Here’s what we’ve learned after the last triple-header of the 2021 F1 season

Nov 23, 2021
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From Left: Lewis Hamilton off the track, Carlos Sainz on it.
PHOTO: AP

TRIPLE-headers in F1 started in 2018, with the first three being the French, Austrian, and British Grand Prix. Since then, there have been mixed reviews for the concept: It seems to be favorable for the fans, who get to sit down to three solid races every weekend, but not so much for the teams.

McLaren’s team principal, Andreas Seidl, has said: “From my point of view, we should avoid completely again, to reduce the burden on our people, the triple-headers on the calendar." He would prefer, instead, to see a “rotation on tracks per year.”

Whether you love or hate the concept, you have to admit that this year’s triple-headers were all memorable. Remember the crazy race in Monza, where we saw a McLaren 1-2 and a heated collision between the championship protagonists? Yup, that was during a triple-header.

They’ve surely kept us on our toes during what has arguably been the most exciting season in the turbo-hybrid era.

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This year’s final triple-header ended with a win for the reigning world champ, as Lewis Hamilton displayed a dominant drive at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix. His report card for the last 3 races would definitely yield an A+ and his performances have allowed him to close the gap against his rival, Max Verstappen, to a single digit.

With just 2 races left until the title gets decided, here are some of the things we’ve learned from F1’s recent visit to Mexico, Brazil, and Qatar:

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    Hamilton keeps getting better as he gets older in F1

    His performance in Brazil was a stark reminder of why he is a 7-time world champion in the first place. Despite getting an engine penalty and starting at the back of the grid (thanks to a quali disqualification) he managed to storm through the field finishing in, wait for it, P1!

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    Some say that that was one of his best drives yet and among his 102 wins, that would probably be one of the highlights. Skeptics were forced to eat their words (and his dust), especially those who argue that he’s fast just because of his car. Take it from Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who praised Lewis by saying that “what Lewis showed [this weekend] goes beyond what a car can offer.”

    Mercedes built upon this momentum and in Qatar, we saw prime Hamilton racing confidently out front.

    Ferrari is looking like a stronger bet for P3 in the constructors’

    For a while, McLaren looked confidently safe in P3 despite Daniel Ricciardo’s struggles. However, things have gone downhill for the papaya team since their iconic Monza win.

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    Meanwhile, Ferrari has shown more consistency and power after taking some engine upgrades. Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc have quietly been edging towards the lead over their main rival with consistent double-point finishes whereas McLaren have managed to score just 4 points throughout the triple-header. As such, Ferrari now has a 39.5 point-advantage and could very well be best of the rest unless McLaren gets lucky.

    Gasly and Sainz deserve more credit

    On Formula 1’s social media channels and on the race broadcasts, it’s noticeable how some drivers rarely get the spotlight while others are consistently shown on screen. Good drivers who fall under the former? Carlos Sainz and Pierre Gasly.

    Yes, they’re definitely on F1’s social media radar, but we barely see them throughout the race. I know, there’s probably more action elsewhere on the track, and some drivers probably have even less screen time (see: Giovinazzi, the Haas duo, other backmarkers); but Sainz and Gasly have been performing really well and I feel like they deserve more love and attention from the audience.

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    Carlos Sainz’s underratedness was briefly discussed on the Go! F1 show withe former Fox Sports Asia F1 presenter Matthew Marsh:

    Thanks to their consistency and skill, both Gasly and Sainz have been big contributors to their teams in their respective constructor fights.

    No offense to Yuki, but just look at how Gasly has been hard-carrying AlphaTauri and how he’s gotten it so close to Alpine to the point that they were tied before going to Brazil.

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    Sainz has also managed to score more podiums than his more popular teammate, Leclerc — continuously showing why Ferrari made the right call to bring him to Maranello.

    Alonso is still a strong contender despite his age

    When two-time champion Fernando Alonso announced that he was coming back to the grid, I was honestly one of those who thought that he should have stayed in retirement. I mean no disrespect, but I really thought that at 40 years old, he would no longer be able to keep up with all the fresh young guns.

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    Lo and behold, Alonso’s performances have proven me wrong. I can still vividly remember the Hungarian Grand Prix wherein we saw him holding off his old teammate, Hamilton, for 11 full laps! This allowed his teammate, Esteban Ocon, to safely pull away and cross the chequered flag first; therefore giving him his first win in F1.

    We saw another flash of Alonso brilliance when he managed to hold on to 3rd place and bag his first podium after 7 years, in Qatar, despite all the tire drama around him.

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    The stewards need to be more consistent with their calls and penalties

    People are probably already tired of hearing this, but the stewards really need to be more consistent with their calls because even the drivers themselves are getting so confused. Leclerc admitted in an interview that if Verstappen’s defense on Hamilton in Brazil went unpunished (it didn’t) then “overtaking around the outside is going to be very difficult.” He continued this by saying that “whatever the situation, the decision is, I’ll just adapt my driving to it.”

    Sainz and McLaren’s Lando Norris also talked about this in a recent interview that they did for Sky Sports.

    “I think there are some weekends that they are very consistent in what they do, and then there are other weekends where if we compare obviously Brazil to maybe Austria, it’s not exactly the same. There will be different penalties applied but sometimes you go into a weekend and you know that all the decisions taken are correct and consistent, then you compare maybe in six months time back maybe they’re not. But this is something to discuss as Lando said in the drivers’ meeting… yeah, we will have a look at what we can do better as a sport,” said Sainz.

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    Some calls this year have really been quite questionable and it’s very crucial because one bad call could cost a championship.

    Random observations:

    Pirelli must do something about the tires after all the tire blowouts in Qatar — which was quite reminiscent of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix where Verstappen lost a guaranteed win.

    Meanwhile, Antonio Giovinazzi’s statement during his departure announcement was a reminder of money’s huge impact in the sport. His statement came after it was announced that he will be replaced by Guanyu Zhou who is reportedly coming into Alfa Romeo with a hefty backing.

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    There you have it! Some insights and realizations that we’ve had over the course of 2021’s final triple-header. If I’m being honest, it’s now much harder to make an assumption on who would be bringing home the drivers’ championship (given how extremely close the battle has been) but in the event that Hamilton would win in Jeddah along with an extra point for fastest lap, they could enter the last race with a tie. Hypothetically, Verstappen could also claim the championship by then if he finishes 18 points ahead of Hamilton.

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    From Left: Lewis Hamilton off the track, Carlos Sainz on it.
    PHOTO: AP
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