On and off the track: the 2024 roller coasters Cars and transports

As enthusiasts are well acquainted, the winter break between seasons has always reserved shocks for the F1 fans, and thus denoted as “F1 silly season”. The term refers to numerous speculations, rumors, and discussions about driver transfers, team changes, and other potential shifts within the sport. However, the adjective “silly” implies that some of the rumors or speculations may seem exaggerated or unlikely, adding an element of uncertainty and excitement for fans. Though, the month both prior and entering the new F1 season proved to be both true and rich of plot twists. 


Lewis Hamilton in a red suit

The month of Aquarium opened, if we were to look at the economy, was inaugurated by Ferrari’s stocks witnessing an uptick. Might this be due to the then newly released financial statements regarding the financial year of 2023, which saw an increase in sales for the Italian manufacturer? Well, as my accounting professor said, it might; though, it might also be due to the rumors and following confirmation of a new driver joining the Maranello’s team starting from 2025. 

As Will Buxton said in Drive to Survive, in Formula 1 there is no smoke without fire. However, voices stating that Lewis Hamilton would have signed with Ferrari have been circulating for the majority of his career: already in the 2010s the closeness between the British driver and the Italian team were circulating, with then the interruption of further agreements due to the impossibility of bringing Lewis’ own team in Italy. Also the previous year, before the Monaco Grand Prix, rumors about a possible switch of teams was hinted at, generating the famous clip of Charles Leclerc answering with “Hello Lewis!” to the question of his dream teammate. 

And with the beginning of February, the rumor once again exploded, but this time backed up by trusted prominent journalistic publications: everyone was posting and writing about Lewis coming to Italy from next year. A fire so fed, that everyone had to come out in the light. In the official statement posted by Mercedes, Lewis stated “I have had an amazing 11 years with this team and I’m so proud of what we have achieved together. Mercedes has been part of my life since I was 13 years old. It’s a place where I have grown up, so making the decision to leave was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. But the time is right for me to take this step and I’m excited to be taking on a new challenge”. 

The internet exploded: fans were both shocked and saddened by the news. Indeed, for both teams’ enthusiasts the move came quite as a shock: one one side, Mercedes will be losing their long-lasting driver; on the other, Ferrari will see the departure of Carlos Sainz, who last year was the only non-RedBull driver who won a Grand Prix. 

In addition, Ferrari’s devotees were concerned by the future implication of such a move: Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur claimed that Leclerc will be put at the center of the project, as RedBull already did with Max Verstappen, and promote the Monegasque to the role of first driver. But then, you sign a driver such as Lewis Hamilton, who will definitely not settle for the role of second driver and who is aiming to win his eight world championship, So, how will the situation develop? Well, for the moment, we can just enjoy this season and wait for the next one.

The Horner Gate and the possible downfall of RedBull Racing

As a female motorsport enthusiast, I unfortunately have suffered the toxic masculinity and the stereotype: many times, while showing up at Grand Prixs, rude fans have accused me of following the sport just for the “good looks of the drivers”. It did not matter that, in order to be outside the front gate of Monza’s renowned hotel, where Ferrari drivers have been famously staying during the Italian GP, I had to get up at 4 a.m., or that to be the first to enter the fanzone on Thursday I and other girls literally suffered from sunburning due to camping at the gate four hours before the entering time. 

But whilst I can disregard rude comments from others, words spoken by power figures within the sport are not easily forgotten, and especially actions cannot be left unspoken. The hate relationship with Christian Horner and the female fanbase, in particular, has never been worse. The RedBull Team Principal, indeed, has never been well loved: might it be his brilliant performance at the helm of the Milton Keynes’ team for some, might be the controversial words and accusation for others. In particular, in the last few months, the F1 environment has assisted to the preceding of a secretive investigation, regarding a female employee reporting sexual abuse  from her boss. 

The Austrian team, following the accusation, has started an internal investigation: to the outside world, no clear information has been disclosed, resulting in a mediatic chaos. No one had precise knowledge about the case and thus voices started to circulate. What we know, however, is that Horner was declared innocent based on the evidence gathered by the private investigator hired by RedBull. 

But on the other hand, in the days afterward, even more disarray bursted. It all began with the spread of a Drive folder, which contained all the proofs sent by the victim: mainly screenshots of Whatsapp messages between the woman and the Team Principal, which were allegedly said to have been sent to both media and other figures of the sport. In addition, some days after, the same woman was put on leave by RedBull itself. The Internet exploded: fans began asking for the dismissal of Horner and a subsequential explanation from RB, demanding clearance on the case, plus the intervention of the FIA with a formal investigation since many considered just the internal one not properly assertive due to the firm’s desire to keep its head. 

Indeed, the confirmation of the guilt would have meant the downfall of RedBull. First of all, the team would have lost its future partner – that is Ford – due to the latter not desiring to collaborate with a company whose Team Principal might have been guilty of those accusations: and as many can imagine, being deprived of the company who is going to produce your power unit from 2026 is something that an F1 team cannot afford. Secondly, Horner’s exit would have been followed by the resignation of many figures: rumors dictated that Adrian Newey – the prised Chief Technology Officer who definitely built a rocketspace for this season – would have also left the team. Therefore, fans were demanding an official investigation from the FIA or F1 itself, or at least more information regarding the case.

But while confusion revolves around the Austrian team, competitors have just one objective: the downfall of the winning adversary. It is no coincidence that, following the sexual assault allegations, rumors about Max Verstappen possibly being Hamilton’s replacement in Mercedes followed, driven by the animosity between his father and his “adoptive work-dad” with the first releasing to the media that the victim of the case is his lover. In addition, in the Saudi Arabian paddock many were the photos of John Elkann and Frédéric Vasseur leaving RedBull’s hospitality: voices states that il Cavallino Rampante is currently working to bring in Italy four of the main engineers of the rival, among which Newey himself.

Nevertheless, all these remain rumors: how the situation will escalate, unfortunately, I cannot tell. We will just have to follow the season. But of one sure we are certain: light will come, while RedBull domain the circuits. 


The beginning of the season

And as every year winter leaves space for spring, in the Formula 1 world the work done during the break now speaks for itself on the circuits around the globe. But once again, whilst other teams satisfy or underperform the expectations set by media during the early months of the year, RedBull once again overperform: rumoured failed tests now leave space for a car which leaves no space for the competitors. In the first two races, once again, Verstappen and Perez have left no crumble for the other drivers, with the first literally never shown on the screens except for the start and end of the races. “That car is a rocketship” were the exact words used by George Russell to describe the RB20. 

But the season proved to be far from finished, and gave hope for a close battle after the Australian Grand Prix: for the brave souls that got up at 5am CET, sunrise came with the Italian anthem blasting a full volume. The race proved to be full of plot twists since the beginning, with Carlos Sainz surpassing Max Verstappen during the second lap and managing to keep the position even though the latter had from the following lap the possibility to use the DRS: but the Spaniard managed to defend his newly acquired position and started to gain a comfortable gap with the current World Champion. But the main unexpected turn came in the fifth lap: the brake problems accused in the beginning laps created a failure in the system of Verstappen’s car, which ended up with the rear right brake catching fire and burning the structure and the tyre, forcing the driver to retire. A DNF that came two years after the last one, which coincidentally happened also in Australia: and from then, the race was open.

But whilst everyone thought that Sergio Perez would have bagged the victory after his teammate’s retirement, the RB20 did not manage to keep up with Ferrari and McLaren: he finished fifth, but crossed the finish line nearly a minute after Sainz, which in F1 is an enormous gap. And with a successful strategy, Ferrari accomplished a 1-2 finish, with Charles Leclerc on the second step of the podium: after undercutting Norris, the Italian team maximized its result, with the Monegasque driver also taking the additional point for the fastest lap. A magical moment for the Tifosi, who ended up crying – at least, I did – when, before the end of the race, Sainz told the team to ask Leclerc to come near him in order to celebrate the victory: in fact, due to RusSell’s crash, the race ended with a Virtual Safety Car, thus blocking the grid positions, and so Sainz had no fear of losing his P1 placement. An incredible result, considering that the Spaniard underwent a surgery just two week before the race, due to appendicitis: the driver sat out of the Saudi Arabian GP, and against all odds raced in Australia. Lando Norris even joked that, looking at his former teammate’s accomplishment, maybe he should remove his appendix too in order to win a race.  

Thus, whilst RedBull and Mercedes did not accomplish such a great result, with the latter not even scoring a single point due to both drivers retiring (Hamilton due to an engine failure, Russell due to a crash), Ferrari scored a 1-2 finish, and McLaren a 3-4 one. And even though the season has just begun, the championship standings are closer than what fans initially thought possible: RedBull no longer has a comfortable gap, and is now chased by Ferrari; Verstappen no longer has an advantage over the others, but is threatened by his teammate and Leclerc. It is definitely too early to predict the rest of the year, but the last GP has given a message: nothing is certain, and a battle is coming. 

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