So F1 has arrived at the mid-season break. Between Hungary and Belgium, teams take a month-long respite, joining the rest of us in being flash flooded by the Great British summer. They’re not allowed to work on the cars for two weeks. This is just to make sure no eager aerodynamic beavers forget about their families and gain an advantage by working on their team’s car while others don’t. The drivers have driven acres of tarmac at more than 300km/h in eleven different countries across the world. They need a break.
The races themselves have lent a fantastic blend of excitement, tactics and strategy. Monaco, Germany and Hungary were tense and thrilling races in which the top drivers finished within small seconds of each other. The European Grand Prix in Valencia was a crazy, incident-packed and frankly jaw-dropping race, where action was never too far away. Great Britain was a traditional race between the top two, Alonso and Webber, battling towards the final laps with Webber coming out on top. After having seven different winners from seven races, a pattern started to emerge with who came out on top. Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton have both won two races from Monaco to Hungary. The battle in the second half of the championship should be intense.
And what of the standings? Well, this time last year Sebastien Vettel was leading the World Championship by a scary 83 points. He was leading by more than three race wins. In 2012, five drivers at the top are separated by 48 points. Fernando Alonso leads the pack by 40, but when a win gets you 25 points, that lead does not seem all that comfortable.
I have such respect for Fernando Alonso, who has driven with control and has been sensible behind the wheel. When you get that kind of quality mixed with a bit of luck (as he did in Valencia when drivers crashed and retired) then you will find yourself towards the top of the championship. He is such a consistent driver as he’s finished in the points for the last 23 consecutive races, an unbelievable achievement. His team-mate, Felipe Massa, has had a relatively poor first half. This shows that a driver can still make the difference in this sport. The Ferrari wheels don’t go round the fastest, and it started to show as the Ferraris dropped down the order in the last race. The Championship is anyone’s game now.
The McLaren cars have had a poor few races but seem to have found pace with Jenson Button’s second place in Germany and Lewis Hamilton’s dominant win in Hungary. The Red Bulls are still up there and the Lotus Renault cars are looking very strong after another double podium for Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. Surely if Kimi wins a race soon then he will start to be seen as real title contender. On a side note, their car is by far the least ugly car on the grid, it’s a joy to watch it in HD on Sky Sports or the BBC.
Speaking of which, Simon Lazenby and his presenting team of Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert are doing an alright job, but they are not entertaining. The one and a half hour build-up to each race is long, drawn-out, sometimes over-produced and sometimes robotic. However, it is very informative, detailed and flashy in typical Sky Sports fashion, which some F1 fanatics may love but may seem a put-off for the casual viewer. Martin Brundle and David Croft as commentators, to be honest, slightly disappoint me. David Croft seems to have fell foul of the radio-to-TV curse and has lost something in that transition. He shouts a lot for the soundbites but not much else. Ted Kravitz, the pit-lane reporter, however, saves Sky F1. He is by far my favourite broadcaster of all time.
The BBC are still the winners in my opinion. Their friendly and almost casual coverage is as entertaining as it is informative, and their commentator Ben Edwards gets very excited when things get a bit dramatic. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L1Wcch5nR-g
So who’s my bet for the World Championship? I think it’ll go right down the wire, and I think Lewis Hamilton will come back and narrowly win it. Maybe not in the last corner of the last race of the season – let’s hope not for the sake of my blood pressure.