Just under a month before the Australian Grand Prix and all but two of the twelve teams have launched their Formula One challengers for the coming season. A series of new regulations – particularly a new safety regulation limiting the height of the car’s nose – has produced some of the most extraordinary machines we’ve seen for quite some time. While the F1 world may have said goodbye to F1 veterans Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barrichello, it also welcomes the return of Kimi Raikkonen, one of an unprecedented six World Champions on the grid. Sebastien Vettel and Red Bull Racing may have held all the cards in 2011, but they may find 2012 a much more difficult proposition.
Drivers: Fernando Alonso (2011 – 4th, 257), Felipe Massa (2011 – 6th, 118)
Having come within an ace of winning the World Driver’s Championship in 2010, third place last season was a poor return for the Scuderia. Their new F2012, the first to showcase the innovative ‘stepped’ nose, shows signs of an aggressive Championship campaign ahead.
Fernando Alonso will again head the Ferrari line-up as he strives to become only the ninth driver to win three driver’s titles or more. The Spaniard took a stellar victory at last year’s British Grand Prix, despite his McLaren and Red Bull rivals running faster machinery, and belief that his F2012 will be strong straight out of the box should keep his rivals worried.
Team-mate Felipe Massa will hope for a strong 2012 campaign, with rumours abounding that F1 sensation Robert Kubica could be in line to replace the Brazilian for 2013. Massa’s pace has been underfire since making his series return in 2010 after a near-fatal accident at the Hungaroring a year earlier.
Championship Position 2011: 3rd
Wins: 1 (British Grand Prix)
Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen (2011 N/A), Romain Grosjean (2011 N/A)
With the news that Robert Kubica would be sidelined for a second season following his life-threatening rally crash in January last year, the newly renamed Renault team pulled a shock coup by signing former-World Champion Kimi Raikkonen.
The Australian Grand Prix will be the first time Raikkonen has raced an F1 car since being bought out of his Ferrari contract early in 2009. Given the raft of technical changes that have swept F1 in his absence, many are wondering if the Finn still has what it takes to win, given his disappointing results in the World Rally Championship.
Reigning GP2 Champion Romain Grosjean also returns to F1 with his old team after a disappointing part-campaign in 2009. With one of the strongest driver line-ups in the field, Lotus have their sights set firmly on fourth place in the Constructor’s Championship, with podium finishes high on the agenda. But despite scrapping their controversial forward exiting exhaust (which contributed to Nick Heidfeld’s Lotus-Renault igniting during last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix), chassis problems with the new E20 have already seen the team pull out of pre-season practice in Barcelona.
Championship Position 2011: 5th
Points 2011: 73
Best Position 2011: 3rd (Australia, Malaysia)
Drivers: Pastor Maldonado (19th, 1), Bruno Senna (18th, 2)
Frank Williams heralded a ‘fresh start’ at the launch of his team’s new FW34, following the team’s worst ever qualifying performance at last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Mike Coughan replaces the McLaren-bound Sam Michaels as Technical Director, while F1 veteran Rubens Barrichello makes way for countryman Bruno Senna, following a strong half-season for the Brazilian at Lotus-Renault in 2011.
The deal marks the first time a ‘Senna’ has competed for Williams since the late, great Ayrton drove his last race for the British outfit in 1994. Pastor Maldonado will hope to better his solitary points-paying finish at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix in his sophomore year with Williams.
The upcoming season will also be the first for the team without co-founder Patrick Head, who retired during the off-season after 35 years of service.
Championship Position 2011: 9th
Best Position: 9th (Monaco, Canada)
Up next: McLaren, Mercedes, Force India and CaterhamF1
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