FORMULA1 SEASON 2012 - REVIEW
The 2012 Formula 1 season ended in spectacular fashion at the 20th and final round in Brazil, with Sebastian Vettel recovering from a first lap spin, which dropped him to 17th place, to claim his third consecutive World Championship.
In a sense, this summed up his season; he started out the year on the back foot after aerodynamic rule changes took away one of Red Bull Racing’s most powerful weapons from 2011, the “exhaust blown diffuser”, and the story of his year was how he fought back from that to win the title.
The 2012 season was unique; the first seven races were won by seven different drivers, as teams struggled to get to grips with the new Pirelli tyres. It will be remembered as a season where different teams had a chance to shine, with Williams winning in Spain, Mercedes in China and Lotus in Abu Dhabi, Sauber challenging for the win in Malaysia and Force India leading in Brazil. It was a season, which showed that the cast of characters in F1 is deeper than just the leading two or three teams.
It was also unique in featuring six world champions in the field, the first time that has happened. With the retirement of Michael Schumacher, this will drop to five for next season.
You had to feel for the championship runner-up, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso; he gave his all like a gladiator, but just one with less weapons than his opponent. The Ferrari was never the fastest car this year, yet Alonso won three races, scored 13 podiums and led the championship for much of the year. Alonso was on a higher level this year than at any other time in his career.
It would be wrong to say that Ferrari didn’t develop their car, after all it was over a second off the pace at the first race in Melbourne. But they didn’t develop it enough and that began to tell in the final third of the season as Red Bull won four races in succession in September and October.
Sebastian Vettel also had his non-finishes this year, but these were due more to reliability.
The Red Bull was the fastest car at times this season, notably the Asian races in October, but not the fastest car of the season. That honour goes to McLaren, it’s just that they were unable to exploit it.
Lewis Hamilton should have won the 2012 world championship. His driving this year was of the highest standard.
The McLaren was the fastest car at the start and end of the season and in the middle too. However operational errors and reliability failings in the Autumn cost Hamilton over 100 points and his shot at the title.
Other talking points from the season were the series of crashes involving Lotus’ Romain Grosjean and Williams’ Pastor Maldonado. Grosjean was given a one-race ban for causing the pile up at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, the only driver this year to face such a sanction.
Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen carried the Lotus team, scoring in excess of 200 points on his comeback after two years in rallying. He scored seven podiums, including his Abu Dhabi victory.
The main story of the year was the decision by Hamilton to leave McLaren to move to Mercedes on a three-year contract, starting in 2013. It is a gamble, as Mercedes fell back after their win in China, but it opened the door for Perez to step up to the big time with a McLaren drive alongside Jenson Button. Apart from that, there were few significant driver moves in 2012.