We're continuing our MyTeam career by heading to Jeddah, Albert Park, and Imola.
Following up on the fairly disastrous showing that MBF Racing had at Bahrain to ring in the 2022 season, I was a little concerned about the coming Grand Prix and whether I had misjudged my expectation for the team for the rest of the year. I really thought that a Mercedes-powered car would be able to compete with the best of the middle of the pack, the McLarens and the Alpines, and that once some new parts and developments had been introduced that even fighting with the leading three organisations was a potential. But Bahrain set my expectations straight and made me realise that was a dream and less of a goal. It turns out, I was wrong about this, because the MBF 01 has a very high potential, something Jeddah, Australia, and Imola proved.
I've realised that this car is quick even for the middle of the pack, and if I can become comfortable with it and push it to its limits, it is capable enough to battle with the Red Bulls, Ferraris, and Mercedes when these leading teams aren't on their game. And while you can argue that waiting for a team to slip up to capitalise is hardly a race winning strategy, in F1 22 these three organisations are so aggressive towards one another, that you're almost guaranteed to find one or two of the top six cars vulnerable.
Take Jeddah for starters. It was here that I realised the true potential of this car, as while it doesn't have the power to blast past a Ferrari on the twisty straights of the street circuit, it does have enough grip and power under the hood to compete with the top cars. It should be said that Jeddah is one of my favourite tracks over the entire year, and I am fairly good at navigating its tight boundaries. But I never expected to do so well to actually net a P4 grid spot. Neither did I expect to hold this position come race day, but thankfully the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen that lined up behind me was so focussed on battling one another that I didn't have to focus on what was going on behind me. Rather I could keep a firm gaze on Sergio Perez and the two Ferraris ahead.
This is an ad:
Due to a battle between the two leading scarlet cars, I found it easy to keep pace with the top teams, and likewise, a mistake from Perez into Turn 1 allowed me to blast past him, and then use my built-up energy reserves to keep the Red Bull behind whenever he attempted to make an overtake. This chaos all allowed me to net a podium result of third place, and catapulted myself and MBF Racing up the standings (something helped by secondary driver Jenson Button's ninth place result) after a disappointing result in Bahrain.
Heading to Australia's Albert Park, I had my expectations in check again. Another podium was probably not going to happen, but a points finish was more than plausible from myself and Button. After a few laps of practice, Qualifying came around, and it was here that the top teams proved their true potential, as after a blisteringly quick lap, all I could secure was sixth on the grid, with Button lining up all the way back in 15th. Needless to say, this was going to need to be a crazy race to make much else come from that starting position.
Fortunately, I got another dose of chaos, as on the first lap, heading right into Turn 1, Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz' Ferrari's came into contact with one another, forcing both cars into the pits to fix early damage. Sergio Perez' Red Bull also picked up damage from the incident, meaning I went from being sixth to fourth (as George Russell got around me on the first lap). For the rest of the race, I was focused on reclaiming that spot from Russell, which was a doable objective thanks to both cars being powered by the same engine. With the help of DRS and smart energy usage, I managed to get past Russell after a few laps, and then spent the rest of the race in clean air, holding position behind the far quicker cars of the battling Verstappen and Hamilton. Nothing else came from this race, but that did mean back-to-back third place podiums for MBF Racing, something that was bettered by an incredible showing from Button who turned a 15th place start into a seventh place finish.
This is an ad:
Two races of great results meant that I was coming to Round 4: Imola with a lot of confidence. This is also one of my better tracks over the entire calendar, and with that being the case, I was confident that another podium could be on the cards if everything fell into the correct place. I had begun to realise at this point that Qualifying was where I excelled, whereas Button would generally suffer in earning a great grid spot but would make up for it with remarkable race pace. Unsurprisingly, this was the case again in Imola.
After a Qualifying session that I wasn't particularly happy about due to making a few errors at Turn 6 and 17, I ended up starting in P6, with Button a few grid places behind me in P12. In the 2022 calendar, Imola is one of few sprint weekends, meaning this wasn't necessarily where we'd both be starting the actual race. And for myself, this ended up being a little bit of a hindrance to me, as the top teams failed to make mistakes and I lost a battle with Valtteri Bottas and finished the Sprint down a place in P7. Button on the other hand used his race pace to make up a spot and finish in P11.
This took us to the actual Grand Prix, where I was mostly focussed on not losing any more positions. Thankfully, as has been the general theme as of late, chaos erupted early on, as Verstappen went too deep and beached himself on Turn 2 of lap one following a battle with Perez and Russell, two cars who became vulnerable to myself and Bottas ahead of me. We both pursued the weakened Mercedes and Red Bull for the duration of the Grand Prix, and managed to get past both by the time the chequered flag started waving, meaning a P7 result ended up transitioning into a P4 result, and as you would expect, Button used his race pace to turn P11 into P6 by the end of everything - making Imola MBF Racing's best scoring Grand Prix of the season so far.
At this point, the combination of becoming more comfortable with the car and also the various upgrades that have been fitted to the MBF 01 have made it clear that MBF Racing is leading the middle-pack of teams, and likewise the initial pecking order has been thrown on its head, as McLaren has found itself eighth in Constructors' standings with four points, while Haas and Alfa Romeo (led by Bottas mostly) have become my biggest rival. At least that is assuming Red Bull pulls itself together as constant crashes and issues have put the team in a vulnerable position, only 14 points clear of my team. Needless to say, this season has just become very, very exciting.