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Ferrari's fate the foremost of many unknowns

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Andrew Benson | 13:44 UK time, Sunday, 4 March 2012

Kimi Raikkonen was to the point, as ever.

As pre-season testing wound to a close at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, the man who returns to Formula 1 this season after two years in rallying was asked how he felt the teams compared.

"In two weeks we know," the Lotus driver said. "There is no point to guess here. I don't know who's going to be fastest. Nobody knows."

Up and down the pit lane, drivers from other teams were expressing more or less the same view.

"McLaren look very strong," said Red Bull's Mark Webber. "And some of the other times done by other teams were pretty handy, too."

Jenson Button, meanwhile, managed to cover all bases in three sentences.

"There's a lot of work needs to be done before we're properly competitive," the McLaren driver said. "I'm reasonably happy with what we have. I don't know where we are but the feeling is good."

That summed up the situation pretty well at the end of three pre-season tests.

The lap times have been particularly difficult to read this year but it seems some patterns have emerged.

Up and down the pit lane, the general view is that the field is a lot closer than in recent years. Red Bull are again very strong, McLaren look like running them close and Mercedes appear to have made a step forward. Lotus, Sauber and Force India have also looked pretty handy.

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn says he is "expecting the tightest start to a season we've seen for a number of years".

People don't just invent these views - they are formed by looking through the mountains of data that each day of testing throws up.

Kimi Raikonnen returns to Formula 1 after a three year absence.

Analysing the lap times also produces some interesting numbers.

While it is not possible to know the programmes each team is running at any time, it is a reasonable assumption that over the course of winter testing all the teams will get through pretty much the same sort of work.

So, logically, an average of every lap time a driver has done over the three tests should give some indication of where each team is.

On average, over the whole of winter testing, Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel was the fastest of the drivers from last year's top two teams, by 0.3secs from Button, with Hamilton a similar margin further back and just in front of Webber.

The specific average times look like this:

Vettel one minute, 25.340 seconds
Button 1:25.664
Hamilton 1:25.937
Webber 1:25.951

It's also worth pointing out that the pattern of the last two or three years has been for Red Bull's true pace to be disguised in both winter testing and in free practice at the grands prix.

Whether they are running more fuel than their rivals, or a weaker engine map, Red Bull always seem to find more time when it matters than the others do.

Mercedes have clearly been doing a different programme from the other teams - with a far greater concentration of longer runs - so comparing their times is potentially less instructive.

But when you see that Nico Rosberg did a 1:22.932 at the start of a 13-lap run on the penultimate day of testing, you know they have a pretty decent car.

"It's still going to be the teams from last year that we need to beat," Rosberg said, sounding confident. "But I think we have a good chance to annoy them a few times early in the season."

And then there is Ferrari. Unless there is some Oscar-worthy acting going on, they are in trouble.

Ferrari have been open about the fact that they are struggling to understand the behaviour of their radical new car. Insiders tell BBC Sport that sometimes it behaves well and predictably, and sometimes it does not, and the team have no idea why.

The sense of crisis was heightened by Ferrari's decision to cancel their driver media briefings over the final weekend of testing, saying they wanted them to concentrate solely on their job.

But Fernando Alonso did speak on television at the Barcelona-Sporting football match on Saturday night, saying: "In the first races we will suffer because we are not 100%."

Ferrari put up technical director Pat Fry instead of Alonso on Sunday, and he admitted that he thought it unlikely the team would be able to finish on the podium in Melbourne.

One can only imagine the pressure Fry must be feeling right now.

A diffident man who is uncomfortable with the media, Fry is in his first year in the job following the dismissal of predecessor Aldo Costa. And he has overseen a design office that was told to take risks this season in an attempt to close the gap to Red Bull after a poor 2011.

They've taken those risks - but it does not look for now as if they have made wise choices.

And yet, and yet. If you average out Alonso's lap times over the whole of winter testing, guess what? He is the fastest of all - by 0.3secs. No wonder Webber says: "The mystery is the Ferrari."

So what's going on? The new F2012 looks like it can do a decent lap time, so it is conceivable that it will qualify pretty well in Melbourne the weekend after next.

But according to BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson, who spent some time watching trackside in Barcelona, it seems to quickly drop in performance, initially losing grip on turn-in, and later on corner exits too.

It seems to use its tyres particularly aggressively. Ferrari have been afflicted these last few years by a car that raced better than it qualified because it used its tyres too gently. In seeking to fix this trait, have they now gone too far the other way?

It's not as if they can blame the drivers either. In Alonso, they have an all-time great, a gold standard who will push the car to its absolute limit on every single lap of every single race. Many consider his season in 2011 to have been better than his title-winning years with Renault in 2005-06, considering the equipment at his disposal.

This, team boss Stefano Domenicali has admitted to BBC Sport, was the point of signing the Spaniard on a lucrative contract that commits him to the team until the end of 2016. It puts pressure on the team to deliver.

Of course, all this may turn out to be an illusion. Perhaps Alonso will be a contender for victory in Melbourne, and throughout the year. But let's assume for a moment he isn't.

Back in 2007, when his relationship with McLaren was in tatters, Alonso had talks with Red Bull to discuss moving there.

Red Bull were keen but in the end Alonso opted for a move back to Renault, knowing a Ferrari seat was waiting for him a couple of years down the line.

At the time, with Ferrari contending for the title for the 10th time in 11 years and Red Bull still in the midfield, you could hardly fault the logic.

But now, in his quiet moments, or when he's watching Vettel celebrate yet another win, or looking at the beautifully intricate detail at the back of the Red Bull, or when he's wrestling his uncooperative mount into a corner, does Alonso wish he could turn back the clock?


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  • Comment number 1.

    A quick note of transparency. In working out the averages listed I left out the first day at the first day if testing in Jerez, on the basis that teams were only starting to work with their cars.

  • Comment number 2.

    Sorry - that should say that I left out the first day of the first pre-season test. Bit hasty with the old "post" button there. Apologies

  • Comment number 3.

    The beauty/pain with testing is the fact that teams put in meaningless lap times almost randomly (to us). How can you pull out which times which actually matter, and even then the end of a race stint could still have cars with 20kg ish of fuel in them to add to the confusion more. Times are almost arbitrary in these tests.

  • Comment number 4.

    Another cracking blog Mr Benson. I hope for a cracking race in two weeks time, it would be good to see Lotus or Sauber up there with Red bull and Mclaren but we'll see.

  • Comment number 5.

    I struggle to imagine Ferrari have gone so far backward. I'm hoping it's a mind game before they unveil a ridiculously competitive car.

  • Comment number 6.

    The ferrari drivers are really different. Massa looks slow, and Alonso looks quick hmmm. Mclaren look for the first time since 2007 have built a strong car, and red bull look very unreliable. Looking forward to the 18th and no to sky

  • Comment number 7.

    I don't envy you having to, effectively, weave a web of sense from a mish-mash of contradictory (and at times puzzling) lap times, rumours and possibly some misleading comments from within the teams. It's often said in jest that it's a tough job but someone has to do it; in this case though I think it fits.

    Your rather intriguing statistical analyses of each team and driver lap times, to me, seem like drawing a rather longish bow. I have a funny feeling that measuring the time that it takes a bucket of water to drain from the front end of each car would be just as accurate.

  • Comment number 8.

    With reference to the last few paragraphs on 'poor old Alonso' he made his bed at McLaren and has been lying in the result of that ever since. His fault and only his fault.

    Ferrari are a shadow of the great team they were when Schumacher was there and you have to wonder how they can continually get it wrong even with Alonso's 6 tenths LOL! Ah well never mind eh? ;-)

    Looking forward to seeing how things pan out for the season, but ultimately I can't see past Vettel making it 3 out of 3. Best of luck to him. Would like to see Kimi remind Ferrari what they got rid of.... it would warm the cockles of my heart to see Kimi getting a win this year!

  • Comment number 9.

    If Ferrari are anything better than 3rd fastest then they have pulled off one of the best bluffs I've seen in a while.

  • Comment number 10.

    RB did less laps and if we go according to average lap times Ferrari were the fastest not RB. To get a proper avg you need to to count it over the same amount of laps which isn't possible as they all did differing distances. Therefore guessing is pointless.

  • Comment number 11.

    Ferrari have clearly not been following a similar testing strategy to other teams, therefore their average time is probably not relevant. Hopefully they will have the fastest car over one lap and then we will see some interesting battles when their tyres drop off.

    Good to see red bull struggling with car and driver reliability :-)

    Hope lotus do have strong pace, although concerned as their drivers are coming back to f1 they have done more short qualiy type runs than others.

    Mercedes Interest me the most! 4th last year, loads of pressure this year, haven't looked overly quick in testing, but they are all smiles? They must believe that they are up there with mac & rb.

    Go kimi & sky!!!!!

  • Comment number 12.

    Assuming that the RBR psychology is the same as last year, how does their relative performance to the other teams compare 2011 vs 2012? Certainly, Maclaren seem a lot more confident this time around, and their track record for developing the car through the season is better than their rivals, so if they can push RBR close early on, they must fancy themselves to give Vettel a proper run for his money. Mind you that is the problem isn't it? It's very much Maclaren vs Vettel - Button and Hamilton will take points off each other, but will Webber be able to beat Vettel this year?

    Any thoughts on whether the "upgrades" for RBR have set them back or if that was just a blip today?

  • Comment number 13.

    Which team do you think is fastest based on testing. Vote now, over 800 votes already ...

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 15.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 16.

    @8 tigger..."Would like to see Kimi remind Ferrari what they got rid of"
    You mean remind them of the guy that was beaten by Massa in his final years at Ferrari. Racing a car which Massa took the most wins of anyone that year, six I think, in 2008! If Kimi had driven well in 08 and 09 and kept the Ferrari seat then he'd still be looking at Alonsos rear wing in most races.

    If the Ferrari is fast in qualy, but trashes it's tyres quickly then we should be set for some great Hamilton VS Alonso battles ;)

    Hope they are all within a few tenths of each other this year but I think close racing may be wishful thinking of myself as well as Ross Brawn.

    Had a mate at work, a casual F1 fan, ask when the Oz race was on and when the race started. He was surprised to be told on Sky (££££) and RTL TV (free) the race starts at 6:00am and on BBC the race will be shown in bits sometime in the evening or afternoon if he's lucky.
    Well done BBC managers, he was one of your 7 million audience last year, he doesn't have Sky so he says he'll try live streams or if they are poor he'll torrent download the full race around lunchtime.

    Roll on Friday 16th...anyone got a good Fantasy F1 predictions site they've used, preferrably free to setup a work league?

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 18.

    Who has the best car for 2012? Vote now ... It's neck and neck between McLaren and Red Bull!

  • Comment number 19.

    Once again the only comments in the live reports worth reading came from Gary Anderson. A real enlightenment in a guessing game. More please!

  • Comment number 20.

    @8., tiggerspp
    What a bitter, sniping individual you are! I sincerely hope you resolve your issues someday! Forza Ferrari! Viva Alonso!

  • Comment number 21.

    I hope Garry Anderson is better here than he was on Star Sports. I used to juggle between BBC and Star coverage for various reasons and Garry was way off the pace of MB and DC on what was really going on out on the track. he did it from a sudio then, so maybe now he will be better able to read the situation. Not as good as MB however i feel.

  • Comment number 22.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 23.

    Kimi was outperformed by his teammate Massa.
    He was poor and he didnt deserve pay.

  • Comment number 24.

    I would like to see Lotus do well as for some odd reason I think they have made an ugly package look pretty sexy! Also for them getting Kimi back , they deserve some luck in getting such a brilliant driver back.

    Obviously I want to see Mclaren and Button do really well , but I wonder if they are much stronger than Redbull , how well they will fair in a development war when the tables are finally turned.

  • Comment number 25.

    Lotus certainly look like the surprise package this time around, perhaps as much of a surprise as a certain team sponsored by a drinks company, was a couple seasons ago.
    The McLaren looks to be "there or threabouts" - I hope they are better than they were last season. And Kimi - welcome back!

  • Comment number 26.

    More than ever this years tests don't reveal much in terms of relative pace. If Gary Anderson's comment can be believed the McLaren seemed the most planted car through the high speed corners with the Lotus falling away quite rapidly because of tyre wear. Personally I think there is a bit of a question mark concerning Red Bull and reliabilty with their B spec car as they haven't done much running with it and there is little evidence to suggest that it is any quicker. I suppose they all have their issues but the picture is so muddy and everything seems so close to call. I guess we are just going to have to wait for Melbourne Q3 to see just how the land lies. - Can't wait!

  • Comment number 27.

    I hope the times are correct. Pole for Vettel, win for Vettel at every race.

    I am still struggling to get excited about this season after the Sky fiasco.

    I am still planning to cancel my television licence on 19th March as it will not provide value for money based on what my household watches.

    I am still encouraging others who are angry at the Sky deal to cancel their licences on 19th March as well.

    I would be happy to pay a little extra to the BBC to keep the F1 free to air bit I will not fund Murdoch.

  • Comment number 28.

    Let's hope this season is as close as some are saying it will be.

    Sky F1 launches on Friday. Can't wait.

  • Comment number 29.

    @16/23 - Kimi needs to be motivated, that's all the problem was at Ferrari in the end. Look at Massa now compared to 2008 to see a similar situation. I think you have forgotten how fast a motivated Kimi is.... fast eough to win a WC in a Ferrari... something Alonso cannot do thus far!

    @20, you are Tifosi hence you are devoid of rational logic. Your beloved team sacked the greatest driver they every had in 2006 and deserve everything bad that happens to them. At least by hiring Alonso they are not spoiling two teams.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 31.


    I posted the BBC F1 TV schedule on another blog (now closed of course), but it seems the BBC have altered (again) the times, and they now have pushed back the highlights show so as not to interfere with repeats of eastenders.

  • Comment number 32.

    It's been nice to see a mix of teams and drivers topping the timing sheets over the tests, maybe the rule changes will have actually worked for once in bringing the teams closer together.

    Properly looking forward to the new season now.

    and @27 Bob...
    Don't lie you don't have any friends who would listen to you...
    I'm looking forward to watching the entire first race weekend live on that glossy new channel.

  • Comment number 33.

    I personally cant wait for wait the new season. I am lucky enough enough to have sky, however I am sick of seeing people complaining about it, If you love F1 then you'll find a way to watch the races somewhere, somehow.

    All the guessing games are excellent and have built the hype for next season even more in my opinion :-D

    @27 Bob *facepalm*

  • Comment number 34.

    Edit above: I personally cant wait for the START of the new season. Goodness knows why I put enough twice, Im 110% sober.....

  • Comment number 35.

    You put 'wait' twice too mate, but as you're a united fan i'll let you off.

  • Comment number 36.

    I'm looking forwards to all these cheap, second hand TVs that will be coming available when everyone who's threatened over the last few months to cancel their TV licences has to offload their TVs to avoid breaking the law. Or are they relying on non-effective enforcement? When I didn't have a tv or a licence all I got was a couple of letters asking if I was sure I didn't have a TV?

  • Comment number 37.

    This is what I love about the pre-season is the mystery of it. People can talk all they want but we will never really know who has got it right until the first race of the season which makes it even more exciting. Great blog though as at least we have a partial idea of what on earth is going on. Bring on Melbourne!!!

  • Comment number 38.

    the testing is always a bit of gamesmanship and i've never taken any of the times seriously (even the average) look at the gain Redbull made last year between the last test and 1st race. reliability may play a part this year, Redbull and Renault said they needed the blown difusser engine map for reliability, think there may be some close watching of Redbulls splitter as well as a few teams were convinced it was dodgy in the same way the double deck diffuser was.

  • Comment number 39.

    Insightful as always Andrew, it's good to see Kimi on form.

    I'm glad I haven't given Sky a penny, I wouldn't want to fund the demise of the sport from 7 million viewers to a niche for the well off. I've been saying for months that I wouldn't line the pockets of a company with links to the Murdochs, and guess what, James Murdoch has resigned from his post and all signs point to him being put in charge of TV interests.

    Anyone with a moral compass knows that the best thing to do is keep the pressure on, source F1 through other legal means, and wait for Sky to give up as they are doing in Germany.

  • Comment number 40.

    @29 tiggerspp, "Kimi needs to be motivated, that's all the problem was at Ferrari "
    Come on, they provided him with free ice cream, he should have delivered them another championship.
    In saying this, I hope Kimi has a good season, it's good to see him back. He wasn't your typical boring grey McLaren PR spouter like nowadays. Not as funny as Mika was nut his classic was to Brundle on the gridwalk when Martin asked him where he had been as he was walking to the car. "I was taking a shi*" was the deadpan response.

    @30 apparently the channel has launched already, thought you would have seen it seeing you are such a Murdoch fan boy. A mate, who loves his football so much he pays SkyHD £600 a year for it gets F1 thrown in for free, he says channel 408 now showing continual reruns of Steve Rider interviewing Emmo Fittipaldi.

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    @31 Czar-Orac, All part of the BBC F1 masterplan to slowly erode it away then ditch it completely. Less audience watching the highlights justifies less money spent year after year on F1. Glad I'm not working in BBC F1, job prospects don't look good when your money gets spent on the Eastenders wrap parties.

    @32 "I'm looking forward to watching the entire first race weekend live on that glossy new channel."
    Me too but I'm on RTL TV with 5Live, for free, with DTM thrown in as well. Better than the BBC coverage, enjoy the racing everyone, if you can.

  • Comment number 43.

    @39 HCumber. Hear hear.

    It's not just anti-Sky, I'm all for bringing back F1 to the masses, to the next generation of kids, to the missing casual viewers, to the pensioners who have watched it lifelong and can no longer afford it. Stop killing my sport with your dirty dealings BBC and Sky.

    Why should we in the UK pay loads more for F1 than we used to, when they can watch it in Germany, Italy, Spain and France no problem?

    @41 - a pathetic attempt to inflame the arguments, I picture you "Typical_English_No8" as an angry skinhead in union jack tshirt who loves it that loads of kids and pensioners can no longer watch F1.

  • Comment number 44.

    1)Why has the Beeb stopped using e-mail to "get involved" I don't have, nor want a Twitter or Facebook account?

    2)Remember us householders who are not allowed by Planning Law to have a satellite as you enjoy Sky Live

  • Comment number 45.

    So effectively what your saying is that 100s of laps at pre-season with different engine maps, aero packages, tyre temps, fuel loads, suspension tweaks, brake bias changes have told us that Red Bull, McLaren and possibly Ferrari are quickest and Mercedes are getting closer?

    Probably could have told you that before the whole 'excitement' started!

    The ONLY thing that will show who has the pace will be the end of Q3 in Aus and, without averaging lap times (pointless) and 'having insight' into the teams, I can tell you that will almost certainly be Red Bull, McLaren, McLaren, Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes, Mercedes and Ferrari...

  • Comment number 46.

    Janner, surely Typical_English_No8 is a tall man, with a sensible haircut, wearing his school rugby shirt, holding a pint of ale? He's certainly not a football hooligan... And I'm siding with him by the way, I am sick of being called immoral just because I have chosen to pay for Sky Sports coverage of a variety of sports.

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.

    And on topic, I am really looking forward to the season. Mercedes seem to be the most openly content team pre-season; it'd be great to see if they've delivered a car that'll help Nico finally show off the talent many people see in him.

  • Comment number 49.

    @46 I'll admit there is some hair wax and hairspray involved!

  • Comment number 50.

    And back off topic again, I really hope everyone finds a way to watch F1 somehow. Just stop moaning at the people who will watch on Sky. It will only make you angrier and angrier.

  • Comment number 51.

    @48 Nico to beat Schumi, but Schumi to beat Kimi???

  • Comment number 52.

    come on ferrari better get up to speed fast!

  • Comment number 53.

    also cant wait to watch it on sky ltrailer looks way better than anything the beeb could do

  • Comment number 54.

    @ 51 Based on Schumi's come back so far I'd say it's pretty much odds on that Nico will beat him again this year. And if Lotus have a decent car and a well stocked dessert freezer then Schumi v Kimi could be a very interesting season long battle...

  • Comment number 55.

    @54 I think if Eric Boullier can keep Kimi out the vodka bars after qualiflying that would be an achievement in itself!

    Surely Kimi's race craft will be a little rusty, tad of a difference between sliding round a frozen lake in Sweden to belting down to the first corner at Melbourne in the middle of 23 other cars.

    I'd tip Schumi to nick it, but i think they'll be close all season.

  • Comment number 56.

    So many moaners on here. F1 is a minority sport in this country, and the BBC did the right thing in not trying to compete with Sky for live coverage rights. The BBC have a finite budget which they have to spend wisely and fairly to deliver a balanced sporting menu that appeals to everyone. Evening highlights are just fine. Let's face it, most live races are quite boring, and having a race condensed into an hours highlights makes for more exciting viewing. Same with football - given the choice of watching 90 mins of a single live premier league game on Sky, or 20 mins edited highlights of the same game on MOTD I will choose the latter every time. Life is too short to waste time watching the boring bits!

  • Comment number 57.

    Totally agree with Benson and Webber. The Mystery is the Ferrari. I feel they have something up their sleeves. This thing about wanting to test separately on the last day... Of course RB are suspicious as well, hence they wanted to join them on that last testing day, to keep a close eye.
    By the way, I was really frustrated about the whole sky deal. I was resigned to watch f1 through my computer, but I´ve just realised that in the Rep of Ireland, Setanta sports will be showing the whole f1 season. Happy days!!!

  • Comment number 58.

    Will the BBC's extended highlights be available on iplayer after being aired? As I play cricket on Sundays in the summer I used to watch the full race on iplayer when I got home. I am hoping I can do the same with the highlights this year.

  • Comment number 59.


    It's rather amusing to see how you command people who abhor the sky/bbc deal "to get over it", when the only one that REALLY needs to get over anything is you over your Anti-Alonso hatred..

    The man, Fernando Alonso, may or may not win any more world championships. For sure there will be more race wins in his hopefully long F1 career. But the indisputable fact is that he is one the greatest, an all-time best, a true champion and a benchmark for past, current and future F1 drivers and voted as the best driver on the grid by his fellow-drivers and team principals year and year again ..

    Incidentally, I have now got sky because although initially strongly opposed to the deal, it is I'm afraid a fait-compleit, so c'e la vie.. I will still follow the BBC broadcasts, F1 news and Benson's blogs as I think their work last year was second to none, and for that I'm grateful..

  • Comment number 60.

    Incidentally, I saw the brief interview to Fernando on Antena 3 (Spanish tv) on Saturday evening over the Barca football game.

    Asked how good was the Ferrari, Alonso rather humourosly sharply replied: "Not as good as Iniesta and Messi.."

  • Comment number 61.

    "@30 apparently the channel has launched already, thought you would have seen it seeing you are such a Murdoch fan boy. A mate, who loves his football so much he pays SkyHD £600 a year for it gets F1 thrown in for free, he says channel 408 now showing continual reruns of Steve Rider interviewing Emmo Fittipaldi."

    It's runnng test transmissions. It launches on March 9th!

    Btw hardly a Sky fanboy, but not exactly the BBC's greatest fan either. At least with Sky you have the option to pay for it or not. I am still having to pay the BBC their licence tax despite the fact I don't need their channels!

  • Comment number 62.

    @ Regina...
    Not doubting the guys talent, if he'd won the title in '09 it would've been a hell of a feat in what wasn't the best car, but he has 'only' got 2 titles so far, do you not think he's needs a few more before he's properly up thier with the 'greats'??

  • Comment number 63.

    Judging by the quality of stats and comments you provide your knowledge of F1 (let alone Fernando's career) I think I'll save myself from replying to your post..

  • Comment number 64.

    @56 - how can you say that a live event is less exciting than edited highlights. I dont think you will find many people who would agree with that view.

    @46 - I wouldnt say your immoral for buying Sky, but you surely must understand why people are so angry at the BBC and feel betrayed by a company which to this date has not explained itself to the fans. Other than coming out with some nonsense about funding. Why not think outside the box BBC. i.e. tv license forms have packages available like sky. I know i would have rather all my license fee go direct to sporting and documentry projects. I DO NOT want to pay for Eastenders, the one show and all of BBC 3

    @21 - forget MB, he went over to the dark side, apprentice to Darth Murdoch

    @everyone - remember its all just a bit o banter eh folks

  • Comment number 65.


    Senna only had won 3....still regarded as one of the greats. Would he have won any more if he hadn't died? - personally I don't think so. A certain Schumi had announced himself to the world by then

  • Comment number 66.


    *Senna had only won 3

  • Comment number 67.

    If Hill could push Schumacher close, make him crack under pressure, force him to cheat and play pathetic mind games, dont you think Senna would have pretty much had the better of both of them for the rest of the 90s once he got to grips with the faulty Williams car? (design fault admitted by Adrian Newey himself) Then look at Mansells blistering pace in qualifying at the Oz Gp who put them both to shame.
    Schuamcher was in the right palce at the right time. All ther serious talent sadly gone.

  • Comment number 68.

    @65 i'm not saying he has to go and beat Schumacher's haul of titles, but only 8 drivers have won 3 or more titles, would they not be classed as the greats of the sport? To date, 15 drivers have won 2 titles.

    Like I said, i'm not doubting the guys talents, and you often hear people say he is the most rounded driver on the grid. But would he be considered one of the best of all time he if finished his career with only 2 titles?

  • Comment number 69.

    err.. YES

  • Comment number 70.

    Amount of titles won means virtually nothing for driving talent.
    Schumacher pretty much always had the best if not top 2 car, nver had to establish himself against a team mate since Martin Brundle.
    Alonso has driven some real dogs and barely never had the best car throughout a season. Alonso is truly one of the greats, make no mistake. Beating seemingly everyone else's top choice in 2005, 2006 *in not the best car or team*.
    Schumacher was amazing at building the team around him with unlimited resources and testing (but he was in an unprecidented position, never seen before in history of F1) his work ethic was second to nobody. But was well beaten by Alonso in their head to head. Alonso also had his own DNFs without which would have wrapped up the 2005 title sooner.

  • Comment number 71.

    @64 I completely understand the anti-Sky stance as it must be incredibly frustrating if you're not in a position to use Sky. It's the people sat on the moral high horse that annoy me. I choose to pay for Sky to watch sports. That doesn't make me in any way a bad person. I hope everyone finds a way to watch F1 next year.

    Alonso is on course to be an all time great, especially if he gets his third (and maybe more) WDCs, but right now I can't see him in the same bracket as Senna, Prost, Fangio, Clark, Stewart etc yet.
    And look how close Hill got to Schumi in only his second year in F1 and you have to say that maybe a Senna might've overcome that gap and taken the title?

    And can we all stop dismissing people as having 'no knowledge of F1' just because they say something with which you don't agree. These are opinions, we are debating. It's healthy!

  • Comment number 72.

    @65, have to disagree, no doubt in my mind that Senna could have won in '94, '95 '96 and '97 with those Williams cars based on what Hill nearly did, Hill did and what Villeneuve did. I know you can't speculate like this but that would have meant Senna 7 titles, Schumacher 4, though it was not to be played out at all.

  • Comment number 73.

    @65: At least part of the reason schumi won so many is because of Senna. He had no real opposition for reasonable periods of his career. If Senna had been around he surely would have been 94, 95 and quite likely 96 and 97 champ, too, while Schuey struggled to get that Ferrari working. The closest opposition he had was Mika and Rubens and he just used his clout to get Rubens to step aside.. what an honourable champion.

  • Comment number 74.

    agree with 72.
    Senna would have been above Hill and Villeneuve who shockingly were schumacher's greatest rivals. Look at the Senna, Prost , Piquet, Mansell era when all that talent was snatching points from each other left right and center.
    Schumacher was surround by punishement and controversy trying to beat Senna's number 2 at Williams.

  • Comment number 75.

    @69 & 70...
    Ok, well as Formula 1 is a numbers game if the sport were to end tomorrow. Alonso would be behind: Prost, Senna, Lauda, Piquet, Brabham, Schumacher, Stewart and Fangio.

    Going off that list alone, he isn't the best driver the sport has ever seen, if nothing else, facts don't lie.
    I do hope he does win another few titles, like i've said, i've got nothing against him, but at the moment he isn't the best driver the sport has seen.

  • Comment number 76.

    @ 71: I am in that situation. I rent, so if I get sky installed that ties me to that property for the duration of the contract. My landlord is fine with me getting that, but it still ties me there. The options are so limited, and it's another £360 a year, i'd rather spend on something else. Why can't I stream it online for less on a month by month contract. I wish the beeb got rid of it full stop, rather than half the races, it makes the £30 a month for sky even worse value.

    I hope it fails massively (not least because of that scumbag murdoch) and the advertisers prick up their ears at a bbc audience of 5-7 million and a sky audience of 1 million perhaps ? I hope questions are asked, cos the advertisers are what gets ecclestones attention.. when the $$ signs appear in his eyes.

  • Comment number 77.

    @47 "it warms the heart to know that people like you a huddled round a laptop watching a jerky stream of live pictures"
    Actually it is RTL TV via existing sat dish and new lnb, legal and free with £600 to my summer hols. Pretty sad thet that image warms your heart tho' :)

    BTW, I dislike the BBC F1 dealings and the licence tax way more than Sky. It's not about BBC vs Sky who is best.

    It was how badly the deal was managed by the BBC. They did not bid vs Sky they converted the F1 Championship into a subscription only model in the UK fudging their way around the Concorde agreement.
    They should have finished their existing contract then let everyone bid fairly, if it then goes to C4 fair enough, if subscription so be it.

    For the BBC F1 contract it would have been better to nail the final years and burn out, not fade away.

  • Comment number 78.

    @Janner, give it up? Actually having a grown up debate now.

  • Comment number 79.

    To those coming up saying those with Sky aren't anti-moral cheers it was getting annoying. Seriously those on their high horse, how many 20th Century Fox films have you watched but refuse to give money to Murdoch in other ways?

    Y'know how I take a stance on his 'News' media? I don't watch or buy it simple. Do I give him money for giving me a great sports package that I do agree with? Yes. Seriously why can't people take a stance on what media they choose to consume from the man rather than tar the good products he produces with the same brush?

  • Comment number 80.

    Senna and Williams could've been Schumacher/Ferrari like period of domination. Had Senna dominated the 90s would Schumacher have had the reputation and clout to build Ferrari around him? Would he then have dominated the 2000s in the same way? Maybe, maybe not.
    Schumacher had four title-less seasons at Ferrari, for one reason or another, before he finally won a title, so even if this year's car is rubbish, Alonso may yet enter into a period of annoying domination in later years. If he does, with a higher quality of opposition than Schumi ever had, then Alonso will be up there with the very greatest ever.

  • Comment number 81.

    @75 Typical_English "if nothing else, facts don't lie."

    By your straight championship numbers view then the great Stirling Moss is comparable to say Tarso Marques? Both have no championships each.. :)

    Alonso was incredible in 2010 and 2011, he drove the dog of a Ferrari better than anyone thought possible against far better race cars. You cannot simply ignore it because he didn't take the title. The very best of Fangio, Clark, Senna, Prost and Schumacher combined would not have taken the 2011 Ferrari to the title.

  • Comment number 82.

    Is there any irony in now having to pay to watch a rich mans sport, financed by sponsers who sell to average Joes living beyond their means?
    Attending race weekends has also been ruined by the corporate mobs.

  • Comment number 83.

    Tarso Marques is a personal hero of mine. He had never had the breaks, but surely would've been a World Champ in the right circumstances. I also rated Fabrizio Barbazza...

    Senna had his moments of dragging cars into positions they had no right to be in... Alonso has improved since his WDC, (with a blip of a year in 2007...) He was incredible in 2010 and would've been a worthy champion had Abu Dhabi not been designed as a 200mph car park.

  • Comment number 84.

    You obviously only read the bits you want to, have I said Alonso is a cack driver? No.
    Have I said Alonso is an unworthy 2 time champion? No.
    Have I questioned his ability to win further titles? No.

    But I can't see how he's the best driver ever, when he has only got 2 titles to his name. If Vettel win's the title again this year are you still going to be saying the same thing? If Jenson and Lewis both take a 2nd title and pull themselves level with Alonso, would they not be in the same league as 'the best driver ever.'

    As someone mentioned earlier, at the moment, he isn't in the same bracket as the true greats, Senna, Prost, Fangio, Schumacher etc.
    He may very well get himself up there with them, time will tell.

  • Comment number 85.

    I do miss some reference to the exhausts off-throtle issue by Benson.

    At the moment it appears to me the RBR (and seemingly other teams, i.e. Mclaren and Mercedes to a lesser degree) have been testing with off-throtle engine mappings to be disallowed at the start of the season in Melbourne by the new software provided to be installed in all CEUs, the car electronic unit it system, if Charlie Whiting/FIA circular to teams is to be followed.

    Given than RBR (and other teams) have been considerably relying in their performance until now on the off-throtle mapping, I wonder how this may scramble the order of the teams come eleven days time..

    I would like to think that RBR (and other teams which have also made the use of the off-throtle mapping an advantage) will see a drop in performance..

    Benson, any feel on this?

  • Comment number 86.

    @ 75 Typical_English_No8

    Numbers game?

    F1 is about *teams* trying to totally and utterly dominate the opposition and the rules have always accomodated that.

    until there is a vaslty more even playing field, comparing numbers for drivers is pointless. (With due respect to the fantastic engineers in the sport).

    Lets continue to enjoy the likes of Alonso putting poor cars on the podium where they have no right being and the likes of Vettel doing a professional job with an utterly dominent car.
    Importantly, let us paying fans enjoy team mate battles, something Michael schumacher and Ferrari robbed us of for a decade, creating a lot of rich people in the process.

  • Comment number 87.

    Yeah Schumacher and Ferrari's bad for winning those titles, shame on them.

  • Comment number 88.


    I have to disagree.

    Senna was 34 when he passed away. He was a great driver (if not the greatest) but history has shown that age catches up on you.

    Anyway my point was - the number of titles doesn't have the overiding decision on whether you are a great driver. According to some of the posts, they suggest Schumi wasn't a great driver which, while I disagree, further enhances my opinion.

  • Comment number 89.

    @ 84 Typical_English_No8

    Haha. Alonso beat a 'true' great twice in a fair head to head in 2005 and 2006 but he is still not considered one because he turned down Brawn and Red Bull to be at Ferrari.

    Had Alonso joined Brawn when the door was open, would he have struggled to beat Barrichello for his third?
    All of the names you mention, would win an unlimited amount of championships in the best car.
    Ask yourself if Newey keeps utterly dominating for Vettel to get 7 ttiles, is Vettel then the driver Fangio, Clark and Senna were?
    Ive yet to come across of the above 3 true greats cracking under pressure like schumacher did many times. usually against average drivers.

  • Comment number 90.

    @ 88 Senna had two or three years in him and with the quality of Williams cars through the 90s would've been a great shout for some WDCs. He had lost none of his speed in 94, getting poles in a dodgy car. We'll never know.

    @ Schumi was a great driver, but not by the margin his statistics suggest. His numbers are pretty much double Prost's and Senna's, but he was certainly not twice the driver. He earned his titles, but Ferrari's dominance and one man team philosophy made them so emphatic.

  • Comment number 91.


    " @67,72,73
    I have to disagree.
    Senna was 34 when he passed away. He was a great driver (if not the greatest) but history has shown that age catches up on you"

    It may catch up on you but history has shown, not just in F1, that older drivers can still win championships. I would fully expect Schumacher to have won last year had he been thrown in the Red Bull with N01 status. As he would this year.
    The difference for schumacher, he has for the first tim since being paired with the great Martin Brundle, got to race a team mate on equal terms.

  • Comment number 92.


    Again - my point exactly

    You don't need title after title to be considered a great

  • Comment number 93.

    I'd just like to point out that you get the F1 channel if you have the Sky HD package. I'm guessing that if you have a HDTV + Sky you have the HD package. (If you haven't...why not? What's the point of a hdtv?) I can't afford Sky Sports, and don't really want it tbh, but HD? Yes please.

    As for how this season will pan out...roll on Australia. It's the only way we'll know for sure

  • Comment number 94.

    You mentioned Kimi got a championship but Alonso didnt at Ferrari.
    Your view toward F1 is obviously wrong as many say.
    Kimi had cars which were enough to win championship at Ferrari in 2007,08.
    On the other hand Alonso haven't got yet at Ferrari . But He shows amazing performance more than we expect.
    Motivation cant be excuse for that poor performance of kimi.
    Can you imagine Vettel, Alonso, Kubica,Nico do poor performance whole a year by motivation?

  • Comment number 95.


    The 2005 Ferrari was a dog, so hardly a fair fight. I seem to remember that Ferrari only won one GP the whole year, the US debacle, where only themselves, Jordan and Minardi took part. That title was fought out between Mclaren and Renault, being decided by Alonso's consistent driving and some terrible Mclaren reliability. And for the first half of 2006, the Renault was by far the best car, until the FIA mysteriously banned the Renault mass-damper mid way through the season.

  • Comment number 96.

    Some great opinions on this thread, great lunchtime reading :-)

  • Comment number 97.

    Another unbiased piece from the Chief BBC F1 writter Andrew Benson. Well done.

    Btw who are the other F1 writters here?

  • Comment number 98.

    @97 "who are the other F1 writters here?"

    There are none really, just Andrew's good effort. Jake is learning about the olympics on his Ipad 2 then he'll need to learn how to use and ipad 3 so doesn't seem to contribute any more.

    All the BBC money from the excellent F1 production of 2011 has gone to Eastenders and cracking new reality karaoke shows like The Voice, a snip at £20m just for the rights, £1m Kylie salary, £production costs, Jessie J costs etc etc. Bargain, who needs F1 right, it's far less post and Etonian than Wimbledon right. Though when Wimbledon does go subscription I will laugh.

    BBC Sport after the Olympics this summer should be renamed BBC Carpet Bowls.

  • Comment number 99.

    #93 Playing Devil's Adovcate for a whole five seconds here.

    Before I had Sky I had a HDTV, simple reason PS3 Games and BluRay's. You can also get HD channels of FreeSat.

  • Comment number 100.

    All this talk about Alonso being the greatest (or not) is all a bit pointless. You will never know who the better driver is, unless they are team mates. Why you think Alonso did so great last year baffles me. He out-performed his team-mate who is not only on a downward slope since his accident, but also was clearly instructed to be the no 2 driver - staying out for much longer than he should etc.
    But that is it. he did not out perform his car. there is no such thing. F1 is about the car & the driver - not one out performing the other or not...

    Get them all in a Kia Cee'd. thats the only way to settle this. (And it looks like Vettle would win. Annoyingly...)


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