After each Grand Prix, Nextgen-Auto.com invites you to find the tops and flops identified by the editorial staff. Who deserves to be applauded? Who, on the contrary, should be criticized? Finally, what are the question marks or ambiguities that should be followed with interest during the next Grands Prix? Check it out below!
Top n°1: Unflappable and untouchable Verstappen
What do you want to do there! Last year, Max Verstappen scored a quiet and commanding win at Zandvoort. This time, the Dutchman had to work to satisfy the (many) fans of his present on the shores of the North Sea. Red Bull no longer dominated as much as last year: in qualifying, without his mistake in the second sector, Charles Leclerc could (should) have achieved pole position. But Max Verstappen made no real mistake, narrowly winning pole by a handful of thousandths (21)…
In the race, Max Verstappen was lucky and unlucky. Lucky: with a virtual safety car smiling at you; and allowed him a half-free stop to counter the lap of the Mercedes who were in good form – and hard. And no luck: because the last period of the safety car dropped him to 2nd place. The Red Bull driver had to take a deep breath before overtaking Lewis Hamilton just as the race restarted, showing both his mastery and his composure; and also proving that under pressure or just in front, behind a Mercedes or behind a Ferrari, Max Verstappen is still the boss of the championship.
Now over 100 points ahead of scattered puzzle-like competition, Max Verstappen no longer has the title goal in mind as he appears acquired; but rather Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher’s record of 13 wins in one season, easily accessible at this pace.
Top n°2: Here are the Mercedes again
From the nadir to almost the zenith: While Mercedes was nowhere to be found in Spa, the Silver Arrows found a much nicer form this weekend in Zandvoort…thus recalling their performance before the summer break, in Hungaroring. Why such a fluctuation in performance? In the first place because Mercedes has a little diva this year, and the team has been repeating from Barcelona that it understands her better and better, which is difficult to verify. But also and above all because of the characteristics of the circuit: Zandvoort is reminiscent of the Hungaroring with its high levels of aerodynamic load required; while Spa requires very efficient drag and high top speed, precisely where the Mercedes fishes (this doesn’t bode well for Monza on paper…).
So Mercedes could play for the win at circuits like Singapore, and we want to believe George Russell when he says to himself, after the race, “absolutely sure” to win a GP in 2022. In tough races in particular, the pace of the Mercedes has impressed the young Mercedes driver, and even Max Verstappen himself. Regularly, without a virtual safety car, Lewis Hamilton even had a chance to win, according to Toto Wolff.
The incidents at the end of the race (George Russell was right to stop for auxiliaries behind the safety car, while Lewis Hamilton, trapped by his first place, did not stop) are almost an anecdote, given the great structural lesson of this Grand Prix: Mercedes he can play for the victories… at least in one circuit category. It’s still promising!
Top #3: Runner-up to Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll collected his fifth tenth of the year at Zandvoort, and credit should be given to him. On Saturday in qualifying, the Canadian made it to Q3, where his teammate Sebastian Vettel got stuck in Q1. Due to a technical problem, the Aston Martin F1 driver was unable to defend his chances in Q3 and given his pace, he could have finished ahead of Yuki Tsunoda or Mick Schumacher.
In the race, Lance Stroll hasn’t had an easy time in the peloton either, and it hasn’t been marred by the timing of the virtual safety car. However, he could show pace similar to that of the AlphaTauri, or even the Alpine of Esteban Ocon or Lando Norris. His entry into the points rewards both a successful personal weekend on his side; and the progress of Aston Martin F1, which is certainly slow, but is beginning to be visible… To reassure Fernando Alonso a bit?
Failure #1: Ferrari: This time, the forgotten tire trick
Last week, we wrote that Ferrari had invented another way to make a fool of themselves in the race (with Charles Leclerc’s late pit stop to set the fastest lap, which turned into a mini-disaster: one place lost, one penalty of 5 seconds ). Well, the longest jokes are definitely the best at the Maranello laughter festival: this time the Scuderia has released the forgotten tire card during the pit stop. Poor Carlos Sainz suffered it with a stop of 12 seconds… To the laughter was added the danger with a “forgotten” pistol on which Sergio Pérez was shooting, fortunately without too many consequences.
Mattia Binotto would almost be satisfied with this problem: it would be easy to solve and also the real problem for Ferrari was the lack of pace on this circuit. Once again, the Ferrari boss questions why he doesn’t seem to want to look you in the eye to the face, everything is wrong with Ferrari. Yes, the pit stop was delayed, yes, we had to act fast… etc, etc, etc. Halfway between denial and the Coué method, Mattia Binotto must rather accept the mistakes of his team – which are largely his own – and punch the table. No, the paddock does not exaggerate Ferrari’s mistakes, because it is Ferrari; but because only the red team commits this type of fumble. And the paddock almost wondering: what are they going to do to us this Sunday in Monza?
Failure n°2: Pérez and Sainz, forgettable second knives
The differences between the teammates widened again on this technical and tricky Zandvoort circuit, at Red Bull and Ferrari in any case. The gap was undoubtedly the most visible at Red Bull: in qualifying, Max Verstappen inflicted 7 tenths on Sergio Pérez, in a short circuit where they exist. The Mexican also made a mistake by making a mistake on his last run, a sign that he was more than at the limit to try to set a good time.
In the race, Sergio Pérez was far, far from having the pace of his teammate, albeit, also reduced by the strategy. As for Carlos Sainz, apart from his pit stop problem, he was almost nowhere: without a doubt his contact with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes at the start of the race caused him to lose aerodynamic support points; but was that all there was?
Failure 3: The Calvary of Daniel Ricciardo
Poor Daniel Ricciardo: in the space of a week, the Australian learned the name of his replacement next year at McLaren (compatriot Oscar Piastri); he too had the unpleasant surprise of apparently learning that McLaren had made the decision for him in early July, while Daniel Ricciardo still seemed to believe in a possible extension for him at this time of year; and finally, he had a disastrous Grand Prix at Zandvoort.
The results speak for themselves and say it all about Daniel Ricciardo’s lack of confidence in his McLaren, on a circuit as technical as Zandvoort’s where the characteristics of the orange car (difficulty braking when turning) bring out the shortcomings of the Honey Badger. in this car at least. 18th place in qualifying notably due to a penultimate missed corner, where Lando Norris was the best of the rest in 7th place; 17th place in the race, after looking for the strategy all the time (the pace was quite good on hard, but it was too late).
It is not with such Grands Prix that Daniel Ricciardo risks regaining his confidence or convincing a team to sign him; however, it is also worth asking if the McLaren environment (broken confidence, car poorly adapted to his driving) is also representative of Daniel Ricciardo’s talent: because we do not forget how to beat Max Verstappen in 2 seasons.
We want to see…
30 seconds ahead of Red Bull at Monza?
It is the fear of the paddock: that we are witnessing a boring race at Monza, so Red Bull’s dominance seems, on paper at least, inevitable. In fact, the Red Bull is the strongest this year in terms of endurance and top speed: just look at the Zandvoort straights, in qualifying, Max Verstappen won most of his time in Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. However, in Monza what is important is precisely the top speed, in addition to having good efficiency with little aerodynamic support. What Max Verstappen had done very well in Spa: with little downforce, he flew in a straight line and always set excellent times in the second most winding sector.
On the contrary, Carlos Sainz has already said to himself ” highly strung “ of Ferrari’s performance at Monza, and Charles Leclerc also said that “on paper, the performance should be worse” than in Zandvoort. Mercedes also struggles with low-downforce setups (by contrast, the Hungaroring and Zandvoort are both high-downforce circuits, and we’ve seen that the Mercedes were much more comfortable there).
So it’s just a small step to conclude that Red Bull is heading for a silent double, on paper, in the northern suburbs of Milan. At least on paper! Because who knows what can happen next Sunday?
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