Why Verstappen’s downfall didn’t end his hopes for victory – even though he does get a penalty – RaceFans – .

Why Verstappen’s downfall didn’t end his hopes for victory – even though he does get a penalty – RaceFans – .

Mercedes were quick on Friday, Red Bull looked fastest on Saturday, but a costly mistake by Max Verstappen leaves the championship leader third on the grid – at best.
His fall late in the championship gave Lewis Hamilton the opportunity to win his third race in a row and further reduce Verstappen’s lead. Indeed, if they ended up where they started, the Mercedes driver would start the final race ahead, but the teams are still learning the secrets of the extreme and unusual Jeddah Corniche circuit. More surprises may be in store, and while there aren’t any, the race looks likely to serve another tense fight between title rivals.

The first question is whether Verstappen will need a replacement gearbox after his crash, which would mean an automatic five-seat grid penalty. The driveshaft appeared to have suffered a heavy blow, which is often a telltale sign that the shock of the impact has been transmitted to places the team doesn’t want it to go.

Leclerc kept his gearbox despite the crash of his Red Bull

Charles Leclerc crashed his Ferrari in a much more severe rear collision during second practice, but did not need to be replaced. Verstappen may not be so lucky.

Perhaps more importantly, Red Bull can’t risk withdrawing from the race either. Starting lower in order, but with guaranteed reliability, would be better for the championship. It would also be a cheaper trade than it looks: although Verstappen slips back to eighth place, think about some of the drivers he would fall behind: teammate Sergio Perez and the AlphaTauri duo. They are not likely to fight much.

Red Bull can be bold enough to take the grid as, against all odds, they seem to have a much faster pace than their rivals. “We’re so fast that we don’t take any risks,” Motorsport Director Helmut Marko told Servus TV. “If the gearbox has any damage or glimpses of that, then we’ll change it. “

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says there are clear areas where the RB16B is superior. “It changes over the sessions,” Wolff explained. “I think we are pretty even in the straight line, but we lost at high speed, but also in qualifying at low speed. “

“The drivers are not at all happy with the car,” he added. “It’s between understeer, slam, check, roll, whatever you want. “

Mercedes was not as quick as expected in Jeddah

If Verstappen dodges a penalty and starts third, he will be in the same position as Mexico City, where he easily took the lead on the first lap and clinched a dominant victory. While Wolff’s remarks about Red Bull’s competitiveness sometimes need to be taken with a pinch of salt, AlphaTauri’s performance so far shows that Honda has delivered a power unit that has no trouble competing with Hamilton’s cooler ‘spicy’ internal combustion unit.

In terms of dry wear, Pirelli believes the quickest strategy will be to start with medium tires and move on to hard compound. This is what every driver up to Q3, with the exception of McLaren’s Lando Norris, has the opportunity to do, the papaya car forced to start on softs. Here too, Hamilton is at a slight disadvantage: he completed four more laps on his starting gear on medium tires than Verstappen.

Formula 2 held two sprint races around Jeddah on Saturday, both of which indicated that the track has a high potential for incidents, as had been expected, and that it is not easy to overtake, unlike the expectations. However, the local commissioners seemed to be on top: the recovery of the car was very quick.

Of course, just because the F2 (or GP2) had a lively race on an all-new high-speed street circuit doesn’t mean that F1 will follow suit. This was the memorable case in Baku in 2016, where a truly astounding amount of attrition in the main GP2 race alerted F1 drivers to any risky move.

Both GP2 races were impressively won by a driver who had an exceptionally good qualifying session this weekend, reaching Q3 on medium tires in his Alfa Romeo and taking 10th place: Antonio Giovinazzi.

Giovinazzi has a chance to score points

It’s not often that there is an opportunity to speak of true F1 underdog success, but after Giovinazzi’s fight for points all season, hearing him come back from Formula E testing to say that qualifying in Jeddah was “a lot of fun” in a car that looked “shiny” is at least a little comforting for what will, as it stands, be its penultimate grand prix.

“We knew the medium tires would be better and we showed how good they were in Q2,” said Giovinazzi of his excellent qualifying run. “The apps in Q3 weren’t as good and we had a bit more trouble, it took us longer to get them into the right window, but tomorrow we’ll start at medium which is positive. That’s bad news for Norris, who may have a short-lived advantage starting out on the soft rubber, but likely faces a relay management nightmare afterwards.

How quickly the midfielder and those behind withdraw from the leaders will also have a big impact on the race. On a six kilometer track, it will take some time for the leading runners to overtake the last ones, as even the slowest team was within two seconds of the front row. But when they do say, finding a place to pass them around Jeddah will be difficult. The 50 could pass very quickly if it stays green all the way through, but that doesn’t seem likely.

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Citations : Dieter Rencken

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