Formula 1: 2011 Season Awards

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistNovember 30, 2011

Formula 1: 2011 Season Awards

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    The Brazilian Grand Prix brought to a close one of the least exciting seasons in F1 history.  The Championship was a foregone conclusion before the halfway point, and many races were painfully dull processions.

    We've had the Lewis Hamilton-Felipe Massa saga, a little bit of debate about off-throttle blown diffusers, plenty of discussion about DRS and a real gem of a Canadian Grand Prix.  And very little else.

    But the beauty of the sport is that splashes of colour can be found in the greyest of seasons.

    Here are my own F1 Awards for 2011.

Driver of the Year: Sebastian Vettel

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    1st: Sebastian Vettel

    Could it be anyone else?  The car has helped, but Vettel dominated the season, finding pace in the Red Bull that Mark Webber could not.

    15 poles, 11 wins and three fastest laps.  That says it all, really.

    The rest of the grid will need to rise to the challenge for 2012—but if the Red Bull is dominant again, we're in for another dull year. 

    2nd: Jenson Button

    Jenson Button finished the season second in the Championship, driving a McLaren that was usually no match for the Red Bull.  The highlight was his astounding drive in Canada, coming from last to win in the changeable conditions he thrives in.

    Some will say Lewis Hamilton was off-key, and that the shredding Pirellis played into Button's hands—but they'd be ignoring the simple fact Jenson had an excellent season, and ran Vettel close for my driver of the year.

    3rd: Fernando Alonso

    His teammate hasn't been much of a comparison, and the 2011 Ferrari wasn't a good car, but Fernando Alonso got as much out of it as anyone could have hoped. 

    In what was the third best car for most of the season, Alonso managed a race win and nine podiums. 

    It's been five years since Fernando claimed the second of his two World Championships.  If he maintains this form, he could well add a third in 2012—if Ferrari provides him with a better car, that is.

Rookie of the Year: Paul Di Resta

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    1st: Paul di Resta

    The most impressive rookie, di Resta scored a point on his debut and finished the season with a respectable total of 27.  Taking an unusual route to F1, he spent four seasons at DTM, and was Champion in 2010—appears to have been a good choice.

    If he's given a reasonable car, we can expect great things from him next year.

    2nd: Sergio Perez

    It would be accurate to say I expected him to be beaten by Kamui Kobayashi this year, partly because I saw him as a bit of a sponsor-boy (those Telmex logos didn't land on the Sauber by accident).  But he's actually given a very good account of himself.

    Next year should be an interesting one, as he really needs to match or beat Kobayashi to secure a lasting future in the sport.

    3rd: Daniel Ricciardo

    Third was between Daniel Ricciardo, Pastor Maldonado and Jerome D'Ambrosio.  So Daniel would have won this anyway, but he did enough to impress a lot of people.  He was never going to score points in the horrible HRT car, but he drove it well for a guy joining the team midway through the season.

    Red Bull paid for his drive and were not disappointed, so he has a good chance for a Toro Rosso seat for 2012.

Most Improved Driver of the Year: Jaime Alguersuari

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    1st: Jaime Alguersuari

    I've admittedly never been quite sure about Jaime Alguersuari.  He's been around three years now, never really standing out or showing any brilliance.  He hasn't exhibited any dazzling ability this year either, but he has done enough for me to notice, and applaud several of his drives.

    His qualifying hasn't matched his racing though, so he needs to improve there.

    2nd: Vitaly Petrov

    A podium in the first race marked the start of a better season for Russia's first F1 driver.  He was poor in 2010, but has grown as a driver over the past 12 months, and it could be that his potential is finally starting to surface.

    But at this stage it's still only potential—he's far from a finished driver, and we will have to wait and see how he performs.

    An interesting teammate for the returning Kimi Raikkonen, if he keeps his seat.

    3rd: Michael Schumacher

    2010 was a tough season for fans of Michael, and probably just as tough for the man himself.  But this year the veteran German has done a much better job, running his teammate Nico Rosberg close and almost scoring a podium in Canada.

    He's not what he once was, and never will be, but 2011 was a better season and a big improvement.

Biggest Disappointment of the Year: Felipe Massa

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    1st: Felipe Massa

    It's difficult to locate a single positive in Massa's season, but I suppose finishing fifth at his home race will do.  It equalled his best finish of the season, and that says much about how poor his form has been.

    But that a man I expected little of managed to win my award for the biggest disappointment says far more.

    2nd: Lewis Hamilton

    By the standards that fans expect, Lewis expects and McLaren expects, 2011 was a dreadful season.  Far too many errors and lacklustre performances left him fifth overall in the standings, despite three wins.

    He received more criticism than the rest of the grid combined, and probably more penalties too.

    3rd: Mark Webber

    Few expected Mark Webber to beat Sebastian Vettel, but surely we expected better performances from the Australian.  His only win of the season came in the final race at Interlagos, but for most of the year he wouldn't have been second to pick it up after Vettel's gearbox issues.

    He's very much a number two and is treated as such by Red Bull, but in that car his results were inexcusably poor.

Best Overtake of the Year: Mark Webber over Fernando Alonso

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    1st: Mark Webber on Fernando Alonso, Belgian Grand Prix

    I think it was Eddie Jordan who awarded this move the BBC's award for best overtake, and for once in my life I agree with the man.

    It's not easy to make Fernando Alonso back down, but Mark Webber managed just that and held the speed through Eau Rouge to keep the place down the long straight which follows.

    You just don't overtake there, but he did.  One of the few occasions this season that made me catch my breath and utter a quiet expletive.

    2nd: Michael Schumacher on Felipe Massa and Kamui Kobayashi, Canadian Grand Prix

    On a damp track, Felipe Massa was catching Kamui Kobayashi.  The Japanese driver went too deep into the chicane and Felipe went to pass around the outside.  Seeing the gap, Michael Schumacher simply drove past both of them.

    A beautiful opportunistic overtake, and one of the few reminders of Schumacher's old talent.

    3rd: Lewis Hamilton on Fernando Alonso, German Grand Prix

    Fernando Alonso exited the pits on cold tyres, but couldn't have expected this to happen.  Lewis Hamilton took the outside line around Turn 2 to overtake Alonso and set himself up for the race win.

    It was another move at a corner which just isn't regarded as a passing spot - especially not around the outside.

And That's It...

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    It's quite a task recalling the details of a 19-race season that began in March, so I can only apologise if I overlooked any deserving candidates.

    That said, I can remember much of it, and feel that these are the deserving winners. 

    According to me, anyway.


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