2012 F1 season
The second part of the F1 Fanatic half-term driver rankings brings us up to the top five.
This is my rating of how each of the drivers have performed so far this year. See here for information on how the ranking is produced and you can read the first part here.
F1 Fanatic readers were invited to share their own views on each of the drivers and a selection of those appear below.
10. Michael Schumacher
|Beat team mate in qualifying||4/11|
|Beat team mate in race||4/5|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||179/487|
When it comes to reliability, the law of averages seems to have finally caught up with Schumacher. During his peak years his Ferraris never seemed to let him down, but this year his car has failed him more times during races than anyone else’s.
Notably in Australia and China he was running within the top three in the opening stages only to drop out with problems not of his own making.
But it would be wrong to suggest Schumacher’s problems this year have stemmed entirely from the shortcomings in his car. The less said about his disastrous Hungarian weekend the better. A careless collision with Senna at the Circuit de Catalunya cost him what should have been pole position in Monaco.
Putting the faults of man and machine aside, it’s not been hard to appreciate that this year has seen some of Schumacher’s best performances since his comeback, notably in the wet qualifying sessions at Silverstone and Hockenheim and when he finally scored his first post-comeback podium at Valencia.
Has been much closer to Rosberg and has held the upper hand on his teammate on numerous occasions, but has been held back by silly mistake and mechanical gremlins.
9. Nico Rosberg
|Beat team mate in qualifying||7/11|
|Beat team mate in race||1/5|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||308/487|
Rosberg finally claimed his first Grand Prix victory in China with a superb pole position and a consummate drive. He was pulling away from his team mate until Schumacher dropped out and was one of few front-running drivers to successfully complete the race with only two pit stops.
He followed up his China win with a strong second in Monaco. But it’s hard to avoid the impression that he might have achieved more with his W03, particularly earlier in the season. Mistakes during qualifying in Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain cost him better starting positions.
Mercedes have slipped into the midfield of late and Rosberg has found himself scrapping for points places instead of aiming for the podium. On balance he retains the upper hand at the team though by a reduced margin.
Achieved Mercedes first win since its comeback with probably the best qualifying lap of the season.
8. Jenson Button
|Beat team mate in qualifying||2/11|
|Beat team mate in race||3/10|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||238/662|
Given his alarming dip in form in the middle of the season it’s easy to forget how strong Button’s start to the year was.
He ran away with victory in Australia and would have pushed Rosberg much harder for victory in China had it not been for one of McLaren’s many pit stop blunders.
But after F1 returned from the opening flyaway races he seemed to lose his way on set-up completely. The nadir was Canada: while Hamilton won Button flailed around and finished a lapped 16th.
It’s difficult to comprehend how things could go so badly wrong for such an experienced driver and team. Having qualified on the front row for the first two races he found himself struggling to reach Q3 on occasions and, in Britain, failed to make it through the rain-hit Q1.
The upgrade McLaren introduced in Germany seems to have stopped the rot and Button was in the hunt for victory once more at Hockenheim. But it’s surely too late for him to think seriously about contending for the championship this year.
He’s picked up three good results, but has finished outside of the points four times, while his team-mate scored at each of those races and even managed to win one of them. The qualifying head-to-head looks even worse, as Button trails one to ten.
The 2012 season hasn’t quite been a complete disaster for Button, and a second-placed finish in Germany was an encouraging sign for the rest of the season, but he’ll be disappointed not to have stayed in the championship hunt after winning the first race in the fastest car on the grid.
7. Sergio Perez
|Beat team mate in qualifying||5/10|
|Beat team mate in race||3/6|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||313/507|
Perez came of age with his battling drive to second in Malaysia, which began when a gamble on switching to wet weather tyres early paid off.
Though much has been made of his costly mistake while pursuing Alonso it should not be forgotten that his team cost him even more time by inexplicably leaving him out a lap too long as the track dried.
He returned to the podium in Canada with a late charge through the field as the car and conditions came to him. These two races bookended a frustrating series of weekends there things failed to come right.
His qualifying has let him down on occasions but he has usually proved capable of fighting back. Such as in Germany, where a mistake in qualifying left him 17th, from which he finished sixth. In Australia a gearbox change penalty left him 22nd but he one-stopped his way to eighth.
He’s had some poor luck: picking up a puncture on the first lap in Spain after qualifying a career-best fifth, his slow pit stop in China and being taken out at Silverstone by Maldonado.
Luca di Montezemolo has said Perez is still too inexperienced to drive for Ferrari. But it’s hard to see how a driver who has performed so well this season could be considered less worthy of the seat than the persistently under-performing Massa (22nd on this list).
Quick enough to win if his team had any killer instinct. Could do with a couple more top-three finishes, but he’s already done more than Alesi, Capelli, Irvine and Massa ever did to deserve a Ferrari drive.
6. Romain Grosjean
|Beat team mate in qualifying||7/11|
|Beat team mate in race||2/7|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||170/480|
Right from the off Romain Grosjean has looked competitive in the Lotus, regularly out-qualifying his considerably more experienced team mate.
Perversely, this has worked against him in some races, notably Bahrain where having fewer fresh tyres left him vulnerable to the recovering Raikkonen.
But he brought the car home on the podium and has done so on two subsequent occasions as well, peaking with second place in Canada. Grosjean’s maturity in wheel-to-wheel racing has won him admirers as well – recall his passes on Hamilton in Bahrain and Valencia.
It’s in the opening laps of races that he’s looked most like a rookie, often losing places and sometimes tangling with other drivers, leading to an early bath. Once he knocks that on the head it’s not hard to imagine him giving his team mate a very hard time indeed.
In March, only 9% of F1 Fanatics expected Romain Grosjean to beat his team mate over the 2012 season. The Frenchman probably won’t quite manage to do that but it’s undeniable that he has exceeded the expectations with certainty. He is leading the qualifying battle in the team by 7-4 and there is no doubt about his race pace, too.
The mistakes and mishaps have robbed him of many potential points but the speed is there and he still has plenty of time to turn his still young and promising career into a real success story.
The F1 Fanatic half-term driver rankings will continue on Wednesday. Have your say on the drivers so far in the comments.
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #1: Fernando Alonso
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #2: Lewis Hamilton
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #3: Sebastian Vettel
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #4: Kimi Raikkonen
- 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #5: Nico Hulkenberg
Browse all driver ranking articles
Image © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, © Daimler/Hoch Zwei, McLaren/Hoch Zwei, Sauber F1 Team, Lotus F1 Team/LAT