The holidays are here and that means it’s time for the annual “gifts we hope racing drivers got this year” list. With no further ado, here goes in alphabetical order:
Fernando Alonso– A competitive car
There is no doubt that Fernando Alonso proved this year that he is the best driver in the world, even if he didn’t win the Formula One world championship. After Ferrari’s designers saddled the double world champion with a terrible car that was 1.5 seconds off the pace at the start the season, Alonso amazingly made it a winner in the year’s second race. The 31-year-old won twice more in a car that likely should have been sixth at best on most days. And he took the drivers’ title to the last race and almost pulled off the impossible, coming up just four points shy of being champion. It was the third consecutive year that Ferrari has missed the mark with its car since Alonso joined the squad in 2010. Perhaps the Scuderia’s designers can finally get things right in 2013?
Ron Fellows – A NASCAR truck win
At 53, Ron Fellows shows no sign that he’s slowing down. In fact, many guys half his age would love to be as quick in a race car. But after becoming a co-owner of the old Mosport International Raceway (now renamed Canadian Tire Motorsport Park or CTMP) two years ago, Fellows is slowly slipping out of his racing overalls and into a racetrack proprietor suit. While Fellows has not announced that he will race in his track’s inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series next year, it would be a safe bet to think he will be in the field. With his history at CTMP, it would be nice for Fellows to celebrate the track’s first NASCAR truck race with his third career win in that series.
Lewis Hamilton – The ability to say: “I told you so.”
Almost everyone in the F1 paddock questioned Lewis Hamilton’s decision to move from perennial front-runner McLaren to the struggling Mercedes team next year. Although the 2008 world champion is one of the quickest guys on the starting grid, he will likely have his hands full trying to prove it in 2013. Mercedes has not impressed in the three years back since its return to F1 and there’s little optimism that will improve in 2013. Hamilton, 27, is not known as the greatest technical mind when it comes to developing a car, so it may be a doubly tough season. But let’s hope Mercedes proves the naysayers wrong and Hamilton will have the right tools to fight for wins.
James Hinchcliffe – First IndyCar win
The likeable Canadian’s sophomore year started strongly for the 26-year-old who looked to be an early championship contender. Hinchcliffe scored two podiums and seven top-6 finishes in the first eight races in 2012 and was as high as third overall in the points. He also started on the front row in the Indianapolis 500 after missing the pole by 0.0023 seconds over four timed laps in qualifying at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway – or about 23.2867 centimetres difference over a distance of 16 kilometres. Unfortunately, Hinchcliffe lost momentum in the second half where he only managed one top-6 finish in the last seven races and faded to eighth overall by the end of the year. The good news is that one top-six was a fifth at Mid-Ohio where he led several laps and didn’t look at all out of place at the front of the IndyCar field. It’s time for him to make the climb to the top step of the podium.
Brad Keselowski – An honest shot at defending his title
There’s no doubt that NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski’s star is rising fast. The Penske driver had a breakthrough year in 2011, making the Chase for the Cup and impressing most with his maturity and speed. He put it all together in 2012, winning the Sprint Cup title in only his third full season. Although many feel it’s only a matter of time before he wins title No. 2, putting consecutive Sprint Cup crowns in his pocket may be a tall order with his Penske leaving Dodge and joining Ford, His outfit goes from being only Dodge team in NASCAR that got all the top equipment and one-on-one attention from the manufacturer to a customer engine team that will have to take what it gets. It won’t be an impossible task for the talented 28-year-old, but the new relationship certainly doesn’t make a second straight title any easier.
Will Power – An IndyCar title
It seems clear that the expression “always a bridesmaid and never a bride” must have been coined with Will Power in mind. For whatever reason, the racing gods simply will not allow the 31-year-old Australian to take home the IndyCar crown. This year marked the third straight season that he’s been relegated to runner-up status after being quick out of the gate and looking to be the driver to beat. There’s no doubt Power has the talent to win the championship, he just needs a little bit of better luck to make it happen. It would be fitting for him walk away from the 2013 season finale after not watching the title slip through his fingers again.
Bruno Spengler – A race at home
Bruno Spengler became the first Canadian to win a major professional European racing championship since Jacques Villeneuve was the 1997 Formula One world champion, but just about nobody noticed. Winning the Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters title is no small feat, and perhaps people will sit up and take notice if his highly-competitive series with their lighting quick cars makes an appearance in Canada. DTM would be a great fit for the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, which is looking for another event after it announced NASCAR’s Nationwide Series would not be back in 2013. Although DTM won’t race in North America this year, when Spengler will driving with the champion’s No. 1 on his car, learning next year that he’ll given the chance to show his stuff in a 2014 race at home in Montreal would be a dream come true for the 2012 DTM titlist.
Robert Wickens – A top DTM seat
Like fellow Canadian Bruno Spengler did in 2005, Robert Wickens spent his first year in DTM learning the ropes. And also like Spengler, the 23-year-old showed himself to be a quick study. In 10 races, Wickens took three points finishes and ended the season tied with his much more experienced teammate, 13-time Formula One race winner David Coulthard. The performance should be enough to earn a spot with one of Mercedes’ frontline factory teams – especially with one of its top drivers, Jamie Green, leaving the powerful HWA outfit to join Audi next year. There’s no doubt that with a factory ride, Wickens would be a threat to win.
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