The Man Vs. The Machine

Were there really four drivers left with a shot for title glory when Formula One came to Abu Dhabi in November 2010?  Or could it be that this year, much like last year, it will all come down to one man vs. one machine?

Man Vs Machine

Alonso vs Red Bull's RB7

The idea of a driver’s biggest rival being a designer rather than another driver is certainly not a new one.

Anyone who knows the period of Formula One history some dub Newey vs. Schuey certainly won’t need me to explain why this article is in no way a slight against Sebastien Vettel, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton or any of the other title hopefuls from this  year or last — just as the Newey vs. Schuey perspective certainly wasn’t a slight against driving greats Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, Jacques Villeneuve, or Mika Hakkinen.

Last year’s world title winner Sebastien Vettel, while always in with a shout at winning any given race in his RB6, never actually took the driver’s lead in the 2010 driver’s points standings until the checkered flag dropped at Abu Dhabi, giving him a 4-point championship win against last year’s second placed Fernando Alonso.

While the Red Bull RB6 may not have had the reliability of last year’s Ferrari, it certainly had speed to spare.  Red Bull were able to win both titles despite retiring from 5 races last year (twice from pole, and not all mechanical problems as we know), with Ferrari only retiring once each between their two drivers.

So what’s this all mean?  Why aren’t I talking about Vettel vs. Brawn, Massa vs. Lowe, or Button vs. Costa?

In my opinion, there are movable forces in F1, and there are those that refuse to be moved.  They can only be outright defeated.

In a career already mirroring Michael Schumacher’s in many ways, Fernando Alonso has come to Ferrari after a dry spell for the Scuderia, and after winning 2 world championships for another team.  In Schumacher’s prime, he was an immovable force — he was someone that would not be beaten at his own game.  If you wanted to beat Schumacher in those days (and a few did), you needed to design a car faster than the man himself.  Adrian Newey was able to do this on several occasions.

Just as Schumacher was, Alonso too, is an immovable force.  He will not be beaten at his own game, but design a faster or more reliable car, and he can be beaten to a championship.

Perhaps the only other immovable force I’ve seen in F1 for the last 10 years is the man behind these machines, Adrian Newey.  Newey designed chassis have one over 115 races since 1991.  That’s more races than has been one by constructor Williams since entering Formula One in 1978.  How’s that for impressive?

As Keith Collantine once said:

we’d have had a dull season’s racing if Schumacher had ever found himself in a Newey-designed car.

And if Fernando Alonso were ever to switch to Red Bull any time soon, I guarantee that season will be settled by the time Formula One travels to Japan.


Posted on April 4, 2011, in Alonso. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I would love to see the championship contenders race (just the once) in identical machinery and then we’d really see who is numero uno but I’m sure it would be boring as dishwater if we had a full season of it. I love Formula One precisely because teams are allowed to design differently and come up with innovative ideas. Red Bull was no-where in the standings during their first four years in business, even with a Newey designed car (the RB4 sucked big time with reliability issues) but it just goes to show how you can turn a team around with the right team, both driving and behind the drawing board.

    I must admit I was torn at the end of last season between wanting Sebastian to win in the Red Bull and Alonso in the Ferrari. In my heart I feel that at the current time, Alonso is the more rounded driver and Seb won because he was in the better car but good luck to them, if they can win in an inferior car it’s we the public who get the benefit.

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