The last part of our end-of -season driver analysis looks at the front end of the grid, known in these parts as the Top Dogs.

Red Bull

  • Sebastian Vettel: Points – 392 – Championship – 1st
  • Mark Webber: Points – 258 – Championship – 3rd

We all know it’s been a fantastic season for Red Bull and, in particular, Sebastian Vettel. You don’t need us or an end of season review to tell you that. However, it’s worth having a look at some of the quite frankly astonishing stats the double world champion has managed to rack up:

vettel– Of all the laps he completed this season, the young German led 68.5% of them.

– Of the 475 points he could possibly have won, he managed to accumulate 392. That’s 82.52%.

– He scored 52% more points than his team mate.

– He won eleven races.

– He was on pole 15 times.

We could go on, but it would probably get tedious. Very rarely (or so we hope, anyway) will any driver have such dominance over the rest of the field. It wasn’t just that he managed to win all those races, it was the manner in which he did so.

Often on pole, he was usually over a second ahead by the end of the first lap and had managed to remove himself from the DRS trigger zone. How dispiriting it must have been for all the other drivers, not least his team mate, to see him disappear into the distance. We just hope that he receives a bit more of a challenge next season.

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Mark Webber, by contrast, had an underwhelming season. Having come into it with optimism after last season’s efforts, it all turned out a bit…flat. In a way, he’s been the perfect number 2 driver – not fast enough to challenge Sebastian Vettel, but fast enough to score points consistently.

In fact, with only one retirement all season for the veteran Australian and no finishes outside the top five, Red Bull must be laughing all the way to their rather large trophy cabinet.

Badger’s Best: Vettel

 

McLaren

  • Jenson Button: Points – 270 – Championship – 2nd
  • Lewis Hamilton: Points – 227 – Championship – 5th

Another team where it’s easy to pick the Top Dog. Badger as a whole and, in fact, this correspondent in particular owe ‘our Jense’ an apology. We thought – correction – I thought, that he was reliable and very quick but that he wouldn’t be able to stay with the superior speed of Lewis Hamilton. How wrong we were.

buttonJenson turned in an absolutely stellar season. After a slightly wonky start in the first few races he really got, for want of a better term, stuck in. All of us at Badger will remember the Canadian Grand Prix for many years to come and, in more than one way, it demonstrated why Jenson is so dangerous. Able to keep his head when all around him were losing theirs and then, when he needed to be fast on a drying track, he was. Simply put, no-one could stay with him.

Yes, he still needs the car to be set up to his liking to get up to speed and yes, he’s not that brilliant in qualifying but finishing outside the podium places on only five occasions during the season tells its own story.

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Lewis Hamilton, by contrast, had an absolute mare. The oversized glasses, the new teeth, the shiny earrings were not, in our opinion, the epitome of style. And his driving wasn’t much cop either. [All that said, your correspondent has one of these hats, so isn’t really in a position to talk.]

It wasn’t that there weren’t great drives. It’s just that intermingled with them was a bunch of, to be frank, dross. Too many mistakes, too many accidents, too many tantrums. It all, to be honest, went to seed.

His clashes with Felipe Massa came to define his season (and turn into a bit of a running joke). Our opinion on it all is very clear – if you’re driving for one of the top three teams and you’re regularly having scraps with Felipe Massa then you’re doing something wrong. End of.

That said, in the last few races Lewis looked a bit more like his own self. Quick, incisive and, crucially, calm. Let’s hope he manages to take some of that into 2012. For the sake of everyone. And Felipe Massa.

Badger’s Best: Button

Ferrari

  • Fernando Alonso: Points – 257 – Championship – 4th
  • Felipe Massa: Points – 118 – Championship – 6th

Ferrari, Ferrari, Ferrari. Not a classic season this one. Only Lewis Hamilton split the two drivers (he was just 30 points behind Fernando Alonso) and we all know what kind of season he had.

alonsoJimmy von Weeks’ favourite Spaniard did what he always does – outdrive his car. The most complete driver in F1? Probably. Just as a guide, he improved or equalled his starting position in 15 out of the 19 races. It’s this ability and race craft that makes him such a valuable commodity to any team he drives for – you know when he’s driving for you that your car is being used as well as it could possibly be.

It just helps if you give him a team mate who can’t challenge him. Speaking of whom…

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Felipe Massa. Hello. Still here are we? Does anyone think that the Brazilian would still be in his seat if a) he wasn’t quite so far behind Alonso and b) he doesn’t tend to throw his toys out of the pram (at least with his own team). We’re fairly confident the answer to that question is “no”.

No podiums, no finish higher than fifth, three retirements, clashes with Lewis Hamilton, and a sense he’s simply not the same driver since he returned from his injury. Is it cause and effect? That’s probably too simplistic, but it’s hard to believe that Ferrari’s second driver once came so close to winning the World Chamionship.

If he doesn’t buck up his ideas next season he’s going to struggle to stay in F1, let alone win races or the World Championship.

Badger’s Best: Alonso

Mercedes

  • Nico Rosberg: Points – 89  – Championship – 7th
  • Michael Schumacher: Points – 76  – Championship – 8th

Another holding season for Mercedes. Is that what they aimed for? Probably not, but it’s hard to believe they won’t be better next season. Surely. Surely?

rosbergNico Rosberg – is he in danger of becoming the new Jenson Button? Good, and possibly great, but always stuck in cars that aren’t good enough.

To be honest, there’s not that much to write. Mercedes are very similar to Lotus – in a league of their own. Not good enough to challenge the top three and a bit too good for the rest of the midfield. It’s just been a bit…dull.

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Michael Schumacher showed a steady improvement. Especially by the end of the season, it seems like the seven-time world champion has got his groove back. He’s not as good as he was, but then he’s over 40. Would any of us be as good?

He’s had some stellar drives (Canada springs to mind as the most obvious), but also retired five times. Swings and roundabouts, but he’ll need to improve his consistency if he’s to have any chance of matching Nico Rosberg next season.

2012 is going to be a big year for everyone involved in Mercedes: can Rosberg win a race? Can Schumacher do himself justice in what could be his final season? Can Ross Brawn get his mojo back?

Badger’s Best: Rosberg