2011 F1 season review
How well did we predict the 2011 season?
Before the year began 20 questions were put to F1 Fanatics on the championship ahead.
Contrary to our best guesses, Fernando Alonso didn’t win the title and HRT did not go bust halfway through the year.
1. Best surprise of the year
There were some optimistic and ultimately unfulfilled predictions here.
Among the most popular choices were Nick Heidfeld scoring his first win and Robert Kubica making a comeback from injury – neither of which came to pass.
2. Worst surprise of the year
There was considerable doubt over the future of HRT – the single most common suggestion here was that they wouldn’t make it to the end of the season. They did, but not without a fresh injection of capital from a new owner.
Others suggested that HRT would regularly fall victim to the 107% rule, though in the end this only happened at the first race of the year.
Several readers expressed concerns that DRS would not work as intended, or that it would produce artificial overtaking. However only a few readers doubted the Indian Grand Prix would go ahead.
And no-one saw the BBC/Sky deal coming.
3. First driver to be replaced
People know a pattern when they see one and having seen Toro Rosso dump drivers halfway through 2007 and 2009 they expected more of the same in 2011 – and predicted Sebastien Buemi would get the chop.
He didn’t – not before the end of the season, anyway. The first driver to be replaced was Sergio Perez when he withdrew due to injury in Canada (the absence of Robert Kubica was already known when we did the poll).
4. First substitute driver
Most people expected Daniel Ricciardo to be parachuted into Sebastien Buemi’s seat. It wasn’t an unreasonble belief – he ended up taking Narain Karthikeyan’s place at HRT.
But he wasn’t the first substitute of the year – that honour fell to Pedro de la Rosa when he took over from Perez.
5. Biggest political story
Exactly what was the biggest political story of 2011 is a subjective matter. But when F1 gets dragged into the headlines for something other than racing, and the question of whether a race goes ahead affects the highest individuals in a state, then that’s clearly not something to be underestimated.
The row over the Bahrain Grand Prix, and the bungled attempts by FOM and the FIA to reinstate it, was surely the biggest political dispute of the season.
It’s fair to say that, on the whole, we didn’t see that one coming 12 months ago. Doubts over the effectiveness and safety of DRS prevailed, and more people feared the Lotus naming row would prove the biggest bone of contention in 2011.
The new engine rules for 2013 and the return of team orders also gave cause for concern.
6. McLaren wins
McLaren had a fraught off-season as they struggled with a slow and unreliable car. They looked set for a dismal 2011.
Despite that hardly any readers throught they would end the year win-less. Most tipping them to win two or more races. They ended up bagging six victories, which was in excess of most people’s expectations.
7. Webber’s contract
Those who thought Mark Webber would not extend his Red Bull contract to 2012 outnumbered those who disagreed by almost two to one.
But the minority got this one right as Webber remains with the team this year.
8. The Horse Whisperer
The Horse Whisperer is the resident troll of the Ferrari website – clearly someone there likes to have a gripe while hiding behind anonymity.
F1 Fanatics reckoned Ferrari’s thinly-disguised contempt for the back-of-the-grid outfits and preference for three-car teams seemed likely candidates for its first whinge of 2011. Other suggestions included perennial 2011 topics DRS, KERS and tyres, or some kind of row with rivals Red Bull.
In the end it turned out to be none of the above. Somewhat disappointingly, the first whispering of 2011 was to do with a sportswear company that wanted to sponsor the team. Yawn.
The Horse Whisperer returned to form later in the year, fulminating over radio messages to Felipe Massa, allegations the same driver might be forced out of the team and Luca di Montezemolo’s complaints over the F1 rules.
9. Schumacher’s best result
F1 Fanatics had high hopes for Michael Schumacher in the second year of his comeback. Most expected he would bag a podium finish and the majority expected him to get his 92nd career win, if not a few more.
But with the Mercedes W02 not quite up to scratch the best Schumacher could produce was a fourth-place finish in Canada.
10. Most crashes
Rookie Pastor Maldonado and F1 returnee Narain Karthikeyan were tipped to have the most prangs in 2011.
In his defence, several of these were not his fault. But we should also keep in mind he was a classified finisher in Malaysia despite having gone off and broken his steering column.
11. Worst reliability
HRT failed to get their car ready in time for testing (again), so it was no surprise F1 Fanatics overwhelmingly chose them as the team who would suffer the most breakdowns in 2011.
As it turned out, they were right – but HRT weren’t alone in suffering eight retirements in 2011 – Lotus did as well.
12. Top-scoring rookie
This poll was very close between three drivers. Maldonado was second, as several F1 Fanatics believed he would benefit from a more competitive car than the others. This turned out not to be the case – he only scored one point with the uncompetitive FW33.
It was Sergio Perez who narrowly won the poll – but he finished behind Paul di Resta in the points.
13. Best race
Tellingly, F1 Fanatics generally opted for classic venues when it came to guessing which track would see the best race: Interlagos, Spa-Francorchamps and Montreal led the voting.
The latter scored a remarkably high 9.095 out of ten following the thrilling last-lap change of leader. But it was beaten by China, which achieved a highest-ever score of 9.241 out of ten.
14. Most pole positions
This one was just to check everyone was still paying attention. The vast majority correctly picked Sebastian Vettel – with only a smattering going for Webber or the Ferrari drivers.
15. Monaco Grand Prix winner
It’s easy to forget that Ferrari looked reasonably strong going into 2011. The 150° Italia seemed quick, consistent and reliable in testing and they had ended the previous season very competitively.
In 2010 a crash in practice wrecked Fernando Alonso’s Monaco Grand Prix weekend when he looked like a candidate for victory.
This probably explains why Alonso was the most popular pick for Monaco Grand Prix winner last year. Both McLaren, Mercedes and even the Williams drivers also picked up votes.
Vettel had a fraction of the votes Alonso received – but it was the Red Bull driver who won F1′s blue riband race.
16. First retirement
It’s remarkable how close so many people came to getting this rather random question right. The most popular pick was Narain Karthikeyan, and although he was not the first retirement, he did fail to qualify.
The runner-up choice was Maldonado and sure enough it was the Williams driver who was first to stop in 2011. A gearbox problem sidelined him after just nine laps in Melbourne.
We’ve grown used to seeing F1 championships decided in the final race: it happened in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010. Most people expected it would again in 2011, and half as many again thought the penultimate race would decide the title.
Instead, Vettel wrapped up the title in Japan with four races to spare, which only a handful of people saw coming.
18. Champion’s score
It’s telling that Vettel scored more points than anyone thought the championship-winner would. It shows how many people hoped for a continuation of the close championship battle of 2010, and how Vettel’s domination of the year caught some by surprise.
Xenon2 got closest, predicting a score of 365. Most of us were 100 points or more shy of Vettel’s final score of 392.
19. Constructors’ champion
More than half of readers (60.1%) correctly tipped Red Bull to retain their constructors’ championship.
20. Drivers’ champion
Alonso was the favourite for the title before the season began, with 37.2% picking him to claim the crown. Vettel was second on 26.5%, followed by Hamilton (13.1%) and Webber (11.4%).
How did you do? Check your predictions for 2011 here.
2011 F1 season review
- The 2011 F1 season: The complete F1 Fanatic review
- Your 2011 F1 predictions revisited
- 2011 F1 statistics part 3: Stats and facts highlights
- 2011 F1 statistics part two: Vettel’s domination
- 2011 F1 statistics part one: car performance
- New 2011 rules produced best racing of last four years
- What F1 Fanatics really thought of the 2011 season
- Sebastian Vettel voted F1 Fanatic Driver of the Year
- F1 Fanatic’s article highlights of 2011
- Dominant Red Bull join F1′s top teams
Images © Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Motioncompany, Mercedes, Daimler, Daimler, Williams/LAT