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By: Kate Hewitt
What is it about constant performers that we don’t like? Is it because we get bored easily? Or because we’re so used to change? Formula 1 is all about change, whether it’s the cars or the drivers, or the circuits or technology; it’s an ever growing sport with a slight fear of the unknown. So why do we get so annoyed when a driver dominates?
For the past 3 years Sebastian Vettel has been the main championship contender, though the likes of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton don’t consider him to be their biggest threat? Why? He’s won the last three championships, surely that means he is the biggest threat? But the main criticism that seems to hang over the head of the German, is that he has the best car. You may be asking, well why is that a reason to critique him? And the reason is simple. You cannot tell how good a driver is whilst he’s sat in the overall best car, the only way to evaluate it properly is if you put him/her in a less competitive car and see how they compare. The best drivers are the ones who can get the ultimate out of what ever car.
People argue that Vettel proved himself when he won the Italian Grand Prix in 2008 in his Toro Rosso. But what people seem to forget, is that whilst Vettel qualified on pole, his team-mate Sébastien Bourdais also qualified in 4th; it’s just because he was a second behind Vettel’s lap time, and that his pole position was such a shock that people don’t remember. But if Vettel wasn’t getting the most out of his car in 2008, why was he 8th in the standings, whereas his team-mate (the one with the same machinery) was 17th?
Critiques are also picking at Sergey Sirotkin, the 17 year old who looks to be one of the favourites to drive for Sauber next year, after Russian investors saved the team from possibly backing out of the sport. Do they not remember when Vettel (also 17 at the time) first tested for BMW Williams in 2005, and then a year later went on to test for BMW Sauber? He hasn’t even set foot in the Sauber yet, and they are already jumping to conclusions.
Dominance isn’t something that is new to Formula 1. Michael Schumacher won the championship 5 times in a row from 2000-2004 and previously won back to back championships with Benetton. The most successful man to ever compete in Formula 1. He was always a threat, even when he didn’t win the championship between 1996-1999, he was still able to challenge for strong points.
Michael Schumacher was disliked in his time because of his aggressive racing; the way he’d shunt people off the track in desperation to gain the best points. He’d also appear to be quite arrogant but racers don’t race to be sports personality of the year. They race to win and to do whatever it takes to be the best of the best. Not every driver can compose themselves in front of the camera, some say things that they later regret, some speak like robots and repeat what someone‘s written for them, but some say it how it is and face the raft of the media.
On track, Ayrton Senna wasn’t the most cautious man. He had a way of being able to almost scare people into moving out of his way, I recall Martin Brundle saying “he would put you in a compromising position, and leave you to make the decision, and if you didn’t run into him then psychologically you were buried and finished. He would then know that every time after that you showed your wheel, you’d jump out of the way”. Yet somehow, Ayrton is praised for this – if any driver were like that today they’d be severely punished.
Senna is a big name in the world of motorsport, but what about Alain Prost? Everyone recalls their rivalry, yet Alain seems to be left in the shadows. At the time, this was a big sensitive issue, and you’d have the Senna fans arguing with the Prost fans, much like you do today. But despite his achievements, Prost doesn’t get much recognition, which is sad because both Senna and Prost made history together. I wasn’t around to witness the duo racing, and I can’t imagine how good the excitement and passion was, that was floating in the atmosphere in those days.
Despite how annoyingly good Vettel is, I am proud to be watching history being made. I can almost guarantee that when Vettel retires, he will get the respect he deserves, much like Schumacher, Senna, Stewart and Prost (amongst several others).