The Bigger Picture:
2011 was slated to be the be-all-and-end-all of seasons as far as sheer competitiveness was concerned. Considering the fact that the previous three championships were decided at the last race, who could blame us for thinking that the Schumacher era was well and truly over. Yes, his shadow continues to race- but that is not the point. But then came another German- a young kid who was sneaking up on the F1 world without anyone noticing really, until he stole the F1 championship from the bumbling Mclaren team in 2010. A fluke? Maybe not.
Sebastian Vettel has now won 6 out of the 8 races this season. Two Spanish Grand Prixs too, believe it or not. 7 out of 8 pole positions, to add to that. And the most stunning stat of all- Vettel has led for 83% of the total laps raced this season. All races combined- yes. Including the pit strategy-induced fallbacks. In other words, if we’ve had around 500 laps this season, Vettel has led for around 400. I don’t like to do this, but imagine Sachin Tendulkar scoring around 70% of his teams runs throughout the year (okay, forget the 90s). Or Roger Federer winning 95% of his game in a year (okay, forget 2005). So that’s the story, folks. If we’re talking about a path to greatness, Vettel has long taken the aerial route and is on his way to immortality. Schumacher may have been doing this quite regularly from 2000-2005, but to be honest, were there really enough challengers then? Were there cars even half as fast as Ferrari back then? It almost felt like a transition period, with the Hakkinens and Hills fading, and a new crop of Alonsos, Rosbergs, Hamiltons arriving. Schumacher made the most, of course, just like Hewitt did during the Post-Sampras and Pre-Federer era. Two Grand Slams were, sadly, the maximum he could manage.
Button and Hamilton effectively demonstrating Mclaren’s dominance over Force India
Coming back to the sport at hand, one may not know if this is good or bad for the future of F1. But honestly, who cares? We’re seeing the rising of yet another star. And it will be interesting to see if he does an Alonso (wrong decisions) or a Schumi (needless to say).
If you ask me, I’d prefer another Senna.
The Smaller Picture:
The 2011 European GP (held in Valencia) was, for all purposes, quite a snoozefest- further illustrated by the fact that for only the THIRD time in the HISTORY of F1, all the 24 cars have finished a race. No crashes. No retirements. Nothing. A reason to celebrate? Maybe for Narain Karthikeyan- but no, not for us adrenalin junkies.
Vettel *yawn* started from pole and led from start to finish *yawn*. This time, no anti-superhero antics on the last lap either. And for the Spanish faithful (who, actually, have already had an overdose of sporting success over the last few years), the silver lining was Fernando Alonso finishing 2nd in an inferior car. That counts. Hence, his racing ability is second to none- atleast in his own team. With Webber finishing third, things look pretty straightforward for Red Bull this year. The very interesting DRS (Drag Reduction system) has made things interesting, atleast for the backmarkers (as of now, anybody behind Vettel is one). Button and Hamilton seem to gain the most out of the DRS-infused bursts down the straights, but of course, there is a higher force at work as far as Red Bull’s dominance is concerned.
The use of ‘exhaust blown diffusers’- a technology that, in layman terms, continues to blow gases through the exhaust pipes even if the throttle is closed- has benefited the Red Bull team the most, simply because Renault were the first to introduce this system at the beginning of this season. Very similar to the start of 2009, one would say, when Brawn GPs ‘double diffusor’ system raised a few eyebrows- but more importantly, managed to raise a Brit to the podium.
FIA, though, have now restricted the use of this aerodymanic-influencing system from the next race at Silverstone to only 10% of its capacity. Even more interesting is that they have completely BANNED the system from next year.
Now, I’d love to sound like Steve Slater and go on to say that- Vettel, without this system, is only 73 points ahead of Button and Webber in second place. And if either of the two start catching Vettel at ONLY 10 points a race- the championship could go down to the wire and the Indian GP could well be the breaking point of someone’s season. But Vettel is so far ahead, not only on class and temprament, but on confidence (to add to things, he is German)- that even if FIA decide to ban the entire Red Bull team now, things will still look bleak for the rest of the field. Of course, that is what we thought in 2009- but we were talking about Jenson Button there. He was British. Enough said.
Anyhow, the ban does make things potentially interesting- atleast for the next race in Britain where Hamilton and Button might experience what Henman, the English football team, the English cricket teams and now Murray have been experiencing for years- ANXIETY. FEAR. PRESSURE. And all that jazz.
The ‘fans’ clearly illustrating their fence-sitting tendencies
The Real Picture:
With the drivers championship still wide open for optimistic South African-cricket team supporters, we could focus a bit more on the race for pride and other positions. Alonso is too good a driver to finish outside the top 3- and he is pushing the Prancing Horse to its utmost limit, and of course, embarrasing Massa in the bargain. McLaren, as of now, seem a shoo-in for second place- both literally and figuratively. After all, when you hear McLaren, don’t you English fans really hear *Arsenal*? Just saying.
Down below, Michael Schumacher and Narain Karthikeyan finished neck to neck in Valencia. Just a lap apart. But ZERO points each. Meanwhile, Richard Branson must be salivating at the prospect of having to watch Tony Fernandes probably don an air-hostess uniform by the end of this season, considering both Virgin and Lotus (no puns intended) are on ZERO points each. Close, indeed.
One won’t be surprised if we find out that Mallya, meanwhile, has entered the fray and made sure that the world might be subjected to the sight of both Tony and Richard donning sultry uniforms for eachother’s airlines- by slyly throwing in Force India too.
Hence we prefer, by some miraculous turn of events, that Lotus-Renault somehow make use of their damn diffusor systems and atleast put our misery to rest for now. It would also be nice to see Vijay Mallya pass on the cross-dressing rights to Sid Mallya if they shockingly go pointless for the next 10 races.
We look forward to Silverstone now, with things bound to get more exciting. They cannot get more one-sided anyway, after all. The good news is that the dates for the Indian GP at the Buddh International Circuit in Noida have finally been confirmed. The original dates of 28th-30th October, along with Metallica opening proceedings. Oh yes- kill, murder, abuse, stab and rape for your tickets now, folks! In the meantime, you could also just do it the simply way (hint: Bookmyshow). Talk about shameless plugging, eh?
The countdown, indeed, will continue- atleast until Mark Webber stops feeling ignored (for a reason) and sulking.