Verstappen eyes history in Netherlands with Ferrari problems rumbling on

By Sports Desk August 31, 2022

The resumption of the Formula One season last weekend resulted in a rather strange race in Belgium, with many out-of-position drivers due to various penalties.

Not that it mattered to Max Verstappen though, who worked his way through the pack to secure victory having started 14th on the grid – extending his lead in the title race to 93 points.

With such a strong grip on the title, a far-cry from the events last year in his fierce battle with Lewis Hamilton, attention for many has already started to shift towards the 2023 season.

Seats for next year are still yet to be fully decided and there are plenty of big names in the mix, including Daniel Ricciardo after his exit from McLaren was announced prior to the last race.

For Verstappen though, there's still plenty to achieve. A victory on home soil in the Netherlands this weekend would see the Red Bull ace become the first driver to win back-to-back races at Zandvoort since James Hunt in 1975 and 1976.

Another win would also be his 10th of the season, equalling the tally he achieved last year in his maiden title win. With nine wins from 14 races, Verstappen's win percentage of 64.3 is the highest in F1 history.

 

Ferrari's race regrets

Ferrari have achieved eight pole positions in F1 this season, the most since the nine secured in 2019. Prior to that, the highest they achieved was 12 in 2004. For Charles Leclerc, his seven poles equal his best-ever return, which he set in 2019.

While the qualifying has yielded success, the races have not and Leclerc's title push has suffered as a result – with just one podium finish in the last nine rounds, having started the season with four podiums in five races.

Now third in the standings and 98 points behind Verstappen, Leclerc and Ferrari may well be wondering what might have been.

Alpine and McLaren fight

After a week in front of the FIA hearing on the tussle surrounding Oscar Piastri, Alpine and McLaren's fight will return to the track as they compete for the 'best of the rest' tag in F1 beneath Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes.

Alpine have a 20-point advantage in the constructor's standings, capitalising in Belgium with Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon finishing fifth and sixth respectively, while both McLarens finished outside the points.

That marked the fourth race in a row that Alpine saw both drivers finish inside the top 10, with McLaren at a disadvantage given Ricciardo's struggles in 2022.

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    Lewis Hamilton said he chose to turn his back on Mercedes and join rivals Ferrari to write “a new chapter” in his record-breaking career.

    The seven-time world champion was speaking for the first time at length since his shock blockbuster move to the Italian giants in 2025 was confirmed earlier this month.

    Hamilton’s soon-to-be Ferrari team led the way on the concluding day of this week’s test in Bahrain, with Charles Leclerc seeing off Mercedes’ George Russell by just 0.046 seconds.

    But it is Max Verstappen’s Red Bull team who head into next Saturday’s curtain raiser, also in the Gulf kingdom, as the favourites, despite the ongoing investigation into their embattled team principal Christian Horner. Horner continues to deny the claims against him.

    Hamilton, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension with the Silver Arrows only last August.

    But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early to make the switch.

    “Obviously in the summer we signed and at that time I saw my future with Mercedes,” Hamilton explained. “But an opportunity came up in the new year and I decided to take it.

    “I feel like it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make. I have had a relationship with Mercedes since I was 13. They have supported me and we have had an incredible journey together and created history within the sport. It is something I take a lot of pride in.

    “But ultimately I am writing my story and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

    Mercedes have carried Hamilton to six of his record-equalling seven titles.

    But last year marked a second straight season without a victory for the British driver – a losing streak which now stands at 45 races – and Mercedes’ first winless campaign in a dozen years.

    Ferrari have not won a drivers’ championship since Kimi Raikkonen triumphed for them in 2007.

    And two decades will have passed since Michael Schumacher took his fifth consecutive title for the team in 2004 when Hamilton links up with Ferrari at the start of next year.

    “All of us sit in our garages and you see the screen pop up, you see a driver in the red cockpit and you wonder what it will be like to be surrounded by the red,” added Hamilton.

    “You go to the Italian Grand Prix and you see the sea of red of Ferrari fans and you can only stand in awe of that.

    “It is a team that has not had huge success since Michael’s days and I see it as a huge challenge.

    “As a kid I used to to play the Grand Prix 2 computer game as Michael in that (Ferrari) car. It is definitely a dream and I am really excited about it.”

    Hamilton said the biggest transfer in F1 history would not have happened if Fred Vasseur – the Frenchman who played a prominent role in his formative career – had not been appointed as Ferrari team principal last year.

    Hamilton continued: “I have got a great relationship with Fred. I raced for him in Formula Three and we had amazing success in Formula Three and GP2 and that is where the foundation of our relationship started.

    “We always remained in touch. I thought he was going to be an amazing team manager at some stage and progress to Formula One. It was really cool to see him at Alfa Romeo and when he got the job at Ferrari I was just so happy for him. The stars aligned and it would not have happened without him.”

    As for learning the lingo, the Stevenage-born racer, added: “In all these years I have not managed to learn other languages, but I will definitely try. I do remember when I was younger and karting in Italy I was able to pick up a few lines. Hopefully that will come back to me.”

    Ferrari might have finished on top on Friday, but the consensus in the paddock is that Red Bull have significantly improved the machine which won all bar one of the 22 rounds last year.

    “Our car is more enjoyable to drive and it is an improvement,” said Hamilton. “But we still have some time to find. Red Bull are out in the distance.”

    Ominously, Verstappen, bidding to win his fourth straight title, said: “For sure, the car is better than it was last year.”

  • Lewis Hamilton determined to write ‘new chapter’ with Ferrari Lewis Hamilton determined to write ‘new chapter’ with Ferrari

    Lewis Hamilton said his Mercedes exit to join Ferrari is because he believes it is time to write “a new chapter” in his record-breaking career.

    Hamilton was speaking for the first time at length since his blockbuster move to the Italian giants in 2025 was confirmed earlier this month.

    The 39-year-old, who joined Mercedes from McLaren in 2013, signed a two-year contract extension only last August.

    But over the winter he elected to terminate his £100million deal 12 months early to make the switch.

    “Obviously in the summer we signed and at that time I saw my future with Mercedes,” said Hamilton as he opened up on his decision to make the move to Ferrari.

    “But an opportunity came up in the New Year and I decided to take it. I feel like it was the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

    “I have had a relationship with Mercedes since I was 13. They have supported me, and we have had an incredible journey together, created history within the sport and it is something I take a lot of pride in.

    “But ultimately I am writing my story, and I felt like it was time to start a new chapter.”

  • Red Bull boss Christian Horner wants his future resolved ‘as soon as possible’ Red Bull boss Christian Horner wants his future resolved ‘as soon as possible’

    Christian Horner wants his Red Bull future to be resolved “as soon as possible” as the embattled team principal fights to save his Formula One career.

    Red Bull Racing’s parent company Red Bull GmbH announced on February 5 that Horner is being investigated following an accusation of “inappropriate behaviour” by a female colleague. Horner denies the claim.

    Horner addressed the media alongside four other F1 team principals on the second day of this week’s three-day test in Bahrain on Thursday. The new season starts in the Gulf kingdom next Saturday.

    Asked why he has not moved aside as team principal and chief executive of Red Bull Racing with the investigation under way, Horner replied: “As you are well aware there is a process going on which I form part of, and as I form part of that process, I am afraid I cannot comment on it.”

    Horner was then asked if he could provided a timeline as to when the investigation might be over.

    The 50-year-old added: “I am dreadfully sorry but I really can’t comment on the process or the timescale.

    “Everybody would like a conclusion as soon as possible. But I am really not at liberty to comment about the process.”

    Sources have indicated to the PA news agency that there could be a resolution before the opening race on March 2.

    On Wednesday, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff called for Red Bull’s probe to be transparent, and said the controversy is “an issue for all of Formula One”.

    McLaren chief executive Zak Brown, speaking in the same press conference as Horner on Thursday, echoed Wolff’s comments.

    “The allegations are extremely serious,” said Brown. “McLaren hold themselves to the highest standards of diversity, equality and inclusion.

    “These are extremely important to us and our partners, and to everyone in Formula One.

    “Red Bull Corporation has launched an investigation, and all we hope and assume is that it will be handled in a very transparent way, and as the FIA and Formula One has said, swiftly, because these are not the headlines that Formula One wants or needs at this time.”

    Red Bull won all but one of the 22 races last year as Max Verstappen stormed to the world championship.

    The Dutch driver, in his heavily upgraded machine, set an impressive pace on the opening day in Bahrain, finishing 1.1 seconds clear of anyone else.

    Mercedes’ George Russell said: “Red Bull are definitely the favourites and definitely a step ahead of everyone here in Bahrain. They have had an impressive winter, no doubt.

    “Hopefully Red Bull are already in that sweet spot, and we can close the gap, but it is going to take a lot of hard work to do so.”

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