What F1 Fanatics really thought of the 2011 season

2011 F1 season review

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The safety car is used too much and qualifying tyres are a good idea.

Also, Sebastian Vettel gearbox problem in Brazil wasn’t an attempt by Red Bull to hand a win to Mark Webber.

Says who? Says F1 Fanatic readers – here’s the result of our polls throughout 2011.

Champion of Champions

We began the season with a look at the 32 Formula 1 world champions. After five rounds of elimination we picked a grand Champion of Champions.

Result: Senna beat Schumacher in the final with 57% of the vote. In the semi-finals Senna had beaten Juan Manuel Fangio with 54%, and Schumacher triumphed over Alain Prost with 55% of the vote. See the full breakdown of results here.

Ayrton Senna voted Champion of Champions by F1 Fanatic readers

Best-looking car

Formula 1 cars are built for one thing and one thing only: to be the fastest thing on the track. But that doesn’t mean they can’t look nice too. So who had the best-looking car?

Result: Silver cars are popular with F1 Fanatics. McLaren won with 27.9%, while Mercedes came second with 20.1%. Renault’s ‘John Player Special’ livery took third place with 12.9%. The bottom three were Williams, Sauber and Virgin.

Which is the best-looking F1 car of 2011?

Mandatory pit stop rule

Since 2007, the rules have forced drivers to use both types of tyre compounds during each race. But is this adding to or detracting from the sport?

Result: The mandatory pit stop rule is not popular with F1 fans – 82.9% want to get rid of it. Yet it remains in the rules for a sixth season next year.

Has the mandatory pit stop rule been a success?

Bahrain Grand Prix

The debate over the future of the Bahrain Grand Prix raged throughout the year as the country’s government clashed violently with pro-democracy protesters. We ran a poll in April on whether the race should take place at all in 2011.

Result: Around three-quarters of F1 Fanatics – 74.8% – were against the race happening.

Should the Bahrain Grand Prix be held in 2011?

Safety car

Safety car, Singapore, 2011

Almost half of the Canadian Grand Prix was run behind the safety car due to rain. When it was finally judged safe enough to race, drivers almost immediately switched to intermediate tyres.

What did F1 fans think of the management of the race – and last year’s Korean Grand Prix, run in similar conditions?

Result: Overwhelmingly, fans want to see less running behind the safety car – 84.6% said it was over-used in Canada.

Is the safety car used too much in wet races?

Qualifying tyres

During the season we became used to seeing some drivers refrain from setting lap times in qualifying to save tyres for the race.

Some team principals – notably Mercedes’ Ross Brawn – said the tactical dimension this added was positive for the sport. Pirelli proposed reintroducing qualifying tyres to combat the problem. What did the fans prefer?

Result: Pirelli’s solution found favour with fans – 71.2% said they would like to see qualifying tyres in F1.

Is it time to bring back qualifying tyres?

Maldonado and Hamilton at Spa

One of the most controversial on-track moments of the season was the clash between Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton in qualifying at Spa. What did fans think of the incident?

Result: There was much strong criticism of drivers causing deliberate collisions – however slight – and 70.8% said Maldonado’s penalty was too weak.

Maldonado and Mucke: Were the FIA consistent?

Drivers betting on drivers

At Singapore we learned that Timo Glock had bet Sebastian Vettel would wrap up the world championship that weekend. What did fans make of the ethical implications of competitors betting on each other?

Result: News of Glock’s wager was not well-received with 77.8% of fans saying it shouldn’t be allowed.

Should Glock’s bet on Vettel be allowed?

Drivers bowing out

Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Interlagos, 2011

Heading into the final race of the season, which F1 drivers did we not expect to see again in 2012?

Result: The driver most widely-tipped to lose his seat was Rubens Barrichello, picked by 78.6% of fans. Second was Jerome d’Ambrosio, who lost his place immediately after the race. However Jaime Alguersuari, who was only picked by 6.3%, has since lost his place at Toro Rosso.

Which drivers will make their last F1 start next week?

Vettel’s gearbox in Brazil

When Vettel dropped back with a gearbox problem in Brazil and Mark Webber took his sole win of the season, some wondered whether Red Bull had been trying to pull the wool over our eyes in order to hand Webber victory.

Result: Red Bull got the benefit of the doubt from the majority with 57.1% saying Vettel’s problem was genuine, and 35.6% believing it was a covert team orders instruction. Red Bull later showed some journalists telemetry from the car to prove Vettel had a gearbox fault.

Was Vettel’s ‘gearbox problem’ team orders in disguise?

Force India drivers

Before Force India picked their drivers for 2012, F1 Fanatics named who they wanted to see in the VJM06.

Result: The most popular choice with di Resta and Hulkenberg, which was picked by 58.7% of you. It was also Vijay Mallya’s choice.

Who should drive for Force India in 2012?

2011 F1 season review

Browse all 2011 F1 season review articles

Image © Red Bull/Getty images, Williams/LAT

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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44 comments on “What F1 Fanatics really thought of the 2011 season”

  1. Since 2007, the rules have forced drivers to use both types of tyre compounds during each race. But is this adding to or detracting from the sport?

    Result: The mandatory pit stop rule is not popular with F1 fans – 82.9% want to get rid of it. Yet it remains in the rules for a sixth season next year.

    To be fair, this rule is a little redundant given the way the Pirelli tyres shed their rubber. It’s probably impossible to go a full race distance on the harder compounds, and if it is, then the drivers are going to be a second per lap slower.

    I think the mandatory tyre change rule was written into the regulations to stop drivers from sitting on the harder compound of tyre and running a very conservative race, then sweeping through to take the win. As soon as one driver proves that it’s possible, everybody will start doing it and we’ll have more races like Valencia and Abu Dhabi where nothing happens for two hours.

    1. agree with you.

      another reason for these tyre rules is the lack of a tyre war. with only one tyre supplier in the sport the situation is a bit unnatural. When Michellin and Bridgestone were in F1, they were both trying to outperform each other by making a tyre that is faster and at the same time more durable. Usually a contradiction in terms but by throwing a load of cash in and some exotic materials it is possible. Each tyre manufacturer had its advantages and disadvantages so naturally you had very different tyres that behaved differently in different conditions. But they were both on the cutting edge of what is possible. This is of course very expensive and I believe is one of the reasons for Ferrari’s dominant years as they were very closely linked with Bridgestone. Eventually, to try and “spice things up” the FIA introduced a rule that said that tyres must last the entire race (knowing that the michellins were better at this) Then came Fernando’s two championships as Ferrari and Bridgestone struggled.

      When Michellin left, the tyre competition ended and Bridgestone was able to save a lot of money because they didnt have to beat a competitor anymore. This is why i think the tyres were able to last so long.

      To reintroduce a level of strategy that was missing all of a sudden with the deprture of Michellin, we ended up with a rule that artificially forced the teams to use both compounds that Bridgestone provided.

      1. I’m afraid I completely disagree.

        When Michellin and Bridgestone were in F1, they were both trying to outperform each other by making a tyre that is faster and at the same time more durable.

        The problem with the tyre war was that Michelin built tyres specifically for the Renault R25, and Bridgestone built tyres for the Ferrari F2005. Everybody else had to simply take what they were given. When you have a tyre war, too much of the car’s performance hinges on which brand of tyres you are using. That’s what is unnatural.

        1. agree with you.

          I’m afraid I completely disagree.

          I believe this sums up PM nicely.

          I write in jest.

          To the topic, so you’re saying that we shouldn’t get rid of the mandatory stop because someone might win that way. Surely a situation none of us advocating that course of action would ever have considered.

          1. No, I’m saying it doesn’t matter whether the mandatory stop stays in the rules or is removed – with the rate the Pirelli tyres degrade, it would be impossible to complete a race without stopping.

        2. but its more natural than an artificial rule.

          of course the Bridgestone and Michellin years was not an ideal situation. I never said that. i just said it was better than one tyre supplier and a stupid rule.

          In an ideal scenario, each F1 team would be able to chose their own tyre supplier and work closely with them this is not feasible in today’s economy, but would be the most natural form of racing.

          I never said that the circumstances of the most recent tyre war we had was an optimal way of doing it. Dont put words into my mouth.

          1. I don’t think it’s natural at all – there are twelve teams on the grid, right? If there were two tyre suppliers, they would make tyres specifically for one team each. That way, only two teams would stand the best chance of winning. Now, I know a lot of success comes down to the entire car and driver, but the advantage gained by having bespoke tyres would be enough to tip the balance in one team’s favour.

            How is that at all natural? Only two teams would be completely competitive at every race.

      2. and about the mandatory pit stop..

        the rule is not about a mandatory pit stop. it is that you must use BOTH compounds.

        therefore the rule is not irrelevant. Even with Pirelli. If the rule did not exist, drivers could stop but only use the soft compound for example. So 2 stints on the softs without using the hards, or vice versa.

        1. Two stints on the softs won’t get you anywhere near the end of the race. Two stints on the hards would be possible, but they are so slow that everyone else would be able to pit without losing position.

          1. ok, three stints or four.

            the point is they would use whichever one is fastest (based on their simulator) The rule telling them they MUST use both tyres, even though that might not be the best strategy is not irrelevant.

            And even though its beside the point, several races this year would have allowed teams to do a single stop using the softer compound. Teams got better and better at preserving their tyres, and often used the hard compound only because they had to.

          2. PM,

            Who said there must only be two? In an ideal world each team would be designing their own tyres or hire a company to do it for them.(like theydo with engines or aero) In the old days teams sometimes used to switch tyre brands between races depending on which one suited the track better. Thats natural. Limiting the number of manufacturers to two or just one is not normal. But unfortunately is something that must be done because of the fact that we dont have unlimited budgets. I say when it comes to tyre or engine suppliers the more we have in the sport the better. the current situation is there out of necessity so that teams dont go bankrupt. Maybe in the future when times are better this can be lifted and there will be more freedom in the rules.

    2. I prefer the MotoGP formula where the driver chooses to race with any combination of hard, medium, soft on front and/or rear tyres, those that start faster than their ranking by using soft tyres fall back as the race unfolds and those that were slow at the start because of hard tyres come forward towards the end but the winner is the fast rider with the optimum tyre combination, this mix of performance through the race creates great tactical racing and lots of passing.

    3. It was even worse than that with the bridgestones @prisoner-monkeys, remember Vettel doing all but a few laps of the Monza race on Bridgestone’s soft tyres in 2010?

      I feel that rule was bad when they introduced it and indeed Pirelli is now working hard on making it obsolete, although we did see a few occasions where drivers pitted only for the last lap or 2 (remember the Vettel on Massa pitstopbattle this year?) even with the pirellis.

  2. Personaly I feel ‘mandtory tyre stope’ ruen the race, is the whole poiint of F1 not to the the quickest around the track? Personaly I feel F1 was better with the tyre war! But instead of F1 drivers doing the testing let reserve drivers and young drivers do it! A race is a race and pit stope should only be there if the driver warrents it! There is no pit stops in horse racing, or track racin. Take out mandtory pit stops and let drivers battle it out on track.

    A safty car should be there for safty reasons, let the drivers judge when it is safe to race, hamilton was screaming to let them race in canada and they wasn’t allowed to. A driver is the best judge of his own safty.

    I personaly feel we have seen the last of bahrain for a few years, but that is not a bad thing, we see the same 18-20 races a year, what should happen is no long term contracts, we don’t need that any more ther is enough world class racing facilitys now to completly swop the calender every year, now or atleast lchange half of it and rotate it! Get F1 to the best tracks in the world as most of them just lay dorment!

    We haven’t seen the last of barrichello! I will put my hand on my heart and say that! He is and always will be a champion in my eyes, he has too much skill not to be with a F1 team next year!

    Merry christmas and happy new year!

    1. Personaly I feel F1 was better with the tyre war!

      The problem with the tyre wars is that too much of the performance came down to which brand of tyres you were using. And you get a situation where competing tyre manufacturers build tyres for specific teams, and everyone else has to fall in line behind them. At the height of the tyre wars, Michelin was supplying Renault first, and Bridgestone were supplying Ferrari. Everyone else had to make do with tyres that were designed around a rival’s car.

      And when tyre manufacturers start competing, they will be trying to make a better tyre. Given the way the Pirellis degrade, it would be very easy for a second supplier to make better tyres, and the races would become predictable.

  3. I wouldn’t say generally that the safety car is overused. But I hate when the race has to start under safety car conditions, and when drivers have to spend lap after lap behind it. Why have full wet tyres when drivers can’t even race with them? Formula One has the best drivers in the world, and I believe that they can all get through a wet race without safety cars with few incidents.

  4. I’m pretty much sat on the fence with these results. I agree with some and not with others.

    I especially do not like the idea of qualifying tyres. Absolutely ridiculous and I’m not buying it at all.

  5. SC is generally overused for me in wet races, I’ve thought recently, just give them 3 formation laps to get a sighter and then let them go from a standing start. The cars clear up so much water now, even Canada went from flooded to slicks in less than an hour. Now, the wet tyres are almost useless as if it gets too bad for inters, the SC comes out.
    I’d love to see qualy tyres, I’ve seen footage of the guys in the 80s bombing round tracks at break-neck speed, I’d love to see that again.
    I’d like to see the tyre/pit stop rule scrapped, if someone fancies a 0 stopper, let them.

    As fopr betting, it sets a dangerous principle, so I’d stop it, even if it was a light-hearted flutter from Glock. (though i think he said it was 1000 Euros)

    1. I’d also like to add that maybe they could get an old spec F1 car driven by a pro (maybe at the back of the train) in the wet to properly judge the aquaplaning/spray. The SC is not really a good indicator of how suitable conditions are.

      1. Ahh just read the ‘at the back of the train’ part. Great idea!

    2. In most cases, I fully agree with you – the safety car was overused. The downpour of the intensity we saw in Canada was completely insane though, and I can understand the decisions they made to have so much SC time.

      1. @bendana – It had to do with drainage around the circuit. Because the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is built on an artificial island, it has very little in the way of drainage. This was a problem because when the rain came down, the water wasn’t actually going anywhere. Even when the rain stopped, there were large puddles of standing water everywhere. If the race had gone ahead, we probably would have had a repeat of Germany 2007, with everyone skating off – and this was a problem because there is no protection outside the first turn; if you go off at speed, you can keep going and cross the circuit outside the third turn. Which means that if you’re somewhere down the running order (say twelfth or thirteenth) and you go off, you could collect the leader side-on.

        1. With that and the concrete walls around, it’s dangerous in that kind of weather certainly – which is why I don’t see Canada as a good example of too much deployment of the safety car – it was a fairly unique situation as far as weather goes, same as Korea was last year.

          1. not to forget it was the first use of the Pirelli wet tyres in Montreal, I am pretty sure that was also a factor there @bendana

        2. Banburyhammer1
          28th December 2011, 13:53

          Personally I didn’t see the deployment of the SC at Montreal as a mistake, nor the red flag, a decision that was entirely justified.

          1. Banburyhammer1
            28th December 2011, 13:57

            * It was the fact that the SC stayed out for an excessive amount of time – so long that a dry line was being burned onto the circuit, and pitting for dry tyres was a real option by the end. Now there is a difference between full wet conditions and a strung out field, and restarting a race in full wet conditions, but once the track is in solid intermediate tyre territory, you would consider it to be appropriate for a restart surely?

  6. Is there anyone else who finds that picture of Rubens really spooky?

  7. Its natural for fans to want less running behind the Safety Car, However you always have to go with the opinions of those on the track.

    Its impossible for a fan to fully understand what racing in the wet is like as the TV camera’s always make visibility look better than it actually is & you will never be able to get across exactly how wet a track is just by pointing a camera at it.

    When drivers are saying its too wet then its too wet & the race officials have to take that into account as there the one’s that can feel the grip levels, know where the standing water is & know how bad visibility is.

    1. When drivers are saying its too wet then its too wet & the race officials have to take that into account as there the one’s that can feel the grip levels, know where the standing water is & know how bad visibility is.

      Drivers will say whatever they think will give them the most advantage. Those out the front will encourage the safety car to stay out for longer, because it hands them an advantage – less laps under green flag conditions means they will have an easier time. This happened a few years ago during a race at Fuji; a torrential downpour called for the safety car, and the cars at the front of the queue kept calling for the safety car to come out. But Tonio Liuzzi was a lap down after a pit stop, and Charlie Whiting had him released from behind the safety car to do a sighting lap. They found that visibility was fine; the problem was that everyone was behind the safety car, kicking up sprays of water. The race was resumed and everyone stretched out, meaning it was less and less of a problem – but the cars at the front wanted to stay under the safety car to make it easier to defend their positions.

      Except Lewis Hamilton. He’s always keen to get back to racing. Can’t really fault him for it.

      1. Anthony Davidson said on the BBC several times this year that Fuji 2007 was the worst conditions he’s ever raced in & that he felt they were correct to keep the SC out as long as they did.

        Plus the problem at Fuji 2007 wasn’t so much the spray but the fact there was a lot of standing water (Especially before turn 1 & around the area Alonso later crashed).

        The race restarted when it did because the rain had eased & conditions were better, It actually started raining again extremely hard a lap or 2 before Alonso crashed but again eased during the subsequent SC.

        Also if you take that opinion (That drivers ay what benefits them) do you then ignore the drivers opinions & start/restart the race? There are plenty of examples where drivers views were ignored & a wet race started when it shoudn’t have been (Adelaide 89/91, Suzuka 94 or even the Indycar race at New Hampshire this year for instance).

        When making these decisions you have to take drivers opinions into consideration, And don’t forget thay also have other information avaliable which help them make these types of decisions.

        1. Oh, I don’t deny that the rain was heavy enough to justify sending the safety car out. That’s what you get when your circuit is in the rainshadow of a mountain like Mount Fuji. But once Liuzzi did his sighter lap, it became clear that the safety car probably could have been called in sooner.

      2. That’s amazing given how erratic Lewis was driving behind the SC that day. But that’s another debate!
        It was a good idea though to get those at the back to drop back and try a hot lap to see how much grip there was.
        As for drivers thinking for themselves, it always happens and rightly or wrongly I’d do the same. For example, Vettel knew the score in Korea last year, so he tried to get it called off for bad light as it would be full points. Hamilton needed that race started as he had to make up positions.
        I know now with the 4 hour time limit it will be harder but I’d like to see them find ways of getting the most laps under green, even if it means delaying the start half an hour or doing multiple formation laps. The cars today clear the water so quick, if its not raining, you go from full wets to inters in 10-15 laps and then to slicks in another 10-15 laps

    2. The main problem about rain condition is theres no more traction control. Its way harder to drive in wet condition without it. I guess they would’ve started the race earlier if they had TC in Canada.

      1. Not sure thats why, they started in Hungary 2011 and Aus 2010 in damp conditions and both tracks were so so slipperly it was like ice. The problem is 24 cars on a flooded track kick up so much spray you can’t see anything and when you’re all bottled up into T1 the slightest misjudgement can wipe out half the field. Even with TC Canada would’ve been a SC start. Fuji 2007 they had TC but that was a SC start (albeit then thats the worst conditions I’ve ever seen watching a race live. Suzuka 94 and Adelaide 89/91 were up there too)

      2. Traction control woudn’t make a difference as it doesn’t stop/prevent aquaplaning & its that & the visability that are the 2 biggest problems.

        Traction control didn’t prevent this for instance:

        An issue at Montreal is that drainage is a big problem so you always get big puddles of water collecting in some parts of the track. Its always been a problem there, Its equally as bad (If not a lot worse) at Suzuka because there are lots of places where the water is able to collect.

        Simply watching on TV or even sitting in the grandstands/standing at trackside it can be very hard to really spot where aquaplaning is likely to be a problem. You can be looking at a tiny puddle in the middle of a straght & think its no problem & suddenly a car can drive through it & spin (Even behind the Safety Car).

        Something which I don’t recall BBC showing at Montreal (As they had cut to Jake/EJ) was that even the safety car & other vehicles that were driving round were aquaplaning in places.

        1. @GT_Racer, I think it was pretty clear that at parts of that race it really was a horrific amount of standing water on track in Montreal.

          The drainage on some circuits clearly is not able to cope with some of the conditions nature offers. It was a suprise to see that a new track like Korea has this problem as well though.

  8. i think it is unfair to deploy the safety car when the rain intensifies. Its unfair for those that pitted for full wets for example in anticipation of this and would have gained an advantage. But the FIA deploy the safety car and everyone gets a free pitstop. (or in the case of Canada they red flag the race and all those that stopped for wets before the red flag lose their advantage)

    If the FIA was so trigger happy with the safety car we would never see those legendary drives in the wet (Jordan in 98, etc). These conditions are an opportunity for slower teams and the FIA – too afraid of any incident – removes this from the equation. Martin Brundle said it many times, that when it starts raining, it should be the driver recognizing how he should adjust his driving style and slow down to avoid accidents, rather than the race director doing it for him. And they always pull the safety card when justifying the long safety car periods. But I think racing in F1 is more dangerous in the dry when cars are going much faster. if you get a puncture in a high speed corner in the dry and go into the wall, thats when injuries happen. A soaked SPA or Canada is safer IMO, because drivers slow right down. If you cant see in front of you because of spray, dont go flat out. I think we should not treat the drivers like children.

    1. Brundle also pointed out that he aquaplaned clean off the track & into a marshall in wet conditions at Suzuka 1994, A race which many of the drivers didn’t want to be started to begin with.

      Its also not always a case of simply slowing down, If there is too much water for the tyres to handle then you can aquaplane off the track at 10mph & nothing the driver does will prevent that.

      1. your’e right. i think the argument here is to what extent you do it. obviously there are extreme conditions. but we should decide on what does that mean. where do we draw the line? Currently I think that the FIA’s definition of extreme is different to mine or Martin Brundle’s for that matter, judging from his comments.

    2. Tough call but in Canada if you aquaplane, you’re straight into a concrete wall, whereas at China for example you have 50 metres of tarmac to slow down.
      And as for slowing down, I remember Vettel (albeit on Inters) having the most pathetic looking slow speed spin and retirement at Malaysia 2009 trying to cruise back to the pits for full wets

      1. Maybe the cars should have more ground clearance to avoid aquaplaning, or maybe Bernie should be more interested in the track-owners spending money on drainage (not difficult on an island) and less interested in grandstands fit for a sheik.

  9. Stunned to read that F1 Fanatic fans rated the livery on he HRT as fifth best for 2011. Although I completely disagree and think the HRT is among the alltime worst looking F1 cars, I will conceed that with so many really liking it that maybe I am alone with what looks stupid.

  10. Champion of Champions….

    The myth that surrounds Senna has clouded reality in his comparison to Schmacher. On the basis of results , relative time or eras of competition, effect presence made on teams for which they drove, respect from fellow competitors, general interest in F1 as it grew, ability to resurrect teams from top to bottom, Schumacher was superior in every category except the hype or myth that comes from death.

    Like Kennedy, Lennon, Clark etc. the way people feel about them and others whose time was cut short is and will always be tainted to some degree by the need to hold on to greatness. Sudden loss affects how those in death are percieved.

    Senna was a good driver who has become a mythical figure. Although he didn’t live long enough to really make his mark we can only rate him based on the results that his name is associated with in the history books.

    When compared to Schumacher he just doesn’t have it. The records are clear on this. I understand that his fans adore him and that he certainly could have become more than he was.

    Truth be told the results in this championship are more about fable than fact. I question the value of such an exercise and suggest that comparisons of this nature yield results based on emotion rather than cold hard facts.

    Senna better than Schumacher?? No way…

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