What a week for F1 news! Who would have thought we could have so much excitement so close to the end of the season?
Firstly, we had the incredible, and initially at least, scary crash for Romain Grosjean. The fireball when his Haas hit the barriers at high speed on the opening took all of our breath away and for a moment, we feared the worst. Thankfully though, he somehow emerged, Terminator style from the flames and managed to literally walk away. When further details of the crash subsequently emerged, and images of the cockpit, burned but intact, appeared, the entire F1 community appreciated how much progress has been made in terms of safety in recent times. Even the Halo, controversial as it was when introduced, was unanimously praised. Had it not been for the Halo, I would probably be writing a far different piece today. How wonderful was it to see Grosjean posting on social media, all smiles, from his hospital bed?
Once it was clear that the Frenchman was ok, talk changed to potential stand ins for him, should he not be able to race at this coming weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix. Almost immediately though, news broke that Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for Covid 19, meaning he could not race at Sakhir, leaving the fastest car on the grid vacant with four days to go to the race. Social media went into overdrive, with most people hoping that Williams F1 star George Russell would get the nod, ahead of Mercedes reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne. Russell’s stock is high though having been oh so impressive this year in a Williams that has generally been regarded as being hugely uncompetitive. Vandoorne though, suffered at the hands of team mate Fernando Alonso though a few years back at McLaren and has since established himself as a top Formula E driver.
Early on Wednesday (in our time zone), the news was out, and race fans were bubbling with excitement. George Russell had been given the nod- and fans had been given the recipe for an extremely exciting weekend. A Twitter pole on my Twitter account yesterday showed that most people think either Russell will take the win, with Max Verstappen the next choice and Valtteri Bottas trailing a distant third. Bottas has matched Hamilton on occasion so his form will dictate plenty at Sakhir. If he is matched or even beaten by Russell, his career will be damaged immeasurably . similarly, if he is beaten by Max, the opinion will probably be that Hamilton wouldn’t have been. As I type, Russell has topped the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2- to the delight of F1 fans everywhere. If you were an F1 marketeer, you would be rubbing you hands with glee ahead of tomorrow’s race, as social media has been hopping over the last 24 hours! Russell though, has been keen to play down his form and says he is not 100% comfortable in the car, and that he is struggling on long runs with full fuel load. He does say he is improving all the time though!
“I’m learning every lap in the car.I do think the lap times are a little bit deceiving at the moment and aren’t a true representation of the pace. FP2 was not a great session for me, I struggled, especially in the high fuel and ultimately that’s going to be key on Sunday. Still got a lot of work to do to get comfortable in the car, comfortable in the set-up, make some improvements because I think tomorrow is going to be a different story.”
As for Bottas, he is fully aware of what he has to do this weekend: “ If he beats me, yeah, it wouldn’t look so good on me if I have a normal race and if he beats me fair and square. So, obviously, I’ll try to avoid that.”
With all this in mind, you have to wonder who is under more pressure this weekend, Russell or Bottas?