Verstappen uses his head – with some cajoling – for emphatic Spa triumph

2023 Belgian Grand Prix review

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Whether it’s a marriage, a romantic partnership, company colleagues or team mates in a sports team, it’s constantly hammered into us in every area of our lives how critical communication is to all relationship we have.

In the pit lane, nowhere is that truer than for a Formula 1 driver and their race engineer. A constant feedback loop between the pair is critical. Not only to honing car performance off the track, but especially to those split-second decisions that can win or lose races on track.

In 151 grands prix together prior to the Belgian Grand Prix weekend, Max Verstappen and Gianpiero Lambiase had forged one of the most decorated driver-engineer partnerships Formula 1 has ever seen. Over eight seasons, the pair had secured 44 grand prix wins, 27 pole positions and enjoyed a stunning podium rate of 59% – as well as winning two world championship titles while they were at it.

It’s an incredible record of sustained achievement eclipsed only on the current grid by Lewis Hamilton and Peter Bonington – the single most successful combination in the history of the sport. But that doesn’t mean the pair aren’t susceptible to friction and conflict in their work, just like any other colleagues.

Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Leclerc soon lost his advantage from pole position
Except, when most co-workers clash with each other, their arguments are not broadcast all over the world for an audience of millions to gleefully eavesdrop on.

On their way to securing a seventh grand prix pole in 12 rounds at Spa-Francorchamps, Verstappen and Lambiase had clashed over a nervous end to Q2 in Friday’s qualifying. Verstappen had offered his constructive feedback about Red Bull’s “shit execution”, as Lambiase told his driver that he was more than welcome to make all his own decisions for Q3 if he so wished. Verstappen did not take up the offer, duly setting the fastest Q3 time by eight tenths of a second and promptly apologising for his “rant”.

Thanks to a gearbox penalty, that fastest time converted to only sixth position on the grid on Sunday. While this might have typically provided a golden opportunity for one of Verstappen’s rivals to snap his grand prix winning streak of seven, the world champion was quick to point out he’d won at Spa from more than twice as far back just a year ago.

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Instead, Charles Leclerc occupied the pole position that otherwise would have belonged to car number one. But even a Verstappen penalty could not offer Leclerc relief from the threat of a Red Bull as Sergio Perez lined up alongside him on the front row, his car pointed almost directly to the apex of the right-hand hairpin of La Source, 300 meters away.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Having starred in the sprint race, Piastri was out early
Hamilton sat behind both of them in third, with Carlos Sainz Jnr alongside, the leading quartet on the soft tyre compound. Then came Oscar Piastri, the first car on mediums, one place ahead of the soft-shod Verstappen.

When the lights went out, all six got off the line about as well as each other, Leclerc holding the inside line to protect his position heading into turn one. As Hamilton looked to the outside of Perez, Sainz followed him, but locked up heavily under braking. Instinctively, Verstappen sought sanctuary in the wide open space to the outside as Sainz and Piastri ended up aiming for the apex at the same time.

“I knew exactly what was going to happen, because I had the same thing happen to me in 2016,” Verstappen later explained. “It’s like, ‘okay, I’m going to stay out of it, I’ll go wide’.”

Piastri and Sainz made contact – not enough to trigger chaos, but enough to leave both with what proved to be race-ending damage. As the McLaren rookie was rapidly consumed by the field, Leclerc was already under assault for the lead from Perez. A 10kph top speed advantage allowed the Red Bull driver to clear the Ferrari before hitting the brakes for Les Combes, while behind Verstappen emulated his team mate to dispatch a wounded Sainz and take fourth. At the end of the first lap, Perez was already out of DRS range of Leclerc, with Hamilton and Verstappen square behind the Ferrari.

Unrelenting rain had resulted in all four sessions across the first two days of the weekend requiring wet weather tyres. With zero meaningful running on slicks, teams were left in the deeply uncomfortable position of having to guess how their tyres would perform during the race. Making as few stops as possible was always the aim and when Sainz dropped back rapidly behind Verstappen with his damaged car, that provided some welcome breathing room for the top four to focus on conserving their softs.

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But Verstappen’s mind was preoccupied with Hamilton ahead of him, less so on driving daintily to be careful on his tyres. It took multiple laps within DRS range for Verstappen to get a chance to attack as the Mercedes driver was benefitting from DRS himself from Leclerc. But once Hamilton dropped more than a second behind Leclerc on lap six, Verstappen pounced. He cut to the inside on the approach to Les Combes, leaving Hamilton little say in the matter.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Leclerc kept Hamilton behind but lost out to Verstappen
Three laps later, he was in striking range of the Ferrari. Leclerc’s commendable attempt to defend by holding the inside line at the end of the Kemmel Straight was no match for Verstappen’s 20kph advantage and he was easily through. Now he was the second car in a Red Bull one-two and eager to become the first, but Lambiase was more concerned with his driver’s tyres 10 laps into his opening stint.

“Use your head,” he advised Verstappen. Two laps later, a gentle reminder. “So don’t forget, Max, use your head please.”

But all Verstappen cared about was what his team mate ahead was being told. “Are we both doing it, or what?”

“You just follow my instruction, thank you,” Lambiase replied.

“No,” Verstappen insisted. “I want to know if both cars are doing it.”

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Lambiase reasserted himself. “Max, please follow my instruction and trust it, thank you.”

Verstappen emerged from the pits closer to Perez
Hamilton was the first of the front runners to pit for mediums at the end of lap 12. But so large was the gap the top four had built up over those behind thanks in part to Sainz briefly holding everyone up, Hamilton rejoined ahead of Lance Stroll, still in possession of fourth despite a leisurely 2.7s stop.

The race leader was given priority by Red Bull to pit first on lap 13, with an uncharacteristically tardy stop losing Perez around a second compared to their usual lighting speed. That wasn’t enough to threaten his lead, however, as by the time Verstappen emerged from the pit lane a lap later with a fresh set of mediums, he was just over two seconds adrift of his team mate.

Perez was informed that both he and Verstappen had been given the same instructions to manage their new mediums, but Verstappen moved into DRS range within a lap. Just as Sainz, Hamilton and Leclerc before him, Perez was easy prey for the championship leader, who was already pulling out of the slipstream before even pressing his DRS button. Verstappen’s journey to the front was now complete, but he could not afford to relax just yet.

Light rain was approaching from the south. A concern, naturally. But the shower was set to be so small that it would likely disappear just as quickly as it would arrive. “We’re not expecting it to last for more than 10 minutes,” Lambiase informed the new leader. “So ideally, we’d avoid the double stop, Max.”

On lap 20, the rain made its presence felt. Lap times swiftly dropped off by five seconds as the middle sector became treacherously damp. But despite the water on the track offering an easy invitation for drivers to throw their cars off the road, none did. However, on lap 21, Verstappen almost lost control after touching the inside kerb at Raidillon, having to instinctively snap his steering wheel to avoid what would certainly be a race-ending accident.

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“I got there and it just caught me out,” he admitted after the race. “It was just a bit more slippery than I thought it would be.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Verstappen dispatched Perez as easily as any of his rivals
Intermediate tyres were never considered as the rain stopped as it had been promised to minutes later. By lap 24, the leaders had returned to their full dry pace once more. Verstappen’s advantage over Perez had crept up to almost six seconds through the shower, with Leclerc a further seven behind the second Red Bull. Verstappen received the all-clear, along with a renewed order to pace himself.

“No more rain expected,” Lambiase informed him. “So settle into standard race management now, Max.” Verstappen continued on his way, taking half a second a lap out of Perez over the next four laps. “Just make sure you use your head,” Lambiase continued to stress.

Perez was again the first Red Bull to pit for as the second round of stops took place, coming in for a second set of softs on lap 29, soon after Leclerc and Hamilton had both done the same. When Verstappen pitted a lap later, he received a new set of softs along with new orders to “bring these in nicely – easy out-lap, please.”

Verstappen could not seem less interested in taking anything easy. “Just let me know what fastest lap is,” he requested.

Lambiase informed Verstappen it was two tenths quicker than his personal best, but, again, insisted that “the most important thing is to look after this soft tyre. It’s a reasonable stint – 14 laps.”

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Verstappen took his engineer’s caution to heart – and immediately set a purple second sector in response.

Red Bull dismissed Verstappen’s ‘pit stop training’ suggestion
“You used a lot of the tyre on an out-lap, Max,” Lambiase said, his deadpan delivery not masking his obvious annoyance. “Not sure that was sensible.”

Verstappen’s pace advantage of half a second a lap on the mediums over Perez doubled to a full second on the softs. “That’s a better pace, but it’s still a second clear of Checo behind, Max,” Lambiase said to try and encourage his race leading driver to slow things up a little. “Cruise home, use your head.”

“I could also push on and we do another stop,” his driver suggested, demonstrating the supreme confidence he possessed in the cockpit. “A little bit of pit stop training.”

“No, not this time,” Lambiase replied, clearly thinking back to how his previous effort to dissuade Verstappen from pitting late at the Red Bull Ring had been in vain.

Verstappen kept his pace in the 1’50s while Perez and Leclerc behind only posted lap times inside that same range once throughout their final stints. While Verstappen’s lead was growing by about a second a lap, Leclerc was sat five seconds behind Perez but was unable to pick up his pace any further as a result of having to prioritise saving fuel. With Hamilton also not catching the Ferrari, Mercedes chose to pit him for soft tyres with two laps remaining to have a crack at Verstappen’s fastest lap and gain an extra point in the process.

But despite all the warnings and instructions to manage his pace throughout the race, Verstappen had found a pace he could run at that no one else could come close to without suffering any of the degradation that Red Bull had feared so much throughout the race. Starting from the third row of the grid, Verstappen crossed the line at the end of lap 44 to win by more than 22 seconds, extending Red Bull’s record win streak to 13 and his own run of victories to eight in the process. Yet it prompted only a typically nonchalant response from Lambiase.

“What a way to wrap up the first half of the year,” he said. “And back up the pit exit…”

Perez had once again been thoroughly outperformed by his team mate but had at least secured a one-two for his team – only Red Bull’s fifth despite their undefeated run through the opening 12 rounds. A week on from a disappointing result in Hungary, Leclerc gave Ferrari a morale boost heading into the summer break by beating Mercedes, McLaren and Aston Martin to the final podium place.

Hamilton himself successfully secured the fastest lap and fourth place, holding so much of a margin over Alonso in fifth that he could rejoin with six seconds to spare. George Russell came home behind Alonso in sixth, with Lando Norris somehow making his soft tyres last 27 laps on the longest final stint of anyone to take seventh place in a race where he sank like a stone down the field in the early laps.

Tsunoda bagged a rare point for AlphaTauri
Esteban Ocon gained six places with some thrilling overtakes to cross the line in eighth, as Lance Stroll and Yuki Tsunoda took the final points positions. Remarkably, despite the race being run without a single Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car intervention, all 18 runners finished on the lead lap.

On paper, it had been yet another straightforward victory for Verstappen on his unstoppable charge towards becoming a three-times world champion. But while Verstappen and Lambiase had seemingly clashed so frequently over the radio waves through the weekend, this Belgian Grand Prix had demonstrated perhaps better than any other how extremely effective and harmonious the two continue to be together.

“I think it’s very important, the relationship with your race engineer,” Verstappen explained. “Of course, over the years, you build up much more of a relationship, you know each other much better. So for sure, if he would be removed or whatever that’s definitely not ideal at all.”

Even their team principal, Christian Horner, had to recognise the mind-meld between the two most important personnel of car number one.

“GP and Max have been together since the first race that Max stepped into the car,” Horner said. “I think to race engineer Max Verstappen, you’ve got to have strength of character because he is one tough customer and many race engineers would crumble under that pressure or so on, and GP has got the strength of character to deal with that and the respect and trust between both the guys.”

With four weeks to wait until the second half of the season begins, drivers and their teams will likely be glad to forget about Formula 1 for a little while. Because when the paddock reconvenes at Zandvoort at the end of August, there will be tens of thousands of rowdy Verstappen fans eager to see him pick up from where he left off in Belgium.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Spa-Francorchamps, 2023
Verstappen goes into the summer break in a commanding championship position

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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39 comments on “Verstappen uses his head – with some cajoling – for emphatic Spa triumph”

  1. Lol but Max did listen to GP as he took it easy in S1 and S3 (both sectors which was damaging for the tyres most) but in S2 is where he took his winst compaired with the others as he snaked through those turns fast and without damaging his tyres.

    So next time check the sector times of those laps or just watch Peter Winsor who did all the hard work for you.
    You don’t think that Max ignore GP he is much smarter then that. Notice he didn’t do his fastest lap untill the tyres where is the right temperature. second or third lap i think from memory.

    1. Good point there @macleod. It shows Max feels the tyres very well, he took them to a very good and maintainable operating window and just kept them there afterwards.

      It’s things like that that show up when one looks into the data where I really find the amazement at how good these drivers are at finetuning how they run when they feel confident in themselves and in the car.

    2. S2 is the sector that hurts the tyres most. Its the only sector that has actual corners. S1 and S3 are mainly straights.
      But Verstappen was not really pushing I guess. He was just that much faster than anybody else and he and we know that engineers tend to be a little overcautious :)

      1. @roadrunner S1 S3 doesn’t hurt your tyres more then S2 that is nonesense S1 has a certain corner against the hill which is the hardest load tyres horizontal + vertical) of the whole season it’s those turns between the straights damaging the tyres the most.
        S3 those long highspeed turns aren’t straights same as S1 but a bit more easier the S1.

        S2 are medium turns who are flowing with the cadans of the turns which doesn’t damaging your tyres a lot.

        But don’t take my word for it just check with the experts …

        1. Ok, let’s call them bended straights. It’s easy flat out for everyone and there’s just not a lot you can do to save tyres In these two sectors except for beeing easy on the throttle after la source and bus stop. It’s all about engine and downforce that make the difference instead of driver or aerodynamics. Hence it’s where Perez was closest to him because they have the same engine and downforce.
          Like Verstappen or not and I’m not his biggest fan either, but we have to give it to him that he is able to drive much faster than Perez through fast and medium speed corners without chewing up his tyres.

  2. Red Bull look at the data, look at the lap times others are doing, and then assume a reasonable lap time for the tire. Max however is not the others. It was pretty clear from the entire stint that Max in fact did not ruin his tires and was taking it slowly.

    He’s just that much quicker than everyone else right now, added on to his regular better-than-average tire management skills to begin with. I think he said earlier in the season: “they don’t know the pace I have in hand” and it seemed true again yesterday. I don’t know if it’s possible for Red Bull to retrain their models to take this “Verstappen factor” into account, but yeah, I don’t doubt Verstappen could’ve gone faster had he wanted to.

  3. Red Bull have done brilliantly and Max is probably the best driver on the grid right now. Unfortunately, it does not make for an exciting spectacle.

    Max beat 2nd placed Perez (who was driving what was essentially the same car) by 22 seconds. The driver in 5th, Alonso, was almost a whole minute behind him.

    Compare that to MotoGP where, at the last race, the winner was 1 second ahead of the 2nd placed rider, and the 5th placed rider was within 2 seconds of the winner. 45 seconds separated the winner from the rider that came last. I appreciate the race is shorter but doesn’t dilute my point.

    1. Coventry Climax
      31st July 2023, 11:11

      Though both on race tracks, comparing F1 to MotoGP is as pointless as comparing speedskating to curling. Those are both on ice, but that’s about where the comparison stops.
      If MotoGP excites you more, that’s OK. But comparing the two gets us pretty close to wanting similar rules and conditions for both too, and that’s not what this is supposed to be about.

      Quite often, even here, there’s comparisons to football, soccer if you like. But nothing compares to F1, and nothing compares to soccer. Soccer doesn’t need any references to F1, F1 doesn’t need any to soccer. Or any other sports.

      1. You’re making something simple seem very complicated!

        Like pretty much every motorsport fan alive, I like to see competition for the podium positions throughout a race. Large gaps between cars as they cross the line = anti-climax.

        Even in Saturday’s Sprint Race, Max was 7 seconds ahead of Piastri in 2nd, and 5th placed Leclerc was 15 seconds behind. That’s after only 11 laps!

        Yes, this means I tend to prefer MotoGP but that in itself frustrates me as I have followed F1 for far longer.

        1. I’d like to see some stats on average gaps between 1st and 2nd in a season. I have the impression that there have been very few seasons since I started watching (early 90s) where it’s been normal for gaps to be a handful of seconds, but I don’t trust my memory.

          That said, I do believe that to get such close racing you would need to get close to a spec series. If every team is building a car from the ground up, you are bound to get larger differences in performance.

          In MotoGP, for instance, far more people are riding effectively the same bikes and many areas of development are even more heavily restricted* to keep on-track competition close. Basically, there isn’t the same scale of technical competition as in F1 by a long shot. It is more like having e.g. RBR, Mercedes and Ferrari supply chassis to teams, then have each team able to just do a little setup/tweaking, rather than having each team build their own car from scratch.

          * “even more” because F1 is already incredibly heavily restricted

        2. Coventry Climax
          31st July 2023, 14:59

          Call me dead then. Massive gaps on the finish line are as old as F1 itself.
          I started following F1 early sixties. So, like drmouse, I maybe shouldn’t trust my memory (anymore).
          Occasionally, the finishes are really close, and yes, that’s nice.
          But large gaps are frequent, and the very large gaps, annihilating the entire field, are awe inspiring. To me at least. The ones that regularly shatter the entire field are remembered as the real heroes. Occasional winners aren’t, and that’s what you get more of with spec cars and BoP and other such equalising rules. No glory. Might as well equalise their length, hairdo, facial features and outfits too. To me, that’s boring.

          1. That’s true, we just had a spa race, so I kind of remember some spa domination in the rain by stewart and clark in different years, and back then the lap was twice today’s length or something, where 1 of the 2 was close to lapping the 2nd placed driver, and the other won with a 5 mins gap, and they were in the 60s.

        3. Even worse than that, there was a SC mid race too, so must’ve been significantly less than 11 laps!

    2. What dilutes your point about MotoGP is less people watch it. Motorsport fans have a habit of comparing F1 unfavorably to less-watched motorsports.

      I have a lot of issues with F1 and various decisions that are made, but there’s often a disconnect between what people say they want and how they consume things.

      1. Those aren’t the same ‘they’, though. There are various reasons someone might watch, casually follow, or just keep up to date with F1 – and they don’t necessarily overlap, so the concerns of one viewer can be pretty irrelevant to someone else.

        The great success F1 enjoys to this day is thanks to Ecclestone and his group turning F1 into a made-for-TV entertainment spectacle. The amount of attention given to the soap opera side of F1 underlines this perfectly, as is the way teams who have a record of constant failure are still portrayed as being great outfits because they’re in F1.

        It’s impossible to tell obviously, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a very large share of F1 viewers doesn’t watch any other form of racing. Totally fair of course, but it also means they don’t really care if someone – as you note – draws comparisons to other racing series.

    3. Not only that, but they race in the rain from what people said, getting envious of people who watched motogp for long now!

  4. Coventry Climax
    31st July 2023, 11:28

    If communication is critical to all relationships (yes, plural), then there can not be a place where it is more critical over another. That’s the essence of the word critical.
    Like limit, there’s no such thing as utter limit, as utter is already embedded within the word limit. Equally, there’s no such thing as a little bit pregnant.

    Also, within the pitlane, communication between driver and race engineer is critical not only in F1, but also in all other race classes that make use of a race engineer – or driver, for that matter. Plus there’s the communication of those two to the rest of the team of many heads, which is critital too.

    I don’t think there’s any real friction between the two, but I understand the wishful thinking behind it from people that have a clear favorite team or driver.

    Otherwise nice read.

    1. notagrumpyfan
      31st July 2023, 22:42

      In F1 it’s possible to be the most critical as many drivers exceed the utter limit which even amazes the half pregnant fans.
      At least according to many fans who claim their driver outperformed their car.
      Biut maybe that’s because they gave it 110% ;)

  5. Coventry Climax
    31st July 2023, 11:37

    On the picture:
    Nothing beats the ugly colored gorilla’s they were handed on the French podium last couple of years, but this isn’t exactly one of the prettiest trophies either, in my opinion. What’s this chinese wall style tower doing on top of it?

    1. Fred Fedurch
      31st July 2023, 13:40

      What’s this chinese wall style tower doing on top of it?

      It looks more like the business end of an air vent clip in mount for a phone/GPS to me.

    2. Can’t blame norris for dropping such trophies!

    3. Kimi loved the gorilla.

  6. Early in season PER won a race and CER took fastest lap from him because team told PER to coast to finish. So we’re to believe that they still have identical cars when VER can win by 20 seconds in 20 laps??? Not buying it’s the same car. PER might not be as good but he’s not that bad.

    1. Coventry Climax
      31st July 2023, 15:08

      Welcome to reality!
      Even with Trump caught with his hands in the cookie jar and the crumbs on his face, there’s still people believing him when he says he was just inspecting the lid.

    2. Max won 1,3 s in sector 2 on Average!!! To Perez. And did tyre saving in sectors 1 and 3 but was only 0,2s of Perez there.. so actually he is much faster, especially in wet and changeable conditions.. Perez just doesn’t have the same skills. Can’t extract everything from the front end and suffers overheating rear tyres as he tries to compensate out of the corners. The car is basically identical just some (Minot) setup differences. The rest is handling the car and the tyres. And Max is doing that Maxsterfully.

      1. In the middle stint..

    3. At the contrary. The problem is that they have the same car! If you have two drivers in a team with different driving styles one of the drivers will always suffer. Teams will always design and develop their car with the quickest and most established driver in the team in mind. That is why it is so difficult tot succeed alongside Verstappen for Gasly, Albon and even Perez. This does not only happen at Red Bull but at every team in the paddock. There is no time and there are no resources to take a second development route to help the second driver. For that reason I personally think it would be interesting to see Danny Ric back in the RB because his preferences for a car are a lot closer to that of Max.

      1. So Max can never win this debate can he? He either has a different (read: better) car or they have the same car and then it only suits his driving style. Great. Hahahaha How about the option that he is just that good and this is multiplied by the fact that Perez should have been out of a drive if it hadn’t been for Ricciardo leaving? And people tend to forget it is not just the driving that makes a driver good. It’s the approach to the whole weekend, the ability to build up the sessions, to fine tune the car to your liking, tuned to specific track conditions. To challenge your team, even mid race. I know a lot of former champions that were not able to read a race or oppose/challenge their team in the pits yet they became champion despite. Imagine if you bring all that extra. That will translate into race pace. I feel people are disrespectful to his achievements, but that is just my humble opinion having watched this sport for decades.

  7. Why didn’t he pit for fastest lap? He had the gap didn’t he?

    1. He had the gap. However, it would have been a risk. A small delay in the pit stop would have put him behind Perez, plus pushing hard* to get the fastest lap could have resulted in a crash, zero points and costly repairs. It would also put greater stress on the engine, increasing the chances of unreliability later.

      Put simply, when he and the team are so far ahead, taking that chance for 1 point wasn’t worth it. All it would have been was an ego boost for Max at best.

      * I say “pushing hard”… I suspect he still doesn’t push either himself or the car to their limits when putting in the fastest laps right now. He can finish 20s ahead of the rest of the field and look like he’s just had a nap. I’m not surprised he wants to do something to try to make the races interesting for himself. It wouldn’t even surprise me much if he sat and had a sandwich at a pit stop, or pulled over to check his messages during a race… He’s got the time to do it.

      1. Hamilton’s lap was 1.6s faster than what was the best lap before it and it wasn’t even that fast, so very little risk there, to go for the FL.

        They probably just wanted to have a say in it for a change.

    2. He had the gap at the end of the race. However, he needed it with 2 laps to go (out lap, hot lap). If I remember correctly, it was touch and go at that point and the slightest delay would have put him behind Perez. Look at Leclerc last year…

  8. Fred Fedurch
    31st July 2023, 13:54

    “It wouldn’t even surprise me much if he sat and had a sandwich at a pit stop, or pulled over to check his messages during a race… He’s got the time to do it.”

    Go to YouTube and type Hakån Carlqvist Beer Stop Namur 1988 into the search. It’s a video of Carla pulling over to the fence before the finish line while leading the Belgian 500cc GP, taking a beer offered from a “spectator” (may have been a friend), downing the beer, then nonchalantly carrying on across the finish line.

  9. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    31st July 2023, 15:02

    I think Verstappen has got to the point he needs something of a distraction in the race else he is liable to fall asleep at the wheel.

    Journos making big things out of the back and forth messages but in a race I don’t think any of it means much to the relationship between driver and race engineer.

  10. With apologies to Max and Red Bull fans, I think the current racing in F1 is pretty unexciting. I think this is very well demonstrated by the fact that one of the main talking points of a GP weekend is Max’s exchange of messages with his race engineer. Because near the front of the main race, nothing of any significance happened.

    I do completely appreciate that there has been many periods of one team/driver domination before. The McLaren’s in the late 80s/early 90’s. Schumacher and Ferrari, Vettel in his early years at Red Bull and of course Lewis and the Mercs. But in some of these periods there was, at least some seasons, a decent challenge from a team mate. It’s just all too one sided.

    I think the other thing is the racing itself. Although there are sometimes decent battles below the first place, with DRS and the current tyre rules i.e. new tyres are nearly always better, there is a certain predictability in most situations about what is going to happen. I mean the car with DRS will pass the slower, or even the slightly faster car in front. The car on the fresher tyres will nearly always drive past the opponent just because of the better grip.

    Then with the current generation of cars, even the previously challenging circuits are no longer a challenge. On the race commentary this weekend I must have heard the phrase saying drivers having in previous years, to lift off in a certain corner, whereas they can now take it at speed, flat out, maybe ten times. There seems to be a limited challenge in the racing. Even though I accept and understand it is still really dangerous.

    I will always be an F1 fan but I regret to say, I am finding 2023 all a bit too dull.

    1. I should also make clear, that Red Bull have done a fantastic job with their car this year and Max is clearly is an exceptionally talented driver. Up there with the likes of Lewis and Fernando, Schumacher, Senna, etc.

      1. I agree both that Max and Red Bull are doing fantastically, and also that this is contributing to making the races less exciting.

        That said, I do think the racing down the field has been the best for 20-25 years. The gap from fastest team to slowest team is probably the closest it’s ever been in F1, even with the Red Bull’s speed. We see great things from most teams most weekends, with plenty of overtakes… it’s just that the battle is to come ‘1st of the rest’ rather than ‘1st outright’.

        The only teams that haven’t really stepped forward this year are Mercedes and Ferrari. If they’d shown the same kind of improvement we’ve seen from Aston Martin and McLaren, Red Bull would have had more of a fight on their hands. Below them though, I’m impressed by every team on the grid.

        On the structural stuff:
        – DRS served a purpose once as a sticking plaster, but it’s outstayed its welcome. I’d like it to go, but if the TV people insist it’s kept, the zones should be drastically reduced. If there’s a 33% chance of passing on the main straight, that’s exciting; if there’s a 99% chance of passing, it isn’t.
        – I don’t much mind the tyres: they provide a reason for pit stops and strategy shuffles. Part of your criticism is that we know someone on fresh tyres will overtake someone on old tyres. But if we binned DRS, that wouldn’t be such a sure thing: I’d enjoy seeing someone on beaten-up tyres put up an old-fashioned defence. But DRS has to go (or be massively reduced) first.

        Honestly, ditching DRS would get me most of the way there – especially as Red Bull have the best DRS in the business, and without it, I think they’d lose quite a few pole positions + find it to overtake back.

        But ditching DRS while also seeing a Mercedes/Ferrari massive upgrade after the summer break would be perfect.

        1. @smallvizier some very fair comments here. The removal of DRS or weakening of its application, might make a great deal of difference. I still think something needs to be done about the tyres. They just need to be better and not so fussy to get to work and/or temperature sensitive.

          The performance of Red Bull’s most serious challengers from the most recent years has been pretty mediocre. I am referring to Merc and Ferrari of course.

          1. Yes, also think drs needs to go or at least reduced in effectiveness significantly, motorway passes are not interesting and weren’t a thing before drs, and we really lack competitive challengers lately, only red bull and merc proved to be able to do a decent job across a whole season, in 2021; ferrari in 2022 got outdeveloped and had terrible strategies (both are a tradition at this point), but at least occasionally start the season with a decent car, and so far no one else brought a consistently competitive car, aston martin did a good jump early on this season, then faded and mclaren is doing well now, but we’ll see how long it lasts.

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