Teenage Kicks and Overtaking Tricks: Max Verstappen Thrills in Brazil

Never tell a teenager what to do.  It’s the surest way of guaranteeing they will do the exact opposite.  Toto Wolff, head honcho of Mercedes, clearly doesn’t have children.  If he did, he would have been aware of the contrariness of teenagers and might sensibly have refrained from making a phone call to Max Verstappen’s dad to have a ‘chat’ about him.  Wolff vehemently denied asking Daddy, a former F1 driver himself, to order his boy to stay away from his precious Mercedes drivers, as the drivers’ title race reaches its denouement.  Or perhaps more pertinently, to stay away from his precious Nico, bearing in mind Max’s Red Bull has been nowhere near the front-running Lewis Hamilton in recent weeks, but has got a little too close for comfort with Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes (like two weeks ago at the Mexican Grand Prix).  After all, fearless teenage boy racers can be dangerously unpredictable as well as contrary.

Toto may have refuted the allegation that his phone call to Verstappen Senior was about warning off his son, but the way Junior was gunning for Rosberg during Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, the penultimate race of 2016, the youngster appeared to believe it.  He was racing as if it was he, and not the Mercedes drivers, who had a point to prove.  And it was his timely intrepid and audacious racing endeavour that would end up rescuing a race that threatened to dissolve into a literal damp squib.  An unceasing deluge of rain had created a chaos of crashes, safety cars and red flags that caused endless delays, stoppages and a paucity of racing, frustrating the Brazilian crowd into unashamedly voicing their disapproval with a chorus of boos (remember that familiar derisive sound from the Olympics?) and dismissive thumbs down gestures redolent of disapproving Roman emperors.

However, as soon as the racing finally got under way again for the third and final time, Max was hovering on second placed Rosberg’s tail like a seasoned hunter, and in a serendipitous moment as an extra shower spurt from Hamilton’s car spray conveniently blinded Rosberg, Junior grabbed his chance and swept past the championship leader before he could cry ‘water!’  Max got as close as one second behind to the race leader, until Hamilton stepped on the gas and produced a couple of fastest laps to increase the gap to two seconds, before Verstappen suffered a dramatic mishap on the straight that looked for all the world to have derailed his challenge.  He appeared to hit the white line on the track edge which sent his car into a half-spin.  Yet, somehow, Verstappen managed to regain control of his car and avoid hitting the wall, without losing second place to the fast closing Rosberg.  A remarkable save!

While there has, clearly, never been any doubt about Max Verstappen’s raw driving talent, doubts about Rosberg’s ability to drive in treacherous conditions were once again confirmed as he was outshone, not only by Max, but also by his own team mate, Hamilton, who was cruising in front on a waterlogged track as though he were in a rowing boat rather than a racing car.  Of course, Rosberg is in the fortuitous position of not having to win or even come second.  A third here would have ensured he would win the title in Abu Dhabi by finishing second.  In the event, a fatuous tyre strategy from Red Bull (that might have made a cynic wonder whether Toto Wolff had also made a phone call to Red Bull chief Christian Horner) ruined any possibility of Verstappen relegating him to third in Brazil and then repeating the feat in Abu Dhabi to throw open the title race.

Red Bull’s gamble to put intermediate tyres on both their drivers late in the race when there was no possibility of the rain abating and the track drying turned out to be a disastrous decision as Verstappen was forced to return to the pits a few laps later to reverse the team’s tyre choice.  By the time his new extreme wet tyres were fitted and he returned to the race, he was down in 16th place.  Clearly Verstappen felt he had not done enough to prove his racing credentials because he then went on a bender that saw him gain 13 places in 16 laps with some breathlessly daring and extraordinarily clever overtaking manoeuvres to end up back where he had been – third behind Rosberg – when the race had re-started for the third time.  Talk about coming full circle.  It was a fittingly Senna-esque drive in the rain on the home circuit in the home city – Sao Paulo – of the legendary Brazilian racing idol.

Hamilton’s uncontested victory means the title tussle goes down to the final race, if not necessarily down to the wire, in Abu Dhabi, in two weeks’ time.  Thanks to Hamilton’s heartbreakingly unlucky engine blowout in Malaysia five weeks ago, Rosberg has not needed to win any subsequent race.  A second or third place in a far, far superior car to the rest of the field bar Hamilton should ensure he wins the title in Abu Dhabi.  A title that will have been won more because of Hamilton’s wretched luck with reliability that was so remarkable it had many people cry conspiracy, rather than Rosberg’s ability to better his team mate in a straight fight.

Of course, should Rosberg win the world title – as he surely will, with the amount of good fortune he has enjoyed this season – no one is going to place an asterisk next to his name with the caveat that he only won because he got lucky and Hamilton was the superior and more deserving driver.  The annals of sport are brimming with great champions, but they are also full of lucky winners who only won because their rivals somehow contrived to lose.  Sport, like life, isn’t always fair.  The best don’t always win.  But as the rain-sodden Brazilian Grand Prix so vividly demonstrated, the best always steal the show.


A Sorry Sunday of Sport

One of the biggest disadvantages of being a multi sports fan is that sports inevitably clash.  However, on the plus side, by the law of averages someone somewhere should win and make yours truly a happy bunny.  Obviously the law of averages was out of sync today because everyone lost, apart from one favourite, who only won at the expense of another favourite.  Go figure.

Football:  It’s like being back in the 70s.  The Scousers look good and United are utter tripe.  Oh happy days now no one can accuse United fans of being glory hunters any more.  Oh happy days now away matches are all about the day out with your football mates.  Oh happy days to be able to drink to oblivion and not worry about being too blotto to remember that amazing performance, the goal glut, a goal scored from halfway line.  Oh happy days indeed…ugh.

Motor Racing:  If I was looking for sporting joy I wasn’t about to find it at the Singapore Grand Prix.  Lewis Hamilton was racing how I was feeling – meh.  The top 3 on the grid started Rosberg, Riccardo, Hamilton and the top 3 at the flag finished Rosberg, Riccardo, Hamilton.  In between, the race threatened to get interesting when Raikkonen passed Hamilton halfway through the race, triggering a three stop Mercedes strategy which allowed Hamilton to undercut Raikkonen and come out of the pit lane ahead of the Ferrari.  It inspired Red Bull to pit Riccardo and the Australian put on a late charge on fresh tyres to try and catch race leader Rosberg.  But it turned out to be much ado about nothing as Rosberg was able to hang on comfortably to the chequered flag despite suspected failing brakes.

Hamilton must be cursing the summer break for wrecking his momentum.  Before the hiatus, he had managed to turn round a 43 point deficit into a 19 point lead.  Since the resumption of racing, Rosberg has won every race unchallenged and has gone back into the lead for the driver’s title.  Hamilton, on the other hand, has gone into a funk.  The world champion needs to find his mojo again pronto because, right now, his season is veering a tad off course.

Tennis:  Overlapping with both the football and the motor racing was Britain’s Davis Cup semi final tie against Argentina.  There was never going to be any good sporting news to be found here.  Britain’s defence of the Davis Cup was over the moment Andy Murray lost his epic (does he play any other kind?) 5hr opening match against Juan Martin del Potro on Friday.  The rest was just detail.  Britain are a one man team.  It’s that simple.  If Andy wins both his singles, Britain win the tie.  If Andy loses one of his singles, Britain lose the tie.  Even though Argentina did everything they could to give Britain a chance by inexplicably allowing Del Potro to play in the doubles rather than saving him for the final singles rubber when they knew he was only fit enough to play one more match, Britain simply don’t have a second player good enough to take the gift.

It is notoriously difficult to come back from 0-2 down to win in the Davis Cup.  This year, only Croatia have achieved the feat, against the USA in the quarter finals back in July.  But that’s because Croatia have a number two in Borna Coric who can back his teammate up when the number one balls things up, as Marin Cilic did in their opening rubber.  From two sets up he lost the next three sets against Jack Sock to lose the match.  Coric also lost his tie to send Croatia 0-2 down.  Cilic commendably made up for his lapse by winning the doubles with Ivan Dodig and his reverse singles to level the tie at 2-2.  But it needed young pretender Coric to step up in the deciding rubber.  Fortunately for Croatia, Coric is a talented upcomer who, although ranked 54 in the world, comfortably defeated number 26 Jack Sock in four sets to propel Croatia into the semi finals.

Alas for GB, there is no one of Coric’s class in the British team.  Kyle Edmund, Britain’s own young upcomer, was more imposter than young pretender as he lost rather tamely in his tie against Guido Pella.  It was a very disappointing performance from someone who should be a competitive number two to Andy Murray.  Yes he is only 21, but then Coric is only 19.

It was entirely predictable that the Murray brothers would win the doubles on Saturday.  What was entirely unpredictable was seeing Del Potro at the other end.  It was a completely baffling decision considering his odds of beating the Murray brothers with partner Leo Mayer were minuscule to none, whilst his odds of beating Dan Evans, who was predicted to play the final rubber, were entirely on.  Argentina made a very risky call, but maybe they knew that Britain simply didn’t have a good enough number two.  Any one of the second string Argentinians could have won it for them.

The difference in class between Andy Murray and the rest was evident when, unlike Edmund, he had no trouble dispatching Guido Pella, despite being hampered by a thigh strain that required a medical time out early in the third set.  The only worry was whether the limping Murray would be able to play out the final few games.  Thankfully, the gulf in ability was too huge to threaten even a clearly injured Murray who won out in three easy sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-3.

Argentina had been playing mind games with Britain by keeping them guessing about whether Delpo would be playing, although the Argentinian press were adamant that he would not.  Delpo had practiced briefly in the morning and was nowhere to be seen during Andy’s match.  But then neither was Leo Mayer.  And it was he who came out for the final rubber to face Dan Evans.  They say one of the worst things you can do to someone is give them hope.  Argentina had given Britain hope, and when Mayer came out way too hyped up with all guns blazing and spraying way too many balls out, Evans won the first set and the Argentinians must have wondered whether they really had shot themselves in the foot.

They hadn’t.  Any nascent hopes of an unlikely British victory were soon emphatically quashed as Mayer discovered his service rhythm and started serving bombs and thumping bone crunching forehands from the Del Potro school of bone crunching forehands.  Mayer has also suffered injuries from the Del Potro school of injuries, which has seen his ranking plummet to an unfortunate 114, but he was once number 21 in the world and he was playing like it.  Of course it helped that Dan Evans has no real weapons that could hurt his opponent, and his serve and general performance were wilting under the Argentinian’s relentless onslaught.  Del Potro was keeping a poker face on the support bench but he must have been feeling very relieved to see that Britain simply didn’t have a competitive second string.  Once Mayer had broken in the second set, the outcome of the match was never in doubt.

Ultimately, Argentina had deserved to win the tie, not only for Del Potro’s remarkable performance against Andy on Friday – Delpo is surely the de facto world number four – but also because they were able to play as a team.  The format of the Davis Cup enables a team with a big star player to win 3 matches and thus win his team the ties, but that is not really a fair reflection of the strength of the country.  Great Britain won the Davis Cup last year because Andy won all his matches in the quarters, semis and final.  Had Andy beaten Delpo, Britain would probably have retained the trophy.  But it is neither fair nor realistic to expect Andy to win everything, and in all honesty, this should be the last time Andy commits to the Davis Cup.  He turns 30 next year so his time at the top is short and there is still unfinished business with Grand Slams.  Let the others take on the Davis Cup burden that Andy has carried on his shoulders, by himself, for so long.  They need to try and step into Andy’s shoes even if those shoes may be far too big to fill.

Sometimes you can have too many favourites.  It leads to confusing emotions when they inevitably end up playing each other.  In the Davis Cup semis, I faced the nightmare scenario of having a favourite playing for each team!  Obviously Andy is the unequivocal number one, but I do have very soft spot for Delpo (who doesn’t?).  So it was a bittersweet moment when he defeated Andy as I couldn’t be completely gutted for Andy, but I couldn’t be completely happy for Delpo either!  Likewise, an even more ambiguous scenario was unfolding in the other semi final between Croatia and France, where closer favourites Marin Cilic and Richard Gasquet would be pitted against each other.  Both had won their opening rubbers, and then Marin had teamed up with Ivan Dodig once more to win the doubles.  Then came the dreaded first of the reverse singles, which could decide the outcome of the tie.  Marin vs Richard.  Whom did I want to win?  I couldn’t choose, but I had a sneaking suspicion about who I thought would win.  The tie was taking place in Croatia, Marin was on a roll and Richard had recently come back from a back injury, so I wasn’t sure that any supporting was required as I believed Marin would win.

The two semi finals were taking place simultaneously, and weirdly, the scores in both of the first rubbers mirrored each other.  Andy Murray won his first two sets 6-3, 6-2 and Marin Cilic won his first two sets 6-3, 6-2.  Marin then broke early, but then spoilt the symmetry by getting broken back.  Marin’s Achilles heel has always been his wobbly temperament under pressure and nervy tendency to lose matches he looks like he is cruising in, so these days I rarely consider any match of his over until he has won the final point (see this year’s Wimbledon quarter final against Roger Federer).  However, Richard has been equally biscuity (i.e. crumbling under pressure) of temperament himself in the past though he is tougher these days.  These days it is injuries that tend to scupper him, and it was no surprise that he couldn’t sustain his comeback.  Cilic has also been looking like the man ever since that aforementioned comeback against the USA post that humiliating defeat to Sock after being 2 sets up, and he was less likely to lose this match than Del Potro was to play in the final rubber.  Cilic won the third set 7-5 to send Croatia into the final.  After a sorry day when everyone else had lost (and Andy’s win counting for naught), finally someone I liked had won.  Well, it was one way of ensuring a win.  Have enough favourites and somebody you like is bound to win!

So it’s Delpo vs Marin in the Davis Cup final.  Who do I want to win?  The parallels between them are unnerving.  Both were born within a week of each other in 1988; both are 6ft 6 inches in height; both have one Grand Slam each, the US Open; both are trying to win their first Davis Cup, and I have a soft spot for both of them.  Of course, Delpo has the heart-rending fairy tale comeback narrative.  The crowd though will be with Cilic since the final will be played in, erm, Croatia.  Er, toss a coin?  I think I am going to go for the 6 ft 6 inch former US Open champion trying to win his first Davis Cup.

Back To Front To Indifferent For Lewis Hamilton

If F1 races in recent seasons have been predictable in their outcome because of Mercedes domination, Lewis Hamilton remains predictable in his unpredictability.  After starting at the back of the grid in Spa last week and coming through a chaotic race to finish an excellent third, Hamilton returned to familiar territory at the front of the grid at the Italian Grand Prix.  He had been a whopping half a second faster than teammate Nico Rosberg in qualifying so should have been on easy street in the race.  But this is Lewis we are talking about.  Straightforward is not his middle name.  What should have been business as usual in a good way turned into business as usual in a bad way.  Lewis has been having trouble with the clutch on his starts all season.  It cost him in Bahrain; it cost him in Canada, and it would cost him in Monza.

It looked like Hamilton had fallen asleep at the wheel as the lights went out at the start.  His Mercedes was swamped as the other cars stormed past, and by the time he woke up, he was down in a disastrous sixth place.  Getting into and out of trouble is Hamilton’s speciality, but here, in front of a fanatical Tifosi, Hamilton was uncharacteristically underwhelming.  Although he was able to pass Ricciardo and Bottas to go fourth, and was assisted by a conservative two stop tyre strategy from both the Ferraris versus a one stopper for Mercedes, to eventually finish second, his wretched start had left him too far behind Rosberg and ruined his chance of a win.

For the second race in a row Nico Rosberg was able to cruise to victory.  He had got away brilliantly at the start and was never troubled again.  It was the drive of the day.  Nico Rosberg looks like the best driver in the world when there is no pressure on him.  When the rain stays away and Lewis is safely tangled up in one of his seemingly endless crises, Nico Rosberg is unbeatable.  Rosberg will need Hamilton to keep toppling off the edge he so relishes living on if he is to win that elusive driver’s title.

Rosberg’s Relaxing Win at Spa

After a month’s holiday, the F1 circus resumed on Sunday with the Belgium Grand Prix.  Lewis Hamilton had incurred so many grid penalties for taking on extra engine parts, he should have started the race in Holland.  Thankfully, irrespective of the number of penalties accumulated, the furthest back he could start was in 21st place.  In what was surely the most exalted last row on the grid in F1, he was joined in 22nd and last place by former team mate and two time world champion Fernando Alonso.  All of Hamilton’s difficulties had left Nico Rosberg with an unexacting front spot on the grid and a shoe in for a win.  It was simply a question of how effective Hamilton’s salvage operation was going to be.

The fun-most part of F1 is always the start.  At Spa, it was like a demolition derby.  Roseberg got away brilliantly, but behind him carnage ensued.  Young buck Max Verstappen, who had started in 2nd place, ended up in a three way collision with the two Ferraris of Kimi Raikonen and Sebastian Vettel, leaving them all with extensive damage, and sliding down the order, with Max and Kimi being forced to pit.  The mayhem continued with Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein crashing into Jenson Button’s rear and taking him out.  Then, the Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz’s back tyre exploded, leading to the virtual safety car being deployed.  Who said F1 was a dull procession?

With all the chaos going on in between, if you couldn’t be clear in first place like Rosberg, the next best place to be, ironically, was at the back.  Both Alonso and Hamilton benefited so much from the whacky races going in front of them that they were in 12th and 15th place by the end of the first lap!  By the time the virtual safety car was deactivated, Hamilton was 12th.  More drama followed as Kevin Magnussen then spun his Renault backwards into a tyre wall.  We were only on lap 6!  Out came the actual safety car, and with several of the drivers on softs choosing to come into the pits, Alonso and Hamilton, who had started on mediums, now found themselves, amazingly, in 4th and 5th place.  And then, as if there wasn’t enough going on, the red flag came out.  The race was stopped.  The tyre wall needed a proper rebuild job and the rest of us could take a breath and lie down for a moment.

A much needed 10 minute breather later and the cars were back out again.  Hamilton was now only four places behind Rosberg.  Soon it would be three as he had little trouble passing the under powered McLaren-Honda of Alonso.  He had Nico Hulkenberg of Force India in his sights.  By lap 18 he was past him and gunning for second placed Daniel Riccardo.  And that was where any hopes of a miraculous challenge for top spot ended.  Hamilton had complained on radio of losing grip so the team brought him in on lap 22 of 44, which meant he would be on a 3 lap strategy while Riccardo and Rosberg would only pit twice.  A stuck jack meant Hamilton had a slightly longer pit stop than necessary, though it didn’t affect his position.  He would finish in a comfortable third place behind Riccardo and Rosberg, who could have stopped for tea and cake and still won the race.

In fact, Rosberg’s most disconcerting moments of the day came after the race.  First, he discovered Lewis had managed to finish third, so the deficit between them in the driver’s championship had only narrowed by 10 points, with the Brit still 9 points ahead overall.  Then, when he jumped onto the podium, he was greeted by a chorus of mild boos.  No, this wasn’t an outtake from the Rio Olympics, but perhaps the gaggle of Dutch fans who had come from over the border to follow Max had been unduly influenced by the naughty antics of the Brazilian crowd.  Or maybe most F1 fans just don’t like Rosberg.  Maybe if he did more crowd surfing like Hamilton or drank champagne out of his shoe like Riccardo (yep, Aussies are weird), he might be more kindly regarded.  Perhaps he likes being the pantomime villain, though it’s rather unusual (actually unheard of) for them to come in handsome, blond haired, blue eyed silver spooned packages.  Rosberg won’t care so long as he wins that coveted driver’s title.  But with Hamilton’s penchant for making miraculous comebacks it’s not only in the popularity stakes that Rosberg might struggle to come out on top.


Wheel of Fortune Turns Against Rosberg

Back in April, yours truly at Random Towers wrote a blog about Lewis Hamilton’s early season travails and suggested that in order to inject some excitement into the F1 season he should allow teammate Nico Rosberg to gain a massive head start in the Drivers’ Championship and then dramatically claw back the lead and hurtle past to win the title.   Obviously Lewis has been reading my blog!  And followed suit!  How pliable of him.  From 43 points down to 19 points up.  Courtesy of 6 wins in 7 races and now 4 wins in a row after winning the German Grand Prix on Sunday.  Way to go Lewis!

As for Nico Rosberg, he needs to hire a driving instructor to teach him how to steer right.  After driving Hamilton off the track in Austria on the final lap rather than turning into the corner in due time and destroying his own race victory in the process, he tried to do the same to young Max Verstappen at the German Grand Prix.  Now precocious Max isn’t exactly averse to using some iffy defensive tactics of his own, like moving in the braking zone, but Rosberg was never going to get away with shunting a fellow driver off the track twice in four races.  Misfortune though is like buses.  It all comes at once.  Rosberg had already suffered from a disastrous start, dropping from pole to fourth, which is what left him grappling with Verstappen for third.  Mercedes had then tried to under cut the Red Bull with an earlier pit stop for Rosberg, but to no avail.  This left Rosberg trying to get past in his unique way, which cost him a 5 second penalty.  A 5 second penalty taken in the pits that bizarrely turned into an 8.2 second penalty thanks to a malfunctioning stop watch.  You know your luck must be out when German equipment starts conking out!  The unwitting delay didn’t affect the outcome though and Rosberg finished fourth, behind the two Red Bulls, with his teammate serenely coasting to victory at the front.

Rosberg may now find himself 19 points behind going into the summer break, but it’s not all over just yet.  That would be far too straightforward, and since when does Lewis Hamilton do straightforward?  There will be the obligatory twist in the tale.  Hamilton has to take a grid penalty in the next couple of races for using more than the permissible engine parts at the beginning of the season, which could cost him his hard earned lead.  Lewis though has form for making epic comebacks from back of the grid (see Hungary and Germany 2014) so the prospect of a Hamilton charge up the order is enticing.  F1 needs all the help it can get in having more wheel to wheel racing and overtaking, so it is good to know Lewis Hamilton takes his duties as entertainment ambassador seriously.  Well, this is a man whose idea of celebrating a home Grand Prix win was to fling himself onto his delirious fans to enjoy a spot of crowd surfing!  Dull, he ain’t.  And that can only mean more excitement for F1 fans.

Why Hamilton Hitting The Skids Is Good For F1

Lewis Hamilton can’t win.  Not on the racetrack, where archrival Nico Rosberg is on a roll with six consecutive race wins in a row.  Not off the racetrack, where Hamilton’s wannabe rapper lifestyle is endlessly criticised, and his ragged start to the new F1 motor racing season has seen him practically written off less than a quarter of the way through the racing calendar.  Hamilton’s travails, though, are presently the only source of entertainment in yet another F1 season Mercedes are threatening to dominate.  Had Lewis started his races from the front of the grid in the same imperious manner as most of last season the World Drivers’ Championship might already be over.  The fans may as well have tuned out after the opening lap and tuned back in for the chequered flag and champagne wasting podium celebrations.

Still, unless you are a fan of either of the two Mercedes drivers, an internecine rivalry will hold little attraction in the absence of a realistic challenge from rival teams such as Ferrari, McLaren, Red Bull and Williams.  With the sport struggling to conjure up any kind of competitive drama, it is not surprising F1 has been haemorrhaging fans and receiving deserved criticism for becoming diluted from its thrilling (albeit extremely dangerous) heyday of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s.  As I wrote in an earlier blog post, sport needs rivalries to generate excitement and thrive.  Unfortunately for F1, its power brokers have not so far discovered an adequate solution to its waning appeal – despite numerous fruitless attempts – and unless something is done soon to make the teams more competitive and challenge each other for both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, then the most kamikaze mishaps of Lewis may not be enough to save the sport.

That would be a shame as motor racing is one of the few sports that Britain excels at and dominates the production of, with many of the major teams – including Mercedes – being based in Britain and making a vital contribution to the British economy.  Britain needs F1 to be successful, and it doesn’t help that the sport is run by an egotistical despotic dinosaur in Bernie Ecclestone, who seems more interested in cynically extracting ever more money from obscure oil rich freedom poor autocratic regimes – Azerbaijan anyone? – and devising ever more contrived crackpot gimmicks to liven up race days.  Poor leadership equals poor stewardship equals poor decision-making equals weak product.  Add to that equation the short sighted decision to accept Sky’s money and take half the races off terrestrial TV, meaning those without deep pockets can’t follow the whole season, which makes it easier to lose interest, especially if the race outcome is a procession.

In a sport where money will always make the difference and single team domination is near inevitable, perhaps the only solution to achieving parity between teams is to introduce some kind of handicap system.  One option that has been suggested is to reverse grid positions from one race to the next, but such a system would disincentivise drivers from winning if they had to start the following race in last place, so would probably only work if each race was split into two rounds with one normal and one reverse grid.  An alternative might be to assign a time handicap to the top 10 finishing drivers in decreasing order, which they would take into the next qualifying round.  The winner would carry the biggest time handicap, which would be added to his qualifying time and reduce his chances of starting first on the grid for the next race.  Rival cars would thus get a precious opportunity to start the following race from the front, enabling them to get a vital head start over the faster car, which would be forced to start further down the grid.  This would engender not only greater equitability, but also provide some much needed spectacle as it would necessitate plenty of overtaking from the quicker cars lower down the order.  Indeed, any kind of handicap system would help prevent the single team domination that has been the blight of F1 (and many other sports), and threatens its position as an exhilarating spectator sport.

However, until (and unless) such a scheme is implemented, currently, interest in F1 depends on the reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton giving us his own version of a handicap system by allowing his teammate to get a massive head start in the Driver’s Championship (and in the process, hopefully, bringing other drivers into contention), and then slowly clawing back the deficit by pitting his boy racer instincts against his more cerebral, but also possibly more brittle, opponent and winning in a dramatic head-to-head charge at the death.  Apparently no driver who has won the first 3 races of the season has failed to go on and win the Drivers’ Championship.  Nico Rosberg has won the first 3 races of this season.  It seems only fair that it should require the surmounting of a monumental challenge from the champion to stop F1 fans switching off completely and sending the sport into the pits.