The 2011 season will be remembered for the domination by Sebastian Vettel, who steamrollered his way to back-to-back world championships by winning 11 of the 19 grands prix.
The combination of Vettel and the hugely effective, Adrian Newey-designed Red Bull RB7-Renault was unbeatable on some tracks, and it appeared that the German's first world title in 2010 had enabled him to move to a new level of confidence and performance.
Another talking point was the absence of a stout season-long challenge to Vettel. McLaren's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Vettel's team-mate Mark Webber all won races, but none of them could go toe-to-toe with the reigning champ on a regular basis.
It was 2009 champion Button who emerged with the most credit, winning three times and annexing second in the points with some impressively mature drives. Team-mate Hamilton, on the other hand, was stymied by on-track incidents and off-track personal issues, and matched his worst finishing position in the points.
Ferrari had a below-par season by its standards, although lead driver Alonso wrung the neck of the car as often as he could, and scored a sole victory at Silverstone. Second driver Felipe Massa was disappointing for the second successive season, although hit the headlines for his year-long spat with Hamilton.
Webber ended the year with a welcome victory in Brazil, but he was otherwise comprehensively outperformed by Vettel, and admitted that he had taken too long to learn how to exploit the Pirelli tyres to their maximum. It's something he's vowed not to repeat in 2012, when he, Button, Hamilton and Alonso will all be itching to get one over on Vettel.
Here are the standout moments from the season, as selected by Autocar's grand prix editor Alan Henry.
Webber and Alonso, wheel to wheel at Spa-Francorchamps
Plunging down the hill towards the rollercoaster Eau Rouge corner at Spa-Francorchamps is akin to tackling the north face of the Eiger, and it demands considerable respect. So when Mark Webber popped his Red Bull out of the slipstream of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari on that 170mph descent during the Belgian Grand Prix, you could almost hear the collective intake of breath from the surrounding grandstands.
Webber kept coming – and Alonso wisely conceded the line. In fact, the manoeuvre was a whole lot more secure than perhaps it looked, as Alonso later explained.
“I had total confidence that Mark would not do anything silly,” he said, with the strong implication that perhaps he couldn’t say the same for all of his colleagues.“Anyway, I knew I could probably overtake him again next time round.”
So it proved, with Alonso deploying his Ferrari’s drag reduction system to excellent effect as he regained the place. It was epic stuff.
Alonso keeps the faith at Silverstone
There was a glorious slice of symbolism surrounding Fernando Alonso’s victory for Ferrari in the 2011 British Grand Prix. This year’s F1 Ferrari was an also-ran, certainly from an aerodynamic point of view, but the two-time world champion always squeezed a little more out of this lemon than one might reasonably have expected.
One such race took place at Silverstone, where Alonso also gamely got behind the wheel of a 1951 4.5-litre Ferrari 375 identical to the one that Froilan Gonzalez drove to Maranello’s first grand prix victory here at Silverstone, 61 years earlier.
The 375 is one of the many jewels in the seldom-seen Ecclestone Grand Prix Heritage Collection.