1. Red Bull Racing: Ban on exhaust-blown diffusers robs RB8 of predecessor’s dominance, but team continue to push technical boundaries, drawing controversy over floor holes, engine maps and more. Webber more than matches Vettel in first half of season, with two wins to the champion’s one.
2. Ferrari: Initially recalcitrant F2012 well off pace in opening rounds, but improves rapidly in hands of Alonso, who repeatedly beats superior machinery to lead championship by 40 points going into summer break, with an under-pressure Massa languishing in 14th place.
3. Mclaren: Rollercoaster form in first half of season, despite winning first round in Australia, with Button in particular struggling to get best from Pirelli tyres. Mid-season updates put MP4-27 back on pace, and Hamilton goes into summer break in clear title contention after Hungarian victory.
4. Lotus: Team name officially changes from Renault to Lotus. Former champion Kimi Raikkonen lured back to F1 as team leader, as Robert Kubica’s recovery from 2011 rally crash proves slower than hoped. Tester Romain Grosjean promoted to second race seat.
5. Mercedes: Rosberg scores team’s breakthrough win – Mercedes’ first as works squad since 1955 – at round three in China, at wheel of innovative F1 W03, complete with unique ‘double DRS’ wing system. Elsewhere, podium pace generally elusive in first half of season.
6. Sauber: Season starts well, with Perez earning high praise for impressive podiums in Malaysia and Canada. C31 proves a competent, all-round package and team go into summer break with 80 points – 36 more than they scored in their entire 2011 campaign.
7. Force India: Di Resta pushed hard by new team mate Hulkenberg, with both men extracting maximum from midfield machinery. Former scores four top-seven results in first half of season. Latter qualifies fourth in Germany, finishes fifth in Valencia.
8. Williams: Switch to Renault power dramatically boosts competitiveness, with Pastor Maldonado taking Williams’ first win since 2004 in Spain, but both drivers’ form proves inconsistent and team rank seventh overall going into summer break.
9. Toro Rosso: All-new driver line-up of Ricciardo and Vergne unable to compensate for STR7’s inadequacies as team score just six points in first half of season, all of them in the opening two races.
10. Marussia: Team takes on name of major shareholders and Russian sportscar makers Marussia. French rookie Charles Pic signed to partner the experienced Timo Glock.
11. Caterham: Team name changes from Team Lotus to Caterham, the specialist sportscar maker owned by team principal Tony Fernandes. First change to original driver line-up, with Petrov replacing Trulli just a month before season starts.
12. HRT: As in 2011, fail to qualify at round one, but steadily improve as combination of the experienced De la Rosa, new team principal (and ex-driver) Luis Perez-Sala and new Madrid base begins to bear fruit, bringing pace closer to that of key rivals, Marussia.
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.