After Formula One Management announced recently that F1 viewing figures had increased in 2010 to 527 million viewers after one of the best seasons in recent memory, it occurred to me that after every season we seem to say that it was the best ever. ‘It won’t get any better than that!’ we say to ourselves; and yet it always does!
The unpredictability of motor racing combined with the technology, glamour, professionalism and sheer speed and grip that is F1 creates what I believe to be the best sport in the world! It’s what I like to call the ‘what happens next’ factor that keeps us on the edge of our seat throughout the year. The immense rate of development in F1 see’s teams see-sawing between being the pacesetter and mere point’s getters. The immense level of talent we have in the field: Vettel, Alonso, Webber, Hamilton, Button, Kubica, Massa; plus entertainers like Kobayashi and Petrov (the latter for impressing us with the endless ways he seems to be able to crash his car) mean we never truly know what’s going to happen.
With the Australian Open tennis championship happening at the moment here in Australia; I’m finding it to be rather boring! When Federer or Nadal come out on court against an un-seeded 18 year old, we pretty much know what’s going to happen; we pretty much know ‘what is going to happen next’. Anyone who says they know what is going to happen next in F1 need only be referred to Webber’s crash in Korea or Vettel’s massive engine blow up with 10 laps to go in the same race. Tiny mistakes by either team or driver can see them go from merely cruising to the championship to battling down in seventh watching it slip further and further away with each lap. What other sport has that level of unpredictability? If Federer, the greatest tennis player of the modern era, is 2 sets and a break up in the third set into a game, it’s a pretty safe bet to say he’ll win. But when Alonso, Vettel, Webber, Hamilton and co, some of the greatest drivers of the modern era, are leading a Grand Prix by 20 seconds; there are simply too many variables to say they are a shoe in for the win. Think of backmarkers, safety cars, pit stops, changes in the weather, mechanical failure, the slightest of driver errors; the list goes on!
In some ways I wish it weren’t as predictable and that Webber (my favourite driver) would win every race. But if it were like that, it would be boring and it wouldn’t attract 527 million viewers from 187 countries and it certainly wouldn’t attract me to watch it!
With the conclusion of every championship grows the unbridled anticipation and excitement for the next season to begin. The days grow slower as the time for the lights to go out in the season opener draws nearer. The 2011 season looks set to be another cracker! Realistically we have Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes capable of race victories. Teams like Williams, Sauber and Force India will show their nose at the front at various stages throughout the year and newbies Lotus and Virgin (and Hispania) are looking good to challenge the midfield teams at times as well. Webber will be aiming to show why he’s nobody’s number 2; Button will be aiming to show why he deserved his 2009 championship; Massa will be aiming to show Alonso who’s boss; Kubica will be aiming to show why he’s the best driver in the world; Rosberg will be aiming to show Schumacher how it’s done and Schumacher will be aiming to prove his critics wrong. Add into this at least 3 rookie drivers proving their mettle, the rest of the drivers putting their best foot forward to show the world why they deserve to be in F1, tweaks to the aero regulations, push to pass buttons, new tyres and new tracks, it’s fair to say that I’m bloody excited! I've even got a little Christian Horner foot twitch happening as I write this!
The fact that there are as many possible outcomes for the year ahead as there were TV viewers last year and that no one, despite their best efforts at times, can predict what is going to happen, truly make Formula One the greatest sport in the world! Bring it on!