5 live Formula 1: from Melbourne to Malaysia
My first job as the BBC’s new 5 live F1 pit lane reporter for 2012 was to head to Woking for the official launch of the new McLaren MP4-27. Sat with the assembled media and special guests, Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton pulled the cover off one of the most beautiful formula one cars of the modern era. Its silver paintwork gleamed and sparkled and had the prettiest nose I have ever seen. OK that might be a little bit of an exaggeration but at least it wasn’t an ugly platypus style appendage that only a mother (or designer) could love.
The F1 season was almost upon us and only time would tell whether there was style and substance to this new car.
Fast forward to March 18th and as both McLaren’s are on the front row of the grid I think we have our answer!
I have to say at this point, there are some times in your life when you have to pinch yourself to check that you aren’t dreaming. Standing on the grid at Albert Park as 22 of the world’s most technically-advanced cars prepared to open the new Formula One season was one of those moments.
To say I am excited about 2012 is a slight understatement. Having dominated the championship for the last couple of years Sebastian Vettel is looking to repeat the achievements of Fangio and Michael Schumacher and make it three consecutive world titles. However, there are five other former world champions waiting to spoil his party; this could possibly be the best ever year of F1 racing.
It’s not just the six world champions that are making this season so tantalising - it’s the fact that at the beginning of the season none of the teams knew where they were in relation to anyone else. Normally, there’s more of an indication from testing, but that just hasn’t happened this year. It seems the teams have been playing their cards very close to their chests, so race one of the season would be the first real indication as to who has their nose out in front, so to speak.
And what a race we had; Button taking the lead from pole-sitter and teammate Lewis Hamilton at the start and leading the race to the line. The two Ferrari’s proving that maybe the F2012 wasn’t an absolute howler of a car. Mark Webber getting his best ever finish at his home GP with 4th place and of course, Sebastian Vettel proving he can race through the pack - not just lead from the front - coming from 6th on the grid to finish on the podium in 2nd place.
Arguably the drives of the day - aside from Button - had to go to Sauber’s Sergio Perez, who started in last place on the grid after a gearbox failure in qualifying and finished 8th, and to poor Pastor Maldonado racing for Williams, who crashed out on the last lap while chasing 5th place. If he had just stayed in 6th position and not driven into a wall he would have scored more points for his team than they managed to get all last season and had his best ever F1 finish...oops!
So, Button has staked his claim on the World Title (11 of the last 16 race winners in Australia have gone on to win the championship) but with 19 races still to go anything could happen.
That brings me on to our next race in Malaysia. I go there with mixed emotions...I am excited for the next race and seeing what the cars are able to do on a circuit so different from Melbourne.
However, it will be tinged with sadness. Last year one of the most promising, funny and talented MotoGP riders, Marco Simoncelli was involved in a fatal collision whilst racing at the Sepang circuit. Marco was fondly referred to as ‘Sideshow Bob’ by us Brits for his larger than life hair – and his personality matched it. Going to the track I plan to take a few quiet moments to go and pay my respects to SuperSic.
However, this is racing and the show must always go on.
All the teams will no doubt be busy already tinkering and fine tuning their cars. This weekend’s race is all set up to be as exciting as Melbourne. You can be sure Hamilton will come out wanting to prove that he is the top driver in McLaren, Vettel will want to show the RB8 is a car worthy of the title and Kimi Raikkonen will hopefully be as entertaining on his team radio as he was in Australia.
The 2012 season is officially go, go, go and it’s all set up to be a stormer.
Jennie Gow is 5 live Formula 1's pit lane reporter. You can follow her on Twitter at @jenniegow.
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