BBC BLOGS - Andrew Benson

Archives for February 2012

Reading between the lines in a phoney war

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Andrew Benson | 19:49 UK time, Friday, 24 February 2012

The annual Formula 1 phoney war was in full swing at the second pre-season test at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya this week.

Fernando Alonso was talking down Ferrari's form, Lewis Hamilton was talking up McLaren's - as, intriguingly, was Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel. And the unlikely combination of Kamui Kobayashi and Sauber set the fastest time of the week.

As ever, the headline lap times were a poor guide to the order of the grid that can be expected in Melbourne at the first race in just three weeks' time.

But look behind the fastest laps, and there is usually a way of gleaning at least some sense of form ahead of the season.

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Mercedes battle to match past glories

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Andrew Benson | 21:54 UK time, Monday, 20 February 2012

Red Bull have raised the bar in Formula 1 over the last two or three years, heaping pressure of one kind or another on all their major rivals.

McLaren's inability to produce a car that can consistently challenge Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel had a clear effect on Lewis Hamilton's equanimity last season, introducing new pressures into that team as the Englishman struggled to cope with his on-track disappointment and difficulties in his private life.

At Ferrari, a technical director has lost his job and his replacement has felt under pressure to take significant risks this year as F1's most famous team seeks to produce a car that can do justice to Fernando Alonso's abundant talents.

But nowhere, arguably, is the need to improve felt more greatly than at Mercedes, the team trying to make F1's "big three" into a quartet.

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F1 pre-season testing provides poor guide to form

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Andrew Benson | 17:11 UK time, Friday, 10 February 2012

So, after four days of testing and nearly 3,500 laps of running at Jerez in sunny southern Spain, what has the first Formula 1 pre-season test revealed about the season to come?

The simplest answer – as ever – is “not much”. Testing – or the “winter world championship”, as McLaren chairman Ron Dennis famously described it – is a notoriously poor guide to form.

Or at least it is if you look only at the headline lap times. At the end of last year’s test in Jerez, the fastest man was Williams driver Rubens Barrichello – and his team were about to embark on the worst season in their once-illustrious history.

Likewise, if anyone thinks Lotus driver Romain Grosjean is going to win this year’s world championship after setting the pace in Jerez this week, they will be waiting a long time for those pigs to fly in front of that blue moon.

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Ferrari's F2012 is a bold step - but is it enough?

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BBC Sport blog editor | 12:37 UK time, Friday, 3 February 2012

Chastened by the disappointments of 2011, Ferrari promised an "aggressive" approach to the design of their new Formula 1 car and they have not disappointed.

The new F2012, unveiled via the internet on Friday because of unusually heavy snow at the team's base in Maranello, is the most radical of the four new cars that have broken cover so far this season.

Many will also regard it as the most unattractive, featuring as it does a pronounced 'step' on the upper nose that even Ferrari themselves have described as "not aesthetically pleasing".

Fernando Alonso, the man on whose shoulders rest Ferrari's huge expectations, paused when asked for his impressions of the car and said, politely, that it "looks very different".

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McLaren unveil new car for 2012

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Andrew Benson | 16:47 UK time, Wednesday, 1 February 2012

At McLaren Technology Centre, Woking

Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button sat on the stage in front of the car they both hope will take them to the world title this year looking relaxed and happy.

Yet in their responses to apparently innocuous questions, both men revealed much about the different ways in which they approach the 2012 Formula 1 season.

They were asked how they had spent the winter. Button, fresh from arguably his best season yet in the sport, had spent some time in Hawaii. "Somewhere warm to chill out and train," he said, "but it's always the same - you spend a couple of weeks away and you are missing racing, so I was back on 5 January".

Hamilton's 2011, meanwhile, was self-admittedly his worst season yet in F1, with three superb wins interspersed with errors and controversy.

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