By Adam Macdonald
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.
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!