Formula 1 is returning to America this weekend, and it is bringing with it rumours of a new team. Throughout the past couple of weeks there have been whispers of Andretti Autosport looking to join Formula 1 as soon as 2022. While normally this wouldn’t be possible, as adding a new team to the sport would certainly take several years to plan and execute, the American racing team has a unique opportunity to bring the Andretti name back to Formula 1 without creating a whole new team.
Written by Morgan Holiday, Edited by Janvi Unni
Currently, Andretti Autosport races in Indycar, Indy Lights, IMSA, Formula E, Extreme E, and Supercars. It has been no secret that the team has had an interest in joining the top step of the motorsport ladder for some time now, but they didn’t seem to be pursuing it seriously until recently. While creating a completely new team is a daunting and expensive venture, the other way to join Formula 1 is to buy an existing team, which is Andretti’s current plan.
Michael Andretti, son of former Formula 1 World Champion Mario Andretti and owner of Andretti Autosport, is currently in talks to become a majority owner of Sauber. The deal would be with Islero Investments, the company that owns Sauber. His plan is to buy 80% of the company, which would give him ownership of them, along with Sauber Motorsports, and effectively make him the new team owner of Alfa Romeo’s Formula 1 team. This would give the team a chance to enter Formula 1 while escaping any entry fees or having to build a team and car from scratch.
2022 would be an ideal time for Andretti to enter Formula 1, as the new regulations offer a big chance for midfield or backmarker teams to make large performance gains. While Alfa Romeo currently sits in 9th in the constructor’s standings and will likely finish there at the end of the season, the 2022 changes could see them climb up the grid, if they do everything correctly. Having an experienced racing team like Andretti to assist them through the regulation changes and add funding could increase their chances of a performance boost even more.
In addition, Andretti being a team on the Formula 1 grid would be seen as a highly valuable asset for the sport, as there has been an increased effort in recent years to draw American viewers to the sport. A new American team, as well as possibly an American driver, is something Formula 1 has stated an interest in having, and is something Andretti would provide.
If Andretti succeeds in gaining control of Sauber, the American team could be seen on the Formula 1 grid as early as 2022. Valtteri Bottas has a contract with the (currently) Swiss team Alfa Romeo for 2022, but the second seat is still undecided. The main drivers in contention for that seat at the moment are current Alfa Romeo driver Antonio Giovinazzi, and Alpine junior drivers Guanyu Zhou and Oscar Piastri. Should Andretti take over, any of these drivers would still be options for that seat. However, with the team’s presence, Indycar’s Colton Herta could also be amongst those names in the running for a seat.
Herta has been driving in Indycar for four seasons, and currently drives with Andretti Autosport. He is already a six time winner in the series, but the opportunity for a Formula 1 seat is one very few would say no to. While Herta does not currently possess enough points to be eligible for a super licence, the FIA has been more lenient with the super licence rules in the past year, and should Herta be seriously in the running for a seat at Andretti’s new team, it’s highly likely exceptions could be made.
Reportedly, the deal has been done and is expected to be announced sometime this weekend.
Williams announced at the beginning of this month that Alex Albon would be making a return to Formula One with their team in 2022, alongside their current driver Nicholas Latifi. Most people didn’t think that Albon would be returning to F1 anytime soon, and especially not with Williams. There were other, more experienced drivers who were rumoured to be signing with Williams for 2022 like Daniil Kvyat and Nico Hülkenberg.
But Albon may be just what Williams needs to start their journey back to the top; and maybe Williams is what Alex needs too.
Alex Albon may not have had the best year in 2020, but from Williams’ point of view, he seems to be what they’re looking for. He’s done a lot of work for RedBull on the simulator and even tested the Pirelli 18-inch tires. It’s clear that Alex is worthy of a seat, otherwise RedBull wouldn’t have fought so hard to make sure Alex could drive in Formula One again.
Williams team principal Jost Capito said, “We want to move forward. Alex has a lot of experience despite only being at the beginning of his career. He’s had the experience of being successful on the podium, and he’s eager to do that again. He fits in well with the team and gets along with Nicky, who he was teammates with in F2. If you put these attributes on a checklist, he’s the perfect guy for us.”
For Alex, he gets a second chance at F1 in a team where he isn’t under the constant pressure of having to score a lot of points every weekend in a bid to secure the constructor’s title. Some could compare it to Pierre Gasly starting afresh (and thriving) at a new environment in AlphaTauri.
Albon said in an interview, “Williams looks like they’re on the up. I had a chance to visit the team and they seemed very positive and optimistic. It seemed like the best choice for me to make a return to the grid. They’re very keen to get involved and make things happen.”
If all goes well for Williams with the new regulations next year, Alex might help them regain some of their mojo, and vice-versa.
The 2021 Italian Grand Prix saw the second installation of Formula 1’s new sprint qualifying, where the drivers qualify on Friday, and then do a sprint race on Saturday to determine starting order for Sunday’s race. The first sprint qualifying session was held earlier this season at Silverstone. But while the short race at Silverstone may have initially seemed like a success, the Saturday session in Italy highlighted several problems with F1’s newest format.
Written by Morgan Holiday, edited by Janvi Unni
In Silverstone’s sprint qualifying, Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton at the start, and maintained his position to acquire pole position. The real excitement, however, was when Alpine’s Fernando Alonso made up four positions, going from 11th to 7th, and providing a great deal of entertainment in the meantime. But besides that, as well as Sergio Perez spinning as he lost control coming out of the Chapel Curve on lap 5, there wasn’t a great deal to say about it. It hadn’t been a failure, but was it a success? Certainly the brief drama between the title contenders as well as Alonso’s antics proved the race to be interesting, but that may have been all there was to say about it.
Fast forward to Monza for the Italian Grand Prix, and sprint qualifying was decidedly less exciting. Valterri Bottas, who was fastest in qualifying, started from pole and ended on pole, although he took an engine change penalty and went to the back of the grid, granting pole to Max Verstappen. Verstappen’s title rival Hamilton had a poor start, and ended the sprint session in 5th, three places lower than he qualified. The only real action happened on lap 1, when Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri went off into the gravel after a tangle with Daniel Ricciardo in the McLaren. Due to the tiny bit of contact, Gasly was forced to start Sunday’s race from the back, despite qualifying 6th on Friday. After lap 1 there was no real action, as the truth is that the consequences are too high for anyone to try anything risky or exciting. It’s much safer to start Sunday’s race a little lower on the grid than to risk starting it from the back, or worse, not starting it at all.
After the Belgian Grand Prix, where drivers spent two laps under the safety car and the FIA called it a race, it seems odd that 18 laps of wheel to wheel racing can’t be classified as a race. Even stranger than the race not technically being a race is the fact that the pole position award goes to the winner of the sprint qualifying, not the driver who set the fastest lap time in the qualifying session. The problem with this strange choice is that, should sprint qualifying become a regular event in the F1 calendar, it will change the way statistics will be viewed. In Silverstone, Lewis Hamilton set the fastest lap in qualifying, but Max Verstappen was given the pole position award, as he won sprint qualifying. In the future, this will only serve to confuse people looking for statistics.
Former F1 World Champion Nico Rosberg said on Twitter, “This is not the right decision. Pole 100% has to go to the fastest guy in qualifying. The sprint race winner should not be awarded pole position. That will totally cannibalise the historic F1 statistics.”
There’s also the argument that points should not be awarded for sprint qualifying. First place (pole position technically), second place, and third place get three, two, and one point(s) respectively. If sprint qualifying becomes a regular part of the F1 schedule, there exists the possibility that the championship could be decided on a Saturday, not during the main race, or even a classified race at all, since sprint qualifying doesn’t count as a race. Even though the FIA’s motivation with sprint qualifying is to make the weekend more exciting, the championship being decided on a Saturday would certainly not help that issue, as everyone wants to see a full race decide the championship.
The truth is, it seems, that sprint qualifying doesn’t just do damage to classic F1 statistics, it also messes with the fundamental purpose of qualifying itself. The purpose of the Saturday session is to determine who is the fastest, and where the drivers will start the main race. While sprint races are an exciting idea, and can switch up the pack to provide for more entertaining races (like the McLaren 1-2 finish at the Italian Grand Prix), using them as a format to set the grid for Sunday doesn’t seem like a logical option. And if the FIA decides to go forward with the idea of sprint qualifying in the future, some major changes will have to be made to ensure it maintains the spirit of the sport.
Kelsey Kirby is a twenty four year old Irish woman currently beginning her career in Motorsports. Taking part in the Formula Woman competition, to win a fully sponsored drive in the 2022 GTCup Championship.
Interviewed by Megan Teahan, edited by Janvi Unni
When did you come into the motorsports world?
So this year is the very first year I am actively participating in motorsports. I have always loved cars and bikes, and the very first motorsport event I remember ever watching was Red Bull X-Fighters, which is a freestyle motocross competition which is absolutely crazy! From that, I started watching all of the competitions and I started watching Nitro Circus, but I never got into watching actual car racing until a few years ago, so I am very much a complete beginner! I now watch so many racing series; from Formula 1/2/3, WSeries, Indycar, GT World Challenge to touring car racing and the circuit racing that goes on at Mondello Park that I can get to!
Who was your biggest inspiration at the time?
The first woman I remember seeing in motorsports was actually Jolene Van Vugt, she is a Canadian stunt woman and the first woman to backflip a full-sized dirt bike! She showed that women could do the things the men were doing just as well, if not better. Rosemary Smith is another Irish woman who is a big inspiration, she is a veteran rally driver and at the age of 79 she got to drive a Renault Formula 1 car at Circuit Paul Ricard becoming the oldest person to ever drive an F1 car. Seeing women excel in things that aren’t female dominated is amazing because we are coming to break the norms and do what we love!
Formula Woman is not well known at the present time, can you describe what Formula Woman is to someone who has never heard of it, the different stages of the competition and what you love most about the category?
So Formula Woman is a competition for women with little to no race experience who have always wanted to get into motorsport but never had the opportunity. The winners will get a fully sponsored drive in the GTCup Championship in 2022 in a McLaren 570s GT4 car. It starts off with an online exam on the introduction to motorsport which is a very basic exam but you learn a lot if you have no experience in the racing world already. The second stage is the on-track assessment which will be split into 5 parts across the day but we are not sure what each part is going to be yet! I think they want to keep it a bit of a secret to see how we cope on the day! Every competitor will be scored by an instructor that will accompany us in the car. Those who score the highest will then progress to the next stage where the top 16 will challenge for the final 6 spots. I have loved the entire process of this competition because everyone else is also complete beginners and it is so great to see how much everyone is supporting each other throughout the last few months.
You have previously mentioned driving at Mondello Park (Co. Kildare, Ireland), how was the overall experience and what type of cars/karts have you driven around this track?
Yes, so all my on-track training has all been done at Mondello Park so far and I love getting out there as much as I can, whether it is being out on the track driving or sitting in the grandstand watching racing! I actually went there before I even entered the Formula Woman competition when I decided to treat myself to one of their DARE Experiences for my birthday! At this point I was already wanting to get into motorsport but I didn’t know how. So I went for the day and I got to drive a BMW M2 Competition, a Porsche Cayman S, I had a drifting lesson where I learned to drift in a Nissan 350Z (I did absolutely terrible at drifting), we did an autotest course which was so much fun! We finished the day going out in a race ready Mazda3 to learn a different track before getting to go out in Formula Sheane single seaters. The first time I drove the single seater I nearly had a panic attack from the claustrophobia but since then I have gone back a few times to drive them and they are probably now one of my favourite things to drive! I think this particular day was the one that sealed the deal for me to enter Formula Woman and a lot of the instructors said it would be great to have more women in motorsport so I applied the very next day! All the staff and instructors at Mondello Park have been absolutely amazing with their help over the last few months and I can not wait to get out there as much as possible before my assessment!
How much time have you spent on the simulatorand how much has it helped you to improve on track?
I have only spent about 2 hours in total on simulators so I really need to do more soon! They are really great for helping you learn more about whatever track you’re going to be on and you can make your mistakes on the simulator then and not have to worry about damaging your car. I need to get in as much practice as I possibly can so more simulator sessions are on the to-do list!
You had your first official karting racewith Formula Woman on the 25th of August in Daytona.How did you prepare and how did the event go overall?
For the karting event I did all my practicing at Kiltorcan Raceway which is a great outdoor karting circuit in Kilkenny. I did sessions just in the Sodi hire karts so I had never actually driven a race tuned kart before the race! I qualified 7th out of 20 after yellow flags on nearly every lap which was unfortunate. After the race started I managed to make up a place or two but after having a crash and being pushed into the wall I dropped quickly down the grid. Thankfully I managed to get back up to make some overtakes and finish in 8th place, not where I had hoped but it is all I could manage after more yellow flags and the crash so I am happy with how I did! I am now planning my next competition that will be outside of Formula Woman but will hopefully help me learn much more!
What is your ultimate career goal after completingyour experience with Formula Woman?
My goal is to win the seat with Formula Woman to compete in the GT Cup and if that goes well then I want to stay racing for as long as possible. As cheesy as it sounds, since I have started this whole process, I am having the absolute best time even though it is hard work! I feel like I have found what I am meant to be doing. I would love to possibly compete in a single seater series also and see where that could lead. I am going to take every opportunity that comes my way and make the most of it. The support I have had from friends, family and even people I have never met before has been amazing so I would love to make everyone supporting me proud!
AlphaTauri announced earlier this week that they would be keeping rookie Yuki Tsunoda for the 2022 season, despite a lot of people thinking that he was going to be replaced after a fairly inconsistent season so far.
Yuki had a brilliant Formula One debut in Bahrain, finishing in 9th place and becoming the first Japanese driver to score points on debut. After that, his first half of the 2021 season wasn’t the most consistent, with him not being able to score points every race and always being out-qualified by his teammate Pierre Gasly. And with RedBull being known for putting a lot of pressure on their drivers and giving them the boot too soon, many thought that we wouldn’t be seeing Tsunoda on the grid next year.
But his struggles shouldn’t overshadow his good races, like a strong drive at a chaos-stricken race in Hungary to finish in 6th, and his 7th place finish in Baku which coupled with his teammate Gasly’s podium, led to a solid double points finish for the team. And even though he may have only 18 points as of now, he has also played a role in contributing to what is currently AlphaTauri’s longest points streak in their Formula One history.
RedBull Motorsport advisor, Helmut Marko, has praised the rookie and said that he is confident in Yuki’s abilities. AlphaTauri team principal, Franz Tost, has said that they are positive that Tsunoda will only get better from here on and that he has received positive reports from the team about Yuki’s progress.
“Yuki has joined the team as a rookie and is continuing to learn every day. The feedback from the engineers shows he is absorbing all the information given to him and improving. As a rookie, Yuki is only at the beginning of this journey, so it’s good that he can continue what we’ve started together.” – Franz Tost
It also helps Yuki’s case that the other drivers of the RedBull driver academy aren’t ready to make the jump to F1 just yet, and so as of now, he can focus on doing the best he can with AlphaTauri.
With recent rumours coming up linking Nyck de Vries to a possible F1 drive at Williams in 2022, it’s time to take a closer look at this newly crowned Formula E world champion’s racing career to see if he has what it takes to be an F1 driver.
Written by Evan Veer, edited by Janvi Unni
Nyck de Vries started his F2 career at the Rapax team for the first 13 races in 2016, switching to Racing Engineering after that. He came 7th in the standings with his first win and 113 points in total.
The 2017 season saw a strong competition at the front of the grid, with George Russell, Lando Norris and Alexander Albon filling the top 3 respectively. Nyck came 4th in the standings racing for Prema with 3 wins to his name and ending up only 10 points behind Albon.
In a strong 2018 season with ART De Vries stormed to the Formula 2 title with a 42 point lead and taking 4 race wins in the process, although there was admittedly not a lot of strong competition, with his closest rival being Nicholas Latifi in P2, and beating his teammate Nikita Mazepin by a whopping 255 points.
In September 2019 it was announced that Nyck De Vries would be driving for the new Mercedes EQ team in the 2019-2020 season alongside ex-F1 driver Stoffel Vandoorne. In his first season he was comfortably beaten by his more experienced teammate, but he managed to take his first podium in the season finale at Berlin where the team took its first 1-2 finish.
He significantly improved for the 2021 season though, taking pole for the first race in Diriyah and comfortably leading from start to finish and scoring points in the second race at the track as well, giving him a significant championship lead. In the following races the team seemed to have lost form however, with Nyck scoring very few points before the London double header where he managed to take an impressive P2 finish in both races.
Before the final double header in Berlin there were 18 drivers still technically in the fight for the title, and with Nyck failing to score points in the first race, the championship seemed all open. In the final race however, most of his closest rivals either crashed out or finished behind Nyck, making him the first ever Formula E world champion since it gained official FIA world championship status this year, in only his second season in the series.
Nyck has been active in the endurance racing world for a few years as well, starting out with Racing Team Nederland in the LMP2 class for the 2018/2019 season. This first season was not very successful for the team, which despite showing good pace never made it onto the podium and only finished 15th in class at Le Mans after a problem with the steering caused De Vries to fly off at one of the fastest corners into the circuit and crash hard into the wall. Nyck managed to drag the car back home, but the time lost with the crash and repairs meant they had no chance of coming back to the front.
More bad luck followed at Le Mans in 2020, when an issue meant they had to make multiple extra stops which took them out of the fight up front. They did however achieve their first big success that year, taking their first pole and podium at Silverstone and winning the race at Fuji
De Vries now races for the G-drive team in both the European Le Mans series and the WEC, and he is currently Toyota’s official reserve driver for their Hypercar program.
Nyck’s first tie to F1 came with him being signed to McLaren’s young driver programme in 2010, with him making two appearances in McLaren’s tooned series. He left the program in 2019 after McLaren opted to promote Lando Norris instead and moved his focus to the Audi sport racing academy, where he would remain until being signed for the Mercedes Formula E team in September 2019.
More recently Nyck was appointed as one of Mercedes’s test and development drivers alongside his Formula E teammate Stoffel Vandoorne and fan favourite Nico Hülkenberg, and he tested for the team at the 2020 post-season test at Abu Dhabi.
Over the past few weeks some rumours have come up about a potential F1 future for Nyck, firstly with him being suggested as a replacement for George Russell at Williams if George goes to Mercedes, with Mercedes allegedly pushing for this to happen. Both Nyck himself and the Mercedes EQ Formula E team have since denied these claims, but in the F1 driver market this usually doesn’t seem to mean that much, with drivers and teams seeming to lie about whether they are in talks all the time.
More recently there has been a great increase in strong rumours suggesting Nyck will be announced as Alfa Romeo’s second driver next to Valtteri Bottas, which would mean a completely new lineup for the team. Together with this there have been stories about Alfa Romeo looking to switch to Mercedes power units for next season, combined with Frédéric Vasseur being spotted in the Mercedes paddock hospitality on several occasions.
What do you think? Is Nyck De Vries F1 worthy? Will he get a shot at Williams or Alfa Romeo next year?
At the end of the Belgian Grand Prix (which really never got underway to be honest) fans, drivers and pundits were left disappointed, miserable and for the 70,000 that had camped around the 7 kilometres of the Spa Francorchamps track, very wet.
Written by Andrew Lwanga,edited by Janvi Unni
At the end of the Belgian Grand Prix (which really never got underway to be honest) fans, drivers and pundits were left disappointed, miserable and for the 70,000 that had camped around the 7 kilometres of the Spa Francorchamps track, very wet.
Heavy and unrelenting downpour meant that the drivers were unable to go racing on Sunday. What followed was a delayed start after delayed start whilst we waited for the Stavelot heavens to close but they did not. Seemingly left with no option, F1 Race Director Michael Masi allowed for a pair of laps to be completed under safety car which according to the Sporting regulations is enough for a classification and the awarding of half points.
Needless to say the masses didn’t like that very much, as a wonderful qualifying session and the prospect of a wet session were all decided in a non race and if your name isn’t George Russell you were probably frowning more than you were smiling.
Whether we like it or not, the Belgian Grand Prix has concluded, it’s water gone down Eau Rouge and under the bridge. But how can we prevent this from repeating?
1.DO IT LIKE NASCAR
NASCAR often gets flak from F1 fans and fans of European motorsports as many consider the series across the pond to not be entirely up to scratch with those in Europe and particularly “The pinnacle of motorsport, F1”. However it’s worth noting that such a fiasco wouldn’t happen in NASCAR.
Whilst nobody can control the weather we can prepare for it. In NASCAR should a race fail to commence or is brought to a halt due to the weather, it is simply rescheduled to take place on the following day. In fact this past weekend on Friday in Daytona a NASCAR Xfinity race was postponed due to heavy rain after 19 laps of the scheduled 100 and resumed on Saturday.
This of course is not to undermine that it would be a logistical nightmare to push the race forward one day taking into television broadcasting deals, bringing back marshals who are volunteers and don’t get paid for another full day e.t.c however, going all over the world to race cars shaped like upside down airplanes with a thousand horsepower is a logistical nightmare, and we made that work! All this to say if the FIA and Formula 1 were to look at a race weekend whilst considering the possibility of it being a 4 day weekend, measures would be taken to ensure that it could run as smoothly as possible.
2.WE’VE GOT TO REDO THE RULES
Oftentimes when a new rule is put in place it’s to compensate for an outdated one or to prevent abuse of an existing one by one of the teams, this time we’ve got to do it to prevent Race Control from abusing the rules.
During the “race”, race control transcended time and space to press pause on the 3 hour timer that starts during the scheduled race time. This serves as a time limit and should the 3 hours come to an end before the final lap the race ends either way, but pressing pause on a time limit defeats the whole purpose of the time limit.
2 . What classifies as a race (don’t call it a race if it wasn’t)
According to the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary a race is “a competition between people, animals, vehicles, etc. to see which one is the faster or fastest.”
That didn’t happen yesterday but yet we had a race classified since according to the FIA a minimum of 2 laps are required, be it under safety car or racing conditions. This is what was eventually exploited by Race Control leading to perhaps the most anticlimactic conclusions of a race weekend.
Perhaps the bigger problem is that it robs the teams and drivers the ability to compete simply rewarding points based on qualifying positions, which isn’t what F1 is about. Fernando Alonso summed it up perfectly saying,
“Well, for some of them it probably was a little bit of an early Christmas, because there were some gifts given today to some people because we didn’t race, and they still get the position and still they get the points.
“So it’s a little bit shocking. I was P11, I was one place to the points, I was never allowed to fight for those points, but they still gave the points.”
Ultimately the FIA needs to revise the rules concerning giving out half points, we can’t call it a race without having had racing laps. Therefore to the FIA if you’re reading this (you probably aren’t), take this from me, for a race to get a classification there should be a minimum number of racing laps not under a safety car.
If you were watching the Sky Sports F1 coverage of what should have been the Belgian Grand Prix, you’ll have heard commentator and 9 time podium sitter Martin Brundle disagree with Race Control removing a lap for every delayed start.
In his well articulated argument, Brundle stated why it’s done and why it shouldn’t have applied to Sunday’s non-race. The reason why delayed or aborted starts result in the omission of a lap from the total lap count stems from the original reason for aborted starts. In times past drivers would complete a formation lap and whilst on the grid if they’d realized they had stalled the engine or had a problem they’d wave their arms signalling to race control that they have a problem and that the start should be aborted. This resulted in another formation lap in which the cars would have burnt fuel thus necessitating the removal of a lap as the extra formation lap was not included in fuel calculations.
This didn’t happen on Sunday though, 4 starts were delayed whilst the cars sat idling on the grid but in that time no fuel was burnt. Perhaps on revision the rule should be rewritten only for aborted starts and not delayed ones, some may argue that a few laps are negligible however 4 laps around the Spa Francorchamps circuit are close to ten percent of the race.
3.THINK ABOUT THE FANS
Perhaps the saddest part of the Sunday race was the fans in live attendance. 70,000 people took time out of their weekends to camp along the circuit for as long as 8 to 9 hours only to see 2 laps under the safety car. Admittedly there’s very little the FIA, Formula 1 or the promoter could do on this front as postponing the race would only mean asking the fans to come back the next day, a work day nonetheless.
But most of them would. Once passionate about a sport, humans tend to cast logic aside. 70,000 people from all across Europe camped alongside the Belgian countryside in what is almost a forest for 3 days in spite of rain and all other inconveniences. If the race were to be postponed earlier it may have saved everyone time but all that hinges on the FIA setting infrastructure necessary to enable the postponement of a race. It’s safe to assume that the decisions made didn’t take into account the fans and whilst that might be good for any other decision when it directly affects fans who’ve spent their hard earned money, it’s a little bit different.
At the end of the day the FIA and Formula 1 cannot prepare for every possible eventuality but when curve balls like these are thrown at them, it’s wiser to take measures to better prepare for them. If there’s any consolation, at least this non-race happened now and not in the middle of a titanic battle between two of the world’s best drivers and teams.
George Russell’s sensational qualifying lap sees him starting at P2 in Spa; his highest ever starting position in Formula One. Naturally, he has been asked about whether he could lead the race at some point – but in all honesty; could he?
Written by Sam Kift, editedby Janvi Unni
Realistically speaking, the only chance Russell has at leading the race is if he has a really good start, because the Williams car is slightly inferior compared to the RedBull and the Mercedes. There is also one underlining factor that adds complete unpredictability: rain. If there is rain at the start of the race, then there’s no other strategy than to drive to survive. But if it’s dry, then there’s a clear strategy, so let’s take a short view back to the past to to understand it.
David Croft’s “But here comes Sebastian Vettel” is quite well-known in the F1 community (and for good reason), and it is the sequence of events that produced this moment that gives us a clear idea of what George Russell has to do to pass Max Verstappen at the start of the race.
In 2017, Sebastian Vettel had 2 shots at overtaking Lewis Hamilton: once at the start and once after the safety car restart. But he failed to do so both times. What happened was Vettel had gotten such a good slipstream that he had to lift off at Eau Rouge (otherwise he would have rear-ended the Mercedes), and this killed his momentum and was the reason why Vettel only managed to get alongside rather than ahead down the Kemmel straight. In 2018, he was further back and therefore was flat all the way from La Source to Les Combes. He cleared Hamilton halfway down the straight. In 2020, Valtteri Bottas made a similar mistake to Vettel in 2017 at the race start and had to lift significantly – in fact he was almost swamped by Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo behind. Ironically, it was Lewis Hamilton’s slipstream down the straight that prevented this and he kept his 2nd position as he entered Les Combes. This is proof of just how powerful the slipstream can be.
Given that the RedBull is known to be quite draggy and the Mercedes power unit is thought to be superior, a race lead looks promising if George Russell has a reasonable getaway tomorrow.
Therefore if circumstances align and Russell positions his car perfectly, then he might just be able to lead a Formula One race for the second time. We’ll know at 15:00 CEST. Stay tuned, this is a race you definitely don’t want to miss.
Yesterday marked thirty years since one of the world’s greatest drivers took his first start in a Formula 1 race. But the story is much more interesting than the average driver’s debut, and not simply because the driver was Michael Schumacher. Let’s take a look at exactly what led to Schumacher’s first F1 start in 1991 and what happened during that race.
Written by Morgan Holiday, edited by Janvi Unni
The story really begins with F1 driver Bertrand Gachot, who had signed with the brand new Jordan team for the 1991 season. A week before the Belgian Grand Prix, Gachot was sentenced to 18 months in prison after he had a physical altercation with a taxi driver.
With Jordan being a driver down heading into the Belgian Grand Prix, Mercedes offered to pay the team $150,000 to give Schumacher, who was currently driving for Mercedes in the World Sportscar Championship, the seat. Team boss Eddie Jordan agreed, but not before asking Schumacher if he had been to Spa before, which he said he had. Jordan later found out that this was not, in fact, technically true. Schumacher had been to Spa before, but as a child, and had never raced on the track. All the same, he hadn’t really lied, and he managed to impress Jordan and everyone else with his performance that weekend.
On Saturday Ayrton Senna qualified on pole for McLaren, with Alain Prost’s Ferrari close behind. Schumacher managed to qualify 7th and well ahead of his Jordan teammate Andrea De Cesaris. His luck would run out after that, and on Sunday he retired on the first lap with a clutch issue.
But an impression had been made, and the German driver had caught the attention of everyone in the paddock. Despite the agreement between Jordan and Mercedes that Schumacher would race for them for the remainder of the season, it was Benetton that he ended up signing a contract with. Despite the iconic Jordan 191 being remembered as the car driven by Michael Schumacher, he never even managed one full racing lap in it.
Following his debut at Spa, Schumacher raced with Benetton for the final five rounds of the 1991 season. He retired from two of those five races, but in the races he did finish he placed fifth twice and sixth once. The rest of the story is history, and thirty years later Michael Schumacher is widely regarded as motorsport’s most iconic driver, and maybe the best there ever was.
Almost a month on from the roller coaster of a race that was the Hungarian Grand Prix, Formula One returns from it’s summer hiatus for the illustrious Belgium Grand Prix! Will Max Verstappen overcome his recent spout of bad luck? Or will Lewis Hamilton continue to pull away towards his 8th World Driver’s Title?
Written by Aiden Hover, Edited by Janvi Unni
The Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps, located in Stavelot, has undergone many renovations and different layouts throughout its near centenary as a race track. The current track layout features 20 unique and storied corners as it winds itself through the Ardennes. Amongst these 20 is the ever nail-biting, world-famous Eau Rouge and Raidillon complex; an epic uphill, near flat-out roller coaster. Having navigated the run down from the first hairpin of La Source, drivers brace for a dramatic sweep left as the track dips away before steadily rising again for the epic right-handed, almost blind, rush to the crest of the hill where the track once again sweeps to the left onto the Kemmel Straight!
With corners like this throughout the track, it’s no wonder the drivers love it here so much. Boasting overtaking opportunities throughout – namely, the aforementioned Kemmel straight into Les Combes, or into the famous Bus Stop chicane following the high-speed left turn of Blanchimont – all 20 drivers will be eager to prove themselves as Formula One returns for the second half of this thrilling 2021 season!
Who could forget the epic starts we so often see at Spa? From the Formula One meltdown in 1998 to the scary La Source melees of 2012 and 2018, starting a race at Spa is a frivolous embark. Making it past turn 1 is no guarantee of safety, however, as we saw an enthralling 4-abreast battle for the lead in 2018 between the Racing Points of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon as well as the championship contenders that year of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – this battle also gave birth to the now-iconic Crofty line, ‘BUT HERE COMES SEBASTIAN VETTEL!’ as the German pulled out from the slipstream of the Mercedes ahead in a showing that can only send shivers of excitement down one’s spine!
Whilst Spa can so often be a cruel mistress, it also has a soft spot that allows for some truly heart-warming Formula One moments. A playground for the underdog, Spa gifted the first points, podium and pole position for the much loved Force India team in 2009 as well as allowing the same team in its Jordan guise in 1998 to luck into a sensational 1-2 finish! In 2014, Daniel Ricciardo took advantage of a collision between Hamilton and Rosberg at Spa to win the third race of his career. In 2018, Esteban Ocon proved the world wrong by securing P3 in a wet qualifying just as it was announced he will not be racing with Racing Point for the following year just as in 2015 Romain Grosjean with Lotus secured his and his team’s last Formula One podium. Finally, the 2019 Belgium Grand Prix saw a truly deserving and much loved Charles Leclerc take his maiden Formula One victory to close a truly emotional weekend for the entire Formula One and motorsport world, following the tragic loss of Leclerc’s close friend and true talent in young Anthoine Hubert in that Saturday’s Formula Two race.
What can fans look forward to this year?
Having played victim to the mishaps of Valtteri Bottas (who will be taking a 5-place-grid-drop this weekend) at Hungary’s wet start, both Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will be desperate to perform well in Spa – Particularly Perez whose future with the RedBull team is ever more cast in doubt following the endless tales of Helmut Marko. Mercedes too will be hoping to reverse the wrongs of Hungary, where they threw away a near sure-fire win following a strategic blunder for Sir Lewis Hamilton and will plead for both cars to stay out of trouble in the opening laps.
Formula One’s newest winner, Esteban Ocon will be looking to prove he has more than simply luck on his side and will be looking to extract the most out of his Alpine car that is only ever getting stronger – just as is Fernando Alonso who heroically defended from Lewis Hamilton in Hungary. Williams too found themselves in a rather fortunate position last time out, securing their first double points finish since 2018. Whilst they won’t quite be expecting the same fortunes as Hungary, they will definitely be hoping for yet more Q2 appearances and the odd chance at a point following their best weekend in some time.
Aston Martin and McLaren both found themselves wanting so much more from Hungary with the two teams scoring no points. The two McLaren’s were taken out at the start as well as Stroll (who will be taking a 5-place-grid-drop this weekend for his role in the first lap Melee) whilst Sebastian Vettel, who drove a stunning race to second, was unfortunately disqualified for failing to provide a fuel sample. It’s fair to say that anything that can happen this weekend will be a much-needed improvement from last race’s nightmares. Ferrari too will be hoping to stay out of trouble as, despite a podium for Carlos Sainz, they still seemed to struggle for overall pace, shown through a mediocre qualifying, and Charles Leclerc too was eliminated in the opening lap mess.
Alpha Tauri performed stoically in Hungary securing P5 and P6 for their two drivers simply by staying out of trouble and so will be looking for the same this weekend at a track star driver Pierre Gasly seems to excel at.
At the back of the grid, Alfa Romeo and Haas would have been disappointed not to make the most of the mayhem and the opportunities of Hungary. With Giovinazzi lacking pace all weekend and a weird strategy call eliminating him from contention and a pit lane collision between Kimi Räikkönen and Nikita Mazepin eliminating the latter and awarding a penalty to the former, it meant Alfa Romeo only came home with one point (thanks to Vettel’s DSQ) whilst Haas once again came home with nothing – despite Mick Schumacher’s insane wheel-to-wheel prowess throughout the race as he slowly fell back through the pack.
Be sure not to miss any of the festivities of this weekend’s Formula One race, Formula Three races as well as the immensely entertaining W-series!