May 20, 2019 will never be forgotten, when the Mercedes supervisory board in Zurich lost the month-long battle – total organ failure. And nothing has been heard from Didi Mateschitz for weeks – not even after Bulle Max won the world championship in Abu Dhabi in 2021.
Who can disrupt title duels?
But the show must go on. The sixth World Championship round on the winter test meadow is coming up. The previous season was of course marked by the new team duel Ferrari against Red Bull (157:151 points) and the duel Leclerc – Verstappen (86:59, but 2:3 wins).
With seven of the ten cars competing here with many modifications, many are anticipating a minor upset in the pecking order. McLaren-Mercedes allow themselves ten changes, Alfa-Sauber eight.
Protest with green cans…
Most notably, at 2 p.m., Aston-Martin Mercedes climbed into the first 60 minutes of practice – was that a clear copy of the Red Bull-Honda? “Yes, a scandal,” raged in the bull camp. And demonstratively placed the green cans from the Red Bull range at the entire command post.
This time, the world association FIA reacted quickly to the allegations and declared the green car as legal. Aston Martin was apparently able to prove that the changes had already been tested in the wind tunnel in November 2021. Sure, seven people from Red Bull changed camp after the season. And what you couldn’t take with you in your briefcase, at least stayed in your head.
Alonso faces punishment!
2020 was different. Racing Point (now Aston Martin) simply copied the world champion cars from Mercedes with copies. The FIA reacted quickly there too: 15 World Championship points deducted. At the end of the season, Racing Point lost third place in the World Championship to McLaren!
And while we’re at the FIA: The old master Fernando Alonso (40, Alpine) asks for an interview. After his two penalties in Miami, the Spaniard called the FIA commissaires and the race director incompetent. The punishment (social commitment?) will follow soon…
Three “new” drivers…
On the 4.6 km long piste and the 47 degrees hot asphalt, it was still easy to get down to business at the beginning. Three teams used a third driver in the first practice session. At Alfa-Sauber, Kubica (thanks to main sponsor Orlen) was once again allowed to do a few laps. Zhou had to watch.
Williams-Mercedes took Formula E World Champion Nyck de Vries into the car for Albon. And Red Bull gave Estonian Formula 2 driver Juri Vips a chance. Here Neo-Papi Pérez (now two children) had to stand in the pits for an hour.
Spaniards come in droves
What was immediately noticeable this time on the circuit in Montmelo: the grandstands (Ferrari star Carlos Sainz even has his own) were full. Around 100,000 spectators are expected every day.
Practically nothing happened for almost an hour. The route has been hammered into the minds of most drivers here for years. You know every bump and you drive the curves in your sleep.
And in the end the big earthquake didn’t happen. Two Ferrari in front of world champion Verstappen. Then there’s Russell (who finished all 2022 races in the top five), Alonso (disabled Hamilton, investigation ongoing) and Hamilton in the same second.
Incidentally, the Briton has won the last five races here (like in 2014)! “Whoever writes us off is making a mistake. We will soon find the direction that will solve our problems!”
Hinwil fans: Patience required!
At Alfa-Sauber, the changes to the C42 have not brought anything. But almost traditionally, the Hinwil cars are on the road with rather full tanks in the first 60 minutes: 13th Kubica, 17th Bottas. But that doesn’t mean anything.