[I Don’t Get F1 Theme by Ray Tsao]

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 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 is anything helpful from my journey to get to know the sport better for you! The two biggest races of the season happened in just the past couple of weeks – Suzuka and Austin – where both the Driver and Constructor championships were secured by Red Bull. On today’s episode, I’ll be recapping them both for you, along with some other news that came about in the F1 world.

So, let’s start with Suzuka, the Japanese Grand Prix. The race was immediately more exciting because it was pouring rain at the start of the race, making the conditions much, much trickier in terms of visibility and control for drivers. This would massively increase variability in how people finished the race. In just the first lap, Carlos Sainz hit a puddle and aquaplaned into a barrier. After this first crash and official retirement from the race, a safety car was deployed which forced all the cars to slow their pace and no one can overtake, while Carlos was moved off the track. Much drama ensued here, which cast a shadow over the rest of the race.

For context, in this race in 2014, famous driver Jules Bianchi crashed into a crane that was sitting in the gravel on the side of the track. He sustained serious brain damage and he ultimately passed away from it a year later. This was a major loss to the F1 community. This year, in similar conditions, Pierre Gasly came within two meters of hitting a crane positioned on the track to remove Sainz’s car. If Pierre Gasly had crashed in the same way Carlos did in the first lap, he would have died in the exact same way that Bianchi had in 2014. This caused massive outrage in the F1 community, with Gasly and other drivers criticizing the FIA heavily. Although the FIA apologized for creating dangerous track conditions and stated various efforts to improve machinery and driver signaling and speed on the track, fans were left in shock as the FIA also blamed Gasly for being “reckless” and driving too quickly once the safety car was deployed.

This wasn’t the end of big news surrounding Gasly at the race as well, as he also announced that he would be leaving long-time team AlphaTauri (as well as his spectacular bromance with Yuki Tsunoda) to drive for French manufacturer Alpine Renault. There, he will be replacing Fernando Alonso, completing an all-French driver pairing with Esteban Ocon. Although there have been rumors that Gasly and Ocon do not get on – based on a stolen girlfriend or family arguments or something – the pair seem to be getting on swimmingly following the news, living the dream of representing their country in a spectacular way on the track.

Ok, so back to the race. Shortly after the safety car went out, it was decided that the conditions were too hazardous to drive, so under a red flag the race was paused for 10 minutes. All the drivers started on wets, but after the race resumed, those that switched to intermediates in the lighter rain conditions proved to be much faster. Verstappen whipped ahead, securing first place with a comfortable lead the entire race. Vettel similarly made the early switch to intermediates and ended up in sixth place with Aston Martin. With the exact same tactic, Latifi scored his first points of the season at Williams, which was ultimately a win in what will most likely be the driver’s last season in F1. Meanwhile, Haas, Mercedes and Alfa Romeo all struggled due to strategy and poor car design. Alpine had just put a new floor in the car, which made it significantly faster, allowing Ocon to qualify in fifth and finish in fourth, earning the team their highest points finish of the season. Alonso also finished well, leap-frogging Alpine into fourth place in the constructor’s championship over McLaren. This is a massive deal, because the top 3 constructors are usually pretty predictable, but the midfield tends to be more of a competition.  Fourth place puts you at the top of the midfield!

The last and biggest news coming out of the race was the fight for second place – Leclerc kept Perez behind him all the way to a tight finish. However, on one of the last turns before the checkered flag, Leclerc cut a corner as he was struggling to control his intermediate tires, and ended up with a time penalty that dropped him into third place. Thus, Verstappen who had just won had created enough of a point difference from Leclerc to be officially deemed the F1 2022 World Champion!!! Although I am not a Verstappen fan, you have to give it to him – not only did he unseat Lewis Hamilton last year, but also is winning a record number of races and secured the championship way before the end of the season.

So next, let’s talk about Austin. Austin is always a super fun race as the drivers get into the American spirit of the track. Haas, Aston Martin and Ferrari all had their drivers enter the paddock in full cowboy get up, and Daniel Ricciardo made his signature entrance in Austin actually riding a horse! This race saw time penalties also going out left and right. On the first lap, Russell tapped Carlos Sainz’s back tire, causing him to spin out and have a rear puncture. This forced Sainz’s retirement and meant that in the last two races he did not complete a single lap, despite his pole position start in Austin. Because of this incident, Russell's car suffered damage and the British driver had to serve a five second time penalty. Even though he had the fastest lap of the race, he ended the race at a disappointing fifth place, three places behind his teammate, Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton said the race was the best drive of his season. Leclerc also started the race with a time penalty for engine component changes and thus began in 12th place. But he honestly had a fantastic race that allowed him to reach third and surpass Perez for second place in the drivers standings. Haas, the only American team, won points thanks to Magnussen in their home race. This was good news in addition to their new sponsorship deal announced for 2023 with MoneyGram. Alfa Romeo struggled despite getting new floor upgrades as Bottas crashed. Although Tsunoda brought home some much needed points for AlphaTauri, Pierre Gasly was bogged down first by a five second penalty for not respecting safety car rules, and then a ten second penalty for not serving the first one well enough. The final – and most important thing – worth mentioning from this race is Verstappen’s win. With his win, he tied the record for the most wins by a driver in a season, and also secured the Constructors Championship for RedBull despite a lagging pit stop during the race. This is Red Bull’s first constructor’s championship since 2013, which paid a beautiful homage to Dietrich Mateschitz – the Red Bull team owner and founder – who passed away at 78 that weekend. Once again, although I’m not a Red Bull fan, there’s something epic about their total domination following the eight year battle for the title with Mercedes.

Alrighty gang, that is all I’ve got for you guys today, that’s our recap of Suzuka and Austin, as well as all the drama that went down around these races, but thank you so much for listening and I hope you guys got to learn a little bit more about what went on. I am looking forward to recapping the Mexico City race and the Brazilian Grand Prix coming up, and will be back on the podcast then! This has been “I Don’t Get F1” brought to you by me and NBN Audio!! Thanks guys, talk soon, byeeeeee!

[I Don’t Get F1 Theme by Ray Tsao]