The All-Indian Mumbai Falcons team ended their first Formula 3 Asia campaign with an impressive third place in the constructor’s championship. The team piloted by two of India’s high hopes for a representation in Formula 1, Jehan Daruvala and Kush Maini, managed to secure 3 podiums in the final round of the championship held at Yas Marina International circuit.
Highlights of the championship –
Post the success in F3 Asian Championship, Jehan Daruvala is going to continue for a second year with Carlin in FIA Formula 2 championship and Kush Maini is expected to land up a drive in the Formula 3 championship.
Imola was expected to be tough with just 90 minutes of practice. The strict track limits though came out of syllabus to add to the problems of drivers. Imola is firstly a narrower track compared to the rest and with cars evolving over years in terms of size, it was bound to be difficult to find a way through to adhere to the track limits and more importantly overtake during the race which made the qualifying very important.
The first part of qualifying again saw the SATURDAY MAN George Russell put in a splendid lap to get out of Q1. He put in the 14th quickest laptime. Kimi Raikkonen was left furious with his best lap time being deleted due to track limit violations and therefore ended a lowly 18th. Both Haas F1 cars of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen, who went wide in the last corner and lost an opportunity to improve his time were eliminated after posting the 16th and 17th fastest times of the session. Nicolas Latifi was 19th for Williams and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi finished 20th.
The second part of qualifying started with the drama of Max Verstappen reporting a power issue with his car. A proper shoutout to the incredible work by Red Bull mechanics though as they could change the spark plug in under 5 minutes and sent Verstappen out on mediums as well to make it into Q3 and he obliged. The session saw both the Racing point car miss out of making it to Q3 which Sergio Perez qualifying 11th, which was just 0.01 seconds of the 10th place. Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel had their lap times deleted as well and ended up 14th and 15th respectively. Renault’s Estaben Ocon and Williams’s Russel qualified 12th and 13th.
The final part of qualifying was a shoutout between the Mercedes cars for pole. Lewis Hamilton and Valterri Bottas swapped positions 3 times but it was Valterri Bottas who ended up beating his teammate by 0.097 seconds to claim pole position. Pierre Gasly, F1’s newest race winner qualified a brilliant 4th. Ricciardo qualified 5th for Renault and the Redbulls of Max Verstappen and Alex Albon ended up 3rd and 6th quickest. Charles Leclerc and Daniil Kvyat qualified 7th and 8th respectively with the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz rounding off the top 10.
Pierre Gasly who qualified a brilliant 4th has issues even before the race started. He reported a loss of power on his installation lap but went on to start the race which a repaired vehicle only for his race to last 9 laps as he was asked to retire the car because of terminal damage. At the start, Verstappen got ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Ricciardo made a good start to claim 4th from Gasly. At the back though, the fast-starting Lance Stroll made contact with Esteban Ocon and broke the left endplate of his front wing. He pitted for a new front wing and never could put up a fight for points, thus ending his dismal performance over the last 5 races. Further back, Kevin Magnussen was punted into a spin by Sebastian Vettel which dropped him to 19th place by the end of Lap 1. Bottas and Verstappen pitted for hard tires by lap 20 whereas Hamilton continued on his mediums. Bottas ran over debris from Sebastian Vettel’s car which caused him to lose downforce and was struggling in the corners. Sergio Perez meanwhile extended his stint on the medium tires and ran as high as 4th. Esteban Ocon reported a problem with this clutch on Lap 29 and the resultant Virtual Safety Car aligned the stars in Lewis Hamilton’s favor further and the pitstop under a VSC cost 10 seconds less than the normal pitstop and he ended up coming out comfortably ahead of Bottas. Bottas struggled to keep up the pace and made a mistake going into the penultimate corner thus giving Max Verstappen the chance to easily overtake him for 2nd position. Though the happiness was short-lived for Max as he would eventually retire from the race after a dramatic right rear tire blowout on Lap 51. The Safety car to recover Max’s car brought the cars bunch together with everyone opting to pit for softs apart from Ricciardo, Leclerc, and Albon who stayed on hards giving importance to track position more than the faster tires. George Russell who was having a great race in P10 steered under the safety car on accelerating for tire warm-up and ended up in the wall thus smashing the hopes of his first-ever point in Formula 1. On the restart, Kvyat made a brilliant move to overtake both Perez and Albon into Turn 1. Perez on softs made a brilliant move through the outside on Albon on the very next corner, but that pressure took into Albon and he spun on his exit from the corner. Albon thus ended up plumb last, yet again damaging his chances to secure his Red Bull seat for 2021.
Lewis Hamilton went on to win his 93rd race and Valterri Bottas came home second, which meant that the constructor’s championship has been won by Mercedes in 2020. This was a Formula 1 record as Mercedes became the first ever team to win the championship for 7 straight years. Daniel Ricciardo secured his 2nd podium of the season by finishing third and ended the brilliant with this trademark SHOEY celebration. Hamilton too joined in to do a SHOEY post-race on the podium. Kvyat finished a strong fourth with Leclerc and Perez rounding off the top 6. The two McLarens and the two Alfa Romeo cars completed the Top 10.