With the Formula 1 season all but relegated to history, and the Thanksgiving holiday in the US, this moment seems rather apt for a capitulation of the things to be thankful for about the sport. While it is easy to go on a critical rant about the racing, the cars, the drivers, the leadership, the tracks, or any number of a host of other things, the fact that many people still tune in says something about the draw of F1.
So time to give a little thanks.
– Lewis Hamilton for his continued excellence. Say what you want about his personality and whether you can embrace his lifestyle, but Hamilton sure can drive. With 72 victories and five drivers titles, Hamilton is actually in reach of the rarefied air of Michael Schumacher. Whether or not he’ll match or best the latter’s records is questionable, but in the hybrid era, Hamilton has proven just as dominant as Schumacher was during his prime.
– Sebastian Vettel and his meltdown. Yes, it would have been wonderful for Vettel to provide a focus, continued effort that would have pushed Hamilton to the limit as the two raced for the championship. If, however, Vettel is unable to oblige, why not go the other direction and just have a complete falling apart. Has any driver’s season gone so terribly wrong after starting so promising in the last twenty years? Vettel had a car that could compete with Hamilton and continually threw it away with boneheaded decisions and questionable driving. Somewhere a sports psychologist is aching to get Vettel in the room to start picking apart just how Vettel apparently adopted Esteban Ocon’s driving style for the second half of 2018. It may have been sad to watch, but there’s no way it wasn’t entertaining.
– Fernando Alonso and his insouciance. Alonso knows that his McLaren isn’t fast. He’s also aware that it doesn’t handle all that well. Then there are the reliability issues. And the organization is in flux. That overall picture provides a portrait of an uber-talented driver stuck in an untenable situation. While it would be easy to argue that Alonso hasn’t cared about the season, that’s not a correct assessment. He has cared, and tried to drive the wheels off the McLaren, but when things go wrong, they have been a confirmation of his expectations. If anything, Alonso has been a realist this year and has done his best to deal with all of the problems with humor. Here’s to hoping that he ends up as a commentator when he hangs up the helmet after whatever he does next.
– Max Verstappen being Max Verstappen. Verstappen may very well be the future of F1l. He’s 21 years old and is growing into himself as a driver with the full support of Red Bull behind him. In many ways, he’s in an ideal situation especially as the organization looks to upgrade their power unit with a switch to Honda this offseason. What makes Verstappen so enjoyable is that he’s unrepentantly Verstappen. He’s entitled. He’s standoffish. He’s difficult. He’s got high expectations. He may or may not have a sense of humor. He also can drive the hell out of a car and carried Red Bull in the second half of the year. Next year should really give a glimpse of the character that he is – should the team do well, he’ll become insufferable; should they struggle with the Honda engine, he’ll become insufferable. Seems like great theater.
– Changes. The 2019 season brings with it all kinds of changes. The aerodynamic aspects of the cars are set to be modified so that there’s a chance of overtaking. The fuel limit is supposed to be increased in a move that should, to the driver’s liking, allow for more pushing rather than following in a fast parade. In addition, Pirelli is set to make adjustments to their tyres, which should bring changes in strategy as to how teams manage the race.
Drivers on the move include Daniel Ricciardo to Renault, Charles Leclerc to Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen to Sauber, Carlos Sainz Jr to McLaren where he joins rookie Lando Norris, Pierre Gasly makes the move to Red Bull and Daniil Kvyat rejoins Toro Rosso. And yet there are still unsettled seats on the grid, so there’s more to come.
– Safety. We’re one race away from drivers and team personnel walking away from the year healthy. Any time that happens in motorsport, there’s cause for jubilation.
And about that last race:
The Yas Marina Circuit, situated on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, was designed by Hermann Tilke and opened in October 2009. Using graywacke aggregate, shipped in from England as the track surface, and boasting the largest sports venue lighting system in the world, the track costs totaled $1.3 billion. The course features 21 turns and is roughly 3.45 miles in length. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton lead the way, having both earned three wins at Yas Marina. Valtteri Bottas is the defending winner. The race can be found on ESPN2 at 8:00 am.