Farewell to 2011, all hail the conquerors at Red Bull

Posted on November 28, 2011


And so the 2011 season ended with another dominant performance from the team at Milton Keynes, albeit with a gearbox problem relegating champion Sebastian Vettel to second place. It was a typically controlled victory for Red Bull and sends them into the winter rightly underlined as the fastest, most effective outfit on the grid.

With Brundle off to Sky we won't be seeing so much of Vettel on the grid next year. Credit: Red Bull/Getty

Vettel takes and deserves all the plaudits. After three seasons of extraordinary title challenges – Hamilton winning the title on the final lap in 2008, Button recovering from a mid season slump in 2009 and last year’s titanic five way battle – the young German dominated in a way not seen since Schumacher was in his pomp at Ferrari. Vettel was aided by the astonishing RB7 but he destroyed Mark Webber in the same car.

Unusually we were not treated to a classic for the finale at Interlagos. The much threatened rain never arrived and the race defied the odds to not see the safety car. It was reminiscent of much of last couple of months. With the title sewn up and the Pirelli tyres worked out, it has fizzled a bit. But, then, up against the electric start to the year, perhaps that isn’t so much of a surprise.

The races in the first half of the season were awe inspiring. Hundreds of pit stops, hundreds of overtaking moves. Some of the greatest races of all time in Monaco and Montreal. We saw Lewis Hamilton claim victory in the dying laps of the Chinese Grand Prix, even the usually tame Barcelona threw up some excitement.

Meanwhile, 2012 is nothing but potential. With blown diffusers being banned, at least one of Red Bull’s major advantages this year is being taken away. The top teams will find ways to get back a lot of the downforce but hopefully there won’t be such a gulf in speed at the front. The seats at the front are all taken but the midfield is in flux – will we ever see Rubens Barrichello turn an F1 wheel in anger again? Will Kimi Raikkonen make a return to Williams, or perhaps Renault? If he does it would place an unprecedented six world champions on the grid.

And Pirelli have pledged to be more radical still, bringing softer tyres and less spread out compounds. I don’t suppose I’ll get my wish for DRS to be abandoned over the winter but hopefully the circuits and the FIA will at least have learned from the more ridiculous implementations this year.

Unfortunately the elephant in the room is the hatchet deal over the TV coverage. Up to 10 of the races – depending on the fate of the Bahrain and US races – will be on live pay television exclusively for the first time in the UK. They will be seen by millions fewer people. The BBC have announced some details of their highlights packages, typically 90 or 120 minute programmes. Far eastern races – including the opener in Australia – will broadcast at 2pm, while delayed European race highlights will air at 5.30pm.

Troublingly there is no mention of North America, home to 2011’s best race, in Canada. This year live coverage finished after 10pm, normally it’s about 7pm. Will the BBC even show highlights the same day? We don’t know, but to get them on BBC One at a similar sort of interval, it’s impossible to see the show starting until after the news at about 10.15pm. Sounds delightful.

Will I be stumping up £363 to pay for a Sky subscription? No. I’ve better places to put my cash – including a possible trip to an actual race, investing something in the sport rather than Pay TV. It may well mean watching races in the pub or only on a delayed basis. It probably means no live timing, no interaction on Twitter.

Formula One could be in line for another great season in 2012 and people will try and follow it as best they can. But many of, possibly millions of relatively casual fans, will quit watching. It’s a shame.

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