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.