F1 2012 Half-Term Report
OK, we're pretty much halfway through the season, so it's time to assess how the drivers are getting on. I'm going to try ranking them in ascending order like I normally do.
24.Narain Karthikeyan - HRT
Probably far better than he is made out to be. For some reason has failed to outqualify his team-mate even once, yet he's not disgustingly slow. I've also found Narain to be very mature and consistent and he will bring the result home when he can. I for one think he does a good job. He's only last because the depth of quality through the field is staggeringly good these days.
23.Timo Glock - Marussia
I feel that Timo is capable of better, and that's why he is so far down. He drove to a good 14th in Australia and the team were impressed by his race long reporting of everything that was happening with the car, providing his engineers with rich and valuable data. Since then his rookie team-mate Pic has been a little too close to him on performance. Maybe Timo's mind is wandering with regret as every time one of the Lotuses of Raikkonen or Grosjean lap him, he remembers that he turned down an offer to drive for that team...
22.Bruno Senna - Williams
A lot of pressure on young Bruno's shoulders. What an incredible disadvantage it must be to have gone over 10 years without racing. Senna has little experience, but he is 22nd because he is being annihlated by Pastor Maldonado. The worrying thing is that at no point does Bruno seem to have shown any massive potential. Even 19yr old Alonso in a 2001 Minardi was able to shine, outperforming Benettons, Prosts, Arrows, and even BAR's and Jaguars (Red Bulls!!) and his uncle Ayrton showed his class in a 1984 Toleman. A driver's potential can be guaged by their high points, and Bruno's high point so far was his stylish drive to 6th in Malaysia, which good as it was does not compare with Maldonado's win and other frontrunning performances. Even in Malaysia Maldonado was as fast or faster in the race, if you look at the lap charts from www.F1Fanatic.com. Maldonado's high points have all far exceeded Senna's, and also Senna keeps getting involved in scrapes and crashes.
21.Pedro de la Rosa - HRT
The enthusiasm alone is enough for Pedro to be ranked above Timo Glock. He has led his team well, taken the opportunities and can score if the car is ever up to it.
20.Charles Pic - Marussia
Has gone quite un-noticed amidst the chaos and excitement of F1 2012. He has quietly been outqualifying and generally showing close pace to Timo Glock, comparing better than anyone else who has sat in the second Marussia/Virgin car to date. Looks to be a fast and mature driver. Well done.
19.Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso
Great things are expected of Jean-Eric Vergne, but the amazing depth of quality of drivers and cars in F1 2012 has meant exposure of Vergne, who is only 22, and may not be quite ready for F1 just yet. Though it should be remembered that Jaime Alguersuari was younger (I think) when he LEFT Toro Rosso! He has struggled against Ricciardo in qualifying and rarely gets out of Q1, though he went very well in Melbourne. Denying Caterham the chance of their best ever finish (close to the points!) in Valencia by crashing into Vitaly Petrov was a black mark. Vergne's attitude is apparently not winning him many admirers also; he reminds me very much of Ralf Schumacher in 1997.
18.Felipe Massa - Ferrari
Frankly, I've probably been pretty generous to rank him this high. There have been times, such as Bahrain, Monaco and Canada where he has been close to Alonso in the races. But this isn't good enough, and even matching the slew of 5th places he managed last year looks like a tough task. He looks weaker than Fisichella ever was as Alonso's team-mate. He needs to decide what kind of team he can get a seat for 2013 when he leaves Ferrari at the end of the year.
17.Vitaly Petrov - Caterham
This unneccessarily maligned "pay-driver" has actually looked like an improvement in actual performance terms over the previous occupant of the #2 Caterham car, and he has often challenged and shown Kovalainen the way in races. He can win in a good car, no doubt about it. He seems to have had a positive impact in many ways - very good job.
16.Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso
Like Fisichella in 1997, Ricciardo as well as having a more likeable attitude than his team-mate is also running rings around him in almost every way. Qualified a brilliant 6th in Bahrain. A very impressive, confident yet seemingly humble young driver, he can have a good future, though Dr Marko might . (Looks like he has already decided Vergne will get the next Red Bull vacancy)
15.Nico Hulkenberg - Force India
Has struggled slightly on his return, and though he has almost always been outperformed by di Resta, Hulkenberg has always been close to him. He has done what he can do and avoided any major trouble.
14.Kamui Kobayashi - Sauber
Some brilliant highlights including fastest of all in Q1 in Melbourne, a net 3rd on the grid in China, and that drive up the field to 5th in Spain are not enough for Kamui to be ranked higher. He has often been involved in scrapes with other drivers and is overall being shown up by Perez.
13.Pastor Maldonado - Williams
Something of a revelation in the way he has outclassed Bruno Senna, Maldonado is another driver who is unfairly underrated just because he DOES bring a huge sponsorship package to the team. He has also brought them a win, earned by resisting Alonso of all people for the duration of the Spanish Grand Prix. He has run higher than Bruno Senna ever has, and more often than not qualified right up the sharp end whereas Senna is yet to progress past Q2. I don't have a problem with what happened in Australia; it's good to try for a higher position if you can, and that's how you learn. His ranking is reduced by throwing away 3rd place needlessly in Valencia by rushing to scramble by Hamilton immediately when a pass was assured as Hamilton was struggling massively with worn tyres.
12.Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus
With 3 podium finishes and a fastest lap in Malaysia, this has not been an unsuccessful comeback. The problem is that Raikkonen has only once in 8 races outqualified Romain Grosjean on merit (Malaysia), and Kimi is looking increasingly in the shade of the younger driver - this is like 2008 all over again. I don't doubt Raikkonen's ultimate speed, but all this continues to make me wonder whether this superstar is just a little overrated - I personally think Alonso would make mincemeat of him, though again I don't doubt Kimi's natural speed and bet he would at least some of the time leave Fernando wondering how he does it.
11.Heikki Kovalainen - Caterham
A brilliant and inspring attitude above all else has endeared Heikki Kovalainen to his team and many fans. His continued enthusiasm and hard, positive work ethic has been great to watch - I don't believe many drivers would have been the same in his situation. Brilliant performances in Bahrain, Monaco and Valencia have seen him genuinely challenge and actually get into Q2 on merit. Caterham are a team going somewhere - especially now with the input of John Iley. Watch this space.
10.Jenson Button - McLaren
Jenson kickstarted his season in the best possible way, beating Hamilton in a straight fight and also scoring fastest lap. This was in dry conditions too, so this talk about only being able to win in wet/changeable conditions is really now obsolete. However since then, Button's season has inexplicably crashed and burned. Early in the season I was one of the people tipping him as champion. But he is now suffering a disaster as at every race he cannot get up to speed, and he seems to be at the mercy of Pirelli and his car setup.
10.Sergio Perez - Sauber
8.Nico Rosberg - Mercedes
7.Michael Schumacher - Mercedes
6.Paul di Resta - Force India
5.Mark Webber - Red Bull
4.Romain Grosjean - Lotus
One of the revelations of the season; I did predict Romain Grosjean could head Kimi Raikkonen early on in the season, but he has surpassed all expectations with brilliant and (mostly) controlled speed. There have been a few accidents, but this is to be expected of a semi-rookie. He has essentially outperformed Raikkonen, who has only truly outqualified Grosjean in Malaysia. When you think about it, he has (almost certainly would have been) close to the win in every race! Silverstone, where he drove to 6th having pitted at the end of lap 1 for repairs, to finish 7sec behind his extremely highly-rated team-mate and 17sec off the win, was exceptional.
3.Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull
Not such a nice guy now everything isn't going his way. :) I'm now wondering if some of the criticism towards Seb may be justified after all. He has won only 1 race out of the first 9 - an incredible statistic in light of last year. And again that was by leading from the front. And frankly he was fortunate to win that as Lotus shot themselves in the foot by having their cars fight each other needlessly. Has also only outqualified Webber 4-5. But watch out for the end of season races where I believe he will be strong again as in 2010.
2.Lewis Hamilton - McLaren
Close to Alonso, but
1.Fernando Alonso - Ferrari
The only driver who really deserves to occupy this place. Yet to be outqualified or genuinely outraced by Massa this season, Alonso is leading the championship in a car that doesn't have a right to win races really.