Bahrain 2022

Champagne Rain
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Round 01
Bahrain (2022)

Warnings: none

Length: 2.5k words

 

This is where it starts: a circuit carved into the desert, on an island nation located by the Persian Gulf. Cobalt-blue skies with not a cloud in sight. Golden sand dunes for as far as the eye can see. White lines painted on black asphalt. Hot air. Burnt rubber. Petrol.

 

Just another racetrack, if you’re a stranger.

 

Sakhir, if you’re a local.

 

Bahrain, if you’re unsure of the country’s name.

 

Round 1 of the 2022 Formula One World Championship, if you’re a fan.

 

My race to win, if you’re the hot-headed, rookie racing driver, Lee Sunmi.

 

22-years-old and ready to take on the 20 rounds of her first season of Formula 1, Sunmi stands on the grid, dark eyes peering forward. Her unbreakable gaze falls on the start-finish line, which is actually a checkered pattern strip running across the track. Quite an insignificant mark for the outsider, but everything to her.

 

In one week, she’ll be qualifying for the Grand Prix. Lighting up the timing tables. Knocking the competition out of Q1. Hopefully, at least. The day after that, she’ll be waiting for the red lights to go out. Until then, she imagines that moment, the moment when she releases the clutch and lets the car rush forward. She’s practiced that a million times now, in her head and in the simulators, memorizing it with muscle…

 

“Excited?”

 

“You have no idea.” Sunmi grins as she looks over at her blond-haired teammate for this season.

 

Sebastian Vettel, a four-time world champion hailing from Germany. A living legend, if Sunmi could have a hand in writing the Formula 1 history books.

 

“You might jump the start with how excited you are,” Sebastian remarks.

 

“Or get a fine in 10 seconds for speeding in the pit lane.”

 

Sebastian breaks out in a wide grin that turns into a laugh. He displays a shining row of teeth in doing so, and it’s infectious enough that Sunmi joins him in giggling.

 

“No, that’s my record,” Sebastian says about his infamous achievement of fastest penalty. “Take another one.”

 

“Youngest world champion then,” Sunmi proposes boldly. She’s smiling like it’s a far-fetched joke, but it isn’t.

 

“Now you’re talking.” Sebastian places a hand on his hip and turns to their car behind them.

 

Formula One Media is filming promotional content for the 2022 season, and they’ve lined up all 11 teams and 22 drivers on the grid for a shoot. Each team’s respective cars are present as well, a showcase of the finest engineering. Strange in comparison to a normal car you’d see stuck in traffic, but beautiful and outstanding in every way if you ever cared for aerodynamics.

 

Formula cars don’t look anything like normal road cars; they’re lower to the ground, so close that a kerb could destroy the floor if a driver isn’t careful. The 18-inch, low-profile tyres are completely exposed, hence the term “open-wheel.” They’ve got long noses with front wings designed to aerodynamic perfection. Their chassis is composed exclusively of carbon fiber, a light yet sturdy material to conserve weight. An extra kilogram of weight means a tenth of a second increase in lap time, so every inch, every slight dip in the bodywork and sidepods has been pored over by teams of engineers, making sure each part serves its purpose. In the race to be the fastest, this is critical.

 

This season, Porsche has the RS-2022. RS meaning rennsport. Rennsport meaning race-sport in German. It’s a matte-black and gold car, its livery marked by at least a dozen sponsorships. The number 5—Sebastian’s number—is on the front and outlined with white.

 

“We’ve got a car that could upset a lot of people,” Sebastian murmurs after a moment of inspection.

 

Sunmi had also gone quiet in admiration of their team’s efforts. She’s no engineer, but she doesn’t have to be. A testing session in Barcelona and then here, in Bahrain, have given her hopes that the car can compete for podiums at the very least.

 

I’d love to be someone’s headache, Sunmi thinks to herself.

 

“Hey.” It’s a voiced tinted lightly with an English accent, and when Sunmi turns around, her jaw slackens in disbelief.

 

There’s only driver on the grid bold enough to dye his hair so obnoxiously white: Byun Baekhyun. He’s been known to dye his hair outrageous shades in the past, but there’s nothing outrageous about how he’s glowing now. Little specks—beauty marks and moles—dot his fair skin. With his hair pushed back, a smile decorating his face, nothing obstructs his dark eyes from peering into Sunmi’s. They’re encircled by dainty lashes that have her marveling.

 

Sunmi’s breath is taken by that gaze alone.

 

“Hey,” Sebastian greets the other driver when Sunmi fails to speak. “How are you?”

 

“Good, man. Glad to be back.” Baekhyun exchanges a handshake with Sebastian before pulling him into a small hug. Then his attention drifts back to Sunmi. Thankfully, Sebastian pushes the conversation before it can get awkward.

 

“Have you met Sunmi?” Sebastian asks Baekhyun.

 

“No, that’s why I came over here.” Baekhyun smiles, only smiles, but still, Sunmi is reeled in a little further. “Hey, I’m Baekhyun,” he says like he needs an introduction. “Excited?”

 

“Yeah,” Sunmi manages to utter. “I-I’m nervous but mostly excited.”

 

“Nervous? Don’t be. You’ll do fine.”

 

“But there’s so much that could go wrong.”

 

“Think about what could go right,” Baekhyun dismisses. “If half the grid DNFs, you could win the race.” It’s a sentiment that has Sunmi grinning cheekily “See?” Baekhyun points out her smile. “If you want it bad enough, you can get it.”

 

“What if I want to outqualify you?” Sunmi doesn’t know how she manages such a daring statement, but she’s glad that she does. Sebastian chuckles, and Baekhyun grins.

 

“See? That’s the spirit.” Baekhyun’s gaze lingers on Sunmi’s for a little bit longer. “Good luck.”

 

“You too.”

 

Baekhyun walks past Sunmi and Sebastian to greet the other drivers, an

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SkyeButterfly
— CHAMPAGNE RAIN
The third chapter is here 💓
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