2012 F1 Driver Rankings #2: Hamilton

2012 F1 season review

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Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Hungaroring, 2012

There was very little to separate the top three drivers of 2012 besides the cars they were competing in. Unfortunately for Lewis Hamilton his let him down while he was leading on more than one occasion – and that was just the beginning of his problems.

Hamilton’s performances in 2012 were quick and generally error-free – a world away from the troubled racer who often showed up in 2011.

However the year began with a missed opportunity in Melbourne. He put the car on pole position but was beaten off the line by his team mate and was unfortunate to slip behind Sebastian Vettel when the safety car came out.

Beat team mate in qualifying 16/20
Beat team mate in race 9/13
Races finished 15/20
Laps spent ahead of team mate 638/958

His pole-to-third result was repeated in Malaysia where the team made the first of several errors in the pits, most of which Hamilton bore the brunt of. But he also discovered that the MP4-27, though very quick in the dry, was less co-operative in the wet – as was also clear in Britain and Germany.

In China a grid penalty for a gearbox change dropped him into the pack but he emerged from it to take another third place and the lead of the championship. It proved fleeting as a pair of pit stop errors by his team in the next race left him eighth, despite a characteristically gutsy pass on Nico Rosberg.

He repeated that result in Spain after lapping quick enough for pole position in qualifying, then being sent to the back of the grid. His recovery drive, in which he made one fewer pit stop than his rivals and finished in front of his team mate, showed the kind of patience and coolness in adversity that were missing from his driving the year before.

Finally he posted his first win of the year in Canada, as he and the team sussed out the need to make an extra pit stop before Ferrari and Red Bull did. But after that his season went downhill rapidly.

In Valencia he was on course for a useful points haul when he came under attack from Maldonado. Having squeezed the Williams wide, Maldonado rejoined the track by driving clean into the side of Hamilton’s car and taking him out.

Eighth on the grid in a wet qualifying session at Silverstone yielded the same result in the race. In Germany he picked up a puncture and failed to score, though took the opportunity to vex Sebastian Vettel by un-lapping himself from the Red Bull during the race.

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Circuit of the Americas, 2012As F1 went into its summer break Hamilton delivered his second win of the year, a classy pole-to-win drive in Hungary despite considerable pressure from the Lotus drivers.

That cut his deficit to Alonso to 47 points and Vettel was just five ahead. Clearly, the championship was still a possibility, but there was more misfortune awaiting him once the season resumed.

Hamilton’s first-lap elimination in Belgium was entirely the fault of Romain Grosjean. But Hamilton might have avoided being caught up on it had he made the same set-up decision as his team mate, who started six places further ahead.

Button went on to win in Belgium, and it’s not hard to imagine how Hamilton might have done the same had he chosen the same rear wing. He won in Italy and retired from the lead in Singapore. This was a string of four races where he could have built a succession of title-winning Grand Prix victories the way Vettel later did. Instead he scored half the available points.

More frustration followed in Korea, where a technical problem during the race saw him limp home tenth, dragging a large clump of Astroturf which became stuck to his car. His preparations in Japan were dogged by more problems, though he recovered to beat Kimi Raikkonen to fourth. In Abu Dhabi, another likely win yielded nothing.

By this time Hamilton have made the surprising revelation that he would be leaving McLaren for Mercedes at the end of the year. Keen to go out on a high, he prised victory from Vettel’s hands at the Circuit of the Americas with an opportunistic pass when the Red Bull driver was briefly delayed by Narain Karthikeyan.

There could have been a final win in Brazil, too, even after he lost the lead by making an unnecessary switch to intermediate tyres early on. After the safety car brought him back into contention he passed Nico Hulkenberg for the lead, only for the Force India to spin into the side of him.

That was his sixth no-score in a frustrating year when things just refused to come right for Hamilton. Often – though not always – it was through no fault of his own. That he finished fourth in the championship with a car that was, on average, quickest over a single lap, is largely down to reliability and operational problems out of his control.

Hamilton was back to his best in 2012 and there is every reason to believe he’d have been in the thick of the championship contest had his car and team performed better.

Lewis Hamilton 2012 form guide

F1 Fanatic readers on Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Montreal, 2012Here’s what F1 Fanatic readers had to say about Lewis Hamilton’s season:

He always drove at the maximum of his and his car’s possibilities, he took advantage of the McLaren when it was the quicker can and battled with the Red Bulls when they were faster. His five retirements cost him so many points that he could’ve easily not only beaten Raikkonen, but likely Alonso and Vettel as well.

Seven pole positions plus the one he lost through no fault of his own in Spain, consistently faster than his team mate and as quick as Vettel when Newey improved the RB8. McLaren’s pit stop mistakes and bad reliability cost him so much that he finished the season even behind Raikkonen.

Arguably Hamilton’s best season since his rookie year, definitely his best since his title year. No driving errors, and when you see how much McLaren has been at fault this year, you get a better understanding of why Lewis decided to pull the trigger and move to Brackley.

Should be holding two world titles for sure. He drove brilliantly, but when that championship winning consistency was needed by the team, Hamilton was let down numerous times. We can easily add another 100 points onto his tally if McLaren had been as operationally smooth as Red Bull or Ferrari.

These point would see him easily champion. The frustration mounted this year but Lewis dealt with it well on track. Off track he had no other choice to move to a promising team that can only move up: Mercedes.

Notes on how the rankings are produced

The F1 Fanatic Driver Rankings are my personal view on how the drivers performed across the entire season. Drivers such as Jerome D’Ambrosio who only competed in a small part of the season are not included.

Each drivers’ performance in all of the race weekends are taken into account and summarised. For more detailed views of how they fared in each weekend refer to the notes produced for each Driver of the Weekend article and the driver form guides.

A selection of F1 Fanatic readers’ views appear alongside the rankings. The full rankings will be published in seven parts, with individual articles for the top five drivers, after which there will be a vote for Driver of the Year.

Over to you

What do you think of Lewis Hamilton’s last year with McLaren? Have your say in the comments.

2012 F1 season review

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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94 comments on “2012 F1 Driver Rankings #2: Hamilton”

  1. I think I’ve worked out who the#1 is!

    1. D’Ambrosio.

  2. Vettel should rank higher than lewis.

    The car was fastest like in most races………you can blame reliability, team strategy error, but without those, lewis didnt perform as well as the car could. Often finished out of his quali position.

    he got vote as 2nd due to sympathy and nth else

    1. he got vote

      There was no vote. See “Notes on how the rankings are produced”.

    2. Keep them blinkers on, son

    3. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      14th December 2012, 12:49

      Are you sure you were watching the 2012 season?

    4. I remember, he quali 2’nd in Canada and Austin, and he finished 1’st in both ocassions overtaking Vettel on the circuit. I think one time, he finished lower than quali, because in the rest he had problems at the pits, or tehnical problems, even in Monaco when he was overtook by Vettel in the pits, he wasn’t inform about the gap.

    5. tony1chris2@aol.com
      14th December 2012, 18:34

      Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha !!!!!!!

    6. I would put Vettel #2 and Hamilton #3 as well, but I understand why people would switch the two. Tough call.

    7. @wiry11 You actually can in this place, when the car and pit crew didn’t have an issue Lewis either won, or at worst got a podium or was right outside it. Grabbing himself a decent point haul. And same can somewhat be said for Jenson. You can’t fully understand the scope of McLaren’s sleeping on the job, unless you look at both drivers.

      Lewis was known this season for his flawless drives where he didn’t make mistakes and thus it was outside forces that got the best of him: Pit crew, suspension failures (mutli), transmission failure and change, grid penalties *(other), and other drivers such as Grosjean, Maldonado and Hulkenberg. This either cost him a chance for a win or at least real points toward the fight. So I too must ask what season did you watch?

  3. I have such a love/hate relationship with Lewis after 2011. But that drive in America means I’m not allowed to dislike him ever again. Incredible. It really should have been that Lewis v Fernando v Seb title decider we all deserve/expect. This ranking chart is bang on.

    1. Raikkonen should be upper than him, because is cleaner in overtaking and defending.. Hamilton crashed with : Maldonado, Hulkenberg…and Grosjean, and yes, was not his fault, BUT: why is happening only him?? This is not the faith, it’s his driving style. Plus, I remeber in Japan, Raikk-Hamilton, how incredible Raikkonen avoided Hamilton, Hamilton forcing a lot that corner. Look at onboard camera of Raikkonen to see what I’m talking about. Hamilton is a ram.

      1. I’m a bit puzzled about this. Maldonado and Grosjean hits lots of people, not just Hamilton.

        Hulkenberg wasn’t that bad over the whole season (or even in the Brazil race – you just look a real muppet if you wipe out the leader).

      2. So those crashes weren’t Hamilton’s fault, but they were Hamilton’s fault? And they were his fault because they happened to him? Fascinating logic.

  4. Should have been number 1. Failed to make a single on-track error all season long, and unlike that overrated Spaniard, wasn’t outpaced by his teammate for the majority of the second half of the season. The car and the team let him down massively here.

    1. unlike that overrated Spaniard, wasn’t outpaced by his teammate for the majority of the second half of the season.

      Massa only outpaced Alonso in like 3 races in the second half of the year. People just make a bigger thing out of it because Massa outpacing Alonso was so unexpected.

  5. Surprised to see Fernando beat Lewis to no.1 though they were close but Fernando made a big mistake in Q2 in Melbourne whereas I don’t recount any from Lewis. Even the above mentioned errors were not completely down to Lewis at all (eg. his start in Melbourne).

    Surprised but respect it. Good job on diagnosing each driver’s season for us Keith as always.

    A big thank you from all of us.

    1. I’d say a big mistake for Hamilton was not choosing that new rear wing in Belgium. With that he could have been on the front frow, and possibly ahead of all the carnage. And in Brazil he did make the mistake most others made too, to go in for intermediates.

      But otherwise, I think it was really a season where he did as good as can be expected of anyone.

    2. Lewis made a big mistake in Korea race. He ran inappropriate area that’s why he had to drive with “green car”

      1. Due to a suspension failure…why do I even bother you aren’t registered

  6. Might be the last time we see him ranked at Number 2 for a while..Hope im wrong, because there is never a dull moment when Lewis is up near the front.

    1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      14th December 2012, 12:52

      It shouldn’t affect his ranking on this should it? I mean, if he still drives the wheels off the Merc, and has great performances relative to the Mercedes pace, i see no reason why he should drop. Should it? @keithcollantine

      And indeed why Lewis is my favourite driver, as you say, always action when he’s near the front.

  7. Absolutely spot on for Lewis the fact that he accumulated just 2 points more than Button isn’t the biggest illusion this year!
    I just wonder when we are gonna witness a full blown title showdown between Hamilton and Alonso. For reason other than racing itself we deprived of that in 2007.
    The second thing that shows how well Lewis performed in 2012 is that he is placed above Vettel despite the 91 point chasm in the actual standings.

    1. is not isn’t obviously!

    2. @philby

      The second thing that shows how well Lewis performed in 2012 is that he is placed above Vettel despite the 91 point chasm in the actual standings.

      He is not placed above Vettel. Keith has ranked him higher on his opinion only. That’s all there is to it. A meaningless opinion.

      1. @F1fanNL if it is meaningless then why are you here to read it an comment on it?

      2. @f1fannl

        A meaningless opinion.

        I am under no illusion that I am merely offering my own view. And it’s gratifying to see how many people are sufficiently interested in my view to come here, read it and share their thoughts on it.

        Opinions can be meaningless. They can be ignorant of facts, logically unsound or defective in other ways. I don’t believe the views I’ve put forward here are. If you’d care to explain why you think they are I’d be interested to hear it. Otherwise it seems you’ve only come here to insult me and my work.

        1. @keithcollantine

          Meaningless as in, its not gonna change the fact that Vettel won a well deserved championship.

          Also, there’s a general consensus on this site that best driver of the year was never a contest. I guess Alonso’s constant stream of PR-******** worked.

          What’s funny though is that when Vettel was put ahead of Alonso and Hamilton by none other than Murray Walker, it was laughed at. Now though, your opinion is suddenly the bible.

          A lot of people are using or will be using this to ‘prove’ Alonso is miles ahead of Vettel. He clearly isn’t. In fact, I doubt Alonso would have had such a good season if he hadn’t had such a poor teammate for most of the year.

          1. @f1fannl

            A lot of people are using or will be using this to ‘prove’ Alonso is miles ahead of Vettel.

            More fool them if they do. Vettel drove very well this year, as I’ve already said, and I think he fully deserves the championship.

          2. Opinions are all that we have. Even if you put every driver in the same car, reliability, setup etc would always leave room for interpretation. therefore, what I feel is one of the more comprehensive and thought out driver rankings I’ve seen will have meaning to some people, even if not to you. If you disagree with the poll there’s another page where you can vote for your top driver of the season.

          3. @f1fannl does it get lonely on your pedestal up there? I mean you rant as if we all just blindly accept Keith’s view as if it were a dogma. If you have a personal issue with the site, why not personally brandish it with Keith and not in the open comments? Then again it is somewhat rhetorical to ask, when we get to see your attitude in how you go about it.

            You seemed to have missed the point of these rankings and plenty of people -myself included- have posted our own or disagreed with Keith on these ranking but understand where he is coming from. Having an open mind and all.

        2. +1 to that. hats off! greeting from freezing Poland to all F1 fans!

  8. His season left a lot of ‘if’s and ‘but’s mostly due to McLaren reliability problems and even though I don’t like the public image of the guy I gotta admit he drove well this year. Still, I may have put him behind Vettel (world champion, some magnificent performances) or even Kimi (who performed greatly with inferior car, maybe too many tiny mistakes in the first part of the season though).

    To my eyes Hamilton didn’t show anything spectacular (as far as I recall) which the other guys all did in their own ways. He was there when his car worked but, well, nothing special really.

    Just my 2c

    1. His recovery drive in spain was pretty amazing, and he turned it all the way up to 11 to get past Vettel in texas when so many would have given up and lumped for second. Its just sad that being constantly so far from the real championship narrative, his achievements didnt get the recognition they deserved.

    2. Hungary, USA , Spain and Canada were all stand out drives I think.

      1. But nothing spectacular (except for Spain maybe). In Hungary he was chased down by Räikkönen despite otherwise being faster all weekend, in USA he started from second and would’ve finished in that place if it weren’t for Karthikeyan (or whoever it was) blocking Vettel, and in Canada he won due to Alonso’s and Vettel’s bad strategy calls.

        1. And Alonso only won in Valencia because he lucked out due to others retirements, Vettel won 4 on the trot only because he had the best car, Kimi only won in Abu Dhabi because Ham retired, Button was only great in Brazil because his tire strategy gamble paid off…. People can invent excuses for whatever they want or don’t want to believe. Fact is an excellent drive is an excellent drive whatever luck or circumstance went into it.

          1. Yeah I’m aware of those

            I was just pointing out how Hamilton’s stand out races weren’t that spectacular really (at least for him to be worthily elected as the second best driver of this year). Especially when you consider the fact that he was put higher on the list than the world champion and the guy with the best racecraft (after a break of two years spent in probably the farthest motorsport from F1).

          2. @tmekt Yeah and Vettel has had lucky calls to with only two memorable drives from last to 3 this season and Brazil drive back. As others have made clear yet, you are on this bit that he was just a bore and capitalized on a good car…which is what Vettel did as well. It worked for Vettel because he didn’t have a transmission failure and a string of suspension failures that Button also suffered.

            You answered the question to why Raikkonin beat him already, and it was due to car failures. So what I see is double standards and then contradictions. He most likely got second due to having a great car that let him down, but still pulling off nearly as many wins as Vettel and due to the adversity faced by leaving the team but still putting on a good show. Yet also coming back from 2011 and acting like a winning and or championship driver.

            Either way I agree, at the end of the day it is all Vettel’s and no amount of back and forth will say otherwise. However, history is always debated and many people will look into the story of it and not just accept Vettel won.

        2. Hungary and USA were good drives though – the former was a case of driving just quickly enough to keep control of the race while ensuring the tyres hung together; the latter stealing a win without a car advantage.

          The lack a big stand-out drive (for Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonnen) is the basic reason why I wouldn’t say more than 2nd for any of them – and the relative lack errors as why HAM gets #2.

          1. The lack a big stand-out drive (for Hamilton, Vettel and Raikkonnen) is the basic reason why I wouldn’t say more than 2nd for any of them – and the relative lack errors as why HAM gets #2.

            Yeah well I disagree

          2. stealing a win without a car advantage.

            Half a second advantage in one sector almost every lap isn’t a car advantage? O.K.

          3. @F1fanl
            You have to drive all 3 sectors, not just the most advantageous one.

          4. @OldIron

            And in the other two sectors Vettel gained a tenth at best. Every lap Hamilton had a 2-4 tenths advantage. Do you honestly believe that’s because of Hamilton making up 3 tenths or more through skill alone?

            In practice it was already obvious the McLaren would be more than a challenge to Vettel. When the cars were empty Vettel had a slight advantage.

        3. What are you talking about? He only won Canada because of the strategy? You know that he was in front of Alonso and Vettel. At least Vettel (probably also Alonso) would stay behind him if they stoped also. And USA? Why everyone just talks about Karthy in USA, whats about the 2 laps where Hamilton lost 1 second because of HRTs…? And tell me about Vettels great races? Abu Dhabi? Where Grosjean, both TR and Webber let him pass?

    3. I have to agree in terms of ranking him behind Vettel and Raikkonen. I do think that Lewis bounced back extremely well from what was a difficult 2011, even though he was extremely unlucky with reliabilty. However, two things bother me about his 2nd place ranking here:
      1) He lost out to 2 slower cars, both of whom won less than he did (Fernando – 3, Kimi – 1). He finished 17 points behind Kimi (not exactly close)
      2) He only had 2 points in hand over his teammate Button (who Keith ranked 7th) – this one really baffles me.
      I do understand that Hamilton’s mechanical retirements were pretty detrimental in terms of the championship standings, but I can’t help but feel that a driver deserving the title of 2nd best in the world would’ve been able to overcome these obstacles

      1. @frost_byte_94

        but I can’t help but feel that a driver deserving the title of 2nd best in the world would’ve been able to overcome these obstacles

        HAHA wow you have high standards. I’m no Hamilton fan but seriously, you expect drivers to “overcome” two mechanical car-crippling problems while leading the race? You must think drivers should have the ability to fix their cars while driving!

        1. You’re taking what i said out of context

          I didn’t say he should’ve overcome to win the championship and completely annihilate the field. I simply feel as though if he deserved to be ranked 2nd, he would have overcome them to achieve the 2 points I listed above (i think he should’ve beaten raikkonnen and should’ve had more points over Button, even with the retirements).

          Obviously i don’t expect a driver to win a race if their car breaks down in the middle of it

          1. @frost_byte_94 I get what you’re saying but 1 he did beat button, so case solved. And 2, he would have beaten raikkonen, had it not been for those 2 retirements ( a bit of an assumption, i know). So basically, I just don’t get what your point is. In the slightest.

          2. @timi my point is, as I said, I wouldnt rank him second because i would expect someone ranked second to be able to recover in subsequent rounds to make up the lost points.

            The season is 20 races long. 2 mechanical failures aren’t justification for losing to a slower car that had no break downs. Vettel (who i ranked second), overcame problems in Valencia, Italy, and Abu Dhabi qualifying to win the championship.

            Don’t get me wrong, I think Hamilton is the only driver along with Vettel that has the ability to light up an entire weekend and be untouchable on track (see Hungary, Canada and Abu Dhabi before the retirement). I just think that the consistency that drivers like Alonso and Raikonnen show is so impressive because it shows at the end of the season in the championship standings

          3. Frost_Byte, don’t take this as an offense please, but in my opinion your talking nonsense here. Hamilton lost more than 100 points this season because of things which were not his fault. If you really believe it was just 2 races which he had to overcome, you haven’t watched the whole season. He lost a possible win at Spain because of his team underfueling the car, he lost a possible win at Brazil aswell – in a worst case-szenario, that’s already 100 points lost in 4 races. And I haven’t even started to count all of the points he’s lost due to bad pitstops or others crashing into him.

            The inconsistancy of his results this season was not due to him, it was due his team, other drivers or simply bad luck.

  9. OmarR-Pepper (@)
    14th December 2012, 13:01

    2nd place? mmmmmm even when the team let him down most of the year?

    1. @omarr-pepper

      I read the title of this series as ‘Driver Rankings’. The team doesn’t factor into it, otherwise Hulkenburg should never have been in the top 5, and Alonso wouldn’t be number 1.

      I’m not the biggest Hamilton fan, and if you look back through my previous comments people will see I’ve been quite critical of him before. But this season was one of Hamilton’s best. Watching his pole lap in Melbourne back in March it was apparent that his driving style was smoother than it has been. He’s not had a perfect season (even when factoring out car and team errors), but he deserves 2nd in this ranking.

      1. OmarR-Pepper (@)
        14th December 2012, 16:45

        @keeleyobsessed I would NEVER be a Ham fan either, just in case, I’m just saying that the final poll rating Alonso better than Hamilton or Vettel (well, yes better than vettel) is harder to evaluate because of the races spoiled by the team. My memory is quite bad to tell you the exact races when Hamilton was getting the 1st and the team (or the car) sank the ship.

  10. My personal number 1 this year. Lewis was simply perfect, fast during every weekend, consistent, made no mistakes and the only thing which robbed him of a title was McLaren’s reliability and operational errors. He was fanstastic this year and his season is the best one pulled by a driver since Alonso’s 2006, when Fred was equally phenomenal. These 2 guys really are the best drivers on the grid by some margin. It was a pleasure to watch Hamilton this year and I hope he can deliver exactly the same feeling in Mercedes.

    I don’t like the way he behaves sometimes (Twittergate i Unfollowmegate) or that he tries hard to become celebrity, but that doesn’t really matter when he is showing his magic on track. Hats off to you Lewis, hats off.

    1. Hear hear! Well said

    2. No mistakes is an exaggeration but any significant ones on his part could be counted on one hand.

  11. Well, i am not convinced Hamilton deserved 2nd (or 1st), imo. I think he had very calm season, the pressure was never on him. In the first races he was too conservative, than the problems came and in the end he wasn’t even for the title fight. Really there is little to blame Lewis for, but also is hard to admire him without using the word “if”.

    1. Malaysia –> Pitstop
      China –> Gearbox and pitstop
      Spain –> Fuel
      Monaco –> “Pitstop” (wasnt that bad)
      Europe –> Maldonado
      Germany –> Puncture
      Spa –> Grosjean

      Yeah, the poblems came in the end… You know that Hamilton was considered Alonsos 1st pursuer in/before Marina-Bay.

  12. Amazing reading the summary how he got the most out of teh car every weekend, excepting Monza set up.

    How many points did he lose to external factors? And Alonso, Vettel? Seems like it would be around 150, totally crazy season.

    Massa beat Alonso in final third of season, dont know how Alonso can be #1 that being the case.