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!
Top n°1: Max Verstappen pierces the fog
Max Verstappen’s victory in Miami takes on all the more relief and value in the light of the catastrophic Friday he experienced: on Friday, in fact, the Red Bull driver did not do more than 5 laps, due to a hydraulic problem. He thus approached a new Grand Prix in one of the worst conditions there is, almost blindly.
And yet, in qualifying, the Dutchman almost offered himself the scalp of the two Ferraris – he probably lacked a little lap in his luggage. Above all, in the race, he surprised in the first place, taking a very good start (admittedly from the clean part of the track) when he had not been able to make any attempt at the start. As a result, he showed great management of the medium tires in the first stint, while having, it is curious, aerodynamic settings favoring top speed on the turns a priori. “At the start of the race, Max took care of the tyres. It was our tactic to save the right front tire and keep Charles under pressure. A real tactical race » summed up Christian Horner after the race. A tactical mastery indeed of Max Verstappen, which gave him the keys to victory, recognized Charles Leclerc. At the end of the event, the Dutchman was also able to resist the pressure from the Ferraris following the safety car period.
In short, Max Verstappen won a third success (in as many finishes) full of merit and panache, which we can and must attribute in large part, certainly to the speed of the Red Bull, but also, and can -be especially, to his talent.
Top n°2: Alexander Albon never stops delighting Williams and his hairdresser
Every time Alexander Albon dyes his hair, he scores points! And that’s almost the only touch of color on this now mostly black Williams, for weight reasons. There is no doubt that Grove’s hairdresser will quickly become the team’s new mascot. More seriously, the Thai once again impressed the paddock last weekend, with 2 units registered in a Williams which is perhaps not worth a quarter of a… If in qualifying, Alexander Albon was strangely close to Nicholas Latifi (the Pirelli operating window seems to be in question), in the race, as in Melbourne, he capitalized on a strategic choice that paid off: betting on hard rubber. The safety car at the end of the race thus offered him a free pit stop. But it was still necessary to make this strategy work by saving the hard while having a correct rhythm.
So let’s not just attribute this performance by Alexander Albon to this strategic stroke of luck. Because we must once again relate his race to that of Nicholas Latifi. Admittedly, as we have said, the Canadian was closer in qualifying than usual. But he was far, far, far, far, very far in the race! As proof, Nicholas Latifi remained 18th in the event, that is to say last, in the first half of the Grand Prix, even if the other cars in front of him had already stopped. Jost Capito has renewed his confidence in him, but Nicholas Latifi’s confidence already seems to have flew away…
Fortunately, Williams found his new George Russell with Alexander Albon. Even better at the level of his technical returns, we whisper at Grove: no doubt that the year spent in Milton Keynes, in the shadow of Max Verstappen and Sergio Pérez, smiled at Alexander Albon. Finally, note that in the standings, Alexander Albon has 1 point more than Fernando Alonso!
Top n°3: Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas, peloton runners-up
On Friday, Esteban Ocon took a shock of 51 G “unacceptable” (see below) and had to decide not to take part in the qualifications on Saturday. If his mistake is attributable to him, his very good performance on Sunday is also: starting from the pits, the Alpine driver, like Alexander Albon, knew how to make a first long stint on hard roads bear fruit, following the entry of the safety car. His very solid pace, and his faultless (which Fernando Alonso did not achieve in the other Alpine), gave him well-deserved points.
Valtteri Bottas was close to delivering the perfect race: no doubt he can curse the safety car which redistributed the cards… And even the perfect weekend: because in qualifying, the Finn set a formidable 5th time. In race rhythm, he then proved not to have to fear the Mercedes, installing the Alfa Romeo as the potential 3rd force on the grid on Sunday. “We were really strong and ran most of the race comfortably in 5th place, just behind the two Red Bulls and the Ferraris: the timing of the safety car really affected us, nullifying Valtteri’s advantage over the two Mercedes » regretted Frédéric Vasseur, the team manager, after the race. What a pity therefore that this exit from the track cost him a 5th place: the fact remains that this 7th place remains very good for him and Alfa Romeo.
Flop #1: Mass Dumplings, and Safety Concerns
Let’s say it immediately, F1 drivers are the best drivers on the planet, and the level of the current field is undoubtedly one of the best in recent decades. However, this weekend in Miami, some drivers, more than usual it seems, found themselves stuck in the pitfalls of the new Miami layout. It must be said that the Florida circuit itself was not helping to achieve clean weekends, with its tarmac that came off when too many F1s passed over it, and off-track grip hardly at the level, which punished in a way harsh and severe any off-trajectory prank.
Several drivers have thus paid the price for this tricky circuit. In free practice, note in particular the road trips of Carlos Sainz and Esteban Ocon. For the Ferrari driver, it is also starting to do a lot after two Grands Prix already marked by accidents. In the race too, there was mayhem on the track, with blunders again very costly. Mick Schumacher in particular deprived himself of his first points with his clash with his friend and mentor Sebastian Vettel. Valtteri Bottas lost points and was lucky to finish 7th. Fernando Alonso distinguished himself by cutting a chicane and attempting to overtake amateurish optimism, receiving a double sanction. Pierre Gasly could also have deviated more from the trajectory when he was idling. In short, that’s a bit much… (and we haven’t mentioned everything).
More serious perhaps: Esteban Ocon revealed that he took a shock of 51 G at turn 14 when he left the track. An impressive total for an accident that did not seem that much. The Alpine pilot rightly called this danger “unacceptable” and demanded, like Carlos Sainz, TecPro in this bend. Radio silence from race management. What if we had here the first big mistake of the Niels Wittich – Eduardo Freitas era?
Flop n°2: Bijouxgate, Boxergate: the picrocholine and counterproductive battles of Vettel and Hamilton
We had known Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who were more inspired in their commitments… Very visible and voluntary in their commitment to ecology or diversity, the two “militant” pilots on the set, on the other hand, got lost in picrocholine battles, so as not to say laughable. Ecology and anti-racism on the one hand, family jewels and jewelery on the other… A sad contrast. While Sebastian Vettel therefore railed against the ban on not wearing fireproof underwear, Lewis Hamilton went on a crusade against the ban on wearing jewelry in the cockpit, provoking the FIA by wearing silverware and ensuring that he would not give in to threats of fines and point deductions.
This attitude is very disappointing especially for Sebastian Vettel. The Aston Martin F1 driver diverted attention from his ‘dark humour’ T-Shirt on the climate by walking around with his visible and laughable boxers in the Miami paddock (see our article). Above all, the Aston Martin F1 driver, director of the GPDA, and very committed to safety, has an incomprehensible attitude since precisely, the FIA bans are not taken for fun, but for safety. “The use of non-flameproof materials in contact with the pilot’s skin, and in particular synthetic materials, can reduce the protection against heat transmission and therefore increase the risk of burns in the event of a fire. In the worst case, these materials can melt, which can hamper treatment in the event of a burn. (…) metallic objects, such as jewelery in contact with the skin, can reduce the protection against heat transmission and therefore increase the risk of burns in the event of a fire” indeed specified Niels Wittich on the occasion of this weekend.
There are fights that it is better to know how to lose, and before not to fight: Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton had better think about it.
Flop n°3: Daniel Ricciardo does not save appearances
Daniel Ricciardo was once again transparent last weekend at McLaren. And it didn’t come at the right time as rumors of a replacement by Colton Herta flourished… In qualifying, Daniel Ricciardo thus finished 8 tenths in Q2 behind his teammate Lando Norris. A difference that he attributed in particular to traffic… But the excuse is less acceptable when we remember that it is quite simply the 9th time in a row that Lando Norris beats his teammate in the exercise of the fast lap. In the race, the Australian could not save appearances and even received a five-second penalty for gaining an advantage by going off the track. In short, we were hoping for a revived Daniel Ricciardo with the new 2022 aerodynamic regulations: the gap seems to be stabilizing, even widening. The Australian’s rating plummeted in the paddock.
We want to see…
The evolutions of Red Bull scrutinized by Ferrari with capped budgets…
The Red Bull has become a killer of Ferrari on Sunday: this is the observation that we can draw up for at least two Grands Prix. But this season, that of the new aerodynamic regulations of 2022, is such that the hierarchy could well move from race to race. Starting with Barcelona at the next Grand Prix.
Mattia Binotto recalled that Ferrari had not yet made any major changes to the Ferrari. And that he thought that Red Bull (which has developed its car a lot more, especially at Imola) could not keep up with this pace of development with capped budgets: “In the last two races, Red Bull has been a couple of tenths quicker. We have to launch our developments. We will have the first big plays in Barcelona. Red Bull have already spent a lot of money on their upgrades so hopefully with the budget cap they will flex their development at some point while we have upgrades available. That’s why I’m optimistically disappointed” Mattia Binotto was thus reassured after Miami.
For Mattia Binotto, it would therefore be surprising if Red Bull continued its frantic pace of development with capped budgets. Unless… it should be remembered that Mattia Binotto recently alerted the FIA to the possible risk of fraud in capped budgets, calling for tighter controls. If Red Bull still brings massive changes to Barcelona, should we expect a controversy?
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