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


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Image ?é?® 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

  1. I actually disagree with a fair few of them- I really didn’t like the longer season last year, I’m all for more tracks but it just went on too long and I only stuck with it because I felt I had to not because I actually wanted to watch the races. Having more champions means very little to me, it’s about the talent we have now just look at MSC. Kimi being back again means nothing to me unless he can provide some excitement but once again, look at MSC. Track wise I don’t mind as some of my favourites are Singapore, Korea and India. I also loathe silly season, well the wild rumours but I actually quite like it when actual news breaks. As for Kubica, there have been so many stories about his return that it’s hard to even think about it no matter how much fortune I wish him. However, that’s not to say I’m a grump and not looking forward to F1 just that very different things appeal to me such as:

    Ferrari. They can either slip back or bounce back up to the front and either will be fascinating to watch. There’s no guarantee they’ll be back at the front again.

    Grosjean. I reckon he’s in with a shot of beating Kimi.

    Force India. A team that has never appealed to be but has the best new talent in their squad.

    US. I agree with that one.

    Mclaren. I don’t buy that JB blew Lewis away but Lewis did have a bad year by his standards so it’ll be fun to see if/when he bounces back.

    Mark Webber. Well, in my opinion he was even worse than Massa last year against his team mate and I’m one of the few who stick up for Felipe.

    Massa having a better year- he just will and please no one be mean and try to destroy my little bit of faith! :P

    Merc. Schu’s getting better and better.

    Virgin vs HRT.

    Seb’s helmets.

    Things I’m not looking forward to:
    the stewards.
    RBR playing The Big Bad Wolf.
    Fans fighting when Massa and Hamilton crash into each other.
    Ferrari firing their entire staff when they fail to win the first race.
    Talking to less people on Twitter about F1 because they can’t afford to watch the races.

  2. I am particularily looking forward to Kimi’s hunt for the nearest Mr Wippy ice cream van during the British GP!

  3. freefall said on 30th January 2012, 13:24

    Artificial overtaking, no defending off the racing line unless the month has a y in it, 10 races live, tike tracks that are just dreadful, tyres that make the track look like a explosion in a Malteasers factory, having downforce explained as an upside aeroplane wing for the 245,654,432nd time, stewards decisions that are best described as suspect,
    First time since 96 that i can say iam not exicted by the start of the season.

    • Tayyib (@m0nzaman) said on 30th January 2012, 14:07

      What kind of formula 1 do you want

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

      You can’t just blame Pirelli for the marbles issue. Have a look at the highlights of the 06 Canadian GP if you want to see a track that looks like it is covered in malteasers! MSC even slid off the track at the hairpin because of them….

    • beneboy (@beneboy) said on 30th January 2012, 15:02

      Sadly I think I’m going to have to agree with you and I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get even a little bit excited about the start of the season.

      Ugly cars, stupid rules, artificial overtaking, boring circuits and a complete denial of reality from FIA/FOM/Teams that the main problem with F1 is that the cars have become so dependent on aero that the driver is almost an irrelevance and that the racing has become close to non-existant without the use of artificial devices such as DRS and silly tire rules.

      I’m in the process of moving home at the moment and I’m struggling to decide if I want to get SKY or not, I do like other sports that they show but the only reason it’d be worth paying for is to get SKY F1 HD but I’m struggling to justify spending hundreds of pounds to watch a sport that has become one big corporate middle finger aimed directly at the fans.

    • McLarenFanJamm (@mclarenfanjamm) said on 30th January 2012, 15:49

      @freefall why weren’t you excited in 1996?

    • vanja said on 30th January 2012, 18:55

      Oh,my GOOOOOD !!!!!!!

      THIS WILL BE THE BEST SEASON EVER!!!!!!

      how can u say that ur not lookong forward to the season!
      since the end of the 2011 season all i can think about is formula and 2012 season! I wish I could speed up time :S

      this year is gonna be WAIT FOR IT

      (high pitched tone) AWESOME!!!!

      Alonso wins 3rd WDC, Croatia Euro cup and I could die peacefully :)

  4. Tim Katz (@timkatz) said on 30th January 2012, 14:27

    I’m looking forward to seeing how the Comeback Kids do – Raikkonen, De La Rosa, Grosjean.
    If a week’s a long time in politics, a season in F1 is several lifetimes.

  5. I’m looking forward to only watching half the races live.

    No… wait… whats the opposite of ‘looking forward to’? Yeah. That.

  6. vanja said on 30th January 2012, 14:53

    What i look forward to se (hope to se) is The begining of alonso’s 10 year domination

  7. UncleBob said on 30th January 2012, 14:58

    I’m looking forward to the massive fail of Raikkonen

  8. Mike (@mike) said on 30th January 2012, 15:31

    I think the Force India and Torro Rosso battles will be amazing. with both teams having two very young but also very promising drivers in their ranks both teams should have some intense competition.

    Personally I hope Hulkenburg’s talent shows through, I think he one of the most naturally gifted young drivers F1 has got.

    Having said that I wouldn’t be able to say that any of the other 3 aren’t…

    It’s difficult to comment when your biases have you like all the drivers!

  9. Randy (@randy) said on 30th January 2012, 15:42

    Okay, there’s a third thing i am looking forward to – Polish media had just posted information that Robert Kubica will be signed as a third driver for Ferrari this season. Starting in simulator, he could step into Ferrari challenger in 2012 if he’s fit and if Massa underperforms.

    Now i know this is just a rumour, but i’m bursting with joy reading that. Any chances of this happening? How do you guys think? The announcement apparently may be made as soon as 3rd of February.

  10. Im looking forward to the F1 fanatic Predictions championship! :D

  11. Shimks (@shimks) said on 30th January 2012, 16:14

    the ‘sensible season’

    LOL!! :O)

  12. Rammstein (@rammstein123) said on 30th January 2012, 16:25

    I’m looking forward to more driving success for all of Germany’s team’s and drivers.

  13. Shimks (@shimks) said on 30th January 2012, 16:26

    If I look forward to the new season, the first thing that springs to mind is Lewis. Will he bounce back? Will his learning period help him win another driver’s championship this year? Will he show dominance over Jenson? I think Lewis is going to be on an absolute charge right from the word go. Get some great performances early on and his confidence will be fed and he’ll go from strength to strength. But going all out to prove himself (mostly to himself) could have massive repercussions if he has some unlucky races and silly mistakes.

    It will be also very interesting to see what Kimi does in the former Renault. Will he severely struggle like Michael did? And does Kimi have the skill set to help a team dramatically improve their car? Or his he just damn fast? Damn fast won’t be enough at Lotus F1.

    I’m also really hoping that the FIA’s experience with DRS last year will help them improve the show by fine-tuning the numbers, lengths and positions of zones. This can dramatically improve the show by still allowing more overtaking whilst making the spectacle look more fair.

    Finally, and my heart really goes out to him, I hope that Michael can awe us once again, like the good old days, even if it’s only once or twice. Otherwise, this comeback is going to look pretty bleak in the history books.

  14. shadow13 (@shadow13) said on 30th January 2012, 17:30

    I’m actually quite looking forward to Sky’s new F1 channel – as I’ve got Sky specially to watch it.

  15. Joey-Poey (@joey-poey) said on 30th January 2012, 18:46

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

    Darn tootin’ ;)

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