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Perspective

October 11, 2011

When Sebastian Vettel lay claim to his second consecutive World Championship title on Sunday, it opened the doors to proclamations of future dominance of the sport.

Now while that is indeed a possibility, it is perhaps a touch too soon to write off the next ten years of Formula 1, let alone impose ridiculous sporting regulations in an attempt to kerb Vettel’s success.

Alas, the sport has bore witness to long spells of domination before – whether it be Michael Schumacher in the last decade or Juan Manuel Fangio in the mid-1950’s, these things happen.
The question here is, who does Formula 1 wish to serve more readily – the modern casual fan, surrounded by pillars of alternative entertainment, all waiting to steal the briefest spell waning attention?
Or does the sport wish to keep the hardcore fan on board, already sporting a love for the sport, dipped in (lots of) hard (spent) cash?

Both types of fan bring numerous attitudinal positives to the sport of motor racing; however those elements tend to reside on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Admittedly, as much as the Schumacher-era of tens years ago drove many of the less tentative fans away from the sport, I still feel privileged to have witness his brilliance, both on television and in the grandstands. Supreme talent is something to behold, not stand on.
Of course, Adrian Newey does play his part – as does Christian Horner (et al) – that is what Formula 1 is all about.

Should Vettel dominate again next year, one wonders if whispers of altering the points system will resurface once again – anything to stop the title being won early.
From a UK standpoint, the final few races may not suffer too much in terms of dropped television figures. Despite Vettel’s charge to the title, the BBC have reported the highest figures for Formula 1 broadcasts since Damon Hill’s charge to the title in 1996 – figures that Sky will, no doubt, not come close to matching.

However, Formula 1 must also understand that it is not the only form of motorsport to be hit by single player dominance at the moment.

With six races remaining, Hendrick Motorsports’ Jimmie Johnson is lining himself up to take his sixth consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Title.
Standing 3rd overall, only four points shy of current leader Carl Edwards, the Californian has carved out an astonishing record since 2006 and Johnson continues to embed his name into the annals of NASCAR history with some startling performances. Johnson came close to adding two further championships when he finished runner-up to Matt Kenseth in 2003 and Kurt Busch one year later.
Admittedly, the past several seasons have on occasion felt rather contrived, due mainly to NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup format, whereby the top ten drivers (plus two wildcards) have their points nullified after the twenty-sixth round.
From there, the twelve chosen drivers battle for the title over the final ten events, ending at Miami’s Homestead Motor Speedway in the third weekend In November.

IndyCar is also in the midst of a single driver / team domination. Scotland’s Dario Franchitti has claimed three of the last four IndyCar championships – indeed, the only one he missed out on (2008); the thirty-eight year old wasn’t even in the series to compete.
Franchitti took his first IndyCar title with Andretti-Green in 2007, but left for a Ganassi seat in NASCAR at the end of the year. An unsuccessful foray into stock cars saw the Scot return to IndyCar in the final race of 2008, where his charge to continued success started in earnest.
Target Chip Ganassi have taken the last three championships (winning with Scott Dixon in 2008) and are leading Penske’s Will Power by 18 points as they head into the final round at Las Vegas this weekend.
With his skill on 1.5 mile ovals apparent, Franchitti is very much the favourite to make it four titles on Sunday evening.

The World Rally Championship is also under the thumb of a single driver; Frenchman Sebastien Loeb.
The Citroen driver is currently on a roll of seven consecutive driver titles and is currently the joint-leader with Peugeot’s Mikko Hirvonen as the series closes in on its penultimate round in Spain. Not far behind is Loeb’s young teammate, Sebastien Ogier, lingering three points off the top spot.

In the lower categories, Josef Newgarden claimed the 2011 Indy Lights Series by starting engine at the penultimate race at Kentucky Motor Speedway; Felipe Nasr secured British Formula 3 crown six races early and Scott Malvern won eighteen of twenty-four British Formula Ford races over the course of 2011.
Even the GP2 Series was claimed early by DAMS pilot Romain Grosjean, five months after the French / Swiss pilot grabbed the GP2 Asia Championship.

Dominance happens in sport from time to time, it is the nature of the beast. How far one goes to manipulate that sport for the sake of the media is a different discussion altogether.
One hopes Formula 1 and others don’t go too far to rob motorsport of its respective genius’, just to keep the easily distracted and the shamelessly fickle smiling. That would be a far greater detraction than sporting dominance.

From → F1

4 Comments
  1. Here, here. Although BSB may beg to differ!

    Watching Prost versus Senna lapping the entire field remained enthralling as were Seb’s two titles. If the racing itself is interesting then when the title gets wrapped up and by whom really doesn’t matter to all but a handful of people. These are the kind of folk who would turn the TV off at the slightest distraction anyway so you just can’t legislate to cater for a fair-weather fan.

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      “Here, here. Although BSB may beg to differ!”

      Careful Phil – the big bad BSB are on the lookout for disorder and dissent amongst the ranks.
      😉

  2. Likewise, I was horrified to read Joe Saward basically stunping for some sort of system in F1 that apes NASCAR’s Chase system a few days ago (http://joesaward.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/the-aftermath-of-suzuka/) . That’s an invitation for disaster, since you wind up with people driving in the last few races, simply trying to avoid disaster instead of trying to, you know, win. Fact of the matter is that sometimes you get 2008, where the championship goes down to the last corner, and sometimes you get 2011, when somebody thoroughly kicks everybodys’ butts. Frankly, I like that about motor racing.

    • Leigh O'Gorman permalink

      “Fact of the matter is that sometimes you get 2008, where the championship goes down to the last corner, and sometimes you get 2011, when somebody thoroughly kicks everybodys’ butts.”

      Spot on.

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