Hey Mitch, Formula One drivers are more than talented…

May 11, 2009

Here’s Reuters motor racing correspondent Alan Baldwin’s reply to Mitch Phillips’ piece above

There’s no sham about the driver talent, just the simple fact that you can’t show it off without having the car as well. But that’s self-evident. The best jockey isn’t going to get anyhere in the Derby on a donkey.

Once in a while you get a car so dominant that it allows a driver who is not absolutely in the top tier to look good, and maybe even become champion. But he still has to be better than his team mate in equal equipment.

A dominant car does not have to stifle the championship either. In fact, such a situation has provided some epic battles in the past (Prost v Senna anyone? they won 15 out of 16 races in 1988 and nobody said they weren’t talented).

Having the best car is not always enough. You can’t programme a driver not to make mistakes. It is not easy driving these things at 300kph and having to push a range of buttons, be aware of everything around you and have someone shouting in your ear at the same time on the radio.

Oh, and don’t forget they are risking their lives at the same time. Just because a driver hasn’t been killed since 1994 doesn’t suddenly mean it’s safe.

As for the suggestion that they are not great sportsmen…

Have no illusions about the fitness of these guys. The ordinary mortal simply wouldn’t be able to drive an F1 car. Fact. The average Joe would not last more than a handful of laps before his neck gave way, even if he could handle the G force and acceleration.

The modern Formula One driver is super-fit, on a par with Olympic athletes (McLaren’s fitness head is the former Finnish Olympic coach and he has no illusions about how fit his men are. They put most footballers to shame).

When you watch Formula One drivers lapping a circuit like Monaco, you can only marvel. There is absolutely no question about their talent or bravery. The fact is that they can’t all be champions.

Jenson Button may have been dismissed by some elements in the media as a loser in the past, but those within the sport have long regarded him as one of the smoothest and quickest of drivers. He just needed a car to show it. Now he has the chance and he’s taken it with both hands. Simple as that.

Maybe the problem is more with those who set up the heroes and then knock them down again. Lewis Hamilton has a special talent, probably up there with the all-time greats. He hasn’t suddenly lost it or never had it.

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