Parc Ferme: Spa was a comedy of errors

SPA, BELGIUM - AUGUST 27: Pole position qualifier Max Verstappen of the Netherlands and Oracle Red Bull Racing celebrates in the garage during qualifying ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Belgium at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on August 27, 2022 in Spa, Belgium. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Question: What is sure a sure sign that you really have made it in Formula 1 as a driver?
Answer: When the regulations do not apply to you anymore.

Or even better when the Officials start offering up excuses on your behalf. Hence, I would like to be the first to tender my congratulations to Max Verstappen.

This accolade was bestowed on him when it was announced there would be no further action regarding him overtaking under a yellow flag in FP3 since – “there was no incident and the Digi flag had been erroneously activated”.

Summoned earlier by the beaks in FP2 at Spa for contravening the race director’s notes regarding practice starts. I can only imagine that he was reprimanded with an apology for taking up his time with such a trivial matter and then asked to pose for a “selfie” and sign a couple of e-bay destined t-shirts

It’s not about Max…

For those of you who think I am having a pop at the “Klompmeister”, I am not.  It’s about Officials ignoring a major transgression and a potentially dangerous mistake. And a mistake I’m sure it was, but this misses the point. Regardless of whether there was an incident or not, or if the Digi flag was accidentally activated is irrelevant.

It’s the “not seeing it and/or reacting to it” that is the issue. Much in the same way that if a policeman signals you to stop on the road, you stop since failing to do so will land you in court. Try arguing that you were not the car they were looking for and that he signalled you erroneously with the judge and see where that gets you!

A slippery slope

A laissez-faire approach to such a serious driver failure sends the wrong message to all the others, particularly the younger ones. The flag was yellow, he did not slow down! Drivers do not and cannot decide whether they must slow under a yellow, or not.

The Officials must at least be seen to be “hauling him over the coals” on this issue.

Instead, with the t-shirts already in the bag after FP2, they probably didn’t want to trouble him further and pleaded his case for him. I hope Max said “bedankt”.


Spa race misses “the Hammer”

While Max swept all before him from a 14th place grid start, the Spa race itself was for large parts, tame. Leclerc never looked like a winner from the back and while Sainz delivered an admiral job at the front, there was no stopping the young Dutchman and his Newey rocket.

Meanwhile, the boy George did his normal “thing” – finishing in the top 4 and Perez completed a perfect weekend for the Bulls.  The only one who was likely to disturb this predictable result was Hamilton. Unfortunately, his ignominious exit at Les Combes on the opening lap of the race was as much our loss as his.

We’ve seen this before…

The incident was not too dissimilar to the one between Max and himself at Copse last year, although this time he (Hamilton) was on the outside.  Always a vulnerable place to be when overtaking, I felt Alonso did as much as he could to give him space, climbing the kerb to avoid the collision.

The radio rant from the 2 times world champion post contact was not surprising then. Although I think he unintentionally gave him a backhanded compliment. When he suggested the seven times world champion “only knows how to start from the front!” This is somewhat a testament to the success of the 37-year-old driver who has competed in more than a hundred Grand Prix’s!

Admitting the mistake though probably saved Hamilton from the furious social media backlash that was probably brewing at the time. However, it represented a low for him and the team at a weekend when they had probably expected that TD0039 would change their season. And it did, only not in the way they expected!

Hakkinen: Difficult to see Leclerc challenge Verstappen for title

Ferrari, it just gets better but not in a good way at Spa

Finally talking of “lows”, everyone seems to have become accustomed to faux pax’s from the Ferrari’s garage. So much so that the high volume of media traffic appears to have slowed. To right this wrong I’m going to highlight one of my favourites from the weekend.

One that was a very public admittance during qualifying as to the level of “cock uppery” going on in the Maranello outfit’s box. Leclerc had just exited the pits to give his teammate a tow to get him on pole when he asked, “what are these tires?” “Scrubs” replied his engineer. “Scrubs?!” retorted Leclerc.

“Yes, sorry, we made a mistake,” was the forlorn response from Marcos Padros. Poor guy. Having alerted the world to this comedy gift, I presume he’s been relegated to wheel cleaning duties for the balance of the season.