Race Blog
Abu Dhabi 2014

Fool's paradise

Just imagine. You’re 27 years young, a four-time Formula 1 world champion, loved by your quadruple-constructors’-title-winning team and the multi-billionaire who funds it.

After the unbelievable run of racing success you’ve had a year of more modest achievement, but you know that your tightly drilled crew are working hard to get back to winning ways. You’re safe in the knowledge that you’re driving the best-handling car on the grid and that the engine manufacturers are desperate to deliver more power.  

So what do you do? Stay, knuckle down, toil day and night to get back to the head of the field? No.

Seduced, utterly smitten, in a fit of misguided lust you do as so many F1 drivers – who should’ve known better – have done in the past and fall hook, line and sinker for the intoxicating, Latin-infused, cat-herding crazy-horse fiasco that is Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel may have (a rumoured) 50 million reasons a year to wear red for the next few seasons, but I’d wager the German will quickly being seeing the same colour when he realises just what a colossal mistake he’s made.

Perhaps not, maybe I’m wrong. Miracles – some misguided fools believe – actually happen. But I’m confident that I’ll not be eating humble pie anytime soon.

Top F1 drivers are a feted bunch, praised from an early age, living the life many of us can only dream of. Cosseted and protected in a warm embrace by their ever-attentive, dedicated team, they rarely – if ever – get to see anything other than their immediate sporting surroundings.

When these top-of-the-tree pilotes get itchy feet and want away, their managers and advisers are dispatched to spread the word and get the best deal.

Thinking of slipping into a scarlet red race car anytime soon?

I’ve got a suggestion. Let’s take a stroll. Come with me, my multi-millionaire-ego-the-size-of-a-small-country-superstar ‘friend’. Let’s walk up and down the F1 pit lane and see what we can see.

Spend five minutes watching the Red Bull crew working in their spacious, spotlessly clean, über-well-run, impressively calm garage. Now let’s walk down to McLaren. Sure, the Woking-based outfit have been a little off the pace lately, but just look, look at that pit box. One could eat one’s dinner off the floor it’s so clean. Nothing is out of place, everyone working in harmony to prepare the gorgeous chromed cars. Now the Williams pit. Bright, fresh, organised, this engineering-led English outfit look the part – both on and off the track – on every level.

Next? No, you’re not looking at a World War Two bomb factory, this is Ferrari!

Clutter, noise, a spaghetti-like spider’s web of tangled wires cascading from the roof and spilling all over the floor, a painful grating drilling sound echoing through the air, disorganised chaos all around.

Fancy signing for this lot? Maybe not…

Having spent the post-Abu Dhabi Grand Prix test watching all this, perhaps Sebastian is having second thoughts. That bank-busting contract will be acting as a comfort for now but Vettel’s already a very rich man and winning is what he’s all about.

I’m sure he’d deny it, but Vettel’s got something to prove. I – and many others both within and without Formula 1 – are suspicious. We wonder, just how talented is the 2010,’11,’12 and ’13 champion? Sure he can race and has proved his passing prowess, but the questions remain. Did the German’s abilities simply tie in perfectly and so conveniently with the Adrian Newey Tarmac-tearing-up-ultra-downforce-generating-monster-machines that hot-blew their way to success? A driver has to make the most of the machine that he’s in, and boy did Seb do that. Many a time I was awestruck at his ability to wring every ounce of speed from his RB6, 7, 8 and 9.

Everyone has an opinion. I’m open-minded, keen to believe that a four-time world champion is not simply a one-trick pony…

Following the incredible success inspired by the combined brilliance of Todt, Brawn, Byrne and Schumacher, Ferrari have been on a wayward drift. The brilliance of Fernando Alonso – dragging truck-like cars into positions they had no right to be in – masked the wretched decline from the glory years of the Schumacher era to – in 2014 – a miserable and winless season.

Go back through the years; the list of those drivers so foolishly seduced by the prancing horse is a long one, and Sebastian – sadly – will certainly not be the last…

Romance, allure, desire, passion, the adulation of a nation, the ingredients that so capture those who should resist the siren-like call of the Scuderia.

A fool’s paradise for sure.

Now click here for some stunning pictures from the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

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