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A New Year

Firstly I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year. I have left it a few weeks to write a fresh blog as the festive period takes over, naturally.

To briefly look back at 2011, it for me again was not a classic. While Red Bull were flawless it was also pleasing to see consistency for once. 2010 was more about who could lose the title the quickest rather than who could win the title. I got that same feeling from Vettel in his interviews. This championship feels more earned to him and the team. They quite simply did the best job, and that is what it really takes. Others make mistakes and you capitalise, but to truly earn it, you do the best job. Well done Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel.

So what is the current state of Formula One?

2012 is shaping up well. We have new regulations, new drivers and new tracks. In terms of regulation we have raft of changes, most notably being the off throttle blow diffuser. We saw last season this made the mid part of the corner easier for the driver when they lifted off the throttle thanks to the diffuser being blown by hot exhaust gasses. Not to mention it made a horrible racket and Red Bull were the pioneers in mastering it. That has now gone and the exhausts have been placed higher up on the body work to stop this from happening. Good thing but if the young driver test is anything to go by, very ugly.

Williams Young Driver Test 2011 Exhaust

The new season welcomes back in-season testing. This is an area I do not think the FIA have got right yet. While cost cutting and cost restrictions ideally need to be implemented, it is clear to see that there is nothing like testing on the track. Pounding laps out on a track rather than a simulator will always make pay higher dividends. No matter how good a simulator is. The FIA could exploit this, turn it in to a media day or fan day at Mugello. I rather think it has been pushed under the carpet and will just pop up on the day. Not to mention we are down to only three pre-season tests with no sign off a fourth being added. Do Mercedes really want to run the risk of missing the first test? I think a grey matter still looms over this one.

A re-profiling of the front nose has been introduced on safety grounds. We move from the high noses of 62.5 centimetres (24.6 in) to 55 centimetres (22 in). I doubt we will see a reshape of the nose in terms of a ’98 McLaren but it will be lower and hopefully more aesthetically pleasing. I for one was not a fan of the 2011 noses.

A regulation that has been re-introduced is that of lapped cars being allowed to pass the safety car under full course caution (American term but applies well). I have seen a lot written on this one regarding the time it would take. Seeing as Formula 1 cars are the quickest racing cars in the world, even under yellow flag conditions I doubt it would take a significant amount of time to let cars re-join the back of the queue. Besides, I would rather see first against second at a restart rather than waiting for the second car to lap the already lapped traffic. Logic has played out here and it is a good regulation to be brought back.

Race times have been increased to four hours if a Red Flag situation occurs. Standard two hours if not. This is down to the longest race in history at the Canadian Grand Prix last year (Hats off to those that stayed in the grandstands). Logic again played out here while most do not take the original two hours anyway, it creates flexibility.

Back in December, Red Bull Racing, Ferrari and Sauber exited FOTA, the Formula One Teams Association, following prolonged debate over the implementation of the controversial Resource Restriction Agreement. This is an on-going battle between the teams to try and come to a compromise on what can and cannot be used, along with the personnel and the amount of personnel that can be used. All parties are trying to reach a common ground on how to cost cut. There are further complexities within, but on the front of it is that a balance is required. While FOTA try to thrash it out, Red Bull and Ferrari are sitting back getting on with testing. I suspect when something viable is put forwards, all teams will return to FOTA before the start of the season.

Circuit of the Americas

Formula 1 welcomes the return of an American Grand Prix in 2012… allegedly. The situation surrounding the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas is still murky and unknown. It seems the land has been paid for but the promoter had not been and work ground to halt. Prior to Christmas a deal came to fruition and work restarted. Question is now is if it was too late and if the track will be built in time. There is uncertainty surrounding the Bahrain Grand Prix also. I am going to write a blog on this at a later date.

Unfortunately the Formula 1 fraternity has lost the Turkish Grand Prix. It was not overly popular circuit to go as a spectator and a new contract compromise could not be reached. I think F1 has lost a great track. If you could pick the Istanbul track up and put it in a denser populated F1 spectator country, then it would a huge success. While it may be a “Tilke-drome” it has to be one of his best creations. We lose the magnificent triple apex turn eight. I would welcome the track back with open arms.

Fresh uncertainty surrounds the European Grand Prix in Valencia and the Korean Grand Prix in Yeongam. These venues I can find more understandable if they were lost. Valencia is a wonderful idea, racing around the port of the America’s Cup but it is an awful track. I do not want to sound too harsh but the Valencia street track really is woeful and puts on a very poor spectacle, unlike Turkey. It would not surprise me if this was lost from 2013 onwards. Korea could be great, but they have done everything backwards. Korea has built a very technical track in the middle of a shipping port with no community around it. In contrast they are trying to build a city around the circuit to help promote the region. That to me does not work. To promote and create a race you need it near the major amenities, an airport being the major one. The freight of Formula One is not exactly light and the travel down to the track is a long one. Even journalists complain about the distance from Seoul, and that is on a bullet train.

There have been a few changes already throughout the winter and I expect many more to come. The drivers market is yet to fully play out with HRT and Williams yet to announce their second drivers. So as we leave the cold, dark, depths of winter we are met with the ideas of spring and the anticipation of an enthralling season.

Happy 2012.

Follow me on Twitter: Nico888

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