Sunday, 27 October 2013

Quadruple World Champion

I couldn't really miss the opportunity to announce that Sebastian Vettel is now a quadruple world champion! He's joined the likes of Prost, Fangio and Schumacher, and should now hopefully be considered one of the greats (as if he wasn't after championship number three last year). The championship itself is rightly deserved - as is the fourth constructor's title for his Red Bull team.

Naturally, success always brings the naysayers - if people don't object, you're doing it wrong. However, Seb has been in a class of his own, and he should be applauded for all of his achievements. Sure, in the second half of the season he's been completely dominant, but this isn't all down to the car. You don't win four world championships with a car alone, you need huge talent and control. A combination of the best driver with the best car and the best team behind it all is what's caused these victories.

Of course, I am completely biased towards Sebastian. He is a thoroughly nice man - staying behind to have his picture taken with me at Goodwood, despite being urged away by officials. While we don't always see this on the track (the Multi 21 scenario etched into the memories of many), this is because he's a racing driver. Away from the circuit, Vettel is reluctant to show too much of his private life - and rightly so - thus leading to further criticism. However, today in the post-race celebrations we saw the real Seb. He was overcome with emotion and completely humbled by his achievements. Far from the arrogant picture painted by many.

With the regulation changes next year, there's no knowing where Seb will end up. The field could be much closer and the championship may go to the wire (as in 2012, when my adrenaline level was through the roof while watching the last race in Brazil). It could be that Red Bull's brilliance disappears, and other teams become the front runners. Maybe reliability will hamper everyone. It's impossible to tell. So, Red Bull and Sebastian should enjoy this victory. I'm sure that nobody within the F1 world takes anything like this for granted. The final few races of the season will be a chance to enjoy the racing without the pressure, and I'm sure it will still be a joy to watch.

So, congratulations once again, Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel! Quadruple world champions - the stuff of legend.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Thrilling or Boring

I'm typing this at 1:30pm, and already it's been a fair few hours after this weekend's F1 race. This really means only one thing: we're nearing the close of the season, and thus, early starts. Like many people, I work and study during the week. Unlike many students however, I tend to get up before 8am, and often before 7am. So, the weekends are a great opportunity to catch up on sleep. Unfortunately, I'm a die-hard F1 fan, and so we're nearing the part of the year when sleep at all times of the week is sacrificed. Honestly, I don't mind (although I probably look a little zombie-like during the days now) - that is, if I'm treated to an exciting race.

Today's race in Korea was stunning, I thought. One of the best races of the year. Yeah, alright, I'm a Vettel fan, and so I'm likely to say that. However, the entertainment value of today's race wasn't provided by Vettel's win today, but rather the battles that went on behind him. For the first stint of the race, many fans were worried that it would be a walkover for Vettel, and thus a boring race. Sure, it was a walkover for him, but the race was thrilling.

Nico Hulkenberg was undoubtedly my driver of the day - you have to give credit to a guy who runs in a mid-field team and can hold up Hamilton's Mercedes, Alonso's Ferrari, Raikkonen's Lotus (albeit not until the end of the race) and Webber's Red Bull. I have to say that I'm also one of the many people asking why he isn't in a better car, and I'm hoping that he'll take up the spare seat at Lotus next year.

Aside from the Hulkenberg drive, there were many more battles to be seen (Massa, Maldonado et al., anyone?). In addition, the drama provided by the misfortune of Rosberg losing his front wing and Webber's car catching fire (again) meant that the race was anything but boring.

So, I'm left wondering why people believe that a Vettel win equals a boring race? It's not as if the TV only follows the lead driver around the circuit - we do get to see the racing behind him. Sure, I get that people don't want a return to the Schumacher days, when the result was a foregone conclusion. And yes, I understand that Vettel does appear to dominate every season. However, when you look at the facts most of this isn't true.

2011 aside, Vettel's championships have been far from easy. In 2010, he won at the last race. In 2012, we were treated to the most exciting race I've ever seen in Brazil. In 2013 so far, there have been very close battles with Mercedes, Lotus and Ferrari - it's only towards the end of the season that Vettel has 'run away' with the championship lead. Red Bull have also had their fair share of reliability issues this year, and thus the 2013 F1 season is far from over.

While you could say that Vettel's leads in the races make things less unpredictable, I don't believe this is true. Sure, it might be that Vettel wins, but we can still see thrilling races. F1 is more than just one guy leading the championship - there are smaller teams fighting for points, young drivers fighting for a seat and there are still championship contenders chasing Vettel, all of which leads to a spectacle on track.

If you use results to determine how exciting a race is, you could also argue that MotoGP is boring on the strength of Marquez's performances. However, when you actually watch the races, you'll see nothing of the sort (and in fact, I doubt there is anyone out there claiming that it's boring anyway). So why the case with F1?

I honestly think that the problem lies not with what happens on track, but rather our perception of the champions themselves. It's no secret that many people dislike Vettel - the boos every time he's on the podium show this. Lots claim that this is because of Malaysia, however I believe it runs far deeper than that. I think that in general, we dislike sweeping success. We want underdogs to win - not former champions. At least, not multiple championships in a row. When this happens, we tend to detract from success: how many times have we heard the argument 'Well, he has the best car'? How many times has Vettel been accused of cheating (including the recent 'traction control' nonsense)? I think this is wrong - it's up to those behind to catch up, not for the champion to slow down something echoed by Fernando Alonso, Vettel's closest rival.

Recently, F1 pundits have become fed up of the boos on the podium, culminating in Martin Brundle telling the perpetrators 'Please don't do that. That's not correct'. Thankfully, Korea appeared absent of boos (although, this could be to do with the absence of crowds as well). We should remember that an individual's success doesn't detract from the performances of others. Being repeatedly successful doesn't make someone arrogant, a cheater or unworthy. We should celebrate everyone's achievements - whether that's one of the greats (Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton or Raikkonen), or one of the lesser known drivers (Hulkenberg being a classic example I'm sure). Whoever wins the championship this year, we've certainly seen thrilling races and we'd do well to remember this.