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Portugal 2021 Made an Ignorant American Question the Meaning of Life

Here are my tips for handling the existential crisis that a race like Portugal can cause.

19w ago
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Let’s get it out of the way up front: for a F1 Grand Prix, Portugal 2021 was a little slow.

There was some drama on Lap 2 when the Alfas touched, and a blink-and-you-missed it battle for first when Lewis overtook Max, then when he went around the outside on Bottas at Turn 1.

After that, Portugal became a flowing, Zen experience as the cars weaved through a warm Portuguese dreamscape, in the middle of nowhere and in front of no crowd, for 40 more laps.

Seriously, with no crowd the aerial shots of the race were surreal. They had me asking questions like:

“Who organized this Sunday drive through the south Iberian countryside in the fastest cars in the world?”

“Who is paying for this, and who in Portugal could possibly be making any money off of it?”

“If there’s no one there to see the race, did it really happen?”

“What’s the point of racing in the first place? It’s kind of trivial to begin with, isn’t it?”

“What’s the point of all sport for that matter? Who cares?”

“What’s the point of life? Most of our lives start, go for a while without much excitement, then end without surprises as the metaphorical Lewis Hamilton comes to harvest our souls. If the Reaper always wins, what’s the meaning of it all?”

That’s how slow Portugal was. This is also how slow it was: right in the middle of the race, my wife wanted to talk about a lamp. I didn’t even mind. We talked about a lamp, and I missed nothing.

Needless to say I had to do something to snap myself back from the edge of such a sheer existential cliff. I don’t do psychedelics anymore, so I made some bread while watching the race. Not biscuits, mind you. Real, yeast-raised bread with ten minutes of kneading and a 30-minute rise.

It's bumper to bumper on my baking tray as they head around Turn 4!

It's bumper to bumper on my baking tray as they head around Turn 4!

While my bread was rising I went outside and caulked the new window we just installed in the dinette. And yes, I saw the whole the race - the TV was on and I watched a few laps through the window as I weather-proofed it.

I find manual labor, some tangible project that I can understand, helps me face the terror of an indifferent universe or a race like Portugal.

If you think I’m being unfair, remember this: toward the end, the race finally got a little bit exciting. Mercedes and Red Bull had duel for fastest lap that included a couple of last-minute, high risk pit stops that could have changed the whole day. But right before all that started, Lewis Hamilton came up on Sergio Perez (the race leader!) and demanded he be blue-flagged because he was going so slow that Lewis thought he was a back-marker.

Martin Brundle, ravenous F1 wolf that he is, then asked Christian Horner if they had thought of using Perez to back Hamilton up into Verstappen so that he and Max could actually compete for first place.

Christian Horner’s response: “Well, that wouldn’t be sporting.”

That whole exchange sums up Portugal 2021 pretty well. A nice, sporting, respectable Sunday drive through the Portuguese countryside. I wasn’t around when Martin Brundle was a driver, but just to hear that sort of piratical edge to his voice for a moment made me long for a bygone era when F1 was a little more cut-throat.

Oh, well. I made some bread, and it was pretty good.

Thank you to the readers who sent me links to videos of the F1 team “motorhomes.” Watching the videos you sent me gave me something else to do during the race, which was so uneventful that I found the shipping and setup process for the temporary team headquarters quite fascinating.

My question this week: What do you think has happened to Aston Martin? Racing Point had a great car last year, but so far this year they’ve hardly made a showing. Alpine is getting their wheels under them, Ferrari isn’t doing too poorly, so what is wrong at Aston Martin? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you next time!

Let's see, which track is next.... Great, Barcelona. I guess I could smoke some salmon and clean the trap on the kitchen sink.

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