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Formula 1 Spanish GP Review: Verstappen gets a hard fought victory

Verstappen clinched a hard-fought victory over Norris on the pole, with Hamilton returning to the podium, while Ferrari suffered from a lack of pace.

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The 2024 Spanish Grand Prix held at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya was a thriller. A race of exceptional driving, strategic brilliance, and intense competition among the top three teams. Still, it was Max Verstappen who emerged victorious for Red Bull Racing.

Practice

The three practice sessions were all closely contested. Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz were the only 2 drivers to be in the top 3 of all the 3 Practice sessions.

During the first practice session, the weather was dry, unlike the mixed conditions in Canada during the last round. Oliver Bearman drove Nico Hulkenberg’s Haas as part of his planned six practice appearances with the team in 2024. Some teams used the session to test their upgrades for the weekend, including VCARB.

The session was briefly red-flagged to clear debris from Alonso’s car before the action resumed. Norris ended the session on top with a time of 1m 14.228s in the McLaren, 0.024s faster than Verstappen in second place, even though the latter experienced clutch issues. Sainz put his Ferrari in third place.

During the second practice session later that day, Logan Sargent had a close moment and managed to save his Williams after losing the rear. Meanwhile, Max Verstappen reported that his RB20 was experiencing understeer mid-corner, stating: “This car doesn’t bite.” Lewis Hamilton held the top spot with a lap time of 1m 13.264s. Sainz stayed in P2, with Norris taking P3 in the McLaren. Pierre Gasly was a shocking P4 for Alpine, putting him ahead of Verstappen in P5.

After a closely contested FP2, it was time for the final practice session before qualifying. The drivers tested their one-lap pace in preparation for the battle for pole position. Carlos Sainz topped the times with an impressive 1m 13.013s, closely followed by Lando Norris with 1m 13.043s and Charles Leclerc with 1m 13.050s.

During the sessions, both Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll of Aston Martin were found to have impeded Norris and Hamilton in separate incidents. They both cut across Norris and Hamilton, resulting in contact in both cases. As a result, both Leclerc and Stroll were reprimanded for “erratic driving”.

Qualifying

The mixed results of the practice sessions left us puzzled about the grid order for the race as it was quite unclear who had the better car. Saturday afternoon’s qualifying session was crucial, with 30 of the 33 Grand Prix winners at the Barcelona circuit having started from the front row of the grid.

The heavily upgraded VCARB failed to impress as both cars were out in Q1, with Yuki leading Daniel in 17th and 18th place. Williams too had a tough outing with the team locking out the front row. Albon was a comfortable 4 tenths clear of his teammate. He would later start the race from the pit lane due to a change in the power unit. With rumors of Logan being replaced for next year, performances like these don’t help his case. Kevin Magnussen failed to reach Q2 as well, his first Q1 elimination since Imola.

No shocking eliminations in Q2 this time around with Both Aston Martins, Saubers, and the Haas of Nico Hulkenberg failing to reach Q3.

Alpine had the best qualifying of the season, with both cars making it to Q3. However, it was Lando Norris who put in a perfect lap to secure pole position at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. A final lap time of 1m 11.383s for Norris, narrowly beating Max Verstappen. It was the Brit’s second pole position, the first since 2021 at the Russian Grand Prix. Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell took P3 and P4 respectively, showing strong performance. Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz locked the third row for Ferrari. Sergio Perez finished eighth but will drop three places due to a grid penalty from Canada, promoting Esteban Ocon and Oscar Piastri.

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“It was pretty much a perfect lap”

lando norris

Race

It was evident that the Redbulls were not the outright fastest car going into the weekend with close competition from the McLarens and Ferraris. Mercedes surprisingly was quick and was expecting to have a podium finish.

When it was lights out, Lando Norris got a poor getaway resulting in losing the start to Verstappen, it was Russell who made up the best of the situation with a slipstream from the pair ahead to take the lead of the Grand Prix with brave around the outside of turn 1. The Aston Martin of Alonso, starting in 11th position, dropped back after seemingly being tagged from behind. He was forced to take to the escape road at Turn 1, which left him in 14th place.

However, despite Russell’s mega start, his lead of the race wouldn’t last long as Verstappen overtook him on the outside of Turn 1 on the third lap. Meanwhile, Carlos Sainz also overtook his teammate Charles Leclerc at the same turn, with the two Ferraris appearing to touch as Sainz used the escape road. Despite this, he successfully moved up to P5. The stewards briefly reviewed whether he had left the track and gained an advantage but decided no further investigation was necessary. But both teammates were unhappy about the incident and they complained over the radio.

On Lap 13, began the first wave of pitstops with Perez pitting on what would be the first of his 3-stop strategy, while Gasly had a slow stop of 6.7s ruing his race start efforts, George Russell dived to the pits on lap 15 but avoided a close coming together in the pits with Carlos Sainz by staying ahead of him by mere inches. Soon Verstappen reacted to him by pitting on lap 17 with an error-free pitstop of 1.9s, while Norris decided to stay out taking the lead and looking to extend this advantage.

During Lap 18 of the Grand Prix, Hamilton found himself in an intense battle for sixth position with Sainz. With the help of DRS, Hamilton made a move going into Turn 1 of the next lap, resulting in the two cars touching. Sainz expressed his frustration over the radio, claiming that Hamilton ran him off the track and insisting that Hamilton needed to let him pass. Despite Sainz’s complaints, no further investigation was conducted regarding their collision.

Norris finally came into the pits to change his soft tires. He re-entered the race behind Russell and was determined to quickly pass him to catch up to race leader Verstappen. On lap 34, Norris was able to close the gap on the Mercedes using the DRS on the main straight, leading to an intense side-by-side battle between turns 3 and 7. Norris demonstrated excellent racecraft and utilized his tire advantage to successfully overtake Russell.

With 20 laps to go, Hamilton was putting pressure on Sainz for sixth place. He managed to overtake Sainz into Turn 1, and Norris was then instructed to pit on the next lap. However, Norris’s 3.6-second pit stop cost him valuable time, allowing Verstappen to regain the lead, with Norris staying ahead of Russell in second place. Meanwhile, in 11th place, Hulkenberg’s chances of moving into the points were harmed when he received a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane. Gasly and Ocon in the Alpines were holding onto ninth and 10th place, raising hopes for a double-point finish for the team. Tsunoda, who was in last place, also received a five-second penalty for the same pit lane speeding offense as Hulkenberg.

Lower down the order, 11th-placed Hulkenberg’s hopes of breaking into the points-paying positions suffered a blow as he was handed a five-second penalty for speeding in the pit lane – the Alpines of Gasly and Ocon currently holding onto ninth and 10th as the team’s hopes for another double points finish continued to grow. Tsunoda, running in a lowly last place, was also hit with a five-second penalty of his own for the same offense as Hulkenberg.

In the final stages of the Grand Prix, Norris was the fastest driver on the track, closing in on Verstappen’s lead, which was around 6.6 seconds. Max was forced to push hard to maintain his lead as Norris narrowed the gap. However, with only a few laps left, Norris was running out of time to secure his second career win. By Lap 65, the gap had decreased to just 2.3 seconds. Despite Norris’s efforts, Verstappen was able to hold him off and win by just a 2.219-second margin, to the disappointment of Norris and the crowd, who had hoped for a last-lap battle for the win.

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Norris was visibly frustrated as he crossed the finish line. He admitted over his radio that messing up the start had cost him a chance of victory today. However, Verstappen celebrated his 106th podium finish, placing him tied for fourth on the all-time list with legends Alain Prost and Fernando Alonso. Lewis Hamilton returned to the podium, making it his 18th continuous season with a podium finish.

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Another interesting story was lower down the order with both Alpines finishing in points at 9th and 10th for the first time this season after they had the worst start to the season, this shows that the team is heading in the right direction, and also coinciding with the return of former Renault team principal Flavio Briatore to team as an executive advisor.

Championship Standings after the race:

Verstappen extends his championship lead on top while Norris jumps Leclerc to move into P2.

Top 10 in the Drivers’ Championship after Spanish GP (Image: F1)

In the team’s standing Red Bull Racing remains on top, while Alpine jump Haas thanks to their double points finish.

Up Next

All eyes turn to the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix at the iconic Red Bull Ring at Spielberg. After facing challenges in the previous race, Red Bull Racing will be eager to reclaim its former dominance, while Mclaren will be looking to push for wins. With the championship battle heating up, fans can expect an exhilarating weekend of racing action as the teams and drivers vie for glory on Austrian soil.

Formula 1

A Three way Battle in Budapest: The 2024 F1 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview.

Formula One returns to the historic Hungaroring, a tight twisty and unpredictable race track. Read DRC’s race preview here.

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As Red-Bull and Mclaren pull away from the field, Mercedes joins the party. With three race winning cars on track, all three will look to bag good points, while Ferrari will be hopeful for a better result. Welcome to DRC’s F1 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview.

Read the British Grand Prix Review here.


Know the Hungaroring

The tight and twisty Hungaroring track is located in Mogyorod, 11 miles west of the Hungarian capital, Budapest. Described as an enlarged go-kart circuit, it is one of the most technically challenging circuits on the calendar.

The Hungaroring Circuit.
The Hungaroring circuit. Photo credits: F1

The 14 corner track is also called Monaco without the walls, owing to it’s high downforce requirements. Even though overtaking is very difficult here, the track has undergone only one major revision, which was in 2003. The main straight was extended another 200 meters to make it 900m long, and the first corner was tightened to promote overtaking.

The track contains two back-to-back DRS zones, followed by a technical middle sector full of chicanes and esses. The final sector is a short one, only featuring two hairpins that feed back into the main straight. A good middle sector is crucial here.

Historically, Hungary has been a circuit full of firsts. It was the first and only circuit to host a race beyond the Iron Curtian. It is also famous for giving drivers their first wins. Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Heikki Kovalainen and most recently, Esteban Ocon have taken their first wins here. Max Verstappen took his first pole back in 2019 at the Hungaroring too.

The 2024 F1 Hungarian Grand Prix will consist of 70 laps around this 4.381 kilometer circuit, with a two stop strategy as the norm.


Red Bull look to fight back blow for blow

Over the last few races, Red Bull has fallen off the pace and is slowly falling into the clutches of McLaren, and even Ferrari. Right now, Red Bull lead Ferrari by 71 points, closely followed by McLaren. With both McLaren cars consistently finishing in the top 5 in the last races bar Norris’s retirement in Austria, and Checo only scoring 8 points in the last five races, it has become difficult for Max and Red Bull to outscore the Papaya clad team.

McLaren’s last upgrade has significantly improved their performance, while Red Bull is still struggling to find and mend the issues with the RB20. Verstappen recently tested the RB18 at Imola, in an attempt to figure out the problem with the new car. As Red Bull work hard to rectify their problems, McLaren seems to be getting better and better. And now with Mercedes back in the fray, a new challenger is rising to take their throne.

Max Verstappen testing the RB18 at Imola.
Max Tests the RB18 in Imola. Image cradits: Autosport

Another factor is the two on one that Max has to face. With Checo qualifying poorly, Max has to take on the McLaren, and sometimes the Mercedes pair alone. Two cars in the mix would greatly help Red Bull, and Checo will be motivated to improve his Qualifying and Race records.


Mercedes on the up as Hamilton eyes another record

The Hungaroring has always been kind to Mercedes. They have the most wins here in the Turbo-Hybrid era. Russell and Hamilton snatched pole here in 2022 and 2023 respectively. Hamilton has also won eight races here, and his first victory with Mercedes came here in 2013.

Mercedes usually nail the set-up here. With the team riding high after back-to-back victories in Austria and Silverstone, they would love to go for a treble. Lewis Hamilton will also eye a record equaling nine victories. After his win in Silverstone, he now holds the record for most wins at a single circuit with 9.

George Russell also has a fantastic track record here, finishing in the points every year since 2021, where he came eight for a struggling Williams. A podium and a top 5 finish followed in 2022 and 2023.

Mercedes will want to secure a large bag of points here, to reduce the 152 points defecit they have to the leaders Red Bull and to catch up with McLaren and Ferrari.


A Ferrari Renaissance on the Horizon?

Ferrari seems to have dropped off after their excellent performances in Melbourne and Monaco. This year, Ferrari seem to be a heavily down-force reliant car, with podiums for Charles and Carlos in Sakhir, Jeddhah, Melbourne and Suzuka, all tracks which require downforce. Of course their victories on the streets of Melbourne and Monte-Carlo confirms this.

Charles Leclerc Wins in Monaco.
Ferrari have dominated the Downforce heavy circuits. Image Credit: Anonymous

Their struggles at the more balanced tracks of Canada and Barcelona, along with power heavy tracks like Austria and Silverstone have cost them dearly. It is also evident that the Ferrari is one of the more draggy cars on the straights and struggle with straight line speed.

As the Hungaroring is a heavy-downforce track, it seems like Ferrari have a shot at victory here. This might be one of the few chances for them to get points during the European Leg of the season, along with Zandvoort and Baku. Consequently, Ferrari have bought new floor upgrades to make most of this valuable chance. A huge points haul in the Hungarian Grand Prix will solidify their chances against McLaren, Red Bull and even Mercedes who look threatening.


Dark Clouds loom over the race

An alarming video was shared by Mikey Brown, a mechanic at Aston Martin, shows the Pitlane flooding in what he described as “a HUGE storm” . McLaren, having barely repaired their motorhome in time for the British GP after the fire in Catalunya, have suffered another issue. The repaired motorhome has lost it’s roof multiple times over this week, thanks to the speedy winds.

Even though Meteorologists predict a dry weekend, a small rain shower, combined with the high humidity in Hungary this time of year can put the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend in doubt.


Championship Standings

This is how the championship looks as we head into the race weekend:

The 2024 Formula One world championship standings as of 18/07/2024.
Credits: F1

Race Weekend Schedule

All events during the weekend are available to watch on F1TV and Fancode. The times given below are in IST(GMT +5:30).

DRC's Hungarian Grand Prix Race weekend schedule.

Follow Desi Racing Co to keep up to date with the speedy world of motorsports.

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Formula 1

Toyota rumoured to partner with Haas in an exhilarating return to F1

Toyota rumoured to partner with Haas to back a sensational return to F1.

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As the F1 silly season continues, a rather surprising bit of rumour is that the world’s largest automaker, Toyota, is set to return to the F1 grid as early as 2025 with the Haas F1 team.

Credits: Haas F1 team

The partnership is said to start out with a sponsorship deal, possibly with a renaming on the cards. A deal akin to that of Alfa Romeo and Sauber. With the possibility of a future technical partnership on the chassis/engine development. Toyota will likely join Dallara in assisting Haas for the chassis. Other talks suggest that Haas will use Toyota’s facilities for development and manufacturing. While this means Toyota won’t be directly involved in the construction of the F1 car, it means Haas gets a huge boost in infrastructure, experience, etc; and Toyota gets a new source of income.

Toyota’s history in F1

The Japanese manufacturer has seen immense success in WEC, taking 5 consecutive 24 hours of Le Mans victories from 2018 to 2022 and WRC, clinching the manufacturers’ championship in 2018, 2021, and 2022, and the championship for drivers and co-drivers every year since 2019. It wasn’t so for its time in F1, or at least according to Toyota’s standards and ambition.

Credits: Toyota-europe.com

Toyota made their debut F1 in 2002. The team scored 17 podiums, and 3 pole positions but never achieved a victory. Only securing 2nd place as their best finish till they dropped out of the sport in 2009, midway through the development of the 2010 car.

What does this mean for Haas, Toyota, and F1?

Toyota’s failure was blamed on a lot of factors, this deal gave the Japanese manufacturer a second chance to right their wrongs. Haas has been on a consistent upward trajectory throughout the 2024 season. With Nico Hulkenberg scoring back-to-back P6 finishes at the Austrian and British GP, and Kevin Magnussen backing that up with commendable performances. The deal could help Haas gain the brute force of employees, resources & financial aid. Something that they have been lacking to make a meaningful impact in the sport.

F1 would most certainly benefit from having a Japanese Manufacturer in the sport. The Japanese GP attendance and the growing popularity of F1 have been steadily increasing in the country. Toyota’s return could also provide F1 with a boost to their competitiveness and financial gains.

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Formula 1

GIFT City’s Formula 1 Racetrack Plans Hit a Roadblock

GIFT City’s ambitious plan to build a Formula 1 racetrack has stalled due to structural issues and high costs, sources reveal. Initially flagged off with a feasibility study, the project now faces uncertainties.

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Gujarat’s GIFT City’s ambitious plan to build a racetrack for holding Formula 1 (F1) races has come to a grinding halt just four months after initiating a feasibility study and selecting consultants, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Earlier this year, on March 11, the Gujarat Sports Authority announced that top international F1 racetrack designers were invited to present the feasibility of constructing an F1 racetrack at GIFT City. The project saw intense competition among global designers, with the consortium of renowned German designer Hermann Tilke and India’s Arcop architects emerging as the frontrunner for the feasibility study.

GIFT City (Photo: Amit Dave/Reuters)

However, GIFT City’s plan has been halted, insiders revealed. “Designers had given feedback that given the layout of GIFT City, it may be difficult to build a racetrack that conforms to F1 standards due to structural issues,” said one source.

The financial implications also pose a significant hurdle. Estimates place the cost of building such a racetrack between Rs 5,000 and 10,000 crore.

R.S. Ninama, Director General of the Gujarat Sports Authority, and Hermann Tilke have not responded to inquiries from ET. Another source indicated that the project might be integrated into a larger plan for developing infrastructure for the Olympics. “So, you may get a racetrack, but not one that can host F1 races,” the source added.

GIFT City, located in Gandhinagar, has been developed as a financial hub. The city is aimed at attracting international businesses with various tax incentives. The government is focusing on enhancing the city’s livability by developing entertainment and leisure infrastructure. Notable projects include an underwater aquarium, water sports facilities, and a retail zone featuring a 158-meter-high Ferris wheel.

This story has been derived from a story reported by Economic Times.

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