04/12/2011

F1 season review & 2012 driver line-ups


The 2011 season is over and now it’s time to reflect back to the season, the teams & the drivers. The two prominent changes were a new tyre manufacturer in the name of Pirelli and DRS (Drag Reduction System) to aid overtaking. In this blog, I will review all the teams performance in the season and their confirmed & prospective driver line-up for 2012 season.

Red Bull Racing:

‘Champions’, nothing else can describe RBR’s 2011 season. From start to finish, the team dominated everyone and rest playing a catching game. They clinched the Constructors Championship in Korea while Sebastian Vettel clinched the Drivers Championship in Japan. In addition Vettel created a world record of 15 poles in a season. Webber had a tough season in terms of Vettel but he managed to win one race in the end in the last race of the season. Webber won the DHL Fastest Lap award for recording 7 fastest lap in the season.

2012 Driver Line-up: Sebastian Vettel & Mark Webber.
Reserve: Daniel Ricciardo or Jean-Eric Vergne, are the two front runners for the reserve role.

McLaren Mercedes:

A season of ups & downs for McLaren, they were for most part of the season the second best team. They were the closest to RBR all through the season and the only other team to get a pole position apart from RBR.  Hamilton had the toughest season of his career, he did win 3 races and got the only non-RBR pole of the season but yet his season was marred by the DNF’s & his on-track spats with Massa. While Button took the full advantage, he started slow in the season but the next half was absolutely perfect.

2012 Driver Line-up: Jenson Button & Lewis Hamilton.
Reserve: Gary Paffet and maybe Oliver Turvey as the 4th driver.

Scuderia Ferrari:

A trouble season for them, a car which was never really in the best of position to fight with RBR. Alonso gave them their lone win of the season and some handful of podiums. They didn’t have the qualifying pace, but they had good race pace as Alonso pushed the slow car to its extreme limit. Massa disappointed with his below par performances, no podiums for him. His low point was obviously the on-track spats with Hamilton. Despite a failure, Massa has been retained for 2012 season.

2012 Driver Line-up: Fernando Alonso & Felipe Massa.
Reserve: Jules Bianchi, Giancarlo Fisichella,  the two drivers in line.


Mercedes Petronas:

They were always chasing the top 3 teams throughout the season. They were behind Lotus Renault but with a consistent performance they managed to get ahead of Lotus and take a comfortable lead to finish ahead of them. Still they didn’t get any podium this season as P4 was the best result they could manage. Rosberg ended as the best driver with Schumacher behind him in the second season of his return.

2012 Driver Line-up: Michael Schumacher & Nico Rosberg.
Reserve: Sam Bird the frontrunner but I think Adrian Sutil can be a part if he doesn’t get a seat to drive.

Lotus Renault:

They received a bad news at the start of the season as Robert Kubica was ruled out of the season after he suffered fatal injuries in rally. They had to hire Nick Heidfeld to partner Vitaly Petrov. They had a great start with two back to back podiums finishes but then came the gradual fall. With series of bad races, they lost the P4 position to Mercedes. Nick was axed mid-season and Bruno Senna was promoted to the race seat but little did it help. In the end they were very close to loosing the P5 position to Force India but they held on.

2012 Driver Line-up: Kimi Raikkonen (C) & Vitaly Petrov/Bruno Senna/Romain Grosjean with Adrian Sutil & Robert Kubica (if he can return) in the mix too.
Reserve: Whoever doesn’t get the race seat will automatically take the reserve role, in addition female racer Maria de Villota can be a part of the team.

Sahara Force India:
 
The season started on a slower side for the team, which they said was because they were mainly developing the 2010 car in the fly away races. Once the 2011 specific updates were on, their fortunes changed immediately. They were regularly in Q3 and among points, they even overtook Sauber in the Championship to be P6. By the end of the season they came close to beat Lotus with only 4 points separating them. Sutil was behind rookie Di Resta but came on well to beat him in the second half, raising his game well. For me Di Resta is the rookie of the year.

2012 Driver Line-up: Nico Hulkenberg & Paul Di Resta, the front runners with Adrian Sutil having an outside chance.
Reserve: With Sahara in, I think Karun Chandhok can get a reserve role in the team if Sutil leaves. In addition Max Chilton & Jules Bianchi are the other racers who can get the role.

Sauber:

The team had a smooth start to the season with staying ahead of Force India for some part of the season but as the mid-season approached they started loosing out in performance and eventually lost the P6 position to Force India and never really was in the position to get it back. Instead they had to evade the growing threat of STR taking away the P7 position but in the end they managed to stay ahead of them by a small margin. Both Perez & Kobayashi did a decent job in the season and therefore they are retained for 2012 season.

2012 Driver Line-up: Kamui Kobayashi & Sergio Perez.
Reserve: Esteban Gutierrez.

Toro Rosso:

A pretty erratic season for the team, with some very good results in the race to very poor qualifying. In some races they were up with the upper mid-field while in some they were down with lower mid-field teams. Towards the end of the season they up their game were close to beat Sauber and get the P7 position but eventually fell short by 3 points. Both their drivers were always battling out with each other to get in the eyes of the senior RBR team.

2012 Driver Line-up: Jamie Alguersuari & Sebastien Buemi are the front runners with Daniel Ricciardo & Jean-Eric Vergne well in line.
Reserve: Whoever misses out with the race seat maybe demoted to the reserve role.

 
Williams:

The worst season for the Williams team as they failed in every aspect to deliver. Nothing was going right for them as in one race after the another, they just didn’t had the pace to match the other mid-field teams.  They just managed 5 points from the season, and we can well term it as a disastrous season. Both Rubens & Pastor struggled as they tried their best to get the extreme from the car which was under-performing.

2012 Driver Line-up: Pastor Maldonado (C) & Rubens Barrichello/Adrian Sutil with later having the strongest chance.
Reserve: Valtteri Bottas.

Team Lotus:

The first of the new teams. Over the season the team improved quite a lot in terms of pace in races. Towards the end, they managed to beat some lower mid-field teams which was in itself a good sign for the team. Heikki & Trulli, a perfect mix of  youth and experience has helped the team to come out and challenge the mid-fielders.

2012 Driver Line-up: Heikki Kovalainen & Jarno Trulli.
Reserve: Karun Chandhok, Luiz Razia, Alexander Rossi all have chances to be part of the reserve role.

HRTF1:

Once again the team was in trouble at the start of the season as they couldn’t get the car ready on time for testing and eventually failed to get in the 107% for the season opener. Mid-season they were sold to Thesan Capital and since then the team got stable and gradually improved. Even after all the troubles, they managed to beat Virgin and once again secure the P11 position in Championship. Initially they hired Indian Narain Karthikeyan but he was replaced by Daniel Ricciardo in mid-season though he came back for one off race in India. Ricciardo didn’t disappoint in his rookie season as he matched well against Liuzzi.

2012 Driver Line-up: Pedro De La Rosa (C) & Vitantonio Liuzzi/Narain Karthikeyan/Daniel Ricciardo are all in line to get the second seat.
Reserve: Dani Clos is one name I can think of.

Marussia Virgin:

Another team where nothing worked right throughout the season. They couldn’t improve much from last season. They ended up last once again and struggled keeping up pace with Team Lotus and even HRT. Still there were some bright performances but overall they have to work hard for the next season. Jerome in a rookie season did well against his experienced team-mate Glock.

2012 Driver Line-up: Timo Glock & Charles Pic.
Reserve: Robert Wickens is the lone name I predict.

We saw some fantastic races in the season, for me the best has to be Canadian GP. It was well past mid-night here in India and I was up watching the race. A long wait, interesting race and a nerve cracking finish made it the best race of the season. The Pirelli tyres made the race interesting to a certain extent as strategy in races became an important aspect. However, qualifying and specially Q3 could have been interesting as in most of the races the lower half teams in order to save tyres didn’t set times. Moving on to DRS, mixed opinion here as we saw both its advantages & disadvantages. It did aid in overtaking but the pure racing was gone in certain races. Mostly DRS was helpful in tracks where overtaking was not so happening in previous seasons. We also saw the inaugural Indian GP happening, I went for the race. It was my first F1 experience and I must say it was just too good. I was happy to hear that all the drivers loved the track and the atmosphere. All in all, it was a mixed season with many highs & few lows. I will rate the season as 7.5 out of 10.

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