Motor sport

Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Valentino Rossi, Daniel Ricciardo, Molly Taylor, Oscar Piastri and more

Joan Mir entered the new MotoGP season as defending champion but failed to win a single race as Quarteraro dominated the division. The Spaniard will have to do better.

It’s hard to describe Daniel Ricardo, who won a Grand Prix this year, as the loser. In the scheme of things, he’s definitely a winner, but it’s been a disappointing year for Australia’s only F1 driver. He entered the season with McLaren full of hope, but struggled to adapt his driving style to the car and despite a big win at Monza followed his young team-mate, Lando Norris, more often than not.

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates in Monza. Credit:Getty Images

THE AWARDED CONTROVERSY
There is only one real contender here and it has to be the hotly contested call-up on the penultimate lap of the final GP of the season which saw Verstappen overtake Hamilton for the title. Has Australian official Masi done any tricks? Was it an artificial decision to have the race finish on the track with racing cars, rather than under a safety car? Was it done to ensure viewers stay glued to the show, or to get clicks and generate media interest? All sorts of theories abounded thereafter.

Max Verstappen celebrated late into the night after winning the Drivers' Championship.

Max Verstappen celebrated late into the night after winning the Drivers’ Championship.Credit:PA

MAN OF THE YEAR: Max Verstappen
Love him or hate him (the Dutch take the first view, many Brits can’t anymore), the young world champion is a singular figure who has rarely been far from the headlines all year, as he fought a fantastic battle with Hamilton throughout the season for supremacy. Yes, he’s brash, yes, he’s aggressive and pushes boundaries, sometimes seeming to overstep the bounds of racing decency. But he is fast, exciting and compelling, and an F1 hero for the future.

WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Molly Taylor
Australian Taylor is perhaps the country’s least known driver. She participates in rallies and therefore most of her best work is done abroad and escapes local attention. But she was at the forefront of the Extreme E series for Team Rosberg. It is an off-road competition that uses only electric vehicles, SUVs, to race in extremely remote areas of the world. Taylor also took part in two rounds of this year’s World Rally Championship.

VIRAL MOMENTS OF THE YEAR
1. The moment Verstappen on fresh tires passed race leader Hamilton to wrap up the F1 world title. Hamilton could only fume as his rival pulled away.

2. In terms of visual impact, the collision between the two title contenders in Monza, Italy in September was hard to forget. Battling for position at the first chicane on lap 27, halfway through the race, both drivers hit wheels, lifting Verstappen’s Red Bull vehicle into the air and knocking it over Hamilton’s head as both cars were sliding in the gravel pit. Fortunately, Hamilton’s hoop and halo held the brunt of the weight, but it rocked him, his Mercedes badly damaged and both men harboring grievances.

Max Verstappen's Red Bull came to rest dangerously close to Lewis Hamilton's header at Monza.

Max Verstappen’s Red Bull came to rest dangerously close to Lewis Hamilton’s header at Monza.Credit:PA

3. Piastri taking the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi to win the F2 title was the culmination of 15 years of hard work, which began when he was six years old racing miniature cars.

4. Crowds gathered to cheer and say goodbye to legend Valentino Rossi as the seven-time MotoGP world champion made his final lap of the world’s racing circuits during an emotional retirement season. The Italian, nicknamed “The Doctor”, was truly one of a kind.

QUOTE OF THE YEAR
“Man, it’s manipulating, man!” – Hamilton expresses his disbelief at the decision to allow Verstappen to close in on him ahead of the restart of the final stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

CRYSTAL BALL FOR 2022

Hamilton and Verstappen come out strong from the start of the new season as the Briton seeks to prove he was unfairly denied a world title. Piastri dazzles in testing for Alpine and receives a mid-season call to replace as F1 driver after a team sacked one of its regulars. Ricciardo is becoming familiar with the McLaren and regularly races near the front of the grid. MotoGP proves, once again, to be the most exciting form of motorsport with multiple overtaking and thrills.