I’m glad you have expounded your thoughts on this particular subject Al. I have for a while now been attempting to drag a few scattered elements along a similar line together but always seem to end up having a rant about something!
Generally (I think) history will show that the world championship winners were driving the dominant car. This what you would expect of course, much is always said about having the right package, engine, chassis, tyres, driver etc and you do need all these elements to consistently win and score points over the long haul of an entire season. Sometimes though people will almost dismiss the role of the driver and say things like “well he was in the best car though” if he does well.
Again generally, I think drivers from lower formulas show some talent, win races and championships and get a break into F1 with a midfield or lower team.
They then have the chance to prove that they can cut it in F1 and if they do show ability then chances are a top team will sign them after a year or two, and usually even if that top team doesn’t have the dominant car at the time it will still be capable of winning in some situations, and won’t be long before the team get the edge again.
Even as recently as 2003, all four top teams, Williams, McLaren, Ferrari and Renault won races and Williams, McLaren and Ferrari were all in the hunt for the drivers championship.
But I digress…
A good driver though, can still show that they are good even in a bad car. All the drivers on the grid must be have some talent to get there in the first place, but they don’t all show that extra sparkle of greatness. All the cars are fast too and in the old days to qualify for the race all the cars had to lap within 107% of the pole position time. I’ve not heard this referred to recently and I assume it doesn’t directly apply now with the fuelling situation in qualifying. Please correct me if I’m wrong!
I think the point I’m trying to make is that even the slow cars are fast enough for a great driver to upset the grid or the finishing order a bit. All the historical greats were able to find grip where seemingly there was none, especially in the rain, and consequently haul a car round faster than expected. Maybe with the aerodynamics these days it isn’t that easy, but truly great drivers will still be able to make a difference.