McLaren has put the motorsport world in a very interesting position this silly season. With their IndyCar entry now being used as another home for their testing stable drivers they now have the opportunity to use it in a manner not seen before in the motorsport world. The closest thing we have seen to this is Red Bull using their sister team Alpha Tauri, or Toro Rosso as it was once known, to house younger drivers while they prepare for the big team. But McLaren looks to be doing the same thing but across racing series.
While they have not made any solid moves, the possibility of a driver change across the pond has ramped up recently with McLarens acquisition of 2021 IndyCar champion Alex Palou. Palou joins a newly formed stable of testing drivers for McLaren consisting of fellow Indy driver, Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta.
What separates Palou from the others is his success in the series, Palou was crowed champion in only his second season in IndyCar and first season in a competitive team. He also was but a few laps away from winning the 2021 Indy 500 as well, but was overtaken by a storming Helio Castroneves on route to his fourth 500 victory. Palou is an incredible asset to the McLaren team no matter where he ends up, but I think he provides some very interesting hypotheticals to the 2023 driver market.
The major question that the McLaren driver market, and the international driver market as a whole, hinges on is Daniel Ricciardio and his future with the McLaren F1 team. He has not been preforming to the lofty expectation put on him by fans and the team alike when he entered the fold and everyone realizes that, including Ricciardio.
McLaren team boss Zak Brown has been adamant that Riccardo’s 2023 plans are entirely up to him and the team will work around it. It has also been reported that McLaren has been exploring contingency plans in case the Australian decided to move on from the team, and I believe this Palou move is a part of that. If McLaren are looking to put one of their IndyCar drivers into the F1 seat, by signing Palou he has shot to the top of that list. When just O’Ward and Herta were in the conversation, McLaren were going to have to take some serious risks considering the lack of experience and maturity from both drivers.
When it comes to Palou, McLaren has a lot fewer concessions to make if they choose to put him in the F1 team. His race craft is excellent, he may not always be the best across one lap, but he will almost always make up for it on race day. He is significantly more mature than his contemporaries in the McLaren testing stable at the moment, he is known to “take what he is given” as the commentators often refer to it. That means he won’t make any desperation moves that may ruin his race if he is in a good point paying position near the end of the race, he understands that there is more to get out of a race than just a win and that is what won him a championship. I believe that those qualities will outweigh the challenges that will come with a change in machinery if he does end up in F1.
If McLaren chooses to go the Indy car direction in 2023, Alex Palou is a no-brainer, if they chose to wait a year or two, then the competition from his stable mates will increase as they mature, then we have a much more interesting conversation on our hands. No matter who ends up in F1 first, all three of these drivers will be excellent ambassadors for IndyCar to the rest of the world and will play an integral part in helping the series break overseas like they are aiming to do. What decision is finally made, only time will tell, but we are for sure in for an interesting few weeks of speculation regarding the McLaren in both F1 and IndyCar.
Daniel Ricciardo has had a very rough go of it in the last few seasons. After making the decision to leave Red Bull at the end of the 2018 season, the Australian driver has yet to replicate the success he had with the team. His reasoning for leaving Red Bull lied in the fact that he felt his teammate Max Verstappen was being given favored treatment by the team, and he did not want to race in a number two driver role. Whether he would have left the team is a conversation for another day, but the reality of the situation is that Ricciardo is most likely past his prime as a driver and has spent the last 4 years languishing in midfield teams picking up scraps. That is why I think Ricciardo should move to IndyCar.
Over the last decade IndyCar has been wrongfully labeled as a “dumping ground” for washed up F1 talent, but I see it as quite the opposite. Indy has allowed drivers who for whatever reason did not succeed in F1, despite obvious talent, to continue to race well into their 40s and net some really solid results while doing it.
Take a driver like Takuma Sato for example, Sato raced in f1 for six seasons between 2002 and 2008 across three different teams. During this time the Japanese driver only earned 44 points and one podium, funnily enough, that one podium came in Indianapolis. His aggressive driving style got him into more incidents than he was worth, so he didn’t stick with any team for long and by the end of the 2008 season he was out of a seat. Sato took 2009 off and signed with Indy team KV Racing Technology in 2010. He has stayed in IndyCar ever since and has really come into his own in the series. Sato has seen Victory lane six times in his IndyCar career including two Indy 500 wins.
Romain Grosjean and Marcus Ericsson are also shining examples of what IndyCar can do for a former F1 drivers. Both drivers trundled around the back of the grid for years, after being toted as future Formula One stars, never really getting an opportunity to show what they could do. But they move to IndyCar and Ericsson is securing race wins, including an Indy 500 victory in 2022 and Grosjean was putting a perineal back marker Dale Coyne Racing team into podium places his first season in the series. Ricciardo is a better driver than any of those previously mentioned so just think of the results he could pull in the series.
Throughout his career, Ricciardo has been known for his late breaking style of overtaking and his bravery on track. This style of racing will work perfectly in IndyCar because of the increased durably of the chassis and the ability to race close to the other driver. Ricciardos aggressive but calculated style of overtaking will fit right into the series and make it must see racing as he eats his way up the grid. He may also benefit from the fact that IndyCar is a spec series, ever team races an identical chassis with their choice of engine, so it better highlights the driver’s raw talent rather than the quality of the machine under them.
Outside of his on track abilities, Ricciardo is a media darling and perfect for American audiences. His bright smile and infectious laughter has won over even the most serious Europeans, imagine what he could do in the much more laid back IndyCar paddock. Especially in recent years, IndyCar has done the best job out of all the major motorsports in highlighting each driver’s personalities and incorporating that into the lifeblood of the series. Drivers like Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin started their own talk show on Newgardens YouTube channel, and it is hilarious. Dalton Kellet and Pato O’Ward have been strong followings on social media like TikTok. IndyCar is much more of a fan centered series than I believe F1 is and putting Ricciardo in that environment will benefit both IndyCar and Ricciardo immensely.
There are a lot of things about this move that will benefit both parties. By moving to IndyCar, Ricciardo has a new lease on his career, the championship that he was always destined for but never saw in F1 may finally be his. This move may also allow him to be in contention for the next motorsport Triple Crown, having already won at Monaco, all he needs is an Indy 500 victory and a Le Mans victory and I believe those are both in reach for him if he moves on from F1 in the next year or so. Also, Ricciardo has always been very vocal about his love for the United States and its sport culture and this can be his opportunity to be a part of it himself.
In terms of benefit for IndyCar, Ricciardo will bring a diehard fan base with him to IndyCar, more so than any other driver that has made the move from F1 to the series. His charm and wit has garnered him millions of fans across the globe and a good portion of those eyes will start following Indy because of him. If Ricciardo is successful in the series, IndyCar can add another feather to their cap of F1 drivers they have turned around, and Ricciardo will be the biggest example in the modern era of IndyCar.
There are a few different paths Ricciardo can take to IndyCar. One option that most of the other F1 transplants took it to sign with a team down near the bottom of the grid for their first season like Grosjean did with Dale Coyne Racing and Ericsson did with Schmidt Peterson Motorsport. Signing with a smaller team will allow Ricciardo to learn the car and the nuances of IndyCar, without the pressure of a big team like Chip Ganassi or Andretti bring.
In 2021 7-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson made the move to IndyCar and signed with Chip Ganassi and had an abysmal first season compared to the other rookies. On the other side of the coin Scott McLaughlin signed with Team Penske in his first year outside of Supercars and was the highest finishing rookie in 2021. Granted, McLaughlin did race for a Penske affiliated team in supercars, so the relationship was already there, whereas Johnson had no professional relationship with Ginassi before making the move.
A unique aspect of IndyCar that Ricciardo will not be used to is the different types of tracks they race on between ovals, street circuits and road courses. I think Riccardo should take the same route Grosjean did in 2021 and sign on to race everything but ovals, so he can ease into the ludicrous speeds that the ovals require. This would be the best option for Ricciardo in my opinion because oval racing is something so foreign to him and to introduce that as well as a new car to learn in the same season is not only unwise, but also dangerous.
No matter what team Ricciardo ends up driver for in IndyCar, if he chooses that path, I have no doubt in my mind that he will be successful. The IndyCar paddock is a lot less stuffy than the F1 paddock, there will always be teammates and other drivers there to help him understand the car and get everything out of it. If he makes the move he will be next in a long line of stray F1 drivers that have found a home in IndyCar and I believe he may be the best of the bunch.
Daniel Ricciardo is only 32 years old and has been racing in F1 for over a decade. He is far past his days of being the hot young gun driver and he officially in the old guard on the grid. If he continues to bounce around the back end of the grid waiting for a seat to open up at a top team, I fear he will be too old to do anything spectacular when that opportunity finally comes. IndyCar is a grid of older drivers, Helio Castroneves is 47 years old and took home his fourth Indy 500 victory last year, and he isn’t the only one on the grid in his 40s still pulling results. A move to IndyCar wouldn’t just benefit Ricciardo, it would reinvigorate him. The Honey Badger we know and love isn’t dead yet, but Formula One is not going to be the place that brings him back.
The month of May came to a dramatic close today with the 106th running of the Indianapolis 500. More than 325,000 race fans descended on Speedway, Indiana to embrace all the tradition that surrounds the greatest spectacle in racing. The past two weeks have seen many hours of on track running through all the weather conditions you could think of. The field was set last weekend across two days of qualifying, in the end Scott Dixon took the pole position with a record-breaking 234.046 four lap average speed around the World’s Greatest Racecourse.
Orange causing Yellows Dixon led the field to the green flag and experienced a very calm start to the race, outside of Alex Rossi who had an amazing start, most of the field slotted in line without taking a major risk. Dixon controlled the race from the front, getting overtaken a number of times by Alex Palou and Rinus VeeKay. The two youngsters seemed to have their strategy firmly set, let Dixon stay out in front, while we save fuel behind. Veekay had mentioned prior to the race that he learned from last year, when he led the race for a number of laps, but in the end lost the flexibility of his strategy.
When the first green flag pit stops came around, it was indeed Dixon who kicked off the party on lap 31, followed by Palou on lap 32 and Veekay on lap 33. The status quo of the top three seemed to stay the same, with the #09 Chip Ganassi Racing driver in the lead of the race, followed by his teammate in the #10 Chip Ganassi Racing machine and in third the Dutch Orange #21 Ed Carpenter Racing machine. VeeKay seemed to be fully under control of his car, he qualified well and in practice appeared to have a very quick race car. The three were swapping places quite often, all managing their race strategy, but things took a drastic turn when VeeKay caused the first caution of the afternoon. The ECR driver experienced a quick snap in the middle of turn two and hit the wall on lap 39. It was quite a hard impact, however, the 21-year-old was uninjured in the crash.
Palou led the field to green when the race got back underway on lap 47. The restart was calm at the front, but the action happened in the back where Takuma Sato dared to make it 4 wide heading into Turn 1 and completed the spectacular move around the outside. In a matter of seconds, the two time winner of the 500 went from 10th to 6th. The race then followed the same pattern, leaders Dixon and Palou swapping positions once every couple of laps. All working towards another set of green flag pitstops. Just like in the first stint, it was Dixon who bit first, followed by almost silently followed by Conor Daly.
Chip Ganassi teammate Palou was supposed to pit a lap later, but rookie Callum Ilott threw a spanner in the works when he brought out the second yellow flag of the race. In quite similar fashion to Veekay, the British driver lost the back end of his Juncos Racing machine. Lady luck wasn’t kind to Palou, The Catalan driver was already committed to the pit entry and had no choice but to pass through the closed pit lane. The reigning IndyCar Champion then had to take an emergency stop for fuel. As per IndyCar rules, if you make a pit stop in a closed pit, you are forced to restart the race at the back of the field.
Through no fault of his own, the Indy 500 dream for Palou has to wait another year.
Turn 2: Part 3
After the pit cycle following the first yellow, Dixon retained his lead, but was followed by Indiana native Conor Daly to green after Palou’s penalty sent him to the back of the grid. As the field crossed the yard of bricks, Daly felt immense pressure from behind, but his eyes were forward. He took a look towards Dixon in the lead but decided against it, his patience paid off just a lap later when he made the move stick down the front stretch. The hometown crowd cheered Daly around the oval, but Dixon to the lead back not long after.
Come lap 82 Pato O’Ward looked to make a move on Daly, but it didn’t stick. Daly once again put his Ed Carpenter Racing number 20 machine to the front of the pack ahead of Dixon. The back and forth between the lead drivers suggested that the spotters were working together, similar to the fuel saving tactic teammates Palou and Dixon utilized when they lead the race.
Further down the grid, a few drivers had found their way out of less than desirable start positions. Scott McLaughlin was in an unfortunate 26th position going into the race after he was caught out by changing conditions in last week’s qualifying. By lap 86 the Kiwi was up to 12th and climbing. Four time winner Helio Castroneves also found him self in the third to last row after a bad qualifying performance, but had improved to P14 near the halfway point of the race.
Right as the third stint was coming to a close, turn 2 claimed another victim. This time fan favorite Romain Grosjean lost it coming out of the infamous corner and made a harsh impact with the wall before rolling to the infield. The former F1 driver was ok, but his Andretti Autosport car was destroyed, bringing his day to a close.
The field descended to the pit lane for a refuel and fresh tires. Daly won the race out of the pit lane and would lead the field to green.
A bad day to be a guy named Scott from New Zealand, Pt. 1
Once what remained of Grosjeans car was cleared off the track, the green flag flew once again. The field was led by Daly, but not for long. Dixon went for a move over Daly, but O’Ward and Santino Ferrucci took the high side over both of them. O’Ward took to the lead while Ferrucci made an attempt over Dixon but slotted in P3 after a few corners.
In less than half a lap, Daly fell down the order from first, and he wouldn’t be much of a contender for the rest of the race. O’Ward’s teammate Felix Rosenquist made an attempt on Ferrucci, but Ferrucci aggressively closed the door on the Swedish driver, Rosenquist would make it stick on lap 115.
Things slowed down on the brickyard as teams settled in the for the last half of the race. Dixon maintained his lead and continued to grow a gap between him and the chasing O’Ward. During this portion of the race Dixon overtook Al Unser Sr. for the all-time lap leader record holder at the speedway.
Colton Herta officially retired on lap 137 due to a mechanical issues. Herta was running his back-up car after a nasty crash on Friday left him upside down and the car totaled. The number 26 driver spent most of the race at the back of the field complaining about the new car was difficult to drive and “Sketchy”. Hertas retirement just piled on to an already bad day for the Andretti stable.
The pit stop cycle started up once again on lap 140 when Driver/Owner Ed Carpenter took to pit lane. Dixon came in a lap later and came out near the back of the grid. Daly pitted a lap after Dixon and Rosenquist pitted a lap after that. Pato was the last of the lead group to pit and came out ahead of Dixon into the lead on lap 148.
Continuing his rise through the field, McLaughlin turned laps off the speedway in the iconic Pennzoil Yellow Submarine paint scheme, but he would unfortunately not see the checkered flag. The Team Penske driver lost it at turn 4 on lap 152, McLaughlin hit the wall at scary speeds and impacted a second time after skidding along the wall. He got out of the car and didn’t incur any injuries besides what he called “a bruised ego”.
A bad day to be a guy named Scott from New Zealand, Pt. 2
The restart fell at an interesting point. 42 laps to go, everybody had to make one more stop, to get to the end of the race. The key to the race laid at the hands of the drivers behind the wheel, but also the men and women doing the pit stop. With 29 laps to go it was Rosenqvist who took to the pits. A good pit stop got him out still on the lead lap. Then the biggest turning point of the race for the 500 win occurred as the 6-time champion, one of the most experienced drivers of the entire field, Dixon, made a mistake locking up and sped in pit lane, taking the New Zealander out of contention for the race win. Rosenqvist would take the virtual lead of the race.
With two Ganassi drivers out of contention, the highest remaining Ganassi driver was Marcus Ericsson. The Swede had silently been running in and around the top 5 for the entire race, yet had stayed out of problems. A great final stop put him out right behind O’Ward, and it didn’t take long for Ericsson to make the pass around the Mexican. The Arrow McLaren 1-2 quite quickly turned into a 2-3 as the one Swede overtook the other. On paper, it wasn’t for the lead, but none of the drivers who tried to make it on a long fuel run made it to the end.
Things started to look even better for the ex-Formula 1 driver when he was able to get around Jack Harvey and Sato without losing time, the same couldn’t be said for the McLaren duo, O’Ward passed his teammate Rosenqvist, but got stuck behind Harvey. When the Mexican finally got through, the gap between him and Ericsson was 3.4 seconds, with 10 laps to go. One by one the laps were counting down and nothing seemed to be in the way for the Swede, until Jimmy Johnson put his car in the wall with 6 laps to go. The first thought of the Chip Ganassi mechanics is joy, but then with 4 laps to go, the race gets red flagged. Race control wanted a racing end to the 2022 Indianapolis 500. O’Ward was going to get one chance to overtake. 5 miles separated Ericsson from eternal glory, he had to survive two laps
At the restart Ericsson immediately starts to weave on the straight trying to break the slipstream, O’Ward behind is forced to defend from his own teammate, Rosenqvist. This meant that The Mexican would get only one shot at an overtake on the final lap of the Indy 500. The McLaren driver behind gets a big run into turn 1, however the leading Swede didn’t budge and remained in the lead of the race. The race was no longer in doubt, but it was set in stone when Sage Karam hit the wall causing one more yellow. Your winner for the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is Marcus Ericsson
At the end of the day history will pick and choose what to remember from this year’s race, but one thing is for certain, Marcus Ericsson is an Indy 500 winner and nothing will ever change that. But the story spreads far beyond the man with the wreath, many drivers had a shot at glory today and some came tantalizingly close. Misfortune was the only thing that stood between Scott Dixon and a second 500 victory. Alex Palou was on track to fight for the win for the second year running but fell victim to an untimely pit closure. Pato O’Ward came within inches of victory on the final restart but wasn’t able to make the move stick. So many other drivers came within a whisper of victory today and therein lies the beauty of the Indy 500, you never really know who’s going to win until the checkered flag flies.
In December 2020, I wrote a pretty standard feature calling out Race Director Michael Masi on his questionable actions throughout the 2020 season. Little did I know that it was just the beginning and that almost a year after my first article was published, I would have enough material for a second.
Before we start, we need to remind ourselves of the duties of the race director. The race director does not review incidents or assign penalties; that is the job of the race steward. Many of the controversies this season hinged on stewarding decisions. The race director is solely in charge of the operation and safety of the racetrack in all sessions that take place during the weekend.
There was one key addition to the 2021 broadcast that has shown Masi’s true colors: the FIA–eam radio broadcast. Being able to hear the communication between a team representative or team principal, and the race director is not something I ever knew I needed, but wow was I glad to have it. In an already contentious championship battle, hearing the teams plead to the race director over a missed penalty or questionable decision added to the drama tenfold.
But I also feel this addition strayed away of what it was intended to do. By hearing these communications, we got to see Masi’s personality, He earned the moniker “Sassy Masi” online for his quick and cheeky remarks in response to team bosses. While having a bit of fun on the radio is nothing crazy, sometimes it felt as if the team representatives saw Masi as an obstacle or joke, rather than a colleague. The teams should work alongside the race director to make sure things run smoothly, but these exchanges added a layer of tension that led to complications further down the line.
While there may have been minor mistakes on his part, the most glaring mistakes on Masi’s part came at the last two races of the season, the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. These two races held massive significance for the championship, as we were right as the end of a hotly contested championship for both the drivers and the constructors titles.
The controversy surrounding the Saudi Arabian GP started right from its announcement. The track was finished mere days before the weekend began, already breaking the FIA’s established rule requiring the track to have its final inspection approved months before race time. The layout was tight, and the chances for a nasty accident were sky-high, Masi needed to be on his A game for this event to proceed safely.
As running took place on the days leading up to the race, it was clear that the chance for a catastrophic pileup was greater than on any other track, doubly so if a car was stranded or crashed. These fears were realized during the F2 feature race on Sunday morning, when Théo Pourchaire, who stalled in his grid position, was collected by Enzo Fittipaldi. Both drivers were hospitalized, and while Pourchaire was released with no injuries, Fittipaldi suffered a fractured heel as a result of the 72G impact. Masi was not at the helm for the F2 race, but this incident showed us the ever present danger of the track.
Later in the evening, it was Formula’s turn to race around the streets of Jeddah, and tensions were high. The cars got off to a surprisingly clean start, but come Lap 10, the wheels started to fall off. Mick Schumacher hit the barriers at Turn 22, causing an immediate safety car. Masi took four laps to call for a red flag to repair the barriers, which some saw as a questionable decision.
The second restart was less than desirable and was a perfect example of another hallmark of the Masi era: the lack of communication on restarts. More often than not, drivers leave the pit lane confused about both their starting position and how the race will restart. Red flags can be a busy time for Race Direction, but that is no excuse to resume without a clear starting order for the cars and drivers not knowing whether the start will be standing or rolling.
As cars came around for their outlap, they learned that it would be a standing start. It worked the first time, so it should be fine the second time, right?
Wrong. There was a pile-up in the middle of the grid, and it caused a rred flag. Who could have guessed it?
At the front of the grid, Hamilton and Verstappen fought tooth and nail as they always do, and an off-track overtake by Verstappen would be the main point of contention during the next red flag period. As soon as the cars got to the pits, Red Bull and Mercedes both got on the blower and started arguing with Masi about who should be in what position. This should not be a complicated decision for any race director, but for some reason Masi made it complicated.
Instead of reviewing footage, making a decision, and sticking to it, Masi decided to play Deal or No Deal with the teams and give them an option on track position. This is apparently something that has always happened between race direction and teams in situations like this, but just because it has always happened doesn’t mean it’s not stupid. The only reason we as fans were made aware of it is the nifty little FIA–Team Radio broadcast now played on the world feed.
This “Deal or No Deal” incident is a perfect example of possibly Michael Masi’s biggest flaw: he is spineless. Instead of being the iron first iron-fisted decision-maker he should be, he lets team bosses take the power from him in debates. The buck stops at him, and he shouldn’t leave things up for debate. He needs to start making strong statements and showing team bosses who’s really in charge.
A major theme of Masi’s tenure as race director has been improper communication between the governing body and the teams, and this race was a highlight reel of his poor communication skills. Whether it was failing to relay information about the restart procedure or the confusion surrounding Hamilton and Verstappen’s swapping places that took place later in the race, Masi needs to communicate better with teams before his lack of clarity and slow communication, becomes a serious safety hazard.
We left the streets of Jeddah and embarked on our yearly journey to the deserts of Abu Dhabi for the final race of the season. Usually, this race is a dreadfully boring affair, with the championship being decided long before the final race in the last few seasons, but this year it all came down to the finale.
With points tied, the championship was going to be decided this weekend, so everything needed to go on without a hitch. For the first four sessions and even the majority of the race, things ran smoothly. Hamilton and Verstappen fought it out as they always do, but nearing the end of the race it looked like Hamilton would be taking home his eighth crown.
Then things took a turn. As we neared the final laps of the race, Nicholas Latifi found himself in the wall at turn 14 after a battle with Mick Schumacher, and the safety car was called out. With less than 5 laps left in the race and quite the clean-up job ahead, it looked as if this season was going to end under a Safety Car period. There was not enough time to let all the lapped cars unlap themselves, and with four cars between championship contenders, that posed an obstacle for the trailing Verstappen.
Initially, Masi made the call for the race to go green but not to let lapped cars unlap themselves. Hamilton breathed a sigh of relief as he lapped the course on ancient tires, which were in no shape for a fight. But then Masi, for whatever reason, reversed his decision and let only the five cars in between Hamilton and Verstappen unlap themselves, putting the Dutchman right on Hamilton’s rear. The green flag flew, and on much fresher tires, Verstappen made the overtake and secured his championship.
The final few laps of this race have been dissected and analyzed to death in the month since it happened. Factions have formed, and conspiracy theories have been plucked out of thin air, all to cover up a very simple truth: Michael Masi is unfit to be race director. There is no grand conspiracy against Lewis Hamilton; you can break open the rule book as much as you want, but I find it very hard to believe that Masi’s decision was rated in anything but TV ratings. It was not a sporting decision.
I am not often ashamed to be a Formula One fan, but the final two races of this incredible season were an embarrassment. I hope that anyone who tuned in for the first time to watch was able to see through the messiness on the surface and revel in the great racing that lay underneath. The embarrassment is the fault of no one but Michael Masi and the FIA. Everyone else has done their job properly: drivers, mechanics, team bosses and journalists, so no blame should be placed on them. The sooner F1 fans recognize their common enemy, the sooner the fighting and vitriol will come to an end.
It is without questions that the future of motorsport is electric vehicles. We have seen racing series spring up that convert the classic racing series to electric, whether it is Formula E or Moto E they have all been born out of an existing non-electric series. But with sustainability in mind, there exists an opportunity for all new racing series to be born. One that I have discovered recently is the eSkooter Championship.
On first though, racing scooter may seem like a kind of dumb idea, it brings up a lot of questions of how raceable are scooters and how exciting could they really be, but let me tell you why this new series excites me so much.
Motorsport is expensive, in almost all of it forms it cost a lot of money to get a car or bike on the grid, and it cost even more to get it competitive. But when you lower the scale down to an electric scooter, the cost lower as well.
The same idea goes for the riders, it’s not a secret how much money has to come out of the driver or rider to get into the upper and even middle levels of motorsport. eSkooter addresses this by lowering the cost of entry for riders and claiming to be “the most accessible pro racing series”
eSkooter won’t hold its first race until next year but, as of today, they are testing the S1-X in the Italian city of Cremona with a load of different riders from all different backgrounds. The championship also claims to be committed to further diversity and inclusion, which is being showcased has they have had both men and women testing for them in Cremona.
Motorsport is also infamous for its massive carbon footprint, in the past few years a lot of series have committed to net-zero carbon emissions by whatever year, but eSkooter plans to start that way. They have tasked FE driver and eSkooter founder and ambassador Luca di Grassi as leaded advocate for sustainability and have been working with the UN and WHO on their “BreathLife” campaign.
They have committed to traveling light, which should not be too hard considering the size of the scooters compared to other racing series’ cars or bikes. Furthermore, they also have committed to travel by rail from city to city when possible, as well as leaving as little a footprint in their host cities as they can.
The scooters themselves are sustainable, the carbon fiber chassis are made of recyclable material as well as the tires and batteries. eSkooter also promises that all the R&D used to create the scooters will be given to others in the E-Scooter industry to further grow micromobility across the world.
While we have yet to see wheel-to-wheel racing in the eSkooter championship, the projected weekend schedule seems interesting. During the two days of racing, a grid of 30 riders will compete in five heats of six riders. The four fastest in each heat will move on to the next round, while the slowest 10 fight for the last four spots in the next round. The next round is cut by half, moving on to the semi-finals, and the top three from those four heats go onto the grand final while those eliminated fight for team points.
On Sunday, the teams’ championship is run by a knockout tournament between the 10 teams of 3 until a winner is crowned.
While the weekend schedule is a lot more complex than other series, I think it will make more sense when we see it in action. One benefit of the complicated weekend schedule is the sheer amount of races we get to see. We don’t have any information of lap numbers, but we do know that the circuit will be less than a kilometer.
The scooters themselves, titled the S1-X are reported to go up to 100 km/h, 2×6 kW twin motor, two-wheel drive, 1.33 kWh battery capacity, a lean angle of up to 45 degrees and weight 35 Kilograms.
I believe that the eSkooter Championship is one of the most exciting of this happening in the motorsport world right now. It can demonstrate the future of the sport with its commitment to sustainability and its low barrier to entry, which will hopefully mean the series is not plagued with the money over talent issues many other series face. I am incredibly excited to see the eSkooter Championship race, and I will be following its development as a series very closely as more things come together.
As you may know if you have followed the blog, the first race I ever watched was the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix. It being the two year anniversary of my introduction to the sport, I thought I would revisit it and see if it still holds up as one of my all time favorites.
Two years on, this race is most known for the five second penalty levied on Seb for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner, forcing Seb to try and build a five second buffer to the chasing Hamilton, but failing. In the end this penalty cost Seb the win despite him crossing the finish first. Out of frustration, Seb parked in the pitlane, rather than Parc Ferme and took the position markers in front of the podium placing cars after the race and put the first place sign in front of where his car should have been and the second place sign in front of Hamiltons.
While it was certainly the most entertaining drama of the weekend, it was certainly not the only unexpected moment of the Grand Prix weekend.
On Saturday, Seb took pole in the Ferreri with his teammate Charles LeClerc in third. Splitting the Itialians was Championship leader Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes with his teammate running in sixth. The biggest shocker of the session was Max Versatppen qualifying in 11th after being caught out by a crash involving Kevin Magnussen in the Haas.
In rewatching this race I noticed that it may have not been the most exciting race when it comes to on track action, it was an excellent race for pit strategy. Not to say that there was no on track overtaking, one that comes to mind is the overtake from Perez over Grosjean around lap 32. But due to it being an incredibly hot day for Canada (around 63 degrees) the tire strategy was the truly important aspect in the race.
After about 20 laps most drivers found their way into the pits to switch over to the hard tires, trying to make the one stop work, Leaving them with worn tires in the later stages of the race, which may be to blame for the previously mentioned incident between Vettel and Hamilton on lap 48.
At the time I’m sure I was just mesmerized by the speed and the drama of the Vettel incident, upon second viewing I still find myself enthralled by the race due to the strategy decisions being made at the front around the 20-30th laps of the race. I also found a lot of enjoyment in the fight between Danny ric and Bottas for 5th place eventually being won by Bottas.
The fight between Hamilton and Vettel is the true highlight of the weekend. A fight for the top spot is something we miss far too often nowadays and it is nice to witness two titans of the sport go at it for all the glory. It’s a shame that the fight was cut short due to a questionable penalty by the stewards but it was a treat to watch while it lasted.
My personl favorite part of the weekend came after the final flag flew. Sebastian Parked his car on the worng side of the pits and marched his way into the FIA office to compane about the penetly. Then we saw him walk down the pitlane to the Ferreri motor home before being convinced to the podium. He then took a shortcut through the Merc gradge, making me belive he was trying to fight someone but he was really just looking for his way to the podium, but before he found his way to the cool down room he did the now infamous sign switch.
In the end this race was an incredible start to my Formula one experience and solidified a lot of things I still believe about the sport. This race made Sebastian Vettel my favorite driver on the grid, and he remains my favorite to this day. It shows everything Formula One has to offer, high speeds, drama, otherworldly talent and endless excitement, and those tenants are what keep me waking up at unhealthy hours and tuning in to watch rich men drive in circles.
This Sunday, Formula One ran the second round of the 2021 season in Italy at the Imola. On Saturday, Lewis Hamilton took pole position, but not without a fight. With a challenge by Lando Norris in the McLaren and both Red Bull cars qualifying 2 and 3, Hamilton was in for a hard-fought race.
Sunday came and so did the rain, while it only affected certain spots on the track, the inconsistent weather caused the team’s headache in terms of tire strategy, and also caused a chaotic pre-race. Aston Martin had breaks catching fire and Fernando Alonso in the Alpine went into the wall and sacrificed a front wing. Lance Strolls break fire required repair on the grid but the team was able to finish in time. The same cannot be said for his teammate however, the team did not finish his car in time, causing Seb to start from the pit lane while also gaining a 10-second stop and go for not having the wheels on in time.
The first lap of the race saw Max overtake Lewis for the lead, Lewis jumping a curb and causing front wing and floor damage to the Mercedes, but retaining second place. At the back of the grid, Nicholas Latifi in the Williams had a spin, but recovered, only to sin into the wall a few seconds later, causing the first safety car of the race. During this safety care period, Mick Schumacher in the Haas, lost it on the slick track and lost a front wing at the pit exit, causing a pit lane closure and extending the safety car period.
While the racing got going again, Max retained the lead on the restart, but Hamilton was fighting hard. While this happens the stewards laid a 10-second penalty on Perez for overtaking under the safety car after he spun off and lost places, he overtook those places, which is not allowed under safety cars. In the midfield, Gasly was falling hard due to him still being on full wet tires.
This stage in the race saw the grid trying to gauge whether to switch to slick tires or stick with the inters due to the inconsistent track conditions. With Riccardo in front, McLaren was looking to make a push towards the front, they switched their drivers putting Norris in front and let him have a crack at the top of the field, not something Riccardo would have wanted but in the end paid off for the team.
Verstappen then pits for medium slick tires, giving Hamilton the lead in the race, but he had yet to pit. On the next lap Hamilton is told to box, but a slow stop by Mercedes causes him to lose the lead and rejoin the track in second place. When he rounds Tosa corner, he lost grip and goes into the gravel, but keeps his head clean and maneuvers his way onto the track and into the pits, but he is far down the running order.
Meanwhile, while fighting for 9th, Bottas in the Mercedes and Russell in the Williams have a massive shunt, ending both of their races and bringing out the safety car and eventually the red flag. Now, while this coming together is dramatic as hell and is without a doubt going to have an entire Drive to Survive episode dedicated to it, I don’t believe one person is at fault. They both are, Bottas closed the door a bit too much and Russell overreacted and slipped on the wet grass, an unfortunate incident but the blame isn’t on anyone driver in the end.
This incident brought out the red flag and the remaining members of the grid went to the pits to regroup. This red flag becomes a blessing for many drivers, most so Lewis Hamilton, who at the point of the incident was a lap down after his incident. Because of red flag conditions, all lapped cars can un-lap themselves and get even with everyone for the safety car restart.
At the restart, Max kept the lead despite a spin behind the safety car with Norris and Leclerc trailing behind. Starting in 8th place, Hamilton was tearing his way through the field as Hamilton does and throwing together some absolutely rapid laps.
Near the end of the race, Seb Vettel retires for break issues, ending an atrocious weekend for the 4 times World Champion. At the top of the grid, Hamilton continues his crusade past Norris into second leaving the McLaren the third step on the podium, the wall while Verstappen sails to a convincing victory.
Overall, Imola left us with an exciting and unpredictable race, most definitely helped by the changeable conditions. Hopefully, this iconic circuit can wiggle its way back on the calendar for years to come, and continue to provide us with interesting old-school racing.
In the 1970s, English businessman and owner of the Brabham racing team Bernie Ecclestone became the CEO of Formula One. Ecclestone held that title for almost 50 years and led the sport through some of its toughest moments. Bernie ran the sport with a very traditionalist mindset when it came to the presentation of the sport. Not adapting with the rise of social media and the internet left the sport behind the times.
Come 2016 the series was due for a much needed change in ownership, that came when American media company, Liberty Media purchased the sport for $4.4 billion. The American company is well known for their media and sporting assets, most notably the Atlanta Braves and Sirius XM radio. Their purchase of the racing series understandably ruffled a few feathers but I believe their ownership of the sport will secure its popularity for decades to come and change the sport for the better.
Right off the bat Liberty made their intentions clear, while also being a global sport, Formula One is for entertainment. This focus on entertainment included removing divers restrictions on social media, revamping the official F1 YouTube channel and most importantly, starting production with Netflix on “Drive To Survive”.
These changes all work together to make the sport much more accessible and bring it to the eyes of people who it would not normally reach, myself included. Reaching fans not through the sport, but through the entertainment factor is the way of the future in motorsport and sport in general, and Formula One proves this time and time over.
By lessening the Bernie era restrictions on what drivers could post on social media, Liberty allowed the drivers to showcase their personality and day to day experiences more than ever. Drivers like Lando Norris, George Russel and others have used this new freedom to get into streaming and content creation outside of the car. When the pandemic hit, Formula One even held an official virtual Grand Prix series. Taking the place during lockdown on the games like iRacing and the official F1 game, this series kept eyes on F1 throughout the extended offseason. This, in turn, allowed fans to connect with their favorite drivers in a more intimate way than ever before and has opened things up for a younger generation to get into the sport.
Another Liberty Media change is their focus on content creation for digital platforms, that means YouTube, the official F1 website, as well as across all major social media platforms. Since the takeover, Liberty has created different shows such as the Paddock Pass on race weeks with Will Buxton, race breakdowns with Joylon Palmer, and many others. Liberty also launched the F1TV streaming service, featuring an archive of race highlights and replays all the way back to the 1970s as well as F1TV original documentaries and shows. F1TV also shows live coverage of each race from dozens of angles with many different features like live team radio to enhance the viewing experience. This content is providing an exclusive look into the inner workings of the paddock and the race week activities for the fans, further connecting them with their favorite teams and drivers
What may be the most effective Liberty Media addition is the production of “Drive To Survive”. The behind the scenes documentary series for Netflix opened up the sport to millions of new people and created lifelong fans of the sport. That is how I was personally introduced to the sport and it has quickly become my favorite sport and my dream career.
With its more personal and individual focused approach to the sport, the series showcases sides of drivers and team bosses we had never seen before, but have in time defined who they are. While some may see it as overdramatic and not to the spirit of the racing series, its impact on the sport cannot be denied.
Liberty’s influence isn’t limited to the entertainment side of the sport though. Under the leadership of CEO Chase Carey, the Formula One Group has appointed legendary team boss Ross Brawn to head up the sporting side of the group. Under Brawn, F1 has laid out their plans for the regulation overhaul and redesign coming in 2022, promising better racing and more competitive championship fights.
While some of the changes Liberty brought about were not too popular when they were first implemented, they have proven that F1 can be an entertainment spectacle without sacrificing race quality and keeping with the spirit of the sport. Their impact on the sport will be felt for decades to some, and they are just getting started.
The current year was a peculiar one and Formula 1 was no different. The 2020 season was an incredibly strange year for Formula One. But despite all the commotion off track, the racing was as good as ever. One glaring issue, however, were the questionable decisions by race control, especially the one that lead to issues with track safety.
After the passing of venerable race director Charlie Whiting at the beginning of the 2019 season, the position was filled by deputy race director Michael Masi. Occupying the post left vacant by Whiting since then, Masi’s tenure has seen the increased use of the black and white warning flag and a tougher stance on track limits.
While his time in charge has seen many improvements, there have also been serious missteps, including inexcusable safety errors. His first season in the position was relatively uneventful, but his second season has seen the most errors by race direction in recent memory.
His most egregious errors happened when handling dangerous situations involving marshals. At Imola, during the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Masi sent the lapped cars away to unlap themselves during the safety car period, but marshals were still cleaning the track. This led to a very scary near miss involving Racing Point’s Lance Stroll going by a marshal, mere meters separating them. While thankfully nothing happened, it is not hard to imagine how it could go very wrong.
A few weeks later in Bahrain, McLaren’s Lando Norris came across a marshal running across the track to put out a fire on Sergio Perez’s car. While also dangerous, it is a more understandable incident, after the same track witnessed Romain Grosjean’s terrible crash earlier in the day. Although fire is one of the biggest dangers for the drivers, the marshals also need to be wary of the other cars, as this can and has led to serious accident in Formula 1 before.
Another error that lies entirely on Masi’s shoulders is the incident during the second part of qualifying in Turkey. At the end of the first part of a wet qualifying session, Nicolas Latifi’s Williams was stranded on track and, between Q1 and Q2, cranes were brought out to retrieve the car. The work was not finished before Q2 was started, however, and the cranes and the marshals involved in the recovery process were still on track. Adding the wet conditions on track, sending the cars out for Q2 and trusting that double waved yellow flags would suffice was a risk Masi should not have taken.
This may not seem like much on the surface, but this bears a striking resemblance to the 2014 crash that eventually claimed Jules Bianchi’s life. That accident happened in similar wet conditions and even though there were flags being waved, Bianchi lost control of his car in the wet track and sadly collided with the crane removing Adrian Sutil’s stranded car.
Following that accident, various safety regulations were created and/or improved, and the halo was eventually introduced as a result of Bianchi’s crash. At the time, FIA President Jean Todt said “[w]e have to learn from what has happened and we will learn from what has happened, because we cannot be facing such a situation again”. Masi’s decision at Turkey, however, directly contradicts that statement.
When questioned by the media about the incident at Imola, Masi said: “[f]rom that end we will continue to learn…” The time for learning was in 2014, at which point you should not have to learn and potentially risk the lives of drivers and marshals. The job of the race director is not easy. But if one person cannot handle all the responsibilities, maybe a race directing team needs to be put in place, as a way to split up the duties and have higher focus on specific aspects of the job, so everyone can operate safely and effectively.
The stewards were also very weird with their penalties this season, with many penalties being put off until after the race, even the ones that appeared easy to make the decision during the race. Carlos Sainz Jr. and his pit lane speed issue in Abu Dhabi being the prime example. A very simple penalty that could have decided the fight for P3 in the Constructors’ Championship was put off until after the race, leaving everyone wondering if the result on track would stand. Not the ideal situation as the last checkered flag of the season fell.
Another example was Charles Leclerc in Spain. After he shut off his car, he undid part of his seatbelt to get out, but then the car restarted, and he went back to driving with half his seatbelt unfastened. He didn’t drive just half a lap though, eventually completing two laps while not properly strapped to his car. Although it was mostly his only safety being endangered, this incident is not talked about enough and deserved a very harsh penalty, as the rules are in place so we do not have to rely on the drivers’ respect for their own safety.
Race Control does deserve credit for their handling of the Roman Grosjean crash. All the safety measures put in place in the many years since safety became a serious concern in Formula 1 worked and all hard work done to make the sport a safer place paid off. The Medical Car was on the scene immediately, the safety cell on the car stayed intact, protecting the driver, the flame resistant gear lasted for as long as it as supposed to and most importantly the halo proved vital to Grosjean’s survival. Everything worked according to plan and allowed the driver to walk away from the explosion.
This sport would not survive without Race Control and its Race Director, the position is vital to maintaining order and enforcing the rules on track. But the Race Director also has a responsibility to make sure every rule is followed and enforced, so that everyone can return home at the end of a weekend. Masi has shown time and time again this season that he is not able to do this job effectively on his own and the FIA should mandate changes in order to improve this area of the sport in the coming season.
This morning Red Bull Racing officially announced the signing of former Racing Point driver Sergio Perez. After months of speculation and a busy night of strong rumors, the night before the Austrian team announced the signing via Twitter. The new acquisition leaves Thai driver, Alex Albon as Red Bull reserve and test driver for 2021.
While the news is not really surprising considering the lackluster performance of Albon this season, while those challenges may not have been entirely Albons fault, this is still a business. In my eyes, if Red Bull didn’t sign Perez, they would have sealed their fate for the foreseeable future and would not be able to compete for championships against Mercedes.
Ever since Daniel Ricciardo left the team at the end of 2018, the team has been struggling to find a suitable replacement that can hold their own against their lead driver, Max Verstappen. To replace the Australian the team promoted Frenchman Pierre Gastly from Toro Rosso into the top team, and his season went famously poor.
In the Red Bull, Gastly was constantly behind his teammate in pace and struggled heavily with both the car and the working environment. After struggling for half a season, he was demoted back down to Toro Rosso at the summer break, trading him for Alex Albon. Gastly has since matured and proven himself a valuable asset in the Alpha Tauri, even bring himself to a race win this year in Monza.
Albon shined in the latter half of the 2019 season, with some great recovery drives after incidents or penalties, most famously his first race with the team at the Belgian Grand Prix where he started from 17th die to an engine penalty and worked his way up to 5th at the finish. The rest of the season led him to a string of good results, even a possible podium at Brazil before contact near the end of the race with Hamilton sent him off track and down the grid. He finished 8th in the standings and was Awarded the Rookie Of The year trophy from the FIA.
The good vibes and momentum for Albon seemed to carry over into 2020, in the first race of the season he was fighting for the race win after his teammate retired. Ironically that fight came to an end when he came into contact with Hamilton again, ruining his race. Ever since then he has been on a downhill spiral with a few podiums here and there.
Ever since it was announced that Sebastian Vettel would be taking his seat at Aston Martin next season, Sergio Perez has been in the conversation for the Red Bull seat. Because if we know Red Bull, they don’t give many chances to improve and Alex wasn’t performing as they needed him to have a chance at challenging the Mercs. As his performance declined, the writing began to appear on the wall for the Thai driver and the conversation started to shift from if he was going to be canned, to when.
The conversation about the many and apparent flaws of the Red Bull team structure and young driver program is a fascinating one and is still a topic I plan to cover in the future with a little bit more research. I am glad they are realizing their mistakes and bringing in outside help with Sergio Perez, I hope this brings a new day for the team and brings them closer to challenging the all-mighty Mercs.
This driver change will also put into perspective the last few years of Red Bull woes if Perez excels in the car and challenges his teammate. Maybe Albon and Gastly were really just too young and inexperienced for the promotion. If he flounders like the rest of them, we know for a fact that the team needs serious restructuring and management change, we know how good Checo is and we know he is a proven talent, if Red Bull messes this one up, I do not know what to say.