In the fight for fourth place, things will be tight for McLaren. Alpine has the better car and the better drivers at the moment. The lead of the French has already increased to 24 points. Can McLaren counter again in the end of the season?
McLaren clearly won the Piastri case in the competition with Alpine. On the race track, however, the duel tilts in the direction of Alpine. The French have gained 30 points over McLaren in the last five races and head to Monza with a 24-point cushion. That's a real draw in this arena, where double-digit point gains count as a win.
McLaren can no longer draw on the points cushion that they had built up before the Monaco GP. Despite two major upgrades in the meantime, this is due to the car and the driver pairing. Fernando Alonso and Esteban have scored 23 times - nine of them doubles.
At McLaren there were 16 movements on the points account, only five of which were doubles. Only Lando Norris drives at the level of the Alpine pilots. With Daniel Ricciardo you have the feeling that the air is finally out after the termination.
Zandvoort spoke for McLaren
McLaren wanted to stop the World Cup opponent's run in Zandvoort. The circuit in the dunes suits the MCL36 better than the previous Spa circuit, where all the car's bad qualities were brought out. High air resistance, bad traction, weak top speed, high tire wear. "The qualifying only went better because it was cold. Our car quickly burns the tires. We overtax them when it gets warm," said team boss Andreas Seidl, ticking off the topic of Spa.
Zandvoort didn't have any of that. No straights, just one spot where traction counts and moderate asphalt temperatures. The McLaren feels comfortable with a lot of downforce. Lando Norris promptly qualified close to the Mercedes. In Q1, Daniel Ricciardo, like Sebastian Vettel, encountered gravel in the penultimate corner that Lance Stroll had previously deposited on the track. The Australian's 17th grid position was bearable, however, because both Alpine drivers got stuck in Q2.
More flexible in strategy
But in the game one against two, Norris lost out in the end. Alpine split his tactics, bringing in Alonso early for the first pit stop and the better started Ocon late. The hard tire as a cross-country option in the second stint was part of the planning from Friday. Since the Alpine engineers had done their homework just as well as Mercedes.
In contrast to Norris, the French also had fresh soft tires in their depot for the race. Alonso even two sets. This gave Alpine more flexibility. Alonso got his second set of soft tires in the VSC phase. He held to the end, which gave him the luxury of being able to stay on the track with the right safety car.
Then Ocon was brought to the pits.Like the Frenchman, Norris had to go to the tire service. "If we had stayed outside on the old tires, Lando would have been eaten up by those who had fresher tires than him," Seidl regretted. With that, the place for Alonso was gone.
Red Bull light
Having the better strategy is one thing. You also have to have the car and the drivers to make that happen. The Alpine A522 is now such a car. With the exception of the Monaco GP, every race received an upgrade. Small but nice. The stages of development hit reliably. Alpine has gained some air over McLaren and is getting closer to the top trio in tiny steps. Alonso almost overtook Sergio Perez in the last twelve laps.
The A522 has become a real all-rounder. Unlike the McLaren, it has no identified weaknesses. Bouncing was never a big issue. That's why the engineers didn't have to make any concessions with the setup. Ocon praised after the race in Spa: "It was the best Alpine I've ever driven." A Red Bull light, so to speak. With three defects in 15 races, the blue cars have also become a safe bet technically.