5 Takeaways from the 2022 Miami Grand Prix

The first-ever Miami Grand Prix took place just nine days ago and boy, did the organizers do their best to make sure it was an event we never forget. It was being called the Super Bowl of the Formula 1 season. A lot was going on. It really was a spectacle.

You know how TV shows have outlier episodes for Halloween or Christmas specials? That’s what the Miami Grand Prix felt like.

I’ve read that due to wanting to make the weekend as great as possible, costs far exceeded revenue.

Hey, that’s Vegas, baby.

Wait, the Vegas Grand Prix is next year.

Results

1. Max Verstappen – Red Bull
2. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari
3. Carlos Sainz – Ferrari
4. Sergio Perez – Red Bull
5. George Russell – Mercedes
6. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
7. Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo
8. Esteban Ocon – Alpine
9. Alex Albon – Williams
10. Lance Stroll – Aston Martin

11. Fernando Alonso – Alpine
12. Yuki Tsunoda – AlphaTauri
13. Daniel Ricciardo – McLaren
14. Nicholas Latifi – Williams
15. Mick Schumacher – Haas
16. Kevin Magnussen – Haas (DNF)
17. Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin (DNF)
18. Pierre Gasly – AlphaTauri (DNF)
19. Lando Norris – McLaren (DNF)
20. Zhou Guanyu – Alfa Romeo (DNF)

Takeaways

1. F1 Needs to be Careful

No one is happier than I am that Formula 1 has reached a larger audience, thanks to the Netflix series. With new fans coming in, there is going to be a prolonged honeymoon phase. Oh, it’s a race weekend? Let’s watch!

And that’s all fine and dandy, and exactly what should happen.

Now, lean in close as I say this…

However, some F1 races can be, for the lack of a better word, boring. The main reason being, no one can pass anyone because the track doesn’t offer many opportunities for overtaking. So, what happens is, as a viewer, we start begging for rain, or a crash, to bring out the safety car and bunch everyone up.

We are hoping for manufactured entertainment because the track isn’t providing it.

The Miami Grand Prix was a giant party, right? That was amazing. Most of the race was not, at least for me. A safety car near the end salvaged it, but until then, it was just another race with cars following each other. Sure, Verstappen passed Leclerc for first place and that was cool, but there wasn’t much else going on.

I think F1 needs to be careful because they have a glut of new fans right now and the goal should be to continue bringing them up the frequency escalator and hopefully turn them into lifelong fans.

My fear is that new fans may catch on that some races just aren’t going to provide the drama they’re looking for, and therefore, they’ll start losing interest.

I don’t think that day is coming any time soon, but get back to me in two to three years when the honeymoon is over.

Because the fans who were here before the boom, probably got into the sport when races were truly competitive. Now, we’ve stayed because we were hooked. I hope the new fans, who came on because of how dramatic F1 is, will stick it out through some of the dull races.

In an ideal world, if F1 is going to keep going to new destinations that require a new circuit, then they should design a track that would maximize overtaking and competition. Miami didn’t really necessitate that.

I just want someone to build the ideal race track where you can pass just about anywhere.

Miami did provide a great atmosphere, though.

And maybe that’s what F1 is happy with doing right now. Sell the lifestyle and luxury; the pomp and circumstance. If fans are happy with the experience and can look past the races where not much happens, that’s great.

Just be careful.

2. Danica is Great

In Canada, we get the Sky Sports feed for F1 coverage. At last year’s United States Grand Prix, they added former racing driver, Danica Patrick, to the broadcast team.

They brought her back for the Miami Grand Prix and I thought she was great – a breath of fresh air. I enjoy the commentators that Sky Sports has, but it was nice to get an outsider’s perspective.

“Outsider” in the sense that Danica isn’t walking up and down the F1 pit lane/paddock every weekend, like the others.

3. Andretti in 2024?

I believe it was during Free Practice 2 (it was during a practice session) that American racing legend, and 1978 F1 World Champion, Mario Andretti, joined the broadcast and said he hopes to have an Andretti team on the F1 grid in 2024.

Now, in real life terms, 2024 is two years away. In F1 terms, it’s basically next month. So if this is going to happen, it needs to happen yesterday.

Andretti is a big name and would add a second American team to the grid. The other being Haas.

From what I understand, Andretti needs unanimous approval from all 10 teams in order to gain entry into F1. He has received public backing from McLaren and Alpine. That’s it. Other teams are blocking his entry, Mercedes being one of them.

Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, wants Andretti to demonstrate what his team can bring to the table, other than the $200 million entry fee.

It’s all about money because of course it is. If an 11th team enters F1, then the pot gets diluted and the other 10 teams are making less. I get that.

However, wouldn’t it be worth it to have another team on the grid? Especially an American team with a built-in reputation and legacy? From the sounds of it, they would like to have an American driver in one of their cars. Wouldn’t that open up the American market even further?

To me, a new team and two extra drivers means more sponsors get behind F1. It means even more exposure.

Why have 20 lemonade stands around town, when you can have 22? You could make more than it costs, if you’re smart about it.

I don’t know. I’m not in the boardroom. I’m not pressing numbers on a calculator.

I think teams are also a bit put-off by the fact that Andretti is so open about wanting to join F1. In reality, that’s just the North American way. Generate buzz, get people talking, and use the momentum to push the door open.

Whereas in the F1 universe, it feels like everyone wants everything to be a secret. Which is ironic, considering as soon as they dropped the curtain and did the Netflix series, the sport took off.

Give me more teams and more drivers on the grid. That is all.

4. Martin Brundle’s Grid Walk

Martin Brundle is a treasure, isn’t he? Before each race, he gets to walk up and down the grid, interviewing whichever celebrity, driver, or team official he can coerce into a chat.

Last year, at the United States Grand Prix, he tried to interview Megan Thee Stallion, who was quite receptive to him, but her body guard pushed him away. Brundle had some quip for him. It was great. He was also snubbed by Serena Williams, twice.

And being back in the US, the hi-jinx were turned up to a 12 once again.

The second-hand awkwardness was palpable as he squeezed his way through the mob of people. And wouldn’t you know it, he found Serena’s sister, Venus.

Brundle asked her what she thought of the event, she started to respond, but then she said “hey” to someone walking by and stopped answering his question…because she forgot he was there? He kept walking with her, both of them in silence for a few hilarious seconds, before she re-acknowledged his presence by asking, “Oh, what’s the question?”

He said, “It doesn’t really matter.”

I was laughing.

Brundle also ran into DJ Khaled, who said exactly what you’d expect him to say.

And then Brundle chased down Patrick Mahomes (who seemed to be ignoring him), except it wasn’t Patrick Mahomes at all. It was Duke basketball player, and probable Top 5 pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Paulo Banchero. The chat ended with Brundle asking Paulo his name, and realizing that was why “Patrick” wasn’t turning around when he called him earlier.

Gold. All of it.

5. Very Miami

You know those theme days they’d have at summer camp like: Pyjama Day, Disney Day, or Jersey Day? Well, this was Miami Day.

If you had no idea what Miami was about before this Grand Prix, now you know. I thought they did a phenomenal job of showcasing their city, while it was in the spotlight. I think a few other F1 destinations could copy the Miami playbook and lean into who they are just a little bit more.

There was a fake marina along the side of the track, with boats parked in “the water”. There were mermaids by a pool. The drivers wore football helmets on the podium, instead of the traditional caps.

Oh, there was also a police escort just to get the drivers to the podium. I’m not sure what that was about, since I’m pretty sure security is at an all-time high at F1 races, and only credentialed personnel are allowed in certain areas.

BUT, if you want to have a police escort, by all means have a police escort.

Honestly, I remember about two things from the actual race, but the scenes around the track are locked in my memory vault.

So, kudos to them for pulling that off.

The next race is the Spanish Grand Prix this Sunday, May 22 from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

What did you think of the Miami Grand Prix? Thoughts on my takeaways?

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Losing Game 7

I am currently sitting in a dark room watching a Saturday Night Live episode from the year 2000. The musical guest is U2 and they’re performing, “Beautiful Day”. It is beautiful, really. For a few minutes, I am distracted.

But now, I need another distraction. Something to take my mind off of the Toronto Maple Leafs losing Game 7 against the Tampa Bay Lightning. I cannot go to sleep. I cannot lay down. I say that more literally than you know.

It is almost midnight, so at least I can do tomorrow’s Wordle soon.

Honestly, I do not know what to do with myself. I have already done the post-mortem Leafs chat with a friend.

Now what?

There really is no clear direction for this post. I am just going to type out words, so they no longer exist in my head.

I keep flipping through songs, thinking I will find the one that fits how I am feeling right now. That song is elusive. I will let you know if I find it by the end of this post.

The Leafs have not won a playoff series since 2004. I remember that year all too well. I remember all of those playoff runs of the early 2000s, actually. It felt like they would last forever. They did not.

This is where I would normally mention other statistics, relating to the last six years, but this is not that kind of post.

All of those numbers have become cumbersome. They are an albatross around this fan base. We do not need them right now. They can wait outside.

When the final buzzer went and the Leafs were eliminated, I was not mad. I was not angry.

And maybe this is wrong to say, but who cares – I was proud of the team. I was proud of the way they fought. That is me being honest.

There will be people who say, “Oh, you are so used to losing that you have come to accept it.”

Sure, there are things to be bitter about. There are things to complain about. That is what you do when you lose. You cycle through all the “what ifs” and “if onlys”. Because if the series of events that we just witnessed were altered at certain points, perhaps the end result is different.

I am not here to publicly criticize anyone.

This loss hurts, but I am struggling to find ways to expand upon that. This would be easier if I were angry, but I am not.

It was always going to be tough to take down the reigning, defending, back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. And with a 3-2 series lead, maybe the Leafs should have. Maybe they should have found a way to win one of the two final games in the series.

But that is just it – maybe.

Not every team can be the team of destiny. I, and other Leaf fans, are so focussed on the story our team is writing that we, sometimes, fail to realize that other teams are also writing their own story at the same time.

That Lightning team is headed toward becoming a dynasty and we just got in their way.

Everyone who was supposed to show up for the Leafs, showed up. I think the Leafs outplayed the Lightning for the majority of the seven games. That is where my absence of words comes from.

It feels like a password has been rejected, even though we entered it correctly.

But the Lightning are champions for a reason and epitomized the Rocky Balboa quote:

“It ain’t about how hard you hit.┬áIt’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.”

They kept moving forward.

This elimination feels different than all the ones that came before it. I will say that. In the past, it felt like the team was scared, or intimidated, by the moment. This year, it looked like they were confident. They looked ready for it.

Again, we do not receive anything for being confident or trying hard, but it should be acknowledged.

Does something have to change?

That is the question.

Maybe I am so far gone that I cannot think rationally anymore, but I still would not fire the Coach, General Manager, or President. I still would not trade anyone out of our core. I might be in the minority with that, and perhaps I am wrong, but that is just how I feel right now.

I think this franchise spent a decade looking for the star players we currently have. To give up on them now, you have to be certain that what you receive back makes you a better team. You cannot guess. You cannot hope. You cannot make a trade for the sake of making a trade. You have to be sure.

Perhaps it is a flaw of mine to sometimes view this team from a fictional standpoint. However, I see a team that has struggled to take the next step and in my head, I always give them that happy ending. The whole, “struggle will be worth it” narrative. Just keep going.

I cannot help it. The alternative is that we fail to get out of the first round forever and I just refuse to believe that.

This team will turn the corner, eventually. That is what I believe. And it will be magical.

I am not ready for the Leafs season to be over, but I never am. It is okay. I am okay.

Over the next few days, I will be doing my best to avoid all the Leafs talk amongst the local media. I am just tired of hearing it. I could lay out all of the talking points for you right now. They are the same ones after every season.

It is just too much.

I never did find a song to fit how I am feeling, if you were wondering.

I think I got all the words out. Thanks for listening.

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5 Takeaways from the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix

Here’s the deal, happy meal. I am about a week and a half late on this post, so I could write an introduction that drags on and on, or I can cut right to the race results and my takeaways from the 2022 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

Which will it be?

Well, let me tell you about the time I…just kidding.

Let’s get to it.

Race Results

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
3. Lando Norris (McLaren)
4. George Russell (Mercedes)
5. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
6. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
7. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
8. Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
9. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
10. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)

11. Alex Albon (Williams)
12. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
13. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
14. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
15. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
16. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
17. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
18. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
19. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) – DNF
20. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) – DNF

Takeaways

1. Still don’t like Sprint Races

Formula 1 introduced Sprint Races as part of the Qualifying format at three races last year and will have them at three races this year, as well. Maybe I’ll do a bigger post about Sprint Races in the future, but for now I’ll just say that I’m not a fan.

That doesn’t mean they can’t win me over eventually. They just haven’t, yet.

It feels like they’re giving away the first 1/3 of the race on Saturday, leaving me with little to look forward to on Sunday. Race days are special because you get to see the race. But now we get two races in two days? It’s sort of like they are overdoing Christmas.

Every time there’s been a Sprint Race, I’ve lost excitement for the actual race on Sunday because it feels like I’ve already seen what happens.

As for regular Qualifying, which happens on the Friday, my interest level has gone way down. It feels insignificant. It’s like, “Congrats, you qualified 1st for the chance to see if you actually start the race in 1st.”

Maybe it’s a time zone thing, but Friday qualifying just feels like I have to record it and ignore the internet all day until I can watch. Otherwise, I’ll just see spoilers and not watch it.

I understand the financial reasons behind this entire concept, but Sprint Races have, so far, completely dampened my excitement for race weekends.

2. Leclerc Gets Greedy

Ferrari, at their home track, had one of their drivers (Carlos Sainz) retire from the race on the first lap. Their other driver (Charles Leclerc) was sitting in second place with 13 laps left, when he and the team decided to come in for a pit stop, so they could put on soft tyres and go for the fastest lap of the race. This would grant them an extra point.

I’m not really a fan of cars making a late pit stop, just so they could pursue the fastest lap, especially if they’re in a podium position. I don’t care if they have a big enough lead to the car behind them to not lose their position.

It just feels like too much risk is involves for a chintzy reward.

Anything can go wrong in a pit stop. We see it almost every race. I don’t think it’s worth losing your spot on the podium, just to go for one more point. Maybe later in the year, if you really need it, but now? It’s way too early in the season. I don’t want to hear the, “Every point matters, no matter when you get it” argument.

This was just greed.

Leclerc comes in for his soft tyres, drops down to third, giving Red Bull a 1-2, and then in his effort to catch up to Sergio Perez in 2nd, Leclerc spins out and has to come in the pits again. He eventually finishes in 6th place.

It wasn’t worth the risk, at all. And Ferrari should know better than to try and jeopardize a podium at their home race. They will learn from this.

3. Mercedes Disparity

George Russell finished P4, while Lewis Hamilton couldn’t get passed the AlphaTauri of Pierre Gasly, and finished P13. Hamilton was even lapped by Max Verstappen.

The big question is: “If the cars are the same, how does this happen?”

I don’t have the answers. I just know what everyone else knows right now. Mercedes does not have a championship-winning car right now. As fans, we’ve almost been programmed to expect Mercedes to always be at the top and now that they aren’t, it’s very strange.

I am enjoying seeing other teams get their taste of glory, though.

4. Love Rain

Can we all just rise and give the rain a standing ovation? It makes every race better.

My favourite is when it’s only raining at one end of the track, while the other end is still bone dry. It’s such a unique dilemma that only Formula 1 can provide.

5. $ad Sainz

If Carlos Sainz didn’t have bad luck, he’d probably have good luck. On the first lap of the race, he was taken out by Daniel Ricciardo and left to spin his tyres in the gravel.

Ever since I was little, I’ve always felt bad for the drivers who see their race come to an end on the first lap. All the excitement for the race gets taken away from them in an instant.

It’s like if someone gave you a slice of pizza and just as you’re about to take a bite, they knock it out of your hands and step on it. What are you supposed to do after that?

Twenty years ago, I feel like drivers were more aggressive at the first corner on the first lap. Now, it feels like they have an “agreement” to not do anything stupid. That’s just my observation. I’m sure there’s a “first corner crashes” statistic out there somewhere that would set the record straight.

Back to Sainz, though. He signed a two-year extension with Ferrari, so that’s not sad. He deserves it. Maybe I should go change the S to a dollar sign. Hold on. And, done.

My first thought was, what does this mean for Mick Schumacher and his potential future with Ferrari? I just assumed it was inevitable and maybe it still is, but I guess it will now be later, rather than sooner. Charles Leclerc is locked up until 2026.

If Haas is actually “good” again, then maybe two more years with them wouldn’t be so bad for Schumacher. But will he want to wait until 2025 for a shot with a top team? Will someone else come calling? Would Ferrari allow him go? Would he even want to go?

I should do a whole post of just hypothetical questions.

Next Race: May 8 in Miami…for the first time ever

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Series Over

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

The improbable dream came to an end on Thursday night as the Toronto Raptors lost Game 6 to the Philadelphia 76ers and were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs.

To be honest, there should have been a Game 7. Toronto was the better team in three of the six games, but they let Game 3 slip away at the very end. How Game 7 would’ve gone, I have no idea. Actually, Joel Embiid probably wouldn’t have been available.

Oh well, I’m not going down that rabbit hole.

Game 6 started with scoring sprees from both teams. It felt like no one could miss a shot. It was fun, it was exciting, but ultimately, it told me that the 76ers were “back” after sleepwalking through Game 5, which probably meant trouble for the Raptors.

The Raptors can’t sustain that pace. Eventually, they’re going to have their usual 3-4 minute scoring drought that they’ve been unable to shake all year.

That’s why they were so dominant in Game 5. They controlled the clock in their half-court sets and – Nick Nurse even mentioned it after the game – seemingly scored with only a couple seconds left on the shot clock numerous times.

Drain the clock and don’t let the 76ers get any momentum from a fast break. Winning combination.

They couldn’t stop the 76ers in Game 6. It was like Philly came in here and wanted to show us their greatest hits.

All that being said, the Raptors were only trailing by one point at half time and had only played OG Anunoby for eight minutes due to foul trouble. That’s not bad.

The third quarter was atrocious, though. It was probably one of the worst quarters of Raptors basketball I’ve ever seen.

The 76ers couldn’t miss a shot. The Raptors weren’t defending.

The Raptors then tried to get it all back by taking three-pointers, which we had shot poorly all series.

I’ve said it before: without Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent is our only pure three-point shooter. Yes, everyone else in our rotation can shoot the three, but when we’re down by double digits and Barnes, Anunoby, Siakam, and Boucher are forcing up shots from deep, we’re in trouble.

If they’re out there, who is rebounding? No one.

They aren’t Tyrese Maxey, or Danny Green, who combined for 9 threes. The Raptors, as a team, made 7.

I’m getting carried away. This game didn’t come down to three-point shooting.

Philadelphia outscored us by 34 in the second half and put this series to bed.

I didn’t really like the fact that Joel Embiid was doing the airplane down the court and poking fun (mocking?) at our crowd. The whole airplane thing goes back to 2019 when he did it in our playoff series when he thought his team was flying high, but then they lost the series, so Raptors fans have been doing it to mock him ever since.

So, this was him throwing it back in our faces?

Embiid is a great player, but he doesn’t need to do that. Be a silent killer. Crush our hopes and dreams and go home. You don’t need to do the airplane, of all things.

I just think he gets caught up in too many side shows and is susceptible to distractions.

I don’t think Embiid realizes he’s doing his opponent a favour by getting into it with the referees, playing games with the opposing crowd, or revealing too many of his inner thoughts at press conferences.

Joel, you are a freight train who plays basketball. Be that freight train on the floor, 100% of the time, and don’t slow down to look at the trees you’re passing. Don’t even whistle at them. You’ll win a championship.

A bit of a side note, that will eventually weave back into what I’m talking about:

To me, the Minnesota Timberwolves are Exhibit A of how not to behave on a basketball court when you get a lead and are feeling confident. Don’t release your emotions by playing to the crowd, or acting like you’ve accomplished anything when there is still a ton of time on the clock.

They are the hare in The Tortoise and the Hare.

When I’m watching NBA games, I watch for the teams that have a lead and go back to their huddle with their game faces on. Those are the teams that will go far.

Also, I look for the teams that are demonstrative and actively engaging the fans when they have a lead, but with a lot of time left in the game. I don’t trust those teams. I don’t want players coming out of their “bubble of focus” before the job is done.

They may get away with it at times, but I’ve been watching the NBA long enough to notice a pattern. The team that celebrates first, probably celebrated too soon. Trust me, watch for it. Body language predicts the future, I’m telling you.

Remember when the 76ers were talking about a sweep after Game 3? Exactly. They celebrated too soon. They got away with it, but this series had no business getting to a Game 6. It’s a Round 1 matchup. Put us away quickly and get rest.

Didn’t do it.

As for the Raptors, I’m just proud of them. For years, they have been such a joy to watch. I truly mean that. As a fan, you genuinely feel good after watching every game. They are easy to root for and don’t lay down for anyone. You always see their effort.

I’m disappointed they didn’t force a Game 7. It would’ve been one of the greatest sports scenes to ever exist. Oh well. I hope they turned some heads, anyway.

I’m going to end this here. I know it’s abrupt. I have more to say about the team and the off-season ahead, but I think it’s best if I do that in other posts.

Oh, one more thing.

May we never relive that 3rd Quarter From Hell ever again. I think I called a timeout from my couch every 10 seconds. It was truly traumatizing.

The series is over. The season is over.

It won’t end in a championship, but it will end with hope for the future.

And that’s something.

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Got it to Game 6

Oh, here we go.

The Philadelphia 76ers had a 3-0 series lead against the Toronto Raptors. They started talking about a sweep. No one really gave the Raptors a chance to get back in the series. And rightfully so. No one in NBA history has ever come back to win a series after going down 3-0.

I had come to accept the fact that the Raptors season was going end soon.

But something changed.

I think if history were ever to be made, we have the two perfect ingredients to make it happen. We have the 76ers, who have players and a coach who are known for having a hard time closing out series. Add to that their inherent “front-runner” mentality and knack for pointing the finger when things go wrong.

Pair that with the Toronto Raptors. A team that has faced more adversity over the last few years than fans outside of Canada probably realize. They are a team that never gives up; one that always finds a way to win.

I remember one of Nick Nurse’s mantras in his first year coaching the team was, “There are 1000 ways to win a basketball game, we just have to find 1 of them.”

And you can see in the way that he coaches, and the way this team plays, that they are constantly searching for what works. They don’t stop until they find it.

I think the Raptors have found their winning formula. Game 5, for the lack of a better term, was a cake walk. The 76ers could’ve closed out the series at home, in front of their fans, and basked in confetti and adoration.

Instead, it looked like they forgot to show up. They looked like they didn’t want to compete. Did they all stay up late playing video games? The Raptors controlled every single moment of the game.

With the Raptors up 12 with 4 minutes remaining, the fans started to leave. They were going home! Oh, they were also booing. They started doing that early on.

As if the pressure wasn’t already mounting, the home fans were starting to turn on their own team. I loved it.

The consensus after that game was there was no way the 76ers were going to go to Toronto and win Game 7. Absolutely no way.

I believe that, too.

Toronto has been the better team for the last three games. They should’ve won Game 3. The fact that the 76ers snuck out that win is the only reason why they aren’t facing elimination tonight.

This series has turned.

The Raptors are doing to the 76ers exactly what I thought they would do before Game 1. Minimize Joel Embiid and James Harden, and dare “the others” to beat you. That’s finally happening.

Embiid looked exhausted in Game 5. The Raptors blew by him, six possessions in a row. He averaged 33.8 minutes-per-game in the regular season and is now being asked to play close to 40 in the playoffs. On top of that, the Raptors are making sure that he can’t just camp out in the lane on defence and recover some stamina. They are making him move.

Going back a few games, I made a mental note to myself that the 76ers substitution pattern for Embiid is not that helpful to them. They have him playing the entire 1st and 3rd quarters, and then sitting for the first 3-4 minutes of the 2nd and 4th quarters.

When he’s out of the game, all the Raptors should do is attack the basket. Paul Reed isn’t stopping anybody. They’ve turned Georges Niang into a turnstile. No one is protecting the rim.

It’s only when the 76ers bench has taken on too much water, that they’re forced to bring Embiid back in the game.

It’s easy for me to say, but why not take him for the last 90 seconds of the 1st quarter. Let him get rest during the TV timeout at the end of the quarter which is about 3.5 minutes, and then give him another 90 seconds on the bench at the start of the 2nd quarter. At which point, he’d be 3.5 minutes away from the next mandatory TV timeout.

I just think that’s a better plan for him, but if the 76ers want to keep him on the bench for a 4-minute stretch to start quarters, I’m going to let them keep doing it.

Meanwhile, the Raptors starters have been playing heavy minutes all year. Earlier in the season, Nick Nurse and Masai Ujiri addressed it with the media. They said that our young players need to learn how to play a lot of minutes because that’s how it’s going to be in the playoffs.

Well, weren’t they smart. The Raptors look like they were made for this.

James Harden has not looked like James Harden, at all. He had one more point (15) than Danny Green in Game 5. God love Danny Green, but the Raptors will take this every day of the week.

So, let’s recap. The 76ers bench has been rendered useless. Tyrese Maxey has come back down to earth. James Harden is not James Harden. Danny Green is okay, but nothing to be afraid of. Embiid is exhausted. And Tobias Harris has been good.

Oh, and Embiid has his thumb injury. I almost forgot.

I said in my last post that when you have torn ligaments in your finger, you’re very aware of the situations you place that finger in. Embiid admitted as much to the media. What I took away from his comments was that he’s not putting himself in situations where his thumb will get hit.

That is fine with me because for the first two games of the series, he was running through our entire defence. If he wants to avoid contact now, go for it.

I think tonight’s game could be a blowout in the Raptors favour. We still haven’t had a good shooting game from three-point range. Maybe that comes tonight.

However, I am wary that Raptors fans (myself included) are getting a bit too confident. I think that’s okay, as long as the team doesn’t feel overconfident, but we need to be mindful of not blowing up the balloon so much that it pops. We need to let the 76ers implode, without bailing them out because we got complacent.

This is a trap game. We’re looking ahead to Game 7, as if it’s a certainty, but we still have to beat a very good NBA team to get there.

Yesterday, Doc Rivers felt the need to defend his checkered past of blowing 3-1 leads. After Game 5, Embiid was saying that Harden needs to be more aggressive, which is just so rich and comical. I mean, it’s true, but the fact that he said it about Ben Simmons last year and is now saying it about one of the best scorers in NBA history, is just amazing.

I think they are spiralling.

The Raptors need to step on their throats tonight. Get a big lead and just let the fans pile it on the 76ers bench.

I’m expecting a “Raps in 7” chant, at some point tonight.

Forget the fact that this series was at 3-0, for just a second. If you told me the Raptors would be down 3-2 in the series (without saying how we got to this point) and they had a chance to force a Game 7 by winning Game 6 at home – I would’ve taken it in a heartbeat.

Just win this game.

We got it to Game 6.

We need to get it to Game 7.

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Alive for Game 5

In the words of Toronto Raptors Head Coach, Nick Nurse: “It’s not 3-0 anymore.”

No, it is not. The Raptors won Game 4 and send this series back to Philadelphia. They are just one win away from being one win away from forcing a Game 7. All they need to do is bring this series back to Toronto for Game 6 – the place they’ve played their best two games – and this series could very well go the distance.

On the other side of the floor, Doc Rivers has blown three 3-1 series leads in his head coaching career. He holds the record. So, that’s a fun little statistic to get our hopes up.

Honestly, the Raptors are in survival mode right now. It’s like they’re playing the Skateboard Scamper mini-game from Mario Party 2. The Raptors are trying to get away, but are being chased down by the giant ghost, Boo.

Will they reach the finish line before getting caught? We’ll see.

Scottie Barnes returned to the Raptors lineup for Game 4 and came off the bench for the first time this season. However, the team lost Fred VanVleet in the second quarter to a hip injury. He will not play in Game 5.

VanVleet hasn’t been 100% for a while. Defence is one of his strengths, but he hasn’t looked like himself in this series. His absence forced the Raptors into a jumbo lineup, which is something they aren’t unfamiliar with. It worked. The team looked the best they’ve looked all series.

We will see a lot of it in Game 5.

Any combination of Scottie, Thad, Pascal, Precious, Boucher, and OG will form the jumbo lineup. Gary Trent will obviously see a ton of minutes as well, now that he’s healthy again.

The 76ers looked rattled in Game 5. They looked like they had been living in a hotel for five days and were over it.

Joel Embiid took out his frustrations on the referees. Yes, Joel, the referees are out to get you. That’s it.

He went to centre court after the game and mockingly clapped at the referees, and continued to do so until he was off the floor. Wow, all it took was one loss for him to sink to this level? Oh man, if the 76ers lose Game 5, he might melt like an ice cube in the desert.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the referees hit him with two quick fouls to start the game.

I don’t know if you want your star player acting like a sore loser while you’re still in control of the series, at 3-1. But, as a Raptors fan, I will encourage this behaviour.

Perhaps the torn ligaments in his thumb are starting to get to him?

I’ve torn ligaments in my fingers from playing basketball before; it’s not fun. You are aware that your fingers are not functioning properly, at all times. Even when you sleep, you have to be aware of where your fingers are resting.

When Embiid gets frustrated, he seems to forget how to act.

Also, he seems to pick himself off the floor an awful lot. Surely, he has better balance than he’s been exhibiting. It’s comical at this point.

There were numerous occasions in Game 4 when he was just flat out shoving Raptor players. I’d say the goal is to keep him frustrated. That may be harder to do in Philadelphia, where he likes to play to the crowd quite a bit. Plus, I’m sure the officials will be a bit intimidated by the setting, though they’ll never admit it.

To win this game, the Raptors can’t be down 12 points after the first quarter. They can’t afford to play yo-yo with the scoreboard. Down 21, cut the deficit to 7, it grows back to 14. Can’t do that. They did it in Game 1 and Game 2 and it didn’t work out for them.

The game needs to be close, or the Raptors need to be the ones who get out to a 10+ point lead and maintain it. Otherwise, they won’t win.

With VanVleet out, the three-point shooting takes a hit. However, that may force us to be more aggressive and attack the basket; thus, we draw fouls and slow the game down with free throws. That’s not a bad thing.

Trent needs to continue putting up his 20+ point games, with pesky defence.

If OG Anunoby is hitting threes early on, that’s a good sign. To me, he’s the most important player for the Raptors tonight, if they want to push this to a Game 6. I’m almost hoping that he gets into a small shoving match with someone a few minutes into the game. Those types of exchanges always seem to bring out the best in him.

Siakam needs to continue to be aggressive. He and Barnes will be the main playmakers tonight, without Fred.

Scottie Barnes will probably be the starting point guard, which is apropos considering Magic Johnson compared Barnes to himself, just a few days ago. I expect him to have a good game.

It needs to be an all-cylinders effort tonight from the Raptors. What I mean by that is, everyone needs to play up to their potential and we’ll be just fine. It seems like we’ve figured out a way to slow down the 76ers offence. Hopefully, that carries over now that the series is back in Philadelphia.

But at the end of the day, we can talk about on-court performances all we want. I think the outcome of this game will be largely determined by the mentality of the two teams, before they even step on the floor.

If the 76ers really wanted to, they could squash us tonight by 20+ and end this series tonight. However, if they are starting to doubt themselves, or hear whispers about blowing a 3-0 lead, then they leave themselves vulnerable.

As for the Raptors, they need to go into this game with a “do or die” mentality. I’ve been seeing a lot of “the pressure is on Philly” talk and sure, the pressure is on them. But the pressure is also on the Raptors. You lose and you’re done.

They need to tap into the same mentality they had in 2019 when they came back from being down 2-0 against Milwaukee, to win four in a row. They need to tap into the same mentality from the NBA Finals, when they went to Oakland and won Game 3 and Game 4.

Go take it. Go force a Game 6.

Either way, we go home after this game.

Might as well force the 76ers to come with us. Toronto is lovely this time of year.

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Game 4 and Something More

The Toronto Raptors couldn’t afford to lose Game 3 of their first round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, but they did. So, now it’s an uphill climb to try and do something that no NBA team has ever done – come back and win a series after going down 3-0.

Teams are 0-143 when in this situation.

So, yeah, things are bleak.

The eternal optimist in me says, “just win one game” and go from there. If they get the series to 3-1, they’re one win away from forcing Game 6 back in Toronto, which would be a good thing. Win that game, you’re in Game 7 and that’s when anything can happen.

But you have to win Game 4, first, before you can worry about going back to Philadelphia and scraping out a win there.

Trust me, I know this is a difficult task the Raptors are facing – one they are not likely to overcome – but it’s sports. The impossible is possible, sometimes.

Game 3 went exactly how the Raptors needed it to go and they let it get away. The 76ers never had the lead until overtime, and that was enough. Joel Embiid hit the game-winning shot with less than a second to go.

Honestly, it’s a great redemption story for Embiid. The last time he was in Toronto for a playoff game, Kawhi did the thing, and Embiid walked off in tears.

As a Raptors fan, I hated it, but I can acknowledge that for him to do that was pretty cool.

There was a lot discussion-worthy topics before and after that play.

76ers head coach, Doc Rivers, raced all the way down to the other end of the court to call a timeout, which is something coaches are not allowed to do, without receiving a technical foul. They are not allowed to leave the coaches box on the sideline.

The referees did not call a technical foul; they called the timeout. The game was tied at this point, and the 76ers had 0.9 seconds left on the shot clock, so the Raptors not being awarded a free throw, was a huge deal.

Many, many, many Raptors fans were mad about this. Honestly, I knew as soon as it happened that it was illegal, that it should be a technical on Coach Rivers…and that the referees wouldn’t call it.

I’ve seen coaches race down the court to call timeout before. It’s not an anomaly. If you watch basketball, you’ll see it happen quite a bit. Raptors coach, Dwane Casey, did it a few years ago in the playoffs. No one was calling for him to get a technical foul.

The building is loud, the referees can’t hear the coach calling timeout, so they run to get the referee’s attention. I get it.

I wasn’t upset about the non-call.

It’s like getting mad about all the lane violations that happen while players are shooting free throws. The referee can call a lane violation every single time, but they don’t. It’s fine. It’s not a big deal.

The situation is what made the non-call a big deal.

And yet, the 76ers were still in the impossible position of having to inbound the ball and get a shot off with 0.9 seconds left. Surely, the Raptors would be able to defend it.

They didn’t.

This is where another storm of conversation begins.

As the players were coming out of the timeout, I’m already going through things in my head. I tell myself that we should probably take out VanVleet – the shortest Raptor on the court – and insert Chris Boucher to guard the inbounder.

(Note: The Atlanta Hawks faced a similar situation last night and they took out Trae Young. Granted, he’s not as good of a defender as VanVleet, but they are similar in stature.)

Whenever we do a full-court press, Boucher is always the one applying pressure. He has the length and quickness to disrupt whoever is trying to inbound the ball.

So, while that was going through my mind, I also figured that Nick Nurse wouldn’t make any substitutions, especially one that took VanVleet out of the game. He just doesn’t seem to do that to his “main guys”, even though the situation, seemingly, called for it.

Danny Green is inbounding the ball and VanVleet is guarding him, until Nurse waves him off the ball. VanVleet retreats to the paint, to help double whoever was getting open.

That left no one to apply pressure on Green.

ALWAYS APPLY PRESSURE.

Sorry, I don’t mean to yell.

Danny Green had clear passing lanes to everyone on the floor. It was maddening. I just didn’t understand the decision. And by the sounds of it, Nurse regrets it too. He said yesterday that he’d probably do about three things differently on that play.

That being said, Embiid still hit an unbelievable shot. It was pretty much the same play the Raptors ran in 2001 when Vince Carter missed at the buzzer.

Breaking News: Scottie Barnes was just named NBA Rookie of the Year!

Double Breaking News: Scottie Barnes will play in Game 4 today!

Oh boy, here go!

For the first time all series, the Raptors will be as close to full-strength as they had hoped.

I am buzzing from the Barnes news. I said in my last post that if we went down 3-0, there was no way he’d play Game 4. You can’t risk further injury with him. And yet, here he is!

Getting the playoff experience is important for his development. Also, this gives the front office a chance to evaluate this group, as a whole, even if it’s only one game.

I’ll still be watching like a nervous parent(?), though.

The Raptors need to play Raptors Basketball today. Do that, and we’re going to Game 5.

They need to forget about being down 3-0 in the series. If they feel sorry for themselves, or have the mentality that this uphill battle isn’t worth fighting, then they might as well stay in the locker room.

I don’t think this team would succumb to that line of thinking, though. Plus, Barnes winning ROY and being available for this game should boost their spirits.

Gary Trent had the type of Game 3 that I said he’d need to have, in order for the Raptors to win. The team came short, but if Trent can put up another 20 points today and be a pest on the defensive end, that’s a great sign.

It’s weird that I feel so optimistic about the Raptors, as they head into what could be the final game of their season.

I guess that’s just who I am.

I forgot to mention that Embiid may have torn ligaments in his right thumb. By all accounts, he can still play at a high level. That’s fine, but thumbs can get banged up when playing basketball.

I’m not saying the Raptors are going to hack him on the thumb every time they foul him, but don’t be surprised if they’re extra physical with him. Embiid was grabbing his thumb a lot in Game 3, I’m sure we’ll see camera shots of him doing that again in Game 4.

And if he’s thinking about an injury, maybe he’s not as focussed on steamrolling through our undersized defence.

I can dream.

If the Raptors win Game 4, they fight for something more.

Let’s see if they can do it.

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Can’t Lose Game 3

Well, it’s not going well for the Toronto Raptors in their first round playoff series with the Philadelphia 76ers. The Raptors are down 2-0 as they come home for Game 3 and Game 4. Thus far, it has been an unmitigated disaster.

They rolled into Game 1 with no one on the injury report and left the game with three ailing rotation players.

Scottie Barnes, who should be the Rookie of the Year, had his ankle stepped on by the largest man on the floor, Joel Embiid. It wasn’t intentional, it was just unfortunate.

Gary Trent Jr. has been fighting a non-COVID illness for a week and has not been himself. He only played 10 minutes in Game 2. After the game, Nick Nurse said he probably shouldn’t have played.

We didn’t know what was up with Trent in Game 1, except that he looked off. The Raptors commentators speculated that maybe he was sick. Personally, I think someone probably tipped off the commentators at some point, while also telling them not to make any official declaration. I could be wrong.

Thaddeus Young sprained his thumb, on his shooting hand, in Game 1 and has played 14 minutes all series.

As much as I hyped up the Raptors the other day as having a legitimate shot to win this series, I’ll admit that the margin for error was always extremely small. The Raptors needed everyone to stay healthy and play to their potential.

I talked about their supporting cast and, in my head, put Trent and Barnes in that category to counteract Tyrese Maxey and Tobias Harris on the 76ers. I’m probably short-changing all of those players by labelling them as “supporting cast”, but that’s not my intention.

Barnes did his part in Game 1, before getting injured, as he was only 2 assists away from a triple-double. I cannot stress enough how important he is to this team.

Barnes is a starter, but he is also the backup point guard. He is also someone we use to guard every position on the floor. He is a morale booster and energy player, who can score easy baskets.

Trent, meanwhile, has been one of the reasons why we’re the 5th seed in the East. From the very first game of the season, his defensive intensity was at a new level. His shot-making from behind the three point line has been crucial all season. He has been someone who can score 30 in a game, no questions asked.

And now, in the biggest games of his career, he’s sick. From my perspective, he looked wrung out and as if he has lost weight since the end of the season. Doing day-to-day activities when you’re sick can be challenging, but to try and play NBA playoff games, that is incredibly difficult.

I admire his courage and his desire to be out there with his teammates. That’s the type of person he is.

Young has been a great asset off the bench, since coming over from San Antonio at the trade deadline. Now, all of a sudden, he has to play through a thumb injury.

Just one thing after another. Meanwhile, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby were the ones we thought we’d have to worry about, since both of them have been nursing injuries for a while now.

Instead, they have to play even more minutes than intended because there are no other options.

The Raptors backup shooting guard is, technically, Svi Mykhailiuk, who has been out of the rotation for months. Trent’s minutes have not gone to him.

Instead, we’re playing with a jumbo lineup, where OG Anunoby is the shooting guard, which is what we’ve done on many occasions. However, with Trent out, VanVleet is the only pure three-point shooter we have.

Everyone on the team can shoot the three, yes, but that’s not necessarily the focal point of their respective games.

It’s just been tough.

On top of the health issues with the Raptors, the 76ers have been lights out. They’ve been playing at a level I didn’t fully expect.

Joel Embiid has been absolutely dominant. The Raptors have no one who can guard him, without getting into foul trouble within five minutes. The “others” on the 76ers have been outstanding. Harris has been really good. Maxey is playing out of his mind. Danny Green is dunking now. I haven’t even mentioned James Harden yet.

And we can’t stop any of them.

Even if the Raptors were 100% for the first two games, I don’t know if we win either one. But we won’t fully know the answer to that and that’s what is disappointing.

If there was one thing I was sure of going into this series, it was that the Raptors coaching staff would implement a plan that would minimize the impact of Embiid and/or Harden, and then we’d take a gamble on the “others” beating us.

Well, the “others” did beat us, and Embiid and Harden have gotten theirs, as well.

I’m not even going to discuss the whole foul disparity and how Embiid trucks through the Toronto defence, and somehow it’s a Raptor getting the foul call. It’s pointless. It’s also frustrating.

At the same time, the Raptors aren’t exactly attacking the rim on the offensive end. They aren’t drawing fouls. If anything, when we get in the lane, we get scared of Embiid’s size and just throw up a shot, or dribble back out.

So, we, as fans can complain all we want about the 76ers getting all the calls, but we’re not doing much to get calls, either.

The 76ers have blown us out in two games and if we lose tonight, the series is as good as over.

Gary Trent is, apparently, feeling better and will start tonight. Honestly, I don’t know what to expect from him. In reality, we probably need about 20 points and a great defensive effort, in order to have a shot at winning. I don’t know if he’s healthy enough to provide that, but we’ll see.

Barnes is out of his walking boot and Nick Nurse said “maybe” when asked today if he’ll be ready to play tonight.

I don’t know if this is just gamesmanship, where the Raptors know that Barnes isn’t playing and they just want to give the 76ers something to prepare for, or if Nurse is employing a “Story of the Chinese farmer” tactic and just saying “maybe” to everything, of if there is actually a legitimate shot that Barnes plays.

I’m sure the organization has had “is it worth it?” conversations, in regards to Barnes returning in this series. If he can’t play tonight and the Raptors go down 3-0, he’s definitely not coming back for Game 4.

His development in the off-season is too important to jeopardize further injury in games that don’t matter.

Tonight, the Raptors crowd needs to be louder, and more present, than they’ve ever been. It’s the first home playoff game in 1045 days and the first one since the NBA Finals in 2019.

I’m curious to see what changes the coaching staff will implement, in order to try and slow down the 76ers offence. Do we see Yuta Watanabe off the bench to add some energy on defence? Do we see Dalano Banton for a couple of minutes and see if his size hinders the 76ers guards?

I don’t know what the answers are going to be. We’ve definitely put up enough points to win games; the probably is we’ve given up a lot more.

Whatever we have in our bag of tricks needs to come out tonight.

The Raptors cannot afford to lose Game 3.

We’ll see what happens.

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Toronto vs. Philly III

I am not afraid of the Philadelphia 76ers.

Sorry, should I have started with a more traditional topic sentence and introduction?

All right, take two. From the top.

It is the third meeting between the Toronto Raptors and Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA Playoffs. The first series was in 2001 and ended with Vince Carter rimming out at the buzzer in Game 7. The “Graduation Game” for those of you who know what that means. The second series was in 2019 and ended with Kawhi Leonard hitting nothing but rim (four times), before the ball feel through the net at the buzzer in Game 7. It is forever known as, “The Shot”.

Now, we have the rubber match. A sports trilogy.

And like I said before, I am not afraid of the Philadelphia 76ers.

To be honest with you, this is a new feeling for me heading into a first round playoff matchup. I have always been nervous for the Raptors as they head into the playoffs. Even when they faced Orlando in 2019, who they were clearly better than, there was some trepidation.

That trepidation was justified after they lost Game 1.

As we stare down James Harden and Joel Embiid, I actually feel confident about our chances. It has very little to do about the fact that the Raptors went 3-1 against them in the regular season. I know that is a talking point right now and the media will bring it up whenever they can, but that is not the root of my confidence.

I just believe in this Raptors team. I believe in the coaching staff, lead by Nick Nurse. I believe in the culture of the team and their collective mindset.

Nick Nurse is not like every other NBA Head Coach. He is unafraid to implement any defensive scheme he thinks will work. To that end, I feel confident that he will find a way to minimize the impact of Embiid. There is a reason why Embiid has struggled against Toronto in his career. There is a reason why he once scored zero points against us in a game.

The Raptors know how to handle him. Sure, everyone on our team is 6’9 and may not be able to look him straight in the eye, but still, I am not afraid.

And then there is James Harden. He is a great player, make no mistake about it. So, what? Is that supposed to scare me. Am I supposed to believe that Fred VanVleet and co. cannot handle him?

I know the NBA is all about big name players and star power, which is why when the American media looks at this matchup, they ignore talking about the Raptors altogether because we do not have that “big name”.

Shaquille O’Neal even said the Raptors were going to get swept. Swept. 4-0. That is not happening, Mr. Shaq. Sorry.

Please, keep giving the Raptors – the most consistently overlooked team in the NBA – another reason why they cannot compete. I love it. Keep fuelling the fire. They thrive off of it.

And do not get it twisted, I am not overlooking the 76ers, either. I just think they are beatable and are not as scary as others make them seem. They have a solid supporting cast of player, but are Tobias Harris, Danny Green, Tyrese Maxey, and Matisse Thybulle really supposed to scare me?

Are they any better than the Raptors supporting cast? No. So, what are we doing here?

This series is going to come down to schemes and execution. It is not going to come down to talent because both teams have it.

I trust Nick Nurse to outcoach Doc Rivers. Sorry, I just do.

The Raptors are one of the hardest working teams in the league. They close out shooters like few other teams do. You will never see five players on the floor who will watch a three-point shooter take an open shot, without at least one of them running to get a hand up. I promise you that.

And when they want to turn it on defensively, they have a championship level effort. I remember first seeing it in that first round Orlando series in 2019. It is still there, even though only four players remain from that championship team.

The defensive DNA has transferred over to Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes.

If I can jump off my bandwagon for just a moment, I will address some concerns I may have for the Raptors. The first one being the fact that this is going to be a physical series. The physicality does not concern me. The foul trouble does. I think the veterans will be able to take care of themselves, but players like Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa, who are brand new to this, may get into foul trouble.

I do not have the statistical evidence, but I have seen enough playoff series to know that players who are fresh to the spotlight, often try and do too much and get in early foul trouble as a result. I think all the way to Chris Bosh picking up two early fouls in one of his first playoff games for the Raptors.

So, I will be watching for that.

My other concern lies with the Raptors propensity to go for scoring droughts that last 3-5 minutes. That cannot happen in the playoffs, even if your defence is solid. You just cannot take on that much water and expect to bail yourself out every time.

So, foul trouble for the kids and shooting droughts. Those are my worries.

No matter what the 76ers do on offence, I am confident the Raptors coaching staff will find a solution, even if it takes a game to find it.

I am excited for this. The pressure of having home court advantage is off. All we have to do is take one game in Philadelphia and the series swings in our favour. I expect the series to go to seven games because why break tradition?

The Raptors continue to be a bundle of joy to watch and root for.

I think they are for this. I think they are about to open a lot of eyes and surprise a lot of people.

Do not say I did not warn you.

Here we go.

Time to play the game.

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8 Takeaways from the 2022 Australian Grand Prix

I was at the mall the other day and for the first time in my life, I came across a table and a few racks of Formula 1 merchandise. I circled the display like an animal stalking my prey. I couldn’t believe the sight.

Never in my life have I seen Formula 1 merchandise up close and in person. There were hats for Ferrari and Aston Martin, as well as one that said “JPN Grand Prix”, which looked cool, but was very confusing. Did Japan get the shipment of “CDN Grand Prix” hats?

There were also shirts for Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren, and Red Bull. I’d say most of the clothing was for children, but there were adult sizes too.

Even as I type this, it doesn’t seem real. I took pictures, so I know it wasn’t a mirage, but still.

It just made me so happy and proud to see Formula 1 finally get some attention around here. For so long, it has felt like a sport that I could only enjoy in private, but now others are catching on and it’s wonderful.

I didn’t buy anything. The shirts were $100.

I know I’m a week late on this, so let’s get to Round 3 on the F1 calendar: the Australian Grand Prix.

Race Results

1. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)
2. Sergio Perez (Red Bull)
3. George Russell (Mercedes)
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
5. Lando Norris (McLaren)
6. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren)
7. Esteban Ocon (Alpine)
8. Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo)
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri)
10. Alexander Albon (Williams)

11. Zhou Guanyu (Alfa Romeo)
12. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin)
13. Mick Schumacher (Haas)
14. Kevin Magnussen (Haas)
15. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri)
16. Nicholas Latifi (Williams)
17. Fernando Alonso (Alpine)
DNF – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
DNF – Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin)
DNF – Carlos Sainz (Ferrari)

Takeaways

1. New Camera Angles

I don’t know if anyone else noticed this, but the camera angles felt lower than usual. At times, it felt like the viewer was hovering right above the car. I felt like I was watching a Formula 1 race from the future.

And it was wonderful. I loved it and hope we get more low angles at other tracks, if possible.

The production of a Formula 1 race has always been impressive to me and the presentation evolves every year. Maybe I’m overblowing the whole thing, but the low angles in this race felt like they were taking things to the next level.

As for the camera angle from the driver’s helmet, I’m still not sold on it. It is cool to see what they see, but whenever they show it, I find myself thinking, “They’re staring through two straws” rather than actually paying attention to anything.

2. Max Smells Fluid

In three races this season, reigning world champion, Max Verstappen, has crossed the finish line only once. Max was forced to retire after smelling fluid in his car. Sure enough, when he got out, we saw the fire.

This is where I say, “It’s a long season, he has lots of time to catch up”, and that would be true. However, he knows what you and I know, and that is you can’t fall too far behind. Especially this year, when Ferrari has the best car (so far).

3. Cars Follow Closely

I could probably copy and paste this one after every race. It’s just nice to see a gaggle of cars one after another, as if they are queued up in a McDonald’s drive-thru lane.

The Albert Park track isn’t the best for passing, so settling for cars driving close together was the next best thing. I can’t wait until we get to places like Baku, where it’s just going to be overtake after overtake.

For a long time, the Australian Grand Prix was the first race on the calendar, so the excitement for a new season kind of overshadowed the fact that cars had trouble passing. At least for me, it did.

4. Mercedes is Back

Guess who’s back? Back…okay, I’m not doing that. Mercedes is back. Tell a friend. Darn it, I did the thing.

Well, they weren’t going to struggle for long. We knew that.

This kind of feels like when you’d have a substitute teacher for two days in a row at school. You don’t have to sit through any lessons; each day is a really long work period where you get to talk to your friends the whole time. And then your regular teacher returns the next day and play time is over.

It’s a good analogy, I know.

Mercedes is back and play time is over.

5. McLaren is Back

Guess who’s back? Back…no, Paul. No. McLaren is back. Tell a friend! I couldn’t help it.

Norris in P5 and Ricciardo in P6? Well, knock me over and roll me up like an old carpet. I didn’t expect that this weekend, after how they started out the season.

It was nice to see because for the sake of drama and entertainment, I need McLaren to join Ferrari, Red Bull, and Mercedes in the upper echelon of teams. Could you imagine having four teams – eight drivers – competing for three spots on the podium?

I need that. Give me the unpredictability. We’ll get there one day, soon. I hope.

6. Alonso’s Photo

As you may know, before the race, they go through the starting grid. In doing so, they show photos of each driver.

WELL.

I don’t know who took their photos this year, but they definitely had a theme in mind. Many of the drivers are doing the “look over the shoulder” pose. Maybe it’s a subliminal message directed at the other drivers? Like, “you’ll be behind me a lot this year, get used to it”.

I don’t know. Regardless, they make me laugh because I can only imagine how uncomfortable it must’ve been for them to pose like that.

“Okay, pretend like you’re turning around to look at someone even though your friend told you not to look.” It’s that subtle glance over the shoulder, where you lead with the eyebrow and the rest of the face slowly follows.

Hilarious.

And then there is Fernando Alonso’s photo. If you told me the photo was taken in 1973, I’d believe you, no questions asked. The long hair, the stern look, the head tilted downward. Alonso already has the aura of a very seasoned driver, but this photo solidifies it.

Pay attention to their photos at the next race. You’ll have a good chuckle.

7. Bigger Tyres = Slower Pit Stops?

I had mentioned in a previous post that pit stops seemed a bit slower this year, if only by 0.5 – 1 second. I said I would watch them closely and look for anything that stood out. Well, I think I may have found the culprit.

Bigger tyres.

Formula 1 has switched from 13-inch tyres to 18-inch tyres this year. The front tyres and rear tyres weigh 9.5 kg and 11.5 kg, respectively.

I believe one of the commentators even made a remark during the race about how much heavier the tyres are this year, when they showed a member of a pit crew handling a tyre during a pit stop.

This is just me hypothesizing, but a larger tyre may be the result of slower stops. I mean, would you move slower if you’re picking up something heavier? I would.

8. Podium of the Future

At some point, we’re going to get Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, and George Russell on the podium at the same time and it will be the official christening of a new era…as if we haven’t had enough new eras in F1 lately.

The photo will be shared for decades. You’ll hang it in your basement and tell your grandchildren about it.

The three 24-year-olds are pillars of the sport and at some point, the racing Gods will align the stars for them all to be on the podium together. And hey, if they want to substitute Lando Norris for any one of them, they can. It’ll still be iconic. He is the fourth pillar, after all.

Now that I’ve written this, I’m kind of hoping we somehow luck into a podium that consists of: Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, and Fernando Alonso. Get all the older guys up there, together, one last time.

Maybe in a wet weather race, it’ll happen. You heard it here first.

Up next is the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, otherwise known as Imola…otherwise known as a Ferrari homecoming.

What did you think of the Australian Grand Prix? Are Mercedes and McLaren back? Do you own F1 merchandise?

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