Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2012

2012 half-term driver rankings part three: 5-3

2012 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

The third part of the F1 Fanatic half-term driver rankings brings us up to the final two.

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.

5. Mark Webber

Mark Webber, Red Bull, Monaco, 2012It’s hard to avoid the impression that the new restrictions the FIA placed on blowing exhaust gasses into the diffuser this year have played into Webber’s hands.

The period when he was most under the cosh at the hands of his team mate – from late 2010 and throughout 2011 – coincides with the time Red Bull were able to exploit the technology to its fullest.

The trait it produced in the Red Bull’s handling that Webber did not react well to – low-speed turn-in appeared a particularly weakness – has diminished and Webber’s performance relative to Vettel has correspondingly recovered to its mid-2010 level.

He is the leading Red Bull driver on points and that’s not just down to Vettel’s Valencia misfortune – there have been days on which Webber was plainly the quicker of the two, such as in China.

In Monaco it was Webber who was best-placed to capitalise on Schumacher’s absence from pole position and he controlled the race flawlessly. In Britain he hunted down and passed Fernando Alonso to win. And in Valencia he charged through the field from 19th to fourth.

Beat team mate in qualifying 5/11
Beat team mate in race 4/10
Races finished 11/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate 165/661

His qualifying performances have improved too. Given all this, it may seem harsh to place him as low as fifth, behind one driver who’s yet to win a race this year. But there have been races where Webber simply hasn’t figured. He dropped back at the restart in Malaysia, and could only manage eighth in the two races since extending his Red Bull contract.

Remember the Mark Webber of last season? Remember how in the same car, his team mate throttled him so badly after the near-miss of 2010? That was the old Mark Webber, the new improved Mark Webber of 2012 is so much different, and better.

Yes, there have been some dodgy results but he’s won two races and his victory at Silverstone was right in the middle of Alonso?s hot streak, only adding to the credibility. Will 2012 be the year Mark gets the title he so clearly wants? Could be, you know.

Mark Webber 2012 form guide

4. Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Hungaroring, 2012Raikkonen had an indifferent final season with Ferrari in 2009 which culminated in the team cutting his contract short by a year. He then spent two years dabbling in different motor racing categories without finding a permanent home.

This did not bode well for his return to F1 with Lotus this year. The worst fears seemed to be confirmed when he failed to get through Q1 first time out in Melbourne.

But since then Raikkonen has consistently improved and come tantalisingly close to victory on two occasions. He had a single shot to make it past Vettel in Bahrain but couldn’t capitalise on the opportunity. Then in Hungary he chased down Hamilton and finished second again.

Raikkonen has typically been able to harness the E20’s kindness to its tyres to move forward in the races. On two significant occasions when that was not the case – in China and Monaco – he had missed out on some track time during practice.

Beat team mate in qualifying 4/11
Beat team mate in race 5/7
Races finished 11/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate 310/480

Qualifying has been a weakness – more often than not his junior team mate has started ahead. But not much improvement is needed here for him to be a regular contender for victory with the E20.

If he can crack that, his prospects as a championship contender will look a lot more realistic.

I admit I did not expect too much from him, and the first races showed how long it takes to get back in a rithm. But by now he could well be favourite to win the next two races and its not impossible that he will be part of the championship battle. Good job Iceman.

Kimi Raikkonen 2012 form guide

3. Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Valencia, 2012Vettel’s terse remark to his team during the Hungarian Grand Prix, demanding they “do something” to help him escape from being stuck behind Button, captured the frustration which has dogged his championship defence this year.

It was clear from the first race of the season the RB8 was not going to give him the same margin over his rivals he enjoyed in 2010 and, to a lesser extent, 2011.

Nonetheless Vettel began the season with an excellent performance in Australia, coming away with a fortunate second place which was slightly better than he might have expected. He was excellent in Monaco too, running a long stint on soft tyres to make up ground.

But there have been some costly mistakes. The stewards laid the blame for his Malaysian Grand Prix collision with Narain Karthikeyan at the HRT driver’s feet, but there was simply no need for Vettel to leave the backmarker so little room. There went a potential podium finish. The same can be said of his penalty at the German Grand Prix, which was utterly avoidable.

Most unusually, he failed to put together his best sector times in China and missed out on a spot in Q3. He set that right in Valencia, emerging from a very close Q2 to set an emphatic pole position that recalled his performances from last year.

He was cruising to his second win of the year on race day when his alternator failed. The resulting 32-point swing to Alonso accounts for much of the gap between the two. Vettel’s occasional dullness in the heat of battle more than covers the rest. But it’s nothing he can’t put right in the remaining races.

Beat team mate in qualifying 6/11
Beat team mate in race 6/10
Races finished 10/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate 496/661

He?d be just ten points behind Alonso in the standings if his car hadn?t betrayed him in Valencia. That said, the defending champion is looking more like his 2010 self than his 2011 self. But remember ?ǣ he also won that 2010 championship.

Sebastian Vettel 2012 form guide

The F1 Fanatic half-term driver rankings will conclude on Friday. Have your say on the drivers so far in the comments.

You can also read what other F1 Fanatics had to say about the drivers in the forum.

Driver rankings

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Image ?? Red Bull/Getty images, Lotus F1 Team/LAT, Red Bull/Getty images