It’s been a huge week in Formula 1 with some major driver changes for next year, most notably Lewis Hamilton’s deal which will see him taking over from the legendary Michael Schumacher at Mercedes in 2013. We’re all still waiting to see what the knock-on effects of this will be, so there are a few drivers in real fear of being booted out of their seat for next year. As a consequence of this, expect to see many drivers on their best behaviour over this coming weekend as they play the PR game in an attempt to convince the people that hold the purse strings that they are worthy of a multi-million dollar contract.
On track, it should be the usual mayhem that comes with the Japanese race in Suzuka. It’s a very high speed track and there’s the threat of a some appalling weather on the horizon which always adds some randomness to the proceedings.
With only 6 races left his season, Alonso, Vettel, and Hamilton will be the ones to watch as they all clamber for that elusive world title. Let’s not forget however, that there are another 21 drivers out there, and any of them could provide a major upset one way or another.
Continuing our guide to the teams and drivers of 2012, this week we begin with the most famous of them all.
Yes that’s right, the Ferrari fans even have their own name, Tifosi, which is derived from the word for Typhoid, such is their rampant unrelenting and infectious passion for the team in red. Ferrari is a religion and a way of life in Italy, and these fans are the noisiest and most dedicated of them all. When they win, expect 24 hour parties and unbridled joy. When they lose, expect Italian suicide rates to climb dramatically. Fanatic doesn’t even come close.
Team Principal : Stephano Dominicali
This amiable bespectacled Italian is fortunate /unfortunate enough to have one of the most desired / unwanted jobs in the whole of F1, depending on how the team is performing and the subsequent Tifosi and Italian press fallout. Ferrari has failed to produce a decent racing car over the last few years, prompting Domicalli to refer to it as ‘a dog’ on one occasion. This is not the sort of thing a team principal is meant to say to the world’s press, but for Stephano, there is no place to hide, so it was full marks to him for saying what the rest of the world was thinking. Fortunately, this year’s car is very reliable and good enough to mix it at the pointy end of the gid. They are also fortunate to have the one thing which every team wants: Fernando Alonso.
Driver : Fernando Alonso
Universally regarded a the best driver in F1 today, Fernando had a few wilderness years before signing to Ferrari in 2010. This double world champion is in good shape to get the title this year, and it has been a mark of just how great this man is behind the wheel, that the Ferrari is anywhere at all in 2012. He has approached this year with a determination and maturity that were lacking in his last year at McLaren where he would regularly stamp his feet and run off crying whenever his then rookie teammate, Lewis Hamilton, wiped the floor with him, which was often.
In Italy, Fernando is treated as a God and old women regularly throw themselves off balconies just so he can walk over their backs when he’s passing down the street. Even in the wildest parts of the Italian countryside, there are farmers who have named all 9 sons, 5 daughters and all their livestock ‘Fernando Alonso’ (probably). He is my tip for the 2012 drivers championship, and I don’t think there is anyone who could deny that he totally deserves it.
Driver : Fellipe Massa
Oh, poor little Fellipe, everyone knows your Alonso’s bitch and there’s nothing you can do about it !
Massa has been with Ferrari for a long time, but is very much their Number 2 driver..yes, you can fill in the obvious joke there..
He came literally within one corner of winning the 2008 championship, but for some bad luck, poor weather and a German in the wrong place at the wrong time, he was pipped by Lewis Hamilton. Always a decent driver, Massa suffered a horrendous accident a couple of years back in Hungary,when a large chunk of the car he was following decided to fall off, fly through the air at 180 miles per hour and hit him in the face. Massa soon returned to racing but has he ever been the same since. You would have to say not, although he has managed some great races in recent weeks and just in the nick of time. He is fighting hard for his race seat and career in 2013. My guess is that he’ll stay for another year at Ferrari before retiring to a quiet life back home in Brazil. If he is leading the race at any point, expect to see the team order him to let Alonso through, Massa is there purely to play a supporting role, which is odd, because it’s Fellipe that needs help the most.
I LIKE Sauber. They are a happy, smiley, warm and cuddly F1 team that bring an openness and much needed breath of fresh and fragrant air to the sport. Based in Switzerland and run by all round nice-guy Peter Sauber, and elegant CEO Monicha Kaltenborn, this team have been the surprising stars of 2012. With their young driver lineup and a very fast car, they’ve blown away all expectations and are currently in 6th place of the constuctor’s standings, whereas I doubt anyone in the know would have expected much more than 10th. This is a huge deal for them as the finishing position at the end of the season determines how much money they receive next year..and that can only help with funding future development.
Driver : Sergio ‘Checo’ Perez
Mexican driver ‘Checo’ is one of the rising stars of F1 2012. In only his second year in the sport he’s scored some amazing results including three podium finishes, currently giving him 10th position in the drivers championship. The utterly HUGE news this week for Sergio is that he is to take a seat at McLaren next year, replacing the departing Lewis Hamilton. Make no mistake, pretty much every driver on the grid would eat his own buttocks for a chance like this, and Checo is good enough to make it work for him. A master at controlling his tire wear while still traveling at ludicrous speed, Perez has a rare gift that most other teams would kill for. I like him even more now, as during my research for this, I realized he and I share the same birthday (give or take 25 years). A future world champion in many people’s eyes, he is the name to watch for 2013 and beyond.
Driver : Kamui Kobyashi
Japanese driver Kobyashi blasted into our F1 consciousness back in 2009, when he was given two race drives at the end of the season. With his exciting driving style and seeming ability to make overtakes where nobody else could, he was soon hailed as the next big thing. Unfortunately, the next couple of seasons didn’t really build on that potential as many hoped, and although he’s recovered a large part of that form this year, he has been outshone by his Mexican teammate. Kamui still has a lot of skill and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for him to keep the Sauber drive next year. He’s a great character on and off the track and F1 needs people like that. It’s his home race this weekend and, if he were to win, the Japanese fans will still be cheering it halfway through next year’s race.
Next time on F-1ng About : McLaren and Catherham