Very hard to rate from here. You’ve got some drivers who were brilliant on occasions, like Massa, Grosjean and Maldonado, but should have scored a hell of a lot more points. Then you’ve got some more consistent like Senna and di Resta, who ultimately didn’t get everything out of the car. There are also the Toro Rosso drivers, both young and in a car in no-man’s land, Schumacher and Kobayashi that had very strange seasons, and the bottom 3 teams’ drivers very hard to rate, apart from one, obviously.
So I won’t rate the rest in any order as I just don’t know what to do with them. Here’s some of the remaining drivers, based on their championship’s standings:
Felipe Massa: His season seemed to consist of three parts – at first he was heavily off the pace, then he got the pace but just couldn’t transform it into consistently good results, and at the end he started doing just that. If he starts 2013 the way he ended 2012, he could prove to be a big problem for Alonso.
Romain Grosjean: Shone in qualifying on many occasions and gave Raikkonen a run for his money, and showed some good Sunday performances as well to get 3 podiums. But, as we all well know, the number of incidents he was involved in was way too high and it needs to be his priority to sort that for 2013. He’s definitely got the speed though.
Kamui Kobayashi: It was wonderful to see him get the podium in Suzuka, and it was terrible seeing him retire after a front row start in Spa. Some good drives and impressive overtakes, as well as some bad luck, but ultimately he just didn’t show anything that would convince me he’s a huge talent.
Michael Schumacher: Awfully bad luck in the first part of the season and some poor driving, especially his collision with Vergne in Singapore. It was nice to see him back on the podium in Valencia and one has to wonder whether he would’ve won the Monaco GP without the grid penalty and car failure. Some of the best driving since his return, especially in qualifying, and he proved he can still be a match for some of the best drivers in the world.
Pastor Maldonado: The highest of highs and the lowest of lows, all in one season. His incredibly mature performance to win in Barcelona was phenomenal, but his ever-present collisions and penalties, as well as some very dirty driving in Monaco cost him a huge amount of points. Seemed to improve in that respect later on in the season and was unfortunate not to get podiums in Singapore and Abu Dhabi. Should be interesting to watch in 2013.
Jean-Eric Vergne: Struggled in qualifying, but his race pace was good and his four 8th places were well deserved. Hard to rate him with the car in no-man’s land, but he seemed to be slightly better than his teammate. Rookie of the year for me.
Maldonado- Dare I say, in terms of outright speed, he had the same brilliance Hamilton had in his first season. There’s no doubt about it, Maldonado is fast. And we all know speed is something naturally occurring. However, consistency and wisdom is something that can be taught and developed. 2012 showed these traits to be lacking in the young Venezuelan. Perhaps a better signing for McLaren than the somewhat opposite Perez. Do they really want two Jenson Button’s in their team? No.
Alonso- should be a text book example of how to win a world championship in an average car. He was mighty consistent and you can’t point the finger at his suzuka crash. Everyone is allowed 1 or 2 mistakes. He did everything possible to win, but there are limits in F1: Red Bull finding theirs was the crucial factor in Ferrari’s loss.
Hamilton- should be holding 2 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.
Thanks very much for all your contributions everyone – clearly a lot of effort has gone into many of them. I’ll try to make use of them as much as I can. The first part is already up, the second part will be up shortly with the rest to follow during the week.