After the hullabaloo of the first four-day test in Jerez, it’s clear that one thing is for certain: We know pretty much nothing that we didn’t know already about the 2012 season. The anticipation was in the air for another F1 curtain-raising test that would show the resurrection in Ferrari’s fortune which has been long overdue in the eyes of the “tifosi”. It would also show which team would take the fight to Red Bull this season. And the answer to the aforementioned statement lies with the team that I think is best looking (although you may not agree about that, despite the Platypus Wings being exhibited): McLaren.
With Jenson Button ruffling the feathers within the team last year, and Lewis Hamilton faltering despite 3 wins under his belt last season, it seems that Button has the backing of the team to make a serious challenge against Vettel for the title. The new RB8 is looking like the form car in testing already but there have been some rare reliability issues (by missing a morning’s running with electrical problems) that the team will be desperate to have ironed out come Melbourne.
At this point, enter Fernando Alonso. The man that many still regard as the arguable best driver on the grid. The 2005 and 2006 World Champion will be itching to make amends for two fruitless years at Maranello, and with the right car, he will almost definitely be in the thick of the action. The 2011 season saw a struggle for 2008 title runner-up Felipe Massa, who could only muster a highest finish of 5th for the whole season, and he has been issued with an ultimatum in the last year of his contract to essentially “get faster, or get out” by Stefano Domenicali. Something which will be a challenge for Ferrari’s number two to achieve with the team being firmly behind Alonso.
2010 saw the return of Michael Schumacher, which as yet has turned out to be a somewhat torrid time, albeit with some reminders of his inherent ability and racecraft on occasion in 2011, Canada to name but one. So many sceptic eyes will rest upon Kimi Raikkonen as he steps back into the fray for another shot at glory after having a limited run of success in two years of Rallying. His new midfield running Lotus outfit have been impressive in pre-season so far, with Romain Grosjean determined to make amends for a frankly poor half-season with Renault in 2009.
With relative stability in the regulations for the upcoming season has also brought relative stability in the team lineups for the coming campaign, with Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Sauber, Caterham and Mercedes retaining the same personnel. This has in turn left relatively few rookies in the new season, with Jean-Eric Vergne coming in at Toro Rosso alongside the promising Daniel Ricciardo, and Frenchman Charles Pic completing the Marussia lineup alongside the experienced Timo Glock.
The three so called “newer teams” in F1 being Caterham, Marussia and HRT will be keen to try and make an assault on the midfield in the coming season, as none of them have even scored a point as yet, a statistic which the newly named Caterham team are looking the most likely to do on early indication with a consistent performance in Jerez, not a million miles away from the likes of Sauber and Force India.
The 2012 season will need to be a rebuilding mission for fallen giants Williams after a disastrous 2011 season, this being the worst in their history with just 5 points accumulated over the 19 race calendar. Bruno Senna has been drafted in, replacing the vastly experiences and popular Rubens Barrichello, who looks set to start 2012 in American series Indycar.
With a new season often comes new circuits when Bernie Ecclestone and Hermann Tilke are concerned. But there is only one addition to this year’s calendar being in Austin, Texas. This means that F1 will be back in America after a five-year absence. But as concerns have been expressed over the completion of the project (a similar problem experienced by those in Korea in 2010), the outcome on whether the race will go ahead or not remains to be seen.
All in all, this looks like the 2012 Formula 1 season is going to be another season of the rest of the field playing catch up to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull, but I can almost guarantee there’s going to be some fantastic racing along the way!