The circus of excellence: mid-season flash review

Roll up, roll up for one of the most exciting seasons ever! See the dynamic German Sebastian Vettel astride a raging Bull, locking horns with his Australian nemesis Mark Webber! See the British aces in their flying machines, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button, in a dogfight to the death! See Latin passion at Ferrari in the hands of the great Fernando Alonso with Felipe Massa nipping at his heels! And don’t forget the roaring pack behind, led by Renault and Mercedes GP!

Ok, so it didn’t exactly start with a bang. In the desert of Bahrain, Fernando Alonso wrote himself into Ferrari legend by winning on his Prancing Horse debut. Followed by the returning hero Massa, the Italian stallions had their noses in front. But in fact it was a Bull, a Red one named RB6, which would be the class of the early season. For raw pace, it should have won Bahrain and Australia: Adrian Newey’s bête noire of unreliability haunting the team.

So we went to the park in Melbourne, and it turned out that Jenson Button’s wondrous ability to drive super-smoothly might be distinctly advantageous in this season of tyre conservation. In thunderous Malaysia a week later, the rain which hangs heavy in the air undid McLaren and Ferrari in qualifying and put them at the back of the grid. The Bulls charged Vettel leading Mark Webber home. He would not have let Mark get to that first corner first!

Button struck back in China, with Hamilton second. It was royal entertainment in the rain! Next up, the Catalonian hills oversaw a masterclass from Mark Webber, as he dominated them all from pole. Unreliability? The bête noire hadn’t gone Vettel limped home.

In the streets of the Principality, they asked, would the backmarkers be mobile chicanes? Not for the excellent Mark Webber they wouldn’t; he negotiated them with ease and panache. And to finish it all with a dip in the harbour pure showmanship!

But just when it looked like it would be easy for the Bulls, came self-destruction. At the Otodrom in Turkey, on lap 40, Vettel and Webber came together…causing much debate, late into the night. Opinions flew about. On track: Hamilton first, Button second; to McLaren the spoils, they themselves battling ferociously like dogs over a bone.

On the island in Canada, the McLarens cleverly managed their tyres and avoided the midfield maelstrom. Hamilton to the fore again, learning from his team-mate to master the Bridgestone rubber! Button second again; he could not touch his compatriot.

Then we went to the beach at Valencia and Vettel asserted his authority once again, as a lapse of concentration saw Webber fly into the blue sky. But it would not be long before Vettel’s advantage was again thought to be team-assisted: as Red Bull claim to do with their drink, at Silverstone they gave the young German wings. Or a wing. Which they had taken away from Mark Webber. He fumed, drove with anger. And took victory in Northamptonshire.

Then it was Hockenheim, the neutered, new Hockenheim. Vettel and Schumacher were on their home patch, but it was Ferrari who had done their homework and were now on the pace of the leaders. But inter-team controversy dominated this one too: Felipe Massa had let his team-mate by, gifting him the win.

As the McLarens faded pace-wise, Red Bull were back on supreme form in Hungary. Vettel was to rue his safety car error; Webber was there, charging as ever, to take the win.

Twelve races down, seven to go. Five different race winners, four different championship leaders. Three winning constructors. The whole circus is one act the trapeze artist – precariously balanced. Who’s going to win it? Whoever makes the fewest mistakes, of course. A small error will cost you dear! It’s literally too close to call. Next, Spa! Roll up, roll up!