Bottas victorious at Turkey

Finally a race victory for Valtteri Bottas, as the Mercedes driver dominated the Turkish Grand Prix by finishing ahead of Max Verstappen in damp conditions. His teammate Lewis Hamilton recovered to fifth position but ended the race angry with the strategy calls.

Sergio Perez took P3 giving the Honda-powered Red Bull a double podium. Charles Leclerc and Hamilton finished a close behind after their attempts to complete the race on a single set of inters did not pay off.

At the start, where all cars were fitted with intermediate tyres, the top three scrambled off the line in the order they had arrived, with Bottas comfortably leading Verstappen into Turn 1.

Leclerc made the best start of the trio but stayed third after getting close to Verstappen’s outside before falling back as they reached the left-hander.

Despite the tricky conditions, the only lap one incidents were Pierre Gasly tapping Fernando Alonso around as the Alpine tried to sweep around the outside of the first corner, which spun him down to the rear of the field – where he was involved in a clash that led to Mick Schumacher spinning at Turn 4 on lap two – and Nicolas Latifi spinning by himself at Turn 9.

Bottas led by 1.3 seconds at the end of the first lap of 58 and it did not grow much beyond that over the next phase of the race – despite Verstappen searching for wet patches to cool his inter and complaining about a dashboard error message he was spotting each time he changed gear.

By lap 10, Valtteri’s lead had reached 2.4 seconds – having grown suddenly on the previous two tours – at which point Hamilton had reached seventh after nipping by Sebastian Vettel at the final corners on lap one and then scything past Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll in successive tours on laps eight and nine, after Tsunoda had held him at bay in the early stages.

Hamilton then nipped ahead of Lando Norris to take sixth at Turn 9, as Bottas continued to extend his lead over Verstappen – the two Mercedes cars at this stage the only cars lapping in the one minute, 33 seconds bracket and Leclerc falling back from Verstappen by several seconds.

But as the race approached the 20-lap mark, with Hamilton up to fifth having easily passed Gasly ahead of the Turn 12 stop at the end of the back straight on lap 14, Verstappen raised his pace and began to close in again on Bottas as the focus became about how the inters were holding up.

Bottas also upped his speed as the leaders moved to the low 1m33s, the Finn initially holding his gap at just over three seconds until he lost half a second sliding wide out of the first corner on lap 20.

But from there Verstappen could not close in much, with all the leaders moving to find wetter patches as their inters wore down – Hamilton in fifth initially tearing into Sergio Perez’s advantage ahead before the Mexican driver’s pace improved and he stayed clear in fourth, albeit well behind Leclerc, who continued to keep the leading duo in sight.

McLaren pitted Daniel Ricciardo for fresh inters from the rear of the field, but the Australian did not go any faster and was indeed slower than the leaders, who began to consider if a one-stop strategy would be feasible as the half-way point approached.

Here, Bottas began to pull away from Verstappen again – his lead rising to four seconds at lap 30 – while Hamilton, who at one point had to back out of lapping Nikita Mazepin when coming close to the Haas at the Turn 11 kink in the middle of the back straight, finally reached Perez’s rear, the pair nearly twenty seconds off the lead.

They engaged in a thrilling fight at the end of lap 34 and into lap 35, Hamilton attacking to the Red Bull’s outside at Turn 12 and staying alongside all the way to the final corner, Perez at one stage cutting behind the pitlane entry bollard after the Mercedes forced him wide at the penultimate corner.

The battle continued to Turn 1, where Perez boldly hung on to the inside line and stayed in fourth place, with the battle then superseded by the leaders pitting.

Red Bull pulled the trigger by pitting Verstappen for fresh inters on lap 36, with Bottas following him in the next time around and easily keeping the lead, while Perez came in on the same back and rejoined behind Hamilton.

The world champion, and Leclerc up ahead, stayed out – Hamilton arguing against a Mercedes call to pit on lap 42.

Bottas, over seven seconds clear of Verstappen, who reported a steering wheel “left-hand down” issue as the final quarter approached, initially steadily closed on Leclerc on his fresh inters.

He then gained large chunks of time as the final laps approached and retook the lead with a major grip advantage on the wet line down the inside into Turn 1 on lap 47, at the end of which Leclerc finally pitted.

From there, Bottas easily ran clear of Verstappen to claim a first win of 2021 by 14.5 seconds – setting the fastest lap at one minute, 30.432 seconds on the final lap – while Perez took third after closing in on Leclerc on lap 51.

Ferrari had hoped Leclerc could close back up the leading two on his fresh inters, but he hit the bad graining phase all the drivers were finding a few laps after pitting, which meant Perez could easily take the place with a run to the outside of Turn 12.

The lap before Perez passed Leclerc, Hamilton had finally come in, Mercedes feeling it had no choice but to abandon the no-stop strategy because of Gasly’s presence in sixth – already on a second set of inters.

Hamilton initially got close to Leclerc on his new inters, but then fell back dramatically as he reached the graining phase, to which he angrily criticised Mercedes’ decision to pit him in a series of radio messages.

He was able to hold off Gasly to the flag, the AlphaTauri driver having served a five-second penalty at his stop for the lap one Turn 1 clash with Alonso, who did likewise for his lap two shunt with Schumacher.

Norris took seventh not far from Gasly’s rear, with Carlos Sainz eighth after rising rapidly up the order from the back row of the grid with a series of bold early passes – the Spaniard then also having to recover from a slow pitstop.

In that recovery, Sainz passed Lance Stroll, who finished ninth, and Esteban Ocon, who was the only driver to complete the race on a single set of tyres.

Remarkably given the conditions, all the cars finished – Ricciardo’s early stop meaning he finished behind the Alfa Romeo pair in P13 and Alonso coming home P16.

The only driver to attempt a switch to slicks was Sebastian Vettel, who tried the mediums with 22 laps to run, but he came back in after just a single tour, where he was very slow and twice went off the track, to go back to the inters.

Vettel ended up P18 – only ahead of the Haas duo, where Schumacher got back ahead of Mazepin after recovering from his Turn 2 spin as a result of the contact from Alonso.

So congratulations to Valtteri Bottas in winning his first race this season. A commanding performance in the Mercedes. As for Max Verstappen, finishing in second is fantastic for the championship and he retakes the points lead from Lewis Hamilton, who was left feeling frustrated with the pitstop.

Turkish Grand Prix, race results:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:31:04.103
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 14.584
3 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 33.471
4 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 37.814
5 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 41.812
6 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 44.292
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 47.213
8 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 51.526
9 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:22.018
10 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
11 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
13 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes +1 lap
14 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
15 George Russell Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
16 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault +1 lap
17 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes +1 lap
18 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
19 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
20 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2 laps

Hamilton is fastest but takes grid penalty. Bottas on pole for Turkish Grand Prix

Championship points leader Lewis Hamilton ended up quickest in qualifying but due to a power unit change, teammate Valtteri Bottas will instead start on pole position with Max Verstappen joining the Mercedes driver on the front tow.

In a session that was overcast throughout, with spots of rain falling in Q1, the drivers were able to run slick tyres for the duration, with all the top ten runners except for Yuki Tsunoda getting through Q2 on the more durable medium compound, which they will all start Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix.

Hamilton had come into the session knowing he would drop ten positions from wherever he qualified, with Bottas leading the way for Mercedes after the first Q3 runs had been completed on a one minute, 23.071 seconds, with Hamilton second 0.022 seconds adrift.

Hamilton then took an unorthodox approach to the rest of the final part of qualifying, leaving his garage on a new set of softs with over five minutes of Q3 remaining.

He found time on his second flying lap to move ahead of Bottas on a one minute, 22.868 seconds, with the session’s best times in the second and third sectors.

Hamilton then back off ahead of completing a third Q3 flier, before which Bottas and Verstappen had their second goes and sole attempts to depose the world champion at the head of the times.

Bottas was 0.005 seconds ahead of Hamilton by the end of the second sector, but he lost time in the final third and wound up 0.13 seconds adrift.

Verstappen went through the second sector 0.134 seconds down on Hamilton and he too lost time in the final corners and finished 0.328 seconds down on the best time.

That remained Hamilton’s second Q3 flier, as although his third attempt started with the fastest time in the final sector he lost time through the rest of the lap, at the end of which he was already confirmed at the top of the times.

Charles Leclerc’s final Q3 lap bumped him up to fourth, knocking Pierre Gasly down one spot as the AlphaTauri driver was left to rue time lost in the final sector on his final Q3 lap.

Fernando Alonso took sixth ahead of Sergio Perez and Lando Norris, with Lance Stroll, who made it through to the shootout despite a late off at Turn 1 in Q2, and Tsunoda completing the top ten.

Leclerc’s late jump at the end of Q2 meant Sebastian Vettel was shuffled out in P11 after his personal best at the end of the middle segment was only good enough for briefly slotting into P10.

Behind Vettel came Esteban Ocon and George Russell, who rued a wild slide off the track at the final corner on his final lap.

The Williams driver had just set two personal bests in the opening two sectors and was on to challenge for another Q3 berth, but his successful attempts to catch the slides still put him too wide and he back off after returning to the track for the final run to the line.

Mick Schumacher scored a first on-merit Q2 appearance of his Formula 1 career, with the Haas driver ending up P14 – his best qualifying result so far – ahead of Carlos Sainz, who did not post a time as he will start Sunday’s race from last following his engine-change grid penalty.

Sainz did appear right at the end of Q2 to complete sectors on an out lap, where he was able to tow Leclerc down the hill out of Turn 8 on the lap that elevated the Ferrari driver into the top ten.

Q1 began with the cars queuing at the end of the pitlane well before the session began, the teams concerned the rain that fell throughout the morning at Istanbul and at the start of FP3 would return.

Spots of rain did fall during the opening segment, but not any intensity that would require intermediates and so the drivers stayed on the softs throughout Q1, which was topped by Hamilton.

He was one of many drivers to have off track moments and times deleted for running too wide out of the first corner, with Verstappen, Sainz, Tsunoda and Nikita Mazepin all spinning through the demanding, downhill left-hander.

Once the rain threat had receded, Sainz’s late improvement at the death in Q1 knocked out Daniel Ricciardo, who had completed his final flier well before the chequered flag came out and so was shuffled down the order and into danger as others improved behind him,

The same thing happened to Nicholas Latifi, who had been running near the top of the order during the early stages, and Antonio Giovinazzi – the pair knocked out in P17 and P18.

Kimi Raikkonen could not hit a personal best on his final Q1 lap as he was eliminated in P19, only ahead of Mazepin, who did produce his best time on his last effort, which was nevertheless the slowest lap in the opening segment.

So an excellent team effort from Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton looks very quick and even though he was the fastest in qualifying, the grid penalty will drop him in the mid pack but the pace looks good for the championship leader to recovery. As for Valtteri Bottas, he has a job in going for his first win this season and preventing Max Verstappen in scoring a top result for Red Bull. Bring on the race.

Qualifying positions, Turkish Grand Prix:
1 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:22.998
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 1:23.196
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1:23.265
4 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda 1:23.326
5 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1:23.477
6 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1:23.706
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1:23.954
8 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:24.305
9 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda 1:24.368
10 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes 1:24.795
11 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’22.868*
12 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault 1:24.842
13 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1:25.007
14 Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari 1:25.200
15 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1:25.881
16 Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes 1:26.086
17 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari 1:26.430
18 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari 1:27.525
19 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari 1:28.449
20 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari No time
*Ten-place grid penalty following power unit change

Hamilton achieves his 100th victory in a chaotic Russian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton finally achieved his 100th victory in Formula 1 in a thrilling Russian Grand Prix. A late rain shower played a joker to long-time leader Lando Norris and it helped Max Verstappen to take second place.

As for Norris, he ended up in seventh place after trying to stay on out slicks when Hamilton, who had charged up the order in the race’s second half before getting stuck behind the McLaren ahead of the rain arriving in the final laps, pitted for intermediates.

Norris also faces a post-race investigation for crossing the pitlane-entry line when he did eventually come in to switch to the wet tyres, by which time Hamilton had swept already ahead to take the lead.

At the start, Norris’s fear of leading the pack down to the Turn 2 right-hander came true as, although he made a smooth getaway from pole, his slipstream gave a crucial advantage to those following behind.

This worked out best for Carlos Sainz as he recovered from a poor launch and George Russell jumping alongside from third, by sitting in behind Norris and then gaining ground dramatically as the two British drivers punched a hole in the air down to the first braking point.

There, Sainz swooped in front of Russell and to Norris’s outside, sealing the lead despite locking up his left-front as the pack arrived at Turn 2.

Sainz managed to stay on track and did not have to go around the bollards in the run-off, which Fernando Alonso, rejoining alongside Russell before ceding ground to the fast-starting Lance Stroll.

By the end of the first lap of 53, Sainz was out of DRS range to Norris, with Russell third and then quickly falling back from the McLaren and heading train of cars down to Hamilton in sixth – the world champion falling back down the order, boxed in at the start after briefly getting alongside Sainz on the runoff the line and before the Ferrari benefitted from Norris’s tow.

Sainz and Norris were able to run in the mid-1m41s-bracket over the opening few laps, with Russell dropping back by nearly a second a lap at time, with the rain the teams had predicted may impact the opening stages not influencing proceedings.

The two leaders broke clear, with Sainz running clear of Norris until the end of the first 10 laps, which point the Briton started to pressure the Ferrari.

After small attacks at Turn 2 on laps 10 and 11, Norris briefly backed off, describing his front left as “completely gone”, before he suddenly closed in again on lap 13 and took the lead using DRS down the back straight to get ahead on the outside line into the Turn 12 right-hander.

Ferrari then called Sainz in at the end of the following lap, the Spaniard rejoining in front of Stroll, who had triggered the first stops with an undercut attack on Russell by coming in for hards at the end of lap 12.

Russell was brought in to cover Stroll, but emerged behind the Aston Martin, which, although the undercut was powerful, could not jump Sainz too despite a slow change to the Ferrari’s left-rear.

That trio ran in clear air behind Valtteri Bottas, who had been passed by Verstappen as they and Charles Leclerc made steady progress up the order in the opening laps from their back-of-the-grid starts for changing engines – the Ferrari driver actually gaining six places on lap one.

The early stops for Sainz, Stroll and Russell meant Ricciardo, Hamilton and Sergio Perez had no choice but to stay out to avoid coming out behind them again, with Norris also staying put up front – the leader extending his lead over his teammate from eight seconds to 12 by the time Ricciardo pitted on lap 22.

The graining to the tyres the drivers – including Norris – had reported began to clear up, with the leader therefore staying out until lap 28, two laps after Mercedes had pitted Hamilton, now Norris’s main rival after Ricciardo’s stop went wrong with slow front-left change, to go from mediums to hards.

Norris rejoined after making the same compound change in the net lead, with Hamilton in the pack behind carving through the drivers that had pitted earlier – Stroll and then Sainz – plus Pierre Gasly, who was yet to stop.

That set up an eight-second difference to Norris’s net lead with 22 laps to go, Perez, Alonso and Leclerc leading the race by this stage as they ran deep on the hard tyres they, and Gasly, had started on.

As the hard-starting cars peeled off in front of Norris and Hamilton – both of whom had to pass Leclerc on track – with the Mercedes scything into the McLaren’s advantage with a series of fastest laps.

With 15 laps to the flag, Lando’s lead was down to 1.7 seconds but there Hamilton’s charge stalled.

Norris set the fastest lap using DRS has he lapped Nikita Mazepin down the back straight on lap 40, and from there he matched Hamilton in the mid-high one minute, 37 seconds, which kept the gap between the pair stable.

Attention then turned to the possibility of rain arriving in the closing laps, with drops starting fall as early as lap 42, but only getting serious four tours later.

The wet weather intensified first at the Turns 5-7 sequence at the top of the Sochi layout, with Norris initially coping better than Hamilton to pull away from the Mercedes, which had finally got within DRS range on lap 48.

But as conditions got worse, Norris defied McLaren’s call to pit for inters on lap 49, opting to try and hang on with the slicks while Hamilton did come in to change to the green-walled rubber.

The decision soon backfired on Norris as Turns 3-7 were soon soaking wet, with the rain eventually making the track slippery all the way around.

Hamilton carved into the McLaren’s lead and got ahead when Norris slid off at Turn 5 on lap 51, at the end of which he finally pitted.

With Hamilton clear ahead of take his milestone triumph, the order behind changed dramatically.

Sainz, who had cycled back to a high position despite his early stop as slow dry weather pitstops hindered several rivals, Ricciardo and Verstappen were among the first to pit for inters.

Verstappen used his to jump up the order and ran clear of Sainz by the flag – the Red Bull’s fortunes changing dramatically after his early charge had been thwarted when he rejoined from his dry stop in a mixed pack of early-stoppers and long-runners.

He came home 53.2 seconds down on Hamilton, with Sainz taking third – he too benefitting by in the rain as Perez, who stopped for inters later than most, and Ricciardo had jumped him before it arrived.

Ricciardo took fifth ahead of Bottas, another driver who rose up the order in the late wet chaos having been stuck in the pack for most of the race.

Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Russell were the first to stop for inters, and they all gained considerably in the closing moments.

Raikkonen took eighth ahead of Perez, with Russell, who had been holding onto 10th even as the long-runners slotted in around him following his early stop, claiming the final point in the rain.

Then came Aston pair Stroll and Sebastian Vettel – who collided twice just as the rain got serious – and Gasly.

Stroll and Gasly will also be investigated after the race for a clash at Turn 2 in the late chaos.

The only non-finishers were Nicholas Latifi, who retired in the pits just as the rain arrived, and Mick Schumacher, who was called in after 22 laps due to a hydraulic leak on his Haas.

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton in winning his 100th race in this sport. Such an incredible achievement by the champion but do feel sorry for Lando Norris, as he led the most laps and yet got caught out in the rain. Without that late drama, Lando should have won his first win.

As for Max Verstappen, what a fight back to come through from last to the runner-up spot. This was a superb result for the Red Bull driver despite taking so many grid penalties. Let the championship battle continue.

Russian Grand Prix, race results:
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:30:41.001
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull-Honda 53.271
3 Carlos Sainz Jr. Ferrari 1’02.475
4 Daniel Ricciardo McLaren-Mercedes 1’05.607
5 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’07.533
6 Fernando Alonso Alpine-Renault 1’21.321
7 Lando Norris McLaren-Mercedes 1’27.224
8 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo-Ferrari 1’28.955
9 Sergio Perez Red Bull-Honda 1’30.076
10 George Russell Williams-Mercedes 1’40.551
11 Lance Stroll Aston Martin-Mercedes 1’46.198
12 Sebastian Vettel Aston Martin-Mercedes +1 lap
13 Pierre Gasly AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
14 Esteban Ocon Alpine-Renault +1 lap
15 Charles Leclerc Ferrari +1 lap
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo-Ferrari +1 lap
17 Yuki Tsunoda AlphaTauri-Honda +1 lap
18 Nikita Mazepin Haas-Ferrari +2 laps
– Nicholas Latifi Williams-Mercedes DNF
– Mick Schumacher Haas-Ferrari DNF

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