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Formula One: Ten down, ten to do

Last updated on: July 27, 2012 16:50 IST

Formula One: Ten down, ten to do

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Raja Sen

Raja Sen's midterm Formula One report card

The Formula One season in 2012 has been the sport's most divisive one. On one hand, there's constant overtaking and incredible unpredictability: for the first time in F1 history, seven different drivers won the first seven races.

Then again, there's too much overtaking for it to be special, and enough unpredictability for the timesheets to feel like sweepstakes. New converts to the sport mostly feel the former, while purists grumble about the latter.

- Formula One 2012

Yet here we are, talking about ten down in order to understand the ten to go. We're smack bang in the middle of this F1 season, and the points tally -- 1. Alonso 2. Webber 3. Vettel 4. Raikkonen 5. Hamilton --- tells us nothing save for the fact that Fernando Alonso is at the front of the field. For now.

And while much is to be unravelled in the ten races to come, this first half has been decidedly enlightening in itself.

Here, then, is a look at the six World Champions we have on the grid, and the one man who could well make it seven. This, ladies and gents, is the midterm Formula One report card, and the pilots are graded in red.


Photographs: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

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Fernando Alonso (154 points) : A+

When the year began, as McLaren and Red Bull tussled for the lead and the Ferrari was written off as a midfield loser, not many favoured the chances of Fernando Alonso, despite his superhuman knack of wringing impressive laptimes out of bad cars.

His win in Malaysia was looked on as a wet-weather fluke, but now -- leading the world championship with a 34 point lead over Mark Webber (and a 62 point lead over 5th placed Hamilton) -- he looks unassailable.

Last Sunday marked his 22nd consecutive point-scoring race, and if he continues to rack them up, the competition will cease to exist. He's bringing the car home, winning races with relative ease, and fastest whenever it counts most.

The Spaniard will always be aggressive, but the Alonso of today is wise with his aggression -- the only exception being the way he, when on pole, chops right across the front of the No 2 driver to keep him behind, an old Schumacherian ploy.

He's always been a great driver, but Alonso's gotten even more flawless. Clearly the best of the current grid, Fernando's taking an unworthy car (teammate Felipe Massa is 131 points behind him) steadily towards a World Championship. Salut.


Photographs: Ker Robertson/Getty Images

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Mark Webber (120 points) : A

Martyring himself by wearing Red Bull's Number Two tag proudly, Mark Webber's driving out of his skin this season, staying ahead of his two-time champion teammate largely by merit of soaking up pressure much better than Sebastian Vettel.

A 'nothing to lose' dogma has characterised the Aussie veteran's gutsy season thus far, taking on braver strategies and shoving himself into many a white-knuckled maneuver.

Many believe it's merely a matter of time before Webber is overhauled by Vettel, but for now he's hanging in second place with a ten-point lead over his teammate -- having literally won himself a well-deserved contract for next year -- in a car with solid pace. And he's doing more than enough to keep himself in the hunt.


Photographs: Paul Gilha/Getty Images

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Sebastian Vettel (110 points) : A-

Ah, the defending champion. German wunderkind Sebastian Vettel, the one man looked on to win and win and win, enough to give even Michael Schumacher's hitherto insurmountable stack of records a fair go, isn't at his best this year.

True, the youngster is naturally gifted, a cut above the rest, but -- as we see this year, in an unfortunate echo of Lewis Hamilton's 2011 season -- he's having trouble dealing with the fact that everyone isn't just making way for him.

He's bulletproof only when the car allows, and showing shakiness under pressure: there is some red mist, and a high percentage of his rasher moves smack as much of desperation as they do ruthlessness.

He's an excellent driver, tough, fast and gritty. Vettel started the season driving within himself but is now occasionally messing up rather catastrophically. It doesn't look like a champion's campaign -- not yet, anyway.

Vettel can't be written off simply because he has the uncanny ability to peak exactly when the situation most craves it.


Photographs: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

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Kimi Raikkonen (98 points) : A

He's back, baby, and he's as much of a cowboy as ever.

The 2012 season is an odd one, disliked mostly by old-school lovers of racing nuance. It's an overtaking-heavy season, but mostly artificially, and it is a year characterised by tyre-degradation and driving within delta times, an F1 season where drivers are mostly punished for going flat-out -- which is their job to begin with.

Kimi, of course, wants nothing to do with driving inside practical limits, and is galloping all over the place like a scalded stallion. He's come second, and hated it.

He's made it to the podium, and hated it. The Finn is champing at the bit. He's driving to win -- and thrillingly so -- except the car isn't qualifying high enough just yet.

And yet, Raikkonen's keeping a dashed Lotus ahead of the McLarens. And when it comes to overtaking moves, he's a vintage warrior: on current form, without a doubt the best (and bravest, AND fairest) overtaker on the track today.

A couple of wins and we could be in for a photo finish, not to mention an unprecedented comeback year.


Photographs: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

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Lewis Hamilton (92 points) : B-

This year began immensely promisingly for young Hamilton, as he started off looking a lot more mature.

Evidently chastised by last year's drubbing at the hands of Jenson Button (he finished below his teammate for the first time ever), Hamilton looked to be cleverer, wiser, and even more amiable.

Yet as the season went on and the McLaren slid off the performance cliff and turned from a frontrunner into a midfield ambler, Hamilton began clutching at straws, his initially unruffled exterior now noticably piqued.

The errors he's made are glaring ones, and he's shown little resilience when faced by poor luck. Lewis is a blisteringly fast driver, and an effortless passer of cars, but stuck in a poor car, his exasperation is showing.

Hot-headedness is clearly not the answer, and if Hamilton doesn't have a couple of impressive showings back to back, he may well be out of contention within the next couple of races.


Photographs: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

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Jenson Button (68 points) : B+

McLaren's newly-crowned Number One driver had a laudable 2011, and started off 2012 with an impressively unchallenged win.

This is a season which belongs to those who can make the optimum use of their tires, and the smart money's been on Button because of his super smooth driving style and his wily rubber-conserving ways.

e looked very solid early on in the season, but a disastrous stretch -- of just 7 points in the six races from Bahrain to Silverstone -- has all but scuppered his chances.

Still, he's markedly inspired on his day, ice-cold under pressure and a canny tactician. Despite the dip in form, if the car holds, Button may well emerge as McLaren's top pilot for the second year running.

The true thrill is in the fact that earlier in the year, Jense looked content to settle wisely for points and stay away from the risk, but now, forced to go for broke, he appears suitably hungrier. Cue fireworks.


Photographs: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

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Michael Schumacher (29 points) : B

Say hello to the single unluckiest driver on the grid. Or, as Martin Brundle said, perhaps Schumacher used up all his luck in his first F1 stint when he won his seven world titles.

This year started with the maestro retiring five times in seven races, most with bizarre instances of car trouble and only one of which -- Barcelona, where he tussled with Bruno Senna -- could be called his fault.

Fans totting up the what-if points claim that if Schumacher's Mercedes made it to the finish (like his teammate Nico Rosberg's machine, which never fails), he'd be neck and neck with Seb Vettel by now.

ut no matter. Despite Rosberg's immaculate finish-record, Schumacher has drawn level with him in terms of finishing ahead in races. The last few races have seen Schumacher deliver a pole position, a podium place, and a fastest lap.

Something's got to give. The best part of Michael being in the sport, of course, is watching him relishing the dogfights, attacking like an overzealous prosecutor, and making breathtaking passes.

And, in this third year with Mercedes, he's making his presence felt on the timesheets. He -- and we -- all want more.


Photographs: Clive Rose/Getty Images

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