Formula One 2011 – A spectacular season reviewed

After eighteen races of searing asphalt, burnt rubber and daring manoeuvres scattered over five continents, the 2011 Formula One carnival draws to a close in hallowed surroundings at the undulating

After eighteen races of searing asphalt, burnt rubber and daring manoeuvres scattered over five continents, the 2011 Formula One carnival draws to a close in hallowed surroundings at the undulating amphitheatre known as the Interlagos circuit in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  This traditional season finale will culminate a term which has seen the consecutive coronation of a peerless German, the fraught breakdown of a British prodigy and technical innovations bearing wheel to wheel combat in prodigious volume.

A brief appraisal of this season could lead one to disregard the year as little more than unerring, processional dominance by Sebastian Vettel; however, this assessment would fail to capture the adept skill and high drama on show. It is indisputable that Vettel has stamped his authority on the F1 kingdom in 2011. His speed and precision in qualifying have acquired him fourteen pole positions to equal Nigel Mansell’s all time record, whilst his consistency and metronomic style in race-trim have secured him eleven victories. Testifying to his performance this year has been his thorough overshadowing of inferior teammate Mark Webber; an outperforming that discredits the theory his success is creditable only to his masterfully refined Red Bull car. No longer can Seb be hailed under the moniker ‘baby Schumi’; Vettel is weaving a triumphant, trophy laden legacy of his own.

Yet the season showcased far more than a Red Bull whitewash. For the patriots amongst us, the all British pairing of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button at Mclaren was an amicable but impassioned battle of two national treasures. This year, it was undoubtedly Button who outshone his colleague with sterling victories in Canada, Hungary and Japan capping a season in which he raised his stock significantly, enrolling as the lone worthy adversary to the imperious Vettel. Conversely, Hamilton’s term was marred by impetuous moves with both his teammate and repeatedly with his sparring partner Felipe Massa, frequently resulting in chassis crunching mishaps. He has admitted to personal travails relating to the deaths of two close friends and the cessation of his long term relationship with Nicole Scherzinger as disturbing his focus, sparking his downturn in fortune. Despite his woes, Hamilton collected three victories and vows to return in trademark swashbuckling fashion for 2012.

As for the technological modifications which revolutionised F1 for the start of the current season, the consensus seems to be that they were an overwhelming success. The introduction of overtaking aids such as DRS, which stalls the back wing, and KERS, which supplies a limited boost of energy administered by the driver, have transformed F1 into a frenetic, unpredictable sport in contrast to the tedious, log jams of yesteryear. Also ensuring the prolonged well-being of F1 is the presence of low durability tyres from Pirelli, facilitating alternate strategies instilling intrigue in even the dullest of races. 

With the future of the sport bedded in sustainability, reflection must be given to the highlights of the season passing. The standout race of the season was the meet in Montreal, Canada, which unfolded under leaden skies and on a dampened track. In a contest which saw luminaries such as Hamilton and Fernando Alonso succumb to the chaotic conditions, it was left to Button to emerge unscathed and victorious after overhauling Vettel on the final lap; a closing act that was as unforeseeable as the mist enveloped track. For me, the driver of the year must be awarded to the ever gritty Fernando Alonso who has wrestled his unwieldy Ferrari to an impressive nine podiums in the face of encumbering expectation from Italy. 

Foretelling the outcome of next year is inconceivable in the changeable world of F1, but the likelihood is that Vettel and Red Bull’s dominion will persist. However, the cast of fearless rivals comprising the perennial contenders of Ferrari and McLaren will return once more to vie for the hotly contested prize in sports most glamorous festival of speed.