Allow me to give a top ten:
For me the greatest season ever was 1976. Maybe it didn't have quite as many classic races as some other seasons but the whole Hunt vs Lauda championship battle was by far the greatest in history, the story behind it was simply wonderful and the film 'Rush' presents this very well. There were other highlights such as the six-wheeled Tyrrell, but really it is the story of Niki Lauda and James Hunt and the thrilling conclusion at the Japanese Grand Prix that makes it the best season of all time.
But it was nearly beaten in 2021, because really the two things that are required for a classic season are a great title battle and lots of exciting races, and 2021 had both of those in abundance. The two best drivers on the grid slugging it out, and so many classics including battles between the two of them in Bahrain, USA, Brazil etc, and other drivers getting involved in the thrillers of Hungary, Silverstone and Russia, while there was also some exciting controversy (Silverstone, Spa, Monza). Despite the abominations of the sprint races and DRS, and the disgusting behaviour of fans on social media, I would have awarded this the title of greatest season ever if it weren't for the fact that Michael Masi totally lost the plot from around Brazil onwards, and the final lap was such a farce that it took away from the entire championship. So despite being a fantastic season up to that point, 2021 only gets second place.
Next I would have 1981, arguably the first season of the modern era of Formula 1 as that is when it became a more defined thing. Again, you had the entertaining title battle between Nelson Piquet and Carlos Reutemann, although this time they weren't the strongest drivers on the grid. That accolade instead fell to Alan Jones with a brilliant season deserving of the championship, while Alain Prost was also outstanding and Gilles Villeneuve continued to be the most exciting driver on the grid and put in one of the greatest race performances of all time in the Spanish Grand Prix, holding off faster cars for the entire race, while his Monaco qualifying lap was also one of the best ever. In general all the races were extremely watchable, but the FISA/FOCA wars were going on.
In fourth place would be 1958, a season totally dominated by Stirling Moss yet somehow he didn't win the championship! It started with his fantastic win in the amazing race in Buenos Aires in the Rob Walker Cooper, and over the rest of the season there were plenty more extremely entertaining races such as Spa-Francorchamps where the top three of Brooks, Hawthorn and Lewis-Evans all had problems on the final lap Silverstone and Nurburgring where Peter Collins and Tony Brooks respectively put in outstanding drives to victory. In Porto, Moss magnanimously stood up for his rival, Mike Hawthorn, and got him reinstated into second after an unfair disqualification. Then Monza was a brilliant race as Brooks hunted down and passed Hawthorn to keep Moss' title hopes alive, while in Morocco Moss dominated but Hawthorn passed his teammate for second and the title. The downside of the season is obviously the tragic deaths of Luigi Musso, Peter Collins and Stuart Lewis-Evans, otherwise it would be higher.
Next I would have 1986, the year that Alain Prost beat the scrapping faster Williams pair of Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet to win the title in a classic showdown in Adelaide, but all season there was the fascinating four-way scrap for supremacy between Prost, Mansell, Piquet and Senna, and most races were very entertaining.
Number six on my list is 2012, the year which included a brilliant championship battle between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso in the far less competitive Ferrari, who put in one of the all-time great season performances to keep in contention and the painfully unlucky Hamilton also starred. The problems with tyres also caused major shake-ups to the pecking order, with wins for Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen and most surprisingly, Pastor Maldonado. Romain Grosjean, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez also had races where they looked like winning. The Malaysian GP was one of the best races ever, as was the season finale in Interlagos. The downside is that it often looked a little artificial.
Also worthy of a mention is 1997, a great season amongst the most dire era in Formula 1 history, as Michael Schumacher was so far ahead of the rest and refuelling ruined the racing. It was a classic battle between a good driver in an excellent car and a fantastic driver in a good car, which ended in controversy but the right outcome as Villeneuve was victorious, while the season also included near-wins for Arrows with Damon Hill, and standout performances from Barrichello for Stewart, Trulli for Prost, Fisichella for Jordan. If the racing had been a bit better it could have been higher.
Similar to 1986, the four-way title-battle in 2010 was also an all-time classic between Vettel, Alonso, Webber and Hamilton with Button also competitive, and it was also the only season in the last 30-odd years not to have either of the two great evils of recent F1, DRS and refuelling. Perhaps there weren't an abundance of classic races but the season finale in Abu Dhabi was very tense and entertaining.
Ninth on the list comes 1961, a battle between two fairly average drivers in a dominant car, Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips in the sharknose Ferrari. However, the season was made brilliant by Stirling Moss' remarkable victories in Monaco and the Nurburgring in a clearly inferior Lotus, while the French GP at Reims was also a classic as Giancarlo Baghetti won on his (championship) debut on the final corner. The non-championship races also provided the first evidence that Jim Clark was going to be one of the greatest drivers ever. The downside of the season is, obviously, the title being decided by the death of von Trips in Monza.
And completing the list is 1971, a season dominated by Jackie Stewart because of relatively little opposition rather than because he had a dominant car, making it an impressive season performance, while there were also lots of classic races such as the Jacky Ickx vs Pedro Rodriguez battle in the wet race in Zandvoort and the crazy slipstreamer of Monza, won by Peter Gethin. Ronnie Peterson also had a great season in the March.
I will also mention the worst season of all time, 1994. The season started with the introduction of refuelling, and then Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger were both killed in Imola during an era when this was no longer commonplace at all, while there were plenty of other serious accidents. Then the season contained the most undeserving championship victory in Formula 1 history as Benetton and Michael Schumacher cheated in so many ways, most seriously the illegal launch control, but also removing the safety filter in the refuelling rig, excessively wearing down the plank to get more downforce. The FIA couldn't prove their crimes so settled for over-punishing Schumacher for minor incidents all season, but it wasn't enough as finally Schumacher took out Damon Hill deliberately in the Adelaide finale to be champion. An absolute train-wreck of a season from start to finish.
Edited by F1Frog, 03 February 2023 - 18:46.