Formula 1 | The highs, flops and questions after the Dutch Grand Prix

Formula 1 |  The highs, flops and questions after the Dutch Grand Prix
Tops, flops and questions

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, which should be followed with interest during the next Grands Prix? Check it out below!

Tops.

Top n°1: Imperturbable and untouchable Verstappen

What do you want to do there! Last year, Max Verstappen won a quiet and dominating victory at Zandvoort. This time, the Dutchman had to work to satisfy his (many) fans present on the shores of the North Sea. The Red Bull was no longer as dominating as last year: in qualifying, without his mistake in the second sector, Charles Leclerc could (should) have taken pole position. But Max Verstappen made no real mistake, narrowly winning pole by a handful of thousandths (21)…

In the race, Max Verstappen was both lucky and unlucky. Lucky: with a virtual safety car smiling at him; and allowed him a half-free stop to counter the return of the Mercedes who were in good shape, and tough. And no luck: because the last safety car period made him drop to 2nd place. The Red Bull driver had to take a deep breath before overtaking Lewis Hamilton just as the race restarted, proving both his mastery and his composure; and also proving that under pressure or alone in front, behind a Mercedes or behind a Ferrari, Max Verstappen remains the boss of the championship.

With now more than 100 points ahead of a scattered puzzle-like competition, Max Verstappen no longer has the objective of the title in mind as he seems acquired; but rather the record of 13 wins in a season of Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher, easily accessible at this rate.

Top n°2: Here are the Mercedes again

From the nadir to the near zenith: while Mercedes was nowhere at Spa, the Silver Arrows found a much more pleasing form this weekend at Zandvoort… thus reminiscent of their performance before the summer break, at the Hungaroring. Why such a fluctuation in performance? Firstly 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 downforce required; while Spa requires a very efficient drag and a high top speed, precisely where the Mercedes fishes (this does not promise any good for Monza on paper…).

The Mercedes could therefore play for victory on circuits like Singapore, and we want to believe George Russell when he says to himself, after the race, “absolutely safe” to win a GP in 2022. On hard runs 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 of winning according to Toto Wolff.

The end-of-race adventures (George Russell made the right choice by stopping for tenders behind the safety car, while Lewis Hamilton, trapped by his first place, did not stop) are almost an anecdote, faced with the great structural lesson of this Grand Prix: Mercedes can play for victories… at least on one category of circuits. It’s still promising!

Top n°3: A runner-up for Lance Stroll

Lance Stroll collected his fifth 10th of the year at Zandvoort, and credit must be given to him. On Saturday in qualifying, the Canadian managed to reach Q3, where his teammate Sebastian Vettel remained trapped in Q1. Due to a technical problem, the Aston Martin F1 driver could not 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 did not have an easy time in the peloton either, and was not varnished by the timing of the entry of the virtual safety car. However, it could display a rhythm similar to that of the AlphaTauri, or even that of 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 little?

The flops

Flop n°1: Ferrari: this time, the forgotten tire trick

Last week, we wrote that Ferrari had invented yet another way of making a fool of itself in the race (with Charles Leclerc’s late pit stop to set the fastest lap, which turned into a mini-disaster: a lost place, a 5 second penalty). Well, the longest jokes are decidedly the best at the Maranello laughter festival: this time the Scuderia has released the card of the tire forgotten during the pit stop. Poor Carlos Sainz suffered with a stoppage of 12 seconds… The danger was added to the laughter with a “forgotten” pistol on which Sergio Pérez was rolling, fortunately without too many consequences.

Mattia Binotto would almost be satisfied with this problem: it would be easy to solve and besides Ferrari’s real problem was the lack of rhythm on this circuit. Once again, the boss of Ferrari questions because he does not seem to want to look the eyes in the face, all that is wrong with Ferrari. Yes, the pit stop was late, yes we had to act fast…etc., etc., etc. Halfway between denial and the Coué method, Mattia Binotto must rather assume the errors of his team – which are by extenso his own – and bang his fist on 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 blunder. And the paddock almost wondering: what are they going to do to us this Sunday at Monza?

Flop n°2: Pérez and Sainz, forgettable second knives

The gaps between teammates widened again on this technical and tricky circuit of Zandvoort, at Red Bull and Ferrari in any case. The gap was certainly the most visible at Red Bull: in qualifying, Max Verstappen inflicted 7 tenths on Sergio Pérez, on a short circuit if ever there was one. The Mexican also made a mistake by making a mistake in 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, very far from having the rhythm of his team-mate, admittedly being also weakened by the strategy. As for Carlos Sainz, apart from his pit stop problem, he was almost nowhere: no 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 to it?

Flop 3: Daniel Ricciardo’s Calvary

Poor Daniel Ricciardo: in the space of a week, the Australian learned the name of his replacement next year at McLaren (his compatriot Oscar Piastri); also had the unpleasant surprise of apparently learning that McLaren had made its decision at the beginning of July, while Daniel Ricciardo still seemed to believe in his possible extension at this time of the year; and finally, 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 where the characteristics of the orange single-seater (difficulty braking while turning) bring out the gaping flaws of the Honey Badger in this car at least. 18th place in qualifying in particular due to a missed penultimate corner, where Lando Norris was the best of the others in 7th place; 17th place in the race, after looking for the strategy all the way (the pace was pretty good on hard, but it was way too late).

It is not with such Grands Prix that Daniel Ricciardo risks regaining his confidence or convincing a team to sign him; however, one can also wonder if the McLaren environment (broken confidence, car poorly adapted to his driving) is also representative of the talent of Daniel Ricciardo: because we do not forget how to beat Max Verstappen in 2 seasons.

We want to see…

30 seconds ahead for Red Bull at Monza?

It is the fear of the paddock: that we are witnessing a boring race at Monza, so much the domination of Red Bull seems, on paper at least, inevitable. Indeed, the Red Bull is the strongest this year in terms of drag and top speed: it suffices to see that on the straights at Zandvoort, in qualifying, Max Verstappen won most of his time on the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc. However, at Monza, the important thing is precisely the top speed, in addition to having good efficiency with little aerodynamic support. What Max Verstappen had done very well at Spa: with little downforce, he flew in straight lines and always posted excellent times in the second most sinuous sector.

On the contrary, Carlos Sainz has already said to himself ” nervous “ 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 settings with little aerodynamic downforce (on the contrary, the Hungaroring and Zandvoort are circuits requiring a lot of aerodynamic downforce, and we have seen that the Mercedes were much more comfortable there).

It is therefore only a small step to conclude that Red Bull is heading for a quiet double, on paper, in the northern suburbs of Milan. On paper at least! Because who knows what may happen next Sunday?

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