Formula 1 in 2012. Who’s hot, who’s not?

With winter testing now finished, TOM WILKINSON reports on who’s hot and who’s not at the start of the 2012 Formula 1 season.

As the teams head to Melbourne, the 2012 F1 season is about to get under way.

With winter testing now over, the teams are on their way to Melbourne for round one of the 2012 Formula 1 season.
So here’s a close look at the top five teams to see who’s on form, and who’s got their work cut out.
This season will certainly be another hotly contested campaign, as we look forward to the first race this weekend, the running order at the head of the field isn’t quite as you would expect.
Who looks good heading into Melbourne this weekend?
The double reigning world champions Red Bull look strong once again for this season, both Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel have been running well throughout the winter period. The car looks good, but it doesn’t look quite as planted as in recent years. Through the corners, it seems slightly twitchy. Despite this, I believe they are the leading team heading to Melbourne, even though they suffered a major technical problem on the final day of testing in Barcelona. The team are confident it won’t affect there form in Australia.
Very close behind Red Bull are McLaren, who have a very strong car this season. It looks solid and very well balanced around the Jerez and Barcelona circuits. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton say they are happy and feel confident for the season ahead. The team have chosen not to feature the stepped nose on the front of the car in order to comply with the regulations to lower the nose. The chassis has been lowered and the nose slopes away rather sharply. This means the car complies with the FIA regulations, without looking ugly with a stepped nose. The team have been reliable, but not massively quick. We will see their true pace in Melbourne on Friday.
Lotus-Renault has been the surprise team over the winter period. The returning drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean were both consistently quick. However the team suffered a major issue with the chassis half way through the tests, which was picked up by the data in the teams HQ in Enstone. When they returned in the final test at Barcelona, they were again very strong. The car looks very well balanced and handles well. It could easily be a podium contender from the start – they look hot this season.
Mercedes-AMG started testing with their old 2011 car. Michael Schumacher was quick from the off in Jerez, when the new car made an appearance it was yet another stepped nose design. The 2012 Mercedes has one of the most aggressive nose designs in the paddock. In terms of pace on the track, it’s quick and I think rather quicker than they are letting on. I believe they are sandbagging, but again we will find out in Melbourne. A very cleaver technical front wing design was talked about along with a well-designed rear end. Ross Brawn has said consistency and podiums are the target this season.
Ferrari turned up to winter testing with what I thought was the worst looking F1 car for over 30 years. Lots of very sharp straight edges and the most aggressive stepped nose design, the F12 looks very ugly. Ferrari like their cars to look good, but speed is what counts. Unfortunately the speed wasn’t good either. Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa both said the F12 needed a lot of work before the season opener. I saw them around Barcelona, where they were well off the pace and the car looked very unbalanced. Alonso and Massa often 30 meters later on the power than the Red Bull and McLaren cars. The Ferrari team have their work cut out if they are going to be anywhere near the podium in the early part of the season.
These are the top five teams this season, Lotus the big surprise as they look to get themselves in podium positions. I was also surprised at the Ferrari’s lack of pace and poor handling in their new car.
My early prediction for Melbourne? Well it’ll be very tight, but Red Bull and McLaren for sure will be battling up front along with the Lotus and Mercedes cars, but with the front runners still trying to find their place among each other, some mid-field teams such as Force India and Sauber could well be in with a chance of some good points. 2012 will be a very exciting season for sure and you can follow it all right here at wheelworldreviews.co.uk
It’s almost time for lights out in Melbourne and it’ll be Go Go Go. I’ll be tweeting live throughout the whole season so join me on Friday from 1am to get my first thoughts on F1 in 2012 – @tomwilkinson89

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