Welcome back to Overtime Online’s Formula 1 column Life In The Fast Lane.
This weekend was a definitive message for how safety improvements have helped Formula 1. Romain Grosjean came within an inch of his life when he crashed into the barriers during this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.
There was also action in F2 as the title race will go down to wire going into weeks finale.
Grosjean’s mircale is a testament to safety
We are so thankful that Romain Grosjean was able to walk away from this. We did not need a reminder of the bravery and brilliance of our drivers, marshals, and medical teams, nor of the advances in safety in our sport, but we truly got one today#BahrainGP 🇧🇭 #F1 pic.twitter.com/z8OeTU5Nem— Formula 1 (@F1) November 29, 2020
The advancement of F1 safety has taken many forms over the years. The occupational hazards of F1 have also claimed numerous lives and inflicted numerous injuries.
From the horrific burns Niki Lauda suffered at the Nurburgring in 1976, to Ayrton Senna’s fatal crash at Imola in 1994, to Jules Bianchi’s death from injuries he sustained at the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, F1 has seen many tragedies over its 70-year history, but Grosjean walking away from his crash belongs to all the pioneers and advocates of safety progression and all those unfortunate sacrifices which have been made to bring safety standards up to the point which it is today.
The introduction of the halo in 2018 caused some controversy, but any lingering argument against its use was crushed in Bahrain. Used as an extra head guard, it is a seven-kilogram ring around the driver cockpit which is made out of a titanium alloy and can take the impact force of 12,000 kilograms, the equivalent of a London double-decker bus and this weekend it took the brunt of the 53Gs of force which would have otherwise killed Grosjean outright.
The halo showcased its utility back in 2018 when Charles Leclerc nearly had his head hit by the tyre of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren after he was rear-ended by Nico Hulkenberg at turn one of the Belgian Grand Prix which caused his car to jut up into the air. Fortunately, the halo caught Alonso’s tyre before it could hit Leclerc and saved the now Ferrari drivers life.
Thanks to the halo, which Grosjean admitted he was initially against, he will be able to see his wife and three sons when he is eventually discharged from hospital and will likely be looking forward to the possibility of retirement when his contract expires at the end of the season.
An update from Romain himself. Pleased to see you’re in good spirits! We hope you make a speedy recovery 🙏 pic.twitter.com/njnjjH4GBi— Haas F1 Team (@HaasF1Team) November 29, 2020
Further incidents this week showcased how and why F1 can be so dangerous. Lance Stroll was completely flipped over in his car following a collision with Daniil Kvyat, who was also involved in the Grosjean incident.
With three laps to go Sergio Perez also saw his car catch fire, an engine problem causing smoke to erupt from the rear of his car and subsequently force the Mexican to retire. This incident was pretty common for F1 standards, but it was the visual of a steward running across the track as the cars behind came charging forwards which was the most shocking here. Bahrain 2020 will see a huge inquiry into safety in F1 and how it can better minimise the risks being taken by stewards and safety personnel.
Hamilton completely dominates but tests positive for Covid-19Embed from Getty Images
Amidst all the drama of the crashes, there was still a race to be won. Of course, this had some controversy in itself. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were asked during their post-race interviews whether they should have been given the option to pull out the race, given the horrible crash they had just witnessed.
Both Hamilton and Verstappen said the race had every right to continue, albeit in very conflicting tones. The race winner, Hamilton said: “We’re here to do a job and we rely on the FIA who are aware of safety and we trust them implicitly.”
However, Verstappen, ever the bullish maverick of F1, said: “I don’t get why you wouldn’t race. If I would be the team boss, I would kick him out of the seat.”Embed from Getty Images
Verstappen is, of course, the son of another former driver, Jos Verstappen, who was himself engulfed in one of the most iconic fire incidents in motorsport history at the 1994 German Grand Prix. Luckily on that day like this weekend, the driver escaped with only minor injuries.
Nevertheless, the race went ahead and Hamilton, despite looking somewhat shaken during the red flag, was imperious as he took home his 95th Grand Prix win.
The Briton looked composed and assured while Verstappen and Red Bull managed to keep decent pace with him, with the Dutchman remaining within five seconds of him for the majority of the race but unable to make up the distance to strike for the race lead.
Hamilton also paired his race win with a 98th pole position to leave him just two off of an unprecedented 100, which he might have achieved if he was able to race in both the Sakhir and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix. Hamilton even beat his own personal best of laps led in a Formula 1 season, surpassing 600.
Unfortunately, Hamilton has tested positive for Covid-19, so is ruled out of the Sakhir Grand Prix with Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne and super-sub Hulkenberg favourite to replace him.
You can read the full race report by clicking here.
With regards to the rest of the race, Racing Point must have crossed a black cat before the weekend started, as their luck couldn’t have been much worse. Stroll being flipped on his roof just eight turns after the restart and Perez being plagued with an engine failure just three laps from the end as he looked set for back-to-back podiums for the first time in his F1 career, cost Racing Point dearly in the hunt for third, with McLaren taking advantage.
Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz both put disappointing Saturdays behind them to rise through the field and up to P4 and P5, which puts McLaren in the driver’s seat in terms of getting the extra millions finishing third can provide the team.
Renault were less successful but still closed the gap on Racing Point to just 10 points, but do now sit 27 points behind McLaren.
I said in the last column Ferrari had dragged themselves in the fight for third. Well, it appeared I have the commentators curse as Ferrari only managed a single point this weekend, a stark contrast to a circuit where they dominated last year.
CONSTRUCTOR STANDINGS: ROUND 15 🧑🔧— Formula 1 (@F1) November 29, 2020
Two more races to go in 2020
That battle for P3 🔎👀 @RacingPointF1 cursing their bad luck after @SChecoPerez was denied a podium four laps from the finish in Bahrain #BahrainGP 🇧🇭 #F1 pic.twitter.com/T9zDqiJgqI
Furthermore, six drivers are in the race for fourth in the standings, with just 17 points separating fourth from ninth. Though realistically the front runners from this group; Daniel Ricciardo and Perez should be able to muster at least one more solid drive which should see one of them crowned as best of the rest.
Driver Market movements
It’s been coming, but finally movement in the driver market were confirmed on Tuesday morning with F2’s Nikita Mazepin confirmed for one of the 2021 seats at Haas.
The Russian currently sits third in the F2 championship behind Callum Ilott, who confirmed he wouldn’t be racing in F1 on Monday, and championship leader Mick Schumacher who is the favourite to occupy the other seat at the American team.
Mazepin has won two F2 races this season and brings significant financial backing, a package many other candidates could not match. Only time will tell if he is capable of the step up, but Haas have taken an opportunity to bridge the financial disparities they have compared to other teams on the grid, and with the budget cap being introduced next season along with what should be a new and improved Ferrari power unit, Haas could return to the heights they reached in 2018 when they were the fifth-best constructor.
F2 title goes down to last weekend
As I mentioned, Michael Schumacher’s son Mick currently leads the F2 grid, and with just one weekend to go he looks set to claim the F2 title, a feat not even Schumacher senior can boast even amongst his glorious trophy cabinet.
However, the pressure is well and truly on after Ilott cut Schumacher’s lead to just 14 points and with up to 44 points to play for, the final race week could be a dramatic one.
F3 driver, Alessio Deledda was caught in the middle of a storm of controversy as a video appeared on his social media platforms of him driving recklessly on the motorway.
An F3 driver by the name Alessio Deledda has posted this on his Instagram.— Matt Gallagher (@MattyWTF1) November 26, 2020
Action needs to be taken before he kills himself or someone else. pic.twitter.com/GXjJFD6GSp
The video has since been deleted, but his actions were extremely irresponsible. What’s shocking is Deledda didn’t apologise for the incident, but instead justified the video and his actions as a raising awareness, saying (where? I assume on social media): “My intent is always and only to raise awareness among my followers about similar acts of villainy. My mistake was probably not to specify that it was an act of complaint.”
Furthermore, Deledda has threatened legal action against YouTuber Josh Revell, who produced a video in which he spoke about the situation.
That about concludes this week’s column. You can check out last weeks by clicking here.
You can check out Overtime’s driver ratings by clicking here.