It’s summer break time and, as per usual in this time of the year, it is pertinent to draw the first conclusions on the first half of the season, which has ended in possibly the most unpredictable way.
To whom it may concern one of the most striking feats is Max Verstappen’s progression since his victory at the Austrian GP. In the last five races the Dutchman has collected more points than everyone else, 93. The impressive ascension of the 21-year-old certainly earned him a spot in the title fight, being 7 points behind runner-up Valtteri Bottas in the standings.
In fact, the Finn has not been able to capitalise on Lewis Hamilton’s tough luck recently, failing at catching up on him in terms of championship points (55 in the last 5 races) and credibility going forward in the title contention. Lewis Hamilton is currently demolishing his teammate, having displayed an incredible form that allowed him to score his personal highest amount of wins in the first part of the season.
Verstappen charge to the top spots on the grid was made possible by Ferrari’s inability to tie up loose hands with car development and clever strategy calls, which inevitably had the Maranello-based team trapped in its own internal issues.
No one really thought the championship could possibly evolve into a Hamilton-Verstappen fight rather than an intra-team battle at Mercedes. Red Bull’s tremendous technical development combined with Verstappen’s hunger for success turned out to be the blend that can challenge Lewis Hamilton on and off the track. Awareness of his strengths and weaknesses, self-confidence, talent, fearlessness. It is the new generation wrestling its way to the top, with no better representative than the precocious talent, whose high anticipation at the time of his debut was taken care of by Helmut Marko. But will Verstappen’s incredible level of competitiveness stay as it is for the remainder of the season? Time will tell, the features of Spa and Monza will certainly be more hostile to Red Bull compared to the circuits we have just left behind. Therefore, the next two races are likely to display a different pattern regarding the raw potential of the cars, with Ferrari popping slightly ahead of the Honda-powered RB15.
But still, everyone within the team will be up for a teammate comparison through the adversities embodied by Spa and Monza. Pierre Gasly has been underperforming for the entire first half of the season, except for the Silverstone round, when he managed to outscore his teammate. The Frenchman was promoted to Red Bull one year ago, but since his arrival he has not shown consistency, let alone the fiery competitiveness he was expected to showcase. Hence, the former Toro Rosso driver is not in the position to challenge Max Verstappen, who has focused the attention of the team on himself because of charisma and seniority within the outfit. Therefore, Gasly has to overcome an awful lot of hurdles that are preventing him from proving himself and growing professionally.
The environment that Helmut Marko has inadvertently created with the junior programme is highly selective, having made a promotion at Red Bull a matter of survival. The second half of the season will be crucial for him to determine whether he was Red Bull-ready or not, hence a decision will be made.
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