So, the Mexican Grand Prix for Formula 1 happened. And I’m going to be completely honest, the highlight of the entire weekend, was F1 remixing their Brian Tyler theme with a Mariachi band. And to be honest, I can get the whole thing in less than 400 words. Let’s try it:
The Lightning Round: Actual Grand Prix Edition
Max Verstappen is so good, he even beat the 800 metre drag race where the man who starts 3rd almost always gets the lead. And at that point, the race was basically over. Red Bull took the most aggressive 1-stopper they could by being able to extend the Soft and Medium Pirelli’s, while Mercs were 1-stopping all along and couldn’t stay with them in terms of tyre wear.
And it turns out, the Hard tyre was a brick. Completely un-raceable to the point where Mercs being first on them led to the entire midfield extending their medium stints. Pirelli goofed with its tyres, the dirty air made overtaking a luxury unless the deltas were off the charts, and Max Verstappen made history with his 14th win of the season.
Dre’s Race Rating: 2/10 – (Poor): This race happened.
Red Bull: The Main Characters
The title says it all. These dudes just can’t help themselves.
So, the cost cap punishment came through first and foremost. Red Bull was technically about $500k over after not applying a tax rebate properly. Their punishment? A 7 million euro fine, and a 10% deduction on their wind tunnel allocation and CFD time on the year. Now, that’s 10% of their allocation, not the whole total, so equivalent to the baseline you get for finishing 7th in the Championship, Red Bull will only be on 63% of that next season.
This is a significant penalty. They will have far less CFD time compared to their direct rivals and this will hurt them down the road. Anyone thinking this will lead to teams also abusing the cap for any gains in the field is kidding themselves. Losing 10% of your wind tunnel time for an accidental breach of $500k is just not worth it to me in any way, shape or form.
Let’s be honest with ourselves here. A lot of people were hoping that we were going to get Max Verstappen stripped of his 2021 Drivers Title and that Lewis “rightfully” gets Title #8. That was never going to happen the moment the FIA offered Red Bull a plea deal to avoid arbitration, which was agreed upon in the regulations when the cap was implemented. If you take that deal, point deductions come off the table. Yes, it would have probably been “nicer sounding” if the $7m fine also came out of the cap. But again, the teams chose not to include fines in the cap when this system was put in place. In shocking news, the inmates running the asylum wanted a failsafe in case the trap door fell from underneath them. Shocking, right?
Welcome to the game of F1 politics and the teams saving their own skin. It’s always been this way, and it will continue. Even then, to be honest, I think this penalty was about right. I don’t have emotional skin in this game, but an accidental $500,000 breach on a $145m budget doesn’t sound like grounds for chucking points off the board. If you disagree, I won’t argue with you because this is an unprecedented situation. But I cannot in good faith, think that going 0.37% over the cap was title-altering worthy. My gut says the sport got this one right.
Red Bull, in the eyes of many, got away with one here. Which makes Christian Horner’s theatrics all the more irritating. I don’t even normally give a shit about them; because I’ve said many a time, that Team Principals will say ANYTHING if it thinks it’ll give them an edge as the politicians they really are. But this was ridiculous. Demanding teams apologise. Guesstimating half-second a lap in speed off the back of vibes. It was a performance that would have cracked the musical version of “Hamilton”.
It went further still when on Saturday night they declared war with Sky. Boycotting the media channel for the rest of the weekend for “constant digging” from one man regarding Max Verstappen. That man was allegedly Ted Kravitz, who said Hamilton was “robbed” last season, and that the only reason they’re winning anything is because of Adrian Newey.
In Red Bull’s defence… they do have a point. Sky has not always acted in the best of faith. Last year they had no problem running his Silverstone crash (A 50G incident that sent Max to hospital) as a Christmas advert. Horribly distasteful that rightly led to Sky taking the commercial down. Going back to 2013, I haven’t forgotten Martin Brundle declaring Adrian Newey the “most important man in the sport” as Sebastian Vettel celebrated his 4th consecutive title. It’s a narrative drum that Sky has absolutely beaten before.
Implying that Newey is the only reason they’re winning is disrespectful to everyone else in the Red Bull camp. As much as we acknowledge the driver most, it is truly a team effort and this narrative about car designers, as important a role they have, is only ever brought up to diminish the achievement of the driver. It’s happened with Max, Lewis, Seb, and even Michael Schumacher when I was growing up. It’s lazy, and it needs to stop.
Kravitz, who’s been in the game for a quarter of a century, should know better. If you’re still bringing up Abu Dhabi 2021 in an F1 broadcast a year on after it was settled and the sport was fundamentally changed in the aftermath, you know exactly what you’re doing as a broadcaster. You want to stoke the flames of social media because everyone knows what a divisive topic it still is. Even if it in no way justifies the abuse and death threats he’s received on social media. Disgusting.
But, Sky is a privately owned broadcaster who has zero obligation to be impartial. Tough. Every national-level broadcaster has biases. You watch Wimbledon, they’re going to gas up Emma Radacanu and Cameron Norrie. When the Olympics roll around, it’ll be Dina Asher-Smith, Elise Christie and Adam Peaty. The World Cup? IN-GER-LAND.
Patriotism is the lowest common denominator when you want to pull in TV ratings in sports. Because ultimately, the channel hopper will always be more likely to stick around if one of their own is there to root for. Sky F1 has been the Hamilton Show since Day 1 and even before that, ITV was gassing him up in 2006 when he was still in GP2. The BBC were partying in Button’s garage in 2009. This is how the sausage has always been made. Yeah, it sucks in some cases from a collateral standpoint given Sky also produce the World Feed. But this is how the UK has always produced sports broadcasts here.
This is why Red Bull declaring a boycott was never going to end well. They will lose every battle in the court of public opinion as long as they’re in F1. Ted Kravitz is wordy, bumbling and a little awkward in dealing with people. And we LOVE HIM. The only reason he’s largely been praised for his comments is that the majority of the Internet agrees with him and Red Bull stepping back was something fans liked the outcome of. A race guaranteed without Horner on the pit wall for many fans (myself included), would be seen as a welcome relief.
Horner has absolutely leaned into his role as F1’s Wrestling heel. He revels in media dialogue. If you punch him, he will try and punch back harder, even if it means he could fall flat on his face. But you can’t play the game that way politically and then expect people to give you the benefit of the doubt. Even when some of your points like with Sky, are valid.
Not when you’ve dissed marshals. Not when you incited pile-ons when you called Lewis Hamilton a dirty driver. Not when you’ve said “Well Max has been abused too” when responding to questions about LH’s racist abuse after that race. Not when your team’s been a walking PR disaster for the last 2 years with confirmed rule-breaking, Juri Vips having a “gamer moment” while representing your badge, or when you’ve sacked a racist team member.
The same goes for Max. He’s the best driver in the world right now, but he’s hardly covered himself in glory over the years. From ableist and xenophobic slurs on the radio to distancing himself from addressing any of the racism that circles around his name or his extended family.
Everyone involved in this mess is guilty to a degree. Including us. We’re on a platform that is now so territorial we now resemble how football is discussed in the UK. My co-host RJ mentioned it last week; When Tom Brady was caught deflating his footballs, it didn’t turn into a territorial war between Patriots and Colts fanbases because the NFL is too big and too mainstream for that.
Besides maybe Cricket, no other sporting community on here revels in being the main characters like we do. We dedicate our entire social media footprint towards the drivers and teams. We take sides on every conceivable conflict. We construct bad-faith arguments at every turn and remove nuance wherever we can to make us feel better about our dumb sport. We harbour huge sub-communities based on who our favourite drivers are, in the tens of thousands of followers. We can’t go more than a week without someone or something new to be mad at. As much as we try to project about ”being nice”, sports fandom is built on hate, not singing Kum-Bay-Ah around a campfire holding hands. Thats unlikely to ever change.
But Red Bull needs to realise that if they want at least some of this ugly shit to go away, the best thing they can do right now, is shut the fuck up and let their driving do the talking. Someone has to take some degree of accountability, because it’s not going to be us, and it’s not going to be the broadcaster that pays the FOM a nine-figure sum every year to broadcast the sport.
They’re the best team in F1, who has the sport’s best driver. But they’ve gotten away with so much on and off the track that sour their name and if they’re not going to acknowledge they’re at least a part of the problem, then you can’t expect anyone else to hear you out.
The Actual Lightning Round
Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton having their own version of the “Petty Olympics” was funny. I love Fernando because he always has this knack for saying something really dumb like World Championships “meaning more”, and then thinking he was taken out of context when he’s inevitably called out on it. The amount of “head in the clouds” thinking here is legendary. Lewis is a close second here because the man probably had to Google his own name in a hotel room somewhere to copy a picture of the pair of them from 2007 that had about 20 pixels in it. These two men are nearly 80 years old combined. Never change.
Daniel Ricciardo divebombed Yuki Tsunoda into oblivion in Sector 2, but was so fast on his soft tyres at the end, he still ended up 7th. A horrible pass and a 10-second time penalty were richly deserved, but good for him I guess? Probably his best drive this season.
Why the heck did Pirelli produce a Medium tyre that could comfortably go for half the race distance? They need to stop playing it safe on certain tracks and open the door for more strategies.
Why did Sebastian Vettel do a 37-lap Soft-tyre stint and then move to used Mediums? Aston Martin, why?!
Good news folks, three more years of Mexico until 2025. Yay. Seriously, have we had one good Mexican GP since its addition?!
Max Verstappen just broke the single-season win record and no-one cares. This sport has its moments, man.
PS: ROSS F***ING CHASTAIN
This happened during the F1 race. NASCAR had its penultimate race of the season and Ross Chastain might have pulled the greatest sequence of overtakes in the history of Motorsport.
LOOK AT THIS SHIT. LOOK AT IT. BASK IN ITS GLORY.
And he had to do it to make it into the Championship finale of The Chase. And he knocked Denny Hamlin out to do with the final pass over the line. It’s absolutely wonderful and exactly the sort of viral “Game 7” moment NASCAR could ever want with its otherwise shitty Playoff format. This is so ridiculous, we’ve decided to rename The Scotty Award here, “The Golden Melon”. Glory to Ross Chastain for a fucking video game move that was actually done for real. Shame there was an F1 race in the middle of it.