Cheers V8 – You were great!

2014 will be the first season of a brand new car configuration that mandates two banks of three cylinders perpendicular to one another. That’s a V6 to you and I, and as you can probably guess, they lack a bit in power compared to the V8s which they are replacing, so two turbochargers and a brand new ‘ERS’ unit will be bolted on to make sure Formula One remains at its current speed. The new engines are being brought in for many reasons, but mainly to be more economically and environmentally friendly.

With the first race mere days away, it seems like a good time to pay tribute to the powertain that is bowing out. It’s been a loyal servant to the cars since 2006, and has seen reliability improve dramatically, when compared to their predecessors, the V10s, which you could see explode about half a dozen times per race. The V8 era was not as fast as the V10 times, with many lap records at the moment dating back to 2004, apart from those with layout changes or introductions after that time. However, it was a time of change and some truly brilliant seasons.

These are just a few of the things that have happened in the V8 era:

  • Michael Schumacher retired, enjoyed 3 years of relaxation, joined Mercedes, retired again and fell into a coma.
  • HRT were created and then collapsed.
  • Jordan got turned into three different teams (Midland, Spyker, Force India).
  • F1 coverage in the UK has been on three different channels (ITV, BBC, Sky).
  • Brawn bought Honda, won both championships, then became Mercedes.
  • Jonathan Legard used the word “Problems” in commentary 3,441 times.
  • Double-diffusers, F-Duct, KERS, DRS and Blown diffusers were invented.

Anyway, below I pay homage to the engine by counting down my top 8 grands prix from the last 8 years; that’s one race per year and per cylinder. Enjoy!

2013 – British Grand Prix

So many things made this race awesome. Hamilton was on pole, Vettel didn’t win, and Webber surged through the field and nearly snatched the win from Rosberg right at the end. It was a truly unpredictable race, albeit marred by the tyre explosions which claimed four victims during the race. The race looked like a PR disaster for Pirelli, but investigation by Gary Anderson later concluded that the tyres were being slashed by a sharp piece of kerbing on the apex of one of Turn 5.

Lewis' tyres in shreds as he comes through Becketts
Lewis’ tyres in shreds as he comes through Becketts

Hamilton’s qualifying lap came from nowhere and instilled a monumental sense of National pride that lasted until a few laps into the race, where one of his wheels went all explodey. Vettel’s retirement brought a rather sinister but understandable joy to the home crowd, and the inevitable safety car sparked a mad dash to the flag between Webber and Rosberg. The season got boring very quickly in the second half of the year, so thank you Silverstone for providing the ultimate spectacle of the year.

2012 – Brazilian Grand Prix

The year previous had been a whitewash for Vettel, so it was a welcomed turn of events in 2012 when there were two men capable of clinching the title at the season ender in 2012. Alonso and Vettel were still in contention, with the German 13 points ahead of Alonso. Things started badly for Vettel as he slipped backwards at the start, and put him in the position where he was clouted not once, but twice by Williams drivers Bruno Senna. The initial contact sent him into a spin, and then more was made when Senna drove past.

Hulk Smash! Nico's ill-fated move took out Hamilton
Hulk Smash! Nico’s ill-fated move took out Hamilton

Though he was down in 22nd, Vettel managed a fantastic fightback, aided not least by Michael Schumacher letting him past. A few retirements aided his cause, but the German’s resurgence was not the only story of the race – Nico Hulkenberg led a good portion of the race in his Force India, but also ended up ruining Hamilton’s last race for McLaren. There was a good scrap too, between Alonso and Button for the lead. It was a brilliant, unpredictable race that sent off a season that was full of mystery.

2011 – Canadian Grand Prix

In a season dominated by Sebastian Vettel, the obvious pick for Race of the year in 2011 is one… dominated by Sebastian Vettel? Well, nearly dominated. A rare mistake for the Weltmeister on the very last lap gifted an unthinkable win to Jenson Button, who, after SIX visits to the pits (Five tyre changes and a penalty) and being in dead last place had clawed his way forward.

Vettel slithers hopelessly off the track as Jenson sweeps through to win
Vettel slithers hopelessly off the track as Jenson sweeps through to win

The changing conditions, mistakes of others and not least his supreme smooth driving style won him what is surely the best race we’ve seen on Pirelli tyres. China of 2011 was also in with a shout of getting this title, but the chaos and unpredictability in Montreal edged it. A grand prix to remember for a long, long time. This race also broke the record for the longest race ever, over 4 hours long, due to a 2-hour red flag period.

2010 – Turkish Grand Prix

The question of who really had the quicker car in 2010 is one that may never get a proper answer. Red Bull and McLaren both built supreme machines; prone to the odd glitch, but ultimately miles ahead of anyone else. Turkey saw both teams have inter-team squabbles, and as any F1 fan who has the gift of sight, hearing and reading ability will remember, it came off way worse for Red Bull than McLaren. Vettel and Webber crashed, the McLarens swept past to take a 1-2, and everyone started pointing fingers at which blue car did the shoving.

The McLarens pounce on the worst inter-team squabble of recent times
The McLarens pounce on the worst inter-team squabble of recent times

But while that was going on, there was still a race, and mixed team signals at McLaren almost resulted in a carbon copy for the Woking-based squad. Hamilton and Button though, managed not to hit one another in their overtaking battles, and showed everyone how it was done. The Sauber drivers even had a go at racing each other. It’s interesting too that at this stage in the season Ferrari were nowhere. But hindsight is a wonderful thing.

2009 – Belgian Grand Prix

The race weekend where everyone fell head-over-heels with the notion of an underdog success story. Having not scored a point for the whole of their debut season in 2008 and struggling in 2009, Giancarlo Fisichella stunned the entire fabric of reality by putting his dainty little VJM02 on Pole Position. His car did not have KERS, nor did it have the Double-Diffuser, but it did have the best seat in the house, and one of the lowest aero packages on the grid – perfect for Spa.

Fisi on his way to the only (so far) pole in Force India's history
Fisi on his way to the only (so far) pole in Force India’s history

After a lap 1 Safety Car to clean up the Brits (Hamilton, Button) and Rookies (Grosjean, Alguersuari) Kimi Raikkonen steamed past the Force India driver to take the lead, but that was far from the end of the race, Fisico managed to stay glued to the Iceman for the rest of the race, barely dropping more than 1.5 seconds behind the red machine. Kimi won Ferrari’s only race of the year, but it was Force India’s first ever Pole, points and podium that everyone celebrated. The next weekend in Italy they also finished in the points, 4th, just behind Raikkonen once more. Underdog success and a bum-clenchingly close race between the top two drivers made this a tense and thrilling event.

2008 – Brazilian Grand Prix

Yeah alright, I admit it, I was encapsulated by the magic of Hamilton fever in 2007/8, but you have to give it to this race for 2008. The sheer excitement of the last three laps alone made it worthy of taking the place. Hard-charging Vettel looked like he was going to spoil Lewis Hamilton’s World Championship Party by being ahead of him. Lewis’ title rival Massa was miles ahead in the lead, and Lewis needed 5th or better to take the Championship.

Glock pretty much stops as Hamilton cruises home
Glock pretty much stops as Hamilton cruises home

When Vettel demoted him to 6th, it looked like the local hero Massa would the victor. However, everyone forgot that 4th-placed Timo Glock was on the wrong tyres, and so on the final corner of the year, The Brit buzzed past the unfortunate Toyota driver to take the title. 2008 was probably the first year where I was completely fanatical about the sport, and to wrap up a superb year in this fashion was quite brilliant. Championships that go right down to the wire, like here and 2012, will always have a high place on my list.

2007 –  European Grand Prix

The Nurburgring’s last (to date) outing as ‘The European Grand Prix’ was quite a spectacle. The race started normally enough, but at the end of the formation lap, it started to rain. Not wanting to lose track position, nobody pitted for Intermediate tyres. Nobody, that is, except for a virtually unheard of driver; Markus Winkelhock. Under the advice of Mike Gascoyne, the Dutchman changed to wet tyres at the end of the Formation Lap, and when everyone else slithered off the track, he prevailed, and amazingly led the race for 5 laps, the only time a Spyker car did so.

Markus' only outing in the striking Spyker V8-VIII
Markus’ only outing in the striking Spyker V8-VIII

A red flag brought to an end his triumphant drive as seven driver spun off at turn one, including Lewis Hamilton. Unlike the other 6 spinners, Hamilton kept his engine running and raced on. His fortune didn’t last though, and neither did Winkelhock’s, (he eventually retired) but an excellent scrap between Massa and Alonso provided even more excitement towards the end of the race. An expensive car park in the gravel, a red flag and a debutant leading the field? An odd race indeed.

2006 – Hungarian Grand Prix

The first season that mandated the V8 configuration was sort of a learning curve – a lot of people thought the new cars would be slow or more unreliable than the old V10s but this did not transpire. Toro Rosso got all nostalgic and actually stuck with V10s, albeit, limited to 20,000 RPM, and have the enviable title of being the very last V10 in Formula One… for now (we hope).

Jenson Button's manic expression as he realises his win
Jenson Button’s manic expression as he realises his win

A soggy Budapest was the scene of a remarkable race, and the first win of a young-ish Jenson Button’s career. Raikkonen might well have won the race, but for a calamitous ride over the back of Tonio Liuzzi’s Toro Rosso, and Alonso found his demise at the hands of a disgruntled wheel nut. It saw a very unusual podium, topped by Button, who was then joined by Juan Pablo Montoya’s replacement at McLaren, Pedro de la Rosa (his only podium) and the first BMW podium ever courtesy of Nick Heidfeld. This race was full of catastrophes and unpredictable events, but mainly, at the time it was about the results. With David Coulthard aging and no other British driver in the sport – who didn’t want to see Jenson Button win a race?

So there you have it – my top 8 V8 races from the last 8 years. I hope you enjoyed it! Do you agree with my list? What do you think we will remember most from the V6 Turbo era? Tweet me @CGEustice with responses!

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