I read a comment made by Sebastian Vettel in a documentary that makes a compelling statement. “When I was a little boy I tried out lots of things, football, tennis, beach volleyball. But I wasn’t the best, so I stopped.”
He chose Formula One, instead.
There was no fuss, no needless histrionics. It was purely clinical efficiency, a determination to win, and clear thinking. Coupled, of course, with a car that performed well, and backed by a team that had the belief that it could be done.
Not easy when you consider that the Red Bull F1 team was up against formidable rivals such the legendary Ferrari and the well-oiled machine that is McLaren.
It was no surprise that Sebastian Vettel is the Formula One World Champion once again, with his back-to-back title coming with four races yet to go in the calendar.
He might not have won in Suzuka, but it did not matter – all he needed was a solitary point, and his third place in Japan gave him fifteen. All that remains now is to determine who takes the other places.
Vettel does not, perhaps, have the aura that the legends before him such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher possessed. He might be lower in profile compared to recent winners such as Mika Hakkinen and the mercurial Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton.
Yet, Vettel now owns records that are truly enviable – youngest at pole position, youngest on the podium, youngest winner of a GP race, youngest world champion and, now, the youngest back-to-back double champion.
His world title last year was marked by inconsistency, but 2011 win has been exceptional and emphatic – nine race wins in the fifteen completed so far, with twelve pole positions is testimony.
Red Bull gives you wings, says the brand’s tag line. Sure did, in Sebastian Vettel’s case.
It is amazing how fortunes change so dramatically.
Ferrari have dominated Formula1 for years, and ended the 2008 season with 172 points, way ahead of nearest rival McLaren who had 151.
Lying ninth out of the eleven constructors who participated last year, Honda Racing got a mere 14 points.
Ross Brawn, the ex-technical director of Honda Racing bought over the Honda team after the car maker pulled out of the 2009 season. A new team – Brawn GP – emerged.
It has been an astonishing turnaround.
With four podium finishes after three races (Australia, Malaysia and China), Brawn GP lead the constructors’ table with 36 points, almost twice as many as their closest rival, Red Bull-Renault. McLaren lie in fourth place with eight points.
And, Ferrari, after three races, have yet to notch up a single point, their worst ever start in Formula1 since 1981.
The prancing horse that is on Ferrari’s logo is barely trotting at the moment.
It is embarrassing, to say the least, for a team that has won 15 drivers’ championships. There have been signs that the team has been unable to cope with the rule changes that have been introduced, and their race strategies have also been lacking in imagination. Add a failure to correctly assess the conditions on the track on race day, and you have all the ingredients in the recipe for failure.
Jenson Button of Brawn GP, with 21 points, has two first and one third place finishes this year, and is really looking good. Team-mate Rubens Barichello is at 15 points, in second place.
The 2008 champion driver, Lewis Hamilton of McLaren, is struggling, with just four points in three races, well behind Jenson Button. Felipe Massa, who narrowly missed the drivers’ title last year, and third-place finisher Kimi Raikonnen, and got 172 points between them, have yet to get onto the score-sheet.
The Formula1 caravan now moves to Bahrain for the next race on 26th April, and unless Ferrari, in particular, and McLaren can conjure up something magical, and quickly, it will be hard for them to challenge the runaway leaders.
Team Ferrari has considerable experience and technical resources, and will surely rebound as the season progresses. By the time this happens, though, it might be just about too late to salvage anything out this year’s championship.
Ferrari’s Brazilian driver Felipe Massa won the final race of the 2008 Formula One season at the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo. This was his sixth win of the season.
Yet, he was heartbreakingly pipped to the drivers’ championship title by McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton by a mere one point – and Hamilton had won only five races during the year.
The sport’s governing body, the FIA World Motor Sport Council, has changed the rules for the 2009 season with the Formula One title going to the driver who wins the most races rather than the most points.
Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone wanted to introduce an Olympics-style gold-silver-bronze medal system to declare the winners of each race, with the title to go to the driver with the most golds. The Formula One Teams’ Association wanted, instead, a revision in the points system to incorporate a provision by which the podium finishers would be awarded twelve, nine and seven points respectively.
The 2009 system will retain the points ladder for second to eighth place as 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
The concept of deciding the drivers’ championship based on number of wins is sound in that it motivates drivers to go for wins rather than playing safe and going for podium finishes and the resultant accumulation of points.
The down-side of this, however, is that the title race might be over much quicker than in earlier years, with the excitement and tension associated with a close contest towards the close of the season being absent. The 2008 drivers’ title was decided in the finishing moments of the final race of the season!!!
The 17-race 2009 season starts with the Australian Grand Prix on 29th March and ends with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on 1st November.
The worldwide economic downturn has rocked Formula One, too, and some of the struggling teams have opted out. The sport has, for the past few years, been dominated by Ferrari and McLaren, and the world body, perhaps, took a view that the divide had become too great for the sport to sustain itself.
With this in mind, the FIA has set a budget cap on teams at just €33million a season – this includes everything including driver’s salaries. And, with restrictions imposed on what a car can and cannot have, one might well see a fairly dull, unexciting, and unappetising contest.
Team owners, not surprisingly, are outraged by this ruling, and the new rules could have a major impact since big car manufacturers might be reluctant to take part in what is otherwise a showcase of their technology.
There has also been talk, and some suggestions, regarding the use of standardized engines by all the cars, with just two or three engine changes over the course of a single season.
All these changes might lead to the dumbing down of Formula One, an event that provides an adrenalin rush for ardent fans of the sport.
If this happens, it will hurt big time.
It used to be thrilling to watch Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikonnen, Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton.
I am not sure it’s going to be that much fun in ‘09, though.