Pouring An Eye Over The 2012 Teams And Drivers

Looking through the line-ups through-out the grid, there are some evenly-matched pairings, as well as others which while perhaps not so close, could provide captivating viewing as one man strives to out-do his perceivedly better team-mate.

Red Bull

Webber (L) and Vettel (R)

At Red Bull, Sebastian Vettel stands as the reigning world champion and a double champion, while his stable-mate Mark Webber endured a pounding from the German last season. With three pole positions against Vettel’s fifteen, and just one win compared to Sebastian’s fifteen, he seemed a man far from his 2010-self, a man who in 2010 challenged for the championship. Vettel will be expected to all accounts to beat Webber this season, but Webber will be raring to show everyone that he can keep up with him despite his advancing years.

McLaren

Hamilton (L), Button (R)

McLaren go into their third season of having Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button as team-mates. For the first time in his five-season F1 career, Hamilton was not the highest-placed driver from his team in the Driver’s Championship. 2011 had Button becoming Hamilton’s first team-mate to out-score him over a season, a feat more impressive when you consider Lewis shared McLaren with double-champion Fernando Alonso in 2007. After a crash-happy season, the man from Grenada had a disastrous season by his own admission and will be eager to prove to all that he, and not the Somerset-bred Button, is top man at McLaren.

Ferrari

Massa (L) and Alonso (R)

Ferrari, unlike the other two top teams, have an assured hierarchy. Though they don’t admit it publically, it is obvious to everyone else that Fernando Alonso is the leader and Felipe Massa plays rear gunner. So nearly a world champion in 2008 and continuing to show strong form in 2009 up until his accident half-way through the season, Brazilian-born Massa has been nowhere to been seen when stacked up against Alonso. It has been speculated that the accident, fatherhood and the reliasation of not being king of the Italian castle once Alonso arrived in 2010, have all combined to make Felipe a meagre shadow figure who achieved six race victories in 2008. Alonso is a natural leader and never gives up hope, fighting to the very end. It is hard to imagine Massa putting up much of a fight against the Spaniard, but he needs to pick himself up from the floor if he is not to be axed by the Scuderia at the end of the season.

Mercedes

Rosberg (L) and Schumacher (R)

Mercedes have Germany’s most-decorated driver in Michael Schumacher, and one of the hungriest in Nico Rosberg. Schumacher has not been getting the results many expected since his return to the sport two years ago, and even with a poor car, you can always beat your team-mate, if no one else. Rosberg is now 26 years old and is a driver that would could be a good signing for any of the top three-running teams in the near future if Mercedes fail to deliver him a front-running car and vacancies elsewhere open up. He has had the better of Schumacher in equal machinery over the previous two seasons and will be expected to repeat it again, while on-lookers will yearn to see, at least, a return to the podium for Herr Schumacher.

Lotus

Raikkonen (L) and Grosjean (R)

Lotus-Renault begin their first season under the Lotus name, having previously raced under the Renault name. The team have lacked a leader since their former lead driver Robert Kubica suffered serious injuries whilst rallying in early 2011. They certainly have had their share of media attention with the return of the enigma-on-legs Kimi Raikkonen getting fans excited. It is unlikely that the team will be providing the car with a race-winning car given their finish of 5th place in last season’s Constructors Championship. However, with Raikkonen and ex-Renault driver Romain Grosjean and the new name, it marks a new beginning and one which they hope to bring progress. It would appear that Raikkonen should have the better of his French team-mate, but the Finn’s needs to adapt to the full-time rigors of the sport may be a helpful advantage to Grosjean.

Force India

Di Resta (L) and Hulkenberg (R)

With one of the most exciting driver pairings on the grid, Force India have every right to be positive about the upcoming season. Scotsman Paul Di Resta and German Nico Hulkenberg have just  two seasons of racing experience to their name. However, both were in test driving roles for the season prior to their race drives and both also showed great potential in their respective racing seasons. For Williams in 2010, Hulkenberg displayed good pace and strong race-craft with multiple points finishes and even a shock pole position in a wet qualifying session at the Brazilian GP. Di Resta also scored points on occasions in his race season last year whilst showing a mature head on young shoulders, often benefiting from running race strategies alternate to the rest of the field. It is very hard to pick between the two young guns, with a good chance of either coming out on top. However, with Di Resta;s experience of the Pirelli tyres, it may taken Hulkenberg time to get up to speed with them.

Sauber

Perez (L) and Kobayashi (R)

Sauber are one team which are typically a constant. Never lightning quick nor ploddingly slow, it can be sure that they will usually be in the midfield running. Retaining the same drivers in Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi, they can have a base to work with from last season. Kobayashi exploded onto the scene in late-2009 with his aggressive style and constant attempts at overtaking delighted fans all over. He seemed to be a bit subdued in 2011 and did not show the same style, instead playing second-fiddle to Mexican rookie Sergio Perez. Perez showed an excellent ability to conserve his tyres, something which assisted him in points finishes. He recovered from a heavy accident during qualifying at the Monaco GP, and was back to his normal self before too long, some  races later. On form, Perez would seem to have the edge here, but Kobayashi is no kamikaze and can often produce the unexpected, performing overtaking manoeuvres in places others wouldn’t dare. Expect a tight battle between two of the sport’s brightest talents.

Toro Rosso

Ricciardo (L) and Vergne (R)

Toro Rosso came in for some hard criticism over the winter for dropping both their previous drivers, but it shows a resilience in their policy in being a team which serves as a home to young drivers. Daniel Ricciardo has half a season’s racing experience in F1 to his name, and despite it being with the lowly HRT team, the young Aussie has the benefit of knowing his way around some of the the race tracks at racing speed. His team-mate is Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, a rookie who is being hailed as a potentially dazzling young star. It’s difficult to make a call with neither man having a particular advantage, but Ricciardo’s time at HRT will help him in being part of an F1 team.

Williams

Bruno Senna (L) and Pastor Maldonado (R)

Williams can only do better as 2011 marked one of the worst seasons in the English squad’s history as they finished bottom of the teams who scored points. Money is talking quite loudly as the driver line-up of Pastor Maldonado and Bruno Senna brings a significant amount of sponsorship income to the team. Maldonado will want to improve on a year which saw him having numerous incidents, including two with Lewis Hamilton at the Monaco and Belgian GPs. The return of the Senna name to Williams is something which has brought a mixed reaction, with some believing Senna is another pay driver, which is a driver who is hired purely for the sponsorship money he brings. Bruno did have most of the 2010 season at HRT and half of 2011 at Renault, so he does have experience and has shown well with strong performances in the lower racing series’. Another tough one to call, but Senna’s solid, if patchy form in 2011, could give him the edge.

Caterham

Heiki Kovalainen

Vitaly Petrov

Caterham are a team with a new name as the men based in Norfolk, previously known as Lotus (separate to Lotus-Renault) hope to keep progressing up the grid. In 2010 their aim was to be the best of the three teams who were brand-new, and they achieved it, finishing ahead of Virgin and HRT in the standings. 2011 saw the gap widen and Lotus were now far ahead their fellow newcomers, but they didn’t quite manage to latch on to the established teams of Toro Rosso and Williams on a consistent basis. Their aim for this new season is to battle the midfield runners and perhaps even to score a point, their first in their history. On the drivers side, they have swapped the experience of veteran Italian Jarno Trulli for the cash of Russian Vitaly Petrov. Petrov has shown good pace in his two previous seasons with Lotus-Renault and despite his inexperience, could help the team improve. Team-mate Heiki Kovalainen rubbed Trulli’s nose in it in 2011, repeatedly out-qualifying and out-racing the man of over 250 GPs. Time will tell whether ditching Trulli’s fifteen seasons of experience is a poor move. Kovalainen should out-race the sometimes-erratic Russian.

Marussia F1

Tmo Glock

Charles Pic

Virgin Racing, or Marussia F1 as they are now known, also have a driver’s change. Jerome D’Ambrosio is out and Frenchman Charles Pic is in. Pic may be a rookie to F1 but has spent the past two years in feeder series GP2, picking up a win at the Monaco sprint race which shows he is no slouch. His stable-mate Timo Glock is consistent and a good benchmark to be judged on, the German had shown well on his outings with Toyota in 2009. It certainly seems as though what was previously a class of three is now a class of two, as Caterham move on from the battle of the also-rans which will be between Virgin and HRT.

HRT

Pedro De La Rosa

Narain Karthikeyan

In their third season but not showing many signs of a vast improvement, HRT do have what could be an inspired signing in Pedro De La Rosa. Though the Spaniard raced for Arrows and Jaguar between 1999 and 2002, he is best known for his testing duties at McLaren. From 2003 to 2009, he has been their official test driver and has stepped in on ocassion when needed to race for the team whenever there’s been a short-term vacancy. De La Rosa’s experience as a tester will be invaluable as the 40 year-old will be the eyes and ears which hope to lead the team forward. Indian Narain Karthikeyan is his team-mate and has previously raced in F1 with Jordan, as well as HRT last season. He has shown flashes of pace but De La Rosa should have the upper hand here. It further underlines HRT’s intention to become the flag-bearing team for the Spain in Formula One. Ever since the takeover of the team by investment firm Thesan Capital in mid-2011, the new owners have declared their wishes to make the team “more Spanish” With the signing of journeyman Pedro De La Rosaas well as new owner José Ramón Carabante, they have been putting the wish into action as best they can. The owners announced the team would have new headquarters, at the Caja Magica venue in Madrid. This is the same venue which hosts the Spanish round of the annual ATP Masters tennis tournament, so it is no stranger to sporting forays.

As always in sport, it is wise to expect the unexpected. Rookies may get the better start against experience, and the veterans may beat their less-experience team-mates, but all 24 drivers are sure to thrills and spills  over the coming season.

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