2012 F1 season review
Which drivers impressed in 2012? The F1 Fanatic driver rankings begin with the bottom ten.
24. Narain Karthikeyan
|Beat team mate in qualifying||3/19|
|Beat team mate in race||0/9|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||141/768|
Karthikeyan’s value to HRT may have been largely down to the income he brought from Tata but he’s also a capable driver who often got close to De La Rosa’s pace. Both had uncompetitive cars but Karthikeyan faced the added disadvantage of often missing first practice while Dani Clos or Ma Qing Hua was given some seat time.
It’s also doubtful how well-equipped HRT were to prepare both their cars to the same standard, particularly towards the end of the year when incidents due to failures became alarmingly regular. Karthikeyan had a nasty crash with Rosberg in Abu Dhabi when his hydraulics failed and a brake disc failure at maximum speed in Korea.
He was usually outpaced by De La Rosa but generally got closer to his team mate in wet conditions. He also collected penalties for pit lane speeding in Valencia and colliding with Vettel in Malaysia.
Consistently at the back of the pack, outqualified and outpaced by the not-so-great Pedro de la Rosa tells much about Karthikeyan’s ability.
23. Pedro de la Rosa
|Beat team mate in qualifying||16/19|
|Beat team mate in race||9/9|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||627/768|
The HRT offered De La Rosa few opportunities to shine, and they were largely confined to occasionally out-qualifying a Marussia or two and, in Suzuka, Vitaly Petrov.
But like his team mate the uncompetitive car meant we rarely saw anything of what De La Rosa is capable of. The car’s lack of pace was aggravated by procedural problems on the grid which earned him a drive-through penalty in Malaysia and forced him to start from the pits in Abu Dhabi.
Could do little more with what he was given to drive but did well to out qualify a Marussia on several occasions.
22. Bruno Senna
Granted, losing a total of 22-and-a-half hours of race weekend practice time to Valtteri Bottas didn’t help. But even on weekends when Senna was able to run in first practice he tended to be little closer to Maldonado’s pace in qualifying.
The Hungarian Grand Prix proved a false dawn as he made his first – and only – appearance in Q3. He brought the car home in seventh, a position he only bettered in Malaysia, where a cool recovery drive earned him sixth place.
But Senna’s highs were considerably lower than Maldonado’s: he finished over 50 seconds behind his team mate in Canada. He compounded his problems with spins during qualifying in Spain and Belgium and had some costly collisions during races as well, though they weren’t all his fault.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||5/20|
|Beat team mate in race||7/14|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||382/882|
The sheer number of points his team mate squandered over the course of the season meant Senna should have finished in front of him in the points standings, but he fell short by 14 points.
Williams should have been challenging Sauber and perhaps even Mercedes in the constructors’ championship, not languishing behind Force India in eighth. That result was down to the inability of its drivers to extract the car’s full potential over the course of the season.
While Senna’s supporters will point to his ten finishes in the points, his car was much quicker than that. Terrible in qualifying (first practice absences notwithstanding) he was better in the races, but as Maldonado showed in Spain he had a car capable of podiums. Minor points finishes weren’t enough.
21. Jean-Eric Vergne
Toro Rosso’s inexperienced new driver line-up were closesly-matched throughout 2012. Vergne narrowly out-scored Ricciardo but is ranked beneath him here due to a couple of mistakes and generally poor qualifying performance.
His collision with Heikki Kovalainen in Valencia was completely unnecessary and justifiably earned a fine as well as a penalty. Qualifying was a weakness he never really got to grips with.
But there were flashes of potential as well. In Malaysia his gamble on staying out on intermediate tyres as the rain fell paid off – he was saved by the appearance of the safety car which helped him to a points haul in his second start.
He showed a flair for wet conditions, rising from 20th to finish eighth in Brazil. Vergne also had a few misfortunes, including suspension failure in Italy, a puncture in Germany and being shunted out of the race by Schumacher in Singapore.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||5/20|
|Beat team mate in race||7/15|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||436/1034|
Vergne showed promise in his first year but has plenty to work on for the future if he’s going to keep his place on Red Bull’s demanding roster of driver talent.
He cannot qualify well and this compromises him all race. In the beginning of the season when teams were yet to master the tyres, his extra set due to qualifying 18th proved useful. But towards the end of the season, this was not longer an advantage.
20. Daniel Ricciardo
|Beat team mate in qualifying||15/20|
|Beat team mate in race||8/15|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||598/1034|
Ricciardo’s sixth on the grid in Bahrain was one of the stand-out qualifying performances of the season. Unfortunately his race was ruined within moments of the start and a great opportunity was lost.
Another chance to score passed him by when he collided with Petrov in Valencia. Nonetheless Ricciardo made clear progress as the season went on, particularly after the arrival of James Key.
He made regular appearances in the top ten in the second half of the year and was unfortunate to lose further points in Italy and South Korea – the latter following an impressive rise from 21st on the grid.
But Vergne pushed him hard and Ricciardo only narrowly finished ahead when they crossed swords in Britain and Germany.
He started the season well, with points in Melbourne and a great qualifying in Bahrain that put him 6th on the grid. He dropped back spectacularly in that race, and a pattern emerged throughout the season. Ricciardo would qualify well, but drop back in the race. His season was not clear cut, and he had the beating of his team mate when the car was not capable of finishing in the points.
19. Vitaly Petrov
|Beat team mate in qualifying||7/20|
|Beat team mate in race||10/17|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||419/1033|
Petrov shook off claims that Caterham only hired him to boost their bottom line by getting closer to Kovalainen than his predecessor Jarno Trulli had done. His performances seemed to improve most after Tim Wright took over as his race engineer in Singapore.
Over the final seven races he out-qualified Kovalainen five to two. And in Brazil he delivered the 11th place that saved the team’s season and secured the valuable tenth place in the constructors’ championship. It was a close thing, however, as he spun away his advantage over Pic at one point.
Kovalainen usually had the beating of Petrov prior to Singapore. Caterham’s new recruit had to get used to being lapped more frequently than he was at Renault – in Japan he was penalised for not paying attention to blue flags, which he blamed on his radio not working.
His last race signed off an impressive resurgence in the second half of the season, but the first half looked like he wasn’t interested he tended to qualify behind Kovalainen and usually finished ahead when his team mate had car troubles.
18. Charles Pic
Yet he was quickly up to speed and proved far more capable of getting on terms with Glock than his predecessors had been.
At his third start in China he finished less than half a second behind his team mate, and was running ahead of him when his engine failed during the next round.
It came good for him in the middle of the season, out-qualifying and out-racing Glock in Germany and Hungary, and these weren’t the only occasions he had the beating of his more experienced team mate.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||5/19|
|Beat team mate in race||5/13|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||401/989|
However he did commit one of the season’s most serious mistakes, earning a rare 20-second time penalty for the Singapore Grand Prix before the race had even started after failing to heed red flags during practice.
In the final race Pic found himself battling to keep Caterham from beating Marussia to tenth in the constructors’ championship. He lost the place to Petrov while the pair were being lapped. It was a blow to Marussia – but a boon for Pic’s future employer.
Great season. He has been quite close to Glock, and even faster sometimes. I was very happy when he was confirmed for Caterham, because his seat in Marussia was at risk.
17. Timo Glock
|Beat team mate in qualifying||14/19|
|Beat team mate in race||8/13|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||588/989|
Pic made Glock sweat in the middle of the season as the more experienced driver was increasingly vexed by his car’s handling. In Monaco Glock even blamed Pic for holding him up in qualifying.
But Glock clicked with Marussia’s mid-season upgrades and reasserted himself once more. In Singapore – where he can usually be relied upon to go well – he survived a brush with the wall to bring the car home in 12th place.
In Abu Dhabi he split the Caterhams and even kept the recovering Perez behind – an especially impressive feat on a track with two long straights in a car lacking KERS. And he was on course for a strong result in Brazil until he was hit by Vergne.
Scored the result that allowed Marussia to get ahead of Caterham for tenth (until Brazil anyway). But he didn’t beat his team mate as comfortably as many expected.
16. Pastor Maldonado
He deserves recognition for several excellent drives – not just that remarkable win in Spain, but also his gritty drive to fifth in Abu Dhabi having lost KERS, and an unrewarded but strong performance in Singapore.
He often qualified well, making four starts from the top three, and had a few problems in the shape of gearbox penalties and a puncture in Bahrain.
But then we come to the charge sheet, and it’s quite a list. He crashed out of sixth on the last lap in Australia and blew his chance of getting into Q3 in Canada by hitting the wall. In Brazil he drove past a red light in qualifying and crashed out on lap two of the race.
More often his antics claimed another driver. In Monaco he pulled off the racing line and drove into the side of Perez’s car during practice – the worst piece of driving we saw all season, which should have been given a stiffer penalty than a ten-place grid drop. That would have spared De La Rosa from being taken out at the first corner by the Williams driver.
In Valencia having been (legitimately) squeezed off the track by Hamilton he rejoined the circuit by driving into the side of the McLaren. At Silverstone he lost control of his car while being passed by Perez and punted the Sauber driver off and he did much the same to Di Resta while trying to pass the Force India in Hungary.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||15/20|
|Beat team mate in race||7/14|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||500/882|
Finally in Belgium he was penalised for impeding Hulkenberg in qualifying, jumped the start, spun at the first corner, then crashed into Glock at the restart. Small wonder he’d racked up ten penalties – twice as many as any other driver – by the end of the year.
He is one of the best qualifiers in a very strong field, and he put in some very strong and coragous performances throughout. But he just commits too many mistakes, which makes his points tally less than half of what it should and could have been. This is a major problem he will need to fix for next season.
15. Heikki Kovalainen
At the start of the season it looked like Kovalainen was going to continue what he’d been doing for Caterham when it was Lotus – quietly get the job done and comfortably beat the guy in the other car.
And the with CT01 looking more competitive at the beginning of the year, Kovalainen seemed to be the driver who would bring the team the success they craved. He seized the opportunity to keep a McLaren behind in Monaco and after a battling drive came home in 13th to move the team up to tenth in the constructors’ championship.
Better things seemed to be on offer in Valencia where he out-qualified both Toro Rossos before being swiped by Vergne during the race.
As the season wore on Kovalainen’s performances started to dip. Perhaps Caterham’s gradual slide back from the cusp of the midfield sapped his spirits. Or maybe it was the pressure from Petrov in the other car, or the growing doubts over his future in the sport.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||13/20|
|Beat team mate in race||7/17|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||614/1033|
In Abu Dhabi he got into the 12th place the team now needed to move back ahead of Marussia, but his opportunity to be the hero was lost when he suffered a KERS problem and Schumacher overtook him. A season which had looked promising ended in disappointment, and it remains to be seen if he will still be racing next year.
Drawing generally even with his team mate in terms of combined qualifying and race pace, Kovalainen has the edge for some gritty drives, like in Monaco.
Notes on how the rankings are produced
The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are my personal view on how the drivers performed across the entire season. Drivers such as Jerome D’Ambrosio who only competed in a small part of the season are not included.
Each drivers’ performance in all of the race weekends are taken into account and summarised. For more detailed views of how they fared in each weekend refer to the notes produced for each Driver of the Weekend article and the driver form guides.
A selection of F1 Fanatic readers’ views appear alongside the rankings. The full rankings will be published in seven parts, with individual articles for the top five drivers, after which there will be a vote for Driver of the Year.
2012 F1 season review
- The complete F1 Fanatic 2012 season review
- What F1 Fanatics thought of 2012: The year in polls
- The drivers and cars of 2012
- F1 Fanatic’s 50 article highlights of 2012
- 11 different Driver of the Weekend winners in 2012
Browse all 2012 F1 season review articles
Images © Williams/LAT, Red Bull/Getty images, Marussia, Williams/LAT, Caterham/LAT