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F1 2021, Italian Grand Prix, sprint race, full grid, news, Daniel Ricciardo, Valtteri Bottas wins, qualifying, results

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“It’s good to be back,” Daniel Ricciardo declared after finishing the Italian Grand Prix sprint qualifying race in third – a result that will see the Australian begin Sunday night’s full-length race from second.

A brilliant first-corner overtake sent Daniel Ricciardo surging from fifth to third, and he finished the 18-lap, 100km dart in the same position.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas led from start to finish in the race ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, while Lewis Hamilton started from second but was down to fifth after a poor start, overtaken by Ricciardo and a supremely courageous Lando Norris.

Norris – also overtaken by Ricciardo on the start – held off Hamilton during the Sprint to finish fourth. But Bottas will start from the back of the grid for the race proper after changing multiple power units in his Mercedes this weekend.

That means Ricciardo starts from the front row alongside his former Red Bull teammate Verstappen – his first front-row start since pole in Mexico in 2018.

“It’s been a long time to be in this position,” a beaming Ricciardo said. “It’s good to be back! We’re on the front row and that has been a long time so I’m happy for that. Full attack tomorrow. I thought maybe I’d get Max into Turn 1 but he had the inside. I look forward to trying again tomorrow.”

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Albon to return to F1 grid in 2022 | 00:27

Asked if he was daring to dream about claiming McLaren’s first Grand Prix win in 3,200 days, and his first since 2018, he said: “I’ll probably dream a little bit about it tonight but I’m ready to make that a reality for sure.

“For McLaren it’s been a long time, for me it’s been a long time. So it’s definitely refreshing to be back up here. We’re close.

“A few things might have to swing in our favour tomorrow but we’ll certainly put ourselves in the fight, in the hunt. Very excited to get going with that and try to make some good stuff happen.”

The start was chaotic, with AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly damaging his front wing after contact with Ricciardo and crashing out immediately after the first chicane. Things only got worse for AlphaTauri, as Yuki Tsunoda also damaged his front wing after collecting Robert Kubica (standing in for Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo) in the second chicane.

Tsunoda made it back to the pits while the safety car was deployed for Gasly’s crash, but only managed to recover to finish P16.

Bottas claims three points for winning, with Verstappen two points for his second and Ricciardo a single point for third.

2022 GRID SHAKE UP: Blockbuster switch set to trigger F1 war; Ricciardo’s defining challenge

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RACE CENTRE: Live lap times, full session results

SAINZ CRASHES AGAIN

Racing on Ferrari’s ‘home’ circuit of Monza, Carlos Sainz suffered a huge crash in Practice 2 on Saturday, slamming into the wall at the exit of Ascari.

Sainz had crashed in FP3 in last weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort, but his team managed to turn around the car and get him out in time for qualifying.

Sainz had qualified for the Sprint race in seventh, one place ahead of teammate Charles Leclerc.

It has been a tricky season for Sainz, who also crashed in qualifying at the Hungarian Grand Prix in July and qualifying at the Azerbaijan GP in Baku.

Sainz and Leclerc finished in sixth and seventh during the Sprint.

Ferrari's Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr crashed in Practice on Saturday.
Ferrari’s Spanish driver Carlos Sainz Jr crashed in Practice on Saturday.Source: AFP

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F1 Brazilian Grand Prix 2021, Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull, Mercedes, overtake, video, protest, next race, punishment

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Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff said “diplomacy” had ended as he demanded on Tuesday a review of an incident from last weekend’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix when Red Bull’s Max Verstappen appeared to force Lewis Hamilton off the track.

Mercedes are convinced that Verstappen, then leading the race, defended too aggressively on a corner during the 48th lap as title rival Hamilton was attempting to overtake him.

The defending champion Hamilton was driven off the track but stewards decided at the time to take no action against the Dutchman.

“I’ve always been very diplomatic in how I discuss things. But diplomacy has ended today,” said Wolff.

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Max and Lewis go at it again on turn 4! | 00:57

Mercedes now believe they have fresh, incriminating evidence in the shape of footage from on board Verstappen’s car, which may suggest a voluntary swerve from the driver.

Wolff complained the absence of any punishment for Verstappen was unfair, especially in light of the penalty handed out to Hamilton earlier in the weekend.

The seven-time world champion was disqualified from qualifying and relegated to the back of the grid after stewards upheld a Red Bull complaint his DRS system (the flap mounted on the rear wing of the car which opens to gain top speed) exceeded allowed limits.

“We’ve just had many, many punches in the face this weekend with decisions that could have swung either side, against us or for us,” said Wolff.

“When always the decisions swing against you, it’s just something that I’m just angry about.” No formal investigation was launched in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s race but FIA race director Michael Masi conceded that Verstappen’s forward-facing on-board camera “could be the smoking gun”.

Hamilton eventually won the race at Interlagos in one of his greatest drives after starting from 10th on the grid.

Championship leader Verstappen was second, just ahead of Valtteri Bottas in the second Mercedes, and with three races of the season remaining holds a narrow 14-point lead.

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Pay drivers in Formula 1, Guanyu Zhou joins Alfa Romeo, Oscar Piastri, financial support, Nikita Mazepin, Lance Stroll

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You’d be naive to think that Formula 1 is a meritocracy.

Like most sports – and in fact, like most things on the planet – cash is king when it comes to the top level of motorsport. The easiest way to gain influence is to buy it.

This is where ‘pay drivers’ come in. It’s a tag that, while harsh and sometimes misused, describes those who can (at least partially) attribute their place in F1 to financial backing.

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And due to the incredible costs of the sport, pay drivers are in essence a necessary evil; and always have been.

But that’s not to say they’re pure evil.

Max vs. Lewis: EVERY angle revealed! | 01:27

THE PRICE OF SUCCESS

The link between money and glory in F1 is clear. In 2021, the sport set a budget cap of $US145 million – though not a true cap, because many aspects are excluded, including salaries for the drivers and the team’s three highest-paid employees.

Top teams like Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari were said to be spending over $US400 million a year in 2019; meanwhile Williams’ budget was $US132 million.

Because of the exclusions in the cost cap, the big teams are still spending more than the backmarkers – even though they’ve complained about things becoming more difficult this year – and some of the smaller outfits aren’t paying the maximum, because they can’t afford to.

Until a recent sale, Williams struggled for cash annually, with poor results compounding with their natural disadvantages as a pure F1 constructor, as compared to manufacturers like Ferrari or Mercedes which have other ways to earn money.

And so the top teams never even need to consider pay drivers, but for years, teams like Williams have.

The most famous recent example is Lance Stroll, whose billionaire father Lawrence spent a reported $80 million just to get him a seat at Williams in 2017. That included giving him the best engineers at junior level and a test program in a 2014 Williams, meaning when he finally entered F1, he had more experience at the level than almost any rookie before him.

When Force India fell into financial distress in 2018, Stroll’s dad invested in the team, eventually buying it in 2020 and rebranding it, first to Racing Point and then to Aston Martin.

Aston Martin team boss Lawrence Stroll has bankrolled his son Lance’s career. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

There was never any doubt Stroll would be holding his seat when the Racing Point-Aston Martin transition happened, despite Sergio Perez proving himself as the better driver during the 2020 season. After all, the team’s executive chairman was never going to sack his son.

This is not to say Stroll isn’t a talented driver. He won the Formula 3 title the year before he entered F1 – though as mentioned, he had serious advantages. He earned a podium in his rookie season of 2017, and two more in 2020.

But has he ever been the most talented driver at his team? The results say no. Last year he finished 11th in the drivers’ championship, with teammate Perez fourth behind only Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas and Max Verstappen. This year he is 13th, despite having much more experience in this specific car than new teammate Sebastian Vettel (12th), who struggled early in the season but has since recorded three top-five finishes (four if you exclude his Hungary disqualification for a fuel sample issue).

The 2021 season introduced another pay driver to the grid, in the form of Russia’s Nikita Mazepin.

Nikita Mazepin’s spot at Haas was certainly helped by his dad’s financial weight. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Mazepin brought three things with him to Haas. A solid but not spectacular junior career; concerns over his off-track behaviour including a video of him inappropriately touching a woman and a physical assault of an F3 rival in 2016; and massive financial support.

It’s no coincidence that the previously black-and-red coloured Haas team now has the red, white and blue colours of the Russian flag. Their title sponsor, Uralkali, is a Russian chemical company that would seem to have no reason to advertise itself to the world… except Mazepin’s billionaire dad Dmitry is a majority shareholder.

Michael Schumacher in his prime would struggle to score a point in the 2021 Haas car, but Mazepin’s results have been particularly woeful, earning him the nickname ‘Mazespin’ for his seemingly-weekly issues on the track.

He has lost the qualifying battle to his teammate Mick Schumacher, a fellow rookie, in 16 of 19 races and finished out of the bottom four just once (14th in Azerbaijan, ahead of four retired cars, a heavily-penalised Nicholas Latifi and Lewis Hamilton because of his issues at a very late standing start).

Pay drivers date back years in F1, even decades. Pastor Maldonado, who somehow won a race in a bumbling five-season career, brought some $55 million-a-year in funding through Venezuelan oil company PDVSA.

Pastor Maldonado won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, though he’s arguably more famous for crashing into rivals throughout his career. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)Source: News Limited

There have even been success stories. Sergio Perez, now at Red Bull on merit, was something of a pay driver when he joined the grid in 2011 due to support from Mexican companies. Michael Schumacher had money to thank for his F1 debut, with Mercedes paying Jordan some $205,000 to run him at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1991, while the legendary Niki Lauda paid his way into the sport in the early 70s before winning three world titles.

F1’S NEWEST DRIVER BRINGS PLENTY OF CASH WITH HIM, TOO

Antonio Giovinazzi proved unable to hold his seat at Alfa Romeo for 2022, with Guanyu Zhou last night confirmed as China’s first full-time F1 driver.

Giovinazzi’s response summed it up: “@f1 is emotion, talent, cars, risk, speed. But when money rules it can be ruthless.”

While Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur denied Zhou has $48 million in backing behind him, it’s clear he has financial support to go along with his talent.

In his third Formula 2 season, Zhou is currently running second behind Australian rookie Oscar Piastri, improving on 7th (2019) and 6th (2020) placed finishes in the feeder series.

Both members of the Alpine Academy, Piastri was always an outside shot of getting the Alfa seat which is now Zhou’s. On 2021 performances alone, he deserves it, but he’ll spend 2022 as the Alpine reserve driver with hopes of replacing Fernando Alonso for 2023. It’s not perfect, but it’s not a robbery.

Guanyu Zhou (middle) and Oscar Piastri (right) are still fighting it out for the Formula 2 championship. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Like Stroll and Mazepin before him, Zhou hasn’t simply bought himself a seat he doesn’t deserve – we’re talking degrees here. He has plenty of skill. The most skill of every junior racing option? Maybe not, but a combination of cash and competence is powerful.

But Zhou doesn’t just bring an immediate injection of cash; he opens up the Chinese market, which every organisation on the planet – sporting or otherwise – is always trying to crack.

Alfa Romeo doesn’t currently spend at the budget cap limit, but already several Chinese sponsors have made contact with the team. If Zhou turns out to be any good, that interest will continue to grow, not just for Alfa but for the entire grid and the sport itself.

Max Verstappen’s success has grown Dutch interest in the sport; Sergio Perez’ continued improvement helped the recent Mexican Grand Prix become a serious success. In quiet moments, F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali probably dreams of Zhou becoming a title contender, giving the sport another potential billion fans.

“I think for the company, for current sponsors work, for the nine other teams, for F1 in general, it’s a huge opportunity,” Alfa boss Vasseur told Motorsport.

“Huge. I think it’s really important that if you want to develop the team, but even for F1, the approach is the same. It makes sense to open a new market like China.

“And I think that Zhou will be the perfect ambassador for this, because he did very well in the junior series, much better than all the Chinese drivers before. However I know perfectly that it will be a challenge, because it’s always a challenge when you are joining F1.”

The nature of capitalism is to seek persistent growth, even if staying put is entirely healthy and can already be qualified as success. Zhou is part of that.

Guanyu Zhou has spent several years in F2 under the Renault and now Alpine banner. (Photo by AFP)Source: AFP

THE PAY DRIVER ISSUE ISN’T BLACK AND WHITE, THOUGH

However let’s make one thing clear; pay drivers being a ‘necessary evil’ doesn’t mean they’re purely a bad thing.

After all, it’s not just money that gets you into F1; like property, it’s location, location, location.

Even a driver like Lewis Hamilton, who had to overcome numerous disadvantages such as a lack of financial support and discrimination due to his race, at least had the benefit of being based in the UK.

The pathways to F1 are more defined in Europe than they are in continents like Asia and Africa. Even Australia, on the other side of the planet, is wealthy enough to send its promising karters to get opportunities in the European junior scene. It’s how Oscar Piastri even has a shot at F1.

Zhou becoming China’s first full-time F1 driver is about money, to an extent, but it’s also about geopolitics. He is a trailblazer; there simply being a Chinese F1 driver means it’s more likely more Chinese F1 drivers will exist in the future.

He had to find his own pathway, moving to the UK as a 13-year-old, because one doesn’t exist in China – or most other Asian countries, or in Africa. Money got him in the door, but it also created a door behind him.

The next Guanyu Zhou will get an opportunity because the first exists; and ideally, he’ll be able to hone his craft in China, rather than needing to move to Europe in the first place. Lowering the barrier for entry can only be positive – it allows talented would-be drivers to get a chance they otherwise would’ve never been able to take.

Is it healthy when a driver who already had opportunities at a junior level buys his way into an F1 seat, and the team dumps a talented but less well-supported option for him? Probably not. But that’s not exactly what is happening with Zhou, and the potential positives of the move – on a human level – must be acknowledged.

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David Reynolds back for Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight, video, highlights

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Kelly Grove Racing has confirmed David Reynolds will race at the Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight.

Reynolds will assume the reins of his #26 Penrite Mustang for the final event of the Beaurepaires Sydney Cup.

The 35-year-old was ruled out of the second and third events, and was replaced by Bathurst co-driver Luke Youlden.

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David Reynolds will return to the V8 supercars season this weekend. Photo: AAP Image
David Reynolds will return to the V8 supercars season this weekend. Photo: AAP ImageSource: AAP

Youlden, who won Bathurst with Reynolds in 2017, impressed in his maiden solo events.

The 43-year-old notably finished 11th in the ARMOR ALL Sydney SuperNight finale.

Reynolds has dropped to 18th amid his absence from the middle two Sydney events.

The seven-time race winner scored a podium in his 350th race start at Sandown in March.

He also reached the top 10 at the Bunnings Trade Sydney SuperNight before he was replaced by Youlden.

Reynolds and Youlden are set to share the Penrite Mustang at the Repco Bathurst 1000.

“Kelly Grove Racing is pleased to announce that David Reynolds will be returning for Round 11 of the Supercars Championship this weekend,” a team statement reads.

“David is fully vaccinated and has fulfilled the requirements by NSW Health and Supercars to participate in this season’s penultimate event.

“Kelly Grove Racing would like to thank Luke Youlden for the phenomenal job he has done in David’s absence, and we are excited to have him back with us at the Bathurst 1000 early next month.”

The Anton de Pasquale story! | 07:48

The 2021 Repco Supercars Championship and Dunlop Series seasons will resume this weekend at the Beaurepaires Sydney SuperNight. Click here to view the race schedule.

Every session of the event will be broadcast live on Foxtel (Fox Sports 506) and streamed on Kayo.

This story first appeared on supercars.com and has been published with permission.

Reynolds benched after vaccine drama | 02:59

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