champions - five of them race winners in 2012.
SCHUMACHER AND STONER LEAVE
There were few gasps of surprise when seven times world champion Michael Schumacher, three years into an unimpressive comeback with Mercedes and six years on from his last win with Ferrari, decided to call it a day for the second time at the age of 43.
There were rather more when 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton cut the umbilical cord with super-successful McLaren and signed for Mercedes, whose otherwise bleak year was illuminated only by their first win as a works team since 1955.
That bombshell was comparable to the shock in MotoGP when Australian Casey Stoner announced in May that he was calling it a day at the age of 26 because he had fallen out of love with the sport.
Spain's Jorge Lorenzo won that title with Yamaha, the second of his career.
Hamilton leaving McLaren for a far less successful team would have been dismissed by many at the end of 2011, and they might have scoffed also at the idea of Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado winning the Spanish Grand Prix for Williams - whose chairman Adam Parr had resigned only weeks after being lined up as founder Frank Williams' heir apparent.
How many would have expected Mercedes to dominate the Chinese Grand Prix or for Jenson Button, winning the first and last races of the year, to end up scoring more points than Hamilton over their three year McLaren partnership? But he did.
There would have been few bets on Ferrari academy youngster Sergio Perez ending the season, after the Mexican had celebrated three podium finishes for mid-table Sauber, with a McLaren contract in his pocket.
The United States returned to the calendar in Austin, the Texan capital that prides itself on being weird and showed it by taking foreign Formula One to its heart in a country more enamoured of NASCAR and oval racing.
Some locals were doubtless more interested in NASCAR's final weekend at Homestead, which clashed with the Austin race, that saw Brad Keselowski winning his first Sprint Cup title with Dodge and denying Jimmie Johnson a sixth championship.
American motorsports fans also had an emotional triple winner to acclaim when Scotland's Dario Franchitti triumphed in the Indy 500, a year on from his late friend Dan Wheldon.
Bahrain defied international condemnation and put on a race that many had expected to be cancelled due to civil unrest and violent anti-government protests.