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We’re just six races into the 2021 season, and what a rollercoaster of emotions I’ve been through! Despite having a couple of less than exciting races, there was enough action just in Azerbaijan to make up for that, let alone the rest of them. We’ve seen wet racing, tyres destroyed, and the closest championship battle we’ve seen for many years, and there are still so many races to come. Here are some of my favourite moments from the last 6 races, although it was impossible to choose.

Bahrain:

The season opened where it all but closed last year, in Sakhir, and it did not disappoint. We saw the first of what would be many Max Verstappen vs Lewis Hamilton battles, this one going Hamilton’s way. Max tried desperately hard to overtake Hamilton when pitting onto fresh tyres, and he succeeded. It became clear very quickly, however, that Max got through off the track and, therefore, the place would have to be given back. This was the last opportunity for the young Dutchman, and he ended the race in P2 but would have won had he waited to pass on a less windy part of the track. This gave us the first glimpse of the biggest title fights in years, and we immediately knew the 2021 season would be different.

Italy:

The Emilia Romagna Grand Prix came next and got us excited for different reasons entirely. A wet race! Within seconds of the race start, we could see it would be a dramatic one as none of the drivers could be seen through all the spray. If we couldn’t see them at home, it must have been impossible to see from inside the Formula 1 cars. Within a few laps, cars were beginning to spin and slide all over the track and while it, unfortunately, ended the race for Latifi, and we saw a horrific crash between Bottas and Russell, it also spun Hamilton off the track and almost into the wall, almost costing him a race finish. He came back from P9 to finish an impressive P2, much to everyone’s surprise. This race also brought one of my favourite driver/engineer moments in recent times. Mick also spun into the wall during the race, and the calm and collected nature of his engineer Gary saved him from panicking, and the F1 rookie’s race continued after a front wing change. We’re very used to hearing very technical and heated conversations between drivers and engineers during a race, and it was lovely to experience the supportive role these engineers also play.

Portugal:

The race in Portugal was far from the most thrilling but did have one moment, which was nice to see, again involving Mick Schumacher. The young German driver was able to overtake Latifi during the race, and therefore, his Haas car did not finish with only his teammate behind him. While, of course, the battle for the bottom places is rarely important or even noticed during the race, but it was nice to see. Knowing how underpowered the Haas car is compared to even their nearest rivals and the constant press attention the team has been subjected to, none of which is his fault, it was nice to see him take a place on the track. I’m sure that improved his confidence as a rookie F1 driver hugely, given he’d spun in the two races before this.

Spain:

Barcelona was yet another race showcased a Hamilton vs Verstappen showdown, as every race seemed to have at this stage. What made this race special was that the role of strategy became so much more obvious compared to most races. With the front running teams often going for almost identical strategies during a race, it is rare to see a strategic win as we saw in Spain. Hamilton pitted late onto fresh tyres to take Max Verstappen close to the end of the race, and that he did. It surprised everyone both in the paddock and at home as the pit crew appeared in the pitlane at the very last moment. This caught Red Bull completely by surprise, and they immediately knew they’d been outwitted on this occasion, and Mercedes were likely to take the win. Even if this was another race with the two drivers taking all of the glory, this one showed a different side to the sport.

Monaco:

The race in Monaco was surprisingly underwhelming, with very little surprise apart from the pace of Ferrari and the lack thereof at Mercedes. After weeks of Red Bull vs Mercedes rhetoric, it was interesting to see a different team on top. My favourite moment in Monaco was seeing Charles Leclerc on pole, even if it ultimately went disastrously wrong on Sunday. Seeing the Monegasque driver on top at his home GP was really exciting and knowing that Ferrari was on the path to fighting back was lovely to hear.

Azerbaijan:

Asking me to choose a favourite moment from the Grand Prix in Baku is totally impossible! I loved every second of the drama we saw during that race. Of course, I’m most happy that both Stroll and Verstappen were okay after such scary crashes, but the action was intense. We went from thinking the title would stay in Verstappen’s hands to thinking Lewis would take over after Max’s DNF to realising neither of them got points. From this, we got the most random but by far most exciting podium of 2021 so far. Sergio finally getting the Red Bull to work in his favour was thrilling, even if it was due to Max’s misfortune. What made it so crazy was seeing Vettel in P2, however. Aston Martin struggled throughout the season and seemed so off the pace, but the 4-time world champion pulled through. Hopefully, he has found some new confidence that will ensure he continues to fight at the front of the grid, as we know he’s capable of doing. I can’t ignore Pierre Gasly either, as he was strong all weekend and totally deserved that podium. Seeing Gasly succeed after all of the dramas of recent years will never stop making me very happy. He is such a talented driver and deserves to be a front runner in years to come.

Extreme E returned last weekend, after an almost two-month gap, and it didn’t disappoint, with action and drama throughout. The Odyssey cars took to the beaches of Senegal for the Ocean X-Prix, where the sand was once again the terrain standing between the drivers and a successful weekend. As we saw in Saudi Arabia, weekends were made or ruined by a minor mistake, and this can happen to any team when competing in such a new category. Here’s a rundown of what happened in Senegal, as RXR dominated once again.

Qualifying:

Q1:

Team X44 were impressive during the first part of qualifying on the beach, taking the fastest time, although the top 3 were only separated by 10 seconds. Loeb and Gutierrez outpaced the Chip Ganassi car of Price and LeDuc by 4.23 seconds. The Abt Cupra car qualified 3rd but was moved to 4th after a driver change infringement as replacement Kleinschmidt took over from Ekström, leaving Rosberg X Racing to take the third position in the standings. JBXE took 5th with Button’s replacement of Kevin Hansen, using his rally experience to get quickly up to speed in the electric SUV. After a poor Round 1 in Saudi Arabia, Veloce’s Chadwick was finally given her chance in the car, finishing 6th alongside Sarrazin, with Xite Energy taking a trouble-free 7th. The same cannot be said for the Andretti United and Acciona Sainz teams.  Sanz stopped on track after a heavy impact caused an electrical issue, and although she was able to get the car going briefly before it stopped once again, leaving them with a lot of work to do in Q2. The same also occurred to Timmy Hansen in the Andretti United car, although he could restart the car, leaving them over 3 minutes off the pace, but with a time on the board.


Q2:

The second round of qualifying was also dominated by X44, who set the only sub-11-minute time of the session. They were followed by Abt Cupra, who clearly had a point to prove after their penalty during Q1, finishing 10 seconds back. RXR rounded out the top-3 after another safe but quick performance from the Rosberg team. JBXE finished in 4th again, with Andretti United able to recover some of their time to finish 5th, followed by Acciona Sainz in 6th, although this wasn’t good enough for either team to reach the end semi-finals. Veloce ended the second qualifying in 7th, but the early issues for the two teams ahead of them meant that they were through to their first semi-final, something good to see after such a disastrous Desert X-Prix. Xite Energy took the final spot in the semi-finals, despite finishing 8th in the second qualifying session. Chip Ganassi finished the session in a disappointing 9th after their car also had an issue on the track, causing them to stop and restart the car. This shows just how vital it is to ensure the car doesn’t stop on course, with all three teams ruled out of any further success over the weekend because of this.

Classification after Qualifying:

1. X44 (Gutiérrez/Loeb) 21m44.856s

2. Rosberg X Racing (Taylor/Kristoffersson) +27.58s

3. Abt Cupra (Kleinschmidt/Ekström) +35.95s

4. JBXE (Åhlin-Kottulinsky/Hansen) +40.57s

5. Veloce Racing (Sarrazin/Chadwick) +1m20.51s

6. Xite Energy (GZ/Bennett) +1m51.60s

7. Chip Ganassi (LeDuc/Price) +3m56.95s

8. Andretti United (Munnings/Hansen) +4m12.21s

9. Acciona Sainz (Sanz/Sainz) +1 Lap

Semi-finals:

Semi-final 1:

This weekend, a new semi-final system was in place that saw the top 3 together in the first round and the mid-3 teams together in the second semi-final, meaning a top placing team was to lose out on the final. This was how the weekend began to fall apart for Abt Cupra, who were leading into the driver switch but lost out on two places due to a radio issue, meaning they finished last and were ruled out of the final. The round was won by Taylor and Kristoffersson in the RXR car, who beat the X44 into the first gate, with Kristoffersson taking a wide line to undercut Loeb and then kept the position throughout the race.

Semi-final 2:

With two places left for the final and three worthy teams fighting for them, semi-final 2 was set up to be a good one. Hansen in the JBXE started well to take the lead, with Chadwick and Bennett duelling behind. Chadwick kept P2 from the Xite Energy car behind her, but an issue with the pit limiter for Veloce gave Bennett an advantage. While the JBXE continued to put time between themselves and the rest of the field, the fight continued behind them. Despite technical issues continuing for Veloce, Sarrazin was able to win the fight, ending the weekend for the Xite Energy team.

Shootout:

With three teams who were not expected to be in the shootout battling each other for the final few points, this race was never going to be disappointing. Timmy Hansen took the lead into the first corner with Price in P2 with Sainz behind her. The experience of Sainz meant he was able to fight back, however, to take the lead going into the driver switch, but this didn’t last for long. LeDuc, who had started his stint in third, fought back strongly, overtaking Munnings for second then going on to take the win from Sanz. An outstanding performance from the Chip Ganassi Racing driver who will be disappointed to have missed out on showing this skill in a final in both of the first two rounds of X-Prix.

Final:

4 teams were left to line up for the final, but two cars made it to the end of the first lap. After colliding with the RXR car when fighting for the lead, Gutierrez’ X44 had suspension damage, bringing an early close to the Hamilton team’s impressive weekend. A bump in the terrain left the JBXE car in a similar position, with the car stopping with suspension issues which ultimately blocked the track and led to a red flag on the race. With Veloce and RXR both left confused during the driver change as a red flag was called, the best option was to do another standing start as Kristoffersson and Chadwick began their laps. The RXR driver was able to take the lead immediately and kept it, with both drivers successfully finishing their laps. However, the Swedish driver was 14.676 seconds ahead of his British counterpart by the end of the lap.

Championship Standings:

Rosberg X Racing (Johan Kristoffersson / Molly Taylor) 71 points

X44 (Sébastien Loeb / Cristina Gutiérrez) 57 points

JBXE (Jenson Button / Mikaela Åhlin-Kottulinsky) 44 points

Andretti United Extreme E (Timmy Hansen / Catie Munnings) 37 points

XITE ENERGY RACING (Oliver Bennett / Christine GZ) 37 points

ACCIONA | Sainz XE Team (Carlos Sainz / Laia Sanz) 36 points

ABT Cupra XE (Mattias Ekström / Claudia Hürtgen) 35 points

Veloce Racing (Stéphane Sarrazin / Jamie Chadwick) 31 points

Segi TV Chip Ganassi Racing (Kyle LeDuc / Sara Price) 30 points

Another exceptional weekend for the RXR team leaves them with a large gap in the championship, with X44 and JBXE rounding out a top-3 entirely managed by legends of the F1 world. After an outstanding first weekend, then an abysmal second round, Andretti move to 4th, although the Xite Energy team couldn’t be closer to them, with Acciona Sainz only one point behind both teams in 6th. The bottom 6 teams are split by just 7 points, showing how much there is still to gain and fight for in the next 3 rounds of the new series.

Class is one of the dividing factors of our society. Working Class and Upper Class, it’s like them and us. Formula One has, historically, been an upper-class sport. Its earliest drivers often being chief engineers, having their own hired teams and sponsors. And that doesn’t account for travel expenses. There is a glass ceiling to get to the top of motor racing. Only those with the right backing can, and do, make it. 

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton had probably one of the greatest F1 rivalries of the 2010s. It’s a tale of class, nationality, family ties, and team squabbling that, while common, was certainly very explosive in the Mercedes paddock.

The narrative that Lewis Hamilton is a working-class hero is somewhat inaccurate. He was not the richest, and his Dad did take up 4 jobs to support his son’s burgeoning career; it would be more accurate to call him middle class. Starting with Go-Karting at the age of 6, he signed up with McLaren’s young driver’s program in 1998 at 13. He would compete in Formula A, Super A, and Intercontinental A. There, he would meet the other man in our tale.

Nico Rosberg was a second-generation racer. The son of Finnish driver Keke Rosberg, the 1982 F1 World Champion, and growing up in Monaco and Ibiza, he was from a different world than Lewis Hamilton. Rosberg’s competitive spirit saw him achieve some excellent grades in school and Go-Karting and going through the Junior and feeder leagues. He had his first drive in an F1 car in 2003, in a Williams. 2 years later, he’d be driving a Williams in F1 full time.

By all accounts, both boys were friends and went up the leagues together. They even had their own team, financed by and for them by Keke Rosberg. However, the seeds of competition had always been there. According to one associate of theirs, both boys, fuelled by adrenaline or teenage testosterone, would compete against each other for everything, even eating pizza.

Rosberg’s entry into F1 happened in 2005. 2 years later, Hamilton would enter F1 for McLaren and win his first championship in 2008. Rosberg would be competitive in F1, and score points in most of his races, even scoring the odd podium; he did not yet have a career win. A move to Mercedes in 2010 saw him, team, with Michael Schumacher until 2012, when Lewis Hamilton joined him.

This is where the rivalry begins. 

2013 was the first season that Hamilton and Rosberg would-be teammates, since their Go-Karting days. And tensions would build up. While the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix is remembered more for the Multi 21 incident in Red Bull, team orders saw Ross Brawn keep Rosberg in 4th place when he asked to overtake Hamilton. 

By 2014, as Mercedes became more competitive, Rosberg’s and Hamilton’s relationship began to deteriorate. An incident at the Qualifying for the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix saw Rosberg drive into the slip road, causing Yellow flags to come out and forcing Lewis Hamilton to abandon his last qualifying lap. As determined by race stewards and Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, this accident was believed to be foul play by Hamilton. This was followed by an announcement that Hamilton wasn’t Rosberg’s friend anymore. 

At the Hungarian Grand Prix that same year, Rosberg was leading the race, with Hamilton at the back of the Grid; his refusal to slow down for Nico coated the German a podium finish. Things would only get uglier in Belgium, as both their cars would make contact, causing damage that would write off Hamilton’s race and damage Rosberg’s front wing. Though 2nd place Rosberg was punished for this and booed by the spectators, Hamilton’s comments of the incident being deliberate showcased a sense of victimhood that made some fan’s sympathy for him wane.

The season ended in Abu Dhabi, with Hamilton winning the race and title. Rosberg did congratulate the champion, though, after that season, some would call it civility.

2015’s F1 season saw Hamilton retain his World Championship. This season was not without incidents either. The Malaysian Grand Prix had Hamilton taking pole position despite suggestions that Rosberg had deliberately blocked him on his final run. Rosberg had already abandoned his lap but did not move aside as Hamilton came past, forcing him off the racing line. During the post-race interview, you had Rosberg pretend to be a reporter, questioning Lewis about the incident. Hilarious, I am sure you’d agree.

The big one, however, was at the US Grand Prix. Hamilton, as I have stated, retained the championship, with three races to spare. Rosberg came second in that particular race but third in the championship. And if you know what I am talking about, then you remember the cap incident. Rosberg sat in the cooldown room, looking decidedly annoyed. A pumped and happy Hamilton threw the second-place cap to Rosberg from across the room, only for Rosberg to throw it back at him, with the stormiest face this side of Texas. Although played off as a bit of ‘fun’ by Hamilton, the looks of things from the POV of Rosberg suggests something less playful and downright nasty. 

The last three races of that season seemed to make Rosberg snap. Hamilton was the golden boy, and Rosberg the number two. It was almost as if the divide that initially separated the men had shifted. Rosberg would win the last three races of the season, in defiance of his team, of Hamilton, of the perception that he was less than both and his father. 

Those 3 race wins at the end of 2015 saw Rosberg, at the start of the 2016 season, have a 7 race winning streak. Four of those wins being the first four races of the season. By the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix, Rosberg had a 43 point lead on Hamilton. However, both men would not finish the Spanish Grand Prix, as Rosberg entered an incorrect engine mode due to an error the German had made on the formation lap. That meant he was slower than Hamilton coming out of turn 3, and Hamilton moved alongside Rosberg to overtake for the lead. Rosberg forced Hamilton onto grass, and both men were out of the race. Hamilton was blamed for the incident but not punished.

The drama continued into the Austrian Grand Prix of that same season. A Rosberg pole and a good lead in the race, despite engine trouble. In the final laps, Hamilton was able to overtake Rosberg, in turn, one of the final laps, and As Hamilton turned in to make the corner of Turn 3, Rosberg went straight on, causing a collision and damaging the front wing of Rosberg’s car. Rosberg would come fourth, gain two penalty points, and the blame for that incident.

The season closed in Abu Dhabi, where Rosberg’s point lead of 12 required him to have a podium finish. Hamilton needed to be in the top 4, with Rosberg coming no higher than fourth. Hamilton would defy team orders in the race, slowing down, encouraging either Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel or Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to overtake Rosberg so that he may secure the title. Whether they wanted to give the middle finger to Hamilton or didn’t take the initiative, I will leave it for you to consider. Hamilton won the race, but with a 2nd place Podium finish, Rosberg won the 2016 Formula One World Championship, bucking the trend of that year being such an infamously bad one. We may have lost Carrie Fisher, Donald Trump may have been made US President, but Nico Rosberg became the champion.

Rosberg would then announce retirement from Formula One, having “reached the pinnacle of his career”. As of 2021, he and Hamilton are still not friends, though the former has expressed hope for a reconciliation. Whether they do or not is one thing, but what we know is that for the 4 years we had them both at Mercedes, it was a wild ride. 

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. 

2021 is shaping up to be the most competitive and hard-fought constructors battle since Mercedes asserted their dominance in 2014, with Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen looking likely to be the two main contenders for the driver’s title. Lewis versus Max is the old boy against the new blood. The apprentice is taking on the master in the age-old battle of experience vs young talent.

Lewis Hamilton’s driving ability needs no introduction. The most successful driver of all time in terms of records, with a legacy that will last for as long as the sport continues. This is Lewis’ 15th season in Formula One, and with seven world drivers’ championships to his name, he has collected the ultimate prize in exactly 50% of the seasons he has competed in the sport. Simply incredible.

But Lewis is by no means invincible. He was, of course, famously beaten by his teammate, Nico Rosberg, in 2016 and before this, Jenson Button got one over his fellow Brit in 2011 when the two paired up at McLaren. In recent years, Lewis has not been pushed to the limit by his teammate Valtteri Bottas in the same way we all expected when he joined Mercedes in 2017, following Rosberg’s shock departure. The question is, has Lewis passed his peak? He is now 36 years old, which is at the more senior end of the spectrum for a modern F1 driver, with Lewis only junior to the longstanding Kimi Raikkonen and the returning Fernando Alonso. Hamilton has been at the top of his game for over a decade now. Is this where the fatigue of succession will disadvantage the champion in ways even he cannot control?

Hot on Lewis’ tail to break his records is the Flying Dutchman. Since Max entered the sport at the tender age of 17, he made his presence shown. He is the youngest ever driver, to date, and the youngest winner of a grand prix, following his debut victory for Red Bull at the Spanish 2016. Max’s raw talent is exceptional to watch, and you often hear Martin Brundle comment, “He is going to be a future world champion”, but is this reasonable to say?

This is Max’s seventh season, and he currently has 10 wins, four pole positions and 43 podiums to his name at the age of 23. He has proven that he is one of the toughest teammates out there, leaving Alex Albon’s F1 career in tatters, as well as making Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kyvat look very ordinary. Max is known to be hot-headed at times, and with such an aggressive driving style, he is more likely to make costly mistakes resulting in collisions and ultimately leading to a DNF. Max often seems to be caught up in the on-track drama regarding car issues, whether this is reliability or tyres. His impatience leads him to make otherwise avoidable mistakes, with Turkey 2020 being a recent example of this case. Will his lack of maturity in the car be the downfall to his chances of winning a world championship?

One question that F1 fans would love to know the answer to is given equal machinery, who would come out on top, Lewis or Max? It would be remarkably close, that is for sure! Max hasn’t had a fully competitive teammate since Daniel Ricciardo; it is difficult to say how the Dutch sensation would get on with the best-of-the-best in Lewis. Based on his pure speed, in my opinion, Max is quicker than Lewis. But Hamilton’s ability to look after his car and manage the tyres is one of the fundamental reasons he has achieved so much in the sport and continues to do so. Lewis knows how to grab situations where he isn’t in control, but the pressure of this gets to Max mainly from a lack of experience in these situations. Mind games are something we haven’t particularly seen from Max yet, but when we do, boy, do I think it’s going to be explosive! Max takes no nonsense from anyone, which is probably an impact of his upbringing, but Lewis knows how to get under his closest rivals’ skin like Nico did. I can’t see tensions rising to boil point this season, but you never know what individual tactics certain drivers will deploy to in an attempt to get one up on their opponent.

Although, if we look at the history of the last (and only other) seven-time world champion, Michael Schumacher, he made back-to-back unsuccessful attempts to clinch his eighth crown by losing to the younger generation the form of a juvenile Alonso in 2005 and 2006. Will history repeat itself? I don’t think so. Lewis has the advantage that his team continue to be the best on the grid and are more consistent in the season-long battle. But if any year could be the year for Lewis to be dethroned as world champion, this might well be the year.

Rachel Brookes, an inspiration to many women and young girls who watch the pinnacle of motorsport week in, week out. Her journey into Formula 1 started with a passion just like you and me and is proof that if you work hard, you will eventually be in the right place at the right time. I was extremely fortunate to sit down and ask Rachel a few questions about her current role and her experiences from working within motorsport.

Please could you tell me about your role within the Sky Sports F1 team?
I am a presenter and reporter for Sky Sports F1, working primarily at race weekends but with other work and shoots outside of race weekends. I present the F1 show and all F2 and F3 sessions when I am on-site, as well as filming features and interviews for our shows. I also do the post-session interviews with drivers.

Have you always wanted to be a presenter? If so, was Formula One always a dream of yours?
I never planned to be a presenter. I kind of fell into it. I don’t think anyone should plan to be a TV presenter. Find something you are passionate about and work towards your goal of working in it. I have always loved Formula One and watched it with my brothers when I was younger. I never dreamed I would work in it one day as I never really saw any women in the coverage when I watched it unless they were grid girls or drivers wives/girlfriends. Because of that, I don’t think I ever thought it was an option open to me, so I never even considered it. I did want to be a radio presenter, though, and I am sure that is because there were women on the radio when I was growing up.

Was the road to becoming a presenter tougher than you thought it would be? Was there anything you had to sacrifice?
As I hadn’t thought about being a presenter, I didn’t really have any expectations. I went from step to step until I ended up presenting, so it wasn’t that tough for me. If you work in sport, sacrifices come with the territory, unfortunately. Sport usually happens on the weekend, so you learn early on that you will be missing out on a lot of things, from birthdays to weddings and everything in between. It also means that after a while, the invitations stop coming because people assume you will be working or away. It’s funny because I thought I was the only one who felt like this until I spoke to my friends in F1 about it, and they all said the same thing. So, yes, there are plenty of sacrifices, and you need to be prepared for them.

Do you need to be signed up to an agency or talent space to become a presenter?
I still don’t really consider myself a presenter. I am a broadcast journalist, which means I weigh heavily on the side of journalism as opposed to being a “presenter”. You don’t need an agent or talent space to be a broadcast journalist; in fact, it is usually better for you not to have one. There is a difference between a broadcast journalist and a presenter. I would say broadcast journalists usually get work on merit, on experience or on achievements made along the way and, as such, don’t need an agent to get them to work. Presenters quite often have agents because they are looking for a variety of presenting work. They don’t necessarily want to concentrate on one thing or specialise. I have an agent now because as a result of the work I have done, I get offered various other work, and I discuss with him whether I should do them and use him to negotiate the fee, as I am terrible at that! Agents definitely have their place, but you need to work hard in the first place to be an attractive proposition for an agent, as they need to be able to make money off you, and you need to decide which direction you are going in.

What is it like being a female reporter in a male-dominated paddock and sport?
It has changed a lot in the nine years I have been working in the sport. There are a lot more women working in the paddock and in a huge variety of roles. We all support each other, and some of those women have become my closest friends. There are the odd incidents of sexism but are becoming few and far between, and we have a duty to be vocal when those incidents occur to try and stop them from happening in future and to the next generation.

Is there anything you think could help get more women interested in working in the sport?
I have always said ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ and as such we have a duty to highlight all those women who work in motorsport now in all their many varied roles, so that young girls coming through know about all the opportunities available to them. As I said earlier, I didn’t see women presenting Formula One when I was little. Hopefully, young girls now will see me, or Lee Mckenzie for Channel Four or Nicki Shields presenting Formula E and realise it’s an option for them. Perhaps more importantly, I want them to see Ruth Buscombe, the Alfa Romeo strategist, or Michelle Creighton, the composite technician at Aston Martin Racing or any other women who work in motorsport.

What advice would you give to those wanting to work in Formula One?
Don’t want to work in Formula One, want to work in motorsport. Very few people ever walk straight into Formula One. You need to have a passion for motorsport first of all, and that means maybe working in some of the other series first to get your knowledge and understanding up to scratch before getting to work in Formula One.

What does a typical F1 race weekend look like for you?
My race weekend starts much earlier in the week when I do all my prep. I read up on the previous race, check for any lines or stories that have come since then and make my notes on each driver ahead of speaking to them. I want to know that if, for example, Max has an engine issue in a session, whether he has had it before that season or even if his teammate has, or maybe even another team using that engine manufacturer. Once at the track, Thursday is all about driver interviews, pre-records for the weekend and preparing for the F1 show, which is now on a Thursday evening. For that, I will listen to all the driver interviews from that day as well as adding my own input according to what I have read that week or found out in the paddock that day from chatting to people.

On Fridays this year, I am lead commentary for the first practice session. This is something totally new for me and requires a lot more prep than anything else. If you can imagine talking for an hour with nothing scripted for you, that is what it’s like. I have to react to what is going on our screens, which is provided by F1 and called the World Feed. I have one or two pundits alongside me who I bring into the conversation, and we try to make it as interesting and informative as possible. Saturday is a lot of driver interviews in the pen but also some pre-recorded links for our qualifying show. Sundays are very busy with track parade interviews, pre-records and more post-session driver interviews. Also, across the weekend, I present the F2 and F3 sessions as well as doing the post-race interviews for them so you can see why I do so much prep!

If there is one, what’s one thing you would change about your job?
I really don’t think I would change anything right now.

Your most memorable interview?
I would say that is my recent interview with Lewis Hamilton. The question I get asked most frequently when people find out I work in Formula One is “What is Lewis Hamilton really like?” Normally his interviews are very racing based, and you hear very similar answers from him. So I recently pitched to my boss that I wanted to do the next sit down interview with him for Sky Sports F1. I had to send a full pitch and question topics to him and luckily persuaded him to let me do it. My only interviews with Lewis for the last six years have been in the interview pen, and they are now limited to just two questions. So this was a rare opportunity to talk about other things, and I really wanted to show the other side to Lewis in the hope that people would feel like they knew a little more about him after watching it. He was really open and generous, and I enjoyed the interview. So did he luckily, even saying as he took his microphone off, “I enjoyed that, I hope your bosses see it and let you do more,” and so do I!

For those of us who aspire to work in the world of motorsport, getting our foot through the front door can seem almost impossible. We’re hoping for this to become a series, to share the stories of those who have made it, and to inspire us, and the next generation who want to continue in their footsteps. On behalf of the team at Grid Talk, I would like to thank Rachel for taking the time to speak to me about her experiences in the paddock.

Extreme E flew onto our screens this weekend, the first-ever season of a completely new brand of motorsport. As with any racing series, it can be hard to understand if you’re new to it – this was a unique experience for all, as we all experienced the confusion together.

What Is Extreme E?
An all-electric SUV off-road racing series in five different venues across challenging terrains worldwide, some of the most remote places on earth which have been hand-picked to race at because of the effects climate change has had on them. The thing I love the most about Extreme E? The whole thing is built around highlighting environmental challenges and the impact on the planet’s unique ecosystems. Extreme E is more than just a sport; it’s a worldwide campaign set up to shine a spotlight on the urgent need for action on climate change. The use of electric vehicles is part of the solution, and just like Formula E – it gives teams and manufacturers a chance to test their latest technology. That in itself is a big reason to tune in. If that wasn’t enough, the series brings some much-needed attention to gender equality to the motorsport world. The sport specifies that each team must consist of a male and female, who will share the driver’s role. Nine teams, two drivers per car, including some incredible names and champions from different racing series. Three Formula 1 world champions are also team owners, so definitely one to watch.

Okay, so how does the racing work?
All of the Extreme E action takes place over two days. Each driver completes a lap behind the wheel, with a driver changeover incorporated into the race format, or “the switch”, as it’s being called. Each race contains two laps, which run over a rough estimate of 18km. On a Saturday, all the teams will do two qualifying runs of the course – one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Both the male and female drivers each doing a lap and a changeover. Their times will then be combined, and it will produce an order. This is where it can get a little confusing so bear with us…

On Sunday, there are a few races which will take place. The fastest three teams will go through to the first semi-final race; then, the top two finishers will claim a spot in the final. The middle three teams will go through to the ‘Crazy Race’, with the top finisher also progressing to the final, and the slowest three teams will race in ‘The Shootout’. Those three teams that progressed to the final will race again, and someone will be crowned the XPrix winner.

Points are awarded by places you finish, as you go from first to ninth. Again, just like Formula E, aspects of the sport add some spice to the already exciting racing. A ‘Hyperdrive Boost’ is available to each driver during each lap of the race; this is activated by a button on the steering wheel and will boost the power for a set amount of time – the drivers are most likely to use this on long stretches of road. Gridplay has also been introduced for fans to help their favourite drivers gain a grid advantage; the team that receives the most votes can select its grid position for the final.

Where do the Extreme E races take place?
Well, I’m glad you asked! As I mentioned before, five races are in four different continents worldwide in locations already damaged by climate change. It started in Alula in Saudi Arabia for the Desert XPrix, and then we head too –

  • Ocean XPrix: Lac Rose, Senegal
  • Arctic XPrix: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
  • Amazon XPrix: Para, Brazil
  • Glacier XPrix: Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina

So, we know how they race, but what do they race in?
Every team uses the same car, which is called the Odyssey 21, and of course – It’s electric. The vehicle is manufactured by Spark Racing Technology, although there are parts of Formula 1 DNA within the car, with McLaren providing the drivetrain and Williams with the electric battery. Doesn’t it just remind you of one of those remote control cars you played with as a kid? Except, this one weighs 1,650kg, boasts 540hp, and goes from 0-60 in 4.5 seconds… impressive, huh?

I am sold! Where can I watch it?
Qualifying and Semi-finals will be aired on Sky Sports Action, Sky Sports Mix, BBC iPlayer, and on the XE Website. The Finals are being shown on ITV, BT Sport 1, Sky Sports Action, Sky Sports Mix, BBC iPlayer, and BBC Red Button – plenty of choices!

Desert XPrix Catch Up:
If you didn’t manage to catch the start of the Extreme E racing series or just weren’t sure whether it was your thing – don’t worry; here are some highlights from the weekend.

First qualifying saw teams have their first go against each other. There were some reliability issues
with Catie Munnings driving the Andretti, who got a puncture halfway around the track. She showed
amazing skill to get the car across the line, with the commentators calling it a ‘Hero Drive’.
Veloce didn’t have a good weekend, as Stephane Sarrazin rolled the car after hitting a desert plant
on the track and subsequently ending any chance to get any more racing for the remainder of the
weekend. Similarly, Claudia Hurtgen for ABT Racing crashed the car on her qualifying run where the car
rolled multiple times, a terrifying crash which was a reminder Extreme E isn’t for the faint-hearted. Both drivers were uninjured, but a disappointing weekend for them overall, with minimal running.
On the final race of the weekend, it was Nico Rosberg’s team who prevailed, with a fantastic drive
from reigning world champion Johan Kristoffersson and Australian rally champion Molly Taylor.
Kristoffersson was initially behind after the start but chased down Hansen and overtook the Andretti car
at turn 2. Pulling over a 30 second lead for the remainder of the lap before the changeover for
Taylor, they consolidated their lead and led them to victory. Strong performance from both drivers
and 1-0 to Nico Rosberg in the reunited battle with Lewis Hamilton as team owners.

2021’s Formula One World Championship has started off with a bang, which saw the 7 Time World Champion Sir Lewis Hamilton narrowly ward off Max Verstappen from the top of the podium at the Bahrain Grand Prix. It may not have been as eventful as last year’s two-fer in Sakhir – but the race was exciting, the pace was nonstop, and the drama was high.

This year sees a lot of changes on the grid. Formula Two graduates Mick Schumacher, Nikita Mazepin, and Yuki Tsunoda made their debuts for Haas and Alpha Tauri respectively, while Fernando ‘Can you Hear the Drums’ Alonso made his long-awaited return, in Renault’s re-branded Alpine car. Replacing the blinding, cotton candy, pink and white Racing Point is the green and sophisticated Aston Martin, who have scored long suffering 4 Time World Champion Sebastian Vettel as their driver.

The formation lap saw Perez almost quit with a faulty car in his debut for the hopeful, and re-energised Red Bull Racing. The race started off in the expected F1 dramatic fashion. Starting from the fourth pole position of his career, Verstappen had taken control of the race early on, but lost it during pit stops. Following a second stop for both drivers – Verstappen’s coming 10 laps after Hamilton’s – we were treated to a race, and probably the first of many for this season between Hamilton and Verstappen. A nail biting 0.7 second gap between both men gave Hamilton the victory. Verstappen making it to second place, with Bottas a distant third.

Claiming fourth and fifth place was Lando Norris and Sergio Perez, respectively. The latter climbing up over the course of the race, much like he did last year for his maiden win. To see McLaren back in the game, after a miserable couple of years in the middle of the grid is beautiful. I just hope to see them competing for the world title again.

For me, the man of the race had to be Yuki Tsunoda. I watched him during qualifying on Saturday and was mighty impressed by this 20-year-old racer. And he is a racer, scoring his first points in his debut race, behind a Ferrari. The land of the rising sun has a new and exciting racer, and I predict great things to come from him. Disappointingly for Alonso, he was not able to finish this race, being let down by his car. That was a shame, as he was excellent in qualifying. As well as this, Sebastian Vettel, in his shiny new Green car, was only able to get a paltry 15th place, after a crash with Esteban Ocon resulted in a 10 second penalty.

So, what does this race tell us about the season as a whole? Hamilton may have won the day, but frankly, I think he has very good competition. Mercedes has become complacent with its cars. They are fast, they can win races, but the gap between them, and their rival teams, has closed somewhat. Red Bull is back with a vengeance, and Max Verstappen is undoubtedly going to go to war with Lewis Hamilton. I also see McLaren being a force to compete with, as those battles for 3rd and 4th place become ever more important. They have a good car, they have two very good drivers, and I think they will be formidable in their own right.
Will I be right, or am I talking out of my rear wing? Only time will tell.

Drive to Survive divides die-hard motorsport fans on their portrayal of the sport. With season three out and binged by the majority of fans, it’s time to take a look at who I think were the winners and the losers.

My one-word review of series three is: average.

Nothing about this series ‘WOW’ed me. 2020 was the most exciting season in recent years and DTS could have shown that, but in true NetFlix style it was overdramtized. Do ‘causal’ viewers really want to knows the ins and out of the sport? No. So you can tell it’s very much aimed at those who know a little about F1, and with this in mind, for a global audience is very well done – but I was disappointed as I don’t think it was as exciting as the previous seasons.

So, who looked good this season? My first thought, Christan Horner. The Red Bull team principal loves the drama and so do we. From previous seasons, he has always been a big character that NetFlix focuses on and this year was no different. You can tell just how much respect Toto Wolff and himself have for each other with the videos of them talking at race weekends. They are the only two people who know what it’s like to lead a team at the very top in the last decade and it really shows. On top of that, there was that exchange between Christan Horner and Sebastian Vettel which for a lot of us, hit us where it hurts. Christan was giving advice to Vettel regarding his future and Seb said “and then come home” with Christans response being, “exactly.” Drive To Survive would not be the same without him and this season was no different.

Sticking with team principals, I thought Cyril Abiteboul had a very poor display. He came across very immature, with constant whining and negative vibes. He was obviously upset by Daniel leaving, but the way he kept going on about it? You only signed Daniel for 2 years and he did what you asked. I think it summed up his year at Renault.

I don’t think there was a stand out driver who looked really good, but it did reflect on how well Ricciardo and Perez’s seasons were. Checo came across very humble and down to earth which is a side I don’t think we see often. Ricciardo seems to be that driver that leaves a mark on all teams.

What can I say about Alex Albon. Drive To Survive showed his season how many of us fans saw his season: disappointing. Fundamentally he didn’t perform to the level he should have and doesn’t have that ruthless mentality that Red Bull are after. They need someone to push Max rather than be Mr Nice Guy as in F1, that isn’t going to get results.

Someone who did impress me was Lawrence Stroll. Maybe its the business girl in me but boy – would I love to talk business with that man. I’m not sure if my respect has grown for him due to his professionalism surrounding business or knowing what could have been for Force India in terms of Nikita Mazepin’s Dad and Rich Energy which would have been…well… interesting for the sport.

Finally, I was very disappointed with some of the story lines that DTS missed.

There was nothing on Max Verstappen apart from Christian saying how much he is Red Bulls wonder child. No mention on any of the drivers contracting Covid-19 or George Russell’s Mercedes debut at Sakhir . Lewis got all of 5 minutes at the end for his active role in fighting for equality and BLM. I think he deserved more. Although I think the most frustrating thing was the lack of recognition for Williams! Nothing about Frank, Claire, George?They have been at the pinnacle of the sport for years, won World Championships, brought the best drivers into the sport and quite frankly – they deserve so much more but got nothing. Equally maybe Williams didn’t give NetFlix the access, regardless, as a fan it was very disappointing.

On the whole, it was my least favourite series of Drive To Survive. I think there could have been more coverage on the events that mattered rather than the irrelevant rivalries between Lewis and Valtteri or Carlos and Lando. I think it is good for a global audience and bring new fans into the sport, but for long term fans it can be frustrating to watch due to the twisted truth.

I get asked this question a lot, and I always give a short answer of “Jenson Button” however, its much much more than that.

It’s true, I became a McLaren fan after seeing Mr Jenson Button dance around the track in that beautiful McLaren MP4-27 with the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes livery, and once I started to learn more and more about the team – the whole aesthetic just appealed to me. Since then, I have endured a few years that have definitely been the hardest as a fan of both the team and the sport itself. The McLaren Honda days haunt me to my very core and I’m not sure any other team – engine partnership has ever been as disastrous as what we witnessed from 2015.

However, when you become a part of McLaren, McLaren become a part of you and as heart-breaking as those days were, I stuck by the team in hope that better things were coming, and looking at how the 2020 Season is going – we have definitely come a long way, especially in the last two years. So much so, I got my very first tattoo in September to celebrate the last 3 podiums we have achieved, from Brazil, Austria and Italy.

The heritage behind McLaren is one to be admired, showcasing many F1 champions throughout the history of the sport – they really have had some of the greats. James Hunt, Lewis Hamilton, Niki Lauda, Mika Hakkinen and of course Ayrton Senna, to name a few.

The team itself are incredible when it comes to Fan Interaction, giving opportunities for lots of different competitions from signed merchandise to a virtual look into the McLaren Garage on Race Weekends, which I have been very fortunate to be part of myself – but we’ll save those stories for another day! Because of this interaction, its helped many fans build beautiful friendships within the F1 Community, some of which will truly be friends for life.

All this together, as well as their incredible brownie recipe, is why I love McLaren.

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