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Monday, March 29, 2021

On Track for Victory: Hamilton Fends Off Verstappen for Bahrain F1 Opener

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



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Following a 2020 Formula 1 campaign hindered the COVID-19 global pandemic that delayed the start of the season to July and resulted in a vast shuffling of the schedule towards a 17-race tour that ended in December 13th, the participants and fans of the 2021 season for the motor racing grand prix are hoping that the majority of surprises will be restricted to the race track for 23 events. Despite the sanctioning body limiting teams to running modified versions of their 2020 chassis, the changes applied towards the assembly in this year’s grid are substantial. Seven of the ten teams have shuffled their driving rosters, Two teams adopted new identities and McLaren has switched from Renault to Mercedes-Benz power are also charges appearing on the 2021 Formula 1 grid.


What remains unchanged is the premise that this could be another season where the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team is the favourite to win week after week en route to a potential eighth consecutive Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship title. The team and its driving lineup consisting of Finland’s Valtteri Bottas and seven-time drivers’ champion and 94-time grand prix race winner Lewis Hamilton is expected to face a fierce fight from Red Bull Racing. The hungry, aggressive Dutch driver Max Verstappen is and the Austrian-based race squad’s newly-acquired veteran pilot Sergio Perez are both expected to act as a foil to the German team.


With more than three months of building anticipation, a new Formula 1 season starting with the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix would put speculation aside for on-track results. During Saturday’s qualifying on the Bahrain International Circuit, Max Verstappen and his #33 Honda-powered Red Bull Racing car claimed pole ahead of the two Mercedes-AMG runners. As the 20 cars completed the formation lap for the first race of the season, the second Red Bull Racing machine driven by Sergio Perez stopped on the track. The shutdown for Perez was brief and the #11 was able to continue but had to relinquish his 11th place starting grid and started the grand prix from the pit road. The incident also required a second formation lap necessitating in a lap being removed from the 57-lap distance of the Bahrain Grand Prix.


Photo Credit: Charles Coates/LAT Images/Pirelli





Now a 56-lap event, the opening round on the 5.412-kilometer featured a successful start for Max Verstappen, the grand prix was short for Nikita Mazepin. The Russian making his debut with Uralkali Haas F1 Team didn’t make it beyond the third corner of the Bahrain International Circuit losing control under throttle on the first lap. A safety car called to tend to the stopped Ferrari-powered Haas F1 Team car.


Full speed action on track resumed after lap three but the race was slowed in the late stage of lap four for debris on track. Pierre Gasly received front wing and floor damage to his AlphaTauri machine after contact with the McLaren of Daniel Ricciardo. Though the AlphaTauri driver would continue, Gasly was out of contention. Unrelated to the incident but occurring on the same lap, Mick Schumacher spun his #47 Haas F1 Team coming out of the fourth turn. Starting in his first Formula 1 grand prix, the 2020 Formula 2 champion and son of sporting great Michael Schumacher resumed after the spin to finish in his debut race.

 


Pit stops came early for many taking new tires between lap 12 and lap 18 planning a two-stop routine. Exceptions to the pit strategy included Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez. Buried deep in the grid misfortune in qualifying concluding in a 17th place outcome, Vettel’s first run with Aston Martin Racing saw him climb as high as 7th place attempting a single pit plan that involved a single stop on lap 24. For Vettel, the strategy failed to garner the results he desired with a penalty added late in the Bahrain Grand Prix when he rear-ended Esteban Ocon’s Alpine race car compounding what was a difficult debut with Aston Martin Racing. In his first race with Red Bull Racing, Sergio Perez’s troubles prior to the race’s start resulted in him playing catch-up in the #11 car. The Red Bull Racing team pitted the Mexican during the safety car period on lap two and was able to stretch his next stop to a slightly later time than the other competitors. Sergio Perez would ultimately operate on a three-stop plan amounting to an impressive finish.


Retirements in the Bahrain Grand Prix were relatively light through the first half of the event with Nikita Mazepin being the only driver out. A growing list of drivers on the sidelines before the conclusion of the first Formula 1 race of 2021 would first add the #14 Alpine of Fernando Alonso. In the race where Alonso returned to the series and team related to his two drivers’ championship titles, he would retire to the garage on lap 34 due to rear brake issues. Pierre Gasly failed to finish the grand prix parking his AlphaTauri machine late due to lingering damage caused in his opening lap collision and the Williams Racing FW43B race car of Canada’s Nicholas Latifi also dropped out before the chequered flag due to a lack of power suspected to be a boost leak.


Vehicles exceeding course limits at the Bahrain International Circuit’s turn four were a persistent problem during practice and resulted in several times in qualifying being deleted. During the race, Lewis Hamilton’s line through the corner was cautioned against for exploring too much of the boundaries of the track. However, the race stewards enforcement of the track limits through turn four actually served to aid Hamilton in his quest for victory.


Photo Credit: Mark Sutton/LAT Images/Pirelli





Verstappen and Hamilton swapped the top spot in the Bahrain Grand Prix during pit stop exchanges with Hamilton gaining first place after the #33 Red Bull machine pitted on lap 39. Rejoining the track 5.4 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen began to chase down the Mercedes-AMG racer closing to within DRS range (a one-second interval) by lap 51. On the 53rd lap, the rapidly closing Verstappen pounced on the #44 Mercedes-AMG race car with a charge from turn three down the straight heading into turn four. Along the outside of Hamilton into the fourth corner, Verstappen’s #33 Red Bull Racing car would prevail on the way out of the turn. However, the new leader would be forced to surrender the position back to Hamilton due to Verstappen running wide through the weekend’s infamous corner. As the Mercedes-AMG race car regained the lead, the Red Bull Racing driver was unable to mount a meaningful challenge in the remaining laps of the race.


Standing on the top spot of a Formula 1 podium for the 95th time in his career, Lewis Hamilton’s victory in the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix was a hard-fought effort operating on 11-lap older hard compound tires than his Red Bull Racing rival. Already holding and expanding records including most career wins and most career poles, the recently-knighted Brit claimed the all-time record for laps led by a single driver. Hamilton is currently vying for a record-breaking 8th Formula 1 World Drivers’ Championship with his third consecutive victory at the Bahrain Grand Prix acting as a good start on that amazing, competitive journey.


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





Crossing the finish line just 0.745 seconds behind Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen’s second place result came after a strong effort from pole. As the first grand prix of the 2021 season, the presence of the Dutch driver’s #33 Honda-powered Red Bull Racing machine haunting the Mercedes-AMG cars of Hamilton and Bottas throughout the weekend provides hope for one of the more competitive seasons of Formula 1 in years. Despite the Red Bull Racing team missing out on winning their first season opening Formula 1 round since 2011, the organization can be pleased for both the pressure applied by Verstappen as well as a magnificent recovery for Sergio Perez. After 56 laps, the Mexican’s debut for the team netted a solid fifth place finish.


Taking third place and the final podium spot in the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix is the second Mercedes-AMG race car driven by Valtteri Bottas. The finish was a great result for the Finnish driver considering a troublesome second pit stop where an issue at the right-front wheel of the #77 car translated into a 10.9-second stop. Bottas was pitted for a third time on lap 54 in what was a successful bid to snag the point for the fastest race lap away from previous holder Max Verstappen.


Cars finishing in fourth and seventh place are both examples of an initially promising reunification for McLaren and Mercedes-Benz. Starting from seventh place, Lando Norris drove a steady race at Bahrain to take the highest spot short of the podium. Daniel Ricciardo’s first appearance in the orange and blue ended with a respectable seventh place run.


Photo Credit: Mark Sutton/LAT Images/Pirelli




The fourth and final team to have both drivers finish in the top-10 is Scuderia Ferrari. Eager to put aside a much-maligned 2020 effort, the famed Italian group brought Charles Leclerc home in sixth place and Carlos Sainz Jr. to the chequered flag in eighth.


Kicking off his Formula 1 racing career in fine fashion, 20-year-old Japanese driver Yuki Tsunoda scored points in his first race. Tsunoda’s debut with AlphaTauri saw the rookie battling through a tightly-contested mid-pack battle where he out-muscled Lance Stroll on the last lap for ninth place. Scoring a point in the first grand prix for the newly-branded Aston Martin Racing team, Stroll’s tenth place result is only the second time the Canadian collected a point in the opening round of a Formula 1 season. Though just a single point in their return to the grand prix grid after 71 years, Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team’s captured an honour that eluded its predecessor organization that operated in 1959 and 1960.


The second round for the 2021 Formula 1 season is scheduled for Italy’s Imola Circuit (also known as Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari). The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix race is slated for April 18th.



2021 Formula 1 Season

Bahrain Grand Prix

Race Results



Pos #

Car #

Driver

Team

Engine

 

 

 

 

 

1

44

Lewis Hamilton

Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

Mercedes-Benz

2

33

Max Verstappen

Red Bull Racing

Honda

3

77

Valtteri Bottas

Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team

Mercedes-Benz

4

4

Lando Norris

McLaren F1 Team

Mercedes-Benz

5

11

Sergio Perez

Red Bull Racing

Honda

6

16

Charles Leclerc

Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari

Ferrari

7

3

Daniel Ricciardo

McLaren F1 Team

Mercedes-Benz

8

55

Carlos Sainz Jr

Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari

Ferrari

9

22

Yuki Tsunoda

Scuderia AlphaTauri

Honda

10

18

Lance Stroll

Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team

Mercedes-Benz

11

7

Kimi Raikkonen

Alfa Romeo Racing

Ferrari

12

99

Antonio Giovinazzi

Alfa Romeo Racing

Ferrari

13

31

Esteban Ocon

Alpine F1 Team

Renault

14

63

George Russell

Williams Racing

Mercedes-Benz

15

5

Sebastian Vettel

Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team

Ferrari

16

47

Mick Schumacher

Uralkali Haas F1 Team

Ferrari

17

10

Pierre Gasly

Scuderia AlphaTauri

Honda

18

6

Nicholas Latifi

Williams Racing

Mercedes-Benz

19

14

Fernando Alonso

Alpine F1 Team

Renault

20

9

Nikita Mazepin

Uralkali Haas F1 Team

Ferrari



Saturday, March 27, 2021

Verstappen's Early Red Bull Rush Takes Pole in Bahrain

 




Photo Credit: FIA Pool/LAT Images/Pirelli



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An all-new season for Formula 1 has arrived with a slew of pre-season storylines set to be explored as engines turn over for the 2021 Bahrain Grand Prix.


A consistent source of astonishment and a fair level of distain of competitors is the dominance of the Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team. A constant fore-runner since the series’ adoption of the current turbo/hybrid power unit format, Mercedes-AMG with Valtteri Bottas as well as seven-time and reigning Formula 1 World Drivers’ Champion Lewis Hamilton continued to have winning pace last season. However, the 2020 season gave glimpses that Red Bull Racing could potentially achieve the enviable task of matching the performance of the German factory team. Max Verstappen’s Honda-powered race car frequently had the pace to fill the mirrors of Bottas and Hamilton last year, At the 2020 season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Verstappen and Red Bull Racing put on an impressive showcase taking pole along with the race win convincingly. Though just one event, Red Bull Racing’s performance on the Yas Marina Circuit gives reason to consider 2021 may present Mercedes-AMG with battle unlike any experienced since their seven consecutive Constructors’ championship-winning seasons.


Ahead of Formula 1's season-opening 57-lap event, the 5.412-kilometer Bahrain International Circuit hosted Saturday qualifying to set the grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Setting fastest time in the Q1 session, Max Verstappen and his Red Bull Racing team became concerned with the underside of his #33 RB16B race car after the Dutch driver rode a track curb. Though he was bettered on pace in Q2, Verstappen valiantly fought to take pole for the Bahrain Grand Prix late in Q3. Shortly after Lewis Hamilton grabbed the top spot with a 1-minute, 29.385-second lap time, the Honda-powered Red Bull flew across the start/finish line setting the pole of 1 minute, 28.997 seconds. Accounting for his top grid position at Formula 1'a last race of 2020, Verstappen has become the first non-Mercedes driver to score back-to-back poles since Charles Leclerc accomplished the feat during the 2019 campaign.


Though Max Verstappen provided Red Bull Racing with a major reason to celebrate after Bahrain Grand Prix qualifying, the second car driven by new team driver Sergio Perez had a less successful outing. Perez will start 11th after attempting to advance beyond Q2 on medium compound Pirelli tires.


Photo Credit: Sebastian Kawka for Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix ltd.



Lewis Hamilton starts second for tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix as the defending winner of the event. Setting a top time in the Q3 session that was 0.589 seconds short of Max Verstappen’s benchmark, Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas will launch from third on the second row of the race grid alongside Charles Leclerc. Leclerc and his new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. gave Scuderia Ferrari and their Tifosi to cheer taking the top two spots in the Q2 session aided by the use of soft compound tires. Sainz will start the Bahrain Grand Prix in eighth place.


Pierre Gasly’s Honda-powered AlphaTauri race car was fifth fastest in Formula 1 qualifying and will start the race beside Daniel Ricciardo who is making his debut with McLaren. McLaren’s return to Mercedes-Benz power showed promise for the squad through Friday practice and contributed to a sixth place after qualifying for Ricciardo and seventh for Lando Norris.


Photo Credit: Mark Sutton/LAT Images/Pirelli



Two-time Formula 1 drivers’ champion Fernando Alonso’s return to Formula 1 racing after a two-year hiatus sees the Spaniard in ninth place ahead of Sunday’s main event driving for Renault’s rebranded Alpine F1 Team. Aston Martin Racing, the rebranded entity that was known as Racing Point last year, starts 2021 with a top qualifying effort coming from Canada’s Lance Stroll who will roll off the grid in tenth place. Stroll’s high-profile new teammate Sebastian Vettel will start the Bahrain Grand Prix in 17th place after being impeded by local yellow flags in his Q1 session run.


The 2021 Formula 1 season opener is scheduled for Sunday at 6 p.m. local time or 11 a.m. Eastern time.




2021 Formula 1

Bahrain Grand Prix

Qualifying Results

Pos # Car # Driver Team Engine
1 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda
2 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
3 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
4 16 Charles Leclerc Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari
5 10 Pierre Gasly Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
6 3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
7 4 Lando Norris McLaren F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
8 55 Carlos Sainz Jr Scuderia Misson Winnow Ferrari Ferrari
9 14 Fernando Alonso Alpine F1 Team Renault
10 18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Mercedes-Benz
11 11 Sergio Perez Red Bull Racing Honda
12 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
13 22 Yuki Tsunoda Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
14 7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari
15 63 George Russell Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz
16 31 Esteban Ocon Alpine F1 Team Renault
17 6 Nicholas Latifi Williams Racing Mercedes-Benz
18 5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team Ferrari
19 47 Mick Schumacher Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari
20 9 Nikita Mazepin Uralkali Haas F1 Team Ferrari

Friday, March 26, 2021

2021 Formula 1 Season: Bahrain Grand Prix Preview


Race Date March 28, 2021
Location Sakhir, Bahrain
Track Name Bahrain International Circuit
Course Length 5.412-kilometer (3.363-mile)
Turns 15
Laps 57
2020 Pole Winner Lewis Hamilton
2020 Pole Time 1:27.264
Past Five Grand Prix Winners
2020 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG
2019 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes-AMG
2018 Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari
2017 Sebastian Vettel Scuderia Ferrari
2016 Nico Rosberg Mercedes-AMG
Following the decision to postpone the Australian Grand Prix, the originally planned opening round for the 2021 Formula 1 season, the Bahrain Grand Prix will host the first race on this year's calendar. First hosting a Formula 1 back in 2004, Michael Schmacher won the inaugural event from pole driving for Ferrari. The Bahrain International Circuit's 15-turn race course has proven itself to be a high traction, highly abrasive track. Since 2014, the Bahrain Grand Prix has taken place as a night race with the race start time occuring just after sunset.