It had to be different: despite Hamilton’s pole number 100. 100 was a recurring number this Catalan weekend and seemed to bring good results to Verstappen as well, as his personal statistic in terms of number of races with the Red Bull jersey.
Instead, the gamble of a different strategy compromised Verstappen’s performance when, after dominating exactly 90% of the day since overtaking Hamilton at the first corner, he found himself being overtaken by the Englishman with fresher tires per lap. 59. Same order of arrival of Portugal then with the reigning world champion first, for the sixth time in his career in Barcelona (as Schumacher senior), second Verstappen disappointed more than ever, third Bottas who, it’s funny to say it is his task, “holds a hit” and prevents Ferrari and Red Bull from conquering the third step of the podium: so much so that behind there is Leclerc, but not really glued. A third place for the Finn who occupies more and more as a “contract”, more and more anonymous, more and more “taken for granted.” Yes, Bottas is not seen, not heard, not breathed in the atmosphere of the race, of the qualifications, of the tests. It only emerges when a “cap” has to be put on. And so, also this year, the risks of “photocopying” seem high. So much so that this “trio”, already a record last week, has now been a “subscriber” to the podium for perhaps too long.
Having said that, in Portugal the race was a little tastier, it must be admitted. Maybe a bit like a dark Dublin beer versus an anonymous weiss. Full-bodied, spicy, served with lots of nice foam on top, but no bubbles. Nothing in Spain: today is just that kind of Sunday extremely boring, extremely banal, extremely watered down. Unfortunately also anonymous, because, as we learned in elementary school, by changing the order of the factors, the “product” does not change. Always high pace, safe, played more on the wall than on the track. But at least as long as Verstappen was in front, one could imagine a different continuation of the season, with a minimum gap in the championship and perhaps a more nervous Hamilton. But no.
The only thing that was beautiful was the departure. Verstappen stands out for a champion’s maneuver in overcoming the pole sitter in Mercedes. It supports it and passes it. Overtaking to the limit but still correct: Hamilton kept clear enough to avoid forcing the situation. Stuff that a less mature driver could have interpreted differently when, at the first corner, the younger one arrives to take your head off the race: a more nervous one, in short, could have generated a contact or tried a different trajectory which however could have entailed a loss of land. From then on, a few meters time and Verstappen already tries to take off with more than a second and a half of detachment, then two, then more and more, but not too much.
Already in the very first minutes of the race there are a couple of them, but of very low coasts. A breakdown for the young Japanese from Alpha Tauri, who had already distinguished himself for criticizing the team: he had a “block” of the car that he was unable to even take off the track. Shortly after, a ruined race for Giovinazzi, who was given the wrong tires in the first stop, so much so that a mechanic, only when the car arrived on the pitch, noticed that a tire was lacking pressure, forcing him to return alone to the garage to recover one perhaps used in the previous days. Even funny scenes but, for sure, embarrassing and penalizing for the whole team. In those moments, moreover, one can only imagine what sensations the pilot can experience: something that can also affect the great phlegm of a calm one like Antonio! In short, another jolt for the only Italian in Formula 1, who had just regained some confidence to have entered Q2 after the disappointment of Imola, where he was instead hampered in qualifying and, for this reason, he had complained heavily, by the scandalous Mazepin. The Russian, in fact, is confirmed as the biggest disappointment of this world championship: as well as in private life, he has shown himself to be incorrect on the track with his colleagues and so far not able to carry the whole car until the end of the practice sessions or on Sunday.