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What we learned from Friday practice at F1’s 2023 Spanish GP



Max Verstappen and Red Bull are on track for the rest of the 2023 Formula 1 season as they have done for the rest of the 2023 season, with practice opening in Barcelona Day dominated, leading the fastest races in the long distance and finishing top overall.

However, the field appears to be very much on its heels and there is hope – with quite a bit of competition from Red Bull, certainly for neutral observers – that wet weather in the forecast could change action for the remainder of the weekend.

A major talking point for 2022 is also returned, along with an analysis of several squads’ major upgrade packages.

Here’s everything we learned from Friday’s practice session for the 2023 Spanish Grand Prix.

story of the day

Friday’s F1 race kicked off in warm sunshine and clear blue skies in the early afternoon, with Verstappen beating his rival with familiarity to claim FP1 by 0.768 seconds over team-mate Sergio Perez. champion. Esteban Ocon and Nyck de Vries finished third and fourth respectively in the opening session, which was considered a glorious test by many teams.

Alonso, who was sixth in FP1, initially took to the track on his Aston Martin with two front-mounted pneumatic rakes, which are used to measure the airflow off the front wheels. Lance Stroll points the small camera at his front tire and sits on the edge of his front floor as Aston collects data on its front, nose and rear wing upgrades.

Ferrari has attracted the most attention ahead of FP1 with its surprising sidepod updates, but in early track events these were only available for family hero Carlos Sainz’s SF-23. The Italian team is splitting up its racing arrangement to allow back-to-back measurements of the impact of the changes.

Ferrari reveals revamped sidepods in Spain

Ferrari reveals revamped sidepods in Spain

Photography: Steven Tee / motorsport pictures

Perhaps the most notable part of FP1 was several drivers reporting the return of the Dolphin at the last corner in Barcelona, ​​which also included the team’s full use of a Pirelli prototype from the British GP and available for FP2 as well.

It was back to high-speed cornering, with Verstappen, Perez and McLaren’s Lando Norris complaining about their machines bottoming out in FP1, and George Russell at the start of FP2.

In the second race, Ferrari went straight to the soft tyres, subverting the usual norm – Leclerc’s car was now also fitted with new sidepods. Sainz took the lead in the Ferrari with an initial lead of 0.601s before his team-mate closed in, then moved on as they completed a typical FP2 mid-qualifying simulation run.

Hamilton is likely to move to a higher downforce Mercedes wing kit which is important here as the added downforce will better help extend tire life

Before that, Verstappen was faster than both Ferraris on the medium-speed car, setting a stage best of 1m13.907s when he was on the soft tyres, halfway through FP2. Alonso was eventually followed by Nico Hulkenberg, who was a surprise for Haas, 0.270 seconds behind, with the Ferraris dropping to sixth and seventh at the end of the lap. .

Mercedes had a mediocre second period, save for Russell’s early start in the gravel at Turn 10 when he encountered Oscar Piastri on the long left Turn 10 The hairpin is unnerving when driving slowly on the track. Russell was eighth in FP2 to Hamilton’s 11th – but the seven-time world champion at least finished the day with the fastest time in the open section of the track.

The difference between the Mercedes drivers comes down to wing choice – Hamilton uses a slimmer rear wing and an overall downforce package compared to Russell. This improved him on the straights, but it cost Hamilton too much in the corners, where he had to turn right at the long Turn 3, wasting time at Turn 10 and through the apex of the final corner.

Hamilton is likely to switch to the higher-downforce Mercedes wing kit for the important race, as the increased downforce will better help preserve tire life, again a key factor in Sunday’s result.

Russell took to the gravel when he met Piastri on the track at the hairpin turn 10

Russell took to the gravel when he met Piastri on the track at the hairpin turn 10

Photography: Zak Mauger / motorsport pictures

Total FP2 order

Location driver team time gap
1 Verstappen red bull 1:13.907 seconds
2 Alonso aston martin 1:14.077s 0.170s
3 Hockenberg Hass 1:14.177 seconds 0.270s
4 O’Connell high mountain 1:14.242 seconds 0.335 seconds
5 Leclerc ferrari 1:14.246 seconds 0.339s
6 Russell mercedes benz 1:14.392 seconds 0.485 seconds
7 Bottas alfa romeo 1:14.448 seconds 0.541s
8 plate McLaren 1:14.583 seconds 0.676 seconds
9 De Vries Taurus 1:14.840s 0.933 seconds
10 albon williams 1:15.056 seconds 1.149s

Wet weather Verstappen’s only possible threat to race victory

According to what was recorded in the long-term data collection at the end of FP2, Verstappen was practically untouchable – even in Red Bull, as his average pace was 1.034 seconds better each time on the soft tyres, compared to Perez. Although the Mexican rider had an extra lap (13 to 12) on his soft shoe high gas station, his tires started to stall early and his speed dropped as a result.

Verstappen’s advantage over the rest of the pack is equally impressive, with the table below showing the long-term average across all soft-tyre teams.

In fact, one paddock insider said the Dutchman possessed such pace that he could get away with one stop, while others would almost certainly have to two-stop and still be faster. The suggestion that he is now “on another planet” has been confirmed in recorded time.

Soft tire average

Location team lock up Average
1 red bull 1m19.296s 12 laps
2 ferrari 1m19.835s 10 laps
3 aston martin 1m19.968s 9 laps
4 mercedes benz 1m20.402s 7 laps
5 alfa romeo 1m20.586s 11 laps
6 high mountain 1m20.658s 16 laps
7 Hass 1m20.747s 17 laps
8 McLaren 1m20.892s 12 laps
9 Taurus 1m21.164s 15 laps
10 williams 1m21.518s 9 laps

However, it’s not far behind. Mercedes reckons it’s actually better than its long-term pace looks, as Russell’s soft-tyre practice was hampered by traffic jams, and once he cleared it his pace increased. The team felt the combination with Ferrari and Aston was the right one.

Verstappen has been in convincing form all day and would have stopped if the weather hadn't been a factor

Verstappen has been in convincing form all day and would have stopped if the weather hadn’t been a factor

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

Ferrari also sported lower downforce trim compared to today’s Red Bull, again at the expense of tire protection costs. It could change the schedule for the rest of the weekend, as Autosport has seen data showing that the red car lost a lot of time on the quick right turn at Turn 3 and Campsa (Turn 9) – as did Haas, due to Hulkenberg’s FP2 speed.

In another VF-23, Kevin Magnussen produced a pretty good medium late in FP2 and Haas looked solid and competitive on that compound – Verstappen was 0.111 seconds faster on average according to one competitor , Hamilton was 0.192 seconds slower than the team. Not all teams have experimented with the high-fuel medium, and that includes Aston and Ferrari.

While Hamilton fears he may not escape Q2 in qualifying, his team believes their overnight preparations will see them take on Mercedes’ typical 2023 rivals on a single lap. . The team thought it had improved the W14 with the long-awaited upgrade it has now seen running on a “normal” track, but, as Hamilton explained on Thursday, never expected it to close the gap on Red Bull .

Drivers are likely to be forced not to follow closely behind their competitors so as not to penalize their left tires more severely than if they had already passed the final corner

One thing that might help Mercedes and others this weekend is the weather. As FP1 and FP2 progressed, a lot of clouds built up around the north end of the track and temperatures dropped. The team weather forecast currently has Saturday and Sunday sessions, and it’s likely to get wet.

With Barcelona’s corner types so demanding, the wet weather could have a major impact on the pecking order as drivers face a real challenge.

“I’ve definitely done a wet test here and it’s tough because it’s all high speed (and) medium speed corners,” Hamilton said yesterday on the subject. “So, if it’s a wet race, it’s going to be very exciting.”

But if the rain stops, there will be plenty of analysis about the impact of this year’s layout changes – the removal of the clunky low-speed chicanes.

The consensus in the paddock is that the final corner sequence is now so demanding on the tires – coupled with the rider’s fitness, which Perez says is “pretty hard on the neck” – that it could actually make overtaking difficult. more difficult. This will be for different reasons than before, as it makes the front end of the venue more restrictive.

Will the tire wear penalty for going through the final corner at such a fast pace cause the teams extra trouble?

Will the tire wear penalty for going through the final corner at such a fast pace cause the teams extra trouble?

Photography: Zak Mauger / motorsport pictures

As a result, drivers are likely to be forced not to follow closely behind their competitors, lest they punish their left-hand tires more severely than the hammering they have already passed through the final corner. Here and at Turn 3 the front left was under the greatest pressure, while Turns 5 and 12 also damaged the rear left. Once this conservative pursuit tactic occurs, it will inevitably reduce the possibility of overtaking.

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In FP2, even Verstappen was able to get through the last corner – but his RB19 worked so well that he still got through at 75 per cent throttle. Next, Alonso briefly reduced the throttle by 50%. It will be interesting to see if anyone can take the last corner in qualifying with the engine mode set to max…

what do they say

Max Verstappen: I was very surprised by the overtaking (change in the final corner) and overall I think we had a really good day. This car drives in a nice window. Of course, you’ll try to fine-tune a few things here and there. But in the short term, in the long run, everything looks fine. From my side, I feel comfortable in the car and take care of the tires. I still have to look at other people’s lap times, but from my side it was a good day.

Fernando Alonso: Too tight, and I think a thing or two puts you in a completely different position on the classification. So don’t worry too much about the time. We did all the projects before free practice, which is a good thing – getting to know the tyres. The track might be a bit slower than we predicted, so there’s still more time to hunt, and more tweaks to the setup. But it’s a productive Friday.

Charles Leclerc: It was a fun day because we had some new parts to try, so we ran very different programs between the two cars. It was a productive day because we did all the testing we wanted to do, even if it was hard to understand where we are now in terms of performance. We’re going to keep trying to try to take the steps we want to make driving the car easier tomorrow and then we’ll be able to see where we are. As it stands today, it’s clear that while Red Bull has the advantage over everyone, the rest of the field is very, very tight.

Lewis Hamilton: I think with the speed I have today, it is very difficult for me to be in the top 10 (qualifying) at the moment. But hopefully we can make some changes overnight. We’re very close, like the middle – after P5 back to P10. It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. Considering we weren’t going as fast as we’d like, wet weather always helps. I’m going to try to do my best again tonight to make the right settings changes, and I know I can improve with this one.

Hamilton knows Mercedes needs to make changes

Hamilton knows Mercedes needs to make changes

Photography: Zak Mauger / motorsport pictures


Vandoorne to drive Aston Martin F1 car in Pirelli tyre test at Spa




Aston reserve driver Vandoorne will share driving duties with team principal Lance Stroll, while Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri will each drive a day for McLaren.

It will be the Belgian’s first time driving an active F1 car on track since December 2020 when he represented Mercedes in Abu Dhabi testing.

While the Spa test will focus on Pirelli’s no-carpet tyres, it will give Vandoorne a valuable opportunity to sample the 2023 car, helping him correlate with Aston Martin’s simulator work.

If either Stroll or Fernando Alonso were unwell at any point for the rest of the season, his life would also be made easier.

The 31-year-old shared the Aston substitute with defending Formula Two champion Felipe Drugovich, and the two took turns on call.

Dubovic drove the AMR23 for two days during the Bahrain test in February, when Stroll was not present, and he had the opportunity to test drive the AMR23. Since then, the Brazilian has continued to rack up more miles in private testing of the 2021 car.

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Stoffel Vandoorne, Reserve Driver, Aston Martin F1 Team

Photography: Mark Sutton/ motorsport pictures

As well as his role at Aston, Vandoorne is one of McLaren’s backup drivers and his performance at Spa will also make it easier for him to step into the MCL60 should the need arise.

As well as giving him a general feel for downforce levels for 2023, the two cars share the Mercedes powerplant and thus have similar settings on their respective steering wheels.

Also read:

Vandoorne made his F1 debut for McLaren in Bahrain in 2016, replacing current Aston team-mate Alonso.

He then completed two full seasons in 2017 and 2018, the first with Honda power and the second with Renault. He finished 16th at the World Championships in both seasons, with a best finish of seventh.

He was dropped by McLaren at the end of 2018, but has since rebuilt his career in Formula E, winning the 2021-22 championship for Mercedes and serving as an F1 substitute.

He currently drives for the DS Penske Formula E team and is also a substitute for the Peugeot WEC team.

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McLaren “true contenders” for F1 best of the rest tag




McLaren has only scored one point after three rounds in 2023 as it struggles to find the car competitive.

But both Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri have seen plenty of upgrades in recent races, allowing the former to finish second in a row, while Piastri has finished in the top five in each of his past two races.

Despite being 136 points behind second-placed Mercedes in the constructors’ championship, Russell believes McLaren is a real threat for the remainder of the race behind leaders Red Bull.

“Obviously they’re a real contender for second fastest team,” Russell said of Woking.

“Oddly enough, Aston Martin was clearly second at the start of the year.

“And they don’t seem to be that competitive now. Ferrari haven’t made much progress. McLaren has made huge progress.

“So without McLaren we’d be very, very happy with the progress we’ve made. Leading the midfield, widening the gap and closing in on Red Bull.

“McLaren has just fully embraced it. But that makes you optimistic that bigger strides are possible.

“I believe in my team. I think it gives us the confidence and optimism to take this step towards Red Bull.

“We’re not too focused on McLaren, Aston or Ferrari. We’re focused on Red Bull. We’re trying to make that big step.”

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

George Russell, Mercedes F1 W14

Photography: Steve Etherington/ motorsport pictures

Russell fought his way back from 18th on the grid at last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, jumping to sixth at the checkered flag after Mercedes strategists told him 11th was his favorite.

Russell was pleased with the final result, but felt it was “proof” of a “missed opportunity” for Hungary.

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“The strategy tells me that if we maximize everything, the P11 is the most realistic, the P7 is the most realistic,” Russell told Autosport.

“Sixth place without a safety car, without a VSC, it’s a really great result.

“But it also proved that this weekend could be a missed opportunity. I believe I could have gone there with Lewis yesterday, it’s one of my favorite circuits and the car always does well here.

“When you have two cars out there, fighting for second gives you more options, and Lewis is also very strong. If things turned out a little differently, he would also be P2.

“So as a missed opportunity we will learn from it. But the positive side is we are leading Aston and Ferrari.”

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Top speed, car sizes, race weekends and more compared




Formula 1 has relied on junior classes to develop the next generation of drivers, and its teams are eager to snag their brightest talent.

The ‘old’ Formula 2 car was a ruleset rather than its own separate entity, sometimes sharing the grid with F1, and later rule changes made the two cars separate championships.

The second class was renamed the F3000 in 1985 as the series switched to a naturally aspirated engine formula and extended the life of the earlier Cosworth DFV lineage. Throughout the life of the F3000, different engine and chassis suppliers came and went, with companies including Reynard, Lola, Ralt and March among them, all producing cars before the championship became a single specification.

When the F3000 championship began to fade due to declining team interest and declining track quality, the second level of racing was reborn in 2005. Bernie Ecclestone tried to bring the junior championship to F1’s bottom line and, along with Flavio Briatore and Bruno Michel, helped build the GP2 series.

GP2 became the FIA ​​Formula Two Championship in 2017, but many key hallmarks of GP2’s early series have stood the test of time. The GP3 series, a third-tier category designed to compete with the myriad Formula 3 championships around it, was added to the F1 Act in 2010 and became FIA ​​Formula 3 in 2019.

There are major differences in the way F2 is run compared to F1, there are subtle changes in form and there are big differences in the overall performance of the cars. The following are the key areas of comparison between F1 and F2.

F1 vs. F2 – key differences


Formula 1

Formula Two

top speed

220+ mph

208 mph

Minimum weight including driver

798 kg

788 kg




engine size

1.6 liter V6

3.4 liter V6

Approximate Power

1,000 horsepower

620 hp

car size

5.63m x 2m x 0.95m

5.22m x 1.9m x 1.09m

tire size

18 inches

18 inches

game every weekend

One (two for sprint weekends)

Two (one sprint, one feature)

game length

305 km/190 miles

Sprint – 120 km/74.5 miles

Features – 170 km/105.6 miles






twenty two

2023 Pole Times – Red Bull Ring

1 point 04.391

1 meter 14,643

2023 Pole Times – Monaco

1 meter 11.365

1 meter 21.053

2023 Pole Times – Silverstone

1 meter 26.720

1 meter 39,832

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Current single-spec F2 cars can be seen as simpler, smaller versions of F1 cars

Photography: Simon Galloway/ motorsport pictures

What is the difference between F1 and F2 racing?

In F1, each team designs its own chassis according to a set of well-defined technical regulations laid down by the FIA. For the 2022 ruleset, the FIA ​​has updated the wording of the rules to better define the bounding box within which bodies can be developed and build a system more in line with the proliferation of available CAD products.

It features a range of safety systems such as a roll cage, halo and anti-intrusion panels mounted around the monocoque. There are also anti-collision structures on the side, front and rear of the car to minimize the impact on the driver in the car.

F2 is a single-spec series with all teams using the Dallara F2 2018 model. The car and driver must weigh a minimum of 788kg and feature F1 standard safety features such as the aforementioned crash structures and halos. Use only parts supplied by Dallara, Hewland or sold by F2 promoters.

F2 cars use floor venturi tunnels, which F1 adopts in 2022, 40 years after banning ground-effect aerodynamics. These designs aren’t as extreme as those in F1, but they work on the same principle, and the car is also enhanced with front and rear wings to create downforce. Like F1, F2 cars are fitted with a Drag Reduction System (DRS), which operates on the same parameters as its parent series.

While F1 cars typically reach speeds in excess of 220 mph during a race, with DRS switched on, an F2 car could theoretically hit 208 mph at full low downforce.

What is the difference between F1 and F2 tires?

Pirelli supplies all championships on the official F1 ladder, and F2 and F3 also use the Italian company’s rubber.

F2 started using 18-inch tires in 2020, two years before entering F1. F2 tires are slightly narrower than F1 tires and generally have less grip because of the naturally lower speeds of the junior series cars.

There are four dry-weather tire compounds for the F2: hard, medium, soft and supersoft – with the first three using the same white, yellow and red color coding as the F1. Extra soft textures are indicated by purple text on the side walls. Each car is supplied with five sets of dry weather tires per wheel, consisting of two of the prescribed compounds, with a set of “premium” tires to be returned after practice. Three sets of wet tires are also available – the F2 has no intermediate compound.

Tire blankets are banned in F2, meaning drivers must warm up their tires naturally. This often creates a larger offset during the pit stops, with drivers leaving the pits vulnerable to those who have already completed laps in the new group.

The “primary” and “option” compounds (harder tires are the main tires and softer tires are the options) must be used during featured races, and pit stops are required to replace them. Tire parking is allowed during a sprint, but not mandatory. Since only two dry compounds are used each weekend, Pirelli and F2 decide which tire to use before the weekend. There may be a single step in the compound (for example, medium and soft), or there may be a larger step for greater excursions (for example, medium and extra soft).

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

620bhp Mecachrome F2 engine

Photography: Sutton Images

What is the difference between F1 and F2 powertrains?

F1 has used a turbo-hybrid system since 2014, with a turbocharger and a motor-generator set on the rear axle to form a hybrid package. The internal combustion engine is a 1.6-liter V6. By 2022, F1 engines run on E10 fuel, where 10% of the fuel composition consists of combustibles of biosourced origin.

The MGU-K in an F1 car can produce up to 160bhp for a total power output of around 1000bhp. Figures for F1’s current four powertrain manufacturers (Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault and Red Bull Powertrain) vary but are all believed to have efficiencies in excess of 50%.

F2’s single-spec powertrain is produced by French manufacturer Mecachrome, which briefly participated in F1 in 1998 and 1999, and took over Renault’s engine program. The Mecachrome unit was a 3.4-litre V6 engine, virtually the same one used in the F3, but with a modified turbocharger from Van der Lee. It produces around 620bhp and is driven by a six-speed Hewland gearbox.

To ensure fairness in powertrain supply, Mecachrome units are randomly assigned to teams, as there may be minor differences in overall power output.

F2 is currently being used as a test bed to assist F1 in developing more sustainable fuel, using Aramco-produced fuel with 55% of its content from sustainable bio-sources, with the aim of increasing this figure to 100% by 2026/27. The Saudi oil brand replaced longtime supplier Elf as the sole producer of the F2 fuel.

How much does F1 cost compared to F2?

In recent years, Formula 1 has been constrained by a cost cap of about $135 million through 2023, with some minor adjustments for inflation and other ancillary costs. The cost cap covers most development and operating costs, but excludes driver salaries, salaries of the team’s three highest-paid employees, travel costs and marketing expenses. As Red Bull found out in 2022, violating this cap carries a range of penalties depending on the extent of the overrun.

The bulk of this budget comes from the FIA’s prize money, investment and sponsorship mix. Some teams, such as Red Bull and Mercedes, are self-sufficient in terms of bonuses and sponsors and do not require direct input from their ownership structures.

F2 teams have much smaller budgets, and with the series’ fairly limited reach, teams will rarely start the season with a full sponsor portfolio ready to fund every race. As such, drivers should pay for their rides through their own sponsors or a driver academy.

Depending on the team, the budget of an F2 driver can vary from 2 million to 3 million euros, and can even exceed this budget to get a seat in a better team. To keep costs down, F2 limited the number of employees working on each car on race weekends and designed the cars to be relatively cheap. A team can buy a complete F2 car, without the engine, for around 500,000 euros.

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

George Russell, Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc are recent notable F2 graduates entering F1

Photography: Glenn Dunbar/ motorsport pictures

How do drivers get from F2 to F1?

To compete in F2, drivers must hold an A or B international FIA license. They cannot conduct private tests on F2 machines, only the group tests offered by the series. There are also restrictions on the single-seater cars that drivers can test in private, and if a driver is double-duty in another category, they must commit to racing in F2 in the event of any conflict.

Depending on a driver’s final standing at the end of the F2 season, they may receive Superlicense points to help qualify for F1. To obtain a super license to compete in F1, a driver needs to earn 40 points.

The distribution of Super License points is:

end of season position

SL points

first place


second place


third place


fourth place


the fifth place


sixth place


Number 7


number 8




No. 10


These can be applied cumulatively over the course of three seasons.

F1 VS F2 weekend format

F1 has been running in the same basic format for years, with FP1 and FP2 taking place on Fridays, each one hour long. FP3 races are also one hour long and take place on the Saturday before the three-stage qualifying format in place since 2006. F1 races must be at least 305 kilometers in length (excluding Monaco) and must not exceed two hours in duration, with a three-hour window if any red flags are raised.

However, sprint weekends are different and that changes for 2023. The only practice session kicked off with Friday’s race, followed by qualifying for Sunday’s Grand Prix. Sprint qualifying and the race are both held on Saturdays, with 2023 seeing six sprint weekends for added variety.

F2 has a practice session lasting 45 minutes on Friday, with a half-hour qualifying session later in the day. It’s effectively a time trial and drivers just need to maintain the fastest lap at the end of the race to secure pole for Sunday’s race.

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Many F1 teams have junior drivers in F2 teams

Photography: Red Bull Content Pool

The sprint race takes place on Saturday, using the same grid as qualifying, but with the top ten swapped. The number of laps “equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 120 km (100 km in Monaco)”, according to the 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 scoring system, the score is finally dropped to eighth place, and the fastest lap points are awarded to the top 10 competitors.

The F2 weekend’s featured race “should be equal to the minimum number of complete laps over a distance of 170km (140km in Monaco, 160km in Budapest)”. It features mandatory pit stops where drivers must use both primary and optional compounds during the race. If a driver pits before completing the sixth lap, the mandatory stop does not count. This information is also not recorded if a driver stops under the Virtual Safety Car unless they are already in the pits when the VSC is triggered.

F2 attempted three weekend races in 2021, but the practice was generally unpopular and canceled for 2022 due to gaps left on the calendar. Prior to this, the main race was held on Saturday, and the starting position of the sprint race was determined by the results and the reversal of the top eight.

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