24 – Narain Karthikeyan
Generally unremarkable, Karthikeyan was consistently beaten by de la Rosa in races where both of them finished.
23 – Pedro de la Rosa
Although de la Rosa has been generally solid, and has generally outpaced Karthikeyan, he’s been nearly invisible as well.
22 – Vitaly Petrov
Petrov has been very anonymous in the Caterham, and has been roughly equal to Kovalainen in terms of results – behind in qualifying, ahead in races.
21 – Jean Eric Vergne
Vergne’s qualifying form is rather poor. Although the car isn’t anything to shout about, that he’s frequently dropped in Q1 says about as much regarding one-lap speed. At least he’s partly made up for it with some good race pace.
20 – Heikki Kovalainen
Drawing generally even with his teammate in terms of combined qualifying and race pace, Kovalainen has the edge for some gritty drives, like in Monaco.
19 – Charles Pic
Rookie Pic has been quite the match for his vastly more experienced teammate, suitably impressive for a first season.
18 – Timo Glock
Experienced and dependable Glock has gotten the most out of the Marussia car, and from his duel with Pic at Spa, he still has that racing spirit.
17 – Daniel Ricciardo
Both Toro Rosso drivers have been generally unimpressive all year, but Ricciardo has been the better of the two, consistently ahead in qualifying and races.
16 – Bruno Senna
Senna made a number of errors, like his spin in qualifying for Spain, and was generally outpaced and mediocre for the greater part of the season.
15 – Pastor Maldonado
Maldonado earned his all-important breakthrough win, but failed to capitalize on the car’s potential with a string of controversial incidents and endless penalties.
14 – Kamui Kobayashi
Aside from his podium in Japan, and a general uptick in form to the end of the season, Kobayashi has been relatively average all year.
13 – Paul di Resta
There were some flashes of brilliance from di Resta this season, including his career best 4th place in Singapore, but he’s been generally overshadowed by his teammate.
12 – Sergio Perez
While his performances have been decidedly lackluster since the announcement of his McLaren contract, Perez’s podiums still stand as showcases of his potential, more so given how he was able to chase down Alonso in Malaysia.
11 – Nico Rosberg
Rosberg’s maiden win was definitely a demonstration of his outright ability, which has unfortunately gone unfulfilled due to the late-season lack of pace and competitiveness of the Mercedes W03.
10 – Felipe Massa
While Massa may have been woefully off the pace at the beginning of the year, he’s made good since, finding some semblance of his former self toward the season’s end. Through races like Brazil, he’s cemented his role as a solid number two driver.
9 – Romain Grosjean
Grosjean has done well, showing impressive speed and race pace, especially in Bahrain and Britain, but he could have attained better results had he not been so over-eager and incident-prone.
8 – Michael Schumacher
He’s been hampered by reliability problems, disappointed by a dog of a car, and on occasion made the avoidable mistake, but Schumacher has shown some return to his previous self with his “pole” in Monaco, and other sound performances.
7 – Nico Hulkenberg
Hulkenberg has done very well, outperforming the relatively capable di Resta, and scoring some solid points finishes throughout the year. His race in Korea, and his brief stint leading the Brazilian GP, show that he does have front-running potential.
6 – Jenson Button
Contrary to his reputation, Button has been anything but consistent, especially with his mysterious mid-season slump. Still, his quality drives to the podium, like Belgium and Brazil, show that he retains some good form.
5 – Mark Webber
Webber was the faster Red Bull driver in the early stages of the season, at times looking in championship contention, but this drive seemed to evaporate in the second half of the year with some poor showings, especially in Abu Dhabi.
4 – Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen’s comeback has been a modest success. Even after his sabbatical, he’s managed to acclimatize to F1 in 2012, pull off an outstanding performance in Bahrain, earn the pivotal comeback win in Abu Dhabi, and secure 3rd in the championship standings.
3 – Sebastian Vettel
Far from the dominance of last year, Vettel’s championship campaign has been gritty, or at times ragged, but his imperious performances (such as over the four race stretch from Singapore to India), and his recoveries in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, prove that he is indeed a deserving triple world champion.
2 – Lewis Hamilton
Let down by mechanical and operational errors more often than not, Hamilton has moved past his error-prone 2011 form, and produced no shortage of consistent, mature and measured performances. That he has the most pole positions of any driver this year is a testament to his sheer pace.
1 – Fernando Alonso
Alonso was able to extract the most out of the equipment he was given, and turned his unfavoured Ferrari into a viable vehicle for his world championship campaign, losing only by the slimmest of margins. His storming performances in Malaysia, Valencia and Germany, as well as his frequent charges to the podium, leave little doubt in my mind that he is the driver of the year.