With Christmas and the New Year out of the way, our focus is turning more and more to the imminent return of Formula 1.
Fans have plenty to be excited about this year, particularly the return of a certain world champion. Before we get stuck into the testing season next month, I want to know what interests you this year. Here are a few examples…
The clash of 6 champions
Can Raikkonen upset the order in 2012?
The return of Kimi Raikkonen means that, barring disaster, there will be 6 world champions at the starting grid in Melbourne. As far as I know, this is completely unprecedented in F1 history, as former/current world champions now make up a quarter of the entire grid.
These six drivers will be seated in vastly different cars, and not all of them will deliver as expected. Raikkonen’s move to Renault is particularly noteworthy, as it is still unclear what type of approach the team have taken to their 2012 car.
As well as this, Michael Schumacher is still well in the mix, and a powerful Mercedes car could propel him back to the podium. We still have the established champions – Vettel, Hamilton, Button and Alonso – to take everyone else on.
The return of the US Grand Prix
The Circuit of the Americas may well get finished
The Circuit of the Americas has had a difficult birth, fraught with controversy and arguments, resolved only weeks ago. Still, it appears that the track is on schedule to be on the 2012 calendar.
From the get-go, it became clear that this track would be a fan favourite. The layout incorporates corner elements from Turkey, Silverstone, and a small bit of Interlagos is in there too.
There is fantastic incline around the track, and many of the corners are fast and flowing. More importantly to Bernie Ecclestone, this track is F1’s latest hope to crack into the American market, which has been rather cold to the sport since the Indy 2005 fiasco.
Exciting new rookies
Can Pic survive longer than Di Grassi and D'Ambrosio did?
After Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi were booted out of Toro Rosso, it became clear that we were to see an influx of new rookies. Their latest two drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne, are an exciting pairing to say the least.
Ricciardo impressed last year in a HRT – quite the feat in itself – and Vergne has performed well in testing in the past. We also have Charles Pic, the third driver in 3 years to partner Timo Glock at Virgin. Whether he can perform better than Lucas di Grassi or Jerome D’Ambrosio still remains to be seen.
As well as this, Romain Grosjean has finally been given the opportunity to return to F1. It’s debatable whether he’s actually a rookie, but it’s certain that 7 races in 2009 was not enough for the Frenchman to prove his potential. I am quite a fan of Grosjean, and am hugely looking forward to see how he performs against teammate Raikkonen.
Siginificant French drivers – finally
Can Grosjean cause a major upset and beat his teammate?
Neither Grosjean or Sebastien Bourdais could retain their seats in 2009, and with the imminent exit of Renault as a constructor this year, it appeared as if the French had completely abandoned F1.
However, with the arrival of Grosjean (again), Charles Pic and Jean-Eric Vergne, the French F1 fans have reason to celebrate. The last successful French F1 drivers were Jean Alesi and Olivier Panis, who took his one and only win back in 1996.
I’m not suggesting that these three drivers could win a race in 2012 (though I’m not completely ruling Grosjean out), but there is fantastic potential here for future seasons.
The end of exhaust/diffuser debates
Exhaust-blown diffusers are finally buried for good
The FIA have finally stamped down on “off-throttle blown diffusers”, as the layout of the exhaust has been restricted so as to not generate downforce over any area of the car.
Exhaust-blown diffusers were an excellent idea, generating plenty of downforce with minimal drag. However, as the technology evolved into the “off-throttle” format, it became more and more irritating to watch the teams scuffle over the regulations.
This ruling should hopefully end the 3-year debate on exhausts, diffusers and the like, which began in 2009 with double-decker diffusers being introduced by Brawn, Toyota and Williams.
Can Lotus/Caterham hit the midfield?
Another year, another promise from the team now known as Caterham, as they drive to reach the back of the midfield.
While they have made good progress over the last 2 years, many fans are wearing thin with watching the 3 “new” teams languishing at the back, and it’s time that one of them makes a stand and changes the running order.
I won’t comment on Jarno Trulli, but I feel that Heikki Kovalainen is the most promising chance to pull the team out of the bottom 3. Whether it happens any time soon remains to be seen.
The return of the Bahrain Grand Prix
Over to you…
I can’t cover all the exciting prospects of the 2012 season, but those above should do fine.
But back to the original question: What excites you about the onset of the 2012 season? Have a say in the poll below, and you can add your own answer if you wish: