Japanese GP power rankings

Suzuka-banner.jpg

Although the frontrunners didn’t deliver anything like the head-to-head between Vettel and Hamilton that we’ve been waiting all year for, there was plenty of action up and down the rest of the field, with plenty of activity and lots to consider in this week’s power rankings.

Moving on up

Daniel Ricciardo gave his fans something to cheer about after a maddening technical issue hampered his qualifying. Starting P15 he finished P4, and although he was never within striking distance of his teammate, but to be one mechanical failure away from finishing on the podium redeemed the weekend for the Australian.

Sergio Perez negotiated a hectic midfield that, thanks to a mix of strategies and safety cars early in the race, was a hive of activity throughout the race. Now equal with Hulkenberg and Magnussen on points, the sins of Singapore were erased with another best of the rest performance.

Lewis Hamilton now needs only to win in the United States, and should Vettel finish P3 or lower, Lewis will claim his 5th World Championship. If Verstappen’s declaration post-qualifying that there wasn’t really any competition left in the title battle wasn’t confirmation enough, the effortless victory this week certainly was.

Backsliding

Sebastian Vettel backed up his team’s regrettable error in qualifying with a sterling assault on the top 6, making short work of the gap between himself and the top 3. In the run up to Spoon, Vettel carried a huge pace advantage and with more patience should have passed Verstappen with ease later on the lap. It’s not that he wasn’t patient enough to wait until Max stopped to serve his 5-second penalty (the win would have been well off-the-cards by then), it’s that after a year of continual unforced errors, Sebastian again got himself into a position where his competitiveness was sacrificed unnecessarily.

Stewards had a busy one ruling on a number of incidents, none more curious than the opening lap contact between Alonso and Stroll. Despite agreeing that Stroll had unreasonably forced Alonso off the track, they also deemed that Alonso had gained an unfair advantage by leaving the track and cutting across the chicane. Both drivers were penalised, including receiving penalty points.

Suzuka’s trophy design…. I mean, I thought the Gorilla one in Italy was bad, but this takes the cake.

Have your say

Tell us your Driver of the Day from the Japanese GP


Russian GP power rankings

russian-banner.jpg

For a moment, Ferrari looked to have pulled a strategic masterstroke, but a determined Lewis Hamilton was able to regain position over Sebastian Vettel, before team orders sealed the result.

Russia delivered mixed fortunes up and down the grid, here’s our power rankings for the race.

Moving on up

Valtteri Bottas might have only led the race for 11 laps, but everybody knows he deserved the win on merit and sacrificed it for his teammate. Performances like this are why Mercedes were keen to resign the Finn, and he’ll be hungrier than ever for more outright victories when circumstances are more equitable.

▲ Max Verstappen stormed from last but one into the top 6 in the early phase, and running ahead of the leaders after the first round of pitstops put him in contention to win if a safety car were unexpectedly deployed. Beyond just his pure aggression, his level-headed, hard but fair racing have been most impressive since the summer break.

▲ Charles Leclerc again impressed achieving not only the “best of the rest”, but the only driver outside of the top 6 to avoid being lapped. Sauber had both drivers into Q3 in qualifying, but Leclerc was a class above Ericsson, treating us with a preview of what is to come when he’s dressed in red overalls next year.

Backsliding

▼ Sergio Perez backed up his forgettable performance in Singapore with a mediocre showing in Sochi, with his only notable accomplishment being given track position over his teammate, only to fail to make any progress and was ordered to let Ocon back through. Maybe the call came too late to take advantage of his tyre delta, but if his pace was genuine then passing Ocon also should have been easier, and with hindsight his protestations appear unjustified.

▼ Toro Rosso had a double failure in the opening laps thanks to some misbehaving brakes. On the same weekend they announced the return of Kvyat, Russia was a cloud without a silver lining for the junior team.

▼ Renault’s tyre strategy raised eyebrows, when the team sat out Q2 to conserve tyres for the race. Russia’s characteristics didn’t help Hulkenberg progress through the field, and some early contact left Sainz tumbling from P12 to finish P17.

Have your say

Tell us your Driver of the Day from the Russian GP


Singapore GP power rankings

Singapore-race.jpg

F1’s Night Race lit up the Singapore streets, and for Lewis Hamilton it was champagne and fireworks off the track, even if the racing on the track didn’t quite deliver a spectacle befitting the scenery.

Here’s how we saw the power rankings shifting after the race.

Moving on up

▲  Lewis Hamilton took another victory in what a many people are saying is the decisive blow in the championship. After taking a fantastic pole on Saturday, all he had to worry about was the threat coming from Verstappen (with nothing to lose) and Vettel (with his season on the line), yet neither were able to get near the Mercedes, leaving Lewis to claim an unexpected yet well-earned victory.

▲  Max Verstappen was the known unknown after lining up on the front row and splitting the championship contenders. Most will have had in their mind the incident involving Max and the Ferrari’s from last year’s race in Singapore, but he kept his head, and despite losing P2 on the opening lap before the safety car was called, and showed the class required to maximise a race result.

▲  Kevin Magnussen thew up a fastest lap after a late pit-stop, and should be applauded for providing a little entertainment in a fairly lacklustre race.

Backsliding

▼  Sergio Perez covered himself in shame after causing an incident that took out his teammate on the opening lap (yet again). Forgetting for a moment whether Perez could see Ocon, or whether it was a “clever” idea for Ocon to put his car around the outside when he did, were it any other driver and not his own teammate Perez would have been looking at a stiff penalty. Add to that the absolute nonsense of chopping in front of Sergey Sirotkin out of frustration in a move that looked positively amateur, and you get a race to forget from the Mexican.

▼  Ferrari strategists in hindsight should admit that their strategy just wasn’t up to scratch. There’s something to be said for gambling on softer tyres at certain tracks, but on a long, tight track like Singapore it just wasn’t the smart play. Especially given that there’s a high-chance of safety cars and matching Hamilton’s strategy would have assured P2 for Sebastian, keeping him in a position to pounce if anything happened to the leader.

▼  Romain Grosjean ignored blue flags while squabbling with another backmarker, leading Charlie Whiting to call it one of the worst examples of disregarding flags and apologised to the leaders after they held up Lewis Hamilton to the point that Max Verstappen was able to gobble up his lead. Had Vettel held on to P2, it would have put immense and undue pressure on Hamilton, and action needs to be taken against the offenders.

Have your say

Tell us your Driver of the Day from Singapore


Raikkonen leaves Ferrari for Sauber, Leclerc joins the Scuderia in 2019

riakkonen-leclerc.jpg

After eight seasons with Ferrari (2007—2009 and 2014—2018), it has been confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen is leaving the team. At 39, the Finn has signed a two-year deal to drive for Ferrari powered Sauber, with their up-and-coming star Charles Leclerc set to take Raikkonen’s place alongside Sebastian Vettel.

For Raikkonen, he leaves the team with which he claimed his only drivers’ championship. After a disappointing reversal of form in the following years he was replaced by Fernando Alonso in 2010, only to return to later drive alongside the Spaniard.

Despite currently placed 3rd in the drivers’ championship, Kimi is returning to the team where he made his debut.

For Leclerc, it has been a meteoric rise. After claiming the GP3 and Formula 2 titles in his rookie seasons, he was fast-tracked into F1. At 19, he has impressed many in his debut season, claiming points in 5 of the 14 races, including a masterful P6 in Azerbaijan.

Making three Q3 appearances so far this season has demonstrated that Leclerc has raw pace, and isn’t just benefitting from the misfortune of others.

With his promotion, Ferrari have thrown down a marker to their main rivals. After decades of attracting (and retaining) established senior drivers, Leclerc will become the youngest driver to race in red overalls since 1961, and the least experienced since they signed Gilles Villeneuve who had only 1 race finish to his name at the time.

Tell us what you think of the change: Are you sad to see Kimi go, or excited for some fresh blood?

Italian GP power rankings

Italy-banner2.jpg

Despite getting the Tifosi's hopes up, a Kimi Raikkonen win just wasn't on the cards. Recovering from last on the opening lap, Vettel managed to drag himself back up to P4 to keep his title hopes alive, limiting Hamilton's lead to 30 points. 

Here's our power rankings from the Italian Grand Prix:

Moving on up

Kimi Raikkonen genuinely put himself into the contention for a win, which would have been his first victory in more than five years, despite taking a rousing pole wore out his tyres in the middle of the race, especially when following the slower Valtteri Bottas. Scrapping for the lead in the early laps, and at times surrounded by the Silver arrows, Kimi stood tall and delivered an admirable P2 for his 100th podium finish.

Lewis Hamilton claims an unlikely win, and it was anything but comfortable for the championship leader. From trading blows with Vettel on the opening lap, to challenging the faster Ferrari after the safety car, to managing his tyres while his teammate backed his main challenger up, to a gutsy move around the outside of Turn 1, Hamilton was amongst everything. I could have done with fewer references to the "snake pit" and "hateful and negative" crowd, especially after his recent comments about "tricks" on the Ferrari and "interesting tactics", but it'll hold up as an important moment if Hamilton claims the championship this season.

Sergey Sirotkin held onto the tail of fellow Williams driver Lance Stroll to deliver a double-points finish for the team after the disqualification of Romain Grosjean's Haas. With it, the Russian opens his account, making this the season the first time ever that every driver that has claimed points.

Backsliding

Max Verstappen copped a penalty for a rough defensive move on Valtteri Bottas, but his behaviour afterwards which cost him P4 in the race was just mind-boggling. If he'd let the faster Bottas through, he should have been able to stay more than 5-seconds ahead of the recovering Sebastian Vettel, instead throwing his toys from the cot and fell a further place backwards. 

Haas spaced completely on a new enforced floor regulation that was introduced this race, and as a result of an inquiry led by Renault, Romain Grosjean's car was ruled illegal and his points finish was nullified. The midfield is way to close this year for these kinds of mistakes, if not for this mistake they would have been equal with Renault on points (and ahead on better finishes). 

Nico Hulkenberg copped an engine penalty ahead of the race, but points should have been up for grabs here. Instead, his teammate Sainz was left to claim the spoils for the team. 

Have your say

Tell us your Driver of the Day from the Italian GP