Bernie Ecclestone has been around Formula 1 for decades. His recent suggestion that the 2011 season was boring due to the domination of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing is odd, however.
There have always been periods when certain teams or drivers dominated Grand Prix racing. Fangio in the late 1950s, Clark and Lotus in the mid-1960s, Prost, Senna and McLaren in the late 1980s, Scumacher and Ferrari in the 2000s. Whether a consequnce of technical innovation, driving prowess or simple team execution, F1 “dynasties” come and go with regularity. It’s fascinating to watch, even if one is a fan of another team or driver.
Bernie’s concerns are more with TV ratings than the sport’s health and viability. He cares more about commercial issues like viewer eyeballs — which translate to sponsorship and advertising revenues — than competition on the track. In contrast, we think the spectacle of McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus (Renault) striving to deny Vettel a 3rd consecutve World Championship promises a scintillating 2012 season!
The fact is that when it comes to negotiating a contract the old F1 supremo remains as sharp as a tack. But there was something he said on Thursday which made me doubt him. When asked if last year was a bad one for F1 he said: “It wasn’t good obviously. I often wonder whether people watch because of the championship or because of the particular race.”
Well, maybe it is me who’s out of kilter but I thought we had some fantastic racing last year. How was it for you? OK, so Seb Vettel sewed it up well before the end, with a stifled yawn, but his dominance disguised the fact that, as in 2010, we enjoyed some great battles.
And we did see the anointment of Vettel as one of the sport’s great drivers, ironing out those silly mistakes from the year before. There is something exciting about seeing the arrival of a true great, and we couldn’t really call him that at the end of 2010. It is his intelligence that is the most impressive thing.