It’s Good to be the King

By Adam MacdonaldFile:History of the World poster.jpg

To start with a quote from ‘History of the World, Part I’ would seem irregular to some, but its importance is paramount.  “Those who are at the top, in almost any sport or field, are disliked by many others purely because they are the best.”

A great example of this is Chelsea FC, who had spent so long being largely forgotten after 50 years with no league title, who became hated so quickly after back to back titles in 2004-05/2005-06.  Whilst the way they won the league was through spending a lot of money, they still won it on merit, with arguably one of the best managers of the modern era, Jose Mourinho.

Way Back When
There was a time not so long ago when Vettel winning a race in a Red Bull was a welcome sight for many in the Formula One world.  Though, after the 2011 season of dominance that saw a RB claim pole at 18 of the 19 races that year, they became the hated team.

A man in a far inferior Ferrari challenging the Milton Keynes gang was welcomed in 2012.  Although, not so long before that, there was an attitude of anyone but Ferrari winning, again.

Many will remember (but will want to forget), the sight of Christian Horner jumping into the Red Bull ‘Energy Station’s’ pool in the Monaco harbour, in 2006.  So why is it that we like to see the underdog do well, and then when they stay at the top we are unhappy about that?  In general, people like their Formula One knowledge to be complimented while watching the sport they love.

Some sections of the media even started to complain last year after Maldonado won in Barcelona, saying it was now a jackpot as to who won.  So would people now be disappointed if Massa went on a ‘hot’ streak and ended the season competing for the WDC?  Some would welcome a return to winning ways for him, as the bookies had Massa at 8/1 to win the race in Malaysia, even after qualifying in 2nd position.

Many may even prefer Massa to win a title, instead of seeing ‘the Vettel finger’ for yet another year.  Although, Vettel winning would only be the consequence of being tireless throughout and never giving up, as seen in the 2010 and 2012 seasons.  Especially 2010, where the only time Vettel was at the top of the points table was after the final (and arguably most important) race.

Really such a bad thing?
The skill of a driver to build a team around him, which is willing to work towards a WDC, is surely something that should be recognised.  Vettel has partly had this handed to him at Red Bull, but has had to maintain his good relationship with the team.

Looking back, it was interesting to see that they gave Sebastian the responsibility of the voice over for the virtual launch of the car in 2009, even though he had only just joined the team.  Was this the first sign of being the ‘No.1’ driver?

Michael Schumacher did much the same thing when he built a team around himself, of Rory Byrne and Ross Brawn at Ferrari; even when they had not initially followed him over to Maranello.

Much like Vettel in 2010, Schumacher in 1996, in a car that was unreliable to say the least, managed to challenge for the title right up until the end, although, he eventually lost out to Damon Hill at Suzuka.

Ridiculous….but it might just work
So why was it so acceptable for Schumacher to be a ‘nearly man’, but later when he had won 5 in a row he was disliked?  And could this dominance be stopped from ever happening again?  Maybe the solution is simple…. as a draft system could be brought into place, like in the USA for the NFL and NBA, for drivers every 2 years to rotate.  This would virtually guarantee no sustained period of dominance.

Looking Ahead
Obviously, this suggestion would never work.  However, the idealism is a nice one.  It also leaves us with the question of whether it is indeed “Good to be the King?”

Hypothetically, if Vettel wins this season to become a four-time world champion, then tries his luck with a new challenge at another team only to never win another WDC; will he be remembered for the tight battles in 2010 and 2012, and utter dominance in 2011?  Or will the legacy instead be of a driver who was in the right team, at the right time, with the right designer?

Is a period of sustained winning so good for a legacy, and helpful for somebody who wants to be remembered as one of the best drivers in F1 history?

All signs here point to no!

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20 responses to “It’s Good to be the King

  1. People want to have as ‘king’ the man they feel deserves to be the ‘king’ at that point in time. Schumacher having FIA, Bridgestone and the whole Ferrari team working for him plus his unsporting behaviour at times, did not make people believe he was a deserving champion. The same starts to happen now with Vettel.
    The ‘king’ needs to struggle, fight adversity and still win. The ‘king’ must not be favoured. If he then becomes ‘king’ once, he’s admired, does it twice, he’s the undisputed champion, does it thrice, he’s a legend!
    As you quote, look at Chelsea with Mourinho that spent gazzilions, versus Nottingham Forest and Brian Clough. So it’s not as simple as saying people do not like a ‘king’ no matter how long he’s there.

    • Interesting that the periods of dominance for Fangio and Clark did not diminish their legendary status.

    • As proven by Montpellier last year, beating PSG in the French Ligue 1, you can’t just throw money at a team and it works instantly.

      Forest only won the title once. If Forest had won the league repeatedly, they too would have become hated.

      • I don’t think repeated winners makes them hated. Noone hates Federer. Of course everyone was moaning because he was winning everything, but noone hated him. Noone would have hated Forest and they did win two European cups too. People hated Chelsea because of the money spent and so in their mind they were not as worthy champions as others.

        • I guess it’s the perception which matters – when it seems to be a level playing field, then winning a lot merely shows better skill – football in the 70s was probably more like that, than now with the PL where Blackburn Rovers, Chelsea and Manchester City have so far ‘bankrolled’ victories, Man Utd building up their own dominance (although I saw the accusation that they were the first ‘big spenders’, with £6,000 in 1906, one coming probably from a City fan!). Federer and Taylor are playing on a level playing field – but in F1 Red Bull are even outdoing Ferrari and McLaren – spending £100 million more per season. Vettel is definitely a top notch driver – along with Lewis, Fernando and Kimi, and deserves the WDC, but I think people would prefer to see it done in 2010 and 2012 style, rather than 2011 style, i.e. with less of a perceived car advantage.

        • PS. If Mourinho really does return to Chelsea next season, I do bet that Chelsea will be a force to be reckoned with again, with him at the helm was definitely their best period under Abramovich.

  2. A good defence of your chosen hypothesis – “Those who are at the top, in almost any sport or field, are disliked by many others purely because they are the best.”

    Yet I have to agree, that this statement is not necessarily true.

    Maybe the best example of dominance – more than Federer – is the ‘WORLD DARTS’ great, Phil ‘the Power’ Taylor – 16 times World Champion.

    I’m not a darts person but I have many friends who are and I’ve never heard him spoken of badly – or even have I heard a large majority of fans shouting for his opponent when he’s been competing for a title in a pub I’m in.

    Darts is a game of pure skill (and beer) – technology and the money to compete are irrelevant/insignificant – so maybe he isn’t resented because of the purity of the competition and transparent/indisputable nature of his dominance.

    • I bet the sport would be revolutionised if Newey or Byrne got involved. After all, take out the A and the T, and you are left with DRS.

      • Very droll sir… Gordon Murray did suggest fan propelled darts however the darts players refused this aid – they were too drunk to stand and still be able to view the board the requisite 30 feet away.

      • Drag Reduction Alcohol Reflex Test System

        (Kimi with it first on the car . . )

        • And Kimi no doubt still having the best reflexes for using this new test of using the DRS while driving (drunk) 😉 , perhaps in part to lots of practice!

    • Think you’re a bit out of touch there, Judge; they don’t drink beer anymore when playing. Don’t think Taylor even drinks at all these days.

      Taylor is respected by everyone because he is a relatively humble man. Even though he knows he’s the best he still always has good words to say about his opponents. He doesn’t keep mouthing off how great he is like a lot of other sports stars.

  3. Can anyone remember Alonso in his second year on his way to being world champion. I thought he was being arrogant and did not like him at all. Since then, through his drought and fighting spirit I must admit that I do like him now.. maybe not support him all the way but I do like his fighting spirit 🙂

  4. I’ll bet the reaction would be a lot different if it was a British driver who was trying for their fourth WC in a row.

    • Oh dear… Cavallino dear… as gamblers go you’re never likely to be a winner but with this sour attitude of yours you’re always likely to be a bad loser. 😉

    • Don’t worry CR, it’ll never materialise – Moss could have done it for better reliability, but ended up with no titles, Clark similarly could have had 62-65 easily but for the same ailment, Mansell too perhaps 86-87 by a stretch of the imagination, and Williams’ dominant period only yielded 96 for Hill (although, had Senna lived, would he have won 94, 96 and 97? Dunno about 95). In recent times, McLaren could have given 07 to Hamilton but didn’t manage to, not for lack of trying, and chances for 10 and 12 were similarly squabbled away with problems. It seems we are too consistently inconsistent to do back-to-back British WDC dominance.. Almost like it is polite to let everyone else have a go! (:D)

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