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:
Former Renault driver Romain Grosjean will rejoin his former team next year.
He will be paired up with former world champion Kimi Raikkonen, forming one of the most interesting driver combinations on the grid.
Grosjean drove for Renault in the second half of the 2009 season, replacing Nelson Piquet Jr and joining Fernando Alonso at the squad. Despite not being too far off the Spaniard’s pace, he failed to score a point, and was dropped after the season finale.
He has since returned to GP2, where he finished 4th in 2009 despite missing the last 8 races. He won this year’s title convincingly driving for DAMS.
Romain has said today:
"There’s a big grin on my face at the prospect of getting behind the wheel of next
year’s car, and I feel very privileged to be given this opportunity.
To be racing alongside a former world champion and someone who is hungry and
returning to Formula 1 will be a great experience, and I’m sure will help raise my
level of performance too.
I feel that my successful season in GP2 has helped me mature a lot, and I am a much
more complete driver than I was last time I was competing in this sport.
Returning to Enstone as a race driver feels like coming home. I will not disappoint
and I wish to thank all the people without whom this return to F1 would not have been
possible. Total, [who have been supporting] me since 2006, and Gravity Sport
Management, are first on this list."
The BBC are reporting that Renault driver Nick Heidfeld has been dropped from the squad’s line-up, with Bruno Senna taking his seat for the rest of the year.
Heidfeld has endured a trying year with the Renault team, having failed to lead the team after the loss of Robert Kubica after a rally crash.
It has also been hinted that Renault are suffering from a lack of funding. While Nick demands several million euro in salary, Senna comes with substansial sponsorship money free of charge.
Romain Grosjean was rumoured to be lined up for a race seat, having performed exceptionally well in GP2 this year. He previously stood in for sacked Nelson Piquet Jr. in 2009.
While this story has been reported by a trusted source, the team are yet to confirm this story.
Heidfeld currently lies 8th in the drivers’ standings, 2 points ahead of teammate Vitaly Petrov.
Update: Renault have confirmed that Senna will race alongside Vitaly Petrov in this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix. A short statement was issued:
"Lotus Renault GP is pleased to announce that Bruno Senna will race alongside Vitaly
Petrov at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
Bruno will attend the Official FIA Press Conference tomorrow at 15.00.
A press release with further details on the matter will be issued tomorrow morning."
It is currently unknown is this switch for one race only, or for the rest of the season.
Nick Heidfeld, at the recent test for Pirelli in Jerez, will be replaced by Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean will take over tyre testing duties at the Pirelli squad, as next year’s Formula 1 tyre suppliers claim they don’t want to unfairly hand an advantage to teams interested in Nick Heidfeld, who has gained significant experience from testing these tyres already.
Heidfeld was announced as Pedro de la Rosa’s successor at the Sauber team on Tuesday, and many rumours claimed this was because of his testing with Pirelli. Paul Hembery, motorsport director of Pirelli, explains that they wan to avoid “favouring any individual team”:
"We’d like to thank Nick for his very valuable contribution to
our tyre development programme and we wish him all the best for
In order to avoid favouring any individual team, we have jointly
decided to release Nick from his contract and now we have chosen
Romain to test for us in Monza. He’s packed a lot of experience
into a short space of time, including all our GP3 tyre
development, so I’m sure he’ll be able to give us some very
The tests here at Jerez have gone extremely well and we
completed all the work that we planned over the two days.
Now we move onto Monza, where our task will be to finalise
the construction before we focus further on compounds."
Romain Grosjean took over from Nelson Piquet Jr after the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix, but, like Piquet, failed to score a single point throughout his racing time that season. Despite the fact that he only had a few races’ experience in F1, and at times was only 0.3 seconds off Fernando Alonso, he was dropped from the team for 2010.
It’s good to see Grosjean get the opportunity to return, as he never got a fair chance at Renault last year.
Romain Grosjean is looking at a return to F1 next year
Former Renault F1 driver Romain Grosjean has said that he is aiming for a return to Formula 1 in 2011, despite a poor start to his career last year.
Grosjean was dropped by Renault for this year, after failing to impress after driving for 7 races last year. He replaced Nelson Piquet Jr from Valencia onwards, but only recorded a best finish of 13th at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Even though he started decently, by qualifying 14th in his first race, he never really improved from there. He is best remembered for being involved in Jenson Button’s and Lewis Hamilton’s crash in Belgium, and for crashing in the exact same spot in Singapore that Piquet did last year.
Because of this, he was dropped for this year, and he is now racing in the inugural FIA GT1 World Championship, for the Matech team. However, he plans to return to F1 next year:
"I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. With all the problems
around the team, it wasn't easy; they wanted to make a clean sweep
of the past.
I'm not losing hope. When I see (former team-mate) Fernando
Alonso's results with Ferrari this year, I think I deserve a place
on the grid; my pace was far from being ridiculous - I was never
more than two or three tenths off him in qualifying."
He is trying, as he is keeping in contact with Renault and contacts in other teams. But, I’m not sure would any team give him a chance again. I would, because someone who has won 4 races across 2 GP2 seasons is worth having a look at. Maybe if a small team gave him a chance to drive the car for a day alongside other new drivers, it would give him a better chance.
The problem is, there are many other former F1 drivers that teams would take other than Grosjean. Takuma Sato, for example, has been looking for a return to F1 in the last few months, as has Anthony Davidson. Jacques Villeneuve and Giancarlo Fisichella would also be drivers who would be given the opportunity before Grosjean. It’s unfair towards Romain, but I feel that’s whats going to happen.
I’m not saying that all of these drivers will return to F1, just noting that they too have been looking at a return, and they would probably be favoured compared to Grosjean.
Renault team boss Eric Boullier has denied that the team are looking into having Vitaly Petrov as a driver because of his sponsorship, saying that the first priority is talent.
The Frenchman, who relaced Flavio Briatore as team principal last year, says that he is considering many other drivers.
He told ESPN:
“I am not just talking to five drivers but actually to everyone who does not have an F1 contract. I have been speaking with Nick Heidfeld (now confirmed as Mercedes’ reserve driver) and also with Takuma Sato, Christian Klien and Romain Grosjean, amongst others.”
“I am looking for talent first and foremost, but then after that I do need to consider the sponsorship opportunities; people say we are only looking at Petrov because he is bringing a lot of money, but he is not the richest driver we are talking to.”
So I was right in saying that Renault were interested in Klien, Sato and Grosjean. But, none of these 4 have really proved themselves. Klien seems to be pushed aside a lot, and tends to go as test driver. Sato is a bit dangerous for a team that wants to distance itself from crashing (owned!!). And Grosjean does deserve another chance, but I doubt that anyone will offer it to him.
Petrov has shown form in the GP2 series, but possibly not enough of it. This may leave Renault in a tough spot. If they wanted proper talent, they should have gone for Heidfeld while he was still there. Fisichella is still in the market, however.
At the end of this, however, I still think Renault will sign Petrov. MegaFon (who sponsor Renault) are underdstood to have interest in the Russian, he has huge backing behind him, and the GP2 guys always deserve a chance.
There are reports that Russian Vitaly Petrov is closing in on a deal that will see him race at Renault this season alongside Robert Kubica.
The 25-year-old, who finished 2nd in the GP2 Series last year, has many reports from Enstone that he is in consideration for the job. He has a huge amount of backing from the Russian government (another example of politics in these situations) and current Renault sponsor MegaFon, who are also Russian.
It is understood that Petrov is being considered alongside an F1 driver with recent experience. This may be Romain Grosjean, but I doubt it. Jacques Villeneuve hasn’t got recent experience, so he is out of the picture also. It seems that USF1 is the only option left for JV. The other driver may also be Christian Klien or Takuma Sato.
If Petrov fails to get the seat at Renault, he may also get a role in Campos. This is because he used to race for them in the GP2 Series (2007-2008) and Gp2 Seies Asia (2008-2009). Also, Campos seem to be in difficulty financially, so Petrov’s huge backing will be a large incentive.
Petrov also seems to have a good amount of talent along with his backing. In the complete GP2 series, he finished 13th and 7th in 2007 and 2008 with Campos. He then moved to the GP2 Asia series, another popular series for upcoming F1 drivers, and finished 3rd and 5th in 2008 and 2009.
Whichever team he may join, it is my opinion that we will almost definately see the first Russian Formula 1 driver in 2010.