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The winter world championship may be over for another year, and after 12 days (for most) of testing, we are no closer to detecting what will happen in 2012. If anything the water is only murkier from the three tests. The best prediction to make about the upcoming season is that you can’t predict the result for Australia.
It was the cars’ looks that initially made the waves a few weeks ago, with the stepped nose making us all slightly gag. Only McLaren have gone against having the step in their nosecone, and they have managed this by having the chassis much lower than their rivals. Red Bull have not surprisingly got a different take on the stepped nose, by having a ‘hole’ here, which they insist is for driver cooling only. However, you may hesitate to believe that opening line, as it may be for other cooling issues.
With the KERS problems of last year, it does potentially look as maybe they might be concentrating on that area. If true, then maybe they can get to grips with the KERS systems this year. You also have to wonder about their most recent test with the new exhaust update. Reposts suggest the car looked less stable than previous tests, however it did not run many laps due to reliability issues.
It has been a dramatic off season, with Lotus and the three newer teams creating headlines for mostly the wrong reasons. Marussia and HRT have both managed to impressively fail crash tests, meaning they have had no testing before Australia. HRT have managed to get a filming day before then, which they have to treat more as a shakedown session than a preseason test, but it’s better than nothing, and a lot better than what they’ve managed in previous years.
The Marussia case is less impressive, after floundering for two years under the Virgin name you were expecting a bit more professionalism involved now, especially with a bit of McLaren input. However they finally passed the crash tests and are ready to go in Australia. They have now had the release and a shakedown of the car. Interestingly, the nose is closer to the Mclaren version than the stepped nose we have gotten used to seeing from the other teams.
After swearing by Jarno Trulli for so long, Caterham finally did as expected and dropped him in place of the Russian Vitaly Petrov.
Lotus have caused many waves in the testing sessions though, not only with Raikkonen’s return but some decent pace, that many experts have led them to be touted as the third fastest
team entering the opening round of the year. They did however suffer a major setback when chassis problems occurred and meant they missed the entire second test. This could mean about 1000 km lost compared to their rivals, an amount that could be pivotal in gaining knowledge about the new beasts.
The biggest question mark has to be what on earth is going on at Ferrari. After some punchy statements on revealing the car, it has been all negativity since. Confusion ensured after the first test, which has now passed on to apparent public depression about the situation two tests later. They have seemingly already seemingly waved the white flag for Australia admitting they won’t be able to challenge for the podium. It may be a long season, but to play catch-up so early isn’t ideal, especially when you are trying to catch the Red Bulls and McLarens. Or is it a bluff? History of Ferrari would suggest that they are telling the truth, however there have been many personnel changes in the last few months, so it is more difficult to judge what is actually going on within the team.
The pack appears to be a lot closer this year, and it will be a surprise if one team runs away with it with so much ease like last year. But let’s not get carried away. Red Bull are still in the strongest position, and anyone betting against them is playing fast and loose with their money. McLaren look to be in the best position to challenge, after a positive testing season. There should also be a mention of Force India, who look like they’ve come to the front of that midfield group, and produced a half decent car.
All the rumours and speculation may be in full flow now, but in less than two weeks we will know so much more about how the 2012 season will go, and who was sandbagging their way through the winter world championship. I for one can’t wait; let the circus finally come to town!