24. Narain Karthikeyan – convincingly outclassed by his 41 year old team-mate, who himself has never been considered anything more than average. He was out-qualified by his team mate at every race until Monza. In the vast majority of races he finished dead last. His best result? 18th and last in the chaotic Brazilian Grand Prix. Many drivers deserve a place in Formula 1. Based on this year, Karthikeyan does not, even taking into account his woefully slow machinery.
23. Pedro de la Rosa – Did a good job for the most part, and comfortably beat his team mate, although that probably isn’t saying much. One has to wonder what he got out of thanklessly and anonymously trundling about near the back of the grid at the twilight of his career.
22. Timo Glock – Despite a valiant drive to 12th in Singapore, I feel Glock has underperformed this year overall. Pic gave him a good run for his money, although in qualifying Glock showed his experience and skill at more technical tracks such as Suzuka. In the race it seemed Pic was much more competitive, and often brought the fight to Glock. Timo has been in the sport a while, and is widely considered an underrated driver. However he was outshone by his rookie team mate a bit too often this year.
21. Bruno Senna – While more consistent than his team mate, he was a great deal slower. He made simple errors (spinning out of Q1 in Spain, colliding with Kobayashi in Valencia) and while he was a solid points finisher ten times this season, I think the car was capable of much more.
20. Heikki Kovalainen – I thought Heikki did a fantastic job last year, despite being in one of the slowest cars on the grid. Perhaps on this year’s evidence he was being flattered by an abysmal Jarno Trulli. Heikki started the season off strong, but as it went on he found himself regularly behind his new team mate. Several times the Marussias gave him trouble when they really shouldn’t have. In the race Kovalainen never really seemed to have the tenacious fighting spirit that he so often displayed in 2011, and was beaten by Petrov many times.
19. Vitaly Petrov – A slow start to the year, he was regularly out raced by Kovalainen.
However, towards the end of the season Petrov regularly had the beating of his more experienced (and in my view more talented) team mate. A fantastic, opportunistic 11th in Brazil capped off a very strong end to his season.
18. Romain Grosjean – Lightning fast at some races, he was on the podium three times and out qualified his team mate several times at the start of the season. He was also unlucky to have a potential win taken from him in Valencia due to a mechanical failure. Despite showing speed and promise, he was entirely at fault for too many first lap incidents for a driver at the pinnacle of motorsport.
17. Charles Pic – A promising rookie season, he often took the fight to the experienced and quick Timo Glock. Out qualified and out raced his team mate several times, this is a young talent that will hopefully continue to grow next season.
16. Pastor Maldonado – A calm, collected drive to victory in Barcelona was an aberration in an otherwise torrid season. Maldonado surprised several times in qualifying with several visits to the front two rows. You don’t win a race or qualify second in Singapore without talent. Despite crushing his team mate in qualifying the races were a different matter and he failed to score points in a car very capable of doing so far too often. He used his car as a weapon against Perez in Monaco, and too many times he made foolish decisions that cost him dearly as happened in Australia, Monaco, Europe, Britain, Hungary and Belgium. The talent is there, but the temperament is not.
15. Daniel Ricciardo – 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.
14. Jean-Eric Vergne – A solid first year, Vergne was the leading points scorer in Toro Rosso. This does not tell the whole story. Ricciardo easily had the measure of him in qualifying, and there was little to separate them after a year of racing. Vergne had his mistakes – clipping Kovalainen in Valencia for example – but he also had some great moments, like his 7th in Monaco and coming home in the points in Brazil.
13. Paul di Resta – Had the beating of Hulkenberg over the first half of the season, only to drop back as time went on. Had some great drives to 6th in Bahrain and 4th in Valencia, but towards the end of the year found himself lagging behind his team mate in both qualifying and the race. Solid, but unspectacular.
12. Kamui Kobayashi – In many ways a season of what could have been. He drove to solid points in several races, but squandered his grid position in China and was desperately unfortunate to have his best qualifying position ruined by Grosjean at Spa. A mis judged lunge in Korea ended what looked like a promising race. He took the feel good podium of the year in front of a jubilant home crowd at Suzuka. He looks unlikely to be in F1 next year, which is disappointing considering how exciting of an over-taker he is. Fans will miss seeing the ‘Kamui kiss’, but at least he got his picture.
11. Felipe Massa – A season of two halves for Felipe Massa. He was obliterated by his team mate until late into the Championship. Before his upswing in form it seemed like he was driving a totally different car to Alonso, so bad were his performances. However he was strong from Italy onwards and out qualified and out raced Alonso in some of the later races. He dutifully played the role of number two to Alonso after finding his form, but his great late season performances cannot wipe from the memory how truly useless he was for most of the season.
10. Nico Hulkenberg – This year he has shown he has the speed to deserve a place in F1. It didn’t take long before he was beating his team mate in qualifying and the race. A 4th in Europe and his late season form show that Hulkenberg is quick, while his thrilling race in Brazil showed that he is yet to truly marry his raw speed to a consistent, mistake free racecraft.
9. Nico Rosberg – He capitalised on his car’s early season pace, appearing on the podium twice and finally getting his elusive first victory with a dominant win in China. However it must be said that he botched several important Q3 laps, notably in Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain. But for that more podium appearances may have been possible. As the season progressed Rosberg fell into anonymity through little fault of his own, as the car was bereft of pace.
8. Michael Schumacher – A podium and the Monaco pole that never was showed that even in 2012, Schumi could still show flashes of absolute genius. This was by far the strongest of his comeback seasons. He was by no means perfect and made inexplicable mistakes for a man of his ability (Barcelona, Singapore). Dogged by unreliability he deserved far more than he received but in true Schumacher fashion his final race showed that he would not go quietly into retirement, with a stunning display of skill in the mist of São Paulo.
7. Sergio Perez – A fantastic second season, Perez shot to stardom with a virtuoso performance in Malaysia that was his to win but for one mistake. He was a consistent points scorer and beat comfortably a team mate that is no slouch behind the wheel himself. Despite three brilliant podiums, his late season form has taken some of the sheen off what has otherwise been a great season.
6. Mark Webber – At the halfway point it looked like 2010 all over again. Mark had the beating of Vettel early in the season, and took two great wins. His form deserted him late on in the season, as did reliability.
5. Jenson Button – Jenson Button proved this season that he can still keep pace with an on form Lewis Hamilton, and that says a lot for a driver. Unfortunately he only drives his best when the car is at its best, and was shockingly off the pace in Valencia and Canada. His three wins were dominant.
4. Kimi Raikkonen – The two years spent driving into ditches have not dulled Kimi’s speed. He was in contention for victories at several races, and after he got the car to his liking he dominated his team mate. He got a long overdue comeback victory and had a remarkably consistent season, with few mistakes. He always found himself in the points when the car was capable, and quietly went about his job in true Iceman style. He knew what he was doing, and he did a damn good job.
3. Sebastian Vettel – There are no undeserving Champions in Formula One, and Sebastian Vettel truly deserved his third title. He battled with a car that wasn’t to his liking at the start, and score important points. When the car was to his liking, he dominated. When events conspired against him he put in awe inspiring drives in both Abu Dhabi and Brazil, under immense pressure. He battled for positions in many races, and dismissed the view that he wasn’t a real racer. Vettel still has some maturing to do, with frustration clouding his judgment in a few races. The fact that he is still developing as a racing driver must be a sobering thought to his rivals.
2. Lewis Hamilton – Hamilton should have dominated this season. He drove with speed and consistency throughout the year, and never put a wheel out of place. In stark contrast to 2011, when things didn’t go his way Hamilton handled the many failures of his team with grace and maturity. In Italy and Hungary Hamilton was crushingly dominant. He remains a thrilling driver and an absolute pleasure to watch behind the wheel. But for his teams’ mistakes and terrible reliability he would surely have had several more wins than the four he took, and with them his second Championship. His best year yet.
1. Fernando Alonso – Persistent, tenacious, imperious. Very few drivers have ever had the talent Alonso possesses, fewer still have utilised it so flawlessly. Fernando Alonso in 2012 was a driver of a generation on the top of his game. His ability to get more out of a car than many would think possible is a rare gift, and he utilised everything at his disposal to take a car unbefitting of his talents to three wins and thirteen podiums. Alonso may not be the fastest over one lap, but over a race there are very few who can touch him, and his starts and opening laps were often a thing of beauty. A truly remarkable season, Alonso seemingly through sheer force of will, dragged what was for most of the season the third fastest car to within three points of a championship he most richly deserved.