2012 F1 Driver Rankings #2: Lewis Hamilton

2012 F1 season review

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2012

There was very little to separate the top three drivers of 2012 besides the cars they were competing in. Unfortunately for Lewis Hamilton his let him down while he was leading on more than one occasion – and that was just the beginning of his problems.

Hamilton’s performances in 2012 were quick and generally error-free – a world away from the troubled racer who often showed up in 2011.

However the year began with a missed opportunity in Melbourne. He put the car on pole position but was beaten off the line by his team mate and was unfortunate to slip behind Sebastian Vettel when the safety car came out.

Beat team mate in qualifying 16/20
Beat team mate in race 9/13
Races finished 15/20
Laps spent ahead of team mate 638/958

His pole-to-third result was repeated in Malaysia where the team made the first of several errors in the pits, most of which Hamilton bore the brunt of. But he also discovered that the MP4-27, though very quick in the dry, was less co-operative in the wet – as was also clear in Britain and Germany.

In China a grid penalty for a gearbox change dropped him into the pack but he emerged from it to take another third place and the lead of the championship. It proved fleeting as a pair of pit stop errors by his team in the next race left him eighth, despite a characteristically gutsy pass on Nico Rosberg.

He repeated that result in Spain after lapping quick enough for pole position in qualifying, then being sent to the back of the grid. His recovery drive, in which he made one fewer pit stop than his rivals and finished in front of his team mate, showed the kind of patience and coolness in adversity that were missing from his driving the year before.

Finally he posted his first win of the year in Canada, as he and the team sussed out the need to make an extra pit stop before Ferrari and Red Bull did. But after that his season went downhill rapidly.

In Valencia he was on course for a useful points haul when he came under attack from Maldonado. Having squeezed the Williams wide, Maldonado rejoined the track by driving clean into the side of Hamilton’s car and taking him out.

Eighth on the grid in a wet qualifying session at Silverstone yielded the same result in the race. In Germany he picked up a puncture and failed to score, though took the opportunity to vex Sebastian Vettel by un-lapping himself from the Red Bull during the race.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Circuit of the Americas, 2012As F1 went into its summer break Hamilton delivered his second win of the year, a classy pole-to-win drive in Hungary despite considerable pressure from the Lotus drivers.

That cut his deficit to Alonso to 47 points and Vettel was just five ahead. Clearly, the championship was still a possibility, but there was more misfortune awaiting him once the season resumed.

Hamilton’s first-lap elimination in Belgium was entirely the fault of Romain Grosjean. But Hamilton might have avoided being caught up on it had he made the same set-up decision as his team mate, who started six places further ahead.

Button went on to win in Belgium, and it’s not hard to imagine how Hamilton might have done the same had he chosen the same rear wing. He won in Italy and retired from the lead in Singapore. This was a string of four races where he could have built a succession of title-winning Grand Prix victories the way Vettel later did. Instead he scored half the available points.

More frustration followed in Korea, where a technical problem during the race saw him limp home tenth, dragging a large clump of Astroturf which became stuck to his car. His preparations in Japan were dogged by more problems, though he recovered to beat Kimi Raikkonen to fourth. In Abu Dhabi, another likely win yielded nothing.

By this time Hamilton have made the surprising revelation that he would be leaving McLaren for Mercedes at the end of the year. Keen to go out on a high, he prised victory from Vettel’s hands at the Circuit of the Americas with an opportunistic pass when the Red Bull driver was briefly delayed by Narain Karthikeyan.

There could have been a final win in Brazil, too, even after he lost the lead by making an unnecessary switch to intermediate tyres early on. After the safety car brought him back into contention he passed Nico Hulkenberg for the lead, only for the Force India to spin into the side of him.

That was his sixth no-score in a frustrating year when things just refused to come right for Hamilton. Often – though not always – it was through no fault of his own. That he finished fourth in the championship with a car that was, on average, quickest over a single lap, is largely down to reliability and operational problems out of his control.

Hamilton was back to his best in 2012 and there is every reason to believe he’d have been in the thick of the championship contest had his car and team performed better.

Lewis Hamilton 2012 form guide

F1 Fanatic readers on Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Montreal, 2012Here’s what F1 Fanatic readers had to say about Lewis Hamilton’s season:

He always drove at the maximum of his and his car’s possibilities, he took advantage of the McLaren when it was the quicker can and battled with the Red Bulls when they were faster. His five retirements cost him so many points that he could’ve easily not only beaten Raikkonen, but likely Alonso and Vettel as well.

Seven pole positions plus the one he lost through no fault of his own in Spain, consistently faster than his team mate and as quick as Vettel when Newey improved the RB8. McLaren?s pit stop mistakes and bad reliability cost him so much that he finished the season even behind Raikkonen.

Arguably Hamilton?s best season since his rookie year, definitely his best since his title year. No driving errors, and when you see how much McLaren has been at fault this year, you get a better understanding of why Lewis decided to pull the trigger and move to Brackley.

Should be holding two world titles for sure. He drove brilliantly, but when that championship winning consistency was needed by the team, Hamilton was let down numerous times. We can easily add another 100 points onto his tally if McLaren had been as operationally smooth as Red Bull or Ferrari.

These point would see him easily champion. The frustration mounted this year but Lewis dealt with it well on track. Off track he had no other choice to move to a promising team that can only move up: Mercedes.

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.

Over to you

What do you think of Lewis Hamilton’s last year with McLaren? Have your say in the comments.

2012 F1 season review

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Images ?? McLaren/Hoch Zwei

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94 comments on 2012 F1 Driver Rankings #2: Lewis Hamilton

  1. xjr15jaaag (@xjr15jaaag) said on 14th December 2012, 16:53

    I will probably get hate for this, but I thought his season was unremarkable to say the least, and although he made very few mistakes, he didn’t appear to me to be driving at another level to everyone else.
    It’s quite difficult to describe and justify, but for some reason, I didn’t think he was a particularly outstanding driver all year.

  2. javlinsharp (@javlinsharp) said on 14th December 2012, 16:55

    Historically, I have been an Lewis Hamilton anti-fan for reasons I will not repeat here…

    This summary from Keith has shown me a few things, which have formed some hereto unseen opinions
    1. LH was HUGELY let down by his team
    2. The car had SO much potential and Lewis was able to capitialize on most of it.
    3. The frustration of having potentially the fastest car, but the inability to win with it, to be stifled again and again by the team, by luck, by other factors outside his control; it must have been infuriating…
    3. What we see in LH of 2012 was a marked departure from his performances of previous seasons. The whiny, self-entitled, mistake-prone, easily frustrated driver which I have perceived is gone and LH has made tremendous improvements in his attitude to racing. He has taken the lessons heart, and I predict these personal changes will serve him well in the future (especially now at Mercedes ;-)

    If Alonso deserves the top ranking for what he did with a bad car, Hamilton deserve a high ranking for what he did with a bad team, even if neither of them took the ultimate prize.

  3. sato113 (@sato113) said on 14th December 2012, 16:56

    Yey got my quote in the article! very proud.

    Hamilton’s potential wins in 2012: Spain, Canada, Hungary, Italy, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, USA, Brasil. Thats 200 points alone, more than his actual 2012 points tally of 190!!!

    Hamilton’s actual wins in 2012: Canada, Hungary, Italy, USA. that’s a 100 points already and we could add Australia, China, Belgium.

    • @sato113

      okay I’m confused. You list in Hamilton’s potential wins 4 races he actually won? If he won them, they aren’t potential wins. And you bold that his potential wins would be more points than he actually scored.

      Then you list Australia, China and Belgium as potential wins? Even though in 2 of them (Aus, China) he clearly didn’t win or really even in the running to win? Or Belgium where he didn’t make it past the first corner in a car with the totally wrong set up.

      I’m not sure what your point is.

      • sato113 (@sato113) said on 14th December 2012, 23:04

        @uan when i said potential i mean he could have potentially won all those races as a group. sorry it is a bit confusing depending how you read it. then I say he could have retired in every other race apart from those listed and still have scored more points than he actually did.

        Australia- yes 100% his fault but if he just got a good start he could have controlled the race and won just as easily as Button did. IMO.

        China- i dont see why peple think Mclaren were slower than Mercedes during the race. If Hamilton didnt get a gearbox penalty and lined up p2 he could have easily and yes i mean easily passed rosberg over 60 or so laps. Rosberg benefitted massively from the 2 mclarens being stuck in traffic all race. great win none the less.

        Belgium- clearly an erroneous setup choice by Ham and/or the team. Lets face it, HAM is quicker than BUT. he would have got pole.

        so my point is the missed wins were crucial regardless of every other result from 2nd place downwards. the wins were in his grasp but the team (mostly) let them slip away.

        • @sato113

          I agree with your point in general. Quite honestly, without the reliability issues and operational errors, Lewis was on track to have the same type of year Vettel had in 2011. I also give high marks to Lewis for staying mentally strong when mistakes after mistakes were costing him (much more mature than 2010 and 2011) hugely.

          That’s why breaking out the top 3 drivers, to a certain extent, is an exercise in futility this year. Vettel, Alonso and Hamilton each were superlative given the tools at their disposal. I think Alonso is flattered the most, but I think Vettel and Hamilton would have done equally as well in the Ferrari, possibly better as both are better qualifiers.

          As it is, we’re left with applying double standards to each of the drivers as cases are built for them.

          I’m not sure if there’s a way to quantify it, but this year really does show that it’s too simple to say “car” and “driver”. The driver is one element in itself, but the car is really a triad of design and updates, reliability and team operations. The McLaren was the fastest car for the vast majority of the year and should have won at least half the races. But reliability and operational issues undermined it. There’s a reason the Ferrari beat McLaren in the WCC and Alonso beat both McLaren drivers. So a competitive car with bullet proof reliability and operational performance during the races made up for the lack of outright pace. The classic tortoise and hare. The RedBull was in between those two and stumbled upon a happy medium of pace and reliability and operational excellence (except in Abu Dhabi and the underfueling of the car).

  4. Guccio (@concalvez00) said on 14th December 2012, 17:34

    Honestly Keith i think you are are a bit biased towards Lewis and this is not the first time. When i read this article it seems that you want to blame Lewis for some of the errors that occurred, Lewis drove an error free season and should be No1 instead of Alonso who get to often overhyped by media such as this site and others. While Alonso needed to be benefitted by handicapping Massa Lewis did everything on his own

    • DaveF1 (@davef1) said on 14th December 2012, 20:10


      Bloody hell when Keith puts Alonso first he’s biased towards Alonso. When he puts Vettel first, he’s biased towards Vettel. When he puts Hamilton first he’s biased towards Hamilton. He can’t win regardless of who he puts first on his own personal ranking.

      At your other point, Hamilton did not have an error free season. There’s no such thing as an error free season, Lewis made very few mistakes (the majority of which were off the track) and perhaps had the best season of his career. Ferrari only pushed Massa down the order once and it was a point where Felipe has ZERO chance of winning the championship.

      Take you’re blinkers off mate before you start suggesting that Hamilton built the MP4-27 himself.

      • Guccio (@concalvez00) said on 15th December 2012, 1:10

        ” Lewis made very few mistakes” – Don’t give me this nonsense!

        ”Take you’re blinkers off mate before you start suggesting that Hamilton built the MP4-27 himself” – how did you came to this conclusion ?

  5. Lewis was stellar this year. The top 3 drivers are covered by the narrowest of margins and an argument can be made that anyone of them could justifiably be in any of the top positions.

    On the whole, Lewis made the most of the car he was given. I think the most impressive thing for me about his driving this year, is how well he kept his mind in the game and how well he drove the entire year despite some pretty tough set backs.

    • Lewis was pretty good, but driver+team combo wins championships. McLaren performed quite poorly this season in terms of lost points, and I don’t think the F1 commentary/reporting has really taken the McLaren management to task for it. Looks like with every occasional win, Whitmarsh wipes his memory clean of any past blunders.

      At Ferrari, Alonso did have his personal best season to date. Ferrari probably made only 1 mistake all year, with the wrong strategy at Montreal, and they lost effectively 5 pts to Vettel (since Alonso was running ahead of Vettel before Red Bull pitted late in the race to leapfrog Alonso.) It would have been just enough :) Yet, in the end, it would have been “unjust” for a Ferrari starting regularly on the 3rd or 4th row to sneak its way to the title from the team locking out the front row. Vettel & Red Bull deserve the WDC.

  6. Yud (@yud77) said on 15th December 2012, 3:12

    i don’t know way but i think that lowis is the most overrated in the history of f1
    he got the bast car in 2012 and didn’t won wdc
    so how is he better then vettle
    it’s so funny that i can cry from envy too lowis
    think for a second if lowis won the wdc in 2012 all the britsh will praise it as the driver best in history in the sports

  7. Keith, what makes it “a *classy* pole-to-win drive in Hungary”? Since there have been many pole-to-win drives by Mr Vettel the past few years, I thought I’d search f1fanatic.co.uk for “classy pole-to-win”… nope, didn’t happen before. A bit of british bias perhaps?

  8. jpowell (@jpowell) said on 15th December 2012, 9:55

    Lewis still has a major problem with tyre wear all though he seems to have mostly come to terms with this problem mentally it seems he is destined be in a difficult place .I am still hoping to see a season on real racing tyres ,then perhaps the evaluations will be on the best racer.I would love to see who came out on top,it might not be any of the top three but it looks like we might have a long wait.

    • “Lewis still has a major problem with tyre wear”

      This myth was put to rest years ago when tyre suppliers said there was no notable difference in tyre wear between Jenson and Lewis after thousands of km’s of pre-season testing.

      Also, did you miss Spain 2012?

  9. Kieth, BIG RESPECT for this ranking!

    From a driving point of View Hamilton made less mistakes than vettel and was faster too. So I see why he got the 2nd. He could have been above Alonso too, but yeah, there were some moments when Alonso transcended a mere driver into a TEAM GOD. So I will will accept Hamilton in 2nd this time around.

  10. OKU (@zetaoku) said on 15th December 2012, 14:16

    Just being curious, while Raikkonen was still in McLaren, any particular year did he suffer from the car’s unreliability like Hamilton did this season?

    Thanks in advance.

  11. audifan said on 16th December 2012, 21:04

    as a button fan [ 7th about right this year ] it gripes me to have to admit it ,but hamilton was by a margin the outstanding driver of the year , always fast and flawless …..ok the car/team ruined his chances but he got 100% out of the car in every race ; kimi second , he did much the same , but not as quick as hamilton [ or his team mate a lot of the time ]

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