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JA on F1 2012 Mid-season review: Part 1
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Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Aug 2012   |  11:37 am GMT  |  120 comments

Here, by popular demand, as we enter the summer shut down weeks, is our mid-season review.

We’ll do it in three parts, with the first part today.

It’s quite noticeable this season that the teams divide into three distinct groups: those who have matched or exceeded expectations, those who have had some breakthroughs but ultimately feel they “could have done better” and those who have disappointed.

In the first category, I would obviously place Ferrari and Lotus but also, just, Red Bull. Ferrari and Lotus have scored far more points and podiums than might have been expected at the start of the season and although both teams can look to specific races and know that, had the strategy or other factors gone their way they might have got more, they have nevertheless done a fantastic job so far.

Ferrari have only had one car scoring points, sadly, but take nothing away from the miraculous effort Alonso and the team have put in to win three races and get themselves into a position where they have a 40 point lead and the championship is theirs to lose.

Meanwhile Red Bull have matched expectations in the sense that they’ve had four poles, won three races and lead the Constructors’ points at the half way stage.

But it’s been a rocky ride; they started slowly due to the ban on blown diffusers and have had on-days and off days this season, but at the same time they have put in a massive effort to get competitive again, they are where thy are due to both cars scoring points. They are the only team to have scored 30 points or more on four occasions.


In the second category I would place Williams and Sauber as well as McLaren All three have had some success this year, but have also left a lot on the table, unrealised. Williams got their first win since 2004 and have qualified in the top ten seven times, but have let countless points scoring positions slip away from them; Sauber have built a really fast race car and scored two podiums and other strong finishes, but have missed many opportunities, largely by qualifying poorly.

McLaren have been erratic and in the early part of the season failed to turn the fastest car into a healthy points lead. However they seem to be turning it around now and the story of their second half of the season could be very different from the first.

And in the third category I would place everyone else; led by Mercedes , who got the breakthrough win in China, but have been very erratic apart from that; Force India have had odd moments, but are nowhere near the fifth place in the table they have targeted; Toro Rosso sacked two good drivers at the end of 2011 and have gone backwards; while Caterham, Marussia and HRT are all still swimming in the soup at the back, with Caterham occasionally breaking out of Q1 and beating Toro Rosso on merit.

OVERVIEW
The season has been characterised by the openness illustrated by seven different winners in the first seven races and by the possibility for mid-field teams to mix it at the front and score podiums and wins. So far seven different teams have put a driver on the podium, while 11 different drivers have stood up there. This is a very healthy trend for the sport.

The cars were close enough on performance that one team tuning the car and tyres into the circuit on any given weekend was the key to it.

However we can clearly see that some teams have a better handle on getting consistent performance from the tyres; as the season has progressed they have each found a mechanism for keeping the tyres in their preferred operating window. These teams are, not surprisingly, also the teams who are in Categories 1 & 2.


2012 MID-SEASON REVIEW PART 1 – Ferrari, Lotus and Red Bull

Ferrari started the season with real problems. The car pace in Australia was 1.2 seconds down on the McLaren, largely due to aerodynamic inadequacies. The pressure was immense and the team could have crumbled, but they kept it together, worked hard on turning it around and have done so.

They had a slice of luck in Malaysia, when the elements presented Alonso with a surprise win, but he’s been outstanding this year and has taken the maximum from whatever the car has to offer at every race weekend. Sometimes it’s been good enough for the win, sometimes only fourth or fifth, but he’s not put a foot wrong and has harvested points.

With no single challenger emerging from the Red Bull and McLaren drivers, the wins will continue to be shared out in the second half of the season and so it’s Alonso’s to lose at this stage. Webber’s position owes a lot to five fourth places; Alonso could probably replicate that and still remain on top.

A non-finish would change that, of course.

The pit stops have been brilliant all year, showing a real team hunger for success.

[Find out more about how Ferrari turned it around listen to Chief Designer Nicholas Tombazis in the latest JA on F1 Podcast HERE ]

Alonso: 164 Points (P1); 3 wins; 3 podiums; 2 poles; 216 laps led, Average grid slot: P6

Qualifying head to head vs Massa 11-0

Massa: 25 points; 1 lap led; Average grid slot: P11


Lotus
are still looking for that first win and arguably could have had one by now, if the strategy had gone their way on a couple of occasions. But their return of 192 points, only one less than McLaren, is very positive and well beyond expectations.

The car is very fast, if not quite fast enough in qualifying to give the ideal platform for their race pace. But the car’s DNA is to get the most of the tyres in the race – Lotus can run longer stints on softer tyres than their rivals and this has been a real strong point.

They have been quick since the start of the year and arguably have been the most consistent team in terms of competitiveness on race day.

Their pit stops aren’t particularly fast (they were 7th in the league table in the first part of the year, now they are 4th), so there is room for improvement on a few fronts, but it’s been a fine start and it’s great to see Raikkonen on such good form, with five podiums in his comeback. Grosjean has been blindingly fast on occasions, but still lacks the composure to consistently convert that into results. He could have had more than 3 podiums.

The win will probably come in the second half of the season and they are in a battle to finish second in the constructors’ championship.

Raikkonen: 116 points (5th); 5 podiums, 2 fastest laps; 8 laps led; Average grid slot: P8

Head to head qualifying vs team mate: Raikkonen 4-7 Grosjean

Grosjean: 76 points (P8); 3 podiums; 1 fastest lap; 4 laps led; Average grid slot: P7


Red Bull
– Really felt the loss of rear end downforce from the banning of the blown diffuser so it’s been a frantic race to regain lost performance since the start of the season.

The pressure they have exerted on themselves to get competitive can be judged by the amount of brushes with the FIA technical staff. They’ve been sailing close to the wind, but it shows the team’s mentality of winning. Having found the winning groove in the last few years they aren’t about to lose it.

Vettel has driven well, albeit the peaks of 2011 have not been as many as he struggled early on with an awkward car. But he’s always a threat. He has also let himself down on a few occasions by saying the wrong thing after suffering a loss or a set-back. This also speaks to the desperation of staying a winning force, which is felt by all the team.

Webber has been consistent, by his standards, with a couple of good wins and five fourth places, but he knows that to have a crack at Alonso for the title he needs to rack up the podiums.

There have been a few signs lately of a return to the niggles of 2010 between the drivers, as Webber sits ahead of Vettel in the championship. Can either of them get control without rancour?

Webber: 124 points (2nd), 2 wins; 1 pole; 1 no-score; 66 laps led; Average grid slot: P6

Head to head qualifying vs team mate: Webber 5-6 Vettel

Vettel: 122 points (P3); 1 win; 2 podiums; 3 poles; 2 no-scores; Average grid slot: P4 (Best in field)

F1 mid season debate: What is your view? Who has impressed or disappointed you? Leave your comments below.

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120 Comments
  1. Ralph Ledward says:

    I love the mid season round up – up to your usual high standard James. You have my childhood dream job – short of being an F1 driver!!

    1. aezy_doc says:

      do you mean blogging or writing in general? was the internet even around when you were a child? ;-)

      1. Matthew Yau says:

        And you can still blog and write about F1 now. I do.

      2. Ralph Ledward says:

        Don’t mean blogging, I guess what i mean is being an F1 journalist and following the series around the world. Correct the internet predated me by about 10 years.

  2. Baart1980 says:

    In my opinion, Michael is doing well, but he have really bad car. I wonder, if he could drive in for example McLaren or Ferrari.

    I never thought that Romain would be so fast this season.

    And in Poland, we still missed our Robert Kubica … By the way, did you hear something about him ?

    1. KGBVD says:

      Michael has NOT been doing well. If he was anyone other than Michael Schumacher, he’s be topping the list of drivers to be canned mid-season (Senna, Hulk, Ricciardo and a host of others in the mid-field have been out-driving him). Not that Rosberg’s been doing much better.

      As for Kubica, according to Andrew Benson “Kubica, 27, can drive a road car and a rally car without problem but the nerves in his right arm, which was partially severed are still not healed sufficiently to allow him to move his fingers quickly or accurately enough to operate the controls on an F1 car”

      Check out: http://robertscomeback.blogspot.ca/

      1. Aaron James says:

        Bit harsh. He has had 7 DNFs, six of which aren’t his fault but when he’s had the car behind him (WHEN) he’s been supreme.

  3. Panayiotis says:

    James I don’t think I really agree that the title is Ferrari’s to loose. That would be true if they had the fastest car, but in reality they are nowhere near that.

    Surely Alonso has an advantage, but with a DNF the 40 points lead could evaporate in a couple of races. So although they are ahead at the moment it will take a lot of effort, composure, and even luck to remain there at the end.

    1. Doobs says:

      Agreed, there are several cars that are faster than the Ferrari and the lead will quickly evaporate if too many of them get between Alonso and the winner. That said, nobody is consistently winning, each taking points off the others. Ham, Vettel and Webber aren’t dominant enough so far. Ech has a good race followed by a mediocre one. Massa needs to really step up now.

  4. IP says:

    Massa has shown he at least belongs in F!, but maybe not a Ferrari next year.

    All in all Alonso is just proving himself again to be the class of the field. Surely when he’s done in F1 the Italians will make him a citizen and plonk him in as Prime Minister! ;-)

    Can’t wait for Part 2

    1. KGBVD says:

      I’m sorry, getting beaten 100% is a sign that you do NOT belong in F1. Alonso is good, but on his bad days (and he has had them) they need a driver who will be there to step up. Massa hasn’t been able to do that since 2009.

      3 years is long enough, he needs to retire to Brazilian stock cars.

      1. Jack says:

        I’m not sure Alonso has had a bad day this season though, he’s had quiet ones and ended up 5th or so, but is driving so well I doubt anyone but the obvious top drivers would be getting anything other than thrashed. Massa is being made to look slow, and is probably driving worse as a result – confidence is a big factor. He’s never gonna be the best (Alonso?), but once he’s away from Ferrari some of the old Felipe might return. Maybe he has lost it, but wouldn’t write off a comeback of sorts in another car with a less unstoppable team mate. Another Brazilian was thrashed at Ferrari and later challenged for the championship…

    2. KRB says:

      He couldn’t do any worse than what they got, could he? (Alonso as Italian Premier, I mean)

      I think Massa is done, and I don’t see anyone else picking him up.

      Here are some interesting tidbits that happened in the 1st half …

      a) we had a few “3x Winners at Same GP” crowned”

      - Button in Australia (he’s won 3 of the last 4 there!)
      - Alonso in Malaysia (’05,’07,’12) with 3 different teams
      - Hamilton in Canada (’07,’10,’12), won 3 of the last 5 there (no race in ’09 remember).
      - Alonso at the European GP (’05,’07,’12) … this is a weird one, b/c 2007 Europe GP was supposed to be the German GP, but Hockenheim and Nurburgring couldn’t agree, so it was the Europe GP … anyways, first two victories were at the Nurburgring, which leads to …
      - Alonso in the German GP (’05,’10,’12) all at Hockenheim
      - Hamilton at the Hungaroring (’07,’09,’12), interesting to me that LH won neither of these GP’s (Canada and Hungary) in his DWC season. Button won his in his DWC year, and then Alonso did in ’05 (won all 3) but none in ’06.

      b) Rosberg’s win was the longest time in between new GP winners in terms of races (49 GP’s), and very close in terms of calendar days. 1008 days passed between Webber winning the 2009 German GP and Rosberg winning in China (only surpassed by the 1043 days between Alessandro Nannini winning the 1989 Japanese GP in extremely controversial (read ridiculous) circumstances, and Schumacher’s maiden GP win at Spa in ’92.

  5. rusty says:

    Stand out drivers so far this season have to be for me, Alonso and Hamilton. Both have been massively consistant and producing solid results, even when the car has not been quite up to the task.

    It’s just a shame that Hamilton has been let down by team errors in most races, one of which almost certainly cost him a win!

    1. Onko says:

      Well said,everyone has a horse to barrack for,
      but at the end of a day the bottom line says it all and Alonso has that.
      As for comming race at Spa,watch Hamilton and
      Alonso do their thing,they both have balls
      when it matters.

      1. Andy says:

        I would put also Kimi in the mix for the win. 4 wins already for Kimi in Spa and he could go for win number 5… I think it’s gonna be a tough battle between Hamilton and Kimi.

  6. Bayden says:

    Hi James,

    Great analysis, I’ll have my own up soon.

    Kimi has been massively impressive, as has Grosjean apart from the odd mind-lapse. I have no doubt that either/both will win a race by season’s end.

    Another man who has impressed me is Kovalainen, it is hard to stand out in a Caterham, he always seems to figure somewhere ahead of one if not both Toro Rosso’s during the races.

    It is true that Schumacher is enduring his worst season statistically, but Hungary aside, he has been achieving the optimal performance out of his car, it was a feel good moment seeing him on the podium at Valencia.

    Would you agree James that Mercedes has been the biggest let-down?

    Since Monaco, Schuey’s podium aside, they have slipped to the sixth fastest car behind even Sauber.

    Keep up the great work!

  7. Rayz says:

    I generally agree with your team rankings James. Although, I would maybe put the RBR’s in the second category along with McLaren. Come to think of it actually, I would put Sauber in the top bracket. In terms of surpassing targets, they have to be one of the best this season, certainly a cut ahead of McLaren and Red Bull. Perez nearly won in Malaysia and was by a distance the fastest driver in the race. If things come together for them at the right track, I reckon they could potentially win a GP before the season is out. They certainly have had excellent race pace at times and they are similar to Lotus on tyre wear.

    Mercedes for me have to be the big disappointment. I know Rosberg won in China but since then they have fallen back to the midfield. For the resources, experience and drivers at their disposal, you’d have to say they are underperfoming to a large degree.

    If we were looking at a report card system, I’d go for the following;

    Lotus A (Epic race pace)
    Ferrari A- (Just Alonso)
    Sauber B+ (Big leap forwards)
    Williams B (Great comeback)
    Red Bull B- (Solid at best)
    McLaren C+ (Button has been poor)
    Force India C (A step back from ’11)
    Caterham C (Heikki v. consistent)
    Mercedes C- (Going backwards)
    HRT D+ (Steadily improving)
    Torro Rosso D (No pace, Vergne poor)
    Marussia D (Going nowhere)

    Let me know if you guys agree or disagree

    1. Daniel MA says:

      I agree with you, people always give a lot of credit to Ferrari as a team, but the reality is that they’re 4th in the constructors and the car has never really been the best, yes Alonso won 3 times but that’s because of the mixed conditions either on quali or the race, having said that I would put Red Bull a bit higher up, both drivers are in contention and it shows the car is flexible enough to suit them both, unlike Ferrari this year (Alonso) or Red Bull last year (Vettel).

    2. AlexD says:

      I do not agree. All wins from now on will be between Lotus, Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren

      1. Luke says:

        Putting Williams (Maldonardo seems to like using his car more as a dodgem car than for winning races) and Sauber (seem to have dropped off the last few races, and haven’t won while they had the speed) ahead of the guys who the FIA changed the rules on to slow them down, and have heavily scritinised every revision they’ve made to their car yet they still manage to lead the constructors at the mid-point of the season is ludicrous.

        Lotus have been the biggest surprise this season, and deserve more success than they’ve had.

  8. Vipin says:

    I would like to say one thing.

    Fernando did a great job this season so far.

    We have see him in 2005 and 2006 the way he drove and won the championships. Its stunning.

    I hope he will repeat that this time without ferrari letting him down like 2010.

    And we can clearly see red bull struggling after all their banning’s. This is really great, because last this by half-way of the season it was like almost the title is over.

    I hope lotus wins at least one race in rest of the season.

    Who knows, if Kimi wins this year’s champioship, then everyone will shut their mouth.

  9. Harsha says:

    James,
    When you say niggles of 2010 between Webber and Vettel, what exactly do you mean? Nothing has come out in the public domain has it? Just curious to know how much they’ve learnt from 2010 and moved on.

    1. Greg (Aus) says:

      Ok, I’ll bite (albeit at the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist). After Silverstone, Webber had a clear lead over Vettel in the championship, he signed a new contract, and all looked rosy.

      Yet for the very next race, RBR developed the car to maximise Vettel’s performance with their engine map at Webber’s expense – we know Vettel was much stronger in comparison to Webber with the EBD effect last year.

      Remove said engine map at FIA’s request, and presto! their performance is much closer again. Which brings us to Hungary and the way the team ruined Webber’s strategy to keep Vettel ahead, when clearly it was more important WDC wise for Webber to finish ahead of Alonso, as he was on track to do.

      Check the graph in the strategy report if and compare it to the on track events. After Webber’s second stop on lap 39 he began closing the gap to Vettel rapidly. A gap that began at close to 10 seconds shrank at between 0.5 – 1 second a lap. On lap 49, Mark is told be the team he has a differential problem. Yet he continues to close on Vettel and subsequently gets pitted, costing him P5 (and potentially P4).

      Now, whether they pitted him because he was catching Vettel, or because they wanted clear air for Vettel so he could stop and try and chase grosjean for P3, they compromised Webber’s race, and more importantly, championship, for Vettel’s benefit.This doesn’t even address the bizarre decision to pit him so early for his first stop.

      Webber himself stated “we left a bit on the table today”.

      So you’re right, nothing has entered the public domain, but watch this space if that kind of team management persists. Clearly, they haven’t learned much from 2010 at all, but then they were happy with the 2010 result.

      1. KGBVD says:

        That’s a hell of a conspiracy!

        And the government introduced blue M&Ms because we weren’t getting enough blue in our diets?

        I like Mark a lot, but he’s unfortunately much more capable of having anonymous days than the other title contenders (Jenson has a tonne of them too, and Massa is mister anonymous to the point were he’s not ever a mid-fielder let alone a contender.)

      2. Greg (Aus) says:

        Maybe you weren’t getting enough blue :-p

        Ok, Germany might be an ‘anonymous’ day, I’ll grant you that, but you cannot seriously deny RBR ruined his race in Hungary. If you choose to believe it wasn’t for Vettel’s benefit, fine, but the timing data doesn’t lie.

        Show me where the benefit in pitting him on lap 20 was, where the drop off in performance was in that first stint, or where it was around lap 49 as he closed on Vettel with his differential problem?

        I would love to know the state of those tyres after they pulled him in. It must have been dire indeed to not believe they could hold Alonso off for 13 laps (less how long it took for him to catch up)

      3. Mikey moos says:

        100% agree with this mate.
        Bloody team :-(

      4. A. says:

        I kinda agree. It looked to me as if they pitted Webber in order to clear the way for Vettel after his pitstop, otherwise Vettel would have come out behind Webber.

        But OTOH, Red Bull were the only team who seemed worried about the tyre degradation before the race. You can hear that in the interviews on race day with Newey and co. As a contrast, the Lotus camp were ruing what they felt was a conservative tyre allocation by Pirelli for the weekend, feeling that their advantage in tyre degradation was lessened as a result. Everyone but Red Bull were right about that.

      5. Wade Parmino says:

        If for example, a driver does not agree with the team about doing a pit stop and does not do so, will he then be sacked?
        I suppose it would all depend on whether the driver’s decision works out well or not. ;)

      6. Jay Bopara says:

        Just read my post in the “Driver of the Day” for the Hungarian GP. I provided a detailed analysis of how Red Bull ruined the race for Webber in what seemed like a team more interested in avoiding Vettel and Webber being close to each other on the track than doing what was best for Webber.

        James was kind enough to respond to that post as well.

        Anyway, great website James, great thoughts and many good opinions from the readers as well.

        Mark Webber’s chances for championship glory = about 0%, not due to his ability, rather continually compromised strategies and engine maps designed with Vettel in mind and not Webber.

      7. Brukay says:

        OK if things are that bad why would he sign a new contract with red bull and not go to Ferrari? The trouble with you Aussies you think he is better than Vettel, No way Jose. It was a pity he did not go to Ferrari as i think he may have struggled against Alonso which may have put the Massa situation in to perpective.

      8. Greg (Aus) says:

        Because they were fine this year, right up until he signed on the dotted line. Someone else made the point previously that 2009 was another example of this.

        2 WDCs make it hard to argue he is better than Vettel, but thanks for the generalisation regarding my nationality.

        The point is, this year they are close on performance – the WDC standings and the H2H quali data show that.

        Whether he is better or not isn’t the point of the post mate, the point is RBR compromised him in favour of Vettel despite him leading Vettel this year, but that type of behaviors didn’t occur until after he had re-signed.

      9. EdC says:

        I am with you on this Greg. You can argue about the motivation and strategy (as opposed to tactics) of the treatment of Webber’s race in Hungary, but the outcome is the same – his race was seriously compromised.

        Red Bull politics (aka Helmut Marko) muddy the waters, when the team’s best interests are to get their drivers both into the highest finishing positions possible (ie maximise WCC points). It is not to maximise one driver’s WCC points at the expense of the other.

        For the sport (?!), it would be great to see them both slugging it out, even if neither ended up being WCC this year. As an Aussie, I would love to see Mark as WDC, but I would be happy (and I think Mark would be too) if he could beat Seb in a fair fight over the rest of the year.

      10. Doobs says:

        Does anyone seriously think RB will favour Mark over Vettel as long as Seb has even a remote chance of the WDC?
        RB want a 3xWDC

      11. james bowie says:

        i agree with u cos button got the same treatment. he was pitted to push vettle to cover which gave hamilton breathing space. if you watch teams do it all the time. even hamiltons had to do it for button before which makes you wonder if there is a pre aragement between drivers.

      12. KRB says:

        Gave him breathing space?! The only time Vettel could get going was after Button had pitted! Worked out great for Button, didn’t it?

      13. Ahmed says:

        Mate wake up to yourself! Webber has been average at best, except for 2 solid wins, an he’s only 2 points ahead of Vettel.
        Add Vettel’s retirement in Valencia (25 points), his 4th/maybe 3rd place in Malaysia (min 14 points), and arguably 2nd place in German grand prix (penalty put him back to 5th (6 points), and he would be leading the Championship! I agree that 2 incidents were his own doing, but it still proves he is far superior to Webber.

        Vettel is only 24, and if he keeps up his standards then there’s no doubt he will become an all time f1 legend. Webber will at best be remembered as an average driver with a strong determination.

      14. Greg (Aus) says:

        So, if you take away 2 things you admit were his fault you’re left with the one retirement due to a car problem. There was nothing arguable about his penalty, he passed Button of the track.

        So he’d have what, a 13 pt lead, assuming Grosjean still has an engine failure and doesn’t take the win (isn’t fantasy fun?). It would be 2-2 in wins, and still be the same score in head to head qualifying.

        So if you consider Webber average at best, how do you consider Vettel to have performed “far superior”?

        But again, I fail to see how this addresses the, and stay with me here, actual point of the post which is that Webber’s race was compromised to suit Vettel, despite holding the advantage in the championship.

      15. Doobs says:

        If’s, buts, woulda, coulda, shoulda, didn’t.

  10. James Clayton says:

    I don’t know about this year, or even next year, but I’m really starting to look forward to 2014. Why? Because it’ll take until the for the phrase “seven different winners in the first seven races” to stop being heard. This year the media and tv pundits are using it in the build up to every race. next year it’ll be used as a comparison… 2014 and hopefully we’ll be talking about something else!

    Sorry James, I know you pretty much have to mention it in a review of the season, it’s just unfortunate it keeps getting regurgitated everywhere else too!

    1. KGBVD says:

      Did you watch F1 2002?

      7 winners is a very big deal.

      1. James Clayton says:

        Yes I did.

        No it isn’t.

      2. Jay Bopara says:

        Seems your idea of a great season is:
        Three drivers share out all 20 race victories between them, with 11 of them going to one driver. There are only two or three drivers with any realistic chance for a victory prior to the race weekend. One driver wins 8 out of the first 10 races of the season. The excitement is in seeing who comes in 12th, 13th and 14th in each GP, as there is so view overtaking and with ultra durable tyres no pitstops are required.

        If that is what you want to see, that is fine. Others of us enjoy the fact that prior to any weekend there are around 7 drivers in with a good chance of victory.

      3. James Clayton says:

        If that’s what you make from my comments then so be it. I never said any of that.

      4. James Clayton says:

        If that’s what you believe I think from reading my posts, then so be it. I never said anything of the sort.

      5. KRB says:

        Sure it’s a big deal. It’s never happened before! The archetypal F1 season is one where after the first 5 races you pretty much know what the rest of the season will look like. You would know if it’s going to be a walkover season (1992,2011), or who the DWC battle is going to boil down to.

        Can’t really say that about this season. Things change quite a bit from race to race, although the bigger teams still are better on average than the rest. Will we see anymore surprise winners this year? I think that time is past, and that the main guys have a good handle on the tires now. So I think in terms of new winners this year only KR, RG, and MS are likely to manage it.

      6. James Clayton says:

        @KRB

        7 Different winners is nothing majorly out or the ordinary. In 2003 there were 8 over the entire season. OK, not in the first 8 races but so what? One swallow does not make a summer, and it’s been a very long time since 7 races made a season. Most seasons up until now have had at least 5-6 different winners. In 1982 there were 11 different winners.

        If nobody new wins a race from now this season will hardly be anything out of the ordinary statistics wise. But people will still keep banging on about it all through next year…

  11. DB says:

    I must confess I never really paid much attention to Raikkonen. But this comeback season has me watching him and regretting I didn’t before. Let’s see what he comes up with in Spa.

    1. John says:

      spa, the iceman’s playground, what a nice return to racing after a month’s drought :)

  12. Butterfly says:

    Fernando has had 6 podiums, not 3.

    1. James Allen says:

      3 wins plus 3 other podiums

  13. goferet says:

    No doubt, it has been a cracking first half to the 2012 season for records have been tumbling all over the place not to mention 7 different winners from the first 7 races.

    Yes, Pirelli weren’t joking when they said their 2012 tyres were going to add to another level of excitement to the show and hence we had a situation where you have teams like Mercedes & Williams getting wins which wouldn’t have been the case.

    Now the team that has impressed me the most this season, it has to be Lotus for I didn’t expect them to be this fast & if it wasn’t cause of their drivers being wet behind the ears (after time away) e.g. If it were Kubica in that car, am sure we would have seen a couple of wins already.

    As for the disappointment of the season (apart from Catheham) it has to be Mclaren, for their numerous errors both in strategy, race pace & pitstops have been a real let down for such a big team.

    Ferrari were disappointing during winter testing & the start of the season but at least they managed to keep their heads down & turned their fortunes around.

    Regards Red Bull, I can feel their pain for this always happens to Newey for after a couple of dominating seasons, new rules are always cooked up in a bid to slow down his cars down (same thing used to happen to Schumi at Ferrari)

    On the other side of the coin, the driver that have impressed me the most, it can’t be any one other than Alonso for he has hit the sweet spot in his career and that’s why he is leading the championship at the moment.

    However, the biggest thing that has got Alonso to where he is right now is good fortune i.e. Hasn’t had any misfortune in the first half which is always bad news for the second half

    Yes, like Alonso himself likes to say, in sport, luck usually evens it’s self out just like what happened to Vettel in 2010.

    The other driver that has impressed me is Lewis most especially he has been able to keep his cool despite all of Mclaren’s pit stops bad luck seemingly happening on his side of the garage.

    As for the most improved driver, I would have to say it’s Perez though of course the easy on it’s tyres Sauber has helped

    Anyway, can’t wait to see what surprises the second half of the season has in store for us but one thing that’s for certain, it’s going to be explosive, more so because we have got all the boring tracks out of the way.

    1. Doobs says:

      Alonso is making his own luck.

  14. Mostly impressed by the mighty return of Lotus back in the game, also, it was pleasure to watch Sauber, Force India and Williams scoring points, as well as presenting competitive driving.
    Sadly, this performance is likely to fade away at the second half of the season.

    What is more interesting is whether Ferrari will be able to keep the development pace, and just how consistent the rest would be – Mclaren picked up recently where they left off, Lotus are immensely good in preserving the tires, and Red Bull are just solid and fast as usual.

    So, bottom line: interesting ending of one of the most unpredictable seasons ever is ahead.

  15. Anup Kadam says:

    Awesome work James..thanks for all your hard work…yes u do agree the Championship is all Fernando Alonso`s to loose…but if they loose it will not be Fernando Alonso`s fault but Ferrari`s lack of speed and development…But i trust Fernando..and this year he will def. push Ferrari in terms of development…

  16. Quick Nick Rules says:

    Stat of the Day – Webber has had 2 wins but no other podiums, and incredibly four 4th places in a row! Similar to Hamilton in that Ham had that run of three 3rd places in the first 3 races yet since then has had 2 wins but no other podiums – once again Alonso’s consistency shines through! And neither of the Red Bull boys have managed consecutive podiums!
    Another cracking stat – Vettel has still never won a race in July!

    1. D17MO.D says:

      In response to that, id say alot of Webber and Hamiltons non podium finishes have been due to the teams issues rather that driver performance, or lack of.

  17. Sandy says:

    Alonso has exceeded expectations but ferrari as a whole have just about managed expectations.Let’s not forget that they are behind a team who probably have a budget less than 50% of ferrari.

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      I’m assuming that you mean that RBR, a team owned by a billion dollar profit soft drink company, as opposed to a confirmed $249,000,000 small luxury sports car company has about half their budget?

      Ferrari pulled out of the RRA because the policing of this wasn’t to anyone’s satisfaction, with many teams believing that Red Bull has out spent what they officially could spend.

      The days of Ferrari having budgets twice what anyone else has, are long gone.

      1. Wade Parmino says:

        What do you mean $249 million!? Ferrari made $2.2 billion in 2011 alone! They sold 7044 very expensive cars in 2011.

        I don’t know what their F1 budget is, but the company itself is well into the billions.

      2. hero_was_senna says:

        Their turnover was $2.2 billion, their profits were $249million.
        Red Bull’s profits were into the billions.

      3. Sandy says:

        Check the constructor’s table and you will find lotus are above ferrari.

      4. hero_was_senna says:

        My apologies, completely misunderstood your target, Doh!!!

  18. Paul J says:

    Excellent analysis James, thanks! Just listened to the podcast, very good stuff.

    I’ve been most impressed with Alonso and Kimi this year. Alonso has proved again and again why he is the best driver in F1 – he is just always there, always fighting, and never making mistakes. He’s exactly what Ferrari need. Kimi has also surprised me. I wasn’t sure if we were going to see the ‘old’ Kimi again, or if he would have lost his racecraft during his absence, but I swear he’s driving better than ever. He is one of my favourite drivers to watch, the way that he throws the car around – it’s like watching him in his early Mclaren days, but with much more maturity. As a Willliams fan I am still SO annoyed that we didn’t snap him up when we had half a chance!

  19. Irish Con says:

    Obviously the usual suspects have been impressive. But one person who has impressed me this year that I didn’t expect to and is driving a rubbish car is young pic. For his first season in f1 in that car I think he will stay in f1 for a long time to come. He is beating glock now who is no bad driver himself.

  20. Ridwan says:

    I enjoyed reading this article.

  21. Eduan says:

    I seriously think that if Schumacher finished all those races he retired in I beleive he would have been among the top drivers.

    Pity this has not been a true reflection of the speed he has shown this season.

    Raikkonen driver of the first part of the season for me! What a guy!

    1. hero_was_senna says:

      I have always known that Raikkonen fans are blinkered, but really?
      He’s had a few useful races, taking full advantage of a great car, but if Grosjean wasn’t a rookie, how far behind would Kimi actually be?

      Some people have mentioned about Hamilton being a rookie and competing against Alonso at Mclaren.
      Leaving aside all intra team conflicts that season, one thing about Hamilton is he is one of the top 3 drivers.

      Whilst Grosjean is possibly good enough to be an F1 winner, I don’t believe anyone has called him a future great.

      1. Eduan says:

        Well Grosjean is quick. He falls in the Rosberg category. They are quick but when it really matters the lose positions. Guys like Alonso and Raikkonen are able to be consistently quick which he has been this season.

        1st: Hero_was_senna Grosjean is not a rookie. He has had F1 experience before this season(2009)This is his first full season of F1.
        2nd: I am a Schumacher fan and I am by no means blinkered.

        3rd: The real performer of the first part is Alonso and none of us can deny that. I really think Raikkonen just like Alonso was consistent this year so far.

    2. AlexD says:

      just curious, why not Alonso?

  22. Gudien says:

    1. The cars are sinfully ugly.
    2. The races are similar to NASCAR ( luck and tires are limiting factors ).
    3. Any attempt to build a faster car is penalised by the officials.
    4. Drivers are penalised for racing each other.

    This is a classic season?

    1. Davexxx says:

      I can’t remember how many years I’ve been watching F1 so I can’t claim to be a lifelong fan, but it as to be 20 years or so. And this year IS the best so far!!
      Some people are never happy.

      1. James Clayton says:

        Nah. 2010 was the best year.

    2. ferggsa says:

      I guess your idea of a classic season is having a German driver in the fastes car win most races and decide the championship long before the season ends

      1. gudien says:

        Jawol, danka.

    3. Simmo says:

      1. True
      2. It makes it more interesting for fans, but otherwise, True
      3. Do we really want Red Bull running away again? An example of one that isn’t banned is double DRS.
      4. When are they penalised for racing? They are penalised for crashing into others while racing. Although I do agree Kobayashi-Senna in Europe was a ridiculous penalty, but as for Maldonado’s penalties…

  23. Jey says:

    James,
    The lack of development from Merc is really alarming.They havent brought any major updates to any of the racess off late,have they?

    With them yet to sign the concorde agreement,is this a sign that the team is not fully sure yet of its continuation in F1 for the next year.

    Do you have any info on this?

    Thanks
    Jey

  24. AlexD says:

    I am not 100% that the championship is Alonso’s to lose.

    Think about it, Ferrari started a year with 1.2 sec deficit to McLaren and after 11 races, they are 0.9 sec behind McLaren. This is the reality.

    Yes, Alonso is 40 points ahead, but today Ferrari is the 4th fastest car and so 40 points mean nothing.

    1. Guillermo says:

      Out of curiosity, how did you calculate that Ferrari are 0.9 seconds slower than McLaren? The order seems to change every race!

      My own opinion is that Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari are the four best cars, but the order of those four changes depending on circuit and set-up (and tyres of course). Lotus and McLaren were the best cars in Hungary, but Red Bull and Ferrari were better in, say, Silverstone.

      The real reason that Alonso is 40 points ahead is because his main rivals (Lewis and Vettel) had unlucky DNFs and threw away points in Valencia and Germany. Fernando and Ferrari, however, have been more or less flawless.

      1. Peter C says:

        The reason for the 0.9sec is because the Ferrari has always got to be made out to be slower than the immediate competition.

      2. AlexD says:

        Why don’t you complain to JA in this case? For some reason I took the first figure from the report of JA where he stated that Ferrari was 1.2 off the pace in Australia. Why blame me?

      3. James Allen says:

        That was the stated pace difference between pole and Alonso’s Ferrari in Melbourne

      4. AlexD says:

        It is very simple. I used exactly the same logic as James. Where the 1.2 sec in James’s reports is coming from? It is from qualifying in Australia. So I used exactly the same logic and the difference between Hamilton and Alonso in Hungary was 0.9 sec in qualifying.

      5. Guillermo says:

        I think that analysis is just a little too simplistic. (Ferrari have been at least two seconds a lap faster than the McLaren in wet qualifying, is that also down to car advantage?)

        I don’t doubt that Fernando Alonso has been fighting faster cars, but I just don’t think he’d be leading the championship if his car was a second slower than the competition!

        Perhaps James could give some in-depth analysis to the subject?

      6. AlexD says:

        We are speaking 2 specific time dimensions – Australia and Hungary. James took results from Australia where Alonso was 1.2 sec slower than McLarens and in Hungary he was 0.9 sec slower than Hamilton.

        In both cases it was a very normal dry qualifying without mistakes from either side.

        We are talking only how the season started and how it looked like after 11 races.

        In the dry, Ferrari is the 4th fastest car and it has always been. We have had some mixed weather races and this is where some teams made mistakes and Ferrari maximized the opportunity, but the point is what it is…Ferrari is behind Lotus, Red Bull and McLaren and it was the same case in Australia…

      7. Peter C says:

        You have just chosen races where Alonso didn’t do too well, thus skewing the statistics.

        Either include ALL the races, where for instance FA qualified on Pole & went on to win, or finish second.

        If you just choose to give figures to prove that your hero is outdriving the car, then those figures are worthless.

      8. StallionGP F1 says:

        @ Peter C great response how exactly is the Ferrari a sec slower than the opposition? when he was fastest in the wet nobody said anything all we heard was mclaren in trouble and redbull’s wing being clipped.

  25. You didn’t mention the number of laps led for Vettel? I usually find that to be a really interesting statistic…

  26. Hermann says:

    Great analysis James. I love reading your F1 studies and those published by Italian Auto Sprint: analytical, straight to the point, and critical either positive or negative. Well done.

  27. J. S. says:

    Lotus has been a pleasant surprise for me. Last year they scored less than half as many points as Mercedes, and barely beat Force India for 5th.

    James, is it just luck or coincidence that Raikkonen chose this team and this season to make his come back, or did he know he would be challenging for the championship?

    1. Mitchel says:

      It does make me wonder what he would’ve done in the Williams………..it might well have been similar!

      With a 20 race calendar I think it would be great to see new or different drivers getting a chance for perhaps 5 races- are you listening schuey?

  28. Charlie B says:

    James, slightly off topic but a question a lot of people want your opinion on is will Raikkonen win in Spa?

    They should have the DDRS and we all know Kimi’s record at Spa, winning every race he has finished.

    1. James Allen says:

      I reckon it’s between him and Vettel, before we see a weather forecast of course!

      1. Irish Con says:

        I wondering why u think vettel James. Because this year red bull are still very slow in the straights and don’t have the fast corner speed advantage they have had in the past 3 years this year. I know that at spa there usually run like a one off different downforce package but even still. So I will be surprised if red bull are on the podium personally. Hamilton should be good there this year also.

      2. James Allen says:

        They werent too sluggish at Silverstone as I recall..

        Just a hunch on Vettel

      3. D17MO.D says:

        Hi James,

        I can understand your reasoning on Kimi but I’m intrigued as to why Vettel also?

        Thanks,

        Damo

      4. KRB says:

        Was there any fallout last year from RBR running their tire camber outside of Pirelli’s parameters for Spa? I can’t remember 100%, but I think after that that every team had to be within the Pirelli suggested camber ranges, or they wouldn’t be allowed to race, no?

        I think Lotus will be fast there, although they drop off in performance in cooler climes. As always with this F1 season, it’s very hard to really feel confident in any prognostications.

    2. Ryan Eckford says:

      McLaren and Lotus will be mighty at Spa. Sauber will do well, with Red Bull and Williams on a similar platform to Sauber, but not quite on the level of McLaren and Lotus.

      For Alonso and Ferrari, it will be damage limitations, Mercedes will continue their struggles, probably with Force India and STR around them.

      Caterham are an interesting case. They will be quick and competitive with the heart of the midfield cars through Sector 1 and Sector 3, but will lose huge time in that middle sector. I think Caterham could be competitive with the midfield in the race.

  29. Hi James:
    First, I think your website is the best, with the best information from every point of view (technical, bussiness, sporting, etc).
    I think what of the thing to be highlighted is Kimi´s performance. In 2009, He was nowhere to his best performances, stay 2 years away, and came back, and had 5 podiums finnishes. I´m a Schumacher fan forever, but what Kimi is doing is exceptional. I think He´s the most natural talented driver that ever been in F1, after Ayrton Senna.
    kimi is going to be a factor in this championship, as Horner said. Be carefull with him.
    Best Regards
    Hector Morillo, from Caracas-Venezuela

    1. Sebastian says:

      Kimi stated that some of his best driving was in 2009. With all effort to get KERS working, the F2009 was a midfield car, yet he won with it. Remember how much slower his team mates were. It was just Luca d M who kept on bashing Kimi in good ol’ Ferrari spirit…

      1. KRB says:

        Yeah, Badoer?! I would hope he was faster than him!!

  30. Tornillo Amarillo says:

    This year I am impressed by ALONSO and GROSJEAN, I think they overperform.

    I’m dissapointed by DI RESTA, I think he undeperforms.

    The other drivers are just in the battle, sometimes OK, sometimes a worry (BUTTON, SCHUMACHER, KOBAYASHI, MALDONADO… ETC.).

    1. Tornillo Amarillo says:

      MASSA has not a normal session, I think it is his last one.

      1. Spider says:

        I would have to agree with you on Grosjean. His overtaking has been breathtaking!!!! If he can be more consistent he will be one to watch in the future……

      2. Chaitanya says:

        where is kimi?

  31. Joel says:

    WRT Ferrari, all credit to Alonso for driving awesome during the first half. But, I don’t for a bit believe the Ferrari is such as poor car as it is made out in the media.
    Ferrari is managing the expactation by declaring their car as an underperformer. Come raceday, they can really get their fans excited by their race performance. This has been their tactic for a while.
    But, in race trim, if not the first, they are the 2nd fastest. On any race day, they have always been the 1st, 2nd or 3rd fastest – exacpt for the first and the last race.

    1. Mitchel says:

      +1.

      I do think there’s a big element of that, especially when Lotus haven’t always qualified well and Mclaren haven’t always raced well.

  32. Elie says:

    1.I guess it could be argued although Ferrari exceeded their pre season pace. They would have hoped to be better than 4th ie more out of Massa
    2.Sauber – I know they hoped to have done better in some races but their current position must surely be where they expected to be.
    3 Mercedes : James Is it the the DDRS effecting the balance of the car and hence tyres – requiring them adjusting the car a lot more than others during the race. They are in the mid pack and using it a lot ! Or is it just tyre management?
    4. Lotus : good car out of the box ! . But got better still gradually.I think Raikkonens feedback is a lot better than people give him credit for. I’m sure Grosjean is gaining great insight into this. Kimis experience in Mclaren & Ferrari must be helping the team a lot. He always got past cars to the front very quickly even in qualifying trim and Hungary proved he’s there or there abouts on that now.
    5. Mclaren must be kicking themselves for pit stops and strategy because surely Lewis would be well in front,Despite there struggles around Silverstone. Button should be driving for Williams. Like ferrari ,Mclaren need someone stronger there.

    Exceptional drives from Alonso (particularly wet), Hamilton and Raikkonen and as the season progresses Kimi will prove further that his pace and style is amongst the best F1 has seen.I havent seen anyone drive in dirty air the way Kimi did behind Hamilton and keep it so together while making ground.

    Special mentions to Kovalienan, Pic. Perez should be at Ferrari is definitely a star of the future.

  33. Nigel says:

    I’ve been very impressed by Grosjean as the season has developed.

    He’s not the finished article yet, as his tactical outmanoeuvring by Raikkonen at the last race demonstrated, but he had been quick all season, and his racecraft is steadily improving.
    What has impressed me most is his attitude. He has cheerfully owned up to his mistakes, and seems to be learning from them without compromising his natural speed.
    Most of all, he clearly hugely enjoys every race – something which isn’t at all obvious for some drivers.

  34. Tom Haythornthwaite says:

    This isn’t a great season and we won’t have a great season until we have got rid of DRS (or, if you like, legalized it everywhere and at any time) and either brought back tire wars (expensive but fun) or introduced one true control tire (probably a durable one) to bring back actual car racing.

    1. Oly says:

      +1
      my thoughts exactly.

  35. Andrew Kirk says:

    How would you sum up Massa’s season James? I noticed your piece about Ferrari didn’t really mention him at all compared to Alonso but the numbers say all I guess: Alonso 164 points Massa 25 points… OUCH!!!

    1. James Allen says:

      It says that they’ve only had one driver scoring points. What can you say about FM? I’ve said it all before in posts about the second Ferrari

      1. Andrew Kirk says:

        I think Massa has to leave Ferrari if not for the team but for himself. He has been beaten by Alonso in the years that they have been teammates. Unable to match him (unlike say Webber or Button) left for dead when things are not going well and it has gotten to the point when people are saying he is doing well when he is close to Alonso (still not ahead). Ok he may never get a better chance of winning like he does at Ferrari but with Alonso there he has to leave and rebuild.

  36. xrr says:

    Alonso was really extraordinary even in his very high standards.
    He did much better than 2010 season’s first half. If he and Ferrari can repeat what they did in 2010 season than title really is Fernando to lose.

  37. KRB says:

    A great concise summation of the first half JA. Really appreciate your dedication to your blog. I’ve seen lots of journo’s start out guns blazing with blogs, only to fade when they realize they can’t keep up the pace. So thanks for that, and keep pacing yourself.

    Totally agree with your categorizations.

    One typo though: Vettel has 3 podiums (AUS, BRN, GBR), Webber has two.

    1. James Allen says:

      We do wins separate from other podiums

  38. a says:

    People think Alonso is brilliant, ok fair enough he is leading the championdhip, but his win in Malaysia was pot luck in that the conditions suited the fezza perfectly. Alonso has made no mistakes and neither have Ferrari.

    Hamilton has made no mistakes and Mclaren have. Hamilton is fundamentally a better driver than Alonso, look at 2007. Hamilton does not get enough credit for what he achieved. A rookie stepping up to f1 in a top team who’s team mate is the current double world champion, and he beat him. That settles the debate as to who is the best driver in the world now
    Vettel can’t race and can only win in a car miles quicker than everyone else.

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