Constructors’ Championship: 2nd
Best qualifying: 1st
Best race result: 1st
Best qualifying: 3rd
Best race result: 2nd
- Alonso’s wins – particularly the home one at the European Grand Prix from 11th on the grid.
- Massa’s return to form after a disastrous start to the season.
- Alonso’s consistency and race pace all year. A staggering performance.
At one point during the 2012 season Alonso was asked what the plans were for the race weekend ahead. “Usual weekend,” he said, “we’ll hopefully qualify in the top ten and then on Sunday… 70 qualifying laps.” Alonso’s race pace this year was, quite simply, exemplary and it’s no surprise that he came out as the ‘Driver of 2012’ when all the team principals voted.
After pre-season testing it was clear that Ferrari had a lot of work to do. Not only did it not have the fastest car, but it was so far off the front-runners that heads needed to be scratched. One reason put forward for the poor performance was inconsistency in its wind tunnel, a dilemma the team had been facing for over a year. This lead to a (not very cheap) decision at the end of the year to shut it down and build a new one. The team had been using Toyota’s facility for a while, but that was giving the same results as the broken Ferrari one…
It was in qualifying that the Ferrari was still struggling come the opening part of the season and it wasn’t until Spain that Alonso managed to put it on the front row. Race pace, though, wasn’t so bad, especially with the Spaniard behind the wheel, and four races in he had picked up 43 points. Massa had only managed two. The difference in performance between the two wasn’t helped by the fact that while Alonso was busy winning in Malaysia, Massa was struggling to 15th after being half a second slower in qualifying.
Talk soon started about the safety of Massa’s seat – would Ferrari replace him before the season finished? If his performances didn’t pick up then there was certainly an argument for it. However, some of the pressure was perhaps a little unfair. In Bahrain he started from 14th, but drove a solid race to ninth finishing seven seconds behind Alonso. He also posted a faster lap than his team-mate during the race. In Europe he was only 0.073 seconds off in qualifying and it took some debris to slow him in the race, Britain was also a good weekend – where he finished fourth. What was making Massa look bad was Alonso, who by now on 129 points to his 23.
The trend continued and Ferrari refused to confirm him for 2014, Massa openly admitting that the delay was affecting his performance. In the summer break he realised that the only way to contribute to Ferrari’s decision was to put the performances in. After the Hungarian Grand Prix he had a total of 25 points to his name (by this time Alonso was on 164), but once he returned from the month-long break he picked up points in every remaining race and got onto the podium twice. He may have picked up even more if he didn’t have to help Alonso in the championship, or run with an out-dated car compared to his team-mate’s. Not to mention the moment when Massa was ‘given’ a five-place grid in order to promote Alonso to the clean side of the grid in Austin. Some have been totally against the move, but to me it was just a team trying to make the most of the regulations, which every team does in every area. Brawn’s double diffuser? That was a design team trying to gain an advantage. As was Red Bull’s decision to start Vettel from the pitlane in Abu Dhabi and put his car in ‘race trim’. If anything makes you angry it’s the rule itself. Why should a gearbox problem hurt the only person whose fault it most definitely isn’t?
The general consensus is that Hülkenberg, who is off to Ferrari-powered Sauber in 2013, will take over Massa’s seat in 2014. However, if Massa performs next year as he did in the latter half of 2012 Ferrari will have some tough decisions to make.
So did Alonso deserve to win the 2012 Drivers’ Championship? The man who got the most points deserved to win, but what Alonso managed to accomplish in a slower car was a reminder that a driver can still have an impact in Formula 1, especially when they’re as good as the Spaniard was this year. It’s also worth bearing in mind his mistake in Japan and that the Ferrari was amazingly reliable this year. There were no retirements from the lead, something that both Vettel and Hamilton would be able to tell you all about.
Ferrari was gutted to have missed the championship and it will be a struggle to reset for 2013. What is certain, and of some consolation, is that it goes into next year with the best driver in Formula 1.