Going for the Hat-Trick

3 Mar

The 2011 season left many F1 fans in fear that a new era of dominance by a single team and driver was dawning. After clinching his first world title in Abu Dhabi in 2010, Sebastian Vettel blazed his way through 2011 to claim his second in truly dominant fashion. The technical supremacy of Red Bull Racing in both seasons earned them back-to-back constructor’s titles.

As the 2012 season dawns I, like pretty much everyone, have been wondering how things will pan out this year, as well as pondering that eternal question of whether dominance from one driver or team is a good or bad thing.

The new season

As always, pre-season testing has been like an elaborate game of poker with none of the teams showing their true hands. The experts on location currently believe Red Bull have the edge, and this is likely to be extended by the major upgrade that the team are running for the final two days of the test. See here for details: http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/97811 McLaren have also brought some significant upgrades to Barcelona, but not on the scale of Red Bull.

We won’t know how things really stand until Melbourne, but if a Red Bull is on pole position, particularly Sebastian Vettel, and then goes on to win the race, then many will resign themselves to another white-wash.

Team/Driver Dominance

Different people will perceive dominance from a driver or team in different ways. General consensus will always be that it is a bad thing; after all there will always be 11 other teams and 23 other drivers who are racing and they and their fans aren’t going to be too pleased about it.

Although there are twenty four cars on the starting grid and action throughout the pack during the race, attention is inevitably focussed on whoever wins the race. If this is where your attention is focussed then yes, dominance is never going to be a good thing unless you support whoever keeps winning. Personally speaking, I like to focus on the whole race and don’t mind a consistent winner as long as there has been some great action further back. I am a fan of racing, not of supporting a winner. Readers may be cynical about this given who two of my three favourite drivers are (i.e. Schumacher and Vettel), but I honestly take equal pleasure in watching Kovalainen fighting forward in to the mid-field.

I was interested to get some views from other Vettel fans about driver dominance and what they felt about Seb in 2012 and the future (many thanks to those who helped me out by completing a quick survey).

60% of those asked thought that dominance from a single driver was a bad thing. This is pretty much as I expected. Even if you like the driver who is winning, it is easy to see that other fans will become disillusioned, to the detriment of the sport.

I was also interested to find out who they would like to see win the WDC in 2012 if Vettel didn’t claim the title again. The Sebson ‘bromance’ clearly extends to Vettel fans, as Jenson Button was clear favourite. Although I’d love to see Schumi come through and win the title again, realistically speaking that is unlikely (even less likely for Heikki), and so Jenson would be my next choice. He’s a decent competitive guy with none of the nonsense associated with his team-mate.

It is likely that Vettel and an Adrian Newey-designed car could form a formidable pairing for years, and many of Vettel’s critics have claimed that his car should be credited with his success. It is inevitable that having the best car on the grid is going to  be a significant factor, but claims like this do Vettel a real disservice. My final question for Vettel fans was whether or not he should seek to stay at Red Bull beyond his current contract (which runs until the end of 2014). Responses were split on this – some would like to see him stay and succeed, while others want him to prove his talent by driving another car. It is good for drivers to race for at least two teams in their career, and the 2015 season would be a sensible point for Vettel to seek pastures new, as long as the set up is right. I don’t think McLaren would suit him, but if Ferrari don’t improve their form then there’s little incentive to move.

Final thoughts

Whatever happens in 2012, I think we’re in for a cracker of a season throughout the length of the grid. If Vettel and Red Bull do dominate I hope that disenchanted F1 fans will take a look further down the grid and appreciate all the great action happening back there.

I’d like to close this article by setting out my stall for 2012. In 2011 I focussed mainly on Vettel, proudly waving my pointy finger whenever he won, but my focus this year will be on Schumacher and Kovalainen. Both are likely to have great stories and great battles.

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