By Hong Lau
Summer break is officially over, and you know what that means -We are back and racing on the grid. Let’s make one thing very clear; I don’t expect anything to change coming back.
Last season we saw an intense duel until the summer break between Red Bull and Ferrari. It wasn’t until after the break that Red Bull made improvements and modifications to the car and flat-out dominated the rest of the year. I don’t expect the same this year; the grid will continue to have people challenging for the second-best constructor based on the weekend, and Red Bull, Max Verstappen, will dominate the competition. After typing that well, it will look the same as last year, lol. The storyline of Sergio Perez and his declining performance will continue to be interesting. I think Nico Rosberg said it best when competing against Lewis Hamilton. At times, he’d be like, how is this humanly possible (I’m paraphrasing)? It’s probably the same thing racing against Max Verstappen, a once-in-two-decade type of talent. I will take the other stance, not saying Checo looks bad, but how strong and good Max is. I’m only interested in whether Red Bull is evaluating Sergio’s seat for next year.
Obviously, the biggest “race” or entertainment value heading into the back half of the year will be the race for second. With McLaren looking strong with its upgrades, they pose to be a threat. Also, is Lando the second “fastest” on the grid, as I’ve mentioned before? I think he’ll have a chance to prove it for the back half of the year and have McLaren fighting for podiums. It should be interesting to see what Oscar does in the back half of the year. I think it’s obvious that Lando Norris has been the faster driver to this point, and we’ll continue to monitor the situation.
Ferrari continues to be a shit show (pardon my French), but can Fred Vasseur and Charles Leclerc pull it together. You may have noticed I didn’t put Carlos Sainz there. I don’t think he is on the same page with the team, and if you’ve read my blog, you’ll know that I don’t have him in the same class as Charles. Ferrari needs to figure out their situation with their drivers and make decisions based on the data given to them. I’m sick of the back and forth between both driver and team leading to poor decisions. If this doesn’t change, we’ll continue to be the laughingstock of the F1 grid.
Mercedes continues to be the “hot topic” of the grid due to Lewis Hamilton’s contract and their expected level of excellence. I haven’t been upset or “brought the pitchforks” to the German manufacturer yet because they haven’t deserved it. When you talk about excellence and teams, they take chances and make mistakes or excel. They did that in 2014 when they went with their design and completely missed the ball with the W13. Now what I do appreciate is that they swung for the fences and tried to make something happen. This year they thought they could take that concept and refine it with some strong performances in the back half of the 2022 season. It hasn’t worked out, and they’ve adjusted accordingly to focusing on a new design and focusing on the W15. I’m sick of where Lewis Hamilton will end up / he’s going to end up at Ferrari, it’s just nonsense at this point. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes Benz are synonymous at this point, and why would he do that towards the end of his career? And yes, Lewis has beaten George Russell quite handily, which has been great to see (because that’s what should be happening). I expect this team to fight for podiums on some weekends and be off the podium on others depending on the track and how they configured their setup (the window has felt quite small for them all year).
The last team I’ll write about is Aston Martin. I predicted that the team had already overperformed and stakeholders were already impressed. I then said the team’s development would stagnate, and they would focus their efforts on their 2024 car. That is now what it’s looking like for this team. They have seemed to regress to being the fifth fastest car and towards the bottom of the second-best tier. That said, they’ll compete for podiums and have times where they look like one of the quickest cars based on the track. It’s been refreshing to see Alonso back on a podium and show what he can do. On the flip side, it’s been refreshing to see Lance Stroll struggle and be exposed for the low-tier driver I’ve always thought he was (I’m being a bit harsh, but I always thought he was overrated). Alonso has dominated his teammate in almost all aspects of this year and will continue to do so. I wonder how long Lawrence Stroll will stick it out with Lance if he has goals of being a championship contender in the next two years; Lance is not the answer.
Guanyu Zhou continues to be one of the best bargains in Fantasy F1 (You can thank me later).
I love watching Danny Ricciardo race again.
The AlphaTauri race should be interesting (Yuki is incredibly fast).
Watching Valtteri Bottas at the bottom of the grid is incredible, as always :).
The last point for you guys is that Alex Albon is on my watch list… I’m watching him to see his “audition” for a better seat in the upcoming years.
Well, I’ll see you guys next Monday with my article on Zandvoort, another home track and win for Max Verstappen!