It’s the second race of the triple header and we are heading to Zandvoort in the Netherlands. The Dutch fans will be looking forward to the race as their home hero Max Verstappen has been driving like a dream. Verstappen has been miles ahead of the rest of the grid, and another title for him looks imminent.
As we head to our Championship leader’s home race, here are a few things that might happen in the Netherlands.
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The Belgian Grand Prix was probably Ferrari’s best chance of stopping Red Bull and Verstappen. The Dutchman was set to serve a grid penalty, which would see him start at the back of the grid. But it wasn’t just him taking a penalty; there were six others with him. This meant Verstappen started P14 and his Championship rival Charles Leclerc started behind him at P15. What worked in Ferrari’s favour was that it was their driver, Carlos Sainz, starting on pole, although the other Red Bull of Sergio Pérez started right behind Sainz.
Either way, Verstappen starting a lowly P14 was the best Ferrari could have hoped for. Those hopes took a big hit on Saturday itself, however, when Verstappen went fastest in Qualifying, and even though his penalties meant Sainz was on pole, Verstappen’s qualification timing was a whopping six-tenths quicker than Sainz.
On race day in Belgium, Verstappen was in another league. There was no one on his level, his sector times were unmatched, and he won comfortably despite starting P14, finishing 17+ seconds ahead of second-placed Sergio Pérez.
To put it simply, Max Verstappen was untouchable, and heading into his home race, with the crowd behind him, it is going to take something monumental from Ferrari or anyone in the grid to stop him. He has already built a 98-point gap between himself and Leclerc in the Championship battle, and if he continues to drive in the current manner, it won’t be long before he secures a second consecutive World Drivers’ Title.
In the form of his life and driving a beast of a car, expect Verstappen to come out on top in the Netherlands once again.
Pole prediction: Max Verstappen / Sergio Pérez
Win prediction: Red Bull
The silver lining
Alpine were all over the news during the summer break for all the wrong reasons. Heading into the summer break, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel announced that he would be retiring at the end of the current season, and during the first day of the summer break, Alpine’s superstar Fernando Alonso announced that he would be leaving the team at the end of the 2022 season to replace Vettel at Aston Martin. To make it worse, Alpine stated that they were unaware that Alonso was leaving and only got to know about the decision when Aston Martin announced it. A day later, Alpine announced that they will replace Alonso with their academy driver Oscar Piastri, but Piastri himself later came out the very same day stating that he would not drive for Alpine as he hadn’t signed a contract with them.
While the Piastri drama put Alpine in the news for all the wrong reasons, once racing resumed, Alpine had the best response to shut out all the white noise. Fernando Alonso qualified a brilliant P3, and on race day Alonso showcased his superior race-craft to finish a brilliant fifth, with his teammate Esteban Ocon finishing seventh, which meant Alpine’s strong season continued and they consolidated that P4 position in the Constructors’ table.
Alpine have been on an upward trajectory for the last few seasons and they have definitely benefitted from the regulation changes. If they can keep putting up strong performances like they did in Spa, that fourth place should be secured easily.
Expect Alpine to do well again in Belgium.
Podium dark horses: Alpine
Catching up to do
Mercedes came to Spa upbeat. They had brought upgrades to their car, and while the first half of the season wasn’t ideal for the Silver Arrows, they did end it on a high with a host of podiums and showed signs that they might be returning to the fight for wins soon enough.
While the Brackley-based team hoped they would return to the front of the grid and be able to fight the likes of Ferrari and Red Bull, once the teams hit the track in Spa, reality hit them very differently. Mercedes were woefully off the pace, and even though Hamilton qualified on the second row in P4, he was almost a whole two seconds behind Verstappen’s quickest time in Qualifying.
Mercedes were just not anywhere near Ferrari or Red Bull, and things just got worse on Sunday. Hamilton made a shocking rookie error on the first lap which saw him retire from the race. His teammate did manage to finish fourth, but at no point did George Russell manage to keep up with the Red Bulls. He did manage to fight with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz occasionally, though he still finished almost 30 seconds behind race-winner Verstappen.
Heading into the Dutch Grand Prix, Mercedes have a lot of catching up to do. It would be daft to expect them to be at the front of the grid.
Race details: When and where to watch (India)
Circuit: Circuit Zandvoort
Venue: Zandvoort, the Netherlands
Practice Session 1 time: 16:00 (IST), 2 September 2022
Practice Session 2 time: 19:30 (IST), 2 September 2022
Practice Session 3 time: 15:30 (IST), 3 September 2022
Qualifying time: 18:30 (IST), 3 September 2022
Main race time: 18:30 (IST), 4 September 2022
Where to watch: Star Sports Network | Disney+ Hotstar