Dre’s Race Review – F1’s 2024 Spanish Grand Prix

Verstappen takes his seventh win of the year but Lando Norris establishes himself as the top contender. And the f*** do you mean, Briatore’s back?!

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Dre Harrison Reviews



Read time: 8 mins

“You’ve got to be perfect.”

Hey folks, it’s time for another edition of Dre’s Race Review and in this blog, we’re talking about F1’s 2024 Spanish Grand Prix. And look, good news – This race didn’t suck! That’s a plus. And we got a very familiar tale up front. Max Verstappen took control of the early race but Lando Norris came back strong at the end… to just miss out. It seems like the blueprint for 2024 is starting to be set. Let’s get into it. 

You know what… fair play to Lando Norris. I’m glad he was so pissed off at the fact he finished in second by just two seconds as Max Verstappen took his 61st Grand Prix win. This was a winnable race, where McLaren’s lack of execution came back to haunt them.

Max Verstappen won the race with Norris to Turn 1, only to be beaten by George Russell with that beautiful sweep from the outside. This for me was Flashpoint 1. Max got ahead of Norris on track after losing out on pole position and then passed Russell quickly to get in front and start working on stretching his early lead, while Norris was stuck in a Mercedes sandwich. 

Now I admire McLaren for going for the win and looking for an alternative strategy, so they ran Norris eight laps longer on the soft tyre. But then this led to Flashpoint 2, Norris taking too long to overtake Hamilton and Russell and get back into that open air so he could work at the overcut, with Max nine seconds clear at half-distance. Norris lost five of those laps of tyre advantage working on those moves. 

It didn’t help either that Flashpoint 3 was a thing – McLaren being slower in the pit lane. Max’s first stop was brilliant, a 1.9. But left the door open with a 2.8 second, second stop. But with a slow rear tyre change on Norris’ final stop leading to a 3.6, McLaren lost 1.6 seconds in the pits. In a race they lost by 2.2 seconds. Brutal. 

If McLaren nails just one of these flashpoints, they at least give Max something to worry about it. Two, and they probably win. McLaren had the quicker car in terms of race pace. Including Canada’s drying track and Imola’s similar chase down, there are moments where McLaren is legitimately faster than Red Bull now. Norris took that gap in the final stint from eight seconds to two. And although it never felt like Red Bull was going to lose, Norris has become the antagonist in the field and contender for Max’s crown.

And that’s what makes this result so frustrating for Zak and the crew. They’re there. They’re now challenging for wins. You’re a contender. And if you’re being evaluated in that way you’re going to be treated much more harshly when you get it wrong. And McLaren did. 

As said before, it’s a testament to the class of Red Bull. They probably didn’t have the best car yesterday. And Max executed the perfect race to stay in front and win it in the clutch. That’s the level you have to operate at to beat Red Bull, even in the most vulnerable state they’ve been in for three years. 

Welcome back to the big leagues, McLaren. This is who you are now.

Alpine. Alpine. Renault. Please. I say this with full sincerity, what on earth is going on here?

There’s been two big stories that hit this team in the week after Canada. The first one was an exclusive report from Jon Noble at Autosport that Alpine is considering dropping their power unit and may enter talks with other factories to pick up a customer deal for the 2026 regulation shift.

It’s another embarrassing leak to come out of their camp and compounded comments made by previous management. It was Otmar Szefnauer who first flagged up that Alpine’s power units could be 30-40 horsepower behind their rivals and was pushing for a change to the rules because the engine freeze means they can’t develop said power units to close the gap. That unfreeze never happened, so Alpine still has that suspected deficit. If Jon’s report is to be believed, they’re not confident about their 2026 version either with big changes like the removal of the MGU-H and 50/50 power deployment between the ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) and battery.

If Renault drops their power unit for someone else’s… it’s humiliating on a grand scale. It screams of either a lack of confidence in their programme, or an acceptance of failure and not their first of this era given they lost Red Bull as a customer when the turbo-hybrid era began. This does not line up with this team’s loft ambitions at all. Remember, we’ve had two separate “five-year plans” implemented to take this team back to the top and an expansion to nearly 1,000 members of staff across Enstone and Viry. This was meant to be an assault on Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Red Bull. They’re not in the same postcode right now. 

And scaling back your aspirations to become a customer would for me, be the final nail in that coffin. It would be giving up and settling on playing second fiddle to another factory and never realistically having a chance to challenge on a grander scale. 

And I think the team knows there are issues there. Because why else would it bring back… Flavio Briatore?!

If Alpine wanted to put out the flames from that exclusive scoop, this felt more like pouring kerosene. Flavio’s back in a special advisor role within Alpine, another higher-up role where we don’t know just what’s going to be doing. 

I just… don’t get it. Everyone who knows Flavio knows why he’s famous. It’s not the genuine success he did have at Benetton and Renault, it’s Crashgate in 2008 that forever tainted him, Pay Symonds, his team and the sport as a whole. He is everything the most hardcore of critical F1 fans THINK Abu Dhabi 2021 was. And you decided he’s the guy to help fix your underperforming team?!

Bruno Famin can talk about utilising all his resources and brush over his past as much as he wants, it is unavoidable to talk about what Briatore can bring without mentioning it. He was banned from the sport for a couple of years and hasn’t had an official role within an F1 team since then. Alpine probably does need an experienced team manager to help guide them given the amount of staff that they’ve either fired or have chosen to leave, but it can never be the man who intentionally risked a driver’s safety and rigged a race to do it. It kills all respectability you have as a team. You absolutely cannot bring him back. 

Just what is this team at this point? What direction are you heading in? You’re juggling an overweight chassis, you’re bringing back a race-fixer to help with your poor decision-making, you’re considering dropping your power units, and you’ve lost the one consistently excellent driver you had at the end of the season. How messy are you?! FUC- 

The fact that someone’s going so far as to email everyone major in F1 worth a damn over “Hamilton’s unfair treatment”, including a death threat, we’re being completely ridiculous and reactionary. Lewis Hamilton declared he was leaving this team in January. When you make that decision, there are consequences. When December comes, he’s no longer your greatest-ever driver, he’s your competition. 

You have to protect yourself as a team from what’s coming. You’re going to get frozen out of meetings, have data withheld, have the team focus more on the driver who’s elected to stay, etc. This isn’t unfair treatment, it’s the consequences of the decisions you make as a driver, and the sometimes necessary nature of the sport. Mercedes are there to win, not placate your ego as a Hamilton fan. 

There are 1,200+ people in Brackley and at the tracks that are working around the clock and giving everything to ensure their team performs at their very best. To imply that they’re not because your favourite driver isn’t performing as well, or is leaving is unfair to them, not Lewis. That may suck for a lot of his fans to have to accept and hear, but it’s reality. 

And once again, why are we so comfortable putting death threats in your communication? We’ve just had a horrible fortnight of IndyCar coverage over the fans of Agustin Canapino going after Theo Pourchaire, and now we’re seeing this spill out into F1 again. Enough. This shit isn’t funny, it fucks with people’s lives, man. 

I know journalists who have had the same treatment and have been doxxed. It’s happened to me in my time as a content creator, including someone who tweeted me my old work location. It’s genuinely triggering and horrific. It’s the sort of shit that makes you afraid to put yourself out there, check your email inbox, and makes you scared to leave the house. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

I’m glad Mercedes are taking this to the police and treating it with the seriousness it deserves. It’s great that we’re passionate about our sport, but the minority are taking this WAY too far. We are just that, a sport. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I do find it funny though that Alpine had their worst PR weekend of the year while also having their best weekend of the year on track. A double points finish for the second race week in a row, three straight weekends in the points and Gasly was only half a second off of pole, one of his best weekends with the team. Was unlucky to lose eighth on the final lap to…

…Sergio Perez, who was a minute off the win and on a strange three-stop strategy that didn’t work, and was two-thirds of a second slower than Max in qualifying. Please stop the bleeding, this is getting painful. 

Ferrari has a genuine weakness when it comes to switching their tires on in qualifying and their overall team mentality is leaving points on the table. Leclerc getting car damage from an OTT Sainz overtake was needless. I get it, he’s fired so the team game is out of the question, but in a now four-team fight for at least second in the Constructors, that was a messy, silly day for the prancing horse.

Also kinda funny, if I didn’t know any better, Mercedes boned Russell on strategy rather than Hamilton this weekend. Alas. 

Fernando Alonso was lapped on home soil in P12. Aston Martin can’t develop their way out of a paper bag at the moment and they’re slipping to Alpine and RB fast. Lucky for them, RB’s upgrade and subsequent weekend were a disaster too. Still, could be worse. You could be Williams.

Surprised it took this long for Alpine to enter the Carlos Sainz race, it’s the best team on the table right now to make him an offer. Feels very Briatore-esque to go for the best guy available. They probably should go that way over Schumacher and Doohan. But will he want to join that organisational hot mess?

About the Author:

Dre Harrison

Somehow can now call himself a Production Coordinator at the Motorsport Network, coming off the back of being part of the awkward Johto Era at WTF1. All off a University Project that went massively out of hand. Weird huh?

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