I started to write this column on the plane home from Istanbul on Sunday evening but decided I wanted to reflect on
the Turkish Grand Prix
and the season so far before finishing the job.
With the wild Formula 1 races and handling my new lead commentary role - while still doing the pre-race grid walks, on top of making tech features for television, track guides, and the Red Button Forum show, along with a 1,000-word Sunday Times column - my brain is on the rev limiter by Sunday evening.
I am really enjoying everything about this season, not least working with David Coulthard up in the commentary box. But it is good to step back and take a view after four races.
On the one hand, we have a miserable scenario in which Red Bull's
is dominating both qualifying and racing.
From four consecutive pole positions, he has three victories and a close second having led 184 laps. Nico Rosberg of Mercedes is the next highest lap leader, on only 14.
Vettel already has 93 points, a number he did not reach until five races later last year
on his way to becoming world champion.
He could have won Sunday's race on a three- or four-stop strategy as far as I can tell and was never really challenged at any point.
The 23-year-old has basically been in a league of his own since the Japanese Grand Prix last year and shows every sign of continual improvement and confidence.
Even a proper clatter against the Turn Eight barriers on Friday barely interrupted his weekend.
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso said that getting held up behind Rosberg in the early laps at Istanbul Park cost him the time that made up his eventual deficit to Vettel. It was a great performance from Alonso, a seriously classy drive on the way to third place, but we don't know how much Vettel had in hand.
In a normal year, everybody would be complaining that F1 was so boring and predictable, and switching off. Instead, TV audiences are significantly increasing, media coverage is stronger than ever, and the F1 paddock is buzzing ages after the race has finished.
Jake Humphrey's blog
“Sadly for all the teams and drivers, the new-style F1 leaves very little margin for error”
This excitement carries to the airport lounges, and in tweets and blogs the following day. There is an excitement around F1 that I have not experienced except for championship showdowns or major political dramas.
The combination of the degrading tyres, Kers (kinetic energy recovery system), and DRS (drag reduction system) rear wing overtaking aid has created much more wheel-to-wheel action, which people have craved for years.
Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber said to me that he took little satisfaction passing so many cars on his way from 18th on the grid to finish third in China because it was too easy to make a pass on someone as good as Alonso.
Webber went on to say that there had been no safety cars this year because the desperation had been taken out of the first lap, as the drivers know there are easier gains later in the race.
I respect Webber's opinion, and I admire his racer's spirit, but I think he's being too negative on this.
Add in a slipstream, head wind, and DRS, and cars were breezing past each other. There was plenty of wheel-to-wheel action, too (mostly Michael Schumacher's wheels it seemed).
Should the DRS activation point have been after the Turn 11 kink, rather than before it? Probably, but there was a great spectacle on numerous occasions through the last three turns after the long straight, along with supreme driving skills.
Without doubt, the DRS will work more effectively on some tracks than others and the FIA, the world governing body, has always said it is a work in progress.
I'm struggling with the concept a little in terms of racing purity, but then DC pokes me in the ribs and reminds me of the turbo over-boost button I enjoyed in the cockpits of my cars in the 1980s.
I'm thoroughly enjoying the racing. We asked for more overtaking, and finally we have it. However, I still believe each driver should be allowed a finite number of DRS activations per race so that there is more of a tactical and skill element involved.
I'm consoling myself like this: technology through tyre development and aerodynamic knowledge has created a massive problem, such that well driven high performance single-seaters can't follow each other closely and overtake. The engineers and designers cannot forget what they have learned, so technology has been used to fix the problem, and it's called DRS.
Schumacher admits to joyless F1 experience
Barcelona in two weeks' time will be a good case study. It has traditionally been one of the most boring races of the season because of the track layout and high demands on the aerodynamic efficiency of an F1 car. If that is another classic race, then great as far as I'm concerned.
These past two grands prix, every time I looked away from the screen to check who pitted on which lap (we have a written chart on the wall) something happened.
I need to trust the screen briefly to DC, but because he has had such a baptism of fire in his first few races in the commentary box while I'm still learning the ropes in my new job, that would be like asking an eight-year-old to mind a sweet shop at the moment.
To illustrate just how incident-packed the races are, Formula 1 Management, which provides the TV pictures during the races, has created a new graphic that comes up on the screen to indicate when a significant pit stop is happening.
There has been so much action on the track that the director daren't cut away from it a lot of the time. What a contrast from the last few years, when the pit stops were sometimes the only bit of action in the entire race.
There were more than 80 pit stops in the Turkish race, which frankly is too many. It must be a nightmare for the fans trackside to follow when they cannot hear or understand the PA system.
Instead of the four-stop strategies seen in Turkey, a close call between two and three race stops would be better, not least because qualifying is being seriously spoiled now with drivers only making a single run in the top-10 shoot-out because they want to save as many tyres as possible for the race.
On another subject, I took no pleasure in seeing
struggling in Turkey. Partly because I like to dream I could still do it with some gym work and a good car, but mostly because I have a lot of respect for him and it is just a little uncomfortable to watch.
In a pre-season Autosport magazine poll, one of the questions was: "Can Schumacher win a race in 2011?" I answered yes because that is basically what I wanted to happen.
Now, though, I think any dreams of a fairytale comeback are over.
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