The increase in temperature, the proximity of Easter and the sudden appearance of that strange, bright ball we may have once called the Sun can…
The increase in temperature, the proximity of Easter and the sudden appearance of that strange, bright ball we may have once called the Sun can only mean two things: spring is coming to Manchester and, more importantly, the grand circus that is Formula One is about to begin again. So what awaits us in the 2012 season?
Well, the most expensive sport in the world seems set for a vintage season. The first big pull is an extended calendar, featuring the return of the Bahrain Grand Prix and an entirely new race at the Circuit of the Americas, the first purpose-built Formula One track in the USA. The long straights and occasional tight turns and chicanes hint at a high speed circuit, similar to Monza or Silverstone. Full of places to overtake and run off, the Texas venue could be the place where Americans finally embrace the sport.
However, it doesn’t matter how glamorous Abu Dhabi, Monaco or any of the tracks are. The only things that are going attract F1’s millions of fans are the cars and the drivers. The ever loyal F1 audience look to be in for a treat, with the preseason tests hinting that 2012 is going to be a deal more competitive than its predecessor. Woking-based McLaren seem to have finally given up with all the theatrics and designed a good car from the ground up. The MP4-25 lacks the dramatic looks of last year’s model after engineers discarded the pronounced side pods and tightened the rear end. However, Adrian Newey’s pedigree as a designer has been proven at Red Bull, and test pace has been impressive.
Scuderia Ferrari, meanwhile, remains a contender to Red Bull Racing’s Constructors Championship crown. The F2012’s ungainly “platypus” nose, adopted by a number of teams in the wake of new regulations, seems to have helped them to their fast lap times. There are also a number of teams at the back of last year’s pack who could challenge for podiums. Lotus have managed some quick test times, with Roman Grosjean beating Jenson Button on the first day of the final test and Kimi “Iceman” Raikkonen’s return seeing him near the top of the final few charts. Force India, meanwhile, also impressed as Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta recorded podium spots on test days.
Preseason test data is notoriously unreliable, as the times set are dependent on fuel load, tyres and the various research and development aims of each team’s session. However, if there is anything to garner at all, it is that the Red Bull will be a frontrunner yet again. On the Wednesday of the second test, Sebastian Vettel’s fastest run was one second quicker than Lewis Hamilton’s and, after they had both completed a sixty six lap run, Vettel was more than two minutes quicker over a race distance.
With six world champions on the grid, many more teams in contention for wins and a calendar packed with glamorous races, the 2012 Formula One season looks to be one to watch if you’re a fan. Moreover, such a competitive season could see a raft of new fans tuning in for Melbourne’s March 18th curtain-raiser.