With the 2012 Formula One season done and dusted, we round up the biggest moments from a stellar year
Best driver: Fernando Alonso may not have won the title, but for the Spaniard to have missed out on Championship glory by three points despite having inferior machinery is a massive achievement. Had Alonso not been taken out by other drivers’ errors in Belgium and Japan the final reading may have had a very different complexion.
Best team: A third consecutive Constructors’ title and increasing dominance as the season progressed leave little doubt that Red Bull were the year’s best team. No matter how many times the FIA asked them to tweak features of the RB8, Red Bull recovered to head the field.
Best overtaking manoeuvre: Kimi Raikkonen overtaking Michael Schumacher coming into Eau Rouge at the Belgian Grand Prix. Watch and enjoy.
Worst crash: When it came to big crashes, Romain Grosjean was more often than not in the centre of the action - turn one of the opening lap at Spa was no different. Having squeezed Lewis Hamilton into the first corner, Grosjean triggered a six-car crash that took out, amongst others, title-chaser Fernando Alonso. The moment was defining for Alonso, not only because he saw Grosjean’s Lotus fly narrowly past his head but it also put a significant dent in his Championship chances.
Biggest loss: Having spent 26 years as the FIA Formula One Safety and Medical Delegate, Professor Sid Watkins was an institution in the sport. Credited not only with with playing a major role in saving the lives of several drivers including Rubens Barrichello at Imola in 1994 and Mika Hakkinen at Adelaide in 1995, Watkins revolutionised safety in the sport.
The 84-year-old passed away on 12 September after suffering a heart attack. In paying tribute to Watkins, Martin Brundle said: “Sid would often prescribe ‘a stiff whisky and aspirin’ unless your leg was hanging off. His way of saying ‘just put up and get on with it’.” In the words of Ron Dennis, Watkins “was a truly great man, and the world of motor racing simply won’t be the same without him.”
Disappointment of the year: After a promising start to the year with victory in China, Mercedes then proceeded to dish out more of what fans have become accustomed to – disappointing results. With just one top five finish from July through to the end of the year, the season fizzled out with a whimper.
Best race: Having been somewhat of a snoozefest in previous years, few would have imagined the Abu Dhabi GP would be topping the tables in 2012. We were lucky enough to witness a number of top quality races including a dream debut for Austin and some exciting racing in Korea and Brazil. However, Kimi Raikkonen’s first win in three years came in an enthralling race that had drama all over the field as Sebastian Vettel fought his way onto the podium after starting the race in the pit-lane. Throw in Lewis Hamilton breaking down while in the lead and the deployment of two safety cars and you get an action-packed race.
Biggest controversy: The legality of the Red Bull RB8 proved to be one of the more controversial topics of this season with the team having several parts either declared illegal or becoming so once rules were clarified.
In the wake of the Monaco GP, Red Bull were forced to alter their car’s floor as a hole near the rear was deemed to be illegal. Added to that one race later, in Canada, they had to change their wheel hubs as they were believed to be giving them an “aerodynamic advantage.”
Three races later they were back in the docks, this time after FIA Technical Delegate Jo Bauer referred the team to the race stewards over what he felt was an illegal throttle map. The FIA lost that round but later clarified regulations forcing Red Bull to again change their car.
And then there was the ride height adjustment issue, which resulted in more changes for the team after stewards told them to tweak the part that allowed them to adjust it manually.
Not a great year for Newey’s tricks!
Quote of the year: “Leave me alone. I know what I’m doing.” - Kimi Raikkonen tells his team in no uncertain terms that he’s in control on his way to victory in Abu Dhabi.
Feel good moment: It was hard not to be moved at the sight of former F1 driver Alex Zanardi winning two gold medals for handcycling at the Paralympics. Eleven years after losing both his legs in a CART accident at the Lausitzring, the Italian showed true grit and determination to fight his way to the top step of an Olympic podium. People talk about the Paralympics being a triumph of the human spirit and this is certainly a case in point.