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Four different winners - now pick a champion

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Andrew Benson | 18:21 UK time, Wednesday, 25 April 2012

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh probably summed up the new Formula 1 season best in the wake of Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.

"Who's going to predict who's going to win the next race?" Whitmarsh pondered after Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel had become the fourth different driver, for the fourth different team, to win in the first four races. "It could be Red Bull, Lotus, Mercedes, Ferrari, us."

A Formula 1 season has not started in such an unpredictable fashion for 29 years.

Back in 1983, Brabham's Nelson Piquet, McLaren's John Watson, Renault's Alain Prost and Ferrari's Patrick Tambay were the men in question. Only Watson did not go on to be a major contender for the rest of the season, which featured a four-way title fight between Piquet, Prost, Tambay and the second Ferrari driver Rene Arnoux.

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso's Ferrari may not be the best car, but he is making it a contender. Photo: AFP

This year, the winners have been McLaren's Jenson Button, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg and Vettel.

Paradoxically, though, on the balance of form over the four races, you would probably say that of those four only Button and Vettel will definitely be championship contenders.

Rosberg's Mercedes car is clearly quick, at least in qualifying, but its race pace has been inconsistent. Alonso has been driving brilliantly in the Ferrari - but on current form the car is nowhere near good enough to mount a title challenge.


For all the unpredictability of the results, and the thrilling spectacle of the races themselves, the same drivers and teams who have dominated F1 in recent years fill the top five positions in the championship.

Victory in Bahrain vaulted Vettel into the lead, ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, Red Bull's second driver Mark Webber, Button and Alonso.

Of those, Alonso's position is the most remarkable.

At best, the Ferrari is the fifth fastest car behind the Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes. And there have been times when it was probably the seventh fastest - behind also the Williams and Sauber.

Yet the Spaniard has won a race and conceded only 10 points to the world championship leader after four grands prix.

This stunning demonstration of consistency and skill is why it would be hard to look past Alonso if there was an award for driver of the year so far.

If he is to be a title contender this year, though, much depends on the major car upgrades Ferrari are planning to introduce for the next race in Spain - and which will be tried out for the first time at the official F1 test in Mugello next week.

If these do not give Ferrari a significant boost in performance, even Alonso will drift out of contention and, presumably, be overtaken soon by the drivers immediately behind him in the championship - Rosberg and Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen


Just as Alonso is artificially high in the championship - at least in terms of the quality of the car he is driving - so Raikkonen and, arguably, Rosberg are artificially low.

It has been clear from the beginning of the season that the Lotus is one of the very fastest cars on the grid - but scrappy weekends at the first three races prevented the team from scoring strong results.

In Bahrain they finally got it together, and Raikkonen and team-mate Romain Grosjean finished second and third behind Vettel. As BBC F1 technical analyst Gary Anderson explained in his race review, the Finn might well have won.

According to figures compiled by Anderson, Lotus are second only to Caterham in a table that compares their performance last year to this.

Mercedes are some way down the list - but have definitely made more progress than any of the other traditional top teams. Ferrari are at the bottom.

The difficulty in assessing Mercedes' potential, though, is that for all their impressive performance in taking pole and victory in China, their form in the other races has been poor.

The Mercedes is quick in qualifying - thanks in part, no doubt, to its controversial 'double DRS' system - but they are the team whose performance deteriorates the most from practice and qualifying to race.

You can be sure a lot of their work at the Mugello test next week will be focused on this phenomenon.

The next-worst team on this criterion, incidentally, are McLaren.


Ferrari are the most consistent top team (and behind only Sauber) in terms of form from practice to race - a measure of how close a team gets to extracting the maximum from their car.

Red Bull are pretty close behind, even though it took the world champions until the fourth race of the season to record their first win.

One of the reasons teams have been struggling with consistency - both from race to race and within a weekend - is that they are finding it difficult to get the best out of the Pirelli tyres this year.

As Button has said: "Last year, we knew the tyres had high degradation but we understood them. This year, I don't really know what to make of the tyres."

Teams are struggling to keep the tyres in the right window of operating temperature, and different cars work them better in different ambient temperatures. Circuit characteristics also play a role.

Mercedes, for example, have been suffering problems with rear-tyre usage. So China was perfect for them. It was run in cool conditions on a circuit that is 'front-limited' - the front tyres tend to go off first.

Red Bull, by contrast, were struggling to get their car to work properly in China, and the result was their worst qualifying performance of the year. The race was less problematic, but Red Bull's race pace has been strong all year.

In the hotter conditions of Bahrain, on a 'rear-limited' track, Mercedes struggled and Red Bull shone.

Until Bahrain, McLaren had coped pretty well with the varying conditions from race to race, but their struggles with rear tyre wear in Bahrain will have set alarm bells ringing.


Vettel predicted in Bahrain that, because the teams are all so close in terms of competitiveness, changing conditions will continue to have an effect on form throughout the season.

His team principal Christian Horner added that the season would "ebb and flow".

"It is a matter," Horner said, "of trying to be consistent at the races you can't win and take the maximum out of them. And at the races you can, you need to deliver."

So who is the favourite?

Before Bahrain, you would probably have said one of the McLaren drivers. Now, you might be tempted to say Vettel.

But what about Webber, who has had the edge on Vettel in three of the four races? Or Raikkonen? Or even Alonso, if Ferrari can effect a turnaround with the car.

One thing is clear - it's all very different from last year, when by this stage it was already blindingly obvious that Vettel was going to be champion.

As to who it will be this time, as Hamilton has said: "It's anyone's at the moment."


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  • Comment number 1.

    I still believe Hamilton will win this year, and to be where he is without winning a race yet proves this to me

  • Comment number 2.

    Wow, first comment! have not had one for years! Agreed Andrew. I have no idea how this season will pan out. Although I am pleased to have such an exciting unpredictable start to the season so far, I have to agree with Schummi (for once), I think Pirelli have taken it too far. I am sick and tired of hearing about tyre degradation, saving tyres, sweet spot etc.

    F1 should be about who can ping it the quickest from point A to point B. Not who can drive at 70-80% and look after their tyers. I am not naive, I know the plan was make racing more exciting and bring strategy into play, but now tyres are now the biggest factor to who will win a race at the expense of the driver's skill, bravery in overtaking or the quality of the car.

    To answer your question. Who will the championship? Its the driver who saves his tyres the most this season....which in my opinion is just sad.

  • Comment number 3.

    Poor blog Andrew as you totally forgot about Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber as Championship contenders. LH is only 4 points behind SV whilst MW is 5 but I guess you should know this.

  • Comment number 4.

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

  • Comment number 5.

    What about Felipe Massa? Regardless of championship position, he's the best driver :-)

  • Comment number 6.

    " a table that compares their performance last year to this."

    Where can we see this table you talk of?

  • Comment number 7.

    Alonso is the one who worries me. He is doing extremely well considering the quality of his car.

    I think Jenson has been unlucky in two races and could easily have had a sizeable lead at this moment. Car failure and an uncharacteristic mistake have cost him.

    Lewis is consistent so far but seems a little slower to overtake this season compared to Jenson.

    Mark Webber is also consistent so far and has been qualifying better than Sebastian. Great battler on the circuit.

    Sebastian has been the least favourite for me out of the above until Bahrain based on performance. The extra 7 points for a win really swing the needle.

  • Comment number 8.

    @ 4 Mpjacko. I know....Gutted! My weekend is ruined!

  • Comment number 9.

    "Webber, who has had the edge on Vettel in three of the four races"
    Sorry, have to disagree. He had the edge on Vettel during "qualifying" in three of the four races. Vettel had better race pace in all races except may be in China where it was difficult to judge due to their different strategies (but still Vettel finished just 2.5 seconds behind Webber starting 5 places down the grid).

  • Comment number 10.

    I think that this is one of the best chances that Lewis Hamilton has to win for several seasons since he was crowned world champion. In my opinion, Alonso has always been his biggest competition but the Ferrari has not been good enough this year yet. Bring on the Spanish races!

  • Comment number 11.

    What a waste of time this blog is. With 16 races still to go its like trying to predict the outcome of the next general election the day after the previous one.

  • Comment number 12.

    Looking at this team by Team neither the Mercedes or Ferrari are cars for all tracks so I would rule these two out.

    Lotus with Kimi at the wheel maybe a dark horse but Red Bull and McLaren still have the edge.

    Given that I expect it to come down to Vettel vs Hamilton, if he continues to be the new calm Hamilton we have seen this season.

    I slightly favour Vettel as McLaren still have a tendency to self harm as we saw with their recent pit stops.

    As for F1 being about about pure speed it never has been. Tyres, fuel consumption and general car maintainance during a race have always played a major part, that is what makes it the ultimate driver challenge.

  • Comment number 13.

    this year is random,and yet mclaren arent good enough to produce a good car yet again,on pure pace it is quickest but race pace where they were good last year is a nightmare,plus even the "smooth" driver button is eating his tyres.i hope pirelli listens to the fans and drivers and makes good durable tyres where a driver can do 6-7 fast laps and consistant times after that whereas 1 lap tyre life expectancy is a joke for the mountain top of world motorsport.i was driving like them on my driving test when i was 17 a few years back,staring at the instructor and his clip board in the corner of my.instead of a clip board they are staring at there tyres to see if they have enough rubber to avoid crashing into a thinks the drivers and fans are happy that pirelli dont make condoms

  • Comment number 14.

    Loving F1 this year...dont like Alonso (normally) and didn't like Kimi (previously) but I like both of them now. It's so good to see such a shake up...anyone of 3,4 or even 5 could with the DC this year and allegiances aside (McLaren fan) it's so good for the sport thats it's no longer the procession it once a sneaky feeling this will be Lewis' year but I'd like JB to clinch it come the end of the season!

  • Comment number 15.

    13. At 07:55 27th Apr 2012, adrenilenepotato wrote:

    me thinks the drivers and fans are happy that pirelli dont make condoms

    HAHA Brilliant! Let's leave that to Goodyear ;)

  • Comment number 16.

    McLaren are leaking points already with technical and operational issues. A bit like T20 cricket, the run rate is going up and if not addressed immediately will leave them too much to do in the later stages of the season.

  • Comment number 17.

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

  • Comment number 18.

    Alonso, Vettel or Kimi. McLaren are going backwards too quickly, Ferrari will be going forwards with the raft of upgrades they're bringing. Red Bull are changing their car to Vettel's liking, so instead of being a repeat of 2010 where Webber had a level playing field, it'll be more like 2011 where the Red Bull is built around Vettel's style. Kimi has a good shot, especially if he can bring home a win in the next couple of races, he's staying out of trouble and has lost none of his searing pace.

  • Comment number 19.

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

  • Comment number 20.

    Ask this question after race 10 results

  • Comment number 21.

    I think it will eventually end up being a straight fight between McLaren and Red Bull as they are the teams with the largest resources to deliver the required updates. Ferarri are probably a bit too far back in terms of performance to make up the ground on the frontrunners.

    Lotus have been strong but I don't think they will be able to match the development of the McLarens and Red Bulls. I hope I am wrong as I would really like to see Kimi get a few wins this season.

  • Comment number 22.

    This is SKY F1 and it's LIVE!

  • Comment number 23.

    I think it's clear that Alonso is definetly a contender. Given that the Ferrari is currently off the pace and he has managed to lose only 10 points to the leader says a lot about his skill and talent. Mugello test will be key, not only for Ferrari, but also for McLaren and Red Bull since the race is about relative development. If Ferrari manage to get ahead, there is no doubt Alonso will put the car on the podium. Vettel seems to be under criticism that he cannot race from the back of the field. In Bahrain, he led from the front to victory yet again. Unlike Alonso, Vettel does not seem to outperform his car. Lewis and Jenson are the other contenders. McLaren had the best car to start off with but then fell behind in the car development race. With Jenson's ability to manage tyres and Lewis' talent, you can never count them out. Finally, a word about tyres. This year the emphasis on tyres has been pronounced. The outcome of the race has less to do with talent about racing but more about talent to manage the car. One could argue this is hardly what racing is about but that's F1 for you.

  • Comment number 24.

    From what i can see Hamilton has changed, maybe matured, this season and i think that is a good omen for his season. He is clearly the number 2 driver in Mclaren but if he can keep a level head i think he will be WC this year!

  • Comment number 25.

    I think Lewis is probably slight favourite (he seems slightly happier than Jenson with the car) he had ben consistently fast and baring a few issues in a pit stop in Bahrain he would have been at least 5th and he wouldnt have been far off Webber most likely.

    Red Bull got the car working here but then track temperatures was much higher than its likely to be at most races and we dont know if they have actually improved dramatically or if the conditions helped a lot with an underlying issue?

    Ferrari are really looking for conditions or others errors to get race wins.

    Lotus are very quick and will adopt some different and agreesive tactics as a smaller newer team than the otehrs can probably afford to do in some ways. In Kimi they have a guy who will take wins whenever possible mind.

    Mercedes are the most difficult to fathom for me I'm unsure whetehr they are somewhere between Ferrari and Lotus time wise or sitting on the quickest car?

  • Comment number 26.

    Still can't see past the Mclarens. Always the ones who seem to develop the car better, faster over the season. Hoping the Ferraris come to the party though. Button driving quicker, but more erratically this year, Hamilton driving within himself, but with more maturity. If Mclaren don't sort out their pit actions, then they are going to be in trouble. However, I am very mystified why you've not included Hamilton anywhere; avoided all incidents, has been very quick in Q1/2/3 and is only 4 points behind in second. If Mc pull their socks up, and develop the car like we know they can, then I can't see past Ham.

    Loving the resurgence of Kimi and the Renaults (lets not call them Lotus now), showing Mr Schumacher how to perform a comeback.

    I am wondering just how long Alonso will stay at Ferrari with the cars hes had. As much as I dislike the chap, he has dragged that car around for 3 seasons now, and only one sniff at the WDC, and that a distant one. For the richest team on the grid, that's not acceptable. As much as I like Domenicalli, how long before he falls on his sword? Not good enough really.

    And I know its a long post, but if RBR start to lose regularly, how long before Dietrich gets bored of F1? Whatever is said, RBR is just a marketing strategy, and if it no longer making sense, how long before the plug is pulled?

  • Comment number 27.

    Nobody must have a doubt that Alonso is the best driver in the grid at the moment.....What he has done by driving that piece of junk till now is incredible...If Ferrari can only gain half a second pace than they have at the moment he will definitely make lives of the drivers in front of him much harder....Lets hope the upcoming upgrades will help to achieve that....

  • Comment number 28.

    If Ferrari's upgrades give Alonso a competitive car I think he will win this years F1 title. If not I see it as a battle between Hamilton and Vettel, although I can't see any one person walking away with the title.

  • Comment number 29.

    I have to agree with some of the other comments as why Lewis is not a contender. He more relaxed and prepared to play the percentages like Prost and accumulate points. I don’t see RBR pulling out of F1 for a good while yet unless they start dropping to mid-field runners. They don’t need to sell cars just fizzy drinks and Mark Webber seems quite able to demonstrate that the stuff does indeed give you wings!

  • Comment number 30.

    Surely if we're talknig artificially low championship positions, we have to say Michael is foremost among them all? Two points is not at all representative of his good qualifying positions and his luck in terms of reliability has been quite shocking. If Mercedes do have a car capable of winning then Michael is just - if not more - likely to score some wins than Rosberg, at which point he would certainly climb up the table.

  • Comment number 31.

    If both Merc drivers hadnt run in to as many problems (yes Nico won in China) as they had, Schumacher in Australia and Sepang, and during qualifying last time out, they'd have been right up there too. It's too close to call, but of the top runners, Alonso is the only one 'in a false position'.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hope it will be Mark Webber but my money is on Sebastian.Bahrein proofed again why
    he is double WC.Getting the chance he delivers.And also people should remember 3 other poles and SEB is already NR 3 in the ALL TIME list only with Michael and Ayrton
    in front of him.

  • Comment number 33.

    Agree with many of the other posters that it's too early to decide. However, was it Brawn who said that after four races, on four very different circuits (apart from Malaysia and China, which is the same track), they would have a good idea of each teams pace?

    One thing's for sure, this has been the best start to the season's better than last year. My tip is Hamilton, but only because he's my favourite driver. Alonso has been so impressive though, he is definitely the best driver out there, but wasting his peak years!

    As for Massa? Well, I wrote this before the season...and I'm now feeling a little silly.

  • Comment number 34.

    My feeling is that rate of car development, which has in recent seasons been McLaren's forté, may play less of a significance this year. As we can see, there appear to be more inconsistencies than ever before and that is down to tyre management in differing conditions.

    The team that gets a grip on understanding the tyres and making their car work on them most consistently will win the championship. And within that team, the driver whom is able to manage tyres better will probably be World Champion – and, at only four races into the championship, it's impossible to predict.

    I have to say, that while it has 'spiced up the show', the tyres play far too big a part in determining the outcome of races. Those who argue that F1 has always been about great drivers being able to nurse their cars are right but when tyre performance unpredictably drops off a cliff after a few laps or the car/driver combination cannot even get heat into the tyres to make them work, it's more than a step too far.

    Not too long ago – 2005 in fact – we had a season where the tyres had to last a whole race and I remember that being pretty exciting, so why do we now need extreme tyres, DRS and medals (if Berne had got his way)?

    These recent regulations are also painting a vague picture of driver ability. For instance, a lot of people now think that Jenson Button is the best driver out there because his smooth style looks after the tyres better than most. The fact is that he has managed, I think, a solitary pole position since joining McLaren and it's there for all the world to see how he also struggles more than most when the car's balance is not exactly to his liking… so displaying a relative weakness in two essential abilities required to be a top driver.

    A driver's all-round ability has always been important but plays less of a part in the spectacle these days. The biggest difference between F1 now and in the '70s, when I first started watching, is the way cars move on the track. Without trying to sound nostalgic, back then, even during a processional race, you could still marvel at the driving skills – as cars were power-slid on opposite lock out of bends or four-wheel-drifted into them – and never get bored. I'm still an avid follower of F1 but now the cars may be amazingly fast but they are planted to the track and comparitively unspectacular. However, even with the show being a little artificial, I'm sure there will be some great races to come in this unpredictable season.

  • Comment number 35.

    Bloody hell, Massa to win the title, were you high when you wrote that!?
    I was gutted when he didn't win the title in '08, thought he deserved it more.

  • Comment number 36.

    It's too early really to be jumping in to any conclusions. The four races so far were quite different from each other and we have 4 different drivers (and more importantly 4 different teams) winning them.

    Vettel - If redbull gives him a car that can consistently challenge for pole, can't really see anyone else winning the championship (redbull has good race pace anyway)
    Webber - stunning consistency (four 4th places, LOL.) Won't be good enough though.
    Hamilton - It's very interesting to see the new Hamilton. Quick as always in qualifying and quite content with playing it safe during the race. If McLaren doesn't self destruct (as they usually do), he has a great chance this year.
    Button - Unusual results so far. Not good news if he's struggling with tyres as his driving style and strategies are mostly based on good tyre management. Will always be a strong contender though.
    Alonso - Best performer so far this season. Unfortunately the car is terrible. Can't see him posing a real threat to the front-runners in the long run.
    Massa - Fernando is faster than him.
    Rosberg - Showed he can win races given the right car and displayed the advantages of learning defensive race-craft from the master himself. His season would depend on Mercedes' ability to handle type issues
    Schumacher - Has been very unlucky right from the first race. Again difficult to judge yet due to Mercedes' tyre issues.
    Iceman - Seems like he hasn't lost any of his race-craft even after 2 years. I expect him to win a few races. If Lotus could keep up, he will be a genuine challenger for the WDC.
    Grosjean - Some fine qualifying performances but I expect Kimi to beat him over the course of the season.

    PS - @ GeorgeCFC
    If 'CFC' stands for what I think it does, congrats for reaching the finals. It was the equivalent of Alonso winning a race under normal conditions in this Ferrari.

  • Comment number 37.

    It's tough to call after such a tight opening, but I'd be tempted to back Mercedes.

    Ferrari have the most work to do, but with other teams so competitive I don't think they can dominate enough to get a clear advantage for the title. I'd expect Alonso to pick up more wins though.

    Red Bull and Lotus seem to have cars with very similar characteristics. The Lotus looks to be quicker but human error has scuppered their chances thus far. I would, however, expect Red Bull to get stronger as the season goes on whilst Lotus drop away. The team didn't handle their loss of pace in the right way last season, pointing fingers at the drivers, and I see no reason to think why this would change.

    McLaren are in the middle. The car is fast and the most consistent in terms of pace in spite of the tyre issues everyone is facing. Pit errors have cost them badly (I doubt Rosberg would have won if Button had a normal pit stop) but I expect them to remain strong. Hamilton looks like he's grown up and has scored solid points, whilst Button is very strong when everything is dialled in to his liking. I wouldn't count either out.

    Mercedes have the fastest car but have struggled with the operating range of the tyres. Everyone has to understand the tyres better, so they're in a strong position by having a very fast car. I fancy them to sort it out and start blowing people away, but their weak start could cost them once the other teams gain more pace.

    It's all pretty excitingly poised and although it's wishful thinking, I'd love Williams and Sauber to join the party.

  • Comment number 38.

    @26 The only reason why Benson has not included Hamilton despite what the stats tell us is his extreme dislike of him.

    Its very surprising that a journalist is willing to throw away his credibility and reputation with these pathetic attempts to pull the wool over the fans eyes.

    From the posts I've seen the fans are far too knowledgeable about F1 to fall for it and all it does is expose Benson.

  • Comment number 39.

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

  • Comment number 40.

    Why is everyone so against Vettel, it’s like British people don’t want to admit that this guy is one of the best on the grid, and potentially going to be another Michael S and one of the greats of all time (he is only 24 years old!!). Has anyone ever looked at the 2009 season when Vettel came a very close second in the championship to Jenson B, now that is very very good, championship runner up in 2009, win in 2010, win again in 2011 and top again for 2012. Lewis H has "and I know us English don’t like to admit it", but he is nowhere near as good as Seb V, Fernando A, or Jenson B, Lewis H is an unintelligent driver and that really means he is missing a huge part of the package, and he is on the same level as Seb V on speed now, so why English people and I am English, are we constantly slating Seb V as with all that I have just typed, he is a really likeable guy from what we see. So everyone please stop being jealous that a German driver yet again is the top guy and will be for a long time, it just makes us look like blind bad losing people.

  • Comment number 41.

    Also you have to ask yourself why Benson puts Jenson as a contender and not Lewis when Lewis consistently out qualifies Jenson (4-0 and counting) and is ahead of him in the championship?

    Everyone knows that if it was Jenson beating Lewis 4-0 in quali it would be the subject of many articles on your blog.

    Benson you and me both know why we'll never see a stat on your blog that in anyway shows Lewis having an advantage over Jenson don't we?

    Those stats do not go un-noticed, they go UN-MENTIONED

  • Comment number 42.

    @38 Totally agree with you on why Benson has not including Lewis as a contender for the WDC.This just shows how deep his dislike and jealously of Lewis eats Benson up,it runs deep.

    Even people who dislike Lewis on these forums would include him in a line up of possible contenders this year.Second in the championship and like Benson's boy Jenson has had set backs in all races.

    I'm a Mclaren fan and a Lewis fan but even i would give Button half a chance just like i would give Alonso an outside chance,what a pathetic blog.

    Come back in 4 months time and bore us with your take on who is a contender or not, at least it will give us a truer picture.

    Just another stealth dig blog at Lewis from Benson,anything to keep up last years bombardment of negative press from the bbc.Only problem is,Lewis has changed since last year and is not letting anything Benson or his cohorts say get under his skin,his new aide is doing his job alongside his dad behind the scenes.

    Alonso had it right when he said in 2010 "getting on or as close to the podium in every race can win you the WDC" after all,it could actually of been Alonso in 2010, not Vettel.

  • Comment number 43.

    #2 - Well said!

    I have ranted about it many times, but the driver "who can save their tyres best" is not the best driver nor a worthy world champion. Also, all this nonsense about engine modes is a joke too.

    As you say - F1 should be about the best drivers driving at 100% - pushing the limits for the WHOLE race. It's about time we had tyres that lasted the whole race easily and engines run at full mode all the time - ie. no fuel saving mode, electronics to manage it. IF a team chooses to under-fuel the car or wants to save their engine, then that should be entirely down to the driver's skill to manage. Before people say it is about cost savings and running a low engine mode means the engines can last longer, then think how much the teams would save a year on tyres if one set lasted the whole grand prix without any big drop in performance?!

    Onto the drivers, my points above are why I am still pescimistic when it comes to judging Vettel - after all, he has never won a title without exhaust blown diffuser's, tyre management, and engine modes/fuel saving being an essential requirement (Same with Button too!). Therefore he can't possibly be classed in the same league as Hamilton, Alonso, Schumi and Raikonnen.

    Without bad luck this season, Hamilton would be well clear of the rest in the championship (we could realistically have been talking about him having 2 race wins, maybe 3, and finishing 3/4 places higher in Bahrain!

    Button has also been massively unlucky, as well as Schumacher. Incidentally, and it may seem like I'm picking on him, but Vettel has been the luckiest driver on the grid - the bad luck of others has gifted him positions in every grand prix (except Bahrain) and even the safety car in Melbourne played perfectly into his hands.

    Webber - I have always maintained he isnt good enough to win a championship, but he is a gutsy driver who will have a massive part to play regardless. I also like how he has outperformed Vettel in qualifying and fastest laps - showing that with the new reg's, he is the quickest driver of the 2 in my opinion (ie. no massive additional downforce from blown diffuser/off throttle blowing helping Vettel take corners better).

    Finally - Alonso. What can you say. He is brilliant. Ok, the conditions played perfectly into his hands in China, but who cares - where was Massa that race? That is the clear indicator of his ability. If Ferrari improve their car considerably to work in slightly warm or hot weather, he will be a massi

  • Comment number 44.

    Did Michael Schumacher take 4 years to get a competitive car out of Ferarri? Alonso is not good enough to get what he wants as Schumacher was, but keeps making excuses. He can drive ok, but I fancy either Vettel and Hamilton to win this year. The last two races have been excellent. It'de be good if Pirelli knew how to make better tyres.

  • Comment number 45.

    Why is everyone so against Vettel, it’s like British people don’t want to admit that this guy is one of the best on the grid, and potentially going to be another Michael S and one of the greats of all time (he is only 24 years old!!). Has anyone ever looked at the 2009 season when Vettel came a very close second in the championship to Jenson B, now that is very very good, championship runner up in 2009, win in 2010, win again in 2011 and top again for 2012. Lewis H has "and I know us English don’t like to admit it", but he is nowhere near as good as Seb V, Fernando A, or Jenson B, Lewis H is an unintelligent driver and that really means he is missing a huge part of the package, and he is on the same level as Seb V on speed now, so why English people and I am English, are we constantly slating Seb V as with all that I have just typed, he is a really likeable guy from what we see. So everyone stop being jealous that a German driver yet again is the top guy and will be for a long time.

  • Comment number 46.

    @Lee1 - Really? Nearly WDC in Year 1, WDC in year 2...

    Anyway, good comments, sensible comments from most. Love to see Vettel prove me wrong, but he hasn't yet. I think Alonso is simply at Ferrari for the moolah. Which is a shame. Hope he gets a car worthy of his skill.

    Mercedes haven't got a good car, not in my opinion, and I believe the double DRS is flattering them in Q, and China was an anomoly I think. Can't see them challenging.

    Renault (lotus) developed well last year, given how the car was at the beginning.

    Still think this is between RBR and Mclaren.

  • Comment number 47.

    Simoc ... yes he did take 4 years .... after he won with Benneton, Williams and Mclaren won the world championships in the next 4 years

    as a big Alonso fan i hope he can but i doubt it... hasnt even come into my mind that he could win this year.

    out of the mcclarens and Red Bulls .... with the occasional odd result with Mercedes and Lotus popping up on the podium

  • Comment number 48.

    Adrian Newey will be the champion...again.

  • Comment number 49.


    Totally agree with your last sentence. The winning driver will be the one that saves his tyres, I also largely agree with Schumacher's comments last week, whilst the quick degredation to the tyres is to help with spicing up the racing, we are losing the entertainment of seeing drivers really push the car.

    Personally I think the tyres go off too quickly, they need to last just a bit longer to give the drivers confidence of being able to really press on, just can't help be feel we are seeing a majority of the field 'tip-toeing' around the circuits to save tyres.

    At least we are seeing a mixture of different winners this year.

  • Comment number 50.


    From what I've seen, no-one is against Vettel, there are just doubts about how good he actually is compared to the perception/felling amongst some.

    If he can consistently out-qualify drivers in a better car (as per Hamilton last year beating Webber and the Ferraris on a number of occasions, or Alonso this year getting into Q3) then that would be a plus. If he can win a race from qualifying on the second row backwards or without a massively superior car, that would be another. Also, as I mentione din my other comments - if he can win a race where every dirver on the grid is driving at 100% for 100% of the time with no trye degradation issues, or mandatory engine management, that would be the key one for me. Unfortunately we arent likely to see that for a few years yet with the way the regs are going. :(

    I have to add though - whenever I see him in interviews, he is really likeable and funny - one of my favourite guys out of the entire grid. So my opinion is entirely based on racing and not anything personal.

  • Comment number 51.

    If Kimi starts to win races and becomes a proper contender then that would be pretty awesome to see in his first year back! though good luck also to Alonso, driving the car that he is and doing well, he deserves it for that alone!

    Howevever Button i think will win it this year, already has a win and a 2nd place and hopefully now has had his share of the bad luck for the rest of the year. he seems quicker this year and that combined with his good tyre management will mean he has the best chance.

  • Comment number 52.

    Hey BBC, it would be great if we could "like" or "dislike"/rate these comments so that I dont get to repeat what has already been said. Just like on the political comments page.
    So if Jenson had finished the last race he would probably have come in 4th and be leading the standings. I expect the unhappy looking Hamilton when he came 3rd in Melbourne can now see that, as it is so close this year, that winning isnt gonna be the "be all and end all".

  • Comment number 53.

    Why are so many people saying that Mr Benson didn't consider Hamilton for the championship? He clearly states that both of the Mclaren drivers are challengers and were even 'considered favourite before Bahrain'.

    To those critising the subject of the article I feel it is a fair point to discuss for two reasons. Firstly Ross Brawn said that after 4 races we'd have a clearer picture of where each team was in terms of absolute pace. Secondly, by this time last season pretty much everyone had Vettel down as a clear title favourite. Therefore discussing the fact that no-one knows who is favourite for the title is quite a major talking point in the sport right now.

    Also all this moaning about the issues with tyre management etc. The balance between speed and looking after machinery has been key in Formula 1 for decades. Not that long ago drivers had to look after much more than just tyres due to the fragile nature of the engines and gearboxes etc

    In terms of title favourites I think Halmilton looks ominous just because he's finally got his head down and seems to have stopped sulking. If he can keep this consistency up then it is only a matter of time before a few wins come too. Only a fool would bet against Red Bull and Vettel though. Personally I would love to see Alonso given the machinery to mount a serious challenge as his 2 world tiltles are not a true representation of the talent that man possesses.

  • Comment number 54.

    Enjoying a very unpredictable season so far... long may it continue.
    Will Mr. M. Walker be doing his videos again?

  • Comment number 55.

    Not an easy pick this, but for me three drivers stand ou Button, Vettel and Alonso, I think it will be one of them with Hamilton, Massa and Webber not too far behing. Raikenen, Schmacher and Rosberg though could pose really strong challengers throughout the season. Well that's nine drivers so looks pretty open doesn't it. Personally I would love to see Alonso win from Button and Webber, we'll see !

  • Comment number 56.

    @ Post 2, OriginalJonBlaze
    "F1 should be about who can ping it the quickest from point A to point B. Not who can drive at 70-80% and look after their tyers. I am not naive, I know the plan was make racing more exciting and bring strategy into play, but now tyres are now the biggest factor to who will win a race at the expense of the driver's skill, bravery in overtaking or the quality of the car.

    To answer your question. Who will the championship? Its the driver who saves his tyres the most this season....which in my opinion is just sad."
    Completely agree. I want to see the fastest drivers winning. Not the guys who are willing to drive at 90% speed.

    I usually keep away from the Benson bashing, but why you have not included Lewis is beyond me, and given previous 'anti-Hamilton' accusations on here pointed towards you, I don't think you can complain about the criticism. He's poled on 2 races, front row on the other 2 races (excluding 5 grid place pen), had a whole lot of bad luck, and yet has finished every race, majority on the podium, and is second in the championship.
    In terms of predictions (and I am going to ignore 'tyre management' because they all seem to be struggling and various times, and it bores me), I fear Vettel might get the title. Whilst I hate that finger of his, you can't deny that when he has a fast car under him, he delivers. With Adrian Newey in his corner, it is likely that he will have a fast car. They may not have started well, but they have already caught up. I think the determining factor will be the development race between McLaren and Red Bull, as I cannot see the other teams consistently 'bringing it'. Whoever wins that race will win, with the drivers being Hamilton or Vettel.
    Whilst I used to detest Alonso (being a Lewis fan) there is no denying he is brilliant, so it is a shame he does not have a car to put him at the top (well, not right at the top :p). If Ferrari's upgrades that they plan to bring to Europe do not hugely transform the car, then I fear their season will only get worse.

  • Comment number 57.

    I am very disappointed with Anrew Benson's report. It seems to me he very out of touch ! How can he not write anything positive about Hamilton in his reports?
    This young man has been in every drivers' championship contention in every season since he debuted an yet reporters like Benson find the most negative things they can muster when this young man is involved.
    Please Mr Benson be a bit more professional !!

  • Comment number 58.

    Any chance of seeing Gary Anderson's table that compares their performance last year to this? I know I could probably work it out myself but seeing as someone else has gone to the trouble it will save me a lot of time.

    On predicting who might be champion, after only 4 races and before the major upgrades begin, is pretty pointless. I know you have to write a certain amount of blogs per week etc but come one, so many potential variables still although I suppose it does stimulate debate. I think the race result in Barcelona will give the best insight to your question.

  • Comment number 59.

    Oh, and @58. Tyre management might be boring but it is vital and could well be a deciding factor. Vettel did well in Bahrain, yes. But the air temp was 40 degrees. I think this played a part and the European part of the season may well see Red Bull drop back again to 2nd/3rd row on the grid. We will see.

  • Comment number 60.

    I meant @56. doh!

  • Comment number 61.

    you are spot on 100% it also shows how Tabloidest the BBC has become
    The only time the driver has to make 100% decision it's in qualifying and so far Lewis is doing the talking in that department.

  • Comment number 62.

    ferrari's car is not good enough does not compute and is a lame excuse!

  • Comment number 63.

    The winner will be the driver with most 2nd, 3rd or 4th place finishes. Can't see anyone winning more than 4 races this year, so consistency is the key.

    Hamilton so far has three out of four podiums and is four points behind in second, without a win.

    Hamilton is my tip.

  • Comment number 64.

    People aksing why Hamilton hasn't been mentioned, he hasn't actually won a race this year yet. Im sure he will have at least one victory before the season is up by Benson was differentiating particularly between the four race winners so far, Button, Alonso, Rosberg and Vettel. Of course hamilton is also a contender for the title.

  • Comment number 65.

    Hi all,

    Thanks for you comments so far. It's obviously an interesting subject for debate.

    I hope you don't mind if I pick up one theme that a few of the comments have mentioned. I'm a bit confused as to how some of you seem to think I have not picked Hamilton as a potential title contender. Of course he is and as some of the other respondents have pointed out, I clearly have.

    In the section "picking a favourite", the first two people I mention as contenders are the McLaren drivers - I point out that if you were picking a champion before Bahrain, you'd have chosen one of the McLaren drivers (ie Hamilton and Jenson Button) - then I mention that following Bahrain you might lean towards Vettel.

    The whole point of the article is that it's wide open - as I quote Hamilton himself saying in the very final sentence.

  • Comment number 66.

    It's been an exciting start to the new season but, in truth, the title will be fought over by the usual suspects - Vettel, Alonso, Button, Hamilton and possibly Webber. The only difference is that it will be a lot closer with 5 teams and 10 drivers standing a realistic chance of regular podiums and another couple of teams (Sauber, Force India, Williams) perhaps upsetting the apple cart on the odd occasion.

    Having said that, it is even more impressive that Webber and Hamilton are in the positions they find themselves, given the closeness of the field and quality of the drivers. If Maclaren can develop the car as well as they have in previous seasons then I think Hamilton will just beat Vettel to the title. This is assuming that Hamilton doesn't go into 'meltdown' again, a la last season.

    And this is the point where it started to go wrong last year. This time last year, Hamilton wasn't in too bad a position. However, he was clearly quicker than Vettel in Spain but was foiled by the last corner/DRS combination. Then he got unlucky in qualifying at Monaco, starting too far back and trying to make up places in an overly aggressive manner. A few silly comments to the media put him under the spotlight in Canada where, once again, he found himself out of position having been too aggressive, and finally out of the race. A difficult 3 races. Should he keep it together this year and avoid the stewards room he will be a force to be reckoned with.

  • Comment number 67.

    me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me me......... maybe lewis....? ....... Nah ... ME ME ME ME ME ME !

    Ciao my F1 lovers.....
    p.s. ... Vote for me.... or I call you a cucumber!

  • Comment number 68.

    Those of you complaining the blog doesn’t mention Lewis as a contender need to read it again. Andrew clearly states Button and Vettel are the main title contenders out of the four drivers that have won this year, not out of all the drivers. Andrew goes on to agree with Hamilton’s comment "It's anyone's at the moment". I think the Lewis fan boys need to take there (the whole worlds against Lewis) specs off and start living in the real world.

  • Comment number 69.

    good news - F1 is more competitive than ever.
    bad news - the use of DRS and, especially dodgy, unpredictable, Pirelli tyres is making the "races" into a farce.

    Prediction - before Vettel's win last week, I favoured Hamilton, but the Red Bull looked very strong in its usual hunting ground of medium/high speed corners. Barcelona will confirm this form as it is usually a good predictor of pace for the rest of the year.

    There are some muppets contributing here. Pay attention - Hamilton had a bad year in 2011 and Button drove better than he has ever done. LH is on a different level as a grand prix driver - miles faster and with an "edge" which means over the course of their careers, Button is nowhere near.

    Dont get me wrong, Button deserves his seat and is a top bloke, but he ain't on Hamilton's level. Horner only contradicted this view by highlighting Button as Vettel's leading challenger this year to put Lewis off!

  • Comment number 70.

    I'm always routing for Button. But really it's anyone's guess and anyone's to take. The races are so unpredictable it's like watching a BTCC event!!!

    I'd personally go for Button as he's a brilliant driver - over years he has lost the cutting edge he used to have much like previous greats like Lauda and Prost going against faster, younger drivers. He has the head and his ability to think through a race and have a better view of what will happen than the commentators whilst travelling at 100mph still astounds me

  • Comment number 71.

    So just because the Lewis Hamilton hasnt one a race yet, means he cant win the championship?

    Maybe you are just discussing the winners in this blog but Hamilton is worth a mention as favourite at the minute.

  • Comment number 72.

    *won are race, not one.

    /me facepalms

  • Comment number 73.

    @69 well said

  • Comment number 74.


    Where in the article does it say, or even infer, that Hamilton can not win the championship?

  • Comment number 75.

    Benson can't bring himself to mention Lewis by name and a positive in the same sentence unless forced to like in his reply (it always gets turned into McLaren or the McLaren drivers).

    Note how careful Benson is not to answer the point that he is very careful to avoid talking about any stat that makes Lewis look better than Jenson i.e the quali score or Lewis' position in the championship compared to Jenson.

    If its just the Lewis fans being paranoid how do you explain the fact that after last years backstabbing, Lewis will not talk to the BBC unless its the contractual mandatory interviews in the press circle. You have to rely on Jenson all the time now.

    Just admit it Benson you are a Hamilton hater and Jenson fanboy 100%.

  • Comment number 76.

    65 Andrew Benson

    Just wanted to say that some people do actually READ your blogs and enjoy them.

    If you want to broaden your appeal, may I suggest that you get the photo replaced at the top to one of you in a "LEWIS's No.1 FAN" t-shirt and only ever mention the positives repeatedly.

    Cheers and thanks

  • Comment number 77.

    It's an interesting season, no one car seems to be the best all-rounder, each car has strengths and weaknesses. I think upgrades are going to play an major factor in deciding who is going to win the world championship

  • Comment number 78.


    Hear hear!!

    Hamilton can you take a blog that clearly points out that Lewis is one of the favourites for the championship and then turn that to describe the author as 'anti-Hamilton'?

    All this acts to do is discredit yourselves and reveal those who are truely biased.

  • Comment number 79.



  • Comment number 80.


    "So who is the favourite?

    Before Bahrain, you would probably have said one of the McLaren drivers."

    Does Hamilton not drive a Mclaren?

  • Comment number 81.

    First off, let me say that LH is my favourite driver.

    I think the reason Benson pays little mention of Lewis in this article, is just that he want's to bait all the Hamilton fans into some kind of response..

    See it for what it is people...

  • Comment number 82.

    It is very close at the top. At the moment I'd wager Mclaren has the car most likely to win the title, especially with their history of upgrades - and if they do then both their drivers know what their doing. Raikkonen though is looking more and more like he could mount a challenge - remember he's only 4 races into a comeback - he's only going to get faster, and more importantly more consistent. And if Kimis a contender then Grosjean is too. Alonso I could see a late charge similar to 2010, but looks unlikely. But Red Bull have made the best of a bad few races and seem to have improved their car dramatically so hmm maybe their favourites. Yup too close to call...

  • Comment number 83.

    lol @ how much benson talks about alonso in this blog (and most other).
    Apparently 'The season so far' has been 90% about ferrari and fernando alonso. its like he sat down with the idea of writing a blog in his head and once "fernando alonso" came from his keyboard (and probably somewhere else) he became transfixed and could only express his love of him, cramming every little excuse in where he can. its either that or he used the "pick a champion" title to hide his true intentions. In future benson can you please leave a message at the top of your blogs (if they are to be that way inclined) saying 'WARNING: THIS ARTICLE MAY CONTAIN EXCESSIVE AND DISTURBING LEVELS OF ALONSO LOVING' so that i can save myself the bother of reading the same regurgitated(sp?) garbage. before people start calling me a hater or whatever, i would like to say that i think he has probably been equally as good as any other driver so far and is a fantastic driver.

    Onto the points of the users, and i would have to say i completely agree with those who criticise the pirelli 'control' tyres. i understand those who say managing the tyres and the car has always been an integral part of the sport, but for me it should never outweigh the importance of the speed in a drivers and cars skillset (which it does massively at the moment) - hence why its called RACING.

  • Comment number 84.

    Very difficult to predict but as mentioned Mclarens ability to develop in season is well established and they are already there or thereabouts.

    Then it comes down to Jenson v Lewis. If Lewis continues to put 3 or 4 cars between himself and Jenson on the grid then he will take it.

    That said if any of the top teams consistently unlock the secrets of the pirelli rubber then you have to back their lead driver.

  • Comment number 85.

    Alfabetical order, Alonso, Button, Hamilton, Raikkonen or Vettel.

    I see no other drivers capable to win the tittle.

    I know it's hard but i think it's realistic.

  • Comment number 86.

    "11.At 07:50 27th Apr 2012, MADONF1 wrote:
    What a waste of time this blog is. With 16 races still to go its like trying to predict the outcome of the next general election the day after the previous one."
    But you read it, and posted a comment. Some of us like the fun of debating, speculating, even betting. You seem a bit negative, mate. Try some vitamins or something. Life is worth living, really.

  • Comment number 87.

    "83.At 19:16 27th Apr 2012, FanMan" He is easily the best driver. Benson knows, I know, most of the rest of F1 fans know, that's why he is the top driver in the biggest team. A team that is not performing, but the biggest team. It's like Casillas playing for Wigan or Real Madrid. Wigan might be better for a season, but it's still the best goalkeeper playing for the best team (if you see what I mean).

  • Comment number 88.

    85 ferrarista1

    You should include Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg as I m certain a 2nd Bahrain will not
    happen to them

  • Comment number 89.

    there are 4 drivers capable of winning the championship,

    Hamilton and Button: two great drivers, if mclaren can stop all the pit stop gaffs then all that Hamilton needs is to keep doing what he is doing, and button needs to get his head back into gear.

    Alonso: if ferrari give him a car capable of a podium, then he can deliver victories.

    Vettel: if Red bull can deliver a car that car give him pole, then he can drive off to victory. still not convinced of Vettels racing ability.

  • Comment number 90.

    @ 87
    alonso is a great driver, no doubt. he is not "easily the best" as you put it, simply due to the fact that the margins are so tight at top level f1 and the presence of other great drivers (hamilton, vettel) but he may well be the best current driver. however, that does not mean i need benson - with his indoctrination-style 'blogging' - to keep telling me the same things over and over.

    If he stopped pushing his opinions and started to provide at least some technical analysis etc then it might be worth reading. Mark hughes' blogs were much better. He uses in-depth technical analysis to tell an unbiased and insightful story on the sport.

    It actually annoys me that the bbc uses taxpayers money to employ this bloke in a time of cutbacks (and sellouts to sky) when he does such a poor job and offers virtually no insight at all.

  • Comment number 91.

    As exciting as the first few races of this season have been, I do rather suspect that one team will pull away from the rest in the European season. However, even then, if the team that breaks from the pack is Red Bull or McLaren, it could still be an interesting season within that team. I'm not sure I could call it between the drivers in either of those teams based on what we've seen so far this year.

    I also have to agree with many posters that, with so many great drivers on the grid, it is ludicrous for Andrew to insist so loudly and often that Alonso is head and shoulders ahead of the rest. I am afraid that Alonso's drive to push the car past what it is capable of will take its toll over a long season, as we have seen in the past. You simply cannot be perfect all of the time, and nothing less than that will win Fernando the title in that car.

  • Comment number 92.

    81. At 18:18 27th Apr 2012, At1ness wrote:

    I think the reason Benson pays little mention of Lewis in this article, is just that he want's to bait all the Hamilton fans into some kind of response..

    See it for what it is people...
    Absolutely correct. Benson is so devious as well as biased.

  • Comment number 93.

    This year would be another for red bull, might be Webber . McLaren would lose out due to their strategies and pit stop blunder which is going on for many years,no matter how hard LH and JB tries.Try hiring christen if they want to make progress >>>>

  • Comment number 94.

    For a change I have really enjoyed reading all your posts, fellow 'members'. Only a few barbs about Aunty v SKY - and some of the Hamilton v Button, Button v Hamilton, comments have merit. Perhaps as the season matures so are our posters? I hope so.

    Other than that, as I have not been privy to the viewing of most of the races so far this season, I am hardly competent to offer deep and meaningful comments. I do though still squirm at the restrictions imposed by the governing body. *sighs and goes back to sleep*

  • Comment number 95.

    @ 44....

    It's a little naive to suggest that developing a car is all about the driver. Success at F1 is down to leadership, technical talent and driver talent...

    It is no coincidence that Ross Brawn had success with Benetton, Ferrari, Brawn GP and now Merc GP... As has Adrian Newey at just about every team he has worked with. Add into the equation some very good drivers; Schu, Prost, JB and Seb to name but a few...

    I'd say that Alonso is doing his part, but it is the technical team around him that needs the shake up. Lets hope Pat Fry can develop a car with the TEAM that is capable of mounting a Challenge.

    Title favourite? Has to be Vettel...

  • Comment number 96.

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

  • Comment number 97.

    It seems some people do not like my criticism of the BBC's F1 Commentary team, and have complained about my entry.

    It is clear some of you have an unhealthy admiration for members of this team. Its pathetic and embarrassing. Seek help or grow up, whichever is the most appropriate!!

  • Comment number 98.

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

  • Comment number 99.

    DUH... People, hello?


    Simplys it's gonna be me again... you know it british folkies, ADMIT IT!
    ....your boys are good but nothing on me or nando...

    Even if they were as good as me, their teams let them down, they need a greasy oiled flying machine like my wing boys, oh and also a dentist fearing ego man like crazy christian to be bernies mate and get everything as I like it!
    Don't weep peeps, just enjoy my train.... and me as the driver! lol

    ciao 4 now!

  • Comment number 100.

    Kimi or Jensen.


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