F1 2018 end of season awards: The Golden Grahams

We know how the latest F1 season went down, but who are the real winners? Here are The Golden Grahams: awards as prestigious as their name…

Driver of the year

There’s not really a debate about this one. Lewis Hamilton has always had his high peaks; this season he strung them together to an extent that he’s likely never done before. It says a lot that most think that had he been driving either of the top two cars, Mercedes or Ferrari, he still would have taken the title.

Team of the year

Mercedes seems the obvious choice though it’s easy to forget it dropped a few strategy clangers, such as in Australia, China and Austria. It also loses points for not warning Valtteri Bottas of what it would do in an entirely foreseeable situation encountered in Russia. Ferrari by consensus had the strongest car overall but was operationally poor. Sauber improved; so did Renault and Haas. Force India under its various guises soldiered on. But how about we give Red Bull some overdue credit for again producing by consensus the strongest chassis, albeit once again hamstrung by a poor Renault engine. And to think that a few – this author included – thought this team would unravel a la Benetton when the titles stopped.

Race of the year

There wasn’t a single phenomenal race rising above all others this season, but there is a competitive field of very good ones. China, Britain and Germany had corkscrew plots. Bahrain was an intense slow burner. Monaco was just intense. Austria, USA and Brazil all had diverting action throughout as well as in more than more way had the value of surprise. Baku was wacky as ever. But I’m going old school in every sense and giving the prize to the Italian round at Monza. A no holds barred tete-a-tete with no fewer than three on-track passes for the lead. And it provided a vital plot shift for the title.

Drive of the year

There are plenty of contenders for this one too. Hamilton roared through to win from 14th on the grid in Germany’s dry-to-damp, in Mexico Max Verstappen bossed a race like no else did all season and at Austin Kimi Raikkonen rolled back the years. There also is Daniel Ricciardo nursing his sick Red Bull home to win in Monaco; Sebastian Vettel doing similar with very second hand tyres in Bahrain. We can add noteworthy interloper showings, quintessentially Pierre Gasly’s Bahrain tour de force. Yet this one goes to Fernando Alonso somehow taking a McLaren held together with sticky tape from the back to finish seventh at Baku, lapping quicker than his team-mate in so doing.

Newcomer of the year

Charles Leclerc. Well duuuh.

Qualifying lap of the year

Plenty talk with justification about Hamilton’s pole at Singapore, but for this one we’ll go out of the box. Carlos Sainz’s getting fifth on the grid in Hungary’s rain – just half a second off the Ferraris – after defying a team call to pit for new tyres was mighty impressive, as was Leclerc doing similar at the last of Brazil’s Q2 to set a time in the damp to progress. But taking the prize is the altogether underrated Sergey Sirotkin hauling a “nearly undriveable” (Robert Kubica’s words) Williams to just two tenths away from getting into Monaco’s top 10. There’s more to him than rubles.

Overtake of the year

Despite everything there were a few contenders for this, including thrilling passes for first place: Ricciardo ambushing Bottas in China; Vettel on Bottas in Britain. Vettel also did a fine shaving-the-grass overtake of Hamilton in Austria. But it’s Lewis who takes this award, for passing three cars at once in Bahrain.

Visual metaphor of the year

Radio transmission of the year

Alonso as usual was a treasure trove for this one while Vettel did his best to get onto his level, running the full gamut from merrily talking balls in Brazil to his dark-sounding we “we’ll speak later” after losing Monza’s pole. Then there’s Nico Hulkenberg’s interesting complaint that he was “hanging here like a cow” after flipping in Abu Dhabi. One can only assume something was lost in translation. Yet the gong goes to Lewis’s engineer Pete Bonnington’s clear as mud to-pit-or-not-to-pit instruction in Hockenheim under the safety car. Which somehow, inadvertently, won his man the race.

Liberty clanger of the year

Another competitive field. Its much-heralded internet offerings had stuttering starts. Its graphics in Melbourne featured a debutant driver called intriguingly ‘Firstname Lastname’. It hadn’t noticed in advance of televising Melbourne’s opening practice that the haloes were right in the way of the eye-level onboard cameras. Spelling errors on its pitlane etchings – ‘Spainish GP’; ‘Hartly’ – were abundant. But entirely arbitrarily I give it to its email inventing a new F1 hero of the past called ‘Nickie Lauder’.

The ‘when life gives you lemons’ prize

Yet Liberty’s brave new world ain’t all bad. And it somehow took two of its more conspicuous bones of discomfort – TV graphics and the halo – and made something good. From the Azerbaijan round onwards graphics over the halo structure for the onboard shots became a staple.

Misplaced blame of the year

It takes a lot to beat those who rounded on Winnie Harlow for waving Canada’s chequered flag early, as if it was likely that she would have just decided herself when to wave it. But that requisite helping of ‘a lot’ indeed had arrived a few rounds before. In the shape of Romain Grosjean’s engineer after his charge binned his Haas behind the safety car in Baku, taking it upon himself to suggest it was a consequence of Marcus Ericsson hitting him. Ericsson was barely within the same postcode.

The broken watch award for bad timing

You’ve got to hand it to Ferrari. Managing to organise it so its driver not battling for the championship benefited from a tow in Monza’s qualifying is bad enough. But it takes a special effort to then tell that driver on the morning of the race the next day – sat on pole and with you well in need of his cooperation – that you won’t be requiring his services next season. Yet it did just that with Kimi Raikkonen. And whaddayaknow – come the race Kimi fought off team-mate Vettel like a dog on lap one, Vettel spins and the Scuderia’s championship chance is never the same again. I mean, would it have hurt to leave it until Monday?

Kimi moment of the year

There was him blanking Lewis Hamilton’s attempt in Melbourne’s qualifying press conference to rib him about his penchant for partying, his inimitably deadpan “thank you” after taking pole at Monza, then, entering the world of the bizarre, him releasing a book of Haiku. But it was all blown out of the water at the 11th hour by his, erm, suitably refreshed appearance at the FIA Prize Gala. Everyone was amused apart from David Richards.

Most unlikely thing to become a thing

That’s Raidillon actually. It’s even made Google maps.

The ‘la-la-la I’m not listening’ award for denial

Those who still whined about the halo even after it was demonstrated to have stopped Charles Leclerc getting his face sliced in two at Spa. You know who you are. Honourable mention also goes to those who despite everything kept insisting Stoffel Vandoorne was the next Fangio.

Most confusing road layout

The fraternity returned to Paul Ricard after nearly two decades away to find that the ‘high tech test track’ now has apparently upwards of 150 layout configurations. And the complex that dissects the Mistral straight resembles spaghetti junction reimagined by someone under the influence. Early in practice running it even nearly caught out the usually fastidious Vettel.

Daniel Ricciardo moment of the year

There was of course his belly flop to celebrate Monaco victory, but it was gazumped shortly after he nabbed Mexico’s pole from under his team-mate’s nose. As he immediately advised the world on TV that he was “tripping major nutsack”. I am advised that this is Australian for being happy.

F1 isn’t all bad award

One thing F1 does get right almost without fail these days is no-dry-eye-in-the-house send-offs, and so it was this time too. Convention was temporarily suspended as the departing Alonso was allowed onto the Abu Dhabi start-finish straight with his two other serving world champions Hamilton and Vettel to perform some synchronised farewell doughnuts. These are three men who haven’t always seen eye to eye, but it showed that in this game respect trumps. Which seems a nice thought on which to conclude.