Tag Archives: Vitaly Petrov

2012 final driver rankings: 25th – 16th

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

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

25th – Narain Karthikeyan

Previous ranking: 26th

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

Business as usual for Karthikeyan, as you can tell.

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

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

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

24th – Jerome D’Ambrosio

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote:  N/A

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

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

23rd – Timo Glock

Previous ranking: 20th

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

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

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

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

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

22nd – Vitaly Petrov

Previous ranking: 22nd

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

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

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

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

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

21st – Jean-Eric Vergne

Previous ranking: 19th

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

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

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

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

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

20th – Daniel Ricciardo

Previous ranking: 15th

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

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

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

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

19th – Heikki Kovalainen

Previous ranking: 16th

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

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

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

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

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

18th – Pedro de la Rosa

Previous ranking: 23rd

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

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

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

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

17th – Bruno Senna

Previous ranking: 14th

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

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

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

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

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

16th – Charles Pic

Previous ranking: 21st

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Petrov replaces Trulli at Caterham

Vitaly Petrov takes over Jarno Trulli's seat for 2012

Vitaly Petrov takes over Jarno Trulli's seat for 2012

Vitaly Petrov has replaced veteran driver Jarno Trulli at Caterham for the 2012 season.

The move comes as a shock to many, as Trulli – who has been with the team since it was founded in 2010 – had a year left on his contract.

Petrov, who lost his place at Lotus this year, has been known to carry plenty of sponsorship money, and together with two years of F1 experience, toppled the Italian off his seat at Caterham. This leaves the 37-year-old without a drive for this season.

Team principal Tony Fernandes praised Petrov joining the team:

"We are all delighted to welcome Vitaly into our team and are very excited about 
the role he will play in helping us take the next steps forward in 2012 and for 
many years to come.

When we first met it was immediately clear that Vitaly understands and shares our 
vision for how we want our team to grow. As the first Russian to race in F1 he 
carries the hopes of a huge nation with ease and his talents, experience with one 
of our current competitors and insights on and off track will play a huge role in 
our development as we fight to join the established teams ahead."

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.

Petrov handed 5-place grid penalty for India

Petrov launches into Schumacher, taking both cars out

Petrov launches into Schumacher, taking both cars out

Vitaly Petrov will be docked 5 places on the grid for the Indian Grand Prix later this month, after today’s collision with Michael Schumacher.

Petrov was racing Fernando Alonso for position entering Turn 3, when both cars out-braked themselves and slid off the track. Alonso took to the run-off area, while Petrov launched into an innocent Schumacher, taking both cars out of the race.

Vitaly accepted the blame soon after the race:

"It was not his fault, it was absolutely my fault – once my wheels were locked 
there was nothing I could do about it. But that’s racing and tomorrow is another 
day.

I tried to defend my position from Fernando but I was in the braking zone on the 
dirty side of the track which meant I locked my wheels and hit Michael.

I was focused on my battle with Fernando as there was potential for me to be 
ahead of him. We both braked too late as he missed the corner too."

Heidfeld replaced by Senna? (Confirmed)

The BBC are reporting that Renault driver Nick Heidfeld has been dropped from the squad’s line-up, with Bruno Senna taking his seat for the rest of the year.

Heidfeld has endured a trying year with the Renault team, having failed to lead the team after the loss of Robert Kubica after a rally crash.

It has also been hinted that Renault are suffering from a lack of funding. While Nick demands several million euro in salary, Senna comes with substansial sponsorship money free of charge.

Romain Grosjean was rumoured to be lined up for a race seat, having performed exceptionally well in GP2  this year. He previously stood in for sacked Nelson Piquet Jr. in 2009.

While this story has been reported by a trusted source, the team are yet to confirm this story.

Heidfeld currently lies 8th in the drivers’ standings, 2 points ahead of teammate Vitaly Petrov.

Update: Renault have confirmed that Senna will race alongside Vitaly Petrov in this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. A short statement was issued:

"Lotus Renault GP is pleased to announce that Bruno Senna will race alongside Vitaly 
Petrov at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.

Bruno will attend the Official FIA Press Conference tomorrow at 15.00.

A press release with further details on the matter will be issued tomorrow morning."

It is currently unknown is this switch for one race only, or for the rest of the season.

2011 mid-way driver rankings: 14 – 6

Here is part 2 of the mid-season review of all the Formula 1 drivers. This article tackles drivers ranked 14th up to 6th.

14 – Felipe Massa

Massa has found himself being beaten by all his rivals

Massa has found himself being beaten by all his rivals

Ranking in 2010: 14th

Review from 2010 ranking: “No race wins, no pole positions, no fastest laps, and no hope for 2012 if he doesn’t improve fast.”

To lag behind Sebastian Vettel in 2011 is to be expected. But to have only a quarter of the German’s points, while driving a Ferrari, is nothing short of laughable.

This year was where the Pirelli tyres would leap Massa back through the field. Nothing of the sort has occurred. Take the Spanish Grand Prix for example – Fernando Alonso tussled for the lead in the early stages, while Massa was being beaten by the Force Indias in the envious battle for 10th.

With less than half of Alonso’s points, and not even a sniff at a podium finish, Felipe has been completely dominated. He has yet to out-qualify Fernando at any point in 2011.

While it would be incredibly difficult for Ferrari to find a driver as talented as Alonso, they need a second driver who can consistently take podiums, not struggle for 6th.

13 – Paul di Resta

Di Resta has had a solid start in F1

Di Resta has had a solid start in F1

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

Ragged drives have lost him points, but nevertheless a decent start to his F1 career for the Scot.

Di Resta’s best performances so far have been in qualifying, as he has out-qualified teammate Sutil 7 times in 9 races, with over 0.6 seconds in the average gap between the two.

However, despite spending more laps in front of Sutil than vice-versa, Paul has struggled for results, with only 2 points to his name. He was on course for a large points haul in Britain, before a tyre mix-up ruined his chances.

Poorly-judged moves, particularly in Monaco and Canada, have also cost Di Resta. However, with more consistency and experience, he may be able to challenge Sutil in the driver’s championship.

12 – Jaime Alguersuari

Alguersuari has improved in recent races

Alguersuari has improved in recent races

Ranking in 2010: 19th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Three points finishes is all he could do, with a car that never really looked like pushing for points.”

Alguersuari came very close to being replaced, but several good drives have rescued his career.

3 points-scoring finishes in a row have kept Jaime his Toro Rosso race seat from going to Daniel Ricciardo. The Spaniard now lies one point ahead of Sebastien Buemi.

His qualifying results have been poor, but in recent races Alguersuari has been able to turn Q1 knockouts into points on race day.

Both of the Toro Rosso drivers’ futures still hang in the balance though, so it will be interesting to see which driver ends the season on top.

11 – Nick Heidfeld

Heidfeld has not performed up to expectations

Heidfeld has not performed up to expectations

Ranking in 2010: 16th (Only 5 races)

Review from 2010 ranking: “He will need to work fast just to get a drive for next year.”

Hailed as a consistent replacement for the injured Kubica, Heidfeld has not had the required impact at Renault so far.

The German has only just taken the lead in the championship standings battle with Vitaly Petrov. With 11 years of F1 experience, much more was expected, especially going up against a rookie driver.

Heidfeld has been soundly beaten in qualifying, being knocked out in Q1 on more than one occasion. Reliable driving as always has helped him in the races, but a lack of raw pace is holding Nick back.

10 – Michael Schumacher

Driver errors are still an issue for Schumacher

Driver errors are still an issue for Schumacher

Ranking in 2010: 12th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Schumacher’s 2011 campaign entirely hinges on the W02.”

Expected to be soundly beaten this year, Michael Schumacher has surprised some by showing much improvement from last year.

While his qualifying record against Nico Rosberg is still extremely poor, race day has allowed Schumacher to make huge progress, often held back by misfortune.

Punctures in Australia and Britain, DRS difficulties in China, as well as being swamped near the end of the Canadian GP, show that Michael’s points tally doesn’t reflect his occasionally great drives this year.

12 points is a gap that could be easily bridged with good luck. Further improvement this year would be the main aim for Schumacher.

9 – Vitaly Petrov

Petrov has improved compared to last year

Petrov has improved compared to last year

Ranking in 2010: 10th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 should see Petrov improve even more.”

A first-ever podium in Australia, followed by leading Heidfeld for most of this year – 2011 has not gone badly for the Russian.

Consistently out-qualifying Nick, often by huge margins, shows that Petrov has improved alongside Renault this year. However, it is still apparent that neither driver could hold a candle to Robert Kubica, who surely would be dicing it with the Red Bulls at this stage.

The hot-blown diffuser crackdown has hugely hurt the team, so expect to see Petrov and Heidfeld slip down the order. Still, it will be up to Petrov to take the majority of Renault’s points this year.

8 – Sergio Perez

Perez is arguably the rookie of the year

Perez is arguably the rookie of the year

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

Already a master of the 1-stop strategy, impressive pace has led many to praise Perez as rookie of the year.

With 7th place in his first ever F1 race, his talent was clearly apparent. Poor luck in Malaysia and China held him back, before another points finish in Spain.

His year was disrupted by a heavy crash in Monaco, ruling him out for 2 races. However, the smash did nothing to faze the Mexican, taking 11th on his return, then a career-best 7th in Britain.

A large tally of points could have been taken in Monaco and Canada, so Perez’s current total doesn’t reflect his excellent performances so far.

Two energetic rookies may not seem like an intelligent combo, but it has worked wonders for Sauber so far. With luck, Perez could even challenge to finish in the top 10 in the championship.

7 – Mark Webber

Webber has been dominated by his teammate

Webber has been dominated by his teammate

Ranking in 2010: 2nd

Review from 2010 ranking: “Dominant at times, disappointing at others, but still a wonderful campaign.”

While Sebastian Vettel continues to rip up tarmac at the front, Mark Webber seems to be lacking in pace, and is at risk of being overtaken by Fernando Alonso. What’s going on?

It’s not like the days of Ferrari domination, though. Back then, when Schumacher crushed his opponents to win, Barrichello would come around in 2nd place. This year, a single 2nd place is all Webber can muster so far.

In Australia, for example, Mark had absolutely no pace. His first pole position (Spain) was ruined by a bad start, relegating him to 4th after the chequered flag.

Webber has had good moments though. A spirited charge through the field in China saw him take 15 places back after a qualifying disaster.

However, his second pole saw him suffer a similar fate, slipping to 3rd during the race.

On the plus side, the Australian is yet to finish outside the top 5. Still, that doesn’t mean much when your teammate hasn’t fallen lower than 2nd at any point.

6 – Kamui Kobayashi

Kobayashi is as impressive as ever

Kobayashi is as impressive as ever

Ranking in 2010: 9th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Kobayashi has breathed fresh life into Formula 1 with his “unique” [driving] style.

Still as exciting to watch as ever, Kobayashi continues to punch well above his weight with scintillating drives.

If people were asked which car was quicker – the Mercedes or the Sauber – there would be little doubt that the Mercedes has much better pace. Because of this, seeing Kobayashi only 3 points behind 7-time world champion Schumacher will demonstrate how much Kamui is extracting from the car.

6 points finishes in a row is much better and more consistent than many drivers – only the Red Bulls, McLarens and Alonso can claim better records.

While teammate Perez is taking headlines for his special 1-stoppers, Kobayashi tends to take the 2-stop route. Compared to the rest of the grid, both Perez and Kobayashi have taken the least pit stops this year, which is a massive advantage.

Like Perez, a top 10 finish in the championship is well within Kamui’s reach.

Heidfeld to be evaluated for Renault drive

Nick Heidfeld will be testing with Renault this weekend

Nick Heidfeld will be testing with Renault this weekend

Nick Heidfeld is to share a car with Bruno Senna this weekend in Jerez, as Renault seek a replacement for he injured Robert Kubica.

Kubica, who of course was involved in a rally crash last week, will probably be out for the entire season, and Renault have already made moves to shuffle their line-up. Vitaly Petrov will continue to drive one of the Renaults, but the other drive is up for contention.

Bruno Senna, one of the team’s test drivers, is in the running, as is Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nick Heidfeld. Nick will be evaluated by the team this weekend at Jerez, according to a statement:

Lotus Renault GP has revised its driver line-up for this week’s test session in Jerez 
de la Frontera, Spain.

Vitaly will drive the R31 on Thursday and Friday, as originally scheduled. For 
Saturday and Sunday, the team will give mileage to Bruno Senna and will also 
evaluate Nick Heidfeld, who is a potential replacement for Robert Kubica as a 
race driver. The exact running order for the weekend will be confirmed on 
Friday evening.

If Senna gets the drive, it is believed that he will take the second driver role, while Petrov would be the lead driver. On the other hand, if Heidfeld or Liuzzi is hired, then either of these two will lead the team.

Petrov extends contract with Renault

Petrov will stay with Renault until 2012

Petrov will stay with Renault until 2012

Vitaly Petrov will remain with the Lotus-Renault team for the 2011 and 2012 seasons. This removes any speculation that Vitaly was under pressure to keep the second race seat next year.

This was announced by Petrov at a press conference he organised in Moscow today. While he struggled at times in 2010, he impressed on several occasions, and with his impressive financial backing, was the favourite to retain his race seat for next year. With Kubica also on a long-term contract, this means that Renault will retain both drivers until at least the end of the 2012 season.

Vitaly said today:

"I learned a lot about the sport, the circuits and the car this 
year. That will help me improve even more in the future. I am 
very excited about working with this great team once more, and 
I’m confident that I will deliver."

"In many ways, 2010 was about learning. 2011 will be about 
performing. Today, I feel I am ready to rise to this challenge."

Gerard Lopez, chairman of Renault, added:

"We’re delighted to have Vitaly on board for another two years. 
Last season, he showed on several occasions that he clearly has 
the potential to deliver. It was just a matter of putting 
everything together during the same weekend, race after race, 
and this will be his target for 2011."

"Also, thanks to Vitaly and the team, Russia is opening up to 
Formula 1. Over the past few months, we’ve established close 
links with this country and with some of its strongest companies.
We’re looking forward to building on this special relationship
and turning it into a very successful adventure over the next 
two seasons."

Despite the fact that money certainly was a factor in this move, I’m still happy with this decision. Petrov struggled at times, but also showed great potential, particularly when holding back Fernando Alonso in Turkey and Abu Dhabi. Kubica completely out-performed him, but hopefully he can improve for next year.

Renault have also issued the following Q&A with Petrov:

Vitaly, how does it feel to be confirmed at Lotus Renault GP?
It feels great. I learned so much this year and I know that I can come back stronger in 2011. I’m extremely proud to be part of this team and I’m determined to repay the faith they have shown in me.

Looking back on your rookie season, what did you enjoy the most?
There were a lot of special moments. The race in Shanghai is something that I will always remember when I overtook Schumacher and Webber to score my first points. Then, the first time I made Q3 in Turkey was an important step for me. And, of course, the race in Hungary was probably my best weekend when everything came together for me.

How has your life change since you became an F1 driver?
There’s a lot more travelling and not a lot of time for myself, but I will never complain because I love what I’m doing. I still feel like a boy at Christmas every time I get in the car. Life is not as easy as people think, of course, and there’s a lot more to F1 than driving the car, but it’s an amazing experience and I know I’m lucky to be one of just 24 drivers on the grid.

Do you feel at home at Lotus Renault GP?
Yes, definitely. Previous drivers have always said that there is a special atmosphere here and I have to say I agree with them. The team is very warm, friendly and open, and I get on really well with the guys.

Can you feel the growing support for F1 from Russia?
Definitely. I get more support from my country every week. In fact, recently one of the major lifestyle magazines included me in their top ten most attractive single men of Russia! You can feel that the sport is becoming more popular and soon we will have our own Grand Prix, which will create ore interest. Even our prime minister, Mr Putin, got a taste of F1 when he tried a Renault F1 car earlier this year.

What will be the main challenges of 2011?
There are quite a few changes that we have to adapt to as a team: new tyres, moveable rear wings and KERS, which I’ve never used before. There’s even a new race in India. So there are some things to adapt to, but they should improve the show and make for better racing. I’ve already seen the new car in the wind tunnel and it looks very promising. I also love our new colours and can’t wait to get back in the car and go racing.

What do you hope to achieve in your second season?
My objective is to continue improving as a driver and to become more consistent. There were times this year when I made mistakes and lost points, and I know this is where I can improve. I think I showed that I have the speed, but I need to be consistent over the whole weekend and get the maximum from every session.

What is your plan over the next couple of months before testing begins in February?
I was thinking about spending a few days in Maranello this winter, but I have been told it probably wasn’t the best idea… Seriously, after a busy year I’m taking the time to go back home and see my family and friends. It’s also the time to recharge my batteries so that I can come back fresh next year. I’m already working hard on my fitness and doing lots of training to be ready for the start of the season. Then, in January, I will be at the factory to see my engineers and for my seat-fit in the new car.

 

Petrov likely to stay with Lotus-Renault

This is the second article from new writer Murai Kadam:

Vitaly Petrov is well set to secure his seat next year

Vitaly Petrov is well set to secure his seat next year

The 26-year-old Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov is likely to stay with Lotus-Renault for next year. Petrov has been financed by his personal backers, including Vyborg Shipyard, Flagman vodka, and the carmaker Lada.

The Malaysian news agancy Bernama said that Proton will also benefit by gaining access to Russia’s automotive market, and automotive technologies owned by Genii.

With Renault having previously been sponsored by Petrov’s backers, Vitaly seems all set to be secured his F1 seat for next year. Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar admitted that Petrov is well placed to keep his seat in 2011:

.

.

 "Our preferred choice is Vitaly Petrov, but I hope that the 
team will be able to announce by the end of the year our 
final lineup."
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