Racing fans mull qualms

PARIS, France (AFP) — Fernando Alonso’s move to Aston Martin to replace retiring Sebastian Vettel next year was the focus of interest in Formula One after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Here, AFP looks at five talking points as the world championship heads into its annual summer holiday shutdown:

Ferrari’s problems

Team boss Mattia Binotto recently faced increasing pressure after Sunday’s flop as Ferrari started the Hungarian Grand Prix second and third, with Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, but finished fourth and sixth.

World champion Max Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate Sergio Perez went from 10th and 11th to first and fifth with a comprehensive demonstration of smart team-work and strategy.
Red Bull lead the constructors’ championship with 431 points. Ferrari has 334. Rising Mercedes are third on 304.
Although Ferrari have had the fastest car for much of the season, notably in qualifying, they have squandered that advantage with bungled strategy calls, driver error, engine and other technical failures and a lack of consistency and reliability.

DAN MULLAN/Agence France-Presse FORMULA One drivers battle for position at the first corner.

Former driver Johnny Herbert, a pundit on Sky Sports F1, described their latest flop as “embarrassing.”

Leclerc, 80 points adrift in the title race, pleaded to stay out on the track on medium compound tires while leading with 30 laps to go, but was called in, switched to hards and fell down the order.

Binotto remained calm and blamed an unexpected drop in car and tire performance, but promised another in a series of in-depth reviews.

Mercedes recovery

The Mercedes recovery after a dismal and bumpy start to the season has revived seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton, not only rekindling his belief he will secure a 104th career victory this year, but also energizing him for a bid for a record eighth drivers’ title. The 37-year-old Briton’s run of five consecutive podium finishes, including two successive seconds, has confirmed the team are back as a competitive — if not yet winning — force. Hamilton said: “For sure, if we take this pace into the second half of the season, we can start to fight those other guys!”

Alonso move triggers ‘silly season’

Fernando Alonso’s swift move to take Sebastian Vettel’s seat has triggered “silly season” speculation forecasting more action in the driver market for 2023.

The first vacancy to fill will be at Alpine. Reserve driver Oscar Piastri, winner of the 2020 Formula Three and 2021 Formula Two titles, is an obvious candidate. The Australian, managed by former Red Bull driver and compatriot Mark Webber, is regarded as a major talent.

Another vacant seat could be at Williams, where Nicholas Latifi will be out of contract this year. Williams may be interested in Piastri, if he misses the Alpine seat, or Mercedes reserve Nyck de Vries.

The Dutchman impressed in free practice appearances for Williams in Spain and for Mercedes in France.

ATTILA KISBENEDEK/Agence France-Presse
FERRARI’S woes continue heading to the middle of the season. ITS ace driver, Charles Leclerc is frustrated, clearly evident on his face here.

An outsider could be Williams reserve driver Jamie Chadwick, who has dominated the female only W Series this season, but a move for a woman driver may not be straightforward.

The future of Mick Schumacher, son of seven-time champion Michael, is another talking point as he is out of contract this year with Haas.

Bouncing and porpoising

While the drivers take to the European beaches for their vacations, many teams will keep working on solutions to the ‘porpoising’ and bouncing problems that have affected many cars this season.

The ruling body the FIA is scheduled to introduce measures to control the problem and safeguard drivers starting from the Belgian Grand Prix, but some teams, notably Red Bull, remain opposed to any changes affecting the “ground effect” formula introduced this season.

Red Bull have designed a car that is less prone to porpoising and have reaped the reward in results. Team boss Christian Horner has warned of rifts in the paddock and pit lane if new rules are introduced mid-season.

Ferrari’s Monegasque driver Charles Leclerc competes during first practice session ahead of the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary, on July 29, 2022. (Photo by ATTILA KISBENEDEK / AFP)

Abusive behavior

Abusive behavior from fans at races and on social media has prompted a response by Formula One.

It launched its recent “Drive it Out” campaign, but there were continued reports of abusive behaviour and filmed reports on social media showing Max Verstappen fans allegedly burning Lewis Hamilton merchandise at the Hungaroring.

“It is not acceptable,” sad the 24-year-old Dutchman. “I definitely don’t agree with that because it’s disgusting.”

The recent incidents in Austria and Hungary follow others when fans cheered drivers crashing their cars or generally booed or abused them.

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