A decade on from the competitive 2012 season as F1 enters a new era

What happened to F1’s chaotic class of 2012? 10 years ago saw Michael Schumacher’s last dance, Lewis Hamilton at his lowest ebb, an epic Vettel-Alonso title fight, SEVEN different winners to start… and even Chelsea made it onto the grid!

  • The Formula One season opens up with the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday
  • Fans will hope for a season of thrilling action and another epic title battle 
  • New season could also invite a competitive campaign such as one seen in 2012
  • Ten years on, we look back on the crazy year and where the drivers are now 
  • As the new Formula One season hits the track in Bahrain this weekend, it only feels like yesterday that Max Verstappen pipped Lewis Hamilton to the 2021 title following an extraordinary and thrilling campaign.

    While the nature of the win following the controversial safety car period that benefitted the Dutchman left a bitter taste for many, fans will still hope for another close battle for the championship but perhaps more of a sporting one such as the contest a decade ago.

    In a season where seven different drivers won the first seven races, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso diced for the title. While the veterans still feature on the grid, Sportsmail looks back on the other competitors from that stunning year that also featured current stars Hamilton, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez.

    (From left) Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Bruno Senna line up ahead of the season finale at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

    (From left) Felipe Massa, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Bruno Senna line up ahead of the season finale at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

     

    Red Bull Racing

    Sebastian Vettel – Vettel went into 2012 as a double world champion and eventually claimed his third crown by a whisker ahead of Fernando Alonso following a final round battle in Brazil. The German then took his fourth world title in a more comfortable manner a year later before joining Ferrari in 2015. However, he met his match in Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes in six years at Maranello – with title charges fading away badly in the second half of 2017 and 2018 – before joining Aston Martin last season where the 34-year-old remains.

    Sebastian Vettel clinched his third world title with Red Bull in 2012

    He is still competing in F1 with Aston Martin where the four-time world champion will feature for a second season

    Sebastian Vettel clinched his third world title with Red Bull in 2012 and is still competing in F1 with Aston Martin where the four-time world champion will feature for a second season

    Mark Webber – The no-nonsense Australian was well in the hunt for the championship at the mid-way point of the season, emerging as the chief challenger to Fernando Alonso with his two race wins at Monaco and Silverstone seeing him just edge out Vettel. But as his team-mate kicked on, the Aussie’s season would implode leading to him finishing sixth overall and 102 points behind Vettel. The Aussie retired from F1 following 2013 but went on to race for Porsche in the World Endurance Championship, winning the title in 2015 in a year where he also finished runner-up at the famous Le Mans 24 hour race. After retiring from racing in 2016 he’s now back among the F1 paddock as a TV pundit.  

    Mark Webber endured a rollercoaster 2012 before retiring a year later from Formula One

    Mark Webber endured a rollercoaster 2012 before retiring a year later from Formula One

     

    McLaren 

    Jenson Button –  The 2009 world champion was in his third year with the team and his season was bookended by victories in Australia and Brazil with a triumph at Spa inbetween. The win at Interlagos was McLaren’s last until Daniel Ricciardo returned to the top step last season in Italy. Button toiled with McLaren as they slipped away from being front runners into a disastrous relationship with Honda having given up Mercedes power. Button retired in 2016 but returned for a one-off race in Monaco a year later while former team-mate Fernando Alonso was competing in the Indy500. Now back in F1 as a pundit for Sky and is also a senior advisor to his former team Williams.

    Jenson Button ended the 2012 season with victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix

    Jenson Button ended the 2012 season with victory at the Brazilian Grand Prix

    Speaking with former team-mate Lewis Hamilton in 2019 (above), Button now features as a regular pundit within the Formula One paddock

    Speaking with former team-mate Lewis Hamilton in 2019 (above), Button now features as a regular pundit within the Formula One paddock

    Lewis Hamilton – Arguably the lowest ebb of Hamilton’s career was his last two years at McLaren where a combination of personal struggles and team errors beyond his control saw the 2008 world champion lose faith in the Woking outfit. In 2012 he pipped team-mate Button by two points but after another team error in Singapore, he met up post-race with Mercedes and the rest is history. After signing for the Silver Arrows, six more titles in nine seasons followed from 2013 and although now 37-years-old, he will be gunning for the elusive eighth in 2022 to surpass Michael Schumacher’s record of seven having had the opportunity dramatically snatched from him in Abu Dhabi last year after being beaten in controversial fashion by Max Verstappen on the final lap of the season.

    Hamilton was in his final season at McLaren  having grown frustrated with the team's errors

    Hamilton was in his final season at McLaren  having grown frustrated with the team’s errors

     

    Ferrari

    Fernando Alonso – Nearly pulled off the unthinkable in 2012 by winning the world championship in a car that had no business competing for such glories. In what was an era of Red Bull domination, Alonso even led for much of the season before a late Vettel rally put a stop in his tracks, with the Spaniard losing out by just three points. Two further seasons of Ferrari struggles convinced Alonso to bet the house on McLaren-Honda coming good in 2015… only for them to implode and barely even challenge for points. He remained at the team before leaving F1 at the end of 2018. He won the world endurance championship in 2019 having won Le Mans twice before securing a surprise return last year with current team Alpine where the two-time world champion picked up his first podium in eight years at the Qatar Grand Prix.

    Fernando Alonso dragged his Ferrari into a championship charge that just fell short in 2012

    Even at 40 years old is still showing his world class talent with Alpine

    Fernando Alonso dragged his Ferrari into a championship charge that just fell short in 2012 (left) and even at 40 years old is still showing his world class talent with Alpine

    Felipe Massa – Perhaps highlighting how poor Ferrari actually were in 2012 could be seen in Massa’s struggles to get on top of the car following just one top five finish in the first half of the year. Although results improved he could still only finish the season with two podiums and seventh place in the championship. After a final season with Ferrari, the 2008 runner-up joined Williams where he called time on his career in 2016… only to be convinced to return for one more season following team-mate Valtteri Bottas’s last minute move to Mercedes. After a couple of seasons in Formula E, the popular 40-year-old is now back in his native Brazil racing in the Stock Car championship.

    Felipe Massa struggled to get the same success from Ferrari that Alonso did in 2012

    Felipe Massa struggled to get the same success from Ferrari that Alonso did in 2012

     

    Mercedes 

    Michael Schumacher – Having initially retired in 2006, Michael Schumacher was in his third and final year of what proved to be a disappointing F1 return with Mercedes. While 2012 saw him produce his worst season in F1 with just 49 points and a 13th place in the championship, the seven time world champion set the fastest lap in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix before taking his only podium for the Silver Arrows with a third in Valencia before again calling time on his career at 43-years-old. A year later he suffered a horrific skiing accident, which placed him into an induced coma. Having woken from that the coma after a few months, he continues to recover from the accident in the privacy of his Switzerland home.

    Michael Schumacher's Formula One career came to an end for the second time in 2012

    Michael Schumacher’s Formula One career came to an end for the second time in 2012

    Nico Rosberg – The 2012 season was a bittersweet one for Rosberg, as along with Schumacher the team suffered their worst ever season in the constructors’ championship with a fifth place and just 142 points – including just two between the German duo in the last six races. Rosberg’s start to the season though saw him take his first win in China, before following it up with a second in Monaco. After Hamilton arrived for 2013, the pair furiously battled as team-mates for the title over the following three years with Rosberg famously pipping the Brit to the 2016 championship before announcing an immediate shock retirement. Today he is regularly seen in the paddock as a TV pundit and also has launched his own racing team in Rosberg X Racing – an all-electric SUV off-road racing series Extreme E – that won last season’s inaugural constructors’ title.

    Nico Rosberg took his maiden grand prix win while with Mercedes at the 2012 Chinese GP

    Nico Rosberg took his maiden grand prix win while with Mercedes at the 2012 Chinese GP

    THE 2012 F1 GRAND PRIX WINNERS

    R1: Australia, Melbourne – Button

    R2: Malaysia, Sepang – Alonso

    R3: China, Shanghai – Rosberg

    R4: Bahrain, Sakhir – Vettel

    R5: Spain, Catalunya – Maldonado

    R6: Monaco, Monte Carlo – Webber

    R7: Canada, Montreal – Hamilton

    R8: Europe, Valencia – Alonso

    R9: Britain, Silverstone – Webber

    R10: Germany, Hockenheim – Alonso 

    R11: Hungary, Budapest – Hamilton

    R12: Belgium, Spa – Button

    R13: Italy, Monza – Hamilton

    R14: Singapore, Marina Bay – Vettel

    R15: Japan, Suzuka – Vettel

    R16: Korea, Yeongam – Vettel

    R17: India, Buddh – Vettel

    R18: Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina – Raikkonen

    R19: United States, Texas – Hamilton

    R20: Brazil, Interlagos – Button

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    Lotus F1 Team 

    Kimi Raikkonen – After two years of rallying, the 2007 world champion made a big return to the grid in 2012 and showed he had lost little of his magic after an impressive season at Lotus that saw him take the team’s only victory at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix near the end of the campaign and a third in the championship. Would then win the season opener in Australia for 2013 before joining Ferrari in 2014. However, he soon fell into a role as No 2 behind Fernando Alonso and for the following three years to Sebastian Vettel too – taking his final win at the 2018 US Grand Prix at the age of 39 making him the oldest race winner since Nigel Mansell in 1994. The Iceman then saw out his F1 career with Alfa Romeo before a modest retirement at the end of last season. 

    Kimi Raikkonen made a winning return on his comeback with Lotus in 2012

    He remained in Formula One before retiring last season following three years at Alfa Romeo

    Kimi Raikkonen made a winning return on his comeback with Lotus in 2012 (left) and he remained in Formula One before retiring last season following three years at Alfa Romeo

    Romain Grosjean – Like Raikkonen, Grosjean was also making his F1 comeback with Lotus having ended the 2009 season with the team in its previous guise as Renault. His first two years with the team were the pinnacle of his career, and he took three podiums including a second in Canada. However, he did also cause a multi-car pile up at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix, leading to a €50,000 fine and the first-driver to pick up a one-race ban since Schumacher in 1994. The Frenchman then joined the newly formed Haas team in 2016. Five largely uneventful years followed – aside from being involved in a huge crash at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix which saw him miraculously escape his car with relatively minor injuries after his car exploded into a ball of flames. Thankfully the 35-year-old made a full recovery and today races in the USA in Indy Cars. 

    Romain Grosjean also returned to F1 in 2012 with Lotus

    The Frenchman still competes in Indy Cars

    Romain Grosjean also returned to F1 in 2012 with Lotus and today still competes in Indy Cars

    Jerome d'Ambrosio (top right) made a one-off return at the Italian Grand Prix in 2012

    Jerome d’Ambrosio (top right) made a one-off return at the Italian Grand Prix in 2012

    Jerome d’Ambrosio – Stood in for Lotus at the Italian Grand Prix while Grosjean was on the naughty step following the incident at Spa. The Belgian made his GP debut the previous year with the Marussia Virgin team, and placed 13th in the race at Monza. That proved to be his last start before turning to Formula E in 2014 and retiring two years ago. He is still involved in the sport though as team principal of Venturi Racing.

     

    Force India 

    Paul di Resta – In his second season with the team and while the Scotsman was edged out overall by his team-mate, he put on a respectable showing – only just missing out on a podium with a fourth place at the Singapore Grand Prix. Despite being a clean, tidy and consistent driver though he was dropped by Force India following 2013 and only returned in a one-off race for Williams in 2017. Since then he most notably competed in DTM and won the LMP2 class at the Le Mans 24 hour race in 2020. He has also been an official reserve driver for McLaren in the last two years and features prominently on Sky’s F1 coverage as a pundit. 

    Paul di Resta (left) teamed up with Nico Hulkenberg at Force India for the 2012 season

    Paul di Resta (left) teamed up with Nico Hulkenberg at Force India for the 2012 season

    Hulkenberg will stand in as a reserve driver for Aston Martin at the Bahrain Grand Prix

    Hulkenberg will stand in as a reserve driver for Aston Martin at the Bahrain Grand Prix

    Nico Hulkenberg – F1’s nearly man. Just like Di Resta, Hulkenberg was always a consistent driver who could be relied upon but never seemed to get the breakthrough he deserved. The German had the speed, he took a fastest lap in 2012 in Singapore, and just missed out on a podium in Belgium with a fourth place. Has the unenviable records of driver with the most starts without a podium (179) and also the most points without a win (521). After spells with Sauber and Renault, he lost his F1 seat in 2020 but returned with Racing Point (formerly Force India) for three races as cover the same year. Has since stayed with the team, now known as Aston Martin, as reserve driver. Following Vettel’s positive Covid-19 test, Hulkenberg will return to the grid once more for the season opener in Bahrain.

     

    Sauber F1 Team 

    Kamui Kobayashi – The complete opposite of the Force India drivers. Kobayashi was inconsistent, erratic, aggressive and basically a crash waiting to happen. But this made him extremely good fun to watch and he could be extremely fast. The 2012 campaign would be his final (and best) season with Sauber after three years – memorably taking a podium at his home race in Japan. After a year out he had one more forgettable season with Caterham before moving to many other series. After a heartbreak of three second places and a third, he finally won the Le Mans 24 hour race last year with Toyota where the 35-year-old still races along with competing in the Japan’s top racing series the Super Formula Championship. 

    Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez pose with Chelsea shirts following the Premier League team's linkup with the Sauber outfit during the 2012 season

    Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez pose with Chelsea shirts following the Premier League team’s linkup with the Sauber outfit during the 2012 season

    The Chelsea badge also featured on the engine cover and on top of the car behind the front wheels throughout the 2012 campaign

    The Chelsea badge also featured on the engine cover and on top of the car behind the front wheels throughout the 2012 campaign

    Sergio Perez – The 2012 season was Perez’s big breakout in F1.After narrowly missing out on winning in Malaysia with a second, his next points finish came five races later with a third in Canada while he finished second again later in the year at the Italian Grand Prix. It earned him a move to McLaren where he struggled alongside Button in 2013. ‘Checo’ then spent the next seven years at Force India/Racing Point rebuilding his reputation and grabbing a handful of podiums before winning his first race in 2020 at the Sakhir Grand Prix. His comeback was effectively completed after joining Red Bull in 2021 and having won in Azerbaijan remains with the team as a reliable back-up to Max Verstappen.

    Sergio Perez grafted for many years at Force India before earning a Red Bull move last term

    Sergio Perez grafted for many years at Force India before earning a Red Bull move last term

     

    Toro Rosso 

    Daniel Ricciardo – The Australian’s 2012 season was his first full year in F1, and impressive showings at Toro Rosso earned him a Red Bull call-up. He was best of the rest outside the dominant Mercedes team in 2014, winning three races and seeing off his four-time world champion team-mate Sebastian Vettel. He then spent much of the following four seasons battling with Max Verstappen in the team, collecting four more wins in the process. After two years at Renault he joined McLaren last year and won the team’s first race for eight years with a one-two finish in Italy. Once again the 32-year-old will line up for the Woking outfit this term.

    Daniel Ricciardo is still going strong at McLaren

    Toro Rosso gave Ricciardo his first full season in F1 back in 2012

    Daniel Ricciardo is still going strong at McLaren (left) ten years on from racing for Toro Rosso

    Jean-Eric Vergne – One of the more forgotten talents to come through the Red Bull ranks over the years but the Frenchman was a competitive driver in his time at F1 and even beat Ricciardo over the course of 2012. Two more seasons at the team followed before he was dumped to make way for the incoming duo of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen. With his F1 avenues closed, the 31-year-old has proven his class in Formula E after joining the sport in 2014, winning the title in 2018 and 2019. He remains competitive in the series placing third in the most recent race in Mexico.

    Jean-Eric Vergne impressed during his time at Toro Rosso but left Formula One in 2014

    Jean-Eric Vergne impressed during his time at Toro Rosso but left Formula One in 2014

    THE 2012 FINAL F1 STANDINGS 

    DRIVERS

    1. Vettel 281 points

    2. Alonso 278

    3. Raikkonen 207

    4. Hamilton 190

    5. Button 188

    6. Webber 179

    7. Massa 122

    8. Grosjean 96

    9. Rosberg 93

    10. Perez 66

    11. Hulkenberg 63

    12. Kobayashi 60 

    13. Schumacher 49

    14. Di Resta 46

    15. Maldonado 45

    16. Senna 31

    17. Vergne 16

    18. Ricciardo 10

    19. Petrov 0

    20. Glock 0

    21. Pic 0

    22. Kovalainen 0

    23. D’Ambrosio 0

    24. Karthikeyan 0

    25. De la Rosa 0 

    CONSTRUCTORS

    1.  Red Bull 460 points

    2. Ferrari 400

    3. McLaren 378

    4. Lotus 303

    5. Mercedes 142

    6. Sauber 126

    7. Force India 109

    8. Williams 76

    9. Toro Rosso 26

    10. Caterham 0

    11. Marussia 0

    12. HRT 0

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    Williams F1 Team 

    Pastor Maldonado – One of Formula One’s most controversial drivers in the modern era. The Venezuelan never backed out of an overtake and naturally it led to many collisions. Of course then he was the most reprimanded driver over the 2012 season so of course he soon earned the nickname ‘Crashtor’. He wasn’t just an accident waiting to happen though, producing one of F1’s biggest shocks in recent times by taking pole and winning the Spanish Grand Prix for Williams – their only victory in the last 18 years. Another season at Williams followed along with two at Lotus. Now 37, he hasn’t raced competitively since 2019.

    Pastor Maldonado stunned F1 when he won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix for Williams

    Pastor Maldonado stunned F1 when he won the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix for Williams

    Bruno Senna – Ayrton Senna was killed while driving for Williams in 1994, so it was a major story when his nephew joined the team 18 years later. That’s about as big a splash the Brazilian made in his year with the team though. Despite being more consistent and often quicker than Maldonado, his third year in F1 proved to be his last in the sport before moving to sportscar racing and competing in the Formula Endurance Championship between 2013 and 2020 – winning the LMP2 class in 2017. The 38-year-old though has largely been out of action since leaving the series.

    Bruno Senna (left) failed to make a major impact during his three years in Formula One

    Bruno Senna (left) failed to make a major impact during his three years in Formula One

     

    Caterham F1 Team 

    Heikki Kovalainen – The experienced race winner was in this third and final season with the Caterham outfit but couldn’t drag the team towards a points finish during his run – despite not retiring from a race in 2012 with the exception of the season opener in Australia. He was dropped for 2013 before rounding off his F1 career with two races for Lotus at the end of year. The 40-year-old Finn then spent 2015 to 2021 competing in Japanese Touring Cars series Super GT, winning the championship in 2016. He retired from the series last year though citing personal reasons.

    Heikki Kovalainen's 2012 season in F1 was his  last full one in the sport

    The Finn was joined in the team by Vitaly Petrov

    Heikki Kovalainen was partnered at the Caterham team by Russian driver Vitaly Petrov

    Vitaly Petrov – Joining Caterham after two years at Renault, the Russian proved narrowly quicker over the course of the campaign compared to Kovalainen and just missed out on a points finish at the season ending race in Brazil with a season best 11th. It would prove to be his last race in F1 after leaving the team. A forgettable 2014 where he failed to score points in DTM followed, before the now 37-year-old spent three seasons racing the World Endurance Championship.

     

    HRT Formula 1 Team 

    Pedro de la Rosa – Even in 2012, the Spanish driver was ‘getting on a bit’ joining Hispania at the age of 41. It would though prove to be his first full season in F1 since competing for Jaguar in 2002. Not that he had much to cheer though. Hispania were so slow that in the opening race their cars’ qualifying times rendered them unable to compete and De La Rosa never even got near reaching the top 15 let alone a points finish. With Hispania going bust, he moved to Ferrari as a test driver for 2013 and 2014.

    The 2012 season would prove to be Pedro de la Rosa's last in Formula One

    He was joined at HRT by India's first F1 driver Narain Karthikeyan

    Veteran driver Pedro de la Rosa (left) was joined at HRT by Indian driver Narain Karthikeyan

    Narain Karthikeyan – India’s first F1 driver endured a similar final season in the sport to De La Rosa, except he did actually hit the top 15 once at the Monaco Grand Prix. A season ‘highlight’ consisted of him being called an ‘idiot’ by Sebastian Vettel, and him retorting by calling the German a ‘cry-baby’ after the world champion had picked up a puncture after hitting his front wing while lapping him. After leaving F1 he largely competed in Japan’s top class in open wheel racing, the Super Formula, and even at the age of 45 raced at four events in the Asian Le Mans Series last year.

     

    Marussia F1 Team 

    Timo Glock – Timo Glock was a decent F1 driver at his peak, collecting three podiums including two second places during his Toyota days but he will always be known as the driver Hamilton passed at the final corner in Brazil to win the 2008 title. By 2012, he was in his third and final season with the Marussia outfit following its takeover of the Virgin team but not even the German could record a points finish during his time there. The 39-year-old has since competed in DTM with BMW and recording a high of fifth in the championship in 2018 before leaving the series at the end of last year.

    Timo Glock was in his final season of F1 with Marussia

    Charles Pic made his F1 debut alongside the German

    The Marussia team saw Timo Glock (left) team up with debutant Charles Pic for 2012

    Charles Pic – The French driver made his debut during the 2012 season but driving a Marussia was unable to produce any real headline results with a season best 12th at the final race in Brazil. He joined Caterham for 2013 but after another season without a points finish he was dropped and spent 2014 as Lotus test driver. After a dabble in Formula E he retired from racing in 2015 aged just 25 before taking a management role in French logistics company Charles Andre Group. Earlier this year he completed a deal to acquire ownership of Formula 2’s prestigious outfit DAMS.