Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Discussion point: Do races or championships make for vintage seasons? // Deciding what it is that makes a year in Formula One great

Published by Stuart Taylor

2011 is giving us something we haven't had the fortune to experience in many years: a season with consistently great racing. There have been great battles throughout the field, incidents of impatience, performance swings between qualifying and the race and tense, last lap fights for the win. Despite all this, the title fight is looking like a rather predictable affair, with Vettel managing his performance and riding his luck to five wins and two second places as his rivals grab an inconsistent array of points. There is no doubt, Vettel is on another level. But you don't hear many groans to the melody of, 'oh here we go, 2002, 2004, mumble-grumble...' because we all know every race is going to be great fun!

Last year we had a little bit of the opposite. The title fight was an epic, with five protagonists genuinely slogging it out over 18 races and four battling on right to the very end - the winner taking the title despite never leading the championship. Impressive stuff, from a year-long story arc perspective. But, as infamously demonstrated by one Mr. C, some fans continued to be disillusioned by the frustratingly unexciting races. A distinct lack of pitstops - thanks to the Bridgestones' durability - and the familiar difficulty in overtaking led to races being mostly decided within the first fifteen laps. However, an interesting balance of talent, machinery and development meant that the advantage constantly shifted over the year as Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren all took turns in leading the championship. This coupled with a refreshing lack of politics led to 2010 be declared a 'vintage season' - and rightly so, for its own reasons.

But what kind of season would you prefer? A championship-centric year, or a race-centric year? Of course, ideally we'd have both, like the 2007 season, perhaps - but if you had to choose one or the other, which would it be? Answers in the comments!

And don't just consider 2010 vs 2011 (especially as 2011 isn't over yet). Here are some other seasons to consider from the last decade...

Good Championships

  • 2003: Michael Schumacher's dominance is broken as a major change in the sporting regulations evens out the order. Eight different drivers and five different teams win race and Schumacher's title defence was genuinely challenged by Montoya, Räikkönen and Ralf Schumacher. Includes some classic races, but they were mostly brought on by rain or crazy priests. Schumacher wins six times as many races as runner-up, Räikkönen.
  • 2008: I think of the season a little like The Fifth Element. An interesting fact about The Fifth Element is that the protagonist, Bruce Willis, and the antagonist, Gary Oldman, never actually meet in the film. And that's how this championship felt. It was the one that went right down to the wire, and yet Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa hardly ever met on track so the races didn't have that wheel-to-wheel championship fight to them, like the Schumacher-Hakkinen days, or any race with Montoya. This season did feature debut wins for Kubica, Kovalainen and Vettel, though (though those races weren't particularly thrilling, otherwise)

Good Racing

  • 2001: The naissance of Juan Pablo Montoya, the man who dared to overtake Michael Schumacher and edge him onto the Brazilain grass for good measure. A season where the Williams cars were hit so often, they wrote "Keep Your Distance" on their rear wing. A season where Schumacher and Barrichello fought there way from the back on the field in a Malaysian thunderstorm. A season where the Schumacher brother battled for lap after lap in Canada. A season in Hakkinen lost his mojo and Schumacher won the title with five races to go.
  • 2005: Remember when we liked Fernando Alonso, and his first championship year was a breath of fresh air for those of us still around after Schumacher nearly killed the sport? Well, after a dominant start to the year, no one ever got close to his points tally, and he won the race with two rounds to spare, but we were treated to: The joyous absence of tyre changing, which, despite its direct influence on the farcical US GP, led to wonderful race-long strategies including the tense final laps of the European GP, where Kimi's flatspotted tyre eventually destroyed his suspension; Turkey's spectacular debut, rife with drama and overtaking; the Japanese Grand Prix, with Alonso, Montoya, Schumacher and Räikkönen all fighting through from the back of the field after a half-rainy qualifying.

DEBATE!