In my previous column, I predicted that Russell won’t beat Hamilton over a season – but I hope I’m doing him a disservice. At 37 (this week), Hamilton has shown zero signs of a drop-off in his performance, and if anything was forced to raise his game last year in combat with Verstappen. The prospect of another fiercely competitive and aggressive driver with total self-belief pitching himself into the title fray is just what we need to cleanse the nasty aftertaste left by Abu Dhabi. And the new season will be even better if Ferrari and McLaren, and perhaps even Alpine and Aston Martin, have got their sums right on the new rules and rise out of the midfield. Somehow, despite everything, hope springs eternal in F1.
Rally to the cause
The loss of Rally GB, Britain’s World Rally Championship round, continues to cast a long shadow. Nevertheless, there was solid proof that rallying is bouncing back this winter from the severe blow dealt by the pandemic, thanks to a string of well-supported historic events.
Hero-Era’s Rally of the Tests and LeJog regularity events defied the ongoing challenges and poor weather, while the five-day Roger Albert Clark Rally (known by the handy acronym RAC) magnificently filled the Rally GB void as our premier stage rally, despite the crews and schedule taking a battering from Storm Arwen.
The RAC proved properly competitive, too, as front runners paid the price for pressing on in lethal conditions. Runaway leader Jason Pritchard rolled out on the penultimate day in his Ford Escort RS1800 Mk2, then both new front man Paul Barrett and second-placed Osian Pryce came to grief on the final morning within minutes and just a few stage miles from the finish. That meant something other than an Escort took the victory: the Safari Rally-spec Porsche 911 of the suitably named Ryan Champion and co-driver Craig Thorley.