Fernando flies into history as prancing horse limps along
So here we are, the end of the Formula One season. For me it's been one of the best of recent years. A new world champion, some competition at the front of the grid and a constructors' title that is going down to the wire in Shanghai.
Like all professional sports, the Formula One fraternity will no doubt have their own awards ceremony when the racing is over for the season. I'll leave them to hand out their own gongs, but this modest little column would like to take some time to reflect on the highs and lows of the past eight months.
TAKING THE CHEQUERED FLAG
The boy's a bit special
The youngest world champion, the first Spaniard to take the title, Fernando Alonso has shown great skill, bravery and intelligence. We've always known he was fast, but after fending off Michael Schumacher at Imola we knew he had the temperament, too. Spare a thought though for his rival Kimi Raikkonen. This is a man who has won more grands prix than Alonso this season, but had wretched luck with his car.
Istanbul made its bow this year with a new track that is already considered a classic. Turn eight was an instant hit with the drivers, before they started to slide off of it, of course. An anti-clockwise track with more ups and downs than Jacques Villeneuve's career, it made for great racing and hopefully will be on the calendar for years to come.
This weekend's race is the last for little Minardi. I won't miss the team, but I will miss Paul Stoddart, the team boss. He's a rugged Australian, who had a refreshingly honest way of pointing out when the sports governing body, the FIA, was talking nonsense.
Ruling the roost
Having said that, the sweeping rule changes that the FIA brought in for 2005 certainly levelled the playing field and stopped the domination of its big mates, Ferrari. Whether this was more by accident than design, it's hard to say.
STALLING ON THE GRID
The (lame) prancing horse
At the start of the season most commentators, myself included, thought Ferrari would be the team to beat. How wrong we were. Apart from Imola perhaps, the pride of Italy have been way off the pace. This may well be down to complacency after thrashing the opposition for years. It made a refreshing change. They could come roaring back in 2006 of course, but it could well be the start of a terminal decline. The fans will shudder at the thought of returning to the barren days of the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Caught red handed
Naughty old BAR. Caught breaking the rules, they were banned for two races and it took half a season to get their form back. Let's hope that Honda, as they will be next year, read the rule book properly.
High speed dithering
The prize chump in the paddock this year was Jenson Button. In 2004 he caused an almighty row by trying to jump ship from BAR to Williams despite a watertight contract. This year he found himself trying desperately to avoid going to Williams next season, instead clinging on to a BAR drive. The reported US$20 million it cost him to buy out his contract is going to sting, even for a superannuated superstar like Jenson.
This was the low point of the whole season when just six cars turned up on the grid after a row over the safety of tyres. A solution could have been found, but for the inflexible attitude of FIA boss Max Mosley. It wasn't co-incidental that he has been squabbling with some of the big manufacturers over the future of the sport. The row, mainly over money, threatens to split the sport in 2008.
Still, let's worry about that another time. This season, with one or two notable exceptions has been an uplifting one. We've had proper competition and a new generation of champions coming through strongly. Japan was a classic race. Let's hope the season's finale in Shanghai embodies all that's been good in 2005.