The most exciting ten day period of the season..
Started out on a high note with the two Ferraris of Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel topping every session of practice and qualifying 1-2. Leclerc qualified 0.748 seconds ahead of his four time world champion teammate. Vettel complained of traffic on his final flying lap but even so, that’s gotta be a real kick in the ass for him. Regardless, Leclerc is continuing to show that when he’s on, HE IS ON!
Then, less than three hours later during the F2 race, a major crash occurred coming out of Radillon on lap 2. Anthoine Hubert, the Renault Sport Academy driver who grew up racing with Charles Leclerc, Pierre Gasly, and Esteban Ocon, passed away shortly after the accident. He was 22 and very likely in line for a Formula 1 seat in the next couple of years. In his first season of F2, he had won two races, one in Monaco and one at Paul Ricard, his home race. It is extremely sad when anyone passes away, but especially when it’s a young kid with a bright future and it happens so unexpectedly. Hopefully this incident serves as a reminder that there is always risk in motorsports, no matter how safe the cars have become.
This, no doubt, made the race on Sunday that much harder. While the best way to honor Anthoine would have been to get back in the car and race, several drivers have said they did not want to race on Sunday and were glad it was over. Gasly told Leclerc before the race to win the race for Anthoine. Leclerc has had two legitimate chances to win a grand prix in his first season at Ferrari. One in Bahrain where he had a loss of power, and one in Austria where Verstappen somehow had better tyres at the end of the race. While it’s awful for Leclerc to get his first F1 win under these circumstances, it’s almost that much sweeter that it was done in honor of his close friend.
In other news (or not so much news), the Mercedes seem to only have weakness at a couple of tracks. SPA was one of them, and they still managed a double podium finish, including Lewis only finishing second by less than one second. Bottas certainly seemed more relaxed all weekend with his new one-year deal finally inked.
Red Bull made quite a change, though not unexpected by anyone, by dropping Pierre Gasly back to the Junior Team (Toro Rosso) and promoting Alex Albon to the Senior Team. Being Verstappen’s teammate is going to be tough for anyone, but Gasly has been so far off the pace all season that he really didn’t deserve that seat. He did however look damn good in the Toro Rosso in 2018. So far (through one race) he looks good in it again! After qualifying 16th, he moved up 7 places to finish 9th and score 2 points. He only finished higher than 9th eight times while at Red Bull (through 12 races). His teammate finished all 12 higher than that. Albon though, knowing there was a penalty looming, opted not to go out for a second run during Q2 on Saturday, settling for 14th, ultimately starting 18th after penalties. He started 18th. And finished FIFTH!!!! Yes, he certainly got lucky with a few drivers having some bad luck, or making bad decisions (See Lando for luck and Max for poor decisions). Max made an aggressive move on lap one trying to cut the corner around Kimi ultimately ruining both of their races. Kimi finished the race, but Max was out on the next turn in what is arguably his home race in 2019 (he’s half Belgian).
Danny Kvyat, aka The Torpedo, had one hell of a drive. After starting 19th, he made his way up into the top 10, ultimately finishing 7th. The two boys in Papaya Orange had a rough weekend. Lando had started 11th and was running somewhat comfortably in fifth on lap 43 (of 44) when he had a sudden loss of power and his car shut off, just over the start/finish line on lap 44 giving him an 11th place designation. However, there are no points for an 11th place finish. Carlos Sainz came into the pits during the safety car period, never to return.
The Williams boys did what they could with the package they have….not much, but they finished the race, and they remain the only team with ZERO DNFs!! For the record though, reliability does not make for a good car. Consider the reliability of a Toyota Corolla.. It’ll drive forever, but it’ll never beat a Ferrari in a 300km race (at least without an engine failure).
While Kimi’s race was impacted by a first lap incident, Giovinazzi’s was not. His was impacted by a final lap dumb ass mistake. He crashed on his own, begging the question yet again as to why he has that race seat.
Checo Perez equaled his best finish of the season in 6th (he finished 6th at Baku as well). Perhaps it was his new three year deal. Even Hulkenberg finished in the points with an 8th place finish. Perhaps it was his lack of a contract and he doesn’t care anymore.
While this was a tough weekend for all motorsports fans, it is also a reminder that these men and women are out there risking their lives for our entertainment and enjoyment and should not be taken lightly.
On the bright side of things, the Italian Grand Prix at Monza is this weekend. Then there’s just a normal one week break, and then it’s back to back races again! And yeah, that’s four races in the month of September. I know I’m excited!!!