Words by Tony Robertson (Twitter: @TonyRob84).
Welcome back to Overtime Online’s F1 column Life In The Fast Lane.
This week I’m back with the Spanish Grand Prix where Max Verstappen was looking to once again upset the two Mercedes of Championship leader Lewis Hamilton and Finn Valtteri Bottas.
But first lets round up what I’ve missed since the last column.
The last column upload was the first race at Silverstone of the 2020 season where Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag despite only having three tyres to race most of the last lap on.
Since then there has been the #F170 race weekend at Silverstone, which celebrated Formula One’s 70th anniversary. And boy did this deliver.
Max Verstappen produced one of his best ever drives to come home in first place for his ninth career win and upset the seemingly unstoppable force that is the 2020 Mercedes.
That race serves to remind us all what F1 can produce, though F1 is still far from its peak in terms of competitiveness, at least at the top of the grid.
Racing Point also got hit with a deduction of 15 constructors points and a fine of 400,000 Euros after Renaults protest was upheld by the FIA, finding that the team had illegally copied the brake ducts from the 2019 Mercedes.
However, the FIA has allowed the ‘Pink Mercedes’ to carry on using the part for the rest of the season, a decision which has seen a number of teams, including Renault, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams protest the leniency of the punishment. Though Williams and McLaren have since withdrawn their appeals.
Furthermore, the FIA have said they will be clamping down on the extent to which teams can copy another teams car design from 2021.
Spanish Grand Prix:
Spain as a Grand Prix is very tough in terms of trying to gain track position in the race due to the amount of dirty air generated around many of the corners on the circuit. As a result, the result is often dictated by where a driver qualifies and by how good the race strategy is.
In qualifying Mercedes once again locked out the front row, with last weeks race winner Verstappen taking third with Sergio Perez returning from his two-week hiatus as a result of testing positive for Coronavirus ahead of both Silverstone races.
Albon also qualified relatively well achieving a P6. A big improvement on some of his recent qualifying performances where he has failed to make it out of Q2.
McLaren took up the next row with Carlos Sainz at his home Grand Prix qualifying P7 with Lando Norris P8. Ferrari yet again had a disappointing Saturday session, with only one of their drivers, once again Charles Leclerc, making it into Q3. However, he only managed to get up to P9.
Further down the grid, Kimi Raikkonen got Alfa Romeo out of Q1 for the first time all season and managed to qualify in P14 sandwiched in between the two Renaults.
Williams and Haas meanwhile failed to emerge from Q1 with the most interesting stat coming out of this being that George Russell has out-qualified his teammate for a record 27th time in a row overtaking the record which was held by Fernando Alonso.
Saying that Alonso can continue his record once he returns to F1 next season although it will likely be harder to out-qualify Esteban Ocon all season than it was to clean sweep Stoffel Van Doorne at McLaren in Alonso’s last couple of seasons.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 15, 2020
Six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton put in a completely dominant performance for round six of the 2020 F1 season, leading every single lap of the race and taking him clear of Michael Schumacher to set the record for the most podiums in F1 history.
Out of turn one, Hamilton got off to an electric start while his teammate lost two positions to Verstappen and Lance Stroll respectively making back one of these on lap five. Further down the order Norris also started poorly losing two positions to find himself as the last of the potential points scorers.
As the race progressed Alex Albon was called into the pit early and switched onto the hard compound tyres, a decision which would ultimately cost him two positions come the end of the race due to the hard compound being quite a poor race tyre, confirming what many drivers had said during practice.
Meanwhile his teammate Verstappen provided some entertainment with his radio chatter. Using some quite colourful language to describe the conditions of his tyres and his desire to change them, coming in on lap 22 for the medium tyres and exiting with a pit stop time of just 1.9 seconds.
Lap 28 saw an entire train of cars overtake Kevin Magnussen’s Haas as the grip on his wheels fell away which allowed the faster cars around him to finally make the move, losing three places in the space of four turns.
Laps 35-37 saw massive frustration for Leclerc who couldn’t find a way past Norris. On the penultimate turn was when the weekend went from bad to worse as he spun around and had to deal with his engine switching off causing him to cascade down the order. The fault, along with belt troubles ultimately caused him to retire from the race to top off a disappointing weekend for the 22-year-old driver.
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 16, 2020
One driver who was put on a good strategy was Sainz. His aggressive two-stop strategy helping him to climb up to P6 by the end of the race.
Perez was set for a top-four finish on his return but a five-second penalty for failing to move out of the way of Hamilton under blue flags forced him to cede the position to Stroll. The result still gives Racing Point their best finish of the season so far helping them to climb up the constructors despite their recent penalty.
One of the most staggering aspects of today’s race was that all but two cars were lapped those being race winner Hamilton and runner up Verstappen.
While Hamilton broke the record for most podiums in F1, he was also joined by Sebastian Vettel in the 3000 point club, with his seventh-place finish making him only the second driver to reach the marker, behind none other than Lewis Hamilton.
RECORD BREAKER 👏
156 F1 podiums for @LewisHamilton
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 16, 2020
Another record broken today was from another veteran F1 driver, this time in the shape of Kimi Raikkonen who broke the record for the most miles driven in F1 history.
While the official driver of the day was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, my driver of the day is Carlos Sainz who managed to drive a quite amazing race with a super aggressive two-stop strategy.
I’ll also give an honourable mention to Raikkonen who managed to drag the worst car of the 2020 grid into a more respectable finishing spot.
And with that this weeks column is concluded. Check out the last column here.