Tag Archives: Romain Grosjean

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.

Opnion – Grosjean ban sets a proper precedent

Much has been said of Romain Grosjean’s dangerous move on Lewis Hamilton, and the swift and unforgiving penalty issued afterwards.

Some have argued that the penalty is inconsistent with penalties issued to other incidents, and they would be correct. Pastor Maldonado causing a deliberate crash in Monaco springs to mind, where he was only handed a grid penalty.

Others claim that this crash must be used as the basis for all other penalties in the future. Fernando Alonso’s lucky escape has reminded us of how dangerous such incidents can be.

Personally I agree with both arguments, however I think that the problem is far more wide-reaching than many have realised. The fact that Grosjean and Maldonado, two of the newest GP2 rookies, continue to cause crashes is a huge cause for concern.

The drivers of GP2 and other feeder series all share the same sentiment – that they must push the rules to the maximum, and push the other drivers to the limit, in order to make progress, in both the race and their career. This kind of reasoning often results in huge, unnecessary accidents, as demonstrated this year in Monaco:

In that video, Dimitry Suranovich decided to keep on driving, despite having no rear wing on his car. He braked earlier into the chicane, and Conor Daly powered into the back of the GP3 machine, causing a huge crash and a near fatality, as the marshals post was almost wiped out.

Incredibly, Daly was awarded a 10 place grid penalty, while Suranovich walked away scot free. Aside from the sheer stupidity of the decision itself, the problem is this: if GP2 drivers are allowed to drive dangerously in their feeder series, then they will probably continue that in F1.

I’m not the only one who feels this way – Ferrari principal Stefano Domenicali urged the FIA to improve driving standards in lower formulae series:

"In my view, the most important thing is looking at the behaviour of drivers. It has 
to start in the championships before Formula 1.

You see it too often in the other series that drivers are very aggressive and try to 
do something almost over what it is possible to do, so it is important to be very 
strict since they start racing and then they will arrive in F1 in a better condition 
for that."

So far, Grosjean has been involved in 7 first-lap accidents out of 12 races. Pastor Maldonado has received 9 penalties, and deserves a few more, in my opinion. However, neither of them has been handed anything more than a 10 place grid penalty – until yesterday.

I fully support the decision to ban Grosjean from Monza, as it is the only way the stewards and FIA can lay down the law. If a rugby player interferes in a scrum or ruck, for example, he is sin-binned and forced to sit out a portion of the match.  The same should apply to F1 – if a driver clearly breaks the rules in a dangerous manner, they should be made to watch from the sidelines.

I’m almost certain that Romain will learn more from this ban than any other grid penalty or paltry fine. The same should apply to Maldonado as well, seeing as he has never learned from his previous penalties.

Perhaps this first-lap crash was a hidden blessing for the sport. As well as all of the drivers escaping without injury, it has forced many to look again at today’s driving standards, and to see how F1 can be made safer in the future. If the stewards can crack down on irresponsible driving from now on, then Formula 1 can set the standard for safer motorsport in the future.

Maldonado penalised twice, Grosjean banned for Spa incidents

Grosjean was deemed to have caused the accident

Grosjean was deemed to have caused the accident

Romain Grosjean has been handed a 1-race ban from the Belgian Grand Prix stewards, after he caused a miniature pile-up at the start of today’s race.

At the start, Romain swerved to the right-hand side of the track, inadvertently clashing with Lewis Hamilton. The two cars then speared into Fernando Alonso, who had to be assisted out of the car, presumably from shock.

Sergio Perez, Alonso, Hamilton and Grosjean were all eliminated, while Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado’s races were ruined. This is the seventh time in 12 races that he has been involved in first lap incidents.

As well as the 1-race ban, Grosjean has also been served a €50,000 fine.

Meanwhile, Pastor Maldonado has been handed two 5-place grid penalties for the next race in Monza. The first penalty was for an ill-judged jump start, while the second was for causing a crash with Timo Glock’s Marussia, although Pastor’s car was the one eliminated.

It was his third penalty in that race weekend alone.

2012 half-way driver rankings: 7th – 3rd

This is the third of 4 posts, ranking each driver so far in 2012.

After eliminating Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button in the previous post, we are now down to the top 7 drivers in the field (in my opinion). Without any more delay, here is the 7th placed driver:

7th: Nico Rosberg

Previous ranking: 4th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “Nico has cleanly and consistently been taking points finishes by the truckload.”

After his impressive performances in 2011, Rosberg has again delivered this year, with a first win. However, a faltering Mercedes may crush his charge for more success this year.

However, the gap between him and Michael Schumacher is reducing, with the 43-year-old regaining traction with every race. While he has more points, this is mostly down to Schumacher’s horriffic reliability. Oddly enough, Rosberg has only beaten him in a race once this year, largely due to the same reason.

In qualifying, the two are very close in terms of Q2 and Q3 appearances, but Nico has often pipped him in terms of actual qualifying position. However, it is clear in most races that Rosberg cannot hold onto his position, losing out to most of his rivals by the first stops, and never being able to fight back.

Much of this is down to the Mercedes car, whose strengths have been surpassed by other teams, and whose weaknesses are truly crippling Rosberg’s talents. In short, while he may have won a race this time, it’s the same old story for Rosberg – a great driver held back by an unpredictable car.

6th: Romain Grosjean

Previous ranking: N/A

Review from previous ranking: N/A

After being dropped at the end of 2009, Romain Grosjean is back, and has hugely impressed me with his remarkable pace and raw talent.

The start of the season saw many unforced errors – he collided with Pastor Maldonado in Australia, then took out Michael Schumacher in Malaysia. However, he has been on fire since then, taking his first fastest lap only two races later, and two excellent podiums.

His fight back to the front in Britain was similarly impressive, and he qualified second on the grid for Hungary. There is no doubt that this young driver is a future Grand Prix winner – it would be a travesty if he didn’t.

Unlike Rosberg, his Lotus car isn’t half as tempermental as the Mercedes, which means that he has no excuses to up at the front every race. However, like his teammate Raikkonen, he has let a possible win slip through his hands, failing to capitalise in Hungary when he had the fastest car on track.

Is this excusable? Yes, but not for much longer. Grosjean is already consistently out-qualifying his teammate, and only needs to improve his very poor starts (-26 total so far) to lead races. After that, we will see if he is world champion material.

5th: Kimi Raikkonen

Previous ranking: N/A

Review from previous ranking: N/A

The Iceman is back, and is as fearsome as ever. Without even as much as a sound, Raikkonen has sneaked his way into the battle for the world championship, and is at the forefront of Lotus’ charge for its first win.

So far, I would liken his performances so that in 2003 – very calm and collected, and nothing dramatic. That time, he came within a few points of the title, and in 2007 won that championship in the same manner. He has accumulated 5 podium finishes out of 11 races so far, and even without a win is within 50 points of the lead in the championship.

He has committed a few faults along the way – a mistake in Australian qualifying leaving him 17th, and miscalculcating his tyre’s lifespan in China, meaning he lost 10 positions in a single lap. However, overall he has been hugely impressive, and I am tipping him as the dark horse for the 2012 title.

4th: Sebastian Vettel

Previous ranking: 2nd out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “The absolute perfect team/car set-up cannot last forever, and when it slips away, Vettel’s talent will be severely tested.”

The start of 2012 saw this test, and it certainly has brought interesting results. Vettel may have performed very well, but his attitude has been revealed as tempermental to say the least.

Given the circumstances, a win in Bahrain was impressive, and Vettel has been at the front of the field since. He has been willing to run risky strategies in China and Canada, and has done well compared to teammate Mark Webber. He has out-qualified the Aussie 6 times, and spends the vast majority of the races ahead of the other Red Bull.

An alternator failure in Valencia has been the only fault outside of his control, where a certain win was ripped out of his hands. Still, his race finishes have been very consistent, with 3 podiums and only 2 finishes outside the top 5.

However, what is most interesting about his season so far is his unnecessary attraction to incident and controversy. In Malaysia, Sebastian caused a needless clash with Narain Karthikeyan, then called the HRT driver a “cucumber” afterwards, which is as ridiculous as it is funny. After his retirement in Valencia, both he and the team slammed the decision to call out the safety car (which may have caused the car failure), rather than simply admit defeat. After being penalised in Germany, he branded the penalty as “stupid” and claimed his move was “fine”.

It is this  arrogance that bothers me – Vettel is still completely sheltered by his team, who feel the need to protect and defend him at every possible opportunity. He still has to develop as a driver, and I feel he can’t do that while he’s in the same team as Helmut Marko. Having said that, Germany aside, his racecraft has been championship material, and he is well in contention for a third title.

3rd: Mark Webber

Previous ranking: 8th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “Webber has been completely annihilated by Sebastian Vettel in every single sector this year [...] he struggled massively at starts [...]  his racecraft was hit-and-miss as well.”

Mark Webber has overcome his massive problems from 2011, but has more obstacles to overcome before he will ever win a title.

On the face of it, Webber’s having his best season yet. After a consistent string of 4th places, while his enemies faltered, followed up by two excellent victories, has slammed him into the championship battle. He has cured his terrible starts (average 0 places lost/gained on lap 1), and has overcome his struggles on the Pirelli tyres.

He is finally holding up against his teammate – out-qualifying him 5 times, and being able to race side-by-side on track for a change. His pass on Vettel in Malaysia proved that he has not fallen behind like in 2011.

However, his problem this year is his starting positions on the grid. Webber has already been knocked out of Q1 once, and Q2 twice. Even when he gets through to Q3, he very rarely goes any higher than 4th. It is this poor qualifying form that holds him back in the races.

Once he starts up far enough, he can thrash his opponents – holding back 5 drivers in Monaco until the chequered flag proved that. But it still doesn’t occur enough, and this may well be Mark’s achilles heel if the running gets tough later in 2012.

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.

Grosjean to take gearbox penalty in Germany

Romain Grosjean will drop 5 places on the grid for the German Grand Prix next weekend.

The Lotus team has revealed that it has been forced to change the gearbox on Grosjean’s car, after a problem developed in the closing laps of the British Grand Prix.

Technical director James Allison noted “we are very fortunate that Romain didn’t have the problem earlier in the race.” The Lotus car was adjusted before the Silverstone race, to reduce strain on the alternator, which had failed previously at the European Grand Prix.

Under current technical regulations, gearboxes must last 5 races in a row. Unlike engine rules, there is not a stipulated amount of gearboxes that can be used, rather a certain amount of races in which each must be raced.

Bahrain GP analysis: No winners in farce of a weekend

Weeks and weeks before the Bahrain Grand Prix, we were already aware that a race should never have taken place in the troubled region. Aside from the blatant political motive, it was clear that the sport had put its personnel in danger. I’d like to say that we’ll never have to deal with such a farce again, but that’s wishful thinking.

Politics and profit win over sport

F1 has disgraced itself by allowing itself to be manipulated - and the FIA's to blame

F1 has disgraced itself by allowing itself to be manipulated - and the FIA's to blame

There are many to blame over what Formula 1 was forced to go through, but one organisation should have put a stop to it: the FIA.

Bernie Ecclestone is well known for putting profit first – I’m surprised that people expected him to act differently this weekend. Perhaps he was misinformed over the Bahrain situation, or maybe he took a calculated risk. Either way, he should not have been the one to make the final call over the event.

The FIA’s primary responsibility is to ensure the safety of all participants, and it was clear that they failed to do that. To add insult to injury, they allowed the race organisers to use the sport as a political tool – running the UniF1ed slogan throughout the weekend.

FIA Statue Article 1 states that “The FIA shall refrain from manifesting racial, political or religious discrimination in the course of its activites and from taking any action in this respect”. One of the sport’s most primary objectives has been made a mockery of, all in the name of profit.

The profiteers from this race, of course, are the Al Khalifa royal family. Having invested in and organised the race, they also stand to gain the most from the race, and they made absolutely sure they got their money’s worth this time. By doing so, though, they have disgraced what should be a pure sporting event.

This kind of farce has happened before – see F1 racing in South Africa in the 80s for more details – but it doesn’t hide the fact that last weekend was never about the racing.

Lotus finally deliver on promises

After three disappointing races, Lotus have finally shown their hand – and may well be the fifth team to win a race this year.

Kimi Raikkonen was able to challenge for the win on Sunday, but slipped away after the final stop. Regardless, it shows excellent progress from Melbourne, and Grosjean’s first ever podium proves that he’s up to the task as well.

Team principal Eric Boullier stated that Romain could even become world champion if he continues to improve, and I don’t doubt him. From qualifying in Australia, Grosjean was already proving that he could take on Raikkonen.

It’s not outrageous to suggest that Lotus could still be in contention in Spain in a few weeks time. If they do take the chequered flag first, then 5 different teams will have won one of the first 5 races, and that could set us up for a magnificent title battle.

Barcelona testing day 2: Grosjean leads heavily disrupted session

Grosjean continued to lead proceedings

Grosjean continued to lead proceedings

Romain Grosjean stayed on top in today’s heavily disrupted testing session in Barcelona.

The session was stopped no less than 8 times – several times for fog in the morning.

Grosjean set 124 laps today, posting a 1:22.614 to take top spot. Jean-Eric Vergne was set to post a faster time on super-softs, before his Toro Rosso stopped out on track.

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were a tenth of a second apart in 3rd and 4th, posting their times on medium and hard tyres.

The next 5 drivers – Kovalainen, Kobayashi, Hulkenberg, Schumacher and Hamilton – were separated by less than 0.3 seconds. Michael caused 2 red flags, while Kobayashi and Hulkenberg had hydraulic and driveline issues respectively.

Williams continued to fill the bottom of the timesheets, with Bruno Senna and Pastor Maldonado 10th and 11th.

Times from Barcelona day 2:

1.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus E20           1:22.614   124 Laps
2.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso STR7     1:23.126   31 Laps     +0.512
3.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull RB8        1:23.361   85  Laps    +0.747
4.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari F2012       1:23.447   125 Laps    +0.833
5.  Heikki Kovalainen   Caterham CT01       1:23.828   104 Laps    +1.214
6.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber C31          1:23.836   77  Laps    +1.222
7.  Nico Hulkenberg     Force India VJM05   1:23.893   33  Laps    +1.279
8.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes W03        1:23.978   79  Laps    +1.364
9.  Lewis Hamilton      McLaren MP4-27      1:24.111   65  Laps    +1.497
10. Bruno Senna         Williams FW34       1:24.925   48  Laps    +2.311
11. Pastor Maldonado    Williams FW34       1:25.801   20  Laps    +3.187

Barcelona testing day 1: Grosjean puts Lotus back on top

Grosjean overcame last week's chassis issues

Grosjean overcame last week's chassis issues

After suffering chassis issues at the last test, Lotus returned in fine form, with Romain Grosjean leading the first day of the final test in Barcelona.

Despite most drivers continuing to focus on long-fuelled runs, the timesheets were much closer at the top – the top 8 were covered by less than a second.

Lotus were forced to strengthen their front suspension after the chassis problems last week, adding 1kg in core weight. However, the solution hasn’t slowed the E20, with Grosjean setting a 1:23.252. Jenson Button was two tenths further back.

Sergio Perez ran out of fuel at the end of his run, but was still 3rd. Mark Webber spent most of the day on prime long-fuel runs, setting a 1:23.820 later in the afternoon, going 4th. Nico Rosberg set 128 laps en route to 5th.

Heikki Kovalainen did not take part in today’s test after falling ill with food poisoning. Vitaly Petrov took his place, setting 123 laps, but stopped out on track during the day.

Williams had another disappointing day, with Pastor Maldonado last, setting only 58 laps. Onlookers at the Circuit de Catalunya have continually reported seeing the FW34 suffer from chronic understeer around the circuit.

Times from Barcelona day 1:

1.  Romain Grosjean     Lotus E20           1:23.252   73 Laps
2.  Jenson Button       McLaren MP4-27      1:23.510   64 Laps     +0.258
3.  Sergio Perez        Sauber C31          1:23.820   118 Laps    +0.568
4.  Mark Webber         Red Bull RB8        1:23.830   102 Laps    +0.578
5.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes W03        1:23.992   128 Laps    +0.740
6.  Jean-Eric Vergne    Toro Rosso STR7     1:24.216   113 Laps    +0.964
7.  Paul di Resta       Force India VJM05   1:24.305   98  Laps    +1.053
8.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari F2012       1:24.318   105 Laps    +1.066
9.  Vitaly Petrov       Caterham CT-01      1:24.876   123 Laps    +1.624
10. Pastor Maldonado    Williams FW34       1:25.587   58  Laps    +2.335
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