Returning in earnest after the summer break, 2022’s F1 grid took to the Belgian Spa circuit last weekend, offering a hectic, thrilling race weekend with plenty of discussions, debate, and hilarity all around the fanbase.
Here are our top talking points from Spa’s exciting Sunday outing:
A whopping seventeen seconds ahead of P2 teammate Segio Perez, title-holder Max Verstappen played a textbook dominant finish on Sunday, demonstrating astounding pace despite an early bottom-grid start.
The performance of Red Bull’s RB18 was so phenomenal this weekend, that not only did Verstappen lap Nicholas Latifi — who we’ll get to in a moment — he even left P3 Carlos Sainz in sheer disbelief during the post-race commentary.
The Ferrari stalwart, who clawed his way back to a podium after three trophy-less races including one DNF in Austria, was simply unable to explain his rivals’ sheer pace — attributing some of his and teammate Charles Leclerc’s difficulties to overheated tyres, which was likely caused by a downforce heavy set up by the Italian team.
With a new chassis upgrade reported to debut during October’s Singapore GP, some say that Verstappen might even beat Sebastian Vettel’s legendary 9-race win streak record. Time will tell.
While Verstappen’s victory was all but assured by the last third of the race, the first few laps were chock-full of shenanigans, none of which topped Lewis Hamilton’s ridiculous Les Combes chicane maneuver — which saw him leapfrog off Fernando Alonso’s right front tyre, and bounce out of the race.
Alonso — who has competed against Hamilton for the latter’s entire F1 career, was absolutely livid. The 41-year-old Spaniard quickly flared up his pit crew, spouting one of the most hilarious rants in recent radio chatter history. “What an idiot!” Alonso blasted. “Closing the door from the outside. I mean, we had a mega start but this guy “only knows how to drive starting first.”
Hamilton, who coasted to a well-earned P2 during the previous race in Hungary, ended up having to use a fire extinguisher on his car, and quietly limped his way back to the paddock after the spine-shattering impact.
Despite his frustration at landing his first DNF of the season, the 37-year-old Brit took responsibility for the incident and offered a dignified response that was appreciated by his fellow ex-champion.
“I don’t really have a response to it. I know how things go in the heat of the moment, but it is nice to know how he feels about me, and it is better that it is out in the open. The accident wasn’t intentional. I take responsibility for it. That is what adults do, and we move on.” Alonso, meanwhile, belted out a season-highlight performance after his recent link to Aston Martin, ending up in P5.
Last Sunday also marked Hamilton’s ex-teammate Valtteri Bottas’ 33rd birthday. Sadly for him, he would also join Hamilton on the sidelines after an early DNF — one that conversely wasn’t his fault at all. Seconds after the incident between Alonso and Hamilton, Latifi would slide across the track, fail to contain his throttle, and nudged Bottas’ Alfa Romeo into the gravel, sending the ex-Merc driver out of the race.
With Bottas’ obvious talent going to waste at the back of the grid, his recent interest in joining Audi’s future F1 program might keep him far away from Latifi — who finished at the bottom-quarter of the grid for the 10th time this year.
With a cascade of Ferrari memes raining down upon Twitter weekend after weekend in 2022, Charles Leclerc’s misfortunes at the wheel of the F1-75 racecar have been well documented. This time, the inevitable spot of bad luck was so out-of-field, that even fans of the driver couldn’t help but laugh as Leclerc was forced to pit early into the race.
Don’t even ask about the odds — but following the messy incidents mentioned above, Verstappen ripped away his tear-off visor to gain a clear vision of the track, as did many other drivers — only for it to lodge itself in Leclerc’s front right brake duct. This caused an overheating issue, which in turn caused one of Ferrari’s sensors to fail.
This in turn prompted the team to call in the #16 driver to the pits, only for him to exceed pitlane speed limits and incur a 5-second penalty. Verstappen had described Leclerc’s misfortune as “super-unlucky”.
“I hope it’s not mine,” he said, following the race.
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