…because previews are so overrated. Here I come, from the distant future of December 2018, with a bit of crystal balls for you about how this upcoming Formula 1 season will unfold. Hold on to your Halos, kids!
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The 2018 season gets off to a stunning start for the Antipodean crowd, as Danny Ricciardo takes a home victory he describes as “pretty cool, guys” between bouts of loud growling and teeth-gnashing. However, even this is overshadowed by Brendon Hartley’s Strawberry Jelly leading until running out of fuel shortly after half distance, the Toro Rosso team still unwilling to believe a Honda engine could last more than 30 laps tops in race trim. It’s also a banner day for Esteban Ocon, who secures his first podium for ₰ᾮאӜ҉ѾѬѮϠζ [a.k.a. The Racing Team Formerly Known As Force India].
A Safety Car start is needed in Sakhir, as an unseasonal snowstorm brings several inches of precipitate to lay on the racetrack (and loud contemptuous mockery from the Circuit de Catalunya owners). Being the only driver to have tested Pirelli’s recently-unveiled range of snow-chain tyres, Max Verstappen is a comfortable winner, though Kimi Raikkonen seemed to know what he was doing prior to over-egging a four-wheel slide, and barrel-rolling into a drift on the outside of Turn 4. With an excellent fourth-place finish in the increasingly impressive Toro Rosso, Pierre Gasly earns enough EXP points to evolve into Pierre Haunter.
Having tested it extensively, albeit surreptitiously, over the winter, Ferrari introduce their dastardly “smokescreen” exhaust, in a bid to offset the overtaking advantage gained from DRS down the Shanghai circuit’s long back straight. However, it makes little difference when racing in the smog of the Chinese city, and Lewis Hamilton wins, remarking on the podium that the dense choking air reminds him of childhood days playing outdoors in Stevenage.
Baku 2018 is a farce of a race; human rights protesters storm the castle keep at Turn 8, using crossbows at random to inflict punctures and pouring vats of oil onto the racetrack, which Charles LeClerc later claimed actually made his Sauber handle better. Ocon comes through the chaos to take a début win for himself and for the re-renamed Richmond & Twickenham Times and Surrey Comet Racing Team, having finally found a short-term buyer in the team’s local newspaper publishers.
Pundits note Fernando Alonso of “Jaffa Cakes McLaren-Renault” strutting around the paddock with a knowing grin throughout practice and qualifying, in spite of having retired from the opening four rounds and qualified well down the field in Barcelona. “Wait and see, wait and see!” is all the hometown hero has to say in response.
At the end of the warm-up lap Alonso unexpectedly dives into the pits, emerging in a spare car with new hypersoft tyres, and a 2004 Ferrari V10 engine jammed awkwardly into the airbox. Taking off from pit exit before the five red lights have come on, the papaya projectile rockets around the circuit, leading the race by over half a minute by the time the engine goes up like a grenade after three-and-a-half laps. Fernando leaps out of the burning car, sprints through the crowd whooping and cartwheeling and shedding his gloves, boots and helmet. He reaches his underpants just before divebombing with a triumphant shriek of “GP2 CAAAAARRR!!!…” into the lake in the centre of the racetrack.
Someone else presumably wins the Spanish Grand Prix, but nobody notices.
Continuing with its tireless (HA!) pursuit of new and exciting compounds, Pirelli’s Paul Hembery announces, with a sinister giggle, a “giga-soft” option, which is essentially a bucket of molten rubber painted onto the rims; Sebastian Vettel sets a new track record for fastest first-50-metres of the Monte Carlo venue before his tyres meet “The Cliff”. After practice, Toro Rosso trade their Pierre Gengar for a Jean Squirtle with recently upgraded Special Defense stats and Surf ability; it proves to be a wise move, their new Water-Type driver winning after a freak tidal wave washes over Tabac corner on the second lap, sending the top ten qualifiers bobbing into the harbour.
Freshly inspired from their triumph at the previous round, Toro Rosso release Brendon Hartley’s Strawberry Jelly to go back to WEC and being a Hanson tribute band stand-in; he is replaced with up-and-coming star Bruce Original Thick-Cut Marmalade. Lance Stroll takes the chequered flag but the trophy is awarded to Marcus Ericsson as, unfortunately, race officials still can’t tell the Williams and Sauber cars apart, and the FIA are too embarrassed on their behalf to intervene.
Despite having served their two-race ban for Fernando’s Glorious Spanish Adventure as it is henceforth known, “Irn-Bru McLaren-Renault” have their cars seized at the Paul Ricard track entrance by the French food standards authority, impounding them over the team’s false advertising of a “drink” on their vehicles. Romain Grosjean wins on home soil, after a mysterious bout of food poisoning afflicts the rest of the paddock; in the following week, sales of his cookbook amongst pest controllers increase by 700%.
Paul Hembery announces, with an ominous chuckle, the introduction of a “micro-soft” tyre option, where the rubber will only be Photoshopped onto the wheels in post-production, but a writ from Bill Gates means the compound goes unused beyond first practice. Sebastian Vettel wins, as Ferrari choose to invoke the clause in a newly signed contract with Liberty Media stating “…it is agreed We [Scuderia Ferrari] shall take a Victory (1st-placed race finish) in no fewer than 1 (one) Formula One Grand Prix per calendar season, in respect of our outstanding historical importance and stuff, so there, nyah to stinky Mercedes bum-heads [sticking-out-tongue emoji]”.
Despite the venue being moved to a marina in the Cayman Islands (for “optimal rain-avoidance purposes”, according to a BRDC statement) Lewis Hamilton still errs on the side of caution and skips the race, just in case someone from Revenue & Customs decides to linger around his motorhome for too long. Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Ricciardo complete the top 3, and Kimi is adopted as a dual-nationality Brit after an intense shoey-off with pints of John Smith’s instead of champagne (Brexit’s effect now in full swing).
A pan-global conglomerate of nostalgic ’80s and ’90s racing fans invest in Pérez and Ocon’s ailing team, and Jordan-Minardi-Lotus-March-Brabham-Benetton-Onyx-Toleman-Leyton House-Zakspeed-Andrea Moda Racing take their first start in Hockenheim. Unfortunately, they don’t fare so well, as their stakeholders insist on the drivers using the old track through the forest, and thus completing only 45 laps, not to mention producing a hellish storm of litigation from Greenpeace. A first win, and thus podium, for Nico Hulkenberg opens a rift in the space-time continuum on the rostrum that inadvertently sucks in several German dignitaries and driver interviewer Eddie Jordan, who is somehow nonetheless able to conduct shouty, banal proceedings from the other side of the eternal, abysmal void.
Lance Stroll is replaced with Robert Kubica before qualifying, as the Canadian accidentally left his credit card in a service station off the A43 and missed his next due payment. Alonso’s car breaks down while leading on the last lap, handing victory to Bottas, and he announces his immediate retirement before hiring a helicopter and air-dropping his chassis through the roof of McLaren’s Woking headquarters.
Over the summer break McLaren take Alonso to the European Court of Justice, citing breach of contract; Alonso responds by taking McLaren to the European Court of Human Rights, citing “cruel and unusual punishment”. The judge decides in the Spaniard’s favour, meaning he wins something for the first time in over five years. Jolyon Palmer signs as his replacement, and within seconds of driving the car finally understands what Alonso meant by “karma” all those months ago. Kevin Magnussen wins, to the delight of his merchandise team, who have struggled all year to shift punnets of his personally branded “Salted Caramel and Honey Chocolate Balls”.
Pirelli’s Paul Hembery announces, with undisguised maniacal laughter, a “massive-and-rock-hard” compound; Hamilton takes pole position, but parks up only a few laps in after the monster-truck-style tyres rattle the gold fillings out of his teeth, and he scrambles out to retrieve them as they jangle down the pit straight. As dentistry bills soar up and down the grid, Stoffel Vandoorne takes a shock victory for “Terry’s Chocolate Orange McLaren-Renault”; Fernando, watching from home, turns off his television and giggles quietly to himself for several hours, before buying and securing himself in a straitjacket, and hopping into his nearest psychiatric clinic, cheerfully whistling “La Marseillaise”.
With the fan conglomerate complaining that Formula 1 still “isn’t what it used to be” despite their best efforts, they hand the team over to a mysterious entity that re-re-renames it TerraVelocity Xtreme Team. The new car is built of solid gold and platinum, and is driven by the Sultan of Brunei and Elon Musk, who in turn powers it with a Tesla Roadster engine. The heavy chassis is hopelessly slow in corners, but proves difficult to lap due to its reasonable straightline speed, its wholly unreasonable drivers, and the blinding glare off its bodywork under the streetlights. Carlos Sainz wins, because Liberty Media feel fans aren’t getting their money’s worth out of him otherwise.
Lewis Hamilton Sergey Sirotkin wins a processional thrilling race at the Sochi Autodrom, dominating from start to finish scything through from the back in his Mercedes-Petronas Lada-Williams. Controversial President Glorious leader Vladimir Putin met a somewhat hostile warmly friendly reception from the paddock and supporters as he presented the trophy to Hamilton Sirotkin. There was also a no cyber-attack foiled to immobilise the electronics of nineteen of the twenty cars on the grid, understandable given the reasonable chance absurd unlikelihood that Sirotkin would not have been victorious without it.
Having grown bored of cycling through hilarious Pokémon- and condiment-themed drivers over the European season, Toro Rosso replace Jean-Éric Bulbasaur and Brett Low-Sugar Blackcurrant Jam with 13-year-old local protegée Juju Noda and a newly-rehabilitated Fernando Alonso. With the Honda engine working superbly at the company’s home track, Alonso and Noda qualify 1-2, but the Spaniard fades in the closing laps with muscle fatigue, not having driven a race distance in so long. Noda dedicates her phenomenal victory to her parents, her thousands of Instagram followers, and her “#racinghero #absolutemadman #lol” Taki Inoue.
Alonso finally returns to the top step with a win in the States; he hugs his trophy in the foetal position on the podium, sobbing gently and cradling it like his newborn child. After a race-long battle, Hamilton and Vettel cross the line in a dead-heat finish, and while the FIA agree to split the points down the middle, there is still only one second-placed trophy available. Opening the rulebook, stewards are surprised to discover Liberty have included a rule stating that such scenarios are to be settled in a boxing ring. Hamilton has the initial upper hand as Sebastian complains of him “blocking” and “brake-testing” his attacks, before the German is disqualified for a below-the-belt punch with a raging cry of “Here’s a message for your Hodensack, Lewis!”.
In the wake of the “Crumple in the Jungle” in Austin, Hamilton is laid up in hospital sending out selfies like messages in bottles, and Vettel sits out a race ban by once again attempting to grow a convincing handlebar moustache. Meanwhile, in the wake of having collided one-hundred-and-thirty-seven times in the last five rounds, TVXT-Porsche Racing decide there is only one appropriate way to settle the ongoing differences between reinstated drivers Pérez and Ocon – in the Lucha Libre ring. Wearing a bubblegum-pink mask, Pérez overpowers his marshmallow-pink-masked rival in just three minutes, and it spurs him on to an emphatic victory in the race itself. Haas are a no-show at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, being unable to afford the tariffs required to get their trucks past the border wall from Texas.
With Juju Noda grounded for having failed to finish her maths homework, Toro Rosso sign Felipe Massa for a third consecutive tear-jerking farewell tour of Interlagos, and he naturally dominates the race from lights to flag, knowing exactly where the suspension-shattering potholes are to be avoided. The Drivers’ Championship is delicately poised between the Red Bull drivers, and Max Verstappen’s pleas to have Daniil Kvyat reinstated for this race, so as to have him dropped and thus guarantee Max the win in Abu Dhabi, fall on deaf ears in Milton Keynes. After hiring a new copywriter to replace an aging employee, McLaren are mortified to discover they *have* been building GP2 chassis since 2014 – the retired colleague gripes that it wasn’t his fault the two rulebooks look so bloody similar!
Danny Ricciardo wins the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – the only driver to take more than one win all season – and with it his first World Championship. It’s a bittersweet occasion for the Honey Badger; as he raises his winner’s trophy aloft, the wind changes direction, fixing his beaming face in a permanently etched grin, and he is rushed to A&E before his facial muscles can solidify into a horrifying rictus of mirthless toothsomeness. Toro Rosso-Honda win the Constructors’ Title, sharing the spoils evenly between all of their drivers throughout the year, though they have to appoint a careful system of checks to weed out fraudsters claiming to have done a practice session here, a tyre test there. Unimpressed by his defeat, Max Verstappen quits Red Bull to take a gap year around the Far East, though not before his frozen sperm is signed to a multi-year contract starting 2030; Nico Rosberg’s 3-year-old daughter Alaïa has already been signed as his interim replacement, in an Aston Martin-powered pushchair.
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