Gearing up for the new F1 season
Hello there? How's your winter been? I hope this blog finds you well, my friends, and that 2012 is being kind to you. It's certainly about to get kinder for us F1 fans as the season gets under way this weekend.
My winter flew by faster than Seb in qualifying as I juggled various TV commitments, along with the usual jobs such as visiting the dentist, watching Norwich City (amazing!) and doing a spot of gardening (thankfully my garden is tiny) - all things that between March and November there just isn't time for!
Thankfully, just a couple of weeks ago I managed to grab a week in the Maldives with my wife, and that break will be valuable as I jump onto a treadmill that will carry us to the end of 2012.
For me it's the start of the F1 season, off to the European Football Championship, the British GP, two weeks at the Olympics and then the end of the F1 season followed by Sports Personality of the Year. So time to take a deep breath and dive on in as the stories develop, the drama unfolds and air miles continue to clock up.
As you know this weekend is the start of a new era of F1 coverage on the BBC, and the job for the team over the winter has been to best deal with the cards we've been dealt in terms of the broadcast rights.
Having sat through various production meetings, having exchanged emails, swapped ideas and planned how best to bring the season to life, I'm confident we will deliver a new-look season that you will enjoy.
It's been like the first day at school for some of the new faces to our team this weekend. Gary Anderson and I got the tram together to collect our accreditation when we arrived in Melbourne on Thursday morning and it was great fun being regaled by stories of F1 from the days when Gary was designing race winning cars.
He also had a few decent stories about being employed by Eddie Jordan but I think they're best left out off the blog - as entertaining as they were!
I'd also really like to welcome Ben Edwards to the fray. Ben is a great commentator who has raced cars himself and spent the last few years commentating on all forms of motor racing.
He's passionate, informative, hopefully likes a night out and a beer, and best of all he's as much a journalist as he is a fan. Good luck keeping David Coulthard in check Ben!
Talking of DC, we had our first dinner of the new season together last night as we both headed out for some Japanese food and a drop of sake here in buzzy, beautiful Melbourne.
Pastor Maldonado, Bruno Senna and Lewis Hamilton were all in there tucking into sushi and sashimi while working out whether to chat to each other or act cool and bag an early psychological advantage ahead of a year when the competition will be intense.
They mainly opted for the latter by the way. I'll post a blog later in the season about how the drivers live and work together while still being rivals - it's fascinating.
Meanwhile on radio we've got a whole new team - and it's a great line-up of commentator James Allen, pit-lane reporter Jennie Gow and co-commentator Jaime Alguersuari, who brings real insight having just stepped out of an F1 car himself.
So, what have I learned so far this week? Well I've been told that the two new drivers at Toro Rosso have made Mark Webber feel more motivated than ever.
I chatted to Jenson Button who (if it's possible) seems even more chilled out than he did in 2011.
I've also been to the other end of the paddock where Caterham say the decision to put Vitaly Petrov in the car instead of Jarno Trulli is the right move regarding both finances and the future - and I've heard plenty of speculation and gossip surrounding HRT and Marussia, who have not run at all in pre-season.
Anyway, it's amazing how quickly we all get back into the swing of F1. My 'no crisps' rule lasted all of 30 minutes, the first running order for Saturday's qualifying show has been written, and I've got a date with Chris Moyles on Radio 1.
We're delighted to be back, I'm really happy DC and EJ remain part of the team, and this weekend don't worry about setting your alarm.
We've got highlights of qualifying at 1pm on Saturday, and a full two-hour highlights show from 2pm on Sunday. We'll have all the important action, and plenty of driver interviews and race reaction.
Three years ago I started these blogs - there will be plenty more coming your way in our fourth season of coverage. But what you get is up to you - what do you want to see here during the season..?
Have a great weekend. We're back!