Is this the golden era of Formula 1?

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PRE SEASON BUILD UP, DAY 10

This question is often posed around this time as a new crop of drivers emerge in Melbourne for the start of another season. Looking back as early as 2012, one can question whether even this year can compare.

Of course to fully answer this question, one factor must be considered. What is it that sets a generation apart? If it’s the dominance of a certain driver or team then perhaps Fangio and Schumacher would be the likely nominees.

But to me, we are enjoying the golden era of Formula 1.

This generation, in particular this bygone racing year, could be considered for two different reasons. Seven different winners won from the first seven different races – both Rosberg and Maldonado scored their maiden victories in China and Barcelona respectively.

Furthermore, six world champions started the 2012 season; this is more than during the time of Senna, Prost, Piquet and Mansell in the 1990s. The most recent driver incumbent has supplied us with closely fought battles but, as much as he is a legend, Michael Schumacher just couldn’t gift us with that.

What better way to judge the present, than to compare it to the past?

The Senna era is always looked at alongside the phrase “what if?” What if he had not endured that fatal crash in Imola? What if Prost and Senna had not become team mates? Senna’s death created a cloud over that generation and their achievement as it thrust arguments of driver safety to the foreground. The negativity associated to the 1990s calls many to question how worthy this generation is of the title.

ImageAfter all, even with his dominant championship win in 2011, Sebastian Vettel’s race rivals did not feel far away; Fernando Alonso especially must be credited for pushing the German to the season finale both times. I know I will never forget the moment I was pacing the room as the Red Bull spun, reversed to the back of the grid then fought its way through the pack. The moments in Formula 1 that prevent you from sitting, are undoubtedly the best.

You may argue that some of these moments are created artificially in a meeting headed by Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt. The DRS allows for more overtaking and Pirelli are creating ever unpredictable tyre compounds. However, this is no different to team orders, a notion that has existed for many a year (whether illegally or not).

Granted the so-called ‘new’ teams may not be as competitive as once hoped, but they provide a particular unpredictability that the experience, wealth and reputation of bigger teams cannot. Caterham and Marussia need to take risk if they are to surprise on a race weekend, the others must be more careful – for them, more is one the line. They also provide the youngsters of today the opportunity to rise to a top team. Midfield team, Sauber, have gifted Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa and Sergio Perez with coveted race seats; Hulkenberg could be added to this list in years to come.

Kimi Raikkonen’s stoic return was admirable, his win in Abu Dhabi emotional and his lacklustre relationship with the media as hilarious as ever. He feels that the field is competitive, as does Fernando Alonso. With three championships between them, one cannot help but respect their contribution.

Legends have existed since its modern inception. Arguably, this decade has been the greatest for providing fans with pulsating racing. With the Mercedes suffering reliability issues but carrying great speed, this alone could provide a repeat of 2012.

This blog post is the tenth in this year’s pre season build up. For the next five days, ‘stoodonthepodium’ will be bringing you exclusive interviews, stories, analysis and more from the world of Motorsport.

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