bull. The plan was to make Verstappen wear out his tyres, and it worked when Max came over the radio to say that he couldn’t keep up that level of pace and make it to the end of the race.

In a move which Christian Horner described as a: “ballsy call”, Red Bull pitted Verstappen out of the lead on Lap 32. His team were effectively asking Max to recover 18 seconds in the 20 laps remaining. Was this possible? No-one really knew but it proved to be an inspired move as Verstappen hunted down his prey and then surged past Hamilton with a lap and a half to go to take victory.

When asked after the race why he didn’t defend harder to try and hold onto the lead Hamilton said it was “pointless” because Verstappen had the DRS open and “if he didn’t pass me there, he would have passed me on the straight afterwards, so it made zero difference.” He’s right of course, but Mercedes will feel dejected because this is a race which they should have won. It was a poor strategy call which ultimately ended up costing them and, with a resurgent Red Bull team, these are errors which they can ill afford. Red Bull now hold a healthy 37-point lead in the Constructors’ standings.

It would be amiss of us not to mention some of the other teams and it was McLaren who impressed most with a P5 & P6 finish. Yes, they don’t have the pace to compete with Red Bull and Mercedes, but crucially they amassed an 18-point haul, whilst their rivals Ferrari finished out of the points. Andreas Seidl was very pleased with the days work, saying: “This was another strong Sunday afternoon for our team, thanks to two strong drivers, a strong car in race trim and perfect race execution from the entire team.”

Fernando Alonso also drove an excellent race to finish in eighth place. In his new role with Alpine, Alonso has been largely inconspicuous so far this season, but perhaps we saw some of the old spark yesterday. The Spaniard was smiling afterwards, saying: “we executed the race how we wanted, so I am happy with the result today.” We expect to see him feature more prominently in future races as he gets to grips with the car.

There is no rest now as the F1 Roadshow moves on to Austria for a double-header over the next two weekends. Red Bull will fancy themselves at their home track and the outcome of these races may prove crucial in the title race.

We have a range of hospitality options available for the British Grand Prix (16-18 July). Places are selling fast, so if you would like to be our guests at Silverstone this year, please contact us on +44 207 107 1640 or email: f1@edgeglobalevents.com.

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix Blog

We were treated to a rollercoaster of a race in Azerbaijan, with five different drivers leading the Grand Prix at various stages, tiny margins separating the leading teams, plus two safety car periods and a red flag. This race had more twists and turns than the beautiful Baku City Circuit around which it was run!

Qualifying was just as dramatic in a session which saw five crashes and four red flags. In the end, Charles Leclerc took advantage of a tow from Lewis Hamilton, with his Ferrari showing excellent pace, to clinch a surprise pole position. That’s two poles on the bounce for the Monegasque, who could soon be awarded the title of ‘Mr Saturday’.

Come race day and Leclerc did well to hold off Hamilton at the start, but the straight-line speed of the Mercedes soon proved too much, with Hamilton cruising past the Ferrari without the need for DRS on lap 2. Max Verstappen copied the move on lap 7 and we were then treated to an enthralling contest with milliseconds separating the Mercedes and Red Bull.

Lewis Hamilton broke the deadlock when he pitted on lap 12, however, it was an uncharacteristically slow (4.6 seconds) stop for the Silver Arrows. Verstappen pitted a lap later and came out comfortably in first place. His teammate, Sergio Perez stopped next and now it was Red Bull’s turn to fluff their lines with a slow (4.3 seconds) stop. Crucially, it didn’t matter as Checo re-joined the race just ahead of Hamilton, which must have felt like a hammer blow to Mercedes.

Red Bull had the upper hand and victory looked on the cards until the left rear tyre of Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin burst on lap 33, apparently out of nowhere, as he came down the pit straight. Stroll’s car suffered a forceful smash into the barriers. Thankfully, he walked away unscathed but that will have left him shaken. A safety car period followed.

Verstappen aced the restart on lap 35, and given the dominance of his performance so far, nobody thought he would finish anywhere other than in first place. Then… disaster… the left rear tyre of the Red Bull failed on the pit straight, in a similar position to Stroll’s crash, and sent Max spinning into the barriers on lap 47. This was another heavy shunt, prompting a safety car and then subsequently a red flag. Luckily, the Dutchman was unhurt. But he was clearly furious and kicked the tyre of his stricken car. In the circumstances, Verstappen’s reaction is understandable. At the time he held a 4 second lead over Sergio Perez and would certainly have won from that position. Instead, a DNF meant no points added to his tally in the Drivers’ Championship.

Confusion followed as to exactly what would happen next but perhaps most telling was Red Bull’s Jonathan Wheatley sending a radio message to race director Michael Masi about the incident: “Michael I know you’re busy… We got zero warning of that failure, nothing on a metric, not a vibration. Our point is: Consider red flag and the opportunity for everyone to change tyres.” In the end, that is exactly what happened.

Two almost identical crashes looks bad for Pirelli, who said afterwards that debris was the likely cause of the Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen’s crashes. Investigations into this will go on long and hard and we will reserve judgement. The only thing to say is that it was a dissatisfying end to what had been an excellent race.

The 35-minute delay was worth the wait though and racing resumed from standing start on lap 50. So it transpired that it would all boil down to a frenetic 2 lap sprint for the line. Perez now held P1, with the smoking Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton P2. As the lights went out Hamilton seemed to get the better start and his car edged ahead of the Red Bull, but in an uncharacteristic error he locked-up and went straight on into the runoff at turn 1. With no time to recover, that was that and Lewis too was out of the points.

Come the chequered flag and we were treated to the surprise podium of Perez (P1), Vettel (P2) and Gasly (P3). All three drivers should be commended for a fantastic effort. Whilst it was a bittersweet victory for Red Bull, the sheer delight on the faces of the Aston Martin and Alpha Tauri teams was a joy to behold.

Baku has a reputation for throwing up exciting, unpredictable races and this was one of the best. Red Bull may consider themselves unlucky not to have achieved their first 1-2 finish since 2016 but they now hold a valuable 26-point lead over Mercedes in the Constructors.

It looks as if the title race could go down to the wire and if you would like to join us at the F1 Paddock Club for a Grand Prix later in the season, please contact us on +44 207 107 1640 or email: f1@edgeglobalevents.com.