This weekend saw F1 complete their European leg of the season at Ferrari’s spiritual home of Monza.
Lewis Hamilton smashed the record for most F1 pole positions, when he surpassed Michael Schumacher’s 68 poles in a thrilling qualifying session.
With action heading off to Asia for the Singapore, Malaysia and Japan legs, just what did we learn from this weekend?
McLaren got speed
Despite having a Honda engine, McLaren were surprisingly competitive on Friday at a circuit where they expected to struggle.
Landing on the cusp of the top ten in both Friday practice sessions is decent at a track featuring several straights. It also shows that Honda are definitely improving but not in the races when it matters most.
As for Saturday, it was a total write off like for every other team due to the weather mixing things up.
Sunday saw stronger performances than expected, despite both drivers starting at the back. Both however retired due to power failures which is disappointing after further progress.
Singapore however should bring similar success to that saw in Hungary because of it being a technical circuit more than power based.
Stroll the new Bottas?
Lance Stroll’s performance on Saturday in a wet qualifying echoes Valtteri Bottas’ rookie season’s surprise qualifying result at 2013 Canadian Grand Prix, also in a Williams.
Both struggled with their cars but came alive in wet qualifying. Stroll however achieved a higher grid result than the Finn did by becoming the youngest ever driver to take a front row start in F1, after penalties were applied to both Red Bull drivers.
The Canadian also bettered Bottas’ race day result from that 2013 Canada race by finishing in the points here at Monza.
Could this be an indicator that perhaps Stroll could replicate the path taken by Bottas and end up at a top team in coming years?
Serious questions must be asked of Charlie Whiting and the stewarding team after Saturday’s events.
Weather at start of Q1 was so bad, an accident and red flag was inevitable which eventually came at Romain Grosjean‘s expense after aquaplaning in his Haas. Like many viewers at home, I knew that the conditions were too dangerous to even start the session, yet Whiting let it go ahead and is lucky that Grosjean’s crash was light.
A small gap to complete Q1 emerged at 2:40 CET but they failed to react and rain came again, keeping everyone waiting another two hours. If they had taken that chance, there wouldn’t of been any waiting when can use that session’s times to set the grid and allow the support series to run with less delay.
There is a need to keep spectators and broadcasters happy but it shouldn’t come at the expense of driver safety and fans of the support series.
I mention the support series because F2 were racing at sunset, when could of got going earlier if F1 dumped Q2 and Q3 by taking the earlier chance mentioned above and used Q1 times.
GP3 saw its first race bumped to Sunday morning with the second race cancelled.
That was bound to happen as soon as it became clearer it couldn’t be run on the Saturday evening. The second race could of easily been squeezed in between Porsche Supercup and F1 races with F1 driver parade dropped instead of being cancelled.
All that was really required is logic because GP3’s second race has a maximum of 30 minutes. It could of started it 12:25 CET and still wouldn’t of disrupted the main build up to the F1 race, which begun at 13:30 CET.
Either way, the stewarding could of been better handled so that no fans of either F1 or support series were left annoyed, especially if at the track and would provide more value for money to race day attendees.
Solution needed for penalties
Whiting and the FIA need to SERIOUSLY look at making some rule changes after nine drivers took grid penalties this weekend. Seven of those were engine based whilst Sainz and Perez took gearbox penalties on the race morning.
Some of those drivers actually improved on their qualifying slots after the penalties of others were added. The point of a penalty is to punish drivers but the fact that some have benefitted by taking penalties to get higher grid spots is unacceptable.
What lessons are they learning from using penalties to improve their grid spot?
Definitely keep grid penalties but make them applicable if related to on track incidents rather than tactical component changes.
This weekend’s star without a doubt has to be Max Verstappen.
He came into this weekend with engine penalties but was right on Ferrari’s tail throughout Friday.
Saturday saw him prove why he looks like the new wet weather version of Ayrton Senna. If he hadn’t of had the penalties, second on the grid would of been a brilliant result.
Race day saw the Dutchman get a great start before colliding with Massa left him in last place, after picking up a puncture on his front right.
That didn’t stop him racing in a feisty manner en route to a decent tenth place finish and one championship point.
Missed any of the previous race round ups or the half term report? Click on the relevant link below and you can get up to speed.