Monday, September 26, 2011

Formula One - The Season So Far

Last night's race in Singapore was like so many others this season and was indeed a microcosm of the entire year. Vettel disappeared off into the night whilst Webber, Alonso and Button tried to cling on for dear life. Further back Hamilton and Schumacher scrapped and ultimately clashed with the cars they were racing against, thus it has been all season.

For Vettel, this has been his season plain and simple, he has dominated it in a way that no other has done since Schumacher was in his pomp, the similarity of the almost robotic Teutonic domination seems on the surface almost uncanny but there are certainly differences in the two drivers.

There can however be no questioning of the quality of Vettel's season. Mark Webber is after all in the same machinery and he has been left trailing in his wake. The Red Bull is clearly the class of the field as Adrian Newey once again proves himself to be the master of all things aerodynamic.

In the same way that Vettel has dominated Webber, Fernando Alonso has proven himself to be beyond the reach of Felipe Massa who is now no more than a good number two. Alonso has never given up this season trying to milk as much as possible from what is clearly not a very fast Ferrari. It has been a season to forget for the Scuderia.

Jenson Button was meant to be shown up when he arrived at McLaren, outpaced and outgunned by the burgeoning talent of Lewis Hamilton. There is a suspicion that the triumvirate of Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso are a class apart from the rest. Given a good car however, Button has proven beyond all doubt that the Prost like smoothness that he displays coupled with no shortage of speed means that he is a master of getting cars consistently on to the podium, indeed he is the only driver left with a mathematical chance of catching Vettel.

For Hamilton there is clearly work to be done. He is as quick as anyone and his rumbustious and aggressive driving style make him a huge hit with the F1 fans conjuring images of Nigel Mansell's swashbuckling drives in the 80s and 90s. Mansell however only won one World Championship (granted he was competing against Senna, Prost and Piquet to name but a few) and there was always the feeling that he could have won more had he spent more time looking after his cars.

Senna and Schumacher are probably the greatest examples of winners who drove in an exciting, rapier quick and entirely uncompromising manner. Hamilton has the potential to win multiple World Championships but he has to find the right balance. Invariably when you strike another car in F1, you do as much damage to your own car as you do to theirs and you cannot win races if you are back in the pits.

This second incarnation of Schumacher had an a-typical race, jostling behind the front runners before crashing into another car whilst racing for position. Drivers used to simply give way to the Schumacher of old but he does not carry the same aura or hold the same respect on the track now and he is in danger of becoming a dangerous mobile chicane with a tainted legacy. It is time for him to retire with good grace.

His team mate Nico Rosberg continues to etch out good performances from the Mercedes and there must be a chance of a seat in a Prancing Horse should Ferrari decide to release Massa at some stage. Of the rest, Paul Di Resta drove an excellent race in the Force India to finish sixth with his team mate Sutil finished a credible eighth.

Next it is on to Suzuka, a real driver's circuit after the heat, dust and concrete barriers of Singapore. Vettel's repeat coronation should only be held up until then - No Nonsense.