It was, by anyone’s standards, an error-strewn season.
Crashes, spins and the odd pit blunder are part of Formula 1, but rarely have we seen so many of them committed by the championship front runners.
Was it just a gaffe-prone year for the leading lights? Or are more mistakes inevitable in post-traction control F1?
At the end of 2006 when I reflected on Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso’s battle for the championship, I thought one of the most impressive things about it was how few mistakes they had made.
Alonso had picked up a couple of grid penalties, Schumacher shunted at Melbourne and had an off at Istanbul. But apart from that, they seemed to have driven pretty much flawlessly.
The same cannot be said of this year’s title aspirants. Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa, along with their teams, often seemed to be trying their best not to win the championships.
A year of errors
Hamilton had a series of blunders in Bahrain, crashed into Kimi Raikkonen in Montreal, picked up another penalty in France, missed a pit stop at Hockenheim, used the wrong tyres in qualifying at Monza and fluffed his start at Fuji. And there was the messy business at Spa.
Massa meanwhile spun at the first corner of the championship and later collided with David Coulthard in the same race, spun off in Sepang and Monte-Carlo, had pit lane dramas at Valencia and Singapore (where he also hit Adrian Sutil), crashed into Hamilton at Fuji, and the less said about Silverstone the better.
But it wasn’t confined to these two. Raikkonen had a pair of spins in Melbourne, followed by more at Monaco before he also hit Sutil. He crashed out at Spa and Singapore as well. Even Alonso had his formation lap gaffe at Catalunya, and spins and Montreal and Hockenheim.
Some were largely immune from these mistakes. The BMW pair, for example, largely kept their noses clean.
Why so many mistakes?
Was there a cause for this epidemic of errors? Before the season began there was much talk of the traction control ban making the cars harder to drive. Certainly in the wet races this seemed to catch some drivers out, but not all these mistakes could be blamed on the absence of gizmos.
It’s ironic that while discussion has raged about the necessity of cutting costs in F1, drivers and teams have thrown away points and prize money with needless mistakes. While Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari celebrate their championships, they will surely reflect on the unforced errors that nearly robbed them of their crowns, and work on weeding out the mistakes for 2009.
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