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


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

It’s hard to describe Daniel Ricciardo, who won a Grand Prix this year, as a loser. In the scheme of things he is very much a winner, but it has been a disappointing year for Australia’s only F1 driver. He went into the season with McLaren hopeful, but struggled to adapt his driving style to the car and despite a great win at Monza trailed his youthful teammate, Lando Norris, more often than not.

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates in Monza.

Daniel Ricciardo celebrates in Monza. Credit:Getty Images

CONTROVERSY CORNERED
There is only one real contender here and it has to be the hotly disputed call in the penultimate lap of the final GP of the season, which allowed Verstappen to get past Hamilton for the title. Did Australian official Masi stuff up? Was it a contrived decision to ensure that the race finished on the track with cars racing, rather than under a safety car? Was it done to ensure TV audiences stayed glued to the show, or to get clicks and generate media interest? All sorts of theories abounded afterwards.

Max Verstappen celebrated long into the night after winning the drivers’ championship.

Max Verstappen celebrated long into the night after winning the drivers’ championship.Credit:AP

MAN OF THE YEAR: Max Verstappen
Love him or loathe him (the Dutch take the former view, plenty of Brits now can’t), the young world champion is a singular figure who was rarely far from the headlines all year, as he waged a fantastic battle with Hamilton throughout the season for supremacy. Yes, he is impetuous, yes, he is aggressive and pushes the envelope, 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 least well-known prominent driver in the country. She competes in rallies, and therefore most of her best work is done overseas and escapes local attention. But she has been right at the forefront of the Extreme E series for Team Rosberg. That is an off-road competition that only uses electric vehicles, SUVs, to race in extremely remote parts of the world. Taylor also competed in two rounds of this year’s World Rally Championship.

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

2. In terms of visual impact, the collision between the two title contenders at Monza, Italy, in September was hard to forget. Fighting for position at the first chicane on lap 27, midway through the race, the two drivers bumped wheels, lifting Verstappen’s Red Bull vehicle up into the air and bringing it down on top of Hamilton’s head as both cars slid into the gravel trap. Fortunately, Hamilton’s roll hoop and halo device bore the brunt of the weight, but it left him shaken, his Mercedes badly damaged and both men nursing grievances.

Max Verstappen’s Red Bull came to rest perilously close to Lewis Hamilton’s head in Monza.

Max Verstappen’s Red Bull came to rest perilously close to Lewis Hamilton’s head in Monza.Credit:AP

3. Piastri taking the chequered flag in Abu Dhabi to win the F2 title was the culmination of 15 years of work, which began when he was a six-year-old racing toy cars.

4. The crowds that turned out to cheer and farewell legend Valentino Rossi as the seven-time MotoGP world champion made his final lap of the globe’s race circuits in an emotional retirement season. The Italian, nicknamed ‘The Doctor’, was truly one of a kind.

QUOTE OF THE YEAR
“Man this is getting manipulated, man!” – Hamilton expresses his incredulity at the decision to allow Verstappen to close right up on his tail before the restart in the closing stages of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

CRYSTAL BALL FOR 2022

Hamilton and Verstappen come out slugging right from the start of the new season as the Briton looks to prove that he was denied a world title through injustice. Piastri dazzles in testing for Alpine and gets a mid-season call up to fill in as an F1 driver after a team sacks one of its regulars. Ricciardo gets to grips with the McLaren and is regularly running near the front of the grid. MotoGP proves, once again, to be the most exciting form of motor sport with multiple passing and thrills and spills.



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