2012 F1 Driver Rankings part one: 24-15

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
Races finished 12/19
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.

Narain Karthikeyan 2012 form guide

23. Pedro de la Rosa

Beat team mate in qualifying 16/19
Beat team mate in race 9/9
Races finished 15/19
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.

Pedro de la Rosa 2012 form guide

22. Bruno Senna

Bruno Senna, Williams, Sepang, 2012Williams had cause to be disappointed with both their drivers in 2012. While Maldonado had pace and wasted it (see below), Senna too rarely got the most out of the FW32.

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
Races finished 18/20
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.
Tyler (@Tdog)

Bruno Senna 2012 form guide

21. Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso, Suzuka, 2012Toro 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
Races finished 16/20
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.

Jean-Eric Vergne 2012 form guide

20. Daniel Ricciardo

Beat team mate in qualifying 15/20
Beat team mate in race 8/15
Races finished 19/20
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.

Daniel Ricciardo 2012 form guide

19. Vitaly Petrov

Beat team mate in qualifying 7/20
Beat team mate in race 10/17
Races finished 17/20
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.

Vitaly Petrov 2012 form guide

18. Charles Pic

Charles Pic, Marussia, Interlagos, 2012Even by the standards of rookie drivers in modern F1, Pic had very little time behind the wheel of an F1 car before making his debut in Australia.

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
Races finished 15/20
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.

Charles Pic 2012 form guide

17. Timo Glock

Beat team mate in qualifying 14/19
Beat team mate in race 8/13
Races finished 18/19
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.

Timo Glock 2012 form guide

16. Pastor Maldonado

Pastor Maldonado, Williams, Barcelona, 2012Maldonado’s erratic performances were the subject of much debate during the course of the year.

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
Races finished 15/20
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.

Pastor Maldonado 2012 form guide

15. Heikki Kovalainen

Heikki Kovalainen, Caterham, Monaco, 2012At 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
Races finished 19/20
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.

Heikki Kovalainen 2012 form guide

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

Browse all 2012 F1 season review articles

Images ?? Williams/LAT, Red Bull/Getty images, Marussia, Williams/LAT, Caterham/LAT

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96 comments on 2012 F1 Driver Rankings part one: 24-15

  1. sumedhvidwans (@sumedhvidwans) said on 10th December 2012, 17:09

    I am surprised Paul Di Resta and Grosjean are not in this batch of drivers. I would have put them in 15th and 16th. The two drivers whom I would have pulled up would be Maldonado and Ricciardo.

    I think MAL is a little lower than necessary in this ranking perhaps 3 or 4 places. He cleaned up his act substantially after the Grosjean race ban but this gets no mention in the part about MAL.

  2. Alex (@alexsun) said on 10th December 2012, 18:21

    Authors, You are very strong ”specialists” !!! :))))))

  3. DaveF1 (@davef1) said on 10th December 2012, 18:34

    Ricciardo and especially Maldonado are way to low in my opinion. Both did a much better job than di Resta who should only be in the top 15 of the ‘most astronomically hyped driver who failed to deliver but still somehow tipped to be in a top seat’ list.

  4. Jimmyt (@jimmyt) said on 10th December 2012, 19:45

    Any chance of including a ‘last seasons ranking’ for those drivers that competed in both 2011 and 2012 to quickly see if they’ve gone up or down in your estimations?

  5. Jayfreese (@) said on 10th December 2012, 20:02

    Nobody seems to talk about Charles Pic, so I will. I’d have put him ahead of Glock ‘cos he’s a rookie and did very well in the races he knew, and Glock doesn’t seem to evolve unlike Kovalainen, he’s almost got beaten by a rookie, although he’s got massive experience now, so what about next year?

    This ranking is about car’s perfomances more than driving abilities, as low cars are at the bootom of the ranking.

    Anyway, it’s still fun to read.

    • Enigma (@enigma) said on 11th December 2012, 10:11

      It’s rankings about how they did this year. Pic did well for a rookie, especially to be so close to Glock. But Glock did the better job this year, so he deserves to be higher in the list.

  6. Kimi4WDC said on 10th December 2012, 22:36

    Torro Rosso drivers put on a good show. I think Verne was also quite unlucky on several occasions while he was in for a good result, same as Riccardo, was not in the right place a couple times. It’s good that they get another season, hopefully in a more able car, to iron out weaknesses they had.

  7. -Maldonaldo by far the best
    -Karthikeyan by far the worst

  8. Toxic (@toxic) said on 10th December 2012, 22:46

    I must say that it is a first time in around 4-5 years I read this website that I strongly disagree with the ranking and positions. I know that I don’t see now all the positions but seeing some names here is quite a shock for me.
    I won’t go into details why cause it is incomplete ranking but both Williams drivers a well as Petrov and Kovalainen on 15th is not what I would give them.

  9. Thomas (@infi24r) said on 11th December 2012, 1:34

    God you’ve got Ricciardo below Kovalainen.

    And Maldonado behind Grosjean? Maldonado was easily top 10 capable.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th December 2012, 8:43


      Maldonado was easily top ten capable.

      He certainly was capable, but he fell well short of delivering on that potential which is why he’s where he is.

      With Maldonado and Senna you have to remember that Williams had the sixth-fastest car this year yet ended up eighth in the constructors’ championship. That happened because Senna was too slow and Maldonado kept crashing.

      • Thomas (@infi24r) said on 11th December 2012, 12:06

        What about Grosjean? He crashed far more than Maldonado did and he didn’t even win a race.

      • @keithcollantine So, based on that rationale Keith, Senna and Maldonado should have been finishing 11th and 12th at each race. Both of them having finished higher than this means they actually outperformed their cars, on multiple occasions. That doesn’t fit with the rankings you have given them, especially Senna.

        If the rankings are based on potential then they are both too low, Maldonado should be in the top 6 surely, and if the rankings are based on performance I still think they are both too low, Maldonado won a race in 2012, he should be leagues above all other drivers who haven’t?

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th December 2012, 12:58


          based on that rationale Keith, Senna and Maldonado should have been finishing 11th and 12th at each race

          That takes it a step too far, I think – it assumes that all drivers with cars that were faster on average during the course of the year never had a mechanical problem or were hit by another driver, etc…

          I suspect if you apply that reasoning you’d end up over-rating drivers of slower cars simply because they’ve got more to gain from others’ misfortune.

          To put it into perspective, you referred to “both of them having finished higher” than 11th and 12th. Yes, they did on occasions, but where are they in the drivers’ championship table? 15th and 16th.

          I want to stress this is not a mathematical formula for determining where each driver should be ranked. Perhaps one could be created, it would be an interesting exercise, but that is not what I have attempted here. I’m merely showing why I disagree with you.

  10. Thomas (@infi24r) said on 11th December 2012, 1:38

    I guess thats why its opinion and not fact. But personally Kovalainen has done nothing but disappoint this season. And Pic was impressive but both of the Torro Rosso drivers have done far better than any of the drivers of the ‘new’ teams. Also Maldonado has to be one of the most impressive of all drivers, with potential to be a legitimate front runner. Everyone raved about Vettel when he won in an Adrian Newey Torro Rosso yet Maldonado won in a fairly average Williams car. Grosjean was far more crash prone yet didn’t have any of the pace, he deserves to be down here.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 11th December 2012, 3:08


      Everyone raved about Vettel when he won in an Adrian Newey Torro Rosso yet Maldonado won in a fairly average Williams car.

      Said Adrian Newey chassis never had the pace for podiums for Red Bull or STR, and was only capable of 6th and 7th in the WCC, yet Vettel finished as high as 8th in the drivers standings, ahead of both Toyotas, Red Bulls, Williams, and a Renault. Of course he deserved everyone to rave about him.

      To compare Maldonado, is a joke. That Williams was clearly capable of muchg more than Maldonado and Senna achieved. He threw away a ludicrous amount of points with bone-headed manoeuvres. He even only finished 16th in the championship, only ahead of the 2 Toro Rossos, and the new teams.

      • Thomas (@infi24r) said on 11th December 2012, 3:13

        Who says the Red Bull never had that potential? You?

        At the race that Vettel won 3 of the first 4 cars on the grid were that particular chassis.

        When Maldonado got pole Senna went out in Q1.

        • davidnotcoulthard said on 11th December 2012, 3:40

          Yet Vettel was the only one of the 2 (discounting Bourdais) who stayed in the top 3!

        • David-A (@david-a) said on 11th December 2012, 3:52


          Who says the Red Bull never had that potential? You?

          The fact that experienced, respected drivers only took 3 podiums in 4 years? The way Red Bull finished 7th, 7th, 6th and 7th in the WCC before the 2009 rule changes?

          At the race that Vettel won 3 of the first 4 cars on the grid were that particular chassis.

          And in the race, Bourdais was 43 seconds slower than Vettel, and Webber slipped to 8th.

          Maldonado did well in Spain, I won’t argue that. He has some speed, I won’t argue that. But his win is where the comparison with SV ends. Maldonado threw away too many points to warrant “front runner” status, finishing 15th in the WDC, behind both Saubers and Force Indias.

          • Thomas (@infi24r) said on 11th December 2012, 4:48

            You do realize Bordais’ car stalled on the grid right? Due to no fault of his own and he started last?

            His fastest lap was actually ahead of Vettel’s.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 11th December 2012, 5:52

            @infi24r – Yes, I realised Bourdais stalled, that’s why I pointed out that he was still 43 seconds slower than Vettel anyway, proven by the article I linked. Vettel’s pace was faster at pretty much every stage through the race, except the pitstops and the final couple of laps (where I assume Bourdais set his personal best, and Vettel was bringing the car home for the win).

  11. Goran (@goran507) said on 11th December 2012, 1:41

    Shared the same feeling with “Toxic” on his above comment.

    Always a big fan of F1 Fanatics, and I found the rankings past 2-3 seasons very good, but I am very surprised and shocked with the first part of this year ranking, just my personal feelings tho…..

    If I may express my opinions, I feel shocked Senna is on 22nd. Yes I agree he underperform and didn’t get the most out of his car, but I still think he did “Ok”, shouldn’t be as bad as 22nd, I think he should be at least be in front of the Marussias, Vergne and perhaps Petrov..

    Kova in 15th is also well shocked in my opinion. He did well in the first half of the season, but honestly the last few races it wasn’t good at all, beaten by Petrov in races. (perhaps becos of pressure losing his drive) For sure I wouldn’t put him in front of MAL.

    I feel Glock didn’t do well, and perhaps should share a same ranking with Pic.

    MAL should be on 15th I guess? yes he is the crash king, but he really shown promises and speed.

    • Thomas (@infi24r) said on 11th December 2012, 1:51

      Grosjean was the crash king.

      I agree completely. I’m frankly quite appalled that these outcomes come from a top Formula 1 website. Based on this here are some other things we can expect in upcoming articles
      – Vettel above Hamilton, Alonso and Raikkonen.
      – Paul Di Resta above other drivers.
      – Nico Hulkenberg below Jenson Button.
      – Button in the top 10 despite being slaughtered by Lewis all year and having a mid season stint that he barely made it into the points.
      – Rosberg above Schumacher

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 11th December 2012, 8:39


      I feel shocked Senna is on 22nd. Yes I agree he underperform and didn’t get the most out of his car, but I still think he did “Ok”, shouldn’t be as bad as 22nd, I think he should be at least be in front of the Marussias, Vergne and perhaps Petrov.

      Those four drivers you name all performed better and got more out of their cars than Senna did. The gulf between him and Maldonado – a fast but also pretty flawed driver this year – was just too great.

      • Fernando Cruz said on 12th December 2012, 11:01

        Jenson Button didn’t get more out of his car than Senna in a lot of weekends of the first half of the year. Furthermore the gulf between Maldonado and Senna was just too great only in qualifying, partly due to the tyres (just like Button) and partly due to losing 15 FP1. If we don’t count the few races Senna had the same sort of trouble Button had, the brazilian was always as fast as Maldonado in race pace, while Button couldn’t cope with Hamilton’s speed in more races.

  12. Josh (@krusectrl) said on 11th December 2012, 2:49

    Ricciardo should be higher than Petrov and Maldonado

  13. tandrews (@tomand95) said on 11th December 2012, 3:43

    Personally I think this is a bit harsh on the Toro Rosso Drivers as their car was stuck in a zone where it was always better than the Caterham, but never faster than the rest of the midfield teams. So in my opinion if they managed to get into Q2 without being the 1 driver from a non-new team, they had done a good job.
    Also both of them showed great race craft to work they way up the field each weekend, especially Ricciardo who was scoring points most races after the mid-season break in the 9th fastest car which in his first full F1 season is a great achievement. So if someone was to say to me that Dan was the 5th worse driver of the year or that Petrov or Glock had a better season than, I would disagree.
    It must be hard to decide these rankings but so far(i would go easier on the STR boys) you have done a good job Keith :)

  14. Kimi4WDC said on 11th December 2012, 4:05

    Gotta love that picture with Button behind Heikki. Pretty much tells the story of Jenson’s season.

    Button is one of the worst performers of the season compare what kind of car he driving.

    Seriously, it will take me some time to get Button’s clueless face out of my mind, when he was asked why he was so much slower than his team-mate. And it was not isolated incident. Lucky for him he got three wins. He did amazing job to dominate in Spa, but considering how much he is getting paid – he did not deserve that money for his overall season performance.

  15. Himmat said on 11th December 2012, 5:00

    Wow, Kovy ahead of Maldonado? Kovy should even be behind Petrov! At least Maldonado had some flashes of brilliance.

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