2012 was the year of Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, the two men who competed for the championship until the former became champion once again. What the press, and occasionally us fans, forget is the exceptional driving ability of every single racer. In celebration of all twenty four (now twenty two as we say goodbye to HRT) drivers on the grid here’s my list of my top five under rated drivers of 2012.
Number 5: Daniel Ricciardo
(Sorry for the use of this picture but it really did cheer me up on a non racing weekend!)
The young Toro Rosso driver isn’t technically in his rookie season having driven for HRT last season at the request of Red Bull. However the step up to even a Toro Rosso is huge and brings with it additional pressures. Not that the relaxed Australian noticed of course! His place on this countdown comes in recognition of his qualifying results, outperforming his team mate Jean-Eric Vergne 15:5.
Number 4: Nico Rosberg
2012 was Nico’s year of improvements. More consistent racing and his nonchalant attitude to having Michael Schumacher as his team mate has put him on this list. Of course we can not discount Nico’s win in China which proved to the world that he is a race winner. Who know that this year’s Mercedes was capable of this? Prior to this year he had 8 podiums and was second on the all time list for highest number of podiums without a win. I think we are all pleased he could join that exclusive ‘Grand Prix winners’ club.
Number 3: Jenson Button
You’re probably all wondering why I have a world champion on my under rated driver list. Well I can justify this. He managed to avoid the drama of the Belgian Grand Prix to emerge victorious and won in Brazil (although all the cameras were really on Sebastian Vettel). His steady season saw him finish fifth overall in an unreliable and often challenging McLaren. The limelight this year has been on his now former team mate Lewis Hamilton, but lets not forget the talent that is Jenson Button.
Number 2: Charles Pic
Definitely not Formula 1’s most talked about drivers, Charles Pic’s name was not really mentioned until he signed a multi-year deal with Caterham which will begin in 2013. When Pic first replaced Jerome d’Ambrosio I thought he would endure a similar fate: race for one season and battle for a seat anywhere else the next. However his competitive racing with the likes of Timo Glock and Heikki Kovalainen (who have a staggering 204 race starts between them) has got him noticed by the fans even if he isn’t at the front. Hopefully consistency with a team that clearly believe in him will be enough for him to get in the points. He could!
And here he is: my top under rated driver of 2012! Drum roll please…
Number 1: Heikki Kovalainen
I have been debating for a while which driver deserves this top spot the most. Whichever driver I thought of it always came back to Heikki and his reliability. You put Heikki in a car and he will bring it home. His commitment to Caterham despite their lack of improvements is admirable and his seemingly permanent smile only faded upon the realisation that his future in F1 may look bleak. I as a fan hope that rumours linking him to Force India, Lotus and his current team Caterham are true (especially as the Finn is not set on bringing funding). He is the only driver from the three (now two, sorry HRT) new teams to have made it to Q2. He may be near the back of the grid but the ‘Nice Man’ is a solid racer and has helped Caterham to a very financially beneficial 10th place. I hope this isn’t the last we see of Heikki. His win in Hungary in 2008 was great and proof that, in the right car, he really can achieve.
So there it is. My top five under rated drivers of 2012. As a fan I did find this list difficult to compile as I have respect for each driver and their dedication to Formula 1. I am pleased with my conclusion, however I know that yours will most likely differ from mine enormously.
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