Last evening, I watched my first full F1 race in several years (we did occasionally switch to the cricket, but those moments were brief). I hadn’t anticipated the start of a season with such eagerness in a long while. All this time, I kept following commentary on Twitter, where most of the teams engage in a lot of entertaining banter — especially the midfield teams, with all of whom I want to be friends. However, I didn’t sit down to watch a race. What was the point, when Lewis Hamilton would taunt Max Verstappen with a hope of victory, then take the chequered flag anyway?
I could have watched it for the racing, which should ideally be the point, but I also need my team to do well, or someone to root strongly for. It never really clicked after Michael Schumacher quit Ferrari. Kimi Räikkönen’s 2007 Championship was probably the last thing in F1 I celebrated, and I was heartbroken when the title slipped away from Felipe Massa’s hands at Brazil 2008. Since then, with Sebastian Vettel and Hamilton distributing the titles between themselves (and oh yes, Nico Rosberg, a victory I enjoyed simply to be contrary), none in a Ferrari, things have gone mostly downhill.
In the early 2000s, I watched the races religiously. When I worked on Physics problems related to Bernoulli’s Principle and the examples spoke of aircraft wings, I thought of race cars. I was delighted when Force India came into existence and hoped that I would work with them some day. (A teacher wisely asked me to set my sights on a top team.) Of course, there was nothing Indian about Force India, but we celebrate any Indian connection we can find in motorsport, and get utterly excited when an Indian driver is in the picture. No pressure, Jehan Daruvala!
I must admit that a lot of my interest this year stems from the entry of Mick Schumacher. In his clunky Haas, he will probably be the backmarker seeing blue flags for a couple of years, but can I tell you how delighted I was when he finished his debut F1 race, and that too in 16th position? He recovered from a spin and kept going, benefiting from other retirements and mechanical problems, not to finish last.
Seeing ‘MSC’ on the screen is a thing of sheer joy. Michael Schumacher introduced me to F1 and taught me a lot of things about focus, discipline, and grit. (I wrote about this a few years ago.) He is the one I look up to when I’m going through tough times at work or in life. And to see Mick on the grid now, having worked his way up through the junior championships, is pure happiness. How someone so young takes pressure this comfortably is beyond me — but he is not a stranger to difficult circumstances, and is in all likelihood prepared for a good deal of hard work and scrutiny.
Ferrari might be a similar story this year. Watching Charles Leclerc slip down the grid felt familiar; Carlos Sainz hung in for a points finish. But this is not the team I worshipped and I want to see them back on top, fighting for the Constructors’ title. While the fight between Hamilton and Verstappen was tense and I was hoping Verstappen would come through for the win, I wasn’t utterly disappointed when he didn’t. I am at a point where I want a different winner just for the novelty of it. I have nothing against Hamilton, and I enjoyed Schumacher’s years of dominance as a Ferrari fan, but it does get boring. A few Leclerc wins wouldn’t hurt, but please, Ferrari, do something!
That said, watching the fireworks over Bahrain at the close of the race reminded me just how enjoyable F1 — or sport in general — makes Sunday evenings. Especially in the middle of the year, when tennis, cricket, MotoGP, and F1 jostle for supremacy, there is so much goodness (and spice) to liven up your Monday mornings, followed by four days of looking forward to more sport. All I want now is for Ferrari to bring back the glory days and give me the revelry of the Italian anthem on Sunday evenings.
PS. I never ended up working in F1, but who knows, I still might!