With just two weeks to the start of the 2012 season, I thought I’d do a preview of how I think the teams and drivers will shape up. Of course this is entirely my own opinion and so probably completely wrong, believe it at your peril!
I’ll split this into two separate blogs or it will get too long, I’ll look at the top teams first of all.
Of course Red Bull will be favourites for both titles again this season and based on what I’ve seen so far in testing, I see no reason to think any differently. I suspect they have been running quite heavy fuel loads in testing as they’ve been concentrating on their race pace and long runs. However, I don’t think they will dominate as much as last season as you tend to find teams performances get closer together when there haven’t been many rule changes and that is certainly the case for this season. Plus the main rule change we’ve had, banning the blown diffuser should mean other teams can catch them up a little as Red Bull had the best blown diffuser out there.
Mark Webber had a rather poor season by his standards and I expect that to change for 2012 – he struggled to adapt to the new Pirelli tyres based on the reports I read and we’ve got Pirelli again for this season and so hopefully he will be able to challenge Vettel from the start of the season. However, politics at Red Bull mean I still expect Vettel to be the dominant force in the team and he’ll be most likely to challenge for the title, in fact I expect this will be Mark’s last season with Red Bull, we shall see!
I’ve set the prices of Red Bull and Vettel slightly high with them being favourites so Webber could be considered a bargain!
I expect McLaren will be the clear number two team this season and able to mount a challenge to Red Bull at most tracks, but I think they may be a little behind for the early races, catching up by the time we reach the European races. Unfortunately due to the fact that they have two fairly equally matched drivers, I see this as meaning neither Button or Hamilton can challenge Vettel for the drivers title, but the team could get the constructors title as consolation, both drivers taking valuable points from each other as we saw last season.
Hamilton seems to have sorted out his personal problems and I see him taking the fight to Button more closely this time around and combined with the fact that McLaren will be clearly the second best team he shouldn’t get entangled in pointless squabbles with his friend Felipe Massa, at least not to the same extent!
I do see this as being his last season with McLaren though, so he may not be as committed to the team as he needs to be last in the season.
I genuinely think Ferrari are struggling a bit, but not enough to rule them out of at least winning more races than last season, when they had only one victory. They don’t seem to be able to understand the car well enough in testing but I think they will get it sorted fairly early in the season and I see them challenging for victory at certain types of track.
Alonso is the clear team-leader and won’t be troubled by Massa who I see as being a fading force, he’s never really recovered from his injuries at Hungary in 2010 and this may be his last season at Ferrari. I see Alonso winning more than one race but never really challenging for the title, Massa will struggle to even get on the podium again in my opinion.
Mercedes have rather flattered to deceive for far too long and I don’t see any real change for 2012. I do think they will get onto the podium a few times when other teams struggle at certain tracks and they may profit from the front runners having accidents and incidents but I doubt they’ll actually win a race.
I expect Schumacher to finally genuinely challenge Rosberg as I expect Nico will leave Mercedes at the end of this season, perhaps moving to partner his compatriot Vettel at Red Bull.
Mercedes could be good value if you choose them for aero, chassis or engine.
Another team flattering to deceive, in testing they’ve looked good as they did last season. They did well early on last time around but then faded away and I expect a repeat this season, but the fade may not be so pronounced.
With Kimi Raikonnen onboard they have a driver who can get something out of nothing and I think Kimi may get the odd podium but I can’t see him actually winning a race, the car won’t be quite good enough. He’ll get disillusioned as the season progresses and despite a swan-song at Spa which he loves by the end of the season he’ll be a spent force.
There’sa lot of interest around the mid-field this season as I suspect we’ll see a lot of teams vying for the lower points-paying places and I think Sauber could emerge as genuine challengers towards the front end of the midfield, but it will be a close thing with Force India and Torro Rosso.
They’ve got a good driver line-up with Kobayashi and Perez and both could score well into double figures this season with Kobayashi being the more consistent of the two, although he’ll also finish less races due to his rather extravagant overtaking style!
I’ll put up a report for the other teams in the next day or two, hope you’ve enjoyed reading this even if you don’t agree with it!