Michael Bailey , Formula One correspondent
Thursday, August 30, 2012
With the Olympic extravaganza this country lapped up over the summer, I’m not even sure Formula One has been missed. In fact, F1 has almost entirely disappeared since the back-to-back races ended with the Hungarian Grand Prix last month.
"It’s already my third year with the team and it feels like home, so the ideal is to have a long career here"
It says a lot for how Formula One has changed that the summer break has been embraced to the point that it now genuinely feels like the sport shuts down over August.
Let’s not be naive – there will be a hell of a lot of design work gone on at all teams during the summer, to the point where it will be fascinating to see what we get at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend.
But with four race-free weekends including an enforced fortnight of factory closure, F1’s been tucked up and out of the limelight.
So much so it’s probably worth reminding ourselves of the brilliant season we are only halfway through enjoying. No question, it’s got all the makings for a superb climax.
• GW – Lewis Hamilton: The man has rediscovered Twitter, “reconnecting with his fans” over the summer. He is clearly in a good place – with half a season to prove it’s a quick place too.
• BW – Pastor Maldonado: The Venezuelen’s home-coming went awry as he embarrassingly smashed his Williams into a curb to end a Caracas demo early – the video is on this page.
While the post-summer return may bring back memories of the opening race of the season for some, that shouldn’t be the case for Ferrari. After unveiling an F2012 that found itself more than a second off the pace in Melbourne, Fernando Alonso drove himself clean into another sporting dimension.
The Spaniard’s 20-point lead from Mark Webber is deserved – the big question for the Milton Keynes outfit is whether they can catch up with Maranello and close the gap.
The consistency of Webber and Sebastian Vettel means the RB8 will take some stopping in the constructors’ championship, but it remains to be seen how potent the pair’s drivers’ title aspirations can be.
The fact we can still ask that same question of McLaren is something of an achievement given the team’s erratic first half of the campaign.
Lewis Hamilton’s win in Hungary means his is the more realistic gap that could be closed – but Woking will have to do much better than the current 2012 trend has delivered.
Some people have had their day: Pastor Maldonado and Nico Rosberg shone once before the break – falterings filled the spaces in between. While Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa may only have the remaining nine rounds to prolong their F1 drives into 2013.
This is also traditionally a time of midfield shuffling: Will Sauber maintain their superb season, and will Force India continue to struggle?
It’s been a long time since Australia and those intensely unpredictable races that kicked off the year. For weeks F1 slept in the background. This week it wakes up itself – and hopefully everyone else – with a bang.
• So after a brief return to the front line, Norfolk’s only truly based Formula One team has moved on.
After the race in Budapest, those Caterham trucks that left Hingham returned to the team’s new home – at Leafield near Silverstone. It is the former home of the Arrows and Super Aguri teams.
Given the rather disparate nature of Formula One teams, their homes, names and histories can be given as much weight as you want to place on them.
Caterham’s Hingham factory will remain a key part of the business – one intrinsically linked to the racing team.
Much like those Enstone mechanics looking after the iconic Lotus marque for all those with a keen interest and hope for Hethel prosperity, a similar relationship will now exist with Caterham.
A little further way – but still with a portion of soul and substantial economic importance in Norfolk.
So what about on the track as Formula One 2012 act two commences?
Well Caterham’s development is accompanied by impatience from some corners. The long-repeated hope for a first championship point remains just that. Ending 2012 without may bring some interesting winter questions in need of answering.
As for Lotus, their reappearance at Spa promises to be the most keenly anticipated.
Innovative development, two drives with the bit between their teeth and a team sitting third in the constructors’ standings despite being without a 2012 win. Big things have been predicted all season – now it’s time to deliver just that.