At long last the break is over and Formula 1 has returned. The second half of the season promises to show more excitement as we get closer and closer to the world championship. While we were left without races for a month, there was still tons of excitement in the driver market happening during the down-time.
The first of which was a surprise for everybody, Daniel Ricciardo announced that he had signed a two-year contract with the Renault works team starting in the 2019 season. Ricciardo, who had strongly hinted that he was going to stay at Red Bull for the foreseeable future, made this shock announcement just one week into the summer break. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was not even made aware of the news till the day before it was announced.
“At the end of the day, we have given Daniel everything that he ever wanted and it still wasn't enough in his mind to say 'I want to keep going at Red Bull'. So it wasn't about money, it wasn't about status, it wasn't about position or commitment or duration, I think he felt that he needed to take something else on at this stage in his career," said Horner on Ricciardo’s departure.
Ricciardo will drive for Renault with Nico Hulkenberg as his teammate for at least the next two years. This left Red Bull needing a driver to fill the seat alongside young gun Max Verstappen. This was particularly easy for them as they have a strong junior driver program, as well as an entire sister team that can be used as a sort of a tryout for the big team.
Red Bull simply promoted Pierre Gasly from Toro Rosso, the same path that most drivers who have raced for Red Bull followed - including Verstappen. As for now the seat alongside Brendon Hartley at Toro Rosso is currently vacant, although rumours suggest a surprise F1 return for Red Bull outcast Daniil Kvyat.
Another shock announcement was from one of the best drivers F1 has ever seen. Fernando Alonso has decided that he is going to say goodbye to the sport that made him the man he is. After a few less-than-successful years at McLaren, he has decided to focus his efforts on other desires in the next year.
Alonso had his Formula 1 debut in 2000 and has been in the sport ever since. He won the world champion in both 2005 and 2006 making him the youngest person to ever do so at the time. While he is pursuing a career in the World Endurance Championship and perhaps a start in IndyCar, Alonso hasn’t ruled out the possibility of returning to F1 in the future. He will be replaced by his friend and fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who will have to leave his current seat at Renault to make room for Ricciardo.
Sainz will race next to Lando Norris who is a recent graduate of McLaren’s junior program. Norris, who won the European F3 championship in 2017, possesses a very strong talent with potential for growth. He will be taking Stoffel Vandoorne’s seat while Vandoorne is put in a driver limbo where he may or may not get a drive next season.
While Mercedes has already confirmed that they will keep their current lineup for at least another 2 years, Ferrari was the latest to announce their driver lineup for 2019.
In a shock move they have decided to drop 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen in order to give a seat to F1 rookie Charles Leclerc. Leclerc is currently driving for Sauber and has been out qualifying teammate Marcus Ericcson on a regular basis.
Instead of leaving the sport entirely, Raikkonen will take Leclerc’s seat at Sauber. Kimi made his F1 debut with Sauber in 2001, so this is something of a homecoming for him. Many are questioning whether Leclerc is ready to drive for a team of such caliber, but the Italian outfit seems confident that he will be able to perform well.
With only six races to go in the season Haas, Force India, Toro Rosso, and Williams have all yet to confirm drivers for 2019. Perhaps we may see more surprises headed our way.
While we are in the middle of F1's now traditional summer break, it's perhaps a good time to reflect on the sport's return to France.
Located in the South East corner of France, Paul Ricard was the site of 14 French Grands Prix before 2018. Back in the 1970s the course was built and named after French alcohol tycoon, Paul Ricard.
The first Grand Prix was held in 1971 and won by Formula 1 legend Sir Jackie Stewart.
Till 1984 the circuit was rotated with other French circuits for certain years, but it saw no less than two French winners. One of whom was none other than the great Alain Prost, who won at Paul Ricard a record four times.
The last Grand Prix was held in 1990 and won by Prost. Till 1999 it was used mainly for motorcycle racing, and amateur car racing. The track was then sold to a company owned by then Formula 1 executive Bernie Eccelstone.
Eccelstone renovated the track into a high-tech test circuit and opened numerous other facilities to accompany it, including a landing strip, a high-tech karting track, and several other amenities.
The deal to return to Paul Ricard was cemented in 2016, and for the last two years the circuit has been preparing to deliver a thrilling and challenging race for spectators and drivers alike. While many of the drivers on the grid had driven here on other occasions, few drivers experienced the circuit for the first time during the 2018 race.
For many people, Stoffel Vandoorne is a divisive figure: for some there’s a star in the making who’s a solid driver in the wrong car; for others he’s underperforming and occupying a seat young Lando Norris deserves far more. But is there a definitive answer to this question? We take the time to find out.
In the junior ranks Vandoorne certainly has the records of the best; he won titles in European Formula 4, Formula Renault and GP2 in his first or second season. Let me tell you, you don’t get a CV like that without having some serious talent.
Okay, Pastor Maldonado won the GP2 title and is more famous for crashing out than he is for Williams' first victory in 8 years, but Stoffel is not an erratic driver. Stoffel’s talents are consistency and he doesn’t hit the wall or spin out regularly. The supporters will say that this is why he’s a good driver to have, he keeps the car on the track and drives it relatively quickly. The doubters though will remind you that any player who is claiming consistency as his top strength is lacking some serious race craft.
So why doesn’t Vandoorne stand out to the fans? Well he is not an eye catching driver, more of a Prost than a Senna. To top this off he hasn’t ever challenged his team mate consistently. This hasn’t filled the community with confidence that he can challenge the best on race pace on any more than the odd weekend.
Image Courtesy: McLaren
Yet is this a fair assessment of the Belgian? Well not entirely. He has the best GP2 record of recent years with exception to Charles Leclerc, beating Gasly and Giovinazzi en route to F1. Secondly, his team mate is the mighty Fernando Alonso... the double world champion and man regarded as one of the best on the grid, so beating him is certainly far from easy. The only one you struggle to argue with is the non-eye catching point because he is Mr Consistent. So was Alain Prost, Nico and Keke Rosberg amongst many other world champions so using it as a critique of his driving is not a really fair argument.
One other thing that is important to remember is that the Belgian showed great maturity on debut for McLaren at the 2016 Bahrain Grand Prix after Fernando Alonso had his major crash in Australia a fortnight previous which ruled him out of the race with concussion. Not only did he look natural in the McLaren, he even scored a points finish coming home in tenth place.
Since then he added to his tally last year and has finished in the points several times in 2018 already. Granted he has been out scored by Alonso although he did nearly beat the veteran Spaniard over the course of last season, something that only Jenson Button has done in the last decade, To put this in even more perspective Fernando has only been beaten by drivers in identical machinery twice over his career, the older occasion being by Lewis Hamilton in his debut season back in 2007.
So to call Vandoorne reject or outcast so soon in his career despite a reasonably strong start is highly unfair. While granted the Belgian has not set the world alight he has done more than enough to earn his place in Formula One for next year with or without Alonso. And finally, let us remember the days of McLaren being a front running team and competing for victories is now behind us. In fact this team is a midfield runner at best, and whether you rate him or not you cannot claim that he is not a midfielder driver and for that reason I believe he should not be replaced.
As with all our articles on this subject this is merely an opinion piece we would love to hear your thoughts on both Stoffel and the McLaren lineup for 2019.
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On the 40th anniversary of Gilles Villeneuve’s first win for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel followed in the legend's footsteps to win the Canadian Grand Prix. The Ferrari driver completed what was a comfortable win which saw him lead from start to finish ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, meaning the top 3 on the grid didn’t change
Vettel had amazing pace with the other drivers seemingly in his pocket, however Bottas did begin the close the gap to the Ferrari before a mistake by the Finn into turn 1 on lap 56 saw him lose all his progress and put him into the path of Verstappen.
Max Verstappen held 3rd comfortably as he continued to show great pace throughout the weekend, a performance he really needed. Towards the latter stages of the race, Verstappen was able to close the gap to Bottas after it was revealed that the Mercedes driver had to fuel save, thus enabling Verstappen to get within DRS range but finishing just under two seconds behind Bottas. Although he crossed the line on lap 70, the expected final lap, 1 tenth behind the Mercedes, but due to a chequered flag error, the race officially ended on lap 68, not 70. Daniel Ricciardo came home in fourth after having Lewis Hamilton breathing down his neck for most of the race but unable to pass. Ricciardo admitted after the race he struggled with the recent upgrade to his Renault engine which left him struggling to keep a consistent pace. Ricciardo did set the fastest lap of the race on lap 70 but, again due to the chequered flag error caused by miscommunication, the fastest lap of the race was awarded to his teammate Max Verstappen.
Lewis Hamilton had another quiet race which topped off a scrappy weekend by his standards. It seemed to be a weekend for the four-time world champion where he could not get into a groove with his car which has been seen before, leading to his frustration throughout the race. Although, some can say his pace was due to the old Mercedes engine powering his W09. Sixth placed was Kimi Raikkonen. Another quiet weekend for the Iceman which lead to him finishing behind his team-mate once again. Another mistake in Qualifying 3 lead to him starting in P5, below where he expected. The Renault crew came home to finish best of the rest once again with the underrated German Nico Hulkenburg leading his team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. Esteban Ocon finishing 9th in his Force India after failing to maintain his position ahead of the Renaults during the pitstop period and couldn’t maintain the same pace as them. Whereas his team-mate, Sergio Perez, was involved in a small incident with Sainz into turn 1 after the safety car restart, dropping the Mexican out of the points.
The Safety Car was caused by a big incident in turn 5 on the opening lap between Lance Stroll and Brendon Hartley as Hartley attempted a move around the outside and aimed for the inside of turn 6. As Hartley was outside, Stroll’s Williams had a snap of oversteer which squeezed Hartley into the tyre barrier, throwing the Toro Rosso into the air and taking the Williams out with him.
The fight for the final place in the points were between the Sauber of Charles Leclerc, Toro Rosso of Pierre Gasly and Haas of Romain the Grosjean. Amazingly, all cars were having internal issues of their own, but it was the Leclerc who again scored points for his team. The Monegasque driver continues to perform brilliantly, outdriving his Sauber Alfa Romeo and massively helping him chase a Ferrari seat in the future. It was another disappointing weekend for Williams and McLaren with only one car finishing from each team. Sergey Sirotkin was left alone finishing in a lonely 17th place and last as his team-mate was involved in an incident, as said earlier. The McLaren of Stoffel Vandoorne finished in a sad 16th place after his team-mate, Fernando Alonso, suffered another mechanical failure after running in the points and fighting for 10th place with Leclerc. Another failure again begs the question whether Alonso will decide to stay in Formula One and McLaren for 2019 or move on to another racing series like IndyCar.
Overall, for spectators, it was not the greatest race to watch. Hopefully the return to France and Paul Ricard brings more.
Things are quiet this weekend in the Formula 1 world, as drivers and teams prepare for the next race in Canada. While Red Bull is fresh off a win in Monaco, it is Daniel Ricciardo who has truly shined during this part of the season. With only three different race winners among the six races, Mercedes’ golden boy Lewis Hamilton fears that Ricciardo may be a threat to the title.
“Ferrari are still the strongest,” said Hamilton, “But it is a three-way battle, and I think Red Bull have some engine upgrades coming up…They will continue to get stronger throughout the year.”
With the expected lead changing between Ferrari and Mercedes. Ricciardo has managed to put Red Bull in that mix, which could be very exciting for the fans.
“It’s the biggest challenge that I’ve had with my boys, but I’m loving that challenge. I’m loving having to dig super deep in my technical knowledge and learning more and how I can communicate, how I can really pick the right set-up and get it right for the weekend - all these different things. I’m enjoying that.”
Said Hamilton on the season so far. With Ricciardo’s newfound success, the next question would be about his options for the 2019 season. Ricciardo, along with Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, has not confirmed his contract for the next season, and Hamilton has expressed his concern with Ricciardo’s hesitation to do so.
“So I think he’s just got to keep his head down, keep doing what he's doing, but he should definitely have a contract on his table and he should have his options ready. I was talking to him and I don’t know if he has all his options already lined out for him and I was like ‘Get them to your manager dude! Let me know if you want me to do it!’”
While these drivers still have yet to make a final decision for the 2019 season, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen over at Ferrari have a pretty good system going. Vettel is signed until 2021 and with their dynamic, it is likely that the Finn will remain as well.
Although Ricciardo is hit with some grid penalties this weekend, he is still determined to make his presence known at the top. Mercedes has usually shown dominance in Canada, but as usual, anything could happen in Formula 1. Comment below with your race predictions.
Williams Racing may have won nine constructors’ Championships, seven drivers’ championships, 114 Grands Prix and 128 pole positions, but as of the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix, the Oxfordshire-based team sit at the bottom of the constructors’ table with a paltry four points. Since Juan Pablo Montoya’s win for the team at the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix, only one race victory has been achieved with that being Pastor Maldonado’s famous win at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix. But how has a team with the heritage of Williams fallen so much?
Sir Frank Williams created the Williams team before the beginning of the 1977 season. During that season, the team managed to make 11 appearances with driver Patrick Neve but failed to score any points. It was not until the 1979 season when the team secured their first victory. Clay Regazzoni was the driver at the helm of the Williams FW07 and secured their first victory at the British Grand Prix after narrowly missing out on victory one race previous at the French Grand Prix, famous for the immense battle between the Ferrari of Gilles Villeneuve and Renault of Rene Arnoux.
After the 1979 season, the true success story began; Australian Alan Jones winning the team’s first drivers’ championship in 1980 along with their first constructors’ championship, followed by four race wins in 1981, and a second Driver’s Championship with Keke Rosberg and second constructors’ championship. The Williams team then began to gain attention from onlookers, mainly sponsors with their famous yellow, blue and white Canon livery emerging from 1985 to the end of 1993.
Image Courtesy: Williams
The next constructors’ championship was achieved during the 1986 season as Frank Williams was having to face the most challenging time of his life. During Sir Frank’s absence, the rivalry between their two drivers, Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet, was heating up big time, leading things to become difficult within the Williams garage despite arguably having one of the best cars on the grid with Mansell coming close to the Driver’s title after his infamous tyre failure during the Adelaide Grand Prix gifting the title to rival, Alain Prost.
The team would go on to achieve another driver and constructor championship with Nelson Piquet in 1987 before a five season break from the top step of both championships. The 1992 and 1993 season were Williams’ most successful, mainly due to their advantage over their competitors with assists within the car like Anti-lock braking and the well-known Active Suspension system. Due to these advantages, Williams swept the floor against their rivals winning both drivers’ and constructors’ championships in both seasons.
Although they succeeded once again with the constructors’ championship in 1994, the driver’s championship was won by German Michael Schumacher, first title out of seven for him, after a season long battle with Williams driver Damon Hill. The title was decided that year by an incident you may have seen between Schumacher and Hill at Adelaide, leaving both out of the race. But the death of the great Ayrton Senna in the FW16 Williams car during the Grand Prix at Imola created a dark cloud over the team. They would, however, bounce back to achieve both championships in 1996 and 1997, again with a controversial ending between Ferrari’s Schumacher and Williams’ Villeneuve at Jerez, gifting Villeneuve the title. Now it changes. After the 1997 season the team were unable to maintain their dominance, with only 10 victories between the 1998 season to the end of the 2004 season - and only one victory between 2004 and now, as mentioned previously.
Image Courtesy: Williams
Ownership has been changed within Williams with Sir Frank’s daughter, Claire, unofficially being at the helm of the team. But most importantly, the competition of Formula One has changed since their dominant era involving regulations and newer cars, hybrid engines. During the 2014 and 2015 seasons, Williams were very competitive with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa achieving third in the constructors’ championship, their highest finish since the 2003 season.
Third place would be a dream for Williams now. The 2018 season has been awful for Williams, let’s be honest, with only a single points finish, being Lance Stroll at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix finishing eighth and scoring four points. The most recent event, Monaco, was frankly embarrassing. Silly penalties to driver Sergey Sirotkin due to the team not preparing the car effectively before the 3-minute warning before the race, complaints by drivers, mainly Stroll and just very slow pace.
Money plays a big factor in Formula One and Williams have never been a team to ‘splash the cash’ but they have focused mainly on money rather than the team’s racing benefit in 2018. Highly respectable and experienced people work for the team, Rob Smedley coming to mind, which makes it difficult to understanding their struggles. Recently key members have been leaving, designer Ed Wood and aero Chief Dirk de Beer.
Personally, this is what Williams deserve for putting money first. Their two drivers, Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin, had paid many millions for their seats, two unexperienced and young drivers. That is not a partnership that is going to be successful in the world of Formula One. If more money and attention was focused on the cars’ condition and the team’s morale, maybe this article would be different, but it is not. Which begs the question, is Claire Williams doing a good enough job for the team? Or is it time for a major change.
Daniel Ricciardo converted his magnificent pole position to the race win on Sunday. Ricciardo managed to guide his ill RB14 car to the finish ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel and the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton. Ocon came home in a brilliant sixth position after his strong position and Max Verstappen managed to avoid the walls to bring his Red Bull to ninth place after starting last.
Daniel Ricciardo dominated the entire weekend with the fastest time in all free practice sessions, pole position and the race win. However, during the mid-way point of the race, Ricciardo felt a loss of power after pulling a sizeable gap to Vettel. The issue which was unknown until team boss Christian Horner revealed that the Australian driver had to suffer from a failed MGU-K unit in the engine, leading to him not being able to reach 7th or 8th gear due to the lack of speed.
The Ferrari of Vettel could see the issue Ricciardo was having and attempted to push. This was until the ultra-soft tyres that was equipped to Vettel’s car for the majority of the race decided that they no longer wanted to be pushed, leaving him to lose touch to Ricciardo.
Vettel was not the only driver experiencing tyre issues. Lewis Hamilton stopped for his only pit-stop at a similar time to Vettel. Hamilton was quick to inform the team that he was unable to push and was persistent with that. Hamilton’s team-mate, Valtteri Bottas, also pitted early but for Super softs, hoping to reach the end of the race. Bottas was able to be within reach of DRS to fourth placed Kimi Raikkonen but was unable to pass. Force India’s Esteban Ocon had a quiet but enjoyable race from his point of view. Ocon was able to capitalise from his great qualifying performance to finish in sixth position. Surprisingly, being able to catch up to Bottas despite being under pressure from other.
Pierre Gasly proved his worth again by finishing in a fantastic seventh position for Toro Rosso Honda. A similar performance to his amazing fourth place in Bahrain earlier on in the season. Nico Hulkenburg was able to fight his way up to eight after missing out on a Q3 spot in qualifying and finished under a second behind Gasly.
Max Verstappen was able to finish in ninth place and at the back of the Gasly train. Verstappen was able to finish in the points from the back of the grid after some great overtaking specifically into the nouvelle chicane, an effective strategy by his team and patience. Verstappen was able to take one achievement from his team-mate this weekend by having the fastest lap of the race, completed shortly after his only pit-stop onto the hyper-soft tyres. Renault were able to achieve another double points finish with Carlos Sainz gently bringing his car home in tenth place, over 40 seconds behind Verstappen. Despite the high chance, the safety car was surprisingly not needed at Monte Carlo as the drivers seemed to be able to behave themselves. However, the Virtual Safety Car was deployed towards the later stages of the race as home hero Charles Leclerc, of Sauber Alfa Romeo collided with the Toro Rosso of Brendan Hartley. It was reported on Hartley’s team-radio that Leclerc was suffering from some sort of issue and Hartley was advised to push by his team.
Seconds after Hartley’s radio was transmitted on TV, Leclerc lost control under braking into the nouvelle chicane and smashed into the rear of Hartley’s car, leaving Hartley to slowly guide his car back to the pits with his rear wing upside down, hanging by a thread. The incident would end both driver’s races. Upon replay, it seemed that Leclerc was suffering from a braking issue which would lead to them failing, causing the incident. Brake dust was seen flying out of the front left wheel on Leclerc as soon as he touched the brake and the Monegasque driver was a passenger with Hartley being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The two drivers were joined in the retirement list by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who disappointedly had what seemed to be a gearbox failure after fighting well into a points position. The disaster of a season continued for Williams, Sergey Sirotkin, who outperformed the car in qualifying, was instantly smacked with a penalty after his Williams mechanics were spotted working on the car in the three-minute window before the race. Sirotkin came across the line in 16th place. Lance Stroll continued his run of bad form with multiple pitstops, one due to a puncture, and a finishing position of 17th place and over a minute behind the leader. Still only 4 points on the board for the Williams team.
It is always a happy time when F1 makes its way to the beautiful coast of Monte Carlo. As the teams emerge fresh from mid-season testing in Barcelona everybody is ready to see a good race. While Monaco is not a track that has been known for having super-exciting action, the rich history has always brought a special feeling to the races held in the principality.
Going into the race weekend, this will be the 63rd running of the Monaco Grand Prix, and the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel are the favorites for the win. Last year Vettel was able to nab Ferrari’s first win in Monaco since 2001 with Raikkonen in second. Kimi was also able to secure pole position for that race, something he hadn’t done in 9 years. Red Bull, however, are looking forward to a rewarding race. Daniel Ricciardo was able to land a podium position in 2017, and he would have won the race the year before had his pit stop not been fumbled horribly by his mechanics. Their car had shown signs of improvement in low speed corners during last weekend in Spain, consistent with what is necessary for a street circuit like Monaco.
Unfortunately, the team over at Mercedes are not so confident. Team principal Toto Wolff explained their disappointment with their performance in Monaco last year. “We are bloody worried,” said Wolff when asked about how he believed the Silver Arrows were going to do. “Surface and conditions played in our favor in Spain, but we are staying cautious with our predictions in Monaco.” After four straight wins from 2013 to 2016 Mercedes have struggled in Monaco ever since.
All eyes will be on rookie Charles Leclerc as his performance at Sauber, or rather out-performance, has been nothing short of incredible. Securing points for the usual back markers in 3 out of the 5 races thus far, many suspect that Leclerc will make a move to one of the dominating teams by the 2019 season. Furthermore, this is Leclerc’s home grand prix, being the only Monegasque driver to have been on the grid since Olivier Beretta in 1994. Perhaps a familiar setting will improve his performance.
Fernando Alonso at McLaren has also expressed his excitement to return to Monaco for the first time in two years, as he took an absence in 2017 to participate in the Indianapolis 500. Alonso has won Monaco twice in 2006 and 2007 and is no stranger to the track. The partnership between McLaren and Renault has disproved all of the doubts that people held before the season started. Alonso has managed to score points in every race while his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne was able to do the same in three of the races, putting McLaren in 5th place, only one point behind the Renault team in the constructors’ standings.
As Hamilton sits only 17 points above Vettel in the drivers’ standings, perhaps this is exactly what the Italian outfit need to clinch that lead. Of course anything could happen in Formula 1, especially at the Monaco Grand Prix. Strap in for a good race weekend.
In the Spanish Grand Prix, Max Verstappen piloted his car home to P3 and by doing so, achieved his first podium finish of the season - although some can say he was fortunate after the Raikkonen's retirement and a slow pitstop for Vettel.
But his run to the finish was not straight forward. On lap 42 during the ending of the Virtual Safety Car period, Verstappen hit the back of the Williams of Lance Stroll who was going at a slower speed. The impact damaged the outside of part of his front wing but considering the amount of damage sustained, it was a surprise that he was not only able to stay ahead of Sebastian Vettel, he was even able to pull a gap to the German towards the end. But why is that? Was that Verstappen’s raw talent shining once again? Or does that incident show that Formula One front wings are overdone?
Max Verstappen is destined for greatness in Formula One. That seems to be a given. At his young age of 20, Verstappen has already achieved multiple podiums, front row starts and most importantly three race wins (Spain 2016, Malaysia 2017 and Mexico 2017).
He also seems to gain the upper hand over his more experienced teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, when it comes to qualifying and is always competing with The Australian in the races. No disrespect to Ricciardo though; his speed, great eye for overtakes and consistency is what brings him the good results.
Anyway, Verstappen’s aggressiveness, natural talent and massive self-belief is something we haven’t seen from a driver since the likes of Senna and Schumacher. Arguably, the start of the 2018 season has been the toughest period for Verstappen with retirements, mistakes and incidents and his teammate already winning a race, but this tough start has and will allow Verstappen to grow as a person and a racer.
The thing that has spoken the most volume to me is his self-belief. He has had his fair share of critics between the first five rounds of the season, maybe some a bit harsh but also some deservedly so, but Verstappen has always been able to ignore the critics and their questions.
Many times since his debut has Verstappen been asked about potentially changing his driving style and toning down his aggression and he will always answer the same way. He believes his style of racing is what has led him to be a Formula One race winner and refuses to change, almost like Schumacher during the early 1990’.
He has also had his fair share of comparisons, personally I compare him to Gilles Villeneuve. Verstappen is fast, massively fast and is arguably the most entertaining driver on the grid. Okay, Villeneuve never won a championship but that was partly due to his career being cut short. Throughout his short time in Formula One, Villeneuve never disappointed, he entertained and wanted to go fast wherever he was and whatever he was in. That’s no different to Verstappen. Personally, a great driver is able to prove themselves in a kart. For those who haven’t yet, research Verstappen’s European Karting Championship KZ race in 2013. From a young age he was gifted. I mean, it did help that his dad was a former Formula One driver who owned his own karting team, but Max still had to prove he was good enough in different categories. But why did Verstappen struggle early on? Wanting it too much? I do not think wanting too much was the issue for his early mistakes. I put them down to Verstappen not reading the situation correctly nor patiently. But which driver hasn't made mistakes throughout his careers? Every successful driver goes through a period like Verstappen has been and has been able to show their class and prove their critics wrong.
The podium at the Spanish Grand Prix was to things to Verstappen I believe. Firstly, he needed a podium to regain his confidence and regain his momentum in racing. Secondly, he proved in Spain that he can get out of a bad run and eliminate past mistakes from his mind.
However, he will need to continue this newly found momentum during the next couple races. Obviously, with Monaco being the next round will be tough. But a race like Monaco, although can be extremely dull at times, separates the men against the boys. Verstappen will have to have his confidence under control as Monaco is not normally a track that promotes overtaking but this season especially, it is a circuit that is seeming to be a very competitive for the Red Bull racing team. Will Verstappen shine again? For the right or wrong reasons?
Will he go on to achieve greatness and success in Formula One like he is seemingly destined to? Or will he fall short throughout the rest of his career?
Brendon Hartley, a shock inclusion to the Formula 1 grid in 2017, scored his first points last month in Baku. Not only the Kiwi has had a strange road into F1, there are also split opinions by fans over how much talent he has in an F1 car.
Now whether you personally believe he deserves a seat this year or not, we’re going to explore how a little known name has become one of the biggest assets Red Bull could wish for and why if they don’t tie a contract down their rivals won’t miss a trick.
Image Courtesy: Red Bull Content Pool
It’s well documented that Hartley is a WEC champion and his extensive sportscar experience has made the Kiwi a dab hand at setting up a car and dialling it into a circuit. All this also means that his development feedback is far superior to all but the veterans of F1.
Now, as we have seen in the past, the order of the teams move dramatically across an entire campaign and the development race is arguably more important than the round one pace. Teams like Ferrari (with the exception of Barcelona), Red Bull and McLaren have shot up the order this year, while Force India and Williams have lost out.
What Hartley brings to Toro Rosso is the knowledge on what parts to develop and where to gain the most from their lap time, and for Red Bull, he could be invaluable in a title situation, especially with the lack of experience in their driver lineup, should Ricciardo venture elsewhere.
Now Hartley might not have a world champion's pace, and some other drivers on the grid may have, but as a testing and development driver few have the consistency that Brendon possesses. Futhermore, Red Bull's exclusive Aston Martin link up could provide them with a driver for their GT program and someone on Hartley’s level would be a huge coup for the British manufacturer.
Now sure, Red Bull aren’t the only team who could provide this sort of contract to the Kiwi. Ferrari have a sportscar division and Hartley would perhaps be a more appropriate asset than Hartley’s predecessor, Kvyat. McLaren have already joined hands with Toyota for Fernando Alonso to compete at Le Mans this year and a similar arrangement could see Hartley return to WEC, especially if Alonso leaves and the inexperienced Vandoorne and Norris lead their line up for 2019.
Who knows what sort of future F1 has for Hartley and this is merely speculation but for all those who say Hartley is far from the model F1 driver, he is still an incredibly talented pilot and someone who could offer F1 a lot more than they give credit for.