There are things that F1 keeps reminding us but that we are rather prone to forget. That it’s never predictable. That furthermore it appears to take wicked delight in confounding those who think they can state with confidence what will happen next. And, oh yeah, that this despite some appearances actually is a magnificent sport. F1, it seems, we owe you an apology.
Vettel and Ferrari Triumph 2015
Today in the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix, against all expectations, we had sharp reminders of all of these. What was meant to be set in stone (or should that be in silver?) actually disappeared to dust in a single hour and a half’s racing. The Mercedes was supposed to be untouchable whatever else happened. It could only be beaten by itself. But today as the unlikely victor noted (as did a few at Merc) it was beaten ‘fair and square’, and for the first time since it seized the sport by the throat at the start of last season. While in something that not too long ago would have been the biggest surprise of all, it was the combination of Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari that did it.
Even within the Ferrari and Vettel triumph there were plenty of reminders. That the German after a conspicuous struggle last season in his new abode at Ferrari looks back to something like his best, and that once in the lead of a motor race he is imperious.
We had a reminder too of the sort of cars that come from the pen of the highly-rated Ferrari Technical Director James Allison, as seen in his Lotus days; fine handling and with a gentle touch on the Pirelli tyres that no other can equal. The latter point was indeed the Ferrari trump card today. And the biggest reminder of all is that when the famous old team triumphs in F1 few things seem as natural.
Maybe things won’t be so good again? After all today Seb and Ferrari had a charmed existence. Few races are as tough on the rubber as this. They were aided too to some extent by a wet qualifying then an early safety car getting Seb into the lead. We can credibly criticise Merc’s strategy approach also (though Niki Lauda for one admitted that even with aping the Ferrari strategy Mercedes would not have prevailed). More broadly Mercedes surely remains the firm favourite for both titles, although it was intriguing too to hear its boss Toto Wolff talk of this being ‘the wake-up call we needed’ when no one on the outside had sensed complacency. Seasoned Scuderia watchers could tell you additionally that another lingering F1 truism is the habit of false dawns down Maranello way.
But such thoughts can wait. For now the main one is that the sport’s red revival – hinted at since the start of pre-season testing – is indeed real. And that after the recrimination that followed the tepid demonstration run of the opening round two weeks ago F1 in 2015 now has a pulse.