Two races into 2012 and we have seen two teams emerge as the best of the rest, Sauber and Ferrari have shown that their cars on the race trim can really take it on to the Top 2. While Lotus who had shown so much of potential in the pre-season tests and qualifying on both the races so far, is hoping to have a trouble free weekend to determine its true colors. But which of these 3 Teams can challenge the so far dominant and title favorites Red Bull and Mclaren for Podiums and Victories?
The Story So Far:
Coming into the season with an amazing pre-season testing form, Lotus certainly looked like a dark horse. But in Australia with Kimi misjudging his Qualifying run and with Romian out on the early stages of the race, it was not a best start a team would hope for. In Malaysia Lotus were hit by a Gearbox change on Kimi’s car while Romian again crashed out from the race.
Meanwhile Alan Permane, The Trackside operations director for Lotus believes that there is enough potential in the Team and he believes that Lotus E20 being soft on Tyes will be a crucial to success but a straightforward weekend will help the team identify its position on the long run
Kimi Raikkonen admits that it has been a encouraging start for the team but with these small issues it has been frustrating for the team to get the focus on racing.
“I think we've got off to an encouraging start,It's been frustrating sometimes with the chassis issues in testing, the qualifying mix-up in Australia and the gearbox change in Malaysia, but we've shown we can deal with any problems and come back stronger.” - Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi also stressed on the fact that the teams needs more luck to unleash its full potential.
“The car feels good and we clearly have the pace to be at the front; we just need some better luck." - Kimi Raikkonen
While his teammate has been quick to admit that his season actually starts in China and that he is actually looking forward to the updates on the car, so as to see how competitive they can further turn this car into
"When you make mistakes you have to admit it and not repeat that mistake. When it's not your fault - well it's not your fault. The first two races were tough and we didn't get a result. On the other hand I know that we can do some great things in the future races. My season starts properly in China. It's great to see how much the factory is behind us and working very hard to give us updates, We've had a promising start to the season and we all want to get the best in every area, so a new aerodynamic package is quite exciting; I can't wait to see how it looks and then experience how it feels on track. Then, most importantly, I want to see the lap time gain.” - Romian Grosjean
Having been in the spotlight occasionally in the pre-season testing and with one of the top drivers commenting on the fact that C31 is actually looking quick, This Swiss team should be pleased with how the things shaped up in pre-season testing. In the first two races of the season, The Team showed that this car is one of the team to beat on the race trim, Be it dry or wet they have shown that being easy on tyres can get you a good chunk of positions but being soft on Tyres is also a reason to be worried as the tyres won’t be in a performance window during the qualifying.
Ideally as their rivals would admit, The Sauber is clearly a no joke this season around, The pace of the car in the race trim is better then others, but qualifying way back and not reflecting the true pace of the car is a reason to worry because half the time you will be battling the cars in the mid-field and this will spoil the chances of scoring more podiums
People at Sauber seem to know this and are trying to identify ways of improving the qualifying performance. And one way of doing it is fine tuning the setup and this is what their designer had to say
"There are lots of things you can do in terms of set-up," he said. "There are also some parts that we will bring to Shanghai to test, as it will be a lot cooler there than it was in Malaysia. Clearly we have a competitive car, and we have to keep the momentum up now. We need to push on and score some more points – because to have what we have already got after the first two races is a dream start for us." - Matt Morris, Cheif Designer,Sauber
Morris also told Autosport that, This C31 is actually a circuit dependent car and the long straights in Malaysia did not assist to the strengths of the C31
“It is very circuit dependent and, with our car, the layout of Malaysia was not best suited to it, So to come away from there with what we came away with was great. To be competitive there bodes well” - Matt Morris
No one would have believed at the pre-season testing that Alonso would win the Malaysian GP. Clearly Ferrari seems to have lost their focus and one can’t believe that this F2012 is the car they have been working so hard from the middle of last season. Questions have been raised on whether this team can “Move On” from the golden era. Are they having the right people to deliver their much needed success?
One has to wait and see how this team approaches the rest of the season. Cause their rivals know that this team would throw all of its resources that are available to them to get back to their lost glory. The Question would be to how long before we see Alonso winning more races this season
While many would speculate that the weakest link of this team is Felipe Massa, One have to admit on the fact that F2012 is not a great car to drive. With too much of suggestions are pouring in for Massa, Too much pressure is being built upon this driver with too many rumors circulating all over the Internet.
Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali supports his driver in the best possible manner by comparing his current situation of that the successful 2008 season where Massa went on to be a strong title contender and lose the championship by a mere point.
"I well remember that, four years ago, in fact right after a Malaysian Grand Prix, which was won for us by Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe was more or less in the same situation as today, We remember how that particular season ended, with the Brazilian actually world champion, even if it was just for a few seconds, while we took our 16th constructors' title” - Stefano Domenicali
While the Technical Chief of Ferrari Pat Fry admits that there is an equal pressure on the team to deliver a car that should perform well in dry conditions while also admitting that the wet conditions assisted Alonso in Malaysia
“I think the pressure is on the team to try and get the car performing, if it had been a completely dry race it would have been a totally different story.” - Pat Fry
While these three teams are making the news for being the “dark-horse” for the rest of the season, One Team who has done exceedingly well in qualifying and on pre-season testing knows what the real problems of their car are and are likely to be working hard to overcome their deficient
With the Team almost managing to fight for the pole in the opening two rounds of this season, Their main problem seems to be in the race. The case seems to be directly proportional to what Sauber is facing. Mercedes seem to have a car which is good enough to fight for pole, The pace on one lap seems to be so good for the team but on the race trim the drivers seem to face excess of degradation. Something that the chiefs of Mercedes seem to be vary of but no solution seems to be found at least as of this writing. The Team however might be working hard in the factory with their driver Nico Rosberg admitting that a solution can be found as early as Chinese GP
“It is strange we are so strong in qualifying but then struggling in the race, In qualifying with the car we have we can fight for the front row, but not in the race, With the first inters I had to come into the pits because I thought my rear tyre was game over completely. So I come into the pits, put a new set of inters on and the pit crew said to me that my inters were brand new still, so I thought, what is going on? They felt completely destroyed. It was strange. There is a lot of work ahead of us as we are still struggling in the race, and it is going to take some thorough analysis. We have enough time before China, so I hope we can improve. I am looking forward to China to finally getting a better result, and my season starts there more or less." - Nico Rosberg
Bar Mercedes who have not revealed about their development programmes in public, Sauber and Ferrari have a major upgrade for Spanish GP, Basically these two teams are looking at a much revised car for the Mugello test especially Ferrari who in all likelihood will be throwing all their resources to get a much updated car. Lotus have a small upgrade at China followed by few more parts for the Mugello test although they might not be of the levels of their nearest rivals
Martin Whitmarsh seems to acknowledge the fact that their rivals may bring in raft of upgrades and for sure he seems to admit that his team is not taking anything for granted in this close season
“When trying to win the championship you are always worried, and you hope you can deliver a little bit more performance. If you are honest about it, at the back of your mind you worry that someone may turn up having had a Eureka moment and might overhaul you. But it is a long, long championship ahead. We are not in bad shape but certainly nothing is taken for granted. No one can say with confidence the outcome of this year's world championship, and that is just how it should be.” - Martin Whitmarsh