Lewis Hamilton’s blockbuster day
On March 1, 2002, Blockbuster’s stock reached an all-time high of $27.50 USD. The company was an omnipresent part of everyone’s life at that time and it seemed like as safe an investment that you could find.
You see, it was a regular part of a Friday night back then – everyone had a Blockbuster card and would spend hours strolling up and down the isles looking at the latest releases. It was part of the larger culture and it was never going to fade away.
We all know what happened next. With high-speed internet becoming increasingly more common in the first part of the first decade of the 21st century, streaming services started to disrupt the home entertainment space and now that Friday night experience has been replaced with Netflix and Chill.
The fall from the top of the mountain didn’t happen instantly, however. It took a full decade from that high-water mark before Blockbuster went bankrupt and a decade more before it would become a nostalgic signifier of a simpler time.
So much so that traders (who likely were taken to Blockbuster as children to pick up the latest Mighty Ducks movie) decided to buy up stock in BB Liquidating Inc, the company that the bankrupted Blockbuster became, last month. Drove the price up to a penny.
But, that exactly not what I wanted to talk about today. Rather, it’s a tale I was thinking of as I watched the F1 season opener in Bahrain. If you’re unaware, the race was won by the World Champion Lewis Hamilton with Mercedes once again putting both drivers on the podium. However, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen split the podium, finishing P2.
On the surface it seemed like the establishment Mercedes (Blockbuster in my analogy) is remaining on top, still unbeatable. However, a closer look might suggest that there are cracks. Netflix (i.e. Red Bull) might be ready to challenge that dominance.
Verstappen was faster in qualifying and for large parts of the race on Sunday. Hamilton and Mercedes were more aggressive on the tyres and benefited from a borderline call (borderline is generous. Another interpretation is that the FIA just made the wrong call) on his pass in lap 53. In the end, Hamilton is world champion for a reason and he was just savvy enough to hold off the Dutchman to get the first win of the season.
But, Hamilton and Mercedes reaction – it looked like they had just won the championship, not the first race in a long season — to winning the day suggests that they know that their historical dominance is nearing an end.
They can see their Netflix gaining in their rear view mirror and they need to react to it now before they become another Blockbuster. It seems like we might be at a point in history where the lines are about to cross, with Mercedes trending down and Red Bull up.
Now, my Netflix/Blockbuster analogy losses steam when you take it to the full conclusion – Mercedes isn’t going to fall put of existence. They probably won’t even fall as far as that other legacy F1 brand, Ferrari, has. But, their time as the default champion seems to be over. It’s going to be a fun battle to watch play out all year.