Max Verstappen’s orange army gave the Formula 1 fraternity the warmest of welcomes as Friday practice got underway at a sunny but windy Zandvoort.
On paper, their hero didn’t have the best of starts, but is the championship leader still the favorite to win his home race for the second time?
1. Ferrari appears to have the upper hand It was smiles all around at Ferrari after Friday practice as the return to a high-downforce circuit hauled the red cars back into contention and marked them out as the front-runners.
They’ve had the edge on Red Bull in qualifying trim this year – between Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, they’ve taken nine podiums in 14 events – and that continued into Zandvoort with Ferrari holding close to a 0.4s advantage.
2. Red Bull giving chase Not a smooth Friday for Red Bull, with Max Verstappen missing most of the first practice – and thus only running the hard tire –
when he encountered a transmission issue. He got back out in second practice, but didn’t have the right balance and was struggling for grip.
His teammate Sergio Perez had a frustrating day, too, running off the track and encountering some lock-ups as he struggled to get the car to do what he wanted it to do.
They’re third quickest behind Mercedes in qualifying trim – and only a fraction ahead of McLaren.
3. Mercedes haul themselves into contention The Mercedes looked like a different beast on the tight and twisty turns of Zandvoort, compared to low-downforce Spa, with the team finding it easier to find a balance early doors.
That gave them a strong foundation on which to build and while they feel they are “still missing a bit” on a single lap and long run but they know where they want to head on Saturday.
They’re fourth fastest in race simulations, just behind McLaren, and around three-quarters of a second off the pace – and the feeling is that they are very much in the hunt for the podium this weekend.
4. McLaren looking sharper It was a good day for McLaren on multiple fronts. Not only did they announce Oscar Piastri would drive for them – not Alpine – from next season but their form on track was more encouraging than at Spa.
The low point was that a radiator problem cut short Daniel Ricciardo’s FP2 session, which meant he missed the high-fuel run.
However, the team reckons they have a good understanding of the tires and the direction they want to go for set-up.
5. Alpine brings more upgrades but has work to do Alpine has had the edge on McLaren of late to sit a deserved fourth in the constructors’ championship, but it seems their papaya rivals have the edge around Zandvoort.
The Enstone team has consistently brought updates this year and that trend continued, with the team reporting they worked as expected and brought “a bit of extra performance”.
They’re not far off McLaren and Mercedes in race trim – but they have a lot to do in terms of qualifying trim, the blue cars 0.88s off the pace. There’s still one more practice session to work on that, though.
F1 2022 results: Dutch Grand Prix – Qualifying