The first test of 2012 is over and done with, with only one real conclusion – F1 is back! But, what other stories are looking to be the main talking points with the season in it’s infancy? Can this test tell us anything? The Badgerometer investigates!
Caterham look like one to watch
Out of the three “new” teams on the grid, it’s Caterham that look like the best bet to score that elusive first point. In Spain last week, they got their car on track first ahead of Marussia and HRT, ran KERS, and even had Jarno Trulli gushing about just how good the car is. That hasn’t happened in a long time. In fact, Marussia are starting dead last in terms of track time – HRT ran their old car to get data on the new Pirellis, in a sparkling white livery.
Where will they slot into on the grid? That’s a big question to ask, but if the car works well, and is as fast as Trulli is making out, then they may just be in the thick of the midfield battle, maybe at the expense of Williams. Who would’ve thought that 2 years ago?
The cars aren’t that ugly
Yes, they do look a bit…rough. But so have other designs in the past, but like a small dog we become attached to car if brings good memories and action on track. One of this writer’s favourite cars is the 1998 Jordan – not because of the hornet on the side of it (which was terrible) but for the joy it gave that fateful Sunday in Belgium.
While we moan and groan about stepped noses and likenesses to certain animals, we should prepare ourselves for the fun on the track these cars will give us from March to November. If all goes well, a few may be posted on our walls for years to come.
Apart from the Sauber. That’s just plain ugly.
Business as usual for Red Bull
Don’t let the few niggles Red Bull had throughout testing confuse you – the RB8 looks quick. The times may be distorted by fuel loads, tyre compounds, what the drivers had for lunch, etc, but just look at the faces of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. They know they’re onto something good this year.
No matter what the rules throw at this team, Adrian Newey seems to overcome it with ease. The slot in the step of the front nose is a curious piece of design work. What is it there for?
That’s the question it’s rivals could ask as the year kicks into life. Either that, or just copy it.
Lotus could be the dark (and gold) horse
Yet again, we stress, don’t look too much into testing. It’s all smoke and mirrors, trust us. But sometimes you can cotton on to whether a team has a good or bad car. And Lotus might just have a cracker.
Forget the issue with their banned, but clever, ride height/passive suspension. With all the other gadgets and gizmos on their E20, it’s made Kimi Raikkonen change out of his muddy Rally boots and back into an F1 car. It also set the fastest time of any 2012 car.
What makes them a team on the up, in our eyes, in all the different factors coming together in one place. They have a motivated Kimi, a fast young team-mate in Romain Grosjean, a innovative design team, and a solid base of sponsorship to build on. They won’t win the championship, but a start like they had in 2011 would be a good return to form for the Enstone squad.
Ferrari – what’s going on?
The covers come off the new Prancing Horse and all the talk started of winning the title, and also Fernando Alonso being happy with the new “radical” direction the rules had taken the F2012. But then again, it was a Ferrari launch, so there’s not much else for them to say than “we’re going to win the title” – they do it pretty much every year!
In doing that though, they always set themselves up for a fall. A few days in and Felipe Massa declares “there’s a lot of work still to do” – not the greatest thing when you’re under pressure to succeed – and the media start to mumble amongst themselves that this year’s title may not be heading to Italy. Talk of set-up issues, bad aerodynamics (probably because of that nose), and not having an aggressive enough exhaust design all dampened the spirits of even the zealous of Ferrari fans.
Then the final day comes along, and Alonso goes fastest. Was it to settle the bosses back at Maranello? Or was it to prove the car isn’t as bad as everyone was making out? It could have been just a glory run to settle the nerves, or maybe Ferrari got the hang of the car overnight.
That’s what makes testing interesting – not who’s fastest, but who’s playing their cards closest to their chest. And we love it!