Ten things to look forward to in the 2012 F1 season

2012 F1 season

The car launch season begins in earnest in two days’ time when McLaren reveal their new contender.

By the end of the week we’ll have seen the new Ferrari, Force India and Lotus too.

So before the cars are revealed, and accompanied by the usual claims of “this will be my season” and “we’ve made a radical step forward”, let’s take a moment to savour the season ahead and consider what we’ve got to look forward to in 2012.

More champions, more races

This year could be the biggest ever season of Formula 1. The 2012 F1 calendar is the longest ever with 20 races stretching from March to November (though of course we can’t exclude the possibility of a race being cancelled as happened last year).

And for the first time in F1 history we will see six world champions assemble on the grid when the cars arrive in Melbourne.

Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher have 14 world championship titles between them.

Kimi Raikkonen’s comeback…

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, Valencia, 2012

Raikkonen returns after a two-year absence

Special attention will be focused on Kimi Raikkonen’s return to the cockpit after a two-year absence. Excitingly, Raikkonen is paired with reigning GP2 champion Romain Grosjean in an all-new line-up at Lotus (aka The Team Formerly Known As Renault).

Raikkonen’s is a divisive figure, loved by many but regarded with disdain by some. But his credentials as a racer are not in dispute.

One of the most fascinating questions of 2012 be whether Raikkonen can recapture the brilliant peaks of form we saw in his McLaren days and world championship-winning season, and shake off the stupor which appeared to afflict his driving late in his Ferrari career.

…and hopefully Robert Kubica’s too

The dreadful injuries suffered by Robert Kubica almost one year ago cast a pall over the start of the 2011 season.

Kubica’s road to recovery has been anything but smooth with multiple operations and, just a few weeks ago, a fall which further complicated his rehabilitation.

But Kubica – the man Fernando Alonso regards as F1′s best driver – appears set on a return to the top flight once his recovery is complete.

For him it surely can’t come soon enough. But all those who want to see him back at his bet will surely hope he waits until the damage has fully healed before returning to competition.

The proper tracks

With a calendar increasingly populated by drab Hermann Tilke clones, F1′s occasional visits to classic Grand Prix venues are something to be cherished.

Treasure the races at venues like Spa-Francorchamps, Suzuka, Monte-Carlo, Silverstone and Montreal. With an increasingly congested schedule, race hosting fees rising and growing economic pressures, they may not be there forever.

The United States Grand Prix

Start, Indianapolis, 2007

F1's last race in America in 2007

Tilke’s latest creation, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, will host its first Grand Prix in November. On paper, there’s much to anticipate about this new venue, with a Silverstone-inspired opening sequence of fast corners and ample elevation change.

And F1′s return to the States is certainly something to be celebrated. F1′s popularity in America may never rival that of NASCAR or the National Football League. But being a minority sport which in a country of over 300 million people is hardly a bad thing.

And it’s clear from the feedback I’ve read on F1 Fanatic the sport has many dedicated and passionate followers in the USA.

Toro Rosso’s rookie squad

For those who lament conservative driver line-ups and the limited opportunities afforded to young drivers, Toro Rosso’s line-up for 2012 is highly exciting.

Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne are both champions of British Formula Three who have excelled in Formula Renault 3.5 and had an introduction to driving F1 cars. Ricciardo, of course, already has half a season at HRT behind him.

Both know they have a chance to drive for world champions Red Bull if they show signs of being the next Sebastian Vettel. Here is one of the most tantalising intra-team contests of the year.

F1′s veterans keep on racing

Rubens Barrichello, Williams, Monaco, 2011

Losing his F1 seat may not stop Barrichello from competing

The new season looks set to begin without Rubens Barrichello and Nick Heidfeld – two drivers with over 500 F1 starts between them.

But there is life after Formula 1. Several top drivers are moving into new championships this year and are definitely worth keeping an eye on.

Nick Heidfeld is expected to be confirmed at Rebellion Racing in the new World Endurance Championship this week.

He will be up against fellow former F1 drivers Alexander Wurz and Kazuki Nakajima who will drive ex-F1 entrant Toyota’s hybrid LMP1 car.

It may be over ten years since Jean Alesi last races in F1 but the competitive fire still burns and he’s planning to tackle the Indianapolis 500 with Lotus this year.

Will he be joined by Rubens Barrichello? The former Williams driver is testing for his friend Tony Kanaan’s IndyCar team KV Racing today amid speculation he might switch to the series this year.

More great racing

According to F1 Fanatics, 2011 saw better races than we had seen in any of the three previous seasons.

While the role of the controversial Drag Reduction System in that is fiercely disputed by its critics and defenders, the role played by the more challenging tyres introduced last year is generally better appreciated. And in 2012 Pirelli have promised to push the envelope further.

Last week F1′s official tyre supplier announced substantial changes to their tyre range this year including even softer compounds, which they expect will challenge the teams, create greater strategic variety and better racing.

In-season testing returns (sort of)

The addition of a single in-season test will add a new dimension to the start of the season.

For one thing, teams will have just 12 days of testing before the season begins. The likes of Mercedes, whose new car will not appear at the first test, will only get eight days’ running with it before the first race weekend of the year.

Before the start of the ‘European season’, teams will head to Mugello in Italy for three days of running. Look out for teams planning radical upgrades for the following race in Spain to take advantage of the test.

The 2013 silly season

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, Buddh International Circuit, 2011

Will Hamilton remain a McLaren man?

The drivers’ market has been rather unexciting for the last two years, leading some to dub it the ‘sensible season’.

But that could all change this year as at least one driver in each of F1′s top teams has their contract up for renewal at the end of the season: Lewis Hamilton at McLaren, Felipe Massa at Ferrari, Mark Webber at Red Bull and Michael Schumacher at Mercedes.

Will Hamilton commit his future to McLaren once more? Will someone get a chance to take Webber’s place with the current world champions? Will a new driver join the hallowed ranks of those who raced for the Scuderia?

Expect some wild rumours and, hopefully, a few surprises.

What are you looking forward to in 2012?

What are you looking forward to this year? Are you planning a trip to a Grand Prix? Let us know in the comments.

2012 F1 season preview


Browse the 2012 F1 season preview

Image ?? Lotus F1 Team, www.mclaren.com, Williams/LAT, www.mclaren.com

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98 comments on Ten things to look forward to in the 2012 F1 season

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  1. James (@jamesf1) said on 30th January 2012, 12:10

    What am I looking forward to? Georgie Thompson on Sky!

    Also, interesting to see how James Allen gets on with 5live. Am a fan of his, so I’ll switch back to the Beeb to check out how their doing after they sold out =)

  2. Bleeps_and_Tweaks (@bleeps_and_tweaks) said on 30th January 2012, 12:17

    Great article Keith! With all of the excitement of the new cars being unveiled soon I had completely forgotten how many top drivers could possibly be moving around by the end of this season.

    What price I wonder for Hamilton to RBR or Ferrari if he has a good start to the season? His relationship with Alonso has mellowed considerably, and he has a long standing friendship with Christian Horner.

    If the Mercedes GP03 isn’t quick enough to challenge for wins will Schumacher keep going? But if it is quick enough, will he be able to keep up with Rosberg??

    So many questions!!

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th January 2012, 14:06

      @Bleeps_and_Tweaks Ferrari would mean Alonso and I doubt we’ll see that again, much as I’d like to!

      Red Bull is a possibility though, he’s a good talent and image fit.

      • Bleeps_and_Tweaks (@bleeps_and_tweaks) said on 30th January 2012, 14:43

        @Keith-Collantine Yeah Alonso and Hamilton seem to get on quite a bit better now, but putting them in the same team again is another thing entirely though!! It would be incredible if it did happen, but it’s very unlikely.

        With regards to Hamilton’s image etc; I wonder if he will have learnt from last year and take a step away from that side of things? Although that horrendous GQ shoot didn’t seem to suggest that is going to be the case…

        • Younger Hamii (@younger-hamii) said on 30th January 2012, 17:49

          This is Hamilton leaving McLaren we’re talking about here! Currently i still dont see Lewis leaving Macca for quite a while,It’s more or less his home,the team that got him where he is now.He’s given them a World Champion since 1999,which was Hakkinen and i know he’s a grown man and he is probably prepared for that situation of leaving McLaren but like i said There’s a lot Lewis still has to give and his love for the team is almost unparalled to any other driver associated with a team

          • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 30th January 2012, 20:14

            I don’t see Lewis leaving McLaren either. Where would he go anyways?

            RBR – Vettel’s smart enough to know that no matter how good you are; your championship challenge will go easier if you have a numpty as a teammate that doesn’t take points off you; a job that pretty much describes Mark Webber’s 2011 season.

            Ferrari – Ditto for Alonso

            Mercedes? Hmmm….

    • Hamilton might stay in Mclaren or to Red Bull, agree with Keith about Ferrari i think Vettel or Kubica more likely pair with Alonso.

    • James (@jamesf1) said on 30th January 2012, 18:00

      I think we’re more likely to see Kubica join Alonso in 2013, if the current rumours are true. Ferrari are believed to have offered Kubica the use of their simulator and old race car to allow him to gauge if he’s able to make a comeback or not.

      • interestingly horner spoke about meeting with lewis at canada in 2011 and he said ‘ not the lewis i was expecting’

        would love to know what that meant

  3. KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 30th January 2012, 12:17

    This might sound quite weird, but I’m looking forward to something which a lot of people have moaned about: The BBC coverage.

    I’ve often been fighting for the fact that BBC are still showing 10 races live next year. The other 9 or 10 (I’m not putting money on whether we’re racing in Bahrain, especially as the situation didn’t seem to make much of a difference for the most part of 2011) will have extended highlights. I’m quite interested as to how the BBC team continue without Brundle in the commentary box, and I’m looking forward to Edwards and Couthard.

    Also, I’m taking bets on how long it takes for David Coulthard to say the word ‘disactivated’ in his commentary… Rather special as it’s not actually a word!

    • Trenthamfolk (@trenthamfolk) said on 1st February 2012, 22:07

      Amen to that… I don’t think Sky will be able to match the BBC when it comes to respect in the paddock and unparalleled access… I will have both (BBC HD & Sky F1 HD) and am prepared to be proved wrong, but the BBC has always been the best in my book.

  4. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 30th January 2012, 12:21

    I think the thing I’m looking forward to the most is the midfield fight. Assuming that Red Bull, McLaren, Ferrari and Mercedes remain as the top four, then there’s probably only going to be two or three (or, on occasion) four points-scoring places for everyone else. And that everyone else will likely include Force India, Toro Rosso and Sauber with – hopefully – Williams and Caterham holding their own. So, at most, we’ll have ten cars fighting over two places. It’s going to be really interesting to see how that plays out.

  5. MahavirShah (@mahavirshah) said on 30th January 2012, 12:25

    What I hope for is a season where the title fight is much more close and the grid become tighter. I would love to see HRT and Marussia take a step forwards and atleast come close to Caterham. Looking forward to the new innovations teams have brought to the table in light of the EBD ban. And I look forward to great racing, hopefully even better than 2011, this year.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th January 2012, 14:07

      @MahavirShah I could see Marussia making some progress with their McLaren tie-in and bringing Symonds on board. But I doubt they’re going to suddenly catch up to Caterham or Williams.

      As for HRT, I’m afraid it may be the usual story of whether they get their car ready in time to do any testing.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 30th January 2012, 21:55

        As for HRT, I’m afraid it may be the usual story of whether they get their car ready in time to do any testing.

        – or indeed to beat that 107% come Melbourne!

      • matt90 (@matt90) said on 30th January 2012, 23:59

        I hope not, I like HRT.

      • MahavirShah (@mahavirshah) said on 31st January 2012, 4:16

        I know and its probably going to turn out that way. Marussia is going to have their work cut out as you say, that too without KERS, I expect the same end grid fight between Marussia and HRT. Although Marussia would have a point to prove having finished behind HRT the last 2 seasons. All I hope is that the cars are competitive enough and we don’t have to see an HRT or Marussia finishing 6 laps down anymore.

        • Solo (@solo) said on 31st January 2012, 9:51

          You are wrong. HRT won’t be anywhere near Marussia this time. Marussia will be in the position Caterham was last year in comparison with HRT.

  6. Still seven weeks to go! Why taunt us with all this great stuff that’s going to come :)I will be interested to see how Raikkonen gets on after two years out, but most of all I am looking forward to the interteam battles, it is going to be fascinating to see how it plays out.

    Will Vettel continue to dominate or will Webber fight back? How will Hamilton react to being beaten, and can he consistently produce great drives or will Button further enhance his reputation and become de facto number 1? Will Alonso get the car he deserves and can Massa get anywhere near him? Is the Mercedes going to be any good and will Nico continue to be generally quicker than Michael? Can Lotus stop sabotaging themselves and is Kimi going to be any good? Di Resta or Hulkenberg, Ricciardo or Vergne? Will Kobayashi or Perez solidify their reputation and move on to a bigger team? Will Williams start to show form of old, or drift even further into obscurity, and can the new teams close the gap?

    So many things to be excited about this season, can’t wait.

    • graigchq (@graigchq) said on 30th January 2012, 15:48

      Yep, I believe this is the year for Button. As a long standing button fan (and fellow westcountryman myself) I firmly believe he will be matching Hamilton this year, and if McLaren can produce the goods, then this will be his 2nd world championship, and probably the year he goes on to talk about to his kids and grandkids for the rest of his life. Button for WDC, McLaren for WCC, and Hamilton for the pits once his ego takes over and Whitmarsh fires him for being an arrogant ***…. Predictions for next year? I believe Hamilton will take Webber’s spot, webber will become a driver trainer and ambassador whilst kicking the crap out of everyone in the World Endurance series in 2013, and Raikonnen will go back to Ferrari and swap with Massa, then take the championship battle to the final race in 2013 against Alonso, Hamilton, the newly crowned double world champion Button, and newly encouraged three race winner from 2012 Michael Schumacher… one can only hope!

  7. Randy (@randy) said on 30th January 2012, 12:43

    Oh schucks i was going to write how excited i am about new tech regs regarding fixed gear ratios, but the i googled it and found out that it’s only due for 2014. Okay…

    Nevertheless the exciting battle at Toro Rosso will be sweet, i do really hope for a very tight grid with them firmly in the middle. If the tyres will be more unpredictable, then we might even witness some unusual suspect winning the race, possibly with more mixed up podiums.

    I hope it doesn’t sound too much as a wish list.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 30th January 2012, 20:11

      The new gear ratio ruling will be coming in tandem with the new engine regs. The ratios won’t mean much for top speed then though; due to the fuel flow limits

  8. Robertinho (@robertinho66) said on 30th January 2012, 12:45

    I am looking forward for f1 gp return to portugal….

    • James (@jamesf1) said on 30th January 2012, 13:12

      Unless it gets a big investor backing it, I doubt that’ll happen any time soon. Portugal has bigger fish to fry at the moment!

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 30th January 2012, 22:17

        Unless it gets a big investor backing it, I doubt that’ll happen any time soon.

        More to the point, it needs interest first. I’ve heard talk of races in Russia, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, South Africa, Croatia, the Ukraine, Thailand and Vietnam – all with different degrees of probability – but the one country that I haven’t heard mentioned it Portugal.

  9. Girts (@girts) said on 30th January 2012, 12:47

    I personally don’t care much about how many champions there are on the grid. In my opinion, what you are capable of now counts not what you have done 5 or 10 years ago. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see how Kimi performs and also whether Schumacher can finally make it to the very top again.

    I guess there will be a lot of interesting battles and a lot of questions are yet to be answered:

    1) Will someone else be able to challenge the Red Bulls and give Vettel a run for his money?
    2) Will Ferrari’s determination to be more innovative as well as changes in key staff bring the expected uplift?
    3) Will Hamilton have overcome his personal issues?
    4) Will Mercedes finally be able to fight for victories?
    5) Will Maldonado beat Senna or vice versa?
    6) Will Caterham score their first point(s)?
    7) Will Bahrain GP go on and, if yes, will it be a success?
    8) Will di Resta beat Hulkenberg and prove his readiness for a race seat in some top team?
    9) Will Marussia and HRT struggle to meet the 107% rule or will they have made progress?
    10) What will happen to the new Concorde Agreement?

    • Julian (@julian) said on 30th January 2012, 13:38

      number 8 is awesome :)

    • celeste (@celeste) said on 30th January 2012, 16:14

      You can also add the posibility of Vettel breaking “the third championship” in three years curse…

    • Todfod (@todfod) said on 30th January 2012, 16:49

      Thats a good list of questions.. although I would also add the Hamilton-Button battle.

      Everyone wrote Jenson off for last year (including myself).
      If Hamilton lost two years in a row to Button, it would be quite ego crushing for Lewis.

    • raymondu999 (@raymondu999) said on 30th January 2012, 20:18

      Here’s my take on your questions :P

      1. Not a run for his money
      2. Yes; but not as much as expected
      3. Not quite, but some ways towards it
      4. Nope
      5. Vice Versa
      6. Just; and luck had a lot to do with it (rather than earning on merit)
      7. No. But if yes, it will be a good grand prix.
      8. Nope. It will be vice versa.
      9. Marussia will make the 107 at every race. HRT will at most miss 1.
      10. Don’t know

  10. Dobin1000 (@dobin1000) said on 30th January 2012, 12:53

    I am now being forced to think about the fact that I am likely not going to be able to watch all the races live for the first time – I am probably not going to have Sky this year, and I am going to miss Martin Brundle’s presence especially.

    No question of me not following the sport as much, but it is still a shame…

    • UncleBob said on 30th January 2012, 15:02

      you know, I dont think Brundles loss to sky is going to be that bad. Have to admit to getting a bit bored with him.. Soz Mart.

  11. vickyy (@vickyy) said on 30th January 2012, 13:00

    As I don’t see much change in the top order, here is what I am looking at:
    Liveries and designs (especially nose),ultra competitive mid-field with possible inclusion of Williams and Caterham, Di Resta vs Hulk, Ricciardo vs Vergne, and the fights of mediocre i.e. Bruno vs Maldonado, much hyped return of Kimi, US GP and much cleaner Buddh International, I will be there again :)

  12. snowman.john (@snowman-john) said on 30th January 2012, 13:09

    Slightly off topic, but I’lm looking forward to some decent coverage of GP2 (if someone has bought the rights)

  13. TheJudge (@thejudge) said on 30th January 2012, 13:09

    Thanks for the great article.
    I’m looking forward to what Merc and SCHU has to offer this season. And most of all,midfield fights as we all expect Raikkonen to fight there and ofcourse STR duo,and Caterham and Force India performances.
    There are alot of things to look forward to,as you mentioned some of them.

    • Same here, really hoping Merc can challenge for podium or win and looking forward to Schumacher performance as he was getting close to his oldself in 2011, i think 2012 his pace will getting better

  14. Tayyib (@m0nzaman) said on 30th January 2012, 13:13

    Absolutley stoked for the coming season, it could be sensational. Hopefuly the Scuderia get their car in order and if they do then watch Alonso fly hopefully to a 3rd WDC but i really wnat to see a competitive Merc to make it a 4 way battle at the front and also see where Rosberg sits amongst the Vettels and Alonso’s. I think the midfield will be closer than ever. I think Force india finished with the momentum and they must carry it on, Lotus need to stop the slide they were on and catch up, both also have exciting dirver lineups and its good to see the incredible hulk back, also dont count out Sauber who can pull of some strong results with Perez and Kobayashi add to that two rookies in Ricciardo (sort of) and Vergne and the fallen great Williams who need to a good start and godd development and it will be exciting to how good Bruno Senna is. The 2011 season felt like it finished last week and the 2012 season is almost here with car launches and testing. Can’t Wait!

    On a side note I have come to terms that we won’t see every race live but I dont mind the timing of the programmes 5 for GPs in Europe and 2 for the flyaways I just hope they show full re runs of the race with EVERYTHING that happened show instead of cut odwn races to make space for forum waffle.

    • Sam Binfield said on 30th January 2012, 16:38

      I think you’ll be disapointed then. The beeb are only showing ‘extended highlights’. So much for getting the full experience.

    • Outsider said on 31st January 2012, 1:17

      Yeap..absolutely looking forward to it. I really hope Ferrari have a machine to rival the Bulls. If thats the case, you would put your money on Alonso for 2012.

      Whatever the case, we know that Alonso wrings 101% out of whatever car he gets on raceday..FORZA ALONSO!

  15. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 30th January 2012, 13:17

    I’m looking forward to seeing how Grosjean gets on against Kimi. Really hope Romain does well, he was amazing to watch in GP2 last year.

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