By Leona Stewart
1. One world championship has not dampened Verstappen’s fire
After a tough season of fighting in 2021, Verstappen was anticipated to slow his ambitions, like that of Nico Rosberg. But after 57 laps trailing behind Charles Leclerc, and an amusing fight for pole between laps 17 and 19, it’s clear he still has a fire within him.
Leclerc made easy work dancing in front of Verstappen, using DRS to help as he approached turn one, and again using late braking into turn four – the Dutchman’s frustration was evident as he couldn’t call Leclerc’s tactics.
Going on to blame team orders of managing tires for his failure, we were left with no doubt that the current World Champion still has an aim to win.
Max was set for a comfortable second on the podium and 18 points to set the season off, but after following the unstoppable Ferrari for so long, the RB18 was struggling. With a slightly slower pit stop, paired with cooked brakes and unfortunate reliability issues for both Redbull’s in fuel pump failure, their first podium of the year was stripped and they set the year off with a
disappointing zero points.
2. K-Mag is Haas’ angel in disguise.
With a last-minute signing to the American team following the controversy within the Mazepins, it was unsure how Kevin Magnussen was going to cope in the Haas.
With a year of finishing at the bottom of the pack for the whole of 2021, all eyes were on Haas to pick themselves back up and hopefully be as competitive as they once were, and it seems Magnussen was the final bump that the team needed.
Both Haas and Alfa Romeo have picked the pace up this year, uncoincidentally with the Ferrari engine in the back. Spending the whole of 2021 focussing on the new reg car, alongside the fiery engine, has put Haas back in the fight for the ‘best of the rest’.
Magnussen was out to impress from the start, bringing the Haas into Q3 for the first time since 2019, the team garage was full of a delight that looked unfamiliar to fans, but a welcome surprise.
Bringing the team to a P5 finish, just behind both of the Mercedes, Haas seems to be the strongest in the midfield right now, with no apparent reliability issues and two consistent drivers in K-Mag and Schumacher.
With the fairy-tale finish which is their best since Austria in 2018, team principal Guenther Steiner said: “You cannot write a story like this”.
3. Zhou and Bottas are a match made in heaven
A completely new line-up Alfa Romeo was proving as an uncertain future for the team.
Testing was a never ending run of issues, with rare track appearances in Barcelona, porpoising issues causing a hole in the floor of the car, and Guanyu Zhou ending up in the gravel – reliability was a worry that was quickly overturned.
Paired alongside the experienced former Mercedes driver Valterri Bottas, Zhou was thought to be almost overshadowed, but he was shown to have more consistency than planned and was performing at a level above that of a rookie.
Bottas brought the team into Q3 in qualifying, before finishing in P6 on Sunday, behind the Haas of Magnussen. Showing he doesn’t need the Merc engine behind him to do well.
In his first Formula 1 race Zhou managed to bag a point for Alfa by finishing 10th, making up four places from his P15 qualifying.
Despite rumours of unfair hiring as a pay driver, the first Chinese driver on the grid showed that his three years in F2 have set him in good stead for the fights and challenges of F1, alongside Bottas the pairing seem to provide the clean racing that will pay well for Alfa Romeo.