A scorching Hungaroring sent Formula One into its midsummer break gasping for air. Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes garage can now breathe easier as they look forward to the remainder of the season with renewed optimism after the British driver controlled the race to record a maiden victory for his new employer. Over at Ferrari however, the heat was raising tempers. Another disappointing result left Fernando Alonso voicing his concerns about where the team was headed, a relatively mild show of frustration but one which earned a stinging rebuke from President Luca de Montezemolo. The Italians are closing rank. This is one cooling off period which has arrived not a moment too soon.
The first five Grands Prix of the Formula One season have generated their fair share of talking points but nothing has furrowed brows quite so much as the increasingly fractious debate over tyres. Now much as I enjoy the racing and some of the associated politics, the technical aspects of the sport tend to leave me cold. I’m perfectly happy to trust the intricacies of DRS or chassis composition to the experts and the same would normally apply to the only part of the car that actually makes contact with the track. When those bits of rubber become fundamental to the outcome of the action however, it is necessary to pay more attention. Is this a case of some teams crying foul to cover their own deficiencies, or is there a genuine problem here?
After just five full seasons in Formula One, Sebastian Vettel is a triple World Champion. If Michael Schumacher tore up the record books, his young compatriot threatens to put them through a shredder. The same streak of arrogance, a single-minded determination and a haughty aloofness unites the two men, the elder showing genuine patrician pride at his protégé’s latest success, confirmed in a dramatic final Grand Prix of the year in Brazil. Schumacher, who was taking his final bow, one which this time is certain to be inviolate, spent most of the time he was accumulating titles clearly head and shoulders above his rivals, regardless of the car he was driving. Vettel resides in a more competitive era, one in which designers, mechanics and the vagaries of fate may have the crucial role, and he has been fortunate to enjoy impeccable support in this respect. He may have the garland, but he was not the best driver of 2012; that accolade should have been Fernando Alonso’s.