[“I Don’t Get F1 Theme” by Ray Tsao]
Malena: Hey guys, my name is Malena Ramnath and I'm your host here at I Don't Get F1. Just like everyone else this past year, I got caught up in the craze that is Formula One thanks to Netflix’s hit show Drive to Survive. However, I know literally nothing about the sport beyond the hot guys, that I like Ferrari and it's a race.
So I decided to just start this podcast as a way of recapping the races and researching the different technical aspects of the sport that aren't mentioned in Drive to Survive during the 2022 season alongside the timing of the races. While I'm learning, you guys can listen in and see if there was anything I missed or if there's anything helpful for my journey to get to know the sport for you yourself. 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 will be recapping the Melbourne Grand Prix and delving into the way the tires work on the cars as we come up on the Imola Grand Prix this weekend. Also, the timing of this podcast actually releasing might not be super aligned with what I'm saying due to editorial stuff. But as I'm recording this, Imola has not yet happened. So here's where we're at and let's get started.
[“I Don’t Get F1 Theme” by Ray Tsao]
So the Melbourne race was similar to all the previous ones in that there were three rounds of practice, one round of qualifying to determine starting positions, and then the final Grand Prix on Sunday. So to start, I'll break down the top three at qualifying and then the top three of the Grand Prix.
At qualifying, taking pole or first position was Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari, then George Russell in the Mercedes and then Carlos Sainz in the second Ferrari. At the Grand Prix, the top three were Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari, then Checo Perez in the Red Bull, who had qualified fourth, and then George Russell in the Mercedes.
So there are lots of things to unpack even in the top three rankings I just listed for you guys. Carlos Sainz, who was favored in the race and did very well in qualifying, had some steering issues at the last minute and had a steering wheel replaced right before the Grand Prix. Without enough steering control, he ended up in the gravel quite early on in the race and didn't finish, which was a major loss for Ferrari, who were doing so well in the Constructors Championship this season.
Charles Leclerc, on the other side of the Ferrari coin, was actually a major winner in this race, not only getting pole position coming out of qualifying, but also winning the Grand Prix with a Grand Slam – which is made up of a pole, a win in the Grand Prix, the fastest lap and that he led every lap. This was his first ever Grand Slam, and this hasn't been done in a Ferrari since Singapore in 2010, over 10 years ago. He now leads the Drivers Championship by 34 points, which is a larger margin than anyone had last year.
During the race, Max Verstappen had engine issues, which forced him to stop the car, and he didn't finish again, leaving the former world champion super frustrated at the Red Bull’s performance. Red Bull’s cars have been fast this year but have been hyper-unreliable. So, even though Checo was able to score some points, Red Bull remains frustrated with their situation.
The third and final car not to finish the race was Sebastian Vettel, who crashed into the barrier about halfway through after some issues in qualifying, and both Vettel and Verstappen's retirements forced the safety car to come out. The safety car essentially leads the race, forces the cars to remain in position behind it, and allows cars to pit without losing a place. Thus, it kind of throws off a lot of team strategies, particularly the ones who decided to pit early to change their tires when they had a margin ahead of the people behind them, but then could have done it for free later behind the safety car.
So, this is a lot about strategy. I won't delve too much into this as we haven't talked about pit strategy much, but we will talk about more after we talk about tires because it's important to note that this led to some setbacks for the midfield teams, particularly Gastly who slid to 14th place because of his miscalculation. But it's important to talk about tires first so we can kind of get on like why cars need to pit, etc.
George Russell, the team newbie in Mercedes, has been pacing ahead of his seven-time World Championship teammate Lewis Hamilton, which is a bit of a shocker, but it's also worth noting that Mercedes as a team is clearly no longer bringing the fight to Red Bull and Ferrari, as they claim their car is too slow. It will be interesting to see if Red Bull’s unreliability in the car will close Mercedes’ gap to them, though. McLaren, on the other hand, has seemed to fix it's early season issues, with both cars placing in the top 10 and thus getting points. But Lando Norris, their driver, says that it was an anomaly and there's still a lot of work to be done.
Other small, honorable and dishonorable mentions in the midfield and bottom of the pack include Alex Albon scoring Williams’ first point in the season, the Haas cars not scoring any points – but their driver Kevin Magnussen saying that that was an anomaly – and Aston Martin remaining without points this season and their team principal calling it “a weekend to forget.”
All in all, Melbourne was a solid, drama free-weekend, which, although doesn't seem super exciting for the sport, was a nice respite from all the accidents and arguments that have come before and are sure to come down the line.
Okay, so we've covered the race. Now let's have a quick chat about the technical side of F1 and some other things I picked up from watching the race. So, one of the first questions I had when watching F1 personally that they definitely do not explain in Drive to Survive, was about the leaderboard on the left side of the screen when you're watching the race. It shows the ever changing standings of who's in which position along with their teams, but also has a little letter on the right column, which is often M or H or S, and I had no clue what those letters were, but as it turns out, it shows the tires of the drivers.
So as the cars go at insane speeds around the track, it makes sense that the wheels would fall apart in that insane heat and friction. So at the pit stops the drivers change their wheels. But this also takes time and can go wrong, so they have to time it so that even though they stop, they don't lose too many places in the race. However, if they don't stop, they also lose time because they're going slower on broken down wheels. So this is a massive part of race strategy and often determines who wins or loses races, especially in the case of when the safety car comes out that I briefly touched on before.
However, I won't delve super deep into the race strategy now, as it's super complicated as I mentioned before, and varies from circuit to circuit. But instead we'll talk a bit more about which tires are used and what those little letters actually mean. F1 tires are all provided by Pirelli, which is their tire company, which gives 13 sets of tires per race weekend to each driver. F1 uses seven different tire compounds which are five slick variations, an intermediate tire and a wet weather tire. Three of the slick tires are available per race which are soft, medium, and hard, where soft is red, medium is yellow, and hard is white.
Out of the 13 sets, teams get to decide how many of each compound they want, and they decide 14 weeks before flyaway races – so that's pretty much like outside of Europe – and eight weeks before European races so that Pirelli has enough time to ship them. A big part of strategy is figuring out the balance between soft tires, which are quicker but not durable; medium tires, which are balanced, and hard tires, which are slower but are super durable. So if there are a bunch of cars on your tail, you don't have time to pick, you'd want hard tires. But if you just need to go super fast in the last few laps, you'd want soft tires.
Also, if rain is coming in, which teams watch on super high-tech weather monitors, you need to switch to wet weather tires, which displace water but are slower on drier tracks. Finally, all drivers that make the top 10 in the qualifying round must start the race on the set of tires that they use to set their fastest time in Q2 of their qualifying. So that disincentivizes whipping around the qualifying track on softs, because then you have to start the Grand Prix with them and you will need to pit soon. The guy in 11th place, though, gets to do whatever he wants, so I guess that's a perk of not qualifying in the top 10.
So, that's the tires for you. And whichever ones the drivers racing on will appear in the little column next to their name on the leaderboard. Notice how they change with the weather, pit stops and team strategy that you can hear over the radio during the race.
I hope that quick explanation as well as the race recap was as helpful to your understanding of the game as it was to mine. And I'm really excited to watch the Imola practices get started later this weekend.
That's all for me this week! I hope you guys have a great one. And even though it's been a shorter episode, I hope you guys got some more out of – not just about the races but about the technical side. So 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]