This year sees a reworking of the Hot Rod or Hot Dog feature. Instead of looking in detail at all of the grid, we’ll be selecting drivers who we think deserve recognition for strong performances and those who, quite frankly, should be ashamed of themselves.
We’ve already given him a slightly controversial Top Dog award (at least if the reaction from Badger readers is anything to go by), but it bears repeating that he had a very good weekend… aside from kissing that wall on the last lap.
Let’s remember that this is a man who finished in the top 10 just once last season (in tenth place). In Australia, however, he qualified eighth and would have finished sixth – had he not taken the fight to Alonso and gone out with a bang… a big bang.
We love a healthy debate here at Badger, so if you disagree, read the Top Dog article and feel your anger rise.
After a nightmare qualifying session that saw him dumped out in Q1, F1’s latest comeback kid made a rather more positive impression on the race with a strong performance. Kimi made his way through the field relatively quickly before becoming embroiled in what was a thrilling scrap for the minor point placings. He got to know Kamui Kobayashi well – the two swapped some paint – asked his pits why he kept seeing blue flags (“they’re not for you Kimi”) and emerged from the final lap madness in P7. As returns go this was a very tidy job.
He needs to up his game as the season progresses though. Starting 14 places behind team-mate Grosjean isn’t on, and at times he seemed (understandably) rusty during the race. Still, plenty to be positive about.
The young Mexican was hamstrung in qualifying by a gearbox problem, eventually starting (after a five place grid penalty for the resulting gearbox change) in 22nd (and last) place.
He had an eventful race, taking in a great start, a collision with his team mate (with resulting front wing damage), one pit stop (the only driver in the race to attempt or pull it off), fuel saving, tyre saving, and then being overtaken by Nico Rosberg on the last lap. Having said that, this is pretty standard five laps for his Japanese counterpart.
Kamui-related jest aside, an eighth place finish is hugely credible. If he carries on like this it won’t be long before he’s no longer a Sauber driver, breaching the wall his teammate has yet to overcome.
Could he be the man to kick Felipe Massa into sportscar racing?
When Romain Grosjean made his brief F1 foray in 2009 he qualified badly, ruined brakes like nobody’s business and hit stuff. In 2012, he looked like a new man, and we like what we see, particularly after he stuck his shiny new Lotus third on the grid.
The Franco-Swiss racer was the star of qualifying, but a poor start dropped him into the pack, suggesting there’s still a little fine-tuning to be done. He was run off the road by Pastor Maldonado (who still hits stuff) on lap two, but Romain’s qualy performance suggests that Raikkonen will have to be on form to emerge as the fastest Lotus driver this season.
Paul di Resta
The Force India teammate battle is definitely one to watch for 2012. After qualifying for Australia, Hulkenberg had taken the lead with an impressive top 10 grid slot. Come Sunday, di Resta’s experience was evident. He had an impressive run, keeping his car out of trouble and, following a masterful bit of driving, took advantage of the last lap 4-car scrap for points.
The young scot went from being 13th on the penultimate lap to 10th at the chequered flag, picking up an all important point for Force India. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this inter-team battle as the season progresses; is the Hulk really is as incredible as people say he is?
Anyone wanting to see a driver devoid of form, confidence or pleasure should watch Felipe Massa’s 2012 Australian Grand Prix experience. We guarantee that it will chill you to the bone. 16th on the grid, followed by a race retirement after scrapping with a Toro Rosso and a Williams.
To put it in context, Alonso is one of the best (if not the best) drivers in F1. There’s no shame in being beaten by him in the same car. However, when you’re driving a Ferrari and your post-race comments feature the words “I was hoping to finish in the points”, you know there’s something badly wrong. Ferrari drivers don’t hope to finish in the points, they expect to.