Monthly Archives: December 2012

BBC reveal 10 free-to-air races for 2013

The BBC have shown off the 10 races that will be broadcast on free-to-air on the 2013 calendar.

The bold step has been made to drop the Monaco Grand Prix, which I feel is the right one, seeing as races there can be mostly boring. Replacing it is the Canadian Grand Prix, widely regarded as the fans’ favourite race of the season.

Interestingly, the season opener in Australia will not be shown, as will the next in Malaysia. Therefore BBC live coverage will begin with the Chinese Grand Prix.

The currently unannounced race, which for 2013 takes the place of the delayed New Jersey Grand Prix, is also on the BBC calendar. However, it has been confirmed that if the race is dropped, the BBC are not allowed show a different race live instead.

Similar to last year, the 10 races not shown live will be broadcast later on that day in a highlights package. Here are the 10 races being shown live:

Race 3: China: April 14

Race 5: Spain: May 12

Race 7: Canada: June 9

Race 8: TBA*: July 21

Race 9: Great Britain: June 30

Race 12: Belgium: August 25

Race 13: Italy: September 8

Race 16: Japan: October 13

Race 17: India: October 27

Race 20: Brazil: November 24

* = This race is unannounced, and will be a one-off only. It will most likely be hosted in Istanbul or the A1 Ring (now called the Red Bull Ring).

Kobayashi abandons hope for 2013 drive

Kamui Kobayashi has today admitted that he has no chance of getting a drive in F1 for the 2013 season.

The Japanese driver was dropped by Sauber in favour of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez, despite Kamui getting within 6 points of his McLaren-bound teammate.

Recently, Kobayashi set up a fund to help raise money for his efforts to get a race seat in 2013. This, along with an undisclosed amount of sponsor money, totalled over €8m.

However, it appears that money was not the deciding factor, and Kamui has stated that he will wait until 2014 to return to the F1 paddock.

2012 final driver rankings: 3rd – 1st

In the last of 4 articles, I rank the 25 drivers from the 2012 season in terms of their performances.

This final section deals with Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, and Kimi Raikkonen – but in which order? Let’s find out…

3rd – Kimi Raikkonen

Previous ranking: 5th

Previous quote: “Overall he has been hugely impressive, and I am tipping him as the dark horse for the 2012 title.”

While he was unable to keep up the pressure for the world title, Raikkonen did a hugely impressive job this year, establishing himself as one of the sport’s finest drivers.

Victory could have come as quickly as his third race since his return, but Kimi initially appeared rusty in racecraft. This cost him a well-deserved win, and was his only major flaw across the entire year.

If it wasn’t for his tyres falling off the cliff in China, he would have finished every single race in the points. Not spinning and making a slow recovery in Brazil would have meant that he would have completed every single racing lap in 2012. These are very impressive feats from a driver only just returning to the sport.

Kimi only got more impressive as the season progressed. He took three podiums in a row from Germany to Belgium, then a string of good finishes kept him within striking range of Alonso and Hamilton. A worthy win followed up in Abu Dhabi, but it was too late to keep him in contention for the title battle.

Raikkonen appears perfectly at home within Lotus, a team that actively encourages his laid-back behaviour. Is it a match made in heaven? I think it might just be.

2nd – Lewis Hamilton

Previous ranking: 2nd

Previous quote: “2012 has seen a new evolution in Lewis Hamilton”

Hamilton’s 2012 title challenge will go down as a failure, forgotten within only a decade or two. However, this doesn’t do justice to what was a magnificent flourish in form for Lewis.

From the offset, he was quick. He deserved wins immediately, but luck was not on his side – being passed by Button in Melbourne, Alonso and Perez in Malaysia, and crucially, a series of disastrous pit stops.

McLaren are entirely to blame for Hamilton losing the championship. Once they had sorted out their horrifically slow pit stops, the car began to fall apart. Technical failures robbed Lewis of good results in Germany, Korea, Singapore and Abu Dhabi.

Nevertheless, we were able to see how good a driver he really is. Outstanding victories in Canada, Hungary, Italy and USA were a joy to watch – when the team and car allowed him, Lewis was unstoppable. After announcing his move to Mercedes, he was freed from the shackles of a restrictive contract, and the next few seasons will show if he is legend material.

Will 2013 yield any results at Mercedes? I doubt anything will come just yet. But it will be hugely interesting to watch – if Hamilton can transform the team like Schumacher did to Ferrari, he will go down as one of the best drivers of the modern era.

1st – Fernando Alonso

Previous ranking: 1st

Previous quote: “For Alonso never to get a third title would be a tragedy.”

To put it simply, Alonso’s performances this year have been nothing short of astounding. I would even suggest that this is the best season performance we have ever seen from a Grand Prix driver.

By pre-season testing, it was already clear that the Ferrari was several seconds off the frontrunner’s pace. Yet Fernando managed to drag the car into 5th by the first race. When the opportunity arose in Malaysia, he grabbed it and never looked back. He battled tooth and nail with Pastor Maldonado in Spain, never giving up despite the Williams’ speed advantage.

At no point in 2012 did Alonso have the fastest car. Yet he managed 3 wins and another 10 podiums, more than any other driver on the grid. If it wasn’t for crashing out on the first laps of Spa and Suzuka, he could have taken 9 podium positions in a row.

His determination and raw speed throughout the season cannot be underestimated. It is something of  miracle that he found himself battling Vettel until the final lap of Brazil, but he somehow pulled it off. A mere 3 points separated him from the greatest championship victory in the history of the sport.

Fernando has already said that he can never recreate this season’s performance again, and to an extent I believe him. In 9 years of watching F1, this was the closest thing to perfection I’ve ever seen.

2012 final driver rankings: 7th – 3rd

In the third of 4 articles, I rank the drivers from the 2012 season in terms of how they performed across the entire year.

Part 3 includes drivers from Red Bull, McLaren, Force India and Mercedes:

7th – Jenson Button

Previous ranking: 12th

Previous quote: “It’s a harsh ranking, but I don’t think that so far in 2012 we can rank him amongst the high-level drivers.”

Like Webber, there are two ways of looking at Jenson Button’s season. He certainly took impressive wins at the start and end of 2012, and crushingly dominated in Belgium. But you have to doubt his team leader role next year, when he slides around the track in 16th place for weeks on end.

Button’s struggles with the MP4-27 are well documented, but the car is not entirely to blame. Like in 2009, Jenson seems to work his way into a bad spot, and cannot pull himself out, in terms of car development.

This resulted in a disastrous few races near the start, where he slithered around the racetrack, taking a pathetic 16th place in Monaco and Canada. It is completely unacceptable of a former world champion to fail so badly, and rule himself out of the title fight.

Granted, he did finish within 2 points of Lewis Hamilton, but this is mostly down to Lewis’ terrible luck. Button simply spent too much of the season finishing 4th or 5th to make an impact at the front.

It will be interesting to see how he fares as a team leader at McLaren – it can go either brilliantly or disastrously.

6th – Nico Rosberg

Previous ranking: 7th

Previous quote: “It’s the same old story for Rosberg – a great driver held back by an unpredictable car.”

Not much changes for Rosberg in this sport. Once again, a disastrous end to the season for Mercedes has held back Nico from performing better.

His emphatic win in China was obviously the standout moment, and he hounded Mark Webber in Monaco all the way to the chequered flag.

However, apart from that, the slowing pace of the W03 limited his charge. Chasing performance from the double DRS system instead of Coanda exhausts, they fell behind their rivals, ruling out Rosberg from scoring a single point after Singapore.

Will 2013 be the same story? Unfortunately, it appears that way. Despite Lewis Hamilton joining the squad, the team are not hopeful about their W04’s potential, and are instead looking towards 2014 to leap up the field. You’ve got to wonder if Rosberg will bother waiting.

5th – Nico Hulkenberg

Previous ranking: 13th

Previous quote: “So far, it is almost too close to call, but I think that Paul [Di Resta] has a slight edge over Nico at the moment.”

After a slugglish return to Formula 1, Nico Hulkenberg is back on form.

Taking advantage of the first corner pile-up, he snatched a brilliant 4th in Belgium, even leading the race for a while. His form towards the end of the season was impressive, and his 6th, 7th and 8th-placed finishes do not represent how well he drove.

His drive in Brazil was one of the best of the 2012 season. Personally I feel he was hard done by with the penalty, and without that clash with Hamilton, probably would have gone on to win the race.

In contrast to Paul di Resta’s terrible end to the season, Hulkenberg has done his career the best possible boost. A switch to Sauber may be viewed as a move sideways, but I think it might just pay off.

4th – Sebastian Vettel

Previous ranking: 4th

Previous quote: “Vettel is still completely sheltered by his team [...] he still has to develop as a driver”

The “test” I mentioned in 2011 came true in 2012, and Sebastian passed it with flying colours. Recovering from a poor start to the season, he stamped his authority on the rest of the field, and took a well-deserved third title.

So why is he out of the top three? Firstly, although it’s only a small issue, I’m still bothered by his childishness at times. After being held up by Narain Karthikeyan in Austin, despite the fact that there was nothing the HRT could do, Vettel claimed that the Indian had lost him the race. Worryingly, his team backed him up, which only supports Red Bull’s Ferrari-like arrogance.

The other issue is that his performances appear to be directly proportionate to his car’s speed in relation to the rest of the grid. In simpler terms, the majority of his wins came from when the Red Bull was the class of the field. Out of his 5 wins, the only one where his car wasn’t the fastest was Bahrain, and even that is debatable.

Obviously, he’s still a seriously fast driver. Just look at his drives in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, and you’ll have no doubts that he’s a deserving world champion yet again. But I still think that he was out-performed by other drivers on the grid. It’s been said many times, but if you compare Fernando Alonso’s and Lewis Hamilton’s performances this year to Vettel, the German loses out by a considerable margin.

It says a lot that the fastest driver is widely not considered to be the best on the grid. Perhaps that’s down to the brilliant quality of drivers we have at the moment, but nevertheless Vettel still has more work to do to be the best in Formula 1.

2012 final driver rankings: 15th – 8th

In the second of 4 articles, I rank the drivers from the 2012 season in terms of how they performed across the entire year.

Part 2 includes drivers from Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull and Lotus.

15th – Pastor Maldonado

Previous ranking: 18th

Previous quote: “He drives like a complete thug. And that’s why I have absolutely no respect for him.”

I make no secret of my dislike of Pastor Maldonado, but an impressive turnaround in the second half of the year has improved his image somewhat.

As everyone is well aware by now, a brilliant win in Spain was marred by needless collisions and constant penalties. After that, a 9-race streak without points fuelled rumours that Pastor wasn’t fast without aggression.

Still, three points finishes in the final 6 races was able to keep him ahead of Bruno Senna, and after staying out of more crashes, had a quiet end to the season.

Maldonado has been retained for next year, but his drive was rarely under threat, with so much PDVSA backing. What worries me is that without any pressure for him to calm down, his antics at the start of 2012 will appear again. Adding in the fact that Pastor never apologised for his ridiculous driving, and his criminal record hasn’t been wiped clean just yet.

14th – Romain Grosjean

Previous ranking: 6th

Previous quote: “He has hugely impressed me with his remarkable pace and raw talent.”

What should have been a strong finish to the season turned into a nightmare, as Grosjean crumbled under mounting pressure.

Many argue that the worst point of his season was Spa, where he tipped Lewis Hamilton into a first-lap pile-up, earning him a 1-race ban. However, I think that ramming Mark Webber in Suzuka hurt him the most, as he was clearly rattled by constant criticism from fellow drivers. He was never the same after that.

He then clashed with Pedro de la Rosa in Brazil, failing to see that the HRT was turning into the final corner.

His future with Lotus is now in doubt, having earned severe criticism from boss Eric Boullier. However, I think that his good form up to  Hungary should be enough to keep him in the sport. Three decent podiums, as well as nearly winning a race, shows that he is talented enough to mix it at the front. The issue is whether he has the confidence to do that any more.

13th – Paul di Resta

Previous ranking: 11th

Previous quote: “Di Resta will still need to up his game if he is to remain on top at Force India.”

Oddly enough, just as Di Resta’s season began to slide near the end, teammate Hulkenberg’s picked up. It was this unfortunate timing that marred Paul’s decent season.

His two best races were in Bahrain and Singapore, using superior strategy to out-pace most of the field. However, once news broke that he was not to be promoted to a faster team, his pace slipped, and Di Resta almost dropped off the radar.

A 9th place in Abu Dhabi, his only top 10 finish in 6 races, was not enough to hold off Hulkenberg in the points standings. It isn’t representative of Paul’s pace though, as his 2010 form proves that he has the talent to push for podiums in a midfield car.

It’s expected that he will be retained by Force India, and for him to bounce back in 2013.

12th – Mark Webber

Previous ranking: 3rd

Previous quote: “On the face of it, Webber’s having his best season yet.”

There are two ways of looking at Webber’s 2012 season. One way is by looking at the Monaco and British Grands Prix, where he fully asserted his authority on the rest of the grid. And the other way is by looking at the other 18 races.

As is the case every year, Mark slides away from teammate Sebastian in the points standings the further the season progresses. This year, Webber managed to lose 112 points to Vettel in only 10 races. This disastrous form is completely overlooked by his occasional dominating win, and I can’t figure out why.

Surely Webber can’t be satisfied with this. He has no hope for winning the world championship with such hopeless form – only 2 podiums in 10 races, in what was, at the time, the best car on the grid.

Can he bounce back from this? Sure, but only when he flops at the end of the season as per every other year. I’m being harsh on Mark here, but the fact is that despite his protests, he is the perfect number 2 driver to partner Vettel.

11th – Michael Schumacher

Previous ranking: 9th

Previous quote: “Keep your eyes peeled, lest we see the return of the Schumacher of old.”

Michael is quoted as saying that in his comeback, he learned how to lose. It’s a nice way of putting what was a disappointing return to Formula 1.

Did we see the “Schumacher of old”? No. But we saw a more mature driver towards the end – perfectly demonstrated when he allowed Vettel past in the dying laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix. He knew his time was up, and passed the baton to the younger generation in a beautiful way.

Michael was extremely unlucky in the first half of the year, being robbed of podiums by ill-timed mechanical failures. The second half saw less issues, but a drop-off in pace from the Mercedes W03 eliminated all hopes of a powerful end to his career.

Schumacher will be missed, but ultimately his return was a poor choice.

10th – Sergio Perez

Previous ranking: 8th

Previous quote:

While astounding drives early on cemented him a drive with McLaren, a poor end to 2012 signals that Perez may not be completely ready for his big break.

We are all aware of Sergio’s outstanding drives in Malaysia and Italy, but he will need to perform this well every race in order to justify his McLaren drive. Granted, his 66 point tally could have been higher – seeing as he finished 11th 5 times.

Could he have done better though? Sergio suffered a huge drop in form once he had signed for McLaren, and spun out of a good position while battling Lewis Hamilton in Japan.

I’m unconvinced about Perez’s hopes for a future F1 title, but we will have to wait and see.

9th – Kamui Kobayashi

Previous ranking: 10th

Previous quote: “Despite differing results, I would still regard both Sauber drivers as being nearly equals in talent.”

Despite being completely overshadowed by his teammate, I was still impressed with Kamui Kobayashi this year.

A podium in his home country was clearly the standout performance, while strong performances in Spain and Abu Dhabi propelled him up the standings. Unlike Perez, Kobayashi’s pace didn’t falter when the Sauber car struggled, taking 25 points in the last 6 races, compared to Sergio’s 0.

Another underrated drive was qualifying 3rd in China, behind the Mercedes drivers. To me, it’s a travesty that Kamui has been dropped, despite scoring only 6 points less than his McLaren-bound teammate.

Encouragingly, he has amassed over €2m in fan donations for a drive next year, and I am hopeful that we will continue to see him on the grid.

8th – Felipe Massa

Previous ranking: 17th

Previous quote: “In a championship-leading car, Massa lies 14th, in between a Force India and a Williams.”

Felipe Massa is the success story of the 2012 season, bouncing back and nearly outperforming Fernando Alonso in the closing stages.

He deservedly earned massive criticism for over two years of rubbish driving, but credit is due where it’s due, and in the last few races, Massa has been superb. 10 points-scoring finishes in a row is well deserved.

He has also firmly secured his future with the Scuderia, by diligently allowing Fernando Alonso past in Austin qualifying (through a penalty), and in the dying laps of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Alongside his improvement in form, he has won himself back into favour with the team.

This bodes a question though: Will his form continue into 2013? I have an inclination that it will, but it remains to be seen how Felipe will (or won’t) play a role in Fernando’s title challenge.

2012 final driver rankings: 25th – 16th

As is the case every 6 months, I do a brief ranking of the current batch of F1 drivers, based on their performances this season.

This article will deal with the bottom 10 drivers on the grid, and over the next week several more posts will detail my rankings. Let’s start with a familiar face at the bottom of the rankings:

25th – Narain Karthikeyan

Previous ranking: 26th

Previous quote: “Not much was expected of Karthikeyan after a disappointing 2011 season, and not much is what we got.

Business as usual for Karthikeyan, as you can tell.

It took him until the Italian Grand Prix for him to even out-qualify his teammate, and in most other situations he was over a second off the pace.

In every single race where the two of them finished, Narain was always the one who was left behind. He was completely unable to develop the struggling HRT car all year, instead all duties were offloaded to Pedro de la Rosa.

His only claim to fame in 2012 is needlessly clashing with and holding up Sebastian Vettel twice. How he continues to be hired by HRT consistently amazes me.

24th – Jerome D’Ambrosio

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote:  N/A

It’s a little unfair to include D’Ambrosio in this season’s list. The only race he took part in was badly hampered by a malfunctioning KERS unit.

Without that, he might have finished in the points – Monza is the one place where you really don’t want a KERS failure. But there’s not much else to say about him – it was only one race, after all.

23rd – Timo Glock

Previous ranking: 20th

Previous quote: “He continues to struggle to make an impact in a hopeless car.”

Unfortunately, while Glock can fail to make progress without criticism, he has failed to hold off even his own teammate, and that could end his F1 career.

Timo did have some impressive drives this season – he did well in the season opener, and absolutely excelled in Singapore, a track that he clearly loves.

But although this looks good on paper, the performances of rookie Charles Pic were enough to cast doubts over the German’s future. Personally I don’t think it’s a talent issue, it’s that Glock is completely bored at the back of the grid.

Two excellent podiums in 2009 show that he’s a great driver, but he cannot show his potential at the back of the grid. Will the midfield teams listen to this? It’s uncertain, but the driver market is closing up so fast it may not even make a difference. Glock may have raced his last laps in Formula 1.

22nd – Vitaly Petrov

Previous ranking: 22nd

Previous quote: “If he doesn’t step up his game, he runs the risk of becoming a fully-fledged pay driver.”

A dull and uninspired first half of 2012 did him no favours, but the final few laps of Interlagos may have saved Petrov’s drive for 2013.

In a 3-team battle where every cent counts, Petrov’s 11th in Brazil gained millions in prize money for Caterham. Even out of just gratitude, his chances for a drive next year have been vastly improved.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While he improved noticeably towards the end of 2012, his performances up to then were unimpressive and lagging behind Heikki Kovalainen.

It’s unclear then whether we will see him on next year’s grid. With his raft of sponsorship money seemingly draining away, Petrov’s final gambit for Caterham may have been for nothing.

21st – Jean-Eric Vergne

Previous ranking: 19th

Previous quote: “So far I have been unimpressed with Vergne’s performance.”

Like I said last time, Toro Rosso’s decision to oust Alguersuari and Buemi is still puzzling – what new things are Ricciardo and Vergne bringing to the table?

Jean-Eric boasts a 6-point surplus to his teammate, but his absolutely atrocious qualifying form is a huge setback. Being knocked out of Q1 in the majority of races is embarrassing to say the least.

Does this mean that he has been completely out-classed? No. But it means that Toro Rosso will now overlook him while they search for Mark Webber’s eventual replacement in the future. Like it or not, Toro Rosso’s young driver programme will ditch both of these drivers if they fail to show race-winning prowess.

While he is talented, I doubt that Jean-Eric will be able to hold onto his seat after 2013.

20th – Daniel Ricciardo

Previous ranking: 15th

Previous quote: “Ricciardo hasn’t underperformed, but has still struggled to cement his place in Formula 1.”

A fabulous qualifying performance in Bahrain was enough to convince me of Ricciardo’s talent. However, a first-lap mistake put an end to what could have been an even better race.

Unfortunately, that was the only chance Daniel was given all season. Several 9th and 10th-placed finishes were scraped whenever he could manage, but otherwise a lacklustre Toro Rosso car held him back.

I’m a fan of Ricciardo, but it’s crystal clear that another mundane season in the lower midfield will effectively end his career. Daniel will need to make a step up to survive through into 2014.

19th – Heikki Kovalainen

Previous ranking: 16th

Previous quote: “Kovalainen is doing all he can – now it’s up to the team.”

Times change very quickly in Formula 1. Where Kovalainen was the driving force of his team 6 months ago, he is now at risk of losing his seat for next year.

An impressive first half of 2012 was enough for him to get on top of Vitaly Petrov, but the Russian’s 11th place in Brazil has put Heikki’s spot under threat. Couple this with Caterham needing more sponsor money, and the future is grim.

It’s disappointing that these off-track factors have influenced Caterham, but Kovalainen was also not as strong in the second half of this season as he was the first. While he continued to pip his way into Q2 whenever the opportunity arose, he became outclassed on several occassions by Petrov.

I’d like a race seat for Kovalainen next year, but it may just be out of his reach.

18th – Pedro de la Rosa

Previous ranking: 23rd

Previous quote: “He has performed well, and deserves to be retained for another while.”

I’ll happily admit to under-ranking De la Rosa in previous articles. His presence at the HRT team is possibly the only thing that has kept the team afloat this year.

Having been burdened with the task of developing the woeful F112, he held on throughout the year, pulling the car home to an impressive 8 finishes in a row at one point. He also completely destroyed teammate Narain Karthikeyan across the entire year.

Still, the fall of HRT was apparent with a few weeks to go in the season, and De la Rosa’s hopes for next season were all but gone by then. It is very unlikely that we will ever see him again in the paddock, and his expertise will be sorely missed.

17th – Bruno Senna

Previous ranking: 14th

Previous quote: “Rather quietly, he is the more complete driver of the Williams team.”

Bash Pastor Maldonado as much as you/I want, he’s an extremely fast driver who can win races. It is clear that Bruno Senna is neither of those.

Bruno began the season impressively, taking consistent finishes and a healthy supply of points, despite missed opportunities. However, in the second half of 2012 he has been totally outclassed by his teammate, and has not exploited the full potential of the Williams FW-34.

The 14-point gap between the two should be much more pronounced, if Maldonado hadn’t crashed out of many points-scoring opportunities. Senna has been outqualified by Pastor 15 times this year, and rarely catches up to him in the races.

While consistent with his finishing results, a general lack of pace is the largest issue for Senna at the moment.

16th – Charles Pic

Previous ranking: 21st

Previous quote: “Pic will have to up his game if he expects to be in F1 in 2013.”

And up his game he did. Pic improved more and more as the season progressed, so much so that he will be moving on to Caterham this year.

Charles held 11th in Brazil for a significant portion of the race, before he was dispossessed of it by Vitaly Petrov. He set the fastest time in FP2 in Belgium, although to be fair he was a full minute off the dry pace!

What’s more impressive is how he held firm against his more established teammate, Timo Glock. Despite being regularly outqualified (14 times), Pic was able to finish ahead of Timo 5 times in the 13 races where they both finished.

Combining this with his decent GP2 form, and Pic is definitely a driver to look out for in the future.

Top 10: Overtakes of the 2012 season

Like the previous year, 2012 was a fantastic season for overtaking. Without further ado, let’s have a look at the best passes of the 2012 season:

10th – Sergio Perez on Lewis Hamilton, Japanese Grand Prix

Perez eliminated himself from the Suzuka race later on with an ill-judged pass on Hamilton at the same corner. But his first move was brave, albeit slightly clumsy.

The Sauber came from miles behind at the Turn 11 hairpin, threw his car into the corner, and just about made it stick.

9th – Lewis Hamilton on both Toro Rossos, Spanish Grand Prix

An overtaking article wouldn’t be complete without Lewis Hamilton. Recovering from a disastrous 2011 season, he immediately set out to prove that he is one of the finest drivers on the grid.

Arguably his best pass was on Ricciarado and Vergne in quick succession in Barcelona:

8th – Kimi Raikkonen on Nico Hulkenberg, Grand Prix of America

Nico Hulkenberg performed admirably in the second half of 2012. But he was left completely helpless when Kimi made a ruthless move around the outside in Austin.

Passes like these are very underrated – the sheer level of bravery and confidence required is unparalleled.

7th – Romain Grosjean on Lewis Hamilton, European Grand Prix

Despite the (justified) criticism of Grosjean’s antics this year, he remains a fiesty racer when the opportunity arises.

His best move of the year was this ballsy pass on Hamilton, where he refused to budge and forced the McLaren off the racing line.

6th – Fernando Alonso on Romain Grosjean, European Grand Prix

Before this season, who would have guessed that the Valencia street circuit would throw up one of the best races of 2012?

Another great pass from that race was Fernando Alonso’s incredible move around the outside of turn 1. It’s even tougher than it looks –  the exit barriers of that corner close in rapidly, so even a few kp/h too many, and you’re in the wall.

5th – Kimi Raikkonen on Paul di Resta, German Grand Prix

Raikkonen spent several laps behind the Force India before he made a proper attempt to overtake. But it was well worth it.

After attempting to undercut Di Resta exiting the Spitzherhe, he dived around the outside of the following corner, and muscled his way through.

4th – Kimi Raikkonen on Michael Schumacher, Brazilian Grand Prix

Raikkonen and Schumacher were back to their old antics in Brazil. At the same corner, Raikkonen squeezed past Michael on the race of his first retirement in 2006.

This time though, it was around the outside, and not a millimetre of space was shared between the two. Just look at that photo, and that tells you everything you need to know.

3rd – Kimi Raikkonen on Michael Schumacher, Belgian Grand Prix

As you can tell, I’ve hugely enjoyed Raikkonen’s performances this year. He’s been absolutely outstanding all year – but more on that in another post.

This time, he bravely shot down the inside of Schumacher’s Mercedes entering Eau Rouge. It wasn’t as brilliant as Mark Webber’s similar move last year, but still very commendable.

2nd – Felipe Massa on Bruno Senna, Singapore Grand Prix

After a miserable start to the season, Massa picked up his game hugely.

The first sign of Felipe’s comeback was in Singapore, where an incredible slice up the inside of Bruno Senna netted him an extra place. Bonus marks go for the dramatic slide entering the corner. Awesome stuff.

1st – Nico Hulkenberg on Lewis Hamilton & Romain Grosjean, Korean Grand Prix

While the Korean Grand Prix wasn’t a standout race, it brought one of my favourite passes from one of the best upcoming drivers on the grid.

Hulkenberg has been brilliant in the final few races of 2012, and this move was icing on the cake. After waltzing past Grosjean, he proceeded to barge his way alongside Hamilton, and then shoved his way past entering the next corner. Brilliantly calculated, and fantastic to watch – a classic overtake.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many videos of the pass online. This is the best I could come up with.

HRT removed from FIA entry list for 2013

The future of the HRT F1 team has been all but decided, after not appearing on the FIA entry list for the 2013 season.

This means that the team were unable to pay the $500,000 entry fee required. HRT were put up for sale by owners Thesan Capital several weeks ago, but have been unsuccessful in finding a buyer, one of the primary reasons being a poor choice of team location (Madrid).

The only other item of note is that Sauber appear not to have fully confirmed Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez as their drivers, but this should be corrected soon.

Top 10: World championship battles: Part 2

In the second of a two-part series, I look back on 10 of the best battles for the F1 world championship.

This post deals with the seasons 1989 to 2010:

1989 – Alain Prost vs Ayrton Senna

The Senna/Prost conflict got into full swing in 1989 by the second race, with Senna breaking a pre-race agreement between the two, and tearing away to win the race.

This ultimately ended in a season of tense racing and heated exchanges between the two, and more than a little mental warfare going on behind the scenes. Prost was disgusted at Senna’s tactics trhoughout the year, that he quickly announced his transfer from McLaren, and threw away his winner’s trophy at Monza.

Several engine failures for Ayrton had scuppered most of his chances for the title, but battled away to close the gap to 16 points with 2 races to go. Then Suzuka happened.

After taking pole position by an unbelievable 1.7 seconds, Ayrton’s lead was erased at the start, as Prost sliced past his teammate. It took Senna over 45 laps to reel in the Frenchman, but nevertheless he tried a move at the final chicane. Alain saw it coming though, and swerved into the side of Senna, taking both cars out on the spot.

It appeared as if Prost’s move hadn’t worked – Senna was given a push start, and rejoined the race. However, immediately afterwards, he was controversially disqualifed by the FIA for cutting the chicane after the crash, despite being stationary for over 30 seconds.

Both the crash and the FIA ruling remain one of the sport’s most hotly debated topics to this very day.

1994 – Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill

Michael Schumacher burst onto F1’s scene with a passion and determination that has rarely ever been surpassed in sporting history. However, his sheer drive to win pushed him towards some more-than-questionable manouvers.

1994 saw Benneton initially blast away from the rest of the field, with new tech changes allowing Schumacher to win the first 4 races in a row. In fact, from the first 7 races, Schumacher had won all but 1 of those events – and finished 2nd in that one.

What nearly destroyed his title ambitions was a mixture of his questionable tactics and his team’s pursual of victory. The Benneton team was accused of illegaly modifying their cars’ fuel filters, but avoided race bans for the matter. However, their car proved to be too low to the ground in Spa, and Schumacher’s win was rescinded.

Another one of Michael’s wins was taken away when he refused to serve a stop/go penalty and black flag at Silverstone. These bizarre actions allowed Damon Hill to capitalise, taking 3 wins in Michael’s absence, and closing the gap to just a single point by the final race in Adelaide. What happened next is still hugely controversial to this day.

Schumacher led the first half of the race comfortably, until a clip with the wall allowed Damon to get alongside entering the Flinders corner. The Benneton driver turned in sharply, smashing into the side of Hill, and then careered into the barriers. Despite retiring from the race, the damage was done – terminal wishbone damage ruled Hill our of the race and title hunt.

Despite being one of the most unsporting moves ever seen in F1, there was no penalty, and Schumacher was delighted with his first ever championship. But he tried the same stunt three years later…

2000 – Michael Schumacher vs Mika Hakkinen

While the last two title battles mentioned had sour endings, the 2000 season saw one of Formula 1’s most beautiful and memorable championship conclusions.

Two mechanical failures in the first two races severely hampered Mika Hakkinen’s third title attempts, but a successful mid-season campaign had put him within 6 points ahead of Schumacher with 4 races to go. Spa saw the best demonstration of Mika’s abilities, with one of F1’s most memorable overtakes – overtaking both Schumacher and Ricardo Zonta into Les Combes.

However, with three races to go, a catastrophic engine failure while chasing the Ferrari threw a spanner in the works. The title was Schumacher’s to lose.

In Suzuka, light drizzle across the afternoon created a tense and exciting race, and it was Michael who pipped Mika that day, to take one of the most emotional victory celebrations ever seen in F1. They had gone 21 years without a driver’s championship, but Ferrari were now back on top.

2008 – Felipe Massa vs Lewis Hamilton

2008 was wildly unpredictable in the first half of the season, as shown after Silverstone where Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen and Robert Kubica were all separated by 2 points.

The second half of the season saw Massa emerge as Hamilton’s challenger, although both drivers were rather inconsistent throughout the year. As well as a terrible start to the year, Felipe had by far the worst race of his career in Britain, spinning 6 times en route to 13th. Hamilton, meanwhile, had bizarre crashes in Bahrain and Canada, and a needless incident in Japan.

However, the dust soon settled, and the duo found themselves separated by 7 points entering the final race in Brazil. Nobody could have guessed how close the title battle would go.

Massa completely dominated the race, and cruised to victory. Hamilton, needing 5th to win, found himself passed by Sebastian Vettel with only 2 laps to go, and fell to 6th. Cue the most intense 2 laps of F1 history – in the changing conditions, Lewis slashed 6 seconds off the lead of the slowing Timo Glock, and overtook him on the final corner of the final lap.

Ferrari, having started celebrating when Massa crossed the line, were completely devastated. It was undoubtedly one of the most unforgettable moments in F1 history.

2010 – Lewis Hamilton vs Jenson Button vs Mark Webber vs Sebastian Vettel vs Fernando Alonso

An astonishing 6 different drivers led the 2010 world championship, and 4 of them were still in contention by the final race. A late comeback by Sebastian Vettel provided a dramatic twist to one of the best title fights ever.

Early reliability issues hampered Red Bull, allowing McLaren and Fernando Alonso to get the jump on the clearly faster team. A mid-season surge from Alonso saw him lead the championship from Korea, despite being nearly 50 points behind only 7 races beforehand.

Added to this was a fascinating inter-team rivalry at Red Bull, where suspected driver favouritism angered Mark Webber. A clash between him and Vettel in Turkey was dismissed as a racing incident, but it fractured the team all year long.

Jenson Button quietly dropped out of the title hunt in Brazil, leaving Hamilton, Webber, Alonso and Vettel to tussle it out in Abu Dhabi. Despite being the top two in the championship, both Alonso and Webber struggled, getting stuck in 7th and 8th for the entire race.

Before the race, Ferrari had written off Sebastian’s chances of title success, instead focusing on tactically restraining Webber. Having completely overlooked the younger Red Bull driver, Vettel romped to victory to snatch one of the most unlikeliest title wins in recent times.

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