At journey's end, time for some gongs

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 26 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 26 November, 2011, 12:00am


So here we are then. The end of a long, long season finds us a month away from Christmas. It's hard to believe that we eventually started the season in March (no thanks to Bahrain). When the first race in Australia actually got under way, most observers back then would have found it hard to believe that Sebastian Vettel would prove to be so dominant.

'Pedal to the metal Vettel' didn't give anyone a chance on his way to back-to-back titles, breaking a whole load of records I won't bore you with now. With a clinical approach any German would have been proud of, this charming young man and his Red Bull team relentlessly ground down any opposition.

And yet it was an exciting season despite the domination, not like the dullest moments of Michael Schumacher's hegemony. Credit to the lawmakers; the introduction of DRS and the reintroduction of KERS made life interesting, and Pirelli played their part with tyres that were designed to degrade during the race.

In celebration of the end of the season, here are a few Pit Stop gongs.

Man of Morals. I'm not sure anyone actually deserves to pick this up, but particularly not Bernie Ecclestone, whose failure to look past the money during the Bahrain GP debacle was a little nauseating. Already there's talk about getting it back on the calendar, but surely it shouldn't be countenanced until people such as the medics who treated protesters are released from prison.

Unsung Hero. Adrian Newey is the genius behind the Red Bull car that has been a cut above the rest. He produces championship-winning cars at almost every team he goes to and is paid the equal of the best drivers for his troubles. The bad news for other teams is that he's not leaving Red Bull any time soon.

King of the World (well, McLaren). That would be Jenson Button. He may not have won the championship this season, but he's second in the standings and has bettered Lewis Hamilton for much of the year. McLaren don't have a number one driver, but if they did Button would have wrested the claim from the team insider.

Animal Magnetism. What is it with Felipe Massa and Hamilton? They seem to be unable to keep their cars apart. They might have been busy winding each other up, but it was great television, great theatre and the nearest thing to a pit lane punch up in ages.

The year wasn't supposed to be like this ... Hamilton's season has not, it can be said with certainty, gone either well or to plan. Too many accidents, too many break-ups with girlfriends (well one is one too many I guess); it's all been a bit grim for him this season.

However, he was back with a vengeance in Abu Dhabi and seemed to be happy in his own skin again. Red Bull are certainly aware of his potential. Dr Helmut Marko said after Hamilton's win in Abu Dhabi: 'We would not have minded if Hamilton had stayed quiet for even longer. When he is back at 100 per cent, Mr Hamilton is a dangerous opponent'. Spoken like a true James Bond baddy.

Dodgy predictions for 2011. That, ahem, would be me. I've just looked back at what I wrote for the start of the season.

To be fair, I did say that Vettel would be supremely confident and Red Bull had looked ominously good in winter testing. However, I did say that Ferrari would be the nearest contender and it would be 'too tight to call.' Oops.

There are lots of other spurious awards we could dish out, but to be honest by the time the last race of the season comes around teams and fans alike are thinking about next year.

Will Rubens Barrichello be around? (let's hope so); will Robert Kubica have recovered enough to drive for Renault? (I fear not); will McLaren be a bit quicker out of the blocks in 2012? (recent history is not on their side).

These concerns though can wait until the laptop is fired up next spring. For now let's just enjoy the swansong of a fine 2011 season on one of the finest tracks of the year.