We are four races into the 2012 F1 season and there have been four different winners, from four different teams. This is an incredible phenomenon, last seen in the early 1980s, and is a tonic after the overarching superiority of Sebastian Vettel in 2011. But who will find some race-winning consistency? Who stands in the best place to carry on their form?
The winner in Australia was Jenson Button. The Englishman has profited from a McLaren that was fast straight out of the box, and although he has not managed to repeat his victory, it’s fair to say he’s been there or thereabouts in the races since, taking second in China and the victim of terrible luck late on in Malaysia and yesterday in Sakhir. Button loves these kind of situations in races, where every factor is an unknown and driving skill is at a premium. If the form continues to vary, bet on Button.
Malaysia, however, could be viewed as the odd one out in the season so far. The rain was so influential that Fernando Alonso’s win must be seen as something of an anomaly, especially given the Ferrari’s relative lack of competitiveness in the dry. There are flickers of speed in that machine, though – it just doesn’t seem to be as far off the pace as many commentators claim. If European-season upgrades convince the prancing horse to stop bucking and start galloping, Alonso, with his never-say-die attitude and ever-burgeoning reputation, will compete for more podiums. Regular wins, though, seem like a dream at the present moment.
Nico Rosberg was the victor in China, taking his maiden win. He too has made the most of a competitive car, although consistency at the cutting edge does seem to have eluded the Anglo-German squad at the moment. The effect of their much-vaunted extra doowotsit on the rear wing seems to wax and wane somewhat. Fifth yesterday shows he isn’t out of it, but as it stands he’s only marginally more likely that Alonso to start winning regularly.
Then there’s last year’s champion, Vettel, who opened his 2012 account yesterday in the race that should not have been run. The reality is that the Red Bull isn’t a dog – it’s just that it is nowhere near as far ahead of the opposition as it was last season. This means that prior to yesterday it was totally plausible that Vettel would win, and win he did. It is also eminently possible that he will win again. But be sure that the rest of the pack are not far behind him.
A mention must also go to those who haven’t yet won this year, but do look as though they may. Freshest in the memory are the excellent performances from Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean, making the most of a very quick little Lotus-Renault. Raikkonen’s wonderful talent – that seemed to take slighltly earlier a sabbatical than did the man himself – is on show again and we and the Enstone squad are blessed for it. Grosjean’s obvious speed and rawness promise more entertainment.
Then there’s Lewis Hamilton in the other McLaren, who perhaps has been the most consistent of the top men, and of course unlucky as his team mate yesterday. Neither is it beyond the realms of possibility that Schumacher and Webber could win – both are men who on their day can waltz away from the field.
At the moment, though, your money should be on Vettel and Button to win again – and also on champagne, to celebrate what promises to be a fantastic season.