Sunday, December 20, 2020

Perez’s Plum 2021 Ride: Checo Joins Red Bull Racing

Photo Credit: Zak Mauger/LAT Images/Pirelli

Sometimes in life, there could be a moment that rewards you with the sensation of overcoming your struggles, criticism and doubts. 30-year-old Mexican Formula 1 driver Sergio Perez concluded a long stint with a team where he spent a large portion of his 10-year career in the sport facing uncertainty in regards to his 2021 racing plans. Perez was informed he would be forced to vacant his Racing Point ride in favour for four-time Formula 1 champion Sebastian Vettel at the end of the 2020. While facing grim career prospects ahead of 2021, Sergio Perez’s final races of the 17-race season caused the motorsport world to see him in a new light. More than a likable, sympathetic regular competitor, the Mexican transformed into a Formula 1 winner with his masterful drive in the Sakhir Grand Prix. The newfound brightness shining upon Perez has brought forth a coveted ride with Red Bull Racing for the 2021 season. 

Making the driver announcement on Friday, December 18th, Red Bull Racing welcomes Sergio Perez to their organization as a veteran partner alongside Max Verstappen next year. Joining the energy drink-backed squad through what is currently slated as a one-year contract, Perez is anxious to be part the race team that was the 2020 season’s runner-up in the Formula 1 World Constructors’ Championship. “The team has the same winning mentality as me and I know I am here to perform and help the team fight for another title” said Perez on the Red Bull Racing team’s website. 

While Sergio Perez won his first Formula 1 event with the emerging Racing Point team, the driver’s ride at Red Bull Racing in a Honda-powered race car had the signs of becoming the first chance for the Mexican to be backed with proven top-contending equipment. Entering the series in 2011 with Sauber (now existing as Alfa Romeo Racing), Perez brought sponsorship to a team that restructured one-year before after BMW dropped involvement in Formula 1. In 2013 when Lewis Hamilton’s former spot at McLaren Racing opened, Sergio Perez joined a renowned team at the wrong time. The Mexican was dropped from McLaren after only one season in favour for Kevin Magnussen leading him to Force India. 

Sergio Perez’s stint with Force India started in 2014 and remained with the team as it was purchased by the Lawrence Stroll-led consortium and became Racing Point. Through the several seasons, Perez expressed a strong amount of confidence with the team. “I’ve seen the progress we’ve made over last couple of years and I’m sure we have the potential to achieve even more going forward.” Perez said in October of 2016 as he chose to stay with what was then the Sahara Force India team through the 2017 season. In 2020, Perez’s final season with Racing Point consisted of point finishes in all-but four races (two missed due to testing positive for COVID-19 and two for power unit failures). Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner commented that the decision to add Sergio Perez to their group was largely based on 2020 performance results.

Red Bull Racing’s 2021 driver lineup announcement places the Thai driver Alexander Albon will be out of active competition. Scoring two podium results in 2020, Albon’s first full season in Formula 1 was less consistent than the efforts of his teammate Max Verstappen. Positioned in the test and reserve driver role for 2021, Red Bull Racing continues to express support for their 24-year-old driver describing him as an important member of their team. Alexander Albon’s duties will include aiding Red Bull Racing in the development of the 2022 race car.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Maximum Effort Nets Max Verstappen Formula 1 Season Finale Win in Abu Dhabi

Photo Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool 

The entire 2020 Formula 1 season concluded with a final 305.47-kilometer run at the Yas Marina Circuit. This last race in what was a 17-race tour staged against the challenging circumstances of a global pandemic served as a victory overall as the top open-wheel racing team succeeded in providing a captivating distraction for motorsport fans starting in July. As teams arrived for the 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the year contained a number of memorable moments. 

A modern, attractive track, the 5.554-kilometer Yas Marina Circuit used for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is notorious for being a course with limited passing opportunities. The 21-turn track’s reputation made it evermore important for drivers to gain positions at the start of the race. Taking a monumental pole that displaced the dominant Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team from the top grid position for the first time in 2020, the Honda-powered Red Bull RB16 piloted by Max Verstappen started strong granting him open road into the early laps of the 55-lap event. Unlike previous grand prix races, the field finished the opening laps without incident though there was also very little movement among the 20-car group. The top-eight starters completed the first lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in the same position as they started. 

Photo Credit: Charles Coates/LAT Images/Pirelli

Starting second-to-last on the grid after receiving a replacement power unit for the event, Sakhir Grand Prix winner Sergio Perez began a fight towards the top-10 eventually climbing five positions. Unfortunately, the Mexican’s final outing with Racing Point was cut short on lap 10 due to the second power unit failure in the past three races. A virtual safety car was first issued to the competitors to aid the removal of the pink Formula 1 car but the Mercedes-AMG GT-R safety car would later gather the field under the full-course caution. Coming to a rest out of turn 19, the #11 Racing Point machine would be the only car not to cross be running at the chequered flag. Ending his seven-year long career at Racing Point (known as Force India from 2014 to 2018), Perez’s Formula 1 future is still not announced for 2021 or beyond.  

With Lance Stroll the sole remaining Racing Point in the event, the Canadian’s performance had to overcome the combined efforts of the two McLaren Racing entries driven by Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz Jr. In securing the team’s third-place spot in the season’s Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship. When a physical safety car was deployed as track workers needed to retrieve Perez’s car, the majority of the field took advantage of the occasion to make a pit stop on the race’s tenth lap. Race leader Max Verstappen and the two Mercedes-AMG drivers were among those that pitted for new tires. The two McLaren Racing machines and Stroll’s Racing Point race car also joined the parade towards team crews resulting in a minor conflict between the constructors. Norris and Sainz both pitted providing a challenge for the McLaren squad. While Norris’ #4 car came for tires first, the #55 vehicle of Sainz followed but travelled slower entering pit road ahead of #18 Racing Point of Lance Stroll. Both McLaren Racing cars beat Stroll out but the Racing Point team were critical of Carlos Sainz’s somewhat lethargic entrance to the pits potentially costing better track position for the Canadian. Race stewards would clear McLaren and Sainz for the incident that ultimately decided the constructors’ standings battle.

Photo Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/Pirelli

The 2020 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a race most drivers completed with only a single pit stop. Most drivers taking a set of hard compound Pirelli tires on lap 10 but there would be a group of competitors that ran deeper into the 55-lap event. The top runner that stayed out past the safety car period was Daniel Ricciardo. Positioned in 11th place for the start, his Renault team placed the Australian on hard compound tires at the beginning of the race spending most the grand prix in fifth place until his eventual lap 39 tire stop. Ricciardo’s final race with the Renault factory team netted a seventh place result.

Scuderia Ferrari also attempted to extend their pit stop keeping both team drivers Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel out after the safety car. Starting the race on medium compound tires, the #16 car of Leclerc pitted for new rubber on lap 22. Vettel ran his opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on hard compound Pirelli tires and remained in the lower half of the top-10 through the mid-portion of the race but began to lose traction before his lap 35 pit stop. Neither Ferrari race cars finished in the points for the final grand prix for what has been a very disappointing season for the Italian outfit. 

Photo Credit: Charles Coates/LAT Images/Pirelli

While not suffering the same kind of mishap that occurred in the Sakhir Grand Prix, the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One team’s performance at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was slightly sluggish compared to the pace set up Max Verstappen’s #33 Red Bull race car. Starting beside Verstappen on the grid, Valtteri Bottas was just slightly edged-out by the Dutch driver into the first corner. Bottas drove a largely flawless event in second place but watched the contender with Red Bull Racing slip away to a growing lead following the end of the race’s safety car period. The #77 Mercedes-AMG W11 F1 EQ Performance race car in the hands of the Finnish driver would itself pull out a steady gap over teammate Lewis Hamilton’s #44 machine. Hamilton returned to competition after a COVID-19 test returned negative prior to the Formula 1 finale in Abu Dhabi.

At the end of 55 laps, Max Verstappen captured his second victory in the 2020 Formula 1 in the most convincing fashion. Crossing the finish line 15.976 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas, Verstappen and his Honda-powered Red Bull race car accomplished the feat from pole while also setting the fastest lap in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The finish is the sixth consecutive occasion that a race on the Yas Marina Circuit was won from pole position. 

With a runner-up finish in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Valtteri Bottas was able to hold on to second-place in the Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship with a 9-point gap over Max Verstappen after 17 races. The second Mercedes-AMG driven by seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton completed what he described as “a hard race” in a post-race team transcript in third place. Hamilton’s 14th podium in the 2020 season came as the #23 Red Bull Racing car of Alexander Albon was drawing close in the late laps. A 1.572-second interval separated third and fourth place at the end of the grand prix. Although the team faced a tough battle from Red Bull Racing, the Mercedes-AMG factory Formula 1 celebrated after overall dominant season where they collected a total of 573 constructor points and 13 race wins.

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd.

A fifth-place finish for Lando Norris and sixth-place result for Carlos Sainz Jr. combined to give McLaren Racing third-place in the Formula 1 World Constructors’ Championship standings. Scoring a total of 18 points and Lance Stroll fighting grip late in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to finish 10th gave McLaren a 7-point advantage over Racing Point. Set to be renamed Aston Martin next year, Racing Point still accomplished a lot in 2020 collecting 122 points more than 2019 despite there being four fewer events on this season’s improvised calendar.

Behind Daniel Ricciardo finishing in seventh place at the Yas Marina Circuit is a pair of Frenchmen. The Honda-powered AlphaTauri race car driven by Pierre Gasly took the chequered flag in eighth place ahead of the second factory Renault driver Esteban Ocon who grabbed the position from Stroll in the final lap of the race. 

With the completion of the 2020 Formula 1 season, drivers, teams and even the series itself were preparing for a new year that will hopefully be able to stretch across the world as it has in years prior.

2020 Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Race Results

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Max Verstappen Claims Pole For 2020 Formula 1 Finale in Abu Dhabi

Photo Credit: Kamran Jebreili / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool 

Serving as the seventeenth and final event for Formula 1's 70th Anniversary tour, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on the Yas Marina Circuit provides a closing to what has been a season like no other. The race on the 5.554-kilometer track follows a surreal outing in Bahrain where Sergio Perez took victory for Racing Point. 

Though Perez’s win Sakhir Grand Prix was a thrilling affair on the merits of the Mexican driver recovering brilliantly from an opening lap collision, the race is best remembered as a moment where the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team suffered a rare bumble as a result to a pit stop where the tires of the team cars were mixed up. Also missing the seven-time championship winning driving talents of Lewis Hamilton due to a positive COVID-19 test, the unusual event for Mercedes-AMG is one they want to set behind them as they prepare to finish another strong Formula 1 season in Abu Dhabi. The pairing of Hamilton with teammate Valtteri Bottas was put back into place at the Mercedes factory team ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix while last week’s replacement George Russell returns to his regular seat at Williams Racing.

Photo Credit: LAT Images for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd

For all 16 races in the 2020 Formula 1 season ahead of Abu Dhabi, the pole position was captured by a driver propelled by a Mercedes-Benz power unit (15 by the Mercedes-AMG factory team and 1 by a Racing Point driven by Lance Stroll). In the finale for the 17-race schedule, Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing were determined to disturb the German-based propulsion’s attempt to sweep the year with Honda power. Mounting a strong threat against the Mercedes-Benz factory team throughout the season, Verstappen and his #33 RB16 race car suffered several narrow defeats in qualifying in past 2020 grand prix events. With one more chance to claim the top spot in a qualifying session this season, the Red Bull Racing machine succeeded in beating the rival Mercedes-AMG outfit.

With the final times being set in Q3 on Saturday for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Max Verstappen scored the pole position over the Mercedes-AMG duo. Posting a 1-minute, 35.246-second lap time, Verstappen and his Red Bull Racing squad achieved their first pole since the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix. 

Photo Credit: Kamran Jebreili / Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool 

Upon claiming the fastest time in qualifying, the Austrian-based race team broke the Mercedes-AMG team’s consecutive pole streak at the Yas Marina Circuit that ran since 2014. Just 0.025 seconds slower than Max Verstappen’s pole time, Valtteri Bottas grabbed his 14th front row start for the 2020 season. Holding a 16-point advantage over Verstappen for the second-place spot in the year-long Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship, Bottas can secure the position with a 5th place or better finish.

Returning to the race car after one race away, Lewis Hamilton swiftly regained his competitive poise standing at the top of the time sheet for Q1 and Q2 qualifying sessions. Hamilton fell short of setting the pole-winning time in the final session and will start the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in third place alongside the McLaren Racing race of Lando Norris who set the fourth fastest lap time. The second Red Bull Racing of Alexander Albon will roll off the grid in fifth place accompanied in the third row by Carlos Sainz Jr. making his final appearance in a McLaren race car as the Spaniard prepares to compete with Ferrari for the 2021 season. 

Starting seventh, Russian driver Daniil Kvyat out-qualified his Scuderia AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly for the second consecutive Formula 1 event as he faces an uncertain immediate future in the sport. It’s strongly suggested Kvyat will not be racing for the team next year and is likely eyeing a reserve driver role in preparations for a possible return to competition in 2022. 

Photo Credit: Steven Tee/LAT Images/Pirelli

Canadian Lance Stroll starts at the highest position of the two Racing Point race cars for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Formula 1's newest and most recent grand prix winner Sergio Perez is relegated to a 19th place grid position as a penalty for receiving a new Mercedes-Benz power unit. Sunday’s race will be Perez’s final drive with Racing Point with no solid plans announced in regards to his future in racing.

The ninth fastest car on Saturday, the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc will actually start the race in 12th place. The opening lap incident at the Sakhir Grand Prix was scrutinized by the FIA after the race and ruled Leclerc at-fault that resulted with him colliding with Sergio Perez and contributed to Max Verstappen’s retirement. AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly is promoted to ninth place for the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix joined by the Renault of Esteban Ocon.

For what will be the final 55 laps of the 2020 Formula 1 season, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is scheduled to start at 5:10 P.M. local time at the Yas Marina Circuit (8:10 A.M. eastern time). 

2020 Formula 1
Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Starting Grid