Opinion – Formula 1 2012 Preview (Part 1)
With just a few days to go until the start of the Formula 1 season. I thought it would be good to look at season’s competitors and try to evaluate the winter season and see where we stand at the start of 2012.
Marussia – Name change over the winter switching from Virgin Racing to Marussia after the Russian car manufacturer took a larger stake in the team. It has been a very strenuous winter for the team after failing the new crash tests. The new test imposed mean that teams have to pass prior to attending pre-season tests. Marrusia were unable to do this and only completed a few laps on a filming day on demonstration tyres. The team recently announced María de Villota as test a reserve driver but this appears to be more about marketing than ability.
Timo Glock is retained for a further season but it may be his last I feel. I think since leaving Toyota it has been nothing but pain for Timo. A very accomplished driver striving for more but is not getting it. His dedication to the team has to be admired though.
Charles Pic is promoted from the Barwa Addax Team in GP2 up to a full race driver. After impressing throughout the GP2 season and the young driver test, Pic looks to continue his upward rise. Pic secured three pole positions in 2011 but his race consistency may need work. After a serious lack of preparation for the season, Pic may struggle early on the season while he adapts.
Overall verdict: The team now receive wind tunnel support from McLaren but it is unlikely that Marussia will do much again this season. It will take a lot for them to bounce back and it may not be until the in season test where the start to make any sort of in roads.
HRT – Suffered the same fate as Marrusia in failing crash tests meaning they were also only able to do laps on demonstration tyres. HRT will be looking for early data in Free Practice 1 at Melbourne. The team move to a new home in May after recently being based in Valencia they will now have a new facility in Madrid.
Pedro de la Rosa – Seasoned peddler with a wealth of experience and knowledge and knows how to develop a car. Unfortunately Pedro has to do this in race trim and a testing environment would have suited him better. At 41 years old it has to be questioned why this comeback and now.
Narain Karthikeyan – Great to have an Indian on the grid, but it should be Karun Chandhok. Karthikeyan has improved over the past few years but is still not Formula 1 material. I think it reflects the economic times and money has prevailed in this instance.
Overall verdict – Some serious work needed for this team. Finances are rather questionable still at this stage and have the weakest line up on the grid. I expect them to fall behind Marussia this season.
Caterham – The second team to go through a name change in the winter season after agreeing a deal with Lotus-Renault. Caterham went in the winter very happy after scoring tenth place in the constructors creating extra revenue. Caterham are another team in transition in mid-season as they move to the Leafield factory. Promising start to the season with being the first team to launch their car moreover has put in good mileage in pre-season.
Heikki Kovalainen – Retained for another season after greatly impressing last year with the car ever improving, Heikki looks to move up the order and start to challenge the mid-field. If Heikki plays this year right, there could be a few top line drives available to the Finn next season.
Vitaly Petrov – Replaces Jarno Trulli for 2012. The Russian brings Russian investment in to the team amongst and steady rise in performance last year. A great podium in Melbourne then was met with interesting races especially flying in Malaysia. A steady pair of hands but Heikki will look to lead the team.
Overall verdict – Mike Gascoyne has worked many wonders in his time in F1 and we may just start to see another. The team is gaining in strength and appear to be gaining financial stability but in their third season need to start producing the results.
Williams – A team decorated with success over many moons but financial constraints, engine disputes and driver changes, Williams look set to find 2012 difficult once again. Renault engines are likely to be the most positive point for the start of the Williams season. Loved by many and have seen an increase in revenue recently. Lacking desire, heart and direction the team are trying to galvanize themselves together with South American investment. It is going to be a tremendous task for the team to really crack the mid-field this season.
Pastor Maldonado – Retained for a second season by Williams. Impressed in a few races last year, namely Monaco where he unfortunately had a coming together with Hamilton but had little else to offer throughout the year. Some quarters stating the Venezuelan money just about held the seat down.
Bruno Senna – The Senna-Williams combination haunting us all returns to the grid for a full season. After having solid success in the lower categories, Senna is yet to emulate his Uncle. Senna is his own man though and will do things his way. This is a staggeringly good opportunity for the Brazilian to stamp his mark on Formula 1 this year.
Overall Verdict – Drafting in Alex Wurz as a driver mentor clearly shows Williams’s concerns with its drivers, or is it actually a very clever ploy and will help them in their development? Time will only tell but they need the car to really help them out. I whole heartedly wish them all the best but I do not see a strong year for them.
Toro Rosso – The team went through a significant shift after replacing Alguarsuari and Buemi. Some very impressive laps turned in pre-season and appeared to be one of the most consistent cars throughout the winter season. As the Red Bull junior team they are looking to progress the drivers and in doing so have created a solid mid-table team.
Daniel Ricciardo – Moves back from HRT to in to the Toro Rosso where he was always going to end up. Out qualified his more experienced team mate last season in a very average car and has shown glimpses have some great raw speed.
Jean-Éric Vergne – Runner up in World Series by Renault, product of the Red Bull Young Driver programme and rather arrogant. The Frenchman very boldly stated that ‘he could beat Webber’ in a Red Bull. Let see if his arrogance can be backed up on track.
Overall Verdict – As long as the two drivers do not squabble between them the team could potentially start knocking on the door of the top teams but it will be a tall order for the two young men.
Sauber – Stability, gained great stability over the winter break. The only significant change was James Key’s departure but all signs lead to a strong winter still. The Sauber in Barcelona set some great times and on the soft compound where others had been on super-soft. A very encouraging sign for the Swiss based team and times of old returning.
Kamui Kobayashi – Heads in to his third season with Sauber after a turbulent 2012. Racing seemed not an issue but a few qualifying sessions left questions of the one lap speed. If resolved, Kamui could be on far a very good year as he a great racer.
Sergio Pérez – The young Mexican in his second year will hope to build on an encouraging first year other than his shunt at Monaco. A wonderful debut at Melbourne last year along with sterling drives throughout the year allowed him to build on his experience. His confidence is starting to show with some great times coming out of winter testing.
Overall Verdict – Quiet assassins they could really shake the Top 10 if they match maintainable tyre wear with raw speed. Sauber have a lot of potential and hopefully they will show their wealth of knowledge and depth on track.
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