Tag Archives: Kamui Kobayashi

Webber demoted to 11th after illegaly overtaking Kobayashi

Mark Webber is the second driver to fall prey to the stewards today, after being handed a drive-through penalty after the Singapore Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver was deemed to have overtaken Kamui Kobayashi off the track, which became a 20-second time penalty after the race had ended.

The stewards noted a “minimal” use of the run-off area, but it was still enough to earn a penalty:

"Notwithstanding that the distance by which car two left the circuit was minimal, 
advantage was gained hence a breach did in fact occur. Such a breach has 
consistently attracted a drive-through penalty."

Webber has dropped to 11th place, which promotes Sergio Perez to 10th position.

Belgian GP practice: Kobayashi heads soaked Friday running

Kamui Kobayashi set the fastest time on Friday in practice for the Belgian Grand Prix.

It was completely academic though, as persistent heavy rain resulted in both practice sessions becoming a complete washout. The rain got worse and worse as the afternoon progressed, and there was even less activity in FP2.

Practice 1

Kobayashi was the only driver to go out on track in the first 45 minutes, setting a 2:17.705. Steady rain deterred drivers from heading out until the final half hour.

When the track finally did allow for some running, it was barely an improvement. Daniel Ricciardo and Pastor Maldonado both briefly took the top spot, but Kobayashi was soon back on top with a 2:11.389.

The Eau Rouge corner was particularly tricky to navigate, with Michael Schumacher, Pastor Maldonado and Paul di Resta all nearly losing control through the saturated turn.

In a surprise event in modern F1, Felipe Massa suffered an engine failure on his final lap, pulling over at the Bus Stop chicane with smoke pouring out of his Ferrari’s exhausts.

Pos. Driver              Team                  Time       Gap     Laps
 1.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        2:11.389          20
 2.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Renault      2:11.941  +0.552  14
 3.  Daniel Ricciardo    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    2:12.004  +0.615  12
 4.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso-Ferrari    2:12.824  +1.435  15
 5.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      2:13.191  +1.802  13
 6.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        2:13.861  +2.472  16
 7.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes AMG          2:14.210  +2.821  14
 8.  Valtteri Bottas     Williams-Renault      2:14.660  +3.271  16
 9.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      2:14.860  +3.471  12
10.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes AMG          2:15.402  +4.013  13
11.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  2:15.812  +4.423  11
12.  Timo Glock          Marussia-Cosworth     2:16.409  +5.020  16
13.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India-Mercedes  2:16.786  +5.397  10
14.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham-Renault      2:16.788  +5.399  16
15.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes      2:16.827  +5.438  5
16.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      2:16.861  +5.472  8
17.  Charles Pic         Marussia-Cosworth     2:17.519  +6.130  14
18.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham-Renault      2:18.199  +6.810  10
19.  Pedro de la Rosa    HRT-Cosworth          2:19.546  +8.157  12
20.  Dani Clos           HRT-Cosworth          2:19.689  +8.300  12
21.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus-Renault         2:38.701  +27.312 9
22.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               2:40.749  +29.360 4
23.  Kimi Raikkonen      Lotus-Renault         2:46.580  +35.191 9
24.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               N/A        N/A     2

Practice 2

FP2 was even worse, with the rain becoming more heavy and persistent as the session went on.

It took 50 minutes for a car to even leave the pits, with Nico Rosberg leading several other drivers. However, not a single one set a fast lap, opting to pit every time.

This continued until the end of the session, where most drivers went out to do a practice start on the pit straight.

2012 half-way driver rankings: 14th – 8th

In the second of 4 posts, I will judge the 2012 drivers based on their performances so far this season.

Drivers knocked out in Q1 (so to speak) included Felipe Massa, Daniel Ricciardo and Pastor Maldonado. Here is the second round, including a few more big names…

Nothing massively convincing from Senna, but still better than Maldonado

Nothing massively convincing from Senna, but still better than Maldonado

14th: Bruno Senna

Previous ranking: 17th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “Bruno’s impact has been unconvincing to say the least.”

It might seem a surprise to put Senna ahead of his more celebrated teammate, but the small gap in the points standings is more than compensated by considerably more intelligent driving.

In only his second race for Williams, he stormed through the field in treacherous conditions to finish 6th. He inherited points-scoring positions after teammate Maldonado was handed post-race penalties.

Despite this, a lack of raw pace is apparent. He has only out-qualified Maldonado 3 times, with an average deficit of over half a second. While Pastor stormed to victory in Spain, he had crashed out in qualifying and retired from the race. He has only reached Q3 once, compared to the Venezuelan’s 7 times.

At the end of the day though, if you were to ignore the one-off result in Barcelona, then Senna has performed much better against Maldonado than many would have thought. Also, Bruno hasn’t been involved in half the accidents, and still spends the majority of his racing laps ahead of his teammate. Rather quietly, he is the more complete driver of the Williams team.

A decent start from Hulkenberg

A decent start from Hulkenberg

13th: Nico Hulkenberg

Previous ranking: 11th out of 27 (2010 final)

Review from previous ranking: “Several poor showings may not have helped him, but nevertheless I would have thought that Nico should have stayed on [with Williams].”

After a rather pointless year out of the sport, Nico Hulkenberg is back, and has already proved himself a worthy adversary to last year’s hotshot rookie Paul di Resta.

Judging by the stats, both drivers are incredibly well matched. Neither has the edge in either qualifying or race results, although Di Resta has been able to achieve slightly higher finishing positions on times, which has given him the lead on points.

Hulkenberg’s finishing positions, while not dramatic in any way, are still more consistent though, and this is a considerable advantage to have. On more than a few occasions Nico has finished in 11th or 12th places, so with a bit of luck he could have closed up the 10-point gap between the two.

So far, it is almost too close to call, but I think that Paul has a slight edge over Nico at the moment. However, this could change at any time, and I am looking forward to see how the young German retaliates in the second half of 2012.

It's been a mix of highs and lows for Button

It’s been a mix of highs and lows for Button

12th: Jenson Button

Previous ranking: 3rd out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “The balance of power ha[s] shifted at McLaren, and Button is now comfortably ahead of his teammate in all areas.”

To say “how things change” doesn’t begin to analyse Button’s predicament – his on/off season has shown that even the best drivers can be thrown off course.

Yes, it is very easy to point out his crushing win in Melbourne, or his return to form in Germany, but his atrocious form a quarter way through the season says it all. In some races, Jenson was displaying Felipe Massa levels of rubbish. In Monaco for example, a complete drop-off in pace allowed him to be humiliated by Kovalainen’s Caterham.

This complete lack of pace continued on into Canada, where he qualified 10th and finished 16th. In his home race, he was unable to make any impact on the frontrunners, only barely scraping a point.

It’s hard to believe that this is the same driver who cakewalked the first 7 races of 2009. He has only out-qualified teammate Hamilton twice, and only by sheer pace once. The gap between them in qualifying is nearly half a second, which demonstrates how off the ball he has become.

We know that Button can demolish the entire field when he is on form. The problem is that his driving style simply doesn’t suit the 2012 Pirelli tyre compounds, which require high tyre temperatures through the corners. Jenson’s smooth entry and exit into corners means that his McLaren simply slides around the racetrack.

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

Aside from Silverstone, remarkably consistent pace for Di Resta

Aside from Silverstone, remarkably consistent pace for Di Resta

11th: Paul di Resta

Previous ranking: 10th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “It still amazes me that Paul di Resta is in only his first year in F1 – his form makes him look like an experienced veteran.”

Like 2011, Paul di Resta has shown unremarkable yet consistent pace, which has allowed him to creep up the driver’s standings.

As I said earlier, there is little between Di Resta and teammate Hulkenberg in either qualifying or the races, the only difference being is Paul’s higher finishing positions. Di Resta’s weakness seems to be his poor starts – so far he has lost 10 overall places on the first lap.

However, he has proven himself to be rather flexible with tyre strategies. This has allowed him to run 1-stop tyre strategies in several races so far, netting him 7th place in Valencia.

Points-wise, he still has a slight advantage over Hulkenberg, but a single race could change that. Therefore, Di Resta will still need to up his game through 2012 if he is to remain on top at Force India.

Kobayashi races as well as always

Kobayashi races as well as always

10th: Kamui Kobayashi

Previous ranking: 14th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “Overall, it was a decent season, but improvement is still necessary.”

Like Senna, Kobayashi’s season has been rather overshadowed by the performances of his highly rated teammate. Still, Kamui has shown that he is a force to be reckoned with.

As always, he has proven himself to be able to battle with the big boys, as proven in Spain when he passed both Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg in daring moves. He once said “If I feel I can overtake I just do it” and this is as true as ever.

Despite teammate Perez taking much of Sauber’s glory in Malaysia, Kobayashi has out-qualified him more frequently. In qualifying, where Perez hasn’t gone better than 14th since Spain, Kamui has been able to break into Q3 three times so far this season – not bad for a midfield car.

Despite differing results, I would still regard both Sauber drivers as being nearly equals in talent. While Kamui doesn’t have a sixth sense for tyre management like Sergio does, he makes up for that with commendable pace and brave overtaking manouvers.

Rookie errors from a 43-year-old is unheard of in F1

Rookie errors from a 43-year-old is unheard of in F1

9th: Michael Schumacher

Previous ranking: 5th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “It’s been more than improvement for Schumacher – he has seriously upped his game, and pushed Nico Rosberg in nearly every way”

After only a few races I began to feel very sorry for Michael Schumacher – this season’s woes have mostly been technical-related, and generally have been out of his hands. Generally.

The problem is that a 7-times world champion should not be making rookie errors. Slamming into Senna in Barcelona, and a howler of a mistake at the start in Hungary were the main examples.

Despite this, the 43-year-old is still showing promising pace. He took an excellent pole position in Monaco, took his first podium in 6 years in Valencia, and in many races has upsetted the established order. Mainly because of technical faults, he has been unable to mount a championship challenge.

Coupled with this, the Mercedes W03 car seems to be falling away from the frontrunners. With this, Schumacher may have to settle for aiming to catch up to his teammate, Nico Rosberg. So far, he has been on par with his fellow German, and has performed much better in recent races.

We may not see Michael after the 2012 season, so keep your eyes peeled, lest we see the return of the Schumacher of old.

Several fantastic drives has put Perez closer to a Ferrari drive

Several fantastic drives has put Perez closer to a Ferrari drive

8th: Sergio Perez

Previous ranking: 7th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “The fact that he is already being lined up for a Ferrari drive is a signal of his prowess.”

In recent days, Sergio Perez has made his desire to drive for Ferrari clear. Does he deserve it? Absolutely.

Perez became one of my favourite drivers within a few races of 2011, and his admirable form has continued on to this season. Obviously, his best to drive to date came at Malaysia, where a fantastic drive nearly earned him his first Grand Prix victory.

Apart from this, he took another podium only 5 races later, and drove well in Germany to seal a great weekend for Sauber. He also recorded the fastest lap in Monaco, nearly 3 seconds faster than the frontrunners – although it must be noted that they were held up by a conservative Webber.

Compared to Kobayashi, Sergio has done well. They are neck-and-neck in terms of qualifying and race results, and Perez nips ahead due to having 14 more championship points.

The only downside so far is that his car has a magnetic attraction to Pastor Maldonado’s. This has resulted in two crashes so far this year, and has cost him several points. However, this is of no fault to Sergio, and he has performed admirably in a midfield car.

Maldonado, Kobayashi and Vergne penalised for incidents

Pastor Maldonado, Jean-Eric Vergne and Kamui Kobayashi have been punished by the race stewards for causing collisions during the European Grand Prix.

Maldonado was handed a 20-second time penalty for causing an avoidable collision with Lewis Hamilton with two laps to go.

Pastor left the track in a battle with the position, but immediately returned to the track, and harpooned the McLaren into the tyre barriers. Because of the clash, he fell from 3rd to 10th. This penalty demotes him to 12th, and promotes teammate Senna into the final points-scoring position.

Jean-Eric Vergne clashed with Heikki Kovalainen, bringing out the safety car in the process. Despite the Frenchman classifying the crash as a “racing incident”, he was handed a 10-place grid penalty for Silverstone, and a $25,000 fine.

Kamui Kobayashi clipped Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and pushed him off the racing line. Massa was left with a puncture, and Kamui suffered front wing damage. He was handed a 5-place grid penalty for Silverstone.

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!

Barcelona testing day 4: Kobayashi ends test on top

Kobayashi was the eighth driver to be fastest in testing so far

Kobayashi was the eighth driver to be fastest in testing so far

Kamui Kobayashi finished the third test session of 2012 on top of the timesheets.

While the Sauber C31 was delayed by a broken exhaust, the Japanese driver set a 1:22.312, ahead of Pastor Maldonado. Kamui is the eighth driver in 8 testing days to be on top, following Kimi Raikkonen, Michael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Nico Hulkenberg and Pastor Maldonado.

He also set 144 laps – the most of any driver so far. Pastor Maldonado set 134 laps and finished 2nd.Paul di Resta went wide at Campsa corner during the day, but recovered to be classified 3rd.

Ferrari focused on making large setup changes to their F2012, and Felipe Massa finished 5th, just behind Jenson Button in 4th.

Two of the slowest teams on the grid suffered the most technical-related woe. Caterham were forced to make an engine change to Heikki Kovalainen’s car limiting him to 70 laps. Meanwhile, Marussia were forced to call off their testing altogether, after suspension damage on Charles Pic’s car couldn’t be repaired.

The final 4-day test will begin on March 1st in Barcelona. Red Bull and Ferrari will arrive to this session one day late, but will continue their running until the 5th.

Times from Barcelona day 4:

1.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber C31          1:22.312   144 Laps
2.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams FW34       1:22.561   134 Laps    +0.249
3.  Paul di Resta       Force India VJM05   1:23.119   101 Laps    +0.807
4.  Jenson Button       McLaren MP4-27      1:23.200   115 Laps    +0.888
5.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari F2012       1:23.563   103 Laps    +1.251
6.  Mark Webber         Red Bull RB8        1:23.774   85  Laps    +1.462
7.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso STR7     1:23.792   92  Laps    +1.480
8.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes W03        1:23.843   139 Laps    +1.531
9.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham CT-01      1:26.968   70  Laps    +4.656

First pictures of Sauber C31

Sauber have shown off their 2012 C31

Sauber have shown off their 2012 C31

Along with Red Bull and Toro Rosso, Sauber have released their 2012 car, the C31, today.

Just days ago, technical director James Key announced that he would be leaving the squad, posting a massive blow before the season has even started.

Regardless, the C31 has been described as “revolutionary where we had fresh ideas” by chief designer Matt Morris. He also stated that he believes that the exhaust blown diffuser ban will help the team:

"Because of the new definition in the rules we know that the disadvantages we had 
last year with a lack of the strong exhaust effect will be less of an issue for 
us now. As a result we evolved further our directions from C30 regarding the 
overall aero development of the car."
Side view of the Sauber C31

Side view of the Sauber C31

He also noted that the car will appear quite different at the first race in Melbourne, as more updates are added to the car.

Similar to last year, the car will be driven by Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez.

2011 final driver rankings: 18th – 11th

This is the second article out of 4, ranking all 28 drivers from this season. This section includes drivers such as Felipe Massa, Kamui Kobayashi and Jaime Alguersuari.

18th – Felipe Massa

The Pirelli tyres brought no improvement to Massa's form

The Pirelli tyres brought no improvement to Massa's form

Previous ranking: 14th

Review from previous ranking: “Ferrari need a second driver who can consistently take podiums, not struggle for 6th.”

The one thing I find more frustrating than Felipe Massa is those who keep praising him despite his disastrous pace. Every single year, we are promised a return to form by the Brazilian, and every year is a let-down.

This year, it was the Pirelli tyres that were to catapult Massa to the top, which of course never happened. While teammate Fernando Alonso took 10 podiums, one of which was a win, Massa was never higher than 5th.

A clear sign of his ineptness at the Ferrari was in India, where he was the only driver to find trouble with the kerbs – and did it twice. as well as this, he was not blameless in the spat with Lewis Hamilton – turning into the McLaren in India was ill-judged to say the least.

The best indicator of a driver’s pace is their performance relative to their teammate, and Massa didn’t even get half of what Alonso won. Even Mark Webber, who had a shocking season by his standards, was able to beat this.

Renault and Ferrari have, in recent times, shown that it is entirely plausible to end a driver’s contract prematurely. Why they haven’t done this with Massa yet, we’ll never know.

17th – Bruno Senna

Senna's first race was ruined by his own hand

Senna's first race was ruined by his own hand

Previous ranking: 24th (2010 half-way rankings)

Review from previous ranking: “Senna’s potential is still unclear.” (2010 half-way rankings)

After spending 2010 lingering at the back of the grid, the Senna name was thrown into the midfield of the grid, after Nick Heidfeld was given the boot. So far, Bruno’s impact has been unconvincing to say the least.

He qualified an excellent 7th at his first race of the year in Spa, but bottled it at the first corner. A pair of points were scored at Monza, but that was the only top 10 finish of the season.

Despite this, he showed interesting flashes of pace, generally being faster than Vitaly Petrov, and driving well at his home race in Brazil, before clashing with Michael Schumacher – the first time since 1993 that those two surnames have collided.

As the Renault and its radical front exhausts fell apart, it became clear that Senna was unable to demonstrate his prowess. I’m unsure as to his full potential, but many feel that despite the circumstances, he should have performed better in 2011.

16th – Vitaly Petrov

A single podium was the only high point of Petrov's season

A single podium was the only high point of Petrov's season

Previous ranking: 9th

Review from previous ranking: “It will be up to Petrov to take the majority of Renault’s points this year.”

As the Renault car became more and more hopeless, Petrov began to falter, and was being worryingly out-paced by new recruit Senna by the end of the year.

A podium in Australia was undoubtedly the standout moment of the year, but there wasn’t much to talk about after that. In Malaysia, a mistake by Petrov resulted in a spectactular launch into the air, which was the last race the team had any chance of racing at the front.

Apart from a 5th place in Canada, he was only able to snatch 9th and 10th places throughout the year, and only had 3 points more than Nick Heidfeld – who missed the last 8 races.

It was an improvement from 2010, but not improvement enough to keep his seat for next year, and I can’t complain about that.

15th – Sebastien Buemi

The wheels came off Buemi's season in the second half

The wheels came off Buemi's season in the second half

Previous ranking: 16th

Review from previous ranking: “Of Ricciardo impresses at HRT, then Buemi may still be under pressure for the race seat in 2012.”

After the unceremonious dumping of both drivers, Toro Rosso have indicated that they have had enough of their drivers. Buemi and Alguersuari tussled for the lead in the team throughout the season, but ultimately the better driver came out on top.

Sebastien had the upper hand in the first few races, adapting well to the Pirelli tyres. He was able to out-qualify Alguersuari, and conserve his tyres better in the races. However, when Jaime turned his season around, matching pace from Buemi was nowhere to be seen.

It must be considered that he suffered more than his fair share of technical problems, but the general consensus is that Buemi should have achieved more after 3 years in Toro Rosso, which is considerably more than what many other drivers got.

14th – Kamui Kobayashi

A difficult second half of the season for Kobayashi

A difficult second half of the season for Kobayashi

Previous ranking: 6th

Review from previous ranking: “Kobayashi continues to punch well above his weight with scintillating drives.”

The fans’ favourite overtaker suffered a disappointing second half to the season, while his teammate took the limelight.

The first half of 2011 was spectacular, with Kobayashi finishing in the top 10 7 races in a row, something that neither of the Mercedes drivers could achieve.

However, his qualifying pace began to falter alarmingly, and teammate Perez began to take control. Finishing the season with 2 points finishes was impressive, and helped him end the season with double what Perez achieved. However, it must be considered that Sergio missed out on two races which I feel he would have performed well in.

Overall, it was a decent season, but improvement is still necessary for Kobayashi.

13th – Jaime Alguersuari

A spate of points-scoring finishes was not enough for Alguersuari

A spate of points-scoring finishes was not enough for Alguersuari

Previous ranking: 12th

Review from previous ranking: “Alguersuari came very close to being replaced, but several good drives have rescued his career.”

Not good enough, I’m afraid. An impressive improvement came in the second half of 2011, but Alguersuari was still dropped at the end of the year.

A series of 18th-to-points runs were entertaining to watch, and a pair of 7th places in Monza and Korea were the high points for Jaime. Qualifying 6th in Spa was also an excellent performance, before he was cruelly taken out by Bruno Senna.

In the end, he was comfortably ahead of his teammate, where he deserved to be. However, holding up Vettel in Korean practice did him no favours with Red Bull, and earned him an severe dressing-down from Helmut Mark0 (which I’ve heard will be featured in the F1 review DVD).

Whether this politics hurt his chances at retaining his seat, we’ll never know.

12th – Nick Heidfeld

Heidfeld was a casualty of Renault's demise

Heidfeld was a casualty of Renault's demise

Previous ranking: 11th

Review from previous ranking: “Reliable driving has helped him in the races, but a lack of raw pace is holding Nick back.”

A surprise ditching by Renault saw Heidfeld out of a drive halfway through the season. Because of this, we will never know how he was to handle with the deteriorating R31.

A magnificent start in Malaysia, as well as holding up the McLaren drivers, saw Nick take a well-deserved podium. As the Renault slipped down the order, Heidfeld was able to take as many 7th and 8th places as he could. He was taken out on the first lap in Germany, and an exploding sidepod took him out in Hungary, which proved to be his last race.

I’m still confused as to why Renault bothered dropping Heidfeld, considering Petrov could hardly amass his points total with an extra 8 races in hand. He was a safe pair of hands, and consistently got the job done, aside from a calamitious error at the Nurburgring.

His main weakness was dire qualifying, which principal Eric Boullier was particularly angry about. Still, I feel that Renault was worse off without Heidfeld.

11th – Heikki Kovalainen

Kovalainen far exceeded the car's potential

Kovalainen far exceeded the car's potential

Previous ranking: 19th

Review from previous ranking: “It will be up to Kovalainen to secure 10th place in the Constructor’s Championship for the team.”

With HRT and Virgin constantly falling further behind, and Jarno Trulli proving lacklustre, it was always going to be up to Kovalainen to prove Lotus’ worth.

I admit that I had nearly given up on Kovalainen after his dismal years at McLaren – he recently said that those two years had drained all his confidence. In that light, going back to basics was the best possible move for Heikki. With little pressure around him, he has been able to re-invigorate his racing spirit.

Whenever a midfield car faltered, it was Kovalainen who snatched the opportunity to move into Q2, which he did three times. He absolutely demolished his teammate in every sector – qualifying (16 successes out of 18), and races, where he often finished half a minute ahead of Trulli.

A 13th-placed finish in Monza secured 10th for Lotus in the constructors’ championship. With luck, the team soon to be known as Caterham can finally improve to the midfield, with Kovalainen the driving force of the squad.

My top 5 overtakes of the year

With the Pirelli tyres and KERS providing a welcome new element to on-track racing, 2011 saw some fantastic battles between the drivers.   Although DRS grew slightly stale in its repetitive passes, we were in no shortage of wheel-to-wheel action. Here are my favourite overtaking moves from this season:

5th – Michael Schumacher on Kamui Kobayashi and Felipe Massa – Canada

This year saw an improvement from Schumacher, after struggling for much of his return so far. After Felipe Massa got held up by Kamui Kobayashi in Canada, we saw a glimpse of the old Schumacher as he sliced through to take 2nd place.

4th – Sebastian Vettel on Fernando Alonso – Italy

Seeing one driver dominate at the front is no fun, it’s much more entertaining for everyone when Vettel has had to fight for the win. This pass on Fernando Alonso after a safety car restart showed Sebastian at his very best, racing at the limit even when the title had been neatly wrapped up.

3rd – Fernando Alonso on Jenson Button – Brazil

The surprised expressions from Brundle and Coulthard says it all – very few could imagine overtaking around the outside of Turn 6 in Brazil, but Fernando Alonso made it look easy.

2nd – Mark Webber on Fernando Alonso – Spa

An incredibly committed move by Mark Webber, shoving Alonso aside as the two cars entered Eau Rouge. This was a pass achieved through sheer bravery – and hoping that Fernando would give Mark space, which thankfully he did.

1st – Lewis Hamilton on Fernando Alonso – Germany

Victory for Lewis Hamilton at the Nurburgring was sweet, but the moment of the day had to be this fantastic opportunistic pass on Fernando Alonso. As the Spaniard exited the pits on cold tyres, Lewis swept around the outside to take the lead – and later the win.

Hamilton accepts blame for Kobayashi collision

Lewis Hamilton turns into Kamui Kobayashi in Spa

Lewis Hamilton turns into Kamui Kobayashi in Spa

Lewis Hamilton has made a U-turn on his previous statements, and now says that he accepts responsibility for colliding with Kamui Kobayashi.

Lewis moved to overtake Kamui in the early parts of the race, but moved back onto the racing line, where Kobayashi had already parked his car. The McLaren crashed out, while the Sauber struggled on to 12th place.

The McLaren comes off much worse in the collision

The McLaren comes off much worse in the collision

After initially claiming that Kobayashi was at fault:

"As far as I was concerned, I was ahead of whoever it was I was racing, and I got
hit by them, and that was my race over."

Lewis has now accepted that he was at fault. A brief statement from his Twitter feed reads:

"After watching the replay, I realise it was my fault today 100%. I didn’t give
Kobayashi enough room though I thought in was past. Apologies to Kamui and to 
my team. The team deserves better from me."

Kamui seemed surprised that Lewis had initially blamed him, saying:

"I know I cannot fight because he is much quicker than me. He overtook me. I 
don’t know if he was using the rear wing, I was just using the KERS. I think 
we have very low downforce, that’s why I catch up him. Just at the end of the 
straight I was staying left, and he was in the middle of the track.

He came back and we just made contact. If you see the replay later, I was 
following the white line always, I don’t change at all my line. So I don’t 
know what I need to do – maybe I have to go to the gravel for him? That’s 
stupid, you know. He had to stay in the middle, not come back [towards me].

Definitely I was not trying to overtake him, just staying on my line, doing 
my race. It’s a little bit difficult situation, because he’s fighting for 
the championship. I am doing a different race!

The stewards have stated that there will be no investigation into the collision.

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