2023 Abu Dhabi Thoughts
THE BIG PICTURE: Our excitement over the year of teams closing the gap (somewhat) to Red Bull needs some perspective. Red Bull's performance was so far ahead of everyone, they could stop development and start working on next year's car way before anyone else. If their improvement over this past year's offseason was a huge step forward, the same can happen during this upcoming offseason. And then we'll just end up repeating 2023 domination in 2024.
EVENT: With the newish general admission hillside seating locations, this place is a) getting more fans and b) getting to be a bit more of a festive atmosphere.
TRACK: Though the changes made before last year's race continues to allow the track to be more racy than before, it's still not a super great track.
QUALIFYING: In the battle for second place in the constructors' title, Ferrari is shocked when Sainz is eliminated in Q1 and then Mercedes is shocked when Hamilton is eliminated in Q2. Leclerc makes up for it with a front row spot, and Russell makes up for it with a fourth starting spot. Meanwhile, Verstappen grabs another pole while Perez suffers track limits.
RACE: If you kept a close eye on the Mercedes-Ferrari back and fourth points battle, this was a fun, entertaining race.
START: The last race gives us the cleanest start with very few position changes. That's it. That's the whole comment.
VERSTAPPEN: What else can you say after this season? Nineteen victories. Ten in a row, then seven in a row. Over 1,000 laps led. Records which may never be broken.
PEREZ: What else can you say after this season? From the confidence of a championship contender to the thoroughly demoralized driver after a teammate beatdown for the ages.
RED BULL: What else can you say after this season? One race short of an unprecedented sweep. It was still an unprecedented performance.
LECLERC: Fascinating on the fly strategic thinking by Charles to try and prevent Russell gaining a position due to Perez's penalty.
FERRARI: Sainz's broken car cost them second in the championship.
RUSSELL: After being outdone by Hamilton for a few races, George was needed to save Mercedes' second place spot.
MERCEDES: The dreaded five-second penalty going to a non-contesting team was the difference to give the Silver Arrows second place in the constructors' championship ... by just three points.
MCLAREN: Their botched pit stop on Norris saved their engine supplier, Mercedes, second place ... Hmmmm...
PIASTRI: A fine rookie season. Everyone has forgotten the craziness that got Oscar to McLaren from Alpine.
ALONSO: His brake testing move was bush league. The FIA's non reaction to it was even more bush league.
ASTON MARTIN: Who would have predicted the best of the rest early in the season would fall to fifth place by the end of the season?
TSUNODA: Yuki carried the bags in this race for AlphaTauri, almost enabling them to pass Williams for seventh place. An excellent drive. A well deserved recipient of the fans' driver of the day choice. And the first Japanese driver to lead an F1 race since Takuma Sato.
RICCIARDO: While Daniel did not carry anything.
ALPHATAURI: So long Franz Tost. A man who played a key role in so many young drivers' development. And so long to their team's second name.
ALPINE: Another uninspiring race for another uninspiring season for a factory team.
SARGEANT: For the first time all year, James Vowles hints that Logan's drive is not quite secure for 2024.
WILLIAMS: Who picked Williams to finish seventh this year?
ALFA ROMEO: Not anymore. But not quite Audi yet either. Probably back to Sauber. But continuing to muddle at the back of the grid.
MAGNUSSEN: Kevin finished last in a race where everybody finished.
HAAS: The first time they finished last was because of two rookie drivers. That can't be their excuse for their second last place finish.
FIA: Penalized Perez for a racing incident. Didn't penalize Alonso for nearly sending a car in orbit. Yeah, okay...
F2: Points leader Theo Pourchaire had to endure two 14th place starting spots. Then, his closest pursurer, Frederik Vesti, won the sprint race and got the fastest lap point. In the feature race (won by Jack Doohan), the two of them had an epic wheel-to-wheel duel in the latter parts of the race. Ultimately, despite Vesti finishing third, Pourchaire's fifth was good enough to give the Frenchman the title, with only one win.
WORD OF THE WEEKEND: Rest.
STAT OF THE WEEKEND: 100% -- Of all the records Max Verstappen and Red Bull set, no matter how mightily impressive they are ... and they are ... the fact that Verstappen can complete every single lap of the season is astounding even when considering amazing reliability. This is racing and Formula 1. Things always happen. Yet nothing broke. No untimely punctures. No insane drivers taking him out at the start. Even people accidently running into him, like at Las Vegas, didn't matter. Just phenomenal. And just because it's been done twice before (Michael Schumacher in 2002 and Lewis Hamilton in 2019) it doesn't distract from how mindblowing it is.
HISTORICAL STAT OF THE WEEKEND: Whether they actually followed the podium ceremony protocol for every single F1 season like they do now, we'll still play along. Two national anthems get played -- one for the winning driver and one for the winning constructor. This is the first time since 1952 the British national anthem had not been played on the podium for the entire year. For 2023, it was Netherlands, Mexico, and Spain for the drivers; Austria and Italy for the constructors. In 1952, it was Italy for both constructor (Ferrari) and drivers (Piero Taruffi and Alberto Ascari). [Note, the Indy 500 doesn't even play the national anthem after the race.] 1950 and 1951 were also years the British anthem was never heard on the podium.
TWEET OF THE WEEKEND: From @redbulletin:
It’s donut time
You get a donut, everyone gets a donut
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: Max Verstappen, even getting a bit emotional, in his post race radio message, "I just want to say thank you to Franz Tost. He had a lot of us under his wings and this is his last race so thank you."
QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND RUNNERUP: Remember way back, after Baku, Sergio Perez said, "I can win the world driver championship." Yeah, fun times...
SCHEDULE: We were supposed to have 24 races this year, but China (Covid) and Imola (floods) got cancelled. Next year, we are again set to have 24 races. This year was hard enough on those in the sport.
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