F1 2011 – The Season Thus Far

F1 has reached it’s mid-season break for the year, and while the drivers and the teams are sunning it up, relaxing and preparing for the second half of the season, we’re been sitting behind our keyboards and discussing what we’ve seen so far. Much like the preview earlier this year, I grabbed my good friend Lewis Glynn and yelled at him until he wrote something for me like the amazing friend that I am. We’ve intently examined the season so far, decided on several topics to talk about, and then done that.

Right, let's talk about F1 2011... Not the game, the actual season.

Red Bull’s Icarus Wings

Lewis: There seem to be mixed opinions regarding Red Bull this year; some are extremely positive at the stunning pace and reliability of the car, but others are condemning of this and claim their dominance is too boring and takes a lot out fun out of the races. Importantly, the most recent races have brought out some interesting chinks in the armour of the apparently invincible Red Bull. I think that many people are beginning to blend two separate issues and are getting confused over what they actually mean; the issues of the team itself and the champion Vettel. If you think about it, Mark Webber hasn’t been as successful as Vettel, but if we take the general public view that Red Bull is all dominating, he should be doing just as well as Vettel, surely?
I feel that Red Bull is fully deserving of their current dominance; they have been working hard at it for long enough after all. From their humble roots as Jaguar and the Stewart team, they transformed into Red Bull and have finally achieved what they set out to do, and for that I say full credit to them. However, I think the pressure is starting to get to them a bit, and things are beginning to slip through their fingers. The car is working well, the drivers are doing their normal thing, but it seems the entire team community might not be as tight as we first thought. Let’s see what happens.

Edward: Red Bull’s dominance puts me in constant indecision. I like Vettel a lot, and Newey’s design was undoubtedly been the best in the field for a good deal of the season so far, but I agree with Lewis when I say it takes the fun out of things. Granted, it hasn’t been as bad as Ferrari’s dominance in 2002 and 2004, but when a Red Bull has been on pole for every race so far and Vettel could fail to finish three races in a row and still lead the championship, it’s going to be pretty hard for many people not to just declare the season over already and start looking towards next year.
The last five races give us a lot to consider, however. We’ve seen what happens when the Red Bulls aren’t out in front, and it’s because of that that McLaren and Ferrari need to desperately step up and claw back their deficit before it’s too late. After all, Vettel’s only won one of the last five races, and Valencia was a Grand Prix so boring not even the rule changes could save it from coma-inducing drudgery. Vettel burning out his tyres after only a few laps of struggling to keep behind Hamilton in Silverstone revealed that it’s a lot harder for a Red Bull to fly when it’s cooped up behind another car. When the car has a clean road ahead of it, both Vettel and Webber can storm off into the distance, and over a single lap or two it’s faster than any other car around, but chances don’t look so good for Vettel when he’s forced to make his way through the field, as he’s far more used to defending than he is attacking. With a constant battle against KERS providing the only other chink in the armour the other teams can exploit, it has looked pretty cut and dry for a good deal of the season. Sure, Red Bull have made some bad decisions and ones for which they’ll gain a load of ire, especially after Horner’s hypocrisy in using the same team orders he condemned last year to attempt to screw over Webber two British Grand Prix in a row, but while their wings are starting to melt in the heat, they’ve still not got enough to worry about.
Consider this: despite failing to win four of the last five races, Vettel managed to increase his lead in the championship even further. I disagree with Lewis’s view that the Red Bull isn’t all-dominating because Webber hasn’t had the same level of success as Vettel; Vettel’s simply the much better driver, and Barrichello’s lack of success in comparison to Schumacher and Button in his Ferrari and Brawn days doesn’t mean either of those cars weren’t the best of the field. Saying that, I do agree that the Red Bull isn’t all dominating, but it’s going to be the top car by season end. Why? Because while Hamilton, Button and Alonso all vying for victories to fulfil their own dreams of championship glory, they’re only taking points off each other, not Vettel or the Red Bulls.

He may look awesome, but he probably crashed.

Sky: The Limit?

Lewis: When I first found out about the move to Sky, I was in Mozambique and so assumed it was the result of some Chinese whispers, but sadly I was wrong. However, the BBC still has full live coverage of around half the races, so a full on fall to the knees and bellowing out “NOOOO” isn’t necessary. In a way, not showing all these races means I will be less likely to watch rounds such as Valencia, luckily. As much as I try to watch every race, I finish Valencia and think, “wow I will never get those hours of my life back ever again”.
Forgetting the politics and economics, I believe that moving the races to Sky is essentially a bad idea. Firstly, the BBC is accessible to everyone, whereas Sky is only available to Sky customers, and as a viewer of Virgin TV, I would miss out on a large variety of good racing. Reason number two is that the BBC has finally removed all the demons that ITV plagued the coverage with; the BBC coverage is honestly amazing now they have introduced aspects like the driver tracker and qualifying comparisons. However the BBC are still keeping a good majority of the races, so for now, I remain happy.

Edward: Honestly, without more information it’s hard for me to think anything but the feeling we’re all collectively getting screwed. I mean, as much as I did defend Ecclestone at times in the last article we did, I shouldn’t have been surprised that an old, out-of-touch and greedy twat would screw tons of people over for more money. It kind of baffles me that he’s still so desperate for money. He’s eighty years old, what else could he possibly even need with that money? It’s ludicrous that so many circuits get threatened with the chop unless they pay more money to have the privilege of hosting a race while so many cost-cutting measures keep getting proposed. It baffles me, as does the Sky deal. Didn’t F1 already experiment with a pay-per-view channel that granted viewers all access to the races, and didn’t that flop hard? Not everyone can afford Sky, and not many people would willingly pay extra a month on top of their standard Sky coverage for Sky Sports just to watch the F1. All this deal does is alienate those who watch the sport on terrestrial channels, and screws over all the hard work that’s already been put into place in making the show the best it could be. After all, ITV was horrendous in its later years with adverts, a team of presenters with little personality and experience of the sport and just bland coverage. The BBC has genuinely provided the greatest coverage of the sport I’ve witnessed, and we’re going to lose all the progress we’ve made in the pursuit of an old man’s quest for money that he honestly doesn’t even need. We don’t even know exactly what we’re getting, with the ten races we’re being given not properly specified, or if the highlights package is deferred coverage of the race or just the highlights we’d get on BBC Three later in the day. It could either be a better deal with just deferred race coverage that guarantees we technically get all the coverage eventually until 2018, or it could be completely ruinous to the good will and support the F1’s steadily gained these last few years just so Ecclestone can swim in his money Scrooge McDuck style.

Pictured - Bernie Ecclestone

So, You Want To Become An All Time Great…

Wherein Lewis and I take a look at the champions on the grid who aren’t Michael Schumacher and debate on their chances of championship glory this year and what it’d take for them to be considered an all time great of the sport.

Hamilton

Lewis: Lewis Hamilton has definitely dropped out of public favour recently. He seems to have already forgotten just how lucky he is having managed to get straight into arguably the best Formula One team there is straight away, while others, like Button, have had to work to get to where they are today. But if we take this season, Lewis Hamilton is beginning to act like a stroppy teenager; he wants it all but seems to have lost a lot of the skill to be able to get it. Take Canada for example, he pulls off a completely unnecessary move on his team mate and then manages to somehow blame Button for getting in the way. He has become considerably more aggressive to the point where everyone knows how it will end. Saying all of that, when he gets it right, my god he gets it right. That’s the sad thing, he is one of the great Formula One drivers, yet he does spoil his talent with his slightly explosive personality.

Edward: Looks like we’re starting off with the easy one then! When Hamilton first showed up in F1, he was almost crowned champion in his début year, and then won in his second in one of the most tense moments I’ve ever seen in motorsport. Since then? Eeeeh, not that great.
While I agree with Lewis as regards to Hamilton’s behaviour, I wouldn’t say that he’s lost the skill that made him great in the first place, but he’s grown an attitude which will lose him that skill eventually. I imagine it’d be pretty hard to get used to struggling for victories after two seasons where he was constantly in the hunt for the championship, but it’s given him some kind of irrationality which only highlights his frustration and alienates others around him.
Taking Lewis’ Canada example and running with it, I’m reminded of when Hamilton cited Senna’s “I race to win, and if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you’re no longer a racing driver” speech as his raison d’etre. Want to know how to cement your ability to become an all-time great? Take on Senna’s other defining characteristics, rather than just the one that justifies your reckless driving. If he did, we’d be seeing a much less irresponsible driver we’re slowly becoming more wary of, and someone we’d be proud to see as one of the sport’ greatest heroes.

Vettel

Lewis: The German powerhouse himself, Mr Sebastian Vettel. What is there to say about him? In terms of personality, I am all for him, he has a very comedic and fun loving personality, but as a driver I am not so keen. Yes, he is a good driver, but his driving style seems extremely immature and just as boring to watch. Technically he is brilliant, but watching him is not the most explosive and exciting thing compared to the Japanese fighter that is Kobayashi. His flawless driving is no longer paying dividends like it did at the start of the year. He’s only won one of the last five races, and the competition has definitely stepped up around him. In many ways, I’m glad he is not still winning every race because it’s reminded all of us that he is actually human, and not a race winning robot as previously feared.

Pictured - Luckily, not Vettel. Though, it'd explain his smile...

Edward: It’s hard not to add anything that Lewis hasn’t already said, to be honest. Vettel’s got a great personality behind him and you can tell that he’s having the time of his life while he’s out in the lead, and there’s very little chance that he’s not going to win the championship a second year running. It’s just the fact that for the most part his dominance is boring to watch. After all, why would you want to focus on the race leader when they’ve led the race from pole, stretched out a ridiculous lead and won the race effortlessly?
Should Vettel win the championship this year? Most probably. Will it make him an all time great like people are inevitably going to claim he is? Not even close. He may be the quickest driver on the grid, but his race-craft definitely needs improvement before we can give him his own page in the history books. You’re looking at a still young, still inexperienced driver who struggles when he’s not in the lead or on fresh tyres. That’s not to say he won’t be an all time great, because he will, but this year won’t be the championship that proves it.

Button

Lewis: Jenson Button has always been my favourite Formula One driver of the current era; he may not be the best all the time, but he is the true Mr Consistency. He’s worked up from his humble roots and made it to where he always wanted to be. I was first interested in him when he was dicing with Michael Schumacher (when he was actually good that is) in his BAR. This year has definitely seen some true champion drives from Button. His blistering pace at Monaco was astounding; it was just sad that the safety car ruined his chance of victory. Then of course we have Canada, which was the first time Vettel was overthrown due to his own error and a complete lack of pace in comparison to Button. Finally there was Button’s win at Hungary which was another true champion’s drive. If the circumstances (and wheel nuts) had been different, I would be tipping him for an underdog drive to the title this year.

Edward: Unlike Lewis, I didn’t always think so much of Button. I supported him in his early years, but slowly considered him a driver who was paid too much and who was only good if the car decided to play ball that particular weekend. That all changed with the 2009 season, where we saw him prove how great a driver he was and converted many people like me back towards supporting him. He’s friendly, cheerful, consistent and beneath that smile lies a man who can make incredible strategic calls and who isn’t afraid to take risks to get results. Since being crowned champion two years ago, he’s gotten even better and put on even more magnificent performances worthy of the title. Sadly, he’s not the greatest driver on the grid, and he’s the only driver in this discussion I don’t see being featured prominently in the history books? Why? He’s only really come into his own in the last three seasons, and before then were eight wildly inconsistent years that almost feel like they were by a completely different driver nowadays. Even when considering his improvement over the last few years, he’s still nowhere near as good on a single lap as his competitors, and average qualifying session after another squanders the talent he has. He’s still got a ways to go if he’s ever going to be one of the greatest the sport has ever seen. If.

Alonso

Lewis: The original model for the Marmite splodge facial hair style hasn’t had the best season so far. However, I did admire his drive at Silverstone, especially at a track that I thought would be a guaranteed Red Bull victory. I also admire how Alonso seems to have matured over the first half of the season; he’s stopped complaining and started driving just as he used to back in his early Renault days. I can never quite tell how Alonso will do at a race meeting, as much as he is a good driver, he often lacks pace and therefore loses out. I hope he can bring the fight back to the Red Bulls as of course he did towards the end of last year. Never a good idea to rule out Mr Alonso.

Edward: Ah, Alonso. What I love most about Alonso is that for many people he’s basically the closest thing F1 drivers have to a villain. I wouldn’t even be surprised if he started wearing a cape and laughed manically during interviews. What makes it even better is that unlike Dick Dastardly he’s also one of the most talented people on the grid. Most people I know hate him, and rightly so when you consider his attitude when partnered with Hamilton and his reputation for throwing his toys out of the pram if he’s not treated like the team’s personal messiah, and that’s rightly the thing stopping him from being one of the legends of the sport. His drives are calculating and outstanding to the point where even those I know who profess to disliking him still credit his skills, but it’s his ego and personality which turns so many people off to him. I always get the feeling that he’s the protagonist of a tale of redemption waiting to happen, and if he got over his ego problems and stopped giving everyone the feeling that he’s going to detonate a bomb if our heroes don’t unmask themselves, then we’d be more receptive in considering him as an all time great.

I KNEW IT!

New Kids On The Grid

Lewis: The new kids on the block in Formula One have never had it so difficult. There is a lack of money and lack of good drives it seems, and while many have done well for themselves, that’s sadly not all of them. The driver I feel most sorry for is Karthikayen; he’s genuinely one of the nicest guys on the grid and has been robbed of a drive many a time because he is in such a low down team. Speaking of low down teams, I personally am amazed at the progress of the HRT who have managed to (as much as they are still way off the pace) get within the 107% time every single event. Even if for nothing else I commend them for that. Riccardio I think has been a great addition to the team and I foresee great things from him. D’Ambrosio is one of the drivers who is definitely not doing well for himself. It is quite special when you manage to spin in the pit lane, yet he managed to be that special. I am not saying he is another Yamamoto, but he is definitely getting there. The final driver I shall mention is Paul Di Resta, who has in the past dominated in formulas like the DTM, but has had a very up and down season so far. He has the ability to drive extremely well, but often luck and sometimes personal error plagues him and he loses out dramatically, when he could be getting a big points haul.

Edward: There’s a couple of things I disagree with there. First off, I don’t feel anywhere near as sorry for Karthikayen; he failed to set the field alight when he first started years ago, and his drive this year was influenced more by his sponsorship money than it ever was by his driving skills. He’s essentially another Yamamoto; it’s clear from the offset he paid his way there and his relative lack of pace only shows to highlight their lack of skill in the first place, as harsh as it sounds. Which is also why I disagree with the Yamamoto comparison for D’Ambrosio, who’d be straight up awful if he knew what a straight was. Okay, that was harsh, but his spin in the pit lane bought back more memories of Yuji Ide than it did of Yamamoto. Granted, D’Ambrosio will never reach the super-license losing levels of Ide, but it’s pretty special spinning the car in the pit lane like that, and I’m talking chocolate medal special. Riccardio’s too early to tell, but it’s likely that he’s going to give Luizzi enough of a run for his money that we’ll probably see him in a better drive sooner rather than later. After all, if Red Bull really care for him, he won’t be in Hispania too long.
Meanwhile, further up the grid, while Perez is garnering a lot of attention with some great races that’d be of even greater note if he wasn’t so intent on being so economical with his tyres, Maldonado’s been having some more than decent drives in the midfield that have occasionally outshone the more experienced Barrichello. Di Resta’s been the best rookie without a doubt, repeatedly beating out Sutil and garnering a lot of attention for himself. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be much more of an ascent for him while the better teams are still occupied, but he can hopefully use the time to iron out the issues that plague him occasionally, even if they’re sometimes down to the team.

Tribute to Yuji Ide: the best part is that this entire montage came from his only four races.

Rules Out For The Summer

Lewis: I think that the new rules have been a massive success for both the drivers and the sport this year. The reintroduction of the KERS mixed with the DRS has made for great overtaking throughout the season. However, I do not agree with the DRS activation areas; I personally think that it should be available at any time in the lap (as with qualifying). The other new rules include the 107% rule, which I would have originally said worked perfectly, but the HRTs are still managing to get into every race. So it seems the rule itself may be a bit pointless- but hey, the jury is out on this one. Finally, I’m glad that Team Orders are no longer banned, though I admit it has led to a couple of interesting moments, but at least it doesn’t bring the sport into disrepute like it did last year.

Edward: Well, they bloody worked, didn’t they? All those radical rule changes introduced to make the sport more exciting actually worked for once, and the only race I considered boring was Valencia, which still put me into a boredom coma and left me feeling cheated. What’s most interesting about it all is that the tyres have accounted for more overtakes than the reintroduction of KERS or the use of the surprisingly uncomplicated DRS. As for the DRS, it’s quite brilliant that it’s managed to do what it’s intended to do, rather than what it was feared it would do; it sets up the opportunity for increased overtaking, rather than guarantees it. Despite the complaints the tyres have from teams, and the awkward position created in qualifying when half the drivers don’t run in Q3, it’s so much better than last year’s Bridgestones it hurts. They may be at the mercy of the team’s unpleasable demands, but Pirelli have made the sport so much more exciting to watch that even with Vettel’s dominance, this season has kept me on the edge of my seat more than I care to remember. It’s brilliant.

Rest Of Season Predictions

Lewis: My serious predictions see Red Bull begin to slip even more, and only winning the championship after Vettel’s brilliant performance at the beginning of the year. Also, I see Button achieving more victories as his performances get better and better as the season draws to a close. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s problems will only get worse, ending in some over the top emotional outburst. The impossible prediction is that Virgin or HRT will turn their woes around and end up with a points finish of some kind. Well we can all dream, right?

Edward:
-Renault will put send out an internal memo called “Things the 2011 Renault F1 Car Is Not”
1. Fireproof.
2. A plane.
3. Realistically going to achieve good results.
-Vettel will either win by miles, or will just scrape the championship.
-Mario Kart items are introduced. Go on, you know it makes sense.
-The sport will be sent into disrepute when Ecclestone is found drowned in his massive pile of money from the Sky deal.

Not anymore, Ecclestone...

I want to thank Lewis for contributing and helping out immensely with this article.
Lewis has a blog over at Netcars where he talks about Motorsport, which you should take the time to check out. (Click here)

Thank you very much for reading!
<3 Edward, aka Jokesound.

2 thoughts on “F1 2011 – The Season Thus Far

    • Ehhhh, technically still in the range of mid season, during the mid season break, what with it being in the middle part of the season, and all.
      I get where you’re coming from, but it’s a bit of an overly contentious thing to pick up on. =/

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