Will Hamilton have to take a penalty?

Mercedes’ have been inspecting the power unit used by Lewis Hamilton at the Belgian Grand Prix following his collision with Fernando Alonso. 

After being sent airborne in the opening-lap tangle with Alonso at Les Combes, Hamilton’s car was subjected to an impact registering “over 40G” when it hit the ground.

The severity of the impact left Mercedes concerned about potential damage to the power unit and gearbox, which were returned to the UK this week for assessments.

Hamilton was told to stop on track by his team after initially being able to continue in the direct aftermath of the accident. 

Mercedes had fitted Hamilton’s car with a third PU of the season in Belgium as part of their engine strategy to get through the rest of the year without incurring grid penalties. 

If it is determined that the PU cannot be used again, Hamilton will likely face a grid drop at this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. 

Hamilton has two other V6s left in his pool for the season, however, both units have amassed high mileage, so introducing a new engine seems the most plausible solution. 

The seven-time world champion is also on his final MGU-K, turbo, MGU-K, control electronics and energy store components, with any further changes triggering grid penalties. 

Can Verstappen set a new winning streak?

Verstappen was unstoppable in Belgium as he easily won despite starting 14th on the grid after taking a penalty for using too many engine parts. 

The Dutchman delivered a peerless performance at Spa to continue his imperious form on his charge to a second world championship

Verstappen has won three races on the trot and will be determined to win again in front of his devoted fans on home soil in Zandvoort this weekend. 

A maximum 26-points haul and second consecutive Dutch Grand Prix victory would see Verstappen extend his championship advantage to 100 points with seven races to go. 

Verstappen has won nine of the 14 races so far this season and remains on course to break the record for most wins in a single season (13, set by Sebastian Vettel in 2013 and Michael Schumacher in 2004). 

The Red Bull driver could also eclipse Vettel’s record of nine consecutive wins. 

Verstappen is on a hat-trick of successive victories for the second time this year. Further success in Zandvoort would take him to four in a row, which would mark the longest winning streak we have seen so far in 2022. 

Do Ferrari have a response?

Ferrari had no answer to Red Bull’s blistering competitiveness in Belgium as Verstappen comfortably led home a Red Bull 1-2 on Sunday despite starting from 14th on the grid. 

Carlos Sainz started from pole position but slipped to third at the chequered flag, while Charles Leclerc recovered to fifth, but was penalised for speeding in the pit lane and subsequently dropped to sixth. 

Ferrari are hopeful the two teams will be more closely matched at Zandvoort so they can challenge for their first victory since Austria. 

“Overall, I think that simply the Red Bull is a faster car compared to what we’ve got in terms of efficiency,” conceded Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto. 

“At Spa you need efficiency from the aerodynamics and the power unit, but also we had tyre degradation that we need to look into, because they were stronger in terms of tyre degradation. So I don’t think it has been an outlier - they are faster than us.

“What I am hoping is that certainly the gap we have seen today we will not see at the next races, because Spa has always been amplifying the gaps because it is a long track and whenever you have an advantage in terms of efficiency, it is amplified and very obvious in such a circuit.

“So, yes, we hope to be back in the next races, to be closer, while we still believe they have a slightly faster car. But tyre degradation has been the [biggest] element affecting the performance today, which we need to understand and address because it is very important for the next races.”

Alpine on a roll against McLaren 

It was another great weekend for Alpine in their constructors’ battle against McLaren at Spa. 

Having survived first-lap contact with Hamilton, Alonso took a strong fifth, while Esteban Ocon charged from 16th on the grid to finish seventh, securing the French outfit’s fourth consecutive double points finish. 

Alpine’s competitive showing led Ocon to hail the performance as “our best weekend of the year so far, and probably since I joined the team”. 

In contrast, there was more disappointment for McLaren, who suffered a point-less weekend in Belgium. 

Starting from the back of the grid due to a penalty for engine component changes, Lando Norris rose to 12th but was frustrated in a DRS train led by Alex Albon’s point-scoring  Williams.

Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo’s misery continued as he slipped down the order and out of the points from seventh on the grid, eventually finishing 15th and once again behind Norris. 

The result has seen Alpine strengthen their grip on fourth place in the constructors’ standings, pulling 20 points clear of McLaren.

A fight off the track…

Alpine and McLaren are also locked in an off-track battle regarding who will win the services of Oscar Piastri next season. 

An FIA hearing to settle the contract dispute between the two teams started on Monday, with the FIA Contract Recognition Board set to rule which team Piastri belongs to. 

Alpine are confident of winning Piastri’s services, while the reigning F2 champion and his manager Mark Webber believe they have a valid contract with McLaren next season. 

McLaren terminated Ricciardo’s contract a year early with the intention of placing Piastri in a race seat alongside Norris for 2023. 

A decision is expected to come later this week ahead of this weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix. 

Expect plenty more reaction from both parties in Zandvoort if a verdict is reached before the weekend…