2012 – A Year In Review

2012 was an incredible year of sport, and Formula One played its part. The longest season ever brought 20 spectacular races, each filled with excitement, drama, and controversy. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso took the title fight to Brazil; a race with enough action to fill an entire season, let alone 90 minutes. Vettel briefly lost the title, then recaptured it, completing a stunning comeback drive, reminiscent of Schumacher’s Brazilian heroics of 2006. A stunning race, encapsulated a stunning year.

The Triple Double

Red Bull are a team to be admired. After taking over the Jaguar team in 2005, the team have worked their way up from midfield obscurity, to become the dominant power they are today. Adrian Newey and his skilled team of aerodynamisists are central to the development.
In 2011, the innovative blown Diffusers which were a product of Milton Keynes, gave the RB7 a huge advantage. However, this season started very differently, and it was McLaren who had the upper hand early on. They had a well balanced car, unlike the RB8. Vettel in particular complained of these difficulties, and made many mistakes across the first three weekends.
However, the development curve regarding the RB8, increased as the season went on. The upgrades which were brought to Singapore proved to be a game-changing package. The new front-wing cured the understeer issues, while a subtle form of the DDRS reduced the effects of the crippling drag. This sent Vettel on his dominant run of four straight victories, as F1 traveled around Asia. The mountain that was Alonso’s, became a lot smaller. Rumors of Vettel’s Ferrari switch were quelled, as the German and his team were well back on track.
The entire team have proved the doubters wrong this year. After a difficult start, not dissimilar to 2010, they managed to fight back, developing their car better than anyone else, and taking the triple double. Red Bull Racing are rewriting the history books, and while the dream team remains, they seem unstoppable.

Fernando Alonso

Since his arrival in 2001, Alonso’s talent has never been doubted. The triumphs in 2005 and 2006 were both fantastic campaigns, however, this season brought out the best of Fernando Alonso. The F2012 was never the best car, despite vast improvements from Melbourne onward. The Spaniard was a magician on track, maximizing the points taken away from each weekend. When he had the chance to win races, he did not relinquish the opportunity, and this impressive consistency saw him increase his lead race after race. He made only 1 error. The Japanese Grand Prix was over before turn 1, and while many would suggest that it was merely a racing incident, I maintain that Fernando did not allow Raikkonen enough space. Moving across was inevitably going to cause an accident. The error was only minor, yet the consequences were severe.
It is an arduous task to obtain perfection, yet Alonso was very close. He has redefined the term, ‘outperforming a car’ in 2012, coming close to his third title. It is frightening to consider what he can do with  average machinery. If Ferrari can supply him with the best car, he will surly be unstoppable.

McLaren’s Reliability Woes

The MP4-27 burst onto the scene in Melbourne and Sepang, and McLaren had the undisputed ace of the pack. They were clear of the opposition, yet the car had a major flaw, (or several, as it turned out). Unreliability. It has plagued McLaren for years, costing Raikkonen titles in 2003 and 2005. This year followed in a similar vain.
Lewis Hamilton was the stand out performer this season. Similarly to Fernando, 2012 proved to be his best season yet, eclipsing even his title triumph. His wins were spectacular, and in Canada he managed to claim victory by passing both Vettel and Alonso. The battle between the class of the field, was won by Hamilton.
However, almost certain victories in Singapore and Abu Dhabi were snatched away from him, as his MP4-27 choked. 50 points were thrown away, gifted to his rivals. In Germany, when McLaren looked strong, a puncture robbed Hamilton of yet more points. Without these failures, Lewis would have had the opportunity to challenge for the championship in Brazil. The race itself was another story of points dropped, as Hamilton was hit by Hulkenburg; his final race for McLaren was over. Another 25 points were very much a possibility before the race ending collision.
When these issues are considered, it is unsurprising as to why Lewis wishes to leave McLaren. The team fell behind in the development race mid-season, and soon afterwards, became severely hampered by unreliability. It is something which McLaren are seemingly unable to cure, with several championships being lost due to mechanical failures. In the modern era, it is unacceptable to suffer the quantity of mechanical failures that McLaren do, year in year out. Mercedes are a work in progress. Their funding and resources mean that they have potential, and the 2014 engine regulations should play into their hands. It is widely known that Hamilton relishes a new challenge. The love affair between Hamilton and McLaren has turned sour in 2012, the year where Hamilton has been in the form of his life.

The Return Of The Iceman     

The announcement that Kimi Raikkonen would be returning to the sport in 2012, brought about may differing opinions. Some people believed that it was an excellent decision, and one which would not only benefit F1, but raise the profile of Lotus. However, there was much skepticism. Schumacher had made the comeback and faltered. Early on, it was predicted that Kimi would follow in Micheal’s footsteps, ruining the legacy left behind at the first retirement. The doubters could not have been more wrong.
Raikkonen performed fantastically well this season, and his consistency resulted in success. He was the only driver to complete every lap this season, a tall feat in itself. Moreover, he managed to fend off a fast charging Alonso in Abu Dhabi to claim a well deserved victory in his comeback season. In a car, not dissimilar in pace to the 2010 Mercedes, comparisons to Schumacher were being made. His comeback only featured one podium, while Kimi has manged five in a third of the time. The Iceman has lost none of his ability.  
Lotus were very much the dark horses during the 2012 campaign. The Enstone based team were able to stay within sight of the leading three, and better during the early stages of the season. Bahrain launched the team into the spotlight. Both Raikkonen and Grosjean drove a superb race, from the midfield, with the Iceman eventually challenging Vettel. P1 evaded them, however, the double podium was a bold statement to the rest of the field. 
It soon emerged that the E20 was an excellent car, yet it could not produce the spectacular at every event. When track temperatures were high  Lotus were able to manipulate the tyres and keep degradation at a minimum. Despite this, a decrease in track temperature sent them back into midfield obscurity. As a result, disappointing performances at venues such as Monaco and Korea meant that any sort of title challenge was soon quelled. While Raikkonen was Mr.Consistant in 2012, his teammate’s season seemed to go from bad to worse.

Mr.Nutcase

Romain Grosjean has quite possibly been one of the most controversial figures in the paddock this season. The Frenchman in his first full season in F1, suffered a significant number of first lap incidents over the course of the season; most of which were initiated by Romain himself. His fantastic podiums in Bahrain, Canada, and Hungary were overshadowed by his list of errors. After Grosjean collided with Webber in Japan, the Aussie dubbed the rookie as the ‘first lap nutcase’. 
The most notable incident this season came at Spa. Romain cut across Lewis Hamilton, leaving the Brit nowhere to go. As the two cars linked wheels, Lewis careered into the back of the Lotus. As a result, Grosjean was launched over the back of Kamui Kobayashi, and onto the top of Alonso’s chassis  It was a terrifying incident, as the Lotus landed only a few inches away from Fernando Alonso’s head. Grosjean’s recklessness came frighteningly close to causing a fatality. Subsequently, the FIA were forced to take serious action. 
Romain Grosjean received the first race-ban since 1994. His numerous accidents prior to Spa had not aided his cause, and a serious reprimand was required to deter his reckless manouveres. Jerome D’Ambrosio replaced the Frenchman at Monza. 
Despite his undoubted pace, Grosjean’s future at Lotus was uncertain at the end of the season. His accidents cost the team valuable points in their race for the top three. If Grosjean had finished more races, he would have been able to mount a higher value of points, similar to that of his teammate. Their race pace was very similar, and in qualifying, Grosjean seemed to be faster than Raikkonen on several occasions.
His potential has prompted his resigning. Lotus have seen that Romain can perform well, and challenge for frequent podiums. Once past lap 1, he could challenge Kimi, regardless of the Iceman’s wealth of experience. Once Grosjean develops better spacial awareness, his race craft will improve. His turbulent start will motivate him for 2013 and beyond. 
        

The Rise and Fall of Mercedes

Mercedes’ 2012 started in promising fashion. An inspired rear wing design flaunted a loop-hole in the regulations. The Double DRS System was a mechanism which Mercedes had built into the rear wing, in order to stall the front wing. When the DRS was activated, two air inlets are exposed on the rear wing en-fences  Air enters these gaps and is channeled to the front of the car via internal pipes, built into the chassis. Stalling the front wing as well as the rear, reduced downforce, meaning that the Mercedes cars could not only activate the DRS earlier, but gain an even greater straight line speed.
Many teams, including Lotus and Red Bull, appealed the system, stating that it was not in line with regulations. They claimed that since the DRS was being activated by the  driver, the front wing was stalling by their control, (in which case the driver was not passive to the downforce alterations). These claims were dismissed by the FIA, and the DDRS was deemed legal. However, the FIA did confirm that it would be outlawed for 2013.      
When Nico Rosberg dominated the Chinese Grand Prix, it seemed that the system was worth developing, and many teams began incorporating ideas into their current packages. It was not a simple addition. Mercedes had built the system into the chassis, and for other teams to copy the system directly, they would have to redevelop a new chassis. Subsequently, they were forced to find alternative methods of stalling the front wing. However, it was deemed to be more trouble than it was worth by the majority of the field, and teams began to move away from the idea. Lotus trialed a complex system, which had the capabilities to stall the rear wing, regardless of the DRS’ activation. However, after testing the system in three practice sessions, it was decided that it was too complex to set up.
For Mercedes, the triumph in China was the high point of the season. The team struggled with rear tyre wear, and the DDRS was lost into obscurity. As teams developed downforce, Mercedes continued to struggle through the corners and required straights to gain back the time lost, as oppose to gaining a march on the pack. The crisis meant that they were forced to defend their 5th place in the constructors, rather than challenge Lotus McLaren ect. The news that Hamilton would join the team failed to re-energize their 2012 campaign, and the subsequent announcement that Micheal Schumcher was set to leave, is perhaps partly responsible for this. The team publicly declared their regret, at their inability to give Micheal a winning car. Hamilton will hope to see a vast improvement in 2013 and with the resignation of Norbert Haug, it seems that things can only get better for the silver arrows.

Final Thoughts

An unbelievable season has come to a end, with the youngest ever world champion  becoming the youngest ever triple world champion. Sebastian has done it the hard way in 2012, much like his 2010 campaign. He has proved his talent and mental strength. When the situation seemed dire early on, Vettel maintained belief.
Red Bull managed to redevelop the RB8, and vastly improve on a number of key areas. While McLaren struggled to convert speed into reward  Red Bull and Vettel took the maximum points away from each and every situation. Even Alonso could not cope, when the RB8 hit its prime.
2013 looks set to be another season to remember. With minor regulation changes, the field will resemble a similar dynamic to 2012. Can Hamilton win in a Mercedes? Will Perez struggle under the spotlight of McLaren? Will Vettel triumph once again? Keep track of this website in 2013, for all the news and analysis, as Formula One enters another thrilling chapter.
Thanks to everyone who has supported the blog since June, and as I enter my first full season on this website, I hope that you will continue to enjoy and share the content. Have a great 2013 everyone.
                               

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