The Championship and the Finale
With a tumultuous season (at least politically) in 2007, 2008 would need to bring the focus back on the racing (in spite of the attempts of Mr. Max Mosely to do otherwise…more on him later). The title fight between Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa (and Robert Kubica and Kimi Raikkonen for a while) did just that.
In a year that saw more twists than anyone imagined, it seemed that no one wanted to win this championship. Unreliability, driver errors, Mother Nature, and the occasional dumb race steward (see the Belgian Grand Prix) all had a hand in making this year’s title fight one of the best the sport has ever seen.
The only thing that could have made it better was a dramatic finale. Mother Nature took care of that. All you need to know about the final race is that Felipe Massa was the world champion…until the last corner of the last lap. For that race, Lewis Hamilton had luck on his side.
Outcome aside, it gave Formula One what it needed: focus back on the racing!
Struggles in testing said that BMW Sauber might take a step back this year; Robert Kubica’s near pole in Australia ended that thought.
BMW Sauber continued its surge forward with a pole, a win (both from Kubica), and 11 total podiums. Add this team to the big guns on the Formula One grid. Many have them picked as the favorite heading into next season. That may be in slight haste, but it’s more than reasonable to think this team will contend for both titles in ’09.
Watch out for Kubica and Nick Heidfeld next year. The German-Swiss outfit and its drivers might be poised to make a run.
In the second half of the season, we watched the birth of a new star in Formula 1. The Toro Rosso chassis may have been good, but there was no way it should have been beating the Mclarens, Ferraris, or BMW Saubers. Vettel proved time and again that he could drive a car beyond its limits.
His win at Monza will be a lasting memory for everyone who saw and served notice that Germany will have another hero after Michael Schumacher. Taking a car that should have been in the midfield and win was something special, and he made everyone who cheers for underdogs smile.
A move to Red Bull Racing next year may be an initial step back (many say the Renault power plant in inferior to the Ferrari one), but Vettel has proven he can do a lot with a little. The young German will be a force for years to come.
He would’ve fallen into the “bad” category, but his second half performance shot him up the list. A pair of wins and more points than anyone in the second half of the season reminded us all that he is still a top driver.
Renault will have to give him a better car next year, but Alonso did make the right move in staying with Renault (made all the more correct given Honda’s withdrawal from F1 as a manufacturer).
Might we see Alonso and Renault make a run at the titles next year? Well, the grid will surely be shaken up with the new regs, so, to steal a line from the great Murray Walker, “anything can happen in Formula 1, and usually does.”
He looked to be on form after a win in Spain. But, from there, we saw the Kimster look dramatically more mediocre. He even went a full two months (Hungary to Japan) without scoring a point! Certainly, more was expected of the ’07 World Champion.
Also, with Massa’s increased performance, perhaps he might assume the role of team leader, relegating Kimi to “wing man.” That may be a reach to say right now, but Kimi will have to be on point early next season, or he won’t be a title contender in ’09.
In Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Monaco, Canada, Valencia, and Singapore, the Williams package was very quick and earned them a pair of podiums (though it could’ve been more in Monaco and Canada). However, in Malaysia, France, Britain, Belgium, etc. (aka, the big circuits), the team went AWOL.
Nico Rosberg and Kaz Nakajima did what they could, but the car’s performance was wildly inconsistent; the team’s preseason testing pace came only partly true.
Perhaps the drop in performance (especially in the latter races, minus Singapore) came from the team focusing toward ’09. Maybe so, but the year could have seen so much more for Williams. The ’09 season will need a jump up in performance from this group, or they may be in trouble.
Say what you will about the circumstances surrounding his troubles, but he should’ve known better than to get involved in that “German prison themed” sexcapade. It remains unknown to me how he managed to stay on as FIA president, as all things seemed to point to his resignation.
He, and Formula One, are fortunate that the title fight and racing was as exciting as they were, otherwise this would have been the sole F1 story of 2008. The on-track dramatics saw this story fall by the wayside, but the fact remains that Mr. Mosely nearly put another (possibly permanent) black eye on the sport. Shame on you Mr. Mosely.
Here’s hoping there’s no more of this stuff next year.
The demise of Honda’s F1 presence began when Super Aguri (Honda’s B team) failed to find sufficient funding to compete. With Honda unable (or unwilling?) to prop the team up, Super Aguri left the grid to the chagrin of everyone who follows the sport.
Super Aguri was the team of “Super Best Friends” (as the American SPEED broadcasters dubbed them) who battled for everything they could and managed respectability with nearly nothing.
The highlight for me (and everyone else probably) will be Takuma Sato’s pass on Fernando Alonso the 2007 Canadian Grand Prix.
Now, Honda has withdrawn its support for the “A” team, leaving the Brackley boys (and girls) up in the air, wondering what will happen in 2009. Even as I write, there might be a deal progressing that could see David Richards take control of the team. However, that will all unfold in the coming weeks and nothing is yet known.
Currently, their status is unknown. Honda seemed poised to make a run at the big teams after Jensen Button’s fine win in Hungary in 2006. Now, Honda may be out of F1 altogether. How sad it is.