It’s getting close now: the start of the 2008 Formula 1 season is three weeks away. The teams have their final test session next week before the cars are packed away for the flight to Melbourne, Australia.
The F1 Fanatic 2008 season preview starts today with my pick of what I’m most looking forward to in 2008. What’s top of your list?
Free practice 1, Melbourne
The shadows of the trees on the tracks, the first sightings of the newly-liveried cars all on the tracks together, new helmets in unfamiliar surroundings. There’s something special about that first glimpse of a new Formula 1 season.
Lewis Hamilton at Monte-Carlo
He was hugely quick at Monaco last year and came very close to winning on his first visit to F1′s most punishing track. Hamilton has an excellent track record at Monaco in the junior formulae, and the sight of him over-steering through La Piscine was one of my favourites in 2007.
With traction control off the menu this year there’s no question what my most hotly-anticipated driver/track combo will be.
Fernando Alonso at Renault
Seeing a double world champion in the state of obvious discomfort Fernando Alonso was clearly in at McLaren last year does no good for anyone – not him, not the fans, and not the sport. Like Senna at McLaren and Jim Clark at Lotus there is an innate ‘rightness’ to Alonso in a Renault.
Plus, Renault relay live telemetry on their website during the races, so hopefully we’ll get the chance to see the man at work like never before.
Customers versus manufacturers
Although Ferrari and McLaren look like the class of the field in testing so far, Williams and Red Bull have shown a lot of promise. Can they take the fight to BMW and Renault?
Timo Glock’s return
He scored points on his début in 2004 and it’s a mystery why no-one picked him up for 2005. He had some tremendous fights with Hamilton and Nelson Piquet Jnr in GP2 two years ago, and clinched the championship last year. Welcome back Timo.
Unpredictable surfaces, unavoidable bumps. Cambers, crests and concrete walls. Robert Kubica said racing on street circuits makes him feel like a real racing driver, and there’s no mistaking why.
The inaugural Singapore Grand Prix might clinch it in the spectacle stakes by also being the first night race, but the video simulation of the Circuito Urbano Valencia suggests it is going to be a very rapid track. I can’t wait.
Friday at Silverstone
Usually my first glimpse of F1 in the flesh each year comes in Friday practice for the British Grand Prix. I stand at the entry to Becketts and watch them clip the apex of the first corner, then dart right and left through the following bends. The speed and immediacy with with they change direction never fails to astonish me.
If the actual racing in F1 can be disappointing sometimes, the GP2 races more than make up for it. And with GP2 Asia this year it will be appearing at more F1 rounds than before, starting with the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang. Keep an eye on Renault’s rookie Romain Grosjean – he dominated the first two races.
No traction control
Even if it makes no difference at all, the banning of traction control is the best thing about F1 in 2008. The safety net protecting drivers if they get too hasty with the throttle has been taken away – now it’s all down to them. And, as Nico Rosberg explained, especially when it rains:
At Jerez in the wet, half the field ended up off-track. And then there’s the braking: the lack of electronically-controlled engine braking can be felt when you brake. This could give us a few more chances of overtaking.
What are you most looking forward to in 2008?
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