The Malaysian Grand Prix has got even the most casual observers talking about the sport at a level not seen for some time. With Premier League football taking a week off, debates about penalty calls have been replaced by debates about Sebastian Vettel. It wasn't scandal, it wasn't disgrace; for once it was pure racing drama, not seen since the 1980's and Ayrton Senna.
All pure racers have the devious gene, and Senna had it in abundance. All too often we hear of drivers in the modern era being PR robots, without a personality of their own. Save for perhaps Kimi Raikkonen, most say and do what they are told and when without fail. It has been said that Senna would not be half as popular and half as revered if he were around nowadays, but that's simply not the case. The reason why fans love the Sennas and Raikkonens of the world is that they are unashamedly themselves, and make no apologies for being who they are.
Vettel on the other hand tried to backtrack after the event by issuing an apology to his team, grovelling to the cameras, and by looking seemingly appalled that he had been capable of such malice. But he had already shown his cards and placed them face-up on the table to all those watching. Not even the greatest of poker players can recover from that.
Vettel has revealed himself to be the brilliant, brutal beast that he is. Indeed it perhaps should have been obvious to experienced observers; you don't become a three-time world champion by being nice.
But Vettel is desperate to be the nice guy. The picture of perfect. Unfortunately for him, trying to be one person in the car and a completely different one out of it doesn't sit well with the fans, and it is one reason why there has been so much vitriol spouted in his direction.
The greatest heroes are always flawed. In films and comic books they can only succeed once they embrace those flaws and harness them to their advantage, rather than by running from them. Sebastian Vettel will gain many more admirers by throwing off the shackles of his cultivated boyish image, and by accepting himself for what he really is: a ruthless winner.
In the meantime, the Formula One circus has become a lion's den, and the three week break until the next race in China will only serve to increase the hunger for revenge for Webber and Rosberg. By the time the lights go out in Shanghai, the tension will have reached fever pitch.
You'd be a fool to miss it.
by Joshua Bonser