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. This time we look at April.
The uncertainty of the 2012 F1 season continued in China. Nico Rosberg put his Mercedes on pole position with Michael Schumacher lining up third behind Hamilton. In the two races before, Schumacher had scored one point, Rosberg none. The only thing teams and pundits could be sure about at this stage was that different cars were coming to life at different circuits and on different tyres, which meant precisely nothing. In the race Schumacher was unlucky to retire after a botched pitstop left him on three wheels, but Rosberg scored an emotional victory followed home by Button and Hamilton.
The McLarens still looked strong – only losing their shot at victory through awful pit work – but the focus was understandably on Rosberg. After six years of obvious potential he had finally delivered, becoming only the third Grand Prix winning son of a Grand Prix winner. Not only that, it was Mercedes’ first F1 win since Fangio’s Monza victory in 1955.
In Bahrain, protests were mounting and the local people clearly didn’t want F1 there. When the teams arrived there was further consternation when some Force India personnel were caught up in a petrol bombing, although none of them were hurt. The teams decided to carry on with the race.
Elsewhere in the paddock the focus was still on the Silver Arrows. If they had a winning car, what could Schumacher do with a little luck?
As it happened, he qualified 18th after a problem with his DRS. Rosberg started fifth behind the Red Bulls and McLarens with Sebastian Vettel on pole. Given the chance to do what he had done so often in 2011, he won the race leading nearly every lap, although Kimi Räikkönen briefly loomed large in his mirrors. He finished three seconds behind, with team-mate Grosjean a distant third.
After four rounds of the championship Vettel had taken the lead from Hamilton, but with the unpredictability of the season so far, it was a much less ominous result than it should have been.
In Alabama, Penske’s Will Power started his title bid in earnest, winning from Scott Dixon and team-mate Castroneves. Dario Franchitti wallowed in tenth while Rubens Barrichello made progress with an eighth place finish. French rookie – and ex-works Peugeot Le Mans driver – Simon Pagenaud impressed with fifth.
Power won again at fan-favourite Long Beach, with Pagenaud again making himself known in second. Power then completed the hat trick with his win at Sao Paulo, propelling himself into a strong lead in the championship.
World Rally Championship
At Rally Argentina Sebastien Loeb was back on form, leading Citroën team-mate Mikko Hirvonen home. Ford’s Mads Østberg was third, but Loeb – with three wins from five rounds – was again starting to build an unassailable lead in the championship.
The MotoGP season started in Qatar and the usual suspects were back on the podium with Jorge Lorenzo winning ahead of Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner. In fourth was Cal Crutchlow. The promising Brit equalled his best finish from the previous year on the Tech 3 Yamaha, albeit some 17 seconds behind Lorenzo.
When the bikers went to Jerez later in the month it was the same three riders on the podium, this time with Stoner winning from Lorenzo and Pedrosa, with Crutchlow fourth again. It was shaping up to be a tense battle for the championship.
What we had to say
Nigel Roebuck tackled the dilemma of Bahrain:
“Once in Bahrain everyone predictably kept to the party line – ‘We’re here to race’. Although most declined to comment on the state of play in the country, Vettel said it was ‘all a lot of hype’, which doubtless delighted his good mate Bernie.”
Mat Oxley described the debilitating effects of ‘arm pump’ for bikers:
“Back in the 1980s stricken riders would head straight to their favourite surgeon who would slice open the muscle facia in an effort to cure the problem. These riders would return at the next race, proudly showing off lurid scars down the inside of each forearm.”
Paul Fearnley looked back at the last time Mercedes won a Grand Prix:
“Its preparation was meticulous to the point of organised panic – combinations of long-, medium- and short-chassis, streamliner and open-wheeler, inboard and outboard brakes – that made little difference to the result: another 1-2 led, from pole, by Fangio.”
Our podcast with new Sky F1 commentator Ben Edwards gave a great insight into the way modern broadcasters approach their job and career. The next one with Derek Warwick might have been the funniest we’ve done; his description of one encounter with Michael Schumacher had the team in stitches.
What you had to say
Paul Sainsbury questioned the direction Pirelli took with their F1 tyres:
“While I enjoy not knowing who might win the next race, I can’t help but feel the driving talent is being totally neutered by these tyres.”
Ian Mann made his case for sports cars:
“If anyone is disillusioned with F1 try the WEC. The cars are pretty much as fast, look and sound different from each other, and you can be at the races and run into the drivers in the open paddock. Classic tracks as well – just off to Spa for my first visit…”
Jonathan Settle mentioned a friend who suffered from ‘arm pump’:
“I’ve got a friend with said scars from an arm pump op, not pretty at all. I now know someone who takes aspirin just before going out, swears it does the trick by thinning the blood enough to get around the muscles…”