Welcome back race fans! Race two of the season took place in Saudi Arabia this weekend. We take a look at the winners and losers
To begin the weekend in Jeddah, Friday and Saturday testing sessions were largely uneventful.
There were a few times where cars touched the walls with tires with little damage, one incident
involving Lando Norris clipping an advert that fell off the fence causing Mick Schumacher to swerve out of the way and a yellow flag waved.
Qualifying later on Saturday evening was far more eventful. A crash by Nicolas Latifi in Q1 brought a red flag which ended up causing the two Ferrari’s first out lap to be wasted. But this was not the shock of the day. Lewis Hamilton, seven times world champion and the racer of his generation, was eliminated in Q1 for the first time since Brazil 2017. Incredible!
On to Q2! A scary crash a few minutes into Q2 from Mick Schumacher caused the second red flag on the afternoon. Underperforming for the second week running were McLaren, although there was some improvement but it just wasn’t enough with Esteban Ocon putting a fantastic lap to secure Q3. Speaking of Q3, it was the Mexican racer made the headlines. On the last flying lap before the session finished, Checo came dcreaming down the corniche circuit at an incredible pace. On only his 215th attempt, the Redbull number 2 secure pole for the first time. So it would be Perez P1, LeClerc P2, and Sainz P3 for the grid on Sunday.
RedBull and Max Verstappen: It was a fantastic win for the Dutch driver having to overcome the
charge from the two Ferraris. Max kept pace with LeClerc throughout the race and even when he
had a brake lock issue in a battle reminiscent of last weekend in Bahrain; it was the flying
Dutchman coming out on top. Overall, the team did well to navigate their issues from the previous round where engine problems prevented both drivers from scoring points. The pit strategy for Max worked fantastically and the only black mark I guess would be the pitting of Perez right before a crash bringing out the safety. Unlucky for Checo as he would never recover.
Alpine: I have been steadily impressed by the French outfit and this race was no exception. In the
early stages Ocon and Alonso were trading positions on the circuit which gave me all the anxiety
thinking someone was going to crash into the other. As the race progressed Alonso fell back
deeper in the pack but Ocon stayed in and around P6 to P9 and had a charge towards the end to
pip Norris in the McLaren on the final lap to steal a place from the Briton. Just a solid performance overall.
Ferrari: These guys haven’t put a foot wrong in these first two rounds. After years of just not
meeting expectations, they really have a car that matches their ambitions with drivers to match.
Starting in P2 and P3 almost guaranteed them a good finish based on testing and qualifying. I still have concerns for Sainz’s car in that his Ferrari seems to not handle porpoising (the violent bouncing motion of the car on its suspension, seen mainly on the straights. This occurs when the airflow pulling the car to the ground, stalls) as well as LeClerc’s livery.
The team benefited mightily from the Latifi crash that brought out the safety car and having stayed out an extra lap to take the lead from Perez (who must have been faked out by the Ferrari team setting up only to keep going just before Perez pitted). This allowed both drivers to move up a position though Perez did get in front of Sainz, and according to the rules would have to surrender the position back to Sainz, which he kept for the remainder of the race.
I am not sure what the reason was for the RedBull number 1 to eventually catch LeClerc, my guess is they are lacking pure pace on the straights. Overall both ended up on the podium at P2 for LeClerc and P3 for Sainz. Ferrari are in the lead in the constructors although it’s early I think they have made a serious contender and they might be far out of reach for anyone to catch them if the teams around them are incapable or just unable to get in the points.
Mercedes AMG Twitter account: A quick shout out for these champions who tweeted during the
race that there was a Merc finally leading, only to shortly continue with that it was the safety car.
Brutal but hilarious. Not sure many teams would have this type of self awareness but I do love it.
On to the hard part of the analysis
This list is feeling meaner and meaner at the moment but with so much at stake in Formula 1 I
have to be honest with how I see it.
Lewis Hamilton: He is in some very unfamiliar territory at the moment with his car just not being up to the standards he set with this team since 2013. The racer of his generation couldn’t make it out of Q1 for the first time since Brazil 2017 that was a crash not for pure pace, that was in 2008. So this was monumental and first it seemed to be going well. Up to as high at 7th if memory serves but because of a virtual safety preventing his first pit until his tires were well degraded, he could only manage a P10 finish. I am not sure how the Mercedes team will be able to bounce back as quickly as they would like to with the new financial rules restricting the amount of money you are able to spend during the season. If any team can figure it out it’s the 8 times champions. I wouldn’t count out Lewis either but today was just not his day.
McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo: If Mercedes has my antenna up then McLaren has sounded the
emergency alarm for me. It doesn’t seem like they had figured out the car yet. Neither driver not
made it out of Q2 on Saturday due to pace then not much would change on Sunday. It is true that
Norris had done well to get more out of the car than his teammate, the Australian was unable to
finish the race on Sunday meaning it would be the second race in a row without points for him.
After a rough start to last years season this seems to be following the same pattern and I for
one am sad to see it. The racing is much better when Ricciardo and Lando are smiling and racing
hard. Godspeed Daniel.
Valterri Botta: It’s hard to place him here because it wasn’t his fault his car failed. It’s more
what could have been with him because he has really been the spark that Alfa Romeo need to fight for a potential top 5 spot in the Constructors Championship. As well he will need to be the mentor that Zhou Guanyu will need to make that next step. He shined for his debut with getting a point but wasn’t able to finish in points for round 2. If they figure out the car they will be there and thereabouts.
There you have it. I know that there are still a lot of other eventful things that happened but these
were the things that stood out for me. Time to pack up and move the circus down under in two
weeks time. Maybe this is the time the Mercedes teams get some time back at the factories to
tune up and make their assault on the title. Until next time. Like, Comment and share if you