Max Verstappen took victory from 14th place on Sunday at the Belgian Grand Prix. Verstappen’s dominance spirals out of control: he was so much faster from the start than all the other cars that none of the drivers in front of him made the slightest attempt to hold him back. Every real contest in the race has been behind the two Red Bull drivers; Ferrari, which for a time this very season had what was clearly the fastest car, desperately clung to a podium place and made a risky last-ditch effort to snag a spare point via a race. in the fastest lap. True to form, they screwed it all up and inflicted another brutal unforced injury on themselves.
Charles LeClerc – who started a place behind Verstappen due to his second grid penalty of the season – fought his way through a dreaded DRS train from midfield to finally work his way up to fifth place in the final laps. Ferrari is no longer the fastest car; in fact, it may not be even the second-quickest car, so LeClerc found himself with a maddeningly insurmountable 21-second gap to eventual fourth-placed George Russell. With no chance of working LeClerc into the fight for the podium, and a narrowly workable gap to Alpine’s then-sixth-placed Fernando Alonso, Ferrari opted to field LeClerc for his third pit stop of the race, with two laps remaining, and put it on a set of soft tires to chase the fastest lap point.
It might not have been a risk worth taking, even under ideal circumstances, for a single point. Keeping LeClerc in the clean air ahead of Alonso would have required a quick and efficient stop, without loss of time. Ferrari’s pit crew didn’t have another slump – thank goodness – but a suboptimal pit time cost LeClerc precious tenths of a second, so Alonso was immediately on the ass as he was coming back to the track. With warm tires, slip flow and DRS on, Alonso quickly passed LeClerc and raced ahead. It was only ever going to be a temporary setback – LeClerc’s fresh softs would eventually give him the juice to pass Alonso, barring disaster – but sailing off the racing line for a final lap overtake would effectively nullify the shot from LeClerc in point for the fastest lap, immediately erasing the advantage Ferrari was looking for in the first place.
It was therefore a questionable decision, which is all too common in Ferrari’s racing strategy, as veteran Alonso reported after the race. But as they’ve already shown at several incredibly frustrating moments this season, these Ferrari bozos don’t need a strategic, mechanical or pitfall failure to drop points. Even when all their normal failures don’t ruin a Sunday, one of their otherwise extremely cool and friendly drivers can often be counted on to drive recklessly and make a stupid mistake. This time it was LeClerc who broke the speed limit in the pit lane during that last misguided stop and was handed a five-second penalty. Assessed after the race, the penalty moved LeClerc behind Alonso and into sixth position, costing him another two points. Someone might need to check my math on this but by my math it’s the 999,999,999th and one billionth points LeClerc has lost this season due to the operation at Ferrari being a clown show constant.
The Drivers’ Championship is functionally over, so the lost points mean almost nothing vis-à-vis LeClerc’s gap to Verstappen. But, if anything, the scale of that deficit and the obvious performance gap between Verstappen and everyone else calls into question why the hell Ferrari was screwing around with last-second pit stops and bringing Alonso into play in the first place. . These morons need a normal race weekend in the worst possible way. They needed it since the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix last April, when it was still possible to see them as a serious contender for the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. Grid penalties took a completely normal weekend off the table before it even started, but they at least had a chance to stay away on Sunday, for a change. And they ruined everything! Why do they always do still blow it?