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Formula 1

Alice Powell: Bottas can still rescue his F1 career

by Matt Beer
6 min read

In her latest column for The Race, W Series title contender Alice Powell delivers her verdict on Formula 1’s championship fight and the latest driver market rumours, as well as previewing the upcoming W Series double-header at Spa and Zandvoort

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship British Grand Prix Qualifying Day Silverstone, England

The F1 title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen is only going to get more and more intense as the season goes on. The gap between the two keeps changing and I think that will just continue.

I think Verstappen is going to have a really strong start to the second half of the season at Spa and Zandvoort after a bruising couple of races before the summer break.

The orange army will be out in full force at Zandvoort and it will be interesting to see if Verstappen gets the same boost from his first F1 home race that Hamilton says he always gets from racing at Silverstone.

Qualifying will be crucial at Zandvoort, we’ll be going from a track at Spa with loads of overtaking opportunities to one with very limited chances at Zandvoort.

Verstappen will come back even hungrier after incidents in the last two races, that will only fuel him more and it will be a real test for Hamilton.

Silverstone and Hungary were proof that anything can happen in a title fight. Hamilton is sitting pretty at the top at the moment, eight points clear, but one bad result and that lead will soon evaporate.

I genuinely think the title fight is too close to call. Going into this season, everyone was saying ‘surely it will be Hamilton’s to lose’, then we got to the point when Max had opened up a decent lead and he became the favourite – then that quickly turned again.

It’s so difficult to call because we’ve not had the championship battle this close in a few seasons.

Verstappen’s had some misfortune which hasn’t been his fault, but he’ll come back strongly. Hamilton has been here so many times, he’s been in plenty of title fights, and he knows what it’s all about.

I just really can’t predict it.

Future uncertainty isn’t easy

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Belgian Grand Prix Preparation Day Spa Francorchamps, Belgium

It’s not easy to not know what you’re going to be doing next – I’ve had several seasons in my career where I haven’t known what I was going to be doing in the following year.

I know what it’s like, but in F1 it’s a whole other level. There are so many rumours that fly around and it must be quite difficult for some drivers to close their ears to those rumours and try their best to not get distracted.

It will be difficult for the likes of Valtteri Bottas to remain 100% focused on his season when, in the back of his mind, he knows this could be his last season in F1 – or at least in a frontrunning car.

Then you’ve got the likes of George Russell. His future is definitely in F1 so it’s probably a little bit easier for him to concentrate on things, but this is the time when people will be deep in conversations about who is racing where next year.

As a driver, you just have to focus on the job in the hand.

There are still a lot of races left and a lot of points to play for. It’s not over yet for Bottas, he can turn it around, he just needs to do that very quickly. I’m sure that, after a good break, he’ll be desperate to come out and have a better second half of the season.

Even if he can’t secure his future at Mercedes, strong performances right now will serve him very well for the future, wherever he lands on the grid.

Looking further down the grid, Daniel Ricciardo needs a better second half of the season.

He’s trailing well behind his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, just as Sergio Perez is falling further away from his Red Bull team-mate Verstappen.

Perez will be looking to bounce back stronger after a difficult few races since his Baku win and Paul Ricard podium.

The same goes for Yuki Tsunoda. It’s his first year in F1 and I think he’s doing a great job, but he’s still behind his AlphaTauri team-mate Pierre Gasly.

The closest title battle on the F1 support bill

Alice Powell (gbr) Jamie Chadwick (gbr)

It’s been a summer break for F1 and W Series, but it hasn’t been one for me. I haven’t had too much time to think about anything to be honest because I’ve been really busy with my driver coaching.

I can’t believe that, after this double-header, we’ve only got two weekends left of the W Series season – it’s flown by!

Alice Powell W Series 2021

As we all know, the weather can be very unpredictable at Spa so that will keep us on our toes. I’ve been checking the weather app and seeing that there’s a chance of rain across the weekend, but at Spa you might as well delete your weather app, because it’s so unpredictable.

We’ve had a bit of pre-season wet running at Anglesey in Wales, and the cars can be a little bit of a handful in the wet. So that’s obviously going to prove interesting, especially around a circuit as tough as Spa.

We’ve only ever had one wet W Series race so it will be challenging for everyone if it rains, but we’re all more than ready for it!

I haven’t been here since 2012, when I raced in GP3, so I’ll need to refresh quickly in Friday practice. Spa is one of those tracks where every driver who drives it has a huge smile on their face. I certainly will later today.

Next weekend we’re racing at Zandvoort and I’ve never raced there. I jumped on the simulator recently and it looks like it’s going to be a really tricky circuit.

Alice Powell (gbr) Jamie Chadwick (gbr)

Just one point separates me and Jamie Chadwick at the top of the championship and that’s great for the series as it’s always good to have a close title fight.

I haven’t thought too much about the title fight because we’re still only halfway through the season. There are still four races to go and a lot can happen in one race, let alone four!

It’s going to be extremely close in the second half of the year, but my plan is the same – to take one race at a time and be as consistent as I can. I’m sure that’s the same for Jamie too, so it’s going to go down to the wire and hopefully I’ll come out on top.

Watch the fifth round of the 2021 W Series season live from the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Channel 4 from 15.00 BST on Saturday, August 28th.

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