Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Predict Unpredictability

This morning I saw an article on the Sky Sports website in which Jenson Button claimed this year's unpredictability in the 2012 F1 season is bad for the sport, and will ultimately drive fans away. This was somewhat of a surprise to me, as personally this unpredictability is making the sport more - not less - exciting for most of us fans out here.

The 2012 F1 season has thus far seen 6 different winners in the six races. Jenson Button claimed the first win in Australia back in March, followed by Fernando Alonso in Malaysia, Nico Rosberg in China, Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain, Pastor Maldonado in Spain and Mark Webber in Monaco this weekend. This is the first time that we've seen such an opening to the season in F1 history - and yet Jenson believes this is a bad thing?

Admittedly, Jenson did have a point in saying that we couldn't see who had the best car this year. But, I disagree that this is bad for the sport. In having such variability, we might get a chance at seeing whose driving skill is better at any particular race. Maldonado's win in Spain highlighted that even if you don't have a dominant car, you can still win a race. Whether this is also down to the variability of the tracks suiting different cars is another point, but all of these factors together mean that the races are not a foregone conclusion.

If we think back to 2011, when Sebastian was so dominant, I recall seeing much more complaining that Red Bull were destroying the unknown element to the championship. We all knew that Red Bull and Sebastian would win the championship. This year, there are six drivers within one race win of each other, with Button one win and a 7th place just behind. So, when you have seven drivers in contention for the world championship, surely this is better than having a one-horse race. Admittedly, I loved the 2011 season - I am somewhat biased as Vettel is my favourite driver. Plus, the racing last year arguably made up for the fact that we often knew who was going to win before the race even started. So, having the racing of 2011 plus the unpredictability would surely bring more fans to the sport, rather than driving them away?

Further in the Sky article, Martin Whitmarsh also disagreed with Button and spoke of opinion a few years ago when the racing was seen as processional. Indeed, when Schumacher was so dominant, winning seven world titles, many fans were put off, as it was clear who would win without even watching.

So, while it may be annoying for drivers to not know where they stand race by race, and while it's also annoying for statisticians and betting companies, who would like at least a partial element of predictability; unpredictability is not a bad thing for the fans. I say let the championship continue as it is, and bring the question of who wins the titles down to the very last race. How can anyone fail to be hooked on this year? If you want to know who's going to win, you have to watch the races! Thus, we should expect the unexpected, predict the unpredictable and let the races play out as they will. Who knows what we'll see in the rest of the season?