Title tension, Ricciardo’s form and Alfa Romeo seat – 5 fascinating scenarios ahead of the Russian GP
Fresh out of yet another controversial clash between title rivals and a shock winner at Monza, we’re back in action this weekend with a trip to Russia. Here are some of the talking points that we think will make the headlines in the next round in Sochi …
1. More tension in the title
Fourteen races down, eight races to go in the 2021 season, and the battle for the championship only intensifies.
Monza saw another collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen, the latter having been given a penalty of three places on the grid for the incident he will have to suffer this weekend in Russia. While not the first time they’ve found each other on the track, it’s the first time the two drivers have retired from the race, which has given rise to much debate as to who was to blame. .
2021 Italian Grand Prix: huge moment as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collide and crash at Monza
Both drivers seemed to agree that they had to find a way to fight cleanly but that’s easier said than done when there are only five points between them after so many races already, and that’s usually after the end of traditional European races a title fight really becomes the center of attention.
There will certainly be more dramatic moments in between, but it remains to be seen whether the grid penalty for Verstappen separates them on the right track this weekend.
PALMER: Were the stewards right in punishing Verstappen for his clash between Monza and Hamilton?
Red bull racing
2. Ricciardo’s form
The drama of the collision between Hamilton and Verstappen still does not eclipse what was a remarkable performance by McLaren at Monza, and the more notable of the two drivers was the race winner.
It is in no way to belittle Lando Norris, on the contrary. Norris has been in stunning form all season and has continued in Italy, but teammate Daniel Ricciardo has struggled since joining earlier this year. The summer break helped Ricciardo reset and come back fresh for the second half of the season, but no one saw his victory coming.
TREMAYNE: I wouldn’t bet against Norris adding to McLaren’s total wins this season after Ricciardo’s triumph at Monza
Well, until Friday at Monza, maybe, when Ricciardo was frustrated with only qualifying fifth for the Sprint and clearly had extremely high expectations of himself. Zandvoort didn’t stick to his plan but there had been a clear step forward and Ricciardo knew he had a chance to do something special on a track where McLaren was particularly competitive.
He duly delivered, with the fastest lap in the last lap to start. It was a weekend where he was consistently on top of the car in a way not really seen so far this season, but the rest of the year has been so tough he’ll want to back it up on another site.
3. The second Alfa Romeo seat
The 2022 Driver Market is almost closed for business. After all the movement that took place before Monza, Aston Martin became the last team to confirm their roster for next year by announcing that Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel would be retained as planned.
That leaves just two teams with unconfirmed seats, although Haas plans to keep the pairing of Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, without it being yet clear whether there will be an official announcement made when those contracts are finalized.
But the last piece of the puzzle lies at Alfa Romeo, where Valtteri Bottas’ future teammate is yet to be confirmed. Everything indicates that alpine junior Guanyu Zhou will get this training, but Antonio Giovinazzi has done his best to claim his retention in the squad, especially with his recent performances in qualifying.
Nick de Vries was also mentioned in terms of F1 opportunity, and there are still some experienced names with no confirmed future, so if they want to, Alfa Romeo can keep their options open for a little while.
4. Williams’ series of points
That says a lot about Williams’ performance as George Russell’s ninth place finish in the Italian Grand Prix came as no surprise at all. In fact, it was almost a little disappointing that the team had yet to score with both drivers as Nicholas Latifi missed out on a place in 11th position.
Latifi was within three seconds of another scoring result and had led Williams for part of the race, but narrowly missed the team’s third double in four races.
ANALYSIS: Why Williams chose Albon as Russell’s replacement – and picked Latifi for 2022
Still, both drivers have contributed in recent weeks as Williams not only scored his first points since 2019 in Hungary, but then added a podium at Spa and now has 22 points to his name. These top 10 came from very different circuits, and they were also in the mix at Zandvoort until the two drivers crashed in Q2.
If they can keep that form in Sochi, then chances are Williams will fight for points for the rest of the season, and should be able to comfortably hold eighth in the Constructors’ Championship.
5. The penultimate visit to Sochi
A little bittersweet this, as it’s not about being excited that this weekend will mark one of the last times we’ll visit Sochi Autodrome for a Grand Prix, but rather an appreciation. from Russia’s premier F1 site.
Since joining the calendar in 2014, Sochi has seen large crowds and dramatic incidents, as the F1 peloton battled it out on the impressive circuit that runs through the Winter Olympic Park. It is a race that has helped develop the sport in Russia by giving it a constant focus, and has brought thousands of fans to the Black Sea resort every year.
Highlights of the race: Russian Grand Prix 2020
Nikita Mazepin will be the home favorite on the grid this year, but the likes of Daniil Kvyat and Sergey Sirotkin were also able to benefit from their home Grand Prix, showing the growing number of drivers coming from Russia after Vitaly Petrov’s debut in 2010 .
Russia is also seeing a number of Finnish fans making the trip, and they should be able to cheer Kimi Raikkonen on again in what will be his final F1 season, following his recovery from COVID-19.
After this year’s race we will be back in 2022 for one last visit, but from 2023 the event will move to Igora Drive near St. Petersburg, taking Formula 1 to a new Russian fanbase region. .