Formula 1: It’s Lights Out And Away We Go…

By-Bello Waaliy

“It’s lights out and away we go”.

Since the last race in Abu Dhabi, in November 2022, fans have waited impatiently for months for new action in the world of F1 racing. This season has kicked off with new faces, makeovers, and even more dominance. In the subsequent paragraphs, this piece provides an overview of the latest developments, as well as the performances of teams and individual drivers.

Old Dogs and New Faces

This season has 4 drivers – three of whom are rookies – that were not on the grid last season. There’s Mclaren’s Oscar Piastri, for instance, racing with the number 81. Oscar would be teaming up with 5-season-old Lando Norris in hopes of putting up a challenge to lead, at least, the midfield teams. After his Formula 2 title victory, Piastri was appointed as Alpine F1 Team’s reserve driver for the 2022 season. He was also made available as a reserve driver for McLaren following an agreement between the two teams. 

Also, Nyck De Varies, another rookie highly rated by the Mercedes Family, will join Japanese racer Alpha Tauri. Nyck, first appearance last season for Injured Alexander Albon in a backmarker Williams car earned him a spot on the grid this season. 

Lastly, there is Logan Sargeant, the American driver who got the nod after picking up the required number of Super Licence points with a stellar rookie performance in the F2 championship. The other driver is a driver with a lot of F1 experience in the person of Nico Hulkenberg, who has 184 starts under his belt racing for multiple teams like Haas F1, Williams, Force India, and Racing Point F1 team among others. He also holds the record for most starts without a podium finish.

How are the Teams performing

Red Bull Racing, how about that? The defending champions set the pace this season with a 1,2 finish in the first race of the season after qualifying for pole and second in Bahrain last weekend. The RBR car, powered by a Honda engine, seemed to be a league above the rest. The car lapped as many as 9, of the 20 cars on the grid, something that hasn’t been done since Lewis Hamilton in his 2020 championship run. 

However another car stood out as well, the Aston Martin driven by Fernando Alonso was a sight to see. He moved up 2 places to come in third and get his 99th podium finish after 2 delightful battles with his former McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton first and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz. Fernando Alonso, who seemed to be having a great time told his race engineers and directors that the car  “feels lovely to drive”.

Mercedes is a team that fans would always look out for and expect excellence from. The team has won 7 of the last 8 constructors’ championships. However, they just couldn’t get it right with the W13 last season and now with the W14 this season. The Mercedes team came up with a unique side pod design last season that cost them. This design had not been adopted by any other team, but it may have contributed to their ending the season third in the constructors’ championships. 

The team has devoted time and resources to modifying the design this season. However, the design seems to be no different from the W13 save for the color. Both Mercedes drivers complained about the car: Lewis Hamilton, especially, came out to insinuate that the team didn’t listen to him during the winter development.

A look at Individual Performances

Of course, the list starts with Fernando Alonso who has arguably had the best race. He was involved in interesting battles and ended up as sales force driver of the day. Another impressive performance was that of Williams driver Alex Albon who qualified 15th and moved up 5 places to end his race 10th and earn points for his team. 

Other drivers who were impressive were Valterri Bottas of Alfa Romeo, who finished 8th after qualifying 12th. There is Logan Sargent of Williams who started 16th and ended 12th. There is also Lance Stroll of Aston Martin who qualified 8th and finished 6th even with a hand injury that greatly affected his race performance and earned him points with the fans for his dedication and his hunger for success. The Mercedes Duo, British boys Lewis Hamilton and George Russell also impressed, moving up 2 places ahead as well.

Disappointing Moments in Formula 1 So Far 

It would come as a shock to fans that Charles Leclerc hadn’t been mentioned in the article till now. Well, the man behind so many sad memes has been struck again with some bad luck. He could not finish the race due to electric issues in his car. A fan described the incident online as “Ferrari being Ferrari”. Up until the hitch,  the driver from Monaco was having a brilliant race day and fiercely defended his third position. The issue with the wiring came up on the 39th lap of the race causing him to retire without points. 

Mercedes also makes this list of disappointments following the rigorous training and time on the simulators put in by the drivers in the offseason. McLaren also makes this list as the driver was forced to return to the pits 6 times in the race. Norris started the race from 11th on the grid, but a quick start saw him leapfrog rivals Esteban Ocon and Nico Hulkenberg to get up to ninth by Turn 1. He was later overtaken by the Alfa Romeo of Valtteri Bottas on the run down to Turn 4. 

Norris’s evening began to get worse after his first pit stop, as he contended with a power unit issue that forced him to come back into the pit lane. On average, he was back at the pit stop once every 10 laps, leaving him running at the back of the field for most of the race. His teammate, Oscar Piastri also had to retire with an electrical problem but the MCLAREN race director feels confident that they’ll be ready to challenge for the top 10 spot before the Saudi Arabia GP.

Finally, as the season progresses, there have been popular questions among the fans. Some of the questions include Lewis’ status in the F1 world and Mercede’s continual dominance. Has Lewis Hamilton won his last race ever? Can RBR achieve the level of dominance Mercedes had?


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