|Japanese Grand Prix: this incident caused Grojean|
(the yellow and black car) to receive a one-race ban
probably for almost driving over Fernando Alonso's head.
For any F1 fan, this year’s season has been immeasurably more exciting than 2011. Gone was the repeated race format of “Vettel starts, Vettel leads, Vettel wins” and it seemed that every team had a chance competing with each other for a high spot in the constructor’s championship. The first seven races saw seven different winners, unbelievable seeming that only five drivers won races last year. Pasto Maldonado won Williams their first race in eight years and Nico Rosberg had a surprise win for Mercedes; both of these in the first seven races. Six of the drivers were world champions, including 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher. The use of team orders (where teams are allowed to tell one of their drivers to strategically help their other driver) made for extra drama, whilst all the other factors affecting a race, such as pit stop strategy, tyre choice, DRS and KERS (essentially, speed boosts), car upgrades, weather conditions and more made each race unpredictable and enjoyable to watch. There was, of course, the occasional spectacular crash, to keep the less keen fans watching and it was events like those that kept viewers wondering throughout the season: who was going to win the F1 2012 world championship?
The season kicked off in sunny
, with viewers wondering if the races would be as bleak and predictable as last year. Thankfully when Hamilton and Button locked out the front row of the grid it meant McLaren had finally caught up to Red Bull and might actually be able to compete with them as well. The race started with Button passing his team mate but having to use a severe fuel-saving strategy after McLaren managed to miscalculate how much fuel he needed. Despite this he still managed not to get overtaken by Vettel, who passed Australia mid-race, leaving him to fend off home-hero Mark Webber. Former world champion Kimi Raikkonen somehow qualified an appalling 17th and barely made up any places whilst hot-headed Venezuelan Pasto Maldonado accidently drove onto the astroturf and spun his car into the wall, all on the last lap. An earlier incident between Ferrari driver Felipe Massa and Williams’ Bruno Senna (nephew of Ayrton) saw the two of them somehow entangle their cars, forcing them both to retire. It made for exciting racing and extreme uncertainty for what lay ahead. Hamilton
After the first seven races of carnage and drivers fierce competition,
was leading the championship, 88 points to Alonso’s 86 and Vettel’s 85. The lead was continuously being passed around but this just made everything more exciting to watch. But when Alonso got his second win of the season, it seemed obvious he was going to win. The Spaniard won his home grand prix (at the same time Spain won the world cup) and dominated the leader board for the next third of a season, constantly staying at least a full race wins worth of points ahead of his nearest rival. But at round 14, at the Hamilton grand prix, Vettel struck back. After Singapore qualified on pole and had a lead of a good ten seconds over Vettel, everyone thought that Lewis would be able to challenge Alonso for the title. But a gearbox failure forced a painful retirement for him, causing Vettel to inherit the lead. Vettel went on to win the next three races, converting a 44-point lag into a fifteen point lead on Alonso. It meant the championship would be decided in the final race: Hamilton . Brazil
|Sebastian Vettel, after winning his third world |
championship in a row.
Apart from being one of the most exciting ever Formula One races ever held,
was one of the most important, as it would decide whether Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel would join an elite group of drivers who had won three world titles – and whether Vettel would become the youngest of these. Brazil qualified on pole, with Vettel 4th and Alonso 8th. The BBC commentators seemed sure Vettel would win with this huge advantage but all was still to play for. As the first corner was turned, mayhem erupted as Vettel was hit by Senna and spun; every driver had to avoid hitting him and his car was damaged and his grid position dropped to 22nd. Alonso’s luck had turned for the better. But Vettel didn’t pit, giving himself a fighting chance. Alonso needed to finish 3rd or higher to win if Vettel scored no points and so far he was only 4th. With Hamilton and Button jostling for 1st, the heavens opened. Panic spread amongst drivers and suddenly everyone was in the pits for wet compound tyres. Only Button and Force Hamilton driver Nico Hulkenburg stayed out; two laps later Button remarked “It’s not raining”. It seemed the heavens had now closed and everyone re-pitted to again change tyres. Button and Hulkenburg now had a 44-second lead over Hamilton et al and Alonso had seemingly no chance, as Vettel was making his way up the field. But an early crash had left debris on the track, bringing out the safety car to slow down the race. The fantastic lead was lost and when the safety car came in, India was quick to regain first place. Hamilton and Hulkenburg soon left Button behind and Vettel had snuck into the points, leaving Alonso’s chances in tatters. But disaster struck when Hulkneburg attempted to overtake Lewis at the worst possible time; he swerved and knocked into Hamilton , retiring him and leaving himself in 5th. Button took the lead, eventually winning but the battle between Alonso and Vettel heightened, as Alonso took second and Vettel still fighting. Vettel, however, was incredible. He made his way into sixth and guaranteed his win when Schumacher allowed him to overtake (Michael believes Vettel is his legacy). The race was over, and Vettel won the championship, ending a truly dramatic season. Hamilton
With Vettel picking up his third world championship in a row and allowing Red Bull to win the constructors championship also for their third year running, it is easy to say that this young German is the next Michael Schumacher. But Vettel, despite great racing, was arguably not the best driver this season.
Firstly there is Alonso. He only lost to Vettel by a mere 3 points and was racing in an inferior car. Despite constantly qualifying past 5th, Alonso was always so quick on the start line that by the time the first corner was turned, he would already be storming ahead. He got two poles and won a decent three races. But he can’t be called the best driver either and for one reason: he creates controversy. Just one example is the second to last race (United States) where Ferrari deliberately broke the seal on team mate Felipe Massa’s gearbox (this being one of the few times Massa out qualified him), causing Massa to have a five place grid penalty and putting Alonso not only one place forward but onto the clean side of the track. No team has used team orders more than Ferrari since (and before) they were allowed. Almost every time Alonso appeals about an illegal overtake or cheating by another team, he usually ends up losing.
|Lewis Hamilton, after winning the US Grand Prix,|
became only the second driver in history to win
two US races and the first to win at the
Circuit of Americas track.
There is one more driver worth mentioning and that is of course Lewis Hamilton. The 27 year old McLaren driver was on pole for no less than seven races out of twenty (one more than Vettel – and with
in a slower car). Lewis won four races (one less than Vettel) and finished in the top ten every race he finished. The reason he didn’t win this year is a simple matter of his car’s reliability. In both the Hamilton Singapore and grand prix, Lewis was comfortably leading, with no competition for the win and both times his car broke down mid-race. In the last race he only didn’t win due to Hulkenburg’s incompetence. If you consider that it’s 25 points for a win, and if he hadn’t retired Vettel and Alonso won have scored less, it puts him 3 points behind Vettel (instead of the actual 91). This is discounting the European grand prix, where on the last lap, Maldonado, when trying to re-join the track, drove straight into the side of Lewis’ McLaren. Overall, Lewis retired six times, compared to Vettel and Alonso’s two. With a bit of simple maths and facts, it’s clearly obvious that Lewis should really have been competing for this championship (to paraphrase Jake Humphrey). And when mistakes like that are made by a team and cost you the championship, you probably get a bit angry, even if you have been with them since you were 12 years old. Eddie Jordan agrees that Lewis could’ve won the championship this year and has said that " Abu Dhabi has ability and global presence … I do not see why he cannot win the world title with Mercedes." All factors taken into account, it’s probably why he’s moving to Mercedes. Hamilton