2012 F1 Canadian GP: Drivers And Teams Primer

For the second part of our preview of the 2012 Formula One Canadian Grand Prix, we take a look at the drivers and teams who will be contesting this weekend’s race. There weren’t many changes as the front of the grid since last year’s race as the top four teams and Sauber retained their 2011 driver line-up. The other seven teams had at least one new driver join their team.

So today, we look at the drivers, teams and their 2012 seasons so far.

Red Bull Racing
#1 Sebastian Vettel (2nd, 73 pts.)
#2 Mark Webber (3rd, 73 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Red Bull-Renault (1st, 146 pts.)

There have been six different winner from the first six races of the season and Red Bull is the only team to have scored two wins on the season. Twice-defending World Drivers’ Champion Sebastian Vettel won Race #4 in Bahrain while Webber won last week’s Monaco Grand Prix. The interesting thing is that the Red Bull hasn’t seemed to be particularly fast this season. The RB8’s pace hasn’t been as field-crushing as last season’s RB7 but it has been fast in the races. Given their recent run which has resulted in winning two of the last three races, they’re probably the odd-on-favourite to win this time out.

McLaren Mercedes
#3 Jenson Button (7th, 45 pts.)
#4 Lewis Hamilton (4th, 63 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: McLaren-Mercedes (2nd, 108 pts.)

The McLaren duo started the season strong with a Button win in Australia and the pair picking up five podiums from their first six opportunities. Since the break after the race’s third season, McLaren has seemed off the pace with Button barely running in the points and Hamilton having not reached the podium since the middle of April. If McLaren is going to turn it around, it has to be this weekend. The abrasive track surface will favour Button’s ability to nurse his tyres. Hamilton has always had the pace around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Their most recent form dictates McLaren’s goal should be two cars in the points with one on the podium. Recent history suggests the pair will have an eye on the win.

Scuderia Ferrari
#5 Fernando Alonso (1st, 76 pts.)
#6 Felipe Massa (14th, 10 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Ferrari (3rd, 86 pts.)

At the start of the season, Alonso’s car was jokingly nicknamed Clifford because it was a big red dog. While Alonso managed to drag that car to points-scoring finishes in each race, his teammate Felipe Massa has only managed two finishes in the points (9th in Bahrain and 6th in Monaco). So either the car or Felipe isn’t up to speed and most analysts think the car is difficult to drive unless in the right hands. The car must suit the twice World Champion best because he’s managed two podiums in the last two races. His track record in Canada isn’t great, though. He has more retirements (5) than podiums (2) at that track. It’s likely not his favourite place in the world to visit.

Mercedes AMG F1
#7 Michael Schumacher (18th, 2 pts.)
#8 Nico Rosberg (5th, 59 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Mercedes (5th, 61 pts.)

The Mercedes season is a tale of two drivers. Nico Rosberg has scored the most points of any driver over the last four races. He’s only really been a threat to win in China when he won from the pole. He was quick in Monaco but he never even feigned a passing attempt on Webber. His teammate, seven-time World Drivers’ Champion Michael Schumacher, has two 10th-place finishes to his credit with four retirements. Michael’s problem has been mostly bad luck. He’s suffered two mechanical failures and lost a wheel because of a botched pit stop all which cost him likely top five finishes. In terms of pace, Schumacher is close to Rosberg. In terms of converting pace to results, it’s just not Michael’s year.

Lotus F1
#9 Kimi Raikkonen (6th, 51 pts.)
#10 Romain Grosjean (8th, 35 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Lotus-Renault (4th, 86 pts.)

Lotus is the first team we come to that changed their driver line-up from last season. Out are both Nick Heidfeld (who ran the Canadian GP for the team) and Vitaly Petrov. In are 2007 champion Kimi Raikkonen and defending GP2 and twice GP2 Asia champion Romain Grosjean. The car has been looking quick but inconsistent. Raikkonen has suffered massive fall off in his tyres when they he tries to run them long. When strategy and luck go their way, Lotus is a podium contender. Given their speed, it’s probably a matter of time before they win a race. With tyres likely to be a factor in Montreal, I don’t think luck will be on Raikkonen’s side. Hope for this weekend will rest on Grosjean.

Sahara Force India F1
#11 Paul di Resta (11th, 21 pts.)
#12 Nico Hulkenberg (15th, 7 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Force India-Mercedes (8th, 28 pts.)

The quietest team so far this season is Force India. Seven teams have been on the podium, the three new teams still aren’t scoring points and Toro Rosso has lost all the momentum from last season. Who wasn’t mentioned there? Force India. That team has only really been newsworthy because the Sahara group bought into the team likely as a result of Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines running into some serious financial woes. Adrian Sutil was dropped from the team, unofficially because of stabbing Genii Capital (Lotus F1 owner) CEO Eric Lux with a broken champagne flute in a Shanghai nightclub in 2011. His replacement is Nico Hulkenberg who was signed as a reserve driver by the team in 2011. Hulkenberg’s claim to fame was scoring a poll for the 2010 Brazilian Grand Prix in a Williams.

Sauber F1
#14 Kamui Kobayashi (12th, 19 pts.)
#15 Sergio Perez (10th, 22 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Sauber-Ferrari (7th, 41 pts.)

Sauber was the first of the little teams to make a big splash this season. Sergio Perez very nearly won the Malaysian Grand Prix and was one mistake away from like passing Fernando Alonso for the win. Experts generally considered the Sauber to be the fastest car at the start of the season. I’m not sure how it would have done in the hands of the Alonsos and Vettels of the world but Kobayashi and Perez haven’t done anything to disprove that hypothesis. Scoring points in five of nine finishes and having a worst finish of 13th (which is better than McLaren and Ferrari) show that this team will definitely contend for points this weekend. Considering Kobayashi’s ability to execute overtaking maneuvers, a top five is within his reach too.

Scuderia Toro Rosso
#16 Daniel Ricciardo (17th, 2 pts.)
#17 Jean-Eric Vergne (16th, 4 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Toro Rosso-Ferrari (9th, 6 pts.)

After a promising end to last season, Toro Rosso, at the prompting of Red Bull, dropped both Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi were dropped. In their place are fellow Red Bull development drivers Daniel Ricciardo, who drove half of last season for HRT, and Jean-Eric Vergne. Like Alguersuari, Ricciardo and Vergne both graduated directly from Formula Renault 3.5. This season hasn’t gone well for STR. The two drivers have scored points once each and the team hasn’t scored since the second race of the season. The STR7 is an evolution of last year’s car which was designed to maximize the exhaust-blown diffuser. While Red Bull seems to have gotten up to speed, STR hasn’t figured out how to compensate for the loss of downforce yet.

Williams F1
#18 Pastor Maldonado (9th, 29 pts.)
#19 Bruno Senna (13th, 15 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Williams-Renault (6th, 44 pts.)

What a difference a year makes. After finishing 9th in last year’s Constructors’ Championship with the slowest car that wasn’t a Lotus (Caterham), Virgin (Marussia) or HRT. This year, they have scored points in each race they’ve finished. Of course, out of twelve starts the team has made this season, they have only five finishes so luck and reliability hasn’t been on Williams’ side this year. They have, however, won a race this season. Pastor Maldonado won in Spain which was Williams’ first win since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix. His teammate Bruno Senna hasn’t quite matched that result but he has looked quick in his return to full-time racing in F1.

Caterham F1
#20 Heikki Kovalainen (19th, 0 pts.)
#21 Vitaly Petrov (23rd, 0 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Caterham-Renault (10th, 0 pts.)

The team that arrived in Montreal last year as Team Lotus is now Caterham after team owner Tony Fernandes bought Caterham Cars. It also helped end the confusion between the Team Lotus and Lotus F1 which was the former Renault team. For the last two seasons, the team’s goal has been points but it hasn’t managed to get off the schneid. The car’s one lap pace is good enough to latch on to the back of the mid-field as Heikki Kovalainen isn’t too far off Toro Rosso’s qualifying pace. Race pace is lacking as the team hasn’t been able to crack the top 15 apart from Monaco which was a finish aided by attrition. But if all hell breaks loose in Canada, as per usual, and luck is on their side, they have an outside shot at 10th.

#22 Pedro de la Rosa (24th, 0 pts.)
#23 Narain Karthikeyan (22nd, 0 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: HRT-Cosworth (12th, 0 pts.)

The less said about HRT, the better. This is their third season in Formula One and they haven’t threatened to score a point, even with the help of attrition, and haven’t even looked a threat to get a car out of the first round of knockout qualifying. Twice, Pedro de la Rosa has outqualified one of the Marussia cars but he hasn’t looked consistently faster than any other team on the grid. His teammate, Narain Karthikeyan, is a complete lost cause. It’s not a stretch to say that better than half of the drivers in GP2 would have little trouble running faster than him in the same equipment. Karthikeyan is what’s called a “pay driver” which means that the sponsorship dollars that he brings the team is what has given him a drive in F1. At least the team has de la Rosa who can drive and develop the car.

Marussia F1
#24 Timo Glock (20th, 0 pts.)
#25 Charles Pic (21st, 0 pts.)
Constructors’ Championship: Marussia-Coswroth (11th, 0 pts.)

The Virgin name has been dropped from the car now that Marussia applied for a formal name change after buying a controlling share in the team following the 2010 season. The team has technically taken a step forward as they’re not last in the Constructors’ Championship. The car is clearly faster than the HRT but that was also the case for the last two seasons. It’s a matter of luck whether or not they finish ahead of HRT this year. As for the drivers, the team added rookie Charles Pic for Jerome d’Ambrosio. It doesn’t seem like much of an improvement in terms of race results but comparing rookie to rookie in different seasons with rules changes isn’t exactly comparing apples to apples. Timo Glock is still the team leader and has the comparative race results to prove it. He hasn’t always had the pace compared to Pic in qualifying having lost out to his teammate twice in six races.

World Drivers’ Championship

  1. Fernando Alonso – 76 pts.
  2. Sebastian Vettel – 73 pts.
  3. Mark Webber – 73 pts.
  4. Lewis Hamilton – 63 pts.
  5. Nico Rosberg – 59 pts.
  6. Kimi Raikkonen – 51 pts.
  7. Jenson Button – 45 pts.
  8. Romain Grosjean – 35 pts.
  9. Pastor Maldonado – 29 pts.
  10. Sergio Perez – 22 pts.

World Constructors’ Championship

  1. Red Bull-Renault – 146 pts.
  2. McLaren-Mercedes – 108 pts.
  3. Ferrari – 86 pts.
  4. Lotus-Renault – 86 pts.
  5. Mercedes – 61 pts.
  6. Williams-Renault – 44 pts.
  7. Sauber-Ferrari – 41 pts.
  8. Force India-Mercedes – 28 pts.
  9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari – 6 pts.
  10. Caterham-Renault – 0 pts.

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