Let’s do a little experiment here. Who among you reading this actually wants Sebastian Vettel to win his fourth straight world title on Sunday? We ask because there seems to be a bit of a brouhaha here; is it dull for one driver to dominate as Vettel has done or should we instead be experiencing some form of ecstasy at the privilege of witnessing such extreme sporting excellence?
Is it about the winning or the competition?
Lewis Hamilton doesn’t know. He’s been obliged to retract somewhat disingenuous-sounding comments that suggested he would just hate to be winning so many races. Yeah, sure. His position (read: Mercedes AMG F1’s position) now is that he’s honoured to be racing against a champ like Seb, who’s domination he’s rightly compared with Schumacher’s between 2000-2004. Though he also said he used to fall asleep when Michael was winning everything so we think we know how Lewis really feels.
Even if you are a to-the-core Sebasti-fan, you can’t deny that booing in Spa (where he won), at Monza (where he won), in Singapore (you see where we’re going with this) and last week in Korea. If there was no booing in Mokpo that’s only because there wasn’t anyone there to boo. If he does win the race on Sunday (and with a recent formbook like that who would bet against?) there also won’t be any booing, but that’s only because the very special fans F1 has in Japan would never be so undignified. And good on them.
It’s not very good form to boo the bloke who’s just got the gold medal. Don’t go to an F1 race right now if you don’t think you’ll be able to restrain yourself if Vettel wins. Stay away or don’t watch. If your problem with Sebastian goes back to Malaysia and the dirty he did on Mark Webber why not write to him C/O Red Bull Racing, Bradborne Drive, Tilbrook, Milton Keynes, MK7 8BJ. Sadly you can’t take it up with Seb’ on Twitter because he’s not on Twitter. He said this week he’s not signed up because he thinks he’s not interesting enough, ignoring the fact that Paul di Resta is on there.
We don’t think he’s dull. When he’s not knifing Mark Webber he can be rather charming in that cheesy ‘I-just-love-Monty- Python’ way Germans have. We also think he’s sensationally fast and a proper racing driver. He showed us that in Abu Dhabi last year. Red Bull’s domination is however a problem for us. And not because they’re a strangely ersatz kind of team, but because in a period of unprecedented rule stability no other team can seem to work out just why they are so fast.
And until this week that really bothered us, then we heard about an extraordinary story in super-geeky/super-cool Racecar Engineering magazine that suggested there is some fire under all the smoke and Vettel (but not Webber) is indeed running a form of traction control, only using the KERS hardware and perfectly legal. It would certainly explain the Singapore race where Vettel made it look like everyone else was in a GP2 car. If there’s something in it, then we’re really rather impressed. There are two ways to win in F1: out-pace the others or out-think them. We’re happy with either.
So, to this weekend. As you know, if Vettel wins and Alonso can do no better than ninth then it’s all over. Frankly, that sounds a little unlikely. Alonso has finished 7th/5th/5th at Suzuka since singing for Ferrari and the F138 is the best car the Scuderia has given him to date. If Vettel for some reason DNF’s (maybe that complex ‘not-traction-control’ system will misfire…), then Alonso winning would of course be the best result. But realistically, if it ain’t Seb not getting booed up there, it will be Webber, Räikkonen/RoGros, Hamilton/Rosberg or if you fancy an outside one, Hulkenberg. Sauber always go well at Suzuka.
The good news is the whole weekend is live on BBC1. The bad news is that Suzuka is in Japan and that’s on the other side of the world: FP1 is at 0200, FP2 at 0600 tomorrow. Qualifying is at 0600 on Saturday and the race at 0700 Sunday. Ouch.