Formula One has had its own share of ups and downs, like any recurring television show entering in its 63rd season. There are always laments about the "good old days," when everything was better, but I'm willing to contest that we are currently in another golden patch thanks to today's race.
Yes, Sebastian Vettel won again, by a mile again, on his way to a world championship again (his fourth on the trot). But hear me out. There's something different about this era of German driver dominance versus the last one, with Michael Schumacher. Yes, you have an unsettlingly cool driver in an incredibly dominant car winning race after race, but there's one thing that has made this decade great so far. Entertainment.
We watch F1, and all sports for that matter, for the entertainment value. Today's F1 provides just that, and it's not just in the day-to-day of "this guy came first and has this many points and this guy came second and has this many points." There are real personalities with real character, multiple world champions finishing on podiums, and, dare I say it, unpredictability.
Consider some basic facts about this race. Fernando Alonso, a two-time world champion in his own right, was stuck at ninth on the grid, and charged his way up to second in a Ferrari that has struggled (relatively) this season, but made up for it with blindingly quick straight-away speed at this race in Spa. Kimi Raikkonen, who completed every single one of the last 38 races and had points in every single one of the last 27, was forced to retire with mechanical issues.
You have crazy battles way back between four drivers, like when Esteban Gutierrez, Pastor Maldonado, Paul Di Resta, and Adrian Sutil had a scrap all together despite being way back in position. Everyone is competing at every moment, and nothing is held back.
Every great TV series needs villains, too. We used to have villains in drivers. Schumacher was ice cold and yet won every race. Rubens Barrichello barely stood up for himself despite being a great driver in his own right. Jacques Villeneuve made terrible music. Having villains in the drivers made the drivers difficult to cheer for, though, especially if the villains kept winning. But nowadays its hard to find evil in the drivers, even in the evilest of all, Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel is a guy who goes out there and races his heart out, race after race, until he can do more but have Beyoncé hair. And when he wins a race, he visibly appreciates it. He's genuinely excited. And even when he leaves everything on the track and does his darndest, a retirement is not unthinkable. He's exactly what F1 fans always wanted from Schumacher – someone who was cool and collected on the track, but had a genuine personality behind him off it.
But don't worry, we still have villains, even if our villains are not the drivers. The best villains are always shadowy, unseen forces that conspire to ruin the sport. And of course, we still have those. Instead of being drivers these days, though, its big corporations like Pirelli with their tires that keep exploding (even if that was the original intentand alleged criminals like Bernie Ecclestone who feed the corruption narrative that we all want to believe in. We have stewards who give Sergio Perez a drive-through penalty for squeezing out Romain Grosjean on the track, which is something we used to calling racing. Perez was left screaming on the radio that he did "nothing wrong!"
And at the end of the day, three drivers from three different teams, all of them past champions, ended up on the podium today. This isn't one sport being dominated by one man. It's many greats battling it out for the thing that makes all Golden Eras so damn golden. It's legacies.
What do you think, though? Do you think we're in another golden era of F1 greats? Or is this just business as usual? Your provisional results are below:
Images via Getty