Report: Lucas di Grassi wins dramatic Mexico City E-Prix

After a thrilling *45 minutes of racing, Lucas di Grassi narrowly took the chequered flag ahead of Antonio Felix da Costa and Edoardo Mortara.

3 rookies made a great impression in qualifying with Oliver Rowland and Felipe Massa qualifying 4th and 3rd respectively with Pascal Wehrlein taking pole position ahead of Lucas di Grassi in only his 3rd Formula E race.

Wehrlein maintained his lead off the line and into turn one while Oliver Rowland broke much later than those around him putting himself into 2nd ahead of di Grassi.

It did not take long for the drama to begin, Nelson Piquet suffered a huge crash, launching over the Techeetah of Jean-Eric Vergne after the Brazilian was caught out by Vergne’s early braking. Piquet would be out of the race while Vergne and Alexander Sims who got tagged by the crashing Piquet would require repair.

The red flag would be brought out, putting a temporary stop to the race while debris and the stricken Jaguar were cleared up. As the race got under way, the majority of the filed opted to use their first Attack Mode.

Wehrlein would continue to lead Oliver Rowland at the front while the two Envision Virgin Racing cars would slowly make their way up the pack, Sam Bird failed to set a lap in qualifying due to a technical issue while Frijns had a picked up a grid drop for impeding Jerome D’Ambrosio.

Jean-Eric Vergne was once again having a nightmare, whilst able to continue after the Piquet incident, he would make contact with the other Jaguar of Mitch Evans and spin to near the back of the pack.

In the closing staged of the race the top 5 would start activating their Attack Mode, each taking it in turns to activate it. da Costa would be first to activate this in 5th place but failed to pass Sebastien Buemi before he activated his. di Grassi would then be next to use his Attack Mode before 2nd place Rowland would do the same but would lose 2nd place to di Grassi in doing so.

Wehrlein and di Grassi would pull away from the rest of the top 5 in the remaining laps with both Nissan E.DAMS cars running out of battery with 1 lap to go. Wehrlein was also marginal on battery and slowed his pace considerably on the final lap bringing da Costa and Mortara who had the most energy of all in on the fight for the lead.

Wehrlein and di Grassi would make contact forcing Wehrlein to cut the chicane, ultimately earning himself a 5-second time penalty, it wouldn’t matter as he would run out of battery on the final straight and di Grassi would pass him across the line.

Make sure to join in on the conversation and follow us on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram – @drivenbysport

Santiago E-Prix Review

Santiago, Chile was the destination for round 3 of the championship at a new circuit compared to last season but still with just as much drama.

Championship leader Jerome D’Ambrosio had a disaster in qualifying and would only managed 20th, many big names would find themselves in the bottom half of the grid such as Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix da Costa. Lucas di Grassi took provisional pole but would be sent to the back of the grid after failing to follow the new in-lap procedure introduced for this event.

Sebastien Buemi inherited pole position ahead of Pascal Wehrlein who had impressed all day in only his second race in Formula E.

As the race started everyone got away cleanly and there was no contact unlike in Marrakesh. Buemi and Wehrlein would hold 1st and 2nd while Sam Bird dispatched Daniel Abt for 3rd place.

There were many collisions on the final corner of the circuit, first Felipe Massa and Oliver Rowland tangled on the exit of the chicane leading to damage to Massa’s Venturi causing the frustrated Brazilian to retire.

Teammates Lotterer and Vergne would once again collide in Santiago just like last year, this time Lotterer used the BMW i Andretti of da Costa to spin Vergne around. Lucas di Grassi would also make contact on the final chicane with Jose Maria Lopez earning himself a time penalty at the end of the race.

Bird would move into second place after passing Wehrlein while in Attack Mode which would then become the race lead when Sebastien Buemi got it wrong at the exit of turn 7 crashing into the wall and ending his race.

Robin Frijns would again impress holding off Mitch Evans who was running his Attack Mode and would hold him off for the remainder of the race in a tight mid pack behind the race leader.

Santiago was a race of attrition with only 14 classified finishers, Jean-Eric Vergne’s title defence took a big hit when he retired after a messy race.

Sam Bird would cross the line victor but was initially investigated for being underweight but eventually cleared. Pascal Wehrlein took an impressive second while Daniel Abt saved Audi’s weekend in 3rd following a penalty for Alexander Sims for causing a collision with Edoardo Mortara’s Venturi. Here is how the top ten finished after penalties were applied:

  1. Sam Bird Envision Virgin Racing
  2. Pascal Wehrlein Mahindra Racing
  3. Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler
  4. Edoardo Mortara Venturi Formula E Team
  5. Robin Frijns Envision Virgin Racing Team
  6. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing
  7. Alexander Sims BMW i Andretti Motorsport
  8. Jermome D’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing
  9. Oliver Turvey Nio Formula E Team
  10. Jose Maria Lopez Geox Dragon

Envision Virgin Racing looking strong:

@Virgin Shakedown Frijns.jpg
Envision Virgin Racing now lead the teams championship by 9 points. Copyright: Envision Virgin Racing

After a dismal first race in Ad Diriyah, Envision Virgin Racing are looking very strong. In both Marrakesh and Santiago they have fought for victory, and have claimed 3 podiums in these two races. If it wasn’t for a poor qualifying for Robin Frijns where he started 15th we might have seen the Dutchman on the podium once again. This also shows a lot of promise for the factory Audi team who trail Virgin in the teams standings.

Another missed opportunity for Techeetah:

@Techeetah Shakedown Lotterer.jpg

Copyright: DS Techeetah Formula E Team

In a season where Techeetah could have won the first two races of the season, Santiago should have been the race where Vergne and Lotterer capitalised on their car’s performance but once again it all went wrong.

Due to the nature of the qualifying format both cars would start outside of the top ten as track conditions improved and cars in following qualifying groups would set faster times.

The race itself was another disaster with Vergne spinning as a consequence of Lotterer colliding with da Costa and then another spin later on for Vergne resulted in him retiring the car. Lotterer was later penalised after the race for overtaking under full course yellow taking him out of the points and resulting in the first 0 points score for Techeetah since Paris in season 3.

Driver of the day:

@Mahindra Wehlein Podium.jpg

It’s 3 podiums in 3 races for Mahindra so far this season. Copyright: Mahindra Racing

Pascal Wehrlein was supreme in Santiago, he was fast throughout all practice sessions, he was aggressive in qualifying leaving no margin for error, using every inch of the track and would start 2nd as a result.

He kept a cool head in the race, not taking too much risk but keeping Sam Bird honest throughout the race. If it wasn’t for an overheating issue in the closing stages of the race then Wehrlein may have taken his first win but he shouldn’t be disappointed with 2nd place as this is a strong foundation to build from.

Make sure to join in on the conversation and follow us on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram – @drivenbysport

 

Marrakesh E-Prix Review

After the successful debut of the Gen2 car is Ad Diriyah there was a lot to live up to in Marrakesh and boy did it deliver.

Sam Bird started on pole position after an all out lap in the super-pole saw him pip Jean-Eric Vergne to the top spot. As the lights went out Bird got the better start and already pulled away from the pack but Vergne broke much later and went alongside Bird into turn one but would run out of room pitching him into a spin and at the back of the pack. This had a knock on effect with the rest of the field with much on the front-runners running off wide losing positions. Pascal Wehrlein would be the biggest loser as he would suffer damage after Lucas Di Grassi hit the back of hid Mahindra forcing the German to retire on debut.

Sam Bird would the be leading the two BMW i Andretti cars but would not be able to break away, the pair would then overtake the pole sitter and begin to pull away, it was looking all set for Antonio Felix da Costa to repeat his win from Ad Diriyah.

All the while Di Grassi and Jerome D’Ambrosio joined the fight for 3rd along with Birds teammate Robin Frijns, Di Grassi would be the first to make use of his attack mode and scythed his way past both Virgin cars but would have the favour returned when they activated their attack mode.

@BMW 1-2 Lead.jpg

Copyright: BMW Motorsport

The moment of the race happened with just under 10 minutes to go, both Andretti cars were dominating from the front and pulled a substantial lead over the pack but they began racing each other and would both push each other too far, they both locked up when Alexander Sims attempted to pass Da Costa and the Portuguese driver would crash into the barrier with the Brit dropping down to 4th.

This brought out the safety car with it running tight to the end of the race, as in Ad Diriyah most drivers saved their second attack mode in case of a safety car. Jerome D’Ambrosio would lead ahead of the two Virgin cars who both had already used their attack modes.

The safety car came in with the clock down to zero which led to a 1 lap shootout to the end, Sam Bird defended hard from Alexander Sims to protect P3 while Frijns harassed D’Ambrosio to the flag but was not able to pass him. D’Ambrosio would take the chequered flag and the championship lead with it, his first on track win with his previous two coming after disqualifications for Lucas Di Grassi. Here is how the top ten finished:

  1. Jermome D’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing
  2. Robin Frijns Envision Virgin Racing Team
  3. Sam Bird Envision Virgin Racing Team
  4. Alexander Sims BMW i Andretti Motorsport 
  5. Jean-Eric Vergne DS Techeetah Formula E Team
  6. Andre Lotterer DS Techeetah Formula E Team
  7. Lucas Di Grassi Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler
  8. Sebastien Buemi Nissan e.dams
  9. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing 
  10. Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler
@Mahindra JDA.jpg

Copyright: Mahindra Racing

 

Damage limitation for Techeetah:

@Techeetah Vergne Shakedown.jpg

Copyright: DS Techeetah Formula E Team

Once again Techeetah found themselves wondering what could have been with yet another win escaping them, Vergne started P2 and with the pace behind them it would be easy to see them dominate the race but things went wrong for the team in qualifying. Andre Lotterer looked to have the speed of his teammate all day but a costly mistake in qualifying ruined his chances. Lotterer was fastest in his group in the first sector but lost over a second in the second sector and the German would start 20th leaving it all for him to do come the race.

Vergne’s P2 start was promising but he would throw it all away into turn one, he got it wrong and spun sending him to the back of the pack. Both Techeetah cars had to battle their way through the pack racing cars they otherwise wouldn’t, they would finish 5th and 6th but it could have been so easily a 1-2 if it wasn’t for their mistakes.

A terrible start for HWA Racelab:

@HWA Paffet.jpg

Copyright: HWA Racelab

It has been far from the dream start to the season for debutants HWA, with a Venturi powertrain which is seemingly struggling for pace HWA have been far from competitive. Stoffel Vandoorne qualified an impressive 5th in Ad Diriyah but had such a pace deficit in the race he would finish out of the points. Marrakesh would prove to be a disaster for the ex-Formula One driver, issues in qualifying would prevent him from setting a lap time and come the race he would fail to complete a single lap.

Gary Paffet has been struggling to adjust to Formula E, the DTM champion had moved to the series with high expectations but has struggled to get on terms with his teammate. Retirements in both races haven’t helped Paffet acclimatize either in a season which looks to be a challenge for HWA.

Driver of the Day: Jerome D’Ambrosio

@fe jda winning

Copyright: ABB FIA Formula E

D’Ambrosio is one of Formula E’s most underrated drivers, one of few which have been part of it from the start and one of the most consistent drivers out there. He was calm and faultless, making overtakes with relative ease whilst using the least power. Two podiums from two races and with a team that have shown strong pace for the past few seasons perhaps D’Ambrosio can mount a title challenge this season?

Make sure to join in on the conversation and follow us on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram – @drivenbysport 

 

Top 10 Formula One drivers of 2018

After another thrilling season of Formula One closes and we reach the new year we take a look at who were the biggest performers of the 2018 grid. We will consider their on track results, comparisons to teammate and how they’ve performed despite any bad luck or car performance that have affected them.

10. Esteban Ocon

@RPFI

Copyright: Racing Point Force India

Competing in his second full F1 season and his second with Force India it was important that he came out ahead of his highly regarded teammate Sergio Perez. The Mercedes junior would endure a car that was underfunded and lacking downforce in the first part of the season, despite this he would finish an impressive 6th in Monaco but would throw away a potential podium in Baku in a first lap collision with Raikkonen.

Esteban would out-qualify his teammate 16-5 but would have to contend with much speculation about his future for the second half of the season with Force India under new ownership. Even though he finished behind Perez in the championship he was the faster of the two Force India drivers but mistakes like his unnecessary collision with Verstappen in Brazil have meant he hasn’t featured higher on this list.

Best Finish: 6th/Championship Position: 12th/Points: 49

9. Nico Hulkenberg

@NH2.jpg

Copyright: Renault Sport F1 Team

After a very strong first season with Renault Hulkenberg would face a bigger challenge with new teammate Carlos Sainz. Nico would eventually come out on top and would prove why he was once considered by Ferrari as a potential driver. Hulkenberg suffered the bulk of the Renault unreliability with 8 retirements but uncharacteristic mistakes in Spa and Abu Dhabi saw Nico throw away points.

A season best finish of 5th at his home race in Germany would help see him to finish best of the rest in the championship but will do well to beat that when Daniel Ricciardo joins the team in 2019.

Best Finish: 5th/Championship Position: 7th/Points: 69

8. Pierre Gasly

@PG3.jpg

Copyright: Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda

There were high hopes for the Toro Rosso-Honda partnership in 2018 but Pierre Gasly would almost single-handily save their season. Honda would treat the 2018 season as an experimental one, there would be regular changes to the power units which would result in regular grid penalties but when everything came together Pierre delivered.

Bahrain, Monaco and Hungary would be where we would see the best from Gasly; scoring big points in these races would save Toro Rosso’s blushes as they would struggle for the best part of the season and Hartley had no luck and struggled more than Pierre to get the best out of the car. Gasly now faces the biggest challenge of his career in 2019, partnering Max Verstappen in a front running car, Pierre will need to find consistency if he wants to match the Dutchman.

Best Finish: 4th/Championship Position: 15th/Points: 29

7. Kimi Raikkonen

@FERRARI 5.jpg

Copyright: Scuderia Ferrari

2018 would be Raikkonen’s strongest season with Ferrari since his return to the team in 2014 but it would in turn be his last. 12 podiums, 1 pole position and a supreme victory in the USA would see Raikkonen back on form and a real match for Vettel come race day. Qualifying would be his Achilles heel with mistakes in Q3 costing Raikkonen chances of front row positions. Raikkonen will relish a first challenge at Sauber next season and we will surely see some stand out performances from the popular Finn.

Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 3rd/Points: 251

6. Sebastian Vettel

@Ferrari2.jpg

Copyright: Scuderia Ferrari

After the defeat that Vettel suffered in last season courtesy of reliability issues and on track mistakes from Vettel 2018 would need to see a more slick operation to come out on top.

2018 was arguably worse than 2017, the beginning part of the season was strong despite far from ideal results in China and Baku but incidents during wheel-to-wheel combat would characterise Vettel’s season. Germany would signal Vettel’s downfall in 2018 with an unforced error seeing him throw away an almost certain victory but spins after close quarters combat in Italy, Japan and the USA would see Vettel once again finish the season second best. Strategy errors by the team did not help but these combat errors would cost him the most. Strong qualifying pace and exceptional victories in the first half of the season would show what could have been for the German and will need to look at improving his race craft in 2019.

Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 2nd/Points: 320

5. Daniel Ricciardo

@Red Bull 3.jpg

Copyright: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

The start of 2018 looked like it could be Ricciardo’s year, not necessarily for the championship but as a regular contender for podiums and victories. China would demonstrate why Ricciardo is the undisputed best overtaker on the grid while Monaco would show his mental strength as he wrangled his sick Red Bull to victory.

After Canada Ricciardo would find himself behind his teammate more regularly than expected but poor reliability from his car would all but wreck his season. 8 retirements and many grid penalties would prevent Ricciardo from reaching the podium again in 2018 but we would still see flashes of his speed in Japan and Mexico but it was far from the send off he wanted in his Red Bull career.

Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 6th/Points: 170

4. Max Verstappen

@MV2.jpg

Copyright: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

For the first time in his career Verstappen managed to beat Ricciardo across an entire season and claim two commanding victories on his way but it wasn’t the smoothest start to the season. Mistakes in the first 6 races would leave many calling for Max to change his approach, he would bounce back in Canada and from then on find himself regularly on the podium.

Max still isn’t yet the finished article and would need to play it safely if he wants to challenge for the title next year as unnecessary mistakes like his collision with a lapped Ocon in Brazil cost him victory and he can ill-afford to do that in a championship fight. Overall 2018 saw a smarter and faster Verstappen and if the Red Bull-Honda partnership flourishes then we will see him soon crowned as world champion.

Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 4th/Points: 249

3. Charles Leclerc

@Sauber5.jpg

Copyright: Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team

It is very seldom that a driver with just 1 seasons experience would find themselves a Ferrari driver but that is the position that Charles Leclerc finds himself in for 2019. An impressive rookie season last year in Formula 2 where he took the title in dominant fashion was backed up by a very strong rookie campaign in Formula One.

The opening first 3 races would see Charles struggle as he found the leap to Formula One a bigger challenge than expected but quickly turned things around. 6th place in Baku would be the turning point and Charles would be a regular points contender in a Sauber going from strength to strength. Charles would hustle against Fernando Alonso on a regular basis and would often impress the paddock putting in performances not fit for the car he was driving, he was as consistent as he was quick and it’s easy to see why he is a Ferrari driver for 2019.

Best Finish: 6th/Championship Position: 13th/Points: 39

2. Fernando Alonso

@F1.jpg

Copyright: Formula One

10 points in the final 10 races of the season do not sound like the results of someone ranked as the 2nd best driver of 2018 but Fernando Alonso once again proved why he is one of sports greatest ever. Despite a McLaren that lacked straight line speed as well as downforce Fernando was one of the stand out drivers of the season. He would out-qualify his highly rated if not out of sorts teammate Stoffel Vandoorne in every race of the season and would score points even when the car wasn’t fast enough.

Fernando would once again show his never say die attitude in Baku wrangling his heavily damaged car back to the pits and eventually to 7th position. Updates did not come regularly to the McLaren and would result in Alonso finding the points further out of reach but that did not stop Alonso performing at his peak if not being the voice of pessimism on team radio. It’s a shame to see Fernando bow out of Formula One at the end of the season as he embarks on his quest for the triple crown but I’m sure we will see him return to win that elusive 3rd word title.

Best Finish: 5th/Championship Position: 11th/Points: 50

1. Lewis Hamilton

@LATIMAGES.jpg

Copyright: LAT Images

11 victories and a 5th world championship would see Lewis Hamilton on his best ever form, he had to overcome an early season slump and a points deficit to Sebastian Vettel but Hamilton would eventually win the title early in Mexico. While rival Vettel would make on track errors Hamilton kept his nose clean picking up podium positions when he could not win.

Hamilton would dominate his teammate forcing Mercedes to put their full support behind the Brit, it’s difficult to say what Lewis Hamilton did well this season as this level of performance is what we have come to expect from Hamilton as he continually raises the bar in a very competitive Formula One grid.

Best Finish: 1st/Championship Position: 1st/Points: 408

Make sure to join in on the conversation and follow us on Twitter & Instagram:

Twitter: @drivenbysport

Instagram: @drivenbysport

Ad Diriyah e-Prix Review

Saudi Arabia was the venue to kick off the first race of season 5 in Formula E, there was a lot to be excited by; new cars, drivers teams and a new attack mode to be used during the race.

A rain-effected qualifying gave Antonio Felix da Costa and BMW i Andretti Motorsport their first pole position. Lucas DiGrassi, both Envision Virgin and Nio cars would be thrown out of qualifying due to the cars exceeding the 250kw limit on their laps times.

As the cars lined up on the grid to start the race; pole man da Costa angled his car towards to pit wall, he reversed to adjust his car but still wasn’t able to straighten his car up. As the race went green the Portuguese driver made a good enough start to retain his lead into the first turn while Sebastien Buemi passed Jose-Maria Lopez for 2nd.

@Nissan Start

Copyright: NISMO

Edoardo Mortara would lock his wheels and crash his car into the wall on the first lap in the same type of incident he suffered in practice, he was able to continue but had to crawl back to the pits to replace his nose.

Felix Rosenqvist would be the first retirement of the season in his last race in Formula E, he crashed his car in qualifying and had to pull over after only a few laps in the race with car issues, it wasn’t as fitting send off to a driver who has had so much success in Formula E. Gary Paffett would soon join Rosenqvist on the sidelines, it was turning out to be a miserable afternoon for HWA; Stoffel Vandoorne started 4th but struggled for race pace and a train of cars was building behind him.

Both Techeetah cars were starting to fly, after Vandoorne was dispatched the soon joined the battle between Lopez and Buemi, they would both find themselves ahead of the battling duo and in 2nd and 3rd after a brave overtake by Vergne around the outside of Buemi.

Vergne would then take chunks out of da Costa’s car until he was right behind him, he would eventually pass the BMW but would the have to serve a drive-through penalty along with teammate Andre Lotterer, Alexander Sims and Felipe Massa for technical infringements. Lotterer would then use his attack mode to overtake da Costa but after the penalties da Costa was back in the lead of the race followed by Buemi, Lopez and Jerome D’Ambrosio.

Lopez would make multiple attempts to pass Buemi but couldn’t keep it on track but eventually made the move stick forcing Buemi wide and allowing D’Ambrosio to also pass Buemi. Lopez would attempt to gain his attack mode but missed the zone and as a result lost a position to D’Ambrosio.

Despite their drive-through penalties both Vergne and Lotterer were insight of the leading pack such was their pace advantage but Lopez would damage his suspension on a curb forcing him to park his car on the circuit and bringing out the safety car.

This would see Vergne in 3rd and with da Costa without a significant lead, most drivers opted to take the opportunity to trigger their final attack mode as the safety car came back in. With D’Ambrosio having already used his 2 attack modes he was a sitting duck and Vergne breezed passed him, da Costa managed to hold on in the final moments to just pip Vergne across the line to take his second ever Formula E victory.

The top ten were as follows:

  1. Antonio Felix da Costa BMW i Andretti Motorsport 
  2. Jean-Eric Vergne DS Techeetah Formula E Team
  3. Jermome D’Ambrosio Mahindra Racing
  4. Mitch Evans Panasonic Jaguar Racing 
  5. Andre Lotterer DS Techeetah Formula E Team
  6. Sebastien Buemi Nissan e.dams 
  7. Oliver Rowland Nissan e.dams
  8. Daniel Abt Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 
  9. Lucas Di Grassi Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler 
  10. Nelson Piquet Jr Panasonic Jaguar Racing

Rookies Impress:

Felipe Massa and Stoffel Vandoorne may not have scored any points but had impressive debuts. Stoffel Vandoorne managed to do something that he failed to do all season in F1 this year and that was out-qualify his teammate, not only did he do that but he qualified 5th which became 4th after Tom Dillman’s penalty. His race pace wasn’t as strong but according to the team there was an issue with the car which hampered his performances.

@Venturi Massa

Copyright: Venturi

Massa was affected by yellow flags on his flying lap and could only qualify 19th which would become 12th after penalties were applied. He showed plenty of aggression passing 2 cars in one corner of the first lap and later on made a late move in the same place on Stoffel Vandoorne, prior to his drive-through penalty Massa was well within the points which would have been a triumph on debut.

Audi Struggle:

@Audi Abt & DiGrassi.jpg

Copyright: Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler

After their impressive form at the end of last season many expected Audi to be a force to be reckoned with but struggled in the season opener. Sam Bird was the highest Audi drive-train qualifier with 6th but with all Audi’s except Abt disqualified from qualifying it made the afternoon tougher. Audi showed last year that their race pace was the best of the field so we expected to see them climb back through the pack with ease but it wasn’t to be, after all the retirements and mid-race penalties the factory Audi’s could only manage 8th and 9th with the Audi powered Virgin cars only 11th and 12th. Let’s hope Saudi Arabia was only a blip for the German Manufacturer otherwise they’re in for a long season.

Driver of the Day: Jean-Eric Vergne

@Techeetah Vergne Quali.jpg

Copyright: DS Techeetah

The reigning Formula E champion demonstrated why he was the current champ and why he must be considered as the favourite for the tile this year. His race pace was immense and had such confidence on the brakes making overtaking a breeze. Even after his drive-through penalty he managed to cross the line in 2nd, consistency was Vergne strong point last year and has begun his title defence in a strong way.

Make sure to join in on the conversation and follow us on Twitter & Instagram:

Twitter: @drivenbysport

Instagram: @drivenbysport

 

Season Review Part III: The Fight for Five

2017 saw Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton battle it out for the world title, poor reliability from Ferrari and mistakes from Vettel meant Hamilton would join Vettel as a four-time champion. 2018 would be set up to these two giants recommence battle to claim a 5th world title and become the second most successful driver of all time.

Pre-Season testing showed a lot of promise with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull all looking relatively close on pace. Australia would host the first round of the season and it would be the home race for Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo but he would feel the wrath of the stewards after he failed to slow for a red flag in practice and would incur a 3-place penalty.

Valtteri Bottas was keen to prove a point and show he had what it takes to take the fight to his teammate Hamilton but he would make a mistake into turn one in qualifying and crash out of Q3. Hamilton had no such issues and worryingly claimed pole position by over 0.6 tenths ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Vettel. There was much discussion over the “party modes” that Mercedes had available to them in Qualifying but Hamilton would dismiss this and say that he enjoyed “wiping the smile” off of Vettel’s face.

Hamilton would lead away ahead of the two Ferrari’s while the Haas of Kevin Magnussen would get the jump on Verstappen with Riccardo behind Grosjean courtesy of his grid penalty. With overtaking difficult Bottas was struggling to make ground up and would see any chance of a podium finish slip away. Verstappen would make an unforced error and spin in the same place Bottas crashed in qualifying losing important track position.

@Motorsport Images.jpg

Copyright: Motorsport Images

Both Hamilton and Raikkonen would make their one and only stop while Vettel would stay out on track, he had trailed his teammate all race but was now running a different strategy to the Finn. After both Haas cars retired due to loose wheel nuts the Virtual Safety Car was deployed which presented the perfect opportunity for Vettel to pit, he came out just in front of Hamilton to take the lead of the race.

Vettel would eventually take the victory ahead of Hamilton and Raikkonen, Ricciardo battled to 4th while Verstappen finished 6th behind Fernando Alonso who also benefited from the VSC, Bottas would have to settle for 8th.

In Bahrain Hamilton would have to incur a grid penalty for an out of sequence gearbox change comprising his weekend, Verstappen would crash out of Q2 after he pushed too hard while Vettel claimed his first pole of the season. On the start Bottas would move up into second place behind Vettel and hound him through the first phase of the race. Disaster would struck Red Bull with both cars retiring for battery issues, a frustrating matter with both cars looking like they had the pace to challenge for the win.

@MotorsportImages.jpg

Copyright: Motorsport Images 

During Kimi Raikkonen’s second pit stop a mistake would see Raikkonen strike one of his mechanics after a failure with the pit stop light signalled the Finn to go despite work still being done on his car. This would cause Raikkonen to retire and the Mechanic to go to hospital with a broken leg, all of this would mean Ferrari couldn’t service Vettel while Mercedes swapped Bottas’ tyres. Vettel would have to run a long stint while Bottas made big gains on Vettel’s lead on fresh rubber, on the final lap Bottas would have a look at Vettel but did not commit to a move resulting in Vettel taking two wins from two ahead of Bottas and Hamilton.

China would see Red Bull claim their first win of the season with Daniel Ricciardo while teammate Verstappen would make his 3rd mistake in as many races. Vettel initially led from pole ahead of a fast starting Bottas but Bottas would take the lead after making his stop first and getting the undercut on the German. Ferrari would then leave Raikkonen out and back him up into Bottas to slow him down.

The safety car was deployed after debris was left on track after the two Toro Rosso’s would tangle, both Red Bulls would opt to pit along with Raikkonen. With fresh tyres it appeared Red Bull would have the advantage but Verstappen would run off track trying to overtake Hamilton and would drop behind Ricciardo, the Aussie would complete his move and would not long overtake Vettel for 2nd and then 1st after passing Bottas.

Verstappen would make a mess of overtaking Vettel and would spin the German around landing himself a penalty and running Vettel’s race while Ricciardo would take his 6th career victory.

Azerbaijan would prove to be another chaotic race, Both Red Bulls would collide after a race long scrap with many believing the collision was caused by Verstappen’s late defensive move. Bottas would take the lead after pitting under the safety car, on the restart Vettel would make a desperate move into turn one to retake the lead but would lock up losing several positions. With only a couple of laps remaining Bottas would suffer a puncture gifting Hamilton the race win and his first of the season.

@Sutton

Copyright: Sutton Images 

Spain would see Mercedes dominate to a 1-2 victory with Hamilton making it two wins in a row with Max Verstappen claiming his first podium in 3rd despite making another error on the restart damaging his front win against Lance Stroll’s Williams.

In 2016 Daniel Ricciardo would be denied victory in Monaco after a botched pit stop, he was keen to put this right in 2018 with many putting Red Bull as the favourites. Verstappen would continue his poor form and crash in final practice writing his car off for qualifying putting him last for the race meanwhile Ricciardo claimed his second ever pole position ahead of Vettel and Hamilton.

Ricciardo would make the perfect get away and lead Vettel and Hamilton until and MGU-K issue would cripple his efforts costing him almost a second a lap but Ricciardo made full use of the narrow circuit to prevent Vettel overtaking him and nursed his car home to victory and his second in three races.

@F1 Shoey.jpg

Copyright: Formula One

Come Canada Renault and Ferrari would bring new power units but issues with Mercedes’ “B-Spec” would prevent them from bringing their upgrade and with Canada being power dependant it would leave Ferrari with the advantage, Vettel would claim his third victory ahead of Bottas and a resurgent Verstappen.

France would see a return to Mercedes dominance, now with their new spec engine they took a commanding lead over the weekend. Vettel would spoil Mercedes party when he made an error in judgement pitching Bottas into a spin in turn one, lap one. This left Hamilton to dominate and take his 3rd win of the season while Verstappen and Raikkonen returned to the podium.

Vettel would incur a grid penalty in Austria after blocking Carlos Sainz in qualifying while Bottas would seal his first pole of the season. He wouldn’t be able to convert this into pole when his car broke down before the first stops, Mercedes would not opt to pit Hamilton under the VSC while his contenders chose to make their stops. This meant Verstappen would lead the race at Red Bulls home track after Hamilton stopped but he  struggled to close the gap on the front-runners. Hamilton would eventually suffer the same fate as his teammate and retire, Verstappen would seal the win putting his early season form behind him.

@Red Bull

Copyright: Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Vettel would claim his 4th win after Ferrari made the right strategy call under the safety car to pit while Mercedes opted to stay out, it would be his first win at Silverstone since 2009.

Germany would be the ultimate tipping point in the championship, Hamilton suffered a mechanical failure in qualifying preventing him for fighting for pole while Vettel took the pole in his home country.

The race however would show the first signs of cracks in Ferrari’s operation, Raikkonen would find himself ahead of Vettel after the Finn found himself on a better strategy but Ferrari were very coy about issuing team orders causing Vettel to lose time to the two Mercedes who were chasing him down. Vettel would regain the lead but would lose concentration and crash out of the race, this would lead to many scrapping to pit under the safety car with Hamilton making a late call to stay out. On the restart Mercedes had a 1-2 and Mercedes management order team order to prevent the two from fighting; something Ferrari failed to do, this led to Hamilton winning the race and taking the lead in the championship on Vettel’s home track.

@Ferrari 2

Copyright: Formula One

Prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix it had been announced that Ferrari’s chairman Sergio Marchionne had passed away due to complications in a shoulder operation, a situation which left the Scuderia dejected. The weekend would continue to be poor with Ferrari underperforming in a track which should suit their car and Hamilton claimed victory heading into the summer break.

During the summer break Ricciardo would make the shock announcement that he would leave Red Bull after 5 years to switch to Renault in 2019, Red Bull would waste time in announcing Pierre Gasly as his replacement while speculation was rife that Charles Lerclerc would take Raikkonen’s place at Ferrari.

Vettel would win in F1’s first race after the summer break in Spa but with Hamilton second it would only be 8 points taken out of the Brits lead. 2018 would be Ferrari’s best chance to take victory in the Ferrari homeland in Monza but it was Kimi Raikkonen not Vettel who would claim pole much to Vettel’s anger as he did not benefit from Raikkonen’s tow like he felt he should. His weekend would go from bad to worse when Vettel would get pinched by Hamilton into turn 5 pitching him into a spin. This left it as a straight head-to-head between Raikkonen and Hamilton, Hamilton would pound the pressure on Kimi resulting him the Finn blistering his tyres and allowing Hamilton to make the overtake to win the race.

mercedes.jpg

Copyright: Mercedes AMG Team Petronas

This would spell a four race dominance with Hamilton taking a clean sweep of victories while Vettel & Ferrari would make strategic and wheel-to-wheel errors in Singapore and Japan. Red Bull would have to contend with grid penalties for power unit changes and mechanical failures, particularly for Ricciardo.

Russia would see Bottas lead from pole but team order from Mercedes would see the two swap positions cementing Bottas’ new found “number two” position in the team. The title fight had swung well into Hamilton’s favour and it would take a miracle for Vettel to regain momentum.

Austin, Texas would see Vettel suffer another blow to his chances when he incurred a grid drop for failing to slow under red flags like Ricciardo in Australia. This meant Hamilton started ahead of Raikkonen but it was the Ferrari driver who took the lead into turn one, Hamilton was unable to make an impression on Kimi and failed to overtake despite making an extra stop for fresh rubber, this allowed Raikkonen to take his first win since 2013.

@Bell

Copyright: Bell Racing 

Mexico would be the scene where Hamilton would claim his 5th world title, he would finish 4th which would be enough to match Jaun-Manuel Fangio on the all-time list. Max Verstappen would take his second win of the season while Ricciardo who had started from pole would continue with his poor run of reliability with another DNF.

Just like last season Bottas would suffer a massive dip in form in the second half of the season and looked set for a winless campaign. Hamilton would win the final two races of the season and over half the races that year in what has been probably his strongest season of his career.

While we saw Hamilton crowned a world champion we also saw Max Verstappen grow in stature and primed to Hamilton’s new challenger if the Red Bull can compete in 2019. Hamilton was the victor in the fight for five and now he sets his sights on being F1’s number one as he hunts Michael Schumacher’s title record.

Make sure to join in on the conversation and follow us on Twitter & Instagram:

Twitter: @drivenbysport

Instagram: @drivenbysport

 

Season Review Part II: The Battle to be Fourth

For 2 years in a row Force India occupied 4th place in the constructor’s championship and were considered one of the best pound for pound teams in F1 but it would be difficult for the team to repeat that in 2018.

Renault would enter their 3rd season after returning as a fully fledged factory team and set their sights on claiming fourth as part of their natural progression up the grid, they looked set to be Force India’s biggest threat in 2018. Haas would surprise all in testing though as they were both quick and reliable; benefitting from their close relationship with Ferrari. When the F1 circus reached Australia rival teams made it clear that they were unhappy with the Haas car stating that it appeared to have copied Ferrari too much and wasn’t of their own design. It was deemed legal and it handed the advantage to Haas who were only in their 3rd season of F1.

Both Haas cars would qualify best of the rest in Australia meanwhile Force India struggled as they were unable to bring a big enough update to their car thanks to budget constraints. In the race the Haas cars would be running as high as 4th & 6th and were on course for their best finish in their very short F1 history, it wasn’t to be as both cars would retire shortly after their pit stops with both cars having 1 tyre not fitted properly.

@Motosport Images

Copyright: Motorsport Images

With both Haas cars out of the race Renault would score their first double points finish since it’s purchase of Lotus in 2015. Force India would struggle and finish 11th and 12th, repeating it’s 4th place finishes of 2016 & 2017 looked unlikely and with McLaren also getting a double points score it was looking like they were the 7th best team.

Bahrain would see Magnussen finish 5th with his best finish since his debut season in 2014 just behind the Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly, Hulkenberg would once again finish in the points in 6th bolstering Renault’s point score. Sergio Perez would have an early collision with Brendon Hartley ruining his chances of scoring any points but teammate Esteban Ocon would finish 10th scoring Force India’s first point of the season. Renault would get another double points finish with Force India scoring 0 and Haas just the 1 point with Magnussen.

Just like 2017 Azerbaijan would prove to be a chaotic race, Esteban Ocon would tangle with Kimi Raikkonen and plant his car in the wall while Nico Hulkenberg would repeat 2017 and make an unforced error taking him out of the race. Carlos Sainz was putting in a strong performance in the Renault and was battling hard with the Red Bulls for 5th.

Both Red Bulls would eventually collide and take each other out of the race bringing out the safety car, Grosjean who was currently pointless in 2018 was running as high as 6th but made a mistake under the safety car and put his Haas in the wall. When all the chaos  ended it would be Sergio Perez who finished 3rd who claimed his first podium since Monaco 2016 to the surprise of the paddock.

@SFI 1.jpg

This was Perez’s second podium in Baku. Copyright: Racing Point Force India 

Grosjean would spin wiping out Hulkenberg and Gasly in Spain to continue his points drought in 2018 and raise questions whether he still had what it takes to remain in the sport meanwhile teammate Magnussen would continue his fine form to score another 8 points ahead of Carlos Sainz.

Monaco would prove to be a struggle for Haas and manage to find itself slowest all weekend while Renault would again get a double points finish and Ocon would finish in a very strong 6th.

Another 2 poor races in Canada and France meant Grosjean would be only 1 of 2 drivers to not score a point in 2018, with the Haas to be considered as the 4th fastest car the pressure was mounting on the Frenchman but he still had the backing of his team. Haas looked strong in Austria and in Qualifying Grosjean would out-qualify the Red Bull Ricciardo and be 0.5 tenths behind his teammate Verstappen. Both Haas cars would finish 4th and 5th in their best ever finish as a team and it would also mean that Grosjean scored his first points of the season.

@Haas.jpg

Copyright: Haas F1 Team

Silverstone would show another blip on Grosjean’s record as he tangled with Carlos Sainz causing both to retire while their teammates and both Force India’s would score points. Grosjean would return back to form in Germany to finish 6th behind home boy Nico Hulkenberg who had his best finish with Renault.

As F1 approached Hungary the news came out that Force India had entered administration and sought after new ownership, owner Vijay Mallya who faced extradition to India for his unpaid debts. The uncertainty of the team’s future had a clear effect on the team’s performance with the team having their worst qualifying in a long time qualifying 18th and 19th and finishing the race well outside the points.

During the summer break it was announced that a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll a Canadian Billionaire and father to Williams Racing driver Lance Stroll had purchased all of the teams assets. They were not able to buy Force India’s F1 entry due to legal issues which raised the question of how they would compete and whether they would retain the prize money earned by Force India. After much discussion between the teams it was agreed that they could continue to race but would have to retain the Force India name, Sahara would be dropped as title sponsor and replaced by “Racing Point” the name of the holding company that purchased the teams assets. The discussion over prize money would carry on for the rest of the season. To the new backers frustration the team would be counted as a new entry in the constructor’s championship and the points would start from 0.

Racing Point Force India would have their strongest race in the season when the season resumed in Belgium. Ocon and Perez would qualify 3rd and 4th respectively in a wet qualifying session and even challenge for the lead heading into turn 5 due to the effects of the tow after Radillion. Nico Hulkenberg would make an out of character error in turn 1 causing a multi-car pile up earning himself a grid-drop for Monza.

@OctanePhotographic.jpg

Copyright: Octane Photographic

Both Force India cars would finish 5th and 6th and get their best points haul of the season in their first race under new management. Monza would prove equally as successful for Racing Point Force India who finished 6th and 7th after the Haas of Romain Grosjean was disqualified for running and illegal floor. This mean that Force India were in a theoretical 4th place in the constructor’s championship if they carried over their points from the first half of the season but after 2 races they went from 10th to 8th in the constructors standings.

Singapore would be less successful for the team with both cars colliding on lap 1 taking Ocon out of the race. Perez would have a scrappy race colliding with the Williams of Sirotkin earning himself a penalty and finishing outside of the points. This would result in Force India management reinstating rules of engagement between the two Force India cars for the rest of the season to limit them throwing away points.

@F1 2.jpg

Singapore was one of many collisions between the Force India drivers since 2017. Copyright: Formula One

All of this meant that the battle for 4th in the championship would remain between Haas and Renault, since Hungary Renault would struggle for performance, their engine had a significant deficit compared to Mercedes and Ferrari which powered Force India and Haas and would struggle to score points in the power sensitive circuits.

Renault would bounce back in Haas’ homeland of the US with another double points finish while the American team would fail to score thanks to a DNF for Grosjean and a disqualification for Magnussen for consuming too much fuel. Renault would excel in Mexico thanks to the Renault engine performing well at high altitude but Sainz would fail to finish thanks to a battery issue, Haas and Force India would fail to score.

With two races left to go in the season Renault looked well placed to finish in 4th with Haas having to score big to overhaul them and Force India stuck in 7th. Hulkenberg and Sainz would enjoy a good battle in Brazil before Nico would retire with temperature issues, this would be their penultimate race as teammates before Sainz moved to McLaren.

@Renault.jpg

Copyright: Renault Sport F1 Team

Hulkenberg would end his season upside down after he picked Grosjean’s Haas causing his Renault to flip out of the race, Grosjean was able to continue and finish 9th ahead of teammate Magnussen. Carlos Sainz would finish 6th securing 4th place in the constructor’s championship, Haas would be happy with 5th as this was their best result since entering F1 while Force India would finish just behind McLaren in 7th while keeping the prize money earned by it’s previous entity.

The battle for fourth was very tight but Renault secured it and with the regulations changing for 2019 there is no reason why they cant bridge the gap to the big three.

Make sure to join in on the conversation and follow us on Twitter & Instagram:

Twitter: @drivenbysport

Instagram: @drivenbysport