It was a perfect storm for Formula 1 this weekend. Could this be the moment that finally gets them back to some relevance? While I get the notion that some may say this is the most relevant racing series in the world, I can honestly say that here in the United States, they have slipped dramatically.
But, after what has transpired the last two weekends in Bahrain, this could be the start of an ascension for F1 again.
Look, I don’t follow F1 much anymore. I rarely even cover it. It’s all too predictable. What’s the point? Only six cars have had a shot at a win and really among them, only half of those could realistically reach the top step of the podium on any given race.
Don’t believe me? How’s this –
Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull combined to win 146 straight races at one point. They won the final 18 races of 2013 and the first 128 races of the hybrid era.
Also, you could really pick Mercedes as the winner among those three. Out of the last 137 F1 races, they’ve won 102 of them (74%). Ferrari is next best at 17.
Yes, 1st among all race wins in the hybrid era is 102. Second is 17.
No way am I going to stay up really late or wake up really early to watch crap racing. But, to see Romain Grosjean’s crash and the attention that it get and luckily him escaping serious injury then to see F1 race on the outer loop of the Bahrain circuit mixed with Lewis Hamilton not being a part of the race weekend itself too due to COVID and you get a highly anticipated F1 race on Sunday.
Not to sound morbid either. Grosjean’s crash and Hamilton getting COVID shouldn’t muster that much attention, but that’s how dull F1 had become.
You get George Russell jumping into Hamilton’s Mercedes to really give us a glimpse of an answer for is it the car or the driver? That’s part of why this weekend was so huge too.
You also get Sergio Perez, a driver that’s had a nice career in F1 despite no victories, being a free agent at the end of the season and going from last to first to win Sunday’s race. He did so with a mid pack team in Racing Point. They join AlphaTauri as two new teams to win in F1 this year.
Remember, between the second race of the 2013 season through the seventh race of 2020, only Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull had won Grand Prix’s. We’ve had two new teams in the last nine races.
But, the big one still was did Mercedes make Lewis Hamilton or Hamilton make Mercedes?
At the end of the day, I think the answer is still a push.
Yes, Hamilton has won 95 times in his F1 career. That’s most ever. Yes, he has 98 poles. Most ever. Yes, he has 164 podiums. Most ever. Yes, he won his seventh championship. That’s tied for most ever.
There’s no doubt he’s in the G.O.A.T. category.
But you also have this.
73 of his 95 wins (77%) have come in this hybrid era.
Mercedes, the team he races for, has won 102 of the 137 races (74%) during this era.
6 of his 7 championships (86%) have come in this era too.
He’s done his best when parity was at its lowest. He’s feasted on lesser competition. Those are facts. I can see why people would say that could somewhat tarnish a legacy.
So, which side are you on?
What Russell did this weekend would help this argument.
That’s why I think this is a push.
Russell, was quickest in two of the three practice sessions and qualified second too. If not for his crew letting him down twice, he likely was going to win Sunday. That’s how good he looked. But, he also didn’t win either. He finished ninth.
Hamilton, has 25 straight finishes better than ninth and 47 of his last 48 and 79 of his last 82. So, yes his car has helped, clearly. But, Russell and Mercedes also showed that Hamilton has skill as well. Hamilton can take a car capable of dominating and wins.
That takes skill in itself.
Russell, showed skill but he didn’t win. That’s why I do feel like this weekend showed it’s a push on whether it’s the car or the driver for Mercedes.
Also, it’s not like Russell doesn’t have skill either. He showed as well that he could eventually be the next Lewis Hamilton as well. Which is why this isn’t necessarily a fair comparison.
The better comparison is Valtteri Bottas. He’s won nine times, has 46 podiums and 16 poles with Mercedes. I would say he’s bean a good Robin to Batman for Mercedes but can Robin be better?
Russell needs to be compared to Bottas but the only way to do that is for Bottas to not have that seat anymore.
Hamilton is a free agent and I sense he comes back in 2021 to break Michael Schumacher’s championships record. Bottas is back too. Would Hamilton have had this much success with a better teammate or is Bottas doing the best anyone else could so in that car and Hamilton is just that good too?
That’s why this weekend was so big for F1 as the attention is big again. They need to build on this as it shows that parity is what’s needed for this sport to get relevant.