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May 24, 2010 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]

The Reverse Sweep

The Formula One season is well and truly underway, and the drivers’ championship is now wide open. With no fewer than four world champions in the starting lineup, the championships were always going to be anyone’s game. Following an action-packed sixth race at the Monaco Grand Prix, this verdict remains much the same.

Defending world champion Jenson Button went into Monaco with a three-point lead over Fernando Alonso atop the drivers’ standings, only for a blown engine to end his race just three laps in. The stage was set for pole-sitter Mark Webber to take a second successive victory, with the Australian leading teammate Sebastien Vettel home for a somewhat predictable Red Bull one-two. The duo are now equal point leaders on 78, with Webber the new championship leader thanks to an extra victory.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso made a blistering finish, to climb from last to an original placing of seventh. However, more than two hours of deliberations saw seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher stripped of sixth place due to an illegal pass on the safety car-influenced final lap. This ensures Alonso enters the Turkish Grand Prix just three points adrift of the leaders with 75 points.

What was predicted to be one of the most competitive seasons ever has so far proven no different, with the top eight drivers separated by a mere 22 points—less than a single race win! The top four in particular have so far been difficult to separate, and with the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa close enough to take advantage of any slip-ups, the drivers’ championship already looks sure to go down to the wire.

The constructors’ championship is more predictable. The superior quality of the Red Bull cars was evident in the earliest races, with Webber and Vettel reaping the rewards of consistently good speed and reliability. However, while Webber has remained more than content with his ride throughout, Vettel has had to rely on others’ misfortune on the back of some technical and alignment issues.

Meanwhile, leading contenders McLaren and Ferrari have had their share of problems, while Williams is currently investigating what caused both cars to crash heavily at Monaco. Based on current form, it would be hard to bet against Red Bull taking the constructors’ title, and betting agencies agree. However, Ferrari is as usual right in the mix, and at just twenty points back cannot be discounted; while McLaren is the only team with two world champions on board.

Webber’s back-to-back victories have him moving up to second favourite ($3.50) behind Vettel ($4.20) at the TAB, with two-time champion Alonso third at $4.50 However, I believe his superior car reliability and experience make the Aussie the new man to beat. Many experts, including Frank Williams—one of Webber’s ex-bosses and a three-decade veteran in the sport—are also starting to take this position.

The remainder of the F1 season promises to be ultra-competitive and exciting, so if you’re a motorsport fan, you’d be crazy to miss it.

[ssba]

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