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Formula 1: 2012 season review

The Daily Shift’s Patrick Cummins and Jack Squibb take a look back on the 2012 Formula 1 season and ahead to the 2013 season as they give their highlights of an incredible year in F1…

Vettel and Alonso battled it out for the drivers championship in 2012 with Vettel coming out on top

Vettel and Alonso battled it out for the drivers championship in 2012 with Vettel coming out on top

Driver of the season

Patrick Cummins: Although it would be easy to pick Sebastien Vettel or Fernando Alonso as “Driver of the Season”, I’ve decided to diverge and go for Kimi Raikkonen. Having spent two years on the WRC scene, spinning off the road on numerous occasions and generally under-performing, his comeback in 2012 granted him a return to the top step of the podium, along with plenty of top three finishes. Kimi’s consistency saw him finish the year in third place overall for a team that is still (re)grounding itself in F1. Alonso had been quick all year but, after his costly first lap incidents at Spa and Suzuka, had been outclassed by Vettel where it mattered. Vettel took a while to get up to speed and suffered a bout of bad luck with penalties and incidents in the first half of the year.

Jack Squibb: The driver of the 2012 season for me has to be Narain Karthikeyan. I’m kidding but the best driver for me has to be Fernando Alonso and feel he was incredibly unlucky not to win the championship. He took a Ferrari car that was a lot slower in comparison to McLaren and Red Bull and made it a real contender. There was a point in the season where he looked like a sure thing to claim his third championship until Vettel dominated the Asian leg of the season. A close second would have to be Raikkonen on his returning season to the sport. He surprised a lot of people last year I think in the Lotus car and he gave some great drives, especially in Abu Dhabi.

Team of the season

Patrick Cummins: Red Bull receive the “Team of the Season” award for continually keeping both drivers at the sharp end of the championship. Ferrari have shown a massive improvement in form with a re-spirited Felipe Massa but they lacked development in the latter stages.

Jack Squibb: My team of the season is the ever dominant Red Bull. For the last three years they’ve been the team to beat and despite having a tough start in 2012 they eventually got Sebastian Vettel back to winning ways and had Webber finishing high in the points in most races too.

Biggest disappointment of the season

Patrick Cummins: It’s difficult to pick one disappointment as there have been so many. Mercedes certainly come close having had so many reliability issues and no consistency regarding pace, despite that win early on. However, edging slightly ahead (or behind?) in that regard is Bruno Senna. Pastor Maldonado was regularly faster in both qualifying and race trim while Senna often found himself trundling around at the lower end of the mid-field. This is not good enough to merit a seat at a team whose car has proven pace.

Jack Squibb: The biggest disappointment of the season happened off the race tracks this year. Back in July while test driving for Marussia, Maria de Villota crashed into a lorry after completing a test lap and as she came to a stop the car suddenly accelerated through a crowd and collided with the back of a lorry. Thankfully she survived the incident but unfortunately lost sight from her right eye.

Surprise of the season

Patrick Cummins: Felipe Massa: I never thought we’d see a return to form and it’s great to have Felipe back on the podium. We shall see in 2013 if this momentum is carried over.

Jack Squibb: Felipe Massa: Since his accident in Hungary back in 2009 he hasn’t been the same driver that was competing fiercely with Lewis Hamilton the season before the incident. But 2012 gave us a glimpse of the old Massa and hopefully he’ll be threatening for the championship again in 2013.

Biggest Controversy of the season

Patrick Cummins: Romain Grosjean’s string of incidents surely puts him at the forefront of the “controversy” award but he’s equaled by Pastor Maldonado. Pastor’s various antics involved several collisions, throughout the year, with Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton among others.

Jack Squibb: The biggest controversy of the year has to be the carelessness of Romain Grosjean. Everyone makes mistakes early in their F1 days but they normally learn from their mistakes. Grosjean on the other hand just continued to be a danger to other drivers. He has the potential to be a great driver in Formula One but needs to be more careful.

Best race of the season

Patrick Cummins: We’ve had such a sensational season that it’s difficult to pick one race as “the best”. We were given a tremendous finale and that can’t be disregarded in the context of the season. Having said that, the European GP at Valencia delivered monumental action right the way through. It was disappointing in many ways, considering Vettel’s faultless race was cut short due to mechanical issues and Grosjean’s attack for his first win was compounded when the alternator failed. But what a win for Alonso on home turf and who could deny the emotive presence when Schumacher claimed his first podium since his return to F1 – all this at a track often considered the most boring on the calendar!

Jack Squibb: The best race of the season is a tough topic. With eight different winners for the first eight races, an intense finale in Brazil and a close one in Abu Dhabi this season has produced many memorable races for years to come. It has to be the last race of the season though. It looked like Vettel was out of the race after a collision with Bruno Senna sent the German spinning on turn four. Vettel was able to carry on and ploughed through the rest of the grid finishing in sixth place. Alonso crossed the line in second place but it wasn’t enough as Vettel became the first to win three drivers championship back to back since Michael Schumacher. The race also saw Lewis Hamilton’s time at McLaren end prematurely when Nico Hulkenburg crashed into the back of him as he tried to take the lead from the 2008 champion. Hamilton had no choice but to retire while Hulkenburg was handed a drive through penalty which saw Jenson Button take the lead. In the closing stages of the race Paul Di Resta crashed into the wall which meant the safety car had to come out for the end of the race. For Alonso it’ll always be “what if Di Resta never crashed? Would I have caught Button and become champion?” I guess we’ll never know but I do know that that race was definitely the best of the 2012 season.

Early predictions for next season

Patrick Cummins: 2013 has all the ingredients for as tantalising a year as 2012. I expect Ferrari and Red Bull to be close in terms of performance over the course of the season and recommence a fierce battle for top honours (Vettel and Alonso still at the helm for each team). Webber and Massa will be in contention for podiums and maybe even outside chances of wins should their team mates falter. The biggest unknown quantity will be McLaren. Without Hamilton, the team dynamic will be interesting to scrutinise. Button’s experience will give him the edge over Perez but the new recruit has raw speed and expect him to win at least one race before the season ends. As for Hamilton, it will take time before he settles into a similarly competitive position at Mercedes. Lotus chose to keep on Raikkonen and Grosjean and this is a good decision. Both are quick and, if Grosjean has learned from his 2012 errors, expect a super-consistent pairing for 2013. Their rate of development will probably compromise any chance of wins in the latter half of the season so they need to make the most of the early grand prix’. If Williams can build as quick a car as the FW34, then Maldonado will be at the head of the mid-field. Sauber, on losing Perez, are missing a vital asset but Hulkenberg’s more reserved driving style will deliver a healthy points haul and maybe podiums in races of attrition. I’ve always rated Daniel Ricciardo highly and STR’s unusual decision to hold onto both of their drivers for another season is a wise one as there is untapped potential there. I’d be utterly surprised if Paul di Resta isn’t announced as Force India’s lead driver soon – he deserves a seat but the team need to get behind his demands for a better car. Caterham should score a point next season if they can hire an experienced driver to partner newcomer Charles Pic. Max Chilton’s first F1 contract at the Marussia team goes to prove that a healthy wallet gets you further than a store of talent. Timo Glock will hold the backbone of that team together while Max will merely potter about the season and only retain his seat if his funds remain intact. Oh, and inevitably, with HRT now bankrupt, Stefan F1 will enter the picture looking for a 2014 seat at some point during the season!

Jack Squibb: I can’t wait for the 2013 season to begin, I can see it being just as exciting, intense and brilliant as the year before. I expect to see Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull to dominate again and Alonso (maybe the revigorated Massa too) to be challenging them strongly. I enjoyed watching Perez at times last season and I hope he’ll be a success with McLaren. However, once the news was announced that he’d be a McLaren driver for 2013 his form dropped dramatically. If he can race like he was racing before the news broke then expect him to frustrate the big boys. Jenson Button will be McLaren’s main man and will be relied upon to bring in the points for both himself and to help out with the constructor’s championship. Expect McLaren to be in for a tough season. Mercedes will have a lot to live up to now they’ve got a driver behind the wheel who’s at his prime. They disappointed me last season as it looked like they had potential to be a threat to the likes of McLaren or Lotus but fell way short of the mark. Lewis Hamilton knows he’s not to expect wonders straight away with his new team but a driver of his quality will find a way to win a race or two this coming season. I also think Lotus have made a great decision to hold onto both Raikkonen and Grosjean. Raikkonen will continue to be a nuisance to the likes of Vettel and Alonso while Grosjean will hopefully be slightly less aggressive and he could find himself back on the podium. Paul Di Resta has improved a lot since his F1 debut back in 2011 and I reckon it’s only a matter of time before he gets signed to a better team. A good season for the Scotsman is all down to whether Force India can supply him with a decent car.

So what were your highlights of the 2012 season? What do you think is going to happen in 2013? Have your say in the comments section below.

*Lead image courtesy of telegraph.co.uk
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