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The season so far: pattern amid the unpredictability

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Andrew Benson | 18:01 UK time, Monday, 2 July 2012

This Formula 1 season has so far been a perfect storm of unpredictable results, thrilling races and a closely fought title battle.

Who would have predicted that a man who has not once had the fastest car would be leading the world championship as it neared its halfway stage?

Yet Fernando Alonso, whose Ferrari started the campaign more than a second off the pace, goes into this weekend's British Grand Prix with a 20-point lead.

Who would have predicted that the defending world champion, who took 15 pole positions in 19 races last year, would fail to get into the top 10 qualifying shoot-out?

New Pirelli tyre

Formula 1 teams will have the opportunity to test a new hard tyre compound that Pirelli are developing for the future during the practice sessions of the British Grand Prix. Photo: Getty

Yet that is exactly what happened to Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel in China - and very nearly again in Monaco.

Who would have predicted that last year's runner-up, a man who is renowned for his delicacy with tyres, would struggle for pace in a season in which the fragile Pirellis are the defining characteristic? Yet there is Jenson Button having a terrible time in the McLaren.

Who would have predicted that a driver who owes his place to sponsorship money and who was previously known best for inconsistency and mistakes would win a race? Williams's Pastor Maldonado did exactly that in Spain.

Or that it would take until the eighth grand prix for the season to have its first repeat winner? Step forward Alonso again.

F1 has been maligned for years as being boring and predictable - overtaking, people said, was too hard and working out who was going to win too easy.

No longer. There has been so much action in the eight races so far this season that you almost don't know where to look.

There are concerns that F1 has now gone too far the other way, that it is too unpredictable, that too much of a random element has been introduced by the fast-wearing, hard-to-operate Pirelli tyres that are at the root of this new direction.

In essence, the fear is that F1 has been turned from an exercise in precision engineering into a lottery.

And there is unease in certain quarters that the drivers are always having to race "within themselves", with tyre life their biggest concern.

Yet through the fog of uncertainty and apparent haphazardness, a pattern has emerged.

As the competitive edge swung wildly from one team to another in the opening races, it was revealing that the positions at the top of the championship were very quickly occupied by the best drivers - Alonso, Vettel, his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber and McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Button.

The list of different winners continued, until Alonso's spectacular win in Valencia last time out, but through it all the big hitters continued to be the ones who scored most consistently.

Despite that, there has undoubtedly been a welcome element of unpredictability, and the top teams have not had it their own way.

So while Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and Lotus - the teams who have won every world title for the last 15 years - have all figured at the front, Williams and Sauber have also been up there mixing it with them. As, on occasion, have Force India.

This is partly to do with the tyres. This year's Pirellis have been deliberately designed with an unusually narrow operating-temperature window. Getting - and keeping - them there is far from easy, and the big teams do not have exclusivity on clever engineers.

The unusually great importance of the tyres has so far lessened the effect of aerodynamics - for so long the determining factor in F1.

Just as importantly, the regulations have now been pretty stable for the last four years. When that happens the field always tends to close up. Both Sauber and Williams have serious engineering resources of their own, and have clearly built very good cars.

Through all of this, one man has stood out above all others.

Alonso has long been considered within F1 as the greatest all-round talent, and this year the Spaniard has driven with a blend of precision, aggression, opportunism, consistency and pace that is close to perfection.

He has taken two stunning wins and scored consistently elsewhere. In fact, had Ferrari's strategy brains been a little sharper, he may have had four victories by now - that's half the races. And all without anything close to the best car.

Of the two wins he has taken, Alonso himself rates the wet race in Malaysia as the better.

For me, though, the one in Valencia shades it, for the skill and determination he showed in battling up to second place from 11th on the grid before Vettel's retirement from the lead handed him the win.

Some of the overtaking moves Alonso pulled on the way to that win were utterly breathtaking in their audacity, the way he balanced risk and reward and made it pay off.

Hamilton's season has been almost as good, but he has been let down by a number of operational errors from McLaren, ranging from bungled pit stops to refuelling errors in qualifying. He now faces an uphill battle to get back on terms with his old rival.

Alonso has long regarded Hamilton as the man he fears most in this title battle, but one wonders if he might change his mind following Valencia.

After two years of domination, Red Bull have stumbled a little this year. Yet operationally they have still been the best team and their car has always been among the strongest on race day.

After a difficult first three races, either Vettel or Webber have now been on pole for four of the last five.

Before retiring with alternator failure in Valencia the German put in a performance as crushing as any in his title-winning years (2010 and 2011), thanks to a major aerodynamic upgrade at the rear of his car.

Up and down the pit lane, rivals fear Red Bull have moved their car up to another level.

The confirmation - or otherwise - of that will come at Silverstone this weekend. Its blend of high-speed corners provide one of the most stringent tests of a car's quality on the calendar.

Last year, following a one-off rule change that hampered Red Bull more than anyone else, the British Grand Prix was won by Alonso.

But if the Red Bull proves as effective around the sweepers of Northamptonshire as it did at the point-and-squirt right-angles of Valencia, even Alonso at his most perfect will find it hard to fend it off.

Both this weekend and for the rest of the year.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Agree that it's gone from being boring predictable to being boringly unpredictable in some ways. What it really misses though in my view is the intense rivalries of yesteryear.

  • Comment number 2.

    Great blog - spot on. Yes a terrifically unpredictable season. My first thought was that it is a lottery but actually it has brought the best drivers forward which is what everyone wanted. Driving flat out all the time is what they like in the US but is not the mark of the best driver. The Engineers have thier part to play but it shouldn't be the most important part.

    It looks like a brilliant driver will win the championship - not a brilliant designer/engineer. Long may it continue!!!

  • Comment number 3.

    Absolutely agree with the comments here. The tyres in Formula 1 this year have made all of the drivers concentrate on this instead of trying to race which is what they are paid to do.

    This season has been poor from a competitive point of view, we need some rivalry. http://playwithflair.com/

  • Comment number 4.

    Alonso / Hamilton is a fair rivalry, especially with their history of not getting on as team-mates, and Alonso having been the undisputed best of his generation before Lewis came along. Other than Maldonado's victory in Spain (which was partly due to Lewis' penalty, which for once was nothing to do with him) the same teams have generally been up the front.

    There are clear themes over the season - Jenson struggling to get heat into the tyres, McLaren making pitstop errors, Alonso driving around (and gradually improving) a midpack car, Lotus being faster on long runs than in qualifying, Sauber making tyres last especially well, Mercedes especially struggling with tyre wear, Massa still off-form (though a little better in recent rounds). We're seeing the emergence of some great young talent (especially Perez and Grosjean), Lewis pretty close to his best and more mature than ever, and Vettel doing a pretty decent job of adapting to not having the best car. To me, the good outweighs the bad.

  • Comment number 5.

    Wow, an F1 blog with no stupid comments posted yet!

    Agree with everything AB wrote plus above comments apart from #3. This season has seen great competition, and after 8 races you have all the best drivers at the top of a close championship. Whilst you might continue to get the odd freak winner such as Williams/Maldonado (and is that such a bad thing? I think not!) we will see the championship fight remain close but come down to a battle between the best drivers, Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel with hopefully Webber and the Lotus drivers not too far behind.

  • Comment number 6.

    What a season and all experienced on the quite stunning SKY F1

  • Comment number 7.

    Decent read this, i think that the 'closeness' of the championship hinges a lot on two things : McLaren's updates for silverstone and if the pace Vettel had in Valencia can be replicated elsewhere. If McLaren get their act together then i think we will see the title fought between Alonso, Hamilton, Vettel and Webber (maybe even Rosberg) but if they continue making fundamental errors then you can count both Jenson and Lewis out of the title race and it will end up being between Alonso and the Red Bull boys

  • Comment number 8.

    Very fair article. I agree Alonso is best driver on the grid, closely followed by Hamilton and Vettel. I think that the top 3 spots will be filled by those 3 at the end of the year. I hope Alonso is top, but I fear as Andrew said that the Red Bull has made a significant step forward and could be hard to catch up. Mclaren and Ferrari need upgrades and soon. Also want to say a brilliant article by Gary Anderson on Jenson Button, fair and informed- a good read.

  • Comment number 9.

    Saying that Maldonado's win was an odd one discounts that he nearly finished second earlier in the season and was running 4th when he hit Lewis, which shows how good a car Williams have come up with. Would still like to see re-fuelling brought back though.

    #6 You may watch it on Sky, but you obviously come back to the BBC for the real analysis!

  • Comment number 10.

    Good article.

    I sincerely hope not, but I think Newey will win this year unless other teams can match his genius. Vettel was 'gone' in Valencia and I suspect the same will occur at Silverstone.

  • Comment number 11.

    It may be an unpredictable and exciting season, but the new Broadcast model means less people can be bothered to watch it.

    Up to and including Valencia:
    BBC viewers down by 33.25% compared to 2011
    And the combined BBC and Sky figures down by 18.54% compared to 2011 (more if you only count unique viewers).

    With Sky only averaging 684k viewers per race.

  • Comment number 12.

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

  • Comment number 13.

    @5 we got to post 12 until that happened. And now the Lewis vs Jenson posts will soon begin too. Every time lol

  • Comment number 14.

    @forza_ferrari
    I mentioned some gullible people believe the utter tripe written by benson in the previous blog..u seem to be one of them.
    p.s not a lewis fan by the way.

  • Comment number 15.

    Very good blog, Andrew. This is my 30th F1 season, and I can't remember one starting more enjoyably. The unpredictability has added genuine excitement and some new names up the front, but the best drivers are still scoring points and winning races. What's not to like? Only fanboys upset that their man isn't winning every race, and the so-called F1 "purists" more concerned with "engineering excellence" than actual motor racing, are complaining. The rest of us are enjoying the show.

  • Comment number 16.

    @ Standupforthechampions. Please, please, educate us poor gullible folk, where is the tripe and what should he have said? Impress us; you never know, the BBC might end up signing you as their new chief F1 correspondant.

  • Comment number 17.

    Looking forward to Silverstone this week, although i'll have to find a bar in Italy that is showing it. To save face, i'll be a British bloke, in Italy, having to cheer on the Italian team at the British Grand Prix.

    Would like to see the Mercs run well here, they should be right up there with their DRS system. But you can't look past Vettel for the win.

  • Comment number 18.

    Off topic.
    Any more news on the Marussia test driver?

  • Comment number 19.

    On a sadder note hope da villota makes it through.
    F1 doesnt need controversy in what is shaping up to be agreat season.

  • Comment number 20.

    @18
    apparently life threatening injuries.

  • Comment number 21.

    Was it a fully fledged testing session, or one of those straight line runs team do?
    Using a lorry to mark out the track sounds quite frankly ridiculous.

  • Comment number 22.

    Straightline I guess

  • Comment number 23.

    @21 A straight line test. The car accelerated suddenly at the end of its installation lap and hit the support truck. Apparently the helmet took the brunt of the impact, which sounds horrible. It's on BBC website now.
    Everything crossed for her.

  • Comment number 24.

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/maria-de-villota-crash-marussia-1128048

    Bit more detail.

    Anything that mentions a drivers head impact makes me think back to Austrailia a few years ago when DC went right over the front of Wurz's car, missing his head by centimetres.

  • Comment number 25.

    Everything crossed for her, I just pray that she is okay, and that this results in stronger safety being enforced at these straight line tests. Just because it's a straight line doesn't mean it's not dangerous. Praying for her.

    And @14 I don't think everything Andrew Benson writes is correct. I have said that on previous blogs myself but I think when he writes a good blog he deserves praise. And I find it disappointing that every blog, even ones about Michael Schumacher turn into Lewis vs Jenson. I look forward to you being hired by the BBC so you can educate me further

  • Comment number 26.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/formulaone/article-2168116/Marussia-driver-Maria-De-Villota-fighting-life-crash-ahead-British-Grand-Prix.html

    Why does everyone else have more info than the BBC? The British GP is a week away, and they are reporting on this like its a 6yr olds homework project.

    Couldnt find their own backside with both hands the BBC...

  • Comment number 27.

    What a weird crash.It sounds like the anti stall system got engaged

  • Comment number 28.

    It'll raise the question of head protection again. A canopy of some sort might've protected her head, but ensuring that they are viable and safe might take years of research. In the meantime it seems to me quite obvious not to park lorries anywhere near where a car might be driving. She only hit it at a relatively slow speed, but still suffered serious injuries. Maybe putting the lorry behind a tyre wall would've made the difference at those speeds. There is simply no room for error where safety is concerned; any remotely possible outcome should be accounted for.

  • Comment number 29.

    @28 couldn't agree more with the safety part. To have a lorry parked anywhere near where a car could go doesn't seem right. I really feel the FIA should be monitoring these straight line tests more closely. This would have happened at a race or a full pre season test at Barcelona for example. I think the team and the FIA will have a lot to answer for on this one. I know that F1 is a dangerous sport, and accidents do happen. But silly mistakes should be avoided at all costs. You can't avoid a freak accident like what happened to Massa in 2009 but this to me, with the details given so far, sounds avoidable. I admit I could be jumping the gun on that. But lorries shouldn't be near the front of pit garages

  • Comment number 30.

    @29 On this occasion the 'garage' appears to have been a tent. The test was happening on an airfield, which I assume had no permanent barriers behind which they could park up the support vehicles. It should lead to a review of where and in what conditions teams can conduct these straight-line tests. I'm not generally a health and safety nutter, but something with a proven history of danger, such as F1, should allow no shortcuts and no gambles.

  • Comment number 31.

    @28
    Yeah, we've all seen the fighter jet canopy tests they performed last year, but if F1 is to remain an open wheel/open cockpit series, there is a limit to how much you can cover the drivers head.

    It just sounds like a freak incident, with something going very wrong with the car.

  • Comment number 32.

    @30 I totally agree, I'm no health and safety nut either, and of course the Marussia team would mean no harm to one of their drivers. But it some cases I think it may well be, oh it's only a straight line test what can go wrong. Drive straight, turn around, drive straight. What could go wrong? Well things do go wrong and I agree these tests shoulnt be held at places without proper safety checks being done. As I said before accidents happen, Massa in 09, nothing could be done about that. This one, lots of things could have been done. FIA has a lot to answer for in my opinion.

  • Comment number 33.

    I agree with AB. The majority of races this season have been extremely exciting and unpredicatable, however, I am starting to become a little frustrated with the fact that from almost the beginning of the race drivers are having to go into 'tyre management mode' in order to preserve tyres. I know this is and has always been a critical part of racing but surely, this year is more extreme and as a result, drivers are preoccupied with tyre management and less able to race. I present no solution to this problem and I'm sure many would argue that the likes of Alonso has coped extremely well with the current challenges. On that note I would also like to add; I have never been Alonso's biggest fan, in fact at one point (2007) I enjoyed his failures, however, his approach this season has been truly great and I do not use the term great loosely. If he wins the title this season and becomes a three time champion he will throughly deserve it. P.S. another operational failure at McLaren this weekend and surely Ron Dennis needs to be reviewing Martin Whitmarsh's contract on grounds of poor performance and lack of leadership. Bring on the British GP...

  • Comment number 34.

    @33 good post totally agree.

  • Comment number 35.

    What a surprise, Andrew Benson actually manages to write an unbiased article. Yes I know it doesn't tell me anything I don't already know as usual however it's fairly balanced for a change.

    At least this article won't be removed due to embarrassing posts that prove the bias (sorry couldn't resist the dig but it is well deserved).

  • Comment number 36.

    Just to correct you, Andrew. The five teams you mention (McLaren, Ferrari, Mercedes [Brawn], Fauxtus [Renault/Benetton] and Williams) have won the last 28 drivers championships, since Brabham's Nelson Piquet won in 1983. They have also won the last 34 constructors championships, since it was won by Team Lotus in 1978.

  • Comment number 37.

    @ 35 Get a life.

  • Comment number 38.

    Quite a decent blog there Andrew, but the inevitable unfortunately happened. Still we see Benson sucking up to his pal button, who got a mention as one of the top drivers. obviously, Rosberg and Raikkonen were completely overlooked for old Jenson. Apart from that the rest of the blog was not biased and a good read.

  • Comment number 39.

    Maria De Vollata is conscious according the Marussia team statement. Not out of the woods but what good news!

  • Comment number 40.

    @39 Very good news. Hopefully she'll recover fully, but even if she does this incident will still need to be looked at to avoid repeats!

  • Comment number 41.

    @40 of course. It's absolutely crazy what happened. Are these tests not FIA regulated? They should be and anyone in their right mind wouldn't put a support vehicle near where the car would be. Obviously it's slightly unforeseen but as I said Massa 2009 was unavoidable, this was.

  • Comment number 42.

    @38 I did notice that too but you're never going to get a completely unbiased blog so I'm letting that pass.

  • Comment number 43.

    Slightly off blog topic I know, but given the news;

    Marussia tweeted this morning;

    @mariavillota had her final seat-fitting & pedal test at our Banbury HQ & then headed north to the Imperial War Museum, ready to do battle

    If it was for the same car, which I can only presume it was, perhaps this has some bearing on Maria's accident.

    As it appears there was a sudden acceleration as she was slowing down to the makeshift pits area, the pedals sounds like a good place to start looking. As the cars have fly-by-wire accelerators as well and this was shortly after the installation lap, could possibly have been an electronic issue associated with the system.

    http://www.expressandstar.com/news/uk-news/2012/07/03/driver-hurt-in-racing-car-smash/

  • Comment number 44.

    Hi all

    Thanks for the comments so far.

    I just wanted to clarify something - none of my past blogs have been removed. There was a temporary technical problem that made some of them go to a broken link. Among these were some of the ones some of you seem to find controversial. The error has now been fixed and all are available again as far as I can tell from a quick click around.

    A

  • Comment number 45.

    I wonder what f1fan01 will have to say about @44 lol

  • Comment number 46.

    As someone who is new to F1 I have to say that most of the comments seem fair BUT for me truly great sport cannot be contrived. I think the tyre situation is a form of contrivance, and we don't see the all out drama we would do with so many talented drivers if they did not have to worry so much about tyre management. Examples: Maclaren's cock ups would not have affected Hamilton if he did not have to stop for an artificial tyre change 2 or 3 times per race, and Button (who IS a great driver) would be far higher up the standings because simply getting the tyres to the right temperature is NOT a skill that a great driver should have to master.

  • Comment number 47.

    The only predictable thing this year is that Hamilton will have at least one botched stop during the race.

  • Comment number 48.

    @46 Hamiltons out stop problems are part of the sport. It's up to Mclaren to sort it out. Every other team including HRT and Marussia who have such a small budget can change 4 tyres unlike Mclaren. The tyres are the same for everyone, and of Mclaren can't change them you can't blame pirelli for that. However I do wish the tyres didn't go off quite so easily, but the best drivers manage them. You are saying that Button is greater than Alonso? Button is in a better car than Alonso but look at where Alonso is 1st. Button needs to learn how to drive around these tyres like the others have. In my opinion anyway I mean they tyres are the same for all, so Button needs to work them better.

  • Comment number 49.

    nice article andrew !!

    46 agree hope we will get back to more durable tyres lollll

  • Comment number 50.

    @44
    Hi Andrew,

    Firstly no need to thank me for the comments it’s a pleasure ;)

    Now that the articles have been restored I’m wondering the real reason why. Was it really a technical glitch or was it backtracking on the realisation that proof of the BBC suppressing free speech is just untenable?

    The thing that really makes me laugh is this. After all the comments from various posters pointing out your bias and then the conclusive damming proof of it when people compared your article on Jenson’s win to the one on Lewis’ win, what do we get from Benson….SILENCE then the articles mysteriously disappear.

    Interesting that you think people reading this blog will be more interested in a post from you saying a "technical issue" has been fixed rather than a defense to all those pointing out your bias.

    Andrew if you can post a comment acknowledging that “some of us find the articles controversial” then shut us all up by defending your sloppy journalism and post a comment explaining how your two articles on Jenson and Lewis’ win are not ABSOLUTE PROOF of your bias.

    Here are the links to the two articles, if you can explain how they are impartial or just admit that they were not then I for one won't be saying another word on the subject.

    Look forward to your explanation....

    F

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/andrewbenson/2012/06/hamilton_1.html

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/andrewbenson/2012/03/albert_park_melbourne_statemen.html

  • Comment number 51.

    "This Formula 1 season has so far been a perfect storm of unpredictable results, thrilling races and a closely fought title battle".

    I think what you meant to say Andrew was this season has been farcical thanks to tyres that wouldn't pass an MOT for toy cars?.

    What next, 100m runners in the Olympics given running shoes that wear our over 100m, but it depends how hard they run, and how heavy they are, and whether its hot or cold?. I go back to my main and only point: If drivers are being asked to 'look after their tyres' read: Slow down, drive slower than you actually can, then it's a farce of huge proportions. Can you really describe F1 now as 'man, machine, driving on the limit'?, with a straight face?.

  • Comment number 52.

    Forgot to say thinking of Maria De Villota, and hope somebody is looking after her.

  • Comment number 53.

    @50 I disagree with you a lot :) but on this one you kind of have a point. I love how he said Jenson was 'crushingly superior' over Hamilton at Melbourne. It was a good win from Jenson but that was an over statement. And at least Hamilton was on the podium at Melbourne. So in comparision to the column he wrote about Hamiltons win when Button wasn't even in the points, where was the 'crushingly superior' comments then?
    I honestly am not interested in a Hamilton vs Button fight. But you are right where is the unbiased-ness that I pay my licence fee for?

  • Comment number 54.

    @51 You hit the nail on the head, I've always said that the whoever wins the WDC this year will be the luckiest rather than the fastest driver. Having said that I think the cream is starting to rise to the top.

    Also echo your comments in post 52.

  • Comment number 55.

    @54 so if Hamilton wins you are telling me you will call him lucky?

  • Comment number 56.

    @53 I disagree with you a lot :) but your post exactly sums up what I and others find so unacceptable about how Benson has treated the two British drivers so differently in his past blogs.

    There have been numerous examples but this is imho the most blatant example.

    It's a shame because as I've said earlier the standard of this current article is much more balanced and hopefully will stay that way in future.

  • Comment number 57.

    @56 This blog is much better and hopefully it will be a sign of things for the future. More balanced. I also hope that not only is he fairer in comparing Hamilton and Button but also he pays more dues to Michael Schumacher. Because lets be honest he is very biased in the Schumacher blogs too. But credit where it's due I enjoyed this blog.

  • Comment number 58.

    @55 Yes depending on the style of the win. I think his win in Canada although a brilliant drive was lucky because with the tyre lottery it could easily have gone the other way if Vettel & Alonso's tyres had lasted.

    Other runners (I think Grojean & Perez) were on the same tyre strategy and theirs lasted and all the time everyone on the pitwall were just scratching their heads and guessing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 59.

    @58 I think every win can have a little element of luck in it. But I don't think declaring the overall champion as lucky will be fair. It will be the person that scores the most points, as it always is, and so far Alonso has scored points in every race in a car that lets be honest was a dog at the start of the season. If it happens to be Alonso, Hamilton or Vettel that wins the championship they will have earnt it and drove the best over the year, with the best team work, and the best understanding of conditions from race to race. Will a small element of luck be involved, of course it will. But my point was to call the champion lucky would be unfair in my opinion.

  • Comment number 60.

    THis has turned out to be the most dreadful and boring season for me to watch. Formula 1 has gone down the tubes. I'm losing interest. When tyres degrade so quickly it makes them dangerous. Lets bring back re-fueling, tyres that last to race with and some genuine strategy for the qualifying and the race. It is pathetic when tyres are being manipulated with by the manufacturers for each race, and racers are put off from using their tyres during qualifying. It's all becoming pointless. Formula 1 was my biggest interest through the year for over 40 years.. not any more......

  • Comment number 61.

    Andrew,

    Since you are addressing the missing blogs which I personally didn't know anything about, what about the article on the Mercedes DRS that focused on it being just on the Red Bull and Ferrari when every other F1 journalist and Ross Brawn said it was a Mercedes only device and this before your article appeared.

    Fair enough someone can make a mistake but why has Mercedes now being edited into the original article?? Where it before just said Red Bull and Ferrari and only mentioned Mercedes once it now says Mercedes everytime the others are mentioned. That I think is a little harder to explain than missing articles.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/andrewbenson/2012/03/new_f1_season_could_prove_unpr.html

    Not to mention all the "senior insider" quotes in articles that are basically always wrong.

  • Comment number 62.

    My forecast still holds true for 2012.Early part of the season will be dominated by middle ground teams in competition of the top established teams.The middle sector of the season will see the top teams gain better pace and advantage.The last sector of the season will be dominated by those teams with deeper pockets able to leverage high cost technical innovation long after the mid budget teams have fallen back in terms of innovation.

    Clearly both Vettels pace and Ferrari mid season pace have proved this.the question is if mcclaren wants to develop this car or drop out of the championship race? Mercedes,Renault,Williams and sauber are all mid season innovators.

  • Comment number 63.

    Another stimulating article Andrew.
    Suggest you implement the comment rating function used elsewhere on BBC e.g. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-18702455, so the audience can give efficient feedback to their peers' comments, to encourage good input/debate and perhaps make the spite-shouters think twice.

  • Comment number 64.

    Such sad news about De Villota losing her right but thankfully she still has her life. Which says a lot about the improvement in helmets over the years. But this really should lead to an FIA investigation into the safety at all straight line tests. I know Marussia would never want to cause any harm to any driver, but it certainly was complacent in my opinion having support vehicles do close by. I hope she continues to recover

  • Comment number 65.

    An impartial article like others have said! But, of course, It's not a great and insightful write-up. Funny how expectations lower when you get used to sub-par material. Of course, I was expecting Button to be mentioned. Funny how Raikonnien and Rosberg didn't get mentioned. It's still a good step up for the writer.

    Gary Anderson's analysis on Lewis' and Button's braking styles into corners and their impact on the Pirelli tires was very insightful - I learned something.

    Will one ever get the opportunity to say the same about your write-ups in the future, Andrew? The best teams are still scoring points. The points table is a simple reflection of that fact. I wouldn't call this the great insightful "pattern" waiting to be uncovered in F1 in 2012. The only thing that's changed is that no particular team has completely dominated the season so far, nor are there only 1 or 2 teams trying to chase them. The weak teams are still struggling as they always have been. Maldanado has been the only unexpected winner this season.

    Alonso isn't doing anything extraordinarily special for someone who has the whole team spending their resources on just him. The other top teams are having to cater to both drivers, or at least giving that impression. Ferarri, on the other hand, have no obligations to Massa. He's the one who has to prove his worth with whatever he gets. You can't chase the championship in F1 with both your drivers taking each others' points. Last year, Lewis was on self-destruct mode, so McLaren put their money on Button. With Lewis back on track this season, Button's redundancy in the team is simply being amplified. This is the "big" pattern you missed.

  • Comment number 66.

    @ 64; yes, I totally agree there must be a full FIA investigation.

    Obviously the inquiry will look at mechanical and human error. However, the question I ask is, should poor De Villota have been in the car in the first place?

    Call me sexist, ageist, a cynic, I don't care, but at 32 years old, did she really have a genuine opportunity in F1? I seriously doubt it. Even a male, without championship winning credentials in lower formulae, would unlikely be brought into F1 at such a late age.

    I suspect the testing seat was given to De Villota as a publicity stunt, to raise the profile of the team and its sponsors. Same goes for Susie Wolff at Williams.

    The vast majority of F1 recruits are young and have top results (often championships) to their name in lower formulae. As much as I respect and admire these two ladies for their talent and achievements, I personally don't feel they are young and good enough for F1. They just don't have the wins and championships in their CVs.

    It's sad De Villota has been maimed for life, but thank God her injuries weren't worse. Looks like her driving career is over. Such a shame.

    Perhaps, Wolff's F1 seat should be reviewed, based on her past achievements and experience. I would hate for anything bad to happen to her also.

    F1 machines are extremely delicate, hi-tech, fast, and dangerous. Only the best of the best should be driving them, hence the title - Formula ONE.

    F1 drivers need super-licences to race. Do they need them to test? I think this is an important issue, perhaps Andrew Benson can enquire into.

  • Comment number 67.

    @66 According to the Telegraph she was yet to acquire the mandatory super license. If this is correct an I'm assuming the Telegraph have done their research, this should not be allowed. If you can't race without the license you shoulnt be able to test without it. Whether this played any part in the crash at such low speeds I don't know. But certainly I don't think anyone should be allowed into a F1 car until they have that license.

 

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