We're one-fifth of the way through the 2012 Formula One Grand Prix World championship, sports fans,
and it's already been packed with incident. On track and off it, behind the wheel and behind the microphone, in politics and in pit stops, there's scarcely been a moment to sit down and work out what the hell's been going on. Fear not however, as rounded up here we've got the Top 10 most memorable moments of 2012 so far. What's your favourite?
10. Rosberg goes rogue
Success does funny things to people. Some descend into self-destructive habits. Some devote their gains to helping others. And others, it appears, develop a devilish desire to erase their competition. Take Nico Rosberg. In China, he was the toast of the F1 world, taking pole position and an imperious race drive to earn his first ever top-step podium in Formula One, and Mercedes' first win since 1955. Yet a week later in Bahrain, he's seen to actively charge Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso off the track while attempting to maintain position. Alonso described the young German's tactics as 'dangerous'. I'm left wondering if anyone's seen Michael Schumacher and Rosberg in the same room at the same time...
9. Massa's early door criticism
After a run of bad performances, sports stars usually get it in the neck. Go on a run of poor home form in the Premier Leage and fingers are pointed at the manager. Gee up and then disappoint the nation every summer at Wimbledon (yes Andy, and you too Tim, we're looking at you) and the newspapers cry for more blood, sweat and tears. But rarely is someone shouted down after just one
event, as per Felipe Massa is 2012. Fair enough, he's not been competitive at all since his horrible debris-faceplant accident in 2009, but all drivers are on a learning curve in the first few races of a new season as they settle into their new company car. Yet it only took a below-par showing in Australian GP qualifying to set the paddock alight with rumours and speculation Massa would head for a quiet early exit as Ferrari desperately tried to push further up the table. You need to hit the ground running in F1.
8. Mercedes' rear wing is cool after all
Mercedes very trick rear wing is legal, says the FIA, which means it'll have to be copied. That's the simple truth in F1 design - if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Using the DRS-enabled rear wing to stall the front wing and reduce drag sounds like witchcraft, but the principle seems sound: flap opens, vents are exposed, air channelled down through car, vented onto front wing, cleans up air flow exiting front wing, less drag, more speed, wins, champagne, the end. There's surely some application of magic and voodoo I've missed out there, but however it does it, it's here to stay, ending Red Bull's reign as the kings of aerodynamics. Your move, Adrian Newey.
7. Pit of despair for Schumi and the Maccas
Pit stops had, with the end of in-race refuelling, become something of a non event. The cars are up on jacks for all of three seconds while the flaky Pirelli rubber is swapped, then they're off on their way again. Perhaps this has bred complacency, because there's been some total pit-lane disasters already this season - proper race-deciding stuff. Both McLarens have suffered with delayed pauses while the mechanics fight to fasten the titanium wheel nuts in the heat and stress, while Michael Schumacher's band of merry men simply sent him on his way without bothering to finishing screwing on one of his wheels. Come on lads, if Halfords can manage it, it shouldn't be beyond you to change a tyre.
6. Vettel's beef with Karthikeyan
I don't like the back marker teams. They failed their pre-season crash tests, failed to show up to testing, and have even failed to qualify within the 107% window on occasion. They run barely any sponsorship and get no airtime. As racing cars, they're almost a waste of space - right up until the moment one of the top drivers wants that exact piece of space and reckons it's theirs for the taking. Button found that out to his cost in Malaysia when he tangled his front wing up with Narain Karthikeyan's, er, (...what does he drive, never heard of it...) HRT (that's
the one) and dropped out of the points. Later, double world champion Sebastian Vettel tried to lap the HRT (still sounds like an illness off Embarrassing Bodies
, to me) only for the Indian to come across his line while trying to avoid the rubber marbles off the racing line.Vettel said afterwards: "Like on normal roads, you have some idiots driving around. It seems there is also one driving here". Miaow! He then refused to apolgise for his comments to the media. Reports of Karthikeyan demanding to meet him behind the garages and 'sort this out like men' remain unconfirmed.
5. Alonso dragging Ferrari to 1st
There's an old adage that a good-looking racing car is a fast racing car. Looking back through history, you'd have to agree - all of the true greats, Maserati 250F, Ford GT40, Porsche 917, Ferrari F2004... they're all gorgeous. The Ferrari F2012 isn't going to be on that list. Partly because it's a minger, suffering perhaps the worst of the 'platypus beak' stepped nose designs, but mostly because it hasn't been set up that well. Both its drivers have spun off in qualifying so far in 2012, struggled to warm up tyres, then overheated the damn tyres, and found it lacking in downforce. How then, Fernando Alonso got it over the line first in Malaysia is nothing short of driving heroics. Sure, he was helped out by some bad weather and incidents taking out competitors, but winning one of the most physically-demanding races of the season, in a car set up for suspension subsequently banned by the FIA - stupendous. Take a bow son.
4. Perez places 2nd
The real story of Malaysia wasn't Fernando's surprise victory, it was the identity of the bloke he just about held off into second place. Mexcian Sergio Perez has recovered magnificently from his nasty accident in Monaco last season to become the brightest new star in the F1 cosmos. Already touted as a potential team mate for the eventual winner in Malaysia, replacing the beleaguered Felipe Massa (see, we're chatting about him being replaced again
!), Perez may not be as drift-happy as his banzai fellow-Sauber Kobayashi, but his racecraft is proven and big things will be expected of him in the future once he gets a truly competitive seat. One to watch.
3. Mark Webber's Chinese wheelie
Mark Webber isn't really a racing driver, he's a wannabe pilot. He flew a car at Le Mans in 1999 when the infamous Mercedes-Benz CLK-GT1 took off at high speed. He also used the rear of a Lotus as a ramp to liven up the typically yawn-inducing Valencia GP (seriously, which morons thought that 'track' was worthy of F1?) staging a spectacular Evel Knievel-esque flip in 2010. In China, he reached for the sky again, taking a leaf out of Vitaly Petrov's book, who used Sepang's run-off and high kerbs to jump his Renault in 2011, breaking the steering column in the process. Webber didn't catch any air, but the ramped kerb and heavy right foot did lead to the longest wheelie a Formula One car has ever pulled and lived to tell the tale. What a hero. Strewth mate!
2. Bahrain GP given go-ahead
Let's hope the 2012 season isn't forever remembered by this episode, as it has been so badly tainted. I won't go into long politicial details on why I don't think it should have gone ahead, but I'll make two points. Firstly, Force India team mechanics were victims of a petrolbomb attack during the event, and a man directly protesting against the Grand Prix, not the royal family, was killed by riot police. Secondly, Bernie's crown prince puppet attempted to appease the world's media by pleading the event's running would, if anything, direct more attention at Bahrain, and therefore bring about a diplomatic conclusion. In all honesty, how much news of the Bahrain riots have you read or seen since F1 rolled out of the kingdom a fortnight ago? Exactly. Shameful behaviour that the competitors, not just the organisers, have be scapegoated for.
1. It's anybody's game
Back on a more optimistic outlook for F1, the best part of the 2012 season is that on the evidence of what we've witnessed so far, it's anybody's. Four races, four different winners, six world champions, new blood, an old guard, masses of overtaking, delicate tyres, all fighting it out until November 25 in the longest season ever. With that little melting pit simering away nicely, there should be plenty of memorable moments on the way for our half-way season review after Hockenheim, during F1's summer sabatical. Bring it on
What have been your most memorable moments of F1 2012 so far? What did I miss? Give us your highs and lows in the comments...