After another memorable twelve months in racing, The Checkered Flag’s team of regular contributors have taken the time to pick some of their highlights and favourite moments from 2010, as well as taking a sneaky peak behind the curtain at what to look out for in the twelve months ahead, with choices from around the world of motorsport. Of course, we also want to know what you’ll remember from 2010.
Moment Of The Year – Ferrari team orders in Germany
The relationship between driver pairings was a big theme that ran throughout Formula 1 in 2010, but there was one moment that captured the intra-team rivalry best of all. The blatant and merciless manner in which Ferrari implemented an obvious team order in the German Grand Prix caused outrage amongst watching fans, pundits, and their competitors. The incident turned Fernando Alonso into a pantomime villain, and is an episode that will be referred to regularly in the future. The moment Mark Webber's Red Bull finally got its wings in Valencia deserves and honourable mention
Driver Of The Year – Sebastian Vettel
He won the championship of the top racing series! He kept his nerve to come from behind and, with a dominant display in the final four races, sealed an improbable championship. All of the contenders made mistakes throughout the season, but Vettel had the edge over his team-mate at most races, and was a deserved champion. Lewis Hamilton showed some excellent overtaking manoeuvres and some strong drives. He is undoubtedly one of the most talented drivers on the F1 grid, but needs to cut out the mistakes.
Race Of The Year – Chinese Grand Prix
This was a race that had everything. Intermittent rain, overtaking, drama, and controversy. Crucially, it also gave us the first British one-two finish in F1 for over a decade. Also the Korean Grand Prix. It was a shambles, took nearly three hours to complete the required laps, and finished in complete darkness. However, it provided some exciting action, and had a huge impact on the title battle.
What To Look For In 2011 – The rise of Mercedes GP
The squad from Brackley seem to be promising big things for 2011. Last year was their transition season, and in the New Year the MGP W02 should be competing at the front. This could lead to some interesting rivalry between Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher, and we may even see a 92nd race victory for the seven-time world champion. Plus a conclusion in the battle over which team can use the Lotus name – but I wouldn't hold your breath.
Moment Of The Year – Paul O'Neill's Rockingham podium
The best moment of the year for me was seeing Paul O'Neill on the podium at Rockingham after finishing second in Round 6 of the BTCC. The true underdog had once again taken on the big boys and beaten them to record a terrific podium finish and once again let it show how much it meant to him. Every time he gets to step foot on the podium, there isn't a dry eye in the crowd.
Driver Of The Year – Gordon Shedden
Has always been a quick driver and won races in the BTCC, but managed to step up a level, add real consistency to his driving and become a title contender in 2010. Only a couple of early season retirements cost him a real shot at the title in the end.
Race Of the Year – Ginetta Juniors, Round 13, Silverstone
In 2010, the Ginetta Juniors produced some thrilling, entertaining races, with their opening race at Silverstone one of the very best. With the season reaching its critical point, Ingram, Richardson and Hill fought a superb battle at the front, running nose to tail throughout and switching places every lap, while behind, there was brilliant racing throughout the field.
What To Look For In 2011 – Formula One 2011
After arguably the tightest Formula One season ever, 2011 could be even better, as the new regulations could make things even closer between the front runners, as well as making the racing more exciting. Hope the Mercedes boys and Kubica can challenge the Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren boys for the top honours.
Moment Of The year – Hendrick's Pit Cew Swap
Towards the end of the 2010 season Jimmie Johnson and his crew chief, Chad Knaus, were concerned that their tardy pitstops were costing them time and places. At Texas in November Johnson’s teammate, Jeff Gordon, crashed under caution with Jeff Burton, precipitating their trackside fisticuffs which could be a contender for the moment of the year. But that award would have to go to Knaus’s instantaneous decision to dismiss his pit crew mid race and replace them with the now redundant crew of Jeff Gordon, a tough, uncompromising and brave choice emphasising his commitment to do whatever was needed to win the title and face the consequences afterwards.
Driver of the year – Jimmie Johnson
An easy one to decide although this has to be shared by two men. Jimmie Johnson‘s fifth consecutive championship is a phenomenal achievement but credit has to be shared with his crew chief, Chad Knaus. They are both currently the best at what they do and together make a formidable and, so far, unbeatable working partnership. This year, for the first time, Johnson had to come from behind entering the last race and he and his crew chief remained calm, doing just what needed to be done whilst his title rivals, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick fell short. When talking of Johnson’s mighty accomplishments the names used for comparison these days are Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt. Johnson really is that good and we are watching the birth of a NASCAR legend even if we don’t always realise it or appreciate it.
Race Of The Year – Aaron's 499, Talladega
Another easy choice. Talladega, April 25th. The Aaron’s 499 race. Whilst Formula One had just over thirty lead changes at the start finish line across the year NASCAR had 88 changes for the lead in this one race, and that was just at the startline. Of the forty-three drivers who started the race twenty-nine led at some point. With bump-drafting, multi vehicle wrecks and attempts at a green-white-checker finish the race with a bit of everything finished with Kevin Harvick ending a 115 race winless streak, beating Jamie McMurray by just 0.011 seconds. And to prove it was no fluke in the fall race at the end of October they had to settle for just 87 lead changes.
What To Look For In 2011 – A sixth title?
What to look forward to next year is simple – can Jimmie Johnson possibly take a sixth consecutive Sprint Cup Series championship, leaving him just one title short of the two legends, Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt? Or can one of the other drivers really bring an end to his dominance? Based on this year’s racing Denny Hamlin has to be favourite to do it – he has more self-belief than the other competitors but the reality with NASCAR is that there are at least ten drivers on track who could reasonably take the title.
Moment Of The Year – Jorge Lorenzo's title
I could list so many! But for me, it has to be seeing Jorge Lorenzo cross the line in 3rd at the Malaysian MotoGP to take his maiden MotoGP World Championship. The elation he showed was epic, and it just showed that all the hype surrounding him was justified.
Driver (or Rider) Of The Year – Ben Spies
He has taken to MotoGP like a duck to water. He hasn’t grabbed that elusive first win, but a podium or 2 and an impressive pole at home in Indianapolis showed he has the promise. 2011 sees him move to the factory Yamaha squad, so this could be his year.
Race Of The Year – MotoGP, Motegi
Has to be the Motegi MotoGP. Stoner took a long awaited victory, but it was the scrap between the two FIAT Yamaha‘s that will live in the memory. Rossi was never going to let Lorenzo past. The two riders even touched once. A proper battle of young versus old!
What To Look For In 2011 – MotoGP 2011
Well, the whole of the 2011 MotoGP season should be a thriller. Rossi at Ducati, Stoner moving to Honda and a new Brit to cheer on in the shape of Cal Crutchlow and the exciting partnership of world champ Lorenzo and this years Top Rookie Ben Spies, should make the season a classic.
Moment Of The Year – Nico Hulkenberg’s maiden pole position at the Brazilian Grand Prix
Certainly the most excited I got all year (in motorsport terms) was when Nico took pole position in Brazil. The Williams rookie, who’s future at the team looked in doubt due to financial reasons, stole the show in the penultimate qualifying session of the year, where all the build-up had been surrounding the five title contenders. Hulkenberg mastered the damp conditions on slick tyres, first setting a lap that nobody would go on to top, before improving on that time with pole already in the bag to finish up over a second ahead of the next best drivers.
Driver of the year – Petter Solberg
Once again, Sebastien Loeb dominated World Rallying in 2010. However, with the Fords struggling, it was quite often Solberg in his privately-run Citroen who was pushing the Frenchman to the limit. A struggle to ninth in Sweden and crashing out of that crazy battle for victory on the final day in New Zealand were his only low points, finishing in the top five on every other event including eight podium finishes. A shame he couldn’t come out on top against Loeb on his ‘home’ rally in Wales to finish a great season, in which he even had to change co-drivers half way through.
Race Of The Year – Australian Grand Prix
Following the dull spectacle that was the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix, Albert Park provided another of its fantastic races. It was full of close racing and overtaking, both towards the front amongst the big names and further down the field. It also had mistakes from the likes of Webber and Hamilton, and the drama of race leader Vettel crashing out with yet another mechanical failure on his Red Bull. Amongst all that, Jenson Button played the conditions perfectly and used his own radical tyre strategy to win the race, only his second start for McLaren.
What To Look For In 2011 – World Touring Car Championship
BMW’s withdrawal as a factory team leaves just Chevrolet as the only fully-fledged manufacturer outfit. New engine regulations and the promise of a strong privateer lineup in both SEATs and BMWs could keep them on their toes though, as well as a full-time one-car entry from Volvo. Teenager Pepe Oriola will join other quick youngsters such as Norbert Michelisz, while Colin Turkington and WSR could be in for a full campaign. Things will certainly look different in Brazil in March, yet it could actually be for the better.
Moment Of The Year -Mark Webber's Valencia Flight
Mark Webber taking flight off Heikki Kovalainen's Lotus at Valencia. Not only did it ignite what could have been a very boring race, but it was a reminder of the danger (and sheer speed) of the racing in a year which has been punctuated with 'Hollywood accidents'. Also, the engine in Franck Montagny's lead Peugeot 908 deciding to expire in the only 20 minutes of the Le Mans 24 Hours I decided to sleep.
Driver Of The Year – Kamui Kobayashi
Erk, so many to pick from. Obviously every driver who won a championship really deserves a mention, but Kamui Kobayashi has had another great year in F1. Shaky start but getting better all the time, his final few laps at Valencia are all you need to know about the man who was contemplating a 2010 working in a sushi restaurant before his drive was confirmed..
Race Of The Year – Britcar 24 Hours, Silverstone
Entirely a personal choice this. TCF covered the entire weekend from the track (with the necessary sleep deprivation) and we were rewarded with a great race. After a day of penalties, rain, fog, and rain the result came down to the final hour. David versus Goliath with MJC beating JetAlliance and a great story for winners after a great weekend. Did I mention rain?
What to Watch For In 2011 – The ILMC
With the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup there is magnificent potential, truly global sports car racing and the latest chapter in the Peugeot and Audi rivalry that has epitomised the modern era at Le Mans. Also the BTCC – more teams and marques joining all the time should make for another great year of domestic Touring Cars.
Moment Of The Year – Audi winning Le Mans
Plain and simple. Against all odds, Audi dragged victory from the jaws of a drubbing by the rapid Peugeot 908s and ended up notching up a one-two-three – The atmosphere at the circuit was totally different to the year before, but I was smiling on the inside!
Driver of the year – Jean-Eric Vergne
A superb year in F3, and scoring a win in WSbR in a matter of races shows his ability. He will be a F1 Champion.
Race of the year – British GT Silverstone Enduro
Nine marques going head to head for victory. Darren Turner, Richard Westbrook, Allan Simonsen et all on one of the UK’s best circuits and a title up for grabs. A great race, with lots of drama.
What To Look For In 2011 – The 2011 British GT Championship
2011 promises to be amazing. Audi, Mercedes, Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin all squaring up makes my mouth water!
Moment Of The Year – YourRacingCar and Phil Glew at Silverstone
There are many moments that stick out for me for example Menasheh Idafar‘s superb drive at a rain soaked Brands Hatch to take overall third place in the British F3 National Class. Also on a personal note, my first trip to Le Mans where the dominant Peugeot's dropped out of the race one by one to hand Audi a famous 1-2-3 finish. However, my favourite moment came at the Silverstone Round of the BTCC where the YourRacingCar.com team took to the grid in their Seat Leon with Phil Glew behind the wheel. Had it not been for a controversial race control decision leading to a drive through penalty then the team would have picked up points too. This is all very impressive for a team founded at the Autosport Show in 2009. Let’s hope 2011 brings them even more fortune.
Driver Of The Year – Davide Rigon
Everyone will be looking at the obvious candidates for this one. The youngest F1 champion Sebastian Vettel seven time World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb, and BTCC champion Jason Plato. All worthy of this accolade but I'm going to go for someone a little less well known. Davide Rigon takes my plaudit for a fantastic year in Superleague Formula. A series dominated early on by Craig Dolby and Yelmer Buurman, but some fantastic drives saw the Italian guide the RSC Anderlecht car back into contention to take the title fight right down to the very last lap of the season to win it by a single point.
Race Of The Year – Britcar 24 Hours, Silverstone
Where do you start with this one? So many incredible battles and season defining moments throughout all series but for me, my favourite has to be the Britcar 24 hour race at Silverstone. Covered extensively by The Checkered Flag, it had it all, well know drivers, awesome cars, adverse weather conditions and battles galore. Particularly the battle for first place overall. With the Aquilla dropping out as night time set in, and a number of problems for the various Moslers it was left to the MJC Ferrari 430 GTC and the Jet Alliance Racing Porsche 997 to fight tooth and nail for the honours With tyre choices critical and pitstop times vital the two cars were swapping for first place throughout the second half of the race. After hours of battling it was the Ferrari that took the win, 24 hours after the start by less than a minute. An incredible feat of endurance. Also, a worthy mention must go to the Production class winning Ginetta G40. Reliably racing around against much faster opposition after being driven to the circuit from the factory in Leeds, only to be driven back again after the finish. This just goes to show what a great series Britcar is.
What To Look For In 2011 – Audis
Well, there is certainly a lot to look forward to over the next twelve months but here are a few things I will be looking forward too. It's going to be a big year for Audi in British motosport the German car manufacturer will be back on the BTCC grid and also will be lining up alongside the likes of Porsche and Ferrari in the British GT Championships. Also, the new Audi Le Mans race car is looking awesome and I cannot wait to see it battle against the Peugeot contingent who will be out for revenge at the next Le Mans 24 hour race. I’m looking forward to another great season of Britcar racing. If it's a series you haven't been to see then believe me, it is well worth checking out. Tickets are cheap and you are also able to get up close to the cars and drivers in the paddock. Superleague Formula. A very closely fought championship based on a football theme with reversed grids and big prize money all streamed live on the internet.
Moment Of The Year – Paul Di Resta, Brands Hatch
Paul di Resta at Brands Hatch taking a dominant victory in the DTM race, untouchable from start to finish.
Driver of the year – Tom Onslow-Cole
Battled on despite complaints from rivals over the speed of the LPG powered Ford Focus and team orders. Tim Harvey also deserves a mention for taking his second Porsche Carrera Cup GB title after a season long battle with Michael Caine.
Race of the year – Ginetta Juniors, Snetterton
Louise Richardson fighting back from a spin to take her maiden win, great race and certainly a future star in the making.
What to look for in 2011 – Frank Wrathall
The Ginetta G50 champion in BTCC making the move up to the ‘main event’ of the weekend. Also keep a look out for Jason Mills who looks set to take part in the Clio Cup after making an impressive debut at Brands Hatch last year.
Many thanks to everyone who has visited The Checkered Flag in the past twelve months, read reports or left comments. We hope you have enjoyed 2010, and enjoy all that 2011 has to offer – both in racing terms and otherwise. We look forward to bringing you reports and images from another fantastic season of racing.
And don’t forget to leave your highlights of 2010.
Happy New Year from all at The Checkered Flag