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And then there were five!
As the five red lights went out in Australia, the 2012 Formula One season began in earnest, dishing out an edge of the seat action thriller to its devoted fan base all over the world! The curtain-raiser in Albert Park justified all the hype and hoopla in the build-up to the season, presenting a snapshot of what was to unravel in the remainder of the season.
After numerous thrills and spills, 11 rounds of the championship have whizzed past us complete with drama, loads of overtaking maneuvers, strategies, records tumbling left right and centre and natural talent of the drivers coming to the fore. At this point, it is a safe bet that it's going to be a Five, er 'Horse' race for the driver's crown.
Here is a rundown of the five drivers who are locking horns in a titanic battle for the driver's title:
Points: 164 - 1st place, Wins: 3; Podiums: 6
Season so far:
Ferrari's all out revolutionary approach rather than a natural evolutionary approach in the design of their F2012 did not pay dividends to the team as the Maranello based marquee huffed and puffed its way through pre-season testing. Fernando Alonso thus was given a car which was rough around the edges as it was unbalanced, lacking traction, and rather unusual for a Ferrari, was even slower on the straights!
Following a raft of upgrades, what followed were 3 victories and 6 podiums, and with a sheer masterclass in driving, the wily Alonso leads the championship by a healthy 40 points. The man with the Midas touch has been impeccable, driving on the limit for every race, comfortably outgunning teammate Felipe Massa and his lightning quick getaways have been sights to behold!
Alonso sits 40 points atop the championship standings, a comfortable lead, but as Ferrari chief Stefano Domenicali pointed out after the Spaniard's gripping victory in Germany, "His race was like a 67-lap qualifying run!". The team knows it does not boast of the fastest machinery out on track yet, but has been getting the best out of his car so far.
"El Nino" Alonso has demonstrated on countless occasions that he is the man for all seasons, and with the Ferrari team promising large aerodynamic upgrades for the upcoming races, all his championship rivals have good reason to worry. Being the predator he is, Alonso, would be quietly confident of his chances this season of securing a third championship and his first one with the Ferrari team.
Points: 124 - 2nd place, Wins: 2; Podiums: 2
Season so far:
It has not been Mark Webber at his vintage best this season, as with a highly competitive Red Bull package; the Aussie has managed just 2 victories thus far. This is a far cry from his performances last season and is much in line with his 2010 form. However, despite some pretty average results somehow Webber finds himself in a shock 2nd place in the championship. Webber though has kept the pedal to the metal, and on his favoured tracks like Monaco and Silverstone has shown blistering pace to take the chequered flag.
Webber is encountering a little downhill slide having collected only 8 points from his last two outings. One thing for sure is that, Webber is going to be displaying his typical "Aussie Grit" in races where the going gets tough, but needs to achieve a string of podium finishes to close the 40 point deficit to championship leader Alonso.
Points: 122-3rd place, Wins: 1; Podiums: 3
Season so far:
After a strong pre-season showing, it is a huge shock that the reigning double World Champion Sebastian Vettel has just one race victory to his credit all season. In his two previous title winning campaigns, he would steamroll past his opponents to claim pole position and run away with the races. However, Vettel has been unable to employ this tactic this season barring Bahrain [where he claimed a dominant victory having seized pole position], with the performance advantage of the Red Bull team somewhat taken away due to the ban of the blown-diffusers.
After blitzing the field for the previous two seasons, Vettel has been required more often than not to fight tooth and nail through the field, as he has only 3 podiums to his credit thus far, a step down in results from his two previous title winning seasons.
German ace Vettel found swift pace in his Red Bull during the European GP following a near rear-exhaust layout on the RB8. However, the team has been walking a tightrope for utilizing loop-holes in the sport's regulations, as they have been summoned to the steward's room more often than they would like this season.
Despite a few aerodynamic innovations being deemed illegal by the FIA, the general consensus has been that the RB8 is swiftly improving its pace. It will be no surprise hence, if Vettel is back on the pace immediately after the summer-break knocking hard on Alonso's lead.
Points: 117-4th place, Wins: 2; Podiums: 5
Season so far:
Lewis Hamilton after a tumultuous 2011 season both on and off track had a dazzling start to the season having picked up 3 podium finishes in the first 3 races of the campaign. After a vibrant start to proceedings, his team botched up a pit-stop for the first time this season in Bahrain, and after claiming pole position in the Spanish GP, stewards found his MP4-27 underfuelled and thus demoted the British ace to the back of the grid.
Eventually he secured his first win of the season in Canada, but missed out on a potential podium finish after Pastor Maldonado bumped him off the track in Valencia. These lost points could prove detrimental to Hamilton at the end of the season, as he would be leading the championship by now barring these avoidable incidents.
Having secured 2 wins this season, Hamilton's victory in Hungary could prove to be a turning point in the season for him, in which he drove at the Hungaroring like he owned it. This result could point the way forward for the Woking based team and with upgrades working better than expected, Hamilton's title hunt is back on track.
However the McLaren team need to ensure they do not slip up in the pits yet again, as they have either performed a record breaking pit-stop [ In Germany] or made a total mess of it.
Points: 116 - 5th place, Wins: 0; Podiums: 5
Season so far:
One of the fairytale stories of the season has undoubtedly got to be the return of the sport's blue-eyed boy Kimi Raikkonen. He began the season slowly, but nevertheless as he got his confidence back; the uncomplicated Finnish ace has left his fans spellbound, as he gradually got back to his free flowing best.
The signs are that his first victory since his comeback is just a stone's throw away, as the "Iceman" demonstrated in Hungary having shown spates of blistering speed when required. However, his qualifying fortunes need to take a turn for the better, as the black and gold Lotus cars have been found wanting on Saturdays.
Looking ahead: Raikkonen is waiting in the wings to pounce on slip-ups from the other contenders and could well and truly snatch a couple of victories in the second half of the season, particularly after the super DRS introduced by the Lotus team has shown fine progress. The Finn has won on 4 of his last 5 visits to Spa, and hence would be in contention for victory in Belgium.
Raikkonen could set the cats among the pigeons if he wins in Belgium, as he would be right in the middle of the chasing pack behind Alonso. Raikkonen's title charge is definitely not a flash in the pan and is here to stay!
Prediction: The championship race possibly will go down to the wire with "Mr. Consistent" Fernando Alonso being crowned World Champion.
- 01/09/2012 10:47 - 2012 Belgian Grand Prix: Webber hit with five place grid penalty for Sunday showdown
- 31/08/2012 19:14 - Belgian Grand Prix Free Practice Report: Rain plays Spoilsport at Spa; Charles Pic tops soaked session
- 25/08/2012 15:28 - Spa love affair continues for Schumacher