Max Verstappen cruised to victory from 14th place on Sunday at the Belgian Grand Prix. Verstappen’s dominance is getting out of control: He was so much faster right from the outset than every other car that none of the drivers in front of him made even the barest attempt to hold him off. Every genuine contest in the race took place behind the two Red Bull drivers; Ferrari, who, for a while this very season, had what was clearly the fastest car, were left desperately clinging to a podium spot and making a dicey last-ditch effort to snag a spare point via a run at the fastest lap. True to form, they fucked it up and dealt themselves another brutal unforced injury.
Charles LeClerc—who started a spot behind Verstappen due to his second grid penalty of the season—navigated his way through a dreaded midfield DRS train to eventually race his way into fifth in the closing laps. Ferrari is no longer the quickest car; in fact, it might not be even the second-quickest car, so LeClerc found himself with a galling and insurmountable 21-second gap to eventual fourth-place finisher George Russell. With no shot at working LeClerc into the podium fight, and a narrowly workable gap to then-sixth-place Fernando Alonso of Alpine, Ferrari opted to bring LeClerc in for his third pit stop of the race, with two laps remaining, and put him onto a set of soft tires to hunt the point for fastest lap.
This might not have been a risk worth taking, even under ideal circumstances, for a single point. Keeping LeClerc in the clean air ahead of Alonso would have required a quick and efficient stop, with no lost time. Ferrari’s pit crew didn’t have another meltdown—thank God—but a suboptimal pit time cost LeClerc precious tenths of a second, so that Alonso was immediately on his ass as he made his way back onto the track. With warm tires, a slip stream, and DRS enabled, Alonso quickly overtook LeClerc and ran out ahead. This was only ever going to be a temporary setback—LeClerc’s fresh softs would eventually give him the juice to overtake Alonso, barring disaster—but navigating off the race line for an overtake on the final lap would effectively forfeit LeClerc’s shot at the point for fastest lap, immediately wiping out the benefit Ferrari had been hunting in the first place.
So it was a questionable decision, which is all too common a feature of Ferrari’s race strategy, as the veteran Alonso pointed out after the race. But as they have shown at several insanely frustrating points already this season, these Ferrari bozos do not need a strategic, or mechanical, or pit-crew failure in order to throw away some points. Even when all their normal failures fail to ruin a Sunday, one of their otherwise extremely cool and likable drivers can often be counted upon to just drive recklessly and make a dumb mistake. This time it was LeClerc, who exceeded the speed limit in the pit lane during that final, ill-advised stop and was hit with a five-second penalty. Assessed after the race, the penalty moved LeClerc behind Alonso and into sixth position, costing him another two points. Someone might need to check my math on this, but by my count these are the 999,999,999th and one-billionth points LeClerc has dropped this season due to the operation at Ferrari being a constant clown show.
The drivers’ championship is functionally over, so the dropped points mean next to nothing vis-à-vis LeClerc’s gap to Verstappen. But, if anything, the extent of that deficit and the obvious performance gap between Verstappen and everyone else call into question why the hell Ferrari was screwing around with last-second pit stops and bringing Alonso into play in the first place. These jerks need a normal race weekend in the worst way. They’ve needed one since the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix all the way back in April, when it was still possible to think of them as a serious contender for both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. Grid penalties took a completely normal weekend off the table before it even started, but they had a chance at least to stay out of their own way on Sunday, for a change. And they blew it! Why do they always, always blow it?