As with the first Grand Prix of the year, Round 2 of the 2021 Formula One calendar at the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari on April 18th did not disappoint. If things continue, F1 could deliver one of the best seasons in years. Let’s take a look at the Top 10 finishers and some associated stories.
Race conditions were mixed, with the race start being wet. P3’s Max Verstappen took the lead from poleman Lewis Hamilton and was never really challenged. Hamilton’s race was a bit more adventurous with an uncharacteristic off, while lapping George Russell‘s Williams, resulting in damage to his front wing. A red flag incident one lap later between Russell and Bottas gave Hamilton back the lap he would have lost, while the Mercedes Team dealt with a nose change on his car to finish a strong second. Despite a penalty for not observing “track limits” and losing a front row start, McLaren’s Lando Norris finished third, only losing second to Hamilton in the closing stages of the race as his soft tires cried “Enough!”. The ever-improving Ferrari’s, at their home GP, covered the next two places with Charles Leclerc in P4 and Carlos Sainz Jr. P5, Leclerc being robbed of a podium by Hamilton’s late charge through the field. Graciously following team orders, Daniel Ricciardo allowed his team-mate Norris by, but still managed a good sixth place finish and, when his comfort level with the new McLaren improves, he will be a threat for podiums.
Despite being an extremely exciting race in mixed conditions, Round 2 also was controversial, with a collision between Valtteri Bottas and George Russell that has seen social media buzzing for days after the race.
On lap 32 of a 63 lap race, Russell was passing the Mercedes of Bottas on the way to Tamburello when the two collided. A lot of the blame was heaped on George Russell; however, ultimately, the Steward called it a “racing accident”. From Russell’s point of view, Bottas moved slightly to the right, forcing the Williams driver onto the damp part of the circuit and causing a loss of control. Following behind, from the on-board video of Kimi Räikkönen’s Alfa Romeo, you can clearly see a slight change in direction from Bottas’ Mercedes. Okay, so drivers are clearly allowed to defend their position and Bottas emphatically stated that in the press conference after the GP, but when is it too much? 300 km/h, a damp track, a gentleman’s agreement about last minute moves during high-speed passes, not to mention floundering at the bottom of the Top 10 with one of the best cars in F1, should Bottas have been a little more sympathetic to his quasi team-mate (remember, George is a reserve Mercedes driver)? Have a look at Hamilton’s pass on Norris in the closing stages of the GP, fighting for P2. Same move as Russell on Bottas and, despite defending for several laps, the young McLaren driver does not force Lewis onto the grass (a good reference is the pit lane blend line and how the front wheels are positioned).
So, what about the media aftermath? It really starts with Toto Wolff’s comments in the pen after the race, where he is respectful and politically correct, even going so far as to use an old Senna line when talking about George Russell: “If you don’t go for a gap, you’re not a race driver anymore”. But some time later, Wolff goes a bit “Guenther Steiner” and begins taking swipes at Russell, starting with the tongue-in-cheek comment about demoting Russell to Renault Clio Cup. Now, this was said in jest, but social media took that statement like it was gospel and ran with it. Following that was Toto’s line that Russell’s comments about the crash were “bull-shit”. Being a Team Principal is no easy task, and the situation in Imola could have brought even the best to the boiling point, but … should Wolff’s comments have not been kept within the confines of the Mercedes-AMG F1 team? As for the rest of the media, there were some good, but mostly bad, reactions -- my big disappointment was Autosport and its Imola podcast. Listening to three of the hosts gang up on the fourth host, Jess McFadyen, for her Twitter post blaming George Russell 100% for the crash was amusing; ironically, the view from Räikkönen’s car was also posted on McFadyen’s Twitter page, which gave an outstanding view of the incident - perhaps Jess was simply too busy posting selfies to give it a closer look?
1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve also chimed in and, in his direct fashion, blamed Bottas for being “too slow”, while commenting on the “defensive jab” the Mercedes driver exercised and the stupid risk that type of maneuver entails.
For all three (Russell, Bottas and Wolff), the pressure is on. Russell wants the seat at Mercedes and needs to keep performing, not having his hands tied by being told not to race Mercedes cars. Bottas has equal pressure; for many, he has passed his sell-by-date at Mercedes and should be replaced. For Toto Wolff, perhaps subject to the biggest pressure of all, in addition to the daily running of the Mercedes Team – he now has to make a decision about who goes and who is staying for 2022.
F1 heads off to the Algarve International Circuit and the Portuguese GP (the second year running for this venue) and, if the comments from last year are anything to go by, the drivers will love it. Again, due to COVID restrictions, it will be a spectator-less race; however, judging by the season so far, it will be a great race.
The USA is also in the news. Miami, Florida, joins the F1 calendar in 2022 with a challenging street circuit.
There are some sad rumors that the Canadian GP may be put on hold this year due to that Country’s ongoing battle with the pandemic; a strong possible replacement for the Montreal date is Turkey.
Now challenge yourself and your friends to our F1 Trivia Quiz, by downloading Quizefy from the app store if you haven’t already done so, then enjoy the F1 race in Portugal on the weekend. Our F1 Trivia Quiz is only available today, then it disappears.
We’ll be back again on Tuesday, May 4th, with another F1 Update blog posted at www.quizefy.com along with a new F1 trivia quiz, available in our Quizefy app. only on May 4th. Don’t forget to follow Quizefy in social media, so we can remind you of upcoming F1 content.