Everything like before. Come back the undisputed dominance of Max and Red Bull, continues to grow as McLaren’s second force of the season. It’s business as usual for Ferrari too, trailing a good distance behind, dueling with Mercedes. The Singapore dream is already over, Carlos Sainz is sixth following Lewis Hamilton and Leclerc is fourth at the foot of the podium. We were able to see Verstappen at the start, then whoever saw him saw him, took it and left. At the end of September, well ahead of schedule, Red Bull wins the constructors’ championship on the Suzuka trackclosed for a few months already, testifying to absolute dominance.
But behind his dominion, McLaren grows, second with Norris, thus replicating the podium and placing in Singapore, and third with Piastri. Vasseur says that the distances are minimal, that one time they do better and another time Ferrari does better. It doesn’t seem like it to us. From Silverstone onwards, McLaren was the only one trying to stay in Red Bull’s wake, with a consistency barely tainted by a few grand prix. This is not the case in Maranello. Sainz’s splendid victory in Singapore obscured, but did not erase, the sense of a season characterized by mediocrity.
In the end, even our dear Freddie has to put on a brave face: «Well, you can’t be fully satisfied when you finish fourth and sixth, even if we got close to the Mercedes». That’s better. «But it was difficult to do better today», he adds. «The objective now is to catch up with Mercedes. And as far as the future is concerned, we must not be influenced by the results. We are so close, Ferrari, Mercedes and McLaren, that from one track to another the advantages are reversed by a few tenths. We have to move forward and think about the next Grand Prix. We were a few cents short this weekend and it would have been another race. In Dakar, we will have to try to do better.”
If Vasseur does not tone down his optimism, and perhaps he is simply right that he knows things that we don’t know, Charles Leclerc is, as always, a little more doubtful. And when asked if Mclaren’s leap forward is worrying, she replies «Yes and no. This track is very similar to Silverstone, where they did very well. Here in Suzuka we expected a performance like this from them. We have to see in Dakar. If they are confirmed there too, then we certainly have to worry.” And in fact this is simply the state of things.
On the other hand, on a technical track like that of Suzuka, which requires aerodynamic load, stability, balance, efficiency, but which is above all characterized by very high tire degradation, a particularly complicated aspect to manage for the Maranello drivers given the deficiencies of the SF23 in this area, it was quite logical to predict that Ferrari would encounter several difficulties. Only Vasseur, still inebriated from the champagne shower on the podium in Singapore, had failed to realize that here too the Red car could have provided a pleasant surprise. In reality, free practice and qualifying had already highlighted how the Prancing Horse cars had suffered terribly in the first sector, where all the lack of load and aerodynamic instability had emerged, while McLaren had improved significantly with a clear increase in performance on slow curves and straights, also taking advantage of significantly superior tire management. In a certain sense, the result was already written from the start. Without Perez, who now continues to suffer the pain of hell in this world championship, with slow-motion qualifying sessions one after the other and scattered accidents throughout the race, it remained to be understood how the duel with Mercedes would end. Leclerc won it, Sainz lost it, but overall the constructors’ classification from today smiles more on the Scuderia from Maranello, for third place, given that the first, Red Bull, is already closed, and the second, McLaren , Almost. And now we’re going to Dakar, to the test of truth, as Leclerc said. We might even believe Vasseur for once, the big-cat smile of him who saw the bird dancing around his nose. Meh.
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