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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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1

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.

2

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.

3

We do wins separate from other podiums

4

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.

5

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!!!

6

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

7

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.

8
Tom Haythornthwaite

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.

9

+1

my thoughts exactly.

10

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.

11

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.

12

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.

13

+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.

14
Tornillo Amarillo

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.).

15
Tornillo Amarillo

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

16

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……

17

where is kimi?

18

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

19

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…

20

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

21

Thanks!

22

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.

23

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.

24

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

25

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.

26

Hi James,

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

Thanks,

Damo

27

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.

28

They werent too sluggish at Silverstone as I recall..

Just a hunch on Vettel

29

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?

30

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?

31

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.

32

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

33

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.

34

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.

35

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…

36

@ 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.

37

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.

38

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.

39

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?

40

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

41

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?

42

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

43

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

44

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?

45

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…

46

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

47

Jawol, danka.

48

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.

49

Nah. 2010 was the best year.

50

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!

51

just curious, why not Alonso?

52

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.

53

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.

54

I enjoyed reading this article.

55

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.

56

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!

58

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.

59

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.

60

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

61

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

62

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.

63

Their turnover was $2.2 billion, their profits were $249million.

Red Bull’s profits were into the billions.

64
Quick Nick Rules

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!

65

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.

66

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…

67

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.

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