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F1: Summer break is over, what to expect this weekend

The Dutch Grand Prix orange wall
  • The Formula One summer break is finally over and the season resumes with the Dutch Grand Prix.
  • We look at the main talking points ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix.

The Formula One summer break is finally over and the season resumes with the Dutch Grand Prix, which will likely feature the famous ‘orange wall’ for Max Verstappen’s home event.

We look at the main talking points ahead of the Dutch Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen chasing records

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen. Photo/Motorsport Week

On his home track, Max Verstappen has his eyes set on a huge accomplishment. With a ninth straight victory, the 25-year-old twice-world champion would match Sebastian Vettel’s record, which he established in a Red Bull in 2013 as well. The Dutchman is enjoying a blissful sweet spot where his impeccable touch at the wheel of an unstoppable machine has left him apparently nailed on for a third consecutive championship, operating in a different stratosphere from his grid opponents.

Despite starting sixth on the grid at Spa-Francorchamps just before the midseason break, he was so far in front of the field that he started having fun on the team radio with his engineer.

It’s tough to imagine anybody other than Verstappen putting on a show to carve his way back into the lead even if he doesn’t secure pole position. Verstappen’s methodical approach to racing in 2023, confident in the knowledge of his car’s performance, makes this unlikely.

With five races left, he could conceivably win the championship by 125 points over teammate Sergio Perez in Qatar in October.

Inconsistent Alpine

The struggling Alpine-Renault team was given a much-needed boost by Pierre Gasly’s third-place finish in the sprint race at Spa. A shocking management shake-up on the eve of Spa was preceded by two consecutive double DNFs in Britain and Hungary.

Team boss Otmar Szafnauer and longtime sporting director Alan Permane left, while chief technical officer Pat Fry moved to Williams. Not ideal conditions for Gasly and his French countryman Esteban Ocon, especially following the high-profile departures of two-time champion Alonso and four-time world champion Alain Prost from the Enstone-based team to Aston.

Mercedes fighting mentality

lewis hamilton monaco grand prix

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Florent Gooden/DPPI/LiveMedia

After a difficult first half of the season, Mercedes head coach Toto Wolff said they are “recharged” for the second half. The high point of the season so far was when Lewis Hamilton and George Russell finished second and third behind Verstappen in Spain in a significantly modified vehicle.

Wolff noted last week that it was fantastic to be back at work. “The summer vacation is crucial for everyone to enjoy some well-earned downtime, but as racers, we enjoy the excitement of competition. We come back refueled. There is much to be fought for, and we won’t stop. He said that 2024 had already come into focus. “Right now, the emphasis is really on what we need to do to start winning championships once more. The end of the tunnel is undoubtedly in sight.

Red Bull dominance

Unsurprisingly, Red Bull does not share the nonpartisan fan’s perception that the 2023 season is becoming somewhat of a slog. The Austrian team’s manager, Christian Horner, calls their season thus far “phenomenal” as they stand to increase their own record to 13 straight victories this season and 14 overall.

This month, he stated, “I think it’s beyond anyone’s wildest imagination to be sitting in this position.” These kinds of outcomes aren’t attained by chance. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our group. Looking at the constructors’ standings confirms this, with Red Bull leading Mercedes by an enormous 256 points.

The best of the rest

lewis hamilton ferrari deal

Lewis Hamilton with Charles Leclerc. Photo./ XPB Images Ltd/Alamy Live News

Ferrari has displayed flashes of speed, but Charles Leclerc’s second-place finish in Austria in qualifying remains their best result. With title dreams long abandoned, Ferrari is now competing with Mercedes, Aston Martin, and McLaren for the best of the rest. Since Austria, Fernando Alonso and Aston Martin’s stellar early-season performance has waned, but they remain confident in their ability to make waves once more in the remaining races of the season.

After a poor start, McLaren has made an impressive recovery, with their new vehicle appearing authentic. They have a reason for optimism for the upcoming 10 races because to Lando Norris’ consecutive second-place finishes at Silverstone and Hungary and youngster Oscar Piastri’s strong second in the sprint at Spa.

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