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Verstappen zooms ahead after summer break and puts Perez to shame

15 September at 08:29
Last update 15 September at 09:03

With six races to go, it is time to take stock. What are the internal relationships within the teams? Which drivers have to fear for their places and who actually stands a chance of promotion? GPblog also takes a look at the last three races to see who came out of the summer break as the best, and who may be in better form than his overall score suggests.

Your teammate is your first enemy

In Formula 1, your first competitor is your teammate. Since that driver is the only one driving the same material, it is your first frame of reference for how good you are as a driver. Win the duel and you might earn a seat with a better team, lose the duel and your career could be over.

A good driver duo usually consists of drivers who are no more than two-tenths apart in qualifying. Yet it is not just about the difference, you actually want there to be a small difference between the two drivers in duels (both in qualifying and the race) and in points. Then you are likely to get the most out of your car.

Good teammates in F1

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That situation is with Mercedes, where the two are perhaps even a little too close. A difference of only 0.035s in Lewis Hamilton's favour and a qualifying duel in which it is 9-7. In the racing duel, it is just the opposite, with Russell on a 9-5 lead and also 35 points ahead of his older teammate.

At Ferrari, the two are slightly further apart. Charles Leclerc wins both duels there, and especially in qualifying, that difference is a bit bigger. He is 12-4 ahead there with an average difference of 0.132s. Alpine also has a strong driver duo in 2022. Fernando Alonso is ahead of Esteban Ocon in everything except points. The Spaniard even finished ahead of his teammate more often when both finished (7-6), but scores fewer points overall: 59-66.

Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda are also closer together at AlphaTauri this year. In qualifying, Gasly wins by 10-6 and a difference of 0.120s, and in the race the difference is slightly bigger: 7-2. In points, Gasly has double the number of Tsunoda: 22 to 11. Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel are the last duo somewhat close to each other. Vettel is clearly the better one in this case, though. He wins the qualifying duel 9-5 and an average difference of 0.176s. Especially on Sunday, however, the German makes the difference with 20. points against Stroll's five.

The lesser teams

Then there are duos where things are not going as well. Red Bull Racing, not for the first time, has a situation where Max Verstappen dominates his teammate. It is 13-3 in the qualifying duel with an average difference of 0.313s. In the race duel, it is 10-2 and the Dutchman scored 335 against Sergio Perez's 210 points. A difference not befitting a top team.

We also see such a difference at McLaren and Haas. At McLaren, Lando Norris wins the duel gloriously with a 14-2 lead in the qualifying duel and an average difference of 0.353s. In the race duel, it is 11-3 and Norris scored 88 points against Daniel Ricciardo's 19. At Haas, Kevin Magnussen wins the duel from Mick Schumacher. Magnussen is 12-4 ahead in the qualifying duel with an average difference of 0.287s. In the race duel, Schumacher does lead 6-4, but Magnussen scored more points (22-11).

The biggest differences are seen at Williams and Alfa Romeo. Valtteri Bottas is the clear leader at the Italian team, with 11-4 in the qualifying duel and an average difference of 0.587s. In the race duel, due to numerous dropouts, it is 'only' 6-1, but the difference in points says it all: 46-6.

The biggest and most painful difference is seen at Williams. Alexander Albon is 13-2 ahead in the qualifying duel with a difference of 0.641s. In the race duel, it is 10-1, so it is not surprising that Albon is the only one to score four points. That even Nyck de Vries beat the Canadian says it all.

Of all the duels, a few have already been fought as well. With only six races to go, Perez, Sainz, Ricciardo, Latifi, Zhou and Schumacher cannot win their qualifying duels. In the race duel, that applies only to Perez, Ricciardo and Latifi.

Form after the summer break

After the summer break, the drivers have had some time to rest and some drivers are coming out of that better than others. At Mercedes, for instance, we see that Hamilton has since won every qualifying session from Russell, with an average difference of 0.263s. In the race, it has not helped the Briton much yet, as Russell finished ahead of him each time.

Verstappen, however, has come out of the summer as the best, or Perez as the worst. Since the summer, Verstappen won every race and finished ahead of Perez every qualifying session with an average difference of no less than 0.811s. The smallest difference between the two was in the Netherlands, where the gap was 0.735s.

At Ferrari, they keep balance and at McLaren, too, we see the same picture as before the summer break. At Haas and Alfa Romeo, we do see a slight turnaround. Guanyu Zhou and Mick Schumacher both seem to be gaining some ground on their leader. They need to, as the seats of both are under a lot of pressure.

Silly Season

The link with the rumour circuit is easy to make with the above statistics. The teams for whom the gap is too big internally, there are logically in doubt about the second driver. Indeed, McLaren already has a replacement ready for Ricciardo for 2023 in the form of Oscar Piastri.

Aston Martin had to look for a new front-runner due to the departure of Sebastian Vettel, and has found it in Alonso. Not only the name and two world titles are interesting, but also the fact that at his age, the Spaniard is still the better driver in a duel with the young Ocon.

This does leave Alpine with a problem. They now keep the driver who loses out in this duel and have to look for a front-runner. However, these are not up for grabs. Ricciardo's name is big, but his performances over the past two years really show otherwise. It is therefore not surprising that Alpine seems to be ending up with the well-performing Gasly, although there is a problem in the way there and that is the feud between Ocon and Gasly.

AlphaTauri would like to stick with the current two drivers based on performance. These are getting closer and closer together and pushing the team forward. However, the Faenza-based team is a training team and knows that Gasly himself will be only too happy to go to Alpine. The arrival of Colton Herta will then become very interesting to follow.

There are also teams that can hold on to their drivers. Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull Racing will have exactly the same line-up in 2023. Whether that is the best choice for Red Bull remains to be seen. After all, the gap between Verstappen and Perez continues to widen.

Final piece of the transfer market

At Williams, Alfa Romeo and Haas, there are logically still question marks. With Latifi, Williams has the worst-performing team-mate on the grid and now that the Canadian even lost to Nyck de Vries, one might wonder if Latifi would not be better off being pushed aside immediately. However, Williams still has an option with Logan Sargeant as a Williams junior.

The difference between Bottas and Zhou is also huge, so it is not surprising that Frederic Vasseur is waiting to extend Zhou's contract. Still, it should also be taken into account that this is Zhou's first year in F1 versus race winner Bottas. Sauber junior Theo Pourchaire has not made a splash in F2 this year either, so there does not seem to be much pressure on the Chinese yet. His big advantage is also the mountain of Chinese sponsors he can bring to a team with his seat.

Mick Schumacher is also underperforming and so Haas is also looking at a replacement for his seat. Ricciardo, Antonio Giovinazzi and Nico Hulkenberg are mentioned as possible replacements. Hulkenberg in particular would be piquant given his history with Magnussen.