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Pole Procession? Edict Sports' F1 Preview


As the chequered flag waves for the start of the 2024 F1 season, all eyes are fixed on the scorching tarmac of Bahrain, where the drama of high-speed battles and strategic maneuvers will once again unfold. With the paddock abuzz with speculation and anticipation, The Edict’s Sports Desk takes a look at what lies ahead in the exhilarating world of Formula One motor racing.


Pass the Dutchie

Last year’s Edict Sports F1 preview began, “The primary storyline last season was Max Verstappen’s continuing dominance over teammate Sergio Perez and his Ferrari rivals”. Since that preview was written, the Queen died, India lost the Cricket World Cup, and Max Verstappen won 19 races out of 22, including an unimaginable ten in a row between Miami and Singapore. Any talk of ending the Verstappen dominance has quietly died down over the past two seasons, as Red Bull has consistently shown that nobody can compete with their all-star combination of all-star car and all-star driver. Testing in the lead-up to Bahrain has shown RB to be faster than ever, improving upon last season’s concept.


The question to answer has rapidly become, “Who will be second best?” Refreshingly, there seems to be a lot of competition. The foremost contender would be Sergio Perez, blessed with Max’s car but perhaps not with his skills, currently struggling to keep his seat as Max’s understudy. The Mexican Minister of Defence has a point to prove, and might want to do it before the midseason.


Best of the Rest

Scuderia Ferrari, the grandest name in all of motorsport, seems best placed to finish second. In Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz, they have perhaps the best pair of drivers on the grid, and the days of Ferrari’s concept competing with RB are not long past. If they can shake the erratic strategy and lack of coordination that has plagued them since the days of Schumacher, they are incredibly well-placed; if not, bottom of midtable sounds about right.


Mercedes has coped well with the end of their dominance so far, but with star driver Lewis Hamilton leaving for Ferrari at the end of this season, they too have a point to prove. Merc has opened the season very strongly in Bahrain practice, and George Russell will look to establish himself at the calibre of Verstappen and Leclerc if he wants to be the new #1 going forward.


After Red Bull, the field looks impossibly crowded; little separates Ferrari and Mercedes from McLaren and Aston Martin, both of whom have radically different approaches. McLaren has bet the house on the concept that saved their season last year and the young drivers Norris and Piastri, who have shown so much promise. Aston Martin has chosen to stick with the legendary Fernando Alonso and the nepotistic Lance Stroll, the lopsided combination that catapulted them to the top last year.



The Crowded Field Behind Red Bull's Max Verstappen


In the sands of Bahrain, the early indicators suggest a tantalisingly close competition. Verstappen has taken pole position in qualifying, trailed closely by Charles Leclerc for Ferrari and George Russell for Mercedes, to set the stage for a thrilling battle (for second) under the desert sun.


Not all teams find themselves basking in glory, though. Alpine's fortunes seem to have taken a downturn, while Haas continues its perennial struggle with budgeting and Visa Cash App RB F1 is best left unmentioned. The absence of fresh faces among the driver ranks is a sign of things to come; with big driver contracts (including Leclerc, Sainz, and Alonso) expiring at the end of this season and several big moves already planned, this season is make-or-break for many of our favourite drivers.


Posh Boys’ Club

Amid all the offseason antics though, a more serious matter has cast its shadow over the sport. The death of Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz last year has led to much of Red Bull GmbH’s shadowy business coming to light, and much of it has to do with the leadership of Red Bull Racing. 


On February 1, Red Bull Racing released a statement announcing an independent investigation into the conduct of Christian Horner, RBR’s team principal. Allegations soon emerged of inappropriate behaviour with a female employee. Red Bull soon cleared Horner of all wrongdoing, but an anonymous email went out on February 29 to all team principals, accredited journalists, and F1 season pass holders, with apparent evidence of Horner’s misconduct. He has since met with F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali and FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem, and the evidence has not been released publicly. While the truth of the allegations, backed only by unverified screenshots and an anonymous email, remains unconfirmed, the affair highlights deeper problems with the sport at large. 


Formula One has long struggled with its image as a complete failure on the inclusivity front. Lewis Hamilton today remains the only true superstar of BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic) heritage in the history of F1. Women remain grossly underrepresented on the grid and in the paddock, and the sport has a long history of being exclusive to the rich and famous. The high costs associated with karting and Formula racing have meant that the sport also selects upper-class drivers, something that F1 has done little to change. Horner’s alleged behaviour, whether true or false, would align with the perception of Formula One as a posh boys’ club.


Racing@Ashoka

For something completely different: as F1 weathers the Horner controversy and fans clutch at straws for any sign of an end to Red Bull’s dominance, fan culture at Ashoka remains alive and kicking. The cross-batch Racing@Ashoka group chat, a long-standing home of Ashoka’s on-campus motorsport fans, will soon celebrate its fifth anniversary. It’s now approaching 300 members across freshers, seniors and alumni, coming together over delusional hopes for an Alonso win and desperate prayers for a Ferrari revival. Check your inboxes for the email invite by Edict Sports’ own Tanush Guha!


On-campus fan culture, in F1 as in other sports, mostly takes the form of screenings of the races and qualifying sessions. A massive boost for fans across India has been the arrival of FanCode as a very affordable screening option(This is, unfortunately, not a sponsored post). Whereas F1TV is priced exorbitantly for students at Rs 250/month or Rs 2500/year, FanCode’s price point of Rs. 50 per weekend puts an end to the scrambles for F1TV subscriptions and pirated links. 


Despite the looming threat of mid-semester exams and mid-semester break plans, the Bahrain GP screening is expected to be well-attended. The start of any F1 season brings the promise of a DTS season: drama, excitement, suspense, strategy, unpredictability and conflict. Welcome to Formula 1, let’s go car racing.


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