Written by Vedika Pathania, a second-year journalism student
When it comes to Formula One, most of us know the one fundamental concept- super-fast cars racing each other.
Before we go into 2021’s championship, let us get to know a little more about Formula One and how it works. Formula One is the pinnacle of single-seater formula racing cars.
How does it work?
There are 10 teams each season with 2 drivers each. The teams and drivers keep changing based on contracts. What is important to note is the fact that not all teams have the same car. This is mainly due to the funding; some teams are richer than the others and are hence able to design better and faster cars. Each year, Formula One travels from one country to another to race a total of about 21 to 25 races (The races are called ‘Grand Prix(s)). Based on where drivers finish the races, they are awarded points and the driver with the most points at the end of each season wins the Driver’s Championship and the team with the most points ends up winning the Constructor’s Championship. Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team has won the latter for 8 consecutive years (Wow!).
Most of us know only two names when it comes to the world of racing- Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton, both have won 7 World Championships each which is also the world record.
So who is Max Verstappen, how long has he been racing and why is he such a huge deal?
Max Verstappen is a 24-year-old Belgian-Dutch racing driver who races for Red Bull Racing Honda. He became the youngest driver to race in Formula One at the 2015 Australian Grand Prix, when he was 17 years old. He began his 2016 season with Scuderia Toro Rosso having spent the previous season with the Italian team, before being promoted to parent team Red Bull Racing after four races. He won the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix on his Red Bull Racing debut at the age of 18, becoming the youngest driver in Formula One history and the first Dutch driver to do it. He came in third place in both the 2019 and 2020 championships. He became the first Dutch driver to win the Formula One World Championship and the 34th Formula One World Drivers’ Champion after winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in 2021.
Why is this a huge deal?
Since 2014, Mercedes has dominated F1. Lewis Hamilton, their star driver, has won a total of 7 world championships. Max Verstappen, in 2021, was his only contender. His win in 2021 put a halt to the Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton’s domination of the sport.
Why was the 2021 season so special?
Everyone expected Lewis Hamilton to clinch his 8th title at the beginning of the 2021 season, but Max Verstappen emerged as Hamilton’s only rival. Out of the 22 races in 2021, Hamilton won 8 and Verstappen won 10, the rest were won by 4 other different drivers. The season was thrilling because no matter who of the two won the championship, history would be made.
If Lewis Hamilton would have won the 2021 championship, he would’ve broken Michael Schumacher’s world record of 7 titles. On the other hand, Max Verstappen became the first Dutch World Champion and one of the youngest champions in Formula One.
Throughout the season, the two drivers pushed themselves and their cars to the absolute limit. The point lead kept changing as they kept winning the races almost alternatingly. This fight reached its peak at the final race of the season which was at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Both the drivers went into the final race with equal points, a phenomenon that Formula One world had not seen since 1974. The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix hence became the concluding race of the season which, after much controversy, favored Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing Honda. Because of the controversial decisions made, Mercedes appealed to the FIA (the body that regulates auto-racing events).
Wheel-to-wheel racing, crashes, accusations, momentum shifts, and overtaking, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton’s title battle in 2021 will go down as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
2021’s season also sets high expectations for 2022. Will Lewis Hamilton make a comeback and win his 8th title, or will Max Verstappen win his 2nd World Championship? We can only predict. Formula One’s 2022 season is all set to begin in March 2022 starting with Bahrain.
Why has F1 suddenly become popular among the younger crowd?
The F1 world is full of glitz and glamour and luxury. A sport that was considered to be for the rich has recently seen a rise in the fanbase after Netflix’s hit F1 docuseries “Drive to Survive”. However, F1 wasn’t televised until the 1980s and even after that, the sport’s popularity has a lot to do with drivers and their nationalities, and where the home bases of the racing teams are. For example, it is popular in Italy because it is the home of Ferrari and racing drivers such as Alberto Ascari. Similarly, Britain is home to Mclaren and racing legends such as Lewis Hamilton and Nigel Mansell. However, the Netflix series led to a sharp increase in F1’s viewership and a decline in the average age of the viewers.
Has there ever been an Indian Grand Prix and an Indian Driver?
From 2011 to 2013, the Indian Grand Prix was held at the Buddh International Circuit in Uttar Pradesh. All three races were won by 4-time world champion Sebastian Vettel. However, because of tax disputes, F1 has not returned to India. The businessman, Vijay Mallya owned an F1 team- Force India Formula One Team Limited, commonly known as Force India and later Sahara Force India. The team was later bought out and as of 2021, isn’t competing.
Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok are the only Indian Formula One drivers as of 2021. There have been 59 Grands Prix in which Indian Formula One drivers have competed. Over the course of these Grands Prix, Indian Formula One drivers have collected a total of 5 points. No Indian driver has ever won a race, placed on the podium, or set the fastest lap or pole position. This, to an extent, explains why F1 in India isn’t as popular as it is in the West. However, there is some hope which remains with JehanDaruvala, an Indian racing driver who drives for Carlin Motorsport in the FIA Formula 2 Championship. After winning one of three ‘One in a Billion hunts’ conducted by the Force India F1 team in 2011, he became a protégé of the organisation. He is a part of the Red Bull Junior Team at the moment.
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Headline image url: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Max_Verstappen_2016_Malaysia_2.jpg
Attribution: Morio, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons