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WRC

DOMINANT C3 WRCs CONSOLIDATE THEIR LEAD!

Sébastien Ogier – Julien Ingrassia and Esapekka Lappi – Janne Ferm secured two stage wins apiece as they tightened their stranglehold of the rally to end day two first and second overall, following another dominant performance that saw them increase their advantage over the chasing pack.

Featuring two of the slowest and most technical stages of the weekend as well as Kizlan, a new and very fast speed test (contested at an average speed of almost 110kph), today’s 109.80km-long leg looked like it would be extremely challenging once again. Conditions were all the more testing for the fact that ground temperatures reached 50 degrees Celsius.

In such extremely hot conditions, and despite there being a hard, very sandy base on the roads, you had to be very confident in your ability to look after your tyres in order to gamble on taking three medium compound and two hard Michelin tyres, from so far down the running order (ninth). And yet that was exactly the approach adopted by Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia this morning. It paid off immediately as the French crew claimed their first stage win of the weekend on Yesilbelde (33km), having spent more than twenty-five minutes combining serious pace and expert tyre management in the C3 WRC!

With their rivals more than a minute behind, the six-time world champions focused on adopting a rhythm that would enable them to minimise the risks as much as possible on these very rough roads. Sébastien and Julien added another stage win on the second pass on Yesilbelde, taking over from their team-mate at the top of the leaderboard. They remained there at the end of the day and head into tomorrow’s final leg very determined to complete what would be an excellent overall team performance and a good result for the championship.

With a tyre package favouring hard compound tyres (four, plus one medium), Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm also impressed on the morning loop. They claimed two consecutive second fastest times, then a stage win (SS10), all done without taking any unnecessary risks in the C3 WRC. Aware of the need for the Citroën Total World Rally Team to secure a one-two finish tomorrow, they pursued the same rhythm in the afternoon, enabling them to keep out of trouble. They Finns managed to score another stage win on the repeat of Kizlan and although they lost the overall lead to their team-mates after stalling on SS12, they still remain way ahead of their nearest challengers.

The Citroën Total World Rally Team members will now get to work on the C3 WRCs – once again incredibly reliable – to ensure the Citroën crews make it through the 38.62 kilometres of timed stages left to complete tomorrow.

F1Weekly podcast # 803

CLARK AND NASIR ARE IN CELEBRATION MODE AFTER THIS FANTASTIC VICTORY BY CHARLES LECLERC FOR FERRARI AT MONZA AND THE CONVERSATION TURNS TO THE FUTURE OF VETTEL…

Charles Leclerc was rapid from the off at Monza but Sebastian Vettel was a genuine threat to his hopes of taking pole position. The pair were supposed to swap running orders in Q3 to give each other the benefit of the tow.

Did Leclerc do the dirty on his team mate by dithering on the out-lap? The fact Vettel passed him at the start of the lap makes it hard to come down on either side.
In the race Leclerc demonstrated true grit, withstanding a sustained attack from Lewis Hamilton with moves which were firm and right to the limit of what was acceptable.

Vettel had the car and the potential to win at Monza. It wasn’t entirely his fault that he ended up boxed in to fourth on the grid. But he was fully to blame both for spinning out of that position, thanks to yet another unforced error, and the horror show moment when he pulled onto the racing line in front of oncoming traffic. In light of events at Spa, a 10-second stop-and-ho penalty for that was too lenient.

Play Podcast: 09-11-19f1weekly803.mp3

FORMULA 1

LECLERC TRIUMPHS AT MONZA WHILST VETTEL TANKS

Leclerc survived an onslaught from LCH and Valtteri Bottas to win a thrilling Italian Grand Prix. LCH hustled Leclerc during a remarkable spell of wheel-to-wheel action at Monza – but the young Monegasque excelled to keep the world champion at bay and register his second win in as many weeks and Ferrari’s first on home soil in nine years.

With 11 laps remaining, LCH then made a mistake at the first corner in his pursuit of Leclerc, falling off the road and allowing Bottas to take second. On fresher tyres, Bottas took over from Hamilton in his pursuit of Leclerc but crossed the line just eight-tenths shy of the Ferrari star.

In contrast to Leclerc’s heroics at the Cathedral of Speed, Sebastian Vettel endured yet another torrid afternoon in the sister Ferrari. The four-time world champion took the chequered flag a dismal 13th and one lap down after a spin at the Ascari chicane on lap six.

Vettel had to stop for a new front wing after he clumsily collided with Lance Stroll in his attempt to rejoin the track following his mistake. He was hit with a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for his part in the incident.

Hamilton’s late error allowed Bottas to reduce the championship deficit to 63 points with seven rounds left.

“What a race,” said Leclerc. “I have never been so tired. I made a few mistakes, but in the end I finished first so I am very happy.”

FORMULA 1

TIMING DISASTER IN ITALIAN GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING…GLI IDIOTI!

The top qualifiers for the Italian Grand Prix are under investigation for really Stupid tactics in the final runs of Q3.
With drivers eager to get a slipstream for the final run of qualifying, the leaders all jostled for position in a train of cars as they went through the first chicane…It was laughable!

Nico Hulkenberg went across the run-off area at the first chicane, and the following car of Lance Stroll then backed off to ensure he did not overtake the Renault. Behind him everyone else backed off to try to not move to the front of the train.

As the drivers all tried to hold back, in the end they got their timing wrong as the time counted down – meaning only Carlos Sainz as the car that had moved to the front and the following car of Charles Leclerc made it across the line before time ran out.

Pole position man Leclerc said: “I am happy with the pole but a shame at the end there was a big mess.”

Stroll described it as a ‘comedy show’, while Lewis Hamilton, who ended up on the front row, echoed his comments from Spa last weekend when he suggested drivers slowing down to get a tow was not safe.

“It is crazy with the system we have,” Hamilton said. “With everyone backing up and trying to get a position, they timed us out. It is interesting – get pole position in the first run and time us out.

“On the out lap it is dangerous for all of us – with people slowing down and you don’t know who is alongside you. It is a risky business out there.”

On Friday, the F3 qualifying session was red-flagged for drivers messing around with slipstreams, with 17 of the 30 drivers penalised for their behaviour.

F1Weekly podcast # 802

CLARK AND NASIR SEND THEIR CONDOLENCES TO THE HUBERT FAMILY AND THE ENTIRE MOTORSPORTS COMMUNITY

The death of fun-loving but fiercely professional 22-year-old Renault protege Anthoine Hubert at Spa has robbed the world of a very special person and racing driver, whose career had only just turned around
The last year and a half was a whirlwind for Anthoine Hubert, and he was finally starting to force people take him seriously as a future Formula 1 driver before his death at Spa this weekend.

“That’s one hell of a talent lost,” one person close to the fallen driver said in the wake of the tragedy. But he was so much more than just “talent”.

Always greeting you with a “hey mate” in the paddock, 22-year-old Hubert was a social butterfly. A smile always partnered his black-rimmed glasses and he was forever making jokes in the paddock. Even if he was too busy to stop and chat, he made sure to acknowledge you – on Saturday he roared past on his bicycle but still stuck out an arm for a high-five.

Speaking of bicycles, they were the theme of the last conversation I had with him. As well as keeping sharp with karting in the summer break, he’d also just been on a training camp with Renault where he’d done 438 miles of riding in six days. I’d replied that that’s why I like journalism, so I can eat a lot and sit behind my computer screen. He quipped he didn’t blame me and asked if he could do it too.

Just after the tragic announcement of Hubert’s passing, Roberto Firmino lashed home a third goal for Liverpool Football Club and the irony of the timing was not lost of me. Anthoine would have been the first person in the paddock I would have headed to, to point out my team was fantastic and unbeaten this year. Since Liverpool had beaten Lyon in a pre-season game – Lyon being the place of Hubert’s birth on September 22 1996 – football had been a light-hearted needling point between us.

Despite Hubert’s easy-going and fun nature shining through in the paddock, when the helmet was pulled over his head, a dictaphone shoved under his nose or a meeting called with his engineer, the smile disappeared and an insightful and serious driver greeted you with a steely and fierce look in his eyes. No one could ever deny his determination.

Hubert was introduced to motorsport from a young age as his father, Francois, was a clubman rally driver in France with – admittedly – limited success. But Anthoine was hooked and the almost mandatory FIA-level karting followed.

He was a champion his first year in a racing car as he roared to success in French Formula 4 in 2013. He beat future ADAC GT and Spa 24 Hours winner Jules Gounon on the way to the title, with eventual SMP World Endurance Championship LMP1 driver Matevos Isaakyan also in the field.

Two years in Formula Renault Eurocup followed, 2015 proving to be a race-winning campaign as Hubert took fifth in the championship, and then ’16 was a disappointing season in European Formula 3 with Van Amersfoort. He was eighth in the standings, but well beaten by teammate Callum Ilott.

In 2017 he made the jump to GP3 with ART Grand Prix but brought up the rear of the team’s pack behind George Russell, Jack Aitken and Nirei Fukuzumi as they swept the top four in the standings with only Hubert failing to win a race.

There was a theme developing at that point. When you look up to the end of 2017 on Hubert’s CV, it looks very average after F4 even though he at least won races in every category he contested. He’s a driver who always struggled for budget – properly struggled, but he never used it as a sob story – and that had inevitably affected his career.

It wasn’t until 2018 that he really turned his career around and began to show people what he was truly capable of.

Coming into that season, still at ART but now alongside Ilott, established GP3/F3 race-winner Jake Hughes and the well-funded Nikita Mazepin, Hubert was something of an outsider for the title.

He only won two races in 2018, but so many elements of that season added up to prove how Hubert had made a massive leap forward. The days when anyone could suggest any hint of mediocrity were put behind him on his way to his first major success.

Two victories mated to nine other podiums pushed him across the line in 2018 for the biggest achievement of his career as he followed the likes of Russell, Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas to become a GP3 champion. He would be the last one ever, as the series was merged into FIA Formula 3 for 2019.

Hubert’s Renault Formula 1 affiliation had begun from the 2018 GP3 season-opener at Barcelona. The idea was that if he won the title then Renault would consider making him a full-time member of its junior programme and help him grease the cogs to get a move into Formula 2 rolling.

That meant the opposite outcome was also possible. He knew at the start of 2018 that if he failed to win the title, he could be destined for GTs or another sideways step that would signal the end of the F1 dream.

But Hubert’s biggest asset was his ability to digest and adapt to data, married to working well with his engineers.

He found another level with the class act that is ART in 2018, taking an early series lead that persuaded the legendary team to throw its weight behind him. The pressure must have been intense, but in the paddock it never showed as he was always free for a chat, interview or intense football-related banter.

The amount he had grown during last year was proven when he entered F2 with the Arden team for this season. It had been second to last in the 2018 teams’ standings and he had his expectations well under control heading into the year. The squad also had a number of new key personnel to integrate after a tie-up with the HWA juggernaut, which has helped with engineering advice this year.

Play Podcast: 09-05-19f1weekly802.mp3

FORMULA 1

CHARLES LECLERC DEDICATES HIS FIRST WIN TO ANTHOINE HUBERT

Leclerc won his first Formula 1 race on Sunday when he triumphed at a sombre Belgian Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver made no mistake whatsoever as he powered to a light-to-flag victory on a dark weekend for motorsport at Spa-Francorchamps, a day after his friend since the karting days – Anthoine Hubert – perished in a horrific Formula 2 race accident a day earlier.

It was popular and well-deserved victory for the 21-year-old who has come close on a few occasions this season, but on the day at the sport’s most daunting venue, he opened his account and joined the greats of our sport as a Grand Prix winner.

It was a day of many firsts for Leclerc: the first of many wins one would be safe to predict, the first one of the year, the first since Kimi Raikkonen won for the Reds in the USA last year and the first driver to score a maiden F1 win at Spa since Micahel Schumacher

Behind winner Leclerc, Lewis Hamilton chased hard all day and came desperately close as a last-lap showdown loomed but the Ferrari driver had it covered, but it was breathtaking stuff until they crossed the finish line sending the fans into euphoria.

A dream came true for the kid from Monaco who immediately dedicate his victory to Anthoine Hubert.

He said afterwards, “It was a difficult race and we were struggling with the tyres towards the end. I’m a lot happier than what I managed in Budapest from my side. I managed the tyres better, so it’s a good weekend performance-wise with pole position and my first victory, so for that I’m quite satisfied.”

“On the one hand, I have a dream since I was a child that has been realised, and on the other hand, it has been a very difficult weekend since yesterday. We have lost a friend first of all, and it’s very difficult in these situations so I would like to dedicate this win to him.

“We have grown up together and my first ever race I did when I was seven with Anthoine, so it’s such a shame what happened yesterday.  I can’t fully enjoy my first victory but it is a memory that will live with me forever,” added Leclerc.