We look at the Formula One season so far and rate the teams and drivers on their performances.
Just as most kids return to school later this week; so will the Formula 1 paddock following their Summer break. After five weeks of silence, F1 engines will roar again through the forests of Spa Francorchamps in Belgium. Thus far it’s been a season of unbelievable twists and turns (pardon the pun) as we’ve seen the Red Bull dominance of 2011 disappear and after 12 races it’s Fernando Alonso that leads the world driver’s championship.
The season has been unpredictable in many ways and produced some excellent racing too. So whether it was the astonishing run of seven different winners in the first seven races, five different teams winning a Grand Prix or the formerly dominant Sebastian Vettel continuing his tradition of not winning a Grand Prix in July. We’ll look at some of the shocks and surprises of the season so far and rate the teams and drivers on their performances.
Having started the season with a car more reminiscent of an asthmatic donkey than prancing horse. Ferrari have turned around their fortunes to have one of their cars leading the world championship. Although the team has improved massively since the start of the season Massa’s performances are evidence that the car is still lacking and it’s only the brilliance of Alonso that’s flattered the car. If you need evidence of this just remember Alonso has picked up 164 of the team’s 189 points this season.
Fernando Alonso has achieved what seemed almost impossible before the start of the season given the lack of pace of the Ferrari. His race-craft has been top notch especially on the first lap where he is yet to drop a position over the twelve races thus far. His three wins this season illustrate his ability to get the best of out a package that is lacking. He’s stolen victories with heroic performances in Valencia and Malaysia where the Ferrari had failed to even make Q3. With a 40 point cushion to defend, that first Ferrari world championship win for Alonso is possible after the heartbreak of 2010.
Felipe Massa really must wonder what’s going on. Having come so close to winning the world championship for Ferrari in 2008 he’s looked a shadow of his former self since his Hungaroring crash in 2009. With rumours that he could be on his way out of Ferrari, the second half of the season is huge for Massa. Supporting Alonso to the title might just give him a stay of execution for another year. With just 25 points to his team-mate’s 164 he must improve.
The team hit worst by this year’s ban on blown diffusers is without a doubt Red Bull. Due to the technical changes the team has not been as dominant as we’ve seen in recent seasons. However, they have chased technical innovations to the point that their cars are regularly being discussed as they seek loopholes to regain performance. Three wins and a 53 point lead in the constructors championship illustrate that they’ve still a car near the head of the pack.
The double world champion has not had his greatest season for Red Bull this year but as much of that is down to poor strategy decisions and car issues as it is down to the young German. His performance in Malaysia where he tripped over a back-marker was his low point. Even with all that said there’s been points where he’s out driven the car. An alternator failure cruelly robbed him of a possible 2nd victory in Valencia. He’s still capable of reeling in Alonso to claim that 3rd world championship in a row.
He actually leads Vettel in the championship at this point which will no doubt put a smile on Webber’s face. Two victories have left him undoubtedly involved in the championship battle but inconsistent races in Germany and Hungary may derail his hopes of finally claiming a world championship. He’ll need more perfomances like his tremendous Monaco victory if he’s to really get in the title fight.
It’s been a strange season for the Woking outfit. Having shown up at the start of the season with a car that looked like it could run away with the championship. They’ve been scarily inconsistent especially in the hands of Jenson Button. After struggling for performance the team look to have turned it around since the Spanish Grand Prix and are 2nd only to Red Bull in the constructors championship.
Lewis has put the nightmare of 2011 behind him and has at times looked like the man that shocked the F1 paddock in his debut year back in 2007. Stripped of a pole in Spain following a team error. Hamilton has seemed much more content with himself and driven cleverly. Being punted out by Maldonado on the last lap of the European Grand Prix in Valencia and a retirement in Germany have been his low points. Otherwise he would most definitely be closer to Alonso. A win in Hungary will no doubt have given him momentum going into the Summer break.
Despite having won the opening race of the year. This has been a horror year for Button. At times he’s looked completely at sea and not got the most out of a car that was solidly capable of top 6 finishes. Struggles with the tyres in the wet have also left him out of sorts in conditions that he usually excels in. A recent up surge in form will give him hope but he’s likely to be out of the championship.
The Midfield Battle
The shock of the season has to be the consistent pace of the Lotus Renault squad. Having had a disastrous 2011 following the loss of Robert Kubica before the season even started. The team has rebuilt steadily this year and has challenged for victories in the hands of Raikkonen and Grosjean. A win must surely be around the corner. They thoroughly deserve their 3rd place in the constructors championship.
The 2007 world champion has been one of the shocks of the year upon his return to F1. He’s gone from being delighted to be on the podium to wanting to claim that elusive first win since his return after five podium finishes. Took a few races to get up to speed but is definitely still a dark horse for the championship. Watch him fly at Spa. He’s got history there. Would not be shocked to see Kimi win it.
Grosjean has shown the speed that won him a GP2 championship and elevated him to the Renault team as understudy to Alonso in 2009. Three podiums have shown his pace is very real. However silly errors have slipped in here and there. His performance in Canada is one of the highlights of the season.
AMG Mercedes F1
They’ve come up with the innovation of the season in the Double DRS that looked to give them a qualifying edge at the start of the season. Having claimed a win with Nico Rosberg in China. They’ve fallen behind in the development race and been hit by unreliability issues on more than one occasion. It’s been largely downhill in recent races with a shocking performance in Hungary from the team.
There’s been times when Rosberg has looked phenomenal like in China where he finally claimed his first F1 win. Struggles with the tyres in the first two races of the season and again in Britain are his own low points. If the car was underneath him you get the feeling he could be a contender but not this season.
It’s difficult to guage Schumacher’s performance this season as he’s been struck down with reliability issues. His qualifying pace has improved massively and his race-craft is still there. A pole position in Monaco that was taken away due to a silly collision with Senna in the previous race in Barcelona will have frustrated Schumacher. Still, he’s claimed a first podium since returning to the championship in 2010. It’s a minor solace but Schumacher has finished in the points each time that he’s seen the chequered flag.
It’s been a resurgent year for Williams with their new Renault power plants following a few years of Cosworth power. Possibly the combination of the Renault engine and the large technical changes at the team in the last year has made Williams a serious outfit again. They provided the shock of the season with Pastor Maldonado’s victory in Spain. Bruno Senna has been a consistent points scorer and the team will look to build on this in the second half of the season.
Had it not been for the Barcelona heroics I would have graded Maldonado much lower. His speed is definitely there for all to see. His mental aspect of the game is not always in abundance. Witness his various collisions with Sergio Perez to his constant complaints regarding sanctions and you’ll see a driver much in need of the input of Alex Wurz who is the driver coach at Williams.
His qualifying speed has been seriously lacking but his race-craft has made up for it. That’s allowed him to actually score points on more occasions than his team-mate. His six points finishes see him just 5 points behind Maldonado despite the Venezuelan having a victory to his name. Senna must find more speed though if he’s to remain in F1.
Once again Sauber have produced a decent car with their meagre budget. It’s been a car worthy of threatening the points more often than not and in the hands of Sergio Perez has claimed two podiums this season. They really should have won in Malaysia but an error and a safety first approach ultimately cost them dear.
He’s been one of the drivers of the season. Two podiums, one of which was agonisingly close to a victory. Who knows if that error cost him his first Grand Prix victory or not. Linked with Ferrari for 2013. He most definitely has a bright future. His ability to manage his tyres has allowed him to use strategies that others thought not possible.
The Japanese driver has been outclassed by him inexperienced team-mate. There’s been flashes of his usual exciting style but he’s been largely disappointing with a car that appears to be capable of more. A fourth place finish in Germany is his own personal highlight from a season where he’s not delivered when compared to his team-mate.
Scuderia Toro Rosso
Having brought in one rookie and one driver with only a handful of races to his name. The team has struggled for form. Usually they’ve had one car knocked out in Q1 this season at each race. With just a handful of points they’ve already written off 2012.
It’s been a difficult year for the Australian with just a points finish at his home race to show for his efforts. He’s had to deal with a difficult car but you get the feeling he should be doing better.
In much the same situation as his team-mate. He’s struggled in qualifying consistently but had some more impressive race pace. A solitary points finish is the highlight of his season. A poor strategy call in Monaco robbed him of another possible points paying position.
Still the best of the new teams and they have closed up to the established teams on race pace. Still a bit away yet but they are closing in and still developing their car well.
It’s hard not to give Heikki a bigger grade but despite his qualifying heroics and him outracing the car you can still only really measure him against Petrov. Having been dominant in that aspect he’s worthy of his grade. Still garnishing attention from the more established teams. He’s seen as an outsider for the Ferrari drive in 2013.
He’s been dominated by team-mate Kovalainen and bar an excellent performance in Valencia where he actually ran in the points he’s been a bit disappointing.
Once again they’ve looked out of their depth but they have taken note of previous mistakes and changed their development programme. Being outpaced at times by HRT will give them warning signs. Their biggest headlines were for all the wrong reasons after their test driver lost an eye in a straight-line testing accident.
It’s difficult to rate Glock given the car he’s driving but he’s largely been the quicker of the two Marussia drivers for most of the year. Will he get a chance in a decent car again? Time will tell.
He’s flattered to deceive at times and has performed admirably against his much more experienced team-mate. Pic may just have a bright future if he keeps his level of performance up.
Whether it be money or lack of focus. HRT once again started the season at the back of the grid. They have outraced the Marussia cars at times but largely have been at the back of the order. Not qualifying in Australia was the low point of the season
Pedro de la Rosa
The experienced Spaniard returned to a full-time race seat this season with HRT and he’s no doubt helped improve the car with his ability to set up a car from his testing days. You can only judge him against his team-mate and he’s been dominant in that aspect when he’s finished the race.
He’s once again looked out of his depth in F1 but in fairness to the Indian driver his performances have improved as the season went on. He did claim HRT’s best finish of the year with 15th in the attritional Monaco Grand Prix.