Love it or hate it, the black stuff that attaches the car to the ground has always been the point of debate ever since Pirelli became the sole F1 tyre manufacturer. Ever since Pirelli joined the sport, it has evoked a varied range of emotions - it has gone from being credited for turning the sport into a spectacle to being blamed for turning the sport into a farce.
But now, rumors are circulating of new manufacturers showing interest in supplying tyres in Formula One, and Pirelli's only condition of sticking to the sport is to not get involved in tyre wars with other manufacturers. So it's not inconceivable that Pirelli could bid farewell to Formula One and be replaced by some other manufacturer.
Whenever it does end, it can't be denied that the Pirelli era, which started in 2011, has produced some amazing races. Even though most of them have been dominated first by Red Bull and then by Mercedes, there have been quite a few races when something amazing was witnessed.
A wet race, a huge crash, safety car, extenuating circumstances - all of them somewhere or the other contributed to producing a spectacle that was worth remembering. It would be remiss to forget that this era witnessed some great drives by Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and many others on the grid.
Drives like the one by Verstappen in the rain in Brazil, or Alonso's win in the rain in Malaysia, Hamilton's win from the back of the grid in Germany this year or Vettel's impressive run of nine wins in 2013 - there have been many races worth talking about and are worth remembering. But none of these races made the cut for this list; here are the ones that did:
#5 Canadian Grand Prix 2011
This race had everything you could ask for - rain, safety car, collision, red flags, teammates colliding, the winner taking the win on the last lap of the race. Yes, all of it happened.
After the race, Jenson Button had only thing to say and for sure he personified it that day - "Never give up".
Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong for Button on that day. He crashed into his teammate, then got a penalty for speeding during safety car, which dropped him to the back. Then he collided with Alonso and suffered a puncture, which led to another visit to the pits and again dropped him down to last.
What didn't go wrong for Button was his motivation and speed as he climbed his way up the field and coerced an error from Vettel on the very last lap which handed him the win.
#4 European Grand Prix 2012 (Valencia)
These were the facts of the race:
- Alonso started the race in P11
- Ever since its inception, Valencia had been criticized for the lack of overtaking during races
- Ferrari had a horrible car at that juncture which was in no way close to being the fastest car on the grid
- Red Bull, Lotus, Williams and Mclaren had all shown better pace than Ferrari during the weekend
- When the chequered flag fell, it was Alonso who was leading the race from Kimi Raikkonen.
It was a race in which no one on the grid would've given Alonso a chance to even score a podium, let alone win the race. But an amazing start and his ability to overtake almost everybody at the restart meant Alonso was able to achieve an almost impossible result - the magnitude of which even brought the Samurai to tears.
#3 Brazilian GP 2012
The reaction said it all. And could you blame him? This guy put in his everything in a less-than-perfect car and dragged it to the last race of the season with a chance to win a well-deserved championship. And it seemed like victory was his when on the very first lap Vettel was punted and had his car damaged.
A car damaged and currently at the back of the field, surely that should have meant curtains for the German, right? But the pesky Red Bull driver kept clawing back again and again and brought himself back into contention for the championship.
All this drama was just supplementing the fight for a race victory between the two Mclaren drivers and a possible star of the future in Nico Hulkenberg. In the end, the battle which involved these five drivers culminated with only Button and Vettel coming out happy.
Button won the race as Hamilton and Hulkenberg collided, and Vettel won the championship. Hamilton would leave from his last race with McLaren without a win, while Alonso would lose yet another championship to Vettel. Hulkenberg to this day waits for his podium in F1.
#2 Hungarian GP 2014
Your first season in the senior team with a teammate who is a four-time champion, and you're driving a car that is on average a second per lap slower than the fastest car. But still, you end up winning by overtaking two of the greatest drivers of this generation in Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.
Ricciardo had every reason to smile and every reason to rejoice when he won the race. The 2014 season, because of the massive advantage that Mercedes enjoyed, was nothing less than a drubbing for the rest of the grid day in day.
But with the rain clouds opening and acting as a perfect equalizer, the pecking order was thrown out of the window. The race became a complete joy to watch as in the latter stages Alonso, on worn out tyres, tried to defend the race lead from Hamilton and Ricciardo.
In the end, it was Ricciardo who jumped them both with bold moves to take the win.
#1 Azerbaijan GP 2017
A race which could have been won by Hamilton, Vettel, Massa, Bottas and Raikkonen was eventually won by the Honeybadger.
Bottas smashed into Raikkonen, took him out, and himself went to the back of the grid only to finish second just before the finish line. Vettel smacked his car into Hamilton to get a stop-go penalty while Hamilton got a loose headrest which sent both out of contention.
Massa being the virtual leader among the melee faced a damaged suspension which helped Ricciardo pull off a deciding move on both the Williams of Stroll and Massa, which ultimately sealed the win for him.
Sounds too crazy to be true? Well, all of this did happen, and Ricciardo was able to redeem himself for a bad Saturday by pulling off one of the best overtakes of the whole season and winning the race.