After a weekend without a grand Prix, the 2021 Russian GP weekend is here, and boy do I have some questions.
In non Covid times, a weekend off between grand Prix’s is nothing out of the ordinary as long-time fans of the sport would know. But given the last 2 seasons and getting spoilt with back-to-back weekends of racing and occasionally 3 in a row, this past weekend’s break between Monza and Sochi was definitely a tough one to get through. Although it did give us a whole extra week to savour McLarens first win in 9 years, and a beautiful 1-2 for the team.
It also gave Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fans a chance to argue who was at fault for there race ending crash, even though the FIA already made their decision penalising Verstappen 3 grid places for this weekends race at Sochi. In my opinion, they got it right. Max always whinges that Lewis never gives him room to race, but in reality, when Lewis starts a race by giving Max space, Max responds by forcing him wide and often off the track. So, I’m ok with Lewis racing hard after Max decides to push the rules. Grow Up Max, and don’t get me started on Helmut Markel. Bloke is the most sensitive person in the Paddock. Maybe he should take a season off and focus more on the drivers in their young driver academy, instead of spending all his time whinging about a driver they signed from another academy. If I was a young driver or parent of a young driver coming through right now, there is ZERO chance id be signing him to RedBull.
Ok enough about RedBull, this is about the weekend ahead. While I don’t agree with a lot of the policies Russia has in place when it comes to the LGBT community, I don’t mind that they race in Russia. They are no where near the likes of China and Saudi Arabia when it comes to lack of human rights. I will not be doing anything to cover those races. It dilutes the message the F1 put out of “We race as one”, they should add a part that says, “But well turn a blond eye for the right price”. Id honestly love for Lewis Hamilton to boycott the Saudi GP but I don’t think they’ll have the gap in the Championship this year to have it not cost him the title. But I digress.
This weeks Grand Prix raises a lot of questions in the lead up. How will McLaren perform after a great Monza race, can Hamilton and Verstappen avoid each other? Will the 3-point Grid penalty be enough to stop Verstappen? And can Mazespin win his home race?………. Just kidding, Mazespin will never win a race, hell be here for a few seasons and then disappear and we can pretend like it never happened.
Looking at the way McLaren has developed their car over the last 2 seasons, and how good of a driver Lando has been over the last 2 seasons, if have no doubts they can be competitive this race and not just fight for the podium but for the outright race win. Obviously, it will all come down to qualifying and how well both Lando and Danny perform, but the improvement Dan has shown over the last 5 or 6 races (Hungary included), I see them both qualifying high up on the grid and then its all about strategy. With Verstappen starting from at least the 4th spot on the grid, there is every chance Lando or Riccardo could be starting front row, or at worse 2nd row. Setting them up for a great race and hopefully a double podium finish.
The 3-point grid penalty for Verstappen will obviously be a dent in their race, having easily the fastest car on the grid and having to start behind at least 3 other cars is never a good thing. And the fact that at Monza Danny Ric jumped him off the line and lead comfortably into the first corner raises a few questions as to whether his starts are really that good or if its just Hamilton’s starts are a lot worse. Even though it is a pain in the ass for RedBull and Max, if Perez can actually put a good qualifying together and qualify ahead of Max, Strategy could then help them get back to the top, especially if Perez can get in between the Mercedes. All of this of course depends on where McLaren qualify, they could be the real spanner in the works for Mercedes and RedBull.
A few other things to watch for. Now that qualifying is back to Saturday, I expect George Russell to qualify in at least the top 10. Can Alpha Tauri return to some sort of form after a run of horrid performance from the whole team, both cars had a dnf at Monza, before the race had even started. And can Kimi Raikkonen give us a performance worthy of Driver of the Day, so we can all here his enthralling post-race in car interview.
All I can say, is thank God its RAWE CEEK!