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Why we can always expect the unexpected

Lewis Hamilton wasn’t too popular in the US during Fernando Alonso’s crack at the Indy 500 in May. Why? Something to do with his off-the-cuff, dismissive comments on a racing world of which he has zero experience – that’s why.

“I looked at the times and, frankly, for his first ever qualifying, for Fernando to be fifth – what does that say about Indy?” he sniffed to French newspaper L’Équipe. “A great driver, if he cannot win in Formula 1, will look for other races to win. But to see him fifth against drivers who are there all year is... interesting.”

That’s the thing about sport when it’s real and unscripted: it’s unpredictable.

Hamilton should know better than anyone that snap judgements based on headline facts without context can be misleading. Would he accept that his fourth place on the Melbourne grid at his grand prix debut in 2007 was an indictment of F1’s quality back then? Had he bothered to find out more, he’d have learned that Alonso’s performance on his oval debut was down to a studious approach to a breed of racing that has a bit more to it than simply turning left. Rather than reflecting badly on IndyCar’s regulars, Alonso’s ability to hit the Brickyard running at full pelt was further evidence to explain why McLaren rate him so highly. The 101st Indy 500 will be remembered for a long time thanks to Fernando – even though he didn’t win it.

On the same day in Monaco, a grand prix played out that will be a little easier to forget. Still, five out of six great races this year is a positive return for F1 and let’s never forget that the odd clanger is only natural. A couple of weeks earlier in Spain we witnessed a modern classic as Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel went toe to toe. The Barcelona circuit hasn’t always inspired great action, but on this day it sure did. That’s the thing about sport when it’s real and unscripted: it’s unpredictable. One day, thanks to a certain set of circumstances, it can be mundane, but on another the smallest variable can turn a race into an unmissable thriller.

Then again, even a quiet race such as Monaco has its nuances. Were Ferrari working team orders in favour of Vettel over Kimi Räikkönen or was it a quirk of the circuit on this given day that Seb’s used ultrasoft Pirellis were still what he needed to get the job done and pull off a rare strategic ‘overcut’? Hamilton had his view, but as his team boss Toto Wolff believes, the truth was probably not so clear cut. Things in motor racing rarely are.

Happily, what we do know for sure is that you, the fans, believe grand prix racing in general is in an improving state of health. That’s the key message from Motorsport Network’s 2017 Global F1 Fan Survey, which reports back this month after a great public response. There’s a real sense of optimism pervading F1 right now, as you’ll see from the results on page 34. How refreshing.

Damien Smith
European Editor-in-cheif

Inside the issue

This month's features include

Reborn in the USA
We join Fernando Alonso stateside for his Indy 500 adventure

Global F1 Fan Survey 
Nearly 200,000 responded and now the results are in – with most feeling positive about F1’s future

Button is back!
F1R follows the semi-retired McLaren racer as he returns to F1 for one race only – the Monaco GP

Now that could be a car
Renault’s R.S.2027 Vision – car of the future, or a step too far?

The Ross Brawn interview
Back in a new role as F1’s sporting MD, Brawn talks to us about his future vision for the sport

Everything must go
Manor go under the hammer, as their assets are auctioned off following their sad demise

Desert storm
We catch up with the chief architects of F1 in the Middle East

You ask the questions
Back in the points in China with new team Haas, Kevin Magnussen talks team-mates and family fortunes

Plus

The paddock at night
A lyrical look at the very different pace of life in F1 after-hours

My dream job
Meet Stuart Cramp – Haas F1’s race team chief mechanic

The Racer's Edge
Peter Windsor on why F1 needs to mix things up

This F1 Life
Pat Symonds on why variety is the key to F1's sustainability

Power Play
Dieter Rencken on how single-minded focus brings results

The Big Debate
Should F1 favour Europe over new flyaway races?

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