Welcome back to the second edition of Racing Recap Roundups from our friend Robb Holland. It was another busy weekend of motorsport action with F1, NASCAR, endurance and sprint sports cars, and an IndyCar double header. If you missed any of the action, here’s a quick look at what happened this weekend.
They call rain the great equalizer and Saturday’s qualifying for the second race at the Red Bull Ring proved that beyond a doubt. The two top drivers—Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen—qualified first and second with the former more than a second clear of the latter. Verstappen had a decent shot at putting his car on pole in his final lap of qualifying, but after setting the fastest first sector time of the session he hydroplaned off track through the final corner and was unable to capitalize on his strong pace gifting Hamilton a strong P1.
The field made it through turn one unscathed, but turn three was another story. The two Ferrari drivers [again] made contact. Unexpectedly this time around it was Charles Leclerc making the bonehead move, trying to dive up the inside of Sebastian Vettel who in turn was trying to pass Kevin Magnussen in the Haas. Three cars into one corner doesn’t work and Leclerc ended up going over the back of his team mate with both cars receiving enough damage that they were forced to retire, Vettel missing a rear wing, Leclerc with chunky floor aero where it should be smooth.
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At the restart it was all Hamilton with the Mercedes driver setting a consistently fast enough pace to win by over 13 seconds. Behind him Verstappen ran a strong race early but picked up front wing damage which severely affected his pace in the late going. Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was able to chase down the wounded Red Bull and after a brief battle get past for the second spot on the podium demoting Verstappen to third.
The best battle of the race however was the battle for fourth and fifth with Force Point India Racing’s Sergio Perez battling an off-pace Red Bull of Alexander Albon with only a handful of laps to go. Unfortunately, in a near copy of Albon’s clash with Hamilton from last week, the two cars made contact as Perez tried an inside pass. Fortunately for Albon, Perez came off worse, with substantial damage to the front wing of the
2019 Mercedes W10 Racing Point RP20 slowing him substantially.
This allowed the battling Point Break, Force Point, Race Force, um... Racing Point (!) of Lance Stroll and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo to close up one the last lap. While Perez, Stroll and Ricardo duked it out, Lando Norris (whose new motto must be “It’s not over til its over”) came charging through the group to catch and pass Perez in the last corner!
With two top five finishes from the first two races, Norris now sits third in the championship behind Bottas and Hamilton.
Takeaways: Ferrari is having one of their worst years in recent memory. According to McLaren’s Lando Norris the Ferrari has a ton of down force and is very quick through the corners but as a consequence also has the most drag of any car on the grid. With F1 a ruling last year’s engine illegal Ferrari no longer has the horsepower advantage from last season to overcome the increased wind resistance. Expect many more embarrassing weekends like this for Ferrari as both drivers will struggle to drag their cars out of the midfield carnage (and don’t forget that Ferrari has to use this car for the 2021 season as well!)
Carlos Sainz must be in a panic, re-reading his newly signed contract with Ferrari desperately looking for an escape clause.
Next Race: June 19 Hungary GP
The NASCAR Cup race at Kentucky was a snooze-fest. I mean that literally as I had to go back and re-watch most of the race after falling asleep on my couch around lap 50. Fortunately I woke up for the last few laps because the finish was definitely worth a watch.
You know what? Here, just watch it right now.
With 19 to go, 7-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson dropped to the inside to block a run by 2012 Cup Champion Brad Keselowski and went for a spin. Things got wild and wooly on the restart with cars going four wide, allowing rookie Cole Custer to make a run from 12th up to 6th. Then with 7 to go Matt Kenseth got spun by Ryan Newman—allowing NASCAR to squeeze in one last commercial break before the checkered flag. Custer, proving more adept at surfing through a pack of 4 wide racecars than most of the seasoned vets, got a massive run on the back stretch (with help from Matt DiBenedetto). With the leaders Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr beating the crap out of each other Custer had the balls to go 4 wide over the start/ finish line and hang it out around the outside into turn one and two. That was enough to give the 22 year old rookie his first win at the NASCAR Cup level and also secure him a spot in next weeks All Star race.
Takeaway: With a large portion of the NASCAR paddock starting to venture into retirement age, the rookies are showing the bosses that the series is in capable hands. Custer’s run Sunday was impressive but he had help (courtesy of a couple well-timed pushes) from 28-year-old Matt DiBenedetto. Additionally young guns such as Chase Elliott, Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick, and Austin Cindric have put in some stellar drives over the past few races. In addition to a new generation of car, these “kids” will be bringing NASCAR into a new era over the next few years and that’s a very good thing indeed.
Next Race: July 15 Bristol
IndyCar had a doubleheader weekend with two wonderful sprint races on the road course at Road America. This legendary course is almost tailor-made for the current generation Indy cars with long straightaways where judicious use of push-to-pass and heavy breaking zones can lead to multiple overtaking opportunities per lap.
Pit stop issues seemed to be the story of the day with poor stops ending strong runs by three drivers. Graham Rahal had a refueling issue after running strong. Josef Newgarden was next—after his Team Penske crew gave him a solid stop, Newgarden stalled the car and had issues getting it re-fired. IndyCar’s favored son Santino Ferrucci had pit issues when series rookie Dalton Kellett cut him off while entering his pit stall, losing him several spots and a chance at his first podium.
While all of the was going on Will Power and Scott Dixon were engaged in their own battle with Dixon getting the better of Power in both of the late race restarts. Dixon went on to win by 2.5 seconds over Power with rookie Alex Palou capping off a sterling drive to nab P3.
Race 1 Video Highlights -
Race two at Road America came down to a couple of young guns battling it out for the win. After a rough start—where Will Power managed to hit everything but the pace car—things settled out with Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward looking very strong all day. With 2 laps to go Rosenqvist tried a sliding crossover move on O’Ward and made it stick, holding on to the win. Alexander Rossi finally managed to put a good race together, as a reward for his strong pace all day Rossi came home with a third place finish.
Race 2 Video Highlights -
Take Away: Like NASCAR, Indy’s future is looking flush with young new talent. Rosenqvist, O’Ward,Herta, and Askew have all put in strong drives at various times during this short season. With young vets such as Rossi, Newgarden and Rahal still going strong and the series attracting international stars such as ex-F1 driver Marcus Ericsson, Indy car is poised to have a very solid driver line up that a new generation of fans can support for years to come.
Next Race: July 18th Iowa
Nurburgring Endurance Series (NLS formerly VLN Series)
The series formerly known as VLN, the Nurburgring Langstrecken Serie held two rounds in one weekend for the first time ever. The number 16 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Maro Engel, Luca Stolz, Adam Christodoulou, and Manuel Metzger took the Saturday race win ahead of the # 34 BMW M6 GT3 of Christian Krognes, David Pittard, and Mikkel Jensen and the #2 of Fabian Schiller & Maximilian Buhk in the sister Mercedes-AMG GT3.
The story of the weekend came after the conclusion of the Sunday race. The finish was an exciting one, as Bjorn Grossmann pushed his Ferrari past the Saturday-race-winning HRT Mercedes with only about 15 minutes remaining in the event. The margin of victory was just 0.728 seconds at the checkered flag. But, in a post-race tech check, the car’s rear-left Goodyear tire was non-rules-compliant.
The quartet of Grossman, Simon Trummer, Jonathan Hirschi, and Luca Ludwig were stripped of their victory, and the second-placed HRT Mercedes (Engel/Metzger, Christodoulou, and Stolz) were awarded their second win of the weekend.
If you’ve got a spare eight hours to toss away on a race you already know the results of, you can watch the full race streams here.
Round 2 - Saturday
Round 3 - Sunday
Next Race: Aug 1
SRO World Challenge got back to racing this weekend at Virginia International Raceway. The series used to carry a strong GT3 field, but that dwindled to just eight cars in the top class this weekend. In spite of the GT3 issues, the series still boasted a strong field of nearly 100 cars and star drivers. Touring Cars and GT4 held up the entry list this weekend, and it made for a great thing to watch. You can catch all of the action below.
Next Race: August 9 Sonoma
Controversial Take: Ferrari boss Matia Binotto could well be following Sebastian Vettel out the door at Ferrari by year’s end.
Not only does the Ferrari F1 team director not have control of his two drivers—this weekend being the second time in four races both Rosso Corsa cars have failed to finish due to intra-team contact—but the Ferrari SF1000 has been massively uncompetitive to start the year, with at least one of the red cars failing to make Q3 in each race this season. They were only spared the humiliation of having both cars eliminated in Q2 by the Williams of George Russell, by a single tenth of a second.
With F1 freezing the current homologation of the cars through to the end of the 2021 season, it is looking highly unlikely that, for at least the next 2 seasons, Ferrari will finish as one of the top 3 teams, let alone see themselves competing for a championship. That will go down like 3 week old Risotto to the powers-that-be in Maranello, and I highly doubt they could find a better scapegoat than Binotto.