|Hamilton, Alonso and Vettel...a three horse race?|
I haven't suddenly catapaulted myself back into the 1950s though the husband does probably dream of another life where the "hi honey, I'm home" is greeted with a gin & tonic, a pristine house and the kids fast asleep in bed. The reality most days is overtired kids in meltdown, a dining room that looks like the scene at the end of that Travis video and a wife who is On The Edge.
But when thinking about who have been the stand out drivers so far this season, it occurred to me that each generation instinctively adds a different name to the end of the rhetorical phrase “who do you think you are...” when talking about someone speeding or driving like a lunatic on a motorway. I think Sir Stirling Moss was the first racing driver whose name became synonymous with fast driving and so "who do you think you are, Stirling Moss?" was supposedly the standard question all British policemen asked speeding motorists. Well allegedly. And come to think of it, I was still hearing this phrase being bandied around even when I was young which is obviously going back a bit but still was many, many years after Moss had stopped racing!
Then at some stage, this saying morphed into "who do you think you are...Nigel Mansell?". The Mighty Moustache was hugely adored by the man (or the odd woman) on the street and I think he was the first to oust Stirling Moss in this everyday kind of banter. I suppose in between there was James Hunt who every man wished that he could be but because most mere mortals were so far removed from the insanely cool and glamorous world of James Hunt, I guess it didn’t really take off.
The best “who do you think you are” story that I have ever heard involved Ayrton Senna. During one British Grand Prix weekend, Senna was running late for free practice. He was pulled over by a police officer for speeding and the officer came to the window (presumably looking Ayrton Senna right in the eye!) and the conversation (apparently) went a bit like this:
Plod: “Who do you think you are, Nigel Mansell?”
Senna: “Actually no, I’m Ayrton Senna.” Doh.
I think during the 1990s, all the intense Damon love meant that Damon Hill became the next driver to be name-checked for a while. Now I suspect it might be Lewis Hamilton (more so than Jenson Button). Lewis definitely seems more of a speed adrenalin junkie than Jenson which brings me onto my main point. We are now one-third of the way through the season. One of the most tantalising aspects of the 2012 season (as trumpeted over and over again by Sky) was the fact that a record SIX current or former F1 World Champions would be racing alongside each other. Seven races in seems as arbitrary a point as any to rank them on their performances so far.
So who is top of the class with hundreds of smiley faces and who is sobbing in the corner with a pointy dunce hat on? In order of brilliance (descending into mediocre then utterly crud), we have as follows:
1. Fernando Alonso
He is only 2 points behind the leader (Lewis Hamilton) in a car that is basically a bit rubbish. Those in the know were saying early on in the season this was the worst car Ferrari had produced in 20 years (no mean feat given the diabonical effort that was the 1996 Ferrari). David Coulthard, not someone prone to hyperbole, said in Australia that there was something “fundamentally wrong” with that car. But still Alonso has been stunningly consistent all season picking up points in every single race. This has been one of the craziest, most unpredictable seasons (7 different winners etc) but Alonso seems to cope brilliantly with all tracks, all conditions and whatever chaos is unfolding around him.
2. Lewis Hamilton
Currently leading the World Championship with a win (in Canada) finally under this belt and like Alonso has been superbly consistent (finished in the points in every race) and so it was very tough choosing between him and Fernando. But given where we are so far and the fact that Lewis has a much superior car (taking nothing away from his racing), Alonso just pips Lewis.
3. Sebastian Vettel
Lying in 3rd place in the Drivers Championship. Aside from one aberration in Malaysia (involving an HRT – what else?) he has finished in the points every race (it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that consistency is the key this season…so far). Somehow Vettel hasn’t impressed me quite as much as in previous seasons. A lingering suspicion remains that he is most comfortable and in the zone when leading from the front in The Best Car.
4. Kimi Raikkonen
No one knew what to expect when Kimi returned. Least of all, I suspect, Kimi himself. He currently has the 4th most points of all the former World Champions so in a way the stats don’t lie. Not many people would have bet money on Kimi in a Lotus having been on the podium twice already. The last couple of races have been a bit stuttery and (whisper it quietly) Romain Grosjean is giving his more illustrious (if slightly barking mad) team-mate a good old run for his money.
5. Jenson Button
As with 1 and 2, it was pretty tough ranking 5 and 6 but on the strength of Jenson’s race win a long, long time ago in Australia and another podium in China, he just squeaked into 5th place. But his last few races have been abysmal (2 points in the last 4 races) and by his own admission he was “lost and confused” after the Canadian GP. A truly great driver will find a way to make the car work for them and while Button is very good, I don’t think he is quite as naturally talented as Fernando or Lewis. Sorry Jenson.
6. Michael Schumacher
Oh Michael, where did it all go wrong? As much as it pains me (though it would delight many others) to rank the Great Michael Schumacher last, we cannot escape the facts. Seven races. Five retirements. Two 10th places. Just two paltry pathetic points. Even Jean-Eric Vergne has more than that. It has been a truly terrible season. Aside from his magnificent pole position in Monaco (and even that was hit with a 5 place grid penalty), Michael’s season has lurched from one disaster to another. One massive point in Michael’s defence is that he has been struck with a hideous catalogue of reliability problems (gearbox failure, loose wheel, falling fuel pressure and a jammed DRS flap). I suppose it can only get better. Surely?
The great thing about nailing my colours to the mast so early on is everyone (ie. the husband) can snigger away when Jenson Button wins 4 races on the trot… Still there’s a whopping 13 races to go. Anything can happen!