“So it wasn’t a fun race, all told.” – Jenson Button, unfortunate F1 driver, wishful rooftop partier
Oh god, what can you even say? Eight races, seven pole positions, six victories. And now another seemingly effortless treble of pole position, fastest lap and race victory for runaway championship leader Sebastian Vettel at the European Grand Prix in Valencia. Eddie Jordan compared the current Vettel and Red Bull domination to Schumacher and Ferrari in 2001 and 2002 and coincidently I had just watched those season reviews in the week prior to the race. Schumacher’s success, as well as Vettel’s, exposes the fine line in sports between dominance and boredom. As with all competitions you need competitors. The ancient Greeks expelled the champion fighter from their cities as they believed complacency and boredom followed unrivaled dominance, neither of which have any business associating with sport or entertainment.
Irregardless of Red Bull’s dominance this year, prospects for the European Grand Prix always looked grim. The BBC’s coverage revealed last year there were only twelve overtakes during the entire race in Valencia, and only a solitary overtake the year before that. In Canada, during the previous drama packed race – featuring the longest race in Formula 1 history, David Coulthard’s ornithological observations, Martin Brundle’s palidromes, Rhianna’s red mop, and oh, Vettel dropping the lead on the last lap – Jenson Button completed fourteen overtakes in just the final five laps. Simply put, the Valencia circuit doesn’t offer much in the way of overtaking or excitement.
To compound matters, Vettel and Red Bull dominated the practice and qualifying sessions. Rule changes prior to this round increased the hope of competitiveness amongst the top teams, but if the Red Bull cars or drivers suffered they certainly didn’t show it as they grabbed P1 and P2 without much bother. It was sunny skies in Valencia but doom and gloom amongst most F1 fans.
In the end the race proved far more exciting than I imagined, although I seem to be the only one of this opinion. This might relate to the fact that my gauge for an exciting race was whether or not I managed to stay awake throughout. The battle that lit up the Grand Prix came in Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber’s battle for second. Nothing excites an F1 race like a Ferrari and Alonso pushed his to the limit as he managed to overtake Webber’s Red Bull both on the track and in pit stop strategy.
But nothing and no one could stop Sebastian Vettel. As a 24 year old it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that he often looks as though he is playing a video game rather than piloting a supreme racing machine, yet he makes it looks so easy. On one hand it can bore you to tears – ala the Spanish football side’s tiki taka passing – but on the other hand I regret all the effort by the fans and, possibly, FIA to level the playing field. He’s obviously the best driver in the world at this moment, he’s going to win races galore. Let the other drivers and other teams find their own way to beat him. The rule changes and other nonsense meant to favour his competitors only further degrade a sport many would have thought couldn’t get any lower. Or you could just chuck him out of the competition altogether like the Ancients.
Lastly, it should be mentioned the incredible entertainment factor that is Lewis Hamilton. If he is not crashing into other cars (teammate’s included), flirting with Rhianna (don’t cha wish your girlfriend won’t watch the race), or poorly reciting Ali G jokes, he’s broadcasting, for the whole world to see, just what a spoilt little brat his is. When his race engineer called in to advise Hamilton to look after his tire wear he responded angrily, “I can’t go any slower!” A quarter of an hour later as Felipe Massa was catching up to him, his engineer urged him on he complained, “I can’t go any faster!” Good to know no matter how dull a race may get, Hamilton will be there to chuck his rattle out of his million dollar silver pram.