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Formula 1 Season Summary 2012

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Major signings happened in 2012 silly season, already F1 brings thrill in the form of driver lineup changes. Driver market changes in the off season:

Raikkonen is in! The Finn signed with Lotus Renault in the biggest off-season signing. Whispers that Raikkonen wanted to come back turned into a deal with the top tier 2 team. That means six World Champions racing in 2012 - one quarter of the field!

Grosjean we later found out would join Raikkonen to give Lotus Renault a fresh feeling coming into the season with the GP2 champ and a world champ. This means Petrov is out - will he find a ride? He's likable and with the power of some Russian marketing or industry or government person behind him seems like a respectable driver in F1. Ultimately Petrov lands at formerly-Lotus green and yellow of Caterham.

Ricciardo & Verne in for Buemi & Alguersuari. We knew it could be coming. Either they were both going to stay because they both look decent and have two years experience while still so young, or the hyper-youth movement would accelerate and they would both be gone since neither had emerged above the other or the crowd. Ricciardo has done well in Formula Renault and served as Toro Rosso test driver for the past two years. Vergne won Formula Campos Renault and British F3, serving as test driver while coming in 2nd in the Formula Renault. No margin of error to get into Formula 1 - Top contender in a different series every year.

Hulkenburg in for Sutil. Nico ended on a high note by getting that pole in Brazil 2010, probably after the decision for 2011 had been made. It left a good taste in the mouth of team owners and after sitting test driver as a year for Force India he gets the starting seat. More evidence that the upward graph is mandatory - Sutil performing solidly in 2011 but if you're not going to rise from wherever you are is being taken as sign that you are never going to get to the top. Liuzzi was doing just as well in his debut year but Force India dropped him when facing a decision between two. Di Resta finished lower than Sutil, but his path is upward right now, ride him to see if he improves dramatically in the coming year.

De la Rosa signed at HRT. If he's not gone before the year is out then they have not made any progress at all. What a weak decision, especially in light of the other moves made around the series. Need a driver to develop a car? Sign a guy past his prime that never performed so well in top level experience. Want to see something exciting on the track? Find a driver who might get better week over week.

Senna in and Barrichello out. Though it is actually only a sign of Williams' financial troubles to have two pay drivers instead of a top prospect, Senna's visits to Q3 last year and shining optimism have turned me into a fan.

Australian GP 2012

McLaren quickest in P1. P2 in Australia is our first on-track view of the 2012 season. Hello 2012, with six world champions. Vettel Button Hamilton Raikkonen Schumacher Alonso, and I do not see anyone outside these guys winning the WDC. In fact you can take Kimi and Schumi off the list of likely repeat champions. Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari... will Mercedes or anyone else fight for wins this year? We shall see.


Q1 - Kimi bumped. Stayed on hard tires, and made a mistake coming around for his last flying lap. Kobayashi 1st with 1:26.1 and Raikonnen 18th with a 127.633. Top nine teams within 1.6 seconds!

Q2 - Alonso beached, and neither Ferrari makes it to Q3. Mercedes, McLaren, and Red Bull, then four teams with one car in the top ten. Lotus, Williams, Force India and Toro Rosso battling to make it to the top of tier 2. A developing storyline is the question of Mercedes' air flow vent behind the DRS wing, and whether or not it will help them surmount Ferrari who is starting the aerodynamic game a pace behind.

Q3 - Rosberg the first on track, Hamilton the first (and only) into 1:24s. Schumacher, Grosjean, Button successively take second position away on the last lap, giving us a surprise row 2 (Grosjean and Schumacher) and a McLaren lockout of the front row.
Look at Grosjean smiling. Good for him. Someone get him an English coach.


At the start Rosberg is fantastic, out out outside and up from 4th row to 4th place by the end of turn one. Grosjean is out early, a bit too rough from Maldonado. Vettel went off, then Schumi in the same spot... only Schumi has trouble and has damaged the undertray perhaps transmission out.

A steady long middle of the race as McLaren holds the front with Button 9-ish seconds ahead of Hamilton. Vettel chasing. Petrov's Caterham dies on the front stretch and a Safety Car after McLaren pitted and Vettel had not yet. Button maintains the lead, but Vettel into second as they trail the Safety Car.

Kobayashi passes Kimi but then Maldonado bones it on the last lap. Chaos ensues behind, as positions 6th through 13th shuffle on the final turns. Riccardio, who had been posting leading sector times all day, jumped from 12th to 9th, and Kobayashi and Raikkonnen both benefitted the Rosberg-Perez incident which ruined Nico's day. Here's Rosberg's video blog on the incident on the last lap.

Button runs away with it, a pleased Vettel and less-pleased Hamilton share the podium.

Result - Button, Vettel, Hamilton

Malaysian GP 2012

Ricciardo near the front throughout practice sessions, more good showing from the youngster. The weekend showed that speeds under varying conditions and throughout tire wear affect how a team performs on race day.


Q1 - Raikkonen straight to the 1:37s, then the four Mercedes improve upon that. HRT makes it in. Vergne is the loser (18th) and Toro Rosso looking much slower in quali than in practice.

Q2 - Massa off the gas for what would have been his last hot lap, out again. Lotus gets both Kimi and Grosjean in, making it a top five teams battle - Lotus, Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, and McLaren. Only Massa sits outside the big boys club, instead its Perez in the Sauber on to Q3. The times shoot down and Vettel, who parked it with a 1:37.4, made it through by just a tenth of a second.

Q3 - On-board shots of Raikkonen fast and fighting it on a few corners. Alonso comes out for just one fast lap. For all the dominance of aerodynamics in shaping modern F1, the pack is grouped by engine makers. First McLaren and their engine supplier Mercedes. Then Renault customer engines Lotus and Red Bull. Next Ferrari and their customer Sauber

Interview room - 3 world champions, as it was post-race Australia, but this time they are all Mercedes engines, and one of them is Schumacher for the first time since 2006.

Photo credit Eugene Kaspersky


Intermediate tires for everyone, then on lap 1 the track does not appear to be too wet. Grosjean passes Webber and Schumacher to third going deep, Michael comes in to fight but Grosjean keeps it. Webber goes around them both on the outside to 3rd a few turns later. Grosjean and Schumi touch - Michael would 180 and drop seven or eight spots. Perez first to go for full wets, then Massa. Grosjean spins and beaches it. McLaren comes in on consecutive laps, Red Bull stacked. Perez in 3rd by pitting first!

Safety Car!

Vergen also benefitted from strategy, up to seventh. Karthikeyan in 10th, having started on full wets. One lap into restart Button from second, and all the cars in the back, dive into the pits for intermediates. Most others come in on the next lap. Hamilton stalls! Button hits Karthikeyan, possibly confused on having to pass HRT for position.

Alonso stays strong in front while Massa goes backward. Schumi and Rosberg go backward too. Perez may have reached Alonso to challenge, but one mistake kept him a few seconds back. Vettel cuts a tire on Karthikeyan and comes home outside the points.

Result - Alonso, Perez, Hamilton

Also in Malaysia we saw a beautifully-executed Stack. With pit stops now sub-two seconds, at a race in the near future a successful Stack may pay off as a 1-2 result.

Chinese GP 2012


Q1 gets really interesting late in the session as everyone puts on soft tires to drop times 1.5 seconds. Vettel, who felt safe in the high 1:36s, tumbles to 15th and in danger of knockout. Ultimately it's Toro Rosso who gets last, with Ricciardo in and Jean-Eric Vergne out as the Q1 loser.

Vettel out in Q2! Mercedes set the times in 1:35s early, ultimately you would have to get below 1:36 to transfer. Sauber and Lotus are the four besides the expected teams in the top 10.

Early in Q3 Rosberg posts a 1:35.1, with second place a half-second out. Six of ten go out late for only one hot lap. Could it be Nico's first ever pole? ... No one close and Rosberg has it! After Hamilton gets his gearbox grid penalty, Kobayashi starts third behind an all-Mercedes front row.


Rosberg gets away and within laps an amazing strategy unfolds - Michael Schumacher holding up traffic for his teammate! Webber pits first and starts going purple. Hamilton and Raikkonnen pit, coming out next to Webber - Hamilton gets the edge with a superfast stop.

In qualifying and in races this year, the middle teams have really closed the gap to the top teams. When Massa, who by pitting last had inherited the lead, does pit, he comes out in 14th position. Schumacher is released before his right front wheel is secured, and that's his race. Pace and tire wear makes all kinds of battles on track. Webber get off track and with a bump to his front wheels, stands it up like a sprint car powering down the straight. Massa in fifth holds up a train, which after another pit has spots 2nd through 11ths stacked a tenth of a second between each.

Action everywhere! Raikkonen drops from 2nd to 12th in a few miserable corners after his tires go away. A bad pit stop by McLaren traps Button in the pack, and although he finally gets second position, there is not enough time to catch Rosberg. Everyone seems congratulatory toward Rosberg, a man full of promise and with big shoes to fill securing his first victory in dominant fashion.

Result - Rosberg, Button, Hamilton

Bahrain GP 2012

Political mess going into venue skipped last year because of the unrest.


Sand and tire wear meant Q1 times were going to tumble late in the session. Kovalainen bumps Schumacher! Caterham into Q2 shows just how much a warm traffic can bring the times down. Vergne out too, while his teammate Ricciardo will make Q3.

Q2 ends with some late knockouts, Massa, Raikkonen, the Williams duo. In Q3 the top four set times early, then everyone comes out for one lap in the last opportunity of the session. Webber to pole. Vettel to pole! Hamilton to second. Eight different teams make up spots 3-10.


Clean and chaotic competition from the get-go. Grosjean and Raikkonen up, Massa up too. Rosberg, Ricciardo and Hulkenburg drop. About lap 5, Grosjean takes Webber for third and Hamilton for second. Raikkonen passes Massa for seventh and Button for sixth. The Lotuses are fast fast fast!

Tire management takes over. DiResta on a two-stop strategy pits late after a couple laps in the lead. Shortly thereafter he makes a great two-car pass on others fighting togther. Lotuses chasing Vettel, and on lap 34 Raikkonen catches his tail.

With 10 laps left Vettel's lead is a few seconds on Raikkonen, but Kimi again chips away at the gap. Vettel responds and brings home a victory.

Result - Vettel, Raikkonen, Grosjean

Spanish GP 2012


Q1 - With 1 minute left, Ricciardo gets out of 18th, bumping his Toro Rosso teammate Vergne out. Vergne moves up one to bump Senna who is on his last hot lap. Senna loses control in turn 11 and remains the loser of the session. Karthakayian is the embarrassment, far outside the 107% but let in by the stewards.

Q2 - In Q2 everybody gets faster on the last lap. Schumacher & Rosberg come across bumping DiResta and Webber. Maldonado comes across last and records the fastest lap of the weekend yet, bumping Button! Webber and Button, both in the 1:22s, which seemed totally safe will start on row six in the race. Massa in 17th, looking more and more like the twilight of his Ferrari career. Renault and Mercedes the only teams with both cars into Q3.

Q3 - Vettel comes out as soon as the 10 minutes begins, but as time whittles away it looks like most will be focused on one fast lap at the end of the session. Alonso and Raikkonen with great splits on that last lap. Alonso to P1, Raikkonen 2, Perez 3, then Grosjean to 2nd. Maldonado to pole, until bested by Hamilton! Hamilton stops on track and is later sent to the back of the pack for trying to repeat the low-fuel maneuver of Canada 2010.


Maldonado pushes Alonso to the grass, but did he seriously think he could outmaneuver a World Champ? (That and other assumptions to be challenged on this day.) Alonso to the lead. Perez passes Grosjean for fourth, but Grosjean's wing cuts Perez's left rear. Perez does well to keep it out of the gravel and wall.

Red Bull pits on laps 7 & 8, Sauber on 9, Mercedes on 10, Ferrari, Lotus and everyone on 11. The soft tires die quickly, it's presumably hard compound for the rest of the day. On old tires Senna is holding up traffic, Grosjean and Senna touch but continue. Schumacher cannot get by Senna after a couple laps, and into turn 1 Senna jukes and Schumacher plows into him, ending both of their days.

Alonso steady couple seconds in the lead, Maldonado in 2nd, Lotuses (or Loti) in 3rd and 4th. Round of stops, Maldonado pits on lap 24. The Williams comes out flying and when Alonso pits on lap 27, Maldonado had gaived enough to take the lead (once Raikkonen pitted shortly thereafter). The battle for the win controlled by tire management with 20 laps left. Kimi gets new tires with 17 to go, with Alonso's last stop at 20 vs Maldonado's on 23. Kimi catching Alonso at a second per lap, but ends at the line a half second behind. Maldonado fast all day for a well-earned maiden victory.

Result - Maldonado, Alonso, Raikkonen

Monaco GP 2012

Maldonado follows his win with a classly move, deliberately running into Perez during practice and getting a 10-spot grid penalty. Very bad form.


Q1 - Perez hits the wall and brings out the red flag, though much less damage than his crash in qualifying last year. Again best times appear to be set late in the session, Raikkonen and Vettel in danger of getting bumped, forced onto super softs. Perez and the six slow cars out.

Q2 - Vergne gets sideways under braking and clips his wing and limps around the track, effectively ending the first half of the session for everyone. With 4 minutes left everyone is ready to get serious. Massa with the first 1:14 lap of the weekend. Raikkonen gets 10th on his last lap, other than that the end of the session was anti-climactic. 4/10ths of a second separate the top 10.

Q3 - Rosberg and Grosjean in the 1:14s early. Middle of the session stays relatively calms. Webber knocks 2/10ths off Rosberg's time, then unexpectedly across the line comes Schumacher setting the P1 time! Final lap and no one improves, the seven-time champ has gone truly fast for the first time since his return. Of course the 5-spot grid penalty for running into Senna in Spain mean he starts in sixth


Off the line Grosjean gets close to Alonso and winds up sideways, blocking Schumacher a moment and sending several cars through the cut-off zone of turn one. Kobayashi hits Grosjean's wheel and bounces straight in the air. He continues for a few laps until presumably damage became apparent. Maldonado also out on lap one, de la Rosa limping back to the pits with a dangling back wing. The crippled cars cannot be cleared in time and it's Safety Car on lap two.

Follow the leader for the next half hour. Raikkonen backs up a train of cars. Pits around lap 30. Alonso passes Hamilton by pitting one lap earlier. Vettel started on the harder tire and stays out till lap 47th, securing 4th after coming out of the pits. With 10 laps to go positions 1 through 5 are nose-to-tail. Times begin to get slower as sprinkles make braking slippery. Vergne pits for intermediates from 8th in a strategic move hoping the rain will increase. That move backfires. The top five stay close but never pass each other, Webber brings home the victory.

Result - Webber, Rosberg, Alonso

Canadian GP 2012

Can Hamilton, Kimi, Schumi, Perez, Grosjean, DiResta or Massa give us a seventh winner for the year?


Q1 - Just about everyone took a turn at the top of the time sheets in Q1. Williams and Toro Rosso struggle near the bottom; ultimately Vergne is the loser of the session, qualifying behind the Caterhams.

Q2 - The top six set low 1:14s and sit in the pits while the other 11 duke it out. Lotus, Sauber, Force India, and the slower halves of Ferrari and McLaren trade positions, with Grosjean, DiResta, Massa and Button clinching it to push Kobayashi and Raikkonen to row six. Maldonado spins within sight of the checkers, avoiding a devastating crash into Wall of Champions with a zig-zagged 360.

Q3 - Red Bull, Ferrari, and McLaren battle for pole as usual, with Mercedes at the back of the top 10. DiResta goes out late for Force India for just one lap and can only manage 8th. Vettel, the only one in the 1:13s, takes pole.


Clean start, and a parade begins. Massa passes Rosberg but then spins to give up seven spots, then pits to go back to 20th. Schumacher's wing gets stuck in open-DRS mode, forcing his fifth retirement of the year. I take a nap.

Photo credit of Lewis - Travis Rock

Tire strategy dominates the path to victory again. Pitting a lap later helped both Hamilton and Alonso jump Vettel. Hamilton then passed Alonso on-track. Alonso and Vettel tried a 1-stop strategy, chased by Hamilton who had pitted with 20 laps left. Radio transmissions betrayed a hint of worry from McLaren when it became clear the other two were not pitting, but their choice was confirmed as Hamilton reined in on both to take the lead. Red Bull adjusted their strategy and stopped for tires with just six laps remaining; it took only four laps to then catch Alonso, who was circling 3-4 seconds per lap slower. While the battle for the potential win had been going on, Grosjean and Perez quietly conserved their tires, both catching Alonso to get on the podium.

Result - Hamilton, Grosjean, Perez

European GP 2012


Q1 - Webber pits over transmission issues of some sort, comes back out but not fast enough. Aborts last lap, says later DRS was not working. Kovalainen bumps Vergne! Williams and Force India atop time sheets. Webber and Vergne the losers, Kovalainen the winner.

Q2 - Mercedes, Force India, Lotus top sheets with 2 laps left. Times tumbling for everyone except Toro Rosso and Caterham. Everyone seems to have a chance. Ferraris out! Mercedes, Sauber, and Williams each have one car in the top ten.

Q3 - Four drivers put a lap on the books, but most waiting for one-to-two hot laps. Grosjean out first in last run, first to take pole. Maldonado to pole. Vettel to pole. Hamilton to second.


The Lotuses and Maldonado battle, block and trade blows around the first few corners. Battles throughout the field but no severe contact. Incredibly close racing.
Three of the top five are potential 8th winners in the 8th race of the year. Vettel has pulled away. Raikkonen passes Kobayashi in the pits, then Alonso gets them both just barely coming out of the pits two laps later. 7th through 15th nose to tail on lap 20. Dicey.

Contact! Safety car. Shredded tires everywhere. Leaders pit, it's the two Loti versus Vettel and Alonso. Can a Lotus win it? Will Vettel continue to dominate? On lap 33 the restart begins to bring answers. Vettel's car dies! Alonso passes Grosjean and inherits the lead. After starting 11th he comes roaring around the corner in the lead. Grosjean out, same Renault engine as Vettel. Raikkonen takes second from Hamilton and briefly looks like he might have the speed to charge toward Alonso. Maldonado battle down the straight is wheel to wheel, then he and Hamilton knock each other out. Maldonado has a bit of the old Webber in him, and will hold his line even it means taking himself out too. Alonso, Raikkonen, Schumacher podium. In 2012, a 1000-1 shot for sure.

Result - Alonso, Raikkonen, Schumacher

British GP 2012

Friday practice wet. Senna banged his car up good.


Q1 - Rain light at the start, everybody out early to try to transfer before the rain buckets down. Button in 18th gets one hot lap to try to jump to Q2. Rosberg on the bubble. Button up through two sectors, but a yellow slows him and leaves him the loser of Q1.

Q2 - Full wets for the session. Schumacher, Alonso, and Massa spin. Red flag. Everyone goes P1 with 1 minute to go in the session. The full wets have cleared the track, and not exactly a dry line but a better one appears, everyone finding time in sector 3. Grosjean makes it to Q3 but beached it on the last lap of Q2, so will start 10th instead of potentially higher up.

Q3 - With 2:16 to go Alonso is on top with either a dry line or a sudden sprinkle expected to shape the last couple laps. Alonso keeps it.


Petrov out before the race begins, engine failure on the installation lap. Alonso and Webber criss-cross protectively, Massa piques Vettel. Kimi makes a bold move on Vettel in the turn 3-4 sequence, but Vettel holds. A Force India get squirrely in front of a Renault - Di Resta's day ruined with a flat right right rear, and Grosjean also must pit for a new wing.

Lap 2 Grosjean gets wide, Button goes for a pass but in their battle Kobayashi gets them both. Maldonado pushes Raikkonen off track, continuing to make it clear he'd rather wreck than give an inch.

Ten laps in, Alonso and Webber 4 seconds up on Schumacher, who is building a train of Massa, Vettel, Raikkonen, Maldonado, Hamilton, Perez, Senna.

Vettel in. Massa gets Schumacher. Perez climbs out of his Maldonado-battered car, later gives a perfect summary of Maldonado: "he is a stupid driver, he should not be here." Great passes through Abbotts-Becketts.

First cycle of pit stops. Hamilton and Alonso on lap 19 was beautiful to watch. Alonso leads Webber. Vettel ahead of Massa. Schumacher holds up Raikkonen and Hamilton, with both single-time world champs eventually getting the seven-timer.

Alonso's pit on lap 38 may determine the outcome. He comes out still 4.5 seconds ahead of Webber. Webber slowly reels him in. With 6 laps to go Webber is on his tail. Alonso on tired softs and Webber on hards. Webber gets him with 4 to go and pulls away. Raikkonen closes on Massa for 4th but Massa holds him off. Senna gets Hulkenberg on a beautiful set of esses.

Result - Webber, Alonso, Vettel

German GP 2012

Practices 2 and 3 wet, so little accomplished. Schumacher totals his Mercedes with three minutes left on Friday.


Q1 - Hulkenberg goes from 18th to 1st by going on the yellow tires. Raikkonen drops the best time by more than half a second, noting that the track is getting faster with five minutes to go. The cars that were parked know their seemingly-safe times are now in danger. Grosjean out, then jumps up. Perez out, then jumps up, putting Webber on bubble. Webber up with under 2 minutes to go, bumping Schumacher. It's all on Schumacher on the final lap, who is still on the harder tire. He moves up just one spot. Vergne is the loser again.
,br> Q2 - The sprinkles start, teams going on intermediates. The first laps prove to be the fast ones. Red Bull, McLaren, and Force India get both cars into Q3. Mercedes, Ferrari, Williams, and Lotus have one in, one out.

Q3 - Rain stopped, but track drenched. Cars out of full wets, skating around. Slowest Q3 ever, but elegant masters at work. Hamilton to top. Then Vettel. Then Schumacher. Then Webber. Then Alonso. The checkered flies and Alonso holds it. With Webber's gearbox penalty, Hulkenberg will start on the second row, putting 3 Germans in the top 4 for the German Grand Prix.


Vettel-Schumacher battle great on lap one. Massa in the back with a wing change while his teammate leads. Hamilton heads backwards, apparently the victim of wing shards with a flat left rear. Grosjean and Senna get flats too. Raikkonen masterfully passes Di Resta on lap 5 after a few side-by-side turns. On the first pit sequence, Raikkonen jumps Webber and Maldonado by pitting one lap earlier. Hulkenberg gets Schumacher under pits, but Schumi dives back on his fellow German and Raikkonen follows aggressively. Kobayashi, who qualified poorly and conserved tires yet again, briefly up to second as the leaders pit, and after his pit has made it to the top 10. He sets a fast lap on lap 45.

A lapped Hamilton passes Vettel, who seems none too happy about it. Button pits earlier than the leaders and comes out ahead of Vettel on the second/final round of stops. Top 3 are close together as laps wind down, but a second apart so no passing looks likely. Vettel pulls in slowly, uses DRS on next-to-last lap for the pass. Vettel uses beyond the painted line to complete pass coming out of the turn, so he took the podium in ceremonies but was later docked to 5th.

Result - Alonso, Button, Raikkonen

Hungarian GP 2012


Q1 - With five minutes left in Q1 everyone pits for new tires, and all but Lotus go to softs. The Red Bulls squeak through in 16th and 17th, with Kobayashi bumping in after the checkered and Ricciardo the loser of the session.

Q2 - 1.1 seconds between 2nd and 16th in the last few minutes of Q2. Senna bumps Webber. Both Williams into Q3 but neither Mercedes.

Q3 - Most drivers waiting for one hot lap. Hamilton stayed atop charts almost entire session, taking pole by .4 seconds over Grosjean.


In the first turns there was a fierce battle between Grosjean, Vettel, and Button. Replay shown from every angle of a close and exciting series of twists with them challenging and countering one another. Webber moves up, Massa moves back. Lewis and Romain out ahead of everybody. Through first pit stops Grosjean chases down Hamilton by staying on soft tires, holds around one second behind. Button pits early and gets stuck behind Senna after Vettel's second stop. Raikkonen leads by pitting late and builds a bit of a gap. Hamilton takes back lead as Raikkonen comes out of pits next to teammate Grosjean. Close! They stay close! Kimi pushes Grosjean off track and holds. Grosjean 3rd, Vettel 4th. In this season of tires falling off late on some cars makes any of the top four have a shot at fighting for the lead. Kimi closes on Hamilton, Hamilton holds for the win.

As we enter the summer break with Alonso leading the championship, 4 hero contenders sit within 50 points of the top. Meanwhile a three-way battle for 6th among Rosberg, Button, Grosjean emerges as potentially interesting matchups in the races to come. And Maldonado finally gets a penalty for hitting other cars.

Result - Hamilton, Raikkonen, Grosjean