I’ve detailed, at length, my thoughts on Ferrari’s weekend, especially as it relates to their previous outing in Singapore, so for all intensive purposes this article will ignore the two cars from the Scuderia. Instead, let’s focus in on what else happened during F1’s last visit to the Sepang International Circuit.
Verstappen delivered, for perhaps the first time this season, on his promise as F1’s ‘next big thing.’ In front of droves of orange clad fans (seriously, do the Dutch just up and leave every weekend to attend F1 races?), Verstappen put on a masterclass.
He got a decent jump off the line, kept his nose out of trouble in turn 1, and set his sights on the world championship leader, reeling him in, lap after lap. When DRS was finally able to be engaged, Verstappen made his move. Flicking to the inside, Verstappen beat Hamilton at his own game, out-breaking him into turn 1 and pulling away into the difference.
Seeing a Red Bull streak away like that certainly drew flashbacks to Vettel’s days of dominance with the team, but in the new era of silver and red, hearing that Austrian National Anthem on the podium was a breath of fresh air.
Verstappen commented after the race that he made a more aggressive move because he knew Hamilton would be, “thinking about the championship.” Now, we have no way of knowing if that is actually what he thought in the car or if it is a good quote he thought of when was lounging in the cool-down room, but if it is the later, holy hell. That is the kind of quick thinking and judgement that world champions are made of.
And yeah, I said it. Max Verstappen will be a world champion. It won’t be this year and it may not be next year, but drives like this continue to prove that the no-longer-a-teenager has the speed and the brains to be the first Dutchman to claim the WDC.
Is Alonso Bitter?
When Sebastian Vettel pulled up behind Fernando Alonso’s McLaren in the early stages of the race, my first thoughts were that of joy. These two have a history, having both battled for the WDC in 2010 and 2012. They are both world class drivers who are out to prove that they can win a championship with more than one team. And let’s face it, they’re both damn good.
Their mini-duel didn’t disappoint. It was good, close racing for a few laps. Vettel got past, he always would, but Alonso didn’t make it easy for him.
But then, when Vettel came up behind the Spaniard again, this time as a lapped car, things didn’t change. That wasn’t a typo, they didn’t change. Alonso didn’t adhere to the blue flag rules Vettel is so fond of yelling about over the radio. I could even make the argument that Alonso was actively trying to block Vettel and give Ricciardo a bit of an advantage over the Ferrari driver.
I have on idea why Alonso did it. But I’ve rewatched the tape, and it’s pretty clear that Alonso is not treating Vettel like a driver on the lead lap, but instead like a driver that is fighting him for position.
Maybe there are still some lingering feelings of bitterness on Alonso’s end that the minute he left Ferrari they started winning again? Or maybe he just wanted to get back at Seb for stealing two championships from him. Either way, and I very rarely say this, I agree with Vettel. This is a moment the stewards should have looked in to a little bit more.
Solid Debut for Gasly
The young French driver got his first taste of Formula One, filling in the for the throughly uncompetitive Daniil Kvyatt. And he did a good job. It wasn’t great. But it was good. And I believe it was enough to secure him a seat in Toro Rosso for next year.
And all that was before I heard that Gasly was without a drinks bottle for the majority of the race.
The sheer willpower that it took for him to continue on with the race in the extreme heat without the possibility of rehydration is crazy to think about. It’s crazier when you take into account the ridiculous heat of Malaysia… Hell, give him at the full fledged Red Bull team. No water at Malaysia might just warrant it.
Okay, I Know I Have to Talk About Stroll
Stroll’s fault. Look in your mirrors, kid. If you have a car coming from behind you, don’t turn in the direction that car is coming from.
I don’t believe I’m saying this twice in an article, but stewards should have intervened on this too.
And now with Vettel staring down a potential gearbox penalty for Japan… Well, let’s just say I hope that Stroll doesn’t qualify anywhere near a Ferrari through the end of the season.