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Raging Red Bulls run riot

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

Red Bull Racing-Honda are stepping up to the plate in their long-term ambition of regaining the World Constructor’s Championship from Mercedes-AMG, captors of said title every year since 2014. Christian Horner’s team stand the best bet to bring that haul to an abrupt end and have a 4-point buffer on Toto Wolff's Silver Arrows after ten Grand Prix weekends.

As we approach the half-way mark in the 2021 Formula One season, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have some ground to make up if they are to keep ahold of their respective World Driver’s & Constructor’s Championships. Toto Wolff’s team find themselves in unfamiliar territory chasing after Red Bull who themselves ensured to recruit two top-class drivers this year, opting against their recurring rookie policy. Red Bull have collected 289 points so far, compared to 285 points for Mercedes.

The wider F1 community was sent into shockwaves less than 24 hours after the Monaco Grand Prix on 23 May with news of the passing of Max Mosley, president of the FIA from 1993-2009. It was under Mosley's jurisdiction that driver safety regulations were revolutionized in light of the on-track deaths of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger in 1994. Mosley died of cancer, aged 81.

14 days later on the morning of the French GP, the F1 family learned the death of Mansour Ojjeh, shareholder at McLaren for over 30 years. McLaren CEO Zak Brown hailed Ojjeh as “intrinsic to the team's success”.

A minute's silence was observed prior to the French GP in memory of both Mosley and Ojjeh.

From one street circuit to another as the grid shifted from Monte Carlo to Baku, after both these races were abandoned in 2020, and this year’s Azerbaijan GP was nothing shy of a thriller right from the get-go. Charles Leclerc qualified on pole for the second consecutive race weekend and this time even managed to start the race. Hamilton completed the front row ahead of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly. Valtteri Bottas started P10.

Leclerc’s Ferrari was quite simply not as quick as Red Bull nor Mercedes. Leclerc surrendered the race lead to Hamilton at the end of lap 2, and by lap 8 he was also trailing both Red Bull cars. A slow pit-stop for Hamilton saw him lose track position to Verstappen and Sergio Perez before the safety car came out in response to Lance Stroll’s accident on lap 31.

Championship leader Verstappen was forced to retire when his tyre blew on the home straight with 5 laps remaining. His team-mate Perez took the lead but the race was subsequently red flagged. Sebastian Vettel‘s meteoric rise saw the Aston Martin driver start P11 before moving up to occupy P3 when the race was halted.

At the standing restart, Hamilton locked-up at turn 1 and ran off-track to promote Vettel to P2. There was a three-way dual for the final podium spot between Gasly, Leclerc and Lando Norris.

Perez crossed the line to take his first victory in Red Bull colours, ahead of Vettel who took his first podium since leaving Ferrari. Gasly finished P3 after fending off Leclerc and Norris, and Fernando Alonso ended P6 – his best finish since returning to the sport.

Tsunoda, Sainz, Ricciardo and Raikkonen completed the top 10.

Verstappen had set the fastest lap but did not collect the point due to his DNF.

Several records were re-written at Baku, including that it was the first time since 2012 that neither Mercedes car scored points, as Bottas and Hamilton finished P12 & P15.

Moreover, the four previous GP in Baku all saw different race winners: Nico Rosberg, Ricciardo, Hamilton, and Bottas. Perez added his name to that list to make it five different winners in as many races by the Caspian Sea. The Mexican driver has now celebrated three podium finishes in five starts at Baku.

Perez and Vettel earned the same unique feat in Azerbaijan as both drivers have now finished on the podium with four different teams:

Perez (Sauber, Force India, Racing Point, Red Bull),

Vettel (Toro Rosso, Red Bull, Ferrari, Aston Martin).

The pair join the likes of Alain Prost and Jenson Button in this exclusive club.

From Azerbaijan to France next, where Cours Paul Ricard hosted Round 7 of the season. Verstappen earned a 2nd pole in 2021 – his 5th overall.

Hamilton and Bottas qualified in P2 & P3, and Perez completed the second row.

Hamilton gained the lead from Verstappen on the opening lap before Red Bull’s superior undercut pit-stop strategy paved the way for the 25-year-old Dutchman to pass the Mercedes with just one lap remaining; Verstappen made two pit stops while both Mercedes cars boxed once apiece.

Verstappen flashed to the finish line ahead of Hamilton, and also clocked the fastest lap of the race. Perez completed the top 3 to give Red Bull its first double podium of 2021. For the first time during the turbo-hybrid era (2014–), Christian Horner’s team completed a treble of race wins with consecutive victories in Monaco, Azerbaijan and France.

McLaren claimed 18 points as Norris & Ricciardo took P5 & P6 behind Bottas. Pierre Gasly – born 120km from Circuit Paul Ricard – finished P7 while French constructor Alpine scored points in their home race as Alonso came in P8. Aston Martin collected the remaining points as Vettel and Stroll ended P9 & P10.

A weekend to forget for Ferrari, who took away zero points from the French GP. Leclerc qualified 7th behind team-mate Sainz in P5 but poor race pace and lacklustre strategy saw the Prancing Horse end in P11 & P16.

The race weekend in Paris allowed for 15,000 spectators each day, the best-attended F1 event this year up until that point.

From France the F1 paddock next traveled eastwards to Austria where double points were up for grabs over two consecutive race weekends. In red-hot form, Red Bull were undoubtedly the team to beat in their home race(s) at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. The Styrian Grand Prix was named the replacement for the Turkish GP which itself had taken the slot of Canada‘s race, called off in April. The race weekend at Istanbul Park has since been rescheduled for 1-3 October.

Verstappen qualified on pole ahead of the two Britons, Hamilton and Norris.

Verstappen led from lights out to the chequered flag to claim his 14th career victory, also a fourth straight victory for Red Bull. Hamilton took P2 and set the fastest lap of the race, ahead of Bottas who pipped Perez to the final step on the podium.

Norris finished P5 ahead of both Ferraris. Leclerc displayed splendid driving to rise to P7 up from last place on lap 2 after he was forced to make an early pit-stop due to front wing damage. Stroll, Alonso and Tsunoda occupied P8-10.

Exactly one year since the delayed 2020 F1 season finally got underway in Austria, Hamilton penned a new 2-year deal with Mercedes ahead of the Austrian GP.

For the first time in his F1 career Verstappen claimed a hat-trick of pole positions – the first time since Vettel in 2013 that a Red Bull driver had accomplished this. Norris qualified P2 (just 4-hundredths of a second shy of Verstappen) to give McLaren their first front row start in 9 years. Perez qualified P3 ahead of both Mercedes'.

George Russell started the race in P8, a highest starting place for the Williams driver. Both Ferraris qualified outside the top 10.

An action-packed race from start to finish, including an early retirement (Esteban Ocon) and subsequent safety car after which tempers began to flare and several drivers were handed 5-second stop-go penalties, all in separate incidents. Norris was penalised for allegedly forcing Perez off the track at turn 4, while in turn Perez picked up two penalties for the same offence on separate occasions both involving Ferrari's Leclerc.

A clean sweep for Verstappen who walked away with a third successive race win, a 50th podium finish as well as the fastest lap of the race in front of his adoring ‘Orange Army’. Five wins on the bounce for Red Bull.

Verstappen is the youngest driver in F1 history to reach 50 podiums (23y 9m), 2 years younger than Vettel was when he achieved the same feat. Alonso was 27 years-old when he earned podium #50 while Hamilton, Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher had all turned 28 before securing their 50th F1 podiums.

Car troubles for Hamilton gave the green light to Bottas to take P2, 18 seconds behind Verstappen. Despite a stop-go penalty Norris displayed tremendous race pace to achieve his 3rd podium of the year while countryman Hamilton had to settle for P4, followed over the line by Sainz, Perez, Ricciardo & Leclerc.

Gasly and Alonso took the last points on offer.

Sebastian Vettel's birthday weekend may not prove a memorable one for the Aston Martin driver, who was on the receiving end of a 3-place grid penalty after being adjudged to have impeded Alonso's Q2 hotlap. Later in the main race Vettel collided with Raikkonen's Alfa Romeo on the final lap, with the 34-year-old German drawing a DNF in the Austrian GP.

Giovinazzi and Tsunoda were others who accumulated 5-second penalties, for overtaking under safety car conditions and for crossing the white line at pit entry – not once but twice.

The British Grand Prix this past weekend hosted the debut of a new race weekend format. Instead of the traditional three qualifying sessions on Saturday, quali instead took place on Friday evening and did not determine the starting grid for the main race but rather for sprint qualifying on Saturday. The end results from the 17-lap sprint race then translated into the line-up for Sunday's main race.

The sprint was equivalent to one-third of the 300km main race at Silverstone.

Home favourite Hamilton lined up on pole for the inaugural F1 sprint with Verstappen alongside, qualifying just 75 milliseconds adrift of the defending world champion. Bottas started the sprint P3 with Leclerc keeping close company.

Verstappen had a considerably better start off the line than Hamilton did, and the WDC leader dashed to take pole position for Sunday’s main race. Hamilton lined up P2 in front of Bottas and Leclerc.

Perez started at the back of the grid after a spin during the sprint.

A truly riveting race right off the line with Hamilton and Verstappen wheel-to-wheel on the opening lap, until Copse at turn 9 where Hamilton's front-left tyre clipped Verstappen's rear-right to send the Red Bull tumbling into the barricade and out of the race which was then red flagged.

The stewards handed a 10-second penalty to Hamilton for causing a collision and from that moment on it was a chasing game for the 7-time world champion.

A slow pit-stop by McLaren allowed for Hamilton to pass Norris into P3 after serving his penalty, before team orders by Mercedes saw Bottas forfeit P2 to team-mate Hamilton on lap 41 of 52. Race leader Leclerc held a gap in excess of 8 seconds over Hamilton however the rapid Merc was too quick for the Ferrari, and Hamilton took the lead with under 3 laps remaining – much to the jovial appreciation amongst the jam-packed Silverstone grandstands.

Hamilton spectacularly raced home for his 99th victory, 3,5 seconds before Leclerc crossed the line in P2 to give the Monegasque driver his first podium of 2021 and only a second top-3 finish for Ferrari this year. Bottas ended P3 as Mercedes very much reaffirmed themselves in their bid to capture an eighth consecutive Constructor's crown.

Norris took P4 in his home GP and is the only driver to score points in every race this year, while his team-mate Ricciardo earned his best-placed finish since switching to McLaren as he held Sainz at bay to nick P5 ahead of the Spaniard.

Alonso claimed 6 more points with his P7 finish. Stroll, Ocon and Tsunoda rounded the top 10 finishers.

A hiccup of a weekend for Red Bull, who came away with only a single point as Perez set the fastest lap of the race. Team boss Horner described the race result as a “hollow victory” for Hamilton.

The 140,000-strong crowd inside Silverstone were in top form to assist their hero Hamilton to storm to an undisputed eighth British GP victory. Hamilton holds the joint-most record for most wins at a single Grand Prix.

The next stop on the F1 calendar comes in 2 weeks' time at the Hungaroring for the Hungarian GP.

Verstappen holds an 8-point cushion over title rival Hamilton
Red Bull lead the way by 4 points ahead of Mercedes

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