Luck plays key role in Formula One success

Luck always plays an integral part in winning a championship in the ultra hi-tech world of F1

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 November, 2012, 5:10am

Luck. Some people dismiss it as mere superstition; others pay much closer attention. In the hi-tech world of Formula One you could be forgiven for thinking luck played no part, but of course it does. To win a world title you need many things, but no matter how big your budget or how clever your team is you definitely need a slice of luck.

Heading into the grand prix in Abu Dhabi, Fernando Alonso was decidedly upbeat. Despite seeing a 42-point lead evaporate at the hands of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, he was adamant that he could still win the title. His argument was that he had had rotten luck recently and that had to even out.

When Vettel was ordered to start the race from the pit lane, Alonso might have thought the dice was finally starting to roll for him. A damaged front wing for the German in just the third lap might have bolstered the feeling. However, two safety-car appearances were indeed a stroke of luck for Red Bull. The first, early on, enabled them to replace the damaged wing and not lose too much time. The second, towards the end, enabled a fourth-placed Vettel to close up on the race leaders.

A hugely impressive third place meant he conceded just three championship points to Alonso. As they explore the new Austin, Texas, track this weekend, 10 points separate them with a maximum of 50 on offer. It's still up for grabs and neither driver seems to think that luck will have the final say.

Vettel says he and Alonso are equally worthy of the title this year. He said: "If you look at the races we've done so far, I think Fernando's and my DNF's [did not finish] or calamities are equal. I still believe the driver who deserves it will win."

Alonso is equally sanguine, saying after Abu Dhabi: "They have the fastest car, we have the best team. We will see who wins."

These two gladiators deserve decent arenas in which to slug it out to the title, and in Austin and Sao Paulo we have two of the best. We know all about Brazil, but The Circuit of The Americas makes its debut this weekend.

It's a track for the racing enthusiast, built by enthusiasts. Just as in fantasy football games you pick and choose your favourite players, the Austin track designers have combined elements from their favourite tracks to make one circuit that Jenson Button thinks will be "epic". There's turn eight from Istanbul (but in reverse), parts of Silverstone and hints of Hockenheim to name but a few.

One man has already driven a Formula One car there. Search online to see David Coulthard driving a Red Bull around what was then just a dirt track. It makes for some breathtaking images.

Finally, among the drama of the title denouement and the new track, let's not forget the achievement of Kimi Raikkonen's first win since Spa in 2009. It was the first time Lotus' name was on the top step of the podium in 25 years. It's great to see the laconic Finn winning again and good for the team as he signed for another year.

Perhaps the best bit of his victory in the United Arab Emirates was his radio spats with Mark Slade. The pair have worked together for many years and they came across as a married couple.

First, Slade told Kimi he would keep him informed of the gap to the driver behind. "Leave me alone. I know what I'm doing!" Raikkonen snapped. Then when the second safety car was deployed, the pit wall told him to keep all four tyres warm. "Yes, yes, yes. I'm doing all of that - you don't need to remind me every second!" came the curt reply.

At least he can see the funny side. A few days ago 500 T-shirts arrived at the factory courtesy of the Finn, with the "leave me alone" message emblazoned on the front. Both he and the team seem to know what they are doing - together or alone.