Tag Archives: Jenson Button

2013 half-way driver rankings: 13th – 5th

In the second of 3 articles, I rank this season’s drivers according to how I felt they performed so far this year.

This section deals with drivers from teams like Toro Rosso all the way up to Red Bull. Let’s start with driver #13…

13th – Mark Webber

Previous ranking: 12th

Previous quote: “Despite his protests, he is the perfect number 2 driver to partner Vettel.”

Another disappointing season for Mark Webber looks to be on the cards, although this one will certainly be his last. After the events of Malaysia, I doubt he will ever win another race again.

It’s true that he has faced his usual share of bad luck. Issues like two botched pit stops in China and Germany have been well documented, but at the end of the day, at no point has Mark ever challenged for victory this year. His two podiums in Monaco and Silverstone came only because of the misfortune of others, particularly in the latter case.

Even more worryingly, he hasn’t finished in front of Sebastian Vettel at any point in 2013 – in qualifying or the race. There is a point where you cannot keep blaming bad luck or a rogue teammate, but it seems as if the message was lost on Webber.

Mark’s regular post-race whinge will be absent next year, to be replaced by infrequent sniping at the state of F1, and how it was so much better in the good old days, etc etc. I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it.

12th – Jean-Eric Vergne

Previous ranking: 21st

Previous quote: “Toro Rosso will now overlook him while they search for Mark Webber’s eventual replacement in the future.”

While I correctly called that Vergne would be overlooked for the Red Bull seat, I didn’t predict the improvement that we’d see in the Toro Rosso teammates. Like Riccardo, Jean-Eric has grown into a rather solid and dependable driver, without any loss in speed.

While he has been annihilated in qualifying by an embarrassing margin, Vergne has made up for it in the races, never finishing any lower than 12th, excluding DNFs. Compare this to Daniel Ricciardo, who has finished lower than 12th 4 times already, and the Frenchman’s consistency is clear to see.

A fantastic race weekend in Canada is undoubtedly the highlight of his year so far, out-pacing most of the field apart from the top 3 teams. However, his Webber-esque qualifying performances do him no good whatsoever, and tends to blight his race weekends before they’ve gotten properly underway.

I’m disappointed that he’s been passed over for being Webber’s replacement, but I’m confident that Vergne will be able to improve with Toro Rosso for years to come.

11th – Sergio Perez

Previous ranking: 10th

Previous quote: “A poor end to 2012 signals that Perez may not be completely ready for his big break.”

At the start of the 2013 season, it seemed as though my fears were confirmed. Struggling to get to grips with the car, Perez only broke into Q3 once in the first 4 races. However, an impressive turnaround has shown a vast improvement by Checo, much to the displeasure of his teammate.

I mention this because as the season continues, we are treated to more and more inter-McLaren duels, most of which end with Perez in front and Button fuming over the radio. Enjoyable as it is to watch, it also shows that Sergio is threatening to out-pace Jenson after only 10 races in the team – not a bad feat at all.

But his season has already taken some downturns, not least at Monaco. Despite some rather ambitious and impressive overtakes, Perez soon got over-enthusiastic, and clashed with Kimi Raikkonen as a result. That aside though, with the midfield machinery at his disposal, it’s been a relatively impressive start to his McLaren career.

10th – Adrian Sutil

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

A year’s absence has surely hurt Sutil’s hopes of progressing up the grid, but he’s still doing a respectable job in the Force India in 2013.

Superb drives in Australia and Monaco have been his highlights so far, and out-pacing Sebastian Vettel in the middle stint at Melbourne was no mean feat either. There’s little to choose between the two Force India drivers in general, but where Sutil seems to excel at is qualifying. He has broken into Q3 5 times already this year, compared to just 2 for Paul di Resta.

Unfortunately, the VJM06 is proving to be extremely difficult to handle on the new Kevlar-belted tyres, and this could hurt Sutil’s chances badly going into the second half of 2013.

9th – Paul di Resta

Previous ranking: 13th

Previous quote: “He has the talent to push for podiums in a midfield car.”

Barely missing out on a podium in Bahrain, Di Resta has certainly had good moments this season. Unfortunately, an apparently deteriorating relationship between him and his team isn’t helping matters.

Three ruined qualifying sessions in 4 race weekends was the focal point of this issue, where Paul blasted Force India’s strategies and criticised the team heavily. He and his race engineer have had their fair share of spats, with several team radio clips highlighting the issues within the team.

All of which has overshadowed Di Resta’s impressive streak of points-scoring finishes in 2013. Between China and Britain, he finished in the points 6 times in a row, even after being dropped to the back of the grid in some occasions.

But a worrying drop-off in pace in Hungary spells what may be a drastic loss in form going into the second half of the season for Di Resta.

8th – Jenson Button

Previous ranking: 7th

Previous quote: “It will be interesting to see how he fares as a team leader at McLaren – it can go either brilliantly or disastrously.”

An embarassing loss of form after 2012 has dropped McLaren to competing with Force India for 5th place in the constructor’s championship. But Button has appeared to be unfazed by this change of fortunes, and has driven well in such poor circumstances.

Twice this season he has competed for podiums amongst clearly superior cars, in both Malaysia and Germany. A botched pit stop foiled the former, while backmarkers ruined the latter. Nevertheless, Jenson has dealt with 2013 remarkably well, taking consistent points for the team in most races.

His feud with Sergio Perez has been entertaining, but he seems to have the upper hands in terms of overall points and consistency. With McLaren on a slow mend, a podium this year certainly isn’t out of the question.

7th – Daniel Ricciardo

Previous ranking: 20th

Previous quote: “Another mundane season in the lower midfield will effectively end his career.”

After what I felt was a disappointing 2012, Riccardo has evolved into one of the most promising drivers in recent years, threatening to take the Red Bull seat over Kimi Raikkonen, of all drivers.

As well as domination over his teammate in qualifying, Daniel has often out-performed most of the grid on Saturdays. Breaking into Q3 5 times out of 10 races, he has struggled to turn most of these into points-scoring finishes, but his raw pace is certainly notable.

7th in both qualifying and the race in China put him ahead of Romain Grosjean, and he missed out on a fantastic result at Silverstone after his team made the wrong strategy call. Ricciardo has been stellar in the Toro Rosso, but the question is whether he can perform well enough to take the Red Bull spot for 2014.

It would be almost impossible to score a win in his current car – to replicate Vettel’s Monza 2008 victory – but more consistent points-scoring finishes should seal the deal for 2014.

6th – Nico Hulkenberg

Previous ranking: 5th

Previous quote: “Hulkenberg has done his career the best possible boost. A switch to Sauber may be viewed as a move sideways, but I think it might just pay off.”

Despite an ill-timed switch, Hulkenberg has still proven that he is one of the most exciting talents on the Formula 1 grid.

After the first 4 races, he had led the most laps out of any driver, a stellar achievement given what a poor car the Sauber C32 is. In terms of race finishes, all Nico has been able to do is drag his car into the points, but this is still head and shoulders above what Esteban Gutierrez has managed.

It is clear that he has excelled in situations where other cars have chewed their tyres up. He started on the medium tyres in China, picking off Red Bulls and McLarens before later dropping back. However, when the Sauber burns out his tyres, he is completely helpless, like in Monaco.

The switch to Kevlar-belted tyres seems to have given Sauber a little boost, so I expect to see Hulkenberg continue to impress throughout 2013.

5th – Nico Rosberg

Previous ranking: 6th

Previous quote: “A disastrous end to the season for Mercedes has held back Nico from performing better.”

After 3 seasons of beating Michael Schumacher, Rosberg was still treated with suspicion as to the extent of his driving talent. The fact that he has squared up to – and sometimes beaten – Lewis Hamilton has surely alleviated these worries.

Two emphatic wins are his highlights so far, but both came with plenty of luck. In Monaco, he was able to back up the entire grid throughout the race without being passed – a feat impossible anywhere else. And the win in Silverstone dropped into his lap after Hamilton’s tyres exploded and Vettel retired.

Still, he has been rather impressive this year, almost always on Hamilton’s pace, but he has taken the brunt of Mercedes’ poor reliability so far. He was instructed to hold off passing Lewis in Malaysia, which didn’t help his points tally, but surely improved his standing within the team.

However, as Hamilton becomes increasingly comfortable in the W04, we may see Rosberg being outperformed more and more often.

2012 final driver rankings: 7th – 3rd

In the third of 4 articles, I rank the drivers from the 2012 season in terms of how they performed across the entire year.

Part 3 includes drivers from Red Bull, McLaren, Force India and Mercedes:

7th – Jenson Button

Previous ranking: 12th

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

Like Webber, there are two ways of looking at Jenson Button’s season. He certainly took impressive wins at the start and end of 2012, and crushingly dominated in Belgium. But you have to doubt his team leader role next year, when he slides around the track in 16th place for weeks on end.

Button’s struggles with the MP4-27 are well documented, but the car is not entirely to blame. Like in 2009, Jenson seems to work his way into a bad spot, and cannot pull himself out, in terms of car development.

This resulted in a disastrous few races near the start, where he slithered around the racetrack, taking a pathetic 16th place in Monaco and Canada. It is completely unacceptable of a former world champion to fail so badly, and rule himself out of the title fight.

Granted, he did finish within 2 points of Lewis Hamilton, but this is mostly down to Lewis’ terrible luck. Button simply spent too much of the season finishing 4th or 5th to make an impact at the front.

It will be interesting to see how he fares as a team leader at McLaren – it can go either brilliantly or disastrously.

6th – Nico Rosberg

Previous ranking: 7th

Previous quote: “It’s the same old story for Rosberg – a great driver held back by an unpredictable car.”

Not much changes for Rosberg in this sport. Once again, a disastrous end to the season for Mercedes has held back Nico from performing better.

His emphatic win in China was obviously the standout moment, and he hounded Mark Webber in Monaco all the way to the chequered flag.

However, apart from that, the slowing pace of the W03 limited his charge. Chasing performance from the double DRS system instead of Coanda exhausts, they fell behind their rivals, ruling out Rosberg from scoring a single point after Singapore.

Will 2013 be the same story? Unfortunately, it appears that way. Despite Lewis Hamilton joining the squad, the team are not hopeful about their W04′s potential, and are instead looking towards 2014 to leap up the field. You’ve got to wonder if Rosberg will bother waiting.

5th – Nico Hulkenberg

Previous ranking: 13th

Previous quote: “So far, it is almost too close to call, but I think that Paul [Di Resta] has a slight edge over Nico at the moment.”

After a slugglish return to Formula 1, Nico Hulkenberg is back on form.

Taking advantage of the first corner pile-up, he snatched a brilliant 4th in Belgium, even leading the race for a while. His form towards the end of the season was impressive, and his 6th, 7th and 8th-placed finishes do not represent how well he drove.

His drive in Brazil was one of the best of the 2012 season. Personally I feel he was hard done by with the penalty, and without that clash with Hamilton, probably would have gone on to win the race.

In contrast to Paul di Resta’s terrible end to the season, Hulkenberg has done his career the best possible boost. A switch to Sauber may be viewed as a move sideways, but I think it might just pay off.

4th – Sebastian Vettel

Previous ranking: 4th

Previous quote: “Vettel is still completely sheltered by his team [...] he still has to develop as a driver”

The “test” I mentioned in 2011 came true in 2012, and Sebastian passed it with flying colours. Recovering from a poor start to the season, he stamped his authority on the rest of the field, and took a well-deserved third title.

So why is he out of the top three? Firstly, although it’s only a small issue, I’m still bothered by his childishness at times. After being held up by Narain Karthikeyan in Austin, despite the fact that there was nothing the HRT could do, Vettel claimed that the Indian had lost him the race. Worryingly, his team backed him up, which only supports Red Bull’s Ferrari-like arrogance.

The other issue is that his performances appear to be directly proportionate to his car’s speed in relation to the rest of the grid. In simpler terms, the majority of his wins came from when the Red Bull was the class of the field. Out of his 5 wins, the only one where his car wasn’t the fastest was Bahrain, and even that is debatable.

Obviously, he’s still a seriously fast driver. Just look at his drives in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, and you’ll have no doubts that he’s a deserving world champion yet again. But I still think that he was out-performed by other drivers on the grid. It’s been said many times, but if you compare Fernando Alonso’s and Lewis Hamilton’s performances this year to Vettel, the German loses out by a considerable margin.

It says a lot that the fastest driver is widely not considered to be the best on the grid. Perhaps that’s down to the brilliant quality of drivers we have at the moment, but nevertheless Vettel still has more work to do to be the best in Formula 1.

The heroes of Interlagos 2012

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

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

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

Sebastian Vettel

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

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

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

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

Nico Hulkenberg

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

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

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

Felipe Massa

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

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

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

Lewis Hamilton

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

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

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

Kimi Raikkonen

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

Button crushes opposition with dominant Spa victory

Jenson Button has taken a dominative victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, leading every single lap. The McLaren driver utilised a 1-stop strategy and excellent pace to win by 15 seconds from Sebastian Vettel, who made several well-judged passes during the race. A huge crash at the first corner shook up the grid, allowing Nico Hulkenberg to take a brilliant fourth.

Kimi Raikkonen disappointed with 3rd place, while three of the frontrunners failed to finish the first lap. This is what happened…

At the start, it appeared as if Pastor Maldonado had massively jumped the start, leaping up to second place from 6th. A huge pile-up occurred at La Source, as Romain Grosjean clashed with Lewis Hamilton. The McLaren and Lotus cars careered into the first corner, taking out both Saubers, and smashing into Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari.

With debris everywhere, the safety car was an absolute must, as the marshals cleared up the carnage. Kamui Kobayashi pitted for a new front wing, while Sergio Perez, Alonso, Hamilton and Grosjean were all eliminated.

The safety car pitted at the end of Lap 4, allowing Button to defend his lead against Raikkonen. Further back, Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel made progress, slicing past Heikki Kovalainen for 10th and 11th places.

Amazingly, the Force Indias were on fine form, Nico Hulkenberg putting a surprise pass on Kimi Raikkonen for 2nd. Michael Schumacher passed the other Force India for 4th position, having gained 9 positions in the opening laps.

Vettel soon out-braked Massa for 10th place, while teammate Mark Webber put pressure on Bruno Senna for 8th. However, the Red Bull’s short gearing system meant that he was unable to utilise DRS. Sebastian became impatient on the radio, and decided to make a move on the sister Red Bull.

Daniel Ricciardo furthered the glee of the Toro Rosso crew, passing Paul di Resta for 5th. After falling away drastically from his teammate, the Scot opted to pit on Lap 11, taking on the harder compound tyre. Suffering from the same issue, Webber did the same. He followed Kimi Raikkonen into the pits, who was easily passed by Michael Schumacher.

As Hulkenberg pitted from 2nd, Vettel made further progress, cleverly out-braking Bruno Senna at the Bus Stop chicane. As the order settled down, it became clear that Raikkonen had undercutted Hulkenberg. Soon after, the Lotus put a move on Nico Rosberg, at the same time as Vettel getting past Ricciardo up ahead.

There was more activity, as Ricciardo and Webber got past Nico Rosberg, before the Red Bull made a move on Daniel for 7th.

Vettel was on fire, and quickly was pressurising Michael Schumacher for 2nd. The two went side-by-side through the Bus Stop, but Schumacher caught Vettel unawares as the Mercedes entered the pits. Button pitted on Lap 20, taking on the hard tyres, indicating a 1-stop strategy.

As the order became more clear, Button pulled further and further away at the front, while Raikkonen, Vettel and Hulkenberg all scrabbled to keep up with the McLaren. Felipe Massa’s decent race pace began to deteriorate, being easily passed for 9th by Bruno Senna.

On Lap 28, the 2-stopping drivers began to pit. Hulkenberg, Webber, Massa and Raikkonen all took on fresh tyres, allowing Vettel into clear air in second place.

Having not pitted for a second time, Schumacher began to hold up Raikkonen. The ensuing battle allowed both Hulkenberg and Webber to catch up to the action. By Lap 32, Raikkonen was confident enough to out-brake the Mercedes into La Source. Swiftly after, Hulkenberg was all over the 6-time Spa winner. However, Michael surprised Kimi by being able to deploy DRS to retake his 3rd position.

Raikkonen was having none of it though, putting a brave move on Schumacher through Eau Rouge, in a similar fashion to Mark Webber’s famous pass last year. Hulkenberg tried to take advantage of the slowing Mercedes, going around the outside of La Source, but DRS meant that the Force India stayed in 5th. With 8 laps to go, the team opted to change strategy, putting Schumacher on new medium tyres.

Nico Rosberg suffered from the same issue, and pitted for the third time, dropping out of a points position. Jean-Eric Vergne eased past Bruno Senna for 8th place, and teammate Daniel Ricciardo soon put pressure on the Williams driver. Following the move of Mercedes, Senna decided to take on fresh tyres with 5 laps to go.

At the back, Heikki Kovalainen spun at Pouhon, allowing Pedro de la Rosa in the HRT to move out of last place.

There was nothing left to stop Button, who cruised to the chequered flag to take his second win of the season. Vettel finished 2nd, and Raikkonen struggled to 3rd, complaining to his team of a slow engine mode near the end.

Button takes shock pole position in Spa

Jenson Button caused a huge upset in qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix, taking pole position for the first time in over 3 years. The McLaren dominated Q2 and Q3 to sail to pole, and will be joined on the front row by Kamui Kobayashi.

Sauber were the biggest winners of the day, with Sergio Perez 5th. Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton all disappointed in Q3, while Sebastian Vettel didn’t even make it into the top 10. Here is what happened:

Q1

After heading the field in second practice, Charles Pic was first out of the pits. He briefly led the standings, before Nico Rosberg set a 1:51.125.

Most drivers started off on the harder compound, and it showed, as even Lewis Hamilton struggled to get into the 1:49s. Tyre temperature was clearly an issue, as Felipe Massa slid into the gravel, and Narain Karthikeyan had a moment at Pouhon.

A 1:49.401 put Fernando Alonso on top, while teammate Felipe Massa’s lap was ruined by a slow HRT car. Lewis Hamilton, running a high-downforce setup, could only manage a 1:49.6.

Jenson Button, running a low-downforce configuration, then took top spot with a 1:49.250.

With 5 minutes to go, Kimi Raikkonen was out of the pits, and immediately set the fastest middle sector en route to 3rd. The Red Bulls were next, with Vettel and Webber 6th and 7th respectively.

On the medium tyre, Pastor Maldonado inherited top spot, while Rosberg could only manage 14th. Romain Grosjean decided to take on the softer compound, but had a scare at Pouhon when his Lotus oversteered at nearly 150mph.

Rosberg decided to slow down to get clear space for his final lap, and ended up missing the chequered flag, being knocked out of Q1. This sealed the bottom 7, and ensured that Grosjean’s mistake hadn’t harmed the Lotus.

Drivers knocked out in Q1:

18) Nico Rosberg – 1:50.181

19) Heikki Kovalainen – 1:51.719

20) Vitaly Petrov – 1:51.967

21) Timo Glock – 1:52.336

22) Pedro de la Rosa – 1:53.030

23) Charles Pic – 1:53.493

24) Narain Karthikeyan – 1:54.989

Q2

Sergio Perez was first up, setting a 1:48.880. Mark Webber pipped that time by 0.2 seconds, while Alonso went another 5 hundreths faster.

Hamilton and Raikkonen both set fastest laps, then Button slashed three quarters a second off their times, with a 1:47.654.

Bruno Senna was next to have a huge slide at Pouhon, just about holding the car in the right direction. With 3 minutes to go, most cars left the pits for their final runs.

Felipe Massa moved into the top 10, but was 1.5 seconds off Button’s lap. Pastor Maldonado took 9th, Hulkenberg 10th, while Sergio Perez leaped into 2nd place. There was a huge shock, as Sebastian Vettel only took 11th place, 0.012 seconds off 10th position. Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa both disappointed, neither making it through to Q3.

Drivers knocked out in Q2:

11) Sebastian Vettel – 1:48.792

12) Nico Hulkenberg – 1:48.855

13) Michael Schumacher – 1:49.081

14) Felipe Massa – 1:49.147

15) Jean-Eric Vergne – 1:49.354

16) Daniel Ricciardo – 1:49.543

17) Bruno Senna – 1:50.088

Q3

The McLarens and Lotuses were out first, followed by Paul di Resta and Pastor Maldonado. Raikkonen was up first, setting a 1:48.205. I t appeared as if Hamilton would go faster, but made a huge mistake and ruined his lap.

Jenson Button went 0.6 seconds faster than the Lotus, while Maldonado immediately abandoned his lap. The track went oddly silent, as the drivers waited until the final few minutes to set their fastest laps.

The track temperature rose as the cars left the pits again, helping the performance of the cars.

Kimi Raikkonen’s final lap wasn’t enough to topple Button, not improving on his previous lap. Alonso, Webber and Hamilton all had extremely poor final laps, going 6th, 7th and 8th respectively.

Kamui Kobayashi took a surprise 2nd, with Pastor Maldonado an impressive 3rd. However, the biggest shock of the day was by far the McLaren of Jenson Button, taking another 0.1 seconds off his time, and taking his first pole position since Monaco 2009.

Sergio Perez will line up 5th, making Sauber the biggest winner of the day. Romain Grosjean was a disappointing 9th, and with his gearbox penalty, Webber will drop down to 12th place on the grid.

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.

McLaren and Button set world record with 2.31 second pit stop

A new world record has been set for the fastest pit stop in history, achieved by the McLaren team, with the help of Jenson Button.

Button’s second and last stop at the German Grand Prix took only 2.31 seconds, an absolutely incredible record.

The previous record was believed to be held by Ricardo Patrese, at the Belgian Grand Prix in 1993. His Bennetton team apparently did the stop on 3.2 seconds, but there appears to be no footage of the pit stop itself.

However, this time around, the cameras were waiting to capture this record. At the moment, only a low-quality video is on YouTube, but the sheer speed is still clear to see:

Vettel penalised, drops to 5th place

Sebastian Vettel has been handed a 20-second penalty for his illegal overtake on Jenson Button.

With two laps to go, Sebastian took to the run-off area to pass Jenson, not having a single wheel on the track in the process. He emerged on the track ahead of the McLaren driver. The stewards decided that this constituted an illegal overtake, and served the Red Bull driver the penalty.

This drops Vettel to 5th place in the German Grand Prix standings, while Kimi Raikkonen now inherits third position. Kamui Kobayashi’s day has been improved, the Japanese driver moving up to fourth.

The points standings will be up soon to reflect this change.

Stewards to investigate Vettel pass

Sebastian Vettel’s second position is under threat, as the stewards have announced an investigation into an illegal overtake in the German Grand Prix.

Two laps from the end, Vettel approached the hairpin of the track, on the outside of Jenson Button. While the McLaren gave him room at the exit, Vettel went straight to the run-off area, floored the throttle, and re-entered the track ahead of the McLaren.

On the team radio, Button stated:

"I’m not sure that was correct the way Sebastian got past.

The most important thing is he wouldn’t have overtaken me if he was on the circuit."

Both drivers dodged questions on the matter afterwards, so it will be left to the stewards to see if Vettel keeps his 2nd place. Personally, I feel that Vettel made no attempt to legally pass Button, and wouldn’t have been able to overtake him without putting all 4 wheels off the track.

Update: Here’s a video I found of Michael Schumacher doing the exact same thing 9 years ago. No penalty (or investigation) was given. (Overtake at 2:45)

Button heads rain-disrupted Germany first practice

Button may have taken another step towards curing his recent poor pace

Button may have taken another step towards curing his recent poor pace

The rain once again made a mockery of the Formula 1 paddock, as the German Grand Prix weekend opened to persistent showers and rain. It was Jenson Button who took top spot, as he set his times early, avoiding the rain showers later on.

Teammate Lewis Hamilton was nearly half a second behind, with McLaren testing new sidepods for this weekend. Lewis’ time came at the end of the session, when the track began to dry out.

Williams test driver Valterri Bottas almost beat Button’s time, but a crash in the Stadium section at the end of his lap left him 13th overall.

While Pirelli attempted to run their experimental hard tyre today, the rain ruled out much signs of usable data. Mark Webber set his fastest time on the developing compound, but was 3.5 seconds off the pace in 20th place.

Lotus have brought a raft of upgrades to this Grand Prix, the most interesting being two “ear” intakes on each side of the engine intake. Kimi Raikkonen spent most of FP1 doing short runs, rarely setting a fast time. A “double DRS” system was planned to be raced, but after today’s washout the team have decided not to run the device.

Times from FP1:

 1.  Jenson Button         McLaren-Mercedes        1:16.595          27
 2.  Lewis Hamilton        McLaren-Mercedes        1:17.093  +0.498  22
 3.  Fernando Alonso       Ferrari                 1:17.370  +0.775  21
 4.  Michael Schumacher    Mercedes                1:17.382  +0.787  20
 5.  Sergio Perez          Sauber-Ferrari          1:17.413  +0.818  28
 6.  Nico Hulkenberg       Force India-Mercedes    1:17.599  +1.004  17
 7.  Nico Rosberg          Mercedes                1:17.915  +1.320  27
 8.  Felipe Massa          Ferrari                 1:17.995  +1.400  22
 9.  Pastor Maldonado      Williams-Renault        1:18.020  +1.425  20
10.  Romain Grosjean       Lotus-Renault           1:18.130  +1.535  21
11.  Kamui Kobayashi       Sauber-Ferrari          1:18.226  +1.631  22
12.  Sebastian Vettel      Red Bull-Renault        1:18.339  +1.744  21
13.  Valtteri Bottas       Williams-Renault        1:18.422  +1.827  28
14.  Daniel Ricciardo      Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:18.709  +2.114  30
15.  Kimi Raikkonen        Lotus-Renault           1:18.831  +2.236  14
16.  Jules Bianchi         Force India-Mercedes    1:18.972  +2.377  21
17.  Jean-Eric Vergne      Toro Rosso-Ferrari      1:19.039  +2.444  34
18.  Vitaly Petrov         Caterham-Renault        1:19.674  +3.079  24
19.  Heikki Kovalainen     Caterham-Renault        1:19.963  +3.368  24
20.  Mark Webber           Red Bull-Renault        1:20.122  +3.527  27
21.  Charles Pic           Marussia-Cosworth       1:20.169  +3.574  20
22.  Timo Glock            Marussia-Cosworth       1:20.539  +3.944  18
23.  Pedro de la Rosa      HRT-Cosworth            1:21.138  +4.543  24
24.  Dani Clos             HRT-Cosworth            1:21.740  +5.145  27
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