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The Formula E season kicked off back in February to signal the start of the European racing season. The all-electric championship is now in its seventh season and boasts plenty of talented drivers and big-name manufacturers. The series is now recognised as an FIA World Championship, meaning the competition is even more brutal than ever. As the championship returns this weekend with a round in Mexico, it’s a good time to chart the season’s story so far.

De Vries Storms to Victory on Opening Night

Nyck De Vries won his first Formula E race in Diriyah

The season started with a doubleheader on the streets of Diriyah in Saudi Arabia. In race one, former F2 champion Nyck De Vries emerged victorious as he took a dominant win for his first victory in the championship. De Vries demonstrated poise and composure to manage the problematic track conditions as he powered his Mercedes EQ car to the checkered flag.

There was heartbreak for Sam Bird and Alexander Lynn as the two drivers crashed at turn one. Bird was charging through the field, and he wasn’t happy at all with Lynn’s defensive driving. More drama followed that incident as Max Gunther slapped the concrete wall that smashed his left rear suspension. The German driver lost control as he went off-line onto the dusty side of the track. Lastly, there were some phenomenal drives from Edoardo Mortara and Jaguar’s Mitch Evans, who joined De Vries on the podium. In the end, De Vries underlined his potential with a win in a premier class of FIA racing.

Sam Bird Shows His Class for First Jaguar Win

Sam Bird snatched a dramatic win in round two

Sam Bird said it was a gamble leaving the Virgin Envision Racing Team for Jaguar in 2021. The likeable Brit raced for Envision throughout the entirety of the Formula E championship. That gamble moving to a new team paid off in dramatic style as he triumphed in race two. Bird battled Robin Frijns all-race long as the two traded places consistently. It was a great battle for the race lead that got cut short due to a nasty crash for Alex Lynn. The race subsequently got red-flagged, and race control opted to declare the race result. Lynn got taken to hospital, but, thankfully, Lynn got discharged with no injuries.

Civil war once again broke out at the Techeetah team as Jean-Eric Vergne and Antonio Felix Da Costa waged a wild battle, and the two came to contact on multiple occasions. Max Gunther’s miserable weekend continued as he experienced another incident. This time, Gunther locked his brakes and sideswiped the innocent Tom Blomqvist out of the race.

Race one winner Nyck De Vries endured a challenging race two as he could only finish 14th, four places ahead of his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. Ultimately, Sam Brid demonstrated why he is one of the marquee drivers on the Formula E grid. He kickstarted his championship campaign with a superb performance.

JEV Ends the Slide With a Taste of Champagne

Former Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne got back to winning ways in Rome

The championship headed back to Europe for races three and four in Rome. Race three was arguably the race of the championship, as several drivers were in the hunt for the race victory at various stages of the race. Oliver Rowland took the early lead until he got handed a drive-through penalty for using more than the permitted amount of battery power. It took him and his Nissan E.Dams machine out of the running. That gave the lead to Lucas Di Grassi with the likes of Robin Frijns, Jean-Eric Vergne, Sam Bird, Mitch Evans and the two Mercedes drivers chasing him.

This long snake of cars kept trading positions as each driver pulled off gutsy overtakes to shake up the order. Di Grassi and Frijns experienced a long, arduous battle as both drivers initiated contact on their respective manoeuvres. Frijns was left unimpressed after Di Grassi barged his way past and left him hung out to dry as Sam Bird passed Frijns as well. Meanwhile, Vergne was stealthily making his way through the traffic with intelligent passes.

The former Formula E champion displayed surgical skills and then held enough in hand to take the win behind the Safety Car. It was another excellent day for Jaguar. Their drivers Sam Bird and Mitch Evans finished second and third. On the opposite end of the scale, it turned out to be a fateful day for the Mercedes team as both their drivers collided in a race-ending crash while they tried to avoid the sick car of Di Grassi.

Vandoorne and Mercedes Bounce Back in Race Four

Stoffel Vandoorne tasted victory one day after crashing out

Stoffel Vandoorne won a dramatic race four at Rome. The drama began when Nick Cassidy spun off in the lead after the Safety Car came into pits. Pascal Wherlein grabbed the lead and controlled the pace in the early phases of the race. Nick Cassidy endured more misery as Oliver Rowland put him into the tech-pro barrier when Rowland decided to try an overtaking move. The big flashpoint came halfway through the race as Lucas Di Grassi and Sebastian Buemi came together.

Di Grassi tried to block Buemi; in doing so, Buemi’s front right tipped Di Grassi straight into the wall and out of the race. While all that happened, Vandoorne went past Wehrlein, which would turn out to be the race-winning move. Sam Bird, Oliver Rowland and Nyck De Vries all hit trouble on the last lap as a wild three-car incident took place. Their misery contrasts with Alex Sims and Pascal Wehrlein’s happiness as both drivers stepped onto the podium for the first time this season.

De Vries Rain Dances His Way to Win Number Two

Nyck De Vries became the first multiple race winner in 2021 with a win in Valencia

On one of Formula E’s rare outings to a racetrack, all hell broke loose in the wet conditions of Valencia. Nyck De Vries drove a sensible, controlled race to get himself into contention. From there, De Vries and his Mercedes team managed the race to perfection. He was one of the only frontrunners to have energy still left in his battery for the last lap. De Vries drove away from the rest of the pack to win in sodden conditions. Drivers got challenged as staying on the track was almost impossible.

Max Gunther ended up in the gravel as the back end snapped away from him in a braking zone. Sergio Sette Camara was another driver that ended his day in the gravel. Finally, Vandoorne was another driver who saved enough energy on the last lap. He charged to third position on the final lap to get the second Mercedes on the podium. Again, Mercedes played the strategy to perfection; I feel like I’ve heard that before.

Jake Dennis Dominates in a Crushing Performance

Jake Dennis took a lights to flag victory for his maiden Formula E win

Jake Dennis bagged a maiden Formula E win with a commanding lights-to-flag victory. The BMW I Andretti Motorsport driver outclassed and outpaced the field to win. However, this race was nowhere near as dramatic as the previous race. Alexander Lynn drove a composed race to take third place, just behind Porsche’s Andre Lotterer. The former sportscar ace needed a positive race in a season blighted by inconsistency until this race. Norman Nato was another of Formula E’s unsung heroes who drove a fine race to fifth place for Susie Wolff’s Venturi Racing team. Unfortunately, It was a bad day all around for several powerhouse drivers. De Vries, Bird, Evans and Frijns all finished outside of the top 12, while Stoffel Vandoorne didn’t finish the race.

Last Lap Da Costa Hits the Jackpot in Monaco

Last year’s series champion got on the winners board with victory in the Prinicipality

Antonio Felix Da Costa pulled off a last-gasp overtake on the last lap to win the Monaco E-Prix. The Portuguese driver raced his Techeetah car past the ailing Mitch Evans to take the win. Da Costa displayed solid speed throughout the race, and he managed his battery better than Evans. While the move was definitely on the borderline, Da Costa demonstrated his desire to win in Monaco.

Evans was out of battery on the last lap; he came into the Swimming Pool chicane with a train of cars, all desperate to get by. Although Evans went across the chicane to keep the position, they all needed to follow single-file through Rascasse until Norman Nato pounced to pip Evans to second place at the finish line. Da Costa was enduring a difficult season; his win at Monaco re-energized his championship campaign. There were also struggles for the Mercedes drivers, Jean-Eric Vergne and Jake Dennis.

After seven rounds of the championship, Robin Frijns is the man atop the standings. He holds a five-point lead over Nyck De Vries; however, the top five drivers are only separated by 13 points. Thus, the championship is alive and kicking. In the wild world of Formula E, anything can and will happen. This weekend, the series moves onto Mexico for another doubleheader. It promises to be another chaotic and crazy weekend.

Racing Drivers should be larger than life characters—eccentric, interesting, and mysterious people. Frankly, the current Formula One grid is just normal compared to the stars of yesteryear. We have Lewis Hamilton, a self-confident winner. Lando Norris, George Russell, and Charles Leclerc are just young, hungry lads. All of them are good drivers, but I think they’re a bit boring away from the track. The obvious exception is Kimi Raikkonen, who clearly went to the James Hunt school of driving. 

Back in the day, you had a mix: There was your hot-headed type. Win at all costs, and be ruthless (e.g. Michael Schumacher, Aryton Senna). There was the playboy, where life is just champagne and women (e.g. Kimi Raikonnen and James Hunt). And then, there are gentlemen. And that is who we’re looking at today. This is the legendary rivalry between Graham Hill and Jim Clark.

I think that it is fair to say Graham Hill is one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. Not the greatest in Formula One, but in competitive racing. The only man to complete the Triple Crown of racing, winning at Le Manns, The Indy 500, and Monaco (doing that last one 5 times). The man only got his licence at the age of 24, got into Formula One through Lotus as a mechanic, and making his debut in 1958 in his rightful Kingdom of Monaco. 

Conversely, it is fair to say that Jim Clark is one of the greatest Formula One drivers of all time. Over his F1 career, he would hold the record for most Grand Prix wins and Grand Prix pole positions by 1968. In 1960, Clark made his debut for Formula One, during the Dutch Grand Prix, in the Lotus. This was after competing in various national events and Formula Junior, having impressed Colin Chapman of Lotus. 

The 1962 Formula One World Championship would see both Hill and Clark achieve their first wins. The Belgian Grand Prix, held during that championship, would see both men, both four and two years into their careers respectively, would begin a rivalry that would run for 6 years. Hill was leading in the Championship points by the Belgian Grand Prix and would gain pole position during that qualifying. The Scottish Clark would battle Englishman Hill in what was, by all accounts, a 5 horse race between the two men, Bruce McLaren, Trevor Taylor, and Willy Mairesse. Taylor and Mairesse got into a serious crash during the race, leaving the remaining three men to battle. Clark was very much a stalking horse, ready to pounce when the opportunity to overtake Hill. In the end, Clark would gain his first win, and Hill came second. And similar battles would take place throughout the season. Hill would win the 1962 Formula One World Championship, with Clark having 30 championship points, to Hill’s 42. 

Clark would dominate the 1963 World Championship. The defending world champion Hill would only win 2 races (though this included his first Monaco win). Clark would decimate the competition, winning 7 out of 10 races, with the remaining one going to Ferrari’s John Surtees. It was funnily enough at Belgium again where Clark would shoot past pole leader Hill in wet conditions. The Belgian Grand Prix saw an eye-watering 5 minute lead between Clark and Hill. The Dutch Grand Prix actually saw Hill retire with engine failure, further distancing him from his championship defence. The only interruptions in Clark’s dominance were his retirement in Germany when his engine decided to give up and at the United States Grand Prix, where Hill had reached Pole Position and won the race despite technical difficulties. However, by that point, Clark was champion. He could have come last at every race since he won in Italy and still be champion.

1964 was probably going to be the rubber match to take a term from professional wrestling. 2 seasons, 2 champions. Hill’s dominant win in 1962 and Clark’s equally dominant win in 1963 made this season of F1 seem like the decider: who was the better of the two? John Surtees was the 1964 Formula One World Championship winner, with Hill coming 2nd and Clark 3rd. However, that isn’t to say that the season was a dud for either man, as Hill would only lose the championship to Surtees by 1 point. If you want to be analytical, Hill had more podium finishes than Clark, but Clark had more wins than Hill. The championship was decided at the Mexican Grand Prix, where Clark had pole position and benefitted from Hill slipping backwards on the grid to 11th after his goggles slipped, denying him the points needed for his potential second championship. Clark needed to win the race, as those 9 championship points would put him ahead of Surtees and give him the championship. It was not to be.

Clark would dominate most of the race, but his car would begin leaking oil in a dramatic twist, forcing him to slip back to 5th position. Surtees was in third place at the time, meaning that Hill could still win the championship. However, as Clark pitted, the Ferrari team urged second-place driver and teammate Lorenzo Bandini to let Surtees overtake. Surtees would win the championship by 1 point. 

1965 would finally see Jim Clark win his second world championship and also see him win the Indianapolis 500, holding both the world championship and the Indy 500 in the same year, the only man to do so. Hill, for his part, would come second to Clark in the championship, winning at Monaco again and coming first in the United States Grand Prix, where Clark retired. While the rivalry would continue in 1966 and 1967, both men were 5th and 6th in the championship, in a season where Jack Brabham won the world championship, and the battle for second between John Surtees and Jochen Rindt was the prominent rivalries at the front of the grid. 

Ultimately, Clark would not live to see Graham Hill win the 1968 Formula One World Championship, as tragedy would strike the Scottish driver. However, he would go out with a hell of a swansong in F1. Both drivers were teammates in Lotus by the 1968 South African Grand Prix and would pull off a stunning 1-2 finish. This is notable as it saw Clark win his 24th race, breaking the record set by Juan Manuel Fangio for most races won. It seemed as if this season would be a closely fought battle between the two men for the world championship. It was not to be.

Clark also competed in Formula Two, which drivers could do in those days. Between the South African Grand Prix and the Spanish Grand Prix, Clark competed in The Deutschland Trophae, alongside some of his fellow F1 drivers, and a young Max Mosley, pre-March Engineering. On the fifth lap of the first heat, Clark’s Lotus 48 veered off the track, crashed into the trees, and sadly died before reaching the hospital. This happened is unknown, though a deflated rear tyre was suspected to be the cause. He was 32.

Hill won the 1968 World Championship, pulling together his team and winning in honour of his friend and rival. A crash in 1969 would cause Hill to break his legs, with Hill famously quipping: ‘Just tell her that I won’t be dancing for two weeks.’ when asked if he wanted to send a message to his wife. He recovered and continued to race in F1 until 1975, though never to the calibre he did during the ’60s. He won Le Mans in 1972, gaining his triple crown. By 1973, he formed ‘Embassy Hill’ his own pet constructor and retired from racing in 1975 after failing to qualify for Monaco. In November of 1975, Hill, along with members of his Embassy Hill team, including drivers, car designers, and mechanics, and the team manager, all died in a plane crash. Hill was 46.

Why is this rivalry so revered by F1 fans? I think it’s a mixture of things. Though having different achievements, both men were evenly matched in ability, if not in their championship victories and total wins. The tragedy surrounding both men’s early deaths makes the rivalry one that fans were sad to miss. Friendship also plays a part. Both men were close friends, and Hill was understandably upset at Clark’s passing. You can read an article written by Hill in tribute to ‘Jimmy’ here.

For me? It’s the fact that both men were characters. Hill was the gentleman. A thin moustache, sharp wit, and very refined. Clark was the red-faced, aggressive driver but with the intelligence to back up his tactics. Occasionally shy, well-spoken, but with speed to win at all costs. We will remember today’s drivers, but compared to Graham Hill and Jim Clark? It’s no competition.

2020 threw us into uncharted territory with a completely new calendar, with some tracks we hadn’t been in a long time, and this season we still have replacement tracks due to the travel restrictions caused by Covid. So, I thought, what would be my dream calendar to have? So here are my picks for a 20 race season.

Bahrain

Starting the season off in Bahrain as we did in 2021 was what a start it was. I love this track as it has everything a modern f1 track should have! Long straights for DRS, breaking zones where drivers can send it, corners drivers can go side by side, YES PLEASE! We’ve had some superb races in recent years, and back in 2014, Hamilton and Rosberg had an almighty battle in the desert, making this the perfect starting track to kick off my dream calendar.

Malaysia

Sepang is probably one of the tracks I think I miss the most in recent years. Sepang was great for battles with iconic 2 straights that go round the grandstands. For me, this track also reminds me of Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull era.

China

This may not be a favourite for everyone, but I really enjoy China! Maybe because it’s one of the tracks I quite like on F1 2020 as it’s one of my better ones, but I think it throws something different into the calendar vs the other tracks.

The Netherlands

Even though we still haven’t seen Zandvoort in action yet, playing it on F1 2020 makes me really excited for it later in the season. It’s an old-style track that will punish drivers when they make mistakes. I think qualifying will be amazing here, too, as it’s tough, and not to mention the Dutch atmosphere will be amazing, meaning it’s a must for me!

Spain

Valencia is my choice of the track as I think there should be a Spanish GP as Circuit de Catalunya, on the whole, isn’t the most action-packed race. There is a lot of love out in Spain, with, of course, Alonso and Sainz really driving the love for the sport out there. The last race in Valencia was in 2012 and was won by Alonso! Unfortunately, the F1 track is now abandoned, so that we won’t be seeing any time soon…

Portugal

The last 2 races at Portimao did not disappoint! The rollercoaster effect of the track brings such a unique feel to it. Drivers also love this track which is exactly what we like to watch as a viewer! Not to mention Portimao isn’t a bad holiday destination either!

Monaco

Monaco stays on the calendar for the Glitz and the Glamour. It may not be the best track due to little overtakes, but qualifying is one if not, the best to watch. Strategy can be fascinating to watch here, too, so for nerds like me, Monaco can be great! And that I have a dream to watch the GP on a yacht to live my best life, but we don’t need to mention I got my invite rejected when a guy found out I am a Liverpool fan, swiftly moving on.

Baku

I love Baku! I think it’s the best street track in terms of racing, and Baku loves to bring the spice!! The race in 2017 lives rent-free, and if you haven’t watched it, I highly recommend you do. On top of this, Baku normally provides us with some beauties of radio clips.

Canada

Canada’s weather is somewhat unpredictable, which is fabulous! It provided us with the race of the century in 2011 and good for growing the North American following, too, so it’s on my calendar!

Austria

Austria is one of my favourite tracks and always one I really look forward to. More recently, it has provided some epic racing up and down the grid, especially in 2020. Not to mention the scenery is amazing!

Great Britain

So I may be biased here as a Brit, but Silverstone has to be on the calendar! There is so much heritage to Formula 1 in the UK, with the most successful driver of all time in Lewis Hamilton and the extremely popular Lando Norris and George Russell, with a British atmosphere; it’s just a must! Maggots and Becketts is an amazing set of corners, too, a great asset to the calendar.

Hungary

Hungary is a solid track in the calendar, providing solid races year on year, especially the first corner, allowing drivers to “send it”, as Danny Ric would say! Really great fan track to being in the middle of Budapest, being one of the cheapest tracks to go to!

Belgium

Do I need to say anymore? This is absolutely my favourite track ever! I’ve been 4 times, and I can’t stress enough how I think every F1 fan should go if they have the opportunity. Eau Rouge is just the most beautiful corner with the track in the most scenic place in Belgium. I will stop fangirling now, but I LOVE SPA!

Germany

How we have a 4-time German World Champion and a Schumacher back in F1 and no German GP?! It’s just a crime against F1! In my opinion, there just has to be, and my choice is the Nürburgring. We went here in 2020, and it is a better track than Hockenheim. There is so much love in Germany for the sport, and with so much success with German Drivers and Mercedes, there needs to be a German GP!

Italy

Monza is a dream of mine to visit! The power of Tifosi is just something I would love to experience as their passion and excitement is a joy to watch! Monza also creates great races, with 2020 being a favourite of last season. The drama of qualifying to the overtakes down to DRS all adds to this fantastic race and the best podium too!

Singapore

I have to include Singapore! The night race just brings something so special, especially in qualifying. How difficult it is for the drivers in terms of humidity brings another layer into showing who’s a good driver and who’s a great driver.

Japan

One thing I love about Suzuka is the fans! Japanese fans have so much passion for the sport, which is amazing to watch, and it will be great to see the reception Yuki Tsnouda gets at his home track. It’s a really demanding track showing off drivers’ skills which I enjoy.

USA

This may be an unpopular opinion, but COTA is really up there for me in terms of favourite tracks. I really look forward to coming here every year, and it is great fun on F1 2020. I love Miami as a destination for a track, but so far, I’m not convinced about the layout of the track just yet.

Mexico

I love the grandstand section on the track. It really brings a unique feel to this race and better interaction with fans. Overall, the track is good for racing, and a fan favourite, making it a penultimate track.

Brazil

Finally, the showdown must be in Interlagos. I think it would be a much better end to a season allowing drivers to actual race rather than it being an anti-climax to end the season, with Brazil 2008 showing why it should be the last race of the season. Even in recent years, the racing has been superb, with no one forgetting the 2019 podium or Max Verstappen nearly squaring up to Estaban Ocon a few years ago. Can you tell I like drama!!

Some notable tracks are missing out, but I think this 20 race season would be amazing in terms of great racing! Let me know what you think!

Humorous, versatile and informative. Just three of the words I would use to describe a commentator. For me, the role of a commentator is more important than meets the eye. I have to feel their passion and excitement for the sport as much as I do. I got to speak to current Formula 1 and Formula E commentator Jack Nicholls about his experiences in the role and how he got there.

Hi Jack, could you please tell me about your main role as a commentator within motorsport, particularly the ABB FIA Formula E Championship?
I have been commentating on Formula E since it first started back in 2014, and I also cover Formula 1 for BBC Radio 5 live. I’m lucky enough to work with 3 times Indy500 winner Dario Franchitti, and it’s our job to bring this new form of motorsport to people and try and get them excited about it!

Have you always been a big fan of motorsport? If so, does it help with commentating when you’re talking about something you’re passionate about?
I started watching motorsport when I was 6 and got obsessed pretty quickly after. I used to watch every F1 race and went to my first British Grand Prix when I was 7. My dad and I then started travelling to races when I was a bit older, to tracks like Spa, Valencia and Monza, and I even saved up and went to Melbourne in 2009 by myself when I was 19!

Have you always wanted to be a commentator? How did you break into the industry?
I did always want to be a commentator. I loved Murray Walker, and the idea of just shouting and getting excited by the racing always really appealed to me. I used to write my own commentary notes at the start of each season from about the age of 8! But it was never something that I actually thought about pursuing until I had a gap year between my A-Levels and University. I started marshalling at my local race track at Snetterton and heard that they had commentators there, so I asked if I could try. I started doing more and more while I was at Uni, to the point where when I graduated, I could become a full-time commentator.

Was there anyone you looked up to in terms of commentating?
Ben Edwards is the best. Clearly, everyone’s hero is Murray Walker, but in my really formative years, it was Ben commentating on British Touring Cars and A1GP that made me the commentator that I am now. He has incredible knowledge but manages to get that across to the audience without sounding smug, and he is so good at reading races and conveying that to the viewer.

What is your favourite track to commentate on?
Monza and Monaco are my two favourite tracks to commentate on. I love the history of Monza and the atmosphere. You climb up some rickety old stairs to the commentary booths, which are on top of one of the grandstands, and then the cars flash past you at 220mph. The atmosphere there is like nothing else. Of course, Monaco is a very different type of atmosphere, but the buzz around a Grand Prix weekend is fantastic. The commentary boxes back onto the harbour, and they overlook the whole pitlane. As with everywhere in Monaco, space is at a premium, so there’s barely room for us in the booth, but it adds to the chaotic nature of the weekend.

What advice would you give someone who wants to commentate on motorsport in the future?
ESports are a great place to start. It’s actually where I started commentating; then, I was able to show my work to people in the real world to try and get work. The most important thing is to be yourself and let your personality come through. The audience wants to get a sense of who you are, not of who you’re trying to be. Don’t feel you have to do things that other commentators do; find your own path.

What does a typical Formula E Race Weekend look like for you?
I will usually fly to a race on the Wednesday, then start work on a Thursday. Thursday is mostly production meetings and technical checks. Friday, I spend a lot of time in the pitlane talking to teams and drivers to find out the latest news, and I will walk the track. Walking the track is much more important in Formula E because they often change each year. Then Saturday is race day! They are long days, so my alarm will usually go off about 6 am; we then get on a bus and travel to the track arriving about 7 am, then first practice starts at 8 am! There is very little time between sessions, so I try and speak to as many people as possible in the 45 minutes I have! Then there is qualifying; I eat some lunch, then prepare for the race by looking through the grid sheet and making some notes. Then the race starts, and we finish work at about 6 pm!

How do you prepare for a race?
I make quite extensive notes before each race for Formula E; because I am the voice of the championship, I feel a lot of responsibility to get things right, and there is much less information available. Whereas with Formula 1, there’s so much more discussion about it in the wider world that I don’t feel the need to do as much preparation.

Motorsport is a very opinionated sport for everyone! Do you ever find it difficult to try and show unbiased opinions when commentating?
I don’t find it difficult at all, because all I want to see is a good race! I am more friendly with some drivers than others. For example, I’ve done a lot of work with Robin Frijns over the years, but if he is racing, I don’t want him to win more than anyone else. I just want to see a good fight and a good race!

You’ve worked on several different racing series, Formula 2, Formula 1 and of course Formula E – does your commentating style differ from series to series?
The biggest difference is between TV and Radio. When I commentate on Formula E for the TV, I am watching along with the audience. We are enjoying the action together. But on radio, you have the be the conduit for them to know what is going on, so you have to explain things a lot more, and I am more of the narrator of the race. On TV I can talk less, but radio, if you stop talking then it’s silent, which isn’t great radio!

On behalf of the Grid Talk team, I’d like to thank Jack for agreeing to talk to me and contribute to our Working In Motorsport series. I hope you’ve enjoyed this incredible insight into the role of a commentator in motorsport.

Mental Health is defined as ‘a person’s condition with regard to their psychological and emotional well-being’. So, why is something that makes us human still a subject which is so difficult to talk about?

The inner circle of motorsport is a busy place to be, the physical training that drivers endure is exhausting to even read about. From training camps to reaction training, spending time in the gym, which many drivers have at home, hours in the simulator, and let’s not forget about the health regimes they have to follow. But, what about their mental health?

Over recent months, more drivers have started to speak up about their inner struggles and how they have overcome them. More than often, I see racing drivers referred to as “superheroes”. Their ability to switch into their relaxed state of mind before a race continues to amaze me, but the truth is – they aren’t superheroes; they are people, just like you and me.

Last year, McLaren announced a partnership with the charity Mind, which provide advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. McLaren said that this partnership stems from their “increased focus on mental health as part of its overall health and well-being programme.” A few months later, McLaren F1 driver, Lando Norris, spoke up about his struggles since his career began in Formula One. He wrote, “have you ever struggled with something mentally but hidden it from the world by putting on a brave face? I know I have.” He explains how he was questioning his own self-belief and comparing himself to his teammate and other drivers. Something, I’m sure, many of the drivers deal with day to day.

Mental Strength has a huge part to play in Formula 1; it is a big mind game. Every single lap, maximum concentration, and nothing else on your mind. Can you imagine how difficult that must be? Admittedly, writing this post has taken days of on and off concentration. So how do these drivers do it? Last month, F1 revealed that the balance of mental wellbeing is starting to shift. More and more drivers have started to receive mental coaching, which has been common in other sports for years. Both Nico Rosberg and Mika Hakkinen revealed after they had quit racing, they both sought mental coaching for one reason or another. Nico once said, “We all train our bodies flat-out every day, yet we don’t do that much for our minds”, he revealed how he worked on moving his mind towards more positive thoughts every morning and evening for around 20 minutes and says it’s a big part of why he became world champion. In 2016, Romain Grosjean admitted that he needed to consult a psychologist in the darkest moments of his early career, particularly after 2012 and credits the specialist for improving his life, both on and off the track. Understandably, he will be working with a psychologist again to overcome the mental effects of his accident at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix.

Social Media. Ah, you just knew this was going to come, didn’t you? Does social media have a part to play in mental health? Absolutely! As human beings, we thrive off the need for companionship and being socially connected to others. Social media can, in some ways, ease stress, anxiety, boost your self-worth, provide comfort and prevent loneliness. Unfortunately, we also live in a world where keyboard warriors troll our ‘safe’ platforms. Even my friends and I have been on the receiving end of multiple attacks on social media platforms. Now, imagine you’re a driver. You’ve worked your ass off all weekend but couldn’t pull out the results you were expected to, and maybe one little mistake cost it all, those feelings of not being good enough, letting everybody down – not just yourself. At the end of the day, you have to go onto social media and see an onslaught of comments calling you every name under the sun and telling you; you shouldn’t be doing the job you love. I get it, Formula 1 is and always will be an opinionated sport. Of course, you are frustrated too, but constructive criticism is a lot different to being unkind. Certain drivers choose to live their lives away from Social Media or have taken a step back due to these kinds of incidents.

Earlier, I mentioned how people often think of Formula 1 drivers as superheroes. In the 2019 season, tragedy struck in Belgium when 22-year-old Anthoine Hubert was involved in a fatal accident in the FIA Formula 2 Feature Race. An incident that rocked the motorsport community. Current Formula 1 drivers Pierre Gasly and Charles Leclerc knew Anthoine personally; they were friends outside of the sport and grew up together from karting onwards, sharing their journey every step of the way. Motor racing is a hard, brutal business. However, these moments confront drivers with the reality of the sense of danger their profession poses and that they are, in fact, human. Although they do it because they love it – the mental strength of every single one of those drivers to get back into their cars the day after and watch those five red lights come on one by one is incredible.

Unfortunately, to this day, mental illness can be seen as a sign of weakness, and I know what you might be thinking “Does that really matter?”. In a way, yes, it does! The idea that someone struggling with mental health is weak is stigmatising and could negatively affect certain subgroups of the population, for instance, men. Due to societal expectations and ‘traditional’ gender roles, men are less likely to discuss or seek help for their mental health problems. We all know that F1 is a predominantly male sport; could this be why mental health is a rarely spoken about topic in the world of motorsport?

Mental health is an important topic, not just in Formula 1 but everywhere. Yes, drivers and teams are becoming more open to discussing them; however, my question remains.

Can F1 do more for Mental Health?

With four race weekends behind us, and eight different riders on the podium, the MotoGP championship fight is hotting up. With championship favourites crashing out and terrible luck for many riders, here’s a run-through of the 2021 season so far and who to watch out for throughout the rest of the season.

Qatar (Losail International Circuit) – 28 March

Qualifying:

Bagnaia (Ducati)

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Race Result:

Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Zarco (Pramac)

Bagnaia (Ducati)

The season opened with a thrilling race around the Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar. Maverick Viñales came through to win an outstanding performance to take the win against a very competitive field. The Qatar GP also showcased the Ducatis as a bike to watch this year, with Zarco and Bagnaia in second and third respectively. 2020 champion Mir came in 4th after a mistake at the last corner, and Quartararo finished up the top 5 on the Monster Energy Yamaha. Morbidelli, a championship favourite at the start of the season, rode poorly, finishing in 18th place.

Doha (Losail International Circuit) – 4 April

Qualifying:

Martín (Pramac)

Zarco (Pramac)

Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Race Result:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Zarco (Pramac)

Martín (Pramac)

Race weekend two in Doha saw Quartararo beginning his bid for the championship, outsmarting the other riders to win. It was also a good weekend for the Pramac Ducati riders, who both qualified and finished the race in the top three. Rins finished in 4th for Suzuki with Viñales in 5th. It was another poor week for the Petronas Yamaha riders, with Morbidelli in 12th and Rossi out of the points in 16th. The rider with the most disastrous start to the season was clearly Alex Marquez, who crashed out for the second weekend running. Already at this stage, it was clear that this season would not be easily called, with so many riders in the mix.

Portugal (Algarve International Circuit) – 18 April

Qualifying:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Rins (Suzuki)

Zarco (Pramac)

Race Result:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Bagnaia (Ducati)

Mir (Suzuki)

The reign of Quartararo continued in Portugal, where he qualified first and then went on to win the race, completely outpacing his rivals. Bagnaia was able to take the second step on the podium, with 2020 champion Joan Mir in third after a dramatic race that saw Zarco crashing out from second place, ultimately finishing 13th. Morbidelli finally got some good points on the board after a tough start to the season, finishing 4th, with Binder in 5th for the Red Bull KTM team. This was not the biggest story of the weekend, of course, with Marc Marquez returning and finishing an impressive 7th in his first race back after a 9-month injury break. This race was plagued by crashes, with Zarco, Rins, Rossi, Miller and Espargaro unable to finish the race. This affected Jack Miller hugely as he needed a good result following a reasonably poor start to the season.

Spain (Circuito de Jerez – Angel Nieto) – 2 May

Qualifying:

Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha)

Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)

Miller (Ducati)

Race Result:

Miller (Ducati)

Bagnaia (Ducati)

Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha)

The Spanish Grand Prix was the race that Miller needed. The Australian rider took his first dry race win after championship leader Quartararo, who led for a lot of the race, had to back off with arm pump issues. An unfortunate end to a stellar start to the season for the Frenchman, who only picked up a few points, finishing 13th. Bagnaia made it a one-two finish for the Ducati team, a result they were not expecting in Jerez, with Petronas Yamaha rider Morbidelli improving one place on his Portugal finish to take the final step on the podium. Takaaki Nakagami finished an impressive 4th after flying through the field towards the end of the race, with Mir taking 5th, another good set of points for last year’s champion.

Who to watch this season:

Fabio Quartararo:

Throughout the course of the 2021 season, Quartararo has been the most consistently impressive rider. Without the issues surrounding his arm in Jerez, he would likely have been on the podium for the third time, possibly even taking a third win in four races. He has become a favourite for this year’s title with such impressive form, but will his injury stop that? Fabio had surgery on his arm on Monday 4th May and hopes to recover in time for his home race at Le Mans next weekend. If his recovery takes longer, questions will begin to emerge over whether he can fight to take the championship, having lost points while recovering.

Francesco Bagnaia:

Bagnaia is another rider who has shown the importance of consistency this season. Despite not winning a race yet this year, he has been on the podium three times, finishing the other race in a still-impressive 4th. The 2018 Moto2 champion has shown impressive skill throughout this year, and if this continues, he will continue to play an important role in the battle for the title.

While these two riders are the most consistently impressive so far this year, many have a good chance of battling for the championship win. 2020 champion Joan Mir is also not out of the running, having finished between 3rd and 7th in every race so far this year, leaving him 4th in the standings. Maverick Viñales is also thoroughly impressive this year, winning the first race out and recording the fastest time at testing on Monday 4th May. With so many strong riders competing closely this year, in addition to a likelihood for even more surprising crashes throughout the field, the championship is still very much up for grabs. With such thrilling racing this early in the season, MotoGP will continue to be one to watch throughout the year as the championship fight gets closer and more dramatic.

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