Why have we become so obsessed with World Champions?
Every year, the speculation starts earlier. At this rate we will soon be predicting who the World Champion will be next year.
Media coverage of Grand Prix racing in particular is constantly speculating on who will be the World Champion and if not, why not? Just a few weeks ago it was Fernando Alonso who was on his way to winning his first title for Scuderia Ferrari. Now, suddenly it’s between Alonso and Sebastian Vettel. Or will it be long shot Kimi Räikkönen, without winning a single race thus far?
We have no idea who it will be. And why does it matter so much? Stirling Moss was never a Formula 1 World Champion, nor was Gilles Villeneuve. And it was only in 1950 that we started to worry about World Champions. Many great drivers won many great races before 1950 and have their place in the history books for doing so.
And more importantly, some World Champions won precious few races in their triumphant year. Keke Rosberg is an obvious example, and there are others. Just as some drivers have won Grands Prix, been feted as the “next big thing” and then faded into the “best of the rest”. A great racing driver is a great racing driver, champion or not.
From here on in until the end of this season we will be swamped with new predictions as each race unfolds. When Vettel wins, he is the favourite, when Alonso wins, he is the favourite. But we have no idea what will happen in the next four Grands Prix and that’s partly why it’s so exciting. Sport relies on the unexpected for its thrills, the unpredictable.
Asked who would win the 2012 title Mr Ecclestone responded thus: “ Well, I expect it will be the driver with the most points at the end of the year.” Precisely so. You don’t know, and I don’t know, who will eventually prevail and who will find themselves with the best car as we go into the final few races. And there is the element of luck, the thrill of the unforeseen, like a red card in football, or even a flooded pitch if you’re English, and in our sport there is the dreaded stupid accident. As we have seen, twice, with Alonso.
Whatever happens, it will be close, as it has been all year. Formula One is as much about the “development race” as the race on the track. Red Bull Racing is good at this, because Adrian Newey is an exceptionally clever bloke, and so are McLaren, but only sporadically. The cars are hugely complicated, the tyres horribly unpredictable from track to track, from day to day, so the wind tunnel is not always reliable. Ask Ferrari, who have lagged behind in recent weeks. But I’m not making any predictions for all the reasons explained above.
Let us just enjoy what is turning out to be a great period of Grand Prix racing, with an unusually talented group of drivers at the head of the field, all of whom have already been World Champion.
May the best man, and the best team, win. But as Bernie so succinctly pointed out, the mathematics are simple, and there for all to see.