Vettel racing like a world champion
I remember the bad old days. I was presenting Formula One on Star Sports when Michael Schumacher seemed to win every race. It was dull. That's not a word that can describe 2011 so far. With all the overtaking, pit stops and general excitement of the new season, many seem to have overlooked that another German is dominating race weekends from start to finish. At the start of his career some predicted that Sebastian Vettel was the new Schumacher.
It could have been argued at the time that this was a bit of a lazy analogy. He was in Formula One, he was German, but what had he actually showed us in terms of ability to be mentioned in the same breath as the great Schumacher? Last year he became world champion. He managed it despite his own best efforts to throw the title away and as a result of Ferrari and Fernando Alonso blowing their big chance.
Getting the title though has transformed the 23-year-old. Being world champion sits easily on his shoulders. The hunger is still there, but the pressure has gone, and so have most of the mistakes. It helps being in the fastest car by a distance, but he's left his teammate Mark Webber standing so far. His lead in the championship is already 41 points, a Schumacher-style haul so early in the season.
Monaco promises to be another good weekend for the Red Bulls. Qualifying is everything in the principality. The narrow street circuit doesn't exactly encourage overtaking and being almost a second ahead of your competitors in qualifying, as Red Bull were in Spain, is a considerable advantage. Bear in mind this is a car that is still experiencing problems with its Kers system.
It will be interesting to see how much difference the DRS boost and Kers system make in Monte Carlo. The activation zone will be 300 metres around the start/finish line and if it has any effect on the normal procession it will be a major triumph. Otherwise it could be down to how canny you are with your pit stops. Tyre wear could be the real factor in the race, especially with Pirelli's supersoft compound making its debut. Lewis Hamilton certainly thinks so, and he's predicting a race like you've never seen in the principality.
Whatever happens come race day, how will you be catching up on the action? For the vast majority, myself included, it's normally via the television. However, recently I've had to keep up to date by other means. One day work rather rudely interrupted my enjoyment. I found myself driving up the motorway when the race was due to start, so I spent 90 minutes listening to the action on the radio.
I must admit I had some reservations about whether it would be any fun to listen and not watch motorsport, but it was a revelation. A wall of car noise with an excitable commentator in your ear and your imagination working overtime made it an absolute hoot. The 'theatre of the mind' concept certainly kicked in.
In your mind's eye everything's faster, louder, closer and more exciting than if you were just lounging on your couch. Never underestimate how brilliant good sports radio can be.
Mind you, last Sunday I wasn't near a TV or radio. I was sitting in a cafe on a family shopping trip; sometimes these things can't be avoided no matter how long or loud you whine that you need to stay at home to watch the grand prix 'for work, you understand'.
A few years ago you would have no idea what was going on at the track. Nowadays, thanks to smartphones, you can keep up to date with live text commentary from various newspapers, broadcasters and even F1's website. You can even track the cars on a circuit map or watch live timing. It has not got the immediacy of commentary of course, but it's oddly addictive.
Like F1 itself, media coverage of the sport is getting ever faster and hi-tech. However, call me old-fashioned (or just old), I like to get a newspaper the day after and read in black and white a report of the race at leisure and with a hot brew to hand. Some things never change.