2012 F1 season review
At the end of another terrific season here are 50 things – some big, some small – which made it special:
Bravery in Spain
The pit fire that broke out in the Williams garage in the aftermath of their Spanish Grand Prix victory had the potential to be a very serious incident.
That no one was killed and injuries were mostly limited to smoke inhalation was thanks to the quick-thinking, selfless actions of members of several different teams who set about the blaze with whatever fire-fighting apparatus they could get their hands on.
What might have been a tragedy instead became an example of the F1 community at its best. Williams’ competitors, mere hours after being beaten by them on the track. even offered to loan them equipment for the next race at Monaco.
Kimi Raikkonen’s comeback
Making a comeback as a world champion is a tricky thing to get right – just ask Michael Schumacher.
But Kimi Raikkonen was swiftly up to speed at Lotus, was back on the podium within four races and emulated Niki Lauda’s feat of winning a Grand Prix in his comeback season.
Love him or loathe him, Raikkonen’s distinctive personality brings variety to the field. Not to mention he’s a cracking racing driver.
A splash of national colour
Cars in nation’s sporting colours may be a thing of the past but Australia’s distinctive green-and-yellow kerbs proved there is still room for patriotic paint schemes in Formula One.
The Circuit of the Americas took it a step further with their imaginative stars-and-stripes run-off areas. Sadly Bernie Ecclestone ordered them to be removed before the F1 weekend began, to avoid upsetting advertisers.
Jamey Price’s Barcelona testing pictures
One of my favourite galleries of the year was the brilliant selection of photographs by Jamey Price from testing at Circuit de Catalunya. Jamey’s work has featured on F1 Fanatic before and his work is imaginative and bursting with colour.
He later achieved his ambition by shooting the United States Grand Prix weekend. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing more pictures from him in the future.
Ferrari conquer their Twitter phobia
— Fernando Alonso (@alo_oficial) November 23, 2012
Until last year Ferrari prevented their drivers from joining most of the rest of the grid on Twitter. But that’s all in the past now and Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa have taken advantage of the opportunity to communicate directly with their fans.
Alonso has taken to it particularly well, sharing lots of pictures with his fans and firing them up with idiosyncratic samurai references. It must be working, because he’s already overtaken the McLaren drivers to become the most popular active F1 racer on Twitter.
This year’s F1 cars were never going to look great, with regulations forcing them to use bizarrely out-of-proportion front and rear wings. Worse, a rules change for 2012 led most designers to incorporate an unsightly step in the front of their cars.
McLaren were a notable exception – front the first four races, at least – with a much more aesthetically pleasing solution for their car. It was the closest thing F1 had to a genuinely good-looking car all year.
Silverstone’s Sunday sunshine
Lashed by seemingly incessant rain, the British Grand Prix crowd were a soaked and bedraggled bunch by Sunday. Some had even failed to make it to the track the day before as a truly rotten British summer turned car parks into quagmires.
Sunday brought the spectators much-needed relief as, against expectations, the sun finally broke through. And we were treated to an excellent race as well.
F1 Fanatic milestones
I was very pleased to see F1 Fanatic reach its milestone 10,000th article during the 2012 season.
This year also saw the 400,000th comment published on the site – and were hurtling towards the half-million mark as I write this.
- F1 Fanatic’s 10,000th article: 100 of the best so far
- Damon Smedley posts F1 Fanatic’s 400,000th blog comment!
Seven different winners in the first seven races
It was a first for Formula One as the year began with seven different victors in as many races: Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Sebastian Vettel, Pastor Maldonado, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton.
By the end of the year we had an eighth as well, Kimi Raikkonen winning in Abu Dhabi.
Red Bull’s Faces for Charity livery
Red Bull put pictures of thousands of fans on their car at the British Grand Prix to raise money for their Wings for Life charity.
Todfod passing on his Predictions Championship prize
F1 Fanatic reader Todfod did superbly well to win last year’s Predictions Championship and, with it, a pair of tickets to the British Grand Prix.
Unfortunately he was unable to attend the race and kindly offered to pass his prize on to another reader!
Fans’ F1 videos
With more F1 fans heading to races and sharing their videos online, F1 Fanatic began a new series of features this year selecting the best videos from each race.
The highlights from the season included several on-track moments which were missed in the television broadcast. And there was also this footage of Schumacher keeping his Mercedes covered up in Australia.
Nico Rosberg’s first win
A first-time winner is always something to cherish and Nico Rosberg joined their ranks by scoring his first win at 111st attempt in China.
Pastor Maldonado’s first win
Pastor Maldonado did the same two races later for Williams after an intense battle with Fernando Alonso.
Hamilton’s picture of the drivers in Germany
But this picture he took during the German Grand Prix weekend was a gem.
Goodwood Festival of Speed
Always a highlight for me, this year’s Goodwood Festival saw the first appearance by current world champion Sebastian Vettel. Plus stacks of great F1 cars such as this Adrian Newey-designed Leyton House CG901 from 1990.
The Caption Competitions were a new addition to the site which proved very popular and kept me chuckling on non-race weekend Saturdays. Look out for a selection of the best coming soon.
The new podium
A controversial choice? Quite a few people complained about the new-style podium ceremony following its debut at Silverstone.
However I think the basic concept of doing a post-race interview with the top three drivers in full view of the spectators is a good idea. How well it was executed depended on who was wielding the microphone. Mario Andretti and Jackie Stewart had the winning combination of credibility within the sport and ability to conduct a good interview – others such as Placido Domingo did not.
Cardboard Lotus E20
Lotus came up with a great idea to keep fans entertained during the summer break by producing a cardboard version of their F1 car to print out and build.
Six world champions
The 2012 was the first time six drivers’ champions competed on the track together. But with Michael Schumacher retiring we’ll be back to five next year.
Something else to enjoy while it lasted. F1 has not had a full 26-car grid since 1995, and with HRT dropping out we’ll move further away from that next year.
The value of moving one of the pre-season tests to May was debatable. However it did allow F1 to return to the brilliant Mugello circuit.
Though Ferrari were keen to test there it was a curious choice of venue with few similarities to most modern F1 tracks. But that was part of its appeal: fast, flowing and scenic, it was warmly received by many of the drivers – with the conspicuous exception of Vitaly Petrov.
F1 Fanatic Supporters
It’s just over six months since F1 Fanatic’s Supporter programme was launched to give readers a means of contributing to the site regularly while receiving an ad-free browsing experience in return.
After an initial burst of sign-ups the number of Supporters has been growing steadily and the contribution they have made to the site so far has been very gratefully received.
Thanks very much to everyone who’s signed up so far. If you’re interested in doing so you can sign up and find more information via these links:
Jacques Villeneuve driving his father’s Ferrari
To mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Gilles Villeneuve, Ferrari invited his son – and 1997 world champion – Jacques to drive a 312T4 of the type his father raced in 1979.
Alex Zanardi’s Paralympic feats
The irrepressible Alex Zanardi, who last raced an F1 car in 1999, had a superb summer in the Paralympic Games. Zanardi, who lost his legs in a crash in a Champ Car race at the Lausitzring in 2001, scooped two gold medals in individual events and a silver in a team event.
He’s since tested a DTM car and may make a return to touring car racing in the series next year. Even more excitingly, he’s considering racing in the Indianapolis 500.
F1′s longest-ever calendar packed 20 races into 37 weeks. But it was gruelling work for the teams – especially the final stint of six fly-away races in eight weeks.
The second year of ‘designed-to-degrade’ tyres produced – for the most part – more of the exciting racing enjoyed in 2011.
As was the case last year the teams increasingly got on top of the tyres as the season progressed. When more conservative tyre selections were chosen the intensity of the action dropped – underlining the fact that gimmicks like DRS alone are not sufficient to enliven the racing.
Sauber’s sliced F1 car
One of the more interesting projects embarked on by a team this year was Sauber’s 2008 F1 car sliced in half. It gave an unusual insight into how a Formula One machine is put together.
Driver of the Weekend
The Driver of the Weekend debates have been some of the most interesting and lively on the site this year.
For me, they get to the heart of some of the most challenging questions in Formula One, such as how you compare the efforts of a driver who has a great car with another whose car is not as competitive. Above all, they have shown that it’s not just the efforts of drivers who win races who are appreciated.
The results of the last two Driver of the Weekend polls will appear soon.
Ben Edwards’ BBC commentary
There’s not a lot to choose between the UK’s two F1 broadcasters when it comes to their race commentary teams. But I was particularly pleased to see Ben Edwards make a return to F1 commentary this year.
I enjoyed his commentaries on CART for Eurosport and on the BTCC for ITV. As someone who grew up watching Murray Walker commentating on the BBC, I find Edwards’ commentary has a bit of that trousers-on-fire passion that F1 needs, especially on days when the racing isn’t quite up to scratch.
It’s fair to say my expectations for an animation by an F1 team featuring their two drivers was not very high. “It’ll be all sponsors’ logos and lame jokes,” I thought.
I was more than pleasantly surprised by McLaren’s Tooned. It’s genuinely funny – I particularly liked the historical jokes in the fifth episode and the way they set up Lewis Hamilton’s departure in the finale. I’m looking forward to more next year.
Kimi Raikkonen using James Hunt’s helmet…
…and Jean-Eric Vergne using Jean Alesi’s
Another Monaco special. Jean Alesi’s helmet was based on Elio de Angelis’s, but Vergne wore this in recognition of Alesi racing in the Indianapolis 500.
Alonso turns cameraman at Monza
Alonso’s podium appearance at Monza was warmly received by the crowd – particularly when he borrowed this from a cameraman.
Schumacher’s fitting farewell
Schumacher’s return to F1 retirement looked likely once it was revealed Hamilton would move to Mercedes. When he made the announcement in Suzuka, he drew a curtain on his final year in the sport by striking a suitably humble and reflective note.
In the past six years I have learned a lot, also about me, and I am thankful for it: for example, that you can open yourself up without losing focus. That losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning; something I had lost out of sight sometimes in earlier years. That you have to appreciate to be able to do what you love. That you have to live your convictions. I have opened my horizon, and I am at ease with myself.
RTL’s goodbye to Schumacher
German F1 broadcaster RTL marked the end of Schumacher’s F1 career with a specially-commissioned rap by German duo Kunstrasen. See the forum thread below for the lyrics in English.
Williams-Renault winning again
One of F1′s great chassis-engine combinations returned to winning ways in 2012. Will we see more next year?
Mark Webber’s outspokenness
Mark Webber usually stands alone as the driver with the intellect and the courage to tell it like it is in Formula One.
When it came to the vexed subject of Bahrain, Webber was one of few drivers to confront the matter: “There should be no real celebrations today,” he said after the race. “We can leave. We saw the size of the crowd today.”
When asked for his views on topics as diverse as gambling or the quality of modern F1 tracks, they came back plain and unvarnished. You may not always agree with what he has to say, but he deserves respect for saying it.
Super-quick pit stops
F1 teams hit new heights as they pushed their performance in the pits even harder in 2012. In Germany McLaren whisked the wheels off Jenson Button’s car and replaced them in a scarcely believable 2.31 seconds.
They seemed to disappear halfway through the season, but the in-helmet cameras sported by several drivers at the beginning of the year brought a fascinating new dimension to onboard footage. Here’s hoping they make a return.
More team radio
Another major improvement in race coverage this year was the increased use of team radio via FOM’s Pit Wall channel. It revealed much more of what was going on in races and enlivened some of the more processional events – such as when Red Bull spent the final laps in Korea pleading with Sebastian Vettel to look after his tyres.
A closely-matched field
During pre-season testing it looked as though we were in for a close season. And happily that proved to be the case.
On average the top six teams in 2012 were covered by less than 1% over a single lap. It’s one of the ways F1 has become much more competitive over the last ten years.
Maldonado’s Venezuela prang
An unfortunate comic moment for Maldonado, who did not do his reputation for being crash-prone much good when he damaged his car during a demonstration run in Caracas.
Circuit of the Americas
Has F1 finally found a true home in America? It seems that way. The Circuit of the Americas produced an excellent race and a huge crowd which will hopefully serve as a starting point for F1 to finally establish itself in the USA.
Pirelli stetsons in Texas
The icing on the cake.
Driver market shock
There’s nothing like a good silly season surprise and we got just that in 2012 when Hamilton confirmed he was moving to Mercedes. The news was treated with considerable scepticism when it was first broken by the BBC’s Eddie Jordan, but he proved to be right on the money.
Hamilton’s move to Mercedes paved the way for another surprise switch: McLaren snatching Ferrari development driver Sergio Perez.
- Hamilton joins Mercedes for 2013 after McLaren exit
- Perez takes Hamilton’s place at McLaren for 2013
Red Bull’s 360-degree interactive camera
Red Bull showed off this impressive piece of technology during a demonstration run in Norway. Imagine being able to watch from one of these during a Grand Prix…
The weather in Sao Paulo
Brazil served up another spectacular championship showdown and just like in 2008 the weather kept us on the edge of our seats until the final lap.
Chipping in for Kobayashi
Having lost his place at Sauber for 2013, Kamui Kobayashi is unlikely to remain in F1 without some backing. He reached out to his fan base for support and at the time of writing has received over ¥161m (£1.2m).
It’s likely to be some way short of what he needs to compete next year, but it is remarkable to see how committed his supporters are to see him remain in Formula One.
Tributes to Sid Watkins
The Formula One community responded as one to the death of Professor Sid Watkins in September.
A minute’s silence was held on the grid at the next race in Singapore in recognition of a man who worked tirelessly to make F1 racing safer.
Over to you
What there the best and worst moments of 2012? Add your suggestions here:
2012 F1 season review
- The complete F1 Fanatic 2012 season review
- What F1 Fanatics thought of 2012: The year in polls
- The drivers and cars of 2012
- F1 Fanatic’s 50 article highlights of 2012
- 11 different Driver of the Weekend winners in 2012
Browse all 2012 F1 season review articles