Recently returned from the repairers, my crystal ball revealed to me a glimpse of the future and it’s one where Max Verstappen and Red Bull will be crowned Drivers’ and Constructors’ Formula 1 World Champions for 2022.
Some may say it is too early to make such predictions but based on what I saw in the Grand Prix du Canada, the crystal ball wasn’t necessary.
It is already game, set and match. The rest of the season is just “froth on beer”. Red Bull has the fatal combination (for the other teams that is), of confidence, competence, best chassis, best engine (race) and, for the moment, the best driver (in race trim), to pilot it.
Fernando Alonso flew the flag valiantly in a wet qualifying
Parking it on the front row next to Verstappen was an impressive performance. Proving the 40-year-young Spaniard has lost none of his impish character or skills at the wheel of a Formula 1 car.
Unfortunately, the great weather leveller – rain – would not be there the following day, leaving the Dutch Champion to smile wryly at Alonso’s pretensions of “attacking” in the race (I guess Alonso didn’t know that he was ¾ of a second adrift from Max’s pole time).
Regrettably, the Alpine is a few “chorizo’s” short of a package “picnic” because the chassis is good, very good in fact, but the engine… The BWT boys have to run a low downforce wing to compensate for its lack of “beans”, compromising their cornering speeds, which at times also limits their straight-line performance.
A vicious circle, and a similar experience for the majority of the teams on the grid. They all have strengths in one area or another, but not enough to seriously threaten the “Bulls’, not even Ferrari.
Sainz chasing Verstappen only flattered to deceive
All talk post-race about the pressure applied on Max by Sainz and how he kept him honest flattered to deceive.
For me, Max “schooled” the Spaniard, letting the “dog see the rabbit” just enough to think he could catch him and skank his tires in the process. The Ferrari F1-75 is good, but no match for the Red Bull, especially with Max behind the wheel.
Always faster into, through and out of the critical Turn 10 corner than Sainz and anyone else for that matter. He was able to neutralise the subsequent DRS zone and leave Carlos a fine view of his gearbox lap after lap.
When the race finished, a relaxed Verstappen exited the car. His words to Jenson Button said Ferrari “kept him under pressure to the end” but his body language exuded an altogether different message – more of a “this is in the bag” kind of smile.
Max 2.0 is very different to last year’s version
The earlier version had all the charm and personality of a highway cone when interviewed and was vulnerable at times to being sucker-punched on the track. This year he is more relaxed, engaging well with the media and projecting an aura of untroubled indifference to his competitors.
All that is except Hamilton. The only time Max got excited in Canada – detected from his radio transmission – was when Lewis passed him as he left the pits on lap 44. Hamilton initially pulled away as it appeared Verstappen was thrown off his groove by the Multi World Champion’s appearance in front of him.
However, normal service was quickly resumed as the young Dutchman remembered it was 2022, not 2021, pulled it all together and made easy work of him into the Turn 10 Hairpin.
Finally, a question: As a regulatory body, how do you know that you are being fair to “everyone”? Answer: When “everyone” hates you.
Meanwhile, the sport’s governing body has found some gears after years in neutral
It was difficult for anyone from the FIA to find a friend last weekend in the Paddock. The well-meant Technical Directive, designed to ameliorate some of the driver health issues caused by the stiff nature of the 2022 F1 chassis, seemed to attract derision from everyone (other than Mercedes).
The FIA promised to move ‘heaven’ and ‘earth’ to protect them, so why was everyone so concerned? Well, with a connection to the ‘earth’ being the primary problem and ‘heaven’ currently the only authority that might offer any real relief, the idea that the FIA might attempt to ‘move’ any of them (including the goal posts) appeared to be an issue of concern.
Before the arrival of the new President, the FIA was cruising along in neutral. Now we have someone prepared to take action. Constructive dialogue to solve the issue is the better way forward not public brickbats. I think there’s more to come on this story in the following weeks.