Ross's Belgian GP review: A terrible price to pay for our passion

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www.formula1.com|04-Sep-2019 12:32

In the wake of a devastating weekend in Belgium, Formula 1 Managing Director, Motorsport Ross Brawn pays tribute to the passion, commitment and skill of the young French racer and to the incredible show of collective strength in Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1, as drivers united in their grief and came together to honour Hubert’s memory with an emotional, enthralling display of racing at its finest.

Racing for Anthoine
The tragedy that befell Anthoine Hubert in Saturday afternoon’s FIA Formula 2 feature race leaves one bereft and my thoughts are with Anthoine’s family and friends, with the Arden team and everyone involved in Formula 2.

I would especially pay tribute to the rescue teams and services.All of us who love and live motorsport, especially the drivers, know that there will be dark days when a terrible price for our passion is sometimes paid. They know that risk is never far away and if that creates a sense of fear, it’s their courage, their love of speed, the need to race that helps them to overcome it.

They don’t think that death is always round the corner. And then one day, unexpectedly, the shield of passion is ripped away and one of these young heroes is taken from us.

But, after the shock of what has happened subsides, those left behind find the strength to get back in the cockpit, to line up on the grid and push to the limit from the first to the last lap, to prove they are the best and to feed the passion for competition that drives them.

That’s exactly what happened on Sunday with the drivers in F3, Porsche Supercup and Formula 1. The tributes extended far beyond the Spa paddock, too, with shows of unity taking place at hundreds of motor sport events around the world. Every racer, in every series, deserves our utmost respect and thanks for the courage they have shown, especially at this time.

Fans of other teams will have to forgive me, but the Belgian Grand Prix finally delivered an enormously gratifying first win of the season for Ferrari and more specifically, a wonderful maiden F1 win for Charles Leclerc.

On at least two occasions this season, the win has eluded him, once in Bahrain because of mechanical woes, and the second in time in Austria when a hard-charging Max Verstappen proved unstoppable in the closing stages. This time, however, it was Leclerc who proved to be an irresistible force.

It was pretty much a perfect weekend for Charles, who got the very most out the package and critically received all the support he needed from the team. That included assistance from Sebastian Vettel, who managed to hold off Hamilton for a few vital laps, a delay that was to prove decisive, given that the championship leader was definitely quicker in the closing stages.

It is also an important first win for Team Principal Mattia Binotto. It means he can tackle the pressure more calmly now, especially from outside the team. One has to understand that in Italy, Ferrari is seen in the same light as the national football team and so the pressure is immense.

It’s also a well timed win because it comes a few days before the next round, the team’s home race in Monza. The win will have fired up all the very enthusiastic Italian Ferrari fans and I’m sure the Monza ticket office is currently snowed under with people trying to snap up the last remaining tickets.

Steeped in F1 heritage, Spa-Francorchamps is one of the most wonderful circuits on the calendar and over the weekend it attracted over 200,000 spectators, including 100,000 on race day alone.

The Belgian Grand Prix was truly spectacular and exciting, not just because of the very close fight between Ferrari and Mercedes, but also thanks to some great battles elsewhere. Featuring some breath-taking overtaking moves, hard-fought duels, surprising comebacks and some unexpected incidents and retirements the race had all the ingredients that make Formula 1 an amazing show, something we have seen several times already this year.

Spa is a beautiful track, partly because it sets the engineers some interesting challenges, starting with having to find the best set-up to deal with the high-speed sections of the first and third sector and a second sector that requires more downforce.

It is also a circuit where driver skill counts for a lot. We saw that on Sunday and it was also easy to spot for the TV viewers thanks to ever improving broadcasting technology on the image and graphics front, such as the possible outcome of various strategies, put together with Amazon Web Services and the actual story of the race.

Now we come to Monza, another track that has usually delivered a great show, even if it is completely different to Spa. Let’s hope we get another great race!

It was an unusual weekend for two young drivers, Alexander Albon and Pierre Gasly, who swapped teams during the summer break.

It’s not the first time Red Bull has done this, as it happened with Daniil Kvyat and Max Verstappen back in 2016. Some might find this procedure unusual but there’s a certain logic to it. The two youngsters showed great maturity in how they handled the situation – at least that’s how it appeared from the outside.

Of course, it was toughest on Gasly who had to deal with what would generally be considered to be a demotion. The Frenchman was given a warm welcome back by Toro Rosso, who know him well from last year, and he did a really solid job all weekend in Spa. Indeed, his tyre management in the final part of the race was particularly impressive, and ninth place at the flag must have been a morale booster for the rest of the season. All this came on what was a difficult weekend because Hubert was a close friend of his.

The weekend could not have been that easy for Alex either, given that he was going up against a team mate reckoned to be one of the best drivers on the grid. There was always a danger he would try too hard, but he avoided that potential pitfall and also got the best possible result for Red Bull at Spa, given that his package was clearly inferior to that of Ferrari and Mercedes.

As a rookie, Albon can only get better in this second part of the season, racing with a top team in a car that has already proved capable of winning. It’s a golden opportunity, but he mustn’t get carried away by it. But he’s got off to a good start!

Topping the list of those who were disappointed on Sunday has to be Max Verstappen. The Dutchman’s race was all over after a few hundred metres, following a collision with Kimi Raikkonen at La Source, much to the despair of the sea of orange that indicates the presence of his home fans who flocked to the Ardennes, just as they do at so many of the European races.

However, Verstappen looked to be facing a tough task right from the start of the weekend, because on a track like Spa, Red Bull clearly had to give best to not just Mercedes but Ferrari too. Honda has undoubtedly made great progress this season but it’s still not quite a match for its rivals on certain tracks.

Max might have hoped to finish fifth and maybe a bit more, given that Vettel was struggling with his tyres but on Sunday, a podium was not on. However, there’s a big gap between that and having to walk back to the pits, helmet in hand just a few moments after the start.

There was disappointment too for Lando Norris. The McLaren rookie was close to being best of the rest, given that he spent nearly the entire race running fifth. But then, on the penultimate lap, his Renault power unit let him down and he had to park the car. It was a real shame for Lando, who was on course for his best F1 result to date.

And what to say of the Alfa Romeo drivers? After a brilliant qualifying performance that after penalties had been applied elsewhere saw him start sixth, Räikkönen’s race was all but over at La Source on the opening lap, due to the collision with Verstappen, typical of the sort of incident we have seen many times before at this corner.

As for Antonio Giovinazzi, who had started from the back end of the grid, he was heading for a strong points finish when he went off the track on the final lap. However, everyone has only a few days to wait before trying again when we head to the temple of speed that is Monza.