Originally posted on Sport Witness.
Today, I’m going to write about my second sporting passion – Formula One. And how Sebastian Vettel has not only completed the sport, but is also well on the way to potentially dominating, and ruining it too.
That will probably come as quite a big shock to the majority of you – slagging off a man at the very top of his sport isn’t something done very often. But what’s happening to F1 is going to affect the sport for the next decade, and will certainly destroy some fans’ belief and devotion.
We’re now fifteen races into the 2011 season, with four to go between now and the end of November. With the World Championship all wrapped up, and Red Bull only needing two wins in the next two races to win the Constructor’s Championship too, their dominance for a second successive season has led to some of the teams beginning to settle for second place.
As a Business Studies student, it reminds me very much of the cola market. With Coca-Cola having a near-dominance of the market, Pepsi have decided that their corporate objective is to ‘remain as the second biggest brand in the cola market’. Hardly high aspirations for such a large company, but with the strength of the competition, there’s nothing they can possibly do about it. And Formula One is moving in exactly the same direction.
Don’t get me wrong, without Vettel, F1 would become very dull. He puts in the fastest laps of all twenty-four drivers, and still strives to beat his own time. He starts on pole, and is disappointed with anything but a first place finish. He is always looking to beat not only the best, but his best too, and that has led to his success. His nine wins already this season, of which eight came from pole position, have proven he can, and probably will be teh greatest driver the sport has ever seen. Forget Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Villeneuve, Fangio, Lauda, or even the great Sir Jackie Stewart – Vettel is soon to become leading man. At the age of just 24, he is already a Double World Champion – and doesn’t show any sign of stopping.
But is that dominance just going to prove far, far too much? Here in the UK we’ve seen a resurgence of the sport thanks to the rather excellent coverage presented by the BBC – over six million people are regularly tuning in to the race on a Sunday afternoon, which hasn’t been seen for over twenty years. This will, of course, all change next year with the BBC-Sky partnership, but the point still stands – will this resurgence continue if one man dominates the sport, or is it the competitive nature of the sport that has brought new fans to their TV screens?
Here in the UK, viewing figures of the sport dropped considerably when Schumacher dominated the sport, and the main Sunday race was struggling to even gain 3m viewers on ITV. Now, thanks to the introduction of KERS and DRS in encourage overtaking, the more competition in the field, and the depth and strength of the drivers available to the teams, six million fans watch, and well over 9m people have watched the final race of the season for the previous four seasons, on both ITV and the BBC.
Will it change again? Yes, I believe it will – the fans want to see competition. I know full well that if I could predict a race winner week in, week out, I would never have started watching the sport. It will become dull, repetitive, and all those news fans of the sport, allowing for Bernie Ecclestone to expand into new territory, will begin to drop off.
Next year, we see the new track in the US join the schedule, alongside the rescheduled Bahrain GP. In 2014, Russia joins the party, and there’s talk of Qatar, South Africa and Croatia joining over the next few years. The sport continues to grow, and more and more people are taking note. A fan base in new countries is growing, and the last thing we need at this moment in time is a complete dominance from one driver, and one team.
I just hope and pray that I am totally and utterly wrong.