The run-up to the British GP, usually close to the mid-point of the F1 season, is traditionally a time for reviewing the lessons of the year so far and the implications for the remaining races. However, the messages of the 2012 season to date are more confusing than a game of Chinese whispers involving Bane from the new Batman movie. Here are some of the “push-me-pull-you” stories of the first half of F1 2012:
William’s Pastor Maldonado has matured into a GP winner, genuine front-runner and even, possibly, a potential championship challenger. He has also taken over the mantle from Lewis Hamilton as F1’s bad boy, with multiple crashes and clashes and more trips to the race control than a man with his y-front elastic trapped on the stewards’ door handle.
The combination of Pirelli tyres, DRS and KERS are making for one of the most exciting ever seasons, with closely fought grids and races and unpredictable results. Pirelli, DRS and KERS are also ruining F1 2012 with artificial factors and uncontrollable drop off in tyre performance undermining genuine competition and forcing drivers to drive to lap times rather than their true potential.
After 3 years away doing reconnaissance work for the Finnish forestry commission, Kimi Raikkonen’s F1 return has gone better than anyone could have expected, with podium finishes secured and a win surely not far off. The Finn’s F1 return is also turning sour after being shown the way by almost rookie Romain Grosjean, a Monaco practice sulk and too many failures to capitalise on race winning opportunities.
The Ferrari F2012 is the least effective of the cars produced by the font-running teams, often struggling to make it into Q3. The Ferrari is also powering Fernando Alonso to a healthy lead in the drivers’ championship.
Michael Schumacher is past it, making rookie errors such as running into the back of Senna at the Spanish Grand Prix and dropping over 50 championship points behind teammate Nico Rosberg after just 8 races this season. Schumacher’s F1 comeback has also, finally, come to life, with the German securing his first pole and podium since Justin Bieber was a foetus, and having his Championship challenge only undermined by mechanical misfortunes.
Despite some pit-stop mishaps, the McLaren MP4-27 is, overall, both the best looking and the most effective of the 2012 machines, locking out the front row in the first two races of the season and qualifying at or near the sharp end of the grid for the remaining races. The McLaren also struggles for speed in races, not only against the Red Bull and Ferrari, but has also now fallen behind the Lotus and, on occasion, the Mercedes.
Jenson Button is famously gentle on his tyres. He is also one of the more cerebral drivers, demonstrating during his time at McLaren how race craft and general awareness can triumph over outright pace. More than any other driver Button has struggled to cope with the 2012 Pirellis, requiring 3 pit stops in Canada, whist others made it home on just one. The Brit has also confessed to being “lost and confused” about his race performances.
Jean-Eric Vergne is a prodigious talent and future GP winner, who has been marked for racing success since his father bought him his first kart when he was aged just 4, and who scored points in only his second F1 race. Vergne has also been a huge disappointment, being the most likely driver to join the 3 F1-B class teams in Q1 failure and committing unprovoked GBH on Heikki Kovalainen’s Catterham at the European GP.
Sebastian Vettel has almost certainly signed a pre-contract agreement to drive for Ferrari alongside Fernando Alonso in 2014 and has also almost certainly not signed to drive for Ferrari in 2014. A future London city-centre Grand Prix is a definite possibility and definitely impossible. All the F1 teams have signed the new Concorde Agreement, apart from those that haven’t, and Mercedes are and are not pulling out of F1 at the end of the season.
Based on the season so far, one thing I can predict about F1 2012 is that I definitely won’t be making any predictions.
FORMULA ONE MUM