Ferrari has endured a nightmare September. After being trounced by Mercedes at Monza, the first-lap clash in Singapore between Ferrari duo Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, marked the first time in Formula 1 history that both Ferrari’s have been eliminated from a Grand Prix on the opening lap.
In Malaysia, the Scuderia seemed to be out of the woods. Friday saw Vettel and Raikkonen top the timesheets, while also posting impressive times during long runs. It seemed certain that Vettel would seize pole position and reduce his points arrears with a win on Sunday. A turbo fault in FP3 before power unit gremlins in qualifying served to derail his weekend by condemning him to the back of the grid.
In the meantime, victories in Italy and Singapore – followed by a second place finish in Malaysia – have allowed Lewis Hamilton to steal a march towards the 2017 drivers’ championship title. He now leads Vettel by 34 points with a maximum 125 points still up for grabs.
September has been bleak for Ferrari. However, positives have emerged from the gloom and Vettel can still enter the final five races with an air of optimism regarding his title aspirations.
One of Formula 1’s most crippling weaknesses over recent years has been the series’ inability to utilise the growing tool that is social media and the World Wide Web. The internet has eclipsed television as the location in which to showcase a sport and F1 had fallen significantly behind the curve during the Ecclestone-era.
Fortunately, Liberty Media has acknowledged the need to embrace the new age of media consumption. On Tuesday, the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix was uploaded – in full – to the official F1 YouTube channel and will be freely available to view for 19 days.
The Singapore Grand Prix has a habit of injecting fresh jeopardy into a title battle. Be it Felipe Massa driving off with his fuel hose still attached during Formula 1’s first-ever night race in 2008 – or Nico Rosberg’s faulty wiring loom that led to terminal clutch issues in 2016 – Singapore has the potential to turn a championship fight on its head.
Should 2017 championship leader Lewis Hamilton be crowned a four-time world champion in November, Sebastian Vettel’s dramatic first-lap elimination in Singapore will be looked upon as a season-defining moment.
Now trailing Hamilton by 28-points with just six races remaining, Vettel unquestionably finds himself hugely compromised. However, this is a title battle that is still far from declaring a winner.
Despite 2018’s front running seats being locked down by their incumbents, it appears that a midfield shuffle is about to be triggered by Carlos Sainz Jr. Bizarrely, it would seem that power unit politics is the factor that is set to fuel a move for Sainz from Toro Rosso to Renault for 2018.
It is a switch which makes perfect sense, as it benefits all five parties that are either directly or indirectly involved; Red Bull, Renault, Toro Rosso, the beleaguered McLaren and – most poignantly – Sainz himself.
Everyone loves a sporting showdown. Be it a Super Bowl heading into overtime or a bitterly contested match point at the end of a gruelling Grand Slam final. In motorsport, an epic race has the potential to be defined by the final lap – a scenario that is widely regarded a collectors’ item.
However, a blockbuster conclusion is not an uncommon occurrence in Formula 2. Hardly surprising in a series featuring spec-machinery and 20 aspirational racing drivers who all believe that they are destined to reach the pinnacle of motorsport that is Formula 1.
Last weekend’s F2 feature race at Monza was eventually won by Prema’s Antonio Fuoco, following a final lap clash between championship leader Charles Leclerc and Nyck de Vries that eliminated both drivers. Russian Time’s Luca Ghiotto initially claimed the top step of the podium but was handed a five second time penalty post-race for taking the scenic route through the first chicane on the frantic last tour.
Some series have seen similar final lap shenanigans that have defined rivalries, careers and even championships. Others have seen races written into motorsport folk-law. Here are some of the most dramatic final laps seen in modern motorsport.
In what has become an annual news event, Kimi Raikkonen has once again been retained by Ferrari for another season, as the Italian team announced on Tuesday that the 2007 world champion has earned another contract extension.
Not bad for a driver labeled a “laggard” by his boss and Ferrari President Sergio Marchionne earlier this year.
Regardless of this brutally blunt assessment, Raikkonen’s re-signing makes sense for a Ferrari team with plenty to ponder in their immediate future.
Given that the summer break has starved Formula 1 fans of concrete news stories over the past few weeks, silly season speculation has been rife. While much of the discussion can be filed under far-fetched fan fiction, the rumours surrounding Fernando Alonso seem somewhat substantiated.
In reality, speculation regarding Alonso’s future has been a news feature ever since the disappointing McLaren Honda MCL-32 rolled out of the garage – and was swiftly rolled back into the garage – on the opening day of 2017 pre-season testing.
It is entirely possible that Alonso is now considering the very real prospect of a tilt at IndyCar in 2018.