2023 Belgium Thoughts
THE BIG PICTURE: A lot of people are saying these new regs have been a failure. Not true. It's just that Red Bull has solely made them so successfully for themselves.
EVENT: One of the reasons they moved Spa from the end of August to the end of July is because the weather is usually better this time of year. So much for that idea...
TRACK: A lot of talk about what to do with the track. Drivers don't want it to change but they want it to be safer. That's a tough requirement.
QUALIFYING: With a drying track, it came down to whoever got their latest runs in each session, but in the end the five fastest teams made up the entirety of Q3. Verstappen was the fastest but won't start from pole giving us a different kind of Ferarri-Red Bull front row, and Piastri outqualifies Norris.
SPRINT SHOOTOUT: Like Friday, it came down to how you positioned your fast lap at the end of each session -- except SQ2, especially for Alonso, when Stroll crashed. This time there is no penalty to prevent Verstappen from starting from the pole, Piastri once again outqualifies Norris, as the top three are ultra close -- 0.025-second spread.
SPRINT: A shortened sprint (is that redundant?), but it didn't lack for action, Verstappen unsurprisingly won as Piastri continued to impress with second, and Gasly surprised with the last podium spot especially with Alpine's turmoil.
SPRINT START: Rolling, so not much to write about.
RACE: Were you shocked? Were you? Yeah, you weren't...
START: Leclerc does a little weaving to keep Perez behind which didn't last long as Perez powers by, Sainz squeezes Piastri into a quick exit which allows Verstappen to immediately gain two spots, and Hamilton gets a solid start.
VERSTAPPEN: We are thoroughly enjoying his "testy" interaction with his race engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase. Proves that Max is actually not a robot.
PEREZ: He's finally back to doing what he's paid to do -- finish second. But wow, 22+ seconds behind at the end. It's hard for Sergio fans to find any good in that.
RED BULL: Not only are they undefeated in the proper grand prix races, but also in the sprint races.
LECLERC: A much needed result before the summer break.
SAINZ: Was it technically his turn? Perhaps in normal circumstances. But on the first lap, you have to know cars can't just disappear in close quarters.
FERRARI: Are they starting to get their tire degradation problem solved? We shall see.
MERCEDES: Now they need the rest of the updated puzzle pieces to kick off the second half of the season.
NORRIS: Great strategy just before the light rain and consistent driving salvaged a miserably horrible race into a points scoring position.
PIASTRI: Led his first laps, albeit in a sprint, but more importantly, continues to be so cool under intense on track pressure.
ALPINE: The worst run racing organization in a long time. They make Ferrari look like management geniuses.
TSUNODA: A nice comeback drive in the points after Ricciardo immediately showed him up last weekend.
GASLY: Surprising he got as high as he did with a one-stop strategy.
WILLIAMS: Will have to wait till Monza to do anything interesting again, and then that might be it for 2023.
F2: Points leader Frederik Vesti spun out on the feature race formation lap allowing Frenchman Theo Pourchaire to climb to the top with a second place finish, while Aussie Jack Doohan took his second feature win in a row.
F3: With just one weekend left (Monza), Brazilian Gabriel Bortoleto has all but wrapped up the championship with a magic number of two. Meanwhile, Brit Taylor Barnard played the rain vs. slick tire decision perfectly to win the feature race.
WORD OF THE WEEKEND: Radar.
STAT OF THE WEEKEND: 4 -- The number of upcoming weeks where Max Verstappen will not win.
HISTORICAL STAT OF THE WEEKEND: Like we said last week, consecutive winning streaks were very difficult in the old days due to the extreme lack of reliability. So, it is quite amazing that Alberto Ascari is amongst the leaders with seven straight wins, all in a Ferrari. But this is a controversial number. He won the final six of seven races in 1952, missing the opening Swiss GP because he was competing in the Indy 500. Then he won the 1953 season opener in Argentina for seven. Here's where it gets messy. The next race was the Indy 500 which he didn't compete in, which counted in the World Championship back then. But, it wasn't an F1 race. Ascari then won the next two "proper" grand prix races. So, should his total be seven or nine? If Verstappen wins the next race, has he tied Ascari and Vettel or just Vettel? This is one of numerous issues with counting the Indy 500 from 1950-60 in F1 records.
TWEET OF THE WEEKEND: From the @RBR_Daily account:
Marko jokes about GP and Max
"Well, I've heard they might spend two days together on an island in the Mediterranean. My phone is on in case it escalates, I'll be there as a mediator."
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: There is still arguments over the value of the sprint races. Even Oscar Piastri fumbled around trying to explain his second on Saturday, "First top three in a ... sort of race."
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: Alain Prost railed on Alpine after their latest management shake up, especially against ex-CEO Laurent Rossi, who was the one who fired Prost from the consulting role as well as being responsible for losing Fernando Alonso because he refused to give him a longer than one-year deal, "...that of an incapable leader who thinks he can overcome his incompetence by his arrogance and his lack of humanity towards his troops."
SCHEDULE: After the break, will Verstappen tie the consecutive win mark in his home country? That would certainly be fitting.
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