A track designed for MotoGP is set to be highly entertaining.
We love the fact that Formula One has reinvented itself as the ultimate form of racing with some behind-the-scenes drama thrown in for good measure.
This season has been outstanding, providing us with some epic drama and spectacular racing. Let's just say that the upcoming season of Drive to Survive is going to be lit. When someone as cool as Toto Wolff starts making comments like "screw them all" (we cleaned that up a bit, but you can probably guess what he really said), you know the entire F1 circus is heading toward a massive climax.
The battle between Red Bull Racing Honda and Mercedes has gone way beyond the track. It's personal now, with Mercedes seeking a penalty against Max Verstappen for an incident at turn four at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix. It seems like a meaningless exercise, with many experts (Martin Brundle included) stating that they don't see any chance of a penalty. If Verstappen is penalized, he would be pushed into third place, which would give Mercedes a one-two victory at Brazil.
The Qatar Grand Prix is next, and here are a few things you should know or that you might have missed during the last week.
Even though Lewis Hamilton dominated the Sao Paulo Grand Prix, Max Verstappen has been a more consistent points scorer. He remains in the lead with 332.5 points, with Hamilton on 318.5 points. If Hamilton wins the Qatar Grand Prix, he ends up with 343.5 points. If Verstappen places second, he ends up with 350.5 points. For Hamilton to retake the lead, he needs a win and Verstappen to finish anywhere but the podium.
The battle for third place has also been interesting to watch. Valtteri Bottas is currently in third with 203 points, followed by Sergio Perez on 178 points. Does Perez have what it takes to claim that final podium spot? To be brutally honest, no. Bottas has been on top form, driving like a man with nothing to lose because he literally has nothing to lose. He's moving on to Alfa Romeo, and driving with zero pressure has been working wonders for him these last few races.
Mercedes widened the gap in the constructor's championship last weekend. It's currently in the lead with 521 points, followed by Red Bull with 510.5 points. Ferrari is in third place with 287.5 points.
This weekend is extraordinary because the drivers will be racing on a track they've never raced on before.
The Losail International Circuit is located just outside of Doha and was completed in 2004. The thing is, it was built to host MotoGP, which means it's a fast track. It's 3.4 miles long and is essentially a collection of medium and high-speed corners. The main straight is over one kilometer (0.6 miles). There are plenty of overtaking opportunities, especially heading into turn one following the long straight. Who is going to be brave enough to brake late?
The weather will be hot, and there's zero chance of rain. The race will be 57 laps, for a total distance of 191.7 miles. There is no current lap record, so whoever sets the fastest lap will be the first to claim that title at Losail.
Red Bull's team boss, Christian Horner, called the Mercedes F1 car "unraceable." If you watched the Grand Prix at Interlagos, you'd know why. Once Hamilton cleared the field, he shot ahead and left no opportunity for Max Verstappen to catch him. He finished a full ten seconds ahead of Verstappen, which is almost unheard of.
According to Red Bull, the Mercedes was nearly 19 mph quicker on the lap he passed Verstappen. That's a huge gap, and it matters now that F1 is heading into one of the fastest circuits. Red Bull hasn't made a secret of the fact that they think something fishy is going on with Hamilton's rear wing. Verstappen even received a massive fine for merely touching it.
Red Bull is not going to complain, however. According to Horner, they want to understand where the speed is coming from. He is also on record stating that it's the FIA's job to police the sport and trusts them to do so.
The tension between these two teams is insane, verging on personal. For the moment, Red Bull is taking the higher ground by not approaching the FIA with a protest. For now...
Helmut Marko is a former F1 driver and current advisor to the Red Bull F1 team. You'll often spot him having lunch with Horner, most likely discussing strategy.
Earlier this year, Marko stated quite confidently that Red Bull is not worried about Mercedes. He has now changed his tune and said that he is indeed perturbed. He even stated that Red Bull can forget about Verstappen taking the championship if Hamilton's Mercedes is as fast as it was at Interlagos.
The three remaining Grand Prix are all at fast tracks and if Hamilton has that kind of speed, Red Bull might as well enter the race with a Jeep Wrangler.
What can they possibly do? At the time of writing, Red Bull has not complained. It trusts the FIA to do its job, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
The internet is rife with rumors regarding Hamilton's newfound speed. Helmut is on record as stating that there are two things they might complain about. He did not name those things, but internet sleuths quickly identified Hamilton's engine as being illegal and a system that lowers the car on the straight, which reduces the drag and increases the top speed.
We finally know that the second seat that used to be occupied by Antonio Giovinazzi is up for grabs. Or, instead, it was up for grabs, as a new driver has already been announced.
The separation was hardly amicable. Alfa Romeo wrote an excellent press release thanking Giovinazzi for his contribution, but the driver was less kind. He posted, "F1 is emotion, talent, cars, risk, speed" on his Twitter feed. "But when money rules, it can be ruthless."
The money comment only made sense a few days later when Bottas' future teammate was announced. His name is Guanyu Zhou, and he will be representing China. Much has been said of the young rich kid. He obviously brings a lot of money with him, not to mention a whole lot of potential sponsorship money from China.
But keep in mind that he's not just a rich kid. He built a solid reputation in Formula 2 and won the Anthoine Hubert award for best rookie in 2019. Let's not be so dismissive, is all we're saying. Zhou may prove himself to be more than another Mazepin.
The battle between these two racers and their fans is getting extremely personal. How could it not, considering everything that happened this year. Hamilton shunted Verstappen into Copse corner at the Silverstone Grand Prix, after which Red Bull made a big fuss about the ten-second penalty. Verstappen crashed into Hamilton at Monza, taking them both out of the race.
At the Interlagos Grand Prix, Lewis called Max a magnet for contact. Max called the comments disrespectful and said that he'd rather fight on track.
To be fair, they seem to be a magnet for each other. For reference, look at Hamilton's behavior in Mexico, not to mention blaming Bottas for leaving the door wide open for Verstappen in that same race.
This intense rivalry is spilling over to the fans, resulting in some rather shocking behavior. Hamilton regularly gets booed during an F1 weekend, while his fans have started calling his opponent Crashstappen.
The Brazilian crowd was pleasing to watch. They applauded everyone's small victories during the race, no matter who they were.Whether you're a fan of Hamilton or Verstappen, you can't deny that these two are currently the most talented drivers on the grid. When either one wins, at least have the decency to congratulate them. Hamilton was on fire in Brazil, and Verstappen gave him a spanking the race before that.
While we love a bit of drama, this particular one is turning into an episode of Jersey Shore.