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Three Exciting Formula 1 Seasons

Apart from football, F1 is my favourite sport by far. I have started to watch regularly since 2003, but thanks to the Internet, I was able to rewatch from start to finish all seasons of the sport since 1983. In this article, I will list three of my favourite seasons that I have seen live or otherwise. Despite me watching all seasons since 2009 live, I have to be honest, the direction the sport took since 2010 was never really to my liking.

At first, as a kid, no doubt I disliked the fact that it was different than it was the first time around when I began to watch. Now as an adult, I dislike these changes even more, for I honestly believe that things like DRS and the over-reliance on Pirelli to make tyres that either make races exciting or super boring are giving the whole sport a very artificial feeling from time to time, a feeling that I haven’t observed in the older periods.

For this reason, no season after 2009 will feature on this list.

2007

The 2007 season was the first one after the retirement of the legendary Michael Schumacher. Schumacher in my family was almost synonymous with the sport, so you could imagine it was quite strange to sit down before the tv to watch the first race of 2007.

The retirement of the legendary seven-time champions brought about many changes in the field of F1. Schumacher was replaced by Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari, whose teammate remained Schumacher’s friend and last teammate, Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso joined McLaren as we all know he would since 2005, but it was not Raikkonen who partnered Alonso, but a talented rookie, Lewis Hamilton. Alonso’s place at Renault was taken by another highly rated rookie, Heikki Kovalainen.

The season began in Australia. Raikkonen emphatically won his first Ferrari race by utterly dominating the race. Alonso finished second, while Hamilton completed the podium.

Those who were expecting a Raikkonen dominance after Australia were to be disappointed in the following races. The Finn struggled for form and failed to match his teammate Massa until Indianapolis. The McLarens had a strong first seven races too, but it was rookie Lewis Hamilton who was leading the table after 7 races, and not his double world champion teammate Alonso.


Ferrari had a strong comeback in France, by scoring a dominant 1-2, and Raikkonen was seemingly back in form finally. He won the next race too in Britain ahead of Alonso and a somewhat disappointing Hamilton, who finished a long way off his teammate this time around.

Alonso scored a superb victory in the next race, where he edged out Massa in the slippery condition. Technical problems cost Raikkonen a chance for a third straight victory, while Hamilton got unlucky with an accident in qualifying and bad tyre choice in the race.

The next race saw the escalation of a huge scandal in the McLaren team, which in the end led to the disqualification of the team from the constructor's championship. Alonso and Hamilton got into a row during qualifying, which in the end saw Alonso block Hamilton. The Spaniard was penalised after the session and lost his pole to his teammate, to start from a lowly 6th position. Alonso’s relationship with the team never recovered after the incident and many were speculating that he was on his way out of the team. Hamilton went on to win the race from Raikkonen and extended his lead in the championship.

The next race saw a dominant Ferrari 1-2, which was followed by a dominant McLaren 1-2 in Monza. Ferrari scored a dominant 1-2 in Belgium, but McLaren was still in a much stronger position in the standings with three races to go. Alonso closed right up to Hamilton and was within 2 points of his teammate.

Many predicted that Hamilton will crack under the pressure of his on-form teammate, but it was the opposite of what happened. Hamilton dominated a rainy Japanese weekend, while Alonso faltered and crashed out. An unlucky Raikkonen finished 3rd after Ferrari’s gamble on tyres backfired in the early phase of the Grand Prix.

With two races left, Hamilton was leading Alonso with 12 points and Raikkonen with 17. It looked all but a formality for Hamilton to win the title in the next two rounds.

Legendary commentator Murray Walker used to say that in F1 anything can happen and it usually does, and his famous saying came true in the last rounds of the 2007 season.

McLaren kept Hamilton too long out in the Chinese GP. An unfortunate Hamilton crashed out of third place when he was entering the pits. Raikkonen went on to win the race from Alonso.

As the contenders went to Brazil, Hamilton still led, but his lead shrank to 4 points from Alonso and 7 from Raikkonen.

Hamilton had a bad start in the Brazilian GP and dropped from second to eight. As he was trying to climb back, he ran into gearbox problems, which dropped him to last. Hamilton fought back hard and rose to seventh, but it was not enough. Raikkonen won the race and clinched the title with 110 points. Both his rivals Hamilton and Alonso missed out with a single point, as they finished the season with 109 points.

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

Scroll to Continue
  1. Which driver won the most races in 2007?
    • Kimi Raikkonen
    • Lewis Hamilton
    • Fernando Alonso

Answer Key

  1. Kimi Raikkonen

1997

1997 was another season that went down to the wire and was decided in the last round of the season.

Before the season began, many were confidently predicting that Williams driver Jaques Villeneuve will be the champion at the end of the year. It looked like a solid prediction no doubt.

Williams were utterly dominant in the 1996 season. Villeneuve was only a rookie in 1996, but by the end of the season, he looked like he was quicker than his more experienced teammate Damon Hill, who despite winning the title from his teammate, was dumped by Frank Williams at the end of 1996.

Experts also believed that if there was anyone who could challenge Villeneuve in 1997, apart from his teammate Frentzen, that man will be Ferrari’s double world champion, Michael Schumacher.

Villeneuve began the season in fine form in Australia and took a superb pole position in Melbourne. The margin with which Villeneuve took the pole raised a few eyebrows, as he was 1,7 seconds ahead of his teammate Frentzen and over 2 seconds clear of the rest of the field.

Unfortunately for Villeneuve, he had a bad start and was taken out at the first corner. With the favourite out of the race, Frentzen, Schumacher and McLaren’s David Coulthard were fighting for the win, which in the end went to Coulthard. Frentzen was chasing down the McLaren men late in the race, but he crashed out with a brake failure. Profiting from Frentzen’s crash Michael Schumacher finished second.

Villeneuve come back strongly and scored two victories in the next two rounds, but was once again unlucky in San Marino, where a car failure forced him to retire from the race. His teammate Frentzen went on and won the race from Michael Schumacher.

Frentzen took pole position in the next round at Monaco, but a disastrous gamble from Williams saw them start both their drivers on dry tyres on a drying track. The rain started to pour down not much later, and the two Williamses crashed out of the race. Michael Schumacher took a brilliant win as the Williams team tripped over themselves.

Villeneuve took another pole next time round in Spain and won the race relatively easily. Schumacher only finished fourth as his Ferrari struggled with high tyre wear.

Schumacher took pole next time round in Canada. Ferrari was once again struggling with tyre wear, but the men who could have punished them, Villeneuve and Coulthard, failed to capitalise. Villeneuve crashed out early on the race from a safe second, while Coulthard ran into technical problems.

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. Michael Schumacher joined Ferrari in?
    • 1995
    • 1997
    • 1996

Answer Key

  1. 1996

Schumacher put in a dominant performance to win the next race in France, while Villeneuve finished an underwhelming fourth.

Villeneuve took pole next time round in Britain. He was leading when he entered the pits, but a disastrous stop saw him drop back through the field. Schumacher inherited the lead from his rival, but an engine failure forced him to retire. Hakkinen took the lead from Schumacher, he was closely followed by Villeneuve, who recovered to third. Hakkinen looked safe to score his first win before an engine failure ended his race also, gifting the win to Villeneuve.

The next round in Germany saw new players emerge for the victory, as underdogs Gerhard Berger and Giancarlo Fisichella fought for the win in Hockenheim. The title rivals struggled to match these two, Schumacher was only running third, while Villeneuve crashed out from sixth. A late puncture for Fisichella gifted second to Schumacher.

Schumacher took another pole in Hungary, but Ferrari again struggled with high tyre wear, and he dropped back during the race. Villeneuve was running a solid second behind surprise leader Damon Hill when Hill’s car slowed down during the last two laps, which allowed Villeneuve to catch and overtake him for a very lucky win.

Villeneuve took a dominant pole in Belgium, but he struggled in the wet conditions, while Michael Schumacher took a dominant win. The William’s men's race was made even more complicated when he made a wrong call for the tyres early on the race and did an extra pit stop.

Neither Villeneuve nor Schumacher impressed in the race at Monza, as they finished 5th and 6th respectively.

Villeneuve took pole position in Austria, while Schumacher struggled in the qualifying. A bad start saw Villeneuve drop to fourth, but he fought his way back to win the race. Schumacher moved up to third, but an overtake under yellow flags earned him a drive-through, which dropped him to sixth.

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. How many pole positions did Villeneuve have in 1997?
    • 7
    • 10
    • 9

Answer Key

  1. 10

The McLarens dominated the next race in Germany. Villeneuve was running a safe, if unspectacular third. Technical problems for Hakkinen and Coulthard gifted the win for Villeneuve. An unlucky Michael Schumacher was hit at the start, the damage forced him to retire from the race.

With two races to go, Villeneuve had a 9 point lead in the standings. He earned himself a foolish disqualification for ignoring a red flag. Williams appealed the penalty, but Villeneuve started the race under appeal. He clinched pole, but he seemingly had no interest in racing away, as he was happy to hold up the pack in the early stages of the race, and even allowed Schumacher’s teammate Irvine to sprint away from the field.

Schumacher passed Villeneuve after the first round of pitstops, Irvine slowed down and allowed Schumacher by, but blocked Villeneuve afterwards, who seemingly lost interest in the race. Schumacher won, while Villeneuve only managed fifth, from which he was disqualified after the race.

Schumacher arrived at the last race in Jerez, leading the tables with 1 point from Villeneuve.

Villeneuve took pole, but a bad start dropped him to third. Schumacher was leading from Frentzen and Villeneuve. Frenzten allowed Villeneuve by soon.

Schumacher and Villeneuve fought for the win throughout the race. Schumacher was just leading his rival in the 47th lap when Villeneuve lunged inside the German. Schumacher turned into Villeneuve. The two collided and despite his malicious move Schumacher ended up in the gravel and out of the race. The collision damaged Villeneuve’s car, but he was able to continue the race and won the title by finishing third.

Schumacher later was disqualified from the championship as a result of his deliberate attempt to take out his title rival from the race in Jerez.

The famous accident between Villeneuve and Schumacher

2009

2009 in many regards was like the 2015/16 season in the English Premier League. An underdog team came out of nowhere to achieve a success that absolutely nobody predicted before the season.

2009 saw Jenson Button win the only Driver’s Championship title of his career. Button was regarded as a great talent throughout his career, but unfortunately for him, before 2009, he never had a car that was anywhere near capable of fighting for the championship.

It did not look like this status quo was changing for 2009 either. After Honda announced they were leaving F1, it looked like Button and his teammate were left without a drive. Honda’s team principal Ross Brown was convinced that the 2009 Honda car was a race winner, so he gambled on buying the team for a season, hoping to attract investors with their future success. The plan worked as the success of the Brawn GP attracted Mercedes Benz to buy the team and create their F1 team that went on to dominate the sport in the second half of the 2010s.

Back in 2009, Brawn GP was already impressing everyone during the pre-season testing, but most fans and analysts believed that they were hunting for sponsors. Most expected that they will fail to reciprocate their speed in the races.

They were to be proven very wrong. Brawn locked out the front row of the grid in their first race in Australia, and Button clinched a dominant win.

Brawn dominated the first seven races of the season. Button won 6 out of the first 7 races, and Brawn scored 3 1-2 in this period. The only team that looked anywhere near Brawn’s level was Red Bull, but Mark Webber was just recovering from injury and was not fully fit, while Sebastian Vettel was still inexperienced and made some mistakes that cost him and his team points.

Red Bull caught up and passed Brawn for speed from the British race onwards, but inconsistency, reliability and the revival of McLaren and Ferrari did not allow Vettel or Webber to go on a run as Button did at the beginning of the season, and neither was able to close up to the Brawn men.

Button failed to impress in the second half of the season, and if anything, his teammate Barrichello looked the better of the two of them. Still, 2 podiums in the last 10 races were enough for Button to secure the title with one race to spare.

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel finished second, 11 points behind Button, while Button’s teammate Rubens Barrichello finished the season in third, 18 points behind his teammate.

The Brawn fairytale come out of the blue and to be honest it is hard to conceive when will we see such a surprise package emerging as the Brawn GP – Button duo was in 2009. Though, hopefully the new regulations which limit the spending of F1 teams from the 2022 season on will bring back the close racing that F1 so severely lacked since 2014.



This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Andrew Szekler

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