24: Narain Karthikeyan: While the FIA hasn’t been too supportive of the whole “consumer car” thing in the past, they seem perfectly content to allow GP2-pace drivers/cars on the field.
23: Timo Glock: Constantly outperformed by his rookie teammate, never does anything noteworthy besides complaining about Pic.
22: Bruno Senna: I was easy on the guy last year, and gave him a pass since it was his first time in a proper F1 car. I thought he’d improve, and I was wrong. His performance is nowhere near what that Williams is capable of, and when he’s not slow, he’s finding new ways to ruin Williams’ weekend.
21: Pastor Maldonado: After intentionally swiping a competitor, and his incidents in Silverstone and Hungary, it’s a wonder this guy isn’t set upon by the other eleven teams. I ranked him above Senna because, unlike Bruno, Pastor does have moments where he shows genuine pace and talent. If someone can get his red mist under control, he could be a contender.
20: Felipe Massa: Constantly outperformed by his teammate, and every other sharp end driver. While Alonso has scored points in every race, Felipe has only scored in half of them. Alonso currently leads the championship, Massa currently leads the Torro Rosso pair… on a good day.
19: Charles Pic: Doing an impressive job for a rookie. Keeping his much more experienced teammate honest, and occasionally nipping at the Caterhams.
18: Pedro de la Rosa: Outperforming Narain, which isn’t a hard ask, but also out-qualifies the Marussias on occasion. Not bad for a 40 year old driver.
17: Jean-Eric Vergne: Can’t seem to qualify well at all. Granted this year’s STR is a dog of a car, but the difference between him and Ricciardo in quali are night and day. JEV typically does better on race day, but hasn’t shown much potential beyond gaining a few places from a miserable start. Maybe with more Malaysia-like conditions he’ll achieve more, but probably not.
16: Daniel Ricciardo: Flip everything I just said about Vergne. Ricciardo qualifies well, but falls back in the race. True, JEV has twice the points (a massive 4), but those were acquired in a race with weird conditions, while Daniel’s were achieved in a normal race.
15: Vitaly Petrov: Petrov is performing well enough in the Caterham. He’s been able to keep Hekki honest on a few occasions, despite the Finn’s experience.
14: Michael Schumacher: While he doesn’t deserve total blame for his on-track woes (Mercedes seem to have given Michael the “B” car) he has had his share of facepalm moments. He followed up a great race in Valencia by dreadful practice sessions in Germany and Hungary. From anyone else, I’d say the rain caught them out, but this is Michael Schumacher. He’s a seven time world champion, driving for a team that, at one point this year, could win races. For him to crash because “he got distracted” wouldn’t cut it with police on a highway, and won’t cut it it Formula 1.
13: Heikki Kovalainen: Put the Caterham into Q2 on merit, and can take the fight to a struggling STR. If Caterham ever find their pace, Heikki will be there to take the fight to the midfield.
12: Nico Hulkenberg: Seems to be a more “extreme” version of Paul. Nico has better races, and worse races. At times he can outpace his teammate, but he lacks the consistency to bring home the points when a race isn’t going his way.
11: Paul di Resta: He has the consistency Nico lacks, but not much else. He’s a safe pair of hands who brings home points more often than not, which is noteworthy considering the sharp end now consists of 3.5 teams (Ferrari being the .5).
10: Kamui Kobayashi: I absolutely adore Kamikaze Kamui, but he suffers a bit where consistency is concerned. Like the Hulkenberg / di Resta dynamic, I feel Kamui tends to be the more “extreme” driver of the pair. He can take the car beyond it’s limit, but he can also fall off the cliff come the next race. Hopefully he can find that bit he’s lacking, because he is one of the sports most exciting drivers for sure.
9: Nico Rosberg: Nico has shown he can take the fight to the top, with a dominant victory in China, and a solid P2 in Monaco. Unlike Michael, Nico brings home points more often than not (again, in all fairness, Nico’s car never seems to be the one that breaks.) His performances of late seem to be lacking, however that may be down to the car more than the driver. Mercedes seem to be constantly slipping in the development batle, and with their DDRS not being all it was made out to be, their “ace in the hole” has turned out to be nothing more than a joker in disguise.
8: Jenson Button: Mr. Tire seems to have lost his edge this year. After a blinding start he utterly blew it in Malaysia, only to secure second in China. It took seven races for Button to see another podium, which is strange considering the early pace of the McLaren. More disturbing, Button has been out of the points four times this year, with no retirements. I wonder if what Button is experiencing with the 2012 Pirelli tires is like what Webber went thorough with the 2011′s. Whatever the reason, Jenson is out of touch this year. He’s scored decent points in the last two races, and hopefully he can turn things around.
7: Sebastian Vettel: Vettel impressed last year with a dominant, mature performance. While much of it was down to the RB7 being an amazing machine, nobody can say Sebastian did not play a major role in the Red Bull dominance of 2011. His (apparent) maturity even won me over, and I’m no fan of Red Bull or Vettel. This year, he threw all that in our faces. From the “Gurke” moment in Malaysia, to his whining in Germany, to the petulant messages in Hungary, Vettel seems to have thrown his maturity out the window. He’s been outraced by Webber, and in sat in third not far ahead of Lewis and Kimi. This year we are seeing the true Vettel reemerge. When the car is perfect, Seb is unstoppable. Now with race conditions and temperature playing a massive role, the car is rarely perfect. Vettel is still one to watch for the championship, however he is proving race after race that the early comparisons to Ayrton and Michael were premature.
6: Romain Grosjean: RoGro is interesting to watch. The guy has genuine pace, there is no arguing that, but he follows up good races with utter farces. He is Formula 1′s win-it-or-bin-it driver. He’s right up there with Massa and Senna for “pray you aren’t near them on lap 1″ status. Next race, he turns this all around and puts in a blinding performance. The guy needs to check himself more on lap 1, and realize unless it’s Monaco, Hungary, or Abu Dhabi he won’t win the race by going Banzai Mode out of the gate.
5: Mark Webber: Webber seems to have found the form he lacked in 2011. He’s outperforming Sebastian, brought home two victories at two vastly different tracks, and consistently brings home points even when the car isn’t up to task. If he keeps this up, he could be a genuine challenger for WDC.
4: Sergio Perez: How Perez does what he does with that Sauber is beyond me. He’s smooth, easy on the tires, aggressive when he needs to be, cool when he needs to be. He drags that Sauber up well beyond what the car should be able to do. This kid is going places.
3: Lewis Hamilton: Unlike Button, Hamilton seems unphased by McLaren’s drop in performance. This year, he’s outperformed his car more often than not, been able to keep his tires fresh, and (miracle of miracle) has mostly stayed clear of the steward’s office. Despite his good performance, Hamilton still seems to lose hope too quickly if a race is going away with him. That aside, this is a return to form after a dismal 2011, and if McLaren have sorted their pit stop issues, look for Hamilton to take the fight to Alonso.
2: Kimi Raikkonen: Two years away, get outqualified by teammate, beat teammate anyway, would win if team didn’t make stupid strategy calls multiple times, could win WDC one year after Lotus was barely faster than Williams and Caterham. It is okay.
1: Fernando Alonso: Mr. Eyebrows takes that Ferrari places it should never be. What more do I need to say?