Now that the 2012 Formula One season has concluded it’s time to reflect and analyse the successes and failures of the drivers and their respective teams. In the fourth and final part of the review, it’s the turn of the rest of the grid.
Outside the “Big Three” championship contending teams – Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari – three other teams won races and the other six teams all made progress in what was one of the closest and most competitive grids in the history of Formula One.
Kimi Raikkonen won for Lotus in Abu Dhabi, the peak of a sublime and consistently fast comeback for the 2007 world champion, after inheriting the lead when Lewis Hamilton suffered one of his multiple slices of misfortune.
It was a win that earlier in the season, most had predicted to be inevitable such was the race pace of the Lotus E20. Yet when it happened it was a surprise as the team’s pace had dropped due mainly to the technical department’s decision to prioritise a promising double DRS system causing a negative effect on the development of more worthwhile areas.
The DRS system was found to be too hard to get working and was never even raced.
Nico Rosberg took a dominant pole and win on the weekend that it all came together perfectly for Mercedes in Shanghai. It was a win that put Rosberg in with the leading contenders in the championship table and seemed to indicate the change of the championship contending “Big Three” to a “Big Four”.
However it turned out to be the only light in the long and dark tunnel that Mercedes’ 2012 season ended up being. A tunnel so dark that a seventh place for Michael Schumacher in the season finale at Interlagos was celebrated after five pointless races for the silver team from Brackley.
New arrival Lewis Hamilton will be having sleepless nights praying the team emerges from their current state of failure.
Pastor Maldonado took a surprising yet sublime victory for the resurging Williams team at Barcelona too. After inheriting pole when Lewis Hamilton suffered his inevitable misfortune he dominated the whole race, holding off Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, while expertly extracting the maximum from his Pirelli tyres.
Like Mercedes, it was the brightest light of a relatively poor season for the team from Grove who finished eighth in the championship. However, it was a season that showed promise that the old championship contenders may one day return to the glory of regular podium positions.
In the state-backed Maldonado they have pace and finance, but in order to achieve this aim, he needs to gain consistency in his race pace and wheel to wheel skill.
Sauber and Force India showed flashes of pace throughout the season, with Sauber taking four podiums and Force India taking two fourth places. These two teams used ingenuity and technical know-how to overcome their smaller budgets and outpace fully financed works squad Mercedes by the second half of the season.
With technical rules staying stable for next season, the grid should be even closer next year, a prospect bound to wet the lips of Formula One fans everywhere.