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 other hand, should be criticized? Finally, what are the question marks or ambiguities to follow with interest during the next Grand Prix? Check it out below!
Top n ° 1: Red Bull responds strongly to Ferrari
For the first time in F1 history, two different drivers have signed two Grand Slams in a row (pole, fastest lap, win, each lap ahead): after Charles Leclerc in Melbourne, it was Max Verstappen who celebrated in Imola. By his own admission, the Dutchman said after the race that Red Bull was in desperate need of a good weekend before Imola; but this was it “incredible”. For him 34 points, the maximum possible, a double for Red Bull (the first from Malaysia 2016): this brings Max Verstappen and Red Bull a little behind in the fight for the two championships (especially in the constructors’ classification where Red Bull is 12). points behind Ferrari).
Three particularly encouraging points for Red Bull. On the one hand, the ability to manage the tires very well, especially in sprint races, which was one of Ferrari’s strengths during the first few races. On the other hand, the contribution of the developments (in particular the aerodynamic appendages) which could partly explain the leap in performance of Red Bull against Ferrari. Finally, the excellent pace of Sergio Pérez, especially in the sprint, which confirms that the F1 2022 cars are more suited to his driving style than him. Obviously it is very promising for the future. And that makes the rest of the season even more captivating …
Top n ° 2: A podium full of merits and hopes for Lando Norris and McLaren
This McLaren is definitely difficult to define … After the winter tests in Bahrain and the first Grand Prix, hell was foreseen for the team. During the following Grand Prix it was purgatory; and in Imola, almost paradise. Because Lando Norris had a simply optimal weekend: 3rd place in qualifying (even if at the end of the session he caused the red flag); 5th place in the sprint; and again 3rd in the race, taking advantage of Charles Leclerc’s error, and by itself an efficient tire management. Here is McLaren returning to the podium much sooner than we could have imagined.
This does not mean, however, according to Lando Norris, that McLaren has solved all these structural problems: “This race doesn’t necessarily mean you have the third, fourth or fifth best car. I think we just had a good race on our side. The car was good, I had good confidence and it was all I needed. We need improvements everywhere. Everything must progress. The balance is good, we were happy with it. We didn’t bring anything exceptional “ he confided after the Grand Prix. Definitely, an orange car that is difficult to spot …
Top n ° 3: Vettel, Bottas and Tsunoda shine in the group
Three riders stood out in the group, sometimes far ahead of their teammates. First there was Sebastian Vettel, whose performance in the race was as excellent as his performance in qualifying (8th and 9th). The German replied to anyone who doubted his motivation and confirmed that in difficult circumstances (like Istanbul 2020 or last year’s Hungaroring) he was still an ace.
Valtteri Bottas, 5th, confirmed his excellent dispositions. He stood out in particular for his incisive overtaking in the group, which we no longer believed capable of after last year. And he even almost offered Russell even though he was left over 11 seconds in the pits due to a break that could have turned into a disaster.
Finally, we greet the convincing weekend, and without errors, of Yuki Tsunoda (7th) in nonetheless difficult conditions: the Japanese also reassured the AlphaTauri clan, on a circuit he certainly knew very well because it was his debut in private tests with Toro. Red.
Flop n ° 1: A “terrible” race and a “non-drivable” car for Lewis Hamilton
The last time Lewis Hamilton finished a Grand Prix, but out of the points, was in Baku last year, following the Brit just after the red flag. But this time in Imola, the Mercedes driver regularly finished in a sad anonymous place in the group, stuck behind Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly … From qualifying, everything started badly for Lewis: saved by an elimination in Q1 for 4 thousandths, it could not logically shine after (14th time). This highlighted another fundamental problem for Mercedes, that of the difficulty in heating the tires.
In the race, the comparison with George Russell (4th) can obviously seem tough for Lewis. How can we not recognize it? But this comparison between teammates should also be put into perspective: because George Russell ran most of the time outdoors, while the Brit paid for his bad start; stuck in a DRS train, he had no chance to overtake. Lewis Hamilton was also unlucky as Esteban Ocon would have to leave him behind with his dangerous release. The comparisons between his race and that of George Russell are therefore in part partial. This is also why Toto Wolff wanted to immediately step forward to defend his driver, calling the Mercedes F1 a car “not drivable”.
The fact remains that this Grand Prix was “terrible”, also said Toto Wolff, for the vice-champion of the world. Lewis Hamilton is a wounded beast, who already seems disheartened after recording the loss of the title. However, we never bury the lion, nor do we doubt his motivation to work hard to come back strong, as he confided to him after the race: “Tomorrow I’ll be in the factory working with the guys, that’s all I can do. I will work as hard as possible. We will try to come back and prepare as best we can for next year, understanding what’s wrong with this car. This is the number one goal for us, clearly, more than the results. “
Flop 2: Ferrari drivers’ concentration problems
When playing for the two world titles, every mistake costs, and the Ferrari drivers have just made two mistakes, that is, two too many, this weekend in Imola. First there was the new charlatan of Carlos Sainz, who went off the track in Rivazza in Q2, and therefore did not manage to qualify well for the sprint race (even though he made a good comeback there). It is therefore two errors in a row for Carlos Sainz, owner until now. A third would do the trick and point out some doubts about the Spaniard, his ability to withstand pressure or his confidence in F1-75.
The other mistake was obviously that of Charles Leclerc, with his tour at the Variente Alta. Always lucid and self-critical, the Monegasque apologized and blamed himself enormously for this fault which deprived him of precious points. Luckily he was wearing the racing gloves, he bit his fingers a lot … No doubt in the future this mistake will be profitable for him: because Charles Leclerc will surely remember that sometimes it is better to collect good intermediate points without trying to attack to take some units. “Charles’s mistake has nothing to do with pressure” confided Mattia Binotto at the end of the race. Maybe it was the inexperience of a title fight? But Charles learns fast!
Flop n ° 3: Mick Schumacher: starts to sting
Indeed, a third driver in the Ferrari universe made even more mistakes this weekend: Mick Schumacher. This begins to go a long way for those who still benefit from an aura of indulgence, unlike for example Nicholas Latifi. But be careful because for Mick Schumacher the balance is starting to be worrying.
In pure performance of course, because Kevin Magnussen has been regularly in front of him since the beginning of the year. Also in terms of mistakes: Mick Schumacher made three. One in qualifying at Tosa, when he could play Q3. And two in the race, with not one but two spins, the first that ruined Fernando Alonso’s race, and the other at the Variante Alta. Now it’s up to him to set the record straight.
We want to see…
What impact will the latest developments in Ferrari have?
Ferrari had made no changes for this weekend at Imola. For an understandable reason: with only one hour of useful free practice and the risk of damage in the sprint race, Maranello did not want to take any risks. However, it is not this choice that Red Bull has made with several aerodynamic developments that have apparently paid off. “Many people have told us: ‘You shouldn’t because there is only one free practice session’, but we believed in ourselves and it paid off.” so rejoiced Christian Horner.
The Scuderia, in fact, has not made any changes since the winter tests in Barcelona, preferring to focus on optimization and concentrating what already exists. And obviously on the value for money in times of limited budget. It is only in Miami that the F1-75 will evolve more, particularly to improve porpoising. A new rear wing and flat-bottom developments are therefore expected. Others would follow in Barcelona. It will therefore be crucial and fascinating for the rest of the season to measure the impact of these developments. Knowing that other teams will also bring some. Will Ferrari, unlike in previous years, win the development race during the year?