We’re all losers right now.
day 1 out of 25 without F1. i can already feel the withdrawal effects. when i close my eyes i hear the dutch national anthem. lewis hamilton materialised at the foot of my bed and thanked me for my hard work back at the factory. don’t know how much more i can take
— cens¹ (@_140445) July 31, 2023
It’s Formula One’s summer break. That F1 withdrawal hits hard unless you’re off sailing in Corsica with Charles Leclerc and his family. So we’ll take one more look back at the Belgian Grand Prix. Beyond Max Verstappen and Red Bull, let’s figure out who walked into their four-week vacation riding high and who will stew on the beach somewhere.
Genre #1: Drivers with a statement to make
Winner: Sergio Pérez and Yuki Tsunoda
Daniel Ricciardo’s return to the F1 grid raised the temperature for both drivers. Sergio Pérez’s topsy-turvy journey to the summer break has been well-documented: Four podiums in the first five races, a crash in Monaco, and then a summer of inconsistency. Christian Horner keeps insisting that Pérez’s seat is safe. And while that might be true, the scrutiny on Checo will only build as long as Ricciardo openly auditions for a role at Red Bull.
Dreaming of a Red Bull return, Daniel Ricciardo goes back to his beginning
A return to form at Spa couldn’t have come at a better time for Pérez. Yes, he retired from the sprint race after a hard racing battle with Lewis Hamilton punched a hole in his sidepod, the stewards putting the Mercedes driver at fault. But he shined in the grand prix, seizing the lead from Charles Leclerc on the Kemmel straight. His pace wasn’t near his teammate, but Pérez’s battle isn’t with Verstappen right now. It’s with everyone behind Red Bull, and against the perception he can’t cut it as Red Bull’s number two. Solid gains on both fronts in Belgium.
As for Tsunoda, his battle is more clear-cut: – outperform Ricciardo. It’s pretty clear AlphaTauri’s ceiling is snatching the low-paying points, and Tsunoda scrapped hard for P10 (and AlphaTauri’s first point since Azerbaijan) on Sunday. His mission after summer break? Keep proving he can keep pace with a proven winner like Ricciardo.
Loser (of sorts): George Russell
Comfortably sixth in the standings, Russell probably doesn’t need to make a strong statement. But he drives like he does, which is an excellent trait. Like any good competitor, Russell expects to perform as well as Lewis Hamilton in every race. Realistic? Perhaps not, considering his Mercedes teammate is a living F1 legend. But Russell has to be disappointed with the last few race weekends, as Hamilton has generally looked more competitive.
A lot of that comes down to consistency. Russell started Hungary on the back foot after Mercedes’ qualifying strategy misfired and kept him out of Q2. In Belgium, he got caught behind Oscar Piastri’s wilting car on the opening lap and had to scratch and claw for a sixth-place finish.
Russell has spoken about not feeling entirely comfortable with the Mercedes W14 in recent weeks. At Spa, he opted for a different wing level to Hamilton to help find more confidence in the car, preferring the balance it offered.
Let’s be clear: outside of DNFs in Austria and Canada, Russell hasn’t finished outside the points in a grand prix all season. But the Mercedes vibes have tilted back in Hamilton’s favor. You know Russell would’ve liked to head into vacation feeling he pulled level with his teammate.
Category #2: Spa shenanigans
Winner: The Eau Rouge-Radillon-Kemmel sequence
It’s the section that Spa’s most famous for. Lately, it’s made the circuit infamous – two drivers have lost their lives through those turns since 2019.
Luckily, the Belgian GP delivered safe thrills through that sequence despite the buckets of rain on Friday and Saturday. Watching Alex Albon’s Williams become a rocket ship on the Kemmel straight was fun. And Max Verstappen’s winning pass on Oscar Piastri, tailing the rookie through Eau Rouge and Raidillon, was a sight to behold.
Max’s overtake on Oscar:pic.twitter.com/hkkjdQsAIR
— Verstappen News (@verstappenews) July 29, 2023
Best of all, drivers ran the dangerous sequence safely all weekend. But it doesn’t mean safety won’t be a recurring topic each year we return to Spa.
Loser: Anthem singers everywhere
How can they top Antoine Delie’s rendition of the Belgian national anthem? That’s not a fair bar to clear. Maybe we should just stop doing national anthems now. Or bring him to every race.
Category #3: Pausing on the upswing
Winner: Aston Martin
I sure didn’t think I’d slot them here after one of the more disappointing sprint Saturdays we’ve seen this season. In SQ2, Lance Stroll ventured onto a wet track on slick tires, the first driver to make the switch. It didn’t pay off. He slid into the barriers, bringing out a red flag that kept Fernando Alonso out of the third quali session for the first time all season. Then Alonso, who turned 42 years old on Saturday, pirouetted into an early retirement during the sprint race.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 29, 2023
(Full marks on saving the car, though.)
So, yeah. No great hopes for Aston Martin in Sunday’s grand prix. But we were wrong to count Aston Martin out and forgot that benefiting from others’ misfortune is often the best way to salvage a race weekend. Piastri and Carlos Sainz’s first-turn incident gave Alonso and Stroll two free positions. Then it was up to Alonso to take advantage of what he called a day “back to normality” for Aston Martin.
“We kept George behind, Lando as well, in the mix with the Mercedes, with the McLaren, so much more normal,” Alonso said. “I felt the car [was] fast all throughout the race. We had a good start, but then we kept the pace very high.”
Aston Martin has lost a step to their competitors, namely McLaren and Mercedes. But returning the car to a good place before summer break is a crucial positive note for the team.
“I think we are happier; we are feeling fast again,” Alonso said.
Loser: Carlos Sainz
Drama at the start 😮
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 30, 2023
Was it Sainz’s fault? Let’s ask Oscar Piastri.
“I had a pretty good launch,” Piastri said. “I was getting alongside Carlos, and then he kind of jinked to the inside a bit, and I obviously had to get out of the brakes to not get hit.”
Maybe it was Oscar’s fault. What say you, Carlos?
“I think Oscar was trying to do a bit of an optimistic move on me, I think,” Sainz said. “hen you review the past races here in Spa, and you know what has been the typical Turn 1 incident, it is exactly that.
These guys would love “Rashomon.” Regardless, a disappointing result for Sainz this weekend, to put it mildly. It was a track he loves (he started on pole at Spa last year) and a weekend where both Ferraris looked poised for a podium fight. But racing happens, especially in Turn 1 in Belgium.
“You know, everyone who tries the inside line into Turn 1 and tries to really make it around there normally generates an incident or a crash,” Sainz added. “And this time, it was my turn to receive [it].”
(Lead photo of Yuki Tsunoda: Mark Thompson/Getty Images)