2012 Formula One European Grand Prix Preview
Predictably unpredictable. I don’t quite remember where I caught this from, but it does sum up the 2012 Formula 1 season quite succinctly. If, in this weekend, we get to see a Lotus or a Michael Schumacher up there with the champagne on the top, rest assured that the sport would have proven itself to be totally different from what it was a decade earlier.
Which reminds me of 2002. It’s been an awfully long time. And indeed, a lot has happened in these ten long years. We’ve seen Schumacher being crowned world champion thrice. We’ve seen the resurgence of Renault. The world title has, since then, bounced off several hands – those of Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton and Button before finding its inner peace with Sebastien Vettel. Schumacher has retired … and returned in a shiny silver Mercedes – a sight unimaginable in 2002.
And when all of these big names stack up on that grid one more time this weekend, there’s absolutely no way of telling who will trump whom. Let’s put the facts down yet again: seven races, seven winners: a list that includes both veterans and newbies. Of these seven people, each and every one of them will be gunning for a second victory. Amongst the ones who haven’t won yet, but are bristling with ammo, are the Lotuses. Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen. Both of them still remain potent victors in the build up to the final face off on Sunday. Not to forget the old man Schumi. Agreed, he’s been getting rusty in those joints, but anyone who saw him qualify the quickest in Monaco would vouch that the seven time world champion still has it in him. And to be honest, it’s been sheer misfortune that has struck him time and again this season. He’s dangling there at the bottom of the drivers’ tally for absolutely no fault of his – something that Mercedes should pay particular attention to, and try to eliminate ahead of this weekend at Valencia.
For Ferrari things have been looking up. Though they are still at a distant 4th in the constructors’ tally, they seem to have discovered their self belief after a rather lopsided start to the season. In fact, Massa is one of only two people (the other being Vettel) in the current F-1 grid who have won at Valencia before. A Felipe Massa win here this weekend, would keep the season’s general unpredictability quotient alive, as it would give a huge boost to the Scuderia who have been working harder than any other team to keep the F2012 up to standards.
McLaren, on the other hand, have been among the consistent performers. They won the first race of the season, as well as the last race, and to maintain their good result in Montreal, they should be trying to rehearse all those pit stops a bit more. They do have a habit of ruining a good driver’s chances by messing up with that wheel nut now and then.
Red Bull are leading the constructors’ tally, but McLaren’s win at Canada would have lowered the margin by a substantial amount. Vettel, however, would have the confidence arising out of two consecutive Valencia victories in the past two seasons and he would therefore be looking to capitalise on all that experience.
Which brings us once again to Lotus. We’ve been expecting one of them to win any time now. But something elusive seems to be keeping them off the top. The two drivers have been impeccable. Raikkonen, the fast and supremely talented Iceman has oodles of experience and not to forget, he’s won the world title once as well. Romain Grosjean, on the other hand has definitely proved a point or two, with two podium finishes already. With Valencia, the team would only love to see all of their efforts bearing fruit – and given that the track bears a lot of resemblance to Bahrain, it does look a likely possibility.
No analysis of the 2012 season however, can be complete without mentioning the new kid on the podium, Sergio Perez. This Mexican maverick, has come a long way indeed, from a 16th in the 2011 driver’s tally to an uber-impressive second place in Malaysia and a sparkling third in Canada. When, oh when would Peter Sauber have even dreamed that one of his drivers would go up on that podium – that too, twice in seven races of one season? But Perez has done that, and he remains a driver to be reckoned with, for the European Grand Prix as well.
Yet another team, likely to cause a surprise this weekend, is Force India. The boss, Vijay Mallya, has been quoted as saying that they “must raise their game” soon. In spite of showing a lot of promise, the podium has kept eluding this ever-improving team, while it has surrendered to their midfield rivals, Williams and Sauber. A Valencia podium would not only bring them abreast of the competition, but would also prove their vast potential on a rather demanding track.
Indeed, this weekend will be crucial. The semi-street circuit of Valencia would put driver skill at a premium, and it would also send those engineers scurrying over to do some overtime work to set their cars up, just right for the event. Fast and grippy, yet full of sharp bends and heavy braking areas, Valencia isn’t an easy track to master. It will be a fine game of driving and engineering alike, where only the perfect combination of the best man and the best machine will win.
The 2012 European Grand Prix at Valencia. Stay tuned.
(Image : skysports)
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