FEATURE BY MAX NOBLE
Dearest Reader! What price success, freedom, continued adulation, continued avoidance of the endless circles of Hell? What price indeed?
As we each have been deemed captain of our own souls, setting sail for our own destiny, what charts do we hold to our chests, and what lode stones do we spin in bowls of desperation?
As drive to survive, and the driving of a driver in F1 to survive, presents a mildly amusing overloaded statement in the title of the Netflix series Drive to Survive we are left wondering as to true impacts. Just as to finish first, one must first finish, so it is that one needs to survive the season to drive it.
Canadian readers would probably already know... "All the same we take our chances. Laughed at by time, and tricked by circumstances..."
Easing like an ocean liner from a silent midnight dockside in quiet waters, let us launch into our assessment of how team mates have been faring this season. And what a mixed set of smooth, rough, and stormy seas they have elected to sail! Who will survive to drive, who has already lowered a life boat, and who is already quaffing Champagne cocktails with the Captain on the bridge, while laughing at the lack of double-damask napkins in third class? Follow me dear reader out into the whirlpool waters of driver status 2022.
Art may imitate life, yet life endlessly mutates art. Just ask the Mona Lisa. Drive to Survive is as much a documentary as the X-Files, yet people love it as reality, not fiction. So it is that recently my LinkedIn feed delighted to inform me that Daniel Ricciardo has signed an endorsement agreement with Sea-Doo. Indeed, after Sir Lewis, it would appear the ever smiling, ever polite, and ever chipper Daniel is a total X-Files, sorry I mean Drive to Survive, top fan favourite. Chief Optimist at Australian telephonic company Optus, Sea-Doo Ambassador (I guess it is the craft of choice when your main ship is sinking...), and general all round great guy, who used to be able to drive now fast becoming the Kim Kardashian of the F1 world Daniel is caught within a transformation I'd not wish on anyone. He used to be able to drive, yet now he needs to plead to survive. What happened? Too much energy outside the cockpit on building that amazing media profile?
So at McLaren it is three rubber life rings plus the handle for the life boat davit to Daniel, while Lando earns a well-deserved invite to the bridge for cocktails with the Captain. Just remind him to wear a Casio watch to avoid any alarm on departure.
Sir Lewis! Long may his bangles be free to waft in the cool summer breeze. I might not agree with all he says, yet I admire his resolute honesty in being himself, and I also admire his unquestionable driving talent. Yet this season? A season too far on a bumpy ocean filled with too many porpoises...? Sigh. It's enough to drive a man to... well to possibly drive him away? Would Sir Lewis call it after a very painful "Why am I here?" season? I do not know. So far this season has belonged to Young George, yet he is still a Prince Regent for now. Do not discount a Lewis fight back as soon as the car starts to function as one would hope. Both are in choppy waters, but Lewis will have the spinnaker up before you can say "downwind run" if only the car would get with the programme... Analysis? No need for any life boats just yet, but the Captain has "tentative" pencilled next to their names for the cocktail party at season's end.
Haas! My favourite avocado! Oh wait, wrong Haas. First a fist full of honour to the team for a strong, clear stance on the entire 'Russia thing'. I look forward to segments of the Tennis World realising what "Total War" looks like in the near future, and refining their behaviours accordingly. A strong moral stance from Haas is worthy of genuine respect, which sadly is what Mick is learning from K-Mag as he sets sail on smooth waters, netting more points than Haas could have dreamed of pre-season. Which gives young Mick a serious future problem... as in does he now have one? Mick, like the old curate's egg, is "good in parts", which is not good. For his part, K-Mag has excelled. Shame he didn't do that last time around the buoy. While not quite one-foot-in-the-life boat like Daniel, Mick needs a strong second half of the season to get his voyage back on a good course, with strong winds at his back. So one rubber life ring for Mick, and an assured invite from the Captain for K-Mag.
Ferrari! Both drivers safe for now. Unless he implodes Charles will be their favourite driver regardless of his finishing place at season's end. He is going directly to the bridge for his Champagne. Carlos is not quite so stellar at this stage of the season, but his course has been true enough that the invite is in the post, I'm sure. So Champagne on ice for the Ferrari duo, and no need for the alarm of life boat training drills here.
Williams! The team is so happy with Alex Albon they have asked the Captain to send him two invites to the cocktail party just so he knows how much he is loved! In their minds they are already on the bridge toasting a glorious sunset, while linking arms, and softly singing sea shanties acappella. Nicholas Latifi, who he? I think were it not for cash dollars one would find that his favourite soft toy, ten gallons of water, and a compass had already been packed in the life boat Williams have kindly lowered into the choppy waters for him. Five rubber life rings for poor Nicholas.
Who do we have left to review? Of course, Red Bull! Well the Captain of the ship does rather look like Christian Horner with a beard, and one might muse that the Captain's handwriting on the invitations does look an awful lot like Jester-in-Chief Christian's, but as no one wears tinfoil hats around Pitpass Towers, we will not jump down that particular escape slide.
Rumours that the Captain wanted to call the cocktail function "A salute to our beloved V. Max" are just that, rumours. However, other rumours rather suggest that a stack of invites flowing out for years to come already have young Max's name on them, so not a concern about inflating the life jacket any time soon. The same goes for young Sergio who had the cheek to finish ahead of V. Max while they were both still on the road! A great driver who needs to ensure that as he walks to the cocktail function he is not pushed from behind by some jester (Jos-ter? - Ed) into a life boat perfectly positioned some decks below in dark waters as if waiting in readiness.
Finally we move on to our "A-list". Not so much the A-list of top teams and drivers, as the remaining four teams all of whom have a team name starting with A, yet find themselves at the lower end of the grid. How curious.
Alfa Romeo! I'm sure Valtteri will cherish lining up next to Lewis at the start of the season for the rest of his life. Alfa rising, Mercedes sinking. It was a good time to be in the Alfa speed boat, even if Mercedes appear to have polished their propeller somewhat in recent rounds. Valtteri is likely to be sporting one of the larger smiles, Champagne in hand, at the end of season Captain's party.
Zhou? Well not exactly on fire, not exactly lost with all hands. If poor Daniel has an entire foot in the life boat, then Zhou has a couple of toes on the gunwale. He is equally likely to find a surprise invite under his pillow one morning, or to waken under grey skies, cold and thirsty in an open life raft. Two rubber life rings for Zhou as much of the season remains to earn that invite.
AlphaTauri, and we find Gasly, and Tsunoda smiling politely, not poking any bears with sticks, and generally on track to arrive on the bridge, lemonades in hand, as other end of season revellers nudge one another while quietly asking if Christian, and Gerri brought the kids to the party. On their current courses, no need for life boats at Alpha.
Alpine! The endless voyage that is Fernando's career plies onward in temperamental waters. His ability to still drive the wheels off anything is unquestioned. It is only about the will to continue, and the ability of Alpine to deliver a car capable of making the podium. Fernando will be on the bridge smiling, and relaxing, possibly with his deck chair, at season's end. The key question will be around his conversation. Is he making amusing small talk, or will he be bidding fond friends a final farewell?
Ocon will be at the party, sharing lemonade, and Snapchat jokes with Gasly and Tsunoda. Not a life boat drill in sight for Ocon.
Aston Martin. One needs to hate cars, and be dead, to not smile as an Aston road car flies past. Problem is, said road-going Aston has an even chance of moving as fast as the Aston track cars. Vettel remains a four time champion, and a man who knows how to drive. It is his own mind that is busy reviewing life boats, hand-cranked propeller drives, and rainwater survival stills. While he will be at the Captain's bridge party, he is one of the more likely attendees to be making the rounds to bid fond farewells, but on his own terms. No need for rubber life rings, or life boat drills. Seb has his own Yellow Submarine just waiting to sail on his command into the Sunset.
Someone else drives for Aston I'm sure. I forget. He will probably be at the Captain's party, after all he can afford it, messing with the wheel, putting finger marks on the radar display, and endlessly dialling to the engine room for more power.
So as we prepare to go about, run up our own spinnaker, and goose wing speedily downwind we have an energetic crew on board the good ship Liberty for the rest of the season. Most of whom are set for another voyage next season. Some will elect to jump ship all on their own, while others will be press-ganged into the life boats faster than one can scream "King's Coin!"
This scribe rather hopes that Daniel and Mick will get just the rum ration they need to stir their hearts to greatly improved performance over the rest of the season. Otherwise the ship's cat is going to miss two of the finer folk currently on board, always willing to provide a sea going feline with much needed ear fuss during the boring middle section of races.
Each must draw their own chart as we sail ever onward into destiny. So batten-down the hatches you deck rats! High seas and white frothing adventure are rushing all around us! Wind at our backs, and God's speed!
Learn more about Max and check out his previous features, here