This episode will focus on the Japan and China races as well as a lengthy discussion of where Carlos, Max and Adrien Newey could go. Join Olivia and special guest Hadley Timmerman as they discuss the recent drama.

Olivia: Hey everyone, welcome to Back on Track, a podcast discussing the wonderful world of Formula One. I'm Olivia Teeter and I'm here today with my friend Hadley Timmermann to discuss the Suzuka and China races, as well as the recent rumors floating around about drivers moving teams. Hadley, why don't you introduce yourself a bit?

Hadley: Hello, everyone. I'm Hadley, and I'm a relatively new fan of Formula One, kind of having fallen in love with Netflix's Drive to Survive. And I've been watching a lot of races this past season. And Olivia and I, of course, bonded over this at our first semester here at Northwestern. I'm really excited to be here today, so thank you for having me.

Olivia: Of course. All right. As always, so much has happened, so let's get back on track. My fast facts for you guys this episode are how scoring works in F1. Basically, each position is worth a certain amount of points. So for example, first place gives the driver and their team 25 points, second place 18, third place 15. Then all the way down to 10th at one point. That's right. If you finish outside of the top 10, you will not get any points, which is why you'll hear some people say, “Oh, this driver is up into the points” or “They scored points on debut.” It just means that they got within the top 10 of the race. Pretty brutal, I know, but I hope it's not too hard to understand. All right. To the races.

Olivia: So our discussion about the Suzuka race today will be mostly about the Williams team, which ironically starts back in Australia. During a practice session there, Alex Albon, a Williams driver, heavily crashed and destroyed the body, or the chassis, of the car. Williams made an executive decision to have Alex race in Logan Sargent's car, which is the second Williams driver, for the rest of the weekend. Logan has struggled since coming to F1. He's the only American in the sport. He was a rookie last year, and he only scored one point last year. Williams decided to take another chance on him, as they are usually a team that helps develop young and inexperienced drivers. And he was a good sport about the whole situation, but it was just kind of sucky for him in a must-drive and must-prove-himself season. Then going to Suzuka, Williams fixed the damage of the car, but Sargent was put in the repaired car and not his original car. This shows that Williams is still prioritizing Alex Albon, trying to maximize the amount of points that they score because they have more faith that Alex Albon will do that. So when we get to the race, we have Verstappen, Sergio Pérez in the Red Bulls up front in one and two, Lando Norris in third, and then Alex and Logan in the Williams are starting 14th and 19th respectively. And almost immediately Alex Albon crashes, destroying the second Williams car. To be fair, Daniel Ricciardo did kind of push him off. It wasn't totally his fault, but nonetheless the second Williams car was a goner. So why is this important? So Williams is a really small team and they do not have the same funding as the bigger ones. They have less spare parts, they have just less staff to help repair the car. So every instance of damage takes a lot out of their budget and this means they cannot work on improving the car. So Hadley, what will these instances, these situations do to Williams?

Hadley: I think, fundamentally, I do believe that Albon is just an overall better driver. I think what happened in Australia, basically Williams’ worst nightmare, was an ironic tragedy of its own that occurred. Sargent has obviously had his fair share of crashes, and although he’s only 23, I’m not sure I get behind the whole “age” narrative as the reason of him trying to learn and grow into his role in F1. Logan’s role is his own. Albon’s out in Suzuka was arguably skewed more towards the fault of Riccardo, and this was at least the attempt of him trying to fight at the start of the race. Put in the same Williams car, I would argue it’s fairly clear that Albon is the better driver overall.

Olivia: Yeah. Not to mention that like Logan Sargent only scored points last year because of a time penalty from someone in front of him. He still didn't technically get within the top 10. All right. Other things about Suzuka; Yuki Tsunoda, driver for RB scored points in his home race, so he got within top 10. Yeah! Little Yuki! Hamilton still struggled with the Mercedes car, and the Aston Martin duo had some major discrepancies with Lance Stroll being way off Fernando Alonso's times. So those were the big things from Suzuka.Overall, pretty entertaining race, so let's move on to China.

Olivia: So this is the first race in China in five years, and it is also a sprint weekend. So there are extra points up for grabs. Sprint weekends are basically mini-races that occur every so often throughout the season. They don't replace practice sessions. They don't replace the races. They are just another opportunity for the drivers to race that weekend. There are points at stake, so the first eight drivers take home points instead of the first 10, so it is literally a mini-race. Max Verstappen won both, cruising to victory. F1 does not really seem like a challenge for him anymore. Hadley, are you a Max fan? What do you think of him?

Hadley: I will say, I feel like it’s natural when you get into F1, to be like, "Oh, we hate Max Verstappen! He doesn’t lead to good content for us to watch!” I think honestly, as you get to know him, I’m on F1 Instagram too often, and watching the content there, you kind of learn that he’s just a goofy guy who likes driving his car.  Would I prefer to hear the Dutch anthem a little less frequently? Maybe, but I can’t hate him just because he tries to succeed and does succeed in a very good car.

Olivia: We see this with Pérez, Max Verstappen is putting up lap times even Pérez in the same car doesn't put up, which means he is maximizing the car to the fullest. And so I do think that shows how good of a driver he is. I don't know, I just love seeing the videos of him playing the Formula One video game.

Hadley: Every spare moment of his time, he’s serious.

Olivia: There's literally a video of him with the World Drivers Championship Trophy on the mini-fridge next to his console. He's just a normal guy, I feel like, outside…

Hadley: He lives for F1,

Olivia: He lives for F1, just like all of us. Right? So speaking of moving teams,

Hadley: Like we might see Max do?

Olivia: Like we might see Max do. There have been a lot of headlines about drivers, moving teams and new driver contracts recently. So Fernando Alonso resigned with Aston Martin. Nico Hulkenberg also signed with Kick Sauber. Carlos’ future is still up in the air, and literally as of I think last week, Adrian Newey is going to leave Red Bull. We will get to him. There are also multiple rumors about Max moving to Mercedes. Formula One never rests, so it's okay. We will break it all down. Carlos’ manager says he's been in talks with pretty much every team. They are trying to find the right one to go to. He's been linked to Mercedes, Red Bull, which is actually entirely plausible if they decide to boot Sergio Pérez. However, Audi really wants him. Audi is a new team that is prepared to take over for Sauber in 2026, but that still leaves Carlos without a seat for 2025. So Hadley, this is the big question. Where do you think he could go?

Hadley: Okay. I mean, from a cinematic standpoint, it would be so powerful, if he like, waited a year and then joined with Audi but obviously, that is not plausible because with his current success, he has to stay on the track in any form for the next coming year, even if it's a brief year with these speculated teams. I do think Audi is that inevitable switch because he is such a good driver. And you know, even if he doesn't score well in Audi, it’s still going to be a historic placement as the team's first year. But in terms of where he's going...?

Olivia: I guess there's two things: It's where do you want him to go, and where do you think logically he'll end up?

Hadley: I feel like he really could end up at Red Bull.

Olivia: I think he could.

Hadley: Him being at Red Bull depends on Max not being at Red Bull.

Olivia: You think Sergio Pérez will resign a contract with Red Bull?

Hadley: I think if the drivers were Pérez and Sainz, I could see that. But I do not think the Max and Sainz combo–

Olivia: No, I don't think that would work.

Hadley: They’re two good drivers in two good cars. They're just going to crash into each other, and Red Bull will not score any points.

Olivia: We saw that with Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen. When Max was first integrated into the team, they didn't really know who to prioritize, and Red Bull is one of those teams that has a first driver and a second driver very rigidly.

Hadley: I think if we had a Max to Mercedes and a Carlos to Red Bull and a Hamilton to Ferrari,

Olivia: We'd lose our mind!

Hadley: It’d be a really interesting season where all bets are off in terms of–

Olivia: Who can win.

Hadley: Everyone's also going to be lost, like, “Where do I go now? Where's my home?” I know I love Mercedes, but Hamilton's here and I love Ferrari, just very messy. That would make a good Drive to Survive season, I will say.

Olivia: Oh, it definitely would. That's still way up in the air. I’m very interested. I might have to become a Red Bull fan, if Carlos goes to Red Bull.

Hadley: You’ll follow where he goes?

Olivia: I will, because I will be honest. Carlos is my favorite driver on the grid. I gotta say my bias.

Hadley: That’s me with Hamilton and Ferrari. I’m like, “Live, laugh, love, Ferrari” now.

Olivia: Yeah. It happens. It happens to the best, it happens to the best. All right. So finally to Red Bull. This one is a doozy. Okay. So we kind of mentioned this before. Max is rumored to be talking with Mercedes after the Miami Grand Prix. And Adrian Newey, genius engineer who designed this dominant F1 car, has announced that he is leaving Red Bull. He is possibly going to go to Ferrari. That's the rumor of where he's going to go. Right now, he said he's just taking a break because F1 has been so stressful. But the rumors are he’s going to make a move to Ferrari, which would help Ferrari significantly. For a little context, these two events are connected to the – when I tell you this one's a doozy, this one is a doozy – so these two events are connected to the sexual misconduct allegations against a Red Bull team Principal Christian Horner. Red Bull said that they would be conducting their own investigation. They were almost ready to fire Christian Horner, actually, as these allegations were also combined with reports of a toxic and abusive work environment. So all around, it just seems like not a good situation. There was incriminating stuff that came out like text messages between a female employee and him, in which he was being sexually aggressive. Just all around, it was not a good situation because Red Bull didn't end up firing Horner, and they did suspend the female employee that did bring out these allegations.

Hadley: Ah, yes because that makes so much sense.

Olivia: That makes SO much sense! Long story short, Christian Horner’s still in power, nothing has happened. Not wanting to be connected with this bad publicity, apparently, Max Verstappen and his father – ironically, because, you know, Jos Verstappen has such a great track record himself – started considering other options for Max and himself. Mercedes has big shoes to fill with Hamilton leaving, so who better than Max Verstappen, I guess. Do you think a Mercedes move is plausible for Max? How do you think he would fit into the team?

Hadley: I mean, like we mentioned, I really do think it's entirely plausible. When I first heard about it, I couldn't help but wonder if this was a decision, you know, along with factoring in the allegations and the investigation against Horner that may be resulting from Max being a little bit bored maybe.

Olivia: That's so true. He hasn't really had to fight anyone for many of his wins.

Hadley: Part of me wonders if he's looking for this challenge and maybe he wants to see if he can drive a different car and still win and still place and wear turquoise and silence some of the doubt about his skills versus the skills of his car. It would certainly be interesting to see Max race against a Red Bull car and see the result. But I mean, for Russell and Max –

Olivia: The thing is, George Russell, I don't think, likes Max. I mean, he maybe likes him off track, but they've had their fair share of fights on track. And I don't know if you remember last year, he literally ripped a hole in the side of Max's car during a sprint race. And he was like, “I'm not going to just wave him by because he's Max Verstappen and a Red Bull.”

Hadley: Oh boy, you tell him, I guess!

Olivia: They're both, I don't know. I feel like they wouldn't work as drivers and we would get the whole crashing-into-each-other thing.

Hadley: Russell's working with Hamilton now who's like – even though he’s legendary, he still understands when his teammate has the faster car. I think like we're obviously going to get a lot of Mercedes favoritism probably towards Max because there's this like–

Olivia: He has this aura around him.

Hadley: Even for marketing purposes you want to uphold him as the champion in Mercedes. You're going to get the one-two happening.

Olivia: And if you remember last year, George Russell was, he was kind of playing that aggressive, second driver thing with Lewis Hamilton. He wasn't really willing to be the second driver. He caused some crashes between the two of them.

Hadley: They must have figured it out this year because there's been a good amount…

Olivia: There's been, he’s been quiet.

Hadley: Hamilton’s being like, “yeah, he's faster.” I think Hamilton's just kind of tired of the car, but I think once he knew that he was moving teams, he's like, “All right, Russell–”

Olivia: “I'm out”

Hadley: “You go ahead. Your car is slow, but faster than mine, so…”

Olivia: Okay, so now on to Adrian Newey. Adrian Newey left Red Bull last week. He is rumored to be in talks with Ferrari, although Mercedes may be in the mix too, like we mentioned. This could have huge implications for Red Bull losing their star driver and their genius engineer all in one go. What does Red Bull look like without Max Verstappen or Adrian Newey?

Hadley: Well, I mean, in the end, we still have an F1 team valued in the billions of dollars.

Olivia: Yes, that's true. Do you think Max is replaceable? Do you think Adrian Newey is replaceable? Because they're the special ones.

Hadley: The driver, definitely more so than the engineer. Red Bull has always kind of been in the top teams, for second, third, fourth. I feel like other than maybe their first few years, they've been towards the top. Red Bull without Max, I feel like, is still in that top range. But you know, I'm just not sure how that manifests and if it's as concrete of a dominance as it is as of now.

Olivia: Are we going to see a lot more different race winners? Is this the end of Red Bull dominance? Is this the end of a dominant team in general?

Hadley: I feel like we might have a year where it seems so, but I think if we end up with this engineer and maybe Max on the same team, that's when we’d see an issue. I feel like just as time goes on, it becomes harder and harder to have a race where there's 20 drivers with equal chances on the grid. It's just not like that anymore.

Olivia: Yeah. And I mean, it's not realistic for it to be like that. But just in terms of, maybe you have instead of one team winning everything, maybe you have two or three, you know.

Hadley: It could be a fight.

Olivia: It could be a fight, yeah. And just interesting races. All right. So that was a lot of information and a lot of driver and team drama happening off track, but I think we covered most of it. As you can see, sometimes what happens off the track is just as important as what happens on it. Every driver swap or management change has really big consequences for the team and F1 in general. These rumors related to Red Bull are big and, as we talked about, they can have really big implications for the future of F1. So that is all we have for you today. May is a really big month in F1. Three races will happen, including the coveted Monaco title. Thank you for joining me and Hadley on this episode of Back On Track and I will see you for the next race in Miami.