Formula 1Opinion

Post-Race Analysis and Driver Ratings for the 2022 Belgian Grandprix!

RedBull run their strongest race of the season so far as Mercedes and Ferrari try to figure out where they lost out

RedBull seem to have got their cards straight in this season, after a few initial struggles. A comeback so strong, that they have left their competitors far behind, quite literally. After the Belgian GP, the RedBull team extended their lead in the constructors championship and are currently standing at 475 points, followed by Ferrari and Mercedes at 357 and 316 points respectively. In the Driver’s standings, Verstappen currently leads with 284 points. After Sunday’s race, Perez has now claimed the 2nd spot with 191 points with Leclerc and Sainz trailing behind with 186 and 171 points respectively. At this point it does seem that RedBull have both trophies in their bag, also considering the fact that most of the remaining circuits on the 2022 calendar suits their car.

Analyzing the race in Belgium, it is obviously very apparent that the RB-18’s pace was unmatched, even more with Verstappen behind the wheel. But the development of a few other teams, notably Alpine and Williams also caught our eye.

Car Upgrades for the teams at Spa

The circuit being one of the fastest and the longest circuit on the schedule, especially prioritizing top-speed over downforce naturally warranted different setups in comparison to other tracks. As we know, many drivers took new power units and electronic components which got them subsequent penalties. Apart from new power units, all the cars got Spa-specific rear wing updates, to generate more downforce and reduce drag.

In terms of specific upgrades, Mercedes introduced a reprofiled front wing endplates for improved aero-efficiency and repositioned the floor fences. RedBull too got minimum upgrades, with a new sidepod and a lowered rear suspension wishbone, just like Ferrari. This trend was followed by other teams like Haas, AlphaTauri, Alfa Romeo and Williams.

McLaren’s upgrades do not pay off

McLaren was the team with the most number of upgrades, apart from the circuit-specific changes. The engineers modified the beam wing, rear brake ducts and cooling louvres. The diffuser ramp angle was tweaked and a winglet had been added to the rear corner bodywork. These efforts were made to simulate the airflow as cleanly as possible, improve downforce and reduce drag as much as possible. Alas, these mods made no major effect to their race pace. Though they were noticeably quick in the practice sessions, with Norris finishing P4 in FP2, all of it seemed to vanish on Sunday. According to Andrei Seidl, the cars could not generate adequate traction at the Turn 1 hairpin. Due to this their top speeds in Eau-Rouge and the following Kemmell Straight was not enough to keep their opponents at bay, which is where they mainly lost out. Eventually, Norris finished P12, despite a new PU and Ricciardo finished P15. While discussing their race to the media, both Norris and Ricciardo expressed that it was a weekend for them to forget.

Super Max Spears through Spa

Let’s discuss the elephant in the room. Verstappen’s pace in Belgium left everyone in a word- flabbergasted! He surprised not only his opponents, the commentators and fans, but also his own team and teammate. It seemed as though he manifested extra speed in his car in every lap. His race start was clean which he later claimed to be rather tricky having to maneuver through the whole bunch of cars and a lot of dust. At the end of the Turn 1 hairpin, he immediately was up by 4 places after starting P14 and by the end of the first lap he was at P8. 18 laps later, he was leading the race. In comparison, Leclerc only had a mediocre start but also had a hint of misfortune to his name, having to pit prematurely.

Verstappen finished the race with an 18-second differential to Perez, in P2. From the perspective of the Mexican, this clearly tells us that even the best car on the grid is not enough, if the driver is not competent enough to win the race. Even though he has overtaken Leclerc in the driver’s title, his deficit to his teammate has been apparent throughout the season. Perhaps his dream of winning the championship this year may look way more feeble now.

Hamilton vs Alonso

The clash between the veterans of the sport was ugly, but only for the moment. Alonso had got a pretty good start from P3, as both himself and Hamilton overtook Perez. On the Kemmell Straight, Hamilton was close to Alonso and had caught a good slipstream. Under braking at Turn 5, he tried to squeeze Alonso towards the inside of the corner, but did not realize that he did not leave even a slight gap for the Spaniard. As a result, he went over Alonso’s front left and was in the air for a split second. His engine gave away as a result of this collision, causing smoke and fluid to leak through, forcing him to retire. Hamilton’s streak of being the only driver to not have retired this season was also broken. Alonso was furious over the radio and held no remorse for the 7-time world champion. However, in the post-race interviews Hamilton owned up to his mistake and Alonso too seemed to let it go hinting about his words being in heat-of-the-moment.

Latifi vs Bottas

On the other occasion concerning Bottas and Latifi, Bottas was just unlucky to have been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Under the Safety Car, Latifi dipped his car into the gravel trap at Turn 6 which caused him to spin out. He missed Ocon but Bottas’s evasive moves were not enough as he got slightly touched by the Williams car and beached himself, spelling the only other retirement from the race. Having taken a new PU, he was definitely looking at a points finish, but we are sure, this incident must have dented his mood on his birthday.

Albon gives team more points

Last year Russell, who was driving for Williams qualified P2, and brought home the podium (yes, the circumstances were different), and this time he was closely copied by his replacement Albon. As compared to other teams, Williams brought relatively, the most inexpensive upgrades for this race. They depended upon the top speed capability of their car and maximized the benefit from it. Albon qualified P9 on Saturday and had a relatively good start into the race as well. The long straights of Spa and helped the Thai driver to finish a super strong P6 in the race, the best result of the team in this season.

Driver Ratings

P1-Max Verstappen

The Dutch Lion was in another league of his own as he took the maximum possible points on Sunday. In a series of beautiful overtakes, he was in P1 in no time! With a foolproof strategy from his team and the outstanding pace of his car, he maintained his position with ease for most of the race, finally winning it with an 18-second advantage!

Driver Rating: 10/10

P2-Sergio Perez

Honestly, 18 seconds seems a bit too much of a deficit to your teammate, and we expected a bit more from him. No doubt he has had a fair share of bad luck this season, which cost him a lot of potential podiums. But starting P2, and finishing with such a gap behind Verstappen who started P14, just implies the potential of his car and not him. Let’s hope that he does better in Zandvoort.

Driver Rating: 9/10

P3-Carlos Sainz

The Ferrari driver and his team did everything right in their race, but were beaten merely by the pace of the RedBulls. It was not Ferrari’s weekend and he knew it. Either way good job on keeping his head down and claiming a podium finish.

Driver Rating: 8.5/10

P4-George Russell

Russell expressed his surprise in the post race interviews as he could not find more pace to finish at a higher spot. With the newly changed technical regulations, Mercedes had expected their competitors to be slower, but that has not worked out in their favour. Rather both Ferrari and RedBull are faster than before. Russell also mentioned a lack of downforce which caused him to lose some valuable time in which he could have attacked the other drivers.

Driver Rating: 8.5/10

P5-Fernando Alonso

The grit and improved performance paid off for a strong weekend in the Spaniard’s favour. Fortunately, his shunt with Hamilton on Lap 1 did not cost him too much and he held his ground to achieve the highest position that he possibly could. His attack on Leclerc on the final lap was especially entertaining to watch and he got lucky with a free position upgrade after Leclerc’s post race penalty.

Driver Rating: 8/10

P6-Charles Leclerc

A fairly underwhelming performance by the winner of the 2022 Austrian GP winner after his strong stints in the practice and quali sessions. Starting just behind Verstappen he could get past other drivers as easily as the Dutchman. The “strange strategy” as called out by Alonso also cost him not only a potential extra point but also the P5 position.

Driver Rating: 8/10

P7-Esteban Ocon

A pretty decent result by the French driver to round off a top 7 finish for his team. Starting from the back of the grid, his recovery drive with new engine components have definitely paid off. The results by the Alpine in the past few races definitely prove that they are ahead of their immediate competitors.

Driver Rating: 8.5/10

P8-Sebastian Vettel

A fine tire strategy and a some decent racing with Gasly on the final few laps helped the 4-time world champion to finish at P8, a decent result after 4 races straight of not being able to go higher than P10.

Driver Rating: 8/10

P9-Pierre Gasly

Starting from the pitlane and finishing within the top ten is definitely a delightful feeling, one which we are happy to share with the French driver. His overall performance in the weekend was also relatively acceptable and after an engine startup scare which caused him to start from the pitlane, it can be said that he finished his 100th grandprix in style.

Driver Rating8/10

P10-Alexander Albon

Having basically carried his team, Albon added more points to his portfolio, affirming his team’s decision for his multi-year contract with them.

Driver Rating: 8/10

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Abhishek S.

Loves long drives, sunsets and skylines (pun intended ;)). Will miss a date but not an F1 race!

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