When a single driver runs away with a season, is it fun to watch? Sebastian Vettel, the new 2011 Formula 1 champion, is merely the latest case in point. Jimmie Johnson in the first four consecutive years of NASCAR championship seasons was another. The seeming inevitability of Jimmie's first few championships (his fifth, in 2010, and the possibility of him winning this season are much longer-shots) have been credited by some with making NASCAR boring and losing the sport fans.
My lukewarm attention to NASCAR hasn't changed much, regardless of who's winning--and I've even watched final races a bit more the last two years to see if he can pull a championship off again. But I agree that when the result seems inevitable, as with Vettel (above) this year, I'm less likely to turn the races on.
Does the name of the driver running away with things make a difference? If it were Dale Earnhardt, Jr., for instance, there'd probably be an increase in viewers. But all drivers have people who both love and hate them, so I expect there will be as many die-hard fans who'll tune in with delight for any individual. I think the impact is felt more in the fans like me: we watch for the racing more than for one person to win, and we don't particularly like or dislike any one person at the expense of any other (OK, with one exception: Kyle Busch).
But with his 12 pole positions and nine wins (in 15 races), Vettel has been a monotonous presence at the top of the lists. While I admire his talent and accomplishment, I get the point already. And while there's been some good racing action, it's most often been for places 2-10, which takes some of the bloom from the rose. I've found myself watching broadcasts less than in past years, though I still read the summary articles and track what happens.
Which makes me wonder if there's something to be said after all for a series format like that of the Pirelli World Challenge, where series regulations spell out how race winners will be awarded ballast weight as a consequence of their wins. What do the rest of you think? Runaway winners, fun or boring?