It was a fine F1 season - now what?

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IOL mot pic dec3 F1 Alonso Vettel

Reuters

We were privileged to watch two of the greats in a memorable fight. Here Alonso leads Vettel in Brazil.

Has the Formula One championship got the right winner? Yes, if fusion between car and driver is paramount. But Fernando Alonso, 31 and at the pinnacle of his powers, was the supreme driver of the season in a Ferrari inferior to Sebastian Vettel’s Red Bull.

Let’s not quibble: we can just say we were privileged to watch two of the greats in a memorable fight.

Was it a stellar season? What an opening sequence of races and what an unforgettable, rain-speckled climax yesterday. Eight winners and some exciting races indicate it has been a tremendous year. But, still, we can aim this warning at the Formula One bubble: go easy on the tyre fetish.

Fast-wearing rubber distorts races, disadvantages aggressive driving and the tyre debate clogs up television air space with tedious discussion that can only turn away the casual fan - option, prime, hard, soft, super-soft, medium-compound tyres? Please get a grip.

What about next year - will Vettel win the title again? With ace designer Adrian Newey and his 2B pencils at the ready, Vettel is likely to start as favourite. He will be just 26 next year. When will his dominance end?

CAN HAMILTON WIN?

And Hamilton? Can he win next year now he has moved to Mercedes? Yes, even if he has merely an adequate car like this year’s Mercedes. We know that because Nico Rosberg won in China and he is no Hamilton-esque force of nature. Remember 2009 and that poor McLaren? Hamilton drove the wheels off it to win two races. A better chance of season-long success is presented by the major rule changes for 2014, when Mercedes will be one of only three manufacturers making the new turbo engines.

Nevertheless, McLaren are a team with winning pedigree. Will Hamilton regret leaving them? No time soon. He finally found McLaren so claustrophobic that one team principal privately said he thought Hamilton would have rather taken a year out than stay.

McLAREN IN THE DOLDRUMS

As for McLaren, we should guard against the Anglophone narrative that tells of their unending brilliance. They have won nothing under Martin Whitmarsh, whose benign leadership contrasts with the sharp-edged style of predecessor Ron Dennis. It invites indecision where there was direction. The appointment of Sam Michael, a flop at Williams, as sporting director is baffling.

How will Hamilton’s replacement, Sergio Perez, gel with Jenson Button? Perez has not scored a point since he was named as a McLaren driver in September. He can hardly be expected to win races straight away, which is hardly satisfactory for a team of McLaren’s significance.

All credit to Button for the way he has prospered in what many thought was Hamilton’s domain. His charm has won round the team and his skills have shown he is a consistently high performer. But is he a McLaren No 1?

And, if Perez is unproven, why did McLaren plump for him? Given that questions surround their finances, with Vodafone rumoured to be stalling over a sponsorship deal, Perez’s backing from Carlos Slim Domit, eldest son of the world’s richest man who owns telecoms giant Telmex, is a persuasive explanation. Would a cash-rich McLaren not have re-signed Kimi Raikkonen? Or if they were intent on youth, why not the superior Nico Hulkenberg, 25?

ECCLESTONE IN THE FIRING LINE

What should we look out during the close season? Like Bernie Ecclestone’s lawyers, we turn our eyes to Germany, where prosecutors are pondering whether to charge the 82-year-old with bribery. It is claimed he paid banker Gerhard Gribkowksy £30 million (R427 million) to sell Formula One to CVC, the private equity firm on whose behalf Ecclestone now runs the sport at a reduced rate.

Gribkowksy has been jailed but Ecclestone denies any wrongdoing and his lawyers are working frantically on his behalf. He has had some tight scrapes in the past and this is yet another he will have to deal with.

We will find out in the next few months whether he is indicted. If he is, it is likely to precipitate the biggest shake-up in the sport’s hierarchy since Ecclestone and Max Mosley seized control 35 years ago. - Daily Mail


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