It’s practice Friday, as the most exciting Formula 1 season in years nears its finale, with the Red Bull star able to knock off his Mercedes rival as early as this weekend, though everybody expects the seven-time world champion to at least survive until Abu Dhabi, if not take another chunk into the Belgian-Dutch driver’s lead, which currently stands at a slender eight points.
While there will be many thrills and spills left in the Drivers’ Championship, there is sure to be drama, too, in the Constructors’ Championship. This will emphasise the drives of Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez, who both have pivotal roles to play in our their teammates negotiate the final two races of the season.
In terms of track dynamic, there will be long straights at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit this weekend, which ought to favour Mercedes as they gun for a one-two finish. But if Hamilton was to win and collect the bonus point for fastest lap, with Verstappen finishing second, it would create the extraordinary scenario of both drivers having 269.5 points going into the final Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit.
Wolff and his Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner have been involved in back-and-forth encounters too, drawing amusement from some and disdain from others, as the fight goes on for the constructor championship as well as the drivers’ title. Elsewhere outside the big two, Fernando Alonso’s podium finish, the changing team line-ups for next year and even the additions of rules such as sprint qualifying have all been big talking points in Formula One recently.
Here’s all the latest F1 news and reaction as the build-up to Saudi Arabia continues:
Hamilton ‘more relaxed than ever’ ahead of Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
“There are a couple of bits, it is different in one sense because we have got two incredibly close teams, as a team we are fighting in uncharted territory, no team or driver has won eight titles. It is fresh and new.
“On the other side I am more relaxed than I have ever been. I have been around a long time and I remember how I was for my first championship, even my second and third, the sleepless nights and things.
“I’m more sure about myself, I can’t change anything from the past but all I can do is prepare the best I can for what is ahead of me and I know I can.”
Ralf Schumacher outlines Max Verstappen’s ‘pressure’ advantage over Lewis Hamilton
Verstappen, 24, leads Hamilton, 36, by eight points heading into the final two races of the season in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Hamilton has closed the gap with victories in Brazil and Qatar as he looks to surpass Michael Schumacher’s record by winning an eighth drivers’ championship.
Hamilton trails Verstappen by eight points with two races remaining in the 2021 season
Charles Leclerc analyses Ferrari’s hopes for Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
“On paper it looks like it’s not going to be one of our best tracks because obviously very long straights and a very high-speed track, but on the other hand it’s a city track so anything can happen,” Charles Leclerc said of Ferrari’s hopes in Jeddah.
“Hopefully as drivers we can make the difference and yes, I am just really looking forward to tomorrow to try this track for the first time.”
Toto Wolff confirms Lewis Hamilton will have ‘spicy’ engine again at Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
“Saudi should be a good track for us but we know that this year when you think it is a good one, it can turn the other way around,” Wolff told Sky Sports F1.
“But there is a long straight, we will get our spicy equipment, engine, out for Saudi Arabia that we didn’t use [in Qatar] and hopefully Valtteri is right up there.
“We need him but, in any case, if everybody finishes the race it is going to go to Abu Dhabi.”
Mercedes F1 urged to rethink deal with insulation firm linked to Grenfell Tower fire
Mercedes F1 have been urged to rethink deal with insulation firm linked to Grenfell Tower fire.
The F1 team have penned a deal with Kingspan, who made some of the insulation used in the cladding of the building.
And the deal has been described as “truly shocking” by Grenfell survivors.
Michael Gove said he was “deeply disappointed”, though Kingspan said it played no role in the design of the cladding.
“This news has shattered us,” a statement from Grenfell United, a group of survivors and bereaved families from the fire, said.
The group also urged Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 team, led by Lewis Hamilton, “to immediately sever your relationship” with the company.
Lewis Hamilton has been ‘lucky’, claims Bernie Ecclestone
“It is difficult to say which one will prevail,” Bernie Ecclestone told the Mail. “I think it now depends on a little bit of good or bad luck that either of them bumps into.
“Generally, the public — and this is nothing against Lewis, he has done a first-class job — probably wants to see somebody else be world champion. That is the feeling I get from people.
“Lewis has been a bit luckier until now. Whether that luck will remain or run out we’ll have to see. Max as champion would be good for Formula One. Mercedes have been great, but it would be good if someone else came to the fore.”
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Practice
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:29.018
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +0.061s
3. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +0272s
4. Yuki Tsunoda (Alpha Tauri) +0.579s
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +0.786s
Carlos Sainz on Ferrari battle with McLaren for P3
“We need to outscore them by four or five points, I think, this weekend, which, looking at recent results might seem like a likely scenario. But we need to remind ourselves that McLaren have been in the fight in every race that we’ve outscored them,” Carlos Sainz says when discussing Ferrari’s battle with McLaren to claim P3 - the Scuderia are 39.5 points and need five more points than their rivals to wrap up bronze on the F1 season.
“It’s not like we were on an easy route to outscore them before their trouble in the last three races, so it’s been really tight still; we’ve just managed to make less mistakes, put everything together with both cars and outscore them.
“But I feel like here they might have the faster car and they will bring the fight down to Abu Dhabi, probably.”
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Practice
That didn’t last long, Max Verstappen slices off 0.667secs from Lando Norris’ pace-setting time.
The Red Bull star is on the mediums.
Saudi Arabian Grand Prix Practice
Valtteri Bottas is having issues, he locks up as his tyres were not ready.
The Mercedes driver will go again, but there’s a hint of the right way to go from Lando Norris.
He’s out for the second practice on the soft tyres, while the others have taken either the mediums or hards.
The McLaren man quickly goes top, logging a 1:30.771 to go top.
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