Slater: A season to remember

ESPNSTAR.com's Steve Slater looks back at an exciting Formula 1 season.

F1 News: Sebastian Vettel

It could have been boring. Nineteen races and a season which lasted from March until November - and by one third distance we were already speculating on ‘when' rather than ‘whether' Sebastian Vettel would win the world championship.

Yet a combination of new technology, new tyres and changing fortunes among the lead teams ensured that the 2012 season was a cracker. The return of KERS hybrid power boosts and the DRS, movable rear airfoil, along with the fast-wearing Pirelli tyres, gave us a season of spectacular action.

A big accolade must go to tyre makers Pirelli. It was a brave move to introduce faster-wearing tyres to enhance overtaking and race strategies. There was a risk that a tyre failure or too much driver criticism would ruin their reputation.

Instead, the changing lap times as tyre performance changed, gave us overtaking - lots of it. It has meant that races could be equally easily won or lost on pit strategy as on the race track.

As Sebastian Vettel headed for his second win of the season in Malaysia we saw a record 59 pit stops in a single race. Then in Shanghai, Lewis Hamilton was able to use his greater pace on a three-stop strategy to take victory from Sebastian Vettel who tried to stop just twice.

Whatever the strategies, by the time Sebastian Vettel took victory in the Monaco Grand Prix, he was already looking ready to become a dominant double world champion. The Monaco win was his fifth in sixth races.

Then came Canada. For me the best race of the season, even though the torrential rain did its best to stop the action.

Jenson Button's charge through the field to hunt down and eventually force an error from Sebastian Vettel on the very last lap of the race was truly epic. Button was dead last on lap 40, yet went on to take victory after a puncture, a collision with team-mate, a drive through penalty, five pits stops and a clash with the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

While the Red Bull RB07 and Sebastian Vettel are undoubted the car and driver of the year, it should be remembered that Button and Lewis Hamilton both scored three wins apiece for McLaren. Button's solid consistency paid off in contrast to Hamilton's ragged, less mature approach.

Certainly Hamilton's clashes with Felipe Massa gave us something to talk about. My co-commentator Gary Anderson summed it up perfectly: "One collision is an accident. Two might be a coincidence. Six in a single season is a bit unusual."

There was a worrying lack of early season pace in the McLaren MP4/26, as the team struggled to match the downforce and cornering speed of the exhaust-blown diffuser in Adrian Newey's Red Bull design. I would have been happy to give McLaren the award for the most improved car of the season, but one team did even better.

Force India were another team to realise only at the start of the season that their blown diffuser technology was well behind the front-runners. Their design department must have dug deep to turn around the VJM-04 into a consistent points-scorer by the end of the season, but they did it and alongside the determined Adrian Sutil, my rookie of the year Paul di Resta showed he thoroughly deserves his place on the F1 starting grid.

Meanwhile Lotus Renault GP, Mercedes GP Petronas and Ferrari all had their moments, but none really achieved their 2011 aims. The only redeeming feature of a tough year for Ferrari's Fernando Alonso was his win at Silverstone.

Alonso was though, part of the best overtaking move of the season, when he and Mark Webber went wheel-to-wheel into Eau Rouge at Spa. The Spaniard was of course on the receiving end of the Aussie's full-throttle attack, but that I am sure is something Fernando will aim to reverse in the 2012 season!



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