Our frequent reader and F1B friend Paul Kiefer has offered another “Marbles” fan Op-Ed for you and this time he looks back on a season of ups adn downs. Thanks Paul~ Editor

2012: The Roller Coaster Ride

The year 2012 held such great promise. Many story lines were being propelled across the ether and into the fan’s eyes and ears. Would Vettel repeat as world champion. Would anyone be able to step up as the challenger? What effect would the new Pirelli tires have on the drivers? Would the new technical rules create a random shuffle to the field? Would other factors come into play that might create havoc?

Early on, we had a glimpse into the chaos that would manifest itself. In the first seven races, seven different winners arose. In each race, the entire field ran closely together. It was a sign of things to come. This told us that the season would become unpredictable. We were taken on a roller coaster. There were as many ups as there were downs. The tires became more of a factor than anyone could have imagined.

Other factors came into play. There was a quick discussion about the rules after it was discovered that Red Bull was taking advantage of an effect of holes in the floor. Others tried to modify a system in such a way that suspicions were aroused. The FIA came back and clarified the rules to the point where their intent was finally made known and yet perhaps not quite so clear. The fans began to worry that there would now be an arms race in regards to aerodynamics. In the end, perhaps only Ferrari and McLaren could take advantage of this. The remainder could not find the answers they sought.

Even human error played a role. The massive crash at the first turn in Spa that sent a potential champion out of the race and sent another driver out of the next with a ban. This was an extremely rare occasion. There was outrage as the FIA laid out its reasoning for the punishment. Others cried for changes to promote safer driving. Yet Formula 1 rolled on, undaunted. The risk would always be there, everyone acknowledged. In others, there was always the feeling that something else could be done.

As the season progressed, signs of a clear direction emerged. A former champion, Fernando Alonso, started to string together race wins and put himself in front of the pack. When he did not win, he put himself ahead of Sebastian Vettel to ensure that his lead was protected. This was the man who would emerge as the challenger to the throne.

Then fate rolled the dice. Fernando was involved in two accidents, neither of which was of his own making. The accident in Spa was the first. Then it was Japan. These two incidents dashed Alonso’s hopes of running away with the title and eventually put Vettel in front. Even the German was not immune to the fickle finger of Fate. He suffered a mechanical breakdown, first in Valencia, then in Monza. Then he strung together four wins starting from Singapore, propelling him into the lead.

Yet it wasn’t safe, even at the very end. Only positioning kept Vettel on top, with Alonso scrapping for every point he could to cut the lead down. Fate dealt two more random hands again. The first was at Abu Dhabi, where he was penalized to the point where he stood in the back. Red Bull would not hear of this and decided to pull Vettel’s car out of Parc Ferme and start from the pits, free to change the setup, including the gears. This proved beneficial, and Vettel was able to drive his way to 3rd and limit the damage.

The final hand was dealt in Brazil, when a rain-slick track produced an accident that sent Vettel several places back and with irreparable damage to a side pod; yet, it did not stop him. Running and behaving like a cornered aminal, the German fought hard, picked his spots and made his way to 6th, securing the title by a slim three-point margin.

In the beginning, I predicted that Vettel would win, but he would be challenged. I can say that this prediction has come to fruition. 2012 was everything I expected, and more. Next time, he might not be so lucky.

by Paul Kiefer Jr.

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