F1 seeking predictable pattern
TIME FOR A DOUBLE WINNER: Mercedes' Nico Rosberg (left), Red Bull's winner Mark Webber (centre) and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso celebrate on the podium after the 2012 Monaco F1 GP but are such results spoiling the season? Image: AFP
Author: ALAN BALDWIN
Formula 1 fans are revelling in the joy of an unprecedented six different winners from six races but some of those closer to the action are beginning to feel uneasy.
Before Red Bull's Australian driver Mark Webber won the 2012 Monaco GP from pole on Sunday retired triple F1 champion Niki Lauda was expressing the view that the championship might be becoming too random.
"It was very interesting in the beginning, we were all surprised," the Austrian, who chased the title in 1983 when the first five races had five different winners, told Reuters of the unpredictable nature of the races. "But if this continues... then we will lose spectators or interest because the main public wants to see the champions winning.
"We need two races with known winners and then the crazy stuff can start again."
The only problem with Lauda's logic is that there are still three champions on the grid who have yet to win in 2012: McLaren's Lewis Hamilton, Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes' Michael Schumacher.
If they were to win the next three races (Canada, Valencia and Silverstone and not an impossible scenario given their cars' potential) - the sport would be staring at a sequence of nine different winners in nine races, albeit mostly champions.
The "crazy stuff" has not even been that crazy in a season that started with six champions. Nico Rosberg has had a long-overdue first win with Mercedes - at the 111th attempt - and Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado put former champion Williams back on top for the first time in nearly eight years. Yes, Maldonado may have been a 500-1 bet before Barcelona, but he was on the pace all weekend at a circuit the teams know better than any other.
France's Romain Grosjean and Mexican Sergio Perez have made first appearances on the podium for Lotus and Sauber but their teams have considerable form and both are recognised as being quick drivers. The uncertainty has largely been due to the Pirelli tyres and how teams and drivers have got the most out of them - but errors have also contributed.
Maldonado might not have won in Spain had McLaren not messed up with Lewis Hamilton's fuel, sending him from pole to the back of the field. Monaco might have been a very different story had seven-times champion Schumacher not lost pole because of a five-place penalty carried over from Barcelona where he crashed into Bruno Senna's Williams.
"I think it's an enthralling sport at the moment," argued McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. "A few years ago people were talking about predictable processional races... well, we certainly haven't had a predictable season. I think an unpredictable race and an unpredictable season is what fans want.
"You want to go to each event not knowing who is going to win. You want to go through the course of the weekend not sure what is going to happen in each session. Every one of our races this year has been very exciting."
'A LITTLE STRANGE...'
McLaren's Jenson Button, winner of the 2012 opening race in Australia, agreed but suggested the sport could have too much of a good thing. "Everybody is excited about so many different winners which, initially, was great for the fans and great for the sport," the 2009 champion told reporters after failing to finish in Monaco, "but there will be a time when the fans will say 'So anyone can win a GP, everyone can lose a GP like that'," he added, snapping his fingers.
"I think they're finding it a little bit strange now. I don't know, but I hope a pattern will emerge after the next couple of races and we'll understand the teams and drivers we need to beat to win the championship."