As we prepare for arguably the biggest weekend on the motorsports calendar, with the Monaco Grand Prix, the 100th Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 all in a row this Sunday, we do have to take a look back on some of the bigger stories that have occurred in the last few weeks.
Luckily, Stefan Johansson has checked in with another new installment of his blog, in an interview with Jan Tegler.
And the last Grand Prix two weeks ago in Barcelona, where the Mercedes AMG Petronas teammates crashed into each other on the opening lap, then Max Verstappen took his maiden Grand Prix victory, provided no shortage of story lines.
Let’s talk the Max factor, first. Johansson was quick to praise Verstappen’s racecraft, but also made the note that the nature of the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya can lend itself to surprise race scenarios.
“I think he did a phenomenal job and no doubt, he’s the future of Formula One. But Barcelona is also a track which maybe more than any other track on the calendar lends itself to a scenario like this,” Johansson writes. “Don’t forget, Pastor Maldonado won a race there too under very similar circumstances, when Alonso was chasing him the entire race but could not find a way past.
“The speed difference between the Ferraris and the Red Bulls wasn’t large enough to make passing realistic. As long as Verstappen didn’t make a mistake – and full credit to him for being mistake-free – all he had to do was drive his own race. He didn’t have to fight for the win the way he might have had to at another track. Still, he did a sensational job.”
Johansson added a line that Verstappen’s now former teammate at Scuderia Toro Rosso, Carlos Sainz Jr., got almost no love in the immediate aftermath despite a career day of his own with a sixth place finish.
“On the other hand, Carlos Sainz has gotten almost zero credit and he also did a sensational job. He finished 6th in a car that’s clearly not anywhere near as competitive as the Red Bull. But that’s F1. The media build guys like Verstappen way up. Then if they fail, they bury them just as fast.”
How Verstappen got in the win situation to begin with came courtesy of the controversial first lap contretemps between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, the Mercedes teammates.
So what did Johansson think of the proceedings?
“I really think it was just a racing incident,” he writes. “A combination of things came together in a fraction of a second, literally. I don’t think there was any intent from either driver to do anything particularly sinister. It was a chain reaction triggered by Rosberg’s lack of power.
“My argument has always been that you race fairly and you should leave at least a car width if someone gets a good run on you. But that’s not the ethic these days. So the nature of racing now means that this can happen. You act on instinct with these rules in place and in this case, I don’t think you can blame one or the other. It was a racing incident.”
Proof, then, that not every incident needs a single person or driver to take the full blame.
Beyond Red Bull and Mercedes, there is Ferrari, a team near and dear to Johansson’s heart considering he used to race for the Scuderia.
But with results not coming at all – the team won three Grands Prix last year but has got off to a less than perfect start to 2016 – the question is when will Ferrari win again?
Johansson makes the point that good relationships need time to blossom, build, gel and take time.
“When Ferrari was winning everything (1999-2004) they had a dream team that will probably never exist again in Formula One. Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Michael Schumacher – these are some of the best guys ever in F1 and they all made a pact to stick together and drive Ferrari forward through thick and thin. That’s what made them successful,” he writes.
Can Ferrari turn it around? We’ll see starting this weekend in Monaco.
There are several more great nuggets within Johansson’s latest blog, which you can view in its entirety here.
Previous linkouts to Johansson’s blog on MotorSportsTalk are linked below:
Additionally, a link to Johansson’s social media channels and #F1TOP3 competition are linked here.