[“I Don’t Get F1 Theme” by Ray Tsao]
Hey guys, my name is Malena Ramnath, and I'm a junior at Northwestern University. 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. Not only was the show full of drama, breakneck speed, and political intrigue, but it all centered around very attractive drivers and team principals. I've binged the show and probably followed all the main characters on Instagram.
But the way the show works is that the season releases covering the year before as the current year sporting season kicks off. So as the 2022 races begin, only the 2021 season of Drive to Survive was released. So I was thinking, let me go ahead and watch the 2022 races because I'm caught up in Formula One, etc, etc. I even had the good fortune to be able to go to two Grand Prix’s when I lived in Singapore, so I kind of felt connected to the sport. But all I really understood when I was watching it was that the cars were fast, and I could barely even make them out due to the speed and the sparks flying across the track. It was crazy. And, also, it was a music festival. So, I was more focused on Ariana Grande than the cars itself.
But then as I started to watch the 2022 races begin this year, beyond the names of the drivers and the teams, I had no clue what the hell was going on. How was I supposed to know what the tires meant, how the laps worked, how the pit stops were planned, race strategy or even what teams would be ahead this year, if I didn't have the helpful Netflix narrator to help me understand it? So, I decided to 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. So, while I'm learning, you guys can also listen in hopefully and see if there was anything I missed or if there's anything helpful for my journey to get to know the sport for 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, I'll go ahead this week and explain my starting point or what we should know so far from Drive to Survive and Instagram – which are my reference points. And then we can start figuring this out together from there.
If you already get the basics of F1 or have seen Drive to Survive, please ignore this or listen with low expectations or like also while watching another show and we can start talking about the actual 2022 season next episode. So with that being said, this is I Don't Get F1 and let's get going.
[“I Don’t Get F1 Theme” by Ray Tsao]
Alright guys, so the basics of this sport are that there are 10 teams, two drivers each and 20 cars on the track as they race to see who's the fastest – obviously, it’s a race. But not only are the drivers important, but the cars are too. Because it takes a lot of money and construction and science and engineering to make each car and each team has different amounts of funding, sponsors and expertise in building the cars outside of the talent of the driver lineup. They also have team principals, CEOs, or managing directors that preside over the whole team of engineers, drivers, media advisors, business managers and pit crew who have their own personalities and drama as they seek to support a team, which is worth like hundreds of million dollars, hundreds of million dollars worth of sports betting etc, etc.
So all these teams race around the world at various circuits in international locations from Australia and Singapore, to Monaco, to Bahrain, to Mexico City and Miami, just to name a few. And although these locations vary from year to year, some races are iconic, especially the Monte Carlo and Silverstone ones, and can either be street circuits where city streets are closed down to the form of tracks, or tracks built and used specifically for racing on the outskirts of the city. Some are during the day, but then in the hotter countries because of the speeds the cars get to and the drivers sitting in the baking heat at high temperatures, the hotter countries' races need to be at night. So these three night circuits of 2021 were Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Abu Dhabi, but Singapore often joins on that list. And I think Vegas is going to be a night race coming in 2023.
There are two leaderboards to be aware of as well. So when you're racing you're either competing for, well, you're competing for both the Constructors’ Championship and the Drivers’ Championship. As drivers cross the finish line, the first 10 cars get points, which reduce with each position that comes next. So first place is 25 points, second place is 18, third place 15, fourth is 12, fifth is 10, sixth is eight, seventh is six, eighth places four points, ninth places two points and 10th place is one point. So, as you can see from the top three or top four, it kind of drastically reduces in terms of the number of points you get. So, you really do want to be at the upper end of those points.
For the Constructors’ Championship, you add the two team drivers points to get the final result. So Lewis Hamilton and George Russell's results, for example, will add up to get Mercedes' results. So for the Drivers' Championship, however, it is each man for themselves and so everyone's competing to be the world champion. So there's kind of a tension between working together with your teammate and also competing against them, which adds a lot of spice to the race and most of the drama in the TV show.
So what happened last year? The 2021 season ended about a year ago because we've just kicked off the 2022 season. And it was one of the most exciting seasons – which I'll explain in a bit. But in terms of driver standings, you had Verstappen as the world champion, Hamilton, Bottas, and so this is from winners to 10th place: Verstappen, Hamilton, Bottas, Perez, Norris, Leclerc, Sainz, Ricciardo, Gasly and Alonso. So you have two Red Bull Racing drivers placing, two Mercedes drivers, two McLaren drivers, two Ferrari, one Alphatauri and one Alpine Renault placing in the 2021 driver standings. In terms of the 2021 team standings, Mercedes won the Constructors’ Championship – not Red Bull – because it takes two drivers to win the Constructors’ Championship. And it was Mercedes, Red Bull, then Ferrari, then McLaren, then Alpine, then Alphatauri, then Aston Martin, then Williams, then Alfa Romeo, and then Haas. So, that was where we ended the season last year. I know this is a lot of information to take in, but stick with me.
The big upset of the season, as most people know, was that Max Verstappen became a first time world champion, unseating Lewis Hamilton, one of the biggest names in F1 and seven-time consecutive World Champion. There was a lot of animosity between the Red Bull and Mercedes teams and it came down to the last race where there was a lot of debate about who really should have won, as there was a crash that led to a safety car needing to come out – which I'll explain in a later episode – and that interfered with the race order. In addition, Valtteri Bottas’ longtime, who was Lewis Hamilton's longtime teammate, it was his last year with Mercedes as he moved on to Alfa Romeo and George Russell, who's with the struggling team Williams was pulled up by Toto Wolff to Mercedes, a massive change to the driver order that hadn't been seen in many, many years. I believe, and this might be slightly off, but that it was Bottas’ fifth Constructors’ Championship with Mercedes in the 2021 season, so it's a big switch to the driver order. Also, there were new rules put in place for the 2022 season that would level the playing field between the teams with more money. So the top three are normally Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari, and the teams with less such as Haas and Williams to keep the cars more competitive with each other.
And in a massive turn too – and this is what I was talking about earlier – Nikita Mazepin, Haas's Russian driver in 2021, alongside Mick Schumacher, son of racing legend Michael Schumacher, had brought in a massive sponsor for the team – his father's Russian fertilizer company UralKali. And this fertilizer team was the main sponsor of Haas. However, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine just a bit of time ago, both Mazepin’s contract and the UralKali sponsorship were swiftly ended. So Kevin Magnussen, Haas’ driver for years up until 2020, so he left after the 2020 season, was brought back to the team and is thus racing as one of the drivers in 2022 and doing quite well – but we'll cover that at another time.
So, although I could go on and on about the different drivers and more details from Drive to Survive and specific exciting races for 2021, I think it's time to focus on 2022 as we move into the races that have occurred, which are Bahrain and Jeddah, so far this year in our next episode. Those have occurred – don't worry, you're not too late – about over the last three weeks. And I'm sure most of you guys have watched that if you're listening to this. But hopefully, I can shed some more light and give some more summaries in case you got bored during the two hour race. So before I leave you this week, though, I figured I'd let you know where my personal preferences lie and know where my loyalties and biases might show up.
I already mentioned that my favorite team is Ferrari – I think they're a classic team. I would love to hear if you have any opinions on why Ferrari isn’t a great team, but just what from what I've seen so far from Drive to Survive, I'm a big, big Ferrari fan. But my favorite driver’s actually Pierre Gasly, who races under the French flag for Alphatauri. And hopefully, you guys will see him do well. I won't get into why I love him but, hopefully by the time of the next podcast, I can talk a little bit about it. So if you hear these names come up, just know that I want them to win and I'm rooting for them. And I would love to hear your guys’ opinions on what your favorite teams are.
So alright guys, that's it for me on this episode. And see you next week for our first two race recaps. Thanks for listening and 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]