Ok, I’ll make this brief:
Last Sunday’s Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix was one of the most capturing of its kind in…well, decades?
And it also helped to forget some of the ugly things that had been shown by the Formula 1 circus in recent weeks…but let me start.
The last time I wrote on the subject of Formula 1 racing was back in 2011. The question back then: Is there a way to stop Vettel? Of course, I was right back then, and of course, it was rather simple to be right: Vettel won the 2011 championship with a clear lead over the competition, and although he repeated a third consecutive title win in a row last year, it was by no means as easy as 2011.
So the big question was: what should we expect from the 2013 season? More boring Vettel dominance, as in 2011, or six different race winners in the first six races, as in 2012?
Some interesting things came up even before the season had started. With regard to the drivers, perhaps the most interesting change was the retirement from retirement from retirement by Michael Schumacher. Of course, the continued lack of success by the Mercedes team might have helped his decision, as might have the decision to take Schumacher’s stunning pole win at Monaco from him for reasons which were later considered unsound by the same people who had penalized him. Or, as it was reported, his resignation from the team might not have been entirely out of his free will, as Mercedes was also responsible for the second truly interesting move on the driver market: signing Lewis Hamilton to Mercedes, which left Sergio Perez changing from Sauber to McLaren, and Hülkenberg taking his spot in turn at Sauber.
And Mercedes was also responsible for the third interesting move in the field of HR: Norbert Haug and Mercedes announced they had “agreed” to end their involvement, which meant that the person who was known (and respected) as the man behind a great many wins and titles in various competitions (the most important ones maybe Häkkinen’s two Formula 1 titles) got the boot for the continued lack of success by the team, which, if it could be pinpointed to a single person, many believed was rather Brawn’s fault, whose last great success was obviously to sell his one-hit-wonder team to Mercedes for an undisclosed amount.
Haug was replaced by Niki Lauda, a man who was hugely successful as a racing driver some 30 years ago, and also unsuccessful as a business man in some areas, and, to make things more interesting, by another man who was successful with some interesting investment schemes and also had been driving cars in the past. That new power duo of Lauda/Wolff, together with Hamilton, were supposed to show Brawn and Rosberg where it’s at.
The new management was also responsible, right at the second race of the season, for one of two appearances of bad sportsmanship and things “damaging the spirit of motorsport racing” (to paraphrase one of those regulations of this sport): in the second race of the season, Mercedes decided to order their two drivers (or rather the fourth-placed, but much faster Nico Rosberg) to hold positions, as had Red Bull told their one-two team of Webber and Vettel earlier. Vettel did disagree, overtake Webber and win the race. Rosberg bowed to the team order, giving away the chance not only of a podium finish, but actually of still being able to catch the ailing Webber.
Much discussion had followed those two incidents. Was it unfair of Vettel to overtake his colleague? Was it fair of Mercedes (or Red Bull) to give that team order? I believe that I’m speaking for all fans of proper motorsport when I state that a team order in the second race of the seasons is something that should be considered damaging the spirit of the sport and those teams should face a huge penalty. And it also shows why Vettel in 103 races had scored 27 victories and 3 world championship titles, while Rosberg in 130 races had scored one victory and no title. This very event has finally made clear that Rosberg will end his career as a number two driver. Not exactly what we had all hoped for for this nice and charming young man, but then again, to paraphrase Vettel from a 2012 interview, “as a race driver you sometimes need to be a dick”.
And finally, in the aftermath of this race, team responsibles both with Red Bull and Mercedes were intelligent enough to consider the team order a mistake. Let’s hope we don’t see that again.
Now back to that last race in question: the only reason why it could be called “not interesting” was Vettel’s performance here. While his performance in the races before had been mixed, at least by his standards, with places 1, 3 and 4 respectively, this time he started from position two, fell back to three (to a charging Alsonso), moved to the front within three laps, and only left that position right after the first of his three pit-stops, coasting easily for his last stint, only adding a fastest lap a few laps before seeing the chequered flag.
But behind Vettel, we had everything you’d look for in a race. A battle between McLaren’s Button and Perez lasting many laps (and here’s a hint to Mercedes and Red Bull: this is what racing fans want to see!) Alonso had a most unhappy day, with a failure of his DRS system which threw him all the way back to place 17, only to see him finish in eighth (a stunning performance considering the circumstances, but definitely not what Alonso had hoped for after starting from third). Incidentally, he finished one place before pole sitter Nico Rosberg, who didn’t suffer from an open technical failure, but rather from odd tyre performance which slowly threw him further back.
All in all, what can we see at this early point in the season?
- the Pirelly tyres, designed to be crap, still are a set of roulette for all the teams – you never know what you get each weekend.
- current scores have Vettel, followed by Raikkönen, Hamilton and Alonso. Four current or former world champions in the first four spots. Still, Vettel has already been able to secure a small lead, if only by ten points (and two wins out of four races).
- team order sucks. Hopefully, Mercedes and Red Bull have learned their lesson.
- Rosberg will never make it.
- This promises to be an interesting season.