For me, there was one season, over any other when it comes to my time as an F1 fan, the season that made me become the writer I am now. In so many ways, the 2012 season is the greatest F1 has ever seen, for so many reasons.
I think we take today’s hybrid era for granted, to be honest. It’s been a one man show recently, but 2012 was incredible in the sense of having SEVEN different winners in the first seven races. And from SIX DIFFERENT teams as well. Unless F1 goes down the GP2 standardised road, we may never see that again. EVER.
Jenson Button in Australia. Fernando Alonso at Malaysia. Nico Rosberg, DESTROYING people for his maiden win in China. Sebastian Vettel in Bahrain. Pastor shocking the world in Spain. Mark Webber in Monaco. Lewis Hamilton in Canada. Hell, Romain Grosjean was very close to taking Valencia too. The first time ever in F1 outside of a season opener, as a fan, I had NO idea who was going to win heading into a GP weekend. And a grid with SIX World Champions in it too, probably the strongest grid ever from top to bottom in terms of sheer talent. Except for Narain.
2012 was a season where we saw new potential stars rise to the surface in dramatic fashion. None more so than Sergio Perez. A Malaysia GP he really should have won before he made a mistake and spooked Sauber into saying: “Sod it, we’re taking these 18 points”. But any so, he had arrived, and when Sauber had an edge on tyres, he was incredible. Three podium finishes in a midfield car is a sensational task and it earned him a seat at McLaren the following year, and the hype of being “The Next Big Thing”. Maybe one day, he’ll get the second chance he’s long deserved.
Even his teammate Kamui Kobayashi had its moments, like that amazing 3rd in Japan where the entire Suzuka audience lost their damn minds. Sauber had SO much promise in 2012… *sigh*
Pastor Maldonado got one of the biggest shock wins ever in F1 when he took Spain, beating Fernando Alonso on the undercut. It was an amazing drive, one of real maturity. It’s a shame his season was littered and often tarnished with rough moments of wheel-to-wheel combat. He’s looked at more like the “JaVale McGee” of F1 now, but he had some truly great moments. I still don’t think he was at fault for Valencia. Was running in the Top 5 in Singapore before mechanical failure ruined his race. 5th in Abu Dhabi too. Pastor wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the Internet thinks he is. Fight me.
Romain Grosjean was another fall-guy we made in the 2012 season after being at fault for the Belgium accident off the start-line. I always thought a race ban was ludicrously harsh, and an example of F1 throwing the book at him. Lost in the shuffle was his three podiums that season, including a 2nd place in Canada. It’s a shame we had to wait until 2013 for the public tide to swing back in his favour, but RoGro was… work in progress. In a good way.
What’s amazing about 2012, is that if Lewis Hamilton had half the bad luck go his way, he’d have been a contender for the title at worst. How much must it suck to lose 75 points from race leading positions? Taken out by Hulkenberg in Brazil, a gearbox failure in Singapore, and an engine going pop in Abu Dhabi… ALL from the lead. Throw in the Quali DQ in Spain, and you might as well have called his season a write-off. Not to mention him leaking that telemetry in Belgium too. Because LH can’t go a season without at least ONE PR mess-up.
…Then he goes and quits McLaren. Remember when we all thought it was a stupid decision back then? Haha. Fun times. This was the coming of age season that I think humbled Lewis. I like to think it turned out okay, even with the frustration of McLaren clearly having the best car in the second half of the season, but the reliability just wasn’t there.
Oh, and shoutout to COTA and the Vettel dogfight there. Two of the fastest drivers ever, in a straight dogfight, mixed in with a time trial contest. That was fun.
One last moment of joy as a Michael fan at Monaco when he nailed that qualifying lap to take his final career pole position. I’m dead certain he’d have gone on to win if it weren’t for that friggin deserved grid penalty he got in Catalunya for ploughing into the back of Bruno Senna.
In any case, it was a truly wonderful moment from the old master, and as a Michael fan, I was in tears. Couldn’t believe it. Nice to see him have one last podium as well in Valencia, the 155th of his illustrious career.
It was great to see Kimi Raikkonen back from his hiatus at Lotus-Renault, and he had a superb first season back. He only finished out of the points on one occasion and was a model of consistency throughout the season. Shout out to old friend George Mullen for pointing this one out, but if Lotus could have ever gotten Kimi and Grosjean clicking at the same time, they could have made a serious run for a Constructors Title, at times they were so strong with James Allison there.
Also really glad Kimi got his moment in Abu Dhabi, with another legendary F1 meme being born in the process. #LeaveMeAlone
Of course, when it was all said and done, it came down to Sebastian Vettel vs Fernando Alonso, a title fight that went all the way to the wire.
First of all, can we stop pretending like Fernando was this massive underdog?! That was the narrative for the season, that Nando’s “weaker” Ferrari was chasing down Vettel, who at this point hadn’t convinced the F1 world he was anything more than a decent driver in an overpowered car.
That Ferrari was not a “shit” car. Fernando Alonso won three Grand Prix’s that season. Finished on the podium for seven out of the last eight rounds. Only Sebastian’s ridiculous run in Asia was the difference maker here. The F1 universe conveniently forgot that Fernando Alonso had a 45 point lead mid-season due to him being the only real consistent man on the podium in that crazy first half of F1 actually being competitive. Sure, he was lucky to be the victim of two accidents that weren’t his fault in Belgium and Japan, but no-one cried for Vettel’s alternator failures in Valencia or Italy either. So yeah… I think we let bias get in the way of rational logic…
…But it’s easy to see why. By this point, Fernando’s career had been one of frustration. He bolted from McLaren after Lewis Hamilton became “the guy”. Wasted two years back at a Renault team that wasn’t the same after his departure. Came so close in 2010 until we all figured out you can’t pass at Abu Dhabi. 2011 was another dead horse. This was his chance at #3. And in F1, three world titles really does seem like the magic number for those who are considered true legends of the sport.
Sebastian was never going to win the popular vote here, but I always love the fact that when the chips were down, he stepped up. Cashed in those two Alonso retirements by scoring 43 points. Had the four-race winning streak in Asia. Then pulled off two of the finest drives in his career to come back and steal the title from under Fernando’s nose. Coming through the field twice in Abu Dhabi to finish on the podium, and then recovering from the Lap 1 crash with Bruno Senna to finish as World Champion. And for me as a Vettel fan, seeing Michael Schumacher be the first to congratulate him, was the greatest “passing the torch” moment I can think of in F1. It was wonderful.
This was a tremendous title fight. Two gladiators. Two different paths and backstories. Two big-name teams, with different values. Both wanting that third world title to put them into F1 immortality. A title fight that swung back and forth, forced the best out of both of them. Nando’s Valencia moment, winning from 11th. Seb’s final two rounds, some of the ridiculous damage limitation, ever.
That alone would have made for a great season. But when you see all the layers underneath and put it all together, there’s so many stories told and so many amazing moments. For me, 2012 is the greatest Formula 1 season ever. And if you don’t believe me, maybe let Eddie Jordan sum it up in two minutes or so…
See you tomorrow for the Grand Finale.