ICYMI: The F1 #AzerbaijanGP Edition Roundup.

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The Azerbaijan GP is like a steak–it (the action) is either rare or well done.

With that horrible analogy out of the way, here are the talking points from a rather action-packed weekend:

Daniel Ricciardo has allegedly signed a pre-contract with Ferrari for 2019. This rumor started around the time of the Bahrain GP, and has resurfaced, this time with more…emphasis? No concrete sources have been named, so this remains a solid rumor (for now).

Red Bull have allegedly given Ricciardo until August to sign a new contract:

Ricciardo has also promised to do something very interesting if he wins the title this year:

Over to you, Sebastian and Lewis!

He also managed to squeeze in a minor lip surgery in between races. Yes, you read it right: a lip surgery.

It’s very tempting to put the blame on the infamous shoey.

Nico Hulkenberg (and Stoffel Vandoorne) got some unexpected comedy relief when they arrived at Azerbaijan…

Vandoome sounds like a comic book villain. Move over, Thanos!

Speculation spread like wildfire about that mysterious 3rd paddle on Sebastian Vettel’s steering wheel. What did he say when asked about it?

Whether or not you are a McLaren fan, try this tricky quiz to see how geeky you are when it comes to F1:

Baku’s F1 Drivers’ Wall has become quite popular/controversial, to say the least:

Those images are sort of difficult to forget. Well done, Baku.

FOM started superimposing graphics on the halo during FP1, and fans approved:

Both Charles Leclerc and Sergey Sirotkin made it into Q2 for the 1st time this season. The Battle of the Rookies is On like Donkey Kong!

Sebastian Vettel was unimpressive in both FP1 and FP2, but managed a strong FP3 and then snatched pole during Quali. And in case you’re interested, he only needs 1 more pole to complete a set of go-kart tires from Pirelli.

The Toro Rosso teammates both had a scare during quali. It could have resulted in a horrific crash but thankfully, some fantastic reflexes from Gasly prevented any accident.

Nico Hulkenberg admitted he uses (/used?) a dating app. Apparently, half the paddock is on it, too.

There really should be a dating app exclusively for motorsport personnel and fans alike. Get on it, developers!

Meanwhile, his teammate Carlos Sainz likes rap music, and already has his very own rapper name:

Raceday: Kimi Raikkonen and Esteban Ocon clashed during the 1st lap, which ended the Frenchman’s race. Ocon was definitely not happy with Kimi and had harsh words for him:

Perhaps the most shocking, and biggest controversy of the race, was when the two Red Bulls collided, effectively ending their race and steady march to a points haul.

Adrian Newey and his notebook were not impressed.

Ricciardo and Verstappen were ordered to apologize to the whole team:

Pierre Gasly was hugely unhappy with Kevin Magnussen after they tussled during the SC restart. He branded him “the most dangerous driver I’ve ever raced with”.

Gasly and Hulkenberg should form a club of Magnussen non-admirers.

Romain Grosjean was doing so well, he quietly made up tons of places and was on his way to a points finish–that was, until he crashed behind the Safety Car.

With that crash, Grosjean now holds a stat that isn’t something to be proud of:

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas was on his way to his (and Mercedes’) first win of the season, until he ran over some debris from previous incidents which blew up his right rear tire and led to his retirement. He was understandably crushed, and this photo spoke volumes of his heartbreak:

(Some are even saying this photo is already a strong contender for the F1 2018 Photo of the Season.)

Bottas’ teammate, and defending Champion Lewis Hamilton then went on to take the win, but before appearing for the podium ceremonies, Lewis went to see his teammate and offered his consolations. Look at him sharing his #blessedness…

Force India’s Sergio Perez also snatched a sneaky P3, despite having had a 5-second penalty earlier in the race. This was Perez’s return to the podium after nearly 2 years.

The feel-good story of the GP: Sauber’s Charles Leclerc scored the first few points of his F1 career by finishing P6, and became a Driver of the Day as well.

The Monรฉgasque also broke a 68-year old standing record!

Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley also registered his first F1 points, thereby breaking a 42-year old standing record by a Kiwi:

The race was definitely not short on incidents. So here’s the “Reprimands! Sanctions! Penalties! No further actions!” Section:

The 2018 Azerbaijan GP summed up in a GIF:

Or, if you prefer a superquick recap, here’s the race in 60 seconds:

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Four races in: three different winners, plenty of on-track action and off-track debates. 2018 is shaping up to be a nail-biting season!

ICYMI: The F1 #ChineseGP Edition Roundup.

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Three words: What. A. Race!

However, let’s back up a bit, shall we?

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Kimi Raikkonen proved his unparalleled popularity in China yet again:

F1 driver or rockstar? You decide.

Bonus: Here’s Kimi saying ‘I love you’ in Chinese:

This is the content you never knew you needed.

Sebastian Vettel engaged with the fans at the airport, and encouraged them to sing Happy Birthday to his trainer Antti:

Fernando Alonso opened a branch of his FA Karting School in China. It’s a pretty huge step, and hopefully will help find a future Asian F1 Champion!

Lewis Hamilton officially launched his collaboration with American Fashion Brand Tommy Hilfiger. The logo actually looks quite cool.

Following the hoopla over Dickheadgate last Bahrain GP, Lewis and Max Verstappen looked to have cleared the air. Lewis said he will be more careful now over what he says:

Former McLaren and Red Bull driver, and now C4 F1 Pundit David Coulthard will have a new book out this May, focusing on the leadership, motivation, and business aspects of F1:

Remember Pierre Gasly’s Alonso-esque “Now we can fight!” radio message to his team post-Bahrain GP? He had to explain that it was meant to give credit to Honda, after some Spanish and Alonso fans apparently sent him negative/abusive messages on social media:

Come on, now. Leave Pierre alone!

The much-anticipated F1 TV will finally launch the weekend of the Spanish GP. Want to know if you can enjoy it from your country? Check out the list below:

Would you like to know the favorite songs of the Alfa Romeo Sauber drivers, Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc? Would you like to hear them sing? Of course you do.

Speaking of things that are difficult to forget, these F1 Driver…3D Caricatures(?)/Mascots are honestly something else. I for one cannot unsee them.

During Qualifying, Sebastian Vettel snatched pole from his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, and took the new track record at Shanghai.

Ferrari also broke a long-standing drought, registering their 1st back-to-back front row lockout in 12 years!

Nico Hulkenberg seems to have an affinity with P7, judging from his last 6 grid positions…

Raceday: Mercedes gave Ferrari a dose of their own medicine via Valtteri Bottas undercutting Vettel. How do you say “Take That!” in German?

The two Toro Rossos suffer a surprise collision, with Brendon Hartley’s car coming off worse and spewing debris onto the track. Pierre Gasly promptly complained on Team Radio about his teammate closing doors…

Polesitter and erstwhile race leader Sebastian Vettel was already trying to salvage a screwed-up race, but Max Verstappen thought he can make Seb’s race worse by diving for an overtake when there wasn’t enough room. The 2 cars collided and did synchronized spinning. Ferrari fans were not amused.

Overtake of the Race goes to Ricciardo on Hamilton. Scratch that, it goes to Ricciardo vs Bottas. Actually, let’s just have ALL of Dan’s overtakes as the highlights of the race. Bold, but clean–that’s how it should be done!

Dan “I don’t seem to win boring races” Ricciardo celebrated his victory by bringing back the infamous Shoey:

Kimi actually looked mildly amused on the podium! Sadly, Dan didn’t dare offer him a Shoey.

Meanwhile, fans who expected fireworks post-race were disappointed when they saw how calm Vettel and Verstappen were while discussing their ontrack tussle:

Max has admitted that he was at fault for the incident, and that he had already apologized to Sebastian.

Expectedly, Ricciardo also won Driver of the Day. There really was no contest!

This is basically the race in a tweetshell:

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The first three races have been mad in their own special ways–perhaps we need a nice, steady race to calm us down? Oh wait, Baku is up next…

ICYMI: The F1 #BahrainGP Edition Roundup.

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That break between Australia and Bahrain felt like forever, didn’t it?

Thankfully, F1 is back, and is crammed with more talking points than ever:

Pierre Gasly spills the tea on why he and Esteban Ocon are not friends anymore:

Speaking of Esteban Ocon, a random Twitter discussion on his mysterious famous lookalike led to the discovery of his incredibly long full name:

Who knew he had a mouthful of a name? (Source: French Wikipedia)

Back to Gasly, apparently, his big masterplan to attract good racing results is to not shave until the end of the season:

Sebastian Vettel arrived at the circuit on Thursday carrying a mysterious briefcase, and nobody knows what that was about:

Update: Autobild has confirmed the briefcase contained his Backgammon board!

Looks like the grid girls may be back–for Monaco and maybe even Sochi.

*sighs and judges in multiple languages*

And it seems there’s another driver (aside from Nico Hulkenberg) who wants the grid girls back:

Have you ever wondered how the F1 2018 grid will look like as ONE driver? Of course you have. Wonder no more, thanks to Reddit:

During a lull in FP1, Kevin Magnussen provided further proof he’s kind of obsessed with Balls…

The F1 Teams met on Friday to decide on the new rules starting 2021. Below is an outline of what has been decided:

Nothing too exciting or groundbreaking. Yet.

Both Red Bulls retired within the first few laps of the GP: Verstappen limped back to the pits with a puncture after a 1st lap tussle with Hamilton, while Ricciardo ended up parking the car minutes after the green light due to loss of power. The double retirement effectively ended Red Bull’s 38-race point-scoring streak.

Kevin Magnussen’s language was as colorful as ever, complaining about his teammate cutting him off and holding him up during midrace. He managed to finish P5.

Kimi Raikkonen unfortunately hit a Ferrari mechanic on his pit stop, and was released without the Left Rear tire getting replaced.

The mechanic, Francesco Cigarini, sustained a shinbone and fibula fracture:

Update: Francesco’s surgery went well, and he is now recovering.

And for those who think Kimi’s a heartless bastard, he’s already left a comment on Francesco’s post!

Ferrari was fined โ‚ฌ50,000 for Kimi’s unsafe release.

Marcus Ericsson of Sauber finally scored his first couple of F1 points after 50 races of trying! Now it’s up to Leclerc to step up.

Pierre Gasly took home his Toro Rosso in P4, 48 whole seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, and expertly trolled him by quoting him at the end:

Aside from being voted by the fans as Driver of the Day, Gasly has also now joined an illustrious club:

Fernando Alonso will be comforted by the fact that he is currently sitting P4 at the WDC table, ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen!

Lewis Hamilton called Max Verstappen a “dickhead” while watching a replay of their tussle on the cool down room:

(Vettel’s reaction: Priceless!)

Of course he got asked about it in the post-race press conference, and Sebastian Vettel surprisingly defended his rival:

Even Mark Webber approves!

Sergio Perez and Brendon Hartley both got sanctioned for what seemed to be one of the most polite ontrack battles in recent years:

F1 is so flabbergastingly strange, sometimes!
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Well then, China should be fun!

Kimi Raikkonen and Dani Pedrosa: This Is Their Year.

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F1 driver Kimi Raikkonen and MotoGP rider Dani Pedrosa have a lot in common and are actually more similar than meets the eye:

Both are economical with their words, yet they are also known for thought-provoking, insightful interviews once in a while.

Both are allergic to bullshit, but can play the diplomat/mediator when needed.

Both enjoy tightknit and incredibly loyal fanbases, which go to great lengths to travel with them around the world and to passionately defend their racing heroes on social media.

Both have been overshadowed by their prodigious, more extroverted teammates.

Both have experienced major criticism for lackluster on-track performances, and for hogging seats that many believe should have been relinquished to younger, hungrier racers years ago.

Both are unadulterated, absolute racers, who prefer to keep their heads down and prove their worth on the track.

I love and admire them and as much as I wish that they can go on racing forever, the reality is that they are both facing a daunting, make-or-break year this 2018.

Raikkonen is believed to be on a one year contract with Ferrari, which expires at the end of this season. He is currently the oldest driver on the F1 grid and has not won a race since 2013. Pedrosa, who has been with Repsol Honda for all his MotoGP premier class career, has not renewed his contract yet. He is the most high-profile rider who has not won a MotoGP title so far.

Plenty of F1 drivers and MotoGP riders are already being linked to their seats. The season has barely started but the pressure is undoubtedly on Kimi and Dani not just to perform but to perform exceedingly well.

Are they merely getting by because of their reputations? Are they being kept simply to play wingmen and to keep their teammates placated? Are they past the point of being Champion-material? Are they wasting their time with teams that may not have their best interests at heart? Think of a criticism and chances are, that has been hurled at those two multiple times already.

Forget their rivals. 2018 is the year of Raikkonen and Pedrosa.

This is their year to step up.

This is their year to overcome the pesky “Number 2” label.

This is their year to prove their critics wrong.

This is their year. But, they’ll have to work damn hard for it. No excuses, no margin for error, no half-heartedness allowed.

In an ideal world, pure talent will keep them in F1 and MotoGP, and make them shoo-in title contenders, but the reality is that it takes a hell of a lot more than that. Luck, unwavering team support and an almost-obsessive focus to win also come into play in the proverbial game of thrones: racing edition.

It is a Herculean task, which is entirely up to Kimi and Dani to overcome. The odds against them are overwhelming, their rivals are fierce and ruthless, but only Kimi and Dani can decide how to ultimately take control of their stories.

Admittedly, I am equal parts terrified and excited to see how their seasons will pan out. I have become way too emotionally-invested in their racing careers and there’s simply no turning back.

And so I implore my fellow Kimi and Dani fans not to take this season for granted, by any means. Savor every race. Appreciate what they bring to their respective grids. Love them or loathe them, you have to recognize the fact that both are incredible racers who changed racing history in their own way. We don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone, and all that.

My gut is telling me this is going to be–for lack of a better phrase–one interesting year.

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(Should Kimi stay in Ferrari for one more year? Should Dani renew his Honda contract or move on to another team? Let me know your thoughts in the comment box or tweet me @bouncebckbltrx)