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15 Nov 2020
'Trumpets' race review - Turkish Grand Prix

Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale glides seamlessly from full wets to inters and then burns down the tread on those to explain how the Turkish Grand Prix unfolded...

Ambient 12.3° Track 14.7° Humidity 86.7% Wind 0.7 m/s


Prelude

Roiling angry clouds hung low over the paddock, having dumped massive amounts of rain on the track less than an hour before the start of the race and despite the occasional patches of blue, more rain was promised during the race. How much chaos did it create? Both Russell and Giovinazzi had crashes on their reconnaissance laps for starters, with Williams choosing to start from the pitlane so exciting were the conditions.


Sainz and Norris both got docked for various infractions and entertainingly, after deciding on a strategic PU change for Gasly, Alpha Tauri reversed course but not till after they disassembled most of the rear of the car. This move drew a referral to the stewards for breaking parc ferme, and Gasly found himself relegated to the back of the grid without a new PU as a result, moving up to P19 due to the pitlane start decided on by Williams.


Racing Point on pole, starting in 3rd gear because of the wet, tyre-a-palooza and rain bearing down on the circuit should spice things up a bit and as the grid awaited the tyre reveal word over the radio came that it was to be a standing start, leaving the crashes and Safety Cars to be the joker in the race deck. Oh, yeah, and Hamilton potentially on track to equal Schumacher's championship if he can finish ahead of Bottas, if all the rest of that isn't enough for you. Late word that it's the full Wets for the field except Williams, who will be tiptoeing out of the pits on Inters and hoping that the drier line develops quickly...


Summary

Lights Out!!!! Great Start by anyone who didn't crash, but it was both Renault's and Hamilton rocketing past Verstappen who got hung up with his anti-stall and dropped down to 5th. Into T1 they went and Hamilton and Ricciardo had a coming together that sent Ocon off the track in the wrong direction, as Verstappen dropped to 5th after picking up massive wheelspin. Bottas right behind them spun as well, avoiding Ocon and it was all looking just as crazy as we hoped.


Into Turn 9 Hamilton locked up and had an off and it was Vettel and then Albon taking advantage with Vettel rocking up to P3. Puncture for Ocon after Bottas, having a go up the inside into T9 locked up and punted the Renault driver for the 2nd time in a single lap, and into the pits and out with a new set and hopes of a Safety Car to help him out.


Lap 3 and Stroll was 5 seconds up on Perez, who was 6 seconds up on Vettel, as Racing Point had clearly figured out how to switch those wets fully on. Vettel, Verstappen and Albon rounded out the top 5 with Hamilton back on track in P6 and well ahead of Bottas, which was his main race today as finishing ahead of his teammate meant he would win his 7th World Driver's Championship.


2 laps on and Verstappen was all over the back of Vettel, and it was clear that the Red Bull had the ultimate pace over Ferrari. Sainz had vaulted through the chaos and was up to P8 and it was Kmag, up to P10 as some of the biggest winners on the start. Leclerc was in lap 7 for some Inters and the whole grid was keenly eyeing his times as the decision was taken that he had no chance in P14 so might as well roll those dice.


After half a lap Bottas was in, with Mercedes having been convinced by Leclerc's times and the following lap, Vettel and Hamilton both followed suit. And then Magnussen, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Kvyat and Grosjean all joined in and it was delightful chaos in the pits.


Vettel and Hamilton were back out P7 and P8 respectively and lap 10 saw Stroll in for a set of Inters as well, leaving Perez in the lead. Behind, Verstappen, now in P2, set the fastest lap of the race until Hamilton, on the Inters, left him in the dust the following lap, nearly 5 seconds faster. Verstappen responded, and narrowed the gap as he preferred track position over tyres for the moment...


Renault then pulled it's drivers for new tyres, with Ricciardo back out in P7 and Ocon back to P19, the toll of his first lap adventures now fully extracted. Lap 11 and Verstappen was in, leaving Albon in the lead and it was a longer than usual stop for Max, as Red Bull took advantage to fiddle with his brake ducts. As a result he was out just ahead of Perez and the Racing Point driver easily took advantage of the cold tyres of his rival and was back into P2 as a yellow got chucked for someone and then the Virtual Safety Car. Giovinazzi was the perpetrator, having pulled over between Turns 8 and 9 with a gearbox issue, his race done and during the chaos Albon had been in as well and back out on a new set of Inters and out in P6 behind Hamilton.


As they trundled round on lap 14, waiting for the car to be cleared, it was Stroll, 8 seconds up on Perez, followed by Verstappen, then a 5 second gap to Vettel, Hamilton and Albon. Ricciardo was well back of that group, 10 seconds or so and the drivers were all working hard trying to keep their tyres and brakes up to temperature.


Lap 16 and the VSC was off and the first battle was Hamilton versus Vettel and the resulting combat allowed Albon by Hamilton as Lewis went wide and the Red Bull driver was able to carry his momentum forward and get round Vettel as well, chucking it up the inside and leaving the Ferrari driver rapidly receding in his mirrors.


Free and clear of Vettel, Albon set fast lap, 2 seconds faster than his teammate, stuck behind Perez for the moment. Lap 19 and Verstappen was into the pits, out in P8 with a fresh set of Inters after having a massive spin trying to overtake Perez. Flat spots brought him in and suddenly, for the moment at least, Albon was carrying the hopes of the team on his shoulders.


Lap 20 and Albon was just 3 seconds back of Perez and once again set fast lap, nearly 1.5 seconds faster than the Racing Point hanging tantalizingly ahead. Remarkably, Magnussen was still in 10th and leading a massive train of cars, the tail end of which was Bottas. At least until Bottas again had an off, letting Ocon take over that position. Hamilton on the radio said he was struggling with overtakes and Verstappen was under investigation for crossing the pit exit line.


Lap 23 and Albon was under a second off the Racing Point of Perez and the battle was joined and it was Russell, in P11, 1.5 seconds off the back of Magnussen, his first championship point again hanging just out of reach for the moment. The following lap and drivers were beginning to look for water off line to keep their Inters cool, as a dry line was just beginning to emerge.


Albon's chase of Perez was having the desired effect and the gap between Stroll and Perez had narrowed to 3.5 seconds. Norris was up the inside on Russell, and George was less than pleased, complaining of having been run off the road, but his 26 lap old Inters were doing him no favours. Norris was all over the back of Magnussen and it was a done deal lap 28, the Macca driver the first to get past the famously wide HAAS of Kmag.


Lap 30 and Albon's front tyres were gone, according to his radio, the laps under the rear wing of Perez having taken their toll as those more experienced in the care and feeding of Inters were now coming into their own, as no one wanted to be the first to give the slicks a go. Complicating matters was the lack of rain, as whatever tyre was chosen would need to go to the end.


And then DRS was enabled and hoo boy, here it comes. Leclerc was in lap 31 and out on a new set of Inters, so not yet as Hamilton said he wasn't sure there would be a transition to slicks... Leclerc was out P9 but with a fresh set he was off in search of Verstappen, 14 seconds ahead.


Ricciardo was in at the end of lap 32 also onto a new set of Inters as the teams seemed to be taking Hamilton's call to heart, betting that slicks would not come into their own before the race ran out of laps. Vettel and Sainz were next to fall and at the front, Sergio was just 1.5 seconds off the back of his soon to be former teammate.


A spin for Albon into Turn 4 2 laps later dropped him a spot and moved Hamilton up into the last podium position. On replay it was clear that there was no tread remaining on his left rear of the Red Bull as Hamilton told the team to leave him out despite the degrading tyres. Albon was in, and now, in P6 had his work cut out for him.


OOOOOH!!! Lap 36 and Racing point was on the radio with Stroll as not only had Perez caught him up from behind but Hamilton was flying. Stroll did not want to come in but the team persisted....Problem for Magnussen on the way out of the pits and as the mechanics ran down the pitlane to retrieve him Stroll was in for a set of Mediums, the team having won that particular argument. Out just in front of Verstappen, who had been freed from the pace of Sainz when the Macca driver covered off Ricciardo's pit stop. It was no contest, with Verstappen on well warmed tyres rocking by the former net leader of the race. At the actual front, it was Hamilton, finally showing his hand and sweeping past the Racing Point of Perez as their early advantage warming the tyres was becoming ever more a liability as the track dried.


Lap 40 and it was Leclerc, knocking on the door and walking right past Albon, P6 as the Red Bull driver struggled to get his fresh tyres working in the changing conditions. At the same time, Vettel and Stroll were having a massive battle, with Vettel the ultimate winner and both Ferraris by the Racing Point. Straight into the clutches of Albon then for Stroll and it was no contest, Albon easily by as Leclerc rocked by Vettel with the aid of DRS.


And the woes continued as Sainz was next up and also overtook the Racing Point, leaving Stroll down in P8 as the skies darkened and a threat of rain in 10 minutes wafted across the airwaves. Latifi hit Grosjean and Bottas had another spin as he had made friends with a particularly magnetic puddle on track for the second time.


This brought about every driver's worst nightmare as the loss of time from his spin put Bottas squarely in the sights of Hamilton, just about to lap him. Lap 44 and Verstappen was in for yet another set of Inters as Leclerc used DRS to rock by him and track position was suddenly worth much less, at least in the eyes of Red Bull and Verstappen. 9 seconds to Sainz and 13 to Vettel, with Albon 2 seconds up and unlikely to slow his teammate on fresh tyres. 17 seconds to the podium and Leclerc, but with 13 laps and the top 2 on tyres in the mid 30's on age it was all looking kinda interesting.


Another moment for Bottas and Mercedes decided to bring him in for a new set to get to the end as the woes for the Finn continued. Lap 49 and Norris was by Ricciardo, dropping the Renault driver into the last points position as Danny Ric locked up as Norris was trying to overtake, and wound up spinning himself right out of P9.


Next lap and curiously, and somewhat frustratingly, Verstappen was still locked behind Albon as Red Bull had apparently not asked Albon to move aside for his teammate on the alternate strategy. Wowzers, coming up to lap Raikkonen and Kimi had a spin, nearly taking Albon off and sending Verstappen round for a full pirouette as the 2 Red Bulls were just about to lap him. Madness.


Hahaha and now it is the rains, expected some time around the last lap of the race, at least according to Vettel's radio. 4 laps left and Hamilton was nearly an entire pit stop clear so not a worry for the Merc driver as the first drops being reported trackside. Verstappen finally bounced Albon out of P6 and was off in search of Sainz, 4 seconds up the road.


More of interest, Leclerc was now 3.5 seconds back of Perez and almost 2 seconds faster at the end of lap 55. Verstappen had yet another moment, and was on the radio saying he was unable to catch his oversteer and there it was, Mercedes calling Hamilton in for a safety stop as they expected rain to hit Turn 8 first. Stroll had a massive off and Norris took that spot away from him easily as Hamilton hemmed and hawed over coming in, opting to go another lap rather than risk a disaster in the pitlane.


Into the final lap then and Leclerc somehow just a second back of Perez and a rare mistake from the Racing Point driver into Turn 9 allowed the Ferrari to take the second step on the podium away as Vettel charged onto the scene. Perez defended ably and the trio rocketed down what passed for a back straight, Perez chasing and then, into Turn 12, Leclerc locked up, gifting Perez the spot right back. Even worse, that mistake let Vettel through as well, snatching the last podium position from Leclerc's fingertips as Hamilton crossed the line, taking his 7th world championship and matching Schumacher's record...


So it was a tale of two races for Mercedes, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, to borrow a phrase, with the team overjoyed for Lewis as the sound of corks popping in the background for his 7th WDC drove home the bitterness for Bottas as his chance to prolong the inevitable evaporated in the first lap of the race, victim of his own mistake on lap 1 which just pinballed thoughout the race, brutally lapped by his own teammate the ultimate indignity to cap off a thoroughly miserable day.




A similar story at Racing Point, with Perez winning a last lap duel for the second podium step a fantastic result, dimmed only by the fact that the call to bring Stroll in, though it prevented internecine rivalry and rather than giving him a chance to win, doomed him to drop all the way to P9 as his inability to get the fresh tyres up working cost him any chance of a decent finish. The points gain will be massive for 3rd in the Constructor's but the decision to ditch Perez will continue to be closely marked by Perezfosi as he takes 4th in the Driver's and no doubt a world class strop from Lance in the debrief to boot, at least based on the in race radio that was broadcast which indicated he fully blamed the team for watching the podium from a distance.


Ferrari will be gutted that Leclerc not only let 2nd, but 3rd as well slip through his fingers, but Vettel being there to rescue his team will be a happy news for the fans at least (not so sure about the team if ya know what I mean) as it's a massive points haul for the struggling Scuderia and confirmation that they may indeed have turned a bit of a corner. Still should be a huge party for them as a podium and 4th after the year they've had is a massive result.


McLaren will be kicking out the jams for sure, as Sainz gaining 10 spots and finishing 5th, combined with Norris' late move into P8 (plus the point for fast lap to boot) erases the damage done by the grid penalties they had suffered in qualifying. This race vaulted them well clear of Renault to take P4 in the Constructor's and leaving them well within shouting distance of Racing Point with 3 races left to close the gap...


After an eventful go, it was a bit of a meh result for Red Bull, P6 and P7 but clearly the bet on fresh Inters failed to pay off for Max and they will feel like they left some points on the road. Frustrating for Albon, as he drove exceedingly well but whether it was his engineer not giving him enough advice or just general lack of experience with the Inters, his inability to one stop them decidedly cost the team a podium and continues to keep his future a matter of murky speculation.


After looking incredibly promising into the first turn, with Ocon and Ricciardo looking like P3 and P4, the contact between Hamilton and Ricciardo wound up punting Ocon into the midfield, where the subsequent contact with Bottas gave him a first lap puncture and that extra stop wound up costing them a haul of points, as he subsequently went on to one stop his Inters all the way from a pitstop off the back to 11th, right behind his teammate. Renault, like Racing Point, might also be second guessing their decision to bring Ricciardo in for a fresh set of Inters as at the time he was directly behind Hamilton on tyres 2 laps younger. Now they are relegated to a serious game of catchup in the Constructor's, back to P5 and 13 points in the red to McLaren ahead. The good news on the horizon will be a return to races at more normal temperatures and conditions for the finishing trio of races.


Kvyat also managed to one stint his Inters but for Alpha Tauri the costly mistake was made when they changed their mind on the PU switch, losing all the places but gaining none of the benefits. Quite the change from the remarkable result in San Marino, but they were behind the eight ball from the start in this race and they will be hoping to recapture some of the magic at the next race.


HAAS had a bright spot in the performance of Kmag, running in the points for well more than half the race, but a cross-threaded wheel nut killed that pretty dead. Williams, similarly, had once again high hopes for Russell, but no dice at the end of the day and with the added bonus of Latifi retiring after colliding with Grosjean, his entire race a disaster as he never got his tyres going at the start.


Alfa Romeo quite possibly had the saddest day, with Giovinazzi out due to a gearbox issue and Raikkonen all the way down to 15th thanks to the utter uselessness of the car in the intermediate conditions which dominated most of the race. A total waste of their dual Q3 appearance which is not likely to happen again this season.


So it's off to the desert for some night racing, a return to more normal track conditions as usually it's just Spa that gives us the unexpected cold and damp. Still, there is much to be resolved in the midfield and with the Red Bull race seat as yet officially undecided, plenty of interesting things to talk about in two weeks time...



S7ill he rises


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14 Nov 2020
'Trumpets' qualifying notebook - Turkey

Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale trundles through the puddles to explain how qualifying unfolded for the Turkish GP.

Ambient 13.5° Track 11.9° Humidity 90.2% Wind 1.7 m/s


Prelude

A sullen grey sky hung over the icy cold track, remnants of a massive rainstorm that upset FP3 to the point that Hamilton was at the bottom of the timesheets and Verstappen at the top in a short session that saw more spins than the Olympic finals in ice skating.


The immediate threat of rain had been replaced by actual rain, the racing gods having decided that as the session began they had teased us enough this season and they delivered on their promise with a torrential downpour as the last seconds ticked off before the session opened...


Summary

Green Light!! Verstappen led the way as the field was split as to whether the Intermediate or Full Wet was the best choice for the moment. Notably Renault were on the full Wets. Verstappen managed to have a full spin on his outlap no less and the crazy was in full force as the first laps got underway, with just Ferrari staying in the pits.


Both the Ferrari drivers crawled out on track as the early runners were about halfway through their first well, not so much hot lap as frigid given the conditions. Bottas, Ocon to the top early days on the full Wets, 2:07s for both. Perez snaked up to 3rd before his teammate jumped him.


Hamilton was bogged down with traffic and wound up 5th but unlike normal quali, the hotlaps continue unabated so an improvement likely as he continued to thrash round the track. Ocon took the top position with his second go round as Bottas had his second time deleted, which was faster than the Renault driver's.


The rain which wasn't supposed to be continued to pound down, and the advantage was ever more clear for those who chose the full Wets and into the pits those running the Inters came, but with conditions getting worse improving was going to be a tricky business indeed.


In fact, those on the outs were calling for Red Flags and with 7 minutes left, Leclerc, Grosjean, Gasly, Russell and Latifi were all on the outs looking in, crawling around the track. And just like that Race Control decided that it was in fact too much for the drivers and out came the Red Flag, stopping the session until conditions improved.


Given the decent interval afforded by the stoppage, worth noting that Ocon, Bottas, Stroll, Hamilton and Perez were the top 5 and Norris, Magnussen, Albon, Kvyat and Raikkonen rounded out the top 10, with Perez alone setting his time on the Inters. Of course, the real question would be whether or not conditions would improve soon enough for anyone to improve once cars were set loose on the track. If the laptimes continued to stay in the 2 minute range once they go back out at best an outlap and 2 hot laps would be possible which means that everything would be bet on tyre choice coming out of the pits.


With the Safety Car out and the sky brightening, odds looked good for a restart and sure enough as the Safety Car came round the final bend the 10 minute warning was sounded. OR not. This was accompanied by a clearing in the distance and there was a decided amount of fun coming in the near future, kicked off by the appearance of an ancient sweeper, creeping round the track and trying to clear a bit of water off the apexes before the pit exits opened once again.


Welp, as 10 minutes turned into 35, it began to look as if Race Control was waiting for some Mediterranean beach weather rather than an actually drivable track. Still, out went the Safety Car once again as hope sprang eternal and it was officially the two minute warning.


Albon headed the queue on full wets, followed by Verstappen, Raikkonen and Leclerc. Next up were Vettel, Ocon and Latifi as Raikkonen got properly sideways on his outlap and just about took Leclerc out as he got it back in hand. Sainz and Ricciardo were out in their own little bubble, then Grosjean, Magnussen and Giovinazzi and at the end of the line, Russell, Bottas and Hamilton. Perez, Norris, Gasly, Stroll and Kvyat rolled out as the hot lappers were onto their first efforts and it was all for nought as Grosjean went wide and beached himself in the gravel bringing out yet another red flag. To be fair to the much maligned HAAS driver he was just following Leclerc's line through the corner...


That left 3 minutes on the clock once the session restarted after the latest red flag, meaning it was going to be a one and done and this time Red Bull led the way, Verstappen in front of Albon. Raikkonen and Vettel next, then Leclerc, Kvyat, Giovinazzi and Ocon. Bit of a gap to Latifi Russell, Sainz and Ricciardo. Gasly, Bottas, Magnussen Stroll and Perez were the next group up and Norris and Hamilton were the sting in the tail this time round as Verstappen drifted it round the final corners and got his lap under way...


Purples and greens interspersed with some yellows as Max got it going. Vettel and Albon looked to be on it as well as the driver's could smell improvement in the air. A yellow flag in sector one decidedly messed with a large number of laptimes, Kvyat responsible for that. Wowzers, Verstappen and Albon to the top, and another yellow, for Latifi in the gravel in Sector 2 certainly caught out a large number of drivers. The race gods are cruel indeed and those yellows had the effect of giving us an almost normal exclusion list, with Magnussen, Kvyat, Russell, Grosjean and Latifi all done for the day, off in search of some baklava to lift their spirits as the rest turned it round for the glories of Q2. And given those yellows, all the improved times were going to be investigated AFTER the session, though worth pointing out anyone ahead of Kvyat would be keeping their gains. Ricciardo and Norris were mentioned on air, both of them behind the two yellow flag offenders at the start of their outlap.


Norris led the way onto track for Q2 and he and his teammate were both sporting the Inters, and there were double yellows out for Turn 8 because there was a crane on track removing Latifi's car... And if you are asking why the session was restarted prior to clearing the car, you would not be the only one.


Norris rocked across the line with a 2 minute dead, but his time was deleted and as the runners came across the line it was Albon to the top, matching Norris' time, before Verstappen put it P1 3 seconds up on his teammate. Raikkonen, Perez, Stroll, Bottas and Hamilton slotted in behind them, all save Hamilton in the 57s, dropping Albon to P6. Ocon split the Mercedes and then it was Albon, with his second go round, to the top as the track was improving quite rapidly.


7:30 to go and Vettel, Giovinazzi, Gasly, Leclerc and Sainz were all on the outs as Stroll jumped to the top, into the 55s as the choice as to go for fresh tyres or stay out was the everything with time running out. Verstappen to the 53s and worth noting that fresh tyres need to be brought back up to temperature and in the past we have indeed seen Ferrari get that dead wrong and miss out on Q3 as a result.


Nonetheless both McLaren's were in for fresh Wets as their Inter gamble had failed. 3 minutes to go and Vettel Leclerc, Norris, Gasly and Sainz were now looking at missing the party as desperation began to sink in.


As the last seconds ticked off the clock Sainz, Vettel, Norris, Leclerc and Gasly were all out with Sainz the first done and out, with those behind still on laps. Ocon up to P6 as Bottas dropped to P7 and Giovinazzi to P5! At the back no one was able to get it done and off the stage went Norris, Vettel, Sainz, Leclerc and Gasly, knocking back some shots of raki to kill the pain, as the rest turned it round for the hallowed grounds of Q3.


During the interval it emerged that Kmag was furious as it wasn't single yellows, but double waved yellows during the first session and he complained it was an utter joke to investigate it afterwards, which, well, kinda seems like he might have a point.


Verstappen was first off the mark for the ultimate palmares, followed by his teammate, then Raikkonen, Giovinazzi and Ocon, with just the Renault driver on the Inters. Bottas and Hamilton were next, then Ricciardo and a long gap. Stroll and Perez emerged last, with Perez also on the Inters as the serious work got underway.


AT the top, Verstappen just crushed the opposition, nearly 2 seconds up on Stroll, at least until Perez hit the line, his Inters taking him to the top by nearly 0.3 seconds. Fascinating as Ocon was at the other end of the field, unable to get the tyres up to temps. This brought several drivers in, most notably Verstappen and with under 5 minutes left, it was a wholesale change in strategy, with just Albon, Ricciardo and Raikkonen remaining on them. And Ocon, in for a set of full Wets, as the Renault proved completely unable to get the temperature properly into the Intermediates.


Perez, Verstappen, Albon, Raikkonen, and Ricciardo were the top 5 with Stroll, Bottas, Hamilton Giovinazzi and Ocon at the bottom of the ladder. Verstappen was not happy with the Inters, saying there was no grip and oh my, the session was now officially amazeballs as it looked as if those with new tyres were unable to get them up to proper temps....


Gasp, Ocon up to P6 with his only chances as Perez took it to the 49s and then it was Stroll, 1.5 seconds up on his teammate and pole position with Bottas and Hamilton still on it. Hamilton took Ocon down a peg, knocking him back to P7 and only Albon left to go....P4 for the Red Bull driver and pole position to Stroll, as the Racing Point absolutely embarrassed the senior team. Stroll, Verstappen, Perez and Albon the first two rows on the grid as conditions for the race tomorrow were still decidedly unpredictable. Looking at the data, Stroll pitted very early for the Inters and benefitted as a result, having had enough laps to get them up to temperature and also a bit more grip than his teammate who ran the whole session on them.


Looking at Albon improving to P4 it may be that Red Bull bet Verstappen on the wrong tyre, but there will be no complaining that the third row will be Ricciardo and Hamilton, as Renault as well showing that there was no single correct tyre for this session given that Danny Ric was on the full Wets for the whole session, whereas Hamilton, like Verstappen, bailed for the Inters after Perez went to the top.


Ocon did the absolute business, getting the Wets going and having a single lap to get it done, less than a tenth off Hamilton and as a reward he will be paired with Raikkonen at the start, with Bottas behind him and Giovinazzi next door to the Merc.


Well, aside from the excessively long Red Flag in Q1 hard to complain about the return to Turkey, at least as a spectator. Fairly sure there are more than a few grumbles as the pieces were being picked up in the paddock however.


An amazing day for Racing Point as they become the first this season to knock Mercedes off their pole position perch. Red Bull feel like they must have thrown pole away with their tyre gambit, but with Max on the first row and the Red Bull looking, well, much faster in all conditions save those they encountered at the end of qualifying, it was a rosy forecast for them, especially if the rains come again tomorrow. Renault will feel like they wasted a chance with Ocon, not pulling him off the Inters sooner and leaving him a single lap to set a decent time, but starting P5 and P7 is a decent shout and in line with their expectations. Alfa Romeo will be utterly delighted to rock both cars into Q3 and they will be quite the obstacle for those behind and it was unusually Mercedes, who massively underperformed, unable to get either tyre working well, possibly because they guessed wrong at the start of Q3.


Regardless, with a rare chance to see the driver's really earn their money it was a delightful qualifying and hey, don't forget there is still an open investigation into the double-waved yellows to be completed. Congratulations to Stroll for his first ever poll, and boy howdy with a non-zero chance of rain tomorrow it will be worth getting up early for (or staying up late for), at least on this side of the pond where early sunset and winter hours are giving us some interesting start times....


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1 Nov 2020
'Trumpets' race review - Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale breaks down the events of the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix at Imola...

Ambient 17.6° Track 24.6° Humidity 72.3% Wind 0.7 m/s


Prelude


Overcast skies loomed over the paddock as the race gods, depite rising humidity, deemed once again to deprive humanity of the shenanigans of a randomly wet race, leaving just tyre degradation and the foibles of man and machine (and track limits) to be responsible for the random excitements of the upcoming race. After a brilliant qualifying yesterday, it was Pierre Gasly who had his pre-race routine upset as Honda detected an "anomaly" on his PU which led to a rapid dismantling of cover panels and inspection for the Alpha Tauri driver. Nonetheless, he was on the way to the grid with the rest of the runners as the final, frantic, pre-race preparations finished up and the klaxon sounded its clarion call to clear the grid and start the formation lap.


Along with Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen, every car from P11 down was starting on the Medium tyre, with the exception of Giovinazzi, who had for reasons elected to start on the Soft. Pirelli strategy had a one stop with Soft-Medium as the way to go with pit window opening around lap 26. Should anyone deign to try the two stop, lap 18ish is thought to be the time to make that low percentage move. Safety Cars could make life fun, and on the way to the grid Bottas gifted himself a flat spot in an effort to get the tyres warmed up for the start. The long run to Turn 2 offers an almost certain overtaking opportunity for some and T2 and T3 an almost certain crunch zone...


Summary


Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Bottas but it was Verstappen who nicked Hamilton into Turn 2, having been towed past Lewis by the lead Mercedes, whilst it was Ricciardo who snuck up on Gasly, snatching P4. Magnussen spun it at Turn 7 which did him and his race no favors and early days it was Giovinazzi, betting on the Softs up 6 spots and Stroll in with damage lap 1. Magnussen apparently had minor contact with Vettel prompting his roundabout, and Stroll washed into the rear of Ocon at the start and damaged his front wing.


As the race settled down it was Hamilton, setting fast lap on the third go round and on replay at the start it was Hamilton, taking every bit of the apex that caused Gasly to back off and gave Ricciardo his opportunity for gain. Lap 5 and the top 3 were staying just outside DRS on one another, somewhat unusually. Gasly was in DRS on Ricciardo by the barest of margins and looking down the order it was Albon on Leclerc for P6 and Perez on Norris for P10 that looked to be the likeliest spots for conflict. Norris was in P10 because Sainz sailed by him into the first chicane and it was Ricciardo driving the midfield train in P4 as Gasly sought to find a hole in his defenses.


Lap 9 and Gasly was in for oh, dear, a terminal situation on the car according to his race engineer... Apparently the issue before the start wasn't as fixed as they had hoped... Vicious indeed are the race gods.


The following lap Grosjean was in for a set of Hards because, why not when your car will randomly alter its ride height. According to Verstappen's radio they owned the corners and Mercedes the straights as the race spiraled into lap 11 and light graining was being reported on some sets of tyres.


Russell was next to jump and Alpha Tauri reported it was a loss of water pressure that caused Gasly's retirement. At the front, the gaps had been run out to a second and a half as the tyre management phase of the race got well underway. End of lap 13 and Leclerc, Norris and Ocon all were in for a new set of tyres. Temperatures were a bit colder than qualifying and it may be that the Medium tyre was not working as well as anticipated. This week's Soft being last week's Medium (and this week's Hard last week's Medium) for reference, the C2, C3 and C4 being the compounds on offer. Exiting the pits, Russell had managed to undercut Ocon as the race was going rather away from him. Ricciardo, Albon and Kvyat were next up and of the three, it was Albon who was not able to overcut and Leclerc, trying to take maximum advantage of his hot tyres, locked up into the hairpin of Turn 7 and did himself no favours in his chase of the Renault. Bottas was told to push the next lap and it was Sainz who jumped next, in on lap 18 as Kvyat was having a rather serious go at Albon into Turn 2 and there was a wee bit of contact as the Red Bull driver took to the apex rather hard.


Bottas was in end of lap 19 in response to Verstappen rocking in at the beginning of the lap as Red Bull bet the farm on the undercut and... nope nopity nope, Bottas out ahead of the Red Bull, albeit with the gap shortened to just about a second. Now into clean air, Hamilton was suddenly very happy with his tyres and requested that he be given some extra laps to make hay while his sun shined. Mercedes agreed, after seeing his laptimes and it was looking like he might well have won the tyre management battle as he was still running the same, well, OK even faster, than the cars behind. Damage to the floor for Bottas explained rather a lot as Verstappen was inexorably closing in on the wounded Mercedes.


Further back it was a tale of two strategies, as Perez, now up to P4 thanks to the pitstop lottery, was running much faster on his Mediums than Ocon, who had started on the same strategy, now stuck behind Russell and indeed, the Racing Point faster than Ricciardo behind on the fresher tyres. Hamilton, who had just about cleared the Bottas/Verstappen train was asked to rock another 10 laps and he had no issues whatsoever with giving it the old college try. Magnussen, meanwhile, the last of the runners to stay on the Mediums and go long, was in the process of destroying Ricciardo's race, to the utter delight of Perez, who happily boxed on lap 28 and emerged ahead of his Renault rival.


But the real excitement was behind with Leclerc making a lovely pass on Magnussen into Turn 7 followed by a fierce battle with Albon all the way up to the top of the hill. Renault's day got worse as Ocon stopped the car and pulled off to the side with a clutch problem and sure enough, Virtual Safety Car and Hamilton was in, lap 31, even as the VSC was lifted. He was out on the Hards 3.5 seconds up on Bottas. The FIA did their best to not advantage Hamilton further and thanks to the parking job done by Ocon it was cleared in less than 30 seconds but it was still very much a case of Hamilton and Mercedes making their own luck by taking care of the tyres well in the management phase of the first stint.


Vettel, Raikkonen and Latifi were the last drivers left after Hamilton's stop, and it was looking like a P10ish for the Ferrari driver in P4 for the moment. Ahead, the wounded Merc was breathing its last in defense of P2 as the aero damage, now rated "significant" by the team, was beginning to extend and Verstappen was exerting his utmost to try and take advantage of a small off. Close, closer and then Bottas managed to close the door for the moment, and it was status quo for the moment. Vettel was in lap 40 and out in P14 with a tyre advantage and not much else as it looked as if a massively borked pitstop, 13 seconds stationary, was responsible for the utter destruction of his race.


Trying to help their driver overtake Bottas, Max was told to switch to mode 8 and his reply was that it was the worst ever mode. Despite that, by lap 42 he was once again on the gearbox of the Mercedes over the top of the hill and into the left hander of Turn 17 Bottas locked up and went into the gravel. Seizing his chance with both hands, teeth and a pair of pliers he had lying around, Verstappen blew past Bottas and easily took the position away into Turn 2.


This left just Raikkonen to pit, which would put Russell terrifyingly close to the points in P11 or P12 depending on how well Alfa managed his pitstop. Magnussen was on the radio complaining of a headache caused by upshifts and on replay, it was clear that the sync wasn't working correctly and the car was literally walloping him in the back of the head everytime he shifted up the gears. Which, was rather a lot in this race.


Lap 48 and Raikkonen was still out and now perhaps it was the Soft tyre that Alfa was holding out for, but Perez had finally closed the gap and was in DRS of the Finn. That was the team had been waiting for and they brought him in and out just behind Russell, with a set of Softs to play with to the end of the race. Magnussen was brought in and retired on lap 40 and with 13 laps to go the major question was looking to be whether or not Raikkonen could use his tyres to get back into the points before the laps ran out.


The following lap, Raikkonen was into DRS and just as he was about to make the leap the Safety Car flag jumped up on the timing screen and a quick scan of the track map showed Verstappen off into the gravel between Turn 5 and 6. On camera, his right rear was destroyed and according to Max something on the car broke. On replay it was clear the tyre went on the straight and it was bad news for Hamilton, as the Safety Car picked him up and he lost the chance to pit. Behind, Bottas had no such issues and was in for some Softs, along with a fairly large pack of drivers. Staying out were Ricciardo, Leclerc and Albon with Perez being pitted and back out in P7 which is a hmmmmm choice to be sure. Hamilton was able to get in the following lap but must have been flirting with his speed as there came a frantic call of Delta Delta Delta Delta Delta from Bono.


AND THEN, on the way to lap 11, Russell, trying to warm the tyres, absolutely put it in the wall and took himself out of a chance at any points. It was now looking much better for those that opted to stay out and maintain track position as the laps available were going to disappear rather quickly as the mess created by the Williams was cleaned up.


Oddly, the way it worked out Raikkonen wound up in P10 anyways and it was Perez with the most work to do to make his strategy work out, with Albon, Leclerc and Ricciardo to get round and pick up the podium that was currently occupied, once again, by Danny Ric. Lap 57 of 63 and still no word as to whether the Safety Car was coming in and a tasty battle was brewing. End of lap 47 and it was ON!!!


Perez was all over the back of Albon as Hamilton kicked it all off and it was 3 wide as Kvyat went up the inside into Turn 2. Albon spun on the way to Turn 5, possibly with contact. On replay the answer was no contact and it was Kvyat, by Leclerc as well heading round the outside into Turn 8 and battling for a podium with his future as yet undecided. Perez was by Sainz for P6 and riding right up the gearbox of Leclerc with just 3 laps in the race.


Ricciardo was maintaining the gap at about a second as Kvyat wasn't quite able to get close enough when it mattered, but it was quite the gap back to Leclerc in P5 now 3 seconds back. Lap 61 and the Hards looked to be back back up to temperature and it was looking less and less likely with each passing turn that Kvyat could pull it off. By the final lap, Perez was just 0.3 seconds back of Leclerc but unlike Kvyat, completely unable to surprise the Ferrari driver. Ahead Hamilton had rocked in a fastest lap leaving Bottas the final bite at the apple.


Into the final lap, it was Leclerc, again fending off the attack of Perez and across the line it was Mercedes, with Hamilton in the lead, winning the Constructor's for the 7th time (in a row) thanks to the retirement of Verstappen, quite the present for Toto Wolff who had overseen the era of unprecedented returns for the Silver Arrows.


Massive day for Mercedes, and there's no reason to think that any team on the grid had more to celebrate, lacking just a Driver's Championship to match and some signed contracts to cap off this rather extraordinary year. Also unreasonably exuberant was Renault, who after their earlier strategy call had gone somewhat awry, was given a shot at redemption and correctly called the Safety Car gambit, leaving it in the hands of Ricciardo to defend their inherited podium, who did so in style, easily extinguishing the agony of Ocon's earlier retirement. As exciting as their second podium (in three races no less)of the season was, it was a big fat no from Cyril on the subject of a second tattoo. Alpha Tauri found themselves in similar circumstances, the pain of Gasly's retirement eclipsed by Kvyat's charge to the finish, balked only by a lack of laps to make good their Soft tyre bet.


Any time a Ferrari is in the top 5 these days it has to be considered an exceptional achievement, and Leclerc's finish, therefore counts but the joy has to be a bit more diffuse as the disaster that was Vettel's pitstop. It kept them from a likely double points finish and was, well, not a good look at all regardless of how checked out the relationship between team and driver is.


McLaren was also gifted a pair of spots, directly to the spin of Albon and retirement of Verstappen and they will think themselves lucky to walk off with P7 and P8 as they were at the tail end of the points prior to the Safety Car. Still, it keeps them in the fight to best of the rest and that's the best to be hoped for at the moment, as they search to finally extract the full potential from their updates.


And a moment of glory for Alfa Romeo, who had really been having a rather undistinguished season as their newly confirmed drivers pulled off a double points finish, confirming their top of the bottom status, with Raikkonen in particular winning a particularly lucky roll of the dice after the Safety Car looked to have utterly ruined his strategy prior to Russell's self destruction. And hey, a quick shout for Latifi who given the ummm, unexpected retirement of Russell managed to rock home in P11, giving Williams a faint ray of sunshine.


It's amazing to think that P6 would look like a savage disappointment, but if you are Sergio Perez and Racing Point, that's exactly what it was. After dominating the race for best of the rest up to the Safety Car, their decision to pit for new tyres dropped Perez from P3 to P6 and with the blinding restart of Kvyat that's exactly where he stayed to the end of the race. Perez did his best to be stoic about it, but his best was not that good to be honest, and it was clear that he did not approve of the call, which he said was made very last minute, in his post race interviews. On the bright side, the front jack mechanic that Stroll punted was declared unharmed...


Finally, until the moment Verstappen's right rear tyre departed this vale of tears, it was a reasonable race for Red Bull, with Max in P2 thanks to the chunk of Ferrari bodywork Bottas' car had swallowed, and Albon in the mix for P5. But from the moment Max left the track it was a catastrophe sandwich for the team from Milton Keynes, who were left comforting themselves with the upcoming twisties of the Turkish Grand Prix and not much else. Thankfully they, and the rest of the teams, will have 2 weeks burn the midnight oil and sort out their woes and another track they've not visited in a while to prepare for...




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31 Oct 2020
'Trumpets' qualifying notebook - Imola

Matt 'Trumpets' Ragsdale gives us the lowdown on the qualifying session at Imola

Ambient 19.1° Track 26.3° Humidity 65.1% Wind 0.5 m/s


Prelude


A remarkably glorious day, sunny blue skies with a faint haze in the distance hanging beatifically above the paddock, whose multitudinous inhabitants were scurrying about, desperate to complete a day and a half's worth of tasks in the waning minutes before qualifying kicked off in this somewhat experimental 2 day Grand Prix.


The top of the only free practice session suprised absolutely no one, with Hamilton, Verstappen and Bottas in that order but the field beyond looked entirely up for grabs with P4-P10 covered by less than half a second but the timing of the runs and fuel loads entirely unknown. Latifi had a brake by wire issue that limited his running for what that's worth and unlike Portimao, the surface of the track was being much more cooperative with the tyres, with the Softs yielding the fastest times but the Medium looking to be preferred in the race.


Summary


Green Light!! Magnussen and Latifi were the first to dip their toes into the water with Russell deciding it looked OK shortly thereafter and leading off a general plunge of the midfielders, minus Renault and McLaren who looked to be waiting for the big boys. By dint of going first, KMag did claim the top spot momentarily and was able to fend off the challenge from Latifi before the rest of the times started rolling in. As Russell rounded the penultimate turn Hamilton, Bottas, Norris and Ocon wandered out of the end of the pitlane, followed by Verstappen at a bit of a distance.


As the dust settled on the first round of hotlaps it was Kvyat to the top, with Verstappen dropping in just behind him by less than a tenth. Hamilton was sitting atop the mountain as he crossed the line, with Gasly and Norris rounding out the top five.


Bottas backed off his lap and as the times hit the board, Ricciardo rather suspiciously remained in the pitlane. On his second go, Leclerc jumped to the top briefly, before Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen got themselves sorted out and carried off the top 3 spots. The pattern seemed to be 2 hotlaps on the Soft tyre, and with just 8:30 left in the session, Ricciardo finally emerged from the pits. Albon was struggling with the front and asked for 3 clicks less on the front wing, and Red Bull seemed disposed to grant him that, but not till after he boxed for his second set of tyres.


Renault said the Ricciardo timing was not driven by an issue and both Bottas and Albon had their laps deleted for exceeding track limits, dropping the pair to the end of the field with just 5 minutes left. Ricciardo's first go put him P11, two spots back of his teammate and as the teams retired to the pits to get ready for the final tilt at the glories of Q2, it was Latifi, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Albon and Bottas on the outs looking in with Giovinazzi and Grosjean lined up to be sacrificed should Albon and Bottas prove able to drive round the track within the white lines...


3 minutes to go and it was all on, all the drivers out on outlaps. Bottas rocked up to P2 with Albon going P7 which knocked out Russell and Ricciardo. Renault had their drivers out late and Ricciardo looked to have only a single shot at making Q2. Ocon was out late too, and he was just in front of his teammate. Magnussen took the grasscutting line out of the penultimate turn spoiling his effort. Ocon went P7 as Stroll failed to improve and Ricciardo went P11 and with Latifi not a threat the Racing Point driver just squeaked by Grosjean, kept out of the dropzone only by the grace of Raikkonen's time for P11 being deleted for track limits. Grosjean, Magnussen, Raikkonen, Latifi and Giovinazzi went no further, then, off in search of some ragu to mend their souls as the rest turned it round for Q2.


Vettel and Kvyat led the way into the second session, with Gasly, Leclerc, Russell, Hamilton and Bottas following on, with Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull all choosing to have a go with Mediums first up. Gasly was quickest of the first set, until Bottas got the better of Hamilton, with the top 7 all into the 1:15s and only Vettel odd man out. Oh dear, Verstappen on the radio with no power and he was straight into the pits as he couldn't get it going, out in P10 with more times incoming.


AS the rest of the field wheeled in, it was Gasly in P3 thanks to the Verstappen issue, followed by Ricciardo and Norris rounding out the top 5. 7 minutes to go and as the inlaps trickled by, it was Albon, Stroll, Russell, Vettel and Verstappen on the outside looking in. On replay, Albon had a spin out of Turn 15 as the teams turned it round for the final go at the hallowed ground of Q3. Red Bull said it was a spark plug issue for Verstappen, and they were optimistic they would get him at least one more chance.


Ocon was out early to have a go, looking to improve his P8 and get a bit closer to his teammate in P4 and as he circulated, Kvyat, Gasly, Vettel and Leclerc were next off the mark. No improvement for the Renault driver, however, as a slow first sector tanked an otherwise decent effort. Red Bull got the job done and Verstappen was out on a set of Mediums to have a go with just under 2 minutes left in the session.


Sainz improved which put Ocon into P10, and then Verstappen went P4, before Albon and Ricciardo dropped him 2 spots, with Albon having been chucked onto a set of Softs to ensure he progressed. Going no further were Perez, Ocon, Vettel, Russell and Stroll, off in search of some limoncello to wash the bad taste out of their mouth as the rest turned it around in search of the ultimate palmares of Q3. Vettel had his lap deleted which dropped him back of Russell, as Stroll had his lap deleted as well and occupied the bottom spot. Bottas, Hamilton and Verstappen were all through on the Medium tyre and would thus be starting with that tomorrow with the rest of the top 10 lining up on the traditional Soft tyre.


Sainz was first to break the silence in Q3, followed rapidly by Kvyat, Gasly, Hamilton, Bottas, Ricciardo and Verstappen. After a decent wait, Albon led Norris and Leclerc out as on replay it looked like Renault released Ricciardo right into Verstappen's way, but all it led to was some complaints on radio. Despite Bottas purpling the first two sectors, with a purple third Hamilton took the battle of the bankers, by the infinitesimally small margin of 0.031 seconds, recording a 1:13.781. Verstappen went P3, nearly 0.7 seconds back, followed by Gasly, Albon and Leclerc. Ooops, no sooner said than deleted as Albon was kicked to the kerb by the stewards for track limits yet again.


That done, everyone from Leclerc down moved up, at least temporarily, with Ricciardo and Sainz out on used tyres and thus hanging out in P8 and P9 respectively as the drivers retired for the interval and the teams got ready for the last chance lottery at the top of the mountain.


Kvyat led the way with 3 minutes left, with Sainz, Albon and Ricciardo rolling out rather gingerly behind. Norris, Gasly, and Hamilton were next, with Bottas and Leclerc tailing them. Verstappen was last to go, easily 30 seconds back of Leclerc and the final moves had been made as the teams waited breathlessly to see how their drivers fared.


Early days it was Bottas taking sector 1 over Hamilton by the barest of margins. Sector 2 continued the trend and as Lewis laid down a 1:13.706 it was Valterri, finding that special something in the final sector and rocking up with a 1:13.609, taking pole position by a solid tenth over his teammate. Ricciardo on his new tyres improved to P5 with Albon dancing into P6, 0.4 seconds off his teammate. Leclerc, Kvyat, Norris and Sainz rounded out the top 10 with Gasly confirming his P4. Remarkable result for Alpha Tauri, especially Gasly who has absolutely gotten the puzzle put together this season.


Tomorrow's race will be interesting as overtaking at Imola has long been regarded as a challenge, even before the age of F1 cars the size of SUVs. DRS plus a tow might just do the trick but there will be extra emphasis on the start, especially for the midfield teams desperate to gain places before being stuck into a train. According to Hamilton, the delta for overtakes was nearly 2 seconds and it was going to be very much down to strategy and tyre management. That should prove interesting as the two Mercedes battle for the win, assuming they don't get the bum's rush from Max on the very long run down to Turn 2 (technically there is a Turn 1 but it doesn't have a braking zone). Those running the Soft at the start of race also potentially have the advantage for a few laps, which could liven things up a bit, and there will certainly be a sortie of Medium clad midfield drivers, led most likely by Perez and Ocon, trying to create chaos amongst those ahead as the Softs start to degrade. Even still, for maximum enjoyment live timing is highly recommended as the race is very much going to be down to drivers carving chunks of time out of each other and trying to prompt their rivals into a mistake, especially thoughout the last complex, Turns 17 and 18. Red Bull supposedly closer on race pace but, well, we've also heard that one before...


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