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GOOD & BAD: 2018 Formula 1 Season

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Another year of Formula 1 competition is in the books, with a familiar sight as Lewis Hamilton won his fifth world championship. Along the way, though, there were some highlights and low lights to consider from the action on-track all year.

While admitting that it isn’t a style of racing that suits my personal preference, there were some moments that caught my attention. It also fit the theory that an Formula 1 race is basically a 90-minute murder mystery, where you watch the clues be revealed about strategy as you learn about the strengths and weaknesses of each competitor. By the end of the story, you eventually figure it out all out – with the murderer in the case being the person who beat the competition.

Although I was unable to partake in all of the races and may have been a little harsh at times with this pre-face openly revealed, let’s take a look back at the good and the bad.

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GOOD: Of the races that I was able to partake this season, I can officially say that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was the race of the year. It was certainly a mystery from start to finish filled with twists and turns to the checkered. Oh, and it wasn’t just focused on who would win – but rather every position throughout the whole field. While some Formula 1 races were painful to watch this season, Baku was the opposite of that.

BAD: A lack of action on-track in the season opener in Australia. There wasn’t many overtakes to be had, but we shouldn’t be surprised with a commentator saying, “We’ve had more overtakes so far in the race this year than we did last year.” You always want to have something to talk about to build momentum for the following weeks. Thankfully, discussions could be had about certain drivers having issues but other than that, cue the yawning.

GOOD: The year began with hope for Fernando Alonso and McLaren with a fifth-place finish and optimism in seeing their program begin to turn around. However, it did go downhill from there with more frustration than both parties probably wanted.

Still, it was nice to see Alonso given a proper salute in his last race as a Formula 1 driver as he deserves the praise for his accomplishments through the years. It will be interesting to see what else he can accomplish in other forms of racing.

BAD: The brand new TV package for the 2018 season did not begin with royal reviews as ESPN made the decision to use SkySports’ coverage rather than do their own commentary. There are some things that could be better, but that wasn’t the worse case in Australia.

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How do you miss showing the problems for the lone American team? Sometimes you need to put sense ahead of dollars, but instead, they stayed in commercial, not allowing fans to hear the announcers’ discussion. If you want to see people tune into your coverage, you need to feed them what they want.

GOOD:Sometimes these Formula 1 races write themselves, and you can pinpoint the happenings and winners simply by practice on Friday. Other times, you’re thrown a couple of twists and turns along the way. The Austrian Grand Prix was the lather.

BAD: The rules package could use some tweaking, frankly. Did you know you can go faster down pit lane then you can under a virtual safety car? That just doesn’t seem right…….

GOOD: Sometimes the key to success is being fast, while other times it is strategy. Ferrari became a master of the lather at the Austrian Grand Prix.

Under the virtual safety car period to clear (Valterri) Bottas off the track, both Ferrari and Red Bull brought their cars down pit road, performing double pit stops, while Lewis Hamilton stayed on track in the lead. Once they were back green, Mercedes then brought the four-time champion down pit road. In return, this sent him back on-track behind both Red Bull and Ferrari entries.

With how important track position is in Formula 1, this could easily be called the move of the year.

Haas F1 Team

GOOD: The continued improvement of Haas F1 Team each week. For being just in their third year of competition, they have shown progress and the ability to run up front.

Recall Guenther Steiner said when the team was formed, it’d take time to find their stride, but he believed the package they had put together for 2018 would show their growth as they were ready to make their move. He was right, given some of the highlights including a double top-five performance at one point, however there is still work that needs to be done.

BAD: There were some critical errors made by the Haas drivers that certainly hurt their performance, too. Anybody remember Romain Grosjean’s first lap incident in the Spanish Grand Prix? Struggling for grip, he spun, taking out Niko Hulkenberg and Pierre Gasly.

The incident didn’t please Hulkenberg, as he said, “He (Grosjean) didn’t look great in that scenario, generally he likes spinning, but the first lap is not a good time to do it with everyone there. He has to look at it and do some work on himself.” The race stewards agreed, giving Grosjean a penalty worth three grid places and two points on his license.

“That’s kicking the guy in the face when he’s on his knees,” said Haas Team Principal Guenther Steiner.

VERY BAD: Team orders. Each time I hear them mentioned, I want to strangle the individual who speaks of them.

BAD: I understand why there are team orders, as we learned in Baku with Red Bull.

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Certainly you want to see drivers race hard, but there’s a certain level of respect that is expected. Max Verstappen broke that code on a couple occasions, before eventually a block he pulled on Riccardo resulted in both cars being eliminated after running in the top-five.

This isn’t the first time Verstappen has gone under the gun, either, given a questionable incident with Sebastian Vettel earlier this season. There were even some calling for him to be fired and replaced. It was understandable, too, given that Verstappen ignored the notion of blame in saying, “I don’t think we need to speak about whose fault [it is] because at the end of the day we are racing for a team, we are representing a lot of people and when this happens it’s not good for both of us.”

It was nice to see Helmut Marko not listen to those requests, but rather handle his young driver, give him the coaching he needed while continuing to perfect his craft because it paid off.

GOOD: Max Verstappen certainly has talent, and proved that over the course of the second half of the year. With a smarter approach behind the wheel, he was able to post back-to-back podium finishes with a win wrapped up in the middle. With youth on his side, if the growth continues, he could possibly challenge Lewis Hamilton for a championship one day.

NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: At the Bahrain Grand Prix, we had lots of overtakes in the beginning 20 laps, but the laps that followed saw the number decrease. Certainly an improvement from the season opener, but we got a long way to go to make things interesting.

Ultimately, that is a review that sums up a lot of my experience in watching Formula 1 on a semi-regular basis for the first time. If there was more passing and battles side-by-side, then maybe I would tune in more.

Hence why IndyCar and NASCAR own my heart, for now.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Ashley McCubbin is currently studying journalism at the University of Guelph-Humber while writing for multiple websites. She also serves on the managing staff for a select few. Born in North York, Ontario, McCubbin currently lives in Bradford, Ontario and spends her weekend at the local short tracks in the area where she enjoys taking photos and working on websites.

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