Belgium Takeaways: A much needed break for Verstappen's rivals

Belgium Takeaways: A much needed break for Verstappen’s rivals

Belgium Takeaways: A much needed break for Verstappen's rivals

The Belgium Grand Prix marked the end of the first part of the 2023 Formula 1 season, with the summer break now a chance for Max Verstappen’s and Red Bull’s rivals to lick their wounds.

A tenth Grand Prix win this season for Verstappen, a 12th for Red Bull and a one two for the team with Sergio Perez seemingly on the rise, created a fitting ending for the first part of the F1 season underway, that has been utterly dominated by the Milton Keynes squad as Mercedes, Aston Martin, Ferrari, and now McLaren all taking turns on fighting for the second-best status.

The experience so far for the top teams other than Red Bull, has been bruising, and the summer break is a much needed chance for them to take a breath after being pounded race in race out by the double F1 Champion and his trusty steed, the magnificent RB19, and also maybe find some answers on how to close the gap.

If there is something we can be sure of, it is that Verstappen is not slowing down. He can win no matter where he starts from, and is on his way to breaking many records before the curtain falls on this F1 season.

Baku, where Verstappen struggled against Perez seems to be such a long time ago, as after that weekend, he has won everything and utterly destroyed his teammate in the process.

The rain in Spa served more frustration than excitement, especially as we had to wait for the Sprint Race and its Shootout to start with track conditions deemed unsuitable for any driving.

It is understandable, with the safety concerns regarding visibility for the chasing cars, but especially when you have to wait over half an hour and then watch 11 laps of the Sprint, it is frustrating.

But then safety is paramount, and the solution the FIA are working on in terms of “Spray Guards” can’t come soon enough. Early signs from initial testing are not encouraging, but let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Honestly, there is nothing more to be said about Verstappen, other than that he made his teammate’s RB19 look like an F2 car with the way he caught and passed him on race day.

Having said that though, the first of our 2023 Belgium Grand Prix Takeaways this time goes to Checo Perez.

Perez finally on the road to recovery?

Belgium was the second F1 weekend since Daniel Ricciardo returned to an F1 seat, which means it is the second weekend where Perez was driving under pressure, and he has responded well so far.

In Hungary he was back on the podium, but he did crash in practice and his qualifying was subpar, but in Belgium he qualified third for the Grand Prix which was an improvement, his eighth place in the Sprint Shootout not so much.

His incident with Lewis Hamilton in the Sprint Race was avoidable, and while the stewards penalized the Mercedes driver, it was a racing incident and a penalty was uncalled for.

But overall, it was a better race weekend from the Mexican, his second place in Sunday’s Grand Prix being just what the doctor ordered – Dr. Marko that is – for the #2 Red Bull driver.

However the best thing that we can take away from Perez’s weekend at Spa, is that he admitted that the target was to remain on the podium while delivering consistent performances.

For the first time he did not shoot his mouth off, claiming he can challenge Verstappen for the Title, as the reigning Champion seems to have silenced him in the regards.

Perez’s big mistake at the start of the season was pissing Max off, and now he realized the consequences of his actions and seems to have learned his lesson. At least let’s hope so.

All Red Bull want from Perez is to have Verstappen’s back, maximize the team’s points haul and on the days when the Dutchman has an off, take over the charge, but not the Championship charge.

It was reported that Perez has called on the services of a psychiatric, and the early signs are encouraging. F1 drivers are complex beings, and sometimes the problem is only in their heads.

Oscar Piastri learns speed is not enough…

Piastri delivered a superb weekend in Belgium, the faster of the McLaren drivers all weekend, always finding pace in the tricky conditions the weather has presented, while teammate Lando Norris struggled.

His Sprint Shootout and the Sprint Race were impressive and his rewards was finishing second best behind Verstappen, which had us all looking to the race on Sunday to see what the rookie could do starting from fifth on the grid.

But too bad, his race didn’t go past the first lap, after his first-lap incident with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, which just showed the McLaren youngster still needs to learn how to pick his battles.

Don’t get me wrong, it was as much Sainz’s fault as it was Piastri’s, and given the Spaniard’s experience over 174 grands prix, the Australian can be excused for this one.

However, Piastri has shown he has abundancy of talent, and that McLaren moving heaven and earth to have him in one of their cars was the right thing to do. He has even shown to be calm and mature in the way he goes around doing his racing, so the only thing left now, is to rack up the miles and the experience, because raw pace and talent are not enough.

One thing for sure, Piastri in Belgium last weekend, gave Norris a lot to ponder on over the summer break.

Quick Hits

  • Ferrari seemed to have some good pace in Belgium, and Charles Leclerc’s this place on Sunday serves as a boost for the Scuderia heading into the summer break.
  • Fernando Alonso’s spin in the Sprint was something we are not used to seeing from the Spaniard, but his grand prix on Sunday, finishing fifth was a decent effort from the driver who turned 42 over the weekend. Happy Birthday Fernando!
  • What is going on at Alpine, dumping their boss over the course of the weekend? Couldn’t the announcement wait till Monday?
    Speaking of Alpine, a shoutout to Pierre Gasly on his Sprint Race performance.
  • Hamilton complained about his Mercedes bouncing around again, something we haven’t heard from the seven-time F1 Champ and his team for while now.
    Is there reason to worry over at the eight-time F1 Constructors’ Champions’ camp? Or is it just a one off?
  • It was another weekend of George Russell playing catch as Hamilton was faster than him in qualifying, the Shootout, the Sprint, and the Grand Prix.
  • After beating Yuki Tsunoda in their first weekend together as AlphaTauri teammates in Hungary, Daniel Ricciardo was more on the same level as the Japanese driver, but we have the rest of the year to see how they stack up against each other.
  • Finally, when are Pirelli going to do something about their Wet tyres that no one on the F1 grid wants to use, and with the tyre-conservation experiment the sport tried back in Hungary in mind, how many sets of the Blue banded tyres were thrown away in Belgium?

Takeaways will return after the summer break…