Is Formula 1 more predictable now than ever before?
Fernando Alonso was one amongst the many to describe F1 today as boring and predictable. I certainly cannot disagree with him. If the two-time world champion who is arguably one of the best drivers to have been racing in F1 makes such a strong statement, it is indeed time to introspect.
Let’s rewind the clock back to 2005 and see how F1 has changed over the years. 2005 and 2006 were 2 epic seasons where Alonso beat Michael Schumacher to win the F1 driver’s championship in both the years. 2007 was the year of the Finn, Kimi Raikkonen. Most of us in 2007 would have backed either of the then McLaren drivers to have won the championship. It was a straight battle between Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Raikkonen, in the Ferrari, was a contender but no one thought that at the end of the Brazilian GP, he would emerge champion and that too by just 1 point.
Who can forget the 2008 season? Full of drama and excitement, it was a straight contest between Felipe Massa and Lewis Hamilton. This season deservedly had an epic finale at Sao Paulo. Massa had crossed the chequered flag and was all set to be the champion, but Hamilton overtook Timo Glock in the final corner of the final lap of the race to snatch the championship away from Massa. Hamilton thus won the championship by the tiniest margin of 1 point.
Fast forward now to 2010, this season was another thriller. Going into the last race at Abu Dhabi, 4 drivers could have won the world championship. Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, all had a chance to become World Champion. The expectation was that Alonso or Webber would win the title. But due to a pit stop botch up, the title was eventually won by Sebastian Vettel, the man who never led the championship at any time during the year except after winning it!
From 2011, the battles were more concentrated. Red Bull dominated the constructor’s championship from 2011 to 2013. In 2012 though, Red Bull were given a serious fight by Alonso who was then with Ferrari. The 2012 season could still be considered an exciting one especially with the first lap drama for Vettel in the Brazilian GP. From ending up last on the first lap, Vettel managed to claw his way back to 6th and edged Alonso in the championship by 3 points. Yet Red Bull won the Constructors Championship by 60 points.
2014 to 2016 have all been about Mercedes and the teammate duels. This period was completely dominated by Mercedes and they won the constructor’s championship by nearly 300 points in each of the 3 seasons. Out of 19 races in 2014, 16 was won by Mercedes and the rest by Red Bull. In 2015, nothing changed except that out of the 19 races, this time the 3 races were won by Ferrari. Mercedes’ domination continued in 2016, where they won 19 out of the 21 races.
As an F1 fan, every time one switched on the TV sets to watch a Grand Prix in 2011 and 2013, you would know that Sebastian Vettel would most likely be the winner. From 2014 to 2016, the notion would be either Rosberg or Hamilton. The gap between the teams in the past few years have been so vast, that anyone could easily predict which team would win the championship. This is precisely the reason why F1 was dubbed predictable and fans started to lose interest. In the 3 seasons from 2014 to 2016, it was guaranteed that one of the two Mercedes drivers would win the championship. It was just a matter of who was more consistent than the other.
We have gradually moved from 2010, when there were 3 teams and 4 drivers fighting for the championship till the last race, to the time when 2 drivers who belong to the same team, take the fight to each other for the championship. This resulted in a massive drop in excitement amongst F1 fans.
When one considers even the current season, though Ferrari is as good or even better than Mercedes, the championship fight is between Hamilton and Vettel. It’s fair to say that Raikkonen and Bottas are the #2 drivers for their respective teams and that if a situation arises, both these drivers would have to give way to the championship contenders. Alonso’s statements are so relevant when one considers that the current drivers’ championship contenders have already been decided even before the summer break.
The F1 management is doing its best to keep the interest level up in the sport. Unfortunately, it’s a race against time for them and they will have to do something very quickly to ensure that F1 remains what it originally was.