(Editors note – I started this post way back in the year 2022, a few weeks after the Abu Dhabi finale, but struggled mightily to complete it. It was Nigel Mansell in the ’95 McLaren bad. Bad enough where I was wondering if I’m even capable of writing more than a text message ever again. However, with the realization that the ’23 season is now less than two weeks away, I’m experiencing a little charge of buzzard energy, so I wanted to float this out there for no reason before turning to a ’23 season preview.)
So where were we? Ah yes, when I last posted, we were heading into the ‘22 season summer break lamenting the woes of Leclerc and Ferrari. By my inexact calculations, Leclerc and Max should have been about dead even if Ferrari (and Leclerc) had their shit together. Unfortunately, for all fans of close competition, Red Bull managed to shed some weight from the RB18 over the summer break, thus allowing the genius engineers the freedom to shift some of the ballast around, thus dialing out the understeer that was hampering Max, thus freeing the Dutch prodigy to go out and decimate the rest of the field.
BEV (Bulseyeview)™: I thought the summer break was a mandatory shutdown of all operations so the overworked employees could reintroduce themselves to their kids and unwind for a few days? Why does it always seem like one team finds a few tenths over the break? The FIA has the cost cap accounting police, so I think it’s time to start a summer break watchdog group aimed at preventing a team from gaining an unfair advantage. If Red Bull can be fined millions and have their ‘23 windtunnel time reduced by 10% for giving the gang at the track a few too many ham sandwiches and giving the folks at the factory too many paid sick days, then we need penalties for summer break infractions. My proposal is simple yet likely effective: If the appointed Summer Break Group hands down a guilty verdict to a team for engaging in unlawful performance enhancement work over the break, then said team will suffer the indignity of losing their right to bring their swanky paddock club pop up media/entertainment center to the next three races and will instead only be allotted one 20×20 pop up canopy tent, 30 folding chairs, two charcoal Webber grills and eight Coleman coolers to entertain their esteemed guests at the track. That’s right, each guilty party is going back to 1980!
Moving along, there isn’t a whole lot else to say about the ‘22 season from Spa through the finale in Abu Dhabi. Max dominated in a manner reminiscent of Schumacher in ‘04 and Vettel in 2013, surpassing the two German legends in the process to tally a record 15 wins for the year.* Red Bull looked every part the perfect racing team, keeping their cost cap woes from affecting their on track performance and winning the constructors title by a whopping 205 points. (For reference, Mercedes won the constructors titles by a larger margin in 2014,15,16,19 and 20).
*Schumacher still has the best single season winning percentage, bagging 72% of the races (13 of 18) in ‘04 vs Max’s 68% clip in ‘22 (15 of 22). And just because you are likely curious what Nigel Mansell did in ‘92, “Our Nige” won 9 of 16 for a 56% win ratio.
So before I officially put the ‘22 season to rest, it is interesting to note that the one race where Mercedes suddenly found enough pace to be on equal footing with the Red Bull Team, the champions seemed to come apart at the seams. The Brazilian GP had pretty much everything you can hope for over a GP weekend:
-A shock Magnussen pole after a 1 lap, slick track qualifying session.
-A Saturday sprint race where Red Bull selected the wrong compound and Max got slapped around by Russell, Sainz and Hamilton.
-A Sunday where Max and Lewis reverted back to their ‘21 ways’ and made contact fighting for the same patch of road in the lovely downhill Senna ‘S’ complex. Both had their races compromised, Max took the penalty.
-A first time GP winner in Russell.
-A complete Red Bull late race meltdown where Max refused to allow Checo through in order to help his cause for securing P2 in the drivers championship, and then publicly scolded the team on the radio for even having the nerve to ask such a vile question.
Max: “Don’t ask me again, I told you guys I have my reasons!”
To which Checo replied over the public airwaves: “He showed who he really is.”
BEV (Bulseyeview)™: Reasons?? Will we ever find out the official reasons? The press ran with the story that it was retaliation for Checo’s questionable qualifying crash at Monaco which gave him pole and ruined Max’s flier. But I’d like to dig a little deeper. I’m thinking that rather than a specific ontrack moment that embittered the young king, it was more an accumulation of simple workplace issues that plague co-workers the world over. I’m throwing darts here, but maybe Checo parked in Max’s spot at the factory on a rainy day, or farted in the simulator just before Max was due to get in the seat, or condescendingly pointed out that Max wasn’t pronouncing Acque Minerali correctly in a debriefing at Imola, or acted a little too happy after winning a Premier League bet, or grabbed the last coffee in the team center and didn’t tell anyone to make more. It is the little things that eventually lead to a “I have my reasons!” outburst.
Whatever the reasons, Checo left Brazil all even with LeClerc rather than up 2pts, and then was beaten by the Ferrari ace in the finale to finish 3rd overall. My hope is that someday it all comes out in the Checo biography titled, “Toro Furioso”.
Bring on ’23!