It has become a custom for me, with the dawning of a new year, to dust off my crystal ball and offer some motor racing predictions for the year ahead.
With the international motorsport season now completed, I guess I ought to review my racing forecasts from almost twelve months ago and see how I fared.
Red Bull will lead the pace once again and win the constructors’ championship with relative ease…
An evolution of the championship winning RB6, Adrian Newey and his fellow design gurus created a rocket ship in the form of the RB7 this year.
It proved to be immensely quick and operated well within a wide range of conditions: winning on the low-speed streets of Monte Carlo and the long, fast straights of Monza.
It was also fairly robust, with only a couple of DNF on the score sheet, and these were hardly due to mechanical faults, as Mark Webber retired in Italy due to a collision and Sebastian Vettel’s tyre wanted no further participation in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
With 18 pole positions, 12 victories, and 10 fastest laps, there was nobody to touch Red Bull once again this year, and they won the constructors’ title by a colossal 153 points.
…with Sebastian Vettel winning the drivers’ championship, again.
Vettel enjoyed a phenomenal season this year and there was nothing that could stop him from defending his title.
Killer qualifying laps on Saturdays, race controlling romps to victories on Sundays. He dominated the sport in 2011 in a way not seen since Michael Schumacher in the early part of this century.
Mark Webber will win the Australian Grand Prix.
Webber’s home ground curse struck again as he struggled for pace in qualifying – eight-tenths adrift of his team-mate – to line up third behind Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.
Tyre wear became an issue during the race, and a slow second stint dropped him behind Vitaly Petrov and Fernando Alonso. The Aussie finished fifth. Not a great start to the season.
Daniel Ricciardo will replace Sebastien Buemi after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Well, Red Bull’s Antipodean prodigy did make his Formula 1 debut this year, albeit not at the expense of Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi, but Narain Karthikeyan’s at tail-enders HRT.
Speaking of which…
HRT will struggle to make it until the end of the year.
HRT received far fewer column inches with regards to their financial status this year than I thought perhaps they would.
Red Bull financing Ricciardo’s work experience certainly helped balance the books, as did Karthikeyan’s TATA backing, hence his participation in the Indian Grand Prix, having been dropped eight rounds prior to the race.
Team Lotus will rebrand themselves as ‘1Malaysia’.
What a confusing mess the whole Lotus business was this year, with Renault-powered Team Lotus and Group Lotus-backed Renault competing as rivals.
Thankfully an agreement has been reached that will see both change their names for 2012. So, Team Lotus now becomes Caterham F1 and Lotus-Renault will race as Lotus.
Got that? Good.
Audi will win at Le Mans.
This year’s Le Mans 24 Hours was truly epic. A down-to-the-flag race between the solo Audi of Marcel Fassler, Andre Lotterer and Benoit Treluyer and a trio of Peugeots that occupied two thirds of the race.
After almost 3,000 miles of fast and furious racing, the Audi R18TDI crossed the line just 15 seconds ahead of its nearest LMP1 rival. Fantastic stuff.
Jorge Lorenzo will win the MotoGP championship.
“Casey Stoner on a Honda could be a scary situation,” said Ben Spies before pre-season testing even got under way, and he couldn’t have been more right.
Lorenzo’s season wasn’t all that bad though. He chased Stoner through most of the year and, mathematically, was able to fight him all the way to the last race of the season.
But his crash during qualifying at Phillip Island – resulting in the amputation of part of a finger – saw his season cut short.
Sebastien Loeb will win his eighth title. His most difficult for sometime as Sebastien Ogier makes life difficult.
As expected, Loeb won his eighth World Rally Championship title this year. However, he didn’t have it as easy as some may have predicted – which, rather smugly, I didn’t!
This year’s title fight went right down to the wire as Loeb and Mikko Hirvonen went head-to-head in the Welsh forests for this year’s crown – the result of the civil war that broke out between Messrs Loeb and Ogier at Citroen who almost tripped themselves up mid-season.
Still, Ogier was a revelation in his first full season in a factory machine this year, and few would bet against him bagging a title or two in the near future.
Bernie Ecclestone will start to prepare for his retirement.
Bernie, 80, who has amassed a £2.4billion fortune, still shows no signs of retiring just yet. He even joked that he would have to work till he dropped due to his daughters’ lavish spending habits…
Jean-Eric Vergne will win the Formula Renault 3.5 championship.
Red Bull’s French protégé fought a season-long battle with Canadian Robert Wickens, and the pair finished the year with five wins apiece.
Were he not preoccupied with Red Bull simulation work in Milton Keynes during the season-opener at Motorland – which saw him miss a couple of practice sessions – then chances are that Vergne would have clinched the extra points needed to have been crowned FR3.5 champion this year.
Felipe Nasr will win the British F3 championship.
The 19-year-old Brazilian was the star of the show in British F3 this year, clinching the title with a couple of rounds to spare.
After a reasonable showing in his rookie season with Double R Racing in 2010, there was little doubt that the pre-season favourite would do the business with Carlin.
The BBC will interview someone other than Christian Horner, Martin Whitmarsh or Stefano Domenicalli.
Rather surprisingly, they did!
So there we go. My forecasting abilities weren’t spectacularly rubbish this year – 46% success rate, stats fans! – but it does prove that motorsport is largely unpredictable, which is why I guess we all love it so much.