5 THINGS WE LEARNED IN PORTUGAL AND SPAIN
1. Lewis Hamilton will continue in 2022 and beyond
There was some question as to whether Lewis was considering retiring whilst at the peak of his prowess. The speculation fueled by the one year contract that Hamilton signed with Mercedes prior to the start of this season left some very intriguing unanswered questions about his future plans outside of FORMULA 1. Many were asking if Hamilton would retire if he was to secure a record breaking eighth championship title.
However, that speculation was firmly put to bed prior to the Portugal race following a test session with the new Pirelli 2022 18 inch wheel and tyre. Lewis confirmed that the test was in preparation for him driving the 2022 car and he also recently confirmed he wants to have completed negotiations on a new multi year contract by the mid-season break in August this year.
Great news for FORMULA 1: we want to have the best drivers in the sport for as long as they’re competitive.
2. Alpine are finding their groove
Slowly but steadily the Alpine team are finding some form. The qualifying performance by Ocon and Alonso in Spain was very impressive, starting the race from 5th and 6th positions was probably a little unexpected, but just highlights the progress the team has made in such a short space of time. Unfortunately the rather aggressive, or possibly foolish, one stop race strategy in Spain spoiled the overall good weekend for both Ocon who dropped to 9th and particularly so for Alonso who finished in 17th, despite looking very competitive in the middle part of the race.
However, both drivers were very enthusiastic about the possibilities going forward, especially if they can show that kind of qualifying pace at the next race, Monaco.
“Until we put the car there and we do the qualifying we will not know exactly, but I think looking at our performance in qualifying we should be in good shape in Monaco. I hope that we are going to be able to perform as good, so I think we can give a fight to the Ferraris and the other cars around in qualifying. I’m pretty confident,” said Estaban Ocon.
3. Ferrari are back
Sure, Ferrari didn’t win a race, or qualify in pole position, or even finish on the podium, but even their biggest critic could not hesitate to concede that Ferrari are back with a car capable of fighting for the places towards the front of the grid after a tumultuous and difficult 2020 season. If you’re interested to read more about the cause of the poor performances during last season, you can check out our previous article The Real Reason Ferrari Were So Slow in 2020.
Charles Leclerc is driving better than ever and it’s difficult to argue with the fact that the car is improving with each race. In the Portugal race Charles finished an encouraging 6th, scoring eight points, before going on to show some real signs of performance in Spain, finishing in 4th place scoring a further twelve points. Sainz is a little way behind that and has looked a little more inconsistent than his team mate, but let’s not forget that Carlos has had very little time to adjust to the new car, completing only a shortened pre-season testing phase and the four Grand Prix. There's lots to be positive about in the Ferrari camp at the moment and I am sure they are hopeful of some big points scoring finishes for the rest of the season. I would not be surprised to see Leclerc or Sainz on the top step at a race later this season.
4. Aston Martin developed themselves into a low-rake corner
Possibly the most disappointing aspect of the early season races is how uncompetitive the newly branded Aston Martin team’s car is - especially considering how good the car was last season, prior to the minor aero changes that were required ahead of this season. The team formerly known as Racing Point not so long ago were winning races and challenging for big points finishes, with Perez and Stroll pushing on two fronts. The mandatory aero changes seemingly ruined the low-rake aero package that the team had so effectively developed - which of course also impacted the performance of the Mercedes car, especially evident during the opening race in Bahrain.
However it seems Mercedes were able to overcome those difficulties and quickly develop something to resolve the drop in performance. Aston Martin have not been able to rapidly develop themselves out of the corner they find themselves in, which has led to their team principal Otmar Szafnauer speaking publicly about the performance deficit since the new aero regulations were introduced. Otmar criticised the FIA and asked for talks with them to understand the procedures of its legislature. It’s likely the political dance between Aston Martin and the FIA will continue to rumble on in the background; in the mean-time the team has had to introduce developments in a bid to catch up with the opposition. Which to date, has yet to yield any encouraging results.
Vettel must be wondering what he has signed up for and we can’t help but feel sorry for him.
5. Yuki Tsunoda has a temper that needs managing
Yuki entered FORMULA 1 this season with much promise after a very rapid march through the lower formulas. It’s easy to forget at times that Yuki is still very young; his birth date is this side of the millennium which is a scary thought for most of us that have been following FORMULA 1 for multiple decades. So we should not put too much pressure on young Tsunoda in the early part of the season. However the opening race of the year showed so much promise that it’s understandable to feel disappointed with the outcome of the following races, despite the engine failure in Spain that prematurely ended Yuki’s race through no fault of his own.
Yes, the race weekend in Spain was a write-off following that engine failure, but there were signs throughout the weekend that Yuki was letting his temper get the better of him, and losing control of your emotions whilst in the seat of one of the most powerful racing machines on the planet is not wise and will ultimately negatively impact concentration and performance. It’s a fine balance between controlled aggression and a snap of temper, but unfortunately Yuki crossed that line during qualifying in Spain. He reacted furiously on team radio after he was eliminated in P16 during Q1, saying: “I can’t ******* believe this car!” which required some apologetic back-tracking the following day. Yuki rightly posted on twitter: "I wanted to apologize for my comments today. I didn’t mean to criticize the team who have done a great job all weekend. I was just frustrated with my performance”.
Keep your cool Yuki, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Unless of course it is a sprint, at Silverstone, then… ah I don’t know where we’re going with this…. just chill, Yuki.