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My Top 5 Drivers of 2012
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Dec 2012   |  9:59 am GMT  |  394 comments

We have been running our annual end of year opportunity for readers to tell us who were their top five drivers of the season and this year we had a larger entry than in 2011; just under 800 entries.

This is probabiy due to the fact that the competition between the leading drivers was so close this year, with several outstanding performances.

As a fun sideline prize, three entries which match my selection, will be selected at random to receive a free signed copy of our review book of the season; James Allen on F1 2012: The Year of Living Dangerously, which is now on sale in our Online Shop.

As is reflected in most people’s entries, it was the most difficult choice between the top three drivers in the four years that we have been running JA on F1.

But here is how I see it:

1. Fernando Alonso
Less than the width of a cigarette paper separates Alonso and Sebastian Vettel this season. After a 20 race duel for the title they were separated by just three points.

In terms of race performances, getting the job done and all-round consistent skill and commitment, it’s impossible to separate them. Alonso did incredibly well to recover podiums from unpromising situations, while Vettel showed many times that he too can come through the field and cope with setbacks.

The cop-out would have been to make them joint first, but there was a small distinction between them, which was important for me; it was that Vettel was out qualified by his team mate Mark Webber eight times. Webber is a better reference point team mate than Felipe Massa, but nevertheless Alonso easily outpaced Massa until the final couple of races. It was odd that Fernando struggled with qualifying in the last two rounds, but it was the only question mark over an otherwise exemplary season.

His title hopes were killed by the two start line accidents in Spa and Suzuka. He was blameless for the Grosjean incident at Spa. He had a hand in the Suzuka incident, but when you are taking risks at the start on that scale and fighting to make up so many places, race after race, you can’t get it right 20 times out of 20. You are bound to drop one!

History will show that Vettel was the champion, but historians will have to dig a bit to find that the Ferrari was 1.5 seconds off the pace at the start of the season and struggling for consistent pace all season. This means that he had a mountain to climb.

I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea and in the internet age, it’s easy for fans to find others who share their view and demonise a driver. But, whatever you think of him, he’s one of the greats and we are fortunate to have a driver like him to provide a reference point for all the other drivers.

2.Sebastian Vettel
This is the first time in four years of JA on F1 that the champion has not been the Number 1, but it’s incredibly finely balanced and the reason is given in the section above. Vettel’s third championship in a row was the hardest to win in many ways, but he gave something away to Alonso at the start of the year as he adapted to a car without tons of downforce from a blown diffuser. He made a mistake in Malaysia, tripping up over a back marker and losing a podium there. And he was out qualified eight times by Mark Webber.

On the plus side, of course, he got the job done and clinched the title. He held his nerve brilliantly on the final day when he was 17th at the end of the first lap and he proved any doubters wrong with his ability to come through the field, pass cars and cope with problems.

This doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve to win the title; both men did, but Vettel has the satisfaction of knowing that it was he who got the job done.

Vettel and Alonso are the two most intelligent drivers in F1; Vettel is a shade faster in qualifying, but Alonso is a shade more consistent over a race and a season. There’s little to separate them and with Lewis Hamilton and other strong performers around at the moment, there’s little doubt that F1 is in a golden period for drivers.

3.Lewis Hamilton
Again, it was almost impossible to separate Hamilton from the others because in pure driving terms this was his best season in F1 to date. He didn’t get the job done and win the title, largely because of points dropped due to reliability and operational errors, like early season botched pit stops. McLaren are a fantastic racing team, but they always give too much away to the opposition. And this year – like 2007 – was a perfect example of that.

After a difficult year in 2011, where he was angry, out of sorts and lacking focus and joy in his work, Hamilton’s driving was more free this year and it was great to watch. His win in Austin, beating Vettel with his one opportunity of the whole race to pass was the highlight of the season. He scored seven poles (not including Spain) and four wins. But he didn’t always carry himself like a champion and he knows that.

To be a great driver, you have to be great in all areas and he still has some growing to do there.

4. Kimi Raikkonen
I have to be honest, I didn’t think Kimi would be as consistently strong this year as he turned out to be. He completed all but one of the racing laps in the 2012 season and was in the points at every race except China, where a good result slipped away when he went off-line on worn tyres in the closing stages.

The Kimi who left F1 in 2009 was tired, disaffected and out of love with the life of a Grand Prix driver. His motivation was clearly down after winning the 2007 title, he was being beaten by Felipe Massa and he wasn’t enjoying the expectations of life as a Ferrari driver.

To come back after two years on the sidelines and perform as he has is remarkable and is fantastic news for the sport.

His fine season was capped off with a win in Abu Dhabi and the award for Best Line of the Season – “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing”

Lotus was probably the most consistent car this year, but not the fastest in qualifying. Kimi’s best qualifying was 3rd in Spa and he only started in the front two rows on four occasions. As he got back up to speed, Kimi was out qualified by his hot headed team mate main Grosjean in ten races, but his race performances were fantastic and it’s great to have him on form and in F1.

5.Jenson Button
This was almost as tough a decision as the top three. Many fans went for Nico Hulkenberg, who had a very strong end to the 2012 season, with 44 points scored from Spa onwards. This was great to see and he has grown a lot as an F1 driver this year. But he admitted to me himself that in the first half of the season, where he was beaten by Paul di Resta, he was still finding his feet after a 2011 season as a tester. Sergio Perez was another contender with his three podiums, but he was erratic, especially in qualifying and from the announcement of his McLaren drive onwards he didn’t score another point, which is a real concern for McLaren next year.

Also Mark Webber was a consideration with his two fine wins in Monaco and Silverstone and a greatly improved qualifying performance, outperforming Vettel eight times. But his race performances were not as strong, largely due to continued issues with poor starts and in six races he finished below his qualifying slot, which is never good.

So Button edged it, despite his five race wobble from Spain to Silverstone, because he scored three top quality wins at the beginning, middle and end of the season, with Spa the real highlight.

From Germany onwards, when the McLaren came good, he performed consistently well. His weakness is still qualifying strongly and driving around problems, which could be an Achilles Heel when he leads McLaren next year, but he knows that and will be working all out on it.

The signs are that the new 2013 Pirellis warm up very quickly, so they may suit Button’s style quite well.

Were selling out quickly; the JA on F1 2012 yearbook – The Year of Living Dangerously, priced at £10.99 is a 256 page large format paperback with stunning Darren Heath images, a Foreword from BBC TV’s Jake Humphrey. Make sure there’s one in your Christmas stocking, as the cupboard will be bare in January at this rate. Signed copies are available to order via our online shop now.

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Just came back to re-read this and one statement stands out for me –

” McLaren are a

fantastic racing team, but they always give too much away to the opposition.”

True if you look back over recent series, but not always. Bruce Maclaren built his team in the lucrative Can Am series. They were virtually unbeatable because their professionalism and preparation were far beyond the competition. Bruce would be turning in his grave now.

I think too much is made of Ron Dennis’ move. Maclaren are no longer leaders in any facet of F1. They’ve lost their edge and can only go down hill from here. I’m sure that is the itch that Hamilton needed to scratch-and did so.

Maclaren aren’t the modern merc silver arrows any more. They aren’t the most professional team either. Following Williams down the ranks perhaps.

Can we have a story on the big picture at Maclaren? Is there a rot they can stop?


Thanks for the driver review James. It’s always interesting to read articles on your blog. I don’t get the frustration over Jenson. It has been his least succesful season since he started driving for McLaren but he’s had some great wins and drives this season. The TPs seem to agree with you on the driver ranking for 2012. I wonder how many people would object to JB’s ranking if he wasn’t Hamilton’s teammate. People expected Jenson to get beaten badly by Hamilton and when it didn’t happen the bashing started and it’s been going ever since. It’s getting old now.


James, Thanks for an interesting article with great justification for your ranking. There are also some great comments here. The debate over Button’s 5th place in the ranking makes for interesting reading to be sure.


I like how everyone highlights the fact Kimi completed all but one lap of 2012.

The irony is , had he achieved that early on in his career he would have won more titles.

That being said I would rather like him at Lotus than Mclaren; they are as unreliable as they were when he was driving for them.


JB wins Autosport “British Driver of the Year”

JA votes him top 5 with this performance stats:

Lewis Beat team mate in qualifying 16/20

Lewis Beat team mate in race 9/13

Lewis Races finished 15/20

Lewis Laps spent ahead of team mate 638/958

Rule Britannia!


Lewis finishes age ah of JB in the Top 5 list…

It’s more of a reflection of the job JB did relative to all the other drivers, surely?


Absolutely James. So should your relative performance to your team mate- to account for the confounding effect of the car/team performance; thus to round up the top 5 position, the leading driver of the next tier of teams should fill that slot. Unless there was nothing to choose between 2 drivers in a top team.

Mike from Colombia

One team mate at 3 and the other at 5 implies that the second driver must have been harrying the first driver throughout the season….never happened.


Hi James

Last year you did a F1 fans world championship. I thought it was great and drove a variety of discussion points especially on drivers below the top 5. Any chance of doing it again



Yes, funnily enough I was looking at that yesterday as a prelude to launching it for this year.

Stand by!




James I believe the question of which 5 drivers were the best DRIVERs of 2012 have not been correctly answered. Voting purely on how any of the following four kimi, hamilton, vettel and alonso drove during the 2012 season must not be encumbered by anything else, other than how the above individuals drove. So if the team screwed up on not putting enough or too little fuel in the car has nothing to do with how that driver drove the race. I am not saying it will not have an emotional effect on that driver, but what is being looked at is how that driver drove with that circumstance.

If the team built the second/third/fourth/whatever fastest car does not count, it’s how that driver drove that second/third/fourth/whatever fastest car that is being looked at.

Having established what is the criteria that we are using to ascertain who were the top five drivers (personally I’m only interested in the top 3 alonso, vettel and hamilton; what kimi did was great in that he was off and came back, but it was not exceptional). Negating all extraneous circumstances from Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton’s year who did the most with what they were given? I’ve added up all the different outside influences and on just how he performed when the lights went out to the signal man waving the flag Vettel slightly outdrove Alonso and Hamilton outdrove them both.

Now to all those people who have their favourite driver and believe this is slagging their favourite, take a step back and look at this from a driving point of view and you will see the math does add up in Hamilton’s favour. Remember all these guys are at the top of drivers on the planet. So this is not who is the greatest driver on the planet at the moment. nor is it who is your favourite. This is of the drivers that drove in the 2012 F1 season who were the top five drivers based solely on how they drove in 2012. Another way of looking at it if all the team screw ups, and all the accidents, and all the DNFing for whatever reasons did not occur who would have the most points based on how he DROVE? That’s my two cents/pence.


If only the so called ‘professional’ journalists could take such an analytical approach to driver of the year.

I remember Jake Humphrey asking Ecclestone in an interview at Brazil who he thought deserved to be champion, Ecclestone replied after some thought – Hamilton. Humphrey assumed this was a joke gave him a patronising look and laughed.

Of course James Allen apparantly seems to think that twitter comments are as important as achievements on the track so his rating is ‘justified’.


These posts make a lot of sense. Truly in terms of driver performance Hamilton was well ahead of both Alonso and Vettel. Alonso drove well, he was consistent, no more thasn Kimi was by the way, but he choked up when the chips were down, as he did in 2010. He was outraced by his teammate in the last two races of the season and made a fatal mistake in Japan. The collission was entirely his fault because he muscled Kimi off track in order to take his racing line. He was gifted the win in Valencia- why is it that everyone stated that Kimi was gifted the win in Abu Dabby but that Alonso was not gifted the win in Valencia- and had a car that was not as bad as everyone thinks. I recall that Kimi had an exceptional season in 2003 and almost won driving a car noticeably slower and less reliable than the Ferrari, and lost the championship by a mere two points. Yet he was not even considered driver of the year. Alonso is, in my opinion, greatly overrated as a driver. He lacks the speed and the racecraft of Kimi and Lewis and the effectiveness of Vettel. As for his development skills, which was the reason that Ferari mentioned to justify dropping Kimi, well, when Fisicella left Renault the car went from bad to worst, and the development of Ferrari in his three years with the team is nothing to write home about.

Mike from Colombia

I think Alonso drove great. But Hamilton has not been given the credit he deserves as a driver and has been marked down for behavioural reasons.

Hamilton is the only driver that Alonso and Vettel would not want as a team mate and have effectively vetoed….I think that that says a lot on its own.

Mike from Colombia

I also thought this was about driver performance and not good-blokeyness. Hamilton had a faultless season and I am surprised that he only comes in third for venting, albeit carelessly, his frustrations on Twitter.

Perhaps the greater sin in the eyes of the media was that it involved Button. Would the same fuss had been made if it involved Hamilton and say Kobayashi?

If a driver makes another driver, who is ranked

no 5 on the list, look ordinary on many occasions then how can he only be ranked no 3?

Vettel has thrown his toys out of the pram more than once. Alonso tweeted “No tengo milagros, Yo hago de las leyes correctas mis milagros” and he has not had any detractors for implying that Vettel and Red Bull broke the rules.

When someone had at least 7 clear wins within their grasp and is only let down by the car or events beyond their control then how can they be deemed not to be the best performer of 2012? Someone who dragged that car onto the front row more times than anyone else.


Button at #5 is utterly perplexing. He was invisible for the greater part of this year.

As the most reliable benchmark is your team mate it’s impossible to ignore than Hamilton picked him apart in qualifying and Button’s record in the races is flattered by Lewis’s abysmal reliability/operational stats.

Hulk, Perez or even Maldonado has a greater shout for fifth. Button was the pinnacle of mediocrity in the best car on the grid. James, you surprised me with that one.

Otherwise, it’s a pick-’em for top 4. ALO, VET, HAM and RAI were all close to faultless.


Much as Alonso deserves full credit for keeping himself and Ferrari in title contention for as long as he did through sheer determination and pace, it does seem to have been overlooked how much of a factor luck was in that as well. The only reason Alonso WAS in contention by Brazil was because misfortune befell his rivals more often than not. In order to demonstrate this, here are the races where Lady Luck played a factor in how many points both contenders scored:

– Malaysia: Vettel tangles with Karthikeyan in an incident for which Karthikeyan is later penalised, and drops from 4th to 11th after a pitstop to change a punctured tyre. +12 points to Vettel

– Bahrain: Alonso potentially disadvantaged by Rosberg’s blocking techniques. Without these, he would likely have finished ahead of Rosberg and therefore 5th instead of 7th. +4 points to Alonso

– Europe: Vettel dominating race until alternator failure. Alonso lucky both to inherit lead and to have a fast-charging Grosjean retire for the same reason. +25 points to Vettel and -7 to potentially -10 points to Alonso.

– Belgium: Alonso completely blameless in first-corner crash. Assuming Massa’s performance was reflective of the car’s pace, at the very least +10 points to Alonso and potentially +12 points assuming he could have beaten Hulkenberg.

– Italy: Vettel again loses points due to an alternator failure, this time from 6th place. +8 points to Vettel.

– Singapore: Vettel fortunate to inherit lead from Hamilton, and Alonso likewise fortunate to inherit podium following Maldonado’s retirement. -7 points to Vettel and -3 points to Alonso.

– Japan: Alonso retires from race due to first-lap puncture after contact with Raikkonen. Again assuming Massa’s pace is representative of what Alonso could have done, 2nd place would have been possible. +18 points to Alonso

– Abu Dhabi: Vettel suffers fuel pump problems preventing a fuel sample being provided, relegating him to the back of the grid. Team permitted to make setup changes resulting from this, but would likely have finished ahead of Alonso without this based on grid positions and pace. +3 points to Vettel and -3 points to Alonso

– United States: Vettel unfortunate to catch Karthikeyan in the Esses, but such is motorsport. Alonso benefits from another Renault alternator failure to take podium from Webber, who on pace would otherwise have beaten him. -3 points to Alonso

Taking even the most conservative of the options available, Vettel lost 41 points this season owing to misfortune compared with 16 for Alonso, once the points Alonso gained from the misfortune of others are deducted. Add those onto the points tally and it’s not even close – the title could have been settled as early as Abu Dhabi or possibly before.

Does that take anything away from what Alonso achieved? Of course not – ifs, buts and maybes count for nothing and he still drove out of his skin to take the opportunities when they arose. However, to disregard the role fortune played in races is to not have a complete picture, and it’s why in light of the above I regard it as very much honours even. For me, Vettel and Alonso would tie with Hamilton as driver of the season, as I really think there was nothing to choose between them.


HI James! It will be interesting to see how do you rank the rest of the drivers. I remember your reports on Speedvision in USA, in 90-s. But been a Russian it will be interesting to know what do you think about Petrov? With “pay driver” status many people in Russia belive that he is sort of modern Ganni Lavagi. And it’s real hard to find a real professional information in a media. It will be nice to have your personal vision of Petrov’s years in F1. I’ll be glad to translate it and present to Russian audience. Thank’s


Petrov got that result in Brazil which made $millions for Caterham. They stick with him, I hear.

Bruno Senna is also in the running there.


ESPN and ESPN2 it was actually from 1993 to 1996.


I still have a tapes from that time, but what do you think is Petrov modern Ganni Lavaggi? Regards


Hi James,

One comment and one query on your article.

My understanding for bits of media cobbled together was that Alonso had a different aero package to Massa at Austin due to limited parts availability. With the track evolution there and parc ferme conditions, with Ferrari’s recent history of unsuccessful aero upgrades it might have been easy for Ferrari to have made the wrong call. In Brazil, I heard that Alonso ran a wet set up along with two other drivers. So there could be a car issue behind Alonso being slower.

My question is on Spa. To me, the McLaren with the right wing on it seemed easily the quickest car. Jenson started well, looked after his tyres and that was it. Yet in Car magazine, Tom Clarkson nominated Jenson’s pole as the lap of year, and you’ve hightlighted this race. The next race at Monza highlighted McLaren’s advantage in low downforce tracks and Hungary in high downforce configuration, so to me the only notable thing about Jenson’s win is that Hamilton’s wing choice was so different. I wonder what I’m missing?




Lap of the year? Give me a break. Lap of the year would be one of Hamilton’s Q3 laps at either Singapore, Abu Dhabi, or Austin. The first two garnered pole, while the last split the Red Bulls which were markedly faster in qualifying trim, and almost secured pole.

I would nominate Singapore, as Hamilton was supreme in qualifying that day. He and Vettel were a cut above all others there.

As for Spa, it was a great win for Jenson, as he was never headed. He was aided vis-a-vis Hamilton by the rain on Friday. Does anyone think that had it been clear running in the free practice sessions, that Button would’ve qualified ahead of Hamilton? If not, then how could it possibly be lap of the year?


Lap of the year is generally a difficult one judge as it is about driver getting the most out the package available.

Maldonado had a few surprise results such as 2nd in Spain and Singapore. Assessing whether there was more or less than 0.5 of second between the Williams and the McLaren on those days is impossible for us to know.

Ricciardo qualifying 6th in Bahrain was a uniquely outstanding qualifying result for any car – something not available to the McLaren or Red Bull drivers.

Jock Clear argued in Autosport this week to Mark Hughes that he felt Rosberg had an exceptionally good set of tyre in China, which he believed was the reason Schumacher appeared to be getting his butt kicked in Shanghai. Clear thought that Schumacher could have turned that around in the remaining two stints. Now Schumacher was 0.57 off pole in China. If we assume the tyres could make 0.3 of that between a great set and an average to poor set, and the rest was driver performance and the cooling track conditions, it raises questions about how much stock we can put in individual laps.

In the first two examples you mentioned, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, Hamilton was clearly the fastest all the time, so it is safe to remove the tyre variable. Both tracks feature lots of short corners that suit Hamilton’s style. Spa is a track that suits Button quite well, so it is a track where I’d give him some chance of outqualifying Hamilton.

With Button at Spa though – you describe it as a great drive. There does tend to be an assumption that winning is a great drive. But it you have the fastest car that can easily pull away from the following cars – a Force India and a Lotus – while using less of its tyres – so you can make one stop fewer and have no need to make any impression on the fastest lap table, is it just a cruise and collect exercise? There were other drivers, such as Vettel, who were able to make a one stop work while fighting in traffic, so I was left wondering, was there something that fans weren’t aware of, or was it a case of Spa being “special” and being more “worthy” than winning at Hockenheim? You could argue that the McLaren was so good that after Hamilton was ruled out through qualifying and Grosjean, that Button was have had to drive quite a poor race to not win.


So I’m not insane for thinking Alonso did better than Vettel this season, as many people seemed to disagree with this. Finely balanced yes, but Alonso was by a small margin simply better.


I beg to differ on your claim that Vettel & Alonso had virtually identical seasons, bar their Q results vs their teammates.

The difference in skill, speed and overall race management between Alonso and Vettel is very non-trivial. Compare what Vettel did when his car was not a full second (plus) faster than the Ferrari, w/ what Alonso did in his car, which even then was slower than the RBR. What was the outcome ? A 40-point lead for Alonso.

It is a joke comparing the best F1 driver of the last decade w/ Vettel, who has only won consistently when he has had the hands-down faster car AND started from pole.

Vettel was not even the 2nd or 3rd best driver this year. That was Kimi, then Lewis. What would Lewis or Kimi have done in Vettel’s RBR ? They would have won the championship w/ 2-3 races to spare.

Oh, and Jenson was good but not 5th best. That would be Nico Hulkenberg.


+1 Mate.. I could not have put it better myself


maybe you shoud post your top 5 on your blog, then we can read about it there 🙂


The top four were very obvious with a little juggling between Hamilton and Vettel. But I would have gone for Hulkenberg for the fifth best. It’s been an awesome season and I’m gonna watch all the races again before testing begins. Another golden era for F1 which I appreciate being part of it as a fan.


Just happy that Alonso again was considered top dog. The man is due another title, and another, and another…..

Mike from Colombia

Hamilton pays a 20% Lewis Tax for being every performance of his…i.e., a 10/10 performance is only worth 8/10 to most in the media.

Button’s performances receive up to an additional 20% points “Jenson Credit”…a 7/10 performance in absolute terms is worth 9/10 in the eyes of the friendly media.

Kimi Raikkonen pays a Kimi Tax of about 10% because he is unfairly conceived as being “lazy” and not trying…which must be completely untrue. You can’t turn in his type of performances if you are not giving 100%.


Maybe: but on this its Hamilton +50%, Button -50% tax (not to mention Vettel -2000%)


I don´t think people or the media think Kimi is lazy. Kimi in my view has an attittude problem. He has to understand that to be in his situation it´s a privilege. And he is very lucky to do what he is doing. He has to understand he has a duty too. He can´t do whatever he wants any time he wants. I mean if he has to attend an event of any kind he has the obligation to show up, smile and be friendly no matter how much he hates that. Hey don´t get me wrong. Kimi is a great driver in my view. But I also think there are things about his personality and character that I believe he has to make an effort to change a little


He has always done what he is obligated to do, even for team PR. Whats the problem with admitting that he hates the bull$ that comes with it?


His duty is to extract the most out that car (which he does).

All other fake marketing crap, is really just that and unnecessary (who needs it anyway).



Agreed, Lewis has to be faultless to avoid a barrage of criticism from the media. Whilst other drivers SWEAR and use foul language, and no-one even notices…


It isn’t Jenson’s fault that the he takes the media out to dinner once a year.

Perhaps Lewis and Kimi can learn the art of propaganda too?

Scratch my back I’ll scratch yours etc – it’s the world we live in.


Crazy, but right. Very well said!

Heinzman (Fan of: ALO)


Can we do a top five driver girlfriends/wives for a bit of fun?


1. Isabell Reis (Timo Glock’s girlfriend)

2. Isabell Reis (Timo Glock’s girlfriend)

3. Isabell Reis (Timo Glock’s girlfriend)

4. Isabell Reis (Timo Glock’s girlfriend)

5. Isabell Reis (Timo Glock’s girlfriend)

It was tight between Isabell Reis and Isabell Reis for the top two positions but I think the order is just about right.


Is it true that she’s planning to move to a top team for 2013? 😉


Disregard my previous top 5 I agree with yours


You made me look her up… Pleasantly impressed!


James, your logic makes sense, and I actually agree. Funny thing is, I thought Button had a weaker season, but reading your article makes me rephrase that to quiet yet effective!!


Vettel would be first. I put Kimi second. Ferrari put millions into Alonso & Massa had to move over for him and run r&d for him. Lotus went broke & could not do updates at the end of the season, when Kimi won in AD. Alonso would be third at best. He had everything going his way.

You say the Lotus was the most consistent car. Not in Grosjean’s hands it wasn’t. Only in Kimi’s hands. Then Hamilton fourth & Button fifth.


James, Button 5th really… Have a word with yourself!

3 wins aside, and credit due or them, he can’t qualify a fast car anywhere near top slots consistently and hs race performance hasn’t been stunning.

Put Hulk, Perez, Webber possibly even Nico Rosberg in his car and they would have killed him.

I thought this was a DRIVER poll?


Well James I agree with you for the most part. I would have rated Hamilton ahead of Vettel but I don´t have a problem with Vettel in sencond place. However I do have a problem with Button at number 5. Don´t get me wrong I like Jenson. He seems to be an old school English gentleman. But I was expecting more from him. He won in Australia but then he went missing in action for the most part until the Germany GP. Other drivers like Hulkenberg or Perez surprised me. I wasn´t execting much from them. Anyway it´s your top 5. You have every right.


How come JA let’s everyone have a say and voice their own top 5, without arguing with each and every one but so many people here don’t show the same respect and feel inclined to state their dissatisfaction with what is after all a personal choice????

Surely if you’re that disappointed your views don’t match, just buy the book


Nice selection, I put Rosberg instead of Jenson but you see them working closer than I do

Could we get a 5 to 10 list from you?

After all there is no racing anyway and we need to have more on line discussions



“I know he’s not everyone’s cup of tea…”

I’d rather have a driver who for someone is the best cup of tea, while being the worst for the others, then someone who’s neither here nor there for anyone.

I’ll take him over any other of the top 4 (since I really think we had a top 4 this year, and then everybody else).

If I’d go by personality only, other top drivers would have even less to deserve admiration, as far as I’m concerned.

He seems like the one who is completely comfortable in his skin, even though he has the weight of expectations on his shoulders from the biggest F1 team, one of the biggest brands in the world, with a great belief in himself, rather then arrogance, and (I know it will sound tacky) the biggest heart, because he is not running away from it. He is not distancing himself from other tasks within the team that are not just driving related.

Not only being optimistic on words and attitude, but being motivated and leading the whole team, as you James say, by example, when he had to do so much every race, without being guaranteed much in a way of rewards, is something I’ve seen only 2 times in the last 20 years. Perhaps Senna in 1993 (although I just started watching F1 then, so I can’t be sure of all the aspects of his season) and Schumacher in his early Ferraris.

In his wins, there was no margin for error, because each time he won, he won with such a little breathing space that the smallest mistake from either him or the team would mean a difference between winning or not.

For example, Vettel and Button waited for a whole race for Alonso to miss just one braking point, to get wrong-footed by at least one backmarker, and yet he never did.

You gotta admire him because he was bringing this level of excellence to every race and every session. If he didn’t, many opportunities would have been missed.

This is why I don’t understand why people are making it out to be less of an achievement when you grab the opportunity you didn’t even have a right to hope will come your way.

Staying motivated the whole weekend in that situation is much harder, then being motivated when you can see from the word “go” that your car is gonna be on the front row come Sunday.

Going back to the personality thing.

I never cared for the people I admire to bend over themselves to please the others. I do however, among other things, admire them because they are true to themselves even at the expense of being disliked by many.

As the famous saying goes: “It is better to be hated for what you are than to be loved for something you are not.”

I admire him because he’s refusing to put on an act just to satisfy hypocritical and shallow public who think they own him or something and who are “offended” by curse words on TV or nudity in art.

We can all be better people then we are, but we need to be better because of the people close to us, who deserve it, people who wouldn’t be damning us for who we are in the first place.

In other words, Alonso owes nothing to the haters, while on the other hand, it’s clear to see that he is being a better man every year for his team.

To close it with one more proverb:

“If you didn’t try so hard to be liked by everyone, maybe you would have been truly liked by few.”

Go Fernando!


You should add the bit about his darker side and also the bit about learning to lose in a dignified manner, wonder if there’s a proverb for a character like that


>You should add the bit about … learning to lose in a dignified manner

Yes, like other top F1 drivers do. Except Scumi, obviously. And except finger boy, who can’t even win graciously. And except Mr “I’m so angry I’m going to tweet my telemetry”, ‘cos that’s not really too gracious either, is it?

So, IMO, that’s all the current top 3 failing to make the grade. Of course, some F1 drivers do and can. Kimi and Jense come to mind. But it doesn’t exactly go with the territory, does it, at least in the modern era? Don’t recall Senna being too strong in that department, either…


Spot on!!!!


Finally someone who can see the big picture.

Great read thankyou


I would agree with most of the list, but would probably swap Kimi and Hamilton.

The main reason for me is that his performances are quite amazing considering he had never been on the Pirelli tyre before – while many other drivers had at least one year of expirence


Hi James,

Agree with the top 4, but not the order.

Alonso and Hamilton I think both had the best seasons of their careers. That’s why I’d probably put them joint first, bothing having a different set of disadvantages, Alonso – slow car, Hamilton – unreliable team & car.

Vettel seemed invisible until Newey’s rocketship came alive, prior to that he wasn’t rising above it. It also wasn’t Vettel’s best year.

Button in 5th is an interesting choice. I hadn’t really considered him. You say when the car got better Button hit higher peaks, but there was nothing wrong with car if you look at what Hamilton was doing with it, and he’s bound to hit higher peaks because he’s in a McLaren.

I had Hulkenburg down for 5th. McLaren should have signed Hulkenburg instead of Perez.


Woohoo, I was one of the winners! Can’t wait to read the book! 😀


I would like to stick my neck out and claim that british journos’s usually have a a slight bias towards Jenson – James included.

Otherwise how could he be at no.5 on this list? He was outqualified and outraced by his teammate, and was lapped by his teamate in the same car! Even Webber can’t claim that dubious title.

If Jenson’s highs were higher, then surely his lows were lower.

What baffles me even more is the claim that Jenson’s inability to come to terms with the set-up of the car is somehow the team’s fault.

A team does NOT setup the car for the driver; They asist him in finding the right set-up for himself. This is because set-up is unique to the driver’s style, and the characteristics of the car.

SO if Jenson is unable to find the right setup that suits him, and is unable to get the best out of the wrong setup, then that is a clear weakness.

If Lewis didnt carry himself like a champion and is at no.3 on the list, then it is patronising to have Jenson at no.5

There are more deserving drivers, James.


How far back was Webber from Vettel in Spain? Webber was lapped there, but only by Maldonado, if I recall correctly.

Yeah, being lapped in the same car, not owing to damage or incident, is a pretty damning indictment.

It’s funny that some pundits downgrade Hamilton’s performance this year, saying he didn’t seize the points early on that the car warranted (which, as stated ad nauseum, had little to do with his driving in those races), yet don’t utilize the same prism with which to view Jenson’s season.

I realize that the expectations placed on Hamilton are higher than those placed on Button, but it’s not a list of how drivers fared based on what’s usually expected of them, but how they fared vis-a-vis each other, in an absolute sense.

Tornillo Amarillo

Hey! If you cannot get the right setup… you can still copy Hamilton’s!


James, do you have a link to your previous top 5s?


So Vettel carried himself like a champion? Calling Karthikeyan names in Malaysia, penalties in Italy for pushing Alonso off the track and in Spain for ignoring yellow flags, last lap and first lap incidents in Germany and Brazil respectively. And some of those radio messages, most notably at Austin over the backmarkers?

Hamilton should have been second for me, and should have had the title if Mclaren hadn’t messed up (AGAIN).


Vettel has the “satisfaction of knowing who got the job done”. And he should have been listed as No. 1.


Very True


1. Considering that Button was in the fastest car 2012 and didnt have the bad luck of retiring from race leading 3 times, Button has performed weaker than Hulkenberg and Perez and should be placed (even optimistically) amongst the top 6 or 7, but not the top 5.

2. Considering that his car was mechanically more consistent than Hamiltons car, Button had the best car 2012 and he wasnt even a championship contender. UNBELIEVABLE!!


I think you need to get a sense of perspective.

This is a Top 5 list of F1 drivers. That’s all.

Every day 10 children in the UK are told they have cancer, their families lives are turned upside down. That’s serious.

This is a but of fun. Perspective, please.


I love this site and comment often, I even won a signed copy of your 2010 year book but… I think you owe that person an apology to be frank.

I hope to see less of this or I’ll not be taking part in this site for much longer


“Every day 10 children in the UK are told they have cancer, their families lives are turned upside down. That’s serious.”

That is a terrible thing to say, the person is just expressing their (let’s face it correct) opinion. He is commenting on a page entitled ‘My Top 5 Drivers of 2012’. How is this not having perspective? If that’s not having perspective then surely neither is writing this page?


“Every day 10 children in the UK are told they have cancer, their families lives are turned upside down. That’s serious.”

Yeah James, but you didn’t put that up on the site. And if u put up a list (your opinion), of which child/ family is suffering the most, i am sure people would be discussing with the same amount of emotion shown here.


Chastising a site visitor for being passionate enough to express their opinion wouldn’t seem like the wisest thing to do.

In my opinion the debate in the comments section of this site is what makes it an interesting place to visit. Dictating what can and can’t be expressed as opinion (something which I have noticed more frequently recently) is a sure-fire way to suffocate the most colourful part of the experience. I understand the moderation of swearing and unnecessary input but there is a point when it goes too far.

Sure, there are more serious things happening in the world, but if he / she feels like they want to express their opinion they should be able to without being told to ‘get a sense of perspective’ by the very person who is encouraging comments in the first place.

If we can’t get passionate (even irrationally) about things until there is nothing more serious to worry about in the world then we might as well all give up now.


Agree 100% James.

Tornillo Amarillo

Button 5th really? Being consistently outperformed by his team-mate?

Rosberg should be better, outpermorming 7-time-champion Schumacher, and doing one pole and one win in a dog car, but I respect your list, after all, Button was 5th in the standings.

I still want a book 🙂


Outperforming Schumacher, in points yes. In terms of pace, overtaking and excitement no way. I forgot who Nico Rosberg even was half way through the year.

Remove all the car failures (7 minimum) that schuey had then he’d have spanked what’s his name


I agree it should have been Rosberg at five.


I am surprised by your choice of Jenson Button at #5! but otherwise concur on the rest of your list and associated points supporting each.

And, the best part of the article for me is this:

“I know [Alonso’s] not everyone’s cup of tea and in the internet age, it’s easy for fans to find others who share their view and demonise a driver. But, whatever you think of him, he’s one of the greats and we are fortunate to have a driver like him to provide a reference point for all the other drivers.”


The pass in Austin was the highlight of the season? Really? Are we talking highlight of the season, or highlight of Lewis’ season?


That just confirms what Bernie said Vettel is the yardstick in F1.

Hamilton after the race said I just beat the quickest.

Right now for people to big up themselves they have to beat Vettel.


I think Hamilton’s words were “I just beat the supposed best”. Having watched the practice sessions, and even qualifying, where Hamilton drove a perfect lap that was still not good enough, it was a mighty win.

Vettel should not have lost that race; he knew it; Hamilton knew it.

The overtake itself wasn’t spectacular (not like Hamilton passing Kimi at Monza ’07), even if Vettel played a little dirty during it. But it was an overtake that had impact … it was one of only three overtakes for the lead over the whole year (the others being WEB on ALO in Britain, and HAM on ALO in Canada). It also meant that Alonso didn’t HAVE TO WIN in Brazil to win the title.


Meh. He overtook him, yes. Hardly means it was the highlight of the season though. Can think of several far better moments in the season that that. Does this mean that anyone who overtook Hamilton was moment of the season? What about anyone else overtaking Vettel?


You may think of several more “spectacular” moments but the beauty of that pass was that it was the momment that decided a fifty something laps race where two drivers were a second o so apart giving it all while leaving the competition 20 seconds behind. I remember thinking I wish the championship was being decided between these two because right now there is nothing telling them appart. It was racing at its finest. The best I’ve seen in a very long time. I wanted Vettel to win the championship but, on that moment I couldn’t have been more pleased to see the move Hamilton pulled because that is exactly what I want to see when I watch F1 (and I was pretty sure Alonso would loose the championship in the last race anyway) Of course there were spectacular moves being made by people overtaking for 5th or 7th but it is not quite the same. And I agree with roclie of course. All this love between Alonso and Hamilton praising each other on how good the other strikes me as licking wounds. The man they both want to beat is Vettel.


Tom Daley ….. top diver of 2012!

Lewis Hamilton …. top driver of 2012!

Andy Murray … top tennis player of 2012!

Rule Britannia.


Fernando Alonso, jorge lorenzo, spain football team… Spain keeps rulling man.


Yes The Greatest Football team in the history


Everyone is entitled to have an opinion. But I think James has it wrong here. I do not really understand why Vettel was worse than Alonso on account of the eight times he stated a race behind Webber. How many times did Alonso start a race behind Webber? I know that Alonso does not have the same car but comparing how many times one or the other started behind their team mates is actually a little like deciding on which one is better by comparing Webber and Massa while they too are riding different cars. Actually is comparing which is better, Vettel or Alonso, assuming Massa and Webber are equivalent. They are not. So, if we are going to use that criteria I would say Vettel is better because he started ahead of Alonso, Webber and Massa more times than any other way around, because that is the only sensible way of comparing the 4 drivers.




Ridiculous!I am getting sick of the ”appraisal” that Button is getting! WDC or not! Maybe its all the taking media to dinner stuff which is showing some glimpse here…!He and Webber underperformed so bad this year. Balance problem, no grip, tyre-whispering issues and he got beaten soundly in 2012. Last year even with problems Lewis Hamilton was still fast, he matured and put up a brilliant performance that people seem not to recognize! is that bs? I don’t know! Overcritical about Hamilton, but yet everything bad about Jenson brushed under carpet! I’ve never seen such driver protected by media like that!.

Well as far as i’m concerned the best 3 drivers are there in no particular order! Looking forward to an exciting 2013!

Mike from Colombia

Agree 1000% percent.


When did you start watching F1? Because I certainly remember the media not being so nice to Jenson when he was in his early/mid twenties and deservedly so. He’s matured a great amount since then.


Agree 100%. If Massa or Schumacher had driven this year like Button(driving slowly, lapped by his team mate, crashing into Karthikeyan in Malaysia, crashing into Kovalainen in Monaco), they would have been criticized to the bin, but somehow with Button everything seems to be fine as soon as he shrugs off his shoulders and smiles into the camera. Strange Journalism.


Top 4? Absolutely spot on. But Button 5th? Buttons peaks may have been higher than others as you say but his troughs were deeper than most considering the pace of that McLaren.

Alonso extracted McLaren level pace from his Ferrari. Button extracted Ferrari pace from the McLaren. Not deserving of a top 5 placement.


In many ways 5th best driver was sort of like the Silver Spoon Award because Webbo, JB, Hulk and Checo had major inconsistencies whereas the top four wore greatness and could only be separated by a very fine margin.

Hulk and Checo offer great potential. For me, Checo marginally edged it for race/tyre management. His drive to the podium in Canada was for me undoubtedly Drive of the Year.


WOW JAMES! That’s my son William on the main picture. Thank you so much.


The Hamilton fans are out of touch with reality as usual. I think I would of put Kimi ahead of Hamilton as he has been generally more consistent over the year, Hamilton had three crashes this year (at least better than last). I would put Hamilton slightly ahesd of Button or even with him. Yes, Hamilton had reliablity problems, but so did Button. In the end, it largely evend itself out and the points standings reflect that. Ham fans need to get a grip, he was nowhere close to the top three this year. Button has, through his credit, when he suffered from tyre issues due to the set-up of his car, finished the races where Hamilton couldn’t. That was the difference this year – which is why Autosport (not fans) awarded Button as the best British driver of the year. [mod]


Name a crash that was Hamilton’s fault??? Please


Didn’t Button also have three crashes? (Karthikeyen, Kovalainen, Kobayashi)


James, your comment regarding Hamilton. “To be a great driver, you have to be great in all areas and he still has some growing to do there.”

Are you referring to his off-track antics. I really don’t see what he did wrong this in terms of on-track. Conversely I was disappointed by some of SV radio conversations to his engineer.


also vettel insulting other drivers ie calling them idiots.. not the actions of a world champion. but as usual lewis is judged by different standards than other drivers. that is not say he doesnt do some daft things, but so do others!


Spa…Twitter gate

Mike from Colombia

Well then what about Alonso and Flag-gate? Trying to protest the result so long after the race was a touch sour and unsporting.


Look out Alonso’s behind you…

Oh no he isn’t


@ James Allen

It was a bad thing, so it must have been Alonso’s fault, right?

Some people seem to think anything that happens that’s unsavoury with Ferrari is Alonso-inspired. Same with Renault, same with McLaren.

People seem to need him to be a villan.


Do you know for certain that he was behind it?


Lewis – 1, Fernando – 2 and Seb – 3

Lewis was just superb this year.

Fernando was consistently behind Massa towards the end of the season.


Agreed, I just hope Lewis will be even better next year. Maybe he’ll even manage to make third place. That would be fantastic, wouldn’t it.


Did anybody notice that if we ignore the geriatric Schumacher the first 5 were the only WDC winners in the field? Is this a case of cream rising to the top or are we biased due to knowing what they have previously achieved, not only this year?


I wish all my uni exams had been that easy. Only hard question was who came 5th & I reluctantly agree Button would have to get it for the reasons James gave. The only other driver to consider was my Aussie mate Webbber for his 2 wins. Pity WDC is not chosen by a panel of judges but if that ever happens we need James on that panel but everyone else must be Spanish or Italian for balance.


If Alonso was at the first spot without winning the WDC, I think LH needed to be in the second place. As you insist Alonso was 1.5 seconds behind the competition at the begining (and for me was just a problem with Alonso himself and his qualifying skills). If you look at the performance of Jenson qualifying during the whole year, you will say that Mclaren was 1.5 seconds out of pace in many races…

Alonso did in some point the best lap at Austin, and could not manage to do a decent qualifying session. When was really important he did many mistakes (starting with Suzuka). Many was talking about his mental games and etc, that Vettel was feeling the pressure… but I think Alonso was the real one affected. If you look at the Austin GP alone, he did a lot of mistakes during the race.

In Autralia he had a huge mistake too, and that compromised the whole qualifying for him… and for me is clear that Massa was “released” when Ferrari needed him. The episode of “Alonso is faster than you” was really bad for Ferrari image. And holding Felipe was their solution for not having this kind of situation anymore. Let’s see how this will progress in the next year. Did you forget that Alonso did hold Hamilton on the box in 2007, so LH could not make the pole on him one more time?

LH was the only driver that was out of 6 six and none was his fault. Both Vettel and Alonso at least once was their fault.

Alonso had a resilient car all season, and that is something a few people are taking into account. Seems like the quality of the car is just accounted for Vettel (speed), but resilience is important too, makes a big difference, and Alonso had it all year.


Well, I too hadn’t picked Button in the Top 5. Webber got my vote for his tenacity and perseverance in the face of challenges his team mate was spared.

But I’m looking at a signed JA yearbook on my table that got delivered today so I’m happy.


I’ve followed F1 since the 70’s. This was as memorable a year as ever. You’re all entitled to your opinion. James, you’e picks are very insightful as always. Now on to 2013!

Val from montreal

What a load of rubbish , as the british like to say …. How come some (the most anti’s outhere) point out that Schumacher’s carreer was only successful because ” apparently ” there were not so many “top” drivers in the f1 grid for his entire carreer , when at the same time that he was dominating you still had the buttons ,raikkonens, alonsos etc etc …. So that logic applies to Alonso then !! Fernando only won his titles in that same said “weak” Schumacher era but since 2007 ( apparently when the golden age started ) Alonso has’nt won not 1 championship since then … Could it be that Alonso is also over rated ?? This new ” breed” of f1 champions all lost to Schumacher , bar Hamilton and Vettel …. Oh and btw , EOG was burried in my backyard like I promissed …. Your whole romantic fairytale that somehow The Spaniard was sent by the gods to remove the allmighty german off his throne towards the end , is just that, a made-up feel good story to please the masses ….


Good to hear, thank you!

If you did do the book update, I’d buy a copy again, and I’m sure a lot of his fans will as well, the best book on him in my opinion.



Button is my favourite driver, but even I could not include him in my top 5. Looking at the season overall, he did a decent job (3 great wins, close on points to his team-mate), but when you look at each race, he was consistently out-qualified and that period of poor races in the middle was dire. I can’t complain that JA put him at 5th, I’m just pleasantly surprised. Spot on with top 4 (I had Hulk at 5th).


I have the same top 5.

Staying hopeful…


Hi James, slightly off topic, but do you think we could get a surprise announcement on the driver market? It seems strange that a few seats remain unconfirmed (particularly Grosjean at Lotus), and with so many decent drivers available, I am wondering if someone else will get the Lotus seat, so that the team can capitalise on it’s performance and what Kimi has shown can be done – someone with a bit more consistency and point-scoring ability.


“Less than the width of a cigarette paper” used to be my favourite sentence back when you were still commenting on TV, it still is 🙂


I need some new lines!


It’s interesting to note that the actual width of a standard sized generic cigarette rolling paper is ~35mm.

The image conjured in the mind is one of the thickness of the paper used when reading this line.

Another oft used line in such comparisons uses the “hair’s breadth” or “within a whisker” a human hair is about 50 microns across. A super slim, silver cigarette paper is 20 microns thick. (and about 35000 microns wide)

As far as new lines go – there is probably a good one to be found involving the ratio of points Alonso had to Vettel (about 99%) Kimi’s taste for ice creams and a ‘well known’ variety of icecream.

I suspect if you used “the depth of a flake” though – noone would have the slightest clue what you meant though…


Maybe you could work ‘fluidic’ into a line. Oh, hang on….




Sorry to go off on a bit of a tangent, but have Lotus retained Grosjean yet? If not, do you think they are seriously considering dropping him?



There are plenty if people in F1 who don’t want him back, including some drivers


Wow James!!! very interesting information you are giving us here. I´m afraid I have to agree with the people who don´t want him. He has shown he is dangerous not just for other drivers but for himself


Why would the non-drivers want him gone (other than those mechanics/engineers that were forced to work overtime after his crashes)?


Wow, that’s very revealing. I hope there’s a chance of Kamui or Sutil getting that seat.


Your choice exactly the same as the team bosses poll released in autosport.

I guess the people who know, well, they really know.

We all just think we know!!


& you think team bosses don’t have their favourites


Great stuff, James. Nice list.

Re: Webber – it would be interesting to take his performances and apply Vettel’s grid +/- score throughout the season, working out (approximately, of course) where he would have finished had he not had so many dramas with his starts. They’ve been so poor for so long, and there’s so little between him and Seb otherwise.


Good job I ordered the book then !

Can’t argue with your ascertion that it was finely balanced. I put Hamilton above Vettel and Jenson and Mark Webber as equal fifth.

Turning to the subject of Alonso I’m not a great fan because of concerns that started with his behaviour during his season at McLaren but he was undoubtedly the star of the 2012 season.

However, some worrying comments from guests in your December podcast have cast a longer shadow over his reputation for unsporting behaviour which really need explaining.

There must be some pretty damaging stuff out there if Alonso has been up to unsporting antics in the paddock that your guests feel they can’t share with the audience or discuss on air.

I note that nobody else dismissed or contradicted these comments so they must be well know to them all and are true.

Perhaps someone can enlighten us – over to you, James ?


Perhaps some of the guests in the December’s podcast don’t like Alonso very much.


I wouldn’t read too much into that


I’ll be honest, I didn’t even consider Button for the top 5 this year – I mean he had three great victories certainly, but he only beat Hamilton in one or two other races all season, that’s not enough in my view.

“But he didn’t always carry himself like a champion and he knows that.

To be a great driver, you have to be great in all areas and he still has some growing to do there.”

Any chance you can expand on these statements i.e. what would Lewis have to do to be ahead of Vettel and/or Alonso this year?


James I very much expected you to pick what you picked, but aside of Alonso I can’t agree with your 2- 5.

Lewis Hamilton led Abu Dhabi and Singapore and was certain to win both those races. He also was favoured to win Brazil. He even out qualified Vettel 7-6. This was his best driving year in F1 bar none!

Red Bull struggled earlier on but if Mark Webber can win 2 races and out qualify his team mate more often over the first 6 races it tells you bucket loads about the cars genuine pace even if it was not quite an MP4-27 & by Singapore it was ballistic. So whilst Sebs win was great I think it is still a little overrated. I mean comeon a whole second faster at some tracks.

Lotus could not change tyres better than 4.5 sec earlier on . Kimis return was nothing short of incredible- which for some reason I never doubted after his winter tests. And the car was slower pace wise than the top 4 by Spa. Kimi came 3rd and he absolutely was the 3rd best driver without any doubt.

Jenson Button where did he finish ?? & where did his team mate finish even when Lewis had much more car / team failures??. Jenson was at best 6th maybe even 7 th in the fastest car on the grid.

Hulkenberg- even for someone that admitted to you he was not up to speed the first half ( what does that tell you of Kimi then) – he still beat Saubers and tussled with Lotuses & was fighting the top 4 on occasions in Force India- I alway thought we hadnt seen the best of this kid and I expect his name to rise – he definitely deserved 5.


Button 5th wow.

You clearly have a better insight than any of us but I can’t fathom how Button was 5th best this year.

You clearly know something we don’t.

As I see it it’s a racing driver’s job to maximise their equipment, Button didn’t come close to doing that.

Am I missing something.


I’m so glad I’m not the only one who shares this opinion. Button had his highs, but his lows were embarrassing, to be frank. It’s no surprise that, when McLaren realized Hamilton was serious about moving to Mercedes, they offered him something like 4x Jenson’s salary to stay. If McLaren had two Jensons this year in their cars, they’d have finished a distant 4th to Lotus in the WCC.


You are both being a bit harsh but I also doubt Button was the fifth best this year.

Button’s problems though were quite simple to fathom but difficult to sort out. The inherent smoothness of his driving let to tyre heat up issues, engineers compensated with the setup but consistently got it totally wrong. Leading to the tyres using slippage via the differential to generate heat, the Pirellis did not cope with tyre slip well as that sent them into thermal degradation very quickly. 5 races later they put the setup back to almost Melbourne spec and low and behold, fine…

This is why Redbull became so dominant this year. When they bolted on the Valencia update that gained them a whole HRT in downforce on top of wht they had already had before they were able to drive fast within the limits of adhesion and baby the tyres as a result. This gave them a great package. Vettel just had an inconsistent year with his driving compared to previous year, a few more errors than he’s used to


Hahahahaha, matched my top 5, and I’m laughing because I got slagged for including Button.


Tend to agree with your top 5 there James. As you say the top two in particular are so close that it is almost unfair to have to pick one above the other. Alonso for me just, just shades it due to some fantastic performances, even if I do feel the problems of Ferrari were exaggerated somewhat. it pains me to say it as I don’t like Alonso but he was the best driver/racer this season.

Vettel has also been absolutely supreme this season too though which shouldn’t be overlooked and people need to stop making excuses for why he has won 3 titles and start seeing him as the real deal (which to be honest should be a given for a triple world champion). Banning the blown diffuser won’t make a scrap of difference, in the same way banning Traction Control never stopped Kimi, banning the mass damper never stopped Alonso or the Pirelli’s never stopped Hamilton.


Alonso was the best driver this year -BY FAR-. Vettel was a distant second (or even 3rd, with hamilton 2nd). I ‘ve said it before. Alonso was the one who inspired fans almost in every race with his relentless fighting, maturity and team spirit. Vettel never had the charisma to inspire and he needs to grow up a bit before he could even get close to having it.

The team bosses vote shows Alonso was by far the best driver of 2012:


I find Alonso’s comments often immature. For example, his comments several days after the season ended questioning the race result in Brazil. Compare that with what he said after Brazil 2007


“What my team boss stated in China, saying that they weren’t racing against Raikkonen but against me, was a declaration of intent.”

I would not call that immature, but perfectly normal reason to run away from there. And now they also lost Lewis. Fantastic team management.


@funny guy adam

Well, FYI your friend “Ron” was team principal and we all know how his management, and of his successor, ended. McL had ALO and HAM, THE BEST TWO DRIVERS on the grid today, and lost them both in their prime time. How immature was that ?


Your Alonso quote further proves my point.There was the traditional McLaren set up in 2007 where both halfs of the garage raced each other. Ron managed Lewis side and Martin Fernando’s side. With Kimi to far ahead to catch the race was between the two McLaren drivers.


Yes – Alonso did inspire the fans with the odd camera work , samurai tweets about how slow his car is , by getting his teammate 5 place grid drop when ahead of him and pushing ferrari to embarrass themselves by chasing fan videos of Yellow flags.

Vettel on the other hand simply beleived in beating him on the track. I know who I would chose to get inspired from. 🙂


You are fundamentally wrong on this…. you do not “chose” to be inspired. You simply get inspired. Alonso’s was never a favourite of the majority of the fans. They would not chose to get inspired by his driving this year. They just got inspired.

This has not happened with Vettel at any of his 3 championship years. Unfortunately the car has been “bigger” than him. Or he has been “lesser” that the car. Take your pick.


+1 i’ll even it up for you


This is actually true though about the yellow flags, Ferrari seeking clarification about it after they had watched it.

The thing that struck me most about that episode was Alonso would have watched it also, so it beggars belief that for all the praise he receives had he been in JEV’s position Vettel would have gone past him as he couldn’t see the marshal waving the green flag.


Interesting they have the same top 5 as James as well…


and Massa makes it into the top 10!


Yeah that’s a joke


Top 4 ok, but not entirly convinced about button, given the pace of that Mclaren Button didn’t performe well, for me Hulkenberg, perez or Maldonaldo were the better drivers, if Hamilton didn’t have all those problems i think he could have over 300 points which button could ever dream of.


Interesting that you mentioned Maldanado! Most people forget that as much as he had bad moments he showed some pretty amazing pace this season. He could be a surprise next year if Williams can produce a decent car!

But agreed Hulkenberg, Perez, Maldonado had great moments.

button had 3 wins though, yes his engineers helped him get completely lost on setup for 5 races but he won 3 races. 3 good ones too, very Button esk victories.

I’d even consider Schumacher for 5th when you look into it. Spanked Rosberg, 7 failures, strategy problems and a terrible car for the most part (tyre eating chassis) he did good for an old bloke



Where Alonso would have finished by the side of a real teammate, uncooperative and snapping away points if possible?

Position 3 to 5?


Maybe, Massa doesn’t have the pace to compete with Fernando over a whole season.


Maybe? That’s a pretty safe maybe… If anyone wants to take a bet that Massa in the same team would end a season higher than Alonso and neither of them have some unforeseen accident like 2009 then I’d bet my manhood on it…!


Where vettel would have finished if he drove F2012 instead of RB8 ?

Position 9 to 10 ?


I agree that Vettel would not have fared as well with that car as Alonso did. But P9-10? Even Massa managed to finish P7 in it! Vettel would’ve been up there in that car, w/o question. Say P3-P4.


About the same as Alonso, maybe a bit higher as Vettel is a better qualifier. Hamilton as well. All of these guys will get the most of a car.


P1. Or P2 if Alonso had the RB8.

I just can’t understand how people still manage to find every way possible to down talk how good Vettel is. Him Alonso and Hamilton are clearly the top 3 far and away, and whilst it is subjective who is the best of the 3, you have to be seriously blind not to accept that the trio are oh so close.

Accept that, and F1 becomes a little bit more interesting seeing these 3 go at it, rather than constantly going “yeah yeah, Vettel didn’t do good, ’twas just the car, this season is bad due to his domination”.


+1 Hamilton was clearly superior to vettel, as was Raikkonen…


There are so many opinions and Vettel is this, Alonso is that, Hamilton was there…

We kinda all know how good Alonso is, agreed???
We kinda all know how good Lewis is, agreed???
For me I don’t know how good Vettel is…!

That doesn’t mean I’m antiVettel or that I think he is not great, I just don’t feel like I know he’s great like I do the other two.

Basically we have seen what Alonso and Lewis can do in good cars and bad ones. Vettel is yet to face a championship campaign where his car is not dominant for at least most of the campaign IMHO


Yes Brian Drian

I am massive alonso fan, However i have tons of respect for lewis talent and ability

Whereas vettel ? [mod]


Thanks for sharing your view. I guess one thing we can all agree is that it’s fun to watch the top four drivers in the sports at the same time and a much closely matched season. I was really hoping for Schumacher to have a great season. But I admire him more even if his come back did not work out like Kimi’s. I wish him well.


On an outside shot I’d almost give Schumacher the no 5 spot this year.

If you take away undeserved penalties, team mistakes, and seven car failures plus of course a terrible package for most of the season he actually drove and qualified well this year. He made Rosberg look very average.

Put it this way, Schumacher in either the McLaren, Redbull or Ferrari. What sort of season would he have had then? I reckon a pretty dam good one!


Intersing choice with Button. For me, his struggles with the set up for the tyres in the second quarter of the year really count against him. I thought Hulkenburg looked quite strong for most of the year, and it’s also worth remembering that for the first haf of the season the Force India was only an outside contender for points at most races and only started to come on strong after the brake. I’d say that beyond the top 4 it was consistency that set the drivers apart, rather than the strength of their peaks,and in that respect Hulk was way ahead of most of the field.


I have no problems with the top 4 and it honestly would make no difference if the orders were jumbled up whichever way – its that close.

Wish you hadnt chosen Button. He was just a bit too much “out of league” with the top 4. And we have at least 5 others who would have made the fifth place before Button.


I kind of agree that Button is the questionable one in the list but who would you pick and why?


Visit your site every day James – would you concider yourself a grandee of F1 journalism? I would. Shame you’re not on BBC TV team in my view. Merry Christmas JA.

driving was more free this year


1 or 2 syllables take ‘er’

3 or 4 takes ‘more’

Thank God the ‘going forward’ has died out.


The only reason Alonso is not everyone’s cup of tea is because the man has the audacity to be a nationality other than British, the temerity to be intelligent and the arrogance to speak multiple languages. Certainly not what we want for our Sun reading Mansell / Hamilton fans. I’m surprised Button has so many British fans, he ticks a couple of the above boxes!


Nationality has nothing to do with it. And I don’t read the Sun.


So what is it to do with?


Christos, what he did to Hamilton in Hungary 2007 was merely right a wrong.

He may well have reacted badly when he found out McLaren were going to appeal their points penalty but not his grid penalty (we’d all smile and move on without a word in similar circumstances, would we?!) but is has been proven a long time ago that Hamilton caused all that in the first place. I believe on the morning of the Grand Prix, Hamilton gave an interview in which he confirmed ‘my boss isn’t very happy with me’.


A lot of people lost faith in Alonso for what he did in Hungary to Lewis. It’s not just British press creating a story. Read the court case manuscript it’s freely available on the web.

I also was an Alonso fan back from the Renault days and lost my respect for him in 2007. He has since earned it back. He’s maturing into a very respectable man now and represents himself well and Ferrari. There will be a lot of fans of F1 that simply like Hamilton and won’t care much for Fernando as a result.

No need to have a cow people!


Haha your so right. The UK is desperate for sporting success in football, F1, tennis…everything basically. Unfortunately the truth hurts. This doesn’t apply to everyone, but it’s amazingly consistent to hear how England are one of the favorites at every World Cup, followed by the inevitable failure, then the inquisition into how on earth the failure occurred. Here’s the answer…good doesn’t beat great. Hamilton is good. He’s not been recognized as the number one Formula One driver in all his years mainly because a Spanish driver has held on to that title despite not winning the championship. That should say it all really.


We do know what happened in 2007, it all came out at the F1 hearing into McLaren. It’s pretty well publicised, I’m not going to trundle it all out again. If you don’t believe it happened then fine, I’m not going to argue with you.

Just because the British press have taken a line doesn’t mean they’ve brainwashed people (like me) into forming the same opinions – I supported Alonso against Schuey in 2006, I couldn’t care less about Monaco 2007, it was only events later in the year that turned me against Alonso. I wasn’t even a big Hamilton fan until he took pole at the British grand prix, which was well after Monaco.

I know Hamilton isn’t a saint, I even say so in my post, just that in my opinion Alonso exhibits behaviour that I dislike more often and on a grander scale.

Although threatening and blackmail are in certain circumstances criminal offences, just because no charges were brought Alonso in this case doesn’t mean they didn’t happen.


I think Hungary 2007 is well documented, you’re both partly correct.

I’m 41, I’ve been watching F1 since ’78 properly and I’d say Alonso is the 2nd or 3rd best in my watching. I like the bloke.

However, I’m not in denial of his earlier hot-headedness and of his 2 bad moments, I’d say you missed the first Andrew, his outburst after his penalty in qualifying for Monza 2006.

2007 is a different matter. I would be intereted in James Allen’s take on events but I believe that it’s clearly documented Alonso was being eased aside by Dennis as early as Monaco 2007 (which Alonso won) with the “be nice to Lewis” comment. By the time they got to Hungary, it’s well known that Alonso had no support from the McLaren management and was unsettled by this.

So he blocked Hamilton. It’s also documented that Hamilton defied team strategy in Q3 to gain an advantage and Alonso simply righted that wrong. It was intra-team.

That too was the conclusion of the stewards. Then, Lewis Hamilton Snr made a complaint. The stewards then penalised both McLaren (points) and Alonso (grid position). Given the lack of support, how would you feel in Alonso’s position when the team chose to protest the team penalty but not the driver.

Yes, he was wrong to threaten to “bite the hand that fed him”. Which is why he apologised to Dennis the next morning.

I don’t think you’re really representing his comments this year. His widely accepted as having given a near perfect performance this year and I’ve never heard him say anything but positive things about the team.

His interview with Brundle in Austin is one such example.

I’d like to hear more about how people in the paddock view him and why as he’s a mercurial but charismatic racing driver. But he’s my idea of a racing driver and I stand by what I say, if Johnny Englander has a problem with him because, for example, he can speak English or Italian on the radio to Andrea Stella, that for me says much more about Johnny Englander than Fernando Alonso.


Andrew Munro, the big problem about mentioning 2007 is we don’t know what happened. The British press started portraying Alonso as a pantomime villain since Monaco 2007 and Dennis and Hamilton are not saints. You have mentioned a few things that were published in this country, but i believe threathening and blackmailing are criminal ofences and i’ve never seen these charges pressed on Fernando. If you have evidence, please post them.

It’s funny since Alonso arrived to Ferrari, Hamilton hasn’t finished any WDC above him.


2007 has a lot to do with it, the way he dealt with Hamilton matching his pace was particularly distasteful in my mind (blocking Hamilton in the pits, trying to blackmail Dennis and throwing the whole team under the bus).

More recently, his steadfast assurance after every qualifying session that everything had gone “perfectly” grated with me, especially when Massa had outqualified him. I appreciate he may have been trying to remain upbeat and convey a positive message, but his comments didn’t come across that way to me; they were more about saying what a good job he was doing as opposed to the team around him.

Of course, all the top drivers have their moments of petulance (except for Kimi I think), but Alonso’s just seem worse than the others, more consistent and self-aggrandising over the course of his career.

In spite of that I recognise that Alonso is an all-time great and I ranked Alonso as no. 1 in my list, so I can’t be that biased against him.


I agree with the top 4, but not Button at 5 (should have been Hulkenberg in my opinion).

His mid-season form was awful and I for one was sick of hearing him complain about the car. Hamilton managed to consistently challenge at the front, so why couldn’t he?

“The signs are that the new 2013 Pirellis warm up very quickly, so they may suit Button’s style quite well.”

Another year, another tyre that is supposed to suit Button’s style. Heard this so many times it’s untrue. If he’s one of the best in the field, why can’t he adapt to the tyres like the rest of them do?

I think 2010 summed up nicely where Jenson sits on the grid. The Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren were all title-challenging cars, and Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton and Webber all got to the last race in with a mathematical chance of being champion. Jenson wasn’t good enough.

Add Kimi to the potential challengers for next year, and McLaren should be very worried indeed that Button is the man expected to lead their charge in 2013.



Explain to me how a car isn’t title challenging if its driver is in with a mathematical chance of winning the title at the last race?

It is therefore challenging for the title is it not?


The car was not title challenging. The drivers were. They were in comparison to the Red Bull poor cars that had no right to be winning races but the skill of the drivers (coupled with the terrible driving of the RB drivers at certain races, see above for more details) led to it being a close fight.


JF agreed 2010 was tight but again more down to Seb and Webbo actually fighting each other for points alla Lews vs Alonso 2007 was it…

RB was by far the fastest car that year.

And Carl H, yeah Redbull will always have issues with Monza for ultimate pace because to the philosophy behind their car. Massive downforce that works best at 95% of tracks creates massive drag that creates big problems for Monza. Look at their speed traps!


A top 3 car that is so far off the pace should not be a title challenging car. 2010 should have been what 2004, 2002, 1996 were with the battle between team mates, such was the dominance of the red bull. Your comment about Ferrari and Mclaren been comfortably quicker at a number if races is hilarious. The only example of that is Monza. Even in the other two races where red bulls weren’t on pole that was extremely marginal and due to the brilliant driving of Hamilton in Canada and alonso in Singapore.


Sorry Pukka, can’t agree with you, 2010 was tight.


If a driver is able to challenge for the title then by definition the car is title-challenging. If you put Alonso or Hamilton in a Force India would they come close to winning the title? No, you need at least a top three car.

I notice fom your comments above you conveniently overlook races like Monza where the Ferrari and McLaren were comfortably quicker than the Red Bull.


The 2010 Mclaren was by no means a title challenging car… And neither was the Ferrari until the latter stages.


I take it you didn’t watch the 2010 season. It was tight.


+1 Pukka, well said


HAHAHA you joker! It was only tight because Hamilton, Button and Alonso are flippin good drivers and Vettel and Webber made some massive errors.

Button at Melbourne and China. Hamilton at Canada and Belgium, Alonso at Germany and Signapore. All brilliant wins where the RB drivers should have won at.

Vettel crashing into Webber at Turkey AND first corner Silverstone AND Button in Spa AND been too far behind the safety car in Budapest.

Webber crashing at Korea and Valencia.

It’s incredible to think that had Hamilton not had that last lap tyre failure in Spain whilst running second or Alonso’s strategy not been so bad in Abu Dhabi they both could have won the title… Just have to look at the number of poles to see the dominance of the Red Bull.

One pole for Hamilton in Canada, Two for Alonso in Italy and Signapore. The rest all Red Bull…

Obviously you weren’t watching close enough.


Well James,

you had Button, I had Hulk. We agree 4 outta 5. I don’t even agree with my wife 80% of the time!

I really enjoy sitting down to breakfast & reading your articles. Especially on a cold winter’s morn’ like today.





You always have a nice thing to say, which I admire. Keep posting Tim


Button over hulkenburg for. 5 th this year is a complete joke. Some of buttons races this year were completely rubbish. If massa had of done them he would of gotten dogs abuse. Canada and Monaco were terrible. And he was so average in Abu Dhabi it’s unreal when Hamilton was walking the race in the same car. He has had some great races also but no way he was better than hulkenburg this year.


Agreed. How is it possible that Button deserve such high appraisal? When the team could not figure out the tires, he was lapped and completely shaken and confused. I could remember his interview showing a complete lack of confidence. When the team gotten better with the car, so did he. To me, he is just another driver. Team McLaren deserved that 5th spot way more than Button does despite they don’t even qualify.

Out of the new comers (Kimi excluded), I chose Maldonado because he really shown some capability. Hulkenburg is also pretty good. Grosjean and Perez are rubbish. Grosjean is fast only when the track is empty.

Perez do not have natural speed as Kobayashi can easily outpace him. He is gonna be another Jensen Button type.


All the P5 contenders were inconsistent RBS year but Buttons peaks were higher than the others in my view


And we have to respect that!

Everybody has an own opinion..

I fully agree the top 4!


And the lows where very low.


James you were way too soft on Vettel. Your main distinction between them was team mate qualifying?

I have a better one. Alonso finished within 3 points of Vettel in a car that was significantly slower for at least 75% of the season, and with equal number of finishes. That says it all really. Just imagine if Alonso had been in that Redbull? It would have been over by Spa.

It also must be noted that Vettel was struggling for pace for the first half of the season compared to Webber, who you assume is a better reference that Massa, which is common opinion which I find amusing considering Massa has achieved more in F1 and beaten better team mates than Webber, who is a 36 year old journeyman, who has been flattered by sitting in the fastest car for pretty much the last 4 seasons.

A fact which does tremendous things for the perceptions of a driver.

Hamilton should have been 2nd. Just because Vettel won the title does not mean he should be applauded for making such hard work of a title he should have cruised to. He is just another Mika Hakkinen. A good driver flattered by great cars. Not in the class of the true greats. This will of course be exposed one day if he ever has the guts to leave Newey or gets a real quality team mate, which I find unlikely. He seems like the type just interested in statistics, in the childish belief that is what greatness is all about.


At the end of the day Vettel won the title, not Alonso, Webber, Hamilton, Massa, Button, Kimi or Grosjean who all had cars to compete for WDC. If that isnt enough for some, though luck.

Alonso and Hamilton have also alot more to prove, if held by the same idiotic ueberstandard that Vettel is at all times.


you must be smoking to claim lotus can compete for wdc when its pace was only working one xtreme hot circuit and soft compound. Not to mention since summer break, their car development has failed tremendously compared to top 3.

Ferrari is the most consisten car that consistenly fighting for podiums and wins, even massa was faster than alonso since summer break.


I guess you meant Massa was faster than Alonso in the last two races, no since Summer break. Also Gary Anderson has explained in the BBC website why Alonso was struggling at the end of the season. It makes sense to me what Anderson has written, but maybe we don’t want to listen an articulated opinion that can diminish our ones.


“He should have cruised to?”

With 6 champions on the grid, tyre gamble for the first third of the season and not the fastest car?

Get a grip man, this year was not 2011.


Seriously Vettel had the fastest car yet again. Look at the downforce levels they were pulling out yet again. Even Paul Hembry said their tyre performance was the best on the grid because of their immense downforce helping hem not slide the car. The pirreli’s don’t like slip, red bull due to all that downforce were able to drive fast within adhesion and just destroy everyone. Vettel made so many driver errors this year he made them look like they were having car problems.

People say Button can’t drive around car issues…. Now we know Seb can’t either lol


RB was not the fasted car this season, Mclaren has that honour, they lost the title, they weren’t beaten. Ferrari was competitive in the races.


They were often the fastest car in qualifying when Hamilton was driving.

If you judge them on Buttons performances then they were a long way from being the fastest car!


I’ve read that article JF but I don’t agree with JA reasoning. I must agree that the McLaren was fastest at some races but on the whole the Redbull still had the best package for the whole season. They certainly did throw away some great opportunities McLaren, but look at the 4 race streak. Hamilton only just looked like he might have won in Singapore before gearbox failure. That was down to his street brawling skills not the car. Webber vs button is a better example of the pace of Redbull vs McLaren at a race weekend!


How do we know Hamilton has not been ‘flattered’ by the McLaren? Or Senna or Schumacher or anyone? The same rule has to apply to everyone (however valid or invalid it is to begin with).

Statistics is the only objective way to determine greatnes (especially in the period from the 80’s to the present). Everything else is subjective opinion.


No one knows that the ferrari was that much slower though. When Massa came back to form , the Ferrari didnt look that slow at all. In fact Massa could have won 2 races at least Korea and Brazil if only he was allowed to. Also finished on podium in US if not for the “bump up your teammate” penalty.

I could equally say that, Alonso was severely under performing in that red car due to whatever issues and Massa showed him up when he got his own issues sorted.

About RBR being the car to have – Just take a look at Webber s standings and you will know that it wasnt the best car – actually probably not even the second best car. This is despite Webber not being treated like a Massa to Vettel.


Alonso under perfomed ?

Webber out qualified vettel 9-11

Webber has beaten vettel on pure pace through out the first half of the season (Bahrain a exception)

Webber led the championship standings until summer break. Where was vettel ? 5th

Webber has dominated and showed up vettel how to win with out quickest car (Example Monaco and Silverstone)

Webber did everything he could with no support from RBR

RBR do dramas with webber stating we allow fair racing (Why webber suffer always from Poor starts, Faulty kers, Dodgy pit stops)

Please take off your blinkers

Who is massa ? What he showed up to alonso ?

Had alonso drove the way massa did from australia. Ferrari would have suffered a huge Humiliation this season (Given the status and budget)

All credit to Fernando alonso (Genius, Wizard) for the fighting spirit despite poor ferrari


Bare in mind that this is just the subjective view of Mr. Allen. We’re all biased. The unbiased top 5 can be found from the 2012 final standings.


Here we voted for the performance each driver had with the equipment at his disposal. Unfortunately you don’t get points for your performance, but for the results.

For example if De La Rosa would have finished the season in 10th place, he would’ve been the driver voted here, but not the champion in the final standings.

My 2 cents


I just don’t see the point. It’s just subjective speculation. Driver performance must be based on quantifiable data.


The point is exactly that, this is subjective. We are getting JA’s opinions based on how he see’s it. The objective is to speculate as to who drove the best all season long when you disregard car performance.

I personally don’t agree with JA’s top five but then I don’t have to. I respect his opinion and points but I feel from what I observed that the top five is thus






You won’t see many lists like that but the opinion based on – spanking ur team mate – car failures – car competitiveness – quallifying – race performances – overtaking and defending.

Yes I reckon Schumacher had some great drives this year in a season destroyed by failures, stratergy errors and a poor car.

But that’s all just fun and my humble opinion!


I agree with MISTERs meaning here. You can’t quantify performance on data alone, a lot of drivers don’t have the equipment to run up the numbers. For example, it may take a masterclass in driving to keep an HRT on the road, let alone score points. Who knows, certainly not we keyboard jockeys.


James I am happy with your rating

I have not matched your rating though (I had Vettel @ 3 and Hulkenburg @ 5)

Fernando Alonso NO 1 (The undisputed King of Formula 1)


Can’t fault the top 4 who were clearly separated from the rest, but I can imagine the fifth place being more difficult to decide with number of drivers having some impressive races but none as consistent as the top four throughout the season.

One bit I don’t agree is that I would say Alonso was this year way better than Vettel. Here is why: If you look at the first half of the season, where the car was not much to Vettel’s liking, his driving was average and as you say he was often out-qualified and outraced by Weber. Only once the car turned superior to the rest and more tailor made for Vettel, he switched on. Even then, he has made some terrible mistakes that he was very lucky to get away with (crashing two times in Abu Dabi, bad start and accident with Senna in Brasil – these 2 races qould have easily been 0 points). At the same time, during first half of the season Alonso extracted absolute maximum out of the car at his disposal and did place it in positions where that car had no place to be. Throughout the 20-races long season his only mistake (if it could be called so) was tangle with Kimmi in Suzuka and being out-qualified and out-paced by Massa in the last few rounds. As close to perfect as it can possibly get.


Thanks James,

You picked my top-5. I would agree as well that the hardest was JB. But I think he deserves it.


Your Top Five seems spot on James. But the clincher between Alonso and Vettel for mr would be to imagine if they had swopped cars for 2012. I think Alonso would have wrapped the title up much earlier in the year, and i do not think Vettel would have scored as many points with that Ferrari.


Totally agree : Either Alonso or Hamilton would have clinched the title earlier in the Red Bull.

Both of these World Champions have the ability to adapt their driving styles to counter problems with the handling of the car that is clearly beyond Seb and Jenson.

It’s the same skill that Frank Derney said Michael Schumacher possessed during one of your podcasts.

Can anyone be considered a truly great driver without it ?


I agreed completely with James who is always fair and unbiased with his assessments which is one of the reasons why I totally respect your work.

As for Alonso, I used to love anyone who beat him but not this time.

I mean how can you not like this guy even if you are a hater. He was a true fighter.

He never said anything bad about the tank he was driving. He never whined (which he is known for).

“It ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep fighting. That’s how winning is done”. I think he has developed that admirable attitude and I am sure he will win more fans.


Thank you for remind us about this. Alonso never complained about his car and he was so entitled to do so and in exchange he kept being optimistic and positive. That was very impressive. Even more than his driving this season.


Mr (abrev).. You got to be Joking !!Fernando was the best driver in 2012. But the way he kept going on about the car- I just wanted to stick my foot down his throat.!


Elie, what exactly did he say and wasn’t true?

My point, and maybe I didn’t expressed well enough, was that he wasn’t blaming it on the team and didn’t lose it over the radio or something like that, like Vettel did.

He was saying things like “that’s all we could achieve today” and stuff like that, mostly in qualy because Sunday was always better in terms of performance, but those things were true.


Fair enough: he has been much better in this respect while at Ferrari.


Yeah I am impressed with his attitude. For me he is no lesser champion then Vettel.


@breezy just because I praise Alonso what makes you to think that I don’t consider Vettel as good?

Oh and FYI the points and that so called wdc none of that stuff is legit. You can’t possibly know who is better without them having the same car. It’s a joke, wake up.


Luckily for the rest of us the WDC is decided by points and not you.


Are you being sarcastic


Of course not. In his interviews he was only saying we need to improve, but no other complaints. He was very positive the whole season, even in the last 3 races when he was down on Vettel on points. He had no outbursts like Vettel either.


Never whined?! He complained about the pace of his car at every opportunity.


Mate, if you consider that whining, you Sir are whining the fact that he was whining.

It’s all mind games man. Lewis said he is more worried about Alonso, and Alonso said the same thing about Lewis. Then he said “oh you know it’s Adrian Newy that I am fighting”. We all know what that means.


Hard to disagree with this. Congrats on releasing another book and congrats on running one of the finest – if not THE – finest F1 blog. I love the podcasts and the fact that you stay away from the dirtiest of paddock rumors. PS: But it would be fun to have a story on the most outragious rumors you hard in 2012.

Have a brilliant christmas James. And the same goes to all you other guys visiting this blog.


The best rumour I heard, in my own head, was that Sebastian was going to have a small amount of pyrotechnics wired into his overalls so every time he does The Finger, he fires sparks into the air.

Actually, that’s a damn fine idea; what’s his email…?


Thanks for the laugh 🙂



Do you think it’s reasonable to suggest that Lotus will be a big contender for both championships next year?. The new sponsorship deal with Coca Cola (Burn) and the announcement that another major company is set to come on board later this week, with the team, is surely going to help their cause for developing throughout next year?

From fist signs, things look really good for them next year.

As long as Grosjean gets his act together!


Lotus’ performance will not necessarily just come from sponsorship and throwing more money at it. F1 has proven time and again a smart group of people, who can innovatively invent and adapt their cars to the rules best should shine. Lotus can do this, for sure, if their designers / engineers are smart enough. Plus, they have Kimi, possibly top 3 fastest drivers.


The new sponsor is Honeywell and yes, they are working hard behind the scenes to raise this team up.

Budget wise they still won’t compete with Red Bull and Ferrari, but I have the highest respect for James Allison and his team of engineers so I’m sure they will be there or thereabouts, if not perhaps title contenders


sorry for being off topic!


With all due respect, James, but I have to disagree with you. I can’t believe how people can name Alonso #1 when Alonso choked in the decisive races. He was worse than Massa, which means he could have done better but didn’t. He could’ve been the champion if he didn’t underperform. In this case, you can’t put the blame on the car; it’s his own fault. He lacked a champion’s mentality.



I have to agree with you. If the poll had been taken during the mid-season break, I would have put Alonso ahead of Hamilton and Vettel. However, after Alonso’s last win in Germany, Alonso’s form seemed to tail off, which became even more apparent with Massa’s late season improving form. In Montreal (before the break and a race I attended) Alonso and his team’s decision to stay out on worn tires was laughable as he dropped from 1st to 5th. Hamilton and McLaren got it perfect there and even Vettel and RBR decided on a late tire change for damage limitation. For me, Alonso was 3rd best after Vettel and Hamilton.


Well Sein – I reckon you should start


For me Vettel “choked” worse than Alonso in the last races… he made two mistakes on lap 1 (contact with Senna and hitting the banner behind SC) in Abu Dhabi and that horrible start in Brazil (plus he was outqualified by Webber there just like Alonso was outqualified by Massa, so if you’re blaming Alonso for this performance, you should’t forget about Vettel) – nice recovery there by SV, but he put himself in trouble. Alonso was simply slower than Massa in the last races. Cut the man some slack – he’d been beating Massa for whole season and driving magnificent races. You can’t keep that level of concentration for the whole season, cause it’s just too hard. Overall, Alonso made fewer mistakes than Vettel and he made the difference when it mattered. Vettel is a fantastically fast driver, but IMHO he needs the fastest car to show it. When the car is equal to other cars and you have to extract something more, Vettel is doing a good job (and is often beaten by Webber as at the beginning of the year), while Alonso is doing a great job in such situation. Just my opinion.


Yeah Vettel choked


Choked on a cucumber. This will be his thing for the rest of his career. A pretender that will continually be exposed by cucumbers.


You are serious??

Lets put it around then:

Vettel could have been champion 3 races before the end if he didn’t underperform in Malaysia, China, Monaco, Great-Britain and Brazil compared to Webber. In this case, you can’t put the blame on the car; it’s his own fault. He lacked a champion’s mentality.


Alonso drove well, is a master in manupulating the media & playing politics so no surprise many pick him as #1.


Not from where I was standing – i.e. there


My choices were similar, with Perez no.5

Can’t argue with Button as no.5, though

So, we have 5 champions in top 5 places, which is quite right, to be honest.


While I can’t fault your rankings, James, I have to say it is somewhat out of the ordinary that a driver who finishes 3rd in the WDC after two years out of the sport, in a car that finished 5th in WCC the previous year, ahead of 4 of the 6 drivers competing for the big three teams, is ranked below his WDC standing when drivers are reviewed! I think it says more about the wealth of talent we’ve enjoyed this season than about the driver himself, but it’s still somewhat of a shame for Kimi (if he cared).


No offense James, but it’s hard to take you seriously after putting Button as number 5. You said Hamilton was the 3rd best driver of the season and went on to state that the reason that he wasn’t a championship contender was due to McLaren’s unreliability and operational problems.

You then went on to say that Button being within 2 points of Hamilton was a good reason to call him the 5th best driver in 2012, completely disregarding your point regarding Hamilton. Without the operational and reliability problems, Hamilton would have beat Button worse than Alonso outperformed Massa. How can a man who was out-qualified 17 to 3 be the 5th best driver of the year?


Shhh, Button is looking for a ghostwriter for his Autobiography.


you do also realise that Button had to retire from 3 races due to the ‘McLaren’s unreliability and operational problems’ that was mentioned. It was’nt just Hamilton who suffered, so to finsh with-in 2 point of his team mate is a pretty good job. Really bored of people slagging Button off and being very selective about what facts they want to see, just so they can have a dig at him..


very strange comparison. did Button retire 3 times from race leading positions like Hamilton?


Quote: GT_Racer: “Even at the Spanish Gp where a lot of Hamilton’s fans insist he’d have won without the penalty, His race pace was nowhere, Even in friday practice his long run pace was poor as a result of how he/the car was working the tyres.”

Hamiltons race pace was nowhere? I`m not sure both of us saw the same race (Spanish GP). The race I saw was a race in which (Button qualified 10th, Hamilton qualified 1st the day before, but had to start last place) still ended the race in front of Button.

The race I saw was a race in which Hamilton spent most of the time in not clean air and lost additional 3 seconds in the pits, because of (yet) another cock-up of the pit crew.

I hope we are referring to the same race, dude. Because if you didnt see that, then there is no point whatsoever taking you even seriously as an F1 fan 🙂


whats strange about it? its still losing points. The point is, McLarens errors cost them both dear. Jenson, isnt as fast as Lewis over a single lap, but he is also nowhere near as bad as some like to make out. i just really think there are some very blinkered opinions on here…


Button’s problems stemmed from the Pirelli’s, In trying to figure out how they worked he & his engineer started changing pretty much everything with the car setup. Rather than help this just got them confused as they changed too much all at once & couldn’t figure out which changes were fixing or introducing with problems.

When they went back to basics, They identified there errors, Figured out how best to get the tyres in operating range & his performance improved.

What were the problems with the tyres? His smooth driving style.

He couldn’t get the tyres into the working temperature range, He then went for aggressive setups to generate more tyre temps but this simply started generating handling problems & caused more problems with the tyres.

Also regarding Lewis driving round these problems & adapting, He both did & didn’t.

Early in the year his driving style/setups were switching the Pirelli’s on in qualifying yet not in the races. Lewis had a lot of poles/front row starts early in the year due to great qualifying pace yet his race pace saw him fall backwards as the tyres were either wearing too quickly or not getting into the right temperature range.

Even at the Spanish Gp where a lot of Hamilton’s fans insist he’d have won without the penalty, His race pace was nowhere, Even in friday practice his long run pace was poor as a result of how he/the car was working the tyres.


Button was great all year, underrated for most of his career.


You seem to forget that he won 3 races this year. And apart from the 5 race slump, was consistent.


You realize 5 races is 25% of the season right?


And if Mclaren had sorted out the handling issues Button would have been further up the field. You can’t really state one without accepting the other.


sorry, but if Hamilton could sort out the handling issues, why not Button? Button had the best car in 2012 and he screwed it. Blaming our team doesnt go down too well. If Button has a good setup Button, Button takes the credit for fine tuning, so if he messes up his setup he should be blamed. not McLaren.


I think it’s unfair to blame all the handling issues Button experienced on McLaren. There were instances when Button – and only Button – found the car undriveable. Canada is the best example.

For me, that’s his biggest weakness. As Nick Heidfeld brilliantly observed in one of the Sky shows, he only has one style of driving and cannot adjust it to suit his car (unlike Vettel, Alonso or Hamilton).

If McLaren don’t make the top 10 in Australia, how does anyone know if it’s the drivers or the car?


Sorry mate but ‘handling’ problem is set up issue which many drivers including De la Rosa know how to drive around it…by your logic if hamilton wasn’t in the team that mclaren was a backmarker in at least 5 races.


Normally I would agree but Hamilton was able to stay competitive while Button had problems. Why?

Button not being able to deal with the handling issues shows he clearly WASN’T in the top 5 best drivers of the year.


Button didn’t suffer half as much bad luck as Hamilton. I don’t remember Button breaking down whilst dominating a GP, it happened to Hamilton twice.

I agree with Hisham on the point about James using certain facts to justify his placement of Hamilton and then dissregarding them to justify Button’s placement. Pretty shoddy ‘jornalism’. Button shouldn’t be anywhere near the top five after spending nearly a quarter of the season in no man’s land.



I’d apply that same logic to those who’d rated Perez as the 5th best. His 6-race drought at the end of the year happened while Kobayashi went on the podium in Japan, and scoring 6th and 9th (could’ve been 7th) in the sister car.

That’s a pretty huge discrepancy when comparing teammates.

Likewise, given what he had to work with, Button really should’ve done better.


If Button had not been incapable of driving around them, then it wouldn’t have mattered. Hamilton wasdoing just fine during those few races.


I think You’re right, that’s what i think.


Button was obliterated by Hamilton, I can’t see how he was anywhere near the top 5…


+1 Seriously, had Hamilton and Button each finished every race and not been affected by team errors/reliability issues, Hamilton would have had something like 320 points to Button’s 175, and 8 wins to Button’s 2. He also had 8 poles to Button’s 1, and outqualified him 17-3 on the season. Also, does nobody remember how TERRIBLE Button was in Malaysia, Spain, Monaco, and Europe? As in, qualifying 5+ tenths down and Lewis and lapping seconds per lap slower (especially in Canada) terrible. He was Massa-like bad in those races. I don’t think I’d even include him in my top ten.


Completely agree. And Mclaren let Lewis down (AGAIN).


Agree, 17-3 to Hamilton in qualifying and 7-3 to Hamilton in races both finished and to top it a 5 race streak were Button was nowhere.

I wonder where Jenson would be rated if he wasn’t easily the most likeable driver on the grid.


+1 to both


Indeed. That 5 race wobble was more than just a wobble. Fighting Caterhams in Monaco when Hamilton was in the lead pack, was lapped by Hamilton in Montreal… It was terrible.

I disagree with the praise Raikkonen recieves, but at least I see where people come from with him. Button had a few good races, several awful races and the rest were decent at best.


“The cop-out would have been to make them joint first, but there was a small distinction between them, which was important for me; it was that Vettel was out qualified by his team mate Mark Webber eight times. Webber is a better reference point team mate than Felipe Massa”

Webber also gets equal equipment and opportunity to fight for victory. So we’re comparing Apples with Pears here I feel.


The equal equipment part is correct, but doesn’t Seb get better balast options due to the weight difference?

Also, it appeared that Red Bull began making experimental strategy calls in the second half of the season with Mark.


Hence his comment: ” not bad for a number two driver” I suppose….


that was pretty funny, helped too by the puncture Vettel received at the start of the race (and came back from dead last to 7th w/o any DRS).

Though I wonder why Webber didn’t go back to that same line after losing it in the rain in Korea 2010, or the awful performance in Abu Dhabi where a win would have given him the championship, or even running second would have required Vettel to yield.

Nor did he bring it up this year after his start in Abu Dhabi – when the whole team wanted him to win and there was no thought of needing to help Vettel at all, when he could drive entirely for himself, and yet… But count on fans to bring up that quote over and over again.


Ok, so you can bring up some races where Webber did not perform as good as Vettel. What is your point?

I may be mistaken, but wasn’t the Silverstone drive a result of a mid-race Safety Car? Impressive none the less, but somewhat irrelevant.


Yeah, Sebastian and Mark get exactly equal equipment and opportunity to fight for victory…

As for example when it comes about new front wings.


Paul, could you please give some examples of when Ferrari didn’t give Massa the same equiptment as Alonso in the first 10 races of 2012?

Don’t think I have not noticed how evasive you are. You throw the statement but without giving any examples or facts to back it up. You might be right, but I don’t recall anything like what you are suggesting.

Awaiting your reply. Thanks


No one on this site, barring James perhaps, would know that. Who has this or that is usually just fun speculation, unless announced by the team.


The top 3 were certainly all brilliant this year. If I have one criticism of Vettel, it’s in the immature habit of calling Karthikeyan names and questioning his right to be there (Malaysia and USA). Although it’s in the heat of the moment, it’s unwarranted and undignified in my opinion.

Mind you, I was intrigued by the allusions in the podcast to Alonso’s questionable political behaviour that the public don’t know about – please do tell!


You forget the comment from Vettel on Senna (and his uncle) were not brilliant in any way. It was for german television just after the race (Brazil).


What did he say?


Wow, I didn’t know, that is pretty awful. Vettel seems like a decent guy, but that is unbecoming.


Something like “The grave of Ayrton Senna is right here in Sao Paulo. Maybe someone has to take him there and tell his uncle what his nephew did today”.

It was immediatly after the race in german RTL interview. I’m pretty sure it was not meant as a joke and even if so I think its rather tasteless.


Tell me you wouldn’t do the same in the heat of the moment! I sure would. I would also assume that there is much more swearing and name calling over the team radios than ever gets broadcast to the public, likely can’t censor it fast enough.


I’ve always wondered why teams don’t swear more over the team radio to stop sensitive information being broadcast!


+1 I would like to know what you were referring to?


“The Kimi who left F1 in 2009 was tired, disaffected and out of love with the life of a Grand Prix driver. His motivation was clearly down after winning the 2007 title, he was being beaten by Felipe Massa and he wasn’t enjoying the expectations of life as a Ferrari driver.”

Not true. That is what Ferrari and press wanted everybody to think, but it’s not true.

This article explains what really happened:


Whatever else, Kimi was definitely being outperformed by Massa in the same car despite being paid (reportedly) three or so times as much – his position was untenable, no matter what way you look at it.


That’s what F1 is. If the car does not suit your driving style, your slow. In my opinion that is what greatly helped Massa.

When Massa got injured, the suspension was changed back to Kimi’s liking, which is why he managed to win in Spa in 2009.


@wox i’ve been watching f1 for just over 40 years.

also the pass wasn’t in eau rouge it was on the straight after it, He hit the kers button & drove easily past fisichella thanks to the 80bhp boost.

didn’t get my facts from reading amateur articles, i got it from watching the races. on the tv coverage that weekend they said kers was a 7 tenth advantage due to the acceleration boost it gave exiting slow corners onto the long straights.

not trying to say kimi didn’t deserve that win or anything, i was just pointing out that it had more to do with kers than any changes to the suspension.


first of all, kimi was famous of being an overtaker on eau rouge since 2004 with or without Kers. 2nd, kers offer 3-4tenth boost inexchange of excessive weight that hampered the car aerodynamically which cost more than 3-4 tenth. The best car didnt have KERS implanted on them, because it wasnt worth it.

Watch more races before comment after reading some amateur articles.

When fisi went to ferrari, he cant even score 1 points.


“which is why he managed to win in Spa in 2009.

It was KERS that helped him win at Spa in 2009, The car wasn’t that good all weekend & he qualified a bit further down the order.

KERS + running wide at Turn 1 helped him get upto 2nd & then he used KERS to easily drive by Fisichella on the straight at the restart.

Though the rest of that race his pace was nowhere through sector 2 but KERS was allowing him to pull away in sectors 1 & 2 which was preventing Fisichella from been close enough in the places where overtaking was possible.

Remember only Ferrari/McLaren were running KERS in 2009 & at Spa KERS was said to be a 7 tenths advantage as it gave extra acceleration out the slow corners & could be used to boost out of eau rouge (As he did to pass fisichella).


I am confused. Kimi wasn’t driving Massa’s car did he? What has Massa’s car to do with Kimi’s car?

They can have different setups on the suspension for each car, right?


Wasnt michael said something about car development went to the wrong path off kimi favor?? The infamous suspension.

Is that how they treat their no.1??? lmao

It was more apparent in 2009 after massa ‘s injuries and they halted the car development. Kimi went on to win 1 race and 4 more podiums in that same car without any updates. Just showed that Ferrari nvr really pay attention to kimi.


This correct.

Kimi’s 2009 season was extrmemely consistent and rewarding despite the car. Ferrari openely confessed that they’d stopped developing the car in July, but Kimi continued to bring the podiums and points in. In fact there are reports that Ferrari’s engineers have confessed that Kimi always finished races much higher than their pre-race preditctions and simulations, and that they just couldn’t beleive how fast and consistent his driving was.

Clearly Kimi is not ‘political’ enough for Luca Di. Kimi has said time and time again throughout his whole career that he hates politics and PR, he’s only in F1 cos its the pinnacle of GP racing, clearly his personality clashes in a big way with Lucs Di… And I’m not bagging on Alonso, but guess who is the most political and manipulative driver in F1 today…?


What you have to ask yourself Andrew is why did his situation become “untenable” he was happy in Spain 08 ( there are interviews) won that & Spa it was about that time Ferrari were talking to Santander. If your Boss was about to sign a massive contract and it Only came with your replacement and your boss was saying you were not motivated when you were very motivated and winning races – how would you feel? Politics- lies that’s all it ever was. Sure Massa had a good year but how many has he since ??


Andrew Munro you are a very naive person that still did not address any of the points- if you were about to be fired and you knew about it and were hearing BS in the newspapers about your motivation-so that Ferrari could save face-how would you perform. In the end he received €34m euro and was just pleased to get f… out of there. Despite all this he was still matching Felipe till 2009. Kimi was/ is a true gentlemen and never cried foul he honoured his contractual arrangements and his silence- something lesser drivers couldn’t handle- this is what simple people like you do not understand- you need someone to beat on their chest & claim they are the best- like what Ferrari presently have- yet they still hasn’t won both titles have they !


Massa scored a podium too (in his last race before the accident) and scored more points than Kimi when he had his accident. He suffered from Ferrari’s blunders too, like being left stranded in 18th place in qualifying in Malaysia.

Even if you argue they were fairly evenly matched, the point stands – Ferrari were paying Raikkonen a fortune compared to Massa and he was at best matching him.


Outperform kimi by first half of 2009??? statistic nvr tell you kimi was hamepred by Team blunder decision such as pitting him earlier for wet tyre when the track was still dry etc and realibility.

Kimi was much more impressive than massa by scoring the team ‘s 1st point, 1st podium, qualified 2nd in Monaco.


By the time Spa rolled around Massa was already on top of Kimi, having matched him pretty closely for most of 2007 and the first half of the year. He outperformed Kimi during the first half of 2009 as well.

I’m a big Kimi fan but there’s no excusing the fact that he was outperformed by Massa for a season and a half before Massa’s accident, you can blame the car or politics or magic suspension or whatever but the results don’t lie. Alonso bringing Santander money with him to Ferrari was a bonus, nothing more.


It was from where I was standing, watching him closely and talking to him and the people around him. That’s my view



So you read Kimis feelings?

Good luck with that.

You talked with the guys around him, Ferrari guys? Yeah, thought so.

Did you watch the racing that year?

I’ve never seen anyone so outdriven and crushed as the almost racewinner Fisichella.

What he did with that wreck of a car was beyond sensational and he lacked motivation? Seriously.

How things was offtrack for him does not have anything to do with his motivation when racing. Or would you want a driver motivated outside of the car, talking smack, grinning, bashing your team and engineers and then go out and not care on the track?

Kimi is not good at PR for himself or anything and Ferrari took advantage of that with their machine. Sad but true.

Ferrari fell like a knife in butter after Todt left. When Montezemolo and Domenicali went hayway thinking they were goods but turned out to be mortals. Reality bit them.

Todt left the team as double champs. Then the downward spiral begun.

And those 1.5 seconds in the beginning of this year? Have you read the race result times(beginning of season)? No, thought so. It was a couple of tenths, at most.

Points are made on sundays.


James Allen: “It was from where I was standing, watching him closely and talking to him and the people around him. That’s my view”

James, did you ever stop to think that the reason he appeared that way is because of the heat he was getting from within his own team? Because there is plenty of evidence that points towards exactly that. And my buddy wrcva summed it up very well in the piece that was linked to before:


the question rather is what was root cause and what the result.

they didn’t dump Kimi because he lacked motivation.

probably he lost motivation after he figured they will dump him.


There was press talk of Alonso being signed during the Monaco weekend of 2008, at which time Raikkonen was leading the WDC.

There’s a lot which doesn’t make sense about the whole thing, but a simple explanation for why he wasn’t happy at the end could just as easily be that he was told his contract wouldn’t be renewed just six races after winning the WDC.