Permit me to continue swimming against the tide here, with apologies first to my fellow podcasters. There may have been seven winners from seven races, but F1 is not the cacophony of madness it might seem.
It’s close, very close indeed – but that doesn’t make it random or chaotic in my book.
Lewis Hamilton – the best qualifier of the season and the most consistently well-placed finisher – was long overdue to become winner number seven, as discussed here, and here. This weekend he did so – from the front row, again.
Button in Melbourne, Rosberg in Shanghai, Vettel at Sakhir, Maldonado near Barcelona, Webber in Monte Carlo, and now Hamilton in Montreal all won from the front row of the grid. Only Alonso’s Sepang triumph in the wet serves as an exception. In every race this season, the winner has led more laps than anybody else. How dreadfully dull, right?
As with F1 for decades, qualifying well is by far the best chance at glory – and the cars that have genuine single-lap speed on a given track have also delivered on race days for the most part, with the advantage of managing matters in clear air.
Grosjean and Perez might seem an unlikely pair to round out the Canadian podium – but neither were strangers to champagne in 2012 before the lights went out Sunday. And by the by, they even made a one-stop strategy work at Montreal – something Mark Webber tried and famously failed to do on two sets of 2010 Bridgestone booties.
The reality is that this field is mighty close on pure pace. One need look no further than Q2 times throughout the season. In Canada, for instance, just one second separated all 17 cars. The margins between the field are microscopic when they are light on fuel and willfully shredding the tyres.
And if lots of cars and drivers deliver similar lap times (something that’s very rare in F1 history), results will vary. Decisive margins will be finer and track idiosyncrasies will appear to have an exaggerated effect.
This parity throughout the field has provided us with seven different winners, and with the illusion of randomness – while also quietly delivering a pretty plausible pair of championship tables. (The old order changeth only a little, have a glance at the scores.)
When you’re comparing events of similar probability, or cars of similar performance, “chaos” is order. The “unexpected” is probable and expected. When 18 cars are consistently within one second of each other, coupled with the variable of a changing track each time, don’t expect constancy.
Who would be surprised if Lotus Renault won a race this year too?
One other thing has changed in the races that I think helps heighten the sense of unpredictability and randomness.
DRS has made it easier to move through the field and therefore more dangerous to place such a great priority on track position as strategists traditionally would. We are now seeing more late charges akin to Hamilton’s for the win or Rosberg’s ultimately doomed bid for fourth today. There’s a greater chance of a successful “recovery drive” through the field than in years past – or rather such drives are now easier. Aggressive pit strategies are perhaps less of a gamble.
Conservative strategies are being punished because overtaking has been removed in favour of passing; perhaps Vettel and Alonso could have put up a bit of a fight for the podium under the 2010 system. They lost out to DRS as much as to their worn Pirellis, more so in fact.
And yes, I still absolutely abhor DRS. That really is ruining the show in a bid to help it – the last 10 laps of this race would have been awesome without that flappy-winged nastiness. So this is partly an F1B rallying cry, let us not forget the real enemy.