THE 2012 FIA F1 World Championship starts this weekend in Australia, with Albert Park hosting the first race in a season that will witness 20 Grand Prix races, write Colin and James Beckett.
After a series of pre-season tests in Spain, the teams are now all ready in Australia for the opening race of a season that will see F1 action for a period of over eight months.
For the last two years the Milton Keynes-based Red Bull team have ruled the roost, but a raft of new technical changes introduced during the off season by the sport’s governing FIA will allow other teams the opportunity to work on new cars and possibly close the gap on the world champions.
The Advertiser & Review region will be represented by three teams again this year. Brackley-based Mercedes AMG Petronas, Silverstone’s Sahara Kingfisher Force India and Bicester’s Toro Rosso. The latter have their development arm based in the town who feed directly back to the team HQ in Italy.
Seven-time world champion, Michael Schumacher, will lead the Mercedes attack with Nico Rosberg driving the second ‘Silver Arrow’.
Schumacher is hoping 2012 will see his career take another upward turn after the disappointment of 2011, while Rosberg is looking for his first F1 victory. The young German is the highest point-scoring F1 driver never to have scored a win, and he aims for that to change this season. “A win is my priority,” he said this week.
The Force India team have a new driver pairing, with Nico Hulkenberg replacing Adrian Sutil in the driver line-up. Hulkenberg joins Paul Di Resta, and the Force India team boss Vijay Mallya expects his young racers to form a strong bond. He says: “I am confident I have one of the best driver pairings on the grid. They are young drivers and will fight hard against each other. They will want to be the best in the team, I know that, and that will be good to have healthy competition within the ranks.”
Toro Rosso have an all-new line-up for the new season, and have Red Bull Junior drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne on-board.
Both are graduates from the British F3 Championship and Ricciardo raced in numerous Grands Prix last season for HRT. Vergne will race an F1 car for the first time this weekend, but the Frenchman is confident of a strong showing. He said: “I am very happy with everything and I think we have a very good package. This season could be very good for Toro Rosso.”