Formula 1

By Vlad Roman,
General Manager Smart Games

After 3 weeks of vacation, Formula 1 returned to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit in Belgium, the longest circuit in the F1 calendar and also the circuit with the biggest level difference.

A bit of history… Spa, like Silverstone, Monza and Monaco has hosted Formula 1 races since the championship was founded in 1950. In the first race, 18 competitors lined up, Nino Farina was on pole position but the race was won by Juan Manuel Fangio aboard an Alfa Romeo. At that time, the circuit had 14,120 kilometers covered in 35 circuit laps, i.e. a distance of 494.2 kilometers. Over time the circuit has undergone some important changes and today it has reached a length of 7 kilometers and 4 meters with 20 corners and a record of 1:46.286 set in 2018 by Valtteri Bottas aboard a Mercedes W09. Spa is a fast and very technical circuit, the most famous sections are Raidillon, Eau Rouge and Kemmel Straight, but overall as Bernie Ecclestone said it is the circuit that separates the boys from the men.

During the weekend of the grand prix, the Ardennes mountains were invaded by 360,000 motorsport fans, mostly supporters of Max Verstappen and Red Bull. Although qualifying placed Max (Red Bull) in first place and Charles (Ferrari) in 4th place, due to penalties they had to start the race after 14th and 15th respectively. It was a recovery race for both drivers world title contenders, Red Bull’s strategy paid off and Max Verstappen was able to earn the 25 points for first place plus the point for the fastest lap in the race. The Red Bull drivers took the first two positions, thus increasing the distance to the second place in the constructors’ championship, Ferrari. The podium was completed by the second pilot from Ferrari, Carlos Sainz. Leclerc had to make a pit stop on lap 3 due to Verstappen’s visor foil sticking to the right front brake air intake and as if that wasn’t enough, Ferrari strategists called him to the pits with 3 laps to go to put softs on him…wrong move lost 5th position due to 5 second pit stop speeding penalty and didn’t even manage a lap faster than Max.

A week away, the Dutch grand prix was held at the Zandcoort circuit, a circuit that was inaugurated in 1948 and which hosted the first Formula 1 grand prix in 1952 with a clear victory for Alberto Ascari, the Ferrari cars ranking first 3 seats.

The Dutch circuit is “old school”, quite fast and technical with two DRS zones and 14 corners.

At home Verstappen attracted more than 300,000 spectators during the grand prix weekend, just as in Belgium he rewarded his fans with pole position, 1st place and the fastest lap. He was followed on the podium by Mercedes’ George Russell and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc. For Max the race seemed simple, he left first led the race, finished first. Russell’s Mercedes reached the finish line second followed by Leclerc in 3rd place. Russell’s strategy paid off, he asked for a tire change, he forced the entrance to the pit when the “safety car” appeared, while Hamilton was not granted the pit thus losing the opportunity to get on the podium.

Four days away we arrived at Monza… Temple of speed! Extraordinary atmosphere, organization below expectations, attendance record – 337,000 spectators during the “gran premio” weekend. The Italians are confident that this year with drivers like Leclerc and Sainz, with such a good car, at the celebration of the centenary of the circuit and 75 years of Ferrari, it is not possible not to win the pony on the red car.

Qualifying gave the fans even more to cheer about with Leclerc on pole position and Sainz in 3rd, between them who else? – Max Verstappen. Everyone happy, the party at the “Fan Zone” continued long after the qualifiers were over. There was also a parade of Alfa Romeo cars attended by 112 collectors chosen to represent the 112-year history of the Alfa Romeo brand. At the head of the column of cars was a 1929 Alfa 6C 1750 Super Sport driven by Stefano Domenicali – CEO of Formula 1 and Jean-Philippe Imparato – CEO of Alfa Romeo in a 1965 Giulia Sprint GTA. Too bad the Scuderia Alfa Romeo drivers didn’t make it to bring points to the team on this circuit so closely linked to the history of the brand.

Sunday…madness!, weak organization, very long queues, lots of people, it takes you about two hours to reach the circuit on foot from the center of Monza, by car it’s even harder. The race was quite close although dominated by Max Verstappen, it was a kind of Abu Dhabi of 2021 but without the finish that gave the drivers a chance to compete in the last lap. Basically the Italian grand prix was won by Aston Martin, the safety car, not the AMR22 cars that failed to reach the finish line.

Joking aside, Max also won the Monza Grand Prix, Leclerc managed to please the Ferrari fans with 2nd place and George Russell placed his Mercedes in 3rd place.

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