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Tales of the unexpected

What’s your take on Fernando Alonso and his crack at the Indianapolis 500, at the expense of missing – of all races – F1’s signature grand prix?   Do you admire him for not only showing the intelligence to see the bigger racing picture beyond the blinkered F1 world and taking on one of the world’s great sporting spectacles, but also possessing the gumption to put himself on the line at an event that is both difficult to master from a cold start and still genuinely dangerous? Or have you decided that missing Monaco is a sure sign he’s lost his mojo, particularly since this year’s race most likely offers McLaren-Honda their best chance of springing a half-decent result? Perhaps you’d go even further and brand Alonso a traitor to the cause? If you haven’t already, let us know how you judge it. We’d love to hear from you.

Meanwhile, at the sharp end of F1, the duel between Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel is brewing nicely, and here too there’s a welcome ingredient of the unexpected. Formula 1, predictable? Not right now it isn’t.

We focus on the driver in the red corner this month and ponder his place in the pantheon. How odd that a man who won four straight titles should still be doubted. As Andrew Benson reminds us on p34, the numbers tell us that he’s one of the all-time greats – and yet still the critics mutter. Did the stars align at Red Bull to make Vettel ‘lucky’ – or has he earned the right to greater respect?

In 2017 mutual appreciation sprouted between a pair of F1 titans who, somehow, have never faced each other in a consistent head-to-head over the course of a season.

It has been interesting to note Hamilton’s regard for the Ferrari man in the early rounds of 2017. At the height of the Red Bull era, Lewis made it clear that his enthusiasm for Seb’s talents was well under control. Whether that was driven by a sliver of envy or a racer’s instinct for spotting genuine speed, Hamilton was far from the only one to appear underwhelmed. Alonso and Mark Webber (who as team-mate and rival admittedly had a clear agenda) were never members of the fan club either.

But in early 2017 mutual appreciation sprouted between a pair of F1 titans who, somehow, have never faced each other in a consistent head-to-head over the course of a season, despite inhabiting the same era (each took his bow at the pinnacle in 2007). The sportsmanship, in place of the usual brinkmanship, is refreshing, although we’re hardly going out on a limb to predict it won’t last through to November. We’ve seen too much to consider them F1’s Federer and Nadal and anyway, perhaps it’s only fair to admit we wouldn’t mind a bit of niggle added to a two-hander that looks set to join the long list of gripping duels from F1 history. 

Then again, perhaps the element of surprise will remain and they will play nicely all the way to Abu Dhabi. Whatever – we’re hooked. The summer and autumn offer tantalising promise.

Damien Smith
European Editor-in-cheif

Inside the issue

This month's features include

Seb Vettel: A true great?
In terms of championships and race wins, Seb’s up there with the best. So why is he so often described as simply ‘lucky’? And can he finally prove his talent this year at Ferrari?

Pretty in pink
We talk to Force India about their innovative deal with sponsors BWT, to get the story behind the boldest branding on the grid.

You ask the questions
Young Esteban Ocon on intra-team rivalry at Force India and the return of the French GP.

The long interview: Paddy Lowe
The architect of Mercedes’ title success, Paddy Lowe, discusses his recent move to Williams.

Vive la France!
We take a spin around the returning Paul Ricard circuit with Allan McNish

Romain Grosjean
He says he’s at the peak of his career and just waiting for his chance to finally prove himself.

The Ford-Cosworth DFV
Matt Youson traces the history of the most successful and ubiquitous F1 engine ever.

My dream job
Sauber’s senior strategy engineer, Ruth Buscombe

Plus

F1 insider
Expert opinion and analysis from Anthony Rowlinson

Racer’s edge
Peter Windsor on blue flags

This F1 life
Pat Symonds on the new season power play

Power play
Why change, when change costs money? Dieter Rencken on F1 engine costs

Parade: Bahrain GP
The best photos from Sakhir - as chosen by the photographers

The grid from the lid
The view from Fernando Alonso's helmet before the start of the race

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