Analysis: how would double points have changed the last 20 years? Part One

It’s the morning after the night before. The news that from 2014 onwards, the last race of the season will have double points is still being met with largely negative views. Some have said Formula One is turning into wacky races – what will happen next?

The idea behind the double points is that championship battles will be maximised and go on for as long as possible, i.e. the last race of the season. This post is the first of two which will look back at the last 20 years and see the changes, if any, double points for the last race would have made to any of the championships.

Points were awarded to the top six in the following format: 10, 6, 4, 3, 2, 1 meaning double points in the last race would have been worth: 20, 12, 8, 6, 4, 2.

1993 – Alain Prost

In 1993 Alain Prost won the world championship ahead of Ayrton Senna and Damon Hill. Prost had 99 points and had a 26 point advantage over Senna and 30 points over Hill at the end of the season. He had already wrapped up the championship before going into the last race and so double points would have resulted in no change:

  1. Alain Prost (99) – 111 points
  2. Ayrton Senna (73) – 83 points
  3. Damon Hill (69) – 77 points

Instead, Prost would have marginally increased his deficit over both drivers, despite Senna winning the last race of the season in Australia. There would have been minor changes elsewhere, however, with  double points allowing Jean Alesi to move ahead of Riccardo Patrese, and Gerhard Berger to leapfrog Martin Brundle. The Constructors championship would have remained as it was.

1993

1994 – Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher won his first of seven world championships in 1994, finishing one point ahead of Damon Hill and 51 points ahead of third placed man Gerhard Berger. Neither Schumacher nor Hill scored in the last race so double points would not have effected the order:

  1. Michael Schumacher 92
  2. Damon Hill 91
  3. Gerhard Berger (41) – 47

Double points would have seen Nigel Mansell elevated from ninth to sixth and Martin Brundle dropping from seventh to eighth, despite gaining points. Again the Constructors championship standings would have been unaltered.

1994

1995 – Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher won his second world championship in 1995, this time with a more dominant point deficit. He finished the year 33 points ahead of Damon Hill who in turn was 20 ahead of David Coulthard. Once again Schumacher failed to score points in the final race but he already had a significant points advantage so double points would have made little difference:

  1. Michael Schumacher 102
  2. Damon Hill (69) 79
  3. David Coulthard 49

The only other changes in the top ten would have been Olivier Panis swapping places with Mika Hakkinen due to scoring six more points, and Mark Blundell moving ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

1995

1996 – Damon Hill

After finishing second in 1994 and 1995, Damon Hill became world champion in 1996. He finished 19 points ahead of Jacques Villeneuve with Michael Schumacher in third place. Villeneuve failed to score points in the last race so Hill’s win, with or without double points was enough to secure him the championship although he would have still won without winning:

  1. Damon Hill (97) 107
  2. Jacques Villeneuve 78
  3. Michael Schumacher (59) 65

Once again the Constructors championship would have remained unchanged with Williams winning by a significant margin over Ferrari.

1996

1997 – Jacques Villeneuve

Jacques Villeneuve was crowned champion in 1997 when he finished 39 points ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen. David Coulthard took third place a further six points back. Michael Schumacher had ended the year in second, just three points down on Villeneuve, but was disqualified for a collision he had with the Williams driver. Schumacher was just ahead in terms of points going into the final race but his disqualification means that double points would have made no difference:

  1. Jacques Villeneuve (81) 88
  2. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (42) 43
  3. David Coulthard (36) 42

Double points would have benefitted Mika Hakkinen in the championship, as he would have finished in fourth place instead of sixth. In the Constructors championship, McLaren would also have gained from double points in the last race. They would have moved up to third place, ahead of Benetton who actually finished in third.

1997

1998 – Mika Hakkinen

Mika Hakkinen won the first of his two world championships in 1998, beating Michael Schumacher by 14 points and team-mate Coulthard by 44 points. Going into the last race Hakkinen had a four point advantage over Schumacher, but the Ferrari driver failed to score. Double points would therefore have done little to the standings:

  1. Mika Hakkinen (100) 110
  2. Michael Schumacher 86
  3. David Coulthard (56) 60

Damon Hill would have benefited from double points as they would have enabled him to finish ahead of Jacques Villeneuve.

1998

1999 – Mika Hakkinen

Mika Hakkinen became a double world champion in 1999, beating off competition from Eddie Irvine and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. The Finn won by just two points, and was trailing Irvine by four points as they went into the last race of the season. Frentzen finished the year a further 20 points behind Irvine. If double points at the last race had been in play, the order would not have been altered, but Hakkinen would have enjoyed a larger deficit:

  1. Mika Hakkinen (76) 86
  2. Eddie Irvine (74) 78
  3. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (54) 57

Michael Schumacher, who broke his leg at the British Grand Prix and subsequently missed six races, would have benefited from double points at the last round and would have moved from fifth to fourth. In the Constructors championship, Williams would have gained enough points to see them finish in fourth place in the standings.

1999

2000 – Michael Schumacher

After a disappointing 1999, with a number of races spent on the sidelines, Michael Schumacher was back to winning ways in 2000. He clinched his third world championship, ending the year 19 points ahead of Mika Hakkinen, and 35 points ahead of Hakkinen’s McLaren team-mate David Coulthard. Going into the last race, Schumacher had a 12 point lead over Hakkinen so, with ten points available for a win, the championship fight was over before the last race:

  1. Michael Schumacher (108) 118
  2. Mika Hakkinen (89) 92
  3. David Coulthard (73) 79

Jacques Villeneuve would have gained a position thanks to double points but the rest of the top ten would have remained as they were. BAR-Honda would have gained a place in the Constructors championship, progressing to fourth and dropping Benetton to fifth.

2000

2001 – Michael Schumacher

Championship number four was not far away for Michael Schumacher. A dominating year saw him finish well clear of second place man David Coulthard and team-mate Rubens Barrichello. With the championship well and truly wrapped up before the final race of the year, double points would not have made the blindest bit of difference, even if Coulthard had taken 20 and Schumacher none:

  1. Michael Schumacher (123) 133
  2. David Coulthard 65
  3. Rubens Barrichello (56) 58

Elsewhere, the rest of the top ten would have stayed exactly where they finished if double points had been available. There would have been no movement in the Constructors table either.

2001

2002 – Michael Schumacher

Another Michael Schumacher championship in 2002 saw him beat competition from team-mate Rubens Barrichello. As had been the case in 2001, the championship came long before the final race of the season, so Barrichello could not have closed the 63 point gap with double, triple or even quadruple points available:

  1. Michael Schumacher (144) 154
  2. Rubens Barrichello (77) 83
  3. Juan Pablo Montoya (50) 53

As was also the case in 2001, double points would not have altered the top ten at all and the Constructors championship would also have remained static.

2002

So far, looking back at ten seasons (1993 – 2002), the double points rule would not have made a difference to any of the championships, had they finished as they did. Part two of this analysis will look at 2003 – 2013 and see what part, if any, double points would have played.

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McLaren ’50 in 50′: History in Hungary

Of the 19 races in 2013, McLaren have won 16 of them at one stage or another. Wins in Bahrain, Korea and India have as yet alluded them. In terms of number of wins, Hungary ranks in the top five, behind the big guns of Monaco, Belgium, Great Britain, and the US. First held in 1986, McLaren are the most successful team at the Hungarian Grand Prix, with 11 victories to their name. The first of these came in 1988 and the most recent was in 2012 when Lewis Hamilton won for the third time.

In the early days of the race it was a happy hunting ground for Williams, with the team securing a number of front row lock-outs in qualifying, getting numerous podiums and winning seven races in 12 years. From the late 90s, however, McLaren started to edge ahead in the statistics and are now the most successful constructor there, in terms of wins and podiums. They have 22 podium finishes in Budapest, including their 11 wins, as well as eight pole positions and five fastest laps. Ferrari and Williams are not far behind, however, with seven and six podiums respectively, with Williams leading the fastest laps tally with nine in total.

Ayrton Senna and Lewis Hamilton are the most successful drivers for McLaren around the Hungaroring. Senna won the race in 1988, 1991 and 1992 while Hamilton was successful in 2007, 2009 and 2012. Hamilton’s 2007 victory came under a shadow, however, after he refused to let team-mate Fernando Alonso through in qualifying. The Spaniard retaliated by staying in the pit-box longer than he should and subsequently ruining any chance Hamilton had of completing another lap. Alonso was demoted on the grid and Hamilton started from pole and went on to win. Another McLaren driver with more than one Hungarian Grand Prix victory is Mika Hakkinen (1998 & 1999), as he won the race on the way to his two world championships. Kimi Raikkonen won it in 2005 while fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen took his one and only Formula One victory there in 2008. Last, but by no means least, is Jenson Button who won in 2011.

Both Button and Hamilton are also race winners at the Hungaroring for other teams. Button’s maiden Grand Prix victory came in 2006, driving for Honda while Hamilton took his first win with his new team – Mercedes – at this year’s race. The Hungarian Grand Prix could well be on the calendar through to 2020, so who knows how much more success McLaren and its drivers can enjoy there!

McLaren ’50 in 50′: History in Japan

McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez will line up tenth and eleventh for the Japanese Grand Prix. The race first made its Formula One World Championship debut in 1976 but was not held between 1978 and 1986 (inclusive). It rejoined the calendar in 1987, meaning this year will be its 29th running. McLaren are the most successful constructor at the race, with nine wins – two more than Ferrari. They also have more podiums than any other constructors – 25 in total.

James Hunt (1977 – Fuji)

The James Hunt/Niki Lauda 1976 rivalry came to a head in Fuji, with the Japanese Grand Prix staging the last race of the season – the title decider. The weather condiitons were treacherous and Lauda made the decision to retire to the pits during the race due to safety concerns. Hunt was in the lead of the race but, as the track started to dry, he started losing positions and slipped to third place. It was enough to win him the championship and in 1977 he went two places better, winning the race ahead of Carlos Reutemann and Patrick Depallier. He built up a dominating lead of over a minute and was not challenged after taking the lead from pole sitter Mario Andretti.

Ayrton Senna (1988 & 1993 – Suzuka)

After a nine year hiatus, the Japanese Grand Prix returned in 1987 at Suzuka. Ayrton Senna was the first McLaren driver to win there when he did so in 1988. He won it for a second time five years later. It played host to another title showdown in 1988 this time between team-mates Senna and Alain Prost. Senna out-qualified Prost and the pair both lined up on the front-row. It was a race where Senna was forced to prove himself by driving through the field. He stalled on the grid but, due to the hilly nature of the starting grid, he got the car going but had dropped right down the order. In order to win the race he needed a win and with his team-mate in the lead it looked like Prost could be becoming champion. Prost battled with Ivan Capelli before eventually succombing to Senna’s attack, as he nurseda gearbox problem. Senna headed a McLaren 1-2, with Theirry Boutsen in third, subsequently becoming champion. The 1993 race was a different story – it was not the title decider, with Prost already having it wrapped up. It was also common knowledge that Senna would be leaving McLaren to join Williams at the end of the year. Senna started second on the grid, behind Prost, and briefly took the race lead. When the rain fell and drivers had to take on wet tyres, Senna had the better pit-stop and emerged in the lead. He spent the rest of the race battling with Prost but kept the lead and went on to win ahead of the Frenchman. Future McLaren driver Mika Hakkinen finished in third.

Gerhard Berger (1991 – Suzuka) 

Gerhard Berger is a two-time Japanese Grand Prix winner, although only one – his second – was for McLaren. He started the race from third place, with team-mate Ayrton Senna on pole and Nigel Mansell second. Berger took the lead at the start and pulled out a gap. With Mansell needing a race victory to stay in championship contention, Berger being in the lead was doing his team-mate a favour. Senna re-took the race lead on lap 18 and he and Berger continued trading fastest laps as they established themselves at the front. Towards the end of the race Berger started to develop an engine misfire and dropped back from Senna. However, due to a gentleman’s agreement between the pair, Senna let Berger through to take his first McLaren victory. Senna still won the world championship.

Mika Hakkinen (1998 & 1999 – Suzuka)

By the late 90s, when Mika Hakkinen was on the way to his two world championships, the Japanese Grand Prix was still hosting the last race of the season. It was once again host to a decider in 1998 when it came down to Michael Schumacher V Hakkinen. Schumacher took first blood in qualifying when he secured pole by a tenth of a second. Jarno Trulli stalled on the grid causing the first start to be aborted. On the second attempt Schumacher stalled and suddenly Hakkinen saw his title challenger drop to the back of the grid. Hakkinen led the field away on the third attempt and built up a solid lead while Schumacher charged through the field. Unfortunately for the German, one of his tyres exploded after contact with debris, causing him to retire. Hakkinen went on to win the race (and championship) finishing ahead of Eddie Irvine and David Coulthard. Another showdown faced Hakkinen in 1999 – this time with Eddie Irvine, who had a four point advantage over the Finn going to Japan. Hakkinen qualified second, behind Schumacher, with Coulthard and Heinz-Harald Frentzen slotting between the Finn and his rival in fifth. Hakkinen took the lead at the start and pulled away, driving a faultless race to beat Schumacher and Irvine to the lead. Ferrari took the constructors’ championship but Hakkinen retained his drivers’ title by two points.

Kimi Raikkonen (2005 – Suzuka)

After a string of Ferrari wins in Japan, Kimi Raikkonen took a dramatic last lap lead in the 2005 race to put McLaren back on the Japanese Grand Prix winners list. Rain mixed up qualifying with Ralf Schumacher starting from pole position while the likes of Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, and Raikkonen started right down the order – 17th in Raikkonen’s case. It was warm and sunny on race day. Raikkonen lost out after making a mistake and running wide early on but an early safety car, thanks to his team-mate’s escapades, closed the order up and Raikkonen had the restart to regain positions. He stormed through the field and with just a handful of laps remaining he was right up with race leader Fisichella. He had a couple of laps following the Renault, with backmarkers getting into the mix. The McLaren driver enjoyed a tow from the Renault and closed right up at the final chicane. He eventually passed him on the final lap and went on to win the race with a one and a half second advantage. Alonso finished a distant third.

Lewis Hamilton (2007 – Fuji)

When Formula One returned to Fuji in 2007, it was Lewis Hamilton who conquered the wet conditions to win the race. Hamilton went into the race weekend with a slim two point advantage over his team-mate, which was extended due to Fernando Alonso crashing out. Hamilton qualified on pole and led the field behind the safety car, which the race was started behind due to the weather. It stayed out until lap 19 and they finally got racing. While a number of drivers crashed out, Hamilton kept it on track to take another race win, by eight seconds. Heikki Kovalainen got his first podium position in Formula One when he finished second for Renault, with eventual world champion Kimi Raikkonen in third place.

Jenson Button (2011 – Suzuka)

The Japanese Grand Prix remained in Fuji for 2008 but returned to Suzuka for 2009. Sebastian Vettel took another pole position but it was McLaren’s Jenson Button who took victory. Button made a quick start and tried to pass Vettel, but was squeezed off the track and subsequently lost a position to his team-mate. Button looked after his tyres and closed in on Vettel at the end of the first stint and when Vettel pitted, Button stayed out longer. His quick in-lap coupled with a fast stop from McLaren saw Button emerge in the lead. After a safety car period, Button stayed out longer again when Vettel pitted and increased his advantage. In the closing stages of the race Fernando Alonso started to gain on the McLaren but Button won with a one second advantage. Vettel eventually finished third.

McLaren ’50 in 50′: Mika Hakkinen

MikaThere’s an exception to every rule. In this case, the rule is that Finnish Formula 1 drivers are uniquely stone-cold racing machines. Yes, you might occasionally catch a hint of irritation in Kimi Raikkonen’s radio communications, but the Finns don’t do emotional, they don’t do flamboyant. The exception then, and it was only one exception, was Mika Hakkinen’s breakdown in the bushes at Monza in 1999. He had put his McLaren off the track at the chicane from a comfortable lead on lap 30. It was a topsy turvy year already, with Hakkinen the defending Drivers Champion duelling both with arch-rival Michael Schumacher and team-mate David Coulthard. Hakkinen’s reaction to his unforced error (he engaged first gear instead of changing up), was uncharacteristically un-Finnish. He threw his gloves and steering wheel to the ground and went off into the bushes, but not out of sight of the cameras, for a good cry. The history books record the facts: Schumacher missed a great big chunk of the season after a big crash at Silverstone, Mika held off the Ferraris of Eddie Irvine and the returning Schumacher to clinch his second title. But in that moment, that short interlude in the bushes at Monza when the weight of a thrown away race crushed him, Mika Hakkinen found a special place in the hearts of Formula 1 fans of all kinds.

Not that he wasn’t already loved. Hakkinen and Schumacher were the two gladiators of the second half of the 1990s. As rivals, they complemented each other well. Schumacher was the ultimate tactician, an ever-evolving racing computer who rarely miscalculated an opportunity. Hakkinen had that raw speed, the extra vision for an opportunity, a balls-out racer’s racer. He also made mistakes. Where Schumacher earned a grudging respect for his relentless racecraft, Hakkinen had you on the edge of your seat. He was brilliant. Sometimes he was rubbish. Often he was plain unlucky.

If you saw Mika’s Top Gear segment where he took James May round the forest in a rally-prepared Mercedes-Benz 190E, you’ll remember he explained the Finnish notion of ‘sisu’. This is a uniquely Scandinavian attribute, a quality combining determination with courage in adversity. We’d call it ‘grit’. As a driver, Hakkinen had sisu in abundance. If you need an example, recall his double overtake on Schumacher and backmarker Ricardo Zonta at Spa in 2000 – arguably one of the bravest and most memorable overtaking manouvers of the modern era. Sisu and then some.

But for a man who has much to brag about, Hakkinen remains a taciturn and laconic man. Not that he’s without humour. A notoriously difficult interviewee there is, nonetheless, the hint of something mischievous about his media performances. You can’t help but feel that a night out with Mika would be fun in a way that a night out with Kimi might not be.

But what about that bad luck? There’s a horrible irony in the fact that the fire that destroyed his house was caused by a faulty light in his trophy cabinet. What does everyone remember about that fire? That Mika’s pet tortoise was cremated. Oh yes, and he lost all his trophies.

You can read on wikipedia that Mika can ride a unicycle. I bet he’s bloody good at it. I can’t imagine him not being good at anything. Happy birthday Mika, and thanks for the racing years.

(Another guest post by @carlpeter)

McLaren ’50 in 50′: The McLaren Technology Centre

Perhaps one of the most iconic buildings in motorsport, the McLaren Technology Centre (MTC), located in Woking, houses the McLaren Group. This includes the McLaren F1 racing team.

Officially opened by the Queen in 2004, the project to build the MTC started in 1998 when Norman Foster’s company, Foster and Partners, were appointed to design and build it. Construction started in 1999 and was finished by 2004. The building was designed with the hopes that the concept would reflect the company’s design and engineering expertise by showcasing technology and innovation. And it is quite something.

Winner of a number of awards, including from the Royal Institute of British Architects, the MTC is big enough to house nine Boeing 747 jumbo jets. Instead, it provides space for the McLaren Group (Racing, Automotive, Electronics to name a few) to come together under one room. There are design studios, laboratories, and research testing, amongst many other facilities. There is also a fitness centre and swimming pool within the building.

In late 2011, McLaren-Mercedes became the first ever carbon-neutral Formula 1 Team. By implementing efficiency-driven measures at the MTC, the team were able to save more than 1500 tonnes of CO2 emissions. Their measures included redesigning the car park lighting system and optimising air conditioning. They have also been able to reduce the requirement for cooling towers from seven to two, through the use of their ‘formal’ lake. From an aerial view, the MTC is semi-circular in shape. A full circle is completed by the lake which, while incredibly picturesque, serves an important purpose.

Water from the lake is pumped through to the buildings’ heat exchangers. Cold water is stored in five cooling buffer vessels, and circulated once every 48 hours. There is a 160 metre long waterfall which takes hot water generated by the radiators of the wind tunnel cooling system and cools it. Rainwater from the roof goes directly into the lake along with car-park drainage. 

The large glass wall in front of the lake was developed using McLaren’s technological expertise. It allows natural light into the building. Here lies McLaren’s boulevard which boasts their historic cars, including championship winning models. The boulevard includes Bruce McLaren’s Austin Ulster, the first car he raced, as well as road cars produced by the team. It was here that the MP4-28 was unveiled earlier this year by Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, along with a parade of the historic cars to celebrate their 50th anniversary. Elsewhere the building is organised around 18-metre wide ‘fingers’ with what the team refer to as ‘streets’ between them.

Rare glimpses inside the MTC, through videos produced by the team or photographs from visitors, show that it is a clean, organised, and clinical place. From the outside looking in, the MTC seems to sum up what McLaren are all about.

I like this quote from Ron Dennis, which sums it up:

“Great facilities attract great people. People can only thrive if you provide them with an environment in which they can aspire to be the best”

To celebrate the general release of Rush tomorrow, 50 in 50 will focus on one of the drivers playing a key role in the film, and McLaren’s second champion – James Hunt.

 

 

McLaren ’50 in 50′: Iconic Partnerships

Over the years McLaren have been involved with a number of different sponsors, leading to some iconic branding for them. Title sponsors over the years include Yardley, Marlboro, and West. Their most recent, and current, title sponsor is Vodafone, but the team recently announced that that relationship would be coming to an end at the end of the 2013 season.

One of McLaren’s most iconic liveries was on the car from the mid 70s to the mid 90s. When Marlboro joined the team and became title sponsor, the cars ran a red and white livery, which has become as synonymous with McLaren as their orange liveries from the late 60s/early 70s. It also coincided with the successful Honda era (1988 – 1991) when McLaren won four constructors titles in a row, coming second in 1991. Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost also won drivers championships for the team during this period.

When Marlboro left the team to join Ferrari, McLaren had a livery and a title change. They became known as West McLaren Mercedes, and changed to a black and white colour scheme. It was this design that McLaren won their last constructors championship to date in 1998, with Mika Hakkinen securing the drivers championship two years in a row. After new tobacco advertising laws were introduced in Europe, McLaren dropped West as a sponsor and ran a season simply named Team McLaren Mercedes in 2006. This was also the time when they changed to their current livery – dropping the white and introducing a largely chrome livery and incorporating red.

McLaren’s longest running partnership is with Hugo Boss, with whom they have been working with since 1981. It is also the longest sports sponsorship of all time. Hugo Boss work with McLaren to provide team-wear. Vodafone became title sponsor of McLaren in 2007, becoming their Official Total Communications Provider in 2010. When Spaniard Fernando Alonso joined the team for 2007, Santander became a Corporate Partner. Other familiar names linked with the McLaren team are AkzoNobel, Hilton HHonors, Johnnie Walker and SAP.

McLaren’s engine partnership with Mercedes started in 1995 and will come to an end at the end of the 2014 season. McLaren will return to Honda engines, with whom they enjoyed considerable success, as mentioned above. The relationship with Mercedes will be investigated in a later post.

Tomorrow’s ’50 in 50′ post will take a look at the overall McLaren Group.

Give Sergio Perez a chance!

On 28th September 2012, after much speculation, Lewis Hamilton announced that he would be leaving McLaren and joining the Mercedes team for 2013. On that morning, McLaren made the jump first, confirming Sergio Perez on a multi-year deal. The news came as a bit of surprise, as Perez had been linked with a Ferrari move for some time due to his connections with the Ferrari Driver Academy and Sauber’s engine deal with Ferrari. It also caused some people to believe McLaren had jumped the gun, and made somewhat of an ‘impulse-signing’ after learning that Hamilton would be departing the team. Perez has said that his target is to “win titles with [McLaren] and to win the championship already next year” leading to further criticism for the Mexican driver as people believe he is setting his targets too high and he will not be able to live up to the expectations. I think, however, that we should give Checo a chance.

McLaren are a race winning team, and had it not been for too many reliability issues this year, they would have been up there fighting for both championships at the end of the season. Their last championship came in 2008, when Hamilton secured the Drivers’ title at a thrilling season finale in Brazil, with their last Constructors’ championship in 1998. They want to win again, and believe that by signing Perez to partner Jenson Button they can do that. Perez will have to hit the ground running, and being with a race winning team such as McLaren, it is not out of the question that he could be winning races and championships next year. He has taken three podiums this year and has impressed with his speed and ability to fight through the field, as demonstrated by his run from 12th to second in Italy. As he points out, however, “when you are doing well you are the hero and when you are doing bad you are the worst one”. In Formula One you can go from hero to zero just like that. Pastor Maldonado took his maiden victory at the Spanish GP, but has also been involved in a number of incidents leading to his driving being criticised, and for people to make comments such as “oh no, my favourite driver is starting beside/alongside/behind Maldonado”. Romain Grosjean has also been the subject of comments like this after his number of first lap accidents have gained him somewhat of a reputation, despite his obvious speed.

Look back to 2000 – Peter Sauber signed a relatively inexperienced driver, who had just 23 car races under his belt. Sauber was criticised, with leading figures such as Max Moseley opposing such an inexperienced racer being granted a superlicence, but the driver in question went on to finish sixth and pick up points on his Formula One debut. His name? Kimi Räikkönen. He too was linked to Ferrari but caught the eye of Ron Dennis, and despite being on a multi-year contract with Sauber, the Finn was poached and lined up as Mika Hakkinen’s replacement at McLaren. He failed to score in his final six races for Sauber, much like has happened to Perez, but went on to finish third in his debut race for McLaren and has had an impressive career since then. Sauber took a risk in signing Räikkönen, and if it had gone wrong, there would have been a lot of red faces. As it happened it turned out to be the right choice.

Formula One is about taking risks, and you could say McLaren have taken one in signing Perez. He may not have the raw speed or ability that Hamilton has, but that is not to say he will not do well at McLaren. He scored in his debut race (before Sauber were disqualified for a technical infringement) and has taken three podiums this season. Many say they would have preferred Paul di Resta or Nico Hulkenberg to get the seat, but who is to say they would have done any better? I don’t think it is fair to instantly write him off, and to criticise him for saying only what will be expected of him at McLaren. I think he is an exciting prospect for McLaren and am looking forward to what 2013 will bring. They have a solid foundation to build on from 2012, and if they can iron out the reliability problems and pit-stop issues which have plagued them throughout the season, well who knows what will happen. Bring on 2013!