Formula 1 mid-season report: Who can stop Fernando Alonso?
As Formula 1's mid-season break continues, Steven Oldham examines the performances of each driver so far in 2012
As the mid season break continues, it’s a good time to take stock of the season so far.
Who has impressed? Who hasn’t? Here, in current championship standings order, we look at who’s performing and who needs to improve, starting in Belgium in two weeks’ time.
Fernando Alonso, Ferrari
If the Spaniard can hang on to his lead in the remaining races and claim his third world title, it will surely be the greatest of his career. The 2012 Ferrari had no right to be near the front of the field in the early races and still Alonso ground results out of it. Currently the only driver with three victories, he is also the only driver to have scored points in every round so far.
Mark Webber, Red Bull
The Australian has performed well so far this year. Twice a winner, and impressively so at both Silverstone and Monaco, the Red Bull driver appears to have worked out how to handle team-mate Sebastian Vettel. Much improved qualifying (Vettel only leads 6-5 this year) and better racecraft from Webber have seen him consistently rack up high scoring finishes, and only once outside the points.
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull
Should Vettel win the title this season, he will cement his position as one of the greats of the sport. This year has been pretty much the polar opposite of last season, which Vettel won at a canter, with the German only winning one race compared to six at this stage last year. However, Vettel never led the 2010 standings until the day he won it. Yes, there have been mechanical mishaps and disappointments in qualifying. But he is still a contender and he cannot be ruled out of the running.
Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
Hamilton’s victory in Budapest came at the perfect time to reignite his title challenge. After three disappointing results which saw him only pick up four points from 75 there was a real danger the wheels could fall off after a positive start to the season. His inability to turn pole positions into victories however at the start of the year may prove crucial in such a close year. He will be hoping for more of the same from Hungary and Canada in the coming races.
Kimi Raikonnen, Lotus
The undoubted success story of the season so far. There were doubts before the racing began whether the Finn could still cut it after his rallying sabbatical. Fifth place in a car yet to win a race puts pay to those questions. Few would begrudge Raikonnen the victory he richly deserves this year and has come close to on more than one occasion. Had he not stayed out too long on old tyres in Shanghai, who knows where in the standings he would be.
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes
It’s been a strange campaign so far for Rosberg. Apart from the joy of his long-overdue first win, he’s not had much else to shout about. A competitive second in Monaco briefly put Rosberg right in the title hunt but Mercedes have been falling further and further off race pace since. A miserable tally of two points from the last 75 on offer makes glum reading for Rosberg in a season which initially promised so much yet is fast becoming another of underachievement.
Jenson Button, McLaren
Another man who desperately needs his fortunes to improve is Jenson Button. The opening day win in Melbourne feels a lifetime ago and if team-mate Hamilton outdoes him in the next couple of races there is a real possibility he will have to perform the rear-gunner role to support him. A punchy second place in Germany has kept that prospect at least another race away, but no scores in four races, and minor points in three others leave the Frome man well off the pace.
Romain Grosjean, Lotus
The Frenchman is taking his second chance in F1 and running away with it. In his last attempt at the sport he was clearly not ready. The reality check and time away have made the world of difference and Grosjean, like his fellow Lotus driver Raikonnen, can feel unlucky to not be on the 2012 list of race winners. Although still a little accident prone and clumsy, there is no doubting his speed and the odd couple he has formed with the Finn is working for Lotus.
Sergio Perez, Sauber
The Mexican has come of age this year. In only his second season of Formula 1, he and his Sauber have been one of the revelations of the campaign so far. Who could forget the incredible sight of him reigning down on the mighty Alonso in Malaysia? Racy whoever he’s driving against, he has shown he is not intimidated by the ‘names’ of F1. Rarely off the pace, his future surely lies at a bigger team, with Ferrari the most likely destination for an exciting talent.
Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber
Kobayashi is not accustomed to having his team-mate outscore him, but it is not a case of the Japanese driver losing form. Indeed Kobayashi has already scored more points than he did all the way through last year thanks to the vastly improved car underneath him. He has scored his best ever finish (albeit thanks to a time penalty for Vettel) but there have still been moments to forget. He is not a rookie anymore and should not be making mistakes like crashing into Bruno Senna at Valencia.
Pastor Maldonado, Williams
The Jekyll and Hyde of Formula 1, it is hard to work the Venezuelan out. Unfortunately for him, the bad moments tend to outnumber the good. This is quite an unwanted achievement for a man who took his first victory brilliantly in Spain whilst giving his team their first win in eight years. However, clashes on track with countless drivers (Perez, Hamilton, Grosjean, even HRT’s Pedro de la Rosa) have on most occasions (not all) been his fault. His aggressive style is too extreme, it’s costing both him and his team good points finishes. The fact he has only scored once more other than his win is the most telling statistic of all.
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes
In the complete opposite of his first stint in F1, not much is going right for Michael this season. Reliability issues and team errors have cost him dearly and by rights he should be much higher than 12th. There have been high points – a first podium since his return and rolling back the years to take the Monaco pole position. Somewhat fittingly given his luck this year, he was knocked back to sixth on the grid following causing an avoidable accident in the previous race.
Paul di Resta, Force India
Another good start to the season for di Resta, who with a year’s extra experience has already matched his opening season’s point tally. He’s done well to outdo highly rated team-mate Nico Hulkenberg.
Felipe Massa, Ferrari
A disastrous first half of the year for the Brazilian. Showed flashes of his ability in driving to fourth at Silverstone but it’s surely only a matter of time before Ferrari dispatch of his services. It might just be what he needs to get his career back on track.
Bruno Senna, Williams
Consistent if not thrilling driving from Senna this year. Some impressive points finishes, notably 6th in Malaysia and 7th last time out, Senna could improve his points tally and value to the team if he sorted out qualifying, where he lags behind his unpredictable team-mate Maldonado.
Nico Hulkenberg, Force India
Quiet start for Hulkenberg in his belated second season. There have been some displays to match his undoubted talent – a career-best fifth in Valencia for example – but in too many race weekends, he has been anonymous. Under Di Resta’s thumb at the moment.
Jean-Eric Vergne, Toro Rosso
Qualifying continues to be the Frenchman’s problem, albeit unaided by a Toro Rosso car that has fallen behind the midfield into no-man’s land ahead of the minnows. Two points finishes including eighth in Monaco are the highlights of a tough initiation to the big boy’s league.
Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso
Another driver somewhat in limbo following the lack of positive development to the car, Ricciardo will still be disappointed with being unable to add to his first F1 points in his home race at the beginning of the year.
Heikki Kovolainen, Caterham
Kovolainen is a class above the other drivers he spends his weekends fighting with nowadays. I admire his commitment to the cause of developing a new team but if he stays much longer, it will be to his own detriment. Rumours of a 2013 move to Sauber or Force India would be a step in the right direction.
Vitaly Petrov, Caterham
Another driver who should not be scrabbling over the final few positions. However, whilst Kovolainen remains at Caterham the Russian will struggle to make an impact.
Timo Glock, Marussia
Glock is better than Marussia can offer him. The only problem he faces is being on the grid in perhaps the most talented selection of drivers in many a decade, and two years of racing at the back seem to have taken their toll.
Charles Pic, Marussia
Competent start for the French rookie, who has managed to outqualify his more experienced team-mate a few times.
Pedro de la Rosa, HRT
Inauspicious start for de la Rosa and his new team with a second double DNQ in Australia but has used very limited equipment to the best of his ability to rout his team-mate 10-0 in qualifying.
Narain Karthikeyan, HRT
Karthikeyan’s sole contribution to the championship has been to occasionally trip up the leading pack, most notably Sebastian Vettel at Sepang.