2009: JENSON BUTTON

Model produced by: Paul’s Model Art (Minichamps)

Year: 2009
Driver: Jenson Button (Great Britain)
Team: Brawn Mercedes
Car: Brawn BGP001
Results: 6 wins, 9 podiums, 4 poles, 2 fastest laps

Ten teams participated in the Championship after several rule changes were implemented by the FIA to cut costs to try and minimise the effect of the global financial crisis. There were further changes to try to improve the on-track spectacle with the return of slick tyres, changes to aerodynamics and the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) presenting some of the biggest changes in Formula One regulations for several decades.

Honda team announced in December 2008 they would be leaving Formula One with immediate effect. After a Winter of uncertainty, it was confirmed on 5 March 2009 that the team would compete in the 2009 season as Brawn GP, with Mercedes engines, following a management buy-out, and would retain the services of both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello as drivers. On first testings, their white car BGP001 with no sponsors was by far the fastest – straight out of the factory.

A major source of controversy throughout the winter season were the rear diffusers. Three teams –Toyota, Williams and Brawn GP –launched their cars with a diffuser that uses the rear crash structure in order to generate additional downforce. These designs were quickly protested, and just days after the cars were unveiled, rival teams asked the FIA for a clarification on the matter. The FIA later declared the cars legal.

The season was split into two halves, with the newly-formed Brawn GP dominating the first half of the season with successive wins, partially due to the team’s double diffuser design, while the latter half saw an improved showing from Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren as they adapted to the new regulations. Jenson Button was able to capitalise on Brawn’s advantage in the early rounds winning six of the first seven races, to give him his first World Championship. Sebastian Vettel (now Red Bull) and Button’s team-mate Rubens Barrichello were his main challengers over the season, winning six races between them to finish in second and third respectively.

At the end of the season, Ross Brawn and his management team sold Brawn GP team to the engine supplier, Mercedes-Benz. The team who barely survived and only existed one season took both titles. A script for Hollywood.

(Source: Wikipedia)

See the BBC’s season review

See the official FIA Gala 2009 season review

See how Jenson Button recalls Brazilian GP where he won the title

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2008: LEWIS HAMILTON

Model produced by: Paul’s Model Art (Minichamps)

Year: 2008
Driver: Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain)
Team: McLaren Mercedes
Car: McLaren MP4-23
Results: 5 wins, 10 podiums, 7 poles, 1 fastest lap

It doesn’t get any better than this! A championship won at the last corner of the last lap of the last race of the season. A chaotic and rainy race, to be exact. Ferrari guys were already celebrating the championship when they realized Felipe Massa didn’t win it.

After troubled season at McLaren Alonso went back to uncompetitive Renault. Raikkonen had plenty of technical issues with his Ferrari in the middle part of the season, so by the end of the season, there were only two title contenders: Lewis Hamilton with McLaren and Felipe Massa with Ferrari. Massa won 6 races this season, Hamilton 5, while Raikkonen and Alonso only managed 2.

Hamilton needed to finish at least fifth in the Brazilian Grand Prix (the last GP of the season) to secure the World Championship. After a hard fought race Hamilton was in fifth but, after rain, and in the closing laps of the race, Sebastian Vettel of Scuderia Toro Rosso took the fifth position away from Hamilton. Had the race ended then, this would have given the driver’s title to Massa.

On the final lap of the race first Vettel and then Hamilton managed to pass Timo Glock of Toyota, after Glock (unlike Hamilton) had risked staying on the track with dry-weather tyres, despite the rain.This moved Hamilton back up to fifth, ensuring that he finished one point ahead of Massa overall and winning the 2008 title. Hamilton’s overtaking move happened after Massa had crossed the line to win. This meant that Hamilton had clinched the 2008 Formula One World Championship, becoming the youngest driver to win the title (he lost that title to Sebastian Vettel in 2010), as well as the first black driver.

One of the great moments of the season was wet weekend at Monza. Young raising star Sebastian Vettel in a Toro Rosso (ex-Minardi) dominated the weekend. He became the youngest pole sitter and the youngest race winner in F1 history.

(Source: Wikipedia)

See the championship-deciding last lap thriller

And another great moment at Spa, Hamilton vs. Raikkonen

See the official FIA Gala 2008 Season review

See the model of Vettel’s Toro Rosso (youngest F1 race winner)

2007: KIMI RÄIKKONEN

Model produced by: RedLine models

Year: 2007
Driver: Kimi Räikkonen (Finland)
Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car: Ferrari F2007
Results: 6 wins, 12 podiums, 3 poles, 6 fastest laps

Michael Schumacher retired. After 5 years with McLaren and 38% of his races ending with technical or other failure, Kimi Raikkonen joined Ferrari, hoping for a more reliable car. Alonso left Renault after 5 years and joined McLaren, together with rookie Lewis Hamilton.

All races in 2007 were won by Ferrari and McLaren drivers. Räikkönen started the season in Australia by taking pole position, setting the fastest lap and becoming the first driver since Nigel Mansell in 1989 to win his first Grand Prix with Ferrari. In the following 8 races, each of the 4 contenders took 2 wins. Hamilton made an astonishing debut, matching the pace of two-time world champion Alonso, recording nine consecutive podium finishes (including 2 wins), more than any other rookie in Formula One history. It was something nobody expected, not even McLaren team. After the controversy between Alonso and Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix relations between Alonso and his team declined. It was reported in the media that he was no longer on speaking terms with Hamilton, and it was speculated that he might leave McLaren at the end of the season, since he believed McLaren was favouring Hamilton.

By the end of the season there were only three contenders left: Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen. Hamilton was in a position to clinch the title in his debut season at the penultimate race of the season. He secured pole position, but  after the first round of pit stops lost grip as his tyres suffered graining, and Räikkönen overtook him. Hamilton retired after sliding into a gravel trap in the pit lane. Räikkönen took his fifth win of the season, that revived his title hopes before the last race of the season. Räikkönen moved to seven and three points behind Hamilton and Alonso in the Drivers’ Championship, respectively, going into the last race in Brazil, the first three-way title battle in the final race of the season since 1986.

Räikkönen took the 2007 Formula One Drivers’ title with victory in the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, in an incident-packed race. Massa had taken pole, followed by Hamilton, Räikkönen, and Alonso. At the start of the race Räikkönen passed Hamilton on the outside and lined up behind Massa. Alonso shortly afterwards passed Hamilton, who fell progressively down the order. Räikkönen eventually overtook Massa, as Massa’s strategy for the second round of pit stops ensured Räikkönen kept the lead. Räikkönen went on to take the chequered flag, which handed him the crown by a single point from Hamilton and Alonso. Championship leader Hamilton eventually finished the race in seventh place, while defending champion Alonso managed third.

While Räikkönen had only one point more than Alonso and Hamilton at the end of the season, he had the most victories (six compared to four by each McLaren driver).

A major talking point of the season had been an espionage controversy involving Ferrari and McLaren, which led to McLaren being excluded from the World Constructors’ Championship. As a result, Ferrari clinched the championship at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso left McLaren after only one year and joined Renault again.

(Source: Wikipedia)

Here’s the last lap of the race …

See the official FIA Gala 2007 season review

2006: FERNANDO ALONSO

Model produced by: Paul’s Model Art (Minichamps)

Year: 2006
Driver: Fernando Alonso (Spain)
Team: Renault
Car: Renault R26
Results: 7 wins, 14 podiums, 6 poles, 5 fastest laps

At the end of 2005, three well-known teams were bought out: Minardi, Sauber and Jordan. The former were bought by Red Bull to be run as a junior team to house their growing list of young talent looking for an F1 drive. Despite campaigns by Minardi fans the team were renamed Scuderia Toro Rosso (Toro Rosso), Italian for Team Red Bull. The Sauber team was purchased by BMW.

The Drivers’ Championship was won by Fernando Alonso of Renault F1 for the second year in a row, with Alonso becoming the youngest ever double world champion. Retiring legend Michael Schumacher of Scuderia Ferrari finished runner-up, 13 points behind. Renault also retained the Constructors’ Championship, beating Ferrari by only five points.

The season was highlighted by the rivalry between Alonso and Schumacher, who each won seven races. Renault and Ferrari drivers dominated the field, victorious in all but one race, and the four second-place finishes not achieved by these two teams were accomplished by McLaren Mercedes.

(Source: Wikipedia)

See the official FIA Gala 2006 season review

2005: FERNANDO ALONSO

Model produced by: Paul’s Model Art (Minichamps)

Year: 2005
Driver: Fernando Alonso (Spain)
Team: Renault
Car: Renault R25
Results: 7 wins, 15 podiums, 6 poles, 2 fastest laps

Five years of dominance by Michael Schumacher and Scuderia Ferrari was over. The most-noted aspect of the season was Ferrari’s lack of pace caused mainly by a new rule prohibiting tyre changes during the course of a race. The Bridgestone tyres used by Ferrari could not find the right balance between performance and reliability, leaving the Michelin runners to battle for race victories.Further rule changes emphasised the new focus on reliability, with engines required to last two Grands Prix without being changed.

Renault appeared the fastest team in pre-season testing and it was no surprise they dominated the early fly-away rounds. As the season progressed the McLarensof Kimi Räikkönen and Juan Pablo Montoya became increasingly competitive and by the latter stages of the season the McLaren was generally considered the faster package. However, constant technical failures meant neither the team nor Räikkönen were able to translate their speed into Championship success.

Despite both he and Räikkönen having six victories to their name at this point in the season, Alonso’s greater consistency meant he was able to claim the Championship with two rounds to spare. The Constructors Championship was secured by Renault at the final race, with Alonso’s seventh race victory. This gave Renault their first Championship as a Constructor after only previously triumphing as an engine supplier, despite winning two fewer races than McLaren. Alonso’s success made him the youngest Champion in the history of the sport, a title he held until Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 title success (who lost it toSebastian Vettel in 2010).

Ferrari finished third in the Constructors Championship with only one win, at the United States Grand Prix, in farcical scenes after the race was only contested by the six Bridgestone cars after Michelin declared their tyres unsafe to run on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s unique banked corner.

2005 was also the first F1 year for Red Bull Racing, after they purchased and rebranded Jaguar Racing.

(Source: Wikipedia)

See the season highlights (Official FIA Gala 2005 F1 season highlights)

2004: MICHAEL SCHUMACHER

Model produced by: Mattel (Hot Wheels Elite)

Year: 2004
Driver: Michael Schumacher (Germany)
Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car: Ferrari F2004
Results: 13 wins, 15 podiums, 8 poles, 10 fastest laps

The season was again dominated by Michael Schumacher and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro. Also notable were the success of BAR and Renault, as well as the poor performance of Williams and McLaren.

For the fifth and sixth seasons in a row, Ferrari won the drivers and constructors titles respectively. Michael Schumacher dominated the beginning of the year by winning a record 12 races in the first 13, eventually winning a record 13 races in a season, beating his previous record of 11 set in 2002, and also easily cruising to a record seventh and his most recent drivers’ championship. Rubens Barrichello came in a solid second place, winning two of the last four races. Jenson Button, though failing to win a grand prix, finished third, securing ten podium finishes and one pole position. Along with Japanese team mate Takuma Sato, BAR impressed by finishing second behind Ferrari.

(Source: Wikipedia)

See the official FIA Gala 2004 season highlights

2003: MICHAEL SCHUMACHER

Model produced by: Mattel (Hot Wheels Elite)

Year: 2003
Driver: Michael Schumacher (Germany)
Team: Scuderia Ferrari
Car: Ferrari F2003-GA
Results: 6 wins, 8 podiums, 5 poles, 5 fastest laps

The point scoring systems for both the Constructors and Drivers titles were changed from 10, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the first six finishers at each round to 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 for the first eight finishers in an attempt to make the title contests closer.

While Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher had won the 2002 championship by 67 points from his team-mate Rubens Barrichello, the 2003 season was much closer. For a great part of the 2003 season, several drivers from several teams had mathematical chances of winning the world championship. Eight different drivers won a Grand Prix, amongst them three first time winners. Kimi Räikkönen, driving for McLaren-Mercedes, and Juan Pablo Montoya, driving for BMW Williams. Both had a chance of claiming the 2003 championship until late in the season, with Räikkönen still mathematically in contention at the final race, the Japanese Grand Prix. Räikkönen lost the championship to Schumacher by two points, although he won only one race to Schumacher’s six. Ferrari’s defence of the constructor’s title was challenged throughout the year by Williams and McLaren, one of the few seasons where there were three front running teams.

(Source: Wikipedia)

See the official FIA Gala 2003 season highlights