Tag Archives: Felipe Massa

Felipe Massa confirms his departure from Ferrari

Felipe Massa has announced that he will not be driving for Ferrari after this season.

The Brazilian made his statement on his Twitter page this evening, all but confirming that Kimi Raikkonen is set to join the Scuderia, after departing in awkward circumstances back in 2009.

Massa has spent 8 years with the squad, serving as a supporting driver to Michael Schumacher in 2006, before partnering Raikkonen from 2007 onwards. In 2008 he mounted an impressive title challenge, but several unforced errors throughout the year saw him  pipped to the post at the very last race by Lewis Hamilton.

2009 saw his infamous accident at the Hungaroring, and he has never been the same since. A harsh team order at the Hockenheimring a year later crushed his morale further.

It is unknown what Massa will do now that he has left a top team. If he wishes to stay in F1, he may make a drop to a midfield team, like Sauber, who he made his debut with back in 2002.

2013 half-way driver rankings: 22nd – 14th

As I do every 6 months, I rank this year’s F1 drivers and their performances so far this season.

This first part will rank the drivers from 22nd place all the way up to 14th. Let’s start with a driver who has had more than a few moments of criticism:

22nd – Max Chilton

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Perhaps it’s a little unfair to view Chilton as only a pay driver – some decent wins in GP2 confirm that he’s a competent driver, but at this level he is simply outperformed week after week.

In all instances where both Marussia cars finish a race, Max is beaten by Jules Bianchi on every occasion. He is more than half a second off his teammate in qualifying, and rarely shows any promise in the races.

It is extremely difficult for Caterham and Marussia drivers to show talent in their own little tussle at the back of the field, but it’s still clear that there are many drivers waiting in the wings that are better than Chilton.

21st – Esteban Gutierrez

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Many fans were disappointed to see Kamui Kobayashi forced out of a Sauber drive, and weren’t any less pleased when they saw his replacement. So far, Esteban Gutierrez hasn’t shown a single commendable performance so far in his F1 career.

I don’t expect him to outperform Nico Hulkenberg on many occasions, but the only time he has done so – the Spanish Grand Prix – was when Hulkenberg was forced to pit six times. Aside from this, Esteban has failed to score a single point, and is almost a second slower in terms of qualifying lap times.

Considering how much Nico struggles in the 2013 Sauber, it is unlikely that we will see drastic improvement from Gutierrez any time soon. But that could call time on his F1 career rather quickly – Robin Frijns is threatening to break onto the F1 scene, and if he can amass some decent finance, Esteban will be out of a job before he knows it.

20th – Felipe Massa

Previous ranking: 8th

Previous quote: “In the last few races, Massa has been superb. 10 points-scoring finishes in a row is well deserved.”

Sometimes I feel that praising Massa is pointless – every time he performs well for a few weeks, he promptly falls off a cliff and crashes into anything solid for months to come. For Ferrari to hold onto him for 2014 would be a travesty for potential world champions across the F1 grid.

His two retirements this year have been not only his fault, but embarrassing to watch as well. After two similar shunts into the wall at Monaco, he somehow managed to spin away from the first corner at the Nurburgring, on only lap 4 of the race. Much like the other drivers at the back end of the rankings, he has failed to beat his teammate in a single race in 2013.

There is absolutely no reason for him to be retained at one of the top Formula 1 teams. There is a cavalcade of drivers – Hulkenberg, Riccardo, Perez, Sutil, Grosjean, Bottas, Bianchi, Frijns, Da Costa, Vandoorne – that would be able to perform a supporting role to Fernando Alonso better than what Felipe is currently doing.

It seems that both Massa and his dwindling number of supporters are still living in the past, convincing themselves that the 2008 season can be repeated. But the sport has moved on, and so should Ferrari.

19th – Giedo van der Garde

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Faced with the unpopular stigma of bringing sponsorship money to secure his F1 drive, Giedo van der Garde has performed decently enough in a car miles off the midfield pace.

Qualifying an excellent 15th on the grid for Monaco, and finishing there, did his reputation no problems whatsoever. Another 14th-placed finish in Hungary is Caterham’s joint best finishing position so far in 2013. Having said that, his teammate Charles Pic certainly has the overall edge on the Dutchman. Pic has out-qualified and out-raced Giedo more often this year, and therefore Van der Garde is looking less likely to hold his seat into 2014.

Another few performances like Monaco would more than likely secure his drive for next year. But that’s easier said than done – the Caterham is increasingly slow compared to teams like Williams and Toro Rosso, and breaking into Q2 looks less and less likely after every race weekend. Van der Garde certainly has a challenge on his hands.

18th – Pastor Maldonado

Previous ranking: 15th

Previous quote: “A brilliant win in Spain was marred by needless collisions and constant penalties [later in 2012]. After that, a 9-race streak without points fuelled rumours that Pastor wasn’t fast without aggression.”

Aside from a spin in Melbourne, Pastor’s crashing record in 2013 is surprisingly clear. But unfortunately there isn’t much else to say about his year, as he’s struggling to hold off rookie teammate Valtteri Bottas.

A single points-scoring finish isn’t much to report about either, since it came from the late retirement of Nico Rosberg in Hungary. Compared to Bottas, their performances are relatively close – Maldonado is beaten in terms of qualifying positions, but certainly has the edge in the races.

Considering the massive paychecks that PDVSA are throwing at Williams every year, Maldonado’s drives aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. But they could do a lot worse in terms of driver-picking, and now that he seems to have settled down a little, an interesting fight with Bottas is on the cards for the rest of 2013.

17th – Charles Pic

Previous ranking: 16th

Previous quote: “Pic is definitely a driver to look out for in the future.”

Considering that his move from Marussia to Caterham looks increasingly like a sideways step, Charles Pic hasn’t done too bad a job in 2013.

More often than not, he leads Giedo van der Garde in qualifying and races, and has a decent 14th-placed finish in Malaysia as well. There’s not too much to be said after that – Pic and Van der Garde can only drive so well with such a slow car. Still, Pic certainly deserves to be retained for 2014, if he can keep up his current form.

16th – Jules Bianchi

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

After cutting short Luiz Razia’s 0-race F1 career out of sheer luck, Jules Bianchi has performed superbly well in 2013 with the sub-par machinery he is dealt with.

As expected, he has crushed Max Chilton in every qualifying session and race where possible. A 13th-placed finish in Malaysia is Marussia’s best finish of 2013, and is even able to out-drive Giedo van der Garde when the car lets him.

Such is his commendable performances that Ferrari are eyeing him up, not for a jump to the Scuderia just yet, but to have him mature in a midfield team before having him possibly partner Fernando Alonso. In fact, Bianchi’s drives this year are almost comparable to Alonso’s year with Minardi in 2001. All Jules needs is a brilliant performance in Suzuka, and his career’s all set to take off.

15th – Valtteri Bottas

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

As much as I was pleased by his excellent qualifying in Canada, there haven’t been many other brilliant drives from Valtteri Bottas so far this year. But when you consider he’s only 10 races into his Formula 1 career, his out-driving of Pastor Maldonado is all the more impressive.

Taking 3rd on the Canadian Grand Prix grid, only behind Vettel and Hamilton, cannot be understated. Unfortunately, the Williams car gave him no pace that Sunday, and not a single point has been earned by the young Finn so far in 2013. Much of it is down to the car, as seen by Maldonado only scraping a single point out of good luck in Hungary.

The question is how much more Bottas can improve before hitting the limit of the Williams team. It remains to be seen how much the Fw35 can improve over the summer break, and this may make or break Valtteri’s 2013 campaign. Despite what many would like to believe, drivers can only do so much when they are held back by sub-par machinery.

But at the very least, Bottas has been a competent and superior replacement to Bruno Senna. That much is enough to earn him praise.

14th – Romain Grosjean

Previous ranking: 14th

Previous quote: “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.”

I’d have loved to be able to praise Grosjean’s excellent Hungarian Grand Prix win, laud him as a future world champion, and leave it at that. Unfortunately, this is Romain Grosjean, and a screw-up was almost mandatory. After botching a probable win, Romain has some serious explaining to do if he is to remain at Lotus for 2013.

There’s no doubt that Romain hasn’t shaken off the “crash kid” stigma just yet. A needless clash with Jenson Button in Hungary showed that after almost three years in F1, he still hasn’t learned the dimensions of his own car, never mind how to navigate it around someone else’s. With someone like Kimi Raikkonen as a teammate, Lotus need to sit back and judge whether having someone like Grosjean as a teammate is even necessary. While the Finn has 134 points to his name, Romain has only 49, as a result of his own incompetentness.

He has extremely good pace when he’s on form, we already know this. Both the Bahrain and German Grands Prix saw calculated, cool driving from the Frenchman, and combined with some searing pace from the Lotus E21, earned him two well-deserved podiums. But his atrocious spatial awareness does his reputation no good whatsoever – just look at his hilariously bad Monaco Grand Prix weekend to see what I’m on about.

Yes, he’s a fast driver, but that means absolutely nothing without the mental capacity to not bin the car every second race. As I said before, Lotus need to have a good long think about whether a driver like Grosjean is required for a team that’s aiming for consistent finishes and the constructor’s championship.

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.

The heroes of Interlagos 2012

To put it simply, the Brazilian Grand Prix of 2012 was one of the best races I’ve seen in my life. Aside from 2008, you couldn’t ask for a better conclusion to a fabulously entertaining season.

What make the race even more special was that it wasn’t just the two title contenders driving their hearts out. Throughout the field, we saw some astounding performances, resulting in a race that will be talked about for years to come.

Let’s have a look at the stars of Brazil 2012:

Sebastian Vettel

Couldn’t write this article without him. Punted into a spin at turn 4, his championship battle appeared to be over before it even begun.

What happened next was pure magic. Vettel blitzed through the field at an astounding pace, even with a damaged floor and exhaust. He tore his way up to an incredible 6th place after only 10 or so laps.

A mistake deciding what tyres to go onto, and then a slow pit stop, left him down in 12th as the race entered its final 20 laps. However, he again laid waste to the midfield, tearing back up to 6th to seal the title.

What was even more impressive is how he continued to push his way up the field, even when the championship was effectively decided. A true triple world champion’s performance.

Nico Hulkenberg

This was the true shock of the day. With the rain falling, a smart tyre choice helped Hulkenberg gain 25 seconds over most of the grid.

With this opportunity, he kept Button and Hamilton under massive pressure, and shocked most viewers by putting a pass on the McLaren.

Even more amazing was how he managed to pull away from the fastest cars on the grid. A small error at turn 1 ruined his chances of victory, but the subsequent penalty was too harsh in my opinion. Still, it doesn’t detract from an absolutely enthralling performance.

Felipe Massa

The fast-starting Ferraris laid waste to the Red Bulls at the start, and surprisingly were able to pull away comfortably for most of the race.

Massa’s start was particularly impressive, moving up as high as 2nd before shuffling down the order soon after. After losing a lap to the leaders after a delayed pit stop, the safety car period gave him an opportunity to fight back, and he seized it with both hands. He picked off car after car, and eventually relieved 2nd to Alonso.

His resurgence in form has been extremely impressive, and I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of him fighting on equal terms with Fernando next season.

Lewis Hamilton

Again, Lewis did everything right, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

After taking his 7th pole of the year, he was all set to dominate the race, but several factors collided to take him out. The first period of rain allowed Jenson Button to briefly take the lead off the sister McLaren. A poor call for intermediate tyres dropped him down the order, but the safety car slashed a 45-second deficit, and gave him another chance to take a final win with his childhood team.

But like so many times this year, it didn’t happen. A mistake by Nico Hulkenberg took Hamilton out on the spot, and ruined what could have been a beautiful end to the McLaren-Hamilton relationship.

Kimi Raikkonen

All set to finish every single lap of the 2012 season – an incredible record – Raikkonen decided to entertain the fans watching at home instead. A true heroic performance!

Ferrari intentionally give Massa gearbox penalty to hand Alonso 7th, on clean side of Austin grid

A late gearbox penalty for Felipe Massa has dropped him down to 11th on the grid for the Grand Prix of America.  Crucially, this means that Fernando Alonso has been elevated to 7th on the grid – the clean side of the track.

Rival teams have reacted with fury, as Ferrari attempt to give Alonso every advantage possible, after a disastrous weekend so far for the Italian squad.

Ferrari didn’t even need to actually change the gearbox on Massa’s car – they simply broke the seal on top of it.

It remains to be seen will Red Bull attempt a similar situation with Mark Webber, but it is highly doubtful, knowing the Aussie.

Massa retained by Ferrari until end of 2013

After an impressive performance last weekend that saw him take his first podium in 2 years, Felipe Massa has signed on with Ferrari for one additional year.

An extremely brief team announcement read as follows:

Scuderia Ferrari announces that it has renewed its contract with the driver Felipe 
Massa to the end of the 2013 race season. The Scuderia’s driver line-up for next year 
is therefore made up of Fernando Alonso and the aforementioned Felipe Massa."

Rumours have continued to circulate that Sebastian Vettel is poised to join the team in 2014, but president Luca di Montezemelo has recently rubbished those claims.

2013 will be Massa’s 8th year at the team, having joined at the start of the 2006 season alongside Michael Schumacher.

2012 half-way driver rankings: 24th – 15th

As I’ve done for a while now, every 6 months I do a quick review of each driver and his performances in that season so far.

The reviews are based on qualifying performance (particularly vs. teammate), race finishing position (+ vs. teammate), fastest laps, number of penalties, and relative form.

So without further ado, let’s start with drivers ranked from 24th to 15th…

Another disappointing season for Karthikeyan

Another disappointing season for Karthikeyan

24th: Narain Karthikeyan

Previous ranking: 26th out of 28

Ranking from previous review: “The only shining moment [2011 Indian GP] in a dull and uninspired season.”

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

Narain has been completely out-performed by Pedro de la Rosa in every single aspect of the 2012 season. He has been out-qualified 11 times out of 11, by an average of 0.8 seconds per race. Race pace is similarly awful, with 15th and 18th places the only time he moved above 21st.

The one decent performance so far has been at the Malaysian Grand Prix, where he made the bold call to take on wet tyres at the start. As the rain hammered down, Karthikeyan was able to punch above his weight, and moved up to 5th for a brief moment. I feel he was innocent in his clashes with both Button and Vettel – it was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Still, there is little to suggest that Karthikeyan should be in Formula 1 – apart from a sponsor’s paycheck, of course. It says a lot of HRT to accept the paycheck rather than the driver.

 

De la Rosa can achieve little in such a poor car

De la Rosa can achieve little in such a poor car

23rd: Pedro de la Rosa

Previous ranking: 19th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “I believe that he won’t make much impact in such a poor car  – and knowing HRT, he’ll likely get replaced halfway through the year.”

It seems I’ve lost my 100% record for predicting De la Rosa’s future – he hasn’t lost his job just yet, and is making a small impact at the back of the field, considering it is all he can do.

In such a dire car, you can’t expect miracles, but Pedro has managed to perform rather consistently. As previously stated, he has out-qualified Narain Karthikeyan at every single race so far, and has spent the majority of his race laps in front of his teammate.

His only fault was not being able to match Narain’s progress up the field during brief stages of the Malaysian Grand Prix, when a tyre gamble gave HRT an opportunity to move up the grid.

Despite this, he has performed well, and deserves to be retained for another while. But this may mean nothing, as we all know from before.

 

LIttle from Petrov to suggest he can beat Kovalainen

LIttle from Petrov to suggest he can beat Kovalainen

22nd: Vitaly Petrov

Previous ranking: 16th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “A podium in Australia was undoubtedly the standout moment of the year, but there wasn’t much to talk about after that.”

Like 2011, there was nothing awful, but nothing spectacular either to speak of for Petrov.

If there was ever an opportunity for Caterham to challenge the midfield, it was always Heikki Kovalainen who took the honours. Petrov has been out-qualified 9 times out of 11, albeit by a smaller margin than most other drivers.

While Vitaly tends to finish the races ahead of Heikki, he still has led less laps ahead of Kovalainen than vice-versa, as the Finn remains ahead of Petrov for the majority of the races as well.

Vitaly has only qualified in 3 specific places so far this year – 18th, 19th and 20th. As I said before, this is nothing awful, but Kovalainen has been up in the dizzying heights of 16th and 17th consistently, and Petrov rarely challenges his more experienced teammate.

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

 

An average performance so far for Pic

An average performance so far for Pic

21st: Charles Pic

Previous ranking: N/A

Review from previous ranking: N/A

Not the average backmarker driver as many had expected, Charles Pic has impressed in his debut year so far, and has put a good deal of pressure on established teammate Timo Glock.

On 4 occasions has Charles been able to out-qualify Glock, by small margins. In the races, Glock is able to claw back this deficit quite often, but not without a bit of resistance, as the rookie has spent nearly 150 race laps ahead of his teammate.

Before him, Lucas di Grassi and Jerome D’Ambrosio were much the same, however, and they were not able to hold onto their drives the following year. Assuming Marussia will act the same this year, Pic will have to up his game if he expects to be in F1 in 2013.

 

Despite his talent, Glock has not extracted the Marussia's full potential

Despite his talent, Glock has not extracted the Marussia’s full potential

20th: Timo Glock

Previous ranking: 22nd out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “We all know Timo deserves better [...] next season looks like a similar struggle.”

As expected, there has been no dramatic change in fortunes for Glock – he continues to struggle to make an impact in a hopeless car.

There is, as always, data to show he has the potential to do so much more. Despite a few slips, he enjoys a comfortable lead over Charles Pic in both qualifying and the races. At race starts, he gains on average 2.4 places, and has gained 22 places in total on opening laps this year.

That is the best record of all F1 drivers so far – the Ferraris, renowned for their good starts, have only gained a total of 17 and 18 places respectively.

Unfortunately, that’s as far as it goes. While he is able to make waves on the first lap, with such a poor car, he cannot hope to keep up to the midfield, or even the Caterhams.

There is nothing left for Glock to achieve at the back of the grid. Marussia may well be pleased with Timo, but I highly doubt that he is pleased with the car. A bold move is required by the German in order to save his career.

 

The two new Toro Rosso drivers are little better than the old ones

The two new Toro Rosso drivers are little better than the old ones

19th: Jean-Eric Vergne

Previous ranking: N/A

Review from previous ranking: N/A

Toro Rosso opted to ditch Sebastian Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari for a new pair of rookies, but to be honest, I’m not sure why they bothered.

Jean-Eric Vergne, in particular, has been particularly unimpressive, with a dismal qualifying record being his main weakness so far. On average, he starts in 17th place, with teammate Daniel Ricciardo on average being 13th.

A silly and needless move against Kovalainen in Valencia did nothing to improve his reputation. He has been eliminated in Q1 6 times, while Ricciardo has been into Q3 twice, compared to none for the Frenchman. On the plus side, his race pace is more impressive, with Vergne often finishing one position ahead of Ricciardo.

However, the qualifying gap to his teammate is over half a second, an astronomical amount for someone trying to defend his place in Formula 1. I think Toro Ross (effectively Red Bull) should obviously give them more than a year to prove their worth, but so far I have been unimpressed with Vergne’s performance.

 

An average race for Pastor Maldonado

An average race for Pastor Maldonado

18th: Pastor Maldonado

Previous ranking: 25th out of 28th

Review from previous ranking: “The 2010 GP2 champion has given no reason as to why he deserves to be in Formula 1, relying solely on a substantial paycheck by his fellow Venezuelan backers.”

It’s arguable whether Maldonado should be so far down the rankings. On one hand, he has some serious pace – the Spanish Grand Prix proved that. There’s no doubt that the Venezuelan driver has the talent to make it big.

But, on the other hand, he drives like a complete thug. And that’s why I have absolutely no respect for him.

It’s hard to keep count of the crashes – losing 6th on the last lap in Australia, taking out Perez in Monaco, crashing into De la Rosa (Monaco), slamming into the Wall of Champions, taking out Lewis Hamilton in Valencia, taking out Sergio Perez (again), and last but not least hitting Paul di Resta in Hungary. That would be impressive, but this isn’t Destruction Derby.

At this point, a Maldonado fan might bring up any other good performances he had, but there’s the problem – there isn’t any. And with that, Pastor has a lot of work to do if he wants to improve his destroyed reputation in Formula 1.

 

Massa can barely amount a challenge to Force India, never mind his teammate

Massa can barely amount a challenge to Force India, never mind his teammate

17th: Felipe Massa

Previous ranking: 18th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “Every single year, we are promised a return to form by the Brazilian, and every year is a let-down.”

Business as usual for Massa, then. I cannot understand the people who say that 4th place in one solitary race is acceptable – his teammate is pulling out a lead in the world championship as we speak.

While Alonso took control in Malaysia, Massa was 97 seconds down, and close to being lapped. It took him 4 races to score a single point, by which time Fernando was sitting pretty on 43. First-lap clashes aren’t even a surprise in 2012. The list of negatives just goes on and on.

And like Maldonado, he has had practically no plus sides. He performed decently in Silverstone, until you consider that his teammate was still ahead of him up the road. His qualifying record is abysmal – he has only reached Q3 4 times, hasn’t out-qualified Alonso once, and loses out by an average gap of 0.6 seconds per session.

In a championship-leading car, Massa lies 14th, in between a Force India and a Williams. How Ferrari continue to justify his performances by continuing to keep him on board is beyond me.

 

Kovalainen was persistent as always

Kovalainen was persistent as always

16th: Heikki Kovalainen

Previous ranking: 11th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “He absolutely demolished his teammate in every sector.”

2012 has been less of a cakewalk for Heikki Kovalainen, but nevertheless he continues to impress with consistently good performances.

Partnered with Vitaly Petrov, Kovalainen still has the upper hand in all areas. He is leading in qualifying by 9-2, and achieved Caterham’s best performance to date with 13th in Monaco. He has also been behind the driving force to reach the midfield, reaching Q2 on two occasions so far.

Overall, the stats are good as usual. However, Kovalainen’s future really hinges on how much more progress Caterham can make. Despite their pluckiness, they have repeatedly failed their ambitious goals (Consistently reaching Q2, scoring a point), and surely this must be beginning to wear on Heikki.

There have been a few occasions where he has been able to keep up with the Toro Rossos, but surely this isn’t enough to satisfy his desire to race at the front again. Kovalainen is doing all he can – now it’s up to the team.

 

Ricciardo has performed slightly better than Vergne so far

Ricciardo has performed slightly better than Vergne so far

15th: Daniel Ricciardo

Previous ranking: 20th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “I feel he can succeed where Buemi and Alguersuari failed.”

The second of the new Toro Rosso signings, Ricciardo hasn’t underperformed, but has still struggled to cement his place in Formula 1.

His qualifying pace is quite commendable – beating Vergne 9 times out of 11 so far, with an average margin of over half a second. He has only been eliminated from Q1 once, and has progress to Q3 twice. Not too shabby.

In the races is where the faults start to appear. He has lost an average of 3 places per race on lap 1, which is by far the worst in the field. Being located at the back end of the midfield, this is what is holding back Ricciardo’s race pace.

I feel it’s unfair to compare the two drivers in terms of points – both have only been in the top 10 only once each, after all. However, I think that if Ricciardo can get to grips with his starts, then he may emerge as the dominant force of the Toro Rosso team.

Monaco GP analysis: Historic season can only get even better

With 6 different winners in 6 different races, we have never before seen such a varied an unpredictable grid. Every race, there are 7 or 8 drivers in with a chance of winning, and nearly as many are in the battle for the championship.

This time last year, we were already becoming certain who was running away with the title. In 2012 however, there is no doubt that it is shaping up to be one of the closest seasons in history.

Heroes to zeroes, and vice-versa

For Felipe Massa, criticism is due where it’s due, but praise equally so. Under massive pressure from the Scuderia after a dismal start, the Brazilian impressed by keeping Fernando Alonso honest on the streets of Monaco.

His pace may have been complimented by Alonso’s conservative driving, but it is still a massive improvement from what we have seen so far.

It’s clear what Ferrari want from him – good, but not great, performances. A driver who can pick up points where Alonso slips, but is otherwise content to finish 5th or 6th. A few more races like Monaco, and Felipe’s season will be back on track.

Pastor Maldonado, meanwhile, has completely wiped out his form from Spain. A thug-like swipe at Sergio Perez in practice left him near the back of the grid, then the Williams driver punted Pedro de la Rosa at the start, ending his race.

It’s hard to imagine that the same driver took the top step of the podium only two weeks ago.

Reputation is a fragile thing in Formula 1, and Pastor may have gone and thrown his away with a single burst of anger. Like the BBC F1 crew commented, to use your car as a weapon is nothing less than disgraceful. After years of safety campaigning, the FIA has thrown it away by allowing such reckless behaviour to go on.

McLaren continue to throw away valuable points

Yet another shocking race for the McLaren team

Yet another shocking race for the McLaren team

Only a quarter of the way into the season, and it is clear that even single points are precious for the frontrunners. With a single race win covering the top 5, the title race could go to the wire.

In such circumstances, McLaren’s dismal form makes them stand out even more. Starting the season with one of the fastest cars, repeated mistakes and slip-ups have cost the team in nearly every race.

Monaco was no exception – Lewis Hamilton was livid after his team lost him a place in the pit stops. He was not informed of Sebastian Vettel’s searing pace up front, and subsequently dropped behind the Red Bull. He claimed afterwards that he could have pushed and stayed ahead, if he was told the information.

He has gone on and stated: “We haven’t had a grand prix weekend where something hasn’t gone wrong” which pretty much sums it up for McLaren.

While Jenson Button’s failures this weekend were largely his fault, Hamilton was frustrated by everything around him, and suffered as a result. It’s so early into the season, and the title may already be slipping away.

Meanwhile, at Sauber…

Just another normal start for Kamui Kobayashi

Just another normal start for Kamui Kobayashi

At the start of the Monaco GP, replays showed Kamui Kobayashi having a more frenzied start than usual. After being clipped by a flailing Romain Grosjean, the Sauber was launched into the air, before bouncing back onto the tarmac, nearly knocking Jenson Button into the barriers in the process.

The replays made it seem spectacular, but the photo attached even more so. That alone was why this extra section was added!

Chinese Grand Prix analysis: 2012 set to be a classic season?

After three different race winners in as many races, it is clear that the order has never been tighter at the top. With Mercedes seemingly getting over their tyre degradation issues, and Sauber and Lotus chasing the hells of the frontrunners, I feel there are as many as 8 potential race winners this year – 5 of them yet to show their full potential.

But back to the present situation. Nico Rosberg’s first win shows that he is finally ready to challenge the big boys, and with Mercedes looking more of a dominant force, we could be in for a classic season.

Nico joins Keke in F1’s most exclusive club

A long-overdue win for Rosberg means that he is the third son of an F1 driver to win a race himself. However, in the other two cases (Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill), their fathers’ lives had already been cut short, both in car-related accidents.

With Nico having become the 103rd Grand Prix winner in F1 history, the focus will now move to see can he challenge for the world championship.

It’s certainly not out of the question. Red Bull’s RB8 is a troubled car, and McLaren have fumbled their advantages far too many times already. With an innovative DRS system, as well as the most powerful engine on the grid, they must capitalise on their pace in the following few races.

Tyre degradation is less of an issue – after each pit stop, the mechanics checked Nico’s tyres for excess wear, but Rosberg had it perfectly under control. It was a well deserved win, and he can certainly go further.

Massa bashing: Round 3

Respected journalists are now calling him a “waste of petrol”. I can’t disagree with them – a 13th place is nothing short of dismal.

The most stark fact is that, aside from the three slowest teams – every single driver on the grid has scored points except for Massa. He brushed off his first two awful races, and called the Chinese GP the start of his season, but has instead proven himself to be even more of a joke.

Fernando Alonso slipped down the order after running wide near the end of the race, but still managed to score points in a difficult situation. Massa’s only notable feat was holding up half the field for several laps.

The hype over Sergio Perez’s prowess in Malaysia has died down, and many are looking to the end of the season for him to replace Massa. For many, that can not come soon enough.

Sauber becoming a credible threat?

One of the biggest surprises so far this year is the Sauber’s excellent pace – going completely against my predictions before Melbourne.

Perez’s race pace in Malaysia, combined with Kobayashi’s 3rd place in qualifying, shows that the team are going places. They have scored their best qualifying and race results ever (as an independent team), and it is apparent that they may take on the big guns.

Each of the Sauber drivers is ahead of one of the Lotus drivers, to give you an idea of their form. Kobayashi scored their first ever fastest lap, to wrap up their excellent few races.

It will be extremely difficult for the Hinwil squad to keep up with the frontrunners, but we will see how they fare in the next few races.

Latest testing news round-up

As the third test session of 2012 draws to a close, we have only 4 more testing days before the teams roll into Melbourne. While many cars are still sandbagging in terms of pace, a clearer picture of the 2012 grid is now visible. Here is the latest news from the last few days:

HRT pass crash tests, but testing still in doubt

The HRT car has finally passed the FIA crash tests, allowing it to take part in pre-season testing.

However, doubts remain as to whether the team will be able to make it to the final test in Barcelona.

The F112 has been homologated by the FIA after passing the rollhoop test a few days ago. Despite this, the car is still not fully assembled, and sources within the team are only “hopeful” that the struggling team will be able to turn a wheel before Melbourne.

Massa: Ferrari back on track

Felipe Massa believes that Ferrari have finally found the key to unlocking the pace of their F2012.

The Scuderia have been plagued by disappointing pace so far in testing, as they struggled to adapt to the radical car. However, Massa has claimed that the team have found consistent pace:

"I think it's definitely the direction we need to follow for these last days of
testing we have, and I think today was a positive day, not so much in the morning
but in the afternoon.

I have to say that now we are a little bit more positive because we found the
direction to work and I'm sure now, having found the direction, we can see the
development coming.

In the afternoon we were able to do more than eight/nine timed laps consistently.
The laps were very consistent and it was very positive. We still need to work a
lot but at least we found the direction to get a much better car to drive, not
just for laptime for also for consistency."

In the past we didn't have so many directions to follow. This year we have so many
directions, so many possibilities and the most important thing was to find the right
one, and I'm sure we found it."

Still, when asked, on a scale of 1 to 10, how prepared the team was for the upcoming season, Felipe only replied “more than 5″.

FIA to tie up ECU loopholes

In the latest attempt to clamp down on teams manipulating exhaust gases to achieve downforce, the FIA have tightened the stricter engine mapping regulations implemented for 2012.

Back in October, it was revealed that new engine mapping regulations would eliminate exhaust gas manipulation. However, an engine supplier has tipped off the governing body, saying that teams had found a way to improve the flow of gases by inducing a misfire.

It has been confirmed that the FIA have worked with this engine supplier to remove this innovation. A revised software package for the standard ECU unit will be introduced before the Australian Grand Prix.

Marussia fails crash tests, testing ruled out

Marussia, like fellow team HRT, have failed the crash tests for their 2012 challenger.

However, it comes at a much more critical time, as this means the MR01 almost certainly cannot take part in pre-season testing. As this article was updated, it was unclear what sector the car failed in, but the issue cannot be rectified before March 1st.

A statement from the team read:

"The Marussia F1 Team is disappointed to confirm that the planned first test of 
its 2012 race car – the MR01 – has been delayed as a consequence of not passing 
the final FIA crash test.

All cars are required to pass 18 FIA-observed tests for homologation to be granted. 
Despite the fact that the MR01 has passed all 17 of the preceding tests, the 
regulations require the car to have completed all of the tests before running 
commences.

The team will now not take part in the final pre-season test in Barcelona later 
this week [1-4 March] and will instead focus its efforts on repeating the crash 
test at the end of the week."
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 55 other followers