► Verstappen now leads by 109 points
► Ferrari falls behind Mercedes
► Piastri confirmed as McLaren driver alongside Norris
This weekend the F1 circus returned to Zandvoort for the Dutch Grand Prix – and the event proved to be considerably more interesting than the Belgian GP a week before. Although Red Bull seemed to have the pace earlier on, Sunday saw a race in which Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull all had a sensible shot at the win. Ultimately, the result saw Verstappen cross the line first, followed by the Mercedes of Russell, and the Ferrari of Leclerc – but it was a race that marked a clear turning point in the F1 2022 season. Keep reading for 5 things we learnt at the Dutch Grand Prix.
1. The championship is over
Verstappen may have been handed his first championship at the last race of the season, but he seems to be his earning his second relatively fair and square. As things currently stand, Verstappen leads the drivers’ championship by a total of 109 points; that means he could effectively take a month off and still be ahead of his nearest rival, Leclerc.
However, if Verstappen can thank now-departed race director Michael Masi for his first crown, he can thank Maranello and technical designer Adrian Newey for his second – as well as some far more sensible driving on his own part.
2. Ferrari is now the third team
The budget gap may have slowed down the development race, but it’s still a crucial element to this year’s championship – and one Ferrari has fallen flat on. Red Bull started with one of the fastest cars on the grid, but the Milton Keynes team has stayed ahead thanks to aggressive development throughout the year. In contrast, Maranello has been unable to recover its early season advantage. If anything, it’s now the third fastest team on Sunday – even behind Mercedes. If the Silver Arrows hadn’t taken a gamble with Hamilton’s strategy, both Ferraris would’ve finished behind them both, and purely on pace.
Worse still, the scarlet team is still dogged with the same operational errors that plagued its first half of the season. After Leclerc’s pit lane speeding penalty in Spa, this weekend saw an unsafe release for Carlos Sainz, earning him a 5 second penalty. It’s not too harsh to say the sport hasn’t seen a title challenge collapse this spectacularly in decades.
3. Mercedes nearly gets its first win
Zandvoort’s combination of smooth surface and medium speed corners meant that Verstappen’s home race was ironically-suited to the temperamental W13 – and on Friday the Silver Arrows looked fairly strong. On Saturday the Mercedes of Hamilton was on for a shot at pole (if it wasn’t for a well-timed spin from Perez) and the signs were encouraging regardless, because the Mercedes performs significantly better in race trim.
On race day, both Mercedes seemed to have good overall pace, and the W13’s tyre conservation skills also meant that both Hamilton and Russell moved themselves within striking distance of Verstappen – and well past both Ferraris. However, a well-timed VSC (caused by Red Bull’s sister team, Alpha Tauri) ultimately upset Brackley’s chances.
A SC gamble meant that the Silver Arrows ultimately finished 2nd and 4th, with Hamilton’s side of the garage choosing overall pace for track position. A gamble worth taking on paper, though optically quite poor; Verstappen’s RB was able to breeze around the Mercedes within one corner of the restart.
4. Alpha Tauri’s unusual pit stop
One of the key moments came when Yuki Tsunoda’s Alpha Tauri stopped on track, thereby causing a VSC safety car. That wasn’t unusual but what did raise eyebrows, was the way in which the stoppage came about. Just a few moments before, the Alpha Tauri driver entered the pits complaining of steering issues, but was then told to go back out. The video below makes for some alarming viewing, with many fans offering some interesting conspiracy theories.
5. Piastri will be a McLaren driver in 2023
After weeks of back-and-forth, Oscar Piastri has finally been confirmed as a McLaren driver for 2023. In addition to marking the end of Enstone-enforced purgatory for the former F2 champion, it also marks yet another setback for Daniel Ricciardo, whose career has seemingly gone backwards ever since leaving Red Bull.
Paddock chat suggests that Ricciardo has options in F1 for next year, though it’s also possible he’ll be taking a sabbatical – or racing in the LMDh or Formula E categories.