The 2012 Formula One season has come and gone and what an exciting season it was. Let’s take a look at the highlights, courtesy of our correspondents at The Independent in London.
Abu Dhabi. As a race it had everything: pathos when Lewis Hamilton led but broke down; Sebastian Vettel's superb charge from the back of the grid after a refuelling infringement in qualifying; safety cars that reshuffled the pack; and a brilliant drive by Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen which utterly validated his comeback and added a little more history to a famous marque. Honourable mention for Austin.
Raikkonen on Michael Schumacher at Spa. He overtook him in the Bus Stop chicane on the 31st lap but was immediately repassed in the DRS zone, but he finally made it stick on the entrance to Eau Rouge two laps later. The only chance was to get it done going into the super-fast corner, and he did just that. Ballsy stuff.
Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard wrung every ounce of performance out of an under-competitive car. When it could win, he won with it. Otherwise he racked up finish after finish in an utterly professional season in which as a competitor he was at his most dangerous, at the very top of his game. Honourable mention to Raikkonen, who came back as good as he ever was.
Romain Grosjean at Spa. It wasn't so much the rash impetuosity of the young Frenchman that made it so bad (he was banned for a race for it), but the unpleasant reminder - as the Lotus scythed across the top of Alonso's Ferrari - that however much F1 safety has improved, the danger to human life will never be eradicated altogether.
Michael Schumacher's comeback. The young drivers just didn't respect or fear him the way drivers did first time around in a once stellar career, and incidents with drivers such as Bruno Senna and Jean-Eric Vergne earned the multiple champion the nickname Mr Magoo, due to his near-sightedness in crash situations.
The grand prix in Bahrain, especially the politicisation of using the F1 logo in the Bahrain UniF1ed slogans, was a public relations own goal. The truth was both the Shias and the Sunnis desperately wanted the race to go ahead for economic reasons. The real problem was the crass way the FIA handled it all.
Hamilton's switch from McLaren to Mercedes. The true extent of his unhappiness in the team that nurtured his career only became apparent once the decision was made after Singapore. Pastor Maldonado's maiden GP victory in Barcelona ran it a close second.
Neither Nico Hulkenberg nor Grosjean was a rookie, but both showed very strong form when they got their second chances in a sport not renowned for such benevolence.
At times the McLaren MP4-27 was a great car and you could make a pretty strong case for the Sauber C31, which was outstanding on occasions, but taken overall Red Bull's RB8 was the class of the field. No matter how much the FIA reined in some of its features, it remained the car to beat.
Ferrari. The F2012 wasn't as bad in races as it was in pre-season testing, when it looked more of a dog than a prancing horse. Ferrari never let up in the chase to improve it, but they were also painfully aware that they needed a pluperfect season on the operational side to stay in contention. They made very few mistakes, and their strategy was usually spot-on. -The Independent