Elvis on F1: 2012…a vintage year

Not for many years have I enjoyed, been enthralled, or been obsessed as much with a Formula one season as in 2012… and that genuinely includes the decade I spent competing in it with McLaren.

From the many Tweets, messages and good old fashioned ‘conversations’ I’ve had with folk this year, the first part of that opening statement seems to be shared by most fans of the sport across the world.

Wether or not your team or driver had success, the season as a whole, as a spectacle, was second to none. We’ve had unprecedented levels of unpredictability as teams struggled to understand the characteristics of Pirelli’s new tyres, manifesting itself in an unprecedented number of different winners in the early races. An unprecedented number of World Champions took part in a championship consisting of an unprecedented number of races in a season. We’ve had controversy on and off track, nothing unprecedented there, however I certainly felt like we were breaking new ground when I travelled to Bahrain this year amidst the unrest engulfing the country.

We’ve seen my old mates from Woking break world records in the pitlane and stewards dish out record number of penalties for various infringements, shaking up grids and results alike. We’ve been welcomed back into America and put on a great show. Both competitors and organisers take credit, although it remains to be seen just how much of an impact the sport can really have out there in the longer term.

The season drew to a close with a suitably extraordinary climax on Sunday afternoon in Brazil, a race and drama which brought back memories of 2008. I was lucky enough to be wearing my pitstop overalls and be part of the celebrations inside the garage when Lewis claimed victory on that incredible final day and those crazy emotions came flooding back as I watched this one unfold before my eyes.

As in 2008, once again it was the guys and girls at Ferrari who were left to suffer the disappointment, however they can all certainly be proud of the job they did in giving it their best.

At Red Bull, the team and drivers worked equally as hard, but the difference came in the end with the development of the car. Updates on the RB8 came thick and fast, as they did with the F2012, but crucially the ones coming from Milton Keynes had immediate and substantial impact, whereas the new parts from Maranello seemed far less effective or convincing when it came to all important laptime.

In all my years I can’t remember a development race like the one we’ve just witnessed. Right up until the very last race, teams, and not just the championship contenders, brought new parts to their cars. Factories have had to allocate resource to work on three different challengers at the same time, something else unprecedented.

Whilst the race to stay in touch with the 2012 season continued apace until the last minute, 2013’s challengers have been gradually taking shape in a corner of drawing offices up and down the grid. At the same time, another group of clever folk have been beginning to put the pieces in place for the car that will bring life to the radical shake up of the ‘formula’ in 2014!

Aside from everything I’ve mentioned already, something which has set this great season apart from any other is the unprecedented access fans now have to teams, drivers and the sport’s media.

Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and Instagram have bridged huge cavernous gaps previously synonymous with F1 and it’s public. What was a very closed shop, a secretive world where if you weren’t inside the paddock gates you were fed only on race coverage and carefully engineered corporate press releases, is now having to bring itself into line with the rest of the modern sporting world.

Fans have direct access to their heroes and vise versa. Teams are nervous about such technology, but most now use it to their own advantage by engaging with their supporters on a whole new level. Everyone remembers Lewis Hamilton realising those fears of his team earlier this year by Tweeting a page of McLaren’s telemetry to his one million followers after a bad qualifying in Belgium, but what we were offered that day was a rare glimpse into his normally disguised, manufactured, personality.

Whatever the freedom of social media posts may bring, good or bad, they allow the people most important to the industry, the fans, the chance to gain insight and feel a little closer to the people and teams they worship each weekend. For journalists and broadcasters it allows us to bring news immediately, share our pictures and information previously unavailable to those without an FIA pass and to get instant and valuable feedback and input on our work and thoughts.

Fans, for the first significant time, have been able to ‘participate’ in 2012’s amazing season, not simply watch it, and that can only be a great thing for the future of our sport.

With everything this fantastic season’s given us, it’s been a great time to be a fan of Formula One, and for those of us lucky enough to be involved in one way or another, an absolute privilege.

Roll on 2013.


Marc Priestley

Twitter: @f1elvis



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