Sep 26, 2009

More on Ferrari vs. Hamilton

Friend of mine said a few things on facebook, which I feel obliged to react to, but since facebook limits the length and format of comments, I'm continuing the discussion here.

"The deal is there is NO big deal about Hamilton. He benefits and loses just like the rest of them... He does not in any shape, form or spirit embody any kind of genius, excellence, or commitment. He is NOT in the league of a Schumacher or a Senna.

Which is why we don't make a big deal about Kimi or Massa. The TEAM is core and has always been since F1 started... We totally biased FERRARI fans take exception to the deification of a driver who is not exceptional unlike previous Ferrari alumni."

Let's take these points one at a time.

Ferrari have won 210 of 789 races - 27%. McLaren 163 of 662 - 25%.

Is that 2% difference really 'a gulf between the great and the ordinary'? Certainly not in my book. In terms of prestige and glamor, one name is definitely bigger than the other. That matters - I respect the Ferrari heritage, and if I could afford a sports car, I'd definitely prefer a Ferrari to most others.

But if that was all that mattered, Williams would have many more supporters today. When I watch sport, I'm interested in the skills, the commitment and - most of all - the achievements of the competitors. Winning matters - the MOST.

On these counts there isn't much separating the two - the facts speak for themselves. So, I don't much care for the 'team', or rather the 'brand' in this case, and I definitely do not agree with the notion that the team is the core in F1. Some others do. Good for them. No point arguing, since the interests are totally different, and one will never see, let alone accept, the other's point of view.

I would like to throw one question at them, though - if Schumacher and Montoya had traded places in the early-2000's, where would their loyalties lie? With Ferrari? Or with Schumacher? Think about it, honestly.

Now, I do experience a deep sense of anguish when credit is denied where it is due. One man holds the records for most wins, most podiums and most poles in his debut season. He outperformed a 2-time-world-champion (who, incidentally, had beaten the 'great' Michael Schumacher the previous year) in his debut season. He became the youngest ever F1 champion the next season. He has won races on street, and racing circuits. He has won - even dominated, sometimes - wet races, which are considered to be the greatest test of driver skill. He has consistently outperformed his team-mate in an identical car. He has pulled out some blinders in qualifying sessions. And he has beaten people on track - not just with a runaway quick machine, not just with pit strategy - but in genuine racing situations. All this within his first 3 seasons, at a young age, and not always the best car on the circuit.

Yet, he is described as completely ordinary. I fail to understand how or why. If the benchmark is 'exceptional Ferrari alumni' - they didn't win a single drivers title in 21 years between 1979 and 2000. The last among them - Michael Schumacher - couldn't get the better of Mika Hakkinen or Fernando Alonso a lot of the time. So just what was the big deal? What else does Lewis have to do? Get in a red car? Is that all that matters? In that case, wasn't Senna a great?

I hope someone has answers that make sense.