MotoGP: Miguel Oliveira wins rain soaked Indonesian Grand Prix
(Motorsports news) MotoGP returned to Indonesia after 25 years and it certainly did not disappoint. KTM's Miguel Oliveira won a delayed and soaking wet 2022 Indonesian MotoGP at Mandalika, responding perfectly to a late charge by world champion Fabio Quartararo, who started on pole but really couldn’t take advantage in the tough conditions. In Moto 2 Somkiat Chantra (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) became the first Thai rider to win a Grand Prix race. Chantra led from the first corner to the chequered flag and eventually beat World Championship leader Celestino Vietti by 3.2 secs and Aaron Conet. In Moto 3, Dennis Foggia put his Qatar disappointment behind and won the Indonesian Moto3 Grand Prix quite comfortably.
Starting seventh, Oliveira had a brilliant start and wasted no time in passing leaders Quartararo and Jack Miller before easing away in the distance. After struggling early on, pole starter Quartararo finally got the much needed grip in the treacherous conditions and went on the attack, climbing back up to second, even threatening to catch Oliveira. However, the Portuguese saw off the danger and kept his victory margin intact as Johann Zarco completed the podium. It was Oliveira's fourth MotoGP victory but his first podium since Assen 2021. There was plenty of drama in the run-up to the planned start as the rain delayed the start and the race distance being shortened from 27 to 20 laps due to problems with the wet track surface, then Marc Marquez was declared unfit due to a head concussion after his massive crash in the final practice before qualifying, subsequently he’s fine and fit to race in the next Grand Prix.
The riders had experienced damp track conditions on Friday practice and Saturday qualifying, but on Sunday the circuit was flooded. The race eventually started with plumes of spray as the 23 remaining riders charged for turn one, with world champion Quartararo taking an early advantage from Oliveira with Miller climbing to third after a brave start. Quartararo then touched the kerb in the final corner and was passed by both Oliveira and Miller at the start of lap 2, the Australian diving past Oliveira soon after to take the lead.
However, he couldn’t sustain the lead as the tide soon turned in favour of Oliveira. Miller eventually had to settle for fourth ahead of Suzuki riders Alex Rins and Joan Mir, with Franco Morbidelli in seventh. Oliveira's Red Bull KTM team-mate Brad Binder put a pass on younger brother Darryn and finished in eighth but his younger brother really excelled in the tough conditions, as he settled for tenth and best rookie in the race. Yamaha team-mate Andrea Dovizioso had to because of a technical problem. Miller's factory Ducati team-mate and Qatar Grand Prix winner Francesco Bagnaia saved himself from a massive crash but ran off track on his way to 15th place.
Oliveria said "Without this good start the race could have been a bit different for me. I really couldn’t see anything behind the riders. With all the spray and the rain on the visor, it was definitely hard to see the lines and be precise. Also to judge the grip level.
He added "I think by the end of the race I could understand more and how much I could push, but to ride 20 laps in a row in the rain or compared to a practice is quite different. You can explore a bit more the braking points in the practice, or going wide, or cool down the tyres. Fortunately, I made a good start and after that I was following Jack [Miller] a little bit and could understand a bit more. Than it was just about building up the gap and controlling the race. If the race had seven laps more I don’t know (if a win was possible) because Fabio [Quartararo] was coming pretty strong."
Saudi Arabian GP: Formula 1’s penultimate race of the season set to be a high stakes battle between Verstappen and Hamilton
(Motorsport) The second last race of the 2021 Formula 1 season is set to take place in Saudi Arabia’s Corniche Circuit in what has been described as the fastest track in the history of the sport. A win at Jeddah for Max Verstappen would make him the World Champion for the first time in his career and the Dutchman along with Red Bull will hope to conclude their title pursuit this weekend.
However, the momentum is undoubtedly with Hamilton and Mercedes. The seven time World Champion won the last two races in Brazil and Qatar with the Corniche Circuit expected to favor Mercedes’ pace. The track is the newest street circuit in the Formula 1 calendar and with an average speed of 160 mph, it is only behind Monza as the fastest on the whole calendar. The track is also the second longest in Formula 1 behind Spa with high speed turns, little run-off and tight walls.
The race is expected to be action packed with three DRS zones to encourage overtaking and despite the circuit having 27 corners, straight line speed will be an important factor in the outcome of the race, which is why Mercedes are expected to be favourites. Ross Brawn, F1 managing director of motorsports said “The design brings out the best of a modern street circuit but also has fast-paced free-flowing areas that will create fast speeds and overtaking opportunities”.
Despite Saudi Arabia hosting its first Formula 1 race, the Corniche Circuit is unlikely to be the venue for future Grand Prix’s beyond 2024 as a purpose built venue is being developed closer to the capital of Riyadh to ensure easy accessibility for both drivers and fans. As things stand, Max Verstappen is eight points ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bull driver will secure the World Championship in the following scenarios:
1) If he wins the race with the fastest lap point and Hamilton finishes below 5th place
2) If he wins the race without the fastest lap point and Hamilton finishes below 6th
3) If he finishes second with the fastest lap point and Hamilton finishes below 9th
4) If he is second and Hamilton does not get any points
In a realistic scenario, both drivers are expected to finish first and second respectively with their team ordering the second drivers to aid them in achieving a positive result. Both the drivers are noticeably faster than their peers and a victory for Verstappen with Hamilton in second place would make him a very likely candidate to seal the Drivers Championship. In terms of pure performance, Mercedes has the edge over Red Bull with the Silver Arrows 0.248secs faster in qualifying. However, being faster on the straights does not necessarily equate to being faster over a lap and many factors apart from pure speed are integral in determining the final result.
There is also controversy surrounding the race as Red Bull have raised questions about Mercedes’ rear wing and whether it complies with Formula 1 regulations. They believe that the main plane flexes backwards, thereby reducing drag and increasing straight line speed. Verstappen has claimed that the team have video evidence of the wing flexing which would prove how Hamilton managed to climb up the grid at the Brazil Grand Prix. Mercedes have denied these claims and their rear wing passed the rigidity test comfortably before the Qatar Grand Prix.
Red Bull are experiencing their own rear wing issues with the DRS flap oscillating when it’s open and the team have struggled to repair it. The issue was resolved in Qatar by replacing it with a high downforce wing which is now the ‘preferred option’ as per team boss Christian Horner but the races in Saudi and Abu Dhabi are expected to suit a medium downforce wing and failure to repair the issue might result in some serious disadvantage for Red Bull and Verstappen.
The race will take place on Sunday, 5th December from 11 pm IST onwards.
Tensions rise with three races to go starting with Qatar’s inaugural Formula 1 Grand Prix
(Motorsport) On the outskirts of Doha, the Losail International Circuit will be the venue for a Formula 1 weekend for the first time ever as the 2021 season concludes in the Middle East over the next four weeks. The title race became much more interesting at the Sao Paulo GP last week when Lewis Hamilton finished first despite being disqualified in the qualification and incurring a five place grid penalty for an engine change.
The gap between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton has been reduced to 14 points but the real gap was there for all to see in Brazil as the seven time World Champion finished over 10 seconds faster than the Dutch racing driver, an indication of what’s to come in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. Things are looking even better for Mercedes in the Constructors Championship as the Silver Arrows are 11 points ahead of Red Bull after the events in Brazil and there is definitely tension between the two camps in one of the closest title races in the last few years.
Despite there being no possibility of the championship being won in Qatar, there are many points up for grab, 25 to be exact for a race win and 1 point for the fastest lap which means that if Verstappen wins the Qatar GP, the Dutchman can then afford to finish second in the final two races and still win the World Championship for the first time in his career. However, both Red Bull and Verstappen will undoubtedly be wary of Mercedes’ pace at the 5.4 km Losail International Circuit which is regarded as a fast and flowing track with medium and high-speed corners.
Heading into the weekend, Verstappen said “We still have a good points lead, it was damage limitation on a weekend where it was a bit difficult for us, but I'm confident we will bounce back. It [the title race] has been like this the whole year. It went up, came down, went behind, I'm back in front, so a lot of things can still happen." In other rivalries on the grid, Ferrari are currently in third place at the Constructors Standings with 287.5 points while McLaren have 256 points. The Italian team will hope that both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz outperform Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo in Qatar to ensure the most successful team in F1 history finish higher than their British counterparts this season.
Lewis Hamilton may start at the back of the grid at Turkish GP as Mercedes consider engine change
(Motorsport news) With only two points separating Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, the title race is heating up with every race and is about to get even more interesting. Mercedes have hinted at the possibility of a possible engine penalty for Hamilton at the Turkish GP as they look to replace their third engine of the season (the maximum permitted) to ensure reliability with seven races still remaining for the season.
Title rivals Red Bull and Max Verstappen were in a similar situation at the Russian GP and looked to make the best out of a bad situation as their Dutch racing driver had incurred a three place grid penalty after his collision with Hamilton at Monza. Team Principal of Red Bull Racing Christian Horner along with others in the Red Bull team used that opportunity to replace the engine which meant that Verstappen started at the back of the grid at 20th but still finished in second place behind Lewis Hamilton. This meant that Red Bull’s strategy of damage control paid dividends as only two points separate the two drivers as Formula 1 heads to Istanbul Park.
Speaking about the possibility of an engine change, Toto Wolff said “It's a possibility, when, and how, is not yet decided. Most important is that you don't DNF because of a reliability issue, you can cope with swings, whether you finish second, third, I think that is OK, the championship is going to go long, but if you don't finish...so we are looking at the parameters of the engines, making sure we don't suffer from any reliability problems. Lewis has been tremendous there, but we have to take each race at a time. It's so difficult, the cars are so close. I'm curious to see how this championship evolves."
The Turkish GP is expected to be a wet race, similar to last year in which Hamilton clinched his seventh World Championship. The British racing driver is looking for a record eighth title which will put him ahead of the legendary Michael Schumacher but Max Verstappen stands in his way in the closest title race that we have seen in years. Hamilton has admitted that Mercedes has not taken advantage to move clear of title rivals Red Bull and Verstappen, particularly at Monza and Sochi. He said “It's not only the two races, there's been plenty of races where we've not maximised, as a team, collectively, both drivers and everyone but we're still in a fight and we can continue to improve.
"There are definitely things that we will try and do better moving forwards but we just won't give up, we'll just keep trying, keep pushing, remain hopeful and just do the work. Well, undoubtedly it's going to be tough, think, for two thirds of the season so far they've had the edge. However, it's obviously been difficult with all sorts of things, curve balls sent to both of us and our teams. There's still everything to play for in these next races. I think they've got a good set of circuits coming up and I anticipate or just continue to be really close between us. Just got to be hopeful of some good races."
With the remaining tracks expected to favor Red Bull, it will perhaps be in Mercedes’ best interests to incur the engine penalty at the Turkish Grand Prix. It’s also important to note that this year has a 22 race schedule, the longest in Formula 1 history with no increase in components allowance compared to previous seasons. Hamilton switched to his 3rd and final penalty free engine at the Belgian Grand Prix and lost one of his older engines at a practice session during the Dutch Grand Prix, which means that if Mercedes are serious about a title charge, it is likely that a fourth engine is on the cards.
However, with Hamilton having done well at the Turkish Grand Prix last season, Toto Wolff might opt for a different race to incur an engine penalty where Mercedes would be at a disadvantage anyway, a strategy that was also employed by Red Bull during the Russian Grand Prix. According to F1 regulations, each team can have 3 internal combustion engines, 3 MGU-H, 3 MGU-K, 3 turbo-chargers, 2 energy stores and 2 control electronics. As things stand, Hamilton is the only racing driver compared to Verstappen, Bottas and Perez who has stayed within the component limit but that may change at the Turkish Grand Prix.
The Turkish Grand Prix will be held on Sunday, 10th October from 5:30 pm IST.
Formula 1 calendar adds the Qatar Grand Prix with a 10 year agreement in place
(Motorsport news) The maiden Qatar Grand Prix is set to take place on November 21st at the Losail International Circuit and the country will now have a permanent place in the Formula 1 calendar from 2023.
With the Formula 1 season heating up as Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen’s pursuit for the Drivers Championship becomes more intense than ever before, Doha will be the venue which will fill the spot vacant after the Australian Grand Prix’s cancellation and is first of the three venues in the Middle East to finish the season. The Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will take place on December 3rd and 10th respectively.
Formula 1 President and CEO Stefano Domenicali had this to say upon the confirmation of a 10 year agreement “We are very pleased to welcome Qatar to the Formula 1 calendar this season and for the longer term from 2023. We have shown that we can continue to adapt and there is huge interest in our sport and the hope from many locations to have a Grand Prix. The huge effort from all the teams, F1 and the FIA has made it possible to deliver a 22-race calendar, something that is very impressive during a challenging year and something we can all be proud of."
The country has a longstanding history of hosting MotoGP, being an integral part of their calendar since 2004. Qatar will also be hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022, a year before the 10 year agreement will begin with Formula 1. A statement from Formula 1 said “There was a strong will from Qatar to be helpful to F1, and in the course of this process, the vision for a longer partnership was discussed and agreed for 10 years.
"The step from the gesture to be helpful to F1 in 2021 to a long term strategy was short and simple and the vision for F1 to be the showcase for Qatar after the FIFA World Cup in 2022 was the driving force behind this long term agreement. As part of the longer-term deal, discussions will continue regarding the location for the Grand Prix from 2023 with further details to be provided at a later time."