This is the first of my articles looking back on the 2012 Formula 1 season. Here I assess the tailenders among the constructors.
12. HRT F1 Team
It was yet another difficult year for HRT, a team that has struggled on every front — on track and behind the scenes — since it was originally formed as Campos back in 2009. Constant changes of ownership and an apparent lack of funds ultimately meant that this team was unable to form a solid foundation on which to build. It closed down at the end of the 2012 season.
However, considering these tough circumstances, HRT did an admirable job to do as well as they did. While on pace they always seemed to be rooted at the back of the field, they actually finished 11th in the Constructors’ Championship in 2010 and 2011. They have also had a solid enough reliability record.
But ultimately it is difficult to escape the fact that HRT were not good enough to survive in the ultra-competitive modern F1.
11. Caterham F1 Team
This year was the year that Caterham were supposed to make it. At a minimum, scoring points should have been a target for this season. Instead, Caterham found themselves in the alarming position of seriously facing the prospect of finishing 11th in the Constructors’ Championship. This would have meant a huge loss of the prize money they have previously received for finishing 10th.
Caterham did in fact make good progress at the start of the season. This peaked at the European Grand Prix where they were genuinely racing wheel-to-wheel with the Toro Rosso cars — until the Red Bull junior drivers caused crashes to prevent the Caterhams from actually overtaking.
But since then, Caterham have fallen back into the clutches of the other ‘new’ teams, sometimes being outclassed by the Marussias in the process.
Mike Gascoyne no longer has an involvement in the F1 team — a move that has never been clearly explained. You wonder if Caterham’s mid-season dip in form is a consequence.
At the end of the season, Tony Fernandes relinquished his role as team principal. It seems as though Caterham is a team that knows it needs to change in order to improve. But it’s unclear if they know what that change should actually be.
10. Marussia F1 Team
After years of failed promise, 2012 was the year that Marussia finally turned the corner.
They realised that the policy of using only computational fluid dynamics (CFD), completely eschewing the use of a wind tunnel, was not working. Having made the necessary changes early this season, Marussia’s car appears to be improving.
For a long while it looked as though they were going to finish 10th in the Constructors’ Championship — a great feat considering their 12th place finishes in 2010 and 2011. Eventually they were pipped to the post by Caterham.
Even though the Caterham was usually faster than the Marussia, it would have been difficult to begrudge Marussia the moral victory. While Caterham are stalling and appear not to know what to do, Marussia have taken decisive action to turn the corner, and their decision has clearly worked.
9. Scuderia Toro Rosso
A decent argument can be made that 2012 is Toro Rosso’s worst F1 season since they took over the Minardi team in 2006. The season began solidly enough with points finishes for each of its drivers. But from China onwards, an alarming dip began, culminating in their wheel-to-wheel battles with Caterham in the European Grand Prix.
Technical director Giorgio Ascanelli was sacked mid-season, eventually replaced by James Key. The improvement was immediate, and Toro Rosso scored points more regularly towards the end of the season.
However, it’s difficult to assess the performance of their two drivers, who are essentially both rookies (Ricciardo’s handful of HRT starts aside).