On the last day of 2012 it seems an appropriate time to look back on the events of the year and pick out some highlights for discussion.
It was a very good year of racing with some fantastic on-track moments and some significant ones off track too.
Here are some of my personal favourites; let us know in the comments section below what you found the best moments of 2012.
Hamilton wins the duel in Austin
A great race in a great season and one that reminded everyone that Lewis Hamilton should have been fighting for the world title, but for reliability and operational issues at McLaren. In Austin he hunted down pole sitter Sebastian Vettel, taking his one and only opportunity to overtake when Vettel lost some ground behind a back marker in the high speed curves leading to the back straight. It was a great battle for the lead and reminiscent of Nigel Mansell’s classic opportunist pass on Ayrton Senna in Hungary in 1989.
Fernando Alonso – The start in Valencia
Alonso’s best race in a stunning season. Although the Ferrari was a poor qualifying car it raced pretty well, so Alonso and Massa had a lot of work to do at the starts. Alonso made up places at 14 of the 20 races. In Valencia he started 11th on the grid, but with the advantage of new tyres saved from missing Q3, he gained three places off the start line, fought his way through the field in the opening stint, took the opportunity offered to him by another pit stop problem for McLaren to pass Hamilton. He passed Grosjean for second place around the outside of Turn 1 after a safety car restart then took the lead just after half way through the race.
Kimi Raikkonen – “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing”.
The classic line from the Lotus F1 star as he steered the team to its first win under the Lotus name and Genii ownership in Abu Dhabi. Raikkonen had developed a reputation for being short with his engineer, who he considered to be telling his granny how to suck eggs, but this was the funniest line of the year over the radio. To prove his style, he made some T shirts with the message on it for the team.
Vettel’s car survives a hit from Senna’s Williams at the start in Brazil
When you are leading the world championship on the final day and you find yourself facing the wrong way on lap 1 having sustained a heavy hit to the left side of the car and then another smash into your left rear suspension, it’s reasonable to think that it’s all over. But Sebastian Vettel survived that and a series of hair-raising moments to collect the points he needed to clinch his third world title. For people who criticised him for having things too easy, 2012 was the counter-argument and nowhere more clearly expressed than in that moment.
Massa’s comeback from forced gearbox penalty in Austin
Felipe Massa has under performed badly for almost three years, but in the second half of the 2012 season, with his career hanging by a thread, he rediscovered form and in Austin he also showed the character we saw at times during his 2008 campaign. He out qualified Alonso in Austin and was then forced by his team into taking a gearbox penalty to allow the Spaniard to start on the clean side of the track. It worked, as Alonso got onto the podium, but Massa’s strong drive to fourth, from 12th on the grid, showed his spirit.
Sergio Perez takes second in Monza
Sergio Perez won the lottery in 2012; he went from Sauber to a McLaren drive and a chance at the big time. He did it thanks to three stunning podiums, but the Monza result was the standout because of the pressure he was under that weekend. It was already clear that Lewis Hamilton was serious about leaving McLaren, Perez was well down the road in discussions with the team about replacing him, while Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo had said that Perez (a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy) wasn’t ready for the big time. He charged through the field on a reverse strategy after another poor qualifying (he failed to make Q3 in 13 out of 20 attempts this year), passed both Ferraris and finished second. Within a few weeks he had a McLaren contract.