Our Formula 1 reporter TOM WILKINSON looks back at the 2012 season and picks his Driver of the Year award winner.
THIS year has been one of the most exciting Formula 1 seasons in years. German driver Sebastian Vettel became the youngest driver in the history of the sport to win three world titles, but was he worth of the Driver of the Year award this season?
Let us go back to March, the season was just about to get underway in Melbourne, Australia. In winter testing, I assessed all the teams and drivers and looked at who was hot and who was not.
The form book was seemingly torn apart, all the top teams were struggling. But as the season evolved, one man stood out and no, it wasn’t Pastor Maldonado who caused carnage at almost every race. It wasn’t Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber either. The two Red Bull drivers couldn’t get to grips with their cars until later in the season. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton were performing well in the McLarens, but it wasn’t them either. Mercedes took their first win in China, it was Nico Rosberg’s first victory, but I’m not talking about him. It was Spanish favourite Fernando Alonso. Ferrari had a poor car, however it was consistently scoring solid points in the hands of Fernando.
Looking back throughout the season, there have been some brilliant drives from Fernando Alonso taking a poor performing Ferrari to the podium. The standout race this season from Alonso has to be the European Grand Prix in Valencia. Starting from 11th place on the grid, he took victory in front of his home fans. Looking into this season his consistency has been quite remarkable.
He only suffered two retirements in Belgium and Japan through no fault of his own.
In only two races did he finish lower than he qualified, but perhaps most impressively, he scored points in every single race he finished. In the last five races of the season he finished on the podium. He took a total of 13 podiums in 20 races, at the end of the season he scored a total of 278 championship points. This level of consistency is incredible and I cannot recall seeing this level of performance for a long time.
Formula 1 is a technical sport, it requires skill from a driver not just to drive, but also to lead a team. Fernando Alonso led his team from the first day of winter testing, to the moment he crossed the line in Sao Paulo. The improvement in the Ferrari has been noticeable throughout the season.
Ferraris second driver also came good in the second half of the season. Much had been said about Felipe Massa’s driving and his future at Ferrari, but in the end he upped his game as the car improved.
The team are united, they want to win Championships, they have one of the best drivers in F1 leading them. History is important to Ferrari, Fernando is the big star of the team. His motivation to win Championships is clear for all to see, the determination in his driving is simply incredible.
Watching Fernando drive a circuit is fascinating, the smooth application of the throttle, turning the wheel into the corner only once rather than fighting the car. This is real skill, he is at one with the Ferrari. He has won two world championships in 2005 and 2006.
I felt he deserved this year’s title more than any other driver because of his consistency, skill and determination.
He fought Vettel to the very last lap in Brazil in one of the most incredible races I can ever remember.
Fernando Alonso may not be the 2012 Formula 1 World Champion, but he is my driver of the year.
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