Categories
F1

Re-visiting 7 Bold(ish) Predictions for the 2022 Formula 1 Season

Back in March during Bahrain pre-season testing I made a piece giving some bold(ish) predictions for the upcoming Formula One season. Some of these have come true, whilst others have aged about as well as a glass of cravendale left out on the counter on a warm summer’s day. We hoped that the racing would be better with the cars under the new regulations and for the most part I’d say that’s happened. There have been great battles, tense finishes, and more horrendous Ferrari strategies that you can shake a stick at. With it officially being over half way through the season now after a somewhat more interesting race than I was expecting at Paul Ricard on the weekend, and the summer break approaching shortly, it seemed like a good a time as any to look back at the predictions I made back in March where I was younger, more optimistic about this year having an exciting championship battle, and just as irritating as I am now. I’m going to grade them on a verdict scale ranging from “it happened” to “Jesus Christ man what the hell were you thinking” (and believe me, there’s a few of them). So without further ado, let’s get into it!

Prediction 1: Haas Score Points

Verdict: It happened!

Haas have made huge strides since their absolutely abysmal season last year. It would’ve been difficult for them to do much worse, but they’ve definitely improved. They currently sit P7 in the constructors standings on 34 points. Of those points, Kevin Magnussen has scored 22 whilst Mick Schumacher has scored his first 12 after finishing P8 in Great Britain and P6 in Austria. Maybe this seems like a bit of a weak prediction to make considering how the new regulations were going to make the smaller teams more competitive (even if they haven’t really) but think back to how bad Haas were the last few years. They did their best Great Britain at Eurovision impression in 2021 and ended up getting nil-pointed, scored only 3 points in 2020, and scored 28 in 2019. But now they look like a changed Haas who can definitely be midfield contenders, much like how Great Britain are now somehow hosting Eurovision next year (if any of the Eurovision committee are reading which I know you won’t be but if you are, then please choose Cardiff as the host city). We’re at the point now where it’s more of a shock if both Haas’s don’t make it out of Q1 when last year it was just a given. The team have gone through a bit of an image change off the track as well. Nikita Mazepin and former lead sponsor Uralkali were rightfully binned off after the Russian invasion of Ukraine back in February, but Mazepin shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Gone are the days of the Mazepins in the team and the god awful Rich Energy fiasco, and hopefully this is a new page in the always bonkers story that is Haas F1 Team.

Prediction 2: Yuki closes the gap

Verdict: So far so good

I never outright said that I thought Yuki Tsunoda would out perform and have a better season that Pierre Gasly, just that he’d close the gap. However that gap is definitely getting narrower. Currently Yuki sits in P16 in the Driver Standings with 11 points with Gasly only just ahead of him in P13 with 16 points. In terms of the head to head, Gasly leads Tsunoda in highest qualifying position 8-4, 7-5 in terms of race results, but they’re shared at 1-1 in terms of sprint race results. Considering how behind Tsunoda was at this point last year, he’s closed the gap massively. However conversations are still needed about the state of this year’s AlphaTauri. In short, it’s not a great car. As the stats show it rarely finishes in the points and they’re currently P8 in the constructor standings ahead of only Aston Martin and Williams. It’s disappointing considering how good they were last year, and especially how well Gasly performed. Whilst overall it’s been a bit of a dud for AlphaTauri, the gap between Yuki Tsunoda and Pierre Gasly has definitely gotten smaller.

Prediction 3: Alfa Romeo get a podium

Verdict: Work in progress

So this one hasn’t happened yet, but I thought there would be more different teams on the podium this year. The only ones that have are the big 3 (Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull) and McLaren (somehow). It’s entirely possible that this could still happen, Valtteri Bottas has really impressed me in the Alfa this year and Zhou Guanyu has had a pretty decent start to his F1 career. It’s just a shame with Zhou that the Ferrari engines this year are rapid at the expense of having the reliability of Hermes and they break a lot. If either of them end up on podium then I think it’ll be Bottas, but much like Haas they’ve come far since last year. The artist formerly known as Sauber stunk up the grid a bit last year only scoring 13 points, but so far this season they’ve scored 51 and sit in P6. It’ll take a mental grand prix for it to happen where some of the big players get taken out (much like Hungary and Azerbaijan last year), but it’s not too beyond the realms of possibility.

Prediction 4: Maiden wins for Sainz and Stroll

Verdict: 50% spot-on, 50% WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING YOU ABSOLUTE MORON!

Remember what I said about some of the awful predictions? Yeah… So let’s start with the first half of this one, Carlos Sainz. If not for reliability issues and Ferrari wanting to do their absolute best to shoot themselves in the foot with absolutely horrible strategy every weekend then he’d be in much better contention for the driver’s championship. He has however had a very impressive season and managed to get his first win in F1 at Silverstone this year. I think he’ll probably end up winning another race or two this season as well. Now for the second part, yeah I’ve had a stinker. The reasons I said that Lance would get his first win this year are because 1) I predict it every year and when it eventually happens I’ll look like a genius and 2) I’m a Stroll fanboy (there’s really not many of us around). I thought that maybe there was a chance that one weekend the Aston Martin would find some decent pace with there being a few retirements for the usual main contenders and he could sneak a win just like Gasly did at Monza in 2020 or Esteban Ocon in Hungary last year. In reality, that’s not happening. Even if there is a mental race the Aston is getting nowhere near to the front. It’s been more like a green 2021 Haas than a green Mercedes (although this year a green Mercedes isn’t the worst description). Still, 10 races left and 10 opportunities for Super Stroll to make me look like a genius who’s played an absolute blinder. Come on Lance! Do it for your old pal Tom!

Prediction 5: Penalties for everyone

Verdict: I guess?

The reason I included this was because of how Abu Dhabi finished last year and people claiming that the rules were bended a bit for the sake of entertainment instead of being by the book. With the absolute storm it created online and in the media I thought that everything would be run by the book to the absolute T with appropriate penalties for any rule breaking so that F1 looked good again. The reality is that whilst it’s sort of happened, there hasn’t been a massive need for it. The driving overall has been pretty clean and any incidents were dealt with quickly. The only things that come to mind with leniency or strictness are how Yuki Tsunoda probably should’ve been black flagged at Azerbaijan after he finished the race with only half of his rear wing opening when using DRS but he was fine to carry on and how strict the stewards have been about track limits in Austria and France. Quite a lot of drivers saw their times deleted in either practice or qualifying and it was the reason why Mick Schumacher went out in Q1 in France. My personal take is that if they were infringed that much then surely they need to be wider? But what do I know.

Prediction 6: Charles Leclerc wins in Monaco

Verdict: Ferrari strategy team

Charles Leclerc is on pole for his home race. Charles Leclerc is leading home race. Rain is drying at home race. Time to pit for intermediate tyres. Ferrari call in Charles but do a u-turn bigger than a Tory Party Government. Ferrari don’t tell Charles Leclerc in quick enough time. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc are double stacked. Really slow pit means Charles Leclerc comes out P4 behind Sergio Perez, Carlos Sainz, and Max Verstappen. Nobody overtakes at Monaco. Bad Ferrari.

That basically sums it up. While he ended up seeing the chequered flag for the first time at his home race the relationship between Leclerc and the Monaco Grand Prix remains to be just as fragile and rocky as any relationship that’s ever come out of Love Island (with the exception of about 3). Ferrari end up annoying their driver who has the best shot of winning them a driver’s championship for the first time since Kimi Raikkonen did in 2007 and bad strategy costs them the weekend. But surely that’s the last time Ferrari will mess up their pit strategy that badly, right guys? Right?

Prediction 7: Lewis Hamilton, 8 time champion of the world

Verdict: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no

Okay fine I admit it. Max Verstappen is winning the title again this year, Mercedes weren’t sandbagging in pre-season, porpoising actually is bad for cars, Mercedes aren’t too big to fail, Red Bull were never going to have a flop year. There I’ve said it (albeit with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I think back to how close Lewis was to breaking the championship record) now leave me alone. In all seriousness though, I thought plucky old Toto Wolff was playing the mother of all red herrings when in reality the W13 was just not that great a car. Granted it has improved as the season has gone on, and on its day it’s definitely the third best car on the grid, but it just hasn’t come together enough. I don’t think this will be the state of Mercedes for much longer and I do think they’ll end up bouncing back next year thus ending up in title contention, but it just wasn’t to be. I thought for a bit that Charles would win his first title but as I’ve mentioned many times, the Ferrari pit strategy exists and the engine is prone to just breaking (annoyingly a lot of the time when Charles is leading). I don’t see how anyone but Verstappen wins it at this point, it would take a monumental Tottenham Hotspur level of bottle to let this one slip. I was hoping for an exciting title battle like last year, just with less interesting interpretations of the safety car rules (last one I promise). I thought it would be a Merc/Sir Lewis constructors and driver double, but I’ll eat my hat if it ends up anything other than a Red Bull/Max double.

Bonus predictions

Victor Martins wins F3. Verdict: probably yes. It looks like it’ll be an exciting 3 way fight between Martins, Isack Hadjar, and Arthur Leclerc with 5 races left, but I think Martins just gets it.

Theo Pourchaire wins F2. Verdict: still possible but less confident. The boy is absolutely quality but Felipe Drugovich has found some frightening consistency since Saudi Arabia. I hope it can be a 3 way fight as well with Drugovich, Pourchaire, and Logan Sargeant, but I think Drugovich will do just enough to take the title.

Andretti F1 team get announced for 2023. Verdict: stop believing everything you read on the internet. I mean, it might still happen one day. They might still bring Colton Herta from Indycar with them, but it’s not happening in time for 2023.

Advertisement
Categories
F1

7 Bold(ish) Predictions for the 2022 Formula 1 Season

With Barcelona pre-season testing (or data collection or whatever it’s called) done and Bahrain on day 2 of testing at the time of writing, we’re starting to get a bit of a better idea of where everyone is for the upcoming F1 season. This also means that everyone and their next door neighbour have been making their predictions about what’s going to happen this year. With the new season only a week away from starting, I thought I’d be king of originality once again and jump on to that trend and come up with some predictions of my own. Some of these are bold, others not so much, hence why I’m calling them bold(ish) predictions. I’m fully ready for these to age poorly, but last year proved that in the crazy world of Formula 1 anything can happen!

Haas Score Points

Haas were really bad last year, like really really bad. Everything about the car was horrible and things were going just as poorly off the track as they were on it. This is really make or break for Haas now. They’ve undergone a bit of an image change in the last couple of weeks which is one they desperately needed. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine there was absolutely no way they could’ve kept Uralkali as their lead sponsor and as a result of dropping them, keeping Nikita Mazepin as one of their drivers just made no sense. With Maz out it opened the door for Kevin Magnussen to come back to partner Mick Schumacher in what should’ve been the driver line-up last year. Bringing K-Mag back was a massive yes in that it’s starting to make Haas likeable again, and the car looks a lot better than last year. It’s no secret that Haas were putting all of their eggs in the 2022 basket and the early signs are that it may be paying off. I’m not expecting absolute wonders from them, but with two decent drivers in the form of Magnussen and Schumacher in the seats this year I can see them getting quite a few top 10 finishes.

Yuki closes the gap

It’s fair to say that Yuki Tsunoda was out raced by AlphaTauri teammate Pierre Gasly last season, with Gasly finishing p9 in the driver standings on 110 points and Tsunoda p14 on 32. Although with that being said there were signs of improvement from Tsunoda as the season went on, especially in the final stretch of the year. Now that he’s got a better feel for F1 and has had that rookie season under his belt, I think we can see a good season for Yuki this year. I’m not saying he’ll out perform Gasly, but I think the gap will be closed considerably. With this being Yuki’s second season in F1 there will be big things expected of him, especially being a part of the relentless Red Bull system where if your name isn’t Max Verstappen you’re never safe. Personally, I think Red Bull will use this as an audition season for Yuki to take Sergio Perez’s seat for 2023. Now I know that this sounds crazy when Checo is doing a perfectly fine job in the Red Bull and Pierre Gasly has experience driving for Red Bull before, but that team don’t really do second chances. Look at Alex Albon, he could’ve perfectly slotted in to an AlphaTauri seat for last season but the team opted for Tsunoda instead. Plus these are bold predictions, the easy choice would be Gasly’s getting the Red Bull seat and Tsunoda’s getting canned for 2023 but these aren’t supposed to be safe predictions. So yeah, Yuki closes the gap and gets the call-up for Red Bull for 2023. Unless they try and pinch Lando Norris from McLaren which will leave me 50 shades of sad.

Alfa Romeo get a podium

Very bold considering the team didn’t do much last year and haven’t for a long time, but with the new regulations this could be an interesting season for all the teams on the grid. I was going to go one better and say everyone gets a podium but I don’t think Haas will, no matter how bold I try and make this. The artist formerly known as Sauber opted for a completely new driver line-up this year being the only team to do so. They’ll be getting a very nice cash injection from Guanyu Zhou and a tasty bit of experience from Valtteri Bottas. With the grid expected to be closer this year and F1 usually having a few mental races that end up with some shock podiums (look at Hungary and Azerbaijan last year), this could open the door for a podium for Alfa. If I had to put money on who’ll get it, I’d say Bottas purely because of his experience and that I think he’s a better driver than Zhou but who knows. I just want to see Valtteri at his new team and Lewis Hamilton sharing a podium together to make the internet explode. Tell me with a straight face that you don’t want that.

Maiden wins for Sainz and Stroll

So this will divide opinion. First off, Carlos Sainz. I can’t really see there being too many arguments over this one. Sainz drove out of his skin last year in a Ferrari that got better as the year went on. He ended up with more podiums that teammate, Charles Leclerc, and the early signs are that the Ferrari looks white hot this year. The consistency he showed was unbelievable and if he drives as well as he did last year (which I’m sure he will) there’s no question that in a better Ferrari than in 2021, Sainz is going to be pushing for wins and will get his first. Now for Lance Stroll. Truth of it is, I really like him. I’ve said for three years now that Lance is going to get his first win in the upcoming season and I’m just going to keep running with it until it happens. But again, the regs are supposed to shake up the grid and we always end up with some shock winners like Esteban Ocon in Hungary last year so with those in mind, Super Lance gets his first win in 2022. And if he doesn’t? I’ll just make the same prediction next year and keep doing it until it happens.

Just wanted to point out that I don’t think these will be the only maiden wins. I think Lando Norris will get his first win and George Russell is in a Mercedes now so that’s obviously going to happen, I just wanted to go with Sainz and Stroll as the main points of the prediction. So bookmark it peeps, we’ll hear Marcha Real for a winner for the first time since Barcelona ’13 and O Canada for the P1 finisher for the first time since Luxembourg ’97.

Penalties for everyone

Okay bit of a boring one but at the same time it needs to be talked about. The goings on off the track are just as important as what happens on it, as was proven last year in the lead up to, and including, the final race of the season. The FIA and stewards were nothing short of an absolute joke last season when it came to penalties with them seemingly throwing darts at a board of penalties to decide who would get which punishment. They’ll be absolutely cacking their pants after the fallout of Abu Dhabi and will want to be in motorsport’s good books once again. They’ve made the right step in binning off Michael Masi, but expect this season to be done by the book to the absolute letter of the law. Being a strict teacher that nobody likes is the only way that they’ll be able to win any kind of credibility instead of just being grossly inconsistent with their penalties. This will annoy us as fans and will lead to more bickering on Twitter (not that it needs much for F1 fans to argue on there) but it’s going to happen.

Charles Leclerc wins in Monaco

This is bold, very bold. If you’re not an F1 fan then driver wins race in place might not seem that ground-breaking, but this is Charles Leclerc and Monaco we’re talking about. Whenever the Monegasque prince races in his home country either his arms turn into spaghetti and he crashes or his car decides to power down and it’s over before it’s even started. It’s a bit of a meme now that Leclerc and the Monaco Grand Prix’s relationship is as rocky as literally any couple who met on Love Island (with the exception of Tommy Fury and Molly-Mae Hague) but I think this is the year it changes. Ferrari are going to push for both the driver’s and constructors championships this year, the car looks incredibly fast and the drivers are more than capable. If Charles is going to push for the big one then he’s going to have to overcome his fear of street circuits and not put it into the wall on any track with a narrow road. Monaco will be the perfect opportunity for this because even though Saudi Arabia comes before it in the calendar I don’t count Jeddah as a real track, it’s beyond a joke how bad it is. With all this in consideration, this will finally be the year that Leclerc wins his home race to the delight of everyone.

The Champion?

Picture the scene. It’s Abu Dhabi, the last race of the season after another close year, we hear Crofty’s giddly little voice coming from the tv saying the following lines:

INTO THE FINAL TURN, FERRARI THREW ALL THEY COULD AT HIM BUT IN THE END IT JUST WASN’T ENOUGH. THE FIREWORKS HAVE BEGUN, IT’S TIME, IT’S HIS TIME, THE RECORD HAS BEEN BROKEN! IT’S NUMBER EIGHT FOR LEWIS HAMILTON, CHAMPION OF THE WORLD!!!!

Bit dramatic but you get the point. To lose it the way he did last season, Lewis Hamilton will be absolutely desperate to get that world championship to break Michael Schumacher’s record. Notice I said Ferrari too and not Red Bull? I think Ferrari will take the constructors title with how unbelievably consistent I think they’ll end up being, but Lewis will get the drivers championship. I’m not going as far to say that Red Bull will completely flop like some are predicting, but I don’t think they’ll be as good as last year. So much time went into making sure that the car was perfect for the last stretch of the season for Max Verstappen to win the world championship in 2021 but it’s come at the expense of development on this year’s. It won’t be an awful car, I just think that other teams that have spent more time on development will be better (case in point, Ferrari and Mercedes). Anyway, this is about Hamilton. He came so close last year to breaking the record and with the Mercedes looking pretty good for this year it could be his time. Plus now he has George Russell as his team mate who I can 100% see being used in a defence minister role to keep the other drivers off Hamilton’s tail, much like Sergio Perez was for Verstappen last year. With the fire that will be in his belly and the record in touching distance, this will be Sir Lewis Hamilton’s year.

Bonus predictions:

Victor Martins takes the F3 title: Hard to decide this one because it’s a fairly strong grid but I think Martins will just edge it.

Theo Pouchaire wins the F2 title: If you’ve never heard the name Theo Pouchaire then I’d get used to hearing it. You may as well give him the nickname Bisto because the lad is different gravy… I’ll show myself out. I think he takes the F2 title and I’d even go as far to say that if Lewis Hamilton wins the world title and retires this year, then I want to see Pouchaire in the Mercedes for 2023. He really is that good.

Andretti F1 team get announced for 2023: It’s the worst kept secret in F1 at the minute but they’re coming! At some point Andretti F1 Team will be announced with a lineup that will include Indycar golden boy, Colton Herta.

So those were the predictions! I hope you enjoyed and they don’t all look awful come the end of the year. I’m off to watch the newest season of Drive to Survive. See ya!

Categories
F1

Rich Energy: Their rotten time in F1 and why I think they’ll be back sooner rather than later

“Don’t call it a comeback, they’ve been here for years, irritating their peers, fillin’ Steiner with fear”. We’re currently in the middle of car reveal season for F1’s 2022 campaign with Haas, Red Bull, and Aston Martin all announcing theirs and the rest of the teams have pencilled in dates for their own announcements. While we all get excited to see what each team’s car looks like I cast my mind back to the 2019 reveals and one of the most bonkers events in recent F1 history. Yes I’m talking about America’s Team Haas’s VF-19 with a title sponsor of a certain energy drink company. The livery was pretty nice looking to give them credit but it was plastered with the sponsor of Rich Energy. If you’re reading that and thinking “who on earth are Rich Energy?” then you’d be forgiven. Unless you’re an F1 fan, Haas Racing board member, or a die-hard Uralkali enthusiast then you probably wouldn’t know who Rich Energy are if you had a can of it lobbed at your head. Rich Energy are a UK based energy drink company founded in 2015 by English businessman William Storey and an unknown mad scientist (Storey’s words, look it up). How Storey made his money is a bit of a mixed tale with many different stories out on the internet (and I can’t afford to be sued by this guy by saying something that isn’t true) but the definite truths are he was a professional gambler, the founder of a sports management company which sponsored former British boxer Frank Buglioni, and owned a tobacco farm in Zimbabwe. He also claims that he was part of a consortium that tried to buy Sunderland football club in July 2020 and just today Rich Energy were announced as the title sponsor for Jamaica’s bobsled team for the Beijing Winter Olympics (this is beyond parody). With all that in mind you’d be forgiven for thinking that this seemed like a fairly okay deal with Storey having an obvious business background, but oh god how wrong you are.

The Haas title sponsorship wasn’t the first time Rich Energy tried to dip their toes into Formula 1. They launched a bid to take over the Force India F1 team back in 2018 after they went into administration. Had the deal gone through the team would be rebranded as Rich Energy F1 team. That of course didn’t happen with a Lawrence Stroll led consortium taking over the team changing the name at first to Racing Point and now Aston Martin. After the setback, Storey set his eyes on a title sponsorship turning his attention to Williams who were in dire need of funds. Storey and Rich Energy were apparently set to meet with senior members of the team including Claire Williams at a restaurant in Austin during the 2018 American Grand Prix weekend but unfortunately for Williams in a situation that hits a tad too close to home, they got completely ghosted. Instead out of nowhere, Haas announced that they’d be going with Rich Energy as their title sponsor for the 2019 campaign. After the dust settled, people decided to look into these dudes to see what they were actually all about and it didn’t look too pretty. It was found that the company only had $771 in their bank account at the end of the 2017 financial cycle, could you imagine how poorly things would’ve gone if they took over Force India? Thank you Sergio Perez for stopping that.

After questions about the company’s legitimacy were answered(ish), all eyes turned to the 2019 season and surprise surprise, it was terrible. For whatever reason Rich Energy were trying to make out that they were better than Red Bull on and off the track after they were faster than them after day 1 of pre-season testing in Barcelona. The Rich Energy twitter account was basically ran like Storey’s own with them taking digs at Red Bull and towards the latter end of the sponsorship, themselves. The only real difference between the main account and Storey’s is that there weren’t any tweets from the Rich Energy account claiming that covid-19 doesn’t exist. Things started off okay on the track with Kevin Magnussen managing to get a 6th place finish in the first race of the season but after that there wasn’t much to shout home about, and things were going even worse off it. Rich Energy were taken to court over copyright infringement by British cycling manufacturer Whyte Bikes. Whyte Bikes claimed that Rich Energy copied their logo which was a golden stag head. The two logos were different in the ways that I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston and I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton are different, i.e. not very. In the end, Whyte Bikes won and Rich Energy were forced to change their logo. After this came the build up to Silverstone and hohoooo doctor, strap yourselves in.

On the 10th of July 2019 a tweet was posted from the Rich Energy account stating that the sponsorship deal with Haas was over after a poor race at the Austrian Grand Prix which saw Kevin Magnussen finish 19th, one place behind the Williams of George Russell, and Romain Grosjean finish 16th. Both cars were nowhere near finishing in the points. The tweet said that the team were supposed to be competing with Red Bull and finishing behind a Williams car was unacceptable (if you want to know how Red Bull did that weekend, Pierre Gasly finished 7th and Max Verstappen won the grand prix, some competing that lads). The tweet also said that the supposed politics and “PC nature” of Formula 1 were inhibiting the business. This is the same supposed “PC nature” that banned Lewis Hamilton from wearing a t-shirt in support of Breonna Taylor, the African American police officer who was shot and killed by white officers as she was sleeping in her home, and reprimanded Sebastian Vettel for wearing a rainbow LGBTQIA+ Pride shirt before the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix. After the tweet went out the statement was retracted with shareholders saying the tweet was sent by a rogue individual whilst they were in the process of trying to remove an executive from the company. William Storey has since said that he was subject to the board “mounting a coup” to remove him at this time, so you can put two and two together here. The twitter madness wouldn’t stop there though as after the opening practicing rounds of the Silverstone Grand Prix the menace tweeter would be back posting a photoshopped picture of Storey driving a milk car with the Haas Rich Energy livery with the caption “great start boys @haasf1team”. The whole thing was bizarre and left team principal Guenther Steiner equally confused as he was furious, with the team announcing on the 9th of September 2019 that they would be cutting ties with Rich Energy full stop.

So after all of that, why do I think they’re coming back? If you look at their social media they’ve been teasing announcements for months and reckon that they’ll end up being title sponsorship again. You’d think that this wouldn’t be on the company’s mind after last time, but Storey’s back in charge. After he quit the company following the whole Haas mess in July 2019, he later bought back his shares and was back as an executive director the following month. Ever since then he’s said how much he wants to be back in F1 and keeps banging on about how they’re making a comeback to the sport in 2022 and yadda yadda yadda. There have been many rumours about a title sponsorship with McLaren and as a McLaren fanboy that scares the living daylights out of me, but I think they could end up back at Haas. Hear me out now. I think this will be Haas’s last season in F1, I can’t see things improving that much this season and Gene Haas is getting increasingly angry week after week with the team’s shocking performances. The current title sponsor is Uralkali, a Russian based chemicals company who’s majority shareholder is a man called Dmitry Mazepin, the father of Nikita Mazepin who races for the team. I’ve noticed that the Uralkali sponsor is getting bigger and bigger on that Haas logo and Mazepin Sr has noted his interest in the past of owning an F1 team. Should Gene sell up then I think Dmitry would buy, thus opening the door for Uralkali-Rich Energy F1 Racing Team. Storey has said on multiple occasions that he thinks Nikita is a future world champion (I can assure you he isn’t) and I think he’d definitely try and sell himself to the Mazepins. There’s always whispers as well that Storey and Mazepin would be open to going into business with each other, so there’s that bundle of joy too.

Most predictions I make end up aging like a fine warm glass of cravendale and I hope this is another instance of that. But with Formula 1 being as money driven as it is, Rich Energy’s reappearance is something I can seriously see happening sooner rather than later.

Categories
F1

Formula 1 2021 Season Review: Where do I even start with this one?

We’re back to a graded piece! But this time it’s for a sport I’ve not written about yet, which seems odd considering how much I love it and tweet about it. Yes it’s time to look back at the year that was for the 2021 Formula 1 season and oh LORDY what a season. This was easily the best season in recent memory, the most exciting since the inter-Mercedes battle for the World Title of 2016 between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. This time, a different tale. Sir Lewis would be gunning for his eighth world title to break the great Michael Schumacher’s record. His opponent? The young lion Max Verstappen. An already certified great against a future potential legend. It would end up going down to a date in Abu Dhabi in between the two with them level on points going into the last race in the season, where it would be Super Max who took the title (for now, pending reviews and a possible court case).

There were so many talking points this season with insanity, controversy, and drama in almost race. There was controversy in Silverstone with Verstappen crashing out in the first lap, crazy scenes in Hungary where Valtteri Bottas decided to turn into a bulldozer taking out almost half the grid, shoey’s galore in Monza with a McLaren 1-2 (and another Hamilton-Verstappen crash), whatever the hell Jeddah was, and Michael Masi making the rules up on the spot in Abu Dhabi. This post isn’t going to be a moan about the FIA or Masi, despite how tempting it is, but all I’ll say is it says a hell of a lot about how you run your sport when the title will probably be decided in the Court for Arbitration of Sport. Grading it all seems like an almost impossible task but I love a challenge so I’m going to do just that, at least try to anyway. Without any further ado, let’s get into it!

P10: Haas, 0 Points

In a score that emulates Britain’s usual performances at the Eurovision Song Contest since the late 90s, Haas ended up rock bottom with nil-points. In the nicest way possible, what can actually be said about this lot? This season has been nothing short of an absolute dis-haas-ter for the American outfit. Yes they’ve said all along how their focus is on their 2022 car and improving ready for the new regulations, but come on! This obviously isn’t anything personal as I love sweary team principal Guenther Steiner and Mick Schumacher, but this has been a horrible season. Using two rookies was always going to run its risks, but they needed the money and it’s what their drivers bring. Mick Schumacher is the son of the legendary Michael so no real explanation needed there, and their other driver, Nikita Mazepin, is the son of Russian billionaire Dmitry Mazepin, so again there’s a nice cash flow. The VF-21 has been an absolutely horrible car and the fact it’s been driven by two rookies doesn’t make it easier. If I were in charge I would’ve kept Kevin Magnussen in one seat with the other going to Schumacher, but money talks. If they end up performing as bad next year as they have this year then I think this could be the beginning of the end for Haas. There’s no way Gene Haas would continue to pump money into a failing business and would surely sell up. But hey, at least Rich Energy aren’t around anymore. *If you don’t know about the Haas/Rich Energy saga then I’d highly recommend reading up about it or there’s some great videos about it on YouTube just because of how bonkers it all is. But if you have the slightest bit of business brain then maybe it’s best not to, it will make you tear your hair out*

Grade: U

P9: Alfa Romeo, 13 points

No point in trying to sugar coat this, it was a bad season for Alfa Romeo. Granted they did better than Haas but that’s an easy ask. In the season that was Kimi Raikkonen’s swan song I would’ve loved to see him in a good car and to push for podiums but alas it didn’t happen. At least we got him as driver of the day in his last race. It sucked as well that he wasn’t at Monza, considering how iconic that place is for Ferrari I really wanted to see him race in front of the Tifosi one last time. As for Antonio Giovinazzi, it was an interesting one. At times he drove the wheels off of that Alfa and looked incredible taking it into Q3 multiple times in qualifying and getting points finishes in Saudi Arabia and Monaco but at other times he was just a bit meh and I put it down to a bad car. He was almost like the Ole Gunnar Solskjaer of F1 at times where he turned up when he needed to and looked like he’d saved his job, but much like Ole he ended up getting canned. Alfa will be the only team with a completely new pairing in 2022 in the form of Valtteri Bottas and Guyanu Zhou. Personally I would’ve given the seat to someone like Callum Ilott or Oscar Piastri but Alfa could do with a cash injection and oh LORD does Zhou bring that in not only being the first Chinese F1 driver but also a massive sponsorship from Hublot (which I recently learned is pronounced Hugh-blow and not hub-lot, I put it down to Welsh basically being a phonetic language and me always reading or pronouncing words how they’re written). Much like Haas, they need a much better 2022 and have a decent enough driver pairing to do it. Don’t let me down Alfa!

Grade: F

P8: Williams, 23 points

Not bad Williams, not bad at all. Considering how awful the car has been in the last few years this is a decent result for the team in my opinion. George Russell drove incredibly in what was a pretty poor car managing to take it out of Q1 on quite a few occasions. He also got the team’s first podium since Lance Stroll’s 3rd place in Azerbaijan in 2017 (even if it was at the Spa water park, but I love George so I’m choosing to ignore that detail). Credit has to be given to Nicholas Latifi too, he managed to get a 7th place finish in Hungary which was the team’s best weekend in what felt like forever. Even though Russell’s performances in qualifying rarely carried over into the races themselves resulting in points, he showed his level of talent clearly and is fully deserving of the Mercedes seat next season. And on the topic of next season, I think it can be a good one for Williams. Not only have they got Alex Albon to fill George Russell’s empty seat (which is the absolutely PERFECT replacement and I cannot wait to see Albon back in F1) the regulation changes means it’s pretty much an open field. I’m not saying that they’ll be fighting for the title but they could definitely get more points finishes and push for places in the midfield. The tide is slowly turning for Williams, and I’m here for it.

On a more sombre note, I’m glad that Sir Frank Williams managed to see a podium finish one last time. The man’s legacy in the sport is incredible and is recognised as such an important part in Formula 1’s history in creating such a historic and iconic F1 team. Thank you for everything you did, Sir Frank.

Sir Frank Williams. 16/4/1942 – 28/11/2021

Grade: C

P7: Aston Martin, 77 points

Now we’re into the big leagues of points! Definitely a season of two halves for the AM. Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll looked unbelievable in the car dubbed the green Mercedes at times but towards the end of the season it kind of petered out, looking more like a green Haas. They managed a brilliant result in Baku and should’ve had a podium in Hungary but an annoying fuel percentage rule disqualified Seb from the race. Quick side note, hats off massively to Sebastian Vettel this season. He’s fighting the good fight off the track and it just shows how good a person he is. Be it wearing a rainbow mask in Hungary, being an avid supporter of the LGBT+ group Racing Pride, and organising a women’s only karting race in Saudi Arabia he’s consistently stood up for others and supported the human rights of people oppressed in their own countries. Seb and Lance showed great promise early on in the season before the car’s pace went a bit meh. There’s no doubt that there will be some disappointment considering they would’ve hoped to have challenged for podiums more but that can definitely be the team’s next step. I think they’ll have a good season next year. Like I’ve previously mentioned the regulation changes can make anyone competitors and that definitely rings true for Aston Martin. With the huge financial backing of everyone’s favourite Bond villain turned softie Lawrence Stroll they’ve got plenty of wonga to play around with. They’ll be aiming for more podiums next season for sure and hopefully it happens, I need more Lance and Seb on podium content.

Grade: C+

P6: AlphaTauri, 142 points

I love this driver pairing. I know it’s the trendy thing to love Pierre Gasly at the moment but my god that man has bags of talent. A huge part of AlphaTauri’s success this season can be accredited to Gasly driving the absolute bajeezus off of that car and was rewarded for it with a podium finish in Baku. Yuki Tsunoda also impressed me and can’t be overlooked. Granted there was an obvious difference in quality between Tsunoda and Gasly but he’s a rookie so it should’ve been expected. He definitely upped his game towards the end of the season and massively impressed in the last 3 races of the year in the Middle East. Pierre and Yuki consistently ended up in the latter stages of qualifying and in the points but there was a definite and obvious difference on that front with Gasly finishing P9 in the drivers championship scoring 110 points and Tsunoda in P14 with 32. 2022 will be an interesting season for them, and I can’t predict either way how it’ll go. They absolutely have the talent to aim for best of the rest or even a top 3 constructors finish, but with Honda announcing they’re leaving F1 and thus won’t supply the engine directly it’s anyone’s guess. They’re still going to use their hybrid technology but who knows. Anyway that’s all far too technical to comprehend and all I really want is more great races for the two, the bromance to blossom even more, and more swearing from Yuki Tsunoda on the team radio. You’d never think that a man who looks so innocent and small would have such road rage, but he’s doing it for all us short kings out there so swear away Yuki.

Grade: B

P5: Alpine, 155 points

You wouldn’t think that only one win and two podiums would secure Alpine this high, just goes to show the importance of consistency in finishing in the points. The outfit formerly known as Renault enjoyed their first win this season with Esteban Ocon taking the win in Hungary and the legend that is Fernando Alonso taking third place in Qatar. They’ve impressed me and being in the hunt for best of the rest is where they deserve to be. Ocon has bags of talent and Fernando is just Fernando, ‘nuff said. This is another team that could benefit from the regulation changes. If they manage to absolutely nail the regs then I’m saying it now (and making a bold statement), there’s no reason why they can’t compete for top 3 next year. I’m also a massive fan of the fact that they’ve secured F2 champion Oscar Piastri as their reserve driver for 2022. Alonso will retire in a couple of years (and for realsies this time) and Piastri is the absolutely ideal replacement for when he hangs up the helmet for proper. I really wanted to see him in the Alfa Romeo seat before it went to Zhou but in all honesty this is probably the right call. That seat is there waiting for him and it’ll be a better car than the struggling Sauber (alliteration is my passion). All in all, very impressive season.

Grade: B

P4: McLaren, 275 points

McLaren, my boys. My dream, my nightmare. Supporting this team for the first and middle parts of the season was an absolute blast, then Sochi happened and… well I’m still not really over it. Even though they would’ve wanted that P3 spot badly, best of the rest isn’t a bad season at all. This team has come incredibly far in the last few years and this season showed it. Lando Norris was white hot at the start of the season finishing in the points every race up until the Bottas demolition job at Hungary and Daniel Ricciardo got better the more he got used to the car and got the team’s first win since Jenson Button in Brazil 2012, which was also the team’s first 1-2 since Canada 2010. The papaya car looked absolutely brilliant in the first two thirds of the season but it wasn’t as solid as it was towards the end which ultimately cost them third place. It’s strange how it was a similar pattern to Aston Martin, both powered by Mercedes. While the silver arrows gained more pace towards the end of the season the other merc powered ones tailed off a bit. Overall though, great season for the McLaren boys and hopefully next year will be even better. Shoutout to CEO Zak Brown as well, he’s worked absolute wonders for the team since he came in and long may it continue. I’d absolutely love for Daniel and Lando to be competing for the driver’s championship next season, pls sports gods make it happen.

Grade: B+

P3: Ferrari, 323.5 points

Easily the most consistent team on the grid bar none. Even though they didn’t get a win this season and ended up on podium only 5 times, they still managed an incredible points tally and finished third. The duo of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are not only the most attractive pairing on the grid but their driving is very easy on the eyes as well. They’ve been consistently brilliant and fast all year and even still ramped up the pace towards the end of the season solidifying their place in third. After a pretty naff couple of years Ferrari have managed to throw themselves back in with the big boys with this finish. Looking forward to next year there’s no doubt they’ll be a team on a mission and it could be the year that they come back looking for that title they desperately crave. They’ve not had a drivers championship winning season since Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 or a constructors since 2008 which seems mental for a team as big as Ferrari. Both Charles and Carlos absolutely deserve to be in the conversation of potential winners next year with how brilliant and consistent they’ve been this season and how talented they are. Imagine how scarily dominant this team would be if they kept that consistency in a car as good as the Mercedes. 2022 could be the return of Ferrari at the very top of F1.

Grade: A

P2: Red Bull, 585.5 points

This one’s fairly straightforward: they had the world drivers champion in Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez finished 4th in the standings in a car that isn’t as fast as the Mercedes. What’s more to say? 11 wins and an unbelievable 23 podiums from Max and Checo saw them finish second in the constructors and would’ve taken it too had it not been for DNF’s for Verstappen in Silverstone and Baku. They have two of the best drivers on the grid who work incredibly together and a team that had 4D vision at times in terms of their strategies. I’ll admit it, I wanted Lewis to win purely because I wanted to see him break the record and he’s the reason I got into F1 (Brazil 2008 in case anyone was wondering, what a moment). Congratulations to Max Verstappen on an absolutely stellar season and to Red Bull for having a world champion for the first time since Sebastian Vettel in 2013. Even though they came second in the constructors they were probably still the best team on the grid, which kinda hurts to admit as an old school Lewis Hamilton fanboy but Verstappen wasn’t there competing by accident and his numbers and quality speak for themselves, he’s just different class. He didn’t win the title off the back of pure idiocy from the FIA and Michael Masi, he won it from having 10 wins and 18 podiums. Nevertheless, unreal season from Red Bull, Max, and Checo who will want to build on this next year and in years to come.

Grade: A*

P1: Mercedes, 613.5 points

Although Hamilton’s era of domination was disrupted by Verstappen the Mercedes era of domination continues in full force. It came down to the last race of the season and although they missed out on the big one (being the drivers championship) they still managed to get their eighth constructors championship. Again, I think they had the best car on the grid like they have since 2014 and it was still a good season for both Hamilton and Bottas. There were definite issues of consistency for both early on which cost them in the long run, just look at Monaco and Baku. They threw the kitchen sink at Red Bull and Verstappen in the last 4 races and I was one safety car away from being spot on with my prediction. I thought Max would win in Austin and Mexico with Hamilton taking Brazil and a clean sweep of the Middle East. So damn close to greatness. It’ll be strange not seeing Bottas in a Merc seat next season but I am so ready for the George Russell Mercedes era. Next year they’ll be pushing for the constructors and drivers titles again and Hamilton will be absolutely desperate to get that record breaking 8th title. But with the new kid on the block coming into Mercedes, Verstappen proving he can handle the pressure, and potential challenges from Ferrari then it may not be quite as simple as that. But that’s for future us to enjoy and argue about on Twitter.

Grade: A+

Christ alive that took forever and a hell of a lot of planning. Thanks for sticking around if you read all that, I really do massively appreciate it. I’m going for a lie down and sleep for a week.