Verstappen’s woe, Albon’s joy
It’s a sign of Max Verstappen’s growing maturity and consistency that this, the 13th race of 2019, was the first of the season he has failed to finish.
But the Dutchman’s collision with Kimi Räikkönen at La Source after the start shows that the old impetuous tendencies have not been completely driven out of his character.
The hairpin is famously tight and draws first-lap accidents all too easily. Verstappen didn’t need to dive into that gap, and Räikkönen was well within his rights to turn in. Had he been patient, Max would likely have passed the Alfa Romeo on the Kemmel Straight anyway. Sure, he was keen to chase the Mercedes and the Ferraris and not lose vital ground – but in the wider context the move was neither smart nor really on.
Verstappen’s subsequent shunt at Eau Rouge, caused by broken front suspension, could have been much nastier – on this of all weekends. But no doubt he will reset for Monza and hopefully the new, more mature version will also return.
As for his new team-mate, this couldn’t have been a better start for Alexander Albon. Engine penalties took the pressure off the Thai driver in qualifying because starting only 17th was nothing to do with him. But at a circuit where overtaking is common, he had to put in a strong race performance – and that is emphatically what he delivered.
To finish fifth, behind the two Ferraris and two Mercedes, was the perfect validation for Red Bull switching Albon for Pierre Gasly during the summer break. Albon pulled off some smart overtaking moves, his sweep around the outside of Daniel Ricciardo at the No Name left-hander particularly noteworthy – although the pass of Sergio Perez on the grass along Kemmel on the last lap was also pretty special. Shades of Mika Häkkinen versus Michael Schumacher there! Bravo.