After the first of two four-day tests in Barcelona, it seems that viewers are still none the wiser as to whom has the best car in the field, although many pundits are saying that reigning Constructors’ Champions Red Bull Racing with their new RB8 is currently the early pacemaker. This comes after four days of testing with four different teams topping the timesheets. The four days saw Williams, Force India, Red Bull and McLaren coming out with the quickest times. The pre-season form of F1 teams is notoriously a completely unreliable source of information, so testing is only really just a runout for the teams to get to grips with the new rules and regulations for the new season. But there is relative stability in the regulations for the 2012 season, so maybe there is a greater opportunity for the cars to be improved come Melbourne on the weekend, beginning with first practice on the 16th of March.
There are still some changes to the rules for the upcoming season, though. First and foremost is another technological limitation in the banning of the “blown” diffuser system that forced exhaust gases over the diffuser to generate more downforce when the driver was off of the throttle, a feature that dominated car design in 2011. Also, the controversial “one-move rule” for defending overtaking manoeuvres has been tightened up following the stern defence from Seven-Times World Champion Michael Schumacher against 2008 World Champion Lewis Hamilton at Monza last year, when Schumacher was accused of using more than one defensive move in defending his position, effectively ruining Hamilton’s chance of a podium finish. Hamilton was sympathetic afterwards and said that it was all “Part of racing”. But the FIA have decided to take a tighter stance on the rule for more clarity. The final big change of note is sole tyre supplier Pirelli becoming even more aggressive in their tyre strategy for the current season, with the 2011 “Super-Soft” Compound tyres becoming the new “Soft” Tyres, and the 2011 “Soft” Tyres becoming the new “Medium” Compound tyre, leading to a new, even softer “Super-Soft” Tyre being introduced for 2012.
12 days of pre-season testing and a single two-day in-season test is time for the teams to refine their creations for the coming season, but many teams would agree that there is no better indicator of form than a race weekend. So drivers, teams, journalists, circuit marshals and fans alike will all be looking forward to the 2012 season getting underway, no matter what the rules are and whoever wins!