“Mercedes three year gamble, And this is year three” was the front page of F1 Racing during the year and it pretty much summed the situation up. Since the Silver Arrows made a return to the sport, they had kept the same line up of Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg and 2012 was to be no different.
What was different though was that Mercedes, on the third time of asking, seemed to have a genuinely competitive car, one which Michael Schumacher masterfully placed on 4th place on the grid in Australia. He was running very competitively, indeed up to 3rd in the race before a gearbox issue struck him from the race. Nico Rosberg on the other hand had a dismal race and brought his Mercedes to the checkered flag in 12th.
In Malaysia, Schumi qualified one better than Australia, in 3rd, and was again looking good before a feisty Romain Grosjean spun him at the start of the Grand Prix, sending him to the back of the grid. He recovered though and made it to finish 10th while Rosberg finished further down in 13th.
China was a bittersweet day for the team. Nico Rosberg fantastically took Mercedes’ first pole position since 1955 and was followed by Schumacher in P2. Both Mercedes were pulling away from the rest of the grid but Schumacher was forced to retire following a mistake in the pits which left the German without a wheel nut. Rosberg though, fought off Jenson Button and won his first ever race, becoming the third winner in as many races.
Schumacher was knocked out of Qualifying in Q1 when his DRS failed on a rapidly developing track in Bahrain, Heikki Kovalainen making it out of Q1 in place of the German. He changed his gearbox, dropping to 22nd but proved his worth when he stormed to 10th place in the race. Rosberg was in the wars and narrowly escaped a penalty when he pushed Lewis Hamilton off the track, on his way to finishing 6th. Rosberg finished 7th in Catalunya while Schumi retired for the third time in five races. Schumacher had just pitted and was on fresh tires when Bruno Senna, who was running on badly worn Pirelli’s caught him out in the braking zone and they both crashed out of the race. Schumacher was deemed responsible for the collision and given and 5 place grid penalty for the next race.
It was a costly penalty for the German who in Monaco, put in a masterclass in driving to grab pole position. However, after his penalty from Spain was put in place, he started in 6th place. At the start of the Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean careered into his path, damaging his car and causing him to retire later in the race. Nico Rosberg, on the other hand, was doing fantastic and running right up the gearbox of leader Mark Webber in the latter part of the race. On a wider track, Nico may very well have taken his 2nd race win, but Monaco, as you may very well know, is notoriously hard to overtake in, and he couldn’t get past Webber. Still, a delighted Rosberg crossed the line in P2.
In Canada, A miscalculation from the team prevented Schumacher running a second hot lap and he qualified in 9th. During the race, his DRS failed and stuck open (something it’s designed to not do), forcing him to, again, retire the car while Rosberg finished the race in P6.
But amid all of Schumacher’s bad luck, there was a good car with a good pilot. He was free from mechanical failures in Valencia and showed what he was made of, finishing P3 after starting 12th. It would be nearly as hard as going from 12th to 3rd in Monaco. Robserg finished 6th, as he did in the race previous, while setting the fastest lap.Rosberg finished 15th in Silverstone while Schumacher finished 7th as he did at his home race in Germany while Rosberg finished 10th, also his home race.
In Hungary, Schumacher messed up on the parade lap and parked in the wrong grid box which caused an aborted start. Michael however, interpreted the lights as a red flag and turned his overheating engine off. As a result, he wasn’t able to pull off the grid when the rest of the cars were waved on for another parade lap, leaving him starting from the pitlane. He then suffered a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane before retiring with a gearbox issue. Rosberg made it into the points, repeating his German GP position, 10th.
Nico Rosberg made it from 18th to 11th in Spa while Schumacher jumped from 13th to 7th, having a fantastic battle with Kimi Raikkonen on his way. In Monza, the team were happy with a 6th place for Schumacher and 7th place for Rosberg.
Singapore was the straw that broke the camel’s back for Schumacher. The race was put under Safety Car when Karthikeyan hit the barrier in the tunnel, and on the restart, Schumacher’s cold brakes saw him vaulting into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne, an almost identical incident to the one with Senna in Spain. Nico Rosberg made it to the end of the race, crossing the line in 5th place.
It was between Singapore and Suzuka that Schumacher was given the boot by Mercedes who announced Hamilton and Rosberg as their 2013 line-up. Schumacher also announced his retirement from the sport which had held him dear for 20 years.
Nico Rosberg was very unlucky in Suzuka, getting caught up in the 1st corner crash. Bruno Senna was trying to avoid the Grosjean fueled crash when he dived sideways into Rosberg, sending Nico out of the race. Schumacher finished just outside of the points, finishing 11th.
Rosberg retired in Korea, once again, not being to blame. Kamui Kobayashi was slow on the brakes into turn 3 and launched himself in Rosberg and Button, knocking both out of the race. Rosberg pulled over on the long straight which brought out the yellow flags as marshall’s scrambled to clear it. The Merc was parked in the DRS zone and this allowed Sebastian Vettel to pull out a gap to 2nd placed Mark Webber. Schumacher finished 13th.
Rosberg finished 11th in India, just out of the points, while Schumacher was given a puncture at the hands of Jean-Eric Vergne in the first corner, later retiring with a mechanical failure, just 4 laps shy of the checkered flag. In Abu Dhabi, Rosberg retired in spectacular fashion when he was launched over Narain Karthikeyan’s HRT following the Indian’s steering failure. Luckily, Rosberg was ok and walked back to the pits to see his team-mate finish 11th.
Neither Mercedes scored points in the inaugural Austin Grand Prix. Schumacher really out-performed the car to qualify 5th while Rosberg qualified 17th. Schumacher couldn’t hold off the others while driving the uncompetitive Mercedes, finishing 16th, behind Rosberg in 13th.
And so Schumacher headed to his final ever F1 race. He qualified in a lowly 13th place but managed to finish in 7th in a very hectic race. Ironic, finishing 7th for his 7 world championships. Rosberg finished in a disappointing 15th place for his last race, but will have plenty of time to finish better when he returns in 2013, unlike Schumacher.
Season in a paragraph:
While Schumacher still had fantastic pace, he didn’t have the opportunity to show it, in an awful Mercedes car. The team had the DDRS idea (double DRS) but when it started to fail for them, they continued to fall deeper and deeper into despair. Concentrating too much on recovering DDRS cost Schumacher the chance to go out on a high, combined with a million and one things that guaranteed he almost always had a mechanical problem, unlike Rosberg who was relatively lucky. He should have won a race, in fact several, but was cheated by the team. Rosberg had a good enough season and will no doubt be not looking forward to 2013 when he will be, again, made play second fiddle to Lewis Hamilton.