• Sir Stirling Moss

Moss on the title showdown

Sir Stirling Moss October 4, 2010
Sir Stirling Moss: "It could be any of the top five, it's wide open" © Getty Images
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One would have to be a real gambler to pick a world champion with four races remaining, and that's a brilliant position for the sport to be in. It wouldn't surprise me if it was Mark Webber, it wouldn't surprise me if it was Fernando Alonso; it could be any of the top five, it's wide open.

The cars now seem pretty level but it's obvious that certain circuits will favour certain teams. I haven't driven any of the remaining tracks and I haven't driven the cars, so I can't give much insight there. But I know what it's like to be challenging for a championship and there is every chance that this title will be decided by the strengths and weaknesses of the drivers themselves.

Currently leading the way is Webber. I think he's done a great job to get to where he is now and I've every confidence that he and the team can hold onto their advantage. In my mind he is the favourite for the championship at this point, but he is by no means a dead certain. I must say that he has been very consistent in recent races and, as the drivers keep pointing out, that will be very important in the final standings. His experience is starting to pay dividends and, even though he's never been in a position to defend the title in his career, I still think he stands a very good chance.

His toughest competitor comes in the form of his closest rival in the championship race: Alonso. The Ferrari driver has done a darn good job at the last two races and he is now as reliable as he was in his prime, and as fast as one expects a double world champion to be. It's worth remembering that the gap is just 11 points between the top two, and if you convert that to the old points system that's only about four or five points. So even if you don't rate the Ferrari as highly as the Red Bull, you'd still have to be a very brave man to bet against Alonso. We all know how good Ferrari were at taking titles in the Michael Schumacher era and I think we are starting to see a re-emergence of that under Alonso.

The result of the German Grand Prix makes no difference for Sir Stirling Moss © Sutton Images
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Now, I know that if Ferrari does take the title there will be plenty of people who will flag up the team-orders controversy at the German Grand Prix and label the championship tainted. But I don't agree with that at all. I'll admit that the way Ferrari handled that affair was pretty poor, but I think in the future there will be a much more liberal ruling on team orders and we will look back at the 2010 German Grand Prix as an irregularity in the rules, rather than anything more sinister on Ferrari's part.

In third place we have Lewis Hamilton, who seems to be a very unfortunate driver at the moment. At the last two races he's got himself into situations that perhaps he shouldn't have been in and he's come off worse. At Monza he was trying too hard too early and got tangled up with Felipe Massa in an accident that really should never have happened. I like his aggressive approach to racing, but in that scenario I would have preferred to see him sit back on the first lap and then be the racer that we know he can be later on.

He's inclined to go too hard too quickly and we saw that again in Singapore when he tried a move on Mark Webber immediately after the safety car period. There is nothing wrong with taking opportunities as they arise, but he must have known in both cases that there was quite a high chance it wouldn't pay off.

But looking at his wider championship chances, we shouldn't forget that the Hamilton and McLaren package is one of the best in Formula One. McLaren is a very well put together team and has put him in some very good positions this year, despite the recent failings on Lewis's part. They are very capable of winning at the final four races and, more than any other team, you feel they could take advantage of a mistake by their rivals, which could be the difference between winning and losing this championship.

Sebastian Vettel has made some costly mistakes this year © Sutton Images
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Another driver who has made some costly mistakes this year is Sebastian Vettel, who should be leading the title chase on raw pace alone. As a natural talent I would say he has the edge over team-mate Webber, but Webber is the thinking man's driver, and what he might lose in sheer speed he makes up for in racecraft. To prove that point, Vettel has taken seven pole positions this year but just two wins, whereas Webber has taken five poles and four wins.

I would put that down to impetuosity on Vettel's part. He's a racer like Hamilton and both of them need to draw on quite a lot of will power not to act on their impetuosity. They need to learn to wait for the opportunities to come to them rather than trying to achieve the impossible and ending up with DNFs.

The problem is that, for all racing drivers, the race that matters more than any other in the world is the race that takes place today. Vettel is an extreme example of the breed and it means that when he is not living up to the potential of the car, he would sooner throw a wild move up the inside than settle for a substandard finish.

But, just like Hamilton, I wouldn't like to see him lose that impetuosity completely. It's an important trait to have and in certain circumstances it will see him dive for a gap and, before he has the time to ask himself whether it was the safe or not, he will be past his opponent. It's something that I had to control during my career and once you find a balance it's a very valuable asset.

Finally we have Jenson Button, who's a very good, fast, steady driver. But his real talent this year has been in his ability to keep a clear head and make the most of opportunities as they come his way. He looks to things like bad weather, safety cars, or set-up to take an advantage where others will miss out. His decision to pit in Australia, the way he preserved his tyres in China and his decision to run the F-duct in Monza; those things were typical Button and I don't think we've seen that kind of clear and decisive thinking from the other guys.

Jenson Button has been quick in bad conditions © Sutton Images
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But that also means that he is now relying on those kinds of decisions to win the championship, as you'd have to say that his raw pace is not enough to make up a 25-point deficit to Webber. Of course the plus side is that if anybody is going to make the most of a drop of rain, or an unexpected scenario it's going to be him and that's the best way of making up lots of points very quickly.

So between the five of them we should be in for a very good finale to the season. My only concern is that having a world championship to fight for could mess up the races. We've all seen drivers race for points rather than wins down the years, and in my opinion that isn't motor racing.

In my career I always raced to win and I'll openly admit that cost me championships. Looking back at it I was my own worst enemy in that respect, but I don't regret my approach one bit. I'm a racer and I went out there to have fun; in my mind there's no pleasure in driving around in a race unless one is racing one's hardest and that means fighting for victory.

Of course the way around that problem is to introduce Bernie Ecclestone's medal system, where the driver with the most wins at the end of the season takes the championship. I think at first glance it seems like a bad idea but that's mainly because we don't like change in this sport. I think if it was done carefully and cleverly, and with the approval of the drivers, it would benefit Formula One.

But that's all in the future. Let's just hope that the drivers keep pushing each other right until the very last race of this year's championship.

www.stirlingmoss.com

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Sir Stirling Moss OBE - a British motor racing legend, recognised as one of the world's greatest racing drivers. He won an astonishing 212 of the 529 races he entered during his 15-year career, competing in just about every class of motor racing, including 16 Formula One races. His victory in the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most famous races in F1 history. Stirling's vast experience comes from being a racer and from knowing those who compete in and run the sport now. He never shies away from commenting on all aspects of the sport he loves. Gallery of his career