Peter Allen – Romain Grosjean Leads at Suzuka
In the penultimate of the end of year specials for www.theCheckeredFlag.co.uk some of our regular writers remember some of the moments that they will remember long after the new year hangovers have faded. Their picks include an accident, a near accident, moments of controversy and a few emotional – and fantastic – victories.
At the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean was branded a “first-lap nutcase” by Mark Webber after hitting the Australian in his latest episode of opening turn contact. 12 months on, the Lotus driver got a rocket launch from fourth on the grid, flying into the lead of the race past pole-sitter Webber and Red Bull team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Despite the inferior machinery underneath him, Grosjean then held on up front during the early stages. Differing strategies enabled the Red Bull pair to eventually work their way past and demote the Frenchman to third, but he had emphatically demonstrated his improvement over the course of the 2013 season. With four podium finishes from five races including a career-best second in Austin, Grosjean was the closest driver to the dominant Vettel in the second half of the year, proving the doubters wrong and Lotus boss Eric Boullier right for giving him another chance.
Read the race report from the Japanese Grand Prix – HERE
David Bean – Korean Fire Truck
From the outside, Formula 1 appears to run like clockwork. At a race weekend, every event is rigorously scheduled, sponsors logos are strategically placed at every race track to maximise television exposure, and anything ‘off message’ (think of the Greenpeace protestors in Belgium) happens off camera.
But sometimes we get a comical mistake exposed to the whole world. Mark Webber had been dumped out of the race by Adrian Sutil and his Red Bull had caught fire at the side of the track. There was no immediate danger to anybody yet, in response, some bright spark somewhere in Yeongam sent out a fire truck. The large vehicle emerged from the pit lane just ahead of race leader Sebastian Vettel, who was heading down the pit straight at full race speed. The safety car was scrambled, and nobody was hurt, but the situation did illustrate the fact that, even in a world where attention to detail is tantamount to success, stupid mistakes can happen.
Read TCF Korean Grand Prix Report – HERE
James Broomhead – Spa 24 Hours, lap one, turn one
The history of racing is peppered with stories of disaster triggered by trying to ascend the incline otherwise known as Eau Rouge two wide in the heat of battle. So when the field was unleashed for the start of the Total 24 Hours of Spa – something that happens after the La Source hairpin – and neither Stefan Mucke nor Alessandro Pier Guidi yielded position from the front row all the warning signs were there.
Slowly – at least it seemed slow – Pier Guidi’s Ferrari started to spin around, leaving the circuit before sliding back across the track at the top of the hill. As everyone – except Mucke a few other leaders – scattered in avoidance of the spinning Ferrari you braced yourself for at least one significant impact. Somehow, however, none came and the entire field organised themselves back onto the Kemmel Straight without significant issue. Only Pier Guidi’s plummet down the order, as well as drivers like Alvaro Parente who picked the best path through the chaos to pick up seven places in an instant, stood on track as testament to the episode.
Read James’ report on the first 60 minutes at Spa-Francorchamps – HERE
James Charman – Hutchinson wins in Macau
There were few stories that put a bigger smile on your face than Ian Hutchinson’s comeback at the Macau Grand Prix. After 18 months of the sidelines, the only man to score five TT wins in a week made a triumphant and emotional return at the Macau Grand Prix. There was the fear that after the injury ordeal he had been through, Hutchy would take time to get back to his dominant form, if he would ever get back to that form at all. How wrong the doubters were, and seeing him break down in tears after the race just showed how much that moment meant to him, let alone his fans.
Read the two-wheeled race report from Macau – HERE
Alex Goldschmidt – Rocky in the dunes
It was the atmosphere in the media centre at Circuit Park Zandvoort after the race where Mike Rockenfeller secured his first DTM title. The celebrations started just as soon as the podium ceremony had taken place, with some of the Team Phoenix mechanics coming into the press conference and shouting “Rocky” several times over. The atmosphere in the Audi Sport hospitality later that evening was nothing short of euphoric, as the team celebrated with friends and family on what was a wonderful achievement for both Team Phoenix and Mike Rockenfeller. It was a case of smiles all round, before they all partied late into the night. Definitely a moment I’ll never forget…
Joe Hudson – Chaos at Ste Devote
For absolute sheer chaos and confusion it has to be the Monaco GP2 Feature race. Nine retirements ensued in the carnage which was started because of Johnny Cecotto running far too deep into Ste Devote and clipped Fabio Leimer and the barriers with the chasing pack unable to get out of the way quickly enough.
Even race control were unsure of what to do – they had initially called for a safety car but eventually common sense prevailed and the red flag was called for.
Read the full race report from the race – HERE
Dan Mason – Multi 21
For a moment of the 2013 that most sticks in the memory banks, it would often be a superb overtaking move that gets my vote – that honour convincingly going to Renault Clio Cup UK driver Ant Whorton-Eales who passed not one, not even two, but 11 cars on the first two bends, most of those amazingly around the outside heading through Deene hairpin whilst completely sideways in the second Rockingham encounter.
But the most memorable moment of the year in my opinion was Multi-21-gate, one which threatened to destroy Vettel’s reputation thanks to a pantomime-style show in the Malaysian Grand Prix.
A fantastic race staged between Red Bull and the charging Mercedes duo, Mark Webber had edged the advantage over his German team-mate in during the race, but when team orders kicked in through the now anything-but secret ‘Multi-21’ coded message, Vettel ignored the gesture and took the fight to the Australian, taking the lead and the win while Adrian Newey and Christian Horner jiggled their legs in agitation.
Nico Rosberg’s frustrations to receiving a similar message from Ross Brawn to remain behind Lewis Hamilton added fuel to the fiery situation, Hamilton feeling somewhat cheated into his rostrum finish.
Webber and Vettel’s post-race chat was heated, but the scene on the podium afterwards oozed awkwardness from three unhappy drivers. Nobody wanted to be up on that rostrum – not even Martin Brundle who soldiered through post-race interviews seeming equally uncomfortable.
Read the Malaysian Grand Prix report – HERE
Simon Paice – Ingram takes the title
I’ve seen a few championship celebrations over the years whilst covering the BTCC support series for TCF, and while all of them are special, none have felt more emotional than Ginetta GT Supercup champion Tom Ingram’s.
From the moment he crossed the finish line at Silverstone, the emotion started to pour out, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house as Ingram, his family, friends and team celebrated his success at the podium. A lovely moment to witness.
On track, my stand-out moment of the year was a sensational piece of opening lap overtaking at Rockingham from Ant Whorton-Eales. A gutsy move saw him superbly slide his way from twelfth to first at the hairpin, setting him on his way to his maiden Clio Cup win.
Read the Clio Cup race report – HERE
James Singleton – Silverstone blowout
The tyre fiasco at the British Grand Prix takes some beating. It was a great example of what is wrong in F1 at the moment. The teams were so hung up over Mercedes’ supposedly “secret” test, and too busy rubbing Pirelli’s name in the dirt to bother working together to find a solution to the tyre problems we’d seen sporadically at the start of the season. Then the problem blew up literally and metaphorically in front of fans all around the world in race conditions. It was an embarrassing (not to mention extremely dangerous) moment for the sport, and hopefully lessons have been learned to avoid a similar problem from happening again.
Louis Suddaby – The Doctor Returns – Rossi win at Assen
Assen arguable gave us the defining moment of the MotoGP season when Jorge Lorenzo broke his left collarbone in free practice, handing the advantage to Repsol Honda. Friday then provided the euphoria of Cal Crutchlow’s maiden MotoGP pole position but for motorsport fans across the world, the biggest story would be saved for Saturday.
Two years at Ducati brought nothing but misery for Valentino Rossi and when the marriage made in heaven turned sour, the Italian realised that a switch back to Yamaha was the best move, not because he missed his old employers, but he missed winning. With his teammate riding through unimaginable pain, Yamaha’s Dutch TT hopes rested on Rossi and after overhauling the Repsol Hondas early on there was no stopping him. The way he controlled the race was reminiscent of Valentino in his pomp and after the questions that had surrounded him since Sepang 2010, MotoGP fans discovered that the magic was still there.
He may not be at the peak of his powers anymore but the fact remains, Valentino Rossi is MotoGP and his return to winning ways will go down as one of the most popular victories in recent times. The collective roar from the Assen grandstands said it all.
Read our TT Assen report – HERE
Feature image credits (top-bottom, left-right); Chris Gurton Photography, Ryan Smith, Jakob Ebrey Photography, Paul Gilham/Getty Images, btcc.net, Jakob Ebrey Photography, DTM Media, MotoGP.com, Francois Flamand/DPPI, Chris Trotman/Getty Images, Jakob Ebrey Photography, Alastair Staley/GP2 Media Service.