Being in the Eastern Time Zone, most Formula 1 races take place in the morning here. I am used to it. In fact, I prefer it. There is nothing better than waking up on the weekend and immediately having a sport to watch on TV.
So, when the North American races roll around, like the Canadian Grand Prix, I’m almost perturbed that I have to wait until the afternoon to watch. It does not align with my body clock. It’s like waking up at 4AM and eating roast beef with mashed potatoes and gravy. It’s weird.
Oh well. What can you do?
1. Max Verstappen – Red Bull
2. Carlos Sainz – Ferrari
3. Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
4. George Russell – Mercedes
5. Charles Leclerc – Ferrari
6. Esteban Ocon – Alpine
7. Valtteri Bottas – Alfa Romeo
8. Zhou Guanyu – Alfa Romeo
9. Fernando Alonso – Alpine
10. Lance Stroll – Aston Martin
11. Daniel Ricciardo – McLaren
12. Sebastian Vettel – Aston Martin
13. Alexander Albon – Williams
14. Pierre Gasly – AlphaTauri
15. Lando Norris – McLaren
16. Nicholas Latifi – Williams
17. Kevin Magnussen – Haas)
18. Yuki Tsunoda – AlphaTauri (DNF)
19. Mick Schumacher – Haas (DNF)
20. Sergio Perez – Red Bull (DNF)
1. Have Red Bull Become Mercedes?
Eleven years ago, CM Punk and John Cena had a confrontation in a WWE ring where CM Punk uttered, “You are no longer the underdog. You’re a dynasty. You are what you hate. You have become the New York Yankees.” And then Cena punched him in the face.
That is what I think of when I see Red Bull’s dominance this season. They have won six races in a row, and seven of nine races overall. For many years, it was Mercedes running away with victories, collecting trophies, and spraying champagne in the air like they just don’t care.
And now, it’s Red Bull. They are no longer the underdog. They are what they hated. They have become
the New York Mercedes.
The funny thing is, before Mercedes started their 8-year run of dominance as constructors’ champions in 2014, it was Red Bull who had dominated F1 for the four years prior.
So, basically, the roles have reversed once again and we’re all left to wonder, will any other team step up and stop them any time soon?
Like WWE, why can’t Formula 1 build new stars (i.e. new teams to compete)?
What about Ferrari?
2. Have Ferrari Become Red Bull?
Hear me out. In the years where Max Verstappen and Red Bull tried so hard to be pesky bees in Mercedes’ bonnet, they did succeed at winning some races and making it seem like the Driver’s Championship would be a competitive battle.
But then we got a few months into the season and Red Bull would have reliability issues, or their car would only be superior on street circuits, or they just weren’t fast enough, and it became clear that Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton were once again going to run away with everything.
This season, Charles Leclerc started the season with three podiums in the first three races – two of which were wins. We were all thinking, “Wow, Ferrari might be the best team this year.”
In the six races since, Leclerc has finished on the podium once – a 2nd place finish in Miami. Sure, he has started on pole in six of the nine races, but he’s not converting them into wins.
To me, Ferrari feels like Red Bull of 2019 – probably even a bit better. But it’s the same feeling of, “So close, but still so far.”
Leclerc finds himself 49 points back of Verstappen in the Driver’s Championship, while Ferrari is 76 points behind Red Bull in the Constructors’ Championship. The battle isn’t over, by any means, but it kind of feels like it is.
Because we’ve seen this story before. We know how it turns out. The underdog gets the early upper hand. The champion feels threatened. The champion proceeds to crush the underdog.
I do hope I’m wrong. Come on Ferrari, get with it!
For now, though, Leclerc has become Verstappen and Ferrari have become Red Bull.
While we’re at it, Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez could be like the 2016 battle between Mercedes teammates, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, where Rosberg won the driver’s championship at the last race.
I have too many comparisons, but they are all fairly accurate.
3. The Fans
One of these days, I’ll attend the Canadian Grand Prix in person, but until then, I’ll watch on TV.
They announced that 338,000 people was the combined attendance from Friday to Sunday. That’s incredible. On TV, the average audience was 1.26 million, which is up over 37% from 2019. (Thanks to @AHBSeaborn on Twitter for that number).
Meanwhile, in the United States, it was the fourth-highest viewership ever for an F1 race.
The sport is growing, and growing, and growing. I love to see it.
It can be an expensive experience if you’re looking to go to a race weekend, but people like to go to where the party is. Look at all these music festivals. People will stand miles away from the stage, while tucking their chin firmly into a stranger’s armpit, and call it a great time.
Formula 1, especially in North America, is tapping into that “go to where the party is” mentality right now. And they should. Because as I’ve been saying previously, when the new fans realize that many races can be of the “follow the leader” variety, then they’ll have to decide if they really care to still “go to where the party is”.
The hope is they will because they’ve developed an attachment to the sport – brand loyalty, if you will. The fear is they will find something new – the next trendy thing.
That day of reckoning – a referendum – will come, even if it takes a few years.
4. Where Art Thou Collisions?
Do not misconstrue that heading for me wanting violent crashes on the race track. That is not it, at all.
This is merely an observation. Perhaps, it is a wrong observation, but I’ll state it, anyway.
It feels like cars don’t crash into each other as much anymore. When there is a crash, it is one car that has gone into a wall, or barricade. Just one. The other cars drive over the debris, but don’t seem to get punctures.
As a kid, it felt like the first corner of the race would lead to a crash more often than not. One car would be late on the braking and go right into the rear wing of the car in front, who would then knick the front tyre of the car in front of it, who was trying to turn. And then that car is facing the wrong way.
Utter chaos, ten seconds into the race.
We don’t seem to get that anymore. I don’t know if the cars have gotten more controllable, or if the drivers have gotten better in a crowd, or if they’re just not going for gaps because the cars have gotten too wide to fit.
If I were a driver, I’d hate to show up on Sunday and see my race end at the first corner because of a crash. After all the travel and preparations, I want to be doing the thing I love for longer than that. Maybe I’d be overly cautious.
I don’t think F1 drivers think like that. They are too competitive. They’ll say, “I’ll go for the gap, and I’ll come out in one piece.”
Can we get a reporter to sit down with the older drivers – Vettel, Hamilton, Alonso, Ricciardo – and ask them about crashes and why multi-car pile ups don’t happen as much as they used to?
Again, I am not saying, “Bring back the violent crashes!”
I am just asking, why do these big cars not run into each other as often as they used to?
The next race is the British Grand Prix on July 3.