7 things you might have missed
Our Spa weekend under the spotlight
Sooner or later during the Formula 1 season you’re going to suffer a failure – and every weekend everyone hopes it continues to be ‘later’. This weekend the law of averages, however, caught up with Carlos Sainz, and he had our first DNF – Did Not Finish – of the season or, more accurately, a DNS – Did Not Start. For the second year in a row he had to watch the Belgian Grand Prix rather than take part.
For anyone involved with racing, there are few things more deflating than seeing the field set off at the lights while your car sits in the garage. Fortunately, Lando Norris was able to manage a solo ascent of the timesheet and ensure a tough weekend didn’t turn into a bad one. Here’s how that happened – and a few other things you may have missed…
This weekend – against the odds – it didn’t really rain at Spa, though the odd spot and the radar images teased us continually. What we did get were very cold conditions. It was the first time since winter testing that the beanies, bodywarmers and jackets have been broken out. “This change is going to take 20 minutes so you can hop out,” race engineer Tom Stallard told Carlos during the session. “No, I’m staying here, it’s the only place that’s warm,” said the driver snugly from the cockpit. “That’s fine – would you like us to get you a pillow so you can have a little snooze?” Tom offered solicitously.
Bit of a drag…
Teams are understandably keen for drivers to hit the DRS activation as early as possible after the activation tone, with every millisecond of delay costing lap time. While Carlos sat in the garage having his floor swapped, Lando repeatedly missed the mark on his first run, leading to consternation in the garage, with engineers examining data, trying to see if the flap was sticking or if Lando was activating late. Sometimes the best data comes from watching the TV pictures though, which showed other cars activating late too. It transpires the markers and beacon were in the wrong position…
No tow zone
There is a fine art to finding the right track position for a qualifying lap. Lando came out of the pitlane exactly where he wanted to be: line-astern behind the Renaults – only they had other ideas. At Stavelot they both slowed to the point where the GPS data showed ‘stop’, forcing Lando into passing. Lando got his head down and put in a good lap, but no-one punching a hole in the air ahead of him negatively impacted his lap time. Carlos, running last on track, got an excellent tow off the Renaults and was 9-km/h quicker on the Kemmel Straight.
Carlos’ exhaust failure on his reconnaissance lap was a bolt from the blue. No warning: fine one minute and alarms the next. Brief consideration was given to taking the car to the grid and having a look there – but, when burning bodywork was spotted, he was told to box in the hope of a quick fix and a pitlane start. It was one of those all-hands-to-the-pump moments where, conscious of time ticking away, everyone leapt onto the car to find and diagnose the problem. Sadly, it didn't take long to see that an engine failure had destroyed the right exhaust bank, and Carlos’ miserable run of results in Spa would continue.
Doing what you can…
Once Carlos’ car was made safe and shoved unceremoniously into the corner of the garage, his mechanics began preparing for pitstops – but what of Carlos himself and his engineers? Carlos did his media work, then came into the garage and plugged into the comms panel, listening to the strategy channel. It’s not a conversation he’d usually be party to, so it presented a good learning opportunity. He was also able to offer a driver’s perspective on several decisions – speaking both to what Lando might want and also what his rivals would be thinking. Meanwhile, his engineers tasked themselves with looking at specific aspects of Lando’s performance and that of his competitors, acting as extra sets of eyes.
Beast of the Ardennes
Despite getting off the line well, Lando lost a couple of places on the opening lap, which left him P11 at the end of lap one. But he drove a mighty race to drag himself back up to seventh. He didn’t have a car advantage over the people he was chasing, so played the long game and built some tyre delta. Eighth after the pit-stops played out, he nursed the Hard tyre for the first half of the stint. This was not without risk. The late-stopping Sergio Pérez and Pierre Gasly were making ground behind but Lando held his nerve and lit it up for the last ten laps. He passed Lance Stroll for seventh and harried Alex Albon all the way to the line.
Going up in the World?
When the team principal delivers his post-race thoughts to the media, it’s not often there’s anything in there to surprise members of the team – but quite a few heads bobbed up when Andreas Seidl mentioned that Lando’s six points had allowed us to regain third in the Constructors’ Championship. The midfield battle is incredibly tight though, with only nine points now separating third from sixth.