I thought Fernando Alonso’s victory in Valencia (from 11th on the grid) the best of the season, and a particular highlight was his perfectly timed and executed pass of Romain Grosjean’s faster Lotus at the first turn after the restart.
If there were countless memorable moves in 2012, however, for me the highlight of the year was an entire race weekend, and a new one at that. If there was widespread delight that Formula 1 was taking yet another stab at the USA, so it must be said that at different times there had been concerns about the new venue – at one point indeed there were doubts that the Circuit of the Americas would ever be built.
Once financial and personnel problems had been resolved, however, the project went ahead. In a remarkably short time a state-of-the-art Grand Prix circuit materialised in Austin, Texas, and it’s fair to say that for the F1 world it was love at first sight. For one thing, the track itself was a thing of wonder in an era of bland new autodromes; for another, in avoiding the superficial, in opting to spend money sensibly, rather than wasting it on glitzy, soulless, buildings, the people at COTA succeeded in fashioning an ambience both welcoming and instantly familiar, which found favour with everyone. To many it was somehow redolent of Adelaide, and no higher compliment could have been paid.
As well as that, in every respect the organisation was simply superb, all the more remarkable for the fact that this was a brand-new event. Add in that local enthusiasm for F1’s move to Texas was palpable, that the crowd was of Silverstone proportions, that the late autumn weather was blissful throughout, that we had a gripping lead battle between Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, and the picture was complete, the weekend a triumph in every way – not least Pirelli’s inspired decision to go with Stetsons on the podium. Suddenly everyone had a new favourite Grand Prix.