Nihit - Hello and welcome to a new episode of the Sportstar Podcast. This is your host, Nihit Sachdeva, and joining me on the pod today are two (Podcast) debutants - Anish Pathiyil, and S Dipak Raghav. Today, we are going to talk about the 2023 Formula One and the Moto GP seasons. I just want to tell you guys that we are recording this on December 12. Two years ago, on this day, we had the most epic ending ever to a Formula One season when Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the last race to win his first championship. And two years later, Max Verstappen has had probably the most dominant season in Formula One’s history. First of all, I welcome you guys on the pod. Is Max Verstappen even human?
Dipak - We all knew how big of a prodigious talent he was even when he made his debut in 2015. But he kind of, you know, short-circuited his way into Formula One a bit. So, the learning part of this early years was under the limelight and everything was under the glare of huge international media and the whole circus was behind him. They were waiting for him and he made a lot of mistakes in those formative years of 2015-18. The 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, that was pretty much the turning point. And since then, he’s been easily the most consistent driver over the last four or five years. In 2019-20, he did not have a car to challenge Hamilton, but he was still able to pick up the pieces when the Mercedes faltered. The 2021 season, as you spoke about, yes, there were a bit of marginal calls with the Hamilton-Verstappen duo clashes but. Probably Monza was one incident and the qualifying error in Saudi but apart from that, I can’t really think of a race where Verstappen underperformed and underdelivered for Red Bull in the last five years, which is something we’ve never seen in Formula One. I mean, in my memory since I started following, even during the Schumacher years, he really underperformed in 2003. The rules changed a bit, but even Schumacher during his peak probably did not have this kind of metronomic consistency that Verstappen has had.
Nihit - Unlike Formula One, MotoGP was much more exciting. It went right down to the last race - partly due to the fact that reigning champion Francesco Bagnaia, who was dominating the season for a while, got injured and then Jorge Martin challenged him as well. Anish, can you take us through what this Moto GP season was like considering the fact that there was also a new thing – sprints at every race.
Anish - One difference from last year to this year was how well Pramac really stepped up, Jorge Martin won majority of the sprint race. He won 7 or 8 sprints through the season. Even if eventually their tyre management was iffy in the main race and not a lot of wins for Jorge, but I think all those points accumulated in the Sprint (helped). There’s always going to be a thing where the main Ducati is always going to be favorite. Your customer Ducati will always be a second-run compared to the main Ducati. Even if these two teams share the same bike, there’s always an expectation that the main team is going to win. The fact that he managed to almost pull it off on the final race in itself shows how good the season was for Martin because he wasn’t this great in the last couple of years. They had Johann Zarko, who was more of a qualifying great, and then he used to, like drift back in the races. He got his first race win this season. So that kind of shows the kind of big step Pramac made.
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