Lando Norris: The Darling of Formula One

All drivers are equal, but some drivers are more equal than others.

Paraphrase of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” (1945)

 

Unlike Max Verstappen and Lance Stroll, Lando Norris entered Formula One under a shower of praise from the sports press. Journalists, narrators, and commentators extolled the young English driver in the same way they did to Charles Leclerc in 2018 and 2019. The impression the fans had was that a big star was coming to the tracks.

However, compared to other drivers of his generation, Norris has not achieved great things. Still, this did not prevent the media from treating him as one of the greatest athletes in Formula One. That fueled the fanaticism of many fans, who are even aggressive towards those who doubt the driver’s alleged mastery. In this article, we will analyze Norris’s profile and the media’s intentions behind his idolatry.

 

1- Lando Norris’s origins

 

Born in Bristol on November 13th, 1999, Lando Norris is the second child of businessman Adam Norris and his wife, Cisca Wauman. The couple is also the parents of Oliver, Flo, and Cisca. According to a report in the Bristol Post, Adam Norris’s fortune reached £ 205 million in 2019, making him one of the richest men in the United Kingdom.

His family’s financial conditions allowed Norris to have certain privileges compared with most of the world’s population, like a full-time tutor to assist him in mathematics and physics subjects. The driver studied at the traditional Millifield School but dropped out of school before graduating. Norris is not modest in saying that “If I wasn’t a very good driver it would not be a wise decision.”

 

Lando Norris and his father Adam. (Photo: F1i.com) [1]

 

From 2014 to 2018, Norris participated in 16 editions of single-seat championships before debuting in Formula One. He won five of them: the MSA Formula in 2015, Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault 2.0 NEC, and Toyota Racing Series in 2016, and European Formula Three in 2017.

Considering the media treatment given to drivers who had previously debuted in Formula One in a similar situation, and bearing in mind his bourgeois origin, Norris would be a good candidate for the nickname “pay driver.” However, traditional media outlets avoid associating it with the category’s inherent elitism.

 

2- The internet’s teen sensation

 

It is almost a consensus among sociologists that social networks greatly influence a company or public figure’s reputation. Bought by Liberty Media at the end of 2016, Formula One itself began to invest heavily in online advertising in the hope of attracting young audiences. The result was positive, with a considerable increase in audience and interaction with the category, in addition to significant financial gains.

Lando Norris knew how to take advantage of that resource. Through humorous posts on social networks, the driver shaped his reputation among Internet users. Consequently, he formed a young fan base, which was one of the goals of Formula One. However, most new fans could not distinguish Norris from the internet from Norris from the tracks. Soon, delighted by the content of social networks, they started to consider the driver as one of the best in the sport, even though the facts prove otherwise.

 

Unlike what happens on the tracks, Norris’ posture on social media is usually very humorous, which attracted many fans. (Photo: Drive Tribe) [2]

 

To analyze the performance of the English driver, we consider seven drivers on the 2021 grid from the so-called “new generation of Formula One”: Max Verstappen, Lance Stroll, Charles Leclerc, Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, Lando Norris, and George Russell. Yuki Tsunoda, Mick Schumacher, and Nikita Mazepin are left out since they are rookies in 2021, not having enough time to reach a substantial verdict. The same goes for Nicholas Latifi, who debuted in 2020. Among the seven previously mentioned, Verstappen had the best performance during his career, followed by Leclerc, Stroll, and Gasly. Norris is the third from the bottom’s list, just ahead of Ocon and Russell, as shown in the table below.

 

 

To classify someone as “talented” or “pay driver,” it is necessary to establish evaluation criteria. According to the impacts on the driver’s history and the championship table, the ones adopted are wins, podiums, pole positions, records, and points*. Through the joint analysis of the data, we arrive at the verdict on the athlete’s performance. Gasly, for example, has a win so far and Stroll none, but the Canadian has one pole, three podiums, and two records against two podiums by the Frenchman. Therefore, Stroll is ahead of Gasly, beating him on three of the five established criteria.

(*The points affect the championship table, but the records are more remarkable for the driver’s history, so they were placed ahead in the order of relevance for the analysis. In addition, the points are dependent on the particularity of each race.)

In the case of Norris, who so far has three podiums, he overcomes Ocon and Russell, drivers with a certain peculiarity. Until the 2020 Sakhir Grand Prix, that year’s penultimate race, Ocon had not had a podium, and Russell had not scored. It is clear from official data that it would be more reasonable to consider Verstappen, Leclerc, Stroll, and Gasly “more talented” than Norris. But traditional sports media has another approach.

 

An internet user expresses support for Norris on Twitter with a generalist phrase. (Photo: 9GAG) [3]

 

Unfortunately, the financial interests of a media outlet outweigh the commitment to the facts. In the sports environment, it is observed that sponsors of athletes and teams also fund broadcasters and websites, influencing the way their advisors are represented in the media. Therefore, the athlete’s reputation results from his press office’s work and his sponsors’ influence in the media. The driver’s posture can also have some impact on reputation (especially in scandals). But sometimes, in less severe cases, it falls into the shadow of the other two factors.

That explains, for example, the situations of Stroll and Norris. Facts indicate Stroll has talent and cannot be considered a “pay driver.” However, he will still be crucified in the media due to his advisers’ incompetence and the driver’s passivity before image crises (see “Racing Point: A Poorly Managed Image”). At the same time, Norris will be portrayed as a very talented and generous driver, even though his results and behavior show the opposite.

 

3- Humble Lando Norris: a character from children’s stories

 

During the 2021 Monaco Grand Prix broadcast, Brazilian narrator Sérgio Maurício and commentators Reginaldo Leme and Max Wilson took the time to praise Lando Norris. The most used adjective was “humble.” However, none of the three cited an event that proved this alleged “humility” of the driver. In real life, Norris’s behavior is far from what can be considered “humble.”

Norris’s first heated moment was at the 2019 Spanish Grand Prix when he collided with Lance Stroll. He apologized to the team for the crash, admitting his responsibility, but then raged against the Canadian. The Englishman blamed Stroll even though the commissioners had cleared him. At the French Grand Prix, he ordered McLaren to tell Carlos Sainz Jr. to swap positions. When Sergio Pérez overtook him at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Norris cried on the radio and belittled the Mexican’s performance.

 

Norris’s acid comments don’t spare even his teammates. The most recent case was Ricciardo. (Photo: GPBlog) [4]

 

In 2020, during the Belgian Grand Prix, the driver verbally assaulted his engineer, who had warned him about exceeding the track limits (which could lead to a penalty). At the Italian Grand Prix, annoyed that Stroll had won the podium, Norris acted hypocritically. He made unfounded criticisms of the FIA ​​regulation that allows tire changes during the red flag. However, he omitted that the stewards investigated him for being too slow in the pits, which in fact, runs counter to the rules. At the Eifel Grand Prix, the driver was rude to his team, using a foul vocabulary again. After a collision with Stroll at the Portuguese Grand Prix, Norris offended the opponent’s learning ability. In an interview the same week, he belittled Lewis Hamilton’s seventh world title and credited it to the Mercedes car. After severe criticism for the arrogant stance, Norris apologized to Stroll and Hamilton but did not even mention their names, referring to both as “certain people.”

At the 2021 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Norris demanded McLaren to order Daniel Ricciardo swapping positions. Unlike what happened in France in 2019, the team accepted the English driver’s wishes. Despite the maneuver, considered unsportsmanlike by many experts, the audience elected Norris as “Driver of the Day.” However, the most impressive performance of that race was that of Hamilton, who reached the second place after a hit in the wall almost took him out. In addition, Norris said openly that he “has no sympathy” for Ricciardo before the difficulties faced by his teammate and that he considers him “less adaptable” than Sainz. The Englishman also reports that he aims for a “leading” position within McLaren.

 

An article on the Formula One official website reports that there were team orders in Norris and Ricciardo swap positions. (Photo: Formula One official website) [5]

 

The facts listed above prove that Norris has no ethical and respectful posture within the sports environment, both with his team and other competitors. Therefore, the word “humble” does not describe his conduct, even though the Brazilian narrators and commentators insist on treating him as such. It is noteworthy that the same Sérgio Maurício, who applauds Norris, despite all the rudeness spoken by the English, criticized Max Verstappen for responding harshly to a journalist’s rude question in 2018. We return to the paraphrase at the beginning of the text: “All drivers are equal, but some drivers are more equal than others.”

While the mainstream media overlooks Norris’s inappropriate behavior and sells him as the best and most humble driver of all time, independent journalists and internet users have unmasked this fraud. Initially, the driver was compared to Veruca Salt, from the children’s book “The Fantastic Chocolate Factory” (1964). They have characteristics in common: both are English, very wealthy, and demand that all their wishes be met, no matter how much they need to shout for it.

 

Although the sports media tries to disguise it, Norris has many characteristics in common with Veruca Salt. [5]

 

Also, they compared Norris with other fictional characters. One of them is Quico, from the Mexican series “El Chavo del Ocho” (1973-1980), famous for shouting his catchphrase “Shut up, shut up, shut up, you make me crazy.” The reference is due to the several times Norris yelled at his engineer on the radio. Another character compared to Norris is Prince Adam, from Disney’s franchise “Beauty and the Beast” (this, in turn, is an adaptation of the French tale by Suzanne de Villeneuve, written in 1740). The movie “The Enchanted Christmas” (1998) revealed that Adam acted very rude to his servants and was indifferent to the suffering of others. As a result, a witch decided to turn him into a beast. In addition to the prince, Norris’s father’s namesake, another French character with behavior similar to that of the driver is Chloé Bourgeois, from the cartoon “Miraculous.” Unable to love anyone other than herself, Chloé mistreats anyone who crosses her path. Also, she thinks that serving and idolizing her is everyone’s duty. Although Chloé shows no respect for anyone, she has a large fan base (mainly Americans), just like Norris; these relativize her crude profile and hope for her triumph in the end.

 

Journalists treat Norris as a “humble rich one” (like Adrien Agreste), but in real life, he acts like a “spoiled rich one” (like Chloé Bourgeois). [6]

 

Unfortunately, because it is not in line with its interests, the mainstream media will not treat Norris and his rudeness in the same way as other drivers. In addition, his most passionate fans will continue to promote hostile environments on the internet on his behalf until his wave of popularity dissipates.

Also, people must take the racial factor into account. Hamilton said in an interview that he “would be more popular in the UK if he were White,” which allows one more hypothesis to be raised. Aware that Hamilton is the most successful British driver in history, perhaps the media will try to invest in Norris’s image (just as George Russell’s), hoping that the audience will believe that the post will one day be filled by a White driver. Consequently, the media in other countries adopt the same stance once the central bodies of the official Formula One press are based in the United Kingdom.

 

4- Conclusion

 

The sports media elected Lando Norris as its favorite driver mainly due to the financial benefits he brings to both his sponsors and Formula One.  His popularity on social media has attracted many young fans to the category, but these see him through a celebrity filter. Then, they do not realize that the athlete is far from being the gentle star the press sells. Since Norris is well-advised and Formula One keeps money as its most significant factor, we may not see him being treated like other drivers anytime soon.

 

Addendum (23/07/2021): Lando Norris confirmed that McLaren received more sponsors when he debuted. Also, his participation on Twitch attracted more public. That information (checked here) proves the article’s main argument.

 


Sources:

 

1- Lando Norris’s origins

 

2- The internet’s teen sensation

*Sources of the table

 

3- Humble Lando Norris: a character from children’s stories

 

Addendum

 

Photos:

Note: None of the photos used in this article belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The weblinks where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

 

 

The Alexander Albon Case: A Wasted Potential

Article dedicated to the reader Lucilene Mota, who asked for an analysis of Alexander Albon. Special thanks to Adriana Perantoni for the sources of Noemí de Miguel and the information about Antonio Pérez.

 

On December 18th, 2020, Red Bull Racing announced Sergio Pérez to race alongside Max Verstappen in 2021. Therefore, the British-Thai driver Alexander Albon got relegated to a reserve driver. Some controversies follow the circumstances of this situation at Red Bull. Some examples are their inability in making a car as good as Verstappenthe exit of Pérez from Racing Point after Sebastian Vettel acquired shares of its future owner, and Albon’s hiring in the middle of the 2019 season to replace Pierre Gasly (what generated a big hope over the new driver);

It notes that Red Bull is impatient to become the new challenger of Mercedes, given the fall in Ferrari’s performance and the rise of Racing Point in 2020. Aware of Verstappen’s ability, who conquered the team’s first wins since 2014, the Austrian team was looking for a teammate who could follow the Dutchman’s speed after the exit of Daniel Ricciardo for Renault with the end of the 2018 season. Albon ended up being a victim of this haste and having a humiliating exit from the constructor’s championship runner-up. This article will explain how it happened and why there was a big injustice with the athlete.

 

1- The 2019 season: the opportunity to shine

 

As explained earlier, Daniel Ricciardo’s departure led Red Bull to look for another talent to race alongside Max Verstappen. The duo had achieved excellent results from 2016 to 2018, which allowed the team to be runner-up and then third place (for two consecutive years) in the constructors’ championship. Replacing a driver who guaranteed victories and podiums for the team would not be easy, but Red Bull had a young name in mind: Pierre Gasly.

 

Pierre Gasly takes fourth place in the 2018 Bahrain Grand Prix. (Photo: Sky Sports) [1]

 

The French driver had excelled in Toro Rosso, having his best result so far, the fourth place in the Bahrain Grand Prix of 2018. They believed that if Gasly could reach such a high position in a car considered average, he would succeed in getting at least podiums in a top team. However, his performance in the first year with Red Bull was below expectations. While Verstappen was an almost constant presence on the podium, Gasly was behind Ferrari drivers (Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc). Not being able to take advantage of the Italian team’s crisis (whose tension between the drivers was aggravating), the Frenchman got fewer points for Red Bull, which lost the chance to win the runners-up championship.

Unhappy with Gasly and Verstappen’s mismatch, consultant Helmut Marko convinced Red Bull officials to replace the Dutchman’s teammate. From the 2019 Belgian Grand Prix onwards, Alexander Albon would take the seat. It was too late for Red Bull to recover the loss, but they saw the new driver as a long-term investment (if he performed well, he would remain on the team the following year). Albon had commendable performances, as in the Russian Grand Prix (in which he started from the pits and finished in fifth place) and in Brazil (having a chance to get the first podium, but was reached by Lewis Hamilton with a few laps to go). Albon finished the championship in eighth place, with 92 points. Considering that he spent the first half of the season at Toro Rosso and only then went to a top team, the result is impressive. For this reason, he was elected by the Autosports Awards as the “Rookie of the Year” in 2019.

 

Alexander Albon being awarded the “Rookie of the Year” award in 2019. (Photo: FIA) [2]

 

2- 2020: “With great power comes great responsibility.”

 

This phrase from Uncle Ben, from “Spider-Man,” sums up the pressure that fell on Alexander Albon in his second season with Red Bull. The driver started the year well, having one more chance to get his first podium at the Austrian Grand Prix. An unfortunate coincidence prevented him from winning: again, a collision with Lewis Hamilton. In the following races, Albon reached the scoring zone, but in places much lower than Max Verstappen’s. The situation was soon similar to that of Pierre Gasly in 2019, but Helmut Marko chose not to fire the Thai in a hurry.

Two factors prevented immediate action by Red Bull. First, the second layoff in two consecutive years without the championship ending would put the team’s reputation in check. The switch from Gasly to Albon no longer seemed as justified in 2020 as it was in 2019, and taking out the Thai was in danger of resulting in yet another unsatisfactory replacement. Soon, Marko would be classified as “impetuous.” Second, AlphaTauri did not have the appropriate names to take Albon’s place. Bringing Gasly back would be “humiliating” for Red Bull (who would have to admit he “made a mistake” with the Frenchman), and Daniil Kvyat already had a ticket by the Austrian team, being fired at the beginning of the 2016 season and replaced by Verstappen. The switch from the Russian to the Dutch driver was the most assertive of Red Bull in recent years in the short, medium, and long term, which did not repeat with the following changes (this is because Verstappen is a separate case).

Helmut Marko (left) and Max Verstappen (right). (Photo: XPB) [3]

 

In the first half of 2020, Albon faced difficulties in training on Friday and Saturday, starting from intermediate places on the grid, which is not expected for a top team driver. Only in the Tuscan Grand Prix, a race marked by accidents that led almost half of the grid to abandon, the Thai got his well-deserved first podium after winning a duel with Daniel Ricciardo for third place. He repeated the result only at the Bahrain Grand Prix, in which Sergio Pérez’s car engine ignited the rear of the vehicle and forced the Mexican to abandon. Despite the podiums, Albon was nowhere near what Ricciardo had been for Red Bull, and Gasly’s victory in the Italian Grand Prix only added to the team’s embarrassment.

Pierre Gasly’s win at the 2020 Italian Grand Prix. (Photo: Matteo Bazzi/AP) [4]

 

The similarity between Albon’s performance in 2020 and Gasly’s in 2019 was just one ingredient in the change of drivers from Red Bull to 2021. Another reason is in the context of another team.

 

3- Changes in Racing Point: Sergio Pérez enters the game

 

In 2020 Racing Point started a landmark chapter in its history. The previous season served as a test for the team’s new plans, bought in the second half of 2018 by a consortium led by Lawrence Stroll after the Force India bankruptcy. Deciding to join the group of top teams, the English team had impressive results thanks to the joint work of the engineering department and its team of drivers, formed by Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez.

For 2021, the team sought even more investments to continue its triumphant path. One of the agreements reached was with the French company Aston Martin, which will give its name to the team. Everything seemed to go as it was, but now with improvements approaching, a turnaround happened: Ferrari fired Sebastian Vettel for his disappointing performances, and months later, Racing Point announced him as its driver for 2021. His signing would not have been so controversial if were it not for the confusion of information reported to the press: Racing Point oscillated between denial and interest in Vettel, and the narratives of Pérez and the team leader, Otmar Sznafnauer, about whether the Mexican had previously been warned of the situation conflicted with each other. Journalist Adam Cooper later revealed the truth, reporting that Vettel had bought shares in Aston Martin, thereby securing a seat on the team (to better understand this case, read the article by Ricardo Hernandes Meyer here).

 

Otmar Sznafnauer, Racing Point’s team boss (left), and Sebastian Vettel (right). (Photo: XPB) [5]

 

They note Pérez is one of the most consistent drivers in Formula One. He has podiums under challenging races, as in the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The journalist Noemí de Miguel, who reported first hand that Renault was negotiating the signing Fernando Alonso for 2021 (confirmed months later), stated that Red Bull planned to bring Pérez to be Max Verstappen’s teammate. One of the signs of this negotiation was when Antonio Pérez, the driver’s brother, started to follow Red Bull’s profile on Twitter. However, both “Checo” and the Austrian team preferred to keep the talks a secret (perhaps not to affect Albon’s results) and only announced the decision after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

 

Among the profiles Antonio Pérez, Sergio’s brother, follows on Twitter por Antonio Pérez, is Red Bull’s. (Photo: Twitter) [6]

 

We can see that Racing Point’s and Ferrari’s actions also impacted Red Bull, mainly in Albon’s fate. The expectation was that Vettel would have a gap year to reflect on his mistakes and rethink his career, just as it did with Esteban Ocon. However, the German had a master’s strategy: buying shares in the owner company guarantees a place. Indeed the press will not emphasize this because it prefers to generate controversies over Stroll, which has nothing to do with the story (the reason is implicit). Pérez’s need for a seat and Red Bull’s desire to replace Albon without being like what happened to Pierre Gasly led to the Mexican’s hiring and, consequently, the Thai’s replacement.

 

4- Helmut Marko’s haste: the sacrifice of young Red Bull talents

 

The Red Bull consultant had previously told the press that “none of the young people on the team’s training program come close to Max Verstappen.” Such a statement is harmful to athletes, who feel their work devalued. Sport is indeed an area that demands pressure to result in achievements, but this comparison hinders young drivers’ self-confidence and frustrates the team’s plans. Also, Marko seems to put too much pressure on the athletes and not to do the same with the engineering department, unable to produce a car up to Verstappen’s potential despite allegedly working focused on the driver. Recalling that engineers are fundamental in the performance of a team in Formula One, as noted in Williams’s case.

Verstappen, as previously revealed, is an exceptional talent. As a teenager, he achieved victories, podiums, and records in a team that did not have the best car on the grid. It does not mean, however, that other drivers cannot be talented. Demanding a Verstappen clone from his students is an absurd attitude by Marko, as each person has their work style. Not even Max’s father, Jos Verstappen, had such brilliant career results as his son. If instead of demanding a second version of the Dutchman, Red Bull worked to develop both drivers’ potential, the team would have a better performance in the championships. But it seems that this team favors one athlete and wants the other, as observed in the first decade of 2010 with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

 

 

Marko even accused Albon of not having self-confidence. With a boss like this, it gets tricky. (Photo: GPBlog) [7]

 

Pierre Gasly’s victory in 2020 proved that each rider has his time to adapt and that excessive charges do not shape an athlete based on another just because the team’s board wishes. Unfortunately, while being an enemy of perfection, haste shows up as one of Marko’s values, which sacrifices Red Bull’s opportunities. The example of Racing Point, which preferred to “take it easy” in 2019 to rock out in 2020, demonstrates that caution should be the main ingredient of good planning, not anxiety.

Another essential point to note is the hiring of Yuki Tsunoda to race for AlphaTauri in 2021. As Daniil Kvyat is no longer able to satisfy the group, and Gasly does a great job, it is natural to fire the Russian to give the Japanese a chance. Although this means an impediment for Albon to return to AlphaTauri, Tsunoda should is not responsible for the Thai’s misfortune, as this is a new talent that will have a chance to present his work. As demonstrated earlier, the purchase of Vettel’s seat at Aston Martin influences Albon’s situation much more than the hiring of the Japanese driver.

 

5- Conclusions

 

Alexander Albon’s case only differs from that of Pierre Gasly in one point: the time Red Bull fired each of them. Both were victims of Helmut Marko’s haste and eagerness to have two riders with the performance of Max Verstappen, which places all the responsibility on young athletes. Both Albon and Gasly have proven their talent and deserve seats in Formula One but have suffered from the Austrian team’s conflict of interest, which wishes for triumph by choosing the wrong ways.

If Sebastian Vettel had not bought Aston Martin’s shares in his successful attempt to stay on track despite his impetuosity, perhaps Red Bull would have to keep Albon for longer. That’s because Racing Point would probably keep its drivers, as Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez have excellent dynamics as teammates and guarantee remarkable results in the races. As the Mexican is more experienced and then has a more extensive curriculum, he became the ideal candidate for Red Bull to continue its fight against Mercedes, besides satisfying the desire to fire a driver whose “mistake” was “not being” Verstappen.

 

This is how Red Bull thinks: Verstappen is above any driver. [8]

 

Although he said he never suffered racism in his personal or professional life, some fans and journalists remember a case that is at least suspect. At the 2019 Italian Grand Prix, the stewards decided to punish him for an incident with Carlos Sainz Jr., even though it was the Spaniard who threw the opponent off the track. That was one of the actions that led to suspects of racism on the stewards (the others were the unfair decisions with Stroll and Lewis Hamilton), which hurt the three colored drivers on the grid to benefit white athletes. Albon may not have noticed the “coincidences” in the Italian Grand Prix’s decisions, but these cannot be ignored. Also, when speculation began about his departure from Red Bull, much was said about a possible interest by the company’s owners in keeping him from being Thai. Sponsoring companies are indeed interested in compatriot athletes in their respective sports categories, but Albon should not be remembered just for his ethnic origins. His work and effort justified his presence in Formula One.

Alexander Albon is yet another driver condemned for his team’s irresponsibility even though he is innocent. A similar case was that of Sergey Sirotkin, who left Formula One with the stigma of a “pay driver” although he was not to blame for Williams’s crisis (which was proved in the following years to be by its engineers and managers). Those directly responsible for leaving the Red Bull driver are Vettel (for causing Pérez to quit Racing Point when he bought Aston Martin shares) and Marko (for demanding perfection from his drivers quickly). But what can we consider the “culprit” for Albon’s misfortune is Red Bull’s segregationist policy, which prefers to turn one driver into a prince (even though he doesn’t have the resources to do so) and the other into a beggar when he could turn them both into heroes. If they do not change their strategies, the Austrian team is in danger of going through a crisis similar to that of Ferrari, and other “Albons” will be sacrificed in the process.

 

In short. [9]

6- Read also:

 

 

7- Bibliography

 

 

8- Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article, except the montages, belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

Formula One: The Business Sport

Virtually all Formula One fans love the sport for its competition. A proof of this is the television audience rates in the 2010s: in Brazil, at least, the number of viewers was falling year after year during the Turbo Era, which marked the dominance of Sebastian Vettel, while it began to increase at record levels when it started a certain balance between Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull. However, fans get so emotional from the cars’ disputes that they forget about a definitive factor in Formula One: money.

I decided to do this article because of an unpleasant episode that happened to a friend of mine. In a Whatsapp group, she talked to a professor and, to reinforce her point of view, included a weblink to an article on the Motorsport website signed by Adam Cooper, which reported on the investments of Sebastian Vettel in Aston Martin. Behold, a man appears and then laughs at her comment, finding it absurd that someone says that a four-time champion buys a place in a team, even if the facts show just that. My friend responded well, arguing that Vettel was not indeed acting as a four-time champion (look at his accidents and results, which in no way resemble his champion days). But the man kept making fun of (and still questioned the journalistic quality of Cooper, an experienced and respected journalist in the area), ignoring a simple question: Why would anyone invest in a team in which they could not participate?

This story proved that the mentioned guy does not know Formula One well, but many fans also do not realize the sport’s financial character. It is no wonder that many journalists try to sell sensationalist headlines based on creating controversies about money instead of informing fans about the role of money in Formula One. As we propose to inform and raise awareness, here is the true face of world motorsport’s top category.

 

1- Expensive sport, investors rule

 

Anyone who accesses the Formula One website notes that there is a part reserved for partners, in other words, the sponsors. As Paulo Mourão well defined in his book The Economics of Motorsports: The Case of Formula One (2017), the costs of running each race are around millions of euros, as there are high material and human demands. Everything costs money in Formula One: the structures of the track and the paddock, the cars’ engineering, the physical preparation of the drivers, transport, the salary of the employees, among other components of the category. Many sectors benefit from this process (hospitality, fuel, tourism, etc.). As you may know, money does not grow on trees, so resources are needed to make all of this possible. Therefore, the sponsoring companies invest in the category for this purpose (other than Formula One revenues, such as selling tickets and consumables, taxes, transmission agreements, contribution rates for teams and organizers).

 

Bernie Ecclestone (the former owner of Formula One) and Chase Carey (the current CEO of Fórmula One). [1]

 

As well explained in the article Understand the Esteban Ocon Case (2019), the high costs of Formula One make it difficult for drivers who do not have significant financial support to cover the team’s expenses. Unfortunately, the sports media fails to teach the public that this is an intrinsic characteristic of the category. However, the following logic can explain it: the press vehicles are usually sponsored and avoid demolishing investments in general. Sensationalism ends up being a profitable business, as it holds more people’s attention and helps disseminate the materials. In other words: it is easier to label drivers and teams than to show that everything in Formula One is related to money.

 

2- The case of Sebastian Vettel

 

It is not uncommon to see drivers expanding their area of expertise. We had the cases of Jack Brabham, Jackie Stewart, and Emerson Fittipaldi as team owners; Niki Lauda was a shareholder and adviser to Mercedes, Alain Prost became an ambassador for Renault, among others. More recently, we had Lawrence Stroll, father of Lance, as a majority partner at Racing Point, and Nico Rosberg as the manager of Robert Kubica (although he quit the role months later). But the case of Sebastian Vettel has peculiarities that are fundamental to understanding the situation.

 

Fired from Ferrari, Vettel invested in Aston Martin. The event did not generate much controversy (if it were with other driver…) [2]

 

To start, except for Jack Brabham, all the drivers mentioned above (Fittipaldi, Prost, Roberg, and Stewart) entered the business world when they were no longer on the tracks. Sebastian Vettel is a member of the current grid and found himself on the edge of a precipice when Ferrari fired him. After all, as explained in the article The Dismissal of Sebastian Vettel, they were losing money and credibility with the German driver’s constant accidents. It is important to remember that the teams receive payments for their results, which are better when their drivers have consistent performances. It was useless to have won four titles with Red Bull in the early 2010s; nowadays, he was wasting good chances to score points with Ferrari. But Vettel did not give up and was willing to do anything to continue in Formula One, so he looked for an opportunity to invest in a team: he would make money as a driver and shareholder.

However, it could not be any team but one with great potential and real chances of triumph. Nobody wondered why Vettel did not buy Williams shares as Toto Wolff did? Or Haas? To realize why he got so interested in Racing Point, look at its growth in 2020. And unlike Wolff, who was thinking about marketing gains, Vettel wants to clean up his image and bring a glorious new chapter to his athletic career.

 

3- Conclusion

 

Even if the fans do not realize it, sport is a business. That is not the only case of Formula One (Brazilians will remember Neymar’s transfer from Santos to Barcelona, known as Neymargate). Sometimes the press does not instruct the fans properly because as much are people lay on the subject, it increases the chances of believing in sensationalist headlines and feeding a certain fanaticism through controversies. Therefore, many fans still do not realize that business is a much more significant component of Formula One than the competition itself.

 

The case of Neymar is one more proof of the inherent relation between money and sports. [3]

 

So, if you think that Sebastian Vettel does not need to buy seats because he was victorious in the past (even though this is, indeed, the current situation) or that Nico Rosberg managed Robert Kubica for charity, know that you are analyzing the case in a shallow way. And there is no point in laughing or trying to disqualify the other based on sex or age. Both sides must inform themselves to have a reasonable debate.


Bibliography

About Brazilian television audience rates

About the article itself

 

Note: Some sources consulted for this articles are present in the thesis “A Fórmula 1 no Brasil: Uma análise sobre a transmissão televisiva no país” (2020), that will be published by Faculdade Cásper Líbero (I gave sources for the author during the elaboration of the thesis and she gave me resources for my publication). I am clarifying his point so that there will be no accusations of plagiarism.

 

Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The weblinks where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

Who’s Lawrence Stroll? Lance’s Famous Daddy

Businessman Lawrence Stroll has been attracting sports media attention due to his investments in Formula One. From the entry of his youngest son Lance into the category to purchase the Force India team (now Racing Point and future Aston Martin), the Stroll name arouses curiosity in journalists and fans.

However, Formula One fans often end up believing in rumors and having false impressions about the Canadian. Consequently, they do not realize the true intentions of his detractors. This article will explain who Lawrence Stroll is through facts and show the motorsports lovers who the famous Daddy Stroll is.

 

1- The origin of the Strolls

 

The Stroll family, whose original name is Strulovitch, has origins in Russia. During the tsar era, there was intense persecution of Jews. One of the state policies was the pogroms: invasions of Jewish villages accompanied by raids, fires, and deaths. Soon, many Jews had hoped for new times with the revolutions of 1917 (including some leaders of the movements against Tsar Nicholas II, such as Leon Trotsky, were Jews). However, the Communist period did not bring peace to this community, especially in the regime of Josef Stalin. The persecutions not only continued but intensified.

As a part, many Jews fled Russia for democratic countries. A large part fled to the Americas. It was the case of Leo Strulovitch. Resuming life on the New Continent, Strulovitch and his wife Sandra (born in Canada) had two children: Lawrence and Randy. Lawrence decided to follow in his father’s footsteps, a clothing merchant who, years later, became an investor and introduced Ralph Lauren and Pierre Cardin’s feminine line in Canada. He studied, worked, set up his first businesses, and started his initial investments a few years later.

 

Lawrence Stroll and his partner Silas Chou. [1]

 

Specialists point to Lawrence Stroll as responsible for the popularization of the Polo Ralph Lauren brand in the European continent and the expansion of Michael Kors in the market. In 1989, Stroll and his partner Silas Chou founded Sportswear Holdings Limited, one of the largest companies in the fashion industry in history, as pointed out by Spanish journalist Jaime Cevallos. The company allowed the popularization of the Tommy Hilfiger brand, which gained ample space in the textile sector. In the 2000s, Stroll and Chou saw some brands that received their investments entered the Stock Exchange, like Michael Kors. The purchase and sale of shares earned a good fortune to entrepreneurs.

In August 1994, Stroll married Belgian fashion designer Claire-Anne Callens; on April 11 of the following year, their first daughter Chloe was born. Their second son, Lance, was born on October 29, 1998. Claire-Anne, the owner of the Callens brand, runs her business alone, and her stores are in many cities in Europe, the United States, and Canada.

 

Belgian fashin designer Claire-Anne Callens, Lawrence Stroll’s wife. [2]

 

2- Lawrence Stroll and sport: an ancient interaction

 

In the documentary W5: Lance Stroll Canada’s Top Formula 1 Racer, Lawrence Stroll reports that he raced in the Ferrari Challenge, a competition made by collectors who own the Ferrari model 348, around his 30 years and continued during the childhood of his children, who used to see their father at the event. That was the first insertion of Stroll into the sporting world, long before Lance thought about being a Formula One driver. Soon, the first myth about the entrepreneur falls apart: he would only have entered the motorsport business because his son wanted to be a driver.

Just as Lawrence acquired a taste for fashion by observing the work of his father Leo, Lance Stroll shares a love of the sport with his father. Motorsport is one of the most expensive sports categories that exist due to the cost of your labor and materials. Consequently, it is necessary to have financial support in the athletes’ careers, making it impossible for drivers without investments to enter from the basic categories to the highest. Possessing a fortune stemming from his textile business, Lawrence Stroll was one of his son’s supporters on his way into the sport.

 

Lawrence Stroll at the Ferrari challenge with his children. [3]

 

The training of a driver requires investment and athletic performance. In this case, it does not matter if the sponsorship comes from your family or not. A talented driver without a good investment cannot help the team’s budget. An athlete without aptitude does not achieve impressive results that translate into financial gains for the team. With these obstacles, it is almost impossible for a driver to reach the top category of world motorsport with only financial and frustrating performance. Athletes like this usually abandon their careers in lower stages, such as karting. Besides that, according to Nuno Sousa Pinto (sports director), FIA hampered drivers whose performances would not justify investments in their careers (the famous pay drivers). From 2016, to enter Formula One, they would have to score 40 points in the Super license.

 

3- Lance and Lawrence: father and son in Formula One

 

As the 2014 Italian Formula 4 champion (the first in the category), the Toyota Racing Series in 2015, and European Formula Three in 2016, Lance Stroll earned the points needed in the Super license to join Formula 1 in 2017 for the Williams team. Nuno Sousa Pinto points out that Stroll’s curriculum is more impressive than many young athletes who also entered Formula One and, even though having wealthy families, do not receive criticism. It reveals that, unfortunately, some journalists let personal preferences stand out from the expected professionalism and spread misinformation, ignoring one of the main principles of journalism: ethics.

Athletes need time to adapt to the category in which they work. The criticism of Lance Stroll during the pre-season was, from a journalistic point of view, hasty. The first half of 2017 confirmed it. Stroll scored his first points at the Canadian Grand Prix and finished third at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, breaking his first record: youngest rookie to score a podium. A pay driver would never get such impressive results because he would not have an aptitude for the sport, only financial contribution. At the Italian Grand Prix, Stroll broke the record for the youngest driver to start from the front row, proving his potential and talent for motorsport.

 

2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix’s podium. [4]

 

In an interview with Canadian broadcaster RDS in 2018, Lance Stroll stated that his father is a businessman and invests in ventures that he is sure will work. Therefore, from Prema Powerteam to Racing Point, Lawrence Stroll’s interest in teams goes far beyond interaction with his son: these are opportunities for high investments.

It is worth noting that the only drivers on the 2020 grid who came from more humble families are Esteban Ocon and Valtteri Bottas. Everyone else comes from families with high financial conditions: some from the middle class like Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, others from more affluent classes. However, without exception, all have financial contributions, whether from their families, companies, or even both.

Some drivers were born to entrepreneurs who work in different areas such as fashion, investments, automobiles, engineering, among others. Some examples are Lance Stroll, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo, and Sebastian Vettel. Others are children of athletes (Max Verstappen, Carlos Sainz Jr., and Pierre Gasly) and have privileged conditions since birth. The driver’s origin does not interfere with his performance because, as Lawrence Stroll defined, parents do not drive the car for their children.

 

4- The rumors: reporting before knowing the truth

 

In 2018, Force India was sold to the consortium led by Lawrence Stroll, also formed by Silas Chou, Michael de Picciotto, John McCaw Jr., John Idol, Jonathan Dudman, and Andre Desmarais. Then, the media speculated that Lance would move to the team immediately, as the engineering department of Williams failed in making a competitive car. When Esteban Ocon left the team after the season, his fans and some journalists immediately blamed the Strolls. They acted as if the French driver had his situation already assured before the sale of the team.

However, as Joas van Wingerden reported, Toto Wolff was already considering taking his patron from Force India. The negotiations failed because the ties between Ocon and Wolff were viewed with suspicion by the other teams, as stated by Christian Horner, the team principal of Red Bull. That was proved in 2019 when Ocon undid his ties with Wolff to get an opportunity to return to Formula One for Renault.

At the time of the purchase of Force India, Sergio Pérez was more attractive to investors than Esteban Ocon due to his consistency in scoring and sponsors. That, added to the intentions of the French driver manager, ensured that the Mexican was the best option to race alongside Lance Stroll. Also, the Canadian presented good prospects for the following seasons due to investments and his achievements in the debut year.

 

Lance Stroll and Sergio Pérez at Racing Point. [5]

 

In 2020 there was a similar situation. Sebastian Vettel did not have his contract with Ferrari renewed because his work was not meeting their expectations. Racing Point owners claimed they considered contracting him because of his past as a four-time champion (though it was proven later that the German bought shares from Aston Martin and ensured a financial investment to the team). Although it seemed apparent that the team would not choose Lance Stroll to give Vettel his seat, this is not just because he is the son of one of the owners. There are indeed companies that prioritize family ties. If their members are not prepared to take this kind of responsibility, the business will go bankrupt. But this is not the case observed in Lawrence Stroll: the success of his investments is due to care in decisions.

That means that family ties are not the deciding factor for choices like this. The discussion was about which of the two drivers, Stroll or Pérez, would have more chances to bring the team’s desired results in 2021. Both have impressive achievements, differing in career time in Formula One: Pérez has ten, and Stroll has four. In technical terms, both can be considered experienced drivers. However, the Mexican is more likely to retire early, as he is 30 years old and is in Formula One for a decade. Having both good sponsorships, sports investors find more prospects in young athletes, such as Stroll.

It perceives that business involves much deeper issues than just kinship ties. Investment in Formula One is high risk and therefore, decisions require caution. Of course, the inconstant narratives of Racing Point difficulted the understanding of the facts (added to the team’s refusal to admit that Vettel is now a partner, not only a driver), so laypeople in business can judge this is a case of a father protecting his son. That is why one must coldly analyze the facts to disclose the information correctly.

 

5- Conclusion

 

That is the story of Lawrence Stroll: a man who built his fortune with investment and entrepreneurship, works that require a lot of commitment and caution. If you expected the stereotype of a wealthy heir to significant capital, married to a socialite and a playboy child, look for someone else. Maybe you will find a driver’s father with that profile, but that is definitely not Lawrence Stroll.

 

Update (October 9th, 2020): As revealed by Adam Cooper in the website Motorsport (check here), Sebastian Vettel bought shares in Aston Martin before signing his contract. It proves what was said here: the hiring of Vettel instead of the renewal of Sergio Pérez was due to business, not a priviledge of Lance Stroll for being the son of the owner.

 

Bibliography

 

 

Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

Renault: A Past That Defiles

During the 2020 season, Renault F1 Team launched four protests against Racing Point F1 Team, claiming the rival had copied the braking system project of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Limited. The complaints started after the Styrian Grand Prix, in which the British team’s cars ended in front of the ones of the French team. Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll crossed the finish line in sixth and seventh place, while Daniel Ricciardo was the eighth finisher and Esteban Ocon retired. Since then, in every race that the Racing Point’s drivers surpassed Renault’s, the team commanded by controversial Cyril Abiteboul launched a new protest. Only at the British Grand Prix, with Ricciardo and Ocon ending in front of Stroll, there were no complaints.

A priori, it seems a childish attitude of Renault in wanting to disqualify its adversary because it cannot beat it on track. However, analyzing the team’s past, it is possible to note the flippancy and hypocrisy of the French team. Also, it raises the hypothesis that, besides wanting to rise at the championship standings without merit, it looks to erase its spotted history. Renault’s past is marked by cheating that, including, costed the career of a young Brazilian driver son of a three-time champion.

This article will take a brief retrospect of Renault’s history in Formula One to identify the team’s true goal in siking so low.

 

1- Obscure origins: collaboration with nazism

 

Renault was founded as an enterprise in 1899 by Louis Renault, an industrial from Paris. In 1938, the businessman reunited personally with Adolf Hitler and, in the following year, became one of the leading suppliers of the French army. The French resistance started to reject him due to his apparent collaboration with Vichy’s government, which was in service to the Nazis. In 1942, the British Air Force bombed Renault’s facilities to weaken the supply of the troops allied to Germany. Two years later, Louis Renault was arrested under the accusation of collaboration with the Nazis. The French government expropriated his factories.

 

Louis Renault, founder of Renault and collaborator of the Nazi regime. (Photo: Famous People) [1]

 

Louis Renault’s figure still causes controversy among historians. Some claim that he supported nazism for financial interests; others say he was forced to collaborate with Vichy’s regime. Anyway, the enterprise had an active role in World War II, supplying the French army, Hitler’s allied at the time. Many European car manufacturers had similar experiences, mainly the German ones, and nowadays try to erase this spot in their past. Renault, it is not different.

 

2- Renault as a team: a disastrous beginning

 

Louis Renault’s brother, Michel, was passionate about racing. It aroused the enterprise’s interest in the sport. However, Renault entered Formula One as a team only in 1977. Its first year in the category was a failure. Racing with just one driver, Jean-Pierre Jabouille, the Équipe Renault Elf ended the season without points or a place in the standings. Among the eight races he would participate in, Jabouille withdrew from three, retired from four, and did not qualify for one.

 

Jean-Pierre Jabouille: Renault’s first driver. (Photo: Carthrottle) [2]

 

In the following year, the team scored its first points at the United States Grand Prix, which Jabouille finished in fourth place. Renault was the 12th place in the final standings, with three points. The team’s first victory happened at the 1979 French Grand Prix, whichF put the team in sixth place among the constructors, but was also the only race that Renault scored points.

 

3- 80’s: from Heaven to the first hiatus

 

Like Williams, Renault had good seasons in the ’80s. Racing with Jean-Pierre Jabouille and René Arnoux, Renault was fourth in 1980 (with 38 points). In the following year, Alain Prost replaced Jabouille, and the team ended the championship in third place, with 54 points, repeating the position in 1982 with 62 points. American Eddie Cheever replaced Arnoux in 1983, becoming the first non-French driver to compete for the team, which was the runner-up that year with 79 points.

 

Alain Prost was one of Renault’s driver in the ’80s. Currently, he is one of its ambassadors. (Photo: Renault) [3]

 

In 1984 Renault was the fifth place in the final standings, with 34 points, and in the following year ended in seventh place among the constructors, with 16 points. Patrick Tambay was its main driver in these years, being Derek Warwick’s teammate in 1984 and François Henault’s in 1985. In the following year, Renault stopped participating in Formula One as a team, limiting itself to the engine supplier of Lotus, Ligier, and Tyrrell teams. In 1987, it ceased to provide engines, entering a hiatus that was only ended two years later, when it equipped the runner-up, Williams.

 

4- 90’s: success with the champions and the second hiatus

 

During almost all the ’90s, Renault kept as an engine supplier in Formula One. Its most well-succeed partnerships were with Williams and Benetton, which won titles between 1992 and 1997 (being five championships won by Williams and one by Benetton). However, in 1998, though the height of its engines, Renault left Formula One once again. It came back again only in 2001, as the engine supplier of Benetton, which ended the year in the seventh place, with ten points.

 

Michael Schumacher with Benetton in 1994. The team used Renault engines. (Photo: Michael Schumacher’s official website) [4]

 

Until then, Renault’s competitors faced the team’s attitude as strange. It is known that motorsport is a sports category with a lot of costs, but the results obtained by the French team’s clients would justify the investments, as the rewards paid by FIA would be high. In the following decades, Renault avoided hiatus, but even though its results had got better, its participation in Formula One was accompanied by controversial episodes.

 

5- 2000’s: the height, the ruins, and Singaporegate (or Crashgate)

 

In 2002, Renault returned to Formula One as a team, under the name of Mild Seven Renault F1 Team. Its drivers were Jarno Trulli and Jenson Button, who earned 23 points and put the team in fourth place. In the following year, which the team repeated the standing position (with 88 points), Button was replaced by one of the most controversial drivers of the history of the sport: Spanish Fernando Alonso. Though responsible for Renault’s best moments, Alonso was also one of the characters of such a contentious episode that affected many teams and drivers in that decade.

 

Fernando Alonso next to Michael Schumacher at the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix. That year marked Renault’s first title in Formula One. (Photo: EssentiallySports) [5]

 

After finishing the 2004 season in third place, Renault got its first title in 2005. Alonso had seven wins, 15 podiums, and one more finish in the scoring zone, earning 133 points. His teammate Giancarlo Fisichella scored 58 points, with one win, three podiums, and eight more finishes in the scoring zone. Besides the title, it was the first time Renault surpassed 100 points in a season, getting 191 in total. In 2006, Alonso repeated his feat, becoming a two-time champion with seven wins, 14 podiums, and two more finishes in the scoring zone. Fisichella got 7 points, with one win, five podiums, and 11 more finished in the scoring zone. Having scored 206 points in 2006, Renault lost Alonso in the following year to McLaren, in which the Spanish drove alongside rookie Lewis Hamilton, but received him back in 2008. Even with a good result (third place among the constructors, with 51 points), the French team passed through its first big problem in its history at the Canadian Grand Prix, in which Fisichella was disqualified after leaving the pit lane while the red light was on.

 

Giancarlo Fisichella driving for Renault. (Photo: Pinterest) [6]

 

But Fisichella’s penalty was far away from the spoilage that would happen in 2008. Racing under the name of  ING Renault F1 Team, the team hired Nelson Piquet Jr., son of three-time champion Nelson Piquet, to replace Fisichella. In that year, Alonso was far from his brilliant yore results, and Piquet Jr. (known in Brazil as ‘Nelsinho’) faced difficulties to score. Then, at the 15th round of the season, the managing director Flavio Briatore put into practice a fanciful plan for the Spanish return to win. He ordered Nelsinho to crash his car at turn 17 to force the safety car deployment. With this maneuver, the grid changed drastically. Fernando Alonso won the race, with Nico Rosberg in second place and Lewis Hamilton in third. Felipe Massa, who had led a good part of the race, was the most affected in the short term: crossed the finish line in 13th place, losing much time in a disastrous pit stop made in a hurry by Ferrari’s mechanics. Some supporters and analysts claim that a Massa’s win in Singapore, which was taken as a fact until Nelsinho’s crash, would earn him the title that Hamilton won.

 

Nelson Piquet Jr. (‘Nelsinho’) crashing at turn 17 at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix, known as ‘Singaporegate’ and ‘Crashgate’. (Photo: EssentiallySports) [7]

 

Nelsinho was fired after the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix. His father recommended he denounce Briatore’s scheme, as it was not fair for the young driver to be hindered by an order from his superiors. An inquiry was launched, resulting in the Briatore’s ban for life from Formula One and Pat Symonds’, Renault’s engineering director, for five years. Alonso was absolved after saying on trial that he did not know about the scheme. The French court interceded for Renault and revoked the bans, but Briatore and Symonds agreed not to return to Formula One.

 

Flavio Briatore: Renault’s team principal in 2006 and mentor of the Crashgate. (Photo: Gero Breloer/EPA) [8]

 

If, at that time, the teams had acted as Renault acted in 2020, the French team would have been banned from Formula One like Briatore. The case, nicknamed ‘Singaporegate’ and ‘Crashgate,’ not only benefited Alonso, as it directly harmed Massa’s struggle for the title and Nelsinho’s career.

 

6- Renault F1 Team: an old wolf in new sheep’s clothing

 

Despite the vexation of the Singaporegate, Renault was not banned from Formula One. With its main sponsors, the ING group and the Mutua Madrileña, exiting due to the controversy, the team adopted the name of Renault F1 Team after the 2010 season. Having its driver duo formed by Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov, the team started the decade standing in fifth place among the constructors, with 163 points. The following year, it fused with Lotus that lasted until 2014 (the word ‘Renault’ got out of the team’s name in 2012). In 2015, Lotus raced its last year in Formula One, using Mercedes engines. One year later, Renault got out of backstage and returned to the category as a team. Its main client, Red Bull (that won four titles between 2010 and 2013 with Sebastian Vettel), continued using Renault’s engines but named TAG-Heuer.

The first year of the French team’s new return was not so good. Its drivers were Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer. Scoring in just three races, Renault was the ninth place among the constructors, with only nine points. The following year was better, with sixth place in the final standings and 57 points. Nico Hülkenberg replaced Palmer in the middle of the season. In 2018, Carlos Sainz Jr. joined the team seeking out opportunities to grow in his career. Scoring on more occasions, Renault got fourth place in the championship.

 

Nico Hülkenberg and Daniel Ricciardo were disqualified from the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix. (Photo: Instagram) [9]

 

In the following year, however, the situation was quite different. Even counting with good drivers, the car’s performance showed many problems, preventing Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg from reaching better positions. Its worse moment was at the Japanese Grand Prix, from which its two drivers were disqualified due to irregularities in the car. Renault scored 91 points, ending 2019 with fifth place. In 2020, with Hülkenberg’s departure, the French team hired a driver nearly as polemic as Alonso: Esteban Ocon. The Hispano-French had stayed of Formula One for a year after his choices and decisions had cost him chances practically all the teams (to know more, read Understand the Esteban Ocon case).

Ending 2019 in front of Racing Point, Renault did not comply with its rival’s excellent performance at the beginning of 2020. It accused the British team of copying Mercedes’ systems, aiming to disqualify Sergio Pérez and Lance Stroll from the concluded races until then and guarantee extra points to Ricciardo e Ocon. The “denounce” has two faces, which will be exposed right now.

 

7- Reporting Racing Point: the pot calling the kettle black

 

If there were indeed irregularities, Racing Point should be held responsible for its acts and suffer the proper sanctions. After all, no team is above the regulation. However, FIA’s judgments tend to be questionable. A good example was the body’s collaboration with Ferrari, when the federation shrouded the alterations of the Italian team’s car in 2019, opening space to doubts concerning the adjustments’ legality. Of the nine remaining teams, seven joined in a collective complaint against the agreement between Ferrari and FIA (only the client teams of Ferrari engines, Alfa Romeo and Haas, stayed out; however, Mercedes removed the complaint some weeks later). The explanations of the federation’s president, Jean Todt (former team principal of Ferrari), were not convincing. He even claimed he could not reveal more details without the Italian team’s approval.

 

FIA’s famous double standard [10]

 

As Racing Point was one of the integrants of the collective complaint, Ferrari was one of the teams to intrude on Renault’s protest (even the French team also being part of the complaint), implying that FIA should punish the British team. McLaren, Racing Point’s rival in 2020, insinuated that there was a copy, but it did not deserve any sanction. Mercedes denied its participation in Racing Point’s project. This one, in turn, always alleged its innocence, claiming FIA itself inspected the development of each part of the car.

On August 7th, FIA announced that Racing Point would lose 15 points and receive a fine, but its drivers’ scoring keeps unchanged. However, the decision is subject to appeal. With this, Renault and Ferrari were benefited, raising their positions in the constructors’ standings. The denounce by itself seems to aim at justice, as one of the competitors would be violating the rules. However, why just Renault, whose past was marked by scandals, was responsible for the protest? If so many teams dared to comment on the case, implying Racing Point’s fault, why none of them moved the protest? The answer is simple: Renault knows it cannot produce a car to compete with Racing Point and McLaren in 2020. Therefore, recurring to Flavio Briatore’s values, it decided to snatch a “victory” by force, messing with the constructors’ standings. The body that judged the case also would not be the most appropriate to this function, once it already has a background of favoring Ferrari. However, it is the only that Formula One has to deal with situations like that.

 

The bottom line [11]

 

8- Conclusion

 

Renault built its history on regrettable episodes: the brand’s founder was a Nazi regime’s collaborator; the team passed through two hiatus between the ’80s and the ’90s; its leaders destroyed Nelson Piquet Jr.’s career to Fernando Alonso have one win in 2008, disrupting Felipe Massa’s way to the title. In the ‘2010s, it hid its name for fear of the embarrassment of being remembered for the Singaporegate (or Crashgate). Nowadays, unable to withstand its rivals, it uses judicial ways to raise its position in the championship.

If Renault were indeed hungry for justice, it would apologize to all it harmed through its history and, at least, get out of Formula One and stop tainting the sport with its shameful participation. Moral values it what this team cannot claim, as it wishes its rival to assume a coadjuvant role in sport and be known more by the memes made by rival teams’ supporters than by results. History proves that Renault’s true intention is to win without merit and by decisions out of the sportive events. Following the logic, the cars don’t have to go to the track if the court will decide the championships. If there is something, Renault definitely cannot accuse Racing Point is acting in bad faith, as the French team is already a specialist in this.

 

Coherent, no? [12]

 

9- Bibliography

 

 

10- Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article, except the montage, belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

The Fall of Williams: From Height To Ruins

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic that caused the cancellation and postponement of many races of the 2020 season, two announcements alarmed the sports media. One of them was the dismissal of Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari. The other is related to the severe financial crisis that affects Williams. Champion in the past, the British team, led by Claire Williams, underwent many bad management periods that culminated in a potential bankruptcy. Amid so much speculation, we will unravel the reasons that brought Williams to the current situation.

 

1- Origins: from Lady Virginia’s love to the first crisis

 

Williams’s origins come from two loves: Virginia Berry for Frank Williams and his for cars. Having come from a humble family, Frank joined a group of wealthy friends who loved races. To earn some money, he worked buying and selling car parts. Therefore, founded Frank Williams Racing Cars in 1966 and entered the automobile market, selling cars to drivers from diverse countries, mainly Italians. In the following year, he met Virginia, a wealthy but married woman. Both started a relationship, and she got divorced from her husband to be with Frank. After participating in some Formula Three rounds, known for his dangerous and risky way of driving, Frank turned Frank Williams Racing Cars into a Formula One team, having Piers Courage as the main driver.

 

Piers Courage, Frank Williams’ trusted driver. (Photo: nobresdogrid.com.br) [1]

 

However, in 1970, Courage died in a tragic accident at the Dutch Grand Prix. His death made Frank Williams very sad. In the following years, being renamed Williams FW by 1973, the team’s performance fell drastically and was criticized by the press. The cars were made with second-hand materials due to the team’s low budget. Having married Frank officially in 1974, Virginia made many sacrifices to keep the team, including selling her apartment. However, both the Williams family and the team experienced miserable days. With poor structure, the cars did not reach good results; then Formula One paid a low amount of money to the team. Consequently, there were not many resources to invest in cars’ improvement.

Deep in debt, Frank had no choice unless to accept the offer of oil magnate Walter Wolf and sell 60% of the team in 1976. At the end of that year, Wolf removed Frank from administration and bought his part, renaming the team as Walter Wolf Racing.

 

Walter Wolf: the first investor to resolve a Williams crisis. (Photo: reporter.si) [2]

 

2- Restart: Patrick Head and the new Williams

 

In 1977, Frank Williams signed with Belgian brewery Belle Vue, sponsor of driver Patrick Nève, and founded with Patrick Head the Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited. As an engineer, Head was one of the responsible for the technological advance that allowed Williams’s rebirth. The team’s first year was not very encouraging, ending the season without points. However, better times were coming.

In the following year, Alan Jones got Williams’s first podium, with a third-place at United States Grand Prix. Five round later, at Great Britain, his teammate Clay Regazzoni guaranteed the first victory of the team’s history. Jones was victorious in Germany, Austria, Netherlands, and Canada and Regazzoni got podiums in Italy and Canada, ending both races in third place. Scoring 75 points, Williams became runner-up in the constructors’ championship, staying 38 behind first-place Ferrari.

 

Alan Jones: Williams’s first champion. (Photo: Motorsport) [3]

 

The ’80s marked Williams’s domain in Formula One. Having Alan Jones, and Carlos Reutemann in 1980, the team won for the first time as the drivers’ championship ad the constructors one. Jones was champion and Reutemann was third-place. The following year, the team was again constructors champion, with its drivers scoring 95 points (49 from Reutemann, runner-up, and 46 from Jones, third-place). In 1982, Keke Rosberg replaced Jones e became champion with 44 points. Getting six podiums, Rosberg was known as “one-victory champion,” as the only race he won that year was the Swiss Grand Prix, but his constancy in scoring guaranteed the title. Williams was fourth in the constructors’ championship, repeating it the following year when Jacques Laffite replaced Reutemann.

Ending sixth in 1984 and third in 1985, Williams returned to win the constructors championship in 1986, having Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet (two-time champion with Brabham in 1981 and 1983) as its drivers. Mansell ended the season as runner-up, and Piquet was third-place. The following year, the Brazilian was champion and British was the runner-up. Williams conquered its fourth constructors’ championship. The team ended the decade with a seventh-place in 1988 and a second-place in 1989.

 

Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet: highlights in Williams’s golden age. (Photo: Esportes em Ação) [4]

 

3- Frank’s accident and the rise of Claire

 

On March 8th, 1986, Frank Williams suffered a severe car accident in France, becoming a quadriplegic. However, he kept active as the team’s director. The team repeated success in the ’90s, winning constructors championship in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1997, and drivers championship in 1992 (with Nigel Mansell), 1993 (with Alain Prost), 1996 (with Damon Hill), and 1997 (with Jacques Villeneuve). In 1994, the team suffered a significant loss: Ayrton Senna died in an accident at San Marino Grand Prix.

Father of Jonathan, Claire, and Jaime, Frank did not trust his children to rule the team, but his daughter was always interested in the family business. Joining the communication department in 2002, Claire took the sector’s highest post eight years later. In 2012, Frank abdicated the function of team principal, and Claire took office the following year, remaining until nowadays. She is also responsible for departments of marketing, communication, and the commercial business of Williams. Her brother Jonathan also works in the team. Ele played management roles until the rise of Claire.

 

Claire Williams: funders’ daughter and current team’s CEO. (Photo: Pinterest) [5]

 

4- The second crisis: Toto Wolff saves the team

 

At the beginning of the 2000s, Williams kept itself in a good position among the constructors. It ended in third-place in 2000 and 2001, and second-place in 2002 and 2003. After 2004, the team’s performance was going down, varying between fourth and eight-place until 2009. During this period, at least one driver left Williams by year. Among the most famous names of the team in that decade stand out Juan Pablo Montoya, Mark Webber, and Nico Rosberg.

It was clear there was something wrong with the team. The agreements with engine suppliers Cosworth (2006) and Toyota (2007-2009) did not yield good results. Earning less than in glory times, Williams had not enough resources for good upgrades in carr. However, in 2009, entrepreneur Toto Wolff bought some of the team’s shares and started to integrate its board of directors. It was the perfect opportunity to get out of the crisis.

 

Toto Wolff: Williams’s second savior. (Photo: EsporteNET) [6]

 

In 2010, deluded with Toyota, Williams returned to use Cosworth engines, signing a long-term agreement. However, without good results, the  partnership ended the following year. In 2012, the team started to use Renault engines, but performance kept well below the expected. Pastor Maldonado guaranteed the last Williams’ victory in its history at Spanish Grand Prix in that same year. Toto Wolff was named executive director, and his wife Susie was hired as a test driver. Williams had the opportunity to have, officially, the first woman in Formula One since Desiré Wilson, who drove in 1980. However, internal barriers impeded the realization of this fact, besides necessary changes in the engineering department. With this, Williams varied between sixth and ninth-place among the constructors between 2010 and 2013.

 

Pastor Maldonado’s win at the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, the last of Williams. (Photo: CarsNB.com) [7]

 

5- Wolff’s exit and third crisis: Lawrence Stroll saves the team

 

In 2013, seeing himself with tied hands, Toto Wolff sold his shares in Williams and joined Mercedes, buying 30% of the team’s shares. Claire Williams took office as team principal and management positions. In the following year began the German team’s domain in Formula One that remains until nowadays. In 2014 and 2015, counting with Mercedes engines, Williams got back to the constructors’ podium, ending third-place. However, the team’s financial administration still had problems. Risking to close after the 2016 season, which ended fifth-place, the team needed more investments. Among its drivers, Felipe Massa announced his retirement at the end of that year, Valtteri Bottas remained in the team.

Still, in 2016, garment entrepreneur Lawrence Stroll, father of that year European Formula Three champion Lance Stroll, announced he would invest in Williams. Lance replaced Massa. However, with Nico Rosberg’s retirement, Wolff called Bottas, his patronized, to replace him at Mercedes. To complete the transference, Frank Williams’ daughter required Paddy Lowe back to the team, and he took the engineering department. According to Massa’s reports, Claire phoned him at Christman to return to the team to replace the Finnish driver.

 

Lance Stroll and his father Lawrence, Williams’s third savior. (Photo: F1Sport.it) [8]

 

In 2017, Williams had a medium start. Massa got some scores, and Stroll faced difficulties, with mechanical failures in the first race and accidents caused respectively by Sergio Pérez and Carlos Sainz Jr. in the following ones. The media started to attack the Canadian driver, blaming him for the team’s problems. Even before the season starts, during tests in Barcelona, Claire dared to blame Stroll’s crashes for the cancelation of one of the teams’ tests, which incited furious supporters to attack the young driver at social networks in a coward, unfair way. Lowe always criticized him in the press. At the same time, the same media that was delighted with a woman as a team principal did not have the same reaction with the debut of an Amerindian driver at the category. However, at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Stroll had the only podium of the team and Williams’s last until nowadays, with a third place. With this result, the team jumped to fifth place in the championship, earning a better bonus than the previous year.

 

Lance Stroll’s podium at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix: Williams’s last one. (Photo: Formula 1) [9]

 

Unfortunately, Stroll’s contribution to the team was not adequately recognized by people. In 2018, after Massa’s permanent retirement, Williams hired Sergey Sirotkin to replace him. Even with one more sponsor, Russian bank SMP, the engineering department did not know how to convert the investment in upgrades in the car. Consequently, both drivers had much difficulty in scoring. The media returned to attack Stroll, exonerating the engineers of any guilt for the bad performance of the cars. Some journalists ignored journalistic ethics (taught at college) and dared to use liable-to-prosecute-terms as “questionable talent drivers,” ignoring Stroll’s achievements in the previous year and championships precedent to his debut in Formula One and disregarding Sirotkin’s lack of experience. The media simply “forgot” that who makes the cars are the engineers, not the drivers, and that the team’s budget comes from sponsors (so investors are always welcome). Also, journalists used the argumentum ad hominem fallacy to attack the drivers and acquit Claire Williams and Paddy Lowe (see the source on the article written by Kadu Gouvêa at the bibliography).

 

Paddy Lowe, Williams’s technical director from 2017 to 2019. (Photo: Jornal Cruzeiro do Sul) [10]

 

6- Stroll’s exit and fourth crisis: masks start to fall

 

In mid-2018, Lawrence Stroll set up a consortium of investors and bought the Force India team. Indian authorities wanted its previous owner Vijay Mallya for alleged corruption. Lawrence kept Lance in Williams until the end of the year, even aware of his son’s difficulties with a nothing competitive car and his crucifixion by media. The Canadian driver moved to the new team, renamed Racing Point, the following year (see “Understand the Esteban Ocon Case”).

With Stroll out of the team, Williams lost its biggest scapegoat. The critics, believing the Canadian entrepreneur and his son were to blame for the team’s crisis, trusted that the new hirings would bring the team back to its golden age. However, with Stroll’s exit, Williams had the worst performance ever. Robert Kubica was the only one to score, making one point at German Grand Prix. George Russell, Toto Wolff’s sponsored, finished season without points. However, no media organ called him “pay driver,” even came from a wealthy family and not having chances to justify investment in his work, generating suspects of racism by media (see “The Lance Stroll Case: An Amerindian in Formula One”) .

 

George Russell: European White, he is not criticized by media even being unable to score. (Photo: AutoSport) [11]

 

Enduring in the last position of the championship with the lower bonus of its history, Williams found itself back in a severe crisis. Shortly at the beginning of 2019, seeing media now could not blame Stroll anymore and that Russell and Kubica could not get out of the last places, Lowe asked to exit from his functions claiming personal reasons. The engineering department kept failing at its job, being the most notable case of the delay in months of Kubica’s adapted steering wheel. Finally, the pressure fell into Claire. At the end of the year, Kubica was fired, and Nicholas Latifi, a Canadian driver of Iranian descent, was chosen as his substitute. Latifi had not even debuted, and some fans accused him of being a pay driver and made xenophobic offenses against Canada. There was even no statement of Williams about this.

 

Nicholas Latifi: had not debuted yet, and furious fans already blamed him for Williams’s fourth crisis. (Photo: tomadadetempo.com) [12]

 

In 2020, amid the paralyzation of the team’s activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Claire admitted that they could sell the entire Williams. Toto Wolff acquired 5% of the team’s shares in June.

 

7- After all, who is to blame?

 

Unlike what some journalists tried to instill at fans’ heads, Williams’s crisis’ fault is NOT Lawrence Stroll’s, even less Lance Stroll’s, and nor of any other investor or driver to whom the media dishonestly name as “pay driver.” No one is to blame except Claire Williams herself. As the daughter of the team’s founder and its gestor, Claire should manage the financial part better to ensure control in her hands. However, excessive spending that did not convert into results on track let the team depend on extern investments. Now, if Williams’s problem was money, how can it be possible to blame who put money on its cash? Toto Wolff and Lawrence Stroll did nothing but to HELP the British team at the moment it most needed support. Drivers and investors do not make cars; engineers do. Besides, the engineering department led by Paddy Lowe had enough money to develop a good project but failed considerably.

The fact that Lance being the son of Lawrence means absolutely nothing on the subject of Williams’s financial crisis. The Amerindian driver’s participation guaranteed to the team the fifth-place at the constructors’ championship in 2017 due to his third place at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, justifying his father’s investment in the team. It is evident that the car’s performance is the engineer’s responsibility and financial control if for the team owners. Still, many people do not see it and, by ignorance of lack of character, blame Stroll. The media’s insistence in condemning him for all the problems that happen in current Formula One, since internal issues of the teams until the ones of the category as a whole, reflects two phenomena that follow the history of humankind and that caused the most significant tragedies.

 

 

This Einstein quote says a lot about the way the media treats Lance Stroll. (Photo: GoodReads) [13]

 

One of them is antisemitism, as powerful groups always blame Jews for the world’s misfortunes and do until now. As current society is more conscious of discrimination, the media only accuses Stroll and omits his ethnic origins (the reason for the persecution) to avoid being retaliated by public opinion. Some fans accept the speech because they go along with these ideas; others are easily fooled, reflecting what was previewed by Harold Lasswell in the 20th century: some passively accept everything the media says, without questioning anything. In the 21st century, Ben Shapiro proved the existence of this face of media, noting that it ignores the facts and shows the narrative as it wished to fulfill its agenda.

The other phenomenon is structural racism. Even with good financial conditions, Lance Stroll still belongs to minority groups (as he is Jewish and Amerindian), so the media will favor historically privileged groups (Europeans and Whites). With this, proving Shapiro’s analysis, it ignores Claire Williams’s management incompetence to blame Stroll, even without arguments and proofs. Its speech ends prevailing because many fans do not want to think, as it is more comfortable to accept what is said without checking the facts. For some people, it can seem absurd that racial questions are made in Formula One’s context, mainly in the case of a team’s bankruptcy. However, it is humanly impossible to ignore the unhealthy, unfair persecution the media and some fans do with Lance Stroll, and people must unmask the reasons.

 

8- Conclusion

 

Williams’s bad financial management put the team in four crises throughout its history. Even with suitable investments and sponsorship, the engineering department failed successively to upgrade the car so the drivers could fight for good positions and put the team back to the top of the championship. The media preferred to blame who was helping instead of the responsible ones for the car’s inefficiency. The hostile internal atmosphere keeps the team from potential investors under the fear of facing barriers to decisions (and if they belong to an ethnic minority, they risk being crucified by the press and fans and blamed by issues out of their responsibility). Then, for Williams, there is just the sale of the team or learn with its pasts and make a radical change in its attitude.

 

Williams’s problem: it always bites the hand that feeds it. [14]

 

Update: On March 21th, 2020, it was announced that Williams was sold to the American company Dorilton Capital.

 

9- Bibliography

 

 

10- Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article, except the montage, belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

 

The Dismissal of Sebastian Vettel: Justice or Injustice?

On May 12th, 2020, Scuderia Ferrari announced that it would not renew German driver Sebastian Vettel’s contract. The decision shocked the press and supporters, as two main characteristics have spotlighted Vettel’s performance in recent years: his disputes for the title in 2017 and 2018 and his constant accidents. In 2019, the German ended behind his teammate, Monegasque Charles Leclerc, on final results, with Leclerc being on the second year of his career and first with the Maranello-based team.

During the 2018 season, some fans considered that retiring would be more indicated to the German driver. Others used Vettel’s glorious past as a four-time champion to justify his permanence in Formula One. So, after all, was Ferrari’s decision fair or unfair? To answer this question, let’s make a retrospect of Sebastian Vettel’s career and rate if his performance was worthy of Ferrari’s investments.

 

1- The beginning: a young talent enters Formula One

 

Sebastian Vettel debuted in Formula One at the 2007 United States Grand Prix for Sauber, replacing Polish driver Robert Kubica, who had suffered a severe accident on the previous round in Canada. Vettel finished eighth, the last place of the scoring zone at the time, scoring one point. In the same year, he was hired by Toro Rosso to continue the season from Hungarian Grand Prix. His second and last scoring was a fourth-place at the Chinese Grand Prix. He finished the championship at 14th place, with six points.

As of 2008, Vettel’s star started to shine more. Scoring in nine races, the German had a triumphant victory at the Italian Grand Prix, being the first time a Toro Rosso driver won a race. At this same round, he broke two records: “youngest Grand Prix pole position winner” and “youngest driver to score a double” (pole position and race win). He finished 2008 in eighth place, with 35 points.

 

Sebastian Vettel’s first victory, at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix. (Photo: MAXF1.net) [1]

 

2- Joining Red Bull: the apex and the fall

 

In 2009, Vettel was hired by Red Bull Racing team. He broke two more records: “youngest driver to score a hat-trick” (pole position, race win, and fastest lap) and “youngest World Drivers’ Championship runner-up.” With four wins, eight podiums, and four more scores, he got 84 points, 11 lesser than champion Jenson Button (from Brawn). His results were so impressive that he turned into Red Bull’s bet to dispute the title.

Racing alongside Australian driver Mark Webber, his teammate since his first year with the Austrian team, Sebastian Vettel became champion for four consecutive years. In 2010, with five wins, ten podiums, and five more scores, he got 256 points and guaranteed the first title of a Red Bull driver. In 2011, Vettel conquered 392 points, 11 wins, 17 podiums, and one more score. The following year, he had 281 points, five wins, ten podiums, and scored on seven more occasions. His last title was conquered in 2013, with 13 wins, 16 podiums, and he scored in two more races. Vettel’s four titles meant two things for Red Bull: the engineering department has succeeded in their turbo engine development, and the team had one of the most talented drivers in the sport’s history.

 

Sebastian Vettel’s win at the 2013 German Grand Prix. (Photo: Motor Authority) [2]

 

In his four titles’ years, Vettel broke nine records he keeps until nowadays. In 2010 he became the “youngest Formula One World Drivers’ champion,” at the age of 23. In 2011, he broke the ones of “most podium finishes in a season” (17 at all), “most pole positions in a season” (15 at all), “most laps led in a season” (739 at all), “most wins from pole position in a season” (totalizing nine) and “youngest driver to score a grand slam” (pole position, win, fastest lap and led every lap). In 2013, he broke the records of “most consecutive wins” (nine at all), “most consecutive grand slams” (two at all), and “most wins in a season” (totalizing 13). Vettel also got three more records, “youngest driver to led at least one lap,” “youngest driver to score a podium,” and “youngest Grand Prix winner,” but these were surpassed some years later by Max Verstappen. With these achievements, Vettel was considered the biggest winner of the Turbo Era in Formula One.

 

With Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel won four championships and got nine records he keeps until nowadays. (Photo: Sports Mole) [3]

 

But in 2014, the situation changed drastically. ith Mark Webber’s exit, the team chose his fellow countryman Daniel Ricciardo to replace him as Vettel’s teammate. If before it, Vettel’s mastery was evident, he passed to be left behind by the team in favor of the new teammate. His car in 2014 had little power to reach previous years’ results. By contrast, Ricciardo’s car enjoyed perfect conditions, allowing him to get his first win at Canadian Grand Prix. Getting only four podiums and 12 more scores, Vettel finished the year in fifth place of the championship, with 167 points. Ricciardo finished third, with 238 points. In the same year that Red Bull decided to prefer a new driver, the team lost leadership in Formula One. Lewis Hamilton’s title (the second of his career) started Mercedes mastery, which persists nowadays.

 

Red Bull’s preference for Daniel Ricciardo not only harmed Sebastian Vettel’s 2014 season, as it allowed Mercedes to be the new dominant team. (Photo: Marca) [4]

 

3- Going to Ferrari: a good deal?

 

Seeing Vettel’s deception with Red Bull, Ferrari made him a proposal to join the Italian team replacing Spanish driver Fernando Alonso. The Maranello-based team could not win the drivers championship since 2007 and the constructors’ one since 2008. Unhappy with Alonso’s failure, Ferrari’s officers bet on the young four-time champion to bring back the team’s times of glory.

Vettel’s contract with Red Bull would end at the end of 2015, but Ferrari paid his severance to have him in its team. Racing alongside Finnish driver Kimi Räikkönen, the last champion with the Italian team, the German returned to the drivers’ top-3. Conquering three wins, 13 podiums, and scoring in four more races, he finished the year at third place in the ranking, with 278 points, 44 lesser than runner-up Nico Rosberg and 103 lesser than champion Lewis Hamilton (both of Mercedes). Though without getting another title, his position in 2015 relieved Vettel. He was in a more competitive car, being the team’s priority, and was closer to compete for the champion trophy.

 

With Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel retrieved chances to fight for the title. (Photo: O Globo) [5]

 

But in 2016, destiny brought another big rival: Max Verstappen. The Dutch driver had debuted by Toro Rosso in 2015. The following year was promoted to Red Bull replacing Russian driver Daniil Kvyat (fired because of his weak performance and his constant accidents, even harming Vettel at the Russian Grand Prix). Verstappen has the same characteristics as the German driver: he was young, fearless, audacious, brave, and had no fear of taking risks. Responsible for breaking three records that belonged to Vettel, the Dutch driver held intense disputes with Ferrari’s driver. The most emblematic ones were for the Mexican Grand Prix podium and the Brazilian Grand Prix fifth place (Verstappen ended third). The young driver nearly surpassed Vettel in the championship, ending only eight points behind the German, who finished the year at fourth place in the ranking, with 212 points.

In 2017, Vettel was highlighted again, starting the championship with a win at Australian Grand Prix. The dispute for the title with Hamilton kept balanced for 13 races, with the German having some advantage. However, at Singapore Grand Prix, Ferrari’s craving for victory ended harming its primary driver. Starting from pole position, alongside Max Verstappen, Vettel and Räikkönen squeezed the Dutch driver, which caused a triple crash. The three drivers had to retire from the race, and the victory ended with Hamilton. With the British driver leadership, Vettel needed to win Mexican Grand Prix and cross his fingers to Hamilton to finish at least ninth to become champion. However, one more dispute with Verstappen frustrated the German’s plans. The Dutch driver took him the leadership, and both had a touch. While Verstappen kept it normally, Vettel ended shocking against Hamilton, and both went to the last places. Ferrari’s driver finished the round in fourth place, while the English driver crossed the finish line in ninth place, guaranteeing that year’s title. Winning for the last time at Brazilian Grand Prix, Vettel ended 2017 as runner-up, with 317 points an outcome of five wins, 12 podiums, and five more scores.

 

Accident at the 2017 Singapore Grand Prix involving Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, and Max Verstappen. (Photo: Busy.org) [6]

 

The year 2018 was similar to the previous one. Vettel started the championship with two consecutive wins (in Australia and Bahrein). However, as of the Chinese Grand Prix, in which he had a touch with Verstappen that dragged him to the eighth place, his luck started to change. In that year, Vettel involved himself in a series of accidents that cost him precious points to dispute the title. At the French Grand Prix, he collided with Finnish Valtteri Bottas. Later, the team broke it down at the German Grand Prix, ordering teammate Räikkönen to give him the lead), but Vettel crashed into the wall and retired. At the Japanese Grand Prix, he risked his luck in a fight against Verstappen that made him leave the track momentarily, ending the race in sixth place. At the end of 2018, Vettel had five wins, 12 podiums, and eight more scores, consolidating himself as runner-up once more, with 320 points.

In 2019, Kimi Räikkönen was replaced by Charles Leclerc. Although many journalists and supporters speculated that the new driver would bring a hazard to Vettel, old experts in Ferrari knew that the team would prioritize the German and would make the Monegasque his squire (as they did to Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa in the past). It was what happened at the year’s first race, in Australia. Though Leclerc’s car had a better output, Ferrari did not allow him to overtake Vettel (the same happened two rounds later, in China). For this reason, Leclerc was nicknamed “Cinderella.” However, Vettel did not justify his team’s preference for him in 2019: he got only one win, Singapore, that even lent him the controversial accusation of being helped by Ferrari (that changes his tires before Leclerc’s), besides eight podiums and seven more scores. The primary mark of Vettel in 2019 was his accidents, notably the crash with Hamilton at Canadian Grand Prix, the purposeful collision with Verstappen at British Grand Prix, with Lance Stroll at Italian Grand Prix, and with Leclerc at Brazilian Grand Prix. In the second and third cases, Vettel only stayed in the last positions, including receiving penalties, while in the other, he caused a ferrarist double-retirement that alarmed the team. Finishing the year in fifth place, with 240 points, Vettel ended one position and 24 points behind his teammate.

 

4- From hero to zero: what was Sebastian Vettel’s mistake?

 

Conquering a title in Formula One is not an easy job. The specialists are practically unanimous in saying that the key to success in motorsport is the sum of the driver’s talent with the car’s good performance. There is no point in having a potent car if the driver has no stamina to bring it to the title (Valtteri Bottas is an example). Also, there is no point in the driver being talented if the car’s performance does not match (Max Verstappen is an example). Vettel’s achievements (records, wins, and titles) prove his talent. Ferrari and Red Bull are considered top teams (though recently, the Austrian team is quite different from when the German was its main driver). So how to explain such a fall in such a short time?

The answer is simple: self-control. That is an essential ingredient in the recipe for a champion. A significant example of how it works is the 2017 Malaysian Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton disputed the title with Vettel and had started from pole position. However, a full-of-range Max Verstappen fought for the win. Hamilton preferred not showing too much resistance. He chose to guarantee a second-place, keep an ongoing series of scoring, and steady the title than disputing the win and risk an accident, giving chances to his rival to surpass him. Vettel does not think the same way. The German is very impulsive and hazards until the last second, causing unnecessary accidents and losing significant points. When this dispute happens with another impulsive driver, like Verstappen, the damage is even more powerful. Who knows, the 2017 championship would have ended differently if Vettel and Räikkönen had not framed that squeeze for Verstappen to try to scare him?

 

Sebastian Vettel’s crash at the 2018 German Grand Prix. Silly mistakes cost him the chance of winning three more titles. (Photo: Goodwood) [7]

 

A strategy is also vital to win a game. Formula One is a collective sport that depends on the interaction between the driver and his team (this one is divided into its many departments and staff, as engineers, mechanics, strategists, among others). Audacity and courage are indeed relevant factors to a successful career, but even in extreme situations, as a dispute for positions, it is necessary to think very well before acting. Reuniting the team before the races to discuss how to proceed in hypothetical situations and practice what was discussed before would be a good strategy.

The main mistake of Sebastian Vettel was letting his emotions take control of his reason. Accidents like those of the 2019 British Grand Prix and the 2019 Brazilian Grand Prix resulted from the driver’s rage for being overtaken by his rivals (Verstappen and Leclerc). Vettel should follow the suit of Hamilton’s prudence if he wants to win titles again.

 

5- Conclusion

 

Ferrari realized that it is not worth spending its investments in a driver who, though talented, always gets into trouble. Charles Leclerc likely became the team’s new bet, which will hire another driver to be his squire (sources speculate about the name of Carlos Sainz Jr.). Sebastian Vettel, in turn, has two possible ways: retirement or a weaker team. Though Toto Wolff had already shown some interest in putting him in Mercedes, it is unknown if Vettel would accept race alongside Lewis Hamilton. The four-time champion waiver was an outcome of his impulsivity that harmed him more than helped him. However, it would be unfair to ignore Vettel’s achievements, as he left his legacy in Formula One as a bold and fearless driver who translated his courage into four titles. The most important lesson that he gives for the new talents in the sport is that it worths thinking before acting more than risking everything, as you can lose the last chance to shine.

 

Sources

 

 

Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

The Max Verstappen Case: A Big Driver For a Little Team

Max Verstappen is one of the stars of Formula One today. He holds six official records (among them the “youngest Grand Prix winner”), is highlighted in exciting races, and has several podiums and victories in a few years of experience. However, the Dutch driver surprised fans by announcing on January 7th, 2020, that he had renewed his contract with Red Bull Racing until 2023. While some praise the decision, others criticize the choice, wondering why Verstappen did not accept proposals from better teams. Here’s the analysis of this case.

 

1- Max’s career: a star appears

 

The eldest son of Dutch former Formula One driver Jos Verstappen and Belgian former kart driver Sophie Kumpen, Max Verstappen started his auto career at 4, in regional kart competitions. At 17, after finishing the European Formula 3 2014 in third place, he was hired by Scuderia Toro Rosso to compete in Formula One the following year. In his debut at the Australian Grand Prix, he broke the record for “youngest driver to debut in a Formula One race,” which previously belonged to Jaime Alguersuari. In the next race in Malaysia, he broke the record for “youngest driver to score in Formula One,” which was previously owned by Daniil Kvyat. Verstappen ended his debut year by scoring ten times, totaling 49 points in 19 races, in addition to being awarded by the FIA ​​as “Rookie of the Year” and “Personality of the Year” and his overtaking over Felipe Nasr in Belgium earned him the “Action of the Year” award.

These achievements were essential for Red Bull to choose Verstappen in 2016 to replace Kvyat, whose results were below expectations. The Dutchman did not disappoint and achieved his first victory in the Spanish Grand Prix, breaking the records of “youngest leader, by at least one lap in Formula One”, “youngest driver to achieve a podium in Formula One” and “youngest Grand Prize winner.” They all previously belonged to Sebastian Vettel. In Belgium, he broke the record for “youngest driver to start from the front row”, which Lance Stroll surpassed the following year. In Brazil, he broke the record for “youngest driver to make the fastest lap in Formula One,” which previously belonged to Nico Rosberg. At the end of that year, with Rosberg’s retirement, Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was looking for a replacement for the German. The media reported that he contacted Jos Verstappen several times to talk about Max, but the young man continued with Red Bull. Wolff hired his sponsor Valtteri Bottas, who was racing for Williams, to take the second seat.

 

Max’s victory on the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix.

 

If 2016 was a fantastic year, as Verstappen was able to expose his skills, 2017 was disappointing. In 20 races, he had seven retirements, but none because of him. The first was in Bahrain, where a brake problem took him out of the race; the second was in Spain, where Bottas collided with Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen, taking both of them out of the race; the third was in Canada, where an electrical failure shut down his car. The fourth occurred in Azerbaijan due to an oil problem. The fifth was caused by Kvyat, who collided with the Dutchman and Fernando Alonso in Austria. The sixth took place in Belgium, where his car shut down in the middle of the race. In Singapore, the seventh and final retirement, Verstappen was crushed by Ferrari drivers, Vettel and Raikkonen, and then was thrown off the track by the former’s dangerous re-entry. Disappointed by the inconsistency of his car, in contrast to the better performance of the car of his teammate Daniel Ricciardo, Verstappen had moments of fury with his team. Aware of the situation, Toto Wolff and Maurizio Arrivabene, Ferrari’s team principal, contacted Jos to discuss the future of the young prodigy. It was clear that Red Bull had no competence to produce a winning car for its two drivers as well, and Max was being sacrificed. Wolff was not satisfied with Bottas’ inability to compete on an equal footing with Lewis Hamilton (giving Ferrari a rebirth as a title contender). Arrivabene was looking for someone to replace Raikkonen, who was close to leaving the team. However, Verstappen preferred to give the Austrian team a chance and signed a contract with an exit clause. Despite the difficulties, he managed two victories, one in Malaysia and one in Mexico.

 

 

2017 Singapore Grand Prix accident.

 

In 2018 the situation changed. Red Bull knew that Max gave up good proposals to continue with the Austrians, and disappointing him would mean his departure. The car showed more stability, but it was not yet powerful enough for Red Bull to establish itself as a threat to Mercedes’ domination, achieving only two victories – in Austria and Mexico. However, Ricciardo’s car had many flaws, compromising the Australian’s performance. The announcement that Red Bull would use Honda engines from the following year caused suspicion in Ricciardo, who signed with Renault for the 2019 season. Verstappen preferred not to use the exit clause and remained with the team, which promised hard work with Honda around the Dutchman.

Red Bull fulfilled the promise in a lukewarm way because even though Verstappen was promoted to the position of the first driver, Mercedes did not feel the tip of the rival’s claws. To make matters worse, the hiring of Pierre Gasly became a failure, as the Frenchman was unable to face the Ferrari drivers, who were not in a good phase at the beginning of the year, and prevented Red Bull from winning the runners-up championship. With Verstappen carrying the team on his back, director Helmut Marko decided to replace Gasly with Alexander Albon, from (Toro Rosso), similar to what happened between Kvyat and Max in 2016. Despite three good victories in Germany, Austria, and Brazil, Verstappen faced a lack of power in races that could make up for the deficit caused by Gasly, as in Russia, where his car failed to reach Charles Leclerc’s. His contract was due to expire in 2020, but the Dutchman decided to renew it for 2023.

 

2- Red Bull: glorious in the past, decadent in the present

 

Red Bull Racing emerged as a Formula One team in 2004 after the eponymous company bought the Jaguar team, whose partner was the three-time champion, Jackie Stewart. The team’s peak occurred between 2010 and 2013, in which Sebastian Vettel secured the fourth championship for the team, defeating McLaren of Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

During this period, the category employed turbo in their cars, and Red Bull assembled a chassis that would respond to the engine’s work. Vettel dominated the seasons, feeling little danger from his opponents. Hamilton was disappointed with McLaren, and Ferrari felt the bitterness of not winning a drivers’ championship since 2007 and a constructors’ championship since 2008. In 2014, with the ban on the turbo, the scenario of Formula One changed considerably. Australian Mark Webber, until then Vettel’s companion, gave way to fellow countryman Daniel Ricciardo, while Austrian Christian Horner assumed the role of team leader. The four-time champion’s car went through a sequence of breaks that prevented his score. Despite his first career victory, Ricciardo did not achieve much, and Red Bull saw Hamilton’s rise in Mercedes and the dominance of the German team that lasts until today.

For those who do not remember the sequence of technical failures in Vettel’s car, it is the impression that Ricciardo beat his teammate for having more talent. Critics of the German use the 2014 season onward to defend that Vettel should retire and that his titles are more a product of the turbo engine than his talent. However, the failure in 2014 does mean Vettel’s downfall. Feeling betrayed and neglected by the team, he signed with Ferrari for 2015, with the Italian team committing to pay for his breach of contract with the Austrian team.

 

Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel in Red Bull. The German’s exit was the beginning of the teams downfall.

 

With Vettel at Ferrari, Red Bull hired Daniil Kvyat to race alongside Ricciardo. However, neither brought back the glory of German times. Kvyat gained the reputation of being a “Sunday driver,” and his accidents cost him the seat on the leading team and the leaders’ confidence. Ricciardo gave the impression of being a “bureaucrat driver,” as he did not usually fight for higher positions. Max Verstappen was not just a substitute for Kvyat in the eyes of Red Bull, but an opportunity to return to be the champion since the Dutchman had all the virtues found in Vettel: determination, boldness, courage, persistence, among others.

However, winning championships is only possible if there is a balance between driver’s talent and the engineering department’s work. The athlete cannot be afraid of challenges but must also be prudent to avoid accidents. The car needs to match the driver’s performance, so electrical failures in the engine, brakes, oil, or elsewhere are unacceptable. What seems evident to fans seems not to be for Red Bull. Max’s boldness is constant, as it is clear that he always tries to overcome his opponents, no matter the situation. He is a driver who is not satisfied with points or podiums, as he seeks victory. His car, however, is the weakest among the so-called “top teams.” The question that remains in the air is: “How in good conscience can anyone claim to be a fan of Max Verstappen and forgive Red Bull for the crashes in 2017 and for giving him an average of just two wins a year?”.

 

3- Loyalty vs. Achievements

 

Max Verstappen’s first contract renewal with Red Bull in 2017 had already been a big surprise. In that year, some press outlets began to question the Dutchman’s talent, ignoring the real responsible for the retirements. That happened because the memory of an incompetent sports journalist is the same as the memory of a voter: short. Unlike Sebastian Vettel, who realized the team’s difficulties and moved to Ferrari, Verstappen gave the team one more chance that provided an artificial atmosphere of distrust around a driver who doesn’t need to prove anything else.

Max never detailed why he chose to stay with the Austrian team, limiting to say that he trusted what the team planned for him. The contract offered was very interesting: the Dutchman would remain with Red Bull until 2020, but an exit clause gave him the freedom to choose another team if they couldn’t fulfill his expectations. In other words, Red Bull was aware that Verstappen had refused great chances on other teams and would be willing to bear the consequences of the Dutchman’s choice.

 

Red Bull’s car instability costed victories and points to Verstappen. Anyway he refuses to leave the team.

 

Soon, in 2018, some people believed that Red Bull would work hard to produce a car that matched Max’s talent so that he had a chance to compete for the title with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Although his results were satisfactory, Verstappen was a little far from expected to become a champion: he had only two victories (Austria and Mexico) and nine more podiums. Hamilton had 11 wins, and Vettel won five times that year. At the end of 2018, Verstappen varied the answers he gave to the press about expectations for 2019: sometimes said they were ready to fight for the championship, sometimes said they had no chance. Only one thing was irreducible: he would not leave Red Bull.

In 2019, the season was a little better but still far from the top: Max had three wins and six more podiums. Jos Verstappen even threatened to ask his son to leave Red Bull if the team could not to compete for a title. Formula One fans were curious to know the young prodigy’s fate with the end of his contract approaching. Since Verstappen did not indicate he was willing to leave the team, Toto Wolff renewed with Valtteri Bottas. It was then that on January 7, 2020, Verstappen gave Lewis Hamilton a great 35-year gift: he renewed with Red Bull until 2023. From what has been observed since 2017, Max’s loyalty binds him to his current team, but that alone does not guarantee achievements, as he lacks a competitive car (which he sometimes admits that Red Bull does not know how to do).

 

4- Myths and Truths

 

  •   Myth: Daniel Ricciardo left Red Bull in 2019 because the team was prioritizing Verstappen

 

Ricciardo himself contradicted his absurd theory created by Verstappen haters several times, but now and then, someone appears to say this on the internet. The fact is that the Australian driver left Red Bull in 2019 because he was unhappy, but it was not because of his teammate.

In 2017, Max started the year ahead of his teammate, reaching third place in the championship after the second race, the Chinese Grand Prix. However, the series of retirements that started at the Bahrain Grand Prix allowed Ricciardo to surpass him in the scoring. However, it does not mean that the Australian had an easy year: despite his victory in Azerbaijan and eight more podiums, Daniel accumulated six retirements, the worst being in Mexico, where he had achieved pole position. The following year, he won twice (in China and Monaco) but had eight dropouts. Those who accuse Red Bull of providing Ricciardo with a worse car in 2018 to benefit Verstappen should at the very least be consistent and admit that it seemed that in 2017 the team had done the opposite: damaged the Verstappen car so that Ricciardo overcame him in the championship.

 

Verstappen and Ricciardo keep their friendship after the Australian’s exit.

 

Still, in 2018, Red Bull executives announced that starting in 2019, the team would switch from Renault to Honda engines. The news surprised fans, as the Japanese supplier was at war with McLaren when it used its engines at the time of Fernando Alonso. The Spanish driver had several dropouts due to engine failures. Ricciardo said he did not want to have the same fate as Alonso. Being aware that neither Mercedes nor Ferrari were interested in hiring him, the Australian traded Red Bull’s uncertainty for Renault’s likely stability. Unfortunately, the French team performed poorly in 2019, but it was impossible to guess that this would happen.

Ricciardo and Verstappen have already said they miss each other and have been seen in moments of relaxation several times. So, if Max were the reason Daniel left Red Bull, they would not have this healthy relationship after his departure for Renault.

 

  •    Truth: Mercedes had been showing interest in Verstappen since 2014

 

Toto Wolff does not hide his admiration for Max. In interviews, the Mercedes team principal revealed that in 2014, when Verstappen was still in Formula Three, the German team had tried to sign him for the future. However, Red Bull planned to put him in Formula One earlier than proposed by Mercedes. Max and his father Jos were more interested in the Red Bull offer, and the young man debuted for Toro Rosso in 2015.

Virtually no driver in Formula One history has raced in just one team during his entire career (except in cases where the driver died or was fired in his debut year). The idea of ​​Verstappen leaving Red Bull to race for Mercedes in the future does not seem absurd. But the analysis of this possibility depends on demystifying yet another untruth that Verstappen haters love to utter.

 

  •   Myth: If he leaves Red Bull, Verstappen has nowhere to go

 

Toto Wolff called Jos Verstappen to talk many times. Logically, he would not meet Max’s father to talk about a soap opera chapter or the last football game. Especially when it comes to the person who was already interested in hiring the young man when he was still was not in Formula One.

The current Mercedes drivers are champion Lewis Hamilton and Finn Valtteri Bottas. The latter has a peculiarity: all contracts signed so far have been valid for only one year. If Mercedes rejects Verstappen as the haters claim, why doesn’t it hire Bottas to run for at least three years? The answer is simple: the German team knows that the Finn cannot face Hamilton as Rosberg did, so he uses the driver as a buffer while Max remains at Red Bull. Some question whether Hamilton would allow the youngster to join Mercedes, but the fact is that the Englishman has no decisive power in the team. If he had, Rosberg would have been fired in 2015.

Another option for Max, although this is more unlikely, is Ferrari. The Italian team currently has Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc, two drivers Verstappen does not get along. The Dutchman has already stated that he would not mind running alongside Leclerc, but the Monegasque does not hide that he would not like to be his teammate. Vettel is a notorious rival to Max, with whom he has had several conflicts. Those are the reasons why Verstappen is less likely to go to Ferrari, despite the team showing interest in him in 2017.

 

  •    Truth: Verstappen’s lack of titles in Formula One is his team’s fault

 

Drivers are not responsible for the performance of their cars. That is the task of the engineering department, and consequently, of the engineers. Blaming Verstappen for engine, electrical, or brake failures is stupid. Only in cases of accidents can the driver be blamed, and even then, accidents are analyzed to determine whether it was his fault.

Max started 2017 as one of the title favorites. He lost the championship due to the retirements caused by car failures or collisions caused by other drivers. In 2018 and 2019, there were several opportunities for lost victories because the car’s performance did not make it possible to overcome opponents of the top teams. Could it be that a driver who had broken six records at 19 years old and can run so well in the rain (as in Brazil in 2016, China in 2017, and Germany in 2019) indeed does not manage to be champion for “lack of talent”? Or is the “competent” Red Bull’s car only capable of guaranteeing a maximum of three victories per year?

 

5- Conclusion

 

Max Verstappen is one of the most extraordinary talents in Formula One. His skills have been proven in several races; just look for the videos. However, his team, Red Bull Racing, has not yet provided him with a competitive car that matches his determination. Who doesn’t remember the 2017 Mexican Grand Prix, in which the team asked him to slow down and not overload the car?

Verstappen has a good chance of being as successful a champion as Lewis Hamilton. He already has one of the keys to success in Formula One: talent. Only the other is missing: the car. If he continues to give chances to a team that keeps delaying his dream, it risks being postponed for many years. Then, he reaches a point where he would find himself in a situation similar to Ricciardo: already at a certain age and without hopes of a title.

 

 

 What do you prefer? Winning eleven times with Mercedes or three times with Red Bull?

 

6- Sources

 

 

Photos

Note: None of the photos used in this article belongs to me. This site has informative intentions, not commercial. The links where I took the photos are indicated below. All copyrights reserved.

Understand the Esteban Ocon Case

Article written on August 10th, 2019. Reading it nowadays can help you to understand why Esteban Ocon got without seat in 2019 and what actions he had to take to get back on the grid in 2020.

 

Esteban Ocon, a Hispano-French driver who raced in Formula One between 2016 and 2018, is one of the most talked names when speculation in the driver market begins. After all, the 22-year-old driver, patronized by Toto Wolff, was considered a future star’s promise by many supporters. However, he got out of the 2019 grid. Why did this happen? Does he still have a chance? His case is complicated, but we will explain everything.

 

1- Early career

 

Esteban Ocon is a rare case in Formula One. As this is an expensive sport (pieces, engineers, mechanics, simulators, etc.), drivers are expected to bring sponsorship to help their team expenses. Therefore, the overwhelming majority of drivers are of a wealthy background. Ocon is one of the rare exceptions. Born to a humble family of Spanish immigrants from Malaga, the capital of Andalusia (the poorest province in the country), the young driver owes his entire career to Toto Wolff. Ocon even claimed that if it weren’t for the current Mercedes’ Team Principal, who allowed him to join motorsport, he would be working in fast-food restaurants to help his family income. The relationship between Wolff and Ocon is the key to understanding the driver’s current situation.

 

Esteban Ocon and his parents, Laurent and Sabrina

 

In 2014, Ocon was the champion of European Formula Three, one of the main categories to the entry in Formula One. However, the young driver promoted that year was Max Emilian Verstappen. The young Dutchman, son of former driver Jos Verstappen, debuted at Toro Rosso in 2015, while champion Ocon remained anonymous until mid-2016 when Manor signed him to replace Indonesian Rio Haryanto at the Belgian Grand Prix. Ocon finished his debut year without points in 23rd place. His first point came with the following year’s Australian Grand Prix, in which Esteban finished in 10th place.

 

2- Similar case

 

Pascal Wehrlein is a German driver who Toto Wolff also patronized. Son of a German father and African mother from Mauritius, he made his Formula One debut at Manor in 2016 at the Australian Grand Prix. He became Ocon’s mate after the resignation of Rio Haryanto. At the end of the season, Manor filed for bankruptcy and announced that it would no longer compete in Formula One.

 

Pascal Wehrlein

 

To ensure his patronized boys remained, Toto Wolff landed good deals: Wehrlein was sent to Sauber, replacing Brazilian Felipe Nasr, and Ocon to Force India in place of German Nico Hülkenberg. The Rede Globo, a Brazilian company that owns Formula One broadcasting rights in the country, even speculated that Nasr would go to Force India because he outperformed his fellow teammate, Swedish Marcus Ericsson. However, Nasr got out of the category, and Ocon got the seat. Initially, many Brazilian fans were angry at Toto Wolff and Esteban Ocon.

As Sauber’s car had the worst performance of the grid, Wehrlein only scored twice, with seventh place in the Spanish Grand Prix getting six points and tenth place in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix scoring one point. His teammate was the only driver that did not achieve that year. By 2018, Sauber would have to sacrifice one of its drivers to hire Monegasque Charles Leclerc, GP2 champion (another outstanding category to entry in Formula One) and a member of Ferrari Driver Academy. Leclerc’s main sponsor is Nicolas Todt, son of current International Automobile Federation (FIA) president, Jean Todt (Ferrari Team Principal between 1993 and 2007). Sauber, at the time, was a team subordinate to Ferrari, just like Toro Rosso is to Red Bull today. Needing to choose between Tetra Pak-sponsored Swede and Toto Wolff-patronized German, the Swiss team opted for Ericsson, and Wehrlein was fired.

Wolff put Wehrlein in the position of Mercedes’ third driver, along with the young Englishman George Russell. Toto promised Pascal that he would fight until the end to secure him a seat in Formula One, but Wehrlein expects this until now. Displeased with the situation, the German joined Ferrari as a third driver, replacing Russian Daniil Kvyat, who returned to Toro Rosso after being fired from the team.

 

3- Relationship with other drivers

 

In the days of the access categories, Ocon befriended Canadian Lance Stroll, whose father, Lawrence Stroll, owned the best European Formula Three and GP2 team, Prema Powerteam. Ocon was champion of the 2014 European Formula Three season with this team. Lance did the same in 2016, breaking the record of “youngest champion” of the category and the first Canadian to win the title. Some critics measured that Verstappen drew more attention than champion Ocon for taking third place with a much lower car (Van Amsterfoot Racing, powered by Volkswagen). It is legitimate noting that Verstappen was the big sensation of 2015. The automotive newspapers only spoke about him, whether by his records, accidents, or bold moves that guaranteed him good scores. Max was elected FIA Rookie of the Year in 2015. All of this contributed to overshadowing Ocon’s image for a year and a half.

With Stroll, Ocon had a “Prince and Pauper” kind friendship, as both came from very different backgrounds. Nevertheless, the friendship between them both proved that wealth does not define character. Being rich does not mean being bad or good. Being poor does not mean being good or bad. And later on, let’s see that this really applies.

With Wehrlein, Ocon had no considerable conflict, a situation quite different from his Mexican counterpart Sergio Pérez, his Force India teammate. The two met on occasion, especially at the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix, when a touch between them at the Eau Rouge entrance squeezed Esteban against the pit wall. Ocon accused Pérez of “trying to kill him,” infuriating Mexican fans, who offended him on social media. Claiming security reasons, Esteban hired armed security for himself and his parents at the Mexican Grand Prix. Another example of friction between the two was at the Singapore Grand Prix when Pérez beat Ocon out of the race.

 

The conflict between Pérez and Ocon at the 2017 Belgian Grand Prix. Ocon accused Pérez of trying to kill him

 

4- Beginning of the crisis: Force India’s bankruptcy

 

In 2018, Force India owner Vijay Mallya was investigated by the Indian authorities under suspicion of fraud and money laundering. British courts were already negotiating his deportation to India. With accounts in the red and low reliability, the team started the bankruptcy process. According to Mariana Becker, a journalist for Rede Globo, an American businessman and a Russian were interested in buying it, but there was no agreement.

Seeing an investment opportunity, Lawrence Stroll set up a consortium of businessmen to buy Force India, with Mallya assuming any pending issues regarding his term of office, including the lawsuit Sergio Pérez filed against the team. Stroll’s son Lance, who had had a good season with Williams in 2017 (getting a podium, a start from the front row, and three records), suffered from an uncompetitive car in the English team. Supporters and media speculated that when Lawrence bought the team, Lance would transfer to it.

 

Article from the journal Independent that mentions the 405 jobs saved by Lawrence Stroll

 

As explained at the beginning of this article, Formula One needs drivers to bring sponsorship to maintain the sport. Pérez is sponsored by companies such as Telmex and Claro and the state government of Jalisco, Mexico. Ocon, for his part, was sponsored only by Toto Wolff.

 

5- Attempts to contract with other teams

 

  • Mercedes: The sponsor upholds Niki Lauda’s wishes.

 

According to the press, Toto Wolff had adviced Ocon before the 2018 Monaco Grand Prix. He would have said that if it did not make it difficult for Lewis to overtake Hamilton after the pit stop, Esteban would take the second Mercedes seat, as Finnish Valtteri Bottas outperformed Hamilton. It would have occurred well before the purchase of Force India (which was made on drivers’ vacations before the Belgian Grand Prix). Ocon facilitated Englishman overtaking in all races.

That is, months before Force India went bankrupt and was sold, Esteban Ocon was already set to leave the team. However, then-Mercedes adviser, three-time champion Niki Lauda, ​​advised Wolff to give Bottas one more chance. The Team Principal accepted the request and renewed Finn’s contract for another year. If Ocon left Force India, which was most likely not to bring the same benefits as Pérez, Wolff would have to work hard to put his pupil into a new team.

 

  • Renault

 

In 2018, the French team had Spanish Carlos Sainz Jr. and German Nico Hülkenberg. The first was called in to replace Fernando Alonso at McLaren after the two-time champion announced his retirement. The second had its contract renewed. As a result, Renault had a seat available for 2019. According to press reports, Toto Wolff was negotiating Ocon’s transfer to this team, as the driver was no advantageous neither financially nor in terms of performance, as his results were below those of Pérez.

Nevertheless, nobody could have predicted a turnaround in Red Bull. Nevertheless, nobody could have predicted a turnaround in Red Bull. One of its drivers, Australian Daniel Ricciardo, was displeased with the team’s decision to run with the Honda engine in 2019. Fearing to pass through a series of crashes like McLaren in 2016 and Toro Rosso in 2017, Ricciardo opted to leave Red Bull and signed a contract with Renault, filling the team’s second seat. It was the first door that closed to Ocon.

 

  • McLaren

 

Dissatisfied with the results of Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne, the English team dismissed the driver and hired Carlos Sainz Jr. to replace Fernando Alonso, who would retire at the end of 2018. Consequently, a seat would be available at McLaren too. Sources say Toto Wolff also contacted the British team to secure a seat for Ocon. However, the team opted for a young English driver who had been in the team development program for years. His name was Lando Norris, the son of an English billionaire businessman. With that, a second door closed for Esteban Ocon.

 

  • Williams: the Lance Stroll case

 

If 2017 was a glorious year for the English team, as Lance Stroll’s podium earned it fifth place in the constructors’ championship, 2018 was ruined by the incompetence of its engineers. Lawrence Stroll was one of the team’s main sponsors, besides the SMP bank, which sponsored Russian Sergey Sirotkin. The British engineering team led by Paddy Lowe failed to create a competitive car, with promises of improvements that were always postponed—embittering in the last positions of the grid, the drivers were unfairly accused by the team’s problems, as they had more spotlight.

Obviously, Lance was unhappy with the team’s incompetence and unfair treatment by the press and fans. It was also clear the dislike of Claire Williams, Team Principal and daughter of founder Frank Williams, for the Canadian driver, and the clash between Claire and Lawrence created a heavy mood in the squad. It is important to remember that it was the second time that the Williams family’s mismanagement had led the team into the hands of an outside investor (Toto Wolff in 2009 and Lawrence Stroll in 2017). Lawrence realized that the investment would not be worth it and found an opportunity on Force India’s purchase.

Although his father took over as the team’s new owner, Lance did not transfer to it. It is the first argument to refut the accusation that has fallen on the Canadian: that his father would have bought Force India to give his son a better seat, even if he had to sacrifice his friend. If Lawrence were simply a father trying to please his son, he would have paid for Ocon’s contract termination and immediately put Lance on the team. That’s not what happened. Esteban remained on the team, now named Racing Point Force India, until the end of the year.

Many expected Lance and Esteban to switch teams. In other words, Stroll would go to Force India and Ocon to Williams. With Sirotkin’s underperforming performance and Stroll’s departure, the English team would have two vacancies. Toto Wolff stepped into action, placing his pupil in one of Williams’ seats. His name, GEORGE RUSSELL.

The young Englishman was a member of the Mercedes driver development program and served as the third driver of the German team. A long time ago, he had been waiting for an opportunity in Formula One. Wolff did not explain why he chose to secure a seat for a rookie rather than the sponsored one running out of chances. He merely claimed that Russell had qualifications for the vacancy.

At the same time, there was speculation about Robert Kubica’s return to the grid. The Polish has been out since 2011 when he suffered a severe accident that left his left arm injured. His manager was none other than the champion of 2016, Nico Rosberg. Kubica’s return was a risky investment: his team would have to spend more money to adapt the car to his shortcomings, and there was no guarantee that he would perform well. Rosberg claimed that Polish companies would be willing to sponsor the driver and that the country’s fans had been looking forward to Kubica’s return since the retirement of Brazilian Felipe Massa.

 

  • Toro Rosso: Pupil of Toto Wolff? No way!

 

Toro Rosso went through an unrivaled chair dance. Dissatisfied with Daniil Kvyat’s successive crashes, the team ran in 2018 with Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley. However, the second was also involved in a series of collisions that angered the leaders of the Italian team.

With Hartley fired and Gasly promoted to Red Bull after Daniel Ricciardo left for Renault, two seats were available. However, two factors hindered Ocon’s chances. The first is that Toro Rosso is a team subordinate to Red Bull, and usually, its drivers are linked to it: they are either young people from the development program or have been demoted from the team. Esteban had no ties to Red Bull. The second factor was Ocon’s connection with Toto Wolff. Team chief Franz Tost even claimed that he did not want drivers linked to Mercedes on the team. Perhaps the team feared an espionage scandal like McLaren’s in 2007 or that Ocon would tell Wolff the Honda-powered team’s secrets.

 

6- Esteban Ocon’s image

 

  • Stroll is thrown into the fire; Ocon delays helping his friend

 

Lance Stroll made his Formula One debut in 2017 for Williams at the age of 18 at the Australian Grand Prix. Three successive retirements and accidents at free practices made the press and fans forget about his European Formula Three achievements (like his title and record) and consider him a “pay driver.” This unfair fame accompanied Lance to his third-place finish in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, where he broke the record for “youngest rookie to score a podium.” Ocon had no podium so far, even with a superior car, and remained until the end of his career.

With the problems Williams faced in 2018, the reputation of “pay driver”  came back to Stroll, mainly because the media blamed the drivers for the car’s poor performance, even though it was the engineers’ responsibility. When his father, Lawrence Stroll, bought Force India in the second half of the year (saving the 205 jobs), Esteban Ocon’s fans, full of deadly rage, attacked Lance on his social media with the most terrible offenses possible. Some of them were even of racial content. Little was said about the saved jobs, or the advantages Pérez and Stroll would bring to the team, or that Ocon’s lack of sponsorship and results hindered him in the case. Some simply would not admit that a Canadian Jewish driver of Amerindian descent who had a podium, a start from the front row, and three records would replace a white European driver with no podiums and no records.

However, the most surprising in this case was Esteban Ocon’s reaction. Force India was bought in August 2018. Ocon only spoke out about the attacks on Lance in September 2018. Within a month, the media and fans had enough time to launch slanderous rumors about the Canadian, while his friend since Formula Three era watched all quietly. Ocon called the attacks “irrational” and launched a story on his Instagram in which he emphasized his friendship with Stroll despite their “different backgrounds.” Why did Ocon take a month to help his friend, who was suffering one of the dirtiest defamation campaigns in Formula One history? Why did Ocon point out differences in their “background,” as Stroll suffered racial offenses and attacks for being rich (which 99.9% of driver are)?

 

Ocon’s Instagram post defending Stroll a month later

  • Crash into Verstappen at the Brazilian Grand Prix; the final gavel

With 99.9% of seats unavailable for Ocon, his chances of staying in Formula One were scarcer. On November 11th, 2018, the Brazilian Grand Prix happened at Interlagos Circuit in São Paulo. Although Lewis Hamilton took pole position, Max Verstappen took the lead and was on his way to victory. Esteban was 16th and coming out of pits when he accelerated and ignored the blue flag, crashing into Verstappen. The two drivers temporarily left the track, allowing Hamilton to overtake. Verstappen came back in second, with damage in the car. Ocon received a 10-seconds of stop-and-go penalty. Hamilton’s victory was credited to this incident.

After the podium ceremony, Verstappen sought Ocon to clarify the situation. Esteban replied, smirking, that he was “faster” and had the right to be in front even with the blue flag.

(Note: Believe me, some people believe in this lame excuse to this day.)

 

 

Verstappen was enraged at the mockery and set off for physical aggression, successively pushing Ocon until both were separated. Max left the room visibly annoyed while Esteban continued to laugh and mock the Dutchman. Then he dared to say that “Max didn’t act like a man.” Is disrespecting the blue flag, which obliges the lapped cars to let the front drivers pass, a man thing? Is making fun of the injured person instead of assuming the mistake and apologizing for it a man thing? Is seeing your friend as a victim of defamation and helping him only a month later a man thing? Is accusing the teammate of attempted murder a man thing?

 

Ocon makes fun of Verstappen after the move that prevented his victory

  • Verdict: guilty of maximum allegiance to Toto Wolff; Sentence: to be without a seat for 2019

 

Ocon’s reaction to the crash with Max Verstappen spawned two theories to explain it. The first one is a possible resentment of Esteban for Max’s promotion to Formula One in 2015, even though he was third in 2014 European Formula Three while Hispano-Frenchman had been the champion. The other is that Ocon was sending a message to Toto Wolff that he would be a great driver for the team, as his actions undeniably secured Lewis Hamilton’s victory.

While this image would benefit him for Wolff, it earned Ocon a bad reputation with the other teams. Esteban came to be seen as a loyal agent to the Mercedes team leader, and his presence in other teams could mean espionage, betrayal, and double loyalty. Ocon gained nothing from the Verstappen accident: he did not score, received a penalty, and tarnished his reputation. The only beneficiaries of the event were Hamilton for the win and Valtteri Bottas, who was fourth in the championship ahead of Verstappen. Nevertheless, that did not last until the end, as in the last race of the year in Abu Dhabi, Max took third place and took Bottas’ position in the championship, just three points behind third-placed Kimi Raikkonen.

After the Brazilian Grand Prix, Claire Williams announced that the British team had hired Robert Kubica, ending all chances for Esteban to continue in the top motoring category. Wolff had no choice but to place him as Mercedes’ third driver.

 

7- Myths and truths

 

  • Myth: Stroll is to blame for Ocon’s departure from Formula One.

 

Stroll did not take the seat immediately after his father bought Force India with the help of a business consortium. Even though they could afford a contract termination, the new team owners let Ocon run for the team until the end of his contract. Ocon was also tipped to leave the team before purchase. Pérez brought advantages to the team by being the best performing driver and still having good sponsors, something Esteban did not do. The choice for Pérez was based on offer and demand, a golden rule of the market.

Ocon tried vacancies on other teams, but all had other plans. Renault opted for Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren chose Lando Norris, Mercedes has renewed Valtteri Bottas’s contract. Toro Rosso has hired Alexander Albon and Daniil Kvyat (who had a career podium at the time, one more than Esteban Ocon). Stroll is no more guilty than Ricciardo, Norris, Perez, Bottas, Albon, Kvyat, Russell, and Kubica for Ocon’s exit. It is important to remember that Stroll has a podium and a start from the front row, besides three records on his carrer, deeds that Ocon does not have. Blaming Stroll for being in Formula One while Ocon is out is the same as blaming Ayrton Senna for having more titles than Rubens Barrichello.

 

  • Truth: Ties with Toto Wolff has reduced Ocon’s opportunities in Formula One

 

Esteban’s countless compliments to Mercedes’ team chief and the move into Max Verstappen’s at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix prove that Ocon is very devoted to Toto Wolff, his patronize on sports. The other teams feared that a double agent would generate an espionage scandal or leak their secrets to the German team.

Many may think that because Mercedes has one of the best cars on the grid (if not the best), it would not be interested in information about other teams. However, teams always watch the performance of their competitors (see McLaren in 2007) for improvements and strategies.

 

  • Myth: Ocon was an outstanding driver, and his departure was a great injustice.

 

All his teammates beat Ocon during his Formula One career. In his debut year in 2016, he trailed Pascal Werhlein in the final results (although both scored zero) because he entered Formula One midway. In 2017 and 2018 was surpassed by Sergio Pérez 87 points against 100 in the first year and 49 against 62 in the second. This myth was created by journalists who, for personal reasons, focus on defaming Pérez, Stroll, and Verstappen rather than praising Ocon for themselves. The driver data proves this.

In two and a half years of his career, Ocon failed to win a podium, a front row start, a pole position, or a record, totaling only 136 points. Comparing to other drivers of the same age group: Max Verstappen broke two records in his debut year and four more the following year, the same year he got a victory, five podiums and a start from the front row; Lance Stroll got a podium, three records, and a start from the front row in his debut year; Charles Leclerc did not achieve excellent results in his debut year, but a year later he has so far acquired two poles and five podiums. It is valid to remember that in his debut year, Ocon was unable to score.

 

  • Truth: Ocon’s choices earned him a bad name in the paddock

 

The 2017 Belgian Grand Prix case, where Esteban accused Sergio Pérez of “trying to kill him,” is one  example of the narrative war the driver fought in his career. Perez even claimed that Ocon likes to victimize himself and make his rivals look like villains. The theory has foundations.

Ocon’s choices, whether racing maneuvers or press statements (including their lack/delay), defamed three drivers during his career. They made Pérez look like an “impulsive driver who could even kill his teammate,” Stroll looks like “an evil capitalist who buys seats in Formula One”, and Verstappen looks like “an uncontrolled brawler who assaults his opponents.” All these media figures eventually turned against Esteban, who, in front of the other teams, got the image of “a treacherous and incompetent driver who gets along with no one but Toto Wolff.” It is difficult to get a seat in Formula One with such a reputation because the teams do not trust him.

 

8- Comparisons between Ocon and Wehrlein

 

Pascal Wehrlein entered Formula One with Manor in 2016. He did not score points due to the poor performance of the car. In 2017 he was promoted to Sauber, where he scored in the Spanish Grand Prix and Azerbaijan Grand Prix. No sponsors who could help the team’s accounts, although it outperformed teammate Marcus Ericsson, was fired from the team to make way for Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc. In 2018, he was named third Mercedes driver by sponsor Toto Wolff, who promised a return to Formula One. As Wolff never fulfilled the promise, he joined Ferrari as the third driver and was never seen on the track again.

Esteban Ocon entered Formula One with Manor in 2016. He did not score points due to the poor performance of the car. In 2017 he was promoted to Force India, where he scored 18 times but finished the championship with 13 points less than his teammate Sergio Pérez, who also beat him in 2018. No sponsors who could help the team’s accounts and underperforming his teammate were fired. In 2019 he was placed as the third driver of Mercedes by godfather Toto Wolff, who promised him a return to Formula One (earlier, he promised him the Bottas’ seat).

 

9- Conclusion

 

Esteban Ocon’s departure from Formula One in 2019 and his uncertainty for the future result from the Hispano-French driver’s poor choices driver made during his career. Leaving gratitude to Toto Wolff in his head, Ocon handed his fate into the hands of his godfather, who had failed to secure a vacancy for his other sponsor, Pascal Wehrlein. The lousy relationship with Sergio Pérez, the delay in helping longtime friend Lance Stroll as he suffered defamation, and the move into Max Verstappen allowed Lewis Hamilton to win at the 2018 Brazilian Grand Prix earned Esteban a tarnished reputation (double-loyal and victimhood). In addition, he got the distrust of the other teams (who opted to sign Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, Alexander Albon, Daniil Kvyat, George Russell, and Robert Kubica). His results were not enough to justify his deserving of the seat at Force Point, Force India’s heiress, and his choices set him apart from the rest of the grid. The image of an “excellent driver wronged by others” is just a media invention of malicious journalists whose interests focus more on defaming Pérez, Stroll, and Verstappen than on extolling Esteban’s remarkable achievements in Formula One, which have so far not materialized. If Ocon has a chance to return to Formula One? Yes, but it will depend on the strategy adopted by Toto Wolff. At the moment, Ocon’s situation is almost identical to Wehrlein’s.

Esteban Ocon and Toto Wolff: Formula One’s most troubled marriage

 

10- Sources

 

 

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