From drivers to venues, bumps to blazes, Gary Meenaghan looks back on the highs and lows of the 2012 season.
Golden achievements during a Formula One season to remember
From drivers to venues, bumps to blazes, Gary Meenaghan looks back over the 2012 season and announces his winners of the year's most memorable moments.
Driver of the Year
GOLD: Fernando Alonso
The Spaniard may not have won the championship, but he deserved to and were it not for two first-lap incidents outside his control, he likely would have. The 31 year old's talent and tenacity saw him, in an inferior car and only starting on the front row three times, manage 13 podiums from 20 races. He also finished in the points at every race he completed.
SILVER Sebastian Vettel
The German became the sport's youngest three-time world champion and proved his talent with drives through the field in Abu Dhabi and Sao Paulo as well as leading every lap in Japan, South Korea and India.
BRONZE Kimi Raikkonen
An impressive return from a two-year hiatus saw the Finn triumph in Abu Dhabi and finish third in the title chase.
Team of the Year
GOLD Red Bull Racing
Christian Horner's marque endured a slow start to the season, but, courtesy of a substantial upgrade in Singapore, finished it as constructors' champions for the third year in succession, racking up seven wins and eight pole positions. Adrian Newey, the team's chief technical officer, also proved himself a step ahead once again with a number of aerodynamic innovations.
Points finishes at every race and a driver still fighting for the championship with three races remaining is proof Eric Boullier's team were much improved. They finished fourth in the constructors' race yet if Romain Grosjean had refrained from recklessness, they could have arguably challenged for second.
With a limited budget, they produced a reliable, competitive car that caught they eye. Peter Sauber's team had not scored a podium since 2003, yet secured four in 2012.
Race of the Year
GOLD Abu Dhabi Grand Prix
Criticised in previous years, Yas Marina Circuit produced a thrilling, action-packed contest under the floodlit night sky. Raikkonen won his first and only race of the season and Vettel, dramatically dropped to the back of the grid after a fuel irregularity in qualifying, raced through the field to finish third, directly behind championship rival Alonso, who had started in sixth. An enchanting, enthralling spectacle.
SILVER Brazil Grand Prix
A fittingly chaotic finale to one of the most memorable seasons in the sport's history. Soggy and sensational, Vettel's championship hopes looked doomed after a first-lap spin saw him fall to the back of the field. Alonso finished second, but Vettel recovered to finish sixth and take the title by three points.
BRONZE European Grand Prix
Alonso stormed to victory in Valencia, despite starting 11th. Michael Schumacher finished on the podium for the first and only time since returning to the sport in 2010.
Best Host City
Canada's second largest city comes alive to the sound of Formula One engines. By day, the beautiful city bathes in sunshine; at night, it heaves with people attending street parties and music concerts. A true festival atmosphere is evident. Friendly, enthusiastic locals, reasonably priced restaurants and accommodation and a historic circuit that pulls in more than 100,000 knowledgeable fans on race day.
Monte Carlo is synonymous with Formula One and the principality comes to a halt for race weekend. The rich and famous rub shoulders with F1's travelling pilgrims on the circuit's illustrious streets, which open to the public at night and remain filled with partying revellers until the early hours of the morning.
The Texan city embraced its inaugural race, providing a captivating environment enjoyed by drivers and fans alike. Massive attendances and plenty of evening entertainment.
GOLD Japanese Grand Prix
Nowhere comes even close to Suzuka. Thursday and no action on track, yet the grandstands get packed with people happy to catch a glimpse of their favourite driver or team. They love the sport, not the success and so the underdogs are celebrated. Fans wave banners for Narain Karthikeyan or Marussia, while others wear home made costumes dedicated to Ferrari or Red Bull. Fanatical.
SILVER Italian Grand Prix
Monza becomes a sea of Scuderia red as Ferrari's famous Tifosi take over. Massive banners are unfurled, fans hunt autographs and the pit lane gets so busy on a Thursday it is not uncommon for spectators to faint.
Albert Park becomes a racetrack for one week of the year and with it come close to 300,000 fans basking in the circuit's relaxed festival atmosphere.
Highlight of the Year
GOLD Kobayashi's home run
Fighting to save his F1 career, Kamui Kobayashi started his home race in third. The popular Sauber driver, cheered on by his success-starved compatriots in the stands and with Jenson Button hunting him down in the final laps, kept his cool to bring the car home in third place for his first podium in the sport. The celebrations saw him being chased by zealous Japanese fans who had gained access to the paddock.
SILVER Schumacher's return
The seven-time world champion struggled in the three years after coming out of retirement. In Valencia, he found the old sparkle to take his Mercedes-GP from 12th up to third and secure a 155th career podium. The 43 year old was so surprised by the result, when asked to speak in German for TV, he provided a rambling monologue - in English.
BRONZE Maldonado's success
Arguably the shock of the season, as Pastor Maldonado, at the Spanish Grand Prix, converted his first pole position into his first F1 triumph.
Lowlight of the Year
GOLD Fire in the paddock
Maldonado's joy in Spain was short-lived. Moments after celebrating his first win atop the podium, his Williams team garage caught fire, sending thick, black smoke throughout the paddock. Many of the Venezuelan's team and family were inside at the time and Maldonado fought the flames to emerge with his cousin on his back.
SILVER Bahrain protests
The Kingdom's grand prix returned to the calendar, despite anti-government protests in the capital Manama. Sauber and Force India both found staff caught up in the conflict, with the latter having to send two staff home and not take part in the second free practice session.
BRONZE 'Bomb' scare
Security at Monaco was taken to new levels when bomb disposal experts were called for over a suspect package. After a controlled explosion, it was unveiled to be a bag of wires for the paddock's electric access gates.
GOLD Raikkonen rules
The 2007 world champion showed his driving ability has not waned following two years away from the sport when he passed Schumacher at the Belgian Grand Prix. Approaching the steep Eau Rouge climb at Spa-Francorchamps, Raikkonen found himself squeezed towards the grass. Rather than back off, Raikkonen blasted past him up the hill and out of sight. Breathtaking.
SILVER Vettel climbs
In Abu Dhabi and having started from the pit lane, the Red Bull driver needed to climb the field as quickly as possible or face losing the championship lead. Finding himself behind Jenson Button while fighting for third, Vettel bravely attacked him on the outside of Turn 11 to steal the last step of the podium and complete a remarkable recovery.
BRONZE Alonso's final charge
The Spaniard, starting in seventh, knew he needed a podium in Brazil. On the first lap, as Mark Webber fought with Felipe Massa, Alonso cut inside and passed them both to jump to third.
Quote of the Year
GOLD Classic Kimi
Raikkonen may not speak much, but when he does he tends to generate laughter. The Finn, while leading the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and on course for his first win of the season, was being constantly given advice by his race engineer via team radio. Eventually, he snapped: "Leave me alone. I know what I am doing."
SILVER Webber rant
Mark Webber was angry when Grosjean crashed into the back of him on the opening lap of the Japanese Grand Prix. "I haven't seen what happened at the start," said the Australian. "But the guys confirmed it was the first-lap nutcase again."
BRONZE Classic Kimi II
In Barcelona, while other drivers spoke at length about their race, Raikkonen was asked to say a few words for Finnish TV. "Happy Mothers Day to all the mothers," he said.
Best Extracurricular Activity: Taj Mahal
Formula One is a worldwide sport, but there are few host cities that boast one of the modern wonders of the world. The Taj Mahal is a four-hour drive from Delhi, but is well worth the experience.
Notable mention De-militarised Zone between North and South Korea.
Best Meal: Hungry in Hungary
Pesti Diszno is a low-key restaurant on Nagymezo Utca serving mouthwatering traditional Hungarian fare at very reasonable prices. Recommend the succulent tomato with courgette carpaccio.
Notable mention Al Anbiq Pizzeria in Monza
Best Party: India takes it away
Vijay Mallya’s annual shindig aboard his Indian Empress superyacht at Monaco has grown legendary. Glamorous, glitzy and with a smattering of Bollywood celebrity. Invitation only.
Notable mention Johnnie Walker Black Lounge Party, Kuala Lumpur.
Best Celebrity Sighting: Roman holiday
Has there ever been a more expensive arrangement of men than in the Sauber hospitality at the Monaco Grand Prix as Roman Abramovich enjoyed lunch with Carlos Slim Domit, son of the world’s richest man?
Notable mention Matt Le Blanc in Austin, Texas.
Best Accommodation. Malaysian hospitality
Value for money often goes out the window on race weekend. One exception is Malaysia where five nights at the Pullman Putrijaya, a five-star resort, is the same price as two nights in a shared room in Monte Carlo.
Notable mention Hotel Svelte, New Delhi
THE WOODEN WHEEL
Romain Grosjean’s reckless driving saw him involved in seven first-lap incidents in the first 11 races, but it was his manoeuvre at Spa that saw him suspended. Trying to pass Hamilton, he ended up taking out himself, Hamilton, Perez and Alonso. The Frenchman is arguably the reason Alonso is not a three-time champion. The Lotus driver’s contract is yet to be renewed.