While the start of the 2012 season has been very exciting, there will always inevitably be some long faces in the paddock, people who’ve had their winter dreams of fame, glory and champagne on the podium shattered by the realization that they are way off the target they set for themselves this year. On the other end of the paddock, there are the smiling happy people who know they’ve built a car that could make an impact at the front this year. In this post I’ll be going through the biggest disappointments of the 2012 season opening with my biggest (positive) surprises featuring in the next post.
Backmarkers F1 Top 3 Disappointments of 2012:
1.Tony Fernandes: I am Disappoint, son.
I all looked so promising over the winter for the loveable folk at Lotus Racing/Team Lotus/ Caterham. The Lotus mess finally got settled over the winter, the Caterham was the first to launch of the whole 2012 grid so the car had ample testing time, the team would start running KERS along with their Renault engines and they dumped the whiney Trulli for Petrov to see whether he’d give Heikki a bit more of a challenge in the car that was supposed to join the midfield this year. In 2011 race by race they got closer, but come 2012 they are again about a second off the next best team in quali. While their race pace seems more promising, that is not what Caterham expected of their 2012 car. This car was supposed to come out of the box and fight tooth and nail with the likes of Williams, Toro Rosso, Force India and Sauber. Instead, they are again stuck in that nomansland between the midfield and the backmarkers, to whom they’ve seemed to increase the gap even more it seems. It makes one think that perhaps last year they were only coming closer precisely because team like Williams had long abandoned developing their 2011 car to develop this year’s ride. With so little to gain for Caterham, Team Tony should probably have done the same in hindsight yet they showed up with a brand new Rear wing at the final race in Brazil. All is not lost, there is still a fairly positive vibe around the team and we’ve seen last year that it does take teams quite a while to sort out KERS, but with a midfield so competitive this year, it will take a crazy race for Caterham to pick up those much coveted first points. On the other hand, the fact that the field is so tightly packed together means that if they nail one big upgrade they could get into the mix as once they breach the gap to the back of the midfield, , pints are just a tenth or two away.
2. Force India: Party time is over for Vijai.
I had very high hopes for this car when it got launched, it looked like a mean purposeful racing machine, even its stepped nose had some character. The driver lineup is strong as well, although I’m not a big fan of Di Resta and Hulkenberg, their talent is undeniable. While they were the only team to have a double points finish in Malaysia, it was more due to good pitstop work and their crafty drivers keeping their noses clean than due to the car being very competitive. The cars struggle to break Q3 and have to date had fairly anonymous races in the belly of the pack. Again, the midfield is so tight this year that the balance of power can shift from race to race, but I was expecting the Force India’s to be fighting with the likes of Mercedes and Lotus, yet they are not there. The well publicized money trouble of mecenas Vijaj Mallja make some dark clouds and uncertainty hang over the future of the team, although mystery investor Roy Sahara’s money should keep the team afloat for the time being. Could this be the beginning of the downwards slope for Force India or is it just a speedbump?
I was tempted to put Marussia and HRT as a shared third but much like Felipe Massa’s performance, it can’t really still be classified a disappointment when them sucking was all we expected. While Felipe is making the world wonder what kind of crack the Ferrari team bosses have been smoking to let him continue driving their cars, his teammate is doing what he can with a pretty difficult car. As detailed in the previous post, Ferrari went a bit overboard with the innovation and have fallen behind to be the 5th or 6th fastest car at best, behind Mclaren, Red Bull, Lotus, Williams and Mercedes. The freak result in Malaysia notwithstanding, had Alonso not been such a BAWS in the tricky conditions, even Mr. eyebrows would not have finsished higher than 5th or 6th in that car with Felipe wallowing outside the points. It’s been 4 years since they last had a proper race winning car (ie not having to rely on a supreme driver to nab some opportunistic wins left and right) and patience must be running very thin at Ferrari. Amazingly nobody got sacked yet, and there must be some potential in the car as shown by Alonso on race day. It’ll probably be too late to mount a fight for the WDC (even though Nando’s leading it now) before the Ferrari gains any real semblance of competitiveness. The only reason Ferrai is only no.3 on this list is because to be honest, I kind of expected them to suck…though granted I believed it was because they would go overly conservative again…They sure proved me wrong!
Stay tuned for the next post where I’ll go over my biggest surprises of the year.