Max Verstappen may have been mr popular amongst the fans, but it seems one or two drivers in Scarlett red cars had different opinions about the 18 year-old, specifically his sheer ruthlessness on Sunday.
I personally didn’t see too much wrong with his defensive driving. Yes it was aggressive, but I also found it exciting. His late jink to the right to stop Kimi from overtaking on the Kemmel straight was dangerous, but not beyond what the rules stipulate. Nico Hulkenberg was weaving in order to break the tow from Fernando Alonso when the pair had their race off pitlane which so nearly ended up in a silly accident, and nobody seemed to take issue with that.
I’ll agree with the sentiment that Verstappen was perhaps a bit too ruthless post-race with the Ferrari drivers, as he was as much to blame for the first lap crash as they were. But in the end, it was just hard racing which didn’t seem clumsy unlike some of the other moves the two Mercedes drivers have pulled on each other the past couple of races.
Nico Rosberg’s victory on Sunday seemed hollow when he not only realised how popular it was with the locals, but when he saw team mate Lewis Hamilton on the third step. I was also surprised to see Hamilton didn’t get caught up in any of the opening antics along with Fernando Alonso. When you look at the start, you can see the pair stayed well out of trouble in order to pick off positions – with Hamilton looking like he could win before the red flag came out.
Personally I think the rules that allow the cars to be worked on under red flag conditions should’ve been changed straight after the anti-climax of Monaco 2011. It added another dynamic to the racing, which rewarded those who reacted to the situation like Nico Hulkenberg – who would’ve been the defacto leader – as opposed to being conservative.
Thankfully they will be changed from next year, although it’s rare you get such instances as evidenced by the four-year gap between what happened in Monaco and this weekend.
Of course what caused the eventual red flag was the massive shunt by Kevin Magnussen, which managed to reach the 10 o’clock news in the UK. You never have a small crash through Eau Rouge, it’s always a biggie. Thankfully Magnussen walked away with just injuries to his ankle despite the headrest coming free, such was the force of the impact.
The FIA have said they will be investigating why that happened, although there is an irony when you consider the biggest injury of the weekend occurred in the pit lane when a Williams mechanic dislocated his knee after tripping over wire covers. Magnussen’s crash illustrated that not only is F1 as safe as its ever been, but cemented the risk that still presents itself when the drivers step into their cars before the five lights.
Fernando Alonso was the standout driver for me on Sunday. He emerged ahead of Hamilton at the restart and was able to keep him behind before DRS came into play. But even Williams who should have superior straight-line speed were struggling to get past the McHonda, which sounded much more distinct with it’s newly updated combustion chamber and turbo.
With all the updates that Honda brought to this race and the addition of former Volkswagen director of motorsport Jost Capito joining the team during the off-season, this weekends performance was a pretty good reflection of the progress that McLaren is making.
They could see a repeat next weekend when Formula 1 heads to Monza, for what will be the fourteenth round of the championship.
Photo Credit: XPB Images