By Vlad Roman,
General Manager, Smart Games
The Dutch Grand Prix at the end of August was nothing short of madness with lots of rain, chaos and an unstoppable Verstappen – not even the atmospheric conditions.
Qualifying started in wet conditions and was initially dominated by the McLaren drivers, but Verstappen delivered the coup de grace – setting a time more than half a second faster than Lando Norris, the second-placed on the grid.
Sunday, at the start of the race, after turn 3… rain!
Intermediate tires are immediately changed and Perez takes the lead. After ten laps the track dries, Verstappen changes faster and resumes his position as leader to the amazement of his teammate who did not make the undercut. Seven laps later Logan Sargeant hits the kerb, loses control and stops in the safety barrier – the safety car comes in leading the peloton until lap 22, all the cars are on slick tires but the sky darkens and the chances of rain increase which appears in round 60.
Chaos!… the rain intensifies, Perez skids and concedes 2nd place to Alonso, later Zhou has a violent crash and the race is stopped. After a break of 43 minutes, the madness resumes, with a start behind the safety car and mandatory intermediate tires, Max first, followed by Alonso, Perez and Gasly. There was a moment when Alonso thought he might have a chance to overtake Max on the restart… but let’s be serious!, the man is unstoppable.
In the end, Max equals Vettel’s record of 9 consecutive races won, Alonso climbs to the second step of the podium and Perez, being penalized by 5 seconds, is forced to give up 3rd place to Gasly.
As usual, the European Formula 1 season ends at Monza, which is also Pirelli’s home circuit. Monza is synonymous with speed, its nickname “Temple of Speed” underscoring this. To this day, it is the site of the fastest race in Formula 1 history, with Michael Schumacher achieving an unbeatable average of 247.585km/h in 2003.
As a result, teams use the lowest possible downforce to favor the development of top speeds by reducing drag. Stability under braking and traction when exiting the two chicanes are two factors that place exceptional demands on the tires, as well as the lateral forces exerted on the tires in fast corners such as the Parabolica (named after Michele Alboreto) and the Curva Grande.
In Friday’s practice Ferrari looked good, Sainz set the fastest time and to the delight of the fans he did the same the following day, both in the final practice session and in qualifying.
With Sainz in first place and Leclerc in third, hopes are high for Ferrari to break Red Bull’s winning streak, but they are aware that Max cannot be beaten easily… “Dreaming costs nothing,” says Sainz, “I think nothing is impossible tomorrow, especially if you start from the first position, if I get a good start I will do everything to stay in front of Max. They were faster in 100% of the races this year – and significantly so. That’s why I know it won’t be easy, because they will try to find a way to overtake us. But something could happen.”
On Sunday, at the start, the weather is gorgeous – 29 degrees Celsius in the air and 42 degrees on the ground. Sainz beat Verstappen at the start but was unable to break away, desperately trying to keep the Red Bull behind him at high speed and barely fending off the first attack on lap 8. On lap 15 Sainz braked at the first chicane, immediately Verstappen was there, overtook the Spaniard, then started to take a second from him a lap.
It was not easy for the second driver from Ferrari, he fought to keep Checo behind him, however the Red Bull single-seater is clearly superior so on the 46th lap he had to give up the position. He is now being pressured by teammate Leclerc, withstood multiple aggressive attacks from him who ignored pleas from the pits to fight without taking risks and on the last lap almost hit the Spaniard in the first corner.
At the end of the race Max ticks off his 10th consecutive victory surpassing Vettel’s record, his teammate Perez takes the 2nd position and Ferrari has to please its fans with the 3rd and 4th positions obtained with a difference of 11 seconds from the winner.