Category Archives: Opinon

2012 final driver rankings: 3rd – 1st

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

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

3rd – Kimi Raikkonen

Previous ranking: 5th

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

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

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

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

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

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

2nd – Lewis Hamilton

Previous ranking: 2nd

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

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

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

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

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

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

1st – Fernando Alonso

Previous ranking: 1st

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Top 10: World championship battles: Part 2

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

This post deals with the seasons 1989 to 2010:

1989 – Alain Prost vs Ayrton Senna

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

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

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

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

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

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

1994 – Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

2000 – Michael Schumacher vs Mika Hakkinen

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

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

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

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

2008 – Felipe Massa vs Lewis Hamilton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10: World championship battles: Part 1

After the fantastically entertaining end to the 2012 season, perhaps it’s time to look back and see how 2012 compares to some classic seasons in F1’s history.

Part 1 of this article deals with the 1958-1981 seasons:

1958 – Mike Hawthorn vs Stirling Moss

The 1958 season was an amazing spectacle for several reasons. The first two races were won by the rear-engined Cooper team, spelling a new revolution in F1 car design. Sheer driver talent was able to out-pace the fastest cars on the grid, as shown by Stirling Moss. And Bernie Ecclestone entered into qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix. I’m not joking.

After switching teams in Monaco, and retiring from 2nd place after a duel with Hawthorn, Moss was able to take his first win of the season in Zandvoort. However, a series of engine failures scuppered his charge, and allowed Mike to draw equal to his compatriot in the standings.

Silverstone proved to be a definitive race of that year – despite battling with all his heart, Stirling’s Vanwall ruled him out of a home victory.

A dominate drive in Portugal – by an astonishing 5 minutes – gave Stirling a chance, but a gearbox failure in Monza ended all hopes.  To this day, he is regarded as “the best driver never to win a world championship” for this very season. He did enter the final race with a chance of victory, and did everything he could to secure it – another crushing victory and fastest lap – but Hawthorn’s 2nd place sealed his fate.

1961 – Phil Hill vs Wolfgang von Trips

1961 saw the introduction of the 1.5 litre engine formula, which hugely benefited the Ferrari team, allowing them to win their first every constructor’s championship. Stirling Moss was still able to showcase his talents though, holding off the clearly faster Ferraris in Monaco to take his only win of the season.

After that though, the battle was clearly between teammates Phil Hill and Wolfgang von Trips. For the next two races, these two drivers finished 1-2 with less than a second between them each time. Still, they weren’t just battling with each other – Hill had a spectacular 20-lap battle against the Lotus of Lim Clark at Zandvoort.

At Reims-Geaux, when Von Trips retired with an engine failure, the race was Hill’s for the taking. 16 seconds in the lead, he spun at the Thillois chicane, and then clashed with Stirling Moss, ruining any chances of victory. Amazingly, despite his car being in the middle of the track, Hill jumped out and push-started his Ferrari 156, running over his own foot in the process. Despite his sheer bravery, he lost the chance to finish in the points, and the two were still separated by only a point.

Von Trips led home Hill at Silverstone, to sneak back into the lead of the championship. However, it proved to be his last ever Grand Prix victory. Moss prevented a Ferrari win in the “Green Hell” of the Nurburgring, but the team still secured an easy constructor’s title. But, the hopes of an incredible climax to a year-long driver battle were cut short, when Von Trips was killed in a crash at Monza, handing the win and championship to Hill.

Ferrari were devastated, and pulled out of the last race out of respect. It was a horrible ending to what should have been Ferrari’s greatest year in Formula One.

1964 – John Surtees vs Graham Hill vs Jim Clark

1964 saw a strange points system ultimately decide the world championship, where the title winner hadn’t scored the most points.

Here, Graham Hill had scored one more point than John Surtees, but since only the top 6 results were counted, a 3rd placed finish in Silverstone for Surtees swung the title back into his hands. Hill, on the other hand, took 1st and 2nd more often, but not 6 times. Jim Clark, meanwhile, was all set to win the championship without the points system, but the final race of the season put pay to that.

One of the most dramatic title conclusions ever took place in Mexico City, where Hill (39 points) led Surtees (34) and Clark (32 points) entering the weekend. Having dominated the whole weekend, Clark claimed pole position, and sailed into the distance during the race. Hill was battling with Lorenzo Bandini for 3rd place, but the Ferrari driver slammed into the back of Hill’s cooper, causing him to spin. A cracked exhaust crippled his car, causing him to drop down the order, and seemingly out of the championship.

On the second last lap, the title was in Clark’s hands, before his engine seized and his Lotus slowed to a halt. The title swung back into Hill’s favour… but not for long.

Realizing the situation, the Ferrari team furiously signalled to Bandini, telling him to slow down and allow teammate Surtees past. The Italian did so entering the final lap, and Surtees inherited 2 extra points, leapfrogging him over Hill by a single point.

If it was done today, it would be called ugly, unsporting and unfair – and rightly so. But as Ferrari have proved to this very day, they will do anything to their drivers to win the championship.

1976 – James Hunt vs Niki Lauda

1976 was the year that Tyrrell entered their bizarre 6-wheeler, which remains the most controversial F1 invention ever. It also saw the now-legendary battle between James Hunt and Niki Lauda, which threw Formula 1 into the modern era.

The season began with Lauda absolutely crushing the opposition – 4 wins and 2 second places from the first 6 races spoke for itself. At the time, Hunt’s second career victory in Spain was rescinded in controversial circumstances, with the FIA stating that Hunt’s car was too wide after the race. McLaren counter-claimed that this was due to the rear tyres expanding, and the win was handed back – 2 months later.

Following a win in France, Hunt was disqualified again in Silverstone. A red flag stopped the race on lap 1, and Hunt rejoined the race in the spare car, which was illegal at the time. Ferrari has lodged the appeal to the FIA, despite the fact that one of their drivers had done the same thing.

This time, the victory was gone for good. Lauda had gained 18 points from the post-race decision, and was now a near-unassailable 23 points ahead of the McLaren driver. However, the championship was turned on its head at the Nurburgring, where a massive high-speed crash for Lauda nearly ended his life, and shocked the paddock to its core.

Ferrari withdrew from the following race out of respect, and the focus was on Hunt to reduce the points gap. He delivered, with a 4th place and victory in Niki’s absence. Once the Ferrari driver had recovered from his horrific crash, the deficit was only 2 points.

In the following races, Hunt thrived while Lauda struggled. Niki’s troubled became crystal clear after the penultimate race at Watkins Glen where, after fighting to stay 3rd, Lauda removed his helmet to reveal a balaclava soaked in blood.

In the final race of the season, torrential rain and fog caused huge concern amongst the drivers, particularly Lauda. Nevertheless, the race was started, but the title battle had a huge twist – Lauda coasted back to the pits, claiming “My life is worth more than a title”.

This left Hunt needing only 4th to secure the championship. He was leading the race with 13 laps to go, when a drying track worked to the advantage of the cars behind. A disastrous tyre failure forced James to pit, dropping him to 5th. He chased after the drivers ahead, and with only 3 laps to go, swept past Alan Jones and Clay Regazzoni to win his only world championship.

1981 – Alan Jones vs Jacques Laffite vs Carlos Reutemann vs Nelson Piquet vs Alain Prost

The title says it all – this was the first championship ever to have 5 drivers battling for the title with two races to go. It also saw an astonishing 7 different race winners in only 16 races.

The season began in fraught circumstances. The Concorde Agreement was only signed 10 days before the first race, without which many teams would have not entered. Goodyear dropped out as tyre supplier in the preceding December, so drivers struggled massively in the opening races adjusting to the new Michelin rubber. A late ban on side skirts meant that the cars were changed immensely throughout the year. All of this led to an unprecedented amount of unpredictability.

Added to this was an inter-team rivalry, as Carlos Reutemann refused to hand the lead over to Williams teammate and team leader Alan Jones in Jacarepagua. Jones not showing up on the podium signalled a fraught relationship between the two from then on.

The Spanish Grand Prix that year saw an intense battle fought between 5 drivers, as Gilles Villeneuve held them all off for one of his greatest victories, and his first in 2 years. However, he was unable to participate in the 5-way title battle, which whittled down to three drivers by the final race.

Entering the race weekend, Reutemann led Piquet by a single point, with Laffite another 6 points off. At the start of the race, Carlos immediately began to suffer from a failing gearbox, slipping to 5th by lap 2. An ill-handling car meant that Laffite was unable to keep up with the frontrunners, and he slid out of contention.

Piquet held 5th place, which initially appeared as if it wouldn’t be enough. However, Reutemann’s gearbox proved to be decisive, with the Argentinian dropping to 8th with only 7 laps to go, handing the title lead back to Piquet. The two points for 5th place would be enough – if he was able to stay there.

The oppressive heat and anti-clockwise nature of the Caesar’s Palace track was torturing the drivers, and Nelson’s head was visibly rolling about in the cockpit. He just about made it around the final laps, but had to take 15 minutes to recover from heat exhaustion before taking the podium. Piquet’s struggles meant that the title was undecided until the very last corner – but it wasn’t the last time that this happened.

Part 2 of this article will be up soon.

Are tarmac run-off areas ruining F1 tracks?

The Autodromo Carlos Pace in Interlagos, Brazil, has undergone several changes ahead of this year’s Brazilian Grand Prix, which of course hosts the finale to this year’s gripping title battle.

However, those changes include a complete neutering of the classic “Senna S” – otherwise known as turns 1 and 2. In short, the grass to the right of turn 1 has been replaced with tarmac run-off, allowing displaced cars to re-enter the track easily.

The problem with this is that is shoots down most chances of a dramatic start to the Grand Prix. Any cars that make a mistake at turn 1 will be easily able to rejoin the action with little to no penalty.

More modern F1 tracks are lambasted for having too much run-off area, so are these tarmac car parks dampening the appeal of F1 circuits?

The argument for tarmac run-off

To start, tarmac run-off isn’t in any way the death of Formula 1. While it comes with its disadvantages, there are several aspects that have led to its widespread introduction.

Safety, as always, is key in F1, as the sport continues to excel in protecting the lives of its drivers. Gravel traps are notorious for causing F1 cars to flip, as their centre of gravity is too low. In other cases, the car will not slow down enough before it hits a barrier.

Grass features in nearly every F1 circuit (real or artificial), but it too comes with its dangers. In the wet, grass turns into a complete deathtrap, as drivers will find themselves helpless as they aquaplane straight off the track if they make a single error. Where grass features next to the white line in the braking area of a corner, it can completely spin a car if a wheel leaves the track.

Tarmac run-off eliminates all of these issues. In situations where a car snaps sideways, the driver would be able to correct a potential spin, and rejoin the track without too much lost time. It tends to slightly reward “enthusiastic” driving, as drivers won’t be punished as much for pushing hard during a stint.

Damaged “purity” of Formula 1

Irate nostalgic fans will be quick to bemoan new tarmac run-off areas, complaining that they dilute F1’s appeal, are too accommodating to mistakes, and don’t punish the drivers enough.

It is a fair point. With too many run-off areas, we wouldn’t have as many dramatic exits from Grand Prix, or near-crashes, such as Lewis Hamilton’s close shave with the barriers in the dying laps of Belgium 2010.

The legendary circuit of Spa, while still incredibly challenging, has had its appeal reduced somewhat, with many corners now supporting huge run-off areas for the sake of promoting better racing. Pouhon is the best example, with the run-off area even bigger than the area of the entire corner sequence itself. It’s disappointing to see drivers make an error in the corner, slip wide, then rejoin a few seconds later as if nothing had happened.

This isn’t restricted to just old circuits. The Shanghai International Circuit hosts enormous run-off sections at every single corner, and it shows. They’re ugly, over-effective, and push the fans away from the track itself. On television, newer viewers will struggle to locate the actual racing line itself, with vast expanses of tarmac in every direction.

Does this mean that it’s a bad racing circuit? No, but it does it no favours.

A possible compromise? Abrasive surfaces at Paul Ricard

The Paul Ricard circuit uses abrasive metallic strips to slow down cars - the future of F1?

The Paul Ricard circuit uses abrasive metallic strips to slow down cars – the future of F1?

With the New Jersey Grand Prix delayed until 2014, rumours have surfaced that the Circuit Paul Ricard in France is to host a once-off F1 race next season. I had a look at the circuit in detail, and noticed how the designers had compromised between run-off areas and punishing drivers.

Paul Ricard features visually distinctive red and blue abrasive run-off zones, which punish mistakes dearly, as well as preventing cars from heavy crashes. In the picture to the right, the blue-striped area will slow the car down moderately, allowing the driver to rejoin the track with little danger. However, small tungsten strips in this section will also damage the user’s tyres as a result, providing a deterrent to leaving the track.

The red-striped areas behind will destroy any set of tyres, providing the maximum level of grip to slow a car before an impact with the barrier. Any F1 car that ran over this section would immediately be forced to pit for a new set of tyres, similar to how gravel traps will ruin the rubber on any set of Pirellis.

Is this the compromise that F1 may be forced to make? It’s certainly a good idea, but I can’t see it being implemented into every circuit – the cost of the tungsten run-off is apparently too high for most tracks to utilise.

However, it appears to pose an excellent balance between punishing mistakes and allowing drivers to race aggressively.

What do you think? Should abrasive run-offs be implemented to appease both sides of this argument?

An amateur’s guide to photography and taking F1 photos

This year’s British Grand Prix was my first ever live Formula 1 race, and a chance to see how I could fare with some half-decent photographic equipment in my hands.

I was fairly happy with the photos I took, but in no way did they compare to proper professional photos. Still, it was a seriously fun experience, and I thought that I’d write a relatively basic guide to shooting F1 cars for enthusiasts.


Like I said, I’m only an amateur/enthusiast photographer, so don’t take this article as absolutely essential guide – there’s thousands of better motorsports photographers out there.

My personal favourite F1 photographers are Keith Sutton and Jamey Price. If you wanted a more complete F1 photography guide, take a look at their shots for inspiration.

Camera gear

It’s fairly basic, but also essential that you know your gear before heading off.

For newcomers or general amateurs, a basic point-and-shoot is all you’ll need or want. The most important thing is that it’s easy to understand and use, as well as having some decent shooting quality. My personal preference is the Canon Powershot G series, but they’re a bit pricey. A Panasonic Lumix DMC is good as well.

However, bear in mind that point-and-shoots will lack in quality, especially when zoomed in. If you’re looking for sharp images, then you should move on to DSLRs.

A low-end DSLR will set you back around €400+ for the body only, then you have to look for a suitable lens. If you want to spend less, take a look at a used Canon 450D or equivalent. Personally, I use a Nikon D3100, which is fine, but not particularly sharp.

The more important aspect is the lens you’ll be using. The general consensus is that your telephoto lens’ focal length should exceed 200mm at the very least. I used a Sigma 70-300mm (€150), and that was plenty to get close-ups while sitting in the stands.

Newcomers may be confused at to why some telephotos like mine only cost €150, while there are 70-200mm lenses on sale for over €1000. For advanced users, focal length isn’t the main issue – it’s low f-stops (aperture) and maximum sharpness. I’ll get into this technical aspect later.

Still, my main piece advice for amateurs and budding enthusiasts is the same – bring more memory cards and batteries than you can handle. You’ll want to take as many pictures as possible, and to have your camera run out of space/battery in the middle of the day isn’t something you want to experience.

Practice, practice, practice

I’ve been practicing photography for over 2 years now, and I still can’t exploit the full potential of a low-end DSLR. This is something you’ll want to minimize before heading to a race, as you need to know exacyly how your camera is going to perform.

The best move you can do is practice using your camera as much as possible, even if it’s a point-and-shoot. Having spent a lot of my time shooting badly-lit local gigs, I was caught out with the amount of light available at the race weekend, and it showed in my Friday photos.

Taking pictures of moving objects is a good way to get used to the camera. While doing this, it’s best to fiddle around with a few options on your camera’s manual mode setting, namely ISO, shutter speed and f-stop (aperture).

ISO is a dead acronym, formerly used to describe how sensitive a reel of photo film would be to light. The higher the ISO, the brighter the picture, but at the expense of “grainy” images. In bright daylight, grain isn’t as noticable, but if it rains or gets darker, you’ll notice fairly quickly how your images deteriorate. With digital cameras, ISO now refers to how sensitive the actual camera sensor (in the camera body) will be.

Shutter speed refers to how long the lens shutter stays open. If the light is good, you’ll be shooting F1 cars at 1/200th of a second and quicker. If your picture is too bright, increase shutter speed (eg, to 1/320th), and if it’s too dark, slow it down, to say 1/100th of a second.

The third factor is, to me, is the trickiest – the F-stop. The f-stop, or aperture, refers to how much light is taken in by the camera while the shutter is open. If you are running a high f-stop (eg. f/8), your images will have less light, but the focus is sharper, and more of the photo frame will be in focus. A lower f-stop (f/2.8) will allow for much brighter pictures, but it will be trickier to get the subject into focus.

Applying technical knowledge into photos

If you’re new to the photographic experience, you should probably skip this one – it’s best to master the basics first.

Utilising the shutter speed, f-stop and ISO of a camera will help you perfect a photograph – far better than the camera’s auto mode. However, in order to make your photos stand out from the crowd, you may want to get a little artistic.

If you’re used to your camera, and have a decent lens, you should be able to get a nice stable, sharp shot of an F1 car, disregarding composition of the picture. But, many of your shots will end up looking the same this way.

My favourite F1 photos are of the car in perfect focus, but the background blurred perfectly, to give the viewer a true experience of the sheer speed. Technically, this is quite difficult for beginners and sometimes intermediates, because you’ll have to apply technical knowledge of the camera in a different manner.

To blur your shots, select a much slower shutter speed (eg. 1/25th), and raise your f-stop accordingly to balance out the light. When taking the shot, you’ll have to pan the camera with the moving target, keeping the car in the exact same spot in the frame at all times. I struggle to master this technique, but if you can pull it off, it makes for a very nice shot indeed.

Photo composition

This section is much more broad, since all good photographers express their photos differently.

If you’re happy that you can get the light balance correct in a photo, and can make different types of shots using different techniques, then you can move on to composition.

However, how you line up your shot, and how you execute it, is completely up to you. Personally, I try to get as low as possible, to make the F1 car appear more important and intimidating, but this is nearly impossible from the middle of a grandstand.

Taking a general admission space at an F1 race is also another way to go, but then you’re restricted to a certain style of shot, so you’ll have to keep moving around to keep your shots interesting.

The high-end F1 photographers are the ones to look to for the best composition inspiration. Putting the F1 car out of focus, or at the edge of the shot, can make for some stunning pictures, but this is best left to the experts.

At the end of the day, composition is best learned with experience – learn the basics, shoot the types of pictures that you enjoy, and go from there.

Other advice

  • Don’t spend all of the weekend behind the camera – enjoy the view and the noise!
  • Try to take pictures of the atmosphere as well, it makes it much more enjoyable looking back
  • Try to review your photos in the evenings, and see what makes a good photo.
  • Increased work brings rewards in photography. Try different things and see how your work improves
  • Better gear does not equal better photos. If you don’t 100% know why you need the new Canon 1DX, you don’t need it.

About me

I shot the 2012 British Grand Prix on a Nikon D3100, a 50mm and 70-300mm, and lots and lots of SD cards.

My half-decent shots from the weekend are available here.

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.

2012 half-way driver rankings: 2nd – 1st

In the last of 4 articles, I rank the 24 drivers from the 2012 season so far in terms of their performances.

After the three previous articles, we are left with Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Without delay, here is the final post:

(Note: I can’t post any pictures for the moment because of my useless internet connection, sorry about that)

2nd: Lewis Hamilton

Previous ranking: 6th out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “Wonderful passes in China and Germany were a demonstration of how good a driver he is.”

2012 has seen a new evolution in Lewis Hamilton – no longer is he getting caught up in unnecessary crashes, or off-track whingeing. His pace is further improved, and with a new consistency, he may be able to finally make his way back to the top.

In the opening races, what surprised me the most, amidst the action-packed racing, was Hamilton’s consistency. Three third-places in three races didn’t set the world on fire, but allowed him to slowly move up the standings. He then began to suffer from a series of misfortunes – none of which were his fault – and he has not been able to recover his championship position yet.

He has, though, been able to show us why he is such a feared driver. He remained calm to pass Fernando Alonso in Canada, taking a well-overdue victory, then decisively held back the Lotuses in Hungary. Nothing dramatic, just well-disciplined racing.

His form against Jenson Button is as impressive as ever: 9 times he has qualified ahead of Jenson, by over 0.4 seconds on average. He keeps this pace into Sunday, beating his fellow Brit 7 times so far, and unsurprisingly holds a good lead in the championship.

Hamilton is the only driver to get into Q3 for every single qualifying session so far this year, and that speaks volumes.

1st: Fernando Alonso

Previous ranking: 1st out of 28

Review from previous ranking: “While his championship challenge failed to materialise, he pushed maximum performance out of a lifeless car, and put that Ferrari where no other driver could.”

The last time I did this review, I was unsure whether to put Alonso or Vettel at the top. There is no such doubt this time.

Roll back to Australia, and you can see how dreadful a car the F2012 is. I am adamant that no driver in the field could control it – not even Alonso, who his the grass and spun into the gravel in Q2. Nevertheless, he survived, and managed to beat the Lotuses and Saubers in the race, a seriously impressive drive.

Despite the horrible car, it only took one more race for Fernando to take control of the championship. Where other drivers faltered, he powered through the soaked Malaysia track, luckily holding off the charging Sergio Perez. Since then, Alonso’s fearsome pace has been undeniable.

I can only describe his thrashing of Felipe Massa as a total massacre. He has out-qualified the Brazilian in every single quali session. He has beaten Massa in every single race this year. He has spent all but 15 laps ahead of the other Ferrari. All of this has combined to make Alonso the undeniable leader of the Ferrari team.

He has been willing to take risky strategies to win more races. He took tyre gambles in Canada and Silverstone, and though neither fully paid off, they displayed his fighting spirit. It took until the final few laps for the Spaniard to surrender the lead in Montreal and Britain.

After his initial struggles, he has been able to compete in Q3 9 times, compared to 4 times by Massa. Despite an incredibly inferior car, he has been able to pull out a 40-point lead in the championship, the most astonishing feat I have ever seen in my time watching Formula 1.

With this season, I has absolutely no doubt that we are in a golden age of F1. We have some of the best drivers ever seen in this sport’s illustrious history, and leading them all is this spirited and incredibly talented Spaniard. At this stage, for Alonso never to get a third title would be a tragedy.

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.