Continuing my series of articles on the 2012 Formula 1 season, here I look at the midfield my constructors’ rankings.
8. Williams F1 Team
On the plus side, the Williams car was clearly a massive improvement on last year’s. And they grabbed a win in Spain, their first victory since 2004. But overall, 2012 must go down as a massive missed opportunity for Williams.
Both drivers seemed determined to lose the team as many points as possible. Pastor Maldonado causes far too many accidents, both with himself and with other people. Bruno Senna is too inconsistent.
Williams have never been strong on driver line-ups. The last time they were successful was with Juan Pablo Montoya and Ralf Schumacher. Before that, they made champions out of Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve — pretty ordinary drivers if they weren’t in a spectacular car. But even considering this past, Williams may have gone a step too far this time, with two particularly average drivers.
For Williams in 2012, it’s a case of what might have been.
7. Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team
Mercedes join Williams among those teams that grabbed a win early on in the season, then subsequently failed to impress. Mercedes have masses of resources, and a bulging team of technical heavyweights. So the dearth of results must be a major cause for concern.
The beginning of the season was average enough — that solitary win aside. It was clear that the car had major issues when it came to race pace, even if it could be occasionally handy over one lap. But in the second half of the season the drop-off in performance was alarming. They went for five races without even scoring a single point, which is embarrassing for a brand with the history and resources of Mercedes-Benz.
It will be interesting to see what happens to the team after the arrival of Lewis Hamilton. No-one seems to be optimistic about the prospects of a quick turnaround. You may wonder if this is the classic case of a behemoth manufacturer being too slow to turn the ship around. With that many technical boffins in the team, it’s even tempting to think that it’s a case of too many cooks.
6. Sahara Force India F1 Team
Force India continue to impress me. Not in the sense that they are actually impressive. It’s just that I keep on expecting this stone to sink, and it just doesn’t happen. While speculation continues to circle around Vijay Mallya’s various business problems, his F1 team seems to be able to carry on with remarkable consistency.
Their driver lineup of Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg is probably one of the best out of all the teams. They scored points in the vast majority of the race, and only had three retirements in the whole season.
Considering this is the team that as Jordan sank to the back of the grid, then remained there resolutely as ownership transferred to Midland then Spyker, it’s clear that Mr Mallya has done a good job.
I keep on expecting Force India to drop further back through the field. With the team’s commitment to invest £50 million into new technology, it doesn’t look like that drop is going to come any time soon.
5. Sauber F1 Team
Sauber had an inconsistent season, but their highs were so high that it felt at times as though they were on the verge of causing a major upset. In a way, the fact that they didn’t ultimately cause that upset is their number one weakness.
Victory was handed to them on a platter in Malaysia, yet they approached the end of the race with such conservatism that you almost suspected that they wanted to lose the race. That’s not what you want to see from a supposedly competitive team, particularly since they seemed to be so happy to finish second.
While they never challenged for victory again, three further podiums proved that their form in Malaysia was no fluke — unlike certain other teams that excelled towards the start of the season.
However, eight non-scoring races also point to a team that often struggled to make the most of what they had. Their package seemed to have a particularly small sweet spot, which meant that when they were good they were good — and when they weren’t good, they really weren’t good.
Sauber can also be pat themselves on the back for continuing to nurture great young talent. Sauber have introduced the F1 world to many great talents, including Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel.
Now step forward Sergio Pérez, who will move on to McLaren. His end-of-season dip in performance has caused concern, but Pérez put in plenty of great performances to demonstrate that he has real potential.
For 2013, Sauber have secured the services of one of the other best young drivers on the grid, Nico Hülkenberg.