De Villota, Watkins & Bahrain: The low points of 2012

2012 F1 season review

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Yesterday we took a look at the moments F1 Fanatic readers picked as the best of 2012.

But it wasn’t all good news this year – here’s what F1 Fanatic readers named as the worst moments of the season.

Maria de Villota’s crash

The dreadful accident that befell Maria de Villota during her first test for Marussia in stunned and shocked the F1 Fanatic readership. There was much concern over her condition at the time, dismay over the extent of her injuries including the loss of an eye – and relief that they weren’t even worse.

Happily de Villota has now left hospital and is continuing to recover.

De Villota losing her right eye was quite a horrible incident.

Maria De Villota’s sickening crash, which stunned me only with that sound recording.
JPedroCQF1 (@joao-pedro-cq)

The death of Sid Watkins

The saddest new of the year in the F1 world was the passing of Professor Sid Watkins. A great man who served the sport for decades in the essential work of making it safer. Watkins was warmly remembered throughout the F1 community not just for his sterling work, but his tremendous and beloved character.

Professor Sid Watkins’ death – a man who did so much for the sport behind the scenes, saving so many lives, his passing leaves a huge void in motorsport.
Sundar SV (@SSVRacing)

Sid Watkins passing. RIP Professor.

The Bahrain Grand Prix

The subject of the Bahrain Grand Prix remains an open sore for Formula One. Having not raced in the country in 2011, F1 returned this year and the slogan chosen for the event made clear the sport was being used as a political tool by a dubious regime. Eight months on it’s clear many are still angry that F1 returned – and is planning to do so again next year.

The mere fact there was a Grand Prix in Bahrain. A disgusting joke that everyone involved in the sport turned a blind eye to what was actually going on (and still is) in that country.

Every single team and driver should be ashamed and embarrassed that they allowed that to happen and as a fan I certainly was.

The Bahrain Grand Prix fiasco was a low, a country using a sporting event to mask an oppressive regime did nothing but highlight the greed in the upper circle of F1 putting team personnel at risk as was seen with Force India.

The Bahrain Grand Prix and the lack of awareness by certain members within the F1 fraternity. Never have I been so ashamed to be an F1 fan

More bad news in 2012

Other downsides to the 2012 season which several readers commented on included the fire in the Williams garage in Spain. The shocking moment unfolded on live television and for a dreadful few minutes it looked like the kind of incident that could produce more than one fatality. Thanks to the quick and brave work of mechanics from several teams, it did not.

There were also complaints about the grid of unattractive step-nosed cars and Ferrari’s post-season attempt to cause trouble for Red Bull by raising a spurious request for “clarification” with the FIA concerning Sebastian Vettel’s driving.

The inadequacy of the fire and rescue services in Barcelona.

The ugliest car to ever win an F1 race. Also, the second, third and fourth-ugliest cars to ever win F1 races.

Ferrari pushing to win a championship by way of appeal. To me, if they had of succeeded, this would have damaged the sports’ reputation. Don’t get me wrong, if there was a clear violation of the rules, I’m all for the rule makers stepping in and policing the issue, however, this was a way that Ferrari saw they could exploit to win the 2012 championship.

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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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55 comments on “De Villota, Watkins & Bahrain: The low points of 2012”

  1. I didn’t watch the Bahrain Grand Prix. I still haven’t watched it. It’s the only race I’ve willingly missed and not cared about in my entire F1 following life, back to 1997 when I was 7 years old. I’ve never been more ashamed of my sport and I still am deeply ashamed of it today.

    1. Agree with you in full. Didn’t watch the race, won’t next year either.

    2. Go and ask people about Bahrain, and I bet you about 90% will have forgotten about what’s going on there by now.
      Back then and now I don’t really get at all why people bash Formula 1 for racing in this country. Of course the government tried to make it look like it’s all rainbows and unicorns over there. But did it work? Wasn’t F1 anywhere in the media, showing how bad people get treated? F1’s appeareance there brought the problem back into peoples minds (something that the international press usually forgets until… Well, until an F1 race is about to happen), but everyone wasted their breath bashing the FIA and Formula 1, instead of writing to their governments to stop supporting the bahraini ruling family, cut business-ties and put them under international pressure to stop discrimination and murder/imprisoning of pro-democracy protestors.

    3. Its not that I have been religiously watching all the races, but I think this was the first race in 3 years at least that I missed. And I was glad to miss it.

      I haven’t even watched footage of it, nor did I look at the results (other than reading about how Kimi came in 2nd in articles about his efforts this year – and things like the Rosberg incidents)
      Maybe what @dennis says about 90% of people having forgotten about it, well, I have all but forgotten about how the race went, but I certainly did not forget the embarrassing episodes the sport put itself through to go there this year.
      The worst part is, the Bahrain government seems to be getting worse at their dealings with their own population, and still F1 is going there again next year.

  2. For me, the death of such an iconic figure in F1, who along with Jackie Stewart probably saved the lives of many great drivers, was the low point of the season. You will be sorely missed Sid!

    1. And he certainly saved the lives of many, many lesser drivers. The safety improvements instigated by Sid have cascaded down into to the lower formulas and into other motorsport disciplines such as Rallying, and the lesser drivers probably have more frequent need of the safety improvements. RIP Sid you were a great man.

      1. @jimn – absolutely and I am very thankful for it! The 70’s and before were a needless massacre – it would be unthinkable today for drivers to accept the fact that every race could very well be their last.

  3. Still hate the stepped noses, can’t believe how on earth anyone wrote the rules that allowed them to happen. Formula 1 cars should be enjoyable to watch and as they are, they look ridiculous. When we thought it couldn’t get worse after the 2009-style aerodynamic rule changes, they introduced these broken noses. What’s next? FIA should be made aware is not JUST about the racing, the actual cars are equally important. No way I’d ever add a miniature of the F2012 to my collection and that says it all. To be honest it’s hard to convince people that aren’t fans of the sport to go and give it a try when even you have a hard time looking at these weird vehicles that barely resemble cars anymore. Just 10 years ago the cars looked fantastic! I know the racing wasn’t but in my opinion that has a lot more to do with the frozen engines and stricter aerodynamic rules leveling the field than the reduction of dirty air produced by the car in front. Oh well, here’s hoping it’ll get better eventually.

    1. the cars were the best looking between 95 and 97 in my opinion

      1. Disagree: the high-point of F1 aesthetics was the 1960s

    2. these weird vehicles that barely resemble cars anymore

      No F1 car has resemble a ‘real’ car since the late sixties/early seventies. I agree that the step noses are unusual looking and not particularly pretty but the look of F1 cars has evolved purely from function and this is no different. What’s a good-looking F1 car to an F1 watcher is a strange beast to non F1 fans.

      1. @jerseyf1 not entirely true. At least before, the cars resembled actual cars in the way they were proportioned. Cars have a width compared to the length of the chassis that make them look “right”, which current F1 cars do not have. In no way they look natural and you can see that in the way the cars handle. There’s barely any mechanical grip whatsoever, just tons of aerodynamic grip due to the enormous front wing. It annoys me to no end to see that the cars a product of rules to improve the racing, these cars are not an evolution of the F1 cars that we’ve seen changing for decades, they’re a complete and sudden change in direction. In my opinion, Formula 1 cars are supposed to look impressive and big, not like the fragile (I know they’re not!), thin monsters nowadays.

    3. I fear much scorn for what shall follow. I really liked the Lotus E20. Aside from the rear wing which should be returned to the lower and wider form of previous years. I thought they made the stepped nose really quite pert and pretty.

    4. Who cares how the cars look? F1 cars are supposed to go fast and be good aerodynamically, not to look good.

      1. What is fast usually automatically looks good to our eyes. The stepped nose was not something that made the car any faster, it was to make the cars and racing safer, safety features do not usually make something look good. The new 2013 nose hides the safety feature and recovers aerodynamic smoothness over the nose which makes it look better to our eyes. This is something all car designers have to do with your every day car too, hide the required safety features away so the car is still aerodynamic and looks good.

    5. davidnotcoulthard
      17th December 2012, 2:02

      @roald Well, the FIA will allow a panel covering the stepped part of the nose….and surely for some NOTHING beats the P34!

  4. Am I seriously one of the only people not minding the stepped noses? Jesus, It’s not like the world’s ending…
    Now the death of one, and the tragic injury of another important figure in F1, the former being the hero that everyone respected for saving lives, and the latterr possibly the first female to enter the sport, those were some tragic moments…

    1. Not to mention the Bahrain GP of course, I think that holding a Grand Prix in those conditions is just terrible…

    2. I’m with you on the stepped noses, the Red Bull one especially looks quite good in my opinion.

    3. DelendaEstAmbulando
      16th December 2012, 22:33

      de Villota wouldn’t have been the first XX to enter F1, although AFAICR last time a XX raced in F1 was in 1975

      1. Did you really just use a chromosome count rather than type ‘woman’ or ‘female driver’?

        1. curious indeed!

        2. DelendaEstAmbulando
          17th December 2012, 23:52

          Meaning that a driver is a driver is a driver, and their gender (or race or whatever*) is utterly irrelevant for me.

          *well, at least there ARE genders, while race is 100% a fiction.

  5. Arent most governments “dubious”? I mean, the UK and US regimes are much more dubious if you ask me. They have openly admitted to bringing entire governments down by creating civil wars. They have agencies like the CIA who’s sole purpose mostly to sabotage and destabilize entire regions.

    Is it fine to cause harm to a population provided it is not your own? If the answer is no (and it really should be), then why are we perfectly fine with hosting races in the UK and US?

    The only answer I can think of is we some how feel we’re innocent.

    1. Bob (@bobthevulcan)
      16th December 2012, 23:26

      I agree that governments could be considered “dubious” for such actions, but I think the difference here is regarding direct government involvement in the organisation of the race.

      To use your examples, with the British and United States Grands Prix, both events see minimal involvement from their respective national governments; they are organised by private/independent entities, and commercially sponsored by corporations.

      Whereas the Bahrain Grand Prix is funded and closely linked to the Bahraini regime, hence the increased association with human rights violations in that country.

    2. If you feel innocent @infy, do as you like.

      I am very much aware of bads done in the past by most governments and ongoing bad things happening in most of the countries, including the one I currently live in and the one I am a citizen of. But instead of generalizing like this, and finishing off with making it sound as if what Bahrain are doing to their own people right now is therefore negligible or fine.

      And off course the fact that both the USA GP and the British GP are run by privately owned companies makes it quite a difference from having a race that is staged by a government owned company and fully funded by it, as well as used as a publicity event for that government to pretend all is well (“uniF1ed”).

  6. I’m against mixing politics and sport. China and Abu Dhabi are far from perfect when it comes to human rights – should F1 not go there? I suspect that at the height of the Iraq war you could have found people objecting to a US GP. There exist proper mechanisms for people to express their views on the politics of various countries. In my opinion FIA boycotts are not such a proper mechanism.

    The best argument for not going to Bahrain was the fear that the lives of the team members would be in jeopardy.

    1. In Barain, the royal family and the organizers have made a political use of the GP.
      US governement never care about Formula 1.

    2. As you mentioned. Formula 1 being at at least five other countries where people being suppressed beyond any type of decency – I don’t think Bahrain should have received any special treatment, hence cancelled.

      As much as this was propaganda on both fronts, unlike in other countries we raced, issues were raised.

      I watched GP and it was amazing!

      Lotus pit-wall in first part of the season and lack of speed in second, made me loose hair.

      1. Joey Zyla (@)
        17th December 2012, 5:22

        All the countries in which human rights are in such poor conditions should have their races taken away. You said five other countries, which were the ones you are thinking of? The only ones I know to have a poor record of human rights are China, Bahrain, and the UAE, there are others?

        1. India, Brazil. We can add Malaysia but then it would depend if you are muslim or not.

    3. @jonsan

      I’m against mixing politics and sport.

      It’s naive to claim you can have a sport as vast, complex and expensive as Formula One – not to mention one so reliant on state funding – and seal it in a bubble where politics cannot intrude. The likes of Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone pretend they can in this case because they refuse to admit the sport’s presence in Bahrain was used to support a political agenda in clear violation of the FIA’s statutes.

      The tired cliche about not “mixing” sport and politics carries with it an implication that Formula One and politics are not already deeply intertwined. This is obviously not the case. The future of the Australian Grand Prix is a political football, the availability of government funding for the United States Grand Prix was furiously debated for months, the possibilities of Grands Prix in France and Turkey next year have been shot down by their respective governments who refuse to provide backing – and these are just the first three examples that came to mind immediately.

      What those who say “don’t mix politics and sport” really mean is “we should separate sport from politics”. And at this level at least that is totally unrealistic.

      1. We really need a like button.

      2. Joey Zyla (@)
        17th December 2012, 5:54

        @keithcollantine *clapclapclapclap*

        That’s a really good point.

      3. All of your examples concern money (!!) and have nothing to do with opressive governments or regimes. The point about not mixing sport and politics is that the sport should not be used in either way to make a statement for or against certain forms of governments or favour/not favour certain politicians.

      4. It’s naive to claim you can have a sport as vast, complex and expensive as Formula One – not to mention one so reliant on state funding – and seal it in a bubble where politics cannot intrude.

        The banal fact that politics “intrudes” on every single aspect of human existence does not strike me as a very convincing reason for why I, as an F1 fan, should either support or oppose the Bahrain GP.

        The future of the Australian Grand Prix is a political football, the availability of government funding for the United States Grand Prix was furiously debated for months

        And yet I notice that you do not think that either the US GP or the potential Austrian GP is problematic on those grounds.

        What those who say “don’t mix politics and sport” really mean is “we should separate sport from politics”. And at this level at least that is totally unrealistic

        Depends on what you think “this level” is. At the fan level it is completely realistic. That does not change just because Bernie negotiates with the authorities in Texas or Turkey.

        A decade or two ago it could well have been argued that F1 should not have a British GP – because just look at the violence and repression in Northern Ireland. I’m not taking sides on that or any other of these issues, just pointing out what a can of worms you open when you try to use F1 as a tool for social change instead of just being a sport.

        1. @jonsan

          And yet I notice that you do not think that either the US GP or the potential Austrian GP is problematic on those grounds.

          No I don’t – the politics of those races do not concern me. The politics of the Bahrain race does.

          Nor am I the one who has “opened a can of worms” – you have Todt and Ecclestone to thank for that.

          1. the politics of those races do not concern me. The politics of the Bahrain race does.

            The operative word there is “me”. I’m not concerned by the politics of the Bahrain race – or at least, not any more so than the politics involved in F1 doing business in Turkey or Abu Dhabi or China. I disapprove of the governments in all of those countries (as well as that in Bahrain) but I’m not going to call for a boycott on that account.

            As with virtually everything else in Formula One (who was the better driver, Prost or Senna?) this comes down to a matter of personal opinion.

  7. Abdurahman (@)
    17th December 2012, 1:56

    Hmm, how do we all think China lists on the “oppressive” regime roster? No outrage over that race. There were actually people that refused to watch the race because of this? Wow. What do you think of all the poor and oppressed peoples of Brazil that live in horrendous conditions probably not that far from the track? No outrage? How many millions live in India that are basically oppressed because of wealth and the caste system. Outraged?

    1. China’s regime isn’t ‘oppressive’ in the same vein as Bahrain’s is. It’s a communist government, so carries certain expectations and statutes, but they’re not openly fighting, detaining and killing their civilians on the world stage either.

      Heck, the fact that China even allow live TV coverage of an sporting event shows how ‘progressive’ F1 is to them.

    2. China is not a communist country anymore. In fact it is one of the hungriest capitalistic countries. Their government is elected by the people.

      The people on the ground vote and elect their representatives on a municipal level (if I’ve understood wiki correctly). Those elected reps then vote for upper government. Their government is actually pretty good if you look into it. For example, their government stay in term for 10 years, giving them more ability to execute long term plans. At the end of the 10 year term, they replace the government with the newer generation. The leaders are generally manufactured and trained to be leaders from a very young age. So instead of having a business man who turns into a president, they have a pure leader who’s sole purpose in his life is to lead his country. I’d take that over the popularity show winners (like Jacob Zuma of South Africa) any day, to be honest.

      The laws are strict (like being hanged for corruption) and they have strong censorship, which is of course a problem in today’s age. But I don’t believe those policies will remain for much longer in China as the younger generation take over and begin modernizing policies.

  8. Abdurahman (@)
    17th December 2012, 2:00

    Haha, I just scrolled up and read ALL the comments and it seems like most people are 50 50 on the Baharain race. Thats good. I just cant imagine NOT watching the race because of some judged/misjudged belief. Its still F1 at the end of the day and we all love it.

    1. If F1 is evil, I don’t want to watch it.

      I think even if my conscious isn’t particularly good at working out why, it still retches at what F1 was in Bahrain, and how it was directly a part of the oppression.

      At least in China and Brazil we can say that F1 is just there to race, racing in countries with humanitarian problems for me doesn’t grate nearly as bad as being part of the problem. All countries have problems, but in Bahrain it was different. F1 was the repression in Bahrain. Oppression for money, that is sick.

    2. The problem with the Bahrain race this year was that the event was used specifically for political reasons (what with the slogan and all). The intended message by the track owners (the authorities) was that F1 in the country actually unites the people, while quite clearly it was the very opposite. It was just a big **** U to all oppressed citizens of the country.

      1. Perhaps they tried to use it to unite their population?

        I get the feeling that internet people wont be happy with anything but a democracy.

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    17th December 2012, 2:27

    I hope Maria De Villota is able to recover from her horrific accident and able to live a happy and fulfilling life even if she doesn’t race in F1 any longer. I try to read as much of the news about her as possible and I’ve been inspired by her strength and tenacity.

    I wish her the best and I would like to see what she decides to do after she recovers.

  10. After the race in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain is the closest race to me. Sure it’s never going to produce a classic, but it is very difficult to turn down a chance to make the short hop across the Gulf to watch the race. When you throw in a moral dilemma as well it makes the decision whether or not to go incredibly tricky indeed.

    I didn’t go to last years race for various reasons (one of which was the political situation), but I have already started looking into whether I should head over next year. However you don’t have to do a lot of research to work out that things have not improved in Bahrain since the race this year. There as still talks aiming at having “inclusive transparent dialogue” between all sectors of society (query whether “talks about talks” actually equals progress), there are still protests going on and being planned and there are still reports of people being tortured by the government. I know there are members of this site who have gone to the race and who do advocate going, but as it stands I won’t be making the trip. There will have to be massive improvements in the political situation in Bahrain before I decide to purchase race and air tickets.

    I don’t think the powers that be should be forcing fans like me to make the call on this issue because we are either going to go the race (and in so doing support an oppressive regime and perhaps put ourselves at risk, which no one wants) or stay away and watch the race from the comfort of our homes knowing that the race shouldn’t be happening in the first place. It is absurd.

    1. A well balanced post, coming from someone who is at least close enough to seriously have to consider and think about going, or not.

      Thanks @geemac

      1. Always a pleasure! ;)

  11. There is no doubt that 2012 was one of the greatest seasons ever. Still, I have the feeling that the season did not live up to its potential, which is why I cannot give it 10 out of 10.

    Yes, there was a great two-way fight for the championship that ended in thrilling finale but it could easily have been a three-way battle if Hamilton hadn’t been let down by bad luck and technical trouble too often.

    The midfield teams positively surprised more than once this year but it would have been even better if Perez and Hulkenberg had had their maiden wins, if Maldonado didn’t waste most of his opportunities and if Grosjean and Kobayashi had been more consistent.

    This was a bad year for the ‘new’ teams. They all started with high hopes three years ago but today one of the three already belongs to the past and the other two are still unable to fight even with weakest midfield teams, which isn’t good for the competitiveness in F1.

    Pirelli deserve praise for doing a great job by producing tricky tyres for the first half of the season but they shouldn’t have gone conservative in the second half. Their claim that they didn’t want to be the ones that decided the championship outcome doesn’t convince me because the championship is equally decided in all 20 races, not the last 5 or 10.

    We often (rightly) praise the quality of the current drivers and there is no doubt that Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso belong to the best drivers of all-time. But sponsorship has still too much impact on the teams’ decisions regarding their driver line-ups, which means that some drivers that clearly deserve to be in F1, such as Kovalainen and Sutil, are currently outside with their futures uncertain. It is also doubtful if we always see the best drivers in the best teams because the latter don’t always aim to sign the two best drivers available as, for example, Ferrari have proved.

    Finally, the future of the sport looks worrying. It seems that the DRS gimmick is about to stay for a long time. FIA have dropped plan to reduce downforce in 2014. The new circuits always have modern facilities but the quality of racing, F1’s popularity in the hosting country let alone the level of democracy there are not among FOM’s priorities. The new Concorde Agreement is clearly unfair to the small teams and won’t help them survive and become more competitive. I don’t fear that F1 will end in a few years but it might become more predictable, more boring and more artificial.

    1. I find myself nodding affirmatively to most of what you say @girts, thanks fore writing down all my worst fears for F1 – apart from the fact that possibly the Dutch RTL will loose their (addified, but free to air) F1 coverage which means I will drop back to reliance on BBC next year.

      1. @bosyber I agree, the decline of free-to-air F1 coverage in Europe is another concern. I watch F1 for free on the German RTL but I don’t know how long this will last. And it’s not only the question of price, it’s about the quality of F1 media, too. The German TV are very focused on their own drivers, particularly Vettel. I can understand that but I’m sure there are many Germans (not only non-German viewers, such as me), who want to enjoy F1 and get to know more about the sport in general, not just how their compatriots do.

        1. True @girts, I too have German RTL currently (not next year) – their sometimes obsessive focus on Vettel, and then other Germans, is one reason why I choose BBC over them if I can. Also Dutch RTL is HD (but their general amount of coverage much smaller). In past years RTL.DE did usually switch to on-site/grid walk like features sooner than BBC, especially in will-it-rain-or-not situations, I seem to recall Brazil 2010 especially; Sky and BBC have become better at that though.

  12. I personally think that if it wasn’t safe, then they shouldn’t have gone, disregarding of the suppressing regime.

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