Championship Contenders - Part 2

 

Here is part two of my 'Championship Contenders' article. In this section I'll be looking into the chances of the men who sit 3rd, 2nd and 1st in the drivers standings; Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen returned to Formula 1 this season after a two year hiatus racing in the World Rally Championship. The F1 bug obviously got Kimi's attention though, as he returned for the 2012 with Lotus. From all we've seen so far this season, Kimi has shown absolutely no sign of race rust (like we've seen with a few other returnees) and has gone on to have a very successful season to date.

Raikkonen is the only the driver in the title hunt without a win to his name this season. It's certainly not for a want of trying though, but the team just haven't quite been able to deliver the perfect weekend necessary for a race victory on a Sunday afternoon. He has though finished on the podium 5 times this season; taking 3(three) 2nd places and 2(two) 3rd places. In fact, since the Canadian Grand Prix Kimi has finished no lower than 5th in any race.

He's finished every race and scored in all but one of those, with the one none score coming at China after trying a different and risky strategy on tyres. We've so many times in Formula 1 that consistency that bring you great success, so scoring as often as you possibly can, even if it's only a couple of points, can be crucial come the end of the season.

One thing Kimi and Lotus for that matter, need is a win. On so many occasions this season we've headed into a Grand Prix weekend thinking that this will be the race in which Kimi and Lotus finally take that illusive win. Sadly for many though, this hasn't happened yet. He's been close on many occasions, none more so than Bahrain and Hungary, but just hasn't been able to make that one final push onto the top step. It's this mixture of a strange lack of, or should I say random disappearance of speed, and poor strategy calls that have seen the Enstone outfit go without a win in 2012 and what could ultimately cost Kimi in his pursuit of a second world title. We know he can race at the front, we know he's got the car to consistently finish on the podium, but have he and the team got that final little bit to go one stage further? It looks increasingly like they haven't, but I'll go back to a point I made earlier on. Consistency can bring you success; something that Kimi is going to have to fully utilise and maximise in the remaining 7 races.

Lewis Hamilton

2012 has certainly been an interesting and ‘different' season for Lewis Hamilton, both on and off the track. There have been far too many people talking about Lewis in regards to what has happened away from the track in recent times; hence why I'm solely going to focus on what he has achieved on track this season. We've seen a different style of driving from Lewis this season; one that has seen him take a much more measured and calculated approach to his racing and pursuit of the championship.

He started the season in very consistent fashion, by taking 3(three) 3rd places in the opening 3 rounds of the season. He appeared to be driving in a very ‘championship mode' style, taking fewer risks and being less aggressive when it comes to his tyres in a bid to not only consistently finish, but to consistently finish on the podium. This consistent finishing continued in the next 3 races, and although he didn't finish on the rostrum again until Canada, he'd still managed to take a steady amount of points.

Canada was a great weekend for Lewis. After the disappointment of Barcelona a few weeks previous, Lewis knew that he'd soon need another strong weekend and a return to the podium was imperative. He qualified strongly, but raced even stronger. It was a dominating performance for the man from Stevenage as he managed to make a two stop strategy work, all down to his utterly supreme pace during the middle of the race. Lewis and McLaren were well and truly back on form.

A run of 3 retirements in 5 races between Valencia and Spa have hardly helped Lewis and his title ambitions, especially given how quick and competitive the car has once again become. It has to be said that none of the retirements were Lewis' fault, something that hasn't always been applicable in previous years. A collision with Pastor Maldonado in Valencia, a puncture in Germany and the horror crash in Spa were not of Lewis' doing (although I still think he could have done more to avoid the collision with Maldonado in Valencia). Still, three no scores in such a short space of time is going to no one any good, especially a driver going for the title.

What will give Lewis a lot of encouragement going into these fly away races though is the way in which he has taken dominating wins in both Hungary and Italy. Lewis has showed this season that when he is out in front, in a car that is quick, he's virtually unstoppable. It has to be said that in Monza he wasn't under any real threat, but still drove an error free race to win comfortably and put his title bid right back on track. We know Lewis can do it in both qualifying and the race, as he has demonstrated numerous times this season, so I see no reason why Lewis shouldn't be able reel in Fernando Alonso. Lewis has the experience of winning a championship and knows what he needs to do; beat Alonso. Now I'm sure that's something he'll have no trouble in wanting to do, and given the car and team he is in, he has a great chance. He's 37 points behind Alonso, can he pull that back? Of course he can. Will he be given the opportunity? We'll just have to wait and see.

Fernando Alonso

Undoubtedly the best driver of 2012 so far has been Fernando Alonso. In my opinion he is the most complete, all round driver there is in today's paddock, if not one of the true all round greats of all time. Alonso stands triumphantly at the top of the driver's standings after a series of incredibly strong results. He's absolutely ringed the neck of that Ferrari and got results that just shouldn't have been possible, particularly early on in the season.

Alonso was the first driver to win 2 races this season when he crossed the finishing line in Valencia in front of his adoring home fans, something that clearly made the super-cool Alonso become very emotional. Had it not been for a late move by Mark Webber at Silverstone, Alonso would have taken his third victory of the season. He didn't have to wait long for that 3rd victory though, as a determined and relentless Alonso drove to victory at Hockenheim. His ability to soak up pressure and not crack is my eyes at least, unrivalled. He faced it throughout the race in Germany, whether it was from Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button or the charging Lewis Hamilton. He didn't crack once and in the end won comfortably, extending his championship lead.

Prior to Spa he'd scored in 24 consecutive races, just one shy of Michael Schumacher's record. Unfortunately for Alonso, and numerous others, the race at Spa ended after just one lap. Alonso's onboard from that horror crash was terrifying to see and made everyone once again realise just how close the margins can be in this sport. Luckily in a way for Alonso one of his rivals also failed to finish, and with Jenson Button winning, it at least meant his lead wasn't cut as much as it could have been.

He came back strongly this past weekend at Monza, once again finishing on the podium. Had it not been for issues in qualifying, where he ended up 10th, Alonso could well have been challenging Lewis Hamilton for the race win as the Ferrari looked to be the most competitive it had been for a while, something backed up by Felipe Massa. Alonso, like Raikkonen, has scored consistently. He's been on the podium 7 times, more than any other driver, and that has allowed him to build up a 37 point lead at the top of the standings. He's driven superbly all season, probably the best he ever has and all this has happened without the backing up of a team mate for much of the season.

The Ferrari probably isn't, nor ever has been, the quickest car this season. Yet in the hands of Alonso has won 3 times and been on the podium a further 4. Can he keep this up now that we've left Europe? Looking at Alonso's record in recent years when it comes to the end of the season; you'd have to say yes. In the last 4 seasons he's finished on the podium 12 times in the fly away races, with 5 of those being wins. If he can continue that this season then you'd have to think he'll stay on top until the end of the season. A third championship for Alonso seems an ever increasingly likely possibility. He's my favourite for the title for two reasons. He has a 37 point lead over his closest rival, Lewis Hamilton. But more importantly than that, he is Fernando Alonso.

So that's it. I've looked at and assessed the chances of all 6 drivers involved in the title hunt. Do you agree with the points raised? Or don't you? Who is your favourite for the title? Fernando Alonso? Lewis Hamilton? Sebastian Vettel? Whoever it is, let me know by commenting below! I hope you've enjoyed what you've read here and that it sparks some discussion amongst fellow F1 fans.

The picture you see at the top of both of these articles was done by a good friend of mine. You can check out his website here for more excellent pieces of work. Many thanks!

Top Drivers

 
Driver Points
Hamilton 252
Rosberg 211
Vettel 203
Raikkonen 107
Bottas 101
Massa 97
 

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