F1 | GP HUNGARY, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “A TEAM VICTORY FOR ALPINE BUT THE PENALITES WERE NOT CONSISTENT”

The weekend that just finished will be hard to forget in a hurry for both Esteban Ocon and Alpine’s absolutely unexpected win and for what happened at the first curve. Valtteri Bottas and then Lance Stroll played bowling with their rivals and scored a strike. It was a rash manoeuvre by the Canadian who tried to make up six places braking (so to speak) on the grass, colliding with Leclerc who in turn crashed into Ricciardo. The race was absolutely compromised also for Max Verstappen who in two grands prix managed to gather only one point.

In Hungary we witnessed an unpredictable grand prix even if the restart after the red flag with only Lewis Hamilton on the starting grid while all the other cars restarted from pit-lane will stay in the annals of the world championship. The many times champion gave his all and reached the finish line exhausted. From last position he climbed up to third place on a track where it is hard to overtake setting off a wonderful duel with Fernando Alonso. Nando showed all his worth by managing to keep him at bay for four laps which were essential for Ocon to take the win ahead of Sebastian Vettel.

With the last two grands prix the championship has livened up. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes took the leadership again at Red Bull’s expense but anything can still happen. The gap between the two contenders for the title is not so big, even though Mercedes gave a demonstration of its competitiveness, safety and reliability, even if they made some mistakes.

It was a weekend that also highlighted how essential it is to put otgether a single work group for the whole season since once again we did not have uniformity in the decisions and penalties.

Bottas and Stroll got away with only two points on their drivers’ licenses and relegated five positions down the starting grid at Spa-Francorchamps while Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikonnen paid with a stop and go plus 10 seconds for speeding in pit-lane and the collision with Mazepin. In my opinion the marshals used a light hand with Hamilton as well. His behaviour in qualifying, at Perez’s expense, was punishable. For a similar manoeuvre Fernando Alonso paid five positions on the grid compromising his championship.

It was a good grand prix but the result was distorted at the start even though we must congratulate Alpine for a historic win. Important points also came for Alpha Tauri and especially Williams who were skilful in taking advantage of the situation.
After a break of a few days we will go towards the second part of the season which, due to the health emergency, we do not know how long it will be.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP GREAT BRITAIN, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “HAMILTON AND VERSTAPPEN MUST CALM DOWN”

The first kilometres of the Silverstone Grand Prix were very hard, maybe too hard for Verstappen who tried to defend the leadership at any cost with the conclusion that he finished violently against the barriers at the Copse on the first lap after a collision with his direct rival.

I do not feel like putting all the blame on Hamilton but it could have been an accident with serious repercussions for Verstappen whose body absorbed more than 50Gs deceleration.

Besides the 10” penalty assigned to Hamilton I believe that the marshals should have summoned both drivers because I have the impression that it is going beyond a simple scuffle of the track.

It was not as if the championship were already finished beforehand but this zero points will rekindle the world championship considering that that Lewis reduced the gap to only eight points.

Behind the British driver was placed a perfect Leclerc, the author of a real masterpiece with a Ferrari that is certainly inferior to Mercedes and Red Bull. With the harder compounds it was not as competitive as Hamilton with the Mercedes but he squeezed his car to the full taking a result that was certainly unexpected on Thursday morning.

A different but interesting weekend has ended. I am convinced that the programme of the sprint race must be absolutely repeated but with a review of the format. I am a supporter of pole position taken with the fastest lap but the sprint race can be an interesting starting point for both the public and the teams and drivers, especially if the points system is extended to involve not only the first three finishers.

Gian Carlo Minardi

#F1SPRINT, GIAN CARLO MINARDI “ THE FIRST WAS GOOD, BUT…”

Pole position won with the fastest lap is something irreplaceable but as a first experiment the sprint race passed the test.

They were 17 very tight and exciting laps as Formula 1 should always be, especially Fernando Alonso’s comeback. His first lap was spectacular. Starting from eleventh place he took

However, I am of the opinion that some expedients must be taken. In order to increase the spectacle the points at stake should be increased to encourage the second tier drivers to take a few more risks, transforming these 100 kilometres into a real race rather than qualifying. In doing so we will have two grands prix, one a sprint and one regular, over the weekend, leaving the task of assigning pole position to qualifying.

Now it will be interesting to see tomorrow’s grand prix too to have a full panorama.

Gian Carlo Minardi

GIAN CARLO MINARDI “A SILVERSTONE PER TRACCIARE LE LINEE GUIDA DELLA PROSSIMA F1”

Silverstone is ready to write an important page of Formula 1 history. For the first time the starting grid of a grand prix will not be defined by the result of qualifying but instead from the Sprint Qualifying Race that will be run on 5.30pm Saturday over a distance of 100km assigning 3, 2 and 1 points to the first three qualifiers. Qualifying is scheduled of Friday 16th (from 7.00pm) and will establish the starting order of the Sprint Qualifying Race. It will be interesting to see the strategies the top teams will adopt. This will represent an important occasion for the second tier teams.

This will not be the only new development in the British weekend. After the approval of FIA’s World Motor Sport Council Pirelli will bring to Silverstone rear tyres with a new construction that will be used until the end of the season.

But an eye must also be turned to the driver’s market, especially in Red Bull which has set its sights on Charles Leclerc to be put alongside its favourite Max Verstappen. Despite the win in Azerbaijan and third place on the ladder Perez’s place in the team may still be in question.

On the track front the challenge between Verstappen and Hamilton is renewed with an eye on the second drivers who will be essential for the fight between the constructors. Mercedes is behind also in this situation and at Silverstone it must do everything to try and reduce the gap or at least not loose further ground from RB.

In short, there are many ingredients to start to draw the guidelines for the Formula 1 of the near future.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP FRANCE , THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “CHAOS IN MERCEDES. A STEP BACKWARDS BY FERRARI”

From pole to victory. It was the perfect weekend for Verstappen and Red Bull which consolidated the lead in the ladders. Max managed to patch up the mistake at the start by getting the better over Lewis Hamilton at the end, also helped by the excellent work by his pit.

Another mistake in strategy by Mercedes which suffered excessive wear of the tyres with both the medium and the hard mixes. I have the distinct sensation that there is not the necessary calm inside the team and that we could be faced with the end of an extraordinary cycle. At this moment Red Bull is ahead of Toto Wolff’s men. They are very well organized and can count on a fantastic chassis and a Honda Power-Unit in great shape.

Hamilton again made the difference during a weekend that was unfavourable to them, unlike Bottas who did not make the difference in regards to both Verstappen and Perez.

As was to be expected, after two poles positions there was a step back by Ferrari that even said goodbye to Le Castellet outside the points zone with eleventh and sixteenth places. From the early laps they suffered from excessive wear of the tyres with Leclerc making the first pit stop in the fifteenth lap.  McLaren did very well taking fifth and sixth places with Norris and Ricciardo and once again took back third place. Ricciardo finally managed to keep up with his team mate.

It was also a positive weekend for Alpha Tauri, seventh with Gasly, and for Alonso and Vettel, with Stroll finishing in the top ten after having started from the back.

Contrary to what we thought, we saw an exciting grand prix with an incredible duel between Red Bull and Mercedes. Now we await the double trip to Red Bull’s home, Austria… The world championship could take a nice turn.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GIAN CARLO MINARDI “FERRARI MUST NOT LOSE SIGHT OF ITS OBJECTIVE”

After two grands prix on street circuits we return to a permanent circuit in which Mercedes has always done very well. It is a track with paved escape routes and characterized by two long straights and 15 curves that should certainly favour the two Mercedes. Verstappen can try to defend himself but it will be difficult for Red Bull to oppose them. The heat, as well as the wind, will be two characteristics that should not to be underestimated but I do not expect an exciting grand prix.

Ferrari comes from two positive results in which it showed positive growth and at the Paul Ricard the team is called to an important test in the fast curves but it must not lose sight of the objective of the third place in the World Championship by trying to oppose a McLaren that in the last two rounds has not exactly been up to par.

It will also be interesting to follow the development of Vettel and Alonso who at Baku put on display all their experience, especially in the re-start. For Vettel the podium will be a nice breath of fresh air and I hope he really has recovered from the crisis. By going from Ferrari to Aston Martin this year he has put himself in discussion. Unlike Monte Carlo and Baku, Le Castellet is a track where the car and engine are fundamental. The driver’s skill can make less of a difference.

Gian Carlo Minardi

THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “MERCEDES IN DIFFICULTY’”

Although it is still the car of reference, it is clear that Mercedes has lost the great advantage that we were used to. Mercedes is suffering at the moment, as shown by Valtteri Bottas’ results, today he even finished outside the points zone. Despite the mistake at the restart Lewis Hamilton managed to hide his car’s currents difficulties. You do not see Mercedes say goodbye to a GP with zero points every weekend.

On the other hand we have a Red Bull in great shape that, thanks to Sergio Perez’s win, managed to extend its lead on the ladder. The Mexican replied on the field to Marko’s declarations on his renewal. He is certainly not new in this type of performance and he is a driver that I really like. At this moment he only has to improve in qualifying.

It was a Grand Prix that was flying by anonymously enough until Verstappen left the scene. Race management opted for a restart, surely a new way that we will have to get used to. Like it or not, the final two laps were exhilarating and they certainly cancelled what had happened (or not happened) up to that point. The tussle between Leclerc and Gasly was very good with Alpha Tauri’s Frenchman responding promptly to the Ferrari driver’s assault and he went onto the podium.

After yesterday’s pole position today’s result reflects the true potential of Ferrari which however leapt over McLaren on the ladder. The forces on the field are lining up and there are a number of tussles on the field that will certainly entertain us in the next rounds. The level of the championship is very high and the difference is very tight. This Saturday we again saw in Q2 ten cars enclosed in a few tenths of a second.

Congratulations also to Vettel. After the positive result in Monte Carlo he went onto the podium in second place. It was a result that will certainly lift his spirits. It may be a little early but he is coming out of the “tunnel”.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GIAN CARLO MINARDI “IT’S THE TEAMS’S TASK TO OBSERVE AND HELP THE YOUNG”

Azerbaijan is ready to host its fifth grand prix on the Baku street circuit. After last season’s “forced” break Formula 1 returns to the 6,003 metres of asphalt situation in the old part.

With three wins shared between Rosberg, Hamilton and Bottas Mercedes arrives as the big favourite, even if Red Bull (which boasts a win with Daniel Ricciardo in the 2018 edition) is galvanized by top place in both the ladders thanks to Verstappen’s win in Monte Carlo.

Keep an eye also on Valtteri Bottas who has already shown that he can go fast on this track. The Finn will want to try to redeem himself after the very unlucky pit stop in the Principality. It will be very hard to see Ferrari in the lead once again. Seeing the layout of the track it will not be able to benefit from the traction and in the two straights the Mercedes could really make a difference. For Ferrari a new direct challenge with McLaren is more plausible.

There has been a lot of talk in recent days also on the high costs of Motorsport and the desire to do something to help the young talent emerge and to prevent them from getting lost. It is always positive and important to keep the spotlight on these aspects but it is just as important (if not necessary) that the Team Principals themselves are the ones to go the race tracks to observe the young drivers and to help them in their growth and career.

In these years the Federation has worked a lot to lower the costs but unfortunately our sport is very expensive since it requires a large workforce between the mechanics, engineers, drivers and material. For this reason I believe it is the task of the Formula 1 teams to observe and identify the more deserving young drivers, as someone is already doing with the Academy by supporting the career step by step. Since there is a lot of talk about the budget cap, raising a young person is less burdensome than contracting a champion.

At least that is what I think…

Gian Carlo Minard

F1 | GP MONTE CARLO, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “AFTER SEVEN YEARS NO MERCEDES DRIVER AT THE TOP OF THE LADDER”

We saw an exceptional weekend. Personally qualifying was absolutely the best with minimal gaps. In Q2 we had fifteen cars enclosed within little more than a second. As often happens in the last five minutes of Q3 everyone tried to achieve the best performance and mistakes are around the corner. This time an extraordinary Leclerc, who took Ferrari to pole position, paid a heavy price.

It was a pity that he was unable to take part in the race, also because Ferrari is fighting McLaren for third place in the world championship and having two drivers in the points would certainly have been convenient rather than thinking about the win.

Despite no overtaking, as usual in Monte Carlo, these drivers gave us a thrilling grand prix won by a perfect Verstappen who was absolutely at ease with the track and his car. A perfect Red Bull.

For the first time after seven years we do not have a Mercedes driver at the top of the drivers’ ladder. It was a certainly a subdued weekend for Lewis Hamilton. An unhappy grand prix can happen but I did not like his team radios and his post race comments, also because we are only at the start of the season. His fastest lap was astounding.

We are witnessing an absorbing championship and even the point for the fastest lap could be decisive for the final result. I am convinced that Hamilton and Verstappen will fight it out until the last race.

Ferrari is back on the podium with Carlos Sainz Jr. who finished ahead of Lando Norris. The McLaren driver confirmed he is the most promising driver for the foreseeable future. He fought Sergio Perez, who was subdued in qualifying but decidedly a bulldog in the race.

Sebastian Vettel finally woke up after the long hibernation. In the two laps before the pit stop showed all his worth and he managed to put his Aston Martin ahead of Gasly and Hamilton, grabbing fifth place.

Antonio Giovinazzi also deserves a very high mark. He was very good in qualifying and excellent in the race. He gave Alfa Romeo the season’s first point. He showed he has all the credentials to be taken in greater consideration inside the team.

We say goodbye to Monte Carlo without having seen the safety car and with only two cars not crossing the finish line. Leclerc who did not start and Bottas who was forced to retire due to an problem in the inner right during the pit stop.

Gian Carlo Minardi

GP SPAIN | IL POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “MERCEDES-HAMILTON UNSTOPPABLE”

Even if there was no need for confirmation Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton gave a new demonstration of their supremacy by winning the Spanish grand prix ahead of a just as excellent Max Verstappen who with the Red Bull tried everything to try and overturn a difficult situation.

Just like in Portugal we again witnessed an excellent duel, this time in three between Verstappen, Bottas and Perez, for the point for the fastest lap. This time the Dutchman did not miss the appointment leaving his team mate more than a second behind.

It was a GP that again saw Bottas lose the challenge with his team mate, paying a major gap, even if the number two driver brought home his “homework” of taking points away from his direct rival Sergio Perez. At the moment he cannot do more than this.

It was a masterpiece race by Leclerc who was the protagonist of a stupendous start in which he got the best of the Finn crossing the finish line in fourth place with a Ferrari that is growing but still pays about eight tenths per lap compared to the Mercedes. The driver from Monaco puts much of his own into it as the gap with his team mate showed.

The careless mistake made by Alfa Romeo during Giovinazzi’s pit-stop was incredible. It was a mistake that is rarely committed in lower categories. In this circumstance the mistake was made in both the preparation and the check of the set. In addition, not even the second set was ready. It was a festival of mistakes and always at Antonio’s expense. It was sad because his rhythm was superior to Kimi’s and he could have put himself into the fight for tenth place.

We file away a good weekend that, in addition to the excellent challenge between Hamilton and Verstappen, gave us very hard fought qualifying sessions, especially in Q2 with 14 drivers enclosed within barely 1”.

I look forward to Monte Carlo where I expect many drivers enclosed with the space of a few tenths of seconds. We all know how important qualifying is amongst the streets of the Principality.

Gian Carlo Minardi

 

F1 | GIAN CARLO MINARDI “NORRIS-MCLAREN THE SURPRISE OF THE START OF THIS SEASON”

Having said goodbye to Portugal Formula 1 has moved quickly to Spain. Unlike in the past this year the Barcelona circuit did not host the winter tests and being a tough track could put the cars, drivers and tyres to the test.

We come to Montmelò after three very interesting grands prix that were certainly dictated by Mercedes’ domination but with Red Bull trying to makes its life harder. I hope that this duel will last until the end of the season and that they can continue to entertain us. Both teams want to optimize every single point, as happened during the last three laps in Portimao with the duel between Bottas and Verstappen to adjudicate the point connected to the fastest lap. They took a good risk both as drivers and the teams with the work of the mechanics. A wheel change is always a moment of high tension.

MCLAREN’S SURPRISING START. Norris and McLaren are undoubtedly the surprise of the start of this season. Lando is putting himself on show in both qualifying and the race and McLaren is adapting very well and quickly to the new Mercedes engine, a passage that is not always taken for granted having kept 75% of the 2020 chassis. At the moment I see them immediately behind Mercedes and Red Bull. Many other drivers are alternating good performances with lusterless races, such as Ocon.

COMPACTION OF THE MIDDLE OF THE GROUP. We are only at the fourth round of a very long season with a number of problems to solve dictated by the worldwide health emergency. Behind Mercedes, Red Bull and McLaren there is a good compaction amongst the second tier teams, one of which is also Ferrari.

Gian Carlo Minardi

F1 | GP PORTUGAL, THE POINT BY GIAN CARLO MINARDI “BOTTAS CONFIRMS HE IS A NUMBER TWO DRIVER”

This was a grand prix that betrayed the expectations by giving us the best excitement only in the last three laps with the duel between Bottas and Verstappen for the extra point for the fastest lap. The challenge was won by the Finn, even if I find it absurd taking the time away from the Dutchman. Congratulations to both drivers and also to the mechanics. In this context it is not easy keeping the coolness necessary since a “blink of an eye” is enough to neutralize all the work.

Portugal confirmed that the battle will be between Mercedes and Red Bull with Toto Wolff’s men ahead, especially with Lewis Hamilton since Bottas for the umpteenth time showed he is a number two driver.

For its part Red Bull is trying to cancel the gap with the reigning champions. The choice of drivers has proven to be excellent with both Max and Sergio getting the most out of the car, just like the strategy was excellent when they tried everything with Perez by keeping him on the track as much as possible.

Excellent the grand prix by Norris and Ocon who showed that they are the future of this category. Ferrari lost the direct challenge with McLaren, finishing in sixth place with Leclerc and behind Lando. It was a pity for Sainz who, on the re-entry of the safety car, lost a number of places not managing to repeat the excellent start. A Ferrari that constantly paid the gap, including the 5-7 tenths per lap compared to the first places.

It was a good race also by the two times world champion Fernando Alonso. He was the protagonist of less than perfect qualifying, he recovered many positions finishing behind his team mate which contributed to bringing important points to the Alpine team. A point for Alpha Tauri as well, thanks to Gasly’s tenth place. On an unfavourable track, as emerged in the free practice, this represents a positive result, as well as continuing the positive trend.

We will be racing again in a week, arriving in Spain.

Gian Carlo Minardi

GIAN CARLO MINARDI “QUALIFYING RACE, A SYMBOL TO BE WELCOMED POSITIVELY”

Having said goodbye to Imola Formula 1 continues its journey in the old continent stopping this weekend in Portugal on the Portimao track for the third round. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are separated by only one point with a win each and I hope that this head to head could be a constant factor for all the season.

Last year Portimao entertained us like Imola did two weeks ago which shows that the “historic circuits” represent a guarantee for F1 where the unexpected is just around the corner. We are faced with a season that is particular and of transition as we await the new regulations in 2022 but also full of novelties such as the Qualifying Race (a 100km race) which will makes its debut soon at Silverstone. This is certainly an important signal that could change the panorama of F1 on both the technical and sporting sides. Important scenarios can be opened and must be welcomed in a positive way. We can draw the conclusions only after having tried it.

At Portimao it will be interesting to see the forces on the field we saw in Imola will be confirmed, beyond the supremacy between Mercedes and Red Bull with a good struggle between McLaren and Ferrari for third place. From the first grands prix a big gap between the two top teams and the rest of the group has not emerged.

Amongst this year’s novelties the teams and FIA are gaining confidence with the budget cap and the checks carried out but the rest of the idea which, even if it is an important and interesting tool, it must be changed. To really see the results it will be necessary that all the items must be included, without exception.

Gian Carlo Minardi