Commentary

2007 season in review: Fines, flips, parties ... and a whole lotta racing

From McLaren's record $100 million fine to Lewis Hamilton's stunning rookie debut to Robert Kubica's terrifying crash in Canada, the 2007 F1 season offered a veritable smorgasbord of all things racing.

Updated: December 21, 2007, 11:05 AM ET
By Dan Knutson | Special to ESPN.com

To close out the year, here's a look at the best and the worst -- plus the good, the bad and the ugly -- from the 2007 Formula One season:

• Biggest news story -- The FIA fined McLaren $100 million for its involvement in the Ferrari spy scandal. The massive fine made headlines even in the non-racing world.

• Friends and enemies award -- While the McLaren and Ferrari teams feuded over the espionage scandal, McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari driver Felipe Massa remained good friends.

[+] EnlargeFernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton
AP Photo/Fernando Bustamante, fileFormer McLaren teammates Fernando Alonso, left, and Lewis Hamilton during happier times prior to the start of the 2007 season.

• Scariest moment -- Robert Kubica's terrifying accident in Canada. Thankfully, he suffered only minor injuries.

• Party of the year -- Red Bull's massive blowouts before the first race and the night after the final Grand Prix have become legendary.

• Highest-paid driver -- Kimi Raikkonen reportedly earns $45 million in straight salary.

• Best team -- Ferrari, which, unlike McLaren, kept internal politics between its drivers from boiling over into the public domain. And Ferrari won both the constructors' and drivers' championships.

• Best car -- It was mighty close between the Ferrari F2007 and the McLaren Mercedes MP4-22, but the Ferrari had a slight overall edge.

• Good guy award -- Remembering how he was snubbed by drivers when asking for autographs as a kid, Lewis Hamilton vowed not to be the same way when he made it to F1. Indeed, he often took time to wave to the crowd and sign autographs for the fans.

• Most improved team -- McLaren Mercedes, winless in 2006, had eight victories and was a championship contender.

• Most improved team II -- Compared to 2006, Williams gained a lot of points and respectability.

• Team that fell the farthest -- Honda had a victory and was fourth in the 2006 constructors' championship with 86 points. In 2007, it was eighth with only six points.

• Team that fell the farthest II -- Renault had eight wins and 201 points, plus the drivers' and constructors' championships in 2006. In 2007, the team had one podium finish, no wins and was third with 51 points.

• Dumbest team mistake -- The Ferrari crew forgot to put fuel in Felipe Massa's car during qualifying in Hungary.

• Worst news for U.S. F1 fans -- After eight years at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the U.S. Grand Prix won't be back in 2008.

• Worst news for U.S. F1 fans II -- Scott Speed, America's only F1 driver, left the series because of deteriorating relationships with Toro Rosso team bosses Franz Tost and Gerhard Berger.

• Best news for U.S. F1 fans -- The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is negotiating to get the U.S. Grand Prix back in 2009.

• Best driver -- Kimi Raikkonen was the best overall driver of the season, but Lewis Hamilton aces him out because of his amazing performances as a rookie against much more experienced drivers.

• Rookie of the year -- Lewis Hamilton. Among the many rookie records he set was one for nine straight podium finishes (including two wins) in the first nine races of his F1 career.

• Most welcome comeback -- After a year's absence, the Belgian Grand Prix at the daunting Spa-Francorchamps track was back on the schedule.

• Best race -- The European Grand Prix at Germany's Nürburgring circuit was a wild and crazy action-filled race because of a sudden rainstorm.

• Ostentatious motor home award -- Still called motor homes, many of the F1 hospitality units now are portable prefab buildings. McLaren's new "Brand Center" is three stories tall, 59 feet wide and 52.5 feet deep. It travels on 12 trucks.

• Worst paint scheme -- Renault's hodgepodge of mismatched colors.

• Most innovative paint scheme -- The Hondas carried an image of Earth to raise awareness of environmental issues.

• Best disguise -- Kimi Raikkonen and his buddies dressed up in gorilla suits to enter a speedboat race in Finland.

• Worst traffic -- The Turkish Grand Prix. Many a frustrating hour was spent on the bottlenecks leading onto the bridge across the Bosphorus Strait, which separates the city of Istanbul from the circuit.

• Best pass for the lead -- Fernando Alonso barged by Felipe Massa at the European Grand Prix. The on-track battle continued afterward with bickering in front of the TV cameras.

• Best race battle -- Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa fought it out for sixth place like a couple of dirt-track racers on the final lap of the Japanese Grand Prix.

• Craziest moment -- Thanks to having rain tires fitted when everybody else was on dry tires, rookie Markus Winkelhock grabbed the lead in his first (and probably only) Grand Prix start. Winkelhock led the world's best F1 drivers for six laps at the Nürburgring.

• Best strategy decision -- See craziest moment above.

• Worst strategy decision -- McLaren left Lewis Hamilton out on the track too long on worn-out rain tires in China. The rear tires were down to the cords when his team finally told him to pit. With so little grip, it didn't take much of a mistake for him to slide off into a gravel trap at the pit entrance.

• Best schedule change -- Friday's two 60-minute open practice sessions were expanded to 90 minutes each, giving the fans more on-track action.

• The moment the beginning of the end began -- After qualifying in Hungary, during which McLaren teammates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso upset each other with their nefarious tactics, a furious Alonso told team boss Ron Dennis that he had secret Ferrari data on his personal computer. That set in motion the chain of events that led to McLaren's $100 million fine and getting tossed out of the constructors' championship.

• Best fan deal -- While a number of tracks offered "pit walkabouts" to allow fans to see the F1 cars in the garages, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's full day of entertainment -- including autograph sessions and the chance to hear drivers interviewed on stage -- was by far the best.

• Never say never award -- Everybody left the French Grand Prix thinking they would never return to the unloved track because of its remote location and grubby hotels. Several months later, the race was reinstated for 2008.

• Costliest 30 seconds -- In the season finale in Brazil, Lewis Hamilton's gearbox went into neutral for 30 seconds, which dropped him from sixth to 18th. He finished seventh and lost the championship to Kimi Raikkonen, who took the title by a single point.

Dan Knutson covers Formula One for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.

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