Feature F1 Unlocked
HINCH’S HEROES: Who makes Hinch’s list after a hectic Grand Prix at Zandvoort?
This season, former IndyCar star James Hinchcliffe is taking stock after every Grand Prix and presenting his ‘heroes’ from the weekend, exclusively for F1.com. Here are his picks from a chaotic Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort…
Pierre Gasly – P3
Gasly’s presence on the list this week stems from his management of the changeable conditions combined with the added pressure of a potentially great result – one which was desperately needed for the team.
Alpine had only scored five points since Austria coming into the weekend, so Gasly’s 15 point haul for third was a welcome boost, especially after the shock of the team’s management leaving after the Belgian Grand Prix.
From 12th on the grid Alpine surely thought points were achievable, but the decision to come in and pit at the end of the first lap was the real difference maker for Gasly. Coming out of the pits in changing conditions and knowing you have to push like mad to make up ground is one of the toughest situations a driver can find themselves in.
But Gasly executed it mistake-free and cycled up to fourth by the time the stops were all said and done.
Despite dealing with dry/wet/dry/wet conditions – when a mistake would’ve been so easy – and knowing crucial points were on the cards, he mastered the situation and collected a well deserved podium and a haul of points that will kick-start Alpine’s effort to catch McLaren in the constructors’ battle.
Lewis Hamilton – P6
Hamilton’s run from 13th to sixth might not seem particularly noteworthy, but when you consider that he was still sitting in 13th on Lap 25, it starts to look a little more impressive.
The midfield is so close that there isn’t much to choose between the teams battling it out for best of the rest behind Red Bull.
Throw in the fact that the Zandvoort layout isn’t particularly conducive to overtaking, and his climb up into the top six in the next two-thirds of the race was mighty impressive.
He’s always been quick in the wet, but passing the P2 qualifier Lando Norris in the dry showed his race pace potential. It wasn’t the podium that I’m sure Mercedes were hoping for, but getting to where he did, how he did it, was the performance of a champion.
Alex Albon – P8
Another race weekend where the Williams had pace that surprised even themselves, translated to another race weekend with a solid tally for Albon.
His qualifying pace was aided – in his own words – by the direction of the wind on Saturday, but then he and the team dealt beautifully with the tricky weather, (mostly) avoiding multiple opportunities for both driver mistakes and strategy blunders.
Though the final result will show a finish four places lower than his start, I think it’s safe to say the start position was unexpected and four points scored at a track that should not have suited his Williams is just another impressive performance on Albon’s résumé for the year.
Liam Lawson – P13
There isn’t much more that AlphaTauri could have expected from Lawson on his F1 debut, who subbed in at the last minute for the injured Daniel Ricciardo. In fact, a much worse result than 13th wouldn’t have been held against the young Kiwi.
Only getting the final practice session in the car before qualifying, he understandably propped up the field in P20 on the grid for the race.
Team boss Franz Tost said in a grid interview that the only goal Lawson was given was to finish the race and learn as much as he could. Well, it truly was a crash course in Formula 1 racing – with everything but the crash. Mother Nature threw just about all she possibly could at the sea-side track and the rookie did an admirable job dealing with it.
Slick tyres on a wet track, lengthy running on the intermediates, Safety Cars, a red flag and restart – it was truly a baptism of fire for Lawson and coming home 1.4 seconds behind teammate Yuki Tsunoda in 14th (which would later become 13th after a late penalty for the Japanese racer) was enough of a performance for the team to announce that he would stay in the seat until Ricciardo returns.
Not the points-on-debut result he was probably dreaming of, but a mighty fine drive nonetheless.
Fernando Alonso – P2
From his great qualifying performance to his first lap passes and his genuine thought of dive bombing Max Verstappen on the late restart, the Dutch GP was full of vintage Alonso.
The Turn 3 ‘slide job’ on Lap 1 to get two cars at once put him in the podium discussion from the get-go and the two-time champ never looked back.
The chaotic nature of the race and the ever changing conditions are where Alonso has so often thrived in recent years. His ability to stay composed and understand how the race is playing out – all while negotiating the most treacherous conditions of the year – puts his display on the Verstappen-level of mental capacity.
This type of performance is almost expected out of the most tenured Grand Prix driver of all time, but the jubilation on the podium shows that the fire burns as bright in him today as it did in his championship years of past. It was another brilliantly strong drive from the veteran Spaniard.