The Hungarian Grand Prix was the early-season favourite – but has it been surprassed by the thrilling Brazilian Grand Prix?
With all the votes counted we can now reveal which were the most popular – and least popular – races of 2006. Read on to find out.
The standout races of the year were the Hungarian and Chinese Grands Prix – both wet races and, ironically, both at circuits that have not got great reputations for providing great races.
What made these two races special was how unpredictable they were. Jenson Button drove brilliantly from 14th on the grid to win but the race could just as easily have gone to Fernando Alonso – who started 16th. Wall-to-wall overtaking and last-gasp controversies made it all the more thrilling.
It’s fair to suggest that perhaps the results were slightly skewed by Michael Schumacher fans delighting in misfortune for Alonso – because he lost the win at the Chinese Grand Prix in desperately unlucky circumstances as well.
The Bahrain Grand Prix was perhaps so warmly received because it was the first of the year – although it was a thrillingly close battle between Alonso and Schumacher, and raised hopes high for the season ahead.
But was it really better than witnessing Schumachers sensational final bow at Interlagos? Or Alonso’s against-all-odds defence against the German at Istanbul? I don’t think so.
The Australian Grand Prix was just crackers – packed with incident from lights to chequer.
Five fine if not entirely spectacular races. These all had their exciting moments (Schumacher’s engine failure in Japan, the chaos caused by the rubber marbles in Montreal) and two were spoiled by controversy (Schumacher parking it in Monaco qualifying, Alonso’s ludicrous penalty in Monza).
From bad to worse
These races weren’t a lot of fun to watch but I thought the San Marino race deserved a better ranking given the finely-poised battle between the championship protagonists it provided.
But ultimately that battle was decided in the pits, not on the race track, an unattractive feature shared by most of the races in the bottom half of the table.
Not high-speed Silverstone – one of the finest tracks on the Grand Prix calendar – nor seeing Alonso become the first Spaniard to win his home race was enough to make these races any better than tedious.
Alonso was just plain untouchable at both these races and the failure of his team mate and the Ferrari drivers to get on terms with him made the result a foregone conclusion.
Barcelona and Silverstone are both great tracks but what makes them so appealing – their high-speed bends – also precludes overtaking due to aerodynamic disturbance.
But seeing the quality of racing the GP2 cars were able to provide at Silverstone (witness Lewis Hamilton’s heart-stopping pass on Nelson Piquet Jnr and Clivio Piccione at Becketts) suggests the problem is with the cars and not the tracks.