After a Brazilian Grand Prix that resembled a charity auction, the drivers have come to the end of an energy-sapping, hectic, electric and scintillating World Tour that has seen them cover the globe, quite literally, in search of ultimate sporting glory. At long last, the Champagne can rest at the bottom of their hardened bellies, and most of them will be scrambling away from their respective teams to enjoy the be-all-and-end-all of all vacations: A few well-deserved months at a place called ‘Home’.
There were, of course, a few surprises at this anti-climatic race, a far cry from the 2010 season where four drivers were in the Championship race till the very last lap of Abu Dhabi. The final standings may bear a striking resemblance to a fairytale sheet, as far as team Red Bull is concerned- and one suspects that the gearbox problem of Vettel’s car might have a lot to do with beating certain rules and regulation as far as virtues like ‘teamwork’ and ‘sportsmanship’ is concerned. We’d like to not doubt the authenticity of the reverse one-two for Red Bull, but when Webber finishes on top of the podium- there is reason to worry.
Nevertheless, it is far better than slowing your top driver down inches away from the finish line in order to hand over a Championship podium position to your second team driver. Ask Barrichello, and he might retire at the very thought of it.
Here are a few observations, thoughts and final comments on the record-breaking season:
-Except for Webber finishing a point ahead of Alonso in the final standings, everyone else pretty much earned their step in the top 10. A solitary win for Webber couldn’t have come at a better time, considering he is the best number 2 driver (read experimental lab rat) in the sport right now. Hence, Alonso could be forgiven for feeling a bit hard done by.
-The final race was a great indication of the pecking order that stretched through the 2011 calendar. Hamilton, true to form, suffered yet another retirement- not his fault, for once. Being the number 2 at McLaren, though, could just come naturally to him. Button finished with yet another podium, sealing his place as the ‘best of the rest’ behind Prince Vettel.
-Michael Schumacher lost the final battle with younger teammate Rosberg in the last two races of the season, after going neck-to-neck with him for a large chunk of the year. He might just be contemplating creating a seniors-only team called ‘Twilight’ for 2012 that could be headed by Jean Todt, with Barrichello as the number two driver.
-Vettel finished with a record-shattering 15th pole position of the season- one ahead of Nigel Mansell’s 14 in 1992. Red Bull had done their homework, and they were more than happy to see him claim the record and finish second, cozily behind an increasingly irritable and clueless Webber for the race. Vettel also finished with 17 podium finishes for 2011, another record. Yawn.
-Felipe Massa has one year left on his Ferrari contract. Firebrand Robert Kubica might return next season. Enough said.
-Lewis Hamilton has run out of excuses, personal or otherwise, to justify his alarming dip as a driver of one of the two top teams in the sport. After enduring a great deal of hardship with his father and brother to reach the pinnacle of F1, the British driver must put aside petty internal battles and man up for 2012. Being single is not so bad, especially if you’re in a different country every week.
-Force India enjoyed yet another ‘improvement’ of a season. A podium dream, though, is still far away.
-The rising stars of the sport clearly seem to be the ice-cool Russian Petrov, Red Bull intern Jamie Alguersuari and yet another great Asian hope Kobayashi. Renault, Toro Rosso and Sauber weren’t exactly world-beating cars, but the raw talent in these wildly-competitive kids is hard to miss. Two more years, and expect to see two of them driving for one of the Big Three.
-Vettel aside, Alonso should be mighty proud of his drive this season. Equipped with an underperforming and probably the weakest Ferrari engine in a decade, the Spaniard has endured a year quite similar to Tennis friend and compatriot Rafael Nadal. They have charged and prodded like true Champions, but have been pushed back by factors beyond their control.
-Kimi Raikkonen is contemplating a return to the sport. In Finnish, that could mean another 3 years.
As a spectator, it was a privilege to witness a unique year of domination in World Sports- The Year of the Djoker and the Baby-faced German Assassin. By all accounts, 2011 will go down in history as the year of the rise of the Mutants.
With the new Motorsport season a good four months away, though, one can only hope for a miraculous physics-defying invention that could turbo-boost the rest of the mortal engines. It is only a matter of time before that ‘serum’ is injected into the famished veins of the rest, and atleast 6 potential Contenders, fire-breathing dragons and humanoids alike, take the starting line at Australian Grand Prix 2012.
If the current rate of evolution continues, though, don’t be surprised to see a Red Bull engine fold, wrap and reproduce midway through a race, and sprint towards the chequered flag as an avatar of Optimus Prime.
Bring on 2012- the year of the Autobots.