Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Five for five - Everything you need know about the championship contenders // A look at the strengths and weaknesses of those in the title fight

Published by Stuart Taylor

#5 - Sebastian Vettel

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Our youngest challenger, Sebastian Vettel has packed the note from his mummy allowing him to stay up and race in Singapore. Still yet to be weaned off the generous teat of the ever-coddling Red Bull mother goose, Dietrich Mateschitz*, Vettel has yet to know the hard reality of a cold hard season in the gutter. But his raw pace is not in doubt. When he deputed by outperforming his car, his team mate and the senior team in Toro Rosso's best ever year, he was placed delicately on the Red Bull pedestal and no one has been allowed to lay a finger on him since. As a result, he has adopted the unfortunate 'favoured child' syndrome and turns sour when results aren't served to him on a silver platter (with an energy drink on the side, thank you).

Luckily for him, he has recently realised competitor cars won't leap out of his way like they do in the Red Bull HQ car park. This renewed temperament (as mentioned by the formidable Mrs Blachford) may serve him well in the final showdown; though he'd do well to start from pole as he can't overtake without causing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Fun Fact: Red Bull haven't told Sebastian that he's not leading the championship.

#4 - Jenson Button

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The difference between Vettel and Button can be explained by their sponsor-supplied beverages. While Vettel is charging around his playpen, high to his eyeballs on Red Bull, Button can be found chilling in a wing chair in front of a log fire, sipping Johnnie Walker and perusing telemetry through half-moon spectacles. Jenson is remarkably relaxed. Regulars to the McLaren motorhome will often find him floating from room to room in the lotus position**:

"We ran your idea of running high front wing in the simulators, Jens." An engineer informs him as he hovers through the gym. "The laptime is four tenths quicker."

Jenson gives a millimetre nod of the head and levitates away.

Jenson is a formidable opponent in these last races as he seems to be completely unphasable. While the others are conspicuously showing signs of cracking under the increasing pressure, Jenson will simply consult the telemetry and race his own race the way he's learned how. And if McLaren are to be believed, they'll need all of Jenson's set-up skill to adapt to the challenges their car will face in these coming circuits.

Fun Fact: Jenson is still using the same tyres he started with in Bahrain.

#3 - Fernando Alonso

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He's. Faster. Than. You. Let's be honest: he probably is faster than you. He and Vettel share the similar 'gene of entitlement', but whereas Vettel's expression of superiority is to crash into everyone in his way (that'll show 'em!), Alonso opts to cry like a little baby until he gets his way. Fernando is the most intriguing of the title contenders as he simultaneously is the most acutely emotive about winning; while openly declaring the sport "not a sport".

The little-known reason behind his intensity is that he actually contracted 'Loseritis' from Ron Dennis due to a lack of available vaccines in Oviedo. As you know, Loseritis gives you a tangible, physical pain whenever you are unable to win a race and Alonso take this particularly badly - mainly because he's such a massive baby. But, much like Kuato from hit sci-fi flick, Total Recall, he's a dangerous baby with whom you'd be wise not to mess . He's not a double world champion due to winge-powers*** alone; he's a fast, intelligent racer with only winning on his mind. He'll attempt to win the support of the entire team: up to and including a strategy involving his team mate crashing into a wall.

Fun Fact: When Alonso wins a race and makes a "quacking motion" with his hands, he's actually catching flies out of mid-air to increase his weight for scrutineering.

#2 - Lewis Hamilton

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You never know what's going to happen with Lewis. One minute he's run a sublime pole-to-flag race; the next, he's fishtailing into a barrier and out of the race. The reason for this is simple: there is no one Lewis Hamilton. McLaren produces a line of Lewis Hamilton robots in Woking with a single-race lifetime. Each new Lewisbot bears slight differences to the last due to manufacturing irregularities and firmware updates. This is a driver that was literally built for racing. In the development stages, they made a 4ft tall Lewis (beta) model which was tested rigorously in karting and Blue Peter to test its skill and flexibility. It passed with flying colours, and only attempted to enslave humanity once.

Unfortunately, as Lewis 2.0 is rebuilt anew for every race, he has to learn a lot of information from scratch and gets confused easily. You'll often hear him agitated mid-race: "why did you bring me in for that pit-stop?"; "what do you mean you want me to conserve fuel?"; "what does the red light at the end of the pitlane mean?". However, due to McLaren's years of honed excellent in technology, despite never gaining experience like Jenson, Hamilton will always operate to complete his program: TO WIN.

Fun Fact: Winning races is what Lewis Hamilton is talking about. He alludes to this fact after winning a race.

#1 - Mark Webber

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Mark Webber captured my heart when he came 5th in his first race at home. This is a man who creates Hollywood when he races, exuding pure Australian strength of character and skill as expected of every stereotype of an Australian. Mark, like Mr Button, has had to work his way to the top, earning race seats based on reputation, rather than results. And, like Mr Button, whenever Mark talks to the press you'll never find yourself thinking, "what the bloody hell is he talking about, the idiot!", which is a rare treat in today's paddock.

Unlike Button, though, inside Mark burns the fire of a Hamilton or an Alonso. Not one to make the same mistake twice, he drives with aggression - but not anger - and has the intimidating stage presence of a Kubica or a Schumacher. I mean, are you prepared to go against a man who can't be stopped even when his leg has been shattered? Are you?

Most importantly though, Mark bears an attribute with more weight than any of the others: that this might be his last shot at the title. He can't afford to lose. And that's why he still has to be the favourite to take the year's biggest prize.

Fun Fact: Red Bull are deliberately annoying Mark, after mistakenly believing Eric Bana's Hulk to be a documentary about Mark Webber.

  • * that's right, I called Dietrich Mateschitz a goose with teats. What of it?
  • ** not the kind of Lotus position that Trulli practises, of course
  • *** I couldn't think of a good wing / winge pun. I wanted to but it eluded me.