Motorsport review 2018: from Formula 1 to Formula E

We look back at the championship winners across the world of motorsport in 2018

Experince triumphed over youth in many categories of racing in 2018, with Lewis Hamilton taking his fifth F1 title for Mercedes, Sebastien Ogier securing his sixth World Rally Championship in a row and series stalwarts like Gabriele Tarquini (World Touring Cars), Gary Paffett (DTM) and Colin Turkington (BTCC) also lifting silverware.

Elsewhere, Fernando Alonso is now two-thirds of the way to his goal of the ‘Triple Crown’, having ticked off Le Mans 24 Hours victory with Toyota. And having taken what may become a permanent sabbatical from F1, he’ll return to the Indy 500 in 2019. Here, we take a look at the champion drivers in all of the major international racing series of the season just finished.

Scroll down to read about the highlights of a packed 2017 motorsport calendar...

Formula One

Hamilton matches Fangio’s five titles

Although things looked quite close between Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in the earlier part of the 2018 F1 season, a series of mistakes from the German and his team, combined with Hamilton driving as well as he ever has, saw the Briton triumph in Mexico with two races to spare.

Victory means the 33-year-old is now level with Juan Manuel Fangio on five world championship titles, behind only Michael Schumacher’s seven in the record books. Hamilton himself rated his 2018 performance as his best, saying: “When I won last year, I asked how can I improve? I don’t know if it comes with age, but I’m sure experience helps and I feel I’ve performed my best this year.”

Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas had a demoralising, winless season, while alongside Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed a late-career resurgence, taking victory at October’s US Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen had another strong season, picking up two wins on his way to fourth in the standings, while Renault was ‘best of the rest’, but still a long way behind the dominant top three teams.

Formula E

Vergne victorious for Techeetah

This was the final year of Formula E’s first-generation car, which has raced for four seasons, but continued to deliver plenty of action across the 2017-18 events.

No single driver dominated this season, but the eventual champion Jean-Eric Vergne (Techeetah) was the only driver to take three race victories, with DS Virgin’s Sam Bird, Mahindra’s Felix Rosenqvist and Abt pairing Lucas di Grassi and Daniel Abt each securing two wins over the course of the year.

Jaguar I-Pace eTrophy driven

Formula E’s non-traditional winter-into-summer calendar means that the electric series’ fifth season, featuring an all-new second-generation car, gets under way this weekend on the streets of Ad Diriyah, a district of the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh.

IndyCar

Power wins Indy 500 as Dixon takes driver’s title

Four different winners from the first five races showed just how competitive the IndyCar Series was, but despite not topping the podium until the seventh round in Detroit, it was experienced New Zealander Scott Dixon who took the title – his fifth in the series. Dixon won twice more, in Texas and Toronto, but it was consistent points-scoring and podium finishes that laid the foundation for his championship campaign, seeing off young American Alexander Rossi and Australian Indy 500 winner Will Power in the final standings.

Other race winners during the year were American Josef Newgarden and Ryan Hunter-Reay, French ex-F1 driver Sebastien Bourdais (who took the season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida), Canadian James Hinchliffe and last year’s Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato, who won the penultimate round of the season in Portland, Oregon. 

Elsewhere, there was a stark reminder of the risks of open-wheel oval racing at the Pocono, Pennsylvania, round in August, when the Canadian ex-DTM racer Robert Wickens suffered severe spinal injuries in a crash on lap six of the race, leaving him paralysed from the chest down. Wickens has embarked on a program of rehabilitation and hopes to eventually recover the use of his legs, but he faces a long road to recovery.

FIA World Touring Cars

Veteran Tarquini wins in Hyundai

A new era for global top-level touring-car racing began in 2018, with the expensive TC1 manufacturer-backed cars replaced by the more affordable TCR machinery that has become the default option for national touring-car series around the world.

There was a familiar name at the top of the standings come the end of the season, however, with 56-year-old Italian Gabriele Tarquini (who won the British Touring Car Championship with Alfa Romeo way back in 1994) proving age is no barrier to successin racing, especially of the tin-top variety. 

His fellow veteran, Frenchman Yvan Muller (a comparatively sprightly 49), was runner-up in the standings. Both were driving Hyundai i30 TCRs – Tarquini for Italian squad BRC Racing and Muller with his own M Racing YMR outfit.

A host of other drivers and teams took wins during the course of the season, however, making it a very competitive first year for the TCR formula at world championship level.

DTM

Paffett and Mercedes bow out in style

Gary Paffett gave Mercedes a perfect farewell season in the DTM, winning the title to cap his 15 years of racing in the championship. Mercedes didn’t ease off the throttle for its final campaign, winning nine of the first 12 races as BMW and particularly Audi struggled. 

An intra-team battle between Paffett and Scot Paul di Resta seemed in prospect, but a late surge from Audi’s 2017 champion Rene Rast saw him take six wins in a row and move into title contention ahead of the finale. It wasn’t quite enough, though, with Paffett eventually scoring 255 points to Rast’s 251.

Elsewhere, each of the three manufacturers was allowed one ‘wild card’ entry during the season. Audi gave Mattias Ekstrom, who retired from full-time DTM competition at the end of 2017, a send-off race at Hockenheim in May.

BMW brought Alex Zanardi in at Misano in August, resulting in a memorable fifth-place finish for the double amputee, while six-time World Rally champion Sebastien Ogier raced for Mercedes at the Red Bull Ring in September.

Both Paffett and Mercedes are headed for Formula E in 2019, leaving the DTM down to just two manufacturers: BMW and Audi. A new Aston Martin entry from the Swiss organisation R Motorsport is in the works, but won’t appear until mid-2019 at the very earliest, with its first full-season campaign set for 2020.

BTCC

Turkington sees off young guns

Young talents Tom Ingram (Toyota), Ash Sutton (Subaru), Andrew Jordan (BMW), Josh Cook (Vauxhall) and Adam Morgan (Mercedes) all had strong seasons in the British Touring Car Championship this year, but in the end it was experienced Northern Irishman Colin Turkington who took the overall title, in his works BMW 125i

It’s the third BTCC crown of Turkington’s career– he previously won in BMWs in 2009 and 2014 – putting him equal second for number of title wins.

Le Mans & WEC

Alonso helps Toyota end losing streak

He came, he saw, he conquered. Fernando Alonso’s debut at the Le Mans 24 Hours with Toyota went exactly to plan, with the Spaniard winning the race overall in the #8 car shared with fellow F1 drivers Kazuki Nakajima and Sebastien Buemi.

The task was of course made easier by a lack of factory opposition for the pair of Toyotas, with the privateer LMP1 field – including Jenson Button at SMP Racing and former Porsche works drivers Andre Lotterer and Neel Jani at Rebellion – lapping several seconds slower than the Japanese cars all week.

The LMP2 and GTE Pro classes were closer, with Signatech Alpine winning the former thanks to the efforts of Nicolas Lapierre, Pierre Thiriet and Andre Negrao and the Porsche trio of Laurens Vanthoor, Kevin Estre and Michael Christensen winning GTE.

With the World Endurance Championship switching to an autumn-summer calendar, the current season continues in the new year, with visits to Sebring, Spa and a season finale back at Le Mans in June.

World Rally

Ogier makes it two in a row with M-Sport

Sebastien Ogier made it six World Rally Championship titles in a row in 2018, but it was a close-run and hard-fought season, with Ford’s Ogier, Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville and Toyota’s Ott Tanak all going into the season-ending Rally Australia with a chance of taking the crown. 

The trio locked out the top spot of the podium for almost the entire year, until Sebastien Loeb triumphed at the penultimate round in Spain – one of three rallies he contested in a part-time comeback. Tanak’s Toyota team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala was the only other victor of the year, winning that season finale in Australia in November.

There was turmoil at Citroen, with Kris Meeke being dropped in favour of Mads Ostberg part-way through the year, although the season ended on a high note for the French squad with news that Ogier would move there for 2019. Meeke, meanwhile, has secured a seat at Toyota, replacing Esapekka Lappi, who’s also Citroen-bound. 

World Rallycross

Perfect Kristoffersson dominant again 

It seemed unlikely that Johan Kristoffersson could do better than winning seven of 12 rounds of the 2017 World Rallycross Championship, but he did in 2018, winning 11 out of 12 in crushingly dominant fashion. 

Only Peugeot’s Sebastien Loeb managed to break the stranglehold, taking victory at the Belgian round where Kristoffersson finished fifth. Audi’s Mattias Ekstrom was a distant second in the final points.

Off track, World RX had a tough year, with both Audi and Peugeot ending their works support and plans to electrify the series pushed back a year from 2020 to 2021, subject to three brands signing up. 

What was your favourite motorsport moment of 2018? Tell us in the comments below...

Review of the Year 2018

• Review of the Year 2018: index• The BIG car new highlights of 2018• The big car quiz of the year 2018• Head-to-head: the best car group tests of 2018• A year in pictures: our best car photos of 2018• Why our cars are stars: best long-term tests of 2018• Inside the world of cars: best motoring features of 2018• Best car videos 2018: watch our video highlights• Motorsport review 2018: from Formula 1 to Formula E • Amazing moments: our years in cars 2018

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