Norris achieves his first pole position for McLaren at Sochi

After scoring his best result in the previous race at Monza with second, Lando Norris achieved his first pole position at the Russian Grand Prix. The late, changing conditions in wet-to-dry qualifying caught out Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton.

The McLaren driver will be joined on the front row by his good friend, Carlos Sainz, while George Russell continues to impressive with a solid third for Williams. The Mercedes drivers will line up fourth and seventh, with Hamilton ahead of practice pacesetter Valtteri Bottas.

After FP3 was cancelled by torrential rain in the morning at Sochi, qualifying was able to take as the rain eased ahead of the session’s scheduled starting time.

In the first two segments, which Hamilton came out on top quickest, the track remained wet enough for intermediates to be used throughout, but a dry line had just about emerged when Q3 began.

The shootout runners initially all headed out on the inters, with Hamilton posting the fastest time on that compound at one minute, 44.050 seconds and Norris slotting in just behind as the drivers completed their banker laps.

Russell and Williams were the first to commit to slicks, but did not post times that threatened those set on inters on until right at the end of Q3.

By this point all the other top ten runners had switched to the softs as well, but when Mercedes called Hamilton – who was set to improve his personal best on the inters before backing off to pit – and Bottas in, there was drama when the world champion tapped the wall coming through the tight pit entry lane inside the final corner.

Hamilton’s front wing had to be changed and his suspension checked, with Mercedes pushing him out of the way so Valtteri’s tyres could be changed and the Finn wasn’t unduly held up.

But that left both Black Arrows drivers with little time to build the necessary tyre temperature and they could not match the improvements made by the drivers that had switched to slicks earlier.

Hamilton then spun at Turn 16 on his solo flying lap on the softs, which meant he was shuffled down by the top three.

Sainz initially claimed provisional pole with a one minute, 42.510 seconds, but Norris beat him in the second and third sectors to claim a first Formula 1 career pole on a one minute, 41.993 seconds.

Russell finally found enough time to leap up from P10 to slot in ahead of his future Mercedes teammate, with Daniel Ricciardo taking fifth behind Hamilton.

Then came Fernando Alonso and Bottas, with Lance Stroll, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon rounding out the top ten.

Ricciardo and Stroll have been called to see the stewards after qualifying to investigate an incident between the pair in Q1.

At the end of Q2, Williams pitting Russell to take a fourth set of inters (since the start of qualifying) paid off as he was able to set a series of personal bests that meant he jumped into the top ten with his final lap in the middle segment.

This knocked out Sebastian Vettel, who was not on a flying lap when the chequered flag came out, as he missed the cut behind Sainz by 0.052 seconds.

Then came the AlphaTauri pair Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda, with the former equalling his worst ‘normal’ qualifying position of the season in P12.

Nicholas Latifi had been given a fourth new engine of the season ahead of qualifying after a pneumatic problem was discovered on his previous power unit after Friday practice, which means he will join Charles Leclerc and Verstappen in starting at the rear of the field.

That meant that after progressing from Q1 along with Leclerc, Latifi only came out to complete two sectors early in the Q2 – and then again at the end of the session – and pitted without setting a time.

This means he will start the race ahead of Leclerc, who did not come out at all in Q2.

In Q1, Gasly headed a long queue of cars ready to hit the track as soon as the session began, the teams keen to get early times on the board in case the rain returned, with Alonso the only driver sent out on the full wets.

The times tumbled by six seconds as the track dried throughout the opening segment, which Verstappen did not take full part in considering he is also set to start at the back of the grid thanks to his engine change penalty.

The Red Bull driver emerged to complete two sectors on a single exploratory lap, at the end of which he returned to the pits and climbed out.

The session, which featured two spins – one for Perez late-on at Turn 2 and one for Antonio Giovinazzi coming out of Turn 16 just in front of Leclerc in the early stages – ended with the majority of the midfield runners pitting ahead of the closing minutes to take fresh inters.

This combined with the drying track to mean the times continued to get quicker, with all the eliminated runners – bar Giovinazzi who had backed out by this stage – setting personal bests on their final flying laps at the chequered flag.

Kimi Raikkonen was knocked out in 16th ahead of Mick Schumacher and Giovinazzi, with Nikita Mazepin the slowest of the runners to set a time – his personal best nearly four seconds slower than his Haas teammate.

So a brilliant top 3 with Lando Norris scoring his first pole position in Formula 1. With Carlos Sainz taking an excellent second, lining up alongside his good friend on the front row. Future Mercedes star George Russell qualified in P3 ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who got caught out in the changeable conditions.

As for the championship leader, Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver will start last following power unit changes and a grid penalty after his collision with Hamilton at Monza. Roll on race day at Sochi after an exciting qualifying session.

Russian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:41.993
2 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:42.510
3 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:42.983
4 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:44.050
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:44.156
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:44.204
7 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:44.710
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:44.956
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:45.337
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:45.865
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:46.573
12 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:46.641
13 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:46.751
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes No time
15 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:49.586
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:49.830
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:51.023
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:53.764
19 Charles Leclerc Ferrari No time
20 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda No time

McLaren takes 1-2 at Monza with Ricciardo victorious

Daniel Ricciardo won Formula 1’s 2021 Italian Grand Prix in a dramatic and controversial race at Monza as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton clashed twice and both retired.

The honey badger led home his McLaren teammate Lando Norris to take a fantastic 1-2, with Valtteri Bottas ending up in third position after making excellent progress up the order in the race’s opening half after starting last and then capitalising on the chaos that followed the incident that eliminated Verstappen and Hamilton.

That happened at the very end of the race’s pitstop stage, with the Mercedes driver coming out of the pits and trying to get back on terms with Norris, who had stopped a lap earlier, in their fight over third.

But Verstappen, the race’s polesitter and only behind Hamilton thanks to his pitstop going wrong, shot alongside the side of his title rival on the approach to the first chicane.

They went side-by-side past the Rettifilo chicane’s first apex and then with Verstappen ending up over the big kerbs leading to the second he was fired into Hamilton’s side – the Mercedes still close alongside.

Then contact put Verstappen over Hamilton’s rear wing, engine cover, roll hoop and halo, with both cars trapped in the gravel on the chicane’s outside – the Red Bull stranded on top of the front of the Mercedes.

It was a scary-looking crash with the Red Bull hitting the halo on Hamilton’s Mercedes. This is the second time that Max and Lewis had a coming together at Monza, with the first happening on the opening lap. This time, both championship contenders are out of the race.

Both were therefore out and the safety car called, which set-up a thrilling second half of the Italian Grand Prix.

At the start, Verstappen and Ricciardo leapt off the line together, but the McLaren’s acceleration was better and Ricciardo was able to pull alongside his former teammate on the run to the first corner.

With Ricciardo on the inside line he easily seized first position and pulled clear, with Hamilton, alone of the leaders to start on hard tyres and not mediums going around the outside of Norris exiting the second part of the Rettifilo chicane.

As Ricciardo led the pack to the della Roggia chicane, Hamilton shot alongside Verstappen and the pair clashed between the sequence’s two apexes – the title rivals making side-on wheel-to-wheel contact.

Hamilton therefore jumped across the kerbs to cut the second apex, which cost him momentum and allowing Norris to get back ahead into third on the approach to the first Lesmo.

The race was then briefly interrupted by a virtual safety car period, called to allow debris to be cleared from a shunt involving Carlos Sainz and Antonio Giovinazzi.

The latter was attacking Charles Leclerc for fourth into the della Roggia, but he too cut the second apex after being edged out of a move and as he rejoined the track he came across the following Sainz’s bow and was speared into the wall on the outside with the Ferrari left with no room in an incident that wiped off Giovinazzi’s front wing and dropped him to last, and for which he was doubly punished with a five-second time addition from the stewards.

The virtual safety car ended on the second lap at the end of which Ricciardo led by 1.2s over Verstappen, who then set a fastest lap to make sure he was within DRS range when the system was activated for the start of lap four of 53.

The Red Bull was able to stay within a second but could not get any closer for the next phase of the race, as the two leaders pulled clear of Norris, who was under similar intense pressure from Hamilton.

As Ricciardo and Verstappen lapped more regularly in the mid-high one minute, 26 seconds compared to Norris, the McLaren driver gradually fell back from the rear of the Red Bull – his pace also edging Hamilton back towards Leclerc.

By lap 20, Ricciardo, still only 0.9 seconds in front of Verstappen, was six seconds clear of his teammate, as McLaren and Red Bull considered when would be best to come in and get rid of the mediums their drivers were struggling to keep alive without getting stuck behind traffic in the chasing pack.

As the first stint wore on, Verstappen reported similar struggles with his rear tyres to Ricciardo, and locked up on lap 21 on the approach to the first corner – the championship leader sliding past the apex and bumping over the high kerbs behind the second apex.

That meant Ricciardo’s lead grew to 1.4 seconds and he came in at the end of the following lap to switch to the hards.

Red Bull called Verstappen in immediately afterwards on lap 23, but an 11.1 seconds stop thanks to a slow right-front change meant he had no chance of taking the lead.

The big danger for Ricciardo was suddenly from Hamilton, as he had passed Norris with a bold move to the outside of the della Roggia chicane on lap 24, but that threat ended when the Mercedes driver pitted at the end of the next tour and emerged into the crash with Verstappen.

The race was neutralised by the safety car for the next six laps, with its intervention meaning Leclerc and the chasing pack could pit and gain ground on the McLarens.

The order at the restart on lap 31 was Ricciardo, Leclerc, Norris, Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz Jr and Valtteri Bottas – who had been making steady progress up the order from last on the grid thanks to his pre-Friday-qualifying engine change.

Bottas was able to get by slower rivals in a way Hamilton had struggled to against Norris in the early phase of the race and had come in during the safety car to change the hards he had started on for mediums.

Ricciardo dropped Leclerc at the restart, with Norris battling the Ferrari into the Rettifilo chicane, then getting by with a stunning blast to the inside of the Curva Grande and chasing after his teammate.

Leclerc was soon overcome by Perez – controversially when the Red Bull bumped over the kerbs at the second chicane’s second apex after his move around the outside did not come off – then Bottas, which took the Mercedes driver two attempts as Leclerc cut the first chicane on lap 33, before giving the place back then blasting by on the run to the second chicane with a handy slipstream.

Norris was pressuring Ricciardo up front, with Bottas finally passing Leclerc at the first corner a lap after his first attack had failed, urging McLaren to tell his teammate to up his pace.

Ricciardo did so under orders to show his ultimate pace on the hards to the finish, which brought up into the high one minute, 25 seconds Norris had been able to reach in the phase immediately after the safety car, with Bottas the biggest threat once Perez was handed a five-second time addition for the incident at the second chicane with Leclerc.

But as the McLarens set about pulling away, Bottas’s charge stalled behind Perez – a move around the outside of the della Roggia chicane’s first apex failing just when it looked like the Finn was ahead as he lost momentum exiting the second apex and the Red Bull moved back ahead.

Over the remaining 20 laps, Ricciardo’s increased pace pulled him gradually clear of Norris, who was told “It’s best for us where you are” after he asked McLaren if the current order was its preference.

Norris was out of DRS threat for the closing stages, with Perez likewise not in a position to threaten McLaren’s 1-2 – even as the pack negotiated a second VSC phase when Nikita Mazepin’s Haas lost drive and pulled over on the outside of the Ascari chicane on lap 43.

Compared to the middle third of the race, the final phase was much calmer, with Ricciardo coming home to take a first win since Monaco 2018 by 1.7 seconds, and for good measure setting the fastest lap of the race on the last lap.

Bottas was bumped up to third by Perez’s penalty as he could not find a way by before the finish, with the Checo ending up down in fifth behind Leclerc – but just ahead of Sainz.

Lance Stroll was seventh but faces a post-race investigation for possibly failing to slow for yellow flags, with Fernando Alonso eighth.

George Russell finished ninth ahead of Esteban Ocon – who earlier in the race had picked up a five-second time addition served at his stop for clashing with Sebastian Vettel (P12) at the second chicane.

Yuki Tsunoda did not start the race due to a brake problem, with his teammate Pierre Gasly retiring early after going through pre-start drama on the laps to the grid.

So congratulations to McLaren and Daniel Ricciardo in winning the Italian Grand Prix. What a fantastic result for the honey badger and his first win for a new team after his success with Red Bull many years ago. Kudos to his teammate Lando Norris in taking second position, giving the team a brilliant 1-2 finish.

Italian Grand Prix, race results:

1 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:21:54.365
2 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1.747
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 4.921
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 7.309
5 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 8.723
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 10.535
7 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 15.804
8 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 17.201
9 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 19.742
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 20.868
11 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 23.743
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 24.621
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 27.216
14 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 29.769
15 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 51.088
– Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari DNF
– Lewis Hamilton Mercedes DNF
– Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda DNF
– Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda DNF
– Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda DNF

Bottas wins sprint qualifying race and yet Verstappen is on pole

Valtteri Bottas won Formula 1’s second sprint qualifying race at Monza, finishing ahead of Max Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton was only fifth after making a poor start from alongside Bottas.

Daniel Ricciardo took third for McLaren ahead of his teammate Lando Norris, who kept Hamilton at bay for the duration of the 18-lap race, which was disrupted by a first-lap crash for last year’s winner Pierre Gasly.

The result means Verstappen will start Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix from the front of the grid, with Ricciardo alongside him on the front row, as Bottas will drop to the rear of the field for taking a fresh power unit before Friday evening qualifying.

At the start, Bottas led easily away from pole, chased by Verstappen, as Hamilton’s slow getaway meant he was forced to defend against Lando’s run to the inside of the first corner.

The defending world champion was then swamped by Ricciardo and Gasly on his left-hand side and as the pack closed together for the first corners Hamilton was squeezed behind the AlphaTauri and Norris on his right to drop to fifth by Turn 2’s exit.

As Bottas, Verstappen and Ricciardo ran clear through the long Curve Grande, Gasly, who had briefly tagged the McLaren’s left-rear and damaged his front wing as a result, shot off into the gravel when his wing broke apart and went underneath his front wheels.

Gasly skated across the gravel on the outside and crashed into the barriers, bouncing back into the gravel before coming to a stop where the Frenchman climbed out.

The incident meant the safety car was called – just after a clash between Yuki Tsunoda and Robert Kubica between the two apexes of the della Roggia chicane spun the latter around – as Gasly’s car was recovered.

The race restarted on lap four of 18, with Bottas romping clear to a 1.6 seconds lead over Verstappen, with Hamilton chasing by a pair of McLarens – both on the soft tyres versus the mediums on the two leaders and the second Mercedes.

As Norris held Hamilton at bay, even as DRS was activated at the start of lap six, Ricciardo quickly fell away from Bottas and Verstappen.

The leaders were the only drivers able to lap in the one minute, 23 seconds and by lap 10 they were over five seconds clear of Ricciardo.

Bottas and Verstappen exchanged fastest laps, but the Mercedes’ advantage never looked under threat as the gap fluctuated towards and then back from the two-second mark approaching the two-thirds-completed mark.

The leading duo continued to pull away from Ricciardo over the rest of the race, with Bottas in command up front – eventually winning by 2.3 seconds.

Ricciardo came home 14.5 seconds behind the winner, with Norris defying Hamilton, who at times was sliding around dramatically in his countryman’s wake, to the flag, where Hamilton ended up 20-seconds behind his victorious teammate.

Charles Leclerc led home his Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz in sixth and seventh – the former recovering from feeling unwell at the end of FP2 to take the start of the sprint race from eighth, where he climbed from in the first lap melee at the opening turns.

Sainz, who’s Ferrari had been hastily rebuilt after his heavy FP2 crash at Ascari, came home where he started and ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi.

The Alfa Romeo driver held off the charging Sergio Perez to the finish, with the Red Bull driver involved in the race’s other main flashpoint – his attempts to pass Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll on lap nine.

After attacking to the outside of Turn 1, Perez cut across the raised kerbs in the runoff beyond and stayed ahead as the pair raced towards Curve Grande.

Red Bull ordered him to give the place back, which he did approaching Ascari on the same lap, and on the next tour Perez pulled off a similar move at Turn 1 to get in front of Stroll and then start his ultimately fruitless pursuit of Giovinazzi.

Stroll finished P10 ahead of Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.

Tsunoda pitted after his clash with Kubica and recovered back up the order to finish P16 with Kimi Raikkonen’s temporary replacement at Alfa Romeo coming home between the Haas cars in P18, as Gasly was the race’s only retirement.

Italian Grand Prix, sprint qualifying results:

1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 27:54.078
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 2.325
3 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 14.534
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 18.835
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 20.011
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 23.442
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 27.952
8 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 31.089
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 31.680
10 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 38.671
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 39.795
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 41.177
13 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 43.373
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 45.977
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 46.821
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 49.977
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:02.599
18 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:05.096
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:06.154
20 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda DNF

Bottas is quickest in Monza qualifying

Valtteri Bottas will start Formula 1’s sprint qualifying race at Monza from first position ahead of his teammate Lewis Hamilton, as Mercedes dominated Friday evening qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s championship rival Max Verstappen qualified third for the sprint race, which will set Sunday’s main race grid, but finished 0.411 seconds adrift of Bottas, who was running a newly fitted fresh power unit for the Q1-Q2-Q3 session.

After the first runs in Q3, it was Hamilton who led the way with a one minute, 19.949 seconds, where Verstappen trailed in second just 0.17 seconds adrift.

But although Hamilton followed Bottas around for the final flying lap – the Mercedes cars had not given each other tow in the earlier segments – Valtteri gained ground throughout.

Bottas posted purple sectors in opening two thirds of the Monza lap and roared around to post a time with one minute, 19.555 seconds, as Hamilton improved on his own personal best, but wound up 0.096 seconds adrift.

After taking a fourth engine of 2021, Bottas will serve a grid penalty for Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix, with the sanction only applying once Saturday’s sprint qualifying race has finished.

Verstappen had been significantly adrift of the Mercedes pair earlier in qualifying, but his pace on the first Q3 lap raised hopes of a Red Bull challenge.

But despite running close behind teammate Sergio Perez, who qualified down in ninth, Verstappen could not set a personal best on his final effort in any sector.

Lando Norris was just 0.065 seconds behind Hamilton after the first Q3 runs and although he found time on the second efforts – both times Norris followed teammate Daniel Ricciardo – Lando finished 0.434 seconds behind Valtteri’s best.

Ricciardo took fifth, along with the fastest time in the final sector, while Pierre Gasly was sixth for AlphaTauri.

Carlos Sainz made a late improvement to jump ahead of Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc in Q3, with Leclerc grappling with an intermittent engine braking problem throughout Q1 and Q2.

Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi made it through to Q3 for the second successive race, this time on home soil, with the Italian driver rounding out the top ten.

Q2, topped by Hamilton, ended with a flurry of fast times, which followed a pitlane scramble to get back onto the track ahead of the final runs.

The Aston Martin cars appeared be released into the path of the Mercedes drivers and Verstappen, with Sebastian Vettel ending up very close to Hamilton’s right-side wheels as he went around an Aston mechanic that had to hold Lance Stroll before a path was cleared.

Ocon also appeared from the Alpine garage as the pack ran down the pitlane, with Leclerc also getting out ahead and the entire incident set to be investigated after qualifying.

All five drivers that were knocked out in Q2 set personal best times on their final fliers, with the pack backing off ahead of the Parabolica but all the drivers getting through in time to complete a final lap.

Vettel was vocally frustrated to be knocked out in P11 ahead of Stroll, with the Astons followed by Alpine duo Fernando Alonso and Ocon.

George Russell qualified P15 for Williams, after only making it through to Q2 after Yuki Tsunoda lost his Q1 personal best for running too wide out of the final corner on his last lap.

Traffic was a major issue in Q1, with Verstappen and Gasly particularly aggrieved to come across cars at the della Roggia chicane and the Ascari chicane in separate incidents midway through the opening segment, the former arriving with the Alpine cars and Stroll going slowly in front of him, while the latter had to back out of a lap after coming across Leclerc going slowly through Ascari’s first apex.

A massive pack of cars toured slowly down the back straight in the final seconds before the chequered flag came out, but all were able to get in one final effort.

Improvements from Alonso, Ocon and Tsunoda shuffled the Williams drivers down the order and both seemingly out.

Russell nearly paid the price for not setting a personal best on his final Q1 flier, something Latifi also did not do as he ended up behind Tsunoda before the AlphaTauri lost its final time, while Mick Schumacher, Robert Kubica and Nikita Mazepin saved their best for last.

But personal bests right at the end of Q1 could not get them any higher up the order than P18, P19 and P20, with Tsunoda’s second fastest time good enough for P17.

Mazepin faces a post-qualifying investigation for appearing to impede Kubica at the first Lesmo ahead of the final runs, but will not face an investigation for an incident where he was called out of his garage only narrowly in front of Leclerc and Sainz during Q1’s early stages.

So congratulations Valtteri Bottas with this P1. This is not pole position for the Italian Grand Prix due to the format change. This is a top slot for the sprint, qualifying race on Saturday. Winning this quick race will be the official pole position at Monza.

Italian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:19.555
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:19.651
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:19.966
4 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.989
5 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.995
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:20.260
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:20.462
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:20.510
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:20.611
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:20.808
11 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:20.913
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:21.020
13 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:21.069
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:21.103
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:21.392
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:21.925
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:21.973
18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:22.248
19 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:22.530
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:22.716

Verstappen takes dream victory at Zandvoort

Max Vestappen achieved a dream result in front of the Orange Army with a commanding race win at Zandvoort. The Red Bull driver finished ahead of Lewis Hamilton and retakes the championship lead.

The only major threat to Verstappen’s race arrived after his first pitstop when he resumed behind Valtteri Bottas, but the Mercedes driver was soon cleared with the aid of DRS.

As Hamilton worked around an alternative strategy, which put him on the quicker medium tyres but for a lengthy stint, Verstappen held a 2.5 seconds lead over his title rival, before a late Hamilton pitstop ensured Verstappen seized an eventual victory by 20.9 seconds.

Verstappen perfected his start from the left side of the grid to pull cleanly across in front of Hamilton, who was never close enough to pose a considerable threat into Turn 1 to pass.

That allowed Verstappen to sweep well clear of the chasing Mercedes, with Bottas launching noticeably slower compared to his teammate.

The Red Bull driver extracted a 1.7 seconds advantage come the end of the first lap of 72, which he extended to 2.3 seconds next time around.

At the start, Fernando Alonso soon demoted Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon. Although the Hungarian Grand Prix winner enjoyed the inside line into Turn 1, the pair squeezed through the next kink before Alonso barrelled around the outside of Turn 3 on the high line to secure seventh.

Antonio Giovinazzi was also passed by the two-time champion, having to lift in his Alfa Romeo when he was nosed onto the grass by Carlos Sainz before brushing the rear of Alonso, whose car was on settled over the bumps on the run to Turn 6.

A procession then set in, as Verstappen’s cushion out front peaked at 3.2 seconds on lap 8 before Hamilton was switched over to a two-stop strategy and began to push on his soft tyres.

He was initially 0.4 seconds a lap quicker aboard his Mercedes to bring the gap down to 2.8 seconds, but the difference then stabilised at 2.9 seconds as Verstappen was instructed to respond to match Hamilton’s pace.

Hamilton was called in to pit on lap 21, switching from softs to mediums, but was delayed with a sluggish change of the front-right Pirelli and he resumed in third position, 13 seconds behind Bottas.

Red Bull responded to the Mercedes threat by pitting Verstappen a lap later, also taking the mediums, but a slick service gained him a second and he rejoined with a 10 seconds deficit to Bottas.

Hamilton grabbed fastest lap as the pair closed to Bottas, with the Mercedes driver struggling on his softs but with the potential to delay Verstappen under the instruction to defend “for the race win”.

Verstappen closed to Valtteri’s rear on lap 30, and when the Mercedes driver ran wide at Turn 11, Verstappen could close and pounce with DRS for the lead down the main straight.

Bottas immediately moved aside at Turn 2 to give Hamilton second place, with the seven-time champion 1.5 seconds adrift of Verstappen.

Mercedes called Bottas into the pits on lap 32 for a set of mediums before he was delayed by a second at Turn 3 when he had to thread between the wall and the spinning Aston Martin of a lapped Sebastian Vettel.

Hamilton made his second stop on lap 40, switching for another set of scrubbed mediums, rejoining 2.3 seconds ahead of his teammate before Verstappen again stopped a lap later.

Red Bull shifted his strategy, putting him on the slower hard compound, and he returned to the circuit with a 2.9 seconds over Hamilton.

From there, the Mercedes driver complained periodically about the health of his tyres and the call to pit early, while Verstappen established a solid lead of 3 seconds.

Bottas was furthered delayed by a slow 5 seconds late precautionary stop with five laps to go that came in response to a vibration. However, it gave him a chance to chase fastest lap.

Bottas claimed that by eight tenths, which duly forced Hamilton to pit on the penultimate tour for a charge on soft tyres.

That ensured Verstappen converted his seventh win of the season by 20.9 seconds over Hamilton as the Red Bull driver retook the drivers’ standings lead.

Hamilton was able to snare a point for fastest lap, wresting back the title with a last-gasp one minute, 11.097 seconds that was a second quicker than Bottas’ previous benchmark.

Gasly endured a lonely race to maintain fourth on the grid to the flag, after Bottas completed the podium, while Leclerc headed the Ferrari attack on hard tyres to nail fifth position.

Alonso managed to escape team orders that might have called him to fall behind Ocon, despite the protests of his teammate, as the double champion pounced late on Sainz to secure sixth position.

Perez, who had started from the pitlane following the instalment of a fourth power unit this season, arrived in eighth after a late pass around the outside of Turn 1 on Lando Norris.

Perez’s race was a slow burner after he suffered a vibration on his hard tyres to force an early switch to mediums. But the Red Bull driver was able to use the undercut to good effect before passing Daniel Ricciardo to set up the late dice with Norris.

Ocon eventually slipped to ninth ahead of the McLarens, while Lance Stroll started where he finished in 12th and teammate Vettel recovered from his early spin to P13.

A puncture dropped Alfa qualifying star Giovinazzi from seventh to P14 ahead of stand-in teammate Robert Kubica.

Behind Nicholas Latifi in 16th, George Russell endured a late retirement to join Yuki Tsunoda (power loss) and Nikita Mazepin (hydraulics) on the sidelines.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen by winning with a commanding performance at Zandvoort. The strong crowd support loved every moment and it was the perfect result for Red Bull. By winning the Dutch Grand Prix, Max now retakes the championship lead.

Dutch Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:30:05.395
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +20.932s
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +56.460s
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +1 lap
7 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +1 lap
8 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda +1 lap
9 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
10 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes +2 laps
13 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +2 laps
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +2 laps
15 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +2 laps
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +2 laps
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes DNF
18 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +3 laps
19 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda DNF
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari DNF

Verstappen on pole for home race. Just 0.038s ahead of Hamilton

The Orange Army at Zandvoort loved this! Max Verstappen is on pole position for his home race, beating his title rival Lewis Hamilton with a tiny margin of 0.038 seconds.

The Red Bull Racing driver used his second and final run in Q3 to deliver a lap time of one minute, 08.885 seconds at Zandvoort as Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton crossed the line behind Verstappen.

Bottas was next to complete his flying lap but could only manage a time of one minute, 09.222 seconds to fall over three tenths adrift, while Mercedes teammate Hamilton split the difference.

The seven-time champion completed a time of one minute, 08.923 seconds to join Verstappen as the only other driver to dip under the one minute, 09 seconds barrier, but he would end up a competitive 0.03 seconds.

Verstappen had initially been a full eight tenths clear after the first runs in the final portion of qualifying, his one minute, 09.702 seconds pulling clear of Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso.

Bottas managed to beat the Alpines for provisional second before Hamilton nipped ahead of his teammate by 0.04 seconds, but was still seven tenths adrift of FP3 pacesetter Verstappen.

Verstappen swiftly improved down to a one minute, 08.923 seconds on his next flying lap before teeing up his ultimate run for pole position.

Pierre Gasly guided his AlphaTauri to a fine fourth place, his final effort falling shy of Bottas by 0.25 seconds as he completed the second row of the grid.

Charles Leclerc led an all-Ferrari third row as he pipped stablemate Carlos Sainz, resuming after a sizeable shunt in final practice, by just one hundredth of a second.

Antonio Giovinazzi progressed soundly into Q3 and snared seventh as the lead Alfa Romeo, while Ocon squeezed ahead of Alonso and McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo completed the top ten.

Russell, after ending Q1 in P11 and while running in the same position in Q2, brought out a red flag when he suffered from a snap of oversteer on the entry into the final corner.

Although he careered through the gravel as he span, and the right-rear biffed into the outside Tecpro barrier, he was able to immediately rejoin the track and recover the car to the pits.

The Williams driver, who scored a maiden podium at Spa, had set personal best first and second sectors but would not take part in the remainder of the session.

A potential decline down the order was prevented by his teammate Nicholas Latifi creating a second red flag shortly after Q2 resumed following the 10-minute delay.

Latifi, sitting in P14, appeared to kiss the grass with his front-left wheel as he reached the entry of the medium-speed Turn 8 right-hander.

As he passed a slowing Hamilton, who was positioned off-line on the inside, Latifi spun across the gravel and headed side-on into the exit barrier with three minutes to go.

The session would not be resumed, which left Verstappen’s one minute, 09.071 seconds to head Leclerc by four tenths as Gasly ran to third on a one minute, 09.541 seconds ahead of Hamilton and Bottas by 0.2 seconds.

All drivers stuck to the softest C3 Pirelli tyre compound, which they will use for the race start, to reduce the risk of being eliminated by the considerable track evolution.

With no further times, Russell was the first driver to be eliminated, but held 11th, as Stroll and 13th-placed Norris could not complete their flying laps to fight their way into the top ten.

AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda rounded out the top 15.

Leclerc had set the pace in Q1, his one minute, 09.829 seconds effort creating a two-tenth cushion over teammate Sainz, while Verstappen’s strong early banker of one minute, 10.036 seconds kept him safe in third.

But his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel were the major casualties of the opening 18-minute leg, as both were eliminated in part due to traffic on their prep laps.

Late improvements for Lance Stroll and Daniel Ricciardo left Vettel prey, and the Aston Martin driver had to abort his final flying lap when he came across the slow Haas cars.

Nikita Mazepin was on a cool-down lap on the run to Turn 13 and he nipped past his slower teammate Mick Schumacher when Mazepin was informed of Vettel’s approach.

Mazepin had let Schumacher back past and then jumped on the accelerator and pulled to the inside, leading both cars to block Vettel, who would classify P17 as a result.

The late improvements of Ricciardo, Ocon and Stroll also meant Perez was bumped out at the first opportunity, his one minute, 10.530 seconds lap missing the cut off by 0.07 seconds behind Tsunoda.

As Giovinazzi ended Q1 fourth fastest, his stand-in teammate Robert Kubica was P18 as he replaced Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo after the Finn’s positive COVID test.

Kubica, as in FP3, shipped several tenths into Turn 1 and struggled with tyre temperatures on his final run.

Schumacher found 0.5 seconds over Mazepin as the pair of Haas machines formed the back row of the grid. Both drivers have been summoned by the stewards.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing in securing pole position at Zandvoort. Overtaking is going to be tricky as the circuit is narrow so getting a top grid slot in qualifying is half the battle won. Can Lewis Hamilton spoil the Orange Army party on Sunday? Let’s wait and see.

Dutch Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:08.885
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:08.923
3 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:09.222
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:09.478
5 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:09.527
6 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:09.537
7 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:09.590
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:09.933
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:09.956
10 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:10.166
11 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:10.332
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:10.367
13 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:10.406
14 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:11.161
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:11.314
16 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:10.530
17 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:10.731
18 Robert Kubica Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:11.301
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:11.387
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:11.875

Verstappen declared the winner after two laps behind the safety car

This will go down in Formula 1’s history as the shortest race with just two laps behind the safety car with Max Verstappen declared the winner of the Belgian Gand Prix in a heavily-rain affected race at Spa-Francorchamps.

Following a rain-affected qualifying on Saturday, showers continued to hit the Spa region throughout Sunday in the build-up to the start.

Race control announced shortly before the planned race start at 1500 local time that formation laps would be completed behind the safety car, and pushed the start of this out to 1525.

The field completed two full formation laps, but with most of the drivers reporting poor visibility and a lack of grip, the race was red- flagged at 1530 and all drivers returned to the pit lane.

A lengthy delay followed, but with the rain showing no sign of abating and the timer ticking down from the start of the three-hour window at 1500, the chances of running a race to award full points grew slim.

With one hour remaining on the clock at 1700, the race stewards temporarily stopped the race, freezing the clock to try and wait for a break in the weather.

The rain eased slightly so the field could return to the track behind the safety car at 1817, passing the green light at pit exit, and completed two full laps to ensure the race was official and a classification could be issued.

During the third lap behind the safety car, race control red-flagged the race again, prompting the drivers to return to the pitlane, before it was officially declared as the final result at 1844.

It means Verstappen officially wins the Belgian Grand Prix for Red Bull Racing, scoring 12.5 points for the victory, while George Russell scored his first Formula 1 podium in second position for Williams, scoring nine points.

Verstappen’s title rival, Lewis Hamilton, completed the podium in third place, picking up 7.5 points.

It is the first Formula 1 race to run to half points since the 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix, and the shortest race in the history of the sport to have an official classification. The previous low was 14 laps completed at the 1991 Australian Grand Prix.

The result means that Hamilton’s lead at the top of the drivers’ championship has been cut to just three points ahead of next weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort.

Daniel Ricciardo was classified in fourth position ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Pierre Gasly, while Hungarian Grand Prix winner Esteban Ocon crossed the line in seventh for Alpine.

Charles Leclerc is recorded as finishing eighth for Ferrari, two places clear of teammate Carlos Sainz, while Nicholas Latifi took ninth, giving Williams back-to-back double-points finishes.

Despite the two laps being completed behind the safety car, Nikita Mazepin is officially awarded the fastest lap of the race – three minutes, 18.016 seconds – but does not receive any bonus point as he finished outside of the top ten.

So a complete farce from race control to find a break in the wet weather. After waiting for over three hours, the ‘race’ was behind the safety car and in the end, it was dangerous and only half points were awarded.

Belgian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 3:27.071
2 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 2.198
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 3.518
4 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 5.951
5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 7.894
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 10.275
7 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 11.791
8 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 13.217
9 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 15.634
10 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 16.961
11 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 20.259
12 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 21.946
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 23.530
14 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 26.085
15 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 28.781
16 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 30.900
17 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 32.687
18 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 34.838
19 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 36.322
20 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 38.690

Verstappen takes pole position and yet Russell qualifies on the front row with Williams

Max Verstappen will start the Belgian Grand Prix in pole position, beating George Russell to the top spot in a tricky, wet qualifying which was disrupted by a huge Q3 crash for Lando Norris.

Lewis Hamilton completed the top three, with Valtteri Bottas down in eighth position.

Rain intensifying ahead of Q3 meant conditions switched back to the drivers needing full wets, after the intermediates had been the tyres of choice in Q1 and Q2.

Norris, who had set the fastest times in Q1 and Q2, reported some aquaplaning on his Q3 out-lap, where Sebastian Vettel, following shortly just behind the McLaren, called for the session to be stopped.

After Russell had led the pack into the opening laps of the shootout, Norris’s correction to a slight snapped of oversteer through the second part of Eau Rouge sent his car spearing left and into the barriers side-on just before Raidillon and the top of the hill.

The huge impact ripped off two wheels and damaged all four corners of the McLaren, which bounced off the barriers and spun around wildly several times before coming to rest in the run-off beyond Raidillon.

After Vettel had stopped to check Norris was okay, the McLaren driver was able to climb from his car and the session was halted for over 40 minutes as the wreckage was cleared away and the FIA then assessed the conditions to allow for a restart.

When it did, Esteban Ocon and Russell led the pack out on full wets, but they pitted at the end of their out-laps to join the rest of the Q3 runners on the inters.

Hamilton and Bottas therefore set the first timed laps of Q3, with Hamilton leading after the first Q3 runs had been completed with a two minutes, 01.552 seconds, while Verstappen slotted in nearly a second adrift of his title rival at this stage.

On the final runs, Russell, who had only just completed his first timed lap on Q3 and gone ninth fastest, stayed on it for a second successive lap and went even faster by setting two purple sectors.

Russell shot up to provisional pole, while Hamilton, who was following the Mercedes junior, could not beat him and wound by 0.013 seconds adrift.

But Verstappen still had to complete his lap and fastest Q3 time in the middle sector, allied to personal bests in the other two, meant he snuck into pole at the last moment with a 1m59.765s – the only driver to get under the two minutes bracket in the final part of qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo took fourth for McLaren, ahead of Vettel and Pierre Gasly, while Sergio Perez, who had been second fastest once all the drivers had completed their first runs in Q3, took seventh – Perez the only driver of the top nine not to set a personal best on his final Q3 lap.

Bottas took eighth but will start five places further back thanks to his grid penalty for causing the crash at the head of the pack at the first corner of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Ocon ended up in ninth place, with Norris classified ninth but possibly facing a grid drop if he repairs to his car mean taking new restricted components or starting from the pitlane.

In Q2, the story was mainly about the Mercedes drivers having to pit twice to change their inters after initially being sent out on used sets.

This put them out of sync with the rest of the pack and meant they spent most of Q2 at the foot of the times and were sitting down in P11 and P12 ahead of the final runs.

But after coming in to take a second new set of inters for Q2 – their third overall in qualifying – Hamilton and Bottas improved enough to get through safely.

Behind them, Ricciardo’s jump with his final effort in Q2 knocked out Charles Leclerc in P11 – the Ferrari driver paying the price for not bettering his personal best times in sectors two and three on his final lap.

Nicholas Latifi took P12 for Williams – his best Formula 1 qualifying result – after being shuffled back by others also improving late in Q2, but Nicholas did set a personal best on his final lap – as did Fernando Alonso on his way to taking P14.

Either side of the Alpine driver were Carlos Sainz, who pitted at the end of his final timed lap in the middle segment, and Lance Stroll, who missed setting a final Q2 time as he could not complete a late out lap in time.

Like Bottas, Stroll will drop five places on Sunday’s grid for causing the second shunt at the start of the Budapest race last time out.

In Q1, which was delayed by 12 minutes as the FIA assessed how wet the conditions were around the circuit following rain falling ahead of qualifying starting, the Williams drivers led the pack out as the only two drivers running the intermediates.

Although Latifi spun at the Fanges chicane on his first flying lap – going around again on the sodden, puddled-filled grass beyond the sequence – the Williams pair proved that the inters were the tyres to have and the rest of the pack switched from full wets after every driver had completed at least one run.

Russell and Latifi were shuffled down the order as the drivers found time with every lap they completed on the inters, despite the threat of further rain falling.

Although several drivers – including Ricciardo, Alonso and Hungarian Grand Prix winner Ocon were under pressure come the end of Q1 – personal bests on their final runs from Antonio Giovinazzi and Yuki Tsunoda were not enough to get them through.

The Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri drivers were knocked out in P16 and P17 respectively, while Mick Schumacher took 18th for Haas despite not completing his fastest time on his last Q1 lap.

Kimi Raikkonen did produce his best right at the end of the opening segment, but that was only good enough for P19 and ahead of Nikita Mazepin at the rear of the field.

So congratulations to Max Verstappen with pole position and yet it’s Mr Saturday aka George Russell who achieved a front row start in a Williams. Such a fabulous result in qualifying. Hopefully this performance will make Toto Wolff – the head of Mercedes – to sign Russell for next season.

Belgian Grand Prix, qualifying positions:
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:59.765
2 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 2:00.086
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 2:00.099
4 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 2:00.864
5 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 2:00.935
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 2:01.164
7 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 2:02.112
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 2:03.513
9 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes No time
10 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:57.721
11 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:58.056
12 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1:58.137
13 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 2:02.502*
14 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:58.205
15 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 2:02.306
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 2:02.413
17 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 2:03.973
18 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 2:04.452
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 2:04.939
20 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:58.231*

*Five-place grid penalty for causing a collision in the Hungarian Grand Prix

Ocon taking first victory after chaos on opening lap

Esteban Ocon won an incredible Hungarian Grand Prix by beating Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton to score a top result for Alpine.

The first crash at Turn 1 was the major issue in this race and it was caused by Valtteri Bottas, whose mistake sliding into the back of Lando Norris impacted both Red Bull cars and left Max Verstappen battling back to eventually finish the race in P10.

At the initial start, Hamilton and Verstappen made good getaways on the damp track after rain had fallen steadily in the 30 minutes before the start, which meant all the cars lined up on inters, while Bottas dropped down several places leaving the line.

But worse was to come from the Mercedes driver as he appeared to completely misjudge his braking for the first corner, having been passed by Sergio Perez and Lando Norris, with Bottas locking up and sliding straight into the back of the McLaren.

This had two knock-on effects, with Norris sent shunting into Verstappen’s right-hand side, the Red Bull’s right-front wheel somehow staying on, while Bottas, his left-front broken, continued sliding and clattered into Perez on the far outside, with all four sent into the runoff beyond Turn 1.

Bottas retired there while Verstappen led Norris and Perez away, around the debris of a second Turn 1 shunt that was triggered by the out-of-control Lance Stroll going onto the grass on the inside of the right-hander and then careering into Charles Leclerc, who had been set to move up to second behind Hamilton.

Stroll’s error broke his left-front against the Ferrari, which in turn was knocked wide and hit Daniel Ricciardo, who had been edging up Leclerc’s outside – the McLaren sent spinning to the back of the reduced pack.

The debris field at Turn 1 initially led to a safety car being called, under which Red Bull pitted Verstappen, while Esteban Ocon was the main beneficiary of the chaos as he ran second behind Hamilton and ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

Verstappen lost his right barge board as he exited the pits, just before the race was stopped to allowed the track to be cleared and because Perez, whose car was smoking heavily from the hit from Bottas, had stopped on the short straight between Turns 11 and 12 at the start of the final sector.

The field returned to the pits, where Red Bull worked to fix Verstappen’s car, and McLaren had to retire Norris as a result of the damage sustained his hit from Bottas.

After a near 30-minute delay, Hamilton led Ocon, Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Yuki Tsunoda and Nicholas Latifi back to the grid as the top six for a second standing start, where Verstappen would have lined up P13.

But in near-farcical circumstances, Hamilton was the only driver not to come in at the end of the second formation lap – the race’s third lap of 70 – and he took the standing start alone while all the rest came in to swap their inters for medium slick tyres, as the track had dried under sunny skies during the red flag.

Hamilton duly shot down to Turn 1 solo, where Ocon was remarkably led out of the pitlane by George Russell, who had been eighth under the red flag but jumped up the pitlane queue thanks to Williams position at the end of pitlane.

But as Russell came up towards Hamilton as the mediums proved to be much faster than the inters on the rapidly drying track, he was ordered to give back the positions he had gained in the pitlane, which meant Ocon moved into a clear lead when Hamilton stopped for mediums at the end of lap four – the first full racing lap completed in the race.

Over the next five laps, the Alpine driver built up a 1.4-second gap over Vettel, while Latifi held up the pack behind in third, as Verstappen battled Pierre Gasly and Antonio Giovinazzi on the fringes of the top ten – with Hamilton catching the battle after re-joining in 14th and last after his stop.

Ocon continued to run just ahead of Vettel, with the race lead battle soon becoming a two-driver contest as Latifi continued to fall away.

Back in the pack, Verstappen worked his way ahead of Gasly and then chased Schumacher for 10th place for several laps as his damage meant he could not bring Red Bull’s usual pace advantage to bear, and behind Hamilton was also frustrated by the time it took him to pass Giovinazzi and then Gasly.

On lap 14, Verstappen attacked Schumacher at Turn 1 but had to go wide on the exit, and then the Red Bull went around the outside of the long, downhill left of Turn 2, getting ahead on the exit where the two cars briefly touched as they raced side-on racing towards the fast right of Turn 3.

Five laps later, with Ocon now running just over a second ahead of Vettel up front, Mercedes called Hamilton in from behind Gasly in 11th, switching from the mediums to the hards.

His sensational out lap pace meant he jumped ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo, who had been running just up the road, when they came in on the next lap to try and cover Hamilton.

Several rivals, including Russell, pitted shortly afterwards, which aided Hamilton’s path up the order, but he continued to lap much faster than the rest – setting a string of fastest laps between the 20th and 30th laps.

Over this part of the race, Ocon came under severe pressure from Vettel before then edging his lead up again, reaching 2.3s by the halfway mark.

With Verstappen stuck behind Ricciardo as they caught the drivers yet to make first green flag stop – including Schumacher again – Hamilton roared clear and passed Latifi shortly after the Williams pitted from third on lap 23.

Hamilton then surged up to Tsunoda, who had undercut past Latifi by stopping a lap earlier, and passed the AlphaTauri around the outside of the fast left of Turn 4 on lap 32.

Once Hamilton was up to fifth, Ferrari then pitted Sainz, who had requested to be left out when Tsunoda and Latifi came in earlier so he could run in clear air, which he used to carve into the large gap behind Vettel.

That ended Hamilton’s charge, just as the focus switched back to the front of the race when Vettel was called in to go from mediums to hards on lap 36.

A 3.3s stop thanks to a slow left rear change meant that when Ocon came in for hards at the end of the next lap, despite Vettel charging on his out lap as he fired the white-walled rubber up to temperature, the Aston could not get alongside the Alpine as it came out of the pits and headed into Turn 1.

Ocon then resumed lapping around a second ahead of Vettel over the next phase of the race, but Sainz and Hamilton – who was soon complaining about the state of his tyres – were soon only six seconds off the lead as they lapped in the low one minute, 21 seconds and the leaders set high one minute, 21 seconds and low one minute, 22 seconds.

Fernando Alonso cycled through to first when the two leaders pitted, but he came in to make the switch to hards at the end of lap 40.

After this, the race settled down for a time as Hamilton was stymied behind Sainz and Ocon remained in control ahead of Vettel – other than a moment at the start of lap 48 where Vettel came close to contact with the Alpine’s rear as Ocon lapped Antonio Giovinazzi at Turn 1.

The lap before this, Mercedes had called Hamilton for a second green flag stop, putting him back onto the mediums and setting up a thrilling charge for the final third of the race, as he had a 22.6 seconds gap to Ocon to close.

The world champion – much like he did here to win against Verstappen in 2019 – set a fierce pace as he re-joined in clear air behind Alonso and seven laps after he came in, he was under ten seconds off the lead and right with the second Alpine.

On the next tour, lap 55, Alonso locked up lapping Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 1, which gave Hamilton the chance to attack around the outside of Turn 2, where Alonso aggressively held the inside line to remain ahead, and also shrugged off Hamilton’s advances at Turn 4 a few moments later.

The battle raged over the next ten laps, with Hamilton attacking in similar circumstances at Turns 2 and 4 on several occasions, frustrated by Alonso’s fierce defence, all the while his former teammate was closing on Sainz and then running in the Ferrari’s dirty air.

On lap 65, though, Alonso’s defence crumbled when he locked his left-front again at Turn 1 and went deep, which allowed Hamilton run alongside on the exit and then blast past using DRS on the run to Turn 2.

Hamilton then immediately caught Sainz, who resisted the Mercedes driver’s first attack, but could not stop Hamilton moving up to third as they raced down the pit straight on lap 67 while lapping Ricciardo.

Alonso’s stout defence meant Hamilton only caught the leaders right at the end, with Ocon ending his race-long charge ahead of Vettel to win by 1.8 seconds, with Hamilton a further 0.8 seconds adrift.

Gasly took sixth behind Sainz and Ocon after being allowed past Tsunoda approaching the final third, with Tsunoda then spinning at Turn 2 late on, which meant he came home well adrift of his teammate.

Latifi and Russell scored Williams’ first points since 2019 with seventh and eighth – the former closing in on Latifi throughout the second stint after being held up by Schumacher after his sole green-flag stop.

Russell also had to resist Verstappen’s attentions at the end as the Red Bull ended up just 1.1 seconds behind in P10, after he had been pitted with 30 laps to run in a successful bid to get ahead of Ricciardo, who had been holding station ahead since their unsuccessful attempt to stop Hamilton’s undercut.

Verstappen passed Ricciardo with a bold move around the outside of Turn 4 with ten laps remaining and set about closing on Russell to the finish.

Raikkonen – who was given a ten seconds time penalty for being released into Nikita Mazepin’s path when the field piled into the pits on the second formation lap, with the ensuing contact breaking the Haas’s right-front suspension and making him the race’s only other retirement in addition to those eliminated as a result of the Turn 1 chaos – also passed Ricciardo late-on to finish P11.

Schumacher came home P13 ahead of Giovinazzi, who was also penalised ten seconds, this for speeding in the pitlane – the Italian’s gamble to stop for slicks on the first formation lap not paying off because of the red flag.

So a crazy race with so many cars wiping out on the opening lap at Turn 1. This gave the opportunity for Alpine to win and Esteban Ocon resisted the pressure from Sebastian Vettel to take his first victory. Fernando Alonso did the perfect job in playing the team game by holding off Lewis Hamilton too.

Hungarian Grand Prix, race results:

1 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 2:04:43.199
2 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1.859s
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +2.736s
4 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari +15.018s
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +15.651s
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +63.614s
7 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +75.803s
8 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +77.910s
9 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +79.094s
10 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda +80.244s
11 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +1 lap
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
– Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari DNF
– Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes DNF
– Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda DNF
– Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes DNF
– Charles Leclerc Ferrari DNF
– Valtteri Bottas Mercedes DNF

Hamilton heads Mercedes front row at the Hungaroring

Lewis Hamilton heads up a Mercedes front row in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix, with title rival Max Verstappen ending up in third position behind Valtteri Bottas.

The Mercedes and Red Bull cars will head into the race on split tyre strategies after Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez – who missed setting a final Q3 lap at the back of the queue as the Red Bulls trailed behind the slowly touring Mercedes drivers on the final warm-up lap – used the soft tyres to set their best times in Q2, where Hamilton and Bottas got through on the mediums.

After Verstappen had topped Q1 and Q2, Hamilton led the way after the opening runs in Q3, with a one minute, 15.419 seconds, as his title rival was unable to match his best time from the middle of qualifying.

The 0.565 seconds gap Verstappen faced to Hamilton left Bottas with the chance to slot in ahead in second, which he did.

Ahead of the second and final Q3 runs, Verstappen emerged from his garage right behind Hamilton, who drove very slowly down the pitlane and early and then late in the final warm-up tour as he stayed ahead of the Red Bull.

With the clock ticking down as a result of the slow preparation-lap driving, Verstappen only just made it across the line to start a second Q3 flier, while Perez missed out but held onto to fourth in any case.

But the slow warm-up lap tactics backfired for Mercedes in terms of its drivers improving on their second goes, as Bottas, who led Hamilton around, did not go quicker and nor did the world champion.

But while Verstappen did improve to a one minute, 15.840 seconds, it wasn’t enough to get him ahead of either Mercedes car, with Hamilton’s pole secure ahead of his teammate.

Pierre Gasly beat Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc to fifth for AlphaTauri, with Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso eighth and ninth for Alpine.

Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top ten after running an off-set Q3 strategy, completing his one minute, 16.750 seconds on a single run in the middle of the final segment.

In Q2, where Verstappen went quickest after switching to the softs, Sebastian Vettel’s late improvement knocked out Daniel Ricciardo, who’s personal best on his final lap in the middle segment was not enough to get him through to Q3.

Lance Stroll took P12 for Aston Martin to finish ahead of Alfa Romeo pair Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi – who was given a reprimand for impeding Gasly in FP3, while his team was fined €5,000 for the incident where Giovinazzi clipped Stroll’s right-rear while exiting the pitlane in final practice.

The other driver eliminated in Q2 was Carlos Sainz, who lost the rear of his Ferrari running through the final corner on his first timed lap in the opening segment, with the car sliding sideways across the runoff area and hitting the barriers side-on.

He was able to drive away as the session was red flagged, but soon stopped after his front wing broke off and became trapped under the car.

Although Sainz did pull away again after sitting in his car for a few minutes, but he eventually turned the engine off and climbed out, ending Q2 in P15 without a time set, and after Sainz had appeared to impede Gasly late in Q1, with the Ferrari taking to the kerbs at Turn 1 in a bid to get out of the way of the rapidly approaching AlphaTauri.

In Q1, Yuki Tsunoda set a personal best on his final lap in the opening segment but could not improve enough and was eliminated, as was George Russell, who lost his perfect record of escaping Q1 at every race so far in 2021 for Williams.

Russell appeared to go deep at Turn 2 and then ran wide exiting the Turns 6/7 chicane, kicking up dust as he pushed on with his final Q1 lap, but wound up behind Tsunoda in P17, ending his run of Q3 appearances at two.

Nicholas Latifi also set a personal best on his final Q1 lap as he took P18 in the second Williams, with Nikita Mazepin P19 for Haas.

Mick Schumacher could not take part in qualifying as a result of his red-flag-causing FP3 crash, with Haas unable to repair the car in time after changing its gearbox to get the rookie out to set a time in Q1.

So congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in achieving his 101st career pole position in Formula 1. Starting on the front row is a bonus on this twisty circuit where overtaking is tricky. Can championship rival Max Verstappen fight back despite qualifying in third? Bring on the race.

Hungarian Grand Prix, qualifying results:

1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:15.419
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:15.734
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:15.840
4 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:16.421
5 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:16.483
6 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.489
7 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:16.496
8 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:16.653
9 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:16.715
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:16.750
11 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:16.871
12 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:16.893
13 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari 1:17.564
14 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1:17.583
15 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari –
16 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:17.919
17 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:17.944
18 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:18.036
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:18.922
20 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari –