Jolyon Palmer picks out surprise ‘star of the weekend’ from the Belgian GP

Jamie Woodhouse
Pierre Gasly looks through his visor. Spa, Belgium. July 2023.

Pierre Gasly looks through his visor. Spa, Belgium. July 2023.

While dishing out praise for McLaren’s Oscar Piastri, ex-F1 racer Jolyon Palmer actually crowned Alpine’s Pierre Gasly a “star of the weekend” in Belgium.

The McLaren MCL60 continued to look rapid in the mixed conditions at Spa, Piastri narrowly missing out on sprint pole and claiming P2 in the event, but it was Gasly who really wowed Palmer over the race weekend.

Gasly would follow Piastri over the line to secure a P3 result in the sprint, before narrowly missing out on a points finish on Grand Prix Sunday in P11. Palmer through stressed that result did not tell the full story of Gasly’s race.

Jolyon Palmer explains why Pierre Gasly “star” of Spa

As Piastri’s fortunes took a turn for the worse at the start of the Belgian GP, the Aussie running out of room as he looked down the inside of Carlos Sainz into Turn 1 and clattering the inside wall, Palmer argues that Gasly initially getting stuck behind the wounded McLaren, followed by a slow stop and battling Alex Albon in a Williams with rapid straight-line pace, all worked against him.

“Gasly was actually a star of the weekend,” Palmer wrote for the Formula 1 website.

“But after being caught up behind a hobbled Oscar Piastri at the start and having a slow pit stop he emerged behind Albon on the same tyres with the same life in them, which is a tough scenario for anyone. It took a long time and plenty of clever thinking for the Frenchman to make his move.”

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Piastri also received his flowers from Palmer for a stellar sprint display, but as the conditions dried up for much of the Belgian GP, Piastri’s team-mate Lando Norris paid the price for McLaren’s setup working against them.

Norris complained of an alarming pace deficit down the straights, with Palmer revealing that the Williams FW45 was actually faster without DRS than the MCL60 was with it.

“McLaren were rapid on Saturday in the mixed conditions for the sprint, and Oscar Piastri was an absolute star, almost beating Max Verstappen to sprint pole before leading the race early on,” Palmer stated.

“When we had a dry race however, the Williams car suddenly looked rapid and like a possible points contender, yet the McLaren was nowhere near the front running car we’ve become used to from previous Grands Prix – and a large part of that is down to ‘raceability’ and top speed.

“The Williams was hitting top speeds of 356kph at Spa – not a mile away from the highest speeds ever seen in Formula 1 – while Lando Norris in the sole McLaren could only get to a top speed of 330kph.

“A 26kph deficit along the Kemmel straight is absolutely whopping and makes it very difficult to race what should have been an easily points scoring car. In fact the McLaren with DRS was actually slower than the Williams with no DRS, such was the difference in setups between the two cars, with the same power unit.

“The McLaren was mighty through the corners but ended up being stuck in traffic for long periods because Norris couldn’t use their strength.”

McLaren will nonetheless head into the summer break full of optimism following Norris’ back-to-back P2s in Britain and Hungary and that strong Belgium sprint pace.

Sitting P5 in the Constructors’ Championship, McLaren will have their eyes on Ferrari a place up the road with 10 rounds of the season remaining, the gap standing at 88 points.

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