Azerbaijan Grand Prix

I haven’t watched sports on Sunday afternoon in eons.

I know it’s the day you’re supposed to go to your man cave with your beer and spend all day with the NFL, maybe the MLB, but I have no man cave, I drink no beer, I refuse to watch the NFL because of the head injuries and baseball just isn’t the same game it was back in the sixties, the games are longer and I love that the profits go to the players, not only the owners, but it’s been ruined by data, it can be so slow that the most interesting element is what you eat at the stadium. At least you can follow baseball in person, football not so much, unless you’re way up in the stands, it’s better on television, Formula 1?

We devoured the thirty episodes of “Formula 1: Drive to Survive.” By time we were done I knew all the players, the general workings of the sport, and I researched online, saw that the next race was in Baku, Azerbaijan, and set the DVR.

Formula 1 is an unending fount of news. They’ve got their own site,, and it somehow has more gravitas than those covering American sports. Maybe, because despite the figurehead, Formula 1 is a team sport. The driver is the front person, but without a great car, a great team, you’ve got no chance. Daniel Ricciardo, my favorite driver, could win when he was with Red Bull, but he had no chance with Renault, and even though McLaren was better last year, it seems all of its competitors improved.

So, first I caught up on the news.

Renault, now named Alpine, blew Cyril out! You remember Cyril, who was angry Ricciardo left the team after two years, just when they were building something beautiful… Well, power shifted at Renault corporate and Cyril lost his gig and it proves, once again, that nothing is forever, especially when you’re working for the man, but even more that in today’s society, you’ve got to look out for yourself, you only have one life, one career, be wary of sacrificing it for someone else. Yes, they guilt you, make you feel bad, but really you’re just a pawn in their game.

So it’s already tomorrow in Azerbaijan. It’s eleven hours ahead of L.A. But it was bright and sunny when they ran this race.

And I saw Toto, and Christian…

I hated Toto Wolff and now I love him, he’s my favorite team owner/runner. He’s got that German accent, and up to this year Mercedes always won, but he’s more of a sportsman than his main competitor, the aforementioned Christian Horner, who’s always looking for an edge, Christian will go back to the tape, the recording, protest, do anything to try and gain an advantage, this is why non-New Englanders hate Bill Belichick. Just play the damn game and let the best man/team win. Formula 1 is a metaphor for the world at large, it’s rigged by those with power, who lie, cheat and steal to win more and stay in power. What you ultimately realize when you age is that it’s always been this way and always will be this way. I mean look at all the elected officials who get in sex scandals, who play funny with the money. You’d think after so many had been caught future politicians would be aware and stop, but it never happens, because if you’re honest and truthful…you just cannot get ahead in the world today. “Fair” is not a word used in business or government. Sad, I know, but best to acknowledge it.

So, in practice on Friday, the Mercedes team was having trouble. But Lewis Hamilton had his car adjusted, unlike his teammate Valtteri Bottas, and Saturday he ended up qualifying in second position. Leclerc was first. Ferrari had been an also-ran for so many years, but now they’re back. And Sebastian Vettel, who couldn’t succeed at the red car company is now doing well with Aston Martin, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So ultimately Hamilton takes the lead. And I love Hamilton, but not only because he wins, but because he says and does the right things. He didn’t want to race Down Under when Covid hit in 2020, and ultimately the race was canceled. He’s not only the only Black person racing, he stands up for Black causes. And he’s soft spoken. Too many winners are boasting blowhards. Or in Formula 1, intense and silent. Like Max Verstappen. Great driver, but hard to warm up to.

And then Hamilton comes in for a pit stop and…it takes so long he falls behind. You see when you box (the term for pitting) in Formula 1 you want to be out in two seconds or less, Hamilton took 4.6 seconds. Because Gasly pitted and blocked him from going back out.

Luck of the draw. It’s a big issue in Formula 1. You can be the best driver, have the best car, and still not win.

And the race goes on and Hamilton can’t get ahead of Sergio Perez, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate. But then…

Watching Formula 1 isn’t like watching American sports. Or maybe I just haven’t watched enough sports recently. The screen is filled with data. You can hear the drivers speak, you’re involved. You know who had the fastest lap, how many places they’ve moved up or fallen back, how far ahead or behind they are at all times. And then they’ll give you even more data. And there are no commercials. But at times there is a fake digital rotating sign/advertisement. Formula 1 is laden with commerciality, logos and signs are everywhere, but they don’t stop the action, don’t cut away for commercials, they stay with the race, unlike baseball and football.

There was no audience, because of Covid. And everybody was wearing a mask, except for that Red Bull nincompoop who wasn’t wearing it over his nose. Like we breathe solely through the mouth. The truth is Covid is still raging, if you haven’t been vaccinated, your odds of getting infected are as bad as they were back in January, but you feel safe, good luck with that.

So, all of a sudden Verstappen goes into the wall. His tire failed. Honestly, there’s more I’ve got to learn about the sport. Tires is one thing, the type, the strategy.

And ultimately on the restart… It looked like Hamilton would pull ahead of Perez but then…instead of turning he went straight, right off the course.

It wasn’t until after the race that we learned that he’d accidentally flipped a switch, that changed the brake balance.

Yes, one simple mistake and you fall to the back of the field, that’s how small the margins are.

Which means that Sergio Perez triumphed, the guy who lost his seat at Racing Point (now Aston Martin) last year.

I wasn’t convinced that Perez was that good, I thought since he came with sponsorship money that kept him in the game. I was wrong.

As for the Haas team? How long is this going to go on? The Williams family dropped out, isn’t it time for Haas?

And I’m watching the drivers being interviewed at the end and it’s so clear this is an international sport. Perez is from Mexico. The elated second place finisher Sebastian Vettel is from Germany. And the last man on the podium, Pierre Gasly, is from France. There’s even a Japanese driver. But no Americans. A Canadian, whose billionaire father controls the team, but no one from the self-professed “Greatest Country in the World!”

Next they’re racing in France.

And I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I occasionally fast-forwarded through the race, it started sometime after thirty laps of this fifty one lap contest. I just kept my eyes on the standings, to see if there was any change. Then again, it wasn’t a giant commitment of time, a race is an hour and a half, I spent a little over an hour watching.

And now I’m fired-up.

I’d never want to live in Azerbaijan, but I’d love to go there. People live everywhere, they’ve got their own customs and styles. There’s business, not all of it international. I want to soak it up. I’m excited by Formula 1.

And I haven’t been excited about a new sport for a very long time.

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