- Decade Review - Part One
Michael Schumacher is ESPNF1's driver of the decade
Driver of the Decade
Winner: Michael Schumacher
Some say he is the best ever, others counter his sometimes questionable tactics mean he can't be considered one of the greats. But whatever your opinion, his statistics speak for themselves. He won the first five world championships of the 2000s and then pushed Fernando Alonso to the 2006 title in his final year before retiring. Even during his time as a pit wall consultant for Ferrari he continued to create headlines. Sharing his time between motorbikes and charity kart races, he has edged his way back into the media spotlight and now back into F1. It will be his third decade in the sport, and while it may not be as successful as the last two, it all looks set to be the most entertaining of all.
Second: Fernando Alonso
His F1 career started at the back of the grid with Minardi in 2001; five years later he was a double world champion. Despite two difficult years at Renault in 2008 and 2009, Alonso is still widely recognised as the best driver on the grid and has been signed up by Ferrari to kick-start his career next year. However, there is another side to Alonso's character. In 2007 he drove for McLaren and came close to winning three titles in a row, but infighting with his team-mate Lewis Hamilton, allowed Kimi Raikkonen to triumph over both. But it's all part of what has made Alonso one of the greatest drivers of the decade.
Third: Lewis Hamilton
When Schumacher retired there were concerns that the sport wouldn't have a superstar. The truth was that in 2007 F1 enjoyed one of its most thrilling seasons in years as Raikkonen, Alonso and rookie Hamilton had an intense battle for the title. Hamilton made his name that year and went on to take his first championship in 2008. Although he has only competed for three years of this decade, his impact on the sport has already been huge.
The Decade's biggest Mistakes
Winner: 2005 Indy tyre scandal
If there was one race where F1 could not afford to alienate fans it was at Indianapolis. F1 has always been second best to NASCAR in the USA, but when tyre company Michelin announced it would not be safe for the fourteen cars it supplied to race, after a series of tyre failures in qualifying, the sport really burned its bridges. As the rest of the grid peeled back into the pits after the warming-up lap, just two Ferraris, two Jordans and two Minardis lined up on the grid for the start. Rather predictably it was a Ferrarione-two, with Schumacher leading Rubens Barrichello over the finish line. The fans were outraged and threw debris onto the track, Michelin went home red faced and Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA simply shrugged their shoulders.
Second: Hamilton's 2008 pit lane crash
The first rule of driving, either on a race track or on the road, is stop at a red light. So when Hamilton caused a three car pile-up in the Montreal pit lane it was simply inexcusable, even if it was just his second year in the sport. A safety car period meant race leaders Hamilton, Raikkonen, Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg all pitted at once, with Raikkonen and Kubica released ahead of the other two. A red light was shown at the end of the pit lane to allow the safety car to pass, and Raikkonen and Kubica duly stopped at the signal. Hamilton, who said he saw the red light too late, ploughed into the back of the stationary Ferrari - eliminating them both on the spot. Rosberg then crashed into the back of Hamilton while Kubica escaped unscathed and went on to win the race. Both Hamilton and Rosberg were handed grid penalties for the next race.
Third: Ferrari's traffic lights
For year's teams have used 'lollipops' to release cars after a pit stop, but for Ferrari in 2008 that wasn't good enough. It believed it could save fractions of a second by dangling a traffic light above the driver's head that would signal the optimum time to leave the pits. Unfortunately it didn't quite go to plan. In Singapore Felipe Massa, on the guidance of the new system, tore out of his pit box before the refueller had a chance to dislodge the hose. He drove the length of the pit lane with the hose flailing behind him, eventually pulling up outside the McLaren garage where he was greeted by wry smiles. His crew ran the length of the pit lane to detach the hose, but by that time any chance he had of scoring points had gone. He later lost the 2008 championship by just a single point.