Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Montreal, 2012

2012 half-term driver rankings #2: Lewis Hamilton

2012 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Montreal, 2012While Fernando Alonso, who heads the half-term driver rankings, has rightly been lauded for his superb efforts this year, it’s easy to overlook just how well Lewis Hamilton has been driving.

Most of problems he’s encountered this year have not been of his making. And whereas last year he seemed to respond to setbacks with rash moves and mistakes, there now seems to be a more mature driver at the wheel.

He began the year with a string of podiums which briefly put him in the lead of the world championship. But a series of costly blunders by his team put paid to that, despite Hamilton often being quick enough to qualify on the front row.

Poor pit stops cost him positions in Malaysia, Valencia and Bahrain (twice). A gearbox change penalty in China compounded his problems. In Valencia he was on course to salvage some useful points before being taken out by Pastor Maldonado.

Worst of all was his team’s baffling decision to leave him on-track during qualifying in Spain despite having too little fuel, and the swingeing penalty he received as a result. Pole position and a strong chance of victory was traded for last on the grid.

Had this been the Hamilton of 2011 you might have expected him to end his race by colliding with Felipe Massa. Instead he produced a well-judged recovery drive to eighth, pitting only twice on a day when three-stoppers were the norm.

Beat team mate in qualifying 9*/11
Beat team mate in race 7/10
Races finished 10/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate 424/662

It was around this time McLaren started to get their act together in the pits, turning the cars around in record time and doing so consistently as well. But they appeared slow to react to the progress made by their rivals in other areas. Hamilton urged them to push ahead with development and it was clear in the races at Monaco and Silverstone the team had lost its competitive edge.

Their Hockenheim upgrade restored the MP4-27 to the position they enjoyed at the start of the season. But even then things initially failed to come right for Hamilton, whose race was ruined by a puncture.

Heading into the summer break he delivered a strong performance in Hungary, his second victory of the year along with his Canada win, which has brought him back into contention for the championship.

Whether he can fight for the title over the remaining races seems to depend most on whether McLaren can sustain this level of performance, as there’s been little to fault in Hamilton’s driving this year.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2012If Hamilton was the weak element at McLaren last year, this season he’s arguably their strongest card – a point his management will surely impress on the team in their ongoing contract negotiations.

Has been getting 100% out of that McLaren in almost all of the races this year. He has been let down by the team on a couple of occassions (Malaysia, Spain and Valencia come to mind). When the team gets their act together, as demonstrated in Canada and Hungary, there isn?t much that can stop Lewis.

He?s also one of the most improved drivers this season, driving with a much calmer head and it?s showing now. The team have let him down too often this season in the pitstops, but had that been last season, Lewis would have been in a much worse state of mind.
James Brickles (@Brickles)

The 2007-2008 Hamilton is reappearing. A dominant victory in Hungary, and a fantastic win in Canada, in addition to three poles. Would be even higher in the WDC standings had it not been for debris in Germany, and Maldonado in Valencia.
Adam Blocker (@Blockwall2)

Lewis Hamilton 2012 form guide

*Hamilton was excluded from the qualifying results at the Spanish Grand Prix.

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Images ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei