Sao Paulo’s Garulhos International Airport looked more like an F1 paddock for most of Tuesday, as the battle weary troops from grand prix racing’s front line headed for home, after a gruelling 17 race campaign which taxed even the most resilient and enthusiastic of participants.

By any historical perspective it has been a season to remember, with the emergence of Lewis Hamilton as the most outstanding newcomer of the new generation. He almost became the sport's first rookie world champion in Sunday’s Brazilian grand prix, but although he was pipped at the post by Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, it would be hard to argue that the Finn was an undeserving title holder; he won six grands prix during his first season as Michael Schumacher's successor in the famous Italian team - that's two more than any of his rivals could amass.

Yet from a public perspective it could be argued that it was the least satisfactory season in 20 years, perhaps since Michael Schumacher's first world championship year in 1994 when nagging rumours of technical illegalities involving his Benetton-Ford cast a dark cloud over his winning efforts.