Michael Schumacher Photographer: Adrian Hoskins. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
So, 4 races into the F1 season, with 4 different winners and 8 different drivers on the podium, team and driver form has fluctuated more wildly than Donald Trump’s hairdo in front of a wind farm.
Only a fool would try to draw any conclusions from the season so far. So here are my conclusions drawn from the season so far, starting with the drivers. Compared with the start of the year, who’s stock is soaring higher than Ron Dennis’ blood pressure during a McLaren pit stop, and who’s reputation has dropped faster than Bernie Ecclestone’s chances of winning the humanitarian of the year award?
On the Up
“Topper-most-of -the-poper-most” so far in 2012 are, I think, in no particular order:
Kimi Raikkonen – To be honest, I’d have bet his weight in coke and ice cream that the Finn’s F1 return would fall flat, but he has applied himself and raced well. Best of all, we haven’t had to listen to endless comments about what Robert Kubica might have achieved in the Lotus-Renault.
Roman Grosjean – Despite two early baths in the first two races, it is a credit to the Sideshow Bob lookalike that it’s still not clear where supremacy will ultimately lie within the Lotus team this year. He is a salutary lesson for F1 not to give up on drivers just because their first foray into the top rank, in his case with Renault in 2008, is pants.
Sergio Perez – His second place in Malaysia was terrific and there is now no surprise in seeing him near the sharp end of the field. How good is he? We’ll not know for sure whilst he’s with perennial mid-fielders Sauber. However, the experience of Badoer and Fisichella suggests that he should probably resist the temptation of any proposed mid-season switch to Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso – I’m sure Alonso would have liked a shot at the title, but, honestly, what could be better for his reputation than an ugly, ungainly Ferrari? Any top 10 position is regarded as a minor miracle.
Honourable mentions too for Mark Webber and Narain Karthikeyan, both for taking the fight to Vettel in their own ways, Di Resta for his Bahrain drive and Jamie Alguersuari – who knew he could sound articulate and knowledgeable?
Jenlis Butlton – the McLaren twins have been fairly closely matched this year. Button has had two good and two not so good races. Poor Lewis has finally added some calm and consistency to his armoury, just in time for McLaren to turn into the Keystone Cops.
Michael Schumacher - I was almost tempted to put him amongst the Uppers for his comments about the disproportionate importance of tyres and tyre management this year. In addition, he qualified 4th, 3rd and net 2nd in the first three races when qualifying has been his Achilles heel since his return.
Nico Rosberg – Like his nickname-namesake, Britney, Nico has proved with his Malaysian win that he can be a top performer, but you’d still have to worry about his consistency.
Sebastian Vettel – Prior to the Bahrain GP, Vettel might have slipped into the “Downers” compared with his exalted position at the start of the season.
In China Qualifying 2, 14 cars were covered by less than 0.6 of a second and in Q1 even the HRTs have been well inside the 107% rule. In other words, none of these drivers are slouches. However…
Felipe Massa – It’s difficult to believe that the Brazilian’s stock could have actually dropped any further after his 2011 season. To be honest, I’ve never really understood the trajectory of Felipe’s career from erratic Sauber driver; to dutiful Schumacher stooge; to race winner and genuine title contender; to Alonso’s whipping boy. Some think him leaving Ferrari might be a blessing in disguise, although, as Winston Churchill said, if it is a blessing it is very well disguised.
Timo Glock – I’ve always been one of those who thought Timo Glock a reasonably talented driver, wasted in the Manor / Virgin / Marussia Team. However, with a long-term contract through to 2014 with the Team, I wonder if the German has become too settled in qualifying 20th or 21st.
Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo – This might seem a bit cruel, as they are both only a few races into their Torro Rosso drives and both have scored points. However, the single question hanging over both drivers is whether they are performing better than Sebastien Buemi and Jamie Alguersuari would have done. The question is still there and with each passing race the clock is ticking for them both.
Next post, the teams.
FORMULA ONE MUM