Half Term Report – F1 2012

August 4, 2012 4:00 pm

With the customary summer break upon us the time is ripe to see exactly who stands where in the 2012 Formula One season. A record-breaking seven winners in the first seven races, a resurgent Ferrari and muted Sebastian Vettel, plus the wildly differing fortunes of British drivers Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton all add spice to the mix as we judge the top ten of the season so far…

A picture of composure – Fernando Alonso, the World Championship leader

1.FERNANDO ALONSO

Are there any superlatives that haven’t been used to describe this man? Entering the year with a catastrophically disappointing Ferrari, Alonso refused to be spooked and kept his head down for some outstanding results given the inefficiency of his machinery. An opportunistic win in Malaysia boosted him to the front of the championship running and he has never looked back, with points finishes in every race so far. After the upgrades, Ferrari added to the F2012 car at the Spanish GP in May. Alonso seized the opening it gave him and took several podium finishes, although a win in the Canadian Grand Prix escaped him due to a botched strategy call by his team. Refusing to lay down, Alonso bounced back with a stunning drive to victory in Valencia before taking poles at Silverstone and Hockenheim, winning the German Grand Prix despite relentless pressure from Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel. Topping the championship with nine races remaining it is not a foregone conclusion, but rest assured the Spanish matador will give 100% whatever the situation.

 

2.LEWIS HAMILTON

Despite seemingly being blown away by team-mate Button in Australia, Hamilton bounced back to claim a trio of podium finishes in the opening races of the season and take the championship lead. Pole positions are always within Hamilton’s grasp and they have not been short in coming, with three claimed so far this year. A victory in Canada was no surprise given Lewis’ often stunning form at the circuit in Montreal, but wins have also escaped him in Australia, Malaysia and Spain due to various circumstances. Nevertheless, a strong weekend in Hungary last time out propelled him back into the title fight and leaves the Brit confident Mclaren have solved the woes that troubled their early season. A second title could beckon come December should he keep this pace up.

 

3.ROMAIN GROSJEAN

A Formula One outcast after his torrid debut season in 2009, Grosjean has reinvented himself in the most spectacular fashion. From a perennial under-achiever the Franco-Swiss driver has established his credentials as a champion of the future with several notable performances. A 3rd in Bahrain has been followed by further podiums in Canada (2nd) and Hungary (3rd). Grosjean also took his maiden front-row start in Hungary just behind eventual winner Lewis Hamilton. Although there have been bad weekends (notably in Monaco and Germany) his speed has never been in doubt and a potential victory in Valencia was only snatched from his grasp by a car failure. Not a contender for the 2012 World Championship, but a serious bet for the future.

Mark Webber is out to avenge his 2010 title defeat

 

4.KIMI RAIKKONEN

Neither of the Lotus drivers have won a race yet find themselves ahead of the Red Bull duo by virtue of their circumstances. Raikkonen has returned to F1 after a two year absence racing rally cars, and the difficulty of such a comeback cannot be underestimated as seen in the struggles of Michael Schumacher! Although arguably having it easier (Raikkonen only missed two seasons and kept his hand in by racing rally cars while Schumacher missed four seasons and didn’t look after his fitness) it is still impressive that Raikkonen is a genuine contender for the title with five podiums and only one finish outside the points in China. He has been criticised for lacking motivation and maybe should have won in Bahrain, Spain and Hungary, but regardless Raikkonen is sitting pretty as F1 heads into the second half of the season. A win is only a matter of time.

 

5.MARK WEBBER

Webber only sits ahead of team-mate Vettel in our rankings thanks to his extra victory. While the run of 4th places in the opening races bolstered his points tally and showed the consistency of the tough Aussie, a series of mediocre weekends in Spain, Germany and Hungary have hurt him in the points deficit to championship leader Alonso. When he did win, he did it in style, taking his second victories in Monaco and Britain. They remain Webber’s only podiums of the season though, and he will have to rediscover that race-winning form if he is to avoid a repeat of his 2010 title heartbreak.

 

Pastor Maldonado has been wild – he did win in Spain though

6.SEBASTIAN VETTEL

After a dominant 2011, Vettel is finding things a lot harder in 2012. He seemed to have overcome the impetuousness that dogged his 2010 season earlier in the year and took a well-judged victory in Bahrain. But a retirement while leading in Valencia seems to have affected the German somewhat, and errors and frustration have bubbled to the surface again in recent races. 3rd at Silverstone was lacklustre by his standards as team-mate Webber won, and an illegal overtake on Button in Germany reeked of desperation, eventually costing him points as the resulting penalty dropped him from 2nd to 5th. Branding Lewis Hamilton an ‘idiot’ and criticising his team after the Hungarian Grand Prix may seem like a return to the ‘wild kid’ days of 2010, and the German has to calm down if he is to have a chance of claiming his third straight title.

 

7.JENSON BUTTON

A difficult decision to make given Button’s highly-contradictory season. He started well enough with a repeat of his impressive 2011 form, winning in Australia and beating Vettel and Hamilton into the bargain. A potential win escaped him in Malaysia after a clash with Narain Karthikeyan, and a third win was lost in China thanks to a pitstop glitch. After then however Button slumped to new lows, a succession of dire performances giving him just 4 points as his rivals raced ahead. A strong weekend in Germany netted him 2nd place and his first podium appearance since April, but a flawed Mclaren team strategy in Hungary cost him another podium position and he has realistically fallen out of championship contention. It may not be his fault, but Button is quickly running out of time to add a second crown to his F1 CV.

 

Only Alonso stood between Sergio Perez and victory in the Malaysian GP

8.SERGIO PEREZ

Often just an also-ran, Perez has nonetheless shown he is capable of more with a superb performance in the rain in Malaysia that netted him 2nd behind Fernando Alonso. A Ferrari-mentored driver, Perez claimed another podium in Canada with 3rd to further highlight his credentials. Surely a bet for a Ferrari seat in the future, but with only two seasons of F1 behind him his experience may not yet be sufficient to replace Felipe Massa at the Scuderia in 2013.

 

9.PASTOR MALDONADO

A controversial choice? Silly accidents in Australia, Monaco, Valencia and Britain have seriously cost the Venezuelan and may help to end his F1 career come the end of the season, but one thing he does not lack is speed. Often qualifying inside the top ten Maldonado has demonstrated he is one of the fastest men in the sport, and his season of wild behaviour was offset by a remarkable and historic victory in Spain. Qualifying speed, race pace, tyre management and racecraft were all exhibited as he executed a perfect strategical race to beat Fernando Alonso in a straight fight. He would have many more points if he was a little less haywire however. Once nicknamed a ‘rock-ape’ in his junior days thanks to his driving, it seems the description has not yet outlived its welcome.

 

Charles Pic is an unknown quantity

10.CHARLES PIC

Who? A tossup between Michael Schumacher and the young French driver for the final place in our rankings fell in favour of the younger man. Driving for Marussia he has gone unnoticed and never finished higher than 15th. His ranking here owes itself to his position relative to his team-mate Timo Glock. With three podiums to his name Glock is not a driver to be trifled with, yet Pic has drawn level with the former Toyota man and even outqualified and outraced him at Hockenheim and the Hungaroring. He may not score any points this year, but for a pay-driver Pic has shown real promise.

 

WHAT OF THE OTHERS?

 

Nico Rosberg is the only race winner not to appear in the top ten rankings. His race in China was superb and was backed up by a quality drive to 2nd in Monaco, but he has otherwise been largely anonymous. Team-mate Michael Schumacher has suffered serious bad luck thanks to a range of mechanical woes, but a 3rd in Valencia went some way to showing his improvement since his 2012 comeback. An embarrassingly-bad weekend in Hungary however cost him a place in our top ten ranking. Kamui Kobayashi claimed a career best 4th in Germany but the progress of his team-mate Perez has thrown the Japanese’ career into doubt. Nothing short of a debut podium will re-light his fading star. Bruno Senna, the Williams driver and nephew of the late great Ayrton has been largely outpaced by Pastor Maldonado and has yet to show he deserves a second season at the Didcot-based team, but some strong results have shown he is not devoid of talent.

 

Formula One returns to our screens in September with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, 1-2-3 September 2012.

Coverage available on BBC One and SkyF1 HD, with radio coverage via BBC Radio 5Live.

 

Anthony French

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags:
%d bloggers like this: