Report Nº 17 – 2019

Toro Rosso will be changing their name from next year to become ‘Alpha Tauri’ which is a fashion brand founded in 2016 and a brand extension of Red Bull into the fashion industry. It is also a red giant star approximately 65 light years from the sun in the constellation of Taurus.

Japanese GP Suzuka International Racing Course

Lap record 1m 31.540s held by K. Räikkönen McLaren (2005).

This circuit was designed by John Hugenholtz and opened in 1962 as a test track for Honda road cars and motorcycles; one of a few circuits in the world and the only one on the F1 calendar with a ‘figure of eight’ layout. It has had multiple modifications over the years, mainly to improve safety, but still keeping the famous sections such as the ‘S’ Curves, Degner Curve, Spoon Curve & the 130r. 

The first Japanese F1 race was held at the Toyota owned Fuji Speedway in 1976 which was won by Mario Andretti from pole driving a JPS Lotus-Ford Cosworth V8. In 1977 James Hunt won, driving a McLaren-Ford Cosworth V8. From ’78 to ’86 there was not a Japanese GP. It returned in 1987 to the Honda-owned Suzuki circuit and has been held here every year except 2007 & ’08 when it went back to Fuji. 

It was in 2014 when Jules Bianchi had his horrific accident at the Suzuka circuit sustaining fatal injuries and ultimately passing away the following year. It was the darkest day in F1 for two decades. 

F1 at 10am local time started in overcast conditions. Sai came to a halt soon after leaving the garage, (VSC to remove car). Gio suffered hydraulic problems. Bot, Ham, Vet, Lec & Ver top five drivers.

FP2 at 2pm was still overcast but dry, with typhoon Hagibis looming in the distance. FIA cancelled all activities for Saturday, with qualifying put forward to Sunday morning. Gas was back in his Toro Rosso. Bot, Ham, Ver, Lec & Vet top five. 

Q1 – 10am local time was bright & sunny but very windy. Kub crashed heavily into the barriers (red flags for 5 mins). Mag crashed into the barriers, but managed to crawl back to the garage minus a front wing (red flag). Lec, Ham, Ver, Nor & Bot top five. 

Q2 – quite uneventful, except for Hül having gearbox gremlins. Bot, Ham, Alb, Vet, & Lec top five.

Q3 – out with Hül went Kvy & Str. The fast and furious 12min top ten shootout was again trouble free. Ferrari got a front row lock-out with both Mercedes on the second row and both Red Bull drivers on the third row. 

Race started at 2.10pm local time and it was bright and sunny. Major repairs for Kub including a new chassis (start from pit lane). Hül had his car stripped down as the hydraulic leak was within the gearbox & Mag destroyed his rear end so as well as the repairs had to have a new gearbox, (5 place grid drop). Vet had a bad start. Bot had a flyer getting past both Ferraris to take the lead. Ver passed Ham then had a coming together with Lec. Ver dropped to 18th after spinning and going off over the grass (pit for repairs). Nor & Alb clashed causing damage to the McLaren (pit for repairs). Ver drove into his garage to retire at the end of lap 14. Great overtaking manoeuvres and on the last lap Rus crashed into the barriers. Gas & Per tangled with the latter crashing into the barriers. Bot got his 6th win and 1st at this circuit. Vet & Ham joined him on the podium. 5 & 10 second penalty for Lec dropped him from 6th to 7th. Ham recorded the fastest lap of the race clocking 1m 30.983s on lap 45 which is a new lap record after 15 years. 

Report Nº 18 

Mexican GP Autódromo Hermaños Rodríguez. 

Lap record 1m 18.741s held by V. Bottas Mercedes (2018)

The circuit was built on a dried up lake bed and opened in 1962 as the Magdalena Mixhuca circuit. It sits 2,285mtrs above sea level with 22% less oxygen making it difficult for the cars and drivers. The name was changed later when Ricardo Rodríguez died during practice for the non-Championship race in 1962 aged 20 years. His brother Pedro also lost his life behind the wheel at the Norisring, Germany in an Interserie Sports Car Race on 11th July 1971 at 31 years old. From 1962 until ‘79 it was 5kmin length with 14 turns. It was then shortened in 1980 to 3.991kmwith 9 turns until 1985 during which time F1 did not use the venue. Another change for the 1986 season was an increase to 4.421kmand again with 14 turns until the final race in 1992 when ‘Our Nige’ won from pole. Formula 1 races again from 1963-1970 and 1986-1992 before returning to the calendar in 2015 with a revised layout.The circuit boasts an extremely fast, slightly banked final corner turn 17 ‘Peraltada’ leading to the 1.2km start/finish straight. For 2016 it was revamped and now has 17 turns, the final turn being renamed ‘Mansell Turn’. 

After heavy overnight rain it was overcast with a damp track. As usual there was a ‘hero’s welcome’ for local boy Perez. Str crashed sideways into the barrier but managed to get his damaged RP19 back to the garage; red flag to clear debris. Gro had his time deleted after going over the new track limit at turn 11. Ham, Lec, Ver, Alb & Bot were the top five. The afternoon was slightly warmer. Alb caused a red flag situation when he crashed heavily into the barriers at turn 7. Vet, Ver, Lec, Bot & Ham were the top five. Saturday morning was damp after more overnight rain and intermediate tyres were the choice. It was another fairly good session, but not without more spins and offs. Lec, Vet, Bot, Ham, & Sai were the top five drivers.

Qualifying began at 3pm local time. There were lock-ups & spins, but no major dramas. Ver, Alb, Lec, Ham & Vet made up the top five.

Q2 was another clear session apart from a few minor offs. Ham, Bot, Vet, Ver & Lec were the top five. The fast and furious top ten shoot-out was another exciting session until the dying seconds when Bot crashed heavily into the barriers at the final turn; yellow flags. Ver got his first pole at this circuit with Lec, Vet, Ham, & Alb the top five. Post qualifying penalty for Ver ignoring the waved yellow flags dropped him down to 4th giving Ferrari a front row lock-out.

Therace began in front of a grandstand full of fans, many of whom in ‘Halloween’ fancy dress. Bot was in a virtually new car after having repairs to his W10. The 111.1mtr run from pole position to the first corner braking point makes it possible for drivers to gain positions. Lec had a good start. Ham got alongside Vet but run out of track then had a coming together with Ver as he tried one of his dodgy overtakes, both drivers going off over the grass and losing places. Räi was the filling in a sandwich between Rus & Mag where he sustained damage to his floor and cooling system. Ver then clashed with Bot, puncturing his left rear tyre therefore having a slow run back to the pits and ending up at the back of the pack. There was a lot of action and position changes especially during pit stops. Nor had a disastrous pit stop stopping at the end of the pit lane and being pushed back to the box. Gio also had a problem when his car fell off the jack. Ver, still not satisfied with not taking the Mercedes cars out, had a go at Mag. Nor retired on lap 49 and Räi did the same 10 laps later. It was a fairly exciting 71 lap race but not much overtaking with some minor off circuit excursions throughout the entire field. Kvy hit Hül forcing the Renault driver into the wall as the chequered flag was being waved, but he got his car across the line minus a rear wing. Ham got his second win at this circuit and 10th of the season. Vet & Bot joined him on the podium. Lec recorded the fastest lap of 1m 19.232s on lap 53. Kvy finished 9th but was handed a 10 second time penalty for his clash with Hül.