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While Vettel and Red Bull dominated the 2011 season, 2012 is turning out to be a different story with several drivers and teams fighting it out for wins and championship. As of now, 7 different drivers from 5 different teams have stood at the top step of the podium.
Fernando Alonso is the one who has made the most of his car and leads the championship by 40 points. 5 fourth places and two stunning wins at Monaco and Silverstone places Mark Webber in 2nd place ahead of his teammate and reigning World Champion Sebatian Vettel and McLaren's Lewis Hamilton. Kimi Raikkonen, who returned to F1 this year is in 5th place with 116 points, 48 points adrift of leader Fernando Alonso.
In the constructors standings, Red Bull are on top with consistent performance from both the drivers. McLaren are in 2nd place with 193 points, just one point ahead of Lotus F1 team and four points ahead of Ferrari. Mercedes won their first race(at Malaysia) since their comeback, but elsewise have had a poor season so far and are 5th in the standings.
So, here's our mid-season review, which will be in 3 parts: the first one covering the top runners - Red Bull, McLaren, Lotus and Ferrari; the second one covering the mid-fielders - Mercedes, Sauber, Williams and Force India; and the final one covering the backmarkers - Toro Rosso, Caterham, Marussia and HRT.
The double-diffuser was one of the main reasons why Red Bull was so fast last year. Unfortunately for them, it got banned this year and they have lost performance because of that. However, they've pushed the rules(hole in floor, for instance) as they lead the constructors standings by a comfortable margin of 49 points. However, they're nowhere close to where they were last year in terms of results.
Unlike 2011, Webber has been performing consistently at the top and is challenging Vettel rather than playing a side role. In fact, he's ahead of the German in drivers standings. With two wins and 5 fourth place finishes he sits in 2nd place in standings, 40 points adrift of leader Fernando Alonso.
At this time last year, Vettel had won 9 races and was running away with the drivers standings. Though he hasn't been as strong this year but he's still in 3rd places in the drivers standings with one win, three pole podiums and two podium finishes. He'll need a few more wins and podium places if he wants to win his 3rd title this year.
McLaren have had a crazy season, despite having the fastest car, they just haven't scored the points they could have scored. After locking the front row and winning the first race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix, McLaren results showed a down trend. Some poor pit stops meant that they lost multiple places and chances of winning races.
After multiple collisions with Felipe Massa in a poor 2011 season, we saw a new Lewis Hamilton in 2012. He's performed better than everyone in qualifying with 3 pole positions and having qualified in top 10 at all races. The story ain't as good when it comes to race, but the British driver still managed to win two races(Canada and Hungary) and a further two podiums.
After an amazing victory at Australia and 2nd place in China, Button's performance saw a serious drop. He complaint about lack of grip as he stayed out of top 7 for next 6 races. However, he's back with the recent updates to his McLaren but the damage has already been done. He has scored less than half the points of Fernando Alonso and needs a miracle to win the driver standings.
Lotus is one team which has exceeded expectations of everyone this year. Their car is extremely strong in hot conditions and despite not tasting victory they are are 3rd in the constructors standings, just one point behind McLaren. The only thing they need to improve on is qualifying.
Unlike Schumacher, Raikkonen's comeback has been extremely good with 5 podium finishes. His performance has been consistent and he's just a point behind 2008 world champion Lewis Hamilton in 5th place.
Grosjean, likewise had an amazing comeback. He has been extremely fast in practice sessions and qualifying but hasn't performed that well when it matters the most - race. Nonetheless, he has scored two podiums - two 3rd place finished in Bahrain and Hungary. He's tied with Jenson Button in 7th place with 76 points.
Ferrari started the season with serious problems - they just didn't have pace in the car. However, with Fernando Alonso driving at his best and Massa improving, Ferrari are in 4th place with 189 points and three wins.
Fernando Alonso has drove stupendously this year in what his team describes 'he driving at his best'. He has managed to get most out of his car and tactfully used wet conditions to win 3 races this year. His experience has helped him to lead this year's drivers standings by a massive margin of 40 points. Another important thing to note is that Alonso has scored points in each and every race this season.
Felipe Massa's return since his accident in Hungary 2009 hasn't been particularly good but he's performed better than he did last year. He has scored points in 5 races so far with 4th place at Britain being the best result for the Brazilian who's contract with Ferrari expires at the end of this year.
So, that's the first part of our mid-season review. We'll soon post the 2nd part covering the midfielders. Keep a track on that using our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ page or directly from our site.
by Rachit Thukral