Between November 29 and January 3, we’ll be reviewing the 2012 motor sport season month by month. Along with these features, Ed Foster will be assessing each Formula 1 team’s performance, starting with HRT. There will be galleries, competitions and Nigel Roebuck’s top 10 drivers. Finally, in the run-up to Christmas, each of our writers will talk about their highlight of the year, so keep checking back every day. First up: January and February 2012.
As ever in its bubble, Formula 1’s gossip mill kept churning. Questions about Lewis Hamilton’s mental strength were rife after being out-raced and outsmarted by team-mate Jenson Button over the previous year.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso was predicting a better year for the Scuderia, while Lotus’s new adjustable ride-height system was causing a stir, especially after it was approved by the FIA.
Bruno Senna was confirmed as a Williams driver, bringing back some emotional memories for fans of his uncle. However, the team were coming off their worst season to date and after shedding smart veteran Rubens Barrichello, there were rumblings that they had made a mistake, not least from the man himself.
At Caterham, big things were again promised and expectations were high. Rumours persisted that Jarno Trulli – 37 years old and struggling – was to be replaced. Promising Russian Vitaly Petrov found himself without a drive after Lotus went with the returning Kimi Räikkönen and Romain Grosjean.
At Force India, Nico Hülkenberg was back in a race seat after a year as their reserve driver. Making way for him had been Adrian Sutil, still in the shadow of a pending GBH charge.
The outside world threatened to burst F1’s bubble in the form of the human rights abuses in Bahrain. The world was screaming at the sport not to go but plans ploughed on regardless.
World Rally Championship
The season kicked off with the Monte Carlo Rally, returning to the WRC calendar after a three-year absence. Sébastian Loeb steered his Citroën to a sixth win in the classic event. The Frenchman started the season coming off an eighth straight title and at the beginning of 2012 it looked very much like his rivals would once again be fighting over his scraps.
Second place went to Mini’s Dani Sordo, equalling his and the manufacturer’s best result from the previous year. In third place was Petter Solberg, starting Ford’s season off with promise.
Things looked even better after Rally Sweden, Jari-Matti Latvala winning the first snowbound event of the season, with Mads Østberg coming home third in his independently-run Fiesta. Loeb finished sixth, a disappointing result by his lofty standards.
Daytona 24 Hours
In January, all eyes were on Daytona. Coinciding with the 50th running of the Florida endurance race was the introduction of two new writers to the Motor Sport website. Oliver Gavin and Dario Franchitti are two of Britain’s most successful drivers of the modern age and they would provide insights over the course of the season.
Both were contesting the 24 Hours and gave reports of their time there, although neither would win. That honour went to fellow Brit Justin Wilson, along with AJ Allmendinger, Oswaldo Negri and John Pew driving for Michael Shank Racing in their first win at Daytona.
What we had to say:
Dario Franchitti drove a Porsche 917 in the Daytona 50th anniversary parade:
“‘Brian wanted to remind you that in period seven of these snapped in half at the fuel cell bulkhead so don’t hit anything’. I look up and there’s Redman in complete hysterics!”
Gordon Kirby reminded us of the first sports car race at Daytona in 1962:
“Near the end of the first three hours Dan [Gurney] was leading by almost two minutes only to have his engine fail on the final lap about three-quarters of a mile from the finish line…”
Paul Fearnley spoke to Brabham mechanic Derrick Walker about Carlos Reutemann’s incredible debut at his home race in 1972:
“Impressive. Very calm. Never complained. Showed no emotion. You just knew that he was going to be good. And then he put the damn thing on pole.”
Rob Widdows looked at motor racing superstitions:
“Many NASCAR drivers have had an aversion to peanuts in their shells, banning them from garage or pitlane at a race meeting. Shelled peanuts are, however, acceptable.”
Our podcasts with Pat Symonds – poised to return to Formula 1 full-time in 2013 – and five-time Le Mans winner Derek Bell proved very popular. In fact, the Bell edition is our most listened podcast yet.
What you had to say:
Ivan Carlos Ruchesi on sustained success in modern Formula 1:
“Some teams like Red Bull were really good at it, while others like Williams have been struggling for many years. McLaren and Ferrari seem to have the organisation to meet every challenge and remain afloat.”
CC laments Rubens Barrichello’s departure from F1:
“Another character leaves F1. Shame, as they are thin on the ground nowadays. At least the guy had an opinion, whether his past teams approved or not is another story. A real gentleman.”
Chris B didn’t think F1 should be in Bahrain:
“The Middle East is going through a state of transition and re-discovery and the fat, opulent spectacle of Formula 1 really doesn’t sit at all well during this stage…”