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Ten things we learned from the 2022 Dutch Grand Prix

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Ten things we learned from the 2022 Dutch Grand Prix

The capacity crowd at Zandvoort was treated to exactly what it wanted as Max Verstappen triumphed on home soil to take his win tally for 2022 into double digits. For those watching on TV, they were treated to what they wanted too as, after the race initially appeared to be a damp squib, it evolved beautifully into a tactical grudge match with a satisfying late pass for the spoils.

It was Mercedes that came closest to knocking Verstappen and Red off the top step of the podium, thanks to inspired strategy and blistering speed that was undone by ill-timed virtual and full safety cars. This came as Ferrari faltered – its pace failing to inspire and its pitstops sticking to the poor form of this season – and Sergio Perez was well adrift of his benchmark teammate.

There were also plenty of talking points off track as the Contract Recognition Board revealed its verdict on the Alpine-McLaren dispute over Oscar Piastri and another weekend passed when Porsche didn’t announce its partnership with Red Bull…

Those elements considered, here are 10 things we learned from the 2022 Dutch Grand Prix.

Verstappen is on 10 wins this season - can he break the record of 13?

Verstappen is on 10 wins this season – can he break the record of 13?

Photo by: Erik Junius

1. Verstappen can now focus on breaking records

Another sublime triumph for Verstappen stretches his standings lead to 109 points. With seven rounds and a sprint race to play, only five drivers (down to Lewis Hamilton in sixth on 158 points compared to the leader’s 310) can mathematically catch Verstappen. Realistically, however, a second title is already on its way to the Red Bull ace.

It would take a spectacular and unprecedented downfall for Verstappen not to have his name engraved on the championship trophy for the second time in a row. With that in mind, perhaps it’s the record books that are next to be in need of rewriting.

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Verstappen’s fourth win in succession takes his tally for the season to 10. The record for the most lucrative campaign is shared by Michael Schumacher in 2004 and Sebastian Vettel from 2013, when both amassed 13 wins. But given Verstappen’s current blistering speed and that a little over a third of the term remains, it’s entirely plausible that the Ferrari and Red Bull greats will statistically be surpassed.

Ferrari continues to drop ever further behind Red Bull in the pecking order

Ferrari continues to drop ever further behind Red Bull in the pecking order

Photo by: Ferrari

2. It’s tough to see where Ferrari’s next win will come from

If the Scuderia had to roll over for Verstappen at Spa, then so be it. The long Kemmel Straight and flat-out final sector were seemingly tailor-made for the top speed punch of the rebadged Honda power unit (see how easily Verstappen passed Hamilton on Sunday for the win, despite the 2022 cars not being able to gain as strong a tow as their predecessors). But at least the lithe and fast-accelerating F1-75 could answer back at Zandvoort.

That was the theory, and while Charles Leclerc snared a podium and Carlos Sainz’s cause was significantly stymied by a botched pitstop and 5s penalty for an unsafe release, Ferrari was all too quickly ruled out as a serious threat for victory. Leclerc seemingly kept Verstappen honest during the opening 10 laps as his gap to the leader hovered just above 1s, but then the defending champion lit the touch paper and disappeared well beyond DRS range.

It was then left to the brace of W13s to take the fight to Verstappen thanks to the Silver Arrows starting on the medium tyres. Ferrari, thereafter, wasn’t in the hunt for the spoils.

As Leclerc debriefed: “We just didn’t have the pace; we weren’t quick enough. So this is the main focus at the moment, to try and bring back the speed that we had at the beginning of the season. We seem to have lost it, a little bit of pace in the long runs especially.”

Even if the Scuderia wasn’t to win the Dutch GP, it was supposed to ask much more serious questions of Red Bull than it actually achieved. A visit to high-speed Monza next time out might not be any more prosperous.

Perez put in a distinctly off-colour performance at Zandvoort

Perez put in a distinctly off-colour performance at Zandvoort

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Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

3. Perez’s timing was perfect, his driving much less so

After his win in Monaco plus outqualifying Verstappen in Azerbaijan, Perez’s stock was soaring as he appeared to have mastered the return of ground effects in F1. He had a two-year contract extension at Red Bull to show for it (signed before his principality success) as the Mexican appeared to have resolved the lingering problem concerning the second seat at the team.

It can be argued that he was fortunate to sign when he did. For Perez yet again delivered the kind of substandard weekend that had Daniil Kvyat, Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly dropped back to Toro Rosso/AlphaTauri. He spun in qualifying to wind up a cavernous 0.735s adrift of Verstappen at Zandvoort and duly allowed both Ferraris and a Mercedes to split the RB18s on the grid.

Then Perez couldn’t hold a candle to Verstappen’s race pace, or the demonstrably slower Mercedes, Ferraris and even the Alpine of Fernando Alonso. In truth, he most effectively seemed to aid the Red Bull and Verstappen cause by delaying Hamilton’s hard tyre overtake by one lap after he squeezed the Briton into Turn 1. Otherwise, he was not there to play the tacit rear-gunner role that is expected of him.

Poor strategies cost Alpine at the start of the year - but the French squad has upped its game

Poor strategies cost Alpine at the start of the year – but the French squad has upped its game

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

4. Alpine appears to have stopped dropping the strategy ball

Throughout the first half of the campaign, Alpine made heavy weather of guiding the fourth-fastest car on the grid (as per the ‘supertimes’ metric) to fourth in the constructors’ championship. Strategy blunders were leaving the door wide open for McLaren, with its mediocre MCL36 and lopsided attack fronted by Lando Norris.

But Spa and Zandvoort now show that Alpine is a far slicker operation on track – even if its handling of the driver market has been woeful. To overcome a poor qualifying as Esteban Ocon lined up 12th, one spot ahead of teammate Fernando Alonso, the duo started on softs like most others. But then came the inspired change to hard tyres for a long middle stint.

The pace was better than expected and even helped Mercedes commit to a white-walled strategy that put it in a position to challenge for victory. Alpine, though, got there first. In the process, Alonso pipped Norris to further consolidate the ‘best of the rest’ ranking in the standings.

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Will Mercedes stick or twist with its W13 concept for next season?

Will Mercedes stick or twist with its W13 concept for next season?

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

5. How Mercedes handles 2023 makes for a fascinating subplot

That Mercedes was the closest challenger to Red Bull in the Dutch GP and not Ferrari was not solely forged off the back of its starting tyre strategy. The W13s, generally showing far more impressive race pace compared to qualifying all year long, launched on the medium rubber to take a longer first stint before swapping onto hards. While this afforded Hamilton and George Russell track position, it was the speed that impressed most of all.

Hamilton was pinging in purple sectors and fastest laps for fun when he was shod with the theoretically slowest available hard tyres. He was lapping up to 1.5s a lap faster than Verstappen prior to virtual and full-blown safety cars. As such, immediately after the shambles at Spa, Mercedes has shown that it can still deliver on its promise of winning a race this season.

But the team remains tight-lipped on the “difficult” decision of whether to abandon this car concept for 2023. It faces jacking in a car that is rapid on its day and has the potential of a win or two a season but remains plagued by inconsistency. As per 2021 into 2022, the longer it presses on trying to develop that season’s car, the worse the following year might be. As such, if Mercedes continues to keep it coy by not revealing its development decision, the choice it has taken whether to stick or twist might only come to light next year.

The CRB verdict was unanimous on the Piastri fiasco

The CRB verdict was unanimous on the Piastri fiasco

Photo by: Carl Bingham / Motorsport Images

6. McLaren’s driver contracts are more watertight than Alpine’s

What we didn’t learn during the Dutch GP weekend is that Oscar Piastri will race for McLaren in 2023, because that was already very much on the cards. The Australian had taken to social media to rather publicly declare he wouldn’t be belting up for Alpine next season. As such, even if the Contraction Recognition Board had ruled in Otmar Szafnauer’s favour, there was an expectation that McLaren would have gone ahead and bought the F2 and F3 champion out of his deal to secure his services.

However, the verdict released on Friday saved a few quid as it definitively settled the dispute in favour of the Woking squad with a “unanimous decision”. The CRB statement listed the McLaren paperwork as the “the only contract to be recognised” to leave Alpine still to lock in a teammate for Esteban Ocon and it is also poised to release its protege prematurely.

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The CRB verdict further stated that Piastri had inked his new deal on 4 July – a date which raised a few eyebrows…

Ricciardo stated his intent to stay at McLaren nine days after Piastri signed his deal

Ricciardo stated his intent to stay at McLaren nine days after Piastri signed his deal

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

7. Piastri was in long before Ricciardo knew he was out

…This was because the newly updated timeline revealed Daniel Ricciardo was on his way out well before the 2021 Italian GP victor himself knew anything about it. It was only during the August summer break that the team and driver settled on a handsome payoff to rip up the contract a year ahead of time and to go their separate ways.

Perhaps more intriguing, as the rumour mill kicked into overdrive concerning any looming Ricciardo and McLaren break-up, the driver felt compelled to state his commitment to the cause and to finding a resolution to his underperformance. Ricciardo therefore issued a social media post reaffirming the security of his position. He posted: “I am committed to McLaren until the end of next year and am not walking away from the sport.”

That went live on 13 July. In other words, Ricciardo was pledging his allegiance nine days after Piastri had signed up to be his compatriot’s replacement.

Red Bull and Porsche looked like a certainty...but now the union looks dead in the water

Red Bull and Porsche looked like a certainty…but now the union looks dead in the water

Photo by: Erik Junius

8. The Red Bull-Porsche deal is not the certainty we all thought

It was going to be announced at the Austrian GP in early July, but the FIA delayed approving the 2026 power unit regulations. Then Moroccan legal documents revealed a 4 August date for the tie-up to go public. However, that day came and went with nothing being revealed. Then Audi, against early expectation, leapfrogged its sister manufacturer to confirming its F1 participation. And now, it seems as though the Red Bull-Porsche collaboration might not happen at all.

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Team boss Christian Horner has spoken previously about how important it is that any Red Bull partner aligns with the Milton Keynes squad’s ‘philosophy’. While Porsche offered a reassuring 10-year deal to safeguard the future of the team as Red Bull co-founder Dietrich Mateschitz approaches his eighties, the partnership seems to be hanging in the balance due to a culture clash.

Porsche, it appears, wants to be much more hands on than Red Bull would like – with the preferred option surely to take the millions of euros and Porsche stickers plus headed note paper, but to continue as a highly successful autonomous operation. As a result, for a union that was once assumed to be nothing more than a poorly kept secret, it now seems as though Porsche is just a likely to be jilted as it is to be wedded.

The resin surface protected the gravel from pervading the track

The resin surface protected the gravel from pervading the track

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

9. A resin resolution to track limits could be in the offing

Amid the fallout of the CRB ruling and the small matter of Max Verstappen landing victory in front of a capacity home crowd, a detail that might have been missed was Zandvoort’s new take on policing track limits.

In a bid to preserve the historic venue’s nature and prevent drivers from taking liberties, circuit chiefs were loathed to bin off punishing gravel traps in favour of acres of asphalt run-off. However, the problem then lies with cars skating out wide and dragging a load of gravel back onto the circuit when they rejoin.

As such, to avoid repeated red and slippery surface flags, Zandvoort debuted a one-metre strip of resin run-off, whereby the gravel has been effectively glued in place. The section is bumpy and slippery so remains a deterrent for drivers attempting to push their luck, but the surface isn’t prone to being torn apart and deposited on track.

That the race wasn’t red flagged when drivers missed the chicane, and that this new technique hasn’t been a major talking point over the weekends suggests it at least wasn’t a retrograde step. Circuit chiefs are willing to let other tracks adopt the resin resolution.

AlphaTauri wants Colton Herta for 2023, and a failure to sign him could stop Gasly moving to Alpine

AlphaTauri wants Colton Herta for 2023, and a failure to sign him could stop Gasly moving to Alpine

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Photo by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images

10. F1 has cracked America, but won’t let America crack F1

A sold-out race in Texas, the blockbuster inaugural round in Miami and the statement Las Vegas Grand Prix coming in 2023 shows that F1 is now finally a smash hit in the United States. It had doubled down on its booming Netflix-induced American audience. There might therefore be an expectation for the championship to make hay while the sun shines by doing everything it realistically can to accommodate an American team and/or driver, too. But no.

Michael Andretti’s bid to buy his way into the paddock has faced widespread resistance from teams and F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali. And the big boss has now also cast doubt over AlphaTauri’s plans to court IndyCar driver Colton Herta in the event of Pierre Gasly switching to Alpine.

With only 32 of the required 40 points to his name, Herta is not eligible for a superlicence. Asked at Zandvoort if there were grounds to make an exception, Domenicali said: “The sport needs to respect the rules. There is a ladder to follow, there is a protocol to respect, and that is the situation. So, it’s really what I believe is right to do. I don’t think it’s right to change something retrospectively, I think the right thing to do is to apply the rules.”

Could Gasly be staying put at AlphaTauri after all?

Could Gasly be staying put at AlphaTauri after all?

Photo by: Erik Junius

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Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history

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Panthers outlast Hurricanes in 4th OT in 6th-longest game in NHL history

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — The Carolina Hurricanes and Florida Panthers seemed determined to keep playing. And playing. And playing.

The teams opened their Eastern Conference final playoff series with Florida’s 3-2 victory in four overtimes early Friday, with the game ranking as the sixth-longest game in NHL history.

Matthew Tkachuk’s goal came at the 19:47 mark of the fourth OT to end this one, which marked the 15th four-overtime game in NHL history and the longest game in franchise history for each team.

The longest game in NHL history came on March 24, 1936, when the Detroit Red Wings beat the Montreal Maroons 1-0 in the sixth overtime on Mud Bruneteau’s goal at 116 minutes, 30 seconds of extra play.

Florida’s previous record for longest game was 104:31 in Game 4 of the 1996 Stanley Cup final against Colorado. Carolina’s previous record was 114:47 for Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup final.

The only good news for the teams is they had an extended break before this series began. Carolina closed out New Jersey exactly a week earlier, while Florida eliminated Toronto a day later.

But this game ended roughly six hours after Thursday night’s puck drop, and the teams have a Game 2 in less than 48 hours.

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AP NHL playoffs: https://apnews.com/hub/stanley-cup and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club

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Barcelona says probe found no evidence of corruption by club

MADRID (AP) — The investigation ordered by Barcelona into its controversial payments for refereeing reports found no evidence of corruption by the club, president Joan Laporta said Monday.

Laporta reiterated that the club’s payments over several years to the company owned by the vice president of Spain’s refereeing committee were only for technical reports and not to influence referees. He said he believed there were no ethics breach and that Barcelona was the victim of a campaign to hurt its reputation.

“This is one of the most ferocious attacks in our history,” Laporta said. “I ask FC Barcelona supporters to be as united as ever in defense of our crest, our essence, and our ownership model. No campaign to discredit us will prevent us from continuing to be an organization of reference in the world of sports that is beloved and admired by millions of Catalans and by many more millions of people around the world.”

It was the first time Laporta spoke at a news conference to give explanations after it became public that the club paid 7.3 million euros ($8 million) from 2001-18 to the company of then committee vice president José María Enríquez Negreira. Prosecutors have accused Barcelona of alleged corruption in sports, fraudulent management, and falsification of mercantile documentation.

Barcelona opened the probe to look into the actions of all the different presidential administrations that made payments over the years, including Laporta’s first at the club. The investigation was conducted by an external company.

The club said the probe found that “no conducts of a criminal nature associated to sporting corruption have been identified, nor are there any grounds to investigate any form of criminal activity associated to bribery.” It added there was “official documentation on the invoices and payments” for the services of “scouting and advice regarding referees, which are common practices in the professional sports sector.”

“Consulting on technical-refereeing issues does not constitute any type of illegal act,” Laporta said. “Consulting, as is done by the big clubs, that was carried out transparently, with the corresponding invoices, at least in my first mandate as president.”

The probe found 629 technical refereeing reports and 43 CDs that the club received over 18 years for what Laporta called “market price.” More reports were likely lost over time, he said.

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“I reiterate with all my resolve, I am convinced that FC Barcelona has not committed any crime of sports-related corruption. I hope that sooner rather than later, it is fully exonerated,” he said. “Accusations must be proven. We live by the rule of law, which guarantees among its basic principles the presumption of innocence.”

He said that if there were any irregularities committed by Negreira, Barcelona would be a victim of them. He also said Negreira was not in a position to directly influence referees, and that it was Negreira’s son who actually produced the refereeing reports.

“I dare anyone to show an instance in which Barcelona was favored in a match because of these payments,” Laporta said. “We will allow the justice system to do its work and I’m sure that Barcelona will be cleared. I am fully convinced that FC Barcelona has never performed any act with the intention of altering the competition to gain an advantage.”

The Spanish league, Real Madrid and other clubs have been among those taking part in the legal proceedings against Barcelona. Laporta criticized league president Javier Tebas for making accusations against Barcelona, and also took a shot at rival Madrid.

“Everyone knows that Real Madrid is a club that is historically favored by refereeing mistakes,” he said.

Laporta said Barcelona has always been a club that takes pride in its values, and it would never want to win anything with outside help.

“Throughout its 123-year history, FC Barcelona has always been a model of fair play, both on and off the field,” he said. “If we have won for so many decades, it has undoubtedly been a result of effort, talent and knowledge.”

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Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak

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Silicon Valley councilman indicted in 49ers report leak

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A Silicon Valley city councilman has been charged with perjury after he allegedly lied about leaking a grand jury report to the San Francisco 49ers last year that detailed a purportedly unethical relationship between the team and the city council, prosecutors said Friday.

Santa Clara City Councilmember Anthony Becker is accused of providing the secret report titled “Unsportsmanlike Conduct: Santa Clara City Council” to the team’s former top spokesperson and a local media outlet in 2022, days ahead of its official release.

Becker then allegedly lied to the grand jury about the leak, prosecutors said, prompting the criminal charges.

The 49ers play in Levi’s Stadium in the city of Santa Clara, about 35 miles (56.33 kilometers) south of San Francisco. Santa Clara County is broadly considered home to Silicon Valley.

The city of Santa Clara owns the stadium and leases it to the team; fighting between the two groups has led to ethics complaints, legal disputes and years of bad blood.

Al Guido, the team’s president, and Larry MacNeil, the former CFO who worked extensively on the team’s stadium project, were named in the indictment as witnesses who spoke to the criminal grand jury for Becker’s indictment.

“The 49ers have cooperated fully with the District Attorney’s Office in their investigation, and will continue to do so,” team spokesperson Brian Brokaw said in a statement Friday. “However, because this is an ongoing legal matter, the organization is not able to make any further comment at this time.”

Prosecutors say the team has bankrolled Becker’s political career by spending $3.2 million through independent expenditure committees for his 2020 city council race, which he won, as well as his unsuccessful 2022 mayoral bid.

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The “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” report alleged that Becker and four other councilmembers regularly voted “in a manner that is favorable to the 49ers” and would routinely meet with the team’s lobbyists but not disclose what was discussed.

Becker faces a felony charge of perjury under oath, as well as a misdemeanor charge of willful failure to perform duty. He is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Becker did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday, and it was not clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

“Councilmember Becker violated the public’s trust,” Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said in a statement. “That an elected official would commit perjury and lie under oath before the grand jury strikes at the very heart of our justice system and requires accountability.”

Representatives for the Santa Clara City Council did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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