Did Spanish GP impact the silly season?

Valtteri Bottas is seeing his championship chances fade away.

Valtteri Bottas is seeing his championship chances fade away.

We saw Valtteri Bottas get brushed aside by Lewis Hamilton in the Spanish Grand Prix and also be defeated by Max Verstappen. And it was really tough to hear Valtteri speak on Sunday evening. I wouldn’t say he was ‘broken’ but he was very close – he looked like he really needed a break from F1 to regroup.
Valtteri only has a week off and then gets right back at it. Fortunately for him, he isn’t racing for his seat. So that pressure doesn’t exist. But it does elsewhere.
Sooner or later the vacant places on the 2021 Formula 1 grid will be filled, and Spain gave a good indicator of which teams have tough decisions to make. 

Racing Point/Aston Martin

He gets a lot of criticism but it’s very difficult to fault Lance Stroll for his performance over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend.

Perhaps he could have done a better job in qualifying but he rectified that swiftly in the race with a cracking start and aggressive run to Turn 1, then a strong job in the race.
Sergio Perez’s top job on his comeback from COVID-19 reinforced why if Racing Point sign Sebastian Vettel for next season, Perez shouldn’t be the driver to make way.
But on evidence like this, why would Stroll be dropped? Unless Vettel is a slam dunk, this was a good argument for keeping the same driver line-up when Racing Point becomes Aston Martin.

Red Bull

The defence of Alex Albon has been very strong all season from Red Bull and it’s clear its second driver is coming more under fire. It’s always going to be a discussion point, but I think Red Bull’s going to stick with him. I can roughly break that logic down into three reasons.
First, Spain was a much better weekend for Albon. He qualified sixth and while he should have been closer to Verstappen’s speed I don’t think it would have made a difference to where he started. The Racing Points are quick enough to be a genuine Red Bull threat and Verstappen is a megastar, so Albon getting within 0.3s in a tricky car will be tough. Red Bull knows its car isn’t where it needs to be, so Albon has a bit of time on his side to make this gradual progress.
Second, Albon’s a good racer. He’s an excellent overtaker and in Spain his problem was a bit of misfortune. He had a great start and would have been fifth out of Turn 1 but got blocked by Bottas being squeezed by Stroll. After that, he was pitted at a time that dropped him into traffic and put onto hard tyres – which were called “garbage” on Friday. Barcelona’s not possible to overtake without a mistake or at least 1.5s advantage so I don’t think Albon could do much more.
Third, he’s probably the best option. Pierre Gasly is driving really, really well with AlphaTauri and arguably doing the impossible by making himself a serious candidate for Red Bull again – that didn’t look likely a year ago. But Albon’s more combative than Gasly was at Red Bull and more receptive to the team’s instructions and advice. It’s possible that Gasly has learned from his mistakes, and there’s no doubt he’d have benefitted had Red Bull made the race engineer change it has now afforded Albon. But there’s just a bit more confidence in Albon than in Gasly – so I think Albon has time on his side.

Haas/Alfa Romeo
Spain was the first time this year we’ve been able to see if Kimi Raikkonen’s really still up for the fight, and to a few people’s surprise he got properly amongst it.
It was good to see Kimi have chance to actually fight again because a driver of his calibre in a car as bad as the Alfa Romeo has been has not been easy to witness.
However, going wheel to wheel with a star of the future like George Russell showed there’s life in the old dog yet. The question is whether he’s interested in going through this again in 2021 and my gut feeling would be know.
That, combined with Antonio Giovinazzi putting in some solid performances but not excelling, means there might be one or even two Alfa seats on the market for 2021.
The same goes for Haas, where Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean seem to take turns in having strong weekends and struggling. I’d imagine K-Mag is more secure there.
This would likely bring Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and the leading Ferrari Driver Academy names into the picture. We’re seeing Callum Ilott, Robert Shwarzman and, to a lesser degree, Mick Schumacher, impress in Formula 2.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see at least two of those names across Alfa and Haas next season.