Autoview Motorsport & Motoring

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Formula 1 2012 Season Preview

Lewis quickest

On the eve of the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, Autoview brings you the low-down on what promises to be an epic season. 12 teams, 24 drivers, 6 World Champions!

Friday, up and down the pit lane, the buzz was intense with no one team truly knowing where they stood before the Saturday qualifying joust began the action in earnest.

Mclaren and Lewis Hamilton powered into a dominant early lead in qualifying 3, which he was never to relinquish, the only serious challenge came from team mate Jenson Button, however the top 8 were covered by less than a second, which shows the competitiveness of the whole field - HRT excepted, the spanish squad failing to make the 107% cut-off time and therefore travelling all the way to Australia to not race - oh dear!

Romain Grosjean, brought back from the after-life of GP2 competition - where he was series champion last year - excelled with a time only 2 1/4 tenths slower than the Mclaren of Jenson Button, very impressive for a young driver who has only driven the Albert Park circuit twice in his career. His much more experienced -  and also returning from the wilderness - team-mate Kimi Raikkonen, was not as pleased with his afternoon's endevour, a beautifully held slide at a very fast part of the circuit, followed by a communication error with his team, meant a misjudging of the number of timed laps left - result = Raikkonen 18th on the grid - look out for fireworks as he powers his way through the slower runners.

Mercedes are embroiled in a deal of controversy, with several teams threatening to protest their rear wing, DRS activated F-duct system (it's complicated!), this didn't stop Michael Schumacher from blitzing his way into 4th spot on the grid, 3 tenths quicker than Mercedes compadre Nico Rosberg, who must surely deliver on his promise this year, and starts from 7th place on the grid.

Double world champion Sebastian Vettel never really seemed as comfortable in his RB8 (not sure if he's named it yet!) as he did with dirty Kate and filthy fiona (or whatever!) last year, but although he was outqualified by team mate Mark Webber it was by the slightest of margins, less than a hundredth of a second between them, although Mark Webber lost his KERS electric-motor boost for quali 3. They line up fifth and sixth, and will be expecting to make forward progress!

Pastor Maldonado : “It was a great start to the season for the team today. We have shown that we are competitive, and we now need to keep pushing. The car has been improving throughout the weekend, and we need to keep going in that direction. It’s now down to our pace and strategy for tomorrow’s race.”

So the neat, tightly packaged williams looks good and about time too! let's hope Pastor can keep it out of the fence! Bruno Senna didn't fare as well on his debut for Williams, ending the day over 7 tenths farther back from his Venezuelan team mate, in fairness though he didn't get a full day's running on Friday - Senna starts the race from 14th

Nico Hulkenburg and Paul di-Resta had very mixed fortunes, Nico settling into 9th position, with a time that was over half a second slower than Pastor Maldonado - though whether that was just to ensure the place, as daniel Ricciardo in tenth didn't run - and Paul a lowly 14th, disappointed that he didn't work his tyres hard enough on his out-lap to a sufficient heat in them. Hopefully we should see a determined Paul trying to make his way forward along with Kimi tomorrow!

Daniel Ricciardo qualified a magnificent 10th at his his home Grand Prix, just a place ahead of his Rookie team mate Jean-Eric Vergne. Both drivers are highly thought of, having been very successful in the lower formulae. But Ricciardo has a little something about him, and I suspect he will make his own luck tomorrow and spring something of a surprise.

Have I forgotten someone?? oh yes..... Marussia they finished 21st and 22nd

All that remains is to set the alarm clock for 5AM and make sure the kettle is in the tyre warmers!

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