Top 10 of 2012: Number 3

Had this driver not experienced the sort if bad luck he did this year, I am convinced he would be world champion. Many thought he would struggle again in the shadow of his newly dominant teammate like he did at the end of 2011, but he didn’t. He emerged as a strong title contender when he became the 7th different winner in as many races.

3. Lewis Hamilton

Lewis started the year on a strong note with pole position in Australia. In the race, Button made a better start and he proceeded to dominate the race. Lewis ran in second for much of the race, but a safety car caught him out, allowing Vettel to jump him for 2nd place. Hamilton couldn’t repass the German before the end of the race and ended a disappointing 3rd.

In Malaysia, Hamilton took pole position once again, but couldn’t hold back the flying Alonso or Perez in the race. Some very slow pit stops hindered Lewis’s progress slightly. He finished 3rd again in a race he also could have won.

In China, Hamilton’s pole streak ended with Rosberg going fastest in qualifying. Lewis took second, but a gearbox penalty sent him back to 7th. In the race Lewis made a good start and got up to 5th. He ran well for most of the race, staying in podium contention. Towards the end of the race, with the almost 15-car train still battling for points, Lewis took advantage of Kimi’s off to get past and into 3rd. He stayed there until the end to take his third consecutive 3rd place finish.

Bahrain signaled the start of Mclaren’s really bad run of pit stops. Hamilton qualified on the front row behind vettel, but was passed by Grojean early on. Lewis’s pace wasn’t strong enough to fight for the win, but solid points were still on the table. However, Mclaren made some shockingly slow pit stops and Hamilton soon found himself in 8th place. He couldn’t recover and finished the race with 4 points.

Spain looked like an easy win when Lewis stormed to a dominant pole ahead of Maldonando. However, the Mclaren was found to be under-fueled and Lewis was disqualified from qualifying. The Mclaren driver had a lot of work to do the next day. He did an excellent job however, to battle his was up to another 8th place.

In Monaco, Hamilton had a good battle with the leading 6 drivers. His 3rd place grid position turned into 5th place at the end. He might have finished 4th, but Vettel was able to jump Hamilton in the pits, with Hamilton blaming his engineer for not warning him about Vettel’s progress.

By the time Canada came around, Hamilton hadn’t won a race. Given the opportunities that Lewis previously had, he was disappointed by the lack of wins. Lewis was on the front row in Montreal and he and Alonso fought for the win with Vettel all race long. Hamilton was the only one of those 3 to do a 2-stop strategy and it proved inspired. Hamilton was able to run down Alonso and Vettel in the closing laps to take a hard-fought and overdue win.

In Valencia, Lewis was once again in the hunt for the podium until a clash with Maldonado ended his day early.

Lewis was at a loss for pace in England. He couldn’t make any progress from his 8th place grid position and finished with only 4 points.

In Germany, bad luck struck. He got a puncture on the first lap and soon saw himself a lap down on leaders Alonso, Button and Vettel. Hamilton’s bad luck meant he couldn’t take advantage of the huge upgrade brought to Germany.

His luck changed in Hungary as Hamilton led from pole, resisting huge pressure from Grojean and then Raikkonen to take his second win of the season.

Bad luck struck again in Belgium as he was victim to the crash at the start caused by Grojean. This weekend was also tainted by ‘Twittergate’. Hamilton tweeted secretive telemetry information when he was upset with his qualifying set up.

Mclaren was still the car to beat in Italy. Lewis took another pole and led until the end, staying ahead of the charging Perez.

Hamilton’s bad luck reared its ugly again when, while leading in Singapore, his gearbox died. A sure win, lost.

In the aftermath of the race, Lewis announced he would be moving to Mercedes for 2013, confirming what many believed was inevitable given the tensions between Lewis and his team.

In Japan, Lewis improved from his 9th place starting spot go finish 5th, while mechanical difficulties and a late-race run-in with some AstroTurf held Lewis back in 10th.

In India, Hamilton just missed out on the podium as he chased down the KERS-less Mark Webber.

In Austin, Hamilton was back on the front row. He stayed with Vettel after Webber retired with an alternator failure. A race long battle behind the leader ended on lap 47 when Lewis finally got past the Red Bull for the lead. He held onto this lead until the end of the race to take an historic first win at the Circuit of the Americas.

At the final race in Brazil, Hamilton wasn’t as brave on the slick tires in the wet as his teammate. After leading from pole, Hamilton changed to intermediate tires when the track got slippery. This proved to be the wrong choice as the track was still manageable on slicks. By the time the first safety car came out, Lewis was 40 seconds behind the leaders. On the restart, Hamilton got past both Button and Hulkenberg. However, Hulkenberg made a move for the lead into the first corner and ran wide into the Mclaren, immediately taking out Lewis.

This was a rather depressing end to an illustrious Mclaren career for the young Brit. I believe Hamilton would be champion had he not had all those mechanical failures and pit stop blunders. There is only one on-track mistake I can recall (Valencia clash with Maldonado), making 2012 one of his best ever seasons, if not the most spectacular. This mistake is the only thing holding him back from the very top of this list.

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