With the cooler temperatures and the peak of football season comes the end of another year of racing. And, while it hasn?t been mentioned much, the end of the 2009 racing season also brings about the end of the first decade of the 2000s. This decade has brought the seemingly obligatory changes that have occurred throughout racing history. The era was highlighted by the attempt by many major racing series to penetrate new markets, with mixed results. Longtime fans waxed poetic about the ?good old days? seemingly on a daily basis (not that they didn?t have a point, mind you). The era of expanding teams, budgets, and facilities came to a grinding halt at the end of the decade; much as Altamont ended the era of free love, the economic meltdown ended the era of free spending.
In looking at the trends in regards to drivers, one world comes to mind: youth. Throughout the world of racing, age records were being broken left and right. F1, for instance, saw Jenson Button become the youngest pointer scorer at the beginning of the decade. Fernando Alonso soon became the youngest driver to win a pole, set fast lap, finish on the podium, win a race, and win a World Drivers? Championship. By the end of the decade, all of those superlatives belonged to a whole new set of drivers.
Though fresh-faced newcomers often stole the headlines, grizzly veterans still produced the results. Rubens Barrichello became the most experienced driver in Formula One history, and will take his place on the grid for the next decade. Mark Martin flirted with retirement, yet has had one of his best seasons in terms of winning in 2009, and doesn?t plan to let up soon.
I hope to produce several blogs that will list the ?Drivers of the Decade? in various racing series. The rankings will be based on not only championships, wins, and finishes, but also how they have performed in different situations, and how consistent they have been over the decade. It will be required for a driver to have a significant portion of their career take place in this decade (and by that, I mean that a driver who debuted in 2007 might appear on a list, but one who retired in 2001 probably will not).
I will probably start with the top American open-wheel drivers of the decade, probably sometime early next week.
Opinions expressed in blogs are those of the individual bloggers and do not necessarily represent the views of racing-reference.info.