[“I Don’t Get F1 Theme” by Ray Tsao]
Malena: Hey guys, my name is Malena Ramnath, and I'm a junior at Northwestern University. Each race week, I'll release the recap of the last race and some new things I learned along the way. So with all that said this week, I want to keep playing catch up on the last two races that we've had so far before we go into the Melbourne race this weekend. Side note, this might not upload perfectly according to schedule, but from when I'm recording this we haven't seen the Melbourne race yet and we aren't sure about how it's going to go. So, the first races here have been Bahrain and Jeddah so we're gonna start from there.
[“I Don’t Get F1 Theme” by Ray Tsao]
Malena: Alright guys, so the Bahrain Grand Prix kicked off the 2022 season and we saw massive changes from the situations of teams and drivers last year. The driver upsets of the season were that Kevin Magnussen was brought back to race for Haas after Nikita Mazepin’s contract was terminated alongside with the Russian sponsor Uralkali due to the invasion of Ukraine, and Sebastian Vettel was out with COVID, bringing in former Renault driver Nicolas Hülkenberg to race in his stead for Aston Martin. Also, based on testing in Barcelona, which is preseason, Ferrari seem to be leading the pack with the next closest being Redbull. McLaren and Mercedes were lagging significantly behind during preseason testing followed by the rest of the cars. Lewis Hamilton, throughout the preseason and leading up to the race, continues to state that Mercedes was not in winning shape and that the car still needed significant work. Although this seemed to be the case during the preseason, many believed that Hamilton was bluffing to be able to generate more hype around their first win also called crying wolf as in Toto Wolff. So all eyes are on Ferrari, who may be coming back from two years of slowness, and Mercedes, who may be bluffing and would continue their rivalry with the reigning Red Bull. So, why such a shake up with the positioning here? Basically, the new 2022 car rules are in place which means that there are cost caps to make all the less funded teams more competitive, like Williams and Haas and Alfa Romeo. And there are a new set of aerodynamic regulations that make the cars easier to race against one another even wheel to wheel. So, if you guys want me to spend more time breaking the rules down please let me know – DM me – but for now we can stick to the races. Ferrari seems to have nailed these changes and these challenges as have smaller teams Haas and Alfa Romeo, but on the other hand, Aston Martin, McLaren, and Mercedes – which are technically bigger teams – have seemed to struggle. So, let's talk about the actual race in Bahrain. Essentially, how it works on Friday and Saturday morning there are three practices where drivers can test out different wheels, get comfortable with the track and learn the way their car moves better. Then, we go into qualifying on Saturday evening or afternoon. And there seem to be no issues beyond McLaren’s brake problems in Bahrain, which prevented them from some testing as we went into qualifying, and a surprise was seeing Bottas compete with the big teams despite being in an Alfa Romeo, as well as seeing Magnussen and Schumacher in the Haas holding up in the top 10. Whereas Haas has basically scored no points in the past years. The qualifying rankings were as follows. Charles Leclerc on pole, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz – so this is from pole to 10th place – Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz, Checo Pérez, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen, Fernando Alonso, George Russell and Pierre Gasly.
Malena: So that's Ferrari, Red Bull, Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Haas, Alpine, Mercedes, Alphatauri. Bottas and Magnussen both qualified insanely well, and Bottas was even quoted texting Toto Wolff that he was excited to be racing against Mercedes as he had just left Mercedes. So, as the race kicked off, it seemed like the main fight would be between Ferrari and Red Bull and eyes out for Haas and Alfa Romeo. Carlos Sainz also said that he was planning on continuing to bring the fight to Leclerc despite being teammates. It was a pretty clean race overall with the only penalty being on Esteban Ocon at the start for something stupid with Mick Schumacher, and he got himself a five second penalty, but it's kind of irrelevant. And halfway through the race, it became clear that it wasn't going Red Bull’s way. Or its sister team Alphatauri. Pierre Gasly was out halfway through with a car fire, although he was fine, but that meant a safety car went out for most of the race following that, and Leclerc was maintaining the lead behind it. Bottas and the two Mercedes as well, as Haas were in the middle of the pack and the two Red Bulls and Ferraris were fighting for the top two. That is until - this was crazy watching it - out of nowhere in the last 10 laps, both Red Bull cars had to be retired with power steering and terminal pump issues. I was losing my mind because I'm a Ferrari girl. As Ferrari came home with a 1-2 win — Leclerc, then Sainz and Hamilton in third. Mercedes grabbed some much needed points thanks to Red Bull’s losses. Haas came in fifth, which blew everyone's mind, and Bottas came in six, so yay for the little guys. So, it's off to a wild switched up start compared to Mercedes longtime reign. And somehow Haas had more points than both Red Bull teams, which is unheard of. Zhou Guanyo in his debut race for Alfa Romeo also managed to get in the points which was crazy for him, and he was crying afterwards. It was really cute.
Malena: So real quick now, moving onwards. Let's talk about Jeddah. This is also a Middle East night race. So quite similar, but it is a street circuit with a ton of treacherous corners and a lot of safety issues and a lot of geopolitical issues. So, they're talking about discontinuing this race in the future, but we'll see how that turns out. McLaren was struggling in Bahrain and although they fixed the brake issues going into Jeddah, Lando Norris went in an interview saying that they were going to have many months of problems ahead before they got competitive again. Tsunoda had some issues in qualifying but on all it seemed like once again, the big players were Ferrari and Red Bull competing for the lead. So, going into qualifying, we had Sergio on pole – his first pole — Checo's first pole, and the first pole for a Mexican ever in the history of Formula One at Red Bull. Then we had falling down from there, Charles Leclerc at Ferrari, Sainz at Ferrari, Verstappen at Red Bull, Ocon at Alpine Renault, George Russell at Mercedes, Alonso at Alpine Renault, Bottas at Alfa Romeo, Pierre Gasly at Alphatauri and Kevin Magnussen in the Haas. So, that was qualifying. Moving into who won the race, which I'll precede with this time. We're going to see Max Verstappen and Red Bull winning the race, followed by Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in a 2-3 for the podium for Ferrari, Checo Pérez at Red Bull, then George Russell at Mercedes, then Ocon Renault, then Lando Norris at McLaren. Then Pierre Gasly at Alphatauri, Kevin Magnussen in the Haas and Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes. So qualifying saw, as I mentioned, Checo’s first pole ever, but unfortunately he lost out of a podium due to some unfortunate safety car business where Latifi crashed again. Latifi is Williams’ driver and he always crashes, which also moved Charles Leclerc off pole and into second and kept Sainz out of the battle for first. So it really put Verstappen in first and Checo was snubbed, which was unfortunate because it was his first pole, and prospects did seem in his favor. Red Bull ultimately seems to have the ultimate pace over Ferrari coming out of this race, what with Verstappen beating out Leclerc’s DRS strategy, and the final laps to win during an intense wheel to a race. But Checo definitely lost out on a chance for a win here in Jeddah. With another two drivers on the podium, Ferrari is well ahead of the pack going into Melbourne. Because even though they didn't necessarily get first, they racked in a ton of points based on the point system I explained in the first episode, and especially with Hamilton finishing so low in the points and Russell having to carry the team in fifth place. Russell reportedly said that he is not excited to be finishing in fifth and that he still wants to compete for wins, but I don't really know if Mercedes is in a place to be able to do that this season. Haas is still holding on to some points. Yay underdogs. But Bottas unfortunately had to retire along with - get ready for this long list - Latifi, Albon, Ricciardo and Alonso as well as Schumacher and Tsunoda, who didn't even start. Whereas last race, we had high hopes for Bottas and he did really well. So, we had high hopes for him going into this race and was unfortunate that he had to retire. Mercedes is still dealing with bouncing in the seat issues, and McLaren is definitely improving but not quite there yet so we have to keep an eye on how fast McLaren can fix their cars. So, that's Jeddah and Bahrain in a nutshell. That's where we are now. A quick note on Pierre Gasly, who's my absolute favorite as kind of an addendum – he made it to a solid eight, which although is not fabulous, was great given that he was suffering intense abdominal pain in the last laps. But he's all good now, though, and I'm excited to see him race in Melbourne this weekend.
Malena: Alrighty guys, next week or so we'll have another chat about Melbourne and more technical stuff about F1. I'm thinking about talking about tires, pit stops, etc. But please feel free to DM me or something if you want to hear anything in specific and that's all from me. This has been I Don't Get F1 brought to you by me and NBN Audio. Bye guys!
[“I Don’t Get F1 Theme” by Ray Tsao]