Here we are, only a few minutes away from the start of the last race of the 2011 Formula 1 season. As always, the season ends with a race on the Interlagos circuit in São Paulo, Brazil. Sebastian Vettel won the drivers world championship title a few races back, while Red Bull took the constructors world championship trophy home with them after the subsequent race. But that the champions have already been decided this year doesn’t bother the Brazilian spectators. They love Formula 1.
And why shouldn’t they? Some of the greatest Formula drivers have been from Brazil and three out of 24 drivers on the grid today are Brazilians. Unfortunately, none of them will be competing for a podium finish: Felipe Massa hasn’t been able to finish any higher than 5th this season, Rubens Barrichello is 39 years old and is driving a Williams that has still to show that it can be competitive and Bruno Senna still has a long way to go before he can step up on the podium.
The race is now on; it takes a while to write anything when I’m simultaneously following the BBC One broadcast from São Paulo. Not surprisingly, Sebastian Vettel is leading from pole position and pulling away from the pack. To quote BBC commentator Martin Brundle: “How does he do it? How? Does? He? Do? It?”. Why? He is a great driver in a great piece of machinery.
That’s a problem with Formula 1: A great driver will need a great car to win races. Take Fernando Alonso, for instance. He is a phenomenal driver, but has been struggling with a sub-par Ferrari all season. Had Alonso had Vettel’s car this year, I’m sure he would have been crowned 2011 world champion. Don’t get me wrong, great effort by Sebastian Vettel, but the cars play a very big role in the rise or fall of a Formula 1 driver. To be honest, I’d like to see a Formula 1 adaption of some of the GP2 Series rules: “All of the teams to use the same chassis, engine and tyre supplier so that true driver ability is reflected.”
The main argument against adapting those rules is that Formula 1 is about both the driver and the car manufacturer. With the huge amounts money being spent on research and development of a new car before each season, some of the new technology can be used in mass produced cars. But what’s the odds of seeing DRS technology being used on a Fiat Punto? KERS has potential as a Fiat Punto-friendly technology, but it’s already something used in other mass produced cars, like the Toyota Prius. To sum it up, I’m not really seeing any F1 technology being used anywhere else than in F1 cars.
The championship should be more about the driver and much less about the car.