After each Grand Prix, Nextgen-Auto.com invites you to find the tops and flops identified by the editorial staff. Who deserves applause? Who, on the contrary, is to be criticized? Finally, what are the question marks or ambiguity, which should be followed with interest in the next Grands Prix? Check it out below!
Top n°1: Verstappen and Red Bull victory, hated competition
Of all the victories (and there are already 9) this year for Max Verstappen, the one in Belgium is undoubtedly the most crushing, the most brilliant (for the Red Bull side) and the most hopeless (for all his opponents, understood by Sergio Perez) . Indeed in the Belgian Ardennes, Max Verstappen not only took the pole with 8 tenths of the 2nd (Carlos Sainz) with a run; but still easily won a Grand Prix starting from 14th place, due to penalties.
This penalty, which should have been a major brake in the race for victory (cf. Charles Leclerc’s race with Ferrari), is actually an opportunity to further highlight the total dominance exercised by Red Bull at Spa . The competition was especially angry because they could not understand how Max Verstappen could be the fastest in all three sectors: although the Red Bull had less downforce, Max’s lap times remained very fast in second which is more winding area.
Max Verstappen is not far away from scoring 100 points in the drivers’ championship. The performance at Spa suggests Red Bull have found something in the summer break, although the pecking order could be tightened at Zandvoort. Ferrari drivers judge a lot “disturbing” that“amazing” the Red Bull show. In addition, the possible arrival of a lightweight chassis (for Singapore) continues to raise questions: but how will Red Bull handle the limited budgets? Mattia Binotto has called on the FIA to tighten financial controls. Such is the fate of rulers: to arouse suspicion!
Top n°2: Double top 10 for Alpine, two double overruns for Ocon
Alpine continues to climb from Grand Prix to Grand Prix. The trend is clearly not reversed in Spa. In qualifying, Alpine held up well and was the 4th fastest single-seater; this advantage shows itself more clearly in the race. Proven by the very efficient race of Fernando Alonso, who sailed almost to the top of the peloton, after almost losing everything at the start after contact with Lewis Hamilton; like Esteban Ocon’s remarkable return from the back of the grid to 7th place (almost 6th after Charles Leclerc’s penalty). From now on, the position of the 4th force in Alpine is very well established, either on the track or in the constructors’ classification (20 points ahead of McLaren).
Normand should be especially praised for the two luxurious double overtakings he offered us. The first of the Raidillon straight, reminiscent of the famous Michael Schumacher-Mika Hakkinen-Ricardo Zonta stage (but without a latecomer this time). The second one at the Bus stop, was less impressive. To succeed in such maneuvers, you need great self-confidence and confidence in the car, a certain confidence, and an undeniable talent: Esteban Ocon has it all.
Top n°3: Albon takes the full potential of his Williams (ie top 10)
Here’s a little ‘masterclass’ from Alexander Albon – as well as from the entire Williams technical team! Granted, the Williams has recently received some upgrades, but the fact remains that Grove’s car remains the slowest on the grid. However, in qualifying like the race, the Thai survived. On Saturday, Alexander Albon reached his first Q3 of the year (also Williams’ first dry Q3, after Nicholas Latifi’s wet Q3 at Silverstone). On Sunday, starting 6th until the penalties, Alexander Albon survived and kept the McLarens like Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin F1 for example.
His intrinsic talent is of course one of the main reasons for this excellent 10th place; but we must also discuss Williams’ choice of settings. Because the team bet almost everything on its maximum speed in the first and third sectors, which paid off. The Williams was so difficult to overtake in the race that with a V-Max Albon was able to hold off his pursuers. However, Alexander Albon should not make a mistake in the second sector, the sadder one, which is not easy with a little downforce, especially in a Williams. The Thai acquitted himself of this delicate task without any fuss, taking care of his paddock status in the process. Three top 10s in a Williams means a lot!
Flop #1: Latifi did nothing to fix her case
The contrast with his colleague Alexander Albon was too harsh for Nicholas Latifi. While his steering is even more at risk next year, the Canadian delivered one of his worst performances of the year.
If your teammate reaches Q3, it goes without saying that an elimination in Q1 (17th place) further behind the two Haas falotes, is not desirable at all. Nicholas Latifi left in debt to his group on Sundays at 3 pm; he widened the deficit again in the first lap, spinning suddenly, and obliterating poor Valtteri Bottas in the process. Elimination of Q1, race mistake: no doubt Nyck de Vries or Logan Sargeant wiped their hands…
Flop 2: McLaren in great pain
Another difference is between the performances of Alpine and McLaren this week in Belgium. It was certainly expected that the Alpine would be faster than the Orange: but at this point? McLarens performance is hard to see, especially in Sunday’s race. Both single-seaters don’t have the rhythm or strategy to effectively recover. Daniel Ricciardo (starting 7th) was hurt by finishing two places behind his teammate, who nevertheless started at the back of the grid: it is true that a wrong strategy by McLaren (Daniel Ricciardo was demoted in half the field or almost) didn’t work in his favor either.
As for Lando Norris, you only have to compare his race with Esteban Ocon’s (also penalized for engine changes) to see the difference. Clearly, McLaren is no longer the fourth force on the grid and certainly not the 5th, at least if we base ourselves at Spa…
Flop 3: Ferrari invented another way to lose points to Leclerc
The situation of Inaki Rueda, Ferrari’s chief strategist, became increasingly untenable as the Grands Prix progressed. True, the Ferrari race was unlucky (particularly for Charles Leclerc, victim of a tear that involuntarily separated from Max Verstappen’s car) and was relatively well managed, strategically speaking, for most of the event.
However, this if not positive, at least neutral impression was washed away by the circus of the last laps: the Scuderia stopped Charles Leclerc to try to get the point for the fastest lap, although the Monegasque was in danger of coming out behind Fernando Alonso. What really happened… The icing on the cake, Charles Leclerc committed a minor speeding violation (1 km/h) in the pits, due to a sensor failure, and lost his 5th place in green carpet in favor of Fernando Alonso (penalty in 5 seconds). In short, Ferrari, wanting to get a point, lost both – and the only victory at this stage was probably a laugh or despair, depending on whether you were in Milton Keynes or Maranello…
The pure performance of Ferrari in the race should also be worrying: in fact, while the Scuderia previously battled with the Red Bulls, this time not only the Red Bull was untouchable, but the Mercedes of George Russell held off Carlos Sainz. The Briton even came close to offering his own Spaniard at the end of the race. Will Ferrari ever recover or will it raise the bar at Zandvoort?
We want to see…
Has Piastri bit his fingers?
Will Oscar Piastri regret signing McLaren at the expense of Alpine? The question is worth asking… On the one hand, Oscar Piastri sincerely thinks that Fernando Alonso will extend Alpine: now the seat of the Spaniard suddenly becomes free during the break. Would Piastri have signed with McLaren if he knew from the start that negotiations with Alonso would fall apart? Nothing is too uncertain – but for Piastri’s defense, Fernando Alonso’s extension seems almost earned, even for Otmar Szafnauer.
Second argument pleading for blame on Piastri’s side: the structural shape of the Alpine compared to the McLaren. In fact this year, it’s clear that Alpine has taken the measure of McLaren, clearly establishing itself as the fourth force on the grid. Also in terms of infrastructure, Alpine is first: McLaren recently admitted that its infrastructure (simulator and wind tunnel) is dated, and that there will be nothing better before 2024.
Third argument, extra-sporting this time, arguing for a young mistake of Piastri, perhaps bad advice of Mark Webber, his manager: his reputation in the paddock. Toto Wolff has already said, about Piastri, who slammed the door of the team that paid him the promotion formulas, that he believes “integrity and karma. » Without even making his debut in F1, the young “prodigy” has not built a very good reputation as a reliable and loyal driver within the paddock. Is Piastri in a hurry? A person can understand his impatience, but it should not be careless or arrogant.