2012 Mid-Season Review

By on Thursday, August 2, 2012

With eleven of twenty races completed in 2012, we take a look back at how each driver has fared in one of the best seasons in Formula One history.

Sebastian Vettel has claimed just a sole win in Bahrain

Sebastian Vettel | 3rd, 122 points, 1 win – Bahrain

After his stunning 2011 season, Sebastian Vettel has been brought down to Earth a little bit. The loss of the exhaust blown diffuser has impacted Vettel’s driving style and his lack of confidence in the Red Bull RB8 was demonstrated by a couple of mistakes in Australia, as well as a visible hesitancy when turning into the corners. A return of one win in eleven is poor by his standards, but he is still firmly in the championship hunt. Nevertheless, a hint of impetuosity has crept back into his driving, and the first half of the season has been largely frustrating for the reigning world champion. It’s not that Vettel has under-performed; it’s just that unlike in 2011, the stars haven’t aligned for the German. For example, minor contact with Karthikeyan in Malaysia resulted in a puncture; he received a drive through penalty in Spain for ignoring yellow flags and a poor qualifying lap in Monaco have all cost him points. But there have also been team errors as well: saving tyres in qualifying has not necessarily been the correct decision, while the decision to try a one stop strategy in Canada was ultimately incorrect. A cruel alternator failure in Valencia robbed him of twenty-five points in a race that he had dominated. He has emerged from his now traditional mid-season slump with a forty-two point deficit to Fernando Alonso, while having suffered more than his fair share of misfortune. If he recovered a big deficit in 2010, there’s no reason why he still can’t claim a third title – although he could do with being more level-headed in certain racing situations; his cry of ‘do something’ to the team in Hungary wasn’t popular with fans and it will cause exasperation inside Red Bull.

Mark Webber won in Monaco and Britain, much like in 2010... Photo credit: Red Bull GEPA

Mark Webber | 2nd, 124 points, 2 wins – Monaco, Britain

The peculiar nature of the 2012 season is such that Mark Webber has only had two outstanding races, yet sits second in the championship. Excellent victories in Monaco and Britain have been the highlights of a season that on paper appears rather ordinary, but has actually been quite good. Four fourth places in the first four races resulted in a strong haul of points, although they were followed up with a dismal eleventh in Spain. One strong aspect of Webber’s season has been a greater understanding of the Pirelli tyres, as well as improved pace in qualifying compared to Vettel. Yet there will be an element of frustration at the inconsistency of his season, as well as not having established more of a buffer in the standings to Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, who have both lost significant points due to driver or team errors. He couldn’t finish the job in 2010, could he do it in 2012?

Jenson Button won the curtain raiser in Australia

Jenson Button | 7th, 76 points , 1 win – Australia

It all looked so promising for Button after the Australian Grand Prix, but for a few races he embarked on his worst run since the dark days with Honda in 2008. A clumsy clash with Narain Karthikeyan in Malaysia preceded a race in which he just had no pace for the bulk of the event. He struggled to break into the points in Spain but then had a dismal pair of races in Monaco and Canada, the latter being the nadir as he slid his way to sixteenth – a poor balance with the car was eating his rear tyres - while Lewis Hamilton eased to the win. He felt more comfortable with the car from Valencia, the results of which were only shown in Germany. He’s almost certainly out of the championship race, but with improved pace McLaren will want him to push on for the sake of Hamilton – and McLaren’s – title hunt.

Lewis Hamilton eventually claimed victory in Canada

Lewis Hamilton | 4th, 117 points, 2 wins – Canada, Hungary

After his own errors cost him a significant haul of points in 2011, it has been the turn of his McLaren team to handicap their driver through a series of calamitous mistakes, most prominently in the pits. There have been two stellar victories, but a run-through of points lost makes you realise that he should be very close to Fernando Alonso in the championship. A clutch problem in Australia saw him lose out to Jenson Button, a grid drop in China cost him a shot at victory, the disastrous pit stops in Bahrain left him eighth, the disqualification from a qualifying that he dominated in Spain, the clash with Pastor Maldonado in Valencia – for which, Pastor was penalised – and the puncture in Germany just show how much misfortune has struck Hamilton this season. Despite this, he has kept calm and shown a maturity not seen before. It’s still a big task, but sitting only forty-seven points behind Alonso despite all of the bad luck will give him some confidence, particularly with the improved MP4-27 that McLaren used in Germany and Hungary. Button’s poor season also means that the team should be supporting Hamilton as well, another bonus…

Fernando Alonso has been the best driver in 2012. Few would disagree.

Fernando Alonso | 1st, 164 points, 3 wins – Malaysia, Europe, Germany

What can you say about Fernando Alonso? Since the middle of 2010, he has been extraordinary and in 2012 he has yet to put a foot wrong in the races. He knew he had to enter the season in damage limitation mode as the F2012 was not a strong car, yet he still took a remarkable victory in Malaysia. Qualifying laps in Britain and Germany were stunning as he mastered the wet weather conditions; although a couple of times Ferrari’s strategy has been a little negative or conservative. For example, pitting early in Monaco cost him a shot at the win, while a one stop strategy in Canada failed to pay off. His relentless pursuit of championship points means he has a healthy forty point buffer, but he knows that this is not sufficient enough, despite his rivals taking points off of each other. Victory in Valencia will go down as one of the F1 greats, as will the emotion of his celebrations.

Felipe Massa has struggled in 2012. Photo credit: Ferrari S.p.A.

Felipe Massa | 14th, 25 points

While Alonso has been brilliant, Felipe Massa has had a disastrous season as he sits just fourteenth in the championship. On occasion, his pace has been close to Alonso’s; Monaco, Britain and Hungary is evidence of that. But against that positive aspect is a plethora of negativity. Several of his weekends have just been awful, while it took him until Bahrain to even register a point. It seems impossible to think of Ferrari retaining Massa for 2013 considering how his form is hindering the team in the constructor’s championship, but a lack of alternative options mean he may stay on for another season. It’s been possibly his worst season in Formula One when you consider the points Alonso has achieved and that’s a shame for a relentlessly positive person who came so close to the ultimate prize.

Michael Schumacher finally stood on the podium in Valencia. Photo credit: Mercedes AMG F1

Michael Schumacher | 12th, 29 points

Michael Schumacher’s driving has been the best at any time since his comeback even if this is not reflected in the championship. By setting the fastest time in Monaco he proved his worth, although his podium in Valencia owed much to good fortune rather than his own ability. Nevertheless, it was a slice of luck richly deserved when you take into account the races in which he has lost points. He retired in Australia, China, Monaco and Canada courtesy of mechanical issues while his own mistakes in Spain and Hungary proved costly. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, both Mercedes and Schumacher will question whether they want to stay with the other party. But, unlike in 2010 and 2011, the flashes of speed are there. More worryingly though, so is the inconsistency.

Nico Rosberg finally won a race in China

Nico Rosberg | 6th, 77 points, 1 win – China

Nico Rosberg has always been a Shanghai specialist so it came as little surprise that his first win was achieved in China. It was a success richly deserved and the qualifying lap that put him on pole was a fantastic effort as it was over half a second quicker than his nearest rival. He also put in a very good race in Monaco, from which it looked like a championship push was on the horizon. However, since the end of May the Mercedes has not shown the pace the team wished for and a series of problems means that Rosberg goes into the summer break with just two points to show from the last three races. His driving in Bahrain was aggressive and showed his new found confidence, but as with many in 2012, the inconsistency is what is hampering both him and the team. They’ve got the breakthrough win, but will Rosberg and Mercedes look back on 2012 positively if their development stagnates?

Kimi Raikkonen is desperate to claim a win. Photo credit: Lotus F1 Team

Kimi Raikkonen | 5th, 116 points

Quite astonishingly, Kimi Raikkonen has returned from his Formula One hiatus, failed to win a race and is in the hunt for the title in a competitive car. He took a couple of races to get back up to speed and his race rustiness was evident in Bahrain when he couldn’t quite get past Sebastian Vettel. His only real weakness has been his qualifying pace; compared to Romain Grosjean he has lacked those final few tenths in Q3 and this is having an impact on the early stages of races he could win. Now that he understands the concept of DRS, as well as Lotus getting to grips with tyres and strategy, there’s no reason why he can’t win a race. Maybe then we’ll see a smile?

Romain Grosjean has taken three podiums. Photo credit: Lotus F1 Team

Romain Grosjean | 8th, 76 points

To an extent, Romain Grosjean has answered his critics with his drives in Bahrain, Canada and Hungary. But despite all of his natural speed and improved race craft, there is still a clumsiness that follows him around, even if it isn’t entirely his fault. Retirements in Australia, Malaysia and Monaco were all accident related, while his weekend in Germany was messy throughout and provided a worrying flashback to 2009-spec Romain. His drive in Valencia was brilliant and he was denied a shot at victory after his alternator failed. Overall, it’s been a very good season from a driver who had a lot to prove. Oh, and he never stops smiling!

Paul di Resta finished sixth in Bahrain

Paul Di Resta | 13th, 27 points

Paul Di Resta made a good start to the season, claiming two points finishes in the opening two races. The highlight came in Bahrain where he managed his tyres expertly to finish in sixth place, but since then opportunities have been few and far between. The VJM05 has not proved to be step forwards that the team desired, leaving them battling Williams for seventh in the championship. If they can push on in the latter part of the season like they did in 2011; more points will be on offer. Di Resta’s problem is that his calmness inside the cockpit means he doesn’t receive a lot of coverage and can therefore be perceived as a bland driver, even when he harbours the pace that would satisfy a top team. The Nick Heidfeld syndrome, if you will.

Nico Hulkenberg managed fifth in Valencia

Nico Hulkenberg | 16th, 19 points

In a season where the top eight teams have been consistently inconsistent, there had to be one man who sits sixteenth in the Drivers’ championship and it happens to be Nico Hulkenberg. Before the season began, Hulkenberg told F1Zone.net that he wasn’t expecting to excel in the opening half of the season as he would be planning to focus on understanding the Pirelli tyres, KERS and DRS having missed the 2011 season. As the season has progressed, Hulkenberg’s confidence has increased, as has his pace compared to di Resta. Highlights so far have been a brilliant fifth place in Valencia, as well as mastering the wet conditions in qualifying at Hockenheim. His slipping back in the race to ninth owed more to the car than his own ability.

Kamui Kobayashi finished fourth in Germany. Photo credit: Sauber Motorsport AG

Kamui Kobayashi | 10th, 33 points

It has been a competent season for Kamui Kobayashi, although there is a fear that his growth has peaked. With Sergio Perez taking many of the plaudits this season, there has been a sense that Kobayashi has been overdriving to compensate for any shortcomings. His drive in Valencia was clumsy as he attempted to remove F1’s Brazilian contingent from the event. Nevertheless, there have been a few good drives in Spain and Germany, but has he done enough to demonstrate he can give more to F1, now that a key element of his driving – his overtaking prowess – has been dwarfed by the Pirelli tyres and DRS?

Sergio Perez finished second in Malaysia

Sergio Pérez| 9th, 47 points

The evidence was there for those that cared to look that Sergio Perez’s points haul in 2011 did not flatter his actual pace. So his haul of forty-seven points so far demonstrates his talents. His drive in Malaysia was brilliant, even if he failed to overtake Fernando Alonso. Perez’s ability at tyre management was rewarded with another podium in Montreal, but his season has been hindered by a couple of silly errors and mechanical faults. His Monaco weekend was blighted by a steering failure in qualifying, thought to be caused when Pastor Maldonado hit him in free practice. His British Grand Prix was also ruined by the Venezuelan, while Perez picked up a puncture at the start of the Spanish event after contact with Romain Grosjean. It’s been a very good season for Perez, but will it be enough to convince Ferrari that he deserves a promotion?

Daniel Ricciardo finished ninth in Australia

Daniel Ricciardo | 18th, 2 points

The top dogs at Red Bull are convinced that Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne are very good drivers, which must mean that the STR7 is not a machine in which they can adequately demonstrate their talent. Ricciardo took a dogged ninth place on home soil and qualified an excellent sixth in Bahrain a few races later. However, that was followed by one of the worst first laps of the season in which he tumbled down the order and eventually finished in fifteenth place. He hasn’t really put a foot wrong all season but he has usually been stuck firmly in Q2. Claiming points in the remaining nine races will be tough.

Jean-Eric Vergne managed eighth in the Malaysian monsoon

Jean-Éric Vergne| 17th, 4 points

Jean-Eric Vergne’s early season pace was encouraging as he only just missed scoring points on his debut but made sure he had a number next to his name with a measured drive a week later in Malaysia. Since then, like team mate Ricciardo, the car has not developed sufficiently to allow Vergne to demonstrate any meaningful pace, even if a strong run in Monaco was lost after an incorrect tyre call late in the race. Error in Valencia, where he cut across Heikki Kovalainen, was a prominent example of his inexperience but a more pressing matter is his qualifying pace. Vergne has been finding himself knocked out of Q1 or in the depths of Q2 on a far too frequent basis and needs to rectify this if he has any hopes of scoring more points before the end of the season.

A typical shot of 2012-spec Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado | 11th, 29 points, 1 win - Spain

For one race he was outstanding, for another he was solid and in the rest he has ranged from clumsy to calamitous. Firstly, the positive sides of his season: his win in Spain was the result of every little thing clicking together perfectly and it was a day that must not be taken away from him. His qualifying pace has also been very good. Conversely, his race craft has been fairly hopeless. There’s no doubt he has sheer speed, but he has been unable to utilise it effectively and he has thrown away several points finishes through frustrating errors. Already known for being a hot-headed driver, Pastor has only had three weekends in which he hasn’t hit something or someone: the last lap crash in Australia, the hap-hazard weekend in Monaco – a race which some thought he should have been excluded from following his FP3 contretemps with Perez. Clashes in Valencia and Silverstone further blighted his reputation and he has to avoid more incidents in the future. The worrying aspect is that he doesn’t seem to realise that there’s a problem with his driving.

Bruno Senna has been quietly improving

Bruno Senna | 15th, 24 points

In a season where his team mate has grabbed the positive and negative headlines, Bruno Senna has had an understated improvement. He bagged a handful of points in Malaysia and China, but the first part of the year was blighted by accidents that weren’t of his doing, most notably in Australia and Spain. However, he caused part of the problem by getting mired in the wrong end of the competitive midfield by failing to make Q2 until the Hungarian Grand Prix, a weekend that was by far his most accomplished in the sport. Four points finishes in the last six races demonstrates his improved consistency and while he doesn’t possess the blistering speed of Maldonado, he’s competent enough to understand race craft.

Heikki Kovalainen has been pushing once again. Photo credit: Caterham F1

Heikki Kovalainen | 19th, 0 points

Once again it’s been Heikki Kovalainen who has led the charge for Caterham, although he will be disappointed that the team has been unable to make the anticipated improvements. Kovalainen has frequently challenged for Q2 and even made that session in Bahrain. Vitaly Petrov has proved a far more competitive team mate than Jarno Trulli proved to be in 2011, but Kovalainen has still shown to be the strongest Caterham runner. Race in Monaco was his best showing as he defended doggedly against Jenson Button, although that may be as good as it gets in 2012. He’s occasionally challenged Toro Rosso – who themselves have slipped back compared to 2011 – and a big upgrade will be needed to grab that elusive maiden point.

Vitaly Petrov remains on the F1 grid. Photo credit: Caterham F1

Vitaly Petrov | 20th, 0 points

Vitaly Petrov’s strong financial package meant that Jarno Trulli was sent into F1 retirement after the first set of pre-season tests but the Russian has proved to be a more competitive match for Kovalainen than his predecessor. Nevertheless, Petrov has not been able to beat Kovalainen on a consistent basis and it’s difficult to see his F1 career blossoming from here, considering that for the past two seasons he has driven the fifth best car and he’s now battling for nineteenth place in qualifying. Best run came in Valencia where he ran agonisingly close to the points for much of the race but ended up thirteenth after contact with Daniel Ricciardo.

Pedro de La Rosa has had a very good season

Pedro de La Rosa | 24th, 0 points

Sometimes, the championship table does not show the story of the season at all. The history books show that Pedro de La Rosa is currently bottom of the championship, but he has had – everything considered – an outstanding season. He said his qualifying lap in Monaco was the best he’s ever done and the times prove his comments. He was only six tenths of a second slower than Vitaly Petrov and a full 1.2s faster than his team mate, Narain Karthikeyan. The Spaniard has been faster than Karthikeyan in all eleven qualifying sessions and has been leading HRT as far forwards as possible. Considering his equipment, he could not have done much better.

Narain Karthikeyan. Or 'Cucumber' to his friends...

Narain Karthikeyan | 23rd, 0 points

Narain Karthikeyan’s superior position in the championship compared to his team mate’s is entirely down to the fact that in Monaco, Pastor Maldonado used Car #22 as a braking device rather than Car #23, enabling Karthikeyan to come home in 15th place and last. Karthikeyan is a competent racing driver who, at times in 2011, was surprisingly strong against Vitantonio Liuzzi. In 2012 though, he has shown far less pace and the most memorable moment was probably when a shrewd tyre move by HRT in Malaysia saw him lie in tenth place during the red flag period. He was later hit by two world champions and then called a cucumber. Here’s to nine more races of bringing up the rear.

Timo Glock. Photo credit: Marussia F1 Team

Timo Glock | 21st, 0 points

For the last two seasons, we’ve often waxed lyrical about Timo Glock dragging the Virgin to places that it did not belong. In the rebranded Marussia, it may be that 2012 is the straw that broke the camel’s back. A couple of early season results mean that Marussia lie 11th in the championship for once, but they haven’t made the progress that Glock would have hoped for when he signed up at the end of 2009. The German has struggled with the MR-01 lately but the nadir came when he was struck by food poisoning in Valencia. He couldn’t take part in qualifying or the race and the team was reportedly dissatisfied at his insistence up to the final moment that he was fit.

Charles Pic has had a good season

Charles Pic | 22nd, 0 points

Virgin/Marussia’s third year of existence sees a third team-mate for Timo Glock and Charles Pic is easily the most capable. It’s difficult for any driver to shine in a backmarker car, but for those who care to study the times, Pic has been improving methodically and he’d fit in capably in a midfield team. Considering the lack of experience Pic began the season with, he has exceeded expectations and his Hungarian Grand Prix – in which he outqualified and lapped his own team mate – was superb. Vergne will get the ‘best rookie’ accolade, but Pic is a very good racing driver in the making.

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