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It’s lights out and away we go in Baku!

Polesitter Charles Leclerc had a great start in the Ferrari and got away very quickly from the line and led in front of Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. There were no incidents through the first few turns. Meanwhile on Lap 2, Sergio Perez has made a strong start to the race, moving up two positions to 4th place. On the other hand, Lando Norris has had a poor start and is already in 12th place, behind teammate Daniel Ricciardo. George Russell is the first one of the field to make a pitstop already. Lewis Hamilton makes it to P1 in Lap 3. The World Champion does not even need a DRS to overtake Leclerc, who could not stay in front of the Mercedes. It was a brilliant move. Lap 4 and the first retirement of the race is for Esteban Ocon. It appears that the Alpine has a gearbox failure as we heard Ocon on the team radio saying, “Lost power!”

We’re into Lap 7, and Max Verstappen hits the brakes late and overtakes Leclerc. Max obviously needed a few laps to get there. Lewis Hamilton complained about some balancing concerns over the Mercedes team radio in Lap 8, saying, “Balance is on the nose”, he also mentions struggling. Sergio Perez now closes in on Charles Leclerc and joins his Dutch Red Bull teammate in moving forward. Charles Leclerc is into the pit in Lap 10 and receives a fresh set of hard tyres. Charles Lecelerc rejoined the track before Kimi Räikkönen on P10. Lewis Hamilton says to be having struggles with his rears on the team radio in Lap 11. A disaster for Ferrari in Lap 12 after Carlos Sainz went straight through Turn 8 after his tyres blocked. As a result: the Spaniard is now in P15 after having to reverse back onto the track.

In Lap 15, we see Lewis Hamilton, the defending World Champion, make a slow pit stop of 4.6 seconds, and he loses his position on the track. One lap later, during Lap 16, Red Bull is capable of a pit stop for Max Verstappen in under two seconds. Sergio Perez is now leading the race with Sebastian Vettel on P2. Now Sergio Perez comes to a 4.3 second stop in Lap 17, but the Mexican stays ahead of Verstappen. Lap 19 and meanwhile Sebastian Vettel is leading the race, but he has yet to pit. It’s the first time the German has led a race since Brazil 2019.

Now, as it stands, we have P1: Vettel P2: Verstappen P3: Perez P4: Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel pits for a new set of tyres in Lap 21, and the former World Champion leaves the pit lane in 8th place. Aston Martin’s strategy of stretching out the first stint of the race seemed to pay off. Max Verstappen is now the new leader of the race with his teammate Sergio Perez on P2! Lap 22 and Valtteri Bottas hasn’t been mentioned yet. He’s still stuck in 10th place, where he started the race. He’s having trouble getting past Norris.

After a lock-up earlier in the race, the Spaniard had to work his way through the field, and he showed amazing courage by passing Giovinazzi into Turn 8 during Lap 24. He took the long way around after braking late. On Lap 25, Bottas drove off-track at Turn 16, losing him over a second and putting him further behind Norris. Nikita Mazepin makes a lockup and misses the corner in Lap 26. By 38 seconds, the Russian has dropped to the back of the field…

We hear a worrying Lewis Hamilton on the team radio during Lap 27 saying he cannot keep up with the Red Bulls. Mercedes have the best straight-line speed, but the Red Bulls have been the more balanced cars throughout the weekend. We’re into Lap 31, and we have the first Yellow Flag situation of the race.

Stroll had the longest stint in the race and was the only driver not to pit, and now he’s crashed into the wall after a rear puncture caused a massive accident on the run to the finish line. Eventually, the Safety Car has been deployed, and there is a significant amount of debris on the track. Michael Masi also decided to close the pit entry as a result. Still behind the Safety Car in Lap 34 and Lewis Hamilton mentions that a restart will be difficult on his tyres. Meanwhile, the pitlane re-opened, and Alonso, Giovinazz and Russell head into the pits. Mick Schumacher is also making a pitstop, but his tyre wasn’t put on properly by the team; they brought him safely to the pit and put on the tyre the right way, after all.

Finally, the Safety Car is ending in Lap 35. Max determines the pace, and we restarted! Lewis Hamilton considered going around Sergio Perez’s back but decided against it. Then Sebastian Vettel passes Leclerc before the Ferrari nearly collides with Hamilton’s rear end due to a lock-up! Sebastian Vettel’s tyres perform brilliantly as he passes Gasly, bringing the former world champion in 2nd place behind Hamilton.

We’re on Lap 44, and on the Mercedes team radio, Hamilton says, “I’m not getting any closer.” Despite having the fastest lap of the race a few laps ago in Lap 39. Now Max Verstappen has set the new fastest lap of the race in Lap 45.

Disaster for the race leader! Max Verstappen is in the wall in Lap 47. He looked set for victory, and the race was as good as wrapped up, but there has been a problem with one of his rear tyres. We saw something similar happen with Stroll earlier in the race. We see a shocking Christian Horner with his head in his hands at the pit wall, not believing what just happened with only a few more laps to go….

We’re now, unsurprisingly, behind the Safety Car in Lap 48, and there’s a good possibility this race will end behind the Safety Car. The problem seems to be with the Pirelli tyre probably becoming too soft. With only three laps remaining, the race stewards have decided that it’s preferable to stop the session with a Red Flag situation to clear the track with the cars staying in the pit lane. It has been decided that the race will resume. Later on, it has been decided that the drivers will make their second standing start of the afternoon.

Once again, the lights went out for a two-lap sprint race to the finish line, and Hamilton appeared to be in front of Perez. The championship leader had just said on the radio minutes before that he would not take any big chances because it’s still early in the season.  Then he completely locked up, crashing into the Turn 1 run-off area before finishing P15 and out of the points.

Sergio Perez takes the chequered flag and his first race victory as a Red Bull driver! Getting some crucial points for Red Bull in exceptional circumstances. Sebastian Vettel finished second from 11th with his Aston Martin, and Pierre Gasly took 3rd after holding off Leclerc’s repeated overtaking efforts, leaving the pole-sitter in 4th.

Linsay Winkler is a 19-year-old young woman who has been working in motorsport as a mechanic since she was 15.

She already gained a lot of experience in different teams and racing classes and aims to be an engineer in the future. I was delighted to sit down with this young technical talent to ask her a few questions about her current role and her experiences working within motorsport.

You clearly have a passion for motorsport, how did you come into contact with the sport, and why did you choose the technical side of it?
To start at the very beginning, my father has always worked in motorsport. He was a manager of a driver, mechanic and team boss; he stopped doing this when I was about 12 years old. In addition, my parents have a go-kart track, so of course, I already learned things. I was never really interested in motorsport myself, and instead, I was doing a different sport at a high level, which I was very busy with. When Max Verstappen won the Spanish Grand Prix (if I remember correctly), a few days later, the Max Verstappen racing days took place in Zandvoort. After Max’s win, my father was invited and naturally also wanted to take a look, so I went with him. There I met a lot of people, which increased my interest enormously. A few months later, Jos Verstappen took us to the Formula One test days, and my father took me to a Formula 4 race weekend where I immediately fell in love with the sport. I wanted to join the F4 team every weekend, from Thursday to Sunday evening. There were two free practice sessions, a qualifying session and three races per weekend where I went into the pit lane to see everything; during the sessions, I had nothing to do because, of course, I was there as a guest. I asked the other technicians to ask if I could do something, and I got into it because I was allowed and able to do more and more.

Could you tell me more about your role and the duties?
A mechanic is actually responsible for the car before, during and after the sessions. Basically, they make changes that are communicated by the driver or engineer and make sure the car is ready to race. We also adapt the car to the driver, so each driver has a different seat that must be made; the pedals are different for each driver as well due to their length, and each driver has a different driving style with the corresponding adjustments. In addition, we naturally replace parts and repair them if necessary. This may sound logical, but actually, we are constantly working on the car to get the best out of the car and ensure that everything is mounted perfectly.

You are currently studying Aeronautical Engineering; isn’t that very different from motorsport? Why did you choose this study?
The aeronautical engineering study is the perfect study to understand race car aerodynamics. Many people think this is something completely different, but almost most engineers have followed this study. My father always said that I first had to know the technical (mechanic) side of the car and then, with this knowledge, become a more complete engineer. Last year was, therefore, the perfect time to gain more knowledge in addition to working as a mechanic by following the study of aeronautical engineering.

Your work seems to me to be both physically and mentally intense because the performance of others partly depends on your performance. How do you train yourself in this? How do you keep yourself sharp?
 If you work in motorsport, you work long days and make short nights, so I prepare myself for this all year round by trying to get as much energy from my sleep as possible and getting up on time. So, during a race weekend, this won’t feel like a completely different pattern.
In addition, it is also a physical burden. I don’t perform pit stops in the W Series like in Formula 1. If I did, the physical aspect would be even more enormous. I can say the mechanics train all year round to be physically as strong as possible. I also train throughout the year to get as much out of my body as possible physically. But for me, the most important thing is that a race weekend is physically (little sleep and hard work) affected as little as possible by the changes compared to, for example, when I have classes.

What does a typical race week look like for you? Are there any routines you can tell more about? 
Every race weekend actually has a kind of fixed routine, but no two weekends are the same. Usually, the weekend starts on Monday or Tuesday when we travel to the track. Then on Wednesday, we pitch the tent and start working on the cars. On Thursday, we prepare the cars for training and qualifying on Friday. Free practice’s and qualifying are on Friday. After Friday, we prepare the cars for the race on Saturday or Sunday in the evening. Every weekend is obviously different; when a car is damaged, you work differently than when the car is perfectly adjusted, and the driver does not require any adjustments.

Do you have a moment in your career so far that you are proud of? Or very exciting moments?
The race at Assen with the W Series in 2019 was really cool! I was there for the first time with the W Series, and as a mechanic, I got to win with Megan Gilkes. On Saturday evening, we were told that we could be on pole in the reverse grid race on Sunday, which was very exciting. On Sunday, Megan won the race with +0.034 seconds, if I’m correct. The last laps I have been biting my nails and shaking like crazy because I was so nervous, but in the end, I was very proud of her that she had just won the race!

You work in a sport that is mainly dominated by men; how do you keep your position strong in this world among men? And how do you manage to inspire other women with this?
I think basically everyone I have worked with always says that I am a very hard worker. In addition, many people (mechanics, engineers, drivers) really enjoy working with me, which is a very nice compliment, and thankfully I also enjoy working with them! I don’t see myself as someone who inspires other women, but I do hope that women who doubt they can see me and think if I can, they can do this too!

Do you have any advice for someone who wants to work as a Mechanic / Engineer? 
Just do it! I believe that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough and do something that you enjoy!

On behalf of Grid Talk, I would like to thank Linsay for taking the time to talk to me about her experiences in and around the paddock! We hope this inspires you to follow your dreams.

Drama already unfolded even before starting the race as Polesitter Charles Leclerc has experienced some gearbox issues on his out lap. Later on, Ferrari confirmed that he would not be racing this afternoon. This is a hard one to swallow for the Monegasque after claiming pole in his home Grand Prix; however, he will now be on the sidelines.

It’s lights out and away we go in Monaco! 

It’s a good start from Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, and we see a lock-up from Valtteri Bottas into Turn 1. It’s been a somewhat aggressive start from Verstappen, who now has a decent lead over Bottas in the front of the field.  Carlos Sainz also got away very well. According to replays, Bottas had a slightly better start than the Dutchman. He might have been able to cut back on any other track once Verstappen went through him to take the racing line, but not on a street circuit like this. 

We’re going into Lap 2, and all 20 drivers moved up one place after the DNS from Charles Leclerc, and we see Max Verstappen earning the fastest lap. In the top 10, there doesn’t appear to have been much change, but that’s Monaco for you. Nikita Mazepin received the first black and white flag of the race for breaching track limits in Lap 14. He’s crossed the line far too many times. We’re only 16 laps into the race, but another infringement will result in a penalty for the Russian.

Lap 19, and we can hear Verstappen on the team radio saying, “For these tyres, I’m happy.” So far, it seems that everything has gone according to plan for the Dutchman. Not for Norris, who has now been handed a black and white flag.  Lance Stroll launches his Aston Martin over the kerb where Leclerc crashed in Saturday qualifying in Lap 21 but saved it from hitting the barrier just in time.  We’re in Lap 22 when we hear Bottas complain about the left front tyre that seems to be starting to drop. As seen on the AWS tyre condition graphic, Bottas has indeed 20% left of his tyres.  Lap 26 and Max Verstappen sounds very happy again. This time he mentions to be having “Quite a good front end” on the team radio. Something that used to be a problem during the free practices has been improved with the Red Bull. 

Lewis Hamilton is the first to make a pit stop in Lap 30 and made a swift pitstop of 2.2 seconds  Lap 31, and there is a disaster pit stop for Bottas. which causes a lot of chaos.  Three tyres came off easily, but the front right refused to come off. We saw the wheel gun shattering into shards, and the team was unable to remove his tyre, forcing the Finn to retire from the race. Meanwhile, we hear a fuming Lewis Hamilton on the team radio: “I don’t understand, guys. I saved the tyres to go longer, and you made me stop before.

Max Verstappen, the race leader, pits on lap 35. A short two-second stop for the hard tyres there, and it’s all looking quite good for the Dutch Red Bull driver now. Still, in Lap 35, Hamilton dropped two positions by pitting, and he’s just been warned that he’s in threat from Sergio Perez, who is currently leading the race and has some breathing room to extend his lead. Lewis sounds very unhappy. Sergio Perez has finally pitted for a set of hard compound tyres on Lap 36. It’s a smooth stop, and he returns to the track in fourth place. Red Bull is so far experiencing an amazing day, while Mercedes seems to be having a disastrous one.

Now we’re on Lap 50, and things are starting to get interesting. Sainz is putting a lot of pressure on Verstappen, and while the Red Bull still has a three-second lead, the Ferrari has been fast all weekend. Lap 53 and things are getting unfortunate for Daniel Ricciardo, who is currently in P12, as his teammate will lap him. While he begins to get to know his McLaren, it’s not the weekend he expected.  For the Aussie, today is a race to forget after two poles and a win.

Verstappen and Sainz are separated by only 2.7 seconds in Lap 56. This race has felt like a parade from the start, but if the Ferrari keeps up this pace, there could be some surprises near the finish. Lap 58 and Lando Norris just informed the team over the radio that his car is undriveable on these tyres. If this keeps up, he’ll soon have Perez on his tail. The youngster sounds very concerned. Sergio Perez has closed the gap on Norris to four seconds in Lap 61, but that gap isn’t closing fast enough when you consider he has to go past him somewhere.  Unless, of course, the tyres will lose their condition, in which case Norris will be in serious danger.

We’re in Lap 63, and Lance Stroll is under investigation for supposedly failing to maintain his position in the pit lane to the right. After such a strong performance, a time-penalty might be devastating for the Canadian. Carlos Sainz is starting to drop from his position in Lap 65. He’s 7.2 seconds behind Verstappen but might be satisfied with second place today, which would be a fantastic first podium for his new Italian team. Were in Lap 69 and a set of fresh soft tyres for Hamilton. This seems like Mercedes’ acceptance that Hamilton will not finish in the serious points at the front of the field. Therefore he will rather try for the fastest lap bonus point.

The stewards investigated the incident involving Stroll in Lap 70 and concluded that he did not go over to the right side of the pit lane, deciding that the Aston Martin did not break the rules. Meanwhile, in the same lap, Hamilton is about to be lapped by the race leader Max Verstappen. Hamilton has just set the fastest lap of the race on Lap 72. The defending world champion’s gamble to switch to a fresh set of soft tyres might just pay off, though it’s still been a very frustrating afternoon for Mercedes.

Lando Norris appeared to be struggling to keep Perez behind him a few laps ago, but the McLaren has found some more grip and pace and appears ready to finish on the podium. Max Verstappen is now one lap away from winning the Monaco Grand Prix and taking over the Drivers’ Championship lead for the first time this season.  For the Dutchman, it’s been a parade, but he really hasn’t put a foot wrong today. 

A true display of strength from the young driver hoping to help Red Bull win the championship this season. Max Verstappen and Red Bull have had a phenomenal day!  Not only does the Dutchman win in Monaco, but he also takes over the lead in the Drivers’ Championship for the first time in his career. 

Carlos Sainz comes in second, with Lando Norris completing the podium in third!

It’s lights out, and away we go! Max Verstappen got the better start than pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton and passed the 7-time World Champion into Turn One with a golden overtake move on the inside. All twenty drivers made it safely through the first corner; meanwhile, Charles Leclerc made it past Valtteri Bottas and made it into third place.

It’s Lap 5, and the stewards are putting Pierre Gasly under investigation, who seemed to be out of position at the start of the race. Verstappen built a half-second lead over Hamilton in the first few laps, but the Mercedes is doing better by a tenth or two out of the Dutchman’s time, and we see Lewis earning the fastest lap. We hear Yuki Tsunoda on his team radio Lap 8 say on “Engine’s stopped, engine’s stopped,” Later on, we can see on the replay footage that the display on the steering wheel turned off, which can be signs of a gearbox problem. Due to that, the Safety Car is deployed. 

During the Safety Car, many pitstops occur, with the most shocking one coming from Antonio Giovinazzi on Lap 10. It appeared that the pit crew delivered empty tyres, which made it impossible to assemble them on the car. Meanwhile, we see a decent double pitstop coming from Williams, and both drivers switch to the medium tyres.

It’s Lap 11 and the Safety Car is back in, it’s now up to Max Verstappen to determine the pace of the restart. In the last chicane Max decided to increase with full speed. The Safety Car seems to have had no effect on the Dutchman’s Red Bull. Pierre Gasly is no longer under investigation, instead, he has been given a five-second time penalty for being out of place at the start. Since this is a data-driven decision, the stewards had an easier time coming to a conclusion.

Tyre concerns with Max Verstappen as we can see him having a clearly blistered right rear tyre. Replays of Hamilton’s car reveal that his right rear tyre is suffering from severe blistering as well. In true Hamilton style, he sets a new fastest lap during Lap 21 as the Mercedes improved a tenth or two off Verstappen’s time, while the Red Bull appears quite happy to keep the reigning World Champion out of the DRS range. We’re on Lap 23, and Gasly has taken his 5-second penalty and drops to P19. 

Mercedes was the first to act with a pitstop for Bottas on Lap 25, and the Finn has rejoined the race in clear air. Lap 26 and Verstappen is into the pits just as Hamilton was closing the gap on the race leader. Max can’t be too happy about this one as it was a prolonged stop from Red Bull and very unusual for the team as it was 4.2 seconds. It appeared to be a last-minute call.

Sergio Perez, who has yet to pit, cleared the way for Verstappen, who has already done so. Hamilton has been insisting to Bono on the team radio that his tyres are in good shape and that he wants to stay out. We can also hear that Toto has been complaining to the FIA race control about Hamilton’s time loss to Mazepin ignoring blue flags on the radio. 

Hamilton makes a successful 2.7-second pit stop on Lap 29, but Verstappen is safe as he passes while Hamilton is still in the pit lane. On the other hand, Hamilton is now on the newer tyres, but Verstappen still has the Fastest Lap on his name since Lap 28. So, it seems Mercedes’ strategy is to ensure Hamilton has more traction at the end of the race when Verstappen is expected to struggle.

Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton earned the Fastest Lap after his pitstop in Lap 31. We’re now on Lap 34, and the leaders have passed through the back of the field with Nikita Mazepin once again being accused of causing traffic, which seems to have helped Hamilton, who is now within DRS range of race leader Verstappen. Lando Norris has had a tough time so far, but he’s now in ninth place after passing Alonso on Lap 39 while his teammate Daniel Ricciardo is on track for a good fifth-place finish. 

While Max Verstappen complains about the lack of grip, it’s in Lap 42 to see Hamilton making another pitstop. Mercedes made a bold strategic move by doing so. They decide to bring Hamilton in just as he was approaching Verstappen. He’s now on a set of extra mediums.

It’s Lap 43; right after Hamilton’s pitstop, we can hear Verstappen’s race-engineer Gianpiero Lambiase on the team radio: “At this rate, they’re going to catch us in the last lap” Meanwhile, it appears that Max stays out and will try a different strategy. As Hamilton asks to be informed of the gap to Verstappen on Lap 44, Bono reminds him, “Currently 22 seconds; you’ve done it before.”

It’s Lap 46, and we hear the following on the team radio: “I don’t see how we’re going to take this to the end”, Verstappen says. It’s for the first time this season; Verstappen sounds so disappointed. According to the informative AWS graphics, Hamilton’s newer set of tyres is giving him concern, but within the next 10 laps, the World Champion will be within striking distance of the Red Bull. Lewis Hamilton is behind Bottas in Lap 55 and has the advantage in terms of race speed. Hamilton is attempting to overtake his teammate, but Bottas is refusing to cooperate. At Turn 10, Hamilton dives past his teammate on the inside. That was not part of a team order; the Finn refused to let Hamilton pass him by earlier. 

Lap 54 and Bottas make a pit stop, and the Finn will challenge for the fastest lap point. Two laps later, we see Bottas earning the Fastest Lap as a result.

With 10 laps to go, we can see on the AWS system that Hamilton will be within striking distance of Verstappen in nine laps. Verstappen and Hamilton are now separated by just over a half-second on Lap 59. Keep in mind that Hamilton rejoined the race 22 seconds behind Red Bull when he pitted for the second time. It seems like the pace isn’t there for the Dutchman. What we thought was coming becomes a reality; Hamilton passes Verstappen into turn one and takes the lead of the race. 

It’s Lap 56, and Pierre Gasly has moved up to the tenth position. The AlphaTauri, had a close touch with Lance Stroll while braking, but it doesn’t matter for the Frenchman as he’s now into the points. That would be a good outcome for Alpha Tauri after Tsuonoda’s early retirement.

With Hamilton out of the picture, Red Bull has pitted Verstappen a second time to move him to fresher tyres in the hope of winning the fastest lap bonus point, a move that wasn’t a part of the original strategy. 

The chequered flag is waved as Hamilton is the first to cross the finish line after leading the race for the last 12 laps. For the fifth time in a row, the reigning World Champion wins the Spanish Grand Prix, extending his lead in the drivers’ standings. 

There’s no denial that Mercedes’ strategy was spot on, and it was the decisive factor. Verstappen made his pit stop in second position just in time to get the bonus point for the Fastest Lap. 

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