Max Verstappen dominated the Spanish Grand Prix weekend for three days this weekend. The Dutchman set the fastest time in each of the free practice sessions, took pole position, led every lap to win the race, and incidentally also took the point for the fastest lap time. With the competition well behind, the question arises where this will lead and who might be able to challenge Red Bull Racing later in the season. Enough to talk about in the afterthought with editor Shanna Lutgert.
Verstappen has been dominating for weeks. Do you think he will perform even stronger now than in 2022?
Yes, I think Verstappen has held sway from the start this year and will not relinquish it this season. Every race it seems like we see an improved version of the two-time world champion. This race in Spain was a case of: he came, he saw, he conquered. The peace and tranquility of Verstappen in the cockpit is even better than in 2022, he is even more flawless than last year. I may have the orange glasses on, but if you want to surpass Verstappen this season, you have to come from a very, very good background. The Dutchman in combination with the RB19 is currently not one, but three sizes too big for everyone. This will only get better over the years. At the moment nobody is going to stop him from becoming one of the greatest.’
Will you get bored if Verstappen continues to dominate like this?
‘Yes and no. The fact that Verstappen wins and drives everyone to pieces is wonderful, but if he experiences competition and really has to work for it, that is much nicer to see. In Barcelona on Sunday, he could basically make a pit stop, get out for a cup of coffee, get in, drive on, and still be in the lead. To be so dominant in a race at that age is insane. Dragging your third title with two fingers in the nose is also fantastic. But I still hope that Aston Martin or Mercedes or Ferrari can get even closer and make it a bit difficult for Verstappen.’
Who was your Driver of the Day, if we leave out Verstappen?
My Driver of the Day: Zhou Guanyu. Zhou was able to get two points for Alfa Romeo. Basically he doesn’t exactly have the car to guarantee top ten finishes in every race, so for me he was the most outstanding driver in the top ten of this Grand Prix. After a reasonable qualifying on Saturday, he managed to maximize the result on Sunday, while not having an easy time in midfield. Bottas on P19 and Zhou on P9, I think Bottas can scratch his head for a while. Zhou held up well.”
Alonso was disappointing for his own audience, while Mercedes excelled. Which of these teams do you expect to be best of the rest in the latter part of the season?
‘I find it difficult to predict. In that respect it is a pity that the Grand Prix in Imola was canceled, because that could have been an indicator for Aston Martin to see how the car drives and reacts to a permanent circuit. Until Barcelona we only had street circuits. Towards the end of the season we still have Singapore and Las Vegas and some other circuits where that top speed of the car is going to be important, but if the rest of Aston Martin’s races go like they did in Spain then Mercedes will take that second place. in the World Cup, joining Aston Martin in third. Barcelona turned out to be a good track for the new version of the W14, and if they keep that up until the summer then I think the current roles of Aston Martin and Mercedes will be reversed. Of course, that cannot really be predicted on the basis of one race on a permanent circuit. But if Mercedes does perform better on the permanent circuits, which will mainly come from now on, then I see opportunities for the Silver Arrows.’
Do you think removing the chicane was a good change to the track?
“I thought the chicane was a nice part of Barcelona. I’m not a fan of the track, but it was a point where mistakes were made, tires were blocked, and drivers could outrun others (like Verstappen outrun Räikkönen in that one race in 2016). With the current cars I do think it’s better for the drivers that that chicane is gone, several drivers have complained that that chicane didn’t suit the car, so all in all they can bring more speed into turn one, and I think that it’s been a good change.’
How do you think Nyck de Vries should look back on his race?
‘I think De Vries had a pretty good weekend. He drove a stable race, but I thought it was a bit of a shame that he didn’t seem to get the hang of defending or attacking here and there. He should have broadened himself a bit, because in the end he had more or less nothing to lose behind the top ten. Once he got those tires up and running he was able to make some nice overtakes, which is good for his confidence. He has to continue that in order to really grab a point soon.’