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Verstappen wins 'drama-filled' Spanish Grand Prix

NEWS STORY
22/05/2022

Hard to believe we know, but the last time the late Mike Lawrence wrote about Turk Thrust and FOSU, the Formula One Script Unit, was back in September 2011.

In a feature entitled, A Journey to Oblivion, Mike and Turk discussed how the entertainment factor of F1 TV broadcasting might be improved.

While Mike is forever in our thoughts, over the last eighteen months or so it has been hard not to think of Turk also.

So many times over last season and again this year, we have pondered 'What would Turk have done', indeed there have been times we were sure we were witnessing his handiwork - never more so, of course than at Abu Dhabi.

Last night, as we read the post qualifying press releases, Turk and FOSU came into our minds once again, and while some of you may think we are nuts for saying what we are about to say, we're going to go ahead and say it anyway.

Bearing in mind the ongoing frenzy surrounding the sport, mainly courtesy of the hype surrounding such things as Drive to Survive, if Abu Dhabi was 'peak box office', how would one go about topping it?

Well, and here we go full Turk, with many still feeling that Lewis was robbed last season, how about a scenario where a year later the Briton stages the mother of all come backs to win a historic eighth title.

First we build the drama by giving the seven-time champ an impossibly difficult car and a bright young teammate. Then we focus on the battle between two drivers who constitute the future of the sport, Messrs Charles and Max.

As the title fight swings pendulum-like between the pair, ramping up the drama with the occasional DNF, Lewis and his team become more and more disheartened.

To add to the Briton's misery we dig out an old rule about jewellery - aware that Lewis is the grid's blingmeister - so much so that even those who previously couldn't stand the Stevenage Rocket suddenly find themselves rooting for him, if only out of sympathy.

Then, back in Spain, where pre-season testing first revealed the gargantuan issue facing Lewis and his team, the season begins to turn around and throughout the summer we witness the three-pointed star begin its fightback.

As well as dealing with Max and Charles, Lewis has the added pressure of an eager young teammate, but he soaks it up and on the streets of Abu Dhabi, where one year earlier he had been so cruelly robbed, he stages a come-back of which Rocky Balboa would be proud.

With that in mind, today's race is likely to be about the heat and tyres, with Pirelli's Mario Isola admitting that this is "likely to be the most challenging race of the year for tyres so far".

From the outset, Leclerc has admitted fears over race pace and tyre deg, whilst Verstappen's DRS issue in Q3 is a reminder that the RB18 is far from bullet-proof.

While attention will focus on Charles and Max, it is going to be interesting to see how the Mercedes pair fare now that the German team appears to have a handle on its porpoising issue, though Russell admits the phenomenon remains a problem in certain corners.

Though, as ever, there will be a mad scramble on that long, long, long run to the first corner, with as many as three stops predicted the start may not be as important as usual, certainly compared to next weekend's venue.

That said, any silliness at Turn 1, or the complex that follows, would see a driver's race over before it has begun, so 'softly, softly, catchee monkey' might be the best option. On the other hand, should the likes of Sainz, Perez or one of the Mercedes enjoy a particularly good get away, it could allow said driver to back up the field in support of his teammate.

Having received his fourth power unit of the season - just six races in - Alonso will start from the back of the grid, though this doesn't rule out a strong performance from the Spanish veteran in his home race.

Other than the battle out front, the midfield is where the real action is likely to be this afternoon, with a number of drivers of position, Norris out of sorts, Alpine out of patience and Aston Martin out of original ideas... allegedly!

Over the years, the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya has had a reputation for producing 'boreathons', a situation not helped when it was the home of all pre-season testing, but something tells us that today is going to be different, and that the guys on the pit-wall, garages and back in the factories are going to be playing a significant role in the difficult conditions.

The fastest way to approach the race is a two-stopper, and even a three-stopper isn't out of the question. But which two-stopper will be quickest? The most versatile option to start the race on is the medium in order to ensure a reasonably long first stint, but what happens after then largely depends on the tyres that each driver has left from their allocation.

The soft has a notable speed advantage over the medium, albeit with a shorter life, and that could make it appealing for those with good race pace. The hard tyre could play a part too, although it's more than a second per lap slower than the medium.

Theoretically, the fastest way to approach the race is medium-medium-soft. The second-fastest way is medium-soft-soft, and then there are some three-stop strategies that could work out well too. Medium-hard-soft, using all three compounds, is an interesting option, but it's faster on paper to avoid the hard.

However, there isn't a particularly high safety car probability, however with even warmer temperatures than qualifying expected this might push the teams towards the harder compounds, given the levels of degradation seen so far in free practice.

An hour before the start there is frantic activity in the Red Bull garage where mechanics are working on Verstappen's rear wing as a result of his DRS issue in Q3. Not the most reassuring start to the day for the world champion.

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin to head out. With 40 minutes until the start, the air temperature is 36 degrees C, while the track temperature is 48 degrees. It is also quite windy.

Last to leave the pits is Verstappen, the Dutchman heading out just seconds before the pitlane closes.

Once on the grid, mechanics continue to fiddle with the rear wing on the world champion's car.

Ahead of the start, Perez, a Mexican who should be used to such temperatures, has water poured over his head in a bid to cool him.

Air temperature is now 36 degrees C and the track temperature 49 degrees. Race control helpfully advises that there is 0% chance of rain.

"Can you nod to me if you hear a random voice that you don't recognise," Norris is told. What are they expecting him to hear, "the cab's on its way!"

All are starting on softs bar Hamilton who is on new mediums. Leclerc is on new softs as are Norris, Ocon and a number of others.

They head off on the formation lap, Perez, in particular very slow to get away, thereby holding up the rest of the field.

The grid forms.

They're away. Great starts from Leclerc and Verstappen, while Perez is also quick out of the blocks. However, as Leclerc moves over to cover Verstappen's ambitions, Perez is bogged down by Sainz and Russell as Hamilton draws alongside also.

Into Turn 1, Leclerc leads Verstappen, While Perez is on the inside of Russell and Sainz with Hamilton, Magnussen and Bottas behind.

The right-rear on Russell's car tags the left-front of Perez, causing the Mexican to lose a little pace. Hamilton has the edge over Sainz in Turn 3 but the Ferrari gets ahead on the run to Turn 4. Magnussen attempts to go around the outside of the Mercedes, but they touch, sending the Haas off into the gravel and leaving Hamilton with damage to the front of his car.

"F***, I've been hit," says Hamilton. "Lewis just rammed be, what was he doing," asks Magnussen.

At the end of Lap 1, it's: Leclerc, Verstappen, Russell, Perez, Sainz, Schumacher, Bottas, Ricciardo, Ocon and Norris. Alonso is up to 15th.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Barcelona, here.

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1. Posted by Spindoctor, 23/05/2022 13:43

"Verstappen was a very lucky boy..... (Perhaps he "deserved some)
Lots of "drama" indeed & some halfway decent racing too, though hardly epic stuff. It's interesting that despite his "heroic" drive from plumb last to 5th place Hamilton is nowhere in your Driver of the Day poll. I expect that Magnusson would top any poll conducted in Netherlands.

On this occasion it seems Ferrari's car was a bit faster, though maybe at the expense of unreliability. Max's failure to overtake Russell without DRS was an interesting aspect of the race. It seems that RBR's car isn't fastest on all tracks, though hardly a sluggard.... It really looks like Mercedes has found some performance, at least for this race - maybe their much-derided side-pods "concept" will work after all.

Despite all the positive PR I saw very few non-DRS overtakes, though clearly cars can now follow more closely. Assuming they can withstand the visual distortion caused by the bouncing; drivers in a DRS train can now spend a happy few minutes\hours reading sponsor logos etc on the back of the cars in front. The opportunities for tactical use of DRS trains were again clear & it'll be interesting to see if the satellite Teams use them to thwart the Big Boy's drivers in future races.

Assuming Mercedes can continue to improve, the omens for future races are interesting. The scenario revealed in Mr Editor Balfe's communion with Mr Thrust might indeed come into play. At the very least the "Mercedes duo" might well play a significant role in where the Title goes this year - I can't see either of Siver Arrows' pilots adopting an "after you Max" attitude given events last season....."

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