Hot Rod or Hot Dog is our regular post-Grand Prix column in which we review driver performances from the race. One driver is then declared as Badger’s “Top Dog”, and we’ve had 20 such awards handed out over the course of 2012.

Here’s a few highlights from our favourites from Australia to Brazil.

Malaysia – Sergio Perez

Photo: Sauber Motorsport AG

The little Mexican surprised everyone in the wet by chasing down Fernando Alonso for 2nd place, and only missing out on the win thanks to a small mistake 5 laps from the end;

“In ‘normal’ races he only seems to pit once in a blue moon, so it was a bit of a shock to all of us at Badger to see him in and out of the pits three times for various combinations of slick, intermediate and full wet tyres.

Such aversion to the pits has obviously taught him how to manage his tyres and so it was, when chasing down Alonso in the final part of the race, that he was able to take large chunks of time out of the Ferrari driver’s seven second lead. There was even a point when it appeared that he was going to pass Alonso and romp home to a famous victory.”

China – Nico Rosberg

Photo: Mercedes AMG F1 Media

Nico finally delivered that first victory every man and his dog was criticising him for;

“A veteran of 110 races going into the weekend, questions had been asked of Rosberg’s mental strength when put in a position to win races, but this time he fulfilled three of the essential parts of any victory: staying calm, maintaining his pace and looking after his tyres. Tick, tick and tick again.”

Bahrain – Romain Grosjean

A race that saw Lotus come through the field for a double podium, we thought it necessary to award it to the younger of the drivers in black-and-gold;

“The race saw Sebastian Vettel back to something like his 2011 form, Kimi Raikkonen demonstrate he’s still got it and Romain Grosjean turn the green shoots of promise from the first few races into the strong flower of a podium. Yeah, that’s right, the strong flower of a podium.

Realistically any of those drivers could have taken the coveted Top Dog crown, but we’ve decided to give it to Grosjean because a) we like his face and b) he was bloody good in Bahrain.”

Spain – Pastor Maldonado

Photo: Williams/LAT

You all know the story by now, right?

“There’s absolutely no way we couldn’t give the Top Dog award to the Venezuelan today. Truly extraordinary.

If we believed in such things at Badger, we’d say it was meant to be. Frank Williams’ 70th birthday, Hamilton demoted to last place after qualifying and all the Williams and Maldonado clans around to witness.

In fact, of course, this victory was long in the making. After a dreadful season last year, the Williams team rejigged themselves, reordered their operations and released the potential we all knew was there [ed. did we?].

Perfect from start to finish, Maldonado dealt with the pressure of being on pole and wasn’t fazed when Alonso surged past him off the line. From then on it was a wonderful example of controlled driving, smart strategy and great poise under pressure. The slight problem with the left rear tyre during his last pit stop might have distracted him, but he refocused and held off a charging Fernando Alonso.”

Monaco – Heikki Kovalainen

When the Top Dog award is handed out, we don’t just look at the front of the grid, and there was no better example of that than Monaco;

“Not the most conventional choice being as he finished in 13th, but Heikki Kovalainen put in a blinding shift yesterday. The Caterham driver spent the entire race keeping Jenson Button’s McLaren in his rearview mirrors which, despite the tough-to-pass nature of Monte Carlo, is no mean feat.”

Canada – Lewis Hamilton

Photo: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes Media

The Brit finally joined the winner’s circle after 7 bites at the cherry in Canada;

“In the past, we’d have seen him unsettled to the point of distraction by the slightly sticky right rear tyre during his second pit stop, or by the fact that his two competitors for the race victory didn’t stop as his team assured him they would. This time, we saw a man who went out there and got the job done.”

Europe – Fernando Alonso

Photo: Octane Photography

On home soil, the Spaniard drove a magnificent race to win from 11th on the grid, bringing a lot of joy to all of his supporters;

“Yes, he’d never have won the race without Sebastian Vettel’s sudden and catastrophic car failure but, when presented with the chance, he seized it with both hands. Once he got ahead he never looked like losing and, in the end, that’s all that matters. It’s looking ominously good for the Spanish double world champion; getting race victories without having the fastest car is a good groove to be in.”

Germany – Kamui Kobayashi

“This being Kobayashi, he still found time to throw his car up the inside of other drivers and generally be quite racy. We’d love to see him at a top team, but he probably wouldn’t fulfil their criteria for a sensible driver to rack up points for the constructors’ championship.”

Oh KK, we do hope you get a drive in 2013.

Hungary – Kimi Raikkonen

“He also had the opportunity to demonstrate the utter ruthlessness that makes him such a good driver, given that he was involved in one of, if not the only, moments of real tension at the sharp end. Emerging from the pits for the last time, he came very close to colliding with his team mate Romain Grosjean, running him wide as he did so. It’s that kind of single-minded determination that makes him such a valuable commodity in F1 and such a pleasure to watch drive.”

With Romain’s reputation by the end of the season, it was an absolute miracle they didn’t touch, quite frankly.

Italy – Sergio Perez (again)

Photo: Sauber Motorsport AG

“It also helps that Sergio Perez is an excellent driver. In fact, it seems a shame that, as has been suggested, his most likely destination is to be second driver at Ferrari. It would be a real waste of a very promising talent to have to kowtow to Alonso’s title challenges. He deserves better.”

And he got it, signing for McLaren on the same day Lewis Hamilton moved to Mercedes. Shame the good performances dried up afterwards.

Singapore – Paul Di Resta

“It’s really only Paul di Resta’s fourth place that caught our attention, snaring himself not only his best ever finish in F1, but making him the Singapore Grand Prix’s Top Dog to boot. Even then there wasn’t a great deal of excitement about his race, just slow and steady progress. It shows what having a consistently quick car will do for a driver.”

It worked wonders for Nico Hulkenberg in the sister Force India, who ended up jumping ship to Sauber.

Japan – Kamui Kobayashi (again)

Sauber Motorsport AG

Kamui received his second Top Dog award of the season for getting his first podium in front of his home fans in Japan;

“He may not have gained any places during the race, but the most important thing was that he didn’t lose any either. To drive to his first ever podium with his continuing employment at Sauber under question and the weight of a nation upon his shoulders is tremendously impressive. The crowd chanting his name at the end was truly extraordinary.”

Korea – Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric-Vergne

Unusually, a double award was handed out in Korea;

“They were, for long periods, the only cars worth watching. Vergne would pass someone and then Ricciardo would follow him through. Perez and di Resta were both dealt with early on in such a manner.”

India – Fernando Alonso (again)

The second race on the Buddha circuit was just as boring as the first, but there was at least one shining light;

“Anyway, grousing aside, Alonso’s was easily the best performance of the race, Canute-like though it was. It genuinely feels like he’s single-handedly holding back the tide of history carrying Sebastian Vettel to his third title on the trot.”

Abu Dhabi – Kimi Raikkonen (again)

Photo: Lotus F1/LAT

Just like Maldonado in Spain, does this one really need explaining?

“After his two year sojourn in rallying, his return to F1 this year had all the makings of a modern disaster. The prodigal child returning home, only to find that he no longer had a place at the top table.

Thankfully that’s not the way things have worked out and, after a performance during which he was fast when he needed to be and composed throughout, he’s well and truly back. He also managed to a) back chat to his engineer and b) swear on the podium. Just another day in the life of a lot of people’s favourite Finn.”

America – Lewis Hamilton (again)

Photo: Octane Photography

The barnstorming race that was Austin’s baptism saw a heavyweight duel between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, with the Brit coming out on top;

“For once, Vettel didn’t just drive away from the rest of the field when he was at the front. In Hamilton, he was followed by a man seemingly possessed. Relentless, remorseless and, due to the championship situation, completely free to drive as he pleased. More of this please Lewis.”

Brazil – Sebastian Vettel

Winning a World Title is special. Winning two on the trot even more so. But, to nab one after spinning on first lap, and with a broken car and radio? No contest.

“He was, of course, helped immensely by the fact that he had under him a very fast car but, when it mattered, he delivered. You don’t win a Formula 1 world title without deserving to and, while it may seem to some that Alonso “deserved” a third title more than the young German, it just goes to show the exceptional talent he possesses that he’s been able to win three on the trot. To achieve that level of consistency in one of the most competitive sports on the planet is a testament not only to him but to the Red Bull team.”

Photo: Red Bull Racing Media

Top Dog was written on a consistent basis by Badger writer Benson Jammichello – read them all, and are Driver Performance analysis, here.