Here we go again gear-heads, we are heading into the final stretch of the season and we
find ourselves on the coast of the Netherlands in Zandvoort. Max looked very quick and the Ferrari’s and Merc’s were just trying to keep up in qualifying. That bore fruit as the grid did come with many surprises minus the inclusion of Lance Stroll, Yuki Tsunoda and Mick Schumacher grabbing Q3 spots in the place of some of the more established drivers. Would this signal a changing of the guard toward these young bucks or would the cagey veterans stake their claims as pillars in the sport not to be dislodged?
Red Bull have practically wrapped this up and on home turf, would this be another coronation for the hometown hero?
I am starting to run out of vocabulary for the Dutchman’s performances. He was fortunate to get
the safety car at the time he did as the Mercedes were the only car who could handle a hard compound tyre on their one stop strategy, more on that later. He’s head and shoulders above the
rest. I am ready to call this season because it’s 9 wins out of 15 races with no clear competition
anymore. Even ESPN said that Max could take four races off and still be in the lead in the driver’s
championship. It’s over for the field.
A P2 result from a starting position of P6 is fantastic for the Briton. It looked as if that would have been Hamilton’s spot for it not for him staying out on medium compounds and Russell pitting for softs giving him extra pace when the safety car left the track. He was also a beneficiary of the safety car allowing him to execute this after Mercedes abandoned their one stop strategy. Salvaging this finish for Russell is good for the team and the driver but might be at the detriment of their senior driver, 8-time former world champion. I am very interested to see what that relationship is like going forward.
The off the track issues surrounding the driver lineup hasn’t really done anything to stop the stellar performances of both Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso. The former had to make up a lot of ground starting on the back half of the grid in P12 but battled through to reach P9. The latter conjured another jaw dropping run which saw the Spaniard in P13 behind his teammate and to launch himself into a shocking P6. Some of the pace of the Alpines really took my breath away, most notably when Alonso used the DRS to blow pass Yuki with ease. If this is the version of Alonso we are getting for Aston Martin next year, I see them making the push they envisioned when signing Vettel. It’s still unclear the future of the vacant seat for next season but at the rate these cars are going they won’t be short of suitors for it.
Now gear-heads, off to the losers from the weekend!
When you think it just couldn’t get worse for Ferrari they do something like they did on Sunday. In qualifying they are fast and really competing for the fastest on the track. Unfortunately, they just can’t put it together on a Sunday when it counts. These errors in pit stops to driver have got to stop period point blank. It’s embarrassing to the point of pure disbelief. How is a team as storied as Ferrari not even coming close to producing anything looking like a serious contender for less than a few races? Two things stood out for me, one Carlos Sainz and his pit crew. What is going on there? First it was the pit stop on lap 15 where someone just didn’t have a rear back left tyre. It cost them 12 seconds, which in Formula 1 is a lifetime. Then to follow that up it was the unsafe release of Sainz who almost hit his compatriot in Alonso. You can’t make this stuff up. At the very least Charles did damage control by finishing P3 after qualifying in P2. It’s simply not good enough. Hopefully with Monza they will finally get their act together and make the fans and the team proud.
This was another rough day at the office for the Japanese driver. As result of a part missing or
something being loose on his tyre and being told that he could continue that there wasn’t a
problem, Yuki ultimately received a penalty for driving unsafely. I don’t think he knew what was
going on but now there are some suggestions that the team concocted this mishap to ensure that Max would be closer to the Mercedes after the safety left the track. The accusation is scandalous but it did prompt Alpha Tauri to make a statement that it was not Yuki or the teams’ grand conspiracy to hand a victory over to Max. And to boot Yuki received a second penalty and will start on the back half of the grid for a safety belt along with the driving unsafely; a nightmare of a day for him and the team.
Something foul is happening with their car and Valtteri Bottas as this is the third DNF in a string of races. Whatever is happening with the feel good factor around this team has quickly turned into questions on whether the car has something to be more seriously worried about. Hopefully the Swiss outfit can solve what’s going wrong and get the Finn back into contention along with their rookie who they are highly excited about.
It’s time and time again that Haas just flatter to deceive. On the first lap Kevin Magnussen slid on
one of the chicanes to go into the gravel and slide into the wall ever so slightly but it took his
position from back of the pack to the back of it. He didn’t recover and it was just too much for him to make up. Now there’s Mick, there is so much good will coming into the race on Sunday as well just the fanfare around the son of a legend that the result just left all his fans and the F1 community flat. He had a good position on the grid like mentioned in the introduction, but ended up from P8 to P13. Another weekend in which they miss out on points and its starting pile up after what was a purple patch for both drivers. Something might have to change if they are thinking of continuing with this lineup and I think that will have to begin with Mick as Kevin is a somewhat proven commodity.
Alright, gear-heads, it was a fantastic weekend of racing that left us with plenty of story lines for us to dig in on. On the track, it was of course Max, who is getting all the plaudits but not without some controversy, as it was a Red Bull sister team driver who caused the safety car to be deployed.
Now there’s Mercedes, who were trying to execute a one-stop strategy only to have it blow up in
their faces and potentially sour the relationship between them and Lewis. So when they left out
Lewis to bring in George when they had at least an opportunity to change the former champs tyres they left him on the hard compounds and gave George soft ones. This meant that he would have significant pace on Lewis and eventually he was going to be overtaken by his teammate at the blunder by them. The radio between Lewis and the team was incredibly heated saying that the team ‘f@#&ed; him’ but clearly walked those comments back afterwards. I am excited to see if this is where the split happens between these two powerhouses.
Oscar Piatri was officially announced by McLaren as the new driving partner of Lando Norris.
Details of the approach by McLaren were made public as a council who overlooks disputes on
contracts ruled that he, Piatri, did have a valid agreement before a certain date with McLaren
leading to conflict with his former team Alpine which claimed something different. Details were that around Silverstone the former Formula 2 champion agreed to and a sign a contract with the
famous British high-end sport car manufacturer. So the drama is finished but that does leave
questions on Ricciardo and where the beloved Aussie is heading next. It is still awkward though to see him having to be ‘buddy-buddy’ with his current teammate who I think it’s too fussed about seeing him out the door.
Next it’s off to the north of Italy for Monza in Round 16. Happy stomping grounds for the two Italian based teams in Ferrari and Scuderia Alpha Tauri. Memories of last year spring to mind as we saw Daniel and Lando go P1 and P2 for the first time in McLaren in over a decade if memory serves me right. This track is special and I can’t wait for the weekend
Check in next week to find out who left track as a winner or loser. Till next week gear-heads!