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Welcome to the Fast Lane, Buddy. Everything You Need to Know About F1 Heading Into the Season

Dan Istitene - Formula 1. Getty Images.

Time to change your Sunday mornings forever. This blog is long, but this is everything you need to know to get into the beautiful world of Formula 1, including a preview heading into the upcoming season, which starts TODAY at 11 am ET. Buckle up. 

First off, here’s why you should get into F1. It is FULL of drama. Everyone is super petty, there are cheating scandals, politics, and tons of rivalries. Lucky for you, F1 made one of the smartest decisions for “growing the game” in recent history and partnered with Netflix to create an all-access reality show that follows the teams and drivers throughout the entire season. The series does an incredible job of assuming you don’t know anything about F1 and it’s the best way to learn about all of the team dynamics, drivers, and world surrounding F1. Here’s the trailer, go watch it on Netflix. You're going to like the way you look as an F1 fan, I guarantee it.

Season Breakdown

Before I break the teams down, I need to bring up something that you’ll either be able to fully accept and move past or never be able to get over like when your new girlfriend or boyfriend tells you that they used to hook up with your best friend. F1 is not a fair sport… Certain teams have way more money, meaning their car is just faster than the other cars. Each season, there are really only 2 maybe 3 teams competing for the championship. The rest of the teams are battling it out in the midfield against each other, which is still very interesting. There are 10 teams and 20 drivers, but there's no real shot of a ragtag team banding together and putting together a magical run to glory. Zero parity in this sport, you either spend the money or you don't. The teams this year fighting at the front are Mercedes and Red Bull.

The Title Fight: Mercedes vs. Red Bull

We’re gearing up for what could be one of the best seasons in recent F1 history. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have DOMINATED the last 7 years, but this year appears to be different. It’s looking like we’re going to have a serious title fight between Mercedes and Red Bull, Sir Lewis Hamilton vs. Max Verstappen.

DPPI. Shutterstock Images.

Mercedes AMG Petronas (New England Patriots)

Mercedes is coming off its 7th straight Drivers and Constructors (team) World Championship. They have dominated an entire era of F1 and have done it with the soon-to-be best of all time driver to race an open-wheel car, Sir Lewis Hamilton. Just like the New England Patriots, Mercedes used to stink out loud until they hired their version of Bill Belichick as their Team Principle (just a fancy F1 term for Head Coach/GM), Toto Wolf, who completely turned around the program. Now, after so many years of winning, they will always be the favorite heading into the season until proven otherwise. However, this year does feel different because the drivers are complaining that the car isn’t as drivable as years past, and the Red Bull car has looked just as fast, if not faster, than the Mercedes car throughout pre-season testing and qualifying for the first race. It’s going to be an interesting year for the team. If you’re picking a team and immediately want to root for the best, Mercedes AMG is your team.

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Drivers:

SIR Lewis Hamilton (Tom Brady, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods)

The only reason to not root for Lewis Hamilton is that you’re tired of him winning all the time. Just like Tom Brady, he has SEVEN (7) driver championships and is currently in the middle of breaking every single record in the history books. This will be his 15th season racing in F1 and many people are speculating it might be his last if he breaks the all-time championship record (8) this year. He recently just re-signed with Mercedes on a 1-year deal. Some people think he will retire (despite only being 36) because he is an incredible person off of the track. He spends most of his time raising awareness for social causes and working in the community. What he can do with his platform to change the world is his main priority, even more than racing. All around very tough not to root for the guy, unless…. you hate rooting for people who win literally all the time.

Valtteri Bottas (Guy on the left above)

Bottas has been a big part of the last 3 Mercedes world championships, but just like Chris Bosh on LeBron’s Miami Heat teams, he plays a big role but not exactly the star of the show. He’s very talented but it’s extremely tough being on the same track in the same car every race with the LeBron of your sport. So why would you root for Bottas? Because he drives the exact same car as Lewis and you want to see someone other than Lewis win. If the Mercedes cars dominate the field this year he’ll be your only hope if you don’t want to see Lewis win every race. Also, he is super petty and passive-aggressive to Lewis and the media because they talk to him as if he’s just the Mercedes ball boy. Watch the Bottas episode (ep. 3) on this season’s drive to survive and you’ll know what I mean.

DPPI. Shutterstock Images.

Red Bull Racing Honda

If you’re hoping for the Mercedes downfall this year, Red Bull racing is your team. Red Bull bought an F1 team in 2005 and hired Christian Horner as their team principal (the youngest in F1 History) and went on a run where they won 4 straight world championships with Sebastian Vettel from 2010-2013. Since then they’ve fallen off a bit but have always been a top 3 team. If you want a coach/GM that runs their mouth and stirs up shit with other teams, Horner is your guy (fun fact he’s married to Ginger Spice from the Spice Girls). This year coming out of testing and after the first qualifying of the season, they look like they have the best car on the grid, even better than Mercedes. So maybe this is the year they get back to winning championships. There’s never been a better time to hop on the Red Bull bandwagon. 

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Drivers: 

Max Verstappen (Guy on the left above)

If you were betting on who will be the next driver other than Lewis to win a World Championship, it’s Max Verstappen. Extremely talented in his 7th season at the age of 23. Red Bull has finally given him a car this year that can compete with Mercedes and Lewis. For as talented he is, he can also be a complete prick, in the same kind of way all of Michael Jordan's teammates talked about how Jordan was during practice. Verstappen has had three teammates in three years. He expects to be great every single second he’s in a race car and if that doesn’t happen, you get fireworks. He is going to win several World Championships in his career, but will he finally be able to take down Lewis Hamilton this year to get his first now that he has a car that can compete? This is his best year to do it.

Sergio “Checo” Perez (Guy on the right above)

The Mexican driver is very talented and experienced, now entering his 11th season in F1. He has always been on middle-of-the-road teams, but this year he finally has his chance to step up and compete on a championship-caliber team. The biggest storyline is if he’ll be able to survive being teammates with Verstappen. The second driver at Red Bull has an insane amount of pressure on them because they’re competing alongside Verstappen in the exact same car. He needs to deliver consistent results if the team wants to beat Mercedes in the Constructor's Championship. The last 2 drivers have failed over the last 2 years, so we’ll see if Perez can handle that pressure. If you’re looking for a dark horse to root for but want somebody who’s driving a car good enough to compete for podiums in every race, Checo is your guy.

DPPI. Shutterstock Images.

The Midfield Battle

In every race, there’s a big difference between how many points you win based on where you place. 1st place wins 25 points, 10th place wins 1 point, the last 10 places don’t score any points. So while the top three drivers are spraying champagne on the podium, other teams will be celebrating getting 5th or even in some cases getting one point in 10th. Those are the midfield teams. This leads to a ton of drama and battles throughout any race even if the top three cars are way out in front, because where you place in the top 10 REALLY matters.

Last year's mid-field was one of the closest in recent history with third-through-fifth place being decided on the last race of the season. This year's battle looks like it will be even better. The teams battling in the mid-field this year will be McLaren, Ferrari, Aston Martin (formerly Racing Point), Toro Rosso (Red Bull’s 2nd team), Alpine (formerly Renault), and Alfa Romeo. Let’s break them down. 

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DPPI. Shutterstock Images.

McLaren

A historically great team that fell apart for several years but has turned things around since the hiring of Zac Brown (one of the few Americans in the sport) as CEO of the team. They finished 3rd last year in the championship on the last race of the season after a very close battle all season. They are looking just as strong this year with a brand new Mercedes engine if not stronger than last year. If you’re looking for an underdog team to root for in the Constructors Championship and a team that looks likely to win the midfield battle, McLaren is your team.

Drivers

Daniel Riccardo (Guy on the right above)

You’re rarely going to see the Australian without a smile on his face. He’s super charismatic, laid back, and is always joking around just like Gronk. All around very hard guy to hate and is a damn good driver that many think has the potential to win a championship in his career. He left Red Bull in 2019 after 5 seasons when the team decided to focus on Verstappen and went to Renault (now called Alpine). Then after two years with Renault, he just made the move to McLaren. Now in his 11th season in F1, this could be the year where he finally reaches his potential with how strong the McLaren car is looking this season. He is one of the most fun drivers to be a fan of on and off the track.

Lando Norris (Guy on the left above)

A member of the next generation of great drivers, he’s now in his 3rd season and has shown he has the talent to compete for World Championships, he just needs to go out and do it. He finally looks like he has a car that can consistently put him at the front of the field. This could be the year where he really breaks out and becomes a favorite for World Championships for years to come. But similar to an Austin Mathews and the Maple Leafs situation, it comes down to whether McLaren can put everything together and make that next step to truly compete for a championship while they have all of this incredible talent on their roster.

DPPI. Shutterstock Images.

Scuderia Ferrari

Even though they haven’t won a championship since 2007, Ferrari is Formula 1 just like the Yankees are Baseball. Winning or losing, they will always be the biggest and most talked about team in the sport. Historically, they are always in the title fight, but after an alleged cheating scandal during the 2019 season over some technical regulations with their car, they completely fell apart last year and finished 6th in the championship, its worst finish in four decades. Their car this year looks to be competitive again compared to the bathtub they drove last year, but most people agree that the Scuderia won’t be fully back in the fight for the world championship until at least next year. Until then, they are going to be a part of this very exciting midfield battle. 

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Buy now while their stock is relatively low. Plus just like Yankee fans, even if the team sucks you can always bring up how important they are for the sport and the 16 world championships they won in the past.

Drivers:

Charles Leclerc (Guy on the left above)

Charles Leclerc is the face of Ferrari and they are betting big on him to deliver them back to glory. Leclerc has the skill behind the wheel to be a world champion, it’s just when will he drive a car that can compete at that level. He’ll have chances at a couple of podiums this year, but this isn’t the year where you’ll see him consistently win races. Another, buy now while his stock is relatively low, he’s only 23 years old and has a long career of winning in F1 ahead of him.

Carlos Sainz (Guy on the right above)

Despite only being 26, Carlos Sainz is already a journeyman in F1, now racing for his 4th team (prev. Toro Rosso, Renault, McLaren). The Spaniard is very well liked and keeps getting opportunities because he’s fast and can deliver results. He might not have what it takes to eventually win a World Championship, but he is a fun driver to root for because he will be in the conversation every weekend to get a surprise podium. You won’t win a championship with only him, but he is a very solid and fundamental piece of the team eventually getting back to winning. He is a clear #2 driver to Leclerc at Ferrari, so when Ferrari eventually gets their shit together the team will focus on trying to have Leclerc win over Sainz. Root for him because he’s a great, charismatic guy, not because you expect him to win every weekend.

DPPI. Shutterstock Images.

Aston Martin, Previously Racing Point

This team has gone through massive changes over the last several years. The team went into administration during the 2018 season and was sold to Canadian Billionaire, Lawrence Stroll, whose son “happens” to drive in F1. The team was previously named, Racing Point, but in 2020 Stroll bought a 16.7% stake in Aston Martin and the team was re-branded this year. Since buying the team in 2018, Stroll has not held back investing a ton of money into the team to make it competitive, which hasn’t come without controversy. Last year, the team was accused of basically copying the previous year’s Mercedes Championship winning car. Other team’s protested it, they were fined and deducted points, but it goes to show how far the team’s willing to go to be competitive in F1 right now. Their car this year doesn’t look as strong as the car that got them to 4th in the Constructor's Championship last year. They are an exciting team with potential in the competitive midfield battle this year but have yet to make that next step to compete at the top despite spending like those teams.

Drivers

Sebastian Vettel (Guy on the left above)

Vettel is a 4x world champion, winning the 2010-2013 world championships with Red Bull. He’s been there and he’s done it. He’s proven he is one of the best drivers in the world. However, since 2013 when Mercedes/Lewis Hamilton took over the sport he’s been struggling to get back to that World Championship form. He moved to Ferrari in 2015 and he and the team were the biggest competition for Mercedes for several years, but could never win the title. Last season, Ferrari decided to move on from Vettel, focusing all of their efforts on Leclerc, but he still had to race for them through the season, leading to a very awkward breakup. Vettel signed with Aston Martin this year and is hoping that their car will be strong enough over the next few years to bring him back to glory. He’s still only 33 years old, what made him a 4x world champion is still in there, it’s just when will see it again. 

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Lance Stroll (Guy on the right above)

He’s young, cocky, and also the son of the owner of the team. This might be controversial to some, but Lance Stroll is a good driver. He’ll always be discounted for being the son of the owner of the team, but last year he had several moments where he proved that he has the talent to compete in F1 at a high level. His downfall is that he is inconsistent, for as many highs there were also a lot of lows. If he can deliver consistent results this year, he has a chance to place high in the midfield battle. The reason to root for him is that he’s a wild card who at any point in the season could surprise everyone and get a podium.

DPPI. Shutterstock Images.

Scuderia AlphaTauri

Alpha Tauri is the sister team to the main Red Bull team. In the past, they have been more of a “junior” team to Red Bull basically being the feeder system of drivers to the main team and were nowhere close to the same level of pace in the car as the main team. That has changed over the last two years. Heading into this year, their car which uses the same Honda engine as the Red Bull car looks FAST. They are projected to be the biggest mover this year after last year finishing 7th in the Constructors Championship. This is a “dark horse” team if you can even call them that after so much pre-season hype, in the midfield that will have their chances at podiums on random weekends this year. A really fun team to root for this year with a lot of potential.

Drivers

Pierre Gasly (Guy on the Right Above)

Gasley despite this only being his 4th season in F1 has already had a fascinating career. He drove for Alpha Tauri for one year, then was moved up to Red Bull for the 2019 season to be Verstappen’s teammate. After struggling at the start of the season he was demoted halfway through the year back to Alpha Tauri. Since then, he’s been on a warpath to prove that was a mistake and basically “win” the breakup. Despite being on the “junior” team, last year he won his first race and had a solid season finishing in the top 10 of the driver’s championship. He looks even better this year and is set up to have a VERY strong year, already qualifying 5th for the first race of the year. Gasley will be fun to root for this year, especially if you love comeback stories. He's also very French if that's your thing. 

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Yuki Tsunoda (Guy on the Left Above)

One of the rookies this season and is looking like he will be the best performing one on the grid. He is the first Japanese driver in F1 since 2014 and at the age of 20 looks like he already has the potential to compete at a high level, especially in a strong Alpha Tauri car this season. There is a huge learning curve in F1 and you can see rookies struggle to deliver results. Yuki has already shown in testing and practices he can put in fast laps, but this year will be all about whether he can be consistent. He is going to be fun to watch, if you’re looking for a stock to buy low with the potential for major returns, buy Yuki stock. Also at 5ft 2in he is the shortest driver on the grid this year.

DPPI. Shutterstock Images.

Alpine (formerly Renault) 

The team is owned by French carmaker, Renault, but was re-branded this year to Alpine with a whole new look. The team has been in F1 since 1977 and won 2 world championships in 2005 and 2006. They know how to win, but have been stuck in the mid-field for several years trying to break into the next level of competing for championships. This year won’t be the year that they hit that next level, but they are a major player in the midfield battle especially with the return of Alonso this year. Once again, if you love France for some reason, this is your team.

Drivers

Fernando Alonso (Guy on the Right)

The 2x World Champion, who left F1 after the 2018 season, is back with the team where he won those World Championships. He’s also raced for McLaren and Ferrari. Similar to Vettel with Aston Martin, Alonso knows how to win and can deliver results, but the question is whether the Alpine car will have what it takes to bring him back to glory. He’s a great character, if you’re looking to root for a veteran giving it one last go in the sport he loves, Fernando is your guy. He’ll be very competitive in the mid-field this year. 

Estaban Ocon (Guy on the Left)

In my opinion, the best way to describe Ocon is that despite this being his 5th season in F1 he still feels like he’s an unknown rookie. He actually had a somewhat solid year last year, even sneaking onto a podium at the end of the year, but he finished 12th in the Driver's Championshiponship, which wasn't great compared to his teammate last season Riccardo finishing 5th. He really hasn’t had those big moments over the past few seasons that make you think “wow this guy has talent” like several other drivers on these mid-field teams (Norris, Gasley, Leclerc, Sainz, hell even Stroll). He will always be hanging around the top 10 this year, but we’ll see if he can finally break out and deliver points more consistently. More power to you if you’re a big Ocon fan, I just don’t see it.

DPPI. Shutterstock Images.

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Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari

Similar to Alpha Tauri with Red Bull, Alpha Romeo is sort of a junior team to Ferrari. They've been at the back of the pack for the last several years competing to not be in last place. They are the weakest of the mid-field teams and almost ever other season are lumped into the backmarkers, but this year has the potential to be different. Their car is powered by a Ferrari engine and the car looks to be the strongest in the last couple of seasons. The reason to root for them is that they really are the dark horse of the midfield this year and could surprise some people.

Drivers

Kimi “The Ice Man” Räikkönen (Guy on the left above)

At the age of 41, Kimi is entering his 20th season in F1. He was the last driver to win a World Championship for Ferrari in 2007. He hasn’t been able to win a second championship but was always competing at the top. He was replaced at Ferrari in 2018 by Leclerc and moved to Alfa Romeo. Since then he’s been stuck at the back of the field. The best comparison is to Vince Carter: one of the all-time greats and a legend, just at the end of his career. We’ll see if this year’s car could give him more opportunities to show he still has what it takes to compete.

Antonio Giovinazzi (Guy on the right above)

He’s Italian, he has long hair, this is his 4th season in F1. That’s really about all I got for you on Antonio. Overall has shown he can be fast but also has been inconsistent. If you want to root for an Italian driver, this is your guy.

Kamran Jebreili. Shutterstock Images.

The Backmarkers

There are two teams that are basically out of the season before it even starts, Haas and Williams. Both teams are trying to re-build, choosing to focus on developing next year’s car instead of trying to be competitive this year. Both teams have exciting young drivers to keep an eye on who will both eventually be fighting for World Championships in the future, rookie Mick Schumacher (son of 7x world champion Michael Schumacher) on Haas and George Russell on Williams. 

Russell is now in his 3rd season and will eventually be racing for Mercedes, even filling in for Hamilton last season for one race. Once that happens, he has the talent to take over the sport, but until then he’s like Connor McDavid on the Oilers the last couple of seasons, incredible talent but you know they’ll never win anything.

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One note, just don’t root for Mazepin

What's Next?

You now have everything you need to know heading into the season. If you read this and are ready for more F1, watch the highlights from qualifying for the first race and watch TODAY'S race at 11 am ET on ESPN 2. The F1 Youtube channel is an amazing place to watch highlights and stay up to date with what's going on. Highly recommend subscribing to it if you're going to get into F1 this season.

The best part about this is that you can responsibly gamble on F1 in the Barstool Sportsbook! There are tons of interesting bets beyond just the betting who will win like leader after the first lap, the first driver to retire from the race, and tons more. 

I love betting on podiums and finding mid-field drivers with high odds but have a chance to sneak in if the Mercedes or Red Bull cars crash or break down during the race. Basically rooting for chaos every race

If you disagree with anything I wrote, have questions, or just want to talk about F1, follow me on Twitter. Let's create a Barstool F1 hype circle. Here are my predictions for the year:

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Now….. LIGHTS OUT AND AWAY WE GO