The Thrills and Spills of Formula 1

Since Lewis Hamilton’s sparkling introduction, Formula 1 has bounced rapidly back into the interest of the British public. From the monotony of Michael Schumacher’s 7 World Championships, it seems the sport has become as unpredictable as an event could possibly be. Twenty-four cars, rocketing around at over two hundred mph, only inches off the ground, with just a hairs breadth between success and potentially very dangerous failure. Add this to back to back British victories over the last two seasons and it has become a very watchable spectacle indeed.

Controversy, speculation and huge amounts of rule-breaking over the previous few years has given it an enthralling edge which other sports would do well to keep up with. From McLaren’s extremely illegal ‘Spygate’ saga to Renault’s absolutely intolerable ‘Crashgate’ scandal, some could say its lucky we still have the sport at all. In fact there were moments last year where it seemed that many of the teams would break away and create their own competition, rejecting the authority of Messrs Ecclestone and the infamous Moseley. With all this resolved though, the prospect of the 2010 season was as mouth-watering as any in living memory.

For once, it appeared as if four teams would all be in with a realistic chance of gunning for the top spot. Brawn GP, attempting to capitalise on a breathtaking debut season last year, had lured back the 39 year old Schumacher to replace losing the reigning champion Jenson Button. Red Bull, after pushing Brawn all the way in 2009, would want to continue their excellent progress which was fast making them the team to beat. The ever-present Ferrari would also be in high hopes after capturing double World Champion Fernando Alonso from Renault and having Felipe Massa fully fit again after his traumatic head injury at Hungary near the end of last season. As for McLaren, they would be looking to splash some headlines for all the right reasons this time.

For all those F1 enthusiasts, the recent trials and tribulations of McLaren seem to roll off the tongue just as quick as one of their cars could make it round Silverstone. From the moment Hamilton began his career in the big stage; his team were hit with the claim that they had stolen 780 pages of Ferrari documentation, a claim which was discovered to be true. Docked all their constructor points for the year, it all only got worse as Hamilton and Alonso’s turbulent relationship meant the latter having his contract mutually terminated at the end of 2007. However, all was not lost for the Woking based team. The next year, a highly determined and spirited Hamilton fought his way in sight of the title. After one of the most dramatic moments of sport anyone could ever wish to witness, where in the rain he managed to overtake Timo Glock in the final corners of the final lap, in the final race of the season, the boy from Stevenage became World Champion.

Team McLaren would admit themselves that 2009 proved to be a dip in form as their car didn’t seem up to the mark. Another humiliation, this time known as the ‘liegate’ issue (originality in naming scandals has not been F1’s strong point), revolved around Hamilton lying to the stewards in Melbourne and causing him to be disqualified. Even this year he had a speeding problem down under. All this proves it’s unlikely he’ll be spending too much of his spare time in Australia, although why would you when hardly seen out of the company of one Nicole Scherzinger.

But by uniting the British drivers of Hamilton and Button, this latest campaign was surely going to bring some kind of success again. The BBC pundit Eddie Jordan summed all this up by saying, ‘if they can steer clear of controversies, they will be very strong, and the in-house battle between Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton will add to their performance’. From what we have seen so far this is a fairly accurate statement of affairs.

Now seven races in and all appears to be a continuation of what we saw in 2009. Red Bull still lead the pack with McLaren improving race on race closely behind. Mark Webber joins Button with two race wins and heads the Championship. We may only have visited seven circuits but it’s not as if there’s been any lack of drama so far. Events do give the impression that it will live up to its very high billing.

The most recent action in Turkey only typifies why this year’s F1 season may easily be the most memorable for some time. Firstly, Alonso failed to get into the third session of qualifying, leaving him twelfth on the grid and all this on the weekend Ferrari were celebrating their 800th competitive Formula 1 race. Although obvious a driver mistake whilst breaking cost him a significant amount of time, the cavalier Spaniard said that he had pushed his car to the limit and it just wasn’t quick enough. Red Bull again secured pole position in the way of Webber, their seventh straight, whilst Hamilton snuck into second to join him on the front row.

As for the actual race, events unfolded in quite a bizarre manner. After the first round of pit-stops Sebastian Vettel had overtaken Hamilton and was on the tail of his team mate Webber. Down the field the lower cars started to lose reliability with hydraulic failures scuppering any chance of new boys Lotus completely the laps and both Hispania drivers also out. But all the action was taking place at the front. With eighteen laps left, Vettel went for an ambitious pass on Webber when he was in fuel saving mode. It ended in disaster as the cars touched and Vettel was left spinning off the track and unable to continue. In wake of the collision the two McLarens hurried past and took the lead. However, you would have hoped the Englishmen had learnt from what they had just seen but it appeared not. With Hamilton being told over his radio that Button wouldn’t attempt to pass him, he relaxed the car so to save fuel for the end, similar to what Webber had done. Button saw his chance and dived down the inside, leaving Hamilton nonplussed. Two corners later and the move had been reversed though, the plucky youngster regaining the lead he had fortunately been given a few laps earlier. All in all then, a lucky escape for McLaren who were in truth gifted the victory. Hamilton took first, Button second and Webber edging round after his collision made third. A content Button was told by his engineers after the race, ‘We pushed them, and they cracked’. Could this be the pattern for the next few months?

As for the Championship, Webber still leads with 93 points, Button close behind with 86, then Hamilton who has 84, Alonso on 79 and Vettel in fifth with 78. Seemingly with the points being so close, it’s all boiling up to being a fantastic end to the year for formula 1. Next stop: Montreal.

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