In the final Badgerometer of the year we’re saying goodbye to 2011 by looking at the top F1 news stories of the past 12 months.
Hamilton vs. Massa
The feud of the season was the constant coming together of arguably the slower drivers of their respective teams. Felipe Massa was being taken to the cleaners by Fernando Alonso all year, not once finishing on the podium and seemingly coming home 6th every weekend. Lewis fared better, with a few wins, but couldn’t match the consistency of Jenson Button.
And then they started driving into one another.
Monaco was the first flashpoint: Lewis barged his way past Felipe, damaging the Ferrari in the process, causing the Brazilian to have a nasty shunt out of the tunnel. They battled to line at Silverstone, clipped each other under the lights at Singapore and briefly touched in Japan. The final – and fifth – incident was Massa being adjudged to have driven into Hamilton in India.
Was it malice on each other’s part? Probably not. It was merely an outpouring of frustration from two drivers who couldn’t quite pull it all together, while their team-mates could. Still, led to some great television though!
Robert Kubica’s horrific rally accident early in 2011 was undoubtedly one of the key stories of the season. For one thing it totally destabilised Renault, who were coming off the back of a tremendous 2010 campaign. They lost their leader, with Nick Heidfeld’s experience failing to fill the gap and both Vitaly Petrov and Bruno Senna proving incapable of the sort of performances the team demanded.
Secondly it led to a season-long debate over whether Robert would return and, if he didn’t, who would take his place. It added an unusual factor to the driver market: an in-demand racer who wanted to return in 2012 but may not have been able to.
As it turned out his fitness still isn’t what it needs to be (and it may never be sufficient for him to race in F1 again) leading to the return of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen and GP2 champ Romain Grosjean.
And the story is still not over: will Kubica return? If so it won’t be with Renault, who have a new long-term line-up. There is talk of a test with Ferrari, but it may turn out that one of the brightest talents of his generation does not get the chance to fulfil his potential.
The dropping of a race no one really likes shouldn’t be much of a news story, but Bahrain was different. Protests grew in the country as the Arab Spring swept across North Africa and the Middle East, making it unthinkable that a Formula One race could take place there.
But they tried, bless ’em, to stage an event against the backdrop of chaos and unrest. Thankfully common sense – or perhaps the grim reality of scenes of violence on the streets – prevailed.
Then, just to make sure we all knew there was no moral direction in F1’s decision making, the race was re-arranged for later in the season. It was finally dropped again – this time for good – though with the guarantee that the sport will be back there next season, despite the situation in Bahrain still being far from stable.
Honestly, the race shouldn’t be run next year, what with the on-going unrest, but it’s on the calendar so we can only assume it will happen. And remember, F1 raced in Apartheid South Africa during the eighties, so such decisions should hardly come as a surprise. Not that it makes it any less disappointing.
BBC + Sky = Anger
One Friday morning this season, on the eve of the Hungarian Grand Prix, the landscape of how F1 would be shown in Britain changed forever. BBC had sold the rights to Sky. All hell broke loose.
We’re still talking about it 6 months later, and that’s only because there was a big hoo-ha at the Autosport awards, a few days after Sky announced it had poached many personalities from the BBC.
But the real victims in the switchover are us, the fans. We’ve had it lucky for a long time and will now have to shell out a lot to watch our favourite sport. But, with a dedicated channel, it might just be worth it.
The domination of Sebastian Vettel
How could we not give the number one slot to the champ?
All season long, no matter where in the world the F1 circus was, Sebastian Vettel was at the forefront of pretty much every single race. Apart from Germany and Abu Dhabi he finished on the podium every time, won eleven races, secured fifteen pole positions, led the championship from round 1, and was Badger’s Top Dog of 2011. We’re pretty sure the German could find a cure for the common cold if he put his mind to it.
All jokes aside, it was one of the most dominant displays ever by a driver, and perhaps in a few years we’ll look back all misty eyed at the history created. But, for now, let’s look to 2012, and the slight glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe, Vettel will be beaten.