The last weekend spectacle at Autodrom Sochi F1 Circuit, Russia was engulfed with lots of stories and drama either before, during and after the race. The race was staged for the first time in 2020 with a considerable number of fans (around 20 000 plus) since their exclusion from Formula One races at the beginning of the season due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not surprising that as we moved swiftly into the second half of the season with eight races remaining (out of the seventeen planned for the 2020 F1 Calendar), the log standings begin to slowly shape up. Title permutations and heated rivalries begin to take effect amongst drivers and teams alike with little room for error across the teams. Plans for the next season slowly start to take effect at the factories and driver movements across the teams take center stage and including driver seat confirmations.
From Russia with “love”
The 2020 Russian Grand Prix is one race event that will not go down well from Lewis Hamilton’s perspective but his team-mate Valtteri Bottas would cherish the event as it unfolded in his favour. The Russian GP started with drama during the qualifying session (Q2) due to an accident that involved Ferrarri’s Sebastian Vettel, which was red flagged with 2.15 minutes remaining. Hamilton’s first Q2 time was deleted due to an infringement on track limits and he had to go for a forced second stint now on a new set of super soft against his wish. While most of his rivals used the soft tyre that would be used during the race day, his race on Sunday was now compromised because of the accident and the infringement. Hamilton’s Q2 hot lap was on the balance after the session was restarted with barely two minutes remaining, as he was at the back of the queue on the out lap nearly missing out before the red lights were out to end the session.
Having said that, in Q3 the six time world champion put together a hot lap at the end of Q3 to claim pole position on the grid while Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen was second and Valtteri Bottas came third on his mercedes. Things went horribly wrong for Hamilton just before the start of the race on Sunday, after being handed a ten second penalty by the stewards for practicing race starts on the wrong side of the fast pitlane. A decision which compounded his troubles which included starting the race with the wrong tyre whilst the rest of the cars were using the soft tyre as opposed to the supper soft. Hamilton only led the race for sixteen (16) laps before serving his ten seconds penalty and switching over to the hard tyre which lasted the entire race. Meanwhile, his rivals Bottas and Verstappen enjoyed first and second position respectively which they carried over to the end of the race. Bottas claimed 2020 Russian GP victory, Verstappen came second and Hamilton was third after having to move up the grid to make up for all the time lost. So the title challenge at the top is once again reignited!!
Formula One appoints Stefano Domenicali as CEO
Former Ferrari chief Stefano Domenicali will be quitting his current job at Lamborghini and replacing Chase Carey as president and CEO of Formula One next year. The current CEO, Carey will operate as non-executive chairman following his appointment four years ago by Liberty Media, the sports commercial administrators. Domenicali carries a lot of motorsport experience with him, he spent 23 years with Ferrari before moving to Audi and then Lamborghini as CEO. His addition to F1 management sees a host of former Ferrari bosses at the helm of F1 leadership, these include Ross Brawn who’s F1 managing director for motorsport and Jean Todt is the president of FIA governing body. Carey has been widely praised for getting the current season started amid the challenging Covid-19 circumstances, convincing all the F1 teams to sign the Concorde agreement and negotiating with circuits that have never staged an F1 race in order to have a seventeen race calendar.
Renault DP F1 Team confirms Alonso seat for 2021
The newly branded Renault DP F1 Team has confirmed the driver lineup for the 2021 season with the inclusion of Fernando Alonso on it’s arsenal. Having won the 2005 and 2006 World Championships with Renault, Alonso’s return to Formula One is a reunion with his former employers and it’s a partnership that has great memories in the history of the sport. Alonso was first introduced in F1 as a 21-year-old in 2002 with Renault team and he went on and amassed 32 F1 race wins and 97 podium finishes in his Formula One career so far. The two times world champion spent two days visiting the Renault Enstone, UK, and Viry-Chatillon, France, to catch up with his former team on a number of items in preparation for the 2021 season. He spent time in the on-site driver-in-the-loop simulator, a seat fit and engineering meetings with Renault DP F1 Team technical management, plus a visit to the wind tunnel to see progress on the car for next year.
Ferrari to give academy drivers opportunity
The Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) will offer opportunities for their crop of young drivers to drive modern Formula One cars at official Free Practice One (FP1) at the upcoming F1 race events. Mick Schumacher, the current FIA Formula 2 Championship leader, will step into the Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi in Nurburgring in Germany in front of the home crowd for the FP1 session. Fellow FDA members British Callum Illot and Russian Robert Shwartzman will also get the opportunity to make their F1 debuts. Illot, a multiple European Formula 3 Championship race winner will also make his debut at the Nurburgring FP1 in Haas machine. Shwartzman, a team-mate to Schumacher in F2 Championship and 2019 FIA Formula 3 champion, will make his debut appearance at the season ending Abu Dhabi GP. Ferrari will also offer their young drivers a test drive of their 2018 F1 car next month to further their F1 development credentials.
Hamilton on course to smash F1 records
It is just a matter of time before Lewis Hamilton equals Michael Schumacher’s all time record of 91 F1 career wins and attaining seven (7) drivers tittles atleast for now this season. The six times world champion has 90 race wins under his belt for now, and it’s a matter of time before he’s name is on the world all time elites. Hamilton has long surpassed Schumacher’s pole position record of 68 and is now on the verge of equaling his race wins of 91, a figure that is likely to be achieved anytime starting with the next race at Nurburgring. He was denied the opportunity to equal the record at the Russian GP in Sochi when he was given a ten second penalty after putting his mercedes on pole position. Looking at the fact that there are only seven races remaining in the 2020 calendar, and Hamilton has already maintained a 44 points gap clear of his nearest rival (Bottas). It is unlikely for the British driver to finish the season without a single race win looking at the upward trend on the number of his pole positions and race wins conversion rate, the records and title challenge favours his charges.