News from the Formula 1 paddock


We are in the silly season, a period of posturing and positioning.

The Grand Prix teams, and their drivers, are setting out their stores, limbering up for the battles that lie ahead.

Testing starts next month, then we will have some idea of what to expect in the first few races. For now, however, there are plenty of words flying about, scraps for the media to chew over, before engines are fired up and the cars roll out into the Spanish sunshine.

At McLaren the talk is already of young Mr Lewis Hamilton who took his baggage into the winter promising to return a new man. Back at Woking managing director Jonathan Neale says that “Lewis is in the right place, doing all the things he should be doing, and training hard. I speak to him most weeks and he is back on track”. So what we can read into that? Not much at all, try as we might.

Meanwhile arch-rival Fernando Alonso, never one to beat around the bush, has popped up in high spirits. “There will be some good races, with some good emotion”, he predicts, “this is a golden era, there are six World Champions on the grid, it will be exciting, and the spectators will enjoy it.” Hear, hear to that Fernando. Team chief Stefano Domenicali has promised that Ferrari will not repeat the mistakes of last year, that they will not be slow off the mark this time around. President Luca Montezemolo will be pleased to hear that.

In Milton Keynes a new Red Bull is taking shape and that’s always an intriguing prospect. Sebastian Vettel says waiting for his new car is like having a baby and he can’t wait to see what Mr Newey produces for 2012. At least nobody has to wait nine months to find out.

Lotus, formerly Lotus-Renault, have invented an adjustable ride height system which the FIA has inspected and approved. Could this be the start of another double diffuser saga? Will all the teams have to follow suit? Far too soon to say, but one to watch.

The other Lotus team, now called Caterham, has announced that it will be taking another step forward this year and will move closer to the midfield. No big surprises there. What else are they going to say? On the driver front, rumours persist that Vitaly Petrov will replace Jarno Trulli who is perceived, by some, to have reached end of his F1 career.

Moving on to beleaguered Williams, all the winter chat had, until Tuesday, been about drivers. The signing of Bruno Senna leaves only one spare seat, alongside Pedro de la Rosa at HRT. But that’s unlikely to attract a big name. Senna at Williams has emotive connotations, for obvious reasons, but is a big chance for Ayrton’s nephew to prove he has what it takes. Dropping Barrichello in favour of Senna will have triggered some heated debate in the bars of São Paulo and surely marks the end of Rubens’ distinguished career in Grand Prix racing. He will be much missed in the paddock, if not by everyone at Williams.

What else? Not much, apart from the on-going worries about the rights and wrongs of going to Bahrain, the possible cancellation of Valencia and the imminent appearance in court of Adrian Sutil on a charge of GBH which goes back to the Chinese GP last year.

All this, and more, will keep Grand Prix racing in the headlines until the flag drops and the bulls**t stops in Melbourne. And that’s good news for Sky TV and the BBC who will be competing for the ratings this season.

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